Greatest Inventions

By: Gustavo Cinci Jan 26

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The helicopter, the chain condom, peanut butter-filled pretzels, velcro straps: all fine examples of crafty human engineering, creativity and science at their best.

To me, ear plugs have been the flagship, the stalwart finest sample of self-induced peace of mind. Why, you wonder? Well, what’s not to be marveled about? They have a foamy complexion, their yellow and pink/red hues evoke candy corn comfort; pretty enough to the eye and dashing as I parade around the house or office, cocooned in my own warm hum of silence. I sneakily keep them under my pillow, away from my kid’s grubby hands, and ready to psyche the incautious tooth fairy. She seeks for teeth, finds the plugs. Puzzled, she leaves me alone with not coins but sweet dreams and deep slumber, adequately shielded from the wife’s decibel-worthy snoring.

The truth is, it protects me from life’s insulting ennui. Allow me to elaborate.

Perhaps to many readers’ surprise, I actually have a job outside of the Embrocation keiretsu. Though in cubicle-town America, it’s a good job, challenging, pays the bills and keeps me busy, as with most inhabitants of such sordid environments, I have to live with a few characters around me, to say the least. A squat, neckless female creature with a high-pitched voice who can’t shut up about the most inane matters is one of them. When she’s on, everyone in a 50 meter radius is subjected to her endless claptrap of nothingness, a veritable distracting dissertation in garbage and futility. Ear plugs protect me from the distraction. Or my cube neighbor, a very nice guy who eats at his desk in a very expressive way, to put it mildly. On a daily basis I hear him lapping his food, smacking, sucking, noises that conjure images of a large animal at a trough. I can’t help but imagine him sitting inside a dumpster or a large container, filled with paste-like nourishment, using his fingers and licking the walls and picking through the fish eggs, possum entrails and chicken heads in a food-induced frenzy. It’s wicked disgusting and distracting, and my colorful little friends indulge my inner peace with dutiful collaboration.

Now what the hell does it have to do with bicycles? Everything. As a kid I had issues with hyperactivity (or ADHD, just please don’t say this around me), traits that I have been carrying throughout my adulthood. Proper concentration took me a while; I just couldn’t snap to it at a moment’s notice. The smallest peep would send my focus elsewhere, millions of images playing in my head, thinking of everything else but the here and the now. In a sense it was a very miserable case of involuntary self sabotage. The quick wits were poison to structure, alternate thinking was not equitable to proper learning, and unfortunately it was hammered into me that rigid environments were kryptonite to a vivid, fertile brain. The endless energy that allowed me to engage in many activities simultaneously, seeking challenges, getting beaten up by normalcy, being curious, sometimes got me into a lot of trouble. I was lucky to have realized early on that enthralling distractions were gonna be my thing. And they had to be rigorous in their physical nature, daunting in the efforts required, intense, and dangerous. As in bike racing. The element of speed, the perilous essence of tightly-packed individuals, each part of a team, each team with a well-concocted plot to outgun the opposition, was gold to my spirit. Awareness in haste, calculations on the go, timing moves craftily were extremely fulfilling when the outcome was right. The years of trouble through school, the restlessness, the lack of sleep, they all found a channel. And through that channel came confidence, strength, skills, oh mad skillz. I had something I’d carry with me forever, bicycles as a very constructive crutch that propelled things forward and kept me away from the usual vices of the teenager years. Damn, I had to be sober to ride. I had to ride, period.

As I aged I made a point to acknowledge and subdue the extra energy with my own resources. I got smarter, learned languages, finished grad school, and realized, much to my own amazement, that thousands were just like me. Some had less fortunate endings, others were lucky enough to find a passion, find a stable ground in our favorite sport. Lucky me, luckier us.

———

*Historically, embrocation and I have been together for a long time. It’s such a wonderful invention in its Mad Alchemy.

