Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Name for my Kona, Sort Of

A good friend of mine names a lot of her possessions.  I don't really like to do that, but it has happened to some of mine anyway - people have a thing for naming modes of transportation, and will do it for mine.  Including my cyclocross bike, which she had festooned with bits and pieces of commute/training bike accessory - different pedals, fenders, street tires, many blinkers, a cycle computer, etc. etc.

Since getting it back, I've been thinking about how to name my cyclocross bike.  It feels a little odd - I like the idea of a bicycle as a "human amplifier," something that increases the ability of a person to do a specific task.  The person remains the main actor in accomplishing the task.  Even the UCI is into this idea, although some of the equipment restrictions they place to support this can seem strange to those of us outside their administration.  Naming a bike feels a little bit like naming my drill.

The task in a cyclocross race is to do as many laps around a short, mainly off-road race course with barriers and steep sections as possible in a designated time, then cross the finish line before the next guy.  The courses are just smooth enough and emphasize rapid accelerations and lifting or carrying the bike just enough to favor a fatter-tired road bike.  Riding a road bike off-road is really brutal, both to the rider and the bike.  Not everyone finishes, and almost every race has a few finishers running across the line with pieces dangling from their bikes.  I think that one of the defining aspects of finishing a cyclocross race is simply refusing to stop.  "Flat tire?  I'll ride another mile to the pit, and get my other wheel."  "Broken derailleur?  I'll run to the pit, shorten my chain, and finish as a singlespeed."  "Broken collar bone?"  That guy quit his race, actually.  Same with the guy who broke his fork and blew up his front wheel.  I've destroyed a headset on my bike, and hit my brake hoods hard enough to twist them around on the handlebar a couple of times.  I also had a persistent problem with dropping the chain until I got a device installed to prevent that.  Despite all that, it completed the season.

Die Hard is one of my favorite movies.  I love that the hero, John McClane, starts the movie in pain.  I think he starts the others that way too.  Throughout the movie, more and more bad things happen to him, yet he continues on.  Eventually he succeeds, seemingly because despite overwhelming odds and no shoes, he simply won't quit.  It's as if the evil terrorists/mercenaries run out of ideas for how to kill him, get tired, and decide to die just so they don't have to deal with him any more.  I think that racing cyclocross is the spandex-clad equivalent of that story.  Unless you count the Paris-Roubaix, which lasts a lot longer and is contested on even skinnier tires.

I think that, now that it's back in my care and I'm returning it to its racing trim, the bike's due to get a name from me, if only so that it has one that has more relevance to me than "Damian."  I don't know if I'll ever use it, though - if you hear me refer to "McClane," I'm probably referring to the movie character.  I'm not likely to refer to my Kona by name until I start referring to my LeMond, my mountain bike and my drill by name as well.  My commute bikes have a little bit of a history of having names, now, so Mercedes gets to stay a named vehicle, although I think I call it "my Raleigh" more often than I use its name too.  Not that I don't get a little mystical about my tools - I consider my bikes to be an extension of my body, at least when I'm riding them and they're working.  I tend to think of my speed wrench that way too, but I spend too much time managing my tools and too little time accomplishing things with my other hand tools and my drill.

No comments: