Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Wish You Were Here

Good morning!

Somehow I've found myself here:


Given this, I'll be even more aloof than usual this week.  In fact, I've even signed off the Bike Forecast until Monday, since filing daily dispatches about cycling in New York City from the beach just didn't seem ethical...though if I were able to get away with it then maybe I could leave the city permanently and nobody would be the wiser.

Ah, who am I kidding, I'm never leaving.  So far the closest I've ever come is that time back in 2011 when I fake-moved to Portland.  Indeed, I was so relevant in those heady days that The Oregonian even reported on it.  (Though I suppose that could have less to do with how relevant I was and more to do with how little there is to report in Oregon.)  Still, what cyclist doesn't occasionally fantasize about pulling up stakes and moving to a bicycle-themed apartment complex in the Town That Beards Built?


So sold was I that I immediately headed over to their website to put down a security deposit, but they wanted a beard hair sample and letters of recommendation from no fewer than three (3) Oberlin professors and so I didn't even bother browsing the listings.

Finally, before I recede into those azure waters, here's something to think about:

In the wake of the Florida school shooting US bike advocate Aaron Naparstek is calling for a boycott of Giro, Bell, Camelbak, CoPilot and other bike brands owned by Vista Outdoor, America's largest manufacturer of ammunition. This $3bn company is also a corporate supporter of the gun lobby’s mouthpiece, the National Rifle Association, he said.

"The same company that manufactures your CoPilot rear-rack child bicycle safety seat also produces the SavageArms MSR 15 Patrol assault rife," tweeted Naparstek last night.

I've been boycotting helmets anyway so I'm halfway there.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Farewell Yuba, I Hardly Knew Ye.

Good morning!

First things first, I've got a new Outside column on Outside's website:

It's all about my experiences riding the Yuba Supermarché and the sociological implications thereof...though yesterday I officially returned the bike because they asked for it back.  This involved a 20-mile ride from my Bronx estate to 718 Cyclery in Brooklyn, who you should be sure to visit for all your adventure and cargo bike needs:

It snowed here on Saturday night, so when I approached the bike yesterday morning here's what it looked like:

I briefly considered leaving the snow in the tub to enhance my workout, but instead I leaned the bike over and dumped out the snow in the middle of the street.  Then I shoved off, sticking to the surface roads since the Hudson River Greenway was undoubtedly a mess.  Things were a little messy at first, and I'd have rather been on the greenway than in amongst the car traffic on a large bicycle, but by the time I reached Central Park I was pedaling through a winter idyll:

So was this guy:

And yes, he was listening to a handlebar-mounted speaker system.

Anyway, all was going well until the bike started going a little squirmy, and that's when I realized I had a front flat.  Naturally I'd brought no flat-fixing supplies with me whatsoever, but fortunately there's a bike rental place on 7th Avenue just outside the park, and so I availed myself of their mechanical services:

The gentleman who performed the repair declared himself the "flat king," inasmuch as he services all the pedicabs and various other pedal-powered conveyances that exist in the tourist ecosystem around Central Park, and said he repairs 50 a week.  At $20 a pop (see what I did there?) that's a cool grand a week in flats alone, unless of course I paid the sucker rate.  (Honestly I have no idea what the going rate is for flat repair these days.)  But I was in no position to haggle at this stage of my journey, and at any rate he earned every penny because I was up and running again just as fast as you can say, "Lemme run across to the ATM real quick," and I was grateful for his services.

Hey, it's pretty much impossible to make it through midtown without parting with $20 one way or another, so consider it congestion pricing.

Finally I crossed the Manhattan Bridge and alighted in Brooklyn, but before dropping off the bike I figured I'd stop at Whole Foods and make one last farewell haul:

The Gowanus Whole Foods has ample bike racks, though even the progressive (by American standards) designers of this yupster flagship didn't account for cargo bikes.  Therefore, parking was a bit awkward, but I made it work:

Then I made scant use of the bike's voluminous hauling capacity by loading up on six (6) whole cans of beer to gift to 718 because I felt guilty about returning the bike in such a filthy state:

Once I'd discharged the bike and the beer, I figured 20 miles of riding a heavy bicycle (which I didn't Strava, by the way, because my Apple watch was acting all wonky) wasn't enough, and so I grabbed a Citi Bike for the next leg of my journey.  Despite its size and heft the Yuba is quite easy to ride, and even my long trip on it was quite manageable.  Still, it was a bit of a relief to get onto a bicycle with a "short" wheelbase, if only because I didn't have to be so careful about accidentally blocking the crosswalks.

