Friday, September 28, 2007

Peace In Our Time: A Cycling Summit

It hardly needs saying at this point that there’s a lot of internal hostility in the cycling community. And as much as we’d all like for someone to fall from the sky and save us, I think we’ve got to admit that it’s just not going to happen.

Probably the biggest reason for this hostility is the fixed-gear trend. Right now the fixed-gear bicycle combined with the so-called “hipster” is the most vilified combination in bike culture—together they’ve become the Iran of cycling. For this reason, I think cycling should have a summit meeting. I’m imagining something between a UN General Assembly debate and a mafia-style sit-down. At this meeting will be present representatives from the Five Families of Cycling: Roadies, Mountain Bikers, Messengers, Fixed-Gear Riders, and Commuters. I think with a few simple resolutions and trade-offs among these groups we can alleviate a lot of this tension and resentment, and get back to the business of riding.

(I know, “So what about Cyclocrossers? Or Trackies? or Tourists?" For the purposes of what we’re setting out to accomplish here, they don’t need to be present. As largely self-sustaining subcultures, they can continue to geek out in their little bubbles for now.)

Item I:

Nomenclature

As irritating as some of the new breed of fixed-gear bicycles and riders can be, I think the problem is largely one of nomenclature. In particular, I think the fact that many of these riders still refer to their bicycles as “track bikes” and say that they “ride track” is the reason other cyclists resent them. There is nothing “track” about a bike with riser bars and a top tube pad, for example, nor is there anything “track” about riding in tight jeans and a flat-brim baseball cap. Furthermore, many of these riders use their bikes primarily for doing stunts and skids, and have no intention of racing them on the track at all. It’s this contradiction in terminology that’s making so many people angry.

So I move that the fixed-gear riders agree to permanently expunge the word “track” from all references to their bicycles and riding style. Since their bikes are essentially fixed-gear BMX freestyle bikes, I suggest they call them “fixed-gear freestylers,” or something to that effect. After all, you don’t hear people complaining about BMXers, and that’s because they don’t go around calling their bikes something they’re not.

(A pink and black fixed-gear freestyler...now isn't that better?)

(It's just a Hutch Trickstar with bigger wheels...nothing to get angry about!)



Item II

Wheel Size

In many ways, fixed-gear freestyle equipment has not yet caught up with the style of riding. Because of the incorrect use of the word “track,” manufacturers are still speccing these bikes with inappropriate components like 700c wheels. The reality is that there’s no reason for them to be using wheels this big. These bikes are ridden for short distances only, and smaller wheels would be better for the stunt riding they’re doing. (Some of these riders are already using 650c/26" wheels on the front anyway.)

Meanwhile, mountain bikes seem to be moving to the 29er (700c) wheel size. This is why a mountain bike representative needs to be at the summit. I’d like the fixed-gear freestylers and the mountain bikers to agree to a wheel-size exchange. The fixed-gear freestylers will take the 26" wheels, which seem to be falling out of favor with mountain bikers anyway, and the mountain bikers will take the 700cs. (This has the added benefit of making fixed-gear freestylers look even less like track bikes.)

Item III

Maintaining Standards

On the surface, roadies and messengers are very different. Roadies are fastidiously clean; messengers are inevitably grimy. Roadies get as far away from the city as they can in order to traverse hill and dale; messengers spend their days and nights in the urban jungle. Roadies wish they were paid to ride; messengers are actually paid to ride.

What both groups have in common though is a long, inscrutable list of rules and criteria which one must follow and fit in order to belong. In the roadie world, something as esoteric as wearing the wrong length sock can be enough to get you banished forever. In the messenger world, simply having the audacity to use a messenger bag or attempt a track stand without being a bona-fide courier is sufficient to make you the object of scorn.

Shouldn’t both of these groups loosen up a bit and become more accommodating? Absolutely not! As cycling’s ultra-orthodox it’s crucial they continue to bear their rigorous standards with borderline psychotic devotion. They are the sun and moon of the cycling firmament, and if either wavers at all in their steadfastness the Earth will be plunged into chaos. This is why, at the summit, I suggest they sign a Joint Pact of Self-Righteousness, and commit once and for all to maintain their rigorous standards and bloated sense of self-importance forever. It is a crucial stabilizing force.

Item IV

Commuting

Whether you’re a road racer-slash-commuter, a mountain biker-slash-commuter, a fixed gear freestyler-slash-commuter, or just a plain commuter, you must agree to obey one simple rule: do not race people on your commute. Whether you’re a roadie on a Madone or a guy in khakis and a polo shirt on a hybrid, you look equally stupid trying to drop somebody on the Brooklyn bridge.


That's it--it's that simple. If we can adopt these four simple articles, I think the cycling world will be a better place.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Velo Darwinism: The Evolution of the Top Tube Pad


Yesterday's post prompted a number of comments about top tube pads. Along with the front Aerospoke, the top tube pad has come to symbolize the more vain aspects of the fixed-gear trend. So much so, in fact, that there is now a backlash, as evidenced by this listserv post which was forwarded to me by a reader recently:


Someone put a cigarette butt out on my frame pad.


Last night at BAR. I hope for the sake of New Haven's burgeoning and welcoming "cycling community",that this wasn't an act performed by someone I know. Because I have to look down at that whenever I'm riding now, and know that someone in this world is a selfish dick who isn't down with OPP. However, when you see people fucking with other people's shit as a joke, and then your shit gets fucked with, the pranksters are the easiest and first to blame.


While such a backlash is inevitable, acts of top tube pad violence are totally inexcusable. Before hating, I think it's important we try to understand the origins of the top tube pad, as well as its functions. Based on feedback from readers over the past few months, it would seem the main purposes behind the top tube pad are as follows:


--Protects the frame when locking bicycle to a pole
--Protects the top tube from getting dinged by handlebars (in the same manner as, though distinct from, a top tube protector)
--Protects the groin and inner thigh when skidding
--Protects the frame when resting mallet on it during bike polo matches
--Is aesthetically pleasing to certain people


Okay. But where did top tube pads start, and how did they go from being functional add-ons to being accessories? Admittedly, I still have a lot to learn, but here's what I've uncovered so far. Any feedback is welcome and appreciated.



The obvious common ancestor of the top tube pad as we know it and hate it is the BMX pad. Rules required that top tubes, stems, and handlebars had to be padded during races, presumably so that young racers would one day grow up and be able to reproduce. In this prescient photo, however, only the top tube is padded.




The top tube pad proved to be quite adaptable, and was able to evolve to accommodate a number of unorthodox frame designs. It is most likely this adaptability which made its longevity as a species possible, and which is why it is still so common today.




But what about the crucial leap from BMXs to adult bikes, and particularly fixed-gears? It has been suggested that today's top tube pad has its origins in the messenger community. Messengers have always wrapped their frames in inner-tubes or tape to both protect them and disguise their manufacturers. But was it a messenger who first made this leap from wrapping to padding?


This amazing photo, which I uncovered while Googling in a pith helmet, could very well be the missing link between BMX top tube pads and adult top tube pads. The neon knickers and jacket, mullet, and aero water bottle indicate that this man lived sometime during the late 1980s or early 1990s. And if you'll look closely, you'll see that the top tube is either wrapped or padded, though it is difficult to tell exactly which. The downtube, however, remains bare.

It should be noted though that there are also some things about this photo which indicate it may be a hoax. For example, why would a messenger choose road shoes and pedals? And aren't the Campy components a bit lavish for a work bike? Scholars will no doubt debate the validity of this photo for years to come. Some day, maybe we'll know for sure whether this is in fact Lucy, or Piltdown Man.




Regardless, at some point somebody made the decision to use a top tube pad on an adult bike. But was it a messenger? This photo indicates it was. The pad is clearly a BMX top tube pad (as evidenced by its length) that has been retrofitted to an adult bike. And the Wings of Hermes would imply that this bicycle belongs to a messenger. However, there is the question of the date. While the Rolls is an older saddle, the "One More Bike" sticker is an evolution of the "One Less Car" sticker, indicating the vintage of the bike may be more recent. Still, the value of the photograph is indisputable--somewhere, at some point, a messenger decided to use a BMX pad on his or her bike.


But when did people start manufacturing and selling top tube pads for adult use? A commenter yesterday claims that "the first TTp i ever saw was fashioned by Cory Bennion of DANK bags in Seattle....i am gonna say it was at least in 2000." She further elaborated that the top tube pad not only protects the bike, but is useful in cyclocross as well to protect the shoulder. This is interesting. Did the first purpose-built adult top tube pad originate in the Pacific Northwest? Was cyclocross somehow involved? And does it relate in any way to these weird cyclocross shoulder slings I always see on eBay, though I've never actually seen one being used in cyclocross? Or is the shoulder sling simply a mutant, an evolutionary eddy that leads nowhere? Like so many questions concerning top tube pads, we may never have an answer.

But one thing is certain. Top tube pads became fashionable. The famous Cyndi Lauper bike gives every indication that the owner chose the top tube pad as much for aesthetic reasons as for practical purposes. And its reasonable to surmise that this fashion came from the messenger community, as the popularity of messenger bags, fixed-gears, and front Aerospokes owes much to them. Therefore it stands to reason the top tube pad would come to be similarly embraced--and embellished--as well.

And evidence remains that they continue to be employed by messengers. The STI lever shape and outboard bearing crank place this messenger squarely in our present day.

(At least, I think it's a messenger. So hard to tell these days...)

And what of tomorrow? Well, this new offering from Felt, as seen at Interbike, should help provide an answer. (Thanks to the reader who forwarded this.) Like the BMX pads of yesteryear, they will now be sold as integral parts of the bike. We have come, for better or for worse, full circle.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Helmet to Helmet: Cycling's Greatest Rivalries

Cycling is full of epic battles. Anquetil vs. Poulidor, Merckx vs. Ocana, Landis vs. Credibility--each one of these classic clashes has captured our collective imagination. But cycling rivalries go beyond the sporting arena. They exist in the very DNA of cycling itself. Here are five of the most bitter rivalries, none of which we can expect to be settled anytime soon:



LBS vs. MO

Defenders of the local bicycle shop say that online shopping can in no way rival the experience of entering a bike shop, being ignored by a staff of professionals, and paying a premium to cover their salaries. Advocates of mail-order say that buying online frees them from the constraints of being able to handle products and actually knowing what they're getting before it arrives six days later in a mangled box missing half its hardware. But regardless of whether you prefer good advice, bad advice, or no advice, brick-and-mortar and click-and-order will doubtless maintain their adversarial relationship for as long as there is crap to peddle.


Bib Shorts vs. Baggy Knickers


Are baggy knickers the bib shorts of the new millennium? Perhaps. Anecdotal evidence indicates new cyclists are abandoning the tried-and-true bib short and streaming towards the synthetic capri in droves. And they're not just for fixed-gears either. At all times of year, including the hottest summer days, you can see riders on every type of bike showing off an ankle and a few inches of hairy calf as they zip about town emitting a whooshing sound as their nylon-clad thighs brush against their saddles. For the time being, it would appear that the pendulum of cycling fashion has swung back to the age of full-body Victorian swimming costumes. But fear not, leg-shaving devotees of lycra. As long as the pros continue to race in skin-tight kits, millions of cyclists will continue to emulate them.


Jobst Brandt vs. Lennard Zinn


The polls may have closed, but the battle rages on. Cycling's anti-homunculi will no doubt fight on until the apocalypse is upon us. In fact, they may very well bring the apocalypse on themselves. While Brandt faces a dwindling supply of his favorite rim, the Mavic MA2, Zinn must confront the increasingly finicky torque specs and complex installation instructions for the carbon fiber components his minions badger him about in his Velonews Q&A column. Can Zinn stop Brandt from obtaining the MA2 rim extrusion mold, hidden deep within an active volcano? Will Brandt's uwavering loyalty to downtube shifting and helmetless riding be his undoing? Have both of them really solved the problem of bike shimmy once and for all? Only time will tell.

