Friday, August 17, 2007

Worst of NYC Craigslist Bike Ads #17: "Flattened On Delancey"

I have a number of ambitions, among them: to finish a bike race with a double-digit placing; to develop a signal-jamming device for Shimano and Campagnolo's electronic groups; and to design a revolutionary self-cleaning chamois so I can amass a huge fortune and build a mansion that will be forever known as "the house that crotch built." Becoming some kind of cycling Ralph Nader is not one of my ambitions.

However, some time ago I wrote about a fixed-gear meth lab in Brooklyn, and this Craigslist post from a dissatisfied customer perfectly illustrates what happens when a slipshod mechanic and an ignorant fashion victim collide without airbags:

RE: "Once You Ride Track You Never Go Back" DO NOT BUY! - $1 [Original URL: http://newyork.craigslist.org/brk/bik/398741324.html]
Reply to: [deleted]
Date: 2007-08-16, 5:23PM EDT

If you're thinking of buying a fixie and want to get one cheap, you may have noticed the seller posting "Once You Ride Track You Never Go Back." She sells converted road bikes out of her apartment in Brooklyn, and while her prices seem reasonable - when a good track bike / fixed gear runs around $500+ - there's a reason for the bargain: she sells absolute shit and knows it! Let me explain why buying from this person is a bad idea; hopefully to save the next poor newbie from losing a couple hundred bucks:

Firstly, let me explain that I, myself, bought a $200 converted road bike from her one evening after falling in love with it: my first tour around the block on a fixed gear blinded my investigation of the bike. Knowing what the going rate for a fixie was, I thought it was best to pick up this steal of a deal. Bike felt pretty fine when I got it, and I used to ride BMX, so I figured any bike mechanic duties I'd have to handle would be simple - as she told me, the bike will need routine maintenance like any, but it was 100% ready to go. Cool!

So, now for the downward spiral of bullshit. A week later, I'm coming up on Delancy Street at a good rate of speed, begin to slow down a bit by putting resistance on my pedal rotation, and "crack!" -- off shoots a pedal. Apparently, the shitty aluminum crank arm the bike came with was stripped pretty good, and my brisk riding ate the last thread off the arm. Thankfully I wasn't flattened on Delancy that night, but daaaamn was I pissed. So, I call her -- no call back. I call again from a different number a couple days later, she picks up. "Ohh, bring it by and I'll take a look at it." Ok, no. Not coming back to you're dungeon of an apartment for some more shitty parts - that's where i thought I'd cut my losses. I started doing research on bikes, rode more, did more research, rode more, etc. I replaced my crank arms, swapped out my bars, painted it, etc. I did, however, keep the wheels she gave me -- I wanted to get a new set, but funds were tight, etc. Anyhow, I'm out last weekend and pull an easy skid and feel my cog slip -- kind of a typical issue; assumed I needed to tighten my lockring. Well, turns out my lockring was perfectly tight, but not only that - it won't move at all. And I'm a pretty strong dude - the lockring feels like it's welded or something!! Well, surprise: It is! This moron know-nothing welded the lockring to the hub, as well as the track cog. Apparently, the weld job she did on the cog came undone and slid on the hub, stripping the threading on the hub behind a welded lockring. Can't get in there to fully investigate because, like I said, the damn lockring is welded on! Buy new wheels? Maybe. But a new wheelset will probably run me over $200, and I don't have the cash for that right now because I need to replace...oh right, the OTHER PROBLEM...

If the wheel issue wasn't enough, the headset on the bike is missing bearings and the main threading for the headset is mildly stripped as well, so it gets the shimmies every now and then when it loosens up. Such a bad look. I need to replace that too...

But...I wont. I'm cutting my own losses and deciding to save the rest of you from such an terrible CL'er. I'm in the process of building my own Cannondale the way I want, and doing it the right way. Hell, if I took any mechanic cues from the broad I bought my bike from, I'd be eating pavement by now for sure.

If I remember correctly, she lives somewhere off of Taafe -- if you show up to a loft with a big steel door and no AC, be sure to turn your ass around and run. If not only because she's sweaty and has a shitty tattoo, run because she'll waste your time trying to rip you off while chain-smoking American Spirits. You're better off on foot than on one of her bikes. Remember, folks: a monkey wrench is not a bike tool.

Do some research, ride a friend's bike, know what fixed gears are, and be something of an able mechanic if you plan on getting into the whole track bike thing. I love them, but not without a sad history of 1000 frustrations. DO NOT BUY A FIXED GEAR FROM THIS GIRL!! SHE LIVES OFF TAAFE: STAY AWAY!

This is one exciting narrative! If anybody out there works in the film industry I suggest buying the rights to this guy's story, since "Flattened On Delancey" sounds like the action/adventure/comedy "Rush Hour" type film we cyclists have been waiting for. (I'm thinking Johnny Knoxville as the hapless cyclist whose crank arm falls off on his way to the Williamsburg Bridge, causing him to lowside and skid 40 feet under a truck in a shower of sparks with a cheap Sakae crank arm still strapped to his Chuck Taylor.) Not to be too harsh on the victim here, but come on--this guy's "pulling skids" without ever having even once looked at his cog, which he only discovers was welded on after it starts slipping. (Yes, the mechanic is certainly a "moron know-nothing," but the rider's not exactly Peter Chisholm of Vecchio's either.) There's just something pathetic about riding around town on a ripoff conversion that's gradually falling apart like the Wagon Queen Family Truckster in "National Lampoon's Vacation."

But I suppose that's the consequence of something becoming this trendy; people who haven't been on a bike since they were 12 are now trying to gain entree into the exciting, color-coordinated, and fun-to-accessorize world of urban fixed-gear riding as cheaply as possible and without doing due diligence. Certainly the mechanic's a big part of the problem, but the rider is just as much to blame--at this point the fad has spread so far that even kids in trailer parks have learned enough about fixed gears to keep their own bikes from falling apart.

Don't get me wrong--I'm not saying fixed gear riding should be the exclusive domain of seasoned cyclists. Far from it. It drives me crazy when people talk about the special skills you need to ride a fixed gear. (Uh, it's the same as riding a regular bike except your feet keep moving.) At the same time, though, there is more to riding a fixed gear (or any bike) than following what seem to be the Three Commandments of Fixed Gear Riding: 1) Thou Shalt Have Thine Keys Exposed At All Times; 2) Thou Shalt Not Tape Thine Bars; and 3) A Helmet's Okay, But A Brake Is Gay.

57 comments:

Prolly said...

Could be worse. Kids could start talkin like this dude
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c5j4McFzies

Anonymous said...

I have to admit to being clueless as to why people would want a single speed bike or a bike that belongs more in a circus than on the street. Many of the bikes shown in this blog I wouldn't ride on a bet, not even on a triple-dog dare.But seriously, I would like to know more about this cultural happening even if it is not for me. Why single speed bikes and why the wild colors? Where did this start and why?

carlo said...

exactly. people who haven't been on a bike since they were 12 are now trying to gain entree into the exciting, color-coordinated, and fun-to-accessorize world of urban fixed-gear riding.
that's the thing. learn to ride a graziella-bike first and then do the rest.
great bsnyc.

foreverever said...

Thanks for being Bike Snob! Bike Snob. You inspire me everyday and I think you're speaking for all of us out there who love riding and see this trend as some sort of bizzare twilight zone thing. . .But, I do love seeing people ride bikes so I don't really care if they're turning it into some scene. . .Did this happen when BMX got big? I remember jumping the crap out of my Columbia coaster brake bike until I broke the rear tri-angle and tied it back together. . .

Niki said...

Anonymous:

I am one of those fixed-gear riders you see on the street. Fortunately I wrap and plug my bars, keep my keys in my pocket and wear a helmet. Although I do ride brakeless. Can't win them all I suppose.

I like using a fixed-gear for getting around/commuting because it is cheap and mechanically simple. I don't like locking up my road bike due to the cost and if I treated my road bike the way I treat my commuter I probably would have to spend several hundred dollars in replacement parts every couple of months.

Replacing the drive train on a fixed-gear or single speed can cost as little as $50-75.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Niki. Having gotten the correct vernacular from you all, I checked Sheldon Brown re. fixed gear bikes. Frankly, I didn't expect it to sound interesting but it does. I have an old 15 spd w/ horizontal dropouts. Maybe it can be converted??
I have to think about this. You can't have too many bikes or too much fun.

Anonymous said...

A good friend of mine bought a bike from this girl and had a very similar experience.

We dropped in to get his wheel replaced and a cat was disembowling a mouse in the middle of her floor. It was fucking weird.

Anonymous said...

i have a brake, so i guess i'm gay. give me a call sometime!

ivanka go bushwick said...

but is the girl good looking???

or is she as busted as the bikes she sells?

jim said...

Met a very similar sounding woman, but she was in a basement in Williamsburg, like around N. 9th. Bought RSX derailers and shifters from her for $15. She was only interested in parts that could be used in her scary fixed-gear conversions.

The CL poster hints at something interesting: maybe this fixed-gear thing comes from a generation who grew up riding BMX. Colored rims, front brake, thinking of shifting gears as too complicated... it makes sense.

There also seems to be a perception, in the defensive comments here by fixed-gear riders, that anything more complex than a singlespeed with one brake is going to fall apart under the stresses of urban riding.

Niki said...

It's not that road bike components fall apart, it's that a bike ridden every day through rain/snow/whatever, getting locked up all over the city, etc. is going to require more maintanence than one that is ridden for training/racing. The fact is that a road bike requires more attention than a single-speed/fixed-gear.

It's really nice having a bike that requires far less effort to keep in working order, and when it comes time to replace a part they are much cheaper.

I'm a road racer (well, a track racer who occasionally races road as well) so I'm not trying to be snobbish in a "I'm never going back to gears" sort of way. I love road bikes, I love going on long rides on open roads. But I'm pretty lazy about maintanence so I keep my commuter bike simple and cheap.

bikesgonewild said...

"...busted flat in Baton Rouge...
waitin' on a train..."
'kris kristoferson'as sung by 'janis'

"...flattened on Delancey Street...
waiting on my fix...
...a trackstand on the corner does the trick "

But seriously, BSNYC, go w/ the electronic shifting disabler & if i ever use that shit, please, feel free to ZAP me. Thanx.

Niki said...

I was riding with my friend yesterday and he had downtube shifters on his bike. I jokingly reached over as if to shift for him (ala Breaking Away) and he wondered if anyone did that during races. With brifters it would be pretty difficult, but he posited that once electronic shifting gets more mainstream we'd probably see that.

At which point we started talking about the electronic Mavic shifters from the 90s and how they didn't work to well (phantom shifting problems I think). We were joking about how it was probably caused by some kid's RC car.

Prolly said...

Niki kills it. He could probably whip most of you guys in a race. You should see his scraper bike!

I'm also one of those fixed-gear riding kids. But I grew up riding Road bikes and rode a MTB in the mountains of NC for quite some time.

I also wear a helmet and baby my bikes.

I love the simplicity and the elegance. But to be honest, I do miss my road bike...

BikeSnobNYC said...

Thanks for all the comments, everybody.

Don't get me wrong. Fixed gears=good. Death machines built by the clueless and sold to the more clueless=bad.

It's not even the trend that bothers me so much as the pathetic underbelly of the trend that this guy's Craigslist post represents. This may sound staid and reactionary, but there's a right way and a wrong way to get into something. There's a lot of knowledgeable shops, entry level bikes, and experienced people out there to choose and learn from.

On the other hand, this weird fixed-gear-building woman seems like some kind of cycling back-alley abortionist mixed with Dr. Moreau, and people should know she's out there. As a constipated poultry farmer once told me: "Keep your hens close and your enemas closer."

--BSNYC

John said...

I'm retrogrouchy so I guess I'm obliged to say that electronic shifting is lame.

To the guy with the bike he wants to convert, please don't do it if it's a really nice bike. Don't be that clueless schmuck who converts his classic Colnago and tells the kids at the local bike shop that it's "his beater." (That's actually happened, I'm not making it up.)

Grammar Snob NYC said...

"The Three Commandments of Fixed Gear Riding: 1) Thou Shalt Have Thine Keys Exposed At All Times; 2) Thou Shalt Not Tape Thine Bars; and 3) A Helmet's Okay, But A Brake Is Gay."

Using 'thine' instead of 'thy' is just wrong.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Thanks, Grammar Snob. My grammar is far from perfect, and my old-timey grammar is non-existent. I stand corrected.

--BSNYC

bikesgonewild said...

...first time that ever happened to me (before Breaking Away) a group of us roadies were pounding up a steep hill, stoned & a certain now famous MTBer (who shall remain nameless, but his initials are G.F.) turned to me w/ a big smile, reached through the main triangle, slammed my rear shifter forward & dropped me down all 5 cogs.

Don't know which made it hardest to stay upright, wallowing in gears or the fact that i was cursing & laughing so hard.

Josh said...

it kinda looks like the star of the trailer park kids' video is pullin' skidz on platforms sans-clips. hella intense bro.

Anonymous said...

That video......it was like I was seeing a vision of the future of "bike rid'n" after a nuclear war.

- Stu

Anonymous said...

That video can't be real, right? Right? Right?

Seriously, if there's one thing that could kill this fad, it's Kevin Federline.

Anonymous said...

But seriously, bro, brakes are hella gay.

Anonymous said...

I read somewhere that K-FED (In-Da-House) Industries is going to open Fresno's first hip, urban, track bike-specific bicycle boutique.

Anonymous said...

seattle.craigslist.org/see/bik/399840377.html

Anonymous said...

Bikesnob NYC,
Found your blog and I have to say that you are the biggest loser/grumpiest NYer that I have the pleasure of reading about. Maybe if you spent less time caring about what everyone else was doing you would have more time to ride or maybe even have a real life relationship. I cant believe someone would spend so much time focusing on negativity instead of just ignoring what you dont like. Have a nicer life.

Best wishes,
Someone who just likes biking.

Anonymous said...

found this amusing (grammar snob, correct me if my grammar is incorrect)

http://portland.craigslist.org/mlt/bik/399006167.html

BikeSnobNYC said...

Someone who just likes biking,

Thanks for your concern. I'm afraid I have little else to do with my spare time, living in my mother's basement as I do. Sorry you're not enjoying it. I might similarly suggest you spend your spare time reading and commenting on blogs you find more entertaining. (Though of course you're more than welcome to continue reading this one, and I truly hope that you do.)

--BSNYC

Anonymous said...

When oh when BikeSnob will you expand your role of nyc-bike ombudsman beyond shitty CL-posting hack mechanics to some of our local bike shops who can't offer much more in the way of assistance?

Anonymous said...

Read/ weep:
"To the best of my knowledge it is a campy frame..."

columbus.craigslist.org/bik/400869746.html

bikesgonewild said...

Anon: maybe not read/weep.

Webster's Dictionary; one definition of 'camp' or 'campy' -- something so outrageously artificial, affected, inappropriate or out-of-date as to be considered amusing.

...perhaps a state of enlightenment has been achieved, inadvertently, by this person.

...just sayin'...

Anonymous said...

Dear Someone who just likes biking: may the gods of cycling allow enlightenment to your gray, humorless existence. Because clearly, you just don't get it.

Have a nice day!

Anonymous said...

"Brakes are hella gay" ??

May a truck suddenly turn in your path and humble you into getting a damn brake.

Anonymous said...

Can we introduce this word into the conversation? POSEURS. These are the irritants of this fixed gear revolution - not the bike itself.

Tim from Melbourne said...

Dangerous girls.. dangerous bikes... that's what life's about !!

Anonymous said...

I don't understand the "helmet OK, brake is gay" crowd. To my eyes, a [bicycle] brake on a bike looks fine. A bicycle helmet on a human head, however, never looks good. I'm not suggesting others should ride helmetless (although most all non-competitive European and Asian cyclists and this American do so and manage just fine) but bike helmets are not a good look.

Philip Williamson said...

They aren't poseurs, they're just young. "Those kids don't know shit, and show no respect."

Plus, they play their crap music WAY too loud.

Anonymous said...

That's not it. You can be young, and not be a poseur.
Poseurs care more about image than anything else. Young, old, whatever. Irritating. And in this particular fixed bike trend, all the more.

outrage said...

If it has tits or wheels, it will give you trouble.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Anonymous 8/19 6:20pm:

Actually never--I have a strange sense of propriety which prohibits me from denigrating or endorsing specific local shops. I think it's better for customers to share their experiences with shops amongst themselves, in person or on forums. It's one place I don't want to interject my worthless opinions.

Though if someone else started a dishy NYC Bike Shop blog I'm sure I'd read it.

--BSNYC

not quite hip said...

