An Amusement & Diversion for The Genteel Cyclist. Daily.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Condiments at the Sausage Fest: A conversation with Dirt Rag editor Karen Brooks, part 2


Today, we're continuing our seminar with the Dean of Dirt, the Maven of Mud, the Scribe of Skid, Karen Brooks. With no further ado--


“Bike lanes and bike paths create the impression that bikes need a separate but equal space. Like Jim Crow for cyclists.” Your reaction?

Funny you ask… just yesterday some of us participated in a press conference and ride to commemorate a new bike lane and “sharrows” in Pittsburgh (only the second official lane in the city), and there was a dude passing out some anti-bike lane propaganda, which led me to read a bit of what John Forester has to say. An interesting viewpoint, but as far as I’ve seen in other cities, bike lanes do work. We’ve all been talking about it, and the collective hope is that it at least raises drivers’ awareness that cyclists might be present. I’m all for following the same rules as drivers—stopping at lights, signaling, etc.—to help gain respect, but I think it will take more than that, and some official recognition that everyone can see is part of it. Maybe when gas is $5 a gallon and cyclists start to be seen in equal or greater numbers than cars, we can all just travel at the same pace in the same space.

We see Maurice at almost every bike festival in the country. 1) Is there an army of Maurice clones out there? 2) Does Maurice actually have a permanent mailing address, or should we just write to “general delivery”?

1)Ha ha, it would be nice sometimes to have Maurice clones around… Hey, Maurice #4, go mow the lawn… Actually, we all divide up the World Tour schedule and get to go to different events. At a couple events I’ve rolled up only to hear, “Hey, where’s Maurice? Why didn’t he come?”

2) Oh, he’s got an address alright, the one printed in the magazine, but mail would probably still get to him if it were marked “general delivery.”

Some folks saw the departure of Dirt Rag’s previous editor and publisher as a sign that Dirt Rag wasn’t willing to launch a new title—Urban Cyclist— so they left to do that. Others saw it as two guys who should have incorporated their ideas into the existing magazine, rather than fool around with a new project on Company time. Anything you can say to clarify what happened?

First of all, to clarify, Maurice’s official title is publisher; Michael, the previous editor, left to be the mountain bike brand manager at Trek. It was Jeff Guerrero, previous art director, and Brad Quartuccio, previous subscriptions and stuff editor (and photographer), that left and are doing Urban Cyclist.
Maurice was never asked if he was willing to launch a new title under the Dirt Rag name, and I guess that’s the crux of the situation. But I think this is one of those things where the bike tree is just sprouting a new branch, and while the split was a little traumatic, it was probably inevitable, and ultimately it’s a good thing. Brad and Jeff have a good idea going and I wish them success.

“Any bike is a good bike. Except the Trek Lime.” Your reaction?

Aw, c’mon… it’s not that bad. Actually, after seeing some of the PR stuff about it, I told Michael Browne that it could be the iMac of bikes—something that makes bicycling accessible to a whole new range of users. Sure, I have some bad memories of working on those crappy Roadmaster auto-shift BSOs (bicycle-shaped objects – got that from Commutebybike.com), but it’s an idea that just needed some refinement. There’s a lot of folks out there who are interested in trying to ride to work, or ride for exercise, and when they go to a shop and the salesperson starts talking about how this shifter goes this way and that shifter goes that way, their eyes just glaze over.

A while back, Dirt Rag did an awesome story that basically assessed department store bikes for quality, durability, and fun. The results were pretty conclusive— these bikes suck. What can the bike industry do to eliminate the Magnas and Nexts and Verticals from the roads and sidewalks of America?

Education is key. (And I think the Trek Lime is a good step.) It would be nice to see some safety regulation that make sense, but don’t hold your breath… Ultimately it’s up to the shops: when people bring these pieces of crap in to get fixed, a good mechanic will explain that they were never intended to be fixed or ridden much—they’re like big, heavy, relatively expensive short-term use items, like paper towels or something. Then they can either show them an entry-level real bike, or offer a discount on a tune-up for a used real bike.

Ipods on the bike: good idea or bad idea?

A lot of fun sometimes… but a guilty pleasure. For a time I listened to mine while commuting home, but I found I got sore neck muscles from constantly looking over my shoulder to make up for the lack of audio signals. It did get me through the last lap of a 24-hour race last summer, though.

Helmets. How do you REALLY feel about wearing them and scolding others to wear them?

I always wear one and encourage others to do so. People without them look, well, dangerously vulnerable to me… Apparently there was some research that found they don’t actually help, but I’ll keep wearing it until there’s some more definitive evidence. Anecdotally, I know plenty of people who have been spared a nasty head knock/gash by a helmet, and plenty of others who wished they had had one on when they wrecked. Plus, where else are you supposed to put stickers once your bike and fenders are covered?

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