Blows to the Hed: The Price is Blah

Yesterday, I suggested that many new bicycles are over-designed and overpriced. The same can also be said for road wheels. Once built by riders or mechanics from different components selected for different conditions and applications, road bike wheels are now often sold as complete "wheel systems." Despite the fact that these "wheel systems" come fully built in a box and are often difficult or impossible to service, they usually cost far more than their custom built, rebuildable counterparts. At one point, these "wheel systems" were considered high-end, but now they're the norm, and so successful has the transition from custom wheels to "wheel systems" been that most riders consider them an "upgrade." (Only in cycling is a prefabricated and disposable component considered an "upgrade.") Amazingly, yesterday's exotica are today's bare necessities, to the extent that the $650 Mavic Ksyrium Elite is now considered an entry-level "training" wheel.

However, not all wheel manufacturers are contributing to this wheel inflation. Take HED, for example. HED is the wheel company founded by aerodynamics guru Steve Hed. An aerodynamics guru is different from an aerodynamic guru, which is basically just a guy in a dhoti and a teardrop helmet. Hed has spent so much time in wind tunnels that he walks around looking like Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd in "Spies Like Us." Indeed, few people--save possibly for car commuters from New Jersey--know more about getting blown in tunnels than Steve Hed. In any case, the winds of change are clearly blowing at HED headquarters, because a number of people have informed me that they've just "dropped" a new wheel system with the low, low price of BLAH:

In case you're not familiar with current road wheels, here's where BLAH stands in the pricing hierarchy:





With the introduction of a BLAH wheelset, HED is mounting a serious challenge to other players in the "entry level" road wheel market, and between this and their new slogan their competitors had better take them very seriously:

It may be in poor taste, but it's certainly better than their old slogan:

Incidentally, the extra "p" in "Zipp" is there for the same reason.

Speaking of new trends in the cycling world, on Monday I shared a picture from Canadia of a bicycle that had been locked up with a belt. Well, the "beltlock" phenomenon is officially sweeping across North America faster than a Tour de France broom wagon sweeps up Frenchmen, because another reader has forwarded me a picture of a similarly secured bicycle in South Carolina:

At this rate you can expect to find designer "beltlocks" in track bike boutiques like Chari & Co. very soon, possibly hanging right next to the $45 26 TPI tires.

But while a belt might not be the ultimate in security, I suppose it's better than nothing at all, which is what too many riders choose to use when parking their bicycles. And even when they do lock their bicycles, they don't always lock the easily stolen parts of their bicycles as well, such as their wheels. For this reason, the streets of New York City echo with stolen wheel laments in the same way that a bowling alley resounds with the delightful sounds of falling pins or the monkey house at the zoo is filled with the delighted screeches of masturbating primates. Here's an example of such plaintive wailing in the night:

STOLEN - 3 track wheelsets - Grand +Union Brooklyn
Date: 2009-10-18, 9:44PM EDT
Reply to: [deleted]

Three track wheel sets stolen in front of Redd's bar, Grand between Union and Lorimer, around 7:30-7:45pm tonight (Sunday October 18th):

White H+Son laced to white Phils (front and back) -- single fixed w/ EAI track cog -- white rando on the rear, white gran compe on the front.

Silver Weinmann laced to silver Formula (front and back) -- fixed/free with white rando's.

Blue Weinmann laced to blue Formula (front and back) -- fixed/free with white rando's.


It would appear from this that there may be a direct relationship between one's "street smarts" and one's tire color. Granted, this is a small test group, but out of three riders with a total of six wheels not one of them thought to lock even a single wheel. There are those who say, "The blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice." Perhaps then a corollary to this is "The blacker the tire, the smarter the rider," which would mean that three riders rolling on a grand total of six white tires are completely devoid of intelligence (at least in the context of securing their bikes). However, out of respect and a modicum of sympathy I will stop short of gloating--unlike this Craigslist poster who was not so tactful:

