Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Great Debates of Cycling: Settled!

If you ever partake in online cycling discourse, you know that there’s no greater annoyance than when one of the Great Debates of Cycling comes up. It’s like when someone brings up politics at a family gathering around a racist uncle. Suddenly what was pleasant conversation becomes a series of vitriolic tirades making the same tired points and propagating the same misinformation. So in the interest of keeping these subjects from ever coming up again, I’d like to put four of them to rest forever:

Tubulars Vs. Clinchers

Perhaps the ultimate yawn-inducer in roadie forums, this debate has been raging since the advent of the high-end clincher. Typical retorts include:

--Tubulars can be ridden longer flat—that’s how Abraham Olano won the 1995 Worlds. (Yes, there was once a cyclist named Abraham Olano. Google “Indurain” and “Mini-Me” and you should be able to find him.)

--Clinchers are easier to repair

--Tubulars don’t get pinch flats

--Clinchers have lower rolling resistance, as proved by Jobst Brandt. (In the test, uber-curmudgeon Brandt scowled at a clincher and a tubular mounted on rotating wheels; the clincher melted before the tubular, proving the former had lower rolling resistance.)

--Pros Ride Tubulars

And so on.

End of Argument:

Clinchers. Why? Because the only reason pros ride tubulars is the power and influence wielded by the International Pro Bicycle Mechanics Cabal. Think about it. These days, bikes are so simple that even the most inept, dope-riddled domestique can do most necessary repairs with a couple of allen wrenches. Gone are the days of prepping frames, building wheels, and drilling bikes into the sub-20lb realm. So the only thing these mechanics have left to justify their existence is gluing wine cellar-aged tubulars on pre-built wheelsets over the course of four days. And think about that one guy who works for the one French Michelin-sponsored team riding clinchers, and how he feels when he’s surrounded and laughed at by all the other mechanics while he sits in a chair mounting clinchers with a couple of tire irons and taking occasional bites of a Croque Monsieur. Who wants to be that guy?

26” vs. 29” Mountain Bike Wheels

This one’s been raging for the last few years now. 26” wheels handle better. 29” wheels roll over obstacles better. Yadda and so forth.

End of Argument:

While I like to make most points with a little bit of finesse and diplomacy, I have to be frank here. If you’re still asking this question, you’re an idiot. Why? Because this, like all other bicycle-related questions, has been settled once and for all by the Great Trek Bicycle Making Company. The answer? Both!* D’uh.

*Note: The titatium vs. aluminum debate was also settled awhile back by Merlin in the same manner. With this grossly opulent bike, they made the dream of having this exchange a reality:

Question: “So what’s your road bike made out of, carbon or ti?”

Answer: “Yes!”


Campagnolo Vs. Shimano

This is a truly venerable debate, and is a metaphor for the Janus-like spirit of cycling in so many ways. Campagnolo, steeped in Italian tradition and flair, versus Shimano, engineered with Japanese precision and efficiency. To me, however, the real question is what to marvel at more: the fact that this question hasn’t been settled yet, or the fact that people care so much in the first place? Various arguments include:

--Shimano has won eight out of nine of the last Tours de France. (And the only reason they lost one was because it was won by a chemically addled Amish guy with a chip on his shoulder and a testosterone patch on his reproductive musette.)

--Campy wears in, Shimano wears out

--Shimano invented integrated (and indexed) shifting, the waterproof wristwatch, and the first artificial heart

--Campy has Italian Soul and Shimano is an evil OEM behemoth that supplies weapons to our nation's enemies

--Shimano offers mountain bike components, Campy once offered heavy things that bolted onto mountain bikes and didn’t work

And so on.

End of Argument:

Shimano. Why? Compatibility. Not with its mountain bike range, or with other manufacturers’ components. No, I mean compatibility with its fishing equipment range. Yes, all Shimano road and mountain bike component groups are fully compatible with their line of high-end fishing components. And while that may not mean anything to you, it means the world to the many competitors and fans of the cycling/fishing/sulking triathlons that are so popular in the fjords of Norway.

On the other hand, Campagnolo’s road groups can only be made to work with their line of alloy car wheels by employing unsightly kludges and unorthodox cable routings.

Helmets Vs. Not Helmets

This one has been responsible for more threads than the Garment District. Proponents say that only an idiot wouldn’t wear a helmet, and even point to specific instances in which helmets literally saved their lives. Opponents argue that the efficacy of strapping a foam hat to your head is negligible, and that the push towards compulsive helmet-wearing in the cycling community has been largely orchestrated by helmet manufacturers more concerned with their profits than with melon-protection.

End of Argument:

Helmets. Yes, maybe they are largely worthless. In fact, statistics prove that they do little to nothing to prevent against injuries such as broken ribs, fractured collarbones, stubbed toes, saddle sores, paper cuts and road abrasions below the neck. However, anecdotal evidence does suggest that they may be helpful when it comes to actual blows to the head. There’s also the additional benefit of transferring superpowers to the wearer, since strapping one on apparently gives you the ability to tell everyone else what they should do. In any case, whether you wear one or not, it’s a pretty dumb thing to argue about.

42 comments:

monk3y mike wellborn said...

Thanks for settling the disputes. Now we can pursue the higher points of point-counterpoint. Like PBR vs Rolling Rock...

12cherryhillst said...

so, eh, do you wear a helmet?

Anonymous said...

So... do i buy a cue-sheet holder for $17.50 or make one from rubber bands and binder clips?

Jim said...

What about the Shimano / Hutchinson tubeless road clincher? It rides only a little worse than tubeless, and takes patented Gorilla Hands™ to install. So it combines the ever-so-slightly inferior ride quality of clinchers, with the better-know-what-you're-doing-else-take-it-to-the-shop characteristic of tubeless. Seems to me this is the perfect compromise, akin to building a timeshare on Cyprus for the Greeks & Turks to enjoy together. Can't fail.

BTW, doesn't "Croque Monsieur" translate as "Mr. Frog" or perhaps "Frog Daddy"? Are you implying the French are a bunch of cannibals? Because they probably aren't you know.

Anonymous said...

"...doesn't "Croque Monsieur" translate as "Mr. Frog" or perhaps "Frog Daddy"?"

That's hilarious!

Great blog, by the way...

Novelist Anon said...

When I was in college in rural Ohio years ago and had no car, I rode my bike everywhere and worked in a geology lab run by a professor from Arkansas named Roy who was also a semi-professional bass fisherman. On certain days, he would throw up his hands in the middle of work and say, "God damn it, let's go fishing." So we'd abandon our tasks and load up in Dr. Roy's truck to go get his tricked-out bass boat. One of these times, when we rolled up to the launch ramp at the reservoir, a toothless dude at the dock saw my old SPD footwear with the yellow SHIMANO on the sides and shouted "son of a bitch! That boy's even got the fishin' shoes!"

Sean Lynch said...

Helmets

The evacuated spaced between the polystyrene molecules in most helmets store and focus the psychic energy of the rider, allowing the Death rays (documented by BSNYC in an earlier post) to become magnified. Some geometric helmet configurations also allow the rider to better focus their death rays.

This is basically the opposite effect of wearing a batting helmet lined with tin foil and duct tape.

In short, helmets can transform your death rays into mega death rays!

So all riders should wear helmets if for no other reason than to gain and focus these super powers.

Maybe Critical Mass could sign up with the Pentagon or the National Science Foundation for funding under the Star Wars anti-missile defense initiative. It would pay for a lot of beer.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for settling these great debates of cycling. The road to hell, however, is paved with good intentions, and I am fearful that with the loss of these topics from discussion we will witness increased attention on two of the remaining (and just as insufferable) cycling debates:
Shorts vs. Bibs and, relatively new on the scene but already a dead horse, Triple vs. Compact.
Please put these to rest as well so that we can get back to politics and religion. Thank you.

Noah said...

"Clinchers have higher rolling resistance, as proved by Jobst Brandt. (In the test, uber-curmudgeon Brandt scowled at a tubular and a clincher mounted on rotating wheels; the tubular melted before the clincher, proving the latter had superior rolling resistance.)"

You said clinchers have higher rolling resistance, then you said clinchers have superior rolling resistance. But low rolling resistance is good - you're contradicting yourself, right?

BikeSnobNYC said...

Noah,

Thanks! I meant clinchers have lower rolling resistance. (According to JB.) That was a typo and I will correct.

--BSNYC

sili said...

Alas, brakes vs. brakeless question will still torment us for a long time. Or until hipsters switch from fixed gears to pogo sticks.

bicimechanic77 said...

"reproductive musette"

I just spit up some tea....

Shane said...

Great post!

You forgot the 'Steel (is real) vs. everything else (is a toy)' debate stirred up by bandy-legged Audaxers everywhere ...

Fritz said...

