Thursday, September 29, 2016

Free Your Head and Your Bike Will Follow

Most of us are familiar with Dyson.  They make vacuum cleaners, bathroom hand dryers, and of course those bladeless fans that singlehandedly made the phrase "When the shit hits the fan" obsolete.

(The shit just goes right through this fan.  Amazing.)

Certainly those of you with feces-flinging monkeys at home can attest to what a life-changing invention that was.

Anyway, someone from Dyson emailed me to let me know they also have a charitable arm called the James Dyson Foundation.  This foundation hosts an international design competition called the James Dyson Award.  And here's one of the top designs:

Problem: Around the world, bike share programs are giving commuters and tourists a convenient, inexpensive way to move from point A to point B. But bike share users very rarely wear helmet. Few people want to carry a helmet around all day, and rental helmets can be unsanitary or ill-fitting. In busy cities, crashes do occur, and wearing a helmet can reduce the chance of injury or death by 85%.

Oy.

Firstly, that "helmet can reduce the chance of injury or death by 85%" statistic is a load of crap, and if that's the sort of BS they're flinging around the Dyson offices it's no wonder they need bladeless fans.

Secondly, is the fact that "bike share users very rarely wear helmets" even a problem in the first place?  Of course it isn't.  There's a reason you don't read about stories about how dangerous bike share is, and that's because...it's not very dangerous.  Certainly hopping on one of these sluggish tanks and riding half a mile is not more meaningfully risky than any of the other stuff we do during the normal course of our day.  After all, as the great Frank Drebin once said, “You take a chance getting up in every morning, crossing the street or sticking your face in a fan.”

Unless that fan's a Dyson, but I don't think they'd been invented at the time.

Nevertheless, despite the non-problem of what bike share riders have or don't have on their heads at any given moment, one designer has gone ahead and "solved" it anyway:

Solution: EcoHelmet is a folding, recyclable helmet for bike share systems. Made of waterproofed paper in a unique radial honeycomb pattern, EcoHelmet allows cyclists to ride more confidently, and more safely.

And here it is:


I've often likened bike helmets to yarmulkes in that both sets of headgear serve mostly to communicate your beliefs to others and identify you as a member of a community, and now the helmet-as-religious-compulsion has reached its inevitable conclusion with this largely ceremonial garment:
Just watch the video, wherein the designer explains her inspiration:




This was born when I was traveling a lot and renting bikes in every city I went to and spending a lot of my time exploring the cities which was great feeling really really anxious. 


If renting bikes in every city was so great then why did she feel anxious?

It was unfamiliar, I was riding on the wrong side of the road, and I hadn’t packed a helmet.


Well here's a crazy thought: if riding on the wrong side of the road is making you anxious, why not try riding on the correct side?

I dunno, that's what I'd do, but I'm not a designer.

I started thinking it would be really nice if I could just get a helmet with the bike and just feel a bit more comfortable on the road:


One of the best things about traveling is learning about another culture.  So why not learn to go with the laid-back helmetless vibe instead of branding the locals with the Exclamation Point of Shame?  If nobody's wearing a helmet then there's probably a reason, and it's most likely that riding a bike is no big deal there whereas American pro-helmet anti-bike propaganda has made you unduly uptight.  Fretting about not having a helmet the whole time you're in another country is like not eating any of the local cuisine and subsisting entirely on food from American fast food chains.  (I am totally guilty of doing that myself which is why I know how sad it is.)

And when I started talking to other people who used bike share that was their number one complaint is that they were anxious to be riding in the city.

The solution for anxiety is not a helmet.  The solution for anxiety is treating the underlying cause of the anxiety.  Using bike share is safe!  Free yourself from your crippling faith in the safety hat!  Let your head go bare and your locks flow free!  If the only thing holding you back from enjoying bike share is not wearing a helmet, just think about how enjoyable it will be once you forget about the damn helmet!

But no.  Instead she designed a coffee filter for your head:


Or, if you prefer, one of those paper party balls:


I want to see these in cities all around the world, letting people ride safely and with confidence anywhere they go, making cities greener and more ecologically sound as well as safer:


That's a shame.  I want to see people riding safely and with confidence even if they don't have the cycling equivalent of one of those paper ass gaskets with them at all times.

In other news, I was checking out a VeloNews bike review:


And I noticed they've come up with a new visually dazzling yet ultimately meaningless graphing system that perfectly complements the florid yet ultimately meaningless prose of the reviews themselves:


Nicely done.

