Wednesday, November 24, 2010

BSNYC Friday Thanksgiving Fun Quiz! (And Also I'm Taking A Snobbatical!)

(In 16 years, this poor child is going to make his parents' lives a living hell, and/or become a minimalist.)

With the Thanksgiving holiday now upon us like an oversexed turkey upon the back of a nonplussed Dachshund, it is incumbent (or, at the very least, recumbent) on me to announce that I will be taking a short leave in order to tend to various matters, including but not limited to spiritual exploration, non-blogular work projects, routine life maintenance, and of course amateur food stylization. I may even buy an artisanal axe and amortize the considerable cost by going door-to-door and asking my neighbors if they have any wood in need of hewing.

This leave will commence as of the end of this post and it will continue through next week, after which I will return on Monday, December 6th with regular updates.

Again, that's Monday, December 6th--which I might also remind you is Alberto Contador's birthday. If you're looking for any last-minute gift ideas, I would recommend a subscription to the exotic meat of the month club. It's the gift that keeps on giving--excuses.

Speaking of reminders, I'd also like to remind you that Bicycling magazine, the periodical for which I pen a column ("pen" is pretentious for "scribble in crayon") is having a contest to find the best amateur bicycle mechanic in New York City, which you can read more about and enter here:

Moreover, I've somehow been wrangled into giving the "play-by-play on all the action" at the actual contest on December 8th, so if you like "play-by-play" and "action" I hope you will attend the contest. I'll also do my best to bring along some items to give away, like maybe some of my coffee, or even a half-empty package of cotton swabs.

By the way, I was amused to note that, like a typical SUNY school, Bicycling require a half-assed essay from all applicants:

In your essay, tell us in 250 words or less "Why should you be picked to compete in the Bicycling Magazine Bike Repair Challenge?"

250 words on why you should be allowed to help Bicycling promote their book may seem like a lot of work, but if you're as lazy as I am you'll note the key here is the "or less" part, and if I were entering the contest I'd probably go with something simple like this:

Because Nostradamus foresaw it.

The fact is, people don't invoke the prophesies of Nostradamus as much as they used to, which is a shame because they're just as relevant, profound, and persuasive as they were back in the 1500s. Also, that's pretty much exactly what I wrote in my SUNY application, and while I'm not saying they actually let me into the school I will say that at least I have a column in Bicycling magazine, so there you go.

Having gotten all that out of the way, I'm now pleased to present you with a quiz. As always, study the item, consult the prophesies of Nostradamus, and click on your answer. If you're right (and if you consult Nostradamus you will be right, since he predicted everything) you'll see confirmation, and if you're wrong you'll see another offroad recumbent "edit."

Thanks very much for reading, ride safe, and have a great holiday (even if you're not of the American nationalityway).


(Mark Cavendish is a merciless winning machine--except when he's sobbing uncontrollably.)

1) According to Mark "The Man Missile" Cavendish, victory is:

2) Why are Mario Cipollini and Andrei Tchmil shaking hands?

5) What is the sound of a bicycle flying off the roof of a car at highway speed?

6) The most significant cultural difference between North American cyclocross and European cyclocross is:

(Right answer courtesy of All Hail The Black Market)

7) Why is the "FixieHook" fixed-gear specific?

***Special Highly Cringe-Inducing Thanksgiving Rap PSA-Themed Bonus Question***

Fill in the blank: "Go _____."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mark Your Calendars: Thanks for the Givings

(Food styling on an "epic" scale.)

In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. (He might have saved himself some time by sailing the ocean green, but it hadn't been discovered yet.) Landing on a Caribbean island called Hispaniola, he then transferred to a ship called the Mayflower which was bound for Massachusetts, then one of only 48 states in the union. (Alaska and Hawaii would not become states until the early 1500s.) After de-boating at Plymouth Rock and undergoing a full body scan (complete with invasive cavity search), he was greeted by the indigenous peoples of the land, who feted Columbus and his crew with turkey (except for the one wan, smug, vegan member of the crew with sleeve tattoos and grommets in his ears who insisted on having tofu turkey, because, you know, there's always one), and thus the holiday of Thanksgiving was born. Just as they were finishing up, however, the English army attacked. Changing his name to George Washington, Columbus soundly defeated the British, became the first President of the United States, and promptly repaid the turkey-proffering indigenous peoples who had supported him by subjugating them, stealing their land, and infecting them with smallpox, for which they were of course incredibly grateful.

