Tuesday, April 15, 2014

You Can't Spell "Innovation" Without "In," "Vat," or "On." Think About It.


Innovation is the driving force behind the bicycle.  So vital is innovation to the cycling industry that there's a company whose motto is "Innovate Or Die."  I can't remember who it is though.  I think maybe it's Cannondale.  Or is it Trek?

Doesn't matter really, it's all the same crap.

Anyway, innovation is what brought us from the pennyfarthing:

To the "safety bicycle:"

And then for a brief period back to the pennyfarthing, only with three wheels:

After that innovation stood still, trackstanding in time like a fakenger at  a red light that never changes.

Until now.

Thanks to the Internet, and in particular the popularity of crowd-sourced funding or whatever you call it, we have entered a new golden age of bicycling innovation fueled by the creative energy of people who have been riding bikes for months, and in some cases even a handful of years, though more often than not, I suspect, not at all.  Consider the work of Null Winds Technology:

No, "Null Winds" is not an insult, like "dim bulb" or "numbskull."  Null Winds is the cutting-edge think tank behind "Upper Wheel Fairings," which are basically skirt guards for Freds:

"For decades, the bicycling industry has been focussed on improving aerodynamics for the benefit of racing, where the use of fairings is strictly forbidden.  The rest of us, however, need not adhere to this senseless drag-inducing restriction."

As a potential investor (yeah, right), three (3) questions leap immediately to mind, and they are as follows:

1) If Freds won't put fenders on their bikes, what makes this null wind think they'll spoil the "elegant lines" of their plastic dork chariots with these?

2) What about crosswinds?

3) If you don't care about racing, why solicit endorsements from "Cat 2s?"

(What, you couldn't have found a Cat 1?  Give 'em a pair of free tires and they'll say just about anything.)

Love the Cat 2's use of "it is my conclusion," by the way.  That always makes you sound smart.

Anyway, even Freds who don't race should at least loosely adhere to the "senseless drag-inducing restriction" of racing, in the same way people who play pick-up basketball in the park need to adhere to the "senseless shortness-inducing restriction" of not being allowed to wear stilts.  Otherwise, what's to stop your local Sunday group ride from turning into an all-out recumbent freak-fest?

Fairings are only the beginning, so if you see them on your ride stomp them out immediately, lest you find yourself horizontal by next season.

Another part of the bicycle benefitting from both mental flatulence and rider inexperience is the so-called "clipless pedal:"

Like all Kickstarter inventions, this one has a backstory of mild incompetence behind it, and like all Kickstarter inventors, this one rides a Specialized:

Here's that story:

"I started mountain biking five years ago and I found myself struggling to clip into my pedals."

First of all, if you are still having trouble clipping into a pair of halfway decent mountain bike pedals after five years of riding then perhaps clipless pedals aren't for you.  Not that there's anything wrong with that, by the way!  Sure, clipless pedals have their benefits in certain situations, but if you find them to be a pain in the ass just ditch them and be done with it.

But common sense is not the hallmark of the Kickstarter inventor.  Instead, he also uses clipless pedals for his commute, where they really don't do shit for you:

"The more time I spent looking down at my pedals, the less time I spent paying attention to hazards on the road."

A couple of points:

1) Clipping into your pedals is like carrying a beverage from the bar back to your table.  The best way to do it successfully is to not look down;

2) If you're futzing with your clipless pedals to the extent that you risk getting hit by a car, you should not only consider a move to flat pedals, but you also might want to consider leasing a Hyundai in the interim.

But hey, if the mountain won't come to Fred, invent a little foot clitoris instead:

Apparently it's called the "Infinity Pedal," though I think the "Hot Spot" would be a better name:

(Platform schmatform.)

Also, the spring is conveniently exposed to the elements, which is exactly what you want in an all-terrain pedal:

Really, how do you market a mountain bike pedal without at least one image of the thing actually functioning in mud?

