Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Radio Is Podcasting For Retrogrouches

Grab your Little Orphan Annie secret decoder rings, because now you can stream my radio show from yesterday!

Spoiler alert, but I'm afraid you're going to be rather disappointed in the message:

See what I mean?

As it happens, yesterday we also received our first shipment of foul winter weather.  Generally I relish the opportunity to ride to the studio in Brooklyn, for in cutting a great swath through the heart of this city I get to observe and experience much fuckery, and it's precisely my firsthand knowledge of said fuckery that makes me the engaging and authoritative radio host that I am.  At the same time, with the weather set to worsen as the day wore on I didn't necessarily want to commit to a round-trip, since when it comes to fuckery consumption even I have my limits.  And so I opted for the Brompton:

The Brompton is in many ways the ideal New York City commuting bicycle, and not just because you can fold it up and hop on the subway when you hit your fuckery threshold.  For example, the tiny wheels are also an advantage.  Oh sure, we may have potholes in this town large enough to swallow an entire Brompton, which means you've got to pay a little extra attention, but it's well worth it for one simple reason: smaller wheels equal less wheel spray.  See, between the fenders and the mudflap and the tiny wheel diameter there's a very comfortable distance between you and all that winter sludge.  Also, the bike's diminutive overall size makes it highly maneuverable in traffic, which is especially helpful when the streets are even more crowded due to snow.

But yeah, obviously the real advantage is the folding.  Not only was I able to tuck it away on the corner (and drape my Inspector Gadget jacket over it) when it was not in use:

But after the show, with the snow beginning to fall in earnest, I was also able to say "Fuck it" and hop on the subway for the ride home.

And isn't being able to say "Fuck it" whenever you feel like it what living is all about?

You're welcome for the free ad slogan, Brompton.

By the way, if you saw me on the subway straddling my British folding bike and wearing both a hand-tailored jacket and a smug grin, you'd probably have thought, "That looks like precisely the sort of asshole who's in love with the sound of his own voice"--and you'd be absolutely right, because I spent the entire ride listening to my own radio show.

Moving on to full-sized bikes, Cyclingnews gravel-splains why your next tiny pebble-specific bike needs to be made from the crabon:
Basically, it's because crabon has "infinite diversity:"
This is a great point.  Other frame materials such as steel, aluminum, and titanium have one or maybe two molecules at most.  It's true, I learned about it in science.  Something about Avocado's number and how many molecules fit inside a Mole.  A lot of chemistry is about dips and sauces.

This was also compelling:

Oh please.  Sure, crabon is good for making racing bikes.  It's light, it's strong, and it rides good.  There are certainly valid reasons to choose a bike made from it.  But if you're being tormented by "small-bump juddering" and suffering from "terrain induced vibration fatigue" you're either using the wrong tires or you need to find another leisure sport.  I'd recommend one that involves making no contact with the ground whatsoever, such as boating.  (Bonus: you still get to obsess over crabon.)

That said, I'm totally getting a crabon folding bike.  Just think how much more efficient my commute will be when portaging it over the subway turnstile...


Nina Paley said...

Why did you have to link to those $5,000 crabon folding bikes?
They weigh 18 pounds, but cost almost 4,000.

Edwin Headwin said...

BSNYC gold: "I'd recommend one that involves making no contact with the ground whatsoever, such as boating. (Bonus: you still get to obsess over crabon.)"

Thanks for the laugh! Podiumcast?

Anonymous said...

Wow! That Hummingbird baresly folds down.

wishiwasmerckx said...

The lag between posting commentary and posting comments makes podium racing a quaint relic of days gone by...

1904 Cadardi said...

Hold the (subway) door!
First, CyclingSnooze says the "nearly infinite diversity of fibre orientations" is what makes crabon fibre so great. Then they say its the "Unidirectional carbon fibre" that makes it so great. Now, if my higher edjumacation is correct Uni comes from the latin unus, meaning one, which is significantly less than infinity. As it turns out one is almost as far as you get from infinity.

Short version, sounds made up to me.

sailing cyclist said...

