Friday, August 29, 2008

Making Ends Meet: Packages and the PistaDex

It's the Friday before a holiday weekend. As such, I feel like I can be somewhat informal with you today, and I hope you don't mind if I let my hair down. (I usually keep it in a tight and sensible bun.) The fact is, times are hard. First of all, I got that ticket yesterday, and between hiring Daniella Levi (who has won millions of dollars for her clients over the years) and the scary mustachioed guy from 1-800-Lawyers (I'm taking the CSC approach by fielding a twin-pronged assault on this ticket) I'm feeling pretty strapped. Second of all, it also turns out my mortgage is one of those exponential ones where the interest rate is multiplied by itself every month. It hardly seems fair to make me pay it since I didn't even know what an exponent was (I just thought it was a marketing term for "excellent"), but Daniella Levi and the mustachioed guy from 1-800-Lawyers tell me I don't have much of a case. Also, I rent my apartment, which makes the whole enterprise seem doubly shady.

So it's a very good thing that Rapha, the J. Peterman of cycling clothing, is taking pity on me and sending me free stuff in the mail. My need for cash is so acute that I was actually down to my last bandana, with no immediate hope of procuring more. So you can imagine my relief when I opened the package and found this elegant schmata:




Elated, I tied that thing around my neck faster than a hiker ties a tourniquet around his buddy's hemorhhaging limb:

(Cravat by Rapha. Shirt by Stevil. Photo by Annie Leibovitz.)

I was so touched by this gift that I burst into tears and proceeded to fill my Rapha cravat with mucus. Thank you, Slate. I will treasure this.

So with times as hard as they are, it's no surprise I've been watching the PistaDex more closely than Cadel Evans watches the wheel in front of him. (There's always a wheel in front of him.) I do own some track stuff and it's crucial for me to know if I should sell and move my cycling-related investments into other areas. At the moment the NYC PistaDex is at 540, with these two offerings:




Reply to: [deleted]
Date: 2008-08-27, 5:45PM EDT

2007 Bianchi Pista Track Bike, 53cm

Excellent condition fixed gear bike. Great for riding around the city, light weight, quick and fast. I've added bullhorn handlebars, and a front Shimano 105 break. It's been stored inside and never ridden in the rain. Perfect bike for someone looking to try out their first fixie.

Asking: $480/obo

BIKE SPECS

Frame: Double-butted chrome-moly frame
Crankset: Sugino RD, 48 teeth
Rear Cog: 1-speed, 16 teeth
Handlebar: Soma Bullhorns
Stem: Bianchi aluminum
Headset: 1" threadless VP
Hubs: Bianchi hi-flange
Rims: Alex AT-400, 32-hole
Tires: 700 x 23c
Stand Over: 30.5"


Here's a link to the Bianchi website:
http://www.bianchiusa.com/07_pista.html

I'm not sure why people are compelled to point out a bike hasn't been ridden in the rain. What do I care? People seem to be under the impression their bikes are made out of Now and Laters or something, and that if they ride them in the rain they'll slowly dissolve. I'm here to tell you that's not the case. Water will not hurt your bicycle. If it did, how would you wash it? The fact that your bicycle may have gotten wet at some point is not going to prevent me from buying it.







bianchi pista 2008 51 cm - $600 (Upper West Side)
Reply to: sale-813206271@craigslist.org [?]
Date: 2008-08-26, 12:14AM EDT

brand new just a week old.




Well that was fast. But I'm confused. Is it brand new or a week old?!?

In any case, the PistaDex may still be fairly high, but when I see someone ditching a week-old ride I get nervous. This could presage a plummet in the PistaDex. More disturbing was this sign:




Campagnolo Record Pista Track 165 Cranks - $250 (Lower East Side)

Reply to: [deleted]
Date: 2008-08-28, 3:01PM EDT

I'm selling a lot of my track stuff so that I can come up with the money for a motorcycle.

These Campy Record Pista Track Cranks are in really good shape. Normal wear. $250.00

DOES NOT COME WITH THE pedals. If you want the pedals, it's an extra $50.00 They are MKS NJS pedals with Black soma double cages & two sets of leather straps.




Here's somebody jumping off the fixed-gear bandwagon in order to jump on the motorcycle one. This would not be noteworthy in and of itself, but it so happens that the reader who forwarded me this ad says that the seller is none other than Kevin. This saddens me deeply, because I'm sure you'll agree that Kevin was a member of not only the cycling family but the family of this blog. It was only about six months ago that he was reluctantly selling his Mavic bars in order to fund a new build. Now he's leaving it all behind.

Frankly, I don't take anybody's leaving cycling lightly. We need all the riders we can get. Kevin, if you're reading this, I implore you to think twice about what you're doing. If you think motorcycling is a bold new world of renegade fashions and high-speed adventure, I'm here to tell you that it's not. Motorists will treat you just as poorly and with as little respect as they treat cyclists--except instead of going 20mph when they turn into your lane without looking you're going 70mph. Also, if you think track stuff is expensive in NYC, just wait until you start shopping for a motorcycle. The only thing more overpriced than NJS is UJM, because cafe racer conversions are the fixed-gear conversions of the motorcycle world. Moving from unwrapped bars to wrapped pipes will only cause you more angst. Yes, Kevin, your sleeves will look awesome on a motorcycle as you stretch to reach your clubman bars, but please, think twice before you leave us. We need you. The PistaDex hangs in the balance!

