Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Wednesdayplay noun Wednes·day \ˈwenz-(ˌ)dā, -dē; British also ˈwe-dənz-\

Last week I received an email with the following subject line:

Bike Helmet Breakthrough

And under it were the following words:

Dear Bike Snob,

Imagine staying connected while cycling - without ear buds or wires. This is the safest way to enjoy music or access to your smart phone.
Coros is about to debut its new smart technology helmet - one of the biggest technology advances in cycling. We would love for you to try it out!
The Coros LINX Smart Cycling Helmet connects bikers wirelessly and hands-, ears- and eyes-free to their music, friends, bike mates, voice navigation and ride data. This allows riders to safely get out to enjoy a ride, while also utilizing their smartphone capabilities without the distraction of wires.
Happy to provide advance information to you. The helmet samples we're sending out are the final, consumer model. Would you like me to send one to you? If so, what is your helmet size and shipping address?

Helmets?  Smart technology???  As you can imagine, I immediately responded in the affirmative, and yesterday this arrived by drone at my palatial abode:


I'm pleased to report I've already taken it out for a ride this morning, and you can expect a debriefing tomorrow:


(Spoiler alert: it matches my bike.)

Speaking of helmets, remember the pro-skater-turned-helmet-advocate I mentioned Monday?  Well here's a video forwarded to me by a reader in which he fights four (4) guys at once:



So remember kids: lash out violently if someone calls your heterosexuality into question, but make sure to always wear a helmet when you're riding on the wooden board with wheels.

It's the American way.

As for me, I'm too classy to engage in the fisticuffs.  (And by "classy" I mean cowardly.)  Plus, my looks are my livelihood, and were someone to rearrange my face it could put and end to my media career:


("They say you shouldn't wear underpants with cycling shorts.  I disagree.")

Then again, it's possible the rearrangement could help were it to serendipitously reorder my features into those of Fabio, who knows?


(An uppercut to the jaw could give me a nice butt-chin and a lucrative butter substitute spokesperson contract if the assailant is wearing his class ring.)

The point is I'm classy (sleeveless jersey notwithstanding, and I ain't apologizing for it, either, it was hot as balls), which is why I'm slowly adding EH Works tool rolls to my bikes:


See, first I put one on my travel bike, and it classed it up so much you almost don't notice the mighty tower of headset spacers:


Just kidding, of course you do.  Nothing could distract you from that monstrosity.

Then the other day I was looking at my Milwaukee:


And that old-man-in-the-steamroom saddlebag started to bother my aesthetic sensibilities, which is something I only discovered I had until recently, gargantuan spacer stack and sleeveless jersey notwithstanding.  (Such is the danger of flirting with the world of artisanal handicrafts.)  And so emails were sent, passive voice was used, and then this arrived at my palatial abode by hooded hawk, wrapped in brown paper like a fancy cut of meat:


I realize it's not gift guide season yet but if you're shopping for that special cyclist in your life I can assure you this is the way to go.  In fact, as I unwrapped it, I got angry that nobody has ever gifted me one of these before.  (Well, besides Erica Hanson herself, who handed me the first one in Seattle.)  Instead, it's always that can of Simoniz:



I mean sure, nothing brings out your bike frame's luster like Simoniz, but still.

Alas, there was no mention of tool rolls in the New York Times's recent gear rundown on the eve of the New York City Triathlon:


Though there was the obligatory comparison between the price of the bikes and the price of a random car:

In the swim portion of the swim-bike-run competition, there are goggles and wet suits. In the run, there are sneakers. The middle event, though, is the real showstopper: aerodynamic slivers of carbon fiber on wheels, costing upward of $15,000 — or more than a new Nissan Versa. Huffys with banana seats and baskets on the front are not welcome.

Why is the Nissan Versa suddenly the metric for bicycle prices?  Firstly, there are plenty of cars that would make that bike seem cheap.  Secondly, what is the point of arbitrarily comparing the price of sporting goods to the price of something people in khakis use to get to and from their cubicles?  They have nothing in common apart from rolling on wheels.  It's not like anybody's thinking, "Hmmm, I need a form of transportation.  Should I get the state-of-the-art tridork bike, or the soul-crushing econo-box?  Well, the Versa's cheaper, so I'll get that."  It's like comparing the price of custom ice skates to the price of Payless loafers.

