Metropolis, Shotguns, Ducks and NAHBS

By: Craig Gaulzetti Feb 26

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I have a strange and staggered relationship with the capital of the world. The two major metropoli I have graced with my presence for considerable periods of time both suffer a collective and visceral, jealous hatred towards their more refined, better looking, more cultured and more important southern neighbors. For a Bruxellois, even an adopted one, it is bad enough in France. Driving a beat-to-shit Citroen with a state-mandated fire extinguisher and a big B sticker on the bumper around the Arc de Triomphe, while small Parisian children peer from the back seats of a Renault Espaces pointing and laughing at the species of human they know to be closer to orangutan than modern Frenchman, is soul-crushing even for the proudest of Walloon. New York is however, the only place in the world where you can buy a piece of pizza with subway tokens and come inches away from a fist fight when you insist a fork AND a napkin are suitable compliments to a slice as big as your head. New Yorkers are different than Parisians and their relationship to their respective inbred northeast neighbors is different. New Yorkers don’t give a fuck about Boston, “who’s your daddy” chants directed at the greatest pitcher of all time not withstanding. I know from personal experience that New Yorkers are meaner, smarter, better looking, make better music and fuck better than Bostonians. I’ve always been more comfortable in any city where race riots are actually conducted by members of the race suffering institutional prejudice rather than in a city where they’re conducted by the brothers, sons and fathers of white police officers because their rug rat kids will need to ride a bus to school every day until they drop out of seventh grade at 16… but I digress.

New York is the capital of the world, and what it fetishizes and promotes becomes objective truth for the rest of the world. That has always made me happy because in general I like and share the aesthetic and cultural sensibilities that allowed for Agnostic Front to sell out CBGB, and Basquiat to get blown by Madonna, and Lady Gaga to inhabit my sex dreams and the Chrysler building to exist, and Gus Hall to get more votes for president in three boroughs than Richard Nixon, and the neck tattoo not to ever again be an impairment to employment in bicycle or music retail.

No one needs a fucking hand-carved wooden duck to attract ducks and no one needs a Holloway and Naughton shotgun to shoot them. There are better more modern tools available and quaint relics of a era when a man’s time and labor were so utterly undervalued, cheap and inconsequential to market forces make for great museum pieces, but not practical tools. Objects like these whose values were once infused with their practicality are impressive and worthy of sentiment and due historical significance. Something has been lost in a world where the historical relationship between labor and material has been turned on its head. Today, hand work, skilled labor, in fact any human attention at all to a good or object is vastly more valuable than the raw material it is made from. This is an equation which signals the death of handmade craft and strips practicality from such goods simply due to the amount of monetary value now dwelling within such objects. Things such as these, be they duck decoys, Chris Crafts, planers, acoustic guitars or fly rods are objects for museums, possessions for rich buffoons or ephemera to otherwise be viewed under lights and glass cases.

The handmade racing bicycle is an exception I had always thought and not a relic just late to the realities of modern capitalism. No one other than a professional cyclist needs one and fewer still have ever really wanted one. Prior to the giant carbon pre-made bike industry using their might to convince us otherwise, such machines were required by those who made their living or even their hobby turning pedals in anger. There was no mass-produced equivalent that was up to the same task. Cyclists were a finicky lot and their morphology, superstitions and mental well-being demanded custom, made-to-measure tools produced by skilled craftsmen.

The North American Hand Made Bicycle Show, is not happening in New York this year but it may as well be. Sacramento is going to feature the best and brightest. The bikes on display will no doubt represent the pinnacle of the hand built craft. But more so every year, the show bikes, the bi-laminate lugs, the fancy internal Di2 batteries and the $10,000 townie bikes, and sweet fixies, unnerve me. Part of me feels as if we builders are so far removed from our historical purpose and place, to build a useful competent sporting good for an athlete, that we are lost. In the space left behind, we have instead sought and begged and pleaded for an appropriation of our bicycle by New York style critics and style mavens.

Make it Art!
Make it important!
I have put 75 hours in to this frame!
What it lacks in practicality it more than makes up for in sweat in dyslexic homage to the detritus of the past!

A nice hand built bike is one of the last remaining vestiges of practical craftsmanship that, at the end of the day, any individual subsisting at or just above the national poverty level can hope to enjoy. Trek, Specialized and Giant couldn’t kill the hand built bike by making suitable, cheaper and easier replacements. I have witnessed what “art” did to disco, punk rock, Kurt Russel, heroin and Times Square and I know how this is going to play out.

