Friday, October 2, 2009

Freds and Fausto Coppi

A "Fred" is a disparaging term used by the Lycra clad, racer wannabes for the rest of us; that is, those of us who bicycle wearing comfy denim shorts, a loose t-shirt, and tennis shoes. Often you can spot a Fred riding an old ten-speed with an enormous soft saddle and the bars spun around backwards - not pedaling furiously with an anguished look on his face, just cranking along, enjoying the ride. The original Fred may have been Fred Birchmore who rode his bicycle 25,000 miles around the world in 1935. His bicycle Bucephalus (obviously a learned Fred) is now in the Smithsonian museum. In one hypocryphal incident in Italy he mistakenly got caught up in a bicycle race, passed the racers and finished first riding his loaded touring bike. Not likely, but a good win for the Everyman in all of us.

Fausto Coppi was the coolest man to ever mount a bicycle. While certainly not a handsome man, he had that sense of slightly arrogant style that only the Italians seem to be able to pull off well. He was a bit of a sinner, a ladies man, playing anti-hero to his longtime rival, the straight-shooting, religious Geno Bartalli. In the saddle he had what the French call souplesse, which translates as suppleness, but as applied to bicyclists it denotes balance, poise and grace. On his worst day Fausto was beauty on a bike.

What do Fausto Coppi and the Freds of this world have in common? It appears that beneath his suave veneer, Fausto was a closet Fred.


Anonymous said...

hmmm . . . well, in the circles I'm acquainted with, no one shows up in cutoffs any more, though I remember doing that in my youth. I also flopped handlebars this way and that.

Nowadays, a Fred is anyone who commits the following sins, judged by internet juries: 1. Uses more than one headset spacer. This is probably the worst possible sin, so heinous that certain forums devote many pages to open venting, in a desperate bid to purge themselves of the Fred stench, which is simultaneously obscene, heinous, revolting, and inexplicable. 2. Uses the large size of waterbottle. This sin is less grave; in fact, pointing it out is possibly a proof of rarified taste. 3. Wears helmet mirrors. This sin elicits no comment at all. It is widely accepted as unacceptable, yet is not deemed worthy of remark. 5. Wears lycra shorts only, rather than bibs. (Similar to no. 4.) 6. Rides a Trek. This appalling capitulation to the non-bespoke market is actually even worse than no. 1, if you can believe it. The earnest and mirror-equipped, value-minded Trek consumer with triple chainrings, who shows up early for the metric ride on Saturday morning, is one big poorly-fitted gaff . . . and is blessedly unaware that his very Fredness is itself a steel scribe dragged mercilessly across the entire metaphorical width of the Salonista culture's blackboard. And I say, go get em, Fred.

michael white

Gunnar Berg said...

Actually the uniform is khaki MTB shorts, Hawaiian shirt (rayon) and lace-up Sidi touring shoes - a Fred at heart.

reverend dick said...

What amazing pictures you've posted here, Gunnar.

I personally rock the slightly arrogant Fausto style.

But with all the earnest hearticality of Gino.

Justine Nicholas Valinotti said...

I am one of the people who used to disparage Freds. Now I am one--the female version, anyway. (Freda?)

For one thing, I got to an age at which I started to feel a little silly wearing billboard lycra. And because of other life changes, I realized that the racer wannabe pretense just wasn't going to work anymore.

I'm off the bike for another month or so because of surgery I've had. But I eagerly anticipate riding my Mercian Audax bike again. There's no carbon or titanium anywhere on it. And I'll be riding in "real" clothes, of course.

And now I'll be thinking of Fausto and Berg!

Gunnar Berg said...

I've heard that the female iteration of Fred is Doris. I hope you're back on a bike soon...Doris.

Anonymous said...

I think the main distinguishing feature of Fredness is that they are the ones having fun.


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