Monday, 20 June 2011

Simply Complicated: Give Me Inconvenience or Give Me Death

Despite the many scientific discoveries humankind has made over the centuries, certain aspects of life remain enshrouded in mystery. What is human consciousness? What is the universe made of? Is there life on other planets, and if so why does it seem so determined to probe us? We may never know.

The world of cycling also has its share of unsolved mysteries, and if you're high-end cycling clothing manufacturer Assos one of the most vexing is apparently the workings of the clipless road pedal. Some time ago I posted this ad:

In which the model's foot dangles flaccidly next to his pedal:

It's tempting to dismiss this sort of thing as an oversight. However, a reader recently forwarded me another Assos "Sponsor Yourself" ad from VeloNews:

In which the model does manage to place his feet upon the pedals:

Though he's using an entirely incompatible pair of cleats:

At this rate it could be years before the people at Assos not only discover a pedal/cleat combination that actually works together, but also figure out how to make the cleat thingy go into the pedal thingy. I'd imagine primitive man went through much the same process before he figured out how to make fire, and he probably rubbed all sorts of things together--mud, fish, rabbits--before he figured out which combination actually caused combustion.

Still, going through this lengthy trial-and-error process in public is not good for their image (not to mention expensive), and they'd probably be better off going with something like this in the meantime:

Say what you will about the time-traveling retro-Fred, but at least he's got his lace-up shoes planted firmly on his flat pedals. Clipless pedals would only hold him back, and the only cleat he needs is that little SPD-looking tuft of hair beneath his lower lip.

By the way, in case anybody from Assos is reading, the cleat the second model should be using looks like this:

The "genius" of the Speedplay pedal, besides offering more float than the Dead Sea, is that it tricks roadies into thinking they are buying a minimalist pedal when in fact they are bolting a piece of hardware to their shoes that looks like it belongs on an office swivel chair. Roadies have an uncanny ability to rationalize any excess so long as it's not actually on the bicycle. This is because, just as dogs like to sniff each each other's rear ends, Freds like to lift each other's bikes at coffee shops, and it's important that the bike feel as light as possible. This is also why so many Freds will spend thousands of dollars on crabon wheels, yet are content to carry midriffs that make them appear to be great with child. If the "coffee shop lift" were done with stomachs instead of bicycles then the high end component market would simply vanish overnight.

Speaking of upgrades, Shimano's electric shifting is now "trickling down" to Ultegra:

I'm very excited about this for two reasons. Firstly, I want to "curate" an appropriately ironic singlespeed for the next SSCXWC, and few singlespeed setups would be more ironic than an electric drivetrain with no battery. Sure, at over $700 the Di2 rear derailleur had great potential to be the world's most expensive chain tensioner, but now that it's available in an Ultegra version my dream singlespeed is that much closer to affordability.

Secondly, if electric shifting keeps trickling down all the way to the lower end bikes then all those people who ride in Central Park on the weekends will finally be able to not know how to shift their bikes electronically instead of mechanically. When electric shifting finally reaches the masses, it will be like buying your grandmother a "smartphone" to replace the ordinary cellphone that already confuses and frightens her. Plus, when everybody in the New York area has to charge their empty drivetrains the night before the Five Boro Bike Tour the strain on the power grid should cause a repeat of the Blackout of 2003.

Of course, it's just these sorts consumer excesses that result in "movements" like singlespeeding, and fixed-gear cycling, and minimalism, and artisanal everything. Unfortunately, most of these movements eventually become excessive themselves, and in their pursuit of simplicity they become absurdly complicated. Consider the following article, which was forwarded to me by a reader:

Apparently, some hipsters decided that dessert these days simply isn't artisanal enough, so they imported a bunch of cocoa on an old-timey ship:

Two years ago a pair of bearded brothers decided to try importing cocoa for their Williamsburg chocolate factory—which focuses on simple, ecologically friendly sweets—by sail. They hoped it would save energy, help lure environmentally conscious buyers, and, maybe eventually, cost less. Their ship finally came in from the Dominican Republic on Monday night.

Naturally, this was needlessly expensive and wildly inconvenient:

Mast Brothers' will turn its cocoa beans into chocolate over the next year. They'll sell it to big-name chefs like Thomas Keller and Dan Barber and in grocery stores like Dean & DeLuca. Mr. Mast estimates that the Black Seal's shipment of cocoa will end up costing 25% to 30% more than usual. But he hopes to repeat the trip again and expects costs to decline as the company make its shipping operation more efficient.

I have no doubt that wealthy people in New York will gladly pay a 30% premium for anything made from these beans. As the saying goes, "You are what you eat," and since wealthy New Yorkers are pretentious pains in the ass it stands to reason that they'd want this reflected in the manner in which their dessert was imported.

Of course, if the bearded hipster brothers wanted to save energy they simply could have had it shipped in the regular way and then gone and picked it up by cargo bicycle, but then I suppose they wouldn't have gotten to hang around in Red Hook talking about their schooner and pretending to be pirates.

Speaking of cargo bikes, it would appear that the SmugnessDex in New York City is currently at $600:

Xtracycle! I don't believe it either! - $600 (Battery Park)
Date: 2011-06-20, 7:48AM EDT
Reply to: [deleted]

I hauled everything from two kids to $300.00 worth of groceries. I love this bike!! It's been my "truck" for 3 years. But alas, my kids now have their own bikes and we moved right next to a grocery store.
As much as I love this amazing bike it's time to share the joy with someone new.
Newly tuned up, 7 speeds, wheel and seat locking system (key included) front basket, water bottle holder.
Please see personal pix and gallery pix from the xtracycle website

As a proud smugness flotilla owner myself, needless to say I did the smug version of the "coffee shop lift" by checking out their hauling technique:

That is some "epic" paper towel portage.


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