2.23.2006

BROOKLYN VS. BROKELYN


(before)

(after)

(bike culture not 4 sale)

so Brooklyn Industries recently started displaying custom tall bikes in their store windows. the bikes are coupled with t-shirts depicting bicycle gears and biking slogans. they are made by one man who apparently collaborated with Brooklyn Industries to put the bikes in their stores throughout nyc. and they are also donating $2 from the sale of their large and medium messenger bags to Recycle-A-Bicycle. However, there has been some dissent about the blatant commercialization of this particular (and rather anti-commercial) subculture. a lot of the arguments seem to stem from the fact that the bikes are merely props to gain street-cred for Brooklyn Industries. I'll let Stache from Black Label Bicycle Club state his mind from a recent comment left on Bike Blog.

:::

Black Label had ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with putting tallbikes in store windows. Black Label would never commodify bike culture. In every event we have held or participated in, Black Label has encouraged the re-use of discarded goods. We have never sold a custom bicycle, nor will we ever. Instead we have openly shared design techniques, held welding workshops, and thrown kick-ass events for everyone, for free.

In everything we do we try to encourage active participation and the support of DIY ideas. These window displays are selling those principles without the actual work.

Its great that recycle a bicycle is getting donations. But why not show FUNCTIONING bikes that were recycled by kids and now are for sale? it would be great if the store fronts were turned into sales points for worked on bikes. INSTEAD, we have huge NON-WORKING bikes which probably will not be recycled when the displays get changed.

Reuse the excesses of society. Do It Yourself. Ride Safe.

-james stache, blbc ny

:::

i have contacted Brooklyn Industries several times requesting some information about the tall bikes, but have been unable to get a response. i had hoped to hear directly from them about their intentions with this, but it would seem that they are simply riding over another subculture while trying to hock their new line of stuff. just recently people have reported that the windows of several Brooklyn Industries stores were tagged with some rather unflattering sentiments in acid-etch.

it's a shame really, since Brooklyn Industries has the advantage of being small enough and local enough to not make the same detached mistakes as multi-conglomerates like nike. but to do that does require a little bit of effort, and tossing a couple bucks toward Recycle-A-Bicycle hardly seems to make up for exploiting the recent boom and trendiness of bicycling.

each and every biker that heads out on the street everyday is a small victory. . . each one is a part-n-parcel of the whole. . . each cyclist is a comrade to everyone else who also chooses to deal with dangerous and reckless traffic (especially in a city that has overtly demonstrated it's indifference to the safety and general rights of cyclists). . . each rider on the road makes the city a slightly better place to ride by risking their own safety and increasing driver awareness. encouraging cycling is in everyone's best interest. but that doesn't excuse blatant commodification of something that has come to symbolize part of the growing anti-consumerist sentiment. i think if Brooklyn Industries had put more thought and effort into this, it could have come off a lot better. they could have offered bike building workshops, donated more than a couple bucks to Recycle-A-Bicycle (it's 3% per bag pre-tax, in case you're curious), showcased bicycles built by the kids being taught at Recycle-A-Bicycle (even if they weren't ultra-cool tall bikes), etc. support it, don't just use it. . . ah, but that's not the way commerce works, now is it?
*UDPATE: so i went by the bedford ave store in williamsburg today (friday). the tall bikes have been removed. i spoke with someone who popped out of a parked suv while i was taking photos of the window. he pretty much reiterated what is on their website, how they are donating $2 to Recycle-A-Bicycle. When asked about the vandalism, his response was "Some people don't understand."
*UPDATE #2: Brooklyn Industries has posted a statement about this issue on their website. go check it out.

and relatedly, The New York Times reports "Police Chase Cyclists". there's a pretty interesting video here with some great footage of thugs-in-action at various Critical Mass rides. admittedly the article warrants a bit of a "duh, where ya been?" response. but if you don't live and ride in nyc, there is a good chance that this NY Times coverage is the first you've heard of the tactics employed by the nypd. the real questions is when are we going to find out how many thousands of tax-payers dollars have been wasted on this montly cat-n-mouse game? so if you don't like what you see happening, please let them know. to learn more and support the Critical Mass rider's legal defense at Bicycle Defense Fund. tonight is february's Critical Mass, should be interesting to see what goes down.

here's another lil' film made at Black Label's Bike Kill III. courtesy of The Dirty Jersey Choppers.

