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My Bad, Dawgs: Renewing My Vow of Self-Deprecation

February 25, 2010

I was reminded by a comment on my very first post (which is actually an essay I wrote two years ago) what the original purpose of this blog was (or seemed to be at the time): to paint myself as a caricature of our most base cycling-instincts, thereby letting all cyclists laugh together in a world of perfect harmony.  If I could only make fun of myself hard enough, I thought, I could make everyone else see the errors of their ways.

At times, I’ve been successful.  At other times, I’ve forgotten my directive and spent all of my time talking shit about other people who I don’t know very much about – usually with bad results.  Like the time I was taken to task by the Diesel Bombers.

I think it’s time to get back to my bread-and-butter: self-deprecation.

So here’s a list of some of the stupidest things I’ve ever done on a bike for fashion.

Swapping out my MTB’s appropriate stem for a really long one when I was 15.

It was all about having a really long stem in the 90s, and I jumped right on board.  But secretly, in a dark corner of my heart, I knew that it was worsening my cycling experience.  I rode too-stretched-out for a year or so until my bike was stolen, then I bought a too-big bike.  Sometimes it’s hard to admit that you’re 5’8″ when you’re a teenager (probably more like 5’7.5″ really).

The 90s long-stem mountain bike phenomenon is analogous to the 2000s phenomenon of having a negative-rise stem on your tarck bike.  And of course, one look at my banner will confirm that I’m still jumping bandwagons.

Riding a single-speed with only a front brake

When I bum-biked together my first single-speed out of my Dad’s old Miyata touring bike and some parts from my friend’s garage, I had two levers, two brakes, and all the cables and housing I needed for a traditional dual-brake setup. Nevertheless, I decided to put only a front brake.  Why?

It seems like this is a pretty common phenomenon, and I was probably only copying people who were already doing it.  But the obvious reason one might ride RBL (rear-brake-less) on a coasting bike is to associate your bike with fixed-gears.  But I had a chain bum-biked onto a full cassette and I wasn’t fooling anyone.  In retrospect, riding RBL only made me look like a pathetic fixie-wannabe.  The many joys of a rear brake are very much worth the lack of “simplicity.”

Refusing to ride in lycra

Fuck that bike jock shit, more or less, was my argument against lycra.

Lycra’s rebuttal, of course, went something like, there’s a reason why everyone wears cycling-specific clothing while cycling: because it is made for cycling and it works well for cycling, dipshit.

Lycra and I were at a deadlock, it seemed.  Then, I decided to give it a try (mostly peer-pressured by my “bike-jock-ass” roommate and former Collegiate National Tarck Champion Dan Lionberg).

It turned out, as it generally does, that my attitude of belligerent contempt without investigation was unjustified.  Lycra (and cycling-specific clothing in general) works well for cycling.  Who’d have thought?

*btw, I am in no way endorsing an “old-man cyclist” all-neon-yellow-and-lycra-all-the-time lifestyle.  I only endorse wearing cycling gear while cycling (that means that I also don’t endorse wearing Sidi MTB shoes at the bike messenger bar or cycling caps at all times ever).

Refusing to wear a helmet

I still don’t wear a helmet while commuting, but I figure that I’m more likely to get hit by a car commuting than I am to get hit in the head by the road.  Either way, a helmet would probably be helpful.

But I used to go on all my “road rides” (i.e. riding flat 25-milers on my sikk fixie) helmet-less.  Not wearing a helmet on any ride is stupid.

I have crashed and hit my head hard four times  – every time wearing a helmet.  Once I was on a road ride and I hit a pothole I couldn’t see, going down on the tarmac.  Once I was on a mountain bike and I hit a tree with my head (and cracked the helmet, and kept wearing it).  Once I was on a city street, a car drove straight into the side of me after stopping at a stop sign, I fell over and my already cracked helmet cracked all the way in half.  The last time I hit a speed bump at night commuting, crashed very similarly to the first crash mentioned and dented in the side of my helmet about half-an-inch.

As you can see, any of those times I could have fucked up my head pretty bad (especially the tree crash which was fast and hard).  So there’s really no bad time to wear a helmet on a bike (frankly there’s really no bad time to wear a helmet at all!).

Riding a fixed-gear with no brakes

*just to avoid any confusion, this is not me

This is another stupid fashion decision that I am guilty of right now.  I still ride a fixed-gear without brakes on open city streets.  I guess if it was really that dangerous, I’d have probably already crashed (in truth i have crashed into cars twice on a brakeless fixed-gear and having had brakes might have prevented both crashes).  I have a long-winded explanation for why I still do this here.

Part of why I still do this is because I can get away with it here in a small town.  When I “lived” in New York City and worked as a bike messenger I utilized a front brake and a helmet.  Then again, wearing a helmet as a NYC bike messenger is acceptable fashion (a front brake is less fashionable).

