What a glorious weekend it was!
(Weather-wise I mean. I had a massive pimple on the inside of my nose that made my weekend a living hell.)
Indeed, for the first time in 2015, I rode with exposed calves. It was profoundly liberating to expose my pale, sickly flesh to the world (but profoundly nauseating if you weren't me). Indeed, there were moments during my ride when I came close to experiencing pure bliss--but then I'd put a finger on my nostril to blow a snot rocket and OH I FORGOT ABOUT THE PIMPLE THE PAIN THE PAIN THERE IS NO GOD WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?!?!
The other thing I did for the very first time was wear the official Fred "Woo-Hoo-Hoo-Hoo-Hoo!" speed jersey from Walz:
So have I been hawking a jersey all winter long that I've never actually tried beyond walking around the living room in it while wearing nothing else but my underpants? Sure. But now that I've ridden in it, you can believe me when I tell you that this is one comfortable jersey. Slipping it on is like swaddling yourself in the finest silk. Climbing is effortless in this jersey--even on the steepest gradient you'll feel like a baby being lovingly lifted from a cradle by a highly-skilled nanny. And descending? Forget about it. Time will stand still. Even at Fred "Woo-Hoo-Hoo-Hoo-Hoo!" speed you'll feel like a tuft of down falling off a molting owl's ass. Don't believe me? Here's a nipple "selfie" I took at 80mph:
OK, I admit some of that was hyperbole. Yes, the Fred "Woo-Hoo-Hoo-Hoo-Hoo!" is very possibly the most comfortable jersey I own, but I've been reading a lot of bike reviews lately, and the narrative style is starting to rub off on me. In fact, my very favorite stylistic element of bike review prose is the "Spurious Anecdote," which is basically a highly dubious story that's designed to prove the author's ridiculous premise. (The author's premise is almost always "You need to spend a shitload of money on this plastic bike.") Consider this review for the Trek Domane Disc 6.9 which I was reading on the terlet this morning:
Here's the "Spurious Anecdote:"
And going down, oh my. Here's an anecdote that summarizes my experience: Coming off a high mountain pass in Colorado, I saw that I was closing in on a slower-moving car in my lane, and sat up to have a drink. I casually glanced at my bike computer and noticed that I was moving at nearly 60 mph—with just one hand on the bar, the bike still brilliantly composed.
Going down indeed. I can hear John Burke moaning from here. 60mph? One-handed? Drinking?!? Come on. Yeah, I'm sure if you spend $8,000 on a Trek it will miraculously transform the act of high-speed descending into something like sipping a G&T on the bow of a yacht while off-handedly glancing at your Rolex. (Note to "Bicycling:" you can keep that simile, by the way.)
But while creating a good "Spurious Anecdote" may seem like nothing more than unchecked exaggeration, it's not that simple. No, there are strict rules to the form, and you need to include either 1) A superhuman feat the bike allowed you to do (see above); or else 2) A situation in which you totally get over on suckers with lesser equipment--to wit:
As I headed up Second on my lap of 2-5-10, the Colnago ascended smoothly, allowing me to maintain a conversation without gasping. When the road pitched down, our group of 20 spread out as we gained speed. Heading toward the first left-hander, I closed in on two riders pedaling side by side. I thought about braking, then didn't. A crease had opened between them and I slipped through, instinctively, nearly impetuously.
"Whoosh!" Suckers. Also, note that "the Colnago ascended smoothly, allowing me to maintain a conversation without gasping." See, he didn't ascend, the Colnago did it for him--so much so that he didn't even breathe heavily. So basically it's not a bike. It's a combination horse/asthma inhaler.
Yes, personification is a highly useful literary device when reviewing bicycles, and this reviewer uses it to great effect:
Given the low weight and stiff frame, I expected the bike to leap forward and was surprised when it didn't. Instead, speed increased steadily rather than in chaotic bursts. The bike maneuvered with a similar calmness. Initiate line changes with your hips and the bike snaps across the apex.
Furthermore, he combines personification with yet another effective tool, which is making up an undesirable thing no bike ever does, and then saying this bike is good because it doesn't do that thing that never happens, as in: "I expected the bike to leap forward and was surprised when it didn't." Why is he surprised? What bike that isn't a motorcycle has ever done that??? He might as well have said, "I expected the bike to throw me to the ground, remove its own saddle, and begin pegging me. I was surprised when it didn't."
Surprised, and perhaps disappointed.
And I don't mean to single out Bicycling here, because it was Lennard Zinn who penned what may be my favorite "Spurious Anectode" of all time:
A couple of weekends ago, we had a race here at the nearby Flatirons Mall on a grassy hillside above the Denver-Boulder Turnpike. One corner was an uphill buttonhook around a tree after dropping off of a downhill sidewalk and descending along the sidehill. I noticed most riders in my category repeatedly pumping their lever to shift from their smallest cog to their largest in anticipation of the buttonhook that required coming to a near stop and then turning sharply left uphill. They couldn’t pedal hard down toward the corner due to the decreasing gear as well as all of the hard effort from their right arm. I, on the other hand, could pedal most of the way to the corner in a high gear, and just as I started applying my brakes, I could just hold down the right downshift lever and keep turning my feet. It doesn’t require nearly the force, concentration, or time to make the shift all of the way from one end of the cogset to the other, and I closed some gaps on that downhill that way.
The best "Spurious Anecdotes" unwittingly undermine themselves by underscoring how absurd the pursuit of amateur glory on an expensive bicycle is--in this case, a middle-aged man using an expensive, state-of-the-art electronic shifting system to defeat other middle-aged men with lesser equipment in a bike race being held behind a shopping mall.
Then again, professional cyclists are no less ridiculous. Consider yesterday's Paris-Roubaix, in which a number of riders slipped through a railroad crossing as a high-speed train approached:
"Several riders deliberately, and against all safety rules, crossed a closed safety barrier," said a SNCF statement. “Millions of television viewers saw live this extremely grave and irresponsible action which could have been tragic.”
As the peloton approached the crossing, the barriers began falling. Riders rode on through, around and under the barriers. AFP reports that one rider was hit by a closing barrier, and that eventual winner John Degenkolb was amongst those who went through.
That is textbook Freds-on-the-Sunday-group-ride behavior--like the guy on the Serotta who runs a solid red light at a busy intersection so he doesn't get dropped from the Gimbels Ride.
Lastly, the New York Times recently ran a story written by a bicycle messenger:
It was mostly an enjoyable read, though this passage was a bit jarring:
I scanned my body for pain. It seemed I was O.K. Only then did I realize that I was sitting in a sea of aluminum cans. They were spilling out of the giant trash bags that the other cyclist, who was now on the ground next to me, had been carrying on his bike, apparently on his way to delivering them to a recycling center.
Amid the cans, I thought for a second about how just a few weeks ago I had been living with my parents in the suburbs of Kansas City. How strange that I was now sitting on a wet Manhattan street next to a complete stranger. But during our brief encounter, when he came over to help me up and see if I was O.K., I thought about what we did have in common: We were both working with our bikes.
Sure, the transplant from the suburbs of Kansas City is exactly like the person collecting cans for a living.
In any case, that crash would never have happened had she been riding the Colnago V1-r.