Worst of NYC Craigslist Bike Ads #5 and #6

While preparing to embark upon my weekend I checked in with Craigslist one last time and immediately came across two fine examples of just how abysmal the NYC board can be. I leave you with these so that at least those of you who live elsewhere can spend the weekend savoring your good fortune:

RALEIGH 48CM SINGLE SPEED FIXED/TRACK BIKE! - $500 [original URL: http://newyork.craigslist.org/brk/bik/363224026.html]

(You read right: $500, and presumably in US funds.)

Reply to: [deleted]
Date: 2007-06-29, 5:03PM EDT This is a orange RALEIGH RECORD 48cm SINGLE SPEED ROAD BIKE. It's a great courier/messenger bike. I just need to downsize my bikes a bit. And this one's gotta go. It's my baby and I'll miss it.

If this is your baby, I pray I never see the rest of your stable. Unless you literally mean "baby" because of the diminutive size. But I'm sure you'll sell it. Lots of people are looking for 48cm Raleigh Records, the bike Sheldon Brown (!) calls "the bottom of Raleigh's drop-bar line." (And I hope I'm misquoting so he comes by and corrects me.)

This is a "used" lugged road bike, all the gears have been removed, back wheel has been dished over to accommodate a single wheel cog. Bike has new chain, bar tape, and cog. Here's the info:

Why is "used" in quotes? Is it quasi-used but not really? And I'm sorry I scoffed at the price. I didn't realize it had so much new stuff on it. Is the bar tape gold leaf?


Finally! I've been looking all over for a bike with 122mm spacing so I can use my slightly out-of-spec 120mm hub.


Sweet looking cranks. Welcome back, cottered.


Those bars make your bike look like Ronnie James Dio throwing the metal horns.



I'll be showing the bike next week. Just wanted to line up people to take a look at it. Please email me. I will be reposting this next week.

"Wait. Is that the line for the new iPhone?" "No, some guy's selling a 48cm Raleigh fixie conversion for $500." "Oh, really? I was just on the way to the shop to buy a br
and-new Bianchi Pista, but that sounds like a much better deal. I think I'll queue up!"

$500 cash or best offer. Must pick up. Thanks for looking, James

See you soon, James. I'll be the one camping out in the pup tent.

bike messenger gear for sale - $325 (Greenwich Village) [original URL: http://newyork.craigslist.org/mnh/bik/363109168.html]

OK, not much to say about this one. This is another one of those ads that is clearly a guy hoping that some chick is going to read this and fall for his cutesy delivery. The reality, though, is that people are looking for bikes, reading this, and getting really angry. I present it to you uninterrupted so you can share in the fury. If you're a working messenger prepare to put your fist through a wall:

Reply to: [deleted]
Date: 2007-06-29, 2:33PM EDT
Here's the deal, guys. I recently moved to New York City and worked as a bike messenger for a few weeks until my other job kicked into full force. So now I'm selling this stuff because it takes up too much space in my apartment and I really just don't need it. The bicycle is quality. A Specialized Hard Rock Comp edition - 17" frame, Shimano Alivio components. It's yell
ow. It's fast and quiet, and I've kept it finely oiled ever since I got it last year from a friend who bought it to commute while his license was temporarily suspended. Never a crash; all the components are in perfect condition. About the bag: Bailey Works Inc. - extra large, fully waterproof. I bought it only two weeks ago. It's one of the best high-end bags available today. It's sleek. It's black. So fashionable and so so durable! Bond, James Bond has already made an offer on this bag but I figured I'd hold out a little longer to see if you guys wanted it because Bond, James Bond already has so much cool stuff anyway. It has tastefully minimal and yet effective reflective strips on it. It's extremely spacious, and there are all sorts of extra compartments in it to keep your things organized. It even has velcro! I've held gigantic parcels in this bag and felt zero discomfort across the shoulder strap because the shoulder strap is so well padded. Here's also some stuff I'll throw in for free, if you buy the above mentioned gear:

One (1) matte gray-blue Giro bike helmet, only worn by my frequently shampooed head for two weeks.
Two (2) mountain bike inner tubes, in case you pop two (2) flat tires.
One (1) Roland Juno keyboard... fully functional as a midi controller; semi-functional as a stand-alone keyboard... just figured I'd throw that in there, you know?

Really, guys, I'm just trying to make good on my initial investment and pay my rent on ti
me, so prices are negotiable.

Ask for William: [deleted]

Take it to the personals, Bill. Or to "erotic services." Have you seen "Midnight Cowboy?" It's tough to make it in this town and Sunday is the 1st of the month. But judging from the photo of you with the keyboard I think you've already reconciled yourself with what you'll need to do.

Fixedgeargallery...of the sublimely ridiculous.

One of my favorite things about fixedgeargallery is the sheer variety of bicycles and defects. Sometimes it takes a few minutes for quirks and inconcistencies to reveal themselves, and sometimes the moment I click my mouse I'm nearly thrown from my chair as though I've triggered an ejector seat. In this batch, there's a little from column A, and a little from column B:

This bike has got to be one of the ugliest things I've seen in awhile, bicycle or otherwise. The red, the bubblegum pink, the toptube pad...this is more ill-conceived than a sports bar in Williamsburg. The only possible justification for this bicycle existing would be if the owner is a professional clown who rides it on the job while honking one of those old-timey horns. Barring this, it's a disaster.

