It is the sad state of geo-cultural reality that leaves most non-Australians with Crocodile Dundee, Dingo Ate My Baby, Yahoo Serious and Foster’s Lager as the enduring symbols of the Land Down Under. Oh, sure. We all love a shrimp on the barbie, and who can resist a little Mad Max on late night television? But, the truth is Australia is a sports lover’s paradise.
Cricket, rugby, Aussie rules, swimming, football, and on an on. Our southern hemispheric friends love to compete. They love to watch, and they know how to throw a party.
This is a long and not-at-all concise lead in to a discussion of the upcoming Tour Down Under (January 18th – 23rd), a race that has become, by virtue of its early start date, the de facto kick off of the pro road cycling season.
This year the TDU carries the withering storyline of Lance Armstrong’s final pro level road race. Allegedly. Possibly. Hopefully.
Additionally, many riders who saw their 2010 blighted by injuries will pop back up on the bottom side of the globe to try to get themselves sorted out for 2011.
It’s a race that gives us first glimpses at new teams and often new riders. You might remember Peter Sagan and Xavier Tondo standing out in last year’s event.
In fact, if anything holds this race back, it’s a lack of real climbing action, the Willunga Hill serving up some uphill, but nothing on the order of the Alps, Pyrenees or even California’s Sierra Nevada.
This week’s Group Ride addresses the following: Is the TDU an important race? Is it a big race? Is it a good race? Do you look forward to it? Or, is it a warm up? An exhibition? Where is its proper place in the cycling universe?
The handmade bicycle is enjoying a resurgence in popularity. The last time high-end hand-built frames were this popular … they were all that was available.
Don Walker’s North American Handmade Bicycle Show is the grand daddy of the growing number of shows. It’s still the biggest and best of them, and this year will be the biggest yet. Just today Don announced that the 2011 show, which will be held from February 25-27 in Austin, Texas, boasts an incredible 160 exhibitors, and there’s still some space left. It probably helped that Don selected a city to hold the event that resonates with cyclists.
With the fall-off in A-list exhibitors at Interbike (a trend that frustrates me but that I sincerely hope the organizers turn around), NAHBS this year will be the show I most anticipate attending.
I’ll be posting daily at the event, but much of the work I’ll be doing while there will be on behalf of peloton magazine. There will a bigger announcement on that coming soon.
As of this post, the following companies and builders will be displaying at NAHBS.
- ALCHEMY BICYCLE CO.
- ALLIANCE BICYCLES, LLC
- ANDERSON CUSTOM BICYCLES
- ANT BICYCLES
- ANVIL BIKEWORKS
- APRES VELO
- ARUNDEL BICYCLE COMPANY
- BAILEY WORKS
- BICYCLE FABRICATIONS
- BICYCLE FOREST
- BICYCLE TIMES MAGAZINE
- BILENKY CYCLE WORKS
- BISHOP BIKES
- BLACK CAT BICYCLES
- BLACK SHEEP FABRICATION, INC
- BOO BICYCLES
- BROAKLAND BIKES
