Fixedgeargallery: Significance vs. Frivolity

Today is an auspicious day in the world of fixed-gears. In case you live in some kind of media Hoover, today marks the unveiling of “The Riddle” bike. What is “The Riddle” bike? Well, it’s only the most important fixed-gear ever. Just check out the owner’s intro, which reads like an Academy Award speech and a PhD dissertation had a baby.

The owner explains that “The Riddle” represents his “own personal interpretation of diaspora cultures as they exist in this day and age... and the celebration of life.” Yes! But this is more than just a rolling work of art. I don’t think I’m hyperbolizing when I say that “The Riddle” bike is the messiah of fixed-gears. Anyone who’s agonized over what color top tube pad to buy, or whether his chain should match his Ourys, or whether to go with a Brooks or a vintage Turbo, should hang his head in shame. Your bike is simply a tribute to your own vanity. “The Riddle” bike is a tribute to humanity. You’re grappling with issues of appearance; this guy is grappling with our existence on this planet. Plus, this guy designed this bike on a one-year sabbatical. A one-year sabbatical! I certainly can’t approach that level of dedication. Granted, I once took two weeks off to shop for a pair of bib shorts, but to be completely honest I spent a lot of that time watching TV.

Ordinarily I’d make some comment about the bike lacking a brake, but in this case I don’t think“The Riddle” bike should be fettered with anything that would impede its forward progress. I will say this to the owner however—do not ever lock this bike up outside. If you do, you’ll probably come back out to find Bono gnawing at your U-lock, or Bob Geldof simply humping it.

Owner of “Riddle Bike:” congratulations and respect. Ride and enjoy. Seriously. The rest of you: over the long weekend, think about how meaningless your bikes and lives are. And I don't exempt myself from that.

On the other hand, on the very same day, we have this:

Yes, it's a bikesdirect special photographed in front of a washer/dryer. The juxtaposition of this with "The Riddle" saddens me. "The Riddle" boasts "Pan African colors inspired by Marcus Garvey." This bike has glasses frames and polaroids for spoke cards. Oh, and a front Aerospoke that appears to have been polished with the same cleaning agent as the linoleum floor on which it sits. Seriously, after "The Riddle" bike, the longer I look at this thing the angrier I get. Could the owner have put less thought into this? Couldn't he have at least dragged it outside? There are three bottles of detergent visible in the photo, for chrissakes! And, this was the first bike on the list today! "The Riddle" was like fifth down.
Way to bury the lead, Fixedgeargallery.

BSNYC Thursday Fun Quiz!

I've put together a little quiz. It incorporates some items and bikes readers have been kind enough to email me, as well as some things I've happened upon myself. The way it works is this: simply read the question, make your choice, and then click on it. If you're correct, you'll see the item. If you're not, you'll see this image of former US pro champion, race promoter, and soporific commentator John Eustice making a point. Obviously, you may be able to figure out the correct answer by mousing over the link before clicking. Since I can't stop people from cheating, I'll simply rely on the honor system. Anyway, pencils ready and good luck.

1) $10 will buy you the following must-have accessory:

--A holster for your U-lock

A pair of nylon crank arm protectors

An integrated belt buckle/lockring tool

A presta/schraeder adapter finger ring

2) If you absolutely must use a brake on an NJS bike, the correct solution is:

--Change your fork

Drill your fork

--Use a clamp-on brake

--Use a coaster brake

3) Roadies like to hug each-other during races.



4) The front Aerospoke of ’08 will be:

--The 32-spoke box section wheel

The 28-spoke radial aero wheel

The Skyway BMX mag wheel

--The Campagnolo disc wheel

5) You can only use one top tube pad on a bike:



6) It is currently fashionable to tape your bars only halfway down so that they resemble a dog’s erection.



7) Which of the following can you purchase?

