Friday, August 27, 2010

BSNYC Friday Fund Quits!


(Catching up on emails.)

Firstly, in the spirit of all that is "epic," I am pleased to announce that I will fuse next week's Labor Day weekend with the coming workweek, thereby creating an "epic"-length holiday weekend for myself that will begin, well, now. Rest assured that I plan to use this "epic" weekend productively by spending time with family, sending hundreds of Dominos pizzas to the offices of Transportation Alternatives, and washing my fleet of 1,000 bicycles. (Insert your suggestive "polishing my Big Dummy" pun of choice here.) All of this is a complicated way of saying that I will not be here next week, but that I will return on Tuesday, September 7th with regular updates.

In the meantime, even though I will be on end-of-summer vacation, during my absence I will still be providing wisecracks and shallow insights concerning the Vuelta a España for the Universal Sports web presence, and I will notify you by means of my Twitter account when these are posted. Also, as a special service to my readers, I will be writing these posts in English, so Spanish proficiency is not a prerequisite for enjoyment.

Moving on, you may recall that on Tuesday I mentioned a film project called "To Live and Ride in LA," which features people riding through busy intersections on fixed-gear bicycles. Well, a reader informs me that manufacturer of heavy, un-truable, and not particularly aerodynamic wheels Aerospoke is actually the film's official "wheel sponsor:"

(Above photo was likely borrowed from "Tarck Bikes with Douchebags.")

This seems like an extremely poor business decision for Aerospoke, if only because encouraging their customer base to ride brakeless through intersections seems like an excellent way of eliminating it. While Aerospoke may have been taken by surprise back in 2007 when their wheels became popular fashion accessories, my guess is that they've now become accustomed to success, and success breeds complacency. I'm sure they now think the lavish parties and frothy Jacuzzis and endless bottles of Boone's Farm Flavored Apple Wine Product will never end. In fact, judging from the above photo, they've even been able to convince "fixie" riders to use two Aerospokes (Aerospii?) instead of the traditional one, which probably doubled their sales overnight. But I'm here to warn them that they're only a few traffic disasters away from returning to the dark days of the late 1990s when they were selling their wheels though the Nashbar catalog at deep, deep discounts, like a desperate drug addict standing on the corner and trying to sell his own pants.

Meanwhile, speaking of wheel trends, people also continue to emblazon their Deep Vs with messages, and here's one I recently saw in Williamsburg:

According to a popular online translator, the German portion of the message means "Life is Hard." (The English portion is self-explanatory.) However, it's hard to imagine what sort of difficulties the typical "fixie" owner in Williamsburg could possibly face. Cracked iPhone screen? Stolen Brooks? Roommate eating his cereal again? Still, despite my skepticism I nevertheless try to be compassionate, and I hope that in the end he manages to overcome his adversity and find true happiness. (In other words, I hope his parents start sending more money and he's not forced to move to Portland.)

And now, I'm pleased to present you with an end-of-summer quiz. As always, study the item, think, and click on your answer. If you're right you'll know, and if you're wrong you'll see Time Attack Racer, for an ardent cyclist.

Thanks very much for reading, ride safe, and be sure to wring those last few drops of sweat from the rest of the summer. I'll look forward to seeing you again on September 7th.

--BSNYC/RTMS









2) Alejandro Valverde says he has learned to live without:





3) Team RadioShack's leader for the Vuelta will be:

--Levi Leipheimer
--Andreas Klöden
--Jani Brajkovic
--Nobody, because they were not invited




(She's folding, like the Cervelo Test Team)

4) Cervelo Test Team will fold at the end of the year, and instead Cervelo will become the official bicycle sponsor for:








6) "Let's all waste money!" Rolf Prima is making a $700 14-spoke fixed-gear commuting wheelset called the "P-Town."

--True
--False





(All You Haters Floss My Crotch)

7) "Move over, fixed-gears!" The next hot drivetrain is nothing at all.

