To Market, To Market: Young Romance and Old World Crafstmanship

Since its YouTube debut last week, the MC SpandX video "Performance" has "blown up" quite spectacularly, garnering well over 250 million views to date and becoming quite possibly the most popular cycling-themed YouTube video since Danny MacAskill ass-killed it all over Edinburgh and racked up something like seven billionteen views and counting. As such, last week I put forth the theory that "Performance" is actually what in marketing parlance is known as a "spiral advertising campaign" hatched by none other than Performance Bicycle. While I was (mostly) joking, the truth is that it can be increasingly difficult to simply watch and enjoy content these days without the creepy feeling that someone is also trying to sell you something. This is why I was relieved to learn from none other than fixed-gear freestyle impresario Prolly about a new short film that features romance and bicycles. Moreover, it is set against the backdrop of Los Angeles, and the action takes place during a "Midnight Ridazz" ride. Here is its charmingly disheveled protagonist arriving at the roll-out:


Despite his obvious charm, dishevelment, and utter lack of pretense, when he asks the other riders if he can join he is simply told by the guy in the work shirt, "No, man:"


The moment is incredibly sad and poignant--it's like watching a puppy getting flushed down a toilet. However, there is hope in the form of the coy glances which are exchanged between the young man and the seductive woman with the lip ring and the "epic" headphones. Perhaps emboldened by this, the young man joins the ride anyway:


His joyous smile all but erases the heartache we felt in the opening scene--until disaster strikes and his old crappy 10 speed "catches" a flat:



At this point, if you're like me you dropped to your knees, raised your arms imploringly heavenward, and cried, "Can't this poor guy get a break?!?" Well, I'm pleased to report that he does, when the headphoned seductress stops and helps him repair the flat. (As we saw in the "Bust" story some time ago, flat repair means only one thing: "It's on!") Afterwards, they take a leisurely stroll and begin to connect:


However, just as the birch bark kindling of young love seems to be smoldering, the mean guy in the work shirt (who represents society and peer pressure--duh!) rolls up and demands the seductress rejoin him:

Once again, conflict takes the helm of the narrative. The young man implores the woman to stay with him. She declines, saying "Those are my people," to which he replies, "It's lame to be friends out of obligation." If I wasn't fully behind the protagonist by this point (and I was) this line alone is more than sufficient to ally myself with him eternally, for his conviction and integrity are clearly as strong as his hair is disheveled. Nonetheless, she says "You don't know me" (or "You don't own me," it's difficult to tell for sure because of the lip ring) and leaves him anyway. In yet another stroke of symbolic brilliance, the pathos is personified in pie plate form:


So the puppy has been flushed down the toilet, rescued with a plunger, thrown back in the toilet, and flushed down again. Or has it?

Even though we can all guess what happens at this point, it's no less moving. She realizes her mistake and they find each-other again:


Then, she gives him head...


...phones.

The message is clear: Be true to yourself. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't join, don't let anybody make you join if you don't want to, and don't let anybody tell you what you can and can't "rub." Have the strength of the Lone Wolf, brush your hair carefully so it looks like it hasn't been brushed, and most importantly, let the haters suck your balls. Indeed, John Hughes would be proud, and any ball-sucking our protagonist receives is certainly well-deserved.

Also, this isn't "virile" or a "spiral advertising campaign." It's all above board, since it says "Vanity Fair & Banana Republic Present" right at the top of the page:

Incidentally, Banana Republic are also the geniuses behind what may be the most revolutionary garment in fashion. I'm referring of course to the "White Shirt:"

Never before has any designer or clothing company dared to conceive of a shirt that's simply white. If you're a garmento it's the sort of thing you look at, thump your forehead with your palm, and say, "I can't believe I didn't think of this." They're already catching on, too. Here's a photo I took yesterday evening of a person wearing the White Shirt who has also just run a red light while talking on his cellphone:

Understandably, he looks nonplussed.

