Friday, May 30, 2008

BSNYC Interview: Great NYC Commuter Race Champion Jamie Favaro

As I reported yesterday, I was handily defeated in the Great NYC Commuter race. (A race, I might add, to which I was not only at least 10 minutes late, but which I wasn't even technically in.) Well, every defeat has a silver lining, and in this case that lining came in the form of an interview with the winner, Jamie Favaro. While my interview was simply a thinly-veiled attempt to understand her so that I might use that understanding to defeat her at some future date, it turns out it also offers a unique, inspirational, and at times explicit adult glimpse into the mind of a champion. And yes, this is a real interview. Enjoy, and ride safe this weekend.

--BSNYC



Do you usually commute by bicycle, and if so from where to where?

Lower East Side to Washington Heights, 181st baby. Can I take this opportunity to say that rollerbladers are annoying and they should all be shot? Or kept in cages. Their legspan is oppressive and their legs should be clipped. (Except of course the Gotham Girls, they're more than okay in my book.)

Besides commuting, what kind of riding do you like to do?

I enjoy riding around in the Giant Bicycle Vulva Taxi. It's kind of my home away from home.

How were you chosen as the cyclist for this race?

My best buddy Rachael alerted TA to my speed and agility on two wheels. After that it was multiple time-trials. And I had to beat some guy wearing a beanie at checkers.

You beat someone who took the subway and someone who drove a car. Does the word "sandbagger" mean anything to you?


Not to me, but I think April got a little sandbagged with the bus/subway combo. I fell in love with her when she politely commented that the subway "If you see something say something" alert was "Very helpful".

If you had known that you were competing against me too, would you have ridden any differently?

Yeah, I would have probably been really distracted - you're a pretty attractive fellow.

Please describe your preparation for this race. Did you train? What did you have for breakfast? Any music to get you psyched up?

I did a hefty amount of carbo-loading... and I put the songs 'Calabria' and 'Lollipop' on repeat.



(A true champion, Jamie sports road rash as a badge of honor.)


Please describe the race-winning machine. Any unusual equipment choices specific to the course, a la Paris-Roubaix?

I'm partial to late 70's Raleigh Grand Prix's... but for the race I pulled out the big guns... but kind of like BSNYC, she's anonymous.

What was your route?

To achieve my 16 minute victory I took a speed boat (thanks TA!) from Brooklyn to Manhattan. I'm a big girl, the steep incline of the Manhattan Bridge kills me.

I have to ask this because your fans want to know: single or attached?

Single. Although I have a rather extensive relationship with my bike... I mean my bike(s). I rank them like a harem, depending on what 'shape' they're in. I'm kind of the Don Juan of my own bicycle village.

If you could have chosen any person, living or dead, to greet you at the finish line, who would that person have been?

Bruce Smolka, but only if he's wearing pink pasties and holding a bottle of lube.

Will Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White stop at nothing in his relentless quest for power and glory?

I don't think so. When he learned that I biked into oncoming traffic once (okay, a couple) times, spit in a cabby's passenger side window (for cutting me off- TOTALLY acceptable), and stopped at Time's Up! he started calling his people. I thought he was going to have me 'knocked off'.

Was that a chopper following you?

Yeah. Oddly, TA highlights the carbon footprint made by each mode of transportation in the race but does not mention the carbon footprint of the chopper that hovered over the race for an hour to get 4 seconds of footage. Oh Fox, if you're okay by Dick Cheney, you're okay by me.

Did you see "Black Snake Moan," and if so was it better than you expected?

Much better- after all everything IS hotter down south.

Describe your ideal day on a bike:

All I know is that it doesn't include any type of stopping or waiting.

This Just In: Fixed-Gears Officially a Cliché

A number of people have alerted me to the abnormally high PistaDex in America's damp cycling capital, Portland, OR. This would seem to imply that the Fixed-Gear Apocalypse is a long way off. However, there are other signs which contradict this. An attractive female reader who wished only to be identified as an "attractive female reader" informs me that she was curling up with a copy of Bust magazine when she came across this piece of fixed-gear erotica:





Graphic? Certainly. Titillating? I'm not sure what that means. Culturally significant? Most definitely. Surely the final step in something becoming a real cliché is when it's incorporated into pornography. It's sort of like how your country isn't officially blighted until celebrities start showing up and taking your children away. Now that bike messengers have joined the long line of cable installers, plumbers, and repairmen waiting in line to have consequence-free sex with America's erotic heroines, their mainstream appropriation is surely complete.

While I'm on the subject of sex, I'd also like to warn you about what appears to be a disturbing new trend in bike saddles. Following is a photo which reader Ed Buffington (which, truth be told, would be a good name for the male cyclist in the Bust story) took with his camera phone during a recent trip to New Haven, CT. The bike was apparently locked up outside of a bar near the Yale campus. The image isn't quite safe for work, and it's definitely in poor taste, so in the interest of propriety it will be preceeded by three warnings.


Warning 1:

Warning 2:


Warning 3:


OK, you asked for it:


Sorry for all those warnings, but you can see it's quite shocking. Not only does the bike have a pie plate and a reflector, but it also still has the sizing sticker on the seat tube. I really hate to see that on a bike, especially such a fine one as this Trek "Snap-On" edition mountain bike. Oh, right, the saddle. Yes, it appears to be some kind of dildo. Disturbing.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Dominated by the Unwitting: How I Lost the Great NYC Commuter Race

Yesterday I happened to notice that this morning would see the 7th annual running of the Transportation Alternatives Great NYC Commuter Race. In it, a cyclist, a subway rider, and an automobile driver would compete head-to-head in a contrived test of wits and endurance designed to prove to the world what we cyclists already know--that a bike is the fastest way to get around the city.

