Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I'm Telling Everyone.

I'm supposed to be at a seminar at Trades Hall right now. But today was a long day at school - not particularly full on, just long, with lots of stuff going on - and so my boss suggested that if we didn't want to go, we didn't have to. Immediately my mind went to recovery mode and I started dreaming of lying in bed reading, brain ceasing to function altogether. But then someone suggested I come race my bike. And then I remembered how freaking good it feels to take all of the workday shit, that impossible war of attrition, that daily obligation, and just tear it out of your heart by force of sheer exertion. I haven't even rolled onto the track yet and already I'm stoked, listening to Boxcar, scoffing down food for fuel, forgetting about psychologists reports, Asperger's syndrome, suspension meetings, violence and graffiti and Oppositional Defiance Disorder and court dates and the Alternative Settings Review and weekly reports and goals and everything else. All of a sudden I'm a schoolboy on Christmas morning, and I'm going to open all the presents.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Whadya Mean?!

We here at Heavy Metal Monday did not watch the Olympic roace race.  We were at the pub.  Everything that is discussed from hereon-in is entirely speculation, myth, or lie.

So Cav didn't win.  Not only that, he was beaten by, to quote the British press, "a nobody".  Labelling Vinokourov a nobody is similar to calling Shakespeare 'some writer', Eddy Merkcx, a 'bit of alright on the bike', or Lance Armstrong ' a bit of a dick'.  It just means you know nothing about cycling or, you know, classic literature.

The British press are very different to the Australian press.  Where the Aus media, in the case of loss, usually bend over backward to make excuses for what was surely an inevitable loss given the circumstances, our mates over the pond seem to relish in almost exiling the offending athlete from the country, if they so much as look at anything other than the gold medal.  

So it is with Cav.  Sure, the British team perhaps weren't as dominant or as clever as they could have been, but they were beaten, not by a nobody but, rather, by a dude who has won the odd race here and there.  Let's not forget Vinokourov winning on the streets of Paris in the 2005 Tour, when Cav was probably still winning regional races, fuelled by god-knows how many Yorkshire puds.

I mean, I was baffled from the minute people started speculating about their assuredness of Cav's win.  I mean, there was a dirty great hill in the mix, and Cav doesn't exactly excel up the inclines.  This was not a sprinter's course but, rather, a classics course.  I'm surprised no one picked Vino for the win, given his reasonably good form, and penchant for pissing people off.

Not only that, but Cav decided, no doubt bitter he gave up the last year for a twenty somethingth place, to blame the Australian team for negative racing.  

I mean, I'm the first one to cry 'negative' in a club race.  But that's because negative racing is one of the best labels to cover the fact that none of us are any good.  By suggesting that a quashing of tactics was responsible for the loss, rather than no tactics at all, we all come out looking like cooler people.

The Australians weren't racing negatively.  They were trying to make sure GB (Great Britain, not Gorilla Biscuits.  Good band but) weren't in the break.  The reason for this is because, and here's the thing, they were 'trying to win'.  

Weird huh?

The only bit of the race I saw was Mickey Rogers cruising along in a lone break.  I fucking love Mickey from way back when, and was shattered when he crashed out of the Tour a few years back while in the virtual lead.  It's a shame he couldn't have had a proper crack but, you know, that's racing.

In some ways, Vino's win, is actually quite fitting.  He's one of those riders who, despite having done his time for doping scandals in the past, the public has decided to continue hating, while others like David Millar, are now loved.  Vino is retiring this year, and it seems a nice touch to his palmeres, before he goes out, in a spurt of EPO.

I, for one, don't care if he doped.  The benefit of the doubt now lies with his innocence, as it does with every other reformed rider, and the fact is he rode a damn clever race.  I also love an upset.  Cav winning would have had every smug British bastard holding a meat pie, gut hanging over their belts, singing God Save The Queen.  I like that a 'nobody' from 'some country over thataway' absolutely belted the dream team, and did so in fine form, by himself.  The way Vino always won.  Coming out of nowhere, comprehensively, and with zero fucks given.

And, you know, I rate that above some fat kid being led out by a guy with skinny ankles and a dude who looks like an alien.

Here are Gorilla Biscuits

Thursday, July 26, 2012

He Ain't Here But He Sure Went Past.

Oh thank Christ, it's time for another Friday Roundup. I don't think I could manage to eke out another post all about what I did instead of watching the tour, or how I feel about riding my bike, or another single paragraph that begins with the first person singular. For once I'm writing a post that isn't about me. Or anyone else in particular.

And something that has absolutely nothing to do with me, apart from gaining my unequivocal endorsement, is the Captain Planet Alleycat. What a freaking great theme. I really hope folks dress up for this one. I didn't know the guys involved when they threw their last race, the Commuter Cup, but since then I've seen them around a bit, and they're all pretty rad individuals who are just stoked on riding bikes on the streets. This is guaranteed to be such a good time that I might even mosey on down. I might even race. The step-through on my front porch hasn't had a workout since the last Valentine's Day alleycat. It could be time to step out of retirement.

A long way off but a brilliant idea is the FOA Show n Shine. Sure, it's not happening til December, but that gives you just enough time to start ordering some shiny new parts off ebay, or get your sweet vintage frame resprayed, or polish up your teeth with Vaseline and tape your swimsuit to your butt. Keep your eyes peeled, because there's gonna be bling for miles.

Hey, apparently there's some big sporting event happening in London over the next two weeks, and it features some cycling. Someone asked me the other day if I was also going to keep an Olympic Diary that never talked about the Olympics. While that sounds like a pretty good read, there's no way in hell - as you could probably tell, by the end of the Tour all of my "I just rode around instead and it was a totally good time" style posts were totally used up. Instead I'm just going to hope someone tapes the track events and shares them with me. I'd stay up, but apparently they're all on between the hours of 1 and 4am, and dammit if I don't have work to do these days. However, if you're insistent on punishing yourself, a schedule of events is available here.

And that's probably about it for today. It's been a while, right, and when you stop looking outwards for events you don't see as many. I don't think I've done this before, but if you have anything you'd like included in the roundup - and yes, I do know how to include pictures - please get in contact with me at xthenewtimerx@gmail.com.


I raced my bike the other day. It felt pretty good, then pretty bad, but not in the bad way. It felt pretty bad in the good way. I came off the track and went in desperate search of the bin with the open lid. I sat beside that bin for a good ten minutes, waiting for either the nausea to subside or to come to its logical conclusion. It opted for the former and I decided it was time to go home.

Fifteen minutes later, however, I was feeling fine again. That's usually when the fatigue starts kicking in, when I'm usually comatose in front of the computer screen. But there was no sign of it whatsoever. I was so stoked on this that I decided to ride my pub bike over to pizza. And I did. And it was rad. I was listening to Modest Mouse and singing as loud as I possibly could. I was sprinting for traffic lights and victory saluting like Peter Sagan when I made it. I was trackstanding at every red, bunny hopping every bump, from Separation to Arthurton to Blyth, one road with three names, knowing every crack in the road, every indentation, where to get out of the saddle for a climb and where the traffic is going to get a little fierce. That road joining Northcote to Brunswick, string tying the two former working-class suburbs together like they were mittens through your coatsleeves, independent but always connected through those secret lengths of yarn, and never lost in the snow. Listening to Modest Mouse and singing and getting romantic about streets and bikes and the cold damp down by the Merri Creek and the possibilities opening up before me. At that moment, I felt like I could do anything, and that if this good feeling stuck around for a little while, there was a good chance that I would.

And then, when I arrived at Pizza, Rolly told me that he and Tate had seen me. And then I felt silly.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

They're Gonna Find Us.

The first tape I ever bought - yes, tape - was Soul Deep by Jimmy Barnes. Look, I know that Barnesy is cringeworthy, and his attempts at soul were even worse, but hell, I was twelve years old and I knew that these were songs with substance.

