Pop Off Apr 4, 2009

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Let’s rewind it a bit to the post I made about Devotion’s MB-1 bike. Remember the cork hanging from the saddle rails? Well, here’s the explanation:

“I’ll leave it up to Ted Ernst, a former 6-day racer, fixture of the So-Cal racing scene and encyclopedia of American racing in the days of yore.

“Cycling Lore From Days Of Yore:
In days of old, when bike riders were bold,
and a fixed gear was all they’d need,
with lots of torque they attached a cork,
and rode away with speed.

Corks in cycling vernacular date back at least to the 1920’s, probably originating at the steeply banked wood track indoor 6-day bike races. During the halcyon years of cycling in the tens, twenties, and thirties, trackside at the 6-day race was one of the places where the social set went to be seen. Sitting next to the action at their infield tables, it was chic for the “swells” to sip champagne and dine while giving the track stewards money for sprint laps to liven up the racing activity. The speedy, smooth muscular shaved legs, whirling wheels, sparkling sprockets and the sensuous aroma of the various rub down lotions had more than a few femme fatales asking about and turning an eye or ankle to the studly, er sturdy bike racers.

Soon the jargon evolved. When a cork was popped, power was released. Bubbles escaped, the elixir went flat, no more “oomph” or energy. So, dropping your cork or having no more cork means you’re out of it, flat, dead, pooped, no more stuff. Ergo, the racers would hang a cork on their bikes so they’d never be “out” of cork. There would always be one more effort left for a “jam” or sprint. Conversely, if a rider said he “uncorked” a sprint, well, he “jumped”, “wound it up”, and took off. Or, if he pulled their corks, he went so hard that the opposition got “dropped”, “shook off” and had no more cork left.

They were decimated. HAH! Great Fun!

Commercially, bar plugs were not yet in standard production. In spills, riders could easily get gouged by the edges of the handlebar and stem tubes. Ouch! Instead of just taping over the openings, our friendly cork came to the rescue! Corks were filed and/or sanded, inserted into the openings, and often painted to match the rider’s bike or team colors. The corks were also used to plug the bottom of the fork crown. Dirt and moisture were kept out. Light, inexpensive, and effective.”

A subtle reminder that no matter how tired you think you are, you’ve always got a little cork left!

Can’t be a wine cork though…Gotta be effervescent like Champagne or something.”

  • jerm

    but boones farm only has a screwtop…. is it cool to substitute that? i’m really not that into champagne or wine, what about a guinness widget?

    awesome post though, i like learning the little bits like that!
    thanks!

  • http://mesmertron.wordpress.com/ mesmertron

    Cool post. thanks.

  • erik

    sippin’ on the crisssssssss.

  • beinepush

    niice post. Always love some fixed gear fun facts. keep them coming

  • Tim

    If there’s one things that’s come from the current, trendy, bike boom, it’s these little gems of history and culture that keep surfacing.
    Great post ! I hope all the noobs take notice of these little gems of cycling culture.

  • http://www.scorchers.tk scorchers_nh

    Nice.
    Finally a use for all those Krug corks I’ve been holding on to.
    Thanks.