Wednesday, May 4, 2016

I'm Number One! (With an asterisk.)

When you're A) a book author with a new book out and 2) completely full out of yourself, you can't help visiting the website of a certain retail behemoth named after a river to see how it's doing.  Well imagine my delight when I learned that I've got A BEST SELLER!


...in bike repair:


Which is the literary equivalent of winning the Cat 6 KOM on the Manhattan Bridge during the morning rush hour, and Brooklyn-bound at that.

As for how my new book stacks up against the rest of the cycling world's prosaic efforts, I'm sitting in a respectable fifth position:

Though of course the book just came out yesterday, so I'm basically the recently upgraded rider who burned all his matches to get into the break, and who will probably slip right out the back of it again and out of the pack altogether in short order.

Nevertheless, in the meantime I'm reveling in my temporary celebrity by doing stuff like bloviating on podcasts:


I'm very grateful to Fat Cyclist for inviting me on his show, and somewhat less grateful that he posted this photo of us taken at a bar in Brooklyn some years back:


I may never live down the humiliation of wearing a Rapha jacket in public.

Speaking of my book, which is all I currently care about, I continue to receive nit-picky bike dork comments about the front fender on the cover because bike dorks can't shut up about that sort of thing.  Therefore, in the spirit of the software update, I'm officially releasing a downloadable patch:


If you really can't stand that front fender, simply print out the above image and glue it to your book.

Problem solved.

Now shut up.

Of course, even when you're the Number One Best-Selling Author In Bike Repair (no mean feat considering the book's not even really about bike repair), people still take advantage of you.  Consider this Garmin ad in Bicycling that invokes Fred "Woo-hoo-hoo-hoo!" speed without crediting your's truley:


(Photo via Peter)

I realize I've mentioned this before, and I also realize I've got a somewhat inflated sense of myself, but there's no way that 46mph is a coincidence.  Frankly, I think they missed a fantastic marketing opportunity by not paying me to be in the ad.  Come on, me dressed as Bret and flying down a mountain pass with a great big "Oh shit!" look on my face?  They'd sell a zillion of those goddamn Fred computers, guaranteed.

Indeed, by appearing in an advertisement in a glossy magazine I'd be realizing a lifelong dream--as I would if I got a chance to ride with Mario Cipollini:



Have you got a few hours to spare this Thursday (May 5)? Can you get to London with your bike? If so, head to London Zoo for midday and you can ride with the legendary Mario Cipollini.

Wow!  London is possibly my favorite city in the world besides New York--and come to think of it New York is an overpriced shithole so I guess that means London is my favorite city period.  (Or "full stop" as they say over there, see what an Anglophile I am?)  So to ride in it with Mario Cipollini would be truly sublime.  To that end, I'm launching a Kickstarter in order to get myself to London by tomorrow.  Here are the rewards:

Pledge $5: I send you a terse thank you and pocket the money.
Pledge $10: I send you a terse thank you and buy myself a drink at a bar.
Pledge $100: Now we're getting somewhere.
Pledge round-trip first class airfare on a top-tier carrier: I ride shirtless and covered in olive oil as an homage to Cipollini and return with a sample of his semen you can use for breeding purposes.  (You provide semen shipping container, available here at a discount, simply use discount code CIPO at checkout.)

By the way, if you're wondering why they're meeting at the zoo, Cipollini keeps a pied-à-terre there where he puts himself on display in exchange for free rent:


(Cipollini relaxing in his enclosure during a recent visit to London.)

Meanwhile, in bike tech news, BikeRadar wants you to know that if you complain about all these stupid new bike component standards then there's something wrong with you:


Which is odd, because if you read the article it goes on to complain about exactly the same thing we've all been complaining about:

Nonstandard standards

The biggest real charge that can be levelled against ‘the industry’ is the widespread mistake of calling every new measurement a standard. Created a bottom bracket that’s 3mm wider than all the others? It’s misleading and inaccurate to tell everyone this is a revolutionary new standard. It is, in fact, an awkward new measurement.

Funnily enough, marketing departments don’t fancy printing Awkward New Measurement all over the down tube – not even ANM Technology – so they tend to write something else. They really should stop with the ‘standard’ thing, though.

