– Do you remember Chris Waskevich? I do. Not the person, but the name. Somehow I raced through the 90’s then the ’00’s and never saw Christian Vande Velde filed under ‘Chicago pro success story.’ But Chris Waskevich? He seemed to race everywhere in America and the gnarlier the slugfest, the better his results. I couldn’t pick him out of a lineup of two people, but I can tell you who he raced for: Turin. Not the ancient Italian city, but the Chicago bike shop whose sponsorship embodied a whole city no less than GS Mengoni did New York. Where have you gone, Chris Waskevich, a city turns it’s lonely eyes to you?
– More Turin here. Watch it and forget about the sweet, innocent youth of Jim Ochowicz and Mike Neel. Instead hold your breath until about 6:20. Dig the glimpse of Gerald Ford-era Chicago. Title it ‘Scenes of Metropolitan Leprosy’ and thank God it wasn’t you racing in the 70’s and thank God again if you weren’t yet alive. This isn’t the Chicago of Wilco pop and Intelligentsia coffee. It’s Eastern Bloc. It’s the near end of civilization.
– Another pro I couldn’t ID is Ken Hanson of Optum-Kelly Benefits. He won the 2012 US Pro Criterium Championships which means he got a stars and stripes jersey. But I regret to inform him that since the race is now held in Grand Rapids, Michigan after its 100-year long stint in Downers Grove the victory is hollow. The only thing that redeemed the sketchy prestige of the designation of ‘pro crit champion’ (does any other country hold such a race? Does Belgium have a single-day Kermesse championship?) was the pilgrimage to the holy Chicago suburb of Downers Grove itself.
– I don’t know whether Wilmette counts as Chicago or not. But the somewhat-recently-opened shop Velosmith is clearly the city’s promised land for unordinary brands, extraordinary service, and good-humored roadie pretense. If BKW could have a physical manifestation, Velosmith would be it.
– It’s to be expected that the search for a new AWD wagon inevitably leads to SUV temptation. For anyone with a nose for Euro bikes, naturally the study of SUVs ends up at the Porsche Cayenne. It’s a vehicle that arouses opinion as strong as Shimano v. Campagnolo, with some friends telling me ‘sensational’ and ‘perfect’, while others claim that driving one is culturally indistinguishable from leathered-up CPAs roaring through the ‘burbs on Harleys.
A brief exploration of the Cayenne revealed two things to me. First, the E350 I covet has more cargo room. Then there’s the subculture of Porsche 911 worship, a world that makes puddles of otherwise thoughtful men. The web-wide, tongue-tied praise for the 911 barrel-rolled my brain about what car I need. Victim to my own materialistic acrobatics, I spent a furious day this weekend immersing myself in an education on the wundercar of Stuttgart.
What amazes me the most isn’t the car itself, but rather the universality of the lust for it. The absence of controversy about what car is best, that’s what’s most remarkable about the 911 (going under the presumption here, as many do, that Ferraris, Lambos, Bentleys, etc. aren’t so much cars as reflections of the people who own them.) The 911 appears to be the connoisseurs’ car, the driver’s car. Consensus like this exists about nada in the world of bikes. Certainly not about bicycles themselves. Not even about chamois cream. There’s an irony that in the supreme realm of design-meeting-engineering, there is unity.
And just as I was about to make my first ever visit to a Porsche dealer I was stung by an inconvenient thought. It was a focused on bikes, not cars. As I’ve gotten older there’s been one clear change in how I ride. Yes, I’ll still pinball between cars in traffic. I’ll still call aggravating drivers cunts and bang their windows and unzip my body through waves of pain to hold a wheel up a climb. But I’ve adopted absurd caution on descents. I don’t know what worries me more: the presence or the lack of guardrails. A single case of speed wobble last year had me sell the bike and the wheels that spawned it. I’ve become a late-life expert in brake pad technology now that my practice isn’t to tap or feather brakes but to grab fistfuls at every bend. With an attitude like that about high speed, what business do I have shopping for a 911 or its SUV sibling? None. And, like that, the fascination ended.