Turns out, the “Bike Snob” is anything but.
For more than two years, the Snob, the alter-ego of Kensington resident Eben Weiss, hid behind a blogger’s anonymity, making biting observations of the bike scene while also poking fun at its sometimes-elitist and always-insular culture.
Now, with a new attitude — oh, and a book that he’s trying to sell — Weiss has a mission: to “systematically and mercilessly realign the world of cycling” and bring it into the mainstream.
To achieve this goal, Weiss’s book, “Bike Snob,” offers two sections that will be of great interest to any rider familiar with Brooklyn’s mean streets: a survival guide for coping with careless drivers, as well as a run-down of all types of bike riders, from hipsters on fixies to meatheads on tricked-out racing bikes.
In the helpful section, “Why is everyone trying to kill me?” Weiss delves into the terrifying experience of riding a bike in the city, offering some clever words of caution — namely how to best cope with road rage while being stuck on an exceptionally vulnerable vehicle.
“As much as I hate, ‘Get out of the road!’ ” Weiss writes, “I’d rather have someone yell that at me than have someone almost kill me because he didn’t even know I was there. At least being yelled at means I matter.”
The Bike Snob is filled with such pragmatic advice. Indeed, I ended up on the wrong end of the Snob’s razor-sharp wit when I attempted to justify riding against traffic in Prospect Park as a shortcut — or “bike salmon” as Weiss calls it.
“Why not ride around the park [with traffic]? It’s a beautiful day! Or ride in the street!” Weiss fired back. “All is chaos if you salmon. You see cars drive through the park — they don’t drive against traffic. They don’t complain, ‘Oh, what am I supposed to do, drive around the whole park?’ ”
Aside from that one eviscerating takedown, Weiss was quite agreeable — not elitist in the least. In fact, I was relieved to hear him say I didn’t even fit into any of the categories of cyclists that he defines in his book.
But one of the species of cyclists he examines was on display in Prospect Park the day we went for a ride: the “Contraption Captains,” who mount odd variations of the bicycle in which they lean back and pedal in front of them.
“[The bike] places the rider in an odd position with his feet kicking at the air like he’s defending himself from an attacking eagle,” he said.
Weiss similarly characterizes another familiar cycling sight — the “Urban Cyclist” who generally dwells in Williamsburg. As Weiss describes them: “The Urban Cyclist is one of the very few groups of cyclists among whom cigarette smoking is not acceptable, but considered ‘cool,’ which is sort of like being really into performance cars but driving around with rags shoved up your tailpipe.”
For now, Weiss’s goal is to demystify bike riding, but it was only last month that the Bike Snob emerged from the shadows himself.
“It gets gimmicky after a while — being the anonymous, wiseass blogger,” said Weiss. “It was great in the beginning, because I could just write and people wouldn’t picture the author. They could enjoy it more — it spoke for itself.”
But now Weiss’s witty take on the bike world has been put in book form and he’ll be hopscotching around the country to promote it. And after that come the inevitable charges that he has sold out.
“Are you kidding? Look at me! I have no money! How could I have sold out?” Weiss said.
But his audience is poised to grow substantially from his mostly hardcore cyclist readership — the type of reader who isn’t bored out of his mind watching more than 10 minutes of the Tour de France, or who doesn’t see anything unreasonable in donning those weird, advertisement-covered tights before taking a spin.
Weiss is no longer speaking just to them — but he is one of them, just look at his resume.
He’s ridden with Lance Armstrong. He participates in cyclocross races, in which a racer will pick up his or her bike and haul it over rough terrain. He writes for biking magazines. He goes on 60 miles treks to Nyack.
But the key, Weiss says, is you don’t have to be anything like him to be a cyclist.
Heck, you don’t even need to be some righteous environmentalist who thinks she heals the world every time she hops on her Schwinn.
“When I ride my bike, one of the last things I’m thinking about is global warming or something,” Weiss joked. “I’m just enjoying myself and getting things done.”
“Bike Snob” Eben Weiss will be reading at Powerhouse Arena [37 Main St. between Water and Front streets in DUMBO. (718) 666-3049] on May 1 at 2 pm.
©2010 Community News Group
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