An Amusement & Diversion for The Genteel Cyclist. Daily.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Arms a little stiff... can't quite raise them above head...

By now, you've surely heard about Eric Barone's new world record for, um, riding a bike down a ski slope. (This might be one  of those records where, like, no one else is actually interested in challenging Mssr. Barone.)  In his funky chicken suit, he reached 138 miles per hour on a custom built low rider in late March.  Most impressive to know -- but most unimpressive to experience via the magic of YouTube -- is the fact that he pretty much stayed upright and on a straight line, walkie-talkies chirped, people cheered, and cocktails were drunk. Of course, anyone who's ever reached say the mid-60s MPH on a bike with 1/2 inch wide tires can feel a twinge of empathetic horror.  It takes nerves of steel, and after Barone's famous rag-doll act trying to speed down the side of a South American volcano a few years ago, we certainly do raise our glass to the man, the bike, the chickensuit, and all those wonderful French supporters. But that existential quandry remains: Why? Seriously. Just why?  

Grand Theft Bicycle?

Police in Long Beach, California, have arrested two men on charges of Grand Theft Bicycle. Yes, you heard that right. Two men were caught stealing a decoy bike in a neighborhood where residents had complained about a high incidence of bike theft.  Caught red handed, the men led police to a stash of stolen bikes -- stored under Belmont Pier.

Under the pier, huh? Now, it appears we're not talking about a sophisticated fencing operation like the infamous  Bike Thief of Toronto, but a couple of scrappers just looking for extra beer money. Still, it's gratifying to see police making the extra effort on what they have traditionally viewed as "petty crime," despite the fact that some stolen bikes these days are literally worth 10K or more.

Also this: When will we see Grand Theft Bicycle for X-box 360?

More on Tampa's "Bicycle Blitzkrieg" against black riders

From Vox comes this summary of the Tampa Police Department's racial profiling of cyclists. It's much worse than we thought.

Florida police are targeting people riding bikes in poor black neighborhoods for minor — and sometimes, imaginary — offenses, as an excuse to question what a department memo called "potential criminals." In practice, "potentials criminals" translates to "African Americans."
Here are some of the stories :
  • After a 56-year-old black man rode his bike through a stop sign while pulling a lawnmower, police handcuffed him while they confirmed that he had not stolen the lawnmower, but borrowed it from a friend.
  • Police confiscated the bike of a 54-year-old black man because he didn't have a receipt proving that it belonged to him.
  • A 63-year-old black man was stopped for not having lights on his bike, when he did actually have lights on his bike.
  • After a 33-year-old man ran a stop sign on a bike without a light, police officers punched, kicked, and choked him until he was unconscious. Later, the officers explained to a judge why they were suspicious that he may have had a weapon on him: "He was in a high-crime area," and "He had large clothing." ("Was he black, too?" the judge asked. She dismissed the criminal charges.)

Friday, April 24, 2015

We're going to need a butt-load of carbon toner, boss!

Like most normal non-geek people, I'm sorta late to the party on the whole 3D printer thing. My brain says, "sounds cool!" and then sort of fizzles out, not exploding the way it should when it fully realizes the earth-shattering awesomeness of being able to, you know, print three-dimensional objects.  
bike parts 3

So it takes something simple and elegant to illustrate the concept to a savant like myself. And here, I have finally found it: These dudes printed a bicycle!  Well, OK it's a scale model, and for some weird reason they put an aero wheel on the back (maybe to keep little scale-sized baby toes out of the spokes?)  Anyway, this thing looks delightful and delicious, and it probably won't be long before someone 3D prints a full-sized, full-suspension 29er.
quinten and BoSteck Bicycle

Does this cargo bike make me look like a lumbersexual poseur?

I get why people are increasingly interested in cargo bikes. They're incredibly useful for hauling around all the ordinary things you don't think twice about throwing into your car -- a backpack of books, your laptop, lunch, a box of pizza, a small child. Cargo bikes make your favorite two-wheeled conveyance into an accomodating daily lifestyle choice that puts less stress on your shoulders -- because daily cyclists on regular bikes tend to rely on bigger and bigger shoulder bags and backpacks to accomodate all the shiz they need to move around along with themselves. But here's the deal: I'm not sure a $3000 bakfiet or even a $1000 longtail are all that necessary. (And empty, they can be considerably less easy or fun to ride on that serendipitous single track you noticed on your way to the bar.) I'm all about adaptability (wear layers!), and in my mind a nice bar-mounted basket -- big enough for a six pack of brew or a box of wine, no bigger -- and a universal bike trailer (let's say a beat-up old Burley with the seats taken out) are the ticket.  Either of these items can turn any bike you already own into a "cargo bike."  So stick that in your hookah and smoke it, New York hipsters!

Hey, hi, welcome! How are you?

People ask all the time, "Hey Pinch Flat, what is your most popular, famous story ever?" People seem to have a weird compulsion to read what most other people have read. All I can tell you is that this story continues to top the charts, and the only reason I can think of is that folks looking to buy a Fiat are doing their research here, at a cycling blog. Weird! 
For those of you wondering if Pinch Flat is still morbidly opposed to car-branded bikes, the answer is an unequivocal yes. Car-branded bikes are like non-alcoholic beer. Not quite an oxymoron, but there are so few out there that are worth a damn. You're probably better off with no bike at all. 

