Showing posts with label road riding. Show all posts
Showing posts with label road riding. Show all posts

Monday, February 27, 2012

Slip It In: Finding New Places For Crabon

Celebrated American author Charles Dickens began his most celebrated novel, "Hamlet," with the following sentence:

"As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect-like creature."

I don't want to spoil the ending, but Finny dies.

This morning, I woke up to a revelation a thousand times more horrible than any existentialist entomological crisis.  See, as I slept, I had uneasy dreams of Fredness.  Then, when I awoke, I realized that I had been losing precious wattage through inefficient power transfer.

Have you ever gone to a restaurant and ordered a meal, and then when the meal arrives you realize it sucks, but even though it sucks you eat every morsel and sop up all the remaining juices with a piece of bread and then finally lick the plate clean with the enthusiasm and relish of a cat cleaning its privates?  Probably not. Nevertheless, this behavior is the essence of Fredness.  Even though we suck, we labor under the delusion that we need to channel every bit of our pathetic power output and ungainly pedal stroke into the drivetrain of our overpriced bicycles in order to propel us to a rarefied realm of glory and achievement that exists only in our minds.  And when it comes to this behavior, the equivalent of that piece of bread you use to sop up that lousy sauce is the $395 crabon insole, forwarded to me by a reader:

Actually, this insole is not the equivalent of the bread so much as it's the equivalent of paying a surcharge for an ultra-stiff table to help you consume your crappy meal more quickly and efficiently.

Let's just pretend for a moment that there aren't like 26 bones in the human foot, and that it doesn't move at all.  Let's also pretend that you could get a shoe with an upper so stiff and with fasteners so tenacious that you could lock your totally rigid foot with its fused joints into position so firmly that it wouldn't flex so much as a fraction of a millimeter.  Finally, let's pretend that this rigid foot scenario was actually desirable.

On top of this, since we're talking about Freds, we can already assume that the frame is crabon, and the crank is crabon, and the pedal is crabon, and the sole of the shoe is crabon. 

Why, then, would you also need to slip in another layer of crabon in the form of this insole?

Well, because Freds live in a "bizzaro" version of "The Princess of the Pea," and any material even remotely yielding must be eliminated at all costs.  (Apart from their own doughy physiques, of course.) This is why I know my new line of crabon socks is going to be a huge success:

(Crabon sock prototype: laterally stiff and vertically hobbled.)

Or, if you're a "weight weenie," you can just skip the socks and the shoes and opt instead for my crabon insole modification:

The ultra-high modulus crabon toe thong coupled with the three-hole cleat mounting platform transforms your crabon insole into the lightest, stiffest racing flip-flop available.  

Of course, once you've eliminated all traces of flex from your Fred sled you're then ready to hit the park where you can ride around and around in circles while regaling other Freds with tales of your upgrades.  Fortunately, if your park of choice is Brooklyn's Prospect Park, you'll be pleased to know that the Department of Transportation has finally removed the "Barrels of Shame:"

I mentioned the Barrels of Shame last month, but while they may be gone we're only free temporarily because it's only a matter of time before the DOT implements some sort of "Phase II:"

"City transportation officials removed dozens orange traffic barrels intended to slow cyclists on a crash-prone hill in Prospect Park — and now they want your advice on what to do next."

It's odd that the DOT is so concerned with cyclists in the park, yet I've never heard anybody complaining about the high number of cars that speed through it during car-free hours.  For example, the park is closed to cars all weekend long, yet early Saturday morning I actually had to dodge a speeding car salmon.  Of course, he had his hazard lights on, so that makes it OK.  Actually, maybe that's the answer--hazard lights clearly legitimize every type of traffic infraction, so if we were to put them on our bicycles maybe we'd have total immunity too.  

In any case if the DOT really wants suggestions for what to do about cyclists in the park, here's my idea:

Buy us off.