I avoided Percy Sledge for a long time, mostly due to "When A Man Loves A Woman" and a vague sensation that soul should be more bangin' than this, that without the big fat horn section and a pumping bass it was just elevator music. But there's this rad scene in This Is England where one of the guys is listening to Dark End Of The Street and really feeling it, and that changed my mind. Man, I reckon I bought like three new records after watching that movie.

Strangely, I never felt the same resistance to Otis, no matter how tender his ballads. This one, despite its questionable, non-edge subject matter, is one of my favourites. For me, nothing else sums up just how good it feels to stay up late with the person you love, talking about nothing at all, wasting time for no reason other than you're enjoying wasting it.

There's this scene in The Blues Brothers where they put a Sam and Dave tape into the deck, then start driving around as this song plays. It then segues into Hold On, I'm Coming, and before you know it they're driving through the mall. I love how Soothe Me kinda pretends to be a rave-up, but has this mellow guitar behind it - again, the lyrics and the music match perfectly.

I don't care how unhappy he was at the time - Marvin Gaye's work for Motown was killer. It was when he went on to writing his own music that things went horribly horribly wrong. Sure, Let's Get It On is a pretty sexy song, but fuck, What's Going On is nothing short of terrible. I don't care how historically significant it was, it's just a bad song. I've often thought of getting "Can I Get A Witness" tattooed on me, especially in light of this Constantines song, but haven't quite figured out where or how just yet. 

Yeah, I've certainly sung this one at the top of my lungs, riding my bike through these streets in the middle of the night.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


The 2012 Tour De France.

That's my dad's old copy of Catcher in the Rye just there. He's the one who coloured in Salinger's name, who filled all the gaps in the lettering, who wrote his name roughly the same size as the author. Inside, in red pen, is written "Roo Bailey". The red pen makes sense, because he has red hair, but I've never heard him called Roo. His brothers and all the folks from Woomelang - his home town - all call him Blue, due to the aforementioned follicular affliction and their penchant for irony. Occasionally, when my own brothers and I are up there, we are referred to as Blue's kids.

Sometimes, around Stawell, where my folks settled and where I was born and bred, my dad gets called Bails. Michael, the older of my two younger brothers is often called that too, perhaps a result of staying involved with the Stawell Footy Club, where nicknames are almost mandatory. It's a name Steve and I mercifully avoided, though I was once or twice called "Young Bails."

Mostly, however, he's known just as Ron - which is, incidentally, his name. I've called him by his name ever since I was about fourteen. He's always hated me doing so - he reckons it makes him look like a stepfather. Given I don't extend the same informality to my ma, he may have a point. I don't know why I started doing it - probably just my teenage tendency to niggle, the same impulse that drove me to refer to my brothers by their Spanish names, Seve and Miguel. No one in my family speaks Spanish, and we have no Spanish heritage (apart from maybe when the Moors went over to Ireland, but that's really too far back to count). I just started doing it because the whim took me one day, and then stuck to it.

This "Roo" at the front of my copy of Catcher, however, confuses me, mostly because it's a part of my dad's life that I don't know. I've spent thirtythree years with the guy and there are still stories he hasn't told me, either through neglect, unwillingness or forgetting. That's unsettling, in a lot of ways. Most of the stories I know about him I only know through his brothers, and they're the tales of bawdy mockery that brothers specialize in - drinking too much, driving too fast, raising hell. While they're still important stories, they lack substance, they aren't the stories that we use to construct who we are.

So last night I tried to call my dad. He and Ma are away on some grey nomad style excursion into the Australian countryside, huge SUV towing their caravan into red dirt landscapes. I don't really know why I wanted to call. Even when I do chat to him, it's only usually some cursory small talk before he hands me off to my Ma. He's from one of those red dirt landscapes himself, and even though he's a teacher, serious conversations about personal matters don't come easy to him. We talk about the football, the weather, people we both know. But last night I couldn't even do that - wherever he is at the moment isn't receiving any mobile signal.

So I was thinking a lot about dads today. Even if he hasn't told me everything, mine has always been there, will always be there. But a quick look through the list of recent Tour de France winners reveals a lot of absent fathers. Cadel's dad was still in his life, sure, but lived three quarters of the way across the country. When the guy started getting serious about cycling it was just him and his mum in the tiny pockets of Eltham or Montmorency not yet gentrified. Lance's dad was famously absent, even if he did attempt contact once or twice (yeah, ok, I wasn't paying that close attention to "It's Not About The Bike."). And now, just today, perhaps desperate for an Australian angle, the press drags out the stories about Wiggins' dad, drunk and defeated and ultimately dead in a bar somewhere. I'm certain there's no causal link, probably not even a direct correlation. I also don't know anything about Contador's dad, Sastre's dad, Andy Schleck's dad. It may not mean anything at all. It is, however, an interesting thing to note. I wonder if Wiggins ever wishes he could call his dad up and ask him some awkward questions. I wonder if he ever resents the story being told, his family taking on all of this added importance now he's won the biggest prize in cycling. I wonder if he looks in the mirror, like I do sometimes, and see the bags under his eyes, the flecks of red in his beard, the wrinkles in the forehead, and know exactly where they came from.

I've written a lot about change over the past three weeks, and the process of getting used to it. I'm pretty sure I even wrote that change is constant. But that's only true for the future. Despite the best efforts of the revisionist historians - me included - the past is fixed. Our interpretation of it may change, our knowledge of it may change, the facts we are aware of may change, and our understanding of it may change, but what's done cannot be undone. My dad will always be my dad, even if he once had a nickname I don't understand. Wiggins' dad will always be his dad. And now, Wiggins will always have won the yellow jersey at the Tour de France. Even if he is later found to have cheated, he will have always crossed the line three and a bit minutes ahead of the next fastest guy. Whatever else happens in his life, he will always have won.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sing Sha La La La La.

Stage 20 - Rambouillet to Champs Elysees.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

You Can Have It All.

Stage 19 - Bonneval to Chatres (ITT)

Again, I find myself staring at the screen, unsure of how to start this post. In the 21 days of the tour - yeah, I count the rest days - so much has changed that I barely recognize the folks who lined up at the start. I only catch a little of the TT - enough to pass judgement on the hotness of the bikes, and to note that a significant number of the riders are covered in bandages. They're battered and bruised and just trying to make it back to Paris. They're the guys who were never GC contenders, who were there with a specific job to do, like fetch the bottles, make pace at the front, lead out a sprint, get in a breakaway. Some of them were able to do it, some of them were not. Some of them will go home with a little extra cash, their chop from a teammate who won a stage or collected a couple of KOM points here and there. Some of them will have gained valuable publicity for the team by spending all day busting their guts off the front. But most of them will be returning home empty handed, their teams and jobs and careers in question for next year. Fuck, I wonder how that feels. And then, to add insult to injury, with one stage to go before Paris, before coasting into town for a final giant criterium around the Champs d'Elysees, they make them ride a time trial. The fucking race of truth, riders out their on their own, their solitary pain on open display. Yeah, that would suck, suck so hard it almost seems deliberate. The second last stage is a cruel trick on the domestique from Cofidis and Christian Prudhomme is a bastard.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Your Heart.

Stage 18 - Blagnac to Brive-la-Gaillarde.

"You don't look so good," I tell Jen Jen.
"What do you mean?" She asks, slightly offended.
"Well, you've looked better. You look like you need some sleep. You look all disheveled and stuff."
"God, you're right, look at my hair!"
"Trust me," I go on, digging in deeper. "Your hair is the least of your worries." Pretty soon afterwards she tells me she is kinda tempted to punch me in the nose. I agree that I probably deserve it. But later, as she steps out onto High St, I capture her for Instagram posterity. That's the picture above. It's like Instagram has filtered out all the stress and workweek blues and attrition and just left her standing there on the side of the road, looking alive and brilliant. I take back all that I said.

But I'm not looking too crash hot either. The first week back at work has been rough, the early mornings a shock to the system. There are black rings under my bloodshot eyes, my skin is pallid under the yellow streetlamp glow, and I'm clumsier than usual. A quiet night is order. I text Kate about the Bombers / Geelong game on TV tonight and she tells me she'll be watching it with Rolly at hers. That sounds like something I could handle.

