Monday, October 12, 2009

Cheap and Easy: The Fundamental Problem of Cycling

Here in the United States, today is Columbus Day, which marks the occasion of Christopher Columbus's arrival in the Americas. Many years ago, this was an innocent and simple holiday that meant you got to stay home from work or school, and like a Shimano STI shifter most people just used it without really worrying about the mechanics behind it. However, just as some people refuse to use a bicycle component that is not rebuildable, some people will not accept a day off if the reason behind it is in any way questionable. And Columbus Day was questionable because, not only did Columbus seem to be getting too much credit for something Lief Ericson did like 500 years before him, but also because Columbus appeared to represent the arrival of European imperialism and its payload of disease, slavery, war, and greed. (Politically correct Americans alternately denounce Europeans for their imperialism and ethnocentrism and laud them for their progressiveness and social responsibility, depending on what they're complaining about at that moment.) Eventually, though, Americans managed to rationalize Columbus Day by agreeing that it's OK to celebrate it as long as you do so in the name of Italian-American pride and not in the name of colonization, just as it's OK for the Shimano-hater to use an STI shifter as long as it's on some secondary or tertiary bike and the main bike has either Campagnolo or SRAM.

Given our complicated relationship with holidays and with Europe, it's no surprise that we also have a complicated relationship with cycling. Just as it can be difficult to convince people to simply take the day off, it's also difficult to convince people in this country to get on a bike, even though it's enjoyable, practical, and (at least once you've paid for the bike) free. Furthermore, unlike Columbus Day, there's not even any moral ambiguity involved; here in America, many of our ancestors were slaves, but very few of them were oppressed by cyclists. Still, it seems people are constantly trying to figure out why Americans won't ride bikes for transportation, and according to an article in Scientific American which was forwarded to me by a reader it's because the whole endeavor is too manly:

In fact, if you're a woman reading this, you may be flattered to know that when it comes to cycling in America you're actually an "indicator species," like a harbor seal in the Puget Sound:

Women are considered an “indicator species” for bike-friendly cities for several reasons. First, studies across disciplines as disparate as criminology and child rearing have shown that women are more averse to risk than men. In the cycling arena, that risk aversion translates into increased demand for safe bike infrastructure as a prerequisite for riding. Women also do most of the child care and household shopping, which means these bike routes need to be organized around practical urban destinations to make a difference.

It certainly makes sense to me that more people (and perhaps even harbor seals) would ride if there was a safer "bike infrastructure," and it also makes sense that such an infrastructure should be "organized around practical urban destinations." And who can deny that what little "bike infrastructure" we have is hopelessly masculine? It's virtually impossible to follow a bike lane here in America without winding up at a gun shop, bowling alley, or Home Depot. If only more of them led to nail salons and maternity shops then perhaps we'd be living in the cycling idyll which is, apparently, Holland. (Their invaluable contribution to the slave trade notwithstanding.)

Still, the article does make a good point, which is that to be a cyclist in America it can often seem as though one has to be a daredevil or an outlaw (or at least dress like one), and I suppose that's usually a "guy" thing. However, I can't help feeling that this is less due to gender differences than it is about or fundamental inability as consumers to do anything without building an identity around it or buying a bunch of accessories for it. For example, back in the age of the guilt-free Columbus Day, people bought sneakers in order to participate in athletics. Now, we have "sneaker culture," in which the whole point is to collect the sneaker, and for which the athletics simply serve as a marketing tool.

So when it come to cycling, this means that if you want to get around your city by bike you'll need not only an acceptably fashionable bike but also cycling-themed apparel and accessories that aren't especially cycling-specific apart from the fact they either have pictures of bikes on them or they're sold in or near places that also sell bicycles. Consider for instance the Cadence "Sace," which is a small bag you hang from your larger bag, or a pocket you hang from your pants that already have pockets:

This is absolutely essential if you regularly carry precious jewels and your existing bag and pants aren't already lined with silk, or if you prefer to make your purchases with gilded coins instead of dirty cash or tacky plastic credit cards and require a suitably precious coin purse. Actually, if anything urban cycling in this country has long ago bypassed "outlaw" and is now solidly in the "swashbuckling dandy" phase.

So really, the problem isn't that cycling is too risky and masculine; it's just that the majority of Americans still haven't figured out how to package themselves while they're doing it. As one person quoted in the Scientific American article points out, women need to learn that they can “jump on a bike the way they jump in a car.” This is certainly true of all people, not just women. As long as you're in or near your car you can look as crappy as you want since you're still displaying your status as a consumer. However, even proponents of casual, non-athletic, practical cycling such as the Dutch city bike cabal still have to dress themselves up like Thurston Howell and Lovey from "Gilligan's Island" in order to make sure their bicycle use is taken in the proper context.

So even if cycling becomes safe and drenched in estrogen and all the bike lanes are sheltered and feature spas every quarter of a mile, I can't help but wonder if we will be able to surrender our carefully "curated" consumer identities in order to do it. Unfortunately, it seems instead that we prefer to treat every ride like a narrative which tells the "epic" tale of our savvy fashion choices and athletic accomplishments. Take this video, which has been making the rounds recently, and which tells the inspiring tale of some people who managed to ride their track bikes from London to Paris in order to slaver all over Lance Armstrong:

LONDON TO PARIS from Amazing Grace on Vimeo.

