Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Indignity of Commuting by Bicycle: The Cat 6-ing of a Lifetime

The coming of autumn means many things: kids go back to school, adults who still go to school go back to school also, the cyclocross dorks start futzing with their tire pressure in earnest...

More significant than any of these though is that as autumn approaches the Cat 6 racing season begins its crescendo.  See, once the weather becomes uncomfortably cold (and for the typical Cat 6 that's anything below like 60 degrees American) many of these riders hang up their out-of-true wheels for the winter.  This means the months of September and October represent their last chance at Cat 6 glory.  Once you factor in weekends, Jewish holidays, etc., the race days are scarce, so you can believe me when I tell you they're out there doing their very best to stuff their ill-fitting Chrome bags full of "wins" before scarf weather is upon us.

I of course am no exception, and yesterday I commuted by bike to Brooklyn and back, which from my abode in the far reaches of the northern Bronx is the Cat 6 equivalent of a brevet.  Leaving my home, I knew the racing action was going to be intense, but I didn't appreciate just how intense until I reached the midtown stretch of the Hudson River Greenway.

The light turns red.  I stop.  With the light in their favor, waves of tourists begin crossing the Greenway and filling the crosswalk in order to board one of those stupid Circle Line sightseeing boats.  Now, the tourists have the right of way, but this means nothing to a pair of oncoming Uber-Freds locked in mortal combat.  The first Fred is wearing full Team Sky kit.  Of course, the only thing worse than wearing full pro team kit is wearing full team kit but riding a bike from a company that doesn't sponsor that team, and naturally this rider is flagrantly guilty of this violation.  (He's riding a plastic BMC or something like that.)

On this Fred's wheel is an even Fredlier specimen (if that's even possible) wearing a pair of LiveStrong Oakleys and a RAGBRAI jersey, which was so breathtakingly Fredly I didn't even have the wherewithal to take in the rest of his wardrobe or equipment.

Anyway, the crosswalk is really filling up with tourists now--tourists who (and I can't stress this enough) fully and unambiguously have the right of way.  With morbid curiosity I watch, wondering just how the Freds are going to handle the situation.  Is Sky Fred going to lock up the brakes on his BMC and get rear-ended by RAGBRAI Fred?  Will those black-and-yellow optics then fly off his face and describe an arc through the azure late summer sky against the noble and inspiring background of the USS Intrepid?  Would the air then be full of the sweet, crunchy music of breaking crabon?

Sadly, no.  Instead, the Freds just keep right on going through the light and the crosswalk without so much as slowing down, like the pair of complete douchenozzles they were.

But these Frediotic exploits were merely a prelude to my return trip, where I received the Cat 6-ing of a lifetime from a true master of the discipline.

In the sport of New York City commuter racing, the East River crossings represent the hors cat├ęgorie climbs, and the approach to the Manhattan Bridge from the Brooklyn side is arguably the most technical and thus rewards the rider with some off-road skills.  See, there's the sweeping paved path that runs along the graffitoed wall, but there's also a dirt shortcut that runs straight up the grassy embankment:


You can see it more clearly in this aerial view:


As I made my approach to the bridge I knew this was the moment that would make or break my entire commute.  Sure, I could have saved precious seconds by scampering up the dirt path, but instead I stuck to the roadway:


This was because I was not riding a proper gravel bike, nor had I optimized my tire pressure for dirt, and a crash at this crucial juncture would put paid to my chances once and for all.

However, Cat 6 racing is not a discipline that rewards the meek, and the rider ahead of me--on a Citi Bike no less--had no such concerns.  Instead, he attacked the dirt shortcut harder than Chris Froome hits an asthma inhaler:


I thought for sure that there was no way he'd get that 50-pound corporate-branded beast up the hill, but to my utter surprise he appeared at the top just as I rounded the bend, thus setting off a Cat 6 explosion of atomic proportions:


Getting Cat 6--ed is a lot like sharing a subway car with a pervert: at first you try to convince yourself it's not happening, but sooner or later it becomes undeniable and you're forced to confront the horrible truth of what's happening.  On the subway this happens when the genitals make their first appearance, and on the bridge it happens when you realize the unmistakable sound of the Citi Bike drivetrain right on your wheel is simply not going away:


Note he's also got a rider right behind him, which means you're now looking at the podium, but which step each rider would occupy is anybody's guess at this point:


Now I should point out that, hyperbolized prose notwithstanding, my participation in this "race" was completely involuntary.  Furthermore, I wasn't exactly putting in a great deal of effort.  Nevertheless, as annoyed as I was I couldn't help being impressed that this guy was managing to stay on my wheel, and after some consideration I decided it had to be the flip-flops:


See, it was pretty hot out, and he was running cool, whereas my middle-aged guy sneakers were no doubt causing me to overheat slightly:


Whatever it was, by the time we reached the "summit" I'd grown annoyed enough at his close proximity to my rear fender that I was seriously considering breaking the unwritten Cat 6 rule by saying something to him, but cunningly it was at that moment he attacked and gapped me like a spark plug:


Then, using the considerable gravitational advantage of his Citi Bike, he disappeared completely leaving me to wallow in my shame--which I did until I reached the Manhattan side, and abandoned my shame in order to contemplate this:


I don't know what he was about to do on that thing, but it was clear I was leaving the bridge just in time, and I was relieved to finally reach the northern precincts of the city where life makes a little more sense:


Speaking of bridges, the Williamsburg Bridge is even more...vibrant than the Manhattan, and I received an email this morning from a reader named Aaron who spotted a rider there with a selfie stick taped to his helmet:


(Photos by Aaron, I'm assuming it's OK to use them.)

I don't know what he's doing:


But I sincerely hope whatever it is gets uploaded to YouTube very soon.

76 comments:

Watch and Camera Guy said...

Podium?

Mike O. said...

Yupper.

Anonymous said...

Fell off

Ted K. said...

176. One can envision scenarios that incorporate aspects of more than one of the possibilities that we have just discussed. For instance, it may be that machines will take over most of the work that is of real, practical importance, but that human beings will be kept busy by being given relatively unimportant work. It has been suggested, for example, that a great development of the service industries might provide work for human beings. Thus people would spent their time shining each other’s shoes, driving each other around in taxicabs, making handicrafts for one another, waiting on each other’s tables, etc. This seems to us a thoroughly contemptible way for the human race to end up, and we doubt that many people would find fulfilling lives in such pointless busy-work. They would seek other, dangerous outlets (drugs, crime, “cults,” hate groups) unless they were biologically or psychologically engineered to adapt them to such a way of life.

Two Claws said...

Two Claws Up!

Bryan Dotson said...

Read it.

Anonymous said...

I only cat 6 race with eBikes now. I've got one kid on board; she's got 2 but is also using a motor. It's on.

Otherwise, it's more fun to just collect "on your lefts."

Lieutenant Oblivious said...

8th? Scranus!

janinedm said...

When I stop for pedestrians who have the right of way and then another cyclist blows though the crosswalk, I feel personally offended. It's like, "they were under my protection!" Also, I think I break quite a few of the Cat 6 rules. First, that I do it al all. Hear me out. If left to my own resources, my lazy ass would mosey all the time. I'm pretty sure if no one were around I'd keep up a cadence of like 40 rpms. Trying to keep up with/pass people in front of me is the only thing that gets me to work on time. Second, I talk. I talk a lot of shit. I'm usually on my Dutch bike and when someone on a lighter bike (everybody else who's not on a citibike) goes to great effort to pass me, I can't help but say "good job" or "you can do it" or "I believe in you." Their looks of grim determination always get grimmer. What can I say. I'm a jerk.

Scranusbot 3000 said...

"graffitoed" Does not compute!

le Correcteur said...

So I read it and thereby missed top ten. Ouch. Selfie stick; has any other culture begotten such a stupid item?

bad boy of the north said...

I could just see it now....the narwhal with the selfie-stick(which I abhor),when absorbed by his self-direction,would not see the cyclists/pedestrians in front of him and pierce them lance-like...anyone want any shish kabob?

Grump said...