--A $39 Burberry print helmet satchel

--A $49 “lumber-track” hip pouch

A $29 fixed-gear specific wrist wallet

A pair of $89 Louis Vuitton-print shin guards

8) Which of the following can you also purchase?

--A hoodie with an integrated bandana

Skinny jeans with an integrated chamois

--Recessed cleat-compatible canvas sneakers

A winter jacket with integrated messenger bag

Color Me Nauseous: Cycling's Worst Paint Jobs

As internet galleries prove, there's simply no limit to how ugly you can make a bike. All it takes is some patience, a few cans of spraypaint, and a sense of childhood neglect that has festered into adulthood and sublimated itself into a tendency to make desperate bids for attention. Fortunately, though, over the years various manufacturers have made our jobs much easier by providing "pre-uglified" bikes direct from the factory or workshop. Of course, the cosmos of bicycle ugliness is simply too vast and gag-inducingly majestic to capture here. But here are just a few manufacturers who had the temerity to don a blindfold, pick up the ugly stick, and swing at the pinata of good taste with reckless abandon:


Before Klein was subsumed by the Great Trek Bicycle Making Corporation, they were responsible for some of the most magnificently hideous paint jobs the cycling world had ever seen. This pre-Trek beauty is a stunning example. It literally brings tears to my eyes, though I don't know if that's because of the bright colors, nostalgia for times gone by, or the fact that the thing may still be exuding paint fumes to this day that are strong enough to be smelled through a computer monitor. In any case, the last time I saw something like this I bought it from a truck and it melted all down my arm. Magnifique, Gary, magnifique.

Klein may have been a giant in the world of ugly bikes, but Landshark is ugly bikes. John Slawta's paint jobs articulate an ugliness that other bikes can only allude to. Spraypainting wet cardboard in a damp room only begins to convey the types of designs we're talking about here. Dropping the rotting corpse of Jerry Garcia from a skyscraper and then photographing the results comes a bit closer. The above photo is a typical, but by no means exceptional, example. I believe the color scheme is called "Motion Sickness."
Oh, yeah, they're not just for dentists and lawyers either. They look great as fixed-gears too:


Ah, yes, the maestro of mutilation: Colnago. Every other maker of ugly bikes owes this storied marque a debt of gratitude. Colnago's paint schemes are the very embodiment of professional cycling, in that both are essentially big knots of revolting colors competing with each-other for your attention. And certainly no instrument--no paintbrush, chisel, nor hunk of charcoal--has been responsible for more works of fine art than the airbrush, which Colnago wields with stunning effect. In fact, in the art world the very word "airbrush" is synonymous with exquisite taste. If the technology had existed at the time, Michelangelo would almost certainly have painted the Sistine Chapel with one. Finally, each frame's top tube is graced with that delightfully whimsical image of a cyclist as seen from above. Bent over his handlebars, his shoulders hunched with effort, it kind of looks like he's vomiting.


The Great Trek Bicycle Making Corporation knows everything, and one of the things they know is that ugly is not for everyone. That's why they introduced "Project One." I don't know whether or not this still exists, but in any case it allowed customers to express their individuality by choosing from a limited number of ghastly designs, including flames and lightning bolts. Essentially it catered to the same dubious tastes that drive 50 year-old suburban accountants to buy custom Harleys and wear leather vests and skull-and-crossbone bandanas. Project One lacks the ebullient ugliness of those early Kleins, the organic ugliness of the Landsharks, and the rococo ugliness of the Colnagos. Instead, it's robotic, mass-produced ugliness--which in a soul-crushing way makes it the ugliest of all.


For a mainstream bicycle manufacturer, Cannondale's paint schemes tend to be relatively sedate. Until they get in bed with an Italian superstar. That's when the hair comes down, the gloves come off, and the bikes get disgusting. An Italian, an airbrush, and a few bottles of vino is a recipe for il disastro col formaggio. In all fairness, you were only able to actually buy one of these bikes below, but highlights over the years include:

The Fabio Sacchi Tiger Freak Bike;

The Gilberto Simoni Spider-dork Bike;

and of course the Limited Edition Tricolore Dork-tacular. (As ridden by Damiano Cunego and...Gilberto Simoni.)