Today, the Thanksgiving holiday lives on, except instead of turkey we now eat "turducken," which is a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken--or, if you're "economically challenged," a more affordable "turdog," which is simply a turkey stuffed with a dog:

This is especially affordable if you're already got a pet dog, though the cost is heavy when measured in your children's tears.

Of course, in the "bike culture," there's no surer sign of Thankgiving than "Cranksgiving," which refers to the various Thanksgiving-themed "alleycat" races held in various cities throughout the country. Generally speaking, the way these seem to work is that a bunch of Nü-Freds show up on their IROs and then embark on a scavenger hunt which involves running lights and buzzing pedestrians while they fill their Chrome bags with canned foods which they then give to the needy, after which they meet someplace for an after-party during which these "humanitarian scofflaws" get drunk, congratulate themselves for their "epic" act of charity, and compare notes on their SPD-compatible sneakers.

Now, I'm all in favor of charity--especially when it's performed by other people while I stay home and watch TV--but I can't really "get down" with the whole "Cranksgiving" thing. First of all, to me the name "Cranksgiving" implies that it's a time to be cranky, and I would have gone with the more festive-sounding "Alleyturkey," or even "Alleyturcat." (A "turcat" is like a "turdog" only with a cat, and believe me, it's just as traumatic to your children. As a child myself I used to cry and cry over my "turcat," and the sorrow continued well after Thankgiving was over. Oh how I used to sob when I'd open my leftover "turcat" sandwich in the school cafeteria...) Secondly, while riding a bicycle in the city is very often a better alternative to driving, when your goal is to collect as much food as possible to feed the hungry it seems to me that "Cranksgiving" might be the one occasion during which the "bike culture" might just suck it up, pool their money, and rent a U-Haul. I'd have to imagine that even two mildly motivated "hipsters" with a simple rental truck could easily collect at least four times as much food as an entire "Cranksgiving" alleycat--and that's including the single stick of turkey jerky collected by the guy with the "micro messenger bag" bike purse.

At the very least, they could make all these "Cranksgivings" into cargo bike hauling competitions, and the legions of the smug could show up with their Xtracycles and Big Dummys and "bake feets" or whatever those Dutch things are and show off their massive "portaging" capabilities. A Nü-Fred on an IRO with a Chrome "hipster cape" might be able to carry a few cans, but a decent cargo bike can carry at least two Nü-Freds and their IROs and their "hipster capes" full of cans. In fact, a single all-bake feets "Alleyturkey" could probably portage two or three "Cranksgiving" alleycats, which would make it the "bike culture" charity ride equivalent of a turducken.

Speaking of bake feets, these are supposedly becoming very popular among smug and wealthy New Yorkers who have the money to pay for them and the space in which to store them, and who use them to "portage" their children with last names for first names to expensive private schools. In fact, I passed one just recently, and due to my mechanical ineptitude I accidentally recorded a video of it while trying to take a still photograph:

They were moving at quite a clip, too, and the blast of smugness darn near blew the vegan casserole off my head.

Speaking of PSAs (as I was yesterday), a reader recently sent me what may very well be the worst PSA I have ever seen:

I'm a staunch advocate of responsible light usage, but if I were these people I'd extinguish all of my lights and try to slink away in shame under cover of darkness.

Of course, the opposite of the independently-produced PSA is the slick viral marketing video starring a professional athlete, like this one featuring Mark "The Man Missile" Cavendish:

"To me," says Cavendish, "Victory is about beating other people." Now, I happen to be a big Mark Cavendish fan--precisely because, unlike most cycling fans, I like riders who win bike races. However, I'm pretty sure "beating other people" is the very definition of victory, and as such it's hardly worth mentioning. It's like saying, "To me, going pee-pee is about voiding your bladder of urine." Then, to further underscore his relentless desire to win, Cavendish says, "Emotions are kind of a waste of energy." Except for that one time, of course:

He's crying like he just ate the family "turdog."

