Thursday, August 15, 2019

This Just In: I'm Giving Away A Bike!

I am an extremely selfish individual.  See, since 2007, I've been providing you with free content on this blog and elsewhere, only occasionally asking you cheapskates to, you know, buy a book or maybe some coffee.  And fine, there was that one time I asked you to donate to my radio show.  (This past Monday's show is available here, by the way.  For free.)

Wait, did I say selfish?  What I meant was extraordinarily fucking gracious.

Nevertheless, you're no doubt sitting there thinking, "Big deal.  What the hell have you done for me lately?  I want free stuff!"  And it's true, there was a time when I gave away free bikes, and free Knog lights at my book signings signings, and even free beer back when I could be bothered to throw together a (free) group ride.

Well, guess what?  For the first time in years, I'll be giving away a free bike again!  (Unless of course you count the fact that I gave away both the Univega and the Chain Reaction bike I rode at Eroica California this past spring--which, come to think of it, you totally should, you ungrateful schnorrers.  And let's also remember that I've donated not one but two of my bikes to the Classic Cycles bicycle museum.)

I'm not giving away just any bike, either.  I'm giving away yet another piece of cycling history, and here it is:


That's right, what you're looking at is my Jones SWB Plus Complete.  So why am I giving away one of the best bikes I've ever owned?  Because now that I've got the long wheelbase version I've decided I like it ever so slightly better, and as an apartment-dwelling urbanite it's kind of absurd for me to be hanging onto both bicycles.  So I let Jeff Jones know that I was ready to return it, though I also suggested giving it away in some sort of contest if he was open to that, and one of you people is very lucky because he graciously agreed.

So how will the contest work?  Well, here's an FAQ:

How will the contest work?

I have no idea yet, but I plan to come up with something.  I think it should go to someone who, unlike me, will use the bike to its fullest by putting bags on it and stuff.  Maybe I'll require an essay about the first ride you plan to do on it or something like that.  I'm open to suggestions.

Who will be eligible to enter?

I guess technically anybody, though I don't see myself shipping the bike internationally, and I'd love to not have to ship the bike at all, so I imagine you'll be at a considerable advantage if you live in or around New York City or you're willing to come get the bike.

Will the contest be fair?

No, see above.

What's the size and condition of the bike?

This is the medium-sized Jones SWB Plus Complete.  I have ridden it quite a bit so it could no doubt use some attention, and it's probably getting close to new chain and tires time, but it's completely rideable as is.  I keep my pedals, bottle cage, and saddle.  (I'll reinstall the stock saddle.)  It does not come with the Jones handlebar purse, either.  

When will you formally announce the rules of the contest?

Maybe tomorrow, or else after my vacation.  Don't go sending me any essays yet.  I don't even know if I'm going to go that route anyway.  I could just as easily make everybody race up an area Strava segment and determine the winner that way. 

Can I request a different color?

NO!  You're actually getting my bike, don't you understand that?  You don't get to make any choices.  Anyway, it only comes in black.  The LWB comes in black or red.  If you want a red bike and you hate getting stuff for free then buy yourself a LWB in either smooth or knobby tire configuration.

So there it is!  Stay tuned for details!  And feel free to offer your input and suggestions in the comments, bearing in mind of course that I'll feel free to disregard it if so inclined!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

New Outside Column!

Yeah, that's right, I rode my bike to the airport recently and I totally can't get over myself:
So obviously I'm getting a dedicated airport bike now; I'm just deliberating over which material. 

Friday, August 9, 2019

Casting Call Part III

After auditioning the Plastic Fred Sled yesterday for vacation duty, today I headed out on the New-To-Me "Forever" Bike:


There's just something about this bike that really works for me.  I don't know if it's the mystical properties of the titanium, or some accident of geometry and components, or the fact that it's the bike I wished I had when I was in my 20s, or what.  Whatever the reason it immediately knocked the Plastic Fred Sled out of the running.

So do I bring this or the Jones?  Well...

Pros:
  • You can't go wrong with a road bike
  • This will cover me for everything save for full-on trail riding
  • I really like this bike
Cons:
  • Not really any good for t-shirt-and-jorts-type rambles
I guess I'll next week will be a showdown between this and the Jones.  Then again, in past years I've always brought a road bike (my Milwaukee, usually) and never regretted it.  As for why I'm not bringing the Milwaukee, the short answer is it's in commuter mode and it needs a fair amount of work to be vacation-worthy.  And for those of you who suggested some sort of gravel or cyclocross bike, the reason I'm not going that way is: A) I currently don't own a gravel or cyclocross bike (unless you county my Surly Travelers Check, which is currently a singlespeed, and also currently packed away in its case); 2) The reason I don't own either kind of bike is that for my purposes they don't really offer that much more utility than a road bike, and if I'm doing a ride that a road bike can't handle I'd rather just ride the Jones.

