Friday, February 29, 2008

This Just In: BSNYC Interviewed; "Save The Messengers" Campaign Abandoned

Firstly, I'm proud to report that the excellent Belgium Knee Warmers blog has posted an interview with me today. Frankly, I think featuring me on a classy blog like that is like spoiling a nice steel frame with a carbon rear triangle, but unlike many bike companies those guys seem to know what they're doing so I'm not going to worry about it. Many thanks to BKW.

Secondly, I'm sorry to report that the "Save The Messengers" campaign has officially Jumped The Shark. A loyal reader informs me that three celebrities have recently climbed on board:











It hardly warrants mentioning that when the preachy triumverate of Baldwin, Begley, and Anderson adopts a cause it's no longer cool. It's like when your favorite band licenses a song to a car company. And I don't know about you, but I flat out refuse to support something that's not cool. Consequently, I'm afraid the "Save The Messengers" campaign must now join Buddhism, Kabbalism, and animal rights in Ned's Atomic Dustbin of Unfashionable Causes.

But don't despair. No matter what the fate of the messenger, their aesthetic at least will be forever preserved in amber by those who emulate them. A reader recently forwarded me this video, which manages to simultaneously disgrace cycling, the city of San Francisco, and the rotting corpse of punk in less than two and a half minutes.



(Taking a final drag before swinging a leg over the fashion express.)



(Gig cancelled?!? Oh, the irony!)

And if you really want to experience the thrill of making deliveries by bicycle in a hostile environment, just get your hands on the 1984 video game classic, "Paperboy."



Indeed, after watching this video (also forwarded to me by a reader), it appears that the future of cycling is in 80s video games.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Worst of NYC Craigslist: More Stomach-Churning Bike Love

With Levi Leipheimer gathering signatures like a bucket of maple syrup gathers flies, people all over the country apparently moving by bike, and the "Save the Messengers" campaign in full swing, I figured I'd continue to revel in the spirit of togetherness by giving some additional exposure to the bike-related Craigslist "missed connections." Who knows? Perhaps some of the parties concerned will see this, make contact, and go on to find the misery they deserve:

Monday: You were riding your bike and stopped me to say "Hi" - w4m (East Village) [original URL: http://newyork.craigslist.org/mnh/mis/589379303.html]
Reply to: [deleted]
Date: 2008-02-27, 10:30PM EST

at the corner of 2nd Ave & 7th St. You asked me about my day. I was a little spaced out. Maybe we could talk some more sometime?

Sorry, life does not offer second chances. Unless your name is Mario Cipollini. But even then they rarely work out. It’s kind of like wrapping bar tape: you get one shot at perfection, and every time you unwind and re-wrap things just get messier and messier. Considering that this guy rides around town trying to pick up strangers, chances are he’s probably gone and wrapped his sticky underside around someone else by now. Let him go and look for a new roll.

Garrett Popcorn Shop - m4w - 33 (Midtown) [original URL: http://newyork.craigslist.org/mnh/mis/589073120.html]
Reply to: [deleted]
Date: 2008-02-27, 5:36PM EST

Last week, you were in front of me in line at the popcorn shop. You had a bike helmet in your hand and were wearing leg warmers, curly hair, you ran out of the store because you seemed like you were running out of time. You were the most beautiful thing I've even seen. We chatted, post back if you remember what we chatted about.

Did the chat go something like this? Because I think I was behind you guys in line.

M: Hey, do you ride a bike?

W: Yeah.

M: Wow, you’re really brave to ride in the city. I’m afraid of the taxis. I used to have a bike when I lived in Sardinia though. Have you ever been to Sardinia?

W: No.

M: Oh, it’s beautiful. Sheep country, you know. They have delicious sheep’s milk cheese there. Fiore Sardo, Pecorina Sardo, Pecorino Romano... Gosh, my mouth waters just thinking about it. You really can’t get cheese like that here in the States.

W: I’m lactose intolerant.

M: Wow, you’re really missing out. I’ll tell you what is delicious, though. This popcorn. Did you know that Halle Berry eats it?

W: No.

M: Well she does. So what are you getting?

W: I don’t know.

M: Well, I know what I’m getting. I’m getting a two gallon drum of the Macadamia CaramelCrisp. Then, when I get home, I’m going to melt a big hunk of casu marzu all over it. Casu marzu is especially delicious because it contains insect larvae. In Sardinia they call it maggot cheese.

W: Um, I have to go.

M: Hey, wait! Let me give you my number! We’ll have cheese!

Crashing Into You, Ludlow & Rivington - 32 (Lower East Side) [original URL: http://newyork.craigslist.org/mnh/mis/586785087.html]
Reply to: [deleted]Date: 2008-02-25, 8:05PM EST

Totally my fault, a little lesson in humility...

Hope you're doing okay, I feel bad about smashing my bike into you.

Bloody nose and a fat lip was what I got and most certainly deserved.

All apologies, again.

Thanks for being such a good sport about it all.

While this person doesn’t include details of the collision, I’m just going to assume he was riding a brakeless fixed-gear bicycle which he was unable to stop. Brakeless fixed-gear related injuries are to the early 21st century what LSD freakouts were to the 60s, flared trouser-related slip-and-falls were to the 70s, Walkman-related tinnitus was to the 80s, and mosh pit-related tooth loss was to the 90s. If “When Harry Met Sally” were made today, Billy Crystal definitely would have flattened Meg Ryan at an intersection while trying to stop his IRO.

Sheriff of Nottingham's Daughter - m4w (Chelsea) [original URL: http://newyork.craigslist.org/mnh/mis/585761901.html]
Reply to: [deleted]
Date: 2008-02-24, 11:53PM EST

I was walking West on 23rd Saturday night with my weary Portuguese friend with an empty propane tank on the front rack of my Swedish military bike.

