Monday, November 19, 2018

It's All Going To Hell

My self-administered sobriquet "Bike Snob" has always been somewhat ironic in that I'm not particularly, well, fastidious when it comes to my bikes, but as of today I think I've officially bypassed slovenliness and attained a state of liberating Don't-Give-A-Fuckitude, as exemplified by the state of this bicycle:


It all started when I was running out the door with child in tow; I was going to drop him off for his shift at the Apple factory (little fingers are crucial for Apple Watch assembly, and the $.35/hr he brings home really helps us balance our budget), and then I was going to drop THE CAR THAT THE BANK OWNS UNTIL I FINISH PAYING THEM BACK with the mechanic for some new rubber as well as other necessary service.  (I broke about 50 tire levers trying to mount the damn tires before finally giving up.)  And we all know what you do when you need to drop your car off at the garage for awhile:

You bring a bike with you and go for a ride.

Unfortunately, when I went to grab the Milwaukee I found the rear tire was flat.  My son's foreman gets very upset when he's late for work and has been known to dock him several weeks pay as punishment for tardiness, which meant I didn't have time to repair the flat and the only spare wheel I had ready to mount was sporting a chunky 35mm "gravel"-type tire I decided to try out on a whim some time ago.  So I threw it on:


Of course the tire didn't clear the strap-on fenders I've been sporting out of laziness.  (It doesn't even clear the brake pads; I have to deflate it a bit to get the wheel in there.)  So I quickly removed the tire and threw on the even cheesier filth prophylactic pictured above.  And because I'd already spent enough time doing all that, I didn't even bother swapping the front wheel, which had a comparatively diminutive 28mm tire on it:


The upshot of all this is that I'm now palping a mismatched pair of wheels, a mismatched pair of "fenders" (if you can even call them that), and a shocking 7mm width differential between my front and rear tires--all this in addition to handlebar tape that is in tatters and a front derailleur I recently had to bend back into shape in order to attain halfway decent front shifting.  Moreover, I don't see myself rectifying any of this in the near future, because after dropping the car off I did go for a ride, and you know what?  It was fine.

Actually, in a way it was more than fine.  Frankly I've never been too crazy about those trendy gravel tires as they don't ride particularly nicely, and they mostly just seem like an excuse to charge a lot of money for the sort low thread-count semi-knobby tire that 20 years ago you'd have found on a hybrid.  But with the narrower tire on the front the bike feels a little zippier, while at the same time I've still got the knobs and the width in the rear for a little bit of extra traction.  I'm sure I'm risking my life in all manner of ways by combing a gravel tire with a non-gravel tire, and I don't even want to begin contemplating the #whatpressureyourunning implications.

As for the ride I took, I cut a leisurely swath through the Bronx and upper Manhattan before returning home, making some lunch, and plopping myself down in front of the computer which is where you find me right now.  And finally, with regard to the car, feel free to make me an offer--it's been serviced recently and it has four new tires.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Holy Crap, It's Friday Already? Well So Much For That...

Well there I was being all cynical about the snow:

Meanwhile we got walloped pretty good; it was supposed to snow for a bit then turn to rain, but we ended up getting something like six inches in Central Park and then the entire metropolitan area plunged into chaos:

Also, despite frequent tweets all day long from the city about how they were prepared for the storm, once the actual snowfall began I didn't see a single plow until well into the night.  I also witnessed some truly spectacular displays of wheel-spinning.  Now I hate to be one of those "Back in my day" types....

[INSERT GRANDPA SIMPSON GIF HERE]

...but back in my day they actually taught people how to drive in snow.  Now the prevailing wisdom appears to be, "If you lose traction then FLOOR IT," and by nightfall the entire city seemed to reek of burnt rubber.  It was a display of wanton and pointless tire destruction rivaled only by that guy Seabiscuit or whatever his name is:


And speaking of destroying your tires I'd be remiss if I didn't gratuitously post my most favoritest snow-inanity video of all time:


It's just so deeply satisfying.  Also, WHY DIDN'T HE JUST BACK OUT OF THE SPACE?  It's fascinating to me that there are people who would rather fight gravity to the death than take advantage of it.

Anyway, this guy and millions like him are out on our public roadways every single day, which tells you everything you need to know about why it's utter carnage out there.

