It’s the terror of knowing what his world is about—Bowie
Once or twice a year I awkwardly insert myself into the cantilever lifestyle. I have many friends there, so it’s not that I’m unfamiliar, in fact more of my friends live this lifestyle than don’t. This scenario for me is likely similar to Bob Newhart attending a party at the Playboy Mansion: he recognizes folks he knows, makes nervous small talk with the bunnies as they put a set of bunny ears on his head, and wanders around with a colorful drink.
Once counter culture, the cantilever way of living is now culture dictator. Full clothing lines are inspired by the cantileverites, as well as websites, magazines, skin creams and food carts. Many, if not all members, serve many masters by appropriating the tried and true, inspiration-for-all subsequent lifestyles—meaning road cycling—as preparation. To think upon reading this last sentence that some sort of relegation has occurred seems folly to me. To me, it should always be the other way around; but alas this is often the case: road riding and racing as preparation for cyclocross.
The cantilever lifestyle is very open (and by the way, if you have disc brakes or mini-V’s on your cantilever lifestyle bike, you are still a member). It will accept all riders without hesitation or ultimatum. Constant encouragement comes from all members, and even fringe associates who aren’t ready to participate or perhaps never will, will happily speak in rich superlatives about participation. Many believe that the cantilever lifestyle is much less intimidating than the more traditional road lifestyle (sometimes known as the Less than or equal to 28mm Lifestyle, the Skinny Tire Society, Get on your Bike and Stay On it Movement, or just Cycling. It is not, however, known as Roadie Lifestyle. That refers to the underpaid servants of overpaid rock bands. Not sure how it got mixed up with riding bikes but I hope it goes away soon.), which is somewhat paradoxical given the size of the audience. Cantilever lifestyle events generally out-spectate skinny tire events by huge numbers. But this perhaps is where Bowie’s words have the most meaning: participation in the cantilever lifestyle is highly socially motivated, from impetus to encouragement to rate of recidivism. The potential for failure is much higher as uncontrollable factors are aplenty, specifically environmental and equipment factors. The terror, for instance, of knowing two laps in that 30 psi is six pounds too low for this root and rock adorned off camber descent (Under Pressure, get it?).
More terror: the terror of knowing that participation equals bleeding money. The terror of knowing that this 45 to 60 minutes of effort is much too long, and yet way too short. And then there’s clean up. The terror of knowing that this lifestyle has an awkward and short window of opportunity, and soon enough another nine months will come between lifestyle completion and restart.
The term Cantilever Lifestyle now has less to do with the actual functionality of cantilever brakes, though I’m sure there’s a wonderful metaphor there I just can’t decipher. Cantilever functionality, or lack thereof, is embraced and accepted by members. The terror of knowing that speed control is not an option has become the initial, and perhaps only, rite of passage in becoming a member. Fork chatter, tortuous howling sounds, lack of stopping power; members care not of these things. Other lifestyle members do. I do. Perhaps I live in fear. Fear of the terror of others knowing about my lack of handling skills. A wise man once quipped, “if I wanted to not stop, I never would have retired from semi-professional sledding.”
All photos by Dave Roth.