A few weeks ago I was hanging on for dear life as Jean-Louis, the young Frenchy phenom, dragged me up to the Domes. One by one our companions faltered, then softened, then were smeared on the climb like quiescent bug guts. He slowed down toward the end and generously let me hang on.

Seth Davidson/Kare Dehlie Thorstad

At the top I heaved and spit and gasped. If Jean-Louis were one of my kids, he’d be the third oldest. “You do a good ride,” he smiled.

“Urgle,” I answered.

“Eh?”

“Urgle. Thanks.”

“Oh, yes, eet eez nossing. You do a good ride. How old are you?” He wasn’t even sweating.

“I turn 51 in December,” I said, trying to make myself as old as possible.

“Really? Zat is so old. You are riding very good. Eet eez easy to tell here in America ze riders who do ze intervals. Zey have ze second punch.”

“Damn,” I thought to myself, recalling an interval that I once did back in ’87. “I better start doing some intervals.”

I live atop a hill that is the perfect interval climb. It’s not too steep, about 20 minutes long, and it has varying pitches. I always climb it slowly because I am slow. However, with Jean-Louis’s comment as a motivation, I resolved to use this daily slog as my daily interval.

Riding without a power meter or heart strap or lately even a watch, my only way to measure the effort is perceived exertion. Since I generally perceive all exertion as painful, it shouldn’t be too hard, I thought, to turn my daily slow slog into a slightly less slow slog that would qualify as a JLFI, or Jean-Louis French Interval.

After a few weeks I noticed that indeed, despite my flubbery tummy, bad posture, and general weakness, that one daily interval was making me faster. Without any way to measure it, though, all of the improvement was in my head, where I do my best riding anyway.

Today as my pal and I were returning from a brutal bike path ride to Santa Monica, where we bopped into Phil’s Coffee and paid $4 for something that, had we made it at home, would have cost 25 cents, a couple of Hop-In Wankers jumped on our wheel in Manhattan Beach. They snuggled up into our draft and didn’t say a word.

In Hermosa we stopped at the light. I turned to HIW #1. “Hi,” I said. “What’s your name?”

“Stacy,” he said.

“That’s a girl’s name, isn’t it?” I asked.

HIW #2 didn’t say anything because he was focusing on his trackstand, which all pro Cat. 3s do at the Hermosa Pier stoplight because of the late fall thongs who might be watching. HIW #2 was wearing a POC helmet, POC glasses, POC jersey, POC bibs, and POC socks, astraddle a Ritte van Vlaanderen frame.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

HIW #2 took a break from his trackstand. “Kyle.”

Kyle moved to the fore and I dropped back with Stacy. “Man,” he said. “This wind today is awful.”

“How would you know? You’ve been sitting on a wheel for the last six miles.”

“Yeah,” he agreed, “but I usually ride alone.”

We came to the short climb up by Rat Beach. Pal and I and POCleberry upped the pace. I got out of the saddle and grunted. Stacy got out of the saddle too, but he didn’t grunt, his rear derailleur did. It had apparently not had much force put on it over the course of its 25-year life span.

A massive pop-and-sproing emanated from his drivetrain. He looked down just in time to see his bike fall apart. We kept going and didn’t see him again.

In a moment we had reached the bottom of Malaga Cove, the starting point of my JLFI. “Poor old POCleberry,” I said. “I’m gonna ride him off my wheel.”

We hit the lower slope and I twisted the cranks. After a couple of minutes I wasn’t just on the rivet, the rivets were being nailed into my balls. Pal rolled up to me. “Hey, dude,” he said. “Gotta turn off here.”

“Bye,” I gasped.