Thursday, August 28, 2014

BSNYC Product Review: State Bicycle Co. Saturday Deluxe


Before anything else, let it be known that after today I will not be posting until Thursday, September 4th, at which point I will resume regular updates.

Happy Labouring Day and all of that.

Also, it's extremely important that during that time you buy a hat!

It's only the greatest bike riding hat ever made, that's all.  (And yes, we're talking about augmenting the hat offerings somehow, but whether that means different colors or adding an integrated fan remains to be seen.)

Meanwhile, the holiday may be nigh, but I put the "pro" in "non-productive," so in the meantime I'm pleased to present you with a thorough(ish) review of the State Bicycle Co. "Saturday Deluxe," which you may recall I took delivery of not too long ago:

So far, I've been pleased with this bicycle (both aesthetically and functionally), but the time had come for a serious test, that being a New York City commute spanning three (3) boroughs and including two (2) river crossings.

Moreover, the day of the test was also either the last or penultimate (I forget which) day of the NYPD's "Operation Safe Cycle" bicycle crackdown, so in addition to testing the State, I'd also be testing my own ability to avoid gratuitous ticketing.

To be honest, while I was looking forward to a long ride on the State (about 17 miles or so one way, which is a pretty decent schlep on a singlespeed with only a coaster brake), I wasn't feeling optimistic about my prospects as far as not getting a ticket.  Firstly, I was heading to Brooklyn, home of the sorts of hapless transplants the NYPD loves to stop.  Secondly, I was riding a very precious-looking bicycle, making me look like yet another hapless transplant.  Thirdly, while I planned to go out of my way to obey the traffic laws, there's very little correlation between obeying traffic laws on a bicycle and not being stopped by the NYPD.

Also, I was secretly hoping to get pulled over, because I was using the Fly6 integrated tail light camera, so maybe I'd get the whole thing on video.

In any case, I stuffed some supplies into my hobo bindle (in this case a neon green IMBA World Summit schwag bag), secured it in the front rack with a cargo net, and I was on my way:

One feature particular to riding in big cities like New York and Chicago is elevated subway tracks:

If you ride directly under the tracks there's not much room for maneuvering due to the supports, and if you ride alongside them you're constantly subjected to hastily-flung car doors and delivery trucks pulling over right in front of you:

(That's a regular photo, not a Fly6 still.)

I circumvented that particular truck and pressed on:

Owing to the crackdown I'd resolved to follow all the traffic laws.  However, it wasn't long before my resolve had broken.  See this bridge?

Technically you're supposed to dismount and walk across it.  Yeah, right.  I'll dismount and walk across the bridge just as soon as they require drivers to get out of their cars and push those across, too.

Now I was off the mainland and on the island of Manhattan, where I was pleased to find that Seaman Ave. had been newly surfaced:

There is nothing more pleasant than rolling on smooth Seaman.

However, my pleasure was short-lived, because somewhere around the intersection of Seaman and Cumming:

(Never gets old.  Never!!!)

The new pavement gave way to this:

Thus affording me a chance to test the State's vibration-damping characteristics:

The wide-ish tires kept me reasonably comfortable on the savaged surface of Seaman, though my hobo bindle was rattling around in the rack rather loudly, and it had me thinking it wouldn't be a bad idea to fit the rack's wooden surface with some sort of rubber cover, something I will never, ever get around to doing.

Like Mario Cipollini checking out of a hotel room, I left Seaman behind, at which point I had an opportunity to administer the "portaging test," because in order to get onto the Hudson River Greenway you have to ascend some steps:

When you factor in the full front rack the Saturday Deluxe isn't exactly light, though it's not so heavy you'd have too much trouble carrying it up to your apartment.  In this case though I outsmarted gravity by rolling the bike up the side of the staircase.  I also generally ride down these stairs when I'm traveling the other way, which is especially enjoyable when you're on a road bike and you pass people gingerly walking their full-suspension bikes.

Continuing on, I came to a steep descent--which is a steep ascent when you're headed north, which may explain why this rider looks so nonplussed:

Note my inner thigh visible in the upper right-hand corner as I position my scranus over the rear wheel to maximize the efficacy of the coaster brake:

This being a bike review, I next stopped at a famous landmark for an impromptu bicycle photo shoot:

That's the George Washington Bridge and the so-called "Little Red Lighthouse," subject of the famous children's book of the same name:

Your child will love the part where the Governor of New Jersey creates a traffic jam on the Great Gray Bridge on purpose.

Here's me taking a picture of the bike:

You may also notice a wet spot slowly forming in my crotchal area, which is sweat dripping down my body and being absorbed by my pants.

Here's me remounting the State:

Noticed I walked the bicycle along the path because the State is not rated as a gravel bike by the World International Gravel Bike Association.

Continuing downtown, I left the George Washington Bridge behind:

And overtook two people on an e-bike:

(Regular photo again, not Fly6.)