Lastly, I'd like to give Orbea honorable mention. While lower-key than some, this Basque collective is nonetheless an inspiring example of teamwork in the service of ugliness. They may lack the audacity of some of the other manufacturers I mentioned, but they make up for it by blending their euro-flash paint schemes with bulging, swollen, and distended tubing. The result is a kind of three-dimensional ugliness you don't really get with the other manufacturers--the vileness really pops. In fact, in some way I think Orbea represent the ugliness of the future. And like the best ugly bikes, they will stand the ugly test of time by only growing more offensive and dated as time goes on.

Fixedgeargallery...of twisted metal

Awhile ago I wrote about handlebar setup because it's a subject that is important to me. Lately I've been seeing more and more awkward, outlandish, and downright freaky handlebar setups, particularly on fixed-gear bicycles. Look, I understand a little experimentation and creativity can be a good thing--the hatchet job of today could certainly become the commuter bar of tomorrow. And mutations in nature are important because they spur evolutionary change. However, sometimes mutations are just mutations. And frankly, some of these mutations should be rounded up and hanged by torch-wielding locals. I'm guessing handlebar setup wasn't among the subjects discussed at the recent Symposium, because here are three disasters from the latest batch of bikes on Fixedgeargallery. These riders shouldn't be behind the handlebars of a bicycle; they should be behind the bars of a prison cell:

"Just Call Me Stubby"

The whole incredibly short flat bar thing started with messengers, who cut their bars down so they could slip through traffic. However, non-messengers started picking up the look, attracted to both the minimalist appearance of the bike as well as the riding position it creates, which evokes someone fighting to hold onto their scarf which they accidentally flushed down the toilet while still wearing it. Now, it is simply a fashion statement--there is no other reason you'd ever want bars this narrow, since your handling will become squirrellier than a Beatrix Potter story. (Correct bar width can be approximated by using the distance between your shoulder blades. And while people might argue the validity of that method, I think we can all agree that it should not be based on the distance between your nipples.) On this bike, you can see the stubby bar look in extremis. Note the pinch bolt-mounted brake lever. Nothing like compromising your braking integrity and your stem integrity all at once. I admit, I've never been to Canton, Ohio, so I don't know if conditions warrant this sort of handlebar setup, but something tells me in this case the choice was motivated less by congestion and more by style. But since no real "style" is in evidence on this machine, I'm thinking perhaps the motivation might have been nostalgia for a certain childhood pastime. The bike probably handles similarly too:

"Old Skool? More Like Home-Skooled."

This chainless beaut is set up to evoke the track racers of old, but instead it evokes a crappy old Schwinn that has hit a pothole hard enough to rotate the bars. It's difficult for me to envision a viable riding position that wouldn't involve lying on the saddle with your feet sticking out behind you. It's not difficult, however, for me to imagine these bars as a giant pair of eyebrows. And I'm thinking of a couple in particular. (I've always wanted to pretend I was riding Sam Donaldson's head.)

"Fangs for the Memories"

But of all the untenable handlebar setups out there, this one is certainly among the worst I've seen. Could someone out there please explain to me how you are supposed to operate those brake levers? It's gotta be like trying to eat an apple with your hands tied behind your back while the apple hangs from the chandelier by a string. Or are they intended as foot pedals? I will admit, though, they do give the bike a certain snakelike menace. (Kind of vampiric too--this thing's a cape away from being a character in an Anne Rice novel. Note the creepy bird in the upper-left corner.) I can imagine the rider rear-ending a car because he can't get enough leverage on the brake, endoing, and getting his bike fangs stuck in the sheet metal.

