Friday, October 31, 2008

Ups and Downs: More Bikes, Less Hope

Obviously, today is Halloween, and personally I don't care. Firstly, I'm a free thinker and I don't need a special occasion to ride around in my moisture-wicking chicken suit. Secondly, to me Halloween just means there will be an uptick in stupid behavior, and that uptick should be especially noticeable this year since Halloween has fallen on a Friday. So in addition to the usual slew of Halloween-themed alleycats there should be some kind of Critical Mass ride rolling around. Anyway, I've already gotten holiday-themed riding out of my system, since I participated in a Sukkot-themed alleycat just a couple of weeks ago. I won't bore you with the ride report, but I will tell you it was called "Sukkah On This" and it was awesome.

I will say though that at least when it comes to Halloween people have the decency to ramp up the absurdity during the course of the week so you've got time to get used to it.  Thanks to the dual miracles of readers and email, I have already seen cyclocross barriers of fire in Milwaukee:



And giant red recumbent man-eating sperm in Grand Rapids:



How much worse can it get?

Speaking of scary upticks, the New York Post reports that the number of cyclists entering Manhattan is up 35%:


It's always good to see the New York Post reporting on cycling. After all, it is a newspaper of record--though admittedly that record is Warrant's 2006 "comeback" album "Born Again." The New York Times also points out that in particular the number of cyclists crossing the Williamsburg Bridge has quadrupled from 2000 to 2008. This particular statistic is an excellent example of how important semantics are when it comes to interpreting data. While at first glance you'd take this to mean that more people are cycling, it's also possible that the same number of people are cycling but that they've only been able to successfully cross the bridge since the city finished renovating the bike path in 2002. Before that, crossing the Williamsburg Bridge was like crossing a rope bridge in the Himalayas. So it wouldn't suprise me if just as many people set out on their bikes to cross it before 2000, only to either give up and choose another bridge or plummet into the East River below.

No matter how you interpret the data, though, it's clear a lot of people are commuting by bicycle. And while we've still got a ways to go the city has certainly improved the cycling infrastructure (as anyone who has crossed the old Williamsburg Rope Bridge must admit). Given that, I feel that it is now time cyclists turn their attention to improving their own bikes. And the one place even the novice cyclist can start is with his or her chain. I have noticed that a disturbing number of people these days are riding around on bicycles with brown chains that sound like pillowcases full of mice. I realize that my dream of a pie plate-free world may be far-fetched, but I think a world in which every chain knows a lubricant's viscous kiss is realistic. Removing a pie plate takes a bit of know-how, but if you can brush your own teeth you can lubricate your own chain. If your chain is rusty or squeaky, just put something unctuous on it. That's it. If you're the kind of cyclist who rides around with a squeaky drivetrain, chances are you also ride a pretty crappy bike, so don't worry about fancy boutique lubes.  Seriously, just use anything.  3-In-One oil, motor oil, grease, K-Y Jelly, chicken fat--whatever you've got in your tool box, refrigerator, or bedside drawer is fine.  Even your own mucus can work in a pinch.  (Though you might want to use rubber gloves.)

But while commuting by bicycle may be on the rise, the Chris King Headset Composite Index is declining precipitously.  (I don't know what "precipitously" means, but it's a word that always seems to come after "decline."  Maybe it has to do with precipitation, and the fact that things get slippery when it rains.)  When we last checked in on the CKHCI, it was at 89.79.  Now, a scant four days later, it's at 77.59:




Not only that, but the trading volume is lower as well.  When I calculate the CKHCI I use headset auctions that are closing in the next 12 hours.  Earlier this week, that meant I looked at six auctions.  Today, though, there were only three closing during that window.  (And one of them was in the freakish 1 1/4 size, which doubtless contributed to the drop.)  If you're not horrified yet, then maybe this poorly-rendered graph will scare some sense into you:



That's right, the CKHCI is going down like Cadel Evans on a smooth, flat stretch of road.