- BROMPTON BICYCLE
- BRONTO MTB CO
- BURRO BAGS
- CALETTI CYCLES
- CALFEE DESIGN
- CANTITOE ROAD
- CHERUBIM BY SHIN-ICHI KONNO
- CHRIS KING PRECISION COMPONENTS
- CO-MOTION CYCLES
- CRUMPTON CYCLES
- CURT GOODRICH BICYCLES
- CYCLE DESIGN
- CYCLE MONKEY
- CYFAC INTERNATIONAL
- DALTEX HANDMADE BICYCLES
- DARIO PEGORETTI
- DEAN TITANIUM BIKES
- DEFEET INTERNATIONAL
- DELLA SANTA CYCLES
- DESALVO CUSTOM CYCLES
- DINUCCI CYCLES
- DIRT RAG MAGAZINE
- DOMINGUEZ CYCLES
- DON WALKER CYCLES
- ELLIS CYCLES
- ENGIN CYCLES
- ENVE COMPOSITES
- FIXED GEAR GALLERY/HELL-YES CLOTHING
- FORM CYCLES
- FULL SPEED AHEAD
- FUNK CYCLES
- GALLUS CYCLES
- GAULZETTI CICLI
- GEEKHOUSE BIKES
- GJERTSEN TECHNOLOGIES
- GROOVY CYCLEWORKS
- GURU CYCLES
- HAMPSTEN CYCLES
- HED WHEELS
- HELM CYCLES
- HENRY JAMES BICYCLES & TRUE TEMPER SPORTS
- IGLEHEART CUSTOM FRAMES & FORKS
- INDEPENDENT FABRICATION
- IRA RYAN CYCLES
- KENT ERIKSEN CYCLES
- KIMORI CO, LTD
- KIRK FRAMEWORKS
- KIRKLEE BICYCLES
- KISH FABRICATION
- KVA STAINLESS
- LEGOR CICLI
- MAIETTA HANDBUILT BICYCLES
- MOMENTUM MAGAZINE
- MOSAIC CYCLES
- MOUNTAIN FLYER MAGAZINE
- NAKED BICYCLES
- NOVA CYCLES SUPPLY INC
- PAC DESIGNS
- PARAGON MACHINE WORKS
- PARLEE CYCLES
- PAUL COMPONENT ENGINEERING
- PEACOCK GROOVE
- PELOTON MAGAZINE
- PHILOSOPHY BAG CO.
- PRIORITY CYCLES
- QUIRING CYCLES, LLC
- RETROTEC & INGLIS CYCLES
- REYNOLDS TECHNOLOGY LTD
- RICHARD SACHS CYCLES
- RITCHEY DESIGN
- ROLF PRIMA
- ROULEUR MAGAZINE
- RPS NIPC
- SAMURAI CYCLE WORKS
- SCREEN SPECIALTY SHOP, INC
- SCRUB COMPONENTS
- SELLE ITALIA
- SEROTTA BICYCLES
- SHAMROCK CYCLES
- SHEILA MOON ATHLETIC APPAREL
- SIGNAL CYCLES
- SIX-ELEVEN BICYCLE CO.
- SOTHERLAND CUSTOM BICYCLES
- SPEEDHOUND BIKES
- SPUTNIK TOOL
- STRONG FRAMES
- SUNRACE STURMEY ARCHER
- SYCIP DESIGNS
- SYLVAN CYCLES
- TERRA NOVA CYCLES, LLC
- TI CYCLES FABRICATION
- TOMMASINI BICYCLES
- TRUE FABRICATION BICYCLES
- TWIN SIX
- UNITED BICYCLE INSTITUTE
- VANILLA WORKSHOP
- VENDETTA CYCLES
- VERTIGO CYCLES
- VICTORIA CYCLES
- VP COMPONENTS
- VULTURE CYCLES
- WATSON CYCLES
- WHEEL FANATYK
- WHITE BROTHERS SUSPENSION
- WHITE INDUSTRIES
- WINTER BICYCLES
- WOUND UP COMPOSITE CYCLES
- YIPSAN BICYCLES
- ZANCONATO CUSTOM CYCLES
- 2011 NEW BUILDER TABLE EXHIBITORS:
- APPLEMAN BICYCLES
- DEMON FRAMEWORKS
- DORNBOX PERFORMANCE BICYCLES
- FORESTA FRAMES
- LITTLEFORD BICYCLES
- MAGNOLIA CYCLES
- MILLS BROTHERS BICYCLE COMPANY
- RICH PHILLIPS CYCLES
- ROSENE HANDBUILT BICYCLES
- VANLOOZEN BROTHERS BICYCLES
- VIOLET CROWN CYCLES
Twenty years ago on a rainy May morning I lined up for a road race at the edge of the Berkshire Mountains.
Plot spoiler: I had no idea what I was doing.
Temperatures might, thanks to my generous memory, have hovered in the low 50s, but my clothing wasn’t up to the task. After absorbing all the water my clothing could possibly hold, I went hypothermic. I began shaking almost uncontrollably on the downhills and lost contact with the bunch on a relatively minor climb. I realized I was not, under any circumstances, going to finish the race.
