Wednesday, April 30, 2008

It’s All In the Details: How to be Fast on a Fixed-Gear

(Mescaline-induced curling/bike polo freakout by Erik K)




Going fast on a bicycle isn’t for everybody. If you’d rather look good than ride good on yours that’s perfectly fine. But there are some people out there who still want to actually be fast. If you’re relatively new to cycling and you got here on a fixed-gear, here are three cheap (or free) ways to do it that should be obvious but apparently aren't:


Get a Brake

There are certain corny, contradictory maxims designed to make you do the right thing that simply aren’t true. A good example is the one about how abstinence is the best form of birth control. That’s complete crap. One has nothing to do with the other. It’s like saying building a garden shed is the best way to avoid hang gliding mishaps. Another is the one about getting high on life instead of getting high on drugs. Sure, you may be happier without drugs, and you'll certainly be better off, but you won't be high. Life is irritating, not intoxicating. If living your life made you high then waiting in line would be illegal and you’d pay lots of money to go to parties where you could stand in them for three or four hours.

But here’s one corny maxim that is true: brakes make you faster. I suppose some people think riding without a brake in traffic is somehow daring. But it's not. Actually, it’s pretty low on the spectrum of dangerous things you can do on a vehicle. Riding a liter sport motorcycle at high speed is dangerous. Racing cars is dangerous. Hang gliding instead of building a garden shed is dangerous. And guess what? Except for the hang glider, all those guys use brakes. Not only that, but they actually care about what kind of brakes they use, and instead of removing them, they sometimes even upgrade them! Why? Because you can go faster when you can stop faster.

Consequently, riding without a brake doesn't say, "I'm hardcore." It says, "I'm afraid of exploring the full performance potential of my bicycle." Indeed, in the gym class of death-defying vehicle operation the brakeless fixed-gear rider is just the slightly less nerdy kid who picks on the really nerdy kids but gets beat up by everyone else. Basically, you rank somewhere between skateboarders and actual bicycle racers in the amount of danger you flirt with. Serious motorcyclists confront death much more regularly than brakeless fixed-gear riders, and they don’t rely entirely on their transmissions to stop. The only things that don’t use brakes are skateboards and things without wheels that don’t touch the ground, like boats. I guess that’s why most brakeless fixed-gear riders these days ride like they’re driving Boston Whalers while intoxicated—they’re slow, they weave, and they take a lot of time to stop. (That might also explain why they wear canvas boat shoes.) So put a brake on your bike and you can actually start to flirt with some speed on a bicycle.


Ride The Right Way

Bike salmon are the new wheel-suckers, and now that the weather is nice and all the vanity bikes have come out of mothballs I feel like a rolling sample sale in that I’m constantly being mobbed head-on by fashionistas. I’m not sure when it became mandatory for fixed-gear riders to go against traffic all the time and I’m not sure where it came from. The only thing I can think of is how when I was a little kid I went to that birthday party at Hot Skates in Lynbrook and the DJ suddenly announced that everybody had to spin around and skate the wrong way. Maybe it’s something like that, but since I’m not a real part of the “bike culture” I didn’t get the message from the fixed-gear DJ that it’s time for the reverse skate. At any rate, whatever the reason for it, trust me when I tell you guys you can go a lot faster when you ride in the right direction. Especially because I won’t keep coming at you and force you to ride into a truck. (You can even keep your neckerchief on.)


Wider Bars

Fixed-gear riders have a lot to learn from their singlespeed mountain biker cousins. For one thing, singlespeeders know a lot about how to achieve a straight chainline. They also know where to get good weed. And perhaps most importantly, they know that an important part of putting power to the ground through a singlespeed drivetrain (especially when there’s an incline involved) is leverage. That’s why they actually use riser bars that show some metal between the grips and the stem. Granted, you don’t need bars as wide as your typical singlespeeder’s if you’re riding through traffic. But you also don’t need bars that are narrower than your Q-factor. And if you’re still worried that your wider bars will impede your progress through all those cars, just remember that you also have brakes. If that gap in front of you suddenly closes you’ll be able to change your line on a dime.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Mused and Confused: Pondering the Nature of Cycling

Over the last few days I’ve received a couple of spirited and thought-provoking comments. There was this one from last Friday:

i love how you call out "lawyers, doctors, dentists" as if you are somehow above them because they may choose to ride a single speed or fixed gear bike and yet who are you to judge? some guy who sits behind his computer and rants the same shit everyday..."you're ruining my subculture, stop riding bianchi pistas!!!" if you're so offical why don't you stop bitching and spend less hours in front of computer and more on a bike. pathetic. btw, have some balls and post this.

And this one from yesterday:

BSNYC,

When exactly did you become so bitter? It seems as though everything and everyone annoys you in some way, shape, or form. I'd really enjoy your blog if you were just the slightest bit more positive, but I suppose that's what the whole snob part calls for. Oh well, who else would every disgruntled messenger and hipster turn to when they need their pretentious/I'm better than everyone except for my tight group of friends fix. You're a fine writer, far better than myself, but can you for just one day not check craigslist looking to make fun of someone? Something tells me you would never say such things to someone's face, and that's something you might want to consider.

Are they wrong? Certainly. Missing the point? Absolutely. Twisted maniacs? Very possibly. Even so, I’m a firm believer in using criticism in order to better yourself, and as such each of these comments prompted periods of introspection and soul-searching that lasted literally minutes. So instead, rather than criticize others, today I’d like to take some time to analyze the very nature of cycling itself. I hope you’ll bear with me today as I ponder the bigger questions:

What is Cycling?

Cycling is symmetry. D’uh. It’s a concert of balance, a harmony of tension and a symphony of opposing forces. This symmetry is evident in every aspect of the endeavor. Take for instance:


The Beauty of the Bicycle Wheel




The Uncanny Resemblance Between Dave Zabriskie and 80s Kevin Kline





Furthermore, like yoga, asceticism, or curling on mescaline, cycling is a means by which we discover our true inner selves. Each bicycle journey, no matter how short, is also a journey within. If it wasn’t for cycling, would Lance Armstrong have discovered his acting prowess? Would Phil Liggett have become a coffee mogul? Would Mario Cipollini have been described as “flamboyant” and “charismatic” instead of simply being arrested for being a perverted freak in a catsuit? I too have learned volumes about myself from riding. For example, by mountain biking I’ve learned from my tendency to ride around obstacles instead of over them and from my technique of stopping, dismounting, and visually inspecting drop-offs before riding off of them that I am both lazy and cowardly. I’ve also learned by being dropped from races and rides of all kinds that I don’t like it when things get difficult, and that no matter what you’re doing you can always quit. And that is a beautiful lesson. Knowing that life itself is optional is the key to getting through it.

What is a Cyclist?

In the past I’ve made a distinction between the “cyclist” and the “guy on a bike.” The former is a type of person, while the second is a coincidence or a circumstance. My definition of “cyclist” is two-fold:

1) A “cyclist” rides a bike even when he or she does not have to.

Someone who rides out of necessity is not necessarily a cyclist. For example, the drunk driver who must cycle to work because his license has been taken away is not a cyclist. Nor is the delivery person who does not ride, look at, or think about his bicycle after hours or on days off. However, if you opt to ride a bicycle even when it is inconvenient to do so or you could be doing something else, then you’re probably a cyclist.

