Shin Wrecked and Fleet Footed

Here is a surprise: Have you seen Japanese keirin racers come out of the gates?  Have you seen them approach the starting line?  Are you unsure of the colored kits and bicycles and the gambling going on? Here is the cyclist and bicycle as horse and rider, here is 21st century Edgar Degas leaving the theater and finding the stables in a beautiful short video by Jonathan de Villiers, Inside the High-Octane and Lucrative World of Japan’s Cycling Spectacle:

Credit: Jonathan De Villiers
Japanese keirin racers at the gate.
Credit: Jonathan de Villiers


There is a backstage view in this video that is the same as a behind the wings look at ballet dancers.  Cutting back and forth between bicycle and the body we see the fine-tuning going on, face, leg, stomach, hub, wheel, fork, in the same way we would see a professional dancer’s eyes, shoulders, leg, ribbons, shoes.  An up-close and candid view of the beautiful machine shows us a calf glistening with sweat and a shin wrecked with scabs and scars.  Evidence of pushing along that line of faster, stronger, better.  Surely, in a studio not far away there is the intensity of the professional dancer who is stretching, too.  The feet, you would see, are similarly scarred beneath the pretty pink ballerina shoes, like the pink bicycle that appears in the very beginning of the video clip or the pink jersey there.  Faster, stronger, better in the ballet studio, as well.

The word velocipede is rooted in the French terms “swift” and “foot” and is the early term for the word we use today for the actual machine that is the bicycle.  With the term velocipede, the line blurs as to which is is the swift footed: dancer, cyclist, or bicycle?  In the roots of language, they are almost one and the same.  Linguistically, a pack finish.  Emily Gresh

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