Sure, I can't speak for everybody, but for the low, low price of $100,000 from the City of New York I'd happily agree to never, ever ride my bicycle in Prospect Park again.  Then, I'd take the money and invest in the Crabon Fred Miracle Dynamo Light, invented by acclaimed director Werner Herzog:

I don't know how it works since I'm not very knowledgeable about science, but my guess is that it's filled with tiny demons.  Anyway, I'd be sure to make millions, and then I could buy and sell your measly little park like that. [Snaps fingers to indicate ease with which he could buy and sell park.]

In your face, DOT.

Speaking of entrepreneurial ideas, here in New York City it's fairly commonplace to receive deliveries by bicycle, but a reader informs me there are other parts of the country in which the concept of bicycle delivery is as mysterious as a light filled with tiny demons:

Consider the writer's amazement when a single human is able to carry three (3) whole bottles of wine while riding a bicycle:

I live on a cul-de-sac in downtown Raleigh, south of Oakwood. We're grateful the pizza man even remembers where we are. So it was with awe that I watched as a trim young man on a bike rode up to my front porch and pulled from his Swiss Army backpack three bottles of wine that I had selected online just an hour before.

She should go to Portland, where the sight of a soup delivery bike would probably melt her face:

By the way, if you're like a lot of people you probably have trouble keeping your chowders straight, so when you're ordering soup by bicycle in Portland try to remember:

--New England clam chowder is the white one;

--Manhattan clam chowder is the red one;


--Portland clam chowder is the one filled with tiny chunks of smugness.

Also, if it's your first time eating Portland clam chowder you should be very careful--those smugness chunks are a choking hazard.

But while it's oddly satisfying that people are amazed by the concept of bicycle delivery, I miss the days when the bicycle still had the power to terrify a team of horses:

("On Your Left," by Frederic Remington)

A reader tells me the above painting hangs in the Amon Carter museum in Fort Worth, Texas.  Frankly, I'm not sure which is more amazing: that they actually have art museums in Fort Worth, Texas, or that people were once able to undertake "epic" bike rides without the aid of social networking or Kickstarter.  Certainly that's not the case now, and here is his modern-day equivalent:

(Forwarded by yet another reader.)

But while cyclists may not scare horses now, they can make people drop their knitting needles:

Man on bike, cat on sidewalk. - w4m - 21
Date: 2012-02-24, 8:00PM EST
Reply to: [deleted]

I was walking. We made startled, awkward eye contact as I yelled after a tabby that had just run between my feet, "YOU, CAT ! ARE YOU MISSING?" I was trying to communicate with the tabby because, a block prior, I had witnessed a distressed youth hyperventilating before a LOST CAT sign posted to the trunk of a sycamore. You understand. 

You: Were on a bike, waiting on a red light. You probably always wait at red lights. I like that. You looked like you have at least one toddler at home. You're one of those guys who has mastered the art of making "fuck me" eyes with strong undertones of "I'm taken and happy, so get lost" eyes. You were hot. Like, Billy Zane when he's wearing a wig, hot. 

If you are this guy, a lost tabby, or some hyperventilating youth, hit me up. I'm a decent looking brunette, and I'm ready and willing to drop my knitting needles for the time it takes for dinner, a movie, and a good-night kiss on both cheeks. 

Though they're not quite powerful enough to overcome sexual orientation, even when paired with exotic pants:

British gay dude on bike....commented on my pants - w4m - 28 (Manhattan)
Date: 2012-02-27, 12:13AM EST
Reply to: [deleted]

You commented on my bike gear, and considering the fact you were wearing shorts today, we need to have this conversation. My pants were Outlier ( and they're the best pants I've ever owned.


You're gay, so this is totally platonic, but I still want to chat with you! You got my number but I'm not sure if you got the right one, because you never texted me. 

Your name was Alex (I think), you did some reporting for the BBC, we were going to chat about Occupy related get back at me! 

