Friday, August 10, 2007

Story - G Fox - and a little history

When people ask what I "do" for fun I tell them I race bikes. A lot of people figure I mean motorcycles so I have to clarify, "You know, like the Lance bikes."

Then I get a lot of nodding. And one of a few reactions.

Unfortunately one of the more common ones is, "I never heard of him until someone I know got cancer and I found out he won the Tour de France after he got over cancer." Then there's talk about cancer, how tough it is on a family, and a report on how that someone is doing.

Another is, "So you race the Tour?". I have to smile sheepishly and admit that, no, I'm not that good. I'm just a very amateur version of those pros - akin to intramural softball versus the Yankees.

Or the Red Sox, in deference to the future missus.

We were at home one Saturday when a slew of people looked at the house. One well educated potential house buyer asked if I race up the Pyrenees like the pros. I took a liking to that couple right away but they didn't buy the house.

I usually say, somewhat inaccurately, that my races are not on TV, that I don't appear on TV. But that's not entirely true.

First off, a couple years ago, I got a very excited call from a friend asking if I'd just raced in some Friday Street Sprints (the Connecticut Sprint Championships, if you must know). Apparently I was on the news that evening. I never saw the clip but now that I remembered it again, I'll have to ask if I can get a clip from the news station (our local cable TV). So, yes, for a few seconds, I was there on the TV.

And second, I was on TV. Just not the way you think.

That's me!
If you look at the picture carefully, you'll notice a number of things. I suppose I could run a contest, but I'll point out what I've noticed over the years.

1. I'm really skinny. In this shot I was sixteen years old (based on bike, team jersey, helmet, shorts) and probably weighed less than 100 pounds. I figure this because when I went to college at 17 and 11/12ths years old, I was a massive 103 pounds. That sounds great for a climber right? Problem was I couldn't climb. And at that point, I didn't have quite the sprint either so my race results weren't very impressive.

2. No ANSI approved helmet - the Brancale Giro helmet I'm wearing was nothing more than a thin plastic shell with some foam strips inside. I painted the helmet (the other side is much better looking) with a Rising Sun and some Japanese words. The Japanese characters are real - I had my mom write down some encouraging words like Victory, Strength, Speed, and a few others which I forget. Then I painstakingly painted them on the helmet with my plastic model paint, using the brush I used to detail 1/72 scale soldiers and various other fine bits.
I also added a number of cooling vents - I added three to each of the sides (and enlargened all of them) and two to the back (there were only three to begin with). Although such modifications typically negate a helmet's safety, this helmet is so bad it didn't matter. I do know that even recently a number of strong racers cut out lots of foam out of their (previously approved) helmets to improve cooling. No word on how they fare when they hit the ground, although the riders I am thinking of are all with us still. Nowadays I think such helmet mods are unnecessary - they're all quite good with ventilation straight out of the box.

3. Toe clips and straps. I'm using clips and straps. 'Nuff said. Right before I went clipless I used three straps per foot. And even with the straps so tight my feet went numb I'd still pull out of the pedals if I shifted hard in a sprint. Not a problem with clipless pedals. In this picture I'm on the original pedals (Miches, Campy knockoffs like all pedals that era) with double straps, the ends with toe strap button things. The button things are so you can yank really hard on the strap without slipping, even in the wet.

4. Non-aero brake cables. The (red!) Modolo Pro brakes replaced the original Modolo Speedys/Sprints (I forget which came on the bike but the originals are on it in this picture). Stiffer, more solid, and lighter, they were my favorite brakes until I got aero cables. The following year, in an attempt to do the aero brake look, I actually ran the cables backwards, the housing exiting the actual lever and looping back around to the bar. I eventually got DiaCompe aero levers, the kind Eric Vanderaerden used in the 1983 Paris Nice, used Shimanos for a while, and finally went to Ergo levers.

5. The picture is reversed! I'm really not riding a left hand drive prototype bicycle. The negative was flipped somewhere.

6. I'm still using downtube shifters in the shot (Campy, for those who care). I didn't change to a right-side bar-end (Suntour) until a year or so later.

7. This was my second of three red road bikes. My first 10 speed was red, this was red, and my first Cannondale was red. After that Cannondale I've always seemed to have black, blue, or some silver-grey sort of bike. The exception to the color rule were my last two mountain bikes - the last serious one, a full suspension XC Jamis, was red, and my current "traded it on a whim" bike is white.

I figure the photographer was a local rider (he was on the same team) who did about a third of the pictures for the first few years of Winning Magazine (the pictures seemed evenly split between him, Darcy Kiefel - that racer's wife, and some third guy named Graham Watson). I figure the race was the state road race in 1984, perhaps the Greenfield Stage Race in Massachusetts. There were virtually no other races where I rode with such a leafy backdrop.

What was interesting was my girlfriend at the time loved to shop and worked at G Fox. And one day she noticed the flyers had a bike racer on it. And not only that - the bike racer was her boyfriend!

One night shortly thereafter she and I trekked over there and I took all the flyers by one of the escalators - probably about 50, a stack a foot high. I figured that if they told me to put them back then I'd ask for a "modeling fee". It didn't matter, no one questioned why we were so interested in the weekly specials anyway.

My mom (of course) framed one of the flyers. It's the one pictured and hangs next to my desk now. And she kept it with her wherever they lived - Japan, Belgium, Indiana, Spain. (Yeah, yeah, I know Indiana doesn't fit in there but they did live there.)

So when people ask me, "So have you ever been on TV?" I can say, with a straight face, "Yep."


Anonymous said...

Don't forget the yellow ONCE Giant. Or the red (and carbon) Epic, too.

I think you need to post a photo of your old helmet with your "improvements" and art. I remember it looking pretty cool. While you're at it, do you still have that old Cannondale with the magazine phrase cutouts all over it all ransom note style?

Aki said...

dammit I forgot those bikes. One's even hanging downstairs.

Helmet - I have it somewhere in the PODS but don't have a picture yet. I'll post something on it including what the actual characters mean.

I have two (!) of those Cannondales, one with the cutouts (actually an aerolite sticker) and the other with mainly die cut letters and decals. I was considering rebuilding one as I still have a lot of the original components. I just have to get at least two chainrings back from a guy I sent all my rings to (for adjusting gearing on his single speed).

From Head to Toe said...

Aki - where in Indiana did your parents live?

Aki said...

Evansville. Don't know much about it except the local garage had a hot-rod Volvo - the guy bought the car for his daughter, put a big block chevy in it, and ended up featured in some car magazine, I think Hot Rod.