Monday, March 30, 2015

On your marks, get!

Good morning!

Aren't Monday's the best?!?

This past Friday I wrote about how stupid mandatory helment laws are, and naturally anybody who wasn't a total idiot agreed with me.  Further to that post, I should point out that yet another reason helment laws suck is that they are terrible for bike share programs.  Here in New York City our bike share program has been a tremendous success (well, except for financially, but that's typical of public transit).  When using bike Citi Bike, some people wear helments and others do not, and (knock on wood) to date the streets have not run red with the blood of hapless bike sharers.

I did, however, receive this email on Friday:

"Dear God no!," I cried, and then I realized I live like ten miles from the nearest Citi Bike station and that I had no plans to go to Manhattan at any point during the weekend.  So instead I headed out on my half-assed budget approximation of a Rivendell (I call it the "Rivendon't") with the frame that's too small for me:

As cyclists we spend a lot of time fussing over every single bicycle component, but it's pretty hard to go wrong with a bike that has a leather saddle and 32mm tires.  It's an extremely comfy combo.  As far as ride quality goes, most of the rest of this stuff is incidental--including a frame that's on the small size.

That's why The Lord Our God created spacers.

Also, as I rode, I thought about this passage from that moronic Red Kite Prayer post and laughed repeatedly:

Maybe for the enthusiast it’s just obvious. Maybe because we do things that others simply can’t, we see no other option. We dive for corners, sprint for city limits, aggressively descend a local mountain. So it goes without question that some level of head protection is needed. 

It may be hard for some people to believe, but Freds really do take themselves that seriously.

(By the way, even with 32mm tires and a saddle made from a cow I totally won the city line sprint, though I guess I should disclose that I was riding by myself.)

Anyway, after everything Citi Bike came back on line sooner than expected:

Prompting the New York Times to ask the following question:

Which in turn prompted this guy to answer it:

If in 2015 you still don't think social media has revolutionized news delivery then I direct you to the exchange above.

How we lived without this sort of interaction for centuries I have no idea.

Speaking of that dumbass California helment law, did you know that in addition to helments you'd also have to wear reflective clothing?

This bill would require every person, regardless of age, to wear a bicycle helmet when operating a bicycle, riding on a bicycle as a passenger, or riding in a trailer towed by a bicycle. The bill would also require a person engaged in these activities in the darkness to wear retroreflective high-visibility safety apparel, as specified. Because a violation of this requirement would be a crime, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program.

Worst case scenario you'll have to dress like a member of a roadwork crew, and best case scenario you'll be wearing something like this:

Unless your name is Gary Fisher I doubt you'll be very pleased.

People make a big deal about how stupid Lycra get-ups look off the bike (and, arguably, on the bike), though unless you work at a Gatsby-era golf course I'm not sure how walking into the office dressed like this is any better:

Plus, you'll still need the helment, and the only thing that goes with those goofy suits are those helment hats they're always trying to foist on the "cycle chic" crowd:

I have to confess I sort of hope they pass this law, only because I've often dreamed of living in California, and if this goes through I can be thankful that I don't and move on with my life.

In other news, the Astana pro doping team denies that their license has been revoked, and since Astana lies about everything we can safely assume that it has:

“We’ve met all the obligations, we received the licence in December with the condition that we undergo an audit and that we serve as a demonstration team for the audit that all teams will go through at the beginning of 2017,” the team said. “And that we would implement the recommendations made by the audit, in order to serve as a model team. There was never any mention in the December licence issuance that the audit would determine whether or not we would keep the licence.”

Oh save it.

Now if the UCI revokes the license of every other WorldTour team as well they'll finally be getting somewhere.

Finally, if you're a terminal tridork or time-trial weenie, you should know that Specialized has recalled 8,300 aerobars:

Specialized dealers have been notified that the fix requires mechanics to swap to low-stack aero extension, which use two bolts, rather than a single bolt. This swap, Specialized claims, should put riders in a similar position, but if not, they can contact Specialized Rider Care.