Moving on, if you've come around here looking for me these past few days and wondered where I've been, I'd like to say I've been busy riding.  Unfortunately I can't say that, because I haven't been riding much at all this week.  First it was Veteran's Day (observed) on Monday, which meant the kids were off school and I had to put on my parenting waders and venture waist-deep into the muck of child-rearing.  Then stuff, and things, and other stuff, and by Wednesday I was like, "I'd better get onto the trails before this lousy weather hits!" and that's what I did:


Even then it was a hurried affair, and I didn't even bother to wear bikey-specific clothing--though I did sport some designer pants from Mission Workshop:


I received these awhile back for the purposes of evaluation, and since ostensibly I'm a bike blogger I'll go ahead and evaluate them now while there are still one or two of you paying attention.  Here are my main thoughts:


  • They have proven quite durable, though I admit I don't wear them all that often;
  • The reason I don't wear them all that often is the miracle fabric they're made from feels fairly unnatural and doesn't breathe well.  It also doesn't absorb moisture, which is good for dealing with wheelspray but not good at all if you, well, relieve yourself in a hurry and happen to shake inadequately (hey, it happens to the best of us);
  • That said, I do go right for them when it's cold and I want to do a ride but I also want to do stuff after the ride without getting changed first, because the stretchiness is good for riding but they're normal pants with pockets and stuff;
  • Still, the fact that they don't breathe well means you run the risk of tempting the tinea cruris if you're not careful, so you'd better change eventually.  
So yeah, handy to have, but I wouldn't exactly run right out and buy five pairs if you know what I mean--though I did wear them to Consumer Reports:



(Photo by Ted Bongiovanni; arrow by me; tinea cruris by Mission Workshop.)

Ultimately, as far as jeans and cycling, I've gotten the best bang for your buck from cheap stuff at Uniqlo, though sooner or later the pockets get holes in them from my keys.  Also, I've said it before and I'll say it again, their Heattech undershirts make great and economical base layers.  (You're welcome.)

But yes, the upshot of all of this is I've only gotten one (1) ride in so far, and that's not going to change today as the first snows of the season have also been accompanied by the first kid-puking of the season, so it's back to the parenting waders for me.  (Or at least the Mission Workshop pants, they're probably pretty decent at puke-deflection.)

This isn't to say I've been sedentary, however; in fact I've run not once but twice so far this week, which is unprecedented.  I assure you this is not because of my New Year's resolution, though I also assure you I will furnish you with a complete accounting at year's end.  No, the reason I'm running is because it doesn't take very long and I also live across the street from an awesome park.  Plus, I sort of even like running, though getting past the initial pounding is quite difficult both physically and mentally.  Starting a bike ride is like easing into a warm bubblebath, whereas starting a run is like leaping naked into the ocean in the dead of winter--though maybe I'm just running the wrong pressure in my Reebok Pumps:


I really should convert to tubeless.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Another Outside Column Already?!?

Yes, that's right, the ink was barely dry on the last one when this appeared:


Do I like that bikes are environmentally friendly?  Yes.  Would I still ride if every time I threw a leg over a bikes some unseen organism went extinct forever?  Probably also yes, I'm not gonna lie.  (But don't worry, that only happens if you ride a carbon fiber bike.)

And with that, I'm gonna go throw a leg over a bike now and I advise you to do the same. 

XOXO,



--Tan Tenovo


Thursday, November 8, 2018

New Outside Column, Same Old Creaking Sound...

Firstly, here's my latest column for Outside, which is about dooring:


As you may or may not know, it's generally the publication and not the writer who comes up with the headline, and that's the case here.  Of course I'm perfectly fine with this headline (it's certainly better than "Start Hitting Cyclists With Your Car Door" ), though my original headline was something along the lines of "You Can Learn Everything You Need To Know About Americans By The Way They Open Their Car Doors," which might give you a slightly better idea of what I was going for here.  (And what I was going for, in case it's still not clear, is that Americans are selfish assholes.)

Secondly, remember how I said I was battling a creak on the SS Renovo?  Well, someone suggested replacing the current skewer with a Shimano one, which is excellent advice.  Indeed, I've silenced more than one creaky bicycle over the years by ditching crappy open cam skewers in favor of the superior Shimano/Campagnolo-style ones, but I was so busy obsessing over cracks and bottom brackets and so forth that I hadn't thought to employ that tactic here.  So this morning I swapped skewers and headed out for a ride, and guess what?

