Monday, January 18, 2010

Grand Designs: Hangin' it Out There

As most of you surely know, today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. For many Americans, this means a day off from work or school, and consequently time spent away from the computer monitor. However, for people who reside outside of the United States, or for people who reside in the United States and are employed by racists, it is unfortunately a Monday like any other. This means that you may have commuted to work today, and you may even have used a bicycle to do so.

One of the best things about bicycle commuting is that it can mitigate the displeasure of having to go to work. It's the rare and fortunate person who looks forward to his or her workday, so if you're not one of them you can at least sandwich the misery between two slices of pleasure by riding your bike there. Actually enjoying your commute can infuse an otherwise dreary day with some joy. Riding buses and trains isn't especially enjoyable, which is why we cling to devices like iPods, which serve as little bits of driftwood in a sea of misery. On a bicycle, though, the act of traveling in itself is enjoyable, so you can leave the iPod in your bag--at least until you find yourself in a situation which does not warrant your full attention, such as your job or math class.

Still, some people do love to "curate" their soundscapes at all times and to exist in a constant state of musical accompaniment. For them, there is absolutely no situation in which they can tolerate the absence of music. Like the child who eschews any beverage bereft of sugary additives, the person with an aural sweet tooth cannot imbibe the sounds of the everyday (please forgive the mixed metaphors) without the tincture of a soundtrack. Yes, even a short bicycle ride requires a score, as you can see from this New York Times slideshow which was forwarded to me by a reader recently:

If you've ever seen someone using a device like this you know how unsettling it can be. While enjoying music on external speakers alone in public non-festival settings is in itself relatively benign, it can also indicate a lack of self-awareness that, if allowed to continue unchecked, can eventually drive you to do things like have conversations with your groceries while you're shopping or deliver lengthy sermons on street corners. One day you're just the guy who rides the bike path every weekend listening to Peter Cetera on his handlebar-mounted sound system, and the next you're preaching downtown about the Second Coming of the Lobster God. Certainly there are situations such as concerts or parties in which part of the pleasure of hearing the music is that you're enjoying it with other like-minded individuals. There is also the mostly male impulse to sort of "hump the world" with your musical taste, which is why some people derive pleasure from owning incredibly loud automotive sound systems. However, the handlebar-mounted speaker is neither. It's really just a strange, furtive form of public enjoyment somewhat akin to fondling yourself in public.

This is not to say that anyone with a handlebar-mounted speaker system is a serial public masturbator, nor is it to say that using one is not safer than completely drowning out your senses with a pair of headphones while you're riding. I just mean that it can be a dangerous gateway drug into the strange world of needing strangers to see you enjoying yourself--not in the "I need everybody to see how cool I am" way that "hipsters" do it, but in the "I need the one person sitting next to me on the bus to know I have a Star Wars action figure down my pants" way that, well, some other people do it.

Of course, there are some people who can straddle the worlds of convention and insanity with aplomb, and who dwell in the land of bliss and disregard for social convention that lies between them with dignity. These people are the "lone wolves." There are also the people who are neither conventional, nor insane, nor "lone wolves," but are simply "dorks." Really, all cyclists are "dorks" in the same way that all dogs are mammals or all Catholics are Christians, but every sect has its extremists. The Jews have people who wear stockings and fur hats, and we have people who use these things, also forwarded by a reader:

Furtive enjoyment can be creepy, but exuberant enjoyment is just dorky. Even more dangerous though is the "stealth dork." "Stealth dorkitude" occurs when the exuberance masquerades as ingenuity, and it's most apparent in those stupid concept bikes you'll constantly see posted on various design blogs:

I'm not sure why designers feel as though they must constantly molest the cycling world with their idiotic and useless bike designs, since there are few machines in this world which require less improvement. Apparently, "design" is the art of taking functional objects you know nothing about and completely screwing them up. Most of these bicycles are the equivalent of trying to reinvent the drinking glass. Here's my own new design:
It's called the "kinetic drinking glass," and once it's full you keep swinging your arm around Pete Townshend-style so the liquid stays in there via centrifugal force. I'm still working out how to fill it, but I'm confident I'll come up with something eventually. It will probably involve a carefully-timed pour on the downstroke.

Actually, yet another reader was kind enough to forward me a link to a site containing many of these idiotic concept bikes all assembled in one place--though a few of them are actually practical, such as this one:

No bike stable is complete without a dedicated goat-walking bike, and no actual stable is complete without a goat.

