Thröwback Week #1: Rock Racing

Dear Loyal Readers,

I am away this week. However, rather than let this blog lie fallow, I’ve put on my rubber gloves, rummaged around in my archives, and and retrieved one moldy post per day for recycling. Maybe you’ve read them before, maybe you haven’t, but each is a reminder of a simpler time when road bikes had rim brakes, fixies were still cool, and gravel was just a piece of road grit in Jobst Brandt’s eye. Anyway, I’ll be back on Monday, February 27th, but in the meantime just think of this as the “Best Of Old Bike Snob,” or “BOOBS” for short.

Also, a sincere thank you to all of you who have donated to the continued mediocrity of this blog. If you haven’t and you’d still like to do so, details are here. If you haven’t and you don’t that’s fine too. Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll see you back here on Monday the 27th.

Yours etc.,

Tan Tenovo

Showtime at the Apollo: Rock Racing Comes to Harlem

[Originally published June 16th, 2008]

(Rock Wheelz–fast standing still.)

As I mentioned last week, Rock Racing sponsored this year’s Harlem Skyscraper race, which took place yesterday. This meant that Michael Ball and his ectoplasmic entourage were in town to give us quaint New Yorkers a taste of some real Hollywood style. The action started Friday with a Rock Racing ride in Central Park, and continued Saturday when they reportedly arrived late to a Prospect Park race, jumped in anyway, and proceeded to mix it up. (It’s possible they may simply have been trying to avoid paying the entry fee.) But Sunday was the big day, and Rock Racing did not disappoint. And by that, I don’t mean that they won, because they didn’t, but I do mean that they actually showed up on time. I was on hand to bask in the eerie, stomach-turning lime-green glow.

Just some examples of the style Ball & Co. brought to our otherwise dull and provincial lives here in NYC were a malfunctioning JumboTron:

A veritable armada of sickly green vehicles:

And real, honest to goodness California license plates.

(One thing they didn’t bring though was lube–at least not bike lube. I personally witnessed a Rock Racing staffer purchasing a nearly-empty container of Triflow from an enterprising bystander for $5. This only a day after their Prospect Park entry fee dodge. Are these the first cracks in the Rock Racing facade?)

Despite Rock’s presence, though, some things remained unmistakably New York. For example, what’s more New York than getting kitted up in a bus shelter?

If that’s not New York enough for you, then how about “Messenger Mania?” Yep, Harlem featured a relay race in which messengers (or at least people dressed like them) rode around the circuit on bikes with too-narrow bars carrying the full range of FedEx packing materials. (Including those triangular boxes.) The speeds were as moderate as the crowd’s response. It was sort of like a kiddie race, but with grown-ups, and without screaming parents:

This year’s Harlem Skyscraper drew crowds from every corner of Bike Culture. There were Camelbak-wearing mountain bikers:

Recumbent-riding weirdos:

And fixters with more money than sense.

Speaking of the fixters, they sure love their U-locks and will find any excuse to use them. This being a bike race, there were unlocked $5,000 carbon road bikes everywhere you looked, yet the fixters made sure to secure even the junkiest bicycle if it was going to be unstraddled for even a second. If fixters were cops and U-locks were guns then innocent people would be shot hourly here in New York City instead of just monthly like they are now.

At this point you may be wondering about the race itself. Well, this was a crit. So the riders went around and around really fast a bunch of times. Like this:

And this:

Speaking of things going fast, merchandise was flying off the shelves over at the Rock Racing tent. And by “flying” I don’t mean like a frightened flock of birds suddenly taking to the air in the thousands. I mean more like a bunch of pelicans hanging out on a dock in that one might eventually fly off to look for a fish or something, but otherwise they mostly just sat there:

Eventually, after much riding around, there was a winner. Notice the absence of green clothing. I would imagine Mr. Ball was pretty disappointed after sinking a bunch of money into this thing. It’s kind of like taking a paid escort to a party, only to have her go home with your better-looking friend for free.

At this point you may be wondering: did I meet Michael Ball? Well, the answer is yes. I went to Harlem determined not only to meet him, but also to get his autograph. Until yesterday, there was only one person in the entire world I’d ever approached for an autograph. That person was heavy metal homunculus Glenn Danzig, who I saw in the audience at a Metallica concert. He autographed my ticket stub. Here it is:

(Yes, that’s the real deal. By the way, that Queensryche set was the most painful thing I’ve ever endured in my life. And I’ve ridden CX Nats.)

Going in, I realized I couldn’t ask Ball for an autograph made out to me, since I’m anonymous. But I still wanted to experience the thrill of meeting Ball and having him write on something. That’s when it occurred to me I’d never properly thanked Lance Armstrong for all the margaritas at the Mellow Johnny’s party (nor properly apologized for the mess I made as a result). But, what do you get for a man who has everything? Well, you get him something he probably doesn’t have, and I decided that something was a hat from his own bike shop autographed by Michael Ball:

Yes, that is indeed Michael Ball’s autograph. (By the way, Ball is even tanner in person.) Please note the orientation of the message. That’s so it’s legible while you’re wearing it. I like to think that Lance might be out running a marathon or something, and that during a moment of duress he’ll be on the verge of giving up. But then he’ll glance up at that inspirational message which will encourage him to push through and kick that much harder.

I’m going to hold on to this until I have a chance to give it to him. In the meantime, I am keeping it hermetically sealed in this plastic bag that my new bib shorts came in:

I don’t want to risk even the slightest damage. This is truly a priceless piece of cycling memorabilia

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