I assumed the passenger was a child, but the Fly6 reveals a fully grown adult:

By this point I began to realize I was going to have a hard time convincing anybody that the dark patch in the front of my pants was not urine:

Pants-wetting, of course, is nature's way of revealing fear and vulnerability, which would help explain why I was soon subjected to shirtless Cat 6 attacks:

When you get to the general vicinity of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum the Hudson River Greenway begins to see a lot of pedestrian traffic, hence these bicycle-specific traffic signals nobody obeys:

I'm not sure why, during a highly-publicized crackdown during which the NYPD is stopping cyclists for everything and anything, riders don't at least go through the motions in order to avoid tickets:

Why make it easier for them, you know?

I was now schvitzing like an elderly man in a steamroom, and so I stopped at a bench to mop my brow and engage in some more bicycle photography:

The dark strip down the front of my shirt should tell you all you need to know:

Then I left the greenway and headed across town, where I watched a driver in an Audi SUV flip a u-turn right in front of the woman riding in the bike lane in front of me, forcing her to stop abruptly.  He appeared to be parking, but then he lunged back into traffic again as I passed:

I do my best not to engage drivers but between the heat and the dickishness of the maneuver I couldn't help but give him a piece of my mind, and to my amazement at the next light he went out of his way to apologize.  Here he is in mid-apology:

At first I was amazed, but after awhile it dawned on me that between my plaintive, nasal, whiny delivery and my wet crotch he probably thought I had pissed myself in fear and took pity on me:

Hey, whatever works.

Shortly thereafter I got caught in a traffic bottleneck due to construction.  With the crackdown still in full effect there was no way I was going to ride on the sidewalk, and so I did a cyclocross dismount and walked the bike past the blockage instead:

Then I remounted:

And the bars immediately rotated downward because apparently I hadn't tightened the stem bolt enough:

So I now looked like this guy:

Only with a sweaty crotch.

I fixed the problem and continued on, encountering the usual assortment of bike lane obstructions:

I suspected this was an undercover sting and 50 officers would leap from the truck as soon as I went around it, but fortunately this was not the case:

Moments later, I was overtaken by a "fixiebro:"

Who crowded me in an aggressive manner as we rounded the corner:

I guess when you've got a pretty bike and a wet crotch even people who ride in gym shorts think they've got something on you.

Passing through SoHo, I encountered this photo shoot involving a dog:

(Again, regular photo, not Fly6.)

And then a short while later I passed this guy intently photographing something at a microbial level:

Leaving Manhattan behind, I crossed the Manhattan Bridge to Brooklyn:

Successfully negotiated the descent with my coaster brake:

Passed the shitty bike art:

And finally locked up the State, my wardrobe positively drenched with perspiration:

In the end, there's very little not to like about this bike, with the exception of the bell, which I still haven't figured out:


So if you're looking for a pretty and inexpensive townie and you don't need none of them fancy gears or handbrakes, this bicycle will fit the bill rather nicely.

And with that, I'm off to wring the last few drops of sweat from the summer.  Thanks for reading, ride safe, and happy Labor Day.

See you again on September 4th.

--Wildcat Rock Machine

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

My Trip To Colorado Part III: The Search for The Empire Who Strikes Back Against the Return of the Electric Boogaloo

Well, evidently I've dug a narrative hole for myself, because it's Wednesday and I'm still writing about this trip to Colorado.

So let's see if I can claw my way out.

Here's Part I.

Here's Part II.

Today will constitute Part III, and after that I will never, ever speak of this trip again.

So where was I?  Oh, right, heading down that hill for the millionth time:

Once again I walked, because it was broad daylight, and because I planned to check out some of the IMBA Summit action, after which I was ostensibly supposed to give some sort of talk--or, as the schedule put it:

4:45-6 Bike Snob NYC hosts a lively recap of the day's discussions (plennary, with beverages for all guests)

Which would of course get all the attendees psyched up for the next item on the agenda:

Dinner on your own

"Dude, like sooo stoked for dinner on my own!," a lot of people wearing baggy mountain bike shorts could be heard exclaiming.

Wherever there are bike events there are tents, and under those tents you will find products.  Here's the Honey Stinger tent:

Notice how the woman working the tent is shielding her face, which is how people typically react to me:

Actually, she's probably just adjusting her glasses, but I always assume everything's about me.

Anyway, you probably know Honey Stinger for their famous waffles, which are quite tasty.  In fact, you could easily mistake them for a regular snack--that is until the bloating and flatulence common to all energy foods kicks in and you realize you've been had.

Oh, here are a couple of disembodied hands:

One is wielding a toothpick, and the other is probing a plate of orange globules.

I am a photojournalist.

Here's another tent shielding representatives of the "World's Only Underground Mountain Bike Park" from the deadly rays of the sun:

(Underground mountain bikers don't "do" sun.)

The acronym for "World's Only Underground Mountain Bike Park" could almost be "WOMB," which would be cool, so if they moved the park to the surface of the earth they'd at least be one letter closer, as the acronym would then be "WOMBP."  Of course, then they'd have a hard time defending the bold claim that they're the "World's Only Mountain Bike Park."  As it is, even claiming they're the world's only underground mountain bike park is a stretch, because when it snows I like to ride my mountain bike on the subway tracks, so you could say I invented the concept.*

*[Disclaimer: this is a lie.  Riding a bicycle on the subway tracks will result in death by high voltage, steel wheels, and hungry rats, probably in that order.]

