That's right, that is indeed a pair of authentic Michael Ball pants, and they are being worn in conjunction with long and pointy clown shoes that appear to be made from some kind of deceased reptile. From this I can conclude that, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Rock is still not dead:
At least not in the midwest, where perhaps they still haven't gotten the message that Rock is in fact extremely dead.
What I don't like though is that touring forces me to miss the latest cycling industry news and Spring Classics-themed product launches. For example, did you know that the Great Trek Bicycle Making Company has a new bicycle called the Domane?
In case you didn't know, the hottest segment in crabon bicycles right now is the comfy road bike. This is partially because the various bike companies realize that people want to be comfy, but it's mostly because they also realized that crabon allows them to incorporate all sorts of bizarre shapes and blobs that make the bike look comfy. Sure, in most cases the shapes and blobs aren't really doing anything, but consumers have a hard time believing something is comfy unless a salesperson can point to something like a bow-shaped tube or a plastic blob and say "That thing will make you comfy." For example, you can't really point to a longer wheelbase or a different geometry, but you can point to a silicon breast implant, as Specialized does with its own comfy road bike, the Roubaix:
(Incidentally, I recently overheard a fascinating conversation in an LBS in which one customer was telling another to get a Specialized instead of a Giant because the Specialized comes from America but the Giant comes from Taiwan. I was tempted to explain the inaccuracy of that statement, but it was so cute that he actually believed it that I didn't have the heart to spoil his fantasy.)
Meanwhile, Volagi skips the plastic blobs in favor of the "patent- pending LongBow Flex™ stay:"
Clearly they're onto something here (at least from a marketing perspective) because, as we all know, Specialized sued them for it. Sure, Volagi may have won that case, but next they'll have to fend off a lawsuit from the Bowflex home gym people:
Amazingly though, the Great Trek Bicycle Making Company hasn't had a comfy crabon road bike to compete with these bikes--until now. They're not messing around, either, because the Domane has an "IsoSpeed junction:"
Sure, you could get a more comfortable seat or some wider tires, but that not nearly as Fred-tastic as having this kind of proprietary ass-pivot technology. And it works, too--at least according to the "Bicycling" write-up:
While riding on those Belgian cobbles, I was able to look down and see the pivot moving a rather surprising amount. Despite the constant motion in the frame, the saddle felt firm, and the ride was very smooth. I still felt the bumps, but a significant portion of the cobbles’ force got lost along the path to my hands and butt. I could keep my full weight on the saddle and not get bounced out by the bigger hits. This allowed me to comfortably stay seated on some very rough roads and keep the tempo high—just like the best Classics racers.
Yes, you too can be just like the best Classics riders. Of course, that last part is doubly awkward, because one of the best Classics racers was riding the Domane at Flanders this past weekend and things didn't go so well for him:
There's nothing funny about a rider getting injured, nor did Cancellara's choice bike have anything to do with his misfortune, but it just goes to show how the power of marketing can backfire. Indeed, the marketing game is a dangerous one, and we associate bike brands with losses just as we do with wins, even though in most cases the bike itself was largely immaterial. For example, we associate Trek with all those Tour de France victories, but we also associate it with certain Classics disasters. In fact, when it comes to the Classics, nobody beats Trek's rider ejection record:
Actually, we can probably blame the bike for that one, because, you know, the handlebars aren't supposed to come off a bike while you're riding. Incidentally, astute readers may have noted that Hincapie was also riding Trek's previous iteration of the ass-pivot technology, which was called "SPA," or "Suspension Performance Advantage:"
Hopefully they paid as much attention to the front end of the bike as they did to the rear this time around. I suppose it's only a matter of time before the industry revisits suspension road forks--which, it turns out, some people are still using:
Now that's roadie retro-chic.
In other cycling news, I suppose I'd be remiss if I didn't at least briefly address the latest photos of Conan O'Brien astride his Serotta:
Even by the low standards of this blog, it's a bit petty to pick on someone like Conan O'Brien for the way he looks while he's riding a bicycle, so I'm not going to do it. Really, given how busy he is I'm just happy to see he makes time to ride at all, and the fact that he does must mean he has genuine passion for the activity. Nevertheless, I do think we at least have to examine his unorthodox lever position:
It's hard to think of a good reason for O'Brien to keep his levers in the "checking your wristwatch" position, though I'm going to go with the theory that they got knocked out of whack it a travel case and that he didn't know how to fix them.
