The unbearable heaviness of racing

Fukdude was musing about the high cost of elderly gent bike racing. “I’m gonna need a fuckin second job to pay my fuckin entry fees.”

Richard Sachs says less, using more words. “What incentive is there to continue? The costs escalate. The prizes don’t cover anything at all. You have to be committed to a training program to even approach being competitive enough to get a place.”

And finally, from the crack whores at VeloNews, on the orgasm that is the new Dura-Ace 11-speed group, there’s this. “Yes, the new Dura-Ace is lighter, yes it has another cog, yes it’s more expensive…”

More expensive.

Not less expensive.

More expensive.

How much more expensive? Does it even matter? I mean, it’s more than the $3,100 price tag of the “old” Di2 10-speed, so how much more expensive could it be?

How much more expensive it could be

The crack whores tell us that the new 11-speed is going to be in the neighborhood of $4,200. Dollars. And if that seems like a lot of money to spend on an extra cog, you can comfort yourself that the hemorrhage is just getting started, because the 11-speed stuff won’t work with any of your wheels. Chuck the $2,700 Zipps and any other wheels you have in your quiver. You’ll need new ones.

Don’t bother adding any of this up. It will be too painful. Just do some touchy-feely accounting, though, and ballpark the frame, the group, the wheels, the coach, the analytical software, the power meter, the shoes, the clothes, the drugs, the gas, the food, the race entry fee, the Barbie food you need for long rides, the sugar drinks you need for every ride, the gym membership, the spare bike, the tubes ($15), the tires ($70), the license, and you’ll easily hit 25k for one year of serious racing.

That’s assuming you don’t crash, upgrade components, replace worn parts, or drop your bike off at the shop for a tune-up or overhaul.

Not doing cocaine isn’t a real good justification

We’ve all heard this one. “Yeah, I spend a lot racing my bike, but at least I’m not screwing hookers and doing cocaine.”

So those are your choices in life? Bike racing, or hookers and cocaine?

The fact is that cycling at all levels has gone far beyond what most people can afford to pay. The shrinking pool of bike racers, despite the explosion in the number of cyclists, is a result of this technological free-for-all, in which only the rich can compete. If you don’t think 25k a year in disposable bike income makes you rich, you’re proving my point.

Yachting solved the problem by developing races in which the equipment was standardized. One-Design class races feature boats that are essentially the same, and in which the race isn’t decided by the person who spends the most. Cycling is desperately in need of this. When Cat 5 racers are forced through ignorance, peer pressure, bad judgment, or necessity to purchase thousands of dollars in equipment just to do a stupid 4-corner crit and crash on the third lap, there’s something terribly wrong.

Wankmeister’s One-Design bike racing solution

Always eager to get his hands dirty with the poopy, corn-studded problems that others won’t touch, Wankmeister has devised a system that will equalize the competition, make bike racing affordable, and allow him to stop siphoning off college tuition money to pay for Charon’s next crit win. Regulate race equipment as follows:

1. Frame: steel or chromoly only
2. Group: mechanical down-tube shifters only
3. Wheels: aluminum rim, 32 or 36-spoke only
4. Tires: clinchers only
5. Analytics: no speedometers, power meters, GPS devices of any kind
6. Drugs: RuggedMAXXX2 only
7. Coaching: Cap’n Taintbag’s free online coaching only
8. Helmet: DOT-approved motorcycle helmets only
9. Drinks: water only
10. Food: bananas, peanut butter, bread only

An idea whose time has come? Probably not. Just don’t send me a nastygram about how important technology is to safe and competitive bike racing. They raced the fucking Tour for the first thirty-one years with no derailleurs. Want to go uphill? Get off your fucking bike, yank the rear wheel and change gears. So don’t go whining about how you can’t race without 11-speed electro-shifting bullshit.

And remember this: As race fields dwindle, fewer young people get involved in the sport, and the only market growth is among 40+ men and women with a professional career and lots of disposable income, it might be time to level the playing field where it matters most–in the pocketbook.

35 thoughts on “The unbearable heaviness of racing”

  1. This sounds like the ravings of a socialist! The same equipment for everyone? Why, you probably vote for Barak Hussein Obama and support Universal HealthCare! You….you….Commie Swine.

    1. Plus, everyone should have the same length penis. That’s why I support RuggedMAXXX2, and you should too.

  2. I’m in! I already have a bike that meets criteria 1-5. However, peer pressure is a bitch. I don’t dare ride that bike near Fireman.

    1. Fireman won’t be such a snob when we stick him on a chromoly framed, six cogged, downshifting, motorcycle helmeted rig and a wool pair of underwear. And toe clips. Can’t forget the toe clips.

  3. jack from illinois

    This is spot on. At a minimum, the first 5 years of racing must be done subject to the above described restrictions. Even better would be to require that all racers must ride a bike spec’d randomly by one of their competitors. That is to say, bring a bike to the race but someone else has to ride it. You must ride what ever piece of junk someone else brings. That way, every one brings something safe but not overly nice.

    1. Remember when you paid $1,200.00 for a bike and it came full Campy, sewups, race ready, and it lasted for five seasons if you wanted it to?

