Monday, June 30, 2008

These Just In: Of Bridgework and Birdcages

Once again, I have been proven wrong about dentists and their supposed love of Serottas. An attentive reader (who may or may not be looking for crown and bridge dentistry) has just forwarded me the following:

DENTAL CARE FOR SPECIALIZED ROAD BIKE (BERGEN COUNTY) [original URL: http://newyork.craigslist.org/jsy/bik/737223724.html]
Reply to: [deleted]
Date: 2008-06-29, 7:52PM EDT

I am a general dentist who performs a great deal of crown and bridge dentistry in addition to the highest quality root-canal treatment, cosmetic care,dentures,etc. I am looking to barter my services for a specialized carbon frame road bike, 54cm with a compact crank and ultegra or dura-ace. If you are a specialized dealer in need of the finest in dental care, please contact me.

I applaud this dentist's populist choice in bicycles and I admire his courage in eschewing the boutique marques so coveted by his colleagues. However, I don't think he'll have much luck. All Specialized dealers worth their Tarmacs have long ago had Zertz inserts placed in all their teeth by Mike Sinyard's team of dental technicians, thus allowing them to eat unpopped popcorn kernels by the fistful without even the slightest discomfort. He might have better luck scoring a Jamis or something.

Moving on, alleycat organizers have long been plundering pop culture for alleycat flyers, but it would appear that pop culture may not be a renewable resource:


(art by Jimmy in Brooklyn)

Indeed, when even the 1978 Édouard Molinaro comedy of manners La Cage aux Folles has become grist for the alleycat flyer mill, it would appear that the bottom of the barrel may have been scraped and the trend may have reached its zenith. No mention of where this may be going down, but if you're interested in taking part you might try the French Riviera.

Now back to rabid antidentites.

One Bike Too Many: From Buddha to Burgess


On Monday, I put forth that it's important to limit the number of bicycles you own, and I stand by my assertion. You can't have a bike for every ride, just like you can't have a gear for every hill, and the rider with a bike for every eventuality is hardly different from the celebutard who must purchase another apartment to house her shoes. Then, on Wednesday, I went on to criticize "The Climb" author Robert Mackey (who cleaned his front tire recently) for going to Europe in order to prep for his trip to Europe, likening this to "the dentist who buys a Madone while he waits for his custom Serotta to come in." And here, according to at least one reader, I crossed a line.

That reader was Dr. John M. Gowey, DDS. Dentists everywhere owe Dr. Gowey a debt of gratitude, for it is he who emails me to from time to time to correct some of my misconceptions about dentists. Just some of the things I've learned from Dr. Gowey are: 1) not all dentists ride Serottas (at least he doesn't); 2) dentists care for their bikes as meticulously as they care for their teeth (at least Dr. Gowey does); and 3) dentists love "Seinfeld" because Dr. Tim Whatley is one of the few non-psychopathic dentists in mainstream entertainment. (In that regard it seems Dr. Whatley is to some degree their Paul Robeson, or at least their Sidney Poitier.)

And I just thought they were just a bunch of sadistic Serotta-straddling maniacs. Who knew!?!

Anyway, with regard to my comment about a dentist buying a Madone while waiting for his Serotta, the always insightful Dr. Gowey had this to say:

In today's post, you insinuated that there is something wrong if a dentist gets a Madone while having to wait for his Serotta. What you did not specify was the length of time the dentist was forced to wait before the arrival of the Serotta. Now if it were only a couple of weeks he had to do without the Serotta, I would certainly agree with you that although it is good for the current economy, the dentist was exhibiting signs of excessive consumerism. If the lag time for the new bike was projected at more than two weeks however, I think a dentist (or even a non-dentist) is perfectly justified in buying a "gap bike" to help him make it through the difficult waiting period. You should acknowledge that if an "Orange Julius bike" is a reasonable purchase, then a "bike purchased while waiting for a new bike" or "gap bike" should be justified as well.

I pondered Dr. Gowey's email for some seconds. At first I was tempted to dismiss the very notion of a "gap bike" as excessive, but then I decided to appease Dr. Gowey, mostly because despite Gowey's assertions to the contrary and his fondness for Tim Whatley I still think dentists actually are sadistic psychopaths and I was afraid he might come after me. So I decided to allow Gowey and his dental ilk their "gap bikes," provided they adhere to a formula. I replied to him thusly:

I'm prepared to give an allowance of $150 a month. That means if you've got to wait three months for a Serotta or similar you can spend $450 on an old aluminum bike with 8 speed or something. I think that's more than fair. Given that, if the gap bike were a Madone 5.1 retailing at $3,019.99 (the Ultegra bike, slumming it I know but still a decent gap bike) the gap would need to be 20.13 months.

You may exceed that if you can recoup the excess by selling it (on the Serotta forums, where else?) but if you can't you're personally liable for the balance.

This I hope will appease dentists everywhere and thus spare me an untimely demise at the wrong end of some hideous dental implement.

Gap bikes aside, however, I maintain there are circumstances under which even one bicycle is one too many. Here is just one such circumstance:




This De Rosa was repainted by De Rosa in Italy. Previous owner had moola and up close the paint is stunning. To do the paint job justice, I built it up with some nice components, Phil woods, Campy Cranks, Campy brakes, Pearl this, Nitto that. I don't really ride it as I enjoyed putting the bike together more. That's why I am selling this one and starting another one. So I decided to post some pics before selling.

I think an actual geared drivetrain might have done this frame more justice, and that a frame should at least reach a certain level of deterioration before it's given the fixed-gear treatment. But hey, if your idea of fun is bolting track components to road frames I'm the last person who's going to stop you. And yes, building bicycles, however incongruous they may be, can be both enjoyable and rewarding. But it is also fun to ride bicycles, and if riding a bicycle you built isn't as enjoyable as building it, then that doesn't reflect so well on the build. Most dangerous though is flirting with addiction by endlessly purchasing and assembling components. This is something we all flirt with as cyclists. Building a bicycle can bring you joy or it can lead you to ruin, and if you're not riding the bikes you're building at least long enough to wear out a set of tires, you may be on a ruinous road. I would advise him to satisfy his need to build anew by rebuilding his current bike as a geared road bike. If the compulsion to sell and replace is still present, seek help.

Then there's this.



Yes, it should come as no surprise to anybody at this point that bars are getting shorter. It's almost as though stems are electric sharpeners and the bars are pencils being fed into them from either end. At this point I think the only thing keeping straight bars long enough to actually protrude beyond the stem clamp is the size of the grips out there on the market. This at least is ensuring that riders maintain a fistful of bar on either end of the stem. But once some fixed-gear rider has that "2001" bone-in-the-air moment of revelation and takes a scissor to his Ourys, watch out--that's when you're going to see some serious index-finger-and-thumb steering. Just imagine someone eating a piece of baby corn like it's regular corn--that's how people are going to be holding their handlebars.


This bicycle may also be one too many:



I'm not sure if "pengy" is a diminutive form of "penguin," or of "penga." If the former, it may refer to the animal this bicycle represents. If the latter, it refers to the organ which the top-tube pad protects. In either case, it wouldn't be terribly difficult to imagine Burgess Meredith straddling this bike and softly quacking to himself as he pedaled bow-leggedly away.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Worst of NYC Craigslist SPECIAL EDITION: Pista Price Is Right!




The PistaDex in New York City is currently at 650. I don't know if the market's going to crash tomorrow or sometime during the next decade, but for the moment there's no doubt we're living in the "go-go aughts" when it comes to fixed-gears. So with the weekend upon us, I figured I'd put together a little game show. Below are the four Pistas on the New York City Craigslist which yield the 650 PistaDex. I've blocked out the prices on each. Simply study the ad, try to guess what the seller is asking, and then choose a price. If you're right, you'll see the ad. If you're wrong, you'll see a roller catastrophe. As far as a prize, you'll have to contact the respective sellers--I'm sure they'd be willing to give you their bikes if they knew you guessed correctly.

