Secondly, remember how last Friday I said I was going to be at Bike Expo New York but I didn't know the details yet but when I did know the details I would tell them to you because I have a new book coming out?
Well I did so that's happening now.
Okay, first of all, Bike Expo New York happens on April 29-30th in Manhattan at Basketball City:
It is 1) Free; and B) Equipped with a beer garden that affords one the opportunity to engage in scenic riverside day drinking:
All reason enough to go right there.
BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE, because on Saturday April 30th I'll be leading a ride from Grand Central to the Expo...on a Brompton!
If you own a Brompton this is an ideal opportunity to use yours in its native multi-modal habitat without having to actually go to work:
You can also discuss Brompton-related matters with fellow Bromptonauts, such as tan jackets, commuter rail timetables, and which pedal gives the best grip with wingtips.
Bear in mind though that this is in no way a Brompton-only ride, and you are of course more than welcome to bring your otherly-branded folding bike, or even your non-foldy for added dignity.
Hey, ride a cargo bike if you want--not only don't I care, but I may ask you to haul my Brompton for me.
Best of all, you'll get to point and laugh at a bike blogger riding a clown bike, and even post incriminating photos of him to social media.
Anyway, from Grand Central we'll head down to the Expo, where I'll scribble inside of books for awhile at the Brompton booth, in conjunction with Redbeard Bikes:
Then we'll hit the beer garden and get day drunk.
I'll confirm everything later in the week, but here's the schedule for Saturday as it stands:
The Schedule For Saturday As It Stands
11:00am: Meet at the clock* in Grand Central
11:30am: Tiny wheels down!
12-ish?: Arrive at Expo
1:00pm: Book scribbling at Brompton booth
*This is the clock:
By the way, we're meeting at 11 but rolling out at 11:30 because we'll need at least a half-hour to argue about routes:
I'm tempted to route us over the 59th Street Bridge and through Queens and Brooklyn just because.
But I probably won't.
In other cultural news, it's April 2016th and only now is "Bicycling" getting around to making its contribution to the vast canon of fixie-extolling literature:
Clearly the reason for the delay is that they didn't want to miss a single stylistic element of this time-honored genre, and to that end the article does not disappoint. For example, like all fixie articles it begins by explaining what one is, even though 100% of "Bicycling" readers and 95% of humans on Earth already know:
A fixed-gear bike, or fixie, is a type of singlespeed bicycle that doesn’t allow the rider to coast. When the bike rolls, the pedals rotate, and if the bike doesn’t have brakes—like mine—the only way to slow down is to resist the forward motion of the pedals, similar to downshifting in a car.
A cynic might say this is unnecessary, but I say it's merely a sign the article is overbuilt, and in this sense opening is sort of a literary gusset, or maybe a prosaic pump peg.
Next the article provides the equally unnecessary and typically spurious fixie history that is a hallmark of the genre:
Adopted by a band of kamikaze bike messengers in New York City and San Francisco in the 1970s, fixies and track bikes have become nauseatingly popular among young, hip urbanites. (They can also be quite popular among the skateboarding crowd.) Beyond aesthetics, the appeal of these minimalist machines is the statement made by riding one: It’s an act of rebellion. Or, as the author and cycling-culture guru Lodovico Pignatti Morano put it, “a suicidal response to urban conditioning.”
1) What, you don't remember those kamikaze bike messengers from the '70s who were killing themselves on purpose for Emperor Hirohito? Noob!;
2) Not sure fixies are "popular among young, hip urbanites" anymore, nauseatingly or otherwise. From what I see the young, hip urbanites are riding a variety of bikes both fixed and free, whereas the "Nobr Akes" set has now spawned, traded their NJS bikes for Subarus, and moved to Westchester;
3) I'd argue it was less "a suicidal response to urban conditioning" and more a conformist response to suburban conditioning.
But of course the true test of any fixie article is what lengths it goes to in order to justify what what a huge pain in the ass they are, and in this respect the article goes all the way and more:
But despite what the hipsters might want you to think, riding a brakeless fixed-gear isn’t so crazy. With some practice, it’s surprisingly easy to scrub speed or even force the rear wheel into a skid. A fixed-gear has at least as much stopping power as a beach cruiser with a coaster brake. Direct feedback from the pedals allows for quick and precise speed adjustments, which are crucial for riding in busy traffic (especially if you don’t always keep both hands on the bars). It’s impossible to lock up the rear wheel inadvertently since that would require stopping the pedals, so it’s easier to gauge traction on wet streets.
