Monday, September 26, 2016

What's all this about "manginal gains?"

Just in case you haven't been following the sport of professional cycling (and really, who could blame you if you haven't?), recently a Russian hacking outfit by the name of "Fancy Bear" (not to be confused with "Bear Fancy," a magazine geared towards those who appreciate hirsute men) released a bunch of information about Team Sky.  Specifically, it seems their biggest riders, Bradley (or "Stanley" if you prefer) Wiggins and Chris Froome, have been receiving various suspiciously convenient TUEs (special dispensation to used banned substances) over the years, and Wiggins in particular comes out of this looking quite bad:

Those who grew tired of Team Sky's 'marginal gains' mantra will have read with a certain degree of irony as leaks from the Fancy Bears cyber-hacking group spread over the internet. Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, two of the most successful riders in recent years, were revealed as recipients of Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs), and while they did not break any rules, the leak posed several important questions for Team Sky.

Basically, Wiggins, an ostensible asthmatic (like much of the pro peloton conveniently and hilariously claims to be), has said he never took any injections apart from vaccinations:

Well before Fancy Bears' disclosure Wiggins had gone on record in his 2012 Autobiography 'My Time' stating that his only ever injections were for "my vaccinations" and "drips." More important for Team Sky was the fact that it had said that it would pull any rider from a race if he was suffering from allergies, rather than apply for a TUE. That was in 2013, when Dr. Steve Peters had told David Walsh, "We agreed as a team that if a rider, suffering from asthma, got into trouble with pollen we would pull him out of the race rather than apply for a therapeutic use exemption on his behalf."

When in reality he was getting corticoid steroid shots right before the Grand Tours:

The timing of the application for the second set of TUEs has also raised eyebrows within the cycling community, with two leading experts and one of Wiggins' previous team doctors, Prentice Steffen, questioning the necessity of needing the steroid in the build-up to major races. The TUEs were applied for and administered by Team Sky just days before Wiggins' Grand Tour challenges at the Tour in 2011, 2012 and the Giro d'Italia in 2013. He went on to win the Tour in 2012, but crashed out of the 2011 Tour and abandoned in Italy.


Further to this, Bradley Wiggins took to the airwaves this past weekend to explain to the BBC that somehow he received no undue benefits from taking a powerful performance enhancer on the eve of a three-week Grand Tour he then went on to win:

This is the furrowed brow and pointy index finger of a man in the midst of spinning a massive lie:

("Would you excuse me for a moment?  It would appear that my trousers have caught fire.")

And this is the current state of pro cycling drug excuses:

"When you win the race three weeks out from the Tour de France, as I did, you're the favourite for the Tour.

"(And) you have the medical team and coaches checking everything's OK - 'Bradley, you're on track here, you're the favourite to win this race, now we need to make sure the next three weeks... is there anything we can help with at the moment?'

"(I say) 'Well, I'm still struggling with this breathing, I know it didn't look like it but is there anything else you can do just to make sure that I don't, this doesn't become an issue into a three-week race at the height of the season?'

"And, in turn, I took that medical advice (to take triamcinolone)."

So in other words, Wiggins and his team worked out a way to game the system in order to keep his performance consistent over the course of a three-week bicycle race, which is pretty much the equivalent of this:

"OK, Bradley, you're on track to remaining very rich for a long time.  Is there anything we can help you with at the moment?"

"Well, I'm still having to pay taxes.  Is there a way the amount of money in my bank account could stay the same come tax time?"

And, in turn, I took their advice to open a shell corporation on the Caribbean island of Nevis.

Sure, technically speaking neither of these things may be 100% illegal, but they're certainly deceitful and underhanded.  Plus, he even evokes the old "level playing field" explanation while simultaneously denying the injections enhanced his performance:

When asked about the possible performance enhancing qualities of triamcinolone, Wiggins avoided giving a direct answer, instead pointing out the abuse of the drug by Millar and Rasmussen, who have criticised his use of the drug via a TUE in recent days.

“They were abusing that drug in that era,” Wiggins claimed. “[They were taking] more of it, and abusing it, and – and this was to cure a medical condition. And the governing body, the World Anti Doping Agency, everyone said this wasn’t about trying to find a way to gain an unfair advantage, this was about putting myself back on a level playing field in order to compete at the highest level.”

