Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Riding the Garden of Eden

Riding in the traffic congested confines of Chicagoland makes me dream sometimes about distant places I can escape to without some asshole in a SUV pinning me into the gutter. The above photo fits the fairytale wish of a world where I can ride for mile after mile amongst a beautiful backdrop of mountains, streams, trees, and winding smooth roads.

I tell my friends that if I ever were to suddenly become a billionaire, I'd buy a huge parcel of land and create a cyclist's haven of swooping loops, hills, and interconnected trails. Road and offroad. Maybe even a nice place for the BMX'ers and trackies to rip it up. I'd ride for hours and hours without the dirty automobile to fuck it all up.

Sounds cool, eh?

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Yin and The Yang

“Life is the result of the struggle between dynamic opposites. When the pendulum swings in favor of one, it eventually swings in favor of its opposite. Thus the balance of the universe is maintained.”
- Fist of the Northstar

In the world of Kung Fu cinema a common thread binds nearly all tales: the world cannot exist without positive and negative influences working upon each other to maintain life's fragile balance. There is hard and soft, dark and light, good and evil, ad infinitum.

Thus, the cyclist has a polar opposite as well. Though the gluttonous, cheese doodle eating, pasty blob of bologna flesh that lays about home lethargically watching hours of television might seem the obvious culprit, it is not. The world is much more complex than simply balancing cyclists with the lazy slug picking the underwear out of his ass all day. No, the ruler of the natural world is a funny, twisted and sometimes cruel bitch. For she has sardonically counter weighted cyclists with the most freakishly inane beast of the sporting world: the triathlete.

The triathlete is the giant booger on the tip of the nose of every first date. The dingleberry that falls out of the cuff of your jeans and into your shoe. The square peg that insists on going into the round hole. Yes, they are all these things and more.

The triathlete shuns the time honored traditions and etiquette borne of pedigreed riders. Disregard for aesthetic is prevalent in both cycle and dress to an almost obscene level. They make their own rules that confound and annoy. It's kind of like if they say the wall is a door, they will repeatedly bash their head into the wall until it becomes a really big hole, and thus, a door.

While a strong majority of the general public inaccurately thinks bike lanes are for double parking, so too, they think the triathlete is somehow "cool". However, I am here to tell you that they most certainly are not. In fact, they are very uncool. For instance, take their fruity choices like riding with no socks. Or, the way they used to put Powerbars on their top tubes for future consumption. Does that sound cool to you? No. I didn't think so.

The other misconception, lo, the greatest misconception of the general public is that the triathlete is a cyclist. It is important to remember that even though they ride bikes, they are not cyclists. Road, mountain, cyclocross, bmx, and track riders know this. That's why when we hear that someone caused a major pile-up on the local group ride, the first question is "Was it a triathlete?"

So, in honor of all my cycling brethren out there I've prepared a simple guide to differentiating between us and them. Pass it on to your neighbors, post it on stop signs, or spray paint it on walls. Do whatever it takes to get the word out.


Cyclist: Carries his water bottles in cages mounted to the downtube and seatube of his frame. Camelbacks are often worn as a way of carrying more water or so the bottles don't get horse shit all over them from the trail.

Triathlete: Eschews sensible water bottle cage mounts for contraptions that crush their carbon seatposts so they can carry their water behind them for aerodynamic purposes. These aesthetic abominations are counter productive for 98.9% of the foogs that have them. Not only do they put them farther away from reach in their $200 aero tuck position, but they wobble all over the damn place trying to get the bottle back in the cage while they try to avoid the asshole in front of him trying to put his bottle back in the cage. Worse yet, are the gay aerobar bottles with the shlongy looking straw bouncing all over the place. No frat house imposes hazing that is more degrading than this self inflicted shit.


Cyclist: Makes use of all gears at their disposal to match terrain, weather, and riding situations.

Triathlete: Wrestle their aerobars like savages in a vain attempt to ride the 53x11 at all costs. In the bizarro world of the triathlete there is no such thing as a chainring smaller than a 53 nor a derailleur that is capable of shifting beyond the 12.


Cyclist: Well versed in cycling history. Knows the professional calendar of races and maintains an awareness of other cycling disciplines.

Triathlete: Perry Roobay? Who's he? Lost on the triathlete is the historical and real world significance of the bicycle. The triathlete's brain is wired to disregard anything bike related that can't be dangled off their handlebars or make them .00017 % faster in a 40km time trial. To them, cycling history is the Unidisc rear wheel cover they used in their first triathlon.


Cyclist: Reads magazines and books devoted to cycling lore, mechanics, physiology and photography.