In any event, yet another sure sign of Thanksgiving is when everybody starts "dropping" their 2011 calendars, and I've been informed that the so-called "Bike Saviours" have once again produced a calendarway full of sexual ambiguity and unruly pubic thatches:

This makes a great holiday gift for the cyclist in your life who is not particular about who's touching who just as long as genitals are involved.

Or, if you're less open-minded and you only want to see fixed-gear bikes and female genitalways, you can opt for TheFixFixFix's fixie-themed sex calendar:

Remember, this is a fixed-gear calendar, so don't attempt to coast while "foffing off" or you may go over the bars.

But "urban cyclists" and the "bike culture" are not the only bicycle enthusiasts willing to pose in a suggestive and/or degrading manner. It turns out triathletes aren't exactly shy either, as evidenced by the November Model Search, which was forwarded to me by a reader. Some of my favorites include this "ripped" woman hoisting her Trek over her haircut:

This woman doing something unspeakably filthy to a Cervelo:

And this woman holding a pair of fish for no discernible reason:

Maybe the fish got stuck on her fingers during the swimming leg of a triathlon, or maybe triathlons are going from "swim, bike, run" to "swim, fish, run." Frankly, given the bike-handling skills of some triathletes, this may not be a bad idea. Or, if they insist on sticking with cycling, maybe they should change it from traditional, mobile cycling to stationary, smoothie-making cycling:

Smoothie Making Bike! Fender Blender Pro! - $750 (Midtown)
Date: 2010-11-22, 3:35PM EST
Reply to: [deleted]

Great for festivals, shows, parties, fundraisers and all types of events!
Makes blending more fun and gets everyone's attention!
Adjustable seat height and comfortable grip handle bars.
Condition: Brand new, out of the box.
Color: Blue.

Maybe next year someone will "curate" the world's first stationary "Cranksgiving."

Monday, November 22, 2010

Self-Styled: You Are What You Ride

Most people have heard the old saying, "You can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs." Obviously, this is not true--especially if you make your omelettes out of Cadbury Creme Eggs as I do, in which case you simply put them in the pan whole and let them melt. (Few things are more delicious than a three-Cadbury Creme Egg and goat cheese omelette, I recommend you try it.) However, I do find it to be true when it comes to "curating" a sarcastic blog, since inevitably somebody is going to get upset. This was the case on Friday, when I offhandedly mentioned that food stylist who got pulled from a flight because of his knuckle tattoos, after which I ran afoul of an actual professional food stylist:

Anonymous said...

Um, there have been food stylists in America for about 50 years now. Which is 49 years longer than one has been able to make a decent living as a sarcastic bike blogger. This is the first you've heard of them (us)?

So, okay, I'll out myself for the sake of the other commentators on this here blog. I'm a food stylist and have been one for 10 years. I don't qualify as a hipster douchebag or have knuckle tattoos. My tattoos are not in plain sight and don't cause me to get kicked off of airplanes. I do, however, have a wife and kids to support and therefore need to work. Should I become a literary agent, supping at the teat of the creativity of those I "represent"? Or should I have chosen another path, say, brain surgeon? Like many in the media, I make fake shit up so I can support myself. There are waaaaaay less respectable fields to be in in these confusing times.

BTW, I'm also a regular reader of your blog and have your book - I didn't just show up here to defend my job. I think, because my line of work clearly does not take less fortunate people into consideration, I'll be cramming my copy of Book Snob into the change cup of the next homeless person I see. Good charity.

Lone Wolf

Yikes. Clearly I managed to break that egg quite handily, and I doubt even a legion of professional food stylists could manage to put this particular Humpty Dumpty back together again. I also find it odd that after years of flogging the "dentists and Serottas" joke I have yet to incur the wrath of a single DDS, yet when I mention food stylists one time my book gets given to a (presumably very disappointed) homeless person. Now, I shouldn't have to mention that whether it's dentists, or professional cyclists, or food stylists, all of my jibes are exactly what they seem like--that is, cheap, lame, and hacky jokes that don't really mean anything--and that in actuality I respect anybody who works for a living and indeed many people who don't work for a living (like most hipsters and bike shop employees). In any case, this comment saddened me deeply because I happen to especially admire food stylists and the important work they do (by which I mean tricking people into eating the fast food hamburgers that will eventually kill them). In fact, I'm a bit of an amateur food stylist myself, and here's my most recent project:

It's amazing how expressive you can make a lemon seem with just a can of whipped cream and a dollar store Sharpie knockoff:

And yes, that is a genuine Super Staunion. I know it's extravagant, but it's way better than the regular Staunion and at least twice as toxic.

