People don't like me. I'm not sure why this is, but I know it's true. I can see it in their eyes. Take this very morning, for instance. I was riding through downtown Manhattan, on a relatively quiet street, in a relatively empty bike lane, and to the best of my knowledge I was in compliance with every single local traffic law. (As far as I know there's no law against cycling in stockings and heels, even in December.) As I rode, I noticed that there was a pedestrian walking towards me carrying a bag full of take-out, right in the middle of the bike lane.
Sometimes in New York City, when the sidewalks are choked with humanity, a few errant souls will stray into the bike lane. It's almost unavoidable. In this case though there was plenty of room on the sidewalk--in fact it could just as easily have been a sidewalk on Main Street in Anytown, USA. (The sidewalks on Main Street in Anytown, USA are pretty empty now because of the economy.) Finally, he looked up at me, and I shrugged and pointed to the sidewalk.
"Shut up," he said to me disgustedly.
Frankly, I was shocked, and I don't shock easily. (Except when I drag my high heels along my shag carpet and then touch the doornob.) Firstly, I hadn't uttered a word, so I don't know why the "shut up" was even warranted. Secondly, try as I might, I could think of no good reason for why he would choose to walk in the street instead of on the sidewalk (which as I said was free from crowds) where his chances of being run down by a cyclist or motorist were significantly less.
It just so happens that this was one of those bright green bike lanes, so I thought that perhaps he just has a compulsion to walk on green surfaces. Maybe he's got a house full of green carpeting, and this makes him feel at home. Or maybe he pines for Anytown, USA and mistook the bike lane for grass. Eventually, though, I ruled these out, and decided it was because he, like everybody else, simply hates me on sight.
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "You couldn't possibly be that objectionable. He just didn't like you because you were on a bike." Well, I don't buy that. Plenty of other people who ride bikes are popular. Moreover, people on bikes don't like me either. A reader recently confirmed this to me when he forwarded me a link to the "Cyclist Project," which is the work of a photographer called Marisabaz, and which you can peruse on her Flickr page. Here are some examples from it:
Wow, I'd been wondering why fixed-gear riders have so many tattoos! Now I know. I can relate, because I was once doored by the owner of a bagel shop. I didn't get any money out of the deal, but he did promise to keep me in day-old bialys for the rest of my life. Sure, I may never be regular again, but at least I'll never go hungry.
Yes, the guy with the scary eyes totally wasn't wearing contacts at all, was he? That's because he was a drug addict, and he was selling you a stolen bike in order to purchase more drugs. That would explain the scary eyes and $20 price tag. Welcome to New York City! I'm guessing you haven't been here long, because if you had: a) you would have realized that; and b) you would have held fast at $5. In a way though, it's sort of charming that one person's drug-addicted thief is another's Bike Fairy flitting about Williamsburg and selling cheap bikes. Did he look like the dad from "Alf?" I heard he's been having hard times, and it's entirely possible he's moved into freelance bike retail. (By the way, don't blame "Alf" dad for the "curse." There's no such thing as a curse, but there is such a thing as a crappy bike.)
Naivetee notwithstanding, I like the "Cycling Project." In fact, I like it so much I went ahead and made my own entry based on this not-safe-for-work link, forwarded to me by a reader:
"I ride a bike because I have an ample bosom and people pay me to straddle them in my underpants! XOXO, Sophie!"
Good for you, Sophie! No matter what you're straddling, keep the rubber side down.
So if you're wondering how the big bike love-in that is the "Cycling Project" managed to remind me that people don't like me, here's your answer:
As you may or may not know, way back in the middle of the summer I noticed this bike at the Harlem criterium and made an offhand remark. This upset the owner, so I attempted to explain myself. That, I had assumed, was that--until I saw that the owner is apparently still angry at me.
I mention this not to goad the owner, but only because I'm dismayed he's still angry and I want to assure him and the rest of cycledom that I have no designs on taking away anyone's "real bike joy." And perhaps worst of all, the anger he still feels towards me has contaminated what is otherwise a lovely project, so hopefully by reiterating my lack of malicious intent I can help air out any residual bitterness that still lays hidden in the folds of time. (As well as avoid any more clumsy metaphors.)