If the simple act of recreational cycling warrants this sort of mythologizing then there's no way the average person is going to feel comfortable simply hopping on a bicycle without sufficient backstory or an adequately expensive wardrobe. Incidentally, fixed-gear riders really should stop congratulating themselves for riding their bicycles more than a few miles at a time, especially since they stop pedaling just as much as riders with freewheels. I see "hipster coasting" all over New York City, and I spotted at least two instances of it in this video. Here's one of them:

Of course, while I think it's less our gender differences and more our obsession with image in general that makes it difficult for Americans to accept cycling, it's certainly true that in this country cycling does seem to involve a lot of studiously "manly" and quasi-risky behavior. One of the most aggressive purveyors of this is MASH. Here they are riding the Tour of California route and proving that, in the absence of an actual adversity, you can create the illusion of adversity by riding an inappropriate bicycle:

PREVIEW: MASH Tour of California 2009 from MASH TRANSIT PRODUCTIONS on Vimeo.

However, even the ostensible masculinity of cycling is often only an illusion created by soundtrack and colorway choice. Just replace punishing guitars and guttural vocals with a song by everybody's favorite band, Ponytail, and the effect is quite different:



(I also buried an Albert Brooks reference in there if you listen carefully.)

Now, your eye is drawn away from the black kits and gear-mashing and towards the pretty scenery and the absurdly comical spinning. Furthermore, you realize they're less an army of fixed-gear avengers than they are some guys in lycra having a good time. It's just that, in order to sell that good time, they've couched it in the aesthetic of pain.

Really, the biggest challenge we face is figuring out how to ride our bikes while maintaining the illusion that we're special. For some of us, the truth that we're not is even scarier than all that motor vehicle traffic.

152 comments:

landis in 06 said...

werd

Helen said...

no ways

landis in 06 said...

I feel cheap and easy

ant1 said...

ant1st!

Anonymous said...

and what

Anonymous said...

top ten

mander said...

Top 10/ Mand1st

bikesgonewild said...

...hey...i'm still tryin' ta get friday's quiz right...

...damn...

DLA said...

top 10

Charles said...

Top Ten baby, even on Columbus Day!!

Paul Bowen said...

Top 11!

Anonymous said...

All You Haters Suck My Messenger Bag

hillbilly said...

booya! hell of a last line, love it.

the spa idea cracks me up, and you can bet that a few years from now, someone will be citing the lack of a proper "hydration tent" along the way as a reason more people don't bike to work.

rezado said...

Cheap and easy wench

Anonymous said...

"...you can create the illusion of adversity by riding an inappropriate bicycle"

Inappropriate, impractical, unnecessary: in my experience these are all close synonyms for "fun."

Anonymous said...

Woot! Woot!

Anonymous said...

It's all the women's fault!!

Anonymous said...

Top 18 SLAGS!!!!

grog said...

cheap and easy
easy and fun
fun and fitness
fit and free
free and cheap
cheap and easy

Anonymous said...

I feel very very special.

rezado said...

WTYM

Udder said...

Wasn't Leif Ericson a team mate of Bjarne Riis?

Anonymous said...

The London-Paris team aren't doing "recreational cycling," they're on a mission from God. But to their credit, neither they nor the MASH riders enter the consciousness of most potential cyclists, so they can't take the blame for low cycling numbers here in the US, even if they do represent a sort of nadir in pretentiousness. Cycling is a realm where we can be politically (ecologically) correct, macho, and (if you make a video of it) artistic all at once, so the growth of these sorts of videos is no surprise.

nonplussed cyclist said...

Leif Ericson was a MASHer...

Anonymous said...

GLASS BEAD
FREE BLKT
WILD WEST

stoneddrunkmountainbikerstorytopper said...

.....easy on the Shimano STI's Snob. I have been "rubbin" a pair of 105 STI's on one of my main bikes since I purchased it more than 6 years ago. The only quirk that has happened to them is me having to yank off the cover of one, which looks "cooler" anyway. Not bad for 1000's of miles. Just saying, not that I am a Shimano preacher or anything, but they do work quite well.

Chris C. said...

Curating continents, palping imperialism, nonplussed American Indians.

d. fofonov said...

If I am truly European I am offending at your commentations on European but am more Asian in outlook I am supposing, so I am letting it slide. For now.

bikesgonewild said...

...as i said to the woman selling the lovely tweed cycling knickers (& jackets) at biketoberfest here in fairfax this weekend, "nice...unfortunately if i bought a pair, i'd have to built a new bespoke bicycle that would be appropriate to rock w/ those"...

...but the fat tire ale was tasty...thank you, jen from new belgium brewery...

Test Tickle said...

http://www.myballard.com/2009/10/09/immigrant-names-wanted-for-leif-erikson-plaza/

balls.

Anonymous said...

6 riders
9 days
750 miles
2 shite videos

captain said...

Another lesson on manufactured adversity...

http://www.backbreakergames.com/gallery/UniqueNotUseful.jpg

bk jimmy said...

According to Cadence's webpage the Sace pouch comes in two sizes: "golden brown" and "b-berry."

Choose your colorway for the best aesthetic fit!

Bad Lawyer said...

practical urban destinations:

stolen bike impound garage;

the hairy muffin;

Hillbilly's Hydration Tent;

LBS; . . .

bikesgonewild said...

...i'm rather surprised that an erudite publication of the quality of scientific american, what w/ science being rooted in tangible fact, would ever ask "...the perennial question: What do women want ???"...

