Tuesday, 15 March 2011

BSNYC Field Trip: Smugness in Seattle

This past weekend, I visited the soggy metropolis of Seattle for its eponymous Bicycle Expo, and I am still wringing out my socks. If you're unfamiliar with Seattle, it is the city in Washington that unleashed both Amazon.com and Starbucks upon the world, and her charming residents are characterized by their good nature as well as by their nearly crippling inferiority complex when it comes to anything having to do with Portland, OR. During my stay in Seattle I saw our lifegiving sun for a grand total of exactly nineteen seconds, and I am still suffering from a case of seasonal affective disorder of nearly Finnish proportions.

This was not for want of hospitality mind you, and I was incredibly well-treated by the Cascade Bicycle Club, who invited me to the Expo and who furnished me with a loaner bike that was a good deal better than adequate for getting around the city, though perhaps not as effective as a canoe might have been given the precipitation:

My only complaint was the Koobi saddle, which felt almost exactly like sitting on those metal factory rollers.

Cascade also furnished me with a helmet so that I might be in compliance with Seattle's draconian and Fredly mandatory bicycle helmet laws, and it looked like this:

Not only was the Top Gear dorktastic head-protecting device designed by the same artist responsible for the album art on Duran Duran's Rio, but the makers also saw fit to include a sticker indicating which end of it was the "front" to spare the disoriented wearer any further potential embarrassment:

Best of all, Cascade provided me with positively top-shelf accommodations:

The only catch was that I also had to act as a chaperone to a bunch of nerdy schoolkids.

As with any bike show, the real action is outside, and when I arrived at the Expo's valet bike parking (provided by Bike Works) I marveled at the assortment of human-powered conveyances that were on display:

There were corny saddlebags and vertical bar ends as far as the eye can see:

I thought I had died and gone to "Cockie" heaven:

There were also cyclocross bikes with carbon tubular wheelsets:

And smugness flotillas:

And polo bikes:

And even a tandem:

Which was for sale:

As much as I wanted to experience the "Power of Two," sadly I was only one person, and a soggy one at that. So I parked my loaner bike and my Top Gear helmet in the 1987-Threw-Up-On-My-Head colorway next to a pair of unicycles:

And headed into the Expo itself:

My first order of business was to figure out what time I went on the REI stage, brought to you by REI, an REI production, and so I consulted the schedule:

Evidently I was the bland and flavorless luncheon meat between the two slices of white bread that were Axel Merckx and a bicycle-themed fashion show (as well as a member of the "Laughing At Ourselves" panel, because nothing is funnier than talking about comedy). I was also early, and the much-anticipated "Bike Maintenance Basics" show had only just gotten underway:

The crowd stared in rapt amazement as the presenter demonstrated how to fix a flat:

It was like a "Bicycling" magazine article come to life, and I may very well suggest to the editors of that magazine that they consider a "collabo" with David Mamet. I can imagine Aaron Eckart or Ed Harris or some other similarly masculine actor in the lead role. "Got a tight bead? Boo-fucking-hoo. Work that fucking tire lever, you feeble Fred!" I'm sure it would be an off-Broadway sensation. (I'd suggest they workshop it in Portland first, but half the audience would probably cry.)

Figuring I'd better take in some of the show before it was my turn to bore people, I tore myself away from the flat fix clinic and headed over to the biggest collection of classic bike porn I've ever seen:

Retro-grouches were practically wetting their wool in excitement:

There were Masis:

And Paramounts:

And primitive Campagnolo rod shifters being pointed at by disembodied hands:

Speaking of Campy, did you know that brakeless hipsters love Delta brakes?

It's true, they do--though it may just be because they don't work.

