Thröwback Week #5: Warming The Cockles

Dear Loyal Readers,

I am away this week. However, rather than let this blog lie fallow, I’ve put on my rubber gloves, rummaged around in my archives, and retrieved one moldy post per day for recycling. Maybe you’ve read them before, maybe you haven’t, but each is a reminder of a simpler time when road bikes had rim brakes, fixies were still cool, and gravel was just a piece of road grit in Jobst Brandt’s eye. Anyway, I’ll be back on Monday, February 27th, but in the meantime just think of this as the “Best Of Old Bike Snob,” or “BOOBS” for short.

Also, a sincere thank you to all of you who have donated to the continued mediocrity of this blog. If you haven’t and you’d still like to do so, details are here. If you haven’t and you don’t that’s fine too. Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll see you back here on Monday the 27th.

Yours etc.,

Tan Tenovo

Warming the Cockles: Living, Breathing, Shopping

[Originally published January 6th, 2010]

Since the invention of moving pictures, only pornographers and the Nazis have documented their endeavors on camera more assiduously than the “bike culture,” for whom no bike-related exploit is too mundane to commit to video. If you’re wondering why this is, the New York Times says that it is because “street scenes can open up in flashes between stopped cars, creating a kind of stuttered approximation of film:”

What that has to do with slow-motion videos of barspinzzz and wheelies I don’t know, but the project referenced in the article is “Empire,” a long-awaited film featuring such fixed-gear luminaries as Prolly. “Empire” has been in production nearly as long as “Avatar,” and so great is the anticipation that the “bike culture” media is even covering what goes on behind the scenes of this ambitious production:

The only thing more exciting than watching people ride fixed-gear bicycles is watching people edit videos of people riding fixed-gear bicycles, and here is Luke Stiles doing just that. I’m disappointed that nobody has ever asked to photograph me as I blog, since it looks pretty much the same except my computer’s much crappier, I take my temperature compulsively, and I don’t wear a COC t-shirt. (Sadly, mine disintegrated completely sometime in the late 1980s.) I wonder if Stiles also works pantslessly like I do.

While I’m not exactly the target audience for “Empire,” I wish the filmmakers nothing but the best. Really, my only reservation is that projects like this embolden other would-be filmmakers whose connection to the subject matter is more tenuous and contrived. Even though I’m not interested in watching people do tricks on fixed-gears or ride slightly closer to buses than is advisable (apart from the unintentional comic factor of course), I’ll certainly acknowledge that these are people who know each-other and ride together in real life. In that sense at least the “scene” is genuine. No, the real trouble starts when you have to troll for riders on Craigslist, as in this posting which was forwarded to me by a reader:

Do you have tattoos & ride a bike with no brakes? (NYC)
Date: 2010-01-04, 1:07PM EST
Reply to: [deleted]

Casting office casting LEAD role in short film that will shoot January 2010. Exact Dates TBD.

Description: Seeking Female, 25 years old. ALL ETHNICITIES. Piercings and tattoos a plus. An INTENSE woman. MUST ride a FIXED GEAR BIKE. This type of bike is a bike WITHOUT BRAKES.

How to Submit:
Please email [deleted] a recent photo, a description about yourself & your experience riding a fixed gear bike.

If you don’t know any intense women with experience riding a fixed-gear bike then perhaps you shouldn’t be making a film about intense women who ride fixed-gear bikes. While the “Empire” crew may be a bit self-interested, at least they didn’t have to go trolling on Craigslist for people with an excessive interest in color coordination and hats.

Another contrived form is the promotional video disguised as a cycling video. A few weeks ago I mentioned a “collabo” among Specialized, Capo Forma, and Whole Foods called “Pedaling,” and the first “webisode” has finally “dropped.” It’s called “Pizza Fixation.” The score features the sort of music you would be forced to endure in a trendy clothing boutique, and here are the protagonists cycling across the Williamsburg Bridge as random verbs are flashed across the screen:

This, apparently, is the “fixie crew,” and they’re breathing, feeling, and being their way to Brooklyn:

But not before they go to Whole Foods in Manhattan for a bunch of pizza toppings:

There are many different ways to enjoy cycling with friends. Some riders like to meet early in the morning and ride their road bikes for five hours. Others prefer to hoist their mountain bikes from their roof racks and take to the trails. Still others like to do tricks under elevated expressways on fixed-gear BMX/29er hybrids. The “fixie crew” are a bit more genteel–they like to “hit up” the Whole Foods for Brussel sprouts, duck eggs, and cockles:

I should at this point confess that I have only moderate interest in food beyond sustenance. Sure, some things taste better to me than others, but for the most part I’m content to consume more or less the same foods every day, as more than anything else I prize regularity. For this reason many of the comestibles the “fixie crew” gathered were unfamiliar to me. To be perfectly honest, I’m not even sure I knew that ducks laid eggs–I thought they reproduced via mitosis, like elephants. However, one thing I am sure of is that I’ve never, ever heard anybody say the phrase, “Let’s get some kombucha, it may be good for the ride:”

And I’ve ridden with people from Rapha.

Anyway, fortified with kombucha, the “fixie crew” heads to the register with what must be at least $600 worth of food:

I know this because I once made the mistake of purchasing lunch at a Whole Foods and was horrified when a moderate helping of some sort of Indian dish (even I occasionally flirt with irregularity) cost me four times what it would have cost me at a nearby Indian restaurant. Consequently, I vowed never to return. Fueling your ride with food from Whole Foods is about as cost-effective as fueling your car by spraying premium gasoline in the vicinity of the tank until enough finally trickles in to fill it. Presumably, though, the sponsors are footing the bill, and so the cockle-laden “fixie crew” heads back to their bikes for some riding:

And exploring:

And living:

Besides riding, exploring, and living, I noticed at this point that the guy on the red bike is also coasting, and I wondered how he managed to gain membership in the “fixie crew.” I was soon distracted, though, by the NYC DOT’s creative spelling of the word “visible:”

Fortunately, the members of the “fixie crew” do manage to stay visible, and they also survive the running of the Hasidic gauntlet along the Great Hipster Silk Route:

Notice the young Hasidic child looking longingly at the rider, knowing that he will never experience the thrill of riding, exploring, and living with a messenger bag full of shellfish. By the way, in case you were worried, the “fixie crew” is still breathing:

Finally, they arrive at their destination:

Where they rendezvous with a guy in one of those wedge-shaped hats:

And begin to make pizza:

The guy in the hat is particularly pleased by the cockles:

Eventually, he produces one tiny pizza with about $75 worth of toppings on it:

Which they are forced to share among four people:

It’s a good thing they were riding so slowly, since they couldn’t possibly have worked up much of an appetite.

Finally, having “killed” the tiny pizza, they ride off into the “wilds” of gentrified Brooklyn. For some reason, the filmmakers stop flashing verbs across the screen just when they would be most relevant:

I’m looking forward to future installments. Hopefully the next “webisode” will chronicle the “fixie crew’s” quest for the elusive $250 hot dog. In the meantime, Specialized have certainly proven that the Globe Roll is indeed the perfect bike with which to “slay” an overpriced food run. If you’ve got a cockle-shaped hole in your stable or have been thinking about getting a dedicated duck egg bike, it might very well be the bike for you.

Buy it if: You need cockles.

Don’t buy it if: You think “duck egg” is a warning and a “kombucha” is an NJS keirin frame.

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