To be completely honest, the only reason I'm not stockpiling bottled water (remember, people always stockpile water in emergencies for some reason) is because the New York City PistaDex is practically throbbing right now at 583.33.  You can even get free upgrades if you're good-looking:



So if you're drop-Deda gorgeous, be sure to drop him a line.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Moral Fiber, Not Carbon Fiber: Doing the Right Thing

This morning, as I commuted on my Ironic Orange Julius Bike in the ironically-named "bike lane," I came upon a truck. (What else would one expect to find in an ironic bike lane?) It was one of those big oil trucks making a delivery. On the left side of its bumper was the word "Pass," and on the right side was the word "Danger." As a cyclist and as a human being, I do my very best to stay on the path of righteousness. I never inflate my tires past the maximum pressure rating, I never exceed single serving sizes when consuming snack foods, I smoke only legal substances out of my three foot bong, and I always follow washing instructions to the letter when I pay other people to do my laundry. As such, I realized I was in quite a predicament. Passing on the left was impossible, as there was no space between the truck and the parked cars, and passing on the right was indeed dangerous, as I'd have to ride outside of the "bike lane" and in traffic--which of course as an urban cyclist I never, ever do. However, after straddling the IOJB for nearly 20 minutes, I realized that I would need to confront my fears and court danger. So I closed my eyes, grit my teeth, took a deep breath, and walked my bike safely on the sidewalk and around the obstruction.

So as a person who strives for good moral character, I was very pleased to learn of this book from a reader in the Netherlands (which is that country bordering Holland) who is justifiably concerned about our own national character here in the United States:

"Originally published in 1910, Alfred Rochefort's HEALTHFUL SPORTS FOR BOYS is an optimistic 'Can Do!' prescription for the kind of vigorous, competitive, yet thoroughly wholesome boyhood that for more than two centuries has reliably bred great American men of character, courage and good common sense. In our 21st Century, 'post-modern' era of video games, virtual reality and 'couch potato kids,' Rochefort's vision of active boys creating fun with their own minds and muscles is a reminder of everything great about boys and about America, and a Clarion Call to a new generation to 'get up and get great!' -- Before it's too late!"

I could not agree more, and I'm glad to learn that my firm belief in camping/boating/swimming/cycling/skating/sledding/sleight of hand magic septathalons is not only validated in print but also taps into a heritage that is nearly 100 years old. I'm also glad that "Rochefort's vision of active boys creating fun with their own minds and muscles" was published way back in 1910 and that he's probably no longer among us today, because if he were his vision would almost certainly have landed him in prison by now. I suppose the narrowness of his vision is why there's not also a girls' version of this book, though I suppose if there were it probably would have involved a lot of ribbon tying, fabric mending, and doll hair brushing.

If still you're not ready to buy it, this sample chapter on the Amazon entry for this book should be enough to convince you. It starts thusly:

CHAPTER III

KITES: WHERE FOUND; HOW MADE;
THEIR PRACTICAL USES; CLOSELY RELATED
TO AEROPLANES– A GREAT SPORT

Spring winds favor kite flying. This is another world-wide sport, and it was popular with old and young in China – the land of the kite – at the time when the Egyptians were cutting stones for the pyramids. Everybody knows, or should know, what the great Ben Franklin did by means of a kite, though the kite through which he learned the nature of lightning was of a model that is not often seen at this time. This was the old bow kite, the kind that every beginner learns to make, and which needs no detailed description here.

Ah yes, I'll never forget learning to fashion my own bow kite as a child, nor the character-building beatings that ensued when I flew it incorrectly. I can only imagine what "Healthful Sports For Boys" has to say about cycling. Rochefort's feelings on Campy vs. Shimano are no doubt as compelling as they are insightful.

Unfortunately, not everybody is as morally upstanding as I am. The city, and indeed the world, is rife with bike thieves. In fact, I just received this plea from yet another victim:

Hi snob,

I have never written you before, but I have been an avid reader since the beginning. I am reaching out to you today because my bike was stolen. I know you can't post something every time some jackass gets thwarted by the bike thieves, however in seeing the attached picture of my bike you will see it is close kin with the ironic orange julius bike-- and that may (hopefully) pull at your heart strings

yes it is a "hipster bike" with the white deep V's and the white ourys- sans brake. however it is just my city bike- my commuting bike and I love it with all my heart. I raised it from a trash heap in southern california nursed it back to health, and the rest is history.
it was stolen on broadway in front of the Shakespeare and co book store between west 4th and washington place

The frame is an orange celo europa road frame from the 80's
It had risers with white oury grips and the front brake which is in this photo is no longer there. The wheels were white velocity deep v's the rear hub was a phil wood.
There aren't alot of these around. And being an orange and white "hipster bike" it should be easy to spot.
Thanks for your help
- joe gunn

Ps. I'm willing to pay a handsome reward.