RE: "STOLEN - 3 track wheelsets - Grand +Union Brooklyn" (Hipsterburg)
Date: 2009-10-20, 9:49AM EDT
Reply to: [deleted]

aw. did you hipsters drank way too much PBR's and forgot you had your color coordinated bikes locked up outside with your tiny kryptonite lock and perhaps a bandana wrapped in the frame? ?

i'd kill to see this momment happen again. i wanna be present. this is hilarious. i mean seriously.. 6 wheels!!! haha

While the poster may find this "hilarious," let's not forget the fact that just because it's hardly surprising their wheels got stolen doesn't make it right. As such, I'd argue the situation isn't "hilarious" so much as it's "tragicomic." At the same time, I'd also argue that the victims should consider themselves lucky. If they were too drunk to watch their bikes, then they were certainly too drunk to ride them home, and had their wheels not been stolen and they had attempted to do so they might not have survived--especially if their bikes were brakeless and some bitter hipster-hater like the above poster decided to pull the old "fixed/free flim-flam" by turning all their rear wheels around. Just imagine the horror they'd feel when their first red light skip-stop attempt resulted not in the reassuring sound of white tires resisting pavement but instead the horrific clatter of a ratcheting freewheel. Indeed, the last thing they'd hear as they rolled to their deaths would be the sound of pawls--the ultimate hipster indignity. Wheels can be replaced for BLAH, but life is priceless.

Above all, though, it's important to remember that we're all cyclists, and we're all human beings (unless you're that dog who can ride a bike), so we should try to help one another. I'm doing my part. In fact, I've already conducted a thorough inspection of the crime scene--though admittedly I did so in the comfort of the massage chair in which I blog thanks to a popular Internet mapping application. Using this application, I was able to obtain a "street view" of the establishment, and what I saw was quite revealing:

Right now, the person who was inadvertently captured in this shot is my primary suspect, and I advise you to be on the lookout for him. He is white, wears black clothing, and has a beard, which reduces the pool of potential suspects to the entire male population of Williamsburg as well as a good portion of the female population (specifically the ones who attended Sarah Lawrence). If you see anybody fitting this description riding a bicycle shod ("shod" is bicycle review speak for "palping" with regard to wheels) with white tires, call the authorities immediately. Under no circumstances should you attempt to apprehend him yourself. This is not because he's physically dangerous; rather, it's because hipsters' parents generally have excellent lawyers, and physical altercations with them can turn out to be quite costly.

But when it comes to theft, even the smartest among us can fall victim. Furthermore there's a certain point at which anti-theft measures become unreasonable, and the effort involved in taking them outweighs the practicality of cycling. Sure, you should lock your frame, and your wheels, and perhaps even your saddle. Beyond that, though, you take your chances. For example, most reasonable people wouldn't take the time to somehow lock their forks, though apparently people do steal them:

STOLEN - FACT Carbon Fiber Fork (Union Square)
Date: 2009-10-16, 3:40PM EDT
Reply to: [deleted]

If anyone out there tries to sell you a red, Specialized carbon fiber fork, it's likely mine. It was stolen off my road bike on Wednesday afternoon. If you see this and know anything, be cool and let me know.

I guess some thief who wanted to smooth out his ride with the magical vibration-damping qualities of crabon took advantage of the convenience of a threadless system to help himself to a free "upgrade." This is a disturbing sign that we may need to start taking our forks inside with us now. And just as the hipster-hater gloated over the wheel theft, I'm sure retrogrouches are gloating over this one as they fondle their threaded headsets.

Even in light of this theft, bringing your fork inside with you may be excessive. However, bringing your folding bike inside with you should be a matter of course, as underscored in these ironically juxtaposed Craigslist ads:

Leaving your folding bike outside is like using your quick release skewer as a wingnut, or like putting $900 electronic Dura Ace shifters on a singlespeed cyclocross bike:

Then again, if your folding bike were this ridiculous, you might be hesitant to be seen with it at work:
Here's the designer, who looks like he just got shot in the back of the head with this dog:

Maybe he just got back from some wind tunnel testing.

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