Monday, 31 January 2011

Comments, Arguments, Bicycles...

[image via Chris 531]

Over the past couple of weeks, I've spent considerably more time moderaring comments than usual. For the most part, it's been a handful of readers getting overzealous in their debates with one another. But when hostility enters a discussion, others get sucked into it as well. All I know is: I don't want to be the Jerry Springer of bicycle blogs. I would rather have fewer comments, but retain the atmosphere of comradery that has been characteristic here thus far.

I have wondered whether discussions about bicycles are somehow more prone to conflict than other topics. Readers often tell me that they are uncomfortable commenting on various online bicycle forums and blogs, because they find the atmosphere hostile. And I understand that: I myself have a difficult time communicating on bikeforums, despite it being such a valuable resource for technical information. I also can no longer read the comments on Yehuda Moon, because of all the bickering between readers there. It is well documented that there exist genuine differences between what kind of interactions people find enjoyable: Some prefer for everything to be in the style of a debate, with technical inaccuracies in the wording of others victoriously exposed. Others favour a more nurturing, open form of communication. My own preference is somewhere in between: I like a good debate and I am fine with being challenged, as long as the underlying mood feels friendly.

[images via Schwar]

Sometimes I think that we'd all be nicer over the internet, if we just imagined all the unknown others out there as kittens. Kittens, who love bicycles - at times feisty, but ultimately sweet and fluffy, pedaling happily through the fragrant meadows. Do you really want to hurt their feelings?

But for those who can't deal with the kitten metaphor and prefer specifics, I will be more direct: I think that it is a matter of common sense to refrain from mocking or deriding others' points of view in the comments. It's not that everyone has to agree, but sometimes there are nicer ways to disagree. In the same vein, consider refraining from statements that, while technically speaking may be phrased politely, you know in your heart of hearts are inflammatory (for example: "No offense meant, but riding a blue bicycle lowers your IQ and transmits STDs"). Finally, allow me to suggest that it is best to avoid making speculative, or misleading statements about individuals or entities that can be considered slanderous (for example: "I heard that Lovely Bicycle is written in the Far East, using child labor and toxic inks"). I trust that most people understand the difference between comments that are "in good faith" and "not in good faith."

Meaningful reader feedback has been a defining element of "Lovely Bicycle" from the start, and it makes me happy to be the hostess of such thoughtful, interesting discussions. As one reader recently suggested, my posts are collaborative: I offer my views, and others offer their views in return. It's a constructive exchange, which I think works nicely. Please help me keep it that way. And think of the cycling kittens.

Ubiquity: Wherever you Ride, There You Are

Webster's dictionary defines "ubiquitous" as follows:

ubiq·ui·tous adj \yü-ˈbi-kwə-təs\ : being all over the freaking place : like, everywhere : an especially pungent form of hummus [a ubiquitous outbreak of herpes]

And when it comes to ubiquity, nobody embodies this quality like the time-traveling t-shirt-wearing retro-Fred from the planet Tridork, who a number of readers in the UK have informed me has finally scored his first magazine cover:

They say once you've done a Digital Photography Enthusiast cover stardom is all but assured, so from here on in all he has to do is keep his flavor-saver down, hold on tight to those clip-on aeorobars, and let the offers roll in. I predict that he'll be on every billboard in America (or, if you prefer, Canada's flavor-saver) in a "fortnight," which Webster's defines as follows:

fort·night noun \ˈfȯrt-ˌnīt\: a pretentious two weeks : a night you spend in a fort [in a fortnight the time-traveling t-shirt-wearing retro-Fred from the planet Tridork will be ubiquitous in Canada's flavor-saver]

By the way, if you'd like to know what that issue of Digital Photography Enthusiast looks like in its natural newsstand setting, here it is courtesy of one reader, complete with a pair of disembodied hands:

Presumably as I type this, thousands of digital photography enthusiasts are enjoying a similar view as they peruse it on the toilet. And as for the question of whether the person who took the above photo is himself a digital photography enthusiast, it all depends on what he was thinking as he shot it. If he thought to himself, "Hey, I'm really enjoying this!" then I guess that would make him an enthusiast, but if he thought, "I can't wait to get this over with and check out that issue of Sky and Telescope" then that puts him squarely in the digital photography indifferentist camp. As for Sky and Telescope, I'm pretty sure what to expect for the cover of next month's issue:

Incidentally, Sky and Telescope is a magazine so nerdy it makes Bicycling look like Vice, and the typical subscriber probably spends hours a day watching the skies for evidence of life on other planets, having long ago abandoned the far more elusive search for a date.