...i mean, really ???...

Anonymous said...

d fofonov-

we get it. bad syntax. moving on.

ant1 said...

"Here they are riding the Tour of California route ad proving that, in the absence of an actual adversity, you can create the illusion of adversity by riding an inappropriate bicycle:"

ad?

leroy said...

No one rocks a baggy jersey and handlebar streamers like me.

No one.

I AM Specialized.

I'd like to see those MASH TofC or London to Paris guys try to make that ensemble work.

It's not as easy as it looks.

Anonymous said...

ant1,

and

ringcycles said...

"Really, the biggest challenge we face is figuring out how to ride our bikes while maintaining the illusion that we're special. For some of us, the truth that we're not is even scarier than all that motor vehicle traffic." Snob, you just hit the cycling vanity nail on the head.

Astroluc said...

BAKO DPAK

and here I thought you might have taken the day off, snobby...

Image seems to be everything, even here in the supposed forward thinking Peoples Republic of Cantabridgia.

I often feel, when I need to do an errand and jump on my lame-old 10-speed/ss conversion with the milk crate zip-tied to the rack whist wearing a pair of (normal/not skinny) jeans and a t-shirt, that there are more than a few people who look at me (fixters/hipsters, freds/other cyclists, as well as drivers) and immediately assume that I am one of those DUI-cyclists ... sometime the nonplussed look that I usually get on my commutes or pleasure rides is replaced by that of scorn or pity.

I am a licensed driver who chooses to ride a bike... do I need a uniform for every type of cycling I do? Apparently apparel appears to matter; so says society.

as we were all told (in some form by someone) when we were young; life (school, work, the streets, etc...) is not a fashion show. If you act like yourself people will like you for who you are.

Well... we all have learned that that nugget o' wisdom aint true... and it's too bad.

Astroluc said...

and today, I had the outside and a bike; so I had something to do.

Salty Seattle said...

Yes, as a Puget Sound indicator species, I admit I've been rocking the MiniCooper Chaffeur cap more than my bike helmet of late. Totally my fault. I'm still in process with all the Hail Marys, I can assure you.

What we really need is something like that woman in the Cadillac commercial during the Tour, that had to ask us all if her car turned her on. (I don't know, babe, but my guess is, not?)

I got it! Better shoes. That will get more of us on our bikes. We should defer this project to that NYC chick from earlier this year.

I'd link it up to the appropriate snob column, but I'm not sure I can take that risk.

Anonymous said...

All you Amerigo Vespucci haters suck my balls

eedle said...

Harbor seals of disapproval, indeed. If they are an indicator species, does that mean they indicate what trendways should be curated in the upcoming season? Indeed.

Geoff said...

If you can figure out a way for people (men and women) to ride without messing up their hair, more of them would do it.

frilly said...

You are not a special snowflake.

And for the record, Snob, I have no idea how to balance a beach ball on my nose.

Fail.

OBA said...

The only people I can imagine would ever possibly see cycling as too masculine are women who never do it. Every guy in a passing truck inevitably shouts some variation of "Get off the road, fag!" before hurling whatever's handy.

Anonymous said...

I just like to ride my bike. Don't have time at a decent hour. Up at 5:30am. Ride in the dark. Roads are nice and empty except for an occasional taxi trying to get me to eat his side mirror for some sick entertainment. Back by 7 to wake up my kids, breakfast, out the door to school and job. Don't have time to think about the illusion of being special. I just like to ride my bike.

Maybe I'll hire a video crew so I can feel special.

Helen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bad Lawyer said...

The SA article--is, how to get more bicyclists on the road--why?

Bad Lawyer said...

Seriously, Helen, get over your bad self. Didn't you make the podium, today? Isn't that enough? You want full gender-blondness, too?

Helen said...

Thanks for making yourself part of the cycling establishment's habit of mocking women. Further evidence that you, like the rest of cycling "culture"/products, sports in general, and American society in general still can't fucking figure out how to treat women like regular people. You can't deny that competitive cycling (both the sport and the products) is absolutely male-dominated, and you also can't deny that women in America are expected to look a certain way upon arriving at work; this appearance is not usually achievable after a 30-minute commute on nasty city streets. Maybe if you & the rest of the chauvinists stopped expecting women to go to nail salons & look perfect at work, they'd be more inclined to ride a bike.

And you KNOW that cycling is intimidating to women not only because most products are geared toward men but because the LBS, the bike co-op, and pretty much every bicycle media outlet is run, staffed, and patronized by men nearly exclusively. There are a lot of obstacles for the average woman pursuing cycling either as a sport or a form of transportation, not least of which is the fact that mechanical and maintenance knowledge is hoarded behind your fucking testicles. How many times have I asked someone to help me with a repair only to have him take the tool out of my hands and do it for me?

Obviously, there are a lot of deeper issues here that have their roots in the long patriarchal lineage of American and world history, but it's obvious to me that if you want more people to commute by bike and more people to create a voice for cyclists on city streets, you can't ignore half the population, or for that matter, what they want. Jerks.

Bad Lawyer said...

er, blindness (freudian-slip)

Nonplussed Cyclist said...

Helen! Holy cow, I haven't seen just that sort of vitriolic diatribe in a couple of decades. But I think you have missed the point. Our Snob is making fun of the very attitudes at which you rail. Take a deep breath, and read his post again.