Then again, it did win an award--in Utah no less--so perhaps my concerns are unwarranted:

Also, apparently a huge number of people have similar trouble clipping into the many, many, many excellent clipless pedal options already on the market, because he's raised a shitload of money:

It's a real testament to the power of bicycle marketing that so many people who would clearly be much more happy and comfortable on simple platform pedals nevertheless insist on attaching themselves to their bicycles.

Penultimately, what do you think when you read this?

Triathlonbox - A British solution to Triathlon box juggling

Do you think engineering elegance?  Of course you don't!  "Triathlon?"  "British solution?"  Oh boy, this is gonna be ugly:

Leave it to the British to figure out how to convert a time trial bike into a bakfiets:

"No longer do you have to struggle with your box," says the video, and nor do you have to struggle to find a sordid double meaning in that sentence:

And check out those enthusiastic endorsements:

Good idea – Joe Friel - writer of Triathletes Training Bible (via Twitter)

Good idea indeed:

Lastly, Stephane in Munich informs me that you can now buy an appropriate balance bike for your "status child:"

Actually, they should offer that in adult sizes too.  It's a perfect solution for all those people having pedal trouble.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Title Of This Post Contains A Code That Will Unlock The Secrets of The Universe.

Paris-Roubaix!  So how exciting was that?

No, really, how exciting was it?  I didn't watch it.  Was it a lot exciting, a little exciting, or no exciting?  Did the riders go bouncy-bouncy on the cobbledy-stones?  Did people in shants take tedious close-up photos of their Belgian beer labels?  (Pro Tip: once you're over 21 there's absolutely nothing noteworthy about purchasing and consuming beer.)  Did they then share those same photos on Instagraham even though nobody gives a shit?  (Instagrahams are my very most favoritest breakfast cereal--after Froot Loops, of course.)  How did the Spartacus do?

(That nickname gives me the douche chills, as does Cancellara himself.)

What about Spocktopus?

(They call him Spocktopus because of his pointy ears and prehensile tentacles.)

Also, here's a fun fact: Raymond Impanis, who finished 10th place in the 1959 edition of Paris-Roubaix, used to play a "stunt nun" in the movies:

His last stunt role was in the 2007 Belgian blockbuster "The Nun Who Won Paris-Roubaix," which won sixteen "Pots Belge" (a "Pot Belge" is a Belgian Academy Award) that year, including "Best Graphic Sex" for what has since come to be known as the second-most infamous shower scene after the one in "Psycho:"

For a scene in which a nun has spirited sexual intercourse with the 120-odd fellow finishers of the "Hell of the North," it's surprisingly poignant and profoundly introspective, and also somehow a metaphor for the human condition, because all "foreign" films are a metaphor for the human condition.

Of course, spring doesn't just mean pretending to get excited about the Classics so your fellow cyclists think you're cool.  It's also about renewed interest in "cycle chic" or whatever it's called, and here's a strange video on the subject narrated by a pod person who ate the brain of a newsreel narrator from the 1940s:

I like to think I know a thing or two about on-the-bike fashion.  For example, here's me wearing a Smurf hat and resting my foot on my top tube for no discernible reason:

Here's me clenching my jaw so passers-by can simultaneously admire my sculpted beard and feel bad about how schlubby they look:

And here's me moments after my papa took my training wheels off and I pedaled a two-wheeler all by myself for the very first time:

(The excessive reach and width of the bars makes him look like a puppy trying to stay upright on an over-waxed linoleum floor.)

I can assure you I never looked back, and indeed I kept going all the way to the salon for my bikini-waxing appointment, where I crashed right through the window.

Anyway, given my sartorial bona-fides, I had one problem with the video, which was the helments:

It makes me sad when people think they can look good in helments by wearing colorful plastic hats instead.  To date, nobody has succeeded in designing an urban cycling helment that looks less dorky than a racing helment, and that includes this thing:

What is that?  He looks like like he should be playing (American) football for Yale in 1916.

Of course, one tactic is to distract people from your goofy helment hat by donning another garment that is even more comical, such as this bright red rain cape:

He looks like the Magnificent Frigatebird attempting to attract a mate.