Carbon has certainly infiltrated the sailing world - check out the carbon sails.


I am reminded that sailing makes cycling look cheap.

Bungalow Bill said...

It used to be advertising copy published as 'news' was fairly reserved and sometimes even provided some useful information. Modern writers seem to have abandoned that approach. Here's a good example regarding Elons Truck

huskerdont said...

"Fuckery threshold' reached just reading that first inset, no need to go out and deal with inattentive drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists. Yet I'll do it anyway.

BTW, that phrase alone is worth all the money we pay for this blog. Consider it stolen.

Anonymous said...

"...terrain induced vibration fatigue..."

Bitch, please. I've spent half of my 68 years on construction sites; the last 22 as a commercial electrician. I've used every tool in the catalog, and a few I had to invent.

Cripes, I've run jackhammers. JACKHAMMERS, for the love of Lob. So when I ride my beloved steel bikes over bumpety terrain, I feel like I'm on a pink cloud, being born along by cherubs. Fuck, man. Grow a pair.

Porky Pig said...


cyclejerk said...

Five large for a folding biek? Can't afford the helment after that!

JLRB said...

Folding Scranus

Anonymous said...

Avocado's number! X-D

Anonymous said...

Maybe something like this for the new Brompton campaign:


Skidmark said...

Average yearly full coverage car insurance for a 21 year old U.S. driver = equals: one (1) Brompton in the carbon material-way.

HDEB said...

Bicycling causes "health problems such as 'bicycle face', a rictus supposedly caused by holding your mouth in grimace and your eyes wide open. 'Once fixed upon the countenance, it can never be removed'...or beware 'kyphosis bicyclistarum', a permanent hunching of the back, acquired by bending over the handlebars to go faster." You've been warned!

Dooth said...

I didn't know performance vs pliancy stakes are a thing. But I've never entered the crabon world. It seems like a fast, cold world with all sorts of stuff at stake. Whereas steel exudes warmth and sensuality; I mean, the sight of a well cut and crafted lug in congress with a steel tube...

Beck the biker said...

The show this week resounded like it had matured or something, difficult to pin what exactly it was with the tone that had changed. Your introduction to the show this week made me pine for some more NYC traffic jammin' for some reason too.
That redux on vertical compliance came from the cyclingnews press? Figures. They need to keep feeding the posers. All those sadsong 'crabon bike MUST HAVE or my asshands hurts' are the laments of the addled bicycle illuminati from the skinny-tired pro whips they obsess over. You know who's not getting juddered and suffering from "terrain induced vibration fatigue"? Retrogrouches and their neuvogrouch counterparts riding fat rubber across all terrain about double the width that the bike industry pimps out as appropriate. Once you go fat, you never go back. Chipseal doesn't suck on 32s, and a deft rider can speedial through 3-inch minus gravel on 29er plus tires like a hot knife through blubber. Fuck the 38c whips if they're not fit for the job without making your hands cry. Above a certain tire width carbon doesn't know what's beneath it anyway. Jeez. Bike 101, illuminati. I don't give a fuks.

Beck the biker said...

..a brief postscript in explanation, my only interaction with NYPD by bike was after taking out a driver's side door mirror (i was fully at fault) moving out of a bike lane to avoid two cops parked in Brooklyn bike lane. It was was surreal and civilized, like a Monty Python skit, and ended in pleasantries all around.

Some guy from upstate said...

Please excuse the following episode of engineer dorkitude. I took whole classes on this shit.

Anyway, the bit about the infinite possibilities for fiber orientation and that different parts of the frame can have specific properties is actually not bullshit, but also not really relevant. A fiber-reinforced composite material has properties that vary directionally - strongest in the direction of the fibers, weaker in a direction perpendicular to the fibers. So if you know the pattern of stress in a part, you can optimize the fiber orientation so that the fibers are aligned with the highest stresses. You can also tailor the amount of fiber to each location so that areas with higher stress have more material and areas with lower stress have less material. So you can have just the right amount of material with just the right properties everywhere in the part, for the maximum strength with minimum weight. Yay.

