For the full photographic glory and the rest of the text, you know where to go. The Original Cycle Chic awaits.
Back at the dawn of time when online photo sharing was brand new, we shot selfies while riding bikes and we called them “panda portraits,” named for this rad woman in Austin, Texas who was known online as “faster panda kill kill.”
Shooting these panda portraits generally involved stretching an arm out while simultaneously pushing a button until some genius invented the selfie stick, such as the XShot Deluxe Selfie Stick with Bluetooth Remote that I’m evaluating now.
Like many such selfie sticks, the Xshot collapses to a few inches for easy stowage in a handlebar bag or back pocket, and extends to 31 inches while securely holding my Samsung Galaxy S7 mobile phone. A rubber grip improves handling and comfort, and the wrist strap helps ensure I don’t lose my expensive phone while cliff-diving into Lake Nacimiento like somebody I might know.
The included Bluetooth remote, which is powered by a replaceable CR2032 button battery, pairs quickly and easily to my Android phone. Using the remote is much easier and faster than setting up the self-timer on the camera app while riding no-handed on a busy bike path. The Bluetooth remote should work with any reasonably recent Bluetooth equipped device. An on-off status LED lets you know when the remote is searching for a paired device.
Unlike some other no-name selfie-sticks I’ve tried, the XShot selfie-stick remains firmly extended, my phone doesn’t swivel crazily around, and I don’t worry about losing my phone due to a loose grip on the phone holder. In spite of its lightweight, the construction and assembly seem solid.
My only real concern would be for those with larger devices: it’s grips my three-inch wide S7 Active perfectly, but anything wider than 3 inches won’t fit. I’m not sure if the iPhone 6 Plus and 7 Plus will fit.
If you do action photography, I invite you also to look at XShot’s other digital photography accessories for phones, tablets, GoPro action cameras.
Disclosure: I received the XShot Deluxe with Bluetooth Remote in return for consideration. The product links to Amazon have my affiliate tag attached, so any purchases you make when you click through to Amazon help to support my work here at Cyclelicious, which I appreciate very much.
And when it comes to Bromnambulating by rail there are few more Bromptastic train stations than this one at the confluence of the Harlem and Hudson rivers:
That tree-covered lump of land on the other side of the water is the last remaining bit of natural forest in Manhattan. Talk about wasted space! I really wish someone would put a glassy condo building on top of it already.
Plus, as you Bromp northward and leave the city behind, you get to enjoy a view of the New Jersey Palisades, which at this very moment is splatter-painted in autumnal hues:
The only thing that would have made the ride even more quintessentially seasonable would have been a Starbucks® Pumpkin Spice Latte:
Then I could have taken a sip, wondered who the hell drinks this crap, and splatter-painted the window with a massive spit-take.
Speaking of marketing, you'll be pleased to know there's now a new miracle frame material called "Dyneema:"
Or, as it's more commonly known, "plastic:"
Dyneema is DSM's brand name for its Ultra-High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMwPE), which basically means 'really strong plastic'.
Of course, there's more to Dyneema than just marketing--even though the jingle to the tune of "Dayenu" practically writes itself:
It's also laterally strong and vertically buoyant, and they even use it to repair human ligaments:
DSM says Dyneema is 15 times stronger than steel but floats on water, and the fiber has long been used to do everything from moor oil rigs at sea to repair human ligaments.
This is great news for anybody currently on a waiting list of a frame made from actual human ligaments.
Sadly, too few people donate their bodies to science, and almost nobody donates their body to artisanal framebuilders--despite an aggressive PSA campaign:
Presumably once Dyneema takes over, "prosthesis grade" will be the new "aerospace grade."
Best of all, Dyneema is able to withstand impacts:
DSM claims Dyneema Carbon will make carbon bikes better at absorbing both road vibrations and outright impacts to the frame tubing. Regular carbon is "strong, stiff, lightweight and easy to mould. But it's not so good at handling impact," said DSM Dyneema scientist and part-time professor at Delft University of Technology Roel Marissen.
Great news. At this rate carbon bikes will be almost as good as metal ones in 50 years.