Fortunately, though, there are still those willing to make a lifetime commitment to the fixed-gear lifestyle, as you can see from this photo, forwarded by a reader:



As pleased as I am to see that there is at least one rider out there who will (ostensibly) never leave us, I will admit I was somewhat perplexed. My understanding of the knuckle tattoo was that the word break should be between the hands. This one, however, requires a Vulcan salute in order to read "No Brakes." Otherwise, it says, "Nobr Akes," who I'm pretty sure is a Greek bouzouki player who opened for Letle Viride a few times. Also, while this rider certainly intends to continue riding brakeless for the rest of his days, this tattoo will preclude him from occasionally riding a bicycle with brakes, because the sight of those paws squeezing a pair of brake levers (even useless ones) would be overwhelmingly ironic. And lastly, once upon a time at least, getting something tattooed on your knuckles was a bold statement. It said, "I'm an outcast and I don't care who knows it because I'll never be a part of polite society." It was a real commitment. Consequently, in the spirit of commitment, wearers of such tattoos would pick one phrase, like "Love/Hate" or something like that. Having two more or less unrelated phrases on the same pair of hands completely obviates that effect. It's like having two women's names on the same arm, each followed by the word forever.

In any case, who cares what I think, as long as he's happy. And he can certainly take solace in the fact that if he ever winds up on the inside he'll already have the Robert DeNiro "Cape Fear" remake look. Best of all, he might even get to fabricate LeMonds:

In an odd twist, an inmate at a federal prison in Williamsburg, South Carolina filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit in July, alleging that he and other inmates produce bikes for LeMond under the Federal Prison Industry Unicor Program for 12 cents an hour, a violation of minimum wage laws. The inmate also claimed LeMond bicycle are shipped to Iranian troops for training purposes, violating the “Training with Enemy” Act.

12 cents an hour?!? That sounds like pretty good money!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

This Just In: BSNYC Nabbed by the Cops!


If you read this blog regularly (or at all for that matter), you know I can be highly critical. However, like most critics, it appears that the person most in need of criticism is myself. Just as Eliot Spitzer pledged to root out corruption yet used governent funds to pay for sex, I myself am guilty of violating the very ideals for which I supposedly stand. Yes, I, who have lambasted bike salmon and bike lane squatters on this very blog, was just written a ticket for running a red light on my bicycle. So in the interest of both purging myself and serving as a role model to others (it's OK to do bad stuff and benefit from it as long as you say you're sorry afterwards--just ask David Millar) I present to you my story.

It was a morning like any other (you might also want to play this for ambiance) as I approached a major intersection. While I generally wait for the green here, this can sometimes be very irritating, as the big rigs turning off the avenue together with the line of vehicles always waiting to get into the car wash on the corner as well as the general impatience of the drivers behind can make waiting at this light a particularly stressful affair. As such, when a window presents itself I will occasionally run the light in order to make the left onto the avenue. Which is what I did.

Unfortunately, this morning I did so right in front of a police cruiser. Here is a diagram which should help you visualize the situation:



The police car is represented by the Police, which is fitting because there were actually three officers in the car and it's entirely possible the one in the back seat smoking was Stewart Copeland. I am represented by the guy in the chicken suit, and the car wash is represented by the movie "Car Wash." As you can see, I'm in the process of making a left turn onto the avenue, only to encounter the police car on my right, at which point one of the officers (not Stewart Copeland judging by the sound of him) bellowed at me through the loudspeaker that I "have to stop and wait like everybody else."

He had a point, but I didn't hear anything about pulling over, so I not-so-subtly altered my course and made a quick left onto a side street:




The police car continued through the interersection, and the car wash didn't move at all, so I figured I had gotten away with a simple scolding--until I heard the sound of a siren behind me:



The officer in the passenger seat leaned out of the window and demanded my license. I panicked briefly, since while I do have a USA Cycling racing license I don't actually have a state-issued license to operate a bicycle. But then I realized there was no such thing and that he meant a driver's license, which I do have, though it didn't really seem relevant since I wasn't operating a car. In any case, after briefly considering telling him I didn't have one and giving him a made-up Social Security Number and Fat Cyclist's name and address, I decided the consequences of getting caught in such a lie probably weren't worth it. "Are you going to give me a ticket?," I asked, as though this might help me decide whether or not to proffer the license. "Yeah, I'm going to give you a ticket," he replied enthusiastically. "Awesome!," I exclaimed.