Monstrositor Vs. Gigantitron
Once the apocalypse does come, only two bikes will survive, and they will do battle on the scorched earth of our planet. Monstrositor's 700c rear track wheel allows it to cover vast distances quickly, while its 26" mountain bike front wheel and suspension fork enable it to traverse the vast fields of twisted metal and burnt bodies which will comprise the post-apocalyptic landscape. But most dangerous of all are its pehensile handlebars, which can also gore an opponent. Of course, Gigantitron will have a few tricks up its headtube as well. Like the segmented invertebrate it most resembles, this giant ant of a bike can lift many times its own weight, and its exoskeleton protects it from predators. It may not have Monstrositor's speed, but it does have dual suspension, and that could count for a lot in a future that may or may not have pavement. One thing is for certain, though--Gigantitron will have the last two Aerospokes on Earth, which will make it nothing less than a God.
(Thanks to the readers who forwarded those links, by the way.)



Fashion Vs. Common Sense

This is probably the greatest cycling rivalry of all. In Common Sense's corner are things like fenders, non-proprietary components, and handlebar tape. In Fashion's corner, just to name a few things off the top of my head, are things like:
--Having a computer on your fixed-gear but no brake (saw that the other day);
--Having two tandem stoker brake levers on your handlebars but no brake (saw that the other day);
--Using Zero Gravity brakes but not taking the light brackets off your bike (saw that in a race the other day);
--Wearing a skateboard helmet but not having a brake (see that one all the time);
Sadly, I think Fashion's gaining an insurmountable lead.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

It's All in the Details: Greetings and Salutations


Cycling is a community in the sense that a big city like New York is a community. It’s a patchwork of very different groups of people who share only one thing in common, whose regard for each-other lies somewhere between indifference and disdain, and who acknowledge or help each-other only in times of emergency. Nonetheless, like any community, cycling has its own modes of social discourse. As such, it’s important to understand the niceties and not-so-niceties that cyclists engage in on a daily basis. The slightest gesture--and even the complete absense of a gesture--can speak volumes. And nowhere is this more apparent than in the way cyclists greet each-other.

Waving

Generally speaking, waving at other cyclists is optional. However, if you’re going to wave, there are certain times when it is appropriate, and other times when it is inappropriate. This also varies from discipline to discipline, and from circumstance to circumstance.

On the Road

If you’re going to wave on a road ride, remember that like waves at like. While it’s perfectly fine to wave at every bicycle you see, frankly, it’s a little strange—it’s like a puppy who joyously greets and slobbers on every person it meets, even the guy robbing its house. Instead, try waving at people who are riding in a manner similar to your own. If you’re out on your touring bike with a couple panniers full of granola and dry underwear, wave at other touring bikes. If you’re out on your road bike doing your best impression of a Euro pro, wave at other Euro faux-pros. And so forth. Remember—waving is like doing intervals. You can only do so many on a ride before you get depleted.

How To Wave On The Road

You’re on a bike, not a boat. So don’t go raising your hands above your head like you’re back from a week at sea and your family’s greeting you at the dock. Here are the three types of acceptable waves, in descending order of friendliness:

1) Hand removed from the bar, fingers extended;
2) Hand still holding the bar, fingers lifted briefly off the bar or brake hood.
3) The barely perceptible nod.

When Waving is Gratuitous or Inappropriate (for road riding and touring)

1) In the City

The onus to wave increases proportionately with your distance from an urban center. The further afield you are, the more warranted a wave is.

2) On a Climb

If you’re passing someone on a climb, refrain from waving, or at most just do a finger-lift. Giving a hearty wave—or, worse yet, engaging someone in conversation—on a climb can be insulting if the person is suffering much worse than you are. It’s like fanning yourself with hundred-dollar bills in front of a soup kitchen.

3) If You or Someone Else is Doing Something Stupid*

Recently I was riding in a bike lane and I encountered a cyclist coming at me head-on in the wrong direction. As we approached, he had the nerve to give a friendly nod. I do not encourage this kind of riding, but if you absolutely must do something like that due to extenuating circumstances, do not have the audacity to wave or nod to someone riding properly. Instead, hang your head in shame or make some vague gesture in an attempt to indicate you couldn’t help yourself. And if you’re the one in the right, do not greet or return a greeting from one of these riders. They are, for that moment, cycling pariahs.

*(You may also choose to show disapproval for someone’s appearance or equipment choice by withholding a greeting you might otherwise have proffered, or by failing to return one. This is known as the "passive insult." While petty and immature, it is nonetheless acceptable as your intent cannot be proven.)

Off-Road Greetings

Greeting fellow cyclists off-road is different than greeting them on pavement. Firstly, you’re not seeing them coming from miles away—you’re encountering them in close quarters and on terrain that may make it difficult or impractical for you to remove your hands from the bars. Secondly, the fact that you're not on the road and are instead in the wild means that you must be more forthcoming. It's a man-versus-nature scenario, so like a platoon in the jungle, you never know when you may need to band together in order to survive. You can't afford to go snubbing people.

The common mode of greeting off-road is to offer a verbal salutation, followed by information about how many riders are behind you. Even if the rider's appearance, bicycle, or lack of technical skill offends you, greet him or her anyway. As above, you may need him later if, say, you're attacked by a leopard or cheetah, or if you need to fashion some kind of crude booby-trap from his rear suspension in order to stall an attacking army.

In addition to this, it should be obvious that on a narrow trail you should yield the right-of-way to riders who are climbing. They need to keep momentum in order to continue, and if you force them to stop they may need to push their bikes to the top of the climb. And being forced to push your bike up a climb you otherwise would have cleared is like a combination of coitus interruptus and having to ride your beater bike because your friend borrowed your good bike and crashed it.

And while you generally shouldn't snub in the woods, you should still withhold a greeting if someone is doing something stupid, like riding the wrong way on a uni-directional trail. Additionally, you should let them know their mistake, or at least play chicken with them and force them off of it.