I'm posting this because not only would I like to see this person get his bike back (and if you have any leads, please send them directly to the victim at joe@joegunnphoto.com because I can't be bothered) but also because his plea did indeed tug at my heart strings. That's not because this bike shares anything with my own IOJB, though. The two couldn't be any more different. Not only does the IOJB have a surfeit of brakes, but it's also not even remotely orange, which is a crucial component of its irony. No, it tugs at my heart strings because I too was raised back to health from a trash heap, and I'm also orange in hue. Most importantly, though, the victim promises a "handsome reward." And that can mean only one thing: he's prepared to give whoever finds the bike former "Wonder Years" star Fred Savage:

It doesn't get much more handsome than that.

But the most important gift a theft victim can give his fellow cyclists is knowledge, and I strongly believe that when you post a cry for help you should also explain how your bike was locked (or wasn't locked) so that at least others might learn from your misfortune. As it turns out, Mr. Gunn's bike was locked, however it was locked to a scaffolding. And unfortunately scaffolding can be unbolted. Mr. Gunn knew this, but then he made his second, fatal mistake--he figured it would be fine because he would "only be five minutes." And as soon as you think that to yourself, you've lost your bike. When it comes to bike theft, always remember that five minutes is four minutes and fifty-nine seconds too many. Which is why this Craigslist posting is irritating:


Firstly, the lock's only as good as the object to which it is secured. Secondly, even if you didn't lock your bike at all, you can still blame bike crooks. One doesn't have to have read "Healthful Sports for Boys" to know that it's wrong to take something that belongs to someone else. The smug nature of this posting leads me to believe not only that it was written by a Kryptonite employee, but that perhaps Kryptonite themselves are behind many bike thefts in the same way that anti-virus software makers are probably creating all those computer viruses.

Then again, people do lock their bikes poorly, as you can see from this picture sent to me by a reader in San Francisco:

I guess orange is striving to be the new stolen.

Then again, there are other ways to lose your bike besides getting it stolen:



Missing!!! Redline Conquest Pro!!! (Bike Kill!!!)
Reply to: sale-898166508@craigslist.org [?]
Date: 2008-10-29, 4:03PM EDT

Hey there,

I crashed my bike on the way home from Bike Kill knocked myself out and had to be taken to the hospital in a ambulance. Unfortunatly they left my bike on the side of the road.

The bike is a black redline conquest pro with white bar tape and a silver arione saddle. It has oval handlebars with a fsa stem and seatpost. It is set up 1x9 with dura ace components a mavic front wheel and shimano rear wheel.

If you know anything or have seen this bike please let me know!

Dave Osterbeck
206.930.3418

I'd hate to make assumptions, and I'm sorry to hear that this person had to be taken away in an ambulance, but since he was coming from Bike Kill I think we do at least have to consider the possibility that he was blind drunk. Also, riding a cyclocross bike with Dura Ace components and an Arione saddle to Bike Kill is kind of like going to see a GG Allin show in a Calvin Klein dress and trying to catch his feces in your Louis Vuitton handbag. Then again, none of this makes the loss of his bike any less tragic. (Well, maybe just a little less tragic.) In any event, if you have any leads give Dave a call, because again, I can't be bothered. Much like the author of this post:


I'm sorry too.

Speaking of cyclocross, I was reading HTATBL recently, where I came upon these:

Now I admire Sacha White's framebuilding skills as much as the next person, but I have to say he really missed the mark here. Not only are these expensive, but they're obviously terrible for racing cyclocross. You've have a hard time even riding a bike in these things, much less dismounting and remounting it at speed. They're not even compatible with clipless pedals! The only use I could possibly see for them is standing around in the mud. And of course you can just as easily do that barefoot for free. (At least that's what I do.)

Indeed, we certainly have grown soft. Whither Alfred Rochefort?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

BSNYC Wednesday Fun Quiz!

Firstly, I'm pleased to report that I once again managed to complete my morning commute without scraping my legs on any cars, despite the fact that I took the precaution of wearing a pair of designer jeans as recommended by Men's Health. Secondly, I'm sorry to report that if you're lounging Wednesday style I'm about to kill your buzz, because I've prepared a quiz. As always, read the question and click on your answer. If you're right, you'll know it. If you're wrong you'll see a theft victim's touching lament.

Thanks, good luck, and be sure to tip your proctor.

--BSNYC/RTMS


1) Which professional cyclist is retiring again?

--Lance Armstrong
--Floyd Landis
--Tyler Hamilton
--Eddy Merckx




2) What is this?

