Friday, July 23, 2010

BSNYC "Summer Reese's" Announcement! (and Friday Fun Quiz!)

(Spotted in Paradise, CA by a reader.)

Firstly, I am pleased (for myself) to announce that I will be embarking upon a short "Summer Reese's." This Reese's will start as of the end of this post and continue through next week, until I return on Monday, August 2nd with regular updates. In the meantime, I will continue to update my Universal Sports Tour de France-themed webular blog, and if I have any other urgent news, insights, or complaints to relate to you I will do so by means of my "Twitter" social networking account.

Secondly, I've received a number of questions recently as to the availability (or lack thereof) of my book from a popular online South American river-themed retailer. As I mentioned not too long ago, due to the apparent popularity of the book (people seem to be buying large quantities and burning them in protest), both the retailer and my publisher have sold out of copies, and right now we are, as they say in the book publishing industry, "waiting for new copies to arrive." This should happen in the first week-ish of August, at which point they will be shipped to any booksellers who need or want them, such as the river-themed one. (I would do this myself, except that I can't afford an appropriately smug Metrofiets, and even if I could it would probably take me roughly nine years to complete the deliveries.) In the meantime, other retailers both online and traditional may still have copies, or I might recommend just reading the engrossing "Sweet Valley High" series of books for young adults instead.

Also, before I gas up the fan boat and hit the swamps of New Jersey for my vacation, I'll mention that the New York Times has published an article about New York City's new and evolving mountain bike trails:

I should point out that last week I criticized the local media for focusing on the more inane elements of the fixed-gear trend while ignoring the positive effect these new and legal mountain bike trails have had on the parks, and so I'd like to not only thank the New York Times for publishing this article but also pretend they read my post and take full credit for it. However, in keeping with my tradition of complaining about everything, I'd like to complain about some things contained in the following excerpt, since I ride at Cunningham Park often:

Firstly, I realize the New York Times style manual requires its reporters to assume that everybody in New York City lives either in downtown Manhattan or the Brooklyn brownstone belt, but the truth is getting to the trailhead at Cunningham Park is not hard at all if you live near Cunningham Park, which many thousands of people actually do. (Yes, New York Times, actual human beings do live east of the Van Wyck Expressway, and some of them even possess the education it requires to read your paper.) Anyway, this is less a complaint about the article than it is about the New York Times in general, and certainly Cunningham Park is not close to everybody (including me)--which is why I'll also point out that, if you're one of these people and need or want to reach it by public transportation, the Long Island Railroad is a good option and the trails are a pretty short ride from the station in Hollis. I'd also like to complain that, despite being one-way as the article points out, Cunningham does have its share of "trail salmon," who can often be seen riding shirtless on rickety bikes with pie plates. Lastly, it just so happens I was there the day the photographs in the article were taken, and this rider was wearing an All Hail the Black Market jersey:

The Times could have at least gotten it in focus.

Anyway, watch out for poison ivy.

I am now pleased to present you with a quiz. As always, study the item, think, and click on your answer. If you're right then go buy yourself something nice and feel free to take a vacation yourself, and if you're wrong you'll see anime (crash) porn.

Thanks very much for reading, ride safe, and I'll see you on August 2nd.

--BSNYC/RTMS

cc: Vito the Monkey








1) What is Alberto Contador doing to Andy Schleck at the end of Stage 17?






2) During his Stage 15 victory salute, Thomas Voeckler exposed his:






3) According to Carlos Sastre, bicycle racing has become:






4) This is the start of:








5) According to ESPN, "Bike polo isn't really for the ____:"

--Timid
--Talented
--Feint of heart [sic]
--Mature






6) How much do "fixie" lessons cost in Amsterdam?







("For the hundredth time, I'm not Joe Mantegna!")

7) After being cut off by a cab while cycling in the bike lane and injuring his elbow, Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa made the following observations:





***Special Caption Contest-Themed Bonus Question***



The winning caption for this week's "Caption Contest" in The New Yorker was:


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Dubious Innovations: The "Curation" Is Worse Than the Disease

(Alberto Contador's new corporate logo, via Cycle Jerk.)

