Monday, October 20, 2014

Cycling Tip for Visitors to New York City: Don't.

I don't like to flaunt my wealth, but around the time I made my first million (Vietnamese Dong, obviously, which is just shy of US$50), I started collecting art.  Consequently, the halls of my manse are adorned with many priceless paintings.  There's George Hincapie's disembodied head:

Mario Cipollini with his sunglasses stuck to his oily forehead:

And now, thanks to Klaus of Cycling Inquisition, this portrait of Sir Stanley Wiggins reading about himself in the newspaper while a butler pours tea into his crotch:

I won it at the Sobethy's auction house for the princely sum of nine (9) bucks--and they even threw in this portrait of Team Sky massacring a bunch of enemy Freds:

Note the exquisite details, such as one of the Sky riders bludgeoning somebody to death with a saddle and seatpost:

It now takes pride of place over my mantle, right next to my original Ted Striker:

Every so often I like to sit on a folding beach chair in my living room, sip wine product, contemplate my art collection, and reflect on how grateful I am for having finally "made it."

Yes, I'm a classic Horatio Sans success story, having hoisted myself sideways by my ratcheting Sidi shoestraps.  Only in America, the country that's almost as good as Portugal:

Sure, I'd be making less money in Portugal, but by the looks of things that would be more than offset by all the electricity and HIV/AIDS savings.

The other way I like to revel in my own success is by going for a ride on my fine artisanal handmade mountain bicycle that only has one gear:

As the years go by I have less and less patience for sharing the roads with morons (other morons, that is, for I too am a moron), so more and more I seek refuge in the forest--or, at the very least, the woods behind the mall.  Sure, there's the occasional doofus riding around with a handlebar-mounted sound system, and yes there are occasionally groups of "bros" in Red Bull jerseys making videos of themselves riding over the same small rock over and over again, but at least there aren't any cars on the trails.  And while I still have to contend with my own ineptitude, it's extremely unlikely that I'll get "doored" by an investment banker who throws his business card and then leaves the scene:

After hitting the cyclist, the man who doored him, Wagner, emerged from the back of the Lincoln Towncar (that belonged to BPTG Car Service) and quickly pulled him to his feet. Wagner then threw a business card to his driver and took off running towards 54th and Fifth Avenue, even as witnesses yelled at him to come back. “It's just a cut, he's fine,” the staffer told us Wagner said, before adding, “The driver knows me, I ride with him all the time.”

Harry Wagner, a worthless human being who deserves to be ear-fucked to death by a raccoon (sorry, I don't seem to be able to shake this fantasy today), is also a typical New Yorker from whom even Vietnamese Dong millionaires like myself are not safe.  Yes, there are eight million stories in the naked city, and not a single one of them justifies our selection as the number one "bike-friendly city" in America--speaking of which, I was just checking out the relevant "Bicycling" article again, and for the first time I noticed the "must-do" ride that accompanies the story:

Must-Do Ride
Head out from the Brooklyn Bridge to Rockaway Beach in Queens on the Flatbush Avenue Bike Path, and continue north to Oceanside. 

From time to time people email me asking where they should ride during their visit to New York City, and my answer is usually "don't bother."  Don't get me wrong, there are some solid B-minus rides outside the city.  Also, riding a bike is a great way to get around town--if you actually live here and have a job and other shit you need to do.  

However, if you're just visiting for a short time, why not do some of the stuff that makes New York City great instead of the one thing at which we're mediocre at best?  Go to a museum.  See a play.  Take the 7 train to Flushing and eat Chinese food.  Visiting New York City for three days and asking "Where should I ride?" is like going to Vegas and asking, "Which is the best Shakespearean theater company?," or like going to the diner and debating between the veal and the Shrimp Provençale.  

It's a diner, for fuck's sake.  Get a goddamn burger.

