Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Working on Wednesday's Farm

There's been much handwringing in the media recently concerning pop cultural icon and occasional Cat 6 racer Bob Dylan:

Specifically, he's been snubbing the Nobel committee ever since they awarded him the Nobel Prize for Literature, and at least some people see this as yet more evidence of his creative genius:

To be a Nobel laureate, however, is to allow “people” to define who one is, to become an object and a public figure rather than a free individual. The Nobel Prize is in fact the ultimate example of bad faith: A small group of Swedish critics pretend to be the voice of God, and the public pretends that the Nobel winner is Literature incarnate. All this pretending is the opposite of the true spirit of literature, which lives only in personal encounters between reader and writer. Mr. Dylan may yet accept the prize, but so far, his refusal to accept the authority of the Swedish Academy has been a wonderful demonstration of what real artistic and philosophical freedom looks like.

As part of a certain demographic I'm required to like Bob Dylan's music, and indeed I do.  I'm particularly fond of the song with all the irreverent stream-of-consciousness wordplay, which is all of them, except for maybe the Jesus albums, though I never went there.  But by far my favorite bit of Bob Dylan literature is this verse from 2014:

Is there anything more American than America?
‘Cause you can’t import original.
You can’t fake true cool.
You can’t duplicate legacy.
Because what Detroit created was a first
and became an inspiration to the… rest of the world.
Yeah…Detroit made cars. And cars made America.
Making the best, making the finest, takes conviction.
And you can’t import, the heart and soul, of every man and woman working on the line.
You can search the world over for the finer things,
but you won’t find a match for the American road
and the creatures that live on it.
Because we believe in the zoom,
and the roar, and the thrust.
And when it’s made here, it’s made with the one thing
you can’t import from anywhere else. American…Pride.
So let Germany brew your beer,
Let Switzerland make your watch,
Let Asia assemble your phone.
We…will build…your car.

Which is of course the script for his Chrysler Superbowl ad:

Now of course we don't know how much of that he actually wrote, but he sure as shit said it all, and presumably he accepted lots of money for it too.  This commercial has always vexed me, mostly because it contains a number of glaring factual errors, including but not limited to:

--There is something more American than America, and it's called Canada;
--Cars didn't make America, they destroyed America--politically, economically, environmentally, and culturally (and that's not even addressing the obesity epidemic and our sedentary lifestyles);
--You may not be able to import the heart and soul of every man and woman working on the line, but you can easily export their jobs to other countries;
--Far more creatures die on the American road than live on it;
--German beer?  Swiss watches???  What fucking year is this?!?

Seriously, we're drinking regional craft beers and wearing Apple Watches, where the hell has he been?

Anyway, while listening to a doddering Dylan mumble on about "A-muh-kuh" in order to sucker a bunch of wage slaves into buying shitty cars may offend my sensibilities (and don't even get me started on his Cadillac ad), I certainly can't blame him for it.  After all, if Chrysler offered me the kind of money they undoubtedly paid him I'd say pretty much anything they wanted, including this:

Chrysler is great, and America is great.
When you buy a Chrysler you own a piece of the American road.
America belongs to Americans, the roads belong to the drivers, and the American road belongs to no driver more than the one who's behind the wheel of a Chrysler*.
The roads are not for cyclists, or pedestrians, or drivers of hybrid or electric vehicles, or any other type of un-American wussbag.
They are for drivers.
And as a Chrysler driver, you have the God-given right to run these fuckers off of 'em.
So let the hipsters brew your beer,
Let the Jews count your money,
Let the Chinese do everything else.
We...will build...your car.

*[Provided he's got a good credit score and is up to date on his payments.]

Also, for all I know Bob Dylan does these commercials just so he can give the money to some worthy charity--and even if he does it all, he's certainly entitled to it, because he's Bob Dylan and his musical legacy speaks for itself.  And who knows?  Maybe he's snubbing the Nobel committee because he knows they shouldn't have given him the prize.

Still, it's pretty disappointing when someone who's provoked a lot of thought with his music is taking calls from big corporations and doing Superbowl ads but not at least taking advantage of having the world's ear to make some kind of statement on the occasion of winning the Nobel Prize.  I mean sure, I don't think 2005 Nobel Prize for Literature laureate Harold Pinter ever did a car ad (or a Victoria's Secret ad for that matter), but he did give a pretty badass lecture when he won:

I put to you that the United States is without doubt the greatest show on the road. Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be but it is also very clever. As a salesman it is out on its own and its most saleable commodity is self love. It's a winner. Listen to all American presidents on television say the words, 'the American people', as in the sentence, 'I say to the American people it is time to pray and to defend the rights of the American people and I ask the American people to trust their president in the action he is about to take on behalf of the American people.'

