Friday, February 15, 2019

BSNYC Friday Fun Quiz!

Before we begin, two things:

1) If you popped in yesterday looking for me, you may have noticed I wasn't here.  This is because it's been a bit of a hectic week, owing to the fact my four year-old managed to bust his collar bone the other day--and before you ask, no, he wasn't wearing a helmet.  Then again, he also wasn't riding a bike either.  See, here in the Bronx we have lots of rocky outcroppings and other interesting geological features, which of course the kiddies love to climb.  Unfortunately, while climbing one such outcropping, he managed to take a rather impressive fall.  Anyway, it's a simple fracture, he's healing well, and he's taking it all in stride.  (Oddly I think he minds it less than the splinter he got last week, so go figure.)  And yes, obviously he should have been wearing a rock-climbing helmet, so I fully admit I'm an irresponsible parent;

B) Speaking of kids, next week schools are closed for winter recess, so you probably won't see me here very much during that time, though I may pop in now and again.  (And I'm also planning to update the Bike Forecast, so feel free to swing by.)  In any case, figure the week of the 25th I'll be more present, what with schools back open and bones knitting and so forth.

Hey, I'm an artisanal father, deal with it.

And now, I'm pleased to present you with a quiz.  As always, study the item, think, and click on your answer.  If you're right you're right, and if you're wrong you'll learn how to stop your fixie...for old time's sake.

Thanks very much for reading, ride safe, and refrain from taking the quiz while cycling.

--Tan Tenovo

1) According to a guy with a beard, this country is a cycling paradise:


2) Fill in the blank:

"Brakes are for _______."


(Your's truley getting a ticket for wearing Rapha and having a corny tattoo.)

3) After a cyclist was killed by a hit-and-run driver in midtown Manhattan, the NYPD ticketed a rider for which perfectly legal act?

--Riding barefoot
--Using a Bluetooth handlebar speaker
--Cycling without a helmet
--Excessive saddle-to-bar drop

4) What's happening here?

--Tubeless tire mishap
--Rolled through construction site
--Encountered a new type of road salt
--Dough-kneading is the new gravel-grinding

(Photo by On The Route Bicycles, I think...using it regardless because I lack integrity.)

5) I am practically oozing with integrity.


(Photo: Ted Bongiovanni)

6) What am I doing?

--Asking questions about how Consumer Reports tests helmets
--Preparing to catch a helmet being tossed to me by a robot
--Holding the imaginary baby I plan to subject to impact testing
--Just generally trying not to touch anything because I'm a huge germaphobe

7) I should probably take better care of my bicycles.


***Special "Awww, Isn't That Nice?"--Themed Bonus Video***


Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Never Trust Anyone With A Clean Bike

Further to yesterday's post, while the Ironic Orange Julius Bike is the clear leader in my own personal cruddy drivetrain competition, thanks to yesterday's snowfall the Milwaukee is quickly closing in:

It may not look that bad from afar (poor rear fender line notwithstanding), but get a load of this:

I did lube it and wipe it down after riding so hopefully I can keep it working at least until the spring, at which point I'll lavish the bike with some new parts--which it deserves, because it's been a faithful and reliable companion during this warm and wet winter.  And of course I'll put some new tape on the bars while I'm at it:

I often think of bikes as jeans, and currently the Milwaukee is like that pair you wear every day because they're so broken in and comfortable, but you also know that some of those worn spots are bound to give way at any moment and it's only a matter of time before you look down and realize you're inadvertently exposing your "pants yabbies" on the subway.  Indeed, the brake pads are going from saltine thin to credit card thin and I'm probably just a couple more wet rides away from metal-on-metal contact.

But hey, brakes are for "woosies," right?

Of course they are.

Anyway, there's lots of dignity under all the grime:

In fact you could say the grime only makes it more dignified.

Unfortunately, none of this is true of its owner.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Bhutan Tenovo?

Like most Americans I live in a state of ignorance, and as such I had no idea Bhutan is apparently a cycling paradise:

Dragon Kings who ride bikes?  Epic Himalayan trails?  Sideburns???

