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'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:"
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:
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:
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?