Speaking of irate commenters, I also received the following scathing critique after admitting that I was freaked out by framebuilder Dario Pegoretti's steel-sniffing and that I've never owned a custom bike:

jerk said...

listen up bub-
you say some funny shit from time to time
but it really says something to me that you've never
owned a custom bike. people like you who make this
online image of yourself as an oracle of style
and substance better have the fucking chops to
back it up. some fat 40 + year old bike virgin with
a Trek and an iPad to post online doesn't have the right to
call himself a snob. sorry man your shark has jumped. go write a feel good book about something stupid. oh wait, you already did.

Sheesh! Now this comment actually depressed me. Believe it or not, there really are people whose identities are inextricably tied into what kind of bike they ride, and who think that if you've never owned a custom bicycle because maybe you can't afford one, or you don't live near anybody who builds them, or that the Bridgestone you bought 20 years ago still seems to be suiting your needs just fine and you just don't see the point of dipping into your children's college fund, you're somehow not a "real" cyclist. He even equates having a custom bicycle with having "chops." Sure, you need "chops" to build a custom bicycle, but you don't need any to ride one. Trust me, they'll sell a custom bicycle to any schmuck willing to pay for one, and the above comment is proof of this fact. By the way, I'm not sure where he got the "oracle of style and substance" part, or the part about the "Trek and an iPad." The only thing I'm an oracle of is douchery, and I wish I had a Trek and an iPad; all I've got is a Scattante and a legal pad, upon which I write douchey jokes with my trusty Super Staunion while under the influence of its toxic fumes.

Anyway, thanks to the "having a fancy bike" = "cycling chops" attitude, we now have videos like this:

BIKE CHECK 212 | 01 DONALREY from cycleangelo on Vimeo.

On Friday I posted a video all about a guy who has a Cannondale, and this is another video from that series. In it, the protagonist has a fancy Yamaguchi track bike that looks like it's never been ridden:

Then, he reflects on how awesome and pristine his bike is and how long his helmet straps are:

Then, he rides slowly through a red light on the opposite side of the street as the bike lane, his helmet straps flapping gently in the breeze:

Seems to me he could have done all of that just as well on a Pacific from Walmart and saved a bunch of money in the process. Most people would probably agree that buying this $9,500 Fendi city bike, which a reader and Twittererer spotted in the Wall Street Journal, is ridiculous:

But really, it's probably more sensible than buying a custom track racing bicycle that costs nearly as much and using it for the same purpose.

Even in Portland, Oregon, where the "bike culture" is so enlightened that any day now they're going to start installing bike lanes in the bike lanes, people have yet to transcend the "you are what you ride" mentality. Instead, they're actually marrying their Vanillas, as one reader informs me. Here is the blushing bride:

And here is the groom being wheeled in by the Jawaharlal Nehru enthusiast who officiated the ceremony:

While this would probably strike most people as a bit excessive, I'm sure in Portland it's a regular occurrence, and I can't imagine the "bike culture" even has much time to ride anymore since their social calendars are so crammed with bike weddings and bike Sweet 16s and bike Bar Mitzvahs. Moreover, I bet these bike weddings are recognized by the local government and are fully legal. In fact, when it comes to matrimony, a Vanilla in Portland probably has far more rights than a homosexual in pretty much any state of the union. This also means that, when you inevitably leave that Vanilla for some other artisanally crafted bicycle du jour, your Vanilla will probably wind up owning your house and having custody of your children.

Of course, the only thing more smug than marrying a custom bicycle is giving up your car, and a reader recently forwarded me the following article in which an Atlanta resident declares this his "best decision ever:"

It also contains some of the most smug lines ever written:

Now, my five-minute journey starts from my downtown loft which I bought four years ago and is stress-free and relaxing.

