(Clem LueYat, the Eddy Merckx of hair weaving)
Firstly, you've probably heard by now, but biker, blogger, bike blogger, and Bike Blog proprietor Michael Green has finally gotten his bike back. His story is as inspiring as it is convoluted, and by my count at least 47 people (including his lawyer!) were involved in the recovery of his orange and green monstrosity. Apparently it was necessary for them to form a posse since they trailed the bike to a housing project and there were some big guys around it. Of course, they should have just saved themselves some trouble and called my mother. When my brother and I were little his bike was stolen. A few weeks later we spotted it at a housing project and she recovered it from a menacing-looking bunch singlehandedly while we cowered in the car. Like us, Michael cowered during the recovery of his bicycle as well, though like so many draft-dodgers before him he was doing it in Canada instead of in the back seat of a Caprice wagon.
Of course, I am happy for Michael, and his tale is a perfect example of the kind of insurance and security I'm forefeiting by not being a member of the "bike community." I've always been a bit of a lone wolf, and when you eschew the companionship and camaraderie of others you also forego the concomitant protection. Then again, I don't have to wear those stupid clothes, so overall I'm fine with the trade-off. If my bike goes missing I can always call mom.
As a lone wolf, I also don't have too many idols, though I read with interest that a Major Taylor monument was just unveiled in Worcester, Massachusetts. In fact, no less a personage than Greg LeMond was on hand to help himself to some free publicity and to gratuitously liken his own plight to Taylor's:
"When I was 16 years old I felt so out of place, only coming from the west coast to the east coast to race," said LeMond. "And I also know what it feels like to be a target as a competitor. So I imagine Taylor at a young age of 17 or 18, racing in Indiana, against all white racers ... and dominating, pulling all this attention to himself. He had physical threats, political threats, and backhanded deals against him."
Indeed, LeMond has certainly felt the cruel sting of injustice. He may have been one of the most highly-paid riders of his time, but Hinault attacked him during the Tour, and also he was shot by his brother-in-law by accident. Later, he entered into a lucrative licensing arrangement with Trek that he effectively sabotaged, which is exactly like being a black athlete in an all-white sport in the early 20th century. Word has it that after the Major Taylor unveiling LeMond immediately kicked off a world tour during which he will visit and weep openly at the world's most affecting memorials.
LeMond's presence aside, I was inspired to learn more about Major Taylor, so I visited the Major Taylor Association website. I was particularly interested in the chapter from his autobiography entitled, "The Value of Good Habits and Clean Living," which included the following list of "Don'ts:"
A DOZEN DON'TS
Don't try to "gyp."
Don't be a pie biter.
Don't keep late hours.
Don't use intoxicants.
Don't be a big bluffer.
Don't eat cheap candies.
Don't get a swelled head.
Don't use tobacco in any form.
Don't fail to live a clean life.
Don't forget to play the game fair.
Don't take in unfair advantage of an opponent.
Don't forget the practice of good sportsmanship.
Apart from the fact that most of the above-referenced fixed-gear "bike community" is living contrary to pretty much every bit of Major Taylor's advice (with the Cat 4 roadies violating anything the fixed-gear riders aren't), I found it particularly noteworthy that he warns against being a "pie biter." I don't know what pie biting is, but I have a feeling it's either what Judd Nelson did to Molly Ringwald's crotch under her desk in "The Breakfast Club," or what Greg LeMond was doing at the unveiling of the Major Taylor monument. In either case, I'd have to agree that pie biting is something we should all take great pains to avoid.
Indeed, they don't make 'em like the Major anymore. So who is a young cyclist supposed to look up to these days? Well, there's always David Millar. While Major Taylor boldly triumphed in the face of adversity, David Millar bravely manages to garner mediocre results in the face of mild inconvenience. In fact, Millar had this to say about the Plan de Corones stage of the Giro:
"This race is just insane!" said Slipstream's David Millar as he climbed into a cable car to take him down the mountain. "Taken individually it's a good idea, but on a total, it's not a good thing after the two mental days we've just had and the two hard weeks we've had before that. This race is just ridiculous."
Ridiculous indeed. It's enough to make you want to throw your bike! Yes, like Major Taylor and Greg LeMond, Millar too knows the meaning of injustice:
My body folds as my bike disappears under me. I look down and see the chain broken. It's over. I watch them go as I roll to a standstill. It's gone, all that work, and not just that day but weeks and months and years. I've had two years of racing taken away from me already. That was my punishment. But this I have done nothing wrong for. That's why there wasn't even a moment of hesitation to throw my bike. Because at that moment, I didn't think I deserved that to happen to me. Which is pathetic, but for those few seconds it didn't seem fair.
Indeed, with each generation we seem to grow increasingly sensitive to injustice. For Taylor, injustice was white people trying to kill him. For LeMond, it was sponsors and bicycle manufacturers trying to make him rich. And for Millar, it was the universe unfairly depriving him of a win.
But Millar is more than just the sum of his hissy fits. Here's a little more about him via the Slipstream site:
Favorite Cross Drill: Speedskating
Favorite Food: Pasta
Favorite Clif Bar: All of them. I can't wait to race so I can eat more!
Favorite Movie: Ratatouille
Somehow, the image of Millar sitting down to watch Pixar films in front of a big bowl of elbow macaroni after a hard afternoon of speed skating clinches it for me--this is a new breed of 21st century cycling hero.