Thursday, January 19, 2017

I'm NOT HERE, I just popped back in for a minute to tell you something.

While I'm still technically away from this blog until Monday, January 23rd, I just wanted to inform you, my loyal readers, that I've written an op-ed on every cyclist's favorite subject for Gothamist:


As a long-time Gothamist reader I was grateful for the opportunity to write this, and I'm uncharacteristically pleased with the results.  Furthermore, as someone who's been writing about bikes on the Internet for 10 years now, believe me when I tell you that last week I typed up what I thought the comments on this post would be, mailed them to myself, and when I opened the envelope just now the contents matched the actual comments on the post word-for-word.

Helmet commentary that predictable.

[I should also point out that my oft-used intentional misspelling of helmet as "helment" indeed has its origins in a Gothamist post, so my blogging career has come full circle yet again, which would explain why I never feel like I'm getting anywhere.]

And now back to your regularly-scheduled hiatus.  See you back here on Monday, January 23rd!

Ride safe,


--Wildcat Rock Machine


PS:  Notice I didn't even mention once how the inauguration is tomorrow and we're all doomed.


Friday, January 13, 2017

BSNYC Friday No Quiz Instead I'm Like Totally Splitting the Scene, Man

Good morning, or whatever the hell time it is.

Nice day for a ride, isn't it?


Yes it is.

Alas, I regret to inform you that today's post mostly serves as notice that I won't be posting next week.  You know, next week.  That's the one that starts on Monday with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day:


And ends on Friday with the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States:


(Nuclear blasts and our new president are both orange.  Interesting.)

How's that for a pair of bookends?

Anyway, if there even is a Monday, January 23rd, that's the day I'll be back, and if there's not, well hey, we had a good run.


Nobody can take that away from us, though I suppose they can pee on it.

In the meantime, since I can't bear to look forward I've been looking backward instead.  As you've no doubt gathered from some of my Brooks blog posts I'm a little bit of a local history Fred.  In its way this is even more addicting than bikes, and of course it dovetails right into genealogy, which is a real time-suck.  (It's also even more delusional than Strava, because what's more self-absorbed than poring over your family history like you're the goddamn royals?)  Indeed, I found out recently that my great-grandfather was apparently a New York City streetcar conductor back in the year nineteen hundred and ten--or at least that's what he told the census taker, who, it should be noted, had pretty bad handwriting:


So naturally after that I spent like the next six hours watching sick trolley edits:


Did you spot the guy on the bike?


These damn dandies in their bowler hats think they're Mile-A-Minute Murphy!

Anyway, as you can see, it was quite a free-for-all out there, and as it happens 1910 is the first year the city started tracking traffic fatalities.  Here's how things were when my great-grandfather was plying the streets with one of those change dispensers around his waist:

Clearly, New York City has come a long way in mitigating traffic fatalities. According to an article from the New York Times dated September 2, 1913,  the city endured 471 traffic fatalities in 1910. Of those, 112 were caused by automobiles, with another 148 from streetcars and 211 from horse-drawn vehicles. Of those it was estimated that some 95 percent were pedestrians struck in the streets. That's with a population of about 4.7 million — a bit more than half what it is today.

Meanwhile, here's what 2016 looked like:

The overall number of people killed in traffic crashes, including pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, drivers and passengers, was 229 last year, down from 234 in 2015, according to preliminary data from the city. Pedestrian deaths, which accounted for the largest share of fatalities, increased last year to 144, from 139 in 2015. Cyclist deaths rose last year to 18, from 14 in 2015.

I suppose 229 is a lot better than 471, especially when you consider the population of New York City was only 4,766,883 in 1910 and it's estimated at around 8.5 million people now.  Then again, given all the advancements in traffic control since then (which don't seem to have existed in those days) you'd think we could do a lot better than we are.  Either way, I suppose it helps put the present into some kind of perspective.

And with that I'm outta here.  I'll see you back here on Monday, January 23rd.  Enjoy the week ahead if you can, ride safe, and be sure to dodge those trolleys.


--Wildcat Rock Machine



Thursday, January 12, 2017

Fighting Over Scraps

In the cutthroat world of Fred bike marketing, every lump and dimple is prized.  So you can bet when one of these boils or recesses appears on another company's bike a real slap fight ensues:

On Tuesday Velocite CEO Victor Major pointed the finger at Pinarello after the Italian brand unveiled the new Dogma F10 frame that has a concaved down tube to improve aerodynamics around the bottle-cage area. The new bike will be used by Team Sky during the 2017 season. Major claimed in a blog post on the Velocite website that he has patented that design idea in China and Taiwan and that “with the new Dogma F10 your use of our intellectual property is deliberate.”