A fervent bicycle culture has seen rapid development in Bhutan. Its northern border with Tibet runs along a treacherous seam of the Eastern Himalayan mountain range, which has historically protected the Switzerland-size country from outside influence and fortified it as one of the only nations in the world to never be colonized. This geographic and political isolation has long delayed Bhutan’s modernization. The cycling culture has grown thanks to the bike-crazy former Druk Gyalpo, or Dragon King, who spends his days cruising trail networks throughout the mountains. Bhutanese citizens idolize the royal family, often wearing lapel pins with the current king’s handsome sideburned portrait.

Suck on that, Portland.

Also, when was the last time anyone--adult or child--shouted something positive at you while you were riding your bike?

The road banked into a left turn, and I slowly coasted through, gazing down at the pavement. Just then, I was hit with an eruption of cheers coming from 100 schoolchildren posted on the side of the road. Spectators across the entire country had lined the course to cheer for the riders while handing us bananas and chocolate. It was the largest crowd of “cheering team” volunteers I’d yet to encounter, and their energy was colossal. In a sea of white khata scarves, the fanatic children chanted “Do your best! Do your best!” while running alongside me, clapping and screaming as if I were locked in a dead sprint.

Generally when I'm riding, kids latch on to some aspect of my appearance and use it as inspiration for ridicule.

Then on top of it all they have a "Gross National Happiness" index?!?

The term Gross National Happiness was coined in 1972 during an interview by a British journalist for the Financial Times at Bombay airport when the then king of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, said "Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product."

Meanwhile, here in Canada's Underpants we have yet to discover the inverse relationship between cars and guns and staying alive.

Granted, in my old age I may be getting soft and wistful, but I admit to finding everything about the above article beguiling--apart from one glaring omission:


Also...altitude?  Believe it or not I did visit the Himalayas many years ago (I went here), and while it was stunningly beautiful I also felt dizzy and headachy the whole time due to the elevation.  (Probably because I flew there instead of getting acclimatized by riding there on a yak or something.)   I certainly didn't do any bicycle-cycling, but I did see people arriving by bike, which made me feel like a total "woosie:"

(Those were the days...)

That note of course came from my 2009 review of the Scattante Empire State Courier, about which two things are noteworthy:

1) False modesty aside it is arguably the greatest bike review ever written;
2) It may have taken 10 years, but now that Performance has gone bankrupt I'm getting that much closer to a perfect record of putting bike companies out of business.

Anyway, I'm totally gonna ride my fixie to Ladakh one day for some Himalayan hillbombing.

In the meantime however my rides are anything but adventurous.  For example, this past weekend I rode the Ironic Orange Julius Bike all the way from Queens to Brooklyn...and back again!

Yes, the Ironic Orange Julius Bike has worn many caps over the years.  When I had an actual job, it was my commuting bike.  When I went to Portland it was the bike I used to infiltrate the "bike culture."  And of course I've even cyclocrossed on it:

Incredibly I still managed to reproduce after that.

As for its current incarnation, the IOJB is now my velo-à-terre and lives in the bike room of my mother's building in Queens, because of course I must have unfettered access to a bicycle anyplace I regularly spend more than an hour at a time.  Plus, over the years, gentrification has unfurled such that my mother's abode is now just off the Great Hipster Silk Route.  So every so often when I'm there I like to hop on a bike and reconnect with the gentriverse, which is what I did the other day.  Here is the IOJB as it is now:

I'm not sure what happened last time I rode it, but this is was the state of the drivetrain when I headed out:

I'm relatively certain I've never changed the chain since building the bike up from a bare frame well over a decade ago.

Another quirk is that the rear brake arm is now sticking (I seem to have a problem with that, despite always liberally applying grease when installing stuff), which means every so often I've got to reach back and kind of flick it free.  Also, whenever I last changed the brake levers I forgot to put those little rubber donuts on the cable:

The upshot of this is that when the brake arm sticks there's tons of slack in it and it jingles against the top tube like a line on a flagpole in the wind.

Fortunately as you travel the Great Hipster Silk Route there's now a bike shop roughly every nine feet, and so I stopped in one for some lube which I applied liberally to the bicycle in various places.  But at this point I should probably just ditch the brakes altogether, since they are for "woosies" after all.  I certainly see no issue trusting my life to that rusty chain.

Hey, it's lasted this long.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Read My New Outside Column Then Get On Your Bike And Don't Stop Riding Until Monday!

You know what I love about America?  Completely unqualified people get to give parenting advice in mainstream media outlets:

And yes, I do realize that telling people not to bother with fancy bikes for their kids when my own kid rides an Islabikes is wantonly hypocritical, at least on the surface of it:

However, keep in mind I never said you shouldn't give them a fancy bike if it falls into your lap, so there you go.