As I stood there waiting for them to run my license, I felt that feeling of anger and shame that only the guilty truly know. I wanted to argue, but there really wasn't much to argue about. I'd run the light and they'd watched me do it. "Aren't you afraid of getting killed?," he asked when he finally emerged, studying the Ironic Orange Julius Bike and noting its color on the ticket. "Death doesn't scare me," I wanted to say as I dragged on an imaginary cigarette and took a swig from a bottle of Clorox, but instead I explained that, while I wasn't about to argue with him, sometimes riding a bicycle among cars necessitates your following your own rules. Of course, while this may be true, when you're talking to a cop it's about as sensible as saying you were only selling that bag of weed because you needed the money, and this was probably not the time and place to discuss the prejudices and shortcomings of the New York City traffic infrastructure. As we talked further he revealed that he's a stickler for traffic rules and that he's one of the few cops who will actually write people tickets for jaywalking--because it "annoys" him. By this time, Stockholm syndrome had begun to set in, and despite the fact that I was about to be on the receiving end of a hefty fine thanks to him I suddenly found myself admiring this guy, since handing out summonses to people who annoy me is a personal fantasy of mine.

At any rate, I took my lumps, and I tried to look on the bright side. It had been years since I'd last gotten a red light ticket on my bicycle (oh yeah, I'm incorrigible) and between that one and this one I'd probably gotten away with running thousands upon thousands of lights, so even though my wallet had just taken a hit I figure I've saved somewhere in the neighborhood of $4,000,000. (Or about €7,000.) And that's not even factoring in train fare! Also, while getting a ticket sucks, it's also much better than getting hit by a truck (or getting tackled and arrested). And, perhaps most importantly, it finally convinced me not to bid on the Allen Ginsberg bike from yesterday's comments, since I can no longer afford it.

I reflected on all of these things as I continued on my way. Did I run any more lights? Absolutely not! Well, that's not entirely true. But I checked really carefully for cops first--and I've already recouped the fine.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Indignity of Living in New York: Big, Fat, Lazy Egos


Well, it's August 27th, and that means two things: it's the 50th anniversary of Bigfoot; and I'm back in town. And while I'm celebrating Bigfoot Day in the usual manner (writing a large check to the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, ME while dressed as Bigfoot), I'm somewhat less celebratory about my return to New York.

You may be wondering why this is. Isn't one of the best things about traveling the way it helps you cultivate an appreciation for your hometown? Don't you return with new eyes and see, as if for the first time, all that you've taken for granted? Well, not exactly. For me, it's more like riding a really nice bike for a few days and then having to get back on your crap-tastic bathysphere. That first day back on the streets of New York is like a twelve-tone symphony of stupidity and malice composed by a reanimated and insane Arnold Schoenberg. (When people get reanimated, they always come back insane. I learned that from movies.) It's a cacophony played by an orchestra of phlegm-hocking, jay-walking, coffee-slurping pedestrians, moronic bike salmon, malicious cellphone-cradling delivery truck drivers, deranged cab drivers in exotic religious headgear, doughy endomorphs in drifting SUVs, and riders for whom the highest expression of cycling is the crosswalk trackstand during which they stare deep into space in a desperate attempt to maintain their precarious balance like candy-colored pointers locking on to birds.

There are many reasons why New York is the way it is, and they are too numerous to list here. However, the main one is that New Yorkers have a sense of self-importance that is more bloated than a French duck's liver. Here's just one typical example I encountered this morning:


Note how the driver was considerate enough to perch one wheel on the curb in order to provide an ample five inches of bike lane for any cyclists requiring passage. And lest you think the driver was simply pulling over momentarily to pick up or disgorge a passenger, please note that I watched him pull over right in front of me, rode around him, continued on for a few blocks (including a lengthy wait at the light to cross Sixth Avenue, a major artery), decided as an afterthought to go back and take a picture, dismounted my bicycle, walked back to his car (I had to cross Sixth Avenue and wait for the light again), and found him still there, doing this:

I suppose I should be thankful he was heeding my PSA and not actually driving while using his cellphone, but strangely I was unconsoled. At this point, the driver had to have been on the phone for at least ten minutes, and he was so engrossed that he took absolutely no notice of me as I stood directly outside his passenger window and snapped away at him with my Instamatic. It was kind of like encountering Bigfoot in a forest, but instead of him running away he just sits there nibbling on berries while you film him. I could have twisted the ends of my handlebar moustache pensively, gotten underneath the black curtain of one of those old-timey cameras, and set off a blinding and explosive flash without his so much as peering at me through his tethered spectacles.


Since there didn't appear to be any urgency, I got in closer and tried to see if I could read the paper in his lap. I assumed it must be a very important phone call for him to have been sitting in the middle of a bike lane conversing for such a long time. Without actually sticking my head through the open window (I wasn't about to do that, and my handlebar moustache probably wouldn't have fit anyway) I was unable to make out his handwriting, but through the miracle of technology I was able to render it legible in my laboratory:

Indeed, he is taking down directions to the Hamptons. If you're unfamiliar with the Hamptons, it's almost exactly like the movie "Weekend at Bernie's," and in the summer months it has an irresistible allure for idiots like this. It appears his final destination is 803 Hill Street, which means he's probably headed to Southampton. Southampton happens to be the location of an excellent cyclocross race. However, the only barriers this fellow seems interested in hopping are the ones between decency and being an asshole. He's also preparing to exceed the speed limit--note the double underscore beneath "watch for cops."

And stupidity wasn't just waiting for me on the streets. It was also lurking in my email inbox. Somebody forwarded me the following request from no less a publication than the New York Times:

Hello,

I'm working on a piece for the upcoming Thursday Styles section that will be a photo-driven article about who rides what in the city, and why. We basically want to identify the tribes: downtown design hipsters on vintage Scwhinns, Wall Street jocks (or whoever) on their hot, pricey road bikes, etc. The more specific detail the better.

