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Article #13
King Richard and the Irish Maniacs

- SlingShot

The Irish Maniacs in the Monroe parking lot by the Heritage Trail
just before the ride to Port Jervis. Left to right: Matt, Larry, Richard,
Brian and Joey?Vincent's all. Photograph by Michael Vincent 08/05/01.

A searing skittering sting rends the air overhead. Then slightly askew another stuttering path siffles through the leaves above. Again and again. Dappled openings to the sky multiply as leaves rip and turn aside with small but intense pops, flips and stats. It is like being swarmed by vengeful tiny titanium wasps. All around us several dull thuds into bark, then a singular loud metallic ping as lead hits aluminum.

I thought, "Wow, the movies don't make these sounds up. They're real!"

I had just crested the last of the challenging Purgatory Road rollers. We were at the top of the Hamptonburg Alps, and I was about to pat myself on the back how the only Irish Maniac ahead of me was Matt, when all this hell broke loose.

A half dozen riders led by the remaining Maniacs, were close behind and oblivious.

I fumbled for the appropriate warning shout. Should I yell car up, debris or rough road? Should it be gravel, HOLE, standing or sand? Merely point up into the trees? No?INCOMING!

I never got the word out. I was transfixed by the vision of two kids (one about eight, the other four) moving toward the road with one aggressively, like a little plastic soldier, aiming a pellet rifle.

Don (The Lone Rider) Lee had passed them first. Apparently the large group of cyclists in his tow was just too tempting a target. The little marksman had emptied his gun, quickly adjusting lead and trajectory until the final shot hammered and denuded a permanent quarter-inch circle with a deep dimple precisely on the "A" in the "Giant" logo on Matt's seat tube, just missing...well, his leg.

Of course we can all identify with targeting an "A" on a bike, plus that shot also permanently applied the wonderful nom "Bull's-Eye" to Matt. However kids shouldn't be shooting at cyclists, so about a quarter mile down the hill we were regrouping at the stop sign when (Shiftless) John Handago said, "Somebody should tell their parents."

A surprising misguided sense of duty pushed me to turn back up the hill thinking, "Yeah, and maybe somebody should tell Shiftless to keep quiet," but that's how I ended up being the first to coast into the driveway of the shooters.

As I passed onto private property, everything was ominously still. The day had grayed over. The tree line over the driveway thickened to accentuate the gloom. As if a sudden storm was approaching, slight and nearly seen noiseless lightening flashes peppered just outside of consciousness. It was almost total quiet, except of course for the barking Pit Bull.

That Pit Bull had the largest head I've ever seen on a dog. I kept reminding myself that it was just a frightened puppy tied to a tree, more worried of me than I was of it. Then I got close enough to see it was tied to a broad trunked oak by the heaviest chain I've seen outside a tractor pull. This was too reminiscent of Francis Ford Coppola?s movie Apocalypse Now. The farther up this river I got, the weirder things were getting.

Passing close by the dog that strained on the end of its chain, I turned and found myself surrounded by a group of tattooed, pumped-up and shirtless skin-heads emerging from an open garage full of free weights, bench press machines and workout paraphernalia. They all looked to be about 16 to 17 years old. I tried not to think about ritual slayings of oxen. I'm sure I did not hear drums beating in the distance. Our young shooters were absent.

"Are there any parents in charge here?" I hoped.

Not-necessarily-the-oldest-looking stepped forward, "I'm in charge, what do you want?"

"Somebody just shot at us from your front yard."

"That was the four year old. I'm sorry. He'll be punished."

I shuddered to think what 'punished' meant, but it was said just in time for Shiftless to arrive, then one of the Maniacs, then another and another of our crew. Our brightly colored Spider Man costumes and fashionable bikes seemed slightly out of place.