You were charming and on a hopeless search for wine with your friend.

Anyway, I realized we rudely neglected to invite you both to the BBQ when it gets warmer.

“If you couldn’t tell from reading my post, every single aspect of my life is contrived and pretentious. In addition to having a weary Portuguese friend and a Swedish military bike, I prepare my coffee in a French press, relieve myself in a Turkish toilet, wear a West Papuan penis gourd in warm weather, and have an unpronounceable sexually transmitted disease with an indeterminate country of origin. Because having a Portuguese friend is not as charming and whimsical as having a weary Portuguese friend, I make sure he stays weary by arranging inconveniently early dim sum breakfasts, challenging him to regular squash games, and placing phone calls to him in the middle of the night. I do hope you will attend our BBQ this summer, which promises to be well-attended by weary people of various nationalities, all wearing penis gourds, sipping mojitos, and discussing the arts, exotic locales, and vital issues of the day.”

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

This Just In: "Save The Messengers" Campaign Picks Up Steam

I'm pleased to announce there's already been a tremendous outpouring of support for the bike messengers. Oldtenspeedgallery proprietor, imaging enthusiast, and courier conservationist Cameron has created this consciousness-raising design:





Print it out and messenger it to a friend today! Help save those who cannot shave themselves.

But the campaign doesn't stop there. Cameron has also created a poster for classrooms to help educate our nation's children:





Somewhat more urban but equally inspirational is Erik K's patch design:




In fact, it has already garnered a celebrity following:





I can truly say, completely without irony, that I have never been prouder to be a cyclist.

--BSNYC

Endangered Specious: Save The Messengers!

According to an article forwarded to me by a number of readers, bike messengers in Seattle are becoming extinct. In fact, there are only 50 to 75 messengers left. Apparently the damage isn’t just limited to small, damp, entry-level cities either. The article also says that New York has lost over a thousand messengers since 2000. That’s over 100 messengers a year. And while that would explain who’s staffing all the Starbucks and American Apparel stores that have been sprouting up over that time, it doesn’t explain the increasing number of people riding track bikes around the city all day with messenger bags and U-locks. The only explanation I can come up with is that some of them are not messengers at all, but are just people who dress like messengers and don’t have jobs. But that seems highly unlikely to me. After all, who would dress like something they’re not?

Now I don’t know about you, but I personally don’t want to live in a world without bicycle messengers. As we saw from yesterday’s post, smugness is the life’s blood of our culture, and the unique brand of smugness exuded by messengers is one that will surely be missed. It’s an absence we’d feel almost as acutely as the stench of their dreadlocks. There’s a special sense of entitlement that comes from delivering parcels on a bicycle for little pay that you just don’t get from any other profession, and if you take away any one of those three elements the magic is gone. They even have their own world championship, just like singlespeeders, facial hair enthusiasts, baristas, and lumberjacks. (Granted, you could easily merge all five of those championships into one or two, given the overlap in interests and tastes among the participants, but still.) As such, it’s essential that we preserve their vital way of life

But how? I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “I’m just one person. What can I do to save these fragrant, conceited, fashion-forward delivery people?” Well, if there’s one thing we all should have learned from the plant-schlepping fixed-gear rider yesterday, it’s that every little bit counts. Here are just a few things you can do to help save our newest endangered species:

Siphon Resources From The Company You Work For

If you work in an office for a large company, there’s a constant trickle of money that you can re-direct into the deserving pocket of a bike messenger. How? Messenger stuff unnecessarily! For example, every day people waste millions of man-hours instant messaging each-other during business hours. While you’re burning your employer’s money you might as well help out a starving messenger too. Instead of IMing, just messenger Post-It notes back and forth. Your average exchange with a friend about what you had for lunch, how stupid your boss is, or how much your new underwear itch is good for at least twelve messenger round-trips. And that’s money he can spend on essentials like food, rent, and tattoo time.

Breed Messengers in Captivity

Almost every day a new species is added to the endangered species list. However, every so often a species comes back from the brink and is taken off the list, saved by the measures that were taken to protect it. One such measure is rearing the animal in captivity and releasing it into its natural habitat. Hey, it worked for the peregrine falcon, and it can work for messengers too. Messengers are easy to care for. All they need is food, beer, pot, and a dry place to sleep. And there is no more rewarding feeling than that of hacking a messenger into the wild. You’ll cry tears of happiness as you watch him take off down the street, run his first red light, and knock over his first senior citizen. It’s more moving than the end of “Free Willy.”

Adopt-a-Courier

Are you a wealthy person with a busy schedule? Do you maintain a veneer of environmental awareness even though your guest house has the carbon footprint of a small city? Does the phrase “Mo’ money, mo’ problems” ring true for you? Well, now your mo’ problems can be over! Bike messenger valets are the must-have status accessory for 2008. Just imagine how cool you’ll seem when your personal bike messenger skids to a stop outside the pro shop to pick up your new golf club. Remember—a person is only as cool as his help, and having a personal assistant who drives around town for you in a Jetta is totally 1998.

Start a Grassroots Campaign

As we learned from Levi Leipheimer on Monday, there’s no more effective way of creating a groundswell of support for your dubious cause than by creating a grassroots campaign. As such, it’s absolutely essential that we start one for messengers. The first step is creating an image that people can rally behind. Now, there are people much more qualified than me to do this, but nonetheless I’ve gone ahead and taken a swing at it:


There’s a lot of room for improvement here, but I think it’s a good start. Granted, the messenger does look like Rik Ocasek on his way to an aerobics class, but I think the neon cross he’s bearing in place of his bag is a potent symbol for the martyr complex borne by so many couriers. I also think with a little effort we can make the plight of the messenger the “Save the Whales” of this century.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Haulin' Ass (and some furniture): Moving by Bike

I come across a lot of material that underscores the many differences that exist among the various subsets of the cycling population. However, once in awhile I also encounter something inspirational that reaffirms the fact that, as cyclists, we are all a part of a community. And, as this video shows, when that community comes together there's almost no limit to how irritatingly self-righteous we can be.



