Thursday, February 3, 2011

Over the Rainbow: Transatlantic Smugness


For many Americans (look it up on a map, it's the place that keeps Canada and Mexico from dry-humping) the weather has been awful. Ice storms in New York, "epic" snowfalls in Chicago, and machete-wielding locust swarms in Milwaukee have all but brought everyday life to a grinding (or, in the case of Milwaukee, screaming "Why, God, why?!?" and bleeding) halt--and that's to say nothing of cycling, which in some places has been rendered virtually impossible. That's why, now more than ever, we need videos that will lift our spirits and "portage" them though the blizzard and into the spring. The following is emphatically not such a video:

robo-rainbow from mudlevel on Vimeo.


Good for you, paint boy. Go stuff your rainbow machine down your "coin slot."

Speaking of smugness and unwieldy bicycles, the two go together like Canada and Mexico would if America wasn't such a cockblocker, and I noticed with interest recently that Cyclingnews technical editor and beefy bottom bracket enthusiast James Huang has been living la vida smugness by spending an entire month using a longtail cargo bike instead of his car:

Carrying lots of stuff by bicycle and then bragging about it on the Internet is almost exactly like making a treacly video of yourself painting a pretty rainbow on the wall in that it makes most people want to punch you in the nose. At the same time, though, like most things that make people want to punch other people in the nose it's also immensely satisfying when you're the person doing it, which is why I do it too. Also, as Huang notes:

If nothing else, these few days have shattered personal perspectives on when a car is needed – and when it isn't. And looking back at my Garmin data, there's been a lot more time spent on a bike than there otherwise might have been, all while usually only adding negligible minutes to my errands when factoring in traffic and parking time. And of course, there's the small but not insignificant amount of money saved in fuel and occasional parking meters.

This has been my experience too, apart from the fact that I don't have a Garmin and I avoid any sort of "data" at all costs. (Plus, obviously driving isn't always the easy choice in New York City that it is elsewhere.) Sure, I'm riding a Surly Big Dummy, and he's riding an Xtracycle ripoff from the Great Trek Bicycle Making Company's "Gary Fisher Collection" (the Gary Fisher Collection is a line of bicycles and not a limited edition series of designer bongs as you might assume), but that doesn't mean we can't be Siblings In Smugness (or, if you prefer, "SISsies"). James Huang also makes another good point, which is that some cities are simply more conducive to smugness:

Having a bike purpose built for the task certainly helps but an even bigger factor to this project's success has been the bicycle-friendly infrastructure built into my local city planning, not to mention the generally friendly and curious – not hostile – attitudes of the drivers around me, many of whom are likely cyclists themselves. Local mountain bikers may sometimes say otherwise but Boulder is an insanely easy place to do business on a bicycle as compared to the US national standard.

Oddly, and to my great surprise, even in New York I've had a similar experience in that non-cycling people generally seem to be more curious than hostile--though I suppose that's due to the novelty factor, and once more people start carrying bulky items by bike they'll get back to the business of trying to run us over. Also, while some cyclists debate whether the new protected bike lanes in New York City are in fact an improvement, when you're actually hauling crap by bike they are nothing less than a Lobsend. There is one other crucial difference between my experience and James Huang's, which is that his smugmobile is electrically-assisted:

Woosie.

I have a feeling that, in the not-too-distant future, some researcher in Portland is going to devise a rear hub that is powered by vegan flatulence, and the world of "portaging" will be completely revolutionized.

Speaking of driver hostility, the BBC recently profiled a London cyclist who wears a helmet cam so he can catch motorists in the act of being complete douchebags:

I hate to generalize people based on nationality, but nobody--and I mean nobody--flashes a "They won't get away with this!" expression like an Englishman.

By the way, in the feature film, Ben Porter the helmet-cammed commuter will be played by Griffin Dunne:

("They won't get away with this!")

Oh, I'm sure they won't.

