Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Stops Making Sense: The Brake Debate Goes International

In yesterday's post, I mentioned moustache bars. Subsequently, I checked my email and found the following photo from Slappy, which is easily one of the most magnificent applications of the moustache bar I have ever seen:

The bicycle, of course, is a Y-Foil, which should not be confused with a "wife oil." (To the best of my knowledge, Trek never manufactured a spousal lubricant, though I think "wife oil" may have been used in yesterday's vertical saddle video.) As an enthusiastic Y-Foil spotter, the first thing I look for on one of these beasts is a set of Rolf wheels. After all, a Y-Foil without Rolfs is like Van Halen without David Lee Roth, so I was pleased to find a matching set here. The next thing I want to see is a triple crank, since simplicity is an insult to a Y-Foil frame, and this specimen has one of those as well. (The plastic platform pedals are simply a bonus.) But the real standout here is clearly the moustache bars. It's incredibly rare to see moustache bars on a Y-Foil, since the Y-Foil is in many ways antithetical to the Rivendell-style bike. In fact, I'm sure the sight of this bicycle (complete with non-metal, non-hammered, and non-full "filth prophylactics") would be sufficent to incite Grant Petersen to violence, and I only hope this does not cause him to beat an underling with a Nitto Albatross bar. (This is Rivendell company policy for punishing insubordination.) Also, the moustache bars are upside down, which creates the illusion this Y-Foil is about to take flight like some sort of retro-futuristic pterodactyl.

Alas, one can't help but wonder if, had the UCI not banned this design way back at the turn of the century, the top pros would now be palping Y-Foils in the Tour de France. (You can't even use "wife oil" at the Tour due to the fact it contains both cortisone and hashish.) And speaking of the Tour de France, it's now time for today's "Great Moment in Tour de France History," fake-sponsored by The California Avocado Commission:

(Avocado: Nature x Mushy x Delicious)

Nowadays Tour de France rider take things like safety for granted. However, in the Tour's early days it was a much more dangerous affair. Such was the experience of Ivan Munro, one of two Australians who in 1914 became the first of their countrymen to take the start of the great race. All was going well for Munro until the sixth stage, when the race entered the Pyrénées and he plunged into a gorge. After the race organization's rescue poodles were unable to locate Munro, officials declared him missing and presumed dead. However, though lost, Munro was very much alive, and he eventually encountered a lost civilization of Neanderthals with whom he made his home. While Europe and the world beyond entered into World War I, Muro lived an idyllic existence with these peaceful beings whose way of live was completely untouched by time and uncorrupted by modern society. Taking a bride, he fathered many children, and among them was one who would eventually emerge from the wilderness and go on to win no less than five times the race that forever altered his father's destiny. That child, of course, was Bernard Hinault:

And that's today's "Great Moment in Tour de France History."

While I can't vouch for the accuracy of the above story, I can certainly vouch for the mushy deliciousness of the so-called "alligator pear"--which should not be confused with "alligator pair," a condition suffered by male long-distance cyclists who fail to apply sufficient amounts of chamois cream or "wife oil."

Incidentally, Y-Foils may not be the only bicycle going the way of the Neanderthal. A reader informs me that authorities in Berlin are cracking down on fixed-gears:

Despite what it says above, I believe it's brakeless bicycles and not fixed-gears that are illegal in Germany, since riders whose bikes are impounded must "show an inclination to install brakes on them" in order to get them back. Nonetheless, Berlin's fixed-gear riders are outraged:

Now, if your job is to deliver things by bicycle, and you depend on the income from that job in order to survive, and the city in which you do that job requires that your bicycle have a brake on it, then you should probably use a bike with a brake--or at the very least you should not be outraged when your livelihood is taken from you. ATVs aren't street-legal in most places either. Are the police taking away your livelihood if they prevent you from making deliveries on one of those? Of course, I realize that this is a disappointingly prosaic view of the situation, and it's certainly at odds with the romantic manner in which messengers prefer to think of themselves. Naturally, the messenger rides a brakeless bike because it somehow makes him "more aware," yet everyone else is riding brakeless bikes "just because they've become cool." Surely, he's putting his own livelihood at risk for heightened awareness, and not in order to be cool himself.

