There's Plenty to Sneeze At
With the Pines, Junipers
And Knuckleheads In Bloom

Let a fool hold his tongue and he will pass for a sage.
—Pubilius Syrus, Maxim 914

By Patrick O'Grady

  My allergies are giving me fits this spring. First it was the pines, then the junipers, and now the knuckleheads are in bloom.

  A few weeks of leaky eyes and nuclear sneezes clued me in to the first two, but it took a phone call from a cycling advocate to make me aware of the third. The editor of the local business journal had just enjoyed a few giggles at cycling's expense, in print, and the advocate was not amused.

  Neither was I, after I tracked down this mumbling diatribe online. It stumbled at length along that well-worn path: These gosh-darn cyclists think they're entitled to the same amount of road as automobiles; refuse to ride single file; never get ticketed for breaking traffic laws; and so on and so forth, stifle that yawn, son, you're doing research here . . . zzzzzzz.

  Huh? Whuh? Pardon me, I drifted off. Where were we?

  Oh, yeah. Right. Knuckleheads. Not even Sudafed helps.

  Laugh, I Thought I'd Die. This stale comedy routine has been recycled so many times, by so many hacks, that I believe it must come pre-assigned to a function key in Microsoft Word.

  In a normal year, it usually doesn't flower until July, when jock-sniffers slumped around sports desks nationwide like to compare the Tour de France to pedaling the kid's Huffy Axis down to the 7-Eleven for a pack of Luckies and a tallboy.

  That it should bloom months earlier, in the pages of a publication devoted to the local business scene, was its only interesting aspect, since our town is home to a dozen or so bike shops of various sizes, USA Cycling, USA Triathlon, Barnett's Bicycle Institute, a handful of tour companies and a certain free-lance cycling journalist who shall remain nameless.

  Why Give Us the Business? What could prompt the editor of a business journal to launch an unprovoked assault on a segment of the $51.3 billion sporting-goods industry?

  Was this circulation-boosting tactic covered in one of the J-school classes I napped through in college? Perhaps it was spelled out in invisible ink between the lines of The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual, and discernible only at midnight by the flickering glow of a cheap tavern's Budweiser sign? Nah, I'd have seen it then.

  Frankly, I have no idea what brought on this latest iteration of the cars-vs.-bikes farce, or any of its equally feeble predecessors. But as you might expect, I have a few theories.

  Paging Dr. Freud. First, there's homosexual panic. The authors of these ham-handed harangues often write fondly of stick-and-ball pastimes. Might their innermost secret selves be longing to mince about in high heels, push-up bras and Freudian slips? If so, a glimpse of a cyclist's muscled body pumping along in form-fitting Lycra might very well unchain the she-beast within, sparking an irresistible desire to rub up against us, if only with their bumpers. But I think we'd all prefer that they work through these issues on the couch instead of behind the wheel or at the keyboard.

  How about precognition? When the gas finally runs out, as it must, even the thickest petroleum addict knows that he and his land yacht will follow the dinosaurs into the tar pits of history. Seconds after the final gallon of gas becomes the last gasp of blue smoke from a tailpipe, hordes of vengeful cyclists will descend mercilessly upon these dethroned kings of the road, spiriting their wives and children away in BOB trailers to heavily fortified organic bean-sprout farms where they will toil without respite as concubines, serfs and business-journal editors.

  Or maybe we can simply chalk this one up to a bad case of seasonal allergies. The junipers are working overtime here, and this knucklehead is probably loopy on antihistamines.

  That would go a long way toward explaining why a business magazine would publish a column that managed to be both snotty and dopey at the same time.

This column appeared in the May 1, 2007, edition of Bicycle Retailer & Industry News.

u n c o l l a r e d

  "Mad Dog Unleashed" is the column I write for Bicycle Retailer & Industry News, a trade mag based in Laguna Hills, California. When I started writing it in the early Nineties it was called "A Consumer's Viewpoint," because while I had spent a good deal of time in bike shops over the years, I had never actually worked in one. Plus it was plain to management that while I was willing to work cheap, I had all the business acumen of a banana slug. The column was rechristened "Mad Dog Unleashed" when it also became apparent that I had a ravenous appetite for the hand that fed me, and over the years it has devolved into a platform for me to expound at length on all the other topics about which I am entirely ignorant. Occasionally bicycles are mentioned.

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