Speaking of fruitless searches, as you're no doubt aware there is considerable unrest in Egypt right now, and as the story continues to unfold I've become increasingly concerned about the well-being of those fixed-gear riders who went there to look for the pyramids:

(Where are the pyramids? I must inflate them with my floor pump!)

Granted, at least one of them is wearing a truly "epic" helmet, but I fear that may not be enough to protect him. Indeed, in these turbulent times, whenever I read about trouble in any far-flung corner of the globe (insasmuch as globes can have corners, which is not at all), my mind immediately goes to the fixie crew that is undoubtedly trapped there. This is because, in the past few years, undertaking poorly-planned "epic" fixed-gear journeys to remote destinations and filming them has become the fixed-gear equivalent of a trip to Sandals, and there is scarcely a country left where one of these ill-conceived theme vacations is not underway. Once upon a time, the sun never set on the British Empire--now it never sets on some hipster with a track bike, a giant messenger bag, and a video camera. So ubiquitious is the phenomenon that the State Department even issues fixed-gear travel advisories now:

Fixed-gear filmmakers are like missionaries, spreading the Gospel of Self-Importance to exotic peoples with far more pressing concerns. Skid-patch calculation will surely be remembered as the navel-gazing of the 21st century.

This is not to say that you should refrain from taking cycling vacations--just make sure the place you're going is safe, and also think carefully about your equipment selection. For example, when traveling long distances, you might want to leave the bike designed for riding around and around in tiny circles at home and opt for something that can accommodate racks. Speaking of racks (and disembodied hands, as I was earlier) another reader has forwarded me the following:

Which includes not a disembodied hand, but rather the very tip of a disembodied digit:

My best guess is that they're fingertips, but without further evidence I won't rule out the possibility that the person (or simian) holding the rack has prehensile feet.

Meanwhile, you may recall that not too long ago I was generally whining and griping about how I wanted to leave New York. This is no doubt due at least in part to seasonal affective disorder, since right now the area looks like this and we've got so much snow that the rats have started wearing penguin costumes. Meanwhile, yet another reader is taunting me about life in the cycling paradise that is Portland, and informs me that not only is there no snow, or ice, or police obstructing the bike lanes, but that there are also riders who have what appear to be prehensile butt-cracks:

I'm not sure what she's actually "portaging" in there, but I did fire up the Gary Klein telescope and it appears to be a paperback book:

I don't know why she wouldn't just carry the book in her fanny pack instead, though it's also entirely possible she realized that the moon was visible over the horizon of her pants and she stuck the book in there out of modesty. Either way, you certainly don't need a rack when you've got that kind of posterior dexterity.

Lastly, I should remind you that registration is now open for the Five Boro Bike Tour. If you want to know what this ride is like, just imagine the streets of New York choked with over 30,000 people who look pretty much exactly like the time-traveling t-shirt-wearing retro-Fred from the planet Tridork and you've got a pretty good idea. In any case, I was reminded that registration was open when I received this promotional brochure via the actual mail:

Which featured a bicycle equipped with a rather perplexing drivetrain:

I wonder of the bicycle crackdown will still be in effect when the Five Boro Bike Tour gets underway. Hopefully it is, since I think handing out over 30,000 tickets in a single day might finally get it out of the city's system once and for all. I also wonder if they gave out any tickets to the participants in this past weekend's "Idiotarod," which I'm sure involved plenty of light-running:

It's just like a Portland cyclocross race, only without the bikes.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Where Have You Been...

Since the end of the summer, I've received a number of concerned inquiries about "Velouria," my vintage Raleigh DL-1 Tourist (and for those who have only begun reading this blog recently, I am named after this bicycle, not the other way around). Though admittedly I have not featured her for some time, I assure you that Velouria is alive and well. She resides in our photo studio just South of Boston, performing the under-documented but crucial role of "studio bike." And here are the pictures to prove it.

For those unfamiliar with Velouria's history, she is somewhat of a "frankenbike," albeit a darling one. I acquired the 1973 Raleigh DL-1 in the summer of 2009 and over time proceeded to subject her to a number of modifications. These have included: an aftermarket chaincase and dress guards, cream tires, a Brooks B18 saddle, a custom rear rack, and an updated rear wheel with a coaster brake hub to supplement the pitiful braking power of the rod brakes.

