Thursday, 31 March 2011

The Indignity of Commuting by Bicycle: Putting the "Meh" in Reme(h)dial

While this blog is ostensibly about "shed culture," I occasionally enjoy exploring other subjects such as bicycles, urban alpaca farming, and, of course, axes. That's why I feel it recumbent upon me to share with you the following recall, of which I was informed by a reader:

Yes, you read that right. The Gerber® Gator® Combo Axe--which is an axe with a knife inside the handle--is being recalled because it poses a "laceration hazard:"

Now, I may be a bit naive in the ways of cutting tools, but isn't the whole point of an axe with a knife on the inside to lacerate stuff? What's next, recalling Jack Daniel's because it's causing slurred speech, impaired motor funcion, and ill-advised sexual liaisons in some users? Last I checked, this was America--Canada's septic tank--and dadgummit I a-member a time when if a feller sauntered on down to the trading post and swapped a hunnert beaver pelts for a axe with a knife on the inside then that feller knew dolgarned well that he might git cut.

Then again, I suppose maybe an axe with a knife in the handle that's held in place by a magnet isn't such a great idea after all:

This seems like the kind of thing Specialized would design if they went into the axe business. I'm sure they'd market it as a laterally stiff yet vertically compliant "all-cutting" tool perfect for the serial killer who needs all the raw dismemberment power of an axe yet at the same time wants ready access to a knife so he can easily remove small body parts like ears and pinkies to add to his twisted trophy case. (Of course, it would also be made of crabon and have a Zertz insert in the handle.)

Most surprising though is that Gerber is located in my new hometown of Portland (though their wares are made in Taiwan) and frankly I'm disgusted that my smug neighbors would stand for this kind of shoddy outsourced "curation." As we say here Stumptownsburg, "Go artisanal or go home."

Speaking of going home, yesterday I temporarily repatriated to my ancestral home of New York City. After three whole days of pretending to live in Portland I was becoming a bit homesick, and I'm pleased to report that a leisurely ride from Brooklyn to Manhattan all but cured me of that condition.

Since beginning this blog back in 1972 I've been fortunate enough to travel to and ride in other cities, and I have to say that while New York City is on the "cutting edge" of many things (cuisine, media, art, mindless consumerism, soulless trend-mongering) I now realize it is very much a remedial city as far as cycling is concerned. Sure, the fixed-gear trend, the Dutch bike trend, and the moribund bike lane experiment have conspired to foster a new age of "practical" cycling here, but watching riders figure out how the whole thing works is like watching my helper monkey, Vito, try to carve a Thanksgiving turkey with a recalled Gerber® Gator® Combo Axe--by which I mean it's awkward and nauseating and you're lucky to come away from the whole debacle with all your limbs. Just stand on the Williamsburg Bridge for awhile and watch the legions of Nü-Freds streaming across it in their crooked skateboard helmets and with a look of terror in their eyes like doomed draftees storming the beach at Normandy and you'll know what I'm talking about.

However, some cycling sights in New York City predate this latest "boom," and one of these is the man in a sweatsuit riding a tricked-out mountain bike:

Just as the track bike appeals to fans of indie music and Apple products, so does the mountain bike appeal to the sorts of people who listen to club music even in their homes and who apply liberal amounts of cologne at all times in hopes that it will act as chloroform and incapacitate any woman foolish enough to come close enough to them.

In this particular instance the gentleman who shoaled me was not only clad in a tracksuit and riding a cross-country mountain bike complete with slicks and platform pedals, but he was also wearing Ferrari sneakers:

This is textbook "cycle chic" among the Eastern Bloc set.

Even more impressive was this singlespeed conversion, which marries the homespun rattlecan customization of yesteryear with the fixie "flambullience" of today:

That "colorway" is known as "LiveTarck."

In addition to the Nü-Fred phenomenon, another manifestation of New York City's remedial approach to cycling is in the recent proliferation of people salmoning on "bake feets:"

("Can we play 'chicken' with the taxis again, mommy? Pleeeze?")

I'm not sure what compels increasing numbers of wealthy New Yorkers to throw their children into wheelbarrows and then set out straight into oncoming traffic, but this is what's happening. I suppose it's because these are the sorts of entitled people who until recently triple-parked their luxury SUVs in front of their children's private schools but have since become born-again environmentalists. However, while their "carbon footprint" may be smaller, their ego and sense of entitlement are as bloated as ever, thus the notion that some tragedy could befall their Italian Ice Cart of Smugness is positively unthinkable. Still, you've got to hand it to them: It's a brave statement to "portage" your children by "bake feets" and leave the Range Rover out at the house in Southampton.

By the way, I have a sinking feeling that these parents are raising a generation of super-hipsters that will make our current crop seem like Tom Brokaw's "greatest generation." What's more, they're raising them in boxes like they're tulip bulbs:

It's like a Skinner Box of Smugness.

Then again, they may be on to something, since that particular contraption has three wheels and is not technically a bicycle. Therefore, they may very well have found a loophole through which to escape New York City's ongoing bicycle crackdown. This would also explain why young couples are doubling up on contraptions like this:

Hopefully I can physically move from here before they force us all onto Segways.

By the way, here in New York the bicycle backlash is inextricably intertwined with the hipster backlash:

Granted, I'm sure the above sticker is ironic, since only hipsters go around stickering street signs with designs they curated on their MacBook Pros, but nevertheless the backlash is real. In fact, commenter Ant1 informs me they're among New Yorkers' top annoyances:

As you can see, that's a New York Post survey, and I find it telling that the readers of that paper can't stand any of the above, yet they're perfectly fine with crime, bedbugs, police brutality, high taxes, public school layoffs, and rats that crawl all over your face while you're riding the subway.

No wonder it's so easy to make them hate bike lanes. It takes their minds off all the itching caused by the insects that are feasting off their blood in the night.

Speaking of hipsters, another reader informs me that the TV show "Triple Rush" is on the lookout for "Skid Extras:"

Skid Extras
Date: 2011-03-29, 8:43PM EDT
Reply to: [deleted]

Needed for next seasons Triple Rush messengers reality show
This time we're stepping it up to include more Hipster Culture. So we need extras with Top Fixed Gear Skills that want to show them off.
Shooting begins late spring and ends mid summer so we need you to apply NOW!
Reply with photo of your bike and any still shots of you doing "Fixie Tricks."
This is an example of what we're looking for.

Sadly, I'm certain the post is fake--not because its ridiculous in itself, but because there's no way "Triple Rush" will go past the first season.


Post a Comment

Ping Blog

Step 1
Blog URL:

Blog Title (optional):

Blog RSS Feed (optional):

I agree with terms of service.

Step 2
Copy the following code and put it on your blog/site to help our blog ping tool track your submission (Need help?):

Design by Free WordPress Themes | Bloggerized by Lasantha - Premium Blogger Themes | Best Buy Coupons