It's a scintillating stratagem. Language is actually employed to keep thought at bay. The words 'the American people' provide a truly voluptuous cushion of reassurance. You don't need to think. Just lie back on the cushion. The cushion may be suffocating your intelligence and your critical faculties but it's very comfortable. This does not apply of course to the 40 million people living below the poverty line and the 2 million men and women imprisoned in the vast gulag of prisons, which extends across the US.

Holy crap, it's like he just watched that Chrysler commercial!

Meanwhile, Dylan's just helping people lie back on the cushion.

In other news, Bradley Wiggins continues to take crap over all those TUEs:

At the center of the controversy are three TUEs (therapeutic use exemptions) that Wiggins employed to inject the powerful corticosteroid called triamcinolone acetonide (Kenacort) ahead of the 2011 and 2012 Tours de France and the 2013 Giro d’Italia. Wiggins and Sky did not break any rules, but the hack provided a rare, behind-the-scenes look at how Wiggins managed his preparation ahead of the history-making Tour. And it has tainted his image just as he winds up his racing career following a fifth gold medal this summer at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Hey, leave the guy alone already.  I have no doubt those TUEs were totally legitimate.  After all, he's got severe asthma!

Must be one of those homeopathic remedies.

Lastly, there's a bill going before the City Council that would allow cyclists to follow pedestrian signals:

The idea is that it would allow riders to get a jump on the maniacal drivers who start honking and attempt to right-hook them down as soon as the light turns green:

The bill, introduced by Councilman Carlos Menchaca, would allow cyclists to ignore the red-yellow-green of stop lights and instead get a few-second head start at the more than 1,400 intersections that have “leading pedestrian interval” — when the walk signal comes first.

Though one token idiot is not pleased:

Not everyone is happy about the proposal. Some car drivers say that it will cause bicyclists to feel even more entitled.

“The bikes are more of a danger than the cars, and they already aren’t obeying the rules,” said Seth Kaufman, who lives on 79th Street near Amsterdam Avenue. “They are already clogging up the roads, and this will make it worse.”

Wow.  How the hell do you live in Manhattan and think that: 1) Bikes are more dangerous than cars; and 2) Bicycles are responsible for "clogging up the roads?"  I mean where the fuck are the bikes that are causing this?

In any case, hopefully this bill does better than the one that would have allowed the "Idaho Stop:"

A bill that proposed a wider scope of cyclist freedoms – including the Idaho Stop – for cyclists was introduced last year but has stalled. That would have allowed bikes to treat stop signs as yield signs and red lights as stop signs.

That proposal, which also would have needed state approval, has not yet passed the council.

Yeah, pretty much any traffic safety measure that has to get approval from the state legislature is doomed.

They should call it the "Freedom Stop" and had Bob Dylan read it out loud, it would have passed in no time.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Sorry I'm late, but I realized it's my blog and I can be as lazy as I want.

There's something about autumn that gets me in the mood for multi-modal Bromulation:

And when it comes to Bromnambulating by rail there are few more Bromptastic train stations than this one at the confluence of the Harlem and Hudson rivers:

That tree-covered lump of land on the other side of the water is the last remaining bit of natural forest in Manhattan.  Talk about wasted space!  I really wish someone would put a glassy condo building on top of it already.

Plus, as you Bromp northward and leave the city behind, you get to enjoy a view of the New Jersey Palisades, which at this very moment is splatter-painted in autumnal hues:

The only thing that would have made the ride even more quintessentially seasonable would have been a Starbucks® Pumpkin Spice Latte:

Then I could have taken a sip, wondered who the hell drinks this crap, and splatter-painted the window with a massive spit-take.

Speaking of marketing, you'll be pleased to know there's now a new miracle frame material called "Dyneema:"

Or, as it's more commonly known, "plastic:"

Dyneema is DSM's brand name for its Ultra-High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMwPE), which basically means 'really strong plastic'.


Of course, there's more to Dyneema than just marketing--even though the jingle to the tune of "Dayenu" practically writes itself:

"Dy-dy-neema, Dy-dy-neema..."