But not all zany designs come from designers outside of the bicycle industry--some of them come from the industry itself. You've probably seen those shorts from SMP by now, of which I was reminded recently by the proprietor of Cycling Inquisition and for which SMP made a delightful cartoon:

You can finally satisfy your physiological needs without the stress caused by undressing. The central channel of the Smp4bike saddle range allowed us to develop an innovative pair of shorts with a zip in the lower part. The zip neither rubs on the saddle nor constricts your private parts: you only realize it’s there in the moment of need ....

In other words, they're split-crotch shorts for women:

As well as for men:

I'm not sure why a man would need to remove his entire jersey and lower his bibs simply to urinate--unless I'm misreading the cartoon and he's not really urinating at all. He does have some suggestive "motion squiggles" around his shoulders, and he is in the woods with a woman. And when two people find themselves in the woods wearing cycling clothing specifically designed to provide easy access to the genitals, it doesn't take an industrial designer to illustrate what happens next:

Hopefully there's appropriate music playing on the handlebar speakers.


Unknown said...


Unknown said...


Unknown said...


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Anonymous said...

top ten

ant1 said...


Unknown said...

refresh, refresh

Anonymous said...

ah, i can't resist: schluff, schluff

Anonymous said...

TOP 10!! Finally made it to the podium!!!!

Anonymous said...

this is no holiday

Disgruntl Ed. said...

What is this, the Ring?

Anonymous said...

how long is your daily commute?

Anonymous said...

more sex stuff!

Anonymous said...

Working in the USA for a German firm today, does that count?

Paul Bowen said...

Evening all.

Nogocyclist said...


Filling the drinking glass you invented is very simple. All you have to do is take it on a roller coster with a loop. While everyone is yelling at the top of the loop, take your water pitcher (or beverage of your choice) and pour it just like you alway do.

Anonymous said...


Nogocyclist said...

Roller "Coster" is a roller coaster for hipters. Remember they don't believe in coasters, that is why they have fixters.

I did not mispell roller coaster, I didn't, did not

Disgruntl Ed. said...

The problem with this misery sandwich is that the filling is so much thicker than the mitigating bread. Thank you for adding some meager drips of sauce.

Furthermore, goats are highly endearing, but that one is strangely short and it seems wrong to treat it thus.

rezado said...


Anonymous said...

too thick the sandwich today

Anonymous said...

bikesnobmilano today... all about design

Paul Bowen said...

SMP4 micturation facilitation shorts seem also to make the pee act less interesting to wildlife - the pair of blackbird hens in the lady's 'before' pic have gone in the after (although a skein of geese have hoved into view - probably too far away love, don't worry) similarly the chipmunks or squirrels who were in the man's before pic taking a keen interest in his slashmaking have lost interest in the after pic. And is the man waving in the after pic or doing some sort of leftie Hitler salute?

Cod said...

Hey Snob, You really didn't write this blog today, did you? The style, tone and color are very different than usual; not up to par, very formulaic, full of cliches, and it is overly judgmental and just plain mean, bordering on nasty. Maybe its just me, but something sure seems different.
Ah well, you do a great job, so don't take this too seriously. It's the snow in Boston talking.

Anonymous said...

Easy access to genitals is something I can really get behind.

shotgunBOOMBOOM said...


leroy said...

Hmmm. Today's podium: Wagner, four opuses, cycling. Is it just me or does that remind anyone else of the Ring cycle? {Hey, Disgruntl Ed. noticed it too!)

On the other hand, I can't be the only one to whom those bio self-degradable shorts suggest Rinse cycle.

Unfortunately, I supplied my owm sound track this weekend on the little hill in Prospect Park. My raggedy breathing sounded suspicously like the chorus from Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance."

Small wonder I kept getting dropped like a piano.

Anonymous said...

yeah, designers,leave our bikes alone. why don't you design something practical, like a tea kettle that doesn't scald me when I pour hot water into my coffee bong*.

*French press.

leroy said...

Cod --

Are you sure it's BSNYC you think is fishy?

Anonymous said...

Snob -- you're confused. The MonkeyLectric lights are very cool.

Seanywonton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Seanywonton said...

Kinetic water glass filling suggestion:
The glass holder has a vinyl tube going down the length of his/her arm to the glass, which is filled by first taking a mouthful of liquid from an inferior "conventional" glass, then expelling liquid from the user's mouth into the tube while rotating the arm. Then, voila! The user can drink at their convenience.

