Friday, October 21, 2016

The Quiz Isn't Dead It's Just Pining for the Fjords

Every so often a product comes along that promises to revolutionize cycling forever.

And then there's SlunkLock, the u-lock that makes you puke:

Seems to me it's easy enough to have a vomit-inducing bike without the lock:

By the way, back in 2009 I wrote a comprehensive history of the Y-foil "bicycle."  Read it and remember when this blog used to be funny.

Those were the days.

Anyway, the concept of the u-lock is that when a thief cuts into it, it releases a noxious gas:

With his co-inventor, Yves Perrenoud, Idzkowski created a U-shaped lock of carbon and steel with a hollow chamber to hold one of three pressurized gases of their own concoction, including one called “formula D_1”. When someone cuts about 30% of the way into the lock, Idzkowski said, the gas erupts in the direction of the gash.

“It’s pretty much immediately vomit inducing, causes difficulty breathing,” Idzkowski said. “A lot of similar symptoms to pepper spray.”

So basically it's like cutting into a hunk of Limburger cheese at a cocktail party, or like a Fred peeling off his chamois after a long ride.

“You’re basically just puking on yourself the entire time,” he said. “They could change all their clothes, shower, if the bike is still there come out and cut the remaining 75% of the lock. You can’t prevent a theft 100%, so that’s why we call it a deterrent lock, not a solution.

“All you have to do is be better than the bike across the street.”

Okay, two questions:

1) What happens to the innocent bystanders?  Are they just collateral damage?

2) If this is such an effective deterrent, why not just put some SkunkLock stickers on your current lock and be done with it?

I don't know, but here's the video from the crowdfunding website:

It should be fun when these start deploying accidentally like those Hovding airbag helmets--though it still doesn't seem like as much of a deterrent as the Bike Mine:

Explosive charges, noxious won't be long before we need the cycling equivalent of the Geneva Convention.

Speaking of destruction and mayhem, remember how my chain broke yesterday?  Well when I finally went to shorten my chain for the ride home I noticed that the pins came out way too easily, which undermined my confidence considerably.  I also discovered my pulley wheel was cracked:

Did the broken chain cause the pulley to break?  Or did the broken pulley somehow break the chain?  Or are the two things completely unrelated?

We may never know (or care, for that matter) but I'm ordering a set of $499 CeramicSpeed oversized freak pulleys immediately:

Nah, just kidding.  I'm actually ordering the $599 "coated" version:

The OSPW is a carbon-fiber pulley cage stuffed with a pair of 17-tooth, machined-aluminum pulleys. It sells for $499 and is claimed to save you at least 2.4 watts. $100 more gets you the coated version, which claims to have 50-percent less friction than CeramicSpeed’s standard ceramic bearings.  A pair of standard replacement pulleys cost $279, or $369 for the coated version.

Wow, the "coating upcharge" has to be the most revolutionary development in bilking Freds since the "SL" suffix.  I imagine a visit to the pro shop must go like this:

"Wait, did I say $499?  Sorry, I meant $599.  It's got a special coating.  No, you can't actually see it, and there's no way I can show it to you because it's not visible to the naked eye, but I promise it's there."

What's next, a $1,000 version that's made out of titanium?


On second thought I'm not pulling the trigger on new pulleys until retail prices crack the $10,000 barrier.

Nevertheless, going back to the "Bicycling" review, those $499 derailleur pulleys (a total bargain now that you know they go for twice that in titanium) sound absolutely fantastic...apart from the fact that they can't clear a 28-tooth cog:

But maybe if you spring for the "coated" version the whole friction thing will cancel itself out.

Oh, and you have to use them with that special $135  chain that only lasts for 200 miles and is only good in dry conditions:

The chain’s watt-saving properties are only good for 200 miles, after which it’s about as fast as an unoptimized, but broken-in, version of the chain. Also, CeramicSpeed warns that the chain’s treatment is not corrosion resistant and should only be used in dry conditions during its 200-mile optimized lifespan. Once the optimization wears off, you can protect the chain from water damage by using your favorite chain lube.

But if you do you'll explore the fascinating grey area between riding at your "average ability" and riding at your "best:"

However, there’s "on paper" and there’s "the real world." I learned that gaining time improvements in the real world from a claimed less-than-10-watt reduction in friction—with variables like weather (I tested this in the late winter/early spring) and my wildly fluctuating form—is pretty tough.

