Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Pull My Strings: The New Puppetry

As we move inexorably forward like cartons of eggs on the supermarket conveyor belt of life, there are three sure signs at autumn is imminent: an invigorating chill in the air; plumbing problems caused by flushing leaf piles down the toilet; and of course the bike industry trade shows. Outside of the cycling world, people have the good sense to ignore trade shows unless they actually work in that industry and are forced to go to them. This is true even if the trade show involves something they use. For example, many of us have insurance, but almost none of us would want to attend or even read about the Risk Insurance Management Society's Annual Conference and Exhibition (even though I hear the RIMS Canada reception was totally "off the chain"). Yet for some reason, cyclists whose livelihoods do not depend on the selling of bicycles pay attention to events like the upcoming Interbike, or last week's Eurobike.

This is especially puzzling when you consider what little news that would be of interest to the typical cyclist actually emerges from these shows . Sure it's important for shop owners and bicycle companies and those sorts of people to meet and discuss business on a regular basis, and of course the people who sell bicycles should know what colors the new ones will be before they actually receive the boxes, but for the layperson the last genuinely interesting product development was probably the integrated brake/shift lever, or the clipless pedal, or the derailleur drivetrain, or the "safety bicycle" (depending on who you ask and how retro-grouchy they are). Otherwise, pretty much everything else recently has involved Making Stuff Bigger.

Basically, the way Making Stuff Bigger works is that bicycle designers move clockwise around the bicycle and determine which "interface" is ripe for a new injection of collagen. In the last few years they've been focussing on the bottom bracket and headtube, but for 2011 it looks like they're going back to the handlebar. After all, it's been over 10 years since the 31.8 handlebar clamp "standard" was established, and while it once seemed huge it now looks positively spindly next to the "beefy" bottom bracket shells and headtubes of today. Fortunately for us all, Deda is inflating it once again:

Of course, the 31.8 size improved absolutely nothing, apart from ensuring that users of Deda's "oversized" (now "standard") bars would also have to purchase a matching Deda stem. However, an unforeseen benefit to the consumer did eventually emerge, since after awhile everyone else went "oversize" too, and once the 31.8 size became common riders could mix and match stems and bars for both road bikes and mountain bikes with impunity. This was no good for Deda, so now they've been forced to enlarge their bars yet again.

So will people actually buy this? Of course they will. The new Deda over-oversized bars are apparently good for "people with big hands, and people with a need for massive stiffness." Logically, this means that people who use them are big and massively stiff in other areas too, and by extension that people who ride using the now-puny 31.8 size are genitally inadequate, or at best are unable to handle "massive stiffness." At this rate, I fully expect Eurobike and the Sex Toy Expo to combine operations by 2020.

Speaking of putting your hands on throbbing things, a reader informs me that pants behemoth Levi Strauss recently decided to "get their finger on the pulse of the fixed gear and commuter bike movement in an authentic way," presumably so they could sell them more stuff:

Apparently, Levi Strauss decided to do its pop-cultural "fingerbanging" in Denver and Boulder instead of New York, San Francisco, or Los Angeles "because the scene is still young and developing organically in Colorado," and its worth noting that some lonely middle-aged men hang around schools and playgrounds for exactly the same reason. Here's actual video of the Levi's employees asking the unwitting scenesters if they'd like some candy and inviting them into their metaphorical Econoline of Consumerism:

Levi's + The Public Works from The Public Works on Vimeo.

By the way, if you're ever looking to take advantage of a naive and malleable consumer, you can generally identify them by their cigarettes:

It's a sign that says, "I'm willing to buy into anything, even if it kills me."

In any case, it looks like things got pretty wild--so wild, in fact, that at one point they even broke into a spontaneous freestyle market research "session:"

It's inspiring to see that fixed-gear crews are reinventing themselves as focus groups, and it's reassuring to know that young people are more willing than ever to leap to action when a company with over $4 billion in annual revenue asks them to "help us help you spend your disposable income on crap." I'm sure Levi's left after the weekend with a greater understanding of cycling and some great new product ideas (fixed-gear specific jeans with integrated bottle opener and dedicated cigarette pocket?), though the city of Denver might want to consider issuing an AMBER Alert for their "bike culture."

