The Flax of Life: Nü-Fred Look, Classic Fred Taste

Back in July, when the crotches were hot and the tempers were hotter, you may recall that a Nü-Fred's composure failed catastrophically and he lashed out at a pedestrian (and, by extension, his parents, his roommate, and the world) with a u-lock. Well, now that it's cooler out people are a bit more relaxed. However, while you might be tempted to think that the streets are safer since the potential for heat-induced outbursts is lower, the truth is that this may be the most dangerous time of year.

Even though it's starting to get cold, it's not yet cold enough to drive the Nü-Freds permanently indoors. Moreover, the Nü-Freds who have survived are now fortified by the fact that they've made it this far, and in their minds they're no longer Nü-Freds at all--rather, they think they're hardened street warriors. They've long ago (and by "long ago" I mean last August) mastered the art of tire repair and fixed cog removal. Their saddles have moved from tilted to level. And, most significantly, they now refuse to call their parents back in the Bay Area every night to assure them they got home OK.

While a little confidence can be a good thing, in the world of the Nü-Fred this confidence has a tendency to swell up into overconfidence or even recklessness. Emboldened by both their own survival and a steady diet of idiotic fixed-gear videos consumed during the workday, they're now at that stage where they consider riding in traffic a sport and stopping for traffic signals tantamount to having a vagina. Unfortunately, their skill level is still not in concert with their experience, and the results can be disastrous (or at least pathetic) to watch.

I was thinking about this very thing (Nü-Fred overconfidence, not having a vagina) yesterday evening as I rode through midtown Manhattan and watched various riders careering pointlessly from lane to lane and skidding demonstratively despite the ready accessibility of a brake. At one point, one of these riders passed me (on a bicycle with a freewheel, as it happens) and approached a light that had just turned red. Clearly, he was going to run it, lest some office worker in a rush to get to Penn Station think he had a vagina. "That's not a very good idea," I thought, as he dodged a couple of pedestrians, entered the intersection, and ran right into a bike messenger.

What happened next is what distinguishes the Nü-Fred from a more seasoned cyclist. Before the messenger had finished picking himself up off the pavement, the Nü-Fred just rode away.

Naturally, the messenger was incensed, but naturally also the Nü-Fred was too cowardly to interact with somebody who actually does what he pretends to do. Of course, part of this may also have had to do with the fact that this wasn't one of those "lifestyle" messengers who has lots of body art, wears various hand-stitched holsters, and rides a $1,000 frame. Rather, he was one of those boring workaday messengers in baggy jeans and a sweatshirt riding an old mountain bike. Had he been the former, perhaps the Nü-Fred might have been compelled to express solidarity by at least making sure he didn't damage the "lifestyle" messenger's "work bike." But since he was the latter, he just kept going in the same way you might if you tried to toss your coffee cup into a city garbage can and missed.

Speaking of Freds, there is one man who has dominion over all of Fred-dom, but in particular the "Classic Fred"--that rider with one hairy chainring-tattooed leg in the world of Category 5 road racing, and the other in the realm of centuries, charity rides, and Primal jerseys. This man of course is Lance Armstrong, and he orchestrates the actions of the Freds in the same way that Mickey Mouse conducted the heavens in "Fantasia." In fact, CyclingNews reports that USA Cycling registration has reached an all-time high in the wake of Armstrong's return to the sport:

Yes, Armstrong commands the Freds like the moon commands the tides, or the sun commands the plants, or the forces of conformity command the hipster. Furthermore, this preternatural influence extends beyond Freds, and it also predates his comeback. Even when Armstrong was still retired, USA Track & Field reported a 12% increase in the number of people jogging shirtless with Matthew McConaughey:

(McConaughey will jog shirtless with anybody who asks nicely.)

Also, during Armstrong's brief tall bike flirtation of '08, the National Freak Bike Association reported a huge surge in tall bike fabrication, cheap beer consumption, and ironic mullet curation:

(Armstrong's presence inspires freak biker to gleefully fingerbang himself.)

Though this guy will no doubt remind you he was into all those things pre-Armstrong.

