The Cycling Aesthete

The Cycling Aesthete

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There are those who are challenged to find the value of aesthetics in a sport which requires eating 11T cogs buttered with chain oil for breakfast and drinking kegs of Rule #5 at dinner. Ye of the Congoscenti, I present you with the following photos of some of the quintessential hardmen of our sport who rode during an era when merely climbing aboard a bicycle – let alone to race one – was an act of stony hardness which, by comparison, casts modern riders into the realm of the indolent.

Indeed, these were men who rode over the same mountain passes that we ride today, but did so on unpaved roads aboard bicycles weighing 20 kilos.  They turned massive gears out of necessity, and rode races that were many times longer than those we see today.  These were men who wore motorcycle goggles for a lack of any cycling-specific eye wear; who wore their spare tires in a figure-eight pattern looped over their shoulders. These were the hardest men imaginable.

Most of them also rode with a comb in their pocket to ensure they always looked their best the moment they stopped pedaling their machines.  These men were Giants who understood that the finer things in life and in this sport are what make it worthwhile to suffer so.

So next time you pack your energy gels and inner tube into your jersey pocket, make sure you leave room for a comb.

A bunch of men, those.


// Etiquette // Nostalgia // Technology // The Hardmen // Tradition

  1. Notice that despite their skinny physiques (likely not by choice) they still have upper body muscle development unlike the wee lassies we have in today’s Grand Tours whose arms look like toothpicks. Probably because most of these guys worked hard manual labor jobs in the mines and such, but still…

  2. @Omar
    That’s interesting, that they had labor jobs. That’s a good point, although by this time, I think there might have been enough money for these Legends to live solely off cycling.

    That leads into a really interesting (and difficult) question I find myself facing; which is, how do these birdlike riders survive a Grand Tour? Some body fat is a helpful thing in a long race in terms of fuel (at least that’s conventional “wisdom”) because your body can burn it for energy, but these guys are eating like birds during these crazy races.

    It challenges one when thinking about what that means in terms of where they are getting their power and energy from.

    But enough of that heady shit; these were fucking men, eh? That picture of Coppi in the trench coat is one of my favorite photos of a cyclist ever, and he’s not even on a bike. What a stud.

  3. @frank
    Chris Carmichael (as quoted in Road Bike Review’s 15 July newsletter):

    “I don’t have actual numbers to prove this point, but it certainly seems like more crashes are resulting in broken bones than a decade ago. Some of this can be attributed to the additional ‘traffic furniture’ in the roads, some could be attributed to the increased speeds.

    “But I think some of it may also be attributed to the focus on being lean.

    “If you go way back in cycling history, riders were not very well paid and they had other jobs during the rest of the year. Many of the riders in the 1940s-’70s worked in manual labor and factory jobs, and as a result they had sturdier physiques.

    “As the sport transitioned into a more lucrative profession and top pros were able to be only cyclists, we started to see a transformation in their physiques. The value of being lightweight has steadily increased, and when you combine high training volume with a drive to lose weight you can start to see problems with bone density.

    “Most professional cyclists don’t incorporate much or any upper-body strength training into their training programs anymore. Not only do they want to avoid carrying excess muscle, but the cycling-specific training schedules of elite athletes have become so strenuous that there is not much time or energy available for the upper body.

    “Strength training increases bone density by inducing a load (stress) on the bones. The body responds by depositing more calcium to strengthen the bone. No strength training means no stimulus to build or maintain high bone density.

    “Unfortunately, there is no easy solution. It would be difficult to convince racers to change their training schedules and incorporate more strength training for the sake of increasing bone density. After all, stronger bones don’t help you go faster, and weaker bones are only a problem when you fall.

    “At the elite level, your paycheck depends on being able to go faster for longer, and riders will continue to train in ways that optimize speed and power even if it means a greater risk of broken bones.”

  4. @Geof
    Doh – that should be RoadBikeRider’s 15 July newsletter.

  5. Part of what makes these guys look so cool is that they look so real. Just from the pictures you know that their day was filled with life and death decisions and was harder than “if they would get dropped from the lead group” questions.