BSBYC,

I'm the dude who wrote this ad. And while I understand that I'm a complete idiot for entering fixed gear riding on this foot, I've definitely learned from this terrible mistake.
I read your blog from time to time, and it's awesome. I agree with much of what you consistently complain about. However, ease up on me a little, man! I'm definitely not that hip guy you're attacking. Sure, I ride a fixed gear and I learned by trial [which you consider reprehensible.] Other than that, I'm just as much of a bike enthusiast as the next guy. I used to ride BMX as a kid/teen, I've ridden many road bikes, and now I've decided that I like the idea of riding fixed. No Chuck Taylors or ironic race-caps here. I don't thrift or dumpster dive, and I love a good hamburger now and then. I'd probably buy you a drink sometime, too BS.
But as for my run-in with the Cruella Deville of bike mechanics - it was a terrible learning experience. I made this post on CL only to warn other dipshits [like myself, at the time of my first purchase] to not make the same mistakes I did and to do a little research. An honest thing, I thought. And to harp on my innocent mistake like it's a character flaw of mine or something is a little harsh, but I guess that's your thing.
But anyhow - I'm going to keep reading the blog, my man. It's a good one. Continue to make whatever assumptions about me you'd like, because if I met you, you'd never make the connection. And as for these Hollywood people, hook me up! [kidding]
And for the record, I'm not a part of this fad you're so angrily against - maybe if this had all happened, like, three years ago, you'd be a little more forgiving, I dunno. And it could be worse, I could ride a Pista Concept three times a week and call myself a "biker."

Not So Hip,
Anonymous CL Poster

Anonymous said...

I like Pistas. Why do people rag on them so much? Other than the ride 3x a week thing (I ride 100-125 miles a week myself). I'm looking for a good track racing bike. If I could actually fit a Pista, I'd get one.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Anonymous CL Poster,

I'm really glad you took the time to post here, thanks so much. I realize I was harsh on you, and I'm sorry if you took it personally. I'm also glad you took the time to post about your experiences in the first place, because I do think it's a worthwhile thing for people to read.

Certainly it's cheap of me to say after the fact that I didn't mean for you to take it personally, but the fact is I didn't, and if you did I apologize. You're exactly right to say, "I guess that's your thing." I took the protagonist of your tale (you) and then took my creative liberties with him to make my point, since that is, as you point out, what I do. For the purposes of the post you simply became a cycling everyman who had fallen victim to the dark side of the fixed-gear trend. I like to think most readers can divorce that character from the actual person who wrote the CL posting, just as they can divorce the absurdity on this blog from reality.

The last laugh is always on me anyway, since sooner or later someone like you always comes along and points out how wrong I usually am, giving these types of posts a short shelf life. Assumptions and stereotypes can be funny until they're juxtaposed with the truth.

I am glad to hear that you read and enjoy the blog (I hope you continue to do so), and I'm glad that you learned from the whole debacle of buying from this woman. I'm also glad you took the time to post on Craigslist to give people the heads-up. Thanks for giving my post a little real-life perspective.

With Respect,

--BSNYC

Anonymous CL Poster said...

BSNYC -

It's all good. I actually got an email yesterday from someone saying "hey, went to this chick too and got screwed - good idea posting about her." So already I feel like I'm doing a service with my little CL post.
Also, with your posts here, you do a good service too. You make people think twice about degrading a bike to the status of fashion accessory. I had flashes of your blog one night when I overheard someone outside a bar talking about his Pista and how he wants Aerospokes; when his friend told him that they're bad for city riding, he recants with "ah, but dude, they look so sweet." I was outraged to say the least.
But like you say, keep biking. And yes, screw the hipsters.

No Hard Feelings,
Anonymous CL Poster

BikeSnobNYC said...

ACLP,

Yep, riding's what it's all about. Let's not forget we do this all for fun. (And that includes reading and writing blogs about bikes.)

--BSNYC

Skullbag said...

i flippin LOVE this blog, you rock bikesnob

Anonymous said...

But nobody has mentioned the important fact: she is hot! At least in that sexy hipster no-bra tank-top wearing kind of way.

I didn't buy anything from her (uh, I ain't no dummy). But I did want to buy her a beer and confess my newfound teen-age like crush.

But instead I just left.

Handy said...

Anti-helmet guy, as someone who has cruised NYC, Dublin and Boston sans helmet, I decided to start wearing one now that I live in SF cause the hills are kinda crazy. 2 weeks ago I got hit by a police motorcycle who blew through a red light sans siren, totalled my bike and SERIOUSLY messed me up and my helmet, thankfully not my head, cracked. Ain't no brake in the world that's gonna stop another vehicle from blindsiding you (I never saw him til he was standing over me calling the ambulance).

So yeah, helmets look dumb, can't be denied, but bein dead for the sake of vanity is dumber.

p.s. great stuff bike snob, always been a fan.

Juanito said...

first wreck, yesterday. buying a helmet today. wish they looked cool but o well. guess that makes me not a hipster.

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