Friday, January 9, 2009

The Burden of Being BSNYC

Bike Snob NYC is one of those rare blogs that combines wit with an acidic sense of propriety masquerading as humor. You can search the blogs on music, politics, cars or World of Warcraft and you aren’t likely to find a greater moral outrage over more minor infractions than on BSNYC. Not since The Washingtonienne has a blog utilized more pixels in its quest to skewer targets.

For every person I meet who likes BSNYC, I meet another who finds the blog harsh, mean-spirited and not reflective of the average cyclist’s views.

When I was in second grade I read a short story about a monk who was given a vision of heaven. Angels gave him this glimpse of the afterlife as a reward for his piety, but his return to daily life was hell itself. In his glimpse of life behind the pearly gates, he heard music. Music the angels make to serenade God himself. The sound was pure, without dissonance and a beauty so haunting that it lasted in the listener’s mind the way a taste of fine wine lingers on the tongue.

On the monk’s return to our waking life, music was ruined for him. Even the greatest symphonies were cruel taunts barely hinting at what beauty was truly possible. He hated music.

I think the same thing happened to BSNYC. I think he got a vision of cycling in heaven. How else can you explain such a finely honed sense of style.

Even the gentlest, most forgiving roadie knows there is a PRO way to do things and a NOT way to do things. You take your turn at the front. You don’t spit into the wind. You don’t show up with tube socks. You don’t turn your bike into a piece of art. You show respect for the riders around you. And sometimes you chuckle at the clueless.

One can be forgiven for imagining BSNYC hasn't shared the road with a knowledgeable rider since the advent of indexed shifting. He suffers hell here on earth. We decided to interview him to find out why.

BKW: You have a finely honed sense of roadie style. What riders exemplify your sense of proper style?

BSNYC: Hard to say. Proper style varies from race to race and from decade to decade. You know--Grand Tour style vs. classics style vs. crit style. It even varies from body type to body type. You just know it when you see it.

Helmets have pretty much killed style in road cycling anyway. Not that I have anything against helmets, mind you, but let's be honest. Cycling looked better before helmets.

BKW: A lot of being a good rider is basic consideration: not being a squirrel in the pack, blowing your nose down and not out, pointing out road debris. As crimes against cycling go, is there anything that offends you more than lack of consideration?

BSNYC: I think one of the biggest crimes in cycling is whining. I see this in people who yell "Close that gap!" or "Pull through!" all race long, or who get angry at others, or who make excuses and look for someone else to blame when they don't get a result. If you want a gap closed, close it yourself or keep quiet. Bragging is another unforgivable crime. Strong cyclists never need to brag. You brag with your legs. Road riding is about class, and class is the absence of whining and bragging.

BKW: Is there anything about your own riding or personal sense of style about which you are sensitive?

BSNYC: I'm pretty comfortable in my own skin. I have no illusions about my abilities, I love to ride and race, and I'm happy being pack-fill.

BKW: It seems one of your pet peeves is practicality, that is, anything a cyclist uses ought to make sense. How do you define practical?

BSNYC: What's practical obviously varies from discipline to discipline, but what drives me crazy in all cases is when vanity trumps common sense. On the road, a good example is the person doing a Sunday group ride on a $2,000 tubular wheelset. If you've got the cash you can afford training wheels. Practicality is using the right tool for the right job. Save the jewels for the ball--don't wear them to the bar.

BKW: The subtext of your posts, the way I read them, is that those cyclists you write about are missing an opportunity to enjoy all the sport has to offer. Do you despair that those cyclists will learn how it's done?

BSNYC: Well, of course I understand that some people enjoy different aspects of cycling than I do, so it would be wrong of me to say somebody else is missing the point. At the same time, though, I do think people who become hyper-focussed on certain elements of the sport do sometimes miss out. This goes for me too, by the way. As cyclists, we're a very anal species, and we need to be careful not to get too obsessive. We need to look out for each-other! That's part of the reason I often make jokes about getting hung up on your equipment, or on training, and why I try to make light of our tendency to take this whole thing too seriously. Because getting too obsessed with training or upgrading or being overly fastidious about your bike is a great way to waste time, energy, and money that could be better put towards enjoying yourself on your bike. We need to let go sometimes and remember to have fun.