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MP3:

for this one, i am going to lay out a challenge. . . identify this mystery song. i don't know if this will turn out to be as difficult as i think it might, but we will see. leave your guesses in the comments.

• ? - Track 5

support eating bugs, buy music

30 comments:

  1. But of course, what perfect sense. People who ride bikes never buy t-shirts, jeans, or messenger bags. Down with the exploiters!
    Except, hmm...vandalize a storefront for having bikes and bike-related t-shirts in the window, and yet leave alone car dealerships?
    Must also remember to throw acid at stores that show animals, children, or other human beings in their ads, since using such images is exploitation of animals, children, and other human beings. I mean, if the company is only giving a fraction of its profits to charity instead of running homeless shelters, free veterinary services, and job-training institutes on the side. Down with the oppressors!
    signed,
    a naked vegan non-smoking non-drinking non-electricity-using completely sinless and perfect biker (bike made out of steel I forged myself as a unionized steelworker, though working naked was tricky, but I had to, as the uniforms were made by underpaid SE Asians and better they get no wage than a low wage).

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  2. I can see why somebody might be upset that their subculture is being used to market or sell something else. But it does seem kind of counterproductive to fight an attempt, even a commercial one, to popularize something like biking culture. Isn't the point of Critical Mass to raise awareness about bicycling? If these clothes turn somebody into a byciclist or, at least, a sympathizer, isn't that a positive? I suspect that this defacing probably has more to do with a very small subset of bicyclists who are trying to protect the invested cultural capital, or, "coolness," that they might have, rather than to win any new converts to biking. That's a shame.

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  3. you know, you are a phony. going off about exploitation in a half hearted manner and then linking to your flickr page which is a bunch of girls wrestling in - what is that chocolate? get some morals. you are nothing but a commodity.

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  4. Funny how people like Black Label trade one form of elitism for another. Gotta love self proclaimed "downtown snobs." You GUYS are reactionary like Republicans and misguided to the utmost extent. Just because you ride a bike does not make you a thread in the tapestry of the NYC underground. Plus, big bikes are super gay anyway go ride a FIXED you bitches. As ya'll are hooting and hollering and drawing attention to yourselves I'm quietly and quickly moving so far past your asses, weaving in and out, and leaving your tall-pathetic-ego-centric faggoty ass big bikes behind. Word. Now go fix the bumps on the Williamsburg Bridge bitches, that certainly deserves more attention then this.

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  5. well, let's see. i don't understand how photographing people (or girls specifically) wrestling makes me unable to dislike exploitation. i'm hardly Russ Meyer by any means. if you can explain your point more, i would be curious. . .

    and the fixed gear comment. i mean c'mon. fixed gears have turned into over-compensating sports cars for hipsters. they just go out and buy cool with their parents money. someone who builds a bike, now that's impressive. you can't just go buy that on your lunch break.

    and oh yeah, the bumps on the williamsburg bridge have been fixed for a long time. apparently "mr. fixed" doesn't get out all that much.

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  6. oh and i guess i should address the first comment too. well if i understand correctly, everyone should just lay down and let anyone walk all over them and dictate what is right. . . OR fight everything all the time until we are back in the stone age. hmmm, it might be nice if there was some middle ground in there somewhere.

    i believe in giving people respect for standing up for what they believe. . . having a dissenting opinion, and expressing it (how you do it is another matter). just because commercial america WILL eventually co-opt anything that will help them sell their products doesn't mean you shouldn't resist it. are you saying that no one should protest a war they don't believe in? or not question the government if it is making harmful decisions? that is ridiculous.

    anyway, perhaps i should reiterate that i did not say that Brooklyn Industries should be punished for using tall bikes in their stores. i do not think they acted maliciously. i simply suggested that they could have been more sensitive to such a large subculture in the very city that they are marketing to. put in a little extra effort. i really don't think that was too out of line.

    these bikes are hand-made, you can't buy them. they are not just another consumer item, they are personal creations. there is attachement to them, and therefore apparently there is going to be some defense of them when used as advertising ploys. i don't find that hard to understand. i just feel bad for Brooklyn Industries. i really don't think they knew how what they were doing would be received by some people.

