Thursday, June 30, 2011

You Are What You Eat: The "Other" Salmon

This Saturday, July 2nd, the Tour de France bicycle cycling race will begin. As it happens, I'm supposed to write about this bicycle cycling race for the "Bicycling" magazine website, so with only two days to go I figured I might as well look into who's actually competing in it. In this sense, I am heading into the unknown--just like Alberto Contador:

So will Contador win the Tour again? Well, that depends on two things:

1) Is he too tired after winning the Giro of Italy?


2) Can he win without meat?

Yes, that's right, after falling victim to the steak that bites back last year, Contador has given up the red stuff:

Contador Gives up Meat

Contador says he has stopped eating meat since testing positive for clenbuterol on last year's Tour de France, a result he blamed on contaminated steak.

The 28-year-old favourite to win this year's Tour, which gets underway on Saturday, also said in an interview published on Wednesday that his Saxo Bank team will have its own cook this year.

"No, I have not eaten meat again," he told sports daily Marca when asked if he had eaten meat since traces of clenbuterol were discovered in a test on the second rest day of the 2010 Tour, which he won.

You've got to admire Contador for not only sticking to the tainted steak story, but also going so far as to give up meat altogether in order to make it seem more convincing. It's like the "Seinfeld" episode where Jerry had to wear glasses all the time so he wouldn't offend Lloyd Braun. Still, I'm not buying the part about Saxo Bank hiring its own cook, since that sounds expensive. I'm pretty sure when they say "cook" they just mean they're giving one of the mechanics a copy of "Babe's Country Cookbook: 80 Complete Meat-Free Recipes from the Farm" and telling him to get to work:

Babe says, "Don't eat the little piggies."

Meanwhile, a fellow Tweeterer informs me that Dave Zabriskie is attempting to do Contador one better by riding the entire Tour De France on a vegan diet:

This might be newsworthy, except for the fact that as part of his "vegan" diet Zabriskie "plans to eat small amounts of salmon two days per week," which means his diet is about as vegan as Babe's ass is kosher.

Now, when it comes to eating, I say eat whatever as long as it's not endangered, makes you happy, and keeps you regular. Want to join the "nose to tail movement?" Good for you. Want to go vegan because you can't stand even the thought of a human hand tugging on a bovine udder? Perfectly fine. Want to eat the heart of your human enemy while it's still beating so that you may absorb his powers? Well, you probably shouldn't do that, if only for sanitary reasons.

But regardless of what you eat, you don't get to call yourself a vegan if you eat salmon. That's it. Once that pink flesh passes your lips you're out of the squat and banned from the coop. Turn in your hemp shoes to the smelly guy lying on a mattress he pulled from a Dumpster, and don't let the door with the punk show flyers all over it hit you in the ass on the way out. That's all there is to it. If you need a fancy, pretentious name for yourself, then I guess you can call yourself a "pescetarian." (That's someone who only eats Joe Pesci.) But all it really means is you're not a vegan; you're just another lox-munching schmuck.

Anyway, apparently Zabriskie is being mentored by another pretend-vegan athlete:

Zabriskie also consulted with a professional motorcycle racer, Ben Bostrom, also a vegan, who advised Zabriskie to include small amounts of fish a couple of times a week because of the incredibly large load he puts on his body during training. "He told me, don't get too hung up on the word 'vegan'," says Zabriskie. The fish, Zabriskie says, helps his body absorb certain vitamins and iron.

Again, I don't care what people are eating, but the word "vegan" means what it means. Don't get too hung up on the word "vegan?!?" Getting hung up about stuff is what being a vegan is all about! He's as bad as these minimalists who only have 15 things...except their accessory chargers. And their toiletries. And the fully-equipped luxury condo and summer house they share with their wife. Certain areas of life need to remain black and white, and the profoundly irritating self-righteousness of veganism is one of them. I mean, what if you replace the word "vegan" with "clean," and the word "fish" with "EPO?"

Zabriskie also consulted with a professional motorcycle racer, Ben Bostrom, also a clean rider, who advised Zabriskie to include small amounts of EPO a couple of times a week because of the incredibly large load he puts on his body during training. "He told me, don't get too hung up on the word 'clean'," says Zabriskie.

Or, what if you used "virgin" and "sexual intercourse?"

Zabriskie also consulted with a professional motorcycle racer, Ben Bostrom, also a virgin rider, who advised Zabriskie to include small amounts of sexual intercourse a couple of times a week because of the incredibly large load he puts on his body during training. "As he caressed me, he told me, don't get too hung up on the word 'virgin'," says Zabriskie.

I may have added a few extra words there, but I think you see my point. Being a vegan is like being a virgin: you either is, or you ain't. As far as I'm concerned, Zabriskie can eat all the salmon he wants. But he doesn't get to call himself a vegan, and he's officially out of contention for the maillot hemp traditionally given to the vegan riding highest on the GC. Nor does he get to wear a vegan tattoo:

(Vegans often opt for wrist placement since the word "vegan" is incompatible with knuckle tattoos.)

One rider who would never play fast and loose with the definition of veganism is the time-traveling t-shirt-wearing retro-Fred from the planet Tridork--or, as one reader informs me he is now called, "Bret:"

"If it rains take the bus," you say? Well not Bret! He trains for that century even when it's cloudy and drizzly:

Bret is clearly logging some serious miles. I don't know which charity ride he's training for, but I'm pretty sure he's going to dominate it.

