Big Wheel

Yesterday I witnessed something magic.  For the second time in my town, we hosted a High Wheel bicycle race.  This is a race between those huge one giant wheel/one small wheeled bicycles.  Yes, it is as awesome as it sounds.  In fact, more awesome, I discovered, as I wandered through the huge crowd that had gathered for the occasion.  All sorts of people were there, and all stood for an hour, encouraging the racers as they went by.  These cyclists, due to the unusual fortitude required to sit five feet up on a wobbly bike with no brakes, have clear personalities.  There was the guy who fabricated his bike by hand into a work of art.  Another who wore (rather wisely) a full face helmet and was guided by the skull figurine welded to his handlebars.  The more traditional riders wore early 1900's garb and looked right at home atop their impractical velocipedes.  Well, at some point they were practical.  Until the chain drive was invented, increasing the wheel size did maximize efficiency and speed.  How anyone survived riding these bikes in traffic, on cobblestoned streets, or near basically any obstacle at all is beyond me.
But yesterday, maybe all of the Penny Farthing riders in the country gathered their boneshakers to ride around my city for an hour.  When they finished, the course was swamped with spectators, bursting with curiosity over the riders and their machines.  They were quized on the mechanics, posed for pictures, helped people pose atop their bicycles and for these glorious moments, biking was the coolest hobby in town.  The brave riders had become transitory celebrities.  As they passed on the 1/2 mile course (they rode for an hour competing for most laps completed) spectators whooped, clapped, and shouted "Moustache man" or "Socks" to newly nicknamed riders.  It was amazing to watch.  I felt pride in my town, proud in its people and, pride in cycling.   

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