I've written this at least twice before, but you're outdone yourself once again BSNYC! The Brandt ubercurmudgeon scowl -- what a howler!

Some other debates:
* VC or P&P?
* Tire wipe or not?
* Primal wear -- hideous, or just ugly?

Anonymous said...

I love the 69 answer to the 26" or 29" mtb wheel debate, now you need to carry 4 tubes rather than 2 to be fully covered. I bet they also requre the the front needs to be presta, and the rear shrader valves, just so you have to carry an adaptor too.

What about the eternal debate about buying from the snotty know it alls from your LBS, or from the undercutting monopolists of the internet/catalogues? Somehow I think the answer to that is: neither, machine your own damn parts.

Anonymous said...

Shimano vs. Campy, merde!
Simplex commands the highest
prices on EBay.

One good thing about external bearing bottom brackets, no more arguing about greasing tapers.

Unregistered Coward said...

No commentary on chain lube? Feelings about front brake / no brake?

bikesgonewild said...

Fascinating reading.
So glad BSNYC was willing to forever settle these disputes. As we Euros say, "i have good sensations".

Have always wanted to try Shimano fishing / casting gear at the swim portion of a tri-athlon. Merde !

Despite their pissy italian attitude towards we francais, always a Campy homme'.

Forever in gratitude,
Monsieur Grenouille

Anonymous said...

merlin may have settled the ti vs. al debate but in case anyone wasn't convinced there's always this titus
http://www.titusti.com/bikes/vuelo.html

Colin R said...

I love the 69 answer to the 26" or 29" mtb wheel debate, now you need to carry 4 tubes rather than 2 to be fully covered

Holy crap, you carry two tubes when you ride?

meh-wee-uhn said...

At least now the indignity of riding a bike with 2 different sized wheels isn't confined to poor women conned into buying one of those absolutely hideous Terry bikes.

And pursuit bikes. But tha's a different case all together.

meh-wee-uhn said...

Oh yeah. You forgot Sram in the Shimano v. Campy, but I suppose it could just be lumped in with Shimano.

mr.complaint said...

Well, there you have it. Just in time for me to announce the 23-skeedoo Great Bicycle Crap Giveaway. It will take place at noon Friday August 17th on the triangle above the Flatiron Building. Bring all your Campy junk, tubulars and all your other losers and just leave them there.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Half the cycling forums on the internet will have to shut down now!

The Great White Hype said...

Anonymous at 12:39:

The compact chainring setup, ah yes...built for less powerful riders to say "Look at me, I'm on the TOP CHAINRING! Arent I tough!" till you realise they're riding a compact and its a 50 tooth ring. Nothing wrong with pushing the small one (as longs as its a 39!)

As for road triples? Get out of the saddle once in a while dumb-ass.

BSNYC, rock on...

Anonymous said...

Helmets....still cheaper than brain surgery

Anonymous said...

You have single handedly destroyed
90 percent of bike forums threads.



Thank You.

tallywhacker said...

you still have the most important one to go - shave or not shave

bikesgonewild said...

.....shave but leave a nice little landing strip just to nuzzle.

Oh, oh, shit, sorry, legs ya, easier for massage. Damn.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I admire the uncommitted rider who straps their helmet to their front bars or their bag while they ride. -jw

Chazu said...

Mr. Jobst Brandt himself settled the shaven/unshaven debate.

http://www.sheldonbrown.com/brandt/shaving.html

http://tinyurl.com/2vp89b (same as above)

Most cyclists with shaven legs are the two-wheeled equivalent of drivers of honda civics with rear spoilers.

Anonymous said...

my favorite riders are the countless dolts who ride with a helmet on but the chin strap unbuckled.

mojito de fgg said...

@ chazu:

This is one case where Jobst makes a muddled argument.

Ever tried to shave around road rash? Probably better to put a bandage on a surface that is smooth before the crash than trying to make it smooth after the crash.

Having said that, if that's a good argument to shave legs, why not also shave other hairy bits that are at risk of road rash? How come hairy armed roadies don't shave their elbows?

Chazu said...

Mojito,

Following a hairy-legged crash, a man with a scalpel exposed my femur and an orthopedic surgeon with a power drill installed some hardware in my bone, but I've never tried to shave road rash. I imagine that would be particularly uncomfortable.

-chazu

Anonymous said...

lanterne rouge

joco said...

you missed the point in the helmet yes or no debate:
wearing a helmet means you will be able to think about all the breakages you sustained in the fall.

not wearing one means you won't care.

Toss up, I'd say.:-)

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