Also, my helmet was at the dry cleaner's.
Of course I realize my choice of attire was even more dangerous than the sum of its parts (or lack of parts), in that I was on a cyclocross bike, and had I attempted a dismount and remount I ran a very real risk of getting my bibs caught on the saddle and crashing head-first onto the pavement. But it was simply a risk I had to take. I was desperate for a win. And without the watchful eyes of USA Cycling or any other governing body upon me, I was free to pursue victory by any means necessary. Had I been offered performance-enhancing drugs prior to the event I would not have hesitated to use them. (As it happened, only recreational drugs were available, and they didn't help.) And in my defense, I think I did at least have a blinky-light on the seatpost which I used for the ride home that night. (It wasn't a "hipster cyst," but it might have been a distant cousin, the "nerd canker.")
Of course, I'm not surprised people were upset about the helmet. (Though I am surprised people thought I was wearing a messenger bag. Look at that thing--it's tiny and it's got a zipper! Unless your job is to deliver VHS tapes one at a time that would be a pretty awful messenger bag.) We live in a time when having a brake on your bike is seen as a matter of personal preference, but not wearing a helmet is considered suicidal and an affront to human decency. Which is not to say that you shouldn't wear a helmet. Obviously it's aways better to wear one than not to wear one, and you really can't go wrong putting one on. But I will say that in some sense a helmet is kind of like a yarmulke (or, if you prefer, a kippah) in that it tells the world you are a member of the Congregation of Safety. And just because you don't wear one all the time doesn't mean you don't believe in safety and should be scorned. Some of us simply choose to worship in our own way when and where we choose, as godless and wrong as it may be. (Sure, the fact that I'm not afraid to ride in traffic without a helmet yet I'm genuinely scared of going through those metal revolving doors in subway stations might mean my perception of danger is a bit skewed, but seriously--you could break a finger in one of those things!)
Moving on, once again I have been fortunate enough to be on the receiving end of free printed matter:
In this case, that matter came in the form of The Ride Journal, and it came all the way from England--a place where "Z"s are "S"es, "parts" are "bits," and Robbie Williams is still famous. It also features a truly impressive array of contributors, as you can see from the table of contents:
I honestly enjoyed this, and I'm grateful to the editors for sending it to me. In the world of bike-related content, there's "bike porn," and then there's "bike erotica." "Bike erotica" is produced by the sorts of people who look at boxes full of greasy bike parts, grow wistful, and start photographing them, and it's consumed by the sorts of people who are similarly moved by such photographs. This is definitely "bike erotica."
This journal is nicely ecumenical in its approach to cycling, but one theme that came up and made me think was that of looking good on the bike. Not looking good in the sense of looking like a Euro-pro, but rather looking good in the sense of being able to wear street clothes comfortably while riding. In particular, in "Velocouture," Patrick Barber points out that up until now in the US cycling style has been driven by sport rather than practicality, since riding here is traditionally seen as a recreational pastime and not as a means of transportation. "In a way," he writes, "thinking about cycling in street clothes requires that you shift your thinking about why you are on your bike. Instead of being in workout mode, you are in going-somewhere-but-want-to-look-good mode: to work, on a date, to the coffee shop." Ultimately, his point is that by being a normal well-dressed person on a bike instead of a peloton refugee in lycra you inspire other people to do the same and to integrate riding into their everyday lives.
I absolutely agree. But I also maintain it's not as simple as that. Sure, you don't need to dress like you're about to start a stage race just to throw a leg over a bike and ride to your friend's house. But you also shouldn't have to feel like you need to dress in "street clothes" if you'd rather ride in cycling-specific attire. Similarly, while some people may be embarrassed to ride their bikes without dressing properly, just as many people are embarrassed to ride their bikes in cycling clothes. Certainly we've all seen the new road bike owner who's got a pair of superfluous baggy shorts on over his cycling shorts because he hasn't yet come to terms with wearing lycra in public. In many ways, cycling is about losing things, and one of the most important things to lose is modesty.
In fact, as a proponent of starting our own Nation of Cyclists, I'm prepared to go so far as to say that it's not we who must shift our thinking--it's "society" that must change! Take the workplace, for example. Hey, if you're doing your job, why should you have to do things like wear pants? If you want to walk into the office directly from a training ride and marinade yourself in your chamois for a little while as you get up to speed instead of changing into your "business casual" attire you should be allowed to do that, however misguided that might be. If you want to wear your "safety kippah" all day long as you stand in front of the copier in order to show your deep commitment to safe cycling you should feel free to do so without discrimination. And if you want to wear your Speed Vest as you navigate a warren of cubicles so your colleagues can see you distributing memos at a brisk 3mph then nobody should be able to tell you to take it off.
Would you demand that the Jew shave his beard, or the Muslim shave his beard, or the the Sikh, uh, shave his beard? Certainly not! Why, then, must the cyclist be divorced from his or her sacred vestements?
I dream of a world in which the lawyer may clomp around the courtroom in SPD-SL-compatible shoes, the dentist may perform root canals while wearing a Serotta jersey, and the investment banker need never remove his Assos. (Actually, I guess these days the investment banker has all day to pedal around in his Assos.) I long for a day when muddy-faced mountain bikers can report to work while wearing Primal jerseys and CamelBaks. And I staunchly support the fixter's right to wear a hoodie at all times, even during those rare occasions when he bathes.
Just don't ever wear armwarmers with a sleeveless jersey. That's just wrong.