Review: Mad Alchemy’s Belgiephile Socks ($14 USD)
I was once asked why I focus on the Belgian culture when it comes to cycling. Admittedly I was caught off guard and struggled to provide a succinct response to satisfy such an inquiry. That’s what is great about riding a bike outside of competition. One can work on a response to such a question. I slowly developed the sentiments over the last few rides.
I remember my first taste of freedom; a bicycle accompanied it. My parents reluctantly allowed me to ride into Doylestown around the age of eleven on my own. From my parents’ house the town limit is hardly far away. The obstacles involved riding roads featuring no shoulder as well as a cultural perception that the roads were only for cars. I was given the nod to ride into town extremely early on a weekend morning, a time when the fewest amount of cars would be out.
I remember the boundless feeling that any destination was possible if I put my mind to it. Rolling around town early in the morning was a lesson in morning routines for businesses. Parking spots were empty. Some were filled with delivery trucks. Stoplights winked without any cars setting them off. The shadows of buildings were long. I rode to the most northern store in town, K-Mart, and did very little with it. I can’t remember if I bought anything or not. It didn’t matter. I was free to do what I wanted.
The freedom dissipated at some point. There are only so many places one could go when town isn't open yet. I rode around a bit more and then began my journey home. Here I learned fatigue as a ride this long was hard. My return sometime featured busy roads picking up in morning usage. I returned home not long after I left, probably around two hours’ time. I felt like I was gone for an eternity.
What does this all have to do with Belgium? On that ride many years ago I never once touched a bike path or bike lane. I wasn’t avoiding them. They did not exist at that time. Today if I left from my parents’ house (who still live in the same place) I could accomplish the ride via a bike lane or path for nearly 90% of the time. At an unbelievable thought I could access the next county – a distance of about six miles westward – using nothing but a bike path. This is an obvious improvement in the span of a couple decades.
Belgium and the surrounding countries prioritized the bicycle as mode of transportation mentioned in the same breath as buses, cars, trucks, and motorcycles. Their professional cyclists ride with brute force rather than floating up some endless mountain road. I yearn to live in a society where cyclists are prioritized as much as the farmer’s tractor, the postal truck, the commuting motorist, and the working pick-up truck.
Mad Alchemy replenished their Belgiephile socks on their site and I had to snap them up. At the end of last year we published our yearly Holiday List and made sure the Belgiephile socks were on the ‘want’ list. Mad Alchemy products have been piling up in our creakybottombracket.com office for good reason. They make great products; they design aesthetically pleasing garments. I have occasionally gotten on a wheel of a rider solely because s/he is sporting Mad Alchemy gear.
The Belgiephile socks are now part of our sock drawer, ready for days when a hard attitude is the only way to get through the workout. As the socks are currently, they will probably never be this shiny again. I’ve watched as many cycling routes have become safer in these parts. But sometimes the Belgie route would include through the trees, snow, and/ or mud. Instead of waiting for more bike paths, we might decide to make our own. It helps to channel the home of cyclocross to look at the day’s ride as endless possibilities.