Why do I feel the need to mess with a vintage bicycle in this manner? To tell the truth, part of it is simply the compulsion to experiment, to customise, to turn objects that belong to me into "creatures." I am not saying it's a good habit necessarily; but it's how I like to do things.

There was also a practical reason for all the modifications: I loved the ride quality of the DL-1 so much, that I was highly motivated to make it as functional as possible.

But ultimately, my love for this bicycle is also what made me move it to the photo studio after I (literally) found the vintage Gazelle in the end of last summer. At the risk of sounding cruel to the Gazelle, I am willing to run it into the ground. It is a great bike, it handles wonderfully, it is admirably designed, but my feeling toward is appreciation - not "love." The vintage Raleigh, on the other hand, feels almost like a pet. I just can't bring myself to ride its already battered and rusty frame on the salted roads in the winter, or even to leave it for hours in the rain in the summer. "Let the Gazelle take the abuse and spare the Raleigh," says my heart. And so Velouria became "studio bike" - ridden occasionally, but not too much.

And if you've noticed that these pictures are a little different from my typical bike photos, that is because they were taken inside the studio itself. We will soon be doing a couple of photo shoots for a local framebuilder, so we're practicing. When it comes to product photography in a studio setting, every object requires a different approach to lighting - and I would say that bicycles are fairly complicated as far as these things go. They are enormous, they have both matte and reflective parts, and they cast a variety of unusual shadows. Oh, and don't get me started on the kickstand thing; we are still working that one out!

Of course, the trouble with this type of product photography is that it brings every single detail of the object into sharp focus - not exactly the most flattering approach when it comes to vintage bikes!

But after all, "Velouria" is not just any vintage bike.  She is mine. The scraped paint, the rust, the solidified crust, the dented fenders and even the bent rodbrake levers are, oddly, all part of what makes me cherish her. She may no longer be the most frequently featured bicycle here, but she epitomises the theme of this blog perhaps more than any other bike I own.

The Trading Post

I am going ahead with the idea of facilitating barter exchanges between readers, chosing the old-school method in the interest of simplicity. And so, I invite you to use the "Remarks" section of this post for your wishlists and your lists of available items. I can't predict how useful this will be, but it's here for us all as a resource.

Some basic guidelines, if you will:

Please describe the items you have/ want in list form. They are easier to read that way.

Remember to include your contact info!

You do not need to post an equal number of "have" and "want" items. It's fine to post only one and not the other.

Monetary exchanges are fine, but please do not list selling prices here. If you are interested in an item and would like to buy it instead of trading for it, please contact the lister privately over email.

Not everything in your list needs to be bicycle-specific. For example: your "want" list can include bicycle components, but your "have" list can include vintage cameras.

Please do not reply to each other in the comments, but contact the lister directly if you have any questions for them. I will occasionally go through the comments to clean up clutter.

Post as often as you like, and feel free to delete your older comments if they contain outdated information.

I am not responsible for the comments posted by other readers, for any items offered by other readers, or for your interactions with other readers. Please use your judgment!

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Barter Economy

Some of my most interesting bicycle-related acquisitions have been through trades with others, and I find these barter exchanges to be great. Whether bicycle related or not, trades can work out nicely - with each party feeling as if they are getting something new and useful.

For instance, I received this vintage Ideale saddle in exchange for some vintage Brooks.

I received these beautiful dressguards in exchange for a spare saddlebag.

I even had some custom metalwork done in exchange for a basket. Other trades have included embroidery in exchange for a rear rack, collectible fountain pens in exchange for artwork, and products in exchange for photography.

A good place to start looking for bartering opportunities as far as bicycles go, is bikeforums. They've set up "For Trade" threads for different geographical regions, where you can list the items you have available and the items you are looking for. Here is the one for the Northeastern USA. I have been considering setting up something similar - but cannot think of a way to do it without it eating up too much of my time.

And while trades can be pre-determined and formal ("I'll give you my Item X in exchange for your Item Y"), they can also be a sort of reciprocal, whimsical gift-giving - like pen pals exchanging objects instead of letters: You send the person something you think they might like, and at some later point they do the same. There are no explicit arrangements or expectations, and that is the neat thing about it. I've had these types of exchanges with several bike people, and it's been really nice - my latest gift being the delightfully named "bike burrito."

