The long winter of commuting by bicycle here in the Great White North has taken its toll on my machine. Every little nut and cranny seems to have a blossom of rust. And the chain? Well, despite my frequent applications of Tri-Flow over the winter, the chain has a distinct orange-vomit hue that just won’t go away. The drivetrain is disintegrating; the derailleurs are pretty much seized up. The bike looks a little sad; crusty is the word that comes to mind—like it’s come down with the mechanical equivalent of pink eye (orange eye?), all seasonal gunk and pus. Such is the cost of winter cycling in these parts.
Friday, April 26, 2013
Friday, April 19, 2013
Assembling a bicycle from scratch, watching its essential bike-ness evolve, raises a metaphysical question: When does a bike-building “project” officially become a bike, as opposed to a collection of parts or a work in progress. When exactly is the official moment of bike conception?
Is it when the drive train is complete? When the wheels are attached? Or is it not until the whole shebang, bottle cages and bells, are attached? (Should the building of the frame be considered the moment of conception, or can we not properly speak of a bike until it emerges fully formed from the shop, like a full-grown Uruk hai popping out of Saruman’s slimy birthing pit?) I was thinking about this the other day in Val’s garage, as we made significant progress on the MB 2000.
Friday, April 12, 2013
Pardon me while I adjust my woolen tunic, roll down my white socks, add another dab of Brylcream to my ‘do, and prepare a fresh bowl of pipe tobacco. You see, I’m getting ready to be heroic. Or at least to look heroic, in that old-school, euro-cyclist way. Think Fausto Coppi circa 1947. Why am I so attired? Because I’ve been thinking about—no, more than that, getting ready for—a heroic bicycle race I recently discovered, one that seems tailor made for the Dusty Musette crew—The Cino Heroica, held near Kalispell, Montana, in September.
According to the race website, The Cino is a
celebration of the cycling days of old when road racing in Europe meant racing on unpaved dirt roads over mountain passes, in sometimes horrific conditions. The racers rode steel framed bikes that were built as much for toughness as for speed. They drank wine and smoked Gitanes to quell their suffering. “Nutrition” was real food, like cheese, salami, and a baguette. Suffering was an art form taken to a new level by these riders, as they collapsed into the arms of their handlers at race’s end, their faces reflecting something that non-riders will never understand. But at the end of the day, it was all about style, the horrors of the struggle erased by the pasta with truffles, crystal goblets of Chianti and polite conversation.
Ah, now this is my kind of bike race. Which is to say, it’s not a race at all, but rather a half-ironic group gravel ride, part homage to cycling’s past, part silly pageant, all fun/perverse endeavor.
Friday, April 5, 2013
Eventually I will read Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle's recent tell-all book about the dark side of professional cycling But before I do that, I decided to go back and pick up the original expose of the peloton, Paul Kimmage’s Rough Ride. First published in 1990, it describes the “unglamorous” life of a domestique—routine doping, race buying, and politicking in the peloton—in a way no one had dared to do before. Kimmage took a lot of heat for the book. The title could easily refer to the book’s reception in the cycling community; Kimmage lost friends, made enemies, and earned a reputation as a code-breaking renegade, even a pariah. He once even described himself as the “Salman Rushdie of the cycling world,” such was the unofficial fatwa cast over him by his book.
Although Kimmage quit racing in 1989, he’s remained a presence on the pro scene through his journalism in the UK. Well, presence isn’t really the right word for what many cycling insiders considered Kimmage to be. More like supreme shit-disturber, whistle-blower, PED alarmist, Armstrong vilifier (see his famous exchange with Armstrong, regarding Kimmage’s assertion that Lance was a “cancer” on the cycling body), and relentless critic of the UCI. (He’s now suing the UCI, in fact, just for something to do, it seems, now that the Armstrong crusade is winding down. He seems to need to be in take-down mode.)
Given the recent events vis-a-vis Armstrong and Hamilton, it seemed right just now to go back and see just how rough the ride really was for Kimmage.