The Pit Post | Bicycles

Bicycles | The Pit Post

haven’t changed much since Gian Giacomo Caprotti’s sketch back in 1493.  Caprotti, a student and servant of Leonardo da Vinci (some Italian scholars would argue the model for his Mona Lisa), was only 13 years old at the time.  Leave it to a kid to invent such a fun machine.  Of course, the French and the Germans would like to lay claim to the invention, but it wouldn’t be the first time they tried to steal from the creative Italian genius. Cologne, the condom, the expresso machine, the ice cream cone, jacuzzi, liposuction, parachute, piano, pretzel, and the telephone are all Italian inventions.  Everything to do with practicality and some form of pleasure, but none more than the bicycle. Cycling has to rank up there in anyone’s top 3 of Fulfilling Activities, Favorite Pastimes, Great Memories.  Next to his wife and his dog, his next most precious possession(for lack of a better term) is a man’s bike.  While wives are far more complicated than dogs, and dogs require much attention, the bike just is.  I have four: a cherry red Fuji Royale I purchased right after leaving university in 1980; an old steel Tommasini Techno I keep in the States; a vintage Bianchi; and a stainless steel Tommasini X-Fire. The Fuji was my first serious 12 speed.  Can’t let it go and so it is here in Italy with me. The Bianchi, Bianchi green, is my war horse. It carried me over the gut-wrenching 209 kilometers of L’Eroica, the mythic non-competitive race through the Tuscan hills, half of which were up and down what Italians call Strade Bianche, or white roads. Yes, some roads in Hell are white.  The X-Fire, custom made by one of the original Italian artisans, Irio Tommasini, is what I ride 52 weeks a year.  It is a beautiful machine. Masculine, but elegant.  Not stamped out like a Swatch, not made in Taiwan, like so many other American, Italian, French and German bikes, but true Italian craftsmanship hand made not far from the sea.  The rapport with the bike, the bike’s rapport with the road, we are one harmonious extension, we are one with the other.  And that harmony extends beyond man and bike, over green hills, rolling vineyards and olive groves; up and down rugged mountains; along cypresses tall and straight sculpted by Mother Nature’s perfect hands. But the harmony is not without pain. Tuscany says you may enjoy me, but you must suffer.  And suffer we do, up roads so steep they must have been dug out with a devil’s shovel, our hearts thumping, legs straining, muscles burning and cramping, lungs grasping for every last molecule of oxygen. I curse the extra weight: too much pasta, bread, olive oil and vino. We suffer, but we never dismount.  We never curse the bike.  Hands on the hoods or in the drops, we hold her firmly.  At the end of the Eroica I kissed my Bianchi. We are neither in the Giro d’Italia, nor the Tour de France.  We are in our own cycling paradise, sometime cycling hell, but always surreal experience. Some ideas are eternal. If Caprotti only knew.


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