Shiftless had a few words with the "parent" about how kids should be taken to shooting ranges for that kind of stuff. How they shouldn't be allowed to roam wild with firearms. How they...well, the two of them butted chests for awhile until Mr. Parent says, "Look we said we were sorry, but if you want to take it farther...?" He pushed a little deeper into Shiftless' chest as I interjected, "Well, good. Looks like we've got that settled then. Apology accepted. Time for us to go. Thank you for your time. Sorry to interrupt your workout, daemonic ritual, ox-roast, whatever. Don't forget about the OCBC Saturday rides?Big-V parking lot. See ya later. Toodle-ooh."

Big cheery wave, and a little scratch of gravel coming up from my rear tire.

And that was it, just another in a long series of adventures with the Irish Maniacs.

By the way, if you want to get the drop on (Bull's-Eye) Matt, just hang back a little approaching a hill and say, "Matt, you go on ahead and draw fire." Then shift down a gear and hammer it...but back to the main point.

There's always excitement when the Maniacs show up. Each ride becomes a quest. I first found out what these guys are all about on August 5th last year. I know the date because my riding log shows a string of 16 to 35 mile rides all spring and summer, then a 79 miler out of nowhere.

Of course I already knew that the Maniacs push the pace into "YOU CALL THIS A..." territory during the Monday Recovery Ride. I also knew they got their collective nom when Mary (The Black Widow) Endico told someone on the Wednesday Hump Day with R&R that she had to take it easy because tomorrow she was going to a ride in Washingtonville with, "those...those..those Irish maniacs!" To which she received the immediate reply, "Oh those guys. Yeah I know those guys. They ARE maniacs."

So when the Maniacs invited me to a Sunday morning jaunt from Monroe to Port Jervis I knew things might get a little brutal, but I was about to find out they are much more than mere cycling fanatics.

Their history is the typical story about a lost job resulting in a new partnership and a heart attack resulting in a new hobby. Well maybe not so typical, considering the heart attack.

The core Maniacs are three brothers and a nephew. There are other maniacal members that show up from time to time, all in the same family?the Vincents. The oldest and ring leader of the core group is (King) Richard. He's the one with the heart attack and also the lost job.

A while back Richard lost his job and got together with his brother to start their own business. They could only put together $5,000 while naysayers were telling them they'd need at least $100,000...just to get started. Of course Maniacs don't let little words like 'impossible' get in their way. They just do it.

Now a little motorcade of black Lexus's pull into the parking lot of OCBC rides to herald their arrival while providing testament to tenacity, commitment, and talent.

Their business is in the niche market of metal embossing, the kind you find on Christmas cards. (King) Richard is reported to be the third best in his field. However when you get to know him you'll agree that the words "third best in his field' mean he's as good as the best, but his modesty refuses to allow anybody around him say any more than third. If you ask for promotional material you'll be told there isn't any, it works mostly by word of mouth. I've concluded this follows the old farmer's saw, "If it was any good, they wouldn't have to advertise it."

Their work is good, and they don't have to advertise it.

Not so long ago (King) Richard had his heart attack. As part of his comeback, his exercise and hobby became cycling. Recently hearing about Richard?s heart attack, Don (The Starkmeister) Stark, who's been on The Hump with him, reacted thus: "Hmm...he had a heart attack? Now he's GIVING them!"

Of course Richard has heard enough about genetic predisposition to get as many in his family as possible involved with cycling also.

It is this organizational bent that earned him his nom King Richard and brought us The Irish Maniacs.

These guys are all about family values. No, not the political football "Family Values" that seeks to denigrate women and squelch anybody that won't follow the theocratic line, but real family values that focuses on teamwork, support and lending a helping hand. You can see it whenever they are around their kids, other family members or, for that matter, anybody that shows up for a ride. I saw it first on that long day in August going from Monroe to Port Jervis and back.

I was definitely the weakest one on that ride, but they made a game out of keeping me with the group. It was just after Lance won another Tour. I had on my standard yellow jersey while they were de rigueur in their red-orange Mel's Original Bicycle Shop shirts.

They christened me Lance and set about keeping me out of the wind, saving me for the big climb. The first half of our 79 mile ride put us past Port Jervis and into the parking lot of Action Outfitters in Milford, PA.