Almost subtle in comparison is this rough beast from Chicago, slouching towards Wicker Park to be born. This bike is the equivalent of that guy who always wears a really annoying hat, or an ascot, regardless of the weather. Yes, we all notice you, don't worry--you can stop looking for a pink saddle. And why do I get the feeling somebody's saving up for a white paint job?

This is one of those bikes that took awhile to start annoying me. The first thing I noticed was the top tube pad, which makes the bike look like it's wearing a turtleneck. Putting a top-tube pad on a bike is like putting a sweater on a dog. Then there's the brown color scheme. It's not as bad as the pink, but in its own way it's just as precious. What's with all the color coordinating on fixies? They're bikes, not Barbie dolls. Also, this thing has chain tensioners on horizontal dropouts. Chain tensioners are borderline pointless in the real world even on track fork-ends. On a conversion with horizontal dropouts they're just awkward, sticking out at an angle like exhaust pipes on a Kawasaki. And what's with the rental car? Is that the rider's or his parents'? Either way something's just not right about posing your fixed gear with a motor vehichle.

If this bike isn't "studied chic" I don't know what is. This is a by-the-numbers trendy build. This bicycle says, "The guy who rides me spends way too much time picking out his outfit in the morning." I imagine if you go up that walkway and into that house, and then proceed to the bedroom closet, you'll find a closet full of barely-worn Nike Dunks. Of course, color coordination is present in the purple chain, hubs, and grips. (You know, people who actually ride change their chains and grips too often to make sure they match.) I don't know what that top tube pad is made of, but it looks like either crushed velvet or snakeskin. This bike looks like it's congratulating itself for getting into a really trendy bar last night. How long before he ditches that IRO frame for something NJS?


As cyclists, there are many things we do or say that mark us as part of the bike culture. Obsession with body weight, leg shaving, and occasional hormone consumption are all things in which cyclists (and the transgendered) engage.

And like any hobby, sport, profession, subculture, lifestyle or obsession, cycling has its own set of words unique to itself. Knowing and understanding these words gives many of us that comfortable feeling of belonging to a larger whole.

Granted, I have a delicate ear, but some of these words have just never sat well with me. Here are a few bits of cycling jargon I could stand never to hear again.


I’m a huge Sheldon Brown fan, but I hate this word. I don’t know if he coined it or simply propagated it, but in either case it makes me wince. It makes me think of SPD sandals, really long quill stems, and hairy legs. (Did I mention I’m a huge Sheldon Brown fan?) And at the same time it is dangerously close to another conjoined word I hate: “brunch.” I’d rather say STI, or Ergo, or even "integrated brake/shift lever." And it’s not like we even have to anymore. It’s 2007—I think we all know what a “lever” refers to on a bike. But I shouldn’t complain. “Brifter” is better than “shrake lever.”


This word is used way too freely, especially by people who have just learned it. When you’re watching the Tour de France, or Liege-Bastogne-Liege, say “peloton.” When you’re talking about the local training series, just say “pack,” or “field,” or “group.” I've never heard of anybody being called “peloton fill.”

Failure Mode

This one is bandied about on rec.bicycles.tech quite often. I know there are a lot of cyclist engineers out there, but this is a dire, overblown expression that is far too severe for most bicycle parts. Generally someone will post something like, “What’s the failure mode for a latex inner tube?” Come on, tone it down a little. To me, “failure mode” evokes going down in flames. Say “failure mode” when you’re talking about the tiles on the Space Shuttle. When you’re talking about a bike part, just ask, “How does it usually break?”

Front/Rear Mech (UK only)

I am thankful I do not live in the UK, because I don’t think I could stand to hear these words used regularly. I love Britain and her people, but their cutesy little words sometimes irritate me for reasons I don’t quite understand. Call me a francophile, call me a squanderer of syllables, or call me a pedant, but what the hell is wrong with the word “derailleur?” (And forget about seatpin. A pin goes in a cushion—or if you say “seatpin” around me, in you.)

(as in “wheelset,” “frameset,” “crankset,” etc.)

This is a tricky one because it’s so deeply engrained in cycling parlance—adding “set” to the end of everything. Even I use “[blank]set” regularly, despite the fact that as I’m saying or typing it I immediately regret it. I understand why it exists: for example, a “frameset” ideally distinguishes a frame and fork from just the frame. But now the expression is so common people really don’t even observe the distinction anymore. Hence it loses its meaning. And why do we need to say “wheelset” anyway? They’re just wheels! What would a “wheelset” include that wheels would not? Bags? Tires? OK, maybe skewers. But why don’t we just go all the way, and start saying “saddleset” (includes rails), “seatpostset” (includes clamp), “pedalset” (includes cleats), “tireset” (front and rear, maybe with tubes), and “bar tapeset” (cork and adhesive—now there’s a concept).

*(The one 100% acceptable and appropriate usage is, of course, headset!)


If you’re an anglophone, it’s a bottle.

Seven Signs of the Fixed-Gear Apocalypse

For all my bashing of the fixie trend I think a lot of good things have come out of it: the tire industry is thriving thanks to skip-stopping; there are lots of barely-ridden Bianchi Pistas on the used market; and cars now stop for me even when they have the light because they now just assume anyone with drop bars can't or won't be able to stop at an intersection.

For those of you who ride your bikes because you love to ride and don't care what everybody else is doing, you won't care about any of this. But if you're one of those people who rides them because it's important to for you to be cool, stop immediately and seek out a new trend. Because it's over for the fixie subculture in a biblical sense. Here are the seven signs that the end is nigh:

1) This. Spinning, as we all know, is "the hottest, hippest aerobic group workout to hit the nation since jazzercise." It's nothing new. And it's fixed. This place owns the URL "fixedgear.com" and is in Orange County, CA. Remember break dancing? People started doing that in gyms too.