That's right, Fascist war machine: the forces of gentrification no longer need your fossil fuels to power their relentless march across Brooklyn. When this woman was priced out of her Fort Greene aparment and decided to price someone else out of an apartment in neighboring Crown Heights, she didn't just gas up a U-Haul. Instead, she assembled some friends who also wanted attention and did the whole thing by bike.



This is perhaps the most moving film about moving I've seen since Richard Pryor's "Moving." There are many wonderful moments here, but to me the most inspirational by far is when the fixed-gear rider joins in to move a single plant. Sure, the cynical among you might say that a token effort like this is almost as insulting as actually sitting on the sofa and drinking a Snapple while your friends are moving it, but to me it's a bold statement about how even the smallest effort counts towards making a change.



In fact, as I watched them tenderly working together to secure the plant to the rack, I realized that this beautiful green thing was actually a metaphor for the heart of of our community and the greenness of their endeavor.




Almost as stirring was this image of the moving crew making its way towards Crown Heights, their Cones of Smugness lighting the way. I was touched by the manner in which they shared their labor, much as they will probably come to share the bedbug infestation undoubtedly borne by that futon. (Futons are the public restrooms of the furniture world.)

To me, this procession of fools evoked Ingmar Bergman's "The Seventh Seal," except that they substituted despair with an overblown sense of pride.


But it wasn't all haughtiness and heavy lifting for our protagonists. They also took a break from their labors to rub other people's noses in their accomplishments. Here they stopped to ask a man removing an armful of boxes from the back of a truck if he was moving. If you've ever fallen off your bike and found yourself lying in a pool of your own blood, only to be asked by a passer-by if you've had an accident, you can begin to appreciate the sort of irritation this guy probably felt. To me, the fact that he didn't reply by hurling an end-table at the cameraman speaks volumes about his patience and renews my faith in humanity. Especially when you consider that the cameraman was probably wearing a cone on his head.

So what have we learned? We've learned that it is possible to move your possessions over a short distance without using a motor vehicle. We've also learned that it is that much easier when the weather is in your favor, you've got a bunch of friends who don't have jobs, and your personal politics preclude you from owning bulky items like televisions. But most of all, we've learned that fixed-gears aren't just for riding in self-indulgent videos; they're also useful for transporting plant life in self-indulgent videos.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Apparently Levi Wants To Ride


Well, the rain-soaked Tour of California ended yesterday. And speaking of things that are watered down, non-threatening stage race specialist Levi Leipheimer won the overall classification. This is highly significant, as it makes him the only rider in the event’s three year history to have won the race more than once.

However, this is undoubtedly a bitter-sweet victory for Leipheimer, as he and his entire Astana team have been banned from this year’s Tour de France. Consequently, he’s responded with a characteristically unobtrusive grassroots campaign, “Let Levi Ride.” I confess that I was initially confused when I stumbled upon the website, thinking that perhaps it was the home page of a Malaysian pop star named Letle Viride (pronounced LET-li VI-ri-day). This impression was enhanced by the photo of Leipheimer, whose black hat, bikerish jacket, and steely (or at least aluminum foily) gaze all imply he’s not going to take this whole thing lying down—even though that’s exactly how he’s taken his previous Tours.

Frankly, I find this campaign difficult to rally behind. Something just doesn’t ring true. I think there are a few directions they could have taken this instead that would have at least spoken to the issue more directly, such as:

“Let Alberto Contador Ride”

I was unable to follow the Tour de France last year due to extreme lack of interest, but according to information available on the internet Leipheimer’s teammate Alberto Contador won it last year. I’m not sure then why we should rally behind Leipheimer, who finished third. If I want to watch opportunity being squandered for three weeks I can just follow one of the French teams, or any liberal arts school graduate.

“Let Trek Ride”

The Let Levi Ride URL is actually owned by The Great Trek Bicycle Making Company. This little bit of information should allow you to put a face on any fishy smell you might have detected while visiting the site. I’m sure it’s incredibly frustrating to them that they’ve sponsored the wrong team, but they could have at least been honest about it. After all, the legitimization of Tour de France participation was the only thing keeping the Trek brand from crossing over into full dorkitude. Now that they’re out, they’ll surely join other dorky companies who make bikes exclusively for dentists, like Kestrel, on The Other Side.

“Let Me Cut My Losses and Keep Quiet”

The only reason Leipheimer even wound up on the podium at the Tour last year is that all the riders who otherwise would have comprised the top 10 got thrown out. I’m not so sure he should be staring down the throat of that particular gift horse by causing trouble this year. That’s like getting a huge tax refund by mistake, and then calling the IRS to complain when it doesn’t happen again the following year.

“Let Me Ride Or I’ll Grow Disillusioned And Fulfill Your Negative Expectations Of Me”

I don’t find Leipheimer’s defiance either convincing or intimidating, and I doubt the ASO does either. Instead, I think he’d have better luck taking the self-pitying approach by making a gritty, artsy short film in which, denied the opportunity to explore his full potential, he descends into a shame spiral of drug abuse and self-pity. Such a film would not only be entertaining, but it would also make the ASO feel guilty and show them the error of their ways. The film could be available on youtube, though of course he’d also have to do a gala screening in which he gives a talk afterwards with tears streaming down his face and a snot bubble coming out of his nose.

