Hell in a Handbasket: More Disturbing Signs

In yesterday's post, I posited that "hipsters" are moving towards bicycles equipped with fenders and racks. Well, it turns out I may be mistaken. In fact, it looks like they could be forsaking bicycles entirely and taking up running instead:

All of You Running as a Group on Manhattan Ave - 7 PM Tues - 26 (Greenpoint)
Reply to: [deleted]

Date: 2009-04-29, 10:59AM EDT

Yesterday I was walking my dog and I saw a group of hip young individuals running east on Manhattan Ave near India Street. Guys and gals, in the bike lane. I like your pace and I wish I could join your running club. Are you looking for members? I like Propel Fitness Water, tiny shorts and long runs on the streets. I've done a marathon but these days run in the 3-5 mile range most of the time because of an ITB injury. Hope to hear from you...

A "fixie of hipsters" running en masse in a Greenpoint, Brooklyn bike lane can mean any one of the following:

--People have long spoken in hushed tones about a "hipster communication network" which can only be accessed via a secret iPhone "app." Through this network, "hipsters" receive regularly updated commands and style mandates from their consumerist overlords--an oligarchy consisting of Nike, Apple, General Electric, Bank of America, Google, and Wal-Mart Stores. For example, it was this oligarchy that recently ordered all of hipsterdom to adopt the flat-brim fitted cap. Now it seems they may have ordered "hipsters" to abandon their bicycles and take up running, most likely to increase sneaker sales.

--The Fixed-Gear Apocalypse is upon us, and we'll soon be living out a "28 Days Later" scenario in which the streets are strewn with abandoned track bikes and crazed undead jogging "hipsters" with ironic Prefontaine moustaches who feed upon the flesh of the living.

--"Hipsters" are not in fact abandoning their bikes altogether; instead, they're taking up triathlon. This is a necessity for them, as their beloved Williamsburg concert venue, McCarren Park Pool, is in fact being turned from an ironic pool back into an actual pool. Expect old-timey swimming costumes to make an ironic comeback, and don't be surprised if you see some competitors palping p-fars on the bike leg.

--They're not actually abandoning bicycles; it's just cross-training for the increasingly competitive (ahem) "sport" of fixed-gear freestyling.

Of course, it's always possible that this running was a completely non-bike related isolated incident. They may have just received a message from the "hipster communication network" that the bar they were just in was now over, and so they were running from that bar to a new, cooler bar. Also, the "hipsters" would be crazy to abandon bicycles right now. I mean, things are just starting to get good! No sooner had I finished yesterday's post than I learned about a new integrated handlebar/basket, thanks to both Trackosaurusrex and a commenter:

Yes, if you're thinking about selling that tired NJS track bike and getting in on the new practicality trend, don't be too hasty. Sure, an integrated handlebar/basket on a brakeless track bike isn't all that practical, but the new practicality isn't about actually being practical--it's about the style of practicality. Really, riding around on a Nagasawa with an integrated handlebar/basket is only slightly more practical than riding around on a Nagasawa while wearing a t-shirt with a picture of a basket on it. Actually, in a way the t-shirt's more practical, since you can take it off--or at least wear it while you ride a different bike that has brakes.

Clearly, though, baskets are hot these days. A commenter yesterday even posted a link to this picture of Ozzy Osbourne using the classic wicker variety in New York City:

As always, Ozzy's riding a "crazy train," though his friend opts for an SE Draft.

But the best baskets are removable yet fit seamlessly with both the bicycle on which they're used as well as with the needs of the rider. For example, let's just say you need to get places in a big hurry, but you also value the comfort of flat bars. Let's also say you have a fondness for light beer, and you own a small dog who accompanies you on all your beer runs. Naturally then, you'd opt for a setup like the one in the photo below, which was forwarded to me by a reader:

While it's hard to properly lock a frame like this, it's also not entirely necessary, since the dog is an effective theft-deterrent.

Really, the only downside I can see to this otherwise ideal setup (assuming you have a dog) is that it would be extremely difficult to fit fenders, or even a "filth prophylactic," to this frame. This could be especially problematic in Austria. I was recently informed by a reader in Australia that someone who once lived in Austria told her that you can get a ticket for not having fenders on your bike. Now, I couldn't be bothered to do the necessary research in order to verify whether this is in fact true, but since Austria and Australia are only two letters apart I'm just going to take it on faith. Also, while I don't know much about Austria, I have always gotten the impression that it is a society that places extremely high importance on clean pants, so it stands to reason that they'd enact this kind of legislation.