We are not all jerks. Please understand that.

Strayhorn said...

I was happy to see the MASH guys riding without helmets and pushing those wet descents in traffic. That means it's a better than even chance they won't reproduce and their offspring won't compete for things like jobs for my children, or oxygen for my cat.

But the Sace - WTF?

It's a mystery why people hate Shimano, but I do know how snobbery can sneak up on you. So I've asked my riding partner to shoot me if I have the Campy logo tattooed anywhere on my body.

Helen said...

haha, blondness. At least we know what YOU want.

Nonplussed Cyclist said...

Whatever it is you think you know, Dumbass, is wrong too.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Helen,

Thanks for your comment. However, I don't know why you think I'm mocking women; if anything, I'm mocking men. As far as appearance in the workplace, I've stated a number of times elsewhere (including on NPR) that I believe we need to lower standards of dress across the board--and that applies to both men and women. I am a staunch advocate of slovenliness regardless of gender.

And regading hoarding knowledge in the testicles, I think even the most chauvinistic man will readily acknowledge that, if anything, male genitalia just makes you dumber--hence the old expression about "thinking with the wrong head."

--BSNYC

frilly said...

Bad Lawyer--Do not tell Helen to get over her self, unless you are a woman also. How can you possibly know the behaviors women encounter?

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that I found the 'spa at every quarter mile' remark a teensy bit offensive.

But you just knew it was a matter of time before Snobby took a potshot at women in cycling. He says so himself--that all cycling is fair game for critiquing. So in that case, I should probably say a big thank you to him for validating our inclusion in cycling.

Astroluc said...

damn... everyone everywhere needs to relax about everything; at least a little!

BikeSnobNYC said...

Frilly,

Ah, I see. I didn't mean to be offensive there. I was just hyperbolizing the article's point about bike routes needing to take women into account and poking fun at a stereotype. Sorry if that didn't come across well. I must be drinking too much Columbus Day eggnog.

--BSNYC

Henry Cabot Henhaus III said...

Snob, I thought you set up that crack about the spas rather well with the line about gun shops, bowling alleys, and Home Depot.

Seeing as how you brought it up, I have actually ridden to the local Lowe's a few times. Since there is no decent place to lock up, even hipster high-lock style, I always end up walking my bike around the store. Even with a bulging commuter pannier on there, no one has even given me a strange look.

Anonymous said...

"swashbuckling dandy"? Where do I sign up?

Swashbuckling Dandy said...

Too late.

Bad Lawyer said...

"We are not all jerks. Please understand that."

I am, dammit!

Bad Lawyer said...

frilly--

How could I possibly know what a woman wants?

'Married one Columbus Day, 34 years ago, and I live with two, both blondes, one just got her driver's license and wants either my car or her own.

So you're right.

Fergie said...

The real problem with using a bike to run your errands isn't the lack of safety, it's the lack of opportunity for multitasking that driving a four wheeler at low speeds in suburban environments presumably provides. Like the pretty lady putting her mascara on while driving past me on Bridgeway today while I was riding to work. You can't listen to your audiobooks, call your broker, chat with your neighbor - well, actually I guess you can.. Would you rather have distracted drivers on the roads or distracted cyclists in the bike paths? Why can't we ban earphones for bikes? Do woment feel safer when they're not paying attention in the car than while they're riding the bike? Maybe because they know they're dangerous in the car, they refuse to ride the bike for safety reasons?

Too many questions - it'll never be safe to ride a bike, so we should just stay home..

hillbilly said...

frilly and helen - I see your point (now that it is pointed out to me, I'm quick that way), but in Snob's defense, and mine for laughing at the spa line, I read it as more of a shot at sense of entitlement that seems especially prevalent among New Yorker's. We want to have lanes, we want to bring our bikes in to work, these are reasonable, but it's not difficult to imagine, say, Park Slopers, asking for, no, demanding a video arcade or something equally ridiculous along the way. But, I do see your point, I retract my laugh, though I think a hydration tent would still be a hoot, as I agree with the commenter here who points out our over-obsession with drinking water.

Bad Lawyer said...

holee shiat, Frankie V., according to cyclenews.com

Bad Lawyer said...

er, died

hillbilly said...

"Belgian cyclist Frank Vandenbroucke has died at the age of 34"

The Parkinsons said...

If women only knew how immediately beautiful they become on a bike they'd ride more. An ordinary girl on a bike beats most everything!

Its not like men haven't dropped the ball.... Men still haven't figured out that women like to dance and appreciate when men dress nice(r).

Anonymous said...

Bsnob, this is a really insightful post. You might have added though that in a car-obsessed culture like America's, bicycling is looked down upon as the preserve of children, the poor, and the "style-conscious."

frilly said...

Bad Lawyer--read what I wrote. I'm not questioning your ability to know what women want. I am questioning your quick dismissal of Helen. Which is totally the kind of crap women encounter.

Thats too bad about VdB.

Helen said...

Look, all I was saying was that there are gender barriers in cycling just like everywhere else and just because a woman wants to feel comfortable safety-wise doesn't mean she want to go to the nail salon. Maybe it means she wants to learn how to remove a cassette. And thanks for calling me a capital-D Dumbass.

peristence said...

Someone who was clearly too bored with Ironman for his own good decided to race the course this year on a fixie. What the **** is the world coming to?? It's like that scene at the end of Invasion of the Body Snatchers when they finally infect the girlfriend and the hero relizes he can't win.