Of course, if Levi's really wanted to do some cutting-edge "fixie" market research, they should have gone to China, where a reader informs me that fixed-gear cycling and juggling are coming together in new and exciting ways:
Yes, for Beijing "fixters" the light-running antics of America's "urban" cyclists simply cannot rival the excitement and agility of circus-like riders such as the great Serge Huercio. Also, they forego skid-patch calculators in favor of juggling patterns:


Though stopping is still called "skidding:"

Ah, the fixed-gear world, where stopping is called "skidding," conformity is called "individualism," and scavenger hunts are called "races."

This is not to say, however, that cycling without coasting and circus behavior do not coexist in the United States. However, it isn't so much an urban subculture as it is an "extreme sport." Consider "extreme mountain unicyclist" Terry Peterson:

"Unlike a bike, you have to pedal every inch of the way. You can never coast," explains Peterson, who is apparently the only person left in the United States who has not heard of the "fixie" trend. Peterson does appear to use a brake though, and the lever is mounted underneath the nose of his saddle:

If you're wondering what makes his brand of unicycling "extreme," the sight of him barreling down a technical descent as he waves one hand wildly and uses the other to repeatedly squeeze a lever located in the vicinity of his genitals should give you some idea. He looks like he's "foffing off" while competing in a rodeo.

However, Peterson's brake lever is not nearly as fascinating as this incredible setup, spotted by a reader in Oslo, Norway:

A closer look reveals that this is the very rare "puppeteer" setup, in which the brake levers are actuated by wires:

This may very well be the most amazing cockpit setup I've seen all year, and as of now it is the clear favorite to win a coveted Cockpit of the Year award (otherwise known as the "Cockie"). You can also be sure that the bicycle industry will take note, and I expect Shimano's new "Marionette" group to be the big buzz at next year's Eurobike.

81 comments:

Astroluc said...

first

shoegazer said...

second!

Jomme said...

second

shoegazer said...

coasting

RANTWICK said...

Huh. Top 5?

CommieCanuck said...

booya

I am the meh engine said...

Natooke?

You got to be fucking kidding me.

Anonymous said...

I sat up

CommieCanuck said...

Deda knows, when it comes to a man's bars, it's not the length that matters, but the thickness. The Red ones are 35mm, the black ones are 40mm.

Awesome new cranks from 3T, now you can apparently change chainrings without removing the bottom bracket, and you can change crank arm lengths at will (fnarr fnarr).

ant1 said...

ant1st!

Stupid Name said...

"Denver and Boulder growing organically"

Yea, that is market research everybody needs on weed wednesday.

I think levi is smoking something when it hires douchebag pr/market research.

Esteemed Commenter DaddoOne said...

*wipes sleep from eyes*

huh?

Paul said...

Where is everyone?
Oh Snobby... maybe you've taken too many holidays? I think Fatherhood has turned you soft.
So, how long before wee-snobby is racing CX?

RANTWICK said...

Levis are looking into selling the "fixed gear and commuter movement"? While I commute on a fixed gear, I am strange, and I certainly wouldn't do it jeans skinny or otherwise. Thinking of the fixed gear and commuter movements together is like lumping figure skaters and hockey players into the same demographic.

I mean, what is hip about real bike commuting? Nothing, that's what. Note: Riding your bike to the bar is not commuting. Riding your bike to work is commuting. Fixed gear movement? Job? Wah?

Tom Hughes said...

You won't see that cockpit at Eurobike. It is not massively stiff or oversized (although it is vertically compliant). At best it could be labled "masochistic."

Naive and Malleable Consumer said...

we fooled 'em Snob, we have no disposable income!!!

Matt said...

Nothing is ever new. Thirty years ago a chum of mine did a cruise control on his 1972 Vega using a shift lever and cable attached to his gas pedal.

