Luxury Brands Alive and Well

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Oct 302011
Depressing as it was to wake up Saturday morning and find my driveway under five inches of snow. I was heartened to hear that Luxury is alive and well in the world of cycling.
Just the previous night, I’d had a horrible nightmare in which Rapha was forced to manufacture a product that wasn’t :
//" target="blank">utterly ridiculous, but as my live-in barista commenced the “design” phase of my morning caffĂ© and I settled in to review the day’s events on my iPad all my cares soon faded away.
For one thing, :
//" target="blank">Rock Racing is making bicycles. While not necessarily bred with the same passion that fueled Mr. Ball’s entrance into the wheelset manufacturing market, these frames do offer a Ball trademark feature: Wildly Vague Assertions:
//" target="blank">“Honeycomb technology reduces to zero even the slightest energy dispersion exerted on the pedals, a phenomenon typically found in many of the frames on the market today.”
Maybe this translates poorly from the Italian, but these words strongly imply that the bike can not be pedaled under any circumstances, which is certainly a bold statement of rebellion, at least from an engineering standpoint. Either way, it’s indecipherable, and that, ladies and gentlemen, is how one sells dubious quality bicycle frames, or way overpriced pants. Still more heartening is the announcement of “Zegho” eyewear from Assos, purveyors of Swiss cycling fashion. The Assos home page is currently featuring a countdown clock, because this is Really Big.
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And by “Really Big,” I mean enormous. The shades are freakishly large, sort of like something :
//">Kanye West would wear while heavily embrocated and cruising his fixie through Occupy Wall Street. Always the intrepid faux-journalist and a genuine fan of many Swiss things, I was anxious to test these new glasses myself. Sadly, my doctor strictly forbid me to wear the glasses after determining they would impair my ability to breathe by cutting off all airflow to my head. Though I was unable to wear the glasses and test their innovative “Tunnel Vision” tinting–a technology so rare that gas stations usually offer only one similar model per display rack–I was able to enlist help in testing the fit of the glasses.
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“Peanut,” who has very sensitive eyes, reported that foraging for food on the ground was in no way impaired, but that glare was significantly reduced, giving the Zegho her highest rating–a serious statement, considering she’s previously eaten a $60 Rapha knitted hat.

eBay Career Advice

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Oct 272011

Back when I owned a place that sold stuff on the internet, I ended up having to build a lot of computer-related stuff to solve problems, but what Nisan Gabbay’s company, Social Labs, is doing is what I really wanted to do. I think the future of ecommerce involves people being rewarded for helping spread the word and sell stuff. It’s always customers who lead to more customers anyway, so why not just make them a part of your business, and cut them in for a share of sales?

If I were ever to get back into retail, which I seriously doubt, everything I did would be based on this idea.

And people could clearly use some extra income right now.

Damn Robot Overlords

By the way, for any of you considering opening a shop I know a place where you can get a sweet deal on all your inventory, including even hard-to-find “spoke tighteners.”

Apparently this tool only allows one to tighten spokes, making it–one would presume–a highly coveted collector’s item.

But this deal would be worth it for the tubes alone. Included in the $275,000 asking price, you can pick up $17,475 worth of 20″ tubes at only $6.99 each, which is only a few dollars more than you’d pay from a regular supplier who’d let you just buy a couple a week, as needed. But this is apparently $1.35-million worth of parts you’re picking up for only $275k, so why even think about it?

Me, I’m eyeing a different eBay-oriented opportunity.

Patent Drawings: Shimano Road and ‘Cross Hydraulic Brakes

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Oct 262011

Holding down the household for three kids and kicking my job search into fourth gear hasn’t left much time for hard-hitting tech journalism on these days. Not that I ever practiced hard-hitting journalism, but even the fake stuff takes more time than you’d think. So sorry.

But to counterbalance all my mindless rants of late, I thought it only fair to type up something with a little substance tonight. There’s a lot of chatter right now about Shimano’s upcoming hydraulic disc brakes for road bikes, but so far, almost nothing is known about them. I figured I should do what I could to make them at least a little less mysterious.

The wonderful thing about hot new hi-tech gadgets is that their owners need to protect their intellectual rights, so they apply for patents, and applying for a patent means explaining how something works. So it doesn’t take Woodward and Bernstein to figure out how to get an early look at what nobody else has seen. You don’t get the official press release and all the approved answers, but you don’t get the corporate spin either. Here’s some raw design stuff Shimano liked enough to spent a few thousand bucks each to patent.