Anonymous said...

Dear Hellen, anytime.

great frisco freakout said...

bsnyc,

were you reading Jacques Barzun over the weekend or something?

ant1 said...

Stupid meetings kept me out of an apperently fun-filled day here at Mr. Snob's House o' Comments. I've got a couple pennies burning a hole in my pocket so let me just say a couple things.

First of all, while competitive cycling is mostly male-dominated, I don't think cycling in general is. Looking at it globally, I would guess that about as many women ride bikes as men do. That ratio is very different in this country due to the fact that we have easily usable cars to take care of a lot of moving (in my stupid opinion, of course, I have done no research into the matter). In lots of places around the world (amsterdam, south east asia...) cars are either unaffordable or inpractical, so people, both penised and non, ride a lot more bikes. It's not that they have a large pro female peloton in their country, or that their bike shop employees are nicer, or that their culture in general is less intimidating to women, it just makes more sense to ride a bike, whether the top tube is level with the ground or not.

Basically, with transportation requirements easily taken care of by the automobile, which most people in the US can easily afford/finance, bicycles in the US are predominantly excercising tools. Combine that with a little hint of danger and it's easy to see why more dudes ride than ladies. There's no reason to blame sexism (which exists everywhere, even places where women ride as much as men).

When it becomes too expensive/impractical to take a car everywhere, people, both men and women, will ride more bikes. There's no need to try and scapegoat portions of the population. Helen sees it as a sexism thing (nothing against you Helen, I have no idea what it's like to be a woman, so you just may be right), a black guy somewhere might just as easily see it as racism thing, environmentalists would blame the energy companies, and vegans would blame the beef industry... It's easy to blame the other guy, but it's just as easy to realize that for some people riding a bike to work just doesn't make sense under the current situation. They're not physically fit, they live far from work, they don't know anytihng about bikes, they're afraid of riding in traffic, and they don't want their hair to look less than perfect when they get to work.

Do we have to always blame something?

MildT said...

Here in sunny Sydney AUS it's no wonder so few people ride. Most drivers honestly think bikes belong on the sidewalks, city buses deliberately run bikes off the road, everyone tries to pass bikes on narrow corners and roundabouts, etc. In a nutshell, you definitely trade away your safety here when cycling.
Now compare here (or North America) to most places in non-English-speaking Europe. Bikes are respected as a viable mode of transportation for all genders, and people are free to ride the shittiest, basket-adorned, wobbly hunk of crap with impunity. As well, clothing and helmets are optional (or so I've heard), so one's hair needn't get messed. True cycling bliss. The only downside is living with a bunch of foreigners and having to speak really loud and slowly when trying to order a big mac and fries at the local patisserie.

Anonymous said...

HELE NBRO

Schlomo Campystein said...

Columbus was Jewish. This Italian thing was just to schmooze the Spanish shiksa, Isabella.

urchin said...

Looks like India has some bike bias too:

Here's a little tidbit I heard about relating to the recent Nobel Prize in Chemistry. One of the recipients, Venki Ramakrishnan, described in interviews how he had been late to work the day he got the call because of a flat tire on his bike.

The link is: sandesh.com, but if you don't read Gujarati:

How can one who loves Venki, shun the bicycle?

  Once upon a time Vadodara and Poona were called bicycle cities.  In India,the most bicycles were used in these two cities.  However, in these changed times even a high school student is ashamed of riding a bicycle.  Nowadays a 16 year old student wants a Scootie ( motorized bike similar to moped) and an 18 year old wants a motor cycle. In India the bicycle has now become the symbol of poverty. A Barodian of any age or status has no interest in riding a bike.  Of course, if you don't have a choice and are compelled to ride a bike, it is a different story. 

      But after our Venki got the Nobel Prize, Barodians will have to rekindle their age old interest in cycling.  If we take pride in Venki then we must certainly take pride in our old cycle city Vadodara.  Now the question is what does the cycling has to do with Venki ?  Then the answer is that Venki, the achiever of the world's biggest and most prestigious honor, does not even have his own car, Scooter or Scootie.  Even though this hero who has been accepted as one of the intellectuals of the world,  can afford to own America's most expensive car, he rides a bike to transport him on American roads crowded with cars. 

    When Venki was in Baroda he had a great passion for cycling. Venki took this passion for cycling from Vadodara all the way to America.  Don't be surprised, if in a couple of months you see his photographs riding his bike all the way to receive his Nobel prize.

    Then we Barodians should adopt a new slogan: " How can one who loves Venki, shun the bike? "  Instead of riding/driving new motorcycles , scooters and cars on the dirty and  pothole riddled roads of Vadodara, healthy and wise Barodians would also enjoy the pleasure of riding the bicycle. Despite owning a car or scooter, we should also keep a low cost (Rs. 1,900 to Rs. 3,000) pollution-free and fuel- cost free, cycle at home.  A little bit of cycling each day could save up to Rs. 500 to 700 in fuel cost per month.   Pollution will go down in Vadodara and we will keep fit without any medication. (here they refer to traditional digestive powders/pills people use for regularity and to avoid gas problems due to sedentary life style).  Youngsters , who want to win the Nobel Prize like Venki, and want to achieve like him should start cycling up to 25 km a day, just like our Venki.  Those young girls who want to achieve a 'Zero Figure' like Karina Kapoor (Bollywood film star), and that too, without expen ses for a Gym. To benefit the country and Vadodara let us popularize cycles in Vadodara again.  Irfan and Yusuf (both are great Indian cricketers) should also become Champions of the cause of the bicycle. And pretty girls should ask their boyfriends what the big deal is if you take me on a long motorbike ride. Take me on your bicycle (i.e. Double 'Savari" meaning with me sitting in the back - common in India) to Ajwa or Sindhrot (lake and village on river bank near Vadodara, respectively) then I can believe that you take care of me even in real life.

