Calling for Backup: Raising the Bar

There's much in my life for for which I am thankful for, not least of whom is my impeckable grammor and spealing ability. (Seriously, you can't peck it.) There's also my hundreds of dollars, my 17 children, my luxurious apartment-shaped home complete with separate kitchen and bathroom (most people in New York are forced to prepare their meals and "make" in the same room)--and, most recently, this, which I picked up this past weekend and around which I'm still trying to wrap my feeble mind:

(Engin builds nice bikes so you don't have to.)

I'm tempted take this bike and live out the rest of my days in the woods as a mountain bicycle cycling minimalist, except I have the outdoor survival skills of a Fabergé egg and would likely perish within a New York fortnight. (One (1) New York fortnight = three hundred (300) New York minutes, or roughly nineteen (19) Portland seconds.)

Still, as fortunate as I know I am, I can't help but get angry when "society" keeps stealing all that I hold sacred and then trying to sell it back to me. You know how it is--just when you find a lifestyle that you think makes you special, someone comes along and commercializes it, and next thing you know you look like everybody else at the mall. Honestly, they do it with everything, and since starting this blog I've witnessed the appropriation of all sorts of formerly-edgy "cultures," among them:

And of course my beloved Culture Club culture.

Yes, one day riding a track bike while covered in tattoos, sporting a genital piercing the size of a Cannondale downtube, and eating a tub of artisanal aioli makes you unique, and the next day you look just like every other dad in Park Slope. (And two days later you just like every fourth grader in Park Slope.) However, despite all this, I thought there was still one subcultural habitat that would remain free from commercial exploitation and unsullied by the filthy conformist hands of the mainstream, and that culture was "cockpit culture:"

Come what may, I once thought foolishly, "curating" your own wildly baroque bicycle cockpit with whatever random objects you had at your disposal would remain the the domain of the unreservedly creative, the borderline insane, and of course the "domestically challenged" (or what we used to call "homeless"). Well, I was wrong. Now even "cockpit culture" is for sale, thanks to a company in (where else?) Portland called "Back-Up Barz," to which I was alerted by a reader named Christie:

"Back in the day," if you wanted a cockpit that allowed you to sit upright, you got yourself some PVC piping, some duct tape, and a few hose clamps, and you unleashed your inner Rube Goldberg. Now, you just switch off your brain, open your wallet, and buy some "Back-Up Barz"--which, I might add, are simply vertically-mounted aero bars. It's worth noting, though, that of all the ways in which you can attain an upright position on a bicycle, almost nobody seems to do the logical thing, which is to ride a bicycle with an upright position in the first place. For example, there's a certain company with an ad in the right-hand margin of this very blog and with a name that rhymes with "Rivendell" (because their name is Rivendell) that will gladly help you attain an on-the-bike position similar to that of a begging dog. Instead, though, it would appear that people prefer to look to solutions such as this:

From an evolutionary perspective, it's fascinating what's happening to the drop handlebar. Once upon a time, riders would move back and forth between the drops and the tops as conditions warranted. Then came integrated shifting, which compelled them to spend more time on their brake hoods, and then they lowered their bars to compensate. Consequently, insofar as recreational cycling is concerned, it would appear that the drops have become essentially vestigial, and are either disappearing altogether:

Or else are allowed to remain, but only as sort of a ceremonial adornment, long-ago forsaken thanks to the application of cockpitular stepstools like "Back-Up Barz:"

Which I'll allow are sort of "retro-chic" in that they evoke those rideable fans from the 1980s:

By the way, even if you wanted to use the drops with your "Back-Up Barz," you'd be well advised not to, since in lowering yourself you're liable to get your head stuck between them and choke to death. You probably shouldn't try sprinting on them either, though presumably their spokesmodel is a professional and thus is able to pull it off:

In "Spinal Tap," Rob Reiner famously asked Nigel Tufnel why he didn't simply make "10" one louder. "Back-Up Barz," raises (pun fully intended) a similar question, this being: "Why not put the tops where the 'Back-Up Barz' are and the drops where the tops are?" Well, because "Back-Up Barz" also allow for the application of an unprecedented number of gadgets and gew-gaws:

I'm not sure why the faces of the gadgets are facing away from the rider, but presumably that's so you can read them while you're head is trapped between the "Back-Up Barz." In particular, the smartphone is crucial, since as you suffocate you may be able to dial "9-1-1" with your tongue.

Certainly though, if you're being strangled by your handlebars, it can be tremendously difficult to whistle the theme from "Chariots of Fire:"

Player Piano Player - w4m (Chelsea)
Date: 2011-09-25, 6:50PM EDT
Reply to:

The last time I saw you you were riding your bike hands-free, holding a Citarella bag, whistling "Chariots of Fire".

You were the best thing about the 5am, 5-course, all-dessert dinner. I thought you were hired to play the piano; turns out the piano played itself, and you are a lawyer at a firm where you're not allowed to wear sandals.

September 25th, 5am-7am, Le Grand Fooding Exquisite Corpse, W 21st St.

I was the curly-haired girl sitting at the end of the table who talked to you about women who don't know they're pregnant until they give birth.

Oh, right, that law firm. I know it well. It's right next to the medical office where they don't let the doctors smoke in the examination room.

It's a wonder then that, despite our abundance of whistling gourmands on bikes, New York is only the 29th mostest bike-friendliest city in the world--this according to Copenhagenzine, which is of course the Standard & Poor's of smugness:

If only we could put as much effort into our cycling infrastructure as we put into our mayonnaise shops, then maybe one day we'd rival Guadalajara.

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