Sunday, 28 February 2010

Lady's Bicycle? Colour vs Form

Still obsessively browsing the new NAHBS 2010 pictures, I am seeing some bicycles in pastel colour schemes that suggest they are meant for women.

[image by Geekhouse Bikes via flickr]

Here is one from Geekhouse that I must say is spectacular. Personally, I consider this colour scheme "feminine", in the sense that the colours are traditionally seen on women's clothing and accessories. However, it is a diamond frame.

[image by sleepyneko via flickr]

On the other hand, here is a mixte by Velo Orange. The frame is typically viewed as a "women's frame" (at least in the US), yet the colour scheme is traditionally "masculine": a solid, conservative blue.

In a controlled study, I wonder which bicycle would be more appealing to women. (Research grant?)

Saturday, 27 February 2010

NAHBS Goes Floral

I had been looking forward to the 2010 North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS) and now the images are finally beginning to show up on flickr and various cycling websites. Lots of beautiful bicycles, with Randonneur and Porteur aesthetics looming large. Another theme I've noticed is the prevalence of floral designs, especially in accessories. Have a look:

[image by sleepyneko via flickr]

This handmade rack with a leaf motif is from Banjo Cycles and part of a matching front and rear rack set. These must have taken a long time to make!

[image by sleepyneko via flickr]

Front rack with wooden inlays, on a Yipsan Cycles mixte.

[image by sleepyneko via flickr]

Some custom "tree" headbadges by Poka Cycle Accessories. Love the look of enamel paint on these.

[image by sleepyneko via flickr]

Also Lilly of the Valley headbadges.

[image by sleepyneko via flickr]

And check out this beautiful chainguard, also by Poka. I would love one of these!

[image by sleepyneko via flickr]

Brooks saddle, carved by Kara Ginther for Banjo Bicycles.

[image by sleepyneko via flickr]

Fleur de Lis
lug/sleeve on an A.N.T Scorcher.

[image by thebicycleescape via flickr]

Bamboo frame with floral motif. This is a Bamboosero bicycle made by Bikeys in New Zealand, the floral artwork done by a Maori artist.

[image by Velo Colour]

And these magnificent floral details are by Velocolour (check out additional details here).

Looking at the popularity of floral designs at NAHBS this year, I wonder whether it reflects a growing female customer base for bicycle builders. Or perhaps these are just as popular with men. What do you think?

Friday, 26 February 2010

BSNYC Friday Frumunda Quiz!

As many people are aware, this weekend the North American Handmade Bicycle Show is taking place in Richmond, Virginia. Since Richmond is a mere 350-ish miles (or about 476,500 kilometers, or roughly 1.5 "epic" Rapha rides) from New York City, a number of people have asked me if I will be attending. Sadly, I will not. While I would have enjoyed loading up the Wagon Queen Family Truckster, hitting the New Jersey Turnpike, and straddling two lanes at a leisurely 37mph while the icy wind tousles my hair through my missing windshield and my Ironic Orange Julius Bike hangs out the tailgate, it turns out I have to be elsewhere in the country for something more important. (At least to me.) So while I will not be going to the NAHBS, I will be traveling (weather and Lobster permitting), and as such I will also not be posting on Monday, March 1st but will return on Tuesday, March 2nd with regular updates.

In any case, as much as I would like to stand around a convention center with a bunch of white people who wear cycling caps even when they're not riding and who get a little too excited about beer, I'm also fine with missing it. This is the fifth NAHBS and I think we all know the routine by now. First, photos will start pouring in to the various cycling websites and blogs, with extreme close-ups of tubes meeting other tubes over which you're supposed to get really excited. Then cycling writers and bloggers will attempt to identify some "trend" or "theme" running though the show. Will it be utilitarian bikes? Cyclocross bikes? Cargo bikes? 650b fixed-gear recumbents? Lugged brake levers with bottle openers on them? Then the fixed-gear bloggers will attempt to write knowledgeably about bikes they photographed because they liked the paint scheme or the builder used a piece of vintage Campy or a wine cork as a bar plug. By next Friday, the sight of beautifully made $6,000 city bikes is going to make you want to puke, and by Interbike roughly half the bikes at the NAHBS will turn up in Felt's "Fixie" series, only without the functionality.

Given my absence on Monday, you will have an extra day to complete the quiz with which I am pleased to now present you. As always, study the item, think (that's the thing you do in our head that hurts sometimes), and click on your answer. If you're right you'll know, and if you're wrong you'll be forced to attend bicycle safety camp.

Thanks very much as always for reading, as well as for forwarding many of the items in this quiz. Enjoy the weekend, ride safe, and if you're off to NAHBS enjoy all the chin-stroking and try to remember that "fillet brazing" is not a type of cajun cooking.


