Tuesday, October 6, 2015

You Can't Spell "Innovation" Without "Anoint Vino"*

*Had to cheat to come up with that one.  You know, like Vino.

Merriam-Webster defines "innovation" thusly:

I suspect this may be a mistake.

Nevertheless, while "innovation" may be too charitable a word for the brainfarts of today's Kickstarter doofuses, we are certainly experiencing a golden age of bicycle alteration.  If a part on a bike didn't move before, it does now.  If there's a way to get your phone to operate some part on your bike that works much better if you just use it manually, then rest assured somebody's on it.

Now, one bold entrepreneur has turned his attention to the humble bar end:

Largely ignored since the 1990s, the bar end is the Primus of bicycle accessories.  However, like Primus, they still have their dedicated fans--though most bar ends you'll see are simply there because the owner couldn't be bothered to take them off, which is something they also share in common with pie plates.

Anyway, if you've ever used bar ends you know the most annoying thing about them is that once you set them up exactly the way you want them they tend to slip out of place--so naturally this person has invented bar ends that rotate on purpose:

Also, they look like a gun, so there's the added risk of getting shot by an overzealous police officer who will then testify that you were coming at him with a pair of pistols.

Then again, this is a Portland product, so you're probably safe from the police just as long as: A) You only use them in Portland; and B) You look like this, which in Portland most people do:

("Nothing bad could ever happen to us.")

So how did he come up with the idea for the rotating bar end?

"I initially came up with the idea 'cause I used to be a bike messenger..."

With the possible exception of "Whatpressureyourunning?," there is no more common phrase among bike dorks than "I used to be a bike messenger."  That's why it's going to be the basis for my new line of t-shirts:

Stay tuned for the Kickstarter campaign.

Alas, it seems bicycle messengering took its toll on his back:

"I would ride for eight hours a day and my back would just kill at the end of the day."

See, messengers get a bad rap for all the weed and booze, but all they're trying to do is soothe their chronic back pain.

"There was no way I could really change my hand position or my back position.  You know, when you ride a bike you're just hunched over in one position, or two positions at the most..."

Wait, what?!?

And that's just with standard road bars.  With a little creativity and some ordinary household items you can go way past the four canonical hand positions and venture Beyond the Infinite:

By the way, when you're a messenger, even though you're technically on the bike eight hours a day you're rarely riding for more than 20 minutes at a time, since you're constantly on and off the bike picking up and dropping off packages.  If anything you spend most of your time waiting for freight elevators--which gives you ample time to work the kinks out of your back.

I know this because I used to...

Well I'm not going to say it.

Either way, he's gone ahead and invented the trigger-operated adjustable bar end nobody wanted or needed:

And here he is explaining the mechanics behind the concept:

Which is basically that they're artisanal "bum bars."


But what's most compelling about this particular Kickstarter pitch is that Mike Lane of Portland looks remarkably similar to another Mike Lane of Portland who once hawked some sort of posture-correcting device on the TV show "Shark Tank:"

And the inspiration behind it?

Fanklin said Lane's desk job sparked the invention. "He said 'I’ve got an idea because I sit at my desk all day and my posture has gotten really bad. Let's create a posture improvement device.'"

Wait a minute!  I thought the bad back was from messengering!  Now we find out it's from sitting in a cubicle all day?!?

Actually, we may never know the real Mike Lane, for he's clearly a master of disguise.  Three years ago it was selling manssieres to office drones, now it's selling bar ends that look like guns to the urban cycling set, and three years from now he'll probably be selling some kind of ergonomic car seat cushion inspired by his days as a repo man.

Speaking of innovation, I've mentioned the ICEdot helme(n)t before, and apparently now in addition to alerting your loved ones that you've crashed it will also tell them when you've started and finished your ride:

Icedot text message feature rounds out safety platform

Icedot — an emergency ID and notification service — is now offering a digital safety platform that sends text messages to designated contacts when you start and finish a ride. These notifications also include a tracking link with map features to track your route. With the Crash Sensor app, the system uses automated push notifications at the outset of a ride that users can choose to turn on or off the text messages notifications.

If your loved ones really cared that much couldn't they just stalk you on Strava?

And why is this even necessary?  Everybody in the house knows when you start and finish a Fred ride, because you're wearing ridiculous clothing and you clomp in and out of the house in your stupid clown shoes.

Does your spouse or life partner really need some kind of electronic notification to know that this just walked in the door?

If anything, a text message on top of the horrifying reality only seems cruel.

