Artistic Cycling. Hmmm, now there’s a title that conjures up... Nothing. Cheri called me last week to say that she was bored stiff at TI/Raleigh headquarters, and that she was begging me for some distractive, “Just like riding a bicycle activity”! I immediately swung into action and grabbed my camera, a couple of cushy pillows for our backsides, and we headed out to investigate this enigmatic art form.

Built on, and owing much to the earlier sport of artistic walking, artistic cycling has arrived fairly recently on the cycling scene. The first Men’s World Championships were held in 1956, with the Women’s following later in 1970. The bicycles the contestants ride are of the fixed gear variety, usually geared one-to-one, with a straight, trail-less fork, and a stem with a zero extension.

Now there is a panel of judges, and their task is to determine which one of the riders is the most impressive on a bicycle. And it is to this end that the contestants climb up on their handle bars, with their arms outstretched, and their chests puffed out, trying to look like the alpha male (or alpha female) of their competing circle.

Many times, when no contestant is clearly able to dominate the floor, a situation known as “stacking” erupts. This phenomena seems to be triggered by a great wave of anxiety, when the audience can no longer restrain themselves, and they storm out of the bleachers and start climbing onto the shoulders of the contestants, thereby radically challenging the topography of the playing field.

A winner is then declared -usually a zealous tree surgeon, or a tall ship rigger, but sometimes a spry volunteer fireman- and then the admission proceeds are split amongst the sponsors, in recognition of their support for an athletic event which will never be able to claim a red cent of profitability.

Since 1972, when statistical data first began being compiled on the subject, there has shown a drastic reduction in pole sitting and water tower climbing behaviors in the communities where Artistic Cycling takes place. The jury is still out on the value of this information, but here their ambivalence is thought to be stunning data none the less, as their condition stems directly from underwhelming Artistic Cycling postulates.

So until next month, when looking for Art, I’d recommend checking out some other venues  -Euro Freddie.

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Criterium Corner with Euro Freddie