Monday, January 23, 2017

Wait, is it Monday already?

In this crazy, topsy-turvy, turvy-topsy world, you can only count on three (3) things: death, taxes (current president excluded), and people losing their goddamn minds when you tell them they don't have to wear a plastic hat in order to ride a bicycle.  That last fact would explain why even in the midst of all the inaugural mishegas last week's Gothamist op-ed by Jørs Trüli rode high among the "popular posts" going into the weekend:


Sure, you may have had it up to here [indicates top of helmet] with my incessant screeds on the subject, but I intend to chip away at this country's pathetic bike helmet obsession until it collapses like a bloated world power, and one day when we're finally free you people are gonna thank me for it.

Though of course some people should probably wear them regardless:


Anyway, besides the Inauguration and all the concomitant drama, last week also saw the birthday of melancholy weirdo Edgar Allan Poe:


Which I observed by visiting the High Bridge, one of his most favorite places to pace and sulk:


“In the last melancholy years of his life—’the lonesome latter years’—Poe was accustomed to walk there at all times of the day and night; often pacing the then solitary pathways for hours without meeting a human being,” continued Whitman.

Just think of how much better Poe's life would have been if only he'd had access to Netflix.

Anyway, on an appropriately overcast day I made my way over the Broadway Bridge and into Inwood, where I picked up the Harlem River Greenway at Swindler Cove:


I then continued downtown:


Making sure as always to duck when I reached this treacherous point of reduced vertical clearance:


Whew!  That was a close one:


Had I been wearing a helmet I'd no doubt have clipped my noggin due to the extra centimeter of polystyrene.

This water tower marks the Manhattan side of the High Bridge:


And on the Bronx side a number of the original stone archways remain:


Though I kept going under the bridge to the end of the Greenway, where I scoffed at this sign and continued to ride:


It's a quirk of New York City's bike routes that they expect you to get off and walk from time to time.  Here's a typical example:


I think it's only fair that drivers should have to get out of their cars and push them occasionally as well.  Curb cuts seem like a perfect place to require this.  It's kind of crazy you can drive across a busy sidewalk to access a garage or parking lot.  Why not require all motorists to push their cars when crossing a pedestrian thoroughfare?

Anyway, the ramp delivers you right into the middle of an entrance ramp to the Harlem River Drive, and if you manage to survive that you have time to collect your wits again in this protected bike lane:


Which ends at W. 155th Street:


Drivers will do their best to kill you here, because it's basically a six-way intersection.  Also, W. 155th Street takes you over the Macombs Dam Bridge, and New York City drivers are at their worst (which is saying a lot) in the vicinity of a free bridge crossing.

Here's Hooper Fountain, which was built in 1894 and which is an ideal spot to water your horse:


Here's a building I'm guessing is of a more recent vintage:


And here's the view from Edgecombe Avenue out to the Macombs Dam Bridge and Yankee Stadium beyond:


I think it's where the Mets play or something, I'm really not a baseball fan.

Heading north along Edgecombe Avenue you begin a "climb" by Manhattan standards:


On your right is the lower end of Highbridge Park:


On your left are noteworthy residences such as the Morris-Jumel Mansion, which is the oldest house in Manhattan:


As well as 555 Edgecombe Avenue, which has been home to such personages as Paul Robeson and Count Basie:


Shortly after these abodes a sumptuous two-way bike lane materializes:


But it was at this juncture that I detoured onto the Highbridge Access Trail:


Which begins thusly:


And which, in short order, feels very far away from Manhattan:


Though if you need to charge your phone you're in luck:


Just don't forget your tinfoil hat, because you're being watched:


Once I passed the phone recharger I found myself on the High Bridge:


Here's the view from the span looking towards Manhattan:


Here's the view looking downriver:


Here's Poe as he would have looked while crossing it:


And here's what he'd see from that vantage point today:


Were it not for the safety netting he'd definitely jump.

Anyway, soon I alighted in the Bronx:



Where a sign helpfully points you to the local landmarks:


But where, if you follow the sign, you'll be salmoning, because the two-way bike lane that was once there seems to have disappeared:


Though you can see a hint of green paint remaining under the parked cars:

I was sorry to see this, because last time I was here they were just putting the lane in:


I don't know what happened, but if I had to guess I'd say people freaked out over the loss of parking so the DOT deleted it.