However, if you simply must ride your bike-and I cannot stress this enough--DO NOT do the "Bicycling" magazine "Must-Do" ride:

Firstly, there's no bike lane on Flatbush Avenue, so I don't know where they're getting that from, and if you've never been to New York City riding a bike for the length of Flatbush Avenue will turn your hair white and cause it to fall out--assuming you survive.  So unless you enjoy being buzzed by illegal livery vans plastered with ads for DNA paternity testing while unlicensed drivers U-turn their Nissan Altimas right into you, I'd skip it.  

Secondly...Oceanside?  Hey, if you like landfills and shopping centers go for it, but otherwise you're making a big mistake.  If I were a tourist and rode my bicycle 30 miles just to wind up in Oceanside I'd be pretty fucking pissed.

Thirdly, I've never done an official count, but I'd estimate that there are roughly 400 billion traffic lights between the Brooklyn Bridge and Oceanside.

[I should also point out that this ride takes you right through pretty much exactly where I grew up, so it's a great choice if you'd like a historical bicycle tour of my life, but I can assure you that you do not want a historical bicycle tour of my life, which is why I can confidently tell you not to do this ride.  However, if after all this you do want a historical tour of my life, I'm happy to lead you on one for the low, low price of 10,000,000 Vietnamese Dong.]

Now there is a modified version of this ride that I would fully endorse (assuming it's a beautiful day), which is taking the Bedford Avenue bike lane through Brooklyn, heading over the Marine Parkway Bridge to Rockaway just like on the above map, and then turning around and going back again.

Or, if you'd like another suggestion, feel free to email me and I'll tell you to save your airline bike fee and spend it on booze instead.

You're welcome.

Friday, October 17, 2014

BSNYC Friday Fun Quiz!

Did you know my Surly Big Dummy, otherwise known as the "Flotilla of Smugness," is over four years old now?

Not that this is especially old for a bicycle, but by cycling media standards it's positively ancient.

Verily, this is a bike that has grown (or, more accurately, aged, since at this point in my life I'm not so much growing as I am slowly dying) with me, going from this:

To this:

To this:

As my human-portaging needs have changed.

I expect that in 20 years it will have evolved even further, and its cockpit will probably be fitted with knives so I can ride through the Zombie Apocalypse, not to mention the pontoons so I can cope with those rising sea levels.

Speaking of aging, it's worth noting that we are much like Brooks saddles: firm and nonconforming in our youth, but yielding more and more over the years, until we finally rot and a die in a rainstorm, leaving only a skeleton behind.  Ah, whither our youthful follies?  Consider this rider:

Blithely riding with his fork on backwards:

There was a time I might have mocked him, but now I merely envy him.  Lennard Zinn has written well over a million words on the phenomenon of "speed wobble" to date, yet Backwards Fork Guy simply rides on without a care in the world.

There's some saying about how ignorance is akin to a blissful state, but I forget how it goes.

Oh, check out these fucked-up pigeons I saw the other day:

They weren't the least bit afraid of me, possibly because it was the day after Thanksgiving so they knew they were safe.  (And yes, Thanksgiving was on Monday, October 13th.  You're probably thinking of American Thanksgiving, the cheap knock-off that's made in China and takes place this year on Thursday, November 27th.)

Lastly, the other day I received the following email:

Just wanted to submit to you the blog entry from my lawyer’s blog about an incident in May where I was hit from behind on Union Ave in Williamsburg. Now that the driver’s car insurance has given me money for a new bike and medical expenses, the driver is suing me for damage to their car.

I meant to post about this story at the beginning of the week, but then I totally forgot about it until I saw it mentioned on Gothamist, because I suck at blogging.  In any case, I apologize for being remiss, and here's what happened:

In May of 2014 cyclist John Roemer, just days before his college graduation, was seriously injured in a bike crash when he was struck from behind while traveling northbound on Union Avenue in Brooklyn. The crash was so violent that it fractured John’s hip, caused multiple internal injuries and put him in the ICU for three days.