    The picture of Coppi in the trench coat is right out of a Sergio Leone film.

  6. What gentlemen, Hardmen, and freakin studs.

    Carry all the gear, many on a select few gears BTW, and have a comb so they are ready for the foto….when I would be gasping for air, they are combing their hair

    That’s impressive.

  7. @frank I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. How these hardy “Men” did the kind of riding that they did, given the unpampered lifestyles that they lived. I’ve also been thinking about modern training diet dogmas and how they differed from what people ate regularly back then most likely.

    You could really even go back in history and look at all the “hard” men, from Roman soldiers, to primitive hunters, who would exert incredible amounts of energy walking all day in armor or with supplies, hunting, battling….all without energy gels and sugar drinks to replace their precious muscle glycogen.

    I recently read the Paleo Diet for Athletes, which is a thought provoking book on how, historically, primitive ‘athletes” were most likely fat burners and not sugar burners, and that it takes a good 6-8 weeks of a fairly radical diet change until the body – so used to getting its simple sugars in large amounts in our modern diets – learns how to burn fat efficiently again. Perhaps its this time period of adjustment – never taken into consideration in modern scientific studies in this area – that explains why most modern studies support sugar burning at the expense of fat burning for anaerobic threshold and beyond exertion.

    I think the hormonal implications are also generally ignored. Growth hormone, testosterone, DHEA, etc, etc, all seem to be at healthier levels when we’re not regularly pushing the insulin button.

    The bottom line is that there were a lot of tough, incredibly hard Men historically, who did amazing physical feats, who didn’t have access to high amounts of simple sugar fuel. I suspect our cycling Hard Men of the past also did not partake in this modern experiment…I don’t have time to really support all of this with references, but since we are what we eat, consider it food for thought…

  8. @KitCarson
    You’re really getting onto something here that is really, really fascinating. In conjunction with @Geof‘s comments, this is really interesting.

    Theorizing on subjects I don’t understand is one of my “hobbies”, so I’ll think about this a while and then write an authoritative-sounding article about it later.

    There does seem to be a trend going on that defies traditional knowledge and understanding about nutrition, bone density, and what it takes to physically exert yourself this way. I suspect there are two options:

    1) Our conventional knowledge was wrong
    2) The new way of doing things makes you go fast but you bust easy, which is almost the same as being wrong if you ever fall off your bike. Which we all do.

    Jens riding the asphalt slip-n-slide yesterday goes against this sentiment, but he’s also a meatier dude. He’s skinny, but he’s built more sturdierified. Same with Spartacus or Boonen. More like Merckx was, or De Vlaeminck. Way skinny-ass, but not the rails we’re seeing today. I don’t even think the specialist climbers were skinny like this. Bobet was one of the greatest climbers, and he looks nowhere near as skinny as Grimpito.

    Sure makes you go fast, though.

  9. @frank My only personal experience in this was a 6-month period in 1996, in my pre-cycling days. It took about 4 weeks or so to get used to it – a kind of modified “zone” diet, where I was only eating about 80-100 grams of carbs a day, mostly vegetables, and hearty amount of protein and pretty much any source of healthy fat i could tolerate (mainly butter, olive oil, and flax oil). I ended up increasing my workouts at this time to 1 hour of swimming, 1 hour of hard weight lifting, and an hour of vigorous martial arts 5 days a week…I never felt better -before or since – and gained about 7 pounds of lean muscle in 3 months. After cruising in this zone for about 6 months, I had a rib cage injury and fell off the wagon, never to return…Anyhow…now as I get older, I still consider trying this again, but wonder how much longer the transition will be, not to mention overcoming a monstrous sweet tooth I didn’t have the first time around! regarding the sugar versus hardier fare, I found George Ohsawa’s writings best explained what I was intuitively noticing…but that’s a whole different topic really….Basically, in the rush to find the most efficient way to pedal, eat, etc, etc..I sometimes wonder whether a lot of our scientific research, being myopic as it tends to be, isn’t sometimes missing the forest for the trees…

  10. @frank
    This is why I come to this blog daily… statements like “Theorizing on subjects I don’t understand is one of my “hobbies”, so I’ll think about this a while and then write an authoritative-sounding article about it later.” Makes my day to read pearls of wisdom like that.

