Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Unusual Flavor: Cycling and the Unaccountability of Taste

As you may know, this past Friday was renowned director Stanley "The Manley" Kubrick's birthday. As such, that Robert Osborne guy from the cable was showing a few of his films, including "Lolita," which Osborne failed to mention is the "Citizen Kane" of pedophilia movies. Having recorded it on my Betamax (the Campagnolo Euclid group of audiovisual equipment) I was watching it yesterday evening when I noticed that, save for the dimpled chin, the Lone Wolf looks a lot like the film's star, James Mason:

For a moment I thought that maybe the Lone Wolf is James Mason, but then I realized that James Mason is no longer with us--and even if James Mason was still with us, he would have turned 100 this past May. Also, as I pointed out, the Lone Wolf has a chin dimple, which James Mason didn't, although it's not impossible that the Lone Wolf's is not genetic and he had it added surgically to enhance his aerodynamics. If this is the case, then it's still possible that the Lone Wolf is somehow related to James Mason--perhaps he's a cousin, or a nephew, or even an erstwhile son. This in turn opens up the enticing possibility that the Lone Wolf also shares James Mason's characteristically suave way of speaking:

If he does, the bicycle industry would be well-advised to seek the Lone Wolf as a spokesperson. I can see him rolling casually on a Tarmac, wearing an ascot and a smoking jacket and saying "I am Specialized" in that lilting Masonesque tone. Listening to James Mason is like watching a satin sheet billowing on a clothesline, whereas listening to Tom Boonen or Paolo Bettini is like listening to some tourist in South Beach try to order a mojito.

Speaking of Boonen and Bettini, it looks like neither will be riding in this year's Tour de France. Boonen of course was banned for having "indirect contact with cocaine" (which somehow sounds even worse than having direct contact with it, like maybe there was an assistant and a suppository involved), and Bettini of course is retired from cycling and has moved on to rally racing:

I'd like to think he has a smooth-talking James Masonesque navigator ("Do bear right after the crest in the road, if you'd be so kind"), or at least someone who talks like 80s Dom Irrera, but I'm guessing his navigator probably sounds more like Roberto Benigni after a night of partying with Tom Boonen.

Ah yes, there's no surer sign of summer than the start of the Tour de France. I, however, prefer to savor the sights and sounds of the sweaty season closer to home. For example, I recently ventured into Williamsburg, Brooklyn (I'm shopping for a new identity and I heard they were having a sale on the retro gas station attendant look) and found its main thoroughfare, Bedford Avenue, to be in the throes of "Williamsburg Walks:"

Not only was Williamsburg walking, but they were also schluffing--on their fixed-gears!

Of course, where there are large numbers of hipsters attempting to saunter off their hangovers, there are people ready to sell them crappy bikes:

Note the pie plate on this makeshift display. Actually, when I first saw this I was excited because I thought it might be some kind game show, and that this was a Wheel of Bicycle Fortune. Had it been, I doubt I would have been able to contain my excitement. Unfortunately, on closer inspection I realized that the wheel didn't spin, nor was there a hipster Pat Sajak or even a hipster Vanna White with a muffin top and a tramp stamp. There was just some guy with a bunch of "vintage" crap, and if I wanted it I had to pay for it. Oh well, I guess for that kind of entertainment you need to go to Portland.

But summer in New York City means more than just closed streets. It also means lots of people on bicycles. In fact, there are so many bicycles out there right now that people are locking them up two-deep:

I don't really have any explanation for this except that people must now be parking their bicycles in ascending order of cost. I'm sure if I'd waited long enough someone would have arrived on a Pista Concept with an Aerospoke and locked it on top of the Surly, and so forth, until there was some sort of custom Chari & Co. monstrosity with white tires and H+Son rims and tiny anodized riser bars at the very top. It seems we've officially reached the point here in New York where the street signs are now just skewers for gigantic shishkabobs of trendiness.

Personally, I'm more than happy to acknowledge the Ironic Orange Julius Bike's status as the low bicycle on the totem pole, which is why I still lock it at street level. (Also, it's too heavy to lift that high.) However, I suppose I'm still somewhat audacious, because I did recently dare to lock it up next to (instead of beneath) this:

I've noticed with both interest and annoyance that in a relatively short amount of time the narrow riser bar has gone from affectation to trend to de rigeur. Nearly every fixed-gear I see in New York City is now set up this way. Actually, I've come to think of these kinds of bars as "moustache bars." Of course, I realize that a real moustache bar looks like this, but the fact is that since the days of Wyatt Earp you seldom see moustaches that long and wide anymore--Tom Ritchey and this guy notwithstanding. No, generally, when you see a moustache now it's relatively short and tidy, with just a mild curve--like a narrow riser handlebar, or like the hairy curtain above James Mason's mouth:

Still, it's too confusing to refer to both types of bars as "moustache bars." Also, I'm certain that Grant Petersen would fight any attempts to wrest the term away from the bars he sells, and as a "woosie" there's no way I'm going to tempt his exquisitely-lugged fury. As such, in the spirit of compromise, I should probably refer to them as "unibrow bars" instead:

This term may conflict with "wheelbrows" (formerly "fenders") but at least it gets Petersen off my case.

Speaking of eyebrows, the constant increase in the number of bicycles has brought with it an increase in brow-furrowing behavior. In the past, I've written of the "sandbar of idiocy," which is the result of this infuriating unwritten rule:

If you stop at a red light and there is already another cyclist waiting at it, you must stop your bicycle in front of the rider who is already there.

Well, lately these "sandbars of idiocy" are eroding in a hurricane of ridiculousness. It's not enough to just come to a stop in front of somebody now; instead, you've got to do it with "flambullience:"

I was waiting at a light recently when I heard the now-familiar and unmistakable sound of a cheap tire skidding behind me. The rider then cut in front of me, revealing a gilded bike, and proceeded to trackstand in the middle of the busy intersection. Interestingly, while the bike lacked "unibrow bars," it was equipped with a brake, which made the skid seem that much more melodramatic. In fact, the entire episode was overly theatrical--to me, skidding into the middle of an intersection and then just (track)standing there is like showing up late to a dinner party, leaping up on the table while everyone else is eating, and doing a model walk.

Speaking of models, a reader recently forwarded me a video in which a model demonstrates the perils of improper saddle adjustment:

Yes, it turns out that if you attempt to mount a bicycle with a vertical saddle the results can be quite uncomfortable--so much so that I was forced to both sepiafy and Larry Kingify them:

Furthermore, the video goes on to show that continuing to ride a saddle adjusted in this manner can make you prone to mishaps involving other household items as well, such as vases containing floral arrangements:

Yes, it just goes to show that even obscenity is subjective, and that one person's pornography is simply another person's cycling PSA.