(Parking for one (1) Fred, spotted in London by a reader.)
But did you know that Fred Culture actually began in London? It's true. Consider this article from 1874, which chronicles the birth of the cycling craze, and in the process reveals what may be the very genesis of Fredness:
A form of amusement which appears to be becoming very popular in England is what is called “bicycling.”
Great name, I love it!
Unfortunately, by the 20th century, Americans would shorten it to "biking," which they pronounce "bi-keen."
When bicycles were first introduced there was a disposition to treat them with ridicule, and many persons imagined that working a machine of this kind was simply a roundabout way of applying physical force in order to do what could be more effectively done by simply walking or running.
This blows my mind. Today, we're derided for not driving cars, yet 140 years ago our forbears were ridiculed for not simply running:
It's strangely comforting that we've been annoying people with our efficient machines ever since history's very first pedal stroke.
In the first instance, the machines were, of course, rather rough and clumsy, and very heavy into the bargain, and there is therefore some excuse for the contempt with which they were regarded. But great improvements have lately been made both in their form and materials; the weight has been considerably reduced, higher wheels have been supplied, and various arrangements made by which the person working the bicycle is enabled to acquire a more thorough and easy command over its movements.
Behold, the Venge-Schmenge of its day:
According to reviewers of the time, it cornered like it was on stilts.
A school of daring and expert riders has also risen up; and though it is doubtful how far the bicycle will ever be introduced for the purposes of ordinary locomotion, it is evident that it is likely to take a prominent place as a form of competitive sport.
"Riding bicycles in order to get around? Fie on that! Bicycling's future lies in racing against ponies!"
(What, no helme(n)ts?)
A new class of sportsmen are thus introduced to the pleasures of the chase, and though the humbler riders on their five-pound velocipedes cannot keep pace with aristocratic rivals mounted on 200-guinea hunters, still they enjoy, to a great extent, the same sort of exhilaration and excitement.
Wow, that sounds like it's right out of Bicycling...1874:
"The £5 Hi-Wheel Sport with its cast iron frame lacks the supple lightweight steel tubing of its 200-guinea sibling the Ultra-Hi SL, but it's an ideal rig for the entry-level rider interested in charity rides, quick jaunts to the country, and even the occasional pony race."
And so it was that Fred-dom was born.
By the way, this article also contains the first-ever recorded answer to the question "Whatgearyourunning?"
It may be mentioned that Stanton’s bicycle has a driving-wheel fifty-eight inches in diameter, and is under fifty pounds in weight. Keen rode with a fifty-four-inch wheel, the weight of his machine being less than thirty-six pounds.
Keen was like totally spun out with that tiny wheel.
I wonder how many skid patches he had...
Of course, since then, competitive cycling has come a long way--by which I mean the drugs are way better:
Recent positive drug tests by two cyclists suggest there is a new, cutting-edge substance making its way to athletes looking for performance-enhancement: FG-4592, an experimental drug that increases production of red blood cells but has not yet been approved for human consumption.
FG-4592? Sounds like a model of fixie from BikesDirect--and as it turns out it's just as easy to order online:
In theory, FG-4592 is available only to participants in clinical trials being conducted by AstraZeneca and FibroGen. The drug is in the final stage of testing, but not approved for sale.
But at least three chemical-supply companies sell FG-4592. A person can simply go to a website, click on FG-4592, add it to a cart, pay with a credit card, and even get it sent via overnight delivery. The hitch, though, is that the buyer has to be a researcher.
“You have to have something in writing saying you will be using it for research purposes,” said Jane Lee, a technical-support specialist at Selleck, a company that sells the compound and advertises it to be 99.36 percent pure. Lee added that the compound has to be sent to a university or research facility.
Fortunately, the Cipollini Bikes headquarters technically counts as a research center:
Sure, they don't have a wind tunnel like Specialized, but they do have a "Virility Chamber" where Cipollini himself has been conducting extensive research on the alleged link between cycling and impotence:
(The Cipollini Bikes Virility Chamber)
So far he hasn't found any, but he feels it's still too early to draw a conclusion.
Speaking of competitive cycling, cyclocross season will be here before you know it--but even if you're trying to ignore it you know it anyway, thanks to the incessant chatter on Twitter:
Oh, right, I forgot: before social networking there was no such thing as cyclocross.
It took disc brakes and hashtags in order to make the sport viable.
And of course under no circumstances should you attempt to engage in cyclocross without taking part in a "clinic" administered by an expert: