Thursday, June 21, 2007

It's All in the Details*

These days the concept of “paying your dues” has pretty much gone out the window. People want it and they want it now. If they want the tattooed look, they don’t acquire ink over time; they walk in to a tattoo boutique and get full sleeves in a few sittings. If they want to become bike racers, they don’t join a club and suffer for results until a local team asks them to join; they run right out and start their own Cat 5 super team. They don’t learn about cycling by doing; they get all the aesthetic and gear cues online, walk into (or mouse-click into) a shop and buy it all at once.

That’s all fine, except when you do things that way you don’t learn right. Particularly, you don’t learn the details. And while you think you might look the part and own the role, those of us who learned the hard way (by looking stupid until someone took pity on us and gave us a clue) can tell from some small cues you’re lacking in fundamentals. Just as dogs pick up on the minutest tail twitch, fur bristle, or ear movement, the experienced cyclist quickly looks you over and draws a conclusion.

Here are just a few of these cues. Some are better known than others. Most are referenced elsewhere on the internet. But I’m reiterating them here since I think they bear repeating:

(*A lot of this is roadie-specific. But roadies, as the most anal of cyclists, are the Keepers of the Law. Kinda like the Orthodox Christians or Jews. You may resent them, but they maintain the rules so the rest of us can violate them.)
Skewers (Quick-Releases)



Quick release levers should always be on the non-drive (left) side of the bike. On the rear, this is common sense since on the right side it would interfere with your derailleur and gear cluster. But the front wheel should always follow suit—I’m stunned at how often I see high-end road bikes with their QR levers on the wrong side. (The only exception is in the case of a disc brake-equipped mountain bike, where the front caliper might interfere with the lever.)

Also, positioning (direction in which the QR lever points) is important. 12:00 front and 2:00 rear is acceptable, as is 2:00 front and 10:00 rear, for example. Random compass-needles-in-a-magnetic-field angles are not.






Tire Labels
Always on the drive side, and always aligned with the valve stem. The practical reason for this is it helps you orient the tire and the tube when searching for punctures. But more importantly, it looks right.


Rim Labels


If you have a rim with a label on it (like a Mavic Open Pro, for example), the label should be readable from the drive-side of the bike. If it’s not your wheel is backwards. If it’s the rear wheel it was built wrong. In this case it is imperative you remove the sticker.




Hub Label

The brand name on your front hub shell should be readable when you’re sitting on the bike. If you orient it this way and the rim sticker faces the wrong way, see above.



Eyewear

If you wear eyewear in conjunction with a helmet, the earpieces of your glasses should always go over your helmet straps. (Though even pro racers violate this one in the heat of battle.)



Pedal Stroke

An experienced rider is readily identifiable by his pedal stroke. The most obvious cue is the knees. They should be as close together as possible, almost hitting the top tube. Bowlegged pedaling screams “I started riding yesterday.”



Saddle
There is a tendency for new riders, particularly of the “My First Fixie” variety, to angle the nose of their saddles way, way down. I don’t know why this is, but I suspect it’s because they set their bars too low despite never having really ridden a drop-bar bike before. Also, I’ve seen lots of messengers do this, probably to keep their bags from getting hung up on the nose of the saddle, so I suppose it was copied from them. Whatever the reason, if you’re doing this, stop! Your saddle should be level or close to it. A few millimeters here or there is fine if your taint demands it. A 45 degree downward slope should be reserved for downhill skiing.



Helmets
To wear or not to wear is a matter of personal choice. I begrudge neither decision. And obviously in competition you have no choice. But if you are riding on the road (whether road bike, road fixie, or whatever), lose the visor! Visors have no place on a helmet except on the mountain bike trail. Wear a cycling cap under your helmet instead—this does not occur to a lot of newbies. Also, lose the BMX/skater helmet with no vents. I realize some people think helmets make you look dorky, and that these are somehow cooler. They’re not. They make your head look like a penis. If you’re that concerned about looks just skip the helmet and take the risk. And finally, most importantly, NO MOTORCYCLE HELMETS. Yes, I’ve been seeing people wearing skid-lids on their bikes around town lately. Get it off!


