July wasn't a great month on the bike for me. Midwinter seldom is. The weather was crappy, I bought a new car and the Tour was on the TV. Tour buffs might appreciate this, from crikey.com.au: While Julius Caesar feared the Ides of March, for those of us lucky enough to live with a cyclist, it is the whole month of July that we dread. For that can only mean one thing; the agony of the Tour de France. Although Lance Armstrong, Alberto Contador and Cadel Evans have been getting all the attention, personally, I think the maillot jaune should be awarded to the person who has to share a house with one bloke, two children and ONE television, permanently tuned to SBS. Here is the average July day in our household:
5.55pm. I pour large glass of wine.
6.00pm. Husband sprints home from work and displaces children from The Simpsons in order to watch Tour highlights on SBS. Fifteen minute screaming match ensues.
6.10pm. I pour second glass of wine.
6.30pm. All warring parties, none of whom is now speaking to the other, sit down for "family dinner."
9.30pm to God knows when. Spouse watches live coverage of le Tour.
5.30am. Gets up to go cycling. (In training for something, is it World Masters’ Games? Round the Bay? Have actually forgotten...)
It is now Week Three, and the usual hideous transformation has taken place. Extreme sleep deprivation combined with adrenalin overload has turned him into a shuffling, red-eyed zombie, topped off with a consumptive cough.
I have tried to take an interest, I really have, but it’s hard to tell them all apart; let’s face it, all bicycles look the same, and, when the camera is shoved up their bony backsides, so do all the riders. And, sadly, the only element of sport I’m vaguely interested in -- the beefcake factor -- is quite low. I’ve seen Lance Armstrong in the flesh, and he is smaller than my 12-year-old. And as for pint-sized Cadel, I’m not sure why his voice is so squeaky, but 25 years of very tight lycra may have something to do with it.
If you want to check out the lean waxed calves of a few Euros, then head to the Italian café in Gouger St, Adelaide in January, where the Spanish team hangs out during the Tour Down Under. But after six hours sitting on a very narrow cycling saddle, do we really think they are capable of getting a leg over the podium girls? Why isn’t Mr Cycling Know-All Michael Tomalaris talking about that?
However, it appears I am not alone in my misery. Cycling is so popular in this country it’s been dubbed "The New Golf’"; it’s not hard to see why, as it is the perfect sport for middle-aged men. They can’t compete on performance (they’re too old) but they can compete on the thing that really counts, which is spending money. It is entirely possible to squander a fortune on kit and, get this, ONLY OTHER CYCLISTS WILL NOTICE. This means that you can spend up big without being caught out by the wife.
One of our friends owns several bikes, but his wife thinks there is only one, because she can’ t tell them apart. Another mate had a furious row with her husband when she discovered the invoice from the local bike boutique, not realising that it was only the deposit. And then there’s the clothes; the latest "it" brand is Rapha, which comes from the stable of high-profile British designer Paul Smith. I know the cost of a Paul Smith handbag, and it is chicken feed compared to his designer lycra (unbelievably, that is not an oxymoron). For instance, on the Rapha website there are Grand Tour Gloves, made from "African hair sheep leather."
According to the copy, "African hair sheep live on the arid savannah of Eastern Africa. To cope with the heat and dry conditions, the hair sheep have extremely thin but strong skin."
"A road rider using gloves made of hair sheep gets the confidence and feel of riding bare handed, but with the protection and comfort of the highest quality glove on the market." All for just $US160.
You can see the attraction, can’t you? I think they just ride to Coluzzi, fondle each other’s gloves, drink three short blacks and ride home. Why bother doing any actual cycling?
I could go on and on -- there’s the weight obsession, weird eating habits (Lance weighs his food before he eats it), hair removal techniques, supplements and pharmaceuticals (joke), not to mention a brand of Swiss clothing called Assos -- who says the Swiss don’t have a sense of humour?
But come July 26, when some tiny, hairless teenager hurtles through the base of the Arc de Triomphe and dons a retina-burning yellow jersey, I will be raising a glass to the end of Dry July (as if) and the Tour de France and the resumption of normal family life. In the final verse of Pablo Neruda’s Ode to Bicycles, he says:
I thought about evening when the boys wash up, sing, eat, raise a cup of wine in honor of love and life, and waiting at the door, the bicycle, stilled, because only moving does it have a soul, and fallen there it isn't a translucent insect humming through summer but a cold skeleton that will return to life only when it's needed, when it's light, that is, with the resurrection of each day.
I love an unhurried Sunday ride. Start mid-morning, finish mid-afternoon. Give the bike a clean, lube the chain. Gather up the gear and roll out easy. I did about 50km today which included two cafe stops. Took four hours, only two of which were actually riding. Rode to town, cake stop with Tim and Kev, rode to Cygnet Hill with a social call along the way and then back to Huonville for a yarn with Keith and Clive, rode home. More a series of conversations than a training ride! Still, it's the time of year for it, the days are short and the rides of spring and summer still distant enough not to be worried about cranking out the miles or climbing hills or trying to set speed records. June and July are always like this then the days get longer and the big rides draw nearer.
It seems a long way until January and the Audax Alpine Classic. This year the ride comes at the end of a week-long cycling festival: The SemaineFederale. To be held for the first time outside of France, this series of rides promises to be a most enjoyable prelude to the Alpine. I was planning to head to Bright a week early to ride some of the climbs and generally bum around before tackling the 200km ride on the Sunday. A quick glance of the SF program on their website shows I'll be able put in a fine week on all the major climbs in the company of like-minded others. Bright usually books out solid a year before the Alpine Classic, so it took some doing to secure a room for the week. That's done now and my holidays are locked in. Roll on January. See you in Bright.
3364km so far this year. 200th post for this blog!