Builders, you are not artists. Build stuff people actually can ride. Learn your history. Learn your place in the sport.

Cyclists, go buy a hand built race bike right now. Go to NAHBS Sacramento. If you cannot go, support the event by buying a ticket anyway. (Gaulzetti Cicli will reward you for this.) Send in as many deposits as you can afford to the men and women who are building the stuff that matters. A good race bike is far more Boston than New York; far more Brussels than Paris. Support the good stuff while it’s still around and buy a bike from a NAHBS exhibitor. Don’t make people like me have to become Parisian New York artistes. Buy a handmade bicycle and ride the shit out of it. If you do, we’ll keep making them.


The Burnout

By: Lily Richeson Oct 23

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The New England cyclocross season appears to be getting longer and longer each year. While cross is tensely whispered about like a secret crush during the summer months, and off-road rides are like lost dreams, come fall our love is a raging roar. Double weekends of racing, and even mid-week races are routine. Pacing yourself does not even seem like an option. By the time you cross the line of your Sunday race you are already thinking about the next, and what your training week should include. By mid-season you are already thinking about next year, suffering from a failure to simply enjoy cross season, like you were planning on doing, Ms. “I don’t want to take cross that seriously this year.”

Several weekends of travel away from family, friends, and other comforts of home; watching yourself place the same or only slightly better or slightly worse every single time; bikes breaking, combined with a dwindling bank account…these things can just take a toll on one’s mental capacities. We become, simply, “burnt out”.

At this point some of us might ask ourselves, “why?” Why do I race my bike? For the pro’s or those in the higher categories, this question may seem always answerable, or it may never be a question at all. For me, and for others I have spoken with over the last few weeks, it has been at the forefront of my thoughts. Should I stay or go? Sign up or stay home?

Feelings of guilt for not racing or being more dedicated, shame in telling people “no I am not going this weekend”, weakness when not feeling my best before the sun comes up or not trying as hard as I could, and a sense of loss for not being around more have overwhelmed me into taking a few weeks off of racing. I’m supposed to love racing my bike, so why is it taking me so much energy to saddle back up to the start line?

This weekend, trying and muster up a positive mental attitude to do at least Sunday of New Gloucester CX (one of my favorite courses) has been tough. Reminding myself to have fun and to try my hardest will be at the forefront of my thoughts; trying to keep from wincing, and remembering that there is winter for sleeping in a bit and getting to house projects.

The strongest reminder of why we race is the one that can be hardest to get to. It’s the moment right after the start whistle blows: there’s nothing like the racing of your heart to make you feel more alive than you have all week; nothing like the pain of gasping for air for close to an hour to temporarily help you forget the other pains of life; the loud laughter as a friend mud slides right into you mid lap (because I don’t take bike racing THAT seriously).

Life balance is always hard. Throwing bike racing into the mix is only a temporary factor, but it should be seen as a release, not a burden. A wise cycling master once said to me, “you won’t race well if you aren’t happy.” So maybe if things are getting too overwhelming, taking a break is okay. Taking the New England cross community for granted is not ok, and I might miss a few things, but other experiences are there to be had. There will be a next season.

Lily Richeson lives in Somerville, Massachusetts and works at the
Embrocation Cycling Journal warehouse shipping your packages. She is
in her second New England cyclocross season and though tired, doesn’t
plan on stopping anytime soon. You can follow her personal blog here:

*Photos by Myles O’Brien


Racing Age

By: Danny Goodwin Oct 12

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My name is Danny and I’m a recovering Masters Racer. Got the whole Masters Mojo workin: full-time job, lovely wife and brilliant kids, full-on mid-life-crisis-Facebook-profile-pic-lookin’-pro-in-the-kit, supah-bling bike sufficient to make Justin Lindine drool and, of course, the bullshit, qualified and contingent (and essentially meaningless) results to show for the extravagant investment of time and money.

