Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Ground Beef: Crash Course in Bottom Bracket Interfaces

With the possible exceptions of the Mr. Softee theme and crotchal fungus, there is no surer sign that summer has begun in earnest than the start of the Tour de France. And there is no surer sign that the cycling media wants to entice laypeople with their Tour de France coverage than when they start rolling out the "crash porn." For the non-cycling sports fan, the idea of following the multiple competitions of which the Tour is comprised over a period of weeks has about as much appeal as actuarial science, so the thinking with "crash porn" is that they'll at least consider tuning in to see one of those "woosies" in Lycra they like to buzz with their SUVs take a spill. Here's some gratuitous "crash porn" from Versus:

As well as from Bicycling magazine:

As a cyclist and a cycling fan, I'm somewhat offended by "crash porn." Sure, crashes can be dramatic, and they're undeniably a part of the sport, but using carnage to sell the Tour seems a bit short-sighted to me. At best, watching the Tour de France for the crashes is like watching the Academy Awards in the hopes that you'll catch a "nipple slip"--it's just not a very good use of your time, and if that's all you're going in for you'll probably be disappointed. If you want to see crashes, go to a Cat 4 race, and if you want to see nipples, watch actual pornography. In any case, there's already a sporting event based entirely on carnage and "nipple slips," and it's called the Superbowl.

Really, if the cycling media wants to reduce the Tour de France to its most visceral components and burn off all subtlety, nuance, and good taste in the process, they might as well just do post-stage analyses of the riders' dirty chamoises. In fact, I'm surprised they haven't already, since judging from this Craigslist post I found in the comments to yesterday's post there appears to be a brisk market for that sort of thing:

Bib-Shorts; Owned, worn & signed by Lance Armstrong!!! - $3000
Date: 2010-06-30, 9:16AM EDT
Reply to: [deleted]

Would you like to be one of the few to own Lance's actual bib-shorts. Owned and worn by Lance, I got them through a friend of his, then had them signed. Also had them sent to have the signature Authenticated to solve any question of legitimacy.
Be one of the few to have an item owned and signed by a legend.... Who is still racing and about to do another Tour De France!

$3000 is starting bid, will close with best offer..... These will be on ebay by next week if not sold on CL.

The disgustingness of owning somebody else's used bib shorts aside, this stomach-turning post raises more questions than it answers. Firstly, the seller claims that he "got them through a friend of his, then had them signed," and I wonder what friend of Armstrong's is distributing his shorts. Does Kevin Livingston loiter around the laundry hamper at Pedal Hard and pilfer the clothing of notable clients? Secondly, the seller says he "then had them signed"--though apparently not in person, since he subsequently "had them sent to have the signature Authenticated to solve any question of legitimacy." How, then, did the seller get the shorts back to Armstrong, and what was Armstrong's reaction when his own filthy shorts came back to him for signature like some sort of soiled, smegma-ridden boomerang? And where is this signature authentication service, and did they also authenticate the residual pubic hairs? (If the signature is Armstrong's but the pubes belong to, say, Roberto Heras, does this increase or decrease the value?) I particularly appreciated the caveat that "the shorts will be on ebay next week if not sold on CL," since I now know which websites to avoid in coming weeks. This probably won't happen though, since I fully expect them to be snapped up by Paul Kimmage before then, who will probably send the skid marks to a laboratory for analysis. In any case, $3,000 is pretty steep for a pair of used shorts, and if you want Lance Armstrong's dirty laundry you can just get it from Floyd Landis, who seems to be giving it away for free.

Speaking of using porn to sell things, bicycle manufacturers continue to evoke the salacious appeal of the oversized bottom bracket, and French company Look has apparently unleashed the most swollen and robust bottom bracket the world has ever seen:

So "beefy" is the mighty BB65 that it will only accept the "Zed2" crankset, which means that no matter what you're riding right now your crank is too small for this bicycle. That's right--now that the Look 695 has "dropped," if you're riding anything else you have a tiny crank. Until you "upgrade," your diminutive unit can never hope to fill a BB65--even if it is big enough for Cannondale's "Hot Box" (forwarded to me some time ago by a reader):

All You Haters Sandwich My Hot Box.

Best of all the 695 is available in two "stiffness options:"

That 15% reduction in stiffness you'll feel on the regular 695 is equal to the erection-reducing effect one (1) Larry King:

(Larry King: an elastomer insert for your libido.)