The game, however, fails to live up to its hype. Geelong are checking the Bombers close, ensuring the guys in red and black are always second to the ball, outmarked and outrun and outclassed. The score blows out in the first quarter, then comes back a little in the second, but by the third the result is a foregone conclusion. I suggest that I'd rather watch Gabriel Gate than the final quarter, but we leave it on, not paying attention, talking about everything else. When the final siren sounds we flip the channel and continue in the same vein - there is movement on the television, flashing lights and colours, but no one is paying it any mind.

A long time ago I remember reading some book on Taoism that suggested that conversations that you don't remember the content of are the best kinds of conversations. When you amble from topic to topic aimlessly, no intent or argument, wandering through stories and observations and making each other laugh without effort. I don't know why Lao Tzu thought that this particular kind of conversation was the best kind - probably something to do with the uncarved block, or being like the river, or something like that - but tonight fit the bill perfectly. I don't remember what we talked about. I just remember talking, laughing, enjoying being in the company of good people. I remember being tired, rubbing my eyes, but not wanting to go to sleep. I remember thinking that things were pretty damn good.

And then, about ten seconds before the end of the stage, I remember Mark Cavendish launching into a sprint that captured everyone's attention, flowing around the outside of the breakaway from five hundred metres out, gapping the field and charging across the line like the raging river. For a fraction of a minute we are all stoked on the tour again, the punchy little guy reminding us that this is why we stay up so damn late every night through July, why we torture our bodies with sleep deprivation, why we put up with three hours of a breakaway being reeled back in, stupid commentary and bike dorks and self-appointed experts pontificating about a sport that they hate and disdain for the rest of the year. Because every now and then someone does something that defies our expectation, that leaves us standing there gasping at the extent of human achievement, of physical capability, of what a guy can do on a bike.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Time's The Revelator.

Stage 17 - Bagneres-de-Luchon to Peyragudes.

"I can no longer keep a journal. My life erases everything I write."
 - Robert Kroetsch.

Last night I felt as bad about cycling as I've ever felt before. Driving home from an hour's worth of medium paced motorpacing with Cam, feeling the fatigue seeping from my throat into my brain, slow fog rising, I decided that I was quitting cycling, that I was going to sell all my bikes, that all my dreams were false. Gillian Welch was on the stereo, and when I pulled up to the house I sat in the car and waited for the song to finish. For about fifteen minutes.

When I went into the house James and his mate were leaving. "Hurley was just here!" James exclaimed, "he asked me if I had a 49 (tooth chainring), then said something about racing a Madison tonight." For some reason this made my day. The fog started burning away. I grabbed my pub bike and rolled down to the track.

There were a bunch of folks I used to train with down there. I hadn't seen any of them since January. Some of them had gone from strength to strength, some of them hadn't touched a bike for months, most of them in varying states of disrepair. We sat in the infield and talked shit. When the Madison started Gav Sittampalam and I wandered up into the stands to get a better view. The racing was scrappy, two teams dominant and the rest making up the numbers. It wasn't great racing, but, as Gav pointed out, both of us were sitting there wishing like all hell we could be out there.

Eventually the cold got too much for us, the results beyond a doubt, and we left. I rode home shivering, sprinting from the lights to stay warm. Somehow the fatigue hadn't taken root. Somehow I'd danced up against it and not fallen in. Fifteen minutes later I was on the couch reading A Man Without A Country, the heater blasting against my legs and a cup of tea in my hand.

Sometimes, both in my line of work and in my personal life, I get to hang out with pretty clever folks. Generally I think I've got this life - and my own personality - pretty sorted out, but occasionally one of these clever folks says something that resonates louder than I expect. A couple of days ago someone said to me that "It's not the thinking that will fix things. It's the time passing." That's a difficult one for me - I tend to want to barge in and figure stuff out. But last night I took it all in. I stopped thinking and let time pass. I didn't watch the tour. I went to bed.

When I woke up, I felt a little better.

Myths Wrongly Interpreted.

Stage 16 - Pau to Bagneres-de-Luchon.

I can't quite collect my thoughts on this one. I wanted to talk about change, about how change is a constant, perhaps the only constant, that what we think is permanent is just change moving slower than we perceive. But then I also wanted to talk about the night that I took the picture above. So maybe I'll start with that.

It was the night of the Dirty Deeds Prologue, 2012. Earlier that evening I'd posted on Facebook that I hadn't felt this good since Christmas Eve of 1998. Man, that was a night. I grew up in Stawell, a tiny town in the country that everyone leaves as soon as they finish school. But on Christmas Eve, everyone comes back to celebrate with their families. As a consequence, on Christmas Eve everyone ends up at the pub.

It's a long time ago now, so my memories are once again reduced to flashes, still pictures that I do my best to piece together. I'd recently fallen in with Angela Dufty, and she had tied her dreadlocks back into a ponytail with a bright red ribbon. My exgirlfriend Nadya Miller was there with her new boyfriend, and we'd all agreed to sing Fairytale of New York at midnight, but when the hour came we were happily songjacked by Happy Xmas (War is Over), which more folks seemed to know the words to. For some reason I climbed on to Dougie Burkhalter's back, and he carried me across the packed bar. It was noisy, the bar was packed, and I felt like I was in love with everyone there, the town itself, the night sky. At the end of the evening Angela and I walked outside, perhaps walked home, kept singing through the empty streets. And the next day it was Christmas, and everything was different.

The evening of the Prologue is more recent, so I remember it a little better. And, looking back over Facebook, it's easy to follow the trail that was blazed that evening. What I didn't put on the internet, however, was sitting in Jen Jen's kitchen, buzzing from coffee and hip hop and anticipation, and telling her that I had a feeling about the night ahead, and that I hadn't felt like this since that Christmas Eve fourteen years ago. "I'm not sure how," I urgently told her, "but after tonight, everything is going to be different. Something is going to happen tonight. Something big."

We didn't sing that night, but we danced, and when we dance, the night belongs to us. The Prologue was, of course, a cycling event, so folks were at the bar still wearing their Sidis. We held hands with girls wearing padded gloves and bumped into dudes in lycra. It was cold, and when we stepped outside we could see ourselves breathing. We talked and yelled and called on the band for one more song, one more song. We arrived battered and bruised, scarred from bike crashes and too many late nights and too much coffee or beer or worse, and left with our hearts bursting out of our chests, the taste of blood in our mouths, in love with everyone there, these people, this city, the night sky. And the next day, when we woke up, everything was different. 

That's the thing about change, though. It's constant. Everything is always different. All that matters is the magnitude, whether the platonic shift is gradual or dramatic, a slow edging across the sea or an earthquake. Whether or not something was big. And that's something only time will tell.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Oh I Cantered Out Here, Now I'm Galloping Back.

From Dave Hogan.

You should probably put the kettle on, there’s some slow burners in today’s La Musique Mercredi.

 When Brendan and I spent a couple of years at High School together, I don’t think we could have been more different; he the long-haired trouble maker, me the skinny dingus with the red hair and glasses. Brendan obviously tread a path into punk, while by the time I made it to university I was the dorky indie kid stuck in an Engineering faculty. So it was with a little surprise that we both recently realised our music tastes have at least a hint of cross-over.

 During my uni days, way back when, I used to go and see a lot of live music. My friend Nat hosted Local and/or General on RRR, and I used to listen to it religiously. I found some old tapes when I moved house recently with songs I’d taped off the show; live in-studio performances by bands like Sandro, Little General and 2 Litre Dolby. I’d love to be able to post some videos from those guys up here, especially of Little General and the phenomenally precise drumming of David Kneale, but do you know how hard it is to search youtube for clips of a little Melbourne band called Little General. 

(EDIT - Thanks to Jolan, I just discovered bandcamp.com, which miraculously has a couple of Little General tracks. Go here, and listen to the first track if youcan'ttakeajokegetthefuckoutofmyhouse, and if you like that, listen to the third song, Ron Pearlman. The basketball nerd in me especially loves Ron Pearlman, because it samples 70s NBA star Daryl Dawkins talking about his turbo sexophonic delight dunk.)

