Schluffing or Dorklocross?


Poor Robert Sullivan. All he seeks is a city free of intermodal conflict. Yet, the coiner of the term "schluffing" seems only to have managed to fire up angry mobs of pitchfork-wielding commenters with his biking etiquette piece in last Sunday’s Times. Now Bike Snob NYC, a well-regarded blog among fixed-gear fetishists and owners of $8,500 Serottas, has put forth a devastating critique of Sullivan’s instructional video. The Snob narrates:

Here’s some guy on a bike who was unable to resist the sidewalk’s siren
call. He is "schluffing" by standing on his pedal and pushing his bike
along as if this is somehow better than moving ten feet to the left and
actually riding the thing…

As he approaches the women, he dismounts and stops "schluffing," as though he has any dignity left to preserve…

The video points out the importance of the dismount, or "transition."
In this sense, I suppose "schluffing" is similar to cyclocross. Perhaps
a better name for it would be "dorklocross."

Yeah, that would be a better name… if you’re one of the dozen or so New Yorkers who even knows what cyclo-cross is.

Bike Snob also adds that Streetsblog is the web site he visits whenever he experiences "a sharp, inexplicable craving for smug self-righteousness." Being as how the self-described Snob is one of the small handful of people in this world capable of getting smug and
self-righteous about the coupling of disc wheels and aerobars with mountain bike pedals, we’ve got to assume he’s visiting
Streetsblog pretty regularly.

So, here’s my message to you, Snob: Watch your back. By triangulating your photographs against Streetfilms footage taken at last year’s Great NYC Commuter Race, the Livable Streets Initiative’s forensic video unit has positively identified you. We know who you are. We have pictures of you. And we are prepared to unmask you before your legions of inarticulate commenters.

OK, who is going to leave the first comment? Woot! Woot!

  • graham

    Is this about to get all Jon Stewart v. Jim Cramer? Who’s who?

  • …first?

    He made a good point that people who feel “drawn” to the sidewalks might be more comfortable on scooters than astride street instruments like the bicycle. I’ve hopped on sidewalks before, but only when the streets are impenetrable and I’m in an impatient enough hurry to believe that cautiously navigating a crowded sidewalk will actually get me past the block quicker. (Success rate is 50-50.)

  • NoisyFisherman

    Riders like sullivan are bad for cyclist who try to gain legitimacy and stay out of the ire of the not so friendly public, and besides it really is dorky.

  • My name is Eben Weiss, I am the Bike Snob.

  • Shemp

    I think stamping out Sullivan as any kind of cycling spokesperson is a good thing, considering his recent Times piece.

  • Geck

    There is definitely too much self-righteousness in all of the inter-modal conflict. We all need to cut a little slack to those imperfectly behaved users of other modes. Very few of us should be casting the first stones.

  • This is something I used to do when I was about eight years old.. I had graduated to a full sized three speed with 26 inch wheels, but I was not quite big enough to straddle the seat. And, WTF, I was only eight years old so I was barely allowed to cross the street much less ride in traffic. So it was perfectly appropriate that I would ride the sidewalks.

    The idea of that grown man would resort to this is, what they call on Bikeforums, more Fredilicious than anything else. Grow up and pedal like a man!!!

  • bc

    snob is brilliant, sullivan is a tool. ’nuff said. I believe Sulli’s point #3 was for cyclists to stay off the sidewalk.

  • bc

    so, you guys are going to side with the bike apologist who most likely doesn’t even commute, and is not representative of cyclists in NYC over the one who clearly is? just lost this reader, and probably many more.

  • I am Spartacus, I mean the Bike Snob.

  • To quote and earlier comment on the original post,
    “This is a thing?”

    This thing is lame.
    I should leave it at that, but I feel I must go on:
    You supposedly just rode your bike from somewhere at a great savings of time over any other means of transporting yourself, and now you feel the need to look like this, and do this to your bike? In order to save how many seconds? And at what price of the fear or disgust of legitimate sidewalk users, walking on the sidewalk?

    I feel the idea that we have to behave “better” as cyclists to get respect from drivers is misguided and unachievable wet dream, BUT the respect that we need to glean from rightfully angry, cycle-scarred sidewalk users, is real and very far from satisfied.

  • Damn. took me 20 minutes to figure out the spam protection question. Good thing I had a computer.