--An electric Kestrel
--A lazy dentist's dream
--A sane person's nighmare
--All of the above



3) "For the sport and the longevity of the sport, to wear cool race kit and to make an image for yourself is more important than the odd win here and there." Who said this, and with regard to what?

--Brock Curry of Rock Racing, with regard to his team's flashy kits
--Rachel Atherton, with regard to the UCI's ban on skinsuits in downhill and 4X
--Shanaze Reade, with regard to the UCI's ban on jeans in BMX
--Damjan Zabovnik, with regard to the IHPVA's ban on clown suits in recumbent racing





4) According to the lettering above the rear windshield, this tow truck, "The Originator," spotted by me in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, is "Fueled by ______":

--Passion
--Ethanol
--Hate
--Cream Cheese




5) Who the hell is this?

--BSNYC
--RTMS
--Some schmuck in an ascot and sport jacket
--All of the above




6) After at least two fixed-gears and an incalculable number of spoke cards, the cycling world has finally run out of ways to express support for Barack Obama:

--True
--False





7) Could this be love at first sight?

--Very possibly
--Probably not




8) Ah, yes, the courtship rituals of the rich. This Seven-riding Pepé Le Pew's quarry may very well have made an appearance on this very blog.

--Very possibly
--Probably not



9) The fixed-gear trend has re-invigorated the eternally fruitless quest to re-invent the bicycle frame.

--True
--False

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Mallrats: Where Trends Go To Die


(Unity, by Erik K)

As much as I long for a world in which cyclists and religious people can share the city's roads, even I must admit we have a long way to go. After all, the differences between us run deep--all the way down to the dermis layer of the skin. As we've seen time and time again, tattoos and cycling are inextricably (and indelibly) intertwined. Add to that the compulsion to display that skin without any clothes on it and you're sure to offend the devout:


A reader recently sent me the above image, which would most certainly enrage (and possibly arouse) any orthodox Jew worth his payis. As per my standard practice, I've applied both clothing and a sepia tone for art's sake, though you're perfectly welcome to view the non-sepia and unsafe-for-work version here. In case you can't make out the lettering on the tattoo, it says, "Every car a murder, every bike a love affair," making it perhaps one of the most politically-charged tramp stamps I've ever seen. I'm not sure why she's kneeling at the credenza, but it may have something to do with the dual cassette deck, and I've got a feeling she may be about to engage in a naked and sweaty tape-dubbing session.

Speaking of tattoos and positions, I think it's worth noting that one tattoo operation is currently positioning itself as the Supercuts of tattoo studios. According to the Wall Street Journal (which is shifting to trend reporting since there's no Wall Street anymore) Tattoo Nation in New Jersey is planning to become the first mall-based tattoo chain in the United States (and presumably the world):


The unintentionally sexual implications of a tramp stamp that says "Resilience" notwithstanding, the presence of tattoo studios in America's malls means that the tattoo has now officially become an impulse purchase, and that you'll soon be able to get a knuckle tattoo and a personalized hammock plaque under the same roof. I must admit that, as popular as tattoos have become, I did not see this coming. Of all the reasons I imagined people would become embarrassed about their tattoos, I never imagined one of them would be that other people might think they got it at the mall.

Then again, trends don't end with a bang--they end with a whimper. And the whimpering is the sound they make when they're neutered, packaged, and made readily available for mainstream consumption. Certainly the fate of the tattoo hints at the fate of the fixed-gear, and irreverent bikes like this (spotted by a reader in San Diego) will one day become extinct:


Personally, I feel that a wheel-borne message should be succinct, and so I found this one somewhat vexing. First of all, I'm not sure what "Fuck Nut Huggers" means. Is the rider simply averse to tight pants, or is "Fuck Nut Huggers" a band, like the Squirrel Nut Zippers? I'm also confused by the phrase "Fagget Ass Hipsters." At first I thought maybe it was a misspelling of the pejorative "faggot," but I ruled this out for two reasons: 1) everything else is spelled correctly; and 2) the rider is obviously a hipster himself, as evidenced by the hipster cyst on his headtube (and pretty much everything else about the bike too), so I doubt he'd insult them. And even if he is in fact a gay hipster who is trying to de-fang the slur by owning it, he would have spelled the word correctly. No, it's quite clear to me that he's trying to phonetically convey a "Sopranos"-type accent, and what he's imploring his fellow hipsters to do is to "Forget ass, hipsters." In other words, don't be distracted by tramp stamp-having, tape-dubbing, bare-bottomed sepia models like the one above--just ride your bike instead. (Preferably while listening to the Fuck Nut Huggers.)