In other news, New York City's bike messengers are forming a labor union:
Sadio Ballo, an executive committee member of the new union, said they're forming the union to "build collective strength to improve the appalling conditions that couriers work under."
This is all too true. For example, bike messengers depend on marijuana in order to do their jobs, but did you know that they must consume it furtively while on the job? Modeled after legislation guaranteeing the rights of breastfeeding mothers, the messenger labor union will push for guaranteed weed breaks, private places for weed consumption, and of course the ability to pay for vaporizers with pre-tax dollars.
Additionally, the union will also push for guaranteed leave time in the event of injury due to participation in an ill-advised fixie video like this one:
Students of fixie cinema will recall that gratuitous motor vehicle-touching is a hallmark of the genre:
Well this video takes it a step further:
And instead features pizza-rubbing:
Which raises an important question:
Does applying friction by means of a slice of pizza, however viscous, count as using a brake?
I would put forth that it does.
Oh, and when he's done with the pizza, he throws it onto the hood of a taxicab:
It's worth noting that, among the young and entitled set, it's always acceptable to humiliate and degrade taxi drivers.
It's also worth noting that in 2016 these sorts of fixie exploits have become so dated and corny that the coolest cyclist in the video is the Citi Biker who appears for about one second towards the end of the video:
Seriously, have you seen how upset old people get about Citi Bike at community board meetings? Bike share is way more cutting-edge and rebellious than fixies these days, and it makes a much bolder political statement to boot.
In other words, it's only a matter of time before we see a video of someone riding around on a Citi Bike rubbing buses with pizza.
Lastly, remember this guy?
You know, the Cat 5 who borrowed his friend's bike and then smashed it?
Probably not. These things have a shelf-life of about three days.
Nevertheless, here's an interview with him that sheds new light on the incident nobody cares about anymore anyway:
In particular, he claims that he: 1) Saved lives that day; and 2) Received permission beforehand to smash the bike:
At the Red Hook race, I avoided running someone else over. I decided to take the wall instead of hitting the other biker. I had the choice of hitting and possibly killing him or hitting the wall. The bike was completely totaled from that. I knocked out after the crash, picked up the bike, and walked to the finish line. At that point, my emotions kicked in because I realized my equipment was gone and decided to finish it (the bike) off. What most people don't know is that I had permission to do what I did from the guy who gave me the bike. I just put the horse to rest. As for what impact this event had on my social media, the day after the race news stations picked up the dramatic clip, reaching all the way to China and Japan. There is always going to be a negative side of social media... but from this incident, I gained about 4-5k new followers the week after the race.
I'd love to see what he could do with a pizza.
A couple of photos of passive-aggressive notes taped to car windows have gone viral over the past couple of days on various social media. These remind me of a note pasted to a half-dozen cars I saw while cycling in rural Santa Cruz County (the San Lorenzo Valley for those who know the area)
a couple of several years ago.
“Toutch my car again and there is going to be big problems I KNOW WHO YOU ARE AND WHERE YOU LIVE!”
I can only speculate on the unwanted toutching that prompted this promise of retribution.
Important Disclaimer: Using inflammable substances and poorly engineered devices to mount tires at high pressure may result in hard bits of these devices achieving enough velocity to take an eye out and other undesirable consequences.
Random thought prompted by Dan’s link to this new tubeless tire charger from Schwalbe: I think we’ve all seen that ghetto tubeless tire charger made from a plastic pop bottle and leftover bits of valves. Surely somebody has dressed it up with ingredients similar to a PVC pipe potato gun?
Instead of pressuring your cannister with hairspray and a match, you’d charge it with a conventional floor pump through the presta valve. I need to add a valve to the above diagram — I guess a standard ball valve would do the trick? Close the valve, pressurize the cannister, then pop your tubeless tire onto its rim by releasing the valve.
The pump head shown is the SKS EVA bicycle pump head, which does not come with the hose. You also want a grommet to seal the hose hole entry. All of this can be ordered from your local bike shop.
Your local bike shop likely stocks something like the Stan’s NoTubes Tubeless Valve Stems show above, but you can also try using valves cut from an old tube. Be sure to leave plenty of rubber around the valve for a good seal.