Meanwhile, in the comments to yesterday's post (Critical Mass guy is still emailing me by the way), commenter "Mikeweb" linked to a distressing article:

I'd love it if we never had to read about a serious bicycle accident. However, as long as we do, it would be nice if the reporters could at least not always go out of their way to immediately mention whether or not the rider was wearing a helmet:

Ray Deter, 53, owner of d.b.a. New York in the East Village and d.b.a. Brooklyn in Williamsburg, was not wearing a helmet when he was hit on Canal St. as he headed to work.

What is the point of this, apart from unnecessarily heaping additional blame on the rider? He may have turned heedlessly as the article says, but whether or not he was wearing a helmet at the time has nothing to do with that decision. It's like the "Vegan Times" reporting on the incident and writing, "The victim had eaten a hamburger earlier in the day." It's a tacit judgment, and it's a device reporters love to use when writing about cycling.

Also, it takes two to have a collision, but I guess we just have to assume the 24 year-old in the Jaguar who keeps his weed in the car was driving safely (on Canal Street, where nobody ever speeds)--and also wearing his helmet, since the article doesn't say anything to the contrary.

On a much happier note, I've been waiting and waiting, and finally someone has reviewed the Mario Cipollini bike:

There were a bunch of words in the review, but these were the only ones I noticed:

a peach
tube shapes
curving around the rear
oversized, tapered
seriously aggressive position
riding position
feels close
massively oversized
great fun to ride hard
overbuilt and stiff
remarkably good
spend all day
aggressive position
always in an ‘attack’ position
a lot of pressure on your lower back
not easy to sit up

Whew! I feel dirty.

Slap a noseless saddle on that and you may never experience "down time" again.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Like Attracts Like: Don't Feed the Narratives

Recently, I received an email from a company, or concern, or enterprise, or organization, or entity, or whatever the proper term is, called "Dedicated Lane Productions, Inc." The purpose of this email was to alert me to a Kickstarter campaign for a Critical Mass documentary entitled "Last Friday of the Month."

Since I'm a blogger with a blog on the Internet, I assumed they sent me this email because they wanted me to mention it on my Internet blog that I have. So I mentioned it.

Subsequently, the director of the documentary left a lengthy comment on my Internet blog that I have (this one, not the other one about urban beekeeping), followed by a couple of lengthy emails. Now, I confess I had a bit of trouble following the comment and the emails. This is because: a) I have a poor attention span; and b) the prose was somewhat rambling, and at times flirted with the line between spontaneous bop prosody and incoherence.

However, I came away from it all with the impression that he was angry at me because I wasn't sufficiently effusive about his project, but he kind of maybe had a sense of humor about the whole thing, but really he was mostly angry. In any case, I sent him a friendly reply, and I might have forgotten about the whole thing, but then I noticed this was appended to one of the emails:

I could be mistaken, but that appears to be a disembodied arm clubbing a seal representing my blog, set alongside some kind of ripoff of the Public Enemy logo.

Or maybe it's a cricket bat, and the seal is drunk.

Either way, they say a picture is worth a thousand words. I suppose this is true, because the director had sent me something like three thousand words that I didn't understand, but here was a single picture that made it abundantly clear he wants to club me. And I certainly don't want to be clubbed--especially if it happens on the last Friday of the month, since the traffic will be all snarled up thanks to Critical Mass and the emergency services vehicles won't be able to get to me.

Anyway, I prefer to take the illustration in the spirit of humor and assume it's just the director's idea of parody. Plus, he's certainly more than entitled to make jokes at my expense. Still, I can't get over my irritation over the notion that we're all just supposed to like stuff nowadays. I'm not sure if it's the Internet or just the cyclical nature of popular attitudes, but frankly it seems the way things work lately is that people fabricate narratives about themselves and then our job as readers/viewers/consumers or whatever we are is to accept those narratives and congratulate them for their efforts. Here's the template:

--Guy in a hat decides he's a bike racer, we're supposed to celebrate his "passion" and "sportsmanship;"

--Filmmaker decides a massive inconvenience is actually a great political movement, we're supposed to celebrate Critical Massers as civil rights heroes and fund the film;

--Douchebag decides throwing out his books and buying an iPad makes him an aescetic, we're supposed to celebrate "minimalism" as a bold new lifestyle;

--Car company incorporates bikes into their advertising, we're supposed to celebrate them for embracing cycling;

--Hipsters import chocolate to Brooklyn on schooner and sell it for $9 a bar, we're supposed to celebrate it as "artisanal."

And so forth.

There's nothing wrong with any of this. We all write narratives for ourselves. The outline consists of our hopes, ambitions, pleasures, and desires, and we then set about fleshing it out as best we can. That's what life is. But that doesn't mean we all have to buy the chocolate. I mean, sure, if it's worth it to you go right ahead, but don't get upset when someone says, "Fuck that, I'm buying a Kit-Kat."

Also, clearly the Critical Mass documentary director isn't just blindly "liking" things. He's participating in Critical Mass because he doesn't like something, and in fact he doesn't like something so strongly that he's actually gone to jail for it. Still, that doesn't mean I can't not like the way he doesn't like something, since I also believe the way he goes about not liking stuff makes people not like me. Ultimately, I just can't help feeling like Critical Mass goes a bit too far, in that the participants write the rest of us into their self-serving narrative.

Incidentally, in browsing the Dedicated Lane, Inc. website, I also noticed a documentary about a "punk" sorry, "ska-core" band, entitled "Fuck Brakes:"

F*#K Brakes Trailer from Spike Project on Vimeo.

They're changing the world one formulaic song at a time.