It appears there was a little bump in efficiency, but the real-world improvement in time was less than the difference between when I’m riding at my average ability, and when I’m my best. It certainly wasn’t like I bolted the OSPW and UFO on and it started raining easy PRs.

But keep in mind that you suck, so the difference between your "average" and your "best" is about as meaningful as the friction coefficient between the base derailleur pulleys and the "coated" version.

And enjoy climbing with your derailleur pulley grinding away on your cassette.

Anyway, once I buttoned my poor drivetrain back up I decided not to take any more chances with it and instead said "Fuck it" and took the train:

You'll no doubt be pleased to learn I made it from the train station to my home with no catastrophic drivetrain failure and subsequent crotch-on-top-tube contact.

Lastly, on Tuesday I solicited feedback from you, my cherished readers, for my next Walz "limited edition" cap design, and after carefully analyzing your comments and taken all of them totally serious I've finally come up with a template I think will have a little something for everyone:

(See?  It's not black!)

Assuming Brooks signs on it should be ready for the holiday shopping season.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Sorry I'm Late, I Had a Mechanical

Last Friday I forgot my lock like an idiot, and once again I have found myself underprepared for a bicycle ride:

(Good for you, assholes.)

Given the beguiling combination of unseasonably warm temperatures and autumn foliage we're currently experiencing, I figured I'd be a real schmuck if I didn't head out this morning for a mountain bike ride.  So that's just what I did, and you can believe me when I tell you I was congratulating myself the whole time for shirking my relatively few responsibilities in order to indulge in some of the finest mall-adjacent all-terrain bicycling Yonkers has to offer:

I had just scaled a particularly steep climb when I noticed my chain was skipping a bit, which is odd, because my antique hand-curated 1x9 drivetrain usually works flawlessly.  After twiddling my barrel adjuster a bit (gigglechortle) to no avail, it finally occurred to me to look downward, and I noticed that my chain watcher/catcher/dingle-dangle-whatever-you-want-to-call-it thingy was all askew.  Clearly something had knocked it out of whack and it was interfering with my chain.  So I straightened it out and continued, and it happened again, so I fixed it again, and it happened yet again.  So I lay the bike down in frustration:

As I stared at it, it became clear to me that my kludgy drivetrain was hopelessly outmoded and that I needed to upgrade to one of those new fancy-pants dedicated 1x11 drivetrains with the clutch derailleur and the special chainring and the hi-drolic dick breaks and all the rest of it.  So I whipped out my smartphone, filled a virtual shopping cart with hundreds of dollars of bike parts, and was listening for the sound of the delivery drone when I had a crazy idea:

"Maybe I should look at the chain."

So I did, and that's when I noticed it was broken:

"Hmmm, that might explain my poor shifting performance," I thought.

It was at that point the drone arrived, so I smashed it with a rock, buried its payload, covered the spot with some dead leaves, and informed the online retailer that I'd never received my order.

They refunded my money immediately.


Unrelated, if anyone wants a fancy-pants 1x11 drivetrain I'll sell you one cheap.  Brand new, never used, some dirt on the packaging.  Cash only.

Anyway, so there I was with a broken chain, which is no big deal, since I always carry a chain tool when I go mountain biking.  All I had to do was remove the offending link, close the chain again, and avoid my lowest gear.  No problem.  So I opened my voluminous saddle bag and it shouldn't surprise you at all to learn there was no chain tool in there.  Nor was there one in my backpack, which is the second place I looked.

The courteous fellows who stopped and asked me if I needed anything didn't have one either.

Most vexing was that I'd once found a chain tool in almost this exact spot.  I carried it around thinking maybe I'd bump into the owner, and when I didn't I just kept it.  It now dawned on me that this rider had probably stopped here to fix a chain and forgotten it.  Now here I was in need of a chain tool and I didn't have one.  It was karma, or something.

Of course the chain had not given way completely, so I shifted into the straightest chainline possible and gently pedaled to the nearest bike shop.  (In case you're wondering what the retail price on a Park CT-5 is in an actual brick-and-mortar bike shop is these days, it's like two hundred bucks.)  I also picked up some lunch and treated myself to an ice-cold Coca-Cola for my troubles, and when I went to pop it open here's what happened:

Man, this country's going down the tubes.

Fortunately I had my chain tool, so I was able to rectify the situation:


By the way, if you would like to weigh in on why my chain broke and how it's my fault (it was too long, it was too short, it was the wrong brand, it was lubed incorrectly, it was installed upside-down, etc.) please leave your comments here.