It's also laterally strong and vertically buoyant, and they even use it to repair human ligaments:

DSM says Dyneema is 15 times stronger than steel but floats on water, and the fiber has long been used to do everything from moor oil rigs at sea to repair human ligaments.

This is great news for anybody currently on a waiting list of a frame made from actual human ligaments.

Sadly, too few people donate their bodies to science, and almost nobody donates their body to artisanal framebuilders--despite an aggressive PSA campaign:

Presumably once Dyneema takes over, "prosthesis grade" will be the new "aerospace grade."

Best of all, Dyneema is able to withstand impacts:

DSM claims Dyneema Carbon will make carbon bikes better at absorbing both road vibrations and outright impacts to the frame tubing. Regular carbon is "strong, stiff, lightweight and easy to mould. But it's not so good at handling impact," said DSM Dyneema scientist and part-time professor at Delft University of Technology Roel Marissen.

Great news.  At this rate carbon bikes will be almost as good as metal ones in 50 years.

In other news, New York City's bike messengers are forming a labor union:

Sadio Ballo, an executive committee member of the new union, said they're forming the union to "build collective strength to improve the appalling conditions that couriers work under."

This is all too true.  For example, bike messengers depend on marijuana in order to do their jobs, but did you know that they must consume it furtively while on the job?  Modeled after legislation guaranteeing the rights of breastfeeding mothers, the messenger labor union will push for guaranteed weed breaks, private places for weed consumption, and of course the ability to pay for vaporizers with pre-tax dollars.

Additionally, the union will also push for guaranteed leave time in the event of injury due to participation in an ill-advised fixie video like this one:

Students of fixie cinema will recall that gratuitous motor vehicle-touching is a hallmark of the genre:

Well this video takes it a step further:

And instead features pizza-rubbing:

Which raises an important question:

Does applying friction by means of a slice of pizza, however viscous, count as using a brake?

I would put forth that it does.

Oh, and when he's done with the pizza, he throws it onto the hood of a taxicab:

It's worth noting that, among the young and entitled set, it's always acceptable to humiliate and degrade taxi drivers.

It's also worth noting that in 2016 these sorts of fixie exploits have become so dated and corny that the coolest cyclist in the video is the Citi Biker who appears for about one second towards the end of the video:

Seriously, have you seen how upset old people get about Citi Bike at community board meetings?  Bike share is way more cutting-edge and rebellious than fixies these days, and it makes a much bolder political statement to boot.

In other words, it's only a matter of time before we see a video of someone riding around on a Citi Bike rubbing buses with pizza.

Lastly, remember this guy?

You know, the Cat 5 who borrowed his friend's bike and then smashed it?

Probably not.  These things have a shelf-life of about three days.

Nevertheless, here's an interview with him that sheds new light on the incident nobody cares about anymore anyway:

(Is he one of those scary clowns I've been reading about?)

In particular, he claims that he: 1) Saved lives that day; and 2) Received permission beforehand to smash the bike:

At the Red Hook race, I avoided running someone else over. I decided to take the wall instead of hitting the other biker. I had the choice of hitting and possibly killing him or hitting the wall. The bike was completely totaled from that. I knocked out after the crash, picked up the bike, and walked to the finish line. At that point, my emotions kicked in because I realized my equipment was gone and decided to finish it (the bike) off. What most people don't know is that I had permission to do what I did from the guy who gave me the bike. I just put the horse to rest. As for what impact this event had on my social media, the day after the race news stations picked up the dramatic clip, reaching all the way to China and Japan. There is always going to be a negative side of social media... but from this incident, I gained about 4-5k new followers the week after the race.

I'd love to see what he could do with a pizza.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Wait, what day is it again...?

Bicycle accessory innovation today is a cavalcade of inanity.  Smart helmets, flatulent bike locks, more smart helmets...basically the same stuff you've been using forever but incorporating some gimmick which almost certainly won't work. However, every so often a new invention comes along that seems like it might actually be pretty nifty, and here's one of them:

Basically, it's a device that lets you convert your cable-actuated drivetrain to a wireless electronic one, and the inventor is launching a Kickstarter for it on November 1st.

I know what you're thinking: "Why is this even necessary?  My mechanical shifters work great."  Well of course they do.  Mechanical shifting is awesome.  This isn't even remotely necessary; as I said, it's nifty.  After all, what bike dork doesn't like a good kludge?  And just think of all the kludges you could pull off with all the crap you've got in your parts bin and a remote control shifter!

