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February 7, 2013 1 comment

Grant Petersen - Admire But Pity The Pro Racer.

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Grant Petersen - Admire But Pity The Pro Racer.
We mentioned here recently how we have been lucky enough to have Rivendell's Grant Petersen contribute a piece for our forthcoming edition of the Brooks Bugle. The excellence of the machines designed and assembled by Petersen and his team in Walnut Creek, California has long since attained Article of Faith status among aficionados of lugged steel frames around the world. Not forgetting that before setting up on his own, his work as a designer at Bridgestone in the early 90s had already spawned the iconic X0 series. On top of all this, he writes a mean sentence, as suavely evinced down the years in the Rivendell Reader, but also more recently on the Rivendell website and blog. He currently has a book out too, Just Ride. It provides counterpoints to much of the conventional wisdom of cycling, from perspectives technical, physical and spiritual. We'll let the man himself take up the story... Admire But Pity The Pro Racer. I kind of halfway believe that Britain’s Bradley Wiggins is one of that rare breed, a clean, modern era Tour de France winner, and as my friend Eben might say, way to go, Stanley! But can’t we just, I don’t know, admire his racing accomplishments without feeling compelled to be his clone? Are professional racing and its heroes so magically powerful and influential that we can’t watch without copying? Please, Lord, do not let that be so. I hope, in the little space remaining, to make a case for applauding the racers while at the same time, pitying them for all there is to pity them for, and it’s a lot. To a pro, racing is a job. Is it a good job? I’d hate it, but judge for yourself: Racers ride 20,000 miles a year. That’s 55 miles x 365. If you ride 220 days a year (about the same number as a salaryman works), it’s 90 a day. Fun? I like sardines, but I don’t want to eat three pounds of them every day. Pro racers have no choice, though. Riding is their job. If you’re not a pro, don’t make it your job, too. Watch the Tour, but pity the participants who don’t have the luxury of a fun ride, a family ride, a woodsy tour, or a day off to do something else. Can we applaud the hero without wanting to be him? It’s worth a try. Pity, also, the racers for having to wear tight, synthetic adver-clothing. It works, clearly, but outside of pro racing, it’s not required. Maybe you prefer spandex and lycra to cotton and wool. Maybe you prefer tight clothing that hides nothing, to casual looseness that’s more flattering. Maybe you prefer the look of corporate logos on your clothing to, say, nondescript solids, a fun stripe, and the occasional tartan or tweed. Weirdo… Then, heavens, the bikes. A racing bike is pared of every spare ounce, no matter how useful. The frames aren’t made to last twenty years because pros get several new ones every season. Fenders (American for mudguards - Ed.) add weight and slow down wheel changes, so racers don’t ride them. Wheels can be light and fragile because replacements are free from team support. Lights and bags and baskets are out because racers ride in daylight and don’t carry stuff.  The racing bike is the most impractical bicycle on the planet. Let Bradley ride the bike he’s paid to ride, and you ride something better.