2) A “cyclist” is someone who owns a floor pump.

Owning things doesn’t make you a cyclist. Having clipless pedals, or training wheels, or a closet full of cycling attire doesn’t do it. Even owning a bike doesn’t necessarily do it. Hey, if you borrow a bike every time you want to ride you may very well still be a cyclist. However, if you don’t have a floor pump you’re not a cyclist. Using a mini pump or even a frame pump for home use shows a disturbing lack of commitment to proper inflationary technique. And relying on a local bike shop (or worse yet a gas station) for your air is like eating out every single day for your entire life—at Denny's.


Are Triathletes Cyclists?

This is one of those deeply profound questions, like “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” or “Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?” Yes, triathletes ride bikes, but they also swim and run and are generally weird. Well, in light of my definition of “cyclist” I think I have an answer. A triathlete is a cyclist provided he or she would still ride even if the cycling portion of triathlons was officially replaced with some other activity, such as rollerblading or curling while on mescaline. If in such a situation the triathlete says, “Hey, that sucks! Well forget triathlons, I’m going to keep riding,” then he or she is a cyclist. But if the triathlete immediately puts all his or her bike stuff on Craigslist and buys a big heavy rock, a broom, and some peyote, then he or she is just some freak in a half-shirt.

What is The Ideal Frame Material?

I suppose at this point you’re thinking I’m going to say that frame material is irrelevant, and that furthermore even the bike itself is secondary since anything that can carry you forth on a ride is more than sufficient. Unfortunately though that’s not the case.

The ideal frame material is a hybrid. The perfect frame would consist of a carbon downtube for lateral rigidity and vertical compliance, a titanium seat tube to cancel out road buzz, one steel seatstay and one aluminum seatstay (aluminum on the driveside), one titanium chainstay and one carbon fiber chainstay (carbon on the driveside), one iso-truss top tube with patented “Groin Gr8er” technology, and a bamboo fork to smooth the whole thing out. Riding a bike like this would be an explosive and orgasmic epiphany that would launch you straight to nirvana like a blissed-out circus freak being fired from a cannon.

Who is the Greatest Cyclist of All Time?

Dizz Hicks, due entirely to his brilliant “Flirtin’ With Dizzaster” ad campaign. “I am Specialized?” I don’t think so.




Monday, April 28, 2008

Worst of Craigslist: Diaphanous, Intoxicated, Self-Promoting Bike Love

The sitcom of life has not paused once for a commercial over the past few days. Instead, zany madcap scenario after zany madcap scenario has played itself out on our city's streets. And, tragically, all too often a bicycle was involved. Here are just a few that would prick up the ear of Norman Lear:

sidewalk sale on metropolitan, saturday - w4m - 24 (williamsburg) [original URL: http://newyork.craigslist.org/brk/mis/658887209.html]
Reply to: [deleted]
Date: 2008-04-27, 11:47PM EDT


i was walking my bike and looked briefly at some fabric you had out on the sidewalk. you yelled out that i should take them now for 25 cents. i said i'd be back and you yelled that again.

you were sitting with a girl and maybe she wasn't your girlfriend? cuz, i think you're cute.


Despite the fact that fixed-gears are ostensibly all about simplicity, people are putting anything they can find onto them. (Except for brakes and derailleurs, of course.) Popular accoutrements include reading material, leather tourniquets, pipe insulation, foam blocks, and of course bits of knotted cloth. (The latter example also sports a tennis ball in the spokes for impromptu tennis games, a saddle/security system with a combined weight of 14lbs, and a stem that looks like a phallus during a routine medical checkup or after a cold swim.)

I like to think that this particular cyclist was browsing fabric sales in search of diaphanous schmatas with which to adorn her bicycle so that it might attain that Stephen Tyler’s Mic Stand/Stevie Nicks look that’s currently in vogue. It’s about time bike fashion went beyond simple top tube pads and bandanas to full-blown haute couture. Who knows? This poster may be a pioneer of Pista Pret-a-Porter.

I lost my keys last night b/c I can't ride my bike when I'm drunk (park slope/prospect heights) [original URL: http://newyork.craigslist.org/brk/mis/658131871.html]
Reply to: [deleted]
Date: 2008-04-27, 11:51AM EDT


Please take pity on me: I thought I would ride my bike home last night from the bar, but since I grossly overestimated my biking-while-drunk skills, I paid the price. Not only did I fall over on my bike practically as soon as I got on (meaning I have very painful limbs and joints this morning and will soon have some awesome bruises), I somehow LOST my keys and beloved keychain. Obviously it would be incredibly convenient to get my keys back, but what pains me the most - even more than my knee, which is a lot - is the loss of the keychain I got as a gift years ago. It's a little metal soccer player man, and it says "BEB" on one side and "Brazil" on his hat. If you find it, PLEASE contact me to return it. I will be eternally grateful.

Thanks!!

Firstly, I’d like to state unequivocally for the record that I’m against cycling while intoxicated. If you must ride a bicycle to a bar, make sure it is a tandem and that you’ve got a designated captain who will remain sober for the evening. Obviously this person is lucky to have only lost his keys. That said, I did also find the following posting in the Craigslist “Lost and Found” section and can’t help thinking they’re related:

"Hi. This is a bit embarrassing, but I woke up Sunday morning with some abdominal discomfort after a bout of heavy drinking, and it turns out that somehow a Brazilian novelty soccer keychain must have made its way into my body cavity during the course of the night. (The last thing I remember is chants of “Forza Brazil!” and a lot of metallic jingling.) If for some reason you still want it back, please let me know. I’d also appreciate your reimbursing me for the medical expenses I’ve incurred."

Of course, it’s also possible that they’re the car keys with which bike blogger, Aerospoke enthusiast, and fixed-gear flim-flam victim Michael Green was duped. In any case, it’s an intriguing but potentially disgusting mystery.

You were riding a bicycle - m4w - 20 (Midtown) [original URL: http://newyork.craigslist.org/mnh/mis/654111052.html]
Reply to: [deleted]
Date: 2008-04-24, 12:12AM EDT


So, I saw you riding your bicycle in Central Park up around the 70th or 80th Street Area on the West Side... you had blonde hair, and bluish eyes from what I could tell. I don't remember what you were wearing... but I was wearing deep navy blue dress pants, a light blue colored shirt, and a plum colored tie. I was carrying around my black handbag on my left shoulder which says "NYSE" on it. You passed me by on the bike while smiling around 4 PM something... and then looked back at me after you passed. Then, around 5 PM something, after I walked from the middle of Central Park to Central Park South, I saw you pass by me again on the bike path. Again, I recognized you as soon as I saw you, and then I turned my head to see you... you were already about 100 feet off or so, and then you looked back at me, I'm *certain* it was because you had remembered me from before. I'd be absolutely AMAZED if we met again. Perhaps I will go for a walk in the park tomorrow as well and see if I see you again, same place, same time. I've included pictures below so perhaps you will recognize me.