At first I was dismissive, but then I realized something: hey, I could win this thing! Granted, I hadn't been invited to participate in the first place, but that has never stopped a true champion. Plus, I haven't won a bike race since I was about 12, and after sizing up the competition I decided this might be my only chance to quench my epic-length victory drought.

According to the TA site, the race would begin in Fort Greene, Brooklyn at the Connecticut Muffin on Myrtle Ave. at 7:40am and end at Union Square in Manhattan at 8:10am. It was immediately obvious to me that the biggest challenge would be the early start time. It may come as little surprise to many of you that a person as bitter as myself requires a lot of alone time in the morning in order to come to grips with the fact that I am a) alive; and b) must once again eventually interact with other people at some point during the course of the day. Having to be in Fort Greene at 7:40 would mean that I would lose precious morning sulking time. Not only that, but I moved not too long ago (by which I mean within the last five years) and to this day I refuse to adjust for the extra 20 minutes it now takes me to get anywhere. As such, I'm always 20 minutes late to any destination or appointment.

But this was a race! I would have to rally and move. And rally I did. I left my house early, and when the 7:40 start time rolled around I was ready to go. Unfortunately, I was still about 10 minutes from Connecticut Muffin. Instead, I was here, on the wrong side of Atlantic Avenue:



By the time I got to Connecticut Muffin it was about 7:50 and I knew I was in trouble since the only people around were from News 12. If I was even later than a shoddy news operation like that, what chance could I possibly have against a bunch of bright-eyed and bushy-tailed TransAlt eco-nerds?



Still, though, I was determined to press on. Unfortunately, I soon hit a wall in the form of my own indecision. Which bridge should I take, the Manhattan Bridge or the Williamsburg Bridge? In theory, the Williamsburg Bridge seemed the faster route. In practice, though, I'm scared of it because of all the graffiti and fashionable young people. However, I didn't wake up early to be thwarted by my own personal demons. So I finally stopped riding around in circles on Flushing Ave. and headed towards my fate...
...only to be confronted by another delay: temptation, in the form of my secret bike-washing spot. My bike was pretty dirty, and there wasn't even a line at the pressure washers. But no! I would press on!




There it looms, the dreaded Williamsburg, like a giant hypodermic needle mainlining trendy 20-somethings right into Manhattan's bloodstream:



As I approached the bridge, I was confronted with the horrifying specter of the Hulk's ghost bike:




More delays! Will misfortunes never cease?!? In the steel cage match of trenditude that is riding the Williamsburg Bridge bike path, I am stuck behind an Old Crappy 10 Speed and a maintenance vehicle:



Finally! Manhattan! Oh, Village Voice, you're incorrigible. You won't find that kind of wit in the suburbs:



As I approach the run-in to Union Square, I suddenly realize hope is not yet dead. It's only just 8:10! Could it be possible that I would...? No, I dare not think it. Just keep my head down and pedal.



Promptly-ish at 8:10-ish I arrive at Union Square, only to find a media frenzy already taking place. Dammit, that could have been me basking in all that glory! I could even have given a pro cyclist-style interview: "It was super hard today, but I felt super strong and my team was super." Yada, yada, yada.


Grudgingly, I congratulate the winner, cyclist Jamie Favaro, who graciously poses for a photograph:


And there it is. I've lost the Tour de France of commuter races. I think the subway guy was already there, too. I milled around for a few minutes dejectedly and talked to a friendly bike messenger with facial tattoos to rival David Clinger's, and then I finally left, my head hung low in shame. Oh, well, at least I beat the car.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Triumph Over Adversity: Coping With Injustices Great and Small

(Clem LueYat, the Eddy Merckx of hair weaving)

Firstly, you've probably heard by now, but biker, blogger, bike blogger, and Bike Blog proprietor Michael Green has finally gotten his bike back. His story is as inspiring as it is convoluted, and by my count at least 47 people (including his lawyer!) were involved in the recovery of his orange and green monstrosity. Apparently it was necessary for them to form a posse since they trailed the bike to a housing project and there were some big guys around it. Of course, they should have just saved themselves some trouble and called my mother. When my brother and I were little his bike was stolen. A few weeks later we spotted it at a housing project and she recovered it from a menacing-looking bunch singlehandedly while we cowered in the car. Like us, Michael cowered during the recovery of his bicycle as well, though like so many draft-dodgers before him he was doing it in Canada instead of in the back seat of a Caprice wagon.

Of course, I am happy for Michael, and his tale is a perfect example of the kind of insurance and security I'm forefeiting by not being a member of the "bike community." I've always been a bit of a lone wolf, and when you eschew the companionship and camaraderie of others you also forego the concomitant protection. Then again, I don't have to wear those stupid clothes, so overall I'm fine with the trade-off. If my bike goes missing I can always call mom.

As a lone wolf, I also don't have too many idols, though I read with interest that a Major Taylor monument was just unveiled in Worcester, Massachusetts. In fact, no less a personage than Greg LeMond was on hand to help himself to some free publicity and to gratuitously liken his own plight to Taylor's:

"When I was 16 years old I felt so out of place, only coming from the west coast to the east coast to race," said LeMond. "And I also know what it feels like to be a target as a competitor. So I imagine Taylor at a young age of 17 or 18, racing in Indiana, against all white racers ... and dominating, pulling all this attention to himself. He had physical threats, political threats, and backhanded deals against him."

Indeed, LeMond has certainly felt the cruel sting of injustice. He may have been one of the most highly-paid riders of his time, but Hinault attacked him during the Tour, and also he was shot by his brother-in-law by accident. Later, he entered into a lucrative licensing arrangement with Trek that he effectively sabotaged, which is exactly like being a black athlete in an all-white sport in the early 20th century. Word has it that after the Major Taylor unveiling LeMond immediately kicked off a world tour during which he will visit and weep openly at the world's most affecting memorials.

