Share and Share Alike: The Pox is Spreading

Even though I write this blog, I'm not really sure what it's about.  In my more pretentious moments I like to say it's stream-of-consciousness humor that chronicles and lampoons the idiosyncrasies and contradictions inherent in 21st century urban life, but mostly I think it's just an excuse for me to post pictures like this:

I do seem to recall though that back when I started this blog it was ostensibly about bikes.  I also seem to remember that riding bicycles was an enjoyable activity that I used to partake in before I spent most of my free time on airplanes.  Given this, even now I don't think it's entirely inappropriate for me to write about bikes, inasmuch at least some of you may still find the subject interesting.  In particular, I'd like to write about this one:

The above bicycle is my detachable travel chariot.  It happens to be a Surly Travelers Check, but the make and model is not nearly as relevant as the fact that it has those S&S coupler thingies in the frame:

These allow you to take the bike apart and carefully pack it in a case that is small enough to be checked as regular baggage at airports--or, if you're me, to haphazardly cram it into a case that is small enough to be checked as regular baggage at airports.

If you're a bicycle cycling enthusiast you've no doubt run up against the issue of flying with your bicycle at one point another, and have been confounded and vexed by deterrents such as exorbitant airline fees and unwieldy travel cases.  Simply put, many of us long to travel with a full-size bicycle as conveniently and inexpensively as possible.  So, having undertaken approximately 15 flights in the past couple of months, I'd like to say that I've found this system to be an excellent solution.  By my count, I've avoided something like $1,500 in bicycle fees during that time (I never paid a single bicycle fee), and was also able to fit to easily fit the packed case into airport shuttles, taxis, and even the overhead compartment of an Acela train.  Plus, while I have yet to remove the bicycle from its case since my last journey, assuming it comes out okay this time it will have accompanied me without sustaining any damage beyond superficial scratches--all despite my almost total disgregard for its well-being.

I should emphasize that this commentary is totally unsolicited; rather, as a bike geek, I just feel compelled to share my success with the system with those of you who want to travel with bicycles.

I also realize that there are people who "tweet" with the hashtag "#airportninja" and boast about how they manage to avoid bicycle fees even with non-coupled bicycles by disguising them as massage tables or sex dolls or whatever they do, but for the rest of us who don't have the time and energy for such subterfuge I think couplers are a good way to go.

Finally, I'm sure someone will point out yet again my gross excess of head tube spacers, but I remain proud of them.  After all, what is the appeal of the "slammed" stem anyway?

It's like cramming your feet into Sidis that are three sizes too small and then bragging about how your shoes are "slammed."  That's why I'm embracing my unslammed pride.  Indeed, "slam" spelled backwards is "mals," and from now on I will fly my "malsed" stem for all the world to see, like a pink-and-green Flag of Kludginess:

Best of all, there's always room for a spare cockpit:

Sheldon Brown was the Walt Whitman of cockpit curation.

In any case, now that I'm back I'm trying to catch up on the local bike-related goings-on, and one development has been this provisional station map of the New York City bike share system:

The blue dots represent the stations, and if it helps you can think of the ones in Brooklyn and Queens as "hipster pox," since they indicate areas of extreme gentrification.  I'm unsurprised to learn that the neighborhood in which I live is totally unaffected, since around here "bike share" means that they'll give your mangled bike back to you after they run you down with their minivans.  I was, however, surprised to learn that the system will be pretty expensive, and indeed much more so than London's:

This is a bit of a shame, and $10 for half an hour of riding is a lot of money.  Years ago, before New York City was afflicted with "hipster pox," you used to be able to ride all day for $10--though the "bike" was actually a "woman" named Frank in the Meatpacking District.

Speaking of bike share bikes, the ones in London are called "Boris Bikes" after the Mayor of London, who was recently profiled in "Vanity Fair" magazine:

Apparently, his "favorite journey" is "Through the sun-dappled streets of central London by bicycle at the beginning of April:"

I too enjoyed riding in London, though my time there I've never seen the sun dapple anything at any time of year.  I also wonder if he continues to enjoy cycling in London when he gets to the Elephant & Castle roundabout, because Jack Thurston of "The Bike Show" took me through there, and it totally sucked.

Another thing that sucks is my photography, and I was reminded of this when I received the professional photos of my visit to the Brooks factory in Birmingham.  I'm not sure why the Brooks people saw it fit to engage a photographer to chronicle some feckless wisesass from New York as he stumbled around their facilities in a state of extreme jetlag, but I suspect it was something of a hedge, since otherwise the only photographic record of the event would be my own crappy photos.  Yes, with a professional photographer you capture the interaction of man and machine:

And the spirit and pride of the workers:

And their strong yet nimble fingers with their sinewy dexterity:

Whereas with the wiseass bike blogger all you get is lousy pictures of the vending machine:

Which contained a mysterious and disgusting-sounding "beef drink:"

Which I didn't get:

Because obviously I opted for the haggis thick shake instead.

I really enjoyed my visit to the factory, though as I suspected I felt pretty self-conscious about the fact that I was traipsing around while everybody was working:

(This photo was taken by the professional, obviously.)

Indeed, one look at my soft hands and softer middle told them all they needed to know, which was why they made me use the ladies' room:

(Guess who took this photo.)

By the way, every time I went to the bathroom (haggis thick shakes go right through you) I expected a bunch of people to burst out of them singing "Every Sperm is Sacred:"

Though I didn't worry about catching an STD from the toilet seat because I had read this fact sheet:

(Yeah, that's another one of mine.)

At this point I should warn you that I'm about to violate one of this blog's few style guidelines, which is never to include a picture of the author.  However, in this case I'm going to make an exception, because I found this series particularly compelling in the way that it revealed the ineptitude of its subject.

Here's an idiot looking at a saddle top:

Here's an idiot looking at a document:

And here's an idiot just looking, and also drooling imperceptibly:

It's fascinating to me how fine the line is between idiocy and transcendence.  For example, the above photo evokes the cover of John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme:"

Only Coltrane looks deeply contemplative, and I look deeply stupid.

I'd like to think it's the use of black and white:

Though a lot of it probably has to do with the fact that the tag of my sweater is sticking out in every single photo:

Really, between being unable to dress myself and asking questions like "So where does this thing go again?," it's a wonder the great Eric "The Chamferer" Murray didn't cut me right then and there:

("So, like, how does it attach to the bike?")

Frankly, I'm lucky they didn't laugh me out of there entirely.  Instead, they just told me to get the hell out, at which point I repaired to my "executive suite:"

(Photo credit: Wildcat Rock Machine)

Then I grabbed a beef drink to go and took the Reliant back to London.

(And if you're wondering, the answer is "Yes, you can dock them at a bike share station.")
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