       Today a general meeting of the Baroda municipal corporation took place in which Venki was praised and honored. Every one left after giving speeches.  If you really want to honor Venki, then Mr. Mayor, we have a humble suggestion that in all of Vadodara build a separate lane for riding bicycles (bike lanes). It does not matter even if you have to use up the entire five year grant of a corporator!  If this much is done than nobody can stop Vadodara from becoming a a pollution free city of healthy citizens. 

Buck up Mr. Mayor, do something.

Daddo said...

mmmmm....girls on bikes

Pete said...

Helen,

if you want to learn to remove a cassette, read a book or look on the internet like everyone else does. Men aren't preventing you from working on your bike. You are. Take a little responsibility for your lack of knowledge.

kmkat said...

The real reason many women don't ride bikes everywhere, besides the thing about how they are supposed to look when they get to work, is this: how do you manage a 4-year-old and a toddler on a bike? And how do you get those kids plus ten bags of groceries back home?

Bad Lawyer said...

KmKat asked: how do you manage a 4-year-old and a toddler on a bike? And how do you get those kids plus ten bags of groceries back home?

A: Make 'em walk and carry the groceries for you!

Bad Lawyer said...

A Blonde and a Brunette ride their mountain bikes off a cliff, oops! Which one lands first? The Brunette, of course, the Blonde had to stop and ask for directions.

Fan Club VDB said...

RTMS should be ashamed for picking-on Frank.

RIP VDB

Andy Pandy said...

Hey Frills , I am yet to work out what I actually want, let alone some other sub set species may hanker for.

Swashbuckling Dandy said...

Too bad the library was closed for Columbus Day. Red and Jolene would surely have added some interesting insights to the battle of raw nerves here today. Ah, maybe it's just as well...

frilly said...

Hey AP, where have you been & you picked a hell of a day to re-surface.

What women want is actually pretty easy. Whatever you think it is, go in the complete opposite direction and you should be close.

wishiwasmerckx said...

"Greenway" is the official colorway of Scientific American.

Vegas Kid said...

Perhaps I am just blind to it, but I have one foot in the fixie community, and one foot in the roadie community, and here locally, we value and treat the ladies pretty well in both groups. On Sunday's roadie recovery ride, the ladies did about 70% of the pacemaking. None of the guys got their dander up and laid down the hammer just to show what a little natural testosterone can do. On the hipster front, they are amazingly inclusive and non-judgmental.

Anonymous said...

As to the Mash video, I am no fit expert, but shouldn't your saddle be low enough that your hips do not thrash from side to side while you are peddaling at a high cadence?

Anonymous said...

What do women want? I'll tell you what-
-pants that look normal standing and don't show crack when we ride.
-shoes that look good with regular clothes but have appropriate sole stiffness, and perhaps even cleat compatible.
-logical bike paths.
at least that's the consensus around here, but wait? isn't that what everyone wants.
as for hauling two squirmy kids and 10 bags of groceries, I use an Xtracycle, or a stokid equipped tandem plus trailer. my neighbor rocks the sidecar plus trail-a-bike combo. Always with two bottle cages, one or the air horn, one for the coffee.

Reed Enwright said...

RNCH WNCH

Anonymous said...

Frilly, I thought "woman" and "bad lawyer" were the same thing.

Never Knows Best said...

I don't exactly want to fire a shot in this particular shitstorm between the sexes, I was just amused that somebody built this damn thing:

A bicycle built for three...


Truth is, it is a lot easier to get a bunch of people and a lot of heavy stuff moved around in a car. I think you have to really want to get it done by bike to make it happen. A good example would be the cone of smugness wearing folk who moved the canoe

I guess as far as the testicularly(sp?)impaired bike shop mechanics you (ladies)have run into: You are the person paying money for a service. Vote with your dollar. I have a penis and there are bike shops in Houston that I won't shop at because the levels of employee ass-baggery is too high. It seems to vary by shop.

And Ant1, from down here in the Texas heat, I could sure use one of those hydration stations myself...

Never Knows Best said...

Oh shit! Un-ironic century win.

leroy said...

So an indicator species means it's safe to ride.

And harbor seals are an indicator species.

Therefore, if my bike weighs the same as a harbor seal, it's safe to ride.

Ahh, science.

100th on the podium!

No harbor seals were harmed, harassed, harnessed or drafted in this epic century.

(Notice how that disclaimer is nowhere to be found on the clip of the MASH TofC ride? The silence speaks volumes.)

leroy said...

D'oh! (slapping forehead now)

Nipped at the line.

cyclotourist said...

An observation: I've noticed that most runners are women, and most cyclists are men. Maybe 80/20 for both. That's during the day for random individuals. Club rides are getting very close to 50/50, and most of the ladies love their Serottas. Please discuss.

I can't stand running.

And finally...