These things have fascinated me for some time, so I was pretty happy to get one. It's called a "bike burrito" because - well, it folds up like a burrito.

...And unfolds to reveal compartments for your tools. (We all have different concepts of "tools!")

The "burrito" is held together by a toe-clip strap, which can be easily threaded through the rails under your saddle. With the "epic" winter we are having, it's safe to say that I won't be using it any time soon - but it deserves to be seen!

Connecting with other bicycle-loving people from around the world can be fun, and can lead to all sorts of exchanges you would not otherwise have. What are your thoughts on developing a system to facilitate this? Would you find it helpful? What features would be useful? Would simply using the comments section of a post be enough, or do you think it won't work without a message board? Ideas welcome!

Friday, 28 January 2011

BSNYC Frida Fun Kahlo!

Riding bicycles in New York City, or indeed anyplace, is nothing new. In fact, people were doing it even before there were cars on the roads, way back when the Model T simply referred to Henry Ford's hairstyle. Only recently, though, has the city set about implementing a large-scale bicycle infrastructure, and we are now feeling those growing pains--the most recent pang being the current bicycle crackdown:

Like many New Yorkers, I would still ride my bike if there were no bike lanes. In fact, I'd still ride my bike if I was forced to use a p-far and the streets were surfaced with flesh-eating Jell-O. However, I also don't think riding a bike in New York should be unreasonably difficult. In fact, I think it should be as easy as possible, and while I think the crackdown is ridiculous I'm also more than happy to sacrifice some of that old-fashioned New York light-running, lane-splitting scrappiness so that a normal person can decide to buy a bicycle and ride it to work. After all, if I want to take physical risks and push the limits of my fitness and bike-handling abilities I can always race or ride my bike in the woods.

Not all New York cyclists feel this way, though, and some argue that all this municipal bike lane noob-coddling is doing more harm than good. A member of the Twitteroni recently steered me to the following interview with a local shop owner that encapsulates this view:

Do you think the bike lanes are making cycling too accessible? Should some people who don’t have the chops just not ride?


This is an elitist standpoint.

Yeah, but I do feel that way. The problem now is that everyone is learning how to ride in the city at once. I think the turn of the century is the one time that’s closest to now in terms of the number of bikes in the streets and in the way the public perceives them as a nuisance. Things were getting so bad back then that Sears & Roebuck made a gun and a gun-mount to go on your bicycle.

I respect Jeff Underwood as I do any hardworking bike shop owner, and I see his point, but also don't think it's possible for cycling to become too accessible, and I find this an odd position for a bicycle shop owner to take--especially when the shop is a relatively new one and owes its existence to the very bike boom its owner is decrying. I especially think all the people out there who think they have "chops" are the reason non-cyclists in New York find cyclists so annoying. If cycling in New York City is not allowed to become accessible then it will remain the death metal of transportation--a stylized and redundant novelty with a limited appeal and a veneer of danger that seems exciting when you're in your teens and that you're over before you're 40. Plus, this style of riding is not exactly for everybody:

What’s the most illegal thing you’ve ever carried on a bicycle?

Like the thing that would have gotten me in the most trouble? I don’t know because I used to be a bike messenger for a Mafioso guy. The guys I would work for would wait for days to pick up from me, so I’d have all this money. Then when they would come they would give me a week’s worth to distribute to all the guys, so I would take a backpack full of $50,000 to $70,000 worth of weed to public housing in The Bronx. But then again I’m thinking whether I would have been in more trouble for carrying 50 bundles of heroin or a 9mm. Which would have carried the most jail time?

Talk about putting all your Wednesday eggs in one basket. Admittedly, I'm not really up on wholesale marijuana prices, but I would imagine that $50,000-$70,000 worth would be a bit more than you could fit in a backpack and would probably require at least a Big Dummy to "portage."

After reading this interview I wanted to know more about Jeff Underwood, and I found another one on Gothamist from 2009:

This one featured more of his cycling background, which despite his apparent disdain for the bike boom is essentially concurrent with it:

How did you get into bikes?

I moved to New York in 2000, started walking, taking the subways, and I thought it was the most ridiculous thing in the world. I was getting blisters on my feet. So I got a bike, which was silly because I got a 1969 Sting-Ray Schwinn. About six months later I got a road bike, which I converted to a fixed gear. I quit my job—I was working in social work—and started doing messenger work. I thought it was the New York experience, somehow.