Commuting Greeting and Interaction

Unlike road riding, where urban greetings are unnecessary and where snubbing those unlike you is allowed, you should be more omnivorous in your greetings when you’re commuting. Yet it’s slightly strange to wave at other commuters while you’re actually riding. You're all just going to work. Do you wave at people when you're on the subway, or on the bus? As such, a good rule of thumb is to greet other commuters only when you’re stopped together at a light. A nod or a simple verbal greeting is appropriate here. However, there are certain things you should never, ever do when greeting another cyclist in traffic:

1) Ask How Much His or Her Bike Weighs

This is the most annoying question you can ask a cyclist. It’s the “Do you come here often?” of bike questions. No matter how pretty and shiny the bike is, don’t ask it.

2) Ask How Much His or Her Bike Costs

It’s mostly non-cyclists who ask this question, but it’s still worth mentioning. This is not the kind of thing you ask a stranger. Firstly, it’s personal—kind of like asking a strange woman her bra size. Secondly, cyclists only like to talk about how much their bikes or components cost in certain circumstances and with certain people. (This usually involves things like rationalizing how their incredibly expensive headset was actually a bargain since it will outlast a cheaper headset by a factor of five.) Otherwise, asking cyclists how much their bikes cost is like asking alcoholics how many drinks they've had. It only makes them angry and defensive.

3) Do Not Touch Someone’s Bike

Again, this is mostly something non-cyclists do, but just in case you’re tempted—do not touch.
4) Do Not Comment On Someone's Lack of a Helmet
Yes, it's better to wear a helmet than to not wear a helmet. But the fact that you know this and are wearing one does not entitle you to point it out to others. If you find yourself compelled to make comments like this to people, do your best to suppress the urge and instead simply go home and resume work on the life-sized marble statue you're carving of yourself to celebrate your own brilliance.

The Golden Rule of Cycling

Of course, the Golden Rule of Cycling that transcends any circumstance or discipline is that if you pass a cyclist who is having mechanical trouble, you must always ask if he or she needs help. However, there's also a loophole to this rule. If you don't want to actually stop, simply ride too fast to hear the reply. Acceptable reasons to do this include:

--You need to be somewhere and don't have time, but you don't want to look bad;
--You're on your way back from a long ride and you're really hungry;
--They've got the bike flipped upside-down to work on it and that irritates you;
--They're riding a road bike but are wearing a Camelbak;
--They've got the audacity to be riding a $6,000 road bike without a toolkit.
--So there you have it. It's not pretty, but neither is cycling.--

Monday, September 24, 2007

Fixedgeargallery...of perturbing patience-testers.

I hate to gush, but there's a lot to be happy about. World CX Champion Erwin Vervecken and National CX Champion Ryan Trebon are coming to race in New York. The weather's still great, but it will soon turn colder, which means the parks will eventually thin out as the less hardy riders put their bikes in mothballs for the winter. And best of all, there's art. Wonderful, inspiring, and uplifting art:


(Via bikeforums...thanks, guys.)

Nothing's more dangerous than complacency, though. So when I find myself getting happy I just head over to Fixedgeargallery to check the latest goings-on. Like doing your finances while you're stoned, it's a sure-fire way to send yourself crashing back to earth. Here's what brought me back to reality today:


I'm all for breathing new life into an old frame, but this thing has more relaxed angles than an architecture firm on morphine. The owner must have wanted something that replicated the geometry of his lawnchair, because this thing’s slacker than a hillbilly’s jaw. The aero rims, flop n' chops, and lack of a brake are also completely at odds with the frame. It looks like Sir John Gielgud wearing a FUBU tracksuit. Just because a frame has horizontal dropouts doesn't mean you have to try to turn it into a track bike. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.







Q: Why did the fixed-gear take a roll in the hay?
A: It was trying to rub the ugly off itself.

This thing looks like Wavy Gravy binged on Kool Aid and jellybeans, took some bad acid, and threw up under a tree.






What do you do when you've got a spare Sugino 75 crank lying around? You kill it slowly by putting it on the wrong side of the bike. Yes, the patented "Dual Dork Drive" flies in the face of a century of pedal-threading wisdom. Not only that, but somewhere in the city someone’s walking around with both pant legs rolled up, sporting a pair of matching chainring tattoos. The owner calls this a “labor of love,” but I call it a “labor of lame.” Before you trash those threads, do yourself a favor—sell that second crank, buy some real handlebars, and use the change to purchase a clue.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Just Deserts: Interbike BSNYC Product Preview


What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas—except for gimmicky bike products, which unfortunately follow us around all year long. I too have been hard at work developing some new products designed to make the cycling world a better place—for me. I will be displaying these products next week at my Interbike booth, which will be located in a restroom stall in the Sands Convention Center. No appointment necessary, just get in the stall next-door and tap your foot impatiently. (Though if you pick the wrong restroom and there are any congressmen in town, this could go horribly awry.)


Anxiety-Sensing Pedals

There’s certainly nothing wrong with unclipping a foot from your pedal as you approach an obstacle or tricky situation. However, sometimes you get stuck behind timid cyclists who stop pedaling and unclip at the merest hint of difficulty: a wadded-up tissue; a sparrow bathing in dust; even a single dry autumn leaf can be enough to make them unclip faster than an untied torture victim unclips himself from a car battery.

I figure if these riders don’t have to worry about unclipping, they’ll keep pedaling, and I can get to where I’m going. So, using polygraph technology, I’ve developed a pedal that will automatically release when your stress levels reach a certain threshold. And you determine the threshold! Simply set it the way you’d set the mechanical release tension on an ordinary pedal and ride. Next time you encounter a shallow puddle or a sheet of newspaper, you can pedal confident in the knowledge that your pedal is fully in tune with your complete insecurity.


