February 27, 2007: Two Wheels or Fourteen Sticks (R)


It's hard to believe that any sport could be more snobbish and elitist than golf, but sadly, Romulus sees many distressing similarities between gawf and cycling.

I have yet to find a suitable euphemism for "elite" so let us probe another expensive sport in hopes of further enlightenment. Because the Bay Area is not Ohio, Illinois, North Carolina, or Florida, I've forsaken golf as my favorite leisure activity in favor of cycling, despite the infinitely higher casualty rate for two-wheeling it. The eight hour days and hundred dollar greens fees for a round of golf - which works out to about a dollar per stroke for the average weekend hacker - are too burdensome, so I've poured my energy and resources into cycling as both a practical and family matter. What golf and cycling share is the common theme of style versus substance. On some level there is a pervasive ‘pay your dues’ mentality to every sport; it makes sense to hone your golf skills on a dilapidated municipal course, just as most cyclists get their start on hand-me-down clunkers three sizes too big.

You probably know somebody who carries rusty thirty year old clubs, dinged up golf balls, no glove, fairway woods instead of metals, a pre-WWII mashie putter, frayed Chuck Taylor’s in lieu of spikes, and a golf bag more akin to a duffle sack from a cheap promotional giveaway. We know this person because he/she routinely waxes every Nike-Taylor Made-Calloway-Titleist-Mizuno-Spalding-clad duffer in sight, stroke or match play. And said person also has a cousin cut from the same cloth, only this character doesn't golf - he/she demonstrates clumsy cycling brilliance instead. They show up to races/rides with an oxidized 7-speed steel framed bald-tired rig awash in political stickers, rigid forks, cantilever brakes, toe clip pedals, mildew cotton t-shirt, their uncle’s bicycle helmet from the early 80’s, and no-chamois-worn-elastic spandex. Yet just like the golfing buffoon, these stylistically challenged pedal punishers pulverize the peloton with a parsimonious production of perspiration.

Of course, on the flip-side of this observation are the folks who dress the part, be it golf or cycling, but who are seldom worthy of the attention they call to themselves. Back in the day when I toted bags for a living the caddies had a saying that was 99% true - the cat showing up with the fancy car, sterling equipment, and designer clothes is most likely to fuck you on the tip and even more likely to chop up the course worse than a Dick Cheney cluster bomb. Having thus established the commonality of "posers" in both golf and cycling, let's free-ride a bit deeper into these regal cultures. We can liberally borrow a popular technique for comparing “apples and oranges” called -- The Tale of the Tape.





Most aggravating obstacle to participation
Advanced tee times
Temperatures below freezing

Average cost per round/ride
Minimum $50 not including gas or food
Less than $10, assuming no transportation costs and no mechanical failures

The Ultimate time-warp foursome
Hogan, Nicklaus, Tiger, and You
Lance, Merckx, Ulrich, and You

Start-up costs – all new equipment
$600 -$1,000; no Wal*Mart (not including golf lesson)
$1,500 - $3,000; no eBay
purchases and do you really need a lesson?

Unfair advantage
Golfers who’ve never played a muni but are single digit handicaps
5’8 145lbs riders who climb 7% grades in their big ring

Party atmosphere
19 opportunities for a safety meeting
It generally goes down after the ride

Upward Trends
Teenage phenoms

Downward Trends
Teenage phenoms
Cross country racing

Tolerable vices
Cigarettes, cigar, beer, most pharmaceuticals
None if you plan on climbing hills

Rites of passage
The clubhouse and the “cart girls”
Cliff bars, gels, flavored water, electrolyte pills, Cytomax, cramps

Equal opportunity acronyms

Sex appeal
350 yard drives
Girls in Lycra

You’re either a lying jackass or you’re not because YOU penalize yourself
You’re either on dope or denying ever taking any drugs except to combat allergies, insomnia, asthma, and irritable bowels

Must See TV
Back nine of The Masters on Sunday on CBS
The 21-turn, 14km climb up L’Alpe d’Huez airs 4am on the West Coast

The Voice
A bunch of rich retired former golfers all with foreign accents

Phil Leggett & Paul Sherwin
Universal acceptance
Cleveland 60 degree wedge

Chris King headset
Appeal to the masses of weight conscious Americans
Golf carts, pull carts, laser yardage finders, “hot” drivers

Watts, grams, anaerobic threshold, VO max
Support for a green planet
Indoor driving ranges
Critical mass

Biggest inconvenience for the celebrity crowd
You’ll always be small potatoes compared to some guy named Tiger

There’s always someone making you pee in a cup
Biggest inconvenience for the average Joe crowd
Greens are being aerated
Water bottles that are ruined after one ride

Expecting the unexpected
Showing up early and teeing off late in the foursome from Hell
Getting caught in a torrential downpour 15 miles from home

Ultimate Amateur Rush
Qualifying for the US Open with all four rounds shown live on NBC
Qualifying for the US Nationals with results printed in VeloNews 4 months after the race

Addictive ingredient
Perfectly struck 4-iron
Single-track in the forest

Painful reminder of your limits
3 putts from ten feet
80 miles on a worn chamois & hard saddle

Nightmare triggers
Sand, water, and downhill putts
Windy roads and uninsured motorists

Family vacation choices
Florida or Scotland
Lake Tahoe or France

And the debate rages on with no clear winner. As with most of life’s epicurean pursuits, it’s usually a matter of choice that guides our passions. Better still, lifestyle is most often a measure and reflection of one’s financial resources. Seen through this somewhat narrow prism, cycling and golf will always be tinged with palpable snobbery, just as the next NBA legend will sport inner city scars and tattoos. But if I let that argument flow without a rebuttal, then I’ve just wasted a thousand words. No, in fact, I'm going to argue that the cycling community, in its sometimes inadvertent though often misguided effort to model the fallacies of the golf industry, has created a fragmented elitist sport that is wasteful, manipulative, uninspired, and terribly mismanaged. Tune in next time for part deuce.

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