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  7. I think what black label and other 'bike culture' avante-defenders are missing is that in this day and age, self-promotion and elitism are part of the process of commodification...every time they (self-righteously) declared how down they were, how fucking real they were, they were paving the way towards their eventual corporate commodification. If they had kept things quiet and egalitarian, and dropped the self-promotion and elitism and street-gang posturing (let's say chunk 666 circa early 90s Portland), they would have stayed largely off the radar, and could have continued with their subculture on their own terms. Now, though, the bubble is burst, due largely to their own actions (feature films, anyone?), and it's really only a matter of time until the MTV specials and Urban Outfitters t-shirts. Brooklyn Industries w/ RAB, by comparison, seems fair-trade.

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  8. i cant help but add to this debate, especially because i think the anonymous posters are fucking stupid. sit around at home critiquing a blog that you dont even support. come on, it's ironic. what you guys are missing: tall bikes, homemade bikes, bike culture, black label bc, whatever the fuck you are identifying it as...IT IS F*R*E*E. can you make the connection here? this shit is put together by people that are trying to make a community, working hard to make shit happen. when i walked by that store front, all i got was the feeling of dread, here we have something that is DIY, free, and put together by people that make an effort and now it's in a pricey store front getting sold back at us with the true value completely lost.

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  9. umm...well, I don't know what to say really. These comments are very enlightening. It's obvs that you all have very passionate feelings about your own roles. That's a plus.
    I'd say you all do your part. And that's really important, because most people don't carry their weight. At all. Those are the fucks you should beef with.

    You know what would be really cool? If we could all just agree to disagree, and continue doing the the little things it is that we do. Everybody can fuck in a multitude of ways. But some like to fuck one way, more than the other. As long as you fuck...

    Even if the only thing you do was to ride a bike. I mean, jesus, how many people havent been on a bike in years?

    Am i babbling? Sorry. this hits a nerve with me though. It's like vegans who throw mud at vegeterians. I mean, I get the frustrations. But I think it would be better if vegans and vegetarians declared a truce, started a gang, and beat up meat eaters instead. When all the meat eaters are dead, than the vegans can go after the veggies.

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  10. I'm not sympathetic to hipster clothing stores using mutant bikes tomarket their stuff, because it is stupid. But I don't see what thefuss is about.

    First, tallbikes were being mass-produced and sold in Chicago in theearly 1900s. It is too late.

    Second, there is nothing that anybody can do to stop hipsters fromcommercializing the image of mutant bikes. That's what hipsters do.They find a niche and make it known just enough to be indy about it,then they try and find the next thing.
    Mutant biking is a fad. Lots of kids ride mutant bikes because theythink it makes them cool. They'll stop in a few years when it blowsover. More flesh for the nests. Those of us who are in it for thelove of it will still be riding. Here in Portland I see a newtallbiker that I don't recognize every week. Props to the Black Labeland Rat Patrol and Alberta St. Clowns and every club and unafilliatedperson (and ourselves), who are seeding North America with mutantbikes for the love of it. The fact that stupid hipsters are trying tomake money off of us demonstrates that we are successful.

    We made a chopper to be sold in a charity auction last year. It wasbought by someone who apparently wasn't DIY enough to make his own.Maybe he thinks that he's cool because he has a mutant bike now, maybehe just feels the need to ride a mutant bike. I don't think it's abig deal. I've only given away tallbikes, never sold them, but if Ineeded the money, why not?

    -'Megulon 5', C.H.U.N.K. 666, Portland, Oregon

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  11. In the eyes of the Left, especially the Radical Left, anything that doesn't conform to their Socialist Worldview needs to be verbally, and even physically, trashed, until the miscreants see the error of their ways, and repent, or back down.

    I am a Bicyclist, and a Republican one at that! ;-D

    I am angry about what some of these radical cycling "activists" ( From Critical Massers on down to the lesser brain-celled who toss acid on windows, and perform other types of vandalism ) are doing to the cycling cause.

    People who ride bikes buy Books, T-shirts, Route Slip Holders, and Messenger Bags, among many other products ( I have future Capitalist notions along this line myself ).

    To call makers, and sellers, of such products "exploiters" ( Am I, therefore, an "exploiter" for encouraging paid advertising, and making a profit from promoting cycling books on MY Blog? ), and then going so far as to vandalize a storefront for having bikes and bike-related t-shirts in the window says much about the worldview of the attackers.

    Oh, 1 more thing...

    "Everybody can fuck in a multitude of ways. But some like to fuck one way, more than the other. As long as you fuck..."

