Thursday, November 18, 2010

Strange Days: What Might Have Been

Call me Ishmael. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, and as Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. I enjoy the sleek locomotion of my fixed-gear like I enjoy a smooth, frictionless fuck, but if you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.

Having undoubtedly captured your attention with that artisanal steel-jaw leghold trap of an opening paragraph (inhumane traps are certain to replace axes as the must-have "North American backwoods revival" accessory for 2011), you now have some understanding of how I felt when I read the following gripping email this morning:

I'm writing this with tears in my eyes,my family and I came down here
to Scotland,United Kindom for a short vacation unfortunately we were
mugged at the park of the hotel where we stayed,all cash,credit card
and cell were stolen off us but luckily for us we still have our
passports with us.

We've been to the embassy and the Police here but they're not helping
issues at all and our flight leaves in less than hours from now but
having problems settling the hotel bills and the hotel manager won't
let us leave until we settle the bills,I'm freaked out at the moment.


A less considerate and/or more savvy blogger might have dismissed this as the overture to a scam, but I never shirk my responsibilities when it comes to helping others--even if they're in a faraway land of manskirt-wearing haggis eaters. So, keeping my composure, I replied as follows:

Dear Freaked Out At the Moment,

I'm very sorry to hear about your predicament. I know you're very afraid, but never fear. Help is on the way, for I have summoned the World's Most Agile Scotsman!

Sincerely,

--BSNYC/RTMS

PS: Tell the hotel manager to keep his skirt on.

PPS: You came down to Scotland? Where are you from, the North Pole?

Moments later, Danny MacAskill jumped out of a helicopter on his bike and disarmed and incapacitated the muggers in a blindingly fast series of wheelies, endos, tailwhips, bunny-hops, and other jumpy-spinny-type moves:


It was a lot like this:



Except it was much more graceful, and with bagpipes. I only wish I had been there to see it--and I would have, if only I wasn't such a coward. Anyway, I'm pleased to announce that Freaked Out At The Moment and family did manage to catch their flight--though it turns out they're not only Internet scam artists but also terrorists, so it looks like the World's Most Agile Scotsman is going to have to pull off one of his signature 39,000 foot bunny-hops and give that exploding printer cartridge the old backwheel "Whap!" treatment.


Sure, I know what you're thinking: "Whatever, it's only Staten Island. That will never happen here on the planet Earth." Won't it, though? Remember that "First they came..." poem:

and I didn't speak up because I didn't have a muffin top.

and I didn't speak up because I wasn't the King of Park Slope.

Then they came for the Lone Wolves of Staten Island,
and I didn't speak up because I didn't ride a Huffy with unhooked V-brakes and an enormous pie plate, and because who even goes to Staten Island anyway?

Then I just said "Fuck it," sold my "fixie" on Craigslist, and moved to Portland.

Soon, however, there will be nobody left to complain when the rest of the bike lanes get the "Whap!"


Incidentally, I should point out that "Whap!" is an innocent reference to the comic book hitting sound, and not a perverse reference to the now-defunct periodical Women Who Administer Punishment:

Though as cyclists, it's hard not to feel as though we're masochists without "a safe word." In fact, you don't even need to get on a bike to feel that way--or even leave the sidewalk, for that matter--since here in New York with simply leaving your house makes you fair game:

Yes, if you've ever longed to run somebody down in your car you'll be pleased to know that here in New York City "brake failure" and other similarly cartoonish mechanical explanations are a sufficient excuse. I once watched a car service driver speed through an intersection in reverse, pass within two feet of me, and finally came to a stop after destroying two parked cars. Naturally I stuck around to watch the aftermath, and I'm pleased to report that the officer accepted his explanation of a sticky accelerator pedal and let him go without so much as a summons. So if you have any arch-nemeses, adversaries, "frenemies," rich relatives who have already written you into their wills, or you simply see someone walking down the street and you don't like their pants, feel free to run them down. Then, when the police come, just tell them you had a sticky accelerator or your brakes didn't work or your satellite radio lost its signal and you were busy trying to fix it. It's the perfect crime--and if your car is made by Toyota (as the above-referenced Lexus is), it's positively iron-clad.