Then again, if you substitute the word "water" with "coffee" and the word "racing" with "riding to work," this description of the bike does make it seem like the ideal commuter:

“So when I’m doing a race, I can actually just stay in my aero position, use this hose or little straw that pulls out, and I can drink water while I’m racing in the aero position without having to sit up, pull the water bottle out, drink from it, close the water bottle, put it back in and then come back down into the aerodynamic position that we’re usually using when we’re racing,” Szekretar said.

Wow, he makes it sound so easy!  Maybe all this guy needed was a more expensive bike:



But of course the real reason to own an expensive triathlon bike is the feeling that your machine is so exotic that it confounds mere mortals (though that does require more car comparisons, the only metric Americans understand):

“This is the equivalent of a Ferrari or a Maserati,” Blyer said. “So you can’t go into your local bike shop, in some cases you can, but a lot of the times if you walk into a bike shop that deals with kids’ bikes or commuting bikes with something like this, they’re going to scratch their head and say sorry.”

Yeah, I don't know about that.  It's still just a bike.  Anybody can adjust it--it doesn't even have disc brakes!  They're probably blowing you off because they don't feel like rummaging around for the meter-long valve extender you need to put air in your tires.

And yes, inflating the tires is the most challenging aspect of owning a triathlon bike, as I found out firsthand:


I may have to do a handmade artisanal bento box "collabo" with EH Works.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

What are you doing here? Today's post is on the Brooks blog!

Yes, it's time for another fun-tastic ramble through the wilds of the New York City metropolitan area, so put on some pants, ratchet up your clicky shoes, and let's head on over to the party room!


As you read, consider the awesomeness that would be a mountain bike version of the BSNYC Fondon't (hey, you never know), and I'll see you back here tomorrow.

XOXO,


--Wildcat Rock Machine


Monday, July 25, 2016

My goodness, would you look at the time!

Well, the Tour de France is over, so please join me in congratulating the winner, Chris Froome:


By the way, I should point out that wearing cycling shorts with your sumo loincloth is the equivalent of wearing underwear with your cycling shorts, which makes Froome a total Sumo Fred.

Anyway, if you didn't follow the race this year you're not alone (hi!), and Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Gay (who is the only remaining mainstream journalist who continues to take the sport seriously) suggests this could be due to the sport's financial inequality:


Chris Froome won the Tour de France on Sunday, his third in four years. This was not a big shocker. Froome seized first place on the first day of the Tour’s second week, and, outside of a Three Stooges-style fiasco in which he lost his bike in a crash and briefly ran up Mont Ventoux in his yellow cycling shoes, that was pretty much that. Presumed competition never materialized. Once more, Froome and his team, Sky, were too deep and dominant, suffocating all challengers and turning the final ride to Paris into another ceremonial, soft-pedaling coronation.

Hmm, a dominant rider with an illness backstory and a strong team powering to yet another unsurprising Tour de France win?  Where have we seen this sort of thing before?  I seem to recall similar scenarios playing out back in the early aughts (right down to the thrilling "fiascos"), but when I went to check out the results from those years the winner's name had been stricken from the record books:


I'm sure there's a pretty juicy story there, maybe somebody can fill me in.

In any case, Froome knows those "marginal gains" don't come cheap:

Still, Froome acknowledged something significant the other day. He admitted that if he rode not for the well-funded Sky, which can afford to surround him with well-paid lieutenants, but for a smaller, lower-budgeted outfit, he probably would not be in the running for the yellow jersey. “If I was riding for a small team, it would be different,” Froome said.

No shit.

