Dirty Words: The Whirlwinds of Change

By Sal Ruibal

I didn't watch the Big Race in France today, so I finally got to get on a bike and zip around the local woods. We've had a weird weather year with just a trace of snow and lots of crazy wind. Since April, we've had an almost-daily mix of rain squalls and freight-train winds ripping through the two neighboring MTB trail parks. Stasis has been manifested. All of my woods bikes are in desperate need of a bath, our cone-head cat just got back from kitty surgery, the wife is out of town visiting her mom in La Boca Vista and the kitchen sink is full of congealed cereal bowls. What to do? What to do?

Behold--the mighty Whirlwind.

I made the only decision possible: I went for a ride on one of my favorite bikes, the Gaansari Whirlwind. I've rhapsodized about this bike before, but it is truly special. Pennies per pedal stroke, the single-speed, 29-er Whirlwind is probably my most inexpensive bike. There are many individual bike parts that cost more what than I paid for the 'Wind. And I happily paid that cash to fellow bike journo Gary Boulanger, whose work is seen in our little sister magazine, Paved. Thanks, Gary. He's the "G" in Gaansari.

Even if I wasn't a cog in the bike-making machinery, I wouldn't understand why everyone doesn't have a bike to love. People have multiple cars, iPhones, big-screen TVs, swimming pools, drug and alcohol habits and ex-spouses. Why not one simple bike?

Is it the fear of riding, being exposed to cars and potholes and maybe showing your big ass in Lycra? Really, no one cares.

The dirty little secret may be that our society has forgotten how to ride a bike. Fear and loathing of the bike may have its roots in the childhood trauma of learning how to ride a bike. Some people never get over that disappointment of not being able to ride down the street on a cool bike.

In the '50s and '60s, it would have been crazy to have a bike-training school because most of us were already riding our bikes to school. The bike racks were huge back then. I go past West Springfield High School now and there's maybe six or seven bikes and a couple of hundred cars.

Some smart person should come up with a simple, repeatable method of teaching kids, adults, seniors, the Undead and Republicans how to ride a bike: Dump Obamacare and start VeloCare. A lot of the backlash about New York City's new bike-share program is misguided anger from the many New Yorkers who never learned how to ride. Yeah, they command billions of trust fund dollars, but can't command their body to ride a bike. They must seethe with shame to see people with a lot less money daring to have fun on a bike. Someday they'll take that from us, too. From my cold, dead hands.

But until then, bike riding should be a part of every school's physical education program. In no time at all, the need for school buses and car rides to school would decrease dramatically, kids would be healthier, the air cleaner, the roads safer. Bike Love rain on me!

Two thousand bucks and it won't take you anywhere at all.

I hope that the guys in the Tour de France truly love what they are doing, that it's not just like working the night shift at the Prague pretzel factory. I've loped around their magnificent playground a few times and came back so full of love for the sport and the beauty of riding in the countryside of France.

What they feel from their roadside spots as the peloton passes is not just the thrill of seeing their favorite sports stars whiz by in a two-second blur, it is connecting with a feeling that has been imbedded in their DNA for 100 years.

Perhaps our bike legacy is that dorky $2,000 ProForm Tour de France stationary training bike in those ads that run 20 times a day during the Tour: Flashy, digitized, overpriced and going nowhere fast.