LERI CSON

brian_huntley said...

Toddler plus groceries on a bike? Trail-a-Bike and two Bike Buckets. It's not 2 kids and 10 bags, but I don't have two kids, and don't usually buy ten bags worth of stuff at a time.

If I do, there's cabs.

bikesgonewild said...

...i'll bet about now bsnyc/rtms feels like the only guy in the history of cycling to have a heated (hot) seat on a scattante' commuter...

...that being said, i certainly contributed to this little brouhaha w/ my comment poking fun as regards scientific american's article which ended by asking "...the perennial question: what do women want ???"...

..."my comment" = "in jest" & this is the format for it...& in all honesty i'd bet most guys who post here are supportive of woman's cycling...i certainly am...

...on top of all that, i have a number of nationally ranked cyclo-cross "chick" friends & i'll bet they could all kick the ass of most guys here...

..."You are not a special snowflake."...i've always though one of the cool things about cycling is that we are all kinda "special snowflakes"...

...unless you're on a pro team, everyone has a bicycle (& riding kit) that's personalized one way or another...even two identically painted & similarly "gruppo-ed" bikes will have their own personal touches...

...just sayin'...

Opinionated Guy on Bike said...

Lots of women ride mountain bikes around where I live, in actual mountains. Most of them pass me, which I find amusing. What's really fun, though, is to watch them pass a group of out of town macho-boys. It's just about more than they can take!

The Haymaker said...

i am cheap and easy

bikesgonewild said...

...vdb...how very sad...

...his death may have been precipitated by the very "tools" that helped him show his flashes of brilliance...

...but make no mistake, beyond those misguided decisions, there was a great natural talent...

...mores the shame...

Anonymous said...

I don't know about 10 bags of groceries, but I will tea-bag your toptube.

wishiwasmerckx said...

Andy Pandy, nice to hear from you again. People have been asking about your whereabouts hereabouts. I understand that there was a break in the transoceanic cable which carries the internets Down Under, and that you have been receiving Bikesnob by steamer tramp from the Phillipines. I guess that explains it.

Anonymous said...

I an special because I don't use a chain. I bet I'm faster than you, too. DOWN HILL!

Chris said...

Good news the fixe skateboard is next on the hipster list.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2885aR6o6s&feature=player_embedded#

Anonymous said...

"and like a Shimano STI shifter most people just used it without really worrying about the mechanics behind it."

& like a STI shifter, some women on here feel wronged without considering the context within it.

Klaus Mohn said...

For the record, i gotta wear a suit to work, and women can dress however the fuck they want at my place of employment. I don't do my entire commute by bike, while if I were a woman I could. So just sign me...
SEXX ISM!

Klaus Mohn said...

or, if you'd rather:
MISO GYNY

evie said...

Hmm... I ride my bike pretty much everywhere I can. I didn't realize I was supposed to feel intimidated or marginalized when I took it up a couple of years ago. Lucky me -- I just ride.

(I do enjoy a nice accessory now and then, though. Guess that makes me a fake rider.)

European History major said...

Possible sexism aside, Mr. Snob's twisting of European History - especially Dutch slavery?! - is most troubling.

Anonymous said...

track riders in full tight suits, next while be seeing dirt jumpers whereing them. but who dosen't want to show off their tight bike ridin figure.

joe said...

i hate it when women blame chauvinism for their own lack of success in some area. if you want to learn about cycling just do it the hipster way- by googling it. and if you're not up to holding a conversation with the bike shop staff just because they're male, well, you're probably too lazy to be on a bike. sorry you can't tolerate living in a world where you might have to interact with men, who's the chauvinist now?

joe said...

and for all the women out there who feel oppressed, don't forget that all you have to do is call someone out for being a sexist and you'll have the neutered modern male by the balls (figuratively)

Clive said...

These middle-aged dudes from Sweden rode 2000 miles from the Island of Gotland to Gibraltar, on normal bikes without assistance of lycra or any need for hipness.

http://www.pilencykel.se/site/en/node/175

http://www.pilencykel.se/site/en/album/gibraltar

Bad Lawyer said...

Seriously, just what is happening to women's happiness? See: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marcus-buckingham/whats-happening-to-womens_b_289511.html

Is it simply a function of needing to re-grease and pack their beefy bottom brackets? I confess, I don't know.

Udder said...

Dear Helen,

Please read twice:

sarcasm |ˈsärˌkazəm|
noun
the use of irony to mock or convey contempt : his voice, hardened by sarcasm, could not hide his resentment. See note at wit .
ORIGIN mid 16th cent.: from French sarcasme, or via late Latin from late Greek sarkasmos, from Greek sarkazein ‘tear flesh,’ in late Greek ‘gnash the teeth, speak bitterly’ (from sarx, sark- ‘flesh’ ).

sufferist said...

Do the MASH fellows curate a double cogged rear wheel? One gear for flats and one for hills?

Anonymous said...

I need an indicator species to touch my Viscous Comfort Zone.

sufferist said...

A quote From Helen:
"Maybe if you & the rest of the chauvinists stopped expecting women to go to nail salons & look perfect at work, they'd be more inclined to ride a bike."

Men want women naked. If you look at most men's magazines that are targeted to men that desire physical contact with women, the depiction of women is focused on fecundity and lack of clothing. If you take a look at a women's magazines that are targeted to women, for the most part that desire physical contact with men, the depiction of women in those magazines focus on things like ornamentation and accessorizing of the human form.