 I’d traipse to gigs all over town, happily on my own, but more happily with my buddy Bec. She’s my wife now. We shared our first kiss at a Gersey gig at the Empress. I saw Gersey play a lot, would let myself get lost amongst the slow progression of their songs, letting the sound wash over me as though I was in one of those slow motion movie scenes of people swimming under water. I’d get hypnotised by Danny Tulen’s simple 4-4 drumming, to the point that I when I first sat at a drum kit a few years later I could bash out a whole bunch of Gersey songs without thinking.

Back in about ’98, years before Bec and I got together, we caught the train back up to my parents’ place in Ballarat on a Thursday night with Cronky to see Not From There play at 21 Arms, one of the dodgy local nightclubs (why they weren’t playing at the Bridgey I’ve no idea). Before the show, the only people in the place were us three, and the three guys from the band. We had a chat with Heinz, the singer, a few other folks turned up, and then they played to all of 12 people. They were fucking amazing. For my parents, I was still trying to support the pretence that I attended lectures, given that this was reasonably early in my first year of uni, so we got a 7am train the next morning back to Melbourne so I could pretend to go to my 8.30am lecture. 

 There were two other bands that I saw play a lot around that time at the end of the 90’s / start of the 2000’s. The first was pre-shrunk, they of the two-bass-guitar-one-drummer set-up. Brilliant, talented musicians, producing sounds and song structures I’d never heard before, with a ridiculously tight live sound. If they were playing in Melbourne, or Ballarat (this time at the Bridgey thankfully), I was there.


 Going to all these pre-shunk gigs, I became friendly with the band’s manager, Doug, who runs Rare Records. He got me onto another band he was managing at the time, The Grand Silent System. Once again, my young impressionable ears were blown away by the musicianship and amazing live shows these guys put on. I’m not sure how well their prog-rock sound has dated, but their live shows were phenomenal. The somewhat serious, self-indulgent prog sound was balanced by Jova (singer) and Cabsy (guitarist) spending most of the show taking the piss out of themselves. Cabsy had a particularly foul mouth, and the first time I saw them play, at the Laundry sometime in early 2000, Cabsy was typically dropping f-bombs everywhere. Between songs he apologised; “we play a lot of all ages gigs back home in the La Trobe Valley, and I normally have to bite my tongue at those shows” Pause…….. “ we don’t have to play to them cunts no more.” 

I like this clip particularly as it’s a song they never recorded or released, which kind of gives you a hint as to how good they were, unless you don’t like prog in which case you may as well scroll down. Me, I loved this shit. 

But once uni ended and the real world came calling, local gigs were few and far between. Bec and I lived in Edinburgh for a few years, where I came across Scotland’s Uncle John and Whitelock. They had a grim blues-rock sound dripping with the swampy stench of a Scottish bog,  but unfortunately we only managed to see them once before they announced they were splitting up. A final show in Edinburgh beckoned, we got there nice and early, around 9-ish, to make sure we could get in. The venue was tiny and by the time we arrived it was full, with people literally hanging from the rafters. And yes, I do actually mean literally. I couldn’t find any decent live clips of these guys, but there was one song from the album There Is Nothing Else floating around on youtube. It’s a cracker.

In 2008, we spent Christmas and New Years in New York. The next clip isn’t from a show we saw there, but from a guy we saw when we got back. We had tickets to All Tomorrow’s Parties up at Mt Buller for the day after we flew home. We left New York in a blizzard, and our flight was delayed by 45 minutes while they de-iced the wings. We landed in San Francisco about the same time that our connecting flight to Sydney was due to leave. The connecting flight was at the other end of the airport, and we ran through the lounges as fast as we could, desperately hanging onto our coats and carry-on bags full of vinyl we’d bought in New York (that shit was heavy). We got to the gate around 10.30pm, about 5 minutes after the plane was due to leave. The plane was still sitting there, the entry tunnel thing still connected. But the lounge gate was empty and dark, with not a United Airlines staff member to be seen. After much frantic calling, we booked a flight that would get us to Melbourne the fastest, and after a night at a cheap airport motel ended up heading from San Francisco to LA the next morning, where we sat around for 7 hours before boarding a flight direct back to Melbourne, rather than through Sydney as per our original flight. We sent an email to our friends picking us up from the airport to let them know the score, but with no US dollars left we couldn’t stay on the internet long, and had no idea if they’d receive it or if they’d be at the airport a day early wondering where the fuck we were.

 We had no idea where our bags were, presumably they had made the original flight from San Fran to Sydney. We landed in Melbourne the day the festival was starting. Baggage claim made us wait until all the bags from our flight had been unloaded onto the carousel before we could fill in a claim. We finally got out of the airport, stressed and tired with only the clothes on our back, to find our friends Steve and Charlotte patiently waiting for us. Back home to Northcote for a quick shower and to grab whatever clothes we could, before driving up to Mt Buller. Now, Steve didn’t really drive (it was amazing he made it to the airport to pick us up) and Charlotte was French and couldn’t drive in Australia. So I sucked down a can of coke, jumped behind the wheel  of our car and sped towards Mansfield.

 We made it to the festival car park in the early afternoon, something like 40 hours after we’d left our friend’s apartment in New York, and waited half an hour for a bus to take us into the festival itself. We found our chalet, dumped our gear, and trotted up the hill to the stage. With only 2/3 of tickets sold, there was plenty of room. We grabbed a beer, and sat down on the hill. About 2 minutes later, onto the stage walked Bill Callahan, Mick Turner and Jim White. I think my head nearly exploded. Bill started playing his guitar, with that slow, repetitive pluck, and I laid back on the grass and looked up at a blue sky painted with fluffy white clouds. I was completely overcome by a combination of euphoria, joy, fatigue and almighty relief, and I floated up to those clouds grinning from ear to ear. I can count on one hand the times in my life when I’ve felt better than I did at that moment. Hell, I can list them; when I kissed Bec the first time, when I married Bec, and when my two daughters were born. That’s it. 


And lastly, here’s Dirty Three at their emotion-charged best. I was going to post a clip from their 2004 set at Meredith. You know, the one with the storm. But if you’re reading this, it’s a pretty good bet that either 1 – you were there, or 2 – you’re sick of hearing about how amazing it was. Instead, I’m going to post a clip from possibly the greatest television show in Australian history. Where else but Recovery would you get a live performance like this on television, complete with Warren Ellis’ brutal introduction. Perfect for a dusty Saturday morning, no?


Mary Smiles, But She's Watching Me.

Rest Day.

“At that time, I often thought that if I had had to live in the trunk of a dead tree, with nothing to do but look up at the sky flowing overhead, little by little I would have gotten used to it."
-Albert Camus; The Outsider.

I haven't read The Outsider in a long time - indeed, I think I last read it in highschool or thereabouts. My copy was stolen from the English Storeroom at Stawell Secondary College, a treasure trove of classic literature that was never stocked in the library shelves or given a place on VCE reading lists, from where I stole a whole stack of novels, plays and collections of poems. As such, a considerable number of my books are tainted by someone else's highlighter marks, annotated by strange handwriting, the dark shade of thumbprints on significant pages or passages.

In French the novel is known as L'Etranger, which is a much better name, far more ambiguous in meaning, and avoiding the inevitable confusion with the also much studied novel The Outsiders. I didn't know this for a long time, however, and when I was sitting in a Canadian Literature class a long time ago and the Quebecois professor started referring to the book by its French name - and pronoucing Meursault correctly - I had no idea of what he was talking about. If my memory serves me correctly, I asked the girl next to me what was going on, and went on to date her for almost six years.