I want first to hear from bike-riders with a keen eye for style about what "types" of riders out there they observe: what they wear, what they ride, what accessories are must-have. Obviously, we'll be generalizing, but the point is to be visual and light-hearted, not scientific in our categories. If you could contact as many riders as possible and ask that e-mail me with ideas of what types of people ride what bike, and why, that would be great. The more colorful the descriptions, the better.

Once we winnow down the list of types of riders to about five or six, then I'll want to contact people who fit the bill to get quotes. So I'd love to get contact info for anyone who seems like the epitome of any particular style.

I'd love to cast as wide a net as possible, so any help you can give me in getting the word out would be most appreciated. And I am under deadline.

Thanks so much.

[deleted]
Reporter
The New York Times
212 556 [deleted]
[deleted]@nytimes.com

Yes, that seems about right. I don't see why the notion of "journalistic standards" should preclude any reporter from putting together an article on something about which he's completely ignorant. I also don't see why he shouldn't then just email a bunch of people to do his job for him. Hopefully, this approach will spread to other professions too. I'd love to receive an email from a doctor which says, "I'm seeing a patient tomorrow and I'm looking for people with a keen eye for illness. If you could contact as many people as possible who know about coughing-type stuff, bleeding-type stuff, and oozing, crusty, scabby-type stuff, that would be great. The more disgusting the better. And hurry, because I'm on a deadline--the patient I'm seeing is dying."

Sure, I know, it's just the Style Section, and it's just something "visual and light-hearted." Why take it so seriously? Well, first of all, it's the New York Times! They've got the ultimate cycling authority on their very own staff, and his name is Robert Mackey. Why not ask him? I'm sure he can tell them all they need to know. Secondly, there's just something offensive about the "help us help you pigeonhole yourselves" approach. And lastly, there are enough people out there purchasing lifestyles already. In fact, it's right up there with bloated self-importance as a primary reason New York can be so irritating. It's easy to be a rock star--just buy the pants. It's easy to have a personality--just buy the drugs. It's easy to be a cyclist--just buy the bike. Similarly, it's easy to be a reporter--just send out a few emails and photograph a bunch of people who are eager to legitimize and validate themselves in print. Because, whether you're a cyclist or a reporter, why should you have to actually do anything to be something? Why should a writer have to go out there and find something himself? Why not just sit there, like the Hamptons-bound guy in the bike lane, and let the world come to you? That's much easier.

I look forward to seeing the article tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The BSNYC Absentee Art Exhibition (Part III)

This simultaneously compelling and repulsive Erik K creation is even more evocative when studied while listening to the song which inspired it.


"diMITRY: I Fofonov"
Media: Gouache, Krylon, and Cream Cheese
Artist: Erik K
Price: Your dignity


On a completely different note, in my absence I have confirmed that a bathysphere is indeed plying the streets of San Francisco, as you can see in this completely undoctored photo:

Again, this is not a hoax.  While I could not ascertain whether the helmet featured some sort of underwater breathing apparatus, I take this as an Apocalyptic harbinger, and have every reason to believe it means that the storied "city by the bay" may be the "city under the bay" sometime soon.  If you live there, I strongly recommend you quit your foffing off and seek higher ground immediately.  Or at least build a submersible.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The BSNYC Absentee Art Exhibition (Part II)

The many faces of Cadel Evans, by Erik K:



Frodo Evans




"With everything that's gone on in the last three months - I had tendonitis, a huge crash in the Tour de France, defending the yellow (jersey) with only one leg and breaking my anterior cruciate ligament - I was on crutches for three or four days after the Tour."





Cadel Evans, the "John Coltrane of excuses."


Friday, August 22, 2008

The BSNYC Absentee Art Exhibition (Part I)

There is a time for words, and there's a time for art.  And there's also a time for me to leave town, which is what I've done.  As such, I have temporarily transformed this blog into a gallery, and as curator I have given Erik K his own show until I return on Wednesday the 27th.  So pour yourself a glass of wine, nibble some cheese, adopt your most affected accent, and peruse the art.  Today's piece, in honor of both the return of the Cinelli Unicanitor and the Olympic Games, is the "Beijing Gas Mask."  Enjoy.

--BSNYC/RTMS (Curator)


"Beijing Gas Mask"
Medium: Pixels
Artist: Erik K
Price: $250,000.00 (or €32.50)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

BSNYC Thursday Fun Quiz! (with announcement)

First of all, while I've got your attention, I'd like to take the opportunity to inform you that I have been mercifully called away from New York City for a few days.  As such, after today I will be gone through Tuesday of next week, and will resume regular updates on Wednesday the 27th.  However, this should not stop you from stopping by on Friday, Monday, and Tuesday, because I've arranged for some material from a special guest contributor.  So stay tuned.

In the meantime, on the eve of my departure, I've decided to leave you on a sour note by hitting you with a quiz.  As usual, study the question, think, and click on your answer.  If you're right you'll know it.  If you're wrong, you'll see this video of Critical Mass riders making a difference, as forwarded by a reader.