(By the way, if you have some Rain Man-like ability to scan all four sets of choices, average them all in your head, and ace the game that way, my hat is off to you. I lack the basic math skills to come up with choices that will prevent you from doing that.)

Thanks, have fun, and have a good weekend.

--RTMS



2008 Bianchi Pista (Fixed Gear) with Major Upgrades 57 - $?
Reply to: [deleted]
Date: 2008-06-20, 2:03PM EDT

2008 Bianchi Pista with low miles and new Nitto chrome handlebars, Fi'zi:k tape, better chain, and new wheel set. The costume wheel set cost 500 and consists of: Mavic Open Sport rims with Grar Campe hubs. The bike is blue and in good condition.

Frame Size: 57



Yep, you read right: a costume wheelset with Grar Campe hubs. (That's an upgrade from the Gwar hubs.) That should help jack the price up. But by how much?



Black Bianchi Pista - Fixed Gear Track Bike - $? (Inwood / Wash Hts)
Reply to: [deleted]
Date: 2008-06-23, 6:09PM EDT

Sick Bike. 57 cm. Pink Velocity Deep V Rim. Vittoria Pro Blue Rubino tires. Velo Plush Seat. Specialized toe clips.

Is available for pickup in NYC, Fairfield County, and New Haven.



This one's pretty funky. But is it funky enough to warrant an asking price below full MSRP?




Stripped chrome Bianchi Pista w/ Brooks saddle, nitto bars + more - $? (Wburg)
Reply to: [deleted]
Date: 2008-06-26, 5:16PM EDT

2004 Chrome Bianchi Pista (first year Bianchi issued the chrome pista)

Gearing - 48/16 Fixed

Size - 51cm (small guys and girls)

This bike is in great condition, and hasn't been ridden in the last 2 years. The frame was stripped of all decals except for the Bianchi crest on the head tube. There are almost no logos on the bike, and even the brake cable was done in silver. Included are Specialized Silver wall all condition pro tires (brand new), so even the tires will match.

Upgrades include:
- Butchered Brooks B17 narrow leather saddle, cut down to look like a swallow saddle.
- MKS track peddles with cage and white leather straps
- Paul Components love lever (brake, can be removed)
- Nitto 36cm ridding bars chopped and flipped. The most narrow nitto bullhorns I could make (great for squeezing between cars)
- Specialized all condition pro tires in Grey to match bike. New, never installed.

All other items are stock

I'll be showing the bike this weekend in Williamsburg. $?


Some major work has gone into this baby, and the Brooks saddle has even been shaved down by hand! Plus, chrome Pistas with no decals are so hot right now. But how hot are they?




bianchi fixed/ track bike - $?
Reply to: [deleted]
Date: 2008-06-27, 1:13AM EDT

this is a bianchi pista track bike that i stripped of all the logos. personally, i dont like riding around looking like an advertisement and the all chrome and black looks cooler anyway. because it was a d.i.y. striping job though, the decals kind of smudged up the frame giving it a bit of a scuffy look in some places. (shown in picture.) it has a rpm crankset-jalco deep v wheels. it has a small front brake, easily removable if youre a bit more macho than me. the back wheel has a flip-flop hub,so you can turn it around and ride single speed on those days when you just gotta coast down the willy b bridge. the bars are covered with neoprene on the drops and cloth on the top. i have an extra pair of NJS stamped nitto track drop bars ill throw in. theyre about 80 bucks new alone. ? obo. unfortunately i have to let it go. times are hard! p.s. this was my everyday commuter, so there is small scratches from locking up and stuff, but it was well taken care of, lways inside, and will last you a long ass time if you take care of it too. i live in brooklyn but will meet in manhattan if you like.


Another de-decaled chrome Pista. He's including a bunch of extras, but he also seems to be under duress. How will that affect his asking price? He's already admitted he's not that macho.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Real Niche Sports: HBO Does Millar


Last night, the HBO show “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” aired a segment about David Millar. I always perk up when cycling is going to appear on mainstream television, so I made sure to watch. Of course, cycling only gets attention outside the cycling media when the subject is doping, and I knew this piece was yet another doping story, but still, like a virgin entering a whorehouse, I went in hopeful.

Now, as a caveat, I should mention I don’t follow any sports apart from cycling. I’m not a fan of unscripted entertainment, and to me watching a sport like baseball is like watching the “Flavor of Love” in that’s it’s basically a bunch of cheesy people with unfortunate hairdos being winnowed down to a single winner over the course of a season. Cycling, on the other hand, is lots of different events with lots of different winners. (Though there’s still the cheese factor and the bad hairdo factor.) Also, I like to ride my bicycle, whereas the only ball sport I like to play is pocket pool.

Well, I was disappointed almost immediately—Bryant Gumbel wasn’t the guy I thought he was. To be honest, though, the fault was mine as I had gotten my hard-hitting sports journalists confused. I had thought Gumbel was that guy from “Pootie Tang,” but it turns out he’s actually that guy from the ‘80s who was in “Gumbel to Gumbel.” I soon got over that, but I was disappointed anew to learn that the first segment was about women’s softball and how it’s no longer going to be an Olympic sport. Whatever. Softball’s just a watered-down version of a sport I don’t care about anyway, and that fast-motion underhanded pitching creeps me out. Actually, truth be told, I don’t care if they get rid of cycling in the Olympics, either. I think they should fix the problem of Olympic bloat by getting rid of every sport except the ones that cavemen used to do. The Olympics should just be about who can lift the heaviest rock, who can run the fastest, who can jump the highest, and who can throw a heavy rock or stick the farthest. Done and done. Leave the rest to the professionals.

So I fast-forwarded through the softball and went straight to the Millar piece, only to encounter more softball--reporting, that is. Gumbel, Cone of Smugness firmly in place, introduced the piece by calling cycling "a niche sport whose image has been trashed by a series of scandals and allegations involving performance-enhancing drugs." I really can’t stand when people call cycling a niche sport. Yes, it's not regarded as mainstream, but the truth is it’s actually incredibly popular. Not only is the Tour de France (despite itself) one of the world’s most popular sporting events, but participation on the amateur level is huge as well. Outside of an academic environment how many people do you know who compete in organized and sanctioned baseball, or football, or basketball? Globally speaking, who the hell cares about the “World Series?” If cycling is a niche sport then Islam is a niche religion. Cycling’s not a niche sport—Gumbel’s a niche journalist.

Gumbel then passed the Cone of Smugness to John Frankel. Millar’s story is already familiar to most cycling fans, but if you’re not up to speed here are the highlights as presented by the piece:

--Millar is now clean, and he wants to help younger riders stay clean too. He recognizes that "fans of the sport no longer believe what they're seeing."

--Millar talks to Frankel while having his blood tested. Frankel asks him if it evokes a time when he used to stick a "needle in your arm--or elsewhere" in order to dope. The “elsewhere” is highly intriguing, yet they never follow up on it.

--Millar was a clean athlete until 2001, when he finally submitted to pressure to dope. When he proudly showed off a natural hematocrit of over 40%, a teammate remarked, "’Why aren't you at 50?’...for him it wasn't professional." Finally, tired and lacking results, he reached the breaking point. A team official sat Millar down for a talk and explained he needed to “prepare properly.” "It was relief,” says Millar. “I was just tired."

--Millar used EPO, which helped him win Vuelta stages and the World TT Championship. Jaded, Millar felt "no joy, absolutely no joy,” and kept the used EPO syringes on his bookshelf--the evidence which ultimately damned him.

