Monday, June 27, 2011

Racing Towards Anxiety: Sowing the Seeds of Doubt

This past weekend, the Bicycle Film Festival took place in New York City. If you're unfamiliar with the Bicycle Film Festival, it's kind of like Sundance, only for the sorts of people who wear cycling caps as casual wear and ride brakeless bicycles with perpetually empty CETMA racks. I did not attend the festival, even though (or, more accurately, because) it featured films like that "Racing Towards Red Hook" video, the preview of which is so sublimely absurd as to warrant a second viewing:

expresso: racing towards red hook (trailer) from Jessica Scott on Vimeo.

In addition to the infamous "This ain't no hipster shit" quote, the "Racing Towards Red Hook" preview also features other rhinestones of wisdom, such as this:

"So many people have, like, this type of bike it makes sense to create some sort of sporting event around it."

I couldn't agree more. Given the popularity of fixed-gears it really is about time somebody invented some kind of competition in which these bicycles can be utilized. I think the ideal venue for a bicycle with a single gear ratio and no brakes would be some sort of flat, closed bicycle track, and instead of running lights and getting signatures on manifests or popping wheelies they could simply ride around and around it to see who's the fastest. It could be called a "velo-drome"--"velo" for bike, and "drome" for, well, drome--and if someone were to build some sort of prototype I have no doubt it would attract many fixed-gear cyclists with trendy moustaches:

Sure, it will be underground to begin with, but who knows? Maybe in 50 or 100 years racing bicycles inside of a "velo-drome" could become an olympic sport! I know it seems far-fetched, but hey, we can dream. And it will all have started thanks to the boundless vision of the guy in the Cinelli hat.

(Frank Warren: Non-Hipster and Inventor of the Velodrome)

It's hard to blame him for his exuberance though. After all, who among us has not discovered some new pleasure, and become so excited about it that we mistake this excitement for discovery? I know that was my experience when I tasted chocolate-dipped haggis for the first time. "Have you tried this?!?," I shouted exuberantly as I attempted to foist forkfuls of the stuff onto complete strangers. "It's amazing!" Little did I know artisanal chocolate-dipped haggis trucks have been all the rage in Brooklyn for like months now, and in my enthusiasm I came off as a total foodie "noob." Now, I know better, so I munch my chocolate-dipped haggis while wearing the appropriately fashionable expression of world-weary detachment.

Speaking of bicycle racing, that was one of the things I opted to do this past weekend instead of going to the Cycling Caps and Shants Film Festival. Even though I harbor no illusions as to my ability and enter races with little ambition beyond enjoying myself and not falling down, I'm usually excited before a race. I'm also always just a tiny bit nervous, mostly because I'm anticipating a state of anaerobic distress. Anyway, this was a mountain bike race, and as I stood there resting on my handlebars and awaiting the mad scramble for the holeshot, one of my fellow riders pointed to my arm and asked, "Has that been there from birth?" He was referring to a mole.

"I dunno," I replied.

"Well, you should really get it checked out," he pronounced in a dire tone.

One of my favorite things about bike racing is that, for the duration of the race, you set your troubles aside and focus only on riding your bike. Well, so much for that. Riding my bike was now the last thing on my mind, since apparently I had skin cancer. Basically, his words had the same excitement-quelling effect as slipping on a Larry King mask just before lovemaking. Then, my mind immediately shot to my recent return from Gothenburg, Sweden, when my driver had uttered these chilling words to me:

"You will die very soon. Mark my words. You will die very soon."

Sweet merciful Lob! It now became clear that he had put a curse on me and manifest a malignant mole upon my person.

A few rows ahead of me, a rider was wearing some sort of yellow LiveStrong helmet and glasses combo, and I resolved to push my way up to him and rub my moley arm all over his head and face in the hopes that his accessories might serve as a curative. Unfortunately, before I could get to him the race began, and like pretty much everybody else who was there that day he rode away from me rather easily.