It's also worth noting that by now (in Brooklyn anyway) most of the snow had disappeared, though you've got to give motorists credit for still finding a way to obscure their visibility with it:

Seriously, it's two swipes with the snow brush, what's so hard about that?

Then, before leaving Brooklyn, I docked the Citi Bike bought myself a drink:

Because I deserve it, dammit.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Black Wednesday

So where were you when the Great Strava Blackout Of '18 hit?

That's right, yesterday afternoon the Fredliverse reeled as the world's foremost digital wank bank was, for a tortuous stretch of time, "temporarily unavailable".  Even if you weren't a Strava user you knew something was amiss, as Freds and Fredericas all over the world suddenly dismounted and stood there like automatons seeking a Wi-Fi signal, uncertain as to what to do next:

Oh sure, they could have continued riding while Strava was down, but to what end?  To the true roadie, the unrecorded pedal stroke is not worth turning, and churning away as potential data vanishes into the void is like pouring fine champagne down the storm drain, or like a prize stallion spilling his thoroughbred seed upon the parched earth instead of into a fertile mare.

I'll never forget where I was: clomping back upstairs after a Fred ride when, to my chagrin, my ride was taking longer to upload than usual.  How I longed to retrace the contours of the ride, to see my feeble output quantified...  But no!  The activity simply failed to materialize, and I wondered if I'd even ridden my bicycle in the first place.

Would I have to do it all over again?  Without digital confirmation that I'd done something, how could I know???

Such is the conundrum of 21st century life.  What's the point of bon mots if we don't tweet them?  Why ingest a delicious meal if you're not going to Instagram it?  Why hoist yourself upon the bowl if you're not going to log the results into a poop tracker?

Track your bowel movements with this simple poop log app. Ever wonder what your bowel movements mean and how they affect your health? Curious to find out how frequently you suffer from bowel conditions like constipation, diarrhea, or bloody stool? Do you know if your diet is causing you constipation or diarrhea? Well now tracking your bowel movements is easier than ever. 

It's good to know there are other Stool Freds out there.

Oh sure, there was a time when I eschewed Strava, and when I mocked it for being the cycling equivalent of this:

And now that I'm using it I know this to be true, and that the sad, captive, pud-pulling ape above is me.

Though when you think about it, isn't he all of us?

Given my tendency to eventually succumb to that which I mock, my greatest fear is now that I start using Zwift.  I like to think that this will never happen, for the simple reason that I have no place for a stationary Fred setup like this one:

Is there anything sadder than a half-dressed Fred grinding away on half a bicycle?  I don't know, but the power of Zwift to remove bicycles from the road rattles me to my core:

But here is the somewhat baleful truth about why I wasn’t riding outside: I just didn’t feel like it. (Note: If you’ve read this far without knowing what Zwift is, you need to get inside more.) This is a hard thing to say, one that I fear may see me exiled permanently from the cycling tribe, but there are times when I actually prefer Zwift—when I even hope for some Nor’easter to blow into town so I can maintain a shred of self-respect while crawling into my pain cave. Shame about the weather, heh, guess I’ll have to get on the trainer.

None of this is to say I don't understand.  I totally do.  In an attempt to feed both your cycling addition and your data feed it's easy to see how doing so in this manner may be tempting.  However, I do have one advantage, and that's geography:

But I am beginning to shake these feelings. For one, I enjoy an epic ride as much as the next cyclist, when I have time. Living in Brooklyn, New York, means I have, basically, two major ride options. The best choice is through Manhattan, across the George Washington Bridge, and up toward one of the Hudson River towns. But this is at least a four-hour ride, two hours of which are “junk miles” to get to and from the actual ride (a typically judgmental cyclist opinion—some might fail to see how riding through the world’s greatest city could be junk). This usually leaves laps around Brooklyn’s Prospect Park’s undulating oval. It is a beautiful ride, but one that I have done so many times I no longer actually see it. Since I’m already riding in a simulacrum, why not simply Zwift?