--We see footage of Millar walking a city street pensively in a black peacoat. During his two year suspension he says he disappeared off the grid and drank excessively. This is more intriguing even than the “or elsewhere” with regard to the injections. Personally, I’d love to learn more about the lost years of David Millar. It’s kind of like John Lennon’s “Lost Weekend,” or that period in Jesus’s life that’s not covered in the Bible, during which people try to say he went to India and studied Buddhism or whatever. Did Millar smoke crack with Amy Winehouse? Did he paint himself green, eat peyote, and run around the desert at Burning Man? Did he take a creative writing course at the Learning Annex? I’m strangely curious.

--Eventually, Millar rediscovered his love for cycling. Enter Jonathan Vaughters whose own Cone of Smugness is pointier even than his sideburns. His riders are tested randomly once every two weeks, year round, and five times more than those on other teams.

--Vaughters wants people to "go back to believing in the athletes for what they really are" and he’s going to "put it all on the table." They’re putting it on the table all right—we see lots of shots of doctors putting vials of urine on one while Vaughters is talking.

--Slipstream is a "culture shift" in cycling; they all live together in Gerona, which allows “teammates to police each-other." They’re each given a Blackberry so they’re "easily found for testing at any time." “The result is the result,” Vaughters says. “If it's first it's first, if it's 132nd it's 132nd."

Hey, I respect Millar for serving his time and ostensibly being honest. I also respect Vaughters and Slipstream for trying to be “transparent.” They're like a straight-edge band: boring perhaps, but their hearts are in the right place. What creeps me out though is this idea of “policing” each-other. Treating riders like a bunch of unruly 7th graders seems worse for the sport than an underground culture of doping. Things get “transparent” when you slice them too thin. They also fall apart. There’s nothing in the world that holds up to intense scrutiny, and you can’t dissect something unless it’s already dead. And why do people expect such integrity out of sports anyway? It's not something important, it’s sports. Set some rules, make some guidelines, and enjoy the show. Sheesh.

Then we go back to the studio and niche journalist Bryant Gumbel. He and John Frankel exchange a few words, and then Gumbel moves his glasses down his nose emphatically and asks Frenkel: "And yet here's what I don't get. The sport is in shambles for doping, and yet its greatest champion, Lance Armstrong, is still revered as a hero. Where's the logic in that?"

Smirking, Frenkel replies, "Lance would say, 'I never tested positive.'"

"Neither did Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds or Mark McGuire," says Gumbel.

Frenkel (smirking even more aggressively): "We agree on this subject."

Gumbel and Frenkel then look at each-other a bit too long, like they’re both savoring the same delicious pudding, or like they might suddenly start french-kissing, and then Gumbel introduces the next piece which is about a horse or something.

Thanks, Gumbel. We almost got to the end of a cycling segment without the subject turning to Lance Armstrong, and we almost got to the end of a piece of journalism without winking and insinuations. Didn't Armstrong retire? What does he have to do with this story about Millar and Slipstream? And hey, if you’re sitting on some good stuff, let’s have it! I have to admit, though, it’s pretty clever what you did there. You sucked people in by presenting an optimistic story about the clean future of cycling, but then you grabbed the sport by the wing, stuck a pin in it, and started plucking its legs off at the end. Still, though, I do thank you for the revelation that David Millar injected EPO directly into his penis. I mean, he didn’t contradict you when you mentioned that he injected EPO into his arm “or elsewhere.” He never said he didn’t inject EPO into his penis. So I’m going to assume he did. I believe they call that “niche doping.”

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

From the Tour to the Torrid: It's Getting Ugly Out There


The Tour de France starts a week from Saturday and I just can’t seem to get excited about it. And it’s not because of the incessant doping scandals, or the mind-numbingly boring transitional stages, or the fact that three weeks is a really long time to pay attention to anything that’s not an HBO miniseries. No, it’s because Levi won’t be there. Sure, Levi may be boring, but boring ingredients are essential. Flour is boring, but can you make delicious cakes without it? No, you can’t. Levi may be the plain dry cracker of bike racing, but sometimes you need plain dry crackers. Think of Levi as a big piece of Matzoh, and then imagine the Tour as a Passover seder. If I understand Judaism correctly, you can’t have a seder without Matzoh. It just doesn’t work!

So in lieu of the actual Tour I’ve decided instead to focus entirely on Robert Mackey’s “The Climb” blog on the New York Times. Sure, I may have been hard on Mr. Mackey a few weeks back, but I have to admit his dogged determination, his indomitable spirit, and his seemingly bottomless pocketbook have finally won me over. (And by “won me over” I mean I no longer have any ambivalence in my disdain for him—it’s now complete.) You’ll be glad to know that Mr. Mackey has just returned from the four-day Tour du Mont Blanc in the Alps. That’s right—Mr. Mackey has taken a European bike tour in order to prepare for his upcoming European bike tour, thereby breaking through to a new level of excessive expenditure I had heretofore thought impossible even for him. This is akin to spending a week in St. Barths in order to acclimate yourself for your weeklong vacation to Turks and Caicos, or to the dentist who buys a Madone while he waits for his custom Serotta to come in. Then again, I suppose we can excuse Mr. Mackey. I mean, he is going to be riding the Tour, and every Tour contender needs his Dauphine, right?

If you’d rather not go through the trouble of reading Mr. Mackey’s blog yourself, I’ve gone though the trouble of skimming it, and here’s a summary of the last eight installments. It’s kind of cute to watch him discovering things most cyclists have long been aware of as a natural consequence of simply riding their bikes:

24 Days to Go:

Discovers numbness.

23 Days to Go:

Discovers that John Kerry is the World’s Most Famous Fred. (As opposed to his counterpart, George W. Bush, the World’s Most Famous Barney.)

20 Days to Go:

Discovers riding in a paceline and learns how to eat and drink on the bike. (Yes, it's possible!) He also discovers roadie anorexia.

19 Days to Go:

Mackey makes the leap to SRAM, ditching his 12/27 Ultegra cassette for a 12/28 SRAM cassette. The extra tooth may help him get over the cols, but will he ever get over himself?

18 Days to Go:

Mackey can’t be bothered to rent “Breaking Away,” so he watches highlights on the internet instead.

17 Days to Go:

Mackey arrives in Europe. Let the Euros fly!

16 Days to Go:

Thanks to his Thule case, Mackey’s bike arrives unscathed, and he enlists a bike fitter to help him put it back together. Yes, putting a seatpost back into a frame and tightening a bolt can be quite difficult.

12 Days to Go:

Mackey may stop in London on his way back to Europe for L’Etape to buy some custom insoles.


Whatever. In the course of writing his blog Mackey may cross the Atlantic four times and the rubicon of monied excess infinitely, but I’m totally over bike racing anyway. As usual, the Times is about eight years behind the curve. Everybody knows that bike commuting is the new bike racing. I see more exciting cycling in a single morning going over the bridge to Manhattan than I’ve seen in the last three Tours combined. If you haven’t experienced the thrill of hitting the base of the Manhattan Bridge bike lane at a blistering 15 MPH with an elite group consisting of a young guy on a Bianchi Pista with chopped flat bars, a middle-aged gentleman on an dayglo mountain bike with thumbshifters and a chipped and yellowed pie plate, and a woman on a Bianchi Volpe with fully-loaded panniers and a blinky light on the back of her helmet, then you don’t know what a real shot of adrenaline feels like. Who will take the KOM is anybody’s guess, and the drama on the descent is twice as gripping. (My money’s always on the woman with the Volpe due to her ability to coast coupled with the weight of the panniers.) I’m seriously considering building myself a little crow’s nest and broadcasting blow-by-blow commentary on weekday mornings. It would make Versus Tour de France coverage look like the "Antiques Roadshow."