Hey, I can't help it that the universe sees fit to bestow these lavish cycling gifts upon me.  And don't worry, I pay in other ways.  For while I may have some pretty sweet bikes at my disposal, I spend all my non-cycling time in sackcloth and ashes performing acts of self-flagellation:

(What, no helmets?)

It's true, just check my Strava.

Finally, before I go, I'm going to nudge you over to the Bike Forecast, only because it's important that you understand what we're dealing with at the moment.  Basically, a hit-and-run driver killed a guy on a bike in Midtown, and so after ticketing people on bikes for stuff that's not illegal now the NYPD is just outright tackling them.  Anyway, it's all in the post.


--Tan Tenovo

Thursday, February 7, 2019

The Only Thing We Have To Fear Is Fear Itself, Which Is Why We're So Obsessed With Helmets

If I might redirect you briefly to the Bike Forecast, I feel compared to share with you the current state of affairs here in New York City.  Basically, in response to the death of a cyclist killed by a hit-and-run driver, the NYPD is ticketing people on bikes...for stuff that isn't even illegal:

This is far from the first time the NYPD has targeted cyclists for made-up infractions:

Yet oddly, as far as I know, no motorists have been summonsed for driving without wearing a flame-retardant suit or any other improvisational non-violations.

Of course, even the most staunch helmet apologists recognize that the police can't just go around ticketing you for stuff that's perfectly legal...well, most of them anyway:

More wisdom from the professional peloton.

Speaking of helmets, recently I shared my profoundly insightful Outside column about why that recent scooter study is fucking stupid:

And now Consumer Reports has released its

As you know, I visited Consumer Reports not too long ago.  Not only was I grateful for their hospitality, but after touring their headquarters I'd trust the fuck out of them when it comes to which washing machine will clean my underpants more thoroughly or which phone is least likely to shatter when dropped.  Also, they've got a fantastic salad bar:

By the way, sorry for the non-sequitor, but my four year-old just typed this while I was in the bathroom:

dddddddddddddddddddddddddddffffff       bgtrdfghjuytrfdfggggggg                 ggtf45tyhbgfde34567'

One day my entire publishing empire will be his.

So right, Consumer Reports.  What I was saying is that, while they definitely know from TVs and stuff, I'm not sure they should be weighing in on transit.  Here are just a few troubling portions of their study--which of course opens with an anecdote:

As he set out, Grasso noticed construction ahead and steered from the side of the street up onto the sidewalk. As he maneuvered, the scooter hit a bump, and he crashed head-first into the ground. “The whole unit just flipped forward and smashed my face into the cement walkway,” he said. 

Yeah, I realize this is going to sound victim-blamey, and I apologize, but YOU'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO RIDE THE SCOOTER ON THE SIDEWALK. 

Grasso’s story is far from isolated. He’s one of an estimated 1,500 people across the country injured in an e-scooter-related crash since late 2017, according to a Consumer Reports spot tally from major hospitals and other public agencies, such as police departments, we contacted in recent weeks.

Sucky for sure, but is that even a lot?  Consider:

According to the American Association for Justice (AAJ), "for every accident that happens on an elevator, there will be 18 accidents suffered on escalators."

The AAJ also states that "escalator-related injuries and deaths in the U.S. have been steadily rising every year." In 1990, there were just under 5,000 escalator injuries and deaths. By 2000, that number had doubled, with over 10,100 people hurt or killed on escalators. In 2013, there were 12,260 reported escalator injuries and deaths in the United States.

Of course none of this means much without knowing the total number of scooter trips--which of course they don't:

CR’s analysis is limited, to be sure. Without average trip lengths in each city, for example, it’s impossible to calculate the rate of incidents. A recent study from Portland’s Bureau of Transportation found the city’s injury rate to be 2.2 per 10,000 miles traveled and 2.5 per 10,000 e-scooter trips taken. The study noted that figure “may not be related to rental e-­scooters, so the actual rate is likely lower.”

So in the absence of anything truly alarming let's just worry about helmets...

Experts told CR they’re concerned about the availability of helmets, especially when considering the nature of the ride-share business model, which allows anyone with a smartphone to rent a scooter from wherever the last rider leaves it, often from the side of the road.

And helmets...

