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“Revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night.” – Bruce Springsteen
Seems like they’ve re-invented the wheel…again. I said 20 years ago around the first time I saw rolling luggage that if we weren’t the laziest people on the planet before, we’ve definitely achieved it now. How lazy do you have to be that you can’t lift up your own luggage and carry it? I remember telling my friend at the airport that day that this was the beginning of the end for fitness. We had found another way to not do something physical. But then it got worse. Not only did big bags have rollers on it because let’s face it, even I can understand a 50 or 60 pound bag having wheels is a good idea. But carry-on luggage with wheels? Are you effing kidding me? We’re literally turning ourselves into veal. Then when I thought it got as bad as it could possibly get, it got worse. Last year, Tallulah, Serena’s daughter, who I get to influence once every other week when she’s living with us, had a book bag. Guess what it came with? That’s right, wheels. Isn’t it bad enough that we’ve cut physical education out of schools? It was once five days a week, then one day a week, then one day a month. In most cases in the public school system, it may be one day a semester or one day a year. Now we’re further harming kids by not even letting them lift their books. A lot of things are different from when I was a kid. We didn’t even have back packs. They used to literally sell a big thick rubber band with a metal hook to wrap around your books to carry them home. Now we have every device in the world to carry more books than ever before. Yet our nation becomes dumber every time I look. I told you that to tell you this. What does this have to do with cycling? Everything, especially if you are talking about performance. There was a time back when modern-day bicycles didn’t even have brakes. As a matter of fact, in the early running of the Tour de France, they couldn’t include the Alps because the riders had no way to break their downhill speed. There was something else different about bikes back then. They all had fixed gears. Put simply, you couldn’t stop peddling. The bike wouldn’t coast. I read an article once from the early 1900s, which came out shortly after the free wheel was introduced. This meant the bike could coast. The wheels would keep turning as the pedals were still. The whole idea behind this article was that riders would become lazy. They would begin to lose the muscles cycling offered for the legs, along with suppleness. You know what? It was right. There was an old practice of the Italian cycling team coaches, and in some cases still today, where cyclists ride only fixed gear bikes in the off season. This was to gain back what we call their spin. As a matter of fact, a great example of a fixed gear bike is the Johnny G Spinner made by Schwinn, which is the bike used in most spinning classes. Was this method of building a stationary bike an accident? No. When Johnny Goldberg invented the spinner, he was into ultracycling. He was looking for a way to stay in shape once the sun went down, without staying outside. I’ve personally been a fan of fixed gear riding in the off season since the early 1980s, when I started riding. It was a method used by some of the better cyclists around New Orleans. I figured I had to adapt pretty quickly to be competitive. It worked. I think as Americans we are always to eager to point a finger when something goes wrong. Why is America the fattest, laziest nation on the planet? It’s easy to point the finger at McDonalds, they’re on every street corner. Maybe we can point to technology. When I was a kid, to watch a different TV program, you had to get off the couch and change the channel. That’s no longer necessary. Every building didn’t have an escalator or elevator. There was a method we used called stairs. If I wanted to get somewhere as a kid, I either hoofed it or rode a bike. We didn’t have Segways.