That said, there is one occasion on which the "literati" allow you to don your Primal jersey, clip into your SPDs, and ride with the big boys, and that's The New Yorker magazine caption contest, which I was recently contemplating in the restroom:
I find The New Yorker caption contest extremely irritating, since to me it's the literary equivalent of a rock band throwing their guitar picks and drum sticks out into the audience, and the notion that I'd want to play with someone's cast-offs is insulting. Plus, they're clearly choosing lame finalists on purpose in order to make their own jobs look harder, since the correct caption for this particular cartoon is glaringly obvious:
Insert groan or polite titter here.
Yes, cycling is elitist, and literature is even more elitist, but sometimes the worlds of cycling and literature collide like two tweed-clad Dutch city bike-riding scintillating constellations in the night. However, unlike a cosmic collision in which diamonds can form, the collision of cycling and literature creates a much less valuable by-product. I'm referring of course to that unique literary gem, the Pretentious Cycling-Related Craigslist "Missed Connection" (or PCRCMC):
We Shared a Bike Route - 29 (Midtown)
Reply to: [deleted]
Date: 2009-06-17, 10:10AM EDT
You rode an old world bicycle and carried a weathered tan leather bag heading over the Williamsburg bridge. You had small zippers open at the end of your stone grey denim that left your feet dangling onto your pedals that had no use for cumbersome toeclips. We rode together up Elizabeth St. I smiled at you in quiet Greenwich Village. You knew the perfect route to coast into midtown. We both forgot to wear our helmets but made it safely to 42nd st where the bustle of midtown and the workday's sudden reality distracted me from you.
I hope to share another commute.
Yes, the evocative world of the PCRCMC is full of weathered leather, chance encounters on quiet Greenwich Village streets, woodcuts, and sometimes even weary Portuguese friends. The truth is that there are at least as many wistful, bookish, satchel-toting cyclists in New York City as there are trendy fixed-gear riders; however, instead of posting videos of themselves on Youtube doing tricks to stoner doom metal, they simply scribble quietly in journals or, very occasionally, timidly share their observations and longings with the outside world by posting them on Craigslist.
Furthermore, like any group of cyclists, the introspective, wistful PCRCMC author has an ideal to which he (it's usually a he) aspires, and that ideal is of course William Forrester as played by Sean Connery in "Finding Forrester:"
Even though the reclusive cycling novelist William Forrester is himself a work of fiction, he nonetheless stands as the Eddy Merckx of wistful cyclists. If you haven't seen "Finding Forrester," I wouldn't exactly recommend that you work quickly to rectify that. Really, all you need to know is that in it Sean Connery is a J.D. Salingeresque writer who mentors a prodigy, and he finally hops on his old Raleigh or whatever it is to save the day:
I'd wager that nary a tweed-palping PCRCMC author alive hasn't fantasized about the same scenario. This is true regardless of age, for no matter how old a PCRCMC author is he always imagines himself as being distinguished and gray. It's just not the same if you imagine yourself as the younger Sean Connery, which is obvious from this image (via HTATBL):
This Sean Connery is not literary, nor would he ride an appropriately literary bike. Instead, he' probably "rock" something like this:
Probably most appealing of all to the PCRCMC author though is that on top of being both literary and distinguished-looking, Sean Connery as William Forrester also has "mad skillz." Check out the confidence with which he dives into that corner. Even as an older man he's got the bike-handling skills of a youngish serial retrogrouch and uber-curmudgeon Jobst Brandt:
With the Bicycle Film Festival officially underway here in New York City, I think it's finally time for someone to produce a Jobst Brandt biopic, and I'm pretty sure that Sean Connery would leap at the opportunity to play present-day Jobst. Maybe by the time the 2010 festival rolls around there will be a line of PCRCMC authors and Rivendell-riding retro-grouches three blocks long waiting to see "Myth and Lore: The Jobst Brandt Story." Gus Van Sant would no doubt do a wonderful job with it, and I can't help thinking that Vincent D'Onofrio could play Sheldon Brown to critical acclaim.
Indeed, trolling for idols is something we all do. This is also readily apparent in the behavior of fixed-gear riders, who, just as soon as they hear about some legendary cyclist or company for the first time immediately render it and sell it in t-shirt form. The most recent legendary cyclist to receive such treatment at the hands of the "fixerati" is Tom Simpson:
As you may know, Tom Simpson was the British pro cyclist who died on Mont Ventoux in the 1967 Tour de France. At the time he died he was apparently riddled with amphetamines, and one of the last things he said was purportedly, "Put me back on my bike!" Not to belittle the tragedy of Tom Simpson's death, but it's hardly surprising that a story like this would immediatly be appropriated as "fixie fodder." Firstly, it involves drugs so it's totally a "rock star" way to die. Secondly, what fixter hasn't at some point botched a red light track stand, fallen over with his or her Vans inextricably stuck in his or her MKS toe clips, and implored some bemused onlooker, "Put me back on my bike! On, on, go on!"?
Personally, I have a suspicion that the next legendary cyclist to be appropriated will be Jobst Brandt. As such, I'm already working on a design, and plan to "drop" a shirt soon. Here's the graphic for the front:
I'm still thinking about the back, but at the moment I'm partial to reproducing this "epic" Jobstian tale:
"When I was riding my last Clement tubulars, that had poor stitch protectors that caused many pin hole leaks, my tires kept going flat. Knowing about the ability of the butterfat in milk to plug such holes, I poured a few ounces of milk, from a dairy on the Klausen pass in Switzerland, into my tire pump and pumped it into my tires. This solved my problem, but a few weeks later, back home, while riding to Santa Cruz with a bunch of bikies sitting on my wheel, I had a rear blowout and sprayed them with putrid milk, while I had a hard time controlling the bike as it slid around on the flat tubular like ice."--Jobst Brandt
Then again, that might be a bit long. I may paraphrase it thusly:
All You Haters Drink My Milk
I think it's got a certain putrid ring to it.