Monday, June 18, 2018

The Indignity of Getting a Ticket

It was rather a dramatic weekend of velocipeding over here, beginning with the ticket I received on Saturday morning:

(Your's Truley, receiving a ticket.)

The day started out rather auspiciously.  I awoke to perfect weather, and after contemplating my riding options I decided to go for a good old-fashioned standard-issue Fred ride.  First, I donned an entire suit of Rapha clothing.  (Back in 2011, Bicycling magazine invited me to their Editor's Choice testing confab, which they held in Austin that year to coincide with NAHBS.  I requested--and received!--an entire Fredding suit from Rapha on the off-chance I would be photographed for inclusion in the magazine.  I was not photographed for inclusion in the magazine.  However, I still have the Fred threads, which I don from time to time.)  Then I straddled my $10,000 artisanal wooden bicycle complete with push-button shifting and wheels made from high-tech fibre de crabon.  And off I went over the George Washington Bridge and up Route 9W.

I was feeling uncharacteristically sprightly, and leaving early meant I was ahead of the Fredly rush hour that overwhelms this corridor over the course of the weekend.  Just shy of 40 miles later I was almost home, looking forward to preparing a post-ride repast and already emitting a blissful post-ride aura, when I heard the blip of sirens behind me and pulled over.  The officer--courteous to a fault--informed me that he was stopping me for failing to stop for a red signal, and after 10 minutes of standing around I was issued the following:

Now let's imagine for one moment that I did run a red light.  If I did, it's only because the area between the Broadway Bridge and my home is a total shitshow of motor-vehicular mayhem, and anybody negotiating it by bicycle cannot be reasonably expected to opt for adherence to the letter of the law over self-preservation.  Furthermore, as the Internet's foremost authority on cycling ethics, you can be assured I ride scrupulously at all times.  Never would I engage in actions that would put any other road user at risk or violate their right-of-way.  And finally, if I had run the light I had merely made a right turn on red, which is legal in like 99% of the country.

I explained none of this to the officer.  He politely administered my ticket, and I politely accepted it.  I was still in way too good a mood to be bothered by a computer printout, and of all the misfortunes that can befall you out on the roads this one barely registered.

Of course now, two days later, I'm a bit less sanguine about it.  However, given the fair market value of my time, I don't know that I can be bothered to fight it.  (My time is not valuable due to my writing; it's valuable due to my capacity as a childcare provider.)  Then again part of me feels duty-bound to at least make a token effort against it, so we'll see.

Either way, there are some errors with the ticket.  First of all, I was riding an exquisite Renovo made from "Wenge and Figured Maple".  However, the ticket says I was riding a "Tan Tenovo":

I may have to adopt "Tan Tenovo" as a pseudonym.

Additionaly, the ticket says this happened in the Bronx, but it was technically Manhattan:

All of this makes me imagine myself pacing in front of a jury box with the officer in the stand, demanding that he explain how I could have run a light on a Tan Tenovo in the Bronx when in fact I was riding a woodgrain Renovo in Manhattan.

"You can't handle the truth!," I'd conclude, and then lead the courtroom in a rousing chant of "USA!  USA!"

It's also worth noting that, while you may read searing editorials in local newspapers about those evil scofflaw cyclists, when you're actually getting a ticket while riding one the people walking by generally go, "Are you getting a ticket on a bicycle?," and then shake their head in commiseration.

Anyway, the next day I headed down to Central Park ridiculously early to engage in some Fred racing.  All was going well until about halfway through the race when the pack got strung out and suddenly I could no longer hold the wheel in front of me.  While I'm generally as sanguine about getting dropped as I was when I got that ticket, for some reason this one stung.  Maybe it's because it was Father's Day.  Maybe it's because I thought I was feeling good and my success (as defined by me as completing the race) had seemed like a fait accompli.  Or maybe it's because I'd gotten that ticket less than 24 hours earlier and now I felt like a two-time loser.  Whatever the reason, I rode home with my proverbial tail between my literal legs, though spending the rest of the day at the beach with the family more than made up for it.

