Conquests: Another Notch in the Belt

I have a recurring nightmare in which I wake up in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  So you can imagine my horror this morning when I awoke and discovered that it had come true.

Stumbling outside, I resolved to make the best of it, and so far things really don't seem all that bad.  For example, the gigantic liquor store has a bike rack that's cleverly shaped like a bike:

Also, the retail establishments are full of that Midwestern "can-do" spirit:

Old Man Roberts confirmed that he could indeed fit my foot, but when I told him I wanted shoes of the finest perforated yak leather he told me to "get the fuck out."

And there's even a gun store right next to a "New York style" Chinese restaurant:

I am completely ignorant of "gun culture" and thus have no idea what a "conceal carry class" entails, though I assume it covers how to shove a pistol into your waistband without shooting off your "pants yabbies."  In any case, it's comforting to know that if I'm overcome with homesickness I can drown my sorrows in a quart or two of wonton soup and then cry myself to sleep while clutching an egg roll.

Oh, and there's even what appears to be some sort of bicycle superhighway:

Long shadows of dorky bloggers fall upon this highway, and across it blow high winds--which, if you listen closely, also carry the soporific murmurings of Garrison Keillor.  It's also flanked by a forlorn simian bike rack that made me feel like Charlton Heston in the Forbidden Zone:

As well as by Freewheel Bikes:

This is where we'll be meeting at 4:00 today for a ride over to the University of Minnesota Bookstore for my BRA, and I hope you will come out and join me.  (Please leave your guns at home, unless it's more dangerous around here than I think it is, in which case please bring your guns with you and protect me.)

Moving on, yesterday I mentioned the Gent-Wevelwhatever bike race, and I'm sorry I didn't actually watch it because Klaus of Cycling Inquisition has informed me that if I had watched it I might have seen this:

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(You have to click on it.)

Speaking of women in cycling, how to get more women on bikes is a popular subject among the advocacy set.  Now, I'm not a woman, but I've met a few, and I've come to the conclusion that besides the various glands and stuff men and women really aren't all that different.  Sure, men love manly stuff like guns and cinderblocks, whereas women love womanly stuff like pretty guns and cinderblocks upholstered in velvet, but when it comes down to it we mostly have the same needs.  In particular, we are all born with a strong desire to not get hurt or killed.  For this reason, I believe that the less likely it is you'll get hurt or killed on a bike, the more likely it is people will ride one, regardless of genitalway.  Therefore, we should just make the streets safer and be done with it, right?

The only problem is that this solution does ignore one crucial difference between men and women, which is that men are far more likely than women to come up with dumb ideas--especially when those ideas involve anything mechanical.  That's why the latest phase of the Gates Belt Drive Anti-Bicycle Chain Conspiracy involves foisting them on women, as I've learned from their latest press release:

For Immediate Release

Gates Carbon Drive™ Reaches out to Women with Videos that Highlight the Clean, Low-Maintenance Advantages of Belt Drive Bikes
Marketing initiative aimed at recruiting new cyclists seeking bikes they can jump on and ride, minus the grease

(Denver, March 26, 2012) – To encourage more women and non-cyclists to ride bicycles, Gates Carbon Drive™ has launched a “Get Belted” video campaign that highlights the clean and low-maintenance advantages of belt drive bikes.

The videos, which can be seen at the Gates Carbon Drive channel on YouTube, show the lifestyle benefits of riding a bike with Gates Carbon Drive. The first video, “High Maintenance Boyfriend,” pokes fun at the greasy mess of chains and features a female cyclist who comes home to find a trail of grime left by her filthy bike mechanic boyfriend.

The second video, “Built to Last,” highlights the longevity of belt drives (they typically last twice as long as chains) and shows a young mother taking her toddler, who transforms into an adolescent, for a spin in a tow-trailer.

The message:  thanks to its cleanliness and longevity, Gates Carbon Drive makes cycling easier and more appealing. “Gates hopes to eliminate some of the barriers to cycling by helping to create low-maintenance bikes that people can just jump on and ride, with no pre-ride lube or work required,” says Frank Scurlock, global business development director for Gates Carbon Drive Systems.