It’s all too rare that a Missed Connections suitor actually includes a picture. Usually they limit their postings to a description like “I was the guy on the sidewalk wearing the shirt and the hat. If you see this hit me up.” In this case, though, we get full disclosure. In fact, the poster barely knows what his dream girl looks like. She had “blonde hair, and bluish eyes from what I could tell,” and he doesn’t even remember what she was wearing. But he sure remembers what he was wearing! He even makes sure to mention the NYSE bag so we know he’s somehow affiliated with the stock exchange. Amir seems to be casting a wide net intended to ensare any fair-haired female cyclist in Central Park looking to date an aspiring young stockbroker or financier. Let’s take a look at his photos:






Ah, the old "hold the camera away from you" self-portrait. An endearing classic.








The "camera-phone-in-the-mirror infinity shot." Mind bending, and an indicator that perhaps the soul of an artist lies beneath the eggplant-colored shirt and conservative exterior.








Wow, a professional headshot! With credits! This may be the world's most expensive Craigslist posting.






Another professional headshot. The first one was for professional networking use, but this one's strictly for the ladies. It's meant to highlight his sex appeal and dashing good looks rather than his business acumen. It's also useful for when Hollywood comes calling. With this shot it's entirely possible that Amir's Craigslist posting budget has officially exceeded the $1,000 mark. That's a lot of money--you can almost buy two well-used Pistas on Craigslist for that kinda scratch! I only hope it pays off for him. I have a feeling this kid is going places.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Alarming Frequency: One Gear, Too Many Choices



While I’m certainly not alone in believing that a Fixed-Gear Apocalypse is pending, I can only speculate as to the form it will actually take. It’s natural to assume that when it arrives it will do so with lots of pyrotechnics, as a yawning chasm opens in the Earth into which the sinners will cast their cursed Pistas, their low-end steel smelted and re-fashioned by Hephaestus into whatever the next trendy bike will be. However, recent evidence suggests the onset of the Apocalypse may be more subtle. It may not be a great conflagration. It may instead take the form of the trend sort of doubling over on itself and imploding, like an alpaca chasing its tail (assuming they have them) or trying vainly to nibble off an irritating dingleberry.

There are two blips on my Apoca-dar that have been approaching each-other on a collision course for some time now. The first is this:


Nothing wrong with a cheap road-oriented fixed-gear, but when the secret website’s sister site is selling one (at a 40% discount plus an additional 15% until Saturday, which by my calculations means it costs $17.50) the assimilation is complete. But this is hardly noteworthy in and of itself. The assimilation has been complete for some time. I do, however, feel that it is noteworthy in conjunction with the other blip on my Apoca-dar:



Yep, Serotta, the favored marque of lawyers, accountants, and dentists everywhere, is now offering its own take on the road-going fixed-gear.

When a certain type of bicycle enters the zeitgeist, it’s normal for the avid cyclist to want to build one up for himself to see what all the fuss is about. Whether it’s fixed-gears, singlespeed mountain bikes, 29ers, or cyclocross bikes, if it’s in his face for long enough the handy cyclist with a full complement of tools and a brimming spare parts bin will inevitably hit the classifieds and cobble one together.

The Serotta Singolo, however is for the sort of rider who has the disposable income to add a sixth or seventh bicycle to his stable and who also gets itchy and uncomfortable when forced to ride “low-end” or mass-produced bikes. You probably know someone like this yourself. If you want to know how he feels astride lesser bicycles, imagine hating Billy Joel. (Which it’s not difficult to do.) Then imagine having to wear a Billy Joel t-shirt for a full day. You’d want to stop strangers on the street and explain that you actually hate him. You’d fold your arms in front of yourself as much as possible. And you’d probably try to wriggle out of it eventually. If you’ve ever tried to put an article of clothing on a cat, you’ve got some idea of what I’m talking about.

So when the low frequency of Performance meets the high frequency of Serotta, weird things are bound to start happening. Apocalyptic things. It’s kind of like that movie with Michael Keaton where he can talk to dead people through static. (Or at least like what I imagine it would have been like if I had actually seen the movie.)

Also noteworthy is the copy:

Horizontal (track) drop outs allow for perfect chain tension adjustment. No after-market "tensioners" needed. "Road" geometry (it's not just a track bike with brakes) offers handling familiarity and comfort.

Ooh, no pesky tensioners needed! That should save me ten bucks. And besides the fact that track ends aren’t drop-outs, I couldn’t help noting that Serotta are also boasting that it’s got road geometry and isn’t “just a track bike with brakes.” There are lots of other bikes that have actual horizontal dropouts and have road geometry too—they’re called old road frames. Why not get one of those? Their own forums are crawling with them. You might even be able to find an actual Serotta road frame. In fact, there’s one on eBay right now. It’s Scott Moninger’s old bike:


Granted, I can’t tell from the photos if the dropouts are horizontal, but the frame does advertise a cheap beer, and nothing’s hotter in the fixed-gear community than cheap beer. That alone makes it worth using an Eno hub if necessary.

And if all these frequencies aren’t deafening enough, Serotta’s “not just a track bike with brakes” is apparently an “imitator” according to Bianchi:

Imitators use modified road frames with road offset, so look and ride before you buy.

Yikes. So is this how the Apocalypse will come? Will bike companies simply bewilder us with choices, options and counter-claims until the whole thing collapses under its own weight? Will a trend that began under the guise of simplicity become impossibly complex? How many different types of fixed-gears will tomorrow’s customer need to consider before making a conclusion? Road fixed-gears. Track fixed-gears. Fixed-gear freestyle fixed-gears. High-end, low-end, mid-range. Will it chase it’s own tail into oblivion?

I don’t know. All I do know is that I just missed out on buying the World’s Most Pimpin’ Giant Bowery:



UP FOR AUCTION IS MY GIANT (BOWERY) FIXED GEAR BICYCLE. JUST HAD IT CUSTOM BUILT THREE WEEKS AGO . I,VE RIDEN IT ABOUT 20 MILES. IN SHORT IM SELLING MY BIKE TO PUT THE MONEY TOWARDS BUYING A CAR. IF YOU LIKE FIXED GEARS I GARRRENTEEE YOUR SATICE- FACTION . ITS A NICE SOLID RIDE, AND I HATE TO SEE IT GO BUT I,VE HAD AN OPPERTUNITY TO MOVE ON TO BIGGER AND BETTER THINGS. THE BIKE COMES COMPLETE WITH EVERYTHING DESRIBED BELOW:


FRAME: '08' GIANT BOWERY (ALUMINUM) 350.00
HUBS: PHILWOODS (FRONT AND REAR) 500.00
WHEELS: VELOCITY DEEP-V'S (FRONT -GUN MEATAL GRAY, RADIAL LACED/ REAR-ROYAL BLUE 4-CROSS) 150.00
CRANK SET: FSA 100.00
CHAIN: 20.00
HEAD SET: STOCK WITH FRAME
CHAIN RING: ROCKET 48 TEETH 35.00
COG: FIXED GEAR 16 TEETH
1RST SET PEDDLES: EGG BEATERS 145.00
2ND SET PEDDLES: TOSI DOUBLE STRAPS WITH DIMENSION PEEDLES: 80.00
STEM: ORIGIN8 45.00
HANDLE BARS : ELEVEN 81 40.00
SATTLE : STOCK BOWERY SEAT
CHAIN TENTIONERS: ROCKET 25.00
PIN STRIPPING: CUSTOM 70.00
KRYPTONITE LOCK : 100.00
TOTALING A LITTLE OVER 1,500 BUCKS.
I RESEARVE THE RIGHT TO END THIS AUCTION EARLY DO TO ITEM BEING SOLD LOCALLY. SHIPPING WILL BE UNDER 100.00 BEPENDING WHERE IT WILL BE SHIPPED.
ANY QWESTIONS CALL : RAY AT [deleted] / RON AT [deleted]


