This week has been harder to get a handle on than one of these things:
By the way, I knew that I wanted to compare this week to one of those things but I had no idea what to call it, so here’s how I found it:
Don’t let anyone ever tell you the Internets aren’t amazing.
Nevertheless, I have managed to indulge my latest preoccupation, that being Normcore and/or Dirtbag Road Riding:
In fact I’ve even penned a guide to this excitingly affordable new cycling discipline, which should be appearing on the Outside website exactly when it does, and not a moment sooner.
I also took my son to the velodrome yesterday evening for some twilight racing:
While there, I participated in exactly one (1) keirin race, in which I finished last, and during which I was certain I was going to puke.
The irony of getting your kid into bike racing is that you wind up driving a lot, and because we’ve been shuttling to the track lately I’ve had ample opportunity to use the Saris SuperClamp I received back in 2018, seen here on a road trip the summer before last:
Overall, the SuperClamp has been great. In the time I’ve had it I’ve carried many of my bikes on it in various permutations, the hooks have enough range to carry bikes with 29-inch wheels and 24-inch wheels simultaneously, and it will even hold my Platypus with its insanely long wheelbase. (The wheel doesn’t quite sit flush in the wheel tray when I do, but functionally it doesn’t matter.) I’ve also had success carrying bikes with the wide bars that are oh-so-trendy nowadays, though in the photo above you can see I’ve had to lower the saddle on the outermost bike in order to do so.
The drawback to the SuperClamp is that, when installed but not in use, it does protrude a fair bit from the rear bumper. This may not affect your life in the least, but for a citydweller like me it can complicate parallel parking, and could make leaving it on the car when not in use a non-starter. However, I’ve been using it so much lately that I’ve just been leaving it on anyway, and the other day I finally got my comeuppance when another driver managed to snap one of the wheel trays off while it was parked:
They went so far as to lay its corpse on the rack, but not so far as to leave a note. Here’s the victim as I carried it inside to conduct a post-mortem, and I apologize for the fact that you can see my toes:
At first I was angry, but then I reminded myself that by parking on a public street I effectively forfeit my right to complain when other people damage my toys. Also, replacement trays are only $15…though in a way that also makes me angry, because it seems to me that if you break a piece of cheap plastic on someone’s bike rack the least you could do is offer to pay for it. I mean, it’s one thing if you cause damage that’s actually expensive–I certainly don’t condone running in a situation like that, but at least I understand it. But a lousy $15 wheel tray? I can respect a bank heist, but that seems like ordering toast at a coffee shop and then ducking out on the bill.
Anyway, if you are lazy about taking the rack off and you a lot of bumper-to-bumper parking I think the 1up sits more flush and has less (or no) plastic…though it is quite a bit more expensive. Either way, for now I’m going back to the roof rack and will save the hitch rack for road trips or situations when I need to carry a thru-axle bike, which doesn’t happen very often, as I own one (1) thru-axle bike.
As for the fraught relationship between cars and cities, the following has occurred to me:
It’s Twitter so I’m being glib, but I have come to believe that the whiny car people and the whiny ban-cars people are both, essentially, NIMBYs:
Certainly the ban-car types make very important points, specifically: 1) It’s a city, we don’t have room for all the cars; 2) Cars are expensive and many people in the city can’t afford the cars; 3) Cars are deadly and a lot of people suck at driving the cars. All of these are undeniably true. Meanwhile, the other side mainly just complains about how hard it is to park, with which it is extremely difficult to sympathize.
At the same time, in the 15-ish years I’ve been paying attention to this stuff (and before I started this blog I never did, I just rode my bike and drove my car and that was that), I’ve come to the gradual realization that the “urban” ideal to which both groups aspire already exists, and it’s called “the suburbs.” What do the car whiners want? They want to be able to park in front of their homes as well as the places where they shop and to drive their kids everywhere and so forth. What do the “livable streets” types want? Walkable downtowns with cutesy retail built around transit centers and kids riding around on bikes, and for the people who do own cars to keep them on their own damn property instead of in the street.
Obviously, both of these groups are completely delusional: they city is never again going to be an easy place to drive (that ship sailed in the 1970s), nor is the city likely to become the Dutch wet dream that dampens the sheets of the Streetsblog set. However, much of what both groups wants exists in the pre-war railroad suburbs of New York City right now, and in fact a car NIMBY and a smugness NIMBY could probably live right next to each other and even barbecue together without ever knowing that in the city they’d be posting hateful Internet commentary about each other and having shouting matches at community board meetings. Really, the only problem is that these types of suburbs are extremely expensive…but these two groups already live in extraordinarily expensive housing anyway, so for them it’s a wash.
Certainly people in the city are realizing this on an independent level all the time, which is why there’s always a steady stream of people decamping from the suburbs. But just imagine a mass realization and subsequent exodus; not only would we get hundreds of thousands of cars off the street overnight, but the smugness set would finally be happy, and therefore less inclined to channel their unhappiness into shaming others for their choices. And everyone else could kinda just, you know, get on with it.
Alas, it’ll never happen, because the most seductive and elusive goal at all is making the city bend to your will, and to leave is to admit defeat. It’s a Sisyphian existence. People live here for all sorts of reasons, but “Because it makes sense” isn’t one of them.