Shortly after posting today’s column, my Waterford bicycle and I are flying to this year’s Cirque du Cyclism in Leesburg, Virginia. This annual event gathers an eclectic band of people who are united by their interest in “celebrating vintage lightweight racing and touring bicycles and the artisans and craft persons carrying on the traditions.” This is just the mix for a person like me who advertises himself as “religious historian and aggressive cyclist.”
Although I have attended cycling events that feature some of these same elements, this will be my first time at the Cirque, and all I know about it comes from the material posted on its website. There will be organized bike rides, including the Sheldon Brown Memorial Fixie Ride, honoring the memory of the late Sheldon Brown who was one of the most celebrated aficionados of everything having to do with bicycles and whose web-based technical papers continue to be consulted by a large cycling constituency.
People attending the Cirque will be able to choose from a list of seminars on “arcane and fascinating vintage bicycle lore” and on bicycle design and construction based on classic models. There will be a bicycle show and swap meet, which will provide the opportunity to examine, buy, and sell all kinds of bicycles and bicycle-related items. Social events, a charity auction, and opportunities for networking will round out the event.
Judging from the Cirque’s registration list that I accessed a few days ago, there will be about seventy-five of us enjoying this quirky event. I hope to meet Jan Heine from Seattle, who publishes Bicycle Quarterly, the most scholarly of America’s cycling journals. His mix of historical entries, reviews of current cycling literature, and rigorous testing of bicycles and components suits my interests exactly. I also hope to converse with Ken Wallace, proprietor of Bisbee Bicycle Brothel in Bisbee, Arizona. His shop in one of the most interesting communities in the American Southwest is half museum, half retail establishment, and it represents the odd mix of features that the Cirque advertises.
By early afternoon on Sunday, however, I will bid farewell to the organized quirkiness at Loudoun County Fairgrounds and head for White’s Ferry and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath. My destination for the night will be Harper’s Ferry, one-time industrial center that was the site of the explosion that ignited the bloodbath in which America sought to define its soul.
My plan is to spend the next four days on cycling trails all of the way to Pittsburgh. Then I will return to paved roads, mainly old U S 40, the Cumberland Road, to Indianapolis. Stay tuned.