The driver’s insurance company quickly acknowledged the crash was the fault of its driver. Within weeks of the crash we recovered the full value of John’s bike. Shortly thereafter her insurance company tendered its full policy limits resolve John’s personal injury claim.

You would think that would be the end. However, she is now dragging him to Small Claims Court in Manhattan where she is suing him for $ 2000.00 for damage to her car as a result of the crash.

Just another example--as though you even needed one--of why New York City is the number one cycling city in America according to a magazine that is based in a suburb of Allentown, PA.

And now, I'm pleased to present you with a quiz.  As always, study the item, think, and click on your answer.  If you're right that's really great, and if you're wrong that's really not, and also you'll see state-of-the-art Fred Glasses.

Thanks very much for reading, ride safe, and watch out for mutant pigeons.

--Wildcat Rock Machine

1) The wide eyes and erect finger indicate a brilliant idea.  What is it?

--The "Monowalker"
--The "Moonwalker"
--The "Off-Road Handtruck"
--The "Corpse Caddy"

2) Which is not a feature of the "S-bar," according to its inventor?

--"...shifts energy and weight ergonomically and takes many pressures away from the rider and allows faster control reflex for Bicycle control..."
--"A soft rubber pad for the riders shirt is attached to prevent any comfortableness..."
--"...enhanced performance by using a type of perpetual motion..."
--"Weirdly donglike."

("Questo è ciò che ha detto."--Mario Cipollini)

3) " slides smoothly without wobble in a high-precision IGUS self-lubricating plastic bushing in the top cap, even when pulled all the way out."


("Eees-a same size like my thumb."--Mario Cipollini)

4) Basically, Mario Cipollini is drugs.


5) The world's tallest rideable bicycle is the:


6) What is this man doing?

--Miming being trapped in a box
--Playing imaginary basketball
--Attempting to keep the Leaning Tower of Pisa from falling down
--High-fiving Jesus

(Astana general manager Alexander Vinokourov)

7) Basically, Astana is drugs.


***Special "We Haven't Come Very Far, Have We?"--Themed Bonus PSA!***

Thursday, October 16, 2014

For Whom the Clock Cuckoos

I deserve credit for all manner of selfless contributions to society and popular culture, not least of which is my role as a sort of self-appointed "Kickstarter scout."  For the most part, this is a thankless job which involves sifting through a host of inventions ranging from ill-conceived to bewildering to downright useless.  Nevertheless, I do it anyway, for I am convinced that it is the Coleridgean slimy sea that is Kickstarter from which humanity's next great technological advancement will slither.

This is not that advancement.

However, I am compelled to bring it to your attention anyway.  Behold, the Monowalker!

Which, if nothing else, has an absolutely fantastic spokesman:

"My name is [?].  I'm living in the Black Forest mountains.  You know, that's a place where the cuckoos clock in the sounds of Germany."

Cuckoo indeed.

He continues:

"I'm a tour guide, and I'm hiking and climbing and biking since [?] years in these mountains and the Swiss Alps and around the world."

And, his eyes and deranged smile tell us, every single one of his tour groups disappears into the forest, never to be seen or heard from again:

Yes, [?] has a happy life, leading people into his beloved Black Forest mountains and then murdering them.  But there's just one problem:

"Since years I am carrying my gear and my backpack, always too heavy, never enough space for all my stuff."

By "stuff" he means "bodies," as well as the wooden rake he uses as a murder weapon:

By the way, the hands on the face of that cuckoo clock?

Human teeth.

But now, [?]'s problems are finally over:

"I've found someone who solve all my problems and carry all those 'things' for me."

Naturally I just assumed he meant a mute "assistant" named Hans who wears lederhosen and a ball gag, but he's actually referring to an idea:

That idea?  The "Corpse Caddy!"