In other news, we've been hearing a lot about how Sky and other pro cycling teams enjoy the painkiller Tramadol:

Former Team Sky rider Jonathan Tiernan-Locke, in a BBC report today, questioned Bradley Wiggins' use of a powerful corticosteroid drug to treat his allergies.

Tiernan-Locke also revealed that the Great Britain team, at the 2012 World Championships, offered riders Tramadol "freely around," but he did not take it. "I wasn't in any pain so I didn't need to take it, and that was offered freely around. It just didn't sit well with me at the time. I thought, 'I'm not in any pain', why would I want a painkiller?'"

As I understand it, the reason they take Tramadol is that it allows them to ride through the pain, with the inconvenient side-effect that they get all wonky and crash into each other.

Anyway, here's an article in the Wall Street Journal about how Tramadol use is becoming something of a global crisis:

Indeed, apparently they use so much of the stuff in Cameroon that it's in the plants now:

Inexpensive, imported tramadol is so heavily abused in northern Cameroon that it seeps from human and animal waste into the groundwater and soil, where vegetation absorbs it, wrote Michael Spiteller and Souvik Kusari, chemists at the University of Dortmund.

Farmers in Northern Cameroon told the researchers that they take double or triple the safe dosage, and feed tramadol to cattle to help them pull plows through the scorching afternoon sun.

Hey, if it can help cattle pull plows, imagine what it must do for emaciated humans on ultralight bicycles!

It was also invented by the company that brought you thalidomide:

Dr. Flick says he developed a molecule that seemed promising. But just when he was finishing tramadol’s development, Grünenthal was overtaken by a crisis: Its popular drug thalidomide was causing catastrophic birth defects.

And refined by a former SS who cut his research teeth experimenting on prisoners:

That changed after a Grünenthal scientist, Ernst-Günther Schenck, started testing the drug. Dr. Schenck, a former Waffen SS official who conducted nutrition experiments that killed prisoners during World War II, found tramadol effective for different types of pain. And it appeared to be less addictive than other opioids. He published several papers on its efficacy, and in 1977, Germany approved tramadol for sale. Dr. Schenck died in 1998.

Now that's a pedigree.

It also goes great with coffee:

Tramadol that goes from India to Benin makes its way to places like Garoua, a smoky city in northern Cameroon where vultures circle over the edge of town. Men in caftans buy boxes labeled “Super Royal X-225” from curbside vendors for a few cents a pill. The potent red tablets are known as “tomates” because the little red apples printed on their boxes remind locals of tomatoes. Coffee sellers with outdoor stands will empty a couple of tramadol capsules into a customer’s Nescafe for 10 cents.

So look for "tomato"-infused lattes at a Rapha Cycle Club near you.

Hey, if it's good enough for Boko Haram it's good enough for the peloton:

Further north, where Cameroon narrows to a thin spit between Nigeria and Chad, the drug is popular with the terrorist group Boko Haram. “We find tramadol packets in the pockets of those we kill,” says a Cameroon army commander who oversees antiterror missions.

So there you go.

Lastly, Road World Champion Peter Sagan got lots of attention when he showed up at the UCI gala wearing this:

I'm not sure which he looks like most: a Mississippi riverboat gambler, Willy Wonka, or the guy on the corner selling Tramadol.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Live Every Wednesday Like It's Your Last

It's like 80 American Freedom Degrees™ here in New York City, which is like 20 degrees on The Scale Which Dare Not Speak Its Name*.

*[Not sure if you're aware of the political climate here in the Canada's heated seat, but it's pretty ugly at the moment, and now that Jew-hating is back I can only assume Celsius-bashing will be next.]

Now I realize that as the sort of smug cyclist who owns (however tenuously) a WorkCycles I'm supposed to mention that 80 degrees in late October is not normal and we're all doomed due to climate change, but whatever.  Let's set that aside for the moment and focus on the specter of death lurking around the corner as opposed to the one that will be my children's problem.  (My children are GENIUSES by the way, so I'm confident that if things are as dire as people say they'll solve the problem in no time.)