For reasons I can’t explain, there were nearly a dozen non-neutral follow cars behind my race. When I pulled over, so did one of the cars. The event was as inexplicable as I was lucky. She drove me back to the start as I shivered and dripped on her car’s leather interior.
I grabbed my clothes and went inside the bike shop that sponsored the race. Inside a dressing room, my kit went shplorp on the floor. And I looked at myself. Aside from how wet I was, I realized I was covered in road grime. What to do? When I had lived in the South, I just drove home wet, muddy or whatever. In my cycling clothing. I had never before been both wet and cold following a race and I knew I needed to get dry STAT.
I ended up using my T-shirt to wipe off and then wore my sweater with no shirt. I vowed never to arrive at a race so unprepared again.
I began carrying a towel, and later added a washcloth when I rendered the towel unusable following a muddy mountain bike race. My learning curve was steep.
A year later I was at a race in Pennsylvania when a teammate scandalized a neighborhood by standing a few yards from a street corner—stark naked—and slathered his body with a Sea Breeze-soaked wash cloth. I realized he was onto something as far as getting clean, though I also thought that there might be room for a bit more discretion.
In addition to the towel, I began carrying water. Then I upgraded from a bath towel to a bath sheet. In 1996 I learned about the Sport Kilt. With all the features of a kilt and the added convenience of Velcro, I was sold. In seeking to be discreet, I noticed that passersby looked less if it didn’t look like you were wrapped in bathroom attire.
I added plain deodorant (no antiperspirant) in an effort to make post-ride refueling more pleasant for anyone in my proximity and as I had learned, that proximity was directly proportional to how hard the ride or race was.
The last and best trick I picked up on was given to me by a new mom. She turned me on to zip-locked bags of baby wipes. I added a little extra water to make them extra-moist. I’ve found nothing else as adept at removing embrocation.
I quickly learned that a regimen of a gallon of water on the legs to wash away sweat, grime or mud followed by baby wipes, a quick towel-off, then deodorant would allow me to dress, have a meal and drive home without feeling like Bill Murray after he got slimed in Ghostbusters. As nothing short of a proper shower could do anything for my hair, a baseball cap became as indispensable a part of my gear bag as that Sport Kilt.
For a while I traveled with sandals that made changing easy, but I could never get used to driving in them. Eventually, the sandals went in the trash and I went back to my high-school standby: slip-on Vans.
Naturally, no learning curve is ever complete. Any time I think there’s a chance conditions will be anything short of stellar, I bring along a plastic laundry bag equipped with a drawstring closure. A dozen years ago a friend and I went to a race in California’s San Joaquin Valley. The roads of the race were decorated with farm-field runoff. You can guess what flavor the air carried.
We cleaned up after the race and made a stop for lunch on the way home. Half an hour later I unlocked the car to a stench that made our eyes tear. We drove up the Grapevine, crossing the 4000-foot elevation mark in February with the windows open.
Whenever I think my gear bag should be smaller I remind myself that I’m glad I can no longer recall exactly how my car smelled.
Team Leopard-Trek had its grand unveiling this week, the denouement of a story that has been percolating, seemingly, since the beginning of recorded history. Much has been made over the last few days of the spartan team kit and surprising lack of title sponsor. Leopard is simply the name of the holding company operated by Flavio Becca, the project’s main financial backer. Trek provides bikes, and some lower order financing.
Calling the squad Leopard-Trek is akin to Bjarne Riis renaming his squad Riis-Specialized, and connotes a failure to secure corporate sponsorship to offset operating costs. One must assume that Becca will pick up the majority of the not-inconsiderable tab for a team already ranked number one in the world.
And that brings us to a much more serious issue.
In May of 2010 we ran a piece about the significance of Bjarne Riis’s difficulties in securing sponsorship for his then SaxoBank team. At the time, THEY were the top team in the world, with super-duper-star Fabian Cancellara, Tour contenders Andy and Fränk Schleck and a long list of other race winners and top class work horses. We posited then that Riis’ struggles, since surmounted when Sungard stepped into the mix, were indicative of a greater challenge faced by the sport, the challenge of bringing in new investment.