CommieCanuck said...

Hey Cod, You really didn't write this comment today, did you? The style, tone and color are very different than usual; not up to par, very formulaic, full of cliches, and it is overly judgmental and just plain mean, bordering on nasty.

Seanywonton said...

Maybe Cod designed the bike...

CommieCanuck said...

That "bike of the Future" is awesome. In the future, you can have a dog or squirrel run right through your wheels, instead of getting shredded in the spokes.

But, who wants that?

Also, all those people who tether bikes by the wheel will be vindicated in the future. Unfortunately, people will still throw shit out of their hover cars from above and hit you.

This wheel design also makes getting "the full Cinzano" much more difficult.

SMP's crotchless shorts are just the first step in their spring 2010 line of assless lycra cycling chaps.

Vance Longwell said...

I've decided to follow-suit and re-do the water-bottle-cage as inspired by the hopefully forthcoming line of Waterford Chrystal Kinetic Energy Glassware (KEG for short - get it? See, I'm all over the marketing too.)by: The Bike Snob NYC.

I got stuck there.

P.S. What gives 'snob? That's most definitely a goat in yonder pilfered still-photo, yessiree. However, I fail to see any pedals on that there Scooter being piloted by our, hopefully, intrepid goat-whisperer.

Where's the f**king credibility in the media these days, huh? Check your facts unless of course you support Al Queda, and the redress of suffrage. Or keep writing the funniest, cleverest, smartest s**t on the net. I'm not really committed either way. You pick.

CommieCanuck said...

Snob -- you're confused. The MonkeyLectric lights are very cool.

Maybe on live monkeys.

Luck E. Seven said...

Nice speakers.

I might have gone a different way...


CommieCanuck said...

Dunno Snob, that concept bike site has some great ideas, like finally, a comfortable saddle.

wishiwasmerckx said...

So, I'm working on a theory that BikesnobNYC and Pauly D. from "Jersey Shore" are actually one in the same. Am I onto something?

Paul Dorn said...

Bike Snob NYC: Thanks for noticing. As indicated in the New York Times slideshow, I approached the gear test with a lot of skepticism. Tailwinds, Paul

Anonymous said...

"No bike stable is complete without a dedicated goat-walking bike, and no actual stable is complete without a goat."

That may be the funniest pic/bike, yet.

BTW, Snob--I've been waiting on your take on the NYT consumer appraisal of the bike sound system dashboard for awhile now. Your remarks were worth the wait--the article itself was pretty funny, the pic you ran, was the "reviewer's favorite" audio set up, there were other options! One word: dork.

CommieCanuck said...

I just came from the Detroit Auto show, and sure enough, all the new Chevys will be powered by goats.Al Gore is please.

CommieCanuck said...


PhilboydStunge said...

Monkey lights on bike = cool.
Monkey lights on live monkeys = cooler.
Monkey lights on Irish kids = coolest of all.

CommieCanuck said...

As indicated in the New York Times slideshow, I approached the gear test with a lot of skepticism.

No, you didn't.

You declared yourself "impressed". You use earphones to ride in traffic, and you wrote a book about it.

I look forward to the future editions of "Running with Scissors" , "Making toast while having a bath" and "cordless bungee jumping".

Anonymous said...

very useful article. I would love to follow you on twitter. By the way, did you guys hear that some chinese hacker had hacked twitter yesterday again.

Stupid Name said...

"I'm not sure why designers feel as though they must constantly molest the cycling world with their idiotic and useless bike designs, since there are few machines in this world which require less improvement."

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

That sentence is the best one of the decade, It should be a warning on every cycling web site, magazine, publication and blog.
It should be tatooed on every TREK employee, Specialized importer, (unknown chinese bike manufacturer), NAHBS booth, high end dentist bike shop.

And the forehead of the Bike Design blogger.

Anonymous said...

great post. I would love to follow you on twitter. By the way, did you know that some chinese hacker had hacked twitter yesterday again.

Stupid Name said...

Oh yea, and especially people who make their own recumant bicycles, and bake their own crabon fibre frames.

grog said...

I have a dream that all cyclists will palp a steed of choice, not for the colorway of it's frame, but for the originality of its components.
Happy Holiday.

Juan L. said...

