Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Fixed-Gear Theme Vacations: Getting There is Half the Fun, Filming It is the Other Half

Yesterday morning, I rode my bicycle to downtown Manhattan. It was a wet day, though I nonetheless was able to savor the dryness of the seat of my pants afforded me by my full front and rear fenders. (Yes, it turns out you can spend $30 on fenders instead of $180 on pants and still remain dry.) Locking my bicycle in front of a food vending cart (I hoped that, should someone attempt to steal my cockpit again, the vendor might be inclined to stab the thief with a shish-kabob skewer) I then boarded a so-called PATH train and forded the mighty Hudson River to Jersey City, where I appeared on the radio station WFMU. If you'd like to hear the interview, it is here, in between bursts of ambient noise:

I should warn you, though, that the "Twitteroni" have already deemed me smug, "adenoidal," and irritating:

I had to plug the word "adenoidal" into a popular search engine (I thought it was Hebrew for "Lord") and it turns out it means "nasal"--which, given the 140-character Twitter limit, would have been a better word, since it would have left him with a few spare letters with which to call me a "douche." I'm not concerned though, since I fully embrace the fact that I am smug, nasal, and irritating, and if anything it's a miracle I'm not even more so, since the predominant manner of speech in the place I spent my formative years is so utterly nasal, braying, and irritating that it would have a non-New Yorker bleeding from the ears and mainlining Sudafed within seconds. (I attribute the fact that my irritating nasality is somewhat tempered to the fact that I went to summer camp at a young age, which is where I heard the letter "R" pronounced for the first time.)

Anyway, if you too find my speech irritating, you can always pick up the May issue of "Outside" magazine:

(Bear Grylls has not heard of a loofah.)

In it, there is a story I wrote about my trip to Portland (that's a city in Oregon where they like bikes), as well as something about "Rapha's natty, convertible wool blazer," which I did not write and have not seen yet but which also promises to be entertaining in the way that only cycling-themed blazers can be:

As the summary indicates, I did indeed go to Portland "undercover," flushing my sinuses with a Neti Pot on an hourly basis in order to disguise my telltale adenoidal whine, and I even tried the game known as "bike polo," after which I scoured myself for three hours with Simple green and a Pedro's Pro Brush Kit. Incidentally, if there's any actual information contained in the article, you can thank crack researcher (that's "crack" as in "ace," not "crack" as in "New Jack City") Jennifer Schwartz of "Outside," who provided me with the facts and background I was too lazy and incompetent to find for myself. (I was too busy in Portland riding my bike and urinating frequently due to the fact that the coffee was much stronger than what I am used to.)

Moving on, in cycling in particular and popular culture in general, there are some things that are "cool," and other things that are "uncool." It can be difficult to quantify coolness and uncoolnes, (both of them having to do with timing, serendipity, and context as much as anything else), but like pornography and vomit you just know it when you see it. In the world of bikes, for example, fixed-gears and "vintage" road bikes are "cool," while recumbents and flat-bar road bikes are "uncool." And beyond bikes, there are even some ethnic groups that are "cool" and "uncool" among the "hipsterati." For example, Jews are totally uncool:

Whereas Arabs are cool:

This is because Hasidic Jews (with their minivans and children and lame outfits) remind "hipsters" of their parents who keep threatening to stop helping them with their rent, whereas Arabs evoke insurrection and resisting America and other things that make their parents uncomfortable. This is why "hipsters" still wear "keffiyeh" scarves:

(In the "hipster" universe "Getting Fucked Up" and "Tonguing Each-Other" are Pillars of Islam.)

While the tallis has yet to (and will almost certainly never) catch on:

("I can't believe my father is making me do this. I am so going to start wearing a keffiyeh when I move to Williamsburg.")

It would stand to reason, then, that one day the Arab world would come to serve as a backdrop to what promises to be the most "epic" fixed-gear video the "bike culture" has ever seen:

The above is a short description of an upcoming film called "Where are the Pyramids?," which I saw mentioned on "Bike Blog NYC" (which is "curated" by that guy who famously fell for the classic "Let me see your bike real quick" flim-flam awhile back). Where are the pyramids indeed? Well, it took me about four seconds to find out, thanks to the potent combination of a popular search engine and a popular user-edited online encyclopedia:

However, sometimes it's not enough to simply read about something online. Sometimes you've got to find out for yourself. Furthermore, in the "hipster" universe, you've also got to find out for yourself in a totally impractical way that allows you to showcase yourself and your lifestyle on camera. We've seen this before. For example, in "London To Paris," some "hipsters" ride their track bikes from London to Paris:

The mustache, incidentally, is the "hipster" equivalent of a power meter, and as you can see the fact that his is nearly horizontal indicates that he is moving at quite a clip.:

There was also that movie called "Junkun," in which some "hipsters" ride their track bikes from Tokyo to Osaka while wearing crooked helmets and kitchy souvenirs they pick up along the way:

In "Where are the Pyramids?," however, the stars are doing their predecessors one better by going to Egypt. Furthermore, each rider has a formidable résumé:

The inclusion of the "incumbent fixed gear sprint European Champion" alone would make this a not-to-be-missed cinematic event, but when you throw in the "winner of the 1st dispo alleycat in Vienna" and noted "fixed gear freak" Herr Karl you've got the fixed-gear equivalent of "Ocean's 11" meets "Lawrence of Arabia." By the way, I don't know who's who, but I'm guessing this one is "Sailor:"

I don't know who this is either, but the fact that he rides with both a floor pump and what appears to be a riot helmet means he is not the sort to leave things to chance:

Also, I don't want to spoil anything, but the "Five Fearless Fixed-Gear Pilots" pick up a time-traveling American Civil War soldier along the way:

They even tempt the ire of serial retrogrouch and uber-curmudgeon Jobst Brandt by flipping their bicycles upside down in order to work on them:

Flipping your bike upside-down in order to work on it is like unrolling a condom before putting it on.

Oh, Egypt, I suspect you are ill-prepared for the strike force of "cool" that is the Five Fearless Fixed-Gear Pilots:

The Five Fearless Fixed-Gear Pilots, however, are more than ready for you:

Don't worry, though, the FFFGPs are not culturally insensitive; they at least have the good sense to trackstand in the middle of the street for awhile so that the locals have time to get used to them:

But there is a tense moment when one of the "pilots" dodges a truck and almost takes out a woman in a burka:

Still, there is no greater rush than knowing that you are the only fixed-gear riders in a city of millions of people, making you the most "street credulous" riders in it by default:

It's also vital to keep telling yourself this in order to sustain your morale, since the fact that you need a $200 bag and a $2,000 bicycle to deliver envelopes is in stark contrast to the fact that a typical cyclist in Cairo can easily carry an 80lb basketful of bread on his head without any special equipment:

I guess in one sense, "cool" is the art of making something that is easy and cheap look hard and expensive. I guess this is also why Egyptians don't feel compelled visit places like New York, London, and Vienna in order to make videos of themselves carrying bread.

Anyway, I haven't seen the whole film, but I'm imagining the final scene in which the FFFGPs crest a desert hill with their laughably impractical bicycles and catch their first glimpse of the pyramids is an inspiring one:

Just as the Pharaos build the pyramids so that they might live forever, the FFFGPs have created an enduring monument to their own self-indulgent lifestyle and edgy fashion sense. The "vacation as art" may indeed be greatest intellectual contribution of the so-called "bike culture."


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