A Knock Came At The Door. He Opened It. There Was Wednesday, In A Pair of Clown Shoes.

Well, life is not always kind, and for the second time this month I'll be going to Pennsylvania--this time to Philadelphia:

(Cute skyscraper.)

Where I'll be mouthing off on something or other at the Philadelphia Bike Expo:

My talk will take place on Saturday, October 27th at 11:00am ,so make sure you put it in your schedule so that you can avoid it.  This will be my third visit to the Expo, and I've always enjoyed it, though there is a first time for everything, so who's to say this visit won't resemble something out of my worst nightmare?  (My worst nightmare, incidentally, is having to ride a stationary trainer while listening to Chris Carmichael read aloud from his book, "The Time-Crunched Cyclist.")

In any case, I hope to see you there.

Also, remember yesterday when I said I was going to increase my product coverage?  No?  Well, perhaps you're taking too much of the "pot."  Either way, are you looking for some handlebar tape with which to tape up the handlebar controls of your two-wheeled bicycle cycling bike machine?  Well, why not try this stuff, which a reader tells me is actually endorsed by
the time-traveling t-shirt-wearing retro-Fred from the planet TridorkBret:

Here's the "low down:"

Made with cutting-edge technologies from the finest materials, Velo’s innovative wrap series offers soft and highly durable handle bar tapes for every cycling preference. Advanced materials enhanced by patented technologies give cyclists superior control and the highest level of riding comfort.
wrap tapes help you conquer any terrain with confidence.

Now, I'm a fickle consumer, so all of this raises a couple of questions.  Firstly, if the tape is so awesome then why isn't Bret even holding it?  Secondly, if you look closely, it appears that Bret's bars are wrapped with electrical tape--which, while frugal, is not exactly "cutting-edge" technology.  Are we to infer that Bret prefers electrical tape to this Velo stuff?  Then again, maybe this is a stroke of marketing genius, and the insinuation is that Velo tape is so grippy that all you need to do is gently rest your forearms on it and you'll form an unbreakable bond with your bicycle.

Speaking of cutting-edge materials, one material that isn't cutting edge (unless you take the term "cutting edge" literally) is wood:

And a reader informs me that you can own the above assemblage of crudely-glued broomsticks for the low, low price of $4,000:

Here's the story:

Light-weight 19lbs, single speed- 19th Century style bicycle, exceptionally stiff frame; hemp fabric composite lugs which are both internally and externally butted for maximum strength; components include Shimano Tiagra brake calipers; Tipo Uno leather saddle--19th Century style. non-adjustable seat tower for 32 inch inseam. frame is 56 cm; features Generation 8 single-speed crankset. Rims are 700 x 23C

This bicycle is exceptionally fast and the frame damps all road vibration, like riding on a cloud. It is a modern interpretation of the classic 19th Century 1898 Oak framed Chillion built by J.D. Stebbins. Hand crafted with the same attention as the original, there are 350 hours in the construction of the frame. Adorning the headtube is a pure copper red oak leaf and acorn headstamp. It's a head-turner and built to be ridden hard. The original oak frame track bike still holds the indoor Velo Drome record for wooden bikes.

The frame is finished in Swedish Tonqinoise denatured linseed maritime varnish and hand-rubbed to a golden luster. This work of art is proof that 19th Century technology is still viable and competitive today.

$4000 OBO

More detailed pictures will be posted soon.

Yes, it certainly is exquisite.  Nice parts selection, too.  Basically, it's like a Bikesdirect.com bike, only flammable.  Also, it's finished in "Swedish Tonqinoise denatured linseed maritime varnish and hand-rubbed to a golden luster," which is funny because I was making the universal sign for "hand-rubbing" the entire time I was reading the ad.

Of course, if you prefer the dull sheen of titanium to the hand-rubbed golden luster of Swedish Tonquinoise denatured linseed maritime varnish--and you're prepared to spend an extra sixteen hundred bucks--you can always skip the wood bike and go for The Budnitz.  Indeed, a few weeks back, Old Man Budnitz himself articulated his philosophy on "bikeen" in a blog post entitled "Nostalgia Is Death" that has received a bit of attention.  It starts with Old Man Budnitz establishing his "street cred:"

During the 1980’s and 1990’s city cycling was primarily a kind of rebel subculture, something practiced by bike messengers, Chinese food delivery men, and a few lunatics like myself who rode because it was fast, fun, and dangerous.   

I wonder he's talking about cycling in Berkley, where he grew up, or in Boulder, where he lives now.  Was there ever a time in either place where cycling was any edgier than wheat germ or yoga?

Then, he tells us about his old Bottechia:

From 1989 through 2005 I owned an orange and chrome 1967 Bottechia steel road bike I’d bought for $100 at a flea market in Southern California.