Happy birthday, Edgar!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

I'm NOT HERE, I just popped back in for a minute to tell you something.

While I'm still technically away from this blog until Monday, January 23rd, I just wanted to inform you, my loyal readers, that I've written an op-ed on every cyclist's favorite subject for Gothamist:


As a long-time Gothamist reader I was grateful for the opportunity to write this, and I'm uncharacteristically pleased with the results.  Furthermore, as someone who's been writing about bikes on the Internet for 10 years now, believe me when I tell you that last week I typed up what I thought the comments on this post would be, mailed them to myself, and when I opened the envelope just now the contents matched the actual comments on the post word-for-word.

Helmet commentary that predictable.

[I should also point out that my oft-used intentional misspelling of helmet as "helment" indeed has its origins in a Gothamist post, so my blogging career has come full circle yet again, which would explain why I never feel like I'm getting anywhere.]

And now back to your regularly-scheduled hiatus.  See you back here on Monday, January 23rd!

Ride safe,


--Wildcat Rock Machine


PS:  Notice I didn't even mention once how the inauguration is tomorrow and we're all doomed.


Friday, January 13, 2017

BSNYC Friday No Quiz Instead I'm Like Totally Splitting the Scene, Man

Good morning, or whatever the hell time it is.

Nice day for a ride, isn't it?


Yes it is.

Alas, I regret to inform you that today's post mostly serves as notice that I won't be posting next week.  You know, next week.  That's the one that starts on Monday with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day:


And ends on Friday with the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States:


(Nuclear blasts and our new president are both orange.  Interesting.)

How's that for a pair of bookends?

Anyway, if there even is a Monday, January 23rd, that's the day I'll be back, and if there's not, well hey, we had a good run.


Nobody can take that away from us, though I suppose they can pee on it.

In the meantime, since I can't bear to look forward I've been looking backward instead.  As you've no doubt gathered from some of my Brooks blog posts I'm a little bit of a local history Fred.  In its way this is even more addicting than bikes, and of course it dovetails right into genealogy, which is a real time-suck.  (It's also even more delusional than Strava, because what's more self-absorbed than poring over your family history like you're the goddamn royals?)  Indeed, I found out recently that my great-grandfather was apparently a New York City streetcar conductor back in the year nineteen hundred and ten--or at least that's what he told the census taker, who, it should be noted, had pretty bad handwriting:


So naturally after that I spent like the next six hours watching sick trolley edits:


Did you spot the guy on the bike?


These damn dandies in their bowler hats think they're Mile-A-Minute Murphy!

Anyway, as you can see, it was quite a free-for-all out there, and as it happens 1910 is the first year the city started tracking traffic fatalities.  Here's how things were when my great-grandfather was plying the streets with one of those change dispensers around his waist:

Clearly, New York City has come a long way in mitigating traffic fatalities. According to an article from the New York Times dated September 2, 1913,  the city endured 471 traffic fatalities in 1910. Of those, 112 were caused by automobiles, with another 148 from streetcars and 211 from horse-drawn vehicles. Of those it was estimated that some 95 percent were pedestrians struck in the streets. That's with a population of about 4.7 million — a bit more than half what it is today.

Meanwhile, here's what 2016 looked like:

The overall number of people killed in traffic crashes, including pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, drivers and passengers, was 229 last year, down from 234 in 2015, according to preliminary data from the city. Pedestrian deaths, which accounted for the largest share of fatalities, increased last year to 144, from 139 in 2015. Cyclist deaths rose last year to 18, from 14 in 2015.

I suppose 229 is a lot better than 471, especially when you consider the population of New York City was only 4,766,883 in 1910 and it's estimated at around 8.5 million people now.  Then again, given all the advancements in traffic control since then (which don't seem to have existed in those days) you'd think we could do a lot better than we are.  Either way, I suppose it helps put the present into some kind of perspective.

And with that I'm outta here.  I'll see you back here on Monday, January 23rd.  Enjoy the week ahead if you can, ride safe, and be sure to dodge those trolleys.