Indeed, Sky somehow manage to spend €35 million on racing their bicycles, while other teams like Cannondale-Drapac are forced to scrounge the contents of Sky's half-eaten gel packets and hoard Nashbar coupon codes:

During the Tour, the French sports newspaper L’Equipe estimated Sky’s budget at €35 million, or $38.4 million. There are a couple of teams in that financial orbit, but many others with less than half or even a third of that budget (L’Equipe estimated the budget for the well-liked American Cannondale-Drapac team at €10 million, or about $11 million.) There is worry that this disparity is draining excitement out of the Tour—at least in the overall yellow jersey competition—because the have-nots do not have the personnel. Froome possesses a phalanx of teammates who would be leaders on other squads, giving Sky staggering ability to control the race. If you include Bradley Wiggins’s yellow jersey in 2012 (for which Froome was Wiggins’s top domestique), Sky has won four out of the last five Tours. ( 21st Century Fox Inc. owns 39% of Sky PLC, the major sponsor of Team Sky. Until 2013, 21st Century Fox and The Wall Street Journal owner News Corp. were part of the same company.)

See, here's how it works: In this sport, you gotta make the money first.  Then when you get the money, you get the power.  Then when you get the power, then you get the jersey.  That's why Sky is the Tony Montana of cycling teams:




And what could be simpler than that?  Indeed, what could be more American than that?  Rapidly-growing income inequality and real power concentrated in the hands of the very few is what this country's all about.  If anything, between that and the fact the riders keep getting hit by motor vehicles I'm surprised pro cycling isn't America's national sport.  Alas, this has not happened, and ironically the handful of Americans who have weathered the scandals and remain in the sport want socialism:

The push for financial leveling has been kicking around the sport for a while. Advocates include Cannondale-Drapac boss Jonathan Vaughters, who thinks some version of a budget cap will not only improve competition, but also bring badly-needed stability to the sport. Cycling’s every-team-for-itself approach is undoubtedly chaotic—teams open and shut every year on the whims of sponsors, donors and even governments.

"...said Vaughters as he combed the road shoulder for discarded bidons."

But is the financial gap really what's taking the excitement out of the Tour?  Or is it the fact that the race is fucking long?

Meanwhile, a budget cap is not the only suggestion out there to spice up the Tour. There are also appeals to reduce the number teams, or the number of riders on teams (from the current nine to maybe six or seven) or tinkering with stage formats and distances. Stapleton thinks a lot of Tour stages go on way too long and favors “shorter, more intense” races. Velon is using technology like on-board cameras to change the way the sport is seen.

This makes good sense--until you realize that nobody gives a shit about the shorter races either.

And yes, I'm looking at you, ironically-sponsored bike race:


Meanwhile, in parenting news, a former pro skateboarder wants your kid to wear a helmet:



In skateboarding, as in life, no kid wants to be seen as uncool — even if being “cool” means a broken arm and 3 hours in the emergency room. And in a sport where wearing safety gear is shunned, few pieces of equipment are considered as uncool as the helmet.

Okay, sure, but what the hell do helmets and broken arms have to do with each other?

I don't know, but here's his reasoning, and if you're anything like me when a pro skater gives you life advice you listen and you listen good:

“In the end I had 3 good reasons: My wife and my 2 daughters,” says Vallely, “I wanted to be around [for them]. When I step on my skateboard today, I wear a helmet.” And while he calls his decision a “personal” one (and doesn’t want to be seen as hoping on — and probably grinding off — a soapbox), that hasn’t stopped him from joining forces with safety gear company Triple Eight to launch the Get Used to It campaign, aimed at raising awareness for helmet use and head safety. In the end, he hopes helmets are treated like seat belts (“It should be intuitive. Just click it and go.”) and has strong feelings about getting kids to wear one, as well as why not having brain damage is better than being cool.

Wait a minute.  30 years of pro skating and now suddenly he's worried about not wearing a helmet?  I mean, I don't begrudge him at all for "joining forces" with a safety gear company (I certainly hope they're paying him to do this), but it seems to me that if he got this far without a helmet he's in the clear.