Each morning, my trek includes a walk down three flights of stairs, where I grab my handmade bamboo bicycle and enter the city streets with my helmet fastened and secured.

Downtown loft a few minutes from the office? Check. Bamboo bicycle? Check. Gratuitous helmet reference? Check. As David Byrne will happily tell you, adopting a car-free existence is easy--simply buy a loft apartment right near the place where you work. That's way cheaper than a Kia.

I especially enjoyed the helmet reference, since as we all know it's OK do whatever you want on a bicycle as long as you wear a helmet. I'm also a big fan of rap PSAs, so I was very pleased when a reader forwarded me this:

Intriguingly, one of the rappers is wearing a Crass t-shirt:

I don't think Crass would endorse helmet use, since in their worldview helmets probably represent police oppression, fascism, war, and the military-industrial complex. Instead, they would probably advocate protecting your head with vegan casseroles and then feeding them to the poor when you arrive at your destination. Perhaps a progressive food stylist can make that happen.

Friday, November 19, 2010

BSNYC Friday "Cat 6" Throwdown!

Thanks to both the Internet and the fact that the "bike culture" is more intent on documenting itself than any other group of people in the history of the world, including the Nazis, there is now a stupendous number of cycling-themed videos available for viewing. While by now everybody's aware of certain cycling video genres, such as the fixed-gear freestyle "edit," the artfully-filmed Rapha "epic," or the pointless track bike trip to nowhere, other genres are all too often overlooked. One of these unjustly neglected forms is the offroad recumbent video, which in terms of using bicycles ill-suited to their purpose makes fixed-gear freestyling look positively graceful in comparison. I happen to be a huge fan of the offroad recumbent genre, and this is one of my favorites:

The best part of this video is the captions, which provide perspective and insight for the non-recumbent rider. Sure, you may think that section of trail is more or less straight, but it's not when you're riding a 'bent:

And what happens when there actually is a turn that's discernible to the naked eye, such as this gentle, sweeping left-hander?

Well, that's what's known as a "recumbent hairpin."

Combine that with an ever-so-slight incline and it can be a recumbent rider's undoing:

On the other hand, fixed-gear video "curators" have simply gotten complacent and lazy, since the latest craze seems to be videos where nothing happens at all, like this one I saw at the "Trackosarusrex" blog:

BIKE CHECK 212 | 03 ROMEO REX from cycleangelo on Vimeo.

As far as I can tell, the entire plot of this video is "I have a Cannondale," as though that's some sort of feat that's worthy of attention. Apparently this excites a lot of people, too, since this has been posted on various blogs, and has also presumably inspired comments on Internet forums such as, "Did you see that video where the guy has a Cannondale? Sick! I love it when they show the cog." I guess the subtext of the video is that simply owning a certain type of bicycle is in itself an accomplishment, though I'm not sure why, unless your goal is to show off your "mad eBay skillz." I would totally watch videos of people gleefully showing off their offroad recumbents though, for the same reason I enjoy watching Pee-Wee Herman showing off his breakfast machine.

Og með að ég er ánægður með að kynna þér quiz. Eins og alltaf kanna lið, hugsa og smella á svar þitt. Ef þú ert rétt að þú munt vita, og ef þú ert að rangt þú sérð reiðhjól kapp.

Thanks very much for reading, ride safe, and whether you ride horizontally, vertically, or at some angle in between, ride happy.


1) Team Sky's approach to racing in 2010 was:

(The Recumbent History Channel logo)

2) In recumbent circles (or, more accurately, horizontal ovals) April 1st, 1934 is known as:

3) Recumbents are great for offroad riding:

(Unicycles, recumbents...if only someone would invent a riding machine that married the practical upright seating position of the unicycle with the more stable two-wheeled design of the recumbent. Oh well, I guess it will never happen.)

4) A unicyclist is suing the NYPD for:

--Arresting him for public juggling without a permit
--Ticketing him for riding on the sidewalk
--Berating him with clown slurs and throwing a pie in his face (or "police slapstick brutality")

5) This is not a purse. [Ahem.] It is a:

("We're here! We're self-involved and inordinately trendy people with expensive liberal arts educations! Get used to it!")