I know what he's talking about.  I used to live here:

And like 90% of the good riding is here:

Now I live here:

And I congratulate myself for my brilliant choice every single day.

Indeed, had I stayed in Brooklyn that very well could have been me toiling away in front of the Zwifting box.  Instead I'm just a Strava-addled doofus on a $10,000 wooden bicycle and deep in the throes of a midlife Fred crisis:

Speaking of which, yes, I'm still riding the Renovo, and yes, I'm still greatly enjoying it.  I haven't even had to charge the Di2 yet.  Indeed, I'm enjoying it so much I've made arrangements to keep it into the summer, which is when the real testing will begin.

Just stay away from me with your damn magnifying glasses.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Power of Prayer

For as long as we've been sentient we've pondered the purpose of existence.  Indeed, literature, art, and song all resonate with cries of "What does it all mean, anyway?"  Is life merely a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing?  Should we be content to cultivate our gardens?  Are we destined to boogie oogie oogie until we just can't boogie anymore?

Nobody knows.

Nevertheless, the search continues, which is why some of us turn to religion--and it turns out elite-level Freds and Fredericas are no exception, as VeloNews reports:

Amid the scene, a group of eight riders gather near the lobby bar and exchange hugs, greeting each other like old friends at a reunion. Veteran rider Ben King joins the group, as does Evan Huffman and Greg Daniel. One by one, they slip out of the room, walk down a hall, and into the silent back corner of the hotel’s empty bar. The conversation simmers, and the riders sit in silence.

Then they begin to pray.

Our Fred, who art in Lycra, crabon be thy frame...

The prayer session is another meeting of the cycling-centric ministry of Athletes In Action, the national Christian sports group that was founded nearly half a century ago. AIA’s cycling ministry is just five years old, launched in 2012 by Todd Henriksen, himself a talented racer whose pro career ended just shy of the European peloton. Henriksen and his co-chaplain, Brian Firle, crisscross the country during the season, holding prayer sessions for cyclists on the eves of the country’s largest races.

Frankly it's surprising it took this long, because if ever there was a sport to make people question their life choices it's cycling:

Riders in the UCI Continental ranks rarely perform in front of television cameras or huge crowds. How does one define his or her place within the cosmos when success depends on grabbing a water bottle from a team car?

“Everything they do is based on performance, and their value as a person is wrapped up in that,” Henriksen says. “As a Christian, you know that God loves you no matter what you do, no matter if you’re successful or not. That kind of thinking gives them a purpose-based identity. It gives a lot of freedom to live your life.”

Actually, if you think about it, there's really no sport that's more Christian than cycling.  Consider:

  • Guy acts like he can walk on water and heal the sick
  • One of his trusted disciples betrays him
  • Guy gets crucified
  • Guy comes back and starts a podcast nobody listens to

Come on, if Jesus came back you'd never know it.  The sad truth is that if the beatitudes were a tweet storm nobody would retweet it.


Of course, just like the early Christians who had to meet in secret, the Christians of the peloton are also a misunderstood minority:

“Most people think that if you’re Christian, you’re some crazy Bible thumper.”


Hey, I'm just being honest.  And I can assure you my feelings in this regard are by no means limited to Christians.  For example, one time we were in a restaurant we didn't realize was kosher and my wife took out an orange slice to feed to our baby.  Now, you can't bring filthy non-kosher food into a kosher establishment, and for all they know we could have been keeping that orange up a pig's ass.  Anyway, our inadvertent transgression caused a kerfuffle, and presumably they had to then scrub the place down like the candy bar scene in Caddyshack:

Now that's crazy.