    On the nutrition/exercise deal, I had a breakthrough this past off season. In the past I was only doing cardio on the stationary bike and swimming with some squats for leg strength in the winter. I thought I was pretty lean and in shape. This year I added chin-ups, push-ups, and dips for upper body. I’m 190.5cm and went from almost 90kg down to 83kg while increasing upper body strength tremendously. That extra muscle really boosted my metabolism and damn did I get lean w/o diet change. I’m no pro cyclist but this season I’m far faster, lighter, and stronger. You have to adapt w/age cuz your body slows down.

  11. Regarding the Paleo Diet, I don’t put too much faith in any “named” diet, even the “Paleo Diet for Athletes.” Take the Paleo Diet, add enough complex carbs to support an endurance athlete, and then you just have a regular healthy diet that you would be eating anyway.

    Yes, primitive man was mainly a hunter and ate small amounts of carbohydrates, generally in the form of vegetables, and tons of protein. They were in a constant state of what we call “Ketogenesis.” Without delving too far into the specifics, your body produces ketones as a result of breaking down fatty acids for energy, ie: You’re in a fat burning state.

    The longer you remain in that sort of state, the more efficient your body becomes at converting fat into energy. The problem for endurance athletes [with this diet] participating in activity for more than an hour or so is that you quickly deplete your body of whatever glycogen it may have stored, and then you’re running off of fat energy.

    That’s where you experience the bonk: You have no gas [glycogen] left in the tank so you use fat by necessity. Great if you want to lose weight and get shredded, but absolute shit if you’re trying to get good hard miles in or win a race. No matter how acclimated your body is to being ketogenic, you simply will not be able to convert fat to energy as fast as you can use carbohydrate energy.

    Also take into account that even though primitive man, thousands upons thousands of years ago, is technically the same species as us, that doesn’t mean that evolution by Natural Selection hasn’t taken place with us. Their physiologies were specifically adapted to the demands of their time period, which included being ketogenic. Our metabolisms are not the same as their’s.

    Simply Put, even if you acclimate to the Paleo Diet for several weeks, your performance simply will not be as high when compared to how you would perform if you had an adequate intake of carbs.

    Now, that’s not to say that “bonk training” or the Paleo Diet is absolutely useless. The same way we train our muscles to push big gears, we can train our metabolisms. If you want to learn how to ride when you’re bonking, then this is the best way to do it. You basically teach your body how to work better in ketogenesis, so that when you DO bonk, your body knows how to deal with it.

    Also, if you have a body fat % higher than 16% or so, it’s a good way to lose some excess weight relatively quickly. However, like I said, you need adequate carb intake if you want to perform at your best, because that is the easiest for your body to access and use.

    This is the part where I wait for all the Paleo people on the interweb to come cut me down because I don’t know what I’m talking about.

    Seriously, those Paleo-fanatics are insane. A lot of them are Cross-Fitters. Go figure.

    “I can do 100 pullups and a bajillion pushups while doing backflips all with a kettlebell hanging from my testicles.”

    That’s great, but I need the energy to win a bike race that lasts 5 hours, and sorry, but fat energy doesn’t cut it.

    Take that as you will.

    Bite me, hairy cross-fitters.

  12. @Omar
    What’s a “Cross Fitter”?

  13. @Omar
    Don’t answer my question – have just found the answer. Oh dear.

