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VecchioJo looks at lipsticks for a pig

We are standing knee deep in a rainbow sewer of glittery imagery that’s flooding spangled in front of our eyes. Perpetually bathed in the flattering underlight glow of an all pervading flat visual world we spend our entire lives looking at screens; at work, at play, at social. Desk, train, café, pub, when friends are talking, when that thing they like is on television, street, sofa, bed, toilet. Constantly looking, looking down. Looking for something.

To cope with this interminable kaleidoscopic tsunami of optical information our attention spans have crumbled to milliseconds, it’s impossible to afford the same import to everything, so it’s only the initial impression that lasts, we don’t have time to delve into the awkward details, don’t confuse us, we just want to be tingled by the veneer of shiny.

Scanning and moving on, swiping, next page, swiping, click on link, close, cmd + T, scroll, scroll, click to enlarge, cmd + w. We want our attention to be grabbed and we don’t know what by, but we’ll know it when we see it. Keep flicking. Next thing, and the next, a flutter of constantly updating tabs of next things.

If something does manage to pierce the cynical cataracts of our eyes and stick to the back of our heads, pauses a page, hovers the finger, surprise an excited skip from a blasé heart, then it is something rare and special. Or just prettier than the rest.

It’s how to sell a bike these days. Create a look that can stop the internet traffic. An erotic lick of paint, a splattering of attention to details, top end groupset, some deep section rims. Make some porn, it’s what the web is best at.

Certain bicycle frame-builders work this and have carved out a definite visual identity for themselves with a graphic style, a way with colour and a certain crisp panache that makes them stand out and recognizable from 50 paces, at 5,000 pixels, half a world away. Slap on the makeup, pout, shoulders back, chest out, paint the stem to match.

The once important things about a bike frame have become secondary. What’s the frame made from? Doesn’t really matter. What are the frame dimensions and angles? Mostly irrelevant. What’s the craftsmanship like? It’s underneath a deep pool of rich colour you want to dive into, why do you have to ask? Although there is this really cool little detail here, look.

The dexterity, expertise, effort and skills of the builder are a long way down the list of requirements, I don’t want the spec sheet, just show me the gallery.

But what the internet takes away with superficial pleasures, it gives back with infinite reach. Where once the choosing of a framebuilder was confined to the one that lived in your valley, or the valley a bike or train ride away, now you can pick and chose your next new pride and joy from any number of dusty arc strobed sheds anywhere on the globe. Because you’ve seen a picture of a gorgeous thing from a frame shop in the colonies and read a glowing and florid description involving the words passion and unique and quality, you’re completely sold. The considered black and white pictures of workshop tools and swarf were the cherry on the cake. It’s the mail order bride of the cycling world.

The feel and the fit have given way to the appeal of the aesthetic. When you’re buying from halfway across the world there’s not much real chance of a test ride anyway, maybe an opinion of a bike will have appeared in words and pictures, but essentially your choice depends upon some kind of amorphous affinity with whatever your chosen framebuilder is doing, and trusting that they know what they’re doing when it comes to what a bike should do and they just don’t know their way round a Pantone chart and are handy with the masking tape. You also have to trust that they now how to transfer what you want from a bike into a desirable collection of pipes. It could ride like a pig, but it will be a pig in pretty lipstick.

Still, you’re riding’s not about performance, you ride to put a smile on your face, your trophy bike helps with that, you’re smiling even before you’re riding. You’re happy looking at it in the shed, you polish the details with a care your partner remembers. All your friends on their cookie-cutter carbon-fibre bikes look on it in sick-eyed envy outside the coffee-shop. Your hand-cooked to their microwave meals. Pop a picture on instagram, count the likes.

(VecchioJo never has less than half a dozen custom steel bikes in the shed at any one time)

Jo Burt has spent the majority of his life riding bikes, drawing bikes and writing about bikes. When he's not scribbling pictures for the whole gamut of cycling media he writes words about them for road.cc and when he's not doing either of those he's pedaling. Then in whatever spare minutes there are in between he's agonizing over getting his socks, cycling cap and bar-tape to coordinate just so. And is quietly disappointed that yours don't He rides and races road bikes a bit, cyclo-cross bikes a lot and mountainbikes a fair bit too. Would rather be up a mountain.

