The Daily


The Finalists: Win a Bicycle Contest

July 25, 2012 | by

Our inbox runneth over! We asked you to describe the facing image in three hundred words—in the style of Ernest Hemingway, P. G. Wodehouse, Joan Didion, Elizabeth Bishop, or Ray Bradbury—and some two hundred of you did just that. We had hoped to announce a winner yesterday, but it took us this long just to read through all the manly terseness, Jeevesian whimsy, California deadpan, villanelles (“Write it! Pedal faster”), and Martiana. Plus a surprising number of entries that went their own way and ignored the “in the style of” part of the contest—thereby forfeiting the chance to win a bicycle but showing impressive powers of imagination when it comes to devils and flappers on wheels.

Scroll down to read excerpts from our finalists. And again, many thanks to Velojoy and Hudson Urban Bicycles!

The Drones’ First Annual Charity Tour De Blandings and Fancy Dress Ball took a wrong turn when Freddie Widgeon and Billie Mainwaring arrived. Somehow each had misread the invitation and got the idea that the cycling was fancy dress. Billie came as a “Muse of Modern Dance,” all chiffon and gauze and trailing scarves. Isadora Duncan on a velocipede. Freddie had on a fearfully complete devil’s costume, though how he’d pedal in those hoof-shaped boots got right past me.

—Elliot Nesterman

There is an unending abyss in a bicycle pedal. She could feel it in each foot, neatly pinched into squeaky leather, pushing down, down, down, never arriving anywhere but somehow at the same time propelling her forward along the dirt path to see Mr. Sunshine again. It carried that same satisfaction she had had standing, five years old, in the dirt pit during a thunderstorm, letting the ground suck her in, one toe at a time, until her mother’s faraway shrill, echoing from the back porch, broke the earth’s thick, muddy hold on her. Soiled petticoats do not become little girls.

—Michael Mannan

At first light he rented two bicycles from a man in San Sabastian so they could ride to the water. The bicycles were fine and the girl had good legs and rode well. He wished that they could be like this forever—with the girl pedaling in front of him, riding better than he thought she would.

—Cassie Gonzales

Consider the road. Burnt orange and winding, but straight as an arrow now. For it is rarely the same, the woods fly by as green flashes.
“Keep up!” She yelled to the one following her. “We’ll never make it if you don’t hurry!”
The wind whipped the words from her mouth. Sunlight, shining upon her dress, colored her dress a darker shade of gold. Her bike groaned and creaked under the pressure of her pedaling feet. The spokes were cutting an ancient language from the air, urging the devil forward. Stomping his hoofed feet, he gained the ground between them. Her dress flowing in the wind grazed the tip of his nose.
She breathed out heavily.
And He, he breathed it in.

—Brian Tschiegg

“Ride!” whispered the girl, mid-dream. The hot summer night air rippled the fabric of her subconscious like an iron across a linen shirt. The distant thunder signaled a dawn that, upon breaking somewhere to the east, had unleashed a weighty humidity that had been pent-up all night. The rain marched steadily across the landscape creating a gradual crescendo of whirr and shush. In the dream, she was Lady Liberty (without the verdigris color, the crown, or the book), wrapped instead in a saffron yellow tunic, hair bobbed, hose and heels incongruously applied to the task of pumping the pedals on her bicycle. At first, there was nothing behind her save a bare alpine landscape and a vague sense of foreboding. Gradually, a dot emerged from perspective to become a man-sized, horned, red devil in muscular pursuit of her. She regarded this with a cool sadness. Almost wistful, she knew she would never be caught.

—Derek Bennett

We were drinking Arneis to cut the dust of the roads and he was telling me about Coppi and how Coppi was the best rider in Italy and maybe the best rider in the world, but when you are using la bomba before every race like Coppi was then it will only end up bad. Coppi had good stuff but he did not trust himself and so he used la bomba and anything else he could get to help him over the Alpe d’Huiz and to get through the roads in San Remo and in all the races.

—Isaac Schapira

From San Francisco to Palo Alto runs a concrete ribbon for bicyclists to travel the forty miles between the two cities, but no matter how quickly cyclists cover the distance, the Santa Ana winds always arrive second, directly after the tepid sunlight that glistens the grapes. The best anyone can hope is to come in third. On August 21, 1963, I mounted my Hudson Urban Beater bicycle and began my final trek from my San Franciscan home on Polk Street to the path along the bay.

—Joey Connelly

Prudence Lassiter was as fine a specimen of girlhood as the English aristocracy ever bred, and in several respects rather finer. Each summer Prudence was to be seen yachting at Cowes, laughing in the royal enclosure at Ascot, riding to hounds, attending the smartest dances in London, and, of course, exercising daily on her Rover safety bicycle. Prue—for that is what her school chums called her—looked “just right” in whatever she wore. Prue’s father, Lord Mornington, began his life as a golf professional. Tiring of this, he joined the Indian army, and thenceforth frequented the best London clubs.

—Angus Trumble


And, the winner of the Beater Bicycle, Isabella Hodge!

I mean dash it all, what's a girl to do with a horned devilish fellow pursuing her on a bike, of all things?! I booked it and sped on, the old lemon throbbing wildly, and persp. flowing freely in salty gallons down the face.

Now, get to New York and claim your prize! Thanks everyone who participated!