Incidentally, Larry King has just announced he is officially retiring in order to censor pornographic images full-time.

But what do you do if you have an older Look that suddenly feels all "noodly," like it's been subject to upwards of four Larry King Stiffness-Reducing Units (or LKSRUs)? Well, without the BB65 interface there's no way it will ever be adequately stiff, but you can still attempt to"improve" matters via judicious application of "upgrades." Consider this promotional video for the SRAM Omnium crank from New York City fixed-gear boutique Chari & Co.:

SRAM OMNIUM CRANK from chariandconyc on Vimeo.

In it you'll find this compelling testimonial:

"This bike that I'm riding now gets me to and from work most days...I spend a lot of time riding into the city every day over the Manhattan bridge. These cranks together with this frame is the stiffest thing I've ever ridden."

Because when you're riding a race bike back and forth to work every day in sneakers, you need all the stiffness you can get to beat that guy on the hybrid.

Still, there are times when you need a high performance bicycle even if you're not racing. For example, every bit of stiffness counts when you're sprinting away from a bank after robbing it:

Cunningly, the thief disguised himself as a "secret website" catalog model:

Instead of blaming the thief, I blame the cruel society that drove him to it. It was probably a "Dog Day Afternoon" scenario, except instead of funding his partner's sex change he needed the money for a costly bottom bracket interface "upgrade."

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Groping for Answers: Crooked Letters and Lopsided Reasoning

Way back on the Dachshund of Time, we encouraged our children to be silent and obedient. (And by "encouraged" I mean "beat with sticks.") Eventually, though, silence gave way to inquisitiveness, and obedience to precocity. Incessant questions were no longer discouraged as a form of impugnity; instead, they were encouraged as a sign of intelligence. To a certain extent, this was a good thing, for an answer is certainly more edifying to a child than a slap in the face. However, as with most indulgences, things went too far, and our culture eventually became one in which every inane juvenile utterance is taken as seriously as a Supreme Court decision. Over the years and decades, our indulged children become adults (at least physically), and the result is we're now a society who's default mode of discourse is the stupid question. Consider the latest "Tweet" from popular actor Rainn Wilson:

Rainn Wilson's Twitter has almost two million followers, and even in our "Look at me, I'm talking!" culture it stuns me that he would pose such a dumb question to such a vast sounding board. Indeed, given that Rainn Wilson's wife is from Portland and they are both Bahá'í and thus apparently believe in "the spiritual unity of all humankind," it could very well be that this question was posed in the spirit of irony. However, given that Rainn Wilson is also an actor in Los Angeles, pending concrete evidence to the contrary I have no choice but to take the question at face value.

First of all, everybody knows there's no angrier group of road users than drivers, since the very nature of driving is infuriating. This was succinctly articulated in the 1993 film "Falling Down," in which Michael Douglas goes completely insane after getting stuck in Los Angeles traffic. Conversely, cyclists tend to be very happy while riding, and it's usually only after being nearly killed by drivers that they get angry. (Nearly being killed is irritating.) So, if Rainn Wilson (or anybody) keeps encountering angry cyclists, he may want to consider the possibility that he's actually a really bad driver, in the same way that a man who wonders why women "never have orgasms" might want to look instead to his own lack of sexual prowess.

Unfortunately, though, many people would prefer to keep driving poorly and instead consign cyclists to the park, in the same way that the man who can't please a woman might assert that the onus is on her to masturbate. Also, Rainn Wilson may not understand that some cyclists actually need to get someplace, and that if he finds them irritating he could just as easily avoid them altogether and enjoy the luxurious interior of his car while driving around and around his circular driveway. Finally, he concludes all of this with the obligatory Lycra jab, which is so obvious it once again makes me suspect he's being sarcastic. But then I checked out Rainn Wilson's website, SoulPancake, and figured that maybe "Why do cyclists Always seem so angry?" is an actual example of what he feels is one of LIFE'S BIG QUESTIONS:

Instead of foisting this ill-considered question upon two million people and/or "God," he could have instead asked his fellow "The Office" castmember Steve Carell. Granted, his character in "The 40 Year Old Virgin" was to bicycle commuters what Tonto was to Native Americans, but he did race bicycles "Back in the Day." I know this because I once heard him tell David Letterman about it, but all I could find was this brief excerpt:

Shave Legs for Hygiene sound bite

Or, he could have asked Snoop Dogg, who's apparently so Lycra-friendly that he wants to borrow Lance Armstrong's skinsuit:

The disgustingness of wearing somebody else's skinsuit notwithstanding, it's at least a kind sentiment.