Also, you'll be happy to know that even though this is a cyclocross bike you're allowed to ride it on gravel, but first you'll have to re-dish all your wheels:

Cannondale engineers gave a nod to the burgeoning gravel scene when designing the
frame, creating a bike that can accommodate tires up to 40 millimeters in width with 5 millimeters of clearance to spare. They did this by moving the drivetrain 6 millimeters outboard. But there’s a rub: The rear wheel needs to be re-dished to work properly with the drivetrain offset. That means if you need to swap wheels in the pits, you better be sure you’ve got a properly dished wheel at the ready. It also is a problem if you’ve got an existing set of pit wheels that aren’t dished specifically for this frame.

I realize the bike industry constantly has to futz with frame spacing, wheel retention systems, and so forth--and that's fine.  Look, we all realize you've got to sell new stuff.  Just do us all a favor and let us know when you get it all sorted out and we can use a set of wheels in more than one bike.

Until then I'll stick with my old-timey 130mm spacing and quick-release skewers, even though I am sacrificing precious lateral stiffness and missing out on the awesome stopping power and modulation of dick breaks.

Or, maybe I'll just leapfrog the industry altogether and get one of these:




Wonder what pressure he's running in that front caster.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Too Much Fred for One Head

Sorry I'm late, I was doing the mountain biking:


Suckers.

Anyway, further to yesterday's post about how Clif is selling an energy food remarkably similar to baby food and that Freds might as well just eat actual baby food because it's cheaper (whew!), not just any pedantic asshole but THE Pendantic Asshole weighed in (so to speak) with the following:

THE Pedantic Asshole said...

Did not a single one of you pedantic assholes alert Snob to the fact that he got the Gu pricing totally wrong? In both, the cost should be price/calorie, not price/volume or weight. In this case, the Gu costs 1.6 cents Mercan and the baby food is at 2.4 cents (also Mercan). 

You could pay next to nothing for a bag of sawdust, but that's not going to give you what you need to get on the KOM tables.

September 28, 2016 at 5:37 AM

This is a very good point.  Furthermore, I take any allegation of fraud seriously.  Me and Dave Brailsford:


("See this?  It's called 'marginal gains.'  No TUE required.")

So let's take a closer look at THE Pedantic Asshole's math.  As for as the cents-per-calorie price on the Clif, for a 140-calorie pouch priced at $2.37 I get 1.69 cents, which I'd round up to 1.7 cents.

Now onto the baby food.  The pouch I happened to use as an example yesterday contained a mere 70 calories, which does come to over 2 cents a calorie as THE Pedantic Asshole correctly points out.  However, baby food is all over the place, both literally (take a look at any given baby, they've got that crap all over them half the time) and calorically speaking.  Consider this bag of Plum Organics checkpea & tomato with beef, and I just threw up in my mouth while typing that:

This will cost you $1.99 from Buy Buy Baby (and no, I'm not getting kickbacks from Buy Buy Baby, they just come up high in the results when you use a popular search engine so they make a convenient reference), but it's got 110 calories in it:

That comes to 1.8 cents per gram, which is a bit more than the Clif, but inconsequentially so.  Indeed, for simplicity's sake, you might as well just round up and say both the Clif and the Plum Organics go for about 2 cents a calorie.

Furthermore, just as some baby food has more calories, some Clif stuff has less.  I happened to pick a flavor with 140 calories per bag, but the banana mango coconut (oh god I just barfed again) has just 100 calories:

See?


Though in fairness it is a bit cheaper, but still in line with an equivalent baby food.

So yes, in light of THE Pedantic Asshole, I do acknowledge that as far as calories go you are not paying a premium for Fred baby food over regular baby food, but I also maintain that Fred baby food is still pretty much exactly baby food and you might as well just use all this crap interchangeably.

If it's priced like baby food, puréed like baby food, and packaged in a squeezable pouch for an end user who lacks motor skills, then guess what?

That shit's baby food, baby.

And most important of all, STOP LEAVING YOUR ENERGY FOOD PACKETS ALL OVER THE PLACE.  Really, all this baby food craze means is you're going to see even more trash left behind after your local Gran Fondo.

Moving on, the Guardian asks, "Will car drivers ever learn to share the road with bikes?"


And while obviously the answer is a resounding "Not in a zillion years," I'm still flattered to have been quoted in the article:

The New York blogger and author Eben Weiss says the city’s new bike lanes legitimised cycling, telling people “this is something you can be doing, and should be doing.”

“It’s an important symbol to see a bike lane or a sign with a picture of a bike – it means something,” he says. “I started seeing lots more cyclists. And pick any street where they have built an actual protected bike lane. If you’re just walking down that street, it makes a huge difference when cars aren’t encroaching on every inch of the space. You can see around the corner when you’re trying to cross the street.”