I did get one good idea from this video though, which was to install a rolltop desk on my own bicycle:

That way I can finally make the shift from digital blogger to analogue bloggeur.  Starting in two weeks my blogging posts will be written entirely in pen and ink, and I will send them to subscribers via post, at least until such time as I can implement a Kickstarter campaign for a fleet of carrier pigeons with which to disseminate my missives.

Most of all though, this video made me miss those intense London Cat 6 scrums:

Having ridden my bicycle all over the world, I can tell you that nobody Cat 6es more intensely than Londoners:

By the way, I'm still trying to figure out how I actually took a photograph in London without catching at least 16 Bromptoneers.

Meanwhile, here in Canada's infected black market butt implant, the new thing is glow-in-the-dark fixie bikes:

“They don’t plan ahead for the capital needs of the business, and consequently they’re racing to make up lost ground,” Mr. Grousbeck says. “They start the fire drill, saying, ‘Let’s get it from my uncle and your cousin and the person down the street and the dentist.’ ”

The founders stopped short of asking their dentists for money, but they did seek loan guarantees and advice from their parents, some of whom are entrepreneurs themselves.

Wow.  Pretty dumb not to hit up the dentist.  They're pretty flush now that Serotta has gone out of business.

Friday, April 11, 2014

BSNYC Friday Juice Cleanse!

I admit I enjoy giving Specialized a hard time, but I also have to give credit where credit is due, because the Scarlet "S" has now invented a mesh mountain biking midriff bra that reaches near-triathlete levels of sheer dorkiness:

The SWAT line from Specialized was launched last summer. SWAT stands for storage, water, air, tools, and is Specialized’s buzzword for ditching your hydration pack, bento box, and other unsightly accessories. The SWAT clothing system centers around these bib short liners, regular (non-bib) short liners, and a baselayer — all with pockets, so you don’t have to wear a road jersey over it.

So hydration packs and the like are unsightly, but somehow a form-fitting fanny pack is not?

Of course, law enforcement agencies have been using "SWAT" for years, and it stands for "Special Weapons And Tactics."  However, Specialized's lawyers were able to successfully argue that the police can no longer do so, since the acronym contains the word "Special."  Therefore, "SWAT" now applies entirely to Specialized's new off-road Barney corset, and law enforcement will have to make do with a revised acronym:

It stands for "Tactical Weapons And Tactics."

Hey, what do you want?

Specialized didn't give them very much time to rebrand themselves.

Speaking of living in a police state, here in America the surest sign your city is in decline is the presence of both homelessness and bicycles--at least according to this photograph:

Admittedly, bikes are mentioned nowhere in the article, though I did puzzle over this:

“Year by year, our city — which once was a beacon of innovation and opportunity to the world — is becoming less livable,” the report said.

Los Angeles a "beacon of innovation and opportunity?"  When was that exactly?

Meanwhile, while LA crumbles, Manhattan is becoming so prosperous that people are having "status children:"

Yes, the third child is now the "status child," where have you been?  Furthermore:

“Now children don’t have a lot of utilitarian value anymore,” he said. “Kids are like status symbols, or a very expensive pet or hobby.”

By the way, if you're wondering why so few Americans continue using bicycles as transportation into adulthood, it's because even parents with extra kids won't let their offspring ride a three-wheeled plastic scooter on the sidewalk at walking speed without strapping a foam dunce cap to their heads first.

I guarantee you that in ten years full-grown human adults will be wearing helments just to pull their wheeled suitcases through the airport terminal.

Speaking of the future, National Geographic says that Americans will all be beautiful interracial Benetton models by 2050:

Which is a complete load of crap, because everybody knows this is what Americans will look like in 2050:

By the way, that's the "status child."  They already ate the first two.

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 wet your pants slightly with excitement, and if you're wrong you'll see grace.

Thanks very much for reading, ride safe, and may all your status children be delicious.