I will be kicking myself all weekend.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Pie In The Sky: A World Without Spoke Protectors

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.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Victim Complex: Coping With Bike Theft

As a rule, I don't make fun of victims on this site, unless they are fashion victims. In particular, I avoid making fun of theft victims. Bike theft is perhaps one of the most infuriating yet degrading things that can happen to a cyclist. There is shame and stigma attached to being a bike theft victim, and when you're forced to report one you feel like Lionel Ritchie probably did when he reported his wife for spousal abuse. As such, to make fun of somebody under such circumstances would simply be inexcusable. (Though in the case of Lionel Ritchie, ridiculing him years after the fact for being abused by his wife is perfectly fine.)

I've just received an entreaty from a fellow blogger, Michael Green of Bikeblog, whose bike was stolen in New York City only yesterday. His plea bore all the hallmarks of the theft victim's lament; it was filled with anguish, desperation, and shame. He wanted me to share his story in the hopes that someone might read it and help him recover his bike. I was compelled to do so not only because I'd like to help and because he's a fellow blogger, but also in the hopes that by discussing bike theft openly we can erase the stigma of victimhood. Here is his tale:

Happy Earthday...I got a great present: MY BIKE STOLEN

I'm in shock. Someone just stole my track bike, and I let them do it. After biking in NYC for 18 years I just fell victim to a scam. It happened April 22nd, 5:00pm. I was on 1st ave between 13th and 14th, in front of the birdbath bakery, which gives you 25% off if you use a bike. I wanted to bring my bike in the store but instead took a minute to look for a place to lock it up. A Hispanic male about 5'8, stocky, short cropped hair, looking kind of pale like he was on the methadone program. He was fit. A good 250 lbs. Wearing a white button down short sleeved shirt with a huge airbrushed image of scar-face. Jean shorts, white sneakers. He had some religious tattoos including a cross on his hand that looked home-made. He walked by me, then turned around and came back. He walked up to me and asked where he could get a bike like mine. Then he asked if he could feel how heavy it was. I knew he was going to want to try it out and I knew I would SAY NO! Then for some dumb ass reason, I gave in and let him ride it. Before this happened he gave me the keys to his car which he walked over to a car parked in the street and turned the lock. I didn't pay to much attention to these details...YEAH I know...I should Have. I shouldn't have even let him touch my bike...going with my initial gut feelings. This will be the hardest part to swallow. I share it with you knowing the embarsment I will have to live with for the rest of my life. I had a policy, never to let people ride my bike, never to stop on the Bridge if someone flagged me down. WHY WHY WHY did I let down my guard.


Then the guy rode back and forth up and down the block between 14th and 13th. 3 times. On the third pass he headed North on 1st and then crossed 14th street on a green light, stopping traffic. He took off down 14th street towards AVE A. Sorry, I'm still in shock and have to write this as fast as I can.So I called the police. They came right away, they were nice and helpful. We took a ride. We went over to Continuum bike shop to see if he tried to make the quick sale. Jeff at the bike shop told me someone else had this happen to them too, recently, he said a lot of people have been reporting bike theft. I knew about this. I had no idea the same scam was being tried on other people.If you see this bike please please please let me know.

criticalmassbiker@mac.com

It is a a orange khs bike all covered up with round green and white crumpler stickers. It has a gold Kris King headset. It has a green areospoke front wheel with a green tire. It has green Oury hand grips. I love this bike...really. I feel like a total schmuck.Please help me get it back. Any information will help.


Here are pictures:




I’m not going to make any cheap shots about the Aerospoke, nor am I going to point out that you should never trust anybody wearing a “Scarface” t-shirt, airbrushed or otherwise. The fact is that while it might seem obvious in hindsight what this guy’s motives were, sometimes things aren’t quite so clear-cut while they’re actually happening to you. I can also sympathize with Michael here because I too have been a victim of the old “Let Me Try Your Bike Flim-Flam.” Of course, I was like seven years old at the time and my mother and I recovered the bike about 20 minutes later from the front of the thief’s house, its Skyway Tuff Wheel IIs mercifully in situ, but it was still a painful experience that haunts me to this day. So I’m putting out an RTMS Amber Alert on Michael’s bike:



If you have any leads, please contact him.
I also want to thank Michael for his candor in describing how his bike was stolen. Michael may feel like a “schmuck,” but he shouldn’t. It’s important to know how thieves operate so that we can learn how to avoid them. A surprising number of thieves will in fact attempt to cajole you into letting them “see” your bike. As I mentioned before, because of the shame and stigma attached to bike theft victimhood, too many people don’t describe how their bicycle was stolen, since they wrongly feel that the fact that it was stolen makes them stupid. The fact is that bikes are stolen every day, and it can happen to anyone at any time. Here are just three of the most recent ones currently being sought on Craigslist:


MISSING Giant T-Mobile (TCR Alliance) - $200 (Chelsea) [original URL: http://newyork.craigslist.org/mnh/bik/652136121.html]
Date: 2008-04-22, 3:17PM EDT
It has been stolen at front of Gotham Bike Store(112 W Broadway) 1:30 PM 4/17/08
I don’t care who Return it, $200. Bart 646-272-9579 Giant TCR Alliance T-Mobile. I brought it from Taiwan. Size: XS. There are some scratches under down tube, pencil mark in stem, and many of my name stickers.





STOLEN SEROTTA MEIVICI - BIG REWARD!!!!! (West Village) [original URL: http://newyork.craigslist.org/mnh/bik/650471515.html]

Reply to: sale-650471515@craigslist.org

Date: 2008-04-21, 7:13PM EDT



STOLEN SEROTTA MEIVICI - BIG REWARD

I had my Serotta Meivici stolen Friday afternoon 4/18/08 from Houston and 6th Ave in New York City. I am putting out the word and offering a big reward for anyone who can help me to locate it. I have serial numbers for the frame and SRM unit. Here is a description of the bike:

Serotta Meivici 08 frame and fork
Custom 53.5” frame
Paint scheme: black naked carbon with white painted Serotta decals
Campy record groupo 8 with FSA/SRM cranks and bottom bracket (have a serial # for this as well)
SRM Powercontrol V unit mounted to bars
Daeda Blackstick seat post
Fizik alliente carbon seat – white
Richie Evolution bars with white Cinelli tape
Speedplay pedals
Mavic Ksyrium SL wheels with Specialized Roubaix Tires
Arundel Cage Dave-O grey Titanium

Please contact with any information!