Sir Snob. I know you often like to expose those full of bullshit, and I have come to realize that Chrome has started outsourcing at least their soyuz and clothing. They try to hide it with clever wording such as designed right here in the U.S.A., but if you look inside there are tiny little black made in china tags. I'll check the others if you're interested. I tried to email this but it wasn't working out so well.

Anonymous said...

Did you know Pete Townsend got the arm-swing from Keith Richards? It was Keith's back-stage warm-up manoevre, and Pete borrowed it. Pete credits it to Keith, but Keith states he can't remember it.

But hey, it was the 60s

esau bin necker said...

that goat looked like that one that rikim has carnal knowledge with

billy bob helped me on that one

Salty and Sore said...

On a bicycle, though, the act of traveling in itself is enjoyable, so you can leave the iPod in your bag-- that why the proper roadie attire includes the ubiquitous, white cord?

ant1 said...

the arm swing is not the only thing townsend got from the stones.

Chasingbackon said...

I didn't know Martha Stewart walks her goats. It looks like she needs to loose a few pounds though.

Fred said...

I baked my own recumbent from recycled Birkenstock foot-beds. What the hell is wrong with that?

rural 14 said...

ant 2nd!

that goat lives right over there.

invisa-dork said...

So there I was sitting at my computer about to type another amusing anecdote when...whoa, where did that dork come from?

I Am Curious Vellow said...

Wait, you are supposed to take off your cycling shorts when you take a whiz? I thought you just kind of stiff leg it, perform a quick pocket pool move and let go the stopper. Sheer propulsive force will take it away in the wind. That's why no one rides behind Lance Armstrong on a flat day after an espresso break.

At least, that's how my goat does it.

Fred said...

Those crotchal access shorts aren't just for the ladies, you know. I palp a pair on longer rides for the easy access to my Star Wars action figures.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of weird cycling contraptions, check these out:

Anonymous said...

great chinese hacker. I would love to twitter on you. twitter post yesterday again
By the way....

Coastiedouche said...

I am oddly turned on by the cartoon of the lady holding her dd's whilst squatting to pee.Why does the girl on the right have a different top without the need to cover her cans?Kind of a She-RaI from Thundar the Barbarian fixation originating from saturday morning cartoons. Cant wait till the shorts show up in my spin class.O.K uptight dorks lets hear it.

Odile Lee said...

HMm what happens to the goat when you fall over?( like this weekend, when I fell into a ditch, AND on a gravel road.) Those shorts would have conme in handy. I could have adjusted my piercings after untangling myself( and wiping off the blood).

I had no idea I was a dork! No!!!Is is the glasses... what? The bike?! My bike is sexy!!!

Velouria said...

I've been in dire need of a dedicated goat bike. I hope this one is lugged and comes in a loop frame.

Anonymous said...

Monkeylectric lights would give the goat-walking bike more panache.

Anonymous said...

Snobby, how about having your friend who rode the Electra review those bike shorts? Keeping the lady bits comfy on a long ride is paramount. However I would be concerned about safety with that zipper.

Anonymous said...

Has everyone missed the latest cycling "system"? These are SEAT SPECIFIC cycling shorts: "The central channel of the Smp4bike saddle range allowed us to develop an innovative pair of shorts with a zip in the lower part." You need a member of the Smp4bike saddle "range" to accommodate the "zip in the lower part," which I can only assume is what we all know as the crotchal region.

CommieCanuck said...

No bike stable is complete without a dedicated goat-walking bike, and no actual stable is complete without a goat.

Don't forget that Dr. Thompson's defense was that bikes are "inherently unstable", no stable of bikes is stable without a goat in the stable.

Anonymous said...

nothing like the audio cyclocross ear-rape

Pontius Pilate said...



Anonymous said...

snob might need a stuntman...a potential fill in from time to time
i would suggest lance armstrongs father...lee majors
that guy does it all
he was the six million dollar man
and how odd is it that oscar goldman has a son named johan bruyneel

Anonymous said...

am i the only one who got a woody thinking about a women in split crotch bike shorts?

EK said...

Often I find myself peeing on a tree by the side of the road, my member in one hand for proper aim while waving at passers by with the other. It's a very European thing to do.

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Unknown said...

More weirdness good for a chuckle at Charlie Kelly's website, one of my favorites:
Weird Bikes

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Anonymous said...

Oh Gos those bikes are awesome, I haven't seen it. I will tell about this to my brother who likes to get Cheap Viagra, 'cause he loves bikes.

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