I forgot about the book for a long time after that, but the quote above stuck with me. It's echoed in a line from a Springsteen song - "You get used to anything; sooner or later just becomes your life" - that indirectly convinced me to flip my wheel over from freewheel to fixed, which in turn led me to start racing alleycats, then start racing track, then continue to get deeper and deeper into the whole scene. I often thought of it again when I was on the Cannonball Run - the infamous 6 day singlespeed / fixed journey from Sydney to Melbourne via the coast - when by the third day we knew little other than waking up, riding, eating, drinking and sleeping.

And I wonder if that's where the riders are right now. The cruellest blow of the tour is that you have to ride on your rest day, even if only to tick the legs over for three or four hours. Two weeks in and your body has adapted, and if it doesn't receive the same treatment every day, it will start to shut down. So even today, when there's no racing, riders will have to wake up, get a massage, ride, eat, drink and sleep. Even if their bodies are battered and bruised from two weeks of incomparable suffering, if their hearts are no longer able to fully recover, if their stomachs haven't been able to absorb enough nutrients and their bodies, in desperate need of fuel, have started eating away at their muscles. They'll still be out on the bike, staring at the bike in front of them, tapping away at the pedals. It's just how their lives are now.

Monday, July 16, 2012

We Sang Our Hearts Out.

Stage 15 - Samatan to Pau.

Ok, ok, that was some laziness right there, both in terms of content and metaphor. But as you can see, yesterday was kinda rough. I'm back at school now, and turning up to the first day on next to no sleep, even less food and absolutely no preparation whatsoever wasn't the best of ideas. The only blessing was that due to working in a specialist setting I didn't actually have to teach any students, just run a couple of meetings. On the way home from one of those meetings - in Mill Park - I started to wonder about my ability to operate a motor vehicle. Heading back along Plenty Road my eyes kept shutting on me, blinks that lasted just a little too long. Eventually I pulled into Bundoora Park and crawled into the back seat, falling fast asleep for a little over half an hour. When I returned my boss noted that it had been a particularly long meeting. I agreed.

I napped again when I got home, but it still wasn't enough. Jamesy seemed in a similar mood. Billy Bragg was on the stereo. It was a bad scene. We needed, as I told facebook, a decent cup of tea and some PMA. So we invited Sime over and put on the kettle. Things were on the up and up. Sleep deprived I always end up looking for symbols when there are none, and got stuck on the Irish Breakfast I was about to sip away. This lead to Requiem for the Croppies, and a lazy bow drawn between BMC / Liquidgas attempting the impossible as the Irish before them had done, trying to take down the English behemoth far advanced in both number and technology. The more I thought about it today, however, the more I liked it. Cadel has been creative in his attacks, has drawn together unlikely alliances, has retreated to the hedges when necessary. But, like the rebels before him, when it comes to a hill the oppressors have him covered.

When Sime arrived I was in my bedroom talking to Sarah K on Skype. We weren't really talking about too much, just chatting in the way that old friends do. It was 9.30am in Newfoundland and she had just woken up. I could see the summer sun pouring in through her window, bright white glare in the corner of the screen, and I start to regret not going to visit her. When I come out of the bedroom, however, all of those regrets disappear. He's chatting to James about nothing in particular, it's equal parts hilarious and ridiculous, and I'm reminded that this is what my time off has been like: hanging out with some of the best people in the world, sitting around talking shit, enjoying the hell out of this life, life like a song, like a movie, like a TV series that you love and don't ever want to end. Life that you don't need to take a holiday from.

Raised On Songs And Stories.

Stage 14 - Limoux to Foix.

The pockets of our greatcoats full of barley -
No kitchens on the run, no striking camp -
We moved quick and sudden in our own country.
The priest lay behind ditches with the tramp.
A people hardly marching - on the hike -
We found new tactics happening each day:
We'd cut through reins and rider with the pike
And stampede cattle into infantry,
Then retreat through hedges where cavalry must be thrown.
Until, on Vinegar Hill, the final conclave.
Terraced thousands died, shaking scythes at cannon.
The hillside blushed, soaked in our broken wave.
They buried us without shroud or coffin
And in August the barley grew up out of our grave. 

- Seamus Heaney, Requiem for the Croppies. 


We have been inundated with a flood of responses here at Heavy Metal Monday headquarters following the anti-beardo manifesto.  Three comments on the blog, a staggering one guy yelling at me from across the street, his mudguards rattling in the breeze, and a guy from the Bicycle Victoria forums labelling my prose as "predictable claptrap".

Not only that but, today at work, I was forced to work for a good hour on a dynamo hub that wouldn't work.  It was as if the bearded gods wanted me to suffer for my blasphemy.

With this in mind, and with the sound of coffee hand grinders receding into the distance, we can push on to other matters.

So the Tour is still ongoing, even though we know Wiggins is going to win.  He is fortunate indeed that the only man who could possibly beat him this year is young Froome, also of team SKY.  Froome has been Wiggin's main go to guy in the high mountain passes.  Other than that brief moment where Froome seemed to forget himself, attacking and dropping his captain, he has loyally served the small ankle man to what will surely be a great victory.  Here's the thing though.  It must be awkward knowing that your lieutenant is a better bike racer than you.

This isn't the first time this has happened of course.  In 1997, Team Mobile started the Tour with Riis as captain, and ended with Jan Ullrich as captain and winner of the Tour.  So dominant was Ullrich's performance, that Riis just agreed to work for him.  A few years ago, there were tensions between Contador and Armstrong, with a far more ambiguous ending.  Armstrong got third, but clearly wasn't happy about it, and Contador was a smarmy bastard.

But this is the first time it's happened where I could think of a funny term for the phenomenon:  namely, the Froome effect.  The Froome effect essentially describes the awkward situation when you are beaten by someone who shouldn't be as good as you.  Let's run through the jargon.

To Froome:  Verb.  To be in a position to beat the pants off of your team leader, knowing it, then doing it.  We witnessed this on the mountain stage the other day when Froome took the stage win, blasting past both Wiggins and Evans.  At the time, commentators said they let Froome have the victory.  I disagree.  That's a Froomin'.

To be Froomed: This is the situation where your team mate, who should be your underling, destroys you.  "I got Froomed today" suggests that maybe you took your nephew out for his first bike ride, and he left you in your dust before you could even find your other Speedplay.  I imagine the most vivid reaction I can think of when someone is being Froomed is from Wiggins himself.  He's been dropping the C bomb a lot lately.  Must be a bit frustrated?  It all makes sense.  That's a Froomin'.

Froomin':  This is the term for an action in which you are in the process of leaving your captain for dead.  Eg. "How you going Ullrich?"  "Froomin".  Note that, although the particulars of Ullrich's Froomin' happened well before Froome was around pro cycling, the label can be back dated.  Froomin' is timeless.

Crusin' for a Froomin: This is perhaps the funniest term.  This describes the situation where the particular individual meant to be in charge is carrying on, as my dad would have said, "like a two bob watch", ie.  a dick.  Perhaps they're arrogant, or just too cool for school, these people are just begging for someone to Froome the hell out of them.  Perhaps the person who was crusin' for a froomin' the most, but who never got his comeuppance, was Lance Armstrong.  Reason being: Hincapie's steerer kept snapping.  You best believe that's a Froomin'.

In fact, perhaps the only person who can never undergo the Froome effect, is Cadel Evans.  The reason for this is that his team is always shit.

Froome himself admits that this year has been tricky, and fully expects Team Sky to return the favour, should next years course be more mountainous.  This suggests that Froome himself is uncomfortable in the Froome role.  Rather, he would prefer to be Wiggin' it.  Namely winning.

And, although I think Wiggins as been gracious toward his helpers, and is hardly crusin' for a Froomin', I reckon next year you will definitely see Froome Wiggin' the fuck out.

Froome on mates.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

That Mad Bastille.

Stage 13 - Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux to Le Cap d'Agde

Oh man, I still don't know who won. Or what happened. Or what real. All I know is that at New Day Rising this morning I ordered a coffee, paused a moment, then asked for two. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Saying Hey, Well Maybe You Should Stay.

