Monday, 15 August 2011

Life on the Open Road: Buzzkills and Vibration Damping

Before we begin, it is recumbent upon me to make two (2) important announcements:

1) Today's post will be something of a departure for me, focussing mostly on my newfound hobby of artisanal urban pickling;


2) On this past Friday's quiz, dated August 12th, 2011, the shoddy overseas testing service I use made a mistake on question three (3). In case you missed the quiz because you skipped school that day and were getting high while throwing bottles at passing trains instead, this was the question:

3) After happening upon a marijuana patch while out on a Wednesday ride, a California cyclist immediately:

The correct answer was "Called the police." However, the testing service originally inserted the wrong link (it's since been fixed), and had you clicked on the right answer what you should have seen this:

The irony that this "epic" instance of "narcing" took place on a Wednesday aside, I think it's a shame that the whistle-blowing cyclist is the subject of derision. Instead, he should be commended for alerting the authorities to the presence of a controlled substance. What if, instead of an adult cyclist, a group of kindergardeners had happened upon this marijuana patch and inadvertently consumed the substance with their Fisher Price bongs? Imagine the disaster that would have ensued: Fruit Roll-Up binges; incessant giggling; three hour conversations about the homoerotic subtexts of the "Barney & Friends" TV show... Their precious little brains could be warped forever, and everybody knows that children should be eating McDonald's and not thinking too deeply about stuff. It's for their own good. So instead of calling the cyclist "SeƱor Buzzkill," they should call him "Generalissimo Awesome," for he's truly an American hero--just like our brave and selfless day traders.

Anyway, given the error, please add one million bonus points to your quiz grade for Friday--or, if you prefer, I'll send you a jar of my very own homemade artisanally pickled Fruit Roll-Ups instead. They're totally delicious. Like, a bunch of us meet up every weekend in a bar in Park Slope (many of us with our children, who all have long hair and last names for first names) and share pickling tips and recipes. Our urban pickling club is even going to be profiled in one of those annoying New York Times trend pieces. Plus, we even have a few members who live in tiny houses, and who pickle individual corn kernels inside of tiny vials. Either way, whether you choose the bonus points or the edible handicrafts, please have your parents sign your quiz and then mail it to the following address:

BSNYC Educational Learning Systems, Inc.
c/0 Teach-O-Mat Conformity Factory
6rd Floor #2, Bannerghatta Road Bangalore-560029

Thank you for your patience and understanding.

Speaking of the New York Times, I wonder if Bruce Weber has found any marijuana patches so far during his cross-country cycling trip:

If he has, he's not saying. Either way, I briefly mentioned Mr. Weber's trip about a month or so ago and it seems as though he's since managed to put some distance between himself and the Pacific Ocean--though not without experiencing what Paul Sherwen would call the occasional "spot of bother." In any case, a number of readers brought this article to my attention, and in reading it I came to the realization that I could never, ever ride across the United States. For one thing, my geography's pretty hazy, but I don't think it would be possible to design a route that allowed me to avoid every single state except California and New York. (Other states scare me, especially the ones in the middle part.) For another, there's no way I could stand the barrage of Fredly "advice" from people who think they know better. Here's just a bit of what Bruce Weber has had to put up with so far:

Those Shorts!

Ditch those baggy shorts (you’re not going surfing) and buy some good padded biking shorts. You’ll feel much more comfortable and less prone to chafing. Didn’t your mother teach you anything?

B. S .B., Princeton, N.J.

Didn't your mother teach you to mind your own business? I'm sure he's got some cycling shorts underneath his baggy shorts, and I'd also imagine he's got his reasons for wearing them. Maybe he's insecure. Maybe he wants the extra pockets. Maybe when he clomps into some weird desert gas station he doesn't want to offend the locals with the visible outline of his penis. Or maybe he just finds the "whoosh, whoosh" sounds soothing. Anyway, not everybody is a paradigm of roadie style, like this guy:

Here's some more unsolicited advice:

Rethink Those Handlebars ...

I agree with those who’ve questioned the straight handlebar. I also think this is a mistake. A straight bar gives you only one position for your hands and, as others have pointed out, offers no option to drop down when you’re pedaling into the wind. A turned down handlebar gives a variety of hand positions, and some of the new ones, like the Cinelli Neo Morphe, add flat spots and bumps so you get even more hand positions.