Yesterday's post, in which I pointed out that a pair of Garmin-Slipstream team bikes were being auctioned on eBay, has apparently caused quite a bit of controversy on the other side of the "Hotlantic Ocean"--particularly in France, where some sort of big bike race is taking place. Indeed, a reader informs me that team director Jonathan Vaughters was barraged with questions during the rest day in Pau. While I'm not exactly sure what the reporters were asking him, I do have a pretty good idea, for as you can see he looks like a deer in the headlights (albeit a pretentious deer with a private school education and a subscription to "The Nation"):

The New Yorker magazine cover model Eustace Tilley (illustrated), fashion designer Perry Ellis (deceased), and noted ascot enthusiast Thurston Howell, III (fictional) have reportedly already received subpoenas, and in conjunction with the now-infamous email confession of his dry cleaner, their testimonies could finally spell the end of Vaughters's argyle-print reign of terror.

Speaking of fashion choices, with the Aerospoke carbon composite bicycle wheel still the first choice of "tarck" bike riders all over the world, it's easy to forget both their humble beginnings as a heavily-discounted item in the "secret website" catalog, as well as the other types of cyclists who also embrace Aerospoke's not particularly light and not particularly aero technology. One such cyclist is the New York City food delivery person, and here is a perfect example of the sort of bicycle on which your overpriced Thai food will arrive should you "order in" in Manhattan:

In Brooklyn the "hipsters" have begun to take over the food delivery industry, and it's simultaneously frustrating and amusing to see them balancing boxes containing expensive wood fired pizzas on the bullhorn handlebars of their "fixies" as they salmon their way down major avenues. (I'm sure a New York Times "Spokes" article about the gentrification of restaurant food delivery will now be forthcoming.)

In Manhattan, however, a different type of rider and bicycle remains king. With front and rear disc brakes, suspension, motocross-style "filth prophylactics," and a full complement of gear ratios, these are the antithesis of the bicycles ridden by their liberal arts degree-holding food delivery brethren across the "Big Skanky." The one thing both groups have in common, though, is that despite riding heavily customized bicycles, neither one will add a single component that actually facilitates food "portaging." In the case of the Manhattan delivery people, you might think that at some point during the two-hour process of wrapping the frame in helicopter tape it might also occur to the owner to add a basket, but evidently this is not the case. It will occur to them to race you, however; even if you're not racing at all, and even if they have a 20lb thermal food bag dangling from the handlebars. In any case, the "old school" delivery person in the dirty apron riding a Worksman is becoming an increasingly rare site (which is a shame because they were much easier to beat in a race).

In other cycling "tech" news, on Tuesday I mentioned a "revolutionary" new chainring design (apparently "revolutionary" now means "pointless"), and a reader has subsequently informed me that it is in fact so revolutionary that it's already been done (albeit on the rear):

Apparently, the revolution will be both pointless and redundant.

For the ultimate in pointlessness, though, you really have to install a CVT on a CSSB, or "Central Storage System for Bicycles," brought to you by "Tato" and forwarded to me by a number of readers:
The Tato is specifically designed to carry objects that are narrow and oblong, and now you can finally have that dedicated laptop, board game box, or coffee table book porteur bike you've always dreamed of owning. And if that wasn't smart enough, they've also designed it into a 26-inch mountain bike platform, which is great if you need to get that game of Parcheesi through a heavily wooded area in a big hurry. I particularly enjoyed the assertion that "rear and front carriers make your bike difficult to ride and park," and that there's "no need to use accessories to secure items" on this bike--as if being able to hang a bag on your bike and then carry that bag around with you were a problem instead of the huge convenience that it actually is.

Of course, the "making something that really isn't a problem seem like one" approach is a classic component of any sales pitch. In particular, it's used to stunning effect in infomercials, which always contain that short clip of a very frustrated person struggling to do something commonplace. Take for example this infomercial for "Wonder Hangers," in which, at :37 seconds, we see a woman vainly fighting with her non-Wonder Hangers:

Note that the video goes from color to black and white to underscore the primitive nature of the technology she's using, and notice how she grits her teeth and becomes enraged as she tries to access her favorite shirt.

You can also see it in the infomercial for the "Emery Cat." At about :06 seconds, an innocent woman is practically mauled by her beloved house pet:

If only she had purchased the "Emery Cat," today she might still have both her eyes.

One day I will string all of these "making something that really isn't a problem seem like one" infomercial moments together into an "epic" Citizen Kane of Futility (alas, it seems it's already been done), but in the meantime I will ponder how difficult cycling is without a front-wheel drive power assist, via another reader:


I know what you're thinking: "That's hideous." However, you're sure to change your mind when you see it with the fairing:

(Wind-cheating schnoz provides maximum efficiency.)