2) Specialized special city edition Langsters. I haven't seen mention of these online yet, but I have seen them at my LBS. They are limited edition Langsters, each one honoring a certain city. The NYC one is taxi cab yellow and has chopped flat bars. The Seattle (or was it Portland?) one has wooden fenders. The London one is painted in a Union Jack motif. They're actually cool as a style exercise, but as far as fixed-gear riding being "underground" this isn't even the final nail in the coffin--the fixie coffin is already buried and this is the penultimate nail in the coffin that will be buried next to the fixie coffin. Just wait until you see one--you'll see what I mean.

3) Building a fixie and learning a track stand as life goals. Building your own house by hand is a life goal. Building a fixie is an entertaining diversion. And learning a track stand is a skill you acquire as a natural consequence of riding a bicycle in traffic, or off-road, or at a velodrome. It should not be an end goal in and of itself. One commenter suggests practicing on grass. I can't wait to see people practicing trackstands in McCarren park, like a bunch of trendy garden gnomes that occasionally fall over. Next alleycat competition category: freestyle tire wiping.


4) That New York Times article. I know everybody in the world has seen this already, but when the Times finally gets wind of your subculture, it's already a memory. Forthcoming hot trends you can expect the Times culture desk to report on soon: Williamsburg is trendy; white kids starting to adopt black culture in the suburbs; and Apple just may have a hit on its hands with this "iPod" thing.

5) That Intersection magazine feature. I saw this at Barnes and Noble awhile back, and was just reminded of it while visiting the excellent blog bobkestrut.com. He's already said just about all that needs to be said here, but I'll add that if you're one of those people who race well on the power and adrenaline of raw anger, get yourself a copy of this issue and read it at the start line of your next race. You'll wake up on the podium.

6) "I want one. What is it?" If you're anything like me, you're the person all your non-cycling friends and family come to if they have any questions about bikes or cycling. Lately a lot of these people have been coming to me saying, in essence, "I'm intersted in getting a fixed gear bike. What are they exactly?" In that order. Sign #4 in this list might have a lot to do with this. I should submit my own article to the Times: "Putting the Cart Way the Hell in Front of the Horse."

7) That court case in Portland with the guy who didn't use a brake. This "controversy" got a lot ot attention. When the "brake or no brake" debate has its own Roe v. Wade test case, I think the writing is on the wall.

The Month in Local Cycling Stupidity

Regardless of where you live and ride, doubtless you are subject to cluelessness on a daily basis. Here are just a few of the dumber things I've witnessed over the past few weeks while riding in NYC:

Six or seven fixie riders of the beard-and-studded-belt variety gathered around a gas station air hose. Are you telling me not one of these people carries a pump? You've all got gigantic Chrome messenger bags! Do you keep anything in there besides six-packs of Natty Light, extra spoke cards, and autographed photos of those guys from "Flight of the Conchords?"

The guy on a fixed-gear Panasonic conversion with a step-through frame who hammered past me on the Brooklyn Bridge in full-bore attack mode, panting.

The middle-aged guy on the flatbar road bike, loudly chiding his wife for not keeping up with him on the West Side bike path. There's something so sad and pathetic about the guy who drops his wife or girlfriend on a casual ride. (Though justice was served when she proceeded to drop him a couple miles later on the 181st Street hill.)

The guy in the park who rides a Moots Ti with Zipps in baggy shorts and a t-shirt. (The first time I saw him I figured he was just on a test ride or something, but I've seen him a bunch of times since. Oh yeah--big ring, all the time.)

The guy on the brakeless Trek fixie conversion (there's something especially stupid about a brakeless conversion) in Manhattan who was forced to make a right because he couldn't slow down for the car in front of him making a completely safe and legal turn. The rider cursed the driver the whole way and had to go about halfway down the block before he could manage to slow down, turn himself around, and put himself back on course. (It was completely the rider's fault and I think it was the first time in my life I ever sided with a car.)

The triathlete with his aerobars positioned higher than his saddle, thus completely eradicating any aerodynamic benefits. (Wait, that's every NYC triathlete. These guys sit more upright than Amish people at church. Their position is about as aero as standing at a post office service window with your forearms on the counter.)

It's All in the Details: Bicycle Acoustics

As cyclists many of us pay close attention to the performance, comfort, and aesthetic aspects of our bikes. However, I see way too many riders who neglect an equally-important consideration: the way their bicycles sound.

A bike noise is the equivalent of an STD. You can neglect it and the symptoms might go away for awhile, but they'll always reappear--and eventually it will drive you insane. Bike noises and STDs also share the same stigma: when I sit next to someone at a bar with a cold sore, I move over a stool; when I ride up to someone with a cacophonous bike, I give a wide birth.

For the aurally disinclined, here are just a few of the most obvious and egregious noises. If you don't love yourself or your bike enough to take care of them, then at least do it for the rest of us:
Bottom Bracket Creaking
(Look how simple and harmless! Take it out, pet it, and put it back.)
This is the cold sore of the bike world. Almost everybody gets it at one time or another. But unlike a cold sore, you can get rid of bottom bracket creaking by (this may come as a revelation) reinstalling or replacing your bottom bracket!
Every rider should aquire the tools and know-how to do this. Go to Sheldon Brown or the Park Tools site and figure it out. Why are people so afraid of their bottom brackets, like they're rabid ferrets living in their bottom bracket shells that will bite off their fingers if they try to coax them out? There are few things more sickening to me than a shiny, new, high-end road bike creaking like the floorboards of an old Victorian, or a fixed gear straining up the incline of the Brooklyn Bridge with a drivetrain that crunches like footfalls on newly-fallen snow.
Drivetrain Noise
(Chirp, chirp, chirp.)