Stage 12 - Saint Jean de Maurienne to Annonay Davezieux

I have about three minutes in which to write this, so I'll try to be concise. Jamesy and I head down to the bar, where we're eventually joined by Ollie and Sime. Ollie gets in Jamesy's ear and they take off down to the Night Cat. Sime and I score a couch and make ourselves comfortable for the evening. Eventually we're joined by Sime's mate Richard, who is an enthusiastic addition, possibly the only reason we're still awake at the end of the stage.

I'd suggested earlier that it would be a boring stage, and in terms of the overall GC battle it certainly was, but it was by no means boring at the front of the race. The break was obviously going to stay away, working their arses off together for nearly 200kms, and then would attack each other until they all fell apart. And this is pretty much how it went down. Eventually David Millar and Jean-Christophe Peraud are the only two left, and sprint for the line. They're elbow to elbow for the most part, but eventually Millar surges ahead.

He's a popular winner, especially when it is revealed later that he has won on the 45th anniversary of Tom Simpson's death. Millar, even with his tempestuous relationship with cycling, knows the history, and senses the importance of the date.

Sime seems keen to boot, but I'm not quite ready to head to bed just yet, so I ride with him down High St. We part ways at Separation and I continue riding.

I'm still riding the next morning, but in a much better mood. On Blyth St I see a kid trying to talk to a magpie, and looking so happy about the attempted conversation. That alone would've been enough to make my day, but minutes later I run into my friends Kieran and Sarah. Kieren was riding a bike that had originally belonged to his dad. One of his earliest memories, he told me, was sitting on a homemade seat bolted to the top tube, riding through the night as his dad pedaled and the dynamo light lit the way.

That was also pretty good.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Now Architect. Now Archaeologist.

Rad photo of rad band getting rad c/o rad guy Clint, stolen from his Instagram and used without permission in a very un-rad manner. Sorry Clint.

Stage 11 - Albertville to La Toussuire.

Today - the day I'm writing this, not the day that I watched the stage (I'm aware that I play a little fast and loose with tense in this blog, mostly because I like to write about races in the present tense, as it gives them an urgency, whereas I like to write about the daily events of my life in the past tense, as it gives them a little space, and encourages reflection. This kind of thing bothers some people) - is the last day of school holidays. I mean, there's still the weekend to go, and for me the first few days at school are generally pretty cruisy, but this is the last day I'll be able to lie in bed while the rest of you have to go to work - at least until spring break arrives in September. It's a good time to stop and think for a bit, to figure out what the hell has happened over the past two weeks. Plus, the tour is about halfway over - perhaps all over, bar the shouting. So maybe I'll even cast my eyes over what's going on with that.

But let's face it, I probably won't. When I started out with this tour diary I knew that the focus was not going to be the tour itself, but rather my experiences of watching the tour, in the same way that I used to write about going to punk rock shows, rather than just the shows. As such, there's been a lot of JD Salinger and not a lot of Tejay Van Garderen. This is probably something of a shame, firstly because I quite like Tejay Van Garderen, despite the crimes against nomenclature his parents visited upon him, but also secondly because I've been watching the tour every night, and have actually been interested in it most nights (you know, aside from this one). Like the rumour I spread about myself only ever reading the sports section of the Herald-Sun, or the one that here at New Timer House the only coffee we drink is International Roast, my claimed disinterest is a knee-jerk reaction to the expectation that I be up on all things cycling. You could call it working-class pretension, sure, but you could also call it a safeguard against annoying conversations about fancy coffee, popular literature and dickheads pontificating about Chris Froome.

Here in the relative solitude of the bedroom, however, there's no chance of me engaging with dickheads - you know, aside from the one at the keyboard - so I should be just spewing forth with voluminous honesty about Wiggins' potty mouth, Cadel's long-range attacks, Peter Sagan's freaking hilarious shenanigans, Jens Voigt, Vincenzo Nibali, Chris Horner. But I haven't been, really. Sure, there's enough cycling in there for my friend Sarah K to write that "You're writing really well, but I still don't care about cycling at all", but for me the emphasis has been more on the stuff surrounding the tour. Why? Because it's been so freaking rad. Kind of like the record cover above. Sure, there was probably a record attached to that photo, and the record was probably the thread that drew all of the elements together for the photo - much like the tour has been the knots that have tied all of these entries together - but really, who gives a crap what that record sounds like? That photo is radness captured on film. No matter how good the record, it is now a secondary consideration, not entirely necessary.

And you know what? At the moment, the things surrounding me are like that photo. Not the skater in the photo though, and not the band. No, when I wake up in the morning these days, things are like that sky. 

When I'm back at work next week things might go back to being rough. I'll be getting less sleep, drinking coffee for survival rather than joy, reading psychologists reports rather than renaissance poetry. Perhaps then I'll need to start writing about the racing again, in order to take my mind off the general attrition of everyday life. But perhaps not. Perhaps over the past two weeks, something has changed, that the change will echo through the entire term, and I'll never write about racing again. That'd be ok. I mean, it'd be ok for me. You'd have to go back to reading about the tour on Cycling News. But that's your problem.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Beat Of You Breathing.

Stage 10 - Macon to Ballegarde-sur-Valserine.

For the last hour I have been talking to FJ, trying to convince him that going to Crown with Ollie is a good idea. "You're fucking twentythree!" I tell him, "This is exactly what you're supposed to be doing! Go out and have some adventures, goddamn it." Eventually he is down with the plan and they head off into the city, leaving me sitting up the back of the bar all by myself. People I know are beginning to spill out. "What's happening?" I ask, "Is the stage finished? Who won?" They look incredulous, as if they fully expect someone who has made a twentyone day commitment to writing a tour diary to be slightly more attentive to the actual tour. I start to wonder if I've been projecting a persona that is somehow in opposition to the person I think I am. Chances are pretty good.

Someone tells me Voeckler won the stage. I like Voeckler, but I can't say I'm particularly interested, especially when I hear that he has once again won from a breakaway. The GC hasn't changed, despite Nibali attempting to snap the elastic attaching him to Team Sky on every descent, and despite Mick Rodgers nearly ending up in a ditch trying to reel him back in.

The more folks talk, the more I realize I don't give a shit. I climb on my bike and head towards bed.

The next day I'm still not particularly interested. Watching the highlights on YouTube, the best thing to occur in the whole stage is Jens Voigt handing old mate from BMC a waterbottle, after old mate missed his musette. What I am interested in, however is FJ's adventures at Crown. Apparently he and Ollie had hit the dancefloor pretty hard, and ended up bumping and grinding Miss Universe Jennifer Hawkins. He's a little worse for wear, so I take him out for breakfast.

Keep It To Yourself.

Rest Day.

"You must always have a secret plan. Everything depends on this; it is the only question. So as not to be conquered by the conquered territory in which you lead your life, so as not to feel the horrible weight of inertia wrecking your will and bending you to the ground, so as not to spend a single night more wondering what there is to do or how to connect with your neighbors and countrymen, you must make secret plans without respite. Plan for adventure, plan for pleasure, plan for pandemonium, as you wish; but plan, lay plans constantly."

I bet Cadel has a secret plan.

Monday, July 9, 2012

It's Easy To Live.

Stage 9 - Arc-et-Senans to Besancon (ITT)

As if I stayed up to watch this. Everyone knows that Time Trials are code for 'Get an early night'. Instead I rode my bike around with FJ, visited Blakey and Katie, went and hung out with an old friend late into the night. And then, when FJ posted this, I laughed my ass off. It was a pretty normal night. I didn't read any poetry, didn't mope over any Salinger. Eventually I went to bed, and some time after that I went to sleep. Not the full eight hours, but edging ever closer.

This morning I'd been on the computer for a while before I remembered that something pretty important had gone down last night. Only then did I wander over to Cycling News to check out the damage. And it seems that there was quite a bit of damage done, mostly in Wiggins' post-stage press conferences, but also in the Time Trial. Cadel's Tour is now essentially a battle for second, but I can't see him going quietly into that good night. The next two weeks, as he rages against the dying of the light, is going to be damn good watching.