--True
--False




***Special Future of Trendy Tattooing-Themed Bonus Question***



Knuckle tattoos are like sooo 2010. In 2011 it's going to be all about:



Thursday, August 26, 2010

BSNYC Product Review: Electra Ticino 8D

As many of you are probably aware by now, former President of the United States and avid mountain bike enthusiast George W. Bush has recently gone "29er:"

If only Bush had adopted larger wheels back when he was in office, he totally would have cleared that gnarly second term, and he might even have successfully made it through that highly technical "Iraq" section. (As Gary Fisher will tell you, it's all about the "angle of attack.") Incidentally, the bicycle Bush is about to drape those baggy shorts over is a Niner, and you may remember Chris Sugai of Niner (the guy who isn't George Bush or the other guy in the helmet) as the star of my favorite product-testing video of all time:



Few people know that Sugai was actually a member of Bush's cabinet, and in that capacity was responsible for much of our government's policy during his tenure. Trouble with other countries? Hit them with a hammer! Economy is sluggish? Hit it with a hammer! Hammer-wielding maniac on the loose? Hit him with a hammer! He also engaged Dick Cheney to help test some of those early Niner crabon fork prototypes, though the infamous "shotgun test" was not only unsuccessful but also fatal and Niner quickly removed it from YouTube. (A bit of advice: when Cheney asks, "Hey, can you hold this fork for a second?," don't agree.)

Still, you've got to admire a company willing to literally pound the crap out of its products, and I only wish Gerard Vroomen of Cervelo would do the same instead of producing fashion shows:



Amazingly, despite this display, the full pro team kit has yet to take off as casual wear.

Speaking of getting new bikes and testing things, I recently received a new "test-cycle" in the form of an Electra Ticino 8D:

Since it comes from a "collection" and is represented by a picture of a guy wearing a wool jersey and the sort of hat worn by people who are way too into "craft ales," I knew the Ticino was going to be something special (and by "special" I mean "pretentious"). Incidentally, Electra are well-known for their "Townie" bicycles, which feature that insanely relaxed "flat foot technology" geometry and are ideal for canine "portaging" (or, if you're not from Portland, "schlepping"):

(Woman on Townie schleps dog in Prospect Park, Brooklyn)

Electra also sells those Amsterdam quasi-Dutch bikes, one of which I actually reviewed last year:

(Wasn't I pretty back then?)

The Ticino, however, is something different. Here's how Electra's copy explains it:

Whether you ride every day or go for long journeys on the weekend, the Ticino will handle it in comfort and style. Named for an Italian-influenced area of Switzerland, Ticino's design aesthetic, craftsmanship and frame integrity are inspired by the vintage Randonneur-type bikes once ridden throughout the region. Stylistically, Ticino picks up where bike builders of the '40s and '50s left off with its retro-inspired hubs*, cranksets, chainrings, tourist handlebars, forks, pedals and rims. But this thing is far from a relic. When it coms to performance, the Ticino is decked out with the latest custom Electra components and will hold its own against other sporty rides with fast-rolling 700c wheels, a lightweight frame and a host of drivetrains from single-to 20-speed. All in all, the Ticino is a fine-tuned, smooth-gliding machine that offers a comfort level no longer found in today's twitchy frames. Take your time to study the unique details of each model.

*on Ticino 18D, 20D and LUX models

In other words, it's a mass market version of all those North American Handmade Bicycle Show "Artisan Porteurs" that people who wear wool cycling caps love to ogle, but for people who think "lug" is a synonym for "schlep," Rivendell is where Archie and the gang lived, and who don't know Velo Orange from a Jaffa orange.

Anyway, I got the 8D, which doesn't have the "retro-inspired hubs" and which was fine with me because I couldn't care less what my hubs look like. Here's the way the bike looked when I pulled it out of the box:

And here's how it looked after I assembled it, removed the reflectors, and performed my customary and elaborate pie plate-burning ceremony:


Here's the view other cyclists will have when you're "salmoning" towards them. ("Salmon" love Electras like "Freds" love Treks):

Here's the view other riders will have when you're dropping them--which, let's be honest, isn't going to happen:

And here's the way the Electra Ticino looks when it's waiting to go to the bathroom:

It needs to go so bad its spokes went from 3-cross to 4-cross.