I think someone may have given someone else a fake number.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Motivation and Litigation: The American Way

Depending on where you live, you may be experiencing the cold, snow, and snotcicles associated with what meteorologists call "winter." Furthermore, if you're one of those people who rides a bike but really doesn't enjoy it (or what some people call "a roadie"), you may be searching for "motivation" to continue riding your bike until we reach the "woosie"-coddling months of spring--at least that's what various cycling-related websites and periodicals seem to think. Fortunately, these same publications are ready to come to your aid with advice to help you through this difficult time. Here's just one example:

I have no problem finding "motivation." I just enjoy riding my bike, yet at the same time I have no real problem not riding my bike if weather conditions are such that riding a bike becomes totally unpleasant. I'm not necessarily saying "If it rains take the bus," but I am saying that if there's 19 feet of snow on the ground and people are dying then it's perfectly fine to stay in and watch a movie.

Still, I am fascinated with the literature of cycling motivation, and the one above was a good example. And while all of these reasons were fairly ambiguous, I found this one by far the most vexing:

Legitimize Your Training

Another reason to stay motivated is that it makes training seem more important. When you are motivated, your workouts take on a greater meaning. They are part of a bigger picture.

What you do defines who you are, and doing what you want to do makes your life seem like it has more meaning. There is no need to go to your Facebook page to look for "existence verification". You are out there doing what you want to do and it doesn't matter what anybody else thinks.

What does that even mean? Have I just discovered the secret of Fred-dom? Is the notion that "training" is somehow different than just riding a bike what gives people the will to live? This is a frightening thought. If anything, I think anybody searching for "motivation" to ride through the winter is in serious need of some good de-motivation. To that end, here are my four tips:

1) Your workout is meaningless. Do you enjoy doing hill repeats at the crack of dawn on 20 degree days? Great, if that's your idea of fun then by all means keep doing it. But don't confuse it with an activity that has "meaning," because there's no "bigger picture," and your "workout" is about as meaningful as a dog humping somebody's leg.

2) If you're looking for motivation to ride, don't ride. You're supposed to be having fun. Needing "motivation" to ride your bike is like needing porn to have sex. Your desire to ride should be self-sustaining, like your erection.

3) Repeat these words to yourself: "Fuck it, it's too cold outside." The "sponsor" your club team cajoled into letting you put their name on your jersey couldn't care less how you do in the races nobody's going to be watching this coming spring. In fact, they'd prefer it if you just left them alone. If you don't feel like riding then do something else until you do feel like riding.

4) Stop watching your weight. Do you enjoy riding your bike in winter? Me too. So just keep in mind that seals and sea lions have a layer of fat for a reason, and you should not be drinking Skinnygirl White Cranberry Cosmos all winter in some misguided attempt to stay fit. Here's what happens to people who don't gain weight in winter: they "motivate" themselves to ride by starving themselves and riding when they don't want to, they get sick right away because their bodies are weak and defenseless, they keep riding anyway with their Skinnygirl White Cranberry Cosmo-sipping friends because they all need to stay "motivated," and they spend the entire winter in pacelines, inhaling each others mucus mist, re-infecting each other, and generally being sick and miserable. So please, drink lots of beer, it's the best thing for you.

Of course, the exceptions to all of this are professional bike racers, because unlike us it's their job to ride even when they don't want to. And yes, like any employee, sometimes these professional bike racers need incentives and motivation in order to keep doing what they're doing. For example, one way a directeur sportif might motivate a rider is by putting an eagle on his jersey that will bite off his "pants yabbies" if he slows down:

Yes, it's the 2012 Team Saxo Bank kit, as modeled by Alberto Contador:

Shown here giving his best "a bird of prey is currently threatening my genitals" grimace:

I can't wait until this kit is available for sale, because the eagle should look particularly menacing when it's being stretched by all those protruding Fred bellies. In any case, I guess in the world of pro cycling couture scary birds are the new fake "six pack:"

Of course, Team Saxo Bank will also be riding the Specialized S-Works UltraWhateverWhoCares SL8 McLaren Vulva, and not the Volagi Liscio, which is made by a company Specialized is currently suing:

Here's a closer look at the bike:

According to the Mercury News, Specialized are accusing the two former employees who designed this bike of stealing "trade secrets" in order to do so, and as far as I can tell those Specialized trade secrets include:

--Using the color red in conjunction with the color black;

--Using a logo comprised of the first letter of the brand name;

--Employing pointlessly swoopy crabon tubes and ascribing mystical ride qualities to them;

--Affixing a high price tag to the bike;

--Equipping the bike with two wheels, handlebars, and a saddle.