I love a bitchy rant as much as the next person, this lament is from a rather disgruntled American bike shop employee, posted on Craig's List:
Woo-hoo Seattle, the sun is out! Let's discuss a few things before you fumble with swapping the unused ski rack for the unused bike rack on the Subaru.
So yes, you've noticed the sun is out, and hey!- maybe it would be cool to to some bike riding. Let's keep in mind that the sun came out of all 600,000 of us, so for the most part, you're not the only one who noticed. Please remember that when you walk into my shop on a bright, sunny Saturday morning. It will save you from looking like a complete twat that huffs "Why are there so many people here?"
Are we all on the same page now about it being sunny outside? Have we all figured out that we're not the only clever people that feel sunny days are good for bike riding? Great. I want to kiss all of you on your forehead for sharing this moment with me. Put your vitamin D starved fingers in mine, and we'll move on together to some pointers that will make life easier.
SOME POINTERS FOR THE PHONE:
- I don't know what size of bike you need. The only thing that I can tell over the phone is that you sound fat. I don't care how tall you are. I don't care how long your inseam is. Don't complain to me that you don't want to come ALL THE WAY down to the bike shop to get fitted for a bike. I have two hundred bikes in my inventory. I will find one that fits you. Whether you come from the north or the south, my shop is downhill. Pretend you're going to smell a fart, ball up, and roll your fat ass down here.
- Don't get high and call me. Write it down, call me later. When I have four phone lines ringing, and a herdlet of people waiting for help, I can't deal with you sitting there "uuuuhhh"-ing and "uuummm"-ing while your brain tries to put together some cheeto-xbox-fixie conundrum. We didn't get disconnected, I left you on hold to figure your shit out.
-I really do need to see your bike to know what is wrong with it. You've already figured out that when you car makes a noise, the mechanic needs to see it. When your TV goes blank, a technician needs to see it. I can tell you, if there is one thing I've learned from you fucking squirrels, it's that "doesn't shift right" means your bike could need a slight cable adjustment, or you might just need to stop backing into it with the Subaru. Bring it in, I'll let you know for sure.
- No, I don't know how much a good bike costs. For some, spending $500 dollars is a kingly sum. For others, $500 won't buy you one good wheel. You really need to have an idea of what you want, because every one of you raccoons "doesn't want to spend too much".
FOR YOU INVENTIVE TYPES AND DO-IT-YOURSELFERS:
- Just because you think is should exist, doesn't mean that it does. I know that to you, a 14 inch quill stem makes perfect sense, but what makes more sense is buying a bike that fits you, not trying to make your mountain bike that was too small for you to begin with into a comfort bike.
- If some twat on some message board somewhere says that you can use the lockring from your bottom bracket as a lockring for a fixie conversion doesn't mean that A: you can, or B: you should. Please listen to me on this stuff, I really do have your best interests at heart.
- I love that you have the enthusiasm to build yourself a recumbent in the off season. That does not mean however, that I share your enthusiasm; ergo I won't do the "final tweaks" for you. You figure out why that Sram shifter and that Shimano rear derailleur don't work together. While we're at it, you recumbent people scare me a little. Don't bring that lumbering fucking thing anywhere near me.
A DEDICATION TO ALL THE HIPSTER DUCHEBAGS:
-If you shitheads had any money, you wouldn't NEED a vintage Poo-zhow to get laid. Go have an ironic mustache growing contest in front of American Apparel, so that I can continue selling $300 bikes to fatties, which is what keeps the lights on.
- Being made in the 80's may make something cool, but that doesn't automatically make something good. The reason that no one has ridden that "vintage" Murray is because it's shit. It was shit in the 80's, a trend it carried proudly through the 90's, and rallied with into the '00's. What I mean to say is, no, I can't make it work better. It's still shit, even with more air in the tires.
SO YOU'RE GONNA BUY A BIKE:
Good for you! Biking is awesome. It's easy, it's fun, it's good for you. I want you to bike, I really do. To that end, I am here to help you.
-Your co-worker that's "really into biking" knows fuck all. Stop asking for his advice. He could care less about you having the right bike. He wants to validate his bike purchase(s) through you. He also wants to sleep with you, and wear matching bike shorts with you.
- You're not a triathlete. You're not. If you were, you wouldn't be here, and we both know it.
- You're not a racer. If you were, I'd know you already, and you wouldn't be here, and we both know it.
- So you want a bike that you can ride to work, goes really fast, is good for that triathlon you're doing this summer (snicker), is good on trails and mud, and costs less than $300. Yeah. Listen, I want a car that can go 200 miles an hour, tow a boat, has room for five adults, is easy to parallel park but can carry plywood, gets 60mpg, and only costs $3,000. I also want a unicorn to blow me. What are we even talking about here? Oh yeah. Listen, bikes can be fast, light, cheap and comfortable. Pick two, and we're all good.
ABOUT YOUR KIDS:
Your kids are amazing. Sure are. No one else has kids as smart, able, funny or as good looking as you. Nope. Never see THAT around here.
- I have no idea how long you kid will be able to use this bike. As it seems to me, your precious is a little retarded, and can't even use the damn thing now. More likely, your budding genius is going to leave the bike in the driveway where you will Subaru the bike to death LONG before the nose picker outgrows the bike.
- Stop being so jumpy. I am not a molester. You people REALLY watch too much TV. When I hold the back of the bike while your kid is on it, it's not because I get a thrill from *almost* having my hand on kid butt, it's because kids are unpredictable, and generally take off whenever possible, usually not in the direction you think they might go. Listen, if I were going to do anything bad to your kids, I'd feed them to sharks, because sharks are FUCKING AWESOME.
I hope this helps, and have fun this summer riding your kick-ass bike!