Mark Heithoff
Ph: 212-941-1549
Fax: 212-941-1186
Cell: 917-209-5584 email: mheithoff@earthlink.net



STOLEN->Red Fuji Track, Bway and Houston, (Downtown) [original URL: http://newyork.craigslist.org/mnh/bik/648135492.html]

Reply to: sale-648135492@craigslist.org

Date: 2008-04-19, 10:11AM EDT

My Red Fuji Track Got stolen last sunday, right on Broadway and Houston its a 58 cm, had a brooks, brown wrapped straight bars, a purple chain, and pretty generic/unbranded other parts. also had an "also known as" sticker on the downtube

If you see/have seen it please hit me up @ Nine One Seven 658 5422

if you do somehow get it back, ill be glad to give you a reward, also i heard someone saw someone buy the bike off some dude over on delancey and essex, if this was you, please please return it, i really love that bike plus my brooks was just getting broken in, and it fit me really nicely

Can Be seen here:

To me, the frustrating and disconcerting thing about all these ads is that there’s little to no information about how the bikes were stolen. I attribute this to embarrassment. Again, there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. I’ve had bicycles stolen from my premises. I’ve had bicycles stolen due to weak locks. I’ve had bicycles stolen that were secured with strong locks to seemingly permanent features of the urban landscape that were, unbeknownst to me, actually removable. The method was different every time, but the result was always the same: it sucked.

The fact is though that bike theft is a fact of life. This is a shame, because it’s probably one of the main reasons more people don’t ride in the city. Pending more secure bike parking, though, we’re just going to have to deal with it. Here are my tips for how to do that:

1) Have Many Bikes

When a male fish eats its mate’s eggs, do you think the mother cares? Not really. There are plenty left. In fact, the male is kind of doing them both a favor, since fewer eggs makes life easier and means more resources to go around. This is how you should view bike ownership. Don’t just have one really nice bike—have a bunch of “meh” bikes. Any time someone’s selling a decent one that you can afford, snap it up. That way, when one of them gets snagged, you’ll almost be relieved. It’s one less mouth to feed and a few more feet of wall space.

2) Don’t Form Attachments To Your Bikes

As I’ve said before, I’m a strong believer in loving the ride, not the bike. The latter can be taken from you at any moment, but the former really can’t. The fleeting satisfaction you get from constant upgrading, detailing, and fussing will inevitably re-visit you in the form of mental anguish when your bike is either stolen or crashed. Should you treat your bike well? Yes. Should you take every precaution when it comes to theft? Absolutely. Should you treat it like a human child and invest in it a part of your soul? Only if you’re the kind of person who falls in love with strippers. In fact, it’s probably a good idea to treat your bike like a stripper. Enjoy it but don’t get too attached, put a few bucks into it now and again, and just shrug and move on when it takes up with someone else.

3) Don’t Have A Pretty Bike

Speaking of strippers, the explosion of fixed-gear mania has turned the city into one giant strip club, in that everywhere you look there are pretty things hanging off of poles. Fixed-gear riders upgrade their bicycles constantly, festooning them with color and costly baubles, and walking down the streets of trendy neighborhoods is like walking along a sidewalk lined with lush, blooming shrubbery. So what opportunist wouldn’t want to pluck off a piece of fruit? I’m not sure when every urban fixed-gear bicycle I saw suddenly had Phil Wood hubs and a Chris King headset, but it's definitely become the case over the last few years. If your bike’s going to be spending its life hugging poles in an urban environment, skip the expensive stuff. For the price of one of those hubs you could buy another cheap bike and be in compliance with my rule #1.

4) Know Your Bike Will Get Stolen

If you lock your bike outside, it will get stolen one day. Whether it’s nice or crappy, and whether you lock it well or lock it poorly, sooner or later you’re going to come outside and it’s going to be gone. So do not close that lock and walk away unless you have already come to terms with the fact that there’s a good chance you’ll return to find nothing there. This above all else should be your main criteria in choosing a bike for urban riding. Don't lock it if you're not prepared to lose it.

Yes, it it's too bad, but that's the way it is. At least until we get one of these.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Lure of the Animal: Selling Bikes with Cat Power

I'm rarely impressed by a bicycle advertisement. Specialized's "I Am Specialized" campaign leaves me cold. (Mostly because it sounds too much like "I Am Special," which implies you might need training wheels to ride. And by training wheels I mean this kind, not the kind you use so you don't wear out your race tires.) Cannondale's "Feel It" slogan just creeps me out. (I don't wanna feel it! For chrissakes, just put it away!) And as for the rest, it's mostly just the usual claims of enhanced lateral rigidity and vertical compliance, perhaps accompanied by some vague technical data they might as well not even bother with since you know and they know that it's the decals that are ultimately going to sell the bike.

This is why I'm a huge fan of the current Look marketing campaign. Look have dispensed with both catchy slogans and dubious claims in their attempt to convince you to buy their products. Instead, they've harnessed the awesome marketing power of the panther:

OK, well, there is a slogan: "Unique bike for unique people." But the slogan's really small and hidden in the corner. Instead, this ad uses a picture to tell a story, and it's one to which we can all relate. Credit Acricole sprinter Thor Hushovd has just returned from a soiree of some kind, and he's taking his pet panther for a walk before turning in for the night. They are clearly in the upscale section of a cosmopolitan city. It could be London, or Paris, or Monte Carlo, though presumably it's someplace where they don't have leash laws and where it's legal to keep predatory animals as pets. As they perambulate, they pass a display case containing a Look frameset, and Thor gives it a glance that says, "Yeah, I have one of those, and I'd be out riding it if it weren't late and I weren't walking my panther." It's the same glance all men recognize as the one you get from other men at red lights when you're on your bike and they aren't because they've been roped into going clothes shopping or something, so they look at your bike condescendingly as if to say, "Yeah, I've got one of those too. Not only that, but it's better than yours and I'd be dropping you right now if I weren't on my way to Old Navy." Maybe they even whisper some quip about your bike to their girlfriend, who couldn't care less and who gets mad at them for thinking about bikes when they're supposed to be together shopping.

I think we can all agree that this is an incredibly persuasive and seductive ad, precisely because it taps into the profound connection that humans and panthers share. Previous examples of the power of the human/panther bond in our culture are:


The Pink Panther;


The Black Panthers;





Owens Corning PINK Fiberglass Insulation;





and of course LL Cool J.



Clearly Look did their homework before launching their panther ad campaign, because they've evoked LL Cool J's "Walking with a Panther" album, which heretofore stood as the apex of panther-themed marketing campaigns. This incredibly successful album contained such hits as "Goin' Back to Cali," "I'm That Type of Guy," and "Big Ole Butt." Like the Look ad, this picture tells a story. It's also the story of a man and his giant cat, both of whom have a fondness for jewelry. There's also a fascinating ambiguity. Is the panther in LL's employ, or vice-versa? And what's in the suitcase that would need to be protected so fiercely? Is it LL's metaphorical cool? Is it the master tapes for the very album we're looking at? Is it spare four-finger rings? Whatever it is, it's beguiling, and it's definitely the template for the Look campaign.