Anyway, like today, yesterday was very warm.  Actually, it was more than warm.  It was hot.  We are, after all, experiencing what some people call an "Indian summer," or others call a "Jew's autumn," depending on how politically incorrect they are.  I happened to find myself in Midtown, where people were taking advantage of the unseasonably warm temperatures by lounging on the library stairs or taking pictures from behind sporty fixies and regal beards:

And while I wouldn't exactly say it was hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk, it was more than sufficiently warm to cause the fixies to levitate:

Then again the tires may just be filled with helium for extra speed.

By the way, speaking of pneumatic tires, while I may have been negligent with my WorkCycles let it never be said that I don't take precautions with my frame pump:

The above bicycle is the storied Ironic Orange Julius Bike, which is also my Dedicated Manhattan Locking-Up Bike, and I've forgotten to bring a pump with me enough times that I finally just said "Fuck it" and hose-clamped one to the downtube.  (It won't fit under the top tube.)

Of course now I have to remember to carry a screwdriver, but I figure that's easier to improvise than an inflationary device.

And if someone wants an old, battered, wheezy frame pump enough to unscrew it from the bike, then as far as I'm concerned they can have it.  Someone gave it to me for free like 20 years ago, and honestly in 2016 I'd be surprised if anybody even knows what it is.

In any case, after I'd finished my business (mani-pedi if you must know, it's the only reason I bother heading anymore, and if you've seen my fingers the fabulous results speak for themselves), I headed back uptown via Central Park, where the vibrant autumn foliage was at odds with the scranus-baking temperatures:

I have always loved riding through Central Park, and I even love it on unseasonably warm days when streams of selfie stick-wielding tourists are salmoning at me on rental bikes, which is exactly what was happening.

Also, the above picture may look serene, but what you don't see are the roughly 30 Europeans next to me photographing the exact same tree.

Anyway, before long I left the tourists and the pedicabs behind and emerged from the north end of the park into Harlem.  I'd only gone a few blocks when I saw someone on a non-street-legal dirt bike heading up Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard--a common sight on summer days in many parts of the city.  He was a couple blocks ahead of me but I'm reasonably certain he was in mid-wheelie.  Either way, I looked around at all the kids in their uniforms coming home from school, and I thought about all the drivers I'd seen running red lights that afternoon, and I thought to myself that racing around on a dirt bike like he was seemed like an exceedingly bad idea.

Shortly thereafter I cut over to St. Nicholas Avenue, where I immediately sensed from the arrangement of the cars on the street that something was askew--even more askew than it usually is in the city.  Figuring I'd nab some bike lane-blocking porn or dumb driver behavior I grabbed my phone without really thinking about it and started shooting:

I then noticed the dirt bike, which I'm reasonably sure was the one I'd seen a couple minutes before:

And then the car in the bike lane ahead of me, facing the wrong way with a shattered windshield:

The group of people in the crosswalk had only begun to register with me as someone walked over to them on my left explaining that he'd just "hit him:"

I was still on bike blogger autopilot, rolling and shooting, as I passed the people in the crosswalk.  I'm not sharing the photo, but a woman talks plaintively into a cellphone as two men kneel over a bloodied young man.  (Teenager?  I can't really tell.)  Two bicycles lie next to them.  The kneeling men are assuring the victim and telling him to stay down, and I think I hear the victim responding.  I'm now just standing there along with increasingly more people, watching.  There's a lot of blood.  I feel stupid for just standing there but I also feel like it's somehow wrong to just leave.

I don't know what happened.  Was the victim walking?  Riding a bicycle?  Popping a wheelie on that dirt bike?  I have no idea.  I've witnessed nothing.  I do know that when the police arrive on the scene they'll have no idea either, and I'm not confident they'll take the time to find out.  I feel like I'm gawking now.  I don't know shit about what happened, I don't know shit about first aid.  The driver has not fled.  I look at the victim again.  A shiver goes up my back and stings my tear ducts.  I feel sick for the victim.  I leave.

For the second time since last Friday when my bike got stolen I reflect on my behavior when confronted with reality.  The further I get from the crash scene the more I think I could have done.  I could have demanded the driver's account and recorded it with my phone in case it would be of use to the victim.  I could have waited around for the police to arrive and made sure they did their job.  I could have done something instead of just gawking for a minute or two and then leaving.  Then I feel arrogant and stupid for thinking that I could have done anything at all, and I find myself in a guilt spiral because I feel simultaneously apathetic and arrogant.

