Possessed

Each Sunday, the “Fashion & Style” section of the New York Times runs a column entitled “Possessed” in which a person of indeterminate renown (who are these people? the columnist David Colman’s friends?) expounds the virtues of a prized material possession. More often than not, the objects are of a more mundane vein, yet marvels of utilitarian design (i.e.- a razor knife, Nicorettes, Gap jeans, a neckerchief). My typical reaction to these articles is a bemused “So what?”; however, I’m an addict and return Sunday after Sunday after Sunday eager to read the latest installment.

15t Regina CX cog, the bane of my existence

In all likelihood I’ll never be featured in Mr. Colman’s weekly diversion, so I’ll have to take advantage of my personal e-forum to make a contribution to the “Possessed” oeuvre: a 15t Regina CX cog, serving faithful duty as my keychain. This particular cog has quite a story, and is undoubtedly the only thing I own which has been on my person virtually each and every day for almost 20 years. On a balmy summer day in July, 1985, I don’t quite recall the exact date, I lined up with about 100 other juniors in Lake Front Park, Milwaukee, vying for the 16-17 men’s national road championship to be contested over approximately 100km. Unfortunately for me, it would be a rather brief foray in the peloton that morning. For those of you who are veterans of Superweek, we were racing on the long Lake Front loop, and I hadn’t even completed one circuit before my trusty 6-speed Regina freewheel had a meltdown. We had negotiated the dicey switchback descent to Lincoln Memorial Drive, raged along the lake front, and turned left up the wooded climb at the northern end of the loop. I made it about 75 meters uphill, shifted from my 53×15 to my 42×15, and then abruptly ceased to make any forward progress despite feverish spinning on my behalf. I was running pretty typical junior gears for the flattish circuit, 53/42 up front and 15-16-17-18-19-21 in the back. The 15t cog on the freewheel also served as a lockring, and the little bastard’s threads disintegrated at the base of the climb. I’m not sure of the internal mechanics of this freewheel, but I do know that with a stripped small cog the freewheel no longer engaged and my 120rpm spin wasn’t propelling me uphill at all. This problem should have been remedied with a simple wheel change, but again, luck was not on my side. I was in the top 1/3 of the peloton and somehow managed not to be creamed by any adrenaline-crazed junior comrades as I coasted to a halt. I took off my bum wheel and expected neutral support to come to my assistance in a matter of seconds.

Nope.

It turns out a rather large crash at the base of the switchback descent occupied all of the neutral support vehicles and I had to wait about 2-3 minutes before anyone came to my assistance. I got a new rear wheel and set off in steadfast pursuit of the peloton, but only managed to hold the gap at 2 minutes on my own for the next 30 miles. Angered and frustrated, I then retired. Ultimately, Paul Orwicz rode in solo for victory while I begrudgingly spectated instead of competed. One of the few other moments of that day still in my memory was watching fellow upstate New Yorker Steve “Tough as Nails” Deutschmann, sick as a dog, ride tail gunner all day long and ultimately finish in roughly that position. (Whatever happened to him?)

A Velonews was waiting for me upon returning to Cooperstown. Inside was a small blurb warning readers about a defective batch of Regina CX freewheels which had entered the US earlier that year. Doh! I had finally got around to getting a driver’s license so the bum cog became my keyring and has been ever since the summer of ‘85. I’m long past any notion of bitterness, although on occasion I just wish I had the chance to have my fate decided by athletic prowess, not crappy Italian steel.

Ninja Skyjacker: While flying back to Duke in the late 1980s, an overzealous Syracuse airport rent-a-cop X-ray technician thought he made the bust of the year. I happened to mosey through the metal detector with the Regina cog keychain in my pocket and tripped off the alarm. I emptied the contents of my pockets for the guard and he totally lost his shit when he spied my keychain. He was eager to bust me for carrying a concealed, deadly weapon (in his mind this was a throwing star) and he called in the real law enforcement officers for backup and assistance. Thankfully, cooler, saner heads prevailed when the real cops showed up. One of the cops immediately IDed the offending “weapon” as a bike part and sent me on my way with apologies for any hassle.

Toga Is The Wave of Motion: While living in the northeast I spent many years competing against riders in Team Toga duds, such as aforementioned junior national champion Paul Orwicz. Once sublimation emerged for jersey graphics I was always enamored of Toga’s distinct green and yellow design. I distinctly recall Matt Koschara decked out in Toga apparel, and a friend from Binghamton, Paul Pisani (where is he now?), also raced for Toga. And one can’t think of Team Toga without the flamboyant man behind the scenes, Lenny Preheim. One of my most vivid race memories was competing in one of the sickest circuits ever laid out in the Northeast: the Ossining Grand Prix in the late 1980s (maybe 1988?). In the course of a 1 mile loop (to be travelled 50 times) was a wall requiring extended climbing in the 42×23 (with the finish line shortly past the summit) and a rapid descent alongside the walls of the prison. Climb, plummet, repeat. Matt Koschara, of Team Toga, emerged victorious. I recall toiling uphill in blistering summer heat, lap after lap, and being jarred from exercise-induced myopia by the apparition of Lenny Preheim, decked out in a neon green suit, a voluminous shock of bleached yellow hair, and cowboy boots, providing feeds for Matt. He was standing in the middle of the road (we were going so slow it was hardly a hazard) and provided a stark sartorial contrast to everyone else’s feeders, primarily parents or nonplussed girlfriends. I never knew him more than that, seeing him at races, but I’ve since become acquainted with people who knew him well and spoke fondly of him. Sadly, Lenny passed away in 1998(?), far too young.

Comments (3) to “Possessed”

  1. No, Lenny died on March 11, 1996. Without Len, my career immediately went into decline.

  2. As for Paul…

    http://www.pisanitraining.com/

    I rode then as a 2, lived in Ossening and rode that race. You forgot the plywood covering the potholes at the bottom of the decent. Choice decision, that was, and slipery too.

    Thanks for bringing all these folks and their memories back.

    S

  3. In 1989, I was chief ref at that hilly Ossining race. It was very very hot, the course was truly tricky so I cut the laps. i don’t think anyone minded. I was glad to walk away from the race without a rider injured.

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