And Look didn't just stop with the Hushovd ad either. They've also got a few with just the panther. Here's the panther pacing anxiously in the Look display case, having perhaps just killed and devoured his keeper:


And here's the panther admiring Look's latest pedal offerings:



By now you're probably thinking that Look didn't actually use a real panther for these photos. Not only would that have been dangerous, but the cost of a professional panther wrangler alone would have put them well over budget. But I have it on good authority that they did in fact use a real cat. However, they did need to resort to trickery in order to get it to stare so longingly at those pedals:



(Rotisserie chicken--works every time.)

And here's the panther admiring the frameset:

If you're suspecting more baiting-and-switching here too, you're right:

Heavens to Murgatroid! Yep, that's effeminate cartoon mountain lion Snagglepuss with whom our panther is so taken. In fact, if you look closely you'll see he's even fogged up the glass! It would appear then that our black panther may be a pink panther as well. (Or a female panther with poorly-functioning gaydar.)

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Makin' It Stick: How to Install Tubular Tires


The “Tubulars vs. Clinchers” debate is a heated one—at least, it used to be until I settled it once and for all awhile back. However, there still are valid reasons for using them, so we shan’t be seeing their sticky undersides permanently rolling off the rim of cycling any time soon. If you’re new to cycling and are unfamiliar with tubulars, they are those tires that you glue onto your rim, and some other common names for them are sew-ups, tubs, tubies, singles, wheel gaskets, glue-gutted rim adders, Sissy Spacek’s lips, Brandt baiters, and Flemish rubbers.

I’m not going to go into the reasons you might want to choose a tubular over a clincher. Maybe you want to run low tire pressure, or you don’t like how clinchers look sticking out of the pocket of your wool jersey, or you just like playing with glue. Or maybe you’ve found that clincher tires simply don’t perform well on your tubular wheelset. Whatever--you have your reasons and it’s none of my business. All I’m concerned with is making sure you know how to keep them stuck to your rims so you don’t kill me if I find myself riding near you. Of course, arguments about how to properly glue up a tubular are even older than the tubular/clincher debate, so it can be difficult to separate fact from myth. Well, forget everything you’ve ever learned, because I’m proud to present my definitive guide for mounting tubulars in five easy steps:

1) Stretch the Tire

A tire must be properly stretched in order to fit easily onto your rim. Traditional methods such as mounting them unglued on a dry rim or simply standing on them and stretching them by hand are generally insufficient. The best method is to slip the tire over a street sign and then fasten it to the bumper or ball hitch of your car. Then put the car in gear and slowly accelerate. Once the street sign begins to bend the tire should be sufficiently stretched.

If you don’t have access to a car you can also use the human self-preservation instinct to stretch your tire. Simply slip your tire over a neighbor’s doorknob and then fasten the other end to a cleat on a stationary object like a wall. Then pound on the door and yell, “Fire, fire!” Your neighbor’s frantic and futile attempts to flee the “inferno” in which he or she is now trapped should provide more than enough stretching force—and hilarity!

2) Age the Tire

As any old mechanic will tell you, a tire needs to be properly aged to insure maximum puncture resistance. Ideally, this should involve storing it in a musty basement for no less than a year. However, few of us have that kind of time. If you simply must use your tire sooner rather than later, save up a week’s worth of dirty cycling shorts. Then, place the tire along with the shorts, two cups of vinegar, and three teaspoons of mayonnaise in a plastic garbage bag and leave it under the sink for a week. By the end of the week you should have a properly aged tire as well as an infestation of some kind.

3) Prep the Rim

Some people say you should start with a completely clean rim. Others say you should leave the old glue on there since it provides a base to which the new glue can adhere. The fact is that it doesn’t matter. Regardless of the condition of your rim, take it outside and rub the rim bed on an abrasive surface like a curb or the corner of a brick wall. You should do this at night, because until you see sparks you’re not using enough force. Do this until the entire rim bed is hot and rough to the touch. I call this the “Thomas’ English Muffin” technique, because it creates lots of nooks and crannies in which the adhesive can hide.

4) Make your Adhesive

This is yet another subject everybody argues about. One rider’s favorite brand of tubular glue is the culprit in another rider’s rolled tire nightmare story. Some swear by red glue, others by clear. Some use tape instead of glue. And some even use adhesives not designed for tires, such as 3M Fastack.

The truth is, they’re all terrible. The best tire glue can be made cheaply and easily at home. Put four cups of natural honey in a mixing bowl. Then add two teaspoons of Krazy Glue, one tablespoon of kerosene, and three egg yolks and whip vigorously with a whisk for about a minute. That’s it—you’re done!

(Not only does this make a great adhesive, but you can also use the leftovers to make your own energy bars. Just stir in a box of Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch and let cool in the fridge overnight. It’s so filling you may never eat again.)

5) Mount the Tire

Take a paintbrush, apply a thin coat of glue to your rim bed and another to the base tape of the tire. Let dry for 20 minutes as you walk urgently in circles, count toothpicks that have fallen on the floor with uncanny accuracy, mutter about how you’re a very good driver, and cite Quantas’ crash-free record. Then, apply a second coat to the rim and carefully mount your tire. While I generally advise dressing semi-formally for the occasion when you’re doing bike maintenance, in this case I suggest you avoid wearing a neck tie or bollo tie while you mount a tubular as it’s possible it may get stuck in between the rim and the tire and madcap hilarity may ensue.

Once the tire is mounted, inflate partially and let it dry overnight. Then, inflate to full pressure, install the wheel, and ride as usual! (Taking pains of course to avoid: descents that involve prolonged braking; glass, gravel, or other types of road debris; riding in extremely hot weather; riding in extremely cold weather; aggressive cornering; aggressive straight-line riding; riding near beehives; and any situation that might necessitate a tire change.)

Oh yeah—don’t forget to savor that magical tubular ride quality!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Mayday, Mayday! Gearing Up for Bike Month


Did you know that next month is National Bike Month? Yep, that’s right, we’ve got our own month all to ourselves! Now I don’t know about you, but I’m tremendously excited. I feel like Tom Cruise in “Risky Business” right after his parents left town and he called Rebecca De Mornay but right before the pimp stole all his furniture. In fact, I’m so psyched for Bike Month I hardly know what to do first! So for some guidance, I went over to the League of American Bicyclists website, where they have a handy PDF full of suggestions. Here were my five favorites:

#2. Decorate a cake or cookies with a bicycle theme.




Decorate a cake?!? You don't have to tell me twice! The only thing I enjoy more than baking scrumptious desserts is whimsically adorning my creations with delightful decorations. And my Bike Month cake is already done. It's the Mario Cipollini "Mmm, Smell My Fingers!" cake. Nobody knows for sure where those hands have been nor what they smell like (though "crotchy" is probably a good guess), but one thing's for sure: the cake's delicious.




#5. Try a New Type of Cycling: Cyclocross




Hey, I'm all for people trying cyclocross, but I can't stress enough that it is not a "running race, with a bicycle added for extra excitement..." The bicycle is not incidental in cyclocross--the running is. This is the kind of misconception that leads some people to liken cyclocross to triathlon, which is one of the most egregious and offensive comparisons you can make to a cyclocross racer. It's sort of like calling a Japanese person Chinese, or an Irish person English. "Whatever, same thing. You both use chopsticks." Riiight. Plus, Bike Month is in May, and you're not going to find too many cyclocross races going on in the Spring. What do they recommend for June, ice fishing?

