Monday, May 2, 2016

Thrills, spills, and shills!




This past Saturday was the Bike Expo New York and my book signing thereat.  As part of the signing I was of course leading a Brompton-optional ride from Grand Central to the Expo, and so you can be sure I spent the Friday before the big event doing some serious clown bike training:


As you may recall, some weeks back I busted my thumbing finger while riding a bike with fenders on an unpaved trail.  Well, you'll be pleased to know that on Friday I officially got the green light from the orthopedist to resume all normal thumb-related activity.  [Insert your wanking jokes here.]  I had anticipated this, and to that end I actually brought the Brompton to the appointment.  In fact, I took the above photo immediately afterwards, about 100 yards from his office.  So rest assured that after crashing due to a stick in the fender and breaking my thumb I'm doing my very best to make sure it happens again as soon as possible.

Anyway, on Saturday morning I performed my morning ablutions, unfurled the Brommie like a ninja whipping out a set of nunchucks, and headed to my local commuter rail station for the short ride to Grand Central:


(Yes that's the Bronx.)

I could have just taken the subway or ridden the bike to Grand Central, but frankly I enjoy the scenic riverside jaunt.  Plus, when you travel within the five boroughs you get a special fare on weekends:


(Love the City Ticket.)

Most importantly though, Metro North has a fantastic alcohol policy:

"I'd like to thank Barry Feinstein and all of the members of the task force for taking a hard look at the MTA's policy on alcohol sales and consumption and reaffirming our current position," Chairman Kalikow said.

"Many of our customers enjoy this amenity, and I am pleased that the Task Force confirmed that the current policy provides a benefit without compromising safety," said Executive Director and CEO Sander.

Metro North are generally also pretty decent about bicycles, and if only they'd install some goddamn bike hooks they'd probably never get me off the train.  (Come to think of it that's probably why they don't.)

After collapsing the Brompton like one of those accordion drying racks I pulled up a slice of platform:


And within about a sitcom's time I was at Grand Central:


As a novice Bromptonaut I was nervous about interacting with hardcore foldies, and I felt like a hairy-legged Fred with chainring tattoos at the start of a Cat 1 race.  It turns out my apprehension was justified too, because these people don't mess around, and I was immediately humbled.  Consider this ride, complete with folding helmet:


And folding mirror:


(Bloggers in mirror may be Fredlier than they appear.)

Holy crap, everything on the goddamn bike folds!

Not only that, but the owner had arrived that very morning from San Francisco, having traveled with the bike as carry-on and stowing it in the overhead compartment without so much as arousing the suspicion of the flight crew.  Then he rode from Jamaica, Queens straight to Grand Central.

Now that's some pro-level Bromptoning.

I thought things couldn't possibly get more Bromp-tastic, but I was wrong, because then this bike showed up:


Yep, Rohloff hub and front and rear discs:


(How do you find rotors with a smaller diameter than the wheel itself?)

The owner had traveled to Scotland for the disc brake conversion, and while I didn't get the specifics I'm assuming this is the person who did it.

It's interesting to contemplate that when taken to its logical endpoint the practicality of the Brompton sort of folds in on itself like, well, a Brompton, since the ease with which you can travel with them inspires you to make completely unnecessary journeys like going all the way to Scotland for an artisanal disc brake upgrade.

By the way, both of these elite Bomptonians had aftermarket handles on their bikes, which I quickly realized was the mark of the true connoisseur:


(Of course that's an Ultegra crank with chainring bolts to match the frame, because of course it is.)

But it wasn't all Bromptons.  (And thank Lob for that, because honestly who could take that many in one place?)  For example, there was this "KidzTandem," which I suppose is sort of the anti-Brompton:


And esteemed commenter Leroy showed up on his sweet Milwaukee road bike, of which I was a little jealous even though I have almost the exact same bike.

Speaking of Leroy, as a seasoned commuter to the East Side he graciously "curated" our route for maximum beauty:


Had I been left to my own devices we'd have gone straight down Lexington Avenue, seen nothing more interesting than the roughly 4,000 Starbucks between Grand Central and the Expo, and gotten separated four blocks into the ride.

Thanks to Leroy though we all arrived together, and after browsing the Expo a bit I took up my post at the Brompton booth and scribbled in a few books:


I also received some visitors, such as the curators of this titanium lock which has earned a shitload of money on Kickstarter:


I'll withhold judgement until they lock a fancy bike in Midtown Manhattan with it overnight and show us all what happens, which they claim they're going to do.