That market research sounds achingly authentic, especially the bit about wandering around the mall. Can't wait until the Relaxed Fit Dockers Skinny Jeans come out with a U-Lock strap by the right back pocket. Maybe that'll impress my daughter's friends.

mikeweb said...

Nice job, Astroluc!

Is that the new version of 'safety brakes'?

mikeweb said...

The "Econoline of Consumerism".

Tyler Durden would be proud.

leroy said...

It is better to have one's chain yanked than one's strings pulled.

But it is best to have one's finger pulled.

Big Brother said...

Ah, the fixed-gear world, where stopping is called "skidding," conformity is called "individualism," and scavenger hunts are called "races."

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.

-BB

WickedFixed said...

Snob, seeing as you were into the whole "punk" thing, thought you'd remember this

Is my cock big enough? Is my brain small enough for you to make me a star? Give me a toot I'll sell you my soul, PULL MY STRINGS and I'll go far.....Jello Biafra, The Dead Kennedy's

Bill Cosby said...

Did someone say Jello?

le Correcteur said...

Matt, 12:03pm:

That Dockers comment is pretty funny to us middle aged, teenage daughtered folks! Congrats!

le Correcteur

I Deraille said...

No Fat Parts!

Wacky Tobacky said...

Wednesday Weed is available from 69 dispensaries in Boulder area. Levi's, you hiring in the area?

I bet nobody suggested a 'secret stash' pocket, I suppose those Deda bars might have enough girth however..

CommieCanuck said...


But it is best to have one's finger pulled.


pfff...

hee hee hee hee

HIGH BROW

satanic slayer fan said...

drool drool drool drool drool drool, my payola!

Astroluc said...

COCK PITT "...of consumerism"

ooh,your stem is so... BEEFY

Stupid Name said...

"I bet nobody suggested a 'secret stash' pocket"


I bet that was the number one request.

I don't think Levi was asking how to redesign their products, just find some way to sell 70 dollar jeans to hipsters.

Boulder is not the center of the universe, they just think they are, and now apparently also does levi.

hillbilly said...

cockie-blocked!

Anonymous said...

Looks like Fluvio Acquati's tummy is oversized too.

Anonymous said...

Well said, RANTWICK.
the video parade of scensters is priceless.

While I commute on my "handmade single speed" daily (levi's says, "this guy might be marketing GOLD"), I do it in lycra so I can remove the sweat and feel clean quickly. I also do it with brakes b/c i'm not a douche. I also do it with a helmet b/c I'm not an idiot. I don't do it in tight cut off jeans and stupid cotton button-ups or designer t-shirts because I have common sense and I know a 45 minute commute in the clothes I plan on wearing for the rest of the day is stupid and gross.

peterabbit said...

Most of us were there for the $75 and free drinks. I don't think they really got as much useful information as they were hoping for -- most of the levis guys asking questions knew more about the "fixed gear scene" than the focus group participants.

3G said...

It also looks like Flavio's gut got oversized too.

Euro smoker said...

I am a "commuter" and I do not ride a fixie, but maybe the Levi´s people read this:
Folks, I WANT a 501 with strengthened crotch area, is that too much to ask for?

And as for the smokers...:

Cause I'm a picker
I'm a grinner
I'm a lover
And I'm a sinner
I play my music in the sun
I'm a joker
I'm a smoker
I'm a midnight toker
I sure don't want to hurt no one

Test Tickle said...

"people who have a need for massive stiffness." brought to you by Viagra

"do these bars make my cock look small?" brought to you by Deda

balls.

Paul Bowen said...

I was going to say that cockpit looks like Caractacus Potts or Heath Robinson designed it but of course they both would have incorporated an extendi-finger for the shifters.

gregoryyy said...

"Culture" , "trending walk",organically and finger on the pulse eh ? Well,go a bit higher Levi and and you'll see my raised middle finger.

How about asking those children in your sweat shops what they feel about Culture.

Anonymous said...

Mountain bike geometry is still improving.