In any case, while I tend to keep my distance from Critical Mass because I don't agree with it, I also don't follow RAAM--not because I don't agree with it, but because it just plain freaks me out. I think we all have a different notion of when a sport goes from "dramatic" to "stupid," and for me it's when the competitors have to put duct tape on their heads. Basically, it's the kinbaku of bicycle racing. Still, even though I don't follow RAAM, I did read this article about it in The New York Times:

Apparently, unlike more attractively gruelling races such as the Tour de France, RAAM is free from doping scandals:

While professional cycling has been rocked by numerous drug scandals, no RAAM rider has failed a drug test. Most say that there is no incentive to cheat in the race because it awards no prize money.

Right, I'm sure nobody has ever cheated in RAAM. If people are doping to win amateur bike races--as duct tape guy did--then I'm sure someone at some point has cheated in RAAM. By the way, the condition that requires duct tape is apparently called "Shermer's Neck:"

Goldstein completed the race in just over 11 days despite dealing with Shermer’s Neck, a painful condition that afflicts many ultracyclists who spend upwards of 22 hours a day hunched over their bikes and makes it difficult to keep their head up. Eight days into the race, Goldstein’s team kept her on the road by braiding tape in her hair and tying it to her heart-rate monitor or bra to keep her head pulled back.

I thought Shermer's Neck was a fancy neighborhood on Long Island. That should show you what a RAAM "noob" I am.

But the real story at RAAM this year was that the winner is a bike messenger, though I'm sure his words will sting his fellow messengers like peeling off duct tape too fast:

“I don’t know if I’ll go back to being a bike messenger,” he said after his rest. “I like people who are successful but keep their ordinary jobs, but if you do something great, you should maybe make something out of it.”

So, like, what? Being a messenger isn't "something great?" I though bike messengers were urban heroes; fierce warriors; bold riders on the very labia of the Vagina of Chaos. At least that's what all those messenger videos seen to want me to believe. And speaking of messengers, even though "Triple Rush" has been cancelled, videos continue to appear like the tingling of a phantom limb. Here's one in which a messenger boots a tire:

Triple Rush - Tire Patch Trick from Triple Rush on Vimeo.

Sure, anyone who has ever flipped through a copy of "Bicycling" knows how to boot a tire, but I'm sure the producers thought it represented the very pinnacle of street-savvy ingenuity. Plus, as the messenger himself puts it:

"If you're riding hard and you're riding fast which we have to, you really have to try to make stuff last as long as possible."

Absolutely. To that end, here are a couple of helpful money-saving tire tips.

Money-Saving Tire Tip #1:

Use a Brake.

I couldn't help noticing that, in addition to being bamboo, the messenger's bike is also brakeless:

I know this is mind-blowing information, but when you stop by skidding your tire doesn't last as long.

Tire Money Saving Tip #2:

Don't use a $50 road racing tire.

If you insist on using your rear tire as your brake, don't spend "$45-$50" on narrow, lightweight road racing tires.

But I guess when you're a TV messenger, it goes without saying that saving money always comes second to remaining fashionable.

By the way, when it comes to the actual booting, if you're a cash-strapped messenger, use a $1 bill:

However, if you're a roadie and you like to spend extra money on stuff for no reason or discernible performance gain, use a $100 bill instead:

(The $100 bill, also known as the "Fred Boot.")

Just tell yourself bigger bills have a higher thread count and will give you a more supple ride.

I'm pretty sure I read that in "Bicycling."

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Winning by a Nose: Of Competition and Virility

Further to yesterday's post, one commenter was irate that I did not treat the Red Hook Crit or its participants with sufficient reverence:

Anonymous said...

Funny, it's obvious none of you actually know anything about the red hook crit, and the level of competion this event brings. A few pro racers several cat 1, 2 ,3 racers. (plain english translation, cuase im sure most of you dont even know what that means, these dudes race and are good enough to progressed up the ranks) So to say this event is a joke, clearly highlights your ignorance.

At least this guy raced in it, I was there and it was cold, anyone who has the balls to race in those conditions deserves to describe the event as not being hipster or what whatever else they want.
Top ten or whatever, give the guy a break, he's obviously passionate about racing, and if any of you are true sportsman, or have any passion for anything you should be encouraging his passion not talking shit.

June 27, 2011 10:49 PM

I think most readers of this blog not only understand but also appreciate the Red Hook Crit. Indeed, I'm a fan of the Red Hook Crit and I even told the "media" as much when they asked--though in the end they decided to misquote me. I also think most readers of this blog understand and appreciate being passionate about cycling, as it is a feeling most of us have in common. It's certainly why I dictate this blog to my helper monkey everyday, and it's most likely why you're reading it right now instead of checking out cheese porn.

Nevertheless, I'd also argue that it's important to keep certain things in perspective. For example, the Red Hook Crit is a great event, but let's not get too carried away with the level of competition. Sure it boasts "a few pro racers" as well as "several cat 1, 2 ,3 racers," but so does any given weekend race in Prospect Park. (Even if some of them are getting suspended for doping.)

Also, yes, it goes without saying that we all encourage Cinelli hat guy's passion for cycling. However, at the same time, some of us are not quite convinced that his decision to partake in a bicycle race (even though "it was cold") warrants making him one of the subjects of a Bud Greenspan-esque documentary film. I say this as someone who has partookened in many a cold bicycle race, and who knows that recreation is recreation no matter what the thermometer says. (And it usually says, "You're an idiot. Go back to bed.")

Most importantly, when you enter a race there is no guarantee of glory. You may win, you may get lapped 15 times, or you may wind up having to peel your face from the asphalt. If Cinelli hat guy is a "true sportsman," he knows this. If he is not, he will figure it out sooner or later. Similarly, when you are one of the subjects of a Greenspan-esque documentary film, there is no guarantee that your efforts will be lauded. Whether it's a race or a film, the only way to guarantee a result is to not participate in the first place. This is the essence of both competition and personal expression. We are not required to be moved by the "Racing Towards Red Hook" video, for it is as subject to commendation or derision as any creative work.

