Monday, 13 July 2009

Cycling on Stage: Priming the Pumps of Legitimacy

(Inspirational Nike Chalkbot message, via a reader.)

The riders of the Tour de France may be enjoying a rest day today, but here in New York City cycling knows no respite. Instead, it marches inexorably forward, charging at the mainstream culture like an army of ants towards a popsicle stick on the sidewalk. One by one, items that were once unknown outside of the world of urban cycling have become bywords for "chic:" fixed-gears; messenger bags; even Dutch city bikes have captured the imaginations and wallets of people everwhere. And a reader informs me that this past weekend yet another cycling accoutrement may have made the transition. But unlike the others, which were merely surprising, this one is downright unthinkable. Yes, it seems that cycling's de facto Maillot Gauche, the Primal Jersey, has officially gained "indie rock" acceptance:

It seems this reader was attending a "Pool Party" in Williamsburg, Brooklyn when the band Ponytail took the stage, and incredibly the singer was wearing a Primal cycling jersey in the same "Snake Bite" colo[u]rway depicted above:

Here's a somewhat clearer picture, which shows the Primal jersey set against the Manhattan skyline in sharp, horrific relief:

Even though I'd never heard of Ponytail before receiving this email, I can nonetheless state unequivocally that this is a moment of great cultural import--especially in the context of the Urban Outfitters bike. Arguably, once Urban Outfitters sells something, it is impossible to "rock" it ironically, since Urban Outfitters essentially sells pre-packaged irony. However, now that Primal wear has officially been worn onstage in an ironic fashion, we could see sort of an ironic gold rush of cycling dorkitude; in fact, helmet mirrors, lycra half-shorts, and recumbent bicycles could very well be the next items to fall. This is because, in a sense, once you've donned a Primal jersey it's impossible to degrade yourself any further, so you might as well just go with it. It's kind of like how you don't worry about getting your hands dirty after you've been wading armpit-deep in raw sewage.

Also, in another sense, this could represent a whole new era of wearing lifestyle sportswear onstage. I'm not saying anybody will ever reach the heights of Living Colour, who broke new ground in 1988 when Vernon Reid wore motocross pants and Corey Glover wore a surfing wetsuit in the video for "Cult of Personality:"

(1988: The Golden Age of Athletic Stagewear)

But the fact remains that if the singer of Ponytail can wear a Primal jersey onstage, then some other "indie" band can take it a step further and order an entire cycling ensemble complete with "Eat My Dust" socks, Mapei gloves, and SPD sandals from The Secret Website--assuming they are willing to risk the credit card theft.

Incidentally, as I mentioned, I'd never heard of Ponytail before (probably because Barry Wicks did not include them on either of the "mix tapes" he sent me) but in the spirit of due diligence I checked them out and I must say I now understand the choice of chemise since they truly are the aural equivalent of a Primal Jersey:

Really "feeling" the caterwauling. I think Corey Glover may have just soiled his Body Glove wetsuit.

And Primal isn't the only bikey thing to get a nod from the world beyond cycling this past weekend. Indeed, fixed-gear freestyling in general and fixed-gear freestyle impresario Prolly in particular received both a New York Times article and the coveted audio slideshow treatment:

While I was genuinely pleased for Prolly and his "peeps," I was dismayed to note that even in an article of roughly 350 words the Times must still devote almost a third of those words to explaining both the workings of a fixed-gear bicycle and the fact that messengers have historically been fond of them. I suppose though that this does buy the trend's underground status some time, since fixed-gears won't really have become mainstream until the Times can dispense with those formalities. Once they do, you'll know it's "arrived" After all, even the Times doesn't explain how skateboards work every time they mention them.

But while in certain respects the state of cycling here in New York City is becoming almost nauseatingly Portlandesque, it would appear that things are far worse for our siblings in Los Angeles, where a reader informs me that a cyclist was shot during a group ride:

I was pleased to read that the cyclist is in stable condition, and I was also amazed to read that he may have been saved by his own bag. Indeed, this is a dark day for for panniers. I guess now going "bareback" can be as deadly on the bike as it can be in the bedroom. It's bad enough that whenever people hear about a bicycle accident the first thing they ask is, "Was he wearing a helmet?" Now they'll ask, "Was he wearing a messenger bag?" too. And speaking of protection, another reader informs me that someone has finally invented a foldable helmet:

This is great news. Not only I can retire that honeycomb paper ball I've been wearing, but the hipsters can also keep their helmets in their pockets next to their U-locks.

Too bad it's not bulletproof.


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