So there it is.  I've got plenty of time to decide, or I could always take two vacations, one for each bike.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Casting Call Part Deux

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm currently auditioning bikes for a chance to accompany me on my vacation this year.  Yesterday it was the Jones Plus LWB, and today it's my plastic Fred Sled, upon which I just took a quick spin:


Pros:

  • You can't go wrong with a road bike
  • Everything's practically brand new so all the moving parts are smooth and snappy
  • I don't particularly care about weight, but there is definitely something fun about very light road bikes, especially on climbs, of which there are plenty where I'm going
  • I pretty much only use this bike for racing (using the same bike for riding and racing is like totally gauche), so it would be good to spend some more time together for a change
Cons:
  • Using the same bike for riding and racing is like totally gauche
  • I don't particularly care about weight
  • I'm not crazy about the ergonomics of the cockpit, though I can't be bothered to do anything about it until the tape needs to be replaced, which at this rate will probably be never
  • It's a really nice bike, though because I only use it for racing it feels kind of like packing a pair of Banana Republic slacks
So much to ponder!  Good thing I don't have a real job.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Casting Call

Okay, firstly, if you're the doofus who was accusing me of selling out to Walmart because I went to Bentonville and spoke at the Arkansas Bike Summit, I really hope you read my reply to your comment because I mean come on now.

Though if you're trying to channel Rik from "The Young Ones" you're doing a great job:


Secondly, now that I'm back from Bentonville I find myself under great pressure, as I must audition all of my bicycles in order to determine which one gets to come on vacation with me.  Now, I know what you're thinking:

"Vacation?  Please.  You're whole life is a vacation!" 

And of course you're right, it is.  However, my wife's whole life isn't a vacation, and if you insist on accuracy then let's say it's her vacation and I get to tag along.  Be that as it may, the fact remains that deciding which of my many bicycles to bring is HARD WORK, and to that end today I auditioned the Jones Plus LWB Complete:


My ride was a leisurely jaunt up the Old Croton Aqueduct, then a quick turn through some quasi-secret suburban singletrack before heading back home.  I do continue to stand by my horse/wild boar comparison between this and the SWB, and I ask you to note that I made this comparison well before feral hog memes were cool.  I'm also prepared to say that overall I do prefer the LWB to the SWB, in part because I like the way it feels on the road, and in part because it offers better pedal clearance on the trail.  But the question remains:

Do I take it on vacation with me?

Pros:

  • I can go anywhere on it
  • I can ride it in a t-shirt and jorts instead of putting on a bunch of Lycra, which means I can pack lighter
  • It's more comfy if I need to run the odd errand
  • It's new and new bikes are fun!

Cons:

  • What if it rains a lot, I'm relegated to the road the whole time, and I wish I had a road bike with me?
  • That's kind of it, really
So yeah, maybe it's not such a hard decision after all:


Then again, I could see myself pining for my new-to-me "forever" bike:



The ride is as smooth as a chamois slathered in lard.

Clearly I have a lot to think about.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

New Outside Column, New Radio Show!

You may have about the recent spike in cycling deaths in New York City.  You may also have read that the city has recently unveiled a plan to stop it.  Well, my latest column for Outside is about what's going on and why it probably won't work:


Also, yesterday I fired up the ol' Broadcast-O-Mat 3000 and went on the air again.  You can listen here:


Many thanks to my special guest, bike advocate Courtney Williams, a.k.a. The Brown Bike Girl.  Caller highlights include Woman Who Honked At A Cyclist And Got Her Mirror Kicked Off Or Something (10:32), The Taxi Driver Who Admits Taxi Drivers Are The Problem (21:18), and of course The One And Only Leroy (28:25).

Also, it's recumbent upon me to remind you that WBAI is still fundraising, and that you're always welcome to go to the website and make a donation in the name of my show.  Do so and there could be a signed book in it for you.  (Unfortunately, I wrote the book.)

Finally, I was surfing the "You Tube" recently and guess who's still at it:


I could only watch a few minutes, as watching someone riding a bike on the highway at 50mph turned out to be surprisingly tedious.  (And this is Episode 2!)  Nevertheless, I'm glad he seems to be enjoying his Florida retirement. 

Sunday, August 4, 2019

BSNYC Field Trip: Bentonville, Arkansas!

Way back in 2007, I started a blog.  That blog was called "Dog Fancy."  Well, it turns out there's already a magazine called Dog Fancy,* so I started another blog called "Bike Snob NYC."