But it's not just about him, it's also about the children, won't somebody think of the children:

Get Them While They’re Young
Convincing teen skaters – especially serious ones – today about the virtues of wearing a helmet is pretty much a lost cause, says Vallely. “They’re just entrenched against it.” That’s why it’s critical to slap a lid on your youngest before he or she even knows what cool means. Inevitably, they’re going to face pressure to ditch the helmet, be it from friends (or corporate sponsors). You want the idea of not getting brain damage to be so deeply ingrained in their undamaged brain that they don’t give it a second thought. “Families need to be steadfast in their commitment to protecting their heads,” says Vallely. “Kids need to be encouraged to keep the helmets on [as they get older].”

Sadly, this entire paragraph is completely undermined by the photo that follows it:


That's not a helmet, that's a choking hazard.

I wondered if this same publication had any cycling-specific advice for neurotic parents, and indeed they did:

Here's what they had to say:

Remember when you were young, and nobody wore helmets? What wonderful, idiotic days those were. Since massive brain injuries are less cool than wearing a helmet, you should probably find the right one for the whole family.

Wow, talk about idiotic!  It's true bike fatalities are down for kids, but the reason for this is that kids' don't ride anymore:

(PDF)

Idiots.

The article then immediately goes on to explain why kids falling off their bikes is no big deal:

The Smaller the Kid, The Shorter the Fall
Because your child isn’t named Johnny Knoxville, you understandably get upset when they take a nosedive into the pavement. But you also should realize that falling hurts less for young kids. “When they’re young, they don’t have a long way to fall, they don’t carry a lot of speed, and they don’t have a lot of mass, so they bounce right back up,” says Wells. “When they’re young, they bend.”

But somehow if they're not wearing a helmet they're an idiot and they're going to die.

Still, I do agree that you should always wear one when robbing a bank:


His parents obviously raised him right.

Friday, July 22, 2016

BSNYC Friday Fun Quiz!

If you're anything like me, every time you go for a ride you think to yourself, "I sure wish some Silicon Valley start-up would rethink the bicycle!"  Well good news!  Here comes the Volata, which is the combination TV/VCR of road bikes:

So how are they rethinking the hopelessly retrograde bicycles we've all been riding?

Instead of buying a bike and then buying lights and a GPS computer, the founders of Volata Cycles think the whole thing should come as an integrated package. Volata Cycles is launching this summer with an electronic, internal-hub shifting, hydraulic-braking, slick commuter bike that has an app-based computer and front and rear lights all built right in and powered by the front hub.

Brilliant.  A bicycle is a machine that can last you for decades that you can accessorize as needed, whereas electronic gadgets are fickle, disposable items with a shelf life measured in months.  Naturally then you'd want to integrate them instead of changing your accessories as they age or wear out.

Volata Cycles is selling the bike for $3,499 at www.volatacycles.com, asking for a reservation fee of $299 with the remaining balance due upon delivery beginning in July 2017.

I was convinced, so I headed over to Volata's site to configure my new dork sled:


I was able to choose from two colors, four sizes, three saddles...and that was it.

Sure, I would have also liked to specify some other details such as stem length, but when you spend $3,499 for a Volata you have to hope they eventually get around to offering them in different sizes:


Thank you, Silicon Valley, for "disrupting" the versatility and adaptability right out of the bicycle.

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 then great, and if you're wrong you'll see Cat 3s.

Thanks very much for reading, ride safe, and may we soon be liberated from the heat dome.


--Wildcat Rock Machine




1) Which "Entourage" star recently doored a cyclist?

--Jeremy Piven
--Kevin Dillon
--Steve Buscemi
--Daniel Day Lewis






2) From July 25th through July 29th, the NYPD will crack down on:

--Drivers who endanger bicyclists
--Bicyclists who endanger drivers
--Officers who block bike lanes
--Bicycles with tires exhibiting excessive tread wear






3) Who is Graham?

--An "interactive lifelike sculpture demonstrating human vulnerability"
--A test subject for New South Wales's experimental helmet implant
--Yet another lame new "Star Wars" character
--A Masters cyclist who took too many PEDs






4) Silca's new T-Ratchet portable torque wrench is yet more proof that carbon fiber is a stupid material for bicycle components.

