The Indignity of Bike Month: (What's So Funny 'Bout) Cleats, Love and Understanding?

If you're a cyclist, you may also be a fan of professional cycling, in which case you're no doubt following the Giro d'Italia. (It's like kind of like the Tour de France, only there are different jersey "colorways" for the various classifications, and it seems kind of like it was directed by Federico Fellini since it gets pretty "bawdy.") For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the Giro and its rich, saucy, and delicious history, I have gone through the considerable trouble of posting a handy "FAQ" on my Universal Sports Giro d'Italia-themed blogular presence. These easily digestible factoids should serve as handy conversation-starters the next time you find yourself around the kinds of people who get way too excited about "vintage" Cinellis, wine, and Rapha. In the interest of taste, I did leave out the question "What's pink, hairless, and starts with the letter 'V'?," but if you really must know you can click here for the surprisingly safe-for-work answer.

Speaking of sports that are very popular internationally but only embraced by a small yet passionate number of Americans, "celebressenger" Austin Horse (also known as that guy who raced a Mercedes) is leading a ride this Saturday from Manhattan to the Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ, where you can watch The New York Red Bulls play professional "soccer" (that's what we call "football" in America, since we have our own kind of football that involves more man-on-man humping) against the Seattle Sounders, who are named after the 1970 novel of the same name, written by William H. Armstrong:

This actually sounds like a very enjoyable way to spend a Saturday afternoon if you're a soccer fan, which is why I am sharing it with you. I, however, am not a soccer fan (I only like watching people kick balls when it's done for cheap laughs) so I will not be attending. (I will instead be attempting to cultivate a pretentious appreciation for the sport of cricket, which I will then bore people with at social events and ultimately play ironically in Williamsburg's McCarren Park.) By the way, true to the "woosie option" law I mentioned yesterday, there are two course options on the Red Bull Arena ride, though I assume Austin Horse will not lead both of them--unless he is either extremely fast, or omnipresent.

Incidentally, Austin Horse is also a sometimes-Outlier clothing model (yes, today's messengers wear $180 pants), which I mention only as a gratuitous segue (not to be confused with a "gratuitous segway") to this picture I recently noticed on the Outlier site:

"Yep, just taking my fixie to the beach." I've long wondered why the "fixerati" persist in taping only the upper portion of their bars (or, as I call it, the "dog's erection" taping style). This picture, though, may finally have answered my question--it must be seasonal, and they do it so that their bars match their legs. To test this theory, I'll have to wait until autumn and see if full bar taping returns with full-length pants.

Speaking of leaving things uncovered, I unintentionally seem to have touched off a helmet debate with yesterday's post. Alas, I should not be surprised, since helmet debates are like erections--sometimes dormant, but always ready to pop up at even the slightest provocation. Consequently, any mention of helmets on the Internet is the equivalent of an inadvertent "nipple slip," and then people start pitching "pants tents" in the comments. I shan't (not to be confused with "shant") continue to "flan the fames" of this debate, but I do feel I should clarify that my intention was not to call into question the efficacy of helmets. It was only to say that I think the way the writer of the Globe article posthumously castigated someone who has died a horrible death was extremely distasteful--especially considering the circumstances. I've since heard from a number of people who, unlike the writer of the article, actually know what happened. As a commenter yesterday pointed out:

Anonymous said...

The city may claim not to know the cause of the Boston accident, but as someone who saw it happen, a helmet would NOT have helped. Dude got hit bike tire stuck in the train tracks (which run right in the road), bus came flying around the corner and annihilated him as he tried to get loose. He really wasn't doing anything reckless.

May 11, 2010 4:53 PM

Says the Globe writer, "A helmetless rider is an arrogant rider." But what do you call a rider whose wheel is stuck in some train tracks? Perhaps the writer should publish another article about how we're all arrogant and irresponsible for not commuting on full-suspension 29ers. I'm sure he won't, though, since he's undoubtedly moved on in search of more deaths over which to gloat.

