Riding Tactics: Letting Go and Moving Forward

Recently, I found myself leaving Manhattan via one of the bridgeways that spans the Big Skanky when I noticed a creaking sound. While I'm not especially picky about the appearance of my bikes, I do become distressed when they emit sounds that they shouldn't. To me, a creaking sound is like a cold sore on prom night, and it is a source of embarrassment and anxiety.

Naturally, I began to panic. "Does something need tightening? Is a component insufficiently lubricated? Is my bottom bracket shell simply not 'beefy' enough?!?" I actually stopped pedaling in horror. Fortunately, I was riding a bicycle equipped with technology allowing it to "coast." Had I been riding a "fixie," I would surely have been flanged ("flanged" is the past tense of "fling") headlong into the languid, fetid waters of the Big Skanky below.

To my surprise, when I stopped pedaling the sound was still there. Clearly then, it was not emanating from my feeble, woefully undersized bottom bracket. I also realized it wasn't so much a creak as a sort of rattling, pinging sound--the kind of sound you might expect a dry and severely overtightened 1/8" chain on a fixed-gear drivetrain to make. So I turned around to confirm my suspicion, and it was at this moment that the rider who had apparently been sitting on my wheel the entire time took advantage of my less-than-optimal head positioning and attacked!!!

I wasn't racing, but regardless of whether I'm simply making my way home or am in the heat of USA Cycling-sanctioned athletic competition, an attack is an attack, and my reaction is the same: I let it go. An attack is like an ex who tries to "friend" you on a social networking site--you don't follow it, you just ignore it and hope that it goes away. Unfortunately, this attacker didn't go away, because if you've ever been overtaken by a fixed-gear rider on a bridge, you know what happened next: he got spun out on the downhill and I got stuck behind him. I suppose I could have gone around him if I wanted to, but then he might have construed that as a counter-attack, and that would surely have set into motion a series of events that could only end in tragedy--like not only "friending" your ex but also responding to a "Why don't we meet up coffee and catch up?" message in the affirmative. In either case, you're going to wind up bruised, or sticky, or both.

At least the time spent behind him afforded me the opportunity to take in his wardrobe and equipment, which I would describe NĂ¼-Fred sportif. The frame was of aerodynamic aluminum, the bars were narrow risers, and the wheels were both Zipps. Despite the fact that he had front and rear brakes, as he approached the end of the bike lane and prepared to merge with traffic he did what most fixed-gear riders do, which is to skid and fishtail with every pedal stroke in order to slough off some "speed." It's sort of like watching a fork go down a garbage disposal in slow motion.

Obviously, you should not put a fork in a garbage disposal, nor should you be anywhere near such a scenario. You should also be wary of riding too close to cars that are carrying menorahs, which is something else I saw recently:

Since the car was parked I felt it was safe to approach it, but had it been in motion I would have kept a safe distance unless I could be completely sure that the menorah was properly secured. Otherwise, the menorah might fly off the roof and you could find yourself impaled by the shamash and wind up contemplating the miracle of Hanukkah from a hospital bed. At least the menorah itself seems to be a quality item in this case--a little research reveals that it is a genuine "Car Menorah," which is apparently "The Best in the Industry." Also, the Car Menorah website is clearly the fixedgeargallery.com of automotive Judaica. Visit at your own risk, because if you do you're liable to waste hours gazing at the menorah porn in the "parade gallery." From what I can tell, a car menorah parade is kind of like Critical Mass for Hanukkah-themed minivans, and participants even get hassled by "the Man:"

Unfortunately, even the delightful sight of a a Car Menorah might not be enough to get you into the holiday spirit this season, for it seems that consumer confidence is still low ITTET. Last year at this time, the Chris King Headset Composite Index was at 72.21, and now it's at 80.75:

Since the Chris King headset is the most conservative investment in bicycle componentry, the fact that cyclists are pouring their money into them is a sign that cyclists are more reluctant than ever to spend money in other areas. Incidentally, you may notice that the first headset listed above is a "Headset Mango." Please note that in this case "mango" simply refers to the color, and it is not one of those actual bored-out mangoes that Craig Calfee uses as "organic headsets" on his bamboo bikes:

(Headsets at the Calfee factory await machining and installation.)

Yes, a mango makes a surprisingly effective headset, though it is prone to indexing:

But while it may shock some people that you can make a headset out of fruit, it should surprise nobody that, in New York City, our bike lanes are often blocked by cars. Still, I saw on the television news this morning (in between Tiger Woods stories) that Hunter College has undertaken a bike lane study and determined exactly that:

I'm not sure it required a study to come to this conclusion, though I hope professors Tuckel and Milczarski will continue their probing research into other obvious local phenomena. I'm looking forward to the announcement that, after a six-month field study, Tuckel and Milczarski have also determined that the Bronx is up and the Battery's down, there are far too many Ray's Pizzas, and the Big Skanky is indeed skanky. Still, in fairness to them, it is certainly useful that they've managed to actually quantify why cycling in New York City is so irritating. Consider these numbers:

According to the study, the vast majority of obstructions, almost 90 percent, were short-lived at less than 10 minutes long; the street range observed with the largest number of offenders is East 90th Street between 5th Avenue to 3rd Avenue; 20 percent of cyclists observed do not ride in the bike lane; cyclists who ride in the bike lane are more likely to wear helmets than cyclists who ride on the street (72 percent versus 64 percent); and blocked bike lanes occur with higher frequency during the morning rush hour.

Additionally, my own research has revealed that 78% of food delivery people ride on the sidewalk, 89% of Brooklyn cyclists are "hipsters," and 99% of the people who ride in Central Park are dorks.

I bet cyclists don't have these kind of problems in (sigh) Portland, were every month is Bike Month, every other head is dreadlocked, and the people are simple but the beer is crafty. However, cyclists in Portland do like to pretend they have these kids of problems. Take this incredibly narrow set of bars, spotted by a reader:

Portland simply does not experience the sort of vehicular traffic that would require having bars even remotely this narrow. The only time you need to squeeze through any tight spaces on a bike in Portland is when you're stuck at the back of the pack during a Flaming Lips video shoot and you want to be the first person to get to the Hairy Vagina Ball. Even by New York standards these bars are ridiculous, but in Portland it's like a Greenwich teenager carrying a gun to protect himself.

Meanwhile, this bike, forwarded by another reader, is like going to the beach in Timberlands:

Cannondale cf Raven cf wheels - $3000 (Manchester TN)
Date: 2009-12-01, 9:06AM CST
Reply to: [deleted]

Cannondale cf Raven large frame with cf wheels,new Panaracer Urban Max tires 26x 1.25 -1.75 .Hyd Magura 500 brakes,air suspension Fox shock ,XTR derailers nickel chain Kallcy seat post Trek split seat Never off road used mostly on the greenways .Light and very smooth .

That is one ungainly fowl. Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

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