Speaking of cultural differences, the same Australian reader also reminded me that Australians (like the British) call fenders "mudguards." While it's adorable linguistic idiosyncrasies like these that make the Australians so endearing, cuddly, and koala-like, I also think that our cultures might benefit from sharing a universal term. This could either be some sort of portmanteau like "menders" or "fudguards," or else it could be a completely new term, such as "wheel eyebrows."

But regardless of whether you think "wheel eyebrows" are essential, very few people would argue that a pie plate is a necessity on a fixed-gear. In fact, the only reason one could possibly have for rubbing a pie plate on a fixed-gear could be irony, as evidenced by this example, forwarded by a reader:

For maximum irony, be sure to wear a "Drop Bars Not Bombs" t-shirt while rubbing riser bars:

But foreign countries aren't the only places you'll find alternate terms, and t-shirts aren't the only places you'll find "clever" groan-inducing wordplay; another great place to find them is in bike reviews. If you've read more than two bike reviews, you may notice there are certain words and phrases that are specific to them. For example, brakes are always "stoppers" and rims are always "hoops." Furthermore, "hoops" never have tires on them. Instead, they're always "shod" in "rubber." Unfortunately, some of these terms are now leaking out of reviews and contaminating the greater cycling and linguistic environment:

Cervelo Soloist- for TT or Road Racing - $3200 (Upper West Side)
Reply to: [deleted]
Date: 2009-04-29, 4:28PM EDT

51cm sole owner Team CSC Soloist Carbon bike. Stiff, fast and race ready.
Full dura-ace, Mavic hoops- Ksyrium ES. UWS
Needs a tune up.

I strongly believe that these bike review terms must be contained. After all, where does it end? If rims become "hoops" and brakes become "stoppers," what's to prevent handebars from becoming "turners" and saddles from becoming "ass pedestals?" And speaking of contamination, if you do buy the Soloist with the Mavic "hoops" and you do take the seller's advice and bring it in for a tune-up, be careful which shop you choose:

The above is a still from an unsafe-for-work pornographic video which was forwarded to me by a reader. In order to legitimize it I not only sepia-fied and Larry King-ified it, but I also Opinionated Cyclist-ified it because, well, there were a lot of nipples and genitals to cover. (I did, however, leave the word "fuck" intact so that it might serve as a warning.) If you'd like, you can watch the video by clicking here, though I won't be held accountable for the consequences. In any event, this is certainly the most sordid bike shop affair since that episode of "Diff'rent Strokes," and it just goes to show that you never know what might be happening after hours inside your LBS. And whether you're offended or intrigued, either way you might want to think twice before you try on a helmet.

Bicycle Market Outlook: Nerve-Racking, with Chance of Fenders

The fender debate is currently gaining momentum faster than a new brakeless Pista owner on a steep descent, and I fear that it is hurtling uncontrollably towards the four-way intersection that is all-out war. Even though I am a believer in fenders, I am more importantly a believer in peace. As such, I'd like to share with you something that the pro-fender cabal (of which I am admittedly a part) does not want you to know: fenders can be deadly.

This has been my greatest winter bike ever. I loved the setup with risers so much its sucks to see it go. I was riding to work in the morning with a strong spring wind at my back. The front fender was rubbing on the tire just enough to bother me, so I tapped it over a bit with my foot. This is something I have had to do before so I thought nothing of it, until I was in mid flight. So of coarse the fender had somehow caught the smooth tire and wrap up into my fork. Instantly locking up the wheel and well throwing my ass off into the air only to land some number of feet in front of the bike. The distance I flew is what save me from major injury. I flipped almost completely around with all that hang time and rolled down onto my heals. It's hard to explain, I was shooken up a lot but came out just fine a day or two later. After I walked it off a bit I had to flip the bars around to let the wheel clear the D-tube. I rode it like that with a flat a few more miles in a daze until help came for me. This sucked (Sorry Joe)

Yes, while fenders may go a long way towards keeping your posterior dry, they can also stop your front wheel and send you soaring though the air like your messenger bag suddenly became a jet pack--which can lead to pants-wetting of a different sort. Of course, there are fenders that are designed with breakaway clips to prevent this sort of thing from happening. And perhaps more importantly, not trying to adjust your fenders with your feet while you're riding can also go a long way towards preventing accidents. This holds true for any bicycle component or accessory. Things you should not do with your feet while riding include:

--Take a drink from your water bottle;
--Attempt to true your wheel;
--Administer a pedicure;
--Send a text message.

