Friday, January 3, 2020

Pack Your Bags, We're Moving!

Do you ever find yourself wishing you could drink the same old wine from a new bottle?  Well, guess what?  I've got a new blog!

After the Bike Forecast ended I figured it was high time I moved this whole operation over to new digs.  My original plan was to build something dazzling from scratch and start off the decade with a new announcement about the launch of Bike Snob 2.0.  But then I realized I had no idea what the hell I was doing, and that it would take me years to pull off something like that.

So instead I decided to do it all in a half-assed fashion.  I mean hey, it got me this far, right?

Anyway, go check it out.  I think you'll find the feel of the place is distinctly "rental house with a few air mattresses in it," but I'm slowly furnishing it.  And while it may not have the character of this place, at least it's clean.  (For now anyway.)

Speaking of disconcerting new things, Business Insider asked me to do write-ups on bike stuff I liked, and so I reviewed the Brooks Cambium C17 All-Weather:

And the Hiplok Z-Lok:

While I chose these items myself because they're affordable things I'm very fond of and use regularly, I should probably add a trigger warning that, yes, these reviews do help feed a capitalist system in which people exchange money for goods and services:

Just take a few deep breaths and maybe take a brisk walk around your utopian intentional community, I'm sure you'll be fine.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

New Radio Show!

Owing to cascading back-to-school schedules I make my return to typing words into the internet incrementally, and to that end here's a short post alerting you to the fact that I was on the radio Monday and now you can listen to it:

It's gonna be a looong decade...

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Hi and Bye!


Remember how I said I might pop by to flog an Outside column or something?  Well here you go!

As someone with a special bike for everything I relish the smugness and hypocrisy of telling people they don't need a special bike for everything.

Also, I was on the radio yesterday and you can hear the show here.  The best part was probably around halfway through when someone called to ask about helmets.

OK, bye!

--Tan Tenovo

Friday, December 20, 2019

Well, So Much For That Decade...

I don't want to make too big a deal over the fact that we're on the cusp of a new decade.  I don't even want to say that this will be my last post of 2019. I mean it might be, but I also may pop in if there's a new Outside column to flog or I get a really awesome Christmas gift and I can't wait to share it.  For example, I did put this in my letter to Santa, so we'll just have to see if he delivers:

Yeah, like a road racer is going to accept the weight penalty of a vibrating saddle.

Still, despite my not wanting to make a fuss, I can't help but reflect briefly on what a significant decade it's been--for me!  Here are just a few things I pulled off between 2010 and 2020:

  • Had two kids
  • Published four books
  • Relocated from Brooklyn to a different part of the country (the Bronx)
  • I don't know what a cat, does that count?
So yeah, life-changing stuff.  And that's not even addressing my year-end accounting from Strava:

Instead of showing me stuff like how many miles I've ridden, how much time I've spent on the bike, and how many feet I've climbed, I really wish they'd give me meaningful information like how much income I've forfeited by wasting so much time Fredding about, and how much familial resentment I'm accumulating by never being around in the morning.  

Hopefully they take this into advisement for next year.

As for the next decade and what's in store for this blog, I won't make any promises--except one, and that's MORE SHILLING!

The above is a comment I deleted from someone who is pathologically obsessed with my integrity for some reason.  I can only assume that my influence over them is so profound and all-consuming that they can't help but buy every single thing I mention on this blog, even $4,000 titanium frames, and I imagine them screaming, "Oh god, please no, make it stop!" as they click on the "Confirm Purchase" button with trembling hands and sweat streaming down their brow.  As for the rest of you, I trust you understand that the mere existence of a $4,000 Jones titanium frame does not require you to purchase it, and that you can also buy a complete steel Jones for half that--or even no Jones at all!

Speaking of all-terrain bicycles, check this thing out:

Regardless, Evil’s own press release isn’t shy about these figures being totally removed from what people have to come expect of gravel bikes. “Most companies start with road and conservatively relax things for gravel—just enough to not stir any feathers,” it reads. “Not us. We went from full-blown mountain bike and sorta, but not really, roadied it out.

I'm not judging, but I will point out that for a long time I've been saying the gravel bike is basically the bike industry slowly reinventing the cross-country mountain bike, and I think with this bicycle that process is finally complete.  I'm also tempted to say it's kind of just a Jones made out of crabon with less tire clearance and less comfortable bars, but that's not a judgement either, and clearly the next decade is going to be one in which there will be a production bicycle for every single cycling niche you can possibly imagine.

