Irreverence: Starting with Rules 48 and 49

Irreverence: Starting with Rules 48 and 49

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My work has me spending much time on college and university campuses.  Among the myriad fads that are sweeping the dirtbag and hipster college student sets these days is riding the retro bike around.  My feelings on this fad is “more power to them”.  I’ve got no qualms with college students on meager incomes recycling old steel bikes found in landfills or yard sales.

Every once in a while a really cool old bike will find its way onto the rack outside my office building.  One of my students, a kid named Mike, rides a classy old Flandria fixie.  Mostly what I see though are dilapidated rides that leave me wondering if they would even work.  That is until I see the bike’s owner pedaling across campus to their dorm or next class.

The Rule violations on these machines are countless.  Just look at the picture above.  The rider of this bike obviously has no awareness of Rule #48 and Rule #49, let alone an attempt at following them.  I ask though, do the Rules even apply to bikes and riders such as this?  Probably not.  Like the coffee trader in Rwanda, the bike taxi in India, or the messenger in the city, these bikes are merely beasts of burden and serve their riders only in function, ignoring form.

Far be it from me to critique these dedicated cyclists using a canon of Rules they know nothing about.   Whatever their motivations are for riding, whether it be retro-posuer style, some ideal of being green, utility, economy, etc., they are undoubtedly riding more than I am through the winter months.   I can’t fault them for that.

// The Rules

  1. @Cyclops
    Was Bristol Palin in town?

  2. Dare I ask the the length of the stem required to compensate for that saddle position?

  3. @pakrat I think it’s in that position so a small person can ride a big bike. Look at how little seat post even sticks out.

  4. Well, if you saw the rest of the image you would see that it is a TT bike with aero bars.

  5. Im no college student, but when I came back from Italy, I converted my old Schwinn Varsity into a single speed with just a front brake. Next time I go up to Tempe i am going to take it with me so me and my friend can cruise around to the local bars.

  6. tell me the bars weren’t upside down, tell me the bars weren’t upside down…

    That is the kiss of death for any ‘former’ bicycle.

  7. @packfiller
    good point. no, the bars were right side up on this one.

    what to make of the world champion stripes though?

  8. I’m in the process of rehabilitating a similar ride myself. An old 80s-era steel Raleigh. On the cheap. Will likely go with a flip flop hub and will try to adhere to the rules as much as possible, with the exception of Rule #11: Baby seat on the back of a fixie. And then teach my students how to Rule #5 as I blow past them, velomitoddler in tow…

  9. @sgt

    Can it be Meghan McCain instead?

    packfiller:
    tell me the bars weren’t upside down, tell me the bars weren’t upside down…

    UGH, just ugh. That one drives me crazy. I know not everyone needs to ride a bike that has what we would consider an appropriate bar-to-saddle height ratio, but drop bars turned upside down is just silly. Get a taller stem or something. Or a bike that fits properly.

    Marko:
    what to make of the world champion stripes though?

    Obviously that bike was ridden by a world champion, because no one would wear those colors without earning them. The seat position probably reduced their time by minutes.

  10. I’m picturing reverse Mary bars on that thing with a basket hanging from the front.

  11. I’m relieved that the owner secured this machine with a gigantic chain, wrapped in protective plastic so as not to damage the paint job.

  12. mcsqueak:
    @sgt
    Can it be Meghan McCain instead?

    packfiller:
    tell me the bars weren’t upside down, tell me the bars weren’t upside down…

    UGH, just ugh. That one drives me crazy. I know not everyone needs to ride a bike that has what we would consider an appropriate bar-to-saddle height ratio, but drop bars turned upside down is just silly. Get a taller stem or something. Or a bike that fits properly.

    Graeme might disagree…

  13. @ZachOlson

    Good picture find! However, I still think it’s weird. He’s holding onto a place in the bar that never moved… so what’s the point exactly? He could have the same exact position if the bars were mounted properly. I can’t imagine it being more aerodynamic?

  14. All PRO rules suspended for cheap transportation steeds. If the hipsters wanna cruise on retro beater bikes, more power to ’em. In a sense, they’re making up their own rules and uniforms. We humans are funny that way.