Certainly, if you have monkey-like prehensile toes and your pedial dexterity is greater than your manual dexterity, you should feel free to perform bike maintenance (or operate your mobile phone) with your feet, provided that you do so off the bike. However, upright bicycles are simply not designed with simian people in mind--despite what you might think from looking at freeriders--so while you're in motion you should either use your hands or, better yet, stop completely and make any necessary adjustments. Otherwise, you could always ride a recumbent, on which your laid-back position is much more conducive to doing things like adjusting your cleats or smoothing your callouses with a pumice stone.

That said, there's something that disturbed me about this particular case even more than the fate-tempting foot nudge, and that is the fact that this rider appears to have a brakeless bike with fenders. I've been seeing more and more of this sort of thing lately. Not only are people increasingly riding brakeless bikes with fenders, but they're also riding brakeless bikes with racks. This is because they're discovering the functionality and convenience of these accessories, yet they are still committed to their brakeless ways.

For the most part, I believe that people should do whatever they want, and they should demand that any naysayers perform testilingus on them. If you want to ride brakeless, ride brakeless. If you want to palp a TTMBL, palp a TTMBL. If you want to perform an unsafe-for-work breast exam on yourself while you slay some singletrack, perform an unsafe-for-work breast exam on yourself while you slay some singletrack. However, at the same time I believe you should at least be consistent in your palpage. Should a vegan who wears a sausage necklace be allowed to call himself a vegan? No he should not. Then why should a brakeless cyclist who espouses the "zen simplicity" of brakelessness be allowed to use fenders and racks? That's like some cave-dwelling ascetic having a plasma TV and a full satellite package.

Moreover, stopping a brakeless track bike that weighs 17 pounds is one thing. Stopping a brakeless bike with loaded racks is something else entirely. When I'm on my way home from the fruit stand on my Ironic Orange Julius Bike laden with 30 pounds of bananas for my helper monkey, Vito, there's no way I'm stopping that thing without brakes fast enough to stay out of trouble. I guess that's why I see so many brakeless bikes with CETMAracks, but I've almost never seen anything actually on them. And if nothing else, brakeless bikes with fenders and racks look silly--it's the bicycle equivalent of the suit-with-shorts look.

Still, could this indicate that urban cyclists are moving away from carrying all their knickknacks and tchotchkes in messenger bags and holsters and fanny packs and are instead carrying them on their bikes? At least one person thinks they are, and he's hoping to profit from it:

Vintage Cannondale All-Terrain ATB Cruising Bike Bicycle Turquoise - $250 (Upper East Side)
Reply to: [deleted]

Date: 2009-04-28, 6:52PM EDT

Bike for sale is a Vintage Cannondale SM400 in beautiful Turquoise Color. It falls in the category of ATB (All-Terrain Bicycle) or Cruising Bike. The current owner (female) is about 5' 5" tall. I believe the bike is 18" based on information a reader furnished me with. He was basing it on the information the serial number indicates.

Serial Number: 18072187078. Serial number indicates information about the size as well as the fact that it was manufactured on July 21, 1987. Bike was purchased on March 30, 1988.

The information above came from the 1987 Cannondale Catalog. My understanding is that people collect this bike as a vintage item and we were advised not to sell it yet and that as time goes on it will hit a very high value. We are currently selling a lot of our possessions because we just do not have room in our apartment to keep it.

If you would like to see a few of our other items we are selling, you can go to: http://Poconos4Sale.com Some of the prices on the items we have on the site are a little negotiable.

Thank you for looking.

Please email if you have questions about this item or other items we have listed on our other website or on Craig's List.

All the best for a happy and healthy year.


I found the bit about how they were "advised not to sell it yet" particularly compelling. Has Charles Schwab moved into bike speculation? Has the word gone out that "hipsters" are moving away from brakeless track bikes to bikes with racks, and that people should prepare to get out of Pistas and expect their vintage mountain bikes to skyrocket in value? It's possible. But is this a smart economic move? Not necessarily. First of all, this bike appears to have a clip-on rack, which is the cargo equivalent of a "filth prophylactic." Secondly, the PistaDex in New York City is still quite high, and is currently at 600:

Bianchi Pista - Fixed Gear - $600 (Chelsea)
Reply to: [deleted]

Date: 2009-04-23, 9:30AM EDT

Bianchi Pista in 'gang green' color, 57 cm frame (I'm 6 ft tall), very low milage. I got her about a year ago but she hasn't seen much action. I've done all kinds of things to this bike. Brand new Brooks 'Swift' leather seat (not yet broken in) and Brooks leather bar tape (about 200$ new) included. I also respoked the front wheel radially and put on new Maxxis Detonator tires. The fork is drilled for a brake but you gotta provide your own. This is a wonderful bike in both performance and aesthetics, it breaks my heart to let her go but I need the space. E-mail me and we can set up a time to come check it out.

