Saturday, 29 August 2009

Temporary Interruption to Bike Bag Project

I know a lot of you are anxious to see how my saddle bag turns out, so I wanted to let you know that my project is temporarily on hold until our current very warm weather passes. About the last thing I want to do of an evening is sit with a heap of wool on my lap. I think it's supposed to be cooler in the next few days, so I'll probably get back to it soon. Never fear.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Bicycles in the Kibbutz

Our friend Yanek of bicyclog in Israel has just posted a lovely photo essay of bicycles on a kibbutz.

BSNYC Summer Recess Announcement (and Friday Fun Quiz!)

Firstly, I'd like to take this opportunity to announce that today marks the official start of my "Summer Recess." This is the period during which I sew the pant legs back onto all my cutoff shorts, take my fall chicken suit out of cold storage (if I don't store it properly it will molt), and change the grips and tape on the "touch points" of my various bicycles to "colourways" that are more seasonally appropriate. As you can imagine, this process is quite labor intensive, so that means I will be taking a break from this blog, but rest assured that I will return on Tuesday, September 8th with regular updates. You can also rest assured that my helper monkey Vito and I will take the opporunity to catch up on other matters as well, such as the dissemination of the various "prizeways" for the Fat Cyclist Knuckle Tattoo Tribute Competition, the perusal of emails, and of course the much-needed shampooing and deodorizing of my 70s-themed bicycle work area. (Suede bean bags and shag carpet may look great, but they also tend to retain both grease and odors--especially when you employ a helper monkey.)

Secondly, 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 see confirmation, and if you're wrong you'll be seduced by Murray.

Thanks very much for reading, emailing, commenting and making the "process" of writing this blog so enjoyable, be sure to wring the last few drops of sweaty enjoyment from the remainder of the summer, enjoy the Labor Day weekend (assuming your countryway observes it), and ride safely, smartly, and flambulliently.


1) Gary Klein, once synonymous with fat aluminum tubing and dessert-like "colourways," is now synonymous with:

--The Scopes Monkey Trial

2) "Fuss Vom Gas" means:

--"Foot on the Gas"
--"Foot off the Gas"
--"The Gas Foot"
--"Fussy When Gassy"

3) According to Seth Stevenson of Slate, Dutch city bikes are:

--"Primly recitilinear"
--"Prudely rectal"
--"Rectangularly prim"
--"Practically rectangular"

4) "Y Water" is the first beverage that you consume anally.


5) Who makes this steel "club racer," complete with gently sloping top tube and bars slightly lower than the saddle?

--Velo Orange

6) Whose theme saddle is this?

--Alberto Contador's
--Alexandre Vinokourov's
--Chris Horner's
--Danilo DiLuca's

(Unzipped by a pothole.)

7) According to Zipp's lead engineer Josh Poertner, why did both of Magnus Backstedt's wheels fail in the 2008 Paris-Roubaix?

--He is too big
--Carbon rims are a poor choice for a Spring Classic
--He chose poor lines on the cobbled sections
--He ran 24mm tires instead of 27mm tires on race day

8) Which bicycle company is "dropping" this fixed-gear freestyler?


(Model has been clothed and sepiaed for your convenience.)

9) Tough times for the men's magazines? The above image, complete with crappy old department store mountain bike, is this month's "Playboy" centerfold.


***Special Discman-Themed Bonus Question***

Two Years Ago, Punk on a Bike - w4m - 23 (TriBeCa)
Date: 2009-08-28, 2:33AM EDT

Reply To This Post

2 years ago I was walking my dog on Beach Street near Hudson, wearing a flowered dress and listening to ____________________________ on my discman! You biked by, black jeans, gangly, no helmet, turned around to look at me. Smiled cheekily. It may have been directed at the person behind me but I never forgot. I had just cut my hair. I love you?

What was she listening to?