This first one shouldn’t be a surprise, but it was for me. Seems Shimano, like Tektro/TRP, sees value in a gizmo that converts cable pull to hydraulic action. It makes perfect sense, considering ‘cross bikes benefit the most from genuine hydraulic disc brakes, and they also have “suicide levers” (alternately known as “top-mount” levers or “auxillary” levers–I don’t know if anyone still calls them “suicide” levers, but that’s what they started out being called because they could dump you on your ass right quick, and the name stuck with me). Having both sets of levers on the bike would be too much chaos in hydraulic form, so the converter makes good sense here.

So this tells us that the entrance into disc brakes on road and ‘cross bikes is going to be a bit more complicated than we might be thinking. Instead of one product hitting the market, we should be ready to see several. Also, unless this gets cleaned up a lot, TRP’s Parabox is looking way cleaner.

Now for something completely different:

If you’re seeing what I’m seeing, this is a hydraulic lever mechanism for a TT bike. Is there an aerodynamic advantage to disc brakes? Is this the safe way around the brake track problems associated with full carbon rims? Maybe they’ll never make this, but if there’s even a small chance they’re already at work on it, what it implies for wheelsets and TT and Tri frames going forward is pretty substantial.

Equally bizarre is this patent on hydraulic drop bar brakes. Keep in mind that all of these are owned by Shimano–no garage mechanic quacks here. My eyes made perfect sense of the (somewhat fugly) STI shifters with the line sticking out of them, but, by the time my brain processed the strange Magura HS-33–looking creature at the other end of that line, I was thoroughly confused. Still, the patent is actually for a “Hydraulic Connector Arrangement,” so they can connect whatever hydraulic device they’d like to the end of that line.

Lots of questions, but a few answers in there, too. Nothing beats seeing those first factory or prototype photos, but the sheer amount of information available here (you can click through each photo to go to the patent itself) makes studying patents well worth the investment in time.

Behind a Buick

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Oct 252011

I’d like to propose a new phrase:

“Behind a Buick.”

You know: nearly every shitty experience when you need to get somewhere involves being behind someone in a Buick. Somebody’s placed “Buicked” in the Urban Dictionary, but that really describes an action (pretty elegantly, too), whereas I’m describing a broader status or condition, as in:

“Man, ever since Leslie starting using crystal meth and hanging with those circus carnies, her life’s been behind a Buick.”


“Roy found himself homeless and without either of his ears. His wife had left him for a circus carnie, and he turned heavily to alcohol and Scientology, which he believes fueled his naked rampage with the ATV in the Westmoreland County Mall last Thursday. ‘I been behind a Buick my whole life,’ he is quoted as telling the officer who eventually shot him.”


“Pinarello’s fugly commuter bike is behind a Buick.”

At least someone in Marketing had the foresight to name this model “Only the Brave,” though I’d probably have gone for the more consumer-facing, “What the Fuck is Wrong With You?”. Like so many great cycling products, it’s a collaboration an Italian design company–Diesel, in this case, whose “Be Stupid” tag line and underlying philosophy offers some insight into the bike’s design:

Just another example of an ultra-successful cycling-fashion partnership, and I’m sold.

After years of obsessing about frames, components, and apparel, I’m thinking it might be time for me to change direction, and turn the entirety of my cycling life over to fashion designers. It works for celebrities. Following this logic, I’d be picking up this sweet helmet Diesel lists right next to the bicycle on their site.

When not wearing clothing I’ve made myself, I’m all Rapha all the time, and I’m pretty sure I can convince D2 Shoes to make me something in gatorskin that’s still SPD-compatible. And I’m going to go Louis Vuitton on the messenger bag–not necessarily because I’m convinced it’s the best and most expensive, but because, after seeing this, I can’t imagine sitting through another one of these videos, even as a joke.

Seriously, tell me that’s not the scariest fucking video you’ve ever seen. If the guy who made that video hasn’t killed and eaten anybody, it’s only because he’s so busy videotaping bags while muttering shit to himself and saying, “Yeah.”

Oct 242011

If you’re as disappointed as I am that the world didn’t end last Friday, I have great news. You can keep putting off shopping for holiday gifts, working on those abs, and learning how to cut the grass, because the end is still nigh.

