Racing To The Bottom

As I mentioned on Monday, the editor of Rouleur thinks the Tour de France should be smaller because it’s bad for the environment. Nevertheless, they continue to feed this Lycra-clad beast as it ravages the Earth–and it’s a good thing they do, because where else would we go to read about how boring it is?

I figured this would be a perfect opportunity for him to argue that ridding the Tour of tedious transitional stages nobody watches would make the race more sustainable or something, but no:

The filmmaker Orson Welles once observed that there are two emotions in a plane: boredom and terror. It’s a sentiment that is becoming increasingly familiar to cycling fans, who might have experienced long, long hours of the former through stage four of the 2023 Tour de France as it rolled through the pleasant but nondescript landscape of the Landes to the north of the Pyrenees, and then sudden jolts of the latter as at least three crashes in the final three kilometres battered the peloton. Jasper Philipsen emerged from the chaos to take his second stage win, narrowly ahead of Caleb Ewan, who must be getting bored of coming second – this was his sixth runner-up spot of 2023.

Instead he manages to milk the boredom for about a thousand words, concluding that “objectively boring” stages are in fact a good thing because it’s “an excellent opportunity for cycling fans to get things done:”

Of course, stage four was objectively boring. At the same time, professional bike riders are not performing monkeys, and days like this are an excellent opportunity for cycling fans to get things done. As the race heads into the Pyrenees tomorrow, and thence north towards the Massif Central, this lull in the action will be forgotten and be woven into the overall tapestry of the 2023 Tour.

To be clear, I don’t have a horse rider in this race, and as far as I’m concerned ASO can make the race as big or as small or as long or as short or as exciting or as boring as it wants. However, if you sincerely think the future of humanity depends on the Tour being smaller as the editor of Rouleur seems to believe, then how to you reconcile that with being in favor of long, boring stages that apparently exist only so that cycling fans don’t have to bother watching them? Must the team buses keep idling and the publicity caravan continue to choke us all with crabon emissions just so Fred can have his laundry day? It’s all so tragically frivolous.

Speaking of road bikes and wasteful articles and wringing a bunch of words out of nothing, those are the founding principles of this blog, and back in October of the year Two Thousand And Twenty-Two Anno Domini (yes, I pay myself by the word) Pearl Izumi sent me a pair of their Quest Road Shoes:

At $100, this is what most people would probably consider and “entry level shoe,” and Pearl Izumi notes that no less a cycling equipment authority than Rolling Stone declared them the “Best Velcro Spin Shoe,” which in terms of “Fred Cred” is basically the kiss of death:

The funny thing about the “entry level” is that it may be where you start, but it’s also where you wind up–at least if you’re me. Pearl Izumi would have sent me fancier shoes, like these:

But I didn’t want the Boa closures because (rightly or wrongly) I don’t trust them. They’re too complicated, and I don’t like complicated shoes:

I also don’t want an ultra-stiff sole, and I don’t care how much my shoes weigh, either–well, to a point:

No, at this point in my cycling life my priorities for pretty much everything are simplicity, simplicity, and simplicity, and increasingly the pursuit of that takes me down to the “lower end” of the range. No doubt this is also where I’ll soon have to go to find curiosities such as mechanical derailleurs:

Rim brakes:

And of course that most endangered of species, the quick-release road hub:

I don’t need disc brakes, I don’t need thru-axles, and I certainly don’t need a driver that allows me to use a nine-tooth cog or whatever the hell they have now. That’s why the Great Lobster On High invented double- and triple-ring chainrings–which arguably goes against my whole simplicity thing, but don’t bother pointing that out, because this is a blog about bikes, not logic.

Anyway, all that is to say I’ve been using the shoes exclusively since receiving them (though when I say “exclusively,” I mean exclusively for road riding, because these days I generally use flat pedals otherwise) and they’ve been holding up very well:

They’ve also been quite comfortable almost from the beginning, and I continue to appreciate the rubbery heel thing:

See, the higher-end shoes are designed for people who get carried straight from the bike to the massage table by a hairy Belgian soigneur, whereas “entry level” shoes are designed for people who shuffle around the charity ride rest area glomming free bananas and looking for empty porta-potties:

And no matter what you may think of yourself, you’re probably closer to the latter example than the former, so you might as well cop to it and go for the dork-tastic rubber heel thingy, you know you want it.

Speaking of shoes, in the summer of 2020 I also accepted a very simple but considerably more expensive pair of road shoes:

These are from the resurrected Brancale, purveyors of fine footwear:

And of course headgear:

As I systematically downgrade, my elder son upgrades by default, and awhile back I turned these shoes over to him. They’re very nice shoes, and they’d been serving him well, though I just noticed the soles are separating themselves from the upper:

In defense of the shoe, when adult Freds are off the bike they tend to treat their fancy cycling shoes like glass slippers, whereas kids do stuff like clomping all around the parking lot at Kissena instead of simply changing into their Crocs. Also, I imagine this will be easily repairable, and how often do you get the opportunity to support your local cobbler? And who knows when or in what manner the Pearl Izumis will take their first cleated step to their inevitable demise?

Even so, sometimes life at the low end is less stressful. Not only is it cheaper, but you’re slightly less likely to fall on your ass. And that can count for a lot.

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