6) In a shocking instance of anti-hipster discrimination, a Los Angeles "food stylist" was recently pulled off a commercial flight for having a set of knuckle tattoos reading "ATOM BOMB."

("I don't care how hungry I am, if it's poorly styled I ain't eating it.")

7) In a shocking example of irony, in the United States of America, you can apparently make a good living as a "food stylist."

***Special "Oh, Portland..."-Themed Bonus Question***

Fill in the blanks: "Will __________ for ______."

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!



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.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Droppin' the "H": Hooking, Hucking, and Hucksters

Further to yesterday's post, in which I mentioned flesh hooks in cyclocross (I've dictated a lot of weird phrases to my helper monkey and typist Vito in my time, and "flesh hooks in cyclocross" may be among the strangest), a commenter by the name of "Bunny" made the following observation:

Bunny said...

Maybe worth mentioning that it was a Halloween race. Everyone was in costume.

Is it really worth mentioning though? I'm not so sure. It would seem to me that there's a tremendous difference between putting on some make-up or a fright wig or dressing up as Angela from "Who's the Boss?" and actually putting hooks through your flesh. Don't get me wrong--this is America (Canada's sanitary napkin), and if someone wants to pierce themselves like George Costanza baiting a hook with marble rye than by Lob he or she should be able to do so. Still, I would argue that such behavior falls outside the purview of a simple Halloween costume in that I hardly this is something somebody would do for the first time on a whim in the spirit of the season. Nobody says, "Hmmm, I think I'll be a fakir for Halloween and tow my friend around at a cyclocross race," raids his roommate's tackle box, and puts a bunch of fish hooks through his skin. Clearly this is an experienced flesh hooker, and the fact that it happened on Halloween doesn't make it a costume, just as pleasuring yourself during a Jewish holiday doesn't make "foffing off" a mitzvah.

Then again, I admit I don't have the most objective view of Halloween, since I suffer from holiday depression. For some people, holiday depression strikes during Christmas, or New Year's Eve, or even Hanukkah (referred to among holiday depression sufferers as the "Eight Days of Misery"). However, I have no problem whatsoever with these holidays, and in fact during that time I'm generally at my most ebullient--you're likely to find me standing knee-deep in Egg Nogg wearing nothing but a Christmas Sweater while singing Kwanzaa carols and lighting a Menorah in the manner of Gene Simmons. I've even been known to hang some holiday-themed art:

In case you don't get the reference, it has something to do with this.

Halloween, on the other hand, fills me with sadness. I'm not talking about children's Halloween, which is a fun time for make-believe, imagination, and a little bit of sanctioned mischief. I'm talking about adult Halloween, which is a creepy day of over-sharing during which people outwardly manifest their sublimated desires and dashed hopes in costume form, as articulated (albeit nasally and shrilly) in that Dead Kennedys song. When I see a young child joyously trick-or-treating and delighting in the wondrous spookiness of the season, I try not to think that in 25 years she could be rolling around in the Oregon mud at a cyclocross race with a bunch of hooks in her back hoping people will look at her.

Another "hot topic" among commenters recently has been the subject of "Cat 6," or commuter, "racing"--and more specifically, whether or not it is appropriate. Personally, I happen to be against it, though I should say that I have nothing whatsoever against commuting vigorously in order to get a workout or even against using other commuters as "mechanical rabbits"--just so long as this is done safely and responsibly and the "mechanical rabbit's" personal space is not encroached upon. Similarly, there's nothing wrong with appreciating the physical attributes of a fellow commuter from afar in a discreet fashion, but there's a point at which it goes too far--usually well before you find yourself dry-humping complete strangers on the subway. And actively wheelsucking or cutting people off on the Williamsburg Bridge is the dry-humping of bicycle commuting.

Still, I'd like very much to organize mock victory celebrations on the apex of the Williamsburg Bridge like the ones in this video which came to me from Stevil Kinevil via the "Treehugger" site:

I think a "Maillot Douche" jersey ceremony complete with scantily-clad podium hipsters would be the way to go.

And speaking of commuting, a reader from Germany recently alerted me to the future of bike locking:

Given the popularity of the "Hipster High Lock," I think it's safe to say that if such a device ever actually made it into production you'd soon find one poking out of the rear pocket of every "fixie" rider in cycledom.

