Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Whither Sanity? Parsing Online Bicycle Advice

If many fixed-gear bicycles on fixedgeargallery and velospace these days seem to be the product of deranged minds, this may be due at least in part to the guidance they're getting from websites such as that of NYC's Trackstar. Their "Ask Zach" column has always dispensed advice to be taken with a grain of ergot fungus, but this latest one is either top-notch spontaneous bop prosody or the product of a helmetless crash. A fetus of actual advice wrapped in a gooey placenta of madness, it evokes the writings of Charles Manson and David Berkowitz. And like reading Manson and Berkowitz, you start to worry about yourself when it starts actually making sense to you.
Hey, don't get me wrong. I'm right there with him on his anti-elitist, ride it 'til it's broke stance. It's the part about the "tripod doggy" that concerns me. Whether or not he's aware of it he's doing a note-perfect impression of Bob Odenkirk's classic "Ask Manson" bit. And if he is, I say "well done." Unfortunately, though, judging from the bikes we're seeing out there, I don't think his readers are in on the joke. (And keep an eye out on fixedgeargallery for a Univega with pink Deep Vs and Phil Wood hubs.)

Dear Ask Zach, I ride a Univega and I recently sold a frame set that was too big for me for 400 bucks. That gives me enough to cop a set of phil wood hubs I always wanted. When I started shopping around for them, all the shop workers kept giving me dirty looks 'cause I told them they were going on my univega [laced to deepVs]. I guess they were trying to hint that i should get a new frame before i go and spend $350 on hubs. Phils might last forever, so i don't see anything wrong with gettin it before a better frame. What do you think? Should I save for a frame first? If i did I'd have a better frame but then id be using it with my old formula hubs and wouldn't that be the same thing; good frame/cheap frame/fucking awesome hubs?? -David

Zach: Dear David,

First off, you're missing an important leg to your bicycle tripod doggy. When you leave for work in the morning with your favorite bitch, you have a frame, wheels, and also a component groupo that holds them all together. Everyone loves the diligence of the tripod doggy. He just makes due with what he has and is having a good time of it (The dog with only two legs is in that ridiculous doggy-wheelchair and is pitied like the poor, broken thing he is. But you've got a tripod). The third leg includes the guts of your bike like your headset, bottom bracket and cranks. Each of these three legs, frame-wheels-components is equally important. And I guess if you had a road bike it would just be a four-legged doggy because they aren't making due and having a good time, they just have this fourth leg and look like a normal-ass dog. Yeah, the fourth leg has derailleurs and brake cables 'n junk. It's optional.

Those shop workers have every right to give you dirty looks, give you condescending suggestions, and even raise their eyebrows in a way that suggest you have shit smeared all over your face and you're asking them for "a cherry on top" when, in fact, you just asked them to borrow a pedal wrench. This is because they are bicycle royalty. Think about it: you ride bikes and break them. They supply these bikes and repair them. We're better then you! That's why we get wholesale prices. Bicycle Royalty. However, this "shop worker" in question is a jerk because he doesn't know about tripods, and as royalty he needs to relate to the peasants and earn their trust instead of acting like a insufferable know-it-all. It's called diplomacy. We here at Trackstar are fit to be Kings and a Queen because we lower ourselves to interact with you guys as if we were equals, or something. See? Even right here on this page, I'm giving you advice instead of an order.

Now go and be merry knowing that you are totally being logical by investing in new wheels. If you're going to make an improvement, do it with a splash. Deep V's come in plenty of rad colors and Phil Wood's American practicality and craftsmanship mesh pretty damn well with those rims fit for an Australian meatball sprinting until he coughs up blood like the badass he is. Now, if your Univega has a crack in it that gets bigger every time you hit a pothole or some roadie (I like to call them twinkies when they're wearing the whole matching team kit) looks at it funny, or say your headset is so worn out that you can't ride with no hands or your bottom bracket makes a clanking horrible grinding metal noise like a gerbil-sized rust golem is gnawing on your spindle whenever you put standing pressure on it, then… you might be a red neck. Just kidding about that last part… you might want to invest in your third tripod leg.


