Wednesday, July 09, 2008

A CycleDog Interview...

(Macro photo of woven carbon fiber by denniswoo on Flickr)

In a pioneering study of carbon fiber addiction in cyclists, Dr. Walter Crankset of the University of Northeastern Oklahoma extension campus at Broken Elbow announced ground-breaking research in this hitherto unknown addictive process. The effected group includes both recreational and racing bicyclists, and seems to include men disproportionately. Dr. Crankset traveled extensively while doing the research behind this new study, including several trips to rural parts of Mexico and other Central American countries. He interviewed sportsmen in both clinical and less formal venues, primarily bars where fishermen congregate, in order to include their exposure levels and detailed analysis. He enlisted the aid of a large number of young women in developing his control group, assuming correctly that they would not be affected. Several of them have inquired about his present whereabouts, but as this interview was conducted some weeks ago, his current location is unknown.

Dr. Crankset is in the forefront of the effort to contain and eradicate the horror of carbon fiber addiction. All cyclists owe him our most sincere thanks in bringing the scourge of carbon addiction into the light of day.

CycleDog: Doctor Crankset, we've been using carbon fiber for a long time. Why this sudden insistence that it's addictive?

Dr. Crankset: Tell me if you've seen this in your group of cycling friends. It always starts innocently enough. A cyclist looks through catalog of sale items, or he stumbles across a really good deal at his local shop. Sometimes, a 'friend' introduces him to the habit with an old part that he claims he can't use anymore. It's just the thin end of the wedge that will separate the naive, unwary cyclist from his money, his family, his friends, and any semblance of a normal life. We're all well acquainted with performance enhancing drugs and the scandals surrounding them. But carbon addiction is another dark alley in our sport, an alley that some tread cautiously while others travel with reckless abandon, heedless of what may be lurking in those dim recesses.

CycleDog: How would we recognize that someone is becoming carbon-dependent?

Dr. Crankset: The subtle warning signs of carbon addiction are surprisingly like the usual wants and needs of any cyclist - at least they are at first. Joe Average might decide that a carbon handlebar would reduce vibration and make riding more comfortable. He purchases and installs one, but before long, he 'needs' a carbon seat post, or maybe even a saddle. Carbon fiber frames, shoes, brakes, wheels, and crank set follow in quick succession. His bike and his wallet get lighter, and he's on the road so much he can scarcely recognize his children let along remember their names. But he knows that a Campy Record short cage rear derailleur weighs 184 grams.

The craziness follows soon after. Some users develop bizarre ideation. A common delusion about diet is illustrative. A user may reason that while calcium is a nutritional requirement for strong bones and teeth, carbon may be a better substitute. He may begin ingesting small quantities of carbon in the form of charcoal throughout the day, gradually increasing the amount until he's developed a bag-a-day habit. The local grocery store clerks will all know his name and store security will watch him carefully.

Ultimately, he ends up hanging around aerospace symposiums trying to find the next big thing, the next exotic material for spacecraft or high performance jets, hoping against hope to score some of it for his habit. They're easy to spot in their cheap, ill-fitting suits with wild eyes and a grab bag full of spec sheets. Their hands and teeth are blackened from the charcoal habit, and they're often seen clutching ancient, dog-eared copies of Bicycle Guide. For some of these guys, carbon is just the entry drug.

CycleDog: Thank you, Doctor. This has been very informative. Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?

Dr. Crankset: Please help stamp out the scourge of carbon addiction. If someone you know has the carbon monkey on his back, don't be afraid to speak up. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Many former carbon addicts have kicked the habit and gone on to productive lives as pornographers, marijuana dealers, used car salesmen, or even Texas politicians.

Cycledog: Thanks again, Wally. I just turned the tape off. I hate trying to get this stuff out on a deadline.

Dr. Crankset: Glad to help. If the grant money comes through on this one, I can get the feds to buy me a full Campy Colnago C40 for 'research'. It'll take care of my bar tab down at Larry's too.


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