Friday, July 23, 2010

Reverse Psychology

A persuasion technique involving the advocacy of a belief or behavior that is opposite to the one desired, with the expectation that this approach will encourage the subject of the persuasion to do what is desired: the opposite of what is suggested.

It was reverse Thursday at Buck this week. After the start there was a rush to get things sorted out because the revised course had us filing into the single track just 1/3rd the way up the hill. After a bit of charging I was able to get around some guys and up to Brendan and Chris, but burned more than a few matches doing so. Once Brendan slipped into the darkness of the woods, we never saw him again. Chris went down on a wet root, and let me by, only to stick to my wheel for the next 3 and a half laps. This course set-up was tough. Basically the only recovery came on the paved decent on the back side of the hill. It lasted about 5 seconds, and actually raised the heart rate due to a precariously placed patch of gravel on the asphalt where we had to turn into the wooded singletrack at 30 mph. Well it seemed like 30 mph.

The difficulty of this set-up showed in the amount of lapped traffic. I think there were a number of racers out there who weren't used to getting lapped, and thus were a bit reluctant to let folks pass. After the race, Brendan told me he called, "race leader" to a particular racer a handful of times before said rider let him by. Upon passing, the rider said to Brendan, "Some leader... It's only Buck." Apparently it's easy to win this race since it's "only Buck." It's not like it's a tough race like Hillside or anything. Seriously though, it seems the guy getting lapped was actually using a complex method of reverse psychology known as sarcasm as a means of ensuring Brendan's victory, encouraging him to prove precisely the opposite of what was suggested--that he was in fact "some leader," going on to win by over two minutes.

Meanwhile, Buck had me suffering, suffering its punchy climbs, its 120 degree corners, its no-recovery, its reverse mind games. I'm glad I didn't have to ride it alone, however. I might have got lost in the reversidness (yea, I made that up) if Chris hadn't been back there navigating for me. But I lost him on the last lap when he called out something that sounded like, "Alright, Cody. I've had enough of a workout." Well put, Chris. I think all of us who showed up this week got worked. Even though it's "only Buck."

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Arms up, legs hairy.

So I won a race. It was just last year that I was threading Wellgo platforms into my first ever mountain bike. Soon thereafter I got some padded, baggy shorts and crankbros for my first race ever--the rec class at Buck--and it was all uphill from there. I soon found myself in bib shorts, and liked the way the Lycra felt on my rear. I traded my white, cotton socks for real cycling socks, and made sure they were color-coordinated with my shoes . I bought a tub of chamois butter, and, as the directions recommended, I "applied liberally."

Such things--leotards, 15 dollar socks, excessive amounts of ass lube--may seem a bit gay (not that there's anything wrong with that), but one must not read into it too much; they are no more than rights of passage for us mountain bikers. The ultimate cyclist ritual, however--leg shaving--seems to me a waist of time. Not to say the thought hasn't crossed my mind. In fact, after my mighty win at Hillside, I sought to ease my curiosity on the subject, turning to none other than the all-knowing, Google. I typed: cyclists+leg+shave+why. At the very top of 112,000 results were the 5 reasons why coach Levi (whoever that is) shaves his legs, his number one being to "look good." Here's what coach Levi had to say regarding the matter: "you can have a fancy kit, sleek helmet, top-of-the-line bike, but if you pair tight spandex with hairy legs, the cycling fashion police will be forced to haul you away." I quickly concluded that coach Levi himself might be a bit gay (not that there's anything wrong with that), so I decided it be best to postpone the date with my girlfriend's Sheek razor and flirty mango shave cream.

Although Google placed coach Levi at the top of their list, I wasn't convinced that he was the premier source on the controversial topic of leg shaving, thus began my search for Jack Hinkens. I found him at an undisclosed bicycle shop, sitting on the couch, watching the TDF. His Incredibly smooth legs gave him away. They must have been freshly shaven and oiled, for the flash of sun off his calves nearly knocked me on the floor. After regaining my balance, I said, "Yo Jack, what up with the hairless legs, bro."
Jack's shiny shaved legs
He looked at me with his squinted eyes as if I already knew the answer. This is what he had to say: "beside the obvious benefits of aerodynamics, I do it's not my choice really. As you know, I've been spending a lot of time in Europe, and I found this girl. Her name is Helga, a sweet, little, Swiss gal. But you can't tell anyone. You can't tell anyone that she doesn't shave her own legs...or anywhere else for that matter. That's why she makes me do it. She likes to watch. Mainly, though, she likes to run her hairy legs up and down my smooth ones, whispering unspeakables into my ear. But don't tell anyone, man."

"Don't worry, Jack." I said, "Your secret is safe with me."

My interview with Jack was very helpful. I realized the true reason why cyclists shave their legs. It's not about looking good or even making band-aids easier to pull off (ouch). The real reason cyclists sport smooth legs is that their wives and girlfriends make them do it, and these guys are not man enough to put their foot down. It's a sick world out there, I know. In protest, then, I have decided to keep my legs hairy, even though it will mean constantly looking over my shoulder, awaiting the arrival of the cycling fashion police to haul me away. I just hope they don't confiscate my sleek helmet.