Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Subjective Realities: Lifestyles of the Dandy and Eccentric

In yesterday's post, entitled "America: The Wonderful World of Tube-Shaped Meats and Canned Cheeses," I posted the following picture:

And then made the following flippant remark:

I'm not one for fawning over bicycles, but I do believe that our bikes communicate with us, and what this bike is saying is, "You're an idiot."

Subsequently, a commenter made the following observation:

Bobby said...

Saying these woodland downhilling fixie hipsters are idiots because they burn through tires is a lot like saying rally car drivers are idiots because they damage their vehicles. Burnt tires don't detract from the physicality of the riders, the art in the way in which they've chosen to connect to their machines, and the rush of participating in risk-taking behavior. No, not idiots...

August 9, 2011 3:48 PM

I've never been one to shy away from intelligent discourse--provided of course that such discourse centers around an elementary subject, such as which packaged snack food is more delicious, or who was the best blonde on "Three's Company." (I gotta go with Terri on that one, she had a career and thus was the most empowering.) Beyond that, I'm hopelessly out of my depth.

Nevetheless, Bobby's comment made me think. (It also made me drool, because I drool when I think. Also, I have trouble thinking and typing at the same ditniewfnnn.) Mostly, what I thought was that the hillbombers are nothing like rally car drivers, since rally car drivers use specialized equipment on closed courses and the hillbombers use the most ill-suited equipment possible on public roads. Actually, in my opinion, the hillbombers are more like unlicensed drivers in Formula One cars with no brakes who are rallying in a national park. At best, maybe they're the guy in your neighborhood with the flat-brim hat and the Honda Civic who's into "drifting" and winds up in the New York Post because he slammed into a gas station at 4am.

Still, I do think Bobby makes an interesting point, which is that when it comes to sporting endeavors "idiotic" is highly subjective, and that one person's pastime is another person's idiocy. I mean, there are people out there who believe that anybody who rides a bike is an idiot. (These people are called "Americans.") So why is whip-skidding down a mountain idiotic, but barreling down one on a full-suspension bicycle is not? (Depending on whether or not you think downhill mountain biking is idiotic, which is a whole other debate.)

Well, after giving it about 19 seconds of thought, I came up with a criterion (not a criterium) for what constitutes silly recreational cycling behavior--at least for me. It's not meant to be a judgment; rather, it's my own personal way of qualifying my own opinions. Basically, my criterion for silly cycling is this:

If it's a type of riding that is already well-established, only you're using the wrong bike for it, then it's silly.

See? Simple. For example:

--Doing tricks on BMX bikes=not silly. Doing tricks on fixed-gear bikes=silly.

--Commuting on commuter bikes=not silly. Commuting on custom titanium bikes=silly.

--Riding downhill fast on bikes with brakes=not silly. Riding downhill fast on bikes with no brakes=silly.

Sure, I know what you're thinking: "Who's to say what's the 'wrong' bike? What about my rad-tastic mountain-bike-trail-on-a-cyclocross-bike 'epic,' or my compulsion to be the token singlespeeder at any competitive cycling event?" Well, rest assured I don't mean using a bike that's perhaps not optimal--I mean, we all enjoy a challenge. Still, I do think there's a point at which the bike you're using is just wrong, and one of the signs of this is when you like riding bikes downhill but your tire frequently explodes in high-speed situations, leaving you with no other means of slowing the bike:

Of course, it's human nature to want to do things "wrong." We are genetically programmed to disregard sound advice from more experienced people and instead repeat their mistakes. This is why, despite all our nifty technology, our collective consciousness is only slightly more elevated than it was thousands of years ago. Basically, the human condition consists of doing really stupid stuff over and over again, and as such our advancement is barely perceptible. It's sort of an "intellectual creep." I guess that's what happens when you have to spread a learning curve over billions of people. Anyway, "intellectual creep" is why we're all still looting and killing each other, and it's also why it will take these hillbombers years before one of them realizes, "Hey, why don't we try this on road bikes?"

Anyway, if the hillbombing bike is saying "You're an idiot," what is this bike saying?

The above bicycle was photographed by a reader in (I shouldn't even have to bother typing the next word) Portland. I suspect it actually fell from the future through a wormhole in time, and that it's actually the Flying Pigeon Coquettish Hilpstress's bike 20 years from now--you know, when she has 19 cats, her apartment has gone from "shabby chic" to just plain shabby, and she is officially eccentric.

Still, I have no idea what the bike is saying, for it speaks of a lifestyle I'm simply not equipped to envision:

I mean, I know abstractly that people in Portland lead the kind of lifestyles that require them to carry bird cages and tattered paperbacks and whimsical tapestries and multiple yoga mats and plastic bags full of fanzines and a whole lot of what at least appears to be burlap, but I can't imagine what it would actually be like to be such a person in the same way I'll never truly understand what it feels like to, say, be a dolphin, or to be sand on a beach. Like, what does this person actually think about in the morning? Do they soberly and rationally think, "OK, better load up the Peugeot with delightful bric-a-brac since I have a hard day of reading, stretching, sack racing, and general pretending ahead of me"? Or is it simply instinctual and mindless animal behavior, like the way magpies steal shiny things?

Honestly, it's impossible for me to say, though I do suspect the New York City equivalent of this person is the "dandy" who has his dandying supplies delivered by bicycle, a service of which I was informed by another reader:

This is terrific news if you ever find yourself on a naked ride that gets harassed by the cops, because with a simple phone call you can place an order and transform it into a tweed ride. Still this operation clearly has no credibility, since no self-respecting dandy would either ride or accept a delivery from what at least appears to be an ill-fitting "vintage"-styled Huffy.

Also, how would you know that your toe finally poked through your sock if you were at work? Presumably you'd be wearing your shoes, so you really wouldn't have any idea. Or do dandies tend to work shoeless? For that matter, do dandies even work? I thought they just spent their days at roll-top desks writing letters to relatives on expensive stationary asking them for advances on their trusts.

Equally vexing is the mystery of this cockpit, which was forwarded to me by yet another reader:

I don't know what purpose this structure serves, but I do know PVC is the crabon of the DIY cockpit enthusiast.


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