If you're still following the Tour de France (yes, amazingly, the race is not over yet) you may be aware that today is a "novelty" stage and the organizers are forcing the riders to race without radios. This means that the team directors will be free to enjoy the wonders of terrestrial French radio (all accordion, all the time) in their cars while the riders are forced to think for themselves. But while some directors and riders oppose the ban for safety reasons, I feel the real problem is that the more financially well-off teams can easily find work-arounds. For example, rumor has it that Lance Armstrong has hired a skywriter plane at his own expense. This means that Johan Bruyneel, who is still plugged into the organization's race radio channel, can simply contact the pilot, who will in turn broadcast Bruyneel's message writ large across the sky for the team to see:
While theoretically these messages will be just as visible to the rest of the peloton as they are to Astana, the fact is that it will simply not occur to any of the other riders to look up unless their own directors tell them to do so. And on the off-chance that a rider actually does turn his head skyward (such as after a crash while lying face up in the middle of the road) Bruyneel is cannily mixing nonsensical decoy phrases in with his instructions:
Nothing worse than adding insult (and testilingus) to injury.
Speaking of which, Portland continues to mercilessly build upon its status as the metaphorical billowy "All You Haters Suck My Balls" cloud message taunting the rest of the nation's cyclists. I recently received a press release from the Oregon Manifest informing me of a contest to design "the ultimate modern transportation bike:"
This bicycle should be "flexible, durable, able to portage reasonable loads with ease, and ready to accommodate the many small and large challenges of everyday riding:"
Incidentally, if you're confused by the word "portage," it's bike-pretentious for "carry," much like "colorway" is design-pretentious for "color" or "testilingus" is crotch-pretentious for "All You Haters Suck My Balls." Also, whenever Rapha's involved, you can bet your silk cravat that things are going to get "epic." ("Epic" is cycling-pretentious for "long and tedious.") Not only are the "Gilded R" putting on one of their trademark artfully-filmed rides, but they're also giving the winner a "fully bespoke suit:"
I actually thought a bespoke suit was a suit made out of spokes, which isn't nearly as bad as it sounds--I have a chicken wire cocktail dress and it's simply fabulous. However, it turns out that "bespoke" is actually pretentious clothes-speak for "custom made," which means that the suit Rapha is giving away must be pretty much the same one depicted in that Times article from awhile back:
Hopefully it also comes with a complete set of chimney cleaning tools for the Dickensian street urchin lifestyle enthusiast--either that, or else a deerstalker hat, pipe, and magnifying glass so that the wearer can dress up as Sherlock Holmes and conduct a protracted investigation for his own dignity.
And speaking of the Victorian era, it's both remarkable and depressing how far we cyclists have failed to come since those days. A reader recently forwarded me this 1896 article on "The Dangers of Cycling" from "The Lancet," and save for the old-timey hyphen placement it could easily have been written today:
In particular, the reader pointed out this passage, which proves that the guy hunched over his aerobars on the recreational path , the person who races you on your commute, and the charity ride racer all share a common ancestor called the "scorcher:"
Another frequent cause of accident is the practice of " scorching." For the benefit of the uninitiated we may define the term as an impulse over-ruling the cyclist’s reason compelling him to overtake any and every moving object which may be in front of him. It is somewhat analogous to the schoolboy’s love of overtaking those walking before him, and it shows similar lack of mental control. Oblivious of everything but the one object of overtaking that which is immediately in front of him, he rushes madly on and, if fortunate enough to escape injury to himself, is only too likely to cause serious harm, if not death, to the pedestrian who may be unfortunate enough to be in his way. The ambition for record breaking and the desire for making a " century run "-i.e., the covering of a hundred miles in one day are greatly responsible for the practice of scorching" and they should be strongly denounced by any medical man who has an opportunity of advising in the matter. These two causes of accident, which we are sorry to say cannot be attributed to the male sex alone, occur for the most part outside large towns, where reckless riding can be indulged in with some amount of impunity as far as the law is concerned.
Furthermore, then as now, taxi drivers hated us:
Cabmen, too, often delight in causing as much inconvenience and annoyance to cyclists as they possibly can do, and we have been witness of a cabman deliberately crossing to the wrong side of the road in front of a cyclist for no other purpose than the wanton one of causing the latter to dismount.
It really doesn't get much more wanton than that.
And perhaps most indicative of the old adage that "The more things change, the more people continue to be idiots" is that this officially marks the 113th year that people have been telling other people to put brakes on their bikes:
Do not ride without a brake, which should be attached to the back wheel if possible.
Obviously in the intervening years we've come to the understanding that the brake is more effective on the front wheel than it is on the back one, but I'm sure this is at least in part due to the peculiarities of the braking technology that was available at the time:
...unfortunately, there is an idea that the addition of a brake adds an inconvenient weight to the machine. It is true that there is still room or improvement in the matter of brakes, but there is a pneumatic contrivance on the market which is both safe and effective, it being attached to the back wheel and being very light the excuse of inconvenient weight cannot be urged.
Donning my deerstalker hat and my bespoke chicken wire cocktail dress I was able to track down an image of this old "pneumatic contrivance," and it was indeed peculiar:
If you'd like to see the entire image, click here, but please keep in mind that it may be unsafe for work--especially if you work in the late 19th century.
Yes, the sad fact is that if cycling in 2009 is almost exactly the same as cycling used to be back in 1896, what hope is there for the future? Even worse, if one looks west to Portland one is taunted by near-daily bike shows, contests, and theme rides, and if one looks east to Germany one is taunted by discount sex for cyclists, as you can see from this article forwarded to me by another reader:
Since I was already wearing my bizarre chicken wire Sherlock Holmes outfit from the Victorian "pneumatic contrivance" search, I figured I might as well head over to the website for the "Maison d'envie" since I was dressed appropriately. First, I checked out their schedule of fees to see just how sweet a discount this was:
Personally, I think they should have offered cyclists a free "Extra" instead. Sure, €5 off a €45 session is nothing to sneeze at (especially since sneezing at things probably costs €50 extra in the "Maison d'envie"), but a free Zungenküsse would still have been much easier to, well, schlucken.
Next, I checked out the video (which is unsafe for work in any century) which provided a steamy and uncensored view of what any cyclist interested in visiting the "Maison d'envie" is most eager to see--of course I'm referring to the rooms:
Classy, and just the place to unwind after a difficult commute. There's also some exquisite art to ponder while you relax:
But by far the most attractive thing for the weary cyclist is this warm and inviting bathtub, complete with revealing glass portal:
Yes, nothing beats a post-ride "Whirlpoolangebot:"
Please note that Larry King is simply there for purposes of censorship, though if you'd like him to join you in the "Whirlpoolangebot" it will cost you €25 extra. Oh, and one other thing: "Maison d'envie" is also hiring, which ITTET is a good thing to see:
Just in case you don't read German, here's a free online translation:
Our small team seeks urgently strengthening. Just now to the vacation time, we seek urgently nice, motivated models. Gladly also by the day. You should can have a second occupation and work above all in the afternoon, let's receive you with open arms. Here almost exclusively German models work will fit, when EU citizen with good German knowledge you also perfectly into our team! Here a very comfortable, almost informal atmosphere rules and if you exercise the model activity with the necessary professionalism, will be able to earn you in the Maison d`envie good money. You find us in the Prenzlauer mountain, Danziger st. 61 in the rear house ground floor to the left. Or call under 030-417 25,920 or 01577-493 58,20 on. You require offer an own business registration/tax number around your services in our house to can.
Oh, and having your own Victorian pneumatic braking contrivance probably wouldn't hurt either.