LeMond's presence aside, I was inspired to learn more about Major Taylor, so I visited the Major Taylor Association website. I was particularly interested in the chapter from his autobiography entitled, "The Value of Good Habits and Clean Living," which included the following list of "Don'ts:"

A DOZEN DON'TS

Don't try to "gyp."
Don't be a pie biter.
Don't keep late hours.
Don't use intoxicants.
Don't be a big bluffer.
Don't eat cheap candies.
Don't get a swelled head.
Don't use tobacco in any form.
Don't fail to live a clean life.
Don't forget to play the game fair.
Don't take in unfair advantage of an opponent.
Don't forget the practice of good sportsmanship.

Apart from the fact that most of the above-referenced fixed-gear "bike community" is living contrary to pretty much every bit of Major Taylor's advice (with the Cat 4 roadies violating anything the fixed-gear riders aren't), I found it particularly noteworthy that he warns against being a "pie biter." I don't know what pie biting is, but I have a feeling it's either what Judd Nelson did to Molly Ringwald's crotch under her desk in "The Breakfast Club," or what Greg LeMond was doing at the unveiling of the Major Taylor monument. In either case, I'd have to agree that pie biting is something we should all take great pains to avoid.

Indeed, they don't make 'em like the Major anymore. So who is a young cyclist supposed to look up to these days? Well, there's always David Millar. While Major Taylor boldly triumphed in the face of adversity, David Millar bravely manages to garner mediocre results in the face of mild inconvenience. In fact, Millar had this to say about the Plan de Corones stage of the Giro:

"This race is just insane!" said Slipstream's David Millar as he climbed into a cable car to take him down the mountain. "Taken individually it's a good idea, but on a total, it's not a good thing after the two mental days we've just had and the two hard weeks we've had before that. This race is just ridiculous."

Ridiculous indeed. It's enough to make you want to throw your bike! Yes, like Major Taylor and Greg LeMond, Millar too knows the meaning of injustice:

My body folds as my bike disappears under me. I look down and see the chain broken. It's over. I watch them go as I roll to a standstill. It's gone, all that work, and not just that day but weeks and months and years. I've had two years of racing taken away from me already. That was my punishment. But this I have done nothing wrong for. That's why there wasn't even a moment of hesitation to throw my bike. Because at that moment, I didn't think I deserved that to happen to me. Which is pathetic, but for those few seconds it didn't seem fair.

Indeed, with each generation we seem to grow increasingly sensitive to injustice. For Taylor, injustice was white people trying to kill him. For LeMond, it was sponsors and bicycle manufacturers trying to make him rich. And for Millar, it was the universe unfairly depriving him of a win.

But Millar is more than just the sum of his hissy fits. Here's a little more about him via the Slipstream site:

Favorite Cross Drill: Speedskating
Favorite Food: Pasta
Favorite Clif Bar: All of them. I can't wait to race so I can eat more!
Favorite Movie: Ratatouille


Somehow, the image of Millar sitting down to watch Pixar films in front of a big bowl of elbow macaroni after a hard afternoon of speed skating clinches it for me--this is a new breed of 21st century cycling hero.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

BSNYC Tuesday Fun Quiz: Memorial Day Weekend Test-tacular!

I don't know what was worse this past weekend--getting out of Manhattan on Friday in the dense holiday weekend traffic, or spending the holiday weekend in the city. All I do know is that I can at least spread the misery around by hitting you with a quiz on your first day back. Don't worry, though--it's a short one, and it should be pretty easy too. Simply study the photographs below and click on your answer. If you're right you'll see either the item or a clear indication you're correct. If you're wrong, you'll see corduroy.

Good luck!




The above vehicle, which I encountered on Friday, belongs to:

--The HairWeavingNYC Mobile Strike Force

--A Trinidadian diplomat

--Master Hair Weaver Clem LueYat

--Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White





What's going on in the above picture?

--A bunch of porta-potties are on their way out to the Hamptons for the weekend

--The DOT is making good on its "Coordinated Street Furniture Franchise" program by making mobile public restrooms available to motor vehicle commuters stuck in traffic

--A bunch of porta-potties are being rounded up and placed into internment camps for not wearing cones of smugness

--I've finally gotten past the hairweaving SUV only to get stuck behind a freaking flatbed full of plastic outhouses




What's remarkable about this tall bike?

--I encountered it in the genteel Cobble Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn

--There was no vomit on or around it

--Grant Petersen would no doubt approve of the handlebar/saddle relationship

--All of the above



Obey? Oy vey! The above t-shirt, spotted at an evening soiree, was remarkable because:

--The wearer was smoking heavily and the guy on the shirt is wearing a gas mask

--I did not vomit on or around it

--Grant Petersen would no doubt disapprove of the fact that both the wearer and the guy on the shirt seemed to be having trouble keeping their pants up

--All of the above

Friday, May 23, 2008

Something to Ponder: Bike Lane Ethics

This morning as I rode up Lafayette Street I encountered this bike lane obstruction:

The truck is parked squarely in the bike lane, but it is unloading bikes for a nearby shop. Certainly this is ironic, but is it ethical? Just something to think about over the holiday weekend.


Oh, and the bikes are from Specialized. This may or may not influence your opinion.


Ride safe this weekend,


--BSNYC /RTMS

Worst of NYC Craiglist Bike Ads SPECIAL EDITION: Golden Opportunities!