Then again, there are discouraging signs. Firstly, it appears from the photos that Pista owners are now embarrassed of their bicycles. Secondly, while the PistaDex is high, this doesn't tell the whole story. When I introduced the PistaDex in 2007, the NYC PistaDex was at 475 relative to a Pista MSRP of $579.99 However, a 2009 Pista now retails for a whopping $819! So in 2007 the gap between PistaDex and MSRP was only $104.99. Now, it's $219, which is more than double what it was less than two years ago. In other words, your Hipster Bike Dollar (or HBD) is plummeting in value. It very well may be that Schwab is right and that the time to get out of Pistas is on the horizon.

But I'm not convinced that vintage mountain bikes are the answer. ITTET, it's probably a better idea to stick with more conservative investments, like Chris King headsets--though you should be sure to check the Chris King Headset Composite Index (CKHCI) first, because even this is not immune to market fluctuations nor to the variations in the PistaDex. (When large numbers of hipsters sell their Pistas the headset market can also become flooded with their 1-inch Chris King headset "upgrades.") And of course another possibility is to just put everything into Bridgestone XO-1s:

I was stunned to see the above XO-1 recently in an area where I had previously seen mostly fixed-gears, and the implications are profound--this relic from the past could very well portend a more self-consciously practical future. In any case, the XO-1 is a sound financial investment, principally because it is rare, and also because it allows the seller to invoke the name of Grant Petersen. And in the often unpredictable world of cycling economics, there are two certainties:

1) All cyclists age;
2) Aging cyclists love Grant Petersen.

Best of all, if you're a "hipster" and you ditch your Pista to get one, you get to keep your beard. Just don't try to comb it with your feet while you ride.

Individualism: Innovation or Absurdity?

(The Boogeyman via "BeastGP")

I've been fortunate enough to receive emails recently from all over the world (or at least from places outside of New York) alerting me to various quirks, peculiarities, and abominations in the world of cycling. Taken individually they are entertaining, but when considered in their gestalt they paint a disturbing picture--in fact, it's a velvet portrait of pure evil. Had I seen the emerging visage of the demon Charles Nelson Reilly, I might have taken part in last weekend's mass bicycle blessing at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine:

Frankly, I find this disturbing, though it goes a long way towards explaining all the awful riding I've been seeing recently. (I was very nearly laid out by a bike salmon yesterday evening.) Many of us may us place too much trust in our "safety kippahs" to protect us, though the truth is that danger does not discriminate by headwear. It can find you regardless of whether you're wearing a Bell, or a Giro, or a flat-brim cap, or a Euro-schmata, or a Stetson, or even a soccer ball. Certainly the helmet's still a good idea, since once disaster strikes it will protect your head better than a soccer ball will, but it's not going to keep stuff from happening in the first place. Protecting your brain is only worth so much if you're not using it in the first place. Judging from the turnout at the mass blessing, I can only assume many local cyclists have now taken their leap of faith even further by simply trusting in the Lord to protect them. I'm surprised the fixed-gear freestylers didn't also get in on this, since apparently cyclists were "encouraged to ride though the enormous cathedral," and I'd think the opportunity for them to make videos of themselves doing chainring grinds on church pews to a Slayer soundtrack would be too good to pass up.

Fortunately, though, there are riders out there who have the courage to think for themselves. They don't blindly trust in the Lord, or in a "safety kippah," or in a deflated soccer ball. More importantly, their equipment choices, bike setup, and wardrobes are not dictated by fashion. Not every cyclist is afraid to wear SPD sandals. (Though many of them should be, judging by the condition of their toenails.) Similarly, not every cyclist is afraid to commit to one set of handlebars. Here's a photograph of one bold rider who palps two, sent to me by a reader in Austin:

The dual handlebar setup does have historical precedent, and was pioneered by none other than Sheldon Brown. However, this rider takes a somewhat different approach. Instead of Sheldon's flat bar/drop bar setup mounted via two stems sharing the steer tube, this rider joins a pair of riser bars and a pair of flat bars by means of a pair of bar ends and some copper elbows:

As we've seen before, there is no greater temptation for the inventive cyclist than the bar end. In a way they're like the duct tape of cycling components. In any case, I'm not sure how secure this whole thing is, but it's certainly inspiring. Elbows of copper, balls of steel.

