I was sitting in my buddy Mike’s office this morning talking about the weekend and a potential ride. There is a 100km brevet going off tomorrow afternoon, which is enticing but for the forecast of low 40s (F) and a probable rain/snow mix. For those of us who rode through an admittedly mild winter, an afternoon spinning through frigid precipitation is about as enticing as a long drink from a Belgian water fountain (see below).
It’s time for the Belgian classics, but we’re over crappy weather here.
That’s when Mike said he was sick of everything being described as Belgian something-or-other, as in Belgian toothpaste (i.e. mud) or Belgian tan lines (i.e. legs coated in dust), etc., etc. You can make up your own versions of these too, for fun and entertainment.
Belgian car wash = mud puddle. Belgian pen = a pencil. Belgian water fountain = the spray off your buddy’s rear wheel. Belgian mayonnaise = um…mayonnaise. Anyway, you get the point.
I said to Mike that I was sympathetic. I believe that wherever enough people are riding bikes there is enough cycling culture to stand on its own. We don’t need, here in New England, to borrow all sorts of Euro-isms, because we have unique riding and weather conditions of our own.
We were Belgian, when Belgium wasn’t cool.
But listen, I am NOT in favor of proscribing language. If people want everything to be Belgian or epic or PRO or whatever, it’s not for me to tell them it shouldn’t be. It’s hard enough to express yourself while employing every bit of cliché or cultural shorthand at your disposal. Life has enough rules. Use whatever words you want.
We are lucky that cycling is rich in idiom. One of my favorites is the French expression for the bonk (itself a great term), which translates to ‘the man with the hammer.’ There are also the ones commentators come out with. I’m fond of Phil Liggett’s description of a rider bridging across to a breakaway, “He’s gone across like a flea jumping on a dog.”
Hell, I even like some of the technical terms we use like torsional stiffness and vertical compliance. Or how about, brake chatter and chain slop?
This week’s Group Ride is about cycling terms and expressions. What are your favorites? Which ones are you sick of? Make some up and share them with the group. Someone come up with a meaning for ‘Luxembourg Handshake.”
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Image: Photoreporter Sirotti