La Vie Velominatus: Ugly Ducklings

1984Kelly_Liege
Kelly waddles on the podium at the ’84 Luik-Bastenaken-Luik.

We’re an odd bunch, us Cyclists. Shaved legs, scars, tan lines, muscular legs paired to scrawny upper bodies. These things that make us stand out are some of the things I take great pride in. I marvel at my freshly shaved guns and how smooth they feel under my dress clothes when I’m stuck at the office. I’ll stand in front of the mirror each morning and gauge whether I’m getting fatter or skinnier. I’ll constantly feel my legs to check that they haven’t started to get soft since the morning’s ride. Being a Cyclist, it seems, is a full-time occupation.

Everything in our lives is biased towards riding. On the bike, we are a picture of elegance: perfect kit, tanned guns, magnificent stroke fluidly propelling us along the avenue. Remove us from the bicycle, however, and the graceful Cyclist is transformed instantly into an awkward creature; our legs suddenly look too big, our bodies too small, and we waddle about hopelessly on cleated shoes.

One of the most satisfying experiences of Cycling is to walk in my road shoes. Not only is it a thrill to avoid wiping out down a flight of stairs or in a café, but it marks the start and end of my ride. Kitting up before leaving, I’ll wander to the living room with my shoes in hand. Standing up after strapping them on, I’ll clomp out to the bike, my awkward gait signaling the sweet anticipation of the ride that awaits. Similarly, I cherish clomping back into the house afterwards, the clip-clop of my shoes echoing through the living room and signaling to anyone who is home that I’ve returned from my mission.

I embrace those things that make me strange to the rest of society; we are Cyclists and the rest aren’t meant to understand our ways. But a time will come when we ugly ducklings will blossom into skinny swans.

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67 Replies to “La Vie Velominatus: Ugly Ducklings”

  1. @frank

    @markpa

    I’m slightly filled with rage that you’re in Paris and I’m not. Just FYI. Amazing city.

    Not there until July, just booking everything in and picking the “route” for 10 days in Paris with the family.
    Will be in a little village not far from Oderen and stage 10 of le Tour on Bastille Day.

    All up we’ll be in Europe till October and leave from Milan after the Giro di Lombardia.

    The expression “happy as a pig in mud” comes to mind.

  2. @wiscot

     They found him and went to Kelly’s stepbrother’s house. 

    It’s funnier than this.  When I was at his book signing in December, he said that his mother was there at the time and when deGribaldy stepped out of the taxi in the farmyard, dressed in his Italian suit and wearing aviator sunglasses, she thought Sean had got in with the local mob and they’d come to beat the crap out of him.  Brilliant!

  3. @Mike_P

    @wiscot

    They found him and went to Kelly’s stepbrother’s house.

    It’s funnier than this. When I was at his book signing in December, he said that his mother was there at the time and when deGribaldy stepped out of the taxi in the farmyard, dressed in his Italian suit and wearing aviator sunglasses, she thought Sean had got in with the local mob and they’d come to beat the crap out of him. Brilliant!

    Thanks for that! Just makes a great story even better!

  4. @wiscot

    @Mike_P

    @wiscot

    They found him and went to Kelly’s stepbrother’s house.

    It’s funnier than this. When I was at his book signing in December, he said that his mother was there at the time and when deGribaldy stepped out of the taxi in the farmyard, dressed in his Italian suit and wearing aviator sunglasses, she thought Sean had got in with the local mob and they’d come to beat the crap out of him. Brilliant!

    Thanks for that! Just makes a great story even better!

    Absolutely!

  5. My now 24 year old daughter told me a story just a couple of weeks ago about having a friend of hers at the house for a sleepover years ago and they heard me clip-clopping around the house before a Sunday ride. Her friend remarked that it sounded like I was wearing woman’s shoes. My daughter’s response was “He rides a bike.” But she did like to boast to her friends that her daddy does 100 mile bike rides all the time.

  6. @wiscot

    This Kelly pic is one of my favorites – I think I first saw it in the much-missed Winning. Couple of key things here – those shoes had plastic soles – not carbon, carbon-composite, but friggin’ plastic. This lack of “stiffness” was clearly no impediment to dishing out The V. That being said, they were still probably lighter than many shoes around today because of their sheer simplicity – sole, upper, laces. The duct tape (very carefully applied and trimmed just-so), is surely there to prevent issues with loose laces.

    Are they Brancales? I know Kelly rode Puma shoes for a while and then Gaernes and Vittorias too for a while.

    Finally, the socks = perfection. Fully adhering to the Goldilocks Principle.

    You are the man. My brother in sock height. You get it.

    The reason I think they were Brancale shoes is I’m familiar with their funky plastic mesh look and Sean did wear the most hideous Brancale helmet for a bit. He defiled Milan-Sanremo by winning in that helmet. Maybe he had a package deal, shoes and helmets. And I think Pumas were actually much cooler looking than what’s on his feet.

  7. @Gianni Spot on Gianni, just reading his autobiography “Hunger” and he did have a deal with Brancale. Even a no nonsense guy like Kelly knew that he looked a right plum in that helmet!

  8. Dear Velominati,

    I’m a bicycle mechanic from Indonesia, currently I’m saving up for a 100% rule compliant road bike. However I’m pretty much stuck and with $150 monthly salary I’m very much underfunded. Its been a year since I started saving, but with many unplanned events and the recent downfall of the local currency, this goal just kept making its brake away.

    Ideally I would really love to ride a Cannondale CAAD 10, but I’m not planning on anything overly fancy, just a Cannondale CAAD 8 running on Shimano 105 Group-san (the cheapest Reverent groupset available), a full aluminum built.

    If there are fund raisers for people to get education, shelter, clothing, food and water; I believe helping someone become a Velominatus is just as important. So here I am, asking for whatever spare change you can set aside to help me complete this built.

    Vive la Vie Velominatus

    Ed

  9. @Ventorum

    The Ed Fund. It has a certain ring to it. I’ve bought my mechanic friend’s nearly new gruppo as he is always upgrading frames and components through his steep shop discount. And I don’t mean he is stealing everything.

  10. @Gianni That’s one way to do it, except I work in a MTB dominated shop and a MTB dominated city. I am currently riding 2nd hand roadie which I get for $300, its quite a decent machine, it gets me places, except it’s not rule compliant, i.e, MTB cleats, and having a low end group-san only means no shifting from the drops. But trust me I go by the rules as much as I can.

    Any how, I’ll surely get a Rule Compliant Ride, just got to be more patience.

    Thanks for the tip, its an honor to have a Keeper replying to a Level 4 Velominatus comment.

  11. @frank i recommended stopping by a small shop, run by an american couple, for a snack, not a full meal. i’m not much of a foodie, but i know better than that. since it’s 1 1/2 blocks from notre dame (on the ile-de-la-cite), i thought a few euros could help the ‘little guys’. i’m happy to recommend them also since they used to live just outside dc, & i enjoy reading his blog. ok, i admit, i’m INSANELY jealous that he’s a sports-technology-blogger living in paris. right across the seine, from notre dame. i don’t hold it against him that he does tri’s, since we’ve all made questionable decisions in life. to that end, i AM thankful for the rules, to help guide me on The Path.

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