Anyway, many, many thanks to Brompton and Redbeard Bikes of Brooklyn for the hosting and book-selling duties.

As for the Expo itself, there was the usual assortment of cool bike stuff you wish you had, but I chose instead to search the darkened corners for esoterica:


You may laugh, but we're losing people to these things, and if the industry keeps pushing these stupid new bottom bracket "standards" on us then we could see a wholesale consumer defection to the Amish scooter within the next 10 years:


I also enjoy seeing how non-bike companies attempt to tap into the cycling market, such as Minute Rice, who is now making a major play for the lucrative Fred-fueling market:


At this very moment they have highly-paid lobbyists in Colorado Springs who are pushing USA Cycling for microwaves in the pit area and free laps for preparing and consuming their fast and delicious Multi-Grain Medley.  Once that goes through you can expect complete market domination, as well as a constipation epidemic among the USA Cycling membership.  (Though given the tightness of roadie sphincters there's arguably a constipation epidemic already.)

And yes, there were crabon kickstands, thank you for asking:


In all, it was a delightful day, though it easily could have taken a turn for the worse had this dog decided to hump my leg:


Fortunately he did not.

Of course, the Bike Expo is just a part of a bike-tastic weekend in New York City which also includes the Five Boro Bike Tour as well as the Red Hook Criterium.  I'm sure you've heard by now what went down in the latter event, but if you haven't what went down was many of the riders:


I was not at the Red Hook Crit, but this video immediately raised a number of questions for me, including but not limited to:

--How did the motorcycle driver even manage to stall like that?
--Why is an "underground" unsanctioned cycling event copying one of the stupidest things about pro racing, namely forcing the riders to deal with motorcycles that are constantly falling on them and even killing them?
--What was the organizer's role in this, and has the popularity of this "underground" event possibly overwhelmed their ability to run it safely?

Well, I dunno.  Maybe if I was an actual bike racing journalist I'd look into it, since this has grown into a wildly popular event that clearly appeals to both competitors and spectators.  What I wouldn't do is blame the riders themselves for a crash that wasn't their fault, unlike the Senior Editor at VeloNews:


What's so dumb about it really?  They're not blasting through crosswalks on public roads like your typical Lucas Brunelle video.  They're racing on a closed course, with permission, in an event with clear equipment guidelines.  It seems a bit disingenuous for someone who writes for a bike racing magazine to watch a crash that was clearly caused by a motorbike being where it shouldn't be and then call the victims "idiots:"


I mean sure, you can make a very strong case that bike racing in general is "idiotic and full of idiots" (to wit: risking life and limb for a $20 prime) but you don't get to pick and choose.  You'd expect this kind of bullshit from ESPN, but a cycling journalist insulting bike racers who were injured in an event his publication regularly writes about feels very wrong to me.  And it's not like "regular" crits are exactly known for their safety:



Plus, while the Red Hook Crit may have been crashy, I didn't see any riders crashing into the crash that already happened like they do in the video above.

And while I've always been a staunch advocate of brakes, as well as a blogger who built his dozens-strong readership on making fun of fixies, the fact is that brakes (or the lack thereof) was not the determining factor here, as Mr. Fretz would like you to believe:


Um, it doesn't?  Isn't that what happens on the opening days of like every Grand Tour?



The fact is that when you're racing in a pack you don't brake for obstacles, you attempt to avoid them by deviating from your line as little as possible.  Go ahead, slam on your state-of-the-art disc brakes in the middle of a crit and see what happens, I dare you.  And it's not like the riders who get involved in pile-ups know there's been a crash and have time to brake.  The only thing they see is the Lycra-clad ass in front of them.  You've got to be pretty far from the crash to have time to brake, and to do so without taking down the riders behind you.  (This is why I always sat up in the final kilometer in Prospect Park--well, that and the fact that I couldn't keep up anyway.)

Here's a super slow-n'-funky Fred crash to illustrate the point:



Seems to me they're either a) not braking; b) changing their line; or c) locking up their wheels which isn't doing shit for them anyway.

Indeed, if you watch the Red Hook Crit crash closely it's hard to see how brakes and freewheels would have made a hugely meaningful difference in the outcome, and for the most part it looks like your typical criterium shitshow.  The riders at the pointy end are able to avoid the motorcycle:


Then a rider who probably had no idea it was even there clips it and goes down:


Creating the Lycra-clad domino effect anybody who'd watched or participated in a bike race is all too familiar with:


By the way, the luckiest rider in the race by far is this rider, who comes out of his pedals, stays upright, says "Fuck it!" and just starts running:


Amazing.