Rainn Wilson should also watch this video which was forwarded to me by a reader, since it proves that even the most hardened and dedicated urban cyclists is far from angry. Granted, he's self-contradicting and completely clueless, but his ignorance is clearly bliss:

Fixie from Dutch Simpson on Vimeo.

Yesterday I mentioned "asymmetrical dogma," and when it comes to lopsided principles none are more misshapen than those of the fixed-gear "culture." In this regard, the rider in the video stays solidly "on message," issuing such classic "fixie" soundbites as the wildly inaccurate description of what a fixed-gear is:

"Riding fixed-gear is basically one gear where you have no brakes..."

The Holy Trinity of Ways To Fail to Stop Your Bike:

"If you're mashing down traffic, only one way to stop is to either turn, or skid, or just ride through it."

The Zenlike quality of riding like an idiot:

"Another great thing about fixed-gear and just riding in general is just diving in between cars, I mean, being two inches away from someone's mirror is just unbelievable."

The oxymoronic riding-like-an-idiot-is-somehow-healthy-and-safe qualifier complete with smug environmental name-check:

"It's a healthy and safe way to get around town. And I guess I'm helping the environment too which is pretty cool."

And of course the testimonial to the unique perspective that only cycling affords you:

"Another cool thing about riding around the city is just you get to explore everything...finding unique places, it's pretty awesome."

Keep in mind of course that in the fixed-gear universe "unique" means "uniform," which is why he apparently feels an empty loading dock qualifies as a unique place:

In any case, if this rider had darted past Rainn Wilson's car and barely missed his sideview mirror, I admit a Tweet along these lines might have been warranted:

And another angry Tweet would also have been justified if he'd been the victim of a ride-by groping, as forwarded to me by the proprietor of this blog:

At first, I suspected the "MILF Hunter:"

However, the fact he was wearing a "chef's coat and black-and-white checkered pants" instead of an old HealthNet kit (in addition to the fact that the composite sketch looks nothing like Floyd Landis) leads me to suspect instead that he's some kind of disgruntled and extremely randy pizza man.

Speaking of Floyd Landis, even though he was raised a Mennonite, he is not an "Amish tattoo boy:"

L train 9 AMish. tattoo boy - w4m - 25 (L to union)
Date: 2010-06-25, 4:03PM EDT

i found myself describing you to a coworker today.. he suggested craigslist- creepy for sure- but here i am. you had light red/brown hair, japanese tree/branchy tattoo on your left (left?) upper arm. wearing some solid colored shirt. you were looking at me a lot, and likewise. i wish there was something cool to say to strangers on trains. those days never come..
i got off at union square, hoping you'd be behind me.
im the blonde, denim dress, big sunglasses that was into my book until you got on the train.
where do you hang out?! :(

Presumably, an "Amish tattoo boy" would be prohibited from using an electric tattooing machine--even if it was fashioned from a Campagnolo derailleur (as forwarded by the editor of Tucson Velo):

Campagnolo Derailluer / Tattoo Machine - $50 (Central East)
Date: 2010-06-26, 10:59AM MST
Reply to: [deleted]

I have a very uniqe item here.
This is a nineteen eighties Campy front derailleur from my old Cannondale. I was bored one day while minding the shop and decided to create this. I used a motor from a beard trimmer and a stainless pen barrel.
It takes standadr needle bars / grommets. I have never used it because I have actual tat machines, but it does work.

I only hope the seller's tattoos are not as poorly spelled as his Craigslist posts. In any case, surely applying your own knuckle tattoos with a "vintage" Campy derailleur would be a hipster's dream--though if you're going to "curate" your own "body art" you should at least read about curating first:

Uptown 6 - cute guy reading about curating - w4m - 20 (Upper East Side)
Date: 2010-06-25, 4:02PM EDT

Uptown 6 this morning around 9:30 or so. Cute guy reading a book entitled "A Brief History of Curating" and carrying a dress shirt on a hanger. You were really cute, and I'd love to chat sometime.

