It is a beautiful Spring day here in New York. I’d like to say that it’s days like this that make New York a wonderful place in which to live, but that’s simply not true. It’s still the same hive of irritability–it just happens to be enjoying some nice weather. If anything, the sun and warmth just bring the abject nature of our existence here into sharper relief. Sure, some people become joyful and appreciative when Spring begins, but I’m not one of them. It happens every year, and it’s my right to simply expect it. It’s not like the Universe is doing me a favor or anything. Gushing about the Springtime is like paying for something that costs a buck with a hundred dollar bill and getting all excited when you get $99 back. Big deal. So as far as the nice weather goes, all I have to say is, “What took you so long?”
As a cyclist though, on a day such as this even a mind as blackened as mine is wont to wander. And once again, my mind turns to nation building. When the weather is nice I’d like nothing more than to forego my responsibilities and instead ride the length and breadth of our own land, perhaps stopping for some of our native cheese. But before this can happen there is much work to be done. As a people, there are certain evil weeds growing in our midst that must be extirpated. And like a stoner on a Wednesday afternoon, I’m ready to get my hands on some.
There is one weed that stands taller than all others. It’s more insidious than top tube pads. It’s more insidious than behind-the-saddle hydration and inflation systems. It’s more insidious even than TTMBLs. I’m talking of course about the pie plate.
Pie plates (also known as “dork discs,” “nerd coasters,” “Minneapolis frisbees,” “45rpm singles,” “idiot pucks,” and “moron shingles”) are like heavily intoxicated people and many triathletes in that they have no business being on a bicycle. Despite this, on my morning commute I see nothing but pie plates—it’s like sitting in some restaurant in hell where you’re constantly being passed by the dessert cart. And while each and every pie plate is offensive, some are more so than others. Here are just a few notable pie plate types in ascending order of egregiousness:
The Department Store Bike Pie Plate
I hate pie plates in any form, but expecting a department store bike not to have one is kind of like expecting a dog not to have bad breath. And while it’s offensive, when it comes to a department store bike the gestalt is offensive, so it’s pretty much pointless to single one thing out. A lot of these bikes also have huge cardboard labels displaying the wheel size still in the spokes as well as those plastic axle protectors that look like those little tables you sometimes get when you order a pizza. Frankly, in this case it’s the bike that’s the problem, not the pie plate.
The Hybrid Pie Plate
Generally speaking, the kinds of people who ride hybrids are not the kinds of people who fuss over things like pie plates or frame size sticker removal or tire label/valve stem alignment. In fact, they’re not even the sorts of people who align their helmets—they generally sport their foam hats way back on the head, like yarmulkes. So it’s somewhat unreasonable to expect them to remove their pie plates. Then again, I’m an unreasonable person. If you had the sense to buy your bike in an actual bike shop, you have the sense to remove (or ask the shop to remove) your pie plate.
The New Road Bike Pie Plate
Whether you know it or not, once you’ve bought an actual road bike you’ve subjected yourself to a certain level of scrutiny. It’s like running for office—everything you do is now a matter of public record and fair game for the press. If you don’t know the fundamental rules of cycling, that’s fine—as long as you learn them quickly. And Rule #1, before “Don’t sit on a stranger’s wheel” and “Don’t let a stranger ride your bike,” is “Get rid of the pie plate!”
The Old Road Bike Pie Plate
While I have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to pie plates, I also understand that not everybody realizes they need to be removed. Sadly, too few bike shops take it upon themselves to do it or to educate their customers. Hopefully, one day that will change, and I for one am trying to do my part by raising public awareness. But in the meantime I think a grace period between new bike purchase and pie plate removal is warranted. Let’s call it six months. By that time you should have either figured out your pie plate needs to go, or you should have had to remove or change your cassette for some reason, in which case (hopefully) logic would dictate a pie platectomy.
After that, though, you are in clear violation. I regularly see road bikes that are five, ten, even twenty years old that still have pie plates on them. If your bike has both downtube shifters and a pie plate on it, you are exhibiting a disregard for propriety that is nearly inhuman. Only a sociopath could be capable of such a thing. In fact, while I believe we cyclists should regulate ourselves, in this case I think the perpetrator should be turned over to the police. According to the controversial “broken window” theory, chances are someone with a yellowed pie plate on a twenty year-old bicycle is also guilty of something else. He’s probably also using an Italian crank on a JIS spindle, planning a bank robbery, and keeping kidnapping victims duct-taped in his basement.
The Broken Pie Plate
In addition being yellowed and filthy with drivetrain grime, the aforementioned pie plates also usually have a big chip in them. They look like Pac Man if he were a coal miner. It’s pathetic already. Get it off.
The Fixed-Gear Pie Plate
This beast is apocryphal, but I maintain that it exists...somewhere. And as much as the idea of one horrifies and sickens me, I really want to see one, if only so that I can kill it. I thought I saw one once, but it was in fact the next-worst thing: a singlespeed pie plate. Even that was hard to stomach--it was a little like seeing your aunt naked or something. Frankly, I don’t know for sure how I’d react to an actual FGPP. But I’m willing to take the risk for our nation’s sake.
So please, check your bike for pie plates and remove them. If you have a friend with a pie plate problem, tell him or her as well. Perhaps one day they will be gone forever. Sure, there’s probably some pie plate factory in China and an entire village that depends on it, but we must think of ourselves first. And if you’re wondering what to do with all the pie plates, I say let’s build a henge. Stonehenge brings a millions of tourists to England, and Carhenge brings thousands to Alliance, Nebraska. People love henges. So let the world’s henge enthusiasts come and marvel at Pie Plate Henge on Long Island. We can put it in Commack.