Just make sure to wear your performance jorts:

If anyone has ever put a pair of pants between a set of scissor blades and thought, “these might look cool, but I’m wasting two lower pant legs, and they are gonna chafe like a mother…,” then Ripton & Co has some good news. 

 The new brand, debuting from the Western Slope of Colorado, brings performance-minded jorts to mountain biking. The shorts are stretchy and offer an ethical and sustainable approach to jorts.

I've never had a problem with jorts-chafing, and the most ethical and sustainable approach to the jort would seem to be making them out of the old pants you don't wear anymore.  Neither, presumably, does the person who keeps calling me a shill, and who just ordered 10 pairs of performance jorts because I mentioned them on this blog.


Anyway, that's enough out of me.  Have an exuberant holiday season, and I'll see you next decade, if not before.


Tan Tenovo

Thursday, December 19, 2019

A Quick Cold One

It's cold today:

Oh, sorry, I mean it's relatively cold for New York City in mid-December today, but not cold in the grand scheme of things, so spare me your "Minnesota humblebrag:"

Yes, I know you don't even bother with kneewarmers when the temperature is over 20 degrees American.  Good for you.

But anyway, here in the tropics we're having a bit of a cold snap today.  Moreover, we're coming off a period of rain and snow and fluctuating temperatures that has encased pretty much everything in a fairytale-like shell of ice:

While it may look pretty, those heavy ice-encrusted tree boughs have been falling off lately, which is why I always wear my pedestrian helmet at this time of year.

As for riding, freezing temperatures coupled with a dusting of snow presented me with a perfect excuse to hop on the Jones LWB and pop into Highbridge this morning:

Sometimes just an hour on the bike is all you need (or all you have time for) and Highbridge affords me the opportunity to incorporate some dirt into that hour:

Moreover, even though it's capable of multi-day bikepacking expeditions (don't forget your designer axe!), the Jones is equally ideal for a quick urban winter jaunt: it rolls right over ice patches and inch-deep road salt deposits (the city has gone seriously crazy with road salt this year), and I also don't have to worry about wiping out on the Broadway Bridge:

Not only does the entire road surface consist of metal grating that can get very slick when it's wet, but it's also a lift bridge, so you have to contend with the metal maw depicted above.

On a road bike you've got to lift both wheels to make it across, but on the Jones you just roll on over it.

Speaking of Jones, obviously you can buy affordably priced SWB and LWB (smooth or knobby) versions, but Jeff Jones also informs me he's offering new titanium SWB framesets in his store:

They're available in Spaceframe and Diamond frame versions, with various fork options:

Given that the Jones and the new-to-me Litespeed are basically my two favorite bikes now I find the idea of a titanium Jones extremely compelling.

Here are the prices:

Jones Plus SWB titanium Spaceframe with Ti Truss fork- $4540
Jones Plus SWB titanium Diamond frame, Ti Truss fork- $4240
Jones Plus SWB titanium Diamond frame, steel Truss fork- $3640
Jones Plus SWB titanium Diamond frame, steel unicrown fork- $3340

But the best thing about Jones's announcement is that his email came with all sorts of GIFs.  Here's one illustrating the difference between the SWB and the LWB:

See that?  The fit is same, but the wheelbase is longer.

Here's one showing that the steel and titanium SWBs both have the same geometry:

And here's one of a cat:

Sorry, I just slipped that one in there.

So yeah, if you're ready to build your do-anything dream bike now's the time.

I wish I was...

And for you Minnesota Humblebraggarts wondering how the titanium Jones frames old up in temperatures under -50 degrees, you'll have to take that up with him.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Good, Better, Best Made

Once upon a time, when fixies were still novel and the whole "urban lumberjack" thing was still nascent, I devoted a fair amount of pixels to Peter Buchanan-Smith and his Best Made Co., which achieved considerable notoriety by painting the handles of ordinary axes and selling them to urban idiots at a considerable premium.

Well, the joke's on me because according to a recent article in the New York Times axes are still very much a part of the zeitgeist:
I felt rather smug about the New York Times being so far behind the curve--until I realized that I first discovered Best Made Co. thanks to an article in the New York Times.

The joke is on me again--and again, because Best Made Co. is apparently still going strong.

And Peter Buchanan-Smith, a graphic designer to the stars, was the champion of the fancy ax.