    Careful guys, others have tried to out the Snob, with disastrous results.

  • Oh wow, who cares?

  • My name is Robert Sullivan and I am Robert Sullivan, the dork, or inventor of the dorkocross, as Bike Snob has termed it. I am honored even to be noticed by the Snob, not to mention attacked as a dork. More excitingly, I am pro-bike dorkiness, given that there are certainly a lot more dorks than snobs, or so, by definition, a snob would seem to believe. My piece in the Times regarding bike etiquette was an effort to point out that bikers have run into political resistance lately (my discounted vote for title was ‘Why They Hate Us’), and it is in large part, I believe, because of a perceived lack of bike etiquette. Transportation Alternatives has identified this as bikers’ political Achilles heel; when community boards are presented with proposed bike lanes, people at the meetings inevitably point out that bikes will kill them, which is statistically about as likely as getting hit by lightning. I want more for bikes. I think bikes are the best. I think that biking even with poor etiquette is very cool, though, as a dork, my use of the term cool is clearly suspect.

    Schluffing, which appears to be illegal, is all about the fact that people think they are exceptions themselves to rules, laws, etiquette. I don’t schluff generally speaking, one exception being when I am making schluffing videos. But I see that bikers and/or cyclists have a hard time staying off the sidewalk, and to my mind–which is, as noted in comments and posts, of limited capacity–ANYTHING is better than riding on the sidewalk. In an ideal world, there would be no schluffing, but the world is not ideal; it is dork-filled. The Snob suggests a person would just move his bike a few feet over (into the street) and bike, but I see sidewalk biking in places where, a few feet over, there is a bike lane-less road, with traffic going in the other direction. In other worlds, people will say they CAN’T ride in the road, that the sidewalk is their only alternative, that, in such a situation, it would not be wrong to bike for “just a little bit.” This is wrong, due to it being myopic, but this is what people will say and then do.

    Yes, walking the bike is the best way. I walk. I like to walk, being a dork, as I like schluffing. (Is walking an issue on which Snobs and dorks agree?) But what about all the people who think it’s OK to ride on the sidewalk? Can we get them to think about what it means to be riding on the sidewalk (it being wrong)? Thus, schluffing. Schluffing, the video, is meant to be fun, as in humorous. But clearly I need to work on the humor part, or take the lightheartedness elsewhere, away from Snobs. I would agree with the Snob that one should resist the siren call of the sidewalk. But we can’t all be Odysseus. It’s a little like jaywalking. Some of us are dorks; some of us are snobs and never ever ever jaywalk. (Of course is some public space were taken back from the car and given over to pedestrians and bikers, then there might be more room for more jaywalking, and jaywalking might become something else altogether, as I have discussed here:

    In closing, as the dork, I am pleased for the chance to discuss biking, cycling, riding and all manner of moving in the street, road and (hybrid alert!) sidewalk. The road is, as J.B. Jackson has noted, the first public place. In the public place, dork and snob mingle, unless snobs stay inside. The word snob, by the way, comes from the Latin sine nobilitate, or without nobility. Dork comes from–well, I’m not going to say where dork comes from because I want to keep this comment PG-13, but it’s a not a bad thing, the thing that dork refers to, and Bike Snob seems to be attempting to show people that he has a big one, or at least one that is much bigger than the dorks, which, no doubt it is.

    The only thing that the Snob is absolutely wrong about in his long careful post is the music on the schluffing video. The music is cool. The music rocks. I hate to sound like a snob, but there it is.

  • Chris in Sacramento

    Sullivan was largely on-target with his NYT piece. Bicyclists behave so poorly that many of us become self-loathing cyclists, deeply attached to bicycling but ashamed of being grouped with the miscreants. We end up advocating for bicycling in the abstract and not bicyclists. It’s a shame.

  • Style Man

    I am Style Man, and I am Bike Snob.

  • bc

    “I don’t schluff generally speaking, one exception being when I am making schluffing videos.

    I walk. I like to walk, being a dork, as I like schluffing. ”

    I’m sorry, with all due respect, you are not making any sense, and I think this is why the humor didn’t play, because the video, and you, are unclear whether you are actually promoting this, or poking fun at the absurdity of it all.