--True
--False




5) How much for an old wooden baby block at the Brooklyn Flea?

--$.60
--$6.00
--$60.00
--$600.00





6) A person who points to his or her head as you ride by and mouths the word "Helmet!" is called:

--A Helmet Nazi
--A Helmet Mime
--A Safety Kippah Enforcement Agent
--A typical Australian




("What, no helmet?!?")

7) Basically nobody really knows shit about why bikes work.

--True
--False


***Special PSA-Themed Bonus PSA!***



Okay, two things: 1) Seems like more of an anti-bullying PSA than a bike safety PSA; and B) How does a helmet help if you take a 2x4 to the face?

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Future: It's Not Looking Good

On Tuesday I told the story of how I was assaulted with self-righteous gesticulation by a so-called "Helmet Mime."   Well, just to put the situation in its proper context, here's the exact spot where the Helmet Mime struck:


(Flatbush Avenue it ain't.)

I took the photo this morning, and as usual I was piloting the Smugness Flotilla Mark II laden with two (2) human children.  If you enlarge the photo you will notice that up ahead on the right there is a gentleman running (not particularly urgently, it was more of a trot) up the hill.  He doesn't appear to be dressed for exercise, and I'm not sure why anybody would choose to run in a pair of khakis when we are currently beneath a "heat dome."   (Maybe he was late for a train.  What do I know?)  The point is that even on a bicycle I could not catch this man.

And that is how slowly I ride up this hill.

So yeah, call me crazy, but I don't think this ride warrants safety gear--though obviously once I crested the hill I totally bombed down the other side, one hand off the bars and tweeting bon mots all the while.

(And yes, of course as I passed the runner I pointed to my bare legs and mouthed the words "heat dome!" over and over again.)

Speaking of my daredevil exploits, yesterday I said if you needed me I'd probably be mountain biking.  Well, if you went looking for me you wouldn't have found me, because I changed my mind and instead I've been bouncing around on the Milwaukee the last few days:


I haven't encountered any Helmet Mimes since Tuesday, but there sure are a fuckload of deer out there.

Still, helmet mania is reaching epidemic proportions, as this tweet illustrates:
I mean come on now.  It's gotta stop.  Seriously.  Though of course I do support mandatory helmets for people driving SUVs:


The man fled as the authorities put out a call with the vehicle description. Around 2:10 a.m. on Thursday, the police found a vehicle matching the description near Columbus Circle.

The man inside refused to leave his vehicle and was seen putting a “red plastic helmet on his head,” Chief O’Neill said. It was unclear whether he was armed.

Unclear whether he was armed?  Seems to me he was armed with an SUV.  Guess we're still not ready to wrap our heads around the concept of weaponizing motor vehicles.

Meanwhile, from the Traffic Accident Coalition in Victoria Australia comes Graham, the "interactive lifelike sculpture demonstrating human vulnerability:"



In a shift from its traditional road safety campaigns, the TAC has collaborated with a leading trauma surgeon, a crash investigation expert and a world-renowned Melbourne artist to produce ‘Graham’, an interactive lifelike sculpture demonstrating human vulnerability.

Graham has been designed with bodily features that might be present in humans if they had evolved to withstand the forces involved in crashes. Studies have shown that the human body can only cope with impacts at speeds people can reach on their own, unassisted by vehicles.

“People can survive running at full pace into a wall but when you’re talking about collisions involving vehicles, the speeds are faster, the forces are greater and the chances of survival are much slimmer,” TAC chief executive officer Joe Calafiore said.

“Cars have evolved a lot faster than humans and Graham helps us understand why we need to improve every aspect of our roads system to protect ourselves from our own mistakes.”