**Ear plugs (and bicicletas), however, are mad awesome at keeping my brain alchemy balanced and right.

***Originally published 1/2011

 

Breakfast

By: Gustavo Cinci Jan 13

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I loved riding my fixed gear. Actually, back in the day, before the soon-to-be-defunct hipster “culture” stole fixies and turned them into their icon of urban intransigence, we used them as part of pre-season training. We’d couple gym sessions with long road rides—a strong commitment as on fixies one can’t really ride slow, but one can only go so fast. The bikes were cobbled together and the garden-variety Joe Racer wouldn’t actually spend any significant money except on the rear wheel, which had to be indestructible. Everything else was meant to be ridden down to the nub. It made sense: on cold rides (meaning any off-season ride in this area) the fixed gear dynamics force the roadie to move, so one warms up quickly and stays warm. The lack of gears and only one brake made it so upkeep was nearly zero, plus the constant traction made fixies more maneuverable on stretches of ice. All we had to do was ride. So what did I love even more than riding fixies with my buddies in the winter? Breakfasts. Yes! Bacon, eggs, toast, coffee cake, fruits, sausages, pancakes—all very fatty, buttery, shiny, artery-clogging and delicious. I’d show up at the local joint and astound unsuspecting waiters, who’d warn in vain that “the 18-wheeler may be too much for you,” to which I’d answer, “Really? Can you please add a slice of banana bread, but no whipped cream – just butter” and send them off shaking their heads in incredulity. The huge breakfasts were a coma-inducing preamble to a few hours riding outside, where the white noise of tires on road quickly processed the billion calories consumed just moments prior.

Unfortunately all good things come to an end. Work, home life, ultra-snowy winters and a few bouts of tendon-related injuries curtailed my one-gear relationship. I sold the parts, focused on smaller breakfasts, indoor riding and such boring things like “training zones”. Once in a while I’ll still confuse a waiter here and there (“are you sharing all of this? should I bring an extra plate?”), but for the moment I keep it smaller and non-coma-inducing. Boo.

Adult life set in. Kid #2 came with the bonus of a temporary-yet-somewhat-common allergy to dairy. Wife breastfeeds, so no dairy anything for her, therefore she couldn’t quite accompany me to romps of butter-fest morning adventures. Frankly, that sucked. I was not aware that there was a life outside of dairy, really. I always thought that adults who cannot process milk related by-products did something horrible in a previous life, like turning fixed gears from training tools to having tools riding fixed gears.

Enter the vegan lifestyle. Seriously, who does that? Why would anyone not eat meat, or dairy, or “creatures with faces on them”? This had to be a cult, man. I’ll bet it was concocted by unmarried middle aged ladies with poor body image, frequent spells of IBS, and moles all over their faces. Hey, back in the 1700s they were called witches, and we used to burn them up in Salem: “Thou shalt perish in a bonfire! How dare thee haggard prohibit fellowmen in this Commonwealth from breeding udder-bearing creatures? Burn, I tells thee!” and so forth. I imagined vegans as self-loathing, miserable people with sunken eyes, bad teeth, tape-worms and sickly looking grey skin: in sum, malnourished folks whose life was sucked out of them by resorting to a misguided ideology.

But I was so, so very wrong. Turns out my hang up was borne out of prejudice, ignorance, and intolerance. Veganism is here, is real, and is, to me, surprisingly tasty. Honest to goodness. I knew that runners did it (probably triathletes do it too, but that’s another story). Then I found out that roadies who can drop me do it. I mean pro’s and superpro’s, with all their monumental calorie requirements, get to race on equal terms with those who “eat normal”. The slap in my face was when I found out there are competitive bodybuilders who are vegan. As in, “Yes, I look like a small car, can lift four of you at once, and I’m a vegan”. My head was spinning. Is this the twilight zone?