And while I refuse to say whether or not I ran that light on Saturday morning on the grounds that it may incriminate me, I can assure you that on race day I ran at least 30 of those fuckers on the way to and from the park.

Gotta amortize that fine.


--Tan Tenovo

Friday, June 15, 2018

BSNYC Friday Zoological Expedition

Before we all go forth into the weekend, I'd just like to follow up on the Islabikes Luath 24, which I mentioned in yesterday's post:

(I have no idea how to pronounce either "Islabike" or "Luath.")

I'll be honest: my first impression was that they got the bike all wrong.  Tiny wheels, cramped cockpit, tons of toe overlap...but then I realized the bike was for my son and not me and that changed everything.

Yesterday I assembled the bike and we knocked around the neighborhood for a bit, but today we made a proper outing.  Schools were closed today for Eid al-Fitr, which it may shock you to learn we don't observe, and my son was on me to ride pretty much as soon as he woke up.  So after dropping his little brother off at the Apple factory (tiny hands are ideal for assembling today's ultra-thin smartphones) we set out for a ride to the Bronx Zoo:

There are two ways to get to the Bronx Zoo by bike from my estate.  The shorter way is about four and a half miles and takes you to the zoo's much more human-scale "pedestrian entrance" but involves a lot of sidewalk riding if you're traveling with a kid.  Or, you can get there almost entirely via a protected bicycle greenway, but this adds about a mile or so and puts you on the opposite side of the zoo.

Naturally we went the longer greenway route, as this trip was more about the ride than the zoo itself.  Parts of the greenway are very pleasant and absolutely ideal for a kid who's very excited to be on his first real go-fast bike:

Though there are some frustrating crossings at various Bronx River Parkway on- and off-ramps, as well as the usual NYPD personal vehicle parking, though you hit that no matter which route you choose:

You can tell they're NYPD because of all the Punisher decals.

Of course the only thing better than traveling to the zoo along a dedicated bike route is gloating over all the schmucks waiting to park:

Hey, I'm not gonna say I never drive to the zoo myself, but I will say I know how to avoid waiting on line when I do it.

If there are bike lanes anywhere in the vicinity of this particular zoo entrance I have no idea where they are, so instead we just shackled up to a pole:

Obviously since I have multiple human children and live just a few miles away I've been to the zoo roughly four billion times since we relocated to the mainland back in 2012.  However, I still learn something new with each visit, and today I learned that helmets are indeed useless:

See that?  The helmeted curassow was born with one and it's still going extinct:

That's why I always tell the California Condors not to bother:

It's also true that sometimes the most interesting wildlife sightings are on the way to and from the zoo.  For example, at Pelham Parkway we came across this wayward Lime bike from Yonkers:

It's only a matter of time before this invasive species reaches the Citi Bike zone and the two species interbreed.  Just imagine a herd of green and blue hybrid docking/dockless bicycles.  They'd become as ubiquitous as squirrels and pigeons in short order.

As for the Islabike, so far it's a massive hit.  Until now my son has been riding basically this:

My thinking was that the go-anywhere nature of a mountain bike would be better suited to a kid, and it never occurred to me to subject him to drop bars at this age.  But while the bike's been great, he's been expressing lots of interest in cyclocross bikes lately (I honestly don't even remember explaining to him what a cyclocross bike is), and the second he got on the Luath it was clear that's where he belongs.  Sure, Fred "Woo-hoo-hoo-hoo" speed may be 46mph:

But he was woo-hooing at barely over a quarter of that, something I never saw him do on the mountain bike.  And while kids are fickle and who knows how long the love affair will endure, it's the quickest I've seen him take to anything in recent years with the exception of video games--and that's not even addressing how disappointed he was when he found out I hadn't Strava'd our ride.