  4. Outstanding frontier gibberish WM. Apparel restrictions for sure. $259 Assos bibs disallowed. Tacked on cleats and crochet gloves I say.

  5. The Fred Hunter

    Retro-progressive (retrogressive?) peeks from its shell at last. You are our voice, the voice of the future, and all other voices that have a voice.
    If your current gig doesn’t work out, there’s a place for you in the UCI, but you may be slightly ahead of your time. Fret not; they will catch up…significant progress has been made in the last few years and “progres” continues even now. Be patient……

    1. Speaking of gigs…do you know the difference between a viola player and a frog?

  6. Hey Wanky, now I won’t have to make the anxiety riddled decision over whether to have go with the 27 and sacrifice the 11 or 16. What, you want my cadence to ever vary from the scientifically determined perfect 94 rpm as determined in my sixteen hour bike fit and sleep test.

    1. Har! I know you’re lying. A proper bike fit can only be done over a three-year period, with the little electrodes attached to your peter and a rectal camera to make sure that you’re bending at the proper angle. That’s what the pros do, and we’re nothin’ if not pro.

  7. To be serious for a moment, there is nothing that can be done to fight cost escalation because we’ve become a nation of over competitive DB’s.

    And if you think it’s bad in sports played by balding, middle-aged guys, you haven’t been around youth sports lately. Want your kid to make his/her HS team? Spend tens of thousands per year on private coaching, club teams and travel to tournaments. Then, when your kid does make the HS team as a second string bench warmer, the club coach will insist he quit the HS team because, according to the club coach, the HS coach is a hack that doesn’t know chit from shinola who will teach your kid bad habits that undermine what he’s learned in club.

    Unless you figure out a way to temper the competitiveness of the average American,there is no way to go back to the “good old days.” We have become a nation that worships Vince Lombardi. Winning isn’t everything it’s the only thing. And it doesn’t matter whether we’re competitng to get our kid into the “right” pre-school, a Sunday morning sprint for a City Limit sign, or the Stanley Cup.

    1. I refused to put my kids into any of that crap. They all seemed to do fine, playing sports casually until they quit. I never gave a rat’s ass whether they continued, and encouraged them not to waste time on athletics at the expense of academics.

      You’ve nailed part of the problem, but the other part is the vendors who fan that flame using the tactics you describe. The same thing goes on at every level of every sport. There’s a great video of Brad Wiggins sponsored by Shimano, where he gives a few words to how awesome the “new” [now old] Di2 stuff is. His plug? It’s great stuff because the other “old” stuff was such crap! So all that stuff that he rode and that the crack whores extolled and that we paid top dollar for was really just crap. Listen to the clip from :27-1:04. Hilarious!!

      The best part of all, though, is that this topic allows me fully exercise my hypocrisy muscle. I ride a new Venge! And when people ask me the difference between it and my SL2, I look at them, think seriously, and offer this: “My SL2 was white. My Venge is black.” They smile nervously, and wait for the punchline. They’re still waiting.

      1. I refused to have kids so that I would not have to put them into any of that crap. That and to have more money to spend on my own hyper-competitive pursuits. You can’t imagine how expensive pro-quality, tournament-grade tiddley winks are!

  8. Could only be better if Part Deux is about the pyramid scheme that is USAC and “amateur cycling”.

    1. Can you hum the first few bars for me? I might be able to make up the rest of the song.

  9. You want a participation trophy (medal)? Go enter a 5k or heart walk. Winning IS the only thing. Herm Edwards said it best, “You play to win the game.” Otherwise there would be no scoreboard, no clock, and no bad-ass carbon componentry hung on equally bad-ass frames. BTW, show some respect, capitalize the mother fuckin “C” in Campy. Tullio demands it.

    1. If I played to win I’d never play. People who compete only to win are the tiny minority. Most compete to improve or to experience the intensity that you only get in competition. You think the 20k entrants in the Boston Marathon are there to win? You think 90% of the guys in the Tour are there to win?

      Bad mistake with Campy!!!!! Will fix–

    2. Yo, wanker! Where is “Campy” not capitalized? I looked and can’t find it.

  10. 2new4anickname

    Wanky, So I was in Petaluma for work yesterday and what did I see roll past on the street? Why it was a dude on a chromoly frame with downtube shutters and a Moto helmet. Someone up there must read your blog. Too bad I was too slow on the draw and couldn’t get my camera out in time

    1. Crap! That happens to me, too, every single time I see an alien spaceship. Well, at least you tried!

  11. $25k. WTF? Really? How much will you pay for quad bipass, open heart surgery from sitting on your couch every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday morning eating a dozen donuts and drinking a gallon of coffee? Last time I checked it was well over $250k and that was just the surgery alone. Not to mention the endless supply of blood thiners and nitro glecerin pills and a crap load of other $hit to swallow. You should look at this as pay me now or pay me later instead of “wow this is a lot of money.” Don’t be penny wise and pound dumba$$. Buy everything you think might improve your form. It just might and it keeps an industry inventing new products to keep you away from the OR. Live and let ride!

    1. Soooo…those are the two alternatives? $25k in bike race expenses or a $250k bypass w/donuts and couch? Really?

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