Bad course design?  Organizer error?  Motorcyclist incompetence?  Sure.  But are these racers "idiots" merely for participating in a certain kind of bike race?  No more so than anyone racing on those notoriously difficult-to-control TT bikes:


Speaking of motorcyclist incompetence, we still don't know exactly what happened, but here's another view where we can see him futzing with his bike:



Though perhaps the most shocking revelation is this rider wearing what appears to be a LiveStrong bracelet:


The horror.

Lastly, if you missed the ride/signing this past week, rest assured you've got another chance to avoid me in Hoboken this weekend:


Thinking I may make that "nice ride through Liberty Square Park" a brakeless Brompton criterium.

What could go wrong?


70 comments:

Jasper said...

Early doors

dnk said...

Oh boy.

Bromptonaut said...

Third (ish)

Anonymous said...

trump

Lumpen Fredetariat said...

Someone came all the way from SF to ride with you? It's as much as I can do to click on the pictures to verify I am not a robot.

Lieutenant Oblivious said...

Sixth, SCRANUS!~

N/A said...

Where there any fixie Bromptons with leather portaging strapways?

Anonymous said...

Pode?

N/A said...

Nice job, esteemed commenter Leroy!

N/A said...

Specialized is currently developing an Amish scooter, they have named it The Dunghopper.

JLRB said...

11 at 11:11

JLRB said...

I saw someone on a motorized Amish scooter this morning - blasphemy

Pathetic Old Cyclist said...

Top 11...Crazy crash in the Red Hook Crit...Insane. Was the motor cyclist a cop? Just curious.

I_got_the_bieks! said...

That's pretty odd that someone purporting to make money writing about the biek racing would turn down an opportunity to write about biek racing by disregarding the Red Hook thing.

I was confused by the images though as there were spectators present.

USA Cycling events have no spectators beyond another Cat 4 imagining himself in the 1/2/pro event, that nobody else sees.

hillier99 said...

Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3...

Lieutenant Oblivious said...

Since Velo Snooze and Competitor Group were bought by a private equity firm it's all about the Benjamins. They were just chastised by Shimano for leaking some new equipment that Shimano put a media embargo on. Shimano retaliated by pulling their advertising for a while. Shimano sells lots of brakes. Blaming brakeless riders in the Red Hook Crit and calling them idiots is Velo Snooze's way to get back in Shimano's good graces and get back those advertising dollars!

And did anyone else notice that LOB Almighty made the sun shine for the BRA Brompton Brigade and provided rain to wash the unwashed Fred masses for the 5 Boro Bike Tour?

BikeSnobNYC said...

Ltd. Obvi,

Specialized sponsor the Red Hook Crit now and one of their riders won the men's race. Don't know how much money they spend with VeloNews, but I noticed they did not refer to him as "dumb" or an "idiot" in their coverage of this result.

--Wildcat Rock Machine

janinedm said...

Lt. Oblvs, I did notice that. There was never even a 10 minute window of nice weather yesterday... And, as a non-racer, I'm probably talking out of my ass to be saying this, but I'd avoid the Red Hook Crit. There are other fixed gear races and alley cats, but I'm not so sure about this one. Remember 2013? Trimble boasted on the podium, before doling out messenger bags, champagne and tubs of flowers, "I think we found the limit of what fixed gear bikes can do" to which a rowdy heckler responded , "I think you went too far". http://gothamist.com/2013/10/14/cyclist_shatters_jaw_in_red_hook_ra.php

dop said...

So, WCRM, would I be wrong to say you went on a BRA-less Brompton Ride on Friday to prepare for the BRA-ride on Saturady?

bad boy of the north said...

Nice recap to the weekend...brompty ride,et al.what?no review of the most important part of the expo?i'm talking about the"beer garden".

Kraig said...

Are we not talking about the socks'n'sandals combo? It is now acceptable because of NormCore fashion? Dadbod?

bieks said...

Tangling with Shimano was the final nail in the coffin for Velonews (it'll kill their print edition for sure) so they may as well go down in a blaze of glory - have a little fun with it. Piss off whoever they feel like.

Spokey said...


top baker's several dozen.

coulda podied if i hadn't hopped down to weggieman's to get some of that frassy organic cow flesh. figured it is so cold i can make one more stew before the warm weather.

Spokey said...

make that grassy organic moo flesh

leroy said...

I don't mean to brag, but my dog assures me I'm dumber than anyone riding the Red Hook Crit, which of course I skipped to rest up for the sweet gig he got me at this year's 5 Boro Tour.