Some drivetrain noise is inevitable and therefore acceptable. The following noises are unacceptable:
Squeaky Chain You should never allow your drivetrain to sound like a nest of baby rats pining for their mothers' teat. Clean chain if necessary and re-lube. (You don't need anything fancy. Motor oil will do just fine.)
Chattering Between Gears If your chain spends 30 seconds chattering like a roomful of yentas before engaging a new sprocket after you shift, take the time to adjust your derailleur. You may need to replace worn drivetrain components or cables.
Grinding This is sometimes a matter of technique. Your bicycle is an instrument and you should know how to play it. I see far too many riders on all manner of bicycles riding around in gear combinations that make their drivetrains sound like a medieval drawbridge descending over a moat. Learn how to shift! Unless you're in a race and either don't have the time or can't risk a chain-drop by shifting into the small ring, don't ride crossed-over. There are other sites that go into this in more detail. I'll just say aquire some grace and leave it at that. (Maybe this explains the fixie craze--too many people can't wrap their heads around proper shifting.)

Rattly Goddamn Zipps
More and more people are spending ungodly sums on obnoxious, overpriced deep-dish carbon fiber wheelsets to give them that essential edge in those hotly-contested Cat 4 races. As a consequence, more and more people's bikes are emitting a hideous racket as their ten-centimeter long valve stems wriggle around in the rim. It's starting to sound like a field of rattlesnakes out there, and it's pissing me off. Coupled with that "whoosh-woosh-woosh" they emit when the rider struggles up a moderate incline, it's enough to make you want to stick a pump through their bladed spokes.

Now I don't use these things, but if you do figure out something! Cyclingnews recently revealed a clever pro mechanic trick I thought was very resourceful. Get creative or get normal wheels. If you can't figure it out, you shouldn't be allowed to ride it.

Acceptable Noise
Perhaps the most amazing thing to me about bike noise is that people will tolerate all of the above, but then will complain about perfectly acceptable and desireable noises. One of these noises is loud freehubs. I have seen many, many posts in forums asking how to quiet a rear hub while coasting, or decrying a high-end hub for its loud buzzing sound, or asking what the quietest rear hub is.

Um, a loud hub or freewheel is good! That buzzing is the ratchet on which your crotch depends doing its job! If those pawls quiet down, you're dangerously close to making hard and fast love to your top tube. (If you simply must have a bike that coasts quietly, get some Shimano hubs which are engineered to do so.)

I Implore and Entreat You
If your bike starts making noise, get to the bottom of it immediately. This might be obvious, but your bike is telling you it needs help. This is also a great opportunity to learn the workings of your bike if you don't know them already. Remove, inspect, and replace one thing at a time. Resist the urge to just drop it off at the shop and have them cure it. Your bike needs intensive care at this time, and no shop has the man-hours or time to do that. I've had bikes that took weeks to diagnose, during which I practically maintained candle-light vigils, banishing all other distractions from my life until the problem was solved. If you're not prepared for this level of dedication, perhaps bike ownership is not for you. Golf clubs never make noise.

Worst of NYC Craigslist Bike Ads ***SPECIAL EDITION***

Alas, I am an idiot. In my haste I neglected to note this is quite clearly a freewheel, not a fixed gear. Thanks to the anonymous commenter who pointed this out. I was simply delirious thinking I had found what another commenter called "The Unholy Grail of Fixedgeardom..."
Sorry, I know I just posted a CL entry, but I just found something I've been seeking for years. I've always suspected there must be at least one out there, and today I found it. It might just be the worst faux-pas possible on a bicycle. Yes, it's a pie plate on a fixed gear! (Of course, the ultimate would be to find one on an all-NJS vanity street machine, but until today I didn't even think they existed, so who am I to be greedy?)

(I'm literally crying tears of joy--look at it, it's glorious!)

54cm Road Bike-Single Speed Conversion F/S - $300 (Upper East Side) (original URL: http://newyork.craigslist.org/mnh/bik/360605835.html)
Reply to: [deleted] Date: 2007-06-26, 10:50AM EDT

I am selling my single speed freewheel conversion. This is my most reliable bike but I must part with it now. The frame is a 54cm free Spirit butted steel frame from the '80's back when they really knew how to make the good stuff. The frame could use a paint job- it has a lot of nicks and scratches that are all cosmetic and definately much less than one might expect from a frame thats been around almost 30 yrs. The fork is also original. The other components have all been up'd and replaced.

"Free Spirit" and "the good stuff," in the same sentence. Another glorious first! And please, if you do buy this, don't paint it. If I see another resprayed or powdercoated beater on fixedgeargallery I will lose it. Save the cost and/or labor involved with repainting for restoring classic steel. Better yet, dismantle this frame with a Sawzall and use it to replace your plumbing.

Bullhorn aluminum(?) road bars new w/bar tape and top load brake lever, also new. the brake(new) is set up for the back but can be moved to the front as per your preference. Old style (french?) stem makes for a comfortable riding position. The steer tube is 1' threaded. The crankset vintage in great condition, pedals are fully functional but very used. Chain is new. Vittesse deep 'V' wheelset-used many miles but true, clean and durable w/road tires that have never gone flat, slow leaked or given me any problems whatsoever. These wheels are good for the next three or four summers before you will need to even consider changing. Also a stylish alloy seatpost, new and nice comfort anatomic relief saddle, new.

One brake. On the back. Nice. Not sure how easy it will be to move to the front. There's the small matter of bolt length. But finding a matching piece of stamped tin for the front shouldn't be too expensive.

The gearing is a bit unusual: the front chainring is 52t and the back cog is 24t. This allows for much better climbing while sacrificing only slightly on downhill resistance. For track and straight road riding this ratio is very balanced. Of course all this can be changed out. The back wheel can take a fixed gear on the flip as well (it is not set up flip flop right now but allows it)

It is a bit unusual. That cog's almost as big as the pie plate.

This bike has been my commuter for many months and would serve as a great messenger bike or simply a city bike. All the parts are great but its not overly showy and wont get ripped off. Serious buyers only!! Leave contact # w/your email. I will answer any questions/more pics if need. I can deliver. Price is negotiable but dont lowball me because I won't respond.

Lowball you on a Free Spirit? Wouldn't dream of it.

Worst of NYC Craigslist Bike Ads #3 and #4

This first one's not about the bike. It's the approach I can't get past. The second one is just all bad.

AWESOME BIANCHI BIKE - $300 (Original URL: http://newyork.craigslist.org/brk/bik/359639365.html)

Reply to: [deleted]: 2007-06-25, 3:45AM EDT

A bike is a lot like a car except it has only two wheels, no extra passengers, no stereo, no exhaust system, no parking tickets, no moving it every morning so you don’t get parking tickets, no insurance, no expense in money or time to pump dead dinosaur liquid that props up corrupt Middle-Eastern autocracies and their Western petro-chemical partners in grime, no digging it out in winter, no accumulation of fat on your ass and stomach from sitting in it, and no sneers from investment bankers who have nicer cars. Also, it is nothing like a car.

Awesome bike. Vintage high performance. Bianchi brand. Super light. Rides like a cream-dream. Seriously nice bike. Not ridden for a while, but in great shape. Tires need air, but otherwise good to go. Buy it. Ride it. Feel the wind in your hair. Be free again. See the city at a different speed, while simultaneously putting your foot up the ass of the automotive industry. Pretend you’re a bike messenger. Everyone thinks they’re sexy. $300 or best offer

Selling a bike is one thing. Trying to sell someone on the entire concept of cycling in order to sell your bike is another. That's just creating way too much work for yourself. I suspect this guy is more hopeful that someone will find him charming and email him for a date than he is hopeful that someone will buy his bike. Which is fine. But that's what the personals are for.

Vintage Haro - totally rad. - $100 (Original URL: http://newyork.craigslist.org/brk/bik/360243003.html)

Reply to: [deleted]: 2007-06-25, 8:00PM EDTA super cool Vintage Haro. Mostly original. Missing back wheel. (really easy to replace) 45" adapter chain ring. Could use a bath and possibly removal of some angsty stickers (3). Must pick up in Red Hook. $100 firm.

OK, next time you go back home to Ohio and visit your parents, try to dig that rear wheel up. You might just find someone dumb enough to buy this thing. (By the way, I used to ride BMX and actually owned a Haro in the 80s. I don't remember them ever being this ugly. Rebadged Huffy? I'll defer to the BMXperts out there.)

The Perfect Storm of Things That Piss Me Off

Stevil Kinevil of howtoavoidthebummerlife.com kindly sent me this sublimely infuriating video. Perhaps you've seen this before (looks like it's been around awhile) but I hadn't.

San Francisco. Brakeless. Chrome freewheel Pista. Top- and downtube pads. Twisted spoke lacings. And he's a DJ.

If I were to make a film satirizing the urban cycling scene this would be it.

He is the physical manifestation of my vitriol. He is my White Whale.

What Does Everybody Have Against Brakes?

Recently I was riding through a trendy neighborhood in Brooklyn when I saw a guy locking his bike to a post. Naturally I quickly scan and assess any bike that enters my field of vision. This particular bike appeared to be a garden-variety 80s fixie conversion--with no brakes, of course. However, as my eyes made their way to the rear dropouts, I noticed something: a coaster brake, attached to the left chainstay with some metal wire.

Is this what people have come to? Are some people really so desperate to adapt the no-brake fixie look that instead of installing a decent caliper they will adapt perhaps the crudest braking system since the rod-operated spoon brake? Clearly, the rider I saw acknowledges the necessity of having a brake. Why not then simply affix a light, elegant, and powerful modern dual-pivot? I'd have to think a coaster brake-equipped singlespeed would stop even worse than a fixie with no brakes.

(And can somebody please explain to me why fixie riders who do have front brakes still skip-stop or skid in order to slow down? Do they give away free tires in Williamsburg or something?)

This absurd disregard for function and practicality goes beyond the urban fashion victim as well. As a mediocre rider, I have ample opportunity during road races to analyze the equipment choices of other riders, particularly on the rear of the bicycle. As such, I can tell you that roadies, now more than ever, are using their brakes as a way to proudly announce that they have way more money than sense. Sure, roadies will always shave grams and sacrifice quality for light weight, and going for a lighter, crappy single-pivot brake like those Dia Compe/Cane Creek units has always been a quick and dirty way to do so.