Triathlete: Drools over TT helmet windtunnel statistics, Quintana Roo brochures, and Polar heart rate monitor owners manuals. If it doesn't have a shitload of cryptic graphs and numbers or showcase yet another dorky time shaving gadget, the triathlete isn't interested.


Cyclist: Mixes in days of easy, casual rides that serve as a reminder of what fun riding a bike can be.

Triathlete: Every second on the bike is devoted to training. If you're not riding hard, you're not training, therefore, you're not serious about the sport, and thus, not a real triathlete. The greatest fear of any triathlete is not being identified as one by the public. Therefore, they're in a perpetual state of hypertension. The intensity spills over into every aspect of daily life such as shopping, eating, driving, and shitting. Everything is done in a manic blur of measured convolution.


Cyclist: Maintains his bicycle with the knowledge that a clean, lubed, well tuned machine is the best guarantee of performance and success. They use the right tools for the job and ensure that everything from the chain to the cleats on their shoes are in good working order.

Triathlete: Surely the greatest irony of life is that of the triathlete's ineptitude with bicycle maintenance. For all the devotion to number crunching and brochure scouring, none of that acquired knowledge carries over to their ability to maintain a clean, working bicycle. Sure they've mortgaged away their life for the Taj Mahal of bicycles and equipment, but the fucking thing never shifts, brakes, spins, turns, or sounds like it should. This is because the triathlete only knows how to use one tool: the hammer. No matter what torque specs are given by any given company, the part is installed with all the grace of King Kong in a glass factory.
The triathlete also has a natural fear of lubricants and chemical cleaning solutions. The typical tri-bike wears a thick coat of syrup from energy drink concoctions, ego boosting numbers from past triathlons (I'm convinced triathlon organizers use impossible to remove number stickers as way to allow triathletes the excuse that it's "too hard to get off" so they can prove to everybody they race), and squeaks and cracks with every pedal stroke because their sweat has seized every part into a hopeless petri dish of fuzzy carbon fiber permanently welded to aluminum. When these monstrosities limp into bike shops, there is a collective shudder felt amongst mechanics around the world. Much like Yoda sensing the deaths of millions of innocent people.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Tour

When I perpetually get bombarded with retarded questions every year leading up to the start of Le Tour de France, I emanate a certain sense of smugness. "It doesn't live up to the hype" I grumble, and mildly disparage it's standing as the "the greatest cycling event in the world". I recount the Giro d'Italia, the spring classics, the Vuelta, and the World Championships. All usually met with a quizzical look of ignorance and disinterest.

I guess it's a defense mechanism I've developed because the PRO calendar is much larger and more beautiful than just the race that "made Lance famous for kicking those backward European's asses". I also feel like I have to pose some form of public challenge to the cheerleaders on OLN/Versus that have swung from LA's short curlies the past ten years and disparage any challengers to his almighty throne of immortality.

Yet, the Tour starts and I'm drawn in by the sheer magnitude of the race. I love the Tour and it's glorious history and the characters that have been shaped by it's historic importance. The drama and desperation makes my blood boil. I acknowledge that the Tour de France is the greatest spectacle in cycling. I wish I could always compel myself to believe that.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Sleepwalkers Driving

Some people sleepwalk while they drive. They are cocooned in their temperature controlled and noise insulated world of steel. They fidget with the radio, yammer endlessly on cel phones, eat cheeseburgers, and watch movies on their console mounted DVD players. Driving alone. Vaguely aware of their own existence.

I'm not sure what Ms. GMC Yukon Denali (Denial as Ari says) was doing when she slowly made her left turn in front of me. I experienced that sinister slow motion feeling of impending doom when I was sliding in front of her chrome grilled, cyclist eating, beast on my front wheel. I dodged, pulled, contorted, and braced to make sure that the damage from impact would be lessened. I was a lucky motherfucker.

I escaped the encounter unscathed as a wide eyed and obviously startled Ms. GMC apologized through her closed window. Her mouth was saying "Oh my God, I'm so sorry" but her eyes were bleary and said that the little cyclist in red had just yanked her from her comfortable dream world back into reality.

I nodded to her, tapped my heart, and rolled on. No words to shout, nor anger to unleash. I looked back in disbelief as she pulled into the parking lot of the funeral home.

"I am one lucky motherfucker" I thought. And so is she.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Mad Props Vol. 7

Raymond Poulidour, 15 juillet 1973 - Portet d'Aspet, France

Raymond Poulidour was an accomplished racer, though he was more famously known as the "eternal second". "Pou Pou", as he was affectionately known, had the misfortune of riding in the shadow of two Tour de France greats, Jacques Anquetil and Eddy Merckx.

While he amassed seven stage wins and eight podium finishes in the TdF (three 2nd's, five 3rd's), Poulidour never once pulled the yellow jersey over his shoulders during his 17 year career (1960-1977).