I think he's just jealous because I got a free BSNYC cap at Grand Central and he didn't.

I offered to get him a Brooks Trouser Strap for repurposing as a flea collar, but he still seems peeved.

(And by "he" I mean my dog, not Mr. BSNYC; although come to think of it, a Brooks Trouser Strap flea and tick leg collar could be handy when trail riding north of the City. Wonder if anyone's thought of this on Kickstarter.)

McFly said...

100 yards? Does your orthopedic surgeon operate out of a van down by the river?

well you asked for wanking jokes said...

"Insert your wanking jokes here."

A young man and a girl were on a date. He was getting hot and finally said, "Let's f***". She said, "Oh no. I never do that". So he said, "Well, how about a blow job". She said, "Oh no. I don't do that either". Finally he said," How about giving me a hand job." She said she didn't know how to do that. So he said, " You remember when you were a kid, you used to shake a soda bottle until the pressure built up and it squirted? Just do it like that." So she took hold of his c*** and began. Soon he was groaning and moaning. And suddenly began to scream.
She said, "What's the matter?"
He screamed, "TAKE YOUR THUMB OFF THE END OF IT."

Adam said...

In my day, all helmets were collapsible. Now we have this new-fangled bicycle infrastructure and safe riding habits. Habits shmabits.

dop said...

Kick-Ass bicycle cops in Seattle on may day.

DB said...

Well done, Snob and Leroy!

Spokey said...


I mean sure, you can make a very strong case that bike racing in general is "idiotic and full of idiots"

i think you can make a very strong statement that life in general is idiotic and full of idiots.*


Grump said...

Pack crashes are one of the "funest" things you can do on a bike. The one year I had the misguided thought that I was good enough to take part in Nationals, I was involved in a 55kph pack crash, that involved 25 riders. In a pack crash, you always try to land on the "fat guy", but you usually land on someone's hard bike.

Anonymous said...

the red hook crash was not cause by lack of brakes, but riders kept slamming into the crash due to lack of brakes. That woulda been maybe a 10 rider pileup with brakes, but ended up being about 30 riders.

crosspalms said...

I had to go to the Cat-Ears website to see what they are. The only time I ever went fast enough to find the wind noise annoying was on a long downhill, and I thought the noise was part of the reward for going fast. But it's good to know there's a fairly cheap solution if I ever worry about it...

JLRB said...

Cat-Ears are for pussies

JLRB said...

Meow

ken e. said...

cat ears are for cosplayers! BRA-tastic in the NYC. looking forward to the book tour (de snob).

Frickus Rungus said...

I plan to enter the Redhook crit with a fixed gear bakedfeets full of bags of cement. That's legal, right? Just as long as you don't put aerobars on it...

bieks said...

Is that a bear bell on that Brompton with the handle? Because, speaking from experience, they don't keep the circus bears from stealing your bike.

What Me Worry said...

"idiotic and full of idiots"

Idiotic, yeah, just look at the nominating process for selecting a presidential candidate. Idiotic and corrupt as all hell for both parties. Independent Super Delegates, independent my ass.

Three Eyed Fish said...

At least they crashed onto pavement and didn't end up in the Gowanus Canal.

Pavé Schur said...

I dread my first horrible crash not because it might put me out of work for weeks / months and I'll go homeless, but because I'll likely be blamed for it by any interested parties.

N/A said...

Horrible crashes, meh. Who among us hasn't broken a bone or two because of a bike ride gone awry?

I'd ask for people to raise their hands, but that hurts like hell because of the broken collar bones and shredded shoulders.

McFly said...

Was the motorcycle equipped with disk breaks?

janinedm said...

No one has said as much, so I may be too sensitive here, but i want to make clear that i wasn't blaming the riders. I do, however, think the organizers of the Red Hook Crit cut more corners than a Canadian triathlete, dig?

Lieutenant Oblivious said...

The on-course stalled moto rider in the Red Hook Crit was [Insert your wanking jokes here.] when he should have just pushed his motorcycle off the course and out of harm's way. He was trying to get off, when he should have gotten off, so to speak.

Dooth said...

Look who frets about fixies...Caley Fretz!

dancesonpedals said...