Clearly then, the way to solve the problem of dangerous driving is the same way you solve any municipal problem, and that's by coming at it head-on with a rap PSA sure to galvanize the youth into action:

New Rap, "Drive Safe New York," Targets Speeding on City Streets
November 17, 2010

Hip hop artist and physician, Dr. John Clarke, has composed a rap to promote slower automobile speeds in NYC and will present his recording Friday, at a traffic safety conference at NYU hosted by Transportation Alternatives and NYU's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. Clarke produced an award-winning rap about the H1N1 Flu for the U.S. Department of Health & Humans Services last year and has written other rhyming public health messages, including songs aimed at stopping HIV and watching "the gap" on commuter rail platforms.


While hip hop artist and physician Dr. John Clarke doesn't address the problem of speeding on city sidewalks, at least this is a start. By the way, if you can't wait until tomorrow and want to hear the "leak," you can do so here. I particularly enjoy the way Dr. Clarke manages to "flow" while citing statistics, much in the way that the Wu Tang Clan incorporated that Five Percenter math into their songs. It's also worth noting that Dr. Clarke's "Drive Safe New York" has a decidedly harder edge than his previous song, "Gap Rap," which dealt with teaching young people how to enter and exit Long Island Railroad trains safely:



At the time, critics were hard on Dr. Clarke--unfairly so, in my opinion--for failing to either incorporate or come up with suitable rhymes for stations such as "Speonk," "Patchogue," and "Ronkonkoma." Also, subsequent to "Gap Rap," the LIRR was subject to problems with its antiquated switching system that virtually crippled the nation's largest commuter rail and resulted in considerable fan backlash. Still, I think "Gap Rap" is a solid if not seminal work in the rap PSA genre, though to this day nothing rivals the TARC Bike Rack Rap for sheer danceability:



In any case, despite the best efforts of well-meaning people like Dr. Clarke, I think our worst days may be ahead of us--unlike recumbent riders, whose darkest day is well behind them. I was sifting through the comments on that New York Times recumbent article I mentioned on Monday when I found this:

April 1, 1934. Recumbents Banned from all UCI Sanctioned Racing:
Recumbents' Darkest Day.


The history of the recumbent bicycle is filled with intrigue. Only a few people today realize that the current surge in interest and ownership of recumbents is a "renaissance" of what occurred at the end of the previous century and in the early years of this one. The banning of recumbents from bicycle racing in 1934 had the effect of putting the recumbent bicycle design in the closet for fifty years, until it was re-discovered there primarily by MIT professor David Gordon Wilson and his students. To him, I and thousands of other laid-back cyclists will be eternally grateful.


Based on what I could gather from the article and from the comments, recumbent apologists apparently believe that, had it not been for that dark day on which the UCI banned them from competition, recumbents would have gone on to become the predominant form of racing bicycle. This in turn would mean that, today, recumbent riders would in fact be recognized as the "norm" instead of being simultaneously gawked at and feared as the freaks that they are. Presumably then, all recumbent riders are now tortured by this future that should have come to pass but never did, which to me lends them a completely new dimension and makes them all the more interesting, layered, and freakish. Indeed, Cormac McCarthy himself could not have "curated" a more complex and nuanced character than the recumbent rider. They even have their own mythology, centered around a tragic hero, "Francis Faure, brother of the famous cyclist Benoit Faure," otherwise known as the "King of the Nerds:"

At the start this event the other riders laughed at him and said: "Faure, you must be tired and want to go to take a nap on that thing. Why don't you sit up upright and pedal like a man?" They quit laughing when Faure poured his annoyance into the pedals and left them all behind. They couldn't even get close to him. Afterwards they were upset that they couldn't even draft his funny bike. One after the other Francis Faure defeated every first-class track cyclist in Europe, taking advantage of recumbents' clear aerodynamic superiority.. The following year Faure was practically unbeatable in 5000 meter distance events. Even in races against three or four top riders, who would alternate pacing a leader, Faure would leave the Velodrome in the yellow jersey.

This is why April 1st (April 1st being, appropriately enough, a day of mockery for the rest of the world) is observed as a day of mourning among recumbent riders, who gather their low-slung vehicles around a monument to Francis Faure, rend their garments, and fluff their beards in grief. To witness this ritual is to grieve, but even moreso to laugh--but try not to let them hear you, for they will impale you upon their safety flags.

And to think, we could have all been rolling doorstops:




There but for the grace of Lob, and so forth.

97 comments:

OBA said...

WHAP!

Anonymous said...

doh

Anonymous said...

Top Two in NJ Jaeger

CAMPIONE CYCLES CALGARY said...

finger guns!