I assume that the engineers failed to take into account the fact that the average recreational triathlete weighs something like four times as much as a professional, hence the single bolt design.  Someone really should swap the "Specialized Rider Care" number with the Rivendell phone number, because anybody riding an S-Works Shiv is undoubtedly a wealthy aging person in a heavy state of denial, and maybe Grant Petersen can talk them onto a Rivendell where they belong.

I've heard of talking somebody down, but at Rivendell they talk you up instead:

Friday, March 27, 2015

BSNYC Friday No Quiz Just Tedious Editorializing!

My Fellow Cyclists:

There is a creak in our metaphorical bottom bracket, and if we don't address it now it's only a matter of time before we squash our genitals on the Top Tube of Catastrophic Failure.

So what is this creaking?  Well, a California senator has introduced a bill for a mandatory bicycle helment law, and our beloved cycling media--which should be standing united against such nonsense in the interest of cyclists everywhere--is instead entertaining it, and in at least one case actually supporting it.

Now I don't care what your feelings on helment use are.  Maybe you're one of those people who thinks not wearing a bicycle helment is tantamount to suicide.  Maybe you're one of those people who refuses to wear one under any circumstances because they mess up your hair.  Or maybe you're like me and don't care much about your hair because you're losing it anyway, so you wear a helment when you're riding a go-fast bike in a special outfit but you don't bother when you're noodling around town in street clothes.

And don't tell me which one you are, because honestly I don't give a shit.

The point is that I have no problem with helments, but if you support a mandatory bicycle helment law then you are anti-cycling.  There, I said it.  You're a traitor.  A heretic.  Give up your bike and go lease a Hyundai, because you are playing right into the hands of your oppressors.  See, the Automotive Industrial Complex and their various lackeys need helment laws, and the last thing any self-respecting cyclist should do is help them.  Here's why:

They need everything to be your problem.

Really, we're practically there already, which is why you'll routinely read newspaper articles that say things like, "The cyclist's legs were crushed when the unlicensed operator lost control of his steamroller.  The victim was not wearing a helment."  So what if it's an irrelevant detail?  In America today, no helment = menace to society.

America may not be number one anymore when it comes to education, or health care, or overall quality of life, but you're goddamn right we lead the world in victim-blaming.  There's not anyplace else on the planet where people are more gleeful when the strong get one over on the weak.  If you don't understand this now, you certainly will when a driver hits you and you discover the entire system is built around shielding him or her from accountability.  You can thank the auto companies and AAA for that, among others.  (Do yourself a favor and read about the history of "jaywalking," a concept the auto industry more or less invented.  As for AAA, they're fighting against red light cameras not far from me even as I type this, on the basis that stopping for red lights causes rear-end collisions.)

Mandatory bicycle helment laws are just one more way of shifting responsibility away from the driver and onto you.  When I was hit from behind by a motorist who then lied to police about what happened, all her insurance company wanted to know was whether or not I was wearing a helment, even though my balding pate was completely unscathed.

Then, once the Automotive Industrial Complex has shifted all the blame onto you they can take it a step further and make it public policy. "Cycle tracks and so forth make cyclists safer and encourage more people to ride?  So what?  Make 'em wear plastic bumpers on their heads and be done with it."

Congratulations.  You're now a car fender.

If all of this is too complicated, let me explain your future in four (4) simple steps:
Yep, that's how it's all gonna go down.  It may sound crazy now, but 100 years ago nobody would have believed you could get arrested for crossing the street either.