If that bicycle had a "CSSB" instead of a rear rack it would be almost perfect.

Given the proliferation of power-assisted bicycles, it's worth pondering at what point one is simply better off just purchasing a motorcycle or scooter. This is not an easy question to answer, but when one needs to carry both a road bike and a unicycle with aerobars (as "tweeted" by "Sup Cat") one has clearly reached that point long ago:

I wonder of both the unicycle and the bicycle belong to the motorcycle owner, or if one belongs to a passenger and together they're about to embark on a Fellini-esque "epic."

Meanwhile, the proprietor of the "Slice Harvester" blog has spotted what may very well be the ultimate in STI lever cockpit "curation:"

My best guess is that the rider simply grips the brake levers and shifts with a flick of the wrists. I would love to see this in action, and it must be like watching somebody in a motel shower trying to get the water temperature just right. Really, the only thing that would make this cockpit more fascinating would be some additional hand positions, which could be achieved with an additional set of handlebars and the judicious application of duct tape, as seen on the Problem Solvers blog:

This must be how Minneapolis beat Portland.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Street Justice: Crime and Punishment

As the competitors in the Tour de France professional bicycle racing race enjoy their rest day, the world of cycling was rocked by the news that Serbian rider Ivan Stevic was ejected from the Tour of Quinghai Lake professional bicycle racing race (which experts predict will eclipse the Tour de France in popularity by 2015) for "aggressive saluting:"

Unlike the infamous Mark "Man Missile" Cavendish salute in the Tour of Romandie, which was directed at the journalists who "know jack shit about cycling," Stevic's gesture was directed "at his team's mechanic who had previously joked about his form." Here is a picture of the mechanic, who took the ribbing with typical Southern good humor:

In addition to being thrown out of the race, Stevic received a fine of 1,000 Swiss Francs (or roughly 1,400 Tunisian Dinars), which is equal to what both of the participants in the infamous post-Stage 6 front wheel bludgeoning incident were charged. Incidentally, it's worth noting that this fight was broken up in part by former professional cyclist and Versus commentator Frankie Andreu:

Who charged boldly into the scrum despite having only a pair of flip-flops and a bib bearing the number "69" for protection:

In any case, I think the UCI is making far too much of these supposedly "obscene" victory salutes, and as long as the "pants yabbies" remain inside the bibs everything else is fair game.

Speaking of "fair game," among Floyd Landis's allegations was the claim that the Discovery Channel cycling team sold their team bikes for drug money, and while team director Johan Bruyneel of course denies the drug part he has confirmed that the team indeed sold bikes on eBay:

Intrigued that I might perhaps be able to score a good deal, I headed straight over to eBay, and while I was unable to find any bicycle offerings from any Bruyneel-"curated" teams I did find a brace of Garmin-Slipstream bikes. There was a road bike:

As well as a time trial bike:

Both had been raced in the 2009 season, and both were being offered by a seller named "jonathanrider1," along with numerous other pieces of Garmin-Slipstream kit. Since to my knowledge there were no riders named Jonathan on Garmin-Slipstream in 2009 (and since the bikes were different sizes), I dismissed the idea that this was a former team member making a private sale. This left only one Jonathan--team director Jonathan Vaughters. Clearly, I had stumbled upon his brazen scheme to sell team bicycles in order to either fund a doping program, or else to fund his insatiable wine, tweed, and ascot habit.

Of course, anybody who's either followed cycling for awhile or hunted for online bargains knows that lots of this pro cycling crap eventually winds up on eBay one way or another, and without a subpoena I have no way of knowing for sure who "Jonathanrider1" really is, so while I briefly considered taking my Garmin-Slipstream discovery to Floyd Landis I opted instead to help indirectly by making a sizeable donation to the Floyd Fairness Fund.


As Landis explained back in 2007, the Floyd Fairness Fund was "a fund set up first of all primarily to cover the legal fees in my case and hopefully in future to help other athletes who have to deal with this also." This raises the interesting question as to whether Landis will make Floyd Fairness Fund funds available to the numerous riders he has named in his confession. This would save them the indignity of having to sell their own bib shorts.