Even alleycat racing is totally over. I mean, how many fliers spoofing album covers, movies, and pop culture references can you look at anyway? With commuting being the new racing, I’m also in the early planning stages of a PracticalityCat, where the essence of commuting is distilled into a single day of grassroots competition. Contests will include:

The DorkStand (who can stay on his saddle at a red light while keeping the bike upright with his tippy-toes the longest);

The Splashback (contestants ride through a puddle and see who gets the least amount of mud and water on their business casual outfits—it’s all about adequate fender coverage!);

and of course the gruelling Bike Path TT. Bar ends allowed, helmet mirrors encouraged!


Speaking of commuting, there’s a new menace out there. Scooters:




(Born to be Riled: I hate scooters.)


True to their mandate of telling readers things they already know, The New York Times recently reported that more people in New York are turning to scooters in the face of high gas prices. Tell me about it. Dealing with moronic drivers, moronic cyclists, and moronic pedestrians is bad enough, but now we’ve also got to deal with the newbie scooter owner. This is a distinct breed from the Mod or Ska scooter dork of old who rides his two-stroke Vespa to the bar in a cloud of smoke or tunes his Lambretta so it can reach blistering speeds of up to 48mph. I mean, I hate those people too, but I hate them in the normal, friendly way that I hate any subculture that’s not my own. Every subculture knows it is hated by every other subculture, and vice-versa. In fact, this truth is so universal I think it’s time people simply acknowledged it by greeting each-other with a friendly middle finger when they pass. The world would be a better place for the honesty. “Screw your two-tone side panels and your Davida helmet.” “Screw your Deep Vs and your Chrome bag.” “Uh, wanna grab a beer?” “Sure!”

No, the new scooter owner is a different breed entirely. This is the person who has just bought a brand-new twist-and-go Vespa complete with matching helmet and hard cases and has just gotten comfortable enough on it to start splitting lanes, cutting between cars, and darting into the bike path when the traffic gets heavy, but not comfortable enough to actually handle the thing well and ride it without it going all wobbly. Suddenly this flaccid, foppish metrosexual advertising copywriter is on your turf—and he’s dangerous. A truck unloading in the bike lane makes me angry, but a Vespa in the bike lane makes me furious. Even more infuriating is when they come bearing down behind you. At first it sounds like someone’s mixing a margarita or firing up a vibrator in a convertible or something—then you realize you're not in a Van Halen video and it’s actually the diminutive whirr of yet another dandy on a neutercycle. These people can barely handle machines that have been mastered long ago by 90 lb. European women, and I hate them. If you want to break traffic laws, ride a bicycle like the rest of us.

In closing, I’d like to share with you something that made me sicker than even scooters do:

As I bicycled by, she turned, and our eyes locked - m4w - 27 (Fifth Avenue, Park Slope) [original URL: http://newyork.craigslist.org/brk/mis/731814855.html]
Reply to: [deleted]
Date: 2008-06-25, 2:44AM EDT

As I bicycled by, she turned, and our eyes locked, one, two, three...

At the end of the street, I wondered whether I should stop. Should I go back for her, tell her our eyes had locked, that we might be meant for each other?

Follow my gut at least one time this week, right?

At the next block, the light turned red against the night. I knew this corner. The park ahead to my right, the bar across the street on my left...I stopped. I turned onto the sidewalk, a slow semi-circle. Would she catch up? Yes. There she was, walking this way, her skirt catching the evening breeze, her brown hair like streamer ribbons.

Okay. I'll wait.

The light stayed red, thank God. And here she almost was.

I called out, "Our eyes locked. That was intense!"

And she was here before me.

She wanted something. We were dancing, somehow, with our eyes, my bike, her skirt and hair.

"Give me a ride?" she said. The words were new to me, I'd never heard them before, ever.

"What?" "Give me a ride? On your bike?" She was on my left side now, about to clutch and leap on.

"Sure." I moved forward somewhere. She positioned herself to sit in front of me, yet sensed something.

"You ever done this before?"

"Given a girl a ride on my bike? No. Never."

"You think you can?"

Of course I could give her a ride on my bike. If she could get on.

"Sure." How hard could it be?

"Okay."

I opened my left arm, she climbed over the bar in front of me. She squeezed her butt back, almost on to the seat.

"I'll sit on the bar."

"You sure? I can move back."

"Yeah."

"There's a hill," she asked me, looking several blocks ahead at the rising pavement.

"If we can get to the hill, we can get up the hill."

She smiled.

She sat on the bar, lifted her legs off the ground...

It was so easy! Is that all? A girl sits in front of you on the bike, and lifts up her legs off the ground, and you can give her a ride?

She was light, a steady weight. Not super-light, but a real presence, a real girl.

I pushed off the ground, my feet on the pedals. Quickly I realized her body was inside my thighs, so I opened my knees wider, and pedaling, we were off.

Her shoulders brushed inside my arms, her hair and head was in front of my mouth.

I will skip the dialogue, since the thrill was all body. Her name was Marta, she was coming from tango, she was going home to 17th Street. My name was Alex, I was coming from the Tea Lounge where I was writing a little book, I was going home to 45th Street. I'd never given a girl a ride on a bike before. She'd gotten many rides, of course, how else do you get home?

What, no mention of your erection poking her in the back? You, sir, are Park Slope. I hope you are attacked by a swarm of Vespas.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Rotting from the Bottom Up: Whither the Entry-Level Road Group?

In all the excitement, surrounding Campagnolo’s announcement of its 11 speed groups, even I failed to notice that they are abandoning their “entry level” components. According to Bikeradar:

For 2009, Campagnolo is dividing its range into two distinct categories: the three 11-speed groupsets are deemed by Campagnolo to be for ‘Competition’, while those lower in the range – Centaur and Veloce – are designated for ‘Intense Use’ by people who may put in thousands of kilometres a year but don’t actually race.

[...]

Campagnolo’s entry-level Mirage and Xenon groupsets will be discontinued.

If you’ve never heard of Campagnolo, they are an old Italian bicycle component maker that used to make nice-looking stuff but now makes really ugly-looking stuff. “Campagnolo” is an Italian word meaning “workaround,” and it refers to the manner in which they innovate. (Think carving hunks out of their brake calipers and cutting crank spindles in half. At Campy, “ground up” is for meat, not engineering.) So it would appear that Campagnolo, on top of turning ugly, has also acknowledged defeat in the entry level/OEM marketplace. Furthermore, Centaur and Veloce, while suitable for “Intense Use,” are now not suitable for cycling if there is anybody around you who is trying to go faster than you. Again, ride Centaur and Veloce as hard as you want: just don’t compete with it or you’ll void your warranty. If you’re going to engage in that sort of behavior you’re going to need Chorus or Record. Or Super Record if you want to actually win.

So who’s actually making entry-level road componets these days? Not SRAM. Their lowest-end group is Rival. SRAM’s site does not specify exactly what kind of rider should be using Rival, and this freedom to choose is simultaneously liberating and frustrating. But since it’s called “Rival” I’m going to infer that it’s OK to use in competition (unlike Centaur and Veloce) since, well, it’s called “Rival.” Also, Rival costs about the same as Ultegra, which is considered a competitive group. But you probably won't win with Rival, because "Rivals" don't win--they just challenge winners. If you want to win you might have a better shot with "Force" (as in "Force to be Reckoned With") or Red (as in "Red-ress of Grievances," which is what will happen to your grievances in the peloton as soon as you bolt a pair of Red levers to your bars. I'm pretty sure that's where SRAM were going with that.) So, like Campagnolo, there’s no “low end” SRAM stuff, but unlike Campagnolo, it’s fairly straightforward and doesn’t resemble some kind of island castaway who’s constantly carving small bits off himself and eating them in a desperate attempt to stay alive. So SRAM is sort of the new Campagnolo, and Campagnolo is simply the Kate Moss of road groups—aging, shriveled, and trading on her former glory.