But now the lightweight brakes, while still crappy, are astoundingly expensive as well. One popular brake choice lately is the Zero Gravity.
These machined pieces of crap will compromise your braking power and save you the gram equivalent of a bladder's worth of urine for over $400. Their site actually has the audacity to boldly ask you if you've "Upgraded yet?" Yes, I have. To cold-forged dual pivots that were about a fraction of the price.

Even worse is the M5. I've been seeing way more of these hideous banana clips than I should be:
These suckers go for over $500 a pair, and Excelsports says that they are powerful but warns that you should "take a pass if you are more interested in modulation." Yes, I prefer to either be moving fast or lying in a crumpled heap after I've gone flying over my bars. None of that pesky "slowing down" for me. (Oh, by the way, brake pads aren't included. That might explain the modulation issues.)

So what is it? What is so repulsive about the functional brake that people will either sacrifice their tires skid-stopping at every light or spend half a grand on aluminum billet monstrosities in order to do without them? Last time I checked, quality, high-end brakes from the usual suspects were not only lightweight and responsive, but reasonably-priced as well. I suppose that may be it--people do seem averse to those qualities when it comes to bicycle equipment.

I for one am thankful that the mountain-biking world still recognizes the need in cycling for braking systems that offer power and modulation, and that as such some companies are still trying to actually improve brakes. You see, when you ride your bike a lot you actually want brakes that work well. I think that if mountain biking were to disappear the next high-end braking system would be a rubber stopper you affix to the heel of your carbon fiber-soled shoe.

Fixedgeargallery...of terror.

I think fixedgeargallery.com is great. People enjoy browsing it (me included), and it inspires people to learn to build bikes and post their own creations, of which they are often quite touchingly proud.
That said, here's a batch that pissed me off:

(URL: http://www.fixedgeargallery.com/2007/june/2/TyrelMears.htm)

For the most part, this is a perfectly nice road-going fixie, which is why the problems with it are so glaring. The forward-angled tri post is offensive--there is plenty of seat rail to run a straight post and maintain the same saddle position. Also, I'd give the bullhorns a pass if it wasn't for the awful brake lever placement. Take a look at a TT bike and position the lever properly.

(URL: http://www.fixedgeargallery.com/2007/june/2/sma_uci.htm)

There is no god that would allow this to happen, and therefore I conclude that there is no God.

(URL: http://www.fixedgeargallery.com/2007/june/2/AndrewMahon.htm)

As much as I detest top-tube pads, here's a bike that actually needs one. How else to protect the rider's genitals from their inevitable slide down this drastically-angled saddle? This bicycle is not straddled by the crotch of a human. A centaur rider, perhaps?

(URL: http://www.fixedgeargallery.com/2007/june/2/Ask77@Libero.It.htm)

In a previous post, I speculated that the BMX might be a logical successor to the track bike's Mantel of Trendiness, to which an insightful commenter replied, "Vintage bmx is the new white pleather rocker belt." As if to prove the sagacity of this comes this gag-inducing entry. Maybe there is a God, because this is in Italy, where I will hopefully never, ever see it.

Retarded Wheelset Hall of Fame

(Mavic re-invent the wagon wheel)

So everybody probably knows by now Mavic is introducing a new wheel. I'm not going to get into the technical details, but it literally uses carbon-fiber drinking straws for spokes, and it's based on the same engineering principle as the wagon wheel. (I wish I were joking.)

Now I know that as soon as these stupid things come out I am going to be surrounded by them at local races, and I dread it in the same way and for the same reasons I dread going to Williamsburg. I hate most pre-built wheelsets, because (without getting into techinical details) they suck. So, in honor of the Jobst Brandtian tradition, and to coincide with the release of Mavic's new wagon wheel, I bring you The Retarded Wheelset Hall of Fame*
(*I know I'm missing a lot, but these are some of the worst offenders)

The Stupid FSA Wheels with the Triple Hub Flange

These sport a giant third flange in the middle of the hub. Because I think we all agree we needed another flange.

Specialized Roval Amoeba Freakout

Specialzied bought the old Roval name so they could produce this sci-fi nightmare. Like FSA, Specialized went to town on the flanges. Marketing tagline: "It's flange-tastic!"

Spinergy "You Can't Suck My Wheel Because My Wheel Sucks Too Hard Already" Spox
In keeping with the sci-fi theme we have the Spox. Actually, was this pronounced "Spocks" or "Spokes?" Don't know. All I know it was ugly, it was about as aero as a catamaran sail, and you don't see too many in service anymore.

Topolino Rolling Abortion

The concept here was one continuous spoke made out of some kind of flexible fiber that went all the way through the hub or something. Whatever--it looks like they have those plastic spoke decorations they put on kid's bikes. The name also evokes pure speed. Actually, it evokes Topol, the smoker's tooth polish.

Worst of NYC Craigslist Bike Ads, #3

Good news for those of you in the New York City metropolitan area. If you're looking to get a textbook-perfect fixie poser machine in time for the weekend, here it is. And it can be yours for a mere $500. You won't have to get your hands dirty (or pay your local shop to get their hands dirty) changing a thing--this is as if the collective aesthetic sensibility of the Lower East Side, Williamsburg, Bushwick and Greenpoint coalesced into tangible form and posted itself on Craigslist. Sadly it is not NJS (or even a track frame), but my guess is that the owner is selling to finance a purchase that meets both the aforementioned criteria:

Custom Fixed gear peugeot 56cm Deep V's - $500 (original URL: http://newyork.craigslist.org/mnh/bik/357343822.html)

Reply to: [deleted]: 2007-06-21, 6:32PM EDT

I'm selling my custom peugeot fixed gear 56cm. It was sandblasted and profesionally powder coated.