--Wildcat Rock Machine



Thursday, January 12, 2017

Fighting Over Scraps

In the cutthroat world of Fred bike marketing, every lump and dimple is prized.  So you can bet when one of these boils or recesses appears on another company's bike a real slap fight ensues:

On Tuesday Velocite CEO Victor Major pointed the finger at Pinarello after the Italian brand unveiled the new Dogma F10 frame that has a concaved down tube to improve aerodynamics around the bottle-cage area. The new bike will be used by Team Sky during the 2017 season. Major claimed in a blog post on the Velocite website that he has patented that design idea in China and Taiwan and that “with the new Dogma F10 your use of our intellectual property is deliberate.”

I love the idea that a "concaved down tube to improve aerodynamics around the bottle-cage area" even matters.  As if bike tech and not abusing the TUE system is what's going to win Sky the Tour de France.  Please.

Pinarello has hit back, giving their side of the story and suggesting that it is Velocite who has refused to provide ‘essential information’ to back up their claims. Pinarello also pointed out that aerodynamic frames have been sold for many years.

“Cicli Pinarello SpA, as a leading company in the cycling sector, obviously takes Intellectual Property issues with the utmost seriousness, Pinarello itself being a patent holder,” Pinarello said it its statement.

It's true, Pinarello is absolutely "a leading company in the cycling sector," especially when it comes to stealing ideas.  You know, like when they took that rear suspension idea from Moots:


(A bike rider attempting to understand a thing he is looking at.)

To wit:


(Moots YBB)

It's almost like these legacy Italian bike companies are out of ideas.  That would certainly explain 3T's aero gravel bike:


Designed by Gerard Vroomen, it's the answer to the question nobody has ever asked, namely: "What would happen if a Cervélo fucked a cyclocross bike?"

One area in which Italian bike companies remain unmatched however is in creating websites that will kill your computer with Flash animation.  This is why you should never, ever, ever visit one, regardless of how tempting it may be:


Yes, the Cipollini universe is one in which size still very much matters:


As does fluidity:


Something Cipollini and our President-elect share in common.

I have to say that life in the Cipollini factory is not quite how I imagined it:


I'd pictured it more like this:


Though there does seem to be plenty of rhythmic thrusting:


And it's hard not to read too deeply into the lengthy process of stroking and boring to which the gaping bottom bracket shell is subjected:


Coincidentally, 14 hours of work is also how much time an unfinished Mario Cipollini requires:


(Cipo switching hands again at around hour seven.)

And this quote pretty much sums up the entire road bike industry:


Making things simple should be the easy part, but when a machine is as simple as a bike you really do have to employ all manner of design gimmickry to make one stand apart from the other.  However, even the gimmickry soon becomes indistinguishable, which is why all the Fred bikes look like this now:
I like when they make a big deal about how a pro is "testing" a new bike so they can make a big deal about how it measured up to his exacting standards, when in reality a rider like Sagan would probably race and win on a Bikesdirect special without noticing.

Can't wait to see who accuses who of stealing the hot new "t-boned a car" downtube look:


I'm sure if you paired that with a "concaved down tube to improve aerodynamics around the bottle-cage area" and a bottom bracket shell that's been lovingly rubbed by an Italian for 14 hours you'd get a bike so fast it would defy time and space.

In other news, as I type this the city's greatest minds are working to solve one of the most perplexing problems of our age:
Call me crazy, but I'd start by moving the cars and parking them someplace else.

Yeah, I know, I'll never get a city job with that attitude.  Making simple things complicated is even more vital to municipal politics than it is to designing plastic bicycles.  I'm sure after commissioning an expensive six-year study at taxpayer expense they'll end up deciding to give the bike lane another coat of paint.  Meanwhile, the Google street view reveals a total shitshow, and they've even got a Dumpster in there:


Not to mention a banged-up unmarked car and a marked one blocking two crosswalks at the same time just because:


This is basically the situation at every precinct in the city, and you'd think with all the money we spend on America's largest police force we could figure out a place for them to put their cars.  Honestly, as a cyclist I'd even be glad to give them the whole goddamn bike lane if it meant they'd finally get their all their shit off the fucking sidewalk.  Maybe for the price of a few feet of bike lane here and there the police wouldn't be so hard on cyclists and the pedestrians could actually walk.

Just a thought.