As I mentioned, my Ticino didn't come with the "retro-inspired hubs," but it did come with other "custom Electra components," such as the TA-like (or T-Ain't) cranks:

Rims with a vintage-like Mavic-esque pre-exploding wheel era-inspired sticker:


A quill stem with a little threaded cap to cover the stem bolt:


And faux-leather grips with bar-end brake levers:

Together with the vaguely Brooks-like saddle, skinwall tires, and "hammered" (or hammered look) fenders, the bike will do doubt infuriate Randonnerds, retrogrouches, and the sorts of people who bedeck their bicycles with an airport carousel's worth of canvas luggage, but will simply look really nice to people who don't know what any of that means or who don't really care. By the way, here's the OBBS (or Obligatory Bottom Bracket Shot):

While not "beefy" by James Huangian standards, you may note that the bike uses a single chainring sandwiched by a couple of chainring guards, and that it also includes vibration dampeners on the fenders. Also, the frame is aluminum, which will doubtless have rendered any remaining retrogrouches who have not long since defected to Classic Rendezvous apoplectic.

I, however, am not troubled by the facsimile aspect of the bicycle, and while the aesthetic is a little "precious" for me my first impression was that it's a very nice-looking bike. I also found it very comfortable, thought it handled well, was sensibly geared, and was even light enough for the average "wuss" to carry up and down a few flights of stairs.

But to really test it properly I had to take it "out on the town" in the manner of a typical non-bike dork simply looking to ride a comfortable bicycle from one place to another. Fortunately, fatherhood has already rid me of the extraneous portions of my dignity, and I no longer give much thought to my attire or equipment when mounting a bicycle. So, clad in a pair of homemade "shants," flip-flops, and (my only concession to foppery) a canvas bag from Rivendell, I grabbed the Ticino and set out looking like the miserable aftermath of a collision between "cycle chic" and Mugatu's "Derelicte."

My first thought was that this was a kinder and gentler sort of bicycle than I typically ride, and that it was well-suited for the kinder and gentler urban cycling offered by New York City's new lime green protected bike lanes, onto which I soon steered the Ticino:

Incidentally, you may notice that, way in the distance, there is a woman riding a mountain bike on the sidewalk. Apparently, she was too afraid to ride in the street, yet moments before I took this picture she had ridden right through that intersection against the light and was nearly hit by a car. She had a look of terror on her face the entire time, and it was as if some otherwordly force was compelling her towards death and she was powerless to resist. "Must stop at light...can't stop at light." Here she is about to do it again:

This time she actually manages to cross the intersection diagonally, maximizing her exposure time to oncoming traffic:

Anyway, soon I was in Prospect Park, where I joined my upright-riding brethren:

Note the "epic" quill stem on this Klein:

He has more headset spacers than most people have steer tube.

Shortly afterwards, I passed an excited gentleman who regarded me wide-eyed and shouted, "Is that a Schwinn?" At first I was frightened, thinking it was an enraged Grant Petersen come to tackle me from the Ticino and give it the "hammer test." I soon realized it wasn't, though, and as I passed I answered "No." Crestfallen, he reacted as though I had just called his mother a Schwinn. "Not a Schwinn!?!," he exclaimed. However, I did not have time to explain to him that it was not a Schwinn and was in fact a mass-produced facsimile of the "artisanal" retro-inspired bicycles so popular with the "bike culture" right now, and continued on.

Of course, navigating Prospect Park is one thing; hanging with the "hipsters" of Williamsburg on its eponymous bridge is quite another, and it was with trepidation that I approached its purple girders:


Desperately, I clawed my way up to the trio of "hipsters" ahead of me:


Amazingly, I caught them without breaking my flip-flops:


Arriving in Manhattan, I decided I liked the bike. It was as comfortable as a bike needs to be, but it was in no way sluggish. I did, however, ride cautiously, and when I encountered a Mercedes with a vanity plate reading "Cupper" I kept a safe distance:

I did not relish a run-in with the "cupper," having no idea what it was intended to cup.