Though back then, he liked that accessibility:

What do you think of the bicycle resurgence in this city?

I think it's awesome. I don't care why they're doing it, I'm just glad that they're riding. Of course I'm going to say that, because I'm making money from it, but I also think it's really awesome to see people riding bikes, and really getting into it, and knowing about bikes and knowing what chain stays are and seat stays and seat tubes and angles and just different things. I think it's really cool that people are into it.

I agree. I also agreed with many of the things he said in this interview, though not his post-hipster views on brakes:

When I'm on a road bike I'm going twice as fast, I'm doing dangerous things, there's a false security of brakes. Most people who are going 20 miles an hour and hit their brakes are going to wreck. On a track bike or a fixed gear, if you're going 20 miles an hour you're hauling ass, and you're looking ahead, you're looking behind, you're looking everywhere, and immediately when you see something happen, your brain triggers your legs and you start to slow down and you start to look for the out. On a road bike you think you can stop but you can't.

There must be something really wrong with my road bike--it stops with precision, even at 20mph.

In any case, I'll say again that I respect Jeff Underwood, and I only mention his interview in the spirit of healthy debate and because it is indicative of the current state of cycling in New York City. Continuum is one of the many new shops that have opened in New York along with the bike lanes, and I hope to see the entire package--the public infrastructure and the private businesses--continue to flourish. That might involve sacrificing some of our coveted street-credulous rogue outlaw status, but personally I'm all right with that.

Speaking of cycling and legitimacy, I recently received one of those Critical Mass emails:

Bike People!

Tonight is Manhattan Critical Mass, 7pm Union Square North. It may be my last for the forseeable future, as the repressive climate in NYC is simply too much for my sensitive soul right now.

I'm not sure if this means it will be the last Critical Mass, but if so this seems like a perfect time to retire it, since it finally seems to have fulfilled its goal of turning public opinion and police action against cycling in New York City once and for all. Maybe once it's gone we can get back to that daily critical mass known as "commuting."

Having bloviated long enough, I'm pleased to present you with a quiz. As always, study the item, think, and click on your answer. If you're right then that's fantastic, and if you're wrong you'll hear a spirited wheel testimonial.

Thanks very much for reading, ride safe, and for safety's sake don't use your brakes at 20mph or you'll crash (duh).


(Wow, another theme ride--must be a day ending in "Y" in Portland.)

1) The latest Portland theme ride is based on which TV show?


(Wow, another theme ride--must be a day ending in "Y" in Portland)

2) What's the next big Portland theme ride?

(forwarded by Bicyclepaper)

3) The above is an example of a:

4) Via a reader, the above photo appeared in an article published:

5) Fred Schneider of the B-52s is starring in bicycle-themed PSAs now.

6) This garment forwarded by a reader, is marketed as:

7) Artisanal fire pits are the new artisanal axe.

***Special "I Have 57 Things And A Clue Ain't One"-Themed Bonus Question***

(Hipster philosophers with matching haircuts: Diesel and American Apparel is the new sackcloth and ashes)

Um, so, uh, minimalism? Like, yah? Really? Yah?

--Yah, totally.
--It's like, we're making statements? But like, we say them like they're questions?
--Like, all of the above maybe?

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Stop, Look Around...

All the walking I've been doing lately on account of the weather has made me pay even closer attention to my surroundings than I do while cycling. Everything looks different in the snow - elegant and magical. The thin patch of woods near my house has turned into a majestic white forest worthy of a 19th century Scandinavian painting. It's as if the sky was squeezed straight out of a tube of cerulean blue and the austere vertical strokes of the trees were applied with a pallet knife. It's not my style, but I am certain this scene has been painted many times. It's archetypal.

Upon emerging from the pristine wonderland, I came face to face with this. Literally: It was located at face level, and in my willingness to submerge myself so fully in my daydream, I nearly walked into it.

The city is using excavators to facilitate snow removal, as the plows alone are not enough. The effect is interesting, making the neighbourhood look like an igloo construction zone. In order to clear the center of the roads, the excavator dumps more and more snow to the sides - creating monstrous, densely packed snowbanks that line the streets like the walls of some arctic city-state.

Walking on the sidewalk is a surreal experience. You are essentially in a tunnel - with buildings on one side, igloo wall on the other. Along some stretches, the snowbanks are taller than the average human height, so as a pedestrian I can only see the sidewalk in front of me and not the road to the side of me.

