Friday, April 29, 2016

BSNYC Friday Fun Quiz!

Firstly, tomorrow's the big day!

The way it's going to go down is that we're going to meet at the clock in Grand Central at 11:00am.  We'll discuss routes, folding techniques, and vital issues of the day for a half-hour, then at 11:30am we'll roll on down to the Bike Expo New York:

Where I'll sign copies of my new book at Brompton's booth at 1:00pm, together with Redbeard Bikes:

Technically it's not available until May 3rd, so you'll be getting a jump on things.

Plus, play your cards right and you could get one of these, while supplies last:

AND I will probably scare up some more stuff to give away too.

So there you go.

And of course for those of you who prefer to attend bike book events west of the Hudson, we've got a ride/signing going on at Little City Books in Hoboken on Saturday, May 7th:


Secondly, the artisanal bicycle bell craze shows no signs of abating, and now someone's selling a cowbell for mountain bikers:

Don't put one on your genteel Brompton though or you might find yourself getting chased by butlers.

And now I'm pleased to present you with a quiz.  As always, study the item, think, and click on your answer.  If you're right you'll know, and if you're wrong you'll see Pachyderm "Woo-hoo-hoo-hoo!" speed.

Thanks very much for reading, ride safe, and hope to see you tomorrow.

--Wildcat Rock Machine

1) The correct answer is:

--The helmet
--The banana
--The doll
--The smartphone

2) Helmets schmelmets, this is a clear violation of section 8-14 of the City of Phoenix municipal code concerning dogs and leashes.


3) Which is not among the reasons to ride a fixie according to a recent article in Bicycling magazine?

--"It’s an act of rebellion."
--"A fixed-gear has at least as much stopping power as a beach cruiser with a coaster brake."
--"Fixies can even go backward, so if a lane of traffic closes, just reverse and try a different path though a maze of stopped cars."
--"It's a zen thing, you're totally connected to the bike."

4) According to SRAM road PR manager Michael Zellmann, road bikes now need disc brakes because they have motors in them.


(In retrospect when her bike was dragging her up the hills it was pretty obvious.)

5) What is Femke van den Driessche's punishment for using a motorized bicycle?

--A six-year suspension and a fine of 20,000 Swiss francs
--A six-month suspension and a fine of 2,000 Swiss francs
--A lifetime ban and a fine of 2,000,000 Swiss francs
--A lucrative sponsorship deal with a chain of Belgian car washes and a lifetime supply of Turtle Wax

6) Apparently you can buy Tour de France champion Chris Froome's bike at the Peel Regional Police Bicycle Auction in Ontario, Canada.


(Another oversized smartphone case with wheels.)

7) Enough with the goddam "smart bikes" already!  Please feel free to cram your useless angular crabon hunk of crap:

--In your ear
--Down your throat
--Up your ass
--All of the above

***Special Groovy 1970s Propaganda-themed Bonus Video, Man!***

Have we learned nothing?

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Propaganda Gandering

Recently I experienced a parental rite of passage when I discovered an obscene publication in my child's bedroom:

I can only assume he found this smut at school, which concerns me, because learning about traffic safety from the City of New York is like learning about sex in the playground from the kid who saw a porno once.  Indeed, it's not a stretch to call this sort of material "safety porn," for as with regular porn it simultaneously idealizes and degrades its subject--wide-eyed characters smiling as cars (or phalluses as the case may be) attack them from every direction.

Anyway, I almost couldn't bear to open it and was about to consign it straight to the shredder, but despite my better impulses I turned the page and saw this:

Okay, obviously the "correct" answer in the context of the booklet is the helmet, and when I confronted my son and tested him that's what he chose.  I don't know where the hell he even picked that up, he sure as shit didn't learn it from me.  Such is the power of cultural osmosis.  Honestly, any good parent knows that the real correct answer is the banana:

(A banana.)

Why?  Think about it: kids get hungry.  Really hungry.  This is especially true when they're riding bikes.  Kids bonk just like full-grown Freds do.  So what are you going to do when yours is melting down miles from the nearest deli?  Feed them their own helmet?

