Halos and Dandies: Laterally Stiff and Vertically Complacent

What's the most important holiday in the United American States? Is it Thanksgiving, during which we spend time with family and reflect on our good fortune? Is it Memorial Day, on which we pay tribute to those who gave their lives for this country? Or is it National Poetry Month, during which aspiring poets read their compositions in coffee shops in front of friends and family who are profoundly embarrassed for them?

Well, as any true American knows, the correct answer is "None of the above," for by far the most significant holiday in these United States is #BlackFriday.

On #BlackFriday (when rendering the name #BlackFriday in print, it is a sin to omit the #Holy #Hashtag), millions of Americans visit our local place of worship. Here, we pay tribute to the G-d of C-nsumption in two forms: Money, and Extreme Violence. While the G-d of C-nsumption accepts cash, His preferred method of payment is via high interest bank card. As for the Extreme Violence, we Americans don't need to be told how to engage in that since violence runs through our veins like high cholesterol, but blasting your fellow shoppers worshippers with pepper spray is always a good bet. Indeed, it is by engaging in the Twin Mitzvahs of Spending and Harming Each Other that we keep the Universe Economy in balance and maintain that Zen-like state of contentment known as Complacency. A-meh.

As for me, I did my part on #BlackFriday by going on a shopping spree at my LBS:

I'd like to think my method of worship is unique, but there are more videos on YouTube of cars crashing through storefronts than there are stupid fixie videos, so apparently retail hit-and-run is as American as apple pie. (Or, more accurately, as American as suing McDonald's when you scald yourself on your searing hot apple-flavored pie filling.)

Speaking of #BlackFriday, while it may be over it's never too late to repent spend money. To that end, why not Buy a dashing on-the-bike wardrobe just like the one the famous and ostensibly Scottish bike racer David Millar wears?

A number of readers brought this pictorial to my attention, and I know what you're thinking: "Nobody rides around like that." This is true. When commuting in an urban environment, the vast majority of us adopt a more upright position and dress a lot more casually, like this:

But the best part of the pictorial is that it has a handy "Shop This Story" button, and when you click it you go right to a page containing like nine million dollars' worth of crap:

Instead of trying to protect big businesses by censoring the Internet, I think Congress should simply mandate that every single online article, blog post, video, Tweet, etc. include a "Shop This Story" button that immediately takes the reader to a page where you can buy a product from every single company mentioned in it. Or, if no products are specifically mentioned, it will just go by keyword. Take, for example, this Tweet by smarmy retired sprinter Mario Cipollini:

Sure, he doesn't actually mention any products, but a congressionally-mandated "Shop This Story" button could take you right to "The Ultimate Guide to Cunnilingus:"
This way, everybody wins: the giant online retailer, the government to whom it pays taxes, and the 51% of the US population that is equipped with a vagina.

But when it comes to bikes and dandyism, nobody can compete with Rapha, the company who not only effectively trademarked the concept of "epic" but also pioneered the concept of the $70 cycling schmatta. Most recently though, Rapha has dominated both the men's and women's field at the Single Speed Cyclocross World Championships in San Francisco, CA:

Lamely, however, both winners avoided getting the traditional winner's tattoo. Regardless of what you think of irreverent world championships, or of singlespeed bicycles, or of tattoos, you'd have to agree that winning the SSCXWC and then skipping out on the tattoo is like saying you're #Occupying Wall Street because you drove down from Greenwich, popped your head in at Zuccotti Park for 20 minutes, and then spent the night at the Marriott Downtown eating room service. (Or, if you're Mario Cipollini, eating something else). Even worse is that Rapha are crowing about having won the race, which basically makes this perhaps the first-ever case of ironic world championship sandbagging in the service of high-end retail marketing. You can read more insight about the controversy at All Hail The Black Market--or, if you're one of the many people who don't care, you can watch a video about how to make goat cheese at home.

Speaking of high-end retail, Cyclingnews and BikeRadar technical editor James Huang has written an article about so-called "halo bikes" that has generated considerable volumes of discussion-shaped Internet comments:

In it he explores the thinking behind the various bicycles with five-figure price tags and lots of gratuitous initials in the name (SL, Di2, LTD, etc.) as well as the strong reactions to them, and then sums it up thusly:

As with anything that lies out of our financial reach, halo bikes aren't there to taunt us, mock us, or to remind us of what we want but can't have – they exist simply because they can. Moreover, no one's forcing anyone to buy anything and whether directly or indirectly, we all benefit.

I happen to disagree with the taunting and mocking part, for as he also points out:

Top-end bikes are also cheap in the grand scheme of expensive playthings. Consider that one typically needs less than US$10,000 to buy the exact same machine as what top pros are using and then compare that to motorsports, where that same amount of money gets you a used Honda Civic. Sure, that Ducati nets a heck of a lot more speed per dollar than any bicycle but it's not the best. If you're truly after the exact same equipment as the pros, we dare say that Valentino Rossi's machine might cost just a little extra.

This to me is precisely the problem with the sport competitive cycling at the amateur level. Just as the pro fantasy bike isn't that much more expensive than the somewhat less absurdly priced "value" bike, the typical amateur cyclist isn't that far removed from the professional--or at least he thinks he isn't. That's because even a slow Cat 3 occasionally lines up with Cat 1s or even pros, and on a good day might even finish in the pack with them. This fuels the delusion that he has "talent," when in reality he was only able to hang because the pros and the Cat 1s were tired from spending the previous night sleeping in the back seats of their economy cars. TrekCialized then meets his delusion halfway by letting him think he's getting a bargain when he spends $7,000 on a bike instead of $11,000, and then ameliorates any remaining concern by touting the fact that the plastic from which the bike is made is now recyclable.

For this reason, my only real problem with "halo bikes" is that, if anything, they're too cheap. I agree that "no one's forcing anyone to buy anything and whether directly or indirectly," so why not just price them all at $150,000 to underscore the difference between the typical club racer schlub and the few genetic and/or chemical freaks that are actually paid a living wage to ride?

Still, it's important to know your bike is special, which is why I won't ride anything that doesn't require government disclosure, like this bike forwarded to me by a reader:

Brand New, never assembled Cannondale SuperSix EVO Team. Made from military grade Ballistec fibers so rare and controlled that Cannondale has to prove to the government how many bikes it made with the fibers to keep it falling into enemy hands...really!

I don't doubt this for a minute, and I'm sure that Al-Quaeda and the North Koreans are working on a "collabo" halo bike even as I type this.

But when it comes to stuff you don't need, you can't beat a "fender blender," which was forwarded to me by another reader:

I have no idea why you'd need a blender on your bike, though this one is certainly positioned perfectly to capture your posterior perspiration. Nothing adds zest to a beverage like ass sweat.

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