So why is maintaining this perspective important? Because without it, our innate human inanity knows no bounds. Most of us have fancied ourselves cycling heroes at one time or another, and we know the perils of this behavior all too well. It's what compels 20-something freelancers to spend a thousand dollars on Hed 3 front wheels for their track bikes while foregoing health insurance. It's why your local Cat 4 field is riding more exotic bikes than most Pro Tour teams. It's why riders pushing 30 are on doping programs so they can dominate amateur races.

It's tempting to say that there's a fine line between dedication and delusion, but when it comes to cycling, I'd argue that dedication doesn't exist and that there are only degrees of delusion that can be measured in dollar signs. And to expect congratulations simply for entertaining this delusion is, in itself, delusional.

So if making jokes about treating the Red Hook Crit like Paris Roubaix is wrong, then I don't want to be right. Because, frankly, the alternative (which is actually taking bike racing seriously) is just too fucking expensive.

Speaking of documentary films, another subject that may or may not be worthy of documenting is Critical Mass in New York City. As you most likely know, "Critical Mass is a leaderless group bicycle ride that takes place in over 300 cities around the world, typically on the last Friday of every month." However, Critical Mass documentaries do have leaders. These leaders are called "directors," and this one wants us to give him $25,000:

"I have a right to ride in the street! On my bike! I don't need any government permission!," shouts one Critical Masser in the trailer, and this is exactly why I think New York City's Critical Mass warrants a documentary. Indeed, we don't need any government permission to ride our bikes in the streets, but thanks to Critical Mass we probably will soon. Between the crackdowns and the parade rule and the constant attempts to institute bicycle registration laws that have arisen since Critical Mass began, it's only a matter of time before it succeeds in its goal of making the simple act cycling not only politically charged but also completely illegal.

But while I do believe that one of the most ass-backward political movements in recent years does warrant a documentary, I'm not so sure we should have to pay for it--especially when you consider the dicrector's background:

In 2004 New York City's Critical Mass bicycle ride was labeled a "protest" and the police began an uncommonly aggressive campaign of mass arrests of bicyclists. Chris ( the Director ) was caught up in the first wave of arrests and has continued filming Critical Mass rides, while following relevant court cases and documenting other cyclists' personal experiences.

Didn't those people who got arrested win a big fat settlement? It seems to me he should be in a pretty good position to fund the movie himself. Then again, you can't really put a price on watching people raise pennyfarthings in defiance:

Actually, you can, and it's apparently 25 grand. I think NYC Critical Mass may be the Red Hook Crit of protest rides.

Yes, cyclists in New York City are under unrelenting political pressure. Meanwhile, the police (at least those who ride bikes while on patrol) are evidently under unrelenting groinal pressure, which is why some doctor is touting noseless saddles:

Case in point, an officer who switched to a noseless saddle and now has longer "night boners:"

During his sleep, when he wore a monitor, the measure known as “percent of time erect” increased to 28 percent from 18 percent.

It's hard to think of when a longer erection would be of less use to you than when you're sound asleep and you can't even use the thing. Spending more time erect while you're unconscious is like having a slightly more aerodynamic sofa. In theory I suppose it's better, but in practice, so what?

Speaking of meaningless measurements, here's another one:

“There’s as much penis inside the body as outside,” Dr. Schrader told me. “When you sit on a regular bike saddle, you’re sitting on your penis.”

If you're a man, next time someone's unimpressed with your endowment, just try telling them that half your penis is inside your body and that it's actually twice as long as it looks. Then throw in the part about how you have magnificent erections of "epic" duration while you're snoring and drooling all over your pillow and you'll have your pick of anybody at the bar.

Of course, the biggest problem with this whole noseless saddle data is that the testing was done on police, so while it may be relevant to them it's not necessarily applicable to the rest of us and how we ride. Anyway, I'll be impressed when this Dr. Schrader does one of his boner tests on cops who ride recumbents:

Perhaps he can finally break the elusive 100% night erection barrier.

I would like to see a noseless Brooks though.

Lastly, I was very pleased to hear from a reader recently who was fortunate enough to meet the famous Lone Wolf. As he describes it:

I met the Lone Wolf today at the Manhattan Beach Grand Prix. I turned around from the race and there he was! "Lone Wolf" I blurted out. He laughed deep and wise. The laugh of one who is in fact THE Lone Wolf. "You are one of my heroes" I went on. He looked me right in the eyes and said "You are a hero." He set his wheels straight, and posed for this picture. His wolf powers conjured two podium girls in red as I snapped this image.

Wisdom from the Wolf: stay hydrated.
He is really a very nice guy.

Humility, good humor, and a saddle with a nose. He's nothing short of the cycling ideal.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Racing Towards Anxiety: Sowing the Seeds of Doubt

This past weekend, the Bicycle Film Festival took place in New York City. If you're unfamiliar with the Bicycle Film Festival, it's kind of like Sundance, only for the sorts of people who wear cycling caps as casual wear and ride brakeless bicycles with perpetually empty CETMA racks. I did not attend the festival, even though (or, more accurately, because) it featured films like that "Racing Towards Red Hook" video, the preview of which is so sublimely absurd as to warrant a second viewing:

expresso: racing towards red hook (trailer) from Jessica Scott on Vimeo.

In addition to the infamous "This ain't no hipster shit" quote, the "Racing Towards Red Hook" preview also features other rhinestones of wisdom, such as this:

"So many people have, like, this type of bike it makes sense to create some sort of sporting event around it."