This campaign raises a number of questions for me, including but not limited to:

--Has nobody told the Traffic Accident Coalition we're not saying "accident" anymore?
--Where's Graham's cupholder?
--Has nobody at the Traffic Accident Coalition ever been to America?  Because Graham looks like any given wholesale price club shopper:


Also, I assume this is supposed to make Australians more careful, but I fear it will backfire, because I'm sure they all dream of a future in which human beings are born with helmets:


Of course, some people hold out hope that car use will decline, thus sparing us this next phase of human (d)evolution.  For example, there are those who hope "car-sharing" will save us:

(Via @naparstek's twitter.)

For the vast majority of respondents, car2go did not have any causal effect on their vehicle holdings. Just two to five percent of active members said that they’d sold a car as a result of car2go’s operations. Between 7 and 10 percent said they’d avoided buying a car. But those relatively small percentages translated to sizable impacts. For every car2go vehicle on the street, the researchers found, members sold somewhere between one and three personal vehicles and avoided buying between four and nine vehicles. Overall, each shared car2go vehicle removed as many as 11 personal cars from the road. (City-specific detail on this can be found in the table below.) Across the five study cities, that added up to 28,000 fewer cars.

Yeah, I dunno.  People may say they didn't buy a car because of this service, but then again people say a lot of shit because it sounds good.  More cars were sold in America in 2015 then, well, ever.  Plus, apparently General Motors is kicking ass:
Yeah, that's General Motors.  The General Motors.  You know, the ones who can't make an ignition switch.  (Not to be confused with Chrysler, who can't make an automatic transmission shifter.)

If people are still buying cars from those assholes than what hope is there for a car-free future?

Sure, I suppose car-sharing and technology could "disrupt" the traditional car dependence, but I remain skeptical.  Based on what I see living in New York City the kinds of people who use car-share wouldn't buy a car anyway, and the only thing keeping everybody else from owning one is lack of access to free or cheap parking--and once they have that they're getting a fucking car.  Indeed, as a co-op board veteran I can assure you that pretty much every interview goes like this:

--"Is there parking here?"
--"Do you own a car?"
--"No, but we plan to buy one if we can park it."

Or eventually people just leave the city altogether and move to one of those "walkable suburbs:"


One of several municipalities in the town of Mount Pleasant in Westchester, Pleasantville is 1.9 square miles, which means that, unlike in some suburbs, people walk.

They walk to the cinema and to restaurants and shops, including the independent Village Bookstore. They walk to the library and to the year-round Saturday farmers market. They walk to the train to commute into the city. And they walk to school.

The truth about "walkable suburbs" is it's mostly just an aesthetic distinction, because while they're technically walkable it's not like anybody really does--at least not in a meaningful way.  That's why even in a village of 1.9 square miles people say stuff like this at community meetings:

Last month, Mr. McGaffey attended the village’s first public meeting focusing on revisions to the business district master plan. So did Donna Edlund, an associate broker with the Pleasantville branch of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, who said, “We need more places for people to park.”

Do they really need more places for people to park?   It's a 1.9 square-mile village!  You can't get more than walking distance from your own car without leaving town!

And far more frightening than humans evolving into Graham is the fact that laws have already evolved to make it impossible for anybody to get in trouble for hurting anybody else with a car:


The actor allegedly swung open his car door and struck a bicyclist on Tuesday in Los Angeles, TMZ reported.

The 35-year-old rider was "badly hurt" and taken to the hospital where he received stitches on his chest, according to the gossip site.

Piven did not receive a ticket since cops didn't witness the incident, but police sources told TMZ that Piven was at fault for the accident.

You've gotta love the magical cloaking powers of a motor vehicle.  Your car is like international waters--nobody has jurisdiction over anything that happens in it.

Cars won't cause humanity to evolve into Graham.  Instead they'll turn us all into giant douchebags like Jeremy Piven

Lastly, unrelated to cars, Silca has launched a Kickstarter:



Traditional multi-tools may be good for making some adjustments, but when it comes to properly applying torque, the small size, difficult ergonomics, and often poor fitting or flexible tools make it impossible for even the most experienced user to 'feel' the torque they are applying.  

Well okay then.

#whattorqueyourunning


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

This Just In: Bike Sharing is Caring!