There's a lot of crap on Craigslist, but there's also a lot of opportunity. Whether you're looking for a tattoo, a hefty reward, or a place to sell your outmoded and failure-prone cycling equipment, you can find it now if you act fast. Here are the three chances to win big:


............................trade a track bike for a tattoo(s) (williamsburg/ l.e.s) [original URL: http://newyork.craigslist.org/brk/bik/691410846.html]
Reply to: [deleted]
Date: 2008-05-22, 8:11PM EDT

i need a bike for the summer, and im looking to trade a good size tattoo for it.
i just moved to NYC and im looking for a track bike to ride to work and around the city.
fixed or single speed ok.................

id love to see photos if your interested.............

examples of work.......


Here comes Super Mario bouncing into town, and he's looking for a Luigi to swap trends with. I'm not sure why he can't simply charge for his tattooing services and then use the money to purchase a bicycle--I don't see dentists trading bridgework for their Serottas. (And I wouldn't want to go to a dentist who did.) All I know is that his ellipses use is probably turning cycling blog commenting enthusiast Bikesgonewild faded tattoo green with envy. (Or maybe red with anger, since I'm sure BGW has strong feelings about proper ellipses use.) By the way, my personal favorite example of his work is the one on the lower left which looks like a decomposed Cletus from the Simpsons wearing a snake for a hat. Nice neck placement, too. That's what you call a "trailer park hicky." I was actually tempted to take him up on his offer myself. I was either going to go for the flapper girl who's been crying (or whose eyes are irritated from the high pollen count), or for a hybrid in which the tiger is wearing the snake hat and reenacting the "Alas, poor Urick" scene from Hamlet with the Cletus skull, but then I realized I probably couldn't fit that on my neck.

STOLEN BIKE $$$REWARD$$$ (Inwood / Wash Hts) [original URL: http://newyork.craigslist.org/mnh/bik/690905158.html]
Reply to: [deleted]
Date: 2008-05-22, 1:44PM EDT

SOMEONE LAST NIGHT STOLE MY BIKE IN A BLINK OF AN EYE. IT IS A 19 INCH ORANGE KONA UNIT 29ER INCH WHEEL MOUNTAIN BIKE. THE BICYCLE WAS STOLEN NEAR THE 1 LINE TRAIN STATION BY HIGHBRIDGE PARK. IT HAS GREAT SENTIMENTAL VALUE TO ME AND I AM WILLING TO GIVE THE FOUNDER A $500 REWARD AND DINNER FOR TWO AT DINO BBQ IN HARLEM. MY NUMBER IS 646-578-0522.
GOOD LUCK TO ALL AND THANK YOU...


I hate to see someone's bike get stolen, and I've left the number intact so that if you do see or hear something you can give this person a call. My contempt here is reserved entirely for the thief. I don't think he's going to get very far, though--not in that get-up. I mean, come on, his whole look screams "burglar!" He's certainly tempting the wrath of the Lord, too, since his booty appears to include a menorah. Actually, judging from the mask, there's a strong possibility the thief is internet personality and frothing lunatic Opinionated Cyclist. I may turn him in for the reward money and the dinner. That's an incredibly generous prize package, by the way. You usually don't score that big without being a contestant on "The Price is Right."


Spinergy rev x front wheel - $180 [original URL: http://newyork.craigslist.org/brk/bik/691568569.html]
Reply to: [deleted]
Date: 2008-05-22, 10:40PM EDT

Tubular Spinergy carbon fiber front wheel. Four spoke 650c (barspin action)

Track bike fixed gear



Sweet! Barspin action is the best kind of action. There was a time not too long ago when the words "Rev-X," "650c," and "tubular" used together in a bike ad were about as likely to close the deal as the words "sore," "weeping," and "open" in a dating ad. But times have changed. I'd imagine that many older triathletes are now sitting on goldmines (as well as on mankinis and seats with bulbous W.C. Fields-like noses). Cash in now before all the fixed-gear freestylers buy 700c bar-spinnable frames. (Et tu, Waterford?)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Matters Great and Small: Flitting Around Various Items of Note

Firstly, it's already been pointed out by a number of commenters recently, but I'd like to officially announce that I'm on the back page of the current issue of VeloNews. I hope you'll forgive my boasting, but this is something of a milestone for me in that it includes actual pen-and-ink comic accompaniment. Not only that, but the likeness of me is staggeringly accurate. (And if you think trackstanding long enough for the artist to draw me was easy, think again.)


If you're looking for a copy at a newsstand, it's the one with the slavering professional cyclist on the cover. Also, please note the article about ceramic bearing upgrades. This is a crucial upgrade which I can personally vouch for. I've installed ceramic bearings in all four casters on my blogging chair per Lennard Zinn's instructions, and I've already noticed a .0006% increase in my output. I can also spin for days without stopping if I so choose.

I'd also like to point out the irony that I've been published in the "journal of competitive cycling" not in spite of but because of the fact that I'm an extremely poor competitive cyclist. This proves something I've been telling the many people I've disappointed over the years, which is that failure when done well is its own form of success.

Speaking of irony, at the very moment I was typing my pedantic screed about the excesses of the fixed-gear craze yesterday, the New York Times was lumping me right in with it:


I particularly enjoyed the fact that I was mentioned in the same breath as a collabo. Of course, I have enough perspective on things to understand that this blog is a part of the fixed-gear phenomenon, whether I like it or not. Hey, I own a fixed-gear bike, too. Not only that, but I even ride it in cutoff shorts and a t-shirt once in awhile. (You know, if I'm just nipping across town for a pedicure and an orange julius or something.) Really, is there that much difference between me and the guy in the picture from yesterday's post?

