The Case for Flat bars, or how I stopped worrying and learned to love gravity

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It is ‘cross season, with punctual insight the story begins, the Sunday afternoon fall ritual that the major television networks have thus far managed to avoid featuring, choosing instead to invest their small budgets in clever advertisements highlighting a little known sport that pits the best and brightest of the regional clans against each other on an open field of glory. Year after year I muse aloud as to whether these smartly dressed execs have made the right decisions and I believe time will prove the error of their myopic direction. What, if not cyclocross, is a sport made for the American television audience, who doesn’t know how to ride a bicycle, and for those unfortunate few there is still an undeniable cultural familiarity? The American public is in love with the bicycle; from oilmen to cab drivers it is hard to deny this obvious love affair.

Yet even this concrete quantitative thinking has its share of naysayers, “Kyle” they say “Americans don’t love cyclocross, they don’t even love bicycles, what the fuck are you talking about?” or “Get out of the road, pussy!” I have heard a few moderates propose a number of changes to the sport of cyclocross that they believe would make it more audience friendly: oscillating barriers, wild dogs, fire dancers, nun chuck wielding hecklers, body builder chicks in swimsuits firing high powered tennis ball cannons, motorcycle tow-in starting procedures, flying piranha, honey saturated run-ups, men in monkey costumes dunking a basket ball with the help of trampolines, bikes with engines. Good ideas the lot of them, but I would argue that us ‘cross lovers are not ready for such a drastic and avant-garde departure from the norm. It is not our way to go chasing after the big dollar signs, the bling and the glitz. Cyclocross is, if nothing else, a sport steeped in tradition. It comes to us from a place many refer to as the old country and if there is one thing that all traditions have in common its age. Yet this staunch fundamentalist would be willing to relax on one aspect on of our little world, handlebars.

Lets cut the crap, as one unnamed source has said “You run flat-bars if you want to keep it fresh all over the course,” and who doesn’t? I race in the single speed category and I don’t win. There are those up ahead of me who do, and god bless them, but for the rest of us who keep trying week in and week out there needs to be a little spice on the side, something to help with that “getting your teeth kicked in” feeling. Why not spend a smile on those hot corners, maybe bunny hop a barrier or two, sure these things can be done on drop bars but I would argue not with the same confidence, and confidence leads to panache, and panache is what I am talking about when that back tire breaks free spraying dirt everywhere. Try it, pass on the inside, air that little knoll, sure you may be sitting mid pack sucking wind and hoping for a flat but that’s no reason to miss throwing a trois-pod out for the hommies on the sidelines. Live a little, people say that there is no I in team, but the way I see it there is always an m.e. in dream.



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