Thanks to that blog, I've had a lot of notable experiences over the years: I got to hobnob with celebrity bike racers before they got disgraced, a legacy British saddle concern whisked me off to Tuscany to ride L'Eroica, and I was even on a radio show in London with John Hurt:

No, seriously, I really was on a radio show in London with John Hurt.

Well, here we are in 2019 and I'm still breaking new ground.  Some weeks back, I received an email from Aimee Ross of Bike Bentonville asking me if I'd like to come to that city and speak at the Arkansas Bike Summit.  Evidently, she'd enjoyed hearing me speak back when I spoke at the IMBA World Summit in Steamboat Springs back in 2014, which can only mean she was totally drunk.

I was intrigued.  Bentonville of course is the Global World Planetary Headquarters of Walmart, and I'd read about how the Waltons were turning it into a cycling destination.  Furthermore, for all the places in the world I've visited, I had yet to visit the southern United States.  (I mean yes, obviously I've visited south Florida countless times--I'm from New York for chrissakes, that goes without saying.  I'd just never gone anywhere in the southern United States where everybody didn't have a New York accent.)  So I readily accepted.

As I prepared to leave for my flight, I considered how I'd get to LaGuardia.  Do I summon an Uber, pay a bunch of money, and suffer the inevitable motion sickness that comes from sitting in the back of a Toyota Camry while a heavy-footed driver lurches along the Major Deegan in stop-and-go traffic?  Or do I take the subway down to 125th Street and then board the M60 bus to the airport, which would be much cheaper but also come with lots of traffic and motion sickness?

Then it hit me: why not just ride my bike to the airport?

I'd never ridden to the airport before, but the more I thought about it the more sense it made.  All I was carrying was a few changes of clothes and a laptop.  Also, it was an evening flight, which meant I could leave in the afternoon, ride at a leisurely pace, and still arrive at the airport with plenty of daylight to spare.  Most importantly, it would look great on my Strava.  And so off I went.

Sadly, the electronic device I use to record my rides failed to register my ride after all, but the bike directions provided by certain popular mapping application accurately reflect both the route I took as well as the amount of time it took me to get there:


In all, the ride was pleasant--basically it's just riding to Queens.  However, once you get to the airport itself is where the fun begins.  See, LaGuardia is basically one great big construction site, and while I'd looked up how to access the airport by bike I still had trouble finding the bike parking area.  In fact there was a dicey period there where I was riding along with all the taxis and Ubers jockeying for position in the arrivals area which I'm fairly certain you're not allowed to do on a bicycle, and I began to worry that I was going to get arrested.

So I stopped and consulted my phone, and I'd like to give a great big thank you to Josh, whoever he is, because it was his incredibly detailed web page that finally got me where I needed to go:

Thank you Josh!

In any case, if you're wondering, the bike racks are right outside the Terminal B parking garage, just across the street from the terminal itself:


And yes, of course they're those crappy racks that make it really difficult for you to lock your frame instead of your wheel:


By the way, in case you're wondering #whatluggageyourunning, the Two Wheel Gear bag you see on the bike contains my laptop and other small sundries and is my under-the-seat item.  Additionally, I am wearing a backpack, which contains my clothing and is my in-the-overhead item.  As for my wardrobe, I wore shorts.  My original plan was to change into long pants at the airport, since the idea of flying in shorts weirded me out, but by the time I actually got to the airport and started drinking it just didn't seem worth the effort:


Just think next time you choose your seat for a flight, you too could wind up next to the sweaty guy in shorts who just rode all the way there from the Bronx.

I arrived in Bentonville fairly late, and by 9:00 the next morning I was in downtown Bentonville at the Arkansas Bike Summit:


Where I was about to give a keynote talk on whatever the hell it is I talk about:


It was a pretty sweet speaking setup too, and I was pleased to see they'd included the couch and armchair I always stipulate in my rider:


Plus, I even made the news!


By 10am I'd finished boring everybody stiff and the day was still young, so after listening to some of the other speakers for a bit I wandered off to explore Bentonville.  Here's the original Walton's store, which is now a museum:


And which I visited for like 30 seconds:


They did sell some neat vintage toys in there though, including the BB gun from "A Christmas Story:"


Having also seen the actual house from that movie during my 2013 visit to Cleveland, it occurs to me now that I've completed yet another meaningless circle in life:


There's also plenty of non-retail history in Bentonville:


And this statue stands in the middle of Bentonville City Square:


I admit I found it jarring:


Though in a sense, considering its history, New York City is basically one gigantic monument to the slave trade so it's not like I felt smug about it.

One thing I did not expect to find in Bentonville was bagels:


Nor could I have anticipated being in the presence of the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile:


Evidently this is one of six Weinermobiles currently making their way across the United States, and I feel privileged to have witnessed such a rare and awesome spectacle.