You often find Cat 6 racers on bike paths. Just last week, I was out riding with a friend. The last four miles, close to my home, are a little like Death Race 2000, so we hop on a bike path to cool down, and keep out speed to a sane bike path 14-15 mph. I have to admit that I was riding on, or slightly to the left of the centerline, deeply involved in conversation, when I heard a shouted "On your left". Within a half second, this Fredly guy on Tri bars, fly's by me, in full aero tuck. He proceeds to almost lose it when he rides off the path, a few inches, into the freshly mowed grass. He proceeds to yell something to us, but my friend and I were too busy laughing at his lack of ability, and common sense.
Cat 6 bike path racers are a joy to behold.

CommieCanuck said...

No shame Snob, those were SPD flip-flops and Donald Trump will deport his communist Citibike-loving ass in November. 98.3%* of Citibike riders are rapists and the mouse turds in the bag of M&Ms. Would you eat a bag of M&Ms if I told you there could be three mouse turds? (most likely if on weed Wednesday).

I thought a lance-like pierce was with a small needle in the left scranus.

*from Donaldtrump.com, which is right 78.4% of the time.

bad boy of the north said...

hey,one other thing......I liked the alice's restaurant bsnyc post photos...ya know,circles and arrows...except no paragraphs on the back.

Victor Kaminski said...

vsk said ...

Under 20? I'm not in that bad a shape !

vsk

Dooth said...

No shame in getting gapped by Lionel Messi, a world class athlete.

bad boy of the north said...

commiecanuck@159p...ouchie!

Anonymous said...

Hey! That's me - the narwhal.

I have a rearview camera under my seat that Bluetooths to my tablet on the selfie stick.

It works like a rearview mirror and record my rides from behind.

Thanks for making me famous, Bikesknob!

Dewayne B. said...

Those race pictures are quite impressive!

streepo said...

tilikum.. tee hee
I refuse to grow up.

clyde said...

Are frediots part of the bag of deplorables

BamaPhred said...

May the Scrotox be with you!

Victor Kaminski said...

vsk said ...

janinedm -

Same thing! When I stop for peds with the right of way, and some suicidal / homicidal jackass "plays through", it feels like my little bit of good ambassadorship is shat on. And the peds look at me with active bitchface that says "See, you're all fuckups". And the nearby cop does nothing.

Maybe tomorrow's sequel post will be on the serial shoaler. Away the pack goes, ... after slaloming around the meanderer. 3 blocks later, slow poke puts his / her lazy ass right up front. Rine and repeat, the next few lights.
I have no problem with slower pacers. Just don't repeatedly block everyone else at each intersection.
And I know it's just preaching to the choir here...

vsk


N/A said...

Snot rockets for the Cat6 wheel suckers.

wishiwasmerckx said...

Glad to see you in New Balance sneakers, the official shoe of middle-aged white guys.

I own several pairs myself.

It is the law, you know...

wishiwasmerckx said...

And Mr. Captcha, I will gladly identify pie until the cows come home.

Bryan said...

Wow, that really is a carrot on a stick...

Anonymous said...

I just returned from Roma, the Eternal city. My wife signed us up for a 4 hour bike tour of the city. Sounds good, till he brings out the skanky old helments (not on my head so I go commando as did everyone else).

Our guide Michaela rides like the wind and starts telling his story before everyone catches up to him. I was a bit leary about riding thru Rome as it is very busy, but Michaela had a secret strategy, we salmoned our way thru the city. Who knew Rome had so many one way streets! Going against traffic, riding as fast as possible to keep up with our guide and not wearing a helment. The perfect way to spend a hot humid day on vacation. When it was over, he asked us to go on social media to spread the word that cycling in Rome is safe! Ciao Ciao!

janinedm said...

@N/A For the record, I do not engage in wheel sucking. And the more I thought about it, I think my riding style comes from a desire to be left alone. I'm as happy to be dropped as I am to drop someone. Happier maybe, because I know that I won't have to see the person who dropped me again. I just don't want someone directly behind me or in front of me unless it's a social thing I decided to do. I don't mind shoalers, but my forbearance is mostly patronizing. Most people are so bad at accelerating from a full stop that if they want to give themselves a head start and don't mind being in pedestrians' way with their front wheel poking into the intersection, then more power to them, I suppose.