--Wildcat Rock Machine

1) Which "Cobbled Classic" will take place this Sunday?

--L'Enfant du Nord
--The 98th Annual Great American Peach Cobbler Bake-Off!

2) What are these?

--"Pedal Pockets"
--Rotor carriers
--Insulated top tube musettes
--SPD-compatible doggie socks

3) What is this?

--The "Helmet Jacket"
--The "Wheel Satchel"
--The "Bike Poncho"
--The "Velo-Leche" Cycling-Specific Sports Nursing Bra

4) What is this?

--An on-the-bike sunglasses holder
--An awesome robotic space insect from the planet Crabon
--A Tridorkian brainfart
--All of the above

5) What does this button do?

--Shifts your rear derailleur
--Emits a 175 decibel blast of deafening sound to alert motorists to your Fredness
--Broadcasts your location via GPS so your spouse can pick you up when you get a flat
--Makes your helment go pee-pee on your head

This change comes at the behest of a well known bike company. According to their lawyers the ALIZE name was too close to one of their trademarked bike names and, as such, we need to stop using it.

6) What was this trademarked brand name?

--No particular brand name, it's just a form letter Specialized sends out to all the other bike companies every six months

7) A moronic Brooklyn community board member actually believes there's a "War on Cars" because he's a moron.


***Special This-Would-Really-Be-Much-More-Useful-On-Adult-Bikes-Themed Bonus Video***

Just imagine having a master switch that could stop all the Freds...

Thursday, April 10, 2014

What A Load: Bike Blogging About Bikes Because This Is A Blog About Bikes

After hocking the loogie that was yesterday's post onto the subway tracks that are the Internet, I saddled up and pedaled off, and the ride home from the café wasn't too shabby either:

Moving out of Brooklyn was the smartest thing I've done in a long time--though admittedly that doesn't mean much, since almost everything I do is dumb, so in my life the bar for smart sits pretty low.

Maybe one day I will organize the Wildcat Rock Machine New York City Anti-Fondo--though I probably won't.

Also, if yesterday's ride wasn't baronial enough for you, keep in mind that I also rode my kid to Apple Inc. child labor camp on either end of it, meaning I changed bikes twice, which pushes yesterday's cycling exploits up into the realm of the über-baronial:

Hey, I live in the New York City hill country, so that little commute is no joke, and I'm easily pushing something like 400 Imperial Fuck-Tonnes of leather, metal, and plastic each way.  I have to bring the little kiddie bike all the time too, because despite my best efforts to discourage my child from riding he loves to do it anyway.  Hopefully I can at least steer him away from the path to Fred-dom on which I wasted so many years and dollars, though I suppose our progeny live to spite us, and I dread one day catching him shaving his legs and applying "embro" while pedaling away on rollers and watching "Breaking Away" in his Google Monocle or whatever people are using to watch movies on by then.

Speaking of Big Dummies (both myself and the bike), I've had one for something like four years now.  In that time, it's become an indispensable part of my life.  So, while it may still be a little early for an actual "long-term review" (check back with me in ten more years), I think that at least an update is warranted.  (By the way, Surly did not ask me to do this.  I don't think I've been in touch with anyone from Surly in like three years.  I just figured someone might find this useful, and I like to think I'm the only bike blogger on the Internet who uses a piece of cycling equipment for more than six months.)

Here's what the bike looked like when I took delivery of it in, I believe, 2010:

That's pretty much exactly how it came out of the box, apart from the pedals, which weren't included.

In that time, I have made the following changes or additions (not counting bell and lights and little bric-a-brac like that):

--Ergon Dork-O-Matic Labia Grips;
--Xtracycle Peapod and plastic snapdeck thingy (the kid has nearly outgrown the Peapod, soon I can just sit him on the bench and be done with it);
--Xtracycle WideLoaders (you take them on and off as needed, they are handy but tend to clip parked cars and slam you in the Achilles tendon if you're not careful);
--A Brooks saddle, which has held up just fine despite spending a good portion of its life outside, and which has conformed lovingly to the contours of my scranus:

(You just barfed.)