  1. Robert Sweet | July 25, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    “At first light he rented two bicycles from a man in San Sabastian so they could ride to the water. The bicycles were fine and the girl had good legs and rode well. He wished that they could be like this forever—with the girl pedaling in front of him, riding better than he thought she would.” Brilliant simulacrum of Hemingway’s style.

  2. Mark Cecil | July 25, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    Sooo….first of all congrats to all the winners. You guys are the bomb!

    Second, since no one will ever see what I wrote UNLESS i post in this comment thread….I kind of…just have to….you know….post this bad boy.

    Amazingly, thinking of old PG got both myself and Elliott thinking velocipede. Well done Elliott.

    Ahem! In the style of PG Wodehouse…

    It was half past three in the afternoon on my daily self-propelled
    odyssey through the heath when I noticed trailing me none other than
    the Prince of Darkness.
    “Whoop-de-do,” wasn’t the sort of expression a chap like me would have
    used. Nor, for that matter, was “Whoop-de-don’t.” I said neither.
    Instead, I pedaled, as it were, like the devil.
    While on the subject of chaps, in the interest of the fullest
    disclosure, I should cite that I was once a chap, but am so no longer.
    “What the Hell?” you might say—an apt phrase, come to think of it,
    when spying the Old Tempter—but it’s so. On a recent trip to the
    surgeon I achieved corporally what had previously been accomplished in
    dress, manner of speech, and hirsuteness of leg. That is to say, I
    became, more or less, a female, having been, more or less, a male.
    Should you doubt my mixed orientation, simply look at a painting which
    exists of me from that very day, wearing my yellow evening gown. Nary
    a feminine curve on my body. My coiffure compact as a rugby helmet. My
    breasts ample as disci.
    Anyhoo, Old Scratch trailed me a good half hour, shrieking my name
    like a demon. Bathed in sweat, my heart thundering like a northern
    stepdancer, my conscience informed me that my hour of damnation had
    come, for taking biology into my own hands and off my own hips.
    Thank goodness, after a few purgatorial loops of the park, I realized
    it wasn’t old Lucy after all, but that ancient bean of a crumpet
    Freddie Theepence, a switchie in his own right, who’d been
    breathlessly trying to warn me that muscling a velocipede so attired
    was the optimal way to grease up a brand new hem.

  3. Nancy Dzina Blank | July 25, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    Not a poet among us? Huh. Must say, stiff competition…

  4. Isaac Schapira | July 25, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    Congratulations to Ms. Hodge and the other finalists!

    I didn’t know much about the history of cycling before I did some research for the contest, but when I came across Fausto Coppi I figured he was the sort of character about whom Hemingway might have been able to write 300 words.

  5. Pete | July 25, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    Absolutely delightful reading. Thank you finalists.

  6. Amber | July 25, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    Will you provide us with the title of the print and the artist now that the contest is over?

  7. Cassie Gonzales | July 26, 2012 at 6:03 am

    I’m so excited to have been picked as a finalist. You can read my entire story on my blog here:

    Thanks for such a fun little contest!

  8. Elliot Nesterman | July 27, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    I, too, am pleased beyond all get-out to have my little screed place as a finalist; and at pole position no less!
    Like Mr. Cecil, I also wrote a longer story wrapped around the illustration, which I posted back on the original contest page. On the off chance that anyone might be interested in that somewhat longer Wodehousian excursion I have posted it in my little blog, which you can find here:

  9. Theo Zbriejski | August 7, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    I have to say I’m more than a bit dismayed that after all the hard work I put in I never even received a response that my entry was received, or that the contest winner had been chosen. Bad business to not respond to your readers.
    So here is my piece, which casts Hemingway as an impotent old man. I thought it was humorous:

    “I’m going to take a bath.”
    She went into the bathroom, fully dressed, and he lay on the bed. He had spent the morning
    writing. Nothing good. It hadn’t been good since they left Lucerne. And now there was this.
    There had been talk of a baby, but they had known it would be difficult due to the age
    difference. Now this had been another small death in their ability to feel for one another. She said it was
    not important, but what could a woman know about it.
    When she came out of the bathroom she loosened her towel with her back to him. Halfway
    inside the bathroom door she pulled on a light cable-knit sweater and green shorts. Her legs had turned
    a dark brown from tanning in the sun every day.
    On their way out, madame offered the use of les vélos, but when they were brought up from
    the garden they both had flat tires. “Take them,” she said. “The man at town can fix for you.” So they
    walked the six blocks into town pushing the bicycles up hill.
    At the café they had trout with a lemon sauce for lunch. The fish was wild, and tasted fresh. The
    wine was crisp and the coldness was refreshing in the dry heat. He soaked up the remaining lemon oil
    with the crusts of the bread.
    When they left the café they stopped to take the bicycles and he handed the boy half a centime.
    On the ride back he tired at the hill, and blamed it on the thin Spanish air. Once they arrived they
    stowed the bicycles alongside the stairs and crossed the road to head down to the water. There was just
    enough daylight left to see the sun set over the Balearic Sea.

  10. Lea | August 20, 2012 at 10:13 am

    Would you mind telling us the name of the artist and the title of the painting? Thanks!

1 Pingbacks

  1. […] Treat yourself to the “manly terseness, Jeevesian whimsy, California deadpan, villanelles (‘Write it! Pedal faster’), and Martiana” reflected in the imaginative entries of the contest finalists. […]

Leave a Comment