“Belt drives offer distinct advantages for time-stressed people,” says Todd Sellden, global director of Gates Carbon Drive Systems. “We believe that Carbon Drive is a technology that can get more people riding bikes for health, fitness, and environmental benefits.”

Will this automotive accessory manufacturing concern stop at nothing to take over our tiny little human-powered industry?  First they tried the "high performance" thing with singlespeed mountain bikes and the NAHBS sponsorship, and now they're trying the whole anti-performance "we love women thing" thing.  Yes, only a man could come up with the idea that the one thing standing between women and bikes is a piece of cycling equipment.  Sure, women don't want to get their pretty guns and velvet cinderblocks dirty when they ride, but that's why the Almighty Lobster on High created chainguards.  Still, it's a highly entertaining piece of anti-chain propaganda:

I particularly enjoyed the squeaky chain sounds they added to the scene in which the doofus with the mustache is cleaning his chainrings:

Gender issues aside, in what universe does a bicycle remain clean, with or without a chain?  If you work on a dirty bike you're going to get dirty no matter what kind of drivetrain it has.  Even performing maintenance on one of these will make you look like a Victorian chimney sweep if it's ridden often and never cleaned.

But while people may argue about how to get more women into cycling, there's one sure way to drive them out of it, and that's by exposing them to Mario Cipollini.  Many people have informed me that Cipollini is now working with a women's cycling team, and the resulting video is filthier than a chain drive on a messenger bike in a Minneapolis winter.  This team will be on MCipollini bikes, so naturally the great man was magnanimous enough to give them a chance to be on Mario Cipollini himself, but what he does to these poor women is nothing short of disgraceful:

There's a real lack of explanation in this video, and what you miss are some of the ethnographic subtleties of the mating rituals of the Cipollini alpha male.  In Italy, the summoning of a woman of age to the Cipollini domicile is a rite of passage that is cause for both celebration and mourning.  While parents are quite proud and send their daughters off with great fanfare, they also know the loss of innocence that awaits her, and so once she departs they wear all black and pray for a month.  It is also not uncommon for neighbors and relatives to visit and bring gifts at this time, for they know the daughter will return great with child.

As for the daughters themselves, when a group of women greets the Cipollini, it is customary for them to receive him in an orderly "V" formation:

While the Cipollini himself prepares by performing shirtless index finger warm-up exercises:

Once introduced, the ensuing interactions are highly ritualized.  First there is the Supplication:

Then there is the Inspection:

And then, finally, the Selection:

That shoulder tap means only one thing.  I shouldn't have to explain what that thing is, but it's very oily, and nine months later there's a child with a full mane of hair and a set of teeth like a whale's baleen.

Of course, modern social conventions require that this primitive ritual takes place under the guise of a team training camp, but it's around this point that some of the more savvy women on the team begin to suspect that Mario Cipollini is not in fact a trained physical therapist:

(Cipollini manipulating the leg during the Inspection phase in order to obtain an optimal line of sight.)

Nevertheless, he keeps up the ruse.  "Cycling comes from the primal rhythmic pulsations of the groin," explains Cipo below:

It sounds much better in Italian.  (Actually, pretty much everything sounds better in Italian, including the words, "My team's bike sponsor gave me an STD.")

Here, Cipollini's hands wander to parts of the body that have little or nothing to do with pedal stroke analysis:

Speaking of stroke analysis, here's Cipollini showing exactly how he likes to be stroked:

Whereas this part actually looks worse than it is:

Sure, it may look they're in the process of mating, but Cipollini is merely working out the optimal position for the obligatory "Cipo Was Here" team "tramp stamp."

In any case, once the coupling is complete, Cipollini then mimes the Caressing of the Imaginary Body Parts:

And then they go for a ride during which Cipollini beats them all in a sprint:

Judge if you must, but you only reveal your ethnocentrism.
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