Thursday, March 15, 2012

Helmets Are Worthless

Ah ha! That woke up the trolls under the bridge, didn't it?

But let me be more specific. See, I was on a stroll this evening (the fastest form of bipedal locomotion you'll ever see outta this guy) and spied a gentleman riding a vintage 10-speed (translation for my younger readers: "classic steel, great for fixie conversion!") while wearing a Bell Biker.

Good grief, I can't even try to translate that for my younger readers. Heck, the Biker almost predates ME, and I remember when dirt was new. Just to further emphasize the age of this particular lid, the most informative link with the best photo that my Google-fu could conjure goes not to a cycling site but to the friggin' Smithsonian, where it's displayed like some pre-Columbian artifact of a lost tribe. "Their ceremonial garb was made almost entirely of brightly-colored polyester, and their decoratively striped socks extended almost to the knee."

Don't get me wrong. I like old stuff. But we're talking about a piece of protective gear that was first produced in 1975 and had maybe a 10-year run (somebody help me out... when did the V1 hit shelves?) If your helmet rolled off the assembly line during the presidency of Gerald Ford, it's doing you no good at all. Sure, these things started their life with a shell about as thick as my skull (and a weight to match), but after 37 years of ultraviolet radiation, ozone, and who knows what else, I'm guessing the foam has all the structural integrity of a stale marshmallow. Withstand a crash? The thing probably can't even withstand a sneeze.

I didn't stop the gent in his archaic noggin-topper because conversation with random strangers isn't my thing (and remember, I was afoot rather than ahweel), but for the benefit of my reader(s), here's what I would have said: Dude, seriously. That artifact is doing you no good. Donate it to a museum already. If you want a heavy, dorky looking, poorly ventilated helmet with an outdated retention system, just get a modern BMX helmet (like the Bell Faction modeled by that dork in the right column of this blog) and at least be a little safer about it.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Book Review: Old School Fatbikes

Recently took some time away from the bucolic hamlet of Des Moines (though that's no excuse for the paltry output of this blog lately) and came home with a copy of this paper-based information delivery device:

As you may have gleaned from January's blast of pretentious creative nonfiction, I went through a pretty obsessive cruiser phase once upon a time, so this book had me dead to rights before I even cracked the cover.

On the inside, I was pretty meh about the writing and the scholarship (having been spoiled by my own obsessive research on the topic back in the day and the insanely high standards set by one Jan Heine) but man, those photos. Everything from the 50s Schwinn DX proto-mountain-bikes through today's production-yet-still-alluring Electras up to one-off customs that would make the Orange County Chopper guys think about maybe trying a new line of work. Are these high-performance bikes? Maybe not. Do they have more style than an entire modern generic Trekspecializedgiant bike-shop-cum-Walmart? Uh, yeah.

The unfortunate side effect is that I'm now trolling Craigslist for a vintage cruiser to add to my collection, though I have neither the space, the cash, nor the reserve of spousal goodwill to take one on. Luckily, I've lost the taste for Schwinn's cantilever frame (despite waxing so poetic about it in my old essay) and now lust for the less-ubiquitous camel-back/twin-toptube style... with a two-speed kickback hub, if you please. Sometimes, being an obsessive bike geek can keep a fella out of trouble.