Yeah, no shit.  We're not complaining about the stuff that works and is better.  We're complaining about the stupid bottom bracket shells that sound like Mario Cipollini cracking his knuckles before an "epic" wank.

Penultimately, remember the Frontal Aerospoke Craze of the Early Aughts?

Well, it's back--and it's motorized!



Now you can launch yourself off the curb at 20mph, which seems like a really great idea:


Though I hope you'll be able to stop the thing with your paltry rim brakes:


Lastly, I was reading the following obituary in the New York Times:


And though I wasn't familiar with the artist I was intrigued to learn she created a piece called "Lick the Tire of My Bicycle," which one article describes thusly:

In “Lick the Tire of My Bicycle”, 1974, legs sprout from colorful buttocks on bicycle seat that are a target of a gun held by a hand that on is mirrored on the opposite side by a hand growing from a hairy phallus. The zippy ardor of the colored pencil striations in purple, orange and pink contrast with the dark violence of bullets, penetration and explosive, coercive sexuality. An ugly John Wayne rides a child’s pony like a carousel horse, with pistol cocked and the horn of his saddle obscenely erect. Close inspection of most of the iconic figures reveal critical details: Marisol likes to open doors to celebrity culture’s dark closet of skeletons.

I think I just found the design for the new BSNYC jersey.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Happy Pub Day To Me!

Whelp, today's the day, my new book is officially out:


(My new book, which is officially out.)

Amazon?  Sure.
B and N?  Why not?
iTunes?  Holy crap, we live in the future!
Your local independent bookseller?  Abso-freaking-lutely.
A Walz cap combo?  Coming soon, baby!

And so on.

Speaking of your local independent bookseller, if yours is Little City Books in Hoboken I hope to see you there this Saturday:


Look at that, there's a whole other city right next to ours with a subway and everything, who knew?

Anyway, my book could not possibly be more essential, for yesterday I was browsing our little kiddie tablet with the youngest of my 6.022140857 × 10 23 children when, to my utter shock, this popped up:


Yep, that's Bret all right:


And as much as I admire his preternatural ubiquity it's horrifying to think that the next generation of "connected" children will grow up thinking this is what a bicycle is.  So as far as I'm concerned the only solution is to pour as much sensible advice as possible on top of this conflagration of misinformation, so that one day we may extinguish the flames of velocipedal ignorance forevermore.

Or something.

Though I must admit I'll take Bret's brand of goateed time-trialling over this contraption any day:

Yes, for too long our arms have been idle, or at best performing unnecessary tasks such as braking or controlling the bike.  Now they have been freed from the tyranny of uselessness by the TwiCycle:



No longer will the left hand not know what the right hand is doing, because it will be helping to pedal the bike along with the right hand, praise Jesus!

This does pose some linguistic problems though, since of course "pedal" comes from the Latin root Ped, meaning "foot," so you can't really pedal with your hands now, can you?  Meanwhile the Latin word for hand is manus, so I guess technically you could call it "manipulating," but that implies being skillful, which nobody who would opt to ride such a contraption could possibly be.  Perhaps then it's simplest just to replace Ped with Man and call pedaling with your hands "manaling," which coincidentally is one letter away from what it looks like you're doing when you're riding this thing:


See how when you're manaling hard you're bent over with your shoulders heaving rhythmically like you're churning buttermilk?


Of course you do.

By the way, I could very well be wrong, but that looks a lot like the Fred Stretch on Key Biscayne just over the causeway from Miami.  If you've ever been there it makes makes complete and utter sense that the TwiCycle was born there, since it's just that sort of flat, monied monotony that allows the mind to wander into horrible ideas like this one.

I also enjoyed the FAQ:

Do I always have to use both legs and arms?

You can use only legs… only arms…or any combination of those. The arms drive the front wheel and the legs drive the back wheel completely independent of each other. Also the handlebars can be locked in position turning TwiCycle into a normal bike.

Sorry, nothing could turn that into a normal bike.

Plus, as I understand it the "Q" in "FAQ" is supposed to mean "Question," but some of the FAQs aren't even Qs at all, they're just confrontational statements:

Watch when that chain gets caught in the front wheel!

Watch when the back chain gets caught too!

The front wheel drive mechanism is no different to a normal rear wheel mechanism and this has been tried and tested for a 100 years. The risks are the same as for any other standard bicycle.

It's alarming that anybody designing any kind of a bicycle is unaware of how much more disastrous it is to lock up the front wheel than the rear.  If 100 years from now that stupid front wheel derailleur doesn't get stuck in the spokes and send someone flying over the bars then we can talk.

Anyway, later on in the FAQ they do start asking Qs again, only those Qs are now directed towards the Q-er, which is exactly the opposite of what an FAQ is supposed to be:

Is this meant to make cycling easier? Literally see no point in this?

The point is to exercise your ARMS and upper body which you can’t do with a normal bicycle.

Also great for climbing hills as you can take over with arms once your legs get tired.

Another benefit is extra speed and in a mountain bike version better traction!

TwiCycle is currently one of the very few sports which allow FULL body exercise. There is no muscle on your body that you can’t put to use.

They really should have called this section "FDRITFORQ"  (or Frequent Defensive Retorts In The Form Of Rhetorical Questions).

Given this sort of nonsense it's hard not to conclude that all the good bike ideas were used up 50 years ago, but believe it or not here's a Kickstarter for something I actually kind of want:



My first thought was "Great, just what the world needs, more crabon," but then I watched the video.  Apparently you just clip this rack onto any road bike here:


And here:


And you're ready to go:


Hey, if that works like they say it does I'd certainly find lots of good use for it on the old Fred Sled.  Clearly I'm not alone either, because there's 28 days to go and already people have funded the fuck out of this thing:


Nicely done.

Seems like this crabon Fred rack could be just the ticket for taking advantage of Amtrak's new carry-on bike service:


Cyclists who long to ride amid the mountain air of New England this spring and summer will soon have an easy way to get there.

Beginning May 1, Amtrak will offer carry-on bike service, allowing passengers to ride in designated cars outfitted with bike racks on its Vermonter line, which operates each day between Washington, D.C., and St. Albans, Vt., with stops in cities including Philadelphia, New York, Hartford, Conn., Springfield, Mass., and Essex Junction, Vt.

I must say the idea of taking a train up to Vermont for a day or two of cycling sounds extremely appealing to me, though what with my ∞ children the chances of my doing that anytime soon are fairly slim.  Sure, there was a time when I had no kids and little responsibility and could have lit out on a moment's notice, yet instead of taking awesome bike trips I frittered away all my time and money clinging to the back of the pack in amateur bike races.  What the hell was I thinking?!?

Let that be a lesson to you.

Anyway, here's how the train works:

Cyclists who wish to use the service must arrive at their station a half-hour before boarding time. Train cars with bike service will have “bike-friendly” stickers on them, and there will be instructions in the rack area about how to load the bikes. The front wheel of each bike must be removed to fit it into the space, and extras, like panniers and saddle bags, must be removed as well before you add the bike to the rack. An Amtrak crew member will be on hand to help.

There are some sweet gravel roads in Vermont as I understand it, so I hope that Amtrak crew member has been trained in the intricacies of disk brakes and Boost 148.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Thrills, spills, and shills!




This past Saturday was the Bike Expo New York and my book signing thereat.  As part of the signing I was of course leading a Brompton-optional ride from Grand Central to the Expo, and so you can be sure I spent the Friday before the big event doing some serious clown bike training:


As you may recall, some weeks back I busted my thumbing finger while riding a bike with fenders on an unpaved trail.  Well, you'll be pleased to know that on Friday I officially got the green light from the orthopedist to resume all normal thumb-related activity.  [Insert your wanking jokes here.]  I had anticipated this, and to that end I actually brought the Brompton to the appointment.  In fact, I took the above photo immediately afterwards, about 100 yards from his office.  So rest assured that after crashing due to a stick in the fender and breaking my thumb I'm doing my very best to make sure it happens again as soon as possible.

Anyway, on Saturday morning I performed my morning ablutions, unfurled the Brommie like a ninja whipping out a set of nunchucks, and headed to my local commuter rail station for the short ride to Grand Central:


(Yes that's the Bronx.)

I could have just taken the subway or ridden the bike to Grand Central, but frankly I enjoy the scenic riverside jaunt.  Plus, when you travel within the five boroughs you get a special fare on weekends:


(Love the City Ticket.)

