Monday, April 20, 2015

Sorry, I forgot to wind my Apple watch.

So the "direct action street justice" group Right of Way installed a mural mourning everybody who died in traffic in New York City in 2014 and--surprise!--while they were working a giant truck ran into it:

The truck shows up to the party at the 1:40 mark:


And then after knocking some shit around it drives off in the protected bike lane:


About which one participant (or bystander, I'm not sure) had this to say:


"That was unbelievable, I've never seen a giant truck blatantly just run through a bike lane like that."

Wow, really?  He must be new in town.  Perhaps he read that hilarious article in Bicycling about how we're "America's Most Bike Friendly City" and didn't realize the editorial staff is as delusional about cities as they are about bikes.

As for me, I've seen it all--including Jesus himself coming back in truck form and getting stuck in almost the same spot:


As some Jews look on in bemusement:


("No, he's not.")

See, in New York City bike lanes are only nominally for bikes.  In practice they're generally used for police idling and as wiggle room for truckers.

You know what was unbelievable last Saturday though?  The weather!  And you'd better believe that as a semi-professional bike blogger and cycling enthusiast I finally took my new bike out for its first proper ride:


This is exactly the sort of thing I had in mind for it when I picked it out during the dark days of winter:


And I am pleased to report it's working out beautifully so far:


I'm used to spending the first few miles on a new bike stopping to tweak this dingle or adjust that dongle or figure out what's making that weird noise (especially on a bike that arrived at my home in a box after spending a few days with UPS) but in this case the only dongle that needed any adjusting was my own.  I attribute this to three things:

1) It's a very nice bike;

2) The people at Ben's Cycle assembled and packed it extremely well;

3) After a year and a half of riding a Cambium I've gotten a good sense of how to position it and can get it pretty much right the first time:


(Cambium positioning tip: for best results, place yours on top of the seatpost with rails facing down.)

Oh, by the way, here's the head badge for the commenter who asked to see it:


And here's another badge of some kind:


I'm not sure what that is, but I'm guessing it's either a birthmark, or else a silhouette of Conan O'Brien.

Just kidding, I know what it is.

It's the great state of Ohio.

But yes, so far I'm extremely pleased with the bike--like "Hmmm, I could probably get rid of a couple of my other bikes at this point" pleased:


And for those of you who want to know more about it but are too lazy to click on links, here you go:

Features and Information: 
• Frame is made in the USA by Waterford Precision Cycles*
• Built with True Temper OX Platinum Tubing
• Designed for use as a geared road or cyclocross bike
• Set-up for a long reach (47-57mm) brakes
• Down Tube Shifter Bosses
• Chainstay Bridge
• Down tube AND Seat tube mounted water bottle braze-on.
• High quality Ritchey road dropouts
• Seatpost Clamp Included!
• Designed to fit up to a 700x32c tire
• 1-/8" head tube, 27.2mm seatpost, 130mm rear spacing, 68mm bottom bracket shell.

*The frame is made by Waterford, but the fork is not. The fork is a standard road fork we import. Waterford upgrade available in the kit builder for added cost.

I should also point out that the bicycle and I were both equally happy on paved roads, but the problem with riding on roads is that you tend to encounter, well, roadies.  


I encountered this group of fashionable Freds at an intersection and dropped back immediately so as to avoid commingling.  (I don't mean this as an insult, by the way.  If anything I was sparing them my noxious presence.)  However, when I stopped at the cafĂ© a little while later, there they were:


Note the woman in green wearing the "Eeeew, a bunch of bikers have invaded my town!" expression that should be immediately familiar to any cyclist who has stopped in a picturesque town in order to give their local businesses money:


As for the cyclists themselves, they were holding an impromptu runway show:


So I knew right away this must be the Rapha Cycle Club ride.

Fortunately I'd caught them just as they were finishing, so I didn't have to wait on line for six hours while they each ordered their special big city coffee drinks.  (Sure, I'd ridden up there from the same big city, but I have a townie mentality because I live on the mainland.)  Instead, I walked right in and foolishly bought the gooiest snack in the joint:


It started melting immediately, and as the Rapha crew remounted their $10,000 bicycles and turned their Strava accounts back on I sat on a bench with a face full of chocolate and swinging my pale, stubbly legs like a child waiting for the short bus:


In all it was a lovely ride, but it was also the longest ride I'd taken in a few moths.  Therefore, I was forced to stop once more, this time at a Dunkin' Donuts in Yonkers for an "emergency Coke" to carry me the last few miles home.

