Curation Myths: Some Assembly Required


In yesterday's post, I suggested that an ingenious young man who had fashioned a pedi-sukkah might be the harbinger of a new age of peace and understanding along the Great Hipster Silk Route. In the meantime, though, it seems we have far to go. A reader has forwarded me the following photo, which indicates that the majority of observant Jews still prefer the greater sukkah-hauling capacity and bike lane-blocking ability of the rental truck:

("All You Haters Say My Bruchah")

Few indignities sting more than that of having to circumvent a sukkah (or a "Jewish Gazebo" as the gentiles call them) while cycling, though it's still preferable to being flattened by a Mitzvah Tank.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday a number of readers took issue with one financial analyst's assertion that buying a $250 bicycle can somehow wind up costing you well over half a million dollars. I would also agree that this is rather far-fetched (though admittedly less so if the bicycle in question is a fixed-gear). The truth is that bicycles can be a good investment. Even the most overpriced bicycle will depreciate far less than a car, which will hold its value for about as long as a bowl of egg salad. In fact, there's even opportunity for speculation in cycling. The PistaDex aside, if in the mid-90s you bought an Aerospoke on sale from Nashbar The Secret Website or a Spinergy Rev-X that somehow has not yet shattered or really any mediocre track or road component, you can now sell these items at a profit to fresh-faced hipsters eager to experience the excitement of late 20th century component failure firsthand. Furthermore, the opportunites continue to arise, even ITTET. For example, the shrewd investor could no doubt make a bundle (of something, preferably money) by "flipping" this "vintage" Bottecchia, forwarded to me by a reader:

Vintage 58cm Bottecchia - fixed - $1300 (north)
Date: 2009-10-06, 12:43AM PDT
Reply to: [deleted]

If you’re having a mid-lfe crisis, this bike is for you.

58cm ’89 Bottecchia
Columbus SP tubing – all chrome underneath the classic shitty Italian paint.
Deep V’s laced to Miche hubs (rear panaracer tire is smoothish in the center)
New Ultegra headset
New Nitto noodle bars & tape (44cm)
Technomic stem (110mm)
Sugino cranks & chain ring (48/49- i can’t remember, 18 in back)
Vintage 600 break caliper
Modern 105 lever (whatever)
Fizik Arionne saddle (a year old with a lil wear on the tip)

God this is killing me. But why hold on?

And yeah, they borrowed it:

Yes, it's the actual fixed-gear from the runaway YouTube hit "Performance:"

A bicycle with a pedigree like this is sure to increase in value. Owning the Bottecchia from the "Performance" video is like owning the Masi from "Breaking Away," or the fixed-gear with inexplicable freewheel sound from "Quicksilver," or, more obliquely, a pair of underpants worn by the guy who voiced KITT in the original "Knight Rider" TV show. Only a Cannondale executive could somehow fail to make money from a bike like this.

Actually, betting financially on this Bottecchia is such a sure thing that it should be criminal, and as I also mentioned Tuesday some law enforcement officials consider road components on mountain bike frames to be evidence of criminal activity. If this is indeed true, then this photograph of professional cyclist and crotch cream magnate Dave Zabriskie (forwarded by another reader) could very well land him behind bars:

It would appear from this photo that Zabriskie is a part of the growing "monstercross" movement. If you're unfamiliar with the "monstercross" bike, it's ostensibly a "go-anywhere" cyclocross bike but is essentially a 29er with drop bars, and it's the next bike people with too many bikes realize they absolutely need and then ride exactly four times just after they finish building up their indispensable S&S coupled porteur-style grocery-getters. Even Fat Cyclist has a "monstercross" bike, and his is a "dinglespeed," which is the drivetrain configuration people with too many bikes realize they absolutely need when they already own multiple geared bikes, fixed gears, and singlespeeds.