Most importantly though, Metro North has a fantastic alcohol policy:

"I'd like to thank Barry Feinstein and all of the members of the task force for taking a hard look at the MTA's policy on alcohol sales and consumption and reaffirming our current position," Chairman Kalikow said.

"Many of our customers enjoy this amenity, and I am pleased that the Task Force confirmed that the current policy provides a benefit without compromising safety," said Executive Director and CEO Sander.

Metro North are generally also pretty decent about bicycles, and if only they'd install some goddamn bike hooks they'd probably never get me off the train.  (Come to think of it that's probably why they don't.)

After collapsing the Brompton like one of those accordion drying racks I pulled up a slice of platform:


And within about a sitcom's time I was at Grand Central:


As a novice Bromptonaut I was nervous about interacting with hardcore foldies, and I felt like a hairy-legged Fred with chainring tattoos at the start of a Cat 1 race.  It turns out my apprehension was justified too, because these people don't mess around, and I was immediately humbled.  Consider this ride, complete with folding helmet:


And folding mirror:


(Bloggers in mirror may be Fredlier than they appear.)

Holy crap, everything on the goddamn bike folds!

Not only that, but the owner had arrived that very morning from San Francisco, having traveled with the bike as carry-on and stowing it in the overhead compartment without so much as arousing the suspicion of the flight crew.  Then he rode from Jamaica, Queens straight to Grand Central.

Now that's some pro-level Bromptoning.

I thought things couldn't possibly get more Bromp-tastic, but I was wrong, because then this bike showed up:


Yep, Rohloff hub and front and rear discs:


(How do you find rotors with a smaller diameter than the wheel itself?)

The owner had traveled to Scotland for the disc brake conversion, and while I didn't get the specifics I'm assuming this is the person who did it.

It's interesting to contemplate that when taken to its logical endpoint the practicality of the Brompton sort of folds in on itself like, well, a Brompton, since the ease with which you can travel with them inspires you to make completely unnecessary journeys like going all the way to Scotland for an artisanal disc brake upgrade.

By the way, both of these elite Bomptonians had aftermarket handles on their bikes, which I quickly realized was the mark of the true connoisseur:


(Of course that's an Ultegra crank with chainring bolts to match the frame, because of course it is.)

But it wasn't all Bromptons.  (And thank Lob for that, because honestly who could take that many in one place?)  For example, there was this "KidzTandem," which I suppose is sort of the anti-Brompton:


And esteemed commenter Leroy showed up on his sweet Milwaukee road bike, of which I was a little jealous even though I have almost the exact same bike.

Speaking of Leroy, as a seasoned commuter to the East Side he graciously "curated" our route for maximum beauty:


Had I been left to my own devices we'd have gone straight down Lexington Avenue, seen nothing more interesting than the roughly 4,000 Starbucks between Grand Central and the Expo, and gotten separated four blocks into the ride.

Thanks to Leroy though we all arrived together, and after browsing the Expo a bit I took up my post at the Brompton booth and scribbled in a few books:


I also received some visitors, such as the curators of this titanium lock which has earned a shitload of money on Kickstarter:


I'll withhold judgement until they lock a fancy bike in Midtown Manhattan with it overnight and show us all what happens, which they claim they're going to do.

Anyway, many, many thanks to Brompton and Redbeard Bikes of Brooklyn for the hosting and book-selling duties.

As for the Expo itself, there was the usual assortment of cool bike stuff you wish you had, but I chose instead to search the darkened corners for esoterica:


You may laugh, but we're losing people to these things, and if the industry keeps pushing these stupid new bottom bracket "standards" on us then we could see a wholesale consumer defection to the Amish scooter within the next 10 years:


I also enjoy seeing how non-bike companies attempt to tap into the cycling market, such as Minute Rice, who is now making a major play for the lucrative Fred-fueling market:


At this very moment they have highly-paid lobbyists in Colorado Springs who are pushing USA Cycling for microwaves in the pit area and free laps for preparing and consuming their fast and delicious Multi-Grain Medley.  Once that goes through you can expect complete market domination, as well as a constipation epidemic among the USA Cycling membership.  (Though given the tightness of roadie sphincters there's arguably a constipation epidemic already.)