As you can imagine, the setting was a bit less rarefied:


Instead of a bevy of fashionable Rapha-ites, my only companions were a guy with a recumbent and another guy in giant Beats headphones who was collecting bottles out of the trash while singing "Backstabbers" by the O'Jays at the top of his lungs.  (Every time he shouted "What they do!" I jumped a little.)  I also noticed something in the distance.  At first I thought it was a bicycle, but then I noticed it was one of those personal mobility scooters, and the rider was "taking the lane" (as the smuggies say):


I was quite impressed, especially because this road intersects pretty much every major highway in the area and people drive very fast on it:


As the scooter drew nearer, the bottle collector stopped his crooning:


And with a flourish he and the scooter pilot exchanged greetings:


I've really got to rethink my cynical stance on the waving debate.

Friday, April 17, 2015

BSNYC Friday Fun Quiz!

Yesterday afternoon I test-rode the new bike around the neighborhood, and so far all signs point to "yes:"


For those of you who had questions about price, when you reach my level of wealth you just throw fistfuls of money at people until they shut up, but I'm fairly sure it's all on the Milwaukee/Ben's Cycle website.

Seems like a good deal to me on a steel frame made by Waterford.

Anyway, Saturday's weather looks like it will be very favorable for the riding of the bicycles, so I'll report back after I've finally taken it for a "real" spin.

Speaking of the riding of the bicycles, New Yorkers are now doing it in record numbers, and the latest figures (warning: PDF) show that 2014 was the biggest year for cycling in New York City like E-VAH!


Here are the same statistics in a more prosaic table form if you're into that sort of thing:


This is all great.  But unfortunately, as far as I can tell, these statistics don't include more "outlying" areas, as they focus mainly on trips to and from downtown Manhattan.  Therefore, if I'm not mistaken, people like me who do most of our riding in "Upstate New York City" or other parts of town effectively don't exist.  And I'm not talking about "stretchy clothes" riding, which really doesn't count.  Take Tuesday for example, when I rode my bike down to the Bronx County Courthouse to answer a jury summons.  Statistically, it never happened, but I'd like the DOT to know it did, because I'm not the only one who uses a bike for transportation without entering Manhattan.  (Though to their credit it sounds like they plan to address the Harlem River Crossings, and supposedly there's a new greenway in the offing.)

Now that cycling into downtown Manhattan is like a thousand times better, I'd love it if the DOT would encourage bike use "further out" by making it easier to ride to subway stations and other transportation hubs.  For some reason people in New York City and the nearby suburbs have a mental block when it comes to riding bikes to trains.  Interestingly, if you're more than a half-mile from a subway station you're considered "far from the train" by New York City standards, even though that's only like five minutes on a crappy bike--hardly enough to break a sweat, much less require any special equipment or bike-specific luggage or rain gear or the dreaded "changing your clothes at work" that many people rightly find off-putting.

I dunno, call me crazy, but why not put a shitload of bike racks near the last stop on every subway line and a protected bike lane or two leading there?

(I know, because they might have to GET RID OF SOME PARKING SPOTS OH MY GOD THE HORROR!!!)

And while I'm on the subject of cycling in New York City (have you checked the name of the goddamn blog lately?) a commenter recently emailed to tell me of his well-meaning yet predictably futile efforts to have this thing removed from the Hudson River Greenway:


These, by the way, are a staple of New York City's greenways for some reason, and you can even see them in my spectacularly entertaining Brooks blog post from not too long ago:


See?



In any case, while I wasn't surprised to learn nobody he called seemed to give much of a shit, I was a bit distressed that emergency services were completely unaware of the greenway's existence:

After that, and still pointing it out to passersby, I called 911.  I ended up in NJ 911 because 911 positions via satellite, and the satellite said I was in Jersey.  I got transferred to NY, and then transferred a few times within NY 911 because they also had a hard time understanding what the problem was and where I was.  I was told that they would send somebody out and I could leave.  I said I'd stay because somebody could get hurt badly.  Dumb move.  911 did call me back once during my stay and asked me if I meant to say Riverside drive.  I said no, the greenway, and once again they said "what is that, a highway?" It had started to get dark, and I began to doubt that what I was doing had any worth.  Some people thanked me, some asked if I had hurt myself on it.  Many just looked at me like I was crazy.  One lady also seemed frightened of me because I looked like a terrorist, maybe, when I was planting my ill fashioned warning flag.