Tri Bike-Filtering Eyewear

When it comes to triathlons, I prefer to live in denial. The lenses on my new line of eyewear will filter out all triathlon bikes when you put them on, so you don’t have to look at them. I’m also developing a recumbent version, as well as one that will filter out certain colors of Velocity Deep Vs. (For Bianchi-haters, you will also be able to special-order Celeste-blocking lenses at an upcharge.)


Laser-Guided Water Bottle

Another source of irritation for me in group rides and races is the rider who can’t seem to put his bottle back after he drinks from it. Coaxing a nervous parakeet back into its cage is difficult; putting a plastic bottle back into its cage is not. Nonetheless, some riders swerve all over the road as they attempt to complete this simple task. First they blindly stab at the cage with the bottle. Then they swerve the bike back and forth and hold the bottle still, as if that will somehow work better. It’s like watching someone fail a sobriety test. What are people keeping in their bottles—vodka? At any rate, my laser-guided water bottle will put an end to this once and for all. After you drink, the bottle emits an intermittent beeping sound. Just move the bottle around the vicinity of the cage. When you get a “lock,” the beeping sound becomes constant. Then—bombs away! Just jab that sucker downward and in it goes.


Combination Leg-Waxing and Tubular-Gluing Kit

What’s more annoying than trying to find the perfect gift for the roadie who has everything? Well, here’s one more thing they didn’t know they needed. This environmentally-friendly and pleasant-smelling adhesive is equally effective at sticking tires to your rims and as a depilatory. Line up at the start with smoothness, and then corner with confidence! No toolkit (or toiletry kit) is complete without it.


Modular Bicycle Stopping Device

A problem I’ve been encountering with increasing frequency is the fixed-gear rider who overtakes me in traffic and then suddenly skids in order to stop himself from slamming into some taxi door or jaywalker. I feel it’s completely unfair that I should be put at risk because they choose to slow their bicycles in such a ridiculous manner. For this reason, I’ve developed a device that attaches to a bicycle’s fork. Basically, it’s a lever-actuated caliper that grips the wheel rim, creating friction and subsequently slowing the bicycle. The lever is handlebar-mounted, and is not only easy to reach, but offers much more modulation than leg-braking while still allowing for it. And, it can be easily removed in the unlikely event you wish to ride on a track. I’ve personally been using this device on all my bikes (fixed included) and can attest to its efficacy and unobtrusiveness.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

BSNYC Thursday Fun Quiz #2!

Because I believe standardized testing is the backbone of our educational system, I've created another quiz. Like last time, just read the question and click on your answer. If you're right, you'll see the item. If you're wrong, you'll see this image of pro cycling blowhard John Eustice trying to figure out just what it is Bob Roll is trying to figure out. So grab a #2 pencil, sharpen it, and use it to defend yourself against predators while you take the test. Good luck.


1) The owner of this bike got it in trade for:


--A laptop computer


--An iPod


--A pair of Iron Maiden Vans


--A gallon of Thompson's Water Seal

2) Which of the following was an actual TV moment?


--NYC messenger appears on "Ellen"


--Critical Mass riders appear on "Oprah"


--Tall bike fabricator appears on "American Chopper"


--Brakeless fixed-gear rider appears on "Judge Judy"

3) Which TV and movie star made a "cameo" today on Fixedgeargallery?

--Gary Busey

--Vincent D'Onofrio

--James Gandolfini

--Will Smith

4) Which is a real bike crew?

--Baton Rouge Louisianimals

--BKLYN Bikereckers

--Wolfpack Hustle

--Whale Pod Shuffle

5) Which is a real "track bike boutique?"

--Chop'd Ryzrz (Chapel Hill)

--Sir Skidz-a-Lot (San Diego)

--No Brakes (Atlanta)

--56x12 (Boston)

6) You can buy a track bike by which fashion designer?

--Donatella Versace

--Paul Smith

--Marc Jacobs

--Marc Ecko

7) Colored anodizing went out in the 90s along with grunge and MTB suspension stems.

--True

--False

8) Large-brimmed hats fly off your head if you ride fast. So no cycling clothing company would make one.

--True

--False

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Riding Hard: Living With Bike Porn

After two days of spiritually-themed posts my soul is empty and my mind is now focused on more worldly matters—specifically, bike porn. Between photos of new crap from Eurobike and the usual cavalcade of bikes gone bad that is Fixedgeargallery and Velospace, the cycling world is full of more filth than a Congressman’s internet cache. And as a reader pointed out to me recently, people are now combining bike porn with actual porn, as you can see in this not-safe-for-work (and depending on your proclivities and intestinal fortitude, possibly not-safe-for-lunch) link.

So it would seem, like it or not, that as cyclists we must come to terms with bike porn. And I think the best way to do that is to embrace it. Not by looking at it necessarily, but by coming up with bike porn names for ourselves.

What is a bike porn name? Well, you’re probably familiar with the old formula for coming up with your porn actor name: the name of your first pet + the street you grew up on. Well, a bike porn name is the moniker you'd adopt were you to enter the sordid world of bicycle pornography. I’ve been working on various formulas for coming up with your bike porn name. These formulas are far from airtight, and they are discipline-specific, but hey, it’s a start. Feel free to make suggestions:

Bike Porn Name for Mountain Bikers

Try using the manufacturer of your first real mountain bike + the name of your local trail. Using some of the New York area trails and some hypothetical first bikes, this has the potential to yield great handles such as:

The decidedly masculine Titus Hartshorne (Hartshorne Woods, NJ)
The unisexual and bizarre ProFlex Saxon (Saxon Woods, Westchester)
and the brilliantly televisual Ritchey Cunningham (Cunningham, Queens)

Bike Porn Name for Roadies

The best method I’ve come up with is using the manufacturer of your current road bike + the name of either your local monster climb, destination, or group ride. So around these parts that yields aliases like:

The suggestive and tactile Felt Harriman (Harriman State Park)
The taxonomically suggestive Giant Bear (Bear Mountain—in Harriman State Park)
And the just plain suggestive Burley Rocket (The Rocket Ride)


Bike Porn Name for Trackies/Fixed Gear Riders

For the trackies, I think we’ve got to go with using your bike’s manufacturer + the name of your local velodrome. If we hopskotch around the US a little bit, possible monikers include:

The not-so-subtle Giant Dick Lane (Dick Lane Velodrome in East Point, GA)
The strangely ambiguous Surly Piccolo (Brian Piccolo Park in Cooper City, FL)
and the perplexing, Pennsylvania-specific, yet undeniably catchy Havnoonian Lehigh (Lehigh Valley Velodrome in Trexlertown, PA)

For the trendier urban riders who may eschew the velodrome, consider using your tattoo design + the manufacturer of your rear hub. Due to the lack of variety in both among this particular set of cyclists it might prove too constraining, but it does yield a few keepers:

Star Formula
Star Wood
Star Promax
Star Ace

...and so forth.