“Let’s Standardize Bicycle Terminology”

By even caring about this whole thing Leipheimer is acknowledging that the ASO have won. Any kindergartener can tell you that the correct response would be, “Fine, I didn’t want to ride in your stupid race anyway.” Instead, Leipheimer should harness the awesome power of petitions to do something truly useful for cycling—like standardize the term for those secondary brake levers they use on cyclocross bikes. Currently, there are at least five terms that are acceptable in cycling parlance:

--In-line levers
--Interrupter Levers
--Top-mount levers
--Auxiliary levers
--Cross levers

This is more than just confusing. It’s tearing cycling apart. If Levi could put aside his petty personal interests and help us pick one of these terms, the cycling world—and the world in general—would be a much better place.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Attrition: Worst Day Ever On A Bike

The conditions during yesterday’s stage of the Tour of California were apparently so bad that some riders even counted it among the worst days they’ve ever had on a bike. Of course, this is quite understandable when you consider that it was the first time in years that many of these people have had to work a full eight-hour day. I was curious to hear from others about their worst-ever days on the bike, so I pretended to interview three cycling luminaries, who in my imagination were gracious enough to share their epic tales:


Mario Cipollini, professional bicycle racer and world’s ugliest male model

[translated from the Italian]

“It was Spring 1994, the eve of Milan-San Remo. Now, I have a strict no-hair policy when it comes to ‘Little Mario,’ and with the possibility of a podium showing I couldn’t risk any shadows showing up in photographs, if you know what I mean. Unfortunately my soigneur, Beppe, was ill, so I was forced to do my own manscaping. And without his precision depilatory kit, all I had at my disposal was a disposable razor and a tiny bottle of hotel shampoo. The razor burn I suffered as a consequence made the next day in the saddle undoubtedly the most uncomfortable one of my life. But it was worth it, because I did wind up on the podium, and I looked fantastic.”


Rolf Dietrich, bicycle wheel pioneer and inventor of paired-spoke technology

“First off, I’d like to say that I always have and always will stand behind paired spoke technology one hundred percent. In fact, I apply the paired spoke principle to nearly every aspect of my life. For example, I don’t eat three moderate-sized meals throughout the day. Instead, I eat two really substantial meals back-to-back every other day. And I don’t sleep eight hours a night. Instead, I take two naps during the day. This makes my life lighter, more aerodynamic and less susceptible to crosswinds.

“In any case, I’d have to say that the worst day I’ve ever had on a bike was the day I had to ride one that was equipped with a pair of traditional wheels with low-profile box-section rims and 32 evenly-spaced spokes. I had completely forgotten how heavy, sluggish, and downright stupid they are. God, people are morons! I feel sorry for them. Even the human body uses my concept. Just look at eyes, nostrils, nipples, testicles, and ovaries. It’s obvious. Paired spoke technology just plain works.”


Craig Calfee, bicycle fabricator and founder of Calfee Design

“Last summer I was in the Gansu province of China sourcing bamboo for the bicycles I’ll be providing for Organic Athlete. There’s actually a bamboo shortage in China, so my Mongolian guide, Delgerbayar, had to bribe a forestry worker who tipped us off to a supply in the Baishuijiang State Nature Preserve. When we got there, we were pleased to find a field of some of the finest bamboo I’d ever seen. Unfortunately, we also found a family of giant pandas, who turned out to be fiercely protective of their dwindling food supply. I sent Delgerbayar in first, but unfortunately while he did have the dazzling equestrian skills the Mongolians are famous for, he turned out to be somewhat less skilled in human-ursidae combat. I won’t sicken you with the details, but let’s just say they made quick work of both Delgerbayar and his horse, and Timothy Treadwell probably went quietly in comparison. Next, the pandas turned on me. Now, there may be less than 100 pandas in Gansu province, but there is only one Craig Calfee in the entire world. The only endangered species at that moment was me. I grabbed a length of bamboo that would (and ultimately did) make a perfect downtube and started swinging. Again, I won’t sicken you with the details, but the final score was Calfee: 4, Pandas: 0. I was now safe, but I was also hundreds of miles from civilization, and without Delgerbayar and his horse I had no way to cover those miles. So I set to building a bamboo bicycle completely by hand, supplementing it with the remains of Delgerbayar’s steed, and rode over 200 miles to a village where I traded a panda carcass for room and board. And that was my worst day ever on a bike.”

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Fixedgeargallery...of pop quizzes.

Yesterday's post turned out to be even more controversial than I had anticipated, and reactions to it were quite spirited. As such, I thought a pop quiz might help us all put aside our differences and regain our collective focus. Following are seven photos from fixedgeargallery.com. Please study the photo, consider the question, and then click on your answer. If you're correct, you'll see the entry. If you're incorrect, you'll see uber-curmudgeon and serial retrogrouch Jobst Brandt channelling Derek Zoolander.

Good luck! (And no mouse-overs!)



The owner of this Bianchi Pista thinks it may be made in Italy, not Taiwan, because:






Which is an actual quote from the owner's description of this bike, which is made from Brazilian bamboo?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

This Just In: Local Boys Make "Good"

Every local Cat. 4 road racing team just got a little bit cooler.

Recently my inbox has been ablaze with the news that architect, fixed-gear freestyler, street fashion enthusiast, and architect Prolly is managing a new cycling team. In fact, some of these emails were even from people other than Prolly. The team is called D.A.R.T., which stands for something, and you can read all about them on his blog. They look like this:


This is certainly a bold (if schlubbily-attired) venture, and D.A.R.T. have their work cut out for them in the rugged, sordid, mercenary world of doing stuff together while wearing similar clothes. There are a lot of crews out there who have been doing it longer and who, quite frankly, have been throwing down harder, and I have a feeling they're not going to take it easy on the new kids on the block. Some of these OGs include:

The Goonies


The Goonies have been the crew to be reckoned with ever since they thwarted the Fratellis and saved their town from evil developers. They're disaffected yet endearing, and tough yet lovable. What's more, they were dressing like the D.A.R.T. guys before most of the D.A.R.T.s were even born. And while D.A.R.T. may have Tony Fast, the guy who's got a sense of humor about his weight, the Goonies have Lawrence "Chunk" Cohen. Careful, Tony--it'll take more than a few fakies to defeat the "Truffle Shuffle."