--Iggy and the Stooges
--Creedence Clearwater Revivial
--Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians
--The audiobook of David Lee Roth's "Crazy From the Heat"

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Slow and Steady: The Tortoise and the Helmet Hair

Last Tuesday, I mentioned a Daily News article written by a reporter named Simone Weichselbaum who not only uses a bicycle to cover her "beat," but who also employs a coach who teaches her how to "street ride." Well, a number of readers have forwarded me the following Craigslist post, which indicates that Weichselbaum's beloved Surly Steamroller has been stolen:

Date: 2009-08-26, 2:53PM EDT

Reply to: see below

If you guys have seen my Surly Steamroller painted blue and yellow covered with pro-biking stickers, could you please help me get it back.

Someone managed to slip the U-Lock off a pole in front of 212 Ave A on Sunday.

This bike is my baby.
If seen, call Simone at 202 320 3598

Assuming this post is not a hoax then we can infer that either John Campo's "street riding" course does not include lessons on bicycle locking, or else it's a separate class but Weichselbaum opted not to pay the additional tuition. Either way, this underscores a fundamental truth about "street riding," which is that you're only as fast as your bicycle is secure. All the lane-splittings, intersection trackstands, light-runnings, and "Out of the way, cocksuckers!" in the world are ultimately useless if, when you arrive at your destination, you u-lock your bike to an open-ended pole. It's basically a tortoise-and-the-hare scenario, only the portly person on the hybrid with vertically-mounted bar ends and a 10lb Kryptonite chain around his ample waist who locks his bike diligently is the tortoise, and the fixed-gear-riding, messenger bag-toting cocky young urbanite is the hare.

Regardless, I do hope Weichselbaum gets her bike back, and obviously if you see a Steamroller with "pro-biking" stickers (whatever those are) on it you should let her know. In the meantime, I'm sure Weichselbaum will also put her hard-nosed investigative reporting skills to good use. And ultimately, this theft could prove a bruchah in disguise in that it might inspire her to pen a series of bestselling mysteries featuring a tough-talking lady sleuth who solves bike-related crime.

Speaking of both vertical bar ends and crime, one of the readers who forwarded me Weichselbaum's Craigslist post also included a photo of this handlebar setup:

I love a good biplane handlebar as much as anybody, but if it isn't illegal to control a bicycle by means of a wooden dowel duct taped to your handlebars then perhaps it should be. That said, he does have a substantial number of rubber bands handy, which means that should either the wood or the duct tape fail he can perform a repair on the fly. However, whether that is in fact the reason for all the rubber bands I simply cannot be sure. It's equally possible that he's part of some roving group of cycling marauders who do battle with each other using office supplies as weapons. While this rider clearly prefers the "rubber band fingerbang," some of his adversaries probably employ other weapons, such as the staple shooter or the dreaded flaming paper airplane. In any case, he's got plenty of ammo:

Hopefully though if he is indeed a cycling combatant he's also using sufficient head protection. If not, perhaps he should consider one of these military-style helmet/cover "modular systems," which a number of readers have brought to my attention:

Urban riders have been taking to the skateboard helmet in increasing numbers recently, and thanks to both the smooth, round shape of their helmets and the petrified looks on their faces as they learn the quirks of their new fixed-gears in rush-hour traffic, many of them look like WWII-era GIs freshly arrived in the European theater and seeing combat for the first time. Given this, I just assumed the designers figured they'd take the army thing all the way, but instead I guess it's actually supposed to pay homage to the "environment" somehow:

You can also u-lock it to your bike, even if your bike has flop-and-chop handlebars:

Personally, I can't think of many things more ridiculous than a hat you wear over your helmet. This is why I was amazed to learn that not only is this not a joke, but also that the City of New York actually paid some company called "fuseproject" to come up with it:

Here's the full description from "fuseproject:"

I can't tell you how pleased I am as a New Yorker ITTET that the city in which I live is paying a company to design helmet hats. Each pothole I dodge on my commute reminds me that this is money well spent. By the way, if you're wondering what "fuseproject" does, here's how they explain themselves:

I read this over and over again and it meant absolutely nothing to me, but I think I've finally got it figured out. Basically, it's just a nice way of saying that "fuseproject" is an assembly line of douchery and that people pay them to take things that already exist and "bullshitify" them. For example, helmets have obviously been around a long time, but it takes an expert to bullshitify them by putting a hat on them. Also, Birkenstock has been around for a long time too, but it took "fuseproject" to figure out that they should "showcase" their "overall brand evolution" by copying Crocs:

They also came up with "Y Water," which to be perfectly honest I can't figure out, but which appears to be the world's first beverage that you consume anally:

I'd like to explain the helmet hat concept away by saying that, as the creators of the NYC condom, "fuseproject" figured they'd continue their success by sticking with the theme of things you unfurl over your head. However, I think the more likely explanation is that somebody who knows nothing about cycling thought they could make the helmet "cool." This is typical non-cycling hubris, and the result (a helmet hat) is predictably idiotic. A non-cyclist who thinks he or she can somehow solve the "problem" of helmets not being cool enough is like the person who knows nothing about plumbing, insists he can fix your faucet for you, and winds up flooding your bathroom. The truth is that helmets are the one aspect of cyling in which you actually should just copy the racers. A GI-style skater helmet or a modular helmet/hat nightmare looks no better than a typical racing-style helmet, which you can buy for like $30 or $40, which will be lightweight and well-ventilated, and which will accommodate a wool hat underneath (or, yes, a non-decorative helmet cover above if you prefer) when it gets cold:

It's also typical of the non-cyclist to focus on the helmet as a symbol of cycling safety. Indeed, the helmet has become a symbol of safe cycling just as the condom has become a symbol of safe sex. However, there's a big difference between the two. If you use a condom properly it will be highly effective, but if you use a helmet properly it won't make a difference if you're still doing everything else wrong. Riding without a helmet will not make you crash, but riding with a bunch of stuff dangling off your handlebars might. If the City of New York and "fuseproject" really cared, they'd have designed a really "cool" and convenient basket instead of a helmet:

Instead, they just bullshitified the helmet, which is about as meaningful as their safe sex campaign would have been if they'd used brightly-colored dildos instead of condoms. Really, they might as well have just promoted retro-chic 1980s hairstyles that also have potentially head-protecting qualities, such as the classic high top fade:

Or the the "sea urchin:"

Or even the studiously unruly coif of Australian comedian Yahoo Serious:

It's great New York City is promoting cycling, though it's too bad they paid "fuseproject" to help them "appeal to the new generation of bikers." They could have saved a bunch of money by just asking the human cannonball at Ringling Bros. Circus for advice, since his approach to safety seems to be the same: put on a stupid outfit, strap on your helmet, close your eyes, and hope for the best.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Making a Saddle Bag, Part II

Boy, I had no idea so many people would be interested in my inept efforts to put a saddle bag together! Things are going slowly, but so far, so good. All I've done since my last post is cut and position the four plastic panels (cut from two cheap three-ring binders) that will form the front, bottom, back, and top of the bag. The sides, with their own plastic panels, will be what actually gives the bag its shape.

In the photo below, I've just pinned the panels into place, but last night I got two panels fully stitched in. I'm using what my wife tells me is a backstitch, which she showed me how to do. I started off pretty slow, but by the end of the evening, I was getting much faster and more confident with my stitches. Once the panels are all sewn in and all the pins are removed, the bag will finally start to take shape as I begin the process of attaching the side panels to the body of the bag.


Making a Saddle Bag, Part I

Can I Make My Own Saddle Bag?

Rectilinear or Obtuse? Cycling in the Media

In yesterday's post I mentioned a Salon article about bicycle parking and how more of it might increase the number of bicycle commuters. While I'm certainly in favor of more and better bike parking, I also can't help suspecting that the people who claim they don't ride their bikes to work because there's nowhere to park them are the same kinds of people who say they'll quit smoking when cigarettes reach $[insert number here] a pack: in other words, they're not looking for reasons to do it; they're looking for excuses not to do it. Once they've got bike parking, then they'll probably require an on-site shower. Then, when they've got that, they'll need special loofahs and moisturizers and so forth. Chances are that in 20 years we'll still be reading articles about what it will take to get people to commute by bike (though we'll be reading those articles in hologram form, since everybody knows the future is always full of holograms), except instead of the lack of bike parking the issue will be the lack of lilac-scented cruelty-free hypoallergenic body scrubs in the workplace.