By the way, the aforementioned Velo-whatever article also mentions this:

Umbo Helmets shoots to reduce traumatic brain injuries

A team of Colorado scientists and avid cyclists hopes to reduce the $76.1 billion that the U.S. spends on traumatic brain injuries each year with the newly designed Umbo Helmet.

I've mentioned this company's Kickstarter before, but I'm too lazy to figure out when.  In any case, if they want to whittle down that $76.1 billion figure they're wasting their time making bicycle helme(n)ts, because here's what's causing traumatic brain injuries here in Canada's scranus:

The leading causes of TBI in the general population are falls (35.2%), motor vehicle crashes (17.3%), blunt impact (e.g., being struck by or against a moving or stationary object) (16.5%), and assaults (10%) (4). Different age groups are affected to varying degrees (Table). Falls account for a large proportion of TBIs among children aged 0–14 years and among adults aged ≥65 years (4). Motor vehicle crashes and assaults are the predominant causes of TBIs in teens and young adults aged 15–34 years (4). Military personnel, both in and out of combat, and rescue workers and victims exposed to blasts also are at risk for TBI (10).

Notice "Fred crashes" aren't listed anywhere.  I mean sure, maybe they're included in the general "falls" category, but I'd think if it was such an epidemic that they'd break it out.

And I'm not saying that Freds don't fall, because they most certainly do:

Hey, in their defense, it was a very technical section of road:

As for what caused the first rider to go down, the videographer doesn't say, but my guess is either "foot popped out of pedal" or "front wheel came out from under him," possibly owing to a potently Fredly combination of spirited out-of-the-saddle acceleration and a choppy pedal stroke--and I'm not sure the white tires are entirely blameless here either:

Though I could very easily be wrong about all of this.

Still, in the interest of Fredly forensics I've analyzed the video, and here the rider already listing, his front wheel possibly coming out from under him:

Skipping ahead now to the slo-mo replay, we can see clearly that the foot's now out of the pedal:

Then the yabbies meet the top tube:

And he elegantly ice skates into the adjacent Fred:

At which point they both fall like it's the mirror scene in "Duck Soup:"

Helme(n)t apologists will no doubt point out that Fred 2's foam hat hits the pavement:

As does Fred 1's:

Though helme(n)t cynics will blame the white tires for causing it all.

Regardless, all of this is so engrossing that we forget all about Fred 3, who is right now at this moment completely upside down:

One can only imagine the texts if they'd been wearing ICEdots.

Here's hoping everyone's okay.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Civic Planning and Urban Bloviating

Recently while visiting the halls of academe (that's what I call going to the bathroom) I came across the following New Yorker article:

If you're familiar with the New Yorker, you know that they like to do these articles where they round up a bunch of books on a similar theme, and then the writer bloviates, pontificates, and otherwise waggles his dick over them.  In this particular case the books were about cities, and one in particular--"The Cycling City: Bicycles and Urban America in the 1890s"--is about bikes, as one might infer from its title.

Here's what Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker has to say about it:

The grid, useful as an accelerant for pedestrians and horse-drawn vehicles, ended up being unintentionally well-adapted to the imperialism of the car; a short ride in a London cab can take forever, while taxi- and Uber-drivers race up and down the midnight Manhattan avenues at hyper-speeds. Evan Friss’s forthcoming “The Cycling City: Bicycles and Urban America in the 1890s” (Chicago) wants, in turn, to show us a forgotten parenthesis when the city had not yet yielded to the car. But he ends up showing mainly how terrific research and a feeling for detail can be undermined by the pieties of the contemporary social sciences. Common sense wins, barely, but not without the author taking many frightened-looking glances over his shoulder to see if the consensus of the discipline is gaining on him.

Uh, what?

I didn't understand any of that.

Fortunately, he clarifies it all in the next paragraph:

The consensus of the discipline takes a dim view of common-sense considerations (say, that people rode bikes because they were the best way to get places before cars). More sinister Foucauldian épistèmes must be shown to govern social life: any social explanation that can’t be expressed as a conspiracy theory involving bourgeois society stamping out Difference is inadequate to the phenomenon, even if the phenomenon is on two wheels with gears and going many different places at once. 

Sorry, no he doesn't.

What the hell is he talking about?

And what the fuck is a "Foucauldian épistème?!?"

Don't tell me to look it up, either, because I plugged the term into a popular search engine and all that came up was a picture of Eustace Tilley masturbating:

Sorry, my censor's aim totally sucks.

(As for Tilley's aim, his chums from The Ivy Club don't call him "Ol' Deadeye" for nothing.)