I didn't have long to ponder this, however, for I was soon distracted from the question of which pro cycling teams are selling stuff and why by video evidence of a pair of NYPD officers hitting a cyclist while driving the wrong way and then leaving the scene without reporting the incident:

Here is the actual video:



While some people outside of New York City might find this shocking, the only thing that surprises me about the actual incident is that the police even bothered to give the victim a tissue. Of course, the only reason the officers are actually being charged for this is because the incident was caught on video, and the unfortunate truth is that the only way we can expect the people whose salaries we pay to be accountable for their actions is to surrender any semblance of privacy--or at least keep video cameras strapped to our heads at all times. Failing that, it's helpful to keep in mind that, like any large company, in practice the police department exists not to serve its ostensible purpose but rather to sustain itself and protect its own interests. (Until you get to the federal level, of course, where law enforcement agents spend your money on important work, like investigating celebrity athletes.) To put it in "Zenlike Vroonenese," while Apple may be able to get away with selling you an overpriced phone that is susceptible to a "death grip," the police can get away with putting you in a death grip. The crucial difference is that Steve Jobs can't actually force you to buy the phone.

This is not to say we don't need law enforcement--we most certainly do, especially given the apparent increase in "ride-by gropings." A few weeks ago a groper was on the loose in Santa Monica, and now a reader informs me that another has struck repeatedly in the Portland area. Moreover, he seems to have a "thing" for women pushing strollers:

In Portland, this sort of thing is considered a serious crime, but in New York City it's just a Craigslist "missed connection."

Speaking of crime and surveillance cameras, a reader in Philadelphia has sent me this video of a bicycle theft in progress:



Unable to get the bicycle over the street sign, the thief actually enlists a neighbor, who not only helps him but also lends him a ladder, proving that Philadelphia is indeed the city of brotherly love.

Given the intrigue and thrills of urban cycling, it's no surprise that Hollywood is revisiting the fertile subject that produced the movie "Quicksilver" almost a quarter of a century ago (as well as the unfortunate sitcom "Double Rush" about a decade later.) This time, the movie is called "Premium Rush," and a number of readers have informed me it's finally in production and stars the guy from the sitcom "3rd Rock from the Sun:"


Here's the gripping plot:

The story follows a 20-something-year-old bike messenger who somehow gets involved in a chase across New York City. And we’re not just talking about a little chase but big budget William Friedkin-style action sequences. Apparently a dirty cop is “desperate to get his hands” on an envelope the messenger received from Columbia University.

Presumably we'll have to wait for the movie's release to find out what's in the envelope, but my guess is it contains photographs of the dirty cop running down a cyclist.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Making A Point: Paint, Sponges, and Determination

Obviously the big Tour de France news yesterday (aside from "Sunglassesgate") was Alberto Contador's counter-attack on Andy Schleck while the latter struggled with his recalcitrant drivetrain. Contador's move was tremendously controversial, since in the French sporting world any action that results in victory is considered unseemly. (Thomas Voeckler is exempt from this due to his appropriately disproportionate failure-to-success ratio.) Consequently, Camp Contador went into "damage control" mode, and in an attempt to cap the gushing crude oil of negative public opinion they "dropped" this apology "edit:"



I was especially pleased to see that Contador employed the new "corporate fingerbang" insigniaway:

This lent the video that important "Contador: A Brand You Can Trust" feeling, and it was almost (but not quite) enough to overcome the fact that it was shot in a cheap hotel room about as artfully as a celebrity sex tape.

Still, it's doubtful that this video will be sufficient to turn opinion in his favor--especially when he has already been judged in high-minded fashion by the Last Word In All Things Cycling, Gerard Vroomen of Cervelo:

(Wisdom emanates constantly from The Vroomen.)

No hastily-uploaded hotel apology could possibly counteract the power of a clever flip-the-words-around-for-emphasis sound bite "tweeted" by a man with a thoughtful expression and an authoritative and clinical lack of hair.

Meanwhile, in an attempt to understand what exactly happened to Andy Schleck's drivetrain yesterday, Last Word On All Things Cycling Tech (Provided They Cost Over A Thousand Dollars) Lennard Zinn has authored a 1,600-word technical document that basically says he dropped his chain:

So, we’re left with my original theory. LZ’s Schleck chain-drop theory in a nutshell: ‘twas a perfect storm of upshifting under load with a derailleur that has a big loop on it to snag the cogset when the chain drops off the bottom to the inside of the small chainring.

