Saturday, October 25, 2014

Wheelmen – An Historical Name Sullied

According to Urban Dictionary a wheelman is, among other things:
“A dirty ginger with a tiny penis who enjoys greasing up other guys dingleberries with WD-40 and melted white chocolate then taking pictures of them so he can jerk off later.”
"You see that Corey guy?"
"Yeah, he seems like a total Wheelman"

Unfortunately I’m not an expert on this subject as my home-delivered organic fruit & veg box contains neither ginger nor dingleberries—although I am looking forward to them coming back in to season—but if there’s one thing I’ve learnt from years spent (mostly unsuccessfully) attempting to maintain bicycles is that you should never use WD-40 for any greasing application. Being a water dispersant, products like WD-40 tend to clear out any useful lubricating fluids eventually rendering moving parts dry (and squeaky). My advice to any budding wheelmen out there who are finding other guys' dingleberries in need of greasing would actually be to use a melted dark chocolate (with a high percentage of cocoa solids) and a light lubricant (such as sewing machine oil).

This definition is both curious (and probably also a little spurious) and you’ll note that its Urban Dictionary entry ranks last (out of 6) with only 5 “thumbs up” votes and 50 “thumbs down” votes. Compared with the more commonly accepted definition—“a person who knows how to drive”—which has over 160 affirmative votes, entries like this can lead a person to seriously question the credibility of the Internet.

Strangely, the Urban Dictionary makes no reference relating to bicycles, which, as far as I know (and as confirmed by the real dictionary) is a much more common usage of the term.
/ˈʰwil mən, ˈwil-/
noun, plural wheelmen.
1. Also, wheelsman  /ˈʰwilz mən, ˈwil-/. a helmsman or steersman.
2. a rider of a bicycle, tricycle, or the like.
3. Slang.
  a. driver, especially a chauffeur:
  “The mobster's wheelman was also his bodyguard.”
  b. a person who drives the getaway car in a holdup or robbery.
There was also a book released in 2013 titled “Wheelmen: Lance Armstrong, the Tour de France, and the Greatest Sports Conspiracy Ever.” According to the book’s website, it includes “the first in-depth look at Lance Armstrong’s doping scandal, the phenomenal business success built on the back of fraud, and the greatest conspiracy in the history of sports.”

While an impressive tagline, I think most people would probably agree that the honour of “greatest conspiracy in the history of sports” has now been claimed by the Colombian IDRD-Bogota Humana-San Mateo-Solgar pro cycling team’s claim that their kit design was based on a gold colour scheme reflecting their sponsor’s colours and was not meant to imitate the flesh of semi-naked female cyclist midriff. The kit was actually designed by decorated team member Angie Tatiana Rojas Suarez who defended her clothing design in this interview:
“As for the color around the shorts, it comes from our sponsors. It's the primary color used by Solgar, a company that makes vitamins, and is also similar to the one used by San Mateo University, another one of our sponsors…”
According to team kit designer Angie Tatiana Rojas Suarez (pictured 3rd from right), this colour is Solgar Vitamin-Gold and not Naked Caucasian Midriff. You be the judge, but don’t examine it too closely or you might come off looking like somewhat of a pervert.

Anyway, back to the former title holder of “the greatest conspiracy in the history of sports,” Lance Armstrong and the Wheelmen book that helped to expose his story. Inside its cover, this book includes a complex visual infographic summarising Armstrong’s intricate network of personal and business relationships that together allowed him to maintain an incredibly successful doping operation against all the odds for so many years.

The infographic itself required more than ten minutes of study before arriving at the realisation that it was all well beyond my level of comprehension.

Seriously, have a quick look for yourself and see if you’re able to glean any understanding about this complex web of questionable donations, conflicts of interest, backstabbing, shady business deals and (anti-) doping organisations—and if you can, please let me know as I’m still completely in the dark.

A high-resolution PDF version of the infographic can be viewed here.

But the term Wheelmen is not necessarily associated with negative connotations (or improper dingleberry lubrication technique). Take, for example, The Wheelmen, a non-profit organisation founded in Delaware (USA) that is dedicated to the preservation of historical cycling equipment.
“The Wheelmen embrace a broad range of bicycle-related activities, centered on the historical aspects of cycling,” which include, amongst others, “riding in parades, tours and demonstrations...recreating grand dance balls, picnics, [and] developing buglers…”
Back in the late 19th century when bicycle rides were a bit more formal, a bugler would blast out instructional commands to the riders in the parade or tour. Things like “mount up, single file, two abreast, slow, etc.”

The Ipswich Cycling Club’s website even contains a hopeful request on their Club History page for the compulsory reinstatement of buglers at all cycling clubs.
“I am particularly impressed that the inaugural committee included a club bugler.  Perhaps Cycling Queensland could bring this tradition back, and make buglers compulsory for all clubs.”
I have no doubt that the addition of a bugler to the St Kilda Cycling Club would not only spice up the club’s annual grand dance ball—otherwise known as the Peloton Ball—but also hopefully improve safety on bunch rides.

There’s certainly nothing objectionable about the term Wheelmen used in this historical context, regardless of the method of cocoa-based dingleberry lubrication they choose to employ. The society’s “membership is open to everyone worldwide whether you own an antique bicycle or just enjoy the early days of our history when cycling was being born.”

It’s not-for-profit organisations such as these to whom we owe a huge debt of gratitude. They are standing in defiant solidarity against the shameful sullying of the term Wheelmen, keeping many proud traditions alive and are probably one of the few remaining organisations dedicated to fostering developing buglers. On behalf of cyclists everywhere, The Private Cyclist thanks you.

Single-file riders!

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