How do I know? Shit. How did Glenn Beck know gold was a good investment? If you’re paying attention, it’s obvious, and the evidence just keeps piling up. No, I don’t mean the economy, political upheaval in the Middle East, or the way natural disasters seem to happen weekly these days. I’m talking about the obvious Third Horseman of the Apocalypse, zombies.

Zombies are hot in every way right now, but the absolute hottest zombie trend in corporate America today is Referencing, the fine art of digging up something that used to be genuine, and serving it to the public as a lumbering, rotting homage to “authenticity.”

Sure, taking something classic and reconstituting it as hipster garbage has been going on forever, but I’m here to tell you we’re in a race to the End Times, when every original idea is used up and we’re left with shit referencing shit that referenced other shit. We made a “Dukes of Hazzard” movie for crissake, but the favorite target for zombie marketers is something that was cult, genuine. Consider the alarming rate at which things that once meant something are being co-opted and spit back out as soul-less decorations. Zombie marketing is the Third Horseman of the Apocalypse, generally translated as “Famine” or “Pestilence.” You have to squint a little to see it, and you might think I’m crazy, but you know who else they called crazy? Glenn Beck. And Gandi. And Cher.

Still suspicious?

Yes, that’s Miley Cyrus getting around on a bicycle while wearing an Iron Maiden Live After Death t-shirt. Live-After-Mother-Fucking-Death. Try to forget that any time soon.

And Zombie Marketing loves outdoor and action sports. Take my beloved 29ers. Flipping through a People magazine at a relative’s house over the weekend, I was surprised to find this photo:

Everybody's Doing It

That’s right: reality show “people” cavorting gaily on an Orbea 29er. Not a bike with 26″ wheels manufactured by Trek or Specialized but with the decals blacked over, and not a bike purchased at REI with two feet of extra hydraulic line, but a genuine Orbea Alma 29er. Like it or not, we live in a world where you might well see your Serotta in a gum commercial, your Ibis in a spot hawking Cialis. And 29ers, once the last bastion of the smuggest elite cycling bastards, are soon to show up under the Jake Gyllenhaal posse or the Kardashians. Random encounters with now common 29ers is a new level of cultural acceptance, entirely different from a “president” riding one. Count this as further proof that, once the rogue element in the world of cycling, the 29er is now standard. It’s only a matter of time before Brad Pitt’s tongue moves from counter-balancing faux Dutch hipster mobiles to helping navigate some 24-hour gnar.

Speaking of 24-hours of gnar, those of us looking to force a personal rapture should look into a Tough Mudder event:

How cool is it that, here in the 21st Century, we’ve figured out a way to market pure unadulterated pain and suffering? And they say we’ve lost our edge!

Clearly this sort of thing is designed to be all kinds of Pure, and Genuine, and Hardcore, and good for them. In making competitors wrestle barbed wire and run through fire and shit, this event is all about being authentic, derivative of nothing that’s come before it–the absolute most badass of the badass.

That’s why I’m announcing plans for a spin-off of Tough Mudder, and I’m here to tell you, Tough Mudder is a freakin’ Disneyworld parade compared to the event concept I’m working on now. Suffering is all the rage these days, and therein lies a great opportunity. Say hello to Doomsday Events, my Limited Liability Corporation, registered in Delaware, of course, for shady reasons, and my first project, Blood Mudder.

First, consider the distance. While the Tough Mudder goes on for 24-hours, Blood Mudder events go on for six months. Suck on that, tri geeks. Now you can train half a year to race half a year. Blood Mudder, FTW!

Sure, they have plenty of mud-holes covered in barbed wire–oohhh, barbed wire–scary!–but Blood Mudder will take a page from tri swims and begin with an open water swim, in boxing gloves and bowling shoes, while the crowd on the shore spits poison darts at you and lobs piranhas (there will not be any piranhas in the water to begin with–that’d just be stupid).

You like climbing walls and shit? Like rock climbing? How about scaling a 20-foot wall of crushed glass? That’s being driven toward you on the front of a semi? A semi with a giant treadmill on it’s roof? That’s right. Get some.

Think your hand-eye coordination is top drawer and you have a strong stomach? Let’s see you ride an elliptical while bobbing for severed squirrel heads in a 55-gallon oil drum, tough guy. And yes, the oil drum is filled with oil. And squirrel heads.

