Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Cycleanalysis: Buy Two and Call Me in the Morning

As we saw yesterday, cycling can be difficult--so much so that people are now hiring "street riding" coaches to teach them how to ride their bikes non-competitively. However, sometimes even having someone hold your hand while you ride around town isn't enough. For example, what if you don't have a bicycle in the first place because the process of obtaining one is too daunting?

Personally, I believe that if you want a bicycle but don't have one and don't know what kind you should get that you should just get any bicycle. That might mean rummaging around in some relative's basement, or buying the cheapest used bike you can find, or going into your LBS and letting them recommend something you can afford. Then, once you ride the thing around for awhile you'll learn pretty quickly what works for you and what doesn't and you can change your equipment accordingly.

Of course, in today's fast-paced, fast-food, abbreviated-texting, processed-cheese, and hyphen-abusing world, few people have the time and patience to enjoy the laterally stiff, vertically compliant, and totally edifying ride of a good old fashioned learning curve. Instead, they expect to buy knowledge and experience like accessories. One would-be entrepreneur knows this all too well, and since there's not yet an eHarmony for bikes, he's gone ahead and hung out a shingle as "The Bike Shrink:"

Looking for bike advice? Talk to the Bike Shrink (Union Square)
Date: 2009-08-18, 3:43PM EDT

Reply to: [deleted]

The Bike Shrink is ready to talk to you about anything and everything that’s on your mind about buying a bike. I’m an impartial (though highly opinionated) third party who is not affiliated with any bike shop or manufacturer. I do not sell gear. All I do is help people talk through their bike issues so they find the bike that’s perfect for them.

For more about what I do and how I might be able to help you, visit:


The Bike Shrink

I was immediately skeptical when I saw this, since taking cycling advice from a person on a tall bike is like taking psychiatric advice from a person dressed as Napoleon or learning table manners from an Australian. Still, I was intrigued, and so I visited his site:

You've got to admit that ITTET this is a clever ploy. By claiming to "mitigate any bike shop B.S." by giving you his own B.S. first for the low, low price of $29.99 (plus tax, mind you, since I'm sure he plans to report this income to the IRS) he's essentially found a way of charging for something that's usually free. This is sort of like paying someone to bottle his tap water for you. Not only that, but by filling clueless people's heads with all sort of "knowledge" before they even set foot in the bike shop he's potentially creating legions of nightmare customers. Anybody who's ever worked in retail knows that the best customers are the ones who know everything and the ones who know nothing, and the absolute worst customers are the ones who think they know something because they read some article or someone marginally less clueless than they are gave them some stupid advice. If customers are fish, he's contaminating them with mercury before they reach the fisherman downstream. Essentially, he's a pre-emptive bullshit artist.

You might wonder then why somebody so knowledgeable about bicycles, so passionate about dispensing advice and helping people purchase them, and so skeptical of "bike shop B.S." doesn't just go to work in a bike shop himself and become the next Sheldon Brown. Well, I can't say for sure, but it is possible that it's for the same reason the crystal healer doesn't work in a hospital, which is that he doesn't know what he's talking about. Or maybe I'm wrong and he does know what he's talking about; moreover, his knowledge could be so profound that he couldn't possibly work in a bike shop because he transcends bike shops, and instead sits beneath a Tree of Enlightenment with a laptop granting bits of wisdom to all who PayPal him. I guess there's no way to know for sure without paying $29.99 for a 30-day session--or paying $69.99 for a 90 day session:

If you're looking for a bicycle and still haven't purchased something after 90 days then you should just give up and buy a Segway. I guess this is why I could never be a "bike shrink." There aren't too many people who would pay 70 bucks to hear that. Anyway, if you're curious feel free to give him a try. After all, there's a "money-back guarantee:"

What if he doesn't answer your third email? Is that a loophole?

I wonder if the Bike Shrink also offers "advanced curation." For example, let's say you want an accessorized, color-coordinated singlespeed Bianchi, you're willing to pay way too much money for it, but you don't want to be yet another Pista-palper. Perhaps then the Bike Shrink would advise you to buy something like this:

Custom Bianchi MUSS S/S MTB - $1500 (Queens Blvd/63rd Drive)
Date: 2009-08-18, 8:35PM EDT

Reply to: [deleted]