PVC pipe can be easily cut to size at your local hardware store, where you can also find caps, connectors, valves and PVC primer and solvent.
And come to think of it, has anybody mounted a tubeless tire with hairspray (or, better yet, lighter fluid) and a match yet? Please note that this is not an incitement or suggestion to run out and try something like this.
Basically, it's a device that lets you convert your cable-actuated drivetrain to a wireless electronic one, and the inventor is launching a Kickstarter for it on November 1st.
I know what you're thinking: "Why is this even necessary? My mechanical shifters work great." Well of course they do. Mechanical shifting is awesome. This isn't even remotely necessary; as I said, it's nifty. After all, what bike dork doesn't like a good kludge? And just think of all the kludges you could pull off with all the crap you've got in your parts bin and a remote control shifter!
For example, consider my artisanal singlespeed all-terrain bicycle:
Now as far as I can tell all I'd need to do is switch the drive-side Paragon rocker dropout for one with a derailleur hanger, get one of these XShifter thingies, and I could palp it with gears!
So why take a designer singlespeed and do this when you've got two other perfectly good multi-speed bicycles? (Well, one, until I finish fixing this one.)
Because I can!
I have pretty much no interest in electronic shifting, but there's just something beautifully kludgy and delightfully obnoxious to me about the idea of riding around on a handmade custom electronic multi-speed conversion. Indeed, I'd ridicule anybody else who did such a thing, which is exactly how I know I'm onto something. And sure, I could probably pull off the same conversion with judicious use of zip ties, but the electronic shifting is what would make it not just a regular kludge, but an infuriatingly elegant one.
It just seems like a fun accessory to experiment with is what I'm saying, and hopefully I can convince them to send me one to try out.
Maybe then I can also build the all-wheel drive fat bike of my dreams:
I have no idea how helpful all-wheel drive would be on a bike (if at all), but I have no doubt Kate Leeming will succeed in cycling across Antarctica because she looks incredibly serious about it:
She's also cycled across Greenland:
And is a high-ranking professional tennis player:
Whereas you, on the other hand, suck.
Moving on to more everyday heroics, the New York Times did a nice little story about New York City kids:
Which I only mention because one of the kids takes a Citi Bike to school:
While technically against the rules (he's 13, the minimum age for using Citi Bike is 16) this pleased me immensely, as I love the idea that one day this sort of thing could become normal. Sadly, in the meantime, we get this shit instead:
And a mayor who's so disinvested in Vision Zero that he makes seven-mile trips by helicopter:
In a car, it might have taken 30 minutes or longer for him to make the roughly seven-mile drive from his old Brooklyn stamping grounds to an event in Queens.
And of course bus drivers who run over people and drag them for "several blocks." (The bus driver was actually charged with failure to yield, despite the best efforts of the Transit Workers' Union.)
Even the UN says we need more bike infrastructure:
BARCELONA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Governments should invest at least 20 percent of their transport budgets in infrastructure that promotes walking and cycling, to save lives, curb pollution and cut climate-changing emissions from vehicles, the United Nations' environment agency said.
Almost half of the 1.3 million people who die each year from traffic accidents are pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists, the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP) noted in a report.
Though when President Trump takes office I assume we're going to boot the UN out of town and turn the building into a parking garage.
I was, however, treated to an oddly inspirational sight yesterday as I headed out for an afternoon road ride. (I generally ride early as I find it unseemly to be in Lycra after noon, but a riding window presented itself and I took it.) As it happened, the Tour de Bronx was rolling through my neighborhood, and so I got caught up in a gaggle of Freds. (My aversion getting mixed up in rides like this is yet another reason I generally ride early.)
Anyway, we were making our way through the somewhat treacherous back roads in my neighborhood when we passed a police car. I figured they were going to ticket everybody for excessive Fredness, but instead they were using their loudspeaker to warn the riders that there was gravel ahead. I thought this was very considerate of them, especially as they would have been well within their rights to arrest everybody for not riding industry-approved gravel bikes.
I was also pleased to see a Cipollini bicycle make a cameo in the subsequent news coverage:
Yes, nothing explores unseen nooks and crannies like a Cipollini.