Speaking of unorthodox handlebar setups, another reader in Wisconsin has forwarded me this photo of a rolling mullet:

This cyclocross bike is a time trial in the front, and a mudfest in the back. As you can see, the front end sports a set of aerobars and a slick tire, and the rear rolls on a knobby tire protected by some sort of plastic protuberance. I'd hate to resurrect the dreaded "fender debate," but regardless of where you stand on fender use I do think it's legitimate to question whether these sorts of clip-on attachments actually qualify as fenders. Is a fender anything that protects you from mud or water, or must it have struts, mount to eyelets, and offer full coverage in order to be called a fender? This may not seem important, but if the word "fender" is applied too liberally than pretty much anything can be considered a fender. Would you call a soccer ball hat a helmet? No you wouldn't. Then why call a plastic diving board a fender? This should be as important to the anti-fenderites as it is to the fenderites, because a liberal fender interpretation might inadvertently place you among the fendered when you really don't want to be there. Again, I believe fender use is a personal choice, but I also think that maybe a better term for these sorts of things might be "filth prophylactic." That should keep everybody happy.

Meanwhile, half a continent away, a reader in Philadelphia snapped a shot of another innovative cyclocross bike:

Some might scoff and call this brake useless, but I disagree. Actually, levers and cables can always fail, so this particular setup eliminates those weak links by requiring you to simply pull directly on the straddle cable. Plus, you also save a lot of weight. If you think about it, it's a bulletproof setup. (Unless the bullet hits you.)

Yes, offroad-oriented bikes encourage the sort of innovation you rarely see in the staid world of road cycling. And while the Lone Wolf may ride a Lotus, the "lone wolves" of cycling have long been drawn to the mountain bike, thanks to its versatile chassis. (I don't mean "versatile" as in "practical," I mean "versatile" as in "you can bolt lots of springy parts to it.") Take this exotic example, spotted in Coney Island by esteemed commenter Kale:

"Lone wolves" often groom mountain bikes strictly for pavement use. This is perfectly natural, as "lone wolves" are outsiders who pine for the wilderness, and so they want their bikes to reflect this. "Lone wolves" also don't sit around and wait for companies to make things for them. Instead, they just do it themselves. Why sit around waiting for Campy to re-enter the mountain bike market when you can just make your own set of Boras out of your FRX5s? Note also the front and rear filth prophylactics and the kickstand. He's certainly not laying down any tricks, and he's not about to lay down his bike either--those Bora decals scratch easy.

And while our "lone wolf" basks in the heat on the boardwalk, in the closed world of fixed-gears (where no "lone wolf" would deign to tread) those idiots are still trying to sell that stupid gold bike:

I was grateful that a reader forwarded me this video, because not only was it comforting to learn that peoples' desire for golden bikes is apparently something that will never change, but also because it afforded me a closer look at the actual bicycle, which I'm beginning to suspect is just an SE Premium Ale only with crappier parts. Nonetheless, I still really want that gold bike, and I'm actually in the process of silver plating my Scattante, which I'm then planning to put on Craigslist for $50,000. Since the bike was free and I can do all the plating at home, once I sell it I'll be halfway to Gold City.

Of course, when it comes to Gold City, the big question is, "Does it rain there?" If so, I'll almost certainly want to add golden fenders to my gold bike--or, failing that, golden filth prophylactics. But as the anti-fenderites often point out, sometimes fenders alone aren't enough. As such, I was pleased to learn from another reader that I can also purchase a pair of filth prophylactis for my legs:

Though I'll probably just stick with my chicken suit:

Not only is it comfortable, but the gold bike will also match my plumage.

I am, however, considering switching from my recumbent trike to a regular bike with a noseless saddle. A reader informs me that the CDC has announced that noseless saddles can prevent "Genital Numbness and Sexual Dysfunction from Occupational Bicycling:"

I ride a bicycle to occupy myself, so even though I haven't been experiencing problems in the nether regions of my chicken suit, I figure maybe I should make the switch anyway lest I become a capon. Plus, I recently saw a fellow Scattante rider palping one, and it looked pretty sweet:

It's a good thing it's chained to the bike, since otherwise it would certainly be stolen within seconds by someone driven mad by desperation and crotchal numbness.