Here's the "Pow!  E-Rice" tent:

"Pow!  E-Rice" is a fried rice-like ride fuel for mountain bikers that comes in a cardboard Chinese-style takeout container.  Flavors include "Shreddin' Shrimp," "Pump Track Pork," and "Non-Alliterative Chicken."

You can also eat the chopsticks.

So what's the difference between roadies and mountain bikers?  Sure, they dress differently and they ride different bikes, but it goes much deeper than that.  Consider the fact that mountain bikers must use tools to maintain the trails on which they ride, whereas roadies don't do anything to help anybody, and are merely tools themselves:

Granted, I don't do crap by way of trail-building or maintenance, but that's going to change when I finally take delivery of the Sutter 300 Bull-Doze-O-Matic I ordered:

What can I say?  It was an impulse buy.

Central Park's about to get some sweet new mountain bike trails, and I'm sure the Parks Department won't mind at all.

Another difference between roadies and mountain bikers is that roadies motorpace behind Vespas, whereas mountain bikers fire up motorcycles and drag barbed metal hammocks behind them:

See that?

The way this works is if you injure yourself out on the trail the rescue worker throws you on this thing and drags you to the hospital.

Here's another kid making with the radness at an age when plenty of other children still don't even know how to ride:

And here's the demo bike area:

Alas, I did not sample the latest in inverted fork technology:

Though I did attempt to borrow an e-bike, since e-bikes and trail access was one of the main issues at this year's summit.

Sadly, they were all gone:

Though after browsing the demo area I did go to the e-bike "Flashpoint Discussion" session:

E-bikes and Trail Access: Electric-assist bicycles are a fast-growing category. This discussion will examine the evolving management strategies and best practices for e-bikes on natural surface trails. Facilitated by IMBA Communications Director Mark Eller; panelists include IMBA Executive Director Mike Van Abel; NICA Executive Director and Recreation Planning Consultant, Austin McInery; Randy Neufeld, SRAM; Larry Pizzi, Currie Technologies; Samuel Benedict, Specialized Bicycles.

With some exceptions, I think it's probably a pretty bad idea to allow electric-assist mountain bikes on trails, though by far the most memorable part of the session was when the guy from Specialized concocted an elaborate metaphor involving a cyborg horse in order to make a point about e-bikes I was entirely unable to discern.

So remember: when Specialized introduces an S-Works line of equestrian supplies and crabon robo-horses, you read about it here first.

From the e-bike session I then hopped into the fat bike session taking place next door:

Fat Bikes and Trail Access: Considered a fad just a few years ago, fat bikes have emerged as a meaningful trend in bicycling with application to winter sports, sand sports and backcountry travel. The go-everywhere capability of fat bikes has inspired discussions about how to best manage their use at Nordic facilities, multi-use trails and public beaches. Facilitated by IMBA Upper Midwest Region Director Hansi Johnson. Invited speakers include Gary Sjoquist, QBP/Salsa; Andy Williams, Grand Targhee Resort; Candy Fletcher, Marquetter County Convention and Visitors Bureau Recreation Marketing Director.

Oddly, it was 40 degrees colder in the fat bike room, there was the sound of howling wind, and everyone had crew cuts and talked like "Fargo:"

The one thing I took away from this session is that fat bikers spend an insane amount of time grooming snowy trails in order to make them rideable, which surprised me, because I thought the whole point of fat bikes was that you could ride them anywhere.  Honestly, if you have to drive around all day on a snowmobile before you can even think of going for a ride then it hardly seems worth it.  Plus, while all the fat bikers are out doing that, who the hell is at home shoveling the walk?

Surly should come out with a new fat bike and call it the "Divorce Attorney."

Then from the fat bike session I headed over to the Bar Mitzvah tent:

Where I participated in the lamest session of all:

Here's a picture of me making "air quotes" before a nonplussed crowd:

Someone commented recently that all the men at the IMBA World Summit appear to be bald, but I have no idea what they're talking about.

I also deny all rumors that IMBA is merely a front for the Hair Club® For Men‎.

The next morning was supposed to see the start of the so-called "Epic Ride."  However, it had rained hard all night, and when I peeled back the curtains the sky looked like this:

Judging from the condition of the hot tub area, I assumed sending a hundred or so people out into the mountains would be a bad call:

Sure enough, out of concern for the well-being of both the riders and the trails, IMBA cancelled the "epic," and so three of us went for a road ride instead:

I never got closer than this to my riding partners:

And as soon as the road went up I didn't see them at all:

Once again, Moots were kind enough to lend me a suitable bicycle:

Actually, it was a lot more than suitable:

In fact, I'd strongly recommend never riding this bicycle unless you're prepared to buy it, because that's exactly what you'll want to do:

After the ride, there wasn't much left to do but let the Lycra dry and count the hours before my departure time:

Thanks very much to IMBA, Moots, and everyone who came to the summit.

Yours etc., 

--Wildcat Rock Machine