The Crucible

It’s hot in France, which obviously means that pro cycling–and the entire world–is doomed:

Has it been hot during the Tour de France before? Well, yes:

However, there’s a crucial difference: in 1950 the Tour de France director essentially said that anyone who complained was a “woosie,” whereas the contemporary attitude is that it’s “macho and polluting:”

Lyon Mayor Gregory Doucet should visit the United States sometime, it might give him some much-needed perspective on that:

George Carlin once said that somewhere between “Live Free Or Die” and “Famous Potatoes” lies the truth. Similarly, in the span of 70-ish years we seem to have gone from “These riders need to nut up!” to “We’re all gonna die!,” and in a sane world we’d probably attempt find some kind of middle ground between the two. No, tennis is not going to vanish from the face of the Earth in 10 years if we don’t “do something about the climate crisis,” but yes, heat can in fact be very dangerous to the riders, whether it’s Tom Simpson dropping dead on Mont Ventoux or Joseba Beloki crashing horrifically on a melting road surface:

No doubt there are various ways to mitigate the likelihood of those things happening that would be more effective than reducing the Tour publicity caravan’s public footprint. (Though I am perfectly willing to believe the Tour publicity caravan is loud and stupid and makes a big ugly mess.)

I realize this makes me a bad citizen, but I’ll continue worrying less about the stuff people to tell me to worry about and more about the stuff people do to “solve” the things they tell me I should be worried about:

More importantly, I’ll also continue to ride my bike–even if I incur a flat tire, as I did on yesterday’s ride:

This was a pinch flat caused by the roadwork you can see in the picture. I then changed the tube, which also did not hold air, possibly due to shoddy patch work on my part. (It’s generally a good idea to carry a new tube as a spare rather than a repaired one, though I’ve never been one to follow through on good ideas, and was carrying a patched tube in my saddlebag.) So next I attempted to repair the snake-bitten tube I’d just removed, even though I didn’t think it would work, and sure enough it did not work. This left me with no choice but to ride the flat to the nearest bike shop, which fortunately wasn’t too far, and which fortunately was open ahead of its posted opening time.

I will never, ever feel comfortable in bike shops. Prior to the flat, I’d been flying along, fancying myself a seasoned rider on a glowing white vintage steed. However, as soon as I got to the bike shop I felt like a hairy-legged doofus with a funky old outdated bike, my hands and legs covered with road grime due to my failed flat-repair attempts. None of this had anything to do with the shop or its staff, which treated me courteously and sold me a tube even though they weren’t even officially open yet. Rather, it had everything to do with my own insecurity, as I tried to convey in the following tweet:

Though people mostly took that to mean I was complaining about bike shops that give customers “attitude,” which is certainly a thing, but not the thing that prompted this particular tweet, which was more about how I feel this way in bike shops no matter what. So I attempted to clarify lest people think I was trying to blame bike shops for all the ills of society:

In retrospect, this was yet another “Live Free Or Die”/”Famous Potatoes” scenario. Some say bike shops are hives of arrogance and condescension, some say customers are whiny entitled brats. In fact, sometimes both are true, sometimes neither is true, and sometimes they’re both a tiny bit true. Certainly having worked in retail when I was younger I know that, the old adage about the customer always being right notwithstanding, fault can lie on both sides of the counter.

As far as bike shops specifically, and my own experience with them, it mostly comes down to the way I see myself in any given situation. When riding along I can delude myself into thinking I’m special, but when I’m clomping into a bike shop in my road shoes I’m just another hapless middle-aged balding guy. In the former scenario I may or may not wave imperiously to other riders, buying entirely into the notion of my own superiority, and in the latter I feel like a complete doofus who’s completely dependent on them at this particular moment and therefore I’m liable to perceive anything short of a handjob as a slight or an insult. All of this is compounded by the feelings of guilt those of us in the leisure class experience when we’re around people who are actually working.

None of this is to deny the very real resentment some cyclists feel towards bike shops, or to claim this resentment is never warranted. No doubt bike people can be insufferable, especially when they control the means of production. (Or at least have access to the stuff behind the counter.) However, I do think it’s worth asking just how much supplication and taint-tickling we should expect from them simply because we want to ride a bike. As with so many other questions I suppose the answer is probably disappointingly simple: keep trying until one tickles you just right. It’s not that there’s a fine line between being helpful and overbearing, or between letting someone browse unmolested and ignoring them; it’s that no two cyclists can even agree on where that line lies.

The only thing you can really count on in this crazy world is the fickleness of the Fred.

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