Firstly, Stevil Kinevil of HTATBL (as well as GWCTOH as of late) has generously offered to "sweeten the pot":
That's right. In addition to the pie plate (and the smock, if you want it, but not the Rapha cravat, because I need it to pick up gross stuff like pie plates and dead mice) he'll also give the winner a beer cozy and a lucky elk tooth:
Please know that Stevil has offered to do this completely of his own volition, and I was deeply moved by his generosity since I'm sure these objects are very dear to him. So, just to recap, if you win you'll get: 1) a pie plate; 2) a dirty beer cozy; 3) a nasty animal tooth; and 4) a BSNYC/RTMS smock (which is really more of a booby prize).
Secondly, while I'm holding off on sharing the latest entries, I did mention there was one exception, and this is it:
Sure, I know I said I was taking a break from bawdy, but there's nothing "dirty" or "shameful" about the act of love when it's rendered artistically as it is here. You may have noticed that this image has been entirely created using that Pedalmafia bike builder thing. To be able to create such moving artwork with such a limited palette is nothing short of miraculous. It's like Jesus multiplying the loaves and the fishes, or like that Hanukkah lamp oil lasting eight days, or like Michael Ball somehow wringing a few more years out of a bunch of washed-up riders. Also, it uses hipster cysts for the pants yabbies. Truly inspirational. This person could very well have clicked and dragged his way to a free animal tooth.
Moving on, yesterday a reader asked an important question in the comments section:
I realize a properly adjusted der shouldn't drop a chain into the spokes, but it can be a fairly costly mistake when it happens. It seems you appreciate the value of clutter like brakes and bar tape, so why are pie plates such a no-no?
Note: earnest question, no criticism or irony intended.
Well, the answer is almost painfully simple, but then again the best questions are often the simplest ones and I feel it's worth answering. After all, this question made me think a lot about necessity, and the answer is that brakes and bar tape (or grips) are necessary, but pie plates are not.
Yes, plenty of people now ride around without brakes or any form of grip, but I maintain they're still necessary. If you want to get the most out of your bike, you'll use both of these things. (I've explored how brakes actually make you faster in the past.) More importantly, you use them while you're riding. The pie plate, on the other hand, just sits there idly waiting for something extremely unlikely to happen. In fact, chances are very good that this unlikely thing may never happen at all. In one way the pie plate is like a person sitting alone on top of a hill, night after night for years on end, waiting for a bunch of probe-wielding aliens to arrive in a spaceship. And in another way, it's like the person with a bomb shelter in his basement filled with a 20-year supply of water and canned tuna. And in both cases, they're so preoccupied with what might happen that they neglect their daily lives. (Like the pie-plated rider with a decrepit, rusty drivetrain and a derailleur that hasn't moved since "Risky Business" came out.)
After all, there are plenty of other things that can happen on the bike for which we don't make provisions. For example, it's not uncommon for your bars to rotate forward if you hit a nasty bump. This can be dangerous, especially during a race. Should you then put some sort of redundant device on your bicycle that further secures the bars in the event the stem clamp alone is not sufficient, like some sort of brace between the bottom of the brake levers and the headtube? Absolutely not. Instead, you should use a well-designed stem, tighten it sufficiently, and avoid dangerous road hazards--just as you should make sure your derailleur is adjusted properly.And this is what is most insidious about the pie plate. It is a symbol of our lack of personal responsibility as a society, a giant plastic disc shouting "Save me, for I cannot save myself!" And unlike its frontal counterpart the "lawyer lip" it does not even have the decency to hide itself. Indeed, probably the last time a pie plate was even remotely necessary was when this photo of Fausto Coppi (forwarded to me by a reader) was taken:
You'll notice that Coppi is running ("rocking" hadn't been invented yet) a Campagnolo rod shifter here. Given that shifting with one of these was probably like trying to dial a cell phone with a pool noodle, the pie plate was certainly warranted. But those days are behind us now. By the way, Coppi died of malaria too, and you're probably about as likely to contract malaria while out on your ride as you are to shift your derailleur into your spokes.
