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The Eloquent Hack – Department Highlight

A six-month compilation of Mike Ferrentino's musings about life on two wheels and beyond.

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There’s no need to sugarcoat it, we want you to see the best of what Beta has to offer. That’s why we’re highlighting one of our favorite regular columns, written by none other than Mike Ferrentino. After 25 years of penning Grimy Handshake for Bike Mag, Mike made the move over to Beta with us and has brought his familiar wit, epically long sentences, and self-deprecating commentary right along with him in The Eloquent Hack. We’ve gone ahead and removed the paywall from his first couple, but this stuff is too good to just hand out for free. If you’re pickin’ up what Mike is puttin’ down, please consider becoming paying Beta member. We’ll let Pops take it from here—enjoy the ride …

 

Old Dog, No Tricks

Tom Ritchey Vintage Mountain Bike
Photo: Anthony Smith

It was a steep, arcing, rock-peppered, downhill right hander. More of a rut than a berm, something that would have been a switchback if it had been built into a trail thirty years ago. I laid the bike into it, kept my weight over the bars, my head over the stem, looking up and forward, letting the beefy fork sink through its travel as every fiber of my being screamed at me to load the brakes, to shift my weight back, to deal with this corner the way someone might have dealt with a corner like this 30 years ago, if a corner like this had been something a mountain biker would have encountered thirty years ago.

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The Unconscious Art of Aesthetic Self-Sabotage

Bicycle spokes macro
Photo: Anthony Smith

We all have our blind spots; these dark motes in our minds where we just do not perceive things correctly, if at all. Maybe it’s a patch of paint on the wall that isn’t the exact same tone as the rest of the room, but it has been there so long we just don’t notice it anymore. Or maybe, like some kind of dyslexia, it’s something that has always been there, right in front of us, and we just … don’t … see … it. And sometimes, we collectivize those blind spots. We reinforce them so that all of us share the same blindness, and no longer notice the obvious reality of what is going on.

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The Keeper of Western Secrets

Macro photo of plant
Photo: Ryan Creary

“Goddamnit!”

His scream was abrupt and loud, and came from some place of primal fear deep inside. Before he could ramp up the string of nervous profanity that was beginning to spill from his mouth, I asked as calmly as I could “You got bit by a tick?”

“YesIgotbitbyamother#%&*ingtick! Jesus, these things freak me out,” he said, as he pulled his shirt off and pinched the offending bloodsucker off his stomach. “Don’t they just creep you out?”

I shrugged, bending down to scoop another bundled armful of poison oak roots from the trail corridor we were preparing to bench. Little telltale black dots were beginning to appear on my gloves and the long sleeves of my shirt, a sign that the roots were very much alive and full of sap, and I figured we had maybe one more hour of this before we’d have to get the hell out of the woods and scrub ourselves down or face the consequences.

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The Beggar’s Happy Compromise

Bicycle thumb shifter
Photo: Kelley Richardson

“Dude. Is that a thumbshifter?!”

Looking down at the bar on my brand new bike, I nodded in response. Yep, 2021. New bike. Thumbshifter. At least it was on a steel hardtail. But still, running a thumbie was proving a bit difficult to explain to anyone born after about 1975. At least it was an indexed thumbshifter, and it seemed to be pulling accurately across all 12 gears.

To understand how I wound up running a thumbshifter, BY CHOICE, in 2021, we need to backtrack to a different conversation in March of this year, when I called my secret contact at SRAM to ask about sourcing some parts: “Hey BB, what’s up? I was wondering if you could clue me in to that new GX AXS stuff. I’m building up a new bike, and was thinking that might be just the ticket. Don’t need a whole drivetrain, just the shifter and derailleur. Any idea when they might be available?”

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Seven Times Eight

Long shadow of person walking
Photo: Satchel Cronk

In 1907, philosopher and mystic Rudolf Steiner put forth this hypothesis that we live our lives in seven-year cycles. The first three cycles, up to age 21, are when the body matures and our personalities are formed. The second three cycles, to age 42, are when we become aware of and part of society. And the third three cycles are when we begin to develop clarity and spiritual maturity. As every seven year cycle concludes, we experience shifts in our being, our way of perceiving the world. Standing at the cusp of my ninth seven-year cycle, emerging from the exceptional isolated weirdness of Covid life, I have been thinking a lot about this. I feel much different than I did seven years ago. And a whole lot different than the seven years before that. So, maybe Rudolf was onto something.

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Know Fear

Bike rider bruised and battered Photo: Sven Martin

Once upon a time, about when the phrase “no fear” was spreading like a blast wave around the world thanks to some well-timed ubiquity that sprang a moto/lifestyle apparel brand into the center stage of our collective consciousness, I found myself at a rest area somewhere in eastern Kentucky, on a Thursday afternoon in a dry county, behind the wheel of a teal-green 1965 Ford Econoline van with about 15 cases of beer stacked in the back. I’m guessing this was in 1997. Matt Nyiri and I were whiteknuckling it from California to West Virginia to race the 24 Hours of Canaan. The drive itself was its own special kind of endurance event. We booked the distance in something like 53 hours flat, taking turns sleeping, keeping the windows open to try and vent some of the pervasive fuel and exhaust fumes that were part and parcel of shitty old Econoline ownership.

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