I don't think so.

Yet this is where we are now: when engaging in physical activity, a hunk of styrofoam is considered more important than a source of fuel.

In fact, in considering those choices, I'd put the helmet at the very bottom of the list and prioritize them thusly:

1) Banana: 'Cause you gotta eat;
2) Smartphone: In case of emergency, plus if you don't Instagram the ride it didn't happen;
3) The doll: emotional support;
4) The helmet: to put on the doll.

And yes, I admit that a large part of me is moved by the earnestness of this booklet, what with its adorable cartoon animals all doing the "right" thing.  Still, as an adult steeped in cynicism and beaten down by experience, I can't help but find it infuriating that no matter how "safely" kids behave in this city the biggest danger they face every day is from maniacal motorists and the police who do everything they can to defend them.  Consider this:

The driver, a 41-year-old, got out of her red Fiat and, according to Ballantine, screamed, "She ran a light!" Ballantine said that Davis did not run a light. (Davis, at this point, "wasn’t talking coherently," according to Ballantine. "She was trying to get up but she couldn’t.") Shortly thereafter, Ballantine said, a black car pulled up and men who she assumed were police got out with walkie-talkies, and she continued on her way to work.

The day of the crash, the NYPD told reporters that Davis was riding against traffic when the driver hit her, and the driver was not ticketed or charged. A department representative said this morning that investigators have amended their report to indicate that Davis was riding with traffic, and that they are in conversation with the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office about possible charges.

So basically the driver killed a cyclist, lied about what happened, and the police were like, "Well, that's good enough for us!"  And that's how it works--which is why my booklet for children would look more like this:

By the way, as the person who coined the word salmon, I'm very annoyed to see it used in a headline like that.  The whole point of the word was to mock the irritating fixie people riding towards me all the time, not as a technical term to use in connection with the victims of horrible deaths, regardless of which way they were riding.  It's pretty distasteful to use a stupid slang bike blog term in this context.  They might as well have added IMO FWIW while they were at it.

Still, I suppose I should be grateful that at least our propaganda doesn't try to scare kids away from bikes altogether, which is what they're attempting to do in Phoenix:

In the edition “Don’t Get Doored,” for example, a lad on the way to see his brother in the hospital (who was put there by not wearing a helmet, natch) smashes through a car window, lands on his head, and winds up with a weeping belly wound and a hand that looks like a broken rake. And that’s a tame scene compared to other stuff in the novels, which accompany each fracture and body-blow with Batmanesque noises like “KA-CHAM!,” “KA-SNAP!,” and “GA-GUSH!”

This has been making the rounds lately, but let the record show I mentioned it back in 2015, which I feel compelled to mention for the same reason I gratuitously remind you on a regular basis that I invented the term "bike salmon."  Anyway, with images like these, which mode of transportation do you think the teenagers of Phoenix will choose once they reach driving age?

"I think I'm gonna be sick" indeed.  They might as well skip the comics and go "Full Clockwork:"

Here's what he's watching:

Speaking of Amsterdam, they're now hiring a "Bike Mayor:"

The bike mayor will be a public representative, but not strictly a politician in the classic sense. Since they’ll technically be an employee of CycleSpace, an independent NGO, they won’t be elected by an entirely democratic process. The benefit of this system, however, is that they won’t be as constrained by the political system as elected officials are, and as such will be better able to represent a diversity of interests.

The bike mayor will be selected by a combination of public vote and an expert jury. Candidates who express their interest (via a short video) by May 1st will be put forward for the public vote. The public is able to weigh in until June 24, and while their opinion will hold influence, the final selection will ultimately be up to a jury of relevant parties including Amsterdam’s mayor and representatives from the city’s transit authorities and cycling groups.

"They won't be elected by an entirely democratic process," huh?  Interesting.  That's pretty much exactly how our president is elected, except the "diversity of interests" is basically the Fortune 500.

