[CR]The spirit of bike racing

(Example: Framebuilders:Alex Singer)

Date: Wed, 26 Sep 2007 23:18:53 +0200 (CEST)
From: "nick Bordo" <nicbordeaux@yahoo.fr>
To: classicrendezvous@bikelist.org
Subject: [CR]The spirit of bike racing

This might be too longwinded to read , so let's put the meat up front: that awful Gitane/Motob├ęcane (I still say there's Motoconfort in it) contraption I uploaded yesterday to http://membres.lycos.fr/partspeekers/ and posted about here is going to be a major part of my small collection. Because although it is a mess, is mass-produced, is not refined, it epitomizes the spirit of bicycle racing. Do I hear laughter from the gallery ? Do I hear the cynics asking if Nick Bordo has been taking correspondance course in vocabulary or something ?

I live near where most of the great french riders were born and graduated. Where every other kid used to race a bicycle. Where they held amateurish bike races on open road courses through and around the town, and the village idiots got to wear arm-bands and wave a flag, and misdirect cars for three full hours, causing terminal traffic bedlam and countless fistfights.

I got here in the early seventies. The spirit was still there, although the bikes were getting generally more specialized and expensive, and the sport was less of a mass participation thing. But I saw the tail end of the real thing: the fifties and sixties. You didn't, unless you were the only kid of a rich family, get bought a expensive, specialized racing bike. You raced on what you could. There were two types of bike on the market, if we except ladies and utilitarians. The real racer, likely a Peugeot, for the big boys. And everybody's bike, the demi-course (half-racer). This was heavier, had no flashy components, came with mudguards and lights (which if you had any self respect at all you immediately stripped), and cost a darn sight less. But it did have drop bars, and looked like a racer.

Most of the boys used demi-courses, modified: closer ratio chainwheels for sure, thinner tyres, and others depending on budget. You had no budget worth mentioning, you got givena wreck or laid out all your pocket money on a beaten up old demi-course, and you raced it. You made the difference with your legs, not your lugs (1). If you were good, maybe you got a small time sponsor deal from a bike shop for tweaking the bike, a few freebie goodies. Maybe you struck a deal with the local plumber that you put stickers on your bike and jersey with his name and phone number, he bought you some tyres.

Every race was sponsored by the village shops. The loudspeakers on every corner would blare non-stop about next intermediate sprint winner gets a free leg of ham from Arnaud's Butchery or else. It was plug and more plug from one end to the other.

And that, to me, is the real spirit of bicycle racing. You raced with what you had, not with great sponsorship deals and ten thousand buck tech marvels. Anybody could participate. And everybody stood a chance. The best man won.

My horror bike is standing not ten yards from where I am writing from, and the more I look at it, the more I love it. There are three bikeshop decals on it, where the rule for a shop-buy was one. It's got three stickers from the local plumber with his 4 digit phone number (4 digit phone numbers are so far back in time I've never seen them before). That and a whole load of other details that you can recognize if you know where to look.The whole thing smells heavily of what I've been writing about. I think it is an important bike. I like it so much that it has me waxing really lyrical, to my great disgust.

Nick Bordo, 47000 Agen, France.

(1) I hereby declare that totally unintentional masterpiece of prose and wisdom to be copyrighted.

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