#28. Attend a local cycling race.



This is an exceedingly bad piece of advice. If it's May, chances are your "local cycling race" is an amateur road race. And there is nothing more boring than watching an amateur road race. I'd rather watch traffic on the LIE than watch an amateur road race. At least you can always see cars on the LIE. An amateur road race though consists of a bunch of roadies going by, then nothing for like 20 minutes, then the group zipping by again, then nothing, and finally a sprint followed by excuses and long-winded protests to the officials. We want to keep people interested in cycling, not put them off of it. Sure, there are some races that aren't boring to watch, just like there are some movies starring John Travolta that aren't awful. But in both cases they're so rare that it's not worth the risk--it's better to just avoid them altogether. So unless you are a racer yourself, do not--I repeat, do not--attend a local cycling race.


#31. Attach playing card to your bike wheel and ride around like you did when you were a little kid.



This pretty much describes every fixed-gear rider in Williamsburg, for whom every month is apparently Bike Month. Do I have to use risers on a 90mm stem too?

#48. Ride a different bike than usual: Try a tandem, a tricycle or a unicycle!




Now this is a piece of advice I can get behind--not because it would be fun to do myself, but because it would be tremendously entertaining to watch. I'd love it if for the entire month of May cyclists were forced to ride completely unfamiliar machines. I'm imagining roadies falling all over themselves on mountain bike trails; recumbent riders struggling to stay upright on unicycles, and Rivendell riders hunched painfully over Pinarellos. If we all took this advice, Bike Month would be an anarchic, floundering free-for-all. On second thought, though, for a lot of riders every day is an anarchic, floundering free-for-all. It certainly describes my commute this morning, which consisted largely of dodging fawn-legged fair-weather riders on their bikes for the first time since last Fall. In any event, I'm looking forward to kicking back with a slice of Cipollini cake and watching the insanity.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

From The BSNYC News Desk: Shorts, Not Briefs

As the riding and racing season shifts into the big ring there’s a lot happening in the world of cycling. And when it comes to cycling-related news, I try to stay at the front of the pack. Following are some important developments of which I think you should be aware as well, so hop on my wheel and read on.

First, in the self-aggrandizing department, I’m proud to announce that I’ve been quoted in the current issue of VeloNews:




Naturally I’m honored, but unfortunately the honor is bittersweet. (If that’s even possible for an honor.) Like many politicians and public figures, my words were taken out of context, and were shrewdly manipulated by VeloNews in order to change the meaning and cast me in a bad light. They actually left out the entire second half of the quote, which was: “Furthermore, I don’t see why people make such a big deal about pedophilia anyway. RTMS is bigger than Jesus.” Had they simply left that in, I wouldn’t have looked like such an idiot.

Moving on, also in VeloNews, I noticed Cannondale’s latest ad campaign (click here for legible text):






Basically, Specialized apparently attempted to poach Cannondale's engineers in the wake of the Dorel acquisition. So Cannondale has turned it around on them, the insinuation being that this proves even their biggest competitor recognizes Cannondale’s superiority.

Of course, the email in the ad doesn’t specify what positions Specialized was actually looking to fill. There very well may be some text that was edited out of that email which would change the implications drastically:

Positions We’re Looking to Fill

--Warehouse Sweepers
--Specialized Angels (must have own thong)
--Personal Foot Masseuse to Mike Sinyard
--Zertz Inserter
--Tom Boonen Punster
(The Tom Boonen Punster will be responsible for coming up with clever puns—or "Boon Mots," if you will—about Specialized athlete Tom Boonen for our ad campaigns. If you can come up with something as clever as “The Tominator,” you’ll be a boon to our team! Paris-Roubaix-based puns such as “Yeah, Roux-baby!” are also acceptable. “Boner”-related puns however are unacceptable, especially ones like “
Bonin’ Boonen Pops Top Too Soon.” I wish people would stop emailing us that.)

Lastly, I recently noticed the following internet advertisement for the Lowe’s chain of stores:




Apart from the fact that that’s a pretty good price for carpet installation, at first glance it seems pretty unremarkable. Moreover, it has absolutely nothing to do with cycling. Or does it? Take a closer look:


I’ll be damned if that isn’t Rock Racing’s Fred “Fast Freddie” Rodriguez laying down some shag. Despite the recent news that the beleaguered Rock Racing will get to ride in the Tour of Georgia after all, the fact that Rodriguez is moonlighting as either a male model or an actual carpet installation technician does not bode well for the future of the team. In search of further clues, I visited Fast Freddie’s own website, but the only thing I learned is that he is “very excited about my new team for 2005.”

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Worst of NYC Craigslist Bike Ads SPECIAL EDITION: Feeling the High PistaDex

(Image by Erik K)


The PistaDex in New York City is currently at a lofty 550, and it would appear that the superb weather coupled with the Papal visit have conspired to keep the Apocalyptic horses at bay. The Pista market here is in fact so tight right now that only one is for sale:


Chrome Bianchi Pista 57cm - $550 (Williamsburg) [original URL: http://newyork.craigslist.org/brk/bik/638726391.html]
Reply to: [deleted]
Date: 2008-04-11, 2:42PM EDT

2007 chrome Pista track bike, decal free! Mostly stock but a few upgrades: Nitto B123 bars, Nitto 65 seat post, Vittoria Rubino tires, Cane Creek headset and front brakes.

Overall the bike is in very good condition with a few scratches from riding it daily. I swapped out the wheels, pedals and saddle right after I bought it, so these are pretty much brand new.

Moving soon and need to sell asap!


Indeed, for the most part this is a fairly unremarkable ad; a “mostly stock” Pista with the usual assortment of stock upgrades being offered for about what a new one would cost. It’s more or less insanity-free. (Except for the price.) However, this particular post does feature one of my favorite motifs, which is the “moving and need to sell” element. I’m not sure why so many ads—especially those for fixed-gears—specify this as a reason for selling. You know, it is possible to move with a bike. In fact, it’s even possible to move by bike. Nonetheless, many a Pista is put out to pasture when it comes time to move the trailer to a new park.

Of course, an out-of-town move is another story, and that could certainly be the case here. Shipping or flying with a bike can be prohibitively expensive. It would also explain the high asking price, since the seller is probably moving to a new city with an equally high PistaDex, and he’ll need every cent he can get in order to re-Pista himself upon arrival without incurring a loss. It’s no wonder then that the PistaDex is so high in cities like New York, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, and LA. As the fixed-gear riding populations move from city to city they discard and replace their Pistas like hermit crabs discard and replace their shells. Sadly, this is an excellent example of why the notion of a “cycling community” is a myth. If such a thing really did exist, each city would simply have a “lending library” of Pistas. Just take one when you arrive, and leave it behind when you move on to the next city. It would be a giant “take a penny, leave a penny” tray of Pistas.