Anyway, there is new evidence that the risks of brakeless riding far outweigh those of helmetless riding. Moreover, even wearing a helmet will do nothing to mitigate this risk. A reader has sent me the following post from a fixed-gear forum somewhere, and I'm sure you'll agree that it is nothing short of revelatory:

o... this mite be too much info for you guys but i went to the doctor and have some info that i should probly share since you guys ride fixed.

i went to the dr. for stomache issues (gas pains and constupation) it has been happening since i started riding and i think it is from riding brakeless. he asked what my activities were and about my diet. after explaiing how to ride fixed and how you dont need brakes because you are basically one with the bike/road and lock up your legs to slow or how you can pedal backwards, but not like the bikes you ride when you were kids etc... he said it is causing too much straining on my insides and that is why im having trouble going to the bathroom. he said that over the long term it will could cause me to get pollups(?) which are what cause cancer. ass cancer is definitely not worth it. USE YOUR BRAKES!

This link between brakeless riding and "ass cancer" is the medical breakthrough that every worried parent of a budding "fixter" has been waiting for--in fact, it would not surprise me in the least to learn that the poster is at the center of a vast parental conspiracy. One likely scenario is that they've been slipping Immodium in his food and colluding with his doctor on this highly spurious diagnosis. (I'm a staunch brake advocate, but even I refuse to believe brakelessness causes cancer. This is even more of a stretch than when the PMRC tried to blame popular music for teen suicide.) Alternately, it could be that this was actually posted by a worried parent posing as a fixed-gear rider. In any case, until it's published in the New England Journal of Medicine or the Lancet, I'm going to stick to my assertion that the best reason to use a brake is to keep from crashing into stuff.

Meanwhile, we're not even halfway through "Bike Month" and, frankly, I don't know how much more of this I can take. Really, it seems as though the "mainstream media" is only interested in using it to play up the eternal (as in eternally tedious) "drivers vs. cyclists" debate. Here's another example which a number of people brought to my attention:

Sure, "sharing the road" is an important issue, but between these articles and the various interviews I've done recently it seems like the only way anybody seems able to frame any discussion of cycling is in terms of "drivers vs. cyclists," or "cars vs. bikes." Have we as Americans officially reached the point where we are no longer able to understand anything unless it is presented to us as a war, or as some "epic" struggle between the forces of good and evil? Is nobody aware of the fundamental irony that many of us drive and cycle and walk and use public transit and fly? (Notice I did not mention Amtrak--you'd have to be insane to travel that way.) Is it that hard to confront the fact that the real enemy is not the mode of transport but the idiot operating it? Do people become similarly heated over issues like "whisks vs. hand mixers?" Can I hope to one day live in a world in which people respect each-other's humanity, and in which the helmeted driver of a convertible car waves to the helmetless Dutch bike rider, and the motorcyclist embraces the Rollerblader, and the hang-glider salutes the boater, and the newspapers of America stop fighting their inevitable death by trolling for comments in the form of recycled "car vs. bike" stories, and the sun shines on shared roads, and we all join together to feast on the "epic" burrito of compassion, and joy, and mutual respect, and, as Don Cornelius used to say, love, peace and soul?

Almost assuredly, the answer to these questions are: Yes; No; Yes; Probably; and Fuck No.

In the meantime, it would behoove all of us ("behoove" means something that causes you to grow hooves) to remember the true spirit of "Bike Month," which is, of course, all about health, respect, safety, fanny-packs, and gigantic "Fred" rides. After all, as cyclists our lives are not a renewable resource--unless you shop at Jenson USA, in which case, as a reader informs me, you can buy a brand-new cyclist for $279.99:

Unfortunately, though, it turns out this was something of a bait-and-switch, since I tried to buy the cyclist for my helper monkey, Vito, and it turned out he was actually not only $9,999.99 but also unavailable:

In the end, I wound up buying a house-branded one from the secret website. He's somewhat "Fredly," made by Tektro, and only cost me $39.99 after I entered the coupon code "bikedork."

Of course, if you've just bought a brand-new cyclist on the Internet, you're going to want to accessorize him, and the first thing you should do is get him some shoes. As it happens, you can get some pretty sweet deals on Craigslist right now. In fact, the proprietor of "Keirin Culture" informs me that some sellers are even including "clits:"

Cannondale not for you? Another reader informs me the seller also has Shimano:

Just keep in mind that there are different kinds of clits--the SPD clit is small and recessed, whereas the Look type is large, red, and sort of triangular. Generally, mountain bikers have the former, whereas roadies tend to have the latter. Indeed, you can learn a lot about cyclists from checking out their clits.

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