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Posts Tagged ‘cycling’

Wrench

August 13, 2013 | by

WrenchLarge-2

I landed my first job in a bike shop at fifteen. My initial assignment was to bleach a deep sink in a bathroom that hadn’t been cleaned since the shop opened five years before. I gloved up and went at it with a brush for the first hour of my shift. The manager stood in the doorway for a few minutes and told me when I scrubbed the rest of the bathroom he would let me dust bikes and chase spiders out of helmets in the showroom. He looked like a fat Lance Armstrong, or how I imagine Armstrong would look if his steroid admission led to obesity and an addiction to slot machines at truck-stop casinos. He liked to wear cycling socks with martini glasses on them. He shaved his thick legs and sported tight khaki shorts year-round.

After a couple weeks on the job, it was pretty clear to me the manager had two serious goals for his day: consume two king-size Snickers and race the only other employee around the shop on Razor scooters at least a dozen times. The other employee held the title of head mechanic. A small Bible college in Florida had recently expelled him after he allegedly shared a motel room in Memphis with a female classmate. Of course, he flatly denied it, not that anyone cared. I got the sense he really didn’t want to go back down to the swamps to sweat and study international ministry. He was content at the shop. During the day, he would clamp a repair bike in the stand, ignore it, and just eat several Tupperware containers of Thai food. He used his shop apron as a napkin.

When they weren’t racing scooters or eating, they were dismantling the racks and fixtures and rearranging the showroom. The manager would pace around the showroom and pick caramel out of his molars and say, “I don’t know. I don’t know.” After they made me move all the fixtures and bikes back to the original setup a few times, I figured out they were just trying to construct new courses for their scooter races. The two of them had time for these types of projects. I scrubbed the bathroom, dusted accessories in the showroom, and fetched pizzas that dripped grease all over my jeans. The owner never stopped by the shop, and we rarely had to deal with customers. When customers did walk into the showroom, they just picked up their unfinished repair bikes to bring to a shop with a competent mechanic on duty.

In the three months I worked there, I made one big sale: an entry-level mountain bike to a guy with visible anxiety problems. Through his panic attack, he told me he’d never learned to ride a bike and was prepared to confront his fear. The transaction taught me working sales was the lousiest job in the shop because there was a moment in almost every sale where you had no choice but to make the customer keenly aware of their biggest physical or psychological insecurity—bike manufacturers do set weight limits, they don’t make adult bikes for the unusually short or tall. After flipping through the wholesaler’s catalog for half an hour, I had to tell the guy we couldn’t order adult training wheels. The manager listened to the entire transaction from his shitty little office, a dressing room he’d converted into his command center. Afterward, he berated me for the sale, claiming the guy was just going to return the thing. He was right. Two days later the guy wheeled the bike into the shop after taking a nasty spill, looking to return it. He had a big patch of road rash on his cheek. I had to clean up the bike and install new grips. The manager took the cost of the grips out of my last paycheck. Read More »

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Win a Bicycle!

July 9, 2012 | by

My predecessor George Plimpton was known for cycling around New York  before it was either cool or safe (before, some would say, it was sane). And nowadays, we at TPR are still devoted city bikers; our rides can be found chained up and down White Street. So in celebration of the Tour de France—and thanks to the generosity of Hudson Urban Bikes—we, along with Velojoy, are giving away one of Hudson Urban Bikes' Beater Bicycles Roadster. This classic city bike comes in a men’s and a women’s model, both of which may be seen in the diabolical and rather enigmatic illustration below.

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Cycling; Second-person Narration

October 21, 2011 | by

I love both reading and cycling. Can you recommend some great titles? —Monica

To answer this one, I consulted our resident cyclist, Peter Conroy. And did he deliver! Says Peter:

With respect to the classics, the discussion has to start with Tim Krabbe’s The Rider, a fictionalized account of a one-day amateur race in 1978. Brutish and beautiful, this is required reading for anyone who’s ever wanted to go faster. Daniel Coyle’s Lance Armstrongs War is a fascinating tour through the bizarre world of pro cycling in the aughts and a great portrait of the man who systematically dominated its hardest race from 1999 to 2005. More recently, Timm Kolln’s The Peloton is a stunning collection of photos and remarkably candid interviews with a generation of professional racers.

I feel I’m the lone standout in my book club of highly educated, highly literary, middle-aged ladies. I never took a literature class in college, and I like a good page-turner with a bit of plot and action. I also believe a good read doesn’t, by definition, leave its reader utterly depressed! So far, judging by the other members’ selections, it seems that I’m the only one who feels this way. It’s my turn to pick a book. Can you suggest something that will please us all?

The divide between “literary fiction” and “good reads” isn’t as stark as it sometimes seems—recent Booker controversies to the contrary! You have loads of options. After all, who doesn’t love a page-turner now and then? You don’t mention whether your book club is geared more toward new fiction or classics, but if you can take the latter route, you can’t go wrong with Dickens. Have you read Bleak House? A few newer titles that spring to mind: The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, Never Let Me Go, The Magician’s Assistant, and—while it may seem intimidating on the face of it—Infinite Jest. All a pleasure to read with plenty of fodder for discussion.

In this magazine, Gore Vidal once said, “The second person certainly holds few charms.” What is your opinion of second-person narration?

Tricky. I think the great second-person book list may begin and end with Absalom, Absalom! That said, I’m willing to hear a case made for Bright Lights, Big City.

Have a question for the editors of The Paris Review? E-mail us.

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Timm Kölln on ‘The Peloton’

July 1, 2011 | by

Left: Manuele Mori. Right: Andy Schleck.

In 2005, photographer Timm Kölln began an ambitious five-year project to document professional cycling through the voices, faces, and bodies of the athletes who define it, traveling to major races around Europe and shooting riders alone against a white backdrop moments after they stepped off the bike. The result, The Peloton: Portrait of a Generation, collects ninety-six photographs and interviews with professional cyclists—some superstars, some journeymen, others now-forgotten names of the sport. Kölln’s photographs capture the utter limits of physical experience in an athlete. His interviews (conducted by journalists from the magazine Rouleur) skip the familiar clichés of sports journalism to offer unvarnished and nuanced perspectives on what it means to spend a life on two wheels. Looking ahead to the start of the 2011 Tour de France tomorrow, I recently spoke to Timm from his home in Berlin.

For you, was it the cycling or the photography that came first?

Photography. I grew up in Spain, and when I was a kid my parents wouldn’t let me have a bike. They thought it was too dangerous to ride in Barcelona. But I always had this dream of having­ a racing bike. And when we moved back to Germany, the first thing I did—I think we’d been in Berlin for two days—was buy a bike, not a racing bike, but a bike.

I was always inspired by older sports photography, and that also influenced me in my approach to cycling. When thinking about how to do the portraits for The Peloton, I thought the only way to get as close as possible to the riders' states of mind and efforts on their bikes was to shoot them without helmets and without glasses, an image we rarely get in sports media.

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