Uh, yeah, of course there is! Those giant freaking glasses!!! (I thought I was over it but I just got angry all over again. Even though it was apparently all a joke in the first place, according to the King Kog site. See? I told you I'm not a part of "bike culture!" Once again, LOU=A.)

So sure, from the Times's vantage point, as cyclists we're all the same. But I maintain it's vital to scrutinize everything up close and focus on the things that make us different, not the things we have in common. If we don't do that then we all run the risk of forming some sort of community where we all share in the joys of cycling or something. And that's just icky. And anyway, I receive my share of anger from others and I don't mind. Here's a comment from Tuesday's first post:

Prince Gutta said...

Epicly failured attempt at humor. Another reason I want to strangle the asshole who runs this bogus ass website.

Personally I don't consider it a successful day if I'm not the target of a strangulation attempt. If anything, I'm dying to know the other reasons Prince Gutta wants to strangle me. He only alludes to them. He does say "bogus ass website," though. Maybe he's an ass fetishist and was bitterly disappointed to find the content here was not what he expected. (Though in my defense, I've never claimed this was actually an ass website. And judging from the strangulation reference he may be into auto-erotic asphyxiation as well, like Michael Hutchence. In that case I hope he stays away from me.)

While I'm on the subject of people who want to do bad things to me, awhile back I mentioned that someone actually spit on me. Here's the picture I took that day:


Well, I saw him again this morning and I managed to get another shot:



I took the photo not to embarrass him but as an attempt to get over the trauma of that day's events, which still haunt me as I type. If you've seen Clockwork Orange and remember the part where Alex winds up back at the house of the woman he raped in the beginning of the film and her husband trembles in terror as he realizes he's once again face-to-face with his wife's attacker then you know how I felt. Despite the fact that I was shaking violently I managed to operate my camera, though I did stay well out of spitting distance.

I hope you'll forgive me for hopscotching from subject to subject, but apart from the spitter there's another two-wheeled menace roaming the streets of New York City, and his name is David Byrne. Gothamist reports (and Byrne himself corroborates) that he got on his bike after drinking, took a spill on the 14th street pave, and cracked a few ribs.

Personally, I'm disgusted that Byrne wasn't prosecuted. These rock stars and their chemical-fueled rampages are a menace to decent society. I've had it up to here with tales of Byrne and his ilk tossing television sets and baby cribs out of hotel windows, driving their Lamborghinis all over decent people's cornfields, and throwing flaming bundles of cash at old people. I don't care if Byrne was in the Blue Öyster Cult--he should be punished to the full extent of the law! (His crushing riff on "Godzilla" notwithstanding.)

I'm also completely against riding while under the influence. That sort of thing should be done on closed courses on singlespeed mountain bikes only. I'm ashamed to admit that even I have ridden after having one too many. In fact, I'm lucky to be alive. Not long ago I was at a bar with some friends. One drink turned to several, and before I knew it I was smashed. Suddenly, I remembered there was someplace I needed to be, and stupidly I got on my bike. It's a miracle I made it to Prospect Park in one piece, and I can safely say that that was the single worst road race I've ever suffered through in my life.

In closing, today is the 125th birthday of the Brooklyn Bridge, and there's apparently some kind of "birthday blowout" planned. Despite the fact that it's crawling with tourists, I still like to use the Brooklyn Bridge sometimes, because as any pre-war track racer or sex worker can tell you, there's nothing quite like riding on wood. They're definitely making a big deal about this birthday, too. Recently they installed this in the pavement, which should serve as a nice new surface for the fixed-gear riders to skid on:



The bridge is also lined with these big party boxes:


I'm not sure what the party itself is going to be like, and I don't intend to find out either. I'll definitely be taking a different bridge to get home. Unless there's going to be cheese, that is.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

From the BSNYC Culture Desk: Nerds and Bikes

When it comes to the injured, there are two types: there is the type who leaves the injury alone and lets it heal; and there is the type who can’t stop poking at it despite the pain it causes. I’m of the latter type, which is probably why I’m a cyclist. Cycling, of course, is the eternal pursuit of pain and discomfort.

Unfortunately though you can’t be on the bike suffering at all times. So when I’m in front of a computer I try to find other bike-related sources of displeasure. One of my favorite ways of irritating myself is by checking in on bicycle fashion, and a great place to do that is on the King Kog website. So yesterday I virtually swung on by, and I’m pleased to report that I was not disappointed. (And by that I mean I was tremendously disappointed.):



All kidding aside, I’m a firm believer in honesty, and I’m being completely honest with you now when I say that this photograph made me extremely angry. It’s difficult for me to quantify exactly why, though it might have had something to do with the pink fanny pack, which sends tremors of rage through me like a matador’s cape. It might also have had something to do with the giant sunglasses, which simultaneously evoke Paris Hilton and my aunt who used to give me ballpoint pens as presents. In an attempt to get a handle on my anger, I studied the image from a different angle:


Yep, I was still angry. Actually, I was even angrier. The “How ya like me now?” chin stroke and the bare calf hanging lazily over the chopped handlebar now simultaneously evoked hotchickswithdouchebags without the hot chicks and Audrey Hepburn sitting at the edge of a dock with a toe in the water. The bandana on the head-tube wasn’t helping either. Unless that Thompson stem is about to eat a heaping bowl of spaghetti and meatballs, please lose the cloth napkin.

Okay, so I was angry, but I was also troubled by my anger. Where was it coming from? It’s perfectly natural to get angry, but what separates us from the animals (apart from the fact that they usually have a lot more nipples) is that we can understand our anger instead of simply acting on it. So I counted my nipples and, finding only two, I was sufficiently convinced of my humanity (or at least that I was a primate of some kind) to embark upon an attempt to discover and come to terms with the source of my ire.