By the way, so bike friendly has New York City become that in addition to bike lanes we now have designated folding bike unfurling areas:


However, stoplight match sprints continue unabated:

As does shoaling, and on my way back to Brooklyn I was shoaled repeatedly and violently by a "Beautiful Godzilla" in the 2nd Avenue bike lane:

In any case, as everyday transportation the Ticino performs very well, and I'd be lying if I said I haven't thoroughly enjoyed my time on it--though I'd also be lying if I said I didn't find it a little "precious." (Then again, I am a considerable and dedicated schlub.) It's very comfortable, it has fenders, it's stable yet reasonably quick, and you can carry it up steps. It is not exactly cheap, however, and it retails for about $800--though some dupes actually pay close to that for Flying Pigeons, so I suppose price is relative. Plus, it comes with most of what you'd need apart from a rack. To some extent I suppose it is an affront to the more rarefied corners of cycling, but at the same time it's also a coup for accessibility, and it's nothing if not enticing. And it makes way more sense than a Klein with a flagpole for a quill stem.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Urban Tools: Curatorial Commitment

In last yesterday's post of Tuesday, August 24th, 2010, which I posted yesterday, and which should not be confused with today's post, today's bonus post, or any other post, I included the following piece of "fixie"-themed artwork:
While originally taken aback by its resemblance to the propaganda materials of a certain political regime so evil that it caused the interruption of all three Grand Tours in the 1940s, I have since learned that it's actually (as its creator informs me) intended to parody fixed-gear elitism. Indeed, so well-executed was this parody that I was thoroughly taken in--as was this unwitting "hipster," who also seems to have missed the point:

Prince Harry, incidentally, bears more than a passing resemblance in the above photo to Tom Boonen, who also shocked the world recently with this instance of anti-Semitic and/or anti-Amish mockery:

(It's impossible to know for sure whom Boonen is mocking without additional props such as horses or minivans.)

The UCI really needs to stage an intervention for this guy, and the admonishing visage of his mentor Johan Museeuw glowering at him from beneath his flaxen hairpiece could prove to be just what he needs to "scare him straight."

Furthermore, in addition to misinterpreting that image, a number of airplane nerds have informed me that the following statement I made in the day after Monday's post is also in containment of a factually inaccurate incorrectitude:

Just wait until I "drop" my own "fixie" video, in which I ride up and down the tarmac at JFK while doing elephant trunk skids and almost get hit by a Scandinavian Airlines 747.

As it turns out, Scandinavian Airlines doesn't use 747s at all, a fact of which I was unaware despite a childhood spent more or less directly in the JFK flightpath. By the way, in case you're wondering what Scandinavian Airlines does use, it turns out their fleet consists mostly of longships:

Though they have been upgrading it in a piecemeal fashion:



Anyway, having duly acknowledged my mistakes, I'd like to return to a time before I made them. It was a much simpler time--you might remember it as this past Monday--and it also happens to be the day I received the following press release from minimalist bike designers Biomega:
Apparently, the marketing department at Biomega wants the world of cycledom to know that as of Monday it "renews its curatorial commitment to cherry picking the world’s top designers to design its bicycles," since their previous "curatorial commitment" has expired. This, of course, is nü-pretentious maximum-verbiage minimalist-speak for "we're selling some new crap now." So what stylishly useless and overpriced fruit hath this cherry tree of pretention curated? Well, there's this "true urban tool" for true urban tools:
This is a great choice for the urban tool who wants a neutered mountain bike-like machine that is useless offroad yet also has no fenders or really anything that would make it useful for everyday city riding. (Though it does have that brilliantly conceived hole in the frame so that you have one tiny place to lock it.) Or, if you prefer something that's not "classic" but does have the "potential of a classic," you can opt for this model:
I was amused to note that this potentially "classic bicycle" is called the "NYC," and it even has a mostly-useless integrated downtube "filth prophylactic" which I assume is a stylistic nod to the pieces of cardboard food delivery people zip-tie to their frames. Clearly, brilliance like this cannot spring from a single mind, so it should come as no surprise that this bike the brainchild of "the three creative forces of Danish design group, KiBiSi"--which consists of Brüno, Dieter from "Sprockets," and a monkey with a protractor:

Together they may not be able to design their way out of a paper bag, but they can at least decorate the bag's interior in fashionably spartan style while they're trapped in there.

Speaking of minimalists, since last week I've mostly gotten off them (getting off minimalists should not be confused with "minimalist getting off," which refers to looking at porn on your iPad). However, it is worth noting that the blogger who wrote that "I only have 57 things" post
has not only removed all the comments to that post (a number of which were critical), but has indeed, in the name of minimalism and helping people, also eliminated comments and commenting from his entire blog:

(Killing comments in order to save you.)