For example, consider my artisanal singlespeed all-terrain bicycle:

Now as far as I can tell all I'd need to do is switch the drive-side Paragon rocker dropout for one with a derailleur hanger, get one of these XShifter thingies, and I could palp it with gears!

So why take a designer singlespeed and do this when you've got two other perfectly good multi-speed bicycles?  (Well, one, until I finish fixing this one.)

Because I can!

I have pretty much no interest in electronic shifting, but there's just something beautifully kludgy and delightfully obnoxious to me about the idea of riding around on a handmade custom electronic multi-speed conversion.  Indeed, I'd ridicule anybody else who did such a thing, which is exactly how I know I'm onto something.  And sure, I could probably pull off the same conversion with judicious use of zip ties, but the electronic shifting is what would make it not just a regular kludge, but an infuriatingly elegant one.

It just seems like a fun accessory to experiment with is what I'm saying, and hopefully I can convince them to send me one to try out.

Maybe then I can also build the all-wheel drive fat bike of my dreams:

I have no idea how helpful all-wheel drive would be on a bike (if at all), but I have no doubt Kate Leeming will succeed in cycling across Antarctica because she looks incredibly serious about it:

She's also cycled across Greenland:

And is a high-ranking professional tennis player:

Whereas you, on the other hand, suck.

Moving on to more everyday heroics, the New York Times did a nice little story about New York City kids:

Which I only mention because one of the kids takes a Citi Bike to school:

While technically against the rules (he's 13, the minimum age for using Citi Bike is 16) this pleased me immensely, as I love the idea that one day this sort of thing could become normal.  Sadly, in the meantime, we get this shit instead:

And a mayor who's so disinvested in Vision Zero that he makes seven-mile trips by helicopter:

The grass of a baseball field in Prospect Park shuddered under the blades of a New York Police Department helicopter on Friday afternoon. Dust flew in the air. Soon, Mayor Bill de Blasio clambered aboard.

In a car, it might have taken 30 minutes or longer for him to make the roughly seven-mile drive from his old Brooklyn stamping grounds to an event in Queens.

And of course bus drivers who run over people and drag them for "several blocks."  (The bus driver was actually charged with failure to yield, despite the best efforts of the Transit Workers' Union.)

Even the UN says we need more bike infrastructure:

BARCELONA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Governments should invest at least 20 percent of their transport budgets in infrastructure that promotes walking and cycling, to save lives, curb pollution and cut climate-changing emissions from vehicles, the United Nations' environment agency said.

Almost half of the 1.3 million people who die each year from traffic accidents are pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists, the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP) noted in a report.

Though when President Trump takes office I assume we're going to boot the UN out of town and turn the building into a parking garage.

I was, however, treated to an oddly inspirational sight yesterday as I headed out for an afternoon road ride.  (I generally ride early as I find it unseemly to be in Lycra after noon, but a riding window presented itself and I took it.)  As it happened, the Tour de Bronx was rolling through my neighborhood, and so I got caught up in a gaggle of Freds.  (My aversion getting mixed up in rides like this is yet another reason I generally ride early.)

Anyway, we were making our way through the somewhat treacherous back roads in my neighborhood when we passed a police car.  I figured they were going to ticket everybody for excessive Fredness, but instead they were using their loudspeaker to warn the riders that there was gravel ahead.  I thought this was very considerate of them, especially as they would have been well within their rights to arrest everybody for not riding industry-approved gravel bikes.

I was also pleased to see a Cipollini bicycle make a cameo in the subsequent news coverage:

Yes, nothing explores unseen nooks and crannies like a Cipollini.

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Quiz Isn't Dead It's Just Pining for the Fjords

Every so often a product comes along that promises to revolutionize cycling forever.

And then there's SlunkLock, the u-lock that makes you puke:

Seems to me it's easy enough to have a vomit-inducing bike without the lock:

By the way, back in 2009 I wrote a comprehensive history of the Y-foil "bicycle."  Read it and remember when this blog used to be funny.

Those were the days.

Anyway, the concept of the u-lock is that when a thief cuts into it, it releases a noxious gas:

With his co-inventor, Yves Perrenoud, Idzkowski created a U-shaped lock of carbon and steel with a hollow chamber to hold one of three pressurized gases of their own concoction, including one called “formula D_1”. When someone cuts about 30% of the way into the lock, Idzkowski said, the gas erupts in the direction of the gash.