It's still creaking like a floorboard when you're trying not to wake the baby.

So I stopped next to a pair of inebriated Lime bikes and commenced futzing:


I even attempted to snug up the bolts that hold the dropouts together (and not for the first time):


But to no avail.

Next I'll just swap wheels, and the only reason I haven't already is because the Renovo is my only 11-speed bike so in order to switch wheels I also have to switch cassettes--not to mention brake pads because of the crabon rims.

Still, I can't get past those cracks, which you can see here:


And here:


And also am I crazy or is it spreading over here?


Or, who knows, it seems like there's all kinds of places where this frame could make noise:


Honestly I absolutely love the way this bike rides, but this is no way to live, and if I can't figure out what's causing the creaking soon I may have to "retire" it.

Somebody fetch me my artisanal axe...

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

"Do You Have Any Idea Who I Am???"

It was a beautiful, warm, clear autumn morning after two days of rain, and so I headed out for an easy spin to Central Park astride my Milwaukee:


As you can see, it's still sporting the cheap and not terribly comfortable plastic saddle I threw on there for a rainy race some months back.  Also, I've got strap-on fenders instead of proper ones, and the state of my handlebar tape is nothing short of disgraceful:


Hey, whaddya want?  Given my sundry life responsibilities it's either fix the thing or ride it, and until something falls off of it I'm going to opt for the latter.

Anyway, once I'd dispatched the kids to their various institutions I rolled on down to Central Park, where they're still breaking down all the equipment from the marathon this past Sunday.  Then I headed toward home to resume the fulfillment of my aforementioned responsibilities, whereupon I encountered two velocipedists stopped at the side of the path.  One had incurred a flat tire, the other had happened along and stopped to assist him, and neither had the full complement of tools to rectify the situation.

Like a surgeon preparing his instruments I unfurled my tool roll and got to work, and within minutes I had the unfortunate cyclist ready to resume his ride to work.  He was profuse in his gratitude, which I accepted with deep humility, though as I resumed my own ride I reflected deeply on what a wonderful person I am.

Of course, having given a stranger my spare tube (did I mention I'm a wonderful person?), I now needed to re-stock my own stores, and so I popped into a nearby bike shop.  A staff member greeted me and wheeled my bike into a rack, and in the process of doing so applied downward pressure on the bicycle and made the following announcement:

"You need more air in your tires."

I was stunned.  That anyone might insinuate--much less declare outright--that I, the world's greatest living cycling writer, was running either more or less than the precise optimal amount of pressure in my tires was audacity of the worst kind.  I felt like Jeff Bezos would if the Hyundai salesperson said, "I'd love to sell you this Elantra, but we're gonna have to run a credit check first."  Reeling, I searched my brain for the correct response.  Do I ignore the remark?  Do I make light of the situation?  Do I walk out without saying a thing and then return a week later with the complete works of Jan Heine?  After some deliberation I opted for #2, though sarcasm can be a tricky note to strike with a stranger and I'm sure I just came off like a douchebag.

Anyway, once I had my tubes I embarked upon the final leg of my journey homeward.  If you're wondering what pressure I was in fact running I'll never tell, but I can assure you I curated it expertly, taking into account the width of my tires, the road conditions (particularly the preponderance of wet leaves), the ambient temperature, and what I'd had for breakfast that morning.

Now if you'll excuse me I have to order some back issues of Bicycle Quarterly to send to the bike shop.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Vote Oily, Vote Often

It's Election Day down here in Canada's Tortured Subconscious, so I'm off to the polls:


Then I'll be spending the rest of the day parenting because there's no school today.

So I'll see you when I see you, and not a moment sooner.

In the meantime, Peter Flax has the Fred-osphere all in a tizzy because last week he wrote a story for CyclingTips about how he doesn't wear a helmet:


It's a good story, though the editor, Caley Fretz, did his best to undermine it with this ridiculous disclaimer:

Most of us at CyclingTips wear helmets most of the time. I wear one whenever I kit up for a ride. They’re pretty comfortable these days, and I don’t see any reason not too, even after reading the story below. For some of our readers, helmets are mandated by law, and of course, we don’t want anyone to break the law.