Thanks for reading, and good luck.  See you on the 27th, and be sure to stop by in the meantime.

--RTMS


"It was over before I even knew what happened."

Who said the above, and to what does it refer?




Are these things for real?

--Yes
--No


Thanks to sponsor Levi's, fans of BMX pro Morgan Wade can vote online to determine:





The above, spotted by a reader in Charlottesville, VA, is:







The above, seen in Prospect Park, depicts:




(It's the Marlboro douche!)

Ah yes, bikes and cigarettes--so cool, and even cooler together.  Which company is selling their clothing with carcinogens?


Who said, "That's just pure ignorancy" with regard to the Riccardo Ricco affair?






Special sepia-toned bonus question--the owner of the leg above is:

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Lock n' Loaded: Cracking Down on Bike Theft

Sometimes it can seem like we live in a world gone mad. A two-headed turtle is missing; panda-themed street parties are terrorizing Williamsburg (proving that police don't just pick on groups of idiots on bikes--they also pick on groups of idiots dressed as pandas); and, perhaps most disturbingly, Purple Drank is about to "drop." Trying as times are, I'd like nothing more than to post more pictures of naked women on bikes so that we might all drown our troubles in them. Unfortunately, though, there's simply too much evil in the world for me to bury my head in the seductive sepia sands of bike porn art. I will not sit around Fofonov while the world falls apart around me!

Instead, in the spirit of yesterday's PSA, I remain committed to making a difference. And the one difference I know I can make is helping to reduce bicycle theft. (And of course its half-assed cousin, bicycle component theft.) It seems as though everywhere I look lately I see a poorly-secured bicycle. As recently as this morning, in fact, I was waiting at a red light (not out of safety, mind you, but because crosswalks in summertime are good places for sepia-gazing) when a gentleman rolled by on an eye-catchingly colorful bicycle, got off of it theatrically like a gymnast dismounting the parallel bars, secured it to a bike rack, and went on his way:

Note the manner in which the bicycle has been locked. He could have at least locked it by the downtube and also secured the front wheel without having spent any more time. A second lock for the back wheel would be even better. In the case of my own ironic Orange Julius bike, I have a built-in rear-wheel theft deterrent in the form of the World's Dirtiest Drive Train. (Turning it now sounds like a combination of the Gregory Hines dance from "History of the World Part I" and a tabla solo, and simply attempting to remove the wheel would sully a thief's hand so badly that all I'd have to do would be to follow the trail of grime to his lair.) But this bike looks fastidiously clean, and I'd say an opportunist could make off with those wheels in about 16 seconds without so much as dirtying a digit. He could also loosen that quill stem and grab the bar/stem combo too if he felt like it, since he wouldn't even have to deal with cutting a brake cable.

Here's another unfortunate locking job from San Francisco, forwarded by a reader:



Sure, this bicycle is somewhat less desireable, but the locking technique is still baffling. This rider is using a two-part security system consisting of a u-lock and a cable which a determined rodent could probably gnaw through in a matter of minutes. The most substantial component of the system (the u-lock) is for some reason being employed to secure only the wheel, while the rest of the bike is secured by the cable. (In fairness to the owner, though, I suppose it is possible that the front wheel is worth more than the rest of the bike, so that might explain it. But he still might as well have locked the frame too.) Also, the helmet is right at dog-groin level for maximum urine exposure.

I can't explain why people are unable to lock their bikes properly. All I can do is point these things out when I see them in the hope that others may learn. And the two lessons to be learned from these bikes are:

Lock Up Anything That Can Be Removed

Again, that's "Lock Up Anything That Can Be Removed," not "Lock Up Anything That You Can Remove." I suspect this distinction may be part of the problem. Just becase the owner of Bike #1 doesn't know how to remove his own wheels doesn't mean a thief can't do it either. Sure, you might get your flats fixed at Trackstar, but rest assured that just about every thief out there can operate a wrench and can wrap his mind around the elusive "righy tighty, lefty loosy" principle.

Your Lock Is Only As Strong As Its Weakest Part

This is the lesson of Bike #2. Lock the frame with the u-lock, not the cable lock. Just passing a cable lock through a u-lock does not somehow impart the u-lock's strength to the cable lock. That's dangerous thinking. It's like not understanding that when you have sex with someone you've had sex with everyone they've ever slept with. Think of it this way: the u-lock is the virgin. The cable lock is the person who just got back from a sex tour of Bangkok. Virginity is non-transferrable, but STDs are.

So, with that in mind, let's say you're a savvy, sophisticated urbanite, and you've got a bike to match--like that goofy Trek dragster thing. And let's say you happen upon one of David Byrne's charmingly irreverent bike racks--in this case, the dollar sign. (What could be more fun than locking up to some pop musician's brain belch?) Do you:


#1) Lock the bike to the rack with a u-lock by the front wheel only?


#2) Tether the bike by the seatpost with a piece of yarn to a pretty Monarch butterfly?


3) Throw every goddamn thing you've got on that thing and lock it Pee Wee Herman style?

