Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Fixedgeargallery...of twisted metal

Awhile ago I wrote about handlebar setup because it's a subject that is important to me. Lately I've been seeing more and more awkward, outlandish, and downright freaky handlebar setups, particularly on fixed-gear bicycles. Look, I understand a little experimentation and creativity can be a good thing--the hatchet job of today could certainly become the commuter bar of tomorrow. And mutations in nature are important because they spur evolutionary change. However, sometimes mutations are just mutations. And frankly, some of these mutations should be rounded up and hanged by torch-wielding locals. I'm guessing handlebar setup wasn't among the subjects discussed at the recent Symposium, because here are three disasters from the latest batch of bikes on Fixedgeargallery. These riders shouldn't be behind the handlebars of a bicycle; they should be behind the bars of a prison cell:


"Just Call Me Stubby"

The whole incredibly short flat bar thing started with messengers, who cut their bars down so they could slip through traffic. However, non-messengers started picking up the look, attracted to both the minimalist appearance of the bike as well as the riding position it creates, which evokes someone fighting to hold onto their scarf which they accidentally flushed down the toilet while still wearing it. Now, it is simply a fashion statement--there is no other reason you'd ever want bars this narrow, since your handling will become squirrellier than a Beatrix Potter story. (Correct bar width can be approximated by using the distance between your shoulder blades. And while people might argue the validity of that method, I think we can all agree that it should not be based on the distance between your nipples.) On this bike, you can see the stubby bar look in extremis. Note the pinch bolt-mounted brake lever. Nothing like compromising your braking integrity and your stem integrity all at once. I admit, I've never been to Canton, Ohio, so I don't know if conditions warrant this sort of handlebar setup, but something tells me in this case the choice was motivated less by congestion and more by style. But since no real "style" is in evidence on this machine, I'm thinking perhaps the motivation might have been nostalgia for a certain childhood pastime. The bike probably handles similarly too:




"Old Skool? More Like Home-Skooled."


This chainless beaut is set up to evoke the track racers of old, but instead it evokes a crappy old Schwinn that has hit a pothole hard enough to rotate the bars. It's difficult for me to envision a viable riding position that wouldn't involve lying on the saddle with your feet sticking out behind you. It's not difficult, however, for me to imagine these bars as a giant pair of eyebrows. And I'm thinking of a couple in particular. (I've always wanted to pretend I was riding Sam Donaldson's head.)




"Fangs for the Memories"




But of all the untenable handlebar setups out there, this one is certainly among the worst I've seen. Could someone out there please explain to me how you are supposed to operate those brake levers? It's gotta be like trying to eat an apple with your hands tied behind your back while the apple hangs from the chandelier by a string. Or are they intended as foot pedals? I will admit, though, they do give the bike a certain snakelike menace. (Kind of vampiric too--this thing's a cape away from being a character in an Anne Rice novel. Note the creepy bird in the upper-left corner.) I can imagine the rider rear-ending a car because he can't get enough leverage on the brake, endoing, and getting his bike fangs stuck in the sheet metal.



60 comments:

Rich B said...

That huge pothole on Dean Street was fixed a while ago...a result of your open letter to the Dept of Trans.? Thanks BSNYC.

Aaron said...

"squirrellier than a Beatrix Potter story"... bringin' it back, Peter Rabbit style. Nice one.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Rich B,

Yeah, I noticed that. They just filled it with blacktop or something, though it's definitely an improvement. I still ride around it.

--BSNYC

Anonymous said...

Oh my GOD! The fang bike had me laughing out loud! What the hell are people thinking? And the first bike with the insanely short bars was geared 53x16, and he calls it his daily commuter. I feel for his aching knees!

todd said...

Did anyone take the time to read the write up "Mr Home School" did of his Schwinn Traveler?

Snob, maybe you should go easy on this guy. Based on his writing I have a strong feeling this guy may in fact be "special."

If he is that's very strange because in Texas I thought all the special children were strangled at birth to keep the high school football talent pool as unpolluted as possible.

akatsuki said...

