Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Bicycle Pathos: Things That Make Me Sad

Among the many crosses I bear is the unavoidable impulse to invest bicycles with human or animal characteristics. This is most apparent when I'm browsing the various internet bicycle galleries. For some people, these pictures are simply bike porn. For me, it's like going to an animal shelter and being stared at by abandoned puppies, or like going to the zoo and seeing a polar bear forced to live in a habitat the size of a suburban backyard. The following bikes are just a few that, while all different, managed to pluck the twisted spokes of my heart:

These two poor babies are tethered together in the "front brakes are lame" cluster on Velospace. The clusterer goes on to explain that this cluster is for "people who appreciate the true ascetic of a fixed gear." Does he mean that riding a fixed gear is an act of asceticism, and that using a brake is somehow a worldly indulgence? (Though apparently wedging a rubber frog between your seatstays is not.) Or does he mean to use the word "aesthetic," meaning that a brake spoils the pure appearance of the bicycle? (Though apparently wrapping your top tube in a star-spangled crotch protector does not.) In either case, these two bikes look like wide-eyed war orphans who have been abducted and forced to join the circus. It is my heartfelt desire that they should be liberated, stripped of their frogs and top tubes and spoke cards and thrift-store baubles, and allowed to ride free as the bicycles they were born to be.

Before a poignantly non-working fireplace sits this near-naked non-working 3Rensho. Its Dickensian owner points out that it has "been awhile but thanks to my generous family and friends its getting there." What poor bicycle must be forced to subsist on handouts and crumbs proffered by others? Why bring a bicycle into the world if you cannot afford to provide for it? Put perhaps worst of all, why photograph this poor thing in its indignity and post a picture of it online? Please, do the human thing here: skip the NJS, finish building the thing, and ride it!

Awhile back I included the so-called "gorilla bike" in a post. In all honesty, when I first saw this I balked. But after the owner himself commented on this site I grew strangely fond of this peculiar beast and the oddly-built owner willing to torture his own groin just to give it a home and make it feel loved. However, I recently noticed that the Velospace entry has been updated. Sadly, the gorilla bike is now for sale! This makes me sad. To what wretched fate will the owner consign gorilla bike? Like Kong himself, will this become a freak show attraction to be gawked at, never to know love again? Shame on you, owner of gorilla bike!

You know what's sad? Taking a Shitamori behind a Japanese screen and then posting a photo of it.

But you know what's even sadder? Stealing Gumby's bike.


Prolly said...

I've said this before and to quote my boy Chris:

"The whole NJS fascination held by young kids in the US can be best compared to a group of Japanese chefs going apeshit over kosher food for the 'K' stamp"

Give me Campy record!

Anonymous said...

i hope that's the actual gorilla bike owner in that last velodrome shot. extreme!

give me kreplach.

1234567890 said...

The Gorilla Bike is funny and all, but actually I think that bike is totally the opposite geometry for a gorilla. They have short legs and long arms, so a gorilla would have like a 14" frame with the seatpost buried and like a 22" top tube.

Anonymous said...

Poor fixed bikes and fixed bike owners. You're getting harsh Bike Snob! The pic "is" of the gorilla bike kid, if you go to lafixed dot com, you'll see all these fixie bike owners come to life. . .it's where i go for a laugh when I'm not on here. . .EXTREME YO!!! watch out if you start posting you might get beat up or have your track bike made fun of if it has all the decals scratched off and 1 NJS part. Most of these track kids seem to not care if you were really a bike messenger because, they're into some diffent aesthetics, which is obvious and less functional(NJS parts) and more decorative (track stands).

Bike Snob, You've mentioned fixie riders as identifying with urban street culture/messenger lifestyles previously, do you think you'll elaborate more on your theories? THANX

Anonymous said...

Not to get off-topic, but I think that whole moronic, using-a-freewheel-yet-no-front-or-rear-brakes thing is spreading. I saw a moron in downtown LA the other day doing that whole bit where you do a sort of "half dis-mount" and then jam your shoe between the bridge of the seat stay and the wheel.

It has to be the DUMBEST (potential) trend I've ever seen.

It's amazing that people want to look like bike messengers SO BAD that they're willing to risk their own lives to do it. And that one I really can't comprehend...the cycling world alrady has an answer to the whine of "But riding a bike with brakes is UNCOOL! It's not PURE!", and it's called a "fixed gear drivetrain". It's not that hard to pick it up. If you can't hack the fact that to "go brake-less" you can't coast, then you don't get to go brakeless.

That should be the rule.

- Stu

Jim said...

Snob, you shouldn't be so critical of the Bike Missingers. It's fun to do an easy recovery-day spin in rush hour traffic alongside a guy in expensive manpris, while he tries to accellerate 108 gear inches away from 11 stoplights in a row. If you listen carefully, you can actually hear his knees sobbing.

Anonymous said...

...my, my, these bike are the worthy equivalent of Margret Keane's paintings of sad, big eyed kids & animals.