Prolly said...

hmmmmmmm.... there is a point to this I assume?

What happened to your lost cynicism? Need another vaca?


Anonymous said...

I found his advice quite entertaining actually.

Kevin said...

He would have done better to comparing to putting a set of Daytons on your '88 Ford Escort while saying, "Oh I'm saving up for the '64 Impala."

Get the sweet frame first and ride the parts 'till they break. That bike shop employee(s) had every right to sneer. There is a reason they are royalty, they are chosen by God itself!

BikeSnobNYC said...


Is there a point? Indeed, that's the very question I ask myself every day...and yes, I need another vacation like you wouldn't believe.

I will say this--maybe you can sleep at night knowing a lunatic is advising people to buy Phil Wood hubs and candy-colored Velocitys, but I can't.


Anonymous said...

id be happier if all the trackstar guys went back to their respective states and stop giving ridiculous advice to people who actually need it.

Anonymous said...

bike snob,

could you help the non-royalty, like myself, get good advice? i've been to trackstar, and they were OK. is there a better place to get advice/recommendations in NYC? cuz believe it or not, there are track/fixed newbies that recognize that neon green (or red, or orange, etc) deep v's won't make their wee-wees any bigger.

BikeSnobNYC said...


I wasn't trying to imply Trackstar give people bad advice in the shop. I was simply poking fun at the "Ask Zach" column, and at the fact that the internet can sometimes be a dangerous place to get inspiration and information. (Just count how many posters of silly bikes on fixedgeargallery cite it as the source of their inspiration).

As far as the internet goes, I always say the best sources of good information are places like Sheldon Brown's site and For track-specific info, Business Cycles' website is incredibly informative and the polar opposite of the Trackstar site.

And as far as NYC shops go, I don't want to either promote or denigrate any shops. (In this case, I wasn't ribbing Trackstar, I was simply ribbing their site.) My advice to new riders is to go to the shop that carries what you need and does right by you. (As I'm sure you know, ask 10 riders in NYC to recommend a shop and you'll get 10 different recommendations.) And always temper any advice with your own research and your own experience.


Anonymous said...

Zach and his advice rock. Of course he told the guy to go ahead and buy the wheels- HE WORKS FOR A BIKE SHOP. Your superfluous purchase are what help the us poor (but cycling enlightened) shop employee shmucks make f'n rent.

The advice I would have given the guy? Put yer gears back on. Want to be different? run 650b internal geared/generator hub wheels. Far more practical and still puts money in the shop till.

Aaron said...

I really don't get the hate on that advice. It sounded solid to me. Phils to Deep-V's are a solid wheelset that will probably last a long time. At the very least, they have a good resale value. What's the harm in upgrading one leg of the tripod doggie at a time?

PS - at least he didn't push aerospokes on the kid.

Anonymous said...

The Phil's hubs would be excessive -- whatever his current hubs are, I'm sure they'll last forever since he probably only rides that Univega down to the corner pub and back on Tuesday nights.

Niki said...

Again people seem to be missing the point. I know it's easy to miss it since unforunately there are no archives for Ask Zach, but the advice he gives is tongue-in-cheek, much like this blog.

Some people may take it seriously (like half the commentors here) but most people realize that the whole Ask Zach thing is a joke.

(By the way this is not directed at you, BSNYC, since you appear to be in on the joke.)

Jim said...

I need your advice. I just discovered this old Campy Athena gruppo, a complete box set in the original wooden display box. I'm going to use it to build up this vintage Masi that I found new-in-box in the back of a derelict bike shop in Italy - I'm just going to tack weld a cog to the free hub to make it a single speed conversion. What shade of yellow should I powdercoat the frame? And what size bit should I use to drill the cranks and hubs to lighten them up a little? Or should I start by buying some lime green Deep Vees on Phil hubs with ceramic bearings?