So why is bike parking so important, anyway? Well, one of the main reasons people want it is because they're afraid of bike theft. Bicycles are great machines because they're reasonably light and reasonably portable. Unfortunately, these are the same reasons they're also stolen so frequently. Of course, this isn't unique to bicycles. If you leave your laptop or your flat-screen TV or even your small dog outside unattended and inadequately secured that will probably get stolen, too. Yes, I admit that you should be able to take your bicycle to work, while your TV or your small dog might better be left at home. Still I feel people tend to react with an inordinate amount of surprise and indignation when their bikes get stolen, so much so that it's often the subject of news stories, such as this one in the Wall Street Journal which was forwarded to me by a reader:

Sure, this article is as much about "social-media sites such as Twitter" as it is about bike theft, but it still illustrates how some people seem to feel that some of the darker aspects of life, such as theft, are somehow even darker when they touch their bicycles. Take Senan Gorman, the creator of "Karma Army," which appears to be sort of a support group for people who can't get over the theft of their valuable lifestyle sporting equipment:

Senan Gorman, of Farmington, Conn., had his bike stolen a decade ago, but the pain is fresh. "It's still like it was yesterday," he says.

Like most human beings living in a large society, I've had things stolen from me. Some of these things were bicycles, and others weren't. Yes, it's extremely unpleasant. But if you've had something taken from you over 10 years ago, it still hurts "like it was yesterday," and that thing was not an actual life, then you may have issues that an increase in secure bicycle parking alone is insufficient to address. This is not to say you shouldn't send out an alert if your property was stolen, or that "Karma Army" isn't useful in that regard. However, to a certain extent I can't help feeling that the indignation people feel when they leave their really expensive triathlon bikes in their cars overnight and they get stolen is almost as large a problem as crime itself.

Also, according to the article, police in some cities are taking bike theft more seriously. However, like so much else, this may cause more harm then good. For instance, it seems that police are now aware of the phenomenon of the "Frankenbike." Moreover, they're considering "Frankenbikedom" a sign that some or all of that bike may have been stolen:

This is potentially extremely dangerous. Many cyclists ride so-called "Frankenbikes." These may be beaters which they cobbled together from various spare parts, or else bicycles they "curated" simply because they enjoy a good kludge. What if the police begin to apprehend and question everybody who rides a "Frankenbike?" "Kludgie" winners would become criminals. Eccentricity like this could land you in handcuffs. The World's Greatest Madone would become America's Most Wanted. Indeed, our fundamental right to bizarre and pointless self-expression would be threatened.

Ultimately, though, we cyclists face a problem far greater than a lack of parking, or theft, or failing to lock your bike and then confusing "karma" with "vengeance," or even jackbooted "Frankenbike" crackdowns. This problem is misinformation. Take this Slate Dutch city bike review, forwarded by a reader. Like any article about cycling in a "mainstream" publication, I began reading it with apprehension since I knew it was only a matter of time before the writer would reveal his ignorance:

Yes, it certainly didn't take too long. First, he reveals the depth of his cycling experience and knowledge by explaining how he once saw a Dutch bike while he was stoned. Next, he drops some cycling jargon by using the term "primly rectilinear." (Actually, I thought "primly rectilinear" referred to a Dutch prostitute who will agree to let you perform "the pinky test," only she will do so reluctantly and demurely.) Then, he says that an upright position helps you "see over car roofs in traffic." As I've said before, there is no seating position that will allow you to see over car roofs in traffic in the United States, where thanks to the phenomenon of vehicular bloat the typical motor vehicle can barely clear a traffic light. Furthermore, you don't need to see over cars; you need to be looking at the cars directly in front of you and at the road surface. If seeing over car roofs was a necessary feature of a city bike then we'd all be riding tall bikes, or just skipping bikes altogether in favor of hang gliders. (By the way, if you've had a hang glider stolen recently, you might want to post about your pain over at "Karma Army.")