I'd also imagine the fixed-gear trend whimpered audibly when this issue of the British Men's Health (forwarded to me by a reader) hit the stands:



In it, they travel to New York City to meet and photograph real, live cyclists like this one:


"I'm all about shirts and jeans. Jeans in the city are key because you're always squeezing through traffic and scraping your legs. I often wear a bandana over my nose and mouth so I don't breathe in all those nasty car fumes. The best advice I can give is to keep your bike clean. No bells, no racks, no breaks [sic], no gadgets."

Oh yeah, that's all great advice. I've been riding in New York City for a long time, but I've never had a problem with scraping my legs in traffic. I suppose this is either because I don't ride hard enough, or because I actually have some degree of spatial intelligence which, combined with handlebars that are actually wider than the distance between my nipples, helps me to determine where I can fit and where I can't. His point is well-taken, though, and I'm sure if I do find myself scraping my legs on cars I'll run right out and buy a pair of Paul Smith jeans. I also agree that you should avoid things like racks and brakes. These things are terrible for cycling in New York City, since they'll conspire to make your bike useful and will detract from the overall non-functionality of your bike. Certainly when you're riding in Paul Smith jeans you wouldn't want something like a fender on your bike. That might help keep them clean. No, you're much better off giving them that distressed look by rubbing them against cars.

But of course as the article below points out, "riding fixed isn't for the faint-hearted." And apparently riding with brakes and a rack is faint-hearted, but riding with a hanky on your face like an Upper East Side dowager walking her poodle so you don't have to experience any nasty smells is not.

In any case, it's good to see more people are using my template.



Yes, you should always be sure to ride with friends. There's nothing lamer than engaging in trendy behavior by yourself. And even more important, make sure you're also wearing $900 in clothing.*

*(Remember that tattoo price should not be included when determining overall outfit cost.)

Monday, October 27, 2008

No Getting Around It: Cycling and Religion Clash Again

Few things are more stressful than awakening on a Monday morning to a full-blown local bike-related civic controversy. And once again, this one involves orthodox Jews and (forgive the simplistic catch-all term which is just too convenient not to use) hipsters in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. You'll recall not too long ago the former group was scandalized by the fact that the latter group was riding through their neighborhood and inflaming Semitic libidos by displaying muffin tops, frayed underwear elastic, tramp stamps, and pale shoulders that have never seen the sun. Well, this time, on nearby Kent Avenue, it seems that during the Sabbath the city changed the parking rules from alternate-side to no standing. The result was that the orthodox Jews were powerless to move their vehicles since they were in the grip of self-imposed Shabbos helplessness, and subsequently they all got parking tickets. And why were these parking rules so wantonly changed? Because the city is installing a bike lane on Kent Avenue--which not only means that they can no longer park their cars there, but that they will also surely be beset by more muffin tops.

You can read a little more about it in the Post, but I learned about it on local cable (yes, I have cable to go along with my hot and cold running water) news channel NY1:



Note how the bystanders in this interview are a perfect cross-section of the neighborhood as it is today. Note also that two members of the Human League were kind enough to take some time out of their busy schedules in order to attend, and that between them they almost have a complete haircut. Most importantly, it was a relatively cool 53 degrees, which prevented the situation from boiling over into a full-scale "Do The Right Thing" style riot.

While the city has rescinded the tickets, the bitterness remains, and it seems unlikely that the tensions between orthodox Jewry and cycling hipsterdom is going to go away anytime soon. And like most disagreements of this nature, the root of the problem is a lack of understanding on both sides. So once again, I feel it is incumbent upon me to put on my Cone of Mediation (it looks like a Cone of Smugness except it's got a picture of Condoleezza Rice taped to it) and try to broker a settlement.

What the orthodox Jews need to understand is that Kent Avenue is a vital part of the Great Hipster Silk Route. The hipster cultural economy depends on the easy flow of hipsters and hipster goods from Williamsburg (represented by Jerusalem) to the remote northeastern region of Astoria, Queens (represented by the Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden, the only place in Queens they know) and the southwestern region of Red Hook, Brooklyn (represented by the Obama Bike, which was photographed in Red Hook). Moreover, hipsters sojourning in all parts of Brooklyn and Queens must be able to travel to and worship in Williamsburg, which is their ancestral home. (At least since the late 1990s.)