Of course, if that doesn’t work for you, there’s also the possibility of using your saddle manufaturer + your Deep-V color:

Regal Black
Koobi Pink
and of course the great Brooks Lavender

Bike Porn Names for Cyclocrossers

It gets tough with cyclocross, but so far I like the formula of using your brand of canti + the aspect of the discipline that gives you the most trouble. It’s far from failsafe, but it also yields some sultry sobriquets, like:

Avid Remounts
Empella Runups
Paul Pitting
and Spooky Stuttersteps

Again, these are just jumping-off points, and these formulas certainly won’t work for everybody. So if you want a good bike porn name (and who doesn’t) you’ll have to be creative. Thanks for reading, and please accept my apologies.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Velo Messianism: Who Will Save Us From Ourselves?

An irate commenter suggested yesterday that bike snobbery and elitism is killing cycling. I think we can all agree that he had a point. And I think we can also all agree that his point was wrong. Nonetheless, awhile ago I speculated in a post that perhaps a “John Lennon of Cycling” would arrive and re-unite us. So in light of yesterday’s discussion, I’ve been thinking more about this. If a Messianic figure were to come and save us, who would he be? What form would he take? And, most importantly, what would he ride? Here are a few possibilities.

David Duchovny on a Tri Bike


Monotonous actor David Duchovny, formerly of the “X-Files” and now star of “Californication,” could be just what we need. His soporific mumbling can tranquilize even the most excitable among us, and the fact that he does triathlons means we can all make fun of him instead of each-other. After all, Messiahs are supposed to suffer for all mankind. And triathlons are like cyclocross without the skill, or like alleycats without the fun. We should be able to revile the hell out of him.


The Rebbe Menachem Schneerson on a Rivendell Rambouillet


The deceased Chabad-Lubavitch rabbi is already considered by many to be the Messiah. Were he to return to Earth astride a Rivendell, I think few of us would disagree. Why the Rivendell? It goes great with the beard. Why Schneerson? Well, his sect is based in Brooklyn, and Brooklyn is second only to Portland in terms of being a cycling community at war with itself and in need of saving.


The God of Cyclocross


I don’t know who this would be exactly. All I know is he or she would be the living embodiment of the spirit of cyclocross. Kind of like how Greek gods were the embodiment various virtues and aspects of life. The God of Cyclocross would be affable to a fault, wear Crocs with wool socks, and drink beer brewed in small batches. He would also wield a pit stick like a sceptre and get on and off his bike more often than Courtney Love gets on and off heroin.


John Kerry and George Bush On A Burley Tandem


I steer clear of political debates the way roadies steer clear of gravel. But whichever way you lean politically there is no more enduring image of the 2004 election than Bush on his Trek mountain bike and Kerry on his Serotta road bike. What beautiful yin-and-yang symmetry! I feel that uniting the two of them atop a Burley tandem would somehow neutralize all hostility in the bike world. It would be like spraying a gigantic can of Static Guard on the cycling community.


Tinker Juarez’s Hair

Tinker Juarez is a legend of the sport. And according to Rastafarianism, dreadlocks are a measure of one’s wisdom and knowledge. (At least according to Wikipedia.) So logically, we can conclude that Tinker Juarez’s hair contains the power of his talent and experience. I’m imagining the hair as a separate entity which roams freely, attaching itself to the heads of those most in need of enlightenment and imbuing them with wisdom and peace. Just imagine Tinker’s hair had leapt onto the head of Congressman Patrick McHenry like an overly amorous starfish while he was making that wacky speech about bicycles being a 19th century solution to the energy crisis. He would have suddenly gotten all bike-lovey and sent an intern to buy him some panniers. It would have been like that scene in “History of the World” where Gregory Hines stops the Romans with marijuana smoke.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Fixedgeargallery...of awed bewilderment

Just when I think I'm getting a handle on some of the quirkier aspects of the fixed-gear trend, something pops up that completely voids any conclusions I've drawn. For example, I once thought the reason people rode brakeless on the street was because riding a fixed-gear was all about simplicity and minimalism. But then they started dressing their bikes up with top-tube pads, which seemed like wearing a cashmere sweater with no shoes, or wearing $300 jeans with no underwear. So much for simplicity.


A lazier, less thoughtful individual than myself might simply abandon the quest for meaning and decide that people who post their bikes to Fixedgeargallery follow no logic and know nothing. I refuse to do this, though. Admitting that the fixed-gear world is completely illogical is to admit that the universe itself is without meaning. And despite the overwhelming evidence, I refuse to concede that life is pointless, and that every endeavor is for naught. I will instead poke an infinitely long skewer through all that exists, and create a giant, juicy, delicious shish kebab of significance and meaning.


In the meantime, though, I'm still confused. Let me see if I understand some things:



So, flop-and-chops should not be taped.

However, if you must tape them, then do so in the now-popular "dog's erection" style. (If you're unsure of how to do this, keep a horny dog nearby for a reference.)

Mountain bike risers, though, should be fully taped. (Note the front Rev-X, a sad symbol of the Aerospoke Crisis of '07.)





And somehow it follows that road drops should be completely bare. Also, your front wheel should stand completely apart from the rest of your bike. (In this example, it resembles the throat pouch of a frog. Note the owner has photographed the bike beside a pond in order to highlight this.)