In particular, Specialized claim the Volagi Liscio is a ripoff of their "Roubaix" bikes:

Specialized alleges in court documents that Choi and Forsman schemed to design a bike to rival their line of "Roubaix" bikes, which can sell for as much as $11,000 and is described as one of the company's "most significant sources of revenue."

The "Roubaix" line is of course Specialized's line of comfortable long-distance road bikes, and every bicycle aficionado knows that Specialized invented the concept of the comfortable road bike. Indeed, nobody had ever conceived of such a thing before. For that matter, Specialized also invented the concept of the long road ride (Specialized v. Rapha, settled for undisclosed amount), and the pneumatic tire (Sinyard v. Dunlop, 1887), and the road that goes from one city to another (lawsuit pending against Roman Empire), and the wheel (Sinyard v. A. Caveman, 1,000,000BC). So it's no surprise that Specialized should also take aim at a couple of upstarts who were audacious enough to market and sell a safety bicycle (Sinyard v. Lawson, 1876).

Oh, and Roubaix, France? You can rest assured they'll pay dearly for stealing that name, Specialized will see to that.

Needless to say, the guys from Volagi are indignant. Said Robert Choi of Volagi to Velo-whatever-they're-called-now:

“He’s saying ‘this is my fucking bike,’ just because the bike is red. They think they own the red color. I’m pretty sure SRAM has a component group called Red.”

“We’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on this. We spent more money on the lawsuit than the entire gross revenue of the bikes we’ve sold. Our houses are mortgaged. (Specialized) spent a million and a half dollars. For a million and a half dollars they should have bought our company,” Choi said.

I'm sure the lawsuit against SRAM is pending. Choi also had this to say to the Mercury News:

"We thought it was the American way for us to quit the company and go on our way. They just didn't like that we had a successful bike, perhaps. And they thought we would just cave."

Actually, he got that wrong. Until a few decades ago the American way was to work for a company until you die, but now the American Way is for a huge company to use the money it saves by making things overseas to sue its competitors out of existence.

Meanwhile, Specialized's Beloved Leader Mike Jong-Sinyard also made cycling news recently when he took on Amazon:

And in turn the cycling accessory brands who collude with them:

Participating brands include Pearl Izumi, Shimano, Louis Garneau, Giro, Bell, Fizik, Sidi and CatEye.

In other words, every company that isn't Specialized. And in so doing, Sinyard also too the opportunity to taunt a company that actually had the audacity to sue Specialized:

In related news of brands that leverage the IBD while simultaneously undercutting them, Easton-Bell Sports dropped the fruitless suit it filed against Specialized before Interbike. Was this legal maneuvering just carried out for publicity?

Here's what that lawsuit was about:

Bell Sports alleges that Specialized threatened to withhold high-end bicycle inventory from dealers carrying Giro cycling shoes and that some dealers were told they would not receive their year-end purchase volume incentives or manufacturer rebates if they continued to sell Giro cycling shoes. As a result, Specialized dealers who carry Giro shoes have canceled existing orders, retracted on verbal product orders or asked Giro to take back inventory on their shelves, the suit documents stated.

“A line has been crossed,” said Greg Shapleigh, senior vice president of Giro and Easton Cycling. “They’ve stopped simply providing financial incentives for retailers who support their brand and their business to telling them what they can and can’t buy even if they’ve met the obligations of the agreement they signed with Specialized initially. Retailers can’t buy the products they think are right for their business and consumers don’t in many cases have all the choices that they should have. All we want is the ability to sell our footwear to dealers who want to carry it.”

Whew! Between filing and defending against lawsuits, Specialized's legal fees must be astronomical. I wonder how they pay for it all:

(All You Freds Finance My Litigiousness)

Anyway, it's tempting to portray Specialized as a new-age Red Menace determined to gain a monopoly on the entire pursuit of cycling, but the truth is they're genuine innovators, and they would never use someone else's idea:

That grip looks pretty familiar to me, but I can't remember where I've seen it. It could have been on some douchey blogger's custom mountain bike. Incidentally, numerous commenters on yesterday's post took issue with my sublimely comfy grip choice for some reason, which inspired me to revise my New Yorker Caption Contest submission thusly:

The fact that people think they're dorky only makes me love them more.