He then goes on to list (again with the lists!) a number of reasons why comments are an anti-minimalist waste of time, though a more cynical person might suspect that the recent influx of skeptical visitors was really the deciding factor and that he prefers not to grapple with truth:

My blog traffic has exploded to 64,000 readers per month while I was not even here to oversee the operation. Obviously being away from my blog encourages growth more than sitting around all day reading comments does.

Also, he's going "vagabonding," which I guess is a form of minimalist walkabout.

In any case, the truth of the matter is that eliminating comments from a blog is like filling a guitar with cement--you can still play it, but it will lose all its resonance. Even if some of those comments are negative, interesting music is both mellifluous and dissonant, and I suppose what really lies at the heart of minimalism is carefully "curating" your own insular and self-serving "reality"--which is perfectly fine, but also seems antithetical to blogging. Amish people also "curate" an insular self-serving reality, but they're not out there blogging and selling books about it. If you're going to proselytize people into your lifestyle, at least be ready to do some convincing.

Speaking of convincing, a reader informs me that an insurance company failed to convince anybody to buy bicycle insurance, when they left a bunch of bikes around London that didn't get stolen:

Ultimately, I infer two things from this. Firstly, British thieves are apparently hale chaps who prefer a good challenge and find the plucking of low-hanging fruit distatefully unsportsmanlike. (They probably even have their own club and wear a distinctive hat and tie combination so they can recognize each other.) Secondly, if you're regularly locking up a bicycle that's so expensive it warrants its own insurance policy, then you're probably a fool, or a Biomega owner, or possibly both.

However, we may all need insurance if we're invaded by a "hipster robot bike army:"

Actually, judging by most of these fixed-gear videos, we already have.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Über-Conformity: Death Before Individuality

While life can often seem chaotic and inscrutable, the truth is that much of it can usually be broken down into easily identifiable stages. For example, mythologist and canned soup magnate Joseph Campbell established the "Hero's Journey," which consists of "Separation, Transformation, and Return" (or something like that). This is the template followed by pretty much every narrative hero ever created, and it simplifies everyone from Jesus to Beowulf to Luke Skywalker. Similarly, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross neatly summed up the entire process of mourning with her famous "Five Stages of Grief," which are: Denial; Anger; Bargaining; Depression; and Acceptance. (These, incidentally, also happen to be the "Five Stages of Purchasing a Specialized Bicycle.") Even pop-cultural trends can be explained as a series of "stageways," and almost all of them follow the following process in their evolution: Identification; Appropriation; and Conformity.

Consider the fixed-gear trend for example. "Back in the day," all sorts of people rode fixed-gear bicycles, and they thought little of it. Some raced them on tracks, and others trained on them in winter. There were messengers who used them to deliver packages, and there were frugal commuters who simply cobbled them together from spare parts. While to some extent these people were united by their choice of drivetrain, it was mostly Just What They Rode. And as people used to say "back in the day," big freaking deal.

But then, certain people realized that they liked the way certain fixed-gear bicycles looked in conjunction with certain pants and certain bags. So, having Identified something they liked, they set about Appropriating it. The process of Appropriation involves establishing a set of rules, or what a reporter once called "weird style diktats" (frontal Aerospoke, key carabiner, knuckle tattoos, and so forth). These rules are put forth by means of internet bicycle galleries (Fixedgeargallery, Velospace), various blogs (too numerous to mention), and, most importantly, videos (MASHSF and the various facsimilies), so that people in the hinterlands with no direct exposure can see what the whole thing is supposed to look like in motion, and so the participants can establish their credentials. Finally, once the whole trend is documented, detailed, and labeled like a butcher's chart, the Conformity begins. Companies know what to sell, trend-aspirants know what to buy, and everybody's happy.

Consequently, the fixed-gear trend (like any trend) is highly ordered and regimented, and the videos that come out of it follow style guidelines as strict as those governing any sonnet or limerick or sitcom. Consider the latest "trailer" that recently "dropped" all over the non-coasting Internet:

To Live & Ride In L.A. OFFICIAL TRAILER from TRAFIK on Vimeo.