And then there's SlunkLock, the u-lock that makes you puke:
Seems to me it's easy enough to have a vomit-inducing bike without the lock:
Anyway, the concept of the u-lock is that when a thief cuts into it, it releases a noxious gas:
With his co-inventor, Yves Perrenoud, Idzkowski created a U-shaped lock of carbon and steel with a hollow chamber to hold one of three pressurized gases of their own concoction, including one called “formula D_1”. When someone cuts about 30% of the way into the lock, Idzkowski said, the gas erupts in the direction of the gash.
“It’s pretty much immediately vomit inducing, causes difficulty breathing,” Idzkowski said. “A lot of similar symptoms to pepper spray.”
So basically it's like cutting into a hunk of Limburger cheese at a cocktail party, or like a Fred peeling off his chamois after a long ride.
“You’re basically just puking on yourself the entire time,” he said. “They could change all their clothes, shower, if the bike is still there come out and cut the remaining 75% of the lock. You can’t prevent a theft 100%, so that’s why we call it a deterrent lock, not a solution.
“All you have to do is be better than the bike across the street.”
Okay, two questions:
1) What happens to the innocent bystanders? Are they just collateral damage?
2) If this is such an effective deterrent, why not just put some SkunkLock stickers on your current lock and be done with it?
I don't know, but here's the video from the crowdfunding website:
It should be fun when these start deploying accidentally like those Hovding airbag helmets--though it still doesn't seem like as much of a deterrent as the Bike Mine:
Explosive charges, noxious gas...it won't be long before we need the cycling equivalent of the Geneva Convention.
Speaking of destruction and mayhem, remember how my chain broke yesterday? Well when I finally went to shorten my chain for the ride home I noticed that the pins came out way too easily, which undermined my confidence considerably. I also discovered my pulley wheel was cracked:
Did the broken chain cause the pulley to break? Or did the broken pulley somehow break the chain? Or are the two things completely unrelated?
We may never know (or care, for that matter) but I'm ordering a set of $499 CeramicSpeed oversized freak pulleys immediately:
Nah, just kidding. I'm actually ordering the $599 "coated" version:
The OSPW is a carbon-fiber pulley cage stuffed with a pair of 17-tooth, machined-aluminum pulleys. It sells for $499 and is claimed to save you at least 2.4 watts. $100 more gets you the coated version, which claims to have 50-percent less friction than CeramicSpeed’s standard ceramic bearings. A pair of standard replacement pulleys cost $279, or $369 for the coated version.
Wow, the "coating upcharge" has to be the most revolutionary development in bilking Freds since the "SL" suffix. I imagine a visit to the pro shop must go like this:
"Wait, did I say $499? Sorry, I meant $599. It's got a special coating. No, you can't actually see it, and there's no way I can show it to you because it's not visible to the naked eye, but I promise it's there."
What's next, a $1,000 version that's made out of titanium?
On second thought I'm not pulling the trigger on new pulleys until retail prices crack the $10,000 barrier.
Nevertheless, going back to the "Bicycling" review, those $499 derailleur pulleys (a total bargain now that you know they go for twice that in titanium) sound absolutely fantastic...apart from the fact that they can't clear a 28-tooth cog:
But maybe if you spring for the "coated" version the whole friction thing will cancel itself out.
Oh, and you have to use them with that special $135 chain that only lasts for 200 miles and is only good in dry conditions:
The chain’s watt-saving properties are only good for 200 miles, after which it’s about as fast as an unoptimized, but broken-in, version of the chain. Also, CeramicSpeed warns that the chain’s treatment is not corrosion resistant and should only be used in dry conditions during its 200-mile optimized lifespan. Once the optimization wears off, you can protect the chain from water damage by using your favorite chain lube.
But if you do you'll explore the fascinating grey area between riding at your "average ability" and riding at your "best:"
However, there’s "on paper" and there’s "the real world." I learned that gaining time improvements in the real world from a claimed less-than-10-watt reduction in friction—with variables like weather (I tested this in the late winter/early spring) and my wildly fluctuating form—is pretty tough.
It appears there was a little bump in efficiency, but the real-world improvement in time was less than the difference between when I’m riding at my average ability, and when I’m my best. It certainly wasn’t like I bolted the OSPW and UFO on and it started raining easy PRs.