Lastly, a number of people have forwarded me the following bike:

Which will be used on an expedition to the South Pole:

The cutting-edge polar exploration technology includes futuristic components such as a Brooks saddle:

The saddle is made of extra-tough organic leather and copper rivets. "A plastic seat would shatter like glass in Antarctica's sub-zero weather," says Fortune.

Power Grips:

The metal cage pedals are designed with power straps specially set to fit Skelton's snow boots. This will allow her to pedal with full 360-degree power as if she was in standard cycling shoes and pedals.

And a fetching red, black, and white "colorway," which will doubtless have Specialized's attorneys calling in short order.

They discovered the south pole, you know.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Squirrely You Jest: Blight-Eyed and Bushy-Tailed

(Fall is a nice time for to riding the bikes.)

As the changing leaves and the commercials for huge retail sales have no doubt reminded you, the holidays are approaching. So, in the spirit of the season, I have a heartwarming and delightful story to tell you. In fact, if you're a parent or educator, you should gather the children and read this out loud to them. Here we go!

Once a time upon, there was a squirrel named Perry. Perry the squirrel lived in the forest in a hollow tree. His was a happy life, and he enjoyed doing all the things happy squirrels do: climbing tall trees, frolicking in the tall grass, and foraging for larvae and maggots. When Perry went about his happy life he always whistled a happy tune--except when his mouth was full of maggots. It's very difficult to whistle with a mouth full of maggots.

Anyway, one day Perry decided to visit his friend, Sally. Sally would sometimes let Perry visit her in her hollow tree for some frolicking, and she had a refreshing way of not placing too many demands on Perry or insisting that he spend the night. So Perry loaded his little squirrel bindle up with nuts, berries, and maggots and set out for Sally's place.

As Perry scurried over to Sally's for some tail (click here for NSFW squirrel tail action) he listened to the birds chirping and the brook babbling and he whistled a happy tune. Soon though he came to the treacherous part of the journey, which involved crossing the big open place where the noisy metal machines went. Perry hated crossing the big open place, but he loved Sally's fluffy tail, and sometimes the prospect of getting some tail can make a squirrel do things he wouldn't ordinarily do. So he closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and ran across the big open place.

Perry had made it across the big open place many times before. But not this time. This time, he managed to avoid the noisy metal machines, but just before he made it to the other side he got caught in the fork crown of a Fred's Orbea and died:

The end.

The image above (the squirrel, not the smiley face) comes courtesy of Esteemed Commenter Daddo One, so if you're offended you can blame him--or, you can blame Jens Voigt, who brags on Twitter about saving mice but in this case was nowhere to be found. What's the matter, Voigt? Mice are worth your attention but squirrels aren't? This rodentism will not stand! Most of all though, you can blame the rider, for had he been riding a bicycle with adequate squirrel clearance this might never have happened:

Yes, if you're riding a bike with short reach brakes it means you hate nature and you might as well go get yourself a Hummer.

In any case, while not all of us are squirrel friendly, if you're reading this blog you're probably bike friendly, and as it happens I recently received the following email:

At Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, KY the cycling coach of the well awarded team has come up with a symbol to promote awareness to bicycle friendly place. Coach Grigsby has created a symbol that universally would tell cyclists they can come there if they need water, have an emergency, use the phone etc. It's simple and helps the cycling team. Can I send u one to help us get this universally recognized symbol out of Columbia, KY and into the world?

Evidently if you're "bike friendly" you're supposed to place this sticker on your home, which makes it sort of the cycling equivalent of a Mezuzah. However, unlike a Mezuzah, this particular talisman is less about protecting the home than it is about telling wayward cyclists that they may seek succor in your abode. (And when I say "seek succor" I mean that in the innocent way and not in the way Perry the squirrel was seeking it--though "gimme some succor" is a charming pick-up line.) Most of all, though, it means that cyclists are allowed to totally foul your bathroom.