  • mercator

    I sense that someones feelings were hurt as a result of an honest assessment of dorklocross, er schluffing. You obviously put a lot of effort into the video and article, but the reason the criticism stings is because it is true, dorklocross, er schluffing, is idiotic.

    Also: I am the bike snob

  • I, of course, am Bike Snob.

    That’s what he told me, anyway.

  • I agree with Sullivan that schluffing is to be avoided, but that sometimes it happens anyway. I didn’t like his NY Times piece because he did not acknowledge jaywalkers putting cyclists in danger (especially the masses of people that block bike lanes at, for example, Astor Place). But I get the point about the PR problem. I’ve been a bicycle commuter in this city for 10 years, and I know that “they” mostly hate us. For my own part, I hate “them” right back. But that’s not so constructive, is it? I mean, there’s bad behavior all around.

  • bc

    Hey, good move signing up bikesnob for bicycling mag!! As you can see from the huge uptick in comments on this normally dead board, his readers are quite loyal

  • NoisyFisherman

    Childish. Sullivan posts a ridiculous video and gets upset at being made fun of. Lighten up. The majority of the ‘rule breakers’ he seeks forum with don’t read streetsblogs, nyt or snob. He was amusing when he was dorky now he’s just another idiot on a hybrid.

  • CR

    Whoever BikeSnob is, I can assure he’s not Robert Sullivan, although that would be rather funny it they were in fact the same person.

  • The other day I learned that schluffing is helpful when your chain brakes and you have to walk a mile to the nearest bike shop. Walking is fine. Rolling is a little faster.

  • Jeffrey Hymen

    I am most definately not Bike Snob, and I never experience “a sharp, inexplicable craving for smug self-righteousness.” I do often find Streetsblog well represented by smugness and self-righteousness.

  • CH

    I can’t believe we’re still talking about dorks who use their bikes as foot-powered scooters on sidewalks.

    Robert Sullivan has outed himself as someone who just doesn’t get it. I’m a cyclist and would reject any notion that he’s speaking on my behalf.

  • J

    Sullivan, I found both your video and comment hilarious. No worries, your humor (and well-made points) come through clearly, for those of us dorky enough to see through the waves of coolness emanating out from the fixed-gearheads passing us by.

    A cycling dork

  • Wes

    I can’t believe Ricky Irvine spelled breaks as brakes – tradition has it that the mispelling goes the other way.

    Recruiting Bikesnob commenters is a great way of boosting your own comments section as they are many.

    And maybe you should actually read the blog and see how many times I, I mean he says something praising a fixed gear fetishist or indeed a dentist.

    Only the true Bikesnob would deny his divinity. I am not Bikesnob.

  • geck

    I am with J. Maybe the humor is just to subtle in this age of overly snarky snob blogs.

  • A clarification from the dork, aka Sullivan: people keep saying, or commenting, that my feelings are hurt. They are not. I am amazed and pleased that people are discussing bike etiquette. Also, because it’s too much fun, I am not NOT Bikesnob.
    R Sullivan

  • Clarence

    All I can say is that I have some great evidence of Bike Snob leaving the back of Lance Armstrong’s SUV the day the mayor announced Summer Streets last year.

  • Lets remember that are all people just trying to use the roads together. So as bikers, cyclists, riders, shoers, trainers, or whatever you call yourself we need to share the road. Some of the comments above about dangerous Jaywalkers sound way too similar to popular claims by motorists about bikes and pedestrians making the roads dangerous for them!

    We all need to be respectful on the road to everyone no matter how they are getting around or what kind of bike they are riding(especially this one, how can we claim to advocate bikes and complain about hybrids?).

    If we really want to safe on the streets yield to more vulnerable users; cars yield to bikes who yield to peds for yield to children I guess. If everyone on the road is looking out for everyone else instead of themselves then you will have tens or hundreds or people looking out for you but if people just look out for themselves there will be only one person on the street who concerned for your safety.

    This bickering is really a waste of time and counterproductive.

    I’m the bike snob?

  • bike snob

    I may or may no be bikesnob.

  • Ashcan Sam

    Is it March 25th yet?

  • CR

    What time does Daft Punk go on?