(Petrified wood: laterally stiff and vertically stiffer)

1) Wood is crabon fribé 2.0:


2) In Portland:

--The "fixies" are tiny
--The riders are enormous
--Both are proportionately oversized
--Both are proportionately miniscule

("Seize this, honkus.")

3) What is the complete message on this rim?

--"Seize The Day"

4) Pursuit-to-non-pursuit conversion is freewheel-to-fixed conversion 2.0:


5) Why is this bike wearing a sweater?

6) Why is this bike not wearing a sweater?

("Hipster Wife Hunting" pin-up girl)

7) Which of the following is not an actual reason given by a "Hipster Wife Hunting" pin-up girl (not the one pictured above) for why she would make an ideal hipster wife?

***Special Slightly-Risqué-Religious-Lobster-Iconography Themed Bonus Question***

Lobster deities love:

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Rumblings of Change: The Future's So Loud, I Gotta Wear Earplugs

(Sistine Crustacean by Erik K)

The Internet is a wonderful thing. As a member of the highly-coveted 18-64 age demographic (you can sell me anything from gaming consoles to erectile dysfunction medication) I can remember a time before every home and office had access to the Internet--or even a computer. Back then, when I was somewhere between 1 and 47 years old, we couldn't just forward each other videos of heavyset men who look like Tad Doyle riding around in thongs. Instead, we had to re-enact them in person at work or in the schoolyard through an elaborate series of pantomimes, or else recreate the video by obtaining a pad of Post-it notes (this was new technology at the time--Post-it notes were SMS messages 1.0) and turning it into a rudimentary flip-book.

However, the Internet also has its drawbacks. For example, there's the increasing problem of identity theft. Even worse, if your identity gets stolen or you don't even have one in the first place it's way too easy to download one. See, "back in the day," you couldn't just see an identity on the Internet, gauge its popularity and "cool factor," and then decide to adopt it, all within a matter of minutes. Instead, you maybe saw or heard about something that seemed interesting (perhaps in a friend's Post-it note flip-book or while traveling into town to see the village blacksmith for new horseshoes) and then spent weeks or months obtaining more information and the necessary equipment before you even got to try it out. (Sure, people copied other people back then too, but you at least had to get near those people in person in order to copy them. And sometimes they smelled bad.) Plus, unlike now, there were no guarantees about how the world at large would react to your new "steez." Your new identity might get you laid (although "back in the day" people said "getteth you lain"), or you might be severely beaten (or, in the language of the times, "catch a beatdown"). I remember "hitting up" the blacksmith many years ago wearing my brand-new George Frideric Handel World Tour 1733 poet shirt and the bastard called me a "poseur," stuck a hot poker in my eye, and hobbled my Mongolian cyclocross bike, Ol' Dynamite. Sadly, those days are gone--nowadays I could have at least deflected the blow with my iPhone.

As for cycling, it looked a lot different in the pre-Internet days:

Road Bike

Mountain Bike

Track Bike

Power Meter

Pro Cyclist



Yes, back then, you didn't "drop" a "collabo." The "collabo" dropped you.

But perhaps the worst thing of all about the Internet is the proliferation of documentary films. It used to be that people would wait until after something happened to make a documentary about it. In fact, once in awhile filmmakers would even wait until the subject or person had disappeared altogether. (I know it's hard to believe, but it's true.) At the very least, they'd usually wait until the subject they wanted to document had had some significant cultural impact. Like, you probably could have gotten away with making a documentary about the Vietnam "Collabo" while it was still happening, since it was what people back then used to call a Big Fucking Deal.

You may have read about this in the New York Times awhile back, but in any case here's the description:

Last summer in a rented garage on the outskirts of Queens, NY something incredible was happening. A group of imaginative tinkerers from Trinidad were working late into the nights creating something nobody had ever seen before: enormous stereo systems jury rigged onto ordinary bmx bikes. Traveling together, each behind the handlebars of his or her own massive homemade creation, they treat the neighborhood to an outrageous impromptu music and dance party on wheels. Directed by Randall Stevens, Made In Queens is a film celebrating America's first stereobike crew.

Is this "something incredible," really? I mean, clearly these kids have some ingenuity, and using ingenuity to have fun is in many ways what youth is all about. So too is figuring out novel ways to enjoy really loud music. But it seems to me like a lot more has to happen before young people enjoying loud music warrants a documentary. Probably the most famous instance in modern times of young people enjoying loud music was the Woodstock Festival, and that just barely qualified for a documentary due to the various artists who played, the number of people who attended, and the historical context in which it took place. Even then, "Woodstock" the film is only slightly a documentary and it's only separated from concert films like the unintentionally hilarious "The Song Remains the Same" by the width of a hippie's pubic hair. (In fact, given the hairy hippie bathing scenes "Woodstock" is mostly a "nature documentary.") Nothing against these kids in Queens, but until half a million of them gather somewhere together in a massive self-indulgent show of dissatisfaction with the status quo while their poorer peers are being conscripted and getting their heads blown off then they're just really into sound systems.