I only wish they'd contacted me when they were still in the design phase, because you may recall that some time ago we already decided upon an international cycling symbol:

This symbol is both bold and versatile, and while the "bike friendly" part is implied it can be easily modified in order to convey a more specific message:

Of course, it hardly warrants mentioning that the international cycling symbol is based on the ubiquitous time-traveling t-shirt-wearing retro-Fred from the planet Tridork Bret:

Wait, sorry, wrong image:

And you'll no doubt be pleased to know that time-traveling t-shirt-wearing retro-Fred from the planet Tridork Bret sightings continue apace--including this one, sent to me by a reader, in which the image of the time-traveling t-shirt-wearing retro-Fred from the planet Tridork Bret is writ large on the side of a van:

You'll note that the've changed his t-shirt from yellow to red, but that's our Bret. As for the van itself, I'm not sure of it's purpose, though I'm assuming you're allowed to "make" in there.

In other news, last week I mentioned Campagnolo's new electronic component group, which is now at the heart of a journalistic controversy. As far as I understand it, what happened was that Cyclingnews and BikeRadar technical editor James Huang wrote an article about the group, after which Bike Rumor basically plagiarized it and then offered an awkward apology:

Tyler (Editor) - 11/10/11 - 4:49pm
Dear readers,
If you’re reading this for a second time, you’ll notice that it’s been completely rewritten. There are some additional features like individual component weights, battery specs, etc. It’s a much better, more comprehensive article.
Our first iteration inappropriately used information from a competitor’s article. We were not invited to the official launch in Italy and in our excitement to get the news out used poor judgement in how we went about it. For this we are very sorry.
It is not, nor has it ever been, our intention to build this site on the backs of other peoples’ efforts. We take this matter very seriously and have made changes to our own internal policies. We look forward to continuing to provide great original content and, when appropriate linking to others in the appropriate manner and giving credit where credit is due. BikeRadar, Bicycling, and Road Bike Action, among others, all have excellent first hand coverage that adds to this story and we encourage you to check it out.
Tyler Benedict, Editor/Founder

Oopsie. Amusingly though it would appear that Bike Rumor has since come to terms with the fact that they can't compete journalistically with the tech geek "big boys." Instead, they're embracing extreme retrougrouchery by plundering museums instead of rival publications:

Bike Rumor should be safe here, since any articles written about this baby are long in the public domain. I'm looking forward to their next piece, which will be a similarly detailed look at this new "quick release skewer" technology all the velocipedists are buzzing about.

Meanwhile, speaking of theft, a deranged Australian is on the loose in New York and is stealing bicycles:

Sure, some might argue that the phrase "deranged Australian" is redundant, but either way the brigand pictured above has hornswaggled a well-meaning Yonkersian out of his bicycle:

Date: 2011-11-15, 4:59AM EST
Reply to: [deleted]

The man you see below agreed to RENT MY BIKE FOR one day (Last Saturday, 10/22) and agreed to return that same night

He never called or emailed me and and the bike has not been returned. I called him and left him a bunch of voicemails, texts, and emails.

All i took was his expired Australian Ids and NO cash deposit. The NYC address he gave me is not even a real location.

BEWARE OF THIS MAN! He is a thief that still has my Fuji mountain bike, Schwinn helmet, and bell u lock.

His name is Thomas Anthony Ward

He is about 6'1 tall

I'm actually reasonably sure I've seen the thief before, though back then he was calling himself "Russell Crowe:"

What's more, Mr. Crowe does have a known affinity for urban mountain biking:

Presently, he's my number one suspect.

