Further to yesterday's post I realized I may have been unfair to the Bike Shrink. The truth is that too few people are willing to take on the sorts of difficult questions posed by the cycling novice. Just look at the sorts of "querries" he must address:
These are not simple questions to answer, though in the spirit of both community service and placing myself in the Bike Shrink's Sidis I endeavored to try:
"I'm looking for a bike I'm going to use mainly on weekends. What do I need to know about what's out there?"
Consult the manufacturer to make sure your bike is designed for weekend riding. For example, Segal magnesium road bikes should not be ridden on Saturdays.
"My local bike shop says I can't get a decent bike for less than $400. Is that true?"
"I've never biked in the city before. What kind of bike should I use?"
"What are my options for using my bike to carry stuff?"
1) Carry stuff with your bike
2) Don't carry stuff with your bike
"What can I do to make my mountain bike into a daily commuter?"
Ride it to work.
Thank you. That'll be $29.99 plus tax. (Though if you want to avoid the sales tax I can send your answer to New Jersey.)
Of course, I'm no Bike Shrink, so I get relatively few emails asking for bicycle equipment advice. However, I do receive many emails alerting me to goings-on in the world of cycling, and recently I've received a great many emails containing links to this moving display of artistic cycling:
If you haven't watched it yet I apologize for spoiling the ending, but the routine culminates in the rare and dangerous Double-Crotch Cherrypicker:
Indeed, not since the golden age of freestyle BMX have we seen such taintal mastery:
Unfortunately, even though artistic cycling involves doing tricks on fixed-gears, and even though artistic cyclists are wildly better bike-handlers than their hipster counterparts, the sport remains relatively obscure. This is almost certainly due to the fact that the athletes wear leotards. In fact, even the UCIs new slogan, "Artistic Cycling: Get Leotarded!" has failed to win over the general public. Fixed-gear freestyling on the other hand continues to grow by leaps and bounds (or by wheelies and barspins), despite the fact that it is artistic cycling's awkward, sloppy, remedial cousin. This is due almost entirely to the trendier clothes. Consider this video, which I saw recently on fixed-gear freestyle impresario Prolly's blog:
I didn't see a Single-Crotch Cherrypicker (let alone a Double-Crotch Cherrypicker) though I did see yet another variation on the Elephant Trunk Skid which involves riding into a wall and is known in fixed-gear parlance as "The Clumsy Elephant:"
Some things never go out of style, and despite the fact that fixed-gear riders have been forming the Elephant Trunk since the late 19th century it remains the backbone (or more accurately the proboscis) of the fixed-gear freestyler's repetoire. In a sense, the moment one raises one's calf over one's riser bars for the first time, one crosses a sort of fixed-gear Rubicon. (The fixed-gear Rubicon does not flow like a regular river, however, since it is unable to coast.) After that, one's hat brim flattens out, one's keys migrate to one's waist, and one begins to cultivate an appreciation for overpriced streetwear and white tires. In my nightmares, legions of young people on bicycles assembled as far as I can see simultaneously place their legs over their handlebars in salute, thus pledging their allegiance to a mighty conformist army marching to the Auto-Tuned orders of a single unseen commander.
This is not to say all fixed-gear videos haunt my dreams. It's difficult to find anything frightening in this video, forwarded to me by my "hipster cyst" connection at Knog:
If you're wondering who these ladies are, they are legion, and they are "FGGT:"
Not that there's anything wrng with tht.
But regardless of whether you're riding a fixed-gear or a bicycle that can coast, and regardless of whether you're throwing your legs over the bars or keeping your feet on your pedals and your genitals on your saddle, you've probably noticed that people are riding more than ever. And if you've noticed, you can rest assured that The Great Trek Bicycle Making Company has noticed, which is why they've gone commuter crazy. I recently found myself browsing Cyclingnews's coverage of "Trek World" (which I was disappointed to learn is not a new theme park "collabo" with Six Flags featuring animatronic statues of Lance Armstrong, Gary Fisher, and Keith Bontrager) and their new line of commuter bikes isn't just inspired by the North American Handmade Bike Show; rather, it is the North American Handmade Bike Show. Just look at the pictures:
All the familiar styling cues are there: the "retro" paint jobs; the integrated stem/bars; the emphasis on singlespeeds; and a uniquely Portlandesque blend of ostentation and practicality. Really, the only difference is that everything is made by (or at least designed by) Trek. It's as though a big Hollywood studio were making a feature film based on the NAHBS and they simply hired Trek to recreate it for the set. It's especially ironic when you consider that all these bicycles were probably designed in that new fake city called "Thing One" Trek announced back in February.
Not that there's anything wrong with this, mind you. The custom builders are supposed to set the trends, and the bikes do look useful, if a bit precious. Trek have even resurrected the classic Huffy Santa Fe "colourway:"
Looks like they almost nailed it, too:
I suppose there are people who might be bitter about this and accuse Trek of copying some of the independent builders. However, I'd argue that there aren't too many people on Sacha White's wait list who are going to remove themselves from it when the new Districts "drop." Really, the only people who stand to lose are Trek's arch-nemeses Specialized, who have been actively promoting their own line of precious pastel-hued city bikes. However, unlike Trek, they've been taking a more "grassroots" approach by riding around in various cities and scowling at people. Also, instead of, say, coming to New York City and inviting local bloggers to try their bikes, they've chosen to give people bikes in exchange for starting blogs about them:
They even have their own Globe Facebook page, complete with videos featuring artsy-looking people in artsy-looking surroundings:
To me, there's something horribly frightening about all this, and it has nothing to do with the fact that both Trek and Specialized are attempting to market stylish yet practical bikes. That's a good thing, and in the short term everybody wins. No, the scary thing is that in their increasingly extreme attempts to out-style, out-green, and out-utility each other and seize control of the practical cycling marketplace Trek and Specialized will probably soon go to actual war. "Thing One?" "Globe Experience Project?" These sound like plans for world domination out of an old James Bond film. Sure, the handlebar grip on the Trek Belleville may be recyclable, but what good is that when their super-weaponry has laid waste to the Earth?
So if you don't want to support what is rapidly escalating into World War III and you don't have enough money to pay some guy in Portland with massive sideburns to build you a custom frame, yet you still want to show the world how "green" you are, what choice do you have? Well, a reader has alerted me to a frame that's so devoid of marketing--indeed so devoid of any information whatsoever--that its very simplicity is the most offensive kind of pretention:
What is this thing? Who builds it? How am I taking power away from "oil companies" and "greedheads?" Is it made from bamboo? Is it delivered to me on foot? How will I find components that are sufficiently politically correct to bolt to this thing? Perhaps most importantly, if I'm the sort of person looking to join "a whole movement" based on "brains," "muscles," and "humans," why do I still live in a house with a garage? Do I somehow heat it with my own swollen sense of integrity?
I guess if I really want to know I'll have to email "nada bike," since presumably providing more information on their web page somehow empowers the oil companies. Or else, maybe I can pay the Bike Shrink to figure it out for me and tell me if I should get one. I wonder if I can ride it on weekends.