It seems then that only Shimano still dares to make entry-level components, which is hardly surprising since they dominate the OEM market. Shimano is also considerate enough to provide each one of its groups with little stories, so you know which one is right for you:

Dura Ace

Three key words have emerged as the theme for the latest DURA-ACE system: Speed, Smooth and Strength.


Unfortunately, that copy's clunkier than a first-generation Campagnolo Ergo lever. I think they meant "Speed, Smoothness, and Strength." But still, I see what they're going for--all those things start with "S." You know what else starts with "S?" Sex. And Shimano. Think about it.

Ultegra SL

The beautiful new Ice Grey finish will give the opportunity of even more beautiful and stylish road bikes. Ultegra SL features not only the Ice Grey finish, but also a weight savings of almost 100g compared to the standard Ultegra package.


Translation: it's grey. And grey is the color of excitment. And opportunity. And Ultegra gives you the opportunity to have an excitingly grey bike.

Ultegra

Continuing advances in human engineering technology stand behind road components that provide racing, sport and fitness cyclists with higher levels of control & response.


Ultegra shares Dura-Ace's engineering lineage but has its own unique identity, offering greatly enhanced feel and sleek design that's backed by a new level of performance.

I like the part about having a common lineage but its own unique identity. So basically Dura Ace and Ultegra are like the Indians and the Pakistanis.

105

Shimano 105 is a lightweight and efficient package which makes "pro-level" technology more accessible to part time racers and fitness enthusiasts. Shimano 105 is a by-product of our premier engineering range but has its own unique identity, offering great feeling and sleek design backed by high performance.


Translation: you can race it, but not all the time! Also, if you're reading carefully, note they snuck the phrase "by-product" in there. So if Dura-Ace and Ultegra are sausage, then 105 is hot dogs. And you know what hot dogs are made from.

Tiagra

Tiagra has been completely reengineered and remastered with a more refined ergonomic design.

Tiagra shares our top groups' engineering lineage offering greatly enhanced feel and sleek design backed by new levels of performance.

Translation: meh. Also, Tiagra shares, and sharing is for losers.

Sora

???

Strangely, Shimano has absolutely nothing to say about Sora. It's just there, like a cold sore.

2200

2200 components bring great value and features to entry-level road sport bikes.


Eureka! It took a lot of digging, but I finally found it. The entry level. I feel vindicated yet dirty.

So there it is. The bottom of the barrel. But what does it mean that only one company is making an entry-level road group? What is Shimano competing with? Well, quite literally, nothing. New cyclists want fixed-gears now, not low-end road bikes. As such, nothing is the entry-level road group for the new millennium. By the time the new fixed-gear riders are ready for gears, Campy and Sram are hoping they'll be ready to become "Intense Users" or "Rivals."

This Just In: PistaDex.com Launches!


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Readers of the BikeSnobNYC blog will no doubt be familiar with the PistaDex, a means by which the popularity of fixed-gear bicycles can be measured. Well, now there is an entire website devoted entirely to this hot new pop culture catch phrase: PistaDex.com! For the moment, PistaDex.com consists simply of a single page containing a definition of "PistaDex." However, stay tuned--in the coming days PistaDex.com will transform itself into the definitive destination for all things PistaDex! There will be PistaDex forums, where visitors can not only share photos of their own Pistas, but also exchange wacky overpriced Pista ads from their local Craigslist. There will also be tickers which constantly monitor the PistaDex in major cities across the USA and around the world, so you know just how much your Pista is worth. Best of all, there will be merchandise, including t-shirts with clever slogans like: "You're spiking my PistaDex!;" "Keep your eyes on the PistaDex!;" and, simply, "PistaDex!" And that's just the beginning. So keep checking back at PistaDex.com like the the rat in a skinner box that you are!

Actually, I have nothing to do with PistaDex.com. It appears to have been up for about a month now, but I only became aware of it yesterday. To be honest, I was a little creeped out when I first saw it--it was kind of like getting up in the middle of the night to urinate and finding a stranger sitting on your toilet. I'll admit I was also irked at first, but after some reflection I decided I should simply help this mysterious PistaDex webmaster by continuing to supply him or her with ideas. So I drafted the above press release. I'm not sure what this person intends to do with this site, but I'm hoping that this helps spur them into some kind of action. Plus, I'd really like to buy a PistaDex t-shirt! Wouldn't you?

Oh, by the way, the .net and .org variants appear to be available if you're interested.


In other news, a reader informs me that there is a person in Nashville who will not only sell you a pie plate for $8 but will also install it for you:





Should you take advantage of this fantastic deal just watch out for geese--and now, for blackbirds as well! (Thanks Cameron.)


It is truly inspiring to see the avian community joining together to rid the world of pie plates. Someone really ought to start a website!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Multiples: How Much Is Too Much?

If you're like me, you've been frustrated by the diminutive diameter of your road bike headset bearings. Sprinting with a 1 1/8" front end is like balancing an unabridged dictionary on a sewing needle. And as for a 1" setup, it's hard to imagine anybody ever rode a bicycle like that. I strongly believe than any still left should be forcibly removed from the road, and if you're still riding one then you must be stupid, suicidal, or both.

Fortunately, the big bike manufacturers have heard our demands and seem to be moving towards a new headset "standard," this being a 1 1/8" bearing on top and an even larger 1 1/4" bearing on the bottom. I had originally been waiting for road bike headsets to go to 1 1/4" top and bottom before upgrading, because I'm convinced that's where things are headed and I think right now head tubes are in an awkward "Popeye's arm" stage. However, it looks like I'm going to need a new bike sooner than I intended, since I smashed my last one to bits Pete Townshend-style this past weekend after failing to win yet another road race due entirely to my outmoded front end setup. (Though to be fair my lack of an eleventh cog was also partly to blame.)

As such, I spent the rest of the weekend researching new bikes, which consisted mostly of reading reviews online while picking my teeth with a shard of carbon fiber from my freshly-shattered frame. One particularly attractive line of bikes is the '09 Giant line-up. It's got all the features I require: Popeye's arm head tube with a logo that spans both the head tube and the fork (head tube/fork-spanning logos are the frame URLs of the new millennium), enormous tubes everywhere else, and integrated everything. But more than anything else, what caught my eye was this:



Yes, that's Cyclingnews reviewer James Huang's name right there on the top tube. I may be wrong, but I'm guessing this is Giant's way of tickling his ego a bit and making him feel all pro and special while he's testing out their new line-up. This got me thinking: at what point to you have access to so many bicycles that you can no longer differentiate them? I'm not saying this is the case with James, but generally speaking wouldn't all these bikes eventually melt together into one big, sticky, sickly sweet mass of crotch candy? I mean, let's be frank: high-end race bikes are luxury items, and when you're constantly surrounded by luxury you may be appreciative at first but after awhile you get really comfortable, start taking it for granted, and eventually become addicted to the luxury itself. (I stayed in a Holiday Inn recently so I know what I'm talking about.)

I maintain it's important to limit the number of bicycles you have so you can appreciate the differences between them. In cycling as in life, the excitement is in the contrasts. So how do you know if you have too many bikes and you're getting soft? Well, if you have any of the following, you're probably there:

An Inside Bike

Do you have a perfectly good bicycle that you keep only to use inside on rollers or on a trainer of some kind? This is simply excessive. Bikes are for outside. Having an inside-only bike is like having an inside-only outfit--not a pair of flannel pajamas or something, but rather a flowing, silk ensemble with lots of embroidery. Who do you think you are, Hugh Hefner?

An A La Recherche du Temps Perdu Bike

This is a bicycle you keep only for nostalgic purposes. It could be that Paramount you always coveted in your youth and then finally purchased on eBay, or that Skyway TA your friend had when you were kids and then you painstakingly recreated vintage bit by vintage bit. Sure, if you're actually riding the thing I suppose it's OK, but if you simply keep it inside and post pictures of it on relevant internet galleries I'd argue that's excessive. When your stable of bikes can be described as Proustian it may be time to start thinning the proverbial herd.