Anonymous said...

mighty peculiar Momma!

Anonymous said...

::breakdances::
Top 10!

samh said...

Oh, 1934. It seems like only yesterday.

Anonymous said...

Ha

Anonymous said...

OK lets get to the real comments.

Anonymous said...

OK one more and the top ten thing is done

Astroluc said...

10th?

Indy Falconheads said...

Why do the words "Hip hop artist and Doctor" make me laugh?

Thanks Snob!

samh said...

But, Anon 12:36, my comment was a real one.

ant1 said...

ant1st!

Anonymous said...

toptwapeeel!

Anonymous said...

Hey Ladies!!!!

thomas said...

It's unfortunate that riders like Macaskill take Red Bull sponsorships. No athlete, er, anyone, should be drinking that crap.

hillbilly said...

all you zombies show your faces

g said...

I think I read an article recently about a guy that, while driving 80 in a 45 zone, ran over and killed a kid on a bike that was suing the kids parents for contributory negligence because the kid wasn't wearing a helmet.

That's some real kinda screwed up.

Rick said...

We in Louisville thank you for recognizing our awesomeness?

crosspalms said...

Sounds like Staten Island needs a visit from Lady Is the Boss.

RANTWICK said...

I wonder if that Trials bike guy on America's Got Talent has any WHAP! abilities... if they are hte same as his riding abilities compared to MacAskill, I fear for those who he attempts to save...

the lone digitizer said...

boycott rockstar mental wash the devious scum
michael 'savage' weiner arch rightwing douchebag
being the owner of said swill factory.
whap indeed...

Anonymous said...

I'll admit it. I'm recumbent-curious.

grog said...

saturday morning cartoons just not what they used to be

Gap Rap Whap! said...

In the second wave!

CAMPIONE CYCLES CALGARY said...

Ok, so you have your book. What next? A compilation album (disc? Downloadable music thingy?)!!!!! Put all the snappiest, danciest, thought provokingiest, bicycle-related songs together in one package! I see a MC hammer/girl talk/ celine dionne cover collabo!


I will make some calls!

Anonymous said...

Recumbents in velodromes! With all that speed it's a wonder anybody survived ... or did they? Perhaps level-headed cyclists need to keep a damper on 'bent riders enthusiasm for their own safety. Only old, dorky guys are sufficiently enfeebled to safely ride a recumbent (the beard helps slow them down, too).

Anonymous said...

CAMPIONE CYCLES CALGARY,

If I had to guess, I would say BSNYC will soon be 'dropping' some handlebar extensions and pie plates inscribed with quirky quotes.

Michael said...

Sweet mercy, those NYT comments. Where to begin?

It’s fascinating to experience how, no matter how ‘different’ they make their bicycles, the majority of cyclists seem to have an aversion to trying a truly ‘different’ bike.
Even if it’s just as uncommon as a cargo bike or a tandem, much less a recumbent design.
There must be some sort of reason for that...


...and...

...an Aero bent on a good down hill or flat road will knock your socks off add a fairing and body sock and your pants and shoes will fly off as well!

Il Douche said...

At least I made the fucking trains run on schedule.

Udder said...

Thank god recumbents never became the norm. I'm unable to grow a decent beard. Wait, I can't be a fixie hipster either!!

Grump said...

It's a good thing that recumbents were outlawed in 1934.....I can't imagine Greg LeMond with a beard.

Frank Eeckman said...

fixie recumbents or recumbent cyclocross, take your pick!

Anonymous said...

According to Wikipedia, it is Michael Savage's son that runs the company that makes Rockstar. I'm conservatve, but based on Savage's involvement, I'll never drink the s**t again.

cycle

Anonymous said...

Snob, would you give a say to this picture? Yes, it is "the joy of cycling."

http://urbanvelo.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/joy_of_cycling.jpg

recumbent conspiracy theorist said...

I'm sure Faure was no diminutive Frenchman.

Travis said...

So let it be written, so let it be done. We shall make April 1st the Recumbent "Mourning in the Morning" event where we gather together, cry onto our bellies, and fluff our beards.

mikeweb said...

"The Joy of Cycling", excellent! I'll check it out before my next ride on my Alex Comfort bike.

Ronsonic said...