Anyway, I was expecting the helmet cam footage to reveal some shocking incidences of bad driving, but the worst thing they showed was this van getting a little too close to him:

I was definitely frightened by the driver, though, who practically exploded from the vehicle in a burst of anglo-belligerence:

Here in the United Cockblockers of America, we're terrified by belligerent English people, for the simple reason that we don't have much exposure to them. Everybody in the world knows Americans are crazy, since when we're not actually invading other countries we're attacking them with our entertainment. Honestly, would anybody on the planet be surprised to see video of an American driver murdering 17 people with an automatic weapon because a cyclist touched his van? Of course not--this is the land of Martin Erzinger! Indeed, people expect us to be crazy, since we've exported all of our regional insanity in entertainment form:

However, due to this imbalance in cultural trade, we Americans know very little about English craziness--in our naive worldview, the only people who are supposed to be as crazy as us are Arabs. English people are supposed to be dashing like James Bond, or charmingly befuddled like Hugh Grant, or lovable mop-tops like the Beatles or Bradley Wiggins. This is why our students lag behind children in the rest of the world--when we learn about things like the American Revolution, we can't even wrap our minds around the concept. "Really? We fought them?!?" So you can only imagine what would happen to one of us if we were to go to England and get in a tussle with a van driver--we'd probably just stand there waiting for Guy Ritchie to yell "cut!"

Clearly, though, all English-speaking countries share the same skewed bicycle/car relationship, as evidenced by this "heated debate" between a cyclist and a "motoring journalist." Guess which one is which:


"I think a big chunk of the problem is actually the cyclists and their attitudes themselves," says motoring journalist Adam Rayner:

Ha, ha. He said, "Big chunk."

Meanwhile, here's "journalist and keen cyclist" Zoe Williams trying desperately to keep her composure:

That is one angry cycling advocate. An American almost certainly would have shot somebody by now.

"The road is such a serious place," concludes Adam Rayner in an attempt to make Williams's trembling upper lip leap off of her face entirely. "If I'm burning petrol or diesel the legislation I'm surrounded by while you guys are diving in and out of traffic like swallows--"

"It's only a serious place if you're not watching people and trying not to kill them," counters Williams, failing to add that the only kind of swallowing Rayner is capable of doing is the kind that involves enormous quantities of food.

Anyway, just as it does here, the whole registering and insuring bicycles thing comes up, and when Williams denounces it the host says, "Then you're saying you want to be recognized but you don't want the accountability."

I don't know why some people think that drivers will suddenly respect cyclists if they need to register their bikes. Motorcycles require license plates, and insurance, and all the rest of it, but in my experience motorcyclists get about as much respect as cyclists do. Maybe next time someone tries to run me off the road I'll hold a driver's license and motor vehicle registration up to their window. I'm sure they'll apologize profusely and back off.

Of course, there's no better way to get respect on a bicycle than by demonstrating your awesome trackstanding skills, and a link left by a reader in the comments on yesterday's post shows just how seductive a well-executed trackstand can be:



track stand on alcatraz - m4w - 30 (oakland rockridge / claremont)
Date: 2011-02-01, 5:13PM PST

I was pretty impressed by your biking skills at the intersection of alcatraz and telegraph this morning. You held a track stand for a long time and then took off up telegraph like a pro. You were riding a tiny black fixed gear with red rims, you were wearing all black and had long hair and you were just ridiculously beautiful.

I was stopped with my bike on the other side of the intersection, transfixed. I was wearing a military coat and riding an old blue motobecane.

I work in a bike shop, I'd love to give you a tune-up.


It was almost charming until that smarmy "Hot Karl" of a closing line.

112 comments:

Anonymous said...

eat it from Huggy

Anonymous said...

Moin moin

theEel said...

winnar?!

Anonymous said...

Top 5?

Anonymous said...

#1 Gamester, #1!!!

Anonymous said...

Golden Ball Bag!

Astroluc said...

buried in Snow... need a "snow bike"

top 10

Anonymous said...

meh

recumbent conspiracy theorist said...

Top Ten ?

SLAM said...

I dropped my helmet cam

Anonymous said...

