Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Individualism: Innovation or Absurdity?
I've been fortunate enough to receive emails recently from all over the world (or at least from places outside of New York) alerting me to various quirks, peculiarities, and abominations in the world of cycling. Taken individually they are entertaining, but when considered in their gestalt they paint a disturbing picture--in fact, it's a velvet portrait of pure evil. Had I seen the emerging visage of the demon Charles Nelson Reilly, I might have taken part in last weekend's mass bicycle blessing at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine:
Frankly, I find this disturbing, though it goes a long way towards explaining all the awful riding I've been seeing recently. (I was very nearly laid out by a bike salmon yesterday evening.) Many of us may us place too much trust in our "safety kippahs" to protect us, though the truth is that danger does not discriminate by headwear. It can find you regardless of whether you're wearing a Bell, or a Giro, or a flat-brim cap, or a Euro-schmata, or a Stetson, or even a soccer ball. Certainly the helmet's still a good idea, since once disaster strikes it will protect your head better than a soccer ball will, but it's not going to keep stuff from happening in the first place. Protecting your brain is only worth so much if you're not using it in the first place. Judging from the turnout at the mass blessing, I can only assume many local cyclists have now taken their leap of faith even further by simply trusting in the Lord to protect them. I'm surprised the fixed-gear freestylers didn't also get in on this, since apparently cyclists were "encouraged to ride though the enormous cathedral," and I'd think the opportunity for them to make videos of themselves doing chainring grinds on church pews to a Slayer soundtrack would be too good to pass up.
Fortunately, though, there are riders out there who have the courage to think for themselves. They don't blindly trust in the Lord, or in a "safety kippah," or in a deflated soccer ball. More importantly, their equipment choices, bike setup, and wardrobes are not dictated by fashion. Not every cyclist is afraid to wear SPD sandals. (Though many of them should be, judging by the condition of their toenails.) Similarly, not every cyclist is afraid to commit to one set of handlebars. Here's a photograph of one bold rider who palps two, sent to me by a reader in Austin:
The dual handlebar setup does have historical precedent, and was pioneered by none other than Sheldon Brown. However, this rider takes a somewhat different approach. Instead of Sheldon's flat bar/drop bar setup mounted via two stems sharing the steer tube, this rider joins a pair of riser bars and a pair of flat bars by means of a pair of bar ends and some copper elbows:
As we've seen before, there is no greater temptation for the inventive cyclist than the bar end. In a way they're like the duct tape of cycling components. In any case, I'm not sure how secure this whole thing is, but it's certainly inspiring. Elbows of copper, balls of steel.
Speaking of unorthodox handlebar setups, another reader in Wisconsin has forwarded me this photo of a rolling mullet:
This cyclocross bike is a time trial in the front, and a mudfest in the back. As you can see, the front end sports a set of aerobars and a slick tire, and the rear rolls on a knobby tire protected by some sort of plastic protuberance. I'd hate to resurrect the dreaded "fender debate," but regardless of where you stand on fender use I do think it's legitimate to question whether these sorts of clip-on attachments actually qualify as fenders. Is a fender anything that protects you from mud or water, or must it have struts, mount to eyelets, and offer full coverage in order to be called a fender? This may not seem important, but if the word "fender" is applied too liberally than pretty much anything can be considered a fender. Would you call a soccer ball hat a helmet? No you wouldn't. Then why call a plastic diving board a fender? This should be as important to the anti-fenderites as it is to the fenderites, because a liberal fender interpretation might inadvertently place you among the fendered when you really don't want to be there. Again, I believe fender use is a personal choice, but I also think that maybe a better term for these sorts of things might be "filth prophylactic." That should keep everybody happy.
Meanwhile, half a continent away, a reader in Philadelphia snapped a shot of another innovative cyclocross bike:
Some might scoff and call this brake useless, but I disagree. Actually, levers and cables can always fail, so this particular setup eliminates those weak links by requiring you to simply pull directly on the straddle cable. Plus, you also save a lot of weight. If you think about it, it's a bulletproof setup. (Unless the bullet hits you.)
Yes, offroad-oriented bikes encourage the sort of innovation you rarely see in the staid world of road cycling. And while the Lone Wolf may ride a Lotus, the "lone wolves" of cycling have long been drawn to the mountain bike, thanks to its versatile chassis. (I don't mean "versatile" as in "practical," I mean "versatile" as in "you can bolt lots of springy parts to it.") Take this exotic example, spotted in Coney Island by esteemed commenter Kale:
"Lone wolves" often groom mountain bikes strictly for pavement use. This is perfectly natural, as "lone wolves" are outsiders who pine for the wilderness, and so they want their bikes to reflect this. "Lone wolves" also don't sit around and wait for companies to make things for them. Instead, they just do it themselves. Why sit around waiting for Campy to re-enter the mountain bike market when you can just make your own set of Boras out of your FRX5s? Note also the front and rear filth prophylactics and the kickstand. He's certainly not laying down any tricks, and he's not about to lay down his bike either--those Bora decals scratch easy.
And while our "lone wolf" basks in the heat on the boardwalk, in the closed world of fixed-gears (where no "lone wolf" would deign to tread) those idiots are still trying to sell that stupid gold bike:
I was grateful that a reader forwarded me this video, because not only was it comforting to learn that peoples' desire for golden bikes is apparently something that will never change, but also because it afforded me a closer look at the actual bicycle, which I'm beginning to suspect is just an SE Premium Ale only with crappier parts. Nonetheless, I still really want that gold bike, and I'm actually in the process of silver plating my Scattante, which I'm then planning to put on Craigslist for $50,000. Since the bike was free and I can do all the plating at home, once I sell it I'll be halfway to Gold City.
Of course, when it comes to Gold City, the big question is, "Does it rain there?" If so, I'll almost certainly want to add golden fenders to my gold bike--or, failing that, golden filth prophylactics. But as the anti-fenderites often point out, sometimes fenders alone aren't enough. As such, I was pleased to learn from another reader that I can also purchase a pair of filth prophylactis for my legs:
Though I'll probably just stick with my chicken suit:
Not only is it comfortable, but the gold bike will also match my plumage.
I am, however, considering switching from my recumbent trike to a regular bike with a noseless saddle. A reader informs me that the CDC has announced that noseless saddles can prevent "Genital Numbness and Sexual Dysfunction from Occupational Bicycling:"
I ride a bicycle to occupy myself, so even though I haven't been experiencing problems in the nether regions of my chicken suit, I figure maybe I should make the switch anyway lest I become a capon. Plus, I recently saw a fellow Scattante rider palping one, and it looked pretty sweet:
It's a good thing it's chained to the bike, since otherwise it would certainly be stolen within seconds by someone driven mad by desperation and crotchal numbness.
But yet another reader has alerted me to something even more disturbing than crotchal numbness, and that's the growing bicycle air hockey trend:
Clearly, bicycle air hockey is on track to replace bicycle polo. And while I'll be happy to see it go, I'd hate to see it happen like this.