There we got to see Jamie at work. His dad had been driving Jamie to OCBC rides all summer where Jamie harassed us with one of the fastest shifts in town.

Like many a fast rider, Jamie also works in a bike shop and often misses club rides, giving up prime riding time in order to keep the rest of us on the road. I'm sure we all agree these are very special people, and it was exciting to get to hang out with a true cycling pro in the middle of a ride.

After our quick visit with Jamie we hammered back through Port Jervis, where the Maniacs kept my Lance dream alive by yelling, "Go Lance," 'Maillot Jaune," and by letting me pull through town, downhill, etc.

Finally we were standing at the traffic light below the four mile climb up Route 6.

It was hot and hazy. I turned around to see the Maniacs lined up behind me. See the picture at the top of this article? It looked just like that except Larry had his helmet on. All of a sudden I realized, "This is it! I've made it. Here I am with strong riders...of the kind heroes are made of, more than half way through a long ride, and I'm not yet dropped."

About half way up the climb (King) Richard was riding beside me talking, and I was trying to explain how pulling Lance to the hill meant just getting him to it. It was then supposed to be Lance who got himself up the hill. I gasped that this current variation in which a Lance-alike gets pulled to the hill then also coaxed up the hill, was just a little outr? I convinced him to go on ahead and ride with the other Maniacs.

A little later Joey drifted back and was talking to me. I figured he was a new rider and not so strong. Finally he was rested and went on ahead.

Then Larry (The Big Red Machine) was beside me. Larry lives in Dingmans Ferry, PA and gauges a ride based on the best food stops. On his own time he places arrows on the road pointing to the good Deli's. You don't have to think twice about where to stop. As for turn markers you're on your own, but the snack markers are all taken care of for you west of the Delaware River. Given his penchant for the sub, I wasn't much surprised when Larry dropped back. I was only surprised by how strong he was despite the lack of training rigor. After "Big Red" moved on ahead I found myself talking to the as yet un-nom'd (Bull's-Eye) Matt. We talked about the heat, the climb etc.

Actually, Mat talked while I wheezed.

It wasn't until Brian (The Kid) was just off my shoulder that I figured it out, "These guys are taking turns baby sitting me!"

They were doing it so subtly I hadn't noticed. That's just the way they are.

They're going to help you out, and they aren't going to embarrass you in the process. To this very day I can't get a single one of them to admit they are waiting for me. It's always, "Whoa Slingshot! You're strong today. You're riding like a mad a man possessed. Are you on drugs? What have you been taking?"

The only reason it finally got through to me that day in August is because Brian rides in a whole different universe. When he showed up beside me, there was just no way that I could fool myself into thinking, "Hah, not so easily done. He had to drop back!"

Last year I always tried to do my little part to challenge Brian by maxing out my breathing and heart rate coming out of the parking lot, then hanging on as long as I could after his "fast" button was pushed.

This year he's 20lbs lighter and has been riding incessantly, despite his new driver's license. So now I can't even do my little part at pushing his buttons any more. This week I chased him with the help of the other Maniacs. Try as we might, he always stayed the same 200 yards ahead, spinning casually, playing with us. We could see him, but we couldn't catch him for about ten miles...then he was gone.

Except for Saturday mornings when the pros show up, the unfortunate "Kid" mostly has to ride alone most of the time.

There's nobody to push him, nobody for him to draft behind, nobody to practice pacelining with, nobody to see him pedaling back into the parking lot a half hour before anybody else. His nom "The Kid" is an obvious reference to the young Lance Armstrong. In a sport that has been called the most difficult sport in the world, Brian is a standout. If the local schools offered bicycling competitions, Brian would be a star.

So heed my plea! Somebody help us! Somebody with real speed (maybe one of the pro riders Brian stays with on Saturday) has got to start showing up for the Thursday and Monday rides to show him a good time. The guilt (and pace) is going to kill me.

Here's the pitch. The Thursday ride is an unofficial OCBC ride. We've tried to elect a leader and make it official several times, but everyone in attendance always demurs.