I was also shocked to learn that Specialized actually didn't invent the concept of cyclocross when they launched their "Tricross" line:

And that before they became a clearinghouse for stupid MASH "collabos," Cinelli actually made bicycles:

And that smugness existed long before I got a Big Dummy:

Sooner or later though you've got to heed the call of the present (unless you're serial retrogrouch and ├╝ber-curmudgeon Jobst Brandt) and so I tore myself away from the classic bike porn, only to find that the present was simply copying the past. Here's an "homage" to the Bridgestone XO-1, a bicycle highly coveted by the wool-socks-with-sandals set:

This would explain the animatronic Grant Petersen I had seen at the Roboquest Camp-In.

Of course, we all know the measure of a man is the "beefiness" of his bottom bracket, though in rainy Seattle it's also the length of his mudflaps:

I didn't have the heart to tell them that their mudflaps were tiny by Portland standards, and that by the time the typical Portlander gets to Powell's Books his mudflap is still on the Hawthorne Bridge.

This booth got me very excited:

Until I realized they weren't offering free Bar Mitzvahs and were instead displaying a glove that attaches to your handlebar instead of your hand:

Dejected, I threw my tallis in the trash and continued on.

Fortunately, while the Expo may have neglected the faithful, they didn't forget the Freds, thanks to the dazzling Hall of Mirrors:

I understand CycleAware is working on a new helmet mirror that will allow you to safely admire the graphic of your own Primal jersey while you ride.

Speaking of Freds, the more ambitious ones like to hire coaches, and the Wenzel Coaching booth featured a man riding eternally on rollers:

I suppose this was meant to demonstrate how Wenzel Coaching will thoroughly domesticate you by breaking your will and your spirit--and if they're not successful, they'll lock you inside this device, which they simply call "The Reconditioner":

This look only means one thing: "You're next":

Speaking of breaking one's spirit, I would imagine forcing someone to demonstrate "butt cream" all weekend would also be a pretty good method:

Anyway, it was getting close to showtime for me, which I knew because the woman with the red bag was pointing at her watch, and I'm pretty sure she actually said, "We better get the hell out of here before that BSNYC douchebag goes on":

So I high-tailed it to the stage, rushing right past the Renovo booth:

Reovo, of course, makes wooden bikes for some reason, and as you can see they were displaying their latest model called "The Chair."

I also ran through the section I call the "Bamboo Ghetto," which has evidently now become a bike show staple:

In any case, my solo presentation was well-attended, though the Laughing at Ourselves panel was somewhat less of a draw and had people sleeping and checking their smartphones with excitement:

That evening, I made the obligatory post-Expo party rounds, but once the drunken thumb-wrestling matches broke out I knew that was my signal to retire to the Roboquest:

Seattle was an unfamiliar city, but fortunately I had the Space Needle to orient myself:

It's surprisingly creepy in person--which is probably what the people who came to my talk said about me.

In any case, the next morning it was time to return to the Expo, and the Cascade Bicycle Club had organized a ride:

I'd like to say that all of these people came out to ride with me, but the truth is most of them are waiting for the bus.

There was an impressive assortment of bicycles though:

Including a Big Dummy outfitted for dual child-portaging and which, in smugness terms, thoroughly dwarfed my own:

On the way to the Expo we did some sightseeing, and it probably won't surprise you that Seattle is so wet they've just said "Fuck it" and put a fountain in their velodrome:

We also happened upon a DeLorean show:

The owner seemed affable, though he's doubtless one more "Hey, that's the 'Back To The Future' car!" comment away from punching somebody in the mouth:

Then we hit the lovely and scenic waterfront:

Savored the view:

And arrived at the Expo, where the stage was set for me to bore anybody I hadn't already bored yesterday:

Retreating behind the scrim, I changed into my chicken suit and performed my customary pre-show ritual:

I then stepped onto the stage, where I was pelted with rotten fruit.

It wasn't all bad, though, and someone did slip me this after the show:

Sure, Sally is a man who works for Raleigh, but I was flattered nonetheless. I also figured I had a few hours before it was time to leave town, and I tried every area code in Washington State before finally giving up.

I think the number may be a fake.


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