Anonymous said...

anon 1:27

so to sum up you are: clean, not a douche or an idiot, you have common sense and are not stupid or gross. Congratulations didn't realize that mere application of lycra and a helmet could have such a significant positive impact on an otherwise dirty, stupid, gross douchebag.

Anonymous said...

how about a chamois in there? that'd be really comfortable with denim. in defense of levi, their jeans are pretty affordable. i think the last time i checked still like $40 a pair.

Jefe said...

Anonymous 3:09 and Anonymous 1:27, you anonymous types should be more supportive of one another. While you lack pseudonyms and cute little avatar pictures, your views are still important and appreciated. Just try and keep the passive/aggressive jibes to a healthy minimum.

SteveL said...

No to 35mm parts! Oh FFS I have enough problems with legacy 25.x stems and bars and the 31.8 stuff which you can't mix, and which really complicates the whole project of getting stuff onto the bars themselves. There may be some justification for 31.8 bars in the serious MTB world, but even for XC off-road, the old size of bar not only "did work", it still "does work", and with a common size for bars and stems your life is a lot simpler.

But 35mm? For road bikes? really? sounds like fashion has got in the way of functional

frilly said...

MikeWeb, you're tugging at my heartstrings.

*sigh*

Slappy said...

it is truly one of the most amazing cockies ever. . nice duct tape
you goin to interbike snobby better bring it

Anonymous said...

You know, my hands are kind of big and the handlebars are kind of small no matter how much tape I put on them, so I'm all for vacuum cleaner hose-sized handlebars. Make 'em big enough and you could store shit in them; D cell batteries, water bottles, Pringles. It's be great!

Ghost of Andre the Giant said...

I need 750mm handlebars made from solid titanium.

-AtG

PolisVille said...

Conform to trend and become an individual. We all know that only individuals need Bigger harder tubes to hold onto all while juggling their want to be the next Serge Huercio.
http://newvilleny.blogspot.com/

Martin W said...

The most amazing thing about that cockpit is that the owner has, by a very roundabout route, managed to reconstruct standard drop bars with supplementary levers and could have achieved almost exactly the same shape by just fitting a taller stem.

I am the cheap engine said...

Anon 3:16

Dude, you have not bought a pair of jeans since 1976. You probably bought it at a "County Seat".

That is where the old man (grandpa)
bought his last pair.

The interweb says they are a little more expensive.

http://us.levi.com/family/index.jsp?categoryId=3146926&cp=3146842.3146844.3146855

I cont make silly friction sounds when I walk said...

Oh by the way, has anybody worn "cords" since 1981?

Justin said...

Bike Snob you make me laugh! But your so wrong about fixie culture. Its not about fashion. Its about braking the rules!! You're rules!!

Anonymous said...

Coastiedouche here.I couldnt have said it any better. Between the Levis marketing to the Chinese interpretation of Fixie culture.That movement has become the Evil Knievel snake river canyon of shark jumping.Every day at school I see a new fixie bike at the bike stand w ill conceived parts/components that consistently defy the initial reason of riding a fixie.Obviously these riders are people that never have ridden bikes before and would normally be found at an anime convention or an illegal japanese/ import car street drag race chain smoking cigarretes.Oh yeah justin Fixie culture isnt breaking anything except the trust fund bank account Buying Pistas w hi end parts just to ride to the coffee shop and pose.

Anonymous said...

Cyclists everywhere are beefing up their bars in an attempt to get their hands on a "Cockie." Oh my.

Anonymous said...

marketing people are ALWAYS revolting idiots.

GT said...

Hey Bike Snob check this out:

http://www.news.com.au/national/missing-australian-boy-andrew-thompson-found-after-three-years/story-e6frfkvr-1225916241362

Is it swmug for a fireman to choose a bike as the best tool to seach an entire continent for a small child?

A 3 year quest with a happy ending definatly counts as EPIC!

cyclotourist said...

Pneumatic tires are this years big drop!

cyclotourist said...