Speaking of mountain bikes, the bar end is the DNA of the home-"curated" cockpit, and here is an elegantly minimalist example forwarded by a reader:

Complete with top tube pad, multiple reflectors, and singlespeed pie plate, it looks fast just standing still:

If Bret had a "beater bike," this would be it.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Juxtaposition: A Tale of Two Bikes

There is a bridge called the George Washington Bridge that connects the island of Manhattan to the state of New Jersey. This is the main escape route for New York City's roadies, and I would estimate that it sees the highest volume of Fred traffic of any roadway in the entire world. In fact, if one were one to seal it off completely, the city would swell and swell and swell like pimple until it exploded in an atomic blast of Lycra, crabon, and pie plates.

This past weekend, I joined the legions of cyclists who use this bridge, and just a few of the things I observed while on my ride included:

--A gentleman wearing a Bert and Ernie jersey and riding a Colnago Ferrari;
--Another gentleman wearing a sleeveless base layer with no jersey at all, complete with teardrop aero helmet;
--Yet another gentleman who proved the old adage "the bike goes where you look" when he turned to admire the scenery and rode right into the guardrail.

I of course was astride my gleaming new Ritte Fred Chariot, which I've ironically parked in front of the words "No Parking:"

(I don't need "society", your yellow letters mean nothing to me.)

Having finally maneuvered through traffic and up and down moderate hills and around wayward triathletes I'm pleased to report that the bike rides beautifully, and while I have no intention of subjecting you to incessant "foffing off" over this thing I do realize that in last Friday's post I failed to include certain images that are mandated by the American Bike Dork Society of America. Therefore, I will dispense with these Obligatory Bicycle Shots (OBS) so that I can avoid being subject to further fines and we can then move onto more pressing matters.

Firstly, here's the Obligatory Derailleur Shot:

Notice that the bicycle makes use of something called a "derailleur hanger," which is "replaceable." This is so when you "crash" because "some guy with a TT helmet and no jersey on" runs into you, the bicycle will be easily repairable--provided all the damage is limited to the derailleur hanger.

Next, here's the Obligatory Non-Drive Side Dropout Shot:

Notice it's "cowled" to provide more surface area for the oversized blahblahblah. Alas, notice that the dropouts are vertical, which is the only reason I haven't yet converted this into a sweet, sweet fixie. The wheels use "Itchey" hubs, and Itchey apparently employ a marketing technique known as the "Trifecta System." Ordinarily I prefer handbuilt wheels, but when you have 17 children like I do it's very difficult to sit around building wheels because kids like to do stuff like eat nipples and put spokes up their nose. Therefore, in the interest of time I took a gamble on "instant" wheels, and I guess I'll just see what happens.

This, of course, is the obligatory Seat Tube Junction shot:

The tubings are being made from stainless steel because I tend to wet myself when I'm excited or tired (on a good road ride you'll be both excited and tired at various times), and they are joined by a revolutionary new process known as "welding." It'll have to do for now--at least until I get those fake stick-on lugs.

This is the Obligatory Head Tube shot:

Given the collapse of the world economy, I'm putting all my resources into Chris King headsets based on the relative strength of the Chris King Headset Composite Index (CKHCI). As you can see, the stem is not "slammed." I'm not sure why a "slammed" stem is a good thing anyway; it's the equivalent of having your saddle jammed all the way forward. I'd think you'd want a bit of adjustability in either direction. But what do I know?

Here's the Obigatory Head Tube Badge shot:

The head tube badge is essential because it tells you what kind of bicycle you have in case you forget. I think it's the first head tube badge I've ever had that wasn't plastic and mounted with foam tape. There's also a spare one on the seat tube:

And lastly, the most obligatory of obligatory photos, the Beefy Bottom Bracket Shot:

The plastic band is a chain catcher anti-drop thingy, because the bottom bracket is so incredibly beefy I'm afraid its gravitational pull will overcome the strength of the derailleur cage and draw the chain to it.

And that's my road bike, big freaking deal.

Moving on to the "more pressing matters" I alerted to earlier, these matters concern a bicycle that is not mine but that I am in fact "testing." The bicycle looks like this, and it is called a "Base Urban:"

(No, I don't have any idea why the top tube is shaped like that, and no, a U-lock does not fit through it.)

Now, few things are more subjective than aesthetics, and while aesthetic considerations can sometimes overlap with practical ones, other times form and function can be mutually exclusive. In other words, sometimes something that's really ugly can work great, and sometimes something that's really beautiful can work like crap. And what's ugly to one person can be beautiful to another, and so forth.