A Fluid Bike

Last week we saw the dangers of having specific bikes for specific beverages. Coffee bikes, beer bikes, Orange Julius bikes--where does it end? (I admit I have an Orange Julius bike complete with handlebar-mounted cup holder, but I did get rid of my A La Recherche du Temps Perdu CW Dizz Hicks replica and studded leather halter top in order to make room for it.) Trust me, not every liquid requires a specific bicycle in order to fetch it. Surely some people are just some bike lust and a case of anemia away from owning a hemoglobin bike. Actually, isn't that what Astana rides?

A Doppelganger Bike

Hoarding is a dangerous impulse, and it's one to which all too many cyclists fall victim. If you're not a hoarder you probably know one--we've all encountered the guy who's afraid they might stop making his favorite pedal or something so he stockpiles enough to last him three lifetimes. Well, the hoarding impulse can extend to complete bikes. Some people like a bicycle so much they feel compelled to replicate it. Just in case. Having a duplicate bicycle is OK if you're a really good cyclocross racer. Otherwise, it's excessive.

A Fixed/Singlespeed Iteration of a Bike You Already Have

Many people who own multiple bikes have a singlespeed and/or a fixed-gear in there somewhere, and there's certainly nothing wrong with that. There is something wrong though with the person who's got every conceivable bicycle and so he starts from the beginning and builds fixed or singlespeed versions of all the bicycles he already has. This is a variant of the hoarding disorder. You've got the 'cross bike, now you need the singlespeed 'cross bike. You've got the titanium century bike, now you need the fixed titanium century bike. If gone untreated, this doubles over on itself and you start building geared versions of your singlespeed or fixed bikes. Then one day you're just riding around in circles in front of your house on a bike with a carbon belt drive and a Rohloff hub, naked and sobbing to yourself. And I don't want to see that happen to anybody.

An Occasion Bike

A bicycle is a tool, and you certainly need the right tool for the right job. That's why many of us own more than one bicycle. But if you've got too many tools eventually you yourself become the tool. It starts with having a beater bike. Then a rain bike. Then a coffee bike. (See "fluid bikes.") Then a Sunday morning bagel-getter. Then a loaner bike in case your friend visits from out of town and wants to go mountain biking. Then a post road ride road bike. (You know, just to shake out the legs.) Then a pit bike. Then a pit bike for your pit bike. Eventually you're buying one of those Worksman bikes just in case someone invites you to a barbecue and wants you to bring hot dogs or something. Guess what? It's OK not to have the exact bike for every occasion. It's OK to carry hot dogs on your Orange Julius bike once in awhile, really. (Just don't stick them in the handlebar-mounted cup holder like pencils.)

A Grant Petersen Iteration of a Bike You Already Have

So you have the go-anywhere bike. You have the singlespeed go-anywhere bike. Naturally, you now need Grant Petersen's take on the singlespeed go-anywhere bike. Or do you? Just because something has received the Rivendell treatment by getting lugs and a really tall head tube doesn't mean you need it, no matter how eloquent the website copy is.

So next time you're contemplating adding a new bike to your fleet, stop and ask yourself: "Do I really need it?" Then ask yourself, "In the event of a fire, if I could only save one of my bikes, which one would it be?" In my case I know exactly which it would be. It would be the one with the largest diameter headset. (Or maybe the Orange Julius bike.)

Friday, June 20, 2008

BSNYC Friday Fun Quiz: Special Palate-Cleansing Edition



Wow, what a week! There was excitement, there was controversy, there was anger, and then, yesterday, there was treacle. I actually feel hung over from it all. (And it has nothing to do with all the drinks I had last night either.) Well, one of the best ways to shake a hangover is to go for a hard ride, and one of the best ways to clear your head is with a little mental exercise. So I've prepared a quiz. Read the question, think, and click on your answer. If you're right, you'll see the item. If you're wrong, you'll get hit with a blast from the Slayer siren. Thanks, good luck, and have a good weekend.

--RTMS


Whose autograph did BSNYC/RTMS get in Harlem this past Sunday?

--Tyler Hamilton's

--Michael Ball's

--Bill Clinton's

--Kool Moe Dee's


Which is NOT an actual reason given by Campagnolo press manager Francesco Zenere for his company's move to 11 speed?

--"Why not?"

--"Cyclists are never truly happy whether they are professionals or amateurs."

--"The extra cog offers smoother transitions between gears, allowing competitive riders to maintain optimal cadence in a variety of terrain."

--"The 11th speed is in fact the icing, while the cake is the remarkable makeover of the three groupsets dedicated to competition use."


Clem LueYat earned the title "Master HairWeaver of the World" by:

--Pioneering both the "Unique Interlocking Hair Weave System" and the "Wrap Net Weaving System"

--Consulting with Tom Boonen on his male pattern baldness

--Installing Johan Museeuw's hair implants

--Weaving Johan Museeuw's flax bicycle frames



Which is NOT an actual quote from Aaron Edge, editor of the new book Rain City Fix:

--"The customization of all of these bikes and the different people who ride them is fascinating to me."

--"If this inspires someone else to not only ride a fixed-gear bike or check it out...just have a community at all of anybody hanging out and doing stuff and have a collection of ideas...the momentum of this book that's what I hope starts."

--"I gave him a call at like two in the morning and was like, 'We're doing a book,' and the normal response from either of us when someone says something like that is, 'OK. Tell me about it. When do we do it?'"

--"I gave him a call at like two in the morning and was like, 'We're doing a book,' and he was like, 'Dude. It's two in the morning. I have a job. You don't. Call me in the morning.'"




The above is:



When does the film "The Love Guru" open?





This bike, photographed by a reader in Boston, is:


--A phlegmatic tea bike


--Fabulous!!!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Get Over It: Surmounting the Obstacles to Cycling

Recently, while checking in on the Craigslist Missed Connections (for the blog, I swear, for the blog!) I happened upon the following post:

MC with bike partner/mentor - 25 (Williamsburg) [original URL: http://newyork.craigslist.org/brk/mis/719927591.html]
Reply to: pers-719927591@craigslist.org
Date: 2008-06-14, 4:37PM EDT

Posting here since I don't think people read the platonic section and everyone loves missed connections.

I am a 25 year old female, just bought my first road bike (!) and it should be ready to roll next Monday (getting fixed up this week). I am looking for someone to ride with at least a few times, from williamsburg to battery park (or at least to the east river green path) so I can get the hang of it since I am a little nervous, esp. about getting off the w'burg bridge in traffic and finding the green path. I am just trying to avoid doing dumb things that might get me into the BikeSnobNYC blog and/or get me killed.

I can leave pretty much anytime from 6:30AM to 9:30AM. I live near the Graham L. This is probably really uncool but I don't care... I don't know anyone else that rides a bike regularly here.

This is not a dating ad, so whoever you are: whatever, just be nice and not creepy!

Thanks!


For all my derision, the last thing I’d want to do is discourage someone from riding a bike. If anything, I’d like to think I poke fun at the things that are actually barriers of entry to new cyclists, and not at new cyclists themselves. I’d also like to think it’s a good thing that someone might be afraid of both winding up on this blog and being killed, because some of the things I make fun of actually can get you killed. (Brakeless bike-salmoning, for example.) So with the bike boom in full, uh, boom, and with as many young people as ever moving to the trendier neighborhoods of various urban centers and thinking of taking up the filthy cycling habit, I think it’s worth taking a look at the barriers of entry to new cyclists so we can steamroll right through them and get more people riding:

Fear

The new or aspiring cyclist is afraid of many things. Among them are: looking stupid; getting lost; getting harassed by automotive traffic; and of course injury. Sure, fear is natural, but when it keeps you from doing something there’s really no reason not to do it becomes a problem. Being afraid of cycling is like feeling guilty about sex, except one keeps you from getting on and the other keeps you from getting off. But how do you lose the fear?