Again, this is not a criticism of the kids, who are just doing what they do; it's a criticism of the director, who is using what they do to sell himself. Here's what the film's marketing materials have to say:

In other words, since these people have no intention to design and package themselves for public consumption, he's going to go ahead and do it for them. There may be "nothing calculated or self-conscious about who they are," but the director is another story, which is why he's good at making commercials and music videos:

I have nothing against commercials or directors of commercials either, but when they start using people's lifestyles as the basis for films that seem like pretentious commercials designed to sell the director it starts making me a little uncomfortable. ("I'm going to portray your recreation as a cultural phenomenon in order to show the world how insightful I am and maybe get hired to do something big.") The truth is, your lifestyle is only as safe from plundering as the rights to it are difficult to obtain, and I'm guessing in this case it was pretty easy.

Then again, maybe I've got it all wrong. I haven't seen the whole thing after all. Maybe it's transcendent, and people with giant speakers on their bikes are going to change our culture forever. Or else they're all going to open stereo shops in 15 years and get rich installing expensive aftermarket audio equipment in the next generation's SUVs. I guess until we can popular search engine the future we'll have to wait to find out.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Seeing What We Want to See

To a large extent, we all shape our own experiences of reality: We see the things we want to see and block out the things that do not fit our world view.

Walking home yesterday afternoon, I was amused to notice how much I tend to do this even when it comes to bicycles.

Both Vienna and Boston are full of generic modern unremarkable bikes, yet the ones I pay attention to are the classic and vintage bikes.

And since I notice these more, in my subsequent memories they are the ones that play a starring role in the city's "velo life".

In a similar fashion, I tend to pay lots of attention to architecture I like and ignore all the "ugly" stuff right next to it. As a result, a city or a neighborhood might consist entirely of beautiful architecture in my memories.

There are countless examples of this of course, and unless we point and shoot in a random direction we cannot take a picture without revealing our subjective biases. Our pictures reflect how we want to see and remember things rather than how they actually are. For example, several readers have pointed out to me that my "street scenes" tend to be miraculously free of cars, and indeed I seem to frame photos so as to avoid them. There is just something about modern cars that is not photogenic: they detract from the feel of the city landscape.

Bicycles, on the other hand, seem to enrich it - especially when the bicycles are nice and the cyclists are well dressed. Yes, that is a Hassidic Jew cycling through Vienna - who clearly has no problem cycling in a suit.

And here is a couple, cycling into the sunset idyllically. While of course I did not stage these scenes, you could say that I chose to notice them out of the many alternative scenes I could have noticed instead.

So, what is my point? Only that life can be filled with golden sunsets and lovely bicycles if we want it to - even on those days when it's not.

Going by the Book: Signs from Above

(Forms are already beginning to trickle in.)

Throughout history, humanity has sought to impart meaning on life and to create codes for living. Over the centuries, these codes have been assembled into various books which serve as guides and moral templates. Such books include the Bible, the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita, and Bob Vila's extensive canon of works on home improvement and remodeling.

I too live my life strictly according to "the book." More accurately, I adhere religiously to two books. These are my generic Bicycle Owner's Manual:
And Stanley's Solid Gold Dream Book:

The Bicycle Owner's Manual is the book I turn to when I have doubts, questions, or moral quandaries related to bicycles, bicycle maintenance, the act of cycling, or bicycle ownership. As you can see from the image of the cover above, sometimes you don't even need to open the book to receive guidance. "Turn Front Forks to Face Forwards" is the sort of advice that will take you far as a cyclist. It's also something a surprising number of people do not know how to do, as evidenced by this photo which was sent to me by a reader in London:

Stanley's Solid Gold Dream Book, on the other hand, is the book that addresses the more abstract spiritual quandaries in which one can find oneself. It can also help one harness the power of the supernatural and the otherworldly. For example, even before doing my morning Jazzercise and eating my bowl of Franken Berry, I always make sure to check my Daily Numerology Vibrations:

I also make sure to interpret my dreams:

Stanley is not always politically correct, nor is he an accurate speller:

However, the truth is that great mystics can be coarse people. Remember, both Jesus and Bob Vila are simple carpenters (Jesus still carpents in Heaven where he drives around in a beat-up van with "God and Son" painted on the side), and I'm sure when they smack their thumbs with a hammer they both curse accordingly. Remember too that Yoda's poor grammar less powerful his wisdom did not make. So when I have a dream that I'm brunching on omelettes with a bunch of Dutch "podium dudes," I know that I must do all I can to salvage a friendship that is in distress. That's why this morning I called some close personal friends and apologized for sneaking a bunch of greasy bike components into their dishwasher when they had me over for dinner recently. While the machine was not repairable, fortunately our friendship was. Thanks, Stanley. Best $3 I ever spent.