Carlos Danger said...

"I just don't want someone directly behind me or in front of me unless it's a social thing I decided to do." Sounds like a three way.

Chazu said...

Beautifully written and photographed. I felt as if I were there, with a scruffy, flip-flopping bike sharer in my draft.

It appears that he gulped down much more crabon monoxide-laden air than you, which made his lungs more laterally compliant and vertically stiff. Hence the gap.



Very Slim Pickens said...

That sure does look like Lionel Messi. But one presumes he's over in Spain playing football. And given the 7-0 thrashing they threw on Celtic it's doubtful he'd be wearing a Celtic Kit, unless he's just trying to rub it in.

Esteemed Commenter DaddoOne said...

"I have a rearview camera under my seat that Bluetooths to my tablet on the selfie stick.
It works like a rearview mirror and record my rides from behind."

Why, oh why?

the Smoo said...

Raleigh had a pair of cyclists endangering people on a greenway here 5 years ago and it was in the newspaper for a couple of weeks. We now have volunteers on bikes observing and reporting.

paulb said...

The Circle Line is not stupid.

Moo-Cow along the road said...

Babble, article on the Huffington Post site on B.C.'s dairy industry. Why they treat cows worse than in the US of A. How low can they go?

Sketti Scramble said...

I'm impressed that you can "race" and take phone photos at the same time. By the look of that Citi biker, he is too... Perhaps you can teach that to Peter Sagan.

Anonymous said...

that helmet selfie stick is a Darwin award waiting to happen.

Anonymous said...

You are a better man than me, when some d-bag cat-6's me on a citibike I just can't let that stand. same thing when someone shoals me at a crosswalk. I would be a calmer and happier person if I just shrugged it off but I take it personal. My new favorite thing is being passed dangerously close in traffic by someone on an electric bike. It isn't safe, I know because I was knocked off my bike by one a few months ago. Eff'd up my bike and gave me some bruises. Why are people so fucking stupid?

Ted Nugent said...

Cat 6 Fever!

dancesonpedals said...

Gapped me like a sparkplug...

janinedm said...

When your handle is Carlos Danger, a lot of things sound like a 3 way.

Aaron Gutowski said...

Hi, I am the Aaron that took the photos. That was actually the funniest part, when he looked left the f'n selfie was just missing the Cat 6ers that were passing him.

SoFlo'd said...

Don't have any shame Snobbo.. those new Giro spud flops are fast as shit from a goose... plus, shitty bikes have a little known switch that imbue the rider with a suicidal rage... (I know, I read it in a blog..) It was put there to discourage Morgan Stanley from getting in the share bike racket...

callback to yesterday... Mike Hunt meet Dixie Normous...

The Purge: RAGBRAI, Midwest Meltdown, or Iowa ain't THAT nice Bitches.. or Cat 6 THIS!!!

James said...

Ebikes are not bikes at all. Only machines of laziness.

Al Czervik said...

Whenever I see a selfie stick I'm consumed by an irrational rage to yank it out of the pesrons hand and beat them with it. But it looks good on you, narwhal.

Lieutenant Oblivious said...

Gapped my like a spark plug - typically could be anywhere from 0.016" to 0.032" as in 16 thousandths to 32 thousands of an inch in Amurcan. Must be a figurative description. So did he use a lever with a notch around your torso and follow up with a feeler gauge?

As I was huffing and puffing my slow ass over a big hill on Saturday I was Cat 6'd by five Ninja Freds who snuck up silently and passed me closely without saying a word. At another point I was Cat 6'd by a Neu-Fred who yelled on your left as loud as possible as he passed by me. They all pissed me off but I got over it.

True story, growing up there was a guy actually named Mike Hunt in my class. His father was also Mike Hunt but went by Mickey for some reason or other.

Of Mice and Men said...

Commie Rat North of the Boarder @ 1:59: "Would you eat a bag of M&Ms if I told you there could be three mouse turds?"

Would the rest of the bag contain real M & M's?

Were the mice fed an organic vegetarian diet prepared by a TV contestant winning chef who lives in Brooklyn?

Those omissions from your post are needed in order to make an educated decision.

janinedm said...