Those "Do Not Enter" and "Except Bicycles" signs are for a one-way side street that has a bike lane going in the direction against traffic. For most of last winter the lane looked like this. How cute that I complained about it then: This year it's been swallowed up by the snow banks entirely.

It is not uncommon to encounter bicycles "buried alive." There were actually three separate bicycles inside this snowbank.

Less common is the sight of a bicycle being ridden - but it happens, especially on the heavily salted main roads. Note how the yellow crosswalk sign, its reflection in the puddle, and the golden light of the setting sun play off the colours in the cyclist's knitted hat - all of it especially noticeable against the white, snowy backdrop. Somehow, everything seems to be reminding me of a painting these days. Certainly this person and his hat deserve to be painted.

It's been over a month and a half now without the car. We signed up for zipcar through the Co-Habitant's work, but have not used it yet. And ironically, the blizzards are making it easier to do without: With the roads as bad as they are, we wouldn't have been traveling to any photoshoots up North anyway, and so we don't feel as if not having our car is keeping us from accomplishing anything. We'll get the car fixed as it gets closer to Spring. But for now, it's been remarkably easy to just forget about that thing and for us both to get around entirely on foot and bike. And with so many snow days, I am rediscovering walking - which I appreciate for making me stop, look around, and see my neighborhood in a new light.

The Indignity of Commuting by Bicycle: Hail Fellow Well Wet

Once again, a vast quantity of The Great Lobster's Dandruff has fallen down upon New York City like divine crustacean retribution for our evil ways. I have no doubt at this point that the snow will fall for 40 days and 40 nights until the city is cleansed, and I wonder if any of us will be spared. Presumably somewhere there is a righteous man or woman, and as I type this the Lobster is commanding him or her to build an ark-bike. It will have massive frame clearance and provisions for a Rohloff hub, and its tires will be hundreds of cubits in width and its rims thousands of cubits in diameter. Then, its fabricator will ride it to Austin, and it will win Best Divinely-Inspired Snow Bike at the NAHBS.

I, however, was without snow bike as I ventured into The Big City yesterday during the early hours of this latest weather event. Like a young Joe Buck, I set out brimming with naive ambition, but by that evening the storm would become my "Ratso" Rizzo and make a sorry and broken whore out of me. I should have known, too, since already the smallest and feeblest creatures had to be carried:

On the feebleness spectrum, I rank somewhere between a small dog and a grown man, so I should have known I was in for trouble. Still, I am a busy person, having recently welcomed my 17th child into the family (all my children, male or female, are named Ninja, and this one is no exception), and so I must take my opportunities for "epic" cycling adventures as they come. And while I may be naive, I was nonetheless prepared, and even had the foresight to bring along a pair of Rivendell "Splats:"

(That amorphous olive drab foot apron is a Rivendell Splat.)

According to Rivendell, Splats have a "function-to-fashion ratio of 99.9:1," and as you can see from the above photo they're definitely about as fashionable as, well, a piece of clothing designed by Grant Petersen. They did, however, do their job as promised and I was glad to have them--though I didn't complete the whole Rivendell look by pairing them with a gigantic poncho:

By the way, it doesn't actually appear to be raining in that photo, so judging from the tent he's pitching in that thing I can only assume he's using the poncho for its more lascivious secondary purpose and engaging in some "covert ops."

Speaking of covert ops, even though the streets were slushy and the weather was miserable, I knew that the Great Anti-Bicycle Crackdown of Death would continue unabated:

Sure, in New York City a little snow is enough to stop ambulances in their tracks, but neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays the NYPD from reminding all those smug cyclists that this ain't Portland, and that if they want to flout traffic laws they'd better earn that right by leasing a Lincoln Navigator. In any case, I wasn't about to tempt fate by breaking any laws, since with 17 Ninjas to feed a $275 ticket could easily break me. That's almost ten pairs of Splats, or not quite half an Outlier Storm King Parka! So with the bike lanes snowed in I simply took my place at the back of the line, sucked down that minivan exhaust, and took it:

Of course, swan-diving into Manhattan from the great diving board that is the Long Island land mass requires crossing The Big Skanky, and so the big question on any foul-weather commute is, "Will the bridges be passable?" Fortunately, the one I chose was, and it also bore the tracks that were indesputable evidence that other idiots had also crossed it by bicycle before me:

However, the bridge was not salted, which made the going a bit treacherous:

As far as I can tell, New York City is now taking a two-pronged approach to bicycle unfriendliness. The passive-aggressive part is stuff like not salting the bridges to ensure that they freeze up like snot in a recumbent rider's beard, and the aggressive-aggressive part is handing out tickets to cyclists who do things like failing to signal before reaching into their pants to adjust their "pants yabbies." Then again, most of the streets weren't salted by that point either, so it's also likely that, like most cyclists, I'm a raging solipsist.