    Good Analogy, but this needs to be said before someone gets hurt:

    Fucking while riding a bicycle may actually be doable, in theory, but that don't mean ya should attempt it, now does it?

    Well... maybe on a Recumbent. ;-D

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  12. this may be redundant, but i just thought i would reiterate that i don't think the issue was so much the sale of bike-related merchandise as it was the use of tall bikes as a marketing ploy.

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  13. That IS a fair viewpoint, but...

    I get the feeling that it would not have mattered to many on the Left WHAT type of Bicycle was in the window.

    The simple fact that their favorite mode of Transportation in the fight against the "Oppressive, oil-hungry, Capitalists" was being used to try to make a profit would have led to the same outcome.

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  14. kiril, you're an idiot. "the left", "the right". what the fuck are you talking about? you're not even trying to conduct a proper dialogue, but instead just making an attempt to reinforce your stereotypes. you are conjuring up a very vague image of this phantom "left".

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  15. I just calls 'em as I sees 'em, MWA, and I've seen, experienced, and read, enough, and read the responses to my reasonable attempts at "Proper" dialogue by e-mail, with some interesting, and notable people, over the years, to make an informed judgement.

    Both my Blogs speak for themselves in this regard.

    It took a long time, and a good deal of reading, and thought, before I realized the Left was not for me a few years back.

    Being of a Conservative Persuasion, though, does not make me any less of a Bicycling Activist.

    Calling me an Idiot ( I've been called far worse by a person I thought was a friend, but who let his Socialism overwhelm his common sense ), anonymously ( not even a website link by you ), shows that you have no interest in a proper Dialogue.

    Yup! Just call me an Idiot!

    That will put ME in my place. ;-D

    Anyone who does what was done to Brooklyn Industries is no friend of Bicycling Activism of any worthwhile variety.

    End of Discussion.

    --------
    Sorry, Sucka, for defending myself on your turf, in this fashion, especially after your very reasonable comment in response to my coverage of this story.

    Oh, and anyone who thinks I don't link to Bike Sites, and BikeBloggers, with a different Political Persuasion than mine, or write favorable posts about them, should actually take the time to explore my site before making that assumption from the comments I leave here.

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  16. some other opinions on this issue:

    http://www.sneakeasysjoint.com/thecyclingdude/2006/02/radical_cyclist.html

    http://www.adrants.com/2006/02/bike-culture-cry-babies-get-pissed-over-c.php

    just thought i should share. . .

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  17. I found this via adrants, but I disagree with their attitude on this story; so hear me out, please.

    Someone once said 'If a thing is worth doing, it's worth doing badly;' and with respect to this story, I'd add, '... and worth being imitated by others even if they don't totally get it.' Maybe, as someone else suggested, this (tall bike merchandising) is just a fad; but what everyone here seems to agree upon is that bicycling is worth doing (for whatever reasons you choose.)

    You also seemed to agree that the store gained no cred with your culture, anyway. So, they won't gain any business from within your culture. And you'll easily identify the poseurs by their clothing or gear. If this is about biking and not about just using bikes as your own form of elitism, have you really lost anything for having a taste of your ideals put out before the rest of the world? You should be thanking the store for the evangelism, then take it from there to turn the poseurs into true believers.

    Vandalism & such merely distracts potential 'converts' from the more worthy ideals you espouse.

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  18. This has been an interesting read; thanks for letting different sides of the issue get aired, sucka.

    I just spent several weeks in Berlin, where bikes are everywhere (every single street has a bike lane on both sides, and I won't even get into how they lock their bikes there...it's makes NYC too depressing), but there was very little evidence of much 'bike culture' as defined by a lot of what we see in Brooklyn, Critical Mass, etc. In other words, biking is very much part of the mainstream there, and seemed decidedly un 'hip.'

    Which made me think...as a hypothetical, if we were to wake up tomorrow and find NYC totally bike-friendly (a la Amsterdam, Scandinavia etc.) and everyone and their mother cycling, while I know a good portion of NYC cyclists would be rejoicing, I wonder how many would be experiencing something similar to that described by a lot of Red Sox fans after they finally won the World Series...a sort of loss of identity based on a culture of reaction and rebellion. If biking were safe and easy and mainstream, would it still be attractive to all the bike punks? I have my doubts...

