Do the Robot: Keep it Stupid, Simple

So how crazy was that Apocalypse last Friday?

Ever since I announced that the world would end on January 6th, 2012, I admit that even I had my doubts. After all, we've seen this sort of thing time and time again, and it things always turn out the same. Basically, the Apocalyptic template it this:

1) Some person announces world is going to end on a certain date;

2) A bunch of people all gather in anticipation and engage in a set of prescribed behaviors such as giving away their belongings, putting on special sneakers, and killing themselves;

3) Date on which world is supposed to end comes and goes, person who made initial announcement explains his mistake, and cognitive dissonance sets in among the newly-broke followers in the special sneakers (barring the ones who have killed themselves of course);

4) Life goes on as stupidly as it has for millenia millenniae milenniums years.

So as the day wore on I started to worry that perhaps the calendar I had found was wrong and that the world might in fact not end after all. Looking down at my Apocalyptic Sneakers, I winced as I reflected on my recent behavior. Maybe taking all my money out of the bank and treating everybody at Staples to free office supplies was a mistake. Maybe I should have paid my rent instead of laughing maniacally at my landlord and confidently declaring, "You'll get yours, infidel!" Maybe I shouldn't have advised my highly gullible neighbors to place their beloved cat in the freezer as a last-ditch attempt at cryogenic preservation.

In fact, I was just about to knock on their door and suggest that there might still be time to save Mittens before hypothermia set in when I heard the strains of Don McLean's "American Pie." At first I reacted as I normally do when I hear that song, which is to say I smashed my stereo to pieces and then set fire to the remains. However, as the plastic smoldered I realized I could still hear the plaintive whining, and that it seemed to be coming from the heavens. That's when I looked outside.

I don't need to bore you with the rest, since the details are still fresh in all our minds. First came the Pengins of Retribution with the Crowns of Flames, then they smited smoat smate effed up the wicked, then every Specialized bicycle on Earth turned to vinegar ("I swear, I was just riding along when my S-Works McLaren Schmegma turned to balsamic!"), and then a young Ted Koppel took to the airwaves, officially ushered in the Age of Aquarius, and just as Moses had once done, read the Nü-Kommandments to us from the Tablets of Justice.

Sure, the Nü Age is going to take some getting used to, but I for one am looking forward to it. Money was indeed the root of all evil, and paying for stuff with love and stories is bound to be a lot more enjoyable. The whole "no clothing" thing is also quite liberating, and I was surprised to learn that what I used to experience as "cold" was merely a post-Edenic manifestation of my own shame. However, I'm still trying to wrap my head around the new dietary code, and there's no way I ever would have guessed that the only food that is pure in the Almighty Lobster's all-seeing eye stalks is Arby's. S/He scuttles in mysterious ways, ah-meh, challahluja, etc.

I mention this only as a public service announcement for all the people who are buying cyclocross bikes because they're the new track bike. Remember when you used to pretend to be interested in boring stuff like keirin racing, Theo Bos, and the formidable British track racing program? Well, now you're supposed to pretend that you follow cyclocross, so start studying and earn those fancy new cantilevers you just bought. Also, make sure you study the UCI's rules on tire width--not because your bike will ever see a UCI race, but because UCI-legal is the new NJS.

Speaking of track bikes and fond reminiscences, remember the Golden Age of Collabos?

Founded in 2002 by designer Paul Budnitz, Kidrobot is the world's premier creator of limited edition art toys and apparel. Kidrobot creates toys, apparel, accessories, and other products in collaboration with many of the world's most talented artists and designers.

In other words, Kidrobot sells toys to the sorts of "adults" who leave the sticker on their hat brims, collect footwear, wear giant headphones, listen to musical genres that contain "step" in the name, and claim to be DJs even though nobody's ever heard them "spin" except for their roommate and the cat.

Anyway, believe it or not, back in 2007 people used to take these "collabo" bikes seriously--so seriously that when I actually saw this bike in a Kidrobot store at the time an employee explained the price tag to me by pointing out some inane feature like the valve caps and then refused to let me photograph it. Granted, they were probably right not to let me photograph it because it looked exactly like a hastily-rattlecanned Giant Bowery and my sole intent was to mock it on the Internet, but it turned out that the importance attached to the project was even more absurd than the bicycle itself.

In any case, like everybody else in the world I had completely forgotten about the Kidrobot bike, but then I was reading about bicycles on the Internet while using the bathroom and learned that the Kidrobot guy is now selling his own line of bicycles:

In so doing, he's finally addressing the needs of an oft-neglected customer: the person who wants to spend many thousands of dollars on a city bike, but who also wants one that's been marketed by a designer toymaker instead of somebody with any real knowledge of bicycles.

(Budnitz resurrecting a concept that proved so successful in Trek's 69er and Cannondale's Beast of the East.)

Of course, Budnitz's bikes are actually built by a company that certainly does know what it's doing (Lynskey), so there is that, but the "philosophy" is all his:

"I'm basically saying, 'You're going to spend $5,600 on a bike and potentially that frame's going to last you forever'," he said. "Or you can spend less than that on something that's going to be creaky after a while and it's going to get rundown or it's going to chip – the whole replacement mentality."

This makes total sense as long as you forget the fact that most frames will last "forever," and that absolutely every bike will be creaky after awhile if you don't maintain it. Clearly while rummaging around in that same Discarded Ideas of the Bicycle Industry bin where he found the "two different-sized wheels" concept, he also found the "titanium lasts forever and is the last bike you'll ever buy" concept. I fondly remember when Freds used to buy Litespeeds and Merlins based on this concept so that they could finally stop replacing their steel frames that had "gone soft." Unsurprisingly, these bikes did not last forever--not because they failed, but because as soon as crabon came on the scene they all mysteriously vanished.

Speaking of vanishing, what happens when your blossoming love for your Budnitz gets nipped in the budnitz by a bike thief? Well, don't worry, it won't cost you a thing:

Budnitz also has an interesting theft replacement policy: a 20 percent discount that – assuming a reasonable homeowner's or renter's insurance policy – should make the replacement close to free.

You'd think that between Hurricane Katrina and the whole AIG thing we'd have learned by now not to ever rationalize any decision by using the words "assuming," "reasonable," and "insurance" together in the same sentence. Apparently not.

However, if you are thinking about a Budnitz, at least he has the decency to tell you that you're a clueless consumer who doesn't know anything about anything:

"We’re offering very few things on purpose," he said. "This bike is dialed for what it is. Things were chosen for a specific reason. From a marketing side of things, it's my belief that things have gotten really complicated. It's not clutter, it doesn't cause anxiety, everything works really well together. We're just keeping it simple. A lot of it is modeled after the way Apple sell computers – just choose a few options and you're done and you don't have to be technically oriented to buy an Apple. Do you know what goes inside your car?"

Wait, my car? Yes. Yes I do know what goes inside of it:

(My car.)

I also know what goes inside David Byrne's car:

(The nothingness under the hood of the car David Byrne does not have is a black hole from which nothing in the universe can ever escape. So never offer to check his oil for him.)

What I don't know though is what bikes he's talking about that are so "complicated" and produce so much "anxiety" in people. Is it really that hard to buy a Jamis? Do people really find the prospect of choosing between the blue Linus or the black one so horrifying that they're just breaking down and going, "Fuck it! Here's $6,000, just give me the lobsided one from the robot guy!"? I don't know, maybe they are.

I wonder if Budnitz adheres to the Nü-Kommandments and will accept love and stories in lieu of cash. Maybe I can hug and recount my way onto a sweet titanium 69er.

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