In the literary sub-sub-sub-sub-subgenre known as the "bike share travelogue" I am without peer--not because I'm particularly good at it, but because I'm pretty sure nobody else is doing it.

It's a lesson for all the kids out there: if you want to be the best at something, choose something nobody else in their right mind would bother doing.

Anyway, you may recall that not too long ago I undertook a journey for Citi Bike from the High Line to the Lower East Side.  Now, I'm pleased to report that Part II of my travels through the rarefied bubble that is the Citi Bike service area is finally available for your perusal and delectation:

And remember: if you're visiting New York City and would a guided bike tour, my services are available for the low, low price of $1,000 per hour.  (You cover meals and expenses.)

Please enjoy my witty and photo-rich narrative, and if you need me I'll probably be mountain biking.


--Wildcat Rock Machine



Tuesday, July 19, 2016

"I appreciate your concern for my well-being. Have a nice day!"

This is my family bike, a.k.a. my Smugness Flotilla Mark II (with all due respect to the Smugness Flotilla Mark I, which has since been re-homed):


Every weekday morning I load my larger human child onto the front seat and strap my smaller human child into the rear seat, then I take the middle perch and we all ship out together to bring the former child to day camp.  According to a popular Internet mapping application, it's a journey of exactly 1.1 miles.  (Or a whopping 2.2 miles round-trip.)  And of that 1.1 miles, .7 miles (or approximately 70% of the total one-way trip) is within the confines of a sub-neighborhood in the Bronx called Fieldston.

Fieldston is a privately-owned neighborhood consisting entirely of very large and expensive single-family homes, and it was established early in the last century as sort of a "residential park."  While not gated, truck traffic is forbidden, as is street parking for anybody who is not a Fieldston resident.  Apart from the Ubers and luxury cars headed to and from the local prep schools in the morning and the afternoon, automotive traffic is light.  Because there are no parked cars lining the curb the sight lines are ample, and because the streets follow the topography of the land rather than a grid it's that much more difficult for drivers to speed.

What I'm establishing here is that this is not exactly a hardcore bicycle commute.

Indeed, the only challenging aspect of this ride is that it takes you over a fairly steep hill.  Sure, it's not quite Mont Ventoux, but it's enough that with two kids and a 50lb bicycle I'm going slightly faster than walking speed.  Also, by the time I'm about halfway up I'm generally pretty winded and not in a position to answer my older child's incessant questions about science and the nature of the universe.

And it was at exactly this moment that I passed the Helmet Mime.

So what is a "Helmet Mime?"  A Helmet Mime is someone who points repeatedly to his or her head and mouths the word "Helmet!" admonishingly over and over again as you pass.  Occasionally these Helmet Mimes also speak, which I realize is not exactly in keeping with the whole "mime" analogy, but it's still a fitting term in that gratuitous gesticulating is the main feature of this bizarre behavior.

This particular Helmet Mime happened to be an older woman.  She was walking in the street along the curb, which is what you do in Fieldston because: 1) The bluestone sidewalks are often bulging due to tree roots and are therefore generally unwalkable; and 2) Fieldston is one of those exceedingly rare places in New York City where an older woman can walk safely and comfortably in the street.  She was walking down the hill and I was grinding up it.  She smiled, which is what people often do when they see us all on the bike together, because it's fucking adorable.  So I assumed that's what was going on here too.  But then the miming began:

"Helmet, helmet, helmet!," she repeated over and over again while pointing to her head repeatedly and idiotically with both index fingers, like she was drawing the McDonald's arches over her head.

By the way, in case you're wondering, here was the helmet breakdown on the Smugness Flotilla this morning (and every morning):

--Me: no helmet
--Elder child: no helmet
--Younger child: helmet

This might seem like a haphazard arrangement, but indeed it is quite the opposite, and it's one I've arrived upon after a lifetime of cycling.  Now I'm not saying I know all there is to know about riding bikes--far from it.  Indeed, my life as a semi-professional bike blogger has afforded me the opportunity to meet all manner of cycling luminaries, which in turn has only served to remind me of what a relative neophyte I am.  Trust me, when you talk to someone who's won a Grand Tour, or run a successful bike company, or helped get bike lanes installed and legislation passed, the first thing you realize is that in the grand scheme of things you don't know shit.