Since May, new investors have in fact joined the fray, Movistar and Geox among them. But for the world’s top team to go without title-level corporate sponsorship remains troubling. Riis’s dilemma from last spring has simply defected along with all his top riders.
Leopard-Trek will not struggle financially. Becca is reportedly extremely wealthy and extremely committed to the project. No, the struggle is likely to be felt rather at the lower ends of the Pro circuit. We have already seen Pegasus Racing denied a pro continental license and subject to dissolution by circumstance. Geox’ patience as financier of the team featuring former Grand Tour winners Carlos Sastre and Denis Menchov has been stretched by their failure to secure a ProTeam license.
One might argue that the UCI’s inability to get the various levels of pro-cycling organized in a coherent and transparent way have exacerbated the problems of securing sponsorship. Jonathan Vaughters made that point quite well in a recent piece for Cycling News. The doping controversies swirling around Alberto Contador, Lance Armstrong, et. al. have also undoubtedly lowered the cache of the sport.
What the Leopard-Trek unveiling tells us is that there is something rotten in more than just the state of Denmark. It is fair to ask whether Sungard and SaxoBank still feel good about the checks they’ve written to Bjarne Riis, given the very real possibility that their prize asset, Contador, won’t be able to ride in 2011. But those same questions extend to Spain (Geox), Luxembourg (Leopard-Trek) and France, where teams like Cofidis and FDJ fight to stay relevant, to Germany where Team Milram is gone, leaving Germany with no ProTeam, and even to the US, where RadioShack’s funding of Lance Armstrong’s ultimate venture is running out.
Until the UCI gets the structure of its leagues right and forms real partnerships with the owners of the sport’s most influential races, we are likely to see more unveilings like the Leopard-Trek event, two dozen skinny men in blank jerseys and a team manager deflecting questions about money.
The weekend shooting in Arizona has the United States—indeed, much of the world—discussing the need for civility in political discourse and beyond. The shooting of Representative Giffords is a tragic response to someone who represented her district according to her convictions.
One of the great treasures of our planet is its amazing diversity. From the blue whale to the ebola virus, planet Earth is full of unlikely and exciting life. Similarly, human beings are prone to just as diverse an array of beliefs and opinions … and all-too-often we act on those in ways that can horrify.
Where I live, the cycling community is enormous. Within 50 miles of me there are more group rides each week than I can number. There are countless more riders in the area who ride alone or with only a few other cyclists. The groups I ride with are made up of a stunning array of people. We’ve got engineers, shop rats, lawyers, baristas, real estate moguls, coaches, tailors, loan officers and plenty of other professionals. Off the bike, some of these folks and I would agree about very little.
However, on the bike we agree about much. Thank God. For a peloton to work, the riders must aspire to a Borg-like single-mindedness. Few things can result in a crash as quickly as a disorganized pack. It is because of this common ground on the bike I can entertain conversations on any topic with the reassurance that we can remain friends, no matter what we discuss.
The many comments on my recent post on helmets have kept me thinking about the intersection points between personal freedom, rational choices and personal responsibility. One comment in particular got me to thinking more about my views on the responsibility we each bear to our brethren of the peloton.
Each time we roll out for a group ride or race, we’ve done so with certain assumptions about the other riders present. Even if we’ve never met them before, we assume that because they have joined this ride that they know not just the basics of shifting, braking and cornering, but the delicate etiquette of the pack.
Most of you probably learned the basics of pack riding years, if not decades, ago. The unwritten rules are voluminous:
- Don’t grab your brakes suddenly
- Hold your line
- Don’t make unannounced turns that the whole group isn’t making
- Accelerate when the rest of the group does
- Don’t chop wheels
- In a paceline, don’t half-wheel the rider next to you
- Spit down, not out; same for the nose
- Don’t let gaps open
You get the idea. Those assumptions are the basis for the peloton itself. After all, without them, we would not be able to go out and ride in a pack. The pack is possible because we assume it will behave in a certain way. Society works best when we operate with a similar set of givens.
There are, however, many other distinctions that can’t be classified under basic riding skills, but fall, at least in my conception, under the heading of etiquette as well.