I couldn't agree more. Given the popularity of fixed-gears it really is about time somebody invented some kind of competition in which these bicycles can be utilized. I think the ideal venue for a bicycle with a single gear ratio and no brakes would be some sort of flat, closed bicycle track, and instead of running lights and getting signatures on manifests or popping wheelies they could simply ride around and around it to see who's the fastest. It could be called a "velo-drome"--"velo" for bike, and "drome" for, well, drome--and if someone were to build some sort of prototype I have no doubt it would attract many fixed-gear cyclists with trendy moustaches:

Sure, it will be underground to begin with, but who knows? Maybe in 50 or 100 years racing bicycles inside of a "velo-drome" could become an olympic sport! I know it seems far-fetched, but hey, we can dream. And it will all have started thanks to the boundless vision of the guy in the Cinelli hat.

(Frank Warren: Non-Hipster and Inventor of the Velodrome)

It's hard to blame him for his exuberance though. After all, who among us has not discovered some new pleasure, and become so excited about it that we mistake this excitement for discovery? I know that was my experience when I tasted chocolate-dipped haggis for the first time. "Have you tried this?!?," I shouted exuberantly as I attempted to foist forkfuls of the stuff onto complete strangers. "It's amazing!" Little did I know artisanal chocolate-dipped haggis trucks have been all the rage in Brooklyn for like months now, and in my enthusiasm I came off as a total foodie "noob." Now, I know better, so I munch my chocolate-dipped haggis while wearing the appropriately fashionable expression of world-weary detachment.

Speaking of bicycle racing, that was one of the things I opted to do this past weekend instead of going to the Cycling Caps and Shants Film Festival. Even though I harbor no illusions as to my ability and enter races with little ambition beyond enjoying myself and not falling down, I'm usually excited before a race. I'm also always just a tiny bit nervous, mostly because I'm anticipating a state of anaerobic distress. Anyway, this was a mountain bike race, and as I stood there resting on my handlebars and awaiting the mad scramble for the holeshot, one of my fellow riders pointed to my arm and asked, "Has that been there from birth?" He was referring to a mole.

"I dunno," I replied.

"Well, you should really get it checked out," he pronounced in a dire tone.

One of my favorite things about bike racing is that, for the duration of the race, you set your troubles aside and focus only on riding your bike. Well, so much for that. Riding my bike was now the last thing on my mind, since apparently I had skin cancer. Basically, his words had the same excitement-quelling effect as slipping on a Larry King mask just before lovemaking. Then, my mind immediately shot to my recent return from Gothenburg, Sweden, when my driver had uttered these chilling words to me:

"You will die very soon. Mark my words. You will die very soon."

Sweet merciful Lob! It now became clear that he had put a curse on me and manifest a malignant mole upon my person.

A few rows ahead of me, a rider was wearing some sort of yellow LiveStrong helmet and glasses combo, and I resolved to push my way up to him and rub my moley arm all over his head and face in the hopes that his accessories might serve as a curative. Unfortunately, before I could get to him the race began, and like pretty much everybody else who was there that day he rode away from me rather easily.

Needless to say, I continued to reflect on this throughout the race, and at one point it occurred to me that perhaps it had been my fellow rider's plan to "psyche me out" all along by effectively transforming my race into a real-life "Seinfeld" episode. Furthermore, maybe I wasn't his only victim. For all I know, he could had been going from rider to rider and sowing seeds of doubt and fear in each one of them. "Hmmm, do you have a family history of glaucoma?," he might have asked as he peered into someone's eyes. "Did you just go to the bathroom again? Frequent urination can be a sign of adult onset diabetes."

In any case, if his intention was to undermine me he needn't have bothered, since in a race you can always count on me to undermine myself--and as usual, I did a commendable job of it. As for the mole, I suppose it couldn't hurt to go to the doctor, though I think I'll just take a picture of it and put it up on Twitter or Facebook instead. [Is my mole dangerous? If "yes," click the "Like" button!] Yes, here in HMO-merica, we're big believers in the power of amateur Internet diagnosis-by-consensus. Stuff like hands-on treatment and "universal health care" is for Canadians and communists.

Anyway, given my poor performance, I briefly flirted with retiring from cycling and taking up something less tiring. But what? For a moment, I considered origami:

But then I realized that the "origami culture" is probably just as cliquey and judgmental as the "bike culture." Consider the following:

Highlights of the exhibition included folded-paper versions of an Academy Award statuette, a miniature Buddha and a 15-foot Tyrannosaurus rex constructed by a group of students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. All were completed without the aid of scissors or glue.

“We’re purists,” said Wendy Weiss, 44, of Holyoke, Mass.

Clearly scissors and glue are the brakes and derailleurs of the crafting world, and just like fixed-gear riders the scissorless-and-glueless set are way too self-righteous about not using them.

I suppose I could always sandbag as a Cat 6 racer, but frankly I don't think I could afford the equipment. As we saw last week, Cat 6-style flat-bar road bikes are becoming very exotic, and via the Twitter I've learned that cyclocross bikes are following suit:

2010 Stevens Team Cyclocross Bike (santa clara)
Date: 2011-06-24, 3:04PM PDT
Reply to: [deleted]

2010 52 cm Stevens Team Cyclocross Bike

* Sram Red Components
* Custom built Velocity wheels with Challenge Parigi-Roubaix 700x28 Tires
* Ritchie WCS Flat bars, Seat Post and Stem
* Fizik Arione Saddle
* Speedplay Stainless Zero pedals

8 months old and ridden less than 1000 miles

Over 4500.00 invested with receipts.

Great straight bar road bike. World class Cyclocross frame . Just a tad too big for me.
Best fit probably 5'7"-5'10". Weighs just under 17 LBS. Outstanding frame and components for the serious biker.

