Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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Things Are Going From Suck To Blow – Bike Snob NYC

As a commenter commented in the comments section of this blog’s blog comments section recently, Jan Heine has weighed in on hookless rims:

As he rando-splains in his characteristic Heinian way, it’s difficult to make carbon rims with hooks, therefore carbon rims without hooks are better:

This poses an interesting philosophical question:

Is something really “better” if the material out of which you’re making it requires you to omit critical safety features?

I would go so far as to say your answer to this defines you as a cyclist and as a consumer. For example, it is my personal and highly subjective opinion that the answer is “No, it is not better; it is in fact an indication that carbon is overprescribed as a rim material.” However, others will no doubt disagree, and argue that carbon’s other attributes outweigh whatever negatives come along with omitting a hook. Certainly all technology requires us to make certain trade-offs in terms of latitude and margin for error, and depending on your own needs and ideals you may or may not be willing to make that trade. In bikes, we’re seeing this with hookless carbon rims: they’re lighter and more aero and easier to make, but if everything’s not exactly right the tire explodes. We also see it with electronic drivetrains: they work “better” than any mechanical system, but at the expense of cross-compatibility, and of course if you don’t keep them charged they don’t work at all. And of course we see it beyond bikes: streaming digital TV looks better and is way more convenient, but if you’ve got an Internet problem or a log-in problem or something you’re fucked, whereas your old VHS tapes looked like shit and were inconvenient, but they worked just as long as you had a power source. I suppose as things get more refined they also get more binary: they work perfectly, or they don’t work at all. It calls to mind the old line about the Campagnolo Nuovo Record derailleur:

Moreover, each of us strikes a different bargain with regard to technology, and we’re inconsistent insofar as the bargains we strike. For example, I’d rather use a Campagnolo Nuovo Record derailleur than an electronic one, but there’s no fucking way I’d choose a VHS over an Apple TV or whatever. I’d also rather use a traditional aluminum rim than a hookless carbon one, though I do all my communicating on a smartphone and haven’t had a landline for like 20 years. (Though to be honest I think civilization may have reached its apex about five minutes before Apple introduced the iPhone.)

Meanwhile, aluminum rims are reliable and easily incorporate safety tabs, but the Heinian spin on that is that this a consequence of their inconsistent manufacturing tolerances:

I’d say the above is an argument in aluminum’s favor, but Heine seems to view hooks on aluminum rims like the tracking function on your VHS–something that makes your shitty picture a little less shitty.

Then without any apparent irony he says if you’re still worried about your hookless rims you can just use inner tubes:

This seems like recording all your streaming content onto VHS tapes just in case you have an Internet outage.

Anyway, it seems to me that, when it comes to carbon rims, the bicycle industry asks way too much of us. First we had to accept disc brakes on road bikes because carbon makes for a shitty braking surface. Then we had to give up quick releases because of the disc brakes. Now we’ve got to accept hookless rims because it’s too hard to add features that hold the tire on there. What’s next, will we have to give up tires altogether and ride on the bare rim? Sure, there’s a loss in traction and ride feel, but it’s all worth it for the performance benefits of carbon. (Fortunately the Supple Tire Industrial Complex will never allow that to happen.)

Speaking of imitating the pros, you won’t be at all shocked to learn that lots of amateur racers are doping:

Here’s what happened:

Way back when I used to “race” I’d do the Tuesday night races at Floyd Bennett Field. I put “race” in quotes because this mostly involved me trying desperately to hang onto the back of the pack, and more often than not I’d fail to do so. Meanwhile, all the real racing was happening up front, and on any given evening there was a small handful of the same riders attacking and counter-attacking and generally driving the pace. Well, in the ensuing years, I’d say pretty much all of those riders got caught doping. Does that mean I’d actually have been a factor in these races had they not been cheating? Almost certainly not, sucking is sucking. But it does put my own suffering in perspective, and makes my own futile struggle to hang in there week after week seem doubly absurd when I consider the degree to which the pace I could not meet was facilitated by a pharmaceutical tailwind.

Finally, the Queensboro Bridge is a real shitshow:

The bike-and-pedestrian path is absolutely too narrow:

At the same time, take a look at the crashes [see PDF]:

Riders crashing while passing? Riders rear-ending other riders? Riders honking horns? Riders on scooters? I dunno, a lot of this sounds motor-related to me.

Also, while it shouldn’t matter, I must say the prose of these DOT crash reports is rather uninspiring. How about something like:

It was a clear day, and yet the sun shone with portent upon a hectic morning commute. Deliveristas girding themselves for yet another day doing battle in Manhattan, cubicle jockeys standing prairie dog-like on their electric scooters, and the denizens of Greenpoint and Long Island City astride their grey Citi Bikes, addled by the morning’s Guardian headlines. It was a fraught and tentative peace, as fleetingly finite as those last few moments before the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand, and one soon to be rent asunder by the simple twist of a throttle…

Hey, if the DOT can pay someone to do tweets like this, they can pay me for overwrought crash reports:

Oh shut up.

Again, yes, the bike-and-pedestrian path is too narrow. Indeed, the very fact that it’s a bike-and-pedestrian path is ridiculous, as they should each have their own paths. But it’s all the motorized shit that really takes it over the top. Even Streetsblog’s own reporting makes that clear:

And when electric meets electric, sparks will fly:

Everyone wants carbon wheels so they remove the hooks. Everyone wants stuff with motors so they widen the bike lanes. I’m not saying we shouldn’t accommodate change. But I am saying we shouldn’t be surprised by the blowouts.



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