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What’s with the cork hanging on your saddle?

“In days of old, when bike riders were bold,
and a fixed gear was all they’d need,
with lots of torque they attached a cork,
and rode away with speed.”

“Corks in cycling vernacular date back at least to the 1920’s, probably originating at the steeply banked wood track indoor 6-Day Bike Races. During the halcyon years of cycling in the tens, twenties, and thirties, track side at the 6-Day race was one of the places where the social set went to be seen. Sitting next to the action at their infield tables, it was chic for the “swells” to sip champagne and sine while giving the track stewards money for sprint laps to liven up the sensuous aroma of the various rub down lotions had more than a few femme fatales asking about and turning an eye or ankle to the studly – er – sturdy bike racers.

Soon the jargon evolved. When a cork was popped, power was released, bubbles escaped, the elixir went flat, no more oomph or energy. So, dropping your cork of having no more cork means you’re out of it, flat, dead, pooped, no more stuff. Ergo, the racers would hang a cork on their bikes so they’d never be “out” of cork. There would always be one more effort left for a “jam” or sprint. Conversely, if a rider said he “uncorked” a sprint, well, he “jumped”, “wound” it up, and took off. Or, if he pulled their corks, he went so hard the opposition got “dropped”, “shook” off, and had no cork left. They were decimated. HAH! Great Fun!

Commercially, bar plugs were not yet in standard production. In spills, riders could easily get gouged by the edges of the handlebar and stem tubes. Ouch! Instead of just taping over the openings, our friendly cork came to the rescue! Corks were filed and/or sanded, inserted into the openings, and often painted to match the rider’s bike of team colors. The corks were also used to plug the bottom of the fork crown. Dirt and moisture were kept out. Light, inexpensive and effective.

Now you know why Ted has one on each of his bikes, road and track. A subtle reminder that no matter how tired you think you are, you’ve always got a little cork left!

In the drops, it’s the low down from Ted.”

-Ted Ernst

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