To be frank, I wasn’t sure if it was a perspective we wanted on the site. We have multiple writers on staff who credit helmets with saving their lives, or at least preventing far more severe injury. I’m glad they were wearing helmets, and I’ll continue to wear mine.

He and I had some words over it last week:
Fretz seemed to feel that publishing the story at all is prima facie evidence that he is not in fact cowardly, but I think introducing anything with a 200-word disclaimer about what you think is wrong with it--whether it's an article about helmets or your spouse--indicates a deficiency in the spinal department.  (And please note I'm not calling Caley Fretz a coward *in general,* I'm just calling him an editorial coward.  I have no reason to believe that, if confronted with a wild animal while cycling, he wouldn't strip down to nothing except his bibs and his helmet and fight it to the death.)

I also think that the Fred set is one degree away from the "Avid Cyclist" set inasmuch as their attitudes are holding the riding of bicycles back.  Remember, for example, when Red Kite Prayer said California cyclists shouldn't fight a mandatory helmet law?  Because I do.

Anyway, you know what to do today, and make sure to wear your voting helmet.

Yours and so forth,



--Tan Tenovo

Friday, November 2, 2018

A Report For Your Consumption

A few months back I received an email from one Ted Bongiovanni at Consumer Reports.  He had noticed that I ride past their headquarters in Yonkers with some frequency.  Given this, and the fact that I too conduct highly scientific testing on consumer products, he thought I might like to come by for a visit, see the facilities, and chat with some of the office bike nerds.

I had no idea Consumer Reports lay right on my regular ride route, nor did I even know much about them.  It was one of those names I just took for granted in the context of safety and integrity, like the American Dental Association or whatever organization gives out those "World's Greatest Grandma" awards.  However, Tom's pitch was intriguing, and as a semi-professional bike blogger who telecommutes from the couch I'm always willing to help people with actual jobs waste time at work.  So I accepted his invitation.

Consumer Reports is indeed under 10 miles due north from my Bronx manse, and it's a straight shot on the South County Trailway, which is a paved rail-trail that runs from the New York City line into Westchester--a convenient ride, but not necessarily a thrilling one.  However, by tacking on a few extra miles and zigzagging a bit you can also get there via the unpaved Old Croton Aqueduct trail, so that's what I did:


This afforded me an opportunity to feed the bloated tires of the Jones some dirt, as well as to admire the brilliant splashes of autumn foliage on the Palisades across the Hudson, which you can barely see due to my lousy photography:


It's a truly glorious time to ride a bicycle along the Hudson, but you'll have to take my word for it.

Anyway, I rolled up at Consumer Reports at exactly the appointed hour:


By which time the weather was positively glorious:


Ted showed me to one of the bike rooms (they've got another one with hooks and stuff elsewhere in the building), where I backed the ample rump of the Jones into the rack:


The tire didn't fit into the wheel slot, so the Jones had to sidle up alongside a cutting-edge-for-its-day Titus complete with fresh Brooks saddle:


As it turned out, the building's unassuming exterior and mundane office park locale belied a bright, airy, and modern workspace that evoked California more than Yonkers:


Then we began my private tour, and I was excited to witness my first product test until my guide politely informed me that it was just someone painting the wall:


"The labs are this way, idiot," my guide was kind enough not to say:


Here's where they test the washing machines:


Oh, sure, this may be a bike blog, but I'm willing to bet there are at least one or two Laundry Freds out there who debate the relative merits of vertical and horizontal drum setups just as passionately as they do those of Shimano and Campagnolo, and who find a fast spin cycle just as seductive as a buttery-smooth hub with ceramic bearings.  And for the weight weenies out there, that black platform next to the machine is a scale so they can measure how much water the machine is using--though as a Laundry Fred myself I don't use the public water supply and instead hook my machine up to a reservoir which I fill with H2O that has been bottled and distilled.

Here are the test fabrics, which get besmirched with various contaminants and bodily fluids and then laundered, and I can think of no job more thrilling than that of Washing Machine Test Pilot:


And this is just the washing machine testing room, mind you.  They have a whole other room where they test the detergents!