Of course, I shouldn't be surprised that he's still angry, since I did commit the unforgivable sin of Consumerist Political Incorrectness. In our culture, few acts are more sacred than that of the purchase. When you buy something, you're not just exchanging money for an item. You're actually performing a holy communion in which you become one with your possession and subsequently identify yourself with it, and as such your purchase speaks more loudly about you than your surname or your religion. It's no wonder then that people become upset when someone else implies they might not like or be impressed by something they've bought. When you're emotionally invested in your possessions an affront to them is also an affront to you. Thou shalt not disapprove of your neighbor's purchases.
For this reason, I endeavored to explore the Cult of BMC to learn what makes them special. To that end, I watched this video on their website. I must confess, I didn't learn much. The narrator just kept reminding me over and over again that the company is Swiss, which naturally means their bikes are built with precision. I'm not sure how much that means in 2008, since most of these bikes are now made in Taiwan anyway, and the only real difference between "Swiss precision" and "Italian soul" these days is that the guy who boxes up your bike in Switzerland shows up to work at 9:00, whereas the Italian guy shows up at 9:20-ish. Also, BMC design their bikes on computers (remember, precision), and they also command you to be unique:
Compulsory uniqueness aside, it's too bad computers can't feel pain, because if they could maybe they'd have told BMC's Swiss precision engineers that the top tube of their Cross Machine (over $3,000 for frame and fork) digs into your shoulder when you carry it. (Carrying your bike is an essential part of cyclocross.) In fact, the latest issue of Cyclocross magazine says, "it creates a sharp underside for shouldering, quite opposite of the common practice of flattening the tube for comfort on run-ups," and that the "pointy shape was uncomfortable enough to make me consider going back to my early days of 'cross and using a woman's shoulder pad under my jersey." But while the computer couldn't feel the pain, it could tell the engineers that those t-section carbon nanotubes were ever so slightly stiffer than simple round tubes. Also, the computer told them it would cost them a whole lot more money to change the shape of the top tube on the 'cross frame than it would to simply use the same ones they use for the road bikes. And that's precision you can feel--digging painfully into your collarbone.
But even though I don't particularly care for BMC's bikes, the owner of the one above shouldn't really care. First of all, he's got a track frame, not a 'cross frame. Secondly, anybody can buy a bike, but not everybody can own a bike. And when you own your bike, you really don't care what anybody thinks of it. So own that BMC, and I hope you rock and/or run it for years to come. (I think you "rock" a track bike when it's got risers, but you "run" it when it's got drops.)
Moving on, the proprietor of Zlogblog has sent me the following photos, in which the heretofore mutually-exclusive worlds of unorthodox handlebars and u-locks have collided with enough force to forever change the landscape of fixed-gear cycling as we know it:
That's right, you no longer have to carry your u-lock in your oversized messenger bag, rear pant pocket, or holster. With this revolutionary technique, the lock is now an integral part of your ride! Not only does it afford you additional hand positions, but you don't even have to remove it to lock the bicycle. (Though of course your lock will now only be as effective as your allen bolts.)
Then again, everybody knows that cutting-edge urban cyclists are now ditching locks altogether. Great Commuter Race champion Jamie Favaro has forwarded me the following photo, which proves that disease is the new theft-deterrent:
Unfortunately, though, this rider made a poor choice of diseases, since everybody also knows gratuitous insensitive AIDS references went out in like 1990 when that idiot from Skid Row rocked that t-shirt. If you're going to try this, at least use a different disease. My personal choice is botulism, since my own Ironic Orange Julius Bike is generally slathered in spoiled mayonnaise anyway. (Even if the thief is wise to the fact that it's only a misconception that spoiled mayonnaise causes food poisoning, funky mayo is still in itself a sufficient deterrent.)
So if some guy with scary eyes who looks like the dad from "Alf" tries to sell you a bike covered in mayonnaise for $20, you can safely assume it's mine. Even though he's taken it from me, I still own it.