Jumping Through Hoops: What Does Everyone Have Against Hubs?

This past weekend, the weather in New York City turned suddenly from craptacular to spring-tastic, and while there's ample time for throwable forms of precipitation such as snow to fall one can be forgiven for feeling as though the worst may be behind us. Still, winter weather is liable to pounce again at any moment, and while some look unto the groundhog for confirmation of spring, I prefer to seek surer signs. In New York City, these seasonal indicators include the annual running of the bike salmon:

Calls of "On your right!" emanating from pacelines in the park (I was already on the right side of the road when the calls began):

And of course the First Pallid Calfs of Spring:

But while the seasons are cyclical, other things are eternal, and among these immutable constants are concept bikes. As I've mentioned before, aspiring designers are compelled by the bicycle as crappy musicians are lured by the guitar, and their swoopy, useless design concepts hover perpetually and intangibly in the future like some swoopy, misshapen carrot dangling from the end of a stick, or like a Tour de France victory for Cadel Evans. Furthermore, if you look at pretty much any designer concept bike you'll notice they all have two things in common: Firstly, they're idiotic; and secondly, they never have hubs.

The latest fictional hubless creation I've come across is this BMX, which one design magazine called "rock-solid:"

This is indeed a brilliant concept, since the designer has eliminated not only the hubs, but also any place to install pegs and thus like 75% of the BMX trick repertoire:

Sure, you could always just do a grind on your chainring instead, but this bike doesn't have one of those either. BMX riders are like strippers in that both love grinding on poles, so removing all the metal parts from a BMX bike is like replacing the pole in a strip club with a gigantic Hacky Sack. Also, while the designer has succeeded in eliminating pesky hubs from BMX bikes in his mind, he has no idea how to actually do it in real life, and so his equally brilliant peers are asking for help:
So why is the hub the one thing all futuristic bicycle designers want to eliminate? Well, on one level, I suspect that this is because the traditional bicycle wheel is probably the most functionally elegant part of the functional and elegant machine known as the traditional bicycle. Naturally, then, if you're bent on destroying the functional elegance of that machine simply for cheap thrills you should hone in on its best part, in the same way the true subway pervert knows to go right for the crotch. On another level though, it may be that these designers have an irrational fear of the hub-and-spoke design, fueled at least in part by horrific images such as this:

Instead, they dream of happy animals safely jumping through their futuristic wheelsets. Here's a dog:

And here's a hairless sea dog:

I too hate to see cute furry creatures meeting their demise at the hands (or, more accurately, wheels) of the "Fred." However, I also think it is unwise to tamper with nature. Really, animals only jump through hoops because we train them to do it, and it is probably only the aberrant squirrels that try it when they see a bicycle rolling down a country road. If these creatures are not killed in the process and instead live to reproduce, it will not be long before the planet is overrun by squirrels who are driven to leap through any round thing they see. Futuristic bike wheels; manholes; hula hoops; bagels; nothing will be safe from their bizarre compulsion. Soon flying squirrels will be bringing down passengers jets. Forget saving the track bike; we need a campaign to save the bicycle hub!

Scoff if you will, but this horrid hubless future is already becoming reality:

Speaking of squirrels and saving the track bike, this past weekend saw the running of the 11th annual "Monster Track" in New York City. If you're unfamiliar with Monster Track, it's not only the most monstrous of tracks, but it's also "the biggest, badest, most controversial alley-cat around:"

I was actually surprised to learn that people still participate in "alleycats," since the whole "Save The Track Bike!" campaign had led me to believe the alleycat was extinct and had been replaced by the fixed-gear freestyle "sesh"--which itself only exists in order to provide raw footage for the proliferation of awkward stunting videos known as "edits." However, not only is the alleycat seemingly alive and well, but you can also see from this video that the "Monster Track" was quite well attended by slow-moving Nü-Freds on their brakeless bicycles:

Monster Track 11 from Michael Green on Vimeo.

Here's a rider on a (presumably) geared bike filming the other riders, and when you consider that he himself is being filmed this very well could be the most well-documented "Monster Track" in the history of monstrous tracks:
But it wasn't all videography--there was still photography as well. However, pausing even momentarily to take a picture meant you might sacrifice your position. See how this rider uses a moment of inattention to launch a devastating attack up the left side of the "Nü-Fredoton:"

His hands are almost off the bar tops, so you know he means business.

While watching this video, I contemplated the "alleycat" phenomenon. Ostensibly, alleycats are designed to replicate the daily working conditions of a messenger. However, now all sorts of people participate in alleycats--many of whom have never delivered a package on a bicycle in their lives--and so they're now basically big fixed-gear scavenger hunts. In a sense, messengers have a lot in common with lumberjacks, since in both cases their livelihoods have become the basis for competitions, and one might go so far as to say that the alleycat is the "lumberjack competition" of the cycling world. Some messengers still resent the influx of so-called "fakengers" into their scene, and I wonder if timber workers in the Pacific Northwest sit around in bars complaining about "fakerjacks."

Furthermore, I wonder if there's a "fakerjack" equivalent of the now-ubiquitous u-lock holster:

I'm sure somewhere there's somebody walking around Portland wearing a bespoke hatchet holder.

Speaking of u-lock holsters, a reader recently forwarded me a picture of something called a "FeltBelt," which can be used in this capacity:

For a second upon viewing the flesh-colored FeltBelt I thought that the rider had somehow placed the lock through her skin. Perhaps one day, when the bicycle hub has been successfully eliminated, u-lock muffin top piercings will become knuckle tattoos 2.0.

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