If you must, then please scrape off all markings -- and pour that O'Douls into an unmarked imperial pint glass while you're at it, please.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Put a lid on it! Here's a great idea: Free or low-cost helmets for rental bikes

The OriginalThis is pretty nifty: In Philadelphia, Uber is offering bike helmets delivered directly to your balding head for just $10.  It's a promotion for Philly's new city bike service, Indego. That's a $79 Nutcase helmet for less than it would cost a bike courier to deliver it across town in a filthy Bailyworks bag on a hipster fixie -- and the proceeds go to Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philly. Uber goes double-whammy here, by not only providing and delivering the helmets, but by matching the $10 donation to the Bicycle Coalition. Sig Heil!,...  I mean,  Good on ya,  Uber!

Biking while black is apparently a thing. Surprised? Not.

Wow. Just wow.

The U.S. Department of Justice will review the Tampa Police Department's enforcement of bicycle laws after a Tampa Bay Times investigation found 79 percent of the agency's bike tickets go to black residents.
When I saw the headline for this item this morning I assumed (naive as I am) that the TPD was being investigated for being too unctuous about ticketing cyclists generally, or that the laws themselves are frivolous (no riding on sidewalks, riding without lights, no full stops at deserted intersections). It's so much worse than that!

On the other hand, I'm not sure why anyone would expect African American cyclists to be any less targeted by institutional racism than African American car drivers or African American pedestrians.
Perhaps the Justice Department should look into, you know, the more generalized pattern across the enforcement of all laws. But it's worth noting that the enforcement of cycling laws is an especially galling way to irritate a population in a major urban area -- because there is often so much more important work to be done than hassling people who are simply trying to get somewhere on a cheap and reliable (and non-revenue producing) vehicle.

Major Taylor, originally a southern gent himself from the great town of Louisville, will be spinning in his grave. Or not. (Get it? Spinning? Ha.)

Taylor-Marshall 1900.png
Yes, this is Major Taylor. Yes, he was
one of America's finest cyclists. No, you
cannot buy drop bars like this anywhere.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

World's safest bike? Or just nerd bait?

Speaking of safety and bikes,  inventor Crispin Sinclair has designed what he claims to be the safest bike in the world -- the Babel Bike. Now most serious accidents and injuries happen in collisions with cars, which still outweigh the Babel by, oh, about 3,000 pounds.  I'm thinking you'd still want to wear the old brain bucket.

This whole idea brings to mind a famous old chestnut often uttered about airplanes: "If the Black Box is indestructible, then why don't they just make the airplane out of the same stuff?"  Or "Why don't they just make a parachute for the whole plane?"

It's true that I'd love to see a demonstration of how this bike would handle one of the most common urban bike-car mishaps -- getting doored. Presumably this whole thing would mousetrap and bounce harmlessly on the rollcage, leaving you free to calmy unbuckle the seatbelt and take a moment to pick a few choice words or even invent a new coinage that combines the F, C, and D words.

One thing is for certain: The Babel Bike provides plenty of safety from accidental sex with an attractive member of the opposite sex.

Ass over tea kettle: A simple remedy

Ever wonder why  your "serious" cyclist buddy -- the one with the disk brakes -- insists on switching out his quick release skewers and reversing them so the lever is opposite the rotor? It's not because he's an anglophile (well, not only because he's an anglophile and insists that right is left and that, you know, we mount horses from the left, and the drive train is on the right, and when jolly olde Englishmen jousted, you know, they did it with their right hands, thus needing to pass to the left, and Oy! I want beans with my breakfast, mate!, etc.)  It's because that way the lever stays well out of the way of the busyworks -- on the front side with the rotor, on the back side with the derailler.  Simply turning the skewer around would be easier, of course, than  participating in the 1-million bike recall issued by Trek today for a QR that might occasionally, you know, make your front wheel stop turning suddenly.  

For me, though, the main takeaway is this: The constant upgrading of low-end bikes for low-end riders is probably a bad idea. Ironically, a lot of lifelong riders have given up on disk brakes and are perfectly happy with what my 6-year-old son calls "pinchers" -- cantis or standard side-pulls are fine, when properly adjusted, for just about any bike going anywhere. (Yes, even wet conditions. Just start braking early enough for the rims to heat and dry, duh! Friction! Hello!)

Hey you! We're back!

Well, it's been... let's see, the last time we posted with any regularity here, Twitter and Facebook did not yet exist. Time flies when you're getting fat. But we're back, with all of our mordant humor and cogent insights for the cycling world and beyond. If it has anything to do with bikes and bike culture, we'll try to make some kind of tenous connection to it while we go about our nefarious conspiracy to avoid real work. More news to come imminently.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

This just in: Cycling not OK during global crises

John Kerry was photographed yesterday riding a pink bicycle just at the moment the world was about to end.  Conservative dickheads were on hand, parked in their black SUVs and pickup trucks, ready to snap this compromising photo.


Look. Obviously John Kerry cares about Gaza. If he didn't, he'd be riding his Serotta.

Riding a Walmart girl's bike is the diplomatic equivalent of sack cloth and ashes.  It shows humility. And it also shows solidarity with homeless bike thieves everywhere.