    I’m from the more bikes is always good school of thought. Gets people out there, plus gives more fodder to dis on each others rules. And that’s always part of the fun.

  15. @packfiller

    tell me the bars weren’t upside down, tell me the bars weren’t upside down…
    That is the kiss of death for any ‘former’ bicycle.

    Not always…but yes, usually.

  16. @ZachOlson
    Nicely played. Didn’t see your post until after mine updated.

    @G’rilla
    A++

  17. @mcsqueak

    Good picture find! However, I still think it’s weird. He’s holding onto a place in the bar that never moved… so what’s the point exactly? He could have the same exact position if the bars were mounted properly. I can’t imagine it being more aerodynamic?

    Follow the link I put under always…or read/watch The Flyiig Scottsman. Obree was just in that position for a moment; he used the tops to get into a better tuck, but the bars weren’t low enough, so he eventually built up a custom machine that took him to the Hour Record.

  18. I ask though, do the Rules even apply to bikes and riders such as this?

    @Dan O

    All PRO rules suspended for cheap transportation steeds. If the hipsters wanna cruise on retro beater bikes, more power to ’em. In a sense, they’re making up their own rules and uniforms. We humans are funny that way.

    I would say that The Rules can really be classified into two core groups; the Rules that are governed by Good Taste and Sensibility, and the Rules that are governed by Looking Pro. To that end, absolutely, the second category of Rules are suspended for Beast of Burden bikes; but that isn’t to say that Good Taste doesn’t apply.

    This shit is tasteless no matter what – same goes for squeaky chains and the like; accessibility to money doesn’t impact your ability to maintain your bike, treat it with respect, and put the saddle in the right fucking place.

    @Dan O

    I’m from the more bikes is always good school of thought. Gets people out there, plus gives more fodder to dis on each others rules. And that’s always part of the fun.

    Spot on, mate.

  19. @mcsqueak

    Here’s another shot of Obree in his initial stages of innovation:

    One of my all time heros, that. Fucking stud. Fantastic man, struggled with some incredible demons. Hopefully he’s getting over them for good now.

  20. Ah, GT’s iconic “Triple Triangle”. It revolutionized cycling as we know it. I think the proper term is “revolting”.

  21. @frank

    Thanks Frank. I did a bit more research, and I’m totally down with trying out new things from an innovation approach, especially if you’re of a class of cyclist that is attempting the hour record.

    However, seeing people ride around town with their handlebars all fucked up and with all manner of weird attachments, bar-ends, and other assorted accessories, I just don’t get it. Even for “beast of burden bikes”, as you had to do work and go out of your way to make the handlebars like that, rather than just keeping them normal.

    All that being said, even though I drive a lot for work, I am with most others here and would rather see more bikes out and about, even if I wouldn’t personally ride that style.

  22. @all
    with regards to hipster’s this film recounts the fixie scene in paris. Can’t decide if they’re douchebags or not, i’ve wanted a fixie for a while for the training benefits, but if i look like some of these guys it might not be worth it.

  23. I think the fun of making a townie out of an old frame is finding the frame, and then finding the parts to hang on it. The owner should be restricted to spending $100 U.S. or less. If you walk into a bike shop in Houston and tell them what you’re doing, they almost always help you out. In fact, most wrenches I talk to have at least one nearly free bike project going all the time, either for themselves, or to sell to a hipster.

  24. frank:
    @packfiller

    tell me the bars weren’t upside down, tell me the bars weren’t upside down…
    That is the kiss of death for any ‘former’ bicycle.

    Not always…but yes, usually.

    What’s the story, then, with bullhorns? ‘Cause I’m awfully tempted to slap them on this build. Moreover, sawed-off drops turned upside down…

  25. @Steampunk
    I think a straight bar looks better. I wouldn’t cut them super-short as is the trend right now. Too hard to control the bike. Keep ’em a little wider than your shoulders.

  26. @Steampunk
    Maybe we can get Jim to grace us with his input here; he had a set of bull horns on his commuter and then switched back to drops. I’d say bull horns are great for TT’s, but they don’t offer much in the way of positions. Except without the extra empty hoods.

    When I finally get around to building a townie, it will be with mustache bars, built up Bridgestone-style soas to offer loads of positions.

