Thursday, May 7, 2015
Ball Sports: 'Roid Rage and Road Rage
Before anything else, I was saddened yesterday to learn of the passing of Jobst Brandt:
Back in the late 20th century, while still deeply in thrall to Fred-dom, I used to read the "rec.bicycles.tech" group, where Brandt used to tell everybody what was what. Like any Fred I was highly susceptible to the newest and latest gew-gaws, to the extent that I emptied my savings account to purchase the very first iteration of the Ksyrium. (It was an illness, I realize that now.) Even so, Brandt's authoritative and at times irascible posts resonated with me, and I began to realize and embrace the fact that I had retrogrouch tendencies.
The Kysriums didn't last long. One day I was Just Riding Along in Manhattan when a hormone-addled teen ran out into the street and kicked my rear wheel for no apparent reason. I didn't break stride, but the wheel went wildly out of true, and it was never the same after that--nor was my faith in bicycle marketing.
Whereas Sheldon Brown's Internet presence was that of the benevolent sage, Brandt was the admonishing parent, and his passing is a loss to cycling, because all of us who ride bikes need people to tell us when we're being fucking idiots. I won't pretend to be anything close to a proficient wheel builder, but thanks to what I learned over the years from reading his posts I've cobbled together some cheap wheels that have far outperformed those stupid Ksyriums, and I've also kept other wheels going by swapping the rim and saving the spokes. I've even got a Mavic MA2 still in service, which I consider a nod to him.
Sure I've still got a gimmicky wheelset or two, because when you're a bike blogger in the 21st century it's unavoidable that these things will come into your possession. I'm also still pretty Fredly, which means I remain liable to be seduced by new bike stuff. Still, Brandt's attitude informs my underlying attitude about bike stuff, which is that above all it should be serviceable, sensible, and sound. There's a lot of junk food out there in the cycling marketplace, and while most of us partake in it from time to time, it's important to see it for what it is.
Moving on, evidently baseball player and doper (doesn't one imply the other?) Barry Bonds is sponsoring a cycling team:
I know very little about Barry Bonds because I don't care about baseball. I wouldn't say I hate baseball exactly, but it is one of those things I don't think about it until something reminds me of it, and then I think to myself, "Yeah, that should just go away." When people ask me "Yankees or Mets?" I struggle to figure out which team I give fewer fucks about, but I suppose if I had to choose a team to root for I'd go with the Mets, only because there's a strong correlation between driving like a fucking dickbag and having a Yankees logo on your car or person.
Anyway, apparently Bonds has become a born-again Fred (which is the worst kind of Fred really), right down to the Rapha jersey:
And funding a cycling team is laughably cheap when you've got professional baseball money:
According to public documents and records provided by Twenty16, Bonds has donated $104,800 to the team -- roughly half of that through the Bonds Family Foundation -- and raised $96,500 from friends and associates, including Will Chang and Trina Dean, members of the San Francisco Giants' ownership group. Cranmer's management company, Tam Cycling Inc., has 501(c)(3) status, and the team's entire 2015 budget is projected to be under half a million dollars.
However, naturally Bonds's association with doping makes some people uncomfortable:
"There's part of me that feels he can contribute," says veteran pro rider Robin Farina, CEO and co-founder of the Women's Cycling Association advocacy group. "On the other hand, it paints the wrong picture. We're trying to keep an image of clean sport. The sport does need people of his stature and stardom, but we don't need a mixed message for young athletes." Farina says her view is personal and not a WCA position.
Many people bemoan the fact that women's cycling receives so little support, and of course I agree. (Perhaps this is a calculated move on Bonds's behalf, since it's easier to deflect criticism by pointing out just how badly these particular athletes need money.) At the same time, it's hard for me to get too worked up over gender inequality in professional cycling, only because pro cycling as it exists is inherently unethical, and therefore it's unreasonable to expect anything good from it. It's sort of like fundamentalist religious groups: if these people are batshit crazy enough to encase themselves in plastic bags on airplanes, then how can you possibly expect these nutjobs to have anything approaching the common sense it requires to treat women as equals?
So anyway, here comes Barry Bonds with his money and his Rapha jersey and his crabon Specialized or Pinarello or whatever it is to save the "little girls:"
Those benefactors now include Bonds, who said he has no desire to throw millions at the problem but felt compelled to help. "I saw these little girls... and forgive me if I say 'little girls,' they're all so tiny to me -- how much passion they had for something they love to do, for nothing," he says.
Eeew, creepy. Sure, not as creepy as Mario Cipollini sponsoring a women's cycling team, but creepy nonetheless.
In other news, a guy in Portland pitched a u-lock at a car from his lofty perch above a tall bike:
My first thought upon seeing the photo was that in Portland hood ornament horseshoes has become the new bike polo, but apparently the driver (or the driver's mother) and the tall biker got into some sort of altercation, and then the u-locks started to fly.
As for the second cyclist with the mismatched socks, as it turns out he merely happened upon the situation as it was unfolding, and he was kind enough to email me an account of what he witnessed. Here it is, from the point of his arrival:
At this point, the gold BMW was exceedingly close behind us, blaring its horn. As I looked behind me, the lock was thrown (if I had to guess where it connected, I'd say license plate). As the tallbiker pulled a u-turn to retrieve his lock, he effectively cut me off, and I stopped. At this point, the car swerved onto the sidewalk and both passengers exited. I asked the driver (daughter) what was going on as the passenger (mom) charged the tallbike (it appeared to me as though she was ready to knock him off of the bike). The tall biker defensively extended his foot as he passed, neither party seemed to suffer any damage (though mom's phone dropped), and the tallbiker continued on his way. At this point, mom's attention turns to me, and the first thing she asks is if "this is what [I] represent". I tried to explain that I was just riding around my neighborhood, but it became clear that I was being yelled at by an extremely angry person, who was predictably less-than-reasonable. I left after mom started accusing me of being complicit, taking my photo, and denying all culpability- though she made sure to mention that she occasionally rides to work, lives between two greenways, and has friends in the "cycling community." As mother is yelling at me, daughter has retreated to the car, visibly and extremely upset.
Only in Portland does a motorist in the throes of road rage point out that she rides to work, lives near two greenways, and has friends in the "cycling community."
Here they just glower at you from beneath the flat brims of their Yankees caps, point their Jeep Grand Cherokee Limiteds at you, and gun it.
Finally, here's a Kickstarter for a light that looks like balls:
The inventor was very persistent about sending me a pair, but I refused for a number of reasons, not least of which is that when you have kids your bike lights become their toys and I don't need mine showing up at at school with an illuminated scrotum.
Also, I'd never use it in a billion years.
I'll give them one thing though, which is that it takes a rather large pair to ask over $11,000 for what is essentially a novelty item.
Maybe Barry Bonds will fund it. They could even offer a miniature set as an homage to his steroid use.