All that aside, it is true that life in the peloton is life on earth distilled: a roiling, churning, all-consuming entity that alternately elevates the ego by dangling in front of it the prospect of victory, and then wears it away on the grinding wheel of pain and difficulty.  And amid this abject existence of oxygen debt, this stampeding herd of Lycra-clad haunches, this swarm of goo-slurping locusts (and mixed metaphors), it's hard not to come to the conclusion that if there is indeed a God then it's an Old Testament one who governs by attrition.  It's also hard not to conclude that the rules to which this God demands adherence are more or less arbitrary, and that the inconsistent manner in which this God punishes transgressions is equally so.  But it's easiest of all to conclude that all of that's irrelevant and it is what you make of it.  So if nothing else I supposed you've got to admire these people for seeking what Jesus represents in an environment where any evidence of those qualities is scant at best, though you've also got to admit that ultimately it's a place for the pragmatist--which is why it seems silly to expect Chris Froome not to race:

Froome is allowed to race while the case continues, although many in the cycling community — including UCI president David Lappartient — said he should sit out until a ruling is made. A decision, and any appeals, could take up to one year.

Sitting it out because people think you should just isn't how survival works.

Friday, February 9, 2018

People Can't Stop Saying Dumb Things About Bike Lanes

Bike lanes.  They've been compared to Nazis:

They've been accused of inducing a "dizzying type of vertigo" (as opposed to the non-dizzying type?):

And now, finally, the former mayor of San Luis Obispo has finally "gone there" and compared them to out-and-out rape:
Yeah, that's right, rape:

Just think about it: until now you probably had no idea who former San Luis Obispo mayor Ken Schwartz even was.  Now you know him as the person leaning jauntily on a white piano who uttered one of the dumbest and most insensitive things ever said by a human being:

It's a good thing he specified male penis, by the way.  That's an important distinction to make:

Also, somebody should probably tell him that he's watching too much Black Mirror and that self-riding bicycles which roam cities raping people aren't a thing yet:

So what is this "urban rape" anyway?  Well, apparently the city wants to put in a [gasp] bike boulevard:

In past meetings and city polls, community members have criticized adding bike pathways on the city’s north end, including Broad, Mission and Ramona streets. They believe bicyclists will be in harm’s way of motorists and disrupt the neighborhood’s parking and traffic flow.

Others say it will provide needed safe cycling routes to Cal Poly and Foothill Boulevard, as well as for area children getting to school.

Wow, making the streets safe for children getting to school?  Now that definitely sounds rapey.

Actually, the only explanation for Ken Schwartz's letter that makes any sense is that he suffers from a rare brain disorder which makes him think "rape" means "make safer."

Yes, spare some sympathy for poor Ken Schwartz, who lives in a lonely world where these are called rape goggles:

This is a rape pin:

And where in 1983 Canadian synth-pop sensation Men Without Hats delighted the world with this catchy number:


On second thought, don't spare him any sympathy, he's clearly a giant asshole.

Anyway, if people on bicycles constitutes urban rape I'd love to know what this schmuck thinks cars have been doing to us all these years.

Speaking of words that don't mean what people think they mean, meet the Freedom Bottle, the hydration system which reduces your versatile bottle-and-cage system to a proprietary pin for some reason:

Here's the pin:

"Eliminating the cage, we can mount anything on our pin."

Hmmm, there's a word for what that pin's doing to that bottle, but I can't quite think of what it is...

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

License And Registration, Please

Firstly, I'm pleased to report I've got a new Outside column live on the Internet, and it's about how our Cracker Jack box system of licensing is killing people:

In it I make reference to nonagenarians driving muscle cars, and interestingly I'd already completed and filed the column when Captain High Pants and his chihuahua copilot launched his Camaro into someone's house:

According to police, a 91-year-old man-whose name has not been released-was driving a cherry red Chevrolet Camaro with his pet chihuahua when the incident occurred. 

The driver thought that he had put the car into drive, but it was instead in reverse.

Too bad we'll never succeed in putting an expiration date on driving privileges.  Suggest maybe people don't need heavy artillery to shoot at deer and the NRA will come down on you with everything they've got; suggest maybe people born before the 1929 market crash shouldn't be driving and the AARP will be on your ass like it's an early bird special.

