Believe me when I tell you it's so comfy it's like wearing nothing at all--assuming your lower back area has handy marsupial-like pockets for carrying your keys, cellphone, and wallet. Really, the only way I could have been more comfortable would have been if I'd been wearing my matching hat:
Sadly, it's been a long winter and even after turning my bikey clothes drawer upside down I couldn't find the goddamn hat, so I wore the next best thing instead:
Clearly I was clad in the very pinnacle of cycling haute couture, so while at first I thought the Rapha riders were regarding me with distain for my appearance, in retrospect it's clear they were consumed by jealousy of my haberdashery.
Also, in the old days portliness was a sign of status, so I like to think that carries over on a subliminal level to the present day and that my swollen midriff is intimidating to my fellow Freds.
Speaking of which, the haberdashers at Walz (makers of the "46" line of bicycle-riding clothes) are going to be at the Bike Expo New York, which takes place on May 1st and 2nd:
(Who doesn't love crowds?!?)
Not only that, but I'm going to be at their booth, and while I'm certainly not an attraction there will be an opportunity to get your hands on (our your head in) a free hat!!!
I'll share the details once we've finalized them, but figure I'll be there Friday and Saturday afternoons, and on Saturday I'm thinking maybe we can all meet someplace for a ride and then head to the expo together.
Consider it a warm-up for the BSNYC Gran Fondon't.
Details to follow.
Now, let's set all this self-promotion aside for a moment and talk about something important--more so even than the helme(n)t debate, or the waving debate, or even the saddle-vs-no-saddle debate (I'm unabashedly pro-saddle, by the way).
I'm talking about how to deal with drivers who ask you for directions while you're riding.
("I'm looking for a fountain, is this it?")
Please allow me to preface this by saying that, when wheeled vehicles aren't involved and everybody is on foot, I will always give people directions to the best of my ability. This is New York City after all, so as you go about your business you're bound to encounter families of khaki-clad Midwesterners, or else parties of Euro-trash who are readily identified by their ridiculous jeans and their sneakers that look like something you'd wear on a space station. I'm always happy to point these sorry rubes in the right direction, even if they're wearing too much cologne like the Euros invariably are. Furthermore, if I'm not exactly sure where the thing they're looking for is because it's the sort of godless tourist trap in which I wouldn't be caught dead, I will even go so far as to consult the mapping feature on my cellular telephone for them so as to spare them from costly roaming charges.
I'm a one-man welcome wagon, goddamn it.
However, the dynamic changes dramatically when a driver is involved. This is because drivers fully expect you to risk death in the process of helping them. Consider, for example, the time I was in downtown Manhattan, on foot, waiting to cross West Street (or the "West Side Highway" as we call it) from the greenway with one of the small human children that I own. As we're waiting for the light, a driver screeches to a halt and yells at me, "Where's Pier [I can't remember the number]?"
So there he is, stopped in the middle of the right lane. Traffic behind him is moving at like 50mph, and drivers are swerving and beeping at him as he sits there like a schmuck waiting for directions from me. What is this guy, stupid?!? All I could think about was this idiot getting rear-ended, and his shitbox flipping over onto the greenway, and then a New York Post article about how a whole family got flattened by a Hyundai and that there's "no criminality suspected."
To my credit, instead of telling him to go blow himself, I simply told him "I'm not from here" and ignored him until he gave up.
And it's even worse when I'm on a bike. Here are drivers' favorite times to ask you for directions while you're cycling:
--When you're climbing a steep hill;
--When you're descending a steep hill;
--When you're in any kind of situation that requires your undivided attention--which, when operating a bicycle on roads "shared" with motor vehicles, is most of the time.
I was reminded of this last Saturday when I began my ride. As you round Wave Hill, the street drops precipitously towards the river, and the road surface is so potholed that you'd be forgiven for thinking it had been carpet-bombed. Therefore, it is crucial to focus on your front wheel, lest it roll into one of these many potholes and you go flying over the bars--yet at the same time you also have to look ahead of you, lest you take out a family of Jews walking to shul. Then you've got the cars and shuttle buses and foot traffic headed to Wave Hill to contend with, not to mention that coyote that's harassing Stephen Spielberg's sister.
So there I am, picking my way through potholes and Jews, when a minivan rolls by in the opposite direction and the driver yells at me, "WHERE WAVE HILL GARDEN?!?"
Wave Hill, I should point out, is right the fuck in front of him. Like, if he were looking ahead of him instead of at me, he'd be looking at it. All he had to do was drive for like 50 more feet and he'd see the goddamn sign.
I wanted to ignore him, yet I'm cursed with the inability to completely divorce myself from humanity, and so I do him the profound kindless of slowing down and replying, "Just keep going straight, it's right there."
"WHAT?!? WHERE WAVE HILL GARDEN?!?"
Oh my god. At this point I'm ready to Bjarne Riis my bike onto the nearest lawn, pull him from the driver's seat, get in the minivan, and drive it right through the stone wall and into the crafting area.
"YOU WANT WAVE HILL?!? YOU'RE IN IT, GODDAMN IT!," I'd scream as children ran screaming and clutching their pine cone art.
In fact, the only thing that stopped me was that if the cops caught me in Lycra they'd throw the book at me since it would be obvious I was a cyclist. If, however, I were to drive a minivan through a public garden while wearing street clothes, all I'd have to say was "Oops, I mistook the gas for the brake," and it would be "No criminality suspected, sorry for the inconvenience, here's your season pass to Wave Hill."
Instead, I simply repeated "Keep going straight" like the sycophant I am and went on my way.
And this was a relatively benign example, because at least I was near my home. Usually drivers stop me when I'm a good 20 miles or so from the city and don't know where shit is anyway. "No, I don't know where the freaking outlet mall is," I always want to scream. "Do I look like I'm up here to shop for a slightly irregular suit?" And even if I did know, the last thing you want to do is ask directions from a cyclist on a road bike, because you're going to get an answer like this:
"Do you want some climbing? If so head up past the deli where we stopped that time when Dave bonked, then go like 20k to that spot where Bill flatted that other time, then you're going to hit this 11% section--not the Bitch's Nipple climb but the other one--then you're gonna drop down right behind the parking lot of the Men's Wearhouse."
Maybe I'm getting old, but I remember a time when if a driver was lost he stopped at a gas station. (I've had drivers ask me directions to the gas station, by the way, which is extremely ironic.) I'm also not sure why you can't keep drivers off their goddamn cell phones, yet when it comes to figuring out where they're going they forget they have them and ask cyclists instead.
Basically, drivers hate us until they're lost, at which point we're there to provide them with a public service.
Lastly, here's a video to which I was alerted via the Twitter:
Ah, yes. The only thing Americans place more unwarranted faith in than helme(n)ts is guns.
Something to think about next time you stop a cyclist for directions.