  • marc OLA

    I have to say that I haven’t laughed in my life as much as I did today reading the splendidly hilarious post by Mr. Naparstek and then the riposte by Mr. Sullivan. We should all be grateful that such a gifted writer chooses to write about bicycling; we all benefit therefrom.
    How great also that Odysseus is invoked, one of the most wronged-by dudes in the last 3,000 years! I dare say that Homer himself would have confessed that Odysseus was the biggest dork of them all, or at least possessed same.

  • “my discounted vote for title was ‘Why They Hate Us'”

    Angus has convincingly argued that the article’s thesis is flawed (shall members of disrespected immigrant groups also pitch collective mea culpas to the city paper?), but it was the packaging that was most damaging. I well understand that headlines and art are not something writers can directly control, but it is something they can anticipate and avoid. As should have been expected the piece lead with an outrageous messeger-in-crosswalk photo (crossing signal suspiciously indistinct) and teaser that put the negative generalization about uncivil “bikers” in no uncertain terms. This was at the top of the city homepage for days and the topic predictably spread through NYC media last week, sparking jeremiads against “bikers” wherever a comment box or call-in number was available. I even had to defend my own riding because of this generalizing article, in a conversation that had been until that moment friendly and without prejudicial accusation.

    From one dork on a bicycle to another: Please don’t do this again.

  • +1 on calling it Dorklocross. Unless you’re a kid, get off the sidewalk.

  • I am not the Bike Snob, but I agree with him (or her, to be fair) that the tone on this blog can be smug and self-righteous.

  • CBrinkman

    Funny stuff. Love the Bike Snob, love StreetsBlog – I’ve have learned good stuff from both, but I laugh more at BikeSnob. I agree with Gary that we need to act towards peds the way we wish cars would act towards us.

    So not the bike snob, but giggle about hipster cysts at least once a week.

  • Pat

    I regularly drive an automobile on the sidewalk, but it’s cool cuz I open the door and put my foot on the ground.

  • Ash Hurley


    I am happy to read the comments from all these guys with their chamois in a knot over this schluffing business. Could there be a clearer semiotic that NYC is hitting on all eight cylinders and has virtually run out of actual problems than this keening blog thread?

    So, way to go, NYC. And kudos to you, Bob, for teasing this otherwise hidden evidence of a high-functioning city out of something as seemingly innocuous as schluffing. Brilliant!


  • Philip

    I agree with Angus (and not just because of the rad name). I categorically reject the idea that I have to behave well in order to ‘bring my people up.’
    That’s a bunch of Uncle Toms saying “the South will repeal Jim Crow as soon as we get less uppity.” Ain’t going to happen.

  • Miguel Marcos

    Sullivan’s article made some valid points but I agree with the previous posters about the title and photograph: the first impression one gets before reading the article transmits nothing but cycling nuts and crazies causing havoc on the road and endangering people’s cars and lives. For such civilized writing it’s a raw and angry setting.

    For a lot of people, unfortunately, the article’s point becomes distorted and in some cases lost. Thus, another lost opportunity to civilize the conversation around biking in the city.

  • jonesy

    Whatever, Sullivan is a total tool, but BSNOB takes this years Schluffy award for starting a column for serotta-catalog-and-ab-workout-compendium Bicycling Magazine. Seriously: what the hell is going on here? I’m not talking about selling out as the worst thing in the world, but the Snob has for years now been deriding the problem of when cycling superficiality overrides the dirty, varied daily life of riding… and now he joins Bicycling Magazine, the bicycling equivalent of an airline “magazine” that’s always in the back of the the seat in front of you? Pretty pathetic, but I suppose he’s been going down for a while… and needs a new audience that finds the hilarious commentary on knuckle tattoos and fixie skinny jeans something refreshing and very alternative. sigh.

  • Philip

    I think you missed the major point. Which is we as cyclists need to be courteous to other road users especially pedestrians. Doing the opposite would be like beating some other ethnic group that is also oppressed to try and combat Jim Crow laws. Being rude when we ride will help nothing!

  • kurtdriver

    We are all the bike snob.

  • Ashish

    Can’t believe he actually gave his name away and we all missed it. (Check comment #4)

  • -hadn’t read the NYT article before, thought it was funny. What R.S. Misses is that small kids love trucks with wheels, their eyes light up as their trailer passes millimetres from a heavy truck with wheels the size of a grown up. Safe bike routes along back roads are like suburbia: boring places to grow up.


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