More bare road bars. Okay, so I'm on to something. Maybe I'm getting over-confident now, but I'm also going to postulate that the crappier your bike is the more crap you should put on it. (This particular example embodies the itinerant look, kind of like Mugatu's Derelicte. The park bench placement is particularly apt. "No sleeping here, pal. Move it along.")






Lastly, your bars should always be at the same angle as your stem--regardless of what that angle may be. And just as this bike appears to be deep in prayer, imploring some entity above to show it some benevolence and mercy, I too pray that this Babel of bikes will some day resolve itself into something that makes some kind of sense.


Friday, September 14, 2007

BSNYC Interview: Aerospoke Speaks!

On Monday I reported on the Aerospoke Crisis of 2007. Well, after breaking one of the biggest cycling news stories ever, I found myself actually wanting to know more about them. Aerospoke has been around for a long time, so I thought it would be interesting to hear how the fixed-gear trend has affected them as a company. I emailed them and Bill Micol was kind enough to agree to answer some questions by email. I present them below.

(Yes, this is a departure from the kind of material you usually find here, but fixed-gears and Aerospokes have been a hot topic lately. Yes, this is a real interview. And no, I did not receive free Aerospokes or any other compensation, so if you’re looking for a pair don’t come to me. This town’s still dry.)

Thanks, Bill, and thanks everybody for reading.

--BSNYC



What is your role in the company?

The wheels are my domain. We do other things at our facility, but I have a hand in everything that has to do with the wheels, from manufacturing to technical support to sales for the last 18 years.

When and how did Aerospoke begin?

Since the 70s, Ed Giroux, the owner of Aerospoke, has had a successful business building investment casting and plastic injection molds, as well as other kinds of tooling. His hobby was, and still is, triathlon, so that is how the whole wheel idea was conceived. 1988 saw the first prototypes and we started shipping mid-1989. Ed still competes, in fact, he took first in his age group at Ironman Louisville recently and will be competing in Ironman Hawaii soon.

What sets Aerospokes apart from other popular pre-built wheelsets, past and present?

We have been known for our strength and durability from the beginning. Our customers have come to depend on us for that. Many people come to us who have a history of destroying wheels because of how they ride, or, they may be too heavy (I call them gravity-challenged) for some of the very lightweight wheels on the market. In addition, you do not have to true the Aerospoke wheel, so that is a great feature for those who want to ride and not fiddle with spokes. The wheels are also reasonably priced for a carbon wheel and they are made right here in Michigan. We do use Velocity aluminum rim extrusions made in Australia and bearings made in Asia, but other than that, everything is done here.

Are Aerospokes UCI legal?

Yes.

What kind of aero advantage does an Aerospoke offer vs. other wheels?

The spokes are airfoil shaped, so they cut through the wind nicely, especially when they are up to speed. We are not big on performance testing in a lab, as real world conditions are hard to duplicate. The positive response we get from our customers is the data we like. Having some world records set on our wheels is nice too.

Your wheels have become very popular with the new crop of fixed-gear riders. When did you first notice this?

We did make fixed-gear stuff many years ago. We sold some now and then, but no major numbers. I would get requests from time to time to do the wheels again, but we had no idea how big it would be. This time, I had all of the first couple batches spoken for before they were even made, and this was before it was ever announced that we were going to make them! Gina at King Kog in NY and Travis at the Freewheel in San Francisco had a lot to do with this.
When the word got out, it spread like wildfire and the response has been overwhelming. I see wheels in my sleep. It's nice to be busy, but I must admit that it has been frustrating trying to keep up with demand, especially when I was so used to being more responsive. We have added people, but the wheels are hand-made and labor-intensive and there is only so many that can be made in a day, regardless of how many people are here. We have been backordering the 700c wheels since early Spring.

I don't want to come off sounding like I'm complaining, however. We feel lucky to be so busy, especially being in a state that is bleeding manufacturing jobs.

To what do you attribute this popularity?

I've been afraid to question this, as I am afraid I might jinx myself. I don't know, maybe the fixed-gear crowd is in tune with what we are all about; durability, low-maintenance, and asthetics. I've talked to messengers who told me that not having to maintain and adjust derailleurs and brakes is key in their line of work. So, I guess a wheel that does not have a bunch of maintenance points (spoke nipples) is appealing.

Fixed-gear riders seem often to use Aerospokes on the front only. Why do you think this is?

I have seen some pictures of riders with them only on the front, but I honestly don't know why. I know some people ordered our standard front road wheel, before we had bolt-on, and used the locking skewers. At that time, we had nothing available for the rear. However, we still sell more front than rear, so ??

Some fixed-gear riders use their bicycles aggressively in an urban environment. Do you think Aerospokes are a good choice for this application? Do you recommend them over, say, a pair of well-built traditional wire-spoke wheels?

I've seen pictures of people airborne and it makes me a little nervous, but it seems to me that most riders know the limitations of their equipment. Pushing the envelope can cause problems for equipment in any sport and I think that they know and accept this. The wheels are tough and hold up well. We don't underbuild.

Are you planning to implement any changes in your wheels that take this new group of customers into account? Can we expect to see built-in spoke card holders anytime soon?

The wheels have constantly evolved over the last 18 years. We don't change things that work just to have something "new" for marketing purposes. We try to make a wheel that works for the largest number of consumers, including heavier riders and riders who ride in varied conditions.

Has uber-curmudgeon and serial retrogrouch Jobst Brandt ever tried to sabotage your headquarters, and if so are your armed guards under direct orders to shoot him on sight?

Yes, he showed up one day and staged a sit-in; lying down in front of our UPS truck.
Kidding... Actually, we have his wheel-building book here. I don't have a problem with, and I'm not out to bash traditional wheels. They have worked well for a long time. I think, however, that we offer a great alternative that addresses some issues with traditional wheels.

I’m sure you’re pleased that your wheels have been enjoying a new level of popularity, but are there certain qualities of your wheels you think are underappreciated or overlooked?