Cycling Couture: 2008 Primal Wear Sneak Preview

There's no surer way to start an argument among the different sects of cyclists than by discussing correct attire. From the baggy-short and Camelbak-wearing freeriders to the garish, form-fitting lycra-clad roadies, everybody thinks what they wear is right and what everybody else wears is ridiculous. But whether you reconnoiter the rail-trails on a Rivendell Rambouillet, or you terrorize the town on a trendy track bike, you've got to agree that cycling fashion doesn't get hotter than Primal Wear. Here's a look at some of the new fashions they've got coming in 2008:
For awhile now the Primal“Tattoo Arm Warmer” has allowed cyclists to experience the excitement of having tattoos with the convenience of being able to shuck them before you get to the office. But what about riders who already have full tattoo sleeves? Shouldn’t they be able to change lifestyles like underwear too? Well, now they can, because Primal is introducing the “Bare Arm Arm Warmer.” This functional yet stylish accessory will allow the inked to enjoy the look of clean, naked skin. It will be available in a variety of skin tones, each of which will come in three versions: hairless, hairy, and Alec Baldwin.

(The “hairy” version in Caucasian.)

Primal has long offered rock n’ roll jerseys featuring bands such as Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and the Rolling Stones. This year Primal have got the younger rider in mind and they’ll be updating their offerings into the 80s and 90s with fresh, hip new acts like:

Self-Righteous Aussie Flash-in-the-Pan Midnight Oil:

Proto-grunge snooze-rockers Soul Asylum:

And shrill-voiced Death Metal pioneer King Diamond:

And when it comes to pop culture, Primal doesn’t stop with music. They also pay homage to popular films like “Animal House” and “Scarface.” And for 2008 lucrative new licensing deals will allow them to offer even more movie and TV-themed jerseys. Some of the more exciting ones will include:

CNN Medical Expert Dr. Sanjay Gupta

An entire series of jerseys based on the characters of Don Cheadle:

And “Inside the Actors Studio” host James Lipton:

But with Primal, it’s not just about licensing. It’s also about tongue-in-cheek cycling-specific humor, like the “Part Breaker” and “Crankin’ Stein” jerseys. The punning will continue into ’08 with designs like:

“Put the Hammer Down!”

“Changin’ Geres” (featuring young sex symbol Richard Gere on the front, and aging Buddhist Richard Gere on the back)

and of course “Get On That Wheel!” featuring the tear-jerking pottery-wheel scene from “Ghost”

And speaking of hunks, Primal’s not forgetting the women in ’08 either. They’ve known for years you love butterflies and menstrual-cycle references. For ’08, they’re also adding:

“Flowers ‘N Babies”


and “Traditional Indian Wedding Costume”

So remember—for 2008, get Primal!

Fixed-Gear Revelry: A Konvergence of Kogs!

When fixed-gear riders get together, things can get very exciting. Like a motorcycle rally, there's a veneer of rebellion over the particle board of conformity. Like a Jewish singles' night, there's schmoozing, kibbitzing, and general mishigas. And like a comic book convention, there's pure, unbridled geekery. Recently, the Fixedgeargallery Fixed-Gear Symposium took place somewhere that wasn't New York or San Francisco, and I've been enjoying the wealth of pictures it has produced. From the looks of things, not since that cocktail party where they let me put my drink right on the table has there been this much fun without coasters. Here are some shots that really brought the spirit of the event home for me. If you want to put on a successful bike rally (as I'm planning to do with the BSNYC Gripe-a-Thon sometime next year), these are the essential ingredients:

Terrorization of the suburbs...

World-class competition, including the grace of skidding...

The blistering speed of a road race...

The poetry in motion that is bike polo...

And the motionless display of colorful plumage that is competitive track-standing.

Like the Sturgis motorcycle rally, there's also gleaming bikes as far as the eye can see...

And rampant toplessness.

And don't forget the merchandizing!

But most of all, there's raw, pure, unfettered bike lust:

Next year in Williamsburg!