Here in New York City it's been a rainy and windy spring. The last few days in particular have been wetter than a fenderless rider's underpants, so today's sunshine came as quite a relief. (It was nearly as refreshing as a change of underpants.) Between the sun and the post-Earth Day smugness hangover, the streets were teeming with all kinds of bicycle commuters this morning, and there was nary a wardrobe and equipment configuration that was not represented.
Yes, I knew early on it was going to be an ecumenical kind of day. As I made my way through Prospect Park, my internal monologue was interrupted by a "whooshing" sound. (My interior monologue is an endless loop of Garrison Keillor reading a Penthouse Forum "Letter of the Month" from July 1986.) An uninitiated person might easily have mistaken it for a washing machine on the rinse cycle, but I knew immediately that it meant I was about to be overtaken by a time trialist:
At the moment I took this photo he had just overtaken me and was working on closing the gap between himself and the person in the jeans and backpack up the road. (Though I'm not sure he actually managed to close that gap.) I subsequently checked the local race listings and could find no evidence that a time trial was scheduled to take place on a Thursday morning, so I can only assume he was striving for some sort of "personal best." I can't help thinking that there are better ways to attain your "personal best" than chasing people in street clothes on their way to work, but then again I'm not much of a time triallist.
A little bit later I encountered the inverse of the time triallist, which is the full-on commuter. Despite ample sunshine he was dressed brightly enough to make one of those raver glow sticks look like a four month-old carrot. Now you see him:
...and now you still see him, because it's impossible not to. At one point I swear he passed behind a bus and I could still make out a faint outline of him on one of those stupid Snickers ads.
Between these two extremes was plenty of "filler" in the form of mostly unremarkable people on fixed-gears, road bikes, mountain bikes, and hybrids. (Please note that I consider myself "filler" as well. I'm "pack-fill" when I race, and I'm "commuter-fill" when I commute.) As I rode, I couldn't help thinking, "What if one of these inexpensive, ubiquitous, 'entry-level' fixed-gears actually mated with one of those full-on TT bikes? What would such a thing look like?" Well, a reader must have heard my thoughts, because he forwarded me this:
This bike is nothing less than a revelation, and that revelation is that there is indeed such a thing as extreme mediocrity. If the stock Jamis Sputnik is "meh," then the yellow chain, the tri-spoke, and the aerobars are the italics. This bike isn't "meh," it's meh. Don't get me wrong--as "filler" I am a tremendous fan of mediocrity and mediocre bikes. However, while I feel there's a certain dignity in being unremarkable, there's a certain absurdity in painting pinstripes and installing a spoiler on that mediocrity. Really, it's an affront to the rest of us. It's like Chili's suddenly adopted a strict door policy.
You really can't blame people for tarting up their bikes, though. Now that bicycles are officially part of the popular culture the right bike is sure to get you noticed. Just look at this "Missed Connection:"
cinelli cutie - m4w - 25 (boneshakers)
Reply to: [deleted]
Date: 2009-04-23, 12:44AM EDT
I saw you hop off of your amazing baby blue cinelli track bike (immaculate classic set up), and then I couldn't decide what was prettier, your little bicycle or you :)
Me: tattoos, black dickies... fumbling and trying to figure out what wouldn't sound corny.
Maybe you saw me almost drop my mug?
I don't really talk like this, but your hot! :P Next time, can I buy you a coffee? A Rebel Cruiser? A vegan cupcake?
The only thing more dangerous than italicizing mediocrity is sexual displacement. If you're presented with an attractive person and an attractive bicycle and you can't decide which one you want more, you almost certainly have a problem. Most likely if you suffer from this form of displacement you have a "bike porn" addiction too. Sadly, though, the field of velo-psychiatry is in its infancy, and the cure for BRSDS (Bicycle-Related Sexual Displacement Syndrome) is still quite primitive. It's a combination of aversion therapy and the old-fashioned way of punishing kids for smoking, which was to make them smoke a pack of cigarettes. Basically, if you're suffering from advanced BRSDS, they lock you in a room with a Jamis Sputnik and they make you have sex with it. While it's pretty effective, it's also cruel to both the patient and the Jamis, and there is talk of banning the practice. In the meantime, though, I'd warn you not to purchase a used Sputnik. If the price seems too good to be true, it most definitely is. That bike is damaged goods--and I don't mean it has a dent in the top tube.
Speaking of perversity, you may recall I recently uncovered a conspiracy whereby the City of New York is clearing the way for a Dutch city bike invasion by installing giant bike racks. Well, it turns out there's a simpler explanation for the giant racks. A commenter has pointed out that the MTA actually needed to raise the subway grates to prevent flooding, so they figured they might as well throw some bike racks and benches on top of them too. So it would seem as though there's no insidious plot behind them after all, and that the bike racks are just a bonus, right?
Well I'm not so sure. I find it a little too convenient that the MTA is so worried about flooding all of a sudden. Yes, we've seen plenty of flood-related subway service disruptions, but since when does the MTA care about preventing service disruptions? It seems to me that they may know something we don't. It also seems to me that there are certain people who know a lot about flooding. They also know how to protect themselves from flooding with dikes and levees, and they're also famous for their windmills, tulips, and wooden shoes. I'm of course talking about the Dutch, and it's obvious to me now that they're not just trying to flood us with their eponymous city bikes. Indeed, they're just planning to literally flood us. And when the waters come, only those with Dutch bikes who are sympathetic to their cause will be saved; the rest of us will be washed away.
Don't believe me? Well, check this out:
Bike-sharing? Freedom? Openness? Entrepreneurship? Tolerance?!? All those things sound evil to me. Clearly, we're about to fall victim to the Orange Menace:
These might sound like the musings of a paranoid person, but I'm not paranoid--I'm actually so completely delusional that my delusion resolves itself into perfect clarity. For this reason, I know that the Dutch themselves are just agents of the Fixed Gear Apocalypse, and that the coming flood will wash away all of those who are fixed of gear. I also know that Cape Guy, who I spotted this morning, is involved somehow, though I haven't yet figured out whether he's here to protect the fixed of gear or destroy them:
Either way, I think he may have found that cape in a Vermeer painting.
And once the waters recede, an apocalyptic battle between Dutch city bikes and Danish cargo bikes (as seen in this video, forwarded by a reader) may or may not ensue:
Yes, I have seen the future, and it is as horrifying as it is practical.
Then again, the present (or at least the recent past) is horrifying too, which is why we're teetering on the brink of destruction. And in these prediluvian times, what could be more emblematic of our excesses than these photos (forwarded by a reader) of a disgraced executive riding a Serotta?
I'm not sure which is more misshapen: Cassano or the bike.
Still, there are signs of hope. As a society and as a species, humanity is capable of wonderful things. Sure, we've made our share of mistakes, but we've also made tremendous advances in all aspects of life. To me, the most exciting advance we've made so far this century is the Tanita BC-558 Ironman InnerScan Segmental Body Composition Monitor, which apparently allows you to weigh different parts of your body separately:
Even if you're not a segmented invertebrate like an earthworm or a caterpillar, this is obviously tremendously exciting. Prior to this, it was very difficult to determine whether you needed to lose weight in your left arm only. This should help Cassano get some of the junk out of his trunk.