But not all cycling growth can be attributed to Lance Armstrong, nor is it confined to lower category road racing in the United States. We also stand on the cusp of the Golden Age of Mongolian Cyclocross:

It's only a matter of time before Mongolia is as synonymous with cyclocross as it is with barbecue. It's also natural that the Mongols would take to this sport, for historically they are great horsemen and cyclocross is exactly like equestrianism except for the fact that it no way involves horses. Shrewdly, the Mongolians have chosen Johan Museeuw as their Khan:

Johan Museeuw is of course the former classics specialist turned purveyor of flaxen bicycles--or if you prefer, the former Lion of Flanders turned Lion of Flax. Nobody knows for sure why Museeuw chose to incorporate flax into his frames, but some say he was experimenting with flax fiber as a form of hair replacement and inadvertently discovered it might also be useful in a cycling application:

Presumably, Museeuw was trekking through Mongolia in search of a cheap source of flax for his eponymous bicycles when he discovered a lost tribe of cyclocrossers who had been engaging in the sport for centuries. He then told them of a faraway land called Belgium where disco is still popular and cyclocross racers are treated like gods, and promised to take them there in exchange for directions to the mythical Mongolian flax fields. Fortunately for the cyclocross racers, they're now enjoying the high life in Belgium, but unfortunately for Museeuw he's still wandering the steppes half-mad and flaxless but for that which he wears atop his head.

Incidentally, according to Bike Hugger flax bicycles make great fixed-gears, so you might want to think about building up a "fixed-flax:"

You should keep in mind, however, that your flax bike will not "accelerate:"

"Acceleration" or lack thereof is a quality often referred to by bike reviewers, and I'm always entertained when it's applied to a machine that will not accelerate or in fact move at all without the application of a rider--or, at the very least, gravity. (Unless you actually ride the thing or drop it out a window, it's not going anywhere.) If your bike doesn't accelerate, before spending a bunch of money to replace it I'd recommend first checking to see if it has a chain, and second making sure (assuming it's equipped with a freewheel) that you're not pedaling it backwards. If both those things check out, then actually getting the bike to move quickly is really up to you. Also, if you "stand up, go" and your bike does in fact "dive," make sure you're not operating it on quicksand or thin ice. Or, you can spend $1,500 for a pair of mediocre wheels:

In the world of selling bicycle wheels, Mediocre + Expensive = Excellence. I guess Time are preying on people who are so confused by the old adage "Cheap, light, and strong--pick two" that they're willing to pay for an "expensive, heavy, and strong" wheel when instead they could just buy a "cheap, heavy, and strong" one. These confused people also don't understand the less common adage, "Expensive wheels won't get you laid." Neither, apparently, will a helmet--at least as far as this woman is concerned:

maybe it was you? - w4m - 30 (F train BK bound)
Date: 2009-11-10, 10:16PM EST

Is it weird that as I sit on the train, I assess people based on their potential sexual skill?

That guy looks like he would be particularly attentive to my nether regions.

He will snore when it's over.

He will probably push my head down for a BJ but will acquiesce when I do the same. We will both roll over unsatisfied.

Maybe it depends on the music I'm listening to or where I am during my cycle. Or how long its been.

Right now, I would fuck 50% of them? That's a guess and an assumption that humanity depends on it.


Too cute.

Short but aforementioned attentive guy. Experience has shown : short = huge.


Lady dressed as man.

No thank you. Appreciate the offer. Believe me, I do. Its been awhile, but no thanks.

Seersucker jacket. Cute but high maintenance. Been there. Haven't done Him, but done "that".

Bike helmet. Little too "safe". I like risks. I mean, I did just say I would do 50% on a NY F train?

Why does that girl look at me like that? Competitive over him? Sorry Miss, I win. We're wearing matching noise canceling headphones.


New stop, new entries.

Who's up?

Skull cap? Cute, but 5 years ago.

Briefcase? Not interested in my Dad.

Trucker hat? I should kill you now. You have a life of pain coming to you anyway. Consider it a favor.

We're outside now. Maybe I'll just do the skyline. It's what I love about this city anyway. Do you think he's single? Does it matter? When its true love, does it ever matter?

Get out of the way!

He's mine, bitch. STEP OFF.

Good God, another seersucker jacket. It's November people. Wearing that now doesn't make you look like an islander. It makes you look stupid and cold.

Nice try though, I do love islanders.

You may opt to go without the helmet, but in this case I'd definitely wear a condom.

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