Maybe New York City should elect a bike mayor.  I'd love to see a no-holds-barred campaign between this guy:

And this guy:

Spoil alert: Bill Cunningham wins after it's revealed that David Byrne owns a Dodge Charger that's registered in New Jersey under an assumed name.

Lastly, meet VELOSCHMITT:

It's got unhooked v-brakes just like the Walmart bike that almost knocked you over on the sidewalk:

It's also looks like a hot tub crossed with a coffin:

Though when in motion it looks kind of like a cartoon sperm:

I'm sure it will be a resounding success.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Regretfully, I Must By Necessity Extend My Absence

Good Mornings,

Owing to the vicissitudes of life, unforeseen blah blah blah, and so forth, it becomes necessary for me to delay my triumphant return to the Blogular Sphere until tomorrow, Thursday, April 28th, 2016.

It pains me to force you to scrounge for quality content elsewhere "on line" for yet another day, but whatchagonna do.

In the meantime, you'll be pleased to know that I was able to squeeze in a little recon yesterday for this Saturday's impending Bromptation* Ride:

*[Bromptons not necessary and you can even ride a "real" non-folding bike for all I care.]

Just to remind you, we'll be meeting here at 11:00am for an 11:30 rollout:

And from there we'll proceed to Bike Expo New York where I'll be signing books at 1:00pm at the Brompton table while engaging in general merriment.

As for the route, we can decide on Saturday, but maybe we'll take the path that runs along the East River:

Or maybe we'll have a winner-take-all drag race straight down 5th Avenue, to be filmed by Lucas Brunelle.

Either way, there's a very good chance I'll have some hats to give away too.

So you'll want to be there, and you'll want to make sure to bring your head.

Oh, also, cycling industry insiders are finally admitting that pro racers are using motors:

To wit:

"The fact is, disc brakes will prevent more crashes, potential injuries, and provide riders with much greater control of the bike in all conditions," Zellmann adds, adding that this applies to pros and everyday riders alike. "The improved control of disc brakes is what you can point to. As bikes and riders get faster – like nearly every motorized vehicle – they require better braking, and we feel disc brakes absolutely address this need."

See that, he called them motorized vehicles!

Plus, motors notwithstanding, the idea that road bicycles have gotten so much faster over the years that they require a completely different braking system is completely ridiculous.  Are you really going to tell me that this modern road bike:

Is appreciably faster than, say, these bikes I saw at L'Eroica?

Not that I'm against pros using discs or anything like that.  After all, they're got to be safer than those Spinergys--which, I seem to recall, people accused of severing Michele Bartoli's kneecap at the time.

Or something like that.

Anyway, speaking of discs, here's a video I saw in the comments on James Huang's latest disc screed:

I have no idea what that's supposed to prove.

Hey, looks like I kinda posted after all!

Even so, see you back here tomorrow.


--Wildcat Rock Machine

Monday, April 25, 2016

I wish I rode a fixie, hooray, hooray!

First of all, there will be NO BLOG POST tomorrow, which is Tuesday.  (Well, no post on this blog, presumably other blogs will continue to post.)  The next post here will be on Wednesday, April 27th.  If you need a reason, here goes: it's spring break for the New York City schools so I'm taking my kid on a whirlwind 24-hour trip to Cabo to PARTY!!!

Secondly, remember how last Friday I said I was going to be at Bike Expo New York but I didn't know the details yet but when I did know the details I would tell them to you because I have a new book coming out?

Well I did so that's happening now.

Okay, first of all, Bike Expo New York happens on April 29-30th in Manhattan at Basketball City:

It is 1) Free; and B) Equipped with a beer garden that affords one the opportunity to engage in scenic riverside day drinking:

All reason enough to go right there.

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE, because on Saturday April 30th I'll be leading a ride from Grand Central to the Expo...on a Brompton!

If you own a Brompton this is an ideal opportunity to use yours in its native multi-modal habitat without having to actually go to work:

You can also discuss Brompton-related matters with fellow Bromptonauts, such as tan jackets, commuter rail timetables, and which pedal gives the best grip with wingtips.