Niki said...

jim - I don't think BSNYC has ever been critical of bike messengers. He has most definitely been critical of people who want to emulate bike messengers however.

BikeSnobNYC said...


In fairness to Jim he did specify "Missingers."

I don't have a problem with so-called "missingers" or "fakengers" unless they actually make a practice of locking their bikes outside of places where they're perfectly welcome to bring them inside. (Friends' houses, for example.) Risking a bike unnecessarily crosses the line.


Niki said...

Ah, I thought missinger was just a typo, didn't realize is was yet another manifestation of "fakenger/posenger."

Carry on then.

Anonymous said...

I have a pair of randonneur handlebars, and brake levers that I will some day install on a touring bike
Should I post them on velospace?
Or should I wait until I have the frame, or at least some bar tape?

The Great White Hype said...

Dave, I have a used shimano vintage hub that is destined for a conversion, and I want to post a picture of. Where should I do it? Let me know if you find a suitable forum and I'll join you in solidarity!

Anonymous said...

Don't mess with Gumby...he kicks

Anonymous said...

Spoke cards on a bike with a ratty frame make me sad. They are equivalent to the fella down my street who drives a 94 Civic with a primer-only grey left fender, wide wheels, and an extra fat exhaust.

Anonymous said...


Bikesnob, we could both be hurting. Fixed gear gallery is down this morning. Where will I get my daily fix? Will you have to rely on - ugh - Velospace for your fixed gear material?

blueeffusion said...

Thanks for pointing out the 3rensho. I'll add it to my cluster of unfinished bikes.

LK said...

Hey there,

You’re picking on the newcomers! Let up. Let them make some mud pies. Or Gumby pies and other newbie manifestos. Don’t be a steroid chicken hawk in spandex!

velospace.com is for kids, single ones, looking to “hook up.” It’s their
first real bicycle! There is a reason why they are single (speeds). Gosh
bless all of them for joining us, any way they can. Help us keep them. Do not forget all your buddies that packed it in and then packed on 25lbs .... or more. Then started wearing pleated pants and bought an SUV.

Uphold the Old School riding skills. Help them to level their saddles and
find a proper bicycle fit. After all, just because you look like you are
going down hill doesn’t mean you are.
Nurture good pedaling skills. Let them not bouce, snake or wobble in their saddles. Heal their lame brakes.
Inspire them to ride like good Americans and not like Englishmen on the
wrong side of the road. (or vise versa when in England) Encourage them to not join the Evil Empire Szechuan Cycling Team.
Although they are not yet the masters of industry that they think they
are, they will overcome.

Don’t forget the cruel days when guys rode together, through rain sleet and snow, whining about the lack of female riders. I am so grateful for all the wonderful girls on bicycles out there that don’t even know my name. Especially the girl with the bent seat that I’ve been seeing for years. And the one on the pink bike with all the tape holding it together. I will not forget to mention also my lovely wife. I do know that when she out-sprints me, I win.

I am also grateful to never wear wool shorts again but I’ll keep the

BikeSnobNYC said...

Mr. Complaint,

Thanks for the comment. Of course, everything you say is absolutely right. At the same time, I think new riders can take (and sometimes benefit from and even enjoy) a little ribbing and a broader perspective. It's certainly not my aim to discourage anybody. (Though discouraging certain behaviors is another story.) Those of us who have been riding awhile have all ridden through our "looking silly" phase, and most likely took some jokes about it too. (In fact, most of us still look silly to the outside world.) I'm sure the Velospacers have the good sense to not listen to me. And part of the fun they're having should be pissing people off anyway...

Thanks again for the good insight,


Anonymous said...

Son of Gorilla Bike with a Xerox 650c?


Anonymous said...

i hear the posenger and fakenger stuff thrown around alot lately. so- does this apply to anyone who rides a fixed gear or track bike around town, or is there more to it. it seems kinda silly that bike culture could be reserved only for messengers, and that everyone else is emulating them.

Anonymous said...

It really is fun checking out all these single speed card-spoke messenger kinda bikes on-line and trying to figure out what the hell was going on in their heads when they were putting them together!!! These things aren't just thrown together with spare parts hanging around...they're all spending big bucks on these bandaged-looking so-called "fixies"!! I guess it's cool riding a bike that looks like you've been riding it for a hundred years in a muddy junkyard. That being said...I never get tired of looking at an old beat up fixie locked to a street sign in the city!! Never see two that are identical.

Anonymous said...

That guy "anonymous? knows about fixies and riders! he hit the nail right on the head!!

Anonymous said...

Yes, the Gorilla bike is for sale. I sold all the components off her a few weeks ago. I got sick of looking for 650 front wheels, plus I realized how I didn't enjoy riding fixed on the street all that much. And yes thats me in the last velodrome shot on velospace. I am grateful to BSNYC for the love and the jokes, hopefully someone can find the same rediculousness that I did in the frame.

Retiring from the fixed gear scene,


ps-can we stop using the word 'fixie' already?

Anonymous said...

Long live the Gorilla bike! It was meant to be steered with your feet and pedaled with your hands.

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