I hope they manage to find each other and curate a relationship.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Manufacturers to Riders: Go Sponsor Yourself

As humans, we all possess the innate ability to delude ourselves. This self-delusion is necessary to get through life, for the reality of our universal insignificance untempered by the illusion of importance would cause most of us to realize that effort of any sort in the face of our frivolity is completely absurd. What really is the point of, say, going to work, or cleaning the bathroom, or fastidiously grooming one's pubic hair, when eventually we will all meet the same end and be consigned to the grave like so much mulch? Indeed, without self-delusion we'd all be like Bartleby in that Melville story, saying "I prefer not to" when presented with any task. For this reason, self-delusion is as involuntary as any bodily function regulated by the medulla oblongata, since the very future of our species depends on it.

Of course, life isn't all self-delusion; there's also recreation, and doing stuff for the sheer delight and pleasure of it. Pushing our body's happy buttons with a cool swim on a hot day, or a fermented drink containing ethanol, or even just some good old-fashioned genital manipulation can elicit the sort of enjoyment that transcends angst and that does not need to be reconciled against the overbearing reality of our inconsequence. It is at these moments when we inhabit the intoxicating twilight between delusion and insignificance, and dwell fleetingly in joy. Riding a bicycle too can be one of these sources of "no strings attached" delight.

But what if you don't enjoy "joy," and you insist on applying the yardstick of self-delusion against even the simple act of recreation? Well, for these people, there is amateur road racing, a world in which even a Cat 4 cannot be coaxed onto a bicycle unless the effort it takes to propel that bicycle is measured with an electronic device so it can be downloaded later and compared to the effort expended on previous rides. This sort of behavior--the quantifying of our own fruitlessness--would appear to be the very pinnacle of self-delusion. It's like keeping a masturbation journal in which you document the duration of your "sessions" and the volume of your "issue."

So if some of us find our own fruitless behavior so compelling, then naturally the behavior of professional cyclists would seem almost sacred, and I pondered all of this while perusing the latest issue of Rouleur while sitting on the toilet:

I thrill to professional cycling as much as any fan, but I realize when I read Rouleur that I do not take it nearly seriously enough. This lavish periodical doesn't simply report or comment on the sport; instead, it fawns over it, slavers on it, and fondles it like it's Humbert Humbert and professional cycling is Lolita. In Rouleur, the simple washing of a race bike becomes akin to Mary Magdalene washing Jesus's feet. This is not to say Rouleur is a bad publication; far from it. Many people share this view of professional cycling and Rouleur articulates it like no other. If you thrive on the history, imagery, and lore of the sport you will certainy enjoy it. However, I can't even take the Bible seriously, much less bike racing, so when I read Rouleur I generally feel like a child sitting in a religious service and trying not to laugh.

Also fascinating to me are the advertisements in this and other cycling publications, and the way in which the simple tools the professionals use to ply their trade is like unto gold, frankincence, and myrhh ("myrrh" was an early form of crabon fribé) for the self-deluded. Yes, you too can own an "Asymmetrical Dogma" (only $17,900 with Di2), just like the one Bradley Wiggins hardly cares he's riding. (Incidentally, "Asymmetrical Dogma" is also a pretty good summary of the Bible.) The difference, of course, is that the pros get it for free in addition to their salary, but if you want it you have to "Sponsor Yourself:"

("Sponsoring Yourself" is Foffing Off 2.0.)

This ad in particular caught my eye, not only because Assos clothes are apparently designated by "clima range" and require use of specific "body insulators," but also because the model's left foot hangs mysteriously next to his pedal:

This seems an odd detail for Assos to have overlooked. I suppose he could be in the process of clipping in, but judging from the model's expression and position on the bike it looks like he's supposed to evoke that moment in the local group ride that everyone drives to in BMWs just after the roll-out and just before the first town line sprint. The conversations about home improvements have ended and the leadouts have begun, so he certainly would have been securely clipped in for some time now. My best guess is that he was simply standing on a little prop, which was subsequently erased by somebody who does not understand how a pedal works.

Of course, if you really want to be like the pros, you should buy a Madone from the Great Trek Bicycle Making Company. Until now, their proprietary broken steer tube technology was only available to top riders like George Hincapie:

Now, however, you too can apparently experience the thrill of mid-race handlebar detachment with the new Madone:

Strangely though, instead of touting this as a feature, the Great Trek Bicycle Making Company is "going all Mavic" and blaming the consumer:

Trek says over-tightening stem bolts, incorrectly placing spacers above and below the stem, and using incompatible stems can all cause point loading (uneven clamping force) on the steerer tube, weakening it and causing it to break.