So it would be nice to think that the cycling world would dismiss mandatory helment laws out-of-hand and stand united against them.  Sadly, they're not.  First, I saw this on the "Bicycling" website yesterday:

I realize this is supposed to be an objective point-counterpoint type thing, but why should we even entertain this "debate" in the first place?  What is this compulsion in American society to entertain dumb ideas?  It's like when we pretend creationism is a legitimate worldview so we don't offend the religious kooks.  (I realize "religious kooks" is redundant.)  Hey, I know the helme(n)t deba(n)te makes good clickbait, but some of these ideas are downright toxic:

During the summer of 2014, while riding on a road closed to auto traffic, I survived a collision with another cyclist, only because I was wearing a helmet. Without a helmet, the front of my head would have hit the ground at 28mph, unprotected.

Just several months before my crash, a car that ran a stop sign struck one of my friends while she was riding her bike. She had massive facial trauma, and continues to suffer long-term effects from going through the automobile’s windshield. She “coded” while on the helicopter ride to the hospital. The only reason she is around today: A helmet saved her life.

Okay.  Firstly, I'm glad everybody's alive and all that. were both wearing helments!!!  So why does it follow that we need a law?  By all means, wear a helment when you're cycling for "sport."  Granted, I don't know about the friend who got hit at the stop sign, but I'm going to guess that someone who works for "Bicycling" and is riding on a closed road at 28mph was not on a townie bike picking up radishes from the greenmarket.  Yet because he crashed while engaged in high-speed cycling someone who's cruising around in a sundress should have to wear safety gear as well?  Come on.

Comparing cycling to other recreational pursuits, we see that football players—at all levels—wear helmets to lessen the risk of brain injury. 

Leave it to someone at "Bicycling" to reduce cycling entirely to a recreational pursuit.  The sporting component of cycling is a small one, and USA Cycling makes you wear a helment when you compete anyway.  And holy shit, football?!?  The sport of football is based on people slamming into each other on purpose!  How is riding your bike around town even remotely like football--or any of these other sports?

This is also the case for baseball, hockey, horseback riding, and virtually every other sport that may involve some risk of personal injury.

You gotta be kidding me.  I'm pretty sure baseball players only wear helments when people are throwing 100mph fastballs directly at them.  As for hockey, it's fucking hockey!!!  I do give him bonus points for working equestrianism into the argument though.  Sure, if my bike weighed a thousand pounds and had four steel-shod hooves and a mind of its own I'd make sure to wear a helment too.  But the amount of times my bicycle got scared by one of its own farts and threw me is exactly zero.

Anyway, everybody knows "cycling is the new golf," so why not just compare it to that?  Do golfers wear helments when they're out on the links or zipping between holes in their golf carts?  I don't think so.

And here's where the argument gets really dangerous:

The next logical step would be for insurance companies to deny claims for those involved in a bicycling accident while not wearing a helmet. This could be avoided by mandating helmet use, saving both legal fees and lives.

So wait.  You actually want insurance companies to deny claims for victims because they weren't wearing helments?

Holy fuck that's cold.

Anyway, reading this in "Bicycling" was bad enough, but then someone tweeted this post from the Red Kite Prayer blog at me:

Bike advocate groups might consider what others see when they see us. They see people who run stop signs, weave in and out of traffic, ride in packs, take up a lane, and so on. It’s not a pretty picture. Sure, most of us are wearing helmets as we bend rules and traffic laws, but that’s not what the pissed off drivers see. So when they hear cyclists are opposed to a helmet law, it only furthers their belief that we are selfish, unpredictable and dangerous.

Maybe we let this one go. Let the lawmakers and drivers have this one without resistance. We got our 3-foot law in California, we can put up with a helmet law on the books. Pick you battles as they say. This is one fight we can easily walk away from.

Wow.  "Let this one go?"  Leave it to the Freds to sell the rest of us out.  Sure, they've got nothing at stake, since the helments already go with their outfits.  Essentially what he's saying is that because people get irritated by the local crabon weenie group ride every person who rides a bike for any reason should cop to the Foam Hat of Shame as some sort of penance or polystyrene bargaining chip.  

I swear these goddamn Freds will ruin cycling forever if you let them.

Make of that what you will.

