Any resemblance that this excerpt may have to any real person, place, product, etc. is unintended and is purely coincidental.
There is a certain feeling that I get in the cockles of my heart when I see "Made in Italy" (followed by the Chinese characters to translate that phrase) stamped on a chain stay. Call it nostalgia. Call it Romance. Whatever it is, I know that the company has paid tens of thousands of dollars for advertising to my magazine which contributes to my bloated salary, and it makes me giddy.
As I take in the latest Xxxxxx carbon frameset, I am struck by the brilliance of 'open-source' molds for the cycling industry. With every company in the bicycling industry now outsourcing all of their production to the east, and those Asian manufacturers utilizing the same molds for every one's frames it gives the parent company in Europe more time and control over the precise carbon layups to create the best ride possible. Unfortunately, as most of those companies employ more painters than engineers, there is little chance that they will take advantage of this unique opportunity.
On the plus side, the 46 color paint scheme with an elaborate airbrushed pattern and Grateful Dead-inspired prismatic pearls makes me not care about the wrinkle in the cosmetic surface layer of carbon that a careless 8-year-old didn't correct before placing the frame in the oven to cure. I assume that child will be killed if the frame actually fails, and so I am reassured that there is nothing to worry about with the structural integrity of the bike.
Swinging a leg over the bike and heading out of town on my favorite loop - which I've dubbed H-P-H after the famous L-B-L - the Home-Pub-Home route challenges all of my skill and fitness as a squishy, former racer.
Starting out at a brisk spin to get the blood flowing, I flawlessly flick my way through the gears on the latest and greatest from Campagnolo. Soon enough I'm rolling over in the 53-11 headed for the first section of cobbles, and my first climb. Fortunately, the Pub is only .4km from Home, and after a grueling ascent of the sidewalk ramp I am treated to the respite of a luke-warm pint.
As I set the bike up in the corner on a turbo that the barkeep lets me stash for just these occasions, the true greatness of the Xxxxxx really shines through. People in the pub are actually hitching their normally smooth drinking motions to take a look at this machine. With my photographer and mother both snapping pics like paparazzi on crack, and this cool bike (also maybe from the full team kit that I am wearing with my contract from from Ol' Rog pinned to my back like a race number) some of the patrons who don't see me here every day are actually murmerring that I might be a pro.
While I spin in the corner and toss back pint after pint, it becomes quite clear that the wheels and tires of the bicycle are doing exactly what they are supposed to - propping up the front end of the bike, and providing an efficient link between the gearing and the resistance unit on the turbo. These are clearly the most perfect wheels around. When I sober up, I'll have to look at the labels I say to myself.
Five pints and an hour into this ride (from Home) my support man (barkeep) comes to offer me a bit more libation. And as is tradition at this point in my ride he offers up our traditional plum to get the crowd interested again, "So was it the Hour Record or the Olympic Gold that meant more to you," he says well above conversational tone.
After a few minutes of name dropping and listing out every win I have ever had from my first criterium, right down to beating my wife on the townie bike last week, I tell him that they were all equally important.
As I sip my English Ale, I notice that our little show has had its desired effect, and a husky housewife is getting up the courage to come talk to me. As she approaches, I nod my head at tip my helmet. (Yes, I wear a helmet even on the turbo. Unlike most old pros I actually get hurt more when I crash while riding drunk. It probably goes back to that time I was leading the Tour de France prologue by a huge margin and then crashed in the rain and shattered my ankle.)
As the lass nears, I stick out my hand for her. Strangely, she does not genuflect and kiss it, but merely shakes it. "You're that pro cyclist aren't you laddie," she says.
"Why, yes I am mum, but I don't like to be noticed, so I try to keep inconspicuous," I say, while sitting up and swinging my arms wildly to attract as much attention as possible.
"Well, I just think it grand, Mr. Obree, that you beat that mental illness. It's really inspiring."
No sooner does my glass shatter against the stone floor, than the tires show their true mettle, by not puncturing from the flying shards. The agility of the bike coming out of the turbo and weaving through the staring crowd as I carry it out in full temper tantrum flight make me begin to truly understand why the machine is so excellent.
With my heart rate pegged, I set out for Home...
"Organization is for the simple-minded, the Genius controls the chaos." - Jens