Stay sharp. Every night you’ll process tax returns on a bridge while dodging traffic.

And logs? Logs are hot right now in tough guy races, but that’s chickenshit. You’ll race carrying the severed legs of those who didn’t make it through the initial swim. And when we come to the chainsaw portion of the event, you’ll saw live telephone poles like a real man.

Think you can “perform” under pressure? With the Stanford Tree? While your extended family watches? I didn’t think so, Mary.

Like Chuck Norris flicks? How about 72 hours of Chuck Norris getting slapped by a mime. No blinking.

If you have no bull riding experience, riding a grizzly bear will be even more difficult.

Let’s just say competitions will not be held in any states that refuse to allow people to arm wrestle pneumatic presses.

Because they generally possess less upper body strength, women will be at a disadvantage in several stages of the race, but the forced lactation stations will not be among them. No carrying your severed leg up the burning rope until something comes out, Bronson.

Feed zones will be heavily subsidized by pharmaceutical companies. Results will vary.

I’m sure we can also manage to fit a few 24-hour mountain bike races in there, too, maybe with bikes you have to build yourself from bamboo and bones. Anyway, it should be pretty cool for a while. At least until somebody rips it off and starts doing something similar. Or tougher. I’m accepting volunteers and registrations now. Entrance fee is only $2,500, but I’ll need that in gold, please.

Like Riding a Bike

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Oct 202011

Having received few donations for my doomsday cult here on the eve of destruction, I found myself distracted again by shiny, material possessions. Among the big news today, Campagnolo has set a date of November 7th for the release of their iShifters.

Personally, I never warmed to Shimano’s Di2, but make it Italian and move the decimal on the price tag a couple places to the right, and suddenly creepy little robots moving my derailleurs sounds hot. Not as desirable as a regular system without electronics, or a simple hydraulic system, or a bike that lets me spin some vinyl while wearing my skinny jeans but desirable as in, “Meh, OK.”

And yet it’s still such a drag to have to move your fingers to shift. Me, I’m holding out for that Parlee Prius that lets you shift with your brain.

This is as opposed to shifting with your Catholic upbringing, which is mostly how I ride, relying on a refined sense of self-loathing and desire for suffering that keeps me in tall gears and spinning a cadence somewhere in the single digits. Thus, on my short list of probing questions regarding this system:

  1. Do you have to squint your eyes in concentration to shift (please say yes)
  2. Would Mel Gibson be able to get out of the 53×11?

I know what you’re thinking. Sure, I hate having to accurately manipulate my fingers to shift a bike as much as the next guy, but that’s a dream compared to having to look around and steer to avoid stuff. Enter Google street view.

That looks exhilarating! It’s good to know a technology is being invented that lets us pedal a bike through a slightly laggy and occasionally blurry version of the world we’d otherwise be forced to venture out into.

And that technology might be arriving just in time, between the daily battle it is just to ride a bike, and certain subtle changes in the environment:

Yes, the march of technology is truly incredible. To think that one day soon, some company will make it possible to bypass all the silly moving around and thinking entirely, and instead just implant the pure impression of riding a bike directly into the brain. Though the technology doesn’t exist to express this, I suspect it’ll go something like this.

My Doomsday Cult, Part 2: These Guys

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Oct 192011

Inspired by a desire to help my fellow man, and all the money Harold Camping made by predicting the end of the world this past May 21st, I’ve started my own doomsday cult.

At first, I’d thought it best to “beat” Camping to his latest, adjusted end time of October 21st, 2011, but I’ve since had a bit of a revelation: sick of Camping’s bullshit, once October 22nd rolls around, fans of the end of the world are going to be looking for a new voice to tell them to abandon all hope.

I think I can be that voice.

"Durable, Absorbs Bumpy Terrain, Plenty of Gears" - Schwinning!

If the current walking dead version of Schwinn was my First Horseman of the Apocalypse, the Second Horseman is more difficult to explain, and frankly, confused the hell out of me at first (seemed to be not one person, but two). Though forbidden to reveal to you exactly how I know these things in such detail, trust me, I have my sources. The problem is that these revelations are only made to me through a complex series of YouTube promo videos for bike wheel lights, all played in slow motion and in a certain order.