Okay, you're on a steep hill, traveling at about 30mph. There's a busy intersection at the bottom. Which would you rather be on, a brakeless fixie or a beach cruiser?
Yeah, I thought so.
But wait, there's more!
There are other benefits. A fixed-gear has fewer parts to purchase and to maintain. It’s easy to balance in place without putting a foot on the ground; just turn the front wheel sideways and rock the pedals forward or backward to keep upright (this is called a trackstand). Fixies can even go backward, so if a lane of traffic closes, just reverse and try a different path though a maze of stopped cars.
Wait a minute: so if a cab cuts you off you're going to stop, ride backwards, and start going again? Yeah, right. I know the guy who wrote this won the Red Hook Crit and can ride circles around most of us, but nobody in the history of bikes has ever done what he's described above, except for possibly Serge Huercio:
But perhaps the most oft-repeated yet nonsensical bit of fixie wisdom is this one:
Then there’s the security: A fixie has fewer parts to steal.
People have been saying this for years, and many people take it for granted, but is this true, really? Consider the fixie I saw in Brooklyn yesterday, which just happens to be the fixiest fixie that ever fixed, right down to the Spinergy Spox (!) up front:
And now consider a bike with gears, like the Ritte I used on Friday to do some Gran Fondon't recon:
At considerable expense to me I hired a consulting firm to compare these two different style of bicycles, and the results reveal they have almost the same number of parts:
Furthermore, the parts the fixie doesn't have are almost never targeted. Hey, maybe your experience is different from mine, but in all my years of riding in New York City I have never heard of someone's derailleur getting stolen. As for shifters, they're potentially valuable, but the one time my cockpit was stolen the bike was a singlespeed:
Indeed, fewer cables means your parts are even easier to steal.
And yes, while fixies and gearies both have cogs, it's only fair to acknowledge that the bike with gears does indeed have more cogs. Still, it's not like thieves are pilfering cogs à la carte. When was the last time you returned to your geared bike, went to shift, and realized "Fuck! Someone stole my 17!"
But what makes a fixie article great instead of merely good is when it ends by contradicting everything it just said, which this one does, and elegantly so:
Since decelerating requires effort, the rider learns to negotiate obstacles not by altering speed but by altering direction. Rather than robotically plodding along in a straight line, the pedaler weaves and bobs spontaneously across the road.
If fixies have such great stopping power and traction then why all the weaving?
Even Serge Huercio is skeptical of that one:
Speaking of things I saw in Brooklyn, here's a tall fixie in front of an e-bike store:
I'm just glad I switched boroughs while I did, because I couldn't live in a place where a sight like this was normal.
Lastly, here are some tips from the Times for "nervous bikers:"
There is no law requiring adults to wear helmets in New York, and it is common to see experienced riders pedaling with their heads unprotected. But you, the wary cyclist, should wear a helmet every time you ride.
Kristen Phillips, an experienced cyclist, has always worn a helmet.
“I have a theory that people who don’t wear helmets haven’t hit their head hard,” said Ms. Phillips, a sales associate and the women’s program manager at Bicycle Habitat, a bike shop and cycling center with four locations in the city.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
For the most part though this is all sensible advice, though I must say that as the coiner of the "s" word I now cringe when I see it:
• Obey all traffic laws. That means stop at red lights, follow turn signals and never ride the wrong way on a one-way street.
Serious cyclists have a term for new riders who go the wrong way on a one-way street: salmon.
“Don’t be a salmon,” Ms. Phillips said. “Salmon are not known for being smart animals.”
Actually, that's not entirely true, and by fish standards salmon are pretty clever:
Through social learning, fishes might learn not only where to get food, but also what to get and how to get it. Hatchery-raised salmon can be taught to quickly accept novel, live prey items similar to those they will encounter once they will be released in the wild, simply by watching an experienced salmon take such prey. The same is true of young perch. In the laboratory, juvenile European seabass can learn to push a lever in order to obtain food just by watching experienced individuals use the lever.
Try that with your cheap-ass goldfish.
See you on Wednesday,
--Wildcat Rock Machine