Driving To Deliver Your Business


Bike Snob NYC: Back In The Fold

Further to my latest Brooks Blog adventure[1], you may have noticed that I’ve still got that Brompton, and in fact I went all multimodal on it once again yesterday:
(Wildcat: Lord of the Fold)
I have by this point become an unabashed fan of the Brompton bicycle. In fact I’m such a fan of it that I’ve stopped linking to them directly, because I’m afraid that if I do they might remember I’ve still got the bike and ask for it back. And even if they do ask for it back I’m simply going to say “No,” because what are they going to do, come up here and take it from me?

Please. The only thing less scary than people with English accents* is people with English accents riding folding bikes.

*[Okay, fine, there are exceptions to the English accent thing[2], and if they sent Ben Kingsley from “Sexy Beast” up here I’d probably give him all my bikes–even if he did ride here on a Brompton.]

“So why do I like the Brompton so much?” I’m asking myself rhetorically. Well, apart from the obvious benefits (you can take it on a train at any time of day, you can bring it inside anywhere, it enhances your clown factor by a million), it’s also the ideal bike for when you’re riding with kids:

See, kids are weak and lazy, so when you go riding with them it’s inevitable that at some point you’re going to have to carry their bike up some stairs or something like that. Wrangling both their bike and yours can be a major pain in the ass, but at least if your bike has smaller wheels than theirs it’s that much easier.

“But there are tons of folding bikes out there. So what makes the Brompton special?,” I’m asking myself rhetorically again. Or, to put it another way:

Well, I admit I don’t have vast folding bike experience, though before the Brompton came along I spent a lot of time riding one with a that rhymes with “Tern,” because it was in fact a Tern. It rode quite nicely for a clown bike, and it folded and unfolded quickly too. However, the Brompton also rides quite nicely for a clown bike. Not only that, but it folds up much smaller and tighter, like a secret spy message moments before you swallow it. This makes a huge difference when you’re getting on and off the train or in and out of the elevator, which is the whole point of a folding bike in the first place. The Brompton is very easy to carry while folded, and you can even unfold the handlebars and put it in “luggage” mode[3]. (I even got it through one of these things[4] while riding the subway, so there you go.) Meanwhile, the Tern was comparatively unwieldy, and because it folds in half and is held together with this little rubber strap it seemed to want to unfold while I was carrying it and hit me in the shins.

(This is not to say the Tern is a bad bike, it most certainly isn’t. The difference is that the Tern aspires to be like a full-sized bike, whereas the Brompton fully embraces its clownishness.)

Plus, there’s just something about British engineering that speaks directly to your soul:

Most of all, I feel like I’m now part of a special club and possessed of some sort of secret knowledge. For example, I always found this video funny:

But now I find it doubly funny because I know that all she had to do was raise the seatpost. Speaking of my last Brooks post, I also took some time over the Thanksgiving holiday to ride a rugged all-terrain bicycle, though not before giving my rear hub a little servicing:

Almost a year ago now I noticed the engagement seemed a little balky, so I did what any sensible person would do, which was put on different wheels, stick this one in a corner, and forget all about it.

However, this past weekend as I gave thanks for my vast bounty of bike crap I realized it was ridiculous not to be using my fine artisanal hand-curated boutique bicycle hubs, and so I finally popped it open and re-lubricated it, which is a process that takes maybe 10 minutes.

By the way, the manufacturer says you have to use their special proprietary grease, and of course that’s just what I did:


While I’m on the subject of expensive proprietary goops, this is probably also a good time to remind you that if you treat your Brooks saddle with anything other than Proofide it’s liable to catch on fire, especially if you’re flatulent:

(“Shoulda used Proofide!”)
You have been warned.

(On the other hand, you can use Proofide for stuff other than protecting your Brooks saddle. For instance, this Thanksgiving we basted our turkey with it. It was delicious!)

Of course, in addition to not using the specified grease, I also used the wrong tools, because apparently I should have been using these $125 Silca hex wrenches[5]:

Quality models do exist from brands like Park Tool and Bondhus, but using does not evoke the same pleasure as when turning the Silcas.

Oh come on.

These hex wrenches reach another level of craftsmanship and price. The company makes the $125 tools from hardened, shock-resistant steel, and coats them in chrome. Silca claims the manufacturing tolerances are tighter than on most wrenches, which leads to fewer rounded bolts.

Uh, what? Now that square taper cranks have gone the way of the downtube shifter I don’t think there’s a single Allen key fitting on a bicycle that requires more than two fingers to tighten–especially if you’re a Fred who reads “Bicycling,” in which case you’re almost certainly ridin’ the crabon dragon. That means if you overtighten something your bike is going to splinter and crack long before you get anywhere near the point where you’d round out a bolt. I’m fairly certain you could use one of those freebies that come with the Ikea furniture and you’d be just fine. But of course these are still worth it, which the reviewer knows, because he’s a mechanic:

I am not a mechanic, but I do use hex wrenches frequently to tinker on my bikes.

Ah, sorry, he’s not a mechanic. But he does adjust his bike a lot:

After months of tightening stems, adjusting my saddle height, and dislodging stubborn pedal spindles, the Silca hex wrenches still look new, which is to say stunning. One of my favorite details is the non-slip coating, which allowed me to maintain a secure grip even when my hands were dotted with grease.