And yes, Bentonville does have lots of bikey trappings, including workstands and pumps:


There's also a blue Walmart-branded bike in the background, and as far as I can tell those are just there for anyone who wants to use them, though I did not have occasion to use them.

After wandering around for a bit I ducked into a restaurant that could have been in Brooklyn just as easily as it could have been in Bentonville:


And as I sipped my craft beer and ate my hamburger on gluten-free bread the rain and thunder began.

Eventually the rain tapered off, but it didn't stop completely.  Even so, I couldn't sit around drinking beer all day (I mean I could have but that would have been both sad and expensive), and so under light and steady precipitation I followed the signs to the Crystal Bridges Museum:


As I walked the well-signed bike-friendly path, I lamented the fact that not only did I have no bike, but I'd also left my hat and water-resistant windbreaker back at the hotel:


My remaining hair was soon plastered to my head and my clothes were steadily taking on water, though even under these conditions the beguiling surroundings lulled me into a contemplative state:


And soon I was at the museum:


I didn't realize it yet, but the damp, solitary, primordial nature of my walk had primed my brain and rendered me highly susceptible to the power of art:


It may look a bit grey and glum in my crappy photos, but the museum is beautiful, even on a rainy day:


I also hadn't taken any time to read up on Crystal Bridges--I had a vague sense that Alice Walton had built some kind fancy museum and that was about it--so the effect of basically just stumbling into it while dripping wet was like thinking you're grabbing a sandwich and realizing you're in a 3-star restaurant.  (The museum also charges no admission fee, so it's like stumbling into a free 3-star restaurant.)  It's also important to consider that as a parent all my museum visits now consist of elbowing my way through crowds of tourists in order to take my kids to see dinosaur bones, so the idea of walking slowly and staring at pieces of fine art felt impossibly luxurious:


And walk slowly and stare at pictures is exactly what I did:


My time in the museum transported me high into the artsy-fartsy layer of the atmosphere, but eventually my feet alighted back on Earth and a glance outside indicated that the rain had eased up:


So I walked back to the square and summoned my hotel shuttle.  While I waited, I sipped from a gigantic lemonade served to in one of those quart containers they give you when you order wonton soup:


My hotel was just a few miles away from downtown, but the neighborhood it was in was was eminently unwalkable, which meant that my dining options for the evening were limited:


Is there a more saliva-inducing alliteration than Friday Fish Fry?  No, there is not.

The next morning I headed back downtown to Phat Tire Bike Shop, where I picked up the rental bike my hosts had kindly arranged for me.  The trails in Bentonville start right from downtown, and after just a few minutes of pedaling I was here:


Yes, just a stale Ozark bagel's throw from where I'd been marveling at art the day before were the most luxurious mountain bike trails upon which I'd ever ridden:


They were also remarkably dry despite the all the rain the day before:


And they incorporated all manner of built features:


So sumptuous were these trails that they were even stocked with food, beverage, and sunscreen, though I assumed those were for some event of which I was not a part and so I refrained from helping myself:


With each pedal stroke I marveled at how decadent these trails were--even the connector bits that ran along the road incorporated all manner of gratuitous features:


And they had better signage than the entire New York City Transit system or pretty much any major airport in the United states:


Best of all, everything flows together so nicely off the greenway that even an idiot like me couldn't manage to get lost:


Basically you just ride them and everything else sort of takes care of itself.  It couldn't have been more different from the twisty, rocky, rooty, knotty trail networks I'm used to in New York, which require years of riding before you really gain a sense of how everything works.

By the way, if you're wondering what I was riding, here's a closer look:


It's a Trek Fuel Plus, which I know because it said so on the handlebar:


I really enjoyed the bike, and the dual suspension was a novelty for me as I ride rigid bicycles pretty much exclusively.  Certainly I'm not about to run out and by a full-suspension mountain bike anytime soon, but it was certainly a pleasant diversion.

As I rode I considered pressing on all the way to the so-called "Back 40" trails, but stupidly I'd brought no food and also another rainstorm seemed imminent.  So instead I figured I'd play it safe and head back downtown via the greenway, then eat lunch and maybe head back out again later:


Shortly after I returned, that rain indeed did fall:


And while I'd only ridden for a couple hours I was just tired enough to call it a day.  However, I would not hesitate for a moment to return to Bentonville and indulge in another weekend of ultra-lush mountain biking and art-gawking.  I'd also strongly encourage you to do the same if you're in reasonable striking distance and looking for an indulgent weekend getaway.  (It's a fairly short and cheap flight from New York City, for example.)  The only things I'd do differently next time is stay a little closer to downtown, and do a lot more riding and eating.

*Hey, I just looked it up and Dog Fancy is now called Dogster.  Guess they must be looking for a millennial audience.