Say It Loud: "I Ride and I'm Proud"

I've made no secret of the fact that I am a strong believer in full fenders (or "wheelbrows") for everyday, non-competitive cycling--so much so that I even produced a PSA. The truth is, while some may scoff, a set of wheelbrows can keep you significantly drier in wet conditions and is far more effective than a clip-on "filth prophylactic." I've also occasionally employed actor Peter Gallagher's lush eyebrows in order to issue advisories when weather conditions calling for wheelbrows are imminent--even though, to my knowledge, Peter Gallagher is not particularly interested in cycling. Well, you can imagine my pleasure when Peter Gallagher, his eyebrows, and cycling finally came together in the season premiere of the Showtime series "Californication" this past Sunday. That's right--Peter Gallagher was riding a bike.

Unfortunately, like a teenager in a crowded house with only one bathroom, my pleasure was short-lived. Not only was Peter Gallagher's bike depressingly bereft of wheelbrows, but Gallagher himself was also dressed like a complete doofus, complete with pointy time trial helmet:

Actually, I'm not sure this is Peter Gallagher at all--it could be a stunt rider. At least one commenter has observed that Cadel Evans looks a bit like Gallagher, so at first I thought maybe it was the newly-rainbowed World Champion:

However, it seemed more likely to me that they'd pick an American rider, so my next guess was George "Bad Luck" Hincapie (click here for the Hincapie theme song):

But while it was tempting to imagine that Hincapie is picking up a little off-season bakshish (which is not to be confused with a little Wednesday hashish) by doing stunt work in Hollywood, it really doesn't look like him, so I ultimately decided that, if this is indeed a stunt rider, then it's Grant Petersen. (I based this decision solely on the rider's upright position.)

If you're unfamiliar with "Californication," it's about a lascivious, hedonistic writer with a heart of gold who's played by David Duchovny. He also drives a beat-up Porsche, which symbolizes his downfall from literary wunderkind to washed-up cad. In any case, Duchovny is in a hurry to get to the next scene, so he starts honking impatiently at Gallagher, or Evans, or Hincapie, or Petersen, or whoever is actually riding the bike:

Predictably, an argument ensues and obscenities are exchanged:

(At this point it's definitely Gallagher, though he might be using stunt eyebrows.)

As the argument escalates, Duchovny exclaims, "Live Strong, asshole," and flicks his cigarette right into Gallagher's face:

Presumably, this causes Gallagher's trademark bushy eyebrows to burst into flames, and he (well, the stunt double) winds up crashing headlong into somebody's flower box:

("Do not put anything in my flower box"--including Peter Gallagher's stunt double.)

Of course, it turns out the dinner party to which Duchovny is headed (unbeknownst to him) is actually at Gallagher's house, which I believe they call either "situational irony" or "hackneyed plotting." Here's Gallagher a little while later in his non-cycling attire, having fortunately survived his journey into the flower box:

If you want to actually watch this for yourself, you can do so for free at, though be aware it is heavily censored--especially the weird "mangina" scene:

Anyway, after watching this scene, I felt torn. (I mean the driver/cyclist encounter scene, not the mangina scene.) On one hand, here is the "mainstream" media once again making cyclists look foolish. On the other hand, it is only a TV show, and Duchovny's character is supposed to be an asshole. Also, while we don't really know Peter Gallagher's character very well yet, I'm sure he's supposed to be the sort of Fredly person who would ride around slowly in a time trial helmet. So really, it's foolish to get offended by art (or at least entertainment). Plus, in real life David Duchovny is actually a triathlete, as you can see from this video which I have edited slightly to conform to the Mavic R-Sys testway:

Even so, one can't help finding these sorts of portrayals somewhat vexing. In a way, Duchovny ridiculing a dorky cyclist when he is actually a dorky cyclist himself is reminiscent of a time when actors had to change their names in order to hide their cultural backgrounds. (Fortunately, those days are well behind us, which is why the host of "The Daily Show," Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz, proudly uses his given name.) One wonders what other "celebrities" are also cyclists. Sure, we know about Carson Daly, and Jake Gyllenhaal, and even Conan Vinokourov. But that's just the tip of the Fredberg. The guy who coined the phrase "weird style diktats" recently forwarded me this photo of Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts, and as you can see Schreiber is not only "palping" a set of celebrity-approved aero extensions, but he's also coming in for a textbook sidewalk "schluff:"

That notwithstanding, it pleases me to see two people enjoying themselves on bikes. The fact is, Hollywood's relationship with cycling is an uneasy one--like homosexuality, it seems like something they're reluctant to embrace even though many of them are doing it. Similarly, the relationship between the media and the fixed-gear trend is equally strained, and a reader has informed me that one outlet is boldly announcing its death:

Intrigued, I read the Washington Post article referenced in the post, and it certainly was one of the most refined fixed-gear form articles I've read in quite some time. It contained all the necessary elements. There was the dubious explanation of how a fixed-gear works:

The "fixie bliss" testimonial:
And a reference to the brake debate:

Nothing says "street cred" like "brakeless" and "high school math teacher."

Really, the only way to date a fixed-gear form article is by the bicycle models it references. This one is clearly more current since it references the Globe Roll:

In case you're wondering, "late adopters" is the polite industry term for the people who decided to buy fixed-gears after the "culture" closed, and who are more colloquially referred to as "n00bs." These people are in contrast to "pioneers" like Garrett Chow, who have been riding fixed-gears since waaay back in 2003. In the world of fixed-gear marketing, it's very important to read the subtext. When Chow says, "This is a lifestyle tool," he really means, "This is a lifestyle, tool." Clearly the reporter did not pick up on his inflection. It's a polite way of saying, "All you 'n00bs' suck my product."

The truth is, the simple act of cycling can be a source of tremendous embarrassment and guilt. Between the closeted celebrities and self-conscious "late adopters" it can seem like nobody's comfortable simply getting on a bike. And when cycling is combined with white gentrification, the embarrassment and guilt can be, well, palpable:

Sorry I spat at you this morning - w4m - 29 (Clinton Hill)
Date: 2009-09-29, 9:49PM EDT
Reply To This Post

I'm a white woman who was riding my bike to work this morning, and you were a young Black adolescent boy (either really young or really short). As I rode past you, you suddenly lunged at me and barked really loudly and scared the shit out of me, which was your intention. So I spit at you, out of rage, without thinking, and I rode away. You shouldn't do things like that because they are dangerous and can cause accidents. But I really shouldn't have spit at you, and I'm sorry. I think that automatic, but rather weak glob of saliva that I dropped in your direction was fueled by years of bike commutes full of pedestrians, motorists, and even other cyclists doing and saying really fucked up things to me that I always ignored, but the hostility built up. And years of feeling frustrated and angry and guilty when groups of young Black men in my neighborhood would periodically decide to chase me and threaten me and say sexually disgusting things to me and just generally make me feel unsafe in my gender because of resentment and tension around the fact that I'm a gentrifier. But my spitting at you just adds to whatever it was that made you feel like you should try and scare me, which is not at all what I want to do. You acted obnoxiously, but you did not deserve to be spit at. Not at all. I'm sorry we had that interaction, and I'm sorry we represented to each other what we did, and I hope that if we ever run into each other again, we can just recognize each other as two people who have a lot going on in their lives and who just want to go to where they're going on peace.

Flicking a cigarette at a Fred is bad enough, but spitting on a child is something else entirely. Whether it's bikes or people, sometimes it seems like "gentrifiers" are far too preoccupied with colorway.

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