And yes, there were crabon kickstands, thank you for asking:


In all, it was a delightful day, though it easily could have taken a turn for the worse had this dog decided to hump my leg:


Fortunately he did not.

Of course, the Bike Expo is just a part of a bike-tastic weekend in New York City which also includes the Five Boro Bike Tour as well as the Red Hook Criterium.  I'm sure you've heard by now what went down in the latter event, but if you haven't what went down was many of the riders:


I was not at the Red Hook Crit, but this video immediately raised a number of questions for me, including but not limited to:

--How did the motorcycle driver even manage to stall like that?
--Why is an "underground" unsanctioned cycling event copying one of the stupidest things about pro racing, namely forcing the riders to deal with motorcycles that are constantly falling on them and even killing them?
--What was the organizer's role in this, and has the popularity of this "underground" event possibly overwhelmed their ability to run it safely?

Well, I dunno.  Maybe if I was an actual bike racing journalist I'd look into it, since this has grown into a wildly popular event that clearly appeals to both competitors and spectators.  What I wouldn't do is blame the riders themselves for a crash that wasn't their fault, unlike the Senior Editor at VeloNews:


What's so dumb about it really?  They're not blasting through crosswalks on public roads like your typical Lucas Brunelle video.  They're racing on a closed course, with permission, in an event with clear equipment guidelines.  It seems a bit disingenuous for someone who writes for a bike racing magazine to watch a crash that was clearly caused by a motorbike being where it shouldn't be and then call the victims "idiots:"


I mean sure, you can make a very strong case that bike racing in general is "idiotic and full of idiots" (to wit: risking life and limb for a $20 prime) but you don't get to pick and choose.  You'd expect this kind of bullshit from ESPN, but a cycling journalist insulting bike racers who were injured in an event his publication regularly writes about feels very wrong to me.  And it's not like "regular" crits are exactly known for their safety:



Plus, while the Red Hook Crit may have been crashy, I didn't see any riders crashing into the crash that already happened like they do in the video above.

And while I've always been a staunch advocate of brakes, as well as a blogger who built his dozens-strong readership on making fun of fixies, the fact is that brakes (or the lack thereof) was not the determining factor here, as Mr. Fretz would like you to believe:


Um, it doesn't?  Isn't that what happens on the opening days of like every Grand Tour?



The fact is that when you're racing in a pack you don't brake for obstacles, you attempt to avoid them by deviating from your line as little as possible.  Go ahead, slam on your state-of-the-art disc brakes in the middle of a crit and see what happens, I dare you.  And it's not like the riders who get involved in pile-ups know there's been a crash and have time to brake.  The only thing they see is the Lycra-clad ass in front of them.  You've got to be pretty far from the crash to have time to brake, and to do so without taking down the riders behind you.  (This is why I always sat up in the final kilometer in Prospect Park--well, that and the fact that I couldn't keep up anyway.)

Here's a super slow-n'-funky Fred crash to illustrate the point:



Seems to me they're either a) not braking; b) changing their line; or c) locking up their wheels which isn't doing shit for them anyway.

Indeed, if you watch the Red Hook Crit crash closely it's hard to see how brakes and freewheels would have made a hugely meaningful difference in the outcome, and for the most part it looks like your typical criterium shitshow.  The riders at the pointy end are able to avoid the motorcycle:


Then a rider who probably had no idea it was even there clips it and goes down:


Creating the Lycra-clad domino effect anybody who'd watched or participated in a bike race is all too familiar with:


By the way, the luckiest rider in the race by far is this rider, who comes out of his pedals, stays upright, says "Fuck it!" and just starts running:


Amazing.

Bad course design?  Organizer error?  Motorcyclist incompetence?  Sure.  But are these racers "idiots" merely for participating in a certain kind of bike race?  No more so than anyone racing on those notoriously difficult-to-control TT bikes:


Speaking of motorcyclist incompetence, we still don't know exactly what happened, but here's another view where we can see him futzing with his bike:



Though perhaps the most shocking revelation is this rider wearing what appears to be a LiveStrong bracelet:


The horror.

Lastly, if you missed the ride/signing this past week, rest assured you've got another chance to avoid me in Hoboken this weekend:


Thinking I may make that "nice ride through Liberty Square Park" a brakeless Brompton criterium.

What could go wrong?