Serious inquires please call Joe @ 408-621-[deleted]

Good thing he kept the receipts. I hear shame is tax deductible now.

Friday, June 24, 2011

BSNYC Friday Actuarial Table!

There are those who say, "If it rains take the bus." I am not one of these people. When it's time to commute, no matter how "chubby" the rain may be, I let the bus trundle on by.

I take the subway instead.

Yesterday though, I elected to commute into The Big City despite the rain, and even though I don't have an exotic titanium stealth commuter I enjoyed the ride very much. This is because, while my beat-up Scattante may not have features like exquisite welds and electric shifting, it does have these cheap plastic things called "fenders." In my estimation, when it comes to commuting, even the most expensive bike is worthless if it's underneath a soggy ass. Between my fenders and my upright bars from Rivendell I was quite comfy, though I also looked like some schlubby, ill-advised "collabo" between the Performance mail order catalog and Yehuda Moon:

Speaking of cockpits, in the night I have been festooning my cockpit (as well as my seatpost) with USB rechargeable Knog Boomers:

I realize I usually traffic in derision, but today's Friday so I'll say that between my old man bars and my conveniently rechargeable blinky lights I've been a much happier commuter lately.

Of course, if your bicycle does not accept fenders, you may opt for the so-called "filth prophylactic" clip-on iterations. Before you do so, however, it's important to know how to mount it. If you ride a "fixie"-style bicycle, you're supposed to mount it low, like a beaver's tail, so that it's almost scraping the wheel:

However, if you're a food delivery person, you're supposed to mount it vertically, like the tail of an alert dog:

I have no idea why this is, but them's the rules, and both fixed-gear riders and food delivery people adhere to them religiously:

I can only assume that the vertical fender mount is supposed to impart a "custom" look, like the tailpipe on this car I noticed recently:

Which features a vertical tailpipe:

Anyway, presumably my ignorance concerning the significance of the various bike-cultural "filth prophylactic" mounting angles is, along with my full fenders and upright handlebars and incessant hipster-baiting, yet another indication that I am becoming "old" and "out of it." And if I didn't feel like that when I set out on my commute, I sure did when I saw this guy:

Clearly the former patrons of CBGBs are getting on in years, which means I must be too. In fact, I think that guy might actually have elbowed me in the groin at a Token Entry show once.

Granted, I can't be sure, but I did give him a swift shot to the "pants yabbies" just in case.

Speaking of shots to the "nads," I'm pleased to present you with a quiz. As always, study the item, think, and click on your answer. If you're right you will be transported to a state of ecstasy, and if you're wrong you'll see Canadian nostalgia.

Thanks very much for reading, ride safe, and may your posterior be free from the ravages of moisture.

--Wildcat Rock Machine

1) Better late than never! Roberto Heras has just won the 2005 Vuelta a Espana.

2) The top tube of this women's road bike, which "ends in a bulbous tapered head tube," is called:

(Should work great with gloves.)

3) This custom titanium commuting bike is called the:

4) Which is not a rider profiled in Streetsblog's "My NYC Biking Story" series?

--A firefighter
--A deputy NYC mayor
--A woman in her 70s
--A freegan mutant bicycle club member and tall bike jousting enthusiast

5) Portland's cargo bike scene is:

(Like, where's the "ball" at?)

6) The latest ironic spectator sport in Williamsburg, Brooklyn is:

--Ultimate frisbee

(Like, where's the "party" at?)

7) The latest ironic soirée in Williamsburg is:

***Special Audible Alert-Themed Bonus Question***

Bells are out; ____________ are in.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Image Problem: Appealing for Appeal

Further to yesterday's post, one commenter had the following to say:

Anonymous said...

You say "hipster" way too much, get over it for fucks sake.

June 23, 2011 6:01 AM

You know, it's just this sort of attitude that has given hipsters the image problems from which they're now suffering. If instead of denying their own hipsterdom and telling people to leave them alone like surly teenagers "foffing off" in their bedrooms, hipsters were to unite and work to overcome the public's perception of them, I daresay they might become respected and valued members of society. I'd recommend they start with a massive PR campaign aimed at the working class, and it could go something like this:

As for the campaign's slogan, I'm thinking something simple and catchy along the lines of "Hipsters: Like Real People, Only More Expensive."

Granted, the guy in the second picture is less of a hipster than he is just a generic Best Made Co. douche, but this is just a hasty mock-up, and I'm confident that the hipster community can harness its considerable graphic design skills to really nail it.

The truth is there's no use denying hipsters exist, and there's also no use denying that they make people angry. Frankly, I wouldn't be worried about it at all if it didn't have a direct effect on cycling--but it does, for here in New York City, anti-cycling forces have exploited people's hatred of hipsters by portraying all cyclists as nothing more than crazed brakeless fixie-riding scofflaw transplants. So for this reason alone I'd like to see them subvert this by working to gain people's goodwill.

In fact, the problem has gotten so bad that the Forces of Smugness have had to work overtime to dispel the myth that all cyclists in New York City are heedless hipsters. To this end, Streetfilms (a smugness subsidiary of Streetsblog) has been "dropping" a series of "edits" featuring complete and utter anti-hipsters. Sure, this may be a bit like dropping a bunch of golf balls on the BP oil spill given the sheer volume of moronic alleycat and hillbombing "edits" out there, but I suppose it's a start, and the impressive cast of anti-hipsters they've assembled so far includes a fashion-neutral dad:

Though even Streetfilms can't whitewash the reality of hipster cycling, for at 1:14 our hero is the victim of a violent Cat 6 attack:

Then there's the older woman undaunted by age or maniac drivers:

"We didn't have phones when I was very young, and my friends didn't have a phone," explains Lucette Gilbert, "so if you wanted to speak to your friend, you had to bike over to their house."

