Sunday, November 6, 2011

On Your Left!

I love cycling, but it is a sport for a-holes. There are many reasons why, but I am not going to list them. I don't want to expend the energy, and I am sick of thinking about it.

But check this out:

My girlfriend and I always get harassed by a cycling club that rides in Prospect Park. For the purposes of this blog post, I will refer to this cycling club as the Crotchety Old Wheelmasters. These guys HATE us. They don't like anybody that "gets in their way." It's a classic cycling mentality: "What I'm doing on my bicycle is more important than what you're doing on your bicycle, here in the park." My girlfriend and I get in their way a lot, because we ride through the park with our dog attached to my bicycle. They don't approve of that, because it takes up extra space and appears reckless.

The ringleader of the Crotchety Old Wheelmasters is extra curmudgeonly. One time there was an accident in the park, in which a little girl fell off her mom's bike trailer, because a bolt was loose, and smacked her face against the asphalt. It looked terrible. The girl stood up and started crying, her helmet askew, and her mom ran to her and picked her up, making sure she was okay. As she did this, the ringleader, who had stopped to help, began yelling at her and telling her to get out of the way of the bike path:

RINGLEADER: (confusing everybody and exacerbating situation) Don't stop! Don't stop! Don't stop!

LADY: (hysterical) My baby!

RINGLEADER: Get out of the way of the path! Move over! Move over! Get her out of there!

LADY: Fuck you, sir!

RINGLEADER: Move the bike! Yahhhhhghg! (pointing at me and my girlfriend, who are watching from the other side of the street) We got dogs on leashes! Attached to bicycles!!

ME: Relax.

RINGLEADER: I'm not excited!! I've been riding in this park for thirty years!!


RINGLEADER: Yaahagahgh!! Miflbpblst!!!

In case you didn't know, by riding your bike in Prospect Park for thirty years, you become an authority figure, and you're then allowed to yell at people.

The next day, the ringleader rode past us and exclaimed, "There's the yutz from yesterday!" Then he flipped us the bird. This is a sixty year-old man we're talking about. He gave us the sixty year-old middle finger, which I didn't even know existed.

For the next few weeks we had a vendetta with the Crotchety Old Wheelmasters. We engaged in shouting matches with them every time they rode past us. It was frustrating, because I could never think of any good insults to cast upon the ringleader. He rode by too fast. The best I could do was yell, "You're old!" But that wasn't effective. I had to come up with a plan.

I researched the Crotchety Old Wheelmasters online, and, as expected, there wasn't much information available. No website, no nothing. (Old people fear computers.) But I did find a Flickr page through which some bike repair guy in Park Slope sells the Crotchety Old Wheelmasters bike jerseys. Apparently, to be a part of their crew, all you need to do is purchase one of the wool jerseys for $110.00 and persuade them that you are worthy:

"If you are interested, please email me at: with a convincing argument as to why we should consider you grumpy enough to wear one of our jerseys. If we buy your story, we'll let you know where to send your deposit check."

Perfect! I finally had a way to deliver a death blow in this silly blood feud. I would order a jersey for my dog, and he could wear it while running next to my bike in the park, and if the ringleader gave us the finger again, he would only be telling himself to go fuck himself. A brilliant conceit.

Here is the email I wrote to the bike repair guy/Crotchety Old Wheelmasters jersey salesman:

Hi Blah,

I just checked out your website. It's awesome!

I especially like how you restore vintage bikes and are a Brooklyn native. My girlfriend is from Brooklyn, and I recently moved here (to Brooklyn) to live with her. We live right next to Prospect Park, and, being an avid cyclist, I couldn't wait to absolutely bomb Prospect Park on my 1989 Ciocc, which is my baby! On your left!!

Anyway, for the last few weekends, I have been riding the paceline with The Crotchety Old Wheelmasters, though it's been hard to keep up! Am I worthy of the jersey? I think so. I was on my college's road team for three years, was a messenger in Boston for four years, and rode in the Bikes Not Bombs Riding Club for five years before coming to NYC. I love cycling and bike mechanics, and I have loved riding with the Crotchety Old Wheelmasters (some of their grumpiness might even be rubbing off on me!).

What do I do to order one of these jerseys?

I received an immediate response, in which the bike repair guy/Crotchety Old Wheelmasters jersey salesman told me that he was excited to see me in the park on my classic Ciocc, and attached an order form for me to fill out. This was going to be a work of genius. I couldn't wait to carry out my clever strategem.

At this point in the story, I wish I could say that I went through with the order, put the jersey on my dog, and fooled the ringleader into telling himself to go fuck himself, but, unfortunately, that never happened. It would have been too much of a financial investment for a prank. Plus, I would be giving money to my enemy, which doesn't make much sense.

So I left it alone. What's funny is that I keep getting reminder emails from the bike repair guy/Crotchety Old Wheelmasters jersey salesman, like this one:

We have not received your order form and check yet. The order will go in on Friday - with or without you.

We don't care.

I know he is intentionally trying to sound crotchety in an effort to stay true to the cycling club's whole "grumpy" theme, but still, c'mon, try to be a little more friendly, so people will actually care when you die one day. No one is impressed by your grumpiness. That goes for the whole Crotchety Old Wheelmasters bike club. You obviously want to be cool and want to be liked, otherwise you wouldn't be drawing so much attention to yourself. Shift your attitude and stop yelling at people in the park.

"Indeed, most of [men's] vices are attempted short cuts to love. When a man comes to die, no matter what his talents and influence and genius, if he dies unloved his life must be a failure to him and his dying a cold horror. It seems to me that if you or I must choose between two courses of thought or action, we should remember our dying and try so to live that our death brings no pleasure to the world."

-John Steinbeck