By the way, I should clarify that the bike sign I'm referring to is this one:


Though I'm sure the advocacy community will take my quote to mean I'm a proponent of sharrows (in the bike advocacy world sharrows are almost as bad as swastikas) and punish me accordingly.  Fortunately, the harshest penalty bike advocates mete out to heretics is revoking your Park Slope Food Co-op membership, but since I'm not a member in the first place that means I pretty much have smugness immunity.

Lastly, speaking of Gran Fondos, a reader just sent me this:


"One of the best parts of cycling is all the new gear that comes out," explains Levi, which now marks the third time I've thrown up whilst "curating" today's post.  Then he adds, "I recently came across a product that totally changed my view on how to handle sweat:"



Wait, don't tell me!  Was it a fan hat?  It's a fan hat, isn't it?  Please tell me it's a fan hat:


No, apparently it's that weird green unibrow on his head:


Which to be honest I barely even noticed, since I just figured it was some sort of monitoring device he's got to wear whenever he leaves the house as per the terms of the UCI Reasoned Decision.

Either that, or it's how he calls the Mother Ship to take him back to Planet Boring after the ride:


Or else it's what fans wave in the air during Letle Viride concerts:


Anyway, it should be fun watching Freds crash while they attempt to peel and stick their sweat-channeling unibrows mid-ride:


Look for lots of these things on the side of the road along with all those baby food packets.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Baby Steps: The Truth about Cycling Nutrition

If there's one thing that's universally true about cyclists, it's that we're always willing to pay a premium for commonplace items that are ostensibly "cycling-specific."  For example, there are jeans:



And then there are cycling jeans:


There are regular undershirts*:



And there are cycling undershirts:



*[Uniqlo Heattech undershirts make great winter base layers, by the way.]

And of course there are storage jars:



And then there are cycling-specific storage jars:


Yes, I'm totally changing the name of this blog to "Storage Jar Snob:"


By the way, here are the respective dollar totals for all the items mentioned above:

Non-Cycling Specific: $70.89

Cycling-Specific: $150.71

That's more than a 100% markup just 'cause it's bikey.

I just saved you $79.82.

You're welcome.

Anyway, I mention all of this because a reader named Dale was kind enough to email me and tell me that Clif is now selling baby food pouches to cyclists:


Yes, any owner of a new human child will take just one look at these mush-filled bags with their oversized asphyxiation-proof caps and highly objectionable stomach-turning flavor combinations and conclude, quite rightly, "Holy crap, that's basically just baby food!"

Although as far as I know no baby food company has attempted to sell a bagful of pizza:



Oh yeah, Clif ran the old Bag O' Pizza guy out of business, it's that good:



This then raises an interesting and important question, which is this:

Should Freds be eating baby food?

Well, that depends whether or not your Fred is ready to start solid foods.  Here's how to tell:

--Fred can sit up well without support.
--Fred has lost the tongue-thrust reflex and does not automatically push solids out of his mouth with his tongue.
--Fred is ready and willing to chew.
--Fred is developing a “pincer” grasp, where he picks up food or other objects between thumb and forefinger. Using the fingers and scraping the food into the palm of the hand (palmar grasp) does not substitute for pincer grasp development.
--Fred is eager to participate in mealtime and may try to grab food and put it in his mouth.

Okay, clearly Fred's not ready to eat like a big boy.  So now the question becomes whether Fred should eat the Cliff stuff or actual baby food.

Let's compare.

Over at Buy Buy Baby, a 113g pouch of Happy Baby™ Stage 3 goo sells for $1.69


Ensure your child has a healthy, delicious meal with Happy Baby Hearty Meals. Savory blends and yummy combinations of organic ingredients provide balanced nutrition for little ones. Portable pouch makes feeding on the go easy.

Whereas on that site named after a river you can pick up a six-pack of Clif's cycling-specific ooze for $14.24, which comes to $2.37 per pouch:


Of course it's important to keep in mind the Clif pouch is slightly larger at 120g.  So here's what you're really paying:

Clif: approximately 2 cents a gram

Happy Baby™: approximately 1 and a half cents per gram.

So yes, you are paying a premium for the cycling-specific baby food, though admittedly you will pay a bit more for the baby-specific baby food if you go for a premium seasonal flavor like turkey and sage:

I could so easily rebrand this as "BSNYC Labs Special Seasonal Cyclocross Blend!" and charge $20 a pop, and the fact that I'm not is proof of my integrity.