Still, at this point in my life I maintain I'm allowed to say I've been around the block as far as bikes are concerned.  I've crashed coming out of the gate at a BMX race and heard the pounding of bear trap pedals against my helmet as my fellow competitors rode right over me.  I've ridden a hybrid shirtless and wearing half-shorts.  I've attempted to race the Five Boro Bike Tour.  I've stood outside a building at 7:00pm in the freezing December rain, near tears because I had a modeling portfolio still to deliver, everyone in the office had already gone home, and I'd have done anything to do the same.  I've placed second in a park race and won like $20.  I've attacked Lance Armstrong on the slopes of the River Road ranger station climb while a documentary film crew was rolling.  I've experienced the wide spectrum of motor-vehicular intimidation and assault, and since starting this blog I've lived eyeball-deep in such stories from around the world.

I could go on.  The point is that as a cyclist I am the sum total of decades of experiences good, bad, and embarrassing, and that the way my children and I are outfitted on the bike at any given moment is not happenstance.  It's me concluding quite judiciously that you don't need a fucking foam hat to safely ride a bike through a "residential park" for five fucking minutes, and neither do your kids--though it's also me concluding I'll put one on the baby anyway because of the goddamn Helment Mimes.

But alas this concession to the illusion of safety was not enough, for here was this woman pointing to the two spots on her skull where her antennae should be and bleating the word "Helmet."

My entire cycling life passed before my eyes as I watched this woman do her inane jumping jacks at me, and at that moment it was as if there were no dumber person on Earth than her.  Who was she to chastise me as she perambulated in her bubble of privilege?  Could she possibly think what I was doing was unduly dangerous or irresponsible?  Or is she simply under the delusion that I'm setting a bad example for my child by not making him wear a foam totem on his head for the five minutes he's going to be sitting on a slow-moving bicycle?  Because let's be totally honest here: Who's going to learn more about safety?  The helmetless kid who spends every day on a bike with a father who lives and breathes cycling and shows him all the ways drivers kill, or the one with five inches of helmet strap slack on the Spider-man bike from Toys R Us who has never seen his parents operate any vehicle that isn't an SUV?

Speaking of SUVs, what would you rather be passed by as you walk in the street?  A family on a bike who are two-thirds helmetless, or a two-ton motor vehicle?  Because here's what camp drop-off and pick-up looks like around the corner from where we passed the Helmet Mime:


This is not my kid's camp; this is another one right nearby.  But pretty much every camp and school everywhere is beset by a cluster of cars twice a day.  And while I'm in no position to get all "One Less Car" on anybody (I do drive a car that a bank owns until I finish paying them back), the fact is that I'm basically doing the Helmet Mime and everyone else in the neighborhood a personal favor by not adding to this kind of shitshow on a daily basis.

Of course, I was able to communicate exactly none of this to the Helmet Mime, owning mostly to the fact that to confront her would have been to set a bad example for my children.  (Though I suppose there's already no hope for them since I'm subjecting them to a life of flagrant helmetless, so what does it matter anyway?)  Therefore, I had to content myself with congratulating her for successfully pointing to her own head as I passed.

Anyway, incredibly and against all odds, we made it to camp unscathed despite our reckless behavior.

And sure, I could forgive this woman for her concern, but to do so would be to surrender to both brainwashing and victim-blaming, as embodied by this now-deleted tweet from "Brainpicker:"


This ghost bike belongs to Olga Evgleska Cook, who was killed by a hit-and-run driver while riding on the Hudson River Greenway.  (And, as other tweeters pointed out, was apparently wearing a helmet.)

As for Popova, she mounted a brave yet wrongheaded defense of her stupid and insulting tweet before ultimately taking it down.

As for me, after the camp drop-off I headed north, where I encountered this deer:


As I passed, I pointed to my head and repeated "Antlers!" over and over again:


I hope it learned its lesson.