The "level playing field" analogy really needs to be retired at this point.  The whole point of bike racing is that it's not a level playing field.  You've got mountains, bumpy roads, and a whole bunch of asthmatics with completely different abilities.  If you're a wheezy suck-ass with a penchant for Fred Perry shirts and you've got to "level the playing field" with someone who climbs better than you by taking a known performance enhancer then you may need to confront the fact that you're a cheater--which obviously he knows because he's only admitting to it now that the editors of "Bear Fancy" have called him on it.

So let's take a moment to consider the real victims here--no, not the fans, you'd have to be an idiot to be a fan of pro cycling in 2016.  No, the real victims are the cycling journalists.  Imagine having to cover the exploits of these riders year after year and craft these heroic narratives for them, and on top of that to have to write excitedly about the debut of some new plastic bike or new component as though it were the key to their performance.  It must be like writing for "Catholic Digest" and having to pretend the whole religion isn't a front for child molestation.

Anyway, given that there's absolutely nothing inspirational, life-affirming or even remotely plausible to be gleaned from pro cycling (or indeed any sport), I'm now only following cycling-as-political-statement:

Five hundred nuns from the Buddhist sect known as the Drukpa Order, on Saturday complete a 4,000-km (2,485 mile) bicycle trek from Nepal's Kathmandu to the northern city of Leh in India to raise awareness about human trafficking in the remote region.

"When we were doing relief work in Nepal after the earthquakes last year, we heard how girls from poor families were being sold because their parents could not afford to keep them anymore," 22-year-old nun Jigme Konchok Lhamo told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"We wanted to do something to change this attitude that girls are less than boys and that it's okay to sell them," she said, adding that the bicycle trek shows "women have power and strength like men."

Firstly, that's an amazing picture, and let's look at it again:

They look like they should be portaging R2-D2:

Secondly, just imagine how much more powerful their statement would have been had they had access to state-of-the-art gravel bikes like the ones shown recently at Interbike:

I have to admit didn't really watch this because if I hear the phrase "gravel bike" one more time I'm gonna puke.  We should just start calling bikes with decent tire clearance and braze-ons "bikes" and those skinny-tired things that the dopers ride should simply be retired.

Anyway, in addition to gravel bike mania, it seems that the automatic transmission has finally come to bicycles:

The ProShift from Baron Controls will auto-shift any electronic drivetrain on the market, whether connecting to it with a wire or Bluetooth.

Horrified, I went to their website to learn more, and if your first thought upon seeing a system that shifts for you is "It's gotta be for triathletes" then of course you are correct:

The only group of people in the world who seem more averse to riding bicycles than triathletes are people who freak out over Citi Bike at community board meetings.

In case you were wondering, this thing costs $799.  I mean, if you hate shifting so much, just buy a cheap fixie off Bikesdirect and pocket the rest.

And of course we're not done sticking gratuitous electronic devices on stuff that doesn't need them, either.  Smart helmets, smart locks, and now, thanks to these little sensors, every single component and accessory has the ability to tell you that you suck:

The collected data is quite extensive, capturing not just how the rider pedals but even how much time they spend rocking the bike side to side:

It will also tell you how many cats you'll have and how long it will take your neighbors to find your body when you die alone.

The exception of course are pro cyclists, who live lives of glamor (until their inevitable fall from grace) and who get to sit next to movie stars:
You have to feel bad for Uma Thurman, who was no doubt rather unnerved to be seated next to a creature who is more hair product than man:

(NSFW, probably.)

Though I suppose it could have been worse:

That's the stuff of nightmares.

Friday, September 23, 2016

I give you permission to begin your weekend just as soon as you've finished reading this Citi Bike guest post. You're welcome.

That's right, today's post is over on the Citi Bike blog, so wrangle that tank of a bike from the dock, mount up, and let's go!

(Click on the link above, or on the picture, or here.)

By the way, this post cost the hardworking SUV owners of Brooklyn a tiny handful of parking spaces, so in your face, suckers!

Before his brain explodes someone should remind him his property values have risen by a like a factor of 20 thanks in no small part to all these infrastructure improvements.