Okay, I know what you're thinking.  "What's actually in all this stuff?  Similar containers aside, baby food and ride fuel are apples and oranges!"

Well, first of all, we're talking about disgusting food in pouches, so a more fitting metaphor than "apples and oranges" would be "apples/oatmeal/roastbeef" and "orange/kale/beet."  Secondly, here's what Li'l Junior's getting in his or her bag of Happy Baby™:
And here's what Li'l Fred's getting in his or her bag of Clif:


Sure, it's not exactly the same, but tell me that shit ain't baby food.

So in conclusion, yes, Freds might as well just eat baby food.

And while I'm praising myself and my integrity, it's worth noting you won't get this sort of in-depth real-world analysis and indispensable budgetary advice in magazines like "Bicycling." Instead you'll just read about how to buy a van:
I dunno, remember that "How To Poop On a Ride" article?  For a magazine about bikes they sure seem unduly interested in motor vehicles and going to the bathroom:

I'm waiting for the feature on how to change your Fred after he's soiled himself mid-ride due to excessive baby food consumption.

Lastly, speaking of motor vehicles, here's a little something from "Outside" about how to open your car door:

And the video is here.

Sadly, in the land of "rolling coal," the chances of this practice becoming widespread are exactly zero.

Monday, September 26, 2016

What's all this about "manginal gains?"

Just in case you haven't been following the sport of professional cycling (and really, who could blame you if you haven't?), recently a Russian hacking outfit by the name of "Fancy Bear" (not to be confused with "Bear Fancy," a magazine geared towards those who appreciate hirsute men) released a bunch of information about Team Sky.  Specifically, it seems their biggest riders, Bradley (or "Stanley" if you prefer) Wiggins and Chris Froome, have been receiving various suspiciously convenient TUEs (special dispensation to used banned substances) over the years, and Wiggins in particular comes out of this looking quite bad:


Those who grew tired of Team Sky's 'marginal gains' mantra will have read with a certain degree of irony as leaks from the Fancy Bears cyber-hacking group spread over the internet. Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, two of the most successful riders in recent years, were revealed as recipients of Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs), and while they did not break any rules, the leak posed several important questions for Team Sky.

Basically, Wiggins, an ostensible asthmatic (like much of the pro peloton conveniently and hilariously claims to be), has said he never took any injections apart from vaccinations:

Well before Fancy Bears' disclosure Wiggins had gone on record in his 2012 Autobiography 'My Time' stating that his only ever injections were for "my vaccinations" and "drips." More important for Team Sky was the fact that it had said that it would pull any rider from a race if he was suffering from allergies, rather than apply for a TUE. That was in 2013, when Dr. Steve Peters had told David Walsh, "We agreed as a team that if a rider, suffering from asthma, got into trouble with pollen we would pull him out of the race rather than apply for a therapeutic use exemption on his behalf."

When in reality he was getting corticoid steroid shots right before the Grand Tours:

The timing of the application for the second set of TUEs has also raised eyebrows within the cycling community, with two leading experts and one of Wiggins' previous team doctors, Prentice Steffen, questioning the necessity of needing the steroid in the build-up to major races. The TUEs were applied for and administered by Team Sky just days before Wiggins' Grand Tour challenges at the Tour in 2011, 2012 and the Giro d'Italia in 2013. He went on to win the Tour in 2012, but crashed out of the 2011 Tour and abandoned in Italy.

Nice.

Further to this, Bradley Wiggins took to the airwaves this past weekend to explain to the BBC that somehow he received no undue benefits from taking a powerful performance enhancer on the eve of a three-week Grand Tour he then went on to win:

This is the furrowed brow and pointy index finger of a man in the midst of spinning a massive lie:


("Would you excuse me for a moment?  It would appear that my trousers have caught fire.")

And this is the current state of pro cycling drug excuses:

"When you win the race three weeks out from the Tour de France, as I did, you're the favourite for the Tour.

"(And) you have the medical team and coaches checking everything's OK - 'Bradley, you're on track here, you're the favourite to win this race, now we need to make sure the next three weeks... is there anything we can help with at the moment?'

"(I say) 'Well, I'm still struggling with this breathing, I know it didn't look like it but is there anything else you can do just to make sure that I don't, this doesn't become an issue into a three-week race at the height of the season?'

"And, in turn, I took that medical advice (to take triamcinolone)."

So in other words, Wiggins and his team worked out a way to game the system in order to keep his performance consistent over the course of a three-week bicycle race, which is pretty much the equivalent of this:

"OK, Bradley, you're on track to remaining very rich for a long time.  Is there anything we can help you with at the moment?"