Paradoxically, you lose it by accepting the fact that every one of the things you’re afraid of will happen to you. You know what? You will look stupid. We all looked stupid on a bike at first. We all put on a jersey that was two sizes too big, pulled on our first pair of cheap half-shorts, tied our sneakered feet to our plastic pedals with some nylon straps, shifted into the small ring up front and the small cog out back, and let our dork flags fly. Not only that, but every one of us, no matter how experienced, still looks stupid today--maybe not to our riding buddies or respective cliques, but certainly to the world at large. The fixter looks stupid to the roadie; the roadie looks stupid to the mountain biker; the mountain biker looks stupid to the recumbent rider; and the recumbent rider looks stupid to everyone. And all of us look stupid to the non-cyclist. No matter who you are or what you’re doing, you look stupid to somebody. We’re all a bunch of preening, posturing, self-deluded roosters. Embrace it.

You’ll also get lost. It will probably be raining when it happens, too. Yes, you’ll be a lost, wet, cold, stupid-looking person, and you’ll be miserable. But it’s not that bad. You’ll find your way home again, you’ll learn some new roads, and you’ll be better for the experience. As J. Peterman said, being lost is “the best way to get someplace you've never been.” And in my experience with being lost, that place is often in New Jersey.

“But what about the cars?,” you may ask. “Surely I should fear the cars.” Well, you should be aware of the cars, and you should know that many of them are driven by people so stupid they can barely operate them, but you should not fear them. Rather, you should know them and understand them. You’re at a distinct advantage because, being stupid, most drivers are easy to figure out. It won’t take you long to anticipate their stupid behavior in the same way you can usually figure out what your dog is about to do next. Oh, and don’t let them bully you. Ignore the beeping. A driver honks to express one of three things: 1) I want you to get out of my way; 2) I want you to go faster; 3) I just don’t like you. The correct response to all of these is, “I don’t give a fuck.” Drivers don’t honk when they’re about to kill you because when they kill you it’s because they didn’t see you.

“Yeah, but cars or no cars, I might get hurt.” Hey, you will get hurt, I promise. But you can also get hurt eating a bagel, watching “Night Court” reruns, or masturbating. (Especially if you attempt all three at once.) It doesn't mean you shouldn't do them. Lieutenant Frank Drebin of Police Squad said it best: “You take a chance getting up in the morning, crossing the street or sticking your face in a fan.” So go ahead, stick your face in the fan and get on your bike.

Fitness

Another reason people are apprehensive about riding bicycles is that they perceive it as being difficult. The fact is that it’s only as difficult as you make it. Unfortunately, though, most people are completely delusional when it comes to cycling. Many cyclists think that they’re just a pair of Zipps, a Cervelo, and a few expensive coaching sessions away from going pro. Similarly, many non-cyclists don’t bother because they think it takes strength, dedication, and training to be a good cyclist. The reality is that both types of people are completely delusional—the cyclist is much weaker than he thinks he is, and the non-cyclist is much stronger than he thinks he is. So just get on the bike and have fun at whatever speed you choose. The fitness will happen by accident.

Equipment

Any long-time cyclist has been asked thousands of times by non-cyclists for recommendations as to what kind of bicycle to purchase. And, because they’re cyclists and consequently compulsive and anal, they probably gave thoughtful, intelligent, and highly-detailed responses that flew over the person’s head like a pie plate-hating milking goose. This is because buying a new bike is like sex in that it’s impossible to get right the first time. Nobody can tell you how to do it. You’ve got to make your mistakes yourself.

Of course, if you’re considering a new bike purchase, you should do your homework, you should ask people for advice, and you should shop around. But you should also realize that since you’re not a cyclist yet you haven’t learned what kind of cyclist you are yet either, so you don’t know what kind of bike you need. Just jump in, buy what you can afford and what makes sense at the time, and try to ask a reasonable price when you put it on Craigslist six months later to buy the bike you now know you need.

Fashion

If I’m hard on the fashionistas and the gear whores, it’s because I think one of the greatest obstacles to new cyclists is the uniform and equipment it seems necessary to own in order to join in the fun. From the outside you’d think you can’t own a fixed-gear bike without having full sleeves and a HED tri-spoke, and that you can’t own a road bike without having an SRM and a pair of wheels that costs over $1,000. And in either instance, it would appear to the non-cyclist that you certainly can’t be a cyclist yourself without having the right friends. As a commenter said yesterday to me:

Let's see your bikes. Let's see your face. Let's see your friends, your music and everything else. No, that would be too much. Then you wouldnt have anything to write about because people could rip you to shreds.

Guess what? You don’t have to have friends or listen to music to be a cyclist. All you have to do is ride your bike. (Okay, and maybe own a floor pump.) And the friends, like the fitness, will follow. Some people neither seek approval nor fear disapproval. Cycling doesn't have to be about who you know and what you ride. It's about who you are and that you ride. I find it interesting that the person who wrote the above Craigslist post is looking for riding partners online because “I don't know anyone else that rides a bike regularly here.” Hmmm, Williamsburg is in many ways the home of “bike culture.” Gee, could it be this “bike culture” is not as welcoming and inclusive as it thinks it is? And could it be the "bike culture" is not riding its bikes as much as it says it is?

One of the greatest things about cycling is you can do it with 10,000 people or you can do it alone. And you don’t need to engage in the “secret handshake” of name-dropping, proper equipment usage, and wardrobe in order to do it. Choose a group, choose a fashion, or don’t, it doesn’t matter.

So after all this, why would you still want to become a cyclist? Well, if nothing else, you’ll never, ever be bored again. There will no longer ever be a daunting empty window of time in your day, as you’ll always have something to fill it with. Even if you’re all by yourself.

(By the way, if you're nice and not creepy, email this person and go for a ride.)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Strange Customs: Art, Bikes, and the Apocalypse

"The customization of all of these bikes and the different people who ride them is fascinating to me." --Aaron Edge, Rain City Fix


Indeed. However, let's be honest. Choosing between vintage Italian and NJS, or between black and pink Deep Vs, or even between track drops and risers, isn't exactly customization. If that's customization then I suppose I customize my feet every morning when I decide which socks to wear. No, real customization is combining disparate components and elements, making them work together, and thus creating something truly unexpected and inspiring. A real custom bike cannot be measured on the Sense-o-meter or the Money-o-meter, because a real custom bike is art, and as such it defies quantification. Therefore, a real custom bike can only be quantified the way art is quantified, in that the true measure of its greatness is the intensity with which it stirs your soul.

Having said that, I bring you this, which was reverently photographed by a reader:


I realize a bike like this isn't for everyone, so if you're looking for a more traditional "dream bike" check out Fat Cyclist's raffle. But to me, this magnificent specimen not only stirs my soul, but it whips it up into a froth, spoons it up, and puts a dollop of it on top of a caffeinated beverage and serves it right back to me like some sort of cosmic barista. Put this in your coffee table book, Mr. Edge! The pie plate alone would be magnificent enough, but in concert with the Spinergy it's sublime, and in the context of the entire bike it's achingly beautiful. Like any true work of art, this bicycle is a window into universal truth, and as such it is open to infinte interpretation. My own is that it's a tragi-comic look at the folly of bicycle upgrading in particular and the futility of materialism in general. Alas, my only quibble is that I personally would have put a carbon fork on there too. But then again, to imply that I could somehow improve this bike is arrogance bordering on hubris. Also, while the carbon fork might help kill road buzz, it might also mute this bike's cosmic hum.