The book itself sounds legitimately interesting though:

Still, Friss has a good story to tell. In the late nineteenth century, bicycles were not just a sweet means of romantic transport—“Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do,” and all that—but a technological triumph creating fanatical followers and interest groups. The bicycle was more like a personal computer than like a love seat. There were “dozens of exclusive bicycle clubs dotting America’s leading cities. . . . Libraries, card rooms, and billiard tables kept members busy while dumbwaiters shuttled food from kitchen hands to hungry cyclists.” Women considered them “an almost utopian instrument,” Friss says, and quotes a contemporary source: “Now and again a complaint arises of the narrowness of woman’s sphere. For such disorder of the soul the sufferer can do no better than to flatten her sphere to a circle, mount it, and take to the road.”

Sadly, Gopnik appears to be doing his best to discourage us from reading it by flinging fistfuls of inscrutable prose into our faces:

Yet one feels impatient as he torturously tries to track academic concepts of class and mentalité onto what are, clearly, the inevitable inner squabbles of fan clubs and interest groups. Friss illustrates, without quite articulating, the central Trollopean social insight: like-minded people with similar passions typically end up fighting among themselves far more than they do with their class or intellectual opponents. 

Foucauldian épistèmes, Trollopean social insights...this is some truly Herculean wankery.

Now I remember why I let my New Yorker subscription lapse--and it's not just me, either.  Actual intellectuals are also fed up with it.  For example, George Plimpton is turning in his grave...in which he is interred with his beloved Y-Foil, I might add:

Even Martin Amis thinks it's too much:

("Hey Gopnik, less nominal adjectivalisation, more spondee.")

Mess with Amis and you'll feel the spondee of a "ONE-TWO" punch::

Speaking of word choice, here's an article with an actual point, which is that we need to stop calling crashes "accidents:"

Our joint campaign with the street safety advocates at Transportation Alternatives is about language, but it isn’t an academic exercise in scolding people about word choice. Our objective is actually to challenge the assumptions behind those words—assumptions that lead to policy decisions that allow the carnage on our streets to continue, with no driver accountability.

How could a DMV judge throw out the tickets for the SUV driver who killed my daughter? I believe that the use of the word “accident”—by DMV officials, the media, and general public—is a big part of the problem. When we say “accident,” we are basically throwing up our hands and saying that the deaths of children like Allison are inevitable, something no one is responsible for, like bad weather.

I'm in awe of Hsi-Pei Liao's advocacy in the wake of what happened to his daughter, and I'm disgusted that this sort of thing continues to happen with nary a peep from our mayor, who campaigned on the idea of "Vision Zero" in the first place.  Sadly the city and state fail families like this pretty much every day.  In fact, it's so bad out there that people are beginning to take matters into their own hands:

Sources tell the Post that two men were crossing the street at Gates when the driver made the U-turn and almost struck them. They got into a shouting match, and one of the pedestrians then pulled a gun and fired, striking the driver in his thigh and lower leg.

I'm not a fan of the guns, yet at the same time I'm perfectly okay with this.

Meanwhile, people still think the idea of running people down is HILARIOUS, like the owner of this car I spotted over the weekend:

Seems about right for a Camaro owner.

Alas, while you're waiting fruitlessly while things to change, you can pretend that you're doing something by using a bike light that alerts your loved ones if your bike winds up horizontal:

This would drive the spouse or life partner of a triathlete completely insane in very short order...

...though I'm sure they've already gone insane from having to hear the incessant race reports.

("Guess what?  I achieved another personal best!")

Oh, it also allows you to customize the light's color pattern in order to confuse the fuck out of motorists:

This is exactly the sort of situation in which you don't want to be ambiguous.  White means front and red means rear, so just leave it at that.  Save the "fushia freakout" for Burning Man.

Looks like the skid marks in Wavy Gravy's underpants.

Lastly, cycling is saved!  Yep, USA Cycling has a new president:

I asked him, Why do this to yourself? Why leave a lucrative position at Wiggle to take over a sport constantly dinged by doping cases, including a recent one involving Tom Danielson, a top American rider who testified in the Armstrong doping investigation? In August, before the Tour of Utah, Danielson’s initial urine sample tested positive for a steroid.

Bouchard-Hall answered, “I love the sport that much.”

He added that he couldn’t bear to watch cycling flounder, post-Armstrong.

Trying to save this sport is like trying to reuse bar tape.

Just throw it out and replace it already.

Friday, October 2, 2015

BSNYS Friday Fun Quiz!

