Overthinking It

When you get really into cycling it can be far too easy to get caught up in the minutiae of things that ultimately have little to no effect on your cycling enjoyment. A millimeter difference in frame geometry here or there, subtle changes in crabon layup, the odd addition or subtraction of a gram of rotating weight…ultimately none of this stuff will prevent you from experiencing the transcendent joy that can come from riding a bike. This is why, instead of obsessing over stuff that really doesn’t matter one way or the other, you should focus on the fundamentals…like calculating your exact chain tension using mathematical formulas!

Tension on the upper span of a chain is inversely proportional to chainring size: the smaller the chainring, the higher the chain tension. This is simple physics. Power output on a bicycle can be simplified to torque multiplied by angular speed (in radians per unit time); power = torque x angular speed. To get angular speed from rotational speed (in revolutions per unit time, a/k/a cadence, or RPM), you must multiply RPM by the number of radians in one revolution of the crank circle, which is 2 x π.

So: angular speed = RPM x 2 x π, and power = torque x RPM x 2 x π

I mean come on people, this is basic stuff here! First you learn how to balance without training wheels, then you learn how to shift gears, then you learn that tension on the upper span of a chain is inversely proportional to chainring size and that angular speed = RPM x 2 x π, and power = torque x RPM x 2 x π! Like, duh! Next you’re going to tell me there are people out there who not only fail to consider the implications of chain tension when selecting a gear combination, but also don’t adhere rigorously to the pre-ride checklist:

Pre-Ride Checklist

  • Check the integrity of your crabon frame using a nondestructive evaluatory technique such as infrared thermography
  • Check the torque settings of all component fasteners using a torque wrench
  • If you tightened any fasteners, repeat the nondestructive testing of your crabon frame’s integrity just in case you caused any microscopic cracks in the process
  • Flush and replace the fluid in your hydraulic braking system. If your bicycle is not equipped with a hydraulic braking system, discard your bicycle immediately
  • Inflate your tires to the optimum pressure taking account the total elevation of your planned route and the mean temperature during your riding window
  • Lube your chain using a boutique lubricant or luxury skin care product, same difference
  • Calculate your chain tension in every gear combination and then design a personal shift strategy that insures your drivetrain is running at maximum efficiency for the duration of your ride
  • Make sure your helmet is fitted properly and make sure all onboard cameras are functioning properly so that they can record the moments leading up to your demise
  • Have fun!

Given the staggering amount of math involved in 21st century recreational cycling, you may be tempted to seek succor in the laid-back world of everyday bicycling, and if you live in New York City, Andrew Yang wants to make this “the most bike-friendly and pedestrian friendly city in the country:”

This is a tough one. I would very much like New York City to be the most bike-friendly and pedestrian-friendly city in the country. I also agree that one of the greatest things about New York City is that you can live here without owning a car.

At the same time, even though you can live here without owning a car, I own a car anyway. For this reason, Yang’s “not having to own a car” statement makes me uncomfortable–not because I think the city owes me anything as a car owner (quite the opposite, in fact), but because it’s a generalization so broad as to be meaningless, and I’d even go so far to say its very meaninglessness is contemptible. See, New York City contains everything from density to deer:

Therefore, whether or not you “need” a car here depends on who you are, where you live, how you live, and where you need to go–and even this is subjective and therefore equally meaningless. In fact, when it comes to cars and New Yorkers you can only say two things with any kind of certainty:

  • If you have a car in New York City, you’re 100% sure you need it
  • Whether or not you have a car in New York City, you’re 100% sure nobody else does

This then leads to the tricky business of trying to qualify who deserves to drive in New York City and who doesn’t, which is an area in which both the anti-car advocates and the pro-car NIMBYs both fail miserably. The advocates mock the selfishness of the NIMBYs, and the NIMBYs mock the entitlement of the advocates–or maybe it’s the other way around. Either way, it doesn’t matter. The upshot is that everyone knows better than everybody else, which is never a good jumping-off point for reasonable discussion. (And yes, I fully realize I’ve made a cottage industry of knowing better than everybody else.)

While much of my worldview is informed by the riding of bicycles, I’ve increasingly realized that when it comes to the specific issue of getting around New York City, you get the best perspective by riding the bus. Unlike the car, or even the bike, the bus helps keeps your entitlement in check. When I ride the bus, I invariably think about how selfish drivers are, and how absolutely insane it is that one asshole who decides to double-park his Hyundai in front of a Dunkin’ Donuts rather than find a proper parking space can delay an entire busload of people. “Fuck cars!,” I think to myself.

Yet at the same time I also think how perfectly reasonable and utterly logical it is that someone riding the bus might conclude not “Fuck cars!,” but rather, “Fuck buses!,” and aspire to own a car themselves and be done with all this bus bullshit. Do we need dedicate bus lanes and better bus service overall? Absolutely yes, probably more than we need bike lanes. Do people who have never had a car sometimes grossly underestimate their ability to confer freedom upon their owners? No question. But it’s the height of arrogance to tell people they don’t need the things they want, or that they shouldn’t be able to have them, or that they’re somehow incapable of assessing the implications of their own choices, which is a mistake the advocacy set tends to make.

At the very least you run the risk of alienating people…like when explain how you left New York City for The Pando because you can’t imagine doing what everybody else is doing:

Fuck it, I’m leasing a weekend house.

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: