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