Frankly, I think it's reasonable to require bicycles to have brakes. Furthermore, I think it's also reasonable to enforce that requirement. That said, while it may be reasonable, I don't think it's necessary. First of all, I think people should be allowed to do whatever they want. Second of all, the reasoning of the authorities here is fundamentally flawed. The fact is, they're thinking of brakeless fixed-gears as vehicles used for transportation, and this is not the case. Rather, the modern-day brakeless fixed-gear bicycle is simply a collectible and a customizable accessory, hence all the limited edition "collabos." Complete the set! Collect them all! Really, requiring something like this have brakes or meet some sort of vehicular safety standard is like having a law that "Star Wars" action figures need to conform to obscenity laws and that you can't take your Obi Wan Kenobi action figure's pants off in public. (Assuming of course you have the ultra-rare anatomically-correct removable pants edition.)

If you're a lawmaker or enforcement officer in Berlin and you don't believe me, then consider this Craigslist post from San Francisco, forwarded to me by a reader:

08 Cinelli Superpista - $2700 (inner richmond)
Reply to: [deleted]
Date: 2009-06-30, 1:33PM PDT

I really don't want to do this but I am putting up my Cinnelli Superpista for sale. I bought this bike as my graduation gift to myself when I finished college last year and spared no expense. This bike means a lot to me but I am looking to move abroad so it must be sold. The bike is my daily rider but the only thing on the build which reflects that is the frame, which naturally has nicks and scratches from being locked up. The frame was bought new last september at American and I completely babied it for the first 3-4 months. It is Columbus Zona Steel.

The components on this bike are spectacular. All components were purchased brand new last year and installed professionally. The wheelset was handbuilt at the Freewheel on Hayes. It is Campagnolo Record (32h) laced to Wolber Alpina Super Champion Rims. The rims are a really cool gray ano box profile with no braking surface. Laced with Sapim double butted spokes. The drivetrain is a Phil Wood 17t cog, Izumi Super Toughness Chain, and 49t Campagnolo Record crankset with a Phil Wood Bottom Bracket. The pedals are MKS RX-1s with really white (now gray) leather Campagnolo Straps. The seatpost is a Campagnolo Chorus Titanium seatpost, which I believe is no longer manufactured. It is very light, very strong, and aesthetically, the centerpiece of the groupo. The saddle is a Turbo special Edition. It has some scuffs and a little tear from being locked up but is otherwise in perfect condition.

Right now I am riding on oversize Easton Monkeylite Hi Rise bars with a Thomson Elite stem (100). I have a Nitto Converter for changing 1'' threaded to 1 1/8'' threadless. Also included though are my set of NOS Cinelli track drops(40) with the matching cinelli quill stem(110). They are both stamped with the cinelli logo and were ridden for about a week and look brand new, still. Also included in the deal is a set of aluminum oversize Deda Elementi Pista drop bars so that if you want to keep riding with the thomson stem you can ride with some drops as opposed to risers. The headset is a silver Chris King.

This is an initial posting of this sale. Ideally I'd like to sell the bike on this go round, but if the feedback is negative from the CL community and potential buyers it may change. However, this is a deal and I know the value of the things included so please no lo-ballers. Thanks. I can be reached only via e-mail. If you want additional photos(higher quality) please feel free to include that in your email.

This post exemplifies perfectly the "Collect them all!" mentality. Note how the seller went from shop to shop in search of specific components like a comic book collector visiting hobby shops. Note also the "special edition" saddle, as well as the pride with which he refers to the seatpost, which "is no longer manufactured" and which is "aesthetically, the centerpiece of the groupo." (You may think that if you've seen one metal shaft you've seen them all, but you're wrong.) In particular, note the "really cool grey ano" rims with "no braking surface." (Of course, these rims do have a braking surface, it's just not a machined braking surface. Pretty much all road rims had some kind of braking surface until the geniuses at H+Son finally managed to invent a 580 gram without one.)

Now, you can't expect a collector to mar the surfaces of his collectible anodized rims by using a brake, can you? Of course not. But you don't need to worry about that, because not only was the bike "completely babied," but it's also already for sale, which means this rider is probably not a menace to the streets. In fact, he's preparing to "move abroad," which could very well mean he's bound for Berlin. And even if he arrives in Berlin with $2,700 in hand from the sale of his Cinelli and builds up a brand new collectible fixie, he'll almost certainly "baby" that one too. He's a collector, not a threat.

No, if the crackdown continues the city of Berlin will only lend brakelessness some sort of "outlaw" appeal. Here in New York City bicycles are required to have a brake, but it's pretty rare that the police actually enforce this, and already there are signs that brakes are becoming the new brakeless. In fact, I recently saw a fixed-gear rider with a disc brake:

Perhaps soon fixed-gear riders will realize they are running out of components with which to accessorize, and as such they will adopt the disc brake, which will then allow them to enter the bold and exciting new world of cheesy customized rotors:

Disc rims with no braking surface and an AYHSMB rotor? Truly the best of everything.