The More Things Change: Ushering In a New Error

Most of us are familiar with the phrase, "They don't make 'em like they used to," and while it's generally the sort of thing you'll hear muttered by ornery retrogrouches it happens to be true in many cases. For example, the pyramids they built way back in ancient times are still standing, whereas today's flimsy drywall constructions rarely last for more than a few years. Also, while it was possible "back in the day" to purchase a quality hand-crafted artisanal "dandy horse," nowadays it's all but impossible to find one that isn't far too small for the typical adult. And don't even get me started on how difficult it is to find a well-engineered abacus. Some favor Mac, others prefer PC, but in my opinion neither of them rivals the raw, minimalist computing power of some beads on a stick.

However, quality is not falling off in all areas, and in fact in some it is actually improving. The Gutenberg press used to be a big deal, but it sucks compared to the Internet. The average Dachshund is also over 30% longer than it was only 50 years ago thanks to huge advancements in dog food technology, and canine experts even predict that in order to support this increase the breed will evolve a third pair of legs by the year 2100. And professional cyclists' explanations for positive doping tests also to improve--at least in terms of entertainment value. Back in the Coppi era it used to be, "They spiked my bottle." Then, in the Vandenbroucke era, it was, "The drugs were for my dog." (In retrospect, this was a plausible explanation given what we now know about wiener dogs.) Today, it's "There was something in my meat," and Alberto Contador's cook now insists Astana has the receipt to prove it:

As everybody knows by now, a drug quiz administered during the Tour de France revealed that Contador had like a trillionth of a gram of a fad diet drug in his system, and it has since been revealed that there was also "plasticizer" in his blood, which means one of three things: 1) His blood may have come out of a bag; 2) He may be "running" those new Gore Ride On plastic arteries; or 3) He is in fact the comic book superhero known as "Plastic Man." Of course, the "plasticizer" test has yet to be validated by the World Anti-Doping Agency, so Contador's main concern is explaining the fad diet drug, hence the whole "meat" story--or, as the cook calls it in the above article, "The Notorious Day of the Steak."

But while the cook insists Astana has the meat receipt, they have yet to produce it, which is now prompting everybody in the world who has ever padded an expense report to ask, "How long does it take a bunch of bike racers to whip up a phony receipt, anyway?". Really, all you need to do is pull something like this out from between the seat cushions on the team bus:

(Number of guests changed from "9" to "8" because Vino ate separately.)

Done, and done. Just crinkle it up a bit, maybe add a coffee ring for authenticity, and start training for the 2011 Tour de France.

Another thing that is improving by leaps and bounds (or by bunny hops and elephant trunk skids) is the "epic" fixed-gear bicycle trip video trailer. Of course, by "improving" I don't mean that the artform is somehow becoming more interesting or edifying; rather, I mean that it's becoming exponentially more idiotic with each new release. The latest of these videos making the Internet rounds like an alleycat participant looking for "checkpoints" is "Down to Ride," in which seven ill-prepared people with marginal cycling skills endeavor to ride their crappy bikes from New York to Los Angeles:

"I don't think any of us have any idea what we're in for," says this person, unwittingly summarizing the vacuous mindset of an entire generation of fixed-gear riders:

"Dehydration, passing out, possibly death, but it's a risk I'm willing to take," says another rider as he manages to fall off his bicycle on a completely empty street:

"Just glad to be with my friends and on my bike," says the person who will do anything, no matter how ridiculous, as long as his friends and a bike are involved:

"I hope that everybody is aware of what I'm doing and they get out of my way cause I'm not going to get out of their way," says the guy who has apparently decided to out-dumb the three people who have spoken before him:

And who then raises his bicycle over his head as a "douche-clamation point:"

However, this being "Down to Ride"--almost certainly the goofiest fixed-gear trailer to date--he is immediately out-dumbed by the guy who skids into the frame on a road bike:

"I expect to ride plenty, bomb plenty of hills, maybe get a little scratched up, bruised...still 'DTR' baby, Down To Ride," says the final body in this pile-on of idiocy:

Judging from those glasses, he's also apparently 'DTETLOCNR,' or Down To Emulate The Look Of Charles Nelson Reilly:

But these riders aren't all talk, and they're out to prove they ride just as badly as they say they do. Here's one of them finally discovering that flat-brim caps tend to fly off the head once you exceed 1omph:

This dramatic moment is fraught with cultural significance;

I was particularly surprised to learn that Audrey Hepburn pants are still in vogue long after those Gap ads "dropped:"

In fact, the cast of "Down To Ride" appears to have used her as their wardrobe template:

To wit:

(Tarck Cavendish throws victory salute after winning Audrey Hepburn look-alike contest.)

Excluding, of course, the riders who opted to model themselves after Charles Nelson Reilly instead:

Still, as these riders make their way across the country, you can expect exchanges like these all over America:

Police Officer: "Ma'am, can you describe the bicyclist who hit you?"

Pedestrian: "Yes, he looked exactly like a young Audrey Hepburn--from the bob haircut right down to the slip-ons. Quite remarkable actually."

Meanwhile, this rider continues to sprint away from his purple hat, confident in the knowledge that the SUV driver will see the name tag his mother sewed into it and return it to its rightful owner:

Of course, it wouldn't be a fixed-gear trailer without a gratuitous shot of the riders ignoring a traffic signal, and while most videos go digital by ignoring red lights the "DTR" crew keeps it "old skool" by ignoring a good old-fashioned analog "Stop" sign:

As for the route they're taking from New York to Los Angeles, the video doesn't specify. However, since they don't have fenders or bags or proper clothes, it appears they're avoiding the surface roads in favor of indoor parking garages:

That should keep them safe from the elements.

But "Down To Ride" has more than just unintentional comedy; it also has PAIN:




During which the participants actually learn important lessons about life, such as "Always hold your flat-brim cap on your head when riding over 10mph:"

And "Always cool your underarms:"

Yes, it's ONE EPIC JOURNEY all right. In fact, it's both metaphorically and literally a long ride off a short pier:

Indeed, to outdo this, the next fixed-gear crew will have to hire Christopher Guest to direct.

In any case, I do hope they at least take some time off from "hill bombing" and falling down in the middle of the street for no reason to stop and appreciate America's heartland, where one reader spotted this impressive "Cockie" submission:

They just don't make tractors like they used to.

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