There were not many cyclists in Manhattan, though various delivery people were plying their trade, including celebrity messenger Austin Horse, better known as that guy who raced a Mercedes:

(That's one "epic" backpack.)

I would have stopped him and asked him to autograph my Splats, but he went right through that light like a hipster through a trust fund, whereas I'm just one traffic ticket away from having to move back onto the tuber farm with my parents.

In addition to being vigilant with regard to police and red lights, I am of course also eternally on the lookout for carcakes, and I'm pleased to report I spotted the elusive "mullet" formation, also known as the "Canadian neck curtain:"

I'm not sure under what circumstances you'd clear off your car yet take pains to make sure the rear windshield remained covered, but the vehicle does have an Illinois license plate so perhaps someone from the Land of Lincoln could explain it to me. Perhaps it's for privacy, so that a passenger in the back seat can do what you might otherwise do beneath a voluminous poncho.

Speaking of snow formations, my bottom bracket collected so much slush that, for just a fleeting moment, I could pretend that it was actually "beefy:"

It's days like this when I realize that I really should be riding a "proper" city bike, like one of those $5,000 Rapha/Beloved "collabos:"

Because when it comes to bicycle commuting, it's not the months of snow; it's what's rusting away beneath it that really counts.

I wonder if Rivendell makes giant Splats to cover up your $5,000 commuter bike. I'm not sure, but I was essentially doing the same thing with my feet, since underneath mine I was wearing a pair of $900 jeweled satin SPD-compatible Manolo Blahniks:

I should mention I was also wearing those Outlier pants that my erstwhile ironic intern, Spencer, reviewed along with that Walmart Mongoose Cachet. Sadly, Spencer has disappeared and I'm assuming he either went to college or else fell victim to the Cachet's faulty front brake, but wherever he is I hope he's warm and dry on his bike that costs less than his pants.

Up until now, the going had been relatively easy, but it was on my return trip that the storm would unleash its fury upon me in the form of those little bullets from the sky called "hail:"

Look at the size of that one:

Really, who's to say that's not actually a tiny meteor?

Here's the sound the tiny meteors made as they struck my precious little New York City-mandated bicycle bell:

Okay, they didn't really do that, but here's what they did feel like as they stung my face:

Fortunately, though, the hail was short-lived, but overnight the snow continued to fall, and as of today the city is snowed in and we're all going to be forced to eat each other in order to survive.

Speaking of survival and riding in winter, I recently found myself watching this informative video:

Winter Biking Primer from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

It's chock full of handy cold weather tips, as well as footage of serial killer Charles Manson wearing mittens and seriously hating life:

Though it's set in Chicago, New York City cyclists would be well advised to don attire like this:

Just carry a jackhammer along with you, and if the police try to stop you just pretend you're doing roadwork.

I was also, quite frankly, horrified by this person:

"I sold my car two years ago," she explained, though judging from her disguise I guess she hasn't gotten over the shame.

"I feel great," she added. "I couldn't believe how much I was sweating in 20 degree weather"--though if you dress that heavily you'll be sweating on the surface of Neptune:

Meanwhile, in Boston, a reader informs me you can buy a genuine fixed-gear bandana for only $50:

Bandana for seatpost from fixed gear - $50 (Mass Ave. Berklee, Symphon)
Date: 2011-01-26, 2:30PM EST
Reply to: [deleted]

I recently sold my 2008 Fuji Track bike though the buyer refused to take my seatpost bandana. I told him that it will give him street cred but he refused, telling me I might need it to wipe my bohemian tears. What he didn't know is that I actually have several other dirty bandanas so I really don't need this one. His loss is your gain!

This bandana is from a real fixed gear track bike - ridden by an authentic hipster with rad side-swept bangs. It is an essential piece of riding gear for those who are looking to impress the skinniest girl on the block. Keep your seatpost warm all winter with this filthy rag! All offers considered.

My seatpost was pretty cold yesterday, now that I think about it.

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