“It’s pretty much immediately vomit inducing, causes difficulty breathing,” Idzkowski said. “A lot of similar symptoms to pepper spray.”

So basically it's like cutting into a hunk of Limburger cheese at a cocktail party, or like a Fred peeling off his chamois after a long ride.

“You’re basically just puking on yourself the entire time,” he said. “They could change all their clothes, shower, if the bike is still there come out and cut the remaining 75% of the lock. You can’t prevent a theft 100%, so that’s why we call it a deterrent lock, not a solution.

“All you have to do is be better than the bike across the street.”

Okay, two questions:

1) What happens to the innocent bystanders?  Are they just collateral damage?

2) If this is such an effective deterrent, why not just put some SkunkLock stickers on your current lock and be done with it?

I don't know, but here's the video from the crowdfunding website:

It should be fun when these start deploying accidentally like those Hovding airbag helmets--though it still doesn't seem like as much of a deterrent as the Bike Mine:

Explosive charges, noxious won't be long before we need the cycling equivalent of the Geneva Convention.

Speaking of destruction and mayhem, remember how my chain broke yesterday?  Well when I finally went to shorten my chain for the ride home I noticed that the pins came out way too easily, which undermined my confidence considerably.  I also discovered my pulley wheel was cracked:

Did the broken chain cause the pulley to break?  Or did the broken pulley somehow break the chain?  Or are the two things completely unrelated?

We may never know (or care, for that matter) but I'm ordering a set of $499 CeramicSpeed oversized freak pulleys immediately:

Nah, just kidding.  I'm actually ordering the $599 "coated" version:

The OSPW is a carbon-fiber pulley cage stuffed with a pair of 17-tooth, machined-aluminum pulleys. It sells for $499 and is claimed to save you at least 2.4 watts. $100 more gets you the coated version, which claims to have 50-percent less friction than CeramicSpeed’s standard ceramic bearings.  A pair of standard replacement pulleys cost $279, or $369 for the coated version.

Wow, the "coating upcharge" has to be the most revolutionary development in bilking Freds since the "SL" suffix.  I imagine a visit to the pro shop must go like this:

"Wait, did I say $499?  Sorry, I meant $599.  It's got a special coating.  No, you can't actually see it, and there's no way I can show it to you because it's not visible to the naked eye, but I promise it's there."

What's next, a $1,000 version that's made out of titanium?


On second thought I'm not pulling the trigger on new pulleys until retail prices crack the $10,000 barrier.

Nevertheless, going back to the "Bicycling" review, those $499 derailleur pulleys (a total bargain now that you know they go for twice that in titanium) sound absolutely fantastic...apart from the fact that they can't clear a 28-tooth cog:

But maybe if you spring for the "coated" version the whole friction thing will cancel itself out.

Oh, and you have to use them with that special $135  chain that only lasts for 200 miles and is only good in dry conditions:

The chain’s watt-saving properties are only good for 200 miles, after which it’s about as fast as an unoptimized, but broken-in, version of the chain. Also, CeramicSpeed warns that the chain’s treatment is not corrosion resistant and should only be used in dry conditions during its 200-mile optimized lifespan. Once the optimization wears off, you can protect the chain from water damage by using your favorite chain lube.

But if you do you'll explore the fascinating grey area between riding at your "average ability" and riding at your "best:"

However, there’s "on paper" and there’s "the real world." I learned that gaining time improvements in the real world from a claimed less-than-10-watt reduction in friction—with variables like weather (I tested this in the late winter/early spring) and my wildly fluctuating form—is pretty tough.

It appears there was a little bump in efficiency, but the real-world improvement in time was less than the difference between when I’m riding at my average ability, and when I’m my best. It certainly wasn’t like I bolted the OSPW and UFO on and it started raining easy PRs.

But keep in mind that you suck, so the difference between your "average" and your "best" is about as meaningful as the friction coefficient between the base derailleur pulleys and the "coated" version.

And enjoy climbing with your derailleur pulley grinding away on your cassette.

Anyway, once I buttoned my poor drivetrain back up I decided not to take any more chances with it and instead said "Fuck it" and took the train:

You'll no doubt be pleased to learn I made it from the train station to my home with no catastrophic drivetrain failure and subsequent crotch-on-top-tube contact.