Damn those videos..

Marcel Da Chump said...

points?

Anonymous said...

yes top of the leader board!

cycle

OBA said...

Huang on a cargo bike? Can the crabon-fribe smugness hauler be far beind? Worlds are colliding.

Pontius Pilate said...

HAIL CSZR

-P.P.

Anonymous said...

mehgnificent!

Spatch said...

Beware white-van-man , distant fore bear of lifted-pickup-guy. It's bad enough on the motorcycle around London.

wishiwasmerckx said...

Word of the day:

"Mark Wahlbergian."

no*dice said...

19th! best so far!

Mike said...

It's even more impressive when you consider that the boy got that fat on English food. That's dedication.

crosspalms said...

Big chunk indeed. Is he related to the mayor of Toronto?

Buffalo Bill said...

I'm having second breakfast as I read the latest post from RTMS, if I didn't ride every day, I would probably look just like that motoring journalist. Enormous quantities of food indeed.

Who is Martin Enzinger?

Anonymous said...

snob, you're being played.
i'm sure it's common knowledge among the industry that if they incorporate the tri-dork stock photo in their marketing campaign you'll feature the spot on your blog.
free advertising.

mitch said...

I love the UK phrase "white van man". All of my worst experiences with motorists on this side of the pond have been with exactly that sort of driver.

zenbicyclist said...

An African swallow maybe, but not a European swallow. That's my point.

Marcel Da Chump said...

"vegan flatulence".......mint!

BikeSnobNYC said...

Anonymous 1:17pm,

Really though, we're all just pawns of the photographer, Ljupco Smokovski--the man behind the curtain.

--BSNYC

Stranded said...

Looks like a computer on the handlebars of that Big Dummy. Do you use it to calculate smugness? If so, where does one acquire such a device? As I am in need of one also.

mikeweb said...

I prefer robo cop.

Frank Eeckman said...

We could rename portland to portage. There is a portage in Michigan by the way.

Terre Haute Karl said...

I have never been so angry at a rainbow. I sat thru that video expecting the drill to power the bicycle, not a rainbow graffiti machine.

Damn u snob for making me watch that!

recumbent conspiracy theorist said...

I bet that guy with the Col. Hogan hat handing out love tickets at the bridge yesterday is a beefy bottom bracket enthusiast too.

Anonymous said...

i didn't realize one needed all that crap to paint a rainbow. smugness indeed.

BIGC HUNK

Charlie Didrickson said...

ROBO boy will likely end up designing weapons for Raytheon in the future.

Anonymous said...

in fact, i would love to see what happens when rainbow boy demonstrates his contraption for some of our "authentic" graffiti artists from chicago's south side. i think his coin slot would really be puckered then...

g-roc said...

"The Chicken" made the podium? Must have skipped out on his test.

mikeweb said...

Is that a laden African swallow, or un-laden?

mikeweb said...

WTF?!? At the 25 second point of helmet cam boy's video he definitely appears to be going the wrong way on a one way street. Can that be right? Any confirmation from the commentariat across the pond?

Maybe swallow is the British version of salmon.

Capistrano said...

Come back soon!

mikeweb said...

Also, the 'White Van man' concept seems to have a lot of parallels to the 'Black Car driver' phenomenon over here.

CommieCanuck said...

Automotive journalists are wonderful.

"The 2011 Crapadia GT is reasonably priced at _insert ridiculous sum here_, and despite _insert ridiculous horsepower here_, next year's model will have an extra much-needed 30hp."

You could read this shit all day, but they'll never tell you if the douche-mobile will last until the end of the payments, or if the car is going to be worth more than you owe in two years. Accompanying pictures always show track behavior that would get you in jail for about a month. They never discuss fuel economy, because a true douche does not care about the amount of gas he/she uses, but ironically, will complain bitterly about gas prices.

Anonymous said...

I like that the London cyclist is wearing a helmet cam to catch motorists behaving badly, yet the only law I saw being broken was this guy ignoring a do-not-enter sign and riding down a one way street the wrong way.