I was stunned to learn he managed to ride this bike for 16 years, despite the fact that it wasn't titanium and cost him less than $5,600--which, as I understood from his marketing copy, were the minimum requirements for a durable bicycle.

Anyway, even though Old Man Budnitz was somehow one of the first people ever to ride a bike in New York City, he doesn't much care for the attitude of his fellow "pioneers:"

One of the other things I’ve noticed is that some of the original cyclists, the same pioneers who were riding single speeds to punk shows long before Manhattan had its first bike path, have begun to feel angry and left out.

I went to my share of punk shows in New York City as a teenager and I don't recall anybody riding singlespeeds to them.  Actually, I don't really recall many people riding bicycles to punk shows at all.  I'm pretty sure those single-speed "bike piles" outside of clubs and bars came after the bike lanes.

Even so, these fictional "pioneers" clearly lack the integrity of Old Man Budnitz:

Unfortunately, when something alternative becomes popular, innovators who are unable to muster the energy to move on instead hold on to the past, and do everything they can to attack those who they perceive are involved in the new wave.  This always strikes me as sad and ironic, and a little pathetic.

Actually, not everybody does that.  Some people just fabricate a false history of themselves and then try to sell the "new wave" city bikes that cost $5,600.  This is hardly surprising, since Old Man Budnitz's most impressive quality is his audacity:

Any bicycle that is loved is worth praising, whether it’s a $150 upright Columbia picked up at flea market, a fixie put together with parts from a dumpster, or a high-end model like the ones made by companies like Beloved, Budnitz, Rivendell, Vanilla, and other independent manufacturers.  Like a classic car, bicycles deserve the respect that high-end manufacturing and design brings.  Also like cars, this doesn’t diminish the value of the bicycle that you bought at a flea market, and that you deeply love.

Beloved.  Budnitz.  Rivendell.  Vanilla.  One of these names doesn't belong.  Sure, I've joked about the extravagance of the Beloved city bikes, but at least the $5,000 you pay for one gets you some fenders and stuff:

Also, given that they come out of the Chris King factory, I'm guessing the people involved in building and marketing them know how to properly install a wheel.

After returning that titanium creak machine I had resolved never to speak of Budnitz again, but the sad fact is that I may not sleep comfortably until Budnitz stops selling bicycles altogether and gets back to bedazzling sneakers for the Japanese.

Old Man Budnitz does make one good point though, which is that cycling in New York City has indeed become more accessible, and that is a good thing.  One organization that has been instrumental in this transformation is Transportation Alternatives, and recently I received this email from them:

Basically, they wanted me to tell my representatives that I want speeding drivers to get busted:

In an editorial yesterday, The New York Times called on New York State to stop speeding drivers.

Their endorsement is great, but it’s not enough to make our campaign heard. Tell your representatives you agree with The New York Times!

This sounded good to me, and so I did what they told me.  But then I read the actual Times piece:

The city could cut down on traffic deaths in three ways. It should be given permission by state authorities to install cameras to photograph license plates when drivers are going too fast, since many deaths are caused by speeding vehicles. There were 115 deaths involving drivers or passengers, up from 78 the year before. The remaining 176 killed were cyclists and pedestrians.

So far, so good--and then:

City police should also increase the number of tickets given to drivers and cyclists who disobey traffic laws, like speeding, running red lights or making illegal turns. 

What?  "And cyclists?!?"  I don't want cyclists to get more tickets!  Sure, plenty of us are idiots, but we're getting enough tickets as it is!  Meanwhile, I can't walk the few blocks to the playground with my 17 kids without at least five drivers breaking the law in some egregious way that could easily make all of us die.

This is not to say some cyclists don't deserve tickets.  For example, many people are outraged over this story, but I'm not:

Basically, the guy ran a bunch of lights on his bike and got a bunch of tickets, pleaded guilty to them without even reading them, and then was shocked to discover what he owed:

I was guilty for sure of going through the lights and wearing headphones so naively I pleaded guilty and sent in the tickets.  A few weeks later I got a letter in the mail, it contained my 4 tickets stapled to a piece of paper that indicated I owed $1555. It didn't itemize the cost of each ticket so I have no idea what each one is worth. 

I realize the police do tend to treat cyclists unfairly, but if you plead guilty to a ticket without even taking the time to figure out how much you owe in fines then that means only one thing:

Especially if you don't have much money to begin with:

"This is my first bike infraction in New York City," the cyclist says. "$1,500 seems pretty excessive, especially for a 24-year-old where $1,500 is a little less than 10% of my yearly income." 

If you make $15,000 a year and you don't even bother to read a traffic ticket before sending it in you deserve to be broke.  I wonder if he also shops for clothes at Barney's, plunks down his credit card, and then says it's unfair when he gets a $3,000 bill in the mail a month later.  Still, as cloying as Brookyn has become, it's comforting to know that the city still has enough teeth left to chew people up and then spit them out.

Sometimes cycling's only as cheap as you make it.

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