It seems to me that Zinn could have simply "tweeted" the words "he dropped his chain." Not only would this have been simpler, but he would have had an extra 120 characters left to engage in some Zenlike Vroonenese wordplay:


Incidentally, Zenlike Vroonenese is very similar to Yakov Smirnoffese:

Of course, Schleck could have obviated the issue of chain-droppage altogether if he had used this revolutionary new chainring design, which was forwarded to me by a reader:

"By removing the rear derailleur and cassette, the mass is relocated between the riders feet and away from the suspension, which gives much better small bump response, as well as increased grip and cornering ability," explains the designer, and I'm sure you'll agree that this a far more elegant and practical solution than a single chainring and a Rohloff Speedhub.

In any case, Andy Schleck was not the only rider with a stomach full of anger after yesterday's stage. Nicolas Roche (who Phil Liggett will duly remind you at every opportunity is the son of Stephen Roche) was also so angry at his teammate John Gadret that he actually threatened to take his life:


Indeed, on the very climb on which Schleck was undone by his SRAM Red drivetrain, Nicolas Roche asked Gadret for his wheel, to which Gadret simply replied, "Non:"

As our team car was No 11 in the cavalcade and it would take a lot of time for them to get to me through the streams of dropped riders, I asked Gadret -- who was there to help me -- for his wheel. I couldn't believe what happened next. He just shook his head and said 'Non'. At first I thought he was joking, but soon realised he wasn't when he kept riding past me.

By the way, "Non" is actually French for "No," which should help frame the incident in its proper linguistic and cultural context.

Speaking of cultural contexts, while I was browsing the Irish Independent I also noticed this article about yet another naked bike ride:

Apparently, this sordid procession delighted motorists, who "largely stared and whooped and gave the cavalcade the thumbs-up." (Though thumbs up what the article did not specify.) Yes, nothing is more delightful than "paint, sponges and determination:"

In Cork yesterday, it was all paint, sponges and determination at the day's first stop -- the pre-ride painting party.

While these elements may have characterized the "pre-ride painting party," unfortunatly at the after party it was all mineral spirits, loofahs, and sore crotches.

I wonder if there will be also paint, sponges, and determination at the Fifth Annual Fixed-Gear Symposium in Traverse City, Michigan, because I do know there will be "tight events:"

By which the organizers obviously mean "artistic cycling:"

As well as the usual assortment of bicycle-themed social activities:

While the "media" prefers to focus on the "outlaw" element in fixed-gear cycling, it's easy to forget that just as many if not more fixed-gear cyclists are simply complete dorks. Fortunately, we have the Fixed-Gear Symposium to remind us of this, as well as of an age when the reassuring countenance of Sheldon Brown (and not the collective faux scowl of "crews" like "MASHSF") was the face of fixed-gear cycling. Basically, it's like a Star Trek convention, but for "fixies."

I did note, however, that there was no mention of a skidding contest, and I can't help but wonder of the time-honored tradition of the inanely "epic" sliding stem-hump has finally come to an end. Here's some thrilling footage from the contest that took place at the 2006 Symposium:



If it is indeed the end of competitive skidding, then perhaps it's all for the best, since if you get excited by watching living creatures remain stock-still while riding slow-moving objects you can always watch dog surfing:



Sure, it looks cute, but 147 dogs lost their lives at sea that day. This one survived, though, thanks to his owner's well-honed "portaging" technique:

In lieu of a skidding contest, I think the organizers of the Fixed-Gear Symposium should hold a "disembodied hand" contest. The disembodied hand is as essential to bicycle photography as the rifle was to frontiersman portraiture, and here's an excellent example that was forwarded to me by a reader:


As well as a photograph of the actual body from which the hand was most likely disembodied:

Speaking of drawing conclusions, another reader forwarded me the following photo of a Brooks saddle he spotted while visiting New York City recently:

As any Brooks apologist will tell you until you politely insist that they be quiet, a Brooks saddle will eventually conform to the contours of one's anatomy, so one wonders what sort of cavernous crotchal region this particular rider must possess. It's enough to make you scratch your head with your pencil--which can be dangerous if it has just come back from the "artisanal pencil sharpener" (as forwarded by yet another reader):


I suppose "artisanal pencil sharpening" is better than "anal pencil sharpening."