Needless to say, I continued to reflect on this throughout the race, and at one point it occurred to me that perhaps it had been my fellow rider's plan to "psyche me out" all along by effectively transforming my race into a real-life "Seinfeld" episode. Furthermore, maybe I wasn't his only victim. For all I know, he could had been going from rider to rider and sowing seeds of doubt and fear in each one of them. "Hmmm, do you have a family history of glaucoma?," he might have asked as he peered into someone's eyes. "Did you just go to the bathroom again? Frequent urination can be a sign of adult onset diabetes."

In any case, if his intention was to undermine me he needn't have bothered, since in a race you can always count on me to undermine myself--and as usual, I did a commendable job of it. As for the mole, I suppose it couldn't hurt to go to the doctor, though I think I'll just take a picture of it and put it up on Twitter or Facebook instead. [Is my mole dangerous? If "yes," click the "Like" button!] Yes, here in HMO-merica, we're big believers in the power of amateur Internet diagnosis-by-consensus. Stuff like hands-on treatment and "universal health care" is for Canadians and communists.

Anyway, given my poor performance, I briefly flirted with retiring from cycling and taking up something less tiring. But what? For a moment, I considered origami:

But then I realized that the "origami culture" is probably just as cliquey and judgmental as the "bike culture." Consider the following:

Highlights of the exhibition included folded-paper versions of an Academy Award statuette, a miniature Buddha and a 15-foot Tyrannosaurus rex constructed by a group of students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. All were completed without the aid of scissors or glue.

“We’re purists,” said Wendy Weiss, 44, of Holyoke, Mass.

Clearly scissors and glue are the brakes and derailleurs of the crafting world, and just like fixed-gear riders the scissorless-and-glueless set are way too self-righteous about not using them.

I suppose I could always sandbag as a Cat 6 racer, but frankly I don't think I could afford the equipment. As we saw last week, Cat 6-style flat-bar road bikes are becoming very exotic, and via the Twitter I've learned that cyclocross bikes are following suit:

2010 Stevens Team Cyclocross Bike (santa clara)
Date: 2011-06-24, 3:04PM PDT
Reply to: [deleted]

2010 52 cm Stevens Team Cyclocross Bike

* Sram Red Components
* Custom built Velocity wheels with Challenge Parigi-Roubaix 700x28 Tires
* Ritchie WCS Flat bars, Seat Post and Stem
* Fizik Arione Saddle
* Speedplay Stainless Zero pedals

8 months old and ridden less than 1000 miles

Over 4500.00 invested with receipts.

Great straight bar road bike. World class Cyclocross frame . Just a tad too big for me.
Best fit probably 5'7"-5'10". Weighs just under 17 LBS. Outstanding frame and components for the serious biker.

Serious inquires please call Joe @ 408-621-[deleted]

Good thing he kept the receipts. I hear shame is tax deductible now.


ringcycles said...


Eclogite said...


ringcycles said...

Wow, Can I take all the flowers?

ringcycles said...

Almost but not quite, but the extra kisses on the podium are nice.

3G said...


theEel said...


g said...

Top Ten... Not bad.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Top Twenty?

ringcycles said...

Sorry Snob, but the most appropriate thing to wear while munching on chocolate dipped haggis is a utili-kilt with a Hello Kitty sporan.

Bill Smith said...

Word score: bike: 10, cyclocross: 4, fixed-gear: 3, hipster: 2, yabbies: 0.

Anonymous said...

Little-known fact: Juicy fruit chewing gum flavor is haggis extract.

g said...

5'10" riding a 52cm? that's a whole helluva lotta seatpost.

Terre Haute Karl said...

I am sure there is some energy-sucking hobby in which David Byrne does not participate as he prefers to do origami.

Anonymous said...

16th! must be the new bike.


hillbilly said...


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

"Great straight bar road bike"

Are "they" going to discover the exciting and fascinating world of mountain biking next?


OBA said...

Their CETMA racks aren't empty, they're just portaging invisible suitcases of courage!

Anonymous said...

Shame is tax-deductable? Hell, I'm rich!


Matt Boulanger said...

Can somebody explain to me what people think they are getting when they slap a flat bar on a road bike? Is the drop bar just too intimidating?