It's Friday, which means the weekend is coming, which means you're going to ride your bike, which means if you're the sort of idiot who rides around with your skewers open you'll want to make sure your bike isn't included in the massive quick release recall:

So don't forget to do the "#2 pencil test," by opening your quick release and making sure you can fit a pencil between the handle and the rotor:

"If the pencil fits between the handle and the disc, you're fine."

Uh, no, you're not fine, you're RIDING WITH THE SKEWER OPEN.

I find it disturbing that we've reached the point where riding with your quick release open is just assumed, and that the bike companies are obligated to adjust their safety standards accordingly.

If it were up to me I'd just let them all crash.

Then again I am a truly miserable and unforgiving person.  I realized this during my last trip to the Philly Bike Expo, which Stevil of All Hail The Black Market attended with me.  After the show we went to get cheese steaks, and on the way to whichever grease-slinging tourist trap we eventually chose we passed a parked bicycle that had its skewers done up all wrong.  (The owner had clearly twirled them shut like wingnuts instead of levering them closed, which I would guess like 70% of the population does.)

I just scoffed and muttered "friggin' idiot" to myself like I usually do, but get this: Stevil stops walking, kneels right there on the filthy Philadelphia sidewalk (in the cheese steak district no less), and fixes the skewers.

For a stranger.

It was then I realized there are genuinely kind and thoughtful people out there, and that I am definitely not one of them.

However, far from feeling ashamed, it only reaffirmed my thoughtlessness, because as long as there are suckers like Stevil out there helping people for me then why should I even bother?


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 then WOW!!!, and if you're wrong you'll see someone go from aero to airborne.

Thanks very much for reading, ride safe, and careful where you stick that pencil.

--Wildcat Rock Machine

1) According to some guy from the Wall Street Journal, New York isn't a bike city because:

--It's not Amsterdam
--Bike share offers "a sensible alternative to sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic"
--Bike share works well
--All of the above

("The heck they will!")

2) Washington, DC public school students will:

3) The New York City Department of Education recently sent a letter to parents in certain "crash-prone" areas asking them not to let their children walk or ride bikes to school.


4) While riding his favorite climb, this Fred keeps finding:

5) For a brief moment in bike advocacy, pushing your bike along on the sidewalk like a scooter was called:

6) A Toronto cyclist was charged with mischief for:

--Smashing a driver's windshield with a u-lock
--Deflating a driver's tires after a roadside altercation
--Throwing a driver's keys down a storm drain after the driver hit him
--"Failure to apologize"

7) A New York City cyclist is suing UPS for:

--Reckless driving
--Blocking the bike lane
--Losing the vintage bicycle frame he purchased on eBay
--Backing into his bicycle while it was locked to a city bike rack

"Bike Lane Freakout Goes Mainstream-Ish-Themed Bonus Video!"

(Via a reader, thank you reader.)

I'd high-five him if I could.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Indignity Of Just Doing Whatever You Feel Like

It's hard work being a semi-professional bike blogger, father of seventeen (18) children, and mother of six (six) more:

("Calgon" was 1980s slang for "Valium.")

That's why I feel it's important to treat myself to some mid-week recreational bicycle-cycling from time to time.  In particular, it had been awhile since I'd ridden a rugged all-terrain-style bicycle--so long in fact that the shin scabs from the last time I'd done so had already fallen off.  So this morning I resolved to remedy the situation.

Because I deserve it.

(Oh, also, Hurricane Joaquin may hit us next week, and if that happens there may be no mountain bike trails left.)

Normally I ride from my mansion to the mountain bicycling trails, but these days I'm on borrowed time, and the interest rates are usurious.  Therefore, after some deliberation, I decided "Fuck It" and used THE CAR THAT THE BANK OWNS UNTIL I FINISH PAYING THEM BACK.

("I'm not even gonna open my mouth, my eyes say it all.")

Hey, it's just shy of an hour to ride there but it's only like a ten minute drive, so when you do the math it's like the car is a time machine I'm actually gaining time by driving to the trail.

Plus, I will always be "bridge and tunnel" at heart, so even though I spend much of my time on a smug-cycle and blogging about how much motorists suck, every so often I'm overcome by an overwhelming urge to drive around in a car while listening to Howard Stern.

So I threw some clothes in a bag, tossed a bike onto the roof rack, and drove responsibly to the trailhead:

As I pulled up I really hoped nobody was there.  The truth is that over the past few years I've become unbearably smug about riding to the trailhead, and when I do I enjoy nothing more than passing all the mountain Freds in the parking lot milling about their SUVs in various states of undress, messing with their shocks and fretting over their tire pressure.  Generally what I do is ride around in circles for awhile until someone notices that I arrived on a singlespeed and without a car.  Then, when they ask where I rode from I just say "city"--which is true only in the most literal sense in that I do technically live in New York City.  However, for the purposes of regional colloquial speech and casual parking lot conversation it's an out-and-out lie.

