Reflecting On 15 Years

Today is June 13th, 2022. That means it’s been exactly 15 years since I started the BikeSnobNYC blog!

As usual, I totally forgot it was my Blog-A-Versary, and in fact I usually miss it altogether. This time though I at least remembered prior to posting. So let’s just call this an anniversary post, even though I hadn’t planned to curate any such thing.

By the same token, let’s also consider today’s ride an Anniversary Ride, even though I hadn’t planned for one of those either, and was just fucking off in the middle of a weekday like I usually do:

Had I realized it was my Blog-A-Versary I’d have used that as an excuse to take a much longer ride.

As you can see, today I rode the Normcore Nostalgia Bike, though as you may not be able to see, before heading out I replaced the 23mm tires with some 28mm Paselas:

You’ll note the label is not aligned with the valve stem. This is because I incurred a flat and it crept out of position in the process of my sweaty trailside tube change:

That was the second flat of the morning; the first happened shortly before this, and just after I mounted the front tire. I’m not sure why both tubed failed in such short order. However, it is probably for one or more of the following reasons:

  • The tires are from my Tire Pile, are who knows how old, and have who knows what lodged in them;
  • The rim tape is probably original to the bike and should probably be changed;
  • The rim seems to like to hold onto the sidewall and not let the bead seat properly, and requires some coaxing during inflation. I don’t know if it’s because of the oh-so-80s and oh-so-pointless gray anodized coating or what. I don’t remember this happening when I owned the same exact bike many years ago. Then again I don’t remember a lot of things. Anyway, maybe the tubes got pinched in there or something.
  • Maybe it was a bad batch of tubes. They were from a cheap online retailer, and both had holes in roughly the same place at the seam along where they’d sit on the rim bed. As I said before, the tape is old, but it seems perfectly fine in the area where the tubes failed. So who knows?

Flats have much to teach us about ourselves and about life. When the front tire ass-ploded shortly after I mounted it, I very nearly said “Fuck it” and grabbed another bike. However, I realized I was being lazy and defeatist, and that for once in my miserable life I should see something through. Then, when the rear tire air-jaculated just a short distance from my home, I very nearly doubled back and grabbed another bike again. In this case I realized I was being a coward, and that I needed to confront these punctures and my fears head-on by delving into my pendulous saddle bag and pressing ahead, come what may. Would my inner tubes continue to burst as though I was some sort of cycling Job and the Lord was amusing himself by popping my tires like bubble wrap? Would I run out of patches and tubes and have to improvise, or worse, visit a bike shop where they’d see my old Trek and take me for some sort of hapless suburban rube taking up “biking” again after a 30-year hiatus? Perhaps. But I realized my years of having lots of fancy bikes at my disposal has made me soft, and that some people have only one bike, which means if they have a mechanical issue they’ve got to deal with it and if they don’t then they don’t get to ride that day either. This more than anything may be the true lesson of the Normcore Bike–to make the most of what you have and to count your blessings–and I endeavor at all times to be receptive to the profound lessons our bicycles and our rides have to teach us.

Speaking of important lessons, the industry may want you to run out and get a garvel bike, but your old roadie may very well be able to accommodate tires with some decent volume:

There’s plenty of clearance on either end of this bike with 28s, and while that’s certainly not wide by today’s standards, it’s usually sufficient for anything short of rocky and rooty singletrack:

Since it was hot, I also ditched the pointless toe clips and went with flat pedals so I could ride in shoes that let my little piggies hang out in the breeze:

The tubes held air for the duration for the ride, and in its new guise the bike felt great:

Naturally this in turn got me thinking about changing drivetrain components to get lower gearing, but I reminded myslef it’s kind of ridiculous to turn every bike you have into a Rivendell when you already have two Rivendells.

No, this bike’s all about Dirtbag Road:

Indeed, in true dirtbag fashion I stopped mid-ride by a placid body of water:

It was hot, and the water looked inviting:

So, despite signage indicating that what I was about to do was expressly prohibited, I dropped jort and in I went!

Don’t worry, I wasn’t in my Blog-A-Versary suit, and was still wearing my fancy merino underpants. But that didn’t stop my bike from hiding in shame:

Emerging from the water, I felt refreshed and renewed and ready for another 15 years of blogging. I also felt something on my leg, which turned out to be some fishing line:

Fishing is also prohibited here, and by engaging in a prohibited activity myself I was able to rid the lake of something that might end up killing some wildlife, so you’re welcome, applicable municipality.

As someone who’s lived his entire life at the edges of the city, jumping into swimmin’ holes and such is not part of my experience. This is partially because I’m a rule-follower and a coward, but mostly because I always lived near the beach, and you don’t need to go to swimming holes when you have the ocean. Therefore, the novelty of this experience was invigorating, and on the way home the suburban environs seemed a thousand times more bucolic:

But there was one wildlife encounter still to come. Much closer to home, I rode through Van Cortlandt Park:

At this time of year, chipmunks run across your path roughly every three seconds. Here’s one that’s already made it across:

Here’s a squirrel, not a chipmunk, but same difference:

Here’s one that didn’t make it across and met its fate:

So there I was, Just Riding Along:

When something flew up and practically into my lap. At first I thought maybe I’d rolled over a stick and sent it flying, but when I felt its scratchy little paws I realized it was a chipmunk that had probably gotten catapulted up my way by the spokes of my front wheel. Horrified, I recoiled, and then it did sort of a high dive off my forearm and scampered off into the underbrush.

And to think, neither one of us was wearing a helmet…

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