The Bad News Bears


When it comes to rag-tag crews of sporting misfits, nobody--but nobody--steps to the BNBs. When that little blond kid starts spewing racist invective even the toughest fixed-gear freestyler is bound to stand down. Also, there's that guy who played Kelly Leak who went on to play the pervert in the movie "Little Children." He's just creepy. And D.A.R.T.'s team manager Prolly is no match for coach Walter Matthau, whose irascibility and hard-drinking ways are bound to make Prolly's handlebar moustache do bar spins.



Real Genius


D.A.R.T. may have the brawn to stand up to those guys, but do they have the brains to stand up to the Real Genius crew? This group of prodigies at fictitious university Pacific Tech has been emboldened by the irreverent antics of their leader Val Kilmer, the coolest darn genius you'll ever meet. Granted, D.A.R.T. do have an older guy with glasses who looks kinda smart, but the RGs have been there. We all saw how they dispatched with Kent with the talking filling trick.

Whatever the outcome, this is surely a watershed moment in grass-roots fixed-gear cycling, and I for one will be on the edge of my saddle.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Apoca-Watch Update: Archival Horsemen Footage Uncovered

In reading the comments on Friday's post, I was dismayed to find that a number of readers took the long weekend as an opportunity to engage in acrimonious discourse once again. However, as cycling teeters on the precipice of doom like a pro cyclist's haematocrit hovers around 50%, this kind of discord is hardly surprising. In the absence of some kind of cycling messiah, and in the face of increasingly disturbing signs, it's tragically inevitable that we should turn against one-another. Just consider the latest horrors with which we've been confronted:

The Return of Cipo

I can't have been the only person who found this sight from last Sunday horrifying. Cipollini's career was laid to rest years ago, and when Michael Ball exhumed it all he should have been able to retrieve from the grave were Mario's bridgework and a pair of silicone calf implants. Instead, Cipollini (or an entity looking remarkably like him) rolled off the start ramp and charged down the Tour of California prologue course, his protruding uni-tooth calling to mind a boxer's mouth guard or a humpback whale's baleen filtering plankton from the sea. Ominous also was the ectoplasmic lime green skinsuit. As the rim color of choice for fixed-gear freestylers everywhere, lime green is surely the hue of the damned.

Ghost Bikes Coming to Life

When I first saw this bicycle on fixedgeargallery, I puzzled over the motivation behind it. I thought perhaps the owner hoped people would see it locked up outside the bar and ask, "Hey, who died?" But then I noticed the absence of a chain, and I realized that it's in fact some kind of hateful specter. I'm sure as we come closer to the end we'll see ghost bikes all over the world unfetter themselves from street signs and roam the earth.

If they're not all stolen first, that is. (Thanks Jessica for the link.)


Apocalyptic Horsemen Working On Their Choreography

But compared to what I'm about to show you, the aforementioned signs are less threatening than Levi Leipheimer on a French mountain pass. In the spirit of eternal vigilance, I found myself watching Bike TV this past weekend. If you're unfamiliar with Bike TV, think of it this way: if Versus is the Trek Madone of cycling television, Bike TV is the early 90s Univega hybrid with the cracked and yellowed pie plate and the "One Less Car" stickers all over it.

Sandwiched between one segment about the NYC Century Bike Tour (which is apparently the world's largest gathering of heavyset bearded men) and another about bike lanes and traffic calming devices in Berkeley (in which the host repeats the phrase "speed humps" with alarming frequency) was this shocking video.

I knew right away when I saw this that I was watching an ungodly dance troupe of doom. I have no doubt that when the Apocalypse comes these bell-ringing hybrid-riding harbingers will be the first thing we see. Most alarming of all though is that this video is from 2005. That means they've had like three years to perfect these moves. Surely when they arrive we'll be powerless against them.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Cycling on TV: Let's Get The Show Off The Road

The 2008 road racing season is about to kick off in earnest, and I for one am brimming with indifference. Our only cycling network, Versus (which we share with the other freak sports like rodeo and hockey), is gearing up to cover the Tour of California, which begins this weekend. And so begins another year of what passes for the mainstream US cycling media putting all its growth hormone-bloated eggs in one flimsy, rotting basket.

I know I’m not the only cyclist who likes to watch TV. But as cyclists, we’re completely entertainment-starved. Most of us will watch any show that involves cycling, purely for the novelty of seeing it on TV. So it’s too bad that the people in a position to put bikes on the air only focus on professional road cycling. That’s like having a sex network and only producing shows about foot fetishism. And what’s worse is that pro road cycling is a complete wreck right now, so it’s actually more like having a sex network and only producing shows about foot fetishism during a worldwide athelete’s foot outbreak.

Here’s why Versus are wasting their time and ours, and why they should be after different cycling-relating programming now more than ever:

Doping

Until cycling stops obsessing about dopers, I’m not watching road racing. You can’t invest any interest in a race without the trainer sweat mat getting yanked out from under you by some boring doping scandal, and this year’s going to be no different. Following this sport is like watching a DVD that keeps skipping--eventually you give up and watch something else.

I know these guys cheat, and I don't care. Cycling is an entire sport based on cheating. If you race or you know anything about racing, you know that it is based on doing as little work as possible. Your equipment and your tactics are designed around saving every bit of energy you can. It’s freeloading on wheels. You can’t then expect a bunch of cheaters to not push the glassine envelope when it comes to substances and chemicals.

I mean, I’d rather these guys were clean, but frankly the only rules I care strongly about are the ones about bike design. If the UCI wasn’t so strict about that these guys would probably be riding around on foiled recumbents or something. Now that would be completely unwatchable.