So I may have a Fred on my hands, Lob help me.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

If Cooler Heads Prevail, Then I'm Balding My Way To Victory

First things firstly, I've got a new Outside column about how bike share is a big deal and how the concept of the "litter bike" is an oxymoron:

It's true, I can't think of any bike-related tech that's emerged during my lifetime that is even remotely as revolutionary as bike share.

Well, okay, maybe the CoolHead:

Hey, that's fine if he wants to sell the idea of pouring water in your helmet, but how the FUCK do you do something like this and not use the tagline "Cooler Heads Prevail"?!?

Sorry, for the strong language, but that's some fucking bullshit.

Speaking of my lifetime, I've spent 11 years of it curating this blog.  Yep, that's right, yesterday was the 11th anniversary of this blog:

I'd planned to write a big post about this milestone full of all sorts of introspection and reflection, but since Outside had just published my Eroica story I instead dedicated yesterday's post to that trip.  Here, by the way, are the Mead and the Marin side-by-side:

How far we have or haven't come.

So instead I decided to curate the reflectrospection post today, but as it happens I recently took delivery of a badass new test bike:

If it spent one more day in the box my eager test pilot was going to kill me, so I spent the morning getting it together.  Islabikes sent both road and cyclocross tires and to start we went with the roadies.  They also sent fenders, a spare tube, and a set of hex keys for assembly (the BSNYC-branded grease is mine):

And if that weren't enough they also threw in some tires for me to try:

Plus these totally pro name transfers:

I assume one was for me but he insisted on using both:

And who am I to say no?

I figure I've got a few more years at best before he refuses to be associated with me in any way so I might as well enjoy it.

Anyway, it's a shockingly nice kid's bike and I almost resent him for it, even though I did have some sweet Skyway Tuff Wheel II mags when I was his age.  We've only done a brief shakedown ride so far, and I must say he's taken to the drop bars very quickly, which makes me concerned he may be a roadie:

And before you point out the obvious:

  • Yes, he's not wearing a helmet to ride his new bike around the freaking block.  Do you wear a helmet for short test rides?  (Actually, if you're the kind of person who is inclined to point out such things you probably do.)
  • Yes, I left the pie plate on.  In this house you earn the right to lose your pie plate, goddamn it!  And how do you earn it?  Either by out-sprinting the old man or else by figuring out how to use a chain whip and doing it yourself.  (Also I didn't feel like it, but maybe I'll take it off when we upgrade to a titanium cassette.)

Rest assured we'll report back after we've put in some proper saddle time.

In any case, the bike is now together, but alas the 11th anniversary blog post remains unwritten, and I suspect it always will.  What is there to say really?  When I started this blog I had a real job, a flip phone and no kids, and now here I am watching my progeny discover the joys of descending in the drops.  If I could do it all over again I wouldn't do a single thing differently, except maybe for making fun of David Byrne less (hey, he didn't have to go out of his way to promote cycling, he could have just sat back and counted his "Psycho Killer" royalties).  Also, I'd probably have skipped calling myself "Bike Snob NYC" and gone with "Wildcat Rock Machine" from the get-go.  But if this blog and its original name hadn't netted me a trip to Gothenburg, Sweden I'd never have spotted the fabled Rock Machine in the first place so there you go:

In closing, let's all take a moment and reflect on my outsized contribution to the world of cycling.  Oh sure, I may update this blog a bit less assiduously than I did in its heyday, but I've also created a vast media empire, including a weekly column for Outside, a daily blog for Transportation Alternatives, and, well, that's it really.  But hey, I outlasted Michael Ball and Rock Racing, and isn't that what really counts?

You're goddamn right.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Making Of L'Eroica California, The Movie

As I mentioned yesterday, my tale of riding an old-timey bike at L'Eroica California is live for your perusalization:

Of course, in that tale I left several questions unanswered, chief among them being:

  • What pressure was I running?
  • What did I have for dinner every night?
  • Which was better, the original Italian Eroica or the California version?
In this post I will endeavor to answer exactly none of these questions.  I will however tell you that one morning I was doing cold early morning laps (well, lap, at that hour I generally only do one) in Central Park:

And the next I found myself in southern California:

Wait, southern California?


