Undeterred: Powered by Ego, Repelled by Disgust

Sometimes when a professional cyclist leaves the sport for awhile the time spent out of competition can re-charge both his competitive spirit and his ego. There is one Astana rider in particular who has recently made a much-publicized comeback, and whose ego has swelled up like a saddle sore in the intervening years. I am talking of course about Alexander Vinokourov, seen here wearing a jersey in the "Alexander Vinokourov" egoway:

Like any sport, professional cycling involves a bit of showmanship, and there's certainly nothing wrong with that. Over the years, we've come to expect a bit of attention-grabbing "flambullience," whether it's Mario Cipollini's smarmy insouciance, Vladimir Karpets's heroic mullet and facial hair configuration, or Mark Cavendish's cat-cleaning-its-ear victory salute. Furthermore, it stands to reason that sponsors also like to get into the act, providing their more popular riders with things like custom-painted bikes and idiotic glasses. However, when Vinokourov put on a jersey bearing his own photorealistic likeness, he arguably went further than any rider before him ever has by promoting himself with a picture of himself on himself, thus essentially breaking the "fourth wall" of self-promotion.

I suppose we shouldn't be surprised to see this level of audacity from Vinokourov, who has long pushed the boundaries of acceptable behavior. For example, his insistence on waxing his eyebrows has long vexed the professional peloton. In cycling, opponents will often study each-other's faces for signs of weakness, but Vinokourov's hairless brow belies his suffering. Take this photo for instance:

Is Vinokourov fiercely determined, or is he in a world of pain? It's almost impossible to tell. If he had eyebrows though we'd know at a glance:

Obviously, the Vinokourov on the left is fiercely determined, and the Vinokourov on the right is in a world of pain. And now that he's back, between his lack of eyebrows and his Vinokourov jersey he may well be unstoppable.

However, not all cyclists return to the sport as egotistical juggernauts. One rider who's had a much harder time is Tyler Hamilton, who came back to the sport by joining Michael Ball's ectoplasmic armada only to be humped by the black dog of depression:

Stevil Kinevil forwarded me this particular photo, and Hamilton's unruly mop of hair and angry countenance is in stark contrast to Vinokourov's impenetrably hairless visage. While I certainly do not want to mock Tyler Hamilton's battle with depression (who among us has not seen the black dog's "lipstick" every now and again?), it is worth noting he's beginning to look distressingly like the Opinionated Cyclist:

Of course, one way to stave off depression is to keep yourself busy. This is especially important for professional athletes, who often retire with well more than half their lives ahead of them. Yes, time can be daunting, and it can be difficult to figure out how to fill all those years. Sadly some athletes attempt to spackle the chasm of time with drink and drugs, while others, like Chris Boardman, go around promoting the "bike of the future:"

A number of readers brought this to my attention, and one pointed out its resemblance to the Trek Y-Foil, a design which was clearly ahead of its time (by which I mean it was preemptively ugly). Boardman may well be as depressed as Hamilton, since he clearly envisions a dystopian future in which theft still exists and we are so lazy that we need electrically assisted bicycles to get around. However, there is hope, since the motor will be powered by solar panels, which means that at least we'll still have the sun. While they haven't actually gotten around to building the "bike of the future" yet, Boardman assures us that they can--it's just that nobody feels like it:

Just because "all the technologies are already there" doesn't mean you should build something. All the technologies are are also there to build an army of robotic killer clowns, and while such a thing would admittedly be marginally more practical than this bike they probably shouldn't build that either.

I will admit though that I was intrigued by the "fingerprint recognition" locking device, though I'm sure thieves would eventually figure out how to "fingerbang" them open. Still, I wonder if people will still use Brooks saddles in the future. While an old-fashioned saddle like the Brooks would look even more anachronistic on tomorrow's NĂ¼-Y-Foils than it does on today's Aerospoked fixies, at least it could be secured to the bike using fingerprint recognition technology instead of u-locks. In the meantime, one of the few alternatives to cumbersome locks is one of the oldest theft-deterrent techniques in the world: camouflage. For example, you could cover your Brooks with a "Flash Panty" seat cover, to which I was alerted by a friend:

I'm not sure what a "Flash Panty Chemical Reaction" is, though it sounds like something you'd get after riding too long in a soiled chamois. In any case, it should not only disguise your saddle but also serve as a strong deterrent. And for maximum effect, after you've covered your Brooks (or similarly overpriced saddle) with a Flash Panty, rest a Neil Diamond CD on top of it:

Incidentally, Neil Diamond himself is also available in a "metal" colorway:

Of course, it shouldn't surprise you to learn that Brooks are not only aware of the fact that their saddles are coveted by thieves, but also that the market for Brooks theft prevention is potentially very lucrative. This is why they're developing their own line of synthetic saddle theft-deterrents:

Simply place a Brooks Theft-Deterrent Device on top of your saddle and walk away with confidence that nobody will want to touch it. Designs range from the highly realistic "moldy bagel" for low crime areas all the way up to the security and peace of mind that only a soiled prophylactic can offer.

Still, not everybody wants to prevent bicycle component theft. Some people actually invite it since it serves as inspiration for a romantic reverie:

In which I assume that only beautiful young ladies steal bicycle parts - m4w - 22 (Union Square)
Date: 2009-08-11, 12:39AM EDT

You: Young and attractive with a refined sense of style and quick with an Allen wrench.

Me: Avid bicyclist with apparently the same refined sense of style.

As I sat on a mind-numbing LIRR train car, and sat through an exhausting band practice, you were examining all of the bicycles near 14th Street. I can only imagine the tingle in your heart as you saw the perfect curvature of my stock 1980s Raleigh Technium drop handlebars. The black grip tape impeccably wrapped around the even arc of this exquisite example of functional elegance undoubtedly mirrored your own subtle beauty. Never one to miss a lucky chance to snatch up something both practical and stylish, you decided that my handlebars would be better suited in your possession than in mine. Perhaps you believe they will make a fantastic addition to the "found art" theme of your studio apartment. Maybe you appreciated the clean, simple lines of my fixed-gear conversion, and wanted to help me achieve an even more "stripped-down" look.

While I am not one to argue with a lady who has made up her mind, I am now slightly disappointed that I now do not have functional transportation. While I must admit that I enjoyed the walk from Union Square back to my apartment in the far East Village (especially the looks I got as I wheeled a handlebar-less frame crosstown), it was not exactly how I was planning on concluding my evening.

So if you read this, please consider emailing me back. I really like my little bike and would like to continue riding it. I would consider buying you a nice dinner (or a drink, or ice cream) in exchange for my handlebars and a (small) apology.

If he'd used a Brooks Theft-Deterrent Device on his bars, he might still have them. "Exquisite examples of functional elegance" are a lot less elegant when they're covered in fake puke.
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