Another effect of the high PistaDex is the bicycle chop shop. In between the individuals selling their own bicycles and the legitimate retailers with storefronts is that scary grey area inhabited by nefarious entrepreneurs who prey upon those who have been priced out of fixed-geardom by the track bike explosion. I’ve
written about these sorts of operations before. And while the fixed-gear meth lab featured in that post seems to have disappeared, another one seems to have sprung up in Sheepshead Bay:




Track Single Gear Free Wheel Schwinn Yellow Bicycle Deep V Rims - $280 (Sheepshead Bay Bklyn) [original URL: http://newyork.craigslist.org/brk/bik/636433998.html]
Reply to: [deleted]
Date: 2008-04-09, 5:05PM EDT



Pleased to present a Track Single Gear Free Wheel Schwinn Yellow Bicycle Deep V Rims. This bicycle is in perfect working condition with new parts such as, Deep V Rims, tubes & tires, cables, break levers, grips, handle bars and chain. The frame is 22'' inches (56 CM) & the rims are 700 x 25C. We have many more bicycles of the same style & other styles (Over 120); including accessories, locks, racks & front baskets. Deliver is available & Please email or call me (347) 733-[deleted] Peter; if you have any questions & Thank you for your inquire. Note: All of our bicycles are professionally tuned & reconditioned.



Peter's no dummy. He's got his finger on the pulse of bike culture and he knows what it is that the kids want: deep Vs and risers. This baby's got "stunting" written all over it--it's even got a bash guard on the crank! But Peter also knows that not everybody is a fixed-gear freestyler. Some riders also want a more traditional steed. That's why he also offers this:


...Track Single Gear Free Wheel Schwinn Brown Bicycle Deep V Rims with mustache handle bars or can be converted to any other style handle bars (many styles avail). This bicycle is in perfect working condition with new parts such as rims, tires & tubes, chain, pedals, cables, aero dynamic seat and handle bar wraps.

The brown is both classy and classic, but I'm pretty sure those aren't moustache bars. I'm thinking maybe Peter saw the term mentioned on a fixed-gear site somewhere and figured he should use it. Peter does know aerodynamics though, and I have no doubt that seat will cut through the wind like a karate master could cut through that piece of plywood in the background. And while different from the previous bike, this one does retain certain Peter signatures like the bash guard and the extremely low saddle position. It's a well thought-out ride all around.

But even Peter knows the PistaDex is liable to plummet at any moment, and he's certainly not about to be caught out. He's also offering this one for the aspiring racer:






And this one, whose all-metal spoke protector evokes a time when pie plates really meant something:



Oh yeah--what about those other 120 bikes Peter mentions in every ad? There they are, out back:




So whether you aspire to be on Fixedgeargallery or Old Ten Speed Gallery, see Peter. He's pushing the good stuff.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ducks In A Row: Foiled At Roubaix

I have absolutely no interest in watching sports. Football, baseball, basketball, soccer, whatever--to me it’s about as interesting as watching a flock of pigeons fighting over breadcrumbs in the park. As such, I don’t care about any of my local teams either, and I couldn’t tell you a single thing about any of them. To me it’s just all background noise at the bar. The exception, though, is cycling. Like many cyclists, I do follow bike racing. And as a New Yorker, our home team is a team of one: George Hincapie.

George Hincapie is from Long Island, and as a teenager he used to ride away from the fields in Central and Prospect Park in the very same races that 40-something lawyers pay coaches in order to finish in the top 20 to this day. He also rode for the Toga and Mengoni teams. He’s the proverbial “local boy made good.”

Of course, what we all really want in New York is for George to win Paris-Roubaix, and I don’t have to tell you that we’ve been terribly disappointed year after year. This time, it would appear mechanical problems were to blame. Though some reports indicate George flatted, others indicate it was actually a wheel failure. According to VeloNews:

He was riding at the front on the Bersée section of cobblestones, 53km from the finish, and racing as well as he has ever ridden in the Hell of the North, when his rear wheel broke. “I had great legs,” Hincapie said, “but there was nothing I could do.”

George himself also states on his website:

I am very disappointed with the outcome of the race on Sunday. I had great legs all day and was doing everything right. Unfortunately, I had a mechanical at a very critical moment. I eventually got a new wheel, but the leaders turned on the gas when they saw me stop. I worked hard to get back on, but at this level of competition, there is no room for bad luck.

Note he says “mechanical,” not “flat.”

George was obviously riding well, and as usual he had the form to win. His critics always say that he doesn’t have the winning attitude, but that’s not what seems to have done him in here. After all, can we blame George when his equipment doesn’t carry him to the finish?

You’re damn right we can!

Anyone who’s followed cycling for more than a season knows you come to Paris-Roubaix with 32- or 36-spoke box-section handbuilt wheels. You don’t ride stupid Hed carbon wheels, which is what George did. I only hope they paid him a lot of money to do that. After all, that’s the only possible explanation. Because watching George roll off the line on those things must have been like watching someone heading towards some Class V rapids in a glass-bottom kayak, and unless some huge sums of cash had changed hands I can’t imagine why nobody stopped him. Hed seem to be keeping mum: the only race-related news on their site involves some freak in a half-shirt.

Naturally, Versus did not see fit to broadcast Paris-Roubaix last Sunday, opting instead to show bull riding or something, so I’ve been forced to piece together the events of the race from VeloNews's live internet coverage. Following is a reenactment featuring highlights from the race that I’ve created in order to get some closure on the event, with ducks playing all the key roles:


05:08 AM: The peloton

is still pretty much together, with all of the favorites - Backstedt, Boonen, Hincapie, Flecha, Hammond, Cancellara - in the mix.



(The favorites are together.)

05:40 AM: The pace

in the peloton is high. We see Hincapie, Boonen, Backstedt and the whole CSC crew up there in good position. Flecha, meanwhile is chasing hard... but he may be facing a tough day. He's on the wheel of Pozzato, who was caught in that crash.



(Flecha trailing behind the leaders.)

05:41 AM: Backstedt

looks like he's losing ground... he may not have it today.




(Big Magnus Backstedt wears a mask of pain. Of course it turned out he also opted for carbon wheels--which broke. Good choice, Maggie.)


05:54 AM: The three leaders are

just 50 seconds ahead of a hard-charging chase group of about 25 or 30. We see Hammond and Hincapie in there. Backstedt is in there. Boonen is probably the big fav' in this mix.




(Big fav' Tom Boonen, resplendent in his euro-hawk.)


06:15 AM: One rider
we don't see in there is Backstedt. We thought he was in there, but he had a tough time in the Arenberg.



(Backstedt is nowhere to be seen.)

06:25 AM: Section 13

The lead group of 30 is entering section 13 - Beuvry-la-Foret at Orchies, Km 194: 1400 m (3) - and Pozatto is back in the group. We see Boonen, Devolder, Pozzato, Hoste, Ballan, Flecaha, Hincapie, Wesemann, Nuyens, Hammond and Quinziato




(The lead group of 30.)

06:38 AM: With 56km remaining

the lead group is mostly back together. Hincapie has had a flat... he's trailing.

(Hincapie is rendered a lame duck by wheel failure.)

06:40 AM: Hincapie

has a slow leak and is not getting help from the team car. He's been dropped and is hoping for a wheel. He's finally getting a wheel, but the gap is big. He's got a big, big job ahead of him.


(It's all over for George...)