Backstory

There are millions of cyclists in this country, but few bike racers. And without a dramatic backstory, the only people who follow bike racing are other bike racers—who are little more than freeloaders, as I’ve already pointed out. Just ask any bike shop owner. He or she will tell you that bike racers are whiny, spoiled, disloyal people who think the mere fact that they race entitles them to all kinds of discounts and special treatment. If they can get something cheaper somewhere else, they will.

Targeting a tiny, fickle group like this is a tremendous mistake. Would you open a bike shop that only served racers? No way. You’d be out of business faster than a rib joint in Borough Park. So why devote an entire season of programming to them?

In this country, you need a backstory to get the non-racing public interested in the sport. Obviously we saw this with Lance Armstrong, the “Baby Got Backstory” of pro cycling. Millions followed his racing exploits in the post-cancer years, despite the fact that he failed to win either the Tour of Italy or the Tour of Spain year after year. But we don’t have that anymore.

Sure, Versus tried to give Floyd Landis a backstory. I don’t remember what it was exactly—something about being Amish and having to race on a wooden bicycle. That never really caught on though, and then the whole doping thing extinguished what little spark of public interest there may have been. And I’m sure Versus will try to do this yet again. But unless Mario Cipollini seriously injures himself in a tragic hair gel-related slip-and-fall and the entire world rallies behind him as he attempts to regain the use of his penis, the only people watching road racing are road racers.


Trouble

Of course, if you don’t have an inspiring backstory, there’s always the opposite tactic—negative press. But pro cyclists don’t even have the decency to get into any juicy trouble. The only trouble they ever get into is (yawn) doping. While the rest of the sporting world is impregnating strippers and fighting dogs, the craziest thing a pro cyclist ever does is to sneak into the kitchen after dinner and have a bite of dessert. And it’s this culture of docility that simultaneously makes the sport boring to the public and allows some interloper with a bloated ego like Michael Ball to take advantage of it.

Don’t get me wrong—I don’t think cyclists should start misbehaving in an attempt to get press. But remember when Jan Ullrich took Ecstasy, crashed his car through a bakery window, and was found rolling around naked in a wedding cake? Come on, that was fun.

There's a lot going on in the world of cycling, and much of it is more interesting than pro road racing. So until Versus (or someone else) zooms out a little and starts covering other aspects of cycling, I guess I'll just stick to Youtube.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Worst of NYC Craigslist Bike Ads #51

Today may be Valentine's Day, but it's also officially a Very Big Day in the world of bicycle retailing. Why? Because Kevin's selling his handlebars. And when love and bikes face off, you can always count on bikes to fight dirty, kick love squarely in the groin, and take the win. So if you've got some cash earmarked for a floral arrangement, a romantic dinner, or a pair of fruit roll-up underwear, forget it. This is an ad nobody can resist:


Mavic TT Bars **This is what all you track & Fixed Gear Riders** - $80 [original URL: http://newyork.craigslist.org/brk/bik/572669168.html]
Reply to: [deleted]

Date: 2008-02-13, 10:23AM EST


This is what all you track and fixed-gear riders what? "Have been waiting for?" "Need to make your lives complete?" "Are humping in your dreams when you're doing those goofy epic-length skids?"

I've been asked a million times weather I'd sell my Mavic TT bars and I always said no..

Wow, a million times. That's a lot! You've got to be a really together person not to let that level of attention go to your head. I can see him emerging from his building each morning, only to be greeted by the neighborhood fixed-gear riders:

"Is today the day, Kevin? Will you sell us your bars now? Pleeeze!?!"

I'm sure up until now he's given them the "Pee Wee's Big Adventure" treatment:

"It's not for sale, Fran-cis!"

But now, finally, they are for sale. Huzzah. Why?

I'm not using these on my new buildup so they now on the market.. (Going with all black parts on my build)

I see. Kev's taking the cool up a few notches with the new bike, so we now have access to his cast-offs. I for one am glad that he is keeping the trickle-down economy of fixed-gear coolness alive. See, as Kev gets cooler, he sells off the stuff he's tired of, which in turn makes less cool people a little bit cooler as well. The result is we all move towards a state of ultimate cool. And that's beautiful.

By the way, if you were wondering just how cool Kev is, he's subtly showing you with his photos:


"Yeah, instead of just placing the bars on a surface of some kind I think I'll hold them up in the air so people can see my ink. Check it out, a full sleeve. They don't give these to just anybody."


"Yep, full sleeve on the left arm too. Impressed? Thought so."

“See? They go all the way up to my elbow!” I wish I had been there when he was taking this photo. He must have looked like William Tell about to shoot an arrow of cool right through the apple he’s just placed on dorkiness’s head.

Normal scratches here and there which you can see in the pictures. Price is firm due to the fact that they are rare, everyone wants them, and I've even had people offer me way more for them.

Kevin
212-[deleted]

Everybody wants Kev's bars, but Kev isn't in it for the money. He's just trying to keep the continuum of cool going. By the way, Kev isn't the only thing in those photos with sleeves--those handlebars look like they've got a sleeve as well, which means you can get a better quality TT bar brand new from Nashbar for a quarter of what Kev's asking. But then again, it wouldn't be rare, would it? And as we all know, aluminum handlebars get stronger with age.

NOTE: I also have some other things I'd trade.. Campy Record 165 Track Cranks I'd trade for Black Sugino 75 Cranks (in great shape)

Campy Aero Seatpost 27.2 I'd trade for a Black Miche Supertype

Pictures upon request..

Kevin is clearly over classic Italian. Take note. Black is the new black.

By the way, if you're lucky enough to wind up with these coveted bars, I recommend a nice spoke card to go with them:




(Thanks to Jimmy in Brooklyn for the design.)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Fixedgeargallery...of more disembodied hands.