Stickers


This should go without saying, but any stickers that came on your bike, particularly those conveying either the size of the bike or dire warnings, should be removed immediately. I don’t care that you’re riding a 56, or that improper assembly of your bike can lead to accidents, or whatever the warning labels say. If it ain’t under the clearcoat, get it off.

As far as stickers put on for aesthetic purposes or for the espousal of political beliefs, musical preferences, or equipment endorsements, I think it looks stupid, but go ahead if you want, it’s your funeral. However, equipment stickers advertising brands that are not present on the actual bicycle are especially idiotic-looking. (Like a Campy sticker on an all-Shimano bike.)

Don’t get me started on cards in the spokes.




Pie Plates


This is the plastic disc that is often found under the cassette on pre-built road bikes. There is absolutely no excuse for having one of these on your bike. It is like leaving the tag in your underwear. Learn how to remove a cassette and get rid of that thing!


Attitude

This may come as a shock to the newer riders out there, but there is absolutely nothing cool about trying to race somebody on your commute or on a recovery ride in the park. I know you’re very excited to be on your new Pista or Madone or whatever, and I know you feel like you need to prove yourself when you see someone else on a track bike or on a road bike in a team kit or whatever the case may be. But you need to learn something very important—it’s not always cool to attack, and it’s never OK to sit on a stranger’s wheel.

That guy on the track bike you’re killing yourself to pass may simply be on his way home from the velodrome, or from a day’s work as a messenger. The guy on the carbon wonder-bike in full lycra regalia may be returning from a 90-mile training ride, or a race, or may be cooling down from an interval. He sees you pick up the pace when you approach him, he hears you panting, he sees you look over your shoulder, and he knows what you’re up to. That’s why he lets you get a lead and then passes you on the next hill, often making a point of making a cell-phone call or eating some food, so he can pass you no-handed.

49 comments:

Trevor said...

This is wonderful! I love when I find someone with the same thought process on cycling. I love the fact that I ride my fixed gear for training, with brakes....egads! I've actually caught shit from a faux-messenger-hipster downtown for having brakes as he struggled to slow down with his trendy little, deep-V wielding "fixie". I find it nice to stop in emergency situations...I guess I'm just not cool enough. Keep writing! I'm hooked!

Anonymous said...

Damn dude, you hit it spot on, I've been riding for 20 years and just when I thought I've "seen it all", another whack job comes out of the woodwork and gives me my daily laugh while out riding... props for so eloquently putting it in the written form....thanks and keep it going!

Anonymous said...

ha ha. i heart you.
-j

stefan said...

Your rant hits the spot, even in little ol Flagstaff AZ. New urban hipsters on fixies are springing up everywhere, and it appears they universally don't have a clue when it comes to cycling. Thanks for pointing out what I've been noticing too.

Anonymous said...

im pretty sure we might be identical twins born of the same mother.

Zoe said...

"Absolutely nothing cool about trying to race somebody on your commute..." Yes, yes, yes! I love it. Giant dudes on mountain bikes are always trying to do that to tiny little me on my road bike. Basically, if you're a guy, you *should* be able to pass me! So I'm not impressed with the panting and shit. What is it with people who think they need to ride hard ALL THE TIME? I guess the "train slow to get fast" idea hasn't trickled down yet.

LOVE your blog.

Anonymous said...

Haha...so dead-on....I look forward to wasting some of my company's time each day reading this and nodding my head silently in agreement laughing to myself. Great work...keep them coming!

bikepennst8 said...

agreed, except - glasses under helmet straps. what if you need to take off your helmet to get at some winter headwear.

but, as a roadie, I think its just important to be anal. just pick something to be anal about.

Art said...