In 2009, he started a boutique ax line called Best Made Co., for which he sourced high-quality axes from another maker and painted the handles with colorful block and stripe motifs, evoking both Pendleton and Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom.” They were a sensation.

Today, the brand’s brick-and-mortar stores in New York and Los Angeles stock all manner of nostalgic but purposeful camping gear. Stalwart offerings are axes ($228 to $398) and hatchets (similar but smaller, $98 to $228). In-store events serve to culturally align the ax with third-wave coffee, houseplant collecting and listening to vinyl.

The last time I thought about Best Made was back in 2017, when I attended a Specialized event at their store in Manhattan, which was just as stupid as I thought it would be.  (I mean the store, not the launch event.) And as I mentioned in my subsequent post, back in 2010 Buchanan-Smith did address my commentary about him and Best Made, albeit through an intermediary:

Thanks so much for the link. I'll comment when he shows me his face, tells me his real name, or is willing to test drive my product... then he'll have grown a pair of balls big enough to slap down on the proverbial glass table... Thanks so much for sending the post. Always a pleasure to see Best Made inspiring such critical thinking. All the best, Peter

Here's the reply I invited the intermediary to share with Peter:

Thanks for forwarding. Admittedly I'm not a woodsman, nor do I have any real wood-chopping experience. However, when someone forwarded me an article about a person who takes axes "Made by a secret source in Maine," paints them, and sells them at prices starting at $180 naturally it piqued my interest, for we often see this sort of thing in the bicycle industry (frames and components that come from a single source but are sold at varying prices under various branding) and it's the sort of thing I enjoy writing about in a humorous fashion on my blog.

According to a reader the "secret source in Maine" is likely Snow & Nealley, as the ax resembles their Hudson Bay Camping Axe: 

They generally sell for about $75: 

Again, I'm no axe expert (ax-pert?), and if Mr. Buchanan-Smith's ax is actually some proprietary design that works far better than the Snow & Nealley Hudson Bay Camping Axe then I certainly owe him an apology And even if it is simply a Snow & Nealey Hudson Bay Camping Axe that costs two to three times as much because it has a painted handle, the fact that people are attracted to them and want to pay for them is all that should matter to Mr. Buchanan-Smith. I'm merely a bike blogger, and the people who read my blog are generally not contemplating such a purchase in the first place. In the end, his success is what's important.

In any case, my face and name are no secret: 

and if he is serious about "test driving" his product I would gladly try it alongside a Snow & Nealley Hudson Bay Camping Axe and see if I can tell the difference (though as a non-woodsman he might have to highlight any differences that extend beyond the handle color since I'd doubtless miss any subtleties.)

Again, I'm merely a wiseass bike blogger and a "pop culture bedazzler," and Mr. Buchanan-Smith's success in his own world is really all that matters in the final analysis, but in any case please feel free to forward him this email. While Best Made's offerings are not for me, I certainly bear him no ill will and wish him all the best. 


Looking back at all this with 2020 just days away, I think about how two bros without balls bickering through an intermediary is what this past decade was all about.

Anyway, it occurs to me that there's something about Best Made I never understood until now.  See, my son recently joined the Cub Scouts, and not too long ago we went to the Scout Store up in Westchester to get him his uniform and scouting sundries.  Never having been a Scout myself, the Scout Shop was a new experience for me, and it was, to put it simply, awesome.  Pocket knives, camping supplies, handbooks on every conceivable subject...  And only now as I read this latest axe article do I realize that the Best Made Co. is just a Scout Shop for adult douchebags.  It's so simple!  I mean I was sort of circling around it when I mentioned merit badges in the Specialized post:
But I didn't really get it until now.

Nevertheless, the Best Made Co. does fulfill an important need, such as supplying accurate timepieces for under $1,000:

Sure, they typical Best Made customer is getting the exact time beamed directly from space via a smartphone, smartwatch, laptop, and tablet, but none of those items has an old-timey brass key or looks like a prop from a Wes Anderson movie.

(You could also buy a deck clock direct from the manufacturer for like $200 but that's just silly when you can spend five times as much with Best Made.)

As for the rest of the Times article, you can't swing an axe anywhere near it without hitting something to scoff at:

You can put an axe through a log, but an axe can't put a kid through college.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

An Addendum To Yesterday's Post

Further to yesterday's post, I mentioned that I actually made money by driving to Wegmans.  Well, here's how:

As I mentioned on my radio show (which you can listen to here if you missed it), I made my shopping excursion on a Sunday night, which meant that by the time I got home it was pretty late--something like 9:30pm, which is like 2am in aging parent hours.  