I have not made the following changes out of cheapness and laziness, which I really, really should:

--A center stand

Seriously, using a cargo bike with only a kickstand is a major pain in the ass.  I'm an idiot for putting up with it for this long, having dumped the bike while loading it more than once, fortunately never with a human child on board.

I have also not made and will probably never make the following very expensive fantasy changes, which are not even remotely necessary but which would be really nice to have:

--A Rohloff hub, or at least some kind of robust internally geared thingy (this bike sits outside a lot and such a thing would probably better handle that level of neglect);
--Some kind of electrical assist (I admit it, now that I live in the New York City hill country it would be pretty nice to have).

As far as maintenance, I've done as little as possible, and everything has held up very well despite that.  I have not touched the hubs, and last I checked the bearings were still smooth.  I have not changed the chain, chainrings, or cassette, and they're fine.  The Surly bottom bracket it came with developed some play I could not get rid of, but I replaced it with a used bottom bracket from my parts bin and it's been fine ever since.  Obviously, I've changed the brake pads.  As far as cables, I have replaced only the rear derailleur cable once, though all the cables and housings are overdue for replacement.  (The rear shifting is the first thing to go when the bike sits outside in the rain, thanks in part to the half-mile cable run.)  Incredibly, I have not yet needed to change the tires, even the rear.  I don't know if this is because they're incredibly durable, or if it's because having the rear wheel 500 feet from your posterior instead of right under it makes it wear more slowly.  The wheels in gestalt have been problem-free, and I've ridden the bike as pictured above, fully loaded with both kiddie bike and actual kid, over multiple railroad ties without any problems apart from ejecting random stuff from the cargo bags.  (Parenting tip: kids love riding over railroad ties.)

In short, the Big Dummy is as robust as it is long and green, though I really should do a complete overhaul this spring, because it needs new cables and it's ticking from somewhere, and there are probably also squirrels living in it.

Anyway, if you're considering a bike like this maybe you'll find some of the above useful.  I'll also add that, if you like to ride bikes and you have kids, a bike like this that is somewhat "sporting" and that your child can also fall asleep on will do wonders for your quality of life.

If you don't have kids, stick to your 7-hour Fred rides.

Lastly, here's an invention that's completely gratuitous, even by Kickstarter standards:

Good lord!  It took a year to invent a freaking pedal-cozy?!?  Can't you just put an old sock on it?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

This Just In Part II: I Rode A Bike For A Short Time And Lived To Tell About It!

I file this dispatch from a café north of New York City:

Where I am enjoying a light lunch and sipping a coffee that is bigger than your head:

(See how it dwarfs the Orangina?)

As I hinted this morning, I undertook an exploratory mission of the sort only the most intrepid cyclists would dare attempt.  Four score and seven years ago, in 1492, Henry Hudson and his comic sidekick Ferdinand Magellan set out from Scotland to discover the Northwest Passage, and in the Process they discovered Canada.  Or something.

My own mission was no less daunting, and the implications just as far-reaching.  My quest?  To pioneer a short cut to the mountain bike trails through the mall.

Now that spring has sprung, so has my metaphorical "boner" for bike riding, and a foray this past weekend proved that which I had begun to suspect: the mountain bike trails are finally dry.  I am fortunate to live in a part of New York City that allows me to access mountain bike trails by bicycle in under an hour.  Ordinarily, I ride to these trails using one of two (2) routes:

1) The route that is approximately 75% dirt and 85% motorized traffic-free;

2) The slightly faster route that is approximately 10% dirt and 90% motorized traffic-free.

Both of these routes involve riding north and then east to the northernmost portion of the park, where there's a parking lot and a trailhead.

However, I have long suspected that by cutting through the giant mall that sits like a boil of commerce on the park's southwestern end, I could cut out a few miles and begin my baronial all-terrain bicycling adventures that much sooner, thus facilitating increased numbers of mid-week "hookie" rides that might otherwise be spent astride the Fredcycle.