And so it was that, beset by precipitation, I headed into the wilds of Brooklyn yesterday on a twofold mission. I won't bother you with details concerning the first fold of this mission, but the second fold involved wetting my pants:

I will address the pants-wetting in some future post, but in the meantime it's the journey and not the destination with which I am concerned. As it happens, my damp voyage took me along Bedford Avenue, that hotbed of controversy which is currently the Gaza Strip of the "Hipster vs. Hasidim" religious wars. Unwisely, I had undertaken my trip just as the local yeshivas were letting out, and so I got to witness a child drop-off in action:

(All You Buses Protect My Jews)

The way it works is that the bus comes to a sudden diagonal stop in the middle of the block, bringing all vehicular traffic to a halt. Thus protected, the child then emerges on the leeward side of the bus where she is collected by a doting mother in a schmata.

Obviously, whether you're driving a car or "palping" an Ironic Orange Julius Bike, this is somewhat irritating. Unsure of how to comport myself, I consulted my Bicycle Owner's Manual, but the only remotely relevant bit of advice was this:

"Watch out for the other guy-ridedefenal very."

I'm assuming that "guy-ridedefenal" is Yiddish, but lacking fluency in that tongue I was unable to watch out for one. It did specify that I should watch out for the other guy-ridedefenal, though, so I imagined that a first guy-ridedefenal would attempt to distract me while a second stole my bicycle. This, however, did not transpire, and I didn't even bother to consult Stanley's Solid Gold Dream Book because no eggs or "faggetts" were involved.

Ultimately, I chose my default mode, which is "watch and contemplate." While the Hasidim are inconsiderate sometimes, it's obvious that their lack of consideration is motivated by a strong protective instinct. Probably the unwisest way to deal with fiercely protective people or animals is to intimidate them, which is essentially what the "hipsters" who intended to ride naked through their neighborhood were planning to do. In a way it all comes down to what you think New York City should be. Traditionally, it's been a place where each neighborhood has a strong character with its own behavioral code that is not necessarily scrutable to or convenient for the sojourner, and where he or she might be expected to behave deferentially or at least respectfully while visiting. (Such respect was really the imperfect yet functional mortar that held the city together.) Increasingly, though, New York is becoming a place that is expected to conform to some higher ideal of what the current post-gentrification wave of "urban planners" believe a "livable city" should be. As a cyclist, I appreciate the latter, but as a person who likes to "watch and contemplate," I appreciate the former. If you expect smooth and unfettered passage some New York neighborhoods can be a real pain in the ass, but you may end up missing them when they're gone.

In any case, it was really only a few moments before the bus moved and I was able to resume my journey. While the Hasidim may have their shtetl, the "hipsters" or "gentrifiers" or whatever you want to call them have theirs too, and it is expanding into areas where once those who advocated for "livable cities" (in the literal "I don't want to get murdered sense," not the "We need more bike racks in front of the Apple store" sense) once feared to tread. With a few moments to kill, I nipped into a "vintage" clothing store in order to get out of the rain:

This, it would seem, is where "hipsters" happen:

I didn't buy anything because I have no real desire to look like Louis Winthorpe III post-arrest:

And once the musty smell became overpowering I went off and took care of the completely legitimate and perfectly legal business that had brought me to this neighborhood in the first place.

On the way back, I noticed with dismay that the new bike lanes which had made a previously death-defying traffic circle pleasantly rideable have now been taken over by the NYPD and are serving as truck and bus parking:

This is actually a pre-automotive superhighway of sorts, since the brown lanes are dedicated to horses and the green lanes are dedicated to bikes:

Even when there aren't police buses in the bike lane though you will often find plenty of manure. It seems the horses like to leave their brown in our green:

As you can see, this particular pile also contains a compact disc, and a closer inspection reveals that it is some sort of Torah study guide:

I'm not sure how this got there. Did someone intentionally discard it, or are New York City's horses now being fed on rabbinical CDs? Either way, I didn't need to consult Stanley's Solid Gold Dream Book to know that this was a sign: In one neighborhood you may be king, but in another you're just manure. Also, sometimes not winding up in crap is a simple matter of paying attention to where you're going.

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