Now, I live on a dead-end street, which has its advantages (mainly that it's pretty quiet and the kids can even play in the street), but which also has certain disadvantages, chief among them being that people feel like they can simply deposit their cars at the end of it.  See, what happens is that people who can't be bothered to park legally just leave their cars at the end of the block, which in turn blocks in like four other parked cars at once, which means at 6am you wake up to the assholes who got blocked in honking their horns in hopes that the asshole who blocked them in will come and move their car.

So anyway, when I arrived home at the ungodly hour of 9:30pm I saw a car parked at the end of the block.  I also saw people standing around it, suggesting the other disadvantage of living on a dead-end street might be in play, namely that people think they can hang around all night in the dark and partake in nefarious activities, as you sometimes discover in the morning from the vomit or condoms or Dutch guts or the bags of Burger King (or all of the above if things got really wild) or whatever else they leave behind.  All of this is to say I was on the defensive when I pulled up in front of my building, in addition to being very eager to discharge my groceries, park The Car The Bank Owns Until I Finish Paying Them Back, and turn in for the night.

However, as I emerged from my car, one of the lurking figures emerged from the dark and rapidly approached me.  This was not some sort of midnight reveler or teenage ne'er-do-well.  Rather, it was an older woman who, in broken English, frantically exhorted me before my foot even hit to the street to PLEASE YOU MUST START CAR!!!

This is where my profound hypocrisy kicks in.  See, on one hand I'm an asshole who just drove 20 miles in New York City to buy groceries.  On the other hand, I'm a smug semi-professional blogger, columnist, and radio host who resents drivers.  And on both hands, I'm in no fucking mood to help this person with the Hyundai she's parked at the end of the block.  So I wave her off testily and say something like, "Can I just please just unload my groceries first?"

At the back of mind however I'm aware that, petty personal politics and pet peeves aside, this is a person who needs help--not that a car that won't start is even remotely a life-threatening emergency, but it can no doubt seem like that to the utterly car-dependent.  And as I unload my own car I get a clearer picture of the situation: there are two women of similar age, both quite addled, and both of whom are only able to speak the most rudimentary English.  By now they're basically foisting a key fob at me, insisting I get in the Hyundai and miraculously start it somehow.

So I take the fob and get in the Hyundai, and of course it's one of these keyless affairs with a start button.  I'm not even remotely an auto mechanic, but at least with an old-fashioned key you can get a sense of what's going on with the car when you turn it.  The start button on the other hand offers no feedback whatsoever--I just stab at it and nothing happens.  Odds are it's the battery, but I can't even give them a jump start because my street is very narrow, they're flanked on either end by parked cars, and there's no way to get my battery anywhere near theirs.  I'd have to push the Hyundai like halfway down the block to even attempt it, but with these two to assist me the most likely scenario would be the Hyundai rolling down the street, hitting about 20 parked cars, and setting off a cacophony of alarms in the process.

Not only is the level of desperation they're exhibiting out of proportion to the predicament of a stalled car, but it also turns out they live only two miles away.  Meanwhile, I've had time to calm down and adopt a more personable demeanor, so given the situation I suggest they wait in the lobby where it's warm and I'll just call them a car service.  (Funny how two miles in a neighborhood with decent bus service seems like an insurmountable distance to the car-dependent.)  So I call the number of the last car service I used, but they don't answer, which makes sense because the last time I used them was like 2012 and I and everyone else now just uses Uber when they need a car service.  However, I'm not about to call them an Uber, since I'm irrationally worried about strangers messing up my passenger rating.

"You know what?  Why don't I just drive you," I announce, which unleashes a deluge of relief on their part.  So we all pile into The Car The Bank Owns Until I Finish Paying Them Back, and as I arrive at their destination they get out of the car even before I've come to a complete stop.  Then the owner of the Hyundai knocks on my window.  I roll it down and she practically attacks me with a fistful of money.  "No!" I insist.  "Absolutely not!"  I'm yelling at her now the way you yell at your grandmother when she tries to pay for lunch.  But she jabs the money at me so insistently I feel her fingernails digging into my forearm.  Then she releases the money into my lap, and by the time I've registered the amount ($20) she's disappeared halfway up the block.

"Well fuck it," I think to myself, and head home.

So that's how I made twenty bucks driving to Wegmans.  Don't tell the TLC.