I admit that when I’m on a group ride, if I see a guy in tube socks, I’ll probably make a comment about Pistol Pete. I’m not likely to follow his wheel either—at least, not in the first hour or two. But I won’t go so far as to say he needs to get with the program. After all, socks don’t really affect the group.
But as I’ve mentioned, not wearing a helmet on a group ride can have consequences for the entire group—at least those who stop—should there be a crash. Not wearing a helmet isn’t the only decision that you make than can have consequences for others. Bottle cages that shoot bottles James Bond-Aston Martin-ejector-seat-style are a hazard to other riders. And riding threadbare tires that could flat at any time simply shows a lack of respect for those around you.
Dissimilarly, riding without a seat bag that contains the items necessary to fix a flat is foolhardy, but not really harmful to the group. Just don’t expect anyone to stop for you, though.
When I was in the Boy Scouts 35 years ago we were always taught, “Be prepared.” The riders I most admire are the ones who seemingly can take anything in stride without the pack-mule-style Camelbak on their shoulders. We all flat, but it’s the rider who has not only the fresh tube and CO2 (for the fastest-possible inflation), but also has the old tire casing for a boot, who gets the points for consideration. I appreciate any rider who stops out of consideration. The kindest turn and best thank-you the rider with the flat can show is the speedy fix. And the guy who carries food enough to help out a bonking rider is especially stylish in my eye.
Showing our gratitude is perhaps one of the classiest turns I see. On occasion I’ve seen one rider buy another a coffee as a measure of gratitude for a strong pull, closing the uncloseable gap, or just stopping for that flat. Riding with cash enough to buy another rider a coffee is preparation of a different order.
It is through the etiquette I described above that makes even the most competitive of rides civil affairs among friends. However, in contemporary discourse there’s a belief that if you can remain civil when discussing the most charged issues—say religion or politics—then it shows you have no conviction. Similarly, if you really take your beliefs to heart, then each engagement is all but a fight to the death.
As a writer, I lack apprehension about wading into any of cycling’s more charged issues. They don’t carry the weight of abortion, socialism or immigration, but most of us have strong feelings where doping, the UCI and even bike building are concerned. That RKP has remained civil in its discourse has less to do with me than it does with you, the readers. As a community, you obviously value this dimension every bit as much as I do.
If there’s any chance that what we experience in our cycling lives can inform our larger lives, then I hope you’ll take some time to follow this link and consider the idea of convicted civility—the possibility that we can have firmly held convictions and yet remain respectful and even warm to those with whom we do not agree.
This was a belief I, myself did not carry for much of my life. I watched James Bond (what is it with me and the Bond references tonight?) films and could never understand how Bond could sit down to a pleasant dinner with some arch villain who he knew was busy plotting our hero’s death. How the hell do you have dinner with a guy who plans to feed you to a shark? No one ever had more on the line than his life, and Bond has never been anything other than polite. James Bond may seem a trite metaphor, but I suggest that we cyclists—in our quest to vanquish competitors under the most physical of circumstances—understand the value of civility better than most.
In civility lies the future of dialog in this world. And we, as cyclists, can inform that conversation with our peers.
I often have friends and co-workers approach me for advice on buying a new bicycle. This is a little bit like approaching Buzz Aldrin for advice on space travel. So much of what I say to them makes no sense, because our contexts are starkly different. I come from Planet Bicycle. They come from Planet Earth.
Once I’m done issuing forth with a quick discursive on componentry and frame materials, which sounds to them like, “bloop, blorg, bleep,” I end up saying what I really believe, which is, “You should buy the bike that you think looks the best.” The truth, in my opinion, is that for non-bicycle people, most bikes are just the same. This is certainly true at the lower price points they are usually considering. The materials and components on offer are so similar that choosing among them becomes awfully difficult unless you’re willing to abandon yourself to aesthetics.
It might seem as though I don’t take their requests very seriously, but quite to the contrary, what I really, really wish for is to convert this unsuspecting earthling into a bike person. I want them to fall in love with their bike and with cycling, and become one of us.
And like any love, it starts with attraction. The paint is as crucial as the cranks. Believe it.