I turned 46 years old on Saturday. Racing age is 47. No big whoop, I guess. Although I certainly neither feel nor act my age, I have gotten to the point where birthdays aren’t the anxiously awaited celebratory blowout they were when I was only a little younger. This year, in fact, there was no real party to speak of and no presents to tear open. And yet, I feel like I will remember my 46th better than I remember my 45th. Or 40th. Or 20th. Or 10th. This year I spent my birthday hanging in Dallas with my mom, who has hit a little bump in the road in her battle with breast cancer. No bikes all week. No nothing but mom, really. And she sang happy birthday to me. Like when I was little, except I’m the grown-up now.

Racing Age. The term resonates loudly with me today, as I consider its multifaceted dimensions. Whereas racing my bike is certainly keeping me “young” (at least compared to similar-age colleagues and, especially, some friends from high-school I keep track of on Facebook—yikes), I think it is also prematurely aging me. My dubious, crackpot theory goes like this: asking the engine to operate at the very high output required to be at all competitive in this difficult sport teases malfunctions and maintenance issues (that might, under “normal use” occur a bit further down the road) prematurely to the foreground.

I now know, for example and thanks to bike racing, that I have a genetic heart condition known as left bundle branch block that will give me trouble when I’m older. I mean even older than I am, which is plenty old. Most people discover that they have this ailment in their 70’s, but because I run myself into the red line so often, it has tipped its hand already. Not life threatening, mind you. Only really gives me trouble when I pedal real hard, so it is mostly only bike-racing-threatening. At really hard, sustained efforts, my pulse drops to around 37 bpm, which feels a bit like being punched in the stomach, but in your whole body. I can also look forward to diminishing mobility and increasing discomfort as I age, thanks to a broken neck many years ago that was “fixed” with surgery. Also thanks to racing bikes. But say the phrase out loud with the emphasis on racing as a verb, rather than an adjective. Yes we are, all of us. Racing age.

So my racing age is 47. Racing weight is 148. My mom’s racing age is 67. Her new racing weight is 97. Mom did remarkably well through the chemo treatments and what was advanced and aggressive cancer is apparently in remission. Now, however, she is suffering from a very rare form of paraneoplastic syndrome, which basically means her bad-ass immune system has produced cancer-killing antibodies that, now that the cancer is all but taken care of, are attacking her nerve and muscle cells. It sucks hard. Mostly for her, but also for everyone who has to stand by helplessly as this beautiful woman who not that long ago would be mistaken for my sister and who has always been my hero and a model of physical fitness (well before the word “fitness” was so ubiquitously subsumed into popular vernacular) suddenly turns old before our eyes.

There are plenty of reasons to be hopeful, as we wend our way through myriad specialized tests and treatments, but I know, in quieter, darker moments, she’s starting to wonder what exactly she’s chasing, and for how long. And although obscenely trivial by comparison, I can’t help but ask the same question of everything I am chasing in my life back in New York. Especially bike racing. Where am I headed with this? Is it logically impossible to beat age?

Then I went for a hard group ride on the road yesterday with my teammates and was ashamed of how happy I felt just being in the saddle, holding on to the wheel in front of me, not thinking about life and suffering or anything. And a few seconds after the start of the race this coming weekend in Troy, NY, I hope to similarly zone out and forget. Everything. In the 45 minutes it takes to finish a cyclocross race, there’s little else happening in my otherwise buzzing noggin. Time is revealed for what it likely, truly is: a convincing illusion. It is a welcome respite from my chronic over-thinking condition, and it runs on any and all manner of fuel, including rage, sorrow, confusion, frustration, joy—whatever will burn, which is almost anything. The pep talk I gave my mom as we tearfully said goodbye Sunday morning so I could return to my life here included one of the inevitable bike-racing metaphors that my students get so sick of hearing: try to shift your focus away from what you want to avoid smashing into and toward where you want to be. First few ‘cross races I entered, the barriers really freaked me out, so I would stare at them for half a lap and, invariably, would stutter and smack and stumble over them. It was only when I started to go real fast and look toward the next corner beyond the barriers that I would make it over them effortlessly and smoothly. Sometimes I am on the other side and hopping back on the bike before I register that the barriers are even there. And my mom is a lot like me, in that she’s one of those mutants who moves toward the pain and work, rather than away from it, so she’s ideally suited to win this race. Physical therapy? Most people only do that when the doctor is looking. My mom does that shit for fun. She is stronger than me. Stronger than you. Stronger than PNS. And this weekend, regardless of my results in the races, the hurt I will put into the pedals is for her.

*First and last photos courtesy of Bob Anderson, Art Geek Studio


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