I love the idea that a "concaved down tube to improve aerodynamics around the bottle-cage area" even matters.  As if bike tech and not abusing the TUE system is what's going to win Sky the Tour de France.  Please.

Pinarello has hit back, giving their side of the story and suggesting that it is Velocite who has refused to provide ‘essential information’ to back up their claims. Pinarello also pointed out that aerodynamic frames have been sold for many years.

“Cicli Pinarello SpA, as a leading company in the cycling sector, obviously takes Intellectual Property issues with the utmost seriousness, Pinarello itself being a patent holder,” Pinarello said it its statement.

It's true, Pinarello is absolutely "a leading company in the cycling sector," especially when it comes to stealing ideas.  You know, like when they took that rear suspension idea from Moots:


(A bike rider attempting to understand a thing he is looking at.)

To wit:


(Moots YBB)

It's almost like these legacy Italian bike companies are out of ideas.  That would certainly explain 3T's aero gravel bike:


Designed by Gerard Vroomen, it's the answer to the question nobody has ever asked, namely: "What would happen if a CervĂ©lo fucked a cyclocross bike?"

One area in which Italian bike companies remain unmatched however is in creating websites that will kill your computer with Flash animation.  This is why you should never, ever, ever visit one, regardless of how tempting it may be:


Yes, the Cipollini universe is one in which size still very much matters:


As does fluidity:


Something Cipollini and our President-elect share in common.

I have to say that life in the Cipollini factory is not quite how I imagined it:


I'd pictured it more like this:


Though there does seem to be plenty of rhythmic thrusting:


And it's hard not to read too deeply into the lengthy process of stroking and boring to which the gaping bottom bracket shell is subjected:


Coincidentally, 14 hours of work is also how much time an unfinished Mario Cipollini requires:


(Cipo switching hands again at around hour seven.)

And this quote pretty much sums up the entire road bike industry:


Making things simple should be the easy part, but when a machine is as simple as a bike you really do have to employ all manner of design gimmickry to make one stand apart from the other.  However, even the gimmickry soon becomes indistinguishable, which is why all the Fred bikes look like this now:
I like when they make a big deal about how a pro is "testing" a new bike so they can make a big deal about how it measured up to his exacting standards, when in reality a rider like Sagan would probably race and win on a Bikesdirect special without noticing.

Can't wait to see who accuses who of stealing the hot new "t-boned a car" downtube look:


I'm sure if you paired that with a "concaved down tube to improve aerodynamics around the bottle-cage area" and a bottom bracket shell that's been lovingly rubbed by an Italian for 14 hours you'd get a bike so fast it would defy time and space.

In other news, as I type this the city's greatest minds are working to solve one of the most perplexing problems of our age:
Call me crazy, but I'd start by moving the cars and parking them someplace else.

Yeah, I know, I'll never get a city job with that attitude.  Making simple things complicated is even more vital to municipal politics than it is to designing plastic bicycles.  I'm sure after commissioning an expensive six-year study at taxpayer expense they'll end up deciding to give the bike lane another coat of paint.  Meanwhile, the Google street view reveals a total shitshow, and they've even got a Dumpster in there:


Not to mention a banged-up unmarked car and a marked one blocking two crosswalks at the same time just because:


This is basically the situation at every precinct in the city, and you'd think with all the money we spend on America's largest police force we could figure out a place for them to put their cars.  Honestly, as a cyclist I'd even be glad to give them the whole goddamn bike lane if it meant they'd finally get their all their shit off the fucking sidewalk.  Maybe for the price of a few feet of bike lane here and there the police wouldn't be so hard on cyclists and the pedestrians could actually walk.

Just a thought.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Indignity of Cruising Around Aimlessly By Bicycle: Frequent Bridge Crossings

Good news for anybody planning to escape the Golden Shower of Terror that will begin to rain down upon us on January 20th:
I'll be the one coming up behind you screaming, "ON YOUR LEFT!!!"

Sadly though there's no way it's going to be finished by Inauguration Day, and presumably Cuomo is shooting for a ribbon-cutting that will coincide with the announcement of his 2020 election bid.  This is a highly attainable goal, since by then New York State (and the rest of the United States) will be a post-apocalyptic wasteland, and NIMBY opposition to projects like this will be at an all-time low.

In the meantime, as cycling's foremost chronicler and a world-renowned author of French-language toilet books, I live at a far remove from the common cyclist.  My home is an ivory tower in the far northern reaches of the city, and it houses a vast stable of exotic bicycles.  Given this, it's easy to understand why my grasp on the "common touch" is tenuous, and therefore it's vital that I occasionally lower myself into the trenches and see how the plebes live.

