Toolboxes, Spinergy wheels, and crime statistics.

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Cofidis toolbox. Ooooh...ahhhhh.
Photo from promechanics.com



You've heard of "bike porn" before, right? But have you heard of an unusual subset of bike porn called "bike mechanic toolbox porn"? Perhaps you haven't, but here at Cycling Inquisition we spare no expense when it comes to the kind of investigative reporting that will bring you information such as this. If you'd like, check out a gallery featuring these types of pictures, here. When you look through the images, please pay attention to the voyeuristic fashion in which many of these pictures were taken. During races, and from afar. In a sense, I can't help but think that even creepy old men that take their mile-long telephoto lenses to nude beaches will cringe upon seeing most of these pictures.


Speaking of creepy weirdos, I must surely be a member of one obscure subset of humanity, because during the Superbowl I became transfixed... not by Fergie's busted face, the tight pantaloons on the football players, or by the depressing fact that Slash is still wearing a top hat. What captivated me endlessly was the fact that a set of Spinergy Rev-X wheels had a brief cameo in a Doritos commercial.


The only thing more sub-par and bound to self-destroy than the Ikea couch are the wheels on the bike



As I watched the commercial, I was mystified. Seeing one Spinergy Rev-X is already special. But seeing two bordered on heavenly. As such, my response was almost identical to that of the double rainbow guy. I kept mumbling "Double Spinergy" to myself. By the end of the commercial, I was crying due to the emotional moment I had just lived through. What did it all mean? Double Spinergy....double Spinergy. Oh my god, what did it mean?




Aside from the Superbowl, there's other sports to watch right now, like professional cycling. Sure, races like the Giro della Provincia di Reggio Calabria barely register in the radars of most fans, but they are worth watching. If for no other reason, it's fun to see riders make their way around parked cars, trucks that are still on the road, and city buses that ares still moving (albeit very slowly), and pedestrians who seem largely unaware of the fact that a race is happening on that street, in their town, at that moment. For me, it's also interesting to see how much large portions of the Italian countryside look exactly like Colombia.

Since that last sentence was the first mention of Colombia in this post, I'll go ahead and make a second reference to my beloved country of birth (since I'm contractually obligated to make at least two such mentions per post).

Here it is: Bicycling Magazine (which is my favorite publication to turn to when looking for a lemon and herb encrusted risotto recipe) is reminding its readers that Colombia is a very, very dangerous place to go in its newest issue.



Because I'm lazy, I quickly took a blurry picture of the magazine with my phone, rather than scanning it. Above this blurb was the headline "Worth The Risk?", along with an image of police looking over several murder victims.




While the people at Bicycling do bring up some of the good things about Colombia (like the Ciclovia), they sure make the country seem like a frightening and horrible place to visit or be from. The number of kidnappings they quote is probably accurate, but they fail to take into account just where these things take place within the country. Most such incidents occur in very, very remote places that you would have to try very hard to even get to. By "very hard", I mean that you'd have to take a car, and then a bus, and then maybe a boat, and a horse. I don't mean to downplay Colombia's issues, since they've been well-documented and are well known...but I wonder how many Bicycling employees have ever been to Colombia, and how many of them have been there recently. Maybe I'm wrong, and a few have been there recently, but that blurb tells me otherwise.

Numbers may not lie, but they can present a skewed image when not put into context. Numbers often have little to do with the realities of living in a place, or visiting that place. That, I believe, is the crux of the problem when numbers like this are given out. If you haven't been to Colombia recently, you don't realize how different one part is from another, how insanely segmented the place is, or how extremely remote many areas (particularly the dangerous ones) are. Here in the United States, I can get in a car, and drive to another state easily. I can even take that car into the most remote areas of the country pretty easily. I've done it. Colombia, on the other hand, is insanely different. Remember that this is a country with large metropolitan cities, as well as native tribes that have never been contacted by "civilization". The drop-off in living conditions, climate, and terrain is precipitous. So are the conditions, crime and lifestyle. It's important to keep this in mind, because the mental model that most people have about how a country works, and how people and information travel through out it, is largely useless in a place like Colombia. It's about as far away from homogeneity as you can get.


Anyway, the specific number given in Bicycling is that 465 people were abducted in 2008. It's a sad number, no doubt about that, particularly for a relatively small country (47 million). But consider the following statistics about the United States, and keep in mind that these world rankings are per capita.

Rape
United States is ranked #9 in the world (Colombia #44)

Assault
United States is ranked #6 in the world (Colombia #35)

Suicide
United States is ranked #30 (Colombia #65)

Feeling that your neighbors are "undersirable" due to them being immigrants
United States is ranked #9 (Colombia has no such ranking)

Source: nationmaster.com



What do these rankings say about the United States? Sure, Colombia has fewer immigrants than the United States, but that last statistic should be a bit frightening to anyone from South America that may want to visit this country, or want to live here. Personally, I think a piece in Colombia's Mundo Ciclistico magazine saying that you'd be crazy to go to a place where you'll probably get assaulted and raped is in order. Maybe I'll write that piece myself, and make myself out to be an expert, since I'm currently living in the war zone known as the United States. Additionally, another country is mentioned in the blurb, Nicaragua. Regarding that country, it says "Corrupt municipal elections in 2008 destabilized a fragile resurgence in this often troubled Central American nation". Could a publication elsewhere in the world say something similar about the 2000 presidential election in the United States? It's a stretch, but an outsider may see things differently....if only by virtue of not living here. I don't say this to be provocative, or as a result of any political inclination on my part. I merely bring it up to show how these things are a matter of perspective.


In the end, I'm not trying to say that Colombia is perfect, or that the United States is scary (although it has been for me at many points in my life). I'm also not saying that the people from Bicycling are necessarily wrong and/or evil. They were just writing a quick blurb about other countries, and weren't working on a PhD thesis about statistical analysis and South American politics....nor would I expect them to (god only knows that the risotto recipes are already hard enough to get through). I just wanted to point out that simply giving out numbers like that can't begin to convey the truth about a place. Especially when a country (due to its infrastructure and extreme topography) is as segmented and varied as Colombia is.



Alto de Letras



But come to think of it....if I talk all of you into the fact that Colombia is great place to visit, you will all start going, and there will be less gems for me to find in Bogota and Medellin's bike shops. The roads up the climbs like Letras will be crowded with riders from all over the world, making it hard for us Colombianos to ride. So forget what I just said. It's scary there...and the Colombian boogie man is going to get you if you visit. So stay away. Stay really, really far away. Don't ever go. Trust me, I'm an expert. I've lived in that war zone.


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