Or, as they've wisely rebranded it so as not to arouse the suspicions of Interpol, the "Monowalker:"

The Monowalker is basically an off-road handtruck, and I'm not sure if this grim procession is heading into the woods to play a game of all-terrain golf, or to dig a mass grave:

Either way, check out how it clears that log:

It also attaches to the oxen--sorry, "hikers"--by means of this special belt:

Presumably the belt also locks to prevent escape, because as any serial killer or mobster will tell you, the most efficient way to dispose of the bodies is to make your victims carry all the tools themselves and then dig their own graves:

(That's not a hike, that's a fucking death march.)

Also, it has a disc brake you control with a bar-end shifter:

Which, if nothing else, gives me a fantastic idea for a practical joke to play on triathletes:

("I go to shift and then next thing I know, 'Fwap!'  Right on my face.")

Though generally they don't need much help in the crashing department.

I know what you're wondering.  Serial killers love fine dining, so you want to know if the Monowalker turns into a table.  Why, of course it does, Dr. Lecter!

Note the disembodied cucumber:

It also transforms into a bike trailer, which I gotta say is pretty nifty:

Not to mention perfect for staying one step ahead of the authorities:

Now all they'll find is a bunch of victims with telltale pitchfork wounds to the throat and a cuckoo clock fashioned out of a human skull, while you travel to the next city and establish a new identity.

Of course, if you prefer your Kickstarter inventions to be less morbid and more ambiguously phallic, then you'll doubtless be intrigued by the "S-Bar:"

All I can tell you is that it goes between your legs:

Oh, and the inventor wants eighty-five thousand of your Australian dollars:

That's even creepier than the "Corpse Caddy."

Lastly, in the tradition of concluding posts with tall bike videos (which I established yesterday and will almost certainly end after today), meet "one of Asheville's most recognizable celebrities:"

Facts about Asheville:

--Its most recognizable celebrity is a bicycling nun;
--It has a "comedy bus tour;"
--Both of these things are apparently newsworthy.

Watch your back, Portland!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Wednesday: The Olive Loaf in the Sandwich of Your Work Week

Having already written the definitive ride report on L'Eroica, I'd like to loiter on "the boot" for a bit, and take a look at the "controversy" surrounding the death of Marco Pantani:

Marco Pantani’s place of death at the Le Rose hotel in Rimini, Italy, was investigated poorly according to his family’s lawyer. A newly-released video taken on the day of his death, February 14 2004, shows police fumbling though the room and appears to support the case.

Careless Italian police officers?  I don't believe it.

Here's that video, by the way:

Wow.  That detective is either mishandling the evidence or else handling it extremely well, depending on how you look at it.

As for Pantani's death, his family believes he was forced to drink a lethal amount of cocaine for some reason:

Family lawyer Antonio De Rensis pushed for Rimini’s prosecutor to re-open the case after gathering new information. According to a report in Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper in August, he said that Pantani let known men into his room early in the morning. The men hit the 34-year-old cyclist and forced him to drink cocaine diluted in water. They carried his body down the stairs of the bi-level room, left him for dead and purposely made the room to look disorganised.

Sure, people are coerced or duped into drinking deadly potions all the time--in movies.  But real life isn't the "battle of wits" scene from "The Princess Bride,"  nor do people just neatly imbibe liquids because people order them to do so "or else."  And the murderers purposely made the room look disorganized?  Come on.  Murdered or not, there's no question Pantani was a drug addict--and if there's one thing drug addicts are not known for, it's their tidy rooms.

Maybe Biggie and Tupac were also involved.

Another Italian cycling hero who's come under scrutiny lately is Mario Cipollini, who--and you're not going to believe this--may have doped during his career:

"Shadows surround the former sprinter?"  Not exactly.  Those are just grease spots, like when you put the bacon you just cooked on a section of paper towel.