The city swallows everything.  At the crash scene a large group of people are standing around a bloodied victim, all no doubt contemplating the fragility of life, but just a few blocks away it is as though it's not happening.  People walk, drivers run lights, and the only thing keeping everybody alive was that delicate balance of routine and happenstance.  That balance will be upset again.  It's happening all the time, all over town.  It's a bloodbath out there.  But it happens and gets swallowed and that's that.

Anyway, here's all I could find about it in the news:

For the rest of the way home I watched the brutal traffic ballet, and it made me even more despondent than it usually does.  The streets were swamped, flooded, overrun with cars.  Women clutching babies attempted to cross gridlocked intersections.  Drivers ran lights even as NYPD ticketed other drivers a block away.  It all seemed so theoretically fixable, yet at the same time so unstoppable and irreversible.

"Fuck it," I thought, looking out over the river.  "I'm taking up boating."

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Just Noodling Around

Firstly, it looks like the Walz limited edition BSNYC "collabo" (I collaborated with myself on it) cap is officially sold out:

I can't believe they sold all two.

Fortunately there are still various other styles to choose from (including the books, which you're welcome to strap to your head), but you'll be pleased to know that we plan to bring you more limited edition caps in the not-too-distant future.  Indeed, some of you have expressed a desire for caps in colors other than black, and to that end I've decided to make the next design a collabo with you, my cherished readers.  Granted, I'm not sure how I'll do that exactly, but I imagine I'll open the design up to some sort of public comment period, like the Department of Transportation does before they put in a bike lane.  And I'm sure it will play out exactly the same way, in that nobody will bother to show up, the design will eventually come out anyway, and then everyone will berate me for how awful it is and ask why they weren't consulted.

In the meantime, please feel free to send suggestions either to the bottom of this post in the form of a comment, or to me directly via the electronic mail.  Also, keep in mind there are certain things Walz simply won't do, including but not limited to:

--Incorporating a plume
--Incorporating a beverage holder
--Incorporating a fan or other cooling technology
--Kippot production (the manufacturing guidelines and Rabbinical approval process are too onerous)

Believe me, I've asked for all of the above, so I know what I'm talking about.

Other than that I'm open to anything, because I need to sell lots of caps.  That way I can buy a back-up WorkCycles just in case my current one gets stolen again.

Then, once I've cornered the hat market (hey, a tricorne hat, now there's an idea), I'll probably branch out into limited edition BSNYC pool noodles, since they're poised to become the hot new cycling safety accessory:

(Via CommieCanuck)

Which is ironic, because Mario Cipollini says nobody is safe from his pool noodle:

When Cipo unzips his pants the theme from "Jaws" plays.

As for our enterprising Torontonian, he's found that ever since he started cycling with a foam feeler protruding from his rack drivers have given him more room out there on the road:

“People get really insulated inside a vehicle,” Huska said. “They don’t really know where the edges of their vehicle are.”

This is true, though in fairness to them they generally don't know where the edges of their own bodies are either.

It's called the Tim Hortons Effect.

But, for the past year, drivers have given Huska a wider berth.

Now, when he mounts his trusty two-wheeled steed, Huska is protected by a pool noodle.

The key, apparently, is that the pool noodle is both laterally floppy and vertically floppy:

Strapped to his bike’s frame with bungee cords, the floppy foam cylinder is a reminder to drivers not to get too close.

Though if you're considering implementing this technique in the UK, Australia, or any other country where they drive on the "other" side of the road, keep in mind they're directional so you'll need a right-hand drive-specific pool noodle:

As opposed to the left-hand drive models we use here in North America:

Using the wrong pool noodle can result in death, or at the very least in tapping pedestrians on the buttocks with a foamy "FWAP!" and getting punched in the face.

Of course, New Yorkers are no strangers to using pool noodles in traffic, but the difference is we put them on our cars:

(I did not take this photo and don't know who did.)

I'm old enough to remember when bumpers once offered protection to the car, but then they gradually evolved into something that requires protection, because if you return a leased car with scuffed bumpers the bank will bend you over and perform a rectal cash-ectomy.

Gotta love the auto-industrial complex.

In any case the result is people in New York City drive around with all manner of ridiculous contraptions attached to their bumpers to protect their cars while they're stored on the public roadways for free.  Sadly this defensive mindset doesn't extend to actual driving, but fortunately the media and the police extend them every courtesy after they run somebody down because they can relate to the mental anguish a driver experiences when they sustain cosmetic damage to their cars.

