Friday, October 21, 2005

The Golden Age of the Giant Wheel

I really find the phrase "Golden Age" distasteful and vainglorious. How can we possibly know that something has reached its golden age when technology/society/art is progressing at such a rapid rate? We've already had the golden ages of television, movies, aviation, and illustration. Is that to say that we've seen the best those areas have to offer? I doubt it. It's pretty hard to argue that the so-called golden ages were the best ages of their respective milieus. The Golden Age of Television didn't have one reality show, not to mention Saved By the Bell or Seinfeld. They didn't even have jet engines in the golden age of aviation (for the most part).

Have there been any recent golden ages? No one would dare call the 80s the golden age of something (maybe the Golden Age of 80's music), but did we have the golden age of anything in the 90s? Are we in the golden age of anything now? The Internet perhaps, or maybe porn, but again, how could you possibly say that? It just grinds my gears, that's all.

Is only one golden age so far that I feel confident in endorsing -- the Golden Age of Old Timey Bicycles (a.k.a. penny-farthings). I mean, look at this bicycle. It doesn't get much better than that.

Not only is it awesomely cool, but the penny-farthing was notoriously prone to accidents. "To slow and stop a high wheel, as with a fixed gear bicycle, the rider applies a backwards pedalling motion, augmented by use of a spoon-shaped brake pressing on the tyre. The center of mass being both high and not far behind the contact point of the front wheel meant that any attempt to stop suddenly, or any collision with a large pothole or other obstruction, would be likely to send them flying over the handle bars (known as "taking a header" or "coming a cropper"). On long downhill stretches it was recommended that riders take their feet off the pedals and hook them over the handlebars, so that in case of a crash they would land (hopefully) on their feet. This made for quick descents but left almost no chance of stopping should the need arise."

Just try and convince me that the penny-farthing isn't bad-ass.


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