30 comments

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Peowpeowpeowlasers [645 posts] 4 years ago
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I imagine that whoever wrote this word salad did so in a small dirty coffee shop (no big names for him), on an Apple laptop, staring at his moustached reflection while browsing the thesaurus for words that make him appear as though he's a wordsmith. He's probably into cycling because he thinks it's cool and not because he actually enjoys it.

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vonhelmet [1452 posts] 4 years ago
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What pretentious bollocks.

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Super Domestique [1621 posts] 4 years ago
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Peowpeowpeowlasers wrote:

I imagine that whoever wrote this word salad did so in a small dirty coffee shop (no big names for him), on an Apple laptop, staring at his moustached reflection while browsing the thesaurus for words that make him appear as though he's a wordsmith. He's probably into cycling because he thinks it's cool and not because he actually enjoys it.

Or perhaps was typing while his tongue was placed firmly in his cheek.  3

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benjihaworth [2 posts] 4 years ago
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He's probably into cycling because it is cool and because he actually enjoys it.

Thanks for writing that.

Haters, hate on.

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Tony Farrelly [2999 posts] 4 years ago
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vonhelmet wrote:

What pretentious bollocks.

Peowpeowpeowlasers or Jo?

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aslongasicycle [389 posts] 4 years ago
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It is a beautiful blog. Jo Burt (real name unmasked) is a UK cycling legend with a clean shave and calves the size of Giant Squid. He races like a cheetah. He wrote and illustrated Mint Sauce, a seminal work for any "not getting any younger" aged cycling fan. He illustrates for Rouleur and that.
He writes things that confuse confused minds. He is my god. X

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aslongasicycle [389 posts] 4 years ago
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Oh, and he's one if the kindest most enthusiastic cycling souls in the cycling world of cycling. I wish he was my Dad. (Too much?)

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dave atkinson [6530 posts] 4 years ago
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He does have an apple laptop though. most people call them 'macs' these days, just in case you want to get in with the hip crew any time

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cocomo [16 posts] 4 years ago
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There is a substantial amount of truth in what is written here, that few have the perspective or experience to appreciate.

People don't understand the message and instead of seeking the answers to the questions it proposes react, with ridicule.

Smoke and mirrors are strong in the UK framebuilding(or is it frameworks these days) landscape at the moment. Would you purchase a £2000 frame from someone who is only on their fifth attempt? Because you just might well be.

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kookenhaken [22 posts] 4 years ago
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A worrying state of affairs across many fields.

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Bez [619 posts] 4 years ago
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Well, I just don't get it. On the one hand, Jo complains about the emphasis on aesthetics over the more substantial aspects of frame design, yet on the other he also flatly refuses to stop taking the piss out of my frustration with seat tube angles. Or the fact that I still haven't cut the steerer on my Disc Trucker so that I can remove the spacers above the stem. Or the fact that I have a Disc Trucker. Bastard.

I mean, it's as if you can't actually believe anything anyone says. This whole Lack of Temporal Singularity of Opinion thing is deeply disturbing. I'm starting to think people just write stuff for entertainment. It's ridiculous. Take your poetic whimsy and shove it.

*goes off to paint flowers on the Trucker*

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cocomo [16 posts] 4 years ago
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I can see your tongue is firmly in your cheeky but for the benefit of those that can't...

I believe Jo's point is that just because a bike is eye catching and looks well painted with all the fancy bits on it, doesn't mean the frame itself is up to scratch, all the fancy oversized tubes and curves might result in a horrible ride. The brazing might have been filed to a nice shape but the weld itself pretty poor and before you know it cracks.

Whereas a uncut steerer tube is just plain ugly, but still works.

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mooseman [87 posts] 4 years ago
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aslongasicycle wrote:

Oh, and he's one if the kindest most enthusiastic cycling souls in the cycling world of cycling. I wish he was my Dad. (Too much?)