Lastly, the LVMH Group is apparently poised to buy Pinarello, arguably the Fredliest of bike brands:

LVMH Group is best known for its high-end brands Louis Vuitton fashion and handbags, Moet & Chandon champagnes, along with a wide range of luxury brands in the clothing, cosmetics, fashion accessories, jewellery, perfumes, spirits, watches and wines arena. However, according to the report, LVMH Group is interested in expanding into the sports, wellness and leisure markets with cycling's prominent brand Pinarello as its primary purchase objective.

I commend them on their choice, as Pinarello will make a fine addition to their exquisite portfolio of Eurodouchery.  After this the next acquisition is going to be either Assos or Rapha, and by this time next year you can expect them to offer an $8,000 leather Louis Vuitton pool noodle.

You heard it here first.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Importance of Being Prudent

Last Friday night my WorkCycles Fr8 was stolen:

And subsequently recovered.

Here's what happened.  Are you ready?

(Sorry for the corny pun.)
Then let's begin.

My older son's school does a "Movie Night" to benefit the parents' association.  Basically this involves a bunch of elementary school kids binging on junk food and then shouting at a screen in the auditorium for an hour and a half.  If you've ever been to the "Rocky Horror Picture Show" it's pretty much exactly like that.

So off we went.

We got a late start, and we rolled up to the school on the WorkCycles about 20 minutes after the movie began.  The sun had been down for at least an hour now so it was dark outside.  As I was about to lock my bike to a street sign I noticed that the lock I usually keep on the front rack was not there.  Then I remembered that I had used it to lock my son's bike to our outdoor rack the last time we'd ridden together.  So there I was with no lock, save for the WorkCycles's frame lock, which is basically one of these:

At this point I had three (3) options:

1) Go back home and get a lock, which would take a total of 20-30 minutes and take me over the highest natural point in the Bronx twice;

B) Go inside and ask someone if I could stow the bike somewhere;

III) Just set the frame lock and hope for the best.

Not only was Option 1 at odds with my inherent laziness, but by the time we got back we would have missed most of Movie Night, the highlight of my son's pre-Halloween social calendar.  As for Option III, only an idiot would do that.  After all, I've written four (4) books, and in at least two (2) of them I expound upon the importance of following proper locking protocol at all times--even when it seems like overkill.  Clearly the most sagacious choice then would be to take Option B.

So naturally I went with Option III.

I knew even as I made the decision that it was, objectively speaking, a bad one.  However, I was at that moment brimming over with good will.  See, I'm quite fond of my son's school, and amidst this kind and nurturing environment I temporarily fell victim to the delusion that parking my bike in a half-assed fashion outside of it was a gesture of trust on my part.  I had visions of emerging from the building in about an hour's time amidst a bunch of giddy children and contented parents, returning to my unmolested Dutch bicycle with its two kiddie seats, and basking in a sense of community.

Also, I reasoned, this isn't exactly Midtown, where the professional bike thieves ply their trade with power tools.  Only an opportunist is going to steal a bike in this neighborhood, and they're clearly not going to bother dragging away a 50lb bicycle from in front of a school once they realize it won't roll.

Even so, I wasn't totally delusional, and so I hedged my bet somewhat by parking the bike in some shrubbery by the entrance where it would be somewhat hidden from view.*

*[WARNING: The use of hedge and shrub in this sentence in conjunction with earlier corn joke meets or exceeds society's maximum allowable awful punning quotient.]

It's worth noting at this point that my six year-old son was not even remotely as naive as I was.  Indeed, as I stowed the bike in the hedges like a schmuck he expressed repeated concerns that somebody might steal it.  Imperiously and condescendingly, I dismissed these concerns.  "I think it'll be fine," I replied haughtily.  

And in we went.

About an hour later we indeed emerged from the building amidst a bunch of giddy children and contented parents, except instead of returning to my unmolested Dutch bicycle I returned to an empty patch of dirt behind some shrubs.  As is always the case in these sorts of situations, my first reaction was one of denial--someone must have moved it inside, I must have parked it somewhere else and forgot, etc.--though ultimately there was no getting around what had happened:

My bike just got stolen from Movie Night.

I turned to the head of the parents' association, who happened to be standing right there, and who I vaguely knew to be something of a bike person.  "My bike was stolen," I informed him, and before I knew it he'd given me his own bicycle (which, because he's not an idiot, he'd parked inside the school) and sent me off in search of someone dragging a 50lb bicycle while he undertook his own search.  