So, this morning I'm walking through the middle of town when I see a guy puffing his way up the hill on a shiny new carbon Synapse, pie plate and reflectors still attached. He's rocking the helmet visor, white socks, and tight shorts/baggy jersey combo, but I see some shoulder straps so I figure maybe he's a commuter. The ride to work is one of those times when a multitude of style sins may be absolved in the name of practicality. But no, as he rolls slowly by I see that the straps belong to a CamelBak.

BikeSnobNYC said...

I am simultaneously heartened and disturbed to find so many people feel the way I do. Thanks for the comments!

Jim said...

BikeSnob, I feel your pain, buddy - half of it comes from seeing people repeat my own clueless mistakes. Only ignorance is bliss, knowledge is unhappiness, which explains your angst. As for the commuter trail racer - a great guy I ride with taught me the term of art describing them. They are BikeTrail Guys (BTG). I have a beef with BTGs. Or a gripe. Fine, it's a vendetta.

Kevin said...

Hailing from portland it lightens my heart to read you reading my mind. What happened to just havin a single speed? Are you not allowed to coast past the age of 12?
My favorite trick is to pass the fixie guy while he is slowing down, slam on my brakes and stop right in front of him. SUCKA!

big jonny said...

Another home run ball. God damn, that is some funny shit.

One thing, the hub label should line up with the valve hole. Not almost line up, not kinda line up. Line up.

Keep up the good work.

DJ Wicky Wick said...

just learned of your blog today and am loving it. but i must echo bikepennst8 regarding the glasses over the helmet straps. you're not the first person i've heard say that, either, but as a prescription eyeglass wearer, that just doesn't work. for a few reasons.

first, my glasses were on before i put my helmet on--that's how i was able to find my helmet in the first place--thus the helmet straps are clicked onto a head already wearing a helmet and will end up outside the eyeglass stems.

second, if a bee flies into my helmet (like just last week) or if for some other reason i have to pull my helmet off quickly (or if i merely pull off my helmet without thinking) i can't afford (financially or practically) to have my glasses fly off into the street and possibly be broken. and furthermore, why do i want to take my glasses off to take my helmet off. i want my glasses on all the time so i can see.

one other comment, i think 9 o'clock on the rear skewer (just below the non-drive chainstay) looks good as well. generally hugging the profile of the frame/fork works for me, which adds 9 o'clock in the rear to the list you started.

keep up the fine, fine work.

C said...

2:00 rear is acceptable?? You know there's a reason competent race mechanics point the rear skewer forward. Last thing you need is another riders front wheel catching your skewer and taking you out.

DJ Wicky Wick said...

i said:

"thus the helmet straps are clicked onto a head already wearing a helmet and will end up outside the eyeglass stems."

i meant:

"clicked onto a head already wearing GLASSES...."

sorry.

Anonymous said...

While It very well might be a sin to chase down a 'kit' group ride, the look on their face when the ask them if you can charge the next hill and they ask how many inches and you tell them 90" is by far worth it. and It is always OK to chase down the CF man with a gut that houses more food than you have in your entire kitchen.

Anonymous said...

Love it all except for one...

Wheels/tires that are used on a velodrome should have their labels on the NON-drive side. Reason being is the drive side is "up track" and the side of the tire that is used most of the time. Some tire labels (like vittoria, see link for example) are in the area that might be used for traction. This can result in a crash if going slow on steep banking.
http://www.cyclingnews.com/photos/2007/tech/probikes/jj_haedo_cervelo07/JJ_Haedo_Team_CSC_Cervelo_Soloist_Carbon_Vittoria_tubulars.jpg

Ronald said...

Never agreed with the glasses over the helmet strap deal-I'm a looong term (14 years)messenger who wears prescription glasses and I don't like having my glasses fall off or go flying across the room whenever I take my helmet off.....shit fuk'n Wicky wick already said it for me.

Gross said...