Brimming with optimism and Froot Loops, I selected a suitable expedition bicycle, and off I went:

(When you're sneaking off for a mid-week ride, you don't have time to do stupid stuff like match your water bottles.)

I also mounted the Fly6 camera so that, in the event of my demise, future generations could learn from my exploits when they discovered my corpse.

The mall in question is an outdoor one that's supposed to look like an actual town, and it sits on a high ridge between two major highways.  It was built not too long ago by the developer who also did the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, and it was in the press quite a bit because it owes its existence to the worst sort of bribery and corruption.  It will not surprise you to learn it's also 150% car-centric, and that it's a temple to the most vapid sort of American and imported consumerism, containing as it does an Apple Store, a Lego Land, a Uniqlo, lots of fake-fancy restaurants with waiters that recite their dialogue from scripts, and even a Whole Foods.

We shop there all the time.

The question at hand now though was whether I'd make it through alive on a bicycle, and leaving the bike path early I climbed the giant, shoulder-less road to the top of Mt. Commerce:

Despite the token bike racks here and there I can assure you one feels highly out of place on a bicycle here:

By the way, that green thing is a Bose speaker piping in popular music.  (I think it was playing 21st century U2 at that moment.)  It plays throughout the complex to silence your thoughts, mute your soul, and remind you you're living a completely ersatz existence.

As I turned onto the "main street," I noticed police activity and EMTs pushing a stretcher:

Someone must have shopped 'til they dropped.

The "main street:"

Depressingly, not only can you shop here, but you can also live here:

Just imagine how inspiring it would be to live in a shopping mall and take all your evening meals at the Cheesecake Factory:

Here's a Fly6 still of this serene lunar retailscape:

Just a Mercedes, a dork on a mountain bike, and tumbleweeds made from fast food wrappers and money.

At the northern end of the mall is a gate which opens out into the park containing the mountain bike trails, the only way to access this giant park from this giant mall:

It happens to be right behind an REI, so I went inside to buy an inner tube, because you can never have too many inner tubes:

My heart dropped.  Five miles to the bike shop???

Thank goodness it was just a clever merchandising display, and I leaned my bike on a Thule display and selected the appropriate tube for my bicycle:

Smugly, I asked the kid who took my money whether I could access the mountain bike trails from here, assuming he'd have no idea there was singletrack right on the other side of the parking lot.

He gave me detailed directions to the gate without missing a beat.

So I rode across the parking lot:

Wheeled my bike through the gate:

And immediately I was on the trail, the mall retreating into the background:

Never has it felt so good to feel mother nature's rocky bosom beneath my Internet mail order discount closeout tires:

I am not one of those tread weenies.  My criteria for selecting mountain bike tires is that they're vertically round and laterally on sale.  If they're wide and have some bumps on them they'll probably do fine.

By the way, if you're an American when you're in the shopping mall, what are you when you're in the woods behind the shopping mall?

You're a-peein'!

I'm the first person ever in the world to make that joke.

By the way, it's really creepy watching these videos, because it totally looks like surveillance camera footage of a murder suspect:

Anyway, I'm pleased to report I made it through all my "trouble spots" without having to touch Sidi to soil.  None of these sections look especially difficult, mostly because they aren't.  For example, I made it through the slightly-off-camber rocky section:

The rocky switchback section:

(You have to take that one wide:)

The extremely daunting "passing other riders heading downhill" section:

(Just kidding, they were both friendly and considerate.)

And even the "big" (for me) climb:

On top of which I collapsed onto the nearest logpile:

Where I sat panting and staring at my feets:

(I wear socks from cool people because I wish I was.)

Then the murderer returned to his bike, the slight fisheye effect of the Fly6 emphasizing his portly physique:

After recovering I enjoyed a few spirited rock-humping whoop-dee-doos:

Then I showed the Fly6 my nose hairs and turned it off:

After which I headed down to the café, which I'll leave just as soon as I finish this giant coffee in six hours.