Bear in mind though that this is in no way a Brompton-only ride, and you are of course more than welcome to bring your otherly-branded folding bike, or even your non-foldy for added dignity.

Hey, ride a cargo bike if you want--not only don't I care, but I may ask you to haul my Brompton for me.

Best of all, you'll get to point and laugh at a bike blogger riding a clown bike, and even post incriminating photos of him to social media.

Anyway, from Grand Central we'll head down to the Expo, where I'll scribble inside of books for awhile at the Brompton booth, in conjunction with Redbeard Bikes:

Then we'll hit the beer garden and get day drunk.

I'll confirm everything later in the week, but here's the schedule for Saturday as it stands:

The Schedule For Saturday As It Stands

11:00am: Meet at the clock* in Grand Central
11:30am: Tiny wheels down!
12-ish?: Arrive at Expo
1:00pm: Book scribbling at Brompton booth

*This is the clock:

By the way, we're meeting at 11 but rolling out at 11:30 because we'll need at least a half-hour to argue about routes:

I'm tempted to route us over the 59th Street Bridge and through Queens and Brooklyn just because.

But I probably won't.

In other cultural news, it's April 2016th and only now is "Bicycling" getting around to making its contribution to the vast canon of fixie-extolling literature:

Clearly the reason for the delay is that they didn't want to miss a single stylistic element of this time-honored genre, and to that end the article does not disappoint.  For example, like all fixie articles it begins by explaining what one is, even though 100% of "Bicycling" readers and 95% of humans on Earth already know:

A fixed-gear bike, or fixie, is a type of singlespeed bicycle that doesn’t allow the rider to coast. When the bike rolls, the pedals rotate, and if the bike doesn’t have brakes—like mine—the only way to slow down is to resist the forward motion of the pedals, similar to downshifting in a car.

A cynic might say this is unnecessary, but I say it's merely a sign the article is overbuilt, and in this sense opening is sort of a literary gusset, or maybe a prosaic pump peg.  

Next the article provides the equally unnecessary and typically spurious fixie history that is a hallmark of the genre:

Adopted by a band of kamikaze bike messengers in New York City and San Francisco in the 1970s, fixies and track bikes have become nauseatingly popular among young, hip urbanites. (They can also be quite popular among the skateboarding crowd.) Beyond aesthetics, the appeal of these minimalist machines is the statement made by riding one: It’s an act of rebellion. Or, as the author and cycling-culture guru Lodovico Pignatti Morano put it, “a suicidal response to urban conditioning.”

1) What, you don't remember those kamikaze bike messengers from the '70s who were killing themselves on purpose for Emperor Hirohito?  Noob!;

2) Not sure fixies are "popular among young, hip urbanites" anymore, nauseatingly or otherwise.  From what I see the young, hip urbanites are riding a variety of bikes both fixed and free, whereas the "Nobr Akes" set has now spawned, traded their NJS bikes for Subarus, and moved to Westchester;

3) I'd argue it was less "a suicidal response to urban conditioning" and more a conformist response to suburban conditioning.

But of course the true test of any fixie article is what lengths it goes to in order to justify what what a huge pain in the ass they are, and in this respect the article goes all the way and more:

But despite what the hipsters might want you to think, riding a brakeless fixed-gear isn’t so crazy. With some practice, it’s surprisingly easy to scrub speed or even force the rear wheel into a skid. A fixed-gear has at least as much stopping power as a beach cruiser with a coaster brake. Direct feedback from the pedals allows for quick and precise speed adjustments, which are crucial for riding in busy traffic (especially if you don’t always keep both hands on the bars). It’s impossible to lock up the rear wheel inadvertently since that would require stopping the pedals, so it’s easier to gauge traction on wet streets.

Okay, you're on a steep hill, traveling at about 30mph.  There's a busy intersection at the bottom.  Which would you rather be on, a brakeless fixie or a beach cruiser?