“As the technology going into today’s bicycles has increased, so has the responsibility of the mechanic and rider to follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions exactly,” reads Trek’s statement. “This issue is not unique to Trek, but is specific to carbon steerers from every manufacturer.”

Bryan Vaughan’s FSA Plasma stem after his steerer tube broke.

According to Trek, there are three keys to safe and successful installation of a stem on a carbon steerer:

1) Always use a torque wrench, and never over-tighten stem clamp bolts.
2) Always use spacers above and below the stem. Although less obvious than correct torque, a minimum of 5mm and a maximum of 40mm spacers under the steerer, plus a 5mm spacer above the stem are required. Riders should factor in these spacers when sizing their bike.
3) Use only the stem brand and model that came with the bike, because not all stems will work with carbon steerers. Often the lighter the stem, the less chance it will be compatible with a carbon steerer. Weight-relieving cutouts on the stem clamp and steerer interface can create stress risers.

Vaughan’s FSA stem was incompatible with the steerer, Trek said.

The part about the stem is particularly audacious, and I wonder if there is a comprehensive list of stems that are incompatible with Trek steerers, or if Trek simply waits for failures asks what kind of stem was involved, and then says, "That one." Cunningly, they've also added the torque-and-spacer qualifiers, so even if the failure occurs with a stock stem they can point to faulty installation. Most interestingly, “As the technology going into today’s bicycles has increased, so has the responsibility of the mechanic and rider to follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions exactly,” which means that in 10 years we should finally see the advent of the completely unrideable, proprietary, and non-serviceable road bike.

Fortunately, not all bicycle engineering comes at the expense of durability. Consider this "tiger bike," spotted by a reader in Portland:

Complete with integrated tail/wheelbrow, the "tiger bike" makes a compelling argument for emulating not professional cyclists but, rather, the beauty of nature. Also, it goes great with this:

Tiger shirts are ideal when even Primal jerseys are too subtle.

Friday, June 25, 2010

BSNYC Frigedæg Blētsung Cunnian!

(My blog's value, forwarded by a reader. Time to cash in and retire to Portland.)

Recently, I heard from a reader who had ordered my book (that's "Bike Snob," and not my other book, "1,000 Delicious Sardine Recipes") from a popular online retailer. It seems he had not yet received the book, and wondered if I had perhaps somehow run afoul of this retailer. Incidentally, if you haven't figured out the retailer to whom I'm referring, it's the one whose name is also the first word in the title of a 1987 cinema classic:

I'm happy to report that this is not the case (at least as far as I know) and that the retailer and I are on good terms. In fact, what has happened is that, due to the fact that the book is a bit more popular than anticipated, both the retailer and my publisher have (as they say in book publishing) "run out of copies." This is what's called a "good problem," like being unable to fold your wallet because you have too much cash, or when attractive naked people keep falling on top of you at the beach (neither of which has ever happened to me).

Rest assured that my publisher is making more copies as I type this and that the aforementioned retailer (as well as other retailers that are out of stock, such as the one that shares a name with the last word in in the name of the organization "Doctors Without Borders") shall have more in the not-too-distant future. In the meantime, if you prefer not to wait yet enjoy purchasing books on the Internet, I understand you can get copies now from a certain bookseller that can be expressed in pictogram form thusly:

Or, you can order them from the esteemed independent Portland bookstore Powell's. Not only do they still have copies in stock, but these copies have been defaced by me since Powell's made me sign them all when I was there last Sunday:

(My book at Powell's.)

Otherwise, you can of course always simply visit your favorite local bookseller and see if they have any copies, though that might require putting on pants.

As for "1,000 Delicious Sardine Recipes," thanks to a profound lack of demand copies should be readily available anyplace books are sold, and I hear most retailers are even running a "Buy One, Get 40 Free" special.

Speaking of "sardine porn," I'm also a tremendous fan of "street sign porn." This refers to the exuberant displays of bicycular absurdity so often pole dancing on the signage of our nation's cities and towns, and I've been fortunate enough to receive some salacious examples of street sign porn from readers over the past few weeks. Just some of these include the always pleasing "capsized Vespa:"

(All You Haters Right My Vespa)

The ill-fitting "tarck" bike complete with "One Less Car" top tube pad and headtube-mounted beverage cozy:

(Sometimes, one more car is actually preferable.)

And of course the homemade locking grip:

Not only are sponge grips highly absorbent, but they are also cheap and come in a variety of "colorways."