H

zenbicyclist said...

Un-laden. But then of course African swallows are non-migratory

James Doakes said...

George Hincapie loves rainbows.

http://tinyurl.com/4jrktdo

Hey, isn't that Floyd on the left of the photo? Hmm, this looks a lot like the doping scene Floyd described in his interview with Paul Kimmage.

http://nyvelocity.com/content/interviews/2011/landiskimmage

Oh, and George gave an interview recently which presages the near future: George says he wants fans to understand that there are some clean bike racers.

Then he goes on to defend his character by saying that people close to him know that he is a good person.

All this comes after he appeared before Novitsky's grand jury.

Yep, cycling in the USA is about to get a much higher profile.

spqr said...

"America: Canada's Cockblocker"
Brilliant Snob, brilliant.

James Doakes said...

P.S. I preferred it back in '03 when non cyclists would say "Laaaaaance!" as I rode by. Now, I'm just going to get doored. Thanks Lance. Way to help the sport. Not to mention cancer victims.

Robert said...

http://www.istockphoto.com/stock-photo-14177260-cyclist-riding-a-bike.php

I think you need more of this tri-dork's photos on the blog.

mikeweb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
wishiwasmerckx said...

That white van is in far too good of condition to be a rapemobile. I'm pretty certain that there is no dead prostitute in that back of that thing.

Og LoneWolf said...

The force is strong with this one....

FTW

Dan O said...

Auto Journalist Dude appears to have spent some time idling in fast food drive up lines - or should I say "queues" - since we are talking about jolly old England.

Having a license plate dangling off your Selle San Marco saddle will instantly give you the utmost respect from all motorists. Yup, count on that.

If we're going to license plates, one bonus - personalized option! I can see it now: TRKSTND, 1GEAR, NOBRKS, HIPSTR...

Kenny Banya said...

"It's even more impressive when you consider that the boy got that fat on English food. That's dedication."

Gold Mike, GOLD!

URL said...

Thanks, BSNYC,

for directing me inadvertantly to the Cycling Inquisition blog. Still looking for other blogs to peruse not necessarily cycling related but with the same day to day energy bsnyc has. I am from Canada: Americas emotionally independent epic carcake!

Many manly thanks

grog said...

fetchez la vache

Anonymous said...

RNBW CNXN

hillbilly said...

big skanky

PawnShop said...

No respect. Early on during the spree of the D.C. sniper, people were told to look for a guy driving a white van. "Rapemobile" is a new one on me - I'm more partial to "creepy guy van" - and having at least one conversion van window, as well as a cracked windshield, is the only way to do it properly.

"Black Car driver" is unfamiliar as well. Do you mean, "guy in a black Suburban"? Those humorless, tyrannical bastards are usually from Motherland Security - or pretending to be.

Minimalist War and Peace said...

?

!





?

!

FINIS

Anonymous said...

i think the cycling lady makes a few good points, the main one (which you often espouse) is that people shouldn't assume that when something bad happens to a cyclist it was because they were breaking a law and cyclist shouldn't view motorist so smugly. I also thinks she was pretty calm and measured in her argument, so not sure where you saw then anger coming in? the fat guy on the other hand is too fat to even get on a bike (except perhaps a specially reinforced big dummy with a lazy-boy for a saddle) which discredits him right off the bat.

Pointless in Seattle said...

"this is the land of Martin Enzinger"

Well, yes.
anywho.com confirms that this is so, but I think you meant Martin Erzinger.

Buffalo Bill, that's the investment banker who likes to sleep-drive.

wishiwasmerckx said...

PawnShop, I'm pretty sure that the Opinionated Cyclist drives a white van...they all do.

Nuff said...

wishiwasmerckx said...

"Get in the van" also reminds me of a joke:

Q: What does a Jewish pedophile say?

A: "Hey, little girl, would you like to buy some candy?"

crosspalms said...

First time through I didn't notice how limber Fred is. I'll have to try that off-the-saddle thing. Maybe it'll make my legs longer and I'll get faster.