The answer, of course, is none of the above. You bring it inside with you. Sure, sometimes businesses treat bicycles like wet dogs, but you'd be surprised to find how often you can just walk in with your bike. This is especially true of bars, and it's particularly true of the kinds of seedy dive bars young urban riders are pioneering these days. These are the kinds of bars where, until recently, the bartender wouldn't flinch if you walked in with a 7'10" heroin-addicted transsexual, so what makes you think they care about your lime green fixie? And if someone does give you a problem, you can always throw a trenchcoat over it and pretend it's a person. "That'll be a PBR for me, and a shot of ProLink for my bony transgendered ladyfriend here."

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Recycled Cycling: What's Happening to my Special Purpose?

Last week, I mentioned the possibility of doing some PSAs in order to promote safe, cellphone-free driving. Well, thanks to the visual magic of the incomparable Erik K, that possibility has become a reality:


If you are the proprietor of a blog or website, I implore you to join the fight against driving while distracted by posting this image. Sure, I've taken on causes, promoted them, and then abandoned them before, but this one's different. This campaign will save lives and not just lifestyles, and by ungluing cellphones from the sides of drivers' heads we can benefit all cyclists, not just messengers. Because when you're driving, the only thing that should be stuck to your head is your gooey, gelled-up hair. (And I shouldn't even have to mention driving drunk. When you're driving, the only thing that should be plastered is your hair to your scalp.) So help spread the word!

Of course, not all campaigns are of the guileless, public service variety. Most want to sell you something. And that's fine with me. I don't go in for that stop shopping nonsense, and I'm no enemy of giant corporations. In fact, you can find me most days riding the IOJB around town and sipping either an Orange Julius (a fine IDQ product) or a deliciously frothy Starbucks beverage. You'll know it's me because I'll be wearing either my moisture-wicking chicken suit with a KFC bucket for a helmet (on which I've written "Fried Chicken Is Delicious!" with a magic marker), or else on really hot days just a pair of Mickey Mouse ears, and I'll also be singing songs from the hit Broadway Disney musical, "The Lion King."

Still, even a pandering corpo-whore such as I can sometimes be shocked at peoples' willingness to be rolling advertisements. I was thumbing through trackosaurusrex recently to see if fixed-gear freestyling has progressed past wheelies, barspins, and skidding yet (it hasn't) when I saw this:


Nike Windrunner Ride L.A. from Veesh on Vimeo.

I guess this happened over a week ago now, but word travels slowly to the East Coast. At any rate, it would appear that Nike has harnessed the irresistible lure of the free windbreaker in order to get a bunch of people to ride around Los Angeles on fixed-gear bicycles and make a free commercial for them. It's like a Critical Mass of consumerism!

Like many people, I just assumed that when Nike ended its relationship with the Great Trek Bicycle Making Company last year, they were leaving cycling altogether. And even though Nike said that Nike Cycling would continue to offer products into 2008, judging from their website the Nike Cycling line consists entirely of these two items:





However, judging from the Nike Windrunner ride, they've actually managed to stay in cycling, only in a much smarter way. Now, they no longer need to spend extra money on costly things like making cycling products and buying ad space for those products. Instead, they can simply take some of the non-cycling products they've already got lying around and then get a bunch of people to ride their bikes in them. Also, they've wisely chosen to focus on fixed-gear cyclists, who not only readily accept fashion over function but who also live to make videos of themselves wearing those fashions. This is a vastly more intelligent approach than Nike's previous one, which basically involved selling cycling-specific products (like their rebranded DMT cycling shoes) to bike racers who are notoriously fickle and who occasionally demand irritating things like performance.

See, no company with any sense would ever sell something as specialized as a cycling shoe. You can't wear those things anywhere off the bike, and you definitely won't find a bunch of kids who don't ride bikes deciding that carbon-soled road shoes are cool and wearing them to the mall. So making something like that is not good business. But what is good business is taking a windbreaker you've been making for 30 years, getting a bunch of people to make a free commercial for it, and then maybe--just maybe--if that pays off making it "cycling specific" by putting a bike-related logo on it.

Because why should something be purpose-built when it can be re-purposed? It may not be cheaper for you, but it's definitely cheaper for them. And isn't helping people sell you stuff what cycling's all about?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sweeping Generalizations: What Happens When You Assume

Further to last Friday's post, more than one person objected to my singling out the Leader bike with the doctored fork. (Okay, two people. One commented on the post, and one emailed me.) I maintain though that it is important to point out mistakes, because it's fun and informative, and it can also help people. Here's another mistake by a Leader owner, which a reader recently spotted in downtown Los Angeles:



While I strongly believe that no road-going bicycle should ever sport a quick-release seat clamp, that's mostly a stylistic quibble, and I'm sure some people have valid reasons for using them. However, there's definitely no reason to have a quick-release anything on a bike that's going to spend any time being locked up outside (unless the quick-release is there so you can remove the component and take it inside with you), and there's even less reason to lock your bike by that quick-release component and nothing else.

I have to admit that I am completely baffled as to why, of all the tubes visible in this photograph, the owner chose to pass his lock around that one. He might as well have locked it to a FedEx truck, or to a sprig of bougainvillea, or to a fragrance wafting out of a bakery. Perhaps he didn't spend enough time doing mazes with crayons on diner mats as a child and can't differentiate between closed- and open-ended.

