Retrospection, which is Latin for 'old-timey glasses,' is a crucial element of any end-of-year blog post and especially for ones that try to sum up what was, in most cases, a rather shit sandwich of a year. [Insert your favorite celebrity here] died and [insert an angry string of expletives here] happened in politics and worst of all, Washington City Paper continued to publish Gear Prudence, a bike advice column which is neither about bikes nor advice while putatively claiming to be about both. Nevertheless, to celebrate their continued weekly mistake, I've gone back and highlighted the Top 12 GP entries from 2016 and, much like last year, the reasoning that undergirds the selection. So let us look back now that we may never have to look back at 2016 again.
Gear Prudence: Why don't they make left-handed bar tape?
Justification: Super great question and a surprising answer. I had no idea that the Rothschilds, the Bilderbergs and the Trilateral Commission were so involved in this insidious plot to keep southpaw bar tape off the market, but it's amazing how much you can learn with some quick googling. This question far surpassed the one about swearing in front of children as a topic of interest.
Gear Prudence: My bike is stuck in a tree. This is so messed up. Can I borrow a saw?
Justification: You should never saw down a tree, even if your bike gets stuck up there. As GP rightly wrote, you have to convince birds to carry your bike down and this is why you should always fill your saddle bag with birdseed. Rookie mistake, bro! Other rookie mistakes include not knowing bicycle emoji to use when tweeting, but this isn't nearly as egregious as the birdseed thing. Get your shit together people!
Gear Prudence: What's the best material for a bike: carbon or elven steel, as was used in the forging of Narsil, the sword of Isildur, wielded by Elendil during the war between the last alliance of men and elves against Sauron Lord of Mordor at the end of the Second Age?
Justification: Another tech-y question. I always feel out of my depth on these because I don't have a lot of bike shop experience and never know if the tensile strength of carbon is superior to the magical properties of fictitious swords, but I did the best that I could with the answer. Far better than the answer I offered on visiting the cherry blossoms by bike.
Gear Prudence: I want to replace my pedals with different pedals, but I'm worried my feet are shrinking by nearly imperceptible amounts each day. Is this a thing?
Justification: It was another close one down between this and the one about who keeps the bike friends after a breakup, but what won the day here was the mystery of whether the questioners feet were actually shrinking or whether it was a paranoid delusion. Just so hard to know! Either way the answer is flat pedals, but different sizes on left on right and you have to switch the pedals each day in case the wrong foot was shrinking at the wrong time.
Gear Prudence: I think the car that honked at me was a Transformer. Can we arrest Michael Bay and try him for war crimes?
Justification: I know, right!? We all want to convene the International Criminal Court and prosecute him, but that's just not in the cards. Same as biking on a first date- there are just some things you don't do.
Gear Prudence: My cat allergy keeps me from biking in Petworth. Why can't they rename it Dogworth to clear up the ambiguity and my sinuses?
Justification: You can't just rename neighborhoods. Trust me, I've tried. Do you think that anyone wants to keep calling it Foggy Bottom? Nope. It's just inertia, but each time I write a successively angrier letter to Rand McNally about changing it, I'm visited by that same put-upon sheriff with that same dog-eared cease-and-desist letter. It's frustrating, but not quite as frustrating as not know how guilty to feel about riding another cyclist into danger.
Gear Prudence: I want to ride a century, but I'm opposed to the idea of riding for 100 years straight. Am I misunderstanding anything?
Justification: Nope. "That's definitely what a century means" was the shortest GP answer ever, but it's hard to know how much more to add to that very correct and thorough response. Thankfully WCP doesn't pay by the word. Either way, this was a way better column than the one about moving in with a boyfriend and his eight bikes, which required a response of more than one sentence. Ugh. Effort sucks.
Gear Prudence: How do you solve a problem like Maria? No really. How? This nun is fucking annoying as shit and I tried to pawn her off on this Austrian admiral but Austria is fucking landlocked and don't even get me started on this Liesl chick. She's in love with a Nazi! And wears clothes made of drapes like it's no big deal!
Justification: I love it when people reach out with real bike problems. Unlike this silly question about some guy's wife making him text on group rides, this whole Maria situation really made me think and stretched my creative limits as a bike columnist. While the proposed solution (it involved warn woolen mittens) didn't really address the whole Maria problem, I feel like we got at least somewhat closer to having a certain degree of solace about this very real bike concern.
Gear Prudence: You ever notice how sometimes when you go fast your bike goes whoosh whoosh whoosh?
Justification: Yes! I've totally noticed that! And sometimes it's more of one long whooooooosh instead of multiple whooshes. I think it has something to do with science and ear holes. Backup this month was the one about a friend fucking up your bike while volunteering to repair it, but that question lacked the really interesting aspect of inquiring about whether one hears whooshing noises sometimes and said nothing of ear holes at all!
Gear Prudence: Is it better to give an old bike to someone taller than you or shorter than you?
Justification: Something that used to shock me about the questions GP receives are the number of ones from people who want to do genuinely good and charitable things. Like, what's the deal with that? It's one thing to ask about being bothered by macabre bike jokes, but it's an entirely different thing to wonder whether you should be charitable to the relatively taller or relatively shorter. What frustrated me the most about answering this question is never knowing how tall the questioner was because I think that really would have impacted the advice offered. I assumed that the questioner was seven feet tall because that seemed obvious at the time.
Gear Prudence: My bike basket has the faint odor of a different bike basket. Could have someone switched them when I was in Harris Teeter?
Justification: You ever see that Angelina Jolie movie about this exact thing except it was about a kid and not a bike basket and it took place in the 1920s and not in front of a Harris Teeter? Great flick and I was glad to draw from it for inspiration on the answer. I just wish Angelina Jolie did a movie about cyclists and yoga because I can't help but think it would have improved this column or if not that, at least it would have been cool even if she didn't wear a cloche hat like she did in that other movie.
Gear Prudence: Does my family know that I like to ride bikes with different sized tires?
Justification: The toughest Gear Prudence columns are about telling families difficult truths, especially when those truths are about bicycles. Most of the time the advice is to lie and/or fake your own death, but sometimes, like in this column, it was to be brutally honest, while also angling the bike in such a way that the bigger tire was farther away so perspective made it seem like there wasn't such a difference in tire sizes. Of the columns about sizes in December, this one was way better than the one about pensises, about which we shall never speak again.
So that's it. That was the year in Prudence. Thank you all so much for you willingness to continue to read the column and thank you even more if you've ever taken a moment to share it with anyone. To the best of my knowledge, GP will continue into 2017 and for that I'm immensely grateful. As always, if a bike question should pop into your mind, please don't hesitate to email firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on the twitters, facebook or via semaphore.