Speaking of traveling with a bike, this is ostensibly a bike-themed blog, and traveling with a bike is a popular subject among bike dorks, of which I am one. Therefore, I feel compelled to briefly share my own experiences traveling with a bicycle this past week, since having just flown nearly every day for an entire week they may be of value to some people.
As I mentioned briefly awhile back, this is my Detachable Travel Chariot. It happens to be a Surly, but obviously there are numerous options for bicycle frames with couplers, both custom and ready-made:
The above picture is now a few weeks old, but having been packed and unpacked about six or seven times since then it looks more or less the same. You might notice that the frame is a just tad on the small side, but that's what was available to me at the time, and it doesn't really matter since with a long stem in the Viagra position it fits me perfectly well. Plus, the unforeseen benefit of the smaller frame is that it makes the bike easier to pack, and I don't have to remove either the forks or the cranks to pack the bike--just the obvious stuff like the wheels and seatpost and pedals and handlebars, which makes packing and unpacking a relatively painless 20 minute or so affair if I go about it leisurely with one eye on the hotel TV. (Obviously I put the saved airline fees towards pay-per-view adult programming, that should go without saying.)
As for the case I use, it's one of these, and I have yet to incur a single airline bicycle fee (knock wood). However, this does occasionally require lying, since it doesn't look like a suitcase and so the person checking your bag will sometimes ask what's inside. Saying it's a "presentation display" has worked for me. (Also, that's technically not a lie, since the bike is usually somewhere near me while I'm BRAing and thus qualifies as a prop.) Also, one time I sighed and said "It's a long story..." and that also worked (I was pretty tired at the time), though I wouldn't recommend trying that one.
Anyway, once they tag the "presentation display" in they just throw it on the belt like any other piece of luggage, and then it generally comes trundling out with all the rest of the baggage once you get to wherever it is you're going (though once in Denver it came out with the oversized stuff). Here it is arriving in Chicago:
Though at this point the actual condition of the contents is still a mystery and a source of great suspense:
Still, I refrained from looking until I reached my hotel:
At which point I flipped it open:
Note that I use no padding or protection of any kind, because that's for "woosies," and I didn't put together a travel bike so I could fuss about it getting scratched, which it certainly does. I also leave as much in situ as possible in order to save time and effort, and this includes the lights:
Which in this case are Knog Blinders:
Which I mention because I'll be giving away some Knog Blinders under the auspices of this blog in the near future.
Anyway, my utter refusal to pamper the bike or handle it carefully in any way has thus far not been an issue. In fact, it just so happens that my stop in Chicago was the only one on which my bike emerged needing any real maintenance, and when I put it together I noticed the wheels were pretty wobbly. So I flipped it over and went to work with the spoke wrench:
(Yes, I always match my socks to the hotel carpeting.)
With that done, it was ready to "slay" Chicago in true Cat 6 fashion.
Of course, at this point the circus bike enthusiasts are saying, "Wouldn't it be even easier to travel with a folding bike?" Well, sure it would, but there is one problem, which is that I don't own a folding bike. Plus, it's nice to have a full-sized bike for when you want to ride through a sandpit like we did in Boulder, Coloradee:
I totally would have had to run that if I were riding a Brompton.
Speaking of Chicago, a reader yesterday left the following comment:
Are you going to post about Chicago or just prattle on about Madison's overabundance of infrastructure (or smugfrastructure as it's commonly known in the mid-west) forever? You gotta rep "the Chi" cuz it's a REAL mid-west city complete with raging taxis, copious pot holes, and drunk driving sporting fans. Also, next time you're in town come visit us at the Recyclery Collective. We're fans.
Indeed, unlike Madison, Chicago was a real urban jungle. Not only were there distinguished-looking gentlemen gesticulating in front of my hotel:
But in my short time there I also experienced dreadful conditions such as this:
And even this:
Sure, that's just the Lakefront Trail, but the streets there are equally hostile:
Amazingly though I arrived unscathed at TATI Cycles, a lovely and intimate shop full of cycling finery as well as frames handmade by the owner:
Once assembled, we headed back onto the Lakefront Trail:
Where a wave very nearly washed us out into the Atlantic or the Pacific or whatever ocean it is that's next to Chicago:
They say it's a lake, but I say that's bullshit.
Finally, we arrived at On The Route Bicycles:
Where very nice people who had probably just come there to shop for helments were forced to listen to me bloviate:
After which I disappeared into the night:
In all, it was a short but delightful visit, though that could be because this woman was praying for me the entire time:
There's no telling what might have happened otherwise.