So go ahead, call me irresponsible.  Tell your "My helment saved my life" stories.  Bow to the people who say you're statistically insignificant and don't deserve bike infrastructure, yet somehow vast numbers of brain-injured cyclists are destroying the American economy.  Let them pass a bicycle helment law to appease the non-cyclists who find us annoying.  (Yeah, I mentioned appeasement.  DON'T MAKE ME GO GODWIN!!!)  

Just don't come crying to me in 20 years when you need a license and registration to operate a bicycle, and you're wearing a giant Dayglo bodysuit with illumination circuitry, one of those "smart hats," and a GPS beacon up your ass so you don't get hit by an Apple car.

In fact, you won't be able to come crying to me, because I'll have emigrated to the Netherlands, where they'll have granted me political asylum.

The rest of you can enjoy your dystopian Australian future:

Heroes and football players.

They never ask why.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Spring Has Sprung, And I Think It Sprained Something

It's spring, which means the Human-Powered Daddy Shuttle (a.k.a. the "Smugness Flotilla"--or, according to the company that sells it, a "Surly Big Dummy") is running more frequently now:

I believe I took delivery of this bicycle sometime around March or April of 2010, which makes the bike five (5) years old this spring.  This is well beyond what most of the cycling media considers an appropriate period for a "long-term review."  In fact, I don't even think the cycling media considers it acceptable to own a bicycle for five years.  For the rest of us, however, five years means a bike is just getting broken in, so please allow me to update you.

This is a bike blog, we're gonna talk about bikes for a little bit, OK?

Here's what the bike looked like in the spring of 2010:

I added the pedals and the camping chair, but otherwise that's exactly how it came out of the box.

Since then, I have the following component changes or additions:

The bike would really benefit from a center stand but I've been to cheap and lazy to acquire and install one.

Oh, I also used one of these kiddie seats until my kid grew out of it:

And I have the Xtracycle WideLoaders for when shit gets real:

They are hugely helpful for carrying lots of stuff, but they have nailed me in the Achilles too many times:

The bike has been incredibly useful.  In fact, I'd go so far as to say it's been liberating, in the sense that you can pick up pretty much whatever you want when you're out and about without wearing a bag or giving any thought about how you're going to get it home.  (Within reason, of course.  I still take THE CAR THAT THE BANK OWNS UNTIL I FINISH PAYING THEM BACK to Ikea.  I have nothing to prove in that regard.)  Also, my kid can hop on the back and I can easily bring both him and his bike to the park--at least until he switches to the 20", which should be any day now.

As for maintenance, I do the absolute minimum, and considering the bike spends half the year outside and has exposed derailleurs and all the rest of it it's held up very well.  Since 2010, I have only replaced a shift cable, a bottom bracket, and the brake pads.  Ideally I should replace all the cables and housing, as the shifting is at about 80% right now, but it's not yet past my own personal laziness/action threshold for this particular bicycle.  (The chain and cassette should probably also be replaced, but I don't feel like doing that either.)  Also, incredibly, these are the original tires--though I should probably replace them this season as they're pretty worn, and I'm sure now that I've said something one of them is going to explode.

Otherwise, apart from the Mr. Whirly crank, which I personally find to be a bit fussy, the bike has given me nothing to think about.

Also, you need a place to keep it, which can be a challenge if you live in a city.  Mine lives outside until winter, at which point I keep it in the basement.  If I lived on a busy street in a 5th floor walk-up without a bike room then Big Dummy ownership might not be tenable.  (Or at least I'd need four or five locks and a motorcycle cover--which, as a former motorcycle owner, I can assure you is yet another thing people steal in this town.)

So now you're up to date.

In any case, in the spirit of doing only essential maintenance, yesterday I replaced the brake pads again, as the rear pads were shot and the front pads had maybe 10 wet downhill stops left on them:

Rest assured that, in the spirit of thriftiness, I replaced them with used pads I removed from my mountain bike after changing to a different pad compound.

