Watch Out! Lugged Steel Comin’ Atcha!

Here in New York City, more and more people seem to be driving around with obscured, defaced, or flat-out phony license plates. This allows them to evade speed cameras and tolls. Obviously it’s shitty, and it’s especially irksome if you’re one of those suckers who plays by the rules like I am. Increasingly there’s something of a Tritter twend Twitter trend in which people “fix” these plates, and while I certainly get it, people become complete psychopaths when you touch their cars, and so I also can’t help wondering when the first assault is going to be captured on video:

I don’t meat that gleefully, like I’m rubbing my hands for a Smuggie beatdown; I mean it more like I’m kind of wincing in anticipation. I don’t want it to happen, not at all, but I’m also not going to write an editorial about how people shouldn’t do it for their own safety or anything like that, because they’re adults, it’s their business, and they are technically right after all. I have suggested in the past that people shouldn’t confront bad drivers or fly off the handle over blocked bike lanes and invariably people get all annoyed with me and suggest that I’m some sort of “collaborator.” So I’m just sitting here watching in the same way you watch a kid poke at the cat.

As for the trend, the person who’s responsible for it is Gersh Kuntzman, the editor of Streetsblog. I know Gersh, and he was even on my radio show back when I had a radio show:

I suspect he’s reveling in the attention and the shot of social media HGH it’s administered to his Twitter follower count, and I hope he won’t mind my saying that, because I’m not trying to be mean–we all want attention or we wouldn’t be on the Internet. (I mean “we” as in “people who write stuff on the Internet,” not everybody who uses the Internet.) He’s a veteran publicity hound, so I don’t really worry about him in the same way I don’t worry about the sword swallower at Coney Island. (Is there even a sword swallower at Coney Island? I’m sure at some point their must have been.) But when I saw this video I felt differently:

This isn’t a video uploaded by the license plate fixer for likes; this is a dash cam or similar catching him in the act. He doesn’t know he’s on “film.” Also, note the news source: that’s “Williamsburg” as in “Hassidim,” not “Williamsburg” as in “Hipsters.” (Actually the days of Hipster Williamsburg are long gone, it’s now just trendy rich people.) Gersh is messing with the cars of cops and other city employees, he’s filming it himself, and he knows if they confront him or assault him and he gets it on video he’ll have the scoop of a lifetime. But running afoul of the Shomrim is something else entirely. They’re only accountable to their own community, who are in turn accountable to nobody. They stopped me and questioned me just for taking a photo of a bike in front of a Judaica store, seriously:

The upshot of all this is that there are cameras everywhere and you never know who’s behind them. So whether it’s fixing a plate or diddling yourself during the Zoom meeting like that Toobin guy it’s always best to remember that the walls have eyes. And possibly guns, knives, and clubs.

Moving on, next month it will be three years since I reached a major milestone in my life, that lugged milestone being my first Rivendell. Here it is when it was brand new:

Today I happened to be riding it in the same spot in which this photo was taken, so I figured I’d take a look at how it’s changed (and how it hasn’t) during that time:

One major change is of course the drivetrain, which I converted to a triple because I wanted a wider range of gears for longer rides:

The rear derailleur came courtesy of Grant Petersen who indoctrinates anybody who will listen (and some who won’t) into his RapidRise cabal:

Downshifting with a RapidRise derailleur and a friction shifter is one of the smoothest things I’ve ever experienced on a bicycle transmission, and that includes electronic shifting. And what has more “What, this old thing?” cachet than a piece of vintage XTR? But the beating heart of the drivetrain is of course the unremarkably remarkable front derailleur from Classic Cycle:

Which will never, ever not look like a Swingline stapler to me, right down to the logo:

One day I will own the entire Fun Bike group, which is widely regarded as the C-Record of mediocre French componentry:

Oh, and so far that new chain I bought yesterday seems to have done the trick, because the drivetrain was trouble-free the entire ride.

The other big change is the drop bars, also because I find them better suited to longer rides:

I loved the Choco bars and they now live happily on my Platypus, but this is a more road-oriented bike than that, and for going up and down long paved climbs I find nothing beats good old-fashioned drop bars for the in-the-hood position and the in-the-drops position respectively. These were the bars that came on my Normcore Trek, and I have no idea if they’re the originals, but they’re quite unusual in that the transitional section between the tops and the hoods is exceptionally long, which is kinda nice:

It does increase the reach, and overall I’ve gradually gone a bit more “roadie” with the fit than Rivendell generally espouses, but the beauty of these bikes is that they lend themselves to lots of different setups and you can really make them your own:

I’ve come to embrace the fact I’m pretty traditional in my preferences. I like stuff like drop bars, and I like my shifters in the usual places. Like, as much as I appreciate the Rivendell stem-mounted front shifter setup (using the same hand to shift both front and rear makes a lot of sense if you think about it), I’m not sure I could do it myself:

[Photo: Rivendell]

Then again, you never know until you try.

Anyway, other than that it’s been stuff you eventually change on any bicycle, like the chain, and the cassette, and the tires–though the Schwalbe Marathon Supremes have proved so long-wearing I don’t think I’ll ever have an excuse to change them again:

It’s a supremely comfortable and capable bicycle, it’s maybe the most versatile, and it’s probably the classiest one I own:

So there it is. Three years in and i think I’ve finally got it just the way I want it.

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