Many overlook us because of our weight, that is the biggest issue. This industry caters to the weight-weenies, but we have filled a void for many riders who are looking for something more than a wheel that looks good on the scale.

Well, nice typing at ya! I have to get back to work and make some wheels, I love the smell of carbon in the morning!
Bill Micol
Aerospoke

Worst of NYC Craigslist Bike Ads #20 (and #21, and #22, and #23, and #24)

Craigslist is like a composting toilet--everybody in town just keeps bringin' the crap. And if cycling culture is a rock, Craigslist is the disgusting mess of insects, worms and larvae that you find wriggling around beneath it when you flip it over. Prepare to lose your appetite:

hey douchebag on the iro [original URL: http://newyork.craigslist.org/brk/bik/422230951.html]
Reply to: [deleted]

Date: 2007-09-14, 10:29AM EDT
yeah you on smith st. in brooklyn, this is the second time you've almost nailed me. I know you're cool and all on your fixie but how about actually looking into intersections before you bomb thru red lights. If you do it again I'm gonna go cinzano on your ass.

Hey, I think I've seen that IRO! What a shame. I never thought IROs would become the new IROCs.





pink surly fixie - $200 (Union Square) [http://newyork.craigslist.org/mnh/bik/422062375.html]
Reply to: [deleted]

Date: 2007-09-14, 1:55AM EDT
chris king hs, thomson stem, avid disc in front, yay.... i need to stop and my legs too skiiny. i'm getting a black iro, black is the new pink

Speaking of douchebags on IROs, looks like there's going to be another one soon. Why would you do this to a Surly 1x1? All this thing needs is a couple of pink bottle cages to hold a couple bottles of Pepto-Bismol. Not only will they look great, but you'll need them to settle your stomach every time you look down at the monstrosity you're riding. I've got to thank this person for one thing, though--now I know what the inside of a dead body looks like.





fixie project - $50 [original URL: http://newyork.craigslist.org/brk/bik/422054493.html]
Reply to: [deleted]
Date: 2007-09-14, 1:34AM EDT
N-I-C-E. Need bb, cranks, pedals and chain.

Oh, you'll need one other thing--a tetanus shot.

2007 Gang Green Bianchi Pista for Sale (57cm) - $600 [original URL: http://newyork.craigslist.org/brk/bik/421445886.html]
Reply to: [deleted]

2007-09-13, 12:46PM EDT
2007 Bianchi Pista for sale; I'm moving to London on Monday, so ideally it'd leave this weekend or tomorrow, tonight, whenever - just before Monday. Bought it in March '07 for about $640 w/ taxes and all that. Throwing in a Kryptonite lock ($60) and floor pump ($40). I think the whole thing was $750 in total, so for a bike that's only a couple months old and like-new shape, the price is fairly reasonable. Never crashed or hit or anything like that. Paint's fine all around; rides same as always.

Sorry if the pictures are a little dark.

I've got nothing against the venerable Bianchi Pista. I don't even mind that I see twenty of them a day. But what I do mind is that every single person who tries to sell one on Craigslist tries to sell it at or above full MSRP. Like this guy. Oh, wait, he's actually going to take a $40 hit and throw in some free crap. My mistake. And hey, no need to apologize for the dark pictures. We all know what a Pista looks like. But what's with the reversed image? Is the bike dyslexic? (Or fix-lexic?) If so you should just take it to London with you--it will be quite comfortable on the wrong side of the road.



Track Free Wheel Blue (Tall Frame) Bicycle New Rims, Tire, Chain, Bars - $280 [original URL: http://newyork.craigslist.org/brk/bik/420377345.html]
Reply to: [deleted]

Date: 2007-09-12, 7:27AM EDT
Pleased to present a Track Free Wheel Blue Bicycle With New Rims, Tire, Chain, Handle, Bars, seat, Grips, break levers, Fork (upgraded to a all chrome new fork), cables & peddles. The frame is 25’’ inches & the rims are aluminum 27x 1 ¼’’ inches. Deliver is very is available & Please email or call me (347) 733-2079 Peter; if you have any questions & Thank you for your inquire. Note: All of our bicycles are professionally tuned & reconditioned. You are invited to copy & past out web link below to view our past (many more same style) bicycles.


The original fixed-gear chop shop was bad enough. Now there's a new retard on the scene. What in the goddamn hell is a "track free wheel bicycle?" Why do people just take a bunch of trendy bike words and string them together like brain-damaged parrots when they sell stuff on Craiglist? Speaking of brain damage, I'm not picky when it comes to spelling, but one mistake I cannot stomach is spelling "pedals" "peddles." Dear Idiot: a "pedal" is the thing your foot goes on, and "peddle" is what you're trying to do with your crap.



Thursday, September 13, 2007

Velospace: Reaching For The Stars

The entries on Velospace sometimes transcend entertaining and belong in a category I can only call sublime. There was once a time I'd flip through the bikes there and get angry. Now the only thing I feel is awe. It's more than just the bikes themselves; it's also the staging and the presentation. This is no longer bike porn--this is art. Here are just some of the bikes that have moved me recently:

The inverted colors of this photo massage my soul. Looking at it is like lying in a tub filled with warm water and bath crystals, surrounded by scented candles. I bet it even smells nice too. Aroma therapy on wheels...






Not only does this bike evoke an inimitable 80s pop icon, but it also has succeeded in convincing me that there really are some bars that are better left untaped.






The staging here is absolutely spectacular. I thought of one thing and one thing only. Stunning.





Four centimeters of spacers, a stem with a generous rise, and a pair of risers flipped upside down. "Stemz up, barz down." Awww, yeah.



And then there's this. There's no counterpart to this. This bicycle taunts me. It's so very close to perfection! The rakish tilt of the saddle. The risers. The stupid top-tube pad. More cards than a casino. The only thing keeping it from poster-child status is the front brake. But perhaps this will one day be gone as well. Increasingly I hear of new fixed-gear riders who consider it a rite of passage to remove the brake. It's like a fixie briss. If this bike has one, I hope I'm invited.