As it happens, I think this bicycle is wildly ugly. To me, it evokes throbbing dance music, and flat brim caps with the stickers still on them, and cars with neon underneath, and the smell of cologne, and all manner of other things I find aesthetically offensive. Nevertheless, I agreed to test it for a simple reason:

It has an 8 speed Alfine hub and a belt drive.

Belt drives have been debunked to a certain extent where hard recreational offroad use is concerned, but for commuting purposes this particular combination seemed intriguing, since arguably a drivetrain with no chain grime or derailleurs that still offers you the ability to shift and coast is the commuting ideal. And never having ridden a belt drive bicycle in any application before, I was eager to try one, and I figured if it worked well I could overlook the bike's questionable aesthetics in the same way I don't really care what my toilet looks like so long as it accepts waste and flushes reliably.

Anyway, I've only just taken delivery of the bike, so what follows are first impression.

Firstly, the hub shifts by means of this STI-type lever:

This may look familiar to you as shifters in this configuration are sold variously as Microshift (I think technically it's "microSHIFT," and you should always be sure to shout the second syllable), Nashbar, Samson, and so forth. The lever body feels pretty much exactly like the last generation Shimano levers did, and you shift by means of these nubbins:

It's all fairly intuitive and comfy, but the shifting isn't anywhere as quick as with a derailleur drivetrain--though it's perfectly adequate for riding around town. I'd argue that there's little point in a riding-around-town bike that looks like a race bike but doesn't shift like one and that also weighs many many pounds, but that's more of an aesthetic quibble, and the bike does have practical features such as fender eyelets on the fork:

And both fender and rack eyelets in the rear:

Though arguably the fender eyelets are of little use since the fork crown is not drilled:

And neither is the brake bridge for that matter:

And anyway even if they were it's tough to imagine a fender strut clearing the brake caliper:

Not that I tried it, mind you, but it's pretty clear to me that this bike does not want fenders since it's guarding the integrity of those holes like a [insert bad prison joke here].

Speaking of the disc brakes, they're Avid BB7s, a brake with which I have considerable experience and which I generally find to be excellent:

On this bike, however, they feel almost disconcertingly spongy. It could be that they need to wear in a bit, or it could be a cable routing issue, but I've never experienced this with new BB7s in the past, and even my Big Dummy with it's roughly 900 foot long rear brake cable housing has never felt this vague. Though ostensibly a bad thing, the brake's sponginess was in keeping with the overall feel of the bike, which basically rides like the eponymous airplane in the movie "Airplane!":

(" a wet sponge.")

I suppose this is what happens when you take not particularly supple tires and very heavy wheels and spongy disc brakes and not-crisp shifting and assemble them in the shape of a road bike when they really want to be one of those department store chopper bikes. As for the belt itself, I thought the idea was that they were quiet, but as I rode it made a rhythmic creaking noise, which made me feel like I was in a cheap hotel room with thin walls and my neighbors were having a "collabo:"

Granted, I've only just taken delivery of the bike and have not had time to try to adjust it out, but from what I can see while riding, the chainring (or belt ring, or belt wheel, or whatever you would call it) has a wobble in it and as such is moving laterally in relation to the belt. It's very slight--about as much as a typical chainring wobble--but evidently with the high tension the belt requires it's enough to make a racket.

Again, this is just a first impression, but overall so far I'm pretty impressed by how poorly thought through this bicycle is, right down to the fact that the bars were wrapped backwards from the factory so the tape kept peeling under my hand:

All of this for the low price of $1,750:

Though you do get one (1) set of bottle bosses and a bottle cage.

In the coming days I will invent paces for this bike and then put it through them, but given that you could buy a pretty decent road bike and an inexpensive singlespeed commuter for this price (my Scattante rides quite nicely and is still serving me well as a commuter two and a half years later) instead of merging the two concepts into one bike, I'm sort of struggling to see the point of this.

But in the interest of science, I'll keep trying.