Wednesday, February 15, 2012

This Is Evolution? Take Me Back to My Cave, Then.

I don't mean to sound like some kind of Stevil Knievel rock and roll retro grouch railing against disc brakes on cross bikes or belt drives, but one has to draw the fucking line somewhere. Which leads me to ask, what the fuck is this thing?
Let's see: it's a recumbent unicycle with another wheel tacked on? A really unsafe, ugly bar stool from Sonny and Cher's honeymoon palace? Why no, it's the "Evolution Bike" by Roel Verhagen Kaptein, a Dutch "industrial designer" who's clearly way too into design for it's own sake.

Of course, it's some kind of ridiculously complex internally geared automatic variable front hub transmission nightmare. Click on the photo for hilarious explanation. As far as I can tell, the key is "the rotating balls tilt." Whereas this truism has caused many a hernia, apparently tilting balls is a good thing with Roel's better mousetrap. Haven't studied the diagram too hard, but I'm wondering if there's some kind of clutch mechanism to allow one to coast, or is it all shifty-shift shit, forward we go? Who knows?

The best part about riding Roel's bitchin' barstool?
"No messy chain."

I realize that people are always going to try to build a better mousetrap, even if the old style snap trap and a scoop of peanut butter will still kill every mouse in the house. I'll even admit to have recently ridden a two speed kickback, freewheel, belt drive Spot street bike which I found strangely awesome and at least half fun. But seriously: what is it with you design school shitheads that's so goddamned afraid of getting your pant leg, or--God forbid, your hands--dirty? Please, explain the horror of the "messy chain" one more time. It's like the Blair Witch Project of bike parts...purportedly horrifying, yet, when you really come up against it, not too freaky at all. A little sticky, sure, but not all that horrifying.

Reminds me of a story. I was riding what I consider my first "road bike." This was like, 5 years ago. If that. What can I say? I never really cottoned on to the whole lycra thing.Said "road bike" was second hand Cannondale--actually a hybrid frame of some sort, and, though it was a touch too small, it was US made and a fun ride. It set it up with mountain bike riser bars, a triple, and my first set of 23s. Oh, and flat pedals. (Go ahead and tease me...I realize for "real roadies" the aforementioned set-up is definitely on the "fat girls and mopeds" side of things.) Though for me, it helped me discover the joys of just getting out there and riding roads--paved ones--for hours, without jumping curb cuts, kicking out on trash cans, or wall-riding, and popping only the occasional wheelie.

One day, while out on Skyline toward Daly City/Pacifica, I encountered a fully kitted-up Lycra warrior on a titanium Seven. He had on the full Seven kit with shoe covers, and though I didn't inspect his machine too closely--I first saw him as he was dropping me like a bad habit on a climb--he was probably running a full Campy Super Record set up. You know--that type of dude. The weekending dentist as Conquering Invader. The "if I can afford it, it must be what I need" kind of guy.

We swapped the alpha postion a few times--he'd pass me going up, I'd pass him going down. (If there's one thing I've learned pushing pedals, it's to let your beer belly work for you.) As I came over the crest of a hill, I saw Tour de Pac Heights stopped up ahead with a mechanical of some sort. He was staring with consternation at his bike around the cranks/bottom bracket/front derailleur area. Keep in mind, I had an unobstructed view of this guy for 60 yards as I approached. Being somewhat handy with a wrench, and not so small-minded and petty as my lead-in might have you believe, I slowed down to see if he needed assistance. Right as I was about to stop, I noticed his chain has overshifted off the front ring, and he was pulling latex gloves out of his underseat bag. He had to put on latex gloves before he could put his chain back on.

Damn you, Messy Chain! I will not deign to touch you with my delicate phalanges. I just had my hands re-palmed in fine Corinthian leather.

The horror!

Just think, Mr. Seven, now you can avoid that revolting entity altogether and evolve, as Roel Verhagen Kaptein has got you covered. Calling this thing a bicycle is like calling a Razor scooter a skateboard. No wonder they couldn't photoshop actual people (actual virtual people) into the concept illustrations, just oversized maquettes:
That's the only way I can envision riding one of these: if you're made out of wood and have no eyes with which to see your own shame. He actually made one, and yet, still no photos of anyone riding or even sitting on the thing:
What the bike world, and the world in general, needs is products designed by people who are end users of similar products. You know what I mean? Like, don't design motorcycle suspension if you don't ride motorcycles. Don't design blenders if you don't like smoothies. Don't brew beer if you don't drink it. Pretty straightforward, to my way of thinking. Yet the cycling industry (eww...I just threw up in my mouth a little) is full of pretentiously pretty design school bullshit that doesn't actually work. I'm not against hydraulic road brakes or belt drives because they're not reinventing the wheel--they're just options. Insofar as they're actually functional.

Bicycles didn't spring fully formed from Zeus's head: there's a reason they look the way they do. Sure, they're going to keep changing, but they're not going to "evolve" into recumbent unicycles overnight because a Dutch design student and an anal retentive roadie don't like "messy chains." At least they shouldn't. Fuck, I don't think I've ever crossed my fingers this tightly.

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