In any case, as two days of "weekend porn" await your wildest fantasies, I'm pleased to present you with a quiz. As always, study the item, think, and click on your answer. If you're right you'll know, and if you're wrong you'll see smugness gone horribly awry.

Thanks very much for reading, thanks for forwarding some of the "quiz porn" which follows, and, most importantly, ride safe this weekend.


(Tony Hayward thinks about yachting.)

1) In the wake of the BP disaster, the real tragedy may be:

2) According to a study commissioned by schmutz-filled pretzel manufacturer Combos, the least "manly" city in the United States is:

(Fungal culture)

5) At last! Bike culture meets:

6) Which high-end crabon fribé road bicycle has been plagued by a rash of broken steerers?

7) Rock Racing's Michael Ball has been implicated in a:

***Special Odd Reasoning-Themed Bonus Question***

("I sure hope someone left a bike for me.")

"Good news for the resurrected!" New York City ghost bikes can remain as long as they are:

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Beaching and Moaning: Non-necessity is the Mother of Reinvention

Firstly, you may have noticed that the advertisement for valued (and only) BSNYC/RTMS blogular sponsor "Just Coffee" has changed. This change is to reflect the fact that they have decided to honor me by offering a proprietary BSNYC/RTMS "blend." It looks like this, and you can obtain it by clicking on the ad or on the word "here:"
While I initially suggested simply stealing the beans from poor farmers in order to keep costs down, it turns out that Just Coffee is one of those "fair trade" operations, so I decided to humor them by letting them engage in their standard "woosie" business practices at considerable cost to me. While a BSNYC/RTMS-branded coffee blend may seem like yet another in an endless series of shark jumps, the truth is that blogular sponsorship is a necessity ITTET and I am grateful for Just Coffee's support. Also, given the fact that I would gladly claw the face off of a fellow human being in order to keep bringing readers the best free blog I can every day, I think promoting a fair trade coffee cooperative in Madison, WI is a vastly preferable alternative. (Such enterprises are not exactly pumping sludge into the Gulf of Mexico.) Plus, if you enter coupon code "BSNYC" on your Just Coffee order, you get 10% off--that amounts to a whopping $5,300 if you order 1,000 5lb bags, so you really can't afford not to do it.

Speaking of promotional activities, one strange component of being a blogular "curator" is that I am occasionally contacted by "PR" people and invited to product launches. Amazingly, some people find new products so exciting that they will wait on line for 36 hours in order to purchase them, and it is this misguided impulse that PR people tap into in order to lure bloggers to these launches and help them sell their client's product for free. Most recently I was invited to the "Pop Up Store Opening Party" for something called Alite Designs. The party will take place tonight.

I rarely attend even guileless social parties, let alone contrived ones designed to sell something, and so I will not be at this one. However, I was intrigued and amused to discover that Alite is in fact a "hipster" outdoor company, and that they appear to be to L.L. Bean what Urban Outfitters is to the Gap. If you're wondering what makes "hipster" outdoor living different from regular outdoor living, it's pretty simple: whereas most people try to take advantage of outdoor excursions by doing things like walking around and enjoying nature, "hipsters" just do the same thing they do in their gentrified faux dive bars, which is sit around and get drunk in a sad attempt to overcome their inability to relate to each other on a sincere and honest level:

They also lie awkwardly next to one another, each hoping that the other will initiate sex:

(All You "Hipsters" Neglect My "Ween")

Nobody ever does, which is a major downside of being part of a follower "culture."

The upside, of course, is all the ironic jamborees:

Alite's spirit of irreverence is also reflected in its staff bios, which include the obligatory "wacky" retro pop culture reference-themed question (in this case in the "Sesame Street" referenceway):

I'm assuming the animals coming out of their heads are supposed to represent "spirit animals," though I'm pretty sure in reality they all share the same one, which is a chipmunk in tight jeans trapped in an emotionally crippling state of eternal childhood.

Of course, like any company, Alite needs publicity. If they were a normal outdoors company, they might do something like sponsor an expedition. However, "hipsters" are not exactly known for their hardiness and planning skills, and a trendy Alite-sponsored mountaineering party that sets out to tackle Everest "at like 2:30-ish" would no doubt perish before finishing its first carton of American Spirits.