Work and Bike Accidents:

Ten years ago I spent a few days in the hospital after a very slow motion pratfall (clipped in, wheel flop) that unfortunately ended with my thigh landing across a curb. Slow bleed, fast pain, Saturday night in the OR to have a compartment syndrome decompressed (as Babble would call it, a training ride). I emailed the appropriate administrators at work (I had responsibilities in 2 groups)and returned a week later. Administrator A just announced my absence & assigned people to cover. Administrator B forwarded my terse email to an entire team("I had a bike accident & surgery Saturday. All went well, I'll be back in a week. Can someone cover my Tuesday & Thursday assignments? Sorry, DOP")

On the first day back I rode an elevator with the guy from group A assigned to do my work for a week. Not Happy. "Oh, did you have a booboo on your bike, go to the ER & go home and take a week off?". Before I could answer someone from Team B got on at the next floor. "DOP! You had surgery! All you all right?"

I thanked Mr. B for his concern and ignored Mr. A.

Lieutenant Oblivious said...

DOP, not to over-generalize, but sometimes Group A types can be real A-Holes, just sayin'! Personally I have been admitted to the hospital twice (2003 and 2015) due to bike crashes and out of work for multiple weeks as a result. In my case all of my co-workers were extremely nice to me.

Freddy Murcks said...

I've reached Peak Fred.

Frickus Rungus said...

I once got an award at my annual company meeting for showing up to work the day after I broke my collarbone mountain biking. I couldn't type very fast with just one hand, but it was better than sitting at home waiting for a surgery appointment. At the company meeting they showed a youtube clip of some guy crashing really hard while attempting a huge jump. Several people thought it was really me. I had to explain that no, I was just riding along and clipped a pedal on a rock...

Anonymous said...

DOP, bikes are toys for children.

Get in a car accident next time.

Anonymous said...

Frickus,

What's wrong with you, bro? Of course you take credit!! Huge jumps? Yeah!! I do them all the time!

Frickus Rungus said...

I perforated my spleen in my 20's and ended up with a huge scar from the surgery. I used to tell people that I was in a knife fight. Or that my parachute didn't open.

Spokey said...


i've never landed in the hospital because of my bi-sickening skills (or lack thereof). but i did once have a large cyst cut out of my chest right before a week ride around lake champlain (alas requiring entry into the us top hat). every night i had to pour hydrogen peroxide in the hole that the butcher had left in my chest. i told people who asked that it was a bullet hole.

wishiwasmerckx said...

Broke a collarbone in a pile-up in a road race in Utah in 1990 caused by a speeding peloton jamming on the brakes due to an unmarked cattle guard on the course. Broke a rib in a mountain bike wreck at Mammoth last summer.

A quarter-century separates those injuries, which reminds me that I am now officially old as fuck. In 1990, I was young, thin, fit and fast. Now, not so much...

I am guessing that there is nary a regular contributor hereabouts who has not had major medical expenses related to the bi-cycling.

Spokey, you win. The bullet hole story beats out a little road rash any day.

BamaPhred said...

Scranus. I don't have any remarkable broken bone stories. I don't think I have ever broken anything bikey related, except for some digits now and then. Not my opposable thumb, so they just got taped to the ones that still worked.

ken e. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Some guy from upstate said...

Is putting a disk-brake-equipped Brompton in the overhead bin a clever way to sneak knives onto the airplane?

And I never had to go to the hospital from any of the bike crashes, but I dislocated my shoulder in the bouncy house.

Give Me A Break said...

I had too much to drink one night, skidded, crashed, and broke my collar bone. However, I still managed to ride to my girlfriend's place, head out for more beers, come back to her place later and have sex. Oh, and yes, I was wearing a helmet... she made me take it off after.

Hugh Jarse said...

So you got the green light from the orthopedist, but did you get the thumbs up?

I M A Robot said...

Please leave Controls=on for your embedded youtube videos. It helps pause, position etc. I can do it by hacking the page but it gets tiresome. thanks

fourhourerection said...

Wore my Livestrong silicone rubber bracelet today! As a cock ring. My apologies for the rough post. Again my apologies. Also, have never come close to cracking my scull in a bikeen accident. Scraped my bag, ripped my scranus,and ate dirt, but never hit my gourd/scull/bean. Just sayin'.

ken e. said...

oops! "oughts", and it might have been emerg in golden...

Christian Szell said...

Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her
Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn
And tied her with fences and dragged her down

babble on said...

Ouch! All of those nasty crash-ups just remind me of a coupla moments I'd just as soon forget! Um, and any racer worth his salt will tell you that yer not supposed to actually USE the brakes.

ken e. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ken e. said...

ringing sound ...these are the brakes.

bike bum said...

favorite race nunber

Bromptosaurus Rex said...

The motorcyclist in the crash looked like he was cock blocking the sperm from reaching their goal.