PRINCE OF DARKNESS
used to race track a lot on a borrowed track bike, a beautiful old
Italian-made lugged steel Benotto with a chrome fork. He has never ridden
anything else with such fine workmanship. The Benotto and I raced in
lots of track events together. Eventually, I decided that since I was
racing track every week and doing publicity for the track, I probably
liked it enough to get my own track bike. But what kind of bike could
justify returning the trusty old Benotto to the warehouse?
dream for a track bike was an alumnium Klein track bike--light, stiff
alumnium, responsive Klein geometry, and beautiful paint that would stay
that way for years in the safety of the velodrome.
The only problem is that Klein didn't make and still doesn't make
track bikes. Undeterred, I bugged people at Klein for a year, and eventually approached
Gary Klein himself at Interbike. My
colleagues at Chain Reaction were amused by his plans and said Gary would
dismiss him out of hand. They
were shocked when it took him 20 seconds to get Gary to say he was
when are you making track bikes?" I asked Gary, sort of bluffing
that he had inside knowledge which he did not.
Gary and I both went to MIT, so for us, smalltalk is
about engineering stuff like bicycles.
just made one last week for the team."
Is Gary bluffing, too? Lombardi Sports has some good track racers
and Klein is their sponsor, so maybe.
it going to be a product?" A reasonable question for a dealer to ask at Interbike.
hope so. We ordered a hundred
pairs of dropouts." This
sounds like a commitment to a new product, and an important detail that
proves Gary really had been thinking about it.
We talked some more about the geometry of the bikes and how they
would really be slightly modified road frames just to get something to the
team right away. This is all I needed to race at Hellyer, which is
not a particularly steep track requiring extra bottom bracket clearance,
left Interbike thinking it was a done deal.
Either it would soon be a product he could order, or a pretty easy
special favor since the first version wasn't going to be too different
from a road frame.
month or so later, Klein announced it was moving production from Chehalis,
Washington to the Trek empire's mother ship in Waterloo, Wisconsin.
Even producing regular products was going to be difficult for a
while, and the product line was in for some major changes, too. The pre-fab
carbon fiber seat stays the industry was going to was a bad omen, because
you can't just weld them a little different for track spacing.
My dream died.
you can't hang around a velodrome without running into some other bike
industry luminaries. The
president of Bianchi USA also races track, and his pet project was the
Pista Concept track frame, stiff lightweight aluminum, and a stealthy
matte black. My old
team in California had enough trackies to make it seem like a bike
sponsorship would give Bianchi pretty good exposure for this new product,
and so they were offered a pretty good deal on the frames.
deal was so good that my California teammates ordered the bike
for him while I was in Singapore. (Sort of like my absolut teammates order teh
halia for me nowadays--it was as hard for them to imagine me refusing a track bike as it would be to imagine
me refusing teh halia.) It seemed unrelated at the time, but soon after they ordered
it, SARS broke out.
it arrived. One of the first
frames Bianchi shipped. It
seemed unrelated at the time, but this was about when war with Iraq broke
was waiting for me when I came back, having spent a couple months in my teammate's cubicle. It took three weeks for
me to bother to pick it up.
It seemed unrelated at the time, but it was a gloomy, rainy day in
San Francisco when I drove by my teammate's office to get it.
waited even longer in its bubble wrap while I continued to race on
the Benotto. It seemed
unrelated at the time, but my annoying roommate decided to kick me and my bikes out, so
took three months for me to bother to buy parts for it.
Nice Campy stuff. No
wheels then, because the wheels were going to be fancy Campy wheels and my
business was kind of slow.
It seemed unrelated at the time, but the software industry in
California took a turn for the worse every time he thought about getting
some parts for it.
first race was at Colorado Springs on borrowed wheels.
They won a prime, free breakfast at a local restaurant run by
in California, every race on that Bianchi was an exercise in humiliation.
I had all sorts of other excuses, which made this string of
poor race results seem unrelated at the time.
I decided that, not having a single fast-twitch muscle fiber in
his entire body, track racing wasn't for me.
After I crashed my car and totalled it (which seemed unrelated at
the time), my reaction was that it was now going to be easy to move to
Singapore, so that's what I did.
sold the Bianchi on eBay. It
seemed unrelated at the time, but the buyer had trouble getting PayPal to
let him make the payment. So
the boxed bike sat in my apartment for an extra week.
I was anxious to get rid of it.
|The Prince of Darkness (caged)
||The gloom has been lifted
the payment was worked out, and the delivery driver came to pick it up.
Moments after he left, rays of sunlight shone through.
bright sunlight was clearing out the bad luck contamination the bike had
left behind. Now all the
events that seemed so unrelated at the time, and even the recent election
of George W. Bush to a second term, all had a clear cause: Bianchi, Prince
was off to Singapore, and perhaps my luck would change.
the Bianchi had its final say.
most of the time I owned it, the bike was covered with a USPS team
T-shirt signed by George Hincapie, Antonio Cruz, Robbie Ventura, and Kenny
Labbe. This probably kept
some of its bad luck from wreaking even more havoc with me and the
world at large.
one day I actually wore this autographed T-shirt, to cheer on Antonio Cruz
climbing Genting Highlands during the Tour de Langkawi, I slipped on some
moss on the road, and scraped up my knee and elbow. Unlike my other
bikes, the Bianchi never had a chance to give me road rash until then.
Its final insult, delivered from 9,000 miles away.