Poulidour was an underdog of epic proportions and the French public adored him for it. He represented the strength and character of the rural class while Anquetil, in stark contrast, represented the cosmopolitan face of modernization.

Pou Pou was the embodiment of courage and vulnerability. I like to see PROs achieve superhuman accomplishments, but I also like to be reminded that they aren't much different from me as well.

Photo credit: AFP

Thursday, July 5, 2007

On Doping: My First and Last

I haven't written about doping before. It's the five hundred pound gorilla in the room, yet I refuse to regurgitate all the shit out there. Be it good or bad.

The bottom line is I don't like doping. I don't abide. I think it's a dishonest and belligerent disservice to the cycling community as a whole. I think it's bullshit that the guys I grew up soiling my pants in awe of have destroyed my virgin perceptions of the strength of human will. I feel betrayed and despondent.

I pity the kids that ride their bikes dreaming of one day riding the wheel of their hero. A hero who happens to be doped up on the shit that the terminally ill need to survive for a few more months and usually can't afford. I feel sorry for the honest professionals that have been denied success because of strong morals and resolute decisions. I feel sorry for the sponsors that have given their money and trust to cycling teams only to be given the negative publicity of a group of talented hacks that perpetually cry foul when the piss test police come knocking. And, I feel sorry for the race promoter that has to scramble and plead every year for sponsors that balk at the notion of being linked to a sport that is perpetually affronted by the media with hysterical headlines and ignorant commentary.

I'm tired of it. Tired of it all. I don't even read the print when I see any form of the word "dope" anymore. I've read that shit before. I know it's all more of the same with different names. And I know how it ends. Always with more questions than answers and more accusations paired with incredulous denials.

To the dopers past, present, and future I say "Fuck you". I love you guys, but fuck you all. I don't claim to know the solution nor do I condone the hard-line approaches of some of the governing bodies. I understand the pressure for results. I understand that it's as much a part of professional cycling life as vitamins and energy drinks. I agree that it's a byproduct of competition that is hard not to do, given the shadowy nature and all-or-nothing mentality that the world of professional sport perpetuates. I even understand the twisted logic that says if you don't dope you aren't trying hard enough. I've heard this broken record time and again and I under-fucking-stand.

Still, my perception of a professional, a true professional, is different than what we always see on ESPN and countless other ho-hum sportscasting outlets. A true professional doesn't represent first places, fortune, and obscene displays of conspicuous consumption that the media loves to glorify. The true professional rises above the herd-mentality bullshit of handlers and media dinks. The true professional performs with honesty, dedication, and humility. That isn't to say they don't have faults, but they do the best they damned well can with what they were given.

Doping has been interwoven with the fabric of cycling since Henri Desgrange first began organizing the Tour de France. Right from the very beginning. It will probably continue into the future. Likely forever. I don't hold any fairytale beliefs that it will stop because of the current microscope it's being held under. Cheaters always find a way. They always have. Yet, when they achieve their false wins, stand atop their unearned podiums, and receive their unearned kisses, I hope their hearts are dark with guilt and souls full of regret.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Overheard in the Shop: Part 1

I've overheard a wealth of retarded conversations over the years. I'd like to share a sliver of the stupidity with you so there's a better understanding of why I sometimes come off as a cynical asshole.

Mother: ...they don't make any money. Not like Lance or golfers...
Daughter: Why?
Mother: Well, nobody has ever heard of them...
Daughter: Who?
Mother: Remember when all those Americans helped Lance win that race? Nobody knows who they are. They only helped, so they didn't make enough money to make a living.
Daughter: Oh...

I bit my tongue not to intervene. Sometimes you've just got to let them carry on with their lives as if everything is as perceived. I felt sorry for the little girl though.

Man: ...I'd do it myself, but I don't have the tools.
Mechanic: OK. (takes bike to install water bottle cages)
Woman: You look serious. Do you ride alot?
Man: Yeah.
Woman: Mmm...
Man: I used to race Pro.
Woman: Wow. Where?
Man: Mountain bikes...not around here. In Denver.
Woman: Really?
Man: Yeah. I had to stop because of one too many back surgeries.
Woman: Ohh. How many miles do you ride?
Man: Sixty to a Hundred.
Woman: Wow.
Man: I'm just starting to get back on the bike.
Woman: Isn't that dangerous with all the cars and traffic?
Man: Well, you can't live in fear. If you do, it's all over. You're done.
Woman: Mmm..
Man: Yeah. If it comes, it comes. It was meant to be. Y'know?
Woman: Sure...
Man: I just go out and do it because it's the way I live.
Woman: Yeah...

Seriously. You can't make this shit up...