But after much prayer and analysis, I can tell you with absolute certainty that the two guys on those Heineken commercials are–together–the embodiment of the Second Horseman of the Apocalypse.

That’s just one of them. You know the other one. God, I hate those creepy little neuvo-Golden Age shits. This was clearly supposed to be Heineken’s answer to the Dos Equis “Most Interesting Man in the World,” but, congratulations Heineken, instead of coming anywhere near the MIMITW ads, you’ve hastened the Apocalypse. Nice.

When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come and see!” Then another ride came out, a fiery red one with dubious components from the late ’90s. Its riders were given power to be whip-thin hipsters with ironic facial hair and frenetic enthusiasm for lives that appear utterly devoid of meaning, and thus suck all hope and peace from the earth and to make men wail and lament and slay each other in frustration. – Revolutions 6:2.3-4.2

Though I can’t be completely certain, my interpretation of the cryptic text above suggests that the mysterious method of conveyance for these evil douchebags has been located in Illinois, and is currently for sale on eBay for $35,000 (not a typo–at least not on my part).

For $35k, should include matching "I'm with Stupid" t-shirts.


Oct 172011

I’ve decided to start my own doomsday cult. I’ve thought about it, and I’m pretty sure this is my divine calling, though I have to admit, the money’s pretty good, too. High-profile doomsday-mongers, Family Radio took in $18M in donations in 2009, in addition to their $34 million in “stock and other securities,” and they couldn’t even get the end of the world right. I don’t know what that spells for you, for sounds like an untapped market to me.

Granted, I don’t like math, but math doesn’t seem to play much of a role in the calculations anyway, particularly when you’re starting from a rough estimate with a margin of error of 14,000 years. Besides, the end could be super close, so who has time for calculations that involve carrying numbers? Once my followers send me the first grand or so in donations, I plan to just ask Siri.

Don’t get me wrong: I wouldn’t head down this career path if I thought everything was going to turn out just dandy. Unlike those who focus on a close reading of the bible, world events, or signs of economic collapse in stock markets, I think the comping Apocalypse can be divined largely by looking at the shit people are buying.

First Horseman of the Apocalypse: Schwinn

In the “abomination in God’s eyes” category, somebody is selling this bike to his fellow man, and it’s going on all the time.

Notice the detailed description there at the bottom:

Aluminum dual suspension frame smoothes the ride. Suntour suspension fork eats bumps and increases control. Shimano EZFire shifters for fast gear modifications. SR Suntour alloy three piece cranks provide optimal on or offroad gearing. Promax front disc brake and rear alloy linear pull brake gives controlled stopping power. 24 Speeds with Shimano Altus rear derailleur for precise shifting. Double walled alloy rims are light and powerful. Color: Red. 26 Wheels. Some assembly needed. Adjustable seat height. Frame height: 18 .

Solid facts, no mystery left unexplored. If you were wondering how the bike modifies gears, the clear answer is “fast.” The gearing works on or offroad, and the rims are “powerful.” Seat height is even adjustable.

But also notice in the upper corner that eight of these have already been sold, and this, too, is a sign. “Woe to them! They have brought disaster upon themselves.” (Isaiah 3:9)

In the coming days and weeks (years?) more will be revealed about my predictions (while I figure out how to add a PayPal thing to accept donations). I just have to get those posts written before October 21st.

Oct 142011

According to WordPress, two people visited my site today based on typing the words “shrunk and riding a dog.” Far be it for me to question Google’s recent amazing third quarter earnings, but I can assure everyone that I’ve never written that particular phrase (ain’t grammatically correct, for one thing, but I checked, just in case).

Ironically, anyone doing an image search for “spotted dick” will legitimately be referred to this:

Heinz Spotted Dick

At any rate, I’ve been writing stuff down here for nearly three months now, and have so far managed to largely avoid blathering all that much about personal things like the suspension design I’m trying to have fabricated. But since leaving Speedgoat in May, getting back to work on the 29er-specific suspension system I patented back in 2010 has become increasingly important to me. I’m currently trying to find someone capable to working with me to create a functional prototype of the design. Tonight I just wanted to include a link to an explanation of the design via the patent page, and ask anyone reading this to please send me any feedback. At this stage I’d really like to gather as many comments, questions, and critiques of the design as possible. Please check it out and let me know what you think.

My direct email is, and thanks in advance for any questions or feedback you can offer.