I thought L'Eroica was in Paso Robles!

Well yes, it is.  However, the original plan was that I was going to meet up with Bregan, who works with the Eroica organization, and with Ultra Romance, who has a beard, and Nam, who does not, and together we were going to undertake some sort of three-day bikepacking expedition from Los Angeles or some point north of there and ride all the way to Paso Robles.  See, they're all inveterate bikepackers, whereas I'm very much an urban sophisticate with a high-threadcount sheet requirement (or, if you prefer, "woosie").  So basically the idea was that I'd provide live fish-out-of-water entertainment and they could all laugh at me for three days instead of wasting precious battery power watching cat videos on YouTube.

I had certain reservations about joining the bikepacking trip.  For one thing, I have not slept in a tent or out of doors since sleep-away camp.  For another thing, I don't really want to sleep in a tent or out of doors.  If I'm going to sleep somewhere other than my home I very much want it to be more luxurious than my home and not the other way around.  Nevertheless, I agreed, since sometimes you've got to try new things, all the millennials are doing it, yada yada yada.

However, as L'Eroica drew nearer I realized two things: 1) My wife's a big shot at work and I can't leave her in the lurch for a whole week while I traipse up the coast; 2) I still didn't want to sleep outside.  And so I backed out.

Instead, I flew into Long Beach and visited my brother and his family, who recently relocated to Huntington Beach from the Napa Valley.  My brother is in the restaurant industry, which is what brought him out there in the first place, and he's currently the general manager of a restaurant that's situated in a very nice hotel.  So I traded trailside bro-downs for family time:

And sleeping a tent for sleeping in a luxurious hotel suite:

I feel strongly that I made the right choice.

Knowing that I'd be hauling multiple bikes and possibly multiple people during this trip, I'd rented myself a sweet-ass Kia Sedona minivan:

And the next morning I hopped in it and headed north to Paso Robles.  While I may be a semi-professional disparager of American motordom, I'm also a gigantic hypocrite, and I'd be lying if I said I don't savor any opportunity to drive the California coast.  Sure, driving a minivan isn't exactly the stuff of which automotive dreams are made, but it was also a minivan with exactly zero screaming children in it, so as far as I was concerned it might as well have been a Porsche 911.  For my soundtrack I chose the album "Joe's Garage" by Frank Zappa, partially because I figured it would put me in a California state of mind, but also because it's roughly forty-seven hours long and I wouldn't have to fiddle with any buttons.

My first stop on the way to Paso Robles was Studio Cycle Company on Ventura Boulevard in Los Angeles:

Bobby at Studio Cycle had kindly agreed to take delivery of the Cortina AX2 from Marin and prepare it for me, and when I arrived it was indeed ready and waiting.  As a shop Studio Cycle skews mountain, and some of the bikes in for service took me on a ride down the singletrack of memory lane:

After purchasing some sundries (water bottles, spare tubes, energy globules, and so forth) I loaded everything into the Kia and continued north along the scenic route until Santa Barbara, where my hunger got the better of me and I stopped for some tacos:

(A photograph I took of some tacos.)

Next I had to pick up the Mead Ranger, which Paul at Classic Cycle had shipped down from Bainbridge Island and which was waiting for me at a UPS store in Atascadero.  I wasn't able to park directly in front of the UPS store, but there was a space a few doors down in front of this super trippy weed dispensary:

Far out, man.

From Atascadero it was just a short hop to Paso Robles, where I was staying in a big house with my erstwhile bikepacking compatriots as well as various other bike world muckety-whos:

Unloading the bikes into the garage, I unboxed the Mead and took my first glimpse at it:

Here are Paul's assembly instructions:

As I mentioned in the Outside story, putting it together was a fairly straightforward affair.  The Marin of course was already together, so all I had to do was put on pedals and cages and make the usual adjustments:

Bregan also lent me a Cambium as no semi-professional blogger should ever have to go Brooksless, and I adorned the undercarriage of the Brooks with an EH Works tool roll:

The bike was fantastic, and besides that stuff the only thing I'd change if it were mine would be to swap the 175mm cranks for 172.5s.