Marcel Da Chump said...

Six day racing started in 1891 at NYC's Madison Square Garden with brakeless track bikes on a velodrome.
The two-man tag riding team known as the madison was named after its venue. That wasn't no hipster shit.

Paul Bowen said...

Saw the most expensive bike I've ever seen with my own eyes on Saturday, far as I know. Couple (he English, she American) turned up to do the Dulwich Paragon social ride on Saturday on a tandem. Got talking to them at a rest stop and was asking them about the bike. Calfee carbon frame, parts either definitely really expensive or I'd never heard of them but thet looked really expensive...I'm thinking, must have cost a few quid, so I asked.

$20,000. Blimey.

shu-sin said...

"The goal of this art is to transform a flat sheet of material into a finished sculpture through folding and sculpting techniques, and as such the use of cuts or glue are not considered to be origami." this aint no hipster shit!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Somewhere, Major Tayor is crying.

Anonymous said...

29th place for the Breakaway Artist!

Anonymous Coward said...

Yes I am sure that somewhere Major Tayor is in fact crying.

Joe said...

Here's my advice. Go to google images and find your mole. Convince yourself yours is malignant amelanotic melanoma (the rarest & scariest of the bunch). Go to the dermatologist. Hear him say, "Well, it's probably nothing...but we better do a biopsy," in a weird sort of concerned tone of voice. Spend a week googling your mole and reading cancer chat groups. Get the results back from the doc and feel like an idiot for making a big deal over nothing. That's what I did last week. Works great.
Very funny column today. Cheers

innerlighter said...

I prefer my haggis trucks with strawberries and a light dusting of powdered sugar.


cantankerous_old_dude said...


You aren't clueful as to the sizingway of a cyclocross bike.

A 'cross bike has a much higher bottom bracket than a road bike. Very generally speaking, chop 2 cm. off your road or fixie to get the approximate size of a comparable 'cross bike.

FYI, a Stevens is very likely coming out of the same factory as other brands. I guess stickers are really valuable to some.

Dave said...

Mmmmmmm - Sheep's stomach

Melanocyte Mike said...

Perhaps he meant "moal" instead of "mole," the former being an Irish/Gaelic condition of having dark Guinness patches on ya that have dried out and look similar horridly invasive tissue eating metastatic cancer. Which is what you might actually have. Only a detailed exam of your wallet by a dermatologist will lessen you anxiety. And, since melanoma is rare, you more than likely have invasive squamous cell tissue, probably already in your lymph nodes. Not to worry though, as a cure is easy, and even cheap, if you volunteer to work without protection at the Fukashima nuclear plant. Me, I wouldn't really worry.

Anonymous said...

Jeez, even we don't dunk our haggis in chocolate......we will, however, deep-fry almost anything if it sits still long enough......

hey nonny mouse

Velocodger said...

My life is a Seinfeld episode...but damn, the water was REALLY cold. And maybe the "cyclocross" bike could be sold at a discount since I believe one would need to remove those (shudder...must be that damn cold water again) bar ends to race.

Anonymous said...

For the benefit of your readers, could you have Vito or better yet an intern chart the miles ridden per invested dollar values of all the bikes referenced in this blog that provide these statistics?

Conversions to other currencies and metric equivalents are always a bonus, of course.

g said...

"Companies like Bianchi, Stevens, Santa Cruz, Trek, Gary Fisher (the former Lemond Poprad) and Jamis are just a few larger brands that have embraced lower bottom brackets"

But, what do I know.

Anonymous said...

The classic comeback for a question like "Has that mole been there from birth?" is "No, it appeared after I nailed your mother". That would have made for a good race.

Anonymous said...

Unless you've worked at a bike shop, you'll never understand the joy of putting riser bars on 'cross bike, or a kick stand on a 29'er.

Anon 1:37

Marcel Da Chump said...

@Matt Boulanger,
Improved peripheral vision.
Quick access to brake levers.
Two things which greatly help when riding
under elevated train tracks (double-parked cars, pedestrians crossing mid-block).

TravisP said...

It's lovely that the French support HIV sufferers with their cycling.