I hate to part with this bike but I have one to many and I need some room! Up for sale I have a Bianchi Muss 08 brand new condition the only thing stock on this bike is the frame and brakes frame size is 17.5 So where do I start The wheels I had custom built with Paul hubs laced on a pair of Velocity VXC disc rims with Specialized Armadillo tires next we have Profile cranks with bottom bracket and a hop up bolt kit with a Profile spider web chain ring and clear orange pedals, it also has a Chris King headset ,Salsa Fork, Ritchey stem with 2" riser bar w/ brace and Avid curve brake levers, Thompson seat post and San Marco ERA saddle w/ titanium rails and finally a Surly flask w/a titanium bracket. Everything on this bike is brand new there are no scratches or dents on this bike it's in mint condition. Please call me at 917-602-[deleted]

I feel the same way about mountain bikes with slick tires as I do about people who ride without shirts. While there's nothing really wrong with it, it still offends me. Of course, a lot depends on the circumstances. For example, if you ride your mountain bike offroad most of the time but occasionally need to throw some slicks on it (like to win a road race) I can certainly understand. Similarly, shirtless riding is perfectly acceptable if it's done at the beach. However, riding shirtless in the middle of the city during peak commuting hours is completely unacceptable:

Now that it's August in New York City shirtless riding abounds. Fixed-gear riders, triathletes, and even wan hipsters on old crappy 10 speeds are all baring their sweaty torsos to the world. Perhaps most vexing are people who ride shirtless but still wear bags, like this person I saw recently riding one of those DKNY orange bikes:

I wonder what the Bike Shrink would say about men who ride shirtless. Would he applaud their lack of inhibition, or would he deride their disregard for propriety and the manner in which they foist their hairy nipples on the rest of society? Granted, sometimes we cyclists place far too much emphasis on our clothing, but I think most of us can agree that you should wear clothes--at least most of the time. Still, I do admit that clothing can occasionally create competition where it might otherwise not exist. Take people who ride in street clothes and get really excited when they pass other people wearing lycra:

I'm all for wearing whatever you want, and she certainly looks good on the bike (if a bit sweaty--perhaps she should go shirtless?), but let's take a look at who she "owned:"

Something tells me that the guy in the electric blue skeleton jersey wasn't exactly "throwing down." Just because someone is wearing lycra does not mean they are a racer. Similarly, just because someone has a sleeveless shirt, a bag over their shoulder, and a singlespeed bicycle does not mean they're a messenger or hardcore urban cyclist:

Still, I totally "owned" her.

Even so, competing with strangers while commuting or during recreational rides is a bit ridiculous--especially when you're competing against completely different types of riders on completely different bicycles. Speaking of which, I was wondering what kind of bicycle would be the complete opposite of the Strida pictured above, and I think it very well might be this Softride Xtracycle, spotted by a reader:

By the way, the saddle seems awfully far away from the bars. Perhaps it's also the opposite of a recumbent. And speaking of opposites, the same reader also spotted this RMBL, or Reverse-Mounted Brake Lever:

As fixed-gear riders continue to grip their handlebars directly next to the stem for maximum knuckle tattoo legibility, such brake lever mounting is rapidly becoming the norm. Also increasingly normal is locking the hell out of your Brooks:

As well as not locking your wheels at all:

Looks like another stolen Dura Ace hub post in the making:

Either that, or perhaps the members of the "bike culture" in New York City have all agreed to leave their wheels unlocked as part of an extensive wheel-sharing program. That way, if you get a flat on your way to work and don't have time to fix it you can simply grab one from the nearest bicycle and swap it with your own. Either that, or nobody's worried about having their wheels stolen since all they need to do is have the Bike Shrink find them a suitable replacement, like this "sleeper wheel:"

Vuelta Pista Rear Track Wheel-BRAND NEW - $100
Date: 2009-08-18, 9:19PM EDT
Reply to: [deleted]

Brand new. Have no use for it. I used the front wheel of the wheelset on my bike. Comes with two cogs, 15t and 16t with lockrings on each side. Great/sleeper wheel for any type of riding except for tricking, you need something stronger for that. Bladed spokes (Oh So Aero), machined braking surface, stickers come off easy. I've never ridden on it, was gonna keep as a spare but I've got a Phil+Open Pro on my ride which has a while before it dies. $100 FIRM, don't low ball me. I need Time ATAC pedals, so if you have some used ones that are still tight (good enough for brakeless riding) I will take as partial trade.

I don't know what makes this a "sleeper wheel," but I do know that if you buy it you should leave that plastic axle cap on, since I have a feeling that doing so is going to be the next big thing. At least that's what this Republic/Urban Outfitters bike I spotted recently would indicate:

In an age when mail order singlespeed bikes from clothing retailers are the new department store bikes, it stands to reason that plastic axle caps will soon become the new pie plate.


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