I was in Laundry Fred paradise, but reluctantly I moved on...to the helmet testing facility:


You know how I feel about helmets.  That said, I'm not a physicist or a structural engineer or a materials specialist--I'm just a guy who likes riding bikes and who's really into laundry.  So I won't attempt to analyze, interpret, or critique their testing techniques:


All I'll say is helmet goes up, helmet goes down, and there's an accelerometer in the "head" that tells them stuff about what happened:


And here's your's truley gesticulating in the immediate vicinity of the apparatus:


(Photo: Ted Bongiovanni)

There's a long tradition of me visiting workplaces and not knowing what the fuck I'm looking at:


The tag sticking out of my sweater tells you everything you need to know.

By the way, golf really is the new cycling:

Next it was on to where they test the cameras:


The mannequins actually move and fans blow their hair so you can really put the cameras through their paces.  I've even got video, which I'm currently too lazy to upload.  However, it was all rather captivating, and I'd never have imagined such amazing things are happening in Yonkers.

Oh, did I mention they really like to drop things at Consumer Reports?  Here's where they drop the phones:


And here are all the various surfaces upon which you might drop yours:


I didn't see a toilet, but they did have this pressurized container to replicate submerging devices at various depths, so presumably they could analyze what happens when you drop your phone in the shitter there:


Here are all the new iPhones:


And here are like all the other phones from like everybody else:


Usually if you check out new phones you do so at a store that only carries a few models, so it was genuinely fascinating to see so many in one place.

Of course now that smartphones have taken over our lives we're now using them to operate everything else.  Behold--this $8,000 smart fridge!


Picture this: you're at the supermarket wondering whether or not you're running low on broccoli.  No problem, all you do is check your phone and you can actually look at the contents of your fridge!


Now I know I'm supposed to lampoon the laziness of buying an expensive fridge instead of simply, you know, making a shopping list, but as a busy parent of multiple human children here's all I have to say about that:

Fuck shopping lists.

But of course there's another reason to be skeptical, and that's privacy.  What if your fridge starts spying on you?  What if you start getting texts from [insert brewery here] saying, "Why the hell are you drinking that cheap swill in your fridge?  Buy our beer instead!"  Well, now that we live in The Future, a lot of what Consumer Reports does is test these connected products to determine exactly how much of your personal data they may be sharing.  As it is, there's no standard for that, so in this respect they're performing a crucial function.  So presumably if you're in the market for a connected fridge you'll be able to check in with Consumer Reports to find out if it's sharing your shopping habits with General Mills.

From there it was onto the audio equipment testing area, complete with man-tastic tan Speaker Fred velour couch:


I didn't see the vape pens, but you know they're hiding somewhere:


Then, when they're sufficiently vaped up (is that even a thing?), they go into the anechoic chamber:


This room is completely free of ambient noise, and it basically sits suspended inside the Consumer Reports building, totally isolated from all noise and vibrations.  As soon as you walk in you feel like you're in an airplane, because apparently when you don't have soundwaves buffeting your eardrums at all times it's like being under different atmospheric pressure.  Plus, when you talk to others it sounds kind of like being underwater...then there's this trippy wall pattern:


Weird:


It was like being in a strange combination of solitary confinement and a sensory deprivation tank, and when nobody spoke all I could hear was my tinnitus.

Oh, by the way, this is what professional blogging looks like:


(Photo: Ted Bongiovanni)

In any case, I don't know how long I was in there, but it must have been years, because I finally emerged into a twisted, dystopian future in which Donald Trump was president and Jew-hating was back in style.

Then it was time for lunch!


They've got a pretty swank cafeteria up there at Consumer Reports.  I had the grilled salmon:


Once we'd filled our trays we adjourned to a conference room, where I bloviated for like an hour to an intimate group of people who I didn't worry too much about boring since no doubt they were just looking for an excuse to ditch work:

I enjoyed meeting everybody very much, I was grateful for the invitation, and I headed home with buoyed spirits.  At the same time, as someone who hasn't held a real job for going on like 10 years now I sort of envied the plush accommodations and the camaraderie that comes with working alongside a bunch of people.  (Being a semi-professional bike blogger is like being a squirrel who's constantly foraging for nuts, and you feel especially squirrely when you're among lots of grown-ups who have offices.)  Then again, here I was pedaling home on a dirt trail, while they were all going back to work for the afternoon:


Suckers!