Those bars are huge! I just steer with my stem for maximum ability to slip between cars.

linebrake said...

i saw a dude on a fixie in san francisco with bars that were flopped but not chopped. full on drops, upside down. he was riding them like they were chopped, so i thought he just hadn't gotten around to chopping them. then i saw him again a week later, no chop...

Jim said...

Wow, that guy with the moustache bar bike says some funny stuff:

my "TIME TRAVELER'' started out as a 81 Schwinn Traveler which had to much crap!!!..on it (book rack lights yada,,yada,,yada.!!!),so i blew it apart ...i always like the looks of the Track Racers from the early 1900's...old style springer seat,,suecide [sic] front brake

Once more, in English: "My Schwinn was a really useful commuter/utility bike, very practical, so I frikkin butchered it. I saw a picture of a track bike once. Inspired, I put on moustache handlebars, rotated them down so that I'd be able to take a 31.8 mm core sample of my legs just in case I have to be biopsied for thigh meat cancer later on, and stuck on a front brake, which I call a suicide brake. I don't actually know what a suicide brake is, but I call my brake that because it sounds cooler than "put a brake lever on my bars." The seat with shock absorbers is just like they used on track bikes back in the day, either 1906 or 2003, I think Marty Nothstein rocked one in the Berlin Olympics. I think it's a suicide seat, basically, or maybe a mutilation mount.

E said...

linebrake - you mean hobo bars? Utterly useless but fairly common among bums around here. It's better than chopped but not flopped, which is something I've been seeing an alarming number of times.

The stupidest setup I've seen, though, was some guy riding a singlespeed around... you know those bigass cruiser bars? Like on this bike: http://bikes.unitedcycle.com/itemdetails.cfm?catalogId=39&id=1960 He had rotated them 180 degrees so the grips were over his front tire, AND flipped them so they were pointing down.

Anonymous said...

Re: Fang bike.

Maybe he has invisible drop bars and only taped them half way down?

Niki said...

Hey, Graham Obree used the flopped-but-not-chopped set-up before building his tuck handlebars.

Of course, that was Graham Obree...

Anonymous said...

Headscratch of the day re fang bike: why a right-hand lever at all if you have no back brake? Just wonderin'...

smarterenyew said...

"Running 45/14 right now due to the steep climbs on my route to the school I taught at this summer."

irregardlessly, at leest hims learnin them kids!

Cycling Under The Influence said...

Do people actually ride those bikes, or do they just decorate apartment living rooms? I would have to imagine that the bikes owners must resemble the bikes themselves, like the whole pet/owner thing. Scary.

bikesgonewild said...

...check my new fix, dude...from the centerline of the stem, it has NEGATIVE length straight bars...so you have to reach over to the left side w/ yer right hand & cross yer left hand over to the right side...

...everybody'll be doing it, dude, like NEGATIVE length is the WAY...do it or sell yer 'chuck t's'...

Scott said...

Kudos to the Schwinn Traveler guy for putting a brake lever on there, but how exactly does he expect to use it when it's on the part of the bar he doesn't grip? He's going to need it when he tries to ride that bike without a chain.

quaffimodo said...

Re: Chopped bars

I try to laugh with people whenever possible, but there are some that I just have to laugh at. Watching trendsters struggle to control their front wheels is rapidly replacing watching trendsters' shins being beaten to a bloody pulp as my favorite "sitting in the sun watching the world go by with beer in hand" entertainment. I hope that they never fix the streets where I live.

Prolly said...

A tarantula in threatening pose would have been more appropriate for the 'fangs' bike.

Funny though, I thought the same thing!

Anonymous said...

Good to see that when the home-schooler ripped all the "crap" (such as pedals and chain) off his Schwinn, he retained the all-important kick stand.

Anonymous said...

RE: hobo bars

They have always been refered to as forty catchers were i'm from. Because they are used to retrieve forties of malt liquor at the corner store.