BIGS TIFF

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

UNIC YCLE

cyclotourist said...

Organic culture grows in cow shit.

cyclotourist said...

MOWE RBAR

cyclotourist said...

I'll be here all week, folks!

Anonymous said...

@Justin,

Breaking Snob's rules and, apparently, grammar rules. Too cool for school?

Doug said...

Okay, I admit to a good belly laugh when I saw Marion-ette's cockpit. Levis.....meh. They closed the factory in San Francisco. No US-made jeans at all anymore. They kept an office there though, where everyone has a college degree. Just as well. Blue-collar folks aren't allowed in The City anymore anyway.

gregoryyy said...

It's true Doug,it's all true (sobs and covers face with paw) that's why I left.

I heard the Tenderloin is now a giant Prada or full of condos.

Notlob said...

Doesn't Deda know that men with small units buy giant pick-up trucks and or harley motorcylces?

Anonymous said...

vimeo vid is gone? any other source?

Anonymous said...

Dear Bike Snob NyC PhD, as we rapidly approach the equinox I'm finding your observations regarding northern hemisphere weather vaguely relatable, but before long you'll be writing about salted roads again (an essential phase in the lifecycle of the Bike Salmon) while I'll be sweating it out in one purple tank top or the other. Today I was commuting on my fenderless mtb in the rain when your PSA (Peeved Snob Admonishment) came to mind. I negotiate roads amidst the countryside/open-cut mine wasteland, so I made some geographically appropriate modifications: "FENDERS... BECAUSE IT'S PROBABLY ROADKILL JUICES". I have some geographically specific practices aimed at fostering good motorist/cyclist relations also. Aside from resisting the urge to reach out and skitch a 100kph ride behind a passing semi, I give my mtb a bit of extra purpose by transforming the verge beside the narrow crumbling sections of road into a personal bike lane, and where reasonable I stop to drag the larger roadkill off the thoroughfare - today it was a wombat. I thought I'd mention this last courtesy as it might be adaptable to New York City where the conscientious hipster (if such a thing exists) could drag away their fallen kin to avoid further traffic hazard and stinky mess. ce

Fergie said...

That Natook link is the site of Ines Brunn - The best artistic cycling rider to perform in NYC since the 1800's! She also rocked out on the very same Penny Farthing you rode at the BRA. Real cool person, and the best fixed gear rider around.

tegski said...

Interesting bar/brakes…maybe the rider has one arm? Higher bars mean less weight on the arm and can apply both brakes with one hand…perhaps :-)

Chris said...

Danger, calories ahead!

Anonymous said...

As a regular reader, you can imagine my surprise, Mr. BSNYC, upon spotting one of the original "Lone Wolves" in my area. I was on my weekend ride, in crossing a small pedestrian bridge (with tourist walkers and cyclists salmoning and cirlcing in various states of oblivion, as is wont to happen on a wide pedestrian bridge). Avoiding the flotsam of idiocy, I spotted a white 80's tarck bike with white disc wheels, sporting the olympic rings logo and "USA". Astride this steed was a mullett-sporting middle aged gentleman in fantasticly new white leather high-tops. He was explaining the virtues of his bike to a gaggle of non-ironic fanny-pack-wearing ladies from Ohio. I almost stopped. You can rest assured I will bring my camera phone on all rides in this area henceforeth

sarliaee said...

Just as “WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY and IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH”

Stopping is Skidding
Conformity is Individualism
scavenger hunts are races

Anonymous said...

31.8 didn't help anything? I kinda think it helped sort out the clusterfuck of 25.4, 26.0, and 26.4 clamp sizes for road bars. Plus it made POS sleeved bars a thing of the past. When was the last time you saw a sleeved 31.8 bar?

Pontius Pilate said...

HAIL CSZR

-P.P.

Anonymous said...

More puppetry:


http://www.recumbentblog.com/2009/08/21/e-bike-across-canada-for-10/

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fixie bikes said...

Smoking while biking seems like a terrible idea.

Tom Watson said...

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