  27. Cyclops:
    Ah, GT’s iconic “Triple Triangle”. It revolutionized cycling as we know it. I think the proper term is “revolting”.

    This design was around for nearly a hundred years before GT decided to use it as a marketing point of difference…

  28. Marko:
    what to make of the world champion stripes though?

    Upside down, note. Does that mean the opposite of World Champion?

  29. @Steampunk

    I think bullhorns are alright, as it mimics basically the same position you’ve have if you had drop bars and were up on the hoods. I think the brakes people mount on the ends look awful, though. One of my friends has a Specialized single speed set up like that, and it seemed fairly comfortable.

    @Jeff in PetroMetro

    I see people around here on fixies with handlebars cut so skinny that their hands are resting just on both sides of the stem, and the bars are barely wider than their hands. I can’t imagine it is very comfortable or easy to control at speed.

  30. mcsqueak :
    @Jeff in PetroMetro
    I see people around here on fixies with handlebars cut so skinny that their hands are resting just on both sides of the stem, and the bars are barely wider than their hands. I can’t imagine it is very comfortable or easy to control at speed.

    Given that a handlebar narrower than the width of your hips is kinda stupid (I negotiate my bars through a tight space only to have my hips make impact?) this setup only works for hipsters with their unnaturally skinny hips. Respect.

  31. mcsqueak :
    I see people around here on fixies with handlebars cut so skinny that their hands are resting just on both sides of the stem, and the bars are barely wider than their hands. I can’t imagine it is very comfortable or easy to control at speed.

    Agreed. 8″ handlebars = tosser. Possibly the only thing of this length they’re able to place in their hand/s.

    Nice post Marko BTW.

    No one has commented on the rear reflector? A much undervalued addition to any bike rider’s safety along with the rear wheel plastic disc (which has had plenty of prior discourse here).

  32. @mcsqueak

    @Marcus

    “It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic,
    Of all things physical and metaphysical,
    Of all things human and all things super-human,
    Of all true manifestations of the head,
    Of the heart, of the soul,
    That the life is recognizable in its expression,
    That form ever follows function. This is the law.”
    This is from Louis Sullivan. He’s the architect who brought us out of the Victorian era of superfluous ornamentation. It works for bikes. The whole fixie thing originated from bike messengers who needed a quick, simple, indestructible means of transportation so they could efficiently do their jobs.

    Hipsters have since moved these bikes into a place of tasteless ornamentation. It’s too bad.

  33. @Jeff in PetroMetro
    wow. nice quote sir

  34. @ steampunk
    Bullhorns = douche – to be avoided at all costs. Risers for function or drops for aesthetics if you are setting up a fixie/singlespeed – decision may depend on whether you plan on running just a front brake or front and rear with hoods – and while I’m at it track pedals and cages (such as MKS sylvans) – doublestraps if you want to take it to the next level – unless you feel strongly about mtb pedals. And run a low gear combination while you are at it e.g. around 69 gear inches – 46 front 18 rear is ideal for flat terrain – fixed riding (in particular) is about spinning not grinding.
    My 5c worth.

  35. @frank
    I didn’t know Pineapple Bob was the Belgian National Champion back in the early 90’s. Or the picture shows a flagrant rule violation. Hello? Rule #16?

  36. Frank said:
    …Rules are suspended for Beast of Burden bikes; but that isn’t to say that Good Taste doesn’t apply.

    I could not agree more Frank and I’d like to add that some ‘original ideas’ taken without much common sense, could drive to nasty accident.

  37. Just because pedantry is my bag, Pineapple Bob isn’t wearing the Belgian National Champions jersey it’s just the Belgian National Team jersey.

  38. Recently in the Sydney CBD I spotted a hipster douchebag clown riding a Cervelo track bike as a fixie. It was wrong on so many levels.

  39. @Kiwicyclist
    Falling back on @JPM’s assertion that the build should cost as little as possible, the bullhorns are/were free, as they came with the frame.