See, now people talk on their phones while riding, but back then people had to ride their bikes in order to talk at all. Plus, while the young and entitled complain about cars parking in bike lanes and pick fights with the cops, Ms. Gilbert just rides around them:

Clearly the "bike culture" could do with a little less smugness and a little more good old-fashioned "You know, when I was your age..." senior shaming.

Not only that, but Streetfilms also turns the high-pressure hose on the bike-haters by featuring a firefighter:

Firefighters are the polar opposite of hipsters in that they are as universally revered and respected in New York City as the hipster is reviled. Therefore, using a firefighter in a pro-cycling video is like using a child as a human shield in a gunfight. By the way, I couldn't help but notice this guy:

Streetfilms clearly have the most profoundly smug "B-roll" archive of any film production entity in the world. "Hey, I'm editing the firefighter video. Do we have a shot of a guy in a safety vest carrying his compost and his children in the same container?" Of course they do.

Speaking of Streetsblog, while reading it I learned about the following article, which aims to explain the "gender gap" in cycling:

In it, the writer asserts that a big part of the reason women don't ride for transportation as much as men is that they can't afford to:

Bicycling is, in much of the car-centric U.S., either a privilege or a punishment. That's why more women aren't bicycling. It isn't because we're fearful and vain; it's because we're busy and broke and our transportation system isn't set up for us to do anything but drive.

You may or may not agree, but either way you've got to admit that only a man could possibly order a ridiculous "commuter bike" like this:

I don't know how much that thing cost, but I'm sure it's enough to make most people say, "Fuck it, I'm buying a minivan."

I'd also be tempted to say that perhaps the phallic nature of bicycle marketing is something of a turn-off for women, but clearly Specialized don't feel that way. In fact, their new women's road bike has what may be the most phallic top tube ever designed:

Most noticeable is a new flared top tube, dubbed the "Cobra", which ends in a bulbous tapered head tube...

Wow. And don't be afraid to push on it, ladies, it won't break:

"The head tube looks cool, but it does serve a purpose by preventing local deflection," said Specialized engineer Kyle Chubbuck. "When you push on the top of an eggshell you can't break it, and that's what's going on with the dome head tube."

So to recap: This bike has a top tube called the "Cobra" with a bulbous head and designed by a man named Chubbuck. Available now at your "LBS:"

Or shipped discreetly to your door in plain packaging.

Speaking of brown paper bags, the photo below was forwarded to me by a reader, and I might wear a brown paper bag over my head if this bike belonged to me:

Evidently exotic flat-bar road bikes are the new trend in commuting.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Creative Class: The Selflessness of Consumerism

Recently, I was reading the June 27th issue of The New Yorker, which is like totally crazy, since it's only the 22nd. My best guess is that it fell through a wormhole in time, which would explain why the magazine was sort of wet and wrinkly--though that could also be because I do the majority of my reading in the bathroom. Anyway, in this Magazine from the Future is (or will be) an article by Nicholas Lemann called "Get Out of Town: Has the celebration of cities gone too far?," and it's sort of a roundup of various books about the state of cities and urban living in the 21st century.

One of the writers Lemann talks about in the article is someone called Richard Florida, who puts forth the notion of a "Creative Class." The "Super-Creative Core" of the Creative Class apparently consists of people like scientists, architects, academics, and artists. Then, the rest of the Creative Class is made up of "managers, lawyers, accountants, and so on."

"The key factor in determining whether a city is successful," explains Lemann of Florida's idea, "is how significant a cohort of the Creative Class it attracts." Furthermore, he adds that "you would have thought it was dull Babbitts who made a city commercially successful, but no--it's kids with scruffy beards and tattoos who have alt-rock bands, script iPhone apps, and wait tables in vegan restaurants."

In other words, Lemann is saying that the Creative Class consists of the people commonly referred to as "hipsters."

Now, Lemann may be simplifying Florida's concept a bit. Firstly, I've never met a hipster scientist--unless you consider "mixology" a science. Secondly, I'm not so sure it makes sense to lump accountants in with the Creative Class, since a creative accountant is technically a member of the criminal class. Still, what Lemann is saying (or at least what he's saying that Florida is saying) is that hipsters make cities rich:

What's the connection between them and prosperity? (Their parents are probably asking the same question.) They generate an atmosphere of cultural richness and innovation that attracts more obviously productive types, who have lots of choices about where to live and will pick places they find exciting and attractive.

Here in New York City, gentrification is one of our most popular spectator sports, so there's nothing new to us about the concept that trendy neighborhoods ultimately attract people with money. What I did find intriguing, though, was the idea that hipsters "generate an atmosphere of cultural richness and innovation," and it's one that's both comforting and disturbing.

Increasingly, people either like to say that the word "hipster" is no longer relevant, or that it's petty to make the distinction. However, I think it's foolish to ignore a pop cultural phenomenon that's so readily apparent, and that for better or worse will define this time period in the same way hippies defined the 1960s or yuppies defined the 1980s. Moreover, I'd argue that most people have a visceral reaction when they enter a neighborhood like Williamsburg and see, say, a recent Bard graduate loitering in front of a high-end coffee shop with a $4,000 track racing bicycle and a set of brass knuckles tattooed on his arm. It's hard not to be amazed at the irony.

However, for me at least, the idea that these people are simply "generating an atmosphere" somehow makes my own reaction less visceral. Previously when I saw someone like that, I thought they were appropriating a lifestyle with which they had no experience in order to fool people into thinking they were "authentic," and I found this simultaneously humorous and infuriating. Now, though, I realize they're providing "atmosphere," and that they're kind of like real-life movie extras whose purpose is to foster prosperity by visually enhancing a neighborhood so that it attracts "more obviously productive types."

