Solidarity: March of a Thousand Contadors

Yesterday I mentioned Cadel Evans racing in an Alberto Contador mask in the 2012 Tour de France. Well, little did I know that an Alberto Contador mask actually exists. In fact, those Spanish cycling fans who aren't too busy starving themselves will be donning them for a "symbolic bike ride" in Contador's home town:

"As far as I'm concerned, the Court of Arbitration for sport can all go fingerbang themselves," said the ride's anonymous leader:

Meanwhile, cycling fans in Luxembourg (all 14 of them) will don Andy Schleck masks and embark on a ride in celebration of his retroactive 2010 Tour de France victory:

("My stomach was full of anger, now my face is full of holes.")

Participants are asked to back out their front derailleur limit screws for the commemorative simultaneous chain-dropping that will take place towards the end of the ride. Cycling historians say this will be the largest mass chain-dropping since the start of last year's Five Boro Bike Tour.

Speaking of bicycle drivetrains, while printing out my Alberto Contador mask over at the "Bicycling" website I also noticed this interesting article about Campagnolo, whose name is Italian for "the one with the thumb nubbin:"

Of course, most cycling enthusiasts know that the company's founder, Tullio (Italian for "multitool") invented the quick release skewer. However, very few people know the story behind it. In the year 1492, Queen Isabella of Spain agreed to fund Campagnolo's voyage to the New World in search of undiscovered bicycle componentry. However, due to the quirks of those earliest Garmin sextants he miscalculated his route and wound up in Asia, where he instead discovered the noodle, which would eventually become the basis of all Italian cuisine. Loading the noodles into the delivery cart pictured above, he made his way back to Italy, but as he was cresting Mt. Everest one of the wheels fell off and so he "DaVinci-ed" (15th century Italian slang for "MacGyvered") the world's first quick release wheel skewer from the bones of a dead sherpa's fingers. The rest, as they say, is history marketing, and now we have 11 speeds.

(By the way, industry rumor has it that the 2013 Super-Duper Record Ultra Plus group will feature a rear derailleur made entirely from sherpa bone.)

Something else I was interested to learn from the article was that there's apparently a "prototypical rider" for whose business all the component makers are vying:

Findley is the prototypical rider all three high-end component makers—Shimano, SRAM, and Campagnolo—are courting. A 37-year-old college professor in Altoona, Pennsylvania, Findley commutes to work, competes in Tuesday-night "hammer rides," and tackles a century now and then. If this were an election, Sam Findley would be the undecided voter in a swing state.

"I'm trying to get the best bang for the buck," Findley told me. As a teenager he rode his father's road bike: "A classic Bianchi with a group of perfect Campagnolo diamonds." As a penny-pinching college student he rode what he could afford: a Schwinn Prologue with Shimano gear. Now in his thirties, he's got a little coin in his pocket. He's riding a Cannondale with SRAM Rival components.

Why SRAM? "It's lighter than what I could otherwise get for my money, and the bike shop guys were really good about pointing that out. They like it and ride it," Findley said. "I've done a few races where SRAM provided neutral support, which I liked. And, frankly, Campagnolo parts weren't stocked locally. I could get a Campy group, but if the bearings went out I'd have to wait a week or two to get the parts shipped."

If Chaka Khan was "every woman," then Sam Findley is "every Fred," and if you want to scare a Fred away from Campagnolo and keep him from becoming a "Fredo" then there's no better way of doing it than evoking the horrific spectre of a week away from the Tuesday night "hammer ride" due to mysterious bearings (which bearings are we talking about?) that suddenly "go out" (whatever that means) and must be sourced from Italy, a leisurely country where it can take up to 15 years to get a single cappuccino. Really, it's all highly suspect and smacks of conspiracy. "Sorry, we can't change your exotic shifter cable, there's another strike at the Campy factory and we don't have the $789 Campagnolo shifter cable extractor tool. Can I interest you in this SRAM group? It has one button that does everything, just like an iPhone. You just stab at it until what you want to happen happens."

As for SRAM and the "neutral support," they've certainly got Campy there, and we all know what happened when Campagnolo introduced its short-lived grassroots "impassioned support" campaign. Sure, it was full of that unique Campagnolo character, but it turns out that most American amateur bike racers really don't appreciate being berated in Italian while waiting for a wheel change. Trust me, I speak from experience--I looked up what the Campy support guy called me when I got home, and I don't think it's legal or even physically possible to perform any of the sex acts he described.

Meanwhile, Freds everywhere are agog over the new SRAM hydraulic road brake spy shots, which promises not only better power and modulation, but also a 250% increase in use of the phrase "hydrolic breaks" on bike geek Internet forums:

I believe that every cyclist has his or own personal Retrogrouch Breaking Point--that moment where no new technological development, no matter how lauded, is even remotely appealing. Once you've reached this point time simply stands still. Some reached their Retrogrouch Breaking Point years ago, and refuse to acknowledge the existence of indexed shifting, or double-digit cassettes, or crabon fiber. Others may not reach it until we're all riding bike frames made of lasers and shifting with our tongues. As for me, I think I may finally have reached mine with the advent of hydraulic road brakes. Sure, I understand the reasons behind it, but I have as much use for them as a hydraulic crotch scratcher. (My mechanical crotch scratcher is both reliable and effective, thankyouverymuch, and I really don't have time for regular crotch scratcher bleedings.)

Meanwhile, a reader informs me that a posse of Mission District "hilpsters" recently attempted to intercept an elderly homeless man with a fixie:

Homeless old man with stolen green single speed Felt (mission district)
Date: 2012-02-05, 8:52AM PST
Reply to: [deleted]

A few people tried to stop an old homeless man walking with what was clearly NOT his shiny green fixed or single-speed bike, on Mission and 14th St at 8:30 am today.

The bike was a green Felt with a spotted white classic leather saddle. It looked like a lot of love and care went into this bike.

Two people confronted him about the bike being stolen and tried to take it away. The old man got violent, so we left him alone.

I don't know which is more depressing: the self-righteousness of the "hilpsters" involved, or the fact that they were unsuccessful. They also don't seem to know much about bikes, since that Curbside or whatever it is looks more or less stock. (Yes, they were that dorky straight from the factory.) Anyway, presumably when the guy wouldn't surrender the bike they went on to try to take some guy's shoes. Sure they were on his feet, but he obviously stole them because he totally didn't look cool enough to be wearing them.

Lastly, if you have salmoning tendencies you should make sure to stay far away from Japan, where riding the wrong way can land you in jail for three months (as forwarded by another reader):

Riding against the flow of traffic will earn you a 50,000 yen fine or 3 months imprisonment.

You definitely do not want to wind up in Japanese prison, especially when you consider the possibility of going insane while in solitary confinement:

Let that be a lesson: when in Japan, avoid the salmon roll.

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