But yet another reader has alerted me to something even more disturbing than crotchal numbness, and that's the growing bicycle air hockey trend:

Clearly, bicycle air hockey is on track to replace bicycle polo. And while I'll be happy to see it go, I'd hate to see it happen like this.

BSNYC Product Review: Vittoria 1976 Cycling Shoe

There's a lot of bike stuff out there. Some of it's great, and some of it's crappy. Some of it is practical, and some of it is useless. Some of it is cheap, and some of it is expensive. Still, people continue to manufacture and market new cycling products, which they then try to get you to notice, and, ideally, buy.

As a cyclist, pretty much all of my needs in terms of bike stuff were met a long time ago. Whether I'm racing, or commuting, or just riding for pleasure, there's really no component or article of clothing I wish existed but doesn't--except for one. And that product is a clipless-compatible shoe that I can wear all the time.

I happen to be one of those people who really, really likes clipless pedals. I find platform pedals disconcerting, and I find toe clips and straps irritating. When it comes to racing, or road rides, or offroad rides, my attachment (literally and figuratively) to clipless isn't a problem. However, when it comes to getting around the city things get a little complicated. Obviously, you need to be able to walk easily, so naturally you use mountain bike pedals and shoes. But while you can walk in mountain bike shoes, they're not especially comfortable or presentable off the bike. Basically, you look and feel like you're wearing soccer cleats. Of course, you can always skip the cross-country racing shoe and go for the more walking-friendly touring shoe, but depending on how you feel about things like pleated khaki shorts and tall wool socks these may or may not be attractive to you. There are also SPD sneakers, though if you wear these you've also got to wear a flat-brim fitted cap. And of course, there's always the SPD sandal. The great Sheldon Brown famously praised SPD sandals, calling them "the most comfortable cycling footwear ever." However, to be comfortable in a sandal like that you also have to be comfortable with yourself like Sheldon Brown was. I, however, am extremely uncomfortable with myself, and being seen in SPD sandals is a fear that runs as deep in me as my fear of revolving doors, groin injury, and the music of Billy Joel.

So pending some great new leap in footwear, I continue to compromise. If I know I'll be on the bike more than I'll be on my feet, I'll palp the mountain bike shoes. If I think I'll be on my feet a lot more than I'll be on the bike, I'll deal with the toe clips. And if I'm riding my Dutch city bike, I'll of course use Speedplay Zeros with a crabon-soled road shoe. In the meantime, though, I dream of a shoe that works with mountain bike pedals, but which I won't feel compelled to take off when I get to where I'm going.

Naturally, then, when I received an email from the Vittoria cycling shoe company informing me that they have "developed a new type of shoes especially made for the fixed gear bike" that is made "for riding, and in the same time, for walk" I was both excited that perhaps I'd finally found my ideal city shoe, and curious because I couldn't figure out how a shoe could possibly be "especially made for the fixed gear bike." Here's the press release they attached to the email:

Vittoria always pays attention to the tendencies of the moment and this year has created a repetition of the first models produced few years ago with an interpretation in modern terms by melting together advanced materials as Lorica, Micro Fiber and valuable skins and past times design making Vittoria history.

Model 1976 is available in a wide range of color, like White, Black, Red, Yellow, Blu and many others.

Sole is made especially for this new way of ride bike, in rubber, for a easy walk and with an internal Nylon insole with the possibility to fix SPD cleats.

Like all the Vittoria Cycling Shoes, also 1976 is 100% made in Biella, Italy.

Not only did Vittoria send me this press release, but they also offered to send me "samples" for my own "test and use." Now, even though I just reviewed a crabon road bike, I felt conflicted because I feel strongly that there are enough people out there testing bike crap already. However, as I mentioned, a walkable cycling shoe is something I've been wanting badly for a long time, so I was extremely curious--even though they look like something the Griswolds would have bought during their Italian shopping spree:

So I figured "screw it" and accepted their offer like the shark-jumping product whore that I am, specifying my size and choosing the least offensive "colorway" possible. Eventually, they arrived, just in time for spring:

As I mentioned, the 1976 is supposedly designed specifically for fixed-gear riders, and the first thing I noticed was that there was actually a warning against multi-geared use right there on the box:

Frightened, I removed all my geared bikes from the room and opened it:

Obviously, the 1976 is modeled aesthetically after a classic cycling shoe, though it has a rubber sole for walkability:

Here's a shot of the sole with the little cleat mount covers installed. (They come with these should you want to rub them with clips and straps for some reason.) If you're palping clipless pedals (which is the only reason you'd choose these over sneakers), you just remove the inserts and mount your cleat like you would with any mountain bike shoe:

Obviously, if you're looking for a pair of on-bike/off-bike SPD cycling shoes, you want them to kind of look like normal shoes. These clearly look more like cycling shoes than street shoes, though if you look at them through the ignorant eyes of the non-cyclist they look like the offspring of some kind of sordid Puma/Camper/Capezio three-way:

While this may or may not appeal to you, it is at least an alternative to the hikey shoes, the sneakers, and the SPD sandals I mentioned earlier. And on the bike, they just look like cycling shoes--no justification necessary. But the big question when it comes to an on-bike/off-bike cycling shoe is, "How to these look in a non-cycling context? What would happen if I showed up to work with only these? Could I pull it off?" To find out, I tested them with a variety of non-cycling garments on the BSNYC/RTMS Sisal Test Pad:

Here's what they look like with the kind of pants you might be required to wear in a "business casual" setting. If this photo were "scratch-and-sniff" it would smell like cologne. For best results in this environment, the 1976 shoes should be paired with an unbuttoned shirt, a D&G belt, a few gold rings, and a coif that requires hair gel. If you're a lawyer, real estate agent, advertising executive, or some other type of smarm-monger, you should have no trouble making these work with your outfit.

Here's what the 1976 shoes look like with freaky baggy hippie Mayan pants. If your profession requires you to be either a hippie or a Maya, you should probably just wait until somebody comes out with an SPD-compatible flip-flop. However, they still work OK here, mostly because they're virtually engulfed by the flared embroidered cuffs.

Here's what the 1976 shoes look like with a skirt. As you can see, the 1976 is probably not the best choice for women who wear skirts or men who dress like women. Really, the only place this outfit would be acceptable would be the SSWC. Then again, maybe the yellow "colorway" with some pom-pom socks would work better. I may have to try that out.

Clearly though, the best context for these shoes visually speaking is on the bike:

Incidentally, the shoes happened to fit me really well, and were immediately comfortable. But how did they perform? Can you ride in them? Can you walk in them? Are they better than mountain bike shoes? Well, when it comes to testing equipment, the big problem is that you can't use two things at the same time. Instead, you have to use one, then use the other, then try to figure out if it was actually better than the first. But with shoes, you can do a true side-by-side comparison. I think you know where this is going by now. That's right: a BSNYC/RTMS Cycling Shoet-Out!

I performed this test under cover of darkness, since the same insecurity that won't allow me to wear SPD sandals also won't allow me to ride around in plain sight while wearing two different shoes. (Though strangely I have no trouble donning either baggy hippie Mayan pants or skirts.) Surprisingly, as soon as I started riding I completely forgot I was wearing mix-matched footwear. Entry and exit was pretty much the same with either shoe, and I was only reminded that they didn't match when I looked down:

(KOPS: Knee Over Perforated Shoe)

But off the bike was a different story. I don't really mind walking a block or two in mountain bike shoes, but walking in both at the same time made my left shoe feel clunkier than a Dutch city bike. You can still hear your cleat grind on the sidewalk occasionally with the 1976, but between the flexibility and the rubber sole they're much better for walking than a pure cycling shoe.

So my BSNYC/RTMS Sisal Test Pad runway show proved that you can indeed (barely) pull off the 1976 as a non-cycling shoe, and my BSNYC/RTMS Shoet-Out proved that they work as well as mountain bike shoes on the bike but are much more comfortable off the bike. But the most important test, of course, is how they work when you wear both of them at once.

Well, as I said, these happened to fit me perfectly, and as such were very comfortable. They work very well on the bike, though you do notice the flexibility of the sole and the upper. While this is in no way limiting, you certainly wouldn't want to race in these. Also, despite the manufacturer's warnings, I did try these with a "geared" bike. (And I giggled to myself maniacally while I did so in the same way that I do when I grind off my "lawyer lips.") Amazingly, I was not mangled or killed. In fact, I personally think the 1976 shoes are actually better for geared bikes than they are for fixed-gears, since when you're modulating your speed with your feet a little extra stiffness in your shoes is a good thing. Then again, everyone seems to be riding fixed-gears in their sneakers anyway, and these are certainly stiffer than a pair of canvas Vans.