Sure, this notion may be depressing, but at least it makes sense. These people aren't cultural con artists. Rather, they're unwitting dupes who serve as attractive ground cover and eventually become the cultural mulch that fertilizes neighborhoods for the wealthier people who will inevitably supplant them.

They're certainly doing their job well, too. The person with the expensive bike and the expensive brass knuckle tattoo is ideal fauna for the streets of Williamsburg, and he looks just as at home in front of an old building covered in "street art" as he does in the lobby of a building full of overpriced "luxury lofts." His "ink" is the sort of stylized criminal imagery that denizens of such neighborhoods feel comfortable referencing since they enjoy the aesthetics yet are confident that they'll never actually have to encounter it. He's exactly the sort of bandit a wealthy urbanite wants to encounter: he looks like a hoodlum, but the most subversive act of which he's capable is making them a sub-par latte.

For the same reason, I was similarly vexed by the "bike culture," which is certainly a subculture of the Creative Class and which seems to communicate almost entirely in the language of Product. It's a world of "dropping" and "swooping" and "re-ups" and "bike checks" and "edits" depicting the worst sort of two-wheeled fatuousness. Naively, I once thought, "Don't people ever tire of the new shiny things? What's so interesting about a portrait of a bicycle belonging to a person who can barely ride? Since when did product promotion become art? And how many bags is is possible to own anyway?"

But then I realized something: being attractive urban fauna is work. It's essential that people be told what to ride and how to ride and what to wear what to carry and how to carry it. It's also essential that they see pictures of other people doing it so they can copy the bikes and the bags and the clothing and the tattoos, so that the "atmosphere of cultural richness" strikes exactly the right heady balance that makes lawyers want to buy condos. Really, it's incredibly selfless of people to spend so much time, energy, and money on primping so that our cities become more attractive to people with money. Thank you, human wallpaper, for doing what you do so well.

Speaking of Williamsburg, the Brooklyn Paper reports that it now has more bike shops than Park Slope:

In the spectator sport of New York City gentrification, you're supposed to hate Williamsburg because of all the hipsters, and you're supposed to hate Park Slope because of all the yuppies and babies. Therefore, publications like the Brooklyn Paper must occasionally stir things up with titillating passages like this:

Silk Road’s Brendon Nicholas is not surprised — he argues that Williamsburg has more commuters while the Slope is riddled with “club riders” who train for cycling races or travel in packs like feral mammals around Prospect Park.

It's worth noting that all Brendon Nicholas said was "club riders," and that the reporter seems to have added the "travel in packs like feral mammals" part. Also, evidently it never occurred to the reporter that the people who ride in Prospect Park come there from other neighborhoods--including Williamsburg. However, I was interested to learn that the hipsterization of the Rockaways seems to be driving Williamsburgers away from fixed-gears:

“You don’t have as much here, you have more leisurely riding where people ride out to the beach on a road bike,” said Nicholas. “We’re seeing the trend toward single speed bicycles with breaks — bicycles that coast.”

Once they started riding more than two miles at a time, it had to happen...but "breaks?" Evidently the Brooklyn Paper uses the same style manual as the New York Post.

Anyway, in addition to calling Park Slopers "feral," the Brooklyn Paper claims that Williamsburgers are the better commuters:

Williamsburg has long been home to the city’s most committed commuters.

More than 6,200 people ride over the Williamsburg Bridge each day according to city transportation studies — nearly equaling the number of riders who cross either the Manhattan Bridge or Brooklyn Bridge each day.

If the Williamsburg Bridge sees fewer cyclists than either the Manhattan or Brooklyn bridges, how then is Williamsburg "home to the city's most committed commuters?" Anyway, how do you know where the people who ride over the Williamsburg Bridge are actually from? I use it fairly often, yet I don't live anywhere near the place. But perhaps the most confusing passage in the article was this:

Bike shops in Williamsburg and Greenpoint sell many fixed gears and single speeds while Park Slope shops often sell 21 to 27 speeds to riders who need to climb the neighborhood’s hills.

Ah yes, the famous hills of Park Slope. Who is selling new bikes with 21 speeds anyway? I think the only place you can get one of those now is Walmart:

Speaking of bikes that will help feral yuppies conquer the hills, a reader has forwarded me the most ridiculously Cat 6-tastic bicycle ever "curated:"

Here's what it was designed for:

Specific parameters: Stealth commuter. Half country roads, half urban Boston. 13 miles each way. No fenders. Titanium.

Gruelling. And here's the backstory:

One of the wonderful things about this build was how much freedom we were given (within a specific set of parameters) to create this bike for it’s owner. Alongside the basics of geometry, fit and construction we dealt with interpreting more ethereal parameters like feelings, attitude, likes, dislikes, design sense, specifics of the environment and a lot more. It was a long conversation(s) and it really became one of those magic moments that we strive for as framebuilders. Really getting to know someone, in an intense biomechanical/psychological kind of way.

I wonder why it took a bunch of "long conversation(s)" for this person to tell the builders that he wanted the world's most expensive Specialized Sirrus. It seems to me he could have communicated that in a single text message. Anyway, when you interpret "etherial parameters like feelings, attitude, likes, dislike, design sense, specifics of the environment and a lot more," you apparently wind up with a hybrid bike with Di2:

Yes, it has crabon wheels and electric shifting integrated into the handlebars, but it doesn't have fenders. I also don't know where he's supposed to carry his stuff, but maybe someone's sewing him a $9,000 LeSportsac.

If it were my bike I'd get "If it rains take the bus" engraved in the top tube.