Anyway, see you Monday!


--Wildcat Rock Machine

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Helmets--Oh Yeah, We're Going There!

Yeah, I know.  On the list of fun topics to discuss, helmets rank right in between politics and anal warts.  But don't blame me, because the media started it:

(Which is why pro cyclist injuries and deaths declined so steeply after the UCI instituted a helmet rule in 2003.  Oh, wait...)

A major study of bike helmet use around the world from more than 64,000 cyclists has found helmets reduce the risks of a serious head injury by nearly 70%.

The study also found neck injuries are not associated with helmet use and cyclists who wear helmets reduce their chance of a fatal head injury by 65%.

Wow.  Sounds conclusive, right?  Well, not so fast:

The compulsory wearing of bike helmets in Australia has long been a source of frustration for some cyclists, who argue it reduces participation rates. Previous studies have indicated helmet use encourages risk-taking behaviour or does not reduce serious injury to the brain.

But a comprehensive review by Australian statisticians Jake Olivier and Prudence Creighton from the University of New South Wales that drew together data from more than 40 separate studies found helmet use was associated with dramatically reduced odds of head injuries.


New South Wales, Australia!?!


In case you forgot, New South Wales is the possibly the most bike-hostile place in the world:

Gay, a member of the junior party in the Liberal-National coalition, is minister for roads for New South Wales, and has described himself as “the biggest bike-lane sceptic in the government”. The NSW government is about to get rid of a much-loved and much-used AU$5m (£2.4m) protected cycleway in Sydney’s city centre – a move Clover Moore, lord mayor of Sydney since 2004, describes as “a shocking breach of trust”.

And recently raised all of its bicycling-related fines into the stratosphere:

And that's not including the fine for not carrying ID while cycling, presumably so they can make sure all those other charges stick and you don't give them a fake name like "Mike Hunt" or "Flavius Scranus" in order to dodge the fine.

So yeah, I'm going to look askance at any research paper that comes from a place where the fine for not wearing a plastic hat is over $300--and doubly so when it's presented at a Finnish safety meeting:

The findings were presented in Finland this week at Safety 2016, the world conference on injury prevention and safety promotion.

Which sounds a lot like a euphemism to me:

Plus, what kind of safety conference has a ferris wheel?

Those things are dangerous!

Okay, well actually the ferris wheel Freds say they're not dangerous.  They probably just seem like they're more dangerous than they are to people who don't know anything about them--you know, like bicycles.  That's why I always wear a helmet when I go to the amusement park.

And while I'm striving for accuracy, I suppose it's not entirely scientific to deride a study just because it comes from a certain antipodean state with an anti-bike bias, or because I find the alliterative juxtaposition of Finnish safety meetings and ferris wheels to be conveniently amusing.  We need to look at the actual study, right?  Well sadly I can't, because it's behind a paywall and I'm not made of money over here (I'm made of high-modulus carbon fiber), so for the purposes of this blog we'll have to settle for the abstract:

Methods: Four electronic databases (MEDLINE, EMBASE, COMPENDEX and SCOPUS) were searched for relevant, peer-reviewed articles in English. Included studies reported medically diagnosed head, face and neck injuries where helmet use was known. Non-approved helmets were excluded where possible. Summary odds ratios (OR) were obtained using multivariate meta-regression models stratified by injury type and severity. Time trends and publication bias were assessed.

Okay, so they looked at a bunch of injured cyclists in various places--or, more accurately, articles and data about injured cyclists that other people have already collected and interpreted.  Now, how is it even possible to draw new conclusions about any of this data if you don't even know the total number of helmeted versus unhelmeted cyclists riding around out there in the general population?  And what were the circumstances that led to these injuries in the first place?  Isn't it possible the head injury odds they're presenting really just amount to statistical noise?

Well, maybe yes and maybe no.  But the danger here isn't the idea that helmets may offer you some additional protection from injury, which frankly sounds pretty reasonable to me, and which is why I wear them sometimes.  The danger is that these sorts of studies lead to conclusions like this:

Conclusions: Bicycle helmet use was associated with reduced odds of head injury, serious head injury, facial injury and fatal head injury. The reduction was greater for serious or fatal head injury. Neck injury was rare and not associated with helmet use. These results support the use of strategies to increase the uptake of bicycle helmets as part of a comprehensive cycling safety plan.