    The gears is a whole other question, though. 46×17/18 would be ideal, but for the fact that there are a number of small-but-big-enough-hills around here that I would have to negotiate with a 15kg velomitoddler on the back (we live in the mid-range of a valley). This may take some trial and error to get right, but I was actually thinking of starting with 44×18, which hopefully wouldn’t lead to too insane a cadence on the flat and reduce the amount of grinding going uphill. Brakes are a spouse-induced necessity, apparently…

  40. @Oli Brooke-White
    I’ll be danged. You are right. I was so used to seeing Merckx in it that I didn’t stop to think the champion’s jersey is on a black background. Duh.

    So, is Pineapple Bob Belgian?

  41. @Steampunk
    If they’re already a part of the bike, I’d go with the bullhorns at first. But if you don’t like them, there’s gotta be a cheap/free straight bar or classic drop out there somewhere.

  42. clearly NOT 5cm behind the BB. The UCI must be pissed.

  43. I too spend a lot of time on college campuses. It generally confuses me how I could pass by so many bicycles and not see a single one that is even worthy of a closer look. Oh well. I don’t mind it if it a “beast of burden” ride, but some of them are pretty nice, just uncared for.

    Last year I did see a very nice Klein locked up on a campus with only a spaghetti-thick cable lock. And even worse, the beautiful paint on the TT was right against the pole. Ah! If you are going to hand-down a nice older road bike to a child, at least tell them a bit about it.

    Oh well.

    I will say though that I don’t generally buy the I’m-too-poor argument; most kids these days have hundreds of dollars in their hands, between music machines and phones. Sell off that phone and get a nice bike! But, for the most part, I am happy to see people pedaling around.

  44. @frank

    Pineapple Bob.

    @Oli Brooke-White

    Sar-casm

  45. As for the fixsters – I’ve been in Prague since the beginning of March. I had not seen a single one.

    Spring hit, the weather turned a bit, and sure enough I saw one roll by. Narrow bars, fashion bike, beard, tight pants, no helmet in city traffic with tram tracks all over. The craziest thing to me is that I could have seen this same guy in NYC, SF, DC. I just wonder how such a style can travel around the world. I guess the internet can do it all?

    The same day saw a guy in a blazer riding a SS with one pink, one white tire. Saw him again the next day. Damn, the world is too small when that happens.

  46. Cyclops:
    @Oli Brooke-White
    Sar-casm

    wut?

  47. @Jeff in PetroMetro
    +1 what an awesome quote thanks.

    FWIW I used bullhorns and a bar end shifter with a pair of TT brake levers on a courier (road) bike. Worked well for a couple of reasons, but with the type of courier bag I was using (satchel style with one strap) it meant I was upright enough that it wouldn’t continually slide around my torso. I also appreciated being a bit more upright on the road so I could see better over cars and could look behind me more easily, while still riding a bike frame that was the right size. It was just a tool that best suited the purpose at the time, since I’d never ever be able to use the hoods or the drops on that bike given the type of bag and weight of soem of the loads I was carrying.

  48. @Jeff in PetroMetro
    +1 what an awesome quote thanks.

    FWIW I used bullhorns and a bar end shifter with a pair of TT brake levers on a courier (road) bike. Worked well for a couple of reasons, but with the type of courier bag I was using (satchel style with one strap) it meant I was upright enough that it wouldn’t continually slide around my torso. I also appreciated being a bit more upright on the road so I could see better over cars and could look behind me more easily, while still riding a bike frame that was the right size. It was just a tool that best suited the purpose at the time, since I’d never ever be able to use the hoods or the drops on that bike given the type of bag and weight of some of the loads I was carrying. I can see the appeal of bullhorns on commuters, plus it can be cheaper to get brakes and shifters set up that way.

  49. @Steampunk
    A 44 X 18 combination would give you 66 gear inches which would still be pretty good – I’m guessing that you will mainly run it as a singlespeed with the freewheel side of the flipflop- the problem you encounter running fixed on a road frame is the lower bb height which means you run a far higher chance of pedal strike going through turns than on a track frame (as I’ve learnt from experience).
    Put the word out – someone in the community should have a spare set of bars they could part with to save you! I’ve got some in the shed you’d be welcome to have but the postage from Oz is probably prohibitive no?

  50. @Kiwicyclist
    Mate I have ridden behind you when you have struck your pedal in a turn using a freewheel. Don’t blame the equipment!

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