Weight of the World: Shouldering Burdens, Rationalizing Decisions

Cycling is more than the act of simply riding a bicycle. Also important is the way you handle and interact with your bicycle at those times when you are not riding it. For example, even the safest and most capable rider will lose his or her bicycle if he or she does not know how to lock it effectively. Also, we must occasionally maneuver or carry our bicycles while on foot--crowded sidewalks, elevators, and staircases are just a few places in which deft off-the-bicycle handling can be essential.

Cyclocrossers and the pretentious (in other words, everybody in Portland) refer to the act of lifting a bicycle in order to clear an obstacle as "portaging," but to the rest of the world it's simply "carrying." (Or, if you're a kosher cyclocrosser, you may "schlep" your bike over barriers and worry about whether your frame has adequate "schmutz clearance.") Whatever you call it, graceful off-the-bike bicycle handling is a hallmark of the seasoned cyclist. This is why it should come as no surprise that the Lone Wolf handles his bicycle with poise:

(Rare Lone Wolf bike portage, as photographed by a reader at the Tour of California)

Indeed, the Lone Wolf hoists and shoulders his Lotus as confidently and capably as Yo-Yo ma returns his cello to its case, or as a Benihana chef holsters his cutlery. Sure, this is not a "traditional" cyclocross "portage," but the "special occasion Lotus" is not a traditional bike, and the true cyclist knows to adapt his carrying technique to the individual characteristics of the frame. Most importantly, he has positioned the drivetrain away from him so as not to besmirch his Golden Fleece, and, as always (and as pointed out by a commenter yesterday), the USA logos are positioned more-or-less horizontally and legibly.

This considerable savoir portage on the part of the Lone Wolf is in stark contrast to the lack of refinement exhibited by the gentleman behind him:

Notice that he has positioned his bicycle lengthwise in front of him in what is known as the "stockade technique:"

(From the Iron Age to the Irony Age: The horrific punishments of yesteryear are the whimsical "photo-ops" of today.)

Obviously, the "stockade technique" is a poor one as requires the "portager" to turn sideways in order to pass through doorways or walk through crowds. Of course, upon closer inspection it looks as though this particular portager is actually in the act of photographing the Lone Wolf, and it could be that, in his excitement and haste, he allowed the bicycle to migrate in front of him. Still, it's doubtful that anything could compel the Lone Wolf's bicycle from changing direction, for it points forward as unerringly as the needle of the compass or the javelin of the olympian. Indeed, it slices through crowds like a red-hot razorblade through a scoop of cottage cheese, and should anybody be foolish enough to walk straight into it the Lone Wolf would undoubtedly lift him by the head with his aerobars and move him gently aside:

One might even ask whether the preternatural ease with which the Lone Wolf hoists his bicycle represents the hoisting of American competitive cycling to a level equal to--or perhaps even above--that of European cyclesport. I don't feel it's far-fetched to claim that the Lone Wolf is the very embodiment and spirit of the Tour of California, and I also think he's way, way better than that lame Tour de France devil guy:

One is a ham who inserts himself into the proceedings in an unrefined display of ego and self, whereas the other moves stealthily and ethereally, drawing attention not with garish garments and grotesque mannerisms, but rather with the very strength of his character. Or, to put it another way:

Alas, to be torn between the conflicting inner voices of self and selflessness is in many ways the basis of the human condition:

Speaking of doping, while the cycling world continues to pick at the finer points of the Floyd Landis Affair like obsessive nosepickers digitally spelunking in the darkest recesses of their sinuses, I find myself lamenting the state of our society. Really, regardless of whether or not you believe Landis's claims, what is at the heart of this whole doping issue anyway? Some tiny injections? The occasional blood transfusion? A testosterone patch applied surreptitiously to the "pants yabbies?" Really, in the context of human history, this barely qualifies as doping--it's "woosie" cheating. There was once a time when doping meant eating the heart of your dead enemy in order to gain his strength. There was once an age when, in pursuit of victory and power, men would conspire with the forces of darkness. They would form covens; attempt to summon demons; even commit human sacrifice. Correspondingly, the penalty for such "doping" was not suspension; it was torture and death. Men were burned; drawn and quartered; crucified; left to suffer and die of exposure as they slowly bled.