(The Great Hipster Silk Route)


If you've ever traveled along the Great Hipster Silk Route, you've doubtless seen hipster caravans on Kent and Flushing Avenues. Like their Bedouin counterparts, they travel slowly in small groups and are often huddled together against the wind, but instead of camels they ride old crappy ten speeds and shoddy Craigslist conversions with wobbly rear wheels and steel rims, their skateboarding helmets crooked on their heads and their messenger bags brimming with dirty clothes as they perform the time-honored ritual known as the "ride of shame."

Sure, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "It's 2008. The hipsters can exchange their cultural currency on the internet." Not so. Even today the hipster cultural economy relies heavily on the Great Hipster Silk Route. What happens when a hipster in Red Hook wants a tattoo that can only be obtained in Greenpoint, or a hipster in Long Island City wants to drink with and attempt to mate with a hipster in Clinton Hill, or a hipster in Fort Greene wants to rehearse with his bandmates in Dumbo? And that's to say nothing of the drugs and STDs, both of which are key components of hipster culture and which even today are still not downloadable.

Of course, like a recent Bard graduate this situation swings both ways, and what the hipsters need to understand is that double-parked minivans in the advanced stages of road salt-induced corrosion that perform u-turns suddenly and without warning are as essential to orthodox Jews as riding crappy bikes to crappy bars is to hipsters. In fact, the Talmud sets forth highly specific rules pertaining to the mandatory use of a cellphone while driving, the placement of bumper stickers bearing the likeness of Menachem Schneerson, and the sacred use of a coat hanger in place of an antenna. Also, what may appear to be seriously erratic driving is actually ritual driving, and if you were to watch from above you'd realize they are spelling out Hebrew prayers.

Armed with this knowledge I'm confident that both groups can take at least one more step towards understanding each-other and living in harmony.

I'm way less confident about the economy, though. It's one thing when things like investment banks are suffering; it's something else entirely when it's affecting cyclists directly. A reader recently forwarded me this troubling Craigslist ad:

Colnago Road Bike - $4000 (Upper East Side)
Reply to: [deleted]
Date: 2008-10-26, 7:15PM EDT

Beautiful hand crafted frame with a one of a kind paint job, with top of the line gears (dura ace), mavic cosmic elite wheels, computer, carbon fiber seat post and stem, paid $5000 year ago for this bike, economy got me down, have to sell, take advantage, your gain, a sure beauty for any bike collector/enthusiast -- Price is negotiable



It is hard to match the tie-dyed ugliness that is a Colnago, and it's always sad when someone is forced to part with one. Understandably, this particular seller is too distressed to mention small details like frame size and model, though judging from the photographs it's one of the older aluminum ones. These truly are rare bicycles, since most of them broke. Still, it's upsetting to see the economy forcing someone to part with his baby, even if that baby looks like something you might find in a hippie's laundry hamper.

Concerned, I realized I had to take a closer look at the cycling economy--one that looks beyond the PistaDex. As such, I amassed some data in order to determine the current Chris King Headset Composite Index:

Unlike the PistaDex, which is influenced by fashion as much as it is by the economy, the CKHCI is a much more reliable indicator of people's willingness to part with money for used bicycle products. If you're unfamiliar with the Chris King headset, it is a component that retails for about $130. Online retailer Competitive Cyclist says the bearings are made from "surgical grade stainless steel," which is essential if you ever need to smuggle it in a body cavity, and that they "provide an impervious barrier to the worst grit and grime of riding," which makes them ideal for hipsters on the Great Hipster Silk Route since they are usually pretty grimy.

Unfortunately, though, grimy people usually can't afford them, since even used Chris King headsets generally sell for pretty close to what new ones cost. This makes them probably the most conservative investment in the cycling world. Of course, if Chris King headsets start going cheap, you know we're all in trouble. Looking at the data above, you'll note that the average closing price for the six headsets that sold on eBay recently was $89.79, which means that the CKHCI is 89.79. (The CKHCI does not account for variables such as headset color, diameter, or threads or lack thereof, since these rarely affect a headset's cost in the used marketplace.) Generally, I don't grow alarmed or suspicious unless a Chris King headset trades below $70.