Funny how the conclusion is never  "make conditions safer for cyclists," isn't it?  But wait, actually it is--in an earlier paper about bicycle-related head injury trends in New South Wales, co-written by Jake Olivier, one of the very people behind this most recent study.  Indeed, in this earlier paper (WARNING: PDF) there's a graph showing a decline in head injuries--after increased cycling infrastructure:

The conclusion?  New South Wales needs more infrastructure development:
Not only that, but the paper also warns of the dangers of "meta-analyses" (which is what the most recent study is) and says that such studies can be biased when they relate to legislation:

"Results from mata-analyses should be interpreted with caution since ultimately, they are analyses of statistical studies rather than a large statistical study in itself and sample bias will always be present regardless of who is carrying out the analysis, particularly when it is related to a political agenda or legislation."

Yet this is exactly what this most recent study is--a meta-analysis being used in support of mandatory helmet laws:

The researchers cautioned that helmets were not a “panacea for cycling injury” and did not eliminate head or face injuries or offer protection to other parts of cyclists’ bodies. But it does make the case more difficult for those who oppose mandatory helmet wearing, they said.

“The legislation of mandatory helmets for cyclists is a controversial topic and past research on its effectiveness has been somewhat mixed,” the study said. “Irrespective of past research, the results of this review do not support arguments against helmet legislation from an injury prevention perspective.”

So sorry, but based on the researcher's own caveats in an earlier paper, I ain't buying it--nor do I understand why so many people pretend there aren't cities on Earth where people cycle safely in huge numbers and that helmets have absolutely fuck-all to do with it.

Instead of passing dumb laws and clobbering people with massive fines and presenting the media with dubious studies all we need to do is copy the cities where cycling actually works and that's that.

Speaking of helmets, in yesterday's post I featured the rider who commenter "bad boy of the north" subsequently dubbed "The Narwhal:"

(Thanks again for the photos, Aaron.)

And I was delighted to see that the Narwhal himself left a comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey! That's me - the narwhal.

I have a rearview camera under my seat that Bluetooths to my tablet on the selfie stick.

It works like a rearview mirror and record my rides from behind.

Thanks for making me famous, Bikesknob!

September 21, 2016 at 2:14 PM 

Though after reading it I have to admit I was even more confused.  After all, with any number of video recorders available out there in the marketplace--not to mention good old-fashioned analog rearview mirrors--one wonders why you'd endanger yourself and others by taping a golf club onto your head. 

But hey, he's wearing a helmet, so clearly he's 70% safer than I am!*

*(No offense to the narwhal by the way, I support whatever it is you're doing, and you make the world--or at least the Williamsburg Bridge--a far more entertaining place.)

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Indignity of Commuting by Bicycle: The Cat 6-ing of a Lifetime

The coming of autumn means many things: kids go back to school, adults who still go to school go back to school also, the cyclocross dorks start futzing with their tire pressure in earnest...

More significant than any of these though is that as autumn approaches the Cat 6 racing season begins its crescendo.  See, once the weather becomes uncomfortably cold (and for the typical Cat 6 that's anything below like 60 degrees American) many of these riders hang up their out-of-true wheels for the winter.  This means the months of September and October represent their last chance at Cat 6 glory.  Once you factor in weekends, Jewish holidays, etc., the race days are scarce, so you can believe me when I tell you they're out there doing their very best to stuff their ill-fitting Chrome bags full of "wins" before scarf weather is upon us.

I of course am no exception, and yesterday I commuted by bike to Brooklyn and back, which from my abode in the far reaches of the northern Bronx is the Cat 6 equivalent of a brevet.  Leaving my home, I knew the racing action was going to be intense, but I didn't appreciate just how intense until I reached the midtown stretch of the Hudson River Greenway.

The light turns red.  I stop.  With the light in their favor, waves of tourists begin crossing the Greenway and filling the crosswalk in order to board one of those stupid Circle Line sightseeing boats.  Now, the tourists have the right of way, but this means nothing to a pair of oncoming Uber-Freds locked in mortal combat.  The first Fred is wearing full Team Sky kit.  Of course, the only thing worse than wearing full pro team kit is wearing full team kit but riding a bike from a company that doesn't sponsor that team, and naturally this rider is flagrantly guilty of this violation.  (He's riding a plastic BMC or something like that.)