We found out there are a few places in our neighborhood that specialize in vegan food. So on my wife’s birthday I abandoned all prejudice, found a skilled babysitter, and ventured to a vegan-friendly breakfast joint. Like going through Kyle’s iPod, I expected the worst and hoped for the best. Yeah, man. All or nothing, let’s do it. What followed was a very diverse menu; the waiter was smart, quick on his feet and healthy-looking, as was the waitress, who looked like someone on a “regular diet”, to put it politely. Pancakes, smoothies, coffee, vegan whipped cream, the latter which proved to be even more savory than its actual counterpart. I loved it. I couldn’t finish the pancakes, felt embarrassed for being an idiot bigot, but not embarrassed enough to convert. I can see why folks make the choice: it’s cleaner, healthier, just plain better for you, plus it’s hitting mainstream. Soon enough we’ll have voluptuously healthy ladies, maybe even football players, flaunting their non-animal eating credentials, if there aren’t already.


So now I’ll reconsider my breakfast-gorging activities, probably at the vegan joint. As for the fixed gear riding, well, let the hipster fad completely die off and I’ll get me a sweet hand-me-down for cheap.

*Images courtesy of Michael Pham and Janet Hudson

 

Embro Awards (Gus's Version)

By: Gustavo Cinci Dec 30

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Here we are, the last stretch, the último quilômetro, the spiked egg-nogg-addled week between the trashing of Xmas (or the super long false flat of Hannukkah) and the virginal celebration of a brand new year. What to do? Well, let’s gather our bearings for a moment and relive our personal favorite spots of 2011. Sure, by now most bicycle-related readers have perused through, and maybe voted on the “best of” for 2011. Best roadie, best trackie, best cross rider, best development, gnarliest classic, most intricate tattoo, cool bike, coolest electronic widget, always looking out, away, elsewhere, to the other. And for the most part we may agree that Monsieur Gilbert deserved his many accolades, and how awesome was Cavendish getting a high five from the Queen? Noticesome and drool-worthy as all those categories are, we feel many of those events have been beaten to death, and by now everyone in unison agrees on the agreeables. But this is a journal after all, personal, passionate and at times opinionated. On deciding on the many choices spinning out there, I have narrowed them to a simple yet eventful, 2 sets of 3: 3 gadgets, 3 personal events. Here we go.

Gadgetry:

PDW’s Little Silver
Ever since I started riding, inflation devices became an obsession for me. I loved the early Silcas, but they died too quickly and were too poorly made to withstand abuse. Then the Zefals came around, and by the early 90’s the mini pump craze started. It took a long time to become what they are today, and in my experience, nothing comes close to the cleverly functional Little Silver. Our friends at PDW did it right: small, powerful and beautiful in its simplicity, the insightfully designed mini pump is superlight and it does the job just fine. In the era of convenient portable air, this can’t be beaten. Lighter than extra canisters of CO2, it fits invisibly in your jersey pocket, providing the rider with self-sufficient piece of mind.

Embrocation Socks
Mirroring our own development, they started as straight, single color wool pieces, to 3-ink varieties, to their current iteration: 3 design choices in 3 different colors. We’re fine with all them, as long as they’re tall. Some suggest the tall-sock fad will end, but we don’t care. They’re our socks, so find the one that best matches your kit and put the hammer down while looking good.

Gaulzetti Bikes
Need I say more? Our association couldn’t be a better fit. Blue collar racing bikes for the Joe Racer out there. Built, painted and finished in the US of A, designed by racers for racers. Plus, they’re beautiful, unique, and ready to tear it up. Look for them at the start line this upcoming season.


Personal:

They’re all interconnected, actually. (#1)The birth of my second kid was a very momentous, humbling and laborious occasion. It made things a lot more difficult, and because of that, also made things a lot simpler. I welcomed her just as well as I welcomed a new approach to most everything, including keeping a positive, get-it-done attitude. And this attitude was key to forging ahead with Embrocation, given the challenging year we have had. (#2)Understanding the limitations that fatherhood places on the general Joe Racer; the dedication to the sport fuels the motivation to go fast. According to our own Nathaniel, “racing is not that hard once you commit to going fast”. Truer words seldom spoken, man. (#3) Adding new talent to our operations, again, I’m glad Nathaniel came on board. Streamlining and facilitating our online content, his skills couldn’t have arrived at a better time – James and I had our hands full with everything else.

So welcome Cláudia, a show of hands to Nathaniel, hoping that in 2012 all you can see is my rear wheel.

 

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