Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Palpitation: Who's Using What How?
Last week, I mentioned that the new protected (or sheltered, or whatever they are) bike lanes they're building now in New York City may be a curse instead of a blessing. Well, after almost Hasselbecking a woman with a stroller who stepped off the curb and into the bike lane without looking, I'm becoming increasingly convinced that they are the former. Fortunately, I was able to avert tragedy thanks to a potent combination of meh-riffic bike-handling skills, a natural aversion to injuring small children, and a set of superfluous, pro-establishment, completely un-Zen brakes.
But while I employ bike-handling mostly to avoid flattening pedestrians and to keep from getting lapped more than once in cyclocross races, other riders have raised bike-handling to an artform. A number of people have forwarded me this impressive video, in which Danny MacAskill avoids innumerable invisible pregnant women and strollers with mind-boggling agility:
I wanted to read more about Danny MacAskill, so I went to his sponsor's website, where I learned that he wears Calvin Klein underwear:
I'm guessing what happened here is that one of his teammates gave him a wedgie, and being the accomplished trickster that he is he's trying to extract the underpants from his posterior by using the rotation of the rear wheel instead of simply reaching in there with his hands. I believe in the world of trials riding this is what's known as a "taint grinder."
At this point, you may find yourself asking the same question I did, which is: "If Danny MacAskill can do things like ride on top of wrought-iron fences and pull his Calvin Kleins out of his ass in mid-air using only his rear wheel, what are the fixed-gear freestylers up to?" In order to find out, I first visited the "tricktrack" forums. However, they seemed to be doing pretty much the same thing I was, which was being all agog over the Danny MacAskill video. Then I went to fixed-gear freestyle impresario Prolly's blog, but he was all wrapped up in restoring a headset. This complacency worried me. Personally, if I were a fixed-gear freestyler, I wouldn't be rooting around in my parts bin; I'd be on the nearest tennis court with my Scattante trying to figure out how to completely remove my underpants like Hansel did in the "walk-off" scene in "Zoolander."
Finally, I went to Trackosaurusrex (where both fixed-gears and the exclamation point reign supreme), where I found this:
Death Pedal X FRSH promo by Kareem Shehab from Killa Kareem on Vimeo.
The video included a Bad Brains song that didn't go with the video, an appropriated Dead Kennedys logo, and some clumsy examples of what can best be called "artistic schluffing," but that was about it. It was also paired with another video, which was similarly anticlimactic:
ABCity Spring Edit from hfwido on Vimeo.
While I'll be the first to admit that the fixed-gear freestyle scene consists of some good bike-handlers who have taken the arts of downloading music and hopping curbs to new heights, I can't help feeling that in some ways it's still the cycling equivalent of this:
I'd like to thank the reader who forwarded me that video, but that's sort of like thanking someone who's just given you a wedgie.
At any rate, while I'm still not impressed by fixed-gear freestyling, I'll stop short of saying they should try bikes with smaller wheels that coast. If people want to do tricks on fixed-gears with 700c wheels, they should do tricks on fixed-gears with 700c wheels. If people want to do tricks on Dutch city bikes, they should do tricks on Dutch city bikes. (I'm working on a move where I remove a bra while doing a tail whip on a Dutch city bike.) You're perfectly free to use whatever equipment you want, provided that you are willing to accept the compromises. I may think that fixed-gear freestyling is like eating a pizza bagel, and that if you want pizza you might as well just eat an actual slice, but hey--some people like pizza bagels. Anyway, the same thing can be said of bike locks, and can also be applied to this photo, forwarded to me by a reader:
As you can see, the rider has a relatively robust u-lock, but instead of using it to secure the bike, he's instead simply using it to join what is either a really flimsy steel cable or a couple feet of clothesline. Basically, this is like wearing your socks over your shoes.
In the meantime, here in New York City we have more pressing concerns than which bikes people are using for tricks. Not only are our new bike lanes actually more dangerous, but we've got a bike parking crunch too. It's so bad that color coordination has fallen by the wayside, and pink bikes and red bikes are now forced to share poles:
That's a truly nauseating "colorway," though I bet I could do some rad tricks on that pink bike. Once I remove the rear rack and fender I can even palp "taint grinders."
Of course, to address the parking crunch, the city is installing those giant fan boats. Really, though, they should probably think about getting rid of some of the dead bikes first. As much as I love the Dura Ace chopper, it's been in the same spot for years:
As you can see here, it's decayed quite a bit since I last photographed it in January 2008. I admit it does serve as a testament to the effectiveness of a good bike-locking job, but I think even the most optimistic person has to admit that its rider is never going to return. I don't know who the owner of the Dura Ace chopper is, though I have a feeling that he moved to California sometime in the late 90s, grew a magnificent beard, and now rides a recumbent.
The problem of dead bikes extends to actual bike racks too. Here's a perfect example of a rack that should be pruned:
At first glance you might think that there are three bikes here, but if you look closer you'll see a pile of rust on the sidewalk which could easily be the decayed remains of a fourth. A forensic examination would probably reveal that it's a Magna from the mid-1980s:
I'd think it would be easier and less expensive to clean up some of these old bike racks than it would be to install new ones, but then again I also think it would be easier to do tricks on bikes that coast. And that's clearly old-fashioned thinking.