Why would anybody want to ride a recumbent. Part of the fun of a bike is freedom of travel, take a shortcut through the woods or a park whenever you like. Bent's are so completely bound to the pavement that they can't even hop a curb. They can barely U turn on a two lane street. Where's the fun in that. Sure they can go fast in a straight line, if there are no hills involved, but that's about it.

crosspalms said...

Searched the Joy of Cycling in vain for any mention of spoke nipples. Very disappointing.

recumbent conspiracy theorist said...

Recumbents can't climb or go offroading? Watch this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7TjM788JK70&feature=player_embedded

Grammar Nazi said...

Whap! Great use of the onomatopoeia.

streepo said...

I'm writing this with tears in my eyes. Tears of joy. Kung Fu fights on bicycles has to the greatest idea ever.

Quicksquirt McHurt said...

I'd hit it.

She makes Jackie Chan look spontaneous.

recumbent conspiracy theorist said...

Here's some pics from Anne Dussert who is riding a recumbent trike across the Himalayas from Tajikistan to Tibet.
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=27109&id=104401569598105

bikesgonewild said...

...ishmael/bsnyc/rtms...

...thanks for that "speed challenge" video @ the end of today's post...

...i watched it for 4 hours before i realized i had hit the "reset" icon but hey, either way, that's pretty exciting stuff in the world of recumbents...

...thanks again...

MyWorld said...

Everybody was kung-fu bmx'n....they nearly had her with those artisinal shovels. Surely Danny Boy would have made quicker work of that crew.

Stranded said...

I always wanted to try some recumbent mountain biking. At least when I fall on my ass, it'll be a shorter trip. Then too, in one of those covered recumbents, you'd be safer from dogs. Or you could rig pepper spray jets on the sides, so you'd have a human-powered mini-Batmobile (for those who are old enough to remember who Adam West was).

Anonymous said...

@ Quicksquirt

I think this time it'll hit you.

WHAP WHAP

Clark said...

Was Rudolph the red nosed reindeer actually a recumbent deer?

Philip said...

Forget 'Lady is the Boss', here's 'Angel Summoner and BMX Bandit'

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFuMpYTyRjw

Pontius Pilate said...

HAIL CSZR

-P.P.

redvic said...

Umm, no, John Smeaton is the Most Agile Scotsman: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Smeaton_(born_1976)

Anonymous said...

Monty Capuletti....best thing to come out of Staaten Island

g-roc said...

"simultaneously gawked at and feared as the freaks that they are"

Weep like a woman for what you could not defend like a man.

Anonymous said...

I don't see what the problem is on Staten Island. Here in Ottawa the city engineers have come up with an ingenious solution: shared bus-bike lanes! Yes, they decided to put buses and bikes in the same lane... oh wait, maybe there is a problem with that...

ken e. said...

"how many of these ridiculous things are there in the universe mr. sagan?"

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who thinks that a frictionless fuck would be rather unsatisfactory? You gotta have a little bit of friction, at least.

Anonymous said...

Best thing in Staten Island is "By the Ferry".

10,000 Aches said...

Dear Anon 1:01,

You get the funniest post prize in my book today with your...

"I'll admit it. I'm recumbent-curious."

Too Funny

great american novelist said...

Oh, anon 4:27, do you have to be so literal? Next you'll tell me Gregor Samsa only FELT like an insect.

Anonymous said...

When the skate style of XC skiing was introduced to XC ski racing, it caused a similar rift amongst XC ski racers as the introduction of the recumbent did to bicycle racing. The skate technique is inherently faster, and as such athletes who refused to ditch the 'classic' technique were unable to compete.

But instead of banning skate skiing, a new class of racing was developed. So now, if you want to race but prefer the slower and markedly different stride of 'classic' or 'diagonal' skiing, you can do so without get your ass handed to you by skate skiers.

Not to say that one style is better than the other (although one is certainly faster than the other, given a groomed course), just that the styles are different enough to understand why some people would prefer one over the other. Just as some cyclists love 'bents, and some don't.

So why didn't 'bent racers just form their own league? Was the UCI operated like some sort of race organization mafia, where you either raced with them, or ran the risk of waking up to find the severed headtube of your favorite bike on your pillow?

mikeweb said...

anon 4:43, great point!

Something similar to this, except for 'bents.

frilly said...

Did I mention the tri guy shaves?

Anonymous said...

I've noticed that since I grew my beard out (no hipster!), my seatpost has started to bend backwards. I had initially thought that this was ordinary metal fatigue resultant from an increased stress load (namely the increased aerodynamic drag of my beard), but now I think that something much more sinister is occurring.

