Winning by a Nose: Of Competition and Virility

Further to yesterday's post, one commenter was irate that I did not treat the Red Hook Crit or its participants with sufficient reverence:

Anonymous said...

Funny, it's obvious none of you actually know anything about the red hook crit, and the level of competion this event brings. A few pro racers several cat 1, 2 ,3 racers. (plain english translation, cuase im sure most of you dont even know what that means, these dudes race and are good enough to progressed up the ranks) So to say this event is a joke, clearly highlights your ignorance.

At least this guy raced in it, I was there and it was cold, anyone who has the balls to race in those conditions deserves to describe the event as not being hipster or what whatever else they want.
Top ten or whatever, give the guy a break, he's obviously passionate about racing, and if any of you are true sportsman, or have any passion for anything you should be encouraging his passion not talking shit.

June 27, 2011 10:49 PM

I think most readers of this blog not only understand but also appreciate the Red Hook Crit. Indeed, I'm a fan of the Red Hook Crit and I even told the "media" as much when they asked--though in the end they decided to misquote me. I also think most readers of this blog understand and appreciate being passionate about cycling, as it is a feeling most of us have in common. It's certainly why I dictate this blog to my helper monkey everyday, and it's most likely why you're reading it right now instead of checking out cheese porn.

Nevertheless, I'd also argue that it's important to keep certain things in perspective. For example, the Red Hook Crit is a great event, but let's not get too carried away with the level of competition. Sure it boasts "a few pro racers" as well as "several cat 1, 2 ,3 racers," but so does any given weekend race in Prospect Park. (Even if some of them are getting suspended for doping.)

Also, yes, it goes without saying that we all encourage Cinelli hat guy's passion for cycling. However, at the same time, some of us are not quite convinced that his decision to partake in a bicycle race (even though "it was cold") warrants making him one of the subjects of a Bud Greenspan-esque documentary film. I say this as someone who has partookened in many a cold bicycle race, and who knows that recreation is recreation no matter what the thermometer says. (And it usually says, "You're an idiot. Go back to bed.")

Most importantly, when you enter a race there is no guarantee of glory. You may win, you may get lapped 15 times, or you may wind up having to peel your face from the asphalt. If Cinelli hat guy is a "true sportsman," he knows this. If he is not, he will figure it out sooner or later. Similarly, when you are one of the subjects of a Greenspan-esque documentary film, there is no guarantee that your efforts will be lauded. Whether it's a race or a film, the only way to guarantee a result is to not participate in the first place. This is the essence of both competition and personal expression. We are not required to be moved by the "Racing Towards Red Hook" video, for it is as subject to commendation or derision as any creative work.

So why is maintaining this perspective important? Because without it, our innate human inanity knows no bounds. Most of us have fancied ourselves cycling heroes at one time or another, and we know the perils of this behavior all too well. It's what compels 20-something freelancers to spend a thousand dollars on Hed 3 front wheels for their track bikes while foregoing health insurance. It's why your local Cat 4 field is riding more exotic bikes than most Pro Tour teams. It's why riders pushing 30 are on doping programs so they can dominate amateur races.

It's tempting to say that there's a fine line between dedication and delusion, but when it comes to cycling, I'd argue that dedication doesn't exist and that there are only degrees of delusion that can be measured in dollar signs. And to expect congratulations simply for entertaining this delusion is, in itself, delusional.

So if making jokes about treating the Red Hook Crit like Paris Roubaix is wrong, then I don't want to be right. Because, frankly, the alternative (which is actually taking bike racing seriously) is just too fucking expensive.

Speaking of documentary films, another subject that may or may not be worthy of documenting is Critical Mass in New York City. As you most likely know, "Critical Mass is a leaderless group bicycle ride that takes place in over 300 cities around the world, typically on the last Friday of every month." However, Critical Mass documentaries do have leaders. These leaders are called "directors," and this one wants us to give him $25,000:

"I have a right to ride in the street! On my bike! I don't need any government permission!," shouts one Critical Masser in the trailer, and this is exactly why I think New York City's Critical Mass warrants a documentary. Indeed, we don't need any government permission to ride our bikes in the streets, but thanks to Critical Mass we probably will soon. Between the crackdowns and the parade rule and the constant attempts to institute bicycle registration laws that have arisen since Critical Mass began, it's only a matter of time before it succeeds in its goal of making the simple act cycling not only politically charged but also completely illegal.

But while I do believe that one of the most ass-backward political movements in recent years does warrant a documentary, I'm not so sure we should have to pay for it--especially when you consider the dicrector's background:

In 2004 New York City's Critical Mass bicycle ride was labeled a "protest" and the police began an uncommonly aggressive campaign of mass arrests of bicyclists. Chris ( the Director ) was caught up in the first wave of arrests and has continued filming Critical Mass rides, while following relevant court cases and documenting other cyclists' personal experiences.

Didn't those people who got arrested win a big fat settlement? It seems to me he should be in a pretty good position to fund the movie himself. Then again, you can't really put a price on watching people raise pennyfarthings in defiance:

Actually, you can, and it's apparently 25 grand. I think NYC Critical Mass may be the Red Hook Crit of protest rides.

Yes, cyclists in New York City are under unrelenting political pressure. Meanwhile, the police (at least those who ride bikes while on patrol) are evidently under unrelenting groinal pressure, which is why some doctor is touting noseless saddles:

Case in point, an officer who switched to a noseless saddle and now has longer "night boners:"

During his sleep, when he wore a monitor, the measure known as “percent of time erect” increased to 28 percent from 18 percent.

It's hard to think of when a longer erection would be of less use to you than when you're sound asleep and you can't even use the thing. Spending more time erect while you're unconscious is like having a slightly more aerodynamic sofa. In theory I suppose it's better, but in practice, so what?

Speaking of meaningless measurements, here's another one:

“There’s as much penis inside the body as outside,” Dr. Schrader told me. “When you sit on a regular bike saddle, you’re sitting on your penis.”

If you're a man, next time someone's unimpressed with your endowment, just try telling them that half your penis is inside your body and that it's actually twice as long as it looks. Then throw in the part about how you have magnificent erections of "epic" duration while you're snoring and drooling all over your pillow and you'll have your pick of anybody at the bar.

Of course, the biggest problem with this whole noseless saddle data is that the testing was done on police, so while it may be relevant to them it's not necessarily applicable to the rest of us and how we ride. Anyway, I'll be impressed when this Dr. Schrader does one of his boner tests on cops who ride recumbents:

Perhaps he can finally break the elusive 100% night erection barrier.

I would like to see a noseless Brooks though.

Lastly, I was very pleased to hear from a reader recently who was fortunate enough to meet the famous Lone Wolf. As he describes it:

I met the Lone Wolf today at the Manhattan Beach Grand Prix. I turned around from the race and there he was! "Lone Wolf" I blurted out. He laughed deep and wise. The laugh of one who is in fact THE Lone Wolf. "You are one of my heroes" I went on. He looked me right in the eyes and said "You are a hero." He set his wheels straight, and posed for this picture. His wolf powers conjured two podium girls in red as I snapped this image.

Wisdom from the Wolf: stay hydrated.
He is really a very nice guy.

Humility, good humor, and a saddle with a nose. He's nothing short of the cycling ideal.
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