Consider yesterday's commute, for instance. It was the first day of spring, and there I was, waiting at a red light and admiring the bike salmon who had been awakened by the vernal equinox:
After the light changed, I began pedaling, and with my smartphone still in hand I decided to place a phone call.
Now, ordinarily I'd be critical of someone making a phone call while riding a bicycle, especially during rush hour in a city that vacillates between indifference and hostility with regard to cyclists. But it's important to remember that I'm exceptional. Not only do I have incredible bike-handling skills and years of experience riding in New York City traffic, but my phone calls are also more important than everybody else's. Consider this phone call, for example, which was about what to have for dinner. That's the kind of shit that just can't wait.
So I placed the call, and just as I raised the phone to my ear the diminutive front wheel of my tiny folding clown bike hit a minor irregularity in the road surface, and despite my incredible bike-handling skills (which really are incredible, I can't stress that enough) I went down immediately, my state-of-the-art smartphone skittering along the pavement along with some plastic bits from the bike's collapsible pedals.
When you fall off a folding bike while trying to use a cellphone, you immediately forfeit any claim to mercy or assistance from passers-by. Nobody asks you if you're all right or attempts to help you up--nor should they! You, as the idiot who just fell off a clown bike while trying to make a phone call, must embrace the fact that you looked so sublimely and entertainingly stupid that to expect people to do anything but point, laugh, and take pictures is completely unreasonable. Indeed, as you collect your belongings and drag yourself to the sidewalk you're effectively providing a public service.
After performing my public service for the day, I dragged myself here and assessed the damage:
The phone was fine, I had incurred abrasions to my hand and knee, and I had torn my pants, though fortunately not in an area that would expose my genitals. The plastic bits snapped right back onto the pedal, and the bike was fine--other than the fact that it folds, but believe it or not that isn't a defect. Once I completed this check, I once again placed the phone call, only to learn that the person I was calling was far too busy to speak to me.
Oh, and if you're wondering whether I was wearing a helment, the answer is, "Of course not." Riding a folding bike while wearing a helment looks even dumber than falling off of one.
I mean, come on.
In any case, I did learn something about folding bikes, which is that the little fuckers are twitchy, and I totally wouldn't have fallen if I'd been riding a real bike with a sufficiently long stem:
Though I did fall off that one not too long ago when I rode over a wet metal plate. (Yes, I was wearing a helment, but only because helments match with road bikes.)
I think I may suck at riding bikes.
Also, you feel pretty stupid riding a folding bike with torn pants and a bloody hand, but you feel even stupider when you roll up next to a fixie and a Maserati:
If only I'd been wearing the airbag backpack to which I was recently alerted by a reader:
As far as I can tell, the way it works is that, upon impact, a pair of pneumatic penises burst out of it and surround you from both sides:
(Between a cock and a hard place.)
There's no safer place to be.
Speaking of urban cycling, have you ever longed to count traffic? Well, if you support this Kickstarter your dreams might finally come true:
It's like Strava, only for amateur urban planners.
Speaking of Kickstarter, in browsing it I stumbled upon an older (and funded) campaign for a movie called "Give Chase," which purports to be "a short action film featuring a relentless bike chase through the fringes of Brooklyn." Here's the pitch--which, as it turns out, has very little to do with bikes or chasing:
Like most white people of my generation, I'm acutely aware of the problems of racial prejudice in Hollywood and elsewhere--not because I've ever experienced it, but because I used to listen to Public Enemy on something called a "Walkman," which was basically an analog iPod. Nevertheless, I was a little confused:
But as I started to look deeper into how I fit in this career path, I started to find myself becoming marginalized. At least the people who looked like me in films--or really any ethnicity other than white--were either the exotic or the fringe or the expendable. And of all the visual mediums, I found film to be particularly lacking in diversity.
I realize talking about racial stuff is even more dangerous than talking about helments, but I have to admit I was thrown by his rant because at first I thought he was white--sure, maybe not Portland white, but white. Then again, as he spoke and it became apparent that he wasn't "white," I certainly had no trouble believing he could find someone to be prejudiced against him, since after all this is America, and most Americans are morons. Still, without knowing anything about him, if I had to describe him to the police and they asked me what race he was I'd probably be like, "Uh, I dunno, white maybe? He coulda been a Sephardic Jew, I dunno. Is that considered white? This is making me uncomfortable. Look, he was a beautiful manifestation of 21st century diversity and the golden-browning of America, OK? All I know is he was riding a Trek hybrid with really epic bar ends, which is how he gored me:"
And don't think I'm implying anything by talking about describing him to the police. It's just the only legitimate scenario I can think of in which you'd be asked to quickly identify a stranger in ethnic shorthand like that. In fact, I've been in exactly that situation--not the goring, but a cop asking me what race somebody was--and I was similarly unable to answer definitively. Look, some people are more distinctive-looking than others. For example, if I had to describe this guy to the police, it would be a little easier:
"He was some albino guy who looks like Conan O'Brien but with no eyebrows and a jersey with a picture of himself on it."
Same with this guy:
"He had a spray-on tan, a whale's baleen for a mouth, and he was dripping in olive oil."
Or this woman:
"It was some naked Canadian chick on a recumbent, I don't know how she got the wallet out of my pants without slowing down."
Nevertheless, in a city like New York not everybody stands out like that, and you simply can't always instantly assess someone's ethnic heritage.
Speaking of labels, I received an email from some company that wants you to name their grip for them:
Given that it looks like pretty much every other grip on the market they're going to have to go with something really distinctive, which is why I suggest they call them "Control Dildos."
They might want to rework the pattern on the grip, though.