Possibly, maybe....but I know exactly what you mean. Very honoured to be able to call him a friend ('cept on the climbs, then he's a b@stard  3 )

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Quince [380 posts] 4 years ago
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tl;dr

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Jones The Steam [43 posts] 4 years ago
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Well I liked it.

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PRINCIPIA PHIL [59 posts] 4 years ago
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I can't believe the negative reactions from some to this article (maybe Jo happened to hit a nerve), i found it to be the most enlightening article i've read in years. It captures the shallow, short attention span of the current internet generation where instant gratification rules - download now and move on to the next big thing before you've had a chance to savour anything.
So much to highlight but the "It’s the mail order bride of the cycling world" line stands out for me.

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Trull [81 posts] 4 years ago
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Ah now that I know its the Mint Sauce human, suddenly I feel much better.

Its a bit like when you prise a stone chip from your sole. Its made no great impediment to forward progress, but you just know that the world is a better place for it not being there.

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thelighterthief [57 posts] 4 years ago
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I liked it.

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Quince [380 posts] 4 years ago
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I liked it too.

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KiwiMike [1427 posts] 4 years ago
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2 -ve's, followed by a dozen +ve's defending Jo.

[drags out bottle of Devil's Advocaat]

Feeding trolls / suppressing debate / pre-emptive shot-across-bows of the third unbeliever / Storm>Small China / etc / etc ?

[puts away Devil's Advocaat, realises he hates liqueurs, mostly]

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barbarus [536 posts] 4 years ago
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He's mint sauce!? Wow. Even a naif like my teenage self recognised the coolest part of mbuk. The only other useful thing it ever gave me was a free 4 / 5 / 6 Allen key. I've still got that.

Sometimes subtlety is wasted on the internet...

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Philiprints [39 posts] 4 years ago
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I just dun looked at the piccytures I cudn't spend du time lukkin' at awl 'dem wurds. I like de SHINY ones.

Gimme a custom SHINY won popped beneath my oversize bottom expensively squeezed by Rapha kit.

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surly_by_name [570 posts] 4 years ago
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Amusing article, but you could have found many better pictures as examples of good looking bikes. Vanilla Bicycles, Indy Fab, Seven's custom gallery, even Richard Sachs. Although I don't think that any of these manufacturers make "pigs" (however Seven and Indy Fab do custom, so they probably can make you a pig if you want them to. and then add the lipstick).

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WolfieSmith [1402 posts] 4 years ago
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 36 Arrghhhhhhh. Arguing whether a pretentious piece on pretentious bikes is really pretentious or social comment...Has cycling become post ironic so quickly? What does post ironic mean? Who knows. Sounds good.... I hang on. Help! I'm adding to it.

As for Jo and Nick? Get a room...

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bjeato [39 posts] 4 years ago
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Forget the blog, VecchioJo is Mint Sauce!?

That's a blast from the far too distant past.

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nick_rearden [439 posts] 4 years ago
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Favourite bike at Bespoked was painted in matt primer (cos they ran out of time for the top coat) and splattered with dirt from Paris-Roubaix competed (without breaking) the previous weekend. No logos other than a headbadge. Horses for courses. There's something for everyone and (unless it really does break) mostly harmless.

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festina [66 posts] 4 years ago
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Nice pictures, couldn't be bothered to read the txt. Probably my millisecond attention sp...

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allgearnoidea [58 posts] 4 years ago
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full industry is all smoke and mirrors to me - marketing companies are especially good at this selling pretty standard stuff at extortionate prices - and the mamils lap it up!

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DamienB [26 posts] 4 years ago
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vonhelmet wrote:

What pretentious bollocks.

+1

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truffy [649 posts] 4 years ago
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Dave Atkinson wrote:

He does have an apple laptop though.

That much was clear from his use of the cmd key. Clear, that is, to us enlightened ones.

I thought it was a good reflection of the current mindset. Heck, I found some of me in that  2