For something with a well-defined, simple loading and stress state, this is great. The optimum fiber angle for an internally-pressurized cylinder is quite literally a simple homework problem (really, that was an actual homework problem from an introductory composites class that I actually took at an actual SUNY). The pattern of stresses in something like a bike frame is very complex, so it would be enormously difficult to construct it with fiber quantity and orientation perfectly aligned (every cubic millimeter would have some unique fiber orientation and fiber/matrix ratio - imagine trying to build that). Also, the loads on a bike frame are varied and unpredictable - which one of them do you do design your optimal fiber layout for?

So this is all awesome in theory, and actually true in practice for some applications, but total nonsense if you are talking about bike frames. Any production carbon fiber frame uses fiber layups in fairly standard orientations with extra layers in highly stressed areas like the headtube or bottom bracket. It still works pretty well because graphite/epoxy (what we used to call "carbon fiber" back in the day) is a material with some pretty great mechanical properties, even without imaginary optimized fiber angle.

As for the vibration absorption part, yes carbon fiber has fairly high damping compared to metallic materials (mostly due to the epoxy matrix, not the fiber). I don't know how well this translates into a smoother ride - there's a pretty big frequency mismatch between you and the bike frame, so less vibration in the frame doesn't necessarily mean less vibration in the rider.

I suppose it would be too simple to just say "this material is strong and stiff and light so it's good for making bike frames, including the ones on bikes that will be ridden on gravelly roads".

Ok, I'm done now.

STG said...

To me the biggest advantage of carbon fiber in the gravel/cyclocross bike is of frame design with a short wheelbase and clearance for wide tires and/or mud. You can do a lot of "geometry gymnastics" that are difficult to achieve in metal fabrication. Look at the dropped chain stays on the Open and Trek Checkpoint, for example. They can fit road sized chainrings and 40mm+ tires, while still keeping the rear wheel "tucked." On my aluminum Trek Crockett I have to move the axle back to accommodate a 40mm, and then I think a 48t is the maximum chainring size that can be fitted (hey, this is fine for what I use the bike for, but prevents it from keeping up in fast road races or group rides).

Thats all from a -design- standpoint. As an end-user that wants to abuse a bike off road for five years, I prefer aluminum or steel and accept the design and weight compromises that go along with it. I have total confidence in the strength of a carbon bike, unless I drop the bike onto a sharp rock. That's where metal wins.

BikeSnobNYC said...


I agree with you about the "geometry gymnastics."

At the same time I wonder if said gymnastics are counterproductive in that designers/riders cling to this road bike ideal and create weird workarounds to adopt it to off-road riding. (The Jones has sort of made me lose interest in riding drop-bar bikes on dirt.)

Then again I'm not exactly in the running for the Dirty Kanza podium so maybe it's not for me to say.

And yes, absolutely, for bikes that are about pure performance and are used under very specific parameters crabon is clearly the way to go.

--Tan Tenovo

STG said...


Speaking of gymnastics, part of what's driving the drop bar dirt craze is that good hydraulic road levers are finally a thing. However considering how good and cheap Shimano's MTB hydro levers and brakes are, I really just wish there were more rigid mountain bikes out there (that aren't bespoke / semi-custom / plus tire / frame-only). Something mass produced like the specialized sequoia, and to a similar spec but in the form factor of an XC race bike. Nowadays its hard to get a mass-produced (read: inexpensive) mountain bike without a garbage suspension fork.

BikeSnobNYC said...


Jones! (You can just size down on the tires.)

--Tan Tenovo

Cat6champ said...

I've ridden a Brompton extensively and I've sat on a Moulton a few times. Yet I've then bought one of those 4.000 GBP Crabon Folding Bikes.
I just couldn't get over the stupid elastomer of the Brompton that compresses with every turn of the crank.
I couldn't care less for the crabon frame, but the light weight is a nice side effect. Especially when you carry a heavy backpack while you're trying to navigate through a packed train or station.
If I would have had the money for a nice Moulton I would have gone with that, though.

MC Spandx said...

God I gotta get a carbon frame!!