It's good to once again be confident in the Smugness Flotilla's stopping capacity, because all around are signs of springs.  For one thing, the trash cans are blossoming:

In New York City, this is the universal sign for "pothole or sinkhole," and it's an exceedingly common sight this time of year.

Also, just this morning I was parking my bike:

When I spotted something in the distance:


What's more, that's not just any skunk.  That's clearly cartoon star Pepé Le Pew stalking his paramour:

("Permit me to introduce myself. I am Pepé Le Pew, your lover.")

As Dave Chapelle has famously pointed out, that really was a disturbing cartoon in retrospect.  They should have just called it "Pepe the Rape Skunk:

Anyway, like a spurned lover, Pepé ultimately retreated to his bachelor pad to watch skunk porn, and I retreated to my own abode to make the bike blog:

Admit it.  You clicked on the skunk porn.

Speaking of life in America's Most Bike-Friendly City according to "Bicycling" magazine, here's something that happened:

A black man riding his bike in the street swerved to avoid a car that actually hit him — he and his bike fell onto the sidewalk. An officer arrived on the scene and arrested him on the charges of bike on the sidewalk and resisting arrest because the man initially pushed back when the officer put his hand on him from behind and the man did not know it was a cop touching him. The officer cuffed and locked up the man — not bringing him to the hospital though the man complained about a severe pain in his leg. Held overnight in jail, the man refused to agree to a plea when he appeared in court because he had done nothing wrong. Upon his release by the judge — he has a later court date for his trial — the man went immediately to a hospital where doctors diagnosed and began treating his fractured leg. He’s now looking for a lawyer to represent him in the criminal case and another attorney to bring his lawsuit against the city for wrongful arrest among other claims.

Holy shit.

In reading this, I experienced a whole range of unpleasant emotions, none of which was surprise.  Sadly, the moral of the story is two-fold:

1) Be white whenever possible;
2) When a driver hits you while you're riding a bicycle as the law entitles them to do, be careful where you land.

Assuming you can do both these things, then sure, I suppose "Bicycling" was right.

Of course, none of this really matters, because in the future riding outside is going to be obsolete anyway and we're all going to ride virtually instead:

Yes, virtual reality face masks will soon be the new helment:

I wonder if they can make one that works while you're actually riding outside.  That way I could continue to live in New York, but my face mask would trick me into thinking I was in Portland.

Then, when a car sends me flying onto the sidewalk and the police arrest me, my virtual reality mask will make me think I'm being taken to a holistic day spa.

Lastly, here's something that's kind of clever:

Shock absorber handlebar BAM City from BARAMIND-BIKE on Vimeo.

See that?  It flexes!

Hey, if the thing is actually durable then I say they're onto something.  Maybe next they'll make a whole bike out of it.  They can call it the Gumby.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Your Wednesday Public Service Announcement: Please Stop With The Bluetooth Locks Already!

For some reason, would-be entrepreneurs continue to fundraise for keyless Bluetooth socially-networked bicycle locks, even though they're totally stupid.  If nothing else, at least these locks were at least marginally robust--until now.  Meet Kadalock, the world's most easily-defeated Bluetooth bicycle lock:

Are you freaking kidding me?

Not only is the cable itself gossamer thin, but the lock itself is attached to the goddamn water bottle cage!  Really, the only thing that makes this even slightly more effective than waiting for a spider to spin a web between your bike and the rack, or else just using dental floss, is that it has a motion-sensing alarm:

However, please keep in mind that in a big city nobody gives a shit about alarms of any kind, and in a small town if some busybody gets in your business while you're busy removing some sucker's water bottle cage then all you need to do is give them the finger and be on your way.

On the other end of the effectiveness spectrum is the "Litelok," to which I was recently alerted by the inventor:

I gotta say, it doesn't look too bad:

So let's see:

1) It's light;
2) It's strong (or at least it purports to be);
3) It looks a little bit more versatile than a U-lock;
4) It's mechanical.

