Thursday, 4 August 2011

Easy Riders: Roam Wasn't Filmed in a Day

Have you ever wanted to "light out?" Just grab your Scattante, stuff a few jars of Cheez Whiz into your panniers, abandon your tiny house to the next duder, and go? Of course you have. Sometimes it's hard to not to feel like you hear the open road a-callin' your name. "Wildcat, Wildcat!," I hear it whisper sometimes while I'm watching "Judge Judy," and I look longingly at my Smugness Flotilla. Why not just load my family aboard it, leave the workaday world behind, and roam free for the rest of my days as the wily patriarch of a roguish clan of street-savvy vagabonds?

Well, mostly because I need constant access to clean restrooms, and life on the road is "grody."

Some people however are not confined by such "square" concerns, nor are they afraid to set themselves free to fly upon the capricious winds of fate. For these whimsical souls, the bicycle is their wings, the road is their home, gainful employment is their sworn enemy, and crotch rot is their bunkmate. Most importantly, though, the video camera is their constant companion. And of course the car to carry the camera. And the cameraman. And all their stuff. They're like modern-day Huckleberry Finns, forsaking the mighty Mississippi in favor of the log flume at Six Flags Great Adventure.

Yesterday, I mentioned a Kickstarter campaign in which a disgruntled MFA will draw his way across the United States of Canada's Athletic Cup. He will travel a well-worn furrow, plowed by many before him--including the members of Bandcycle, a pair of intrepid Brooklyn duders who rode across the country in order to see bands play and then made an Internet TV series out of it. Here is the trailer, which was forwarded to me by one of the members:

As a clean bathroom enthusiast and person who's always found it necessary to do some kind of "work" in exchange for the money with which I can purchase essential goods and services, I've never "lit out," and so I'm always interested in what empowers those who do. In most cases, the protagonists of these "lighting out" videos sort of skirt the issue, but the Bandcycle duders confront it head-on:

"We grew up with them telling us, 'You can do whatever you want. Any dreams you have, you can accomplish them.' And we believed it. And we, we still kinda do."

That's it! I finally understand it now! In fact, this may very well be the Rosetta Stone that explains every lifestyle trend, project, video, product, "collabo," artisanal enterprise, and social phenomenon by which I have heretofore been vexed or flummoxed. Apparently, people are actually growing up being told that they can do whatever they want! And so they are!

"I want to ride my bike and check out bands for an extended period of time instead of working."

Actually, Best Made Co. might want to rethink their entry into the fashionable extension cord business, since if the tiny house craze continues to grow then there's going to be zero demand for them.

Anyway, like (I thought) most people, I grew up being told that you can't do whatever you want--or, more accurately, that you can technically do whatever you want, but if you do you'll be fucked. It's a good thing I did, too, since even if I had made it through samurai school I don't see how I could possibly have made a living at it. Therefore, the idea that there are now entire neighborhoods inhabited by people who really do believe they can do whatever they want is simultaneously fascinating and horrifying to me. I can't decide if this belief is the secret to a new era of human liberation and fulfillment, or if it's an insidious delusion that will lead us swiftly to our own artisanally curated demise.

Either way, I'm pretty sure that the Bandcycle crew saw the wrong side of Fred Woo-Hoo-Hoo-Hoo speed on numerous occasions:

Though evidently they also hit Fred "Oh Shit!" speed at least once:

And also fell fell victim to the "double-Fred body sled:"

And even the dreaded "triple-Fred chainring tattoo:"

Though it wasn't all bad, and there was the time they got to be totally lazy in two states at once:

In any case, I'm sincerely glad the Bandcycle duders got to live their dream and enjoy what looks like an "epic" adventure, and I'm also convinced we're now living in a new golden age of bearded American back-country adventure cycling:

If you don't believe me, look no further than Rapha, who are to "epic" as Primal Wear are to charity rides:

Rapha Continental USA Pro Cycling Challenge Prologue from RAPHA on Vimeo.

The above is their latest "Continental" video, and in it you will see untrammeled beards flowing wild and free:

By the way, if you're wondering what the "Continental" is, so are the riders themselves:

"I was asked at the start of this trip, 'What is the Rapha Continental?' It seems like no one knows."

It seems odd to me that something Rapha invented and made innumerable movies about would still be so difficult to define at this point. I mean, if you made something yourself, how can you not know what it is? Sure, there are exceptions to this, like the amorphous blobs kindergardeners make out of fingerpaint and macaroni, but I can't imagine this is what they were going for. (Though I could see Primal Wear introducing a fingerpainting jersey.) In any case, since everyone's having so much trouble, I'll take a stab at it and say that the Continental is a bunch of people who make movies of themselves riding bikes in Rapha clothes. Feel free to add something about the ineffable spirit of cameraderie that grows out of self-imposed suffering, and about how the smell of boutique embrocation mingles tantalizingly with the heady aroma of Stumptown coffee in the morning, and I think that pretty much nails it.

As for the beards, that's a bit more ambiguous. I'm guessing it's a symbol of freedom and individuality. Then again, it could also just be something the rest of the riders like to rub for luck:

(A friend with a beard: it's like a rabbit's foot for vegans.)

Of course, there's more to the Continental than that, too. There's also the bikes. The Rapha Continental riders ride handmade steel bikes in somber hues. They do not ride Dayglo plastic singlespeeds, as forwarded to me by a reader:

So what is it? It's a bike made entirely out of venetian blinds:

With bike design, it's almost impossible to produce something entirely new because the basic format has been perfected over 100 years. Leave it to a design student to shake things up with an altogether different take on the urban bike -- a groovy, multicolored ride made from plastic with shutter-shade slats.

Indeed, leave it to a design student to ignore a century of subtle refinement and build a shopping cart without the grocery-"portaging" ability. Then again, the venetian blind technology could be useful in time trialling--just open the slats in crosswinds and close them in headwinds. Perhaps Andy Schleck, who was undone by his subpar time trialling, could benefit from this innovation since I'm sure he's getting desperate:

Or else maybe Frank Schleck could grow a beard and Andy could rub it before every stage for luck.


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