And so this week’s Group Ride is about the bikes that we think look best. I’ve posted some of my favorites here. What are yours?
As I sailed through the air the one thought I had time to conjure was, “Damn, I just bought this jacket and now it’s going to get shredded.” The impact came in a not-all-at-once loping, rolling, whiplashing smack that wouldn’t have been so bad had it not involved my head.
Concussions are frequently referred to as ‘getting your bell rung.’ I soon realized I’d taken up residence in the belfry of Notre Dame and judging by the clanging, mass was due to start any minute.
I laid on my back, eyes looking blankly up into the evening sky. The were four streetlights above me, swirling with the same animated dance the snow flakes made as they sank to earth. I counted and then counted again. I knew there weren’t four streetlights on this section of dead-end road. ‘Must be double-vision,’ I thought. So I waited. Soon enough, there were two streetlights.
I gingerly made my way to my feet and began the inspection. My elbow and shoulder were tender and judging from the dark spot on the inexplicably shred-free jacket, my elbow was bleeding. Never mind the bleeding, I hadn’t ruined the jacket. From the neck down, I was fine, as was my clothing.
My head was another matter. It felt like I’d been walloped with a golf club. My balance was off and it seemed the internal volume was Who-concert loud. I picked up my bike, looked around and realized there was but one streetlight.
I made my way home. After a shower and dose of ibuprofen and discovered I’d cracked my helmet. Little wonder. I’d hit a tree that had fallen in the road. I was going 25 mph downhill and squinting due to the falling snow and didn’t expect to find a tree lying in the road when I roared around a bend. It wasn’t there when I passed that spot two hours before. I can be forgiven for being surprised, can’t I?
I came upon the tree with the unexpected surprise of a roadside bomb. I didn’t even have time to touch the brakes.
In my mind, whether or not I had a concussion had been settled by the time I got on the bike. My then-wife’s concerns didn’t run in the direction of ER, but that I was delaying dinner with my wound care.
Any time any person starts to poo-poo helmet use, my mind returns to that December ride. Whether or not a helmet saved my life that day isn’t the question. There really isn’t any question; rather, I have a certainty: Had I not worn a helmet on that ride, my injuries would have been worse. As it was, I didn’t race ‘cross the next day and mostly sat on my ass during the main event, when I was supposed to be offering neutral support. My head hurt too much to bend over and do a wheel change.
Anything worse than what I suffered is more than I’m willing to entertain. That hurt plenty, thankyouverymuch.
Ten years ago, a friend of mine was hit from behind by a Range Rover. The driver was reaching for her cell phone and priorities being what they are for the affluent, my friend on her bicycle was, for this woman, just another recyclable. In the wake of that event a mutual friend swore off helmets. His reasoning was that if a helmet couldn’t save Debra (nothing short of a cinder block wall could have), then why bother?
Somehow, he came to the conclusion that helmets embolden us to take risks that we wouldn’t take were it not for the styrofoam cooler strapped to our noggins.
Dane Mikael-Colville Andersen has a similar dislike of helmets. Andersen is the style maven behind Cycle Chic, which espouses “style over speed.” In a recent presentation at TED, Andersen talked about what he calls a “culture of fear” of which he says bicycle helmet use is part.
He points to the fact that there is a study that has shown you have a 14 percent greater chance of having an accident while wearing a helmet. Maybe, but correlation isn’t causality. He also claims the car industry is behind the promotion of bike helmets. This will be a revelation to the folks at Easton-Bell Sports who have labored under the misperception that they have been paying for all the advertising for Bell and Giro helmets.
One wonders where all those ads placed by GM appeared.
Andersen also says bicycle use fell in Denmark after helmet promotions began. For those of you who slept through logic or didn’t take it (perfectly understandable), as I mentioned before, correlation is not interchangeable with causation. There may be a relationship between the promotion of helmet use and 10,000 fewer cyclists on the road in Denmark, but conjecture should not be trotted around like fact. Street lights come on when the sun goes down with perfect correlation every flippin’ day; it doesn’t mean that the street lights cause the sun to go down.
He says people stop cycling when helmet use is promoted. I suspect it is true for some people. Is it uniformly true? Not for a second.