“Who’s carrying a helmet with them?” says Oscar Guillamondegui, M.D., medical director of Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s trauma ICU. Guillamondegui estimates treating about 20 patients for scooter injuries. “I have only seen one person wearing a helmet. And that was my son, because I demanded it.”

And of course helmets:

Part of the reason for the low helmet use, some medical experts suggest, is that riding a scooter is a decision made in a flash, whereas riding a bike is more deliberative. A study published last December on Seattle’s bikeshare program found 90 percent of cyclists wore helmets when riding their personal bikes; only 20 percent of bike share riders did the same.

So basically, Americans are making somewhere between one and a gazillion scooter trips a year, some of them are getting hurt, so in conclusion everyone should wear a helmet.

I'm fine with that just as long as we extend the same warning to people who ride escalators.

Otherwise, I'm automatically discarding any study that includes repeated use of the words "concern" and "helmet."

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Begrudging the Sludge

As I mentioned recently, last week the icy perineum of the Polar Vortex descended upon the New York City area.  By the weekend however it was beginning to relent, and on Sunday I headed out for a ride:

While I've joked about using the Renovo as a rain bike (by the way, the creaking is still there despite my recent cassette swap), the truth it that it's my trusty Milwaukee that sees me through the sloppier end of the weather spectrum, and for this reason it spends most of the winter be-fendered and skinny-tired.

Even after weeks spent alternating between a crabon bike and an artisanal wooden bike (and despite being due for some new shifty bits in the not-too-distant future due to the aforementioned sloppy conditions to which it is frequently subjected) the Milwaukee was a delight to ride.  I also congratulated myself for my choice with each pedal stroke, for between the melting ice and snow and the liberal application of road salt the roads were a real mess.  Indeed, I daresay I felt a bit smug.

See, my ride took me on perhaps the most heavily-trafficked Fred corridor in the entire Western Hemisphere, that being Route 9W.  And because the weather had finally broken, thousands of Zwift-addled Freds and Fredericas were out savoring their first outdoor rides in quite some time.  The thing was, 9W was even more heavily salted than it was heavily Fredded, and as group after group streamed by I marveled at the fact that not a single rider was astride a bicycle with fenders.  "How is it," I wondered, "that not one of these riders has a winter bike?"  It seemed to me that for the price of the crabon wheelsets all these riders were subjecting to such foul conditions in February for some reason they could have instead purchased themselves fully-equipped winter bikes and kept their Fred chariots in pristine condition for the spring.

Then I realized that this is New York and maybe all those fancy crabon bikes were their winter bikes, which was kind of sobering.  (And after realizing that I also realized that for many years I too only had one bicycle on which to do all my racing and "training" and regular riding, and that plenty of old fusspots probably thought the same thing about me as I churned through the salt and slush to Nyack on my fenderless bike all winter.)

Anyway, not only was 9W more heavily salted than I'd ever seen it, but the consistency of that salt was also different from any I'd ever encountered in decades of riding there.  Not only did it stick to my bottom bracket shell like confectioner's sugar:

But when mixed with water it turned into something with the consistence of Pillsbury cookie dough:

In fact, as route 9W is in New Jersey, I wondered if mandating the use of edible road salt might have been one of Chris Christie's final acts as governor:

Fortunately, the George Washington Bridge bike path itself was rather wet, which meant that the road spray went a long way towards rinsing the sludge off the bike on my return trip to New York.

As for the Renovo, I took a spin on it yesterday in the gloriously freakish springlike weather we're currently having:

The creaking, as I mentioned, is still there.  The only thing I can think of is that I left out a cassette spacer or something.  (It's hard to keep track of which type of cassette requires which type of spacer, these days but I'm fairly certain that an 11-speed cassette on an 11-speed freehub requires no spacers, especially since both wheel and cassette in this case are from Shimano.)

I guess I could always stuff my ears full of road sludge.

Monday, February 4, 2019

New Outside Column!

Ostensibly this is a bike blog, so here's a column about scooters!

It's sort of fascinating how, whenever a new non-car transit mode presents itself, the most pressing issue for policy makers and researchers is: "How do we make people wear little foam hats while they use it?"

Well, that and preserving car parking.

If we could travel back in time to 1925 and pass a nationwide motorist helmet law we'd be infinitely better off because nobody would drive.

It's the "killing baby Hitler" of bike advocacy.