Off I rode into the night, attempting to put myself into the mind of the thief.  (The one good thing about getting your bike stolen at a school event is that there are plenty of people to watch your kid while you chase the perpetrator.)  Where would I go with my catch?  The school was mostly surrounded by private houses, and the nearest civilization into which one could conceivably disappear was Yonkers less than a mile to the north, so that's the direction I headed.  I rode up to and over the city line, then I came back, then I combed the neighborhood streets.  I figured sooner or later I was bound to see someone hauling an unwieldy bicycle with its generator lights flashing.


Defeated, I returned to the school.  I figured I'd get my son home, then hop in THE CAR THE BANK OWNS UNTIL I FINISH PAYING THEM BACK and resume the search.  Maybe instead of dragging the bike the thief had hidden it somewhere nearby in order to return to it later.  At the very least I could drive around all night playing "Love Hurts" by Nazareth over and over again while sobbing.

Fortunately, all this proved unnecessary, for a short while after I returned to the school so did the head of the parents' association--with my bicycle.  The thief (or thieves), it would seem, had indeed abandoned the bicycle nearby.  Two young teenagers he'd enlisted in the search had found it.  Of course neither of us could be totally sure they weren't the ones who stole the bike in the first place, but they seemed earnest enough.  And either way, I had my bike back, so I decided to believe that they were heroes and gave them a modest cash reward.

As for the bike, though I'd largely been made whole again, it was in a bit of a state.  Clearly the perpetrator had made a caveman-like attempt to open the frame lock.  The cylinder, while still operable, was sticky, as though they'd jammed something in there to wrench it open.  The rear spoke guards, while recovered along with the bike, were no longer on it.  They'd also clearly attempted to remove the rear kiddie seat as the thumb screws which old it to the frame were missing.  Finally, both tires were deflated, and since the valve caps were still on we figured the thief must have punctured them as a final "fuck you" before giving up.

Still, I had my bike, and as my son and I walked home with it (I had to push it over the big hill I'd been too lazy to ride over just an hour or so before) we both marveled at the sort of person who would unleash such abuse on a bicycle with a baby seat on it.  My son also reminded me over and over that he had told me not to leave it unlocked, and while I was tempted to reprimand him for his insolence I had no choice but to agree.  I did lamely attempt to spin it into a lesson about the importance of staying alert, but it was clear to both of us that the only person who needed a lesson that night was me.

So always lock your bike.

Friday, October 14, 2016

It's Friday and No Quiz, Instead I'm Just Gonna Blog About Bikes

First of all, here's a self-serving reminder to get your limited edition bike-riding hat!
(If you have any comments about how you don't like the color or anything like that please direct them here and I can assure you we'll see to them immediately.)

I don't know how limited they are, but presumably they're still available because I haven't heard otherwise.  Also, this discount code is good for 10% off until the end of the month:


So there you go.

Oh, also, while we're talking about caps, I have some Yehuda Moon comic books at home:
And the other day one of my seventeen (17) kids put on this cap with the brim over his face and said, "Look, I'm that guy from the comic book!"

That's how you know a kid's growing up in a bike house, and hopefully when he grows up he can find a good shrink to help him undo all the damage.

In other news, the Wall Street Journal's Jason Gay had the exclusive on Robin Williams's bicycle collection, which is now being auctioned:

When Robin Williams died, the world lost a great comedian, and the sport of professional cycling lost its only remaining fan.

In any case, if you're a bike dork (which, if you're reading this blog you are, sorry to break it to you) you'll no doubt find his collection fascinating.  It spans years, and I've been totally nerding out on it.  Indeed, you could start a museum with the mountain bikes alone:

Plus, if you're a recovering Fred like I am, you'll find yourself nostalgic for bikes you once coveted.  He's got all the sweet team replica bikes from the EPO era, like this Bianchi:

Looks like it even has the embroidered Il Pirata saddle:

I'd argue that this era represents the pinnacle of the road racing bicycle: pretty much everything was still made of metal (with the exception of the fork), the headsets were threadless but not integrated, the bottom brackets were threaded but not integrated, and the shifting was integrated.  It's even got a square taper crank.  I mean sure, it's no Hollowtech II (which is and will always be the world's greatest bottom bracket interface), but I'll take square taper over all this press-fit crap any day.

Oh yeah, and you didn't even have to charge anything.

Alas, it's all been downhill from there.  Have we really gained anything with the modern-day equivalent, apart from a bunch of batteries and proprietary fittings and a 100% price increase?