In the United States, there was a fear when seat belt and shoulder strap laws were enacted that it would hurt car sales and impinge on our freedom. Education and enforcement overcame that issue. What’s that you say? People will give up a bike long before they give up a car? Too true.
The issue I have with Andersen and others who criticize helmet use is that they demonize a perfectly valid device. Helmets aren’t the problem. To the degree that people don’t ride as a result of a “culture of fear,” I can tell you what they fear: CARS. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think, ‘That was entirely closer than necessary.’ Anyone who fears a helmet more than they fear a car will probably make a tin foil hat for you, too.
You want to change how people feel about riding a bicycle on city streets? Change the consideration drivers show to cyclists. Granted, that’s even less likely than McDonald’s going vegan, but this is a cultural change for which any incremental improvement would be notable and deserves the effort.
Let’s ask the question a different way. Which do you think would get more people out on bikes: a reassurance from the government that helmets don’t make you safe and you need never wear one, or streets utterly devoid of cars and trucks? I’d have whole new training routes open to me if there were no cars.
Andersen criticizes the bubble-wrapping of babies, going so far as to show product photos for a helmet designed to be worn by children—indoors. I can’t argue how ridiculous the idea (much less the product itself) is.
Spied from any angle, my son has visible bruises. He leads a full-contact life. Standing up beneath tables has introduced him to both pain and spatial skills; it’s likely one did have a causal relationship with the other. In my view, both are helpful. Does he need a helmet when strapped in to his trailer? I’m not so sure. But I can assure you, he’ll be wearing a helmet as he learns to ride a bike.
However, I’m not sure that in a tabletop-flat land such as Denmark commuters riding 12 or even 14 miles per hour need a helmet.
As for my friend who thinks that helmets are the root cause of risky riding, my response is that if helmets didn’t exist, I’d ride just as I do now. I don’t ride in a way I believe to be inherently risky, but I do like to descend mountains like a falcon dropping on prey. Knowing that a safety device is out there that can increase the likelihood of me conjugating verbs in the wake of a crash, why would I ride without it? Based on my previous airborne experience, it’s not worth the risk.
Are we really to believe that if helmets were eradicated more people would ride bikes? Have you heard a more feeble-minded idea this week? Andersen closes his presentation by saying, “Let rationality become the new black.” This from the man who espouses the emotional “style over speed.” Sorry Mikael, you can’t have it both ways.
Honestly, I thought TED was home to better ideas than these.
For most people, the start of a new year is either a blip on the calendar and no more or less significant than the changing of seasons, or a chance to re-set the clock with the ultimate self-improvement quest: the resolution. The failed results of most of those resolutions fill city dumps around the world.
As cyclists, though, we know something of new chapters. Aren’t we the most hopeful of resolutionists? Each new year is the dawn of yet another season of cycling. The cycle of seasons thrusts remission on us and with it, a chance to take stock and consider what the year’s cycling did and didn’t deliver.
It’s rare that we don’t make a conscious appraisal of the previous year. If we won, we resolve to continue to win, maybe win even more. If we didn’t throw the V, we hope to ascend to greater fitness and this time, claim the top step for ourselves. And there are among us those who have turned in the superhero cape. Nothing left to prove, as the march of time creeps into the second half of life, many will find treading water enough. This year’s body turning last year’s watts is a kind of victory. None of these can trump the achievement of the cyclist returning from injury though.
No one wants to make last year a forgotten dream more than the rider who was injured. No matter what the wound nor how inflicted, to the injured, the arrival of the new year is a shot at catching up. The fallow field for one rider is newly mown hay for those who heal.
The new season is a library, swollen with unanticipated treasures and terrors. Each book is the self, each ride another page revealing the unknown.
Ride time temp 24˚ F. Light wind. The snow from last week’s blizzard has mostly melted out, but where the sun eats away at the remaining piles you will find slick, black ice creeping across the pavement.
This is the thick of it.
Fleece-lined knickers with tights over top. High wool socks. Baselayer and midlayer and windproof outer. I wear two pairs of gloves, one thin but warm, and one windproof, because I prefer to have the use of all of my fingers, even in the bitterest.
