The Age of the Epic Commuter: Raising the Bar, then Flattening It

Last week, I mentioned that article in The New Yorker about cycling in Rwanda. Since finishing it, I have moved onto other portions of the magazine, and this morning I found myself reading about a bunch of bands giving a concert on Rikers Island. In case you don't know, Rikers Island is jail, and evidently the people who live there are somewhat resistant to gentrification. This is a band called Zongo Junction:

And here's what happened during their set:

The band's inspiration is the Nigerian activist Fela Kuti, but in presentation--beards, plaid shirts, a trucker hat--its influences smelled a little of Bushwick. This, coupled with the general monotony of incarceration, seemed to leave them vulnerable to heckling from above: "Get the fuck out!," for instance, followed by "Play Bob Marley." The band launched into "Stir It Up," which only emboldened some of the distant voices: "More Bob Marley, or Ima fucking kill you!"

Well, at least the inmates didn't use the "h" word. I do kind of want a t-shirt that says "More Bob Marley, or Ima fucking kill you" though--even if it is a little hilpstery.

Actually, I wonder if high-end cycling clothier Rapha would consider making such a shirt, since the slogan is easily as catchy as anything Jens Voigt has ever said. They could use marino, incorporate shoulder pads for easy "portaging," and charge $175 for it.

Speaking of Rapha, you may recall my mentioning I had taken part in the Rapha 2011 Northeast Gentlemen's Race. Or you may not recall. Or you may recall and not care. Regardless, I did, and I'm pleased to announce that the Raphafied "edit" of this race has finally "dropped." Please note that it's shot in Raph-O-Vision, and that you'll need to wear your 3-E (that's Triple-"Epic") glasses in order to see it properly:

2011 Rapha NE Gentlemen's race from RAPHA on Vimeo.

I learned a lot from this video. In particular, I learned why they call it an "edit," and that's because my team was edited out of it. Yes, there's not a single millisecond of footage of us, even though we were one of only nine teams that managed to finish:

Now, I wouldn't ordinarily brag, but in this case I'm making an exception since the race was like 482 miles long with like 275,000 feet of climbing, so I was very proud of my team. Sure, I know that barely qualifies as brevet in rando-nerd circles, but for a bunch of roadie wussbags it's a lot. Anyway, I'm not even bragging for myself. Rather, I'm bragging for the rest of my team, since they were amazing and I just sat behind them the whole time, like this:

(They totally would have won if it wasn't for me.)

By the way, my team was called "BSNYC," but it's pronounced "LAY-oh-pard Trek." I'd thank them each member here by name, but frankly I think they're all embarrassed to be associated with me, so I'll just thank them in the aggregate to spare them the ignominy. I'd also like to thank Team C3, who we joined for the latter part of the race.

As for why we got snubbed for the video, the best we could come up with were: 1) Our kits didn't match; and 2) We actually smiled occasionally. I'm guessing that second one was the killer, since smiling in a Rapha video is like whipping out your "pants yabbies" on "Sesame Street."

And of course I couldn't have done any of it without BicycleBungee™:

BicycleBungee™ Promotional Video Pronunciation Guide:

"Companion"="LAY-oh-pard Trek"

I enjoyed the article and I wish him the best. However, I also couldn't help noticing his flat bar bicycle. As he explains it:

It has a titanium frame (that is, it’s very light); handlebars that go straight across, rather than drop, to keep me more upright (I’ve got a neck problem); especially durable wheels and tires.

I certainly wouldn't argue against his comfort, and I'm assuming that as a cycle touring veteran he knows what works best for him. Nevertheless, we seem to be in a new Age of the Flat Bar, and I must admit I'm still traumatized by that designer hybrid "commuter" from a few weeks back:

Not only that, but I just saw on Prolly's blog that the same company, Firefly, has designed another so-called "commuter" that makes the one above seem eminently logical:


Now, I should point out that I have nothing whatsoever against Firefly, and that they're obviously extremely talented builders. Their customers, on the other hand, are clearly the kind of crazy that only comes with having way too much money, or syphilis, or maybe both. Honestly, who pays that much money to commute on a mountain bike? Does he not know that if you work at Ikea they give you a bike like that for free?

The only way I can make sense of this bike is that maybe he just wanted a really nice mountain bike, but he felt guilty about buying himself one for some reason, so he called it a "commuter" instead to justify the price. Smug people think that commuting by bicycle equals "saving the world," so by calling any bicycle a "commuter" it automatically allows you to spend as much on it as you would a car.

Or, maybe he really does need a crazy offroad commuter like this. Because, you know, he lives on the surface of the Moon.

Anyway, once upon a time, if you wanted to ride around the city on a mountain bike with your bars way higher than your saddle, you went to Walmart and you bought yourself a Mongoose. Now, people are actually buying custom bikes to replicate this riding experience. So what are people actually buying at Walmart now?

Well, you'd be surprised. It turns out they've come a long way since that first Mongoose Cachet, and their offerings include "haute tarck," complete with stylishly curved seat tube:

Classic fixie:

And even (this one really surprised me) full-on Dutch-style "cycle chic:"

Meanwhile the guy with the Firefly is paying a zillion dollars to replicate the ride of his beloved 1998 Pacific with the unhooked v-brakes.

I never thought I'd see it, but I guess it's finally happened: the dreaded Walmart/custom inversion.

I can't wait until I can finally buy a "More Bob Marley, or Ima fucking kill you!" t-shirt at Target.

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