Wednesday, August 18, 2021

If You Want Dignity, Choose Chess


I've been bicycling for a long time. Lots of things have changed. For instance, fifty years ago, people bought components for their beloved bikes designed to shave a few grams off the weight, even though it would be a lot less expensive to just take it off their thighs. Now, bicycles are made out of some kind of miracle metal where the atoms are so far apart that the whole thing wouldn't tip a scale against a bag of chips.

Also, modern bike saddles have some cush in them and are no longer made out of pterosaur clavicles.

Plus, people have helmets now, and stuff. They're made out of old ice coolers, but they're better than nothing, which was the style helmet I wore for the first 35 years.

Old-timers like to make fun of this sort of thing. What a bunch of sissies. We did just fine without all that guff, they say. Old-timers love to say "guff." Of course, the ones that didn't do so fine are no longer with us.

One time, our old beloved Hostel Club group went off for a week-long tour in Pennsylvania Dutch Country, the home of zero cars and food bigger than your head. A couple of our friends put on strappy little leather helmets and toeclips and raced each other to Pennsylvania. From Virginia. They loaded up on salt tablets, because that was a thing then. We were already there, transported by motor vehicle as Nature intended, just in time to see them race up side by side, blast into the parking lot with a spray of gravel, lean over, and vomit copiously on their shoes.

If dignity were the goal in life, this did not appear to be the activity to get into. Naturally, we got into it.

The toeclips distinguished the serious biker from the hobbyist. They were little cages for your feet, and you jammed your toes in them, reached down, and cinched up the leather strap. With your feet locked in, you could really move. Problem. A moment of inattention while you're locked into your pedals, and you will go over like a dead dinosaur. It will look very majestic: no struggle, no fuss, no flailing, just your inert body, tied to a stake named Gravity. Modern bicyclists have abandoned the toe cages for a system wherein their shoes are locked into the pedals. You're supposed to click out of your pedals easily, but it doesn't always happen. Also, it is possible--I hear--to come up to a stop, click off one pedal, and lean the other way. Everyone's done it at least once. Lance Armstrong has done it too, I assure you, but he cleated all the witnesses. He stomped them into amnesia or worse.

So that's one way to efficient your way into a case of "road rash," or the transfer of all or part of your epidermis to pavement. I have never had a bad case of it, because no matter what I do, the road beneath my wheels doesn't go by all that fast. And if I get going down a mountain where my friends will gleefully reach speeds of up to 55 miles per hour, I will show up at the bottom considerably later, and my forearms will burst into flame from braking.

Clothing is different also. Seems to me my serious biking friends in the '60s wore wool shorts and tee-shirts. Now you are expected to deck yourself out in Spandex. It's not attractive. I don't care who you are. You're going to look like a bunch of link sausages in Technicolor.

The Spandex, at least, makes a certain amount of sense, and reduces chafing, but does not solve all the problems in the shorts region. On one long trip, I emerged from the porta-potty with a distinctive hitch in my git-along and eased myself back in the saddle. A woman rode up to me and said, quietly, medicated diaper powder, and then rode off before I could thank her.

I submit that if the first words from a complete stranger include "diaper powder," you are not engaged in a dignified activity.

25 comments:

  1. Since my knees are no longer original equipment and I live in a hilly area, I have opted to sell my bike for an electrically assisted bike. I still get exercise, but can be confident of getting up the hills without going into leg cramps or cardiac arrest or both. I no longer feel the wind in my hair because I wear a helmet and also have no hair. This is my attempt to "age gracefully."

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    1. I'm a big fan of biking without cardiac arrest. If you don't wear a helmet, can you feel wind in your phantom follicles?

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  2. Helmets, please! First ER visit (1974) from a bike wreck I was unconscious. Second ER visit (1996) I had a helmet on, and although I had busted a wrist and collar bone, my noggin was OK. Doing much shorter rides these days ...

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    1. I've been wearing a helmet since about 1985. I still don't like them, but I get it.

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  3. Might I add (as Ben's wife) that his helmet, after crash #2 in '96, was pretty badly scratched up. His head was NOT.

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    1. Excellent. As you can see, Pootie has his lint covered.

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  4. You had me snickering with the memeory of a weekend bike trip in Germany’s wine country. The last night we spent all our pfennigs to buy a lot of house wine at the vineyard we were staying at on the Mosel river. The next morning was a bit rough for most of us due to our wine consumption. All the good riders were instructed to ride onto Koblenz and meet at a certain intersection. I was able to route find that morning so I blindly followed the group. When we stopped at the intersection I leaned the opposite of the I clipped foot and laid down just as you described. I was given 9.8’s and 10.0’s for my fall! Lots of laughters ensued and I still giggle about that! Thanks for the laugh this morning!

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  5. Learning to clip in and clip out is a rite of passage. My initiation consisted of falling flat on my side at a stop light. I was laughing so hard I had trouble unclipping to get back up.

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    1. I had a couple dudes unclip me in a ditch. I couldn't have managed it. (I was upside down.)

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  6. I would sooner be clip free than to ski without bindings. But, mind you, I keep the clips verrry loose. Yep, after my first fall at a standstill. The big problem with biking (for men) gotta be protecting the family jewels. Numb hands are one thing…

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    1. I have always wondered where the jewels GO. I have asked. I have said "Can you show me where everything is on (under, to the side of) that saddle?" Nobody once has explained it to me.

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  7. Technicolor sausage links! I love that :)

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  8. A couple of years ago, okay it was 2006, I said to my sons, "I feel so well I might get a bike!" It's now a family catch-phrase. Need I say I haven't gotten a bike - yet. (Or quite possibly ever) P.S. I wonder about the jewels as well. You don't just put your brolly in the spokes of a stranger's bike as he swooshes by and ask, do you?

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    1. I guarantee you I have asked. Mostly friends. Nobody wants to say. Evidently it's a big secret.

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  9. Spandex is in EVERYTHING these days. I have drapey nighties and robes that have spandex in them. WTF FOR??? They're supposed to be drapey! They don't NEED spandex! It's obviously Big Spandex taking over the clothing industry.

    Paul bicycles, and wears spandex when he does. I've managed to get him into Pima Cotton tops... but... oh, the bottoms!

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    1. Yeah, I'm not a fan. I like drapey. But it does at least make sense on a bike.

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  10. Since the 'jewels' are positioned to the front of the legs junction, I'd say they are safely tucked up and away from any seat connection. any chafing would occur high on the inner thighs instead.

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    1. You will notice that no man has weighed in on this. It's a secret, I'm telling you.

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  11. Back when bicycle seats were made of leather which you assiduously worked bear grease (or something like that) into to soften them up I came on an article on how to cut a little section out of the seat to improve the ride for the "jewels." It actually worked.
    Bicycle riding was also considered a form of DIY birth control.
    And you still aren't supposed to go on a long ride before a PSA test.

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    1. Why thank you, Gene! Information, and not too much!

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  12. I don’t recall the jewels ever being an issue while bike riding. But did manage to bruise them sliding off one of those Sinclair dinosaurs in North Platte, Nebraska.

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