When the sun shines and the wind is light like this, the cold is just the cold. It’s ambient, only really amplified by your own speed. Descents hurt, but the flats, where you can build some heat in your core, are more than tolerable.
The river is frozen in great, sweeping, Nazca lines of blue gray ice, the wind-swept ripples of its final moments of fluidity preserved there like fossil. Ducks dabble at its edges, tuck their heads under their wings, nap.
At these temperatures, of course, if the wind picks up, you’re hosed. A ten knot westerly will turn the evening commute into a survival race, extremities smarting with the struggle to keep blood in fingers and toes. You duck your head to keep your face out of the line of fire and focus on turning the pedals over.
South of 20˚, you run into mucoidal problems. A mentholated something pops up in the back of your nose. Your snot is freezing. Uncomfortable. Disconcerting. Even in a balaclava, the bridge of your nose stings. Your cheeks turn red and maybe start to itch. I call this “face cold.” One probably ought not be riding when it’s face cold, but one does, because that is just how it is.
But today it’s not face cold. It’s just regular cold, and we will be lucky if it stays that way. Brief periods of warmth only serve to melt what ice is there. When the mercury dives again, it leaves the roads all slick and dangerous.
No. Better just to stay cold. And dry.
Photo copyright Matt Person©
I am always thinking about bicycles. If I am not composing, in the back of my head, some post for these digital pages, I am busy reading about bikes, talking about bicycles. researching and dissecting and coveting new bicycles.
I don’t own that many, mind you. I have two road bikes and a mountain bike right now, having purged the stable of track bikes and cruisers when I moved to the top of this steep hill. Down to what I would term “the bare bones” I am spending even more time thinking about how to fill the garage with new bikes. There will certainly be a BMX coming in the spring, the better to while away the hours with my kids, riding in the street in front of our house. Beyond that, who knows?
It strikes me that the bikes you own are a sort of composition, an expression of your best ideas about what being on a bike should be. So every time you leave the house on two wheels, you’re saying something. Maybe you’re saying, “I can afford a very fancy carbon bicycle.” Or maybe, “I am a purist. I ride steel.” Or, “I ride cyclocross, because I’m tough.” Or, “My pretty track bike will take me to the Animal Collective show.” Of course, there’s what you say with your bike, and what other people hear.
Like each and every post I make here, I read and reread my bicycle compositions constantly, evaluating my story, testing it for truth. And while I spend some significant number of hours poring over the pictures and specifications of high end carbon race bikes, I have yet to find a place for one in my story. When I test the truth of riding one across town, my bird-like appendages flailing away at its monocoque frame, a false note rings in my head.
I am not Andy Schleck.
I am a middle-aged father of two with little time for cycling, and some pretty basic transportational needs. That I ride an Italian road bike back and forth (22 miles round trip) to work everyday is a bit much. It’s like using a Ferrari for a golf cart, but it’s an indulgence I afford myself to maintain motivation. I’m not sure all that comes across when you ride past me, wheezing and straining at the pedals, but that’s ok. I’ll tell that story anyway.
The other road bike in the garage right now is a Surly Cross Check. I’ll switch over to that when the weather gets dicier. It will say that I am, in the end, a practical soul, that I am willing to ride a workhorse when work is what needs to get done. It will also underline the point that speed isn’t in my DNA. So, no lies there.
This narrative, of course, extends itself to my clothing and accessories, the tools in my box, the parts in my bin, and the way I carry myself. I somehow aspire to tell a story that allows for the cramming of my soft suburban details into a PRO mold without in any way appearing to do so, the way some people spend a lot of time making their hair look like they never do anything to their hair.
The real tension in my cycling story is between covetousness and practicality, between id and ego, between fantasy and reality, between champagne and grape juice. I have drooled over any number of bikes of various frame materials and geometries, but I don’t race, so I can’t justify most of them except as objet d’art. My wife would never go for a Pinarello Prince hung over the hearth in the living room. She just wasn’t blessed with that sort of taste.
What are you saying with your bikes? How are you living your cycling life? And how does that Pinarello look over your fireplace?