Monday, 14 September 2009

Wheel of Misfortune: Getting What You Deserve

When you commute by bicycle in New York City (or presumably in any city with heavy car traffic) you see a lot of vanity license plates. In fact, you see even more vanity plates than you would if you were commuting by car, since instead of sitting behind the same idiot contemplating the same plate while you're stuck in traffic for 45 minutes you're weaving through hundreds of stationary idiots and seeing hundreds of plates. It's kind of like watching one of those flipping train station schedules, except you're moving and the digits are not. In any case, since I'm always on the lookout for reading material, I tend to notice vanity plates, and one in particular caught my eye this morning:

I'm not sure what this is supposed to mean, nor do I see the point of ambiguous vanity plates in general. Since the point of a vanity plate is vanity, shouldn't the message be obvious and make sense to as many people as possible? As it is, I wasn't quite sure what this driver was getting at, though the perverse and juvenile AutoComplete in my mind did suggest this:

Maybe that's what he was getting at after all.

Speaking of juvenile references, last Friday I mentioned in passing that I am against urinating in the shower, at which a number of readers took umbrage. (Incidentally, while "taking umbrage" sounds like a way you'd protect yourself from falling urine, it really just means "taking offense.") Indeed, one reader forwarded me this pro-shower urination PSA from Brazil:

Even though I don't understand Portuguese, this video has been sufficient to cause me to reevaluate my stance. Apparently, not only does urinating in the shower save water, but it's also fun. I'm even thinking about installing one of those carnival water pistol games in my shower, only without the pistol. Who says being environmentally-minded has to be a drab affair? Simply turn on the shower, don your cone of smugness, and fire away.

Moving on from pissing to pissing and moaning, Cadel Evans is taking umbrage at the cascade of bad luck which seems to be falling on his head like so much urine in the Vuelta a EspaƱa:

“I don’t deserve this. I do everything right in the fucking sport and I don’t deserve this shit,” Evans told VeloNews at the Sierra Nevada summit. “(The) wheel change was the problem.”

To be honest, I haven't been following the Vuelta, since to me paying attention to a grand tour after Labor Day feels like listening to your teacher keep yammering on after the bell has rung. Still, I was surprised to see how much Cadel Evans has progressed as a rider during the course of the season--and by "progressed" I mean gone from eloquent excuse-making to pure petulance. He's no longer the John Coltrane of Excuses; actually, given all the obscenity-flinging, he's now more like the GG Allin of the General Classification. Perhaps we should just call him "GC Allin."

To me, the most irritating thing about Evans's outburst is his use of the word "deserve," which has absolutely no place in any discussion of competitive cycling. There's more to winning a bike race than simply doing "everything right;" there are also certain intangibles, like passion and luck. If Evans wants to enjoy success simply by following instructions then perhaps he should quit cycling and start building decks, though even then I'm sure he'd get angry at his hammer for hitting his thumb.

That said, I'm sure the whole wheel-change debacle was pretty irritating, especially since it seems he was undone by his own director's confusion over whether or not he was "rocking" Campagnolo's superior 11-speed technology:

That prompted Evans to take a wheel from the Shimano neutral support, but team officials weren’t sure if it was a 10-speed or an 11-speed casette, so Silence sport director Marc Wauters made the call to stop Evans again and switch his bike. They later discovered that the neutral support wheel was the correct one.

Still, you can't blame Wauters for being cautious, since Campagnolo only guarantees its 11-speed components if they are used as "part of a complete system:"

Therefore, if Evans was running a Campagnolo 11-Speed drivetrain and the Shimano neutral support had indeed mis-curated his bicycle by giving him the wrong wheel then this could have had the disastrous result of voiding his warranty. And while victory is certainly important, only the most reckless director would allow his riders to use components that are both out of warranty and not designed to work optimally with each-other. I'm sure after poring over the instruction manual in the team car Wauters made the wise decision to order the change. After all, the warranty is truly the centerpiece of any groupo.

Sadly, though, there is no warranty on Evans's morale, which by now is positively riddled with stress fractures. Really, the only thing more fragile than Evans's spirit is the Mavic R-Sys, which is "bulletproof" provided you define a "bullet" as a single diminutive Frenchman:

Well, it turns out that consumer demand for an exploding wheelset that costs well over $1,000 is considerably less than Mavic anticipated. In fact, commenter CommieCanuck recently reminded me that Mavic's parent company is putting it up for sale:

Apparently, while Mavic is still profitable, it's just not profitable enough, so they're sacrificing it so they can protect Wilson, makers of fine anthropomorphic volleyballs:

To date, though, Mavic is just sitting there unsold like a overpriced fixed-gear conversion on Craigslist. If only I had better business sense, I would put together a group of investors and purchase the company myself, and my first order of business as the new owner would be to install serial retrogrouch and uber-curmudgeon (and author of "The Bicycle Wheel") Jobst Brandt as CEO, head of marketing, and chief engineer:


Brandt's first order of business would almost certainly be to resurrect his beloved Mavic MA2 rim. Then, he'd systematically remove every other Mavic product from the line until the MA2 was all that remained. Frankly, in an era of increasing specialization, this might be just what the cycling world needs. Instead of marketing campaigns for rims and wheelsets designed for every kind of road surface, event, and crosswind, I would welcome a single ornery man who refuses to sell me anything else--though eventually it's possible even the mighty Brandt could capitulate to the demands of the marketplace and offer a Mavic putrid milk tire sealant.

But it's a slippery, putrid milk-coated slope from there, as Brandt himself is no doubt aware, and this could lead to his offering novelty wheel accessories as well. For example, Brandt might want to sell spoke cards bearing sayings associated with him, such as "Myth and Lore!" And speaking of spoke cards, someone in New York City seems to be taking pictures of people's bikes and then leaving them in their spokes:

you took a polaroid of my bike & left it in my spokes... - 21 (whole foods bowery)
Date: 2009-09-07, 11:36PM EDT

Sometime between 9:30pm and 10:30pm you photographed my bike outside of the the bowery/houston whole foods, wrote a note on it(that is now barely legible because the pen you used smudges), and put it in my spokes(which I didn't find until around 11:30 pm, at which point i got really excited).
That was extremely cute and sweet and now I'm curious as to who you are.
Hopefully you peruse the personals/missed connections, so I can find out who the mystery polaroid person is so I can personally thank you for cheering me up on this cold fall evening.
I think the note read "I heart your bike from melbourne, australia," however, it could have said something completely different after the i love your bike part.


While the Spoke Card Bandit appears to be Australian, I think it's safe to assume that it is not Cadel Evans, as his message surely would have been much angrier. Hopefully though the Spoke Card Bandit's behavior does not go from charmingly whimsical to frighteningly obsessive. I'm sure the spoke card recipient would have been far less amused if the Polaroid had depicted her in the shower.


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