The California Lifestyle – laidback, easy-going, time to pursue one’s passion. Does it exist? Especially at 6AM in San Diego traffic after being cut off by some madman in an automobile? People here race around to sit in traffic for hours then work their butts off to make ends meet before doing it all over again. Can they really enjoy The California Lifestyle? I’m off to the legendary Swami’s Wednesday Morning Ride (aka The Wednesday Worlds) in Carlsbad to find out.

Swami’s is the weekday go-to ride for SoCal cycling’s best bums, slackers, moochers, deadbeats, faux pros, still-living-at-home-gonna-make-it-somedayers, work ditchers, call in sickers and AARPers (Association of Aging Retired Pelotoners. In other words, the ride attracts the best in the sport at foregoing worldly responsibilities so they can mix it up for a trivial sprint victory that is oh so prized.

Described as “one of the top ranked group rides…rolling north through [Marine Corps Base] Camp Pendleton to San Clemente where it turns around and heads back.” The ride is considered “one of the hardest flat rides you can do. So bring your A game…and watch out for tanks.” All the ingredients of a great bucket ride – challenging, beautiful and adventurous.

Ride:Swami's Wednesday Morning Ride
Location:Carlsbad, CA
Distance:49 miles, ~2 hours
Difficulty:Advanced
Start:Carlsbad Starbucks
Hosts:Swami's Cycling Club
Riders: 20-40

The Ride

On one fine Wednesday, I roll up to the Carlsbad Starbucks at 8am. Everyone is wearing custom team kits on custom unubtainium carbon bikes with deep-dish custom carbon hoops. Everyone except for me. I’m wearing an old logo-less jersey with holes, stains and pockets held on with safety pins. It started out as a beautiful solid Italian azure jersey. Now it’s just worn-out, washed-up and faded – like me. Bibs match the jersey though, especially the holes. With a beat up vintage frame and Campy 10-speed components, I’m a picture perfect old- school rider.

At 8:15 sharp the group rolls out. Young, old, male, female, national caliber, state champions and a bunch of poseurs and fakers like me. All with nothing more important to do this morning than play bike racer. Hmmm, this California Lifestyle might not be too bad.

A few warm-up miles later we roll through Camp Pendleton’s main gate where United States Marine Corps guards check “The List” to make sure we’re on it (see section below.) Now it’s game time. The pace ramps quickly to 25mph on military base roads. Riding north into a stiff crosswind we roll hugging the shoulder single file. Someone yells “Tank Up” as a line of Abrams M1A1 maneuver in the distant hills.

Next we roll over part of the 200-year-old historic El Camino Real with cracks, seams, tank tracks and carbon destroying holes to dodge. The hard riders of the peloton push the pace while weak riders like me bounce around searching for a smooth line.

swami's cycling club road cycling
You'll recognize the Swami's riding in unison by their sky blue kits.

At San Onofre Beach we thread our way between concrete barriers onto smooth asphalt. A one Mr. Park Ranger pulls alongside saying “SLOW DOWN.” We accelerate. Now it’s single file all out like the last 5k of a Pro Tour race. Struggling to hang on I take the tail gunner spot at the very back.

It feels like déjà vu. I’ve been here before with the same result – certain defeat. The tension and anticipation permeates the air. No one gives an inch. Everyone knows what is coming, a fast and furious sprint. I stay glued to a little rider resembling Rocky The Squirrel, but with thighs the size of tree-trunks. Who am I kidding? I’m gonna get my arse kicked.

Somewhere ahead is The Sprint (just to make it interesting, I don’t know where). We hit a long straightaway and this is it. But where is the finish? I duck out of draft looking for a city limit sign, light pole, mile marker, fence post or empty beer bottle. Nothing. Our Lady of Blessed Acceleration, don’t fail me now. A rider shifts gears while another twitches; it’s go time.

Chains and frames groan while wheels make that cool side-to-side swooshing sound as the sprint unfolds. My old aluminum wheels just creak annoyingly. Soon poseurs and fakers flail as Rocky The Squirrel flies up the road delivering an arms-up “V” victory salute. Ouch. That feeling; weakness leaving the body. Some call it by the pedestrian term, ‘pain’.

We regroup, turnaround, pick up riders and do it all again in reverse. Twenty five just-as-fast miles later we pull into Carlsbad. A few riders stop to enjoy coffee, tell tall tales of how they almost won the sprint and relive the thrill of The Swami’s Wednesday Worlds. Driving home I realize that The California Lifestyle is alive and well – especially in Carlsbad on Wednesday morning.

Want to ride with the Swami’s? Check out their event calendar for upcoming rides. 

Camp Pendleton Registration

Beginning October 1, 2018, all cyclists who wish to access the cycling route at Camp Pendleton will be required to register with the new Department of Defense Biometric Identification System before they enter the base. To register for a DBIDS bicycle pass, individuals will need to go to the Main/Vandegrift Boulevard Visitors Center and are required to show an acceptable identity source document such as a valid government issued photo ID (I.E. Real ID ACT compliant driver’s license, state identification card, or passport) to establish their identity and submit to a criminal background check as well as having their photograph and fingerprint taken.

The visitor’s center hours are Monday to Friday, from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Bicycle passes will be valid for one year and will be restricted to bicycle access; any attempt to enter the base in a motor vehicle with a bike pass will be turned around.