On this Fred's wheel is an even Fredlier specimen (if that's even possible) wearing a pair of LiveStrong Oakleys and a RAGBRAI jersey, which was so breathtakingly Fredly I didn't even have the wherewithal to take in the rest of his wardrobe or equipment.

Anyway, the crosswalk is really filling up with tourists now--tourists who (and I can't stress this enough) fully and unambiguously have the right of way.  With morbid curiosity I watch, wondering just how the Freds are going to handle the situation.  Is Sky Fred going to lock up the brakes on his BMC and get rear-ended by RAGBRAI Fred?  Will those black-and-yellow optics then fly off his face and describe an arc through the azure late summer sky against the noble and inspiring background of the USS Intrepid?  Would the air then be full of the sweet, crunchy music of breaking crabon?

Sadly, no.  Instead, the Freds just keep right on going through the light and the crosswalk without so much as slowing down, like the pair of complete douchenozzles they were.

But these Frediotic exploits were merely a prelude to my return trip, where I received the Cat 6-ing of a lifetime from a true master of the discipline.

In the sport of New York City commuter racing, the East River crossings represent the hors cat├ęgorie climbs, and the approach to the Manhattan Bridge from the Brooklyn side is arguably the most technical and thus rewards the rider with some off-road skills.  See, there's the sweeping paved path that runs along the graffitoed wall, but there's also a dirt shortcut that runs straight up the grassy embankment:

You can see it more clearly in this aerial view:

As I made my approach to the bridge I knew this was the moment that would make or break my entire commute.  Sure, I could have saved precious seconds by scampering up the dirt path, but instead I stuck to the roadway:

This was because I was not riding a proper gravel bike, nor had I optimized my tire pressure for dirt, and a crash at this crucial juncture would put paid to my chances once and for all.

However, Cat 6 racing is not a discipline that rewards the meek, and the rider ahead of me--on a Citi Bike no less--had no such concerns.  Instead, he attacked the dirt shortcut harder than Chris Froome hits an asthma inhaler:

I thought for sure that there was no way he'd get that 50-pound corporate-branded beast up the hill, but to my utter surprise he appeared at the top just as I rounded the bend, thus setting off a Cat 6 explosion of atomic proportions:

Getting Cat 6--ed is a lot like sharing a subway car with a pervert: at first you try to convince yourself it's not happening, but sooner or later it becomes undeniable and you're forced to confront the horrible truth of what's happening.  On the subway this happens when the genitals make their first appearance, and on the bridge it happens when you realize the unmistakable sound of the Citi Bike drivetrain right on your wheel is simply not going away:

Note he's also got a rider right behind him, which means you're now looking at the podium, but which step each rider would occupy is anybody's guess at this point:

Now I should point out that, hyperbolized prose notwithstanding, my participation in this "race" was completely involuntary.  Furthermore, I wasn't exactly putting in a great deal of effort.  Nevertheless, as annoyed as I was I couldn't help being impressed that this guy was managing to stay on my wheel, and after some consideration I decided it had to be the flip-flops:

See, it was pretty hot out, and he was running cool, whereas my middle-aged guy sneakers were no doubt causing me to overheat slightly:

Whatever it was, by the time we reached the "summit" I'd grown annoyed enough at his close proximity to my rear fender that I was seriously considering breaking the unwritten Cat 6 rule by saying something to him, but cunningly it was at that moment he attacked and gapped me like a spark plug:

Then, using the considerable gravitational advantage of his Citi Bike, he disappeared completely leaving me to wallow in my shame--which I did until I reached the Manhattan side, and abandoned my shame in order to contemplate this:

I don't know what he was about to do on that thing, but it was clear I was leaving the bridge just in time, and I was relieved to finally reach the northern precincts of the city where life makes a little more sense:

Speaking of bridges, the Williamsburg Bridge is even more...vibrant than the Manhattan, and I received an email this morning from a reader named Aaron who spotted a rider there with a selfie stick taped to his helmet:

(Photos by Aaron, I'm assuming it's OK to use them.)

I don't know what he's doing:

But I sincerely hope whatever it is gets uploaded to YouTube very soon.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

So what the hell does "25 or 6 to 4" mean anyway?

When it comes to urban cycling, there is no greater authority than Bicycling, a periodical based in a Pennsylvania town of just over 11,000 people.  Once again, Fred-dom's magazine of record has announced the winner of its biennial "Kiss of Death" awards, and this year the hex falls upon Chicago:

In April, shortly after his re-election, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Chicago would build 50 miles of bikeways—many of them physically separated from motor vehicles—over the next three years. Such proclamations can come easily (and cheaply) to the lips of politicians, but during his first term in 2015, Emanuel made good on a promise to build 100 miles of buffered and protected bike lanes. “Those initial 100 miles of bike lanes cost just $12 million,” says Jim Merrell, advocacy director for the Active Transportation Alliance. “That highlights the cost effectiveness of transformative transportation projects like these.”

I'm very sorry you, Chicago.  Sure, you might be reveling in victory now, but what you have to understand is this whole ranking system is cursed.  See, back in 2014 we were "Number One," and since then bike fatalities have increased and it's basically all gone to hell:

New York City motorists have now killed 16 cyclists this year, compared to 14 cyclist fatalities in all of 2015, according to city crash data. After yesterday’s crash, Transportation Alternatives called on Mayor de Blasio to pick up the pace of Vision Zero safety improvements.

And of course we succeeded Portland, which was Bicycling's top cycling city in 2012, and which subsequently entered into a period of "biking stagnation" and increased automobile congestion:

(Most Portlanders drive alone because nobody can stand their company.)

Indeed, Portland does seem to be rebounding, what with the opening of Tilikum Crossing (oh, grow up) and the debut of the BIKETOWN bike share program, but it sure took them awhile and I would imagine the Portland smugerati are under strict orders to eject any Bicycling scouts to Vancouver, WA lest their city once again wind up on the top of this ill-fated list.

As for my quiet little hamlet, we're now sitting at number four:

This is a bit irksome--not because we deserve to be ranked higher (we don't), but because of the reasoning behind it:

One reason New York dropped out of the top spot is that the city has had a "really rough year" enforcing good behavior from both cyclists and motorists, Strickland said. New York also needs to do more to build protected lanes, he said.

Whoa.  I hope the Tribune is twisting his words, because if anything the NYPD does too much to "enforce good behavior from cyclists."  After all, this is the police force that ticketed people on bikes after cyclist Matthew von Ohlen was killed in a hit-and-run.  (By the way, the NYPD found the car that killed von Ohlen but there hasn't been a peep about it since, leading to widespread speculation that the driver may have been a cop.)

As for enforcing good behavior from motorists, I certainly agree with him there, which is the primary reason I was outraged when we hit number one in the first place.  Frankly, the NYPD's behavior should have been more than enough to preclude us from ever reaching the top spot of any "best bike city" list ever.  Then again, maybe making us number one and then knocking us down to number four sends a stronger message than never making us number one in the first place, so perhaps we should be thanking them.

I dunno, it seems to me that Bicycling should just review cities like they review bikes:

New York City

Buy It If: You enjoy riding in protected bike lanes through neighborhoods you can't afford.

Forget It If: You want your friends, family and loved ones to get justice in the event of your death.

Anyway, congratulations Chicago, and I'm sacrificing a chicken now on your behalf in an attempt to spare you from two years under the dreaded "Best Bike City" curse.

In other news, if you've ever had a bicycle shipped to your home you may have noticed that it's not always handled with the utmost care.  For example, when I received my Ritte some years ago, I was so excited that after buzzing the delivery person into the building I waited for him in the hall, only to see a bike box come flying out of the elevator.  So leave it to those clever Dutch to figure out a solution:

“No matter who was doing the shipping, too many of our bikes arrived looking like they’d been through a metal-munching combine harvester. It was getting expensive for us, and bloody annoying for our customers,” creative director Bex Rad wrote on the company’s blog.

“Earlier this year our co-founder Ties had a flash of genius. Our boxes are about the same size as a (really really reaaaally massive) flatscreen television. Flatscreen televisions always arrive in perfect condition. What if we just printed a flatscreen television on the side of our boxes?

