It's late February, but spring is in the air here in New York City. Actually, that's completely untrue--it's cold and windy, and the only thing in the air is bits of garbage. Nonetheless, the racing season looms, and I recently received an email from Michael Green of Bike Blog NYC (and victim of the classic "Yo, let me see your bike real quick" flim-flam) asking me to help" spread the word" about this weekend's Monster Track alleycat.
If you're unfamiliar with Monster Track, it's basically the Woodstock '99 of alleycats. Here's the description from Michael's email:
This weekend, Monster Track X, the tenth annual edition of NYC's most intense underground alleycat street race, will be blazing through city streets making heros out of ordinary messengers, and a legend out of one. Monster Track, the most outlaw of outlaw alleycat bicycle races, has only one rule: No Brakes.
You may remember that last year's Monster Track was fake-cancelled, presumably in order to confuse the interlopers and generally pare things down so that it could run more stealthily. I can only imagine this year the organizers are implementing a similar ploy, because as far as I can see there's nothing "underground" about this race at at all. Most likely this announcement is for some kind of "decoy" event, and the real race will take place elsewhere. Just take a look at the flyer:
Firstly, there are few things in the world that are less "underground" than brunch. Sure, maybe brunch is an edgy meal for the sorts of people who purchase designer dog clothes, sport spray-on tans, and wear soft leather driving loafers, but that's about it. Secondly, some of these sponsors can only have been secured by a PR firm. Sure, Continuum Cycles and Affinity Cycles are bikes shops, and R.E.Load and Outlier make cycling bags and clothing, so those make sense. But what about the rest of them? Curious, I went and checked them out.
First, I visited the Incase website. Yes, nothing says "underground" and "outlaw of outlaw" like a company that makes protective cases for Apple products. While there's certainly nothing wrong with owning a laptop and wanting to protect it, doing so does not exactly qualify you as a menace to society. Furthermore, designing such products is highly unlikely to foment revolution--even if they do have some sweet "collabos," like this one with Hiroshi Fujiwara:
You may recall that Hiroshi Fujiwara is the person who got Eric Clapton into collecting track bikes. I guess Hiroshi's pretty into iPhones too, because "these limited-edition cases are featured in Hiroshi Fujiwara's new book about the iPhone and iPhone-related culture." This came as a surprise to me, because until I read this I didn't realize that it was possible to base an entire culture on something as specific as an iPhone. I guess the standards for what qualifies as "culture" have been significantly lowered recently. (Maybe this is part of Obama's economic stimulus plan.) If so, it sure is easy to join a culture now. If I check the time, am I part of "wristwatch culture?" If I use a urinal, am I part of "urine culture?" If I eat a Chicken McNugget with sweet and sour sauce, am I part of "Chicken McNugget culture," or "sauce culture?" And if I use a fork to do it, am I also part of "fork culture?" Hmmm, I think I liked it better when something actually had to stick around for a few centuries to qualify as a culture. Navajos have a culture; iPhones have touch screens and a headphone jack. (Though I hear you can now download a "belief system app.")
Next on my Monster Track X sponsor tour, I checked in with Mishka. Mishka is a New York City-based clothing label, and it may be familiar to readers of this blog as the sponsor of the D.A.R.T. cycling team. Naturally, as a clothing company with a distinguished cycling pedigree, they now make cycling-specific clothing like this flat-brimmed baseball cap:
Our Death Adders Road and Track project is now branching out and producing clothing. Starting today, we're slowly making some gear specific to the people who are riding their bikes in the elements everyday and we are pleased to say that the D.A.R.T. New Era marks the first piece in this series
Crafted from New Eras signature "no shrink" wool, this hat will keeps its shape after it's soaked in sweat over and over again. When you're not wearing a helmet, top off your outfit with this hat which features the D.A.R.T. headbadge and logo in a colorway to fit any wardrobe.
If you ride your bike a lot, you know there's no better choice of headgear than a flat-brimmed baseball cap. Unlike a traditional cycling cap, the baseball cap has the advantages of not fitting under a helmet, having a huge brim to catch the air, and having a huge brim that cannot be flipped up or down. Also, unlike a lightweight cycling cap, the wool baseball cap is too heavy for summer, yet unlike a winter cycling hat it won't keep your ears warm. You can, however, use it in conjunction with a "hoodie" to keep your hat from flying off your head if you ride more than 10mph. (Which, if you're the kind of person who wears hats like this, you probably don't.) Most importantly, it comes in lots of "colorways," which are like colors, only trendier.
Mishka also have a "lookbook." (All revolutionary movements have lookbooks. Mao Zedong's "Little Red Book" was the first revolutionary lookbook and was full of hot Marxist fashions.) As you can see, they offer lots of great clothes to wear to the Monster Track "outlaw" brunch:
I'm sure between mouthfuls of fries they're discussing how to tear down "the system" from within. Yes, revolution sure is delicious--and it comes in lots of great colorways, too!
After my virtual brunch, I visited Mishka's comerades-in-arms and fellow Monster Track sponsors, BoundlessNY:
BoundlessNY is a streetwear clothing retailer that sells various "underground" and "outlaw" clothing brands and stocks products that come in a stunning array of "colorways." They also seem to have appropriated the "Ruff Ryders" logo:
This is fitting, since the clothing BoundlessNY sells doubtless appeals to fixed-gear freestylers, and fixed-gear freestylers are to track bikes what Ruff Ryders are to sport motorcycles:
As a sponsor of an "underground" bike race, you'd expect BoundlessNY to have an "underground" sensibility. And what's more "underground" than worshipping money and celebrating rampant consumerism? A search for the word "money" yields no less than 17 items on the BoundlessNY website, including this "All Over Money" flat-brimmed baseball cap (perfect for cycling, of course):
You can also use it in conjunction with this matching "All Over Money Hoody":
There's no better way to express your rejection of the mainstream than by swaddling yourself in money. I think "Get money all over the globe" is actually a Che Guevara quote.
Saddened, I then made my way over to DQM, hoping to finally find some "underground" products and "outlaw" energy. Instead, I just found more stupid hats:
They really should think about changing the name from "Monster Track" to "Monster Hat."
The last Monster Track sponsor I visited was Boneshakers, which is a vegan cycling-themed cafe in Brooklyn under the same ownership as Trackstar bike shop:
Well, at least this business is cycling-related, and whatever you think of veganism at least it's more of a challenge to the status quo than the "All Over Money Hoody." Also, the sandwiches have irreverent names, though I was disappointed to find that "peloton" had been misspelled:
In any case, it seems like a lovely place for a post-ride brunch.
Incidentally, this weekend also marks the start of the New York City road racing season. At first glance, lycra-clad investment bankers on expensive crabon-fiber bicycles would seem to be the very antithesis of "underground" and "outlaw." However, in reality, the local road races take place very early in the morning, nobody watches, and there are no trendy sponsors. Moreover, the bankers are now unemployed, but the "outlaws" seem to have their hands full peddling streetwear. Could it be then that we are in the midst of some kind of "underground/mainstream" inversion, in which the "underground" has gone mainstream and the "mainstream" has gone underground? Or maybe it's much simpler, and this is all just a case of evolving language--"underground" now means "trendy," "outlaw" now means "annual," and "culture" now means "fad."
Either way, if you go to Monster Track, bring an appetite for brunch and money for the DVD, but don't bring brakes.