As the seatpost bends back, my riding position moves further aft of the cranks, and ever so slightly closer to the ground! Plus, I keep have to readjust the saddle angle because the movement of the post causes me to tilt back and lose myself in the sky above.

If my cranks started moving forward, I'm definitely cutting the frame into four pieces, scattering them to the four corners of town, and burying the bottom bracket at a crossroads.

yikesbikes said...

Why do people still insist on posting boring YouTube videos with blatant disregard for people's time (referring to the hover recombinant at the end of the post)? 10 seconds of that video would have sufficed. To think of all the hilarity that could replace those other minute and 32 seconds...

Celery Man anyone?

bikesgonewild said...

...yikesbikes...

...you mean those 3 hours, 59 minutes & 50 seconds ???...

...although i must admit, i WAS pretty fascinated the whole time...

Anonymous said...

I think that video has replaced the swinging pocket watch among amateur hypnotists. "When you awake you will remember nothing. But when I say 'recumbent' you will do my bidding..."

crosspalms said...

frilly, a previous issue of WHAP magazine has a story headlined "Men ARE Dogs -- Let's Train Them to Obey Us!"

Just in case...

And if your local library doesn't have it, maybe Snob will share.

LK said...

Why would I want to ride in a tent?

Oh - Pants yabbies.

PawnShop said...

Until March 31, 1934, recumbents were vastly superior for climbing, compared to conventional racing bikes. It's all gone downhill since then.

Gap Rap Whap! said...

Grammer Nazi-thanks!

Michael said...

Dear Snob:

You absofuckinlutely have got to
take a look at:
http://wimp.com/bicycleskill/

Enjoy and Godspeed,
Mike

Jim inBako said...

After I demonstrate to her how a recumbent works we go to my place for laid back sex.

cyclotourist said...

ACCI DENT

Tyler's Chimera said...

So if Lance Armstrong only has one nut does his frame biuld take the unequal weight distribution into consideration? And. If I, a dual nutted individual were to purchase this frame fourth hand. Would I, unkonowingly be riding in immense circles?

studioe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Promise Keeper said...

You live in Ronkonkoma?

Yo you must be in a coma!

studioe said...

How could TRON be wrong?

http://www.dino.co.uk/blogbox/random/tron_legacy_recumbent.jpg

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

A little freaked out at the moment? Oh what I wouldn't give to be a little freaked out at just the moment. A moment. Just a moment.

I'm a little freaked out all the time. All the time, man.

You know the Dennis Hopper character from Apocolypse Now? It's like he's stuck in my head, man. Like stuck in my head.

It's like realizing that if recumbents are outlawed, only outlaws will ride recumbents.

It's like reading Bust magazine and figuring out that the articles are art not science, but only after pretending to fix a flat on the Williamsburg Bridge all day.

It's like that, man. Only like more intense.

Send meds. For the love of God, send meds now.

Or chocolate. Chocolate is good too.

What were we talking about any way?

DaveinNZ said...

Ha, being Scottish (but an infrequent kilt wearer) I'm not surprised to read about the plight of the flight missers. Where I'm from you'd get blood from a rock before you'd get good service from anyone in the 'hospitality' business. Snob, where do you stand on the folding bike idea? I got one to avoid theft and because out flat is small. Maybe more folders would reduce theft in NY....

yogisurf said...

Cat 7 WHAP.

Anonymous said...

Jesus, Leroy, I have long thought that you are a friggin' genius, but this seals the deal.

Or maybe it's all the white wine talking.

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cyclotourist said...

GAPW ATCH

ozzies older mother said...

i'm building a nitros oxide powered blender and bar stool combo. zero to sickly in 10 seconds.
one handed.

hector said...

These are great post! Enjoyed reading your article. Thanks a lot!

Anonymous said...

that dood in the recumbent should have got a sponsorship from a fertility drug company and hung a tail on his vessel of choice....VOC

Anonymous said...

Team Spermcycle!

A jizzy bunch of looney tuner's that won there first race to the egg now band together to feel rad!

Jukeman said...

My dick, beard, and testosterone will Bruce Campbell you all to hell!

Anonymous said...

Here what i found -> vision correction

Recumbent bike said...

a good video Lady Is the Boss....mighty it is peculiar

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Fixie Bikes said...

Staten Island is terrible, this act should surprise no one.

Anonymous said...


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