Metal! Revolution!

Do you have a friend who used to have a sweet fixie, but who now considers full fenders, racks, and a dynamo a bare minimum for their 4km commute?  Did your roadie friend suddenly rock up to the bunch ride with those clip on fenders, their excuse being that, you know, what if it rains?  Perhaps someone you used to rip trailz with all of a sudden doesn't really want to get rad anymore, and instead rides fire trails on weird wheel sizes.  Maybe you recognise some of these tendencies in yourself.  If you recognise any of these scenarios, you may have been affected by what we call 'the beardo effect'. Heavy Metal Monday needs to interrupt the normal Tour De France schedule to discuss a most distressing of bike sub-sub-sulctures: the Beardo.

Beardos, it should be added, don't necessarily have to have a beard.  It's more of an attitude, or an approach to life.  The beard, if you will, is attached to the soul of the person.  Beardo's love the following things: mudguards, brass, racks, the verb 'portaging', new dynamo lights for use, old dynamo lights for polishing and talking about, cantilever brakes, steel, artisan tyre manufactures, talking about psi, the word 'supple', stupid shaped handlebars, not slamming their stem, waxing lyrical about certain cup and cone designs actually being more water resistant than a great deal of the sealed bearings on the market which, by the way, aren't strictly speaking 'sealed', gravel, lumens, the word randoneur, proper placement of load across a bicycle, sneering at credit card touring and, finally, 650b wheel size, and telling MTBers that they were into it way before they were.

Beardos aren't necessarily old either.  At this stage in their development as a bike sub-sub culture, they are made up of two distinct groups.  Old people who never moved on from the technology they grew up with.  Perhaps they thought Audax rides were a bit too competitive for their liking, or you know, maybe they used to race 'back in the day'.  Regardless, they stick to steel like the shellac on their old singles.  These are classic beardos.

Then there is the new generation.  These are comprised of three distinct sub groups.  MTB riders who totally nerded out.  Roadies who can't flatten their back and put it in the big dog. And, finally, fixie kids who, in a direct reaction to the militant minimalism of the 2007 track bike, responded by putting way more carrying devices on their bicycles then they would ever need.

It is much more common now, for example, to see a hipster riding a steel bike with a big front rack, full mudguards and perhaps even a poorly positioned Shimano dynamo front hub, than it is to see some guy riding a toight as a tiger track bike, all rolled up jeans and overly tight chain tension.

By the same token, we hear mutterings on the bunch ride that, you know, it's great that old mate isn't splashing water in my face anymore by having put on mudguards, but, it makes my bike look uncool, you know?

And finally the split in the MTBer community has been highlighted by those who spend more time positioning their helmet light than taking sweet jumps at the Youies.

Having recognised the problem, the community, and from which bike subcultures this sub-sub culture have emerged from, perhaps it is time to figure out how it can be stopped.

The first step is open ridicule.  When you see a full beardo riding by, tell them their mudguards are ill fitted.  That should stop them in their tracks for a good 35 minutes.  Don't actually approach them, or you will get caught in a conversation about 650b that will span the natural length of the universe.

The second is prevention.  If, on a day ride out on gravel roads you see an at risk beardo, or some one who looks like they might have put just that little bit too much time thinking about which tyres to run, and at which psi, tell them bluntly that you're running 22mm tyres, at 150psi.  Then put it in the big dog, and storm off, at a minimum of 400 watts.  Don't worry, their big dog is probably a 48 tooth, possibly even a 46 so they ain't gonna give no chase.  This will have the potential beardo in serious doubts as to their lifestyle choice.

Once gone full beardo, there is no going back.  So loud and inefficient is their coffee bean hand grinder, that they won't be able to hear you over the smugness.  But we can save many bike riders from a life of supple tyre pressure and skinny, hairy legs.  Direct action is the only way.

Pump up those tyres, to max recommended psi!  Slam that stem!  Melt all the steel in the land, and remove any scientific evidence about the benefits of having a brass bell over an alloy one.  Make those mudguards rattly, remove the dynamo, and affix the invisible and non water proof knog lights.  Shave those legs, by force if necessary.  Bring back the mudgauardless bunch ride, this isn't Washington state.   Demand that your bike shop stock nothing from Brookes, or any new 650b MTBs.  Deny any affiliation with anyone who tours 'properly'.

The revolution is rolling through.  It cannot and must not be on 650b wheels.  The entire bike community is depending on you.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

I Hate These Songs.

Stage Eight - Belfort to Porrentruy.

What I didn't mention yesterday is that it was a late one, that Sime and I were still being mean to the general population at 4am, despite the fact that I was due in Castlemaine for my nephew's 1st birthday party at midday. Sometimes it's nice to make the writing about the riding, rather than me. But when I pulled into my sister's driveway it was definitely all about me.

I play a weird role in my family, especially the extended family. By time my old man was thirty three he'd had four children, he and my ma owned a house, were known and respected in the community. My sister, older than me, started a little later, but still has a growing family, a home in the country, a husband with a good job. Their friends, of course, vaguely follow suit. While they're not Today Tonight fans, and are unlikely to call me homophobic epithets, they do view me with a bemused interest which I play up with relish. I tell stories about late nights and regret, vaguely hinting at irresponsible dalliances and playing up my reliance on next-day coffee. It's kinda fun, and I feel like I'm providing a valuable service.

When the time comes to drive home, however, the suffering become real, and I wonder if I'm going to be able to survive the two hours without dozing off. I call Jamesy, I text folks, I eat lots of fruit, but nothing is working. Eventually I entertain myself by making a soul playlist on the iPod, and that gets me home.

When I come barging in through the door Hurley is there. I drop my stuff and demand we go out for dinner at once. In a few minutes we're at Tiba's again. Somehow we always end up there on a Sunday night, and somehow we're always totally fucking wrecked. We spend a lot of time rehashing the events of the weekend, but also equal amounts of time staring at the walls. When the food comes we eat ravenously, and it seems to revitalize us somehow, because once we have returned home we are equal parts hilarious and ridiculous.

The problem with sleep deprivation, however, is that the pendulum swings hard. By the time we get to Domestique I'm freaking wrecked, slumped in my seat and not speaking to anyone. I'm on the internet a lot, and a chain of events is being set in place that I'm inclined to follow through. Sarah Kizuk and I have been emailing back and forth a lot lately, and she finishes her email with "come fucking visit me." It comes off like an order, not an invitation. She's in St John's, Newfoundland, a place I never made it to when I was living in Quebec, but always kinda wanted to. Plus, she's an old friend, has known me through a lot of crap, and is probably the most sensitive and intuitive person I know. The idea of sitting up with her for the rest of the night drinking weird tea, then walking down to the harbour in the morning and watching icebergs drift by, plants itself in my heart and begins to take root.

Seemingly minutes later Leith posts on Facebook that his flight home from Hobart has been delayed, and asks if anyone is still awake to do an airport run to pick up him and Grover at 2.15. I do some quick math and figure out that the stage is going to finish around 1.30, and add in that it takes about half an hour to get to the airport. My hand goes up. It's going to be another late night.

It's a freaking great stage - watching the best cyclists in the world roll turns together like it's a handicap race is incredible, and a sight rarely seen in pro cycling - but I'm grumpy and belligerent, and keep yelling out for them to put the tennis on. Of course, when they do flip over in the ads, the tennis has been rained out. We go back to the cycling and FDJ's Thibault Pinot has stayed away solo. The footage of Marc Madiot in the team car, screaming at his young charge, is the highlight of the night.

On the way out to the airport I realize that I the credit card in my pocket probably has enough left on it to get me to Toronto. From there it's an easy bus ride to Montreal, where I still know a bunch of people. A day there and then I'd be once again standing on the side of the Trans-Canada, thumbing rides out to the edge of the Atlantic. The roots grow a little deeper.

As I walk through the sliding doors Leith and Grover are there walking towards me. I don't have a second to think about Newfoundland, Sarah K, weird oat tea or icebergs. They dump a box of leftover records in my arms and I toss Leith the keys.