But keep in mind that you suck, so the difference between your "average" and your "best" is about as meaningful as the friction coefficient between the base derailleur pulleys and the "coated" version.
And enjoy climbing with your derailleur pulley grinding away on your cassette.
Anyway, once I buttoned my poor drivetrain back up I decided not to take any more chances with it and instead said "Fuck it" and took the train:
You'll no doubt be pleased to learn I made it from the train station to my home with no catastrophic drivetrain failure and subsequent crotch-on-top-tube contact.
Lastly, on Tuesday I solicited feedback from you, my cherished readers, for my next Walz "limited edition" cap design, and after carefully analyzing your comments and taken all of them totally serious I've finally come up with a template I think will have a little something for everyone:
Assuming Brooks signs on it should be ready for the holiday shopping season.
Introducing … the SkunkLock! This awesome San Francisco invention shoots a vomit inducing chemical spray when cut.
Twenty dollar locks are essentially worthless in San Francisco and elsewhere in the San Francisco Bay Area. Cyclists now use hundred dollar locks for their superior protection, and thieves have upped their game in this arms race with more expensive tools to cut through even the priciest locks. Even “connected” locks with phone alarms are now easily bypassed by savvy criminals. The next step in this evolutionary game is chemical warfare.
Skunklock’s inventors claim their lock is safe, strong and legal. There’s no chance of accidental release of the chemical spray. According to the inventors, SkunkLock is as strong as the strongest u-locks on the market with best-in-class shackle and locks. They also say they’ve reviewed laws in the markets they intend to sell to, including internationally, and believe their product to be legal.
For the full photographic glory and the rest of the text, you know where to go. The Original Cycle Chic awaits.
Given the beguiling combination of unseasonably warm temperatures and autumn foliage we're currently experiencing, I figured I'd be a real schmuck if I didn't head out this morning for a mountain bike ride. So that's just what I did, and you can believe me when I tell you I was congratulating myself the whole time for shirking my relatively few responsibilities in order to indulge in some of the finest mall-adjacent all-terrain bicycling Yonkers has to offer:
I had just scaled a particularly steep climb when I noticed my chain was skipping a bit, which is odd, because my antique hand-curated 1x9 drivetrain usually works flawlessly. After twiddling my barrel adjuster a bit (gigglechortle) to no avail, it finally occurred to me to look downward, and I noticed that my chain watcher/catcher/dingle-dangle-whatever-you-want-to-call-it thingy was all askew. Clearly something had knocked it out of whack and it was interfering with my chain. So I straightened it out and continued, and it happened again, so I fixed it again, and it happened yet again. So I lay the bike down in frustration:
As I stared at it, it became clear to me that my kludgy drivetrain was hopelessly outmoded and that I needed to upgrade to one of those new fancy-pants dedicated 1x11 drivetrains with the clutch derailleur and the special chainring and the hi-drolic dick breaks and all the rest of it. So I whipped out my smartphone, filled a virtual shopping cart with hundreds of dollars of bike parts, and was listening for the sound of the delivery drone when I had a crazy idea:
"Maybe I should look at the chain."
So I did, and that's when I noticed it was broken:
"Hmmm, that might explain my poor shifting performance," I thought.
It was at that point the drone arrived, so I smashed it with a rock, buried its payload, covered the spot with some dead leaves, and informed the online retailer that I'd never received my order.
They refunded my money immediately.
Unrelated, if anyone wants a fancy-pants 1x11 drivetrain I'll sell you one cheap. Brand new, never used, some dirt on the packaging. Cash only.
Anyway, so there I was with a broken chain, which is no big deal, since I always carry a chain tool when I go mountain biking. All I had to do was remove the offending link, close the chain again, and avoid my lowest gear. No problem. So I opened my voluminous saddle bag and it shouldn't surprise you at all to learn there was no chain tool in there. Nor was there one in my backpack, which is the second place I looked.
The courteous fellows who stopped and asked me if I needed anything didn't have one either.