Maybe one day when I’m old and less stupid I’ll stop doing this.  But for now, I must ride brakeless!

What Am I Forgetting?

Given my nature, I’m sure that I’ve done many other stupid cycling-related things for fashion.  And I’m sure that I’m doing other dumb things right now, but I just can’t see them for what they are.

What stupid things have you done to look cool on a bike?

11 Comments leave one →
  1. c-murder permalink
    February 26, 2010 1:12 am

    You forgot leg shaving, which you mentioned in an earlier post, but did no revisit here.

    I’m guessing it was a one time thing for you Bike Fag.

    I personally only shave preceding a race, but considering I race track once a week for six months (April-September), that means I shave my legs with regularity for half the year.

    Hot damn I hate shaving my legs! The ingrown hairs, the razor burn, the constant beratement from my non cyclist friends… I can’t wait until the season is over, so I can grow back my “nature knee warmers”.

    • bikefag permalink*
      February 26, 2010 2:28 am

      Oh yeah! Leg shaving should definitely be on here.

  2. February 26, 2010 1:32 am

    helmets are good! I just started wearing one again. denver can be brutal!

  3. harry dog permalink
    February 26, 2010 8:43 pm

    How about using clip on aero bars on group rides?

  4. February 26, 2010 10:25 pm

    An interesting retrospective BF. Exploring one’s chronology of cycling through time shows how much there is to know, and how much of a fool there is to appear.

    Being the feeble, unkewl person that I am, I arrive late to the scene for just about every “trend”.

    For instance my teens, when I rode my mom’s schwinn varsity in sneakers. Early racing period wearing spd on the road plus a mis-matched helmet. And the ultimate: have a fixed bicycle for the streets. But alas, i’m educated, thus I have a brake. Physics applied.

    Anyway, I race with Sir C-murder at the track and do that trend old school as it was intended.

  5. Ray permalink
    March 1, 2010 12:50 am

    Don’t stop making fun of people and things!
    Sometimes people deserve it or actually seek that attention.
    I found you via Bike Snob, where I have found my own preferences mocked, and that’s only fair. If you pick on people, expect to be picked on. That doesn’t mean I don’t love reading it still!

    I was feeling charitable that day I commented, mostly because my first response was really whiny/complaining kids-are-idiots and I was being way too judgemental and I did not want to jump on my high-horse and pretend I’m superior.

    I came from a touring background, and I still prefer not to wear cycling clothes, (although I look hard for reasonable substitutes which are very comfortable) partly because it’s harder to blend in after riding without changing. I don’t necesarily want to be identified as a sport cyclist. But I will wear them for longer rides, despite my being a little overweight.

    Mostly, despite all the awful choices a lot of young riders are making, more people riding bikes is worthwhile. I just hope they learn to ride well, and that will probably happen with time.

    Another problem is that criticizing people often entrenches their beliefs and reinforces the bonds within their own little tribe.

    It took me a great while to not make similar assumptions about roadies.
    Now I have to work on accepting the better aspects of fixie kids (as if they can be so easily lumped together).

    But please don’t stop observing and commenting on the bikes and riders you encounter. It’s still just your opinion, so I hope most people can take it at that and not call it “hating” because everybody’s allowed their opinion and doesn’t have to like others’ choices and keep quiet about it.

    Any reactions to things you’ve seen reported from SNAHBS?

  6. March 1, 2010 7:56 pm

    When I was about 8 (and was watching “Rad” religiously) I had a bmx, and I put one of those super awesome handle bar plates on it, complete with racing number (which I applied using electrical tape). My friend was racing bmx, and I thought it looked cool.

    Protoposeur = me.

  7. March 2, 2010 12:00 am

    Oh god, I started out as a Triathlete so the list of things that I’ve done in the effort to look “cool” is nearly endless. Aero bars? Check. Aero bar water bottle thingie? Check. Bento Box? Check. Sleeveless jerseys? Check. Aero helmets and speedos? Negative – There’s a personal self respect line in there somewhere.

    Anyway, back on point, we’re all just ridin’ bikes and having fun. It ain’t rocket science. Why can’t I dirt jump in a skinsuit and track race in jeans (oh wait, maybe that would be “cool”)? If ya can’t laugh at yourself, something is desperately wrong. Flame on!

  8. Johnny Sprocket permalink
    March 2, 2010 12:46 am

    You should have revisited leg shaving.

    It was because of your post that I invited along some guys I know, and we all got naked and in the shower together and shaved each others legs. But then it got weird and well… I’ve posted about that on another website.

    But, not only is leg shaving traditional, it feels great too. I love how my legs feel, and look. I once put on one of my wives dresses when she wasn’t home, just out of curiousity, to see what it would look like. Anyway, what happened after that is posted elsewhere too…. But I did want to say I’ve enjoyed your blog and hope you keep it up.


  1. Where Do I Fit In “Bike Culture?” « Bikefag’s Blog

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