Somebody always starts, "We just need a phone number for people to call." Then somebody counters, "Look, none of us had any illusions coming into this. We were totally up front and honest about it being just for fun. Do we really need to mess it up with a commitment?" Except there was that day Rob (The Cardinal) Daly was the only one missing, and we elected him leader in absentia. He doesn't know about it yet, so don't tell him. Also be sure not to call him at: 845-497-2208. We've deemed it the: "We doh nee no steeeking leaders" ride.

Thursday's ride starts at Round Hill School 6:00 pm. It is unpublished and unofficial but has gone out very regularly since the beginning of last year. Round Hill School is on 208 just 2.3 miles south of the light in Washingtonville. Or 4 miles north of 17 (the Quickway) in Monroe. Or take 94 North from McDonalds on 17M in Chester 5.8 miles then turn right onto Round Hill Road. Follow the yellow line for 1.1 miles and make a right at the stop sign. The school's just another 1/8th mile on your left.

The ride winds through the lovely Hamptonburg Alps. That's what we call the area. You may call it something else, especially if you try to stay behind Brian. The ride is a spin-off of the Monday Night (You Call This a) Recovery Ride, and many of the same people show up. The original course was designed by (The Cardinal) Rob Daly. It was advertised at the time as, "Rob knows a good hill. Let's do it Thursday." There's a challenging climb up Goshen Road. Sometimes we do the Double Dip which adds the equally tough Cherry Hill Road.

Last year Scott did a study and found that adding the Double Dip provides a total of 1330 feet of climb. The original ride is 20.3 miles while the favorite alternate route, taking Egbertson Road instead of Cambell Hall Road, is 23.4 miles. The Cherry Hill spur adds only .1 mile to both, but it feels like more. There are several flat miles along County Route 4 that are great for pacelining.

As with the Monday Night ride it starts with everyone explaining how tired they are, how they haven't been getting out much and how they are going to go really, actually going to go slow for a change.

Then somebody always laughs, so it is re-stated, "No, I mean it. I'm going really, I'm serious!"

Then the ride starts and Brian or somebody gets a little ahead, then somebody else tries to catch up, then somebody else gets nervous about getting dropped...then it's hammer time.

But also as with the Monday Night ride, there is always someone who's glad to show the route to new people, make sure they don't get dropped and actually go slow if they want.

Although there's no real leader, it seems everyone that shows up is considerate and thoughtful to make sure nobody has a bad ride. Seth leads the Monday night ride and often attends Thursdays and carries his skills over. That is to say, he's glad to go along chatting happily at the slowest of paces, but he can hammer your butt to a wall if that's what you want...what you really, really want.

There are cue sheets for the two Thursday routes available at:

Please come help us with Brian (The Kid) Vincent. If you're not strong enough yet, we'll get you in shape. Then you can report back what it's like to actually ride with him.

You can also help us figure out why stopping for a 64 ounce milkshake on the way home to Dingmans Ferry never seems to impede (The Big Red Machine) Larry's performance. He's also way too strong.

What with the Maniacs, the hills and the long pacelining opportunities (with instruction), we've got it all.

We can't promise adventures like being shot at by skin-heads every week (those guys are long gone), but there's always something special.

Such as: during a recent ride Seth bent his big chain ring. You should have seen it. Not just bent, but crisply folded into a little origami bird. I'm used to being mangled like that by Seth on any given hill, but I've never seen anybody do that to a chain ring...and from everybody else's gaping jaws, I'm guessing it was new to them too.

If you are truly worried about the pace: Well, I am myself personally tired of the constant maniacal hammering and am more than willing to show you the course.

I promise I'll take it easy and go really, I'm serious!


Note:  After this article was published, I overheard Twin Lynn ask John Handago if any of the stuff about the skin-heads had actually happened. John said, "It ALL happened. Exactly like that." People who afterwards took a look at the size of the dimple on the seat tube of Matt's bike always gasped, "Then it was true!" Yes, all of it.

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this page last updated:
02/01/2015 10:38:45 PM

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