Wait, is Cat 6-ing anytime you pass somebody? That can't be right. I thought it was futilely racing strangers to nowhere for no reason. And there's the subtext that you're sort of inserting yourself into their ride or inserting them into your ride. Just passing someone just...happens sometimes.

Anonymous said...

I've heard you're not supposed to use a feeler gauge to gap a plug.

Frickus Rungus said...

Let's all get Snobby a 360 rotating gopro gantry for his healment for festivus.
narwhal 2.0

Pathetic Old Cyclist said...

My old incontinent bladder leaked a bit when I laughed at Cat 6 Narwhale. The funniest picture you ever post(ed?). Great post snobbie. Keep posting embarassing picturss of bike culture and I'll hace to get a new Hyundai.

Martin Amis said...

CC at 1:59 I couldn't have written it better myself.

Anonymous said...

Nope, you were gapped like goatse!

bad boy of the north said...

And you're welcome for me giving the narwhal image/naming thing to you.(insert Andrew dice clay Ooo!)

Asswipe Johnson said...

It's pronounced "Ozz-wee-pay"

Old timer said...


Huh? What?

wishiwasmerckx said...

See you guys later tonight at Cross Vegas and later this week at Interbike.

Anonymous said...

The pictures of you and cat 6 Messi are hilarious!

Doc Sarvis said...

Those are made in China. Asian youth are even more annoying than Western youth,hard as that is to believe though they do tend to have more respect for age...

Anonymous said...

That will get you assaulted, I promise

babble on said...

Heh. it's funny how many guys pull up beside me at a light, thinking they're going to be so much faster than I will on that monster of an Electra. They're the ones that absolutely hate to get chicked, specially when there's a Bea Bea Beast of a bike and a pair of stiletto heels thrown into the mix. I love giving 'em a run for their money, which works a charm when gravity is in my favour. It's particularly satisfying to see some RookieFred on a road bike, taking a quick right and opting out. And wrt most people's ability to accelerate from a stop? WTActualFuck is up with that? Why don't people shift down when they stop?

McDuh. :-i

McFly said...

Dang it Babble maybe they just want to insert their self into your ride.

bad boy of the north said...

wishiwasmerckx,we'll want a full report with accompanying photos....have fun.don't lose too much while out there.

janinedm said...

Phew doggie, did I have one heck of a commute today. First this guy gave me the ole on your left, when there was practically a football field around me (an empty lane of traffic, but whatever). And then later the same guy yelled at me at a cross walk. I was moving forward, but it was a downshifting movement instead of a plow-through movement, and I hear some voice behind me shoulting "pregnant woman!" "WE'VE GOT A PREGNANT WOMAN!" It was so loud she stopped. I was already stopped. We looked at each other and then looked at him. He told me "I gotta admit, you're good." To which I said, "That what the brakes do." He was wearing a camera on his head. I hope his friends see the video and tell him to simmer down.

recumbent conspiracy theorist said...

If I may say so janinedm you have brought some great things to this commenting table.

1. Commentator of the fairer sex
2. Voice of reason
3. Wit and humor

"janinedm said...
When your handle is Carlos Danger, a lot of things sound like a 3 way."

-That's great.

bad boy of the north said...

ahhh.......carlos danger.wondered who that was.yikes!aw....uh,carlos danger...in trouble,again.

djconnel said...

Attacking a guy when he's taking a selfie -- that's low.

dop said...

Today's commute featured the east side on lockdown with the general assembly in session. I learned my lesson last year and didn't go anywhere near the first avenue bikepath.

BamaPhred said...

I nominate "The Narwhal" to become a stock Snobism.
To salmon
To shoal
To narwhal
As for the original narwhal, please don't be offended. You're famous.

McFly said...

Narcisswhale

Wrench Monkey said...

You know, I rock a dorky little mirror when I ride as it's great to see what's happening behind me. I always thought it looked kind of stupid, though. After looking at that selfie stick set-up I feel downright pro.

The Narwhal said...

Mirror? What a novel piece of monocoque technology!

Rook said...

That cat 6 shit never gets old, always a good laugh!

Anonymous said...

Looks like The Snob got hisself a Portland Piercing.