  14. @Omar Yeah, I’m certainly not advocating a ketogenic diet. Nor am I a dogmatist or have any “answers” on this topic. Dean Karnazes, an ultramarathon runner, is an example of someone who has used a “zone” type diet, which is a moderate carb diet – not low enough to put one in ketosis. What all these diets have in common is that they think about food in terms of its hormonal effects, which I think is fascinating, and gets lost in the whole “gotta replace your muscle glycogen so you don’t bonk” thinking, which keeps us guzzling sugar water and energy gels all ride long. Certainly modulating insulin seems crucial. It’s known that the surest way to ruin growth hormone release from intense exercise is to spike insulin, and yet we’re all told that we must spike insulin during this “window of opportunity” after exercise to replace muscle glycogen. I read somewhere, that old-time hardmen cyclists used to think it was BAD to eat after a long ride! Given that both intense exercise and fasting elevate GH and – due to keeping insulin low, also alter prostaglandin production in unique ways, it’s interesting to think that there might be a little more going on than just replacing muscle glycogen….again, missing the forest for the trees.

    It’s possible that our sport, where we can push anaerobic thresholds for so long, has some unique requirements. However, the original hardmen of our sport, who were, as already pointed out, most likely miners, farmers, and tough men doing tough work when they weren’t riding tough roads on heavy bikes — I wonder about what kind of diets sustained that work and those kind of rides?? So, this is all just food for thought. I also suspect that Greg LeMan and Jan’s famous weight gain issues in the off season, were not due to being undisciplined pigs, but most likely their own exagerated insulin response to carbohydrate that was no longer kept in check by hardcore riding.

  15. Well, this is a topic I can say a fair amount about, professionally.

    Omar is right, ketosis is not a good state for the athlete to remain in, nor do we have to remain in. We are not primative any longer, we can pack gels and we can refuel ourselves adequately, so we should unless the purpose is to lose lbs and there is a time and a place for it. I do it each spring as I lose my 10 lb winter gain. But there comes a point you bonk.

    We have and always will burn energy in sequence, preferentially carbs of any sort, fat then protien (muscle). Thats it, period. Now, everyone has flipped this around every way, but the fact remains that this is what it is and we cannot change the human machine. Therefore, for the cyclist, its always best to eat within 1 hr of a long effort, which is nearly any ride for any rider. Eat 1/3 protien, 2/3 carb and whatever fat doesn’t really matter. The carbs replenish stores as your body immediatly will after exercise, preferentially. After this, its not quite as good, but better than nothing.

    During exercise, I am an advocate of eating whatever sounds good, you must like it, and its usually carbs during exercise that naturally appeals to us. Eat every 1-2 hrs depending on effort and duration and conditioning. Everyone is different and there isn’t a one size fits all approach. That is where knowing yourself or asking someone professionally that does know you well also.

    The Paleo diet simply reflects to me a personality. Someone who is a primative mindset, and that is fine. Good, knock yourself out. Its not for me, and the high protien sources are good, but carbs are better in portion after exercise, every single time. The science is solid and can be demonstrated to that extent. No doubt, a higher protien source is going to make one leaner to a point, but after one gets toned, it will cost endurance performance.

    Same for any ketogenic diet. They are not optimal for endurance, but as Omar says, may have a point for a time to encourage wt loss and tone.

    Done it for 20 years in cycling, and professionally.

    And there will forever be supplements and man made high dollar diets that will be sold for profit, like snake-oil. Don’t buy it, use some common sense and eat prudently.

  16. @Soleur,
    I think it’s funny that you’ve been cycling as long as I’ve been alive.

  17. Funny for you:-)

    I actually love it. My son is in the navy, my daughter is 15 and with an empty nest soon approaching also means much of my obligations go out the window, except full implementation of Rule #5.

    It is great, being older because it is something I have looked forward to.

    back on topic now…

  18. I wonder too if there’s a lot to be said about mindset. Back in the day, people lived Rule #5. They didn’t get on a bike to practice it, they got on the bike to escape from it. Farm labor, factory work, war, economic depression, all of it. Certainly we all know/knew elders from that era. Many of them had a much higher threshold for suffering than the generations they spawned and virtually all of them lived a much harder existance.

  19. @Marko,
    You’re right. A lot of them rode the bike to escape the goings on of the day. In fact, most of the guys who volunteered for Le Tour before it became a professional sporting event did it because it was better to ride a bike through mountains than to be in the mines or the factory.

    As for their diet: It probably consisted of Bread, cheese, and wine. Maybe some meat, but definitely wine. And lots of it.

  20. @Souleur, @Marko, @Omar, @KitCarson
    What an interesting conversation, guys. I’m going to print this and study it! Nutrition pop quiz coming!

    I’ve spent my athletic life eating sensibly like Souleur suggests, but I like the idea of using different dietary tactics for specific goals, like losing weight. Also the all-over lean muscle mass promoting a healthy metabolism is a novel thought. All really interesting things I’ve never thought about in this light. Great stuff. Keep it coming!

    On the other points, our lives really are very easy compared to even one generation before us. I can’t remember what movie it is, but there’s a line that has always stuck in my head where this guy is disgusted with the incompetence around him, and says something to the effect of, “Used to be, you had to fight to get to the top of the ladder; you had to be better than the guy behind you otherwise he would climb past. Nowadays, everyone is so incompetent, everyone just waits for the guy in front of them to fall off and that makes them the next guy in line.” There’s a truth to that. We seem to accept softness and incompetence more than previous generations.

    To Marko’s point, the bike was an escape for these guys, but it’s an escape for us, too. I sit in an office all day long. I go to meetings. I file TPS reports. I work hard every day, but it’s not the same as what these guys did. I also live in the city, so yard work exists, but it’s pretty limited. Mowing the lawn amounts to little more than setting the mower down and picking it up again. If I want to get out and be outside, it’s “exercise” for this lad. On the bike, on skis, on foot.

    Like Souleur, I’m a life-long cyclist and that’s what it’s really about: finding a way to have the bicycle be a part of your life – for all your life. The bike provides the most amazing escape of all because of the combination of how hard it is with the ability to travel great distances and actually make a trip out of it. At the end of a long ride, like what Guy did, you can take out a globe and see the ride you did, it’s on that scale. The lessons you learn from those types of efforts, the discipline it requires, the ability to push yourself to do something your body is telling you to stop; all these things transfer back into your life and make you a better person.

    It’s amazing, we’re all very lucky.

  21. @frankNot to beat a dead horse on this subject Frank, but this just crossed my path a few minutes ago. Some interesting thoughts on our side subject of the hormonal effect of a training diet, and the opposite of what i’ve been doing lately:

  22. @KitCarson
    That’s really interesting; I’ve read some other accounts that make similar assertions in terms of shorter exercise having a great effect on training. It’s very surprising to read that you shouldn’t have carbs right after a workout, though; a post-ride beer is one of my favorite activities. Ah well, I’ll live. I’m curious to hear what, if anything, Souleur has to say about this.

  23. @KitCarson, @frank
    I don’t see anything truly ground breaking on that page. He’s basically giving high praise to a HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) Program and likely following a sensible diet. We all know that doing hard intervals on the bike makes us faster, this is the same thing with some fancy words thrown in there. If you scroll down, you’ll even see that he recommends a recumbent bicycle. DESPICABLE.

    Regarding the Growth Hormone bit, I did a bit of digging through the links on the page, and managed to find a collection of abstracts that tie insulin levels to GH.

    You can find those abstracts here towards the bottom of the page:

    Basically, if the level of growth hormone is inversely tied to insulin levels, then all you need to do is avoid carbohydrates that stimulate a large increase in insulin. That means sticking to low glycemic index carbs postworkout, ie: sugary foods.

    That means your post-workout beer should be safe, unless you’re drinking sissy sugary fruit infused beer. You DO need carbs after a workout in order to replenish the depleted glycogen stores. You just gotta make sure you’re getting the right ones.

  24. As an amateur racer and dedicated yogi, I can speak to the benefits of combining both. I am a climber by preference so an emphasis on being lean and having more slow twitch muscle is important to me. But being 6’3″ 165 lbs makes for a challenge with some of the grimpeurs in the Cat 3/4 scene.