Granted, passing a lock through a bike can sometimes be complicated, and even I have found myself staring at the ganglion of chain and cable before leaving a bike, lest I realize I got so preoccupied with securing both wheels that I forgot to pass the chain around the pole or something. But this one's just bad. It's not even like he locked only the wheel to the pole or something. In this case, the thief will get away with 100% of the bike.

The only thing that, for me, could have made it worse would have been if he'd also locked up his helmet. I don't understand why people so often lock their helmets along with their bikes. You should never, ever leave anything you intend to wear unattended on a sidewalk and attached to a pole. Unless you like wearing things that have been urinated on by dogs, bring the skid lid inside.

After looking at this bike, and Friday's bike, and Fatty's bike, I began to wonder if maybe there was something about Leader owners that might explain kind of behavior. But then I stopped myself. It's tempting to make generalizations about people based on only a few examples, but ultimately it's wrong. My generalization of Mini owners as text-messaging vinophiles was met with outrage in the Mini-driving community. I've also gotten in trouble for declaring that Canadians are lazy, people who drive Nissans are idiots, and that people who watch the sitcom "Two and a Half Men" become inappropriately aroused when their pets nestle between their legs. So having been wrong before, I'm not going to do it again. I'm sure there are plenty of people out there riding Leader bikes who know what they're doing.

There is one generalization that is true, though, and it's that Bianchi Pista owners ask too much for their bikes. The NYC PistaDex is at 550 this morning, thanks largely to this overpriced offering:




Beautiful Bianchi Pista (Silver) with Kryptonite Lock + Extras - $700 (Inwood / Wash Hts)

Reply to: [deleted]

Date: 2008-08-17, 12:30AM EDT


Beautiful Bianchi Pista for sale. Pics attached.

Comes with:

Fixed gear and Free wheel gear (just flip the back wheel)

Handle bar grips (not in picture)

pedal toe clips

Kryptonite lock

Also have a Timbuk2 Laptop Messenger Bag for sale ($55) if you want it.


It's a great ride, the fixed gear allows you to get a real feel for the road (every little movement of your legs, it feels like an extension of your body).


It's a simple but elegantly designed and well built bike. Great for the city!

I like how the "handle bar grips" are "not in picture." Of course they're not. It's a Pista! Why would they be on the bike? I also like the poetic bit about how the "fixed gear allows you to get a real feel for the road." You'll also get a real feel for the road when your hands slip off the bare bars and you rub the asphalt with your face.

Poetic as this may be, if you want to see art in the service of Pista salesmanship, you have to go to eBay. A reader recently forwarded me this offering:







Unfortunately the listing has since been removed, but I was able to manage a few screen shots before that happend. I'm sure you'll agree that this is perhaps the most evocative and controversial Pista ad ever devised. Unlike the Cervelo porn we saw awhile back, I saw no reason to censor this, because this is not porn. Not only are the naughty bits artfully obscured, but it's also kind of sepia, and anything sepia is art. That's the rule.

Then again, it is possible to abuse the "sepia rule," which is probably why eBay pulled the listing. And I must confess these photos do sort of call to mind those somewhat disturbing Lewis Carroll photographs:

Finally, in the spirit of incorrect generalizations, another one is that Rivendell enthusiasts are above shopping on Craigslist:


Dear Universe: Plz send me a Rivendell. I love you. Amen.
Reply to: [deleted}
Date: 2008-08-16, 5:16PM EDT

Dear Dear Dear Universe,

You know I love you. I want only to celebrate you through excessively awesome bicycle riding whereby all humans and their children will see the bike which I will ride, and frolic in orgasmic gasps of joy about me. So please, please, please, in your mercy, send me a Rivendell bike. 54-56 cm frame would be best. Color can be whatever, for I have faith in you.

In return, I swear to irritate those snotty carbon-frame riders, who will have no choice but to acknowledge the superiority of those things which you in your infinite wisdom have given us, like custom fitted lugs. And I will spread your truth and light to the aluminum riders, who have been led astray. Moreover, I understand aluminum gives you Alzheimers, and that is a terrible thing to have in your crotch. Indeed, they know not what they do.

But because I have asked you in your infinite bounty, I know you will provide. Thank you in advance, Universe.

Your friend and true believer,

C. (the hot one with the legs and the hair, you remember me, right, Universe? Email me, we'll talk.)

I don't know which is more misguided: looking for a Rivendell on Craigslist, or attempting to communicate with a higher power on Craigslist. It's pretty much the last place you'll find either. The person who wrote this probably also freaks out at the local bodega because they don't have truffle oil. I'm also a bit disturbed that this person seems willing to trade sex for a Rivendell (although I suspect the bit about "the legs and the hair" is a typo and should simply read "with the leg hair," since we are talking about a Rivendell fan), and even more disturbed by the revelation that aluminum can apparently give you Alzheimers of the crotch. All I can say about that is, thank the Universe the model in the eBay ad is straddling a steel bike!