The PistaDex in New York City is at 475 right now, which is a bit low but not alarmingly so. And with the nationwide CKHCI hovering at around 90 I'm cautiously optimistic. Together, I sincerely hope we can get through this. So don't go throwing your ugly babies out with the bathwater quite yet.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Bringin' It: Casanovas, Couriers, and Corrections


I'm an interdisciplinary bike racer, and as such I like to perform badly in different areas--kind of like a traveling mime troupe. And one of my favorite areas in which to perform badly is cyclocross. As a participant I certainly bring nothing to the sport, except perhaps cautionary examples. But thanks to the good people at Cyclocross magazine I've been fortunate enough to contribute in other ways because the fourth issue has just come out and I have a few words in it:



These guys have been doing a great job with the magazine, and with the exception of my own small contribution there's a lot of great content here. Also, reading about cyclocross is much easier than doing it (though I do read Cyclocross magazine in a skinsuit while standing in a mudpuddle for the full effect). Best of all, it's way less pretentious than the New Yorker. So check it out.

Speaking of cyclocross, I have been informed that each and every non-UCI entrant in this year's Whitmore's Landscaping Supercross Cup in Southampton, LI on November 22nd and 23rd will receive a free raffle ticket to win a custom Richard Sachs 'cross bike:




At first I took this to mean that every non-UCI registrant would automatically receive a custom Richard Sachs 'cross bike, which impressed even me (not least of all because it would save you the trouble of traveling with a bike), but this is still pretty good. Apparently, "Richard Sachs currently has a seven year backlog for his Signature road frames, and is not currently taking orders from new clients." I guess that's why he hasn't been answering my emails about building me a TIG-welded aluminum dirt jumping frame. Though I suppose it's just as well I can no longer get on Richard Sachs's seven-year wait list, because if this Mogo thing takes off I don't even know if I'll still want a bicycle in seven years. But skipping to the head of the line is a whole other story, and it may even be enough to get me out to Southampton again, despite the fact that it's a bit late in the season to be seen in the Hamptons and in late November I usually weekend in St. Barts.

Moving on, we saw yesterday that the new vehicle of choice for lady-trolling is the recumbent. And a reader informs me that as the sleazy paceline of cycling Casanovas continues to roll, none other than Floyd Landis is taking his turn at the front:

Note the Cone of Smugness just edging itself into the frame as Landis enters yet another woman's digits into his phone thanks to the irresistible draw of his three-wheeled recumbent "chick magnet." (And what woman can resist a 'bent chick magnet?)

But Landis would be well-advised to keep at least one eye on his helmet mirror, because a new generation of velo-playboys is right behind him. Another reader has sent me the following, which is a generous gift to the ladies or an affront to decency, depending upon your own particular sensibilities:


I suggest listening to the proper soundtrack for the full effect:


I also received a gift of my own:

I love you too, Serge Huercio.

But when it comes to excessive and disturbing adulation, nobody receives more than bike messengers. The extent to which certain people romanticize the simple act of riding around a city all day delivering envelopes is truly amazing. Sure, I can see why it has a sort of rogue appeal to people, but once the messenger is elevated to some kind of otherworldly superhero nearly bursting out of his lycra skinsuit (all messengers in New York City wear lycra skinsuits and look like they're dancers for Janet Jackson, of course) some unsettling line has been crossed:




If you've worked either as a messenger or in an office in New York City, you know that messengers do not walk right into people's offices to deliver envelopes. Rather, they leave them in messenger centers or with receptionists. As such, when the messenger in this video walked right into someone's office I feared the door was going to shut and the white-collar worker's "dependence upon the blood and sweat of the bicycle messenger" was going to take a shockingly homoerotic turn. I was also puzzled by the narrator's assertion that messengers "can see up to 15 seconds into the future." This is a bizarre claim. I can only assume he means that they can anticipate traffic and pedestrian patterns, but if so then 15 seconds is an eternity. You'd also think that this clairvoyance would have prevented the male prostitute from getting doored. Then again, maybe I just don't understand messengers--and having just watched that video, I'm not sure I want to. Not that there's anything wrong with that (apart from the illegality of exchanging sex for money). What Pink Thunder Delivery Systems do with their clients behind closed doors is their own business.


This shocking revelation as to the nefarious activities of messengers also sheds new light on this photograph, taken in Washington, D.C. by "Krazygl00:

I can only assume he's a "courier" on his way to a really, really weird bachelorette party.

Meanwhile, our presidential candidates are still using the fixed-gear fad in a transparent attempt to get in touch with the nation's youth. Obama may have "dropped" a second fixed-gear (as we saw yesterday), but nobody's been willing to prove they can actually throw down on the bike. Until now:


This photo from yesterday's comments clearly depicts McCain "killin' it" and proves he does indeed have "mad skillz." It also proves he looks a lot like the Emperor from "Star Wars." Personally, I'd have been even more impressed if he'd pulled this move on the Obama bike. Obama would most assuredly have been "sonned."

