Probing for Answers: The Cat 6 Racing Boom

Not a lot of people are aware of it, but New York City is a bike racing town. During the spring and summer months you can race your bicycle on the road or the track week after week, often multiple times a week, without even getting in a car. Whether you're a lofty Cat 1 or a lowly Cat 5, you can channel your unfulfilled desires into some kind of USA Cycling-sanctioned competition.

But what if you don't hold a racing license or belong to a racing club, yet you still burn with the desire to compete? More importantly, what if you don't even have the wherewithal to rally yourself by midday and sign up for an alleycat--a discipline which, in the realm of organized sport, lies somewhere between ironic dodgeball and fraternity flag football? Well, that's when you join the fastest-growing of segment of competitive cycling today: commuter (or "Cat 6") racing.

Yes, thanks to the practical cycling boom, commuter racing is more popular than ever before, and each morning and evening New York City's bridges teem with "meh-lotons" of abject dorkiness. Until recently, you had to actually participate in (or at least witness) a Cat 6 race to comprehend its unique combination of excitement and profound embarrassment. Now, though, it seems that Cat 6 racers are increasingly immortalizing their conquests on video, for a reader has forwarded me the following gripping example:

Sure, on first viewing it may just look like three people riding their bikes relatively slowly in a protected bike lane, but once you read the description it all starts to make sense:

Second hipster cuts me off like he is hot stuff and pedals like he's trying real hard to go fast. Eat your wheaties hipster! And buy some pants that fit.

My cycling clips aren't intended to be impressive. I'm trying to capture everyday cycling moments which include mini-races with other cyclists, altercations with drivers, pedestrians who have lapses in judgment, the occasional cyclists who doesn't intend to live past 30 and of course something for my wife to see when I get home from work. If you can't comprehend context or are angry that I have not brought more entertainment into your already very boring life please refrain from posting a stupid comment. I'm just going to delete it or show how logically inconsistent you are. I'm really sorry they couldn't extend highschool for you; but please don't waste my time.

Wow. After I read that I began to understand, and on second viewing I noticed how, after he passed his competition, his head began bobbing wildly as he powered his bicycle up to speeds that had to be in excess of 16mph. By the way, here's another look at the "main field:"

Formidable opponents indeed.

While I appreciate this video, I'd much rather see footage of the filmmaker showing it to his wife after he gets home, as he says he does in the description. I wonder if she actually humors him, or if she just locks herself in the bedroom and cries.

Speaking of competitive cycling, another reader has forwarded me the following article from

While ostensibly about the effects of heat on competitive cyclists, it also reveals that they are being probed with rectal thermometers:

The control trial was conducted in a room kept at 71.2 degrees Fahrenheit. A second “hot” trial was held in a room at 88.5 degrees. The final one was a “deception” trial, in which the temperature was displayed as 78.8 degrees but it was actually 88.8 degrees, the hottest of the three. The trials were administered in a randomized way, and all seven subjects performed all three. (Rectal thermometers used to measure each cyclist’s core body temperature were also displayed as being slightly lower than what they were actually were.)

I don't know who these riders are or how they wound up in this "Triplets of Belleville"-esque scenario, pedaling away on trainers with thermometers up their posteriors, but currently I'm working on two theories:

1) The Cat 6 racer videographer is abducting hipsters and conducting grotesque experiments on them;


2) They're just ordinary Cat 3s and Cat 4s. Cat 3s and Cat 4s will do absolutely anything if they think it will improve their performance, no matter how sordid or violating it is. "It'll make you faster" is the "Want some candy little girl?" of the amateur racing set.

In other news of perversity, reader Dave forwarded me an Internet forum thread about the tragic fate often met by old Klein mountain bikes, as well as this example, complete with what is apparently a surfboard rack:

I would have thought it was some sort of air foil, or else a rack for "portaging" Cat 6 racers to the lab for rectal probing after you've chloroformed them.

Anyway, I'm not sure what "vintage" Kleins are fetching these days, but people seem willing to pay just about anything for "vintage" Campagnolo, and another reader forwarded me this eBay auction in which a single hub and skewer went for £1,850 (that's like ten million American dollars):

I suppose this is "a piece of cycling history" as the seller claims, but it's also "for parts and not working," and the only explanation I can come up with for the high selling price is that someone was determined to squander his personal savings before the Rapture. Then again, I suppose that in the retro-Fred community the bragging rights that come with owning the world's oldest quick release are nearly priceless.

Speaking of retro-Freds, it occurs to me that it's about time I start steering the "There Will Be Action Wipes" contest to some kind of conclusion:

I assure you that I will do so, but the decision is going to be tough. Here's one submission that is very much in contention:
As is this one:

Meanwhile, though it's not quite an international symbol, I appreciated the way this one evoked the Tour de France logo, and I also think it would look perfect embroidered on a polo shirt:

Or, perhaps Outlier can license it for their new $220 Dolomite Pivot Sleeve Shirt that they just emailed me about:

I'm not sure why Outlier models are always running, but I hope it's not because Cat 6 bike racing is evolving into Cat 6 biathlon and these people are now racing each other all the way to their cubicles. Or maybe he's just fleeing in terror:

Cat 6 video guy must be on his tail and trying to probe him.

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