I don’t know who owns this bike, but I saw it on the street in Charleston a few days ago. I enjoy seeing how people customize their bikes, but with the spoke cards, riser bars, day-glo toeclips, and plaid top tube pad, this one reminded me of the fixies that Bike Snob NYC is always picking on (by the way, check out that blog if you aren’t already familiar with it. It is consistently very funny)
I’ll leave making fun of stranger’s bikes to the Bike Snob, but this bike did remind me of something I have been meaning to post about; the top tube pad trend. My son asked me a while back why a “grown up” bike that we saw downtown had a checkerboard “kid’s bike” pad on the top tube. Aside from explaining that top tube pads are trendy and that the owner probably wanted to look like an urban hipster, I didn’t really have a good answer for him. So really, can someone out there explain to me the purpose of a top tube pad on a track bike? I know it is popular these days, but I just don’t get it. If you are constantly falling off the seat and hitting the top tube, maybe you should level your saddle and/or get a smaller frame. I don’t believe though that crotch protection is the primary motivating factor for people who purchase these pads. I think the main reason that people put top tube pads on their bikes is to protect the frame from either the (usually untaped) handlebars swinging around or more likely from an object that the bike is locked to. To me, it is like having plastic covers on your chairs so they don’t get stained. They may technically have a function, but I still don’t really understand them. The bike that my son asked about had a nice new pad on the top tube, but the rest of the bike looked like someone had flogged it with a chain. Sure the dented and chipped frame looked rough, but I bet that section of paint under the pad was still shiny and new. Maybe the owner of that bike should consider downtube, seattube, chainstay, and seatstay pads for his or her next track frame. I had better get to work designing those, because I think fully padded bikes are going to be the next big thing. Seriously though, if you are a fan of top tube pads, can you please tell me why? Maybe I am just missing something.
While I am on the subject of aesthetically challenged bikes, I should pass along this link that a reader, Jason, sent me. I don’t know what to say about these, but the little thumbnail animated gif midway down the page cracked me up. If you are interested in the efficiency of designs like these, check out “Bicycling Science” by Whitt and Wilson. If I remember correctly, the authors explain in detail why designs that use both the rider’s arms and legs to propel the machine are inherently inefficient. Efficient or not, I would still like to test ride one of these rowing bikes. I probably wouldn’t really feel safe doing so without a good top tube pad though.