Lastly, on Tuesday I solicited feedback from you, my cherished readers, for my next Walz "limited edition" cap design, and after carefully analyzing your comments and taken all of them totally serious I've finally come up with a template I think will have a little something for everyone:

(See?  It's not black!)

Assuming Brooks signs on it should be ready for the holiday shopping season.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Sorry I'm Late, I Had a Mechanical

Last Friday I forgot my lock like an idiot, and once again I have found myself underprepared for a bicycle ride:

(Good for you, assholes.)

Given the beguiling combination of unseasonably warm temperatures and autumn foliage we're currently experiencing, I figured I'd be a real schmuck if I didn't head out this morning for a mountain bike ride.  So that's just what I did, and you can believe me when I tell you I was congratulating myself the whole time for shirking my relatively few responsibilities in order to indulge in some of the finest mall-adjacent all-terrain bicycling Yonkers has to offer:

I had just scaled a particularly steep climb when I noticed my chain was skipping a bit, which is odd, because my antique hand-curated 1x9 drivetrain usually works flawlessly.  After twiddling my barrel adjuster a bit (gigglechortle) to no avail, it finally occurred to me to look downward, and I noticed that my chain watcher/catcher/dingle-dangle-whatever-you-want-to-call-it thingy was all askew.  Clearly something had knocked it out of whack and it was interfering with my chain.  So I straightened it out and continued, and it happened again, so I fixed it again, and it happened yet again.  So I lay the bike down in frustration:

As I stared at it, it became clear to me that my kludgy drivetrain was hopelessly outmoded and that I needed to upgrade to one of those new fancy-pants dedicated 1x11 drivetrains with the clutch derailleur and the special chainring and the hi-drolic dick breaks and all the rest of it.  So I whipped out my smartphone, filled a virtual shopping cart with hundreds of dollars of bike parts, and was listening for the sound of the delivery drone when I had a crazy idea:

"Maybe I should look at the chain."

So I did, and that's when I noticed it was broken:

"Hmmm, that might explain my poor shifting performance," I thought.

It was at that point the drone arrived, so I smashed it with a rock, buried its payload, covered the spot with some dead leaves, and informed the online retailer that I'd never received my order.

They refunded my money immediately.


Unrelated, if anyone wants a fancy-pants 1x11 drivetrain I'll sell you one cheap.  Brand new, never used, some dirt on the packaging.  Cash only.

Anyway, so there I was with a broken chain, which is no big deal, since I always carry a chain tool when I go mountain biking.  All I had to do was remove the offending link, close the chain again, and avoid my lowest gear.  No problem.  So I opened my voluminous saddle bag and it shouldn't surprise you at all to learn there was no chain tool in there.  Nor was there one in my backpack, which is the second place I looked.

The courteous fellows who stopped and asked me if I needed anything didn't have one either.

Most vexing was that I'd once found a chain tool in almost this exact spot.  I carried it around thinking maybe I'd bump into the owner, and when I didn't I just kept it.  It now dawned on me that this rider had probably stopped here to fix a chain and forgotten it.  Now here I was in need of a chain tool and I didn't have one.  It was karma, or something.

Of course the chain had not given way completely, so I shifted into the straightest chainline possible and gently pedaled to the nearest bike shop.  (In case you're wondering what the retail price on a Park CT-5 is in an actual brick-and-mortar bike shop is these days, it's like two hundred bucks.)  I also picked up some lunch and treated myself to an ice-cold Coca-Cola for my troubles, and when I went to pop it open here's what happened:

Man, this country's going down the tubes.

Fortunately I had my chain tool, so I was able to rectify the situation:


By the way, if you would like to weigh in on why my chain broke and how it's my fault (it was too long, it was too short, it was the wrong brand, it was lubed incorrectly, it was installed upside-down, etc.) please leave your comments here.

In other news, we've been hearing a lot about how Sky and other pro cycling teams enjoy the painkiller Tramadol:

Former Team Sky rider Jonathan Tiernan-Locke, in a BBC report today, questioned Bradley Wiggins' use of a powerful corticosteroid drug to treat his allergies.

Tiernan-Locke also revealed that the Great Britain team, at the 2012 World Championships, offered riders Tramadol "freely around," but he did not take it. "I wasn't in any pain so I didn't need to take it, and that was offered freely around. It just didn't sit well with me at the time. I thought, 'I'm not in any pain', why would I want a painkiller?'"