Somebody forward this to Grant Petersen.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Where The Streets Have No Shame: Keeping Up With the Trends

If you're not from New York (or if you're like me and you generally ignore the news), you may not know that a bill is in the works that would ban drivers from texting on their cellphones, handheld organizers, electronic Twinkies, or whatever else people are using to send and receive text messages, within the New York City limits. Frankly, I had just assumed texting while driving was already illegal in New York, just like talking on a cellphone while driving is. I mean, why would one be legal and not the other? Moreover, texting is way more distracting than just talking. I don't think you should be allowed to do anything with your cellphone while you're driving, but you can at least still look at the road while you're talking. Allowing texting but not talking while driving is like saying it's OK to carry a gun and to shoot people with it, but you can't use the gun to bludgeon anybody.

Law or no law, driving while using a cellphone is still a major problem here in New York, and a high percentage of the drivers who cut me off, back into me, stop abruptly in front of me, or slowly merge into me like they're trying to perform reverse cellular mitosis are also doing something with a cellphone. (Usually, that involves cradling them lovingly in the folds of their neck fat.) Which is why I was pleased to encounter this gentleman:


You'd just expect a fellow with slicked-back hair driving a vintage Mercedes convertible on a summer day in downtown Manhattan to be talking on a cellphone, but he wasn't. And I say, "Good for him!" In fact, I'm thinking about doing a series of PSAs in which I try to convince drivers they can still flaunt their vehicles and themselves without using cellphones while they do it, and if I do I'm using this guy for the first ad. The copy could say something like:

"Bret Easton Ellis called. He wants his main character back. But this guy didn't answer. Why? Because he knows convertibles and hair gel are cool, but talking and texting while driving isn't. So be cool. Don't drive distracted."

Plus, when you've got a cellphone stuck to the side of your head all the time, you tend to miss some of the riches the streets of New York (or in this case, of Brooklyn) have to offer. Like this:


Yup, a genuine "Hino," for the low, low price of $110. I would have called the owner myself, but I was behind the wheel of my Hummer and I didn't want to break the law by using my cellphone--especially while driving on the sidewalk, where you need to pay extra-close attention.

You also miss gems like this:



Fixedgeargallery and Velospace are fine, but fixed-gears are also naturally occurring and sometimes the best ones are out there in the wild. To see one this nice though you have to come to Brooklyn. (There's no way the owner of this bike ever takes it into Manhattan, because that chain wouldn't last a second there. You might as well just tie the bike to a tree with a pair of pantyhose.) I'm particularly "feeling" the padding on both the top tube and the stem, the thermal sippy cup, and the cosmetic wrapping around the seat cluster. Note also the front wheel is unlocked despite ample chain slack, in keeping with the current style.

This is the sort of thing that corporations like The Great Trek Bicycle Making Company try to appropriate, reproduce, and sell, but simply can't. Take this bike, for example, which was forwarded to me by a reader:



challenge:
design the ultimate urban assault bike

welcome to the district.
the fast own the streets and they live [obscured by downward-tilted saddle]
don't get caught and don't die.

hang on if you can.
or get back to the 'burbs.

I'm glad to see Trek have picked some of the goofier elements of urban fixed-gear bicycles, divorced them from their ostensible purposes, and welded them together into this...thing. Looking at this, I feel like Kramer's fake boss at Brant Leland: "I don't know what this is supposed to be." Is it for going fast in a straight line? Some sort of drag bike, maybe? Do people who live in cities want bikes with long wheelbases that aren't designed to turn quickly? Is the 650c for mad bar spinzzz? Will it clear the downtube? Or is it just to be aero? What's the point of the rear brake only? What's the point of any of it?!? And why is a company from Wisconsin implying that anybody who's understandably too afraid to ride this contraption needs to "get back to the 'burbs?" Do they even have cities in Wisconsin from which to retreat?

Maybe someone at Trek saw this thing on Fixedgeargallery and wanted to emulate it:


We've seen gorilla bikes again and again; however, in this case I don't think that's what's riding this bike. Instead, I think it's somebody who's slowly training his body so that one day he may engage in the ancient and elusive practice of autofellatio. If this bike was photographed in front of a yoga studio then that will clinch it for me. By the time those bars reach the front axle I wouldn't expect to see this guy leaving his house much anymore.

Autofellatio may take determination, but so does making your first project bike come together:

...since the frame is 62cm it requires a very long steer tube and the one the fork came with wasn't long enough so with some help from my uncle I had a solid piece of aluminum turned down on the lathe to the exact diameter as the 1 1/8 steer tube on both the inside and outside out the pipe, then it was welded throughly around the seem and now it's very solid and an inch and a half longer. Since the frame is intended for an integrated headset and the fork I had wasn't integrated I had to machine down the standard 1 1/8 threadless headset down just enough to drop it in the frame only the upper cup need work, them I filled the gap where the internal bearings should have been with some tight fitting o rings and buttoned it all together.

Firstly, I'm pretty sure if Leader make a 62cm bike they'll also sell you a fork to go with it. Secondly, I'm also pretty sure a fork couldn't care less whether it's used with a standard or an integrated headset, provided it's got the right race on it. In any case, this baby's had more front-end butchery than Jennifer Grey. I'd be even more afraid to ride it than that Trek thing. I guess I need to get back to the 'burbs.

But how can I? There are just so many great things to see here. Especially in Brooklyn, which has become so trendy that people on Bedford Ave. are now--quite literally--wearing trash bags:


It's Mugatu's Derelicte!