But I suppose people have different ideas of what's necessary. Personally, I feel that fenders are necessary (for everyday bikes, not for race bikes), but plenty of people go without them. In fact, you're about as likely to see a fully-fendered bicycle in New York City as you are a pie plate on a fixed-gear. (This excludes old three-speeds, which pretty much always have fenders and which cling to New York City streetsigns like moss to trees.) And I'm not just talking about bikes that don't have the necessary eyelets or frame clearances for fenders. I'm talking about bikes with cantis and gaping, yawning spaces between the tires and stays that are inexplicably ridden in the rain with no protection whatsoever. And it's not like these people aren't putting other stuff on these bikes, either. Some of these bikes not only have bar-ends, but their bar-ends have bar-ends. I guess it's just because people only think about getting fenders when it rains, and by then they're already wet so they figure, "Why bother?". Still, when I see someone commuting in a downpour on a touring bike with a pie plate and no fenders it makes me want to weep.
Even more perplexing are people who ride without fenders in the city are people who ride with suspension. Another commenter from yesterday wrote:
Get over the fixed gear bashing. There's twice as many Mountain bike riders on the streets of SF than roadies and fixed combined. Don't hear you talking shit about these goof balls with their $600 front shox to absorb the occasional MUNI track.
My guess is that your ironic Orange Julius bike is in fact a custom Stumpjumper and you wouldn't know a single track from a heart attack.
Stump on, Snobby!
You still see this sort of behavior sometimes in New York City, but it's not nearly as common as it used to be. However, during the (first) heyday of purple anodized CNC componentry, customized mountain bikes that never saw dirt were common on the streets of New York City in much the same way that custom track bikes that have never seen a velodrome are common today. Similarly, just like owners of high-end track bikes now like to say, "Yeah, I really want to get out to the track but I just don't have time," owners of high-end cross-country bikes then would say, "Yeah, I really want to get out to some trails but I just don't have time." While these excuses might seem flimsy, I maintain they're quite valid. Hunting for that vintage Italian stem (or that purple anodized peace sign canti straddle wire hanger) can be extremely time-consuming.
In response to the aforementioned comment, Kale replied:
Having lived in both places I can attest to the superior ability of the mtb in SF/BA. That aside, it's been pretty much impossible until the recent SSMTB trend to get a new mtb without 100mm or more squish stock, and if you want to put a (Surly/Kona) aftermarket or recycled solid, that's way above most people's ability (not to mention fixing a flat). However, the few, if any, mtbs in NYC are ridden by the hardest working Thai delivery people in the world. Those Schwinns, Iron Horses, and Pacifics are the only fully squish you'll see, they're definitely goof balls, and they outnumber roadies and fixters by at least 3 orders of magnitude.
I was glad to see Kale mention the mountain bike-riding food delivery person. Like any group of working cyclists, there's the rank-and-file, and then there's the elite. This is what the elite food delivery people in NYC ride:
Note the fenders, which are always mounted extra-high to accommodate suspension travel that isn't there. Note also the color-coordinated full frame-taping job, the skewers secured with hose clamps, and the downward-tilted saddle, which are also typical. (The saddle angle not only allows for easy mounts and dismounts when the rider is loaded down with six bags of food, but also allows some seatpost to remain exposed for aesthetic reasons, since these riders are often short of stature and generally use bikes that are at least two sizes too big for them. Perhaps most importantly, with that giant fender sticking out back there the only way off the bike is to slide off the front of the saddle.) Sometimes you'll even see road cranks used, which is the case here. These people do indeed work hard, in all weather, and they make absolutely no distinction between the street and the sidewalk.
Sadly, the days of the hardcore MTB-riding food delivery person may be numbered, because in the trendy parts of Brooklyn at least the "fixters" have begun taking their jobs. (I guess they're not content to just take their apartments.) So now when you order from restaurants in Williamsburg or Prospect Heights your food may very well be brought to you by someone with a degree from RISD who's riding an NJS track bike. Not that there's anything wrong with that, though I doubt the Honduran immigrants are getting their graphic arts jobs in return.
In the end, though, component choice all boils down to "Style Vs. Safety"--at least according to this Google Knol. The author makes some compelling points here, such as this one: "A brake is basically a training wheel – a crutch. When you have a fixed gear bike, the mere technology allows you to stop without one. A non-fixed bike doesn’t have this luxury. It NEEDS a brake to stop in any manner. But we’re not talking about non fixies. "
What about fenders? Are they crutches too?