I’m of the belief that there are three things that cause anger:

Fear

This is the most basic reason people get angry. When you’re threatened by something, you become angry. This anger in turn allows you to protect yourself against the source of the fear. That’s not what was happening here, though. I had little to fear from this model apart from the fact that he might hit me with his pink man-purse.

Jealousy

Anger often masks jealousy. Colloquially, this is known as “playa hating.” I can confidently say though that I was not jealous. Had I wished to attire myself in the manner of the model I needed only to travel the short distance to King Kog and purchase the same attire. I’m not sure they carry the glasses, but I could easily get those from my ballpoint pen-dispensing aunt.

Lack of Understanding

Ah, now I was getting somewhere. We often fear—and consequently get angry at—things we don’t understand. It was certainly possible that the reason I was angry was that I simply didn’t “get it.” The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized it was more complicated than that. I don’t think I was angry because I didn’t “get it.” I think I was angry because I thought he didn’t “get it.” But what didn’t he “get” exactly? The fact that he looked like a Good Charlotte member wearing Lindsay Lohan’s sunglasses? I’m sure he probably knows that. Was it the fact that fashion and cycling are mutually exclusive? Well, that may be my opinion, but it’s not necessarily the case. It is possible to enjoy both. Still, though, I felt like I was on to something, and this was encouraging.

To test my Lack Of Understanding=Anger theory, I turned to something else that's confusing: the Giro d'Italia. If you don't believe that the Giro is confusing, take a look at the route map:



I admit that I haven't been following the Giro this year. I was too busy around the time it started, and now I'm hopelessly behind. So I've done what I used to do in school when I fell behind with my schoolwork, which is just give up altogether. Still, though, the Giro doesn't make me angry. Seemingly, this would deal a blow to my LOU=A theory. Then again, just because I'm out of the loop this year doesn't mean I don't understand the race. I do. It's a three week stage race like the Tour de France, except it's in Italy and last year's Tour de France winner is allowed to ride in it. It's not that complicated.

My head swimming, I went outside for a breath of fresh air and nearly stumbled upon one of those corner newspaper dispensers. To my surprise, it contained a copy of The New York Press. You'd think they'd stop printing this sort of thing on paper by now, but I suppose if they did people would have nothing to housetrain their new puppies on. (And without the corner newspaper dispensers, they'd have nothing to let their adult dogs urinate on either.) I was doubly surprised to find that the cover story, as if determined by providence, was this:




Apparently, this guy Benjamin Nugent has written an entire book called American Nerd, and this is an excerpt. It talks about the phenomenon of the "fake nerd," which is basically the same as what many people call the "hipster," which dovetails pretty neatly with the "fixter," which is pretty much what the guy in the King Kog photo is. Surely, this would help me understand the photograph and, consequently, my anger. I was especially pleased that this was an excerpt since it meant I wouldn't have to read the whole book (entire books can be tedious), so in turn I will provide you with some choice quotes from the excerpt so you don't even have to read the excerpt:

I went to high school in the 1990s; my peers were the first generation of children raised by bourgeois bohemians. Our parents lived by the principle that you could walk with one arm around the shoulder of the avant-garde and another around the shoulder of the establishment, drunk on art and money.

This would certainly explain riding expensive custom bicycles and using handmade designer nylon carry-alls while wearing tatty clothes, all under the pretense of rugged simplicity and minimalism.

How do I rebel...? How does my generation do something new? ... One answer is purism. When eclecticism is your parents’ thing you revisit old genres and deliberately maintain their integrity... The sort-of-true clichés about what hipsters like—trucker caps, mustaches, Pabst Blue Ribbon, mullets—play with the idea of old school. They connote sophistication and cosmopolitanism by screaming, “We are not cosmopolitan! We are not culturally sophisticated!”

Is this what the person in the photograph is doing? Very possibly. In many ways the fixed-gear trend appears to be an attempt at "purism," both mechanical and aesthetic. It's an abstracted and exaggerated version of the messenger style that's been around for the past 20 years or so. Same bikes and tattoos, but cleaner and more expensive. Same bags and clothes, but better-fitting (and again, more expensive). Alleycats which replicate messengering without the indignity of actually working. And so on.

You hear fake nerd conversation. It follows a model. You bring up an “obsession” or “total fascination” with a purportedly unfashionable subject. “I am such a dork about old Hawaiian slide guitar. I actually have every King Benny record. I’ve so got a problem.” “Dude, you want to hit In-N-Out burger? I basically live on their Protein Burgers when I’m in LA.” This is a way of whipping out cultural capital, but not in the same way as leaving guests in the living room to retrieve a hollowbody guitar or a first edition of To The Lighthouse. The Gretsch and the Woolf say, “I am creative and educated, so I have an understanding of the blues and the Bloomsbury Group.” The Hawaiian slide recordings and the In-N-Out Burger, which are both low-end consumer products, say, “I love the things I love because I am guided by some untamed voice within me that causes me to have random obsessions. I will follow my individualized obsessions, not trends, and be transparent about those obsessions, even when those obsessions tell me to like things widely considered ugly and cheap.” It’s the cultural capital of quirk.

"The cultural capital of quirk" is certainly trading briskly among trendy cyclists now. What iconic cycling image or logo hasn't been incorporated into a t-shirt or hat being sold by a track bike boutique? What fixed-gear rider actually knows the original reason people started using Aerospoke-type wheels on the front? (And it wasn't because you could paint them pink.) What else explains people's obsession with NJS stamps (though that obsession seems to be fading with the advent of fixed-gear freestyling), which outside of the Japanese keirin circuit mean absolutely nothing? It's all "cultural capital of quirk."