Then I scamper into the woods with the speed and agility of a cottontail and do my best to wait until I'm out of view before succumbing to the inevitable crash.

Sadly, this time someone would see me get out of a car, because to my surprise I encountered this:

(Note tire tracks, I assume morons come here at night and do donuts.)

It turns out Giant Bicycles were setting up for some sort of dealer demo day, which meant I'd better make this ride a quick one before the Shop Freds showed up.  Nevertheless, as I rolled by I did take some spy shots of the Liv bikes:

And the Giants:

I briefly considered revealing myself as the greatest semi-professional bike blogger this side of the Spuyten Duyvil and asking if I could try some of that sweet, sweet crabon myself.  However, I decided not to, because if experience is any guide it means either they'd have no idea who I am, or else they'd want to punch me in the mouth--or, most likely, both.

Apparently though the unwashed masses can demo the bikes here on Sunday, and you can find more information on that here and here.

So if you're in the New York City area maybe you can find the Fred Sled or Bouncy Mountain Chariot of your dreams.

Another reason I had been hoping nobody would be there was because, in my haste, I had assembled sort of a strange outfit which I tied together with these woolen retro-style Brooks half-shorts:

(No, I'm not peeing in this picture...you should tell yourself if it makes you feel better.)

The shorts were a last-second choice because I hadn't worn them since L'Eroica one year ago, and when I realized the ride was this weekend I immediately became nostalgic because it remains possibly the most fun ride I've ever done.  So I dug them out of the ol' bike clothes drawer, figuring maybe they'd help allay my sadness over missing this year's event.  And while I happen to think the shorts are pretty cool, the problem is they're a bit small on me, which meant I'd have to take great care to hide my posterior:

Heaven knows I didn't want all the Shop Freds to see my "coin slot," and so I stopped from time to time for a "butt selfie" to make sure I remained modest:

(No, I don't have a "tramp stamp" of the Brooks logo...you should tell yourself if it makes you feel better.)

Anyway, fall is now in the air, and there's no better time to ride a mountain-style bicycle:

Mostly because the goddamn bugs that like to hover around your face while you ride in the summer are mostly gone:

As for the bike, I rode my Engin, which I still congratulate myself for having purchased:

A bespoke custom-curated artisanal rigid singlespeed may seem a bit over-indulgent at first glance, and of course it is, but to me it makes sense because no matter how much or little you spend on a bouncy bike with gears and shocks it's going to be obsolete in short order, whereas a rigid bike with one speed is a rigid bike with one speed.

Really, the only thing that's going to become obsolete is me, and I suppose there will come a time when I can no longer handle the thing, but so far the enjoyment I get from riding it is undiminished, even by age and lack of fitness.

Of course I've also added some pretentious artisanal touches, such as the hand-chamfered leather saddle:

And the custom-etched WiseCracker I've probably used once, because I don't lead one of those awesome lifestyles that involves hanging out for hours drinking beer after the ride:

Oh, it even says "BSNYC" on the other side if you look closely:

I do keep it humble however by using 36-spoke wheels I built entirely from cheap mail order parts:

I do have a fancier pair of tubeless wheels, but because I don't lead one of those awesome lifestyles that involves hanging out and drinking beer for hours after rides, I also haven't had time to mount new tires and reseal them.  Instead, I've just been using these--and despite being made from budget stuff they work great, go figure.

I did splurge on the name-brand front hub though:

By the way, speaking of front wheels and dick breaks, have you heard about the recall?

A group of bicycle companies, in cooperation with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association (BPSA), is engaged in a safety recall involving quick-release devices which, when improperly adjusted or left open while riding, may potentially come in contact with the front disc brake rotor. Watch this video to see if your bicycle is affected.

No shit, that's why you do this:

Anyway, things were going wonderfully until my rear wheel broke loose on some rocks and I fell over, creating some new scabs and taking a shot to the knee, which is always worrisome since every blow to the kneecap takes you that much closer to not being able to ride one-speed bicycles anymore:

I'd like to blame the cheap, worn tires, but the truth is that I suck.

So I took this as a sign I should wind the ride down, and finished off with a little loop on the easy terrain:

I did scuff the Brooks too:

But I'm sure it will buff right out.