I look at fixedgeargallery.com like any bike obsessive, and I am constantly surprised at how many people spend good money powdercoating beater frames. Why gild the mediocre lily, only to lock said lily unprotected to a city bike rack? (And why is the bike locked up in the for-sale photo? Did the guy lose the key? If you agree to buy it, does he then pocket the money and say, "Well, here's the catch...")

The frame is purple and the cranks, fork and gooseneck are black.

Gooseneck? I see no goose in this picture. By process of elimination, though, the only other black thing on this bike besides the cranks and fork is the stem, so I assume that is what you mean. By the way, you did take excellent pictures, so the colors (revolting as they may be) don't require mentioning.

Brand new bottom bracket, purple chain, MKS pedals, brand new head set, vintage deadstock Turbo saddle, Lime green Velocity deep V's, brand new tires, Flip flop hub, I have a Nitto drop handle bar and a BMX small handle bar, I will include both.
In the words of Rodney Dangerfield in Back to School, "Oh, you left out a bunch of stuff." Like what kind of cog, what's the gearing, what's the crank length, what kind of cranks are they, and so forth. But let's look at what he did mention:
Colored chains, colored chains, colored chains. If God or an equivalent deity granted me the power to ban one thing from bikes forever, I would have to do some pretty deep soul-searching to decide between colored chains and top tube pads. And you know what? I think colored chains just might win. It's also obvious to me that people who use these chains don't lubricate them, for fear of dulling their vibrant hues. I've been noticing a lot otherwise spotless fixies with drivechains that chirp like an aviary. When these guys roll up on you it's like being attacked by a flock of crows--it's getting downright Hitchcockian out there.
I needn't mention the powdercoated Velocitys at this point, unsullied by brake pads of course. What kind of hubs? He doesn't say, but does it really matter? They're lime green!
I'm glad he mentioned the other bars. I assume the Kashimax top tube protector is useful with at least one of those sets. Because right now it's on there purely for looks--those risers are well clear of the top tube, and with no brake cables they will spin like helicopter blades if you take your hands off the grips.
Lastly, I note the "deadstock" saddle is duly chained to the frame, but what about that retina-scorching rear Deep V? It looks to be unlocked. I may be wrong, but from the pictures the bike appears to be in the Herald Square area. So when you're done shopping at Macy's, swing by and grab yourself a free Deep V.

It's All in the Details*

These days the concept of “paying your dues” has pretty much gone out the window. People want it and they want it now. If they want the tattooed look, they don’t acquire ink over time; they walk in to a tattoo boutique and get full sleeves in a few sittings. If they want to become bike racers, they don’t join a club and suffer for results until a local team asks them to join; they run right out and start their own Cat 5 super team. They don’t learn about cycling by doing; they get all the aesthetic and gear cues online, walk into (or mouse-click into) a shop and buy it all at once.

That’s all fine, except when you do things that way you don’t learn right. Particularly, you don’t learn the details. And while you think you might look the part and own the role, those of us who learned the hard way (by looking stupid until someone took pity on us and gave us a clue) can tell from some small cues you’re lacking in fundamentals. Just as dogs pick up on the minutest tail twitch, fur bristle, or ear movement, the experienced cyclist quickly looks you over and draws a conclusion.

Here are just a few of these cues. Some are better known than others. Most are referenced elsewhere on the internet. But I’m reiterating them here since I think they bear repeating:

(*A lot of this is roadie-specific. But roadies, as the most anal of cyclists, are the Keepers of the Law. Kinda like the Orthodox Christians or Jews. You may resent them, but they maintain the rules so the rest of us can violate them.)
Skewers (Quick-Releases)

Quick release levers should always be on the non-drive (left) side of the bike. On the rear, this is common sense since on the right side it would interfere with your derailleur and gear cluster. But the front wheel should always follow suit—I’m stunned at how often I see high-end road bikes with their QR levers on the wrong side. (The only exception is in the case of a disc brake-equipped mountain bike, where the front caliper might interfere with the lever.)

Also, positioning (direction in which the QR lever points) is important. 12:00 front and 2:00 rear is acceptable, as is 2:00 front and 10:00 rear, for example. Random compass-needles-in-a-magnetic-field angles are not.

Tire Labels
Always on the drive side, and always aligned with the valve stem. The practical reason for this is it helps you orient the tire and the tube when searching for punctures. But more importantly, it looks right.

Rim Labels

If you have a rim with a label on it (like a Mavic Open Pro, for example), the label should be readable from the drive-side of the bike. If it’s not your wheel is backwards. If it’s the rear wheel it was built wrong. In this case it is imperative you remove the sticker.

Hub Label

The brand name on your front hub shell should be readable when you’re sitting on the bike. If you orient it this way and the rim sticker faces the wrong way, see above.


If you wear eyewear in conjunction with a helmet, the earpieces of your glasses should always go over your helmet straps. (Though even pro racers violate this one in the heat of battle.)

Pedal Stroke

An experienced rider is readily identifiable by his pedal stroke. The most obvious cue is the knees. They should be as close together as possible, almost hitting the top tube. Bowlegged pedaling screams “I started riding yesterday.”