As relevant as the article was, I was disappointed that it didn't address cycling directly. Surely the fixed-gear trend is pertinent to his subject. However, providence had yet another surprise in store for me. A little while later, whilst visiting some random cycling blogs, I stumbled upon this:




Indeed, the article was peppered with the images of various "fake nerds," and sure enough one of them writes a bike blog:


Moreover, the blog has a high fixed-gear quotient, and it contains the "cultural capital of quirk" by the bucketload. (It also contains the news that noted fixed-gear freestyler, street fashion maven, Death Adder, and architect Prolly is selling one of his bikes. This is a chance for you to own a piece of cycling history, albeit a dark and stormy one.) If gleefully comparing a set of track hubs to a mound of cocaine isn't a grotesque, Scarface-like indulgence in cycling's cultural capital, I don't know what is.

So I now understood what was bothering me about the King Kog photo. It was the fact that the person in it appeared to me to be selling something that has been divorced from its origins and appropriated by people who have not gone through their own process of discovery and understanding. It also appears to depict a culture that tries so hard to be authentic that it comes off as inauthentic. It's a highly derivative rebellion. Of course, the reality is that this is just how I see it. Also, I don't really know anything about the person in the photo. (I'm sure I would know him if I were a part of the bike culture, but as I've already discovered, I'm not.) Moreover, it's completely ridiculous of me to get angry about something as stupid as a picture. And in understanding all of this, I was finally no longer angry. Thus, I have proved the LOU=A theory.

Of course, the photo still makes me sick, but that's another story.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

This Also Just In Too, As Well: Opinionated Cyclist Goes Crazy

While this site may traffic in derision, the reality is that I consider us all to be one big family. And as a family, I like to think that we're always welcoming new members into the fold. Just a few who have come into our lives and brought joy into our hearts over these past months include:

Kevin, the tattooed exhibitionist handlebar vendor;



Malaysian pop sensation Letle Viride;


(erik k)

It is for this reason that I was simultaneously concerned and entertained to learn that beloved cyclist personality Opinionated Cyclist (whom many of you met here on Good Friday) has apparently lost his mind. Here he is showing off an artificial kidney he has fashioned from a potato:



This is but one example of what seems to be the new OC. The rules of decency to which I do my best to adhere prohibit me from sharing with you the subject matter of his many latest posts, though if you visit his Youtube page you can find out for yourself. I will say that the word "dildo" comes up with alarming frequency, and that it is also used in conjunction with the word "mother." There is also much talk of colons. (Anatomical, not punctuative.)



Troubled, I visited his Facebook fan club in the hope that I might learn more about what's going on, but it's holding fast at three members and it contained no useful information. The many interview requests I have sent him have gone unanswered. In any event, let us hope that this represents not a cracking up but simply another stage (albeit a scatological one) in the evolution of a genius. Let us all send good thoughts to our wayward brother.

And maybe buy a t-shirt.

This Just In: Nuts to Soup

In a recent post I expressed confusion regarding the sign above newly-opened bicycle shop, "Dah Shop:"


Well, Jimmy from Brooklyn informs me that the signage I saw was in fact incomplete, and that he managed to snap a shot of the finished sign this past weekend:



I'm not sure this is elucidating or obfuscating.  (Though it's definitely interesting, and potentially delicious.)  Certainly the sign makes sense now, but not in the context of a bike shop.  Is it possible that Dah Shop's management, fearing the imminent Apocalypse, has abruptly changed direction and is now focussing on soup instead of bicycles?  If so, will they offer a variety of soups or just chowder?  And if it's just chowder, will they focus on clam, or will they also offer less popular but equally savory varieties such as fish, corn, and seafood?  Or maybe they'll sell bikes and chowder side-by-side.  While that would be an unusual combination, there's probably room in New York City for a bicycle-and-chowder boutique.  Actually, now that I think of it I'm kind of surprised it hasn't happened sooner.  I'd hate to get ahead of myself, but if this formula proves successful they could even branch out into cheese.

Of course, I'm not dismissing the possibility that this photo is a hoax.  I find it strange that the exact same cars are parked in front of the shop in both photos.  Also, the shadows in the second photo are in the exact same positions as those in the first, which indicates either that I'm being had or that Jimmy happened to show up at Dah Shop when the sun was in precisely the same position in the sky as it was when I visited.  Jimmy's spy shots of the new Dura Ace also proved to be wildly inaccurate (though oddly compelling), so I'd be wise to take this with the proverbial grain of salt.

Hopefully further evidence will come to light in the near future.  When it does, I'll advise you as to whether you should show up at Dah Shop with your bicycle or your appetite.  (Or both.)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Chiming In: Unsolicited Responses to Questions Already Answered

Last week the New York Times concluded its three-part Q&A session with Joshua Benson, the bicycle program coordinator for the New York City Department of Transportation. Basically, readers were invited to submit questions, some of which Joshua Benson proceeded to answer. While this made for informative reading, I did feel there were certain areas where Mr. Benson could have been a little more forthright. I also secretly wished I had been allowed to answer as well. Then I realized I have my own blog, so I decided to butt in anyway. Here's a selection of questions and answers from the series (excerpts in italics) to which I've added my own two cents:

Q: I would LOVE to ride my bike to work, or for that matter, ANYWHERE around the city, but there's no place to lock a bike up!!! How do we get this issue addressed and corrected?
--Posted by Donna V

A:
[lots of stuff deleted] I'd also like to remind all the readers that we are currently holding a competition for a new bike rack design. [even more stuff deleted] For more information on this competition go to: CityRacks Design Competition.