After all, if anything is going to save us from the Apocalypse, it's art. And the Apocalypse is as nigh as ever. (As if Rain City Fix weren't proof enough.) If the fixed-gear phenomenon is a party, then the Apocalypse is still at home primping and trying on different shirts. But rest assured, when it finally does choose a chemise, it will be on its way. In fact, another reader just sent me this:


I'll be damned if that isn't a Fixed Gear Pie Plate. The picture must have been taken in Hell, and clearly it's snowing down there since the dreaded FGPP has finally manifest itself. Of course, I am the type of person who looks the proverbial gift horse in the proverbial mouth (even if that horse is an alpaca and it's breathing fire from its nostrils), so I'm a little disappointed it's not one of those newer, plastic freehub-style pie plates. That to me would be the ultimate. But still, this is not a good sign. Nor is it encouraging that the bicycle has no pedals. That can only imply that the beast who rides it simply puts a claw or talon through the pedal holes in order to turn the cranks.

I wish I could explain this away as a fluke, but I also received this from yet another reader:

Is there a death knell louder than that of the instructional video? This should look great alongside your other videos about how to play the guitar and how to swing a golf club.

Well, actually, maybe there is a louder death knell. It would appear that Time has published an article about the Messenger Mania event at last Sunday's Harlem Criterium:


It's puzzling to me why a magazine as big as Time, if they wanted to run something about a messenger race, would cover this instead of the Cycle Courier World Championship in Toronto which was happening at the same time. (Not that I begrudge local messengers the coverage--far from it--but still.) I suppose maybe the writer had a cutesy idea for a story and didn't want to travel. Also, the writer is probably angling for a Pukelitzer, which is an annual prize awarded to the fluffiest piece of cycling-related journalism published in a mainstream publication. (I don't think she'll win, though. Even with lines like "The pros had slick helmets, fancy bikes and numbers pinned onto the backs of their shirts," she'll still have to compete with The Climb.)

But the most noteworthy thing to me about this article was the following quote, by none other than promoter John Eustice, regarding his inviting the messengers to come race:

"I almost look at them as the artists colonizing the big race," says Eustice, who organized the event. "When you want to make something cool, you bring in the artists."

Indeed you do. Hey, it worked for Williamsburg, why not for road racing? Yep, nothing's cooler than messenger culture. Someone really should put together a coffee table book.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Too Much Irony, Too Little Time: The Elusive Nature of Bike Culture

In my first post yesterday, I posted this picture, and commented that the owner had more money than sense:


Well, later that day I received an email from the owner himself. It turns out that I've actually referenced another bicycle of his on this site as well:


In the case of the earlier post, I wasn't being particularly dirisive (for me anyway). I was simply comparing Fixedgeargallery and Velospace and therefore juxtaposing two Pista Concepts. But I do admit that the comment about the BMC came off a bit harsh. And, understandably, the owner felt compelled to point out that I had in fact mentioned him twice and that he had not expected to be singled out for simply riding his bicycle to a bicycle race. Not only that, but another reader felt compelled to comment on his behalf as well:

Snob,

The fixster with more money than sense was actually racing that frame at Kissena on Super Sprint Sunday - with lovely carbon fiber track bars. Frankly, I think it's cool that it doubles as his ironic coffee bike.

You actually commented on something of his before - carbon track drops with no tape on them. It turned out that they were special carbon bars with integrated grip texture in the carbon. No wrap needed. You got a hard-on for this guy or what? Two strikes!!!


I'd hate for anybody out there to think that I've got a vendetta going against anybody. (Or, worse yet, a "hard-on.") I mean, the truth is that I do have some vendettas going, but they're all against either quasi-celebrities like Michael Ball or just things that irk me like pie plates and people who lock their wheels and skid in front of you on the bridge bike paths. I didn't mean to single this particular guy out. As such, I think he deserves an explanation.

Most importantly, as I said earlier, the "more money than sense" line was a bit harsh. But, in my defense, it is technically true. Let's take a look:

Sense

"Sense" is hard to quantify. Different things make sense in different circumstances. A radiation suit doesn't make sense at the beach, but it does in a nuclear power plant. (Or at the beach at Coney Island.) Similarly, a BMC Track Machine might make sense at the track, but it's probably not the most sensible bicycle for street use, and that's how I saw the bike being used. I've created a Sense-o-meter to illustrate this:

The top bicycle is a sensible city bike, and the bottom bicycle is Theo Bos's Koga Miyata. As a city bike, the BMC ranks closer to the Theo Bos bike than to the city bike. Obviously, if we were talking about olympic velodrome use, this would be inverted. But since the bicycle was being used on the street, this is the scale that I applied.

Money

Money can be as subjective as sense, but it's a bit easier to quantify since you're talking strictly in terms of numbers. An expensive bike is an expensive bike no matter where you use it. To illustrate this, I've made a Money-o-meter of track bikes. At the bottom is a Bikesdirect special, which goes for $299.95 for the complete bike. (Represented by a half a dollar sign.) At the top is a hand-crafted Vanilla track bike, which starts at $2,800 for just the frame. (Represented by four dollar signs. Yes, there are certainly more expensive frames out there, but you have to cap it somewhere.)



The BMC Track Machine costs about $1,800 for the frameset (depending on where you buy it), and as such ranks pretty highly on the Money-o-meter. It is represented by three dollar signs.

So we've established that the BMC is not the most sensible city bike, and we've also established it's pretty expensive. But does that mean the owner has more money than sense?

Money Vs. Sense

Putting the Sense-o-meter and the Money-o-meter side by side and plotting a line between the two points at which the BMC appears on each, it would appear that the BMC track machine is indeed more expensive than it is sensible given the circumstances in which it is being used:


So, assuming the owner actually paid for the frame (which is likely though not a given), it's reasonably safe to say that he indeed had more money than sense.

Of course, I don't think the real issue is that I wrote inaccurately. I think it's that I wrote glibly. Simply saying he's got more money than sense doesn't take into account myriad other factors. Still, I don't think what I said was so bad. I happened to commute on my road bike this morning, and if I were to apply the Sense-o-meter and the Money-o-meter to myself for my commute I'd definitely have more money than sense today too, and I'd begrudge nobody for saying so. All the same, I suppose when I posted the BMC I could have said something velo-politically correct like, "This person is exhibiting an inverse relationship between bike cost and practicality for the occasion," but you've got to admit that's a little cumbersome.

The other thing that bears mentioning is the commenter's observation that the BMC is an "ironic coffee bike." The owner corroborates on his own blog that he did indeed have ironic intentions. This would not be the first time I've missed fixed-gear irony. I also apparently missed it when I got mad about that King Kog photo, which they went on to explain was actually intended as a joke. I'm actually concerned that I seem to be missing so much irony, since I'd like to think I have a decently-functioning sarcasm detector. I suppose the reason I'm having so much trouble is that I just don't expect the irony to be so darn expensive. I mean, I understand Judah Friedlander wearing a $10 World Champion hat, but $1,800 is a lot of scratch for some irony. Then again, I guess that's just more irony. Also, the owner was surprised I singled him out on the site, yet his bicycle was in fact a rolling ironic statement. My grip on irony is clearly tenuous, but to me that would imply he'd want the ironic statement to be noticed. Wow, this is getting confusing. I may need to take a class or something. In any case, I just hope he rides and enjoys his bicycle, whether it's in sincere mode or ironic mode, depending on bar choice.

While I'm on the subject of fixed-gear irony, I'm not sure how much is intended in the following video, which is a promotion for a new book called "Rain City Fixed:"



I've actually been in touch with the person who put this book together, and I congratulate him on finishing it and wish him the best of luck. I do admit I'm sort of baffled by the "bike culture's" compulsion to preen and model and to photograph itself and its fashions and thereby emulate some of the more disappointing aspects of the larger culture, but I'm sure someone out there can tell me what I'm missing. I'd hate to put my cycling shoe in my mouth two days in a row.