Speaking of nonplussed, I received an email recently from a nonplussed reader informing me that his Brooks saddle has failed:


Of course, "failure" is relative, for some people might consider this totally rideable:


So mysterious is this failure that the LBS is shipping the saddle back to England to be inspected. (Not to Brooks, mind you, just to England, where hopefully a passer-by might find the time to examine it while sipping some tea.) In the meantime though, I've undertaken my own inspection. My first theory was that the saddle broke due to poor wheel choice. As you can see from the first photo, the rider is "palping" a Jobst Brandt-approved box section rim with an ample spoke count. Had he been using an R-Sys, any trauma would have caused the wheel to fail first, thus sparing the saddle. However, it's possible the cause was more complex, so I watched this video about how Brooks saddles are made:



Just as I suspected, Brooks is a cold and faceless mega-corporation:


And their saddles are constructed using child labor:


Not only that, but they don't use proper warning labels:


This sort of polite, wishy-washy prose is grossly insufficient for the typical American consumer. Brooks really needs to fall in line with the rest of the bicycle industry and put lots of yellow exclamation points all over the place. Furthermore, "considerable disapointment" doesn't mean anything to us here. You need to say "death." A truly effective warning would say something like:

Warning! Cycling is an inherently dangerous activity and can cause serious injury or death. Be sure to have your saddle installed by a professional, as improper mounting can cause serious injury or death. Brooks saddles are not compatible with certain seatposts. Be sure to consult your seatpost manufacturer, as using a Brooks saddle with an incompatible seatpost can cause serious injury or death. Brooks shall not be responsible for any failure caused by incorrect mounting or by use with an incompatible seatpost. All Brooks saddles carry a rider weight limit, which is one pound less than however much you weigh. Cycling while too heavy can cause serious injury or death. Please enjoy your Brooks saddle, and ride responsibly.

Still, if your saddle does fail I'd think twice before attempting to sue Brooks. Their "negotiating" methods are as old-fashioned as their manufacturing techniques, and they're liable to send one of their "enforcers" over to pay you a visit:

This is notorious gangster Eric "The Chamferer" Murray, a man so violent that he makes those cockney Guy Ritchie thugs look like Julie Andrews in "Mary Poppins." Here he is at work:


If a chamfering knife can do this to a piece of leather, just imagine what it can do to human flesh:

If you're unfortunate enough to have a run-in with "The Chamferer," I guarantee you will reach an out-of-court settlement, and it won't be in your favor.

Anyway, even though watching this video was a lot like watching "There Will Be Blood" in terms of sheer ruthlessness, moral bankruptcy, and corporate greed, I think I did manage to spot my reader's faulty saddle rail being spit out of one of their crude Victorian contraptions:

Hopefully the employee responsible will be duly flogged, and will be forced to forego his or her nightly gruel.

In the meantime, Brooks saddles remain as popular as ever. Also popular are designer aluminum u-locks, as well as the effective yet suggestive "autofellatio" locking style:


But what good is a bike that makes you look like a messenger if you can't ride like one? Fortunately, according to this Daily News article forwarded to me by a reader, you can now pay someone to help you do just that:

I was pleased to see that a Daily News reporter was using a bicycle to get around, especially since cycling seems like a highly effective way for a journalist to stay in touch with the city. However, while I was happy that she rode a bike, I was disappointed that she "peddled" it:

Maybe she rides one of these things and also sells hot dogs while she's on the beat.

At any rate, Weichselbaum apparently pays someone to teach her how to "street ride:"

John Campo is well known to New York City cyclists as the Keeper of the Kissena Velodrome and de facto local track racing spokesman, and while I knew he coached racers I had no idea he also taught "street riding." I'd be quite interested to have a look at the syllabus. I wonder if it starts with "Beginner Light-Running Techniques" and progresses all the way to "Advanced Brakelessness." Perhaps most intriguing is the fact that he also teaches pupils how to "scream at drivers and pedestrians not giving us the right of way." I'd love to see Campo riding around the city with a group of students showing them how to yell, "Out of the way, cocksuckers!"

Frankly, I have mixed feelings about this. While I do believe it is occasionally necessary to raise your voice at people while riding in the city, I also think that if you're the sort of person who needs to pay someone to teach you how to do it you might be better off just being quiet. What happens if you yell at the wrong person, like "The Chamferer?" He's liable to skin you alive.

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