RTMS: Further to Mr. Benson's reply, the CityRacks Design Competition is over. Or at least it might as well be. This is because my three entries are sure to sweep the podium. I’ve got this thing locked up like a fixed-gear in front of a dive bar at happy hour. Here they are:

Entry #1: Pirate Statues


Nothing makes a better bike rack than a pirate statue. Its peg leg is a perfect anchor point for a U-lock or chain, and its crotch makes it impossible to lift the bicycle up and over the pirate like you can do with a parking meter. Furthermore, the menacing scowl and hook hand will deter thieves. (Assuming, of course, that the thief is not also a pirate who lives for ribald swashbuckling and duels with other pirates.) Lastly, locking stuff to pirates is just plain fun.

Entry #2: Human Statues


Human statues (or stationary mimes) are just as effective as inanimate statues with the added bonus that they are sentient and can actually guard your bicycle. Here's one in England or somewhere which is doing just that. New York City has long looked abroad for urban planning solutions, and unlike much of the stupid stuff that makes its way to this country from overseas (I'm looking at you, socialism) this is one that should not be overlooked.

Entry #3: Porta-Pottys


Earlier in the article, Mr. Benson mentioned the Department of Transportation's "Coordinated Street Furniture Franchise," which includes public toilets among the items planned for our city's streets. Well, I see no reason why bicycle parking and public restrooms can't be neatly integrated. One key, two purposes. New Yorkers are famous for their "get up and go," and this will enable them to go while they're on the go with their bikes.

Q: The mayor's efforts to promote biking are laudable. However, without increased enforcement of the sanctity of the striped lanes, the initiative will only go so far. Aside from begging the police to do their jobs, what is the Department of Transportation (or the Mayor's office of Sustainability) doing to ensure that motorists take bike lanes seriously?— Posted by Dan

A:
[yada yada yada] Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, as part of a review of global best practices for bicycle-friendly street design, has visited Denmark and just returned from Colombia. We have found that designs from other countries can't simply be transplanted to New York City streets. [yada yada yada]

RTMS: Hey, I want to make fruitless trips to foreign countries under the guise of information-gathering too! Maybe I can become DOT Commissioner. That way one day you can read this in the Times: "Commissioner BSNYC, as part of a thinly-disguised research mission, has visited Amsterdam where he learned that the city's legal prostitutes and marijuana, while thoroughly enjoyable (especially when used together), can't simply be transplanted to New York City streets."

Do many members of the Department of Transportation bike to work? Bloomberg makes a show of taking the subway—do you have any impression if he’d consider showing off the city’s bike lanes?
--Posted by Rich Allan

A: Many D.O.T. employees bike to work on a daily basis. I often “bike pool” with co-workers who live near me. Our indoor bike parking room and outdoor racks here at D.O.T. headquarters in Lower Manhattan are nearly full every day...


RTMS: Benson’s answer is a half-truth. I went by 40 Worth Street today. Here's a picture:


The outdoor rack was indeed nearly full, but I didn’t see any tandems. So how can he be “bike pooling?”

Q: Mr. Benson, many thanks for your efforts to make our city more easily cycled. We have a long way to go but I'm encouraged by the recent progress and Commissioner Sadik-Khan's commitment to cycling. As a resident of Queens, I'm particularly interested in cycle infrastructure in the outer boroughs — a glance at the official bike map suggests Manhattan has historically been the top priority. Trying to ride somewhere in Queens reinforces this theory. Could you discuss D.O.T.'s future plans for the rest of us?
--Posted by Alex

A: Thanks for your question regarding the city's bike network expansion in the outer boroughs...


RTMS: Hi, Alex. I note both you and Mr. Benson use the phrase "outer boroughs,” which is a nice way of saying that as a Queens resident you don't exist on the cultural radar. Calling the boroughs outside of Manhattan the "outer boroughs" is not only inaccurate, but it also reaffirms the notion that anyone who doesn’t live in Manhattan is a second-class citizen. (Funny how most of the "inner city" neighborhoods are in the "outer boroughs." How can something be "inner" and "outer" at the same time?) The fact is that two of the "outer boroughs" (Brooklyn and Queens) are much larger and more populous than Manhattan, which, for millions of people, is actually the "outer borough." In truth, the only real "outer borough" is Staten Island, which is really far away from the rest of the city, has only like half a million people, and is basically just New Jersey with alternate-side parking rules. Of course, since Brooklyn's become so trendy its days as an "outer borough" are numbered, even though it hasn't moved physically, so you can expect it to benefit from the "hipster-to-hipster" network of bicycle paths and lanes the city is creating to make sure the hottest and most expensive neighborhoods are easily accessible to one-another by bicycle. But Queens? As long as you empower their “outer borough” thinking by using the term yourself, you can keep dreaming, Archie Bunker.

Q: Can we talk about the Manhattan Bridge entrance? It is terrifying. How can D.O.T. expect average cyclists to merge with tractor-trailers on their daily commutes? Please tell me what the plans are for this crossing. I use it everyday.
--Posted by Brooklyn!

A:
[useful info deleted]

RTMS: Non-terrifying bridge entrances?!? Yeah, right. Here's another question: How come my bike lane isn't carpeted in velvet, and how come I'm not escorted by two beautiful women on Colnagos who throw rose pedals in my path as I ride? Well, last time I checked, this was New York City, not Portland. Every day each one of us is a wayward SUV and a can of white Krylon away from becoming a ghost bike, and that's the way we like it. The Manhattan Bridge was closed to cyclists for ages while they built that fancy new bike lane you're now riding on, and it wasn't that long ago that the "bike lane" on the Williamsburg Bridge barely had a floor. Literally. You could see water. It was like crossing a rope bridge in the Himalayas. So if you're using the same bridge entrance every day and you're still terrified, you need a shrink or you need to move to the Bay Area. Urban planning won't help you.