    But on the idea of developing requisite upper body mass, my belief is yoga will provide all you need. Muscle, balance, bone density, a practice can be tailored towards any mix of these and other metrics. During my pre competitive cycling days, my yoga practice was 2-3 hours/day/7 days/week. Everything in moderation, I find my general health is more balanced now, that I cycle-commute 12-15 miles each way to work, and find time for 30-90 minutes of yoga as many days a week as possible. Ultimately the science of yoga should not be forced, but when embraced I think a cyclist is one to benefit more than most other types of athletes.

    Thoughts from fellow practitioners?

    And P.S. @ Frank – That picture of Coppi is certified bad ass, I would like a link or copy of the file if you have it available. Thanks.

  25. @Lovetoclimb
    What style of yoga? I must say I enjoyed Iyengar when I did it for rehab, particularly for it’s intense but quite aesthetic focus on precision. I found Astanga less satisfying – more energetic but less insistent on precision so more like just having a good stretch. But that may have just been the teachers. And then I discovered cycling and enjoyed that much more! But I do sometimes think I should incorporate some yoga into my week again to get better balance.

  26. @ G’phant

    I personally practice all varieties, whatever I happen to be feeling that day. I am certified to teach both vinyasa, and “Iyengar-inspired” Hatha (very alignment focused, but less use of props, and Iyengar cert. is very consuming).

    My opinion is all types of yoga are great, but as you found some methods work for some people at some points in their lives. A consistent practice of asana, pranayama, meditation, and life introspection is my main suggestion. It has helped me to an almost immeasurable degree.

  27. Woah, I missed this the first time around. Tons of interesting information and thoughts here. I do a lot of research on food and food science so this has been fun to read. Lots to think about here!

    While I’m at it…not sure if I’m the only one, but the more I read this blog the less and less I read other cycling stuff. Sure, I’ll check out velonews and cycling news. A few others as well. But I used to frequent discussion forums a lot and don’t really do that much anymore. Yeah, I’ve learned and internalized a lot of the basic info I was after when I started out but beyond that I find the discussion here both enlightening and amusing, when there is banter about. I guess I find the readers, Keepers, Followers have more interesting and worthwhile things to say than other places I used to head to. Good on the lot of ya!

    It’s simplified my life, and left more time for cycling. Also doesn’t hurt that this is a somewhat small community and I’ve come to “know” the other members and respect their opinions, even when I disagree.

  28. @frank
    I hope this isn’t annoying pedantry. “Ye of the Congoscenti” Is it possible to ride in the Congo, if so one would have to have the British children’s drink Um Bongo in the bidon. That ‘s what they drink in the Congo, according to the ad.

    Um Bongo Advert.

  29. And I’ll guarantee that none of these hardman aesthetes ever rode a bike with a sloping top tube or upward sloping head stem. Nor would they wear one of those stupid bandanas that try-hard wannabes have as standard kit these days.

  30. @Pistolfromwarragul

    And I’ll guarantee that none of these hardman aesthetes ever rode a bike with a sloping top tube or upward sloping head stem. Nor would they wear one of those stupid bandanas that try-hard wannabes have as standard kit these days.

    Agreed and agreed, although on the third point, you’ve lost me completely. Care to explain?

  31. @Pistolfromwarragul
    They certainly would have if their sponsors had made bikes with them. They were professionals, and professionals ride what they’re told to ride. When ONCE started riding TCRs with sloping top-tubes there was an outcry from the old guard who hated the look, but Jalabert, Zulle and the rest of the team rode them and rode them as hard as if they had level top-tubes.

    I’m with you on the bandanas though…

  32. @frank

    That’s interesting, that they had labor jobs. That’s a good point, although by this time, I think there might have been enough money for these Legends to live solely off cycling.

    That leads into a really interesting (and difficult) question I find myself facing; which is, how do these birdlike riders survive a Grand Tour? Some body fat is a helpful thing in a long race in terms of fuel (at least that’s conventional “wisdom”) because your body can burn it for energy, but these guys are eating like birds during these crazy races.

    It challenges one when thinking about what that means in terms of where they are getting their power and energy from.

    But enough of that heady shit; these were fucking men, eh? That picture of Coppi in the trench coat is one of my favorite photos of a cyclist ever, and he’s not even on a bike. What a stud.