To that end, yesterday I headed downtown with Brompton in tow.  Then, in a show of solidarity with the rest of you commuting schmucks, I performed an epic crossing of the three East River bridges connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn, thereby suturing the two boroughs together with surgical precision:


My first stitch began at the Brooklyn Bridge:


Were I was horrified to see that the city has stolen my pun with this ostensibly clever sign:


See?


It's only fair that I should receive 10% of any lock-related fines as a royalty.

The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the most recognized landmarks in the world.  Built in 1776 by Walt Whitman or something, it has carried traffic over the East River since long before the advent of the motor vehicle.  As such, it is crawling with tourists, many of whom gaze upon its stone towers in wonder while standing right in the middle of the bike lane:


I've made my peace with this and have for awhile now been of the opinion that the wooden pathway should be fully ceded to pedestrians and that a lane of automobile traffic should be removed from the roadway and replaced with a bike lane.  Sadly the chances of that ever happening are virtually nil, since New York City drivers cling to their free bridge crossings like the rest of America clings to their assault rifles.  Nevertheless, instead of yelling at the tourists to get outta the way like a doofus, I merely flash a tight-lipped smile, maybe flick the bell gently if necessary, and generally try to delude them into believing that New York City cyclists are possessed of both dignity and composure.

Here is the view of the harbor:


Here is the view of the other bridges I will soon be crossing:


And ahead of me lies Brooklyn:


Upon making landfall I dutifully followed the arrows:


And then locked up my bike, even though it folds into a compact and easily-carried package:


Note how I've even employed a second lock to secure my saddle to the bike rack.

Before taking possession of a folding bike I always used to wonder why people locked them up instead of simply folding them and taking them inside.  Now that I have one, I realize there are generally three reasons for doing so:

1) Laziness;
2) Stupidity;
3) Shame.

In this particular case my decision was informed by all three.

Anyway, once I'd seen to my business (I can't say what it is but rest assured they've got some juicy kompromat on me now), I headed onto the Manhattan Bridge and back towards Manhattan:


During rush hour the Manhattan Bridge is one of the premiere Cat 6 racing venues in New York City.  However, there's virtually no action to be had in the middle of a weekday when it's like 30 American degrees out, so instead I occupied myself with the view:


Unlike the comparatively quaint Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge is a forbidding structure of beams and girders that rumbles ominously with subway and truck traffic:


As for bike traffic, it was pretty much limited to this guy:


And this guy:


And of course me--though I have no doubt that there was still plenty of off-season Cat 6-ing during the evening rush.

The Manhattan skyline is constantly evolving, and as I alighted in Manhattan I passed yet another shiny glass sprout:


I then made my way onto the Allen Street/1st Avenue bike lane, which was impressively clear of snow:


But not of package delivery:


Though I suppose I'd rather share a bike lane with a hand truck than with an actual truck.

The bike approach to the Williamsburg Bridge however was not so clear:


Though the span itself was pristine, and upon attaining it I slotted in behind some bike messenger types:


The Williamsburg Bridge was a bit more lively than its neighbor downriver:


Even if both are similarly industrial:


And of course Williamsburg itself is a sandbox of real estate development:


Which you can view through what I assume is some kind of DIY art installation:


See?


Yes, the days when Williamsburg was derided as some kind of hipster playground now seem positively quaint, and now it's become a neighborhood of luxury retail and expensive residential boxes:


Where vintage luxury cars are the new fixie:


Upon my arrival I stopped for a coffee break:


And enjoyed the sound of idle bike-related chatter while watching the world go by:


Once I finished my coffee I hopped back on the clown bike and back into Manhattan.  While much of the city has been buffed to a high sheen, some things about the New York City streets never change.  For one thing, you can't go too far without spotting a rat pancake:


For another, you can't go too far in a bike lane without encountering an NYPD vehicle:


And this one was working in tandem with a privately-owned van:


See?


I can only assume the NYPD were ticketing it for excessive pop culture references, since I'm sure they couldn't care less it was in the bike lane:


But a changed city also means new hazards.  For example, the increasing ubiquity of Uber means more and more people standing in the middle of the street trying to figure out if that black car is actually for them.  For example, as I was rounding one corner, I had to pick my way through a pair of bro-bags attempting to suss out a driver while looking up and down from their phones:

"Zamir?  Zamir?  Are you Zamir?  Zamir?," they said over and over, like Zamir had just regained consciousness and they were trying to figure out if he remembered who he was.

It was annoying for me, but I mostly just felt bad for Zamir and the bro-tastic conversation he'd no doubt be enduring for the next 20 minues, assuming he did in fact turn out to be their driver.

Of course, other car service-related issues long predate Uber, such as the passenger disembarking in the middle of the bike lane:


Yet even with all the impositions it's good to see they embolden New York City's cyclists to carry increasingly wide loads:


If we keep filling the bike lanes with bikes there won't be room for anyone else.