Itineraries and Agendas: Bicycles at Work and Play

Today is August 2nd, which marks not only the birthday of deceased actor Carroll O'Connor, but also the end of my "Summer Reese's,"--brought to you, paradoxically, by British confectioner and military contractor Cadbury, makers of both the deadly "Cadbury Creme Egg" warhead as well as the delicious Trident II D-5 submarine-launched ballistic missile candy bar. I'm pleased to report that I engaged in a number of pleasurable activities during my absence, both cycling- and non-cycling related. Sadly though, I did not undertake an expensive and life-changing exotic cycling-themed vacation of the sort you can often read about in the New York Times:

Ideally, we would not need such vacations, instead weaving strands of responsibility and pleasure into the laterally stiff yet vertically compliant crabon fribé of a balanced life. However, in today's fast-paced, silicone-enhanced, and exploding dessert-filled world, this can be difficult. So, in the absence of balance, we instead take the "binge and purge" approach to existence, pausing occasionally from overwork in order to undertake brutal and punishing holidays. In this case, it's five days of cycling through Colorado, Utah, and Arizona (cost: $1,895 excluding the airfare), and here's the group that has assembled in order to defibrillate their lives with the invigorating jolt of pre-meditated catharsis:

There are many things you can call this group: fellow vacationers; traveling companions; even siblings-in-arms. However, you cannot call them a "peloton," despite the writer's use of the term. Despite what some people think, a "peloton" is not simply any group of cyclists riding together; in order to be a "peloton," they have to be racing. Groups are defined by their purpose. Similarly, not every group of people on a long line is "a bunch of schmucks;" they have to be waiting for something stupid, like the new iPhone or a pair of limited-edition Nikes.

In any case, unlike Robert Mackey or that Men's Journal guy, the writer at least seems to enjoy his trip. Not only that, but he also gains enlightenment in the process, for he ultimately learns what cycling is all about:

With all due respect to cyclo-cross and kamikaze downhill mountain biking, and every other mutation that two wheels have taken in recent years, this is what a bike was really intended for, no? To spin down a deserted road that’s as straight as a compass arrow, moving fast through big, empty country.

Of course, as anybody named Cees or Geert will tell you, cyclocross is not a "mutation" that has occurred in "recent years;" indeed, people have been racing cyclocross since before much of Colorado, Utah, and Arizona had electricity and running water--which is to say since before 1996. Granted, cyclocross as it is practiced in Portland is a mutation, but I'm pretty sure that's not what he meant. (With regard to downhill racing, I have no issue with his portrayal of that discipline as a mutation, and I'm guessing that most participants feel the same way.) As far as "what a bike was really intended for," this if course is highly subjective, and the real beauty of the invention is that it can be used and enjoyed in any number of ways. But while I would certainly never have the audacity to declare that only I truly understand what "the bike was really intended for," I am reasonably certain that when John Kemp Starley started selling the safety bicycle in 1885 he did not have in mind psychotherapists vacationing in the American West (if only because, back then, they would most assuredly have met with death by scalping).

As I continued to read, I grew concerned that this story would not meet the "epic" vacation's Quota of Misery. Clearly, the editor felt the same way, for towards the end the writer inserts a gratuitous list of cycling-themed ailments that feels a little tacked-on:

By the end of Day 4 — more than 300 miles down, with one day to go — the group was happy but hurting. Muriel had “hot foot.” Bob, a retiree, had “handlebar palsy.” Bruce was considering putting moleskin on a place for which I’m pretty sure moleskin was never intended.

I'm guessing the "place for which...moleskin was never intended" is the "taint," from which I will infer that Bruce was suffering from the dreaded condition known as "randonneur's scranus." While all of these afflictions sound painful, the vacationers can at least take solace in the fact that they managed to avoid other common forms of cycling discomfort such as "crankarm dropsy," "the fixie colic," "grimpeur's toxemia," "swamp crotch," "paroxysms of Fredliness," and of course "velocipedist's vulva."

Speaking of "what the bike was really intended for, while some believe its ostensible purpose is to "spin down a desert road," others feel it is the perfect vehicle with which to draw attention to yourself and your cause. Consider this Paul Revere theme ride in New York City, which apparently had something to do with gardening:

Apparently, some people on the Lower East Side are worried about their community gardens, which aren't going anywhere but I guess could now conceivably go somewhere, so instead of sitting idly by they decided to meet the problem head-on by embarrassing themselves:

The ride seems to have been organized by "Time's Up," which is "NYC's Direct Action Environmental Organization." In case you're wondering what "direct action" is, it means that they will not hesitate to don ridiculous clothing at a moment's notice wherever gentrification and smugness is threatened. Let's say, for example, that the Hasidim make it slightly more difficult for a young Williamsburger to ride his brakeless bicycle in an irresponsible manner, or someone paying a lot of money to live on Avenue C may in theory lose a place to grow his or her own basil. Well, that's when it's time for "direct action," and then this happens:

While I'm all in favor of communities and gardening, and while I realize this display did ultimately net them the press coverage they wanted, I still wish they hadn't implicated bicycles in their display. It would have been fairer to everybody if they'd at least kept everything garden-themed and pushed each other around in wheelbarrows. Instead, by making this into a theme ride they've turned the rest of us who ride bicycles into unwitting social protesters for their cause. It's almost as if, in protesting for better treatment of cyclists, I'd pelted the mayor with homegrown tomatoes.

Still, I suppose I prefer using bicycles to promote gardens to using bicycles to promote cars, as in the Honda Jazz "hipster" commercial which a number of people have forwarded me:

I have nothing against cars or even the marketing of cars (or the mocking of hipsters for that matter), but I do have a problem with this commercial. First of all, why does your bike have to fit in your car? That's what racks are for. Then again, I suppose this is an accurate portrayal of "hipster culture," since a fundamental part of it is dreaming up impractical solutions for carrying things. (The latest example of this is the U-lock-mounted axle nut wrench.) Also, while the commercial is ostensibly humorous, it does have an insidious message:

After mocking "hipsters" for their conformity, it makes them feel self-conscious about their bicycle use:

Implying that they should all drive Honda Jazzes instead, as if somehow this is original:

This in turn could usher in a new "hipster car culture" that will have the world pining for even the worst "bike culture" excesses. It's almost a matter of time before they discover "Cannonball Run" and ironic cross-country races become the new alleycat--or worse, one of them decides to try "running" his Honda Jazz brakeless.

Meanwhile, the "fixie" has also made a cameo in the latest Crate & Barrel catalog, as forwarded to me by Aaron from Boston:

I'm not sure why a bicycle with no brakes and a tilted saddle is supposed to complement a tastefully-appointed living room. It's like putting a pop-up toaster with a fish sticking out of it in the kitchen shot. Then again, bikes with no brakes are more interesting, as forwarded to me by another reader:

Given that they ran into a police car they might otherwise have avoided, I can't really argue with that.

automotive ,automotive news ,automotive magazine,automotive industry outlook 2012,automotif,automotive magazine automotive ,automotive news ,automotive magazine,automotive industry outlook 2012,automotif,automotive magazine