Inevitably though, once you have a bike for everything yet still want more bikes you simply start convincing yourself you need hybrids of things you already have. That's when the "curating" begins. And speaking of "curating," a commenter yesterday pointed out that even the New York Times is reporting on the "bullshitification" of the simple act of putting a bunch of crap together:

Truly, language is our cultural pressure gauge, and it's clear that the tire of our self-importance is about to blow off the rim. In the meantime, it's an irritatingly jarring ride. If someone who books bands or sells used clothing is a "curator" then I'm a "stand-up philosopher:"

The truth is, even "bullshit artist" is an overstatement.

Speaking of "curating," we are truly living in the heyday of independent bicycle curators. These entrepreneurs inhabit the intriguing grey area between legitimate retailer and scoundrel. Such local curators include The Bike Shrink, 718 Cyclery, and, most recently, Brian Miller Hot Rodding:

Fixed Gear Street Bicycle - $890 (by Bedford / Myrtle )
Date: 2009-10-07, 4:33PM EDT
Reply to: [deleted]

This Italian aero aluminum frame is hot! Look at that. From the chrome steel dropout fork rear axle reinforcements with built in chain tensioners to the new external SRAM bottom bracket to the integrated Cane Creek headset – all top shelf.

It is a 6061 aluminum frame, Visp brand, designed in Italy (welded in Taiwan).

This single speed fixie track bike is virtually new; it is actually all new except the crank arms and seatpost came from another bike. All running gear = new.

New Specialized All Condition 700x23 tires, and wheels, all black with deep v rims and high flange sealed bearing hubs.

Hot drivetrain: New Dura Ace cog. Gearing is 34x13, equivalent to a standard 48x16 setup. New style, external bottom bracket with outboard bearings, SRAM Rival crankset, not the old fashioned square-taper type. This thing is dope.

Long Easton carbon fiber seatpost. Sexy Selle Italia Trans Am saddle. Oversize 31.8 stem and handlebars. It is a 58cm (23 inch) frame, medium large; make sure you fit.

This bike is stealth, not attracting thieves. It primarily attracts the attention of connoisseurs.

I guess the parts are okay, though I wouldn't exactly call them "top shelf." Then again, I keep my old crap on the top shelf of my closet and perhaps Brian Miller does the same. I also see what he means about how the bike "primarily attracts the attention of connoisseurs," since I'm sure a true connoisseur would wonder why an expert curator like Brian Miller couldn't be bothered to at least supply the bike with handlebar tape. I guess the bare bars is what makes it a "street bicycle." Anyway, I did want to see more of Brian Miller's work, so I headed to his site, where I learned his backstory:

I was especially impressed to learn that Brian Miller is the "independent inventor" of the mountain bike. I guess if we can now call the act of putting a bunch of crap together "curation," then we can also call the state of being totally unaware that lots of people are already doing something you just figured out "independent invention." By that definition, then when I was a child I "independently invented" masturbation.

In any case, even though Brian Miller sells a "Fixed Gear Street Bicycle," he really advocates the mountain bike as "the best configuration for the street:"

Yes, when building a commuter bike for New York City, it's always a good idea to skip the fenders and racks in favor of a suspension fork and a triple chainring. Also, when building a "Sexy Woman" bike, be sure to "curate" it with wheelchair tires:

Of course, every great "curator" has his own signature touch, and Brian Miller's is the saddle tilt:

He's also got some tips for city riding which range from the sensible to the incomprehensible. Here is an example of the latter, in which he appears to be advising people to ride around in circles at intersections in order to save energy:

He also advises braking, but only if pedestrians' eyes are popping:

As a person who knows a thing or two about Hairy Situations, I'd strongly advise against this technique, especially on sunny days when most people are wearing sunglasses.

Speaking of investments, curation, and Austin (which is where I saw Hairy Situations), a reader who recently visited Mellow Johnny's spotted this copy of Cycle Sport on the magazine rack at the Juan Pelota cafe:

Clearly he made a tremendous mistake by not purchasing it, since the devil job on Condator could very well have been done by Lance Armstrong himself, which means this piece of art is a Lance Armstrong original and thus very valuable. Or, it could also have been done by Sharpie enthusiast Mike Giant. It's certainly derivative enough.
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