    To resurrect an old post (man I love the random articles!) I truly love that photo of Coppi. Had Coppi’s career not span WWII and he not die early of malaria, what could have been. These dudes were sportsman and general tough guys. Although what makes Coppi amazing was his rivalry with Bartali. And this is when Fiorenzo Magni road too! Was there ever an era of Italian awesomeness? Makes me think of Fignon, LeMan, and the Badger – they all raced at the same time too. Fuckity!

  33. Souleur, remember when….Musings, Training, and Stiff-as-hell-Levis
    I feel that I should illustrate how cycling has evolved in the course of my lifetime. The current need to “look” the part with all of the latest clothing enhancements, lycra, gel-padding, 3-D-lighter-than-air breathable fabrics, short sox, poly-whatever uppers, head bands, wrist bands, chest bands, monitors, SPD shoes, eggbeat…ers, and don’t forget special indoor oriented glare reducing bike glasses…has left me wondering about how some of us first approached and survived the fine art of bicycling.
    Picture yourself in what would be known today as a young aspiring 14 year old nerd in last week’s stiff as hell Levis. Oh yea, no gel padding here unless it was a leftover remnant of rustic bandage stuck in a skin crevice from an earlier last place finish on dancing with asphalt. That asphalt trophy finally erupts with a sort of scientific goo known only to the secret world of the medical trade; for which your mom promptly drags you by the ears kicking and screaming all the way. So now you’re confronted with prepubescent embarrassment since the goo-from-hell has migrated to the inside of your steadfast Levis. This was no place show weakness in this state of prescribed manhood. No worries, no hair yet to be pulled out. Say hello to the square- jawed nurse in the stark white uniform, white cap and crooked white stockings.
    As for your “ride” – your trusty steed was a svelte hand me down 45 pound Schwinn Cruiser complete with “chopper style” cut back fenders, taped on battery flashlight, maybe a couple of playing cards pinned to the “skinny” forks, and the coveted and impressive ultra high test steel paper boy rack on the back.
    So your 14, mashing the barely reachable partially attached rubber pedals of a heavily wheeled made in the USA hunk-o-steel behemoth with paper boy bags over your shoulders, and another evil twin-like bag over your high tensile steel rear rack. The same rack that your buddy could virtually stand on when you had bike wars with your friends. Picture roller-derby and rugby on a bike…hence the dancing with asphalt trophy forming on a member of your body that wasn’t protected (from the rigid armor of your stiff-as-hell Levis surrounding your vulnerable parts now soaked in sweat and a self-inflicted abrasion not unlike a well worn crevice in an ancient Indian Grinding Rock).
    Let us get to the facts of early training. No spin class here. Just do the work.
    I digress, now for the actual training tools. Remember, your 14, and mashing some heavy Chicago steel, with maybe 200 folded newspapers spread out in four pockets of your specially designed and now very intimate paper boy vest. Your next evil twin dance partner is lazily placed over your bike rack and humbly awaiting a turn with the dancing with asphalt champion of the week. Hmmm, 45 pound bike, 200 folded newspapers, extra rubber bands just in-case you load an empty for which you gracefully glide into a highly practiced no-hands position to refold and re-band under power of your mashing little legs….all while setting up the next target – wham! A perfectly executed porch shot, all the while remembering that guy didn’t tip me last month. Reload fast the next porch is on the horizon and there’s no time to diddle. Did I mention that that Dad’s transistor radio was somehow affixed to the handlebars alongside of the rusty flashlight? That’s a whole other story.
    Remember high top canvas tennis shoes with long shoe strings? (Your chain enjoyed a steady diet of shoe-strings) Add that scenario to the loaded hunk-o-steel, two unruly bags, beat the clock, ONE SPEED, and stiff-as-hell -Levis. All done before mom got your school lunch in the brown paper bag with the Soda can wrapped in aluminum foil. Now that was thermo-mom-science. Do it again tomorrow. No problem. Training.
    Pass the chamois butter and two layers of gel padding please, I’m in training. Hey coach, turn on the fans – it’s a bit warm in here.

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