Monday, September 29, 2008

An Open Letter to the Rest of My Neighborhood

Hello Everyone.
Sorry about my front lawn. Yeah, I know it's not quite up to the Heatherwood standard. Especially the guy on the corner. His lawn rocks. I should use the edging tool more, and I need a broadleaf weed killer. It's like there's never enough time.
And I want to urge you all to NOT look at me like I'm a Martian when I leave my driveway dressed to ride. This is 2008. Not 1987. In 1988, I was the only cyclist in town. Now there are thousands (I round up.) of us. You should be used to the sight of us by now.
And when you see me roll back through the neighborhood five hours later, don't expect me to spring into mowing action. I need some time to recover. As much as you probably want to think that I was at a friend's house playing Wii the whole time I was gone, that's not where I was.
I know you think it's impossible that anyone could ride their bike on a fall Saturday when Michigan is playing football, but it can be done. If I were you, I'd TiVO the game and watch it when it's raining outside. I can recommend a great bike shop.
And just so you know, if Detroit had a pro football franchise, I wouldn't watch them either.
So next year, I promise I'll work on my yard more.
OK, that's a complete lie. It's probably going to look the same as it did this year.
And this winter, I can promise there'll be more of the same. Just be happy you can't see my lawn.
That's all for now.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Random TdF Observation #2 - l'A d'H

OK, here we go to the Land of Make Believe. On one of the last pages of my book, I suggest to the reader that they go to the TdF and see the stage that goes up l’Alpe d’Huez (AdH), to sleep on a picnic table, eat stale bread and drink warm coke, and yell like a fool when the race passes by. Well, you can’t. There are no picnic tables. But you can do everything else. And after having just done it in July, I can re-state it with feeling: JUST GO. It’s an experience like no other. I’ve been to a lot of sporting events. Ryder Cup golf tournaments, Summer Olympics, big running marathons, American League play-off games, NCAA March Madness. I’ve been to big college football games (Michigan-Ohio State at “The Big House”). Compared to AdH, they’re all quaint little over-hyped garden parties. A golf tournament asks a lot of the spectator. You have to walk around a golf course. AdH demands that you walk up a mountain. How far up is up to you. (Actually, we had to walk two miles to get TO the mountain. And we were one of the early arrivers. The late-comers had to park in Switzerland.) The Olympics are a world party. But I find nationalism divisive. AdH is a world party, but everyone cheers for everyone whether they’re in the race or not. At an NFL game, you're stuck in an assigned seat sitting next to an obnoxious drunk guy who insists on showering you with beer. Your souvenir: a paper ticket costing $100. At AdH, you meet cool people from around the world. This is Pascal, a hitchhiker we picked up in Grenoble. He took the night train from Toulouse and stood along the road with a cardboard sign stating his objective. Football has tailgate parties that begin at 8am for a 3pm start time. AdH has a tailgate party that begins two days before and involves carrying your party up a 15% grade. Football also has people with painted faces. Sorry, but those guys would be laughed off the mountain. March Madness has hype, and it has college pep bands. You can keep the hype (and do whatever you want with Dick Vitale, baby!) I'll keep the pep bands. AdH has the music of a hundred different languages.

Ryder Cup has an expo area. If you’re lucky, you might get a sleeve of golf balls, but you have to sign up for a credit card that you don’t need. AdH has the "caravan publicitaire" doling out shwag to the people. Take a look at this: And watch this:

Major League Baseball has …. um… not much to offer, really. Let’s skip that. Running marathons are cool. I like how they shut down the roads for long periods. And then there's the sound of the helicopters in the distance thumping their way through the valley announcing the arrival of the peloton. Few sounds in the world of sports can stir the excitement kettle like the thump thump thump of a distant helo. And talk about concession stands? There is nothing quite like shopping in a supermarche full of cycling fans right at the base of the mountain. And if you really want to do it up right, you can bring your TV and watch the live coverage:

Or you can find Frankie and Robbie on the climb and watch them shoot the stand-ups for the Versus coverage:

Or just watch the parade of all ages. Don't believe me??

Stay tuned... I'm still adding more stuff.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Origination of Fred

I had often wondered what had become of the word "gibaffo". It was a word that cyclists used back in the 70s and 80s. I also wonder, as many people do, where the word "Fred" came from in its use in the cycling world.
The correct spelling of Jabaffo varied (see? I spelled it differently.), but the meaning was always the same: someone who perhaps dresses the part but rides like it's their first time on a bike, a nerdy rider, a rider with great intent but poor follow-through. Or perhaps a rider who fixates more on the technical side than the actual riding. Or someone who never really reaches the level of "adept". See also "gomer" and "uncool".
The term and the description is obviously subjective. And never derogatory, really. Just a descriptive word.
Well, in a conversation with two longtime cycling guys, the word Gabaffo came up. What's interesting is that Steve Brown and Eddy VanGuyse come from very different parts of the country but both knew the word, which tells me that it was widely used. And I had first heard the word in the early 1980s from Neal King who used to be a pretty good track rider in Detroit. Eddy, in case you don't pick up on what he's saying, is a Chicago boy transplanted to the L.A. area. Steve is now located in Traverse City (if you're having trouble placing the name, let me refer to him by his other name "Iceman").
But Steve Brown told me, and Eddy agreed, that a certain Colorado-based technophile named Fred (last name withheld) started writing technical and somewhat nerdy articles about bicycles long long ago. Then his name became associated with any rider who exhibited nerdy tendencies. And later, it morphed into anyone .... well, see above; I don't want to type it all again.
If you have any input on the origination of the word Fred and the death of Gibaffo, leave a comment.
If, however, you're one of those people who get offended by the use of "Fred", relax. There's a little bit of Gibaffo in each of us... some just a little more so.
And I don't claim to know all of the true signs of Fredliness, the cure for Fredliness, nor the secret handshake. You're free to speculate in the comments box.