Learning Your Place

The word “magical” gets thrown around a lot, but the sight of the Brooklyn Bridge against the setting sun is just that:

Because of this undeniable magicality, each year millions of people (I actually don’t know how many, but what the fuck, let’s call it millions) walk across the bridge to immerse themselves in the magification. Until recently, the path upon which they walked was a shared one, also serving as the designated bicycle route. This was far from magical. In fact, it was a total shitshow–like having a bike lane run right through a shopping mall. While ostensibly one side of the path was reserved for pedestrians and the other for cyclists, in practice it turns out that tourists don’t notice faded markings when they’re sightseeing, go figure. And even if they did, the path was often so crowded by the gawking hordes that they couldn’t keep to their own side even if they wanted to. Meanwhile, many people on bicycles were simply the sorts of assholes who take all this beauty for granted and care about nothing except getting across the river as fast as possible, resulting in behavior like this:

This of course is the dickbag who managed to hit a little girl:

Anyway, back in like 2021 or something the city finally took away a car lane on the bridge and turned it into a dedicated cycling lane, meaning the tourists can be tourists and the assholes can be assholes without molesting each other. And now that I’m commuting, I’m actually able to avail myself of the path, and it’s proven quite convenient. However, not all bicyclists chose to use it, with at least one rider opting for the car lane instead:

I begrudge no man his rant, but he does seem to be under the impression that idiotic Citi Bike behavior is some sort of “gentrification’ thing, in which case he clearly does not spend much time uptown. Indeed, Citi Bike dumbuckery is one of the few things in this city that cuts across all socioeconomic lines and unites us all. You’ll see all sorts of people in all sorts of neighborhoods doing jaw-droppingly stupid shit on Citi Bikes–especially the electric ones. Like electric guitars, electric bikes bring out the true wanker in all of us, effectively amplifying our lack of judgment and skill.

By the way, ironically the driver kept all his invective contained within the cabin and passed the bicyclist safely and considerately, which kind of makes you wonder what even the most “considerate” motorists are saying about you when they’re on your tail. It’s evocative of Keith Maddox, perhaps the most courteous bike-hater we’ve seen in the Internet era. Remember him?

Usually the only time riders won’t cross a double yellow is when they’re passing you, yet Keith Maddox has the consideration to go entirely into the oncoming lane, giving the cyclist the requisite three feet and then some:

He’s raised being passive-aggressive to an artform.

The other bridge that recently gained a new bike path is the one named after George Washington:

For city cyclists who don’t live on the mainland, this is their connection to it, which makes it the default escape portal for the Lycra set:

While not quite transformative, the new path is a considerable improvement, and when you ride across on a clear spring day and look north towards the Hudson Valley you get a sense of why those early European settlers felt as though they had discovered a new Eden:

Not only were those apartment buildings mostly empty in the 17th century, but there was virtually no motor vehicle traffic, which meant it was very easy to park. (Yes, you still had to move your car for alternate side parking, but it was only a minor inconvenience.)

Unlike those early settlers, I was not exactly covering any new ground on my own journey; I myself have crossed the George Washington Bridge by bicycle countless times, and I wouldn’t be surprised if River Road is one of the most-cycled roadways in the United States. Yes, it’s a beautiful ride and I enjoy myself every time I do it, but as yet another rider in bib shorts riding a road bicycle on it I was unremarkable in every way. Even my bike was aggressively average:

Some objects seem cool and rarefied by sheer virtue of their age, even if they weren’t particularly special when they were new. The Normcore Bike has not entered this phase of its existence yet, and I wonder if it ever will. I’m always leery of comparing bikes and cars, but if you look at say, a 1989 Toyota Corolla, it’s as average now as it was then:

Whereas a 1979 Toyota Corolla today is a head-turner in its own humble way:

Like a Toyota Corolla, the Normcore Bike is boringly competent. Being of a 1989 vintage is it just another 10 years shy of becoming a classic, or will it remain unremarkable for all eternity? Perhaps the latter condition is the fate of all bikes born in the post-lugged steel, pre-crabon era; unsung yet self-reliant, these latchkey bikes don’t need or even want your attention. They just get on with it anyway, like Generation X:

Like 40- and 50-somethings, bonded aluminum Treks were mostly just left to their own devices by disinterested baby boomers. Nobody cared about them, and the feeling was mutual.

It’s somehow fitting then that at present the Normcore Bike is my primary road bike. The Kestrel has flown the coop, I’ve given the Litespeed to my son (I mean obviously I can still ride it whenever I want, but then I’d have to adjust the saddle position and all that stuff, and who wants to deal with that?), and the Milwaukee is still being painted. I admit that at first I panicked when I confronted the fact that I’m now just a middle-aged guy on and old Trek, and I considered properly road-ifying the Faggin to at least net myself a little vintage roadie panache:

But the fact is there’s not a thing wrong with the Normcore Bike, and if you can’t find satisfaction with that, then it it really cycling you love, or are you just a materialist pursuing a superficial fascination?

Also, I’d have to clean the Faggin, which seems like a pain in the ass.

Still, it can sometimes seem as though an exquisite bicycle somehow resonates at a higher frequency with the universe; for example, on a really fancy bike you might reach the apex of a difficult climb, only for a butterfly to alight upon you. Meanwhile, on the Normcore Bike the insect encounters are far more prosaic:

You can call that boring, or you can call it refreshingly straightforward and unpretentious. Also, look at those spindly arms and massive legs. It’s clearly the cyclist of the insect world.

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