So I would say that it is women who would give you the most grief for not appearing made up at work, more than the men folk.

Thank you for this opportunity to share our opinions.

Anonymous said...

Hipster coasting.....that should have been an edit..

Anonymous said...

I thought Columbus invented frame tubing in an array of exotic steelways!

Anonymous said...

Nice butt rocket, MASH!

"Serial Blogger" said...

Ponytail sucks.

shmaltz herring said...

All You Woman-Haters Suck My Balls

jolene said...

hey i got feelins too but my fammly done tought me to be my own womman and take what i want even if its reds nutsack and this here pool cue

but hey thats what guns is fer and any woman with a mossberg is gonna be equal to a man with browning if yor picking up what im puttin down

anybod that makes escuses fer there lack of anishatif is a socialist

Helen said...

I know how to remove a cassette. I looked that up in a book, which I found on the internet...wow. That doesn't mean it wasn't intimidating to ask to use my roommate's tools. It's not that I can't do these things, it's just how I feel when I try to learn. I love men. I live with 6 of them, all of whom are deep into bicycles. Nevertheless, there are assumptions made about my ability to work on my bike or do anything else mechanical because I have a hoo-ha. And I have no doubt you're a lot lazier than me, hatahs.

Angry Dane said...

I'm sure someone proficient in Old Norse has mentioned this already, but just to confirm:

it's 'Leifr Eiriksson'

Anonymous said...

" is a socialist"..

jeez joe-lean, you shore kin talk funny sumtimes

Camp Cupboard said...

"i hate it when women blame chauvinism for their own lack of success in some area.." -joe

What an impressive example of insensitivity as well as outright exposure of utter ignorance of how society actually treats women's issues.

Right Joe. Women fail in mail-dominated arenas due to laziness and disinterest, not due to the constant societal pressure which seeks to funnel the sexes into "gender appropriate" fields of interests...If only all historically oppressed groups could just stop being so lazy!

Women aren't as into cycling and athletics in general because of societal pressures, historical inequalities in treatment and funding, and from retards like you who seek to blame the systematically disparaged for their own disparagement.

joe said...

yeah you're right, i guess women have been systematically disparaged into perpetually playing the victim. but in this instance, why keep blaming something you can't control (other people) and take some responsibility for the fact that you're scared to talk to a bike shop employee.

speaking of societal pressures, women make up half of society. don't tell me that part of the problem isn't that a lot of women are simply convinced that they are victims, victimized or not. i'm advocating waking up and realizing your gender isn't the only cause of your problems, in this case, it's just an excuse.

Salty Seattle said...

Wow~

I missed a great discussion yesterday! Had to check back on this before moving on to today's post.

Yeah. I don't know jack about fixing my bike. I don't even pump the tires, most of the time. Why? Cause I don't have to. Sure, it may be sexist, but the fact is that I'm benefitting from it. If that makes me a bad feminist, than just wait. I'm much worse.

What I like about the fact that there are so few women that ride, is I get ALL the attention on the bike trail. And as a woman, I do want attention. On my terms. Especially from the penised. mmm, no. I meant, testicled. There is a difference. Just watch that MASH video again, if you disagree. The fastest way to pick up a hot guy is to stand next to one's bike on the side of the road/bike path/lane, holding a bike pump in one hand and the back wheel in another, while looking perplexed.

I recommend the flat fix, over any other bike repair, though. Hot doesn't always equal capable. But, that's a rescue that most can handle. Even me.

Sadly, I'm often the only person out on the bike trail, most days. That's something that needs to change, and if it means recruiting more women, yeah, I can deal with that.

Pete H. said...

@cyclotourist: "I can't stand running."

Satchel Paige said "Avoid running at all times."

cyclotourist said...

Well, I've got that down and I definitely jangle around gently. Half way to living a long life!
Awesome!

LONG LIFE

LIFE LONG

LIFE GONE

Anonymous said...

More women will ride bikes when they make bike seats that ride like horse saddles. Thats the reason women prefer choppers over push pedals.

Im pushing Medicare age. I completed my first 50k this summer. There were 10 women who rode 150k. None rode with us geezers.

Rocket Rooster said...

I like the video so much more without the screamcore.

Anonymous said...

So ... the pussies at MASH hit you with a copyright claim to stop the YouTube mocking? Fan-tas-tic.

...and I intentionally used an insult laced with gender land mines for the frisson, but posted anonymously because I'm afraid of Helen slaying me by applying postmodern feminist theory to everything I say.

cyclotourist said...

INFR INGE

Good Oak said...

That may be the most blatant misappropriation of the term "indicator species" in print.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes you take the fun out of riding a bike. In the end, why hate on riding in most any form. try to unlearn what most shops taught you over the last 20 years.

cm said...

this was hilarious! I am reposting it for all my friends to read. As a cycling "chick", i think your sarcasm and humor were spot on and no offense was taken by me.

Anonymous said...

Hi Bike Snob,
That Cruzbike Silvio recumbent just set a 12-hour UMCA world record for women - 241 miles. That's farther than the diamond frame record, and that's on public roads, not a track.
It's the only recumbent that uses all standard road bike drivetrain parts and two 700c wheels. Go ahead and destroy the nerves and arteries in your crotch by riding a road bike- and enjoy the view of the pavement four feet in front of your face.

2Fast4U

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