Winter riding, and its similarities to the consumption of prison-made hooch

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The physical consequences of being a cyclist, as depicted in the El Colombiano newspaper circa 1955. Photographed during my recent visit to the home of Ramon Hoyos.
(Click to enlarge)

"The illness lasts for weeks, not just days. Blinding pain, stomach cramps, every bit of your body aches. You poisoned yourself, and you pay the price. But once the pain fades, you eventually forget about it. Then one day, another guy brings up the idea of making another batch...and the process starts all over again. Before you know it, you're dipping a cup into another putrid bucket, and the cycle starts all over again."

That, more or less, is how an article I once read in a men's magazine began. I should first clarify that by "men's magazine", I don't mean one with naked ladies, but rather one of those magazines with articles about the best restaurants in Marrakesh, ads for tacky Breitling watches, and insipid interviews with Anna Kournikova. This particular article included detailed accounts by inmates in federal prisons about everything from what it's like to spend time in solitary confinement, to the realities of getting stabbed with a prison shank. The part of the article that captivated my attention, however, was the one that included the description above. It was about the realities of making alcoholic beverages while in prison. For individuals like me (whose size and physique resemble that of a seventh grader, and who would never stand a chance in prison) articles like that one serve as the only point of reference regarding what it's like to be locked up. The movie Blood In Blood Out was also helpful in that regard however. That movie also helped me make fashion choices for a brief part of my teenage years. But that's another story entirely.

Did I work hard as a young man to do away with latino stereotypes? Well, yes, but I also had to look awesome during those years. What am I trying to say? I'm trying to say that yes, I was confused as a young man. And yes, there are pictures of me as a teen, where only the top button of my shirt is fastened.

Anyway, that article in that men's magazine largely focused on the often convoluted process of making alcohol in prison. At times, simply gathering the ingredients, and finding a place to store them can take months. Because of where the mixture and the ingredients are stored, as well as how little monitoring the process gets when in prison, things other than fermentation take place. This seemed like an unusual concept to me at first. I mean, I always assumed that letting a sugary mixture with rotten bread ferment in a filthy bucket that was previously used to clean prison toilets would be perfectly safe. It isn't. Hence the severe illness that sometimes comes after drinking the mixture that is brewed in a feces-stained bucket. But once the illness is forgotten, the cycle begins all over again. With little else to do or think about while in prison, the prospect of making another bucket full of putrid alcohol is enticing, regardless of the consequences.

Epic photo, and epic photo manipulation by Zach from Ten Speed Hero

Like riding a bike...
Right now, you're probably asking yourself: "Wait, why am I reading a post about prison alcohol, and why am I reading it on a cycling blog?" First of all, there's a connection between the two. Kind of. Secondly, you're reading this because it's the week between christmas and new year's, and other blogs are taking time off and not posting at all right now. It's like when you have to pay six dollars for a tiny portion of horrible nachos in the airport, because there aren't any other options. But here at Cycling Inquisition, we do things differently. Here, we strive to provide you high-ish quality content regardless of the time of year.

So anyway, riding a bike is not at all like being in prison, although when I ride, people in cars around me question my masculinity out loud as often as I suspect my fellow inmates would. Then there's the whole issue of saddle sores, which I suspect have their prison equivalent...but that's beside the point. Additionally, I have to admit that I thought about that article before a ride a couple of weeks ago. It was cold, and windy, and I was already feeling a bit weak and sickly before I even decided to don my tight cycling pantaloons. I knew what was going to happen after the ride. The same thing that happens after every fifth ride during the winter time, when temperatures dip below freezing. I come back from the ride, I shower, and the after-ride glow that I experience during warmer days is simply not there. Mentally I'm happy. I snuck a ride in, I beat the stupid winter for once. I managed to ride while the streets were clear, so I should feel great. But physically, I'm near death.

A picture of me (along with Wendy from Accounts Payable) at the Cycling Inquisition regional headquarters in Wisconsin.

This doesn't happen during every winter ride, but a good few of them. The ride that triggers the illness may not be all that long. The temperature may not have been all that low, but my body reacts violently. Almost as though I had just drank a mixture fermented in a poop-stained bucket. The sickness that I was keeping at bay for days before the ride, suddenly comes over me. My body is depleted, and I'm suddenly coughing like I'm in my deathbed. I do it to myself, and I know this may happen as I clip in. At least it seems to happen twenty percent of the time or so. But just like those individuals who are in prison, I forget about the last time I felt sick. I don my tight attire, and the tap dancin' shoes. I go for a ride...and the cycle starts all over again. But it's worth it.

And this will be how some of my rides (and post-ride days) will go down for the next few months during winter. Sometimes I'll just be worn down after the ride, sometimes I'll be actually sick. Luckily, unlike drinking alcohol made in a bucket, I probably wont pee blood or end up blind because of riding in the cold. At least I hope I don't.

Extra credit

1. By now, Cipollini's remarks about the current state of cycling are old news. Still, I thought it would be worthwhile to share this little image I made on the Photoshops with you, the readers.

2. SRAM, Schram, it turns out, the people around you are not the only ones who are confused by how it's pronounced. This rather lengthy video of outtakes from SRAM commercials features an entire section devoted to professionals mispronouncing the company's name. Vimeo doesn't allow you to link to a specific moment in a video, so simply fast forward to 10:36

SRAM - The Bloopers from Jim Fryer/BrakeThrough Media on Vimeo.