A reader recently sent me this fixedgeargallery link, mostly because of the enthusiastic preamble:

This right here is my boo... we've been dating since september. She's a KHS Flight 100 With Velocity Aerohead and Nitto Bullhorn handlebars. She's got hips like woah, and a booty that's clappin'. You're site's chillin. I vibe hella and it's my classic peep during Art History. I'm going to be in LA Feb. 15 - 24th with a homie and we wanna ride bicycles. Do me up an email if you read this and are down.

Obviously any readers in Los Angeles who also vibe hella and are available during this window should contact him.

But it wasn't the owner's enthusiasm and use of colloquialisms I found noteworthy. Instead, it was the disconcerting hand you can see if you look closely at the crankal area:





Now, this isn't the first time I've come across something like this, but I find it no less disturbing the second time around. This photo is obviously a two-man job, and I can't help but wonder who he enlisted to hide under that counter and grab that pedal. If only I had a pair of 80s Greg LeMond Oakleys with x-ray lenses, perhaps I could find out. But failing that I can only speculate.

Could it be a woman in a tantalizingly short jean skirt?



Probably not. Our KHS owner has made his taste in women clear from his entry, and I think this one might be too slender for him. On the other hand, he does seem to be a fixed-gear freestyler. And fixed-gear freestyling is to regular riding as flair bartending is to regular old bartending. Perhaps one of his buddies is a Flair School graduate:



Then again, as dexterous as flair bartenders are, they just don't have the raw upper body strength necessary to balance an entire bicycle with one hand like that--especially a bicycle made of unwieldy steel tubing. His accomplice surely must have had more brawn:



Of course, February is Black History Month. Pehaps this is not merely your run-of-the-mill fixedgeargallery entry. Perhaps this is a bold political statement:



Or perhaps not:



In the last post, I even went so far as to suggest as the hand could belong to an aging Pete Townshend. So perhaps this one belongs to his friend, aging Mick Jagger.



But regardless of who it is, they sure went through a lot of trouble, and you'd think they could have at least moved the microwave.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Binging and Purging: Getting Over the Handmade Bike Show

Photos continue to pour in from this past weekend’s handmade bicycle show, and like most of the cyclists who weren’t there I continue to pore over them. Yes, many of the bicycles were beautiful. Yes, we are truly fortunate to be alive during a handcrafted bicycle renaissance. Yes, it’s great to see so much innovation from so many independent builders. And so forth.

Frankly, after gorging myself on pictures I thought I’d gotten the whole thing out of my system already, but I haven't. There’s still something about the show that’s bothering me. It’s like a slight ticking from your bicycle that you still can’t get rid of despite multiple tear-downs and re-builds. Certainly I’d like to just sit back and appreciate the bikes. But as the sort of person who sees a child smiling and wonders, “What the hell are you smirking at?,” sadly I am just not able. Here are some of the ways this figurative ticking has manifest itself:

It Makes My Bikes Seem Crappier

I’m a strong believer in bicycle modesty. I don’t like flashy bikes, or precious bikes. I don’t believe in pampering them, upgrading for vanity’s sake, or spending extra money for incremental differences in quality. Still, though, after looking at show pictures I catch myself resenting my own bikes just a little bit. And that’s dangerous. First you’re coveting some DeSalvo and not bothering to keep your own bike in good working order, and eventually you’re throwing your bike down the steps for missing shifts and being ugly like you’re some kind of lycra-clad Ike Turner.

It Makes Me Feel Guilty

Handmade bicycles are built voluntarily by people who are passionate about cycling and have studiously unusual facial hair configurations. Mass-produced bicycles are built by slaves who don’t know the Maillot Jaune from the Khmer Rouge. Probably the only thing that differentiates my most expensive bike from my cheapest bike is that the people who built the expensive one were over 13 years old and were fed that week.

It Makes Me Feel Like I Have To Do Routine Maintenance

You can only look at so many close-ups of pristine drivetrains before you finally admit your own needs overhauling. If it wasn’t for the stupid bike show I could have left mine alone for another few months. Did I care before that my chain links are so gritty and sticky that spinning my cranks sounds like a bongo solo on a scratchy record? No. Do I care now? A little.

It Makes Me Resent Portland

As a New Yorker my image of Portland is that it’s some kind of moist cycling paradise, and this was furthered by the handmade bike show coverage. Apparently, the streets are lined with custom bike builders, and you can get one made while you wait. Just pop in, place an order, go next-door and spend 15 minutes shopping for organic hemp underwear or whatever it is that people wear out there, and then come back and pick up your new frame. Between the emails I get and the articles I read it seems like Portland is a place where cyclists frolic in ample bike lanes, race cyclocross in dresses, and lock their exquisitely-crafted bikes not with chains and u-locks but with trust and love. Of course, I should be happy for them, but instead I catch myself wanting to bring them here so they can choke to death on some reality.

It Makes Me Resent Portland

And what’s with all those townies and commuter bikes? Sure, I’m all for the marriage of craftsmanship and practicality, but is there a city on Earth where you can actually leave a bike like that outside? And if so, is it Portland? I think any city benign enough to ride bikes like that in would eat me alive—with kindness. Here in New York we’ve learned not to grow attached to our bikes in the same way that the gazelles of the African savanna know not to get too attached to their young.

It Makes Me Resent Robin Williams

Apparently Robin Williams was there checking in with Independent Fabrication about his new bike made out of 953 tubing. Good for him. I can see him admiring it as he combs his shoulder hair. I hear he styles it with Phil Wood’s Tenacious Oil.