If it's as strong as they say it is, and if you can also use it as a belt or a pant cuff retainer, then they may very well have designed themselves a winner.

Of course, if you prefer detective work to prevention, the other approach when it comes to combatting bike theft is tracking your bike.  This is where Bike Angel comes in:

Peter's genteel voice soothes and comforts me, so much so that I am only mildly concerned when he produces a caucasian flesh-colored object with somewhat phallic proportions:

"...this particular object will make your life so much easier."

Yeah, right.  Where I have I heard that before?

("Don't you a-worry.  Thees a-parteecular object a-gonna make-a you life sooo maaatch easier!")

Nine months later and suddenly life is exponentially more complicated.

Then Peter throws it over to his friend Eric, who is in bed with Julie:

Soon Eric falls asleep, at which point Julie tip-toes over to the drawer:

From which she withdraws a "3D printed prototype" of the phallic object Peter was holding earlier:

Holy shit, Eric's gonna get pegged in his sleep!!!

What the hell kind of Kickstarter is this, anyway?!?

The next morning, Eric is understandably sore while mounting his bicycle:

Meanwhile, Julie stalks him:

Thanks to the GPS transmitter embedded in his anus:

Jule tracks Eric to Amsterdam's notorious red light district:

("I'm just interested in some socks like the ones you've got.")

Julia then texts Eric and asks his whereabouts, and Eric replies with a bullshit answer:

(I'd have said I was at the Anne Frank house.)

Understandably pissed, Julie steals Eric's bike while he's inside trying on socks:

But she brings it back that evening and they kiss and make up, because after all, this is Amsterdam:

By that evening all is forgotten, and the cycle of pegging begins anew.

Speaking of hiding the sausage, here's an ideal solution for all your cured meat-portaging needs:

You can even use it on your Fredcycle:

It's great for carrying blood bags--and while we're on the subject of blood transfusions, one person who looks like she could use one is the exceedingly tired and ossified Fran Leibowitz, who a reader informs me recently made some comments on the subject of bicycles:

You know when George Plimpton died, someone told me, 'He was so eccentric. He used to ride his bike in a suit and tie!' and it drove me crazy. I said, 'What's eccentric is the bicycle. Everyone here used to wear suits and it was lovely! But only children rode bicycles.' The trademark of New York City fashion used to be that we dressed more seriously here. More formally. Now people need special costumes to ride bicycles. I mean, a helmet, what, are you an astronaut??

I'm not sure what point she's trying to make here, though she's gone on record before about how she thinks riding bikes is "childish."  (I imagine Bill Cunningham would beg to differ.)  Also, everybody knows George Plimpton rode a Y-Foil:

My predecessor George Plimpton was known for cycling around New York on his Trek Y-foil before it was either cool or safe (before, some would say, it was sane).

Inadvertently tricking the Paris Review into thinking George Plimpton rode one of these contraptions is undoubtedly the high point of my bike blogging career:

I mean come one, everybody knows Plimpton really rode one of these:

Granted, it does look a bit like a Y-Foil, so I suppose it's an honest mistake.

Lastly, in their continuing effort to clean up cycling (one akin to cleaning an oil spill with a Q-tip), the UCI checked 36 bikes for motors at Milan-San Remo:

Cyclingnews understands that 11 Trek bikes from the Trek Factory Racing team, 11 Specialized bikes from Etixx-Quick Step and 11 Specialized bikes from Tinkoff-Saxo were checked by the UCI in a special tent erected in the bus parking area. The bikes of the three podium finishers: John Degenkolb (Giant), Alexander Kristoff (Canyon) and Michael Matthews (Scott) were also checked in the podium area. Gazzetta dello Sport reported that bikes from the Astana were also tested, but the team has told Cyclingnews that their bikes were not.

Laugh if you will, but I have no doubt somebody's doing it:

Come on, that bike is so motorized.