BKW: Shouldn't it be enough that if a cyclist is having fun, then they must be doing it right?

BSNYC: Absolutely.

BKW: What does cycling in heaven look like?

BSNYC: New York with better weather.


Anonymous said...

Great interview (and excellent intro)! Nice to hear BSNYC in "civilian" mode. This is soon going to turn into a for-profit newsletter, isn't it?

One question: It's still OK for me to roll up for my Sunday group ride on my Ksyrium Es's, right? Sure, the red spoke speaks to my aesthetic sensibilities, but they are true workhorses.

Or should I slap on my old Shimano R-whatevers?

Hurry, I need to know before Sunday!


Jason said...

Great interview. I read BSNYC and love it. I find it like reading The Onion. You read it, laugh your head off and then feel ashamed that you just laughed at it.

I sometimes have a tough time reading it just because I probably commit so many BSNYC "offenses"! You KNOW in the summer I gotz to wear my tube socks and "daisy dukes" when out on a rid! OK, I was kidding about the socks and "dukes".

Loved Snob's comment about bitching. I can't stand complaining on a ride or during a race. Man up. If you sucked, you sucked. I'm not gonna bust out "i was just using this as a training race," etc., etc.,

It's a great read as is BKW. Even for a road bike using mountain biker like myself.

great post.

Watts said...

Cyclists only need 2 blogs, Belgium Knee Warmers and BSNYC. 'nuff said.

Unknown said...
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James T said...

Great interview. While I general agree with the comment about practicality, my attitude about equipment has changed a bit over the years. When I raced in the early nineties, I always felt like I should be better than my equipment (even if I had good bikes in my garage). It felt good to ride an old steel bike with worn out components and still be able to ride fast on club rides and win sprints. I often didn’t even take my newest bike to our local weekly time trial because I was cocky and thought it was better if I could win on a grease smeared beater with torn bar tape. I considered it to be an unspoken way of bragging to the older customers who spent a lot of money on bikes in the shop in which I worked. Cycling is about the engine, not the bike was definitely how I felt.

These days, cycling is something I do for myself. I am not even close to being the fastest guy in town, but my current fitness level doesn’t dictate my equipment choices. I have 9 bikes at this point because I enjoy each of them. Some are better than others, but there is something about each one that makes it worth keeping in my mind. If I could afford a 10,000 dollar road bike, I would probably use it for Sunday rides; not to show off, just because that is the only type of riding I do now. Maybe the 20 something year old version of me would have a problem with that, but the older version of me doesn’t really care. I say, ride what makes you happy, practical or not.

Alan said...

I've only recently discovered both BKW and BSNYC, and love them both. Fantastic interview.

gewilli said...

gary's correct but BKW and BSNYC ain't really blogs. they are internet short story sources. more like Maynard writing's on the back page in Winning.

These two transcend or go beyond what web logging is about. They are serials in the old classic sense.

Required reading most definitely.

Flipping AWESOME interview, both in questions asked and answers given.

Anonymous said...

awwww the end of the interview just melted my little heart

Anonymous said...

petition to get google maps to add a "bike there" option:

pass it on.

Matt Schulte said...

BSNYC is like the Maddox of the cycling world. I find pleasure reading about cycling bs just as much as the social bs found in Maddox-ian cynicism.

Anonymous said...

BSNYC reminds me of "Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, Freshly Updated."

Anonymous said...

Not to sound like an idiot, but isn't the adjectival form of 'Belgium' 'Belgian'? I mean, shouldn't it be Belgian Knee Warmers, or perhaps Belgium, Knee Warmers? Or maybe Belgium: Knee Warmers.

keithwwalker said...

