Monday, 23 November 2009

Revisionist History: The Revolution Will Be Meh-ified

It can be fun to laugh at other people's bike setups and clothing choices. For example, if you're anything like me, you probably find this mudflap-to-spat conversion (as spotted on the Rivendell site by a reader) quite humorous:

Honestly, I'm not sure whether or not Rivendell are serious or if this is their stuffy, desiccated idea of a joke (or in fact what "double-cuty" means--I guess putting mudflaps on your shoes is twice as cute as putting them on your fenders) but either way I can say that this person's feet now look like the proboscis of a platypus. Yet while most of us would probably laugh at someone with mudflaps tied to their feet, few of us would say that someone should not be allowed to "run" them this way. If it works and it keeps your Wilsons clean (it's tough to "peep" due to the mudflaps, but I think those are the new Wilson x Rivendell "collabo" joints)--and you don't mind people pointing and laughing at you--then you should of course feel free to lash whatever you want to your feet and to tell the haters what to suck.

What people should not be allowed to do is just make crap up. If you want to platypusize your feet, fine. If you want to put flat bars on your road bike, fine. If you want to ride your track bike on the street, fine. You just can't reinvent history in order to do it, and sadly this is what's happening now. Last week, we actually saw a company called "Sexy Bicycles" claim in a single sentence that the Tour de France existed in the 19th century but that gears did not. This is a highly impressive fallacy-to-sentence ratio, but it's nothing compared to the information contained in this advertisement, forwarded to me by a reader in the UK:

This ad appeared in a tabloid called Sunday People, and concerns cheap bikes available in a variety of "colourways:"

It also contains a brief history of the track bike:

I was surprised to learn that "Track bikes were originally designed for the West Indian Community coming to New York in the 60's," and were only recently "optimised for competitive track racing across the World." Foolishly, I had always thought track bikes were, well, track bikes, and that the whole "riding them on the street" thing came later. I had also thought that track racing was really, really old, so the fact that the bikes were only invented in the 1960s really blew my mind. But while the ad says the bikes were "designed for the West Indian Community," it doesn't say who designed them. Was the track bike invented in the Caribbean and sold to people before they departed for the US, or was it designed by the City of New York and then given to them on arrival? If the latter, then one of these "old school" city-issue 1960s track bikes would surely command a fortune on Craigslist. Also, whoever it was had considerable foresight in naming them "track bikes," since obviously in the 60s track racing had not yet been invented.

Even so, between the British ad and the "Sexy Bicycles" website I think I'm finally getting a handle on my cycling history:


Tour de France is invented, and riders compete on singlespeeds (not fixed-gears). However, since gears had not yet been invented, the singlespeeds must have been direct drive. Therefore, the first Tour de France riders competed on pennyfarthings that could coast.


Gears are invented, and then sent thousands of years back in time to when people first started using them.


The "track bike" is invented for New York City-bound West Indians.


"Track racing" is invented; Marshall "Major" Taylor lies in his grave wondering what exactly it was he had been doing his entire life.


What a long, stupid trip it's been.

I must admit, though, that thanks to the British ad certain things are now falling into place. For example, I now understand how this could be considered a "track racing bike:"

track racing bike - $1400 (bronx)
Date: 2009-11-22, 1:17PM EST
Reply to: [deleted]

Beautiful track racing bike made by Kestrel , Talon , Its made of poly racin , shamano gears, well kepted bike, with extra bottle holders for those long run for more info 917 701 [deleted] Please no haglers , Price out this bike first before calling , this bike goes for over $ 2,500 This is a true marathone bike very light weight.

Clearly, before people realized that those bikes the West Indian community was commuting on would also work well in velodromes (velodromes existed before track racing and were originally used for storing grain), they experimented with other types of bikes instead. Here's how an early track racing bike looked:

It also inspired me to explore the origins of other cycling disciplines, particularly cyclocross. According to that cartoon, "hipsters" are now languidly contemplating taking up cyclocross, so I wanted to understand more about who came up with it in the first place. What I've discovered so far is amazing. Originally, I thought cyclocross was an age-old form of Mongolian horsemanship only recently adapted for bicycles, but it turns out that Lance Armstrong was doing what would eventually become "cyclocross" as early as 2003:

Actually, this moment is more pregnant than a promiscuous cat, since not only did Armstrong start what would eventually become the "cyclocross craze," but Joseba Beloki also singlehandedly started the whole skidding thing, and post-race interviews revealed that he was totally trying to perform the world's first elephant trunker--a now-indispensable move in any fixed-gear cyclist's Repetoire of Lameness.

Anyway, after Armstrong was inspired by a failed elephant trunk skid to become the first person in the history of the world to dismount and remount a carbon road bike without stopping for coffee and muffins, roadies the world over began imitating him:

Eventually, the technique was refined, barriers, Belgian affectations, cowbells, rubber boots, and Subarus were incorporated, and the sport of cyclocross was born.

As for the remaining cycling disciplines, everybody knows they were all born in Portland within the last five years, and the accompanying bicycles were invented and fabricated by Sacha White.

Speaking of copying Portland, New York City is striving to become more bicycle friendly, and to this end you may recall that Transportation Alternatives recently held a PSA contest (in which I served as a juror) in order to promote smugness in the streets. Well, the winners have finally been announced, and I'm pleased to report that I didn't vote for any of them. I especially didn't vote for the winner of the "Best DIY Video" category, because quite frankly I found it offensive:

Incidentally, the film appears to be shot in Red Hook, Brooklyn. If you're unfamiliar with Brooklyn, Red Hook is sort of like Williamsburg's basement in that it's a "rugged" (it only has like five bars) out-of-the-way place where "hipsters" and their ilk go to work on their dubious artistic endeavors, and you should be wary of anything emerging from it. At any rate, in the video, some guy who looks like he listens to jam bands drives up in what appears to be like a 1990 Toyota Camry (or maybe it's a Corolla), or, more likely, his friend or girlfriend's 1990 Toyota Camry or Corolla:

Whether it's a Camry or a Corolla however is largely immaterial, since either way it's awful casting and few cars evoke the evils of the automobile less effectively than old maroon Corollas and Camrys. Next, the guy ejects his Gov't Mule cassette, pops the trunk, and removes a hybrid with a pie plate on it:

Then, he acts like he's going to push a perfectly good Corolla or Camry (with the E-Z Pass still stuck to the windshield) into New York Harbor:

Cunningly, though, the filmmakers employ "trick photography" by substituting a toy car, though presumably even losing that will push the project way over budget, because they've tied a piece of string around it so that they can retrieve it:

Finally, the jam band fan removes his bongwater-stained flannel, turns around to reveal a "One Less Car" t-shirt, and walks over to his hybrid, which he will almost certainly pedal over to Valentino Pier where he will attempt to strike up a game of hacky-sack:

Then, it closes with a quote from the schluffer:

What offends me most about this video is that it's called "Revolution" yet I'm sure the most revolutionary act the filmmaker committed was running a bunch of errands with the Camry after the shoot, racking up a huge charge on the E-Z Pass, and then failing to fill up the tank before returning the car to his girlfriend. (It's still perfectly acceptable to wear a "One Less Car" t-shirt and drive every day as long as you borrow the car and never pay for gas.) They could have at least smashed a derelict car in a junkyard like Henry Rollins. And what is a "livability revolution?" It sounds like forcing people at gunpoint to make their living rooms more comfortable.

I guess we're drowning in a flood of mildness and "revolution" is the latest word to be dissolved.


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