Finally, Obama may be about change, but few people have the courage to change a bike that's clearly not suited to its purpose, like this one from the Fixedgeargallery:



That's why I've created the BSNYC Fixed-Gear Korrectorizer to right the frames that man has put asunder:



(BKJimmy)

Sure, it's still somewhat offensive, but at least it doesn't look like it's melting anymore.


Let's see Richard Sachs do that.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

In The Air Tonight: Weird Cycling and Bike Love

Cycling has a rich and smarmy history of Casanovas. And when love and bikes collide, it can be difficult to tell the butterflies of excitement from the waves of nausea. Just a few of cycling's more amorous characters over the years have included:


Mario Cipollini, the man who proved you can use the same lube for chain, coiffure, and coitus;



Amir, the lovelorn financier, who considering the state of the economy may by now have lost his shirt (much to the delight of female cyclists everywhere);



And of course Floyd Landis.

If you're a female cyclist and you've somehow managed to elude all the suitors above, I must warn you for chastity's sake that you should not allow yourself to grow complacent. Because there's a new low-riding lothario on the scene, and there's a very good chance you won't see him coming until it's too late and he's already beneath you. That's right, he's on the make--and he's riding a recumbent:

If you're unfamiliar with the recumbent, it's similar to the bicycle in that it has two wheels and it's human-powered, but it's also very different in that you kind of lie down on it. Also, it replaces the saddle with a lounge chair and your dignity with a big gaping hole. This particular fellow is looking for one particular lady, but that doesn't mean the rest of you are safe:


Looking for tour de bronx asian girl - m4w - 30
Reply to: [deleted]
Date: 2008-10-20, 8:27PM EDT

This past sunday ( Oct 19 2008 ) I was volunteering at the Tour de Bronx on my strange looking bike. There is a cute chinese girl riding the 40 mile route. Unfortunately I didn't get your contact info.. That's me on the left and the girl on the right is the one I'm looking for.. ;>

I would like to meet you and get together for lunch/dinner sometime soon.

Our would-be wooer did not get this woman's number, but he did manage to take a photograph of her and post it on Craigslist, which I regard as both putting the recumbent before the horse and just plain creepy. Even creepier is the vantage point of the photo, which is taken from below and suggests that he may have shot her while he was actually riding the recumbent. (Or in flagrante recumbo, as they say in 'bent circles.) I'm sure as he rolled by he assumed a seductive pose and perhaps even reclined imperially:


She's smiling in the photo though, so he must have captured her milliseconds before the look of abject horror crossed her face. Then again, she may have actually been charmed by his recumbence. After all, my own Ironic Orange Julius Bike is a plain old upright, and people only regard me with thinly-veiled disgust. (Though that may be due to my new handlebar accessory.) Perhaps I could curry a bit more favor on a rolling La-Z-Boy.

Clearly, though, freaky and perverse cycling is in the zeitgeist right now. A reader has just informed me that the 2008 Indoor Cycling World Championships is set to begin on Friday in Dornbirn, Austria. As you can see from the official site, "artistic cycling" is just one of the disciplines you can find there. There's also Radball, which is to bike polo what artistic cycling is to fixed-gear freestyling, and which should not be confused with either Madballs, Madball, or my new handlebar accessory. Best of all, it looks like there will also be live music of some kind:

I don't know who these guys are, but they're probably the Austrian Madball. In any case, it's exciting. And with the UCI overseeing things, you can be sure that the drug restrictions will be even tighter than the unitards.

But when it comes to the zeitgeist, the only scent heavier than that of freaky and perverse cycling is that of Obama-themed fixed-gears. Just a week after the last one comes another:



Fashion-based fixed-gears aren't always the best transportation vehicles, but they make excellent marketing vehicles. And among fans of fixed-gear fashion the Obama brand is almost as hot as Nitto and Sugino. (Thanks at least in part to his "youth marketing agency.") I was especially moved to see that the designer, Tristan Eaton, is a "vinyl toy designing auteur," because if there's two things toy designers know it's bicycles and politics. This should catapult Obama right into the White House and the rider right into an oncoming car.

In the interest of fairness though I'd love to see Eaton design another bike for McCain. Then he could really use those toy-designing chops. He could even incorporate a few Madballs.