As I understand it, the reason they take Tramadol is that it allows them to ride through the pain, with the inconvenient side-effect that they get all wonky and crash into each other.

Anyway, here's an article in the Wall Street Journal about how Tramadol use is becoming something of a global crisis:

Indeed, apparently they use so much of the stuff in Cameroon that it's in the plants now:

Inexpensive, imported tramadol is so heavily abused in northern Cameroon that it seeps from human and animal waste into the groundwater and soil, where vegetation absorbs it, wrote Michael Spiteller and Souvik Kusari, chemists at the University of Dortmund.

Farmers in Northern Cameroon told the researchers that they take double or triple the safe dosage, and feed tramadol to cattle to help them pull plows through the scorching afternoon sun.

Hey, if it can help cattle pull plows, imagine what it must do for emaciated humans on ultralight bicycles!

It was also invented by the company that brought you thalidomide:

Dr. Flick says he developed a molecule that seemed promising. But just when he was finishing tramadol’s development, Grünenthal was overtaken by a crisis: Its popular drug thalidomide was causing catastrophic birth defects.

And refined by a former SS who cut his research teeth experimenting on prisoners:

That changed after a Grünenthal scientist, Ernst-Günther Schenck, started testing the drug. Dr. Schenck, a former Waffen SS official who conducted nutrition experiments that killed prisoners during World War II, found tramadol effective for different types of pain. And it appeared to be less addictive than other opioids. He published several papers on its efficacy, and in 1977, Germany approved tramadol for sale. Dr. Schenck died in 1998.

Now that's a pedigree.

It also goes great with coffee:

Tramadol that goes from India to Benin makes its way to places like Garoua, a smoky city in northern Cameroon where vultures circle over the edge of town. Men in caftans buy boxes labeled “Super Royal X-225” from curbside vendors for a few cents a pill. The potent red tablets are known as “tomates” because the little red apples printed on their boxes remind locals of tomatoes. Coffee sellers with outdoor stands will empty a couple of tramadol capsules into a customer’s Nescafe for 10 cents.

So look for "tomato"-infused lattes at a Rapha Cycle Club near you.

Hey, if it's good enough for Boko Haram it's good enough for the peloton:

Further north, where Cameroon narrows to a thin spit between Nigeria and Chad, the drug is popular with the terrorist group Boko Haram. “We find tramadol packets in the pockets of those we kill,” says a Cameroon army commander who oversees antiterror missions.

So there you go.

Lastly, Road World Champion Peter Sagan got lots of attention when he showed up at the UCI gala wearing this:

I'm not sure which he looks like most: a Mississippi riverboat gambler, Willy Wonka, or the guy on the corner selling Tramadol.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Live Every Wednesday Like It's Your Last

It's like 80 American Freedom Degrees™ here in New York City, which is like 20 degrees on The Scale Which Dare Not Speak Its Name*.

*[Not sure if you're aware of the political climate here in the Canada's heated seat, but it's pretty ugly at the moment, and now that Jew-hating is back I can only assume Celsius-bashing will be next.]

Now I realize that as the sort of smug cyclist who owns (however tenuously) a WorkCycles I'm supposed to mention that 80 degrees in late October is not normal and we're all doomed due to climate change, but whatever.  Let's set that aside for the moment and focus on the specter of death lurking around the corner as opposed to the one that will be my children's problem.  (My children are GENIUSES by the way, so I'm confident that if things are as dire as people say they'll solve the problem in no time.)

Anyway, like today, yesterday was very warm.  Actually, it was more than warm.  It was hot.  We are, after all, experiencing what some people call an "Indian summer," or others call a "Jew's autumn," depending on how politically incorrect they are.  I happened to find myself in Midtown, where people were taking advantage of the unseasonably warm temperatures by lounging on the library stairs or taking pictures from behind sporty fixies and regal beards:

And while I wouldn't exactly say it was hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk, it was more than sufficiently warm to cause the fixies to levitate:

Then again the tires may just be filled with helium for extra speed.

By the way, speaking of pneumatic tires, while I may have been negligent with my WorkCycles let it never be said that I don't take precautions with my frame pump:

The above bicycle is the storied Ironic Orange Julius Bike, which is also my Dedicated Manhattan Locking-Up Bike, and I've forgotten to bring a pump with me enough times that I finally just said "Fuck it" and hose-clamped one to the downtube.  (It won't fit under the top tube.)