Thanks in advance for your advice.

danimal said...

what i don't get is the consistent hating on roadies by the 'trackstar' types???

why is wearing purpose-specific (albeit occasionally ridiculously colored) spandex funny while rolling around on an overbuilt, overpriced, wheelset whose purpose is lost on univega-boy cool?

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:39...
Dude, everyone knows that Athena came out in 1991 and Masis weren't made in Italy after about 1972 - this build is totally historically incorrect!

Anonymous said...

I would never take advice from some douchebag who can't spell "gruppo".

Anonymous said...

Danimal, you said what I was thinking.

Unknown said...

Hey, do you guys want to hear a really funny joke that I just made up all by myself?

OK, here goes: people who spend lots of money on their fixed gear bicycles don't actually ride them very often! Instead, they hang around in bars drinking alcoholic liquor! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha!

I'll bet you've never heard that hilarious, original joke before, huh? That's because I totally made it up myself! Good night!

steevo said...

I think he should find a set of aerospokes or spin tri spokes

Niki said...

FWIW, Zach used to race on the track and would *gasp* wear spandex while doing it. In fact Trackstar used to sponsor a track racing team (and I think they are getting a team together for next year).

So really there is no roadie hate by the "trackstar types," it's all in your head.

Unknown said...

reading between the lines-I reckon Zach is just as bemused as you are,bikesnob,and even more sarcastically cruel-I applaud him!By the way-Athena was a low end Campy groupset-substitute "vintage Record"-50th anniversary was the one that came in the wooden display case-but on a Masi it wouldn't be period correct(a friend has one,never opened,factory wax seals intact-the only reason he actually knowsit's got parts in it is he asked to see the X-ray at the airport on the way home from Italy!)

Anonymous said...

i love how zach comes off like a retarded fixie follower. brilliant. however i prefer your brand of rant.

gwadzilla said...

I am confused

gwadzilla said...

after going back to the fixed gear gallery image association

it is all clear to me again


I am not sure
but I think that the one with the riser bars and pegs associated with the wide eyed freak with the flyer would stand as my favorite

Jim said...

Ronald, Anon, dear God, men. That was a joke. Do you really think anybody capable of yellow powder coating a vintage Masi, is also intelligent enough to type?

Prolly said...

Anyone making blanket statement about fixed gear riders are just saying the same shit that people have been saying for years about roadies.

Weekend carbon fiber dads, commuters in full spandex. $6000 frames.

Get over it please and go ride.


brother yam said...

My band needed a name, but that's fixed!

Ladies and Gentlemen! Are you ready to rock! Give it up for Tripod Doggie!

Anonymous said...

I have a one phil wood front hub, so I can keep one foot in heaven, and the other kickin' yer butt! Sue me! So what if I think it looks pretty and it makes me happy. How could anyone have a problem with that?

RS Gold said...

Receive the fairly sweet body 1st along with experience the parts 'till these people bust. That will bike look personnel(s) acquired each right to giggle. There is a cause they may be royals, they may be picked by Lord itself!

Anonymous said...

It was very interesting to read about this in your article. blood pressure Read a useful article about tramadol tramadol

Tabelacı said...

nice blog Thanks for sharing. voicesohbet was really very nice.
sesli chat siteleri sesli sohbet
sesli sohbet siteleri sesli chat
seslichat seslisohbet
sesli siteleri chat siteleri
sohbet siteleri sesli siteler
voice sohbet sesli sohbet siteleri
sesli sohbet seslisohbet
sohbet siteleri sesli chat siteleri
seslichat sesli chat
herkesburda herkes burda
sohbetmerkezi sohbetmerkezi

Op Dr Ali Mezdeği said...

Thanks for the information. I really enjoyed, I would like get more
information about this,because is very beautiful, thanks for sharing
saç ekimi