Yeah, I thought so.

But wait, there's more!

There are other benefits. A fixed-gear has fewer parts to purchase and to maintain. It’s easy to balance in place without putting a foot on the ground; just turn the front wheel sideways and rock the pedals forward or backward to keep upright (this is called a trackstand). Fixies can even go backward, so if a lane of traffic closes, just reverse and try a different path though a maze of stopped cars. 

Wait a minute: so if a cab cuts you off you're going to stop, ride backwards, and start going again?  Yeah, right.  I know the guy who wrote this won the Red Hook Crit and can ride circles around most of us, but nobody in the history of bikes has ever done what he's described above, except for possibly Serge Huercio:

But perhaps the most oft-repeated yet nonsensical bit of fixie wisdom is this one:

Then there’s the security: A fixie has fewer parts to steal.

People have been saying this for years, and many people take it for granted, but is this true, really?  Consider the fixie I saw in Brooklyn yesterday, which just happens to be the fixiest fixie that ever fixed, right down to the Spinergy Spox (!) up front:

And now consider a bike with gears, like the Ritte I used on Friday to do some Gran Fondon't recon:

At considerable expense to me I hired a consulting firm to compare these two different style of bicycles, and the results reveal they have almost the same number of parts:

Furthermore, the parts the fixie doesn't have are almost never targeted.  Hey, maybe your experience is different from mine, but in all my years of riding in New York City I have never heard of someone's derailleur getting stolen.  As for shifters, they're potentially valuable, but the one time my cockpit was stolen the bike was a singlespeed:

Indeed, fewer cables means your parts are even easier to steal.

And yes, while fixies and gearies both have cogs, it's only fair to acknowledge that the bike with gears does indeed have more cogs.  Still, it's not like thieves are pilfering cogs à la carte.  When was the last time you returned to your geared bike, went to shift, and realized "Fuck!  Someone stole my 17!"

But what makes a fixie article great instead of merely good is when it ends by contradicting everything it just said, which this one does, and elegantly so:

Since decelerating requires effort, the rider learns to negotiate obstacles not by altering speed but by altering direction. Rather than robotically plodding along in a straight line, the pedaler weaves and bobs spontaneously across the road.

If fixies have such great stopping power and traction then why all the weaving?

Even Serge Huercio is skeptical of that one:


Speaking of things I saw in Brooklyn, here's a tall fixie in front of an e-bike store:

I'm just glad I switched boroughs while I did, because I couldn't live in a place where a sight like this was normal.

Lastly, here are some tips from the Times for "nervous bikers:"

There is no law requiring adults to wear helmets in New York, and it is common to see experienced riders pedaling with their heads unprotected. But you, the wary cyclist, should wear a helmet every time you ride.

Kristen Phillips, an experienced cyclist, has always worn a helmet.

“I have a theory that people who don’t wear helmets haven’t hit their head hard,” said Ms. Phillips, a sales associate and the women’s program manager at Bicycle Habitat, a bike shop and cycling center with four locations in the city.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

For the most part though this is all sensible advice, though I must say that as the coiner of the "s" word I now cringe when I see it:

• Obey all traffic laws. That means stop at red lights, follow turn signals and never ride the wrong way on a one-way street.

Serious cyclists have a term for new riders who go the wrong way on a one-way street: salmon.

“Don’t be a salmon,” Ms. Phillips said. “Salmon are not known for being smart animals.”

Actually, that's not entirely true, and by fish standards salmon are pretty clever:

Through social learning, fishes might learn not only where to get food, but also what to get and how to get it. Hatchery-raised salmon can be taught to quickly accept novel, live prey items similar to those they will encounter once they will be released in the wild, simply by watching an experienced salmon take such prey.[78][79] The same is true of young perch.[80] In the laboratory, juvenile European seabass can learn to push a lever in order to obtain food just by watching experienced individuals use the lever.

Try that with your cheap-ass goldfish.

See you on Wednesday,

--Wildcat Rock Machine