Of course deciding when people should retire from driving isn't necessarily cut and dry, but when your pant waist starts irritating your nipples it's probably time to start thinking about garaging the Toyota Avalon for good.  This is especially true now that you can summon a car at the push of a button, and some kind of one-key Uber for Seniors device seems like just the thing.  Well, granted, there is such a thing, but it only takes you to the hospital:

But hey, as long as the Uber device is clearly marked and easily distinguished it shouldn't be a problem:

Oh, and are people on Facebook still the dumbest?  You're goddamn right they are:

Here's someone upset that the person in the photo is walking his bicycle without wearing a helmet:

If he's never seen a story about proper bike setup he should really consider a subscription to Bicycling, since that describes like every third article.

Then there's this guy, who is exactly half right:

Yes, Hunter Grantham Hall, you are a fucking idiot.

By the way, it's funny how people never look the way you expect them to:

He looks like he should be blissed out, not pissed off.

Oh well, stupid comes in all shapes and sizes.  Sometimes it even wears scented beard oil.

Moving on, yesterday I shared with you the thrilling news that I'd gotten a new bag:

(Fredly's got a brand new bag.)

Well promptly after posting I stuffed it full of sundries, strapped it to my bars, and took off for deepest suburbia:

I've been absolutely loving the Jones bars, which are not only supremely comfortable but also offer multiple hand positions while remaining utterly capable on technical terrain.  (Alas, I'm not utterly capable, but that's a separate issue.)  Furthermore, as I became better acquainted with them, I realized that I was not using them to their full potential, since Jones bars without a bag are kind of like a bikepacking bro without a beard.  See, here I was relishing this ramblin' all terrain hop-on-and-go lifestyle yet still portaging my comestibles and accessories in a backpack of all things.  So on it went:

My one reservation was that in adding the bag I'd sacrifice some of those hand positions.  However, in practice, the only one that's really off the table with the bag is this one here:

Though to be honest I almost never use that hand position anyway (which is why I still haven't gotten around to taping that portion of the bar), and if I really wanted to I could probably set the straps a little looser or something to create a little more space.

As for the hand positions I do use most often, in addition to the obvious hands on the grips placement, I also use this one a lot, wherein I kind of grab the bar junction and the brake lever bodies:

That's sort of the Jones bar equivalent of putting your hands on the hoods, and the bag does not impede it one bit.

Then of course there's getting aero and putting the hammer down:

With the bag I sort of rest my palms on the bar instead of fully grabbing it, but it's a non-issue.

Plus, it's that much easier to put the hammer down when you have a bag in which you can easily stow a hammer.

As it happens, I did not bring a hammer with me yesterday, and the contents of the bag were as follows:

  • Banana
  • Food bar
  • Baggie full of trail mix
  • 20+ year-old Blackburn mini pump (still going strong!)
  • Hiploc zip tie thingies in case I want to stop someplace
Even with this generous payload there was room to spare, and the bag was nice and secure even on rough terrain.  In conclusion my adorable little bro purse seems like it will be just as handy as I hoped, and if you want more technical details about its construction and so forth you can find them here.

Oh, I should also add I did the whole 30-ish mile all-terrain adventure in those Mission Workshop jeans I'm testing:

(Not my lower half, I wouldn't be caught dead in those shoes.)

I was perfectly comfortable every pedal stroke of the way, and as a recovering Fred I'm very proud of the degree to which I've been able to embrace riding in underpants.

Finally, if you're wondering how I've been doing on my one-bike resolution, the answer is, uh, not that great.  Fortunately I've got the New York Times to help me:

Let’s talk about Feb. 14.

Yes, it’s Valentine’s Day, but more important than that: It’s the day by which 80 percent of people who made a New Year’s resolution will have given up.

But this year, let’s stick it out together and keep each other accountable.

Yes, let's.  Unfortunately it's probably a waste of time, since I made my resolution for all the wrong reasons:

“If you do it out of the sense of self-hate or remorse or a strong passion in that moment, it doesn’t usually last long,” psychiatrist Dr. Michael Bennett told Jen. “But if you build up a process where you’re thinking harder about what’s good for you, you’re changing the structure of your life, you’re bringing people into your life who will reinforce that resolution, then I think you have a fighting chance.”

I can't think of a worse group of enablers than other cyclists.