This raises an important philosophical question:

If a Fred falls on the greenway, is there anybody to treat him?

The answer, it seems, is "What the hell is a 'greenway?'"

The city really should have an entire department devoted entirely to bicycles, and I have a pretty good idea of who should run it:


Just kidding, I'm talking about myself.  They really ought to make me New York City Bicycle Czar For Life.

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 good, and if you're wrong you'll see MTB Mom.

Thanks very much for reading, ride safe, and avoid those greenway stubs.


--Wildcat Rock Machine






(He does look like a Stanley.  Then again, so do all Brits.)


1) Tickets to Bradley "Stanley" Wiggins's upcoming hour record attempt sold out in:

--Seven hours
--Seven minutes
--They are still available
--Trick question, Wiggins already tried and failed to beat the hour record





2) What's the best way to introduce a dog to cycling?

--Treats and praise
--Start with some treadmill time and then transition to outdoor rides
--Sign dog up for a Strava account
--Don't.  Would it kill you to leave the goddamn dog at home for chrissakes?







3) What is a "free range" family?

--Pesticide-free
--A euphemism for homeless
--A family that allows its children to walk outside
--Delicious!






4) What is a "Babel Bike?"

--A semi-recumbent with a roll cage and seatbelt
--A smartphone translator app designed for international cycle tourists
--An archeological artifact which suggests that the ancient Mesopotamians may have ridden bicycles
--A "barbell bike" as pronounced by an Australian






5) Incredibly, the bicycle periscope has been funded.

--True
--False





6) What is Shermer's Neck?

--An upscale community on the north shore of Long Island
--An affliction RAAM freaks get which must be treated at Home Depot
--An affliction caused by attempting auto-fellatio
--A rare and coveted form of double-jointedness that permits auto-fellatio






(Yet she predates the pennyfarthing.)

7) Those damn cyclists never stop for traffic signals.

--True
--False



***Special "We Already Knew You Didn't Care, But It's Oddly Comforting To Hear You Admit It"--Themed Bonus News Item***


Watch it here:



I particularly enjoyed this part:


"I feel pretty safe."

Well you're certainly not dressed like someone who feels safe.

(That's not a dig at the cyclist, that's a dig at America.)

Thursday, April 16, 2015

I got a new bike. Take that, automotive industrial complex!



So my Washington Post piece now has over 1,700 comments.  I haven't read them, nor do I intend to, and nor do I even have to in order to know that many of them are completely fucking stupid.  This is because we're a nation of idiots.

Sure, we may only be 28th and falling on the inequality-adjusted Human Rights Index, but there is still no better country on the planet in which to be born a complete moron.  This is because we have these mobility assistance devices for stupid people called "cars," and our entire infrastructure is conveniently built around them.  Cars are ideal for people of limited mental faculties because they're just large boxes with a great big wheel inside (not to mention entertainment and climate control!) and all you have to do is turn the wheel in the general direction you want to go and then stomp on a big fat "go" button with your foot.  Also, if you see something you don't like, like a person, you just press the handy "angry" button in the middle of the great big wheel in order to express your displeasure like the bleating fuckwit you are:

"BWAAAAAAAMP!"

Best of all, if you bump into something, there's a whole system built around making it all go away.  Ever had an "accident" with your car?  Everybody from the police to the insurance company to the body shop will hold your hand and walk you through it like you're a kindergartener on a field drip.  Also, they'll make sure you have another mobility assistance device to use while you wait for them to remove the blood stains from your bumper.  Of course, this system doesn't work too well if you're riding a bicycle or, even worse, walking, but that's why it's crucial to remain inside your mobility assistance device at all times.


(We're not so much the world's policeman as we are the world's Six Flags.)