To the writer's credit though he does manage to properly explain the purpose of a fender:
That said, I think pretty much everybody in the world knows what a fender does, so the explanation is completely unnecessary. If he's going to assume this level of ignorance he should also explain that "pedals are primly rectilinear attachments which provide a surface for your feet and allow you to propel the bicycle forward." Granted, it is worth pointing out that Dutch bikes come with fenders, since bicycles are one of the few vehicles that are actually sold without them. But can you buy fenders separately in a bikes shop? Well, the writer wouldn't know, because he's apparently never set foot in one:
Absurd descriptions aside (yes, road bikes are designed for suburban riding, which is why the Tour de France takes place entirely in the residential neighborhoods of the Paris metropolitan area), to claim that American bike shops only carry mountain bikes or road bikes is absurd. This is like saying American car dealerships only carry dune buggies and race cars, or that American supermarkets only carry Cheetos and pâté. If anything, in an American bike shop you've got to wade across a floor full of hybrids with suspension seatposts before you can even get near a road or mountain bike. Sure, there may not be any Dutch bikes, but there will be plenty of bikes that do the same thing at half the tonnage. Then again, what do you expect from someone who begins the video that accompanies the article by salmoning?

Or who, a little while later, actually explains that the Abici Grantourismo is a "fixed-gear" because it has a coaster brake?

Or who lost one of the test bikes because he left it outside overnight secured only by a cable lock?
I'd also love to tell you how an Electra Amsterdam rides. Actually, I did tell you how an Electra Amsterdam rides. This is because I did not leave it outside overnight with a crappy lock and thus was able to keep the bicycle in my possession for the duration of the test period, which should really be your first priority as a bicycle reviewer. Maybe he should blame the lack of adequate bicycle parking in his city and then post something on "Karma Army." Incidentally, he says that Electra were "cool" about the theft of the bike, which is probably because they were happy to be spared from this guy's ignorance. If he'd actually gotten to ride it he'd probably have called it a fixed-gear like he did with the Abici and totally confused any potential buyers.

Really, though, none of this is surprising. While mainstream publications will generally require that people who write about movies, or cuisine, or cars, or finance, or politics have at least a basic understanding of them, when it comes to cycling they like to pick writers who are completely clueless. This is because they assume their readers also know nothing about cycling and will be more likely to accept information from and relate to somebody like them. This is not true. People actually read things to gain information, and they actually like it when writers know more than they do. Even a hacky movie critic knows the difference between a film and a sitcom, even the lamest automotive journalist can tell a manual transmission from an automatic, and even the worst political analyst knows the difference between the Senate and the House of Representatives. Bicycles should be treated like computers by the media, in that both were once the domain of nerds and children but are now totally commonplace and thus can be written about with more sophistication. The media does this with computers, but when it comes to bikes they still write about them like they're reciting the alphabet over and over again to a bunch of children--only they keep getting the letter order wrong.

So what's the result? The ignorant stay ignorant. Take the latest local bike lane debate, forwarded to me by another reader:

As soon as you've invoked Lance Armstrong in a discussion about bicycle commuting you've revealed you're a moron. This is like saying only Dale Earnhardt, Jr. would drive a car to work, and as such we don't need paved roads. He might as well have added that the Sun revolves around the Earth on which he lives. Meanwhile, the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association has a different objection:
This I can understand. Anybody who has spent any time in Chinatown knows that the street space currently wasted on bike lanes is sorely needed by pedestrians for expectorating. In fact it's nearly impossible to travel in a Chinatown bike lane without getting hit by either a "loogie" or a "snot rocket," and the sheer volume of the mucus that accumulates is yet another reason why we need fenders (which, in case you don't know, are semi-circular arcs that protect from up-splash of phlegm and various bodily humors).

So who's going to correct all these misunderstandings? Certainly not the bike industry--they're too busy curating "colorways" and "touch points," coming up with clever names for handlebars, and figuring out how to hide shifter mounts:

The Felt Gridloc has an internally-geared 3-speed hub, but can also be converted to a "fixie" or "pure singlespeed." That's a lot of drivetrain options. They should send it to the guy at Slate--it would probably make his head explode. It should also come with a sticker that says "All You Haters Fondle my Touch Points." That would at least mitigate its serious lack of "prim rectilinearity."