"Well, I'm still having to pay taxes.  Is there a way the amount of money in my bank account could stay the same come tax time?"

And, in turn, I took their advice to open a shell corporation on the Caribbean island of Nevis.

Sure, technically speaking neither of these things may be 100% illegal, but they're certainly deceitful and underhanded.  Plus, he even evokes the old "level playing field" explanation while simultaneously denying the injections enhanced his performance:

When asked about the possible performance enhancing qualities of triamcinolone, Wiggins avoided giving a direct answer, instead pointing out the abuse of the drug by Millar and Rasmussen, who have criticised his use of the drug via a TUE in recent days.

“They were abusing that drug in that era,” Wiggins claimed. “[They were taking] more of it, and abusing it, and – and this was to cure a medical condition. And the governing body, the World Anti Doping Agency, everyone said this wasn’t about trying to find a way to gain an unfair advantage, this was about putting myself back on a level playing field in order to compete at the highest level.”

The "level playing field" analogy really needs to be retired at this point.  The whole point of bike racing is that it's not a level playing field.  You've got mountains, bumpy roads, and a whole bunch of asthmatics with completely different abilities.  If you're a wheezy suck-ass with a penchant for Fred Perry shirts and you've got to "level the playing field" with someone who climbs better than you by taking a known performance enhancer then you may need to confront the fact that you're a cheater--which obviously he knows because he's only admitting to it now that the editors of "Bear Fancy" have called him on it.

So let's take a moment to consider the real victims here--no, not the fans, you'd have to be an idiot to be a fan of pro cycling in 2016.  No, the real victims are the cycling journalists.  Imagine having to cover the exploits of these riders year after year and craft these heroic narratives for them, and on top of that to have to write excitedly about the debut of some new plastic bike or new component as though it were the key to their performance.  It must be like writing for "Catholic Digest" and having to pretend the whole religion isn't a front for child molestation.

Anyway, given that there's absolutely nothing inspirational, life-affirming or even remotely plausible to be gleaned from pro cycling (or indeed any sport), I'm now only following cycling-as-political-statement:


Five hundred nuns from the Buddhist sect known as the Drukpa Order, on Saturday complete a 4,000-km (2,485 mile) bicycle trek from Nepal's Kathmandu to the northern city of Leh in India to raise awareness about human trafficking in the remote region.

"When we were doing relief work in Nepal after the earthquakes last year, we heard how girls from poor families were being sold because their parents could not afford to keep them anymore," 22-year-old nun Jigme Konchok Lhamo told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"We wanted to do something to change this attitude that girls are less than boys and that it's okay to sell them," she said, adding that the bicycle trek shows "women have power and strength like men."

Firstly, that's an amazing picture, and let's look at it again:


They look like they should be portaging R2-D2:


Secondly, just imagine how much more powerful their statement would have been had they had access to state-of-the-art gravel bikes like the ones shown recently at Interbike:



I have to admit didn't really watch this because if I hear the phrase "gravel bike" one more time I'm gonna puke.  We should just start calling bikes with decent tire clearance and braze-ons "bikes" and those skinny-tired things that the dopers ride should simply be retired.

Anyway, in addition to gravel bike mania, it seems that the automatic transmission has finally come to bicycles:


The ProShift from Baron Controls will auto-shift any electronic drivetrain on the market, whether connecting to it with a wire or Bluetooth.

Horrified, I went to their website to learn more, and if your first thought upon seeing a system that shifts for you is "It's gotta be for triathletes" then of course you are correct:



The only group of people in the world who seem more averse to riding bicycles than triathletes are people who freak out over Citi Bike at community board meetings.

In case you were wondering, this thing costs $799.  I mean, if you hate shifting so much, just buy a cheap fixie off Bikesdirect and pocket the rest.

And of course we're not done sticking gratuitous electronic devices on stuff that doesn't need them, either.  Smart helmets, smart locks, and now, thanks to these little sensors, every single component and accessory has the ability to tell you that you suck:


The collected data is quite extensive, capturing not just how the rider pedals but even how much time they spend rocking the bike side to side:


It will also tell you how many cats you'll have and how long it will take your neighbors to find your body when you die alone.

The exception of course are pro cyclists, who live lives of glamor (until their inevitable fall from grace) and who get to sit next to movie stars:
You have to feel bad for Uma Thurman, who was no doubt rather unnerved to be seated next to a creature who is more hair product than man:


(NSFW, probably.)

Though I suppose it could have been worse:


That's the stuff of nightmares.