Nicole Hamilton, Redmond, Wash.

I too think the flat bar is an odd choice, but the writer has ridden across the country before, and if he likes his flat bars then he likes his flat bars. (Plus, they do go well with his baggy shorts.) Either way, of all the drop bars to recommend to someone who's on a cross-country tour, would you really choose the overpriced lumpy crabon Cinelli "Neo Morphe?"

I knew these bars looked familiar. At first I thought it was because it looks like the sort of thing that might fall off your baby stroller and that you'd just throw away, since you have no idea how to put it back or in fact where it even came from, and anyway the stroller seems to work just fine without it. But then I realized I had actually written a fake review of this bar back in 2007--it's the one that has labels for the "Power Zone," the "3 Finger Zone," and so forth. (As it happens, Mario Cipollini has similar labeling on his "Little Mario.") Actually, maybe Rivendell should get into the crabon touring bar movement. Their bar could have a "Handlebar Bag Zone," and a "Friction Bar End Shifter Zone," and a "Bell Zone," and even an "Ornery Zone" for when you pass someone whose stem is insufficiently lofty.

Anyway, there's a point at which ergonomics give way to contortions, and with its vast array of superfluous bends and indentations the embodiment of this point is the Cinelli Neo Morphe. If you want to spend a bunch of money to steer your bike with something misshapen you might as well just wrap some sort of ultra-modern desk lamp and bolt it to your stem.

Plus, I'm sure if Mr. Weber was unhappy with his bars he'd change them, just like he did his gearing:

And most notably, after experiencing some of the hills between the Oregon coast and the Columbia River Gorge (O.K., I had to dismount and walk a few times, damn it), I stopped in Hood River, Ore., where the mechanics at Mountain View Cycles replaced the rear cassette on my gearing unit, giving me larger chain rings that allow for easier pedaling uphill.

I doubt larger chain rings would be a good idea for easier pedaling uphill, but then again maybe it doesn't matter if you use Neo Morphs and you put your hands in the "Power Zone."

The greatest piece of advice though was this one:

...Along With Your Bike

I ride a lot. My best road bike cost $14,000 (custom full-carbon). I think you’re underserved by a steel bike. But then, I’m old (75), though I do log 5,000 miles per year cycling, in the U.S. and Europe.

jbailiff, Stevens Point, Wis.

For a brief moment I thought for sure this was written by Larry Olmsted, but then I saw the name. (Also, Larry's a titanium guy.) I agree that Bruce Weber is underserved by a steel bike, and he really should have gone with a crabon racing bike that, while being wildly unsuited ot the task at hand, would nevertheless be a better fit with his Cinelli Neo Morphe bars. Really, it's too bad there wasn't someone around to punch him before he strayed from the Crabon Weave Road.

We're off to see the Fred
The Wonderful Fred of Crabon
Because, because, because, because, because
Because he's laterally stiff and vertically compliant
We're off to see the Fred
The Wonderful Fred of Crabon!

The only thing missing from the article is someone writing in and calling Bruce Weber an idiot for not doing his cross-country tour on a tall bike, like these riders to whom I was alerted by a reader:

Though I do find it ironic that, after going through all the trouble of welding two bikes together, he still needs a foot of spacers and a nearly vertical stem:

Clearly he should have listened to Larry Olmsted and gotten a custom tall Seven.

In any case, maybe when they all finally reach the east coast they can move into this "cycling co-op," of which I was informed by another reader:

Cycling Co-op (Cambridge or Brighton)

Date: 2011-08-12, 5:44PM EDT

Reply to: [deleted]

I decided that I wanted to get involved in something different and unique, so the idea came along to get a housing co-op based around cycling. Pretty much I am looking for a group of cycling enthusiasts to share a place with. The idea is to find anything from a 5 bed to a 8 bed averaging around 500-600 a person + utilities. All types welcome, from bmx to fixed to road to touring. All can apply. The biggest thing would be focusing on the community aspect of the house, so in an ideal world we would tool share and cycle together. (if possible, setting up a small shop in the basement for our use.) If you are interested give me an email and we can see whats up.

I'm not sure if he's trying to found a utopian society or a reality TV show, but either way he should just save himself a lot of time and energy and move to Portland, since that's exactly what he's described in his post.


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