Of course now I have to remember to carry a screwdriver, but I figure that's easier to improvise than an inflationary device.

And if someone wants an old, battered, wheezy frame pump enough to unscrew it from the bike, then as far as I'm concerned they can have it.  Someone gave it to me for free like 20 years ago, and honestly in 2016 I'd be surprised if anybody even knows what it is.

In any case, after I'd finished my business (mani-pedi if you must know, it's the only reason I bother heading anymore, and if you've seen my fingers the fabulous results speak for themselves), I headed back uptown via Central Park, where the vibrant autumn foliage was at odds with the scranus-baking temperatures:

I have always loved riding through Central Park, and I even love it on unseasonably warm days when streams of selfie stick-wielding tourists are salmoning at me on rental bikes, which is exactly what was happening.

Also, the above picture may look serene, but what you don't see are the roughly 30 Europeans next to me photographing the exact same tree.

Anyway, before long I left the tourists and the pedicabs behind and emerged from the north end of the park into Harlem.  I'd only gone a few blocks when I saw someone on a non-street-legal dirt bike heading up Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard--a common sight on summer days in many parts of the city.  He was a couple blocks ahead of me but I'm reasonably certain he was in mid-wheelie.  Either way, I looked around at all the kids in their uniforms coming home from school, and I thought about all the drivers I'd seen running red lights that afternoon, and I thought to myself that racing around on a dirt bike like he was seemed like an exceedingly bad idea.

Shortly thereafter I cut over to St. Nicholas Avenue, where I immediately sensed from the arrangement of the cars on the street that something was askew--even more askew than it usually is in the city.  Figuring I'd nab some bike lane-blocking porn or dumb driver behavior I grabbed my phone without really thinking about it and started shooting:

I then noticed the dirt bike, which I'm reasonably sure was the one I'd seen a couple minutes before:

And then the car in the bike lane ahead of me, facing the wrong way with a shattered windshield:

The group of people in the crosswalk had only begun to register with me as someone walked over to them on my left explaining that he'd just "hit him:"

I was still on bike blogger autopilot, rolling and shooting, as I passed the people in the crosswalk.  I'm not sharing the photo, but a woman talks plaintively into a cellphone as two men kneel over a bloodied young man.  (Teenager?  I can't really tell.)  Two bicycles lie next to them.  The kneeling men are assuring the victim and telling him to stay down, and I think I hear the victim responding.  I'm now just standing there along with increasingly more people, watching.  There's a lot of blood.  I feel stupid for just standing there but I also feel like it's somehow wrong to just leave.

I don't know what happened.  Was the victim walking?  Riding a bicycle?  Popping a wheelie on that dirt bike?  I have no idea.  I've witnessed nothing.  I do know that when the police arrive on the scene they'll have no idea either, and I'm not confident they'll take the time to find out.  I feel like I'm gawking now.  I don't know shit about what happened, I don't know shit about first aid.  The driver has not fled.  I look at the victim again.  A shiver goes up my back and stings my tear ducts.  I feel sick for the victim.  I leave.

For the second time since last Friday when my bike got stolen I reflect on my behavior when confronted with reality.  The further I get from the crash scene the more I think I could have done.  I could have demanded the driver's account and recorded it with my phone in case it would be of use to the victim.  I could have waited around for the police to arrive and made sure they did their job.  I could have done something instead of just gawking for a minute or two and then leaving.  Then I feel arrogant and stupid for thinking that I could have done anything at all, and I find myself in a guilt spiral because I feel simultaneously apathetic and arrogant.

The city swallows everything.  At the crash scene a large group of people are standing around a bloodied victim, all no doubt contemplating the fragility of life, but just a few blocks away it is as though it's not happening.  People walk, drivers run lights, and the only thing keeping everybody alive was that delicate balance of routine and happenstance.  That balance will be upset again.  It's happening all the time, all over town.  It's a bloodbath out there.  But it happens and gets swallowed and that's that.

Anyway, here's all I could find about it in the news:

For the rest of the way home I watched the brutal traffic ballet, and it made me even more despondent than it usually does.  The streets were swamped, flooded, overrun with cars.  Women clutching babies attempted to cross gridlocked intersections.  Drivers ran lights even as NYPD ticketed other drivers a block away.  It all seemed so theoretically fixable, yet at the same time so unstoppable and irreversible.

"Fuck it," I thought, looking out over the river.  "I'm taking up boating."