Thursday, October 22, 2009


Alex is fond of doing theme weeks on his blog, themes on useful, educational topics like monocots and star-gazing. Themes that require research and actual knowledge. But since my research budget for the life of this project is five dollars and that has to cover time and materials, it was exhausted and then some with my post on phở.

Speaking of phở. As much as I love the stuff, I gain three pounds whenever I eat it. The weight usually comes off in a day or two, but I don’t get why it’s there in the first place. Sure, the bowls, even the “small bowl,” which would be large enough for salad for six, are massive. But it’s mostly a lot of broth and veggies. At most a quarter pound of meat and then some rice noodles. No way that’s 10,500 calories, which is the excess you’d have to eat to actually gain three pounds.

The only thing I can come up with is that the broth is really salty and causes water retention. If you have a better idea, please share.

OK, so the idea of a theme week is still appealing. And if the little bit about the phở didn’t already give it away, I decided this week should have the theme of Rant Week. Today I’m going to do what I hope to be my last consecutive rant for a while about the words we use to describe things, though I may still throw a few other rant nuggets out from time to time. If you like the rants, enjoy. If you don’t, come back next week when I’ll try to be in a better mood.

Before I get to the rant, though, I’ll mention that my stitches are out. Hallelujah. I thought about taking them out myself but figured I’d let the hospital do it. Just in case. When I got there and they said the wound looks good and started snipping the sutures, I asked if I could give it a try. So I cut one of my fifteen stitches out. And given I could barely see it to get the scissors underneath, one was enough.


They put some steri-strips on to hold it all together, as it’s still pretty weak and could just pop open if I hit it wrong. I was also encouraged to use my elbow pads as an added precaution. If you see a dorky-looking guy riding easy trails with elbow pads on a cross-country bike, that will be me. I won’t turn this into a rant on the incongruity of wearing freeride armor with XC clothing, because I’ve already covered that here and here.

Anyway, on to the real ranting.

Regional differences in the names for the same object are kind of fascinating. For instance, Spanish-speaking people in one region might say choclo, while in another they’d say elote. In both cases, it would be a corncob, but use the wrong word in a given place and they may not know what you’re talking about. How these differences develop is a cool aspect of linguistics, and I’m enough of a language nerd that I can read about etymology and actually be entertained, though I’m not going to get into that here.

In cycling circles, the approval needed from a spouse, often referred to as senior management, to go on a ride might variously but in either case rightly be called a hall pass or a kitchen pass. Both suggest a master and supplicant relationship between grantor and requestor, which in most cases is a massive exaggeration. The wife of a cyclist is the kindest, most generous, least domineering species known. Yet every cyclist stretches the long leash he has already been given almost to the breaking point and only seeks “passes” to go on a ride because he’s not a particularly intuitive creature and can only know how far the leash will stretch by first obtaining concrete evidence.

Still in cycling circles, there’s another word usage that’s just plain wrong and ignorantly misapplied with undue regularity. It has to do with the anatomy of a mountain bike.

Here’s the anatomy lesson: Full suspension bikes have a shock. It’s the device connected to the rear suspension linkage that holds the rear wheel in suspension and allows it to travel up and down in the vertical plane. Technically, it’s both a spring, which compresses and rebounds, allowing the rear wheel movement, and a shock absorber, which controls the rebound and compression damping of the spring. But picking at those nits and distinguishing a shock from a spring when they’re integrated is not the point of this linguistic rant. It’s fine to just call it a shock.

The focus of my ire is instead at the other end of the bike. The front wheel is mounted to a fork. That fork can be of the suspension variety or of the rigid variety, but in either case it’s a fork. It’s never a shock. It’s never a front shock. Easy enough? I thought so.

So don’t call it a shock. Even though a suspension fork has a shock absorber, usually in one leg, and a spring, usually in the other. Though in some cases both shock and spring are in one leg and the other leg is a dummy. In other cases, the rebound damping function of the shock is in one leg and the compression damping function in the other. Or in the case of the Cannondale Lefty (which is still a fork, though not fork-shaped), both shock and spring are in the same, only, leg. In all cases, it’s a fork. If you want to be precise, call it a suspension fork.

There. I’m glad we had this discussion. Not that this one particularly bothered me (if you called a fork a shock or front shock in my presence, I’d probably just have a tick but wouldn’t actually say something; I certainly wouldn't hit you). Nevertheless, I’ve found when I’m ranting that it’s best to empty the tank completely before starting again from scratch. We’re almost down to the dregs now. I think.


  1. You will probably throw rocks at me the next time you see me because I disagree. A lefty is a front shock not a fork. There is no fork shape to a lefty so it cannot be a fork. It is a tube with spring and shock attached to the front wheel. Otherwise I would agree.

    Rant on.

  2. have you ever seen the early manitou full sus bike?

    It had a Front Shock as it's seat stay.

    splain that wouldcha

  3. Wow! Who is this guy that rants all the time? Would I even be able to stand being around him?

    Oh, wait. I'm married to him.

  4. Rachel - Best. Post. Ever.

  5. my favorite egregious bike nomenclature issue is "Front Fork."

    really? as opposed to your rear fork?

  6. Waitaminutewaitaminutewaitaminute! You have to declare the theme at the beginning of a theme week, so your readers can get all amped up about it! That way, each day we're looking forward to it, thinking, "I have to check SBJ's blog- can't wait to see the next rant!"

    My advice: Make next week rant week, and treat this week as a "prequel".

  7. I read somewhere that the Lefty is technically a strut, not a fork or a shock.

  8. FG: We'll call Lefties struts, but everything else is still a fork, suspension or otherwise.

  9. What about front "forks?"

  10. Further, I like these rants because they give me little buttons I can push the next time we are skinning up Flagstaff or out on the White Rim.

    With dug I just need to mispronounce everything, but especially Hog's Hollow, Frank's and of course, Timpooneke.

    And now with you I can go on and on about the sweet front shock I have on my bike.