The other thing about the 1976 is that they're perforated. This means that not only should you avoid white socks:

But it also means they're pretty much useless for nasty or cold weather. The same is certainly true of a sneaker (and a sandal, though wool sock enthusiasts claim otherwise), but it's not true of a cross-country racing shoe or a touring shoe. Also, while you can ride mountain bike shoes in the city and on the trails, the 1976 is pretty much like riding in a clipless moccasin and would be pretty irritating on any terrain that's remotely muddy or technical. Now, I have no idea how much this shoe costs, but I'm guessing it's not cheap. They have a name for things like this which are really nice but expensive and limited in their use, and that name is "luxury item." They also have a name for people who use items like this, and they're called "dandies." Actually, a good slogan for these would be: "Vittoria 1976: Soft Shoes for Soft People."

Still, I was enjoying them, so I figured I'd surrender to both "dandiness" and the "luxury item"-friendly weather and head out onto the Great Hipster Silk Route to let these shoes do what they do best. There were bikes everywhere:

There were also lots of shirtless hipsters:

If I hadn't found total on-bike/off-bike seamlessness, the 1976 shoes did at least bring me closer than sneakers or mountain bike shoes. And while they would have sucked in cold or rain, the rubber soles at least kept me on my feet on the slippery, wet tiles of the Great Hipster Silk Route's bathrooms:

Something tells me Vittoria won't be asking for their shoes back.

BSNYC Friday Fun Quiz!

Well, another week is over, and so is Fat Cyclist's contest. While I've already been in touch with the smock winners to coordinate the distribution of smocks (via carrier pigeon--I refuse to support the evil shipping industry), it seems that the person who actually "gets" to meet me has yet to reply to the contest organizers. Hopefully he's OK, though I suspect he's probably just underwhelmed by the prospect of meeting me to the point of either complete apathy or sleep.

Speaking of apathy and things that are soporific, I'm pleased to present you with a quiz. As always, study the item, think, and click on your answer. If you're right you'll know it, and if you're wrong, you'll see another skinny hipster on a colorful bike.

Thanks for reading, commenting, and emailing. And remember: pigeon power! I'm even returning that Look via pigeon(s), so if 20-ish pounds of crabon falls on you sometime in the next few days, don't blame me. Blame the evil shipping industry and/or mother nature.

Ride safe this weekend,


You rode past me on your pretty white and purple bike and turned back to say something. I couldn't hear you because the music from my helmet was too loud. I was spacing out a bit, and probably made a weird face at you. I'm pretty curious about what you had to say (I hope it was positive.) I saw you again under the bridge on Jay Street, but you were gone in a flash, opposite my direction. See you out there.

1) What might cause you to hear music in your helmet?

--You're wearing headphones
--You're listening to the band Helmet
--You're insane and suffering from auditory hallucinations
--All of the above

2) There is currently a "duech bag crack head" with a taste for Campagnolo componentry on the loose in New York City.


3) The fender debate is the new helmet debate.


4) The slogan for the "Peacemaker" by Cycles for Heroes is:

--"Fixie ├╝ber alles"
--"White Makes Might"
--"White State of the Art"
--"Peacemaker: Because Dutch Bikes Suck"

5) Cycles for Heroes also makes a cyclocross bike called the "Pure Blood," and the slogan is "The Rebirth of Race."


6) What is this?

--A "steampunk recumbent"
--A failed Victorian era attempt at a submarine
--A prop from the upcoming live-action movie of "The Simpsons" which will be ridden by C. Montgomery Burns (to be played by Christopher Lloyd)
--Jules Verne's hour record attempt trike

7) The author of this article on how to "straighten" a bicycle wheel lists a number of tools you will need. Which tool is not among them?

--A rubber hammer
--A regular hammer
--A nipple wrench
--A barbecue grill

8) What is this rider demonstrating?

--"how to ride a bike w/o bending your knees"
--"how you stop on a bike w/o brakes"
--"how you skid on a sidewalk w/o hitting somebody"
--"a new fitting technique to determine proper stem and crank arm length"

9) According to a reader more knowledgeable than me, the trick I dubbed a "taint grinder" is actually called:

--a "sack scraper"
--a "roid buffer"
--an "ass jam"
--"Australian hygiene"

***Special cycling zeitgeist bonus question!***

Which newspaper has decided that fixed-gears are over?

--The New York Times
--The Times of London
--The Chicago Tribune
--The International Herald Tribune