Heaven would be NYC with better weather and less autos, somewhat like Park Ave. in this photo:

erik k said...

my two favorite blogs coming together, keep up the good work guys, Im glad you could see past BSNYC taunting people in full assos kits. haha

Anonymous said...

Amen in regards to closing the gap during a race. Remember the line from the original Shaft film:

Close it yourself, shorty!


Anonymous said...

when is the panel going to convene.
a bobkestrut-bkw-bsnyc threeway would be a glimpse of internet bike insight heaven that might make be unable to ever able to ride happily again like the monk and his heavenly music.

then again I would probably ride all the more often as we all know that to ride is as much about the ecstasy as it is about the agony.
this was a great pre-weekend/post ATOC/pre Paris-Nice reminder of all the rides and all the riders that have been in hiding all winter about to be unleased on the pavement in all their pro transgressions.

I'm sure that there are things that I am guilty of (riding too damn close seems to be the one that most people bitch about on rides) and work hard every day to be a more pro rider.

what about you?

Matt Boulanger said...

Anon 12:25

If you heard "close it yourself, shorty," you must have been watching Shaft on TV.

Yippee Ki-Yi-Yay Mr. Falcon.

Cyclocross Magazine said...

awesome interview. in our 2nd print issue ( BSNYC wrote a fun article about why 'cross has no danger of being too popular.

keep up the great content.

blue squirrel said...

damn it, as one of those that thought BSNYC was mean spirited and doing harm to those that actually pay for stuff [insert, keep our bike companies and shops going], i have to grudgingly admit i feel a bit of simpatico with him.

and yes, fill your own gaps [although it is smart racing to get someone to do it for you, LOL].

great job BKW and BSNYC.

p.s. are there any mountains in that version of cycling heaven? i vote for soCal with no cars.

Anonymous said...

Gary and Erik said it best - BKW and BSNYC are the cream of the blog crop, for sure. My two favs.

And Fletcher - it's not my opinion you're looking for, but I'd say Ksyrium E's are just fine for training. Its stuff like Boras or Lightweights...

bikesgonewild said...

...bkw meets bsnyc...awesome... defines just exactly what PRO is & the other lambastes the pretension of the PRO attitude while skewering pretty much anything else of a two wheel self PRO-pelled pedaling nature...

...checks & counter balances...just as it should be...omg, it's like a big karmic wheel...why, it's almost perfect !!!...

Radio Freddy said...

Anon - Ksyruims are the navy blazer equivalent for the Sunday group ride. Ride them, and ride them well. - RF

LK said...

BKW, I have never thanked you for your article on 'How to Wash Your Bicycle." Thank you.

As an american cyclist for some 30+ years it was the most useful information since some guy showed me how to change an inner tube. Which has proven more useful than the guy that taught me how to glue tires.

It may be the best unknown old-school knowledge.

As for cycling Heaven, NYC is too flat for me. I think of Bédoin.

Padraig said...

Mr. Complaint: Bedouin is a special place darkened by my favorite shadow.

All: Thanks for your comments; the interview was fun to do and your feedback has made for a fun piece of reading. Thanks even more for the kind words as there's nothing as good as a loyal readership.

Chunk said...

I just want to go on record as saying that "Blue Squirrel" dislikes the Bike Snob because of the snob's disdain for Power Cranks.

Blue Squirrel, while an all-round great guy to ride with, is an avid user of the Power Cranks.

Ari said...

I hope this weather breaks soon so we can all get out and make fools of ourselves again! My favorite is the freshly shaven legs with skin that resembles
chicken flesh.

Bluenoser said...

Classy interview. True on the whining, it goes on long after the race also. Kind of the poor loser pointing the finger thing.


Anonymous said...