I think if your bike requires that much adjustment tools may be the least of your problems and there may be a bicycle sizing issue at play. Then of course there’s the problem of looking for excuses to use these things:

I liked using the tools so much that I found myself working on my bikes more often, and adjusting bolts and fasteners multiple times.

That’s not good. As an inept mechanic I’ve destroyed all kinds of stuff in my life, and in nearly every case it’s because I got carried away and kept futzing with something I should have just left well enough alone.

Nevertheless, despite my crappy Allen keys I bought in a (gasp) hardware store, I got the my rear wheel buttoned back up in plenty of time to hit the trails:

I’d been riding the Marin Pine Mountain 1[6] lately, so the tires on this bike looked positively diminutive to me:
As much as I’m enjoying the Marin it felt good to get back on this bike, because sometimes you want to ride a bike with big squishy tires and lots of gears, and sometimes you don’t.

Lastly, there are all sorts of bike-related bills before the New York City Council,[7] and I doubt any good will come of any of them:

One of these would convene some kind of bicycle “task force” made up of people who don’t ride bikes, so you know that can’t turn out well:

Intro 219, introduced in 2014 at the request of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, would establish a panel to develop recommendations on how make New York City more bicycle-friendly. Speaking to AMNY, however, Matt Viggiano, director of land use and planning for bill sponsor Rosie Mendez, made it sound like the task force would be yet another venue for people to complain about delivery cyclists and e-bikes.

The two-year task force would have a broad agenda, examining issues that include the allocation of federal funding and the development of physical infrastructure. The group would be made up of commissioners or designees from DOT, the Department of City Planning, and the Parks Department, plus appointees selected by the mayor and council speaker.

And the other would allow…well, somebody to remove your bike if left unattended for more than 36 hours:

Another bill, Brad Lander s Intro 787, deals with clearing abandoned bicycles. Under the bill, the city could impound a bike left unattended for 36 hours after it is tagged by an enforcement officer from an unspecified agency. Owners would either pay a fine to reclaim impounded bikes or contest impoundments at Environmental Control Board hearings.

I don’t have a problem with the city getting rid of abandoned bikes, but 36 hours isn’t a very long time. What happens if you park your shitty beater bike outside for a few days and someone decides it’s an eyesore? That doesn’t seem fair, especially when drivers get seven days for their shitty cars:

(9) Street storage of vehicles prohibited. When parking is not otherwise restricted, no person
shall park any vehicle in any area, including a residential area, in excess of seven consecutive

Though in practice they get as much time as they want, because if you’ve ever reported any sort of illegally parked car to 311 you know the drill–you get an email like this:

Apparently the illegally-parked vehicle being right the fuck there doesn’t constitute “evidence of the violation,” which is why here in New York City you’re basically free to run over anybody you want with your car.

But of course we know bikes are a much bigger problem than cars–in fact many have pointed out that cyclists are basically terrorists, and you can add yet another such comparison to the pile:

At NYC council hearing, Jack Brown of C.A.R.Road just likened bicyclists to terrorists. @bikesnobnyc[9] Paul Steely White (@PSteely) December 2, 2015[10] I didn’t know who Jack Brown was, but it turns out that he has a one-man anti-bike coalition called “Coalition Against Rogue Riding”[11] (which is an awesome name), and back in 2011 he gave perhaps the greatest anti-bike quote of all time[12]:
The New York pedestrian gets good at judging his or her foot speed against the velocity of onrushing vehicles. But the addition of bike lanes, and the bikers they carry, has made jaywalking a more fraught proposition. You know about the cars. You know about that potential danger when you re crossing the street. You know you might end up a bag of blood and guts and bones. But that is a finite realm of danger, says Jack Brown, who used to own a bike shop in the East Village. When it comes to cyclists, that danger is infinite. Cyclists can be anywhere, at any time: on the sidewalk, riding the wrong way down the street. And you have no peace The anarchy that has been allowed to prevail is astonishing. According to butterfly theory, according to chaos theory, I am sure that the level of emotional and psychological damage wrought by the bicycle far exceeds the damage done by cars. And then Brown goes there: It is homegrown terrorism. The cumulative effect is equivalent to what happened on 9/11.

Well, one thing rings true anyway: only someone who’s owned a bike shop could possibly hate cyclists this much.


  1. ^ my latest Brooks Blog adventure (blog.brooksengland.com)
  2. ^ there are exceptions to the English accent thing (www.youtube.com)
  3. ^ put it in “luggage” mode (3.bp.blogspot.com)
  4. ^ I even got it through one of these things (3.bp.blogspot.com)
  5. ^ these $125 Silca hex wrenches (www.bicycling.com)
  6. ^ Marin Pine Mountain 1 (bikesnobnyc.blogspot.com)
  7. ^ there are all sorts of bike-related bills before the New York City Council, (www.streetsblog.org)
  8. ^ in fact many have pointed out that cyclists are basically terrorists (bikesnobnyc.blogspot.com)
  9. ^ @bikesnobnyc (twitter.com)
  10. ^ December 2, 2015 (twitter.com)
  11. ^ “Coalition Against Rogue Riding” (carrnyc.blogspot.com)
  12. ^ back in 2011 he gave perhaps the greatest anti-bike quote of all time (nymag.com)