    Related to that, this is an interesting and relevant read:

    http://harpers.org/MyCrowd_01.html

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  19. I thoroughly enjoyed the sentiments expressed by Mark H., and Anonymous ( on Berlin/NY ).

    I will definitely follow the links provided.

    One more thing: I have been Blogging since 2002, and BikeBlogging since 2003, and it is good to, more, and more frequently see discussion, and debate leave the confines of message boards, and find their place in the comments of more, and more BikeBlogs.

    Something that has long been avaluable mainstay of the rest of the Blogosphere is finally coming into its own in our Niche as more and more of us take up blogging.

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  20. Statement by Brooklyn Industries posted on its website on the 24th:

    http://www.brooklynindustries.com/news.aspx

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  21. so funny to watch you get so worked up over your dumbass 'subculture'

    seriously, you can have it

    you'll be pried from the pavement soon enuff if you keep riding those

    mmmmdarwin.

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  22. Wow! "Fixed gears"?

    They sound fast. me and the rest of the gang better look into this wave of the future.

    Black Label Bike Club

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  23. an interesting statement about this whole issue and it's implications over at Bike Blog, go check it out.

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  24. I just hope the vandals and supporters of the vandalism are consistent and are busy trashing Coke machines and boycotting Coca-Cola products too. They've trashed the storefronts of a local business, but I've not seen one Coca-Cola billboard, vending machine or any other marketing/sales channel vandalized with the same fury or message. Yet Coca-Cola spent a lot more money co-opting bike culture than BI did (see recent television ad with bike-jousting/SF Cyclecide), and I'm guessing with a lot less respect for the culture.

    - David

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  25. Hey bike culture should be glad, there's all these old "modern primitive" types walking around San Fancisco with tribal tattoos that are flash tattoos for bodybuilders and marines. At least you can get off your bikes one day and go back to work for your family's insurance business.

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  26. Honestly, I think your criticism of Brooklyn Industries is absolutely ridiculous and immature. Brooklyn industries was just trying to use their expertise (as a commercial store that tries to relate to its public) to help support the Brooklyn biking culture. So, they didn't support it in the _exact_ way you would have liked, but they did attempt to support it. When will people realize that society isn't going to be changed by people that will only accept when organizations and individuals do it "their way"? The strength will come when you can realize that the joining of different scenes and perspectives will actually bring change. Stop complaining about people that are actually trying to DO !

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  27. thanks for your feedback, Kerry, but I'm afraid you missed the point like a lot of people. the issue is not about bike culture, it is about TALL BIKES specifically. i mention how i think it would have been better if Brooklyn Industries had diversified the bikes they displayed, especially to include some made by the students at Recycle A Bicycle. I am saying that they SHOULD support/promote bike culture, but bike culture as a whole. not to just take a particluarly individualistic piece of that culture and use it to score cool points. you want to show tall bikes? then have a build-your-own-tall-bike class. give something back to this culture that you are borrowing from (and profiting from) to show that you respect it and REALLY DO want to promote it. $2 on a rarely sold item hardly qualifies. i'm not attempting to dictate how something should be done, i'm offering suggestions as to how not to anger the people that you want to promote, by not being careless about it.

    and you want people that "DO"? that would be people spending large amounts of time and money creating original and unique creations (that are not for commerical gain) and then sharing them with anyone who wants to partake at various bike events. those are people who "DO". Brooklyn Industries, no matter how well-intended they may have been, failed to be people who DO. they couldn't see a big enough picture to break out of being people who SELL.

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  28. Anti-commercial subculture? That's pretty funny. I see people here in South Dakota that just weld up their own bikes like that for fun. It happens throughout all of the rest of the country as well. Some people need to realize they try too hard I think.

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  29. I agree with Black Label bikes. No new cyclists should br recruited form the ranks of pedestrians or motorists, they're obviously all lame scumbags out to undermine all amazing core shit that Black Label does. If bikes ever got popular, imagine what would happen!

    Only Black Label should have the right to promote bike culture, as they obviously invented bikes, metal tubing, and rubber and other totally rad non-corporate things.

    These guys obviously know better, it's about time everyones else shut up, especially newbies who haven't earned their stripes, and let Black Lamel decide who can be involved in cycling and how.

    Thanks Black Label, you just gave every other harcore cyclist out there (if there are any, you guys might be the only ones) alot of hope.

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  30. not recycle bicycles, but rebuild it like this bike

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