Ever since urban fixed-gear cycling entered the "Conformity" phase, every city in America and beyond has taken turns "stepping up" with a video that shows that they too know how to be like everybody else. San Francisco had "MASHSF" and "Macaframa," New York had "Empire," and now Los Angeles has "To Live & Ride In LA." And while each new video seems to outdo its predecessor, unfortunately it only does so in terms of its inanity. Consider the bold claim this trailer makes in its opening seconds:

Do they really ride the most dangerous streets in America, or do they simply make regular streets dangerous by riding like complete idiots? While I haven't actually seen the entire feature, I'm guessing the latter scenario is more accurate, since the claim is followed by people riding brakeless into busy intersections:

And riding brakeless on the freeway:

And riding down hills brakeless into busy intersections:

Any street is the most dangerous one in America if you ride it like a raging schmuck. Just wait until I "drop" my own "fixie" video, in which I ride up and down the tarmac at JFK while doing elephant trunk skids and almost get hit by a Scandinavian Airlines 747. Streets are for "woosies." 2011's going to be all about 'da "runway cred."

Anyway, just as the fixed-gear trend has followed prescribed stages, so too has my reaction to these sorts of videos and the riding they portray. First, it made me Angry; then, I found it Comical; and now I only feel Sadness. Yes, the sight of somebody riding straight into an intersection in the absence of anything real to rebel against is imbued with pathos--even a suicide bomber believes in something. (Terrorist organizations and religious cults are eventually going to figure out how desperate these "fixie" riders are, and they're going to send representatives to wait on the other side of these intersections during filming. "Just risked your life for no reason? Here, read this pamphlet!") This pathos is even more profound when you consider that he's doing it while his friend who has no actual creativity makes a video of it, presumably so they can screen it at the funeral as a final indignity to the family. But I suppose people with cameras who lack creativity and the people willing to die for them is what L.A. is all about:

Indeed it is. L.A., the land of cultural suicide bombers.

But this film presumably doesn't bother to examine the implications of this behavior, for it's all about "living fast:"

"We will be cutting lights, we will be bombing traffic," promises this rider. He won't be thirsty, though, because he's wearing a CamelBak:

"Thass how we do it," exclaims another rider, neatly summing up the sickening undercurrent of cultural appropriation and conformity that permeates this entire filmed endeavor:

So what's really so wrong with all of this? Is it the riding, which undermines the popular perception of a mode of transport against which people are already prejudiced? Is it the jeopardy in which the participants place themselves? Is it that fixed-gear freestyling and wheelies are so inherently boring that footage of it must be interwoven with near-death encounters just to make it watchable? No, I think it's something even more insidious. Sociologists have tried to scare us with the notion of the "super-predator," a generation of amoral and incorrigible juvenile delinquents. While this is debatable, I do think we're living in the age of the "super-conformist," a desperate generation of 20- and 30-somethings willing to surrender themselves to any pop-cultural phenomenon with an easy checklist, whether it's minimalism, or fixed-gears, or any "[insert commodity here] culture." And we all know what happens when conformity goes too far. Consider the disturbing overtones of this image, which was forwarded to me by a reader:
(The Aerospoke is apparently the "hipster" Swastika.)

It's only a matter of time before they discover and appropriate those old Skrewdriver logos just like they did with the Misfits.

Meanwhile, another reader has forwarded me a completely different sort of video, in which an entire family undertakes an "epic" bicycle journey from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego:

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcnewyork.com/video.



Here is the "epic" matron:


And here is the "epic" family:

It's worth noting that the mother is in New York while the rest of the family languishes in a small Peruvian village, ostensibly so that she can pick up a new wheel for her bicycle. She implies it's some sort of wheel that would be difficult to obtain in Peru, so my guess is she's flown here to pick up a used Aerospoke she found on Craigslist. In any case, it's almost certainly the most "epic" wheel pickup and/or excuse to get away from the rest of the family I've ever seen.

Speaking of "epic," yet another reader has informed me of this "epic" bike theft, in which the thief drove a truck through a bike shop window, got stuck, and made his escape on a Giant time trial bike:

According to the article, it was a Trinity Advance, which looks like this:

With any luck, the thief is a triathlete, in which case he will be easily apprehended during the running portion of his getaway.