And you know it’s true, universally true. For some reason they’re not as ubiquitous as they once were, but that’s nonsense. They have never been so popular; everybody on this planet wants one. We may enjoy their company when we’re alone, and even more so when surrounded by good friends. Or as a means to make friends. The Egyptians started the whole idea (who knew?), even going to the trouble of documenting handling instructions on their Hammurabi Code.
From Argentina to Japan, Viet Nam to The Netherlands, we’re all proud of our blondes; we chest thump, mine’s-better-than-yours kind of macho bravado. In my extremely limited experience, Americans do it better (locally), Italians are not super at it, and Brits came up with my favorite. Belgians, however, make them by the hundreds, as diverse as town names ending with “_eke” or “_ijk”, or as numerous as the days our own Embro James goes without shaving (hey James, what’s with the beard? To which he grunts, “What beard?”). Ironically it used to be that Americans ruled the blonde consortium until not too long ago, until the Belgians and Brazilians united forces and became a powerhouse, and the leading world’s producer of beer (Inbev). OK, enough braggadocio. In some cultures, a “tall blonde” refers to a healthy pint of your favorite fermented libation. And yes, it has everything to do with cycling. I’m getting there.
As with our beloved sport, the aficionados rally around their favorites with testosterone-infused religious fervor. The predominance of large beer varieties in cycling-crazy communities is not necessarily an accident, as both activities enjoy a large fan base. As a fact, beer is the 3rd most consumed beverage on Earth (water and tea beat it by half a wheel) and bicis top out as the 2nd most practiced physical sporting pastime behind soccer. Feel a connection brewing? The exhilaration that runs in one’s system after a good ride is comparable to the buzz that percolates after the first few gulps of your favorite ale. Hey, some even suggest coupling rides and having a brew as a recovery drink can be a good idea. It sure is a delicious idea, just make sure you don’t have actual responsibilities, otherwise dealing with your boss or significant other may become a little bit distracting.
So what is it about beer that elicits such passion? Well, it looks good, cools us down, and gives us a temporary sense of encouragement, and freedom. It’s also alive, has moving things inside it, and its craftsmen go to great pains to make them. Plus, one can start really early at, well, riding a bike. I mean, it’s not like anyone should wait till they’re in their 20s to enjoy the stuff. But as we know, too much of a good thing can get you in trouble. Say, do too much riding and exhaustion, even tendinitis can set in. Swig a few too many pints and, well, figure out the rest. Not to mention the effect of either activity on your (much) better half. One knows he/she’s in trouble when the partner comes to pick you up at the bar and you can’t remember which tree you chained your bike to. So it can be embarrassing.
Embarrassment, inebriation, trashed bodies; the lows that follow the highs brought by goodies that spin and give you the spins. Pleasure and pain, a tonic most roadies can’t possibly live without. In redemption to the excesses our passions bring about, some companies in the 90s found it appropriate to sponsor Div 1 teams. In this case they thought it was extra-redemptive to make sure this was a non-alcoholic beer, which to me was borderline absurd. Imagine offering swimsuits to Brazilians that are not Speedo or thong bikinis. But I digress.
I suppose what attracts people to either activity—beer drinking or bicycling—is a hard wired drive to connectivity, to reach out, to find peers and engage with the other. As humans we appreciate the mandatory gregarious nature that getting involved in beer drinking and riding entails. Sure, one can always drink or ride alone, but you don’t want to be “that guy”, right? Besides, “that guy” who rides or drinks alone clearly displays anti-social characteristics that are anathema to the general purpose of finding common ground and indulging accordingly. How many times have wonderful relationships been started by an expression like, “is that a Colnago Mexico? I thought they didn’t make those anymore”, or “wow, you guys have Long Trail on tap?” So we bask in the glory of the fact that such social lubricants have been around for as long as we can remember. And as far as anyone can tell, folks like bikes, but everyone loves a blonde.