I can't believe no one has said anything about your helmet visor I've found myself laughing out loud on a number of occasions while reading this and wanted to say thanks for being a humorous voice of reason. One thing though. No visors on the road? On the road is when you need them the most. When i'm on a mountain bike trail there are usually trees protecting my harsh and skeptical eyes from the sun. On the road there is nothing. Why is that rule?

Gross said...

pretend that my comment starts at "i've found..." forgot to edit myself.

Anonymous said...

Great blog. But I too can't let the visor comment pass. Maybe some people don't want to wear a cap under a helmet because it makes you look like a complete numpty? Far worse than a visor. Also, when you're climbing, it's super hot, and you want to keep the blazing sun off your face so it doesn't melt, you want to put something extra on your head? Right.

Scott said...

I also can't really let the visor comment go. I'm a mountain biker so I actually use the visor on the trail, and I really don't feel like buying a second helmet to use just on road.

Also, those skate-style helmets are generally safer than road helmets because of their beefier construction and because they don't have all those pointy ends to get snagged on stuff in a crash. I started wearing those for mountain biking as well, and once again I don't really feel like buying a second helmet to use on the road.

So yes, I probably look like some sort of huge noob dork. Everyone else can cram it. I'm gonna ride anyway.

Anonymous said...

A classic laugh-out-loud rant. Of course as a folding bike commuter, I inhabit the style-free zone, but you've got it all wrong about helmet visors. If your commute included a cycleway where the council never trims the surrounding bushes and overhanging branches, you too might value something to keep the twigs out of your eyes while you kept your head up and eyes peeled for the dog-walking, head-phone-radio-wearing zombies...

Anonymous said...

Nicely done. The commuter racers crack me up, especially as they pedal squares as they try and pass you.

The one point that really struck was the no sucking a strangers wheel policy. Kudos for stating that one out loud.

Last week, I was doing intervals as part of my cyclocross training. Part is on the road, and part is on the trail (the trail meets right up to the road). As I was starting my interval, I passed these two newbie roadies (easily spotted) and put what I thought was really good distance on them given their pace.

Unbeknownst to me one had jumped on my wheel. When I slowed a bit to leave the road and hit the dirt he rode right into the back of me. He must have been riding an inch off my rear.

Then to top it off he had the nerve to yell at me for not signaling. WTF! Everyday is not a bloody race! He could have put me out for the season, and for what? Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Anonymous said...

Visor on a roadie... ewwwww. Sorry, that just looks as bad as a huge aluminum pie plate from a 198x 10-Speed on a $5000 road bike.

The sun is in your face? I don't know what kind of brain seive you're wearing but mine hangs about an inch over my forehead (mabye I have the wrong helmet). Between the shade from that overhang and my shades I have no problem with sun in my eyes... and I'm a goth cyclist - I fear the sun.

The glasses over the helmet strap though... I don't know - it's just a matter of comfort for me. I'll keep the arms under the straps... please don't think less of me if you see me on the road.

Joseph said...

you are a very insecure guy because you dont let us know who you are plus you appear to only leave complimetary comments on the blog .you must be a girl or borderline homosexual (mad suspect) your way too into fasion. you should call your self bike nazi..

Kurt said...

Great post! Gotta say,I wear a helmet to hold my glasses on.

Pai Mei said...

I have been guilty of the last one on quite a few occasions.

mboehm said...

"2:00 rear is acceptable?? You know there's a reason competent race mechanics point the rear skewer forward. Last thing you need is another riders front wheel catching your skewer and taking you out."

...HAH, better than looking a fool when your ankle catches your skewer and releases your rear wheel....

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Anonymous said...

Nice try, sucka.

Anonymous said...

"never OK to sit on a stranger’s wheel"

I love sitting on a strangers wheels. I hang long enough to work out what their game is, then take the headwind myself, letting them sit on my wheel. Then I slow, and take theirs again. I ALWAYS attack on a hill.

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Anonymous said...

Thankfully newspapers still exist and a story in the Globe and Mail on your blog lead me here. I realize I still have a lot to learn about biking - having said that - just saw a penis and a pie plate ride by.

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