This age, of course, was the 1950s, and the UCI sentenced over 10,000 riders to death during this black period. It was also a time when fixed-gear riders didn't twiddle around on "woosie" gears; they used big, burly, hairy gears, like the 96-tooth chainring on this 1951 Schwinn that was forwarded to me by a reader:

Sadly, the auction for this bicycle has ended, for simply straddling such a bicycle would infuse the rider with more testosterone than a thousand Floyd Landis scrotal appliqu├ęs. It's also too late to win this ancient "cross frame:"

Expect to see the winner of the auction riding this ironically at this year's SSCXWC, and/or your local "tweed ride."

Anyway, in a certain sense has not this modern "woosie" doping infiltrated nearly every aspect of life? Certainly the doping cyclist is cheating, but what about the journalist who relies on Adderall in order to file his report on time or indeed even maintain interest in his subject? What of the incessant television commercials for drugs with soothing names that promise to assuage the mild anxiety we all feel (due largely to Adderall-fueled journalists relentlessly machine-gunning us with minutiae from every dark corner of the world) at the small expense of our regularity and sexual potency? Is the combination of drugs and the Internet not uniting all of humankind in a worldwide circle jerk of meaningless dialog and information consumption, while a well in the Gulf of Mexico hemorrhages oil and blankets us all in the sludge of our own indifference and self-absorption?

Well, maybe. But maybe we all have our own personal "breaking points," at which we all break down and "cheat." For the athlete, this might mean refreshing himself with a banned substance, and for the dedicated smug-monger this might mean (horror of horrors) using a car:

Yes, apparently the fact that it makes sense to use a motorized vehicle to move thousands of pounds is a newsworthy revelation over at Streetsblog. Rest assured, though, that the reluctant driver made absolutely, positively sure that driving was the right course of action before doing so, as he explains on his own blog:

Each 12 inch ceramic tile weighed 4 pounds and we needed 850 of them. That’s 3,400 lbs in tile alone. The floor project would also require about 12 bags of mortar at 50 pounds each. That brings the total weight of the project to 2 tons now— 4,000 pounds, before we even add the grout.

Of course, I calculated what it would take to carry all this on my bike. The tile alone would take 17 trips at 200 pounds per trip.

I decided cargo biking wasn’t practical for this job, but I still had the opportunity to have most of the material pass through my hands. I helped load and unload much of the 50 pounds bags of mortar, and two car-trailer loads of tile. By the end, I felt well acquinated with the full impact of 4,000 pounds. I could feel in my bones the amount of energy it took to move that material.

And for a least a moment, I appreciated cars for this. They were far better for carrying 2 tons of materials than a bike would be.

Obviously he makes a good point about how silly and wasteful it can be simply to transport yourself in an otherwise empty car over a short distance. At the same time, though, this is smugness doubling over on itself, and I can't help but be stunned by the amount of thought he puts into making a decision that, for pretty much anybody else, would be common sense. Is he really that guilt-ridden that he must demonstrate mathematically that it was OK for him to drive? Moreover, having driven, must he then take the additional step of pointing out how it was OK for him to drive in order to re-tile his floor, but that when everyone else drives they're wrong? ("I'm renovating my kitchen. Why are you driving?") Most importantly, did he wear a disguise while behind the wheel, or after running the numbers was he bold enough to risk being caught by his fellow "livable streets" advocates in flagrante automotivo?

Again, I certainly agree that many people could stand to put a bit more thought into their vehicle choice, though I don't think there's a person alive who could successfully rationalize purchasing this bicycle (which was forwarded to me by Colorado Multisport):

For $60,000, the least it could do is portage itself.

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