Anonymous said...

Actually, insurance and registration might be a great idea for cyclists. Liability costs would be negligible, no one would get collision, etc. I bet it would cost $25/year for $500000 liability coverage. Meanwhile, a motorist would be screwed if he hit a cyclist. Like jail screwed.

Anonymous said...

That Rainbow Maker is awesome

ED said...

Martin Erzinger snobby.

Rocky mountain high said...

I never know "white van man" was a thing.

But I get it: about 20 years ago as a tourist in London, I reflexively punched the side of exactly such a van in response to my nearly being killed in the crosswalk.

I guess I naively thought he might apologize if he was informed. Driver hopped out and threatened to "knock the teef outta yer fookin head". When I protested that he NEARLY KILLED ME, he noted my accent and called me a "fookin' American". I considered arguing that it was technically a western Canadian accent, but decided the distinction would be lost.

nice try pal said...

Huang has an electric bike AND gives up because it gets cold? TOTAL "woosie".

Another sign of the decline of the American empire.

Anonymous said...

@ James Doakes

I agree. Now all I ever hear from motorists is "Doooooorrrk!"

Another Canuck said...

Hardly making the argument to a tough crowd, but the whole insurance license argument largely stems from spite. If motorists have to pay fucking insurance, these bikers should too. And accountability? How about our personal safety and lives. No that's accountability on the roads.

Marcel Da Chump said...

Now I know what inspired Morrissey to write the lyrics "punctured bicycle on a hillside desolate".

Johann Rissik said...

James Huang-ker.

Anonymous said...

http://granfondony.eventbrite.com/?ref=ebtn

Please! Please! Comment on the Grand Fondo.

crosspalms said...

Peter and Jane are both Grand Fondas. Henry was a Great Fonda.

crosspalms said...

I think the chihuahua humping video yesterday was the Grand Fondle.

Buffalo Bill said...

Martin Erzinger? Oh that asshole, thanks for reminding me.

bikesgonewild said...

... a few years down the road ...

...after the first conviction...

mikeweb said...

Wow, Huang's rear motorized hub is beefy.

As is the automotive journalist. That dude could wear a Smart car like a sports jacket.

Anonymous said...

http://www.misterpoll.com/polls/148593/results

Hmmmmm....

J.D.Byker said...

In the smugness department, Boulder leaves Portland in the dust. Where else does a tree fall on a busy street and take out not one, but two of the smugness vehicles of choice - the Toyota Pious.

Through the looking glass said...

In Bizarro World all Stop signs read POTS!

Thanks. Don't mind if I do.


ppppfftttttt!!!!!!!!

xyxax said...

grand Fondo:

Freds dipped in chocolate on their skewers.

Marcel Da Chump said...

If they're not careful crossing the GBW, there's going to be a Gran Fondip.

D. Hawerchuk said...

The Melting Pot has some phenomenal Grand Fondo
http://www.meltingpot.com/

We eat there all the time.

Jason said...

@mikeweb
Nope, at the 27/28 second mark you can see a 20 MPH marking on the street (facing the correct direction) and and the arrows just beyond that indicate the proper direction of travel in that lane. The cars on the left are parked facing the wrong way.

Quicksquirt McHurt said...

This post made my pecker shrivel.

D. Lama said...

What a bunch of dysphoric mother-fuckers. That rainbow maker brought a smile to my otherwise downcast face. And you guys are hating on it? Are you Glen Beck viewers? Homophobes? Fuck you.

Martin Erzinger said...

http://www.bbcamerica.com/shows/topgear/video.jsp?bclid=31560305001&bctid=30106542001

Same old shit, involving bike car, bus, boat, public transport, and fat englishmen.

They all east to many crisps.

Salty and Sore said...

Anon 3:00-

Actually, insurance and registration might be a great idea for cyclists.



Okay, playing along with that scenario... Your bike just got stolen!

(which never happens to any cyclist by the way.)