“And just like that, shipping damage to our bikes dropped by 70–80%.”

This makes sense, since the only consumer good we revere as much as the car is the TV.

Monday, September 19, 2016

A brief look at who's disrupting what and how.

We've seen some indispensable innovation in recent years when it comes to the sporting bicycle.  For example, before electronic shifting, you had to press a button in order to change gears.  Crazy, right?!?  Well, things are much easier today.  Now all you have to do is press a button.

Sadly, water bottle cage development has not kept pace with the relentless pace of bicycle product development--until now.  Meet the Fabric cageless water bottle mount, the system nobody asked for and nobody will want now that it's here:

Yes, say goodbye to the arduous days of simply grabbing a bottle, taking a swig of your beverage of choice, and returning it to the frame of your bicycle without so much as shifting your gaze from the road.  Now you've got to line your bottle up perfectly with a pair of mounting studs:

In either case, the bottle is easy to grab with one hand, just as you would with a normal bottle and cage. The return trip is bit tricky, however, and takes some getting used to. We struggled to get the bottle back on the studs without looking down each time, even after several weeks of using the system.

Sounds great!  In fact, I just installed new smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on my ceiling over the weekend, and interestingly this appears to utilize the exact same mounting system.  And sure, I don't mind doing that once every ten years, but having to deal with a pair of mounting studs every time I want to take a sip of water is patently ridiculous.  Just ask ace bottle marksman Mario Cipollini:

("Yes, is very silly design.  In la casa di Cipollini, stud mount you!")

And there you have it.

By the way, they didn't just screw up the mounting system.  The bottle itself is also designed to choke you:

The lid secures tightly to the bottle and the nozzle opens and closes by pushing or pulling up on it. Inside the nozzle is a soft silicon flow fitting that regulates the flow of water in and out of the bottle. On one of our bottles, this piece detached from the nozzle and we nearly swallowed it mid-gulp. It’s tough to get this piece securely back in place so we had to replace the lid with a new one to keep the bottle functioning properly.

So basically if you don't crash trying to put your bottle back then you'll certainly go down when that chunk of silicon gets lodged in your esophagus--all to save like 30 grams!  Perhaps this is part of a conspiracy to rid the cycling world of Freds and weight weenies once and for all--though ostensibly it's also useful for cyclocross:

We found the cageless design to be especially useful for cyclocross practice and racing when we wanted to carry a bottle with us on warm-up laps but didn’t want to race with a cage. Instead of installing and removing a normal water bottle cage for each race, Fabric’s cageless system allowed us to carry the bottle when we wanted it and then remove it on the start line, leaving plenty of room in the bike’s front triangle for shouldering our bike.

Back when I was riding the cyclocross we used to just stick a bottle in our jersey pockets--or, you know, live life on the edge by riding our 10-minute warm-up laps without carrying water with us.  (And yes, of course true Cyclocross Freds wear skinsuits without big pockets, but you're supposed to wear a regular jersey over them while warming up, I mean come on.)

And the lowly water bottle cage isn't the only commonplace item being "disrupted" into oblivion.  Now you can also help fund a 40-function hooded sweatshirt!

Rest assured at least a small handful of these functions are cycling-specific.  Fore example, it emits an ambiguous neon halo around your head that does nothing to communicate which direction you're traveling in:

It also has turn signals for drivers to ignore:

Which double as warning lights when you're on foot so you don't get hit by one of those pesky cyclists:

Then there's the armpit ventilation system, which I'm assuming is bicycle specific since he's wearing a helmet, though maybe the sorts of people who wear "smart jackets" also wear helmets while running:

For best results, pair with some "smart pants" featuring a similar crotchal ventilation system.

Or, if you decide "fuck bikes" and hop in an Uber instead, it's equipped with both a neck pillow:

And a sleep shade:

Really, the only thing it's missing is an airbag:

A video posted by abc3d (@abc3d_) on

Though it does work as a TV remote control, so there you go:

Lastly, here's a new video from Specialized explaining their new Fred bike suspension system:

Hey, whatever happened to that new suspension stem on Kickstarter?

Looks like a feasting insect.