Anonymous said...

hobo bars, aka ghetto style or DUI bars are usually found riding the wrong way down busy urban streets in search of recycling to pay for the next forty oz. of crazy horse which is probably why said hobo is riding a bike in the 1st place..ie. to drunk, crazy and poor to drive a car like "normal" people.

Anonymous said...

oops, that's "TOO drunk..."

Anonymous said...

It is always great to see these kids get so obsessive about the chain-line (with the obligatory pic from the rear hub). Too bad their obsessiveness does not also extend to tensioning (first example) or proper cleaning/greasing (third example) - maybe your second kid could not get his line right, so he just got rid of the chain to save face... Or maybe he's just waiting for this ("its in the making"):
http://tinyurl.com/2ksgvd

Lupine128 said...

you know you've got it wrong when your bars are narrower than than your pedals.
because it's only the bars that have to get between cars, right?

Matthew said...

the second one's missing a left crankarm too. Maybe ridden by a one legged someone with arms coming out of their waist?

Anonymous said...

flop but not chop, hobo bars, forty catchers, DUI bars! ha, I'm laughing that this bar style is descriptive of these people everywhere else too. Here in Denver we call it the Colfax Cruiser, so named for the section of Colfax where said people, and thus this bar style, are most dense.

Anonymous said...

these bikes have inspired me to do something DIFFERENT... and HARDCORE... i've decided to mechanize a break from which the sole source is a good long hard kegel muscle crunch. i will send you pictures shortly...
j

Philip Williamson said...

I picked up the term "DUI-brid" somewhere, but 'Forty Catcher' is the new winner.

"Yeah, I ride an 85" gear, but only because of the steep hills on my commute."

If the chainless wonder DOES opt for the fan-belt drive, it'll be because he's weighed and discounted what cyclingnews calls the "seemingly obvious hysteresis effects" of the system...
"uhh....huh?"

'Fangs' looks insane, but since I can brake from the hoods, maybe he can, too.

Still, it's only a matter of days before we see a stem-only setup you can ride one-handed Slim Pickens-style.
http://www.strategic-air-command.com/gallery/movies/images/dr_strangelove_bombdrop.jpg

dave said...

heh. the flopped-but-not-chopped look is what we call a smokabike here in philly. i.e. a bike (dubiously) owned by someone who's smokin' the crack.

Anonymous said...

"Running 45/14 right now due to the steep climbs on my route to the school I taught at this summer. Looking to buy a new chainring/crank set now that I don't have to make those climbs." I thinking 56x12 sounds about right for flat terrain.

Anonymous said...

I posted this comment on your last "bar" blog but Ill put it here to because I love the fact the guy has chopped and kept his STI levers.

http://velospace.org/node/3272

Scott said...

Anonymous 1:11am

re: http://velospace.org/node/3272

Oh. My. Word. If there is a god, he will strike the owner of the bike down for ruining what is a perfectly nice road bike amd turning it into a horribly half-assed SS. He's going to get the frame powdercoated when his "money tree blooms"? If I could hurl lightning bolts, I'd be sending one his way.

Anonymous said...

Fang Bike made me laugh as hard as Gorilla Bike. Having those two steeds in a collection would be the pinnacle of bicycle collecting!!

Anonymous said...

I really doubt that Bikesnob nyc actually rides a bike. sorry

BikeSnobNYC said...

August 30t 9:31am,

Busted. You're right, I don't. But when I get my keirin frame built up I plan to tear up the streets. Just waiting on a few more NJS part auctions on eBay.

In the meantime I chopped my Metrocard so only the magnetic strip is left. Low-profile and bad-ass! I travel the city in style.

--BSNYC

BikeSnobNYC said...

Sorry, I meant August 30th 9:51am.

SKiDmark said...

I think if you went to Japan with a suitcase full of size 28 Levi's 501's from thrift stores you could probably come home with a Keirin frame.

Anonymous said...

it's funny i bet alot of you guys,,are to scared to post pics of your bikes,because you are to afraid what would be said about our pieces of shit.......

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Nothing like compromising your braking integrity and your stem integrity all at once. I admit, I've never been.

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