Realizing this, Alite have instead harnessed the awesome marketing power of urban cycling, and have engaged in a "collabiation" with none other than Outlier (the "hipster" Rapha), makers of impressively expensive shorts and pants. In the time-honored "hipster" tradition of inventing something unnecessary that already exists, their "collabo" has yielded a revolutionary new beach bag:

So groundbreaking is this bag that the PR person implored me to refrain from mentioning it until the above-linked Coolhunting post about it "dropped"--which, having been "cockblocked" myself by that yutz from the Times, I was more than happy to do. Now, though, I am presumably at liberty to share with you this incredible new satchel:

In telling me about the bag, the PR person alluded to some "secret" beach Outlier had apparently discovered, and indeed the Coolhunting post mentions "a NYC seaside hotspot accessible only by bike." Since there is no area beach (or really any place anywhere) that is "accessible only by bike," my guess is that the Outlier crew have recently started exploring the Rockaways and, like Columbus "discovering" the New World, have taken full credit for the find despite the presence of other people who have lived, clammed, and sunbathed there for centuries. At this rate it is only a matter of time before they discover Atlantic Beach to the east, become seduced by the whole "Flamingo Kid" aesthetic, and pool their resources in order to rent an ironic "hipster" cabana. (Gold chais buried in chest hair will become all the rage, and cabana boys will become Messengers 2.0.)

In any case, after discovering a beach that non-"hipsters" already knew about, Outlier then set about inventing a style of bag these non-"hipsters" have long been using to take their stuff to the beach--this being a tote bag. Unlike a regular tote bag, though, this bag is "designed to carry a towel, sandals and food while staying securely strapped on in transit"--which was, I thought, the point of those giant messenger bags they already had. It seems to me most of the messenger bags I see these days are large enough to carry not only a towel, sandals, and food, but also at least six pairs of Kadima paddles and plenty of sunblock to protect their pallid flesh and costly sleeve tattoos from the damaging rays of the sun. I guess they just don't look "beachy" enough, and we're entering into a bold new age of "hipster" resort wear.

Granted, as a blogger currently flogging his own coffee blend I shouldn't be critical, and the truth is I wish Outlier nothing but success. (As for Alite, I'm largely indifferent to their success or failure, though I do get the sense their "spirit animals" aren't so much guiding them as simply humping their legs.) Still, it's difficult not to comment on the manner in which "hipster" companies seem to take activities and products that already exist and then re-package and re-present them as references to those activities and products, so that your outdoor excursion or beach day becomes a stylized homage that is easily photographed for social networking.

Of course, if you're a hoary old brand like Cinelli that has suddenly found itself a "hipster" favorite, instead of reinventing something you have the luxury of simply mining your own past. For this reason, Cinelli is re-issuing its once cutting-edge but now impractical and useless Laser:

I can't wait to see these headed out to the beach.

But what if you don't have a suitably "cool" beach bike, let alone a bag to go with it? Well, you can always rent one on Craigslist:

Want to rent fixie/SS for the weekend - $60 (15 Hawthorne)
Date: 2010-06-23, 7:43PM EDT
Reply to: [deleted]

I'm from Texas, here in the Prospect park area for the week and I'm looking for a fixie or single speed to rent. Nothing fancy, just a beater with an oiled chain. I'm on a budget so I'd like to keep it cheap but I also would like to have the bike from Friday to Sunday so I can hit the Critical Mass and then the beach. Anyway, please help a country out...junkers, beaters, whatever just as long as it's fixed or SS. Thanks.

Renting a bike to ride in Critical Mass is like tucking your penis between your legs to participate in a women's rights march.

Also, if you plan to "hit up" your local secret bicycles-only beach this summer and you want to get noticed, make sure you have plenty of tattoos:

Tattooed biker at Bespoke - m4w - 29 (Fort Greene)
Date: 2010-06-22, 12:42PM EDT

Not really a missed connection since I've seen you walking dogs on Adelphi and riding your bike on Clinton, and I'm sure I will see you again. Your legs have a few tattooes and the backs of thighs have tats in the same position. I think that's what really gets me.
Yesterday I walked right by you on Lafayette and South Portland. My heart jumped. You smiled. I dumped my laundry off and ran out to see if I could stare at you more. I saw you go into Bespoke. Then come out. I felt a little creepy watching you. The worst was that I found myself imagining that my girlfriend was you last night.
I was wearing a primus t-shirt.

Once again, humanity proves its willingness to reduce others to their "body art." By the way, if you're unfamiliar with Craigslist "missed connection" jargon, "I was wearing a Primus t-shirt" is code for "I am a gigantic dork."