Vanilla Bicycles

I admire these beautiful bicycles as much as the next cyclist, but it’s enough already. Sacha White’s wait list is so long that if head tube diameters keep increasing at their current rate they’ll be at least five inches wide by the time you can expect to take delivery. Vanilla has become so popular that I think we're about due for the inevitable backlash for backlash’s sake. So be careful. By the time you get your hands on a Speedvagen they could be more out of style than REO Speedwagon.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Flight Risks: Cycling for the Wrong Reasons

Well, the Handmade Bike Show is over. I didn't go, but I did look at pictures, and that alone qualifies me to sum the whole thing up. In short, wood is the new carbon, Cane Creek showed a $650 headset that will still have your buddies asking you why you didn't just go for the King, Craig Calfee (who is one of only a few builders making bikes for which the most common failure mode is rotting) inched ever closer to showing a bull carcass with a pair of wheels skewered through its hooves and a seatpost jabbed into its back, and the "Best In Show" bike had an integrated U-lock piercing that not only insures you lock it incorrectly, but is also top tube pad-incompatible.

Of course, the sheer variety of bicycles at the show mirrors the disparity that exists among cyclists. And, as anyone who reads the comments on this blog will tell you, disparity can lead to divisiveness. Each one of us rides differently and for different reasons, and we are all highly suspicious of those who we feel are riding for the "wrong" reasons. It's the tired, age-old "real cyclists" vs. "poseurs" debate. Worst of all, each one of us also has a completely different idea of what the wrong reasons are, and I'm no different. Following are some reasons people commonly give for cycling that I personally feel call one's true dedication into question:


It's Good for the Environment

Yes, cycling for transportation is much better for the environment than driving, or flying, or piloting some kind of contraption that burns endangered marine life for fuel. And yes, this is a good thing. For the environment. But what does it say about your commitment to cycling? Not a lot. I suspect many people who cycle primarily because they're concerned about the environment will bail on us as soon as some other clean way of getting around comes along. If SUVs were completely emission-free and ran on smugness instead of fossil fuels these people would flock to the dealerships and proceed to run the rest of us off the road as they root around in their glove compartments looking for their "Live Earth" CDs.


The High Price of Oil

This reason is even flimsier than the environmental one. You don't care about cycling or the environment. You just care about money. Well, what if cycling cost more than gas? (And for many of us, it does.) Would you still ride then? I don't think so. We don't need your kind.


Striving for "Personal Bests"

The concept of the "personal best" is an insidious one, and it will probably destroy us as a species long before our bellicose, environmentally hostile ways do. Substituting "personal bests" for objective standards lowers those standards like Giant lowered top tubes on road bikes. Remember: a bicycle is an elegant and efficient tool designed for seeking out and defeating people who aren't as good as you. If you want to beat yourself, don't get a bike--get a pornographic movie. You can beat yourself all day long without even leaving the house.


Fun

A lot of people fall back on this one when cycling-related arguments get heated. "Hey, it's all about having fun, right?" Wrong! Fun is for children and housepets. Cycling, like all important things, is about suffering. Sure, you can have a little fun, but only if that fun serves to remind you just how much you're really suffering. Because when you try to take the suffering out of cycling, you wind up like this:




Health/Fitness

Real cyclists don't ride because it's healthy. They ride because they have to. If cycling caused arterial clogging, incontinence, and breast development in males real cyclists would still do it anyway. That whole impotence scare didn't get people off their bikes. It just got them using really ugly saddles with cutouts.


Leg Definition (males)

Male cyclists who are vain about their legs and think others admire them are completely delusional. If you're a male cyclist, your legs are either overly developed with an abrupt tan line from miles and miles of cycling in lycra, or they're hairy and scabby from innumerable mountain biking falls. Your legs reflect the fact that you're an obsessive cyclist in the same way a smoker's brown teeth identify him as an addict, or a wine-bibber's stained lips identify him as a slightly more socially acceptable drunk. All three of these things mean you do one thing way too much, and they broadcast only one message to others: stay away! You are not attractive. You are a freak.


It's Cool

Yeah, sure, cycling's cool now. But if you're expecting it to stay that way you'll be disappointed. You know what was also cool once? These glasses:



Think about it.

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Indignity of Commuting by Bicycle: Encounters Both Mechanical and Bacterial

As a turbulent week finally draws to a close, I'd like to share with you two highlights from my morning commute.


The first was a charming concerto of incompetence, which you can see below:



I can't find a single thing in this photograph that isn't stupid. The truck is stuck between the parked cars. The car on its right is parked on the wrong side of the street, in front of a fire hydrant. (If you're going to park illegally, you might as well make it count.) As such, the truck's driver is routing traffic around this gangbang of stupidity by guiding it onto the sidewalk. Here he is shown bidding adieu to the driver of a green minivan, who, having successfully passed, is once again free to roam the streets in search of victims.


The second was decidedly less charming and more organic. Some of you may have at some point or another longed for the opportunity to spit in my face. Well, here is a person who actually has:




Of course, he did so inadvertently. I happened to be nearby when he discharged, the wind was in his favor, and it was only a fine mist by the time it reached me. But that doesn't make it any less disgusting, and as cyclists we must all adhere to a collective pact: look before you spit. My first instinct was to chide him verbally, but I opted instead to follow him and photograph him. And it wasn't easy. Despite his innocuous, upright, nerdy appearance, he rode in a reckless fashion that would make a messenger blush. He spent more time on the sidewalk than a Bichon's leavings or one of those Sarah Lawrence students who panhandle on the Lower East Side over the summer. In fact, note that he's still on the sidewalk in the photo. Eventually, we parted ways when he abruptly turned west on an eastbound one-way street.

The heedless spitting combined with the heedless riding was enough for me to once again make an exception to my policy of not taking candid photos of other cyclists. In this case though I do it less to avenge a wrong than I do it to help my fellow commuters, so that should they encounter this windbreaker-clad phlegm dispenser they can be sure to stay upwind of him.