Go Dad Go!

A self-important blog about riding bikes, raising kids and the all-too-rare nexus of these two pursuits.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Two Threads

Lately my cycling team’s listserv has borne two threads, and I’m sure I’m not the first to consider the irony of their coincidence: One bemoans and debates the state of professional cycling, and the other remembers, vaguely, fallen rider Ed Weiss.

We've about encapsulated the cycling spectrum with these concurrent online conversations: In one thread we piece together memories of Ed, eventually all realizing: "Oh, that guy," even though most of us have seen him while riding many times. Worlds away not just from the professional peloton but even our small-time local racing scene, Ed was notable first because he rode, obviously, at the margin, and in so many senses of that word -- but also for his dedication: we all saw him at all hours, grinding away, saddle too low and cutoff jeans clearly uncomfortable, evidently unperturbed by an utter lack of carbon fiber in his world. Oh -- that guy.

And in the other thread we write of larger-than-life characters, riders most of us have never seen up close but whom we all recognize. Where we can all eventually identify Ed Weiss for his marginality, it's starting to seem that the riders we know best are those who ride right down the center line, falling into cadence and doing-it-because-everyone-else-does-it.

I figured out this year, as I tracked and wrote about the post-Puerto Tour as avidly as any I'd ever followed, that I'll always be a professional cycling fan. I'm hooked. It's beautiful to watch and fascinating to follow. If next year half the peloton gets ejected and they cancel the Tour, I'll fret about it, and then a couple of months later I'll check Vuelta updates every morning. There's just too much to admire in those pros, doped or not: panache and ganas, work ethic and natural ability...whatever it is, I don't have it (at least not in those amounts) and I can't help but want to be part of it, even if from a distance.

But this recent confluence of disparate threads is a vivid reminder that we can find cycling's beauty in unlikely places, not just in the Tour de France. That Ed Weiss would push himself to the top of Grizzly Peak on that old bike, baseball cap pulled low, tennis shoes curling around his rat-trap pedals, is a different kind of beautiful. I'm not sure why Ed rode his bike, whether it was for fitness, or purely for transportation (though I don't think so), or in pursuit of some kind of freedom, but he rode, evidently unperturbed by our whizzing by him in all of our lycra-clad confidence.

Not that this is one of those let's-remember-the-true-heroes reminders; I don't know enough about Ed Weiss to suggest as much. I remember seeing him ride, and I remember thinking, "That looks really tough." I also remember thinking, "Where's his helmet?"

Anyone who has seen professional cycling teams riding in their winter training camps knows that most of them don't wear helmets when they don't have to -- when they're not racing. And I'm guessing that's why Ed didn't wear one: because he didn't have to. I have no idea if a helmet would have saved his life -- but from here on out, not only am I going to strongly suggest getting a helmet to every team jersey-clad racer I see riding without one, and when I see someone like Ed, someone who may just not know why it's insane to ride without one, I'm going to talk to him about it. Hell, I have extra helmets; what if I'd offered one to Ed on one of those many rides when we crossed paths?

I see that a viewpark along Skyline is being named for Ed. A fitting tribute for its location and its spectacular view, which all of us cyclists are afforded -- when we remember to look up from the wheel in front of us. Fitting also because now people will have a chance to know about a cyclist who may well have deserved some renown – at least as much as those professionals who so vividly capture our attention, rightfully or not.


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