You're goddamn right I notice crankarm length.

That evening we all piled in the Kia and daddy (that's me!) drove everybody to the Eroica reception:

Where vintage people examined vintage bikes:

And I wondered if the Mead would prove superior or inferior to an antique shifting system such as this:

Having briefly ridden a bike with a rod shifter during my Rivendell visit I'd imagine it would be the former.

After the reception my housemates and I went to dinner, and here's basically the whole crew:

I was in excellent company, and after finally meeting Ultra Romance and Nam for the first time I enjoyed them so much I almost regretted skipping out on the bikepacking trip.  (Almost.)  Nam dressed me down for backing out and for not knowing who Cardi B was, and Ultra Romance exuded a preternatural serenity: I'd putter into the garage to tweak one or the other of my bikes and there he'd be poking holes in some yams.  And of course he also took all the photos for the Outside story:

It was genuinely impressive to watch him work.  We'd be riding along, then he'd scurry up some hill or bomb some descent, then I'd forget about him, and awhile later as I rounded a turn or something he'd leap out from behind a rock or dangle out of some tree to get the perfect shot.  Imagine the "It's Man" from Monty Python with superb bike-handling and photography skills and you've got the idea:

He's got quite an adoring following, too.  "There's your man crush!," one woman whispered to her partner as he walked by, and many of the younger Eroica Freds (young people comprise a relatively small portion of the overall Eroica demographic, but still) stopped him for selfies.

(I'm fairly certain only one person recognized me, but that was only after I mouthed off to the MC at the post-ride barbecue.  I'm generally the asshole in any group cycling situation, which tends to stand out.)

As for the riding, Saturday was when we did the Nova Eroica approximation, and you can see the route in detail here.  As you can imagine, the riding out there is almost too good.  One minute you're in the mountains:

And the next you're at the beach:

Then that evening we went to the big Eroica dinner:

It's a diverse demographic, if by "diverse" you mean pretty much every pattern of male baldness was represented.

There was also an auction during which none other than Andy Hampsten, who rode the following day and is generally the most agreeable man on the face of the planet earth, handed out the items:

Then on Sunday I did the short Eroica route on the Mead, which you can see here.  As you can see, I was not the only rider who resorted to walking:

Ironically, the first thing I saw upon crossing the finish line on my 102 year-old bicycle was a sign offering free e-bike rides:

Now you tell me.

Then we ate some barbecue, which is where I mouthed off to the MC:

And with that my work in Paso Robles was done...

...but my time in California was not.  Some years back, when I stopped in Los Angeles on a book tour, Chronicle put me up in a bungalow in Los Feliz.  Prior to that visit I'd never really understood LA, having only visited (as an adult anyway) while working as Michael Moore's assistant--a job that mostly involved people from both coasts screaming at me, as well as wearing an alphanumeric pager which these same people used to charge me with impossible tasks for sport.

As far as I could tell from those visits, sitting in the back of some car service or another, LA was just a bunch of sprawling boulevards that resembled Sunrise Highway on Long Island.  Staying in a bungalow in Los Feliz however was rather beguiling, and I'd been longing to return to it ever since.  So after L'Eroica that's what I did:

I realize of course that this is a rather rarefied view of Los Angeles, and that if I were to actually live there I'd be less likely to acquire a bungalow in Los Feliz and more likely to be living under a bus shelter:

Nevertheless, it was great to be able to roll out the front door and up to the Griffith Observatory the next morning:

And to walk over to Vons that evening for my sad solo lonely guy dinner:

But before I could get too ensconced in my glamorous new LA lifestyle it was time to fly home.  So I drove both bikes over to Studio Cycle so Bobby could ship them to their respective destinations, and then I shipped myself back to New York, where before I knew it I was back in Central Park:

You can take the Fred out of the city, but not for very long apparently.