Anonymous said...

Hipsters are 100% bottom feeders. Nothing says "this event couldn't be any less genuine" than a bunch of conformist fixie riders. Selah.

Anonymous said...

'"Well, you should really get it checked out," he pronounced in a dire tone.'

wow. great way to psych someone out at a race ... will add to my repertoire. thanks

Anonymous said...

'it occurred to me that perhaps it had been my fellow rider's plan to "psyche me out" all along'

umm, i guess i should save my insightful commentary until i read the whole post...

J Scott. Pirate Hooker. said...

Anon 2:37

What are the chances of your commentray being insightful?

Anonymous said...

Nice. I'd never heard of a CETMA rack. Since I'm a snobby bike connoisseur too, maybe I'll get one for moving crap and upping my smugness quotient.

In case you haven't seen this, I think it nicely captures snobs and enthusiasts of all sorts, even haggis.

Jasper said...

Glad 'hey nonny mouse' got the good comeback on the haggis idea. And props to Paul Bowen for getting Dulwich Paragon into here - it wouldn't have been too much of a stretch to mention the Herne Hill Velodrome and really make it an SE21 - 24 clean sweep.

Chazu said...

Anonymous 2:03 PM: Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Flat bars on a road bike=transformation of the steel beast to grocery getter. I love that bike--no way I wasn't going to ride it anymore!

Udder said...

"@Matt Boulanger,
Improved peripheral vision.
Quick access to brake levers.
Two things which greatly help when riding
under elevated train tracks (double-parked cars, pedestrians crossing mid-block)."

I guess world-class criterium riders have it all wrong with those clumsy road bars...

Anonymous said...

Lemme tell ya: when it comes to ethnically inspired delicacies, chocolate-dipped-haggis doesn't hold a candle to honey-dipped-Wiener*.

But, alas, it's not for everybody.

* alt. spelling: Weiner

Fred said...

I don't care for chocolate-dipped anything. The coating inevitably cracks off and melts into my beard and leg hair. Then I have to ride my recumbent while fending off large numbers of ants, and let's face it, that's no way to earn the respect in the peloton.

Stranded said...

The mustaches may be trendy, but where are the aero helmets?

Anonymous said...

Origami bikes! Origami moles! Origami panties! Hello Kitty panties! Haggis panties! Chocolate panties!

Nebraska bike commuter (non-DWI edition) said...

My "vintage" Schwinn World Sport commuter is sort of like a road bike. I put a Scott AT 4 handlebar on it. Does it qualify for flat bar scorn?

Anonymous said...

Really expensive cross bike that wouldn't be allowed to start in UCI sanctioned CX race, flat bars are illegal for mass-start events. Local races would probably not allow the bar-ends either

I Go Around and Around said...

Anon @ 1:37 and/or 2:10 - Testify! I had a guy buy an OCLV, put upright bars on it, then wanted a kickstand. I finally convinced him to just let me put a "Flickstand" on it, which was hard enough to install. Later he came back complaining about shifting. After some interrogation, he confessed that he had gotten some old steel kickstand and somehow bolted it onto the chainstays (how I know not - there really isn't room.) He crushed the frame.

I can't talk badly about CETMA racks though. Just use them occasionally if you have one. Leave them to others who will if you won't.

Gerardi said...

speaking of the next big thing to be considered "tha shiaat" in the streets of brooklyn (well... dresden, germany for now)

this ain't some hipster bullshit, feel me?! this' dope!

gtalley said...

when i scrolled down to the bottom of the post and saw that bike after getting about halfway through the craigslist ad i loled and then choked on my sammich.

Anonymous said...

I love the shot of him changing from freewheel to fixed gear, and the cryptic shot of a pile of trash when he says Brooklyn is an epicenter.

He's so good he didn't even place in the top 10.

Marcel Da Chump said...

If Frank Warren didn't know who Major Taylor was, then he's on some hipster shit.
If Frank Warren didn't know that Major Taylor was the first African-American champion of any sport, he's on some hipster shit.
If Frank Warren didn't know that Major Taylor lapped the field in a half-mile race, he's on some hipster shit.
Some haggis might help.

recumbent conspiracy theorist said...