But while "Cipollini doped" may be news to absolutely nobody, this article does provide some insight into his childhood:

At school, his teachers complained that Cipollini was clever but bone idle or distracted. At home, he wreaked chaos. Aged six, he found the keys to his mum’s Fiat 500 and took it for a spin around the family house in San Giusto di Compito. A few years later, the manager of the Gis team, Piero Pieroni, visited the Cipollini’s to negotiate Cesare’s first pro contract. Pierini remembers Mario being so hyperactive that his parents had to tie him to an olive tree.

That last part may sound strange, but I saw a lot of children tied to olive trees in Italy--though it's worth noting that in Cippolini's region the olive harvest that year was...unusual:

For his part, Cipollini denies paternity and has settled with the Olive People for an undisclosed sum.

Anyway, given his youthful hyperactivity, it seems to me that Cipollini has an iron-clad excuse for any doping, which is that he was simply self-medicating for ADD--or for withdrawal symptoms caused by sexual absinence:

Even to the most world-weary, brutalised observer of professional cycling, La Gazzetta’s allegations amounted to a long and particularly filthy laundry list. Based on documents seized from Doctor Fuentes and displaying a telephone number that the newspaper’s journalists recognised as Cipollini’s at the time, they were able to hypothesise that the sprinter had paid Fuentes over €130,000 for treatments and products including EPO, testosterone, human growth hormone and blood transfusions over four years between 2001 and 2004. The extent, rather than the nature of the alleged crimes, was most shocking: two blood bags in the fortnight before his 2002 world championship road race triumph in Zolder (also, incidentally, the period over which he claimed to have abstained from sex), and 25 in total the following season.

Speaking of stuff that's impregnated and self-lubricating, a number of people have been forwarding me articles about the new $450 Silca pump, which comes with a wooden box, because where do you keep your pump, you Fredly philistine?

The SuperPista Ultimate’s plunger tube is hard-anodized and PTFE impregnated, the same as the stanchions on high-end mountain-bike forks, and it slides smoothly without wobble in a high-precision IGUS self-lubricating plastic bushing in the top cap, even when pulled all the way out. The cup-shaped leather plunger is the same as it always was on Silca floor pumps of yore. It is made of the finest full-grain leather by the same company in Milan’s fashion district that has made it since 1960, using the same machines. (the pump’s check valve is still made by the same Italian vendor who has supplied them to Silca since 1946). Why a leather plunger seal? Just ask pro team mechanics; when going to stage races in Qatar and Oman, they clamor for Silca pumps because they continue to work in sandy environments that destroy the rubber plunger O-rings in most pumps. The sand just collects in the grease in the leather plunger cup, and its lips still seal along the cylinder walls. And like all Silca pumps of yore, you can just pull out the shaft, wipe off the leather washer with your fingers and relube it by filling the cup with grease and keep it pumping indefinitely.

Finally!  A sand-specific pump for your sand-specific bike:

If you're as concerned as I am that you may not be inflating your tires to within a 1% margin of error then there's no way around it, YOU NEED THIS PUMP!

This laboratory-grade gauge is accurate to +/-1%, far beyond the standard +/-5% industrial gauge widely found on bike pumps.

The average Fred has no idea how much pressure he should be running in his tires and slavishly obeys whatever arbitrary figure is printed on his sidewalls, but at least with the Silca he can rest assured he's inflating them exactly wrong.

Also, keep in mind that your tire pressure changes with altitude, so make sure you stop after every meter climbed or descended and re-adjust your pressure as needed.

Of course, for best results, you should always use your precision pump in conjunction with a tire pressure smartphone app:

Simply enter your weight, your bicycle's weight, the width of your tire, the width of your rim, your frame tube angles, your stem length, your saddle setback, the make and model of your bib shorts, the hardness of the road surface dressing, the ambient temperature, and your local AQI (Air Quality Index), and the app will inform you of the exact location of the nearest psychiatrist.

By the way, the commonly-accepted medical treatment for Tire Pressure Obsessive Disorder is to tie yourself to an olive tree.

Lastly, while we're looking at obsession, here's a video about the world's tallest tall bike:

I wonder what pressure he was running.