Nameless blogger now a big wheel
Cycler gets book deal.
Say you're someone who rides your bike around the city, to and from work, to the market, to bars, movie houses, museums, to dinner with friends.
The experience of sharing the road (or trying to) with cars and buses and cabs, dodging joggers coming at you on a ONE-WAY BIKE LANE!, negotiating utility crews, swerving from iPodded pedestrians who step off the curb without looking . . . it's enough to start a running monologue in your head, a mantra of disdain and rage, a stream of snide commentary aimed at all the idiots interfering with your journey and, often enough, jeopardizing your well-being.
And say you're an anonymous Brooklynite who commutes to Manhattan on your trusty, self-propelled two-wheeler. And say you decide to start a blog, so you can post your amusingly contemptuous musings about "salmon" (cyclists going the wrong way), about hipsters on their fixed-wheel and brakeless machines, about "gratuitous track-standers" (guys and girls who stand on their pedals and shimmy-balance when they're absolutely forced to stop at an intersection).
And say you decide to call your blog Bike Snob. And say that, over the course of a mere three years, your blog (bikesnobnyc.blogspot.com) becomes a must-read among the cycling cognoscenti, and that even Lance Armstrong bookmarks it - and e-mails you and becomes your pal - and that, heck, you get advertising and your own column in Bicycling magazine. You even get to quit your day job.
And then say you get a book deal.
Yes, Bike Snob: Systematically & Mercilessly Realigning the World of Cycling (Chronicle Books, $16.95) is out now.
Well, say all that - and then say that your name is Eben Weiss. Because with the book, and the book tour, and the appearances at "Bike Culture Summits," it's pretty nearly impossible to remain nameless.
And anyway, says Weiss, who is 36, married, with a brand new baby boy in his Brooklyn co-op, being the anonymous Bike Snob wasn't that big a deal - even if there were people trying to guess who this dude was.
"Yeah, it always seemed silly to me," says Weiss, who, until last fall, worked at a literary agency. "I would have people trying to track me down, and some people did track me down, people figured me out here and there.
"That was weird," he adds, on the phone from his apartment recently. "It was flattering, but kind of weird.
"But also, if people did figure out who I was . . . well, so what? What do you do if you have some random name? Oh, the Bike Snob is this guy! It's not like you put that out there and anyone's going to care. . . . It lands with a thud.
"OK, Eben Weiss, and if so, who cares?"
Nonetheless, quite a few people did care - a testament to the zealotry of certain cycling nuts who either greatly enjoyed, or were greatly offended, by Bike Snob's jolly ridicule, his venting, his video posts, his mockery of cycle-themed craigslist personals.
Herewith, a typically snarky Bike Snob posting from last month about "Bike to Work Day," which leads Weiss into one of his frequent digs at, well, you'll see:
"The 31-day reign of terror and smugness known as 'Bike Month' continues, and in San Francisco today is 'Bike to Work Day.' (San Francisco 'Bike to Work Day' comes eight days before national 'Bike to Work Day' because it's very hilly there and the riders need a head start.) While I plan to celebrate 'Bike to Work Day' ironically by taking the day off and driving to the beach, dozens of people everywhere will no doubt briefly consider riding to work before suddenly realizing they don't own bicycles. . . . As for those who do already own bicycles and ride them to work every day, they'll wonder what the point of a 'Bike to Work Day' is and instead fantasize about literally being able to 'Bike to Work' - or, in other words, to ride a bicycle for a living.
"Of course, one way to do this is to become a bicycle messenger, but not everybody has the physical strength, mental fortitude, and keen fashion sense it takes to pick up an envelope from one building, put it in a $200 bag, and then bring it to another building as far as half a mile away."
Weiss can get away with this vicious lampoonery because, he is, in fact, a former messenger, an amateur racer, a total bike geek kind of guy. He loves All Things Bicycle, and so he can deride All Things Bicycle - with impunity.
In his book, which begins with a concise history of the bicycle (a German baron, in 1818, patents a contraption you lean on and push with your feet) and ends with a chapter on etiquette for non-cyclists ("Don't ask us if we're going to ride in the Tour de France"), he offers a more expansive and less bloggy view of the cycling universe.
"Some bloggers will just rehash material from the blog and reprint it," he says about the blog-to-book metamorphosis. "I didn't want to do that. A blog is a lot different from a book. You have links and you have video and you can be super-topical and super self-referential, and there are these little inside jokes that evolve all the time. . . .
"But obviously, if you're a writer, you're always thinking about books, and after a while of writing the blog, it struck me what kind of book I wanted to write, which was less sort of trying to capture the blog and more trying to convey the spirit of cycling - what's underneath the blog, what I'm saying underneath all the jokes.
"So, that hit me one day: 'You know what, I want to write a book and I want it to be the kind of book that people will read and think, Yeah, I'm going to get on my bike because this kind of resonates with me!"
Just be sure to read Weiss' "Riding in traffic without getting killed" before you take your bike out and resonate on the street.