It seems that I wasn't the only one feeling belligerent, however. In the post stage press conference Brad Wiggins, perhaps a little tired and definitely a little fed up, takes aim at the folks raising questions about the legitimacy of his performance. In five minutes he drops both the F and the C words. You can see the full quote here. Sure, it's probably bad for the sponsors, and Team Sky's PR machine will be in overdrive tonight, but if I ever see the guy, I'm going to totally high five him.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The First Sign Of First Light.

pic c/o Damoh, who had a better seat than me.

Stage Seven - Tomblaine to Le Planche des Belle Filles

There's this Bukowski poem I like. Well, to be fair there are a few. But I'm not one of those Bukowski guys, those guys who totally buy into the Bukowski schtick, who actually believe his 'drink your way to the truth' bullshit. I actually read other poets, you know? But right now the Bukowski poem I'm thinking of is called Dow Average Down, and is from Play The Piano Drunk Like A Percussion Instrument Until The Fingers Begin To Bleed A Bit. I'm thinking about it because of this stanza:

"you find yourself
alone again in your
bedroom grabbing your
guts and saying, o, shit
no, not again."

In the poem he's describing the process of falling out of love. Rereading it now I'm annoyed by the narcissism - those who know me will suggest ironically so - but that stanza continues to jump out at me. I think he's got it backwards, though. For me, the way out of a relationship is pretty simple - sure, it hurts, but it's a familiar pain, and by my age you pretty much know how to deal with both the pain and the suddenly acute practical needs of being alone again. It's the way into the relationship that is scary as all hell. There's a reason why they call it 'falling' in love and not 'cruising along and waking up one morning' in love. Sure, there's excitement and anticipation, but there's also crashing uncertainties, so many plummeting variables, all those jinxes to remove. It's never the right time, it's never the right person, there's always something that could and probably will go wrong. And so you find yourself alone again in your bedroom...

Last night was the first real hill stage of the tour, and it lived up to every expectation. Early on Jelmer had pontificated that Cadel would win. I was feeling a little expansive by that time, plus I was on my "I know way more about cycling than you do" high horse (horse subheading: "Don't you know I write a blog?"), so I offered to bet him five hundred dollars that Cadel would not win today's stage. I figured that it was too early in the race for him to be blowing himself apart, that he'd conserve his energies for the more serious climbs in the weeks to come. And when Sky went to the front and started blowing it apart I felt pretty good about my wager. Cadel was hanging in there, sure, but I was certain that he was just mitigating any potential time losses, that he would simply mark Wiggins until they cross the line.

But I forgot I was dealing with the new Cadel, the post-world-championships Cadel, the Cadel who throws it down and leaves nothing on the road. Even though there were two of the best climbers in the world with him - Wiggins and Froome - who also happened to be on the same team - he had a crack. Jelmer reminded me of my bet. KO reminded me of my bet. Folks around standing around us in the bar asked about the bet, and were filled in on the finer details. But I wasn't worried. There were two riders from Sky there! Surely they were going to 1-2 him, left jab to right hook for the knockout blow. Froome chases Evans and bridges across. I expect Wiggins to counter - right hook for the knockout blow - but Froome keeps on jabbing away and eventually scores enough points on them both. It's a huge move, but both Evans and Wiggins have over a minute on him in the GC, so they let him take the stage.

I reckon at the start of the stage Evans would've probably been aware that this was pretty much how it was going to pan out, that Sky would get on the front and shell everyone, that he'd be once again left without teammates in the mountains and would have to fend for himself. It's how he won The Tour last year. He probably knew what he was in for. He probably felt excitement and anticipation, but was probably also totally petrified. Before the stage he was probably in the team bus, grabbing his guts and saying, o, shit no, not again.

Friday, July 6, 2012

This Could Be The Year For The Real Thing.

Stage Six - Epernay to Metz

Ollie comes over and brings a sixer for himself and some crazy Rockstar energy drink for me. Up to this point I've never before consumed any of those fancy energy drinks - Coca Cola is about as hard as I get. But I look at the label. As well as the usual shit - caffeine and guarana - it has both taurine and a bunch of B vitamins in it. Both of the latter I take on a regular basis regardless - they're part of basic vegan maintenance. So I launch into it. An hour later my brain feels a little electricky. Everyone tells me I'm going to crash before the end of the stage. I don't care. Those neurons are jumping around everywhere and I'm cranking the music loud.

An evening watching The Tour is by definition a quiet night, but it's Friday, so in order to mitigate the mellowness we head up to the Domestique Pop-Up Bar. It's only open from Thursdays to Sundays throughout The Tour, and then will disappear into the wilderness again, but it's a brilliant idea that has been well executed.

It's freaking cold outside - my phone tells me 4 degrees - but inside it's all shirtsleeves. They have a bunch of those outdoor space heaters on. Inside. That's a stroke of genius - I always felt a little guilty releasing all of that heat out into the atmosphere just so I could sit outside, but inside I have no such qualms.

The stage today is flat and non-eventful. For the first two hours FJ goes around pointing out the elephant in the room - that pro cycling is boring. He is later seen jumping out of his seat in excitement about what is unfolding in front of him on the big screen. Everyone else seems content to sit and chat until the final ten minutes, when another sprint will unfurl like a flag.

Dave makes the mistake of asking me about my recent Salinger obsession. I tell him that Salinger was a victim of what I like to think of as the Weakerthans syndrome - where you love one item of work (Left and Leaving, in the case of the Weakerthans) by an artist so much that you don't even want to look at anything else by that artist, lest the perfection of that work, or your love for it, be diluted somehow. In the case of Salinger, I had my dad's old copy of Catcher in the Rye, and that was enough. Eventually, though, I was bored at my former job, went wandering through the library, and found a copy of Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters / Seymour: an Introduction. I fell in love with the Glass family and realized that sometimes love multiplies, rather than divides. I ask Dave about this in relationship to his young family and he confirms my suspicions, fairly glowing while he talks about his two young daughters.

Each year I think there are more crashes in The Tour than the last, and this one is no exception. This time the bunch gets split and a whole bunch of GC contenders - whose teams were apparently not focused, not attentive or just not committed to sheltering them from the tempests of the first week - get popped out the back. As soon as the first riders hit the deck Orica-GreenEdge go to the front and start turning it up. They're joined by BMC - there seems to be an Australian alliance at work, as BMC are obviously riding to help Cadel gain time on the GC contenders left behind, but also to get Cadel within three ks of the finish, so if there's another crash he won't lose time.

I've been impressed with BMC this Tour. It was a good decision to leave Hushovd out, I reckon. They seem to have a singularity of focus that the other GC teams don't possess - I think I even saw Phillippe Gilbert fetching drinks the other day. True to form they push to the front over the last ten ks, then swing wide to let the sprinters through once they hit the three to go mark. Lotto take over and drag Greipel to 100m to go, but Peter Sagan is on his wheel, and when the spring is uncoiled there's no bringing it back. The dude - and I use that phrase precisely - rips out this victory salute which we're later told is a tribute to the Incredible Hulk - fitting, since like the Hulk, Sagan seems to have made the colour green all his. FJ and I, both Sagan fans, high five, mimic his salute long after the broadcast has been turned off.

We spill out onto the street. It's even colder now - hovering around 2 degrees. Everyone appears to be smoking, but it's just the condensation of their breath. I take Ollie and FJ back to ours, but in the time it takes to drive those ten or eleven blocks both Ollie and I receive texts calling us to respective parties in different parts of the city. Not really wanting to drive, we decide to ride our bikes. Up through Northcote Plaza, along Separation, we ride with our hands in our armpits through quiet streets, not talking too much. Once upon a time we were fierce competitors, battling it out for the win every Tuesday night at DISC. But now some of that drive has disappeared - diluted, perhaps - and we're content to roll side by side until we reach Lygon. He turns into the city and I keep heading west. I put my headphones in and The Last Last One is playing. It's by the Weakerthans, from their first album, Fallow.