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

New Blog: Bike San Diego

Calling all San Diego bicycle bloggers, riders, shop owners, advocates, enthusiasts, and anyone with an interest in sustainable urban development! A small group of San Diego bicycle bloggers has just launched a new site called, appropriately, Bike San Diego. Drawing inspiration from sites such as BikePortland and Streetsblog, the primary mission of Bike San Diego is simple: to provide a one-stop source for bicycle-related news, events, and advocacy in America's Finest City. This is an all-volunteer effort at citizen journalism by and for bicycle riders in metro San Diego and San Diego County. is in pre-launch status right now; the site is up and content is flowing, but the editors are accepting suggestions from the community as the site takes shape. This is your site, riders of San Diego, be the change you would like to see in the world and help us provide content that is relevant to you! Please send your comments, suggestions and tips by filling out the Contact Us form at

Cultural Accessorizing: Are Banjos the New Bicycle?

"I wish I was an artist, cause I would replace that sun with the crotchal light from Friday. That would be just awesome."
--Anonymous, August 24th, 2009, 5:07pm

(Image by Erik K)

I've long been skeptical about the idea of a"bike culture." As I've said before, the standards for what qualifies as "culture" are currently at an all-time low. Whereas once "culture" meant "the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations," it now just means something for which you can purchase accessories. However, I'm beginning to rethink my aversion to the term "bike culture," because a reader has sent me a music video which indicates that we are indeed living in a golden age of bicycle-themed art:

The reader who sent me this video proclaimed it "the best bike song EVER," and this is not faint praise coming from somebody who is apparently involved in a "feminist slut rock" band and is also a writer and performer of "melancholy ukulele songs." (The ukulele can be quite lugubrious and is not just for large, jovial men in grass skirts.) In any case, if it's not the best bike song ever then it's certainly close, for with "Fuss Vom Gas" Skero and Kamp have succeeded in creating something truly magical. Well, at least I think they have. The truth is I can't understand what they're saying. However, I did run the title of the song through an online translator, which yielded the following result:

Obviously online translators are generally as clunky as poorly adjusted headsets, so I'm just going to go ahead and assume that "Foot of the Gas" really should be "The Gas Foot," and that "Fuss Vom Gas" is an homage to "The Gas Face" by 3rd Bass:

The high top fade etching was the knuckle tattoo of the late 1980s.

Anyway, here's either Skero or Kamp being flanked by two ladies wearing garters and riding lowrider bicycles:

Here's either Skero or Kamp riding a fixed-gear through what is clearly a very dangerous Viennese neighborhood:

And here's some guy on some kind of hinged freak bike:

Again, I'm not sure if there's a "bike culture," but there's definitely an American popular culture, and this is what it looks like when it's been smelted by a pair of Austrian rappers and alloyed with irony:

Incidentally, Skero's real name is Martin Skerwald, which is just one of the many facts I learned from his Wikipedia entry (run though the same online translator):

Skero (* 1972 in Mödling, also Skero One, actually Martin Skerwald) is a Austrian Hip Hop musician and Street kind artist. Since 1989 it argues with Graffiti and organizes themselves since then several exhibitions. Admits became it as a member of the Linzer Hip Hop group of Texta, which were formed 1993. 2009 brought Skero out its first solo studio album memoirs of a giant, who among other things guest contributions of the rappers Kamp and Whizz Vienna contain and were in Germany to appear. With the radio single artist it created it at place 1 the FM4 Charts. [1] Skeros music is called mixture from Hip Hop, Reggae and Viennese song. [2]

And Kamp's real name is actually Florian Kampelmühler, which amazingly is Prime Minister Pete Nice's real name too. Even though he's ten years younger than Skero, he seems to be the more accomplished of the two, and his Wikipedia entry is far more dramatic:

Kamp (* March 1982 actually Florian Kampelmühler) is a Austrian Hip Hop musician, who is active since end of the 1990er-Jahre. Table of contents [Hide] * 1 life * 2 Diskografie * 3 Web on the left of * 4 single checks Life [work on] Already at the age of 16 years it appeared as MC, on which it was invited into the FM4-Hip-Hop-Sendung Tribe Vibes. it gave a successful concert to 1999 in Vienna after Eminem, which led to the fact that the Dortmunder Independent label Deck8 (among other things Waxolutionists, totally chaos) under contract took him. However this bankruptcy had to announce, with which the partnership ended. With staircase 44 from then on its publications appeared. At the beginning of of 2007 was nominated Kamp for the Amadeus as Best alternative act. [1] 2009 it published the album failure without future, which by the German Hip Hop magazine Juice was gekürt to the album of the month March 2009 with Whizz. [2] Besides he was nominated 2009 altogether two times for the Amadeus Austrian Music Award.