Just make sure not to question any of this, because anything that undermines the mobility assistance device system will destroy America.  See, while you drive around in air-conditioned bovine bliss and occasionally bumping into things, the auto companies and the banks and the insurance companies are putting it all on your tab.  So it's very important we remain a nation of idiots indenturing ourselves so that we can spend our days inside wildly inefficient depreciating assets owned by usurious financial institutions.

Hey, I do it too.  I even have a satellite radio subscription.  Gotta have my Stern, you know.

I'm a bridge and tunnel baby.

By the way, in the Post thing I alluded to a dystopian future for pedestrians, but that dystopia is already upon us:


I'm old but not that old, and when I was a kid it was perfectly normal for us to roam around the neighborhood.  Now, just a few decades later, I guess I'd be some kind of "free range" freak.  Shouldn't be much longer until children aren't legally allowed to walk outside without an adult until they're 21, at which point they'll finally be released into the wild with six-figure student loan debt and absolutely no survival skills.

Anyway, enough about all that.  Let's talk about bieks!


("Yay bieks!")

So yesterday I received a visit from the UPS guy.

It was cool, we hung out for awhile and did gravity bong hits, then he left.

But then I received a visit from another UPS guy, and he brought this:


It came from the Milwaukee Bicycle Company--which sounds kind of like a horror movie:


Now I may have the easiest job in the world (semi-porfessional biek boggler) but I'm also the father of 17--no, shit, 18!--children, which means I can't just drop everything and assemble the new bike I'm really excited about.  (Especially because "drop everything" in this case means "drop baby," which you shouldn't do, even though I'm sure some politician is proposing a mandatory baby helment law even as I type this.)  So it wasn't until well into the evening that I was finally able to drag it into the basement, remove it from the box, and reverse-dismember it:


The bike was packed exceptionally well and there wasn't a scratch on it.  It was also assembled exceptionally well before it was packed, so I didn't have to do anything except fasten a few bolts.  Nevertheless, being a dunce, while installing the handlebars I managed to get confused by the shifter cables until I realized that they'd apparently been set up to cross under the downtube.  (Unless I was even more confused than I thought.  Either way, they cross under the downtube now, and they work, so I'm calling it good.)  Anyway, here's what the bike looked like when I was done:


Before you pick it apart because this is the Internet, please note that I have not yet made the final saddle height or bar tilt adjustments or anything like that.  That will come next.  I simply wanted it out of the box and in one piece before I went to bed.  Also, some bike dork notes:

--I chose Shimano 10 speed because all my other bikes are Shimano 10 speed and I want to be able to switch wheels.  Also, I have way too many spare Shimano 10 speed parts at this point to consider changing at this point, it would just be a giant waste;

--I chose a compact crank because I finally hit "compact" about a year or two ago and I don't see that changing--nor do I see going single ring on the road, even though it's the rage with all the cool kids, and even though double is now the new triple, and triple is now the new recumbent;

--I put a Brooks Cambium on it because after a year and a half of using one I really, really like it;

--I specified "no crabon" because that's where I'm at right now in my life;

--I put mountain bike pedals on it because that's also where I'm at right now in my life.  Consider my Ritte:


I enjoy riding this bicycle very much (funky finish aside).  At the same time, my life has changed since I got it back in 2011.  In particular, I've moved, and so now my typical road ride generally takes me on and off unpaved paths a decent chunk of the time.  This means my preferred road tire size is now 28mm, and while the Ritte takes 28s albeit with little room to spare, this new bike has medium reach brakes and therefore lots of daylight between rubber and brake.  Furthermore, given the aforementioned paths, there's not much reason for me to bother with road pedals when stopping for beer or coffee or I'm clomping around in thickets looking for a place to urinate.  Best of all, when winter rolls around I can put full fenders on this bike instead of switching to the winter bike.  Basically then, the Ritte can go back to being a skinny-tire "go fast" road bike (yeah, like that ever happens anymore) and this can be a "most of the time, grab-and-go" bike.

That's the idea anyway.  It's silly to talk about before I've even ridden the damn thing.

 Oh, I also chose black, because I like black bikes, and it's a matte finish, which I really like:


It even matches my Engin, which I'm not supposed to care about but totally do:


So there you go.  I'll report back when I finally have time for a proper ride, Lob willing.

Lastly, thanks to Kickstarter, your safe cycling concerns are now over:


I feel so much better.