There is a tendency for new riders, particularly of the “My First Fixie” variety, to angle the nose of their saddles way, way down. I don’t know why this is, but I suspect it’s because they set their bars too low despite never having really ridden a drop-bar bike before. Also, I’ve seen lots of messengers do this, probably to keep their bags from getting hung up on the nose of the saddle, so I suppose it was copied from them. Whatever the reason, if you’re doing this, stop! Your saddle should be level or close to it. A few millimeters here or there is fine if your taint demands it. A 45 degree downward slope should be reserved for downhill skiing.

To wear or not to wear is a matter of personal choice. I begrudge neither decision. And obviously in competition you have no choice. But if you are riding on the road (whether road bike, road fixie, or whatever), lose the visor! Visors have no place on a helmet except on the mountain bike trail. Wear a cycling cap under your helmet instead—this does not occur to a lot of newbies. Also, lose the BMX/skater helmet with no vents. I realize some people think helmets make you look dorky, and that these are somehow cooler. They’re not. They make your head look like a penis. If you’re that concerned about looks just skip the helmet and take the risk. And finally, most importantly, NO MOTORCYCLE HELMETS. Yes, I’ve been seeing people wearing skid-lids on their bikes around town lately. Get it off!


This should go without saying, but any stickers that came on your bike, particularly those conveying either the size of the bike or dire warnings, should be removed immediately. I don’t care that you’re riding a 56, or that improper assembly of your bike can lead to accidents, or whatever the warning labels say. If it ain’t under the clearcoat, get it off.

As far as stickers put on for aesthetic purposes or for the espousal of political beliefs, musical preferences, or equipment endorsements, I think it looks stupid, but go ahead if you want, it’s your funeral. However, equipment stickers advertising brands that are not present on the actual bicycle are especially idiotic-looking. (Like a Campy sticker on an all-Shimano bike.)

Don’t get me started on cards in the spokes.

Pie Plates

This is the plastic disc that is often found under the cassette on pre-built road bikes. There is absolutely no excuse for having one of these on your bike. It is like leaving the tag in your underwear. Learn how to remove a cassette and get rid of that thing!


This may come as a shock to the newer riders out there, but there is absolutely nothing cool about trying to race somebody on your commute or on a recovery ride in the park. I know you’re very excited to be on your new Pista or Madone or whatever, and I know you feel like you need to prove yourself when you see someone else on a track bike or on a road bike in a team kit or whatever the case may be. But you need to learn something very important—it’s not always cool to attack, and it’s never OK to sit on a stranger’s wheel.

That guy on the track bike you’re killing yourself to pass may simply be on his way home from the velodrome, or from a day’s work as a messenger. The guy on the carbon wonder-bike in full lycra regalia may be returning from a 90-mile training ride, or a race, or may be cooling down from an interval. He sees you pick up the pace when you approach him, he hears you panting, he sees you look over your shoulder, and he knows what you’re up to. That’s why he lets you get a lead and then passes you on the next hill, often making a point of making a cell-phone call or eating some food, so he can pass you no-handed.

What Will Be the Next Trendy Bike?

Obviously the undisputed trendy bike of the moment is the track bike. However, it's becoming abundantly clear that they are jumping the shark. They've been written up in just about every mainstream news publication, and even your average sedentary middle-aged non-cyclist equates "hipsters" and "those bikes with no brakes."
Certainly with this kind of attention the young and trendy must be scrambling to find a new bike to not ride, and if I were in the bicycle business I'd be racking my brains over what that might be. Here are just a few possible candidates:

Cyclocross Bikes
Cyclocross is becoming more and more popular in the US every year. Not surprising, since it's possibly the coolest form of bicycle racing ever, and one of the few that's even fun for spectators. But will 'cross bikes become hip?

Pros: Cool-looking, fast, versatile, single-speed friendly (Bianchi offers a pre-built singlespeed 'cross bike, so there you go) and offered by major manufacturers and boutique builders alike

Cons: Somewhat practical, which means you might actually have to ride the thing

BMX Bikes
I'm already seeing plenty of 20-somethings riding 20-inch-wheeled BMXs around the trendier neighborhoods, spun out at 7 miles per hour and kneeing themselves in the chins with each pedal stroke. But is this the new black?

Pros: Relatively inexpensive, single-speed, complements the skater/urban aesthetic, completely ill-suited for commuting and urban transportation outside of a two-mile radius

Cons: The embarassment when some 16-year old shows you up in front of your girlfriend

Old Road Bikes
The old road frame with horizontal dropouts has long been the standard for fixed-gear conversion. But inevitably, some fashion victim has got to realize, "Hey, this thing's pretty cool as it is!" before he strips the thing (or pays a shop to do it). And who knows--maybe the people introduced to cycling by the fixed gear fad may actually discover they like to ride and seek out a bike with gears for longer jaunts.

Pros: Appealingly "vintage," can be had cheap, lots of people have the parts left over from their conversions
Cons: Obtaining information and parts can lead you into a strange, creepy, unhip and unappealing world of retro-grouchery and extremely long headtubes

Tall Bikes
These stupid things can be seen being ridden by smelly squatters who do stuff like joust on them.

Pros: Already a fixture of the trendier neighborhoods, aren't these things ripe for mainstream appropriation?
Cons: Even the most determined fad-monger has to admit these things are completely ridiculous (not to mention impossible to get into an apartment)


Fixed gear, no brakes!

Pros: Leaves hands free for juggling
Cons: No NJS unicycles...