Cycling owes a lot to teeth. So does eating corn. I’m here today to explain the relationship between those two things.
First, the number of teeth you employee to ride a bike up, down and sideways says something about you as a cyclist. I’ve personally sold bikes to people who eschew gears. They’re the sort who take one bite of corn and then put it down, chewing thoughtfully before picking up the cob again. These people never seem to have butter on their fingers. I suspect necromancy.
I’ve also sold tandems with triple chainrings and wide range cassettes. These are the sorts of people who get a piece of corn from the BBQ buffet and put one in their pocket for later. I’m not judging (winky face emoji), but that much corn is going to cause you some problems later.
I’m a lucky guy. I’ve been over my handlebars more times than I can count, but managed to keep my teeth. Faced with a cob of freshly buttered corn, glistening golden goodness gamely braced betwixt fingertips to keep it from burning you, teeth come into their own, much the way they do with a roller chain, the sort that rests perfectly across cog and chainring, each of which is literally a wheel of teeth. In fact, I have never ridden to the corner store for a bag of Funyuns (so fun) and a Yoo-hoo (Yahoo!), without recourse to dental perambulation, tooth-driven motion, all jagged and oily, the whole contraption ready to take a bite out of a poorly-placed calf or a well-placed log.
Whether you ride a 10-speed triple or a fixie, teeth get you there.
You can typewriter a cob of corn, running it back and forth, working your jaws like the hammered keys of an IBM Selectric or an Underwood Touchmaster Five, and it’s a similar sound to your chain working up and down a cassette, the derailleur’s sprung arm pushing it over the teeth at your disposal, narrow as a pineapple or wide as a pie plate.
Sidebar: How far can one person ride on the calories from one cob of corn? Silver queen? Or American Dream Sweet Corn? Sugar content is everything. Your body will burn every last bit of that simple carbohydrate before it deigns to convert the butter to forward motion. There is an equation here where D = (((S/W) x T) + (B x WTL)). D = Distance. S = Sugar. W = Weight. T = Time. B = Butter. And WTL = Will to Live. Someone check my math.
How clever that, in this analogy, the butter on the corn echoes the lube on the chain. In a pinch, I bet a buttered chain would roll better than its dry, cricket-chirping equivalent. Perhaps also, we should consider Park Blue Grease as a possible condiment for corn.
Sidebar 2: Just because I’ve come this far with this ludicrous corn thing, I find myself wondering if the teeth that engage the chain could be smaller, making the chainrings and cassettes smaller and lighter. I’m envisioning something more like hacksaw teeth and a chain like a fine metal string. And yes, mini corn. The kind French people put in salads. Are there any engineers on the aircraft? Please alert your flight attendant by pressing your call button now.
Or perhaps the chain and teeth need to be as they are. I recall once riding through Davis Square on a track bike, just coming into the blaring light of the train station, when I heard a loud pop and jangle, the pedals going suddenly slack. I looked down just in time to see the links of my chain skittering away on the pavement, and the teeth, fully exposed, glinting in the sulfur white light.
It was a long walk home. All teeth. No corn. I thought to call my wife for an emergency pick up, but thought, “I’d butter not.”