In any case, the key is to temper your behavior with some self-awareness and a bit of perspective. This can help you realize when you're behaving inconsiderably--or, if you prefer, "douchey." Similarly, I realize that much of the time I behave like a persnickety fusspot, and that my expectation that we all obey the same rules is a bit unrealistic. After all, if everybody followed the rules then we wouldn't have Danny MacAskill videos:

Since that last Danny MacAskill video it would appear that he went and got himself a PR team since I've been receiving numerous press release-type emails concerning the one above, and when press releases tell me to mention something you'd better believe I listen! Afer all, Danny MacAskill's bike-handling skills are so impressive he has officially become the World's Most Agile Scotsman, a title previously held by this man:

Given his worldwide fame, I think Danny MacAskill's next video should be more international in scope, and I'd like to see him do an "edit" where he rides all of the world's holiest sites. For example, I'd love to see him in Jerusalem "hucking" his bike off of the Wailing Wall and onto the Dome of the Rock. On the downside, he'd have a fatwa on him in about nine seconds; on the upside, Fatwa=Massive Street Cred. Then, after that, he and Salman Rushdie could "drop" a "collabo" of some kind. They could call it "The Bike-Tastic Verses."

Speaking of worldviews, a reader recently forwarded me the following Craigslist post:

How to Buy a Used Surly Steamroller Fixie 56cm - $550 (mission district)
Date: 2010-11-16, 9:04AM PST
Reply to: [deleted]

It's kind of a right of passage to ride a fixie on the streets of the mission. You're either hip or your not, and there's something about dudes who ride bikes with wheels that don't spin that's just so attractive to the ladies. One of the simplest, and possibly coolest, fixed gear bicycles you can buy is the Surly Steamroller, and lucky for you, I'm selling mine. It's not very old, originally purchased new in May 2010. I'm only selling it because I'm done riding for the season, and planning on relocating somewhere else in the next few months -- the bike can't come, because all I bring with me is a backpack. That's where you come in: it's time for you to embrace a fixed gear bike for the first time, or maybe you need an upgrade?

The frame is a 56cm -- it's a Surly Steamroller Cream complete, so you can find the parts list here on Surly's website.

There are two brakes, so if you're afraid of dying in traffic like I am, you can stop the bike before you die.

There is very little wear, but the logos are starting to peel a little from the frame. You can probably remove the Surly logos entirely for a better look, with some soaking and a sponge.

Asking $550, cash only. Original price was $750. Located in the mission at 24th and Bryant. My schedule is pretty open, but drop me an email to see if it's still available. I imagine this will go kind of quick.

My first thought upon reading this was, "Wow, the guy selling that Surly sounds like a total douche." My second thought was, "Hey, that Surly looks familiar." In fact, I'm fairly certain it belongs to the "57 things" minimalist guy, since I saw it in his apartment in that CBS Evening News Report:

Sure, it's just a stock Surly Steamroller, but the pedals are the giveaway--that and the smug part about how "all I bring with me is a backpack." To confirm, I visited his weird minimalist-meets-get-rich-quick site, but all I found was this:

How does it feel to delete the photos of your ex-boyfriend?

How does it feel to sell the house you’ve lived in for the last 26 years?

How does it feel to drop your TV off your roof?

How does it feel to move to the other side of the country?

How does it feel to not have a home at all?

How does it feel to swap out bacon egg and cheeses for breakfast fruit?

How does it feel to make $27 (or $2,300?) of location-independent income?

You'll notice that "How does it feel to sell your barely-ridden fixie?" is conspicuously absent from that list, but that may be because it's still languishing on Craigslist. In the meantime, I suppose he can console himself by being overly smug about the fact that he got dumped and that he eats fruit for breakfast. I will say though that if he's never sold a fixie on Craigslist he may have no idea what he's in for, and if he can't handle a few negative comments on his blog then the barrage of inane questions like "Hoe much does it way?" and "Can I take the breaks off?" are liable to destroy him.

In the meantime, I'll be waiting on tenterhooks to see if it moves--or, failing that, flesh hooks.