Well Wildcat you could always just cut that arm off and then get this ink done:


recumbent conspiracy theorist said...

Oh yea, I saw a pair of "vintage" Schwinns go at an auction today for $12. Six dollars for a bike ain't bad. Even if it is ladies frame. Didn't see the other one. I don't have anymore space for bikes anyway.

Anonymous said...

Funny, it's obvious none of you actually know anything about the red hook crit, and the level of competion this event brings. A few pro racers several cat 1, 2 ,3 racers. (plain english translation, cuase im sure most of you dont even know what that means, these dudes race and are good enough to progressed up the ranks) So to say this event is a joke, clearly highlights your ignorance.

At least this guy raced in it, I was there and it was cold, anyone who has the balls to race in those conditions deserves to describe the event as not being hipster or what whatever else they want.
Top ten or whatever, give the guy a break, he's obviously passionate about racing, and if any of you are true sportsman, or have any passion for anything you should be encouraging his passion not talking shit.

Anonymous said...

"Great straight bar road bike"

How do you tell the difference between a straight bar road bike and a gay bar road bike???

M_Avina said...

Why are you still blogging the foibles of fixed-gear "culture?" Everyone in the know knows that retro-grouch lugged bikes are the new thing (aluminum track bikes made in Taiwan are sooo déclassé and un-artisanal). The well-dressed grouch rides in skintight argyle pants-yabbies made in a cottage in the outer-Hebrides by fair-trade inspected Scots under the supervision of the all-seeing eye of Rivendell.

leroy said...

Anon 10:49 --

Oh pshaw.

I, for one, know what a Red Hook Crit is.

It involves close inspection and analysis of the produce at that big Fairway store.

Or an insightful review of the Swedish meatballs at IKEA.

But no true Red Hook Crit could be complete without a gastronomic tour of the food carts at the Red Hook ball fields.

Honestly, how dumb do I look? (Actually, how dumb I look is unimportant. With Michelle Bachman a declared presidential candidate, it's clear that the appearance of dumbness is graded on a scale.)

M_Avina said...

Anyway -- all things fixed have been explained here: why not move on to the rich vein of retro-grouch lampoonery?

cantakerous_old_dude said...


G, don't mess with the cantankerous old man who was riding 'cross when toe clips was racing gear.

From the same article, "Some riders like a higher bottom bracket for better pedal clearance over roots and rocks."

I've raced both and the higher bottom bracket works better for racing. The first time you clip a pedal on something, it's forgotten. The second time when you are passed because of the low BB is the last time.

Toe clips had nothing to do with high bottom brackets. The author and publisher aren't old enough to know what they are talking about.

Unknown said...

You worry too much. As Eli Wallachs character in the Magnificent Seven said:If God did not want them sheared, He would not have made them sheep.
Somewhere life intrudes and carbon fiber seatposts aren't as important as baby formula.
Give em some time to figure that out.

Fred said...

Anon @ 10:49: thanks for explaining the complicated bike racing ranking thing for us. That was super helpful. Do you know if the riders actually carry the 1 to 3 cats with them or do they have someone drop by the apartment to feed them and scoop the box?

Pontius Pilate said...



Anonymous said...

Hey Snob!
Love the reverse inventing ploy you use to describing the velodrome for fixies! My bro and I used to do the same, describing things in the home as if we were thinking up a brilliant new idea. Gets the brain moving in creative ways even if you stole the idea in the first place.

Brilliant man, just brilliant!

douche said...

Funny about the ad for the Stevens bike. He says it's just a tad too big for him. Suggestion:

Try moving the seat forward from it's furthest back position and maybe swap out that stem for something a tad shorter.

Anonymous said...

Vel d'HIV


Gonflé said...

Very short politico article that uses the word "nonplussed". That is all.

cyclotourist said...

American health-care: don't get sick!

American retirement: hurry up and die!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the blog post. it was really interesting.

Fixie Bikes said...

That's an intense french rendition of people biking.

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