I'd argue that we have not.

Sadly, I never owned that sweet Pantani replica, but I will admit I did own another team replica in the Robin Williams collection:

What can I say?  I was blinded by lust for the crabon-accented Campagnolo Record group, as well as the then-still-kinda-edgy sloping top tube geometry.  Sure, I could have done without all the Festina decals, but it turned out to be a non-issue as the frame cracked at the chainstay in less than a year.

(To their credit, Specialized promptly replaced it, but to their detriment they replaced it with an Allez frame with S-Works decals.)

And that's not the only bike I've owned that's also represented in the Robin Williams collection--nor is it the most embarrassing.  I also owned this monstrosity:

My excuse is one you'll hear from many Freds, which is that it's what our team was riding that year.  Unlike the Festina bike, which at least looked pretty cool at the time, this piece of crap was ugly from Day 1.  I could never come to terms with riding this thing, though I rode it anyway, and it wasn't long before the crabon top half of the frame started to separate from the aluminum bottom half of the frame at the head tube, complete with creaking sound.  (A similar fate befell pretty much every one of these as I understand it.)

Specialized also replaced that frame for me, with this one, which to their credit was an actual full-crabon S-Works:

Note I moved the stupid Zertz seatpost over from the ungodly crab-O-luminum freak bike, only because I don't believe in putting metal posts in crabon frames (they seize, don'tcha know, unless you're into torque wrenches and boutique assembly paste) and I wasn't about to buy a new one.  This frame served me well for a number of seasons, until eventually I suspected maybe it was cracked:

Instead of verifying this I instead decided to end the cycle by stripping the bike of its parts and putting it in storage.

So if you're wondering why I'm often dismissive of the hot new Fred bike technology, there's your answer.

But of course now we've entered a new era of Fred bikes.  Now it's all about #whatpressureyourunning, not to mention #whatwidthyourunning:

For years, the standard road bike tire size was 23mm. Thin, light and able to be pumped up to back-achingly high pressures, there was no need to experiment. Then science, endurance events, and gravel riding got in the mix.

Science has now proven that wider tires actually have less rolling resistance than skinnier tires. Wider road tires provide a more forgiving ride and improve handling through a, you guessed it, wider contact patch that makes endurance riding safer, easier, and more accessible. Finally, gravel riding popularity brought on wider tires and the associated equipment to mute the bumps, take on the rocks, and provide some traction in the loose, dirt road conditions. 

You know, this pisses me off.  For years the bicycle industry has been telling us that the path to excellent ride quality and superior performance was expensive frame materials.  And of these materials, ostensibly the best one was crabon fribé, since they could mold it into all sorts of stupid shapes and even put dumb little see-through inserts in it.  (Like the ones you see above in my seatpost).  Yet during this same period there was nary a mention of how tires affect ride quality, save from impassioned reviews about how this 23mm tire is more "supple" and "confidence-inspiring" than that 23mm tire.

So successful was this propaganda campaign that crabon fribé has pretty much completely taken over the Fred bike market--and only now that the takeover is complete and no Fred in their right mind would consider anything else are they telling Freds the truth, which is that it's all about the tires, and fatter tires make for a better ride.

"Oh yeah, come on, SCIENCE says wider tires are better, where have you been?," says the bike review machine.

"Uh, reading your dumbass reviews of crabon bikes with skinny tires," say the Freds.

But it's already too late for the poor Freds, who now think they need disc brakes to run the wider tires that are now de rigueur, even though they could have been riding on 28mm tires on their short-reach rim-brake Fred chariots all along.  My plastic Specialized as pictured above took them happily, as does the Ritte on which I undertook my Brooks gravel extravaganza:

And to go even wider, all you need are some long- (or technically medium-) reach brakes like I've got on my Milwaukee:

And I won't even mention cantilever brakes, which despite being powerful and offering lots of clearance are of course hopelessly out of style.

But no, there was nary a mention of medium-reach brakes until it was too late.

No, in order to run today's slightly-wider-than-23mm tires and slightly lower gearing you've got to buy a dedicated gravel bike with dick breaks and that that's it.

And there you go.

Not that I don't want bike shops to sell lots and lots of bikes or anything like that.  And here's a bike shop owner who's also a mayor:

One day maybe we'll finally get a Fred or a Frederica into the White House.  Then we'll all get a "pro deal" on our taxes.