Most vexing was that I'd once found a chain tool in almost this exact spot. I carried it around thinking maybe I'd bump into the owner, and when I didn't I just kept it. It now dawned on me that this rider had probably stopped here to fix a chain and forgotten it. Now here I was in need of a chain tool and I didn't have one. It was karma, or something.
Of course the chain had not given way completely, so I shifted into the straightest chainline possible and gently pedaled to the nearest bike shop. (In case you're wondering what the retail price on a Park CT-5 is in an actual brick-and-mortar bike shop is these days, it's like two hundred bucks.) I also picked up some lunch and treated myself to an ice-cold Coca-Cola for my troubles, and when I went to pop it open here's what happened:
Man, this country's going down the tubes.
Fortunately I had my chain tool, so I was able to rectify the situation:
By the way, if you would like to weigh in on why my chain broke and how it's my fault (it was too long, it was too short, it was the wrong brand, it was lubed incorrectly, it was installed upside-down, etc.) please leave your comments here.
In other news, we've been hearing a lot about how Sky and other pro cycling teams enjoy the painkiller Tramadol:
Former Team Sky rider Jonathan Tiernan-Locke, in a BBC report today, questioned Bradley Wiggins' use of a powerful corticosteroid drug to treat his allergies.
Tiernan-Locke also revealed that the Great Britain team, at the 2012 World Championships, offered riders Tramadol "freely around," but he did not take it. "I wasn't in any pain so I didn't need to take it, and that was offered freely around. It just didn't sit well with me at the time. I thought, 'I'm not in any pain', why would I want a painkiller?'"
As I understand it, the reason they take Tramadol is that it allows them to ride through the pain, with the inconvenient side-effect that they get all wonky and crash into each other.
Anyway, here's an article in the Wall Street Journal about how Tramadol use is becoming something of a global crisis:
Indeed, apparently they use so much of the stuff in Cameroon that it's in the plants now:
Inexpensive, imported tramadol is so heavily abused in northern Cameroon that it seeps from human and animal waste into the groundwater and soil, where vegetation absorbs it, wrote Michael Spiteller and Souvik Kusari, chemists at the University of Dortmund.
Farmers in Northern Cameroon told the researchers that they take double or triple the safe dosage, and feed tramadol to cattle to help them pull plows through the scorching afternoon sun.
Hey, if it can help cattle pull plows, imagine what it must do for emaciated humans on ultralight bicycles!
It was also invented by the company that brought you thalidomide:
Dr. Flick says he developed a molecule that seemed promising. But just when he was finishing tramadol’s development, Grünenthal was overtaken by a crisis: Its popular drug thalidomide was causing catastrophic birth defects.
And refined by a former SS who cut his research teeth experimenting on prisoners:
That changed after a Grünenthal scientist, Ernst-Günther Schenck, started testing the drug. Dr. Schenck, a former Waffen SS official who conducted nutrition experiments that killed prisoners during World War II, found tramadol effective for different types of pain. And it appeared to be less addictive than other opioids. He published several papers on its efficacy, and in 1977, Germany approved tramadol for sale. Dr. Schenck died in 1998.
Now that's a pedigree.
It also goes great with coffee:
Tramadol that goes from India to Benin makes its way to places like Garoua, a smoky city in northern Cameroon where vultures circle over the edge of town. Men in caftans buy boxes labeled “Super Royal X-225” from curbside vendors for a few cents a pill. The potent red tablets are known as “tomates” because the little red apples printed on their boxes remind locals of tomatoes. Coffee sellers with outdoor stands will empty a couple of tramadol capsules into a customer’s Nescafe for 10 cents.
So look for "tomato"-infused lattes at a Rapha Cycle Club near you.
Hey, if it's good enough for Boko Haram it's good enough for the peloton:
Further north, where Cameroon narrows to a thin spit between Nigeria and Chad, the drug is popular with the terrorist group Boko Haram. “We find tramadol packets in the pockets of those we kill,” says a Cameroon army commander who oversees antiterror missions.
So there you go.
Lastly, Road World Champion Peter Sagan got lots of attention when he showed up at the UCI gala wearing this:
I'm not sure which he looks like most: a Mississippi riverboat gambler, Willy Wonka, or the guy on the corner selling Tramadol.