Indeed, two Amadeus nominations is nothing to sneeze at--or to laugh wildly at like Tom Hulce in the movie "Amadeus."

But while Skero and Kamp pay homage to American culture, the truth is that their Vienna is in stark contrast to Brooklyn, where the feet are much gassier and the choppers are considerably funkier:

Also, the hipsters don't ride around on shiny lowriders while rapping. Instead, they pluck dolefully on banjos:

Between all the melancholy ukuleles and doleful banjos in New York City you'd think somebody would have composed a song about the Big Skanky by now.

Still, while walking around Brooklyn with a banjo might seem more gritty and authentic than rapping on a lowrider, the truth is that such behavior is equally affected and contrived. It's simply a part of the hipster/hillbilly phenomenon. In fact, you can probably expect folk instruments to become the hot new fashion accessory. Really, nothing says "authenticity" like bellying up to a Brooklyn bar and withdrawing a Jew's harp from the pocket of your fashionably distressed jeans. However, it will probably be a little while before the trend becomes so pervasive that you can purchase a washboard or a musical saw at Urban Outfitters. In the meantime, the distinction of accessory du jour still belongs to the bicycle:

The above is yet another Republic/Urban Outfitters bike, and I've been simultaneously amazed and disturbed by how pervasive they've become. While I'm certainly pleased that people seem to be riding bicycles, there's just something insidious about the way that the site's "choose your own colorway" feature has resulted in legions of bicycles that are superficially different yet fundamentally identical. It's the same feeling I get when I see groups of men in identical suits whose only means of expressing themselves is tie color. However, unlike the men in suits whose jobs often mandate specific clothing, Republic/Urban Outfitters bike owners are at liberty to choose from among a wide variety of bicycles--they just don't. Instead, they focus on important things like color choice. Perhaps when folk instruments supplant bicycles we'll instead see bars full of identically-dressed people differentiated only by which instrument they're not playing.

By the way, I'm not sure who the owner of the Republic/Urban Outfitters bike was, but I'm thinking it could be this guy:

Not only is he regarding me with uninhibited nonplussitude, but his shirt also matches the bike and his accomplice's feet are extended towards it in a proprietary fashion.

But even though I find the spread of Republic/Urban Outfitters bikes disturbing, I also recognize that it represents a simple way for the uninitiated to purchase a bicycle. Hopefully at least some of these uninitiated people will in turn become initiated cyclists, and we'll no longer have to read articles like this one, forwarded by a reader:

While I agree that more and better bike parking would be nice, I'd argue that general cluelessness is also an important factor. If more people would ride in the first place instead of waiting around for things like parking then perhaps our "culture" would grow more accepting of cycling as a viable means of transportation and the amenities would follow. Then again, it's difficult for the "culture" to do so when people on bikes keep running into members of the "culture" and riding away:

Man who hit me on bike 8/11 (SoHo)
Date: 2009-08-24, 2:20PM EDT
Reply To This Post

Hi there,

on 8/11 I was hit by a cyclist while crossing Broadway and Houston around 7 pm. I am female and in my mid 20s.
I am looking for the man or for any eye witnesses who were there. Any help would be appreciated and please only reply if you were present at the time or know anything regarding the accident.

As troubled as I was to read this, I'm confident that the police will nab the perpetrator. In fact, they've even formed a road block in the Sands Street bike lane:

Either that, or they're just hanging out.

Speaking of hanging out, I'm pleased to announce that my partner in bromance, Stevil Kinevil (formerly of How To Avoid the Bummer Life) now has a new Webular home called "All Hail the Black Market:"

Not only will Stevil continue to bring you the sorts of hijinx you've come to expect, but he's also branched out into the world of online banking, so in addition to reveling in cycling irreverence you'll also be able to open a free checking account.

So stop by and be sure to give him "The Gas Foot."

Ping Blog

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