As I posted yesterday, this past weekend I took the winner of the Fat Cyclist contest on a typical New York area road ride. However, while it was both typical and enjoyable, it was by no means "epic." Frankly, as a mediocre cyclist in all respects I don't possess the necessary passion, fortitude, and effortless style to lead an "epic" road ride. For that matter, I don't possess the proper clothing either. Sure, I once thought I had all these things, but then I read about the Rapha Continental:
Here is how Rapha define an "epic" ride:
No formula exists for epic. It happens when the right conditions are present and it cannot be manufactured. Mental, physical and emotional stress are all components as is suffering, which in the case of cycling, usually means extended periods of self-inflicted pain. Exposure, distance, duration, elevation, great camaraderie, road surfaces, waning sanity, exhaustion, rapidly fading sunlight, weather, empty pockets and broken chains. And competition both healthy and not so healthy are all likely a part of any epic ride. Epic is essentially the result of a series of intense experiences and hard riding.
I like easy-to-follow formulas, so I was disappointed to learn that I cannot employ one to have an "epic." Even though "mental, physical and emotional stress" are important components, as is "self-inflicted pain," these things alone cannot make your ride "epic." I know this because I recently thought really hard about the dire state of the economy while reminiscing about childhood traumas and administering a "purple nurple" to myself during a ride in Prospect Park, and while highly unpleasant, the ride was far from "epic."
Further proof of my intrinsic lack of "epicness" is my experience at the Runcible Spoon. When Rapha visits the Runcible Spoon on an "epic," everything is all sepia and "epicy:"
When I go, it looks like this and I get served a hairy muffin:
But does this mean I lack soul and "epictude," or do I simply lack epic photography skills? Is there really such a thing as a serendipitous state of cycling perfection--a narcotic cocktail of pleasure and pain called an "epic?" Or is there simply a calculated state of visual cycling perfection--an opiate haze of seductive images and words called "epic roadie marketing?" Is it possible to experience this blissful state by riding with the Rapha Continental team-that-is-not-a-team who shave their legs in cold mountain streams and who poke at their deadened muscles with pins to elicit the last few spasms and twitches that will get them over that final, nearly insurmountable 19% climb at mile 135? Or do they just want me to buy some shorts?
I don't know, but whether it's reality or illusion or some combination thereof there are few other cycling companies that could get away with it--although I'd love to see them try. One such company who might want to consider taking a shot at marketing the "epic" is Primal Wear, makers of novelty cycling apparel such as the "Crankkin' Stein" jersey:
Primal Wear are often criticized for their outrageous, tasteless, and arguably hideous graphics. However, I think they should be applauded for having the courage to produce a jersey like this one that empowers Jewish cyclists. I'm not sure what the "Crankkin' Stein" jersey says on the back, but I'm guessing it's something like "Crankkin' Stein Cranks, but Never on Shabbos."
In my ongoing efforts to jump the shark, Primal Wear represents to me the great white. Sure, I may have a column in Bicycling, but that's just hopping over a baby nurse shark on a Razr scooter compared to my actual goal, which is designing Primal Wear jerseys. To that end, I've been working on some concepts, which I'm pleased to share with you here in rudimentary sketch form:
Primal wear have demonstrated a fondness for sexually suggestive double entendre in the past, so I'm hoping this "Derailleur?!? Damn near killed her!!!" design (complete with long-cage Sora rear derailleur) appeals to them as well. Obviously it needs some heavy airbrushing, but you get the idea.
If that's too subtle for them, maybe they'll go for this "I've Got a Compact Crank" design. Because it's not the size of your chainrings; it's how you spin them.
But Primal isn't only about bad puns. It's also about references to popular culture. That's why I think this homage to Charlie Sheen's epic hair in the 1989 baseball comedy "Major League" will be a home run.
But as Rapha has proven, it's not just about showing the clothes; it's also about showing what you can do in the clothes. (And I don't mean relieving yourself in them during a triathlon.) This is why Primal also need to market their version of the "epic" by putting together a group of riders who embody the Primal spirit. This group would be called the "Primal Continental" and they would participate in charity rides across North America. Of course, they'll also need bikes. Rapha Continental has tapped the country's most respected framebuilders to construct for them some of the most pretentious bikes ever made:
Likewise, Primal Continental would have access to the finest bicycles that Performance has to offer:
Plastic, stamped steel, and aluminum play indifferently, ride sufficiently, and look acceptable together. This bike would also look great in front of the Runcible Spoon--as photographed by me, not by Rapha--during a hairy muffin stop on a Primal "epic." Actually, I wonder if Primal would be interested in making "hairy muffin" jerseys. That would be epic.
In the meantime, though, I still can't help but feel inadequately "epic" most of the time. Not only do I have a hard time getting the rarefied blend of leather, carbon, camaraderie, and self-inflicted pain just right, but I also don't have that much time. Sadly, the best I can do most days is try to make my commute "epic." Fortunately, I often succeed--as long as your definition of an "epic" commute includes the words "infuriating" and "miserable." If an epic road ride involves steep climbs, gravel roads, road rash, mechanical mishaps and inclement weather, then an epic commute includes something like this:
Not only is this car disgorging an oblivious passenger on a cell phone right in the middle of the bike lane:
But it turns out the door was also hiding an oncoming bike-salmoning "Beautiful Godzilla."
Even more irritating than the Rapidly-Appearing Bike Salmon (RABS) are the Rollerbladers, whom I've been encountering in the bike lane with increasing frequency:
I wonder if it's possible to do an "epic" Rollerblade ride:
It seems more "meh-pic" to me.