The person using your bike just committed [insert embarrassing criminal activity here], and you have to somehow prove that it wasn't you.

After wasting thousands of dollars in taxpayer money, not only trying to track down your stolen bike (and the person on whom the 'glove fits'), but also, in trying to defend your good name to the local authorities for why it was 'your bike' by the registration, it wasn't you at the scene of the crime.

Now, let's do some math. How many times a month/week/day are bicycles stolen in your community? Can you imagine the extra burden on the local infrastructure this would create?

I'm not saying that stolen bikes shouldn't be recovered, nor that bike theft shouldn't be prosecuted. They should, and they should. But there will be ancillary crimes pegged to the wrong person the same as which occurs with other stolen vehicles, though much harder to prove innocence, given the current cultural stigma against cyclists that is creating the desire for bicycle registration to begin with.

bikesgonewild said...

...@d.lama...i agree...guy did a lotta work for something that i'm betting doesn't get used often but i definitely think is kinda cool...

UK Citizen said...

At no time does the cyclist in the UK cycle the wrong way down a one way street or go through a 'do not enter' sign. The street at 25s is two-way.

David Henderson said...

Great post today BSNYC. Helmet cameras? Absolutely shocking! I can only truly express my feelings about this topicthusly

www.cyclingdeal.com.au said...

I gotta say, I love this blog

livingjetlag said...

@zenbicyclist: What if they carried it on a line?

All you Haters portage my rainbow.

mediumtedium said...

more "missed connections" where that one came from-

http://sfbay.craigslist.org/eby/mis/2190135386.html

i can only imagine the smile that finally crept across the face of the man who, every day, searches for a mention of his "bike shorts bulge" in the W4M

Anonymous said...

RNBO PUSY

BRIT WNKR

CRZY ARAB

FATD RIVR

CYCL DYKE

Another Sign of the Porklips said...

It appears that Fat Stupid Assholes Bloviating On Subjects About Which They Have No Clue is now a worldwide phenomenon. We may not have invented it, but we have elevated it to an art form to everyone's detriment.

cyclotourist said...

British bad guys feed you to the pigs when you whack their vans.

wishiwasmerckx said...

99th...

wishiwasmerckx said...

...and 100th...

g-roc said...

I dunno, that rainbow maker's pretty gay...oh, ha-ha, not that gay...but, yeah, I guess that gay too - not that there's anything wrong with that. Still, what a douchetard.

mike said...

101st!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


gaz545's youtube channel is all about the helmet cam and riding in London's traffic. Check it out yo!!!

http://www.youtube.com/user/gaz545

Smug Californian said...

I don't know what you're all complaining about the weather for - here in the Bay Area it was warm enough for short sleeves. I rode fifteen or so miles to a meeting (I don't have a computer) and fifteen miles back, and while it would have taken half an hour less each way if someone had taken me in a car, I had a lovely time and didn't meet any nasty 'white van men' today.

mike said...

what does RTMS stand for?

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mikeweb said...

@Jason,

Thanks for the clarification. I guess that whole 'driving on the left' thing confused me.

Spence said...

Tank you Bass.

mojito said...

Simple living for simple people. If you own one pencil and it breaks in two, do you now own two things? Do you count the cans in your cupboard? Sticking to the 100 rule really is complicated and keeping to it could be kind of like a monastic pursuit. I recommend the Simple Lifers create a handbook that details what should or should not be counted and the Window of Tolerance above which that count shall not go. They should then call it something like "95+5 Theses", except make it witty. To do that, though, they'd need a Wit Committee and a Process for electing that Committee and to decide the legislative power and ordinance of Said Committee.

broken arm said...

I liked the rainbow maker.

I didn't like the "white van man".

If that's too judgemental for some, AYHSMB.

Thank you.

retiredtandembmxr said...

i enjoy the coin slot shots.. very slitillating. but i know you can do better; these don't even approach the grandeur of that iconic chasm of the Norge repairman... thanks though!

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Fixie Bikes said...

It's like manifest destiny smugness.