"Ksyriums are the navy blazer equivalent for the Sunday group ride. Ride them, and ride them well. - RF"

"And Fletcher - it's not my opinion you're looking for, but I'd say Ksyrium E's are just fine for training. Its stuff like Boras or Lightweights..."

Noted and noted. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

BKW - you got it wrong on 2 points:
1) "and you aren’t likely to find a greater moral outrage over more minor infractions than on BSNYC."
The infractions BSNY draws attention to aren't minor - they're usually quite egregious.
2) "Don't show up in tube socks". Wrong - any ride where tubes socks are shunned is a ride I don't wanna join.

Hamfist said...

I thought this was a great interview, but don't agree with the equipment comment. You know, you want to show up at the Sunday am coffee ride with Lightweights, go for it. Its your 4 grand if the tool riding the fixie mid-pack goes OTB and takes you and your gucci wheels out. No skin off my back unless you take me down as well. I'm always a little suspicious of the 'gear police.' What do you care if i take my pull, exhibit good pack habits, bike control and am generally a good ride?

Unknown said...

Cycling in heaven? BSNYC must be thinking of Portland, Oregon.

Yeah, definitely.

j. dunn said...

An amazing interview. Finally someone to bring out a little humility, or...god forbid...humanity? in The Snob.

Anonymous said...

I had a brief moment of confusion there with the BSNYC Seal of Disapproval at the top of my BKW RSS feed. :)

Great interview.

Long live Bike Snob NYC!

(When my fiancee hears me giggling while on the computer, she often asks, 'Are you reading Bike Snob NYC again?' - if it's funny on the internet, chances are it's BSNYC!)

Unknown said...
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Garnet said...

Believe it or not, this was the post that started it all for me. When I linked to it from BSNYC last year, it was the first BKW post I'd ever read. I've been a loyal reader ever since, and my life, on and off the bike, has been all the better for it.

I'd forgotten how good this interview was, and what an interesting mind lies behind BSNYC's unflagging caustic wit. Keep the good stuff comin', guys!

Unknown said...

I dont believe in starting helmet wars but BSNYC said :

"Helmets have pretty much killed style in road cycling anyway. Not that I have anything against helmets, mind you, but let's be honest. Cycling looked better before helmets."

1. Look, helmets protect brains and possibly, even impotent, vegetative lifestyles post injury. Is style more important or, your or your kid's life?

2. They hide bad hair days. Also, Bjarne Riis never looked super beautiful minus the helmet.

3. You may say such homogenization of heads is cutting into what makes you YOU, but there are various styles of helmets you can get and wear today.

4. He needs to ask himself whether he's really a champion of practicality.

He was doing better in the rest of the interview.

Dan O said...

I'm a big fan of both blogs - BKW and BSNYC - and check 'em almost daily.

Of course, the styles are complete different and that's a good thing.

BKW and BSNYC are great at what they do. Don't change.

Mark said...

I read two blogs regularly....BKW and BSNYC...perfect together!

AGL said...

Since retiring from the bike shop ranks after almost 20 years, I find myself as obsessed with bikes and cycling as ever.

BKW perfectly captures my aspirations and nostalgia. BSNYC perfectly captures my snarky inner dialogue.
And of course HTATBL perfectly captures my sense of camaraderie.

Essential. Many thanks to you all. Keep the shiny side up, the rubber side down, and get as much rad as you can handle!

brettok said...

Bikesnob at least doesn't recycle posts from a year ago....

Zhivago said...

Hey Brettok, chill out. Some of us may not have seen this post the first time around. So it is quite nice to see it "recycled." Think of it as blog TIVO, if you don't like reruns, don't watch them.

Anonymous said...

"Helmets have pretty much killed style in road cycling anyway. Not that I have anything against helmets, mind you, but let's be honest. Cycling looked better before helmets."

Yeah cause we all know how cool we look in cycling caps, huh?

Anonymous said...

Brettok, this post is how I stumbled onto BSNYC. And, as the saying goes, the rest is history.

Still true to BKW--check it daily.