Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

18 October 2018

Trying To Clear The Air

According to the World Health Organization, the cities with the world's worst air quality are clustered, with a few exceptions, in three areas:  India/Pakistan, China and the Middle East.

What most of the cities on WHO's list have in common is rapidly-developing economies, mainly in manufacturing and other highly-polluting industries.  However, one of the reasons why so many Chinese and Indian cities make the list is, ironically, the opposite of a reason why Middle Eastern urban areas are found on that same list.

That reason has to do with petroleum.  Countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran have lots of it, and use it.  On the other hand, while India and China are also petrol producers, they have also become importers because their industries and vehicular traffic have grown so much, and because their current oil reserves are more difficult to tap than the ones that have previously been tapped.  Plus, both countries are rich in coal, which is widely used as fuel as well as in making steel, a major export for both countries.

But it seems that even in parts of the oil-rich Middle East, there is some awareness of the perils of petrol dependency.  Some of them are, of course, economic:  What will they do when the oil runs out, or simply becomes too difficult or expensive to extract from the ground--or, for that matter, if demand for it decreases?  Other hazards of fossil-fuel addiction include--you guessed it--health hazards related to poor air quality.

So, perhaps, it is not surprising that the Netherlands Bicycle Partnership, a consortium of public and private organizations working with the University of Amsterdam, is working to encourage cycling in Tehran, the capital of Iran, as well as other cities (which made the WHO list) in the country.

The NBP, formed in 2015, works with local governments and organizations on sustainability issues.  It recently helped to devise a document designed to encourage cycling in the Iranian capital over the next five years.  The city is starting to take the steps necessary to develop the infrastructure and do the other things needed to meet the goals of the document.  This is significant because previous attempts to promote cycling failed, in part, due to the lack of said infrastructure--including bike lanes and ride-sharing programs.

It would be interesting--and gratifying--if an area with an economy so tied to petrol production can develop the sort of bicycle infrastructure--which, one imagines, could encourage bicycle commuting as well as recreational cycling--found in petrol-poor countries like the Netherlands, which has significantly better air quality in its cities.

(Interesting side-note: In Europe, the west generally has better air quality than the east--and the differences are stark.  In fact, there's a clear line between the two, and it roughly follows the old Iron Curtain.)

17 October 2018

Holy V, Jubilee!

In October 1964, Tetsuo Maeda filed a patent application in Japan for what would become, in my opinion, one of the two or three most important derailleur innovations in history.

It was the brainchild of his chief designer, Nobui Ozaki.  He was no doubt trying to make a derailleur that was easier to shift and shifted more accurately than the ones available at that time.  Did he realize that it would influence derailleur design for the next half-century?  Did Maeda, the owner of the company that employed Ozaki, know that for two decades, other derailleur manufacturers would wait, with bated breath, for his patent to run out?

Well, both of those scenarios came true.  You see, the patent Maeda filed in his home country--and a month later in the US--would cover a design still used today, in one form or another, on any rear derailleur that has even a pretense of quality.

I am talking about the SunTour Gran-Prix.  Over the next few years, SunTour would refine its design.  For one thing, it would replace its original single-spring design (The same spring that operates the parallelogram also tensions the chain cage.) with separate springs for each function.  And steel parts would be replaced by alloy ones, which in turn would become more sculpted and rounded.

The result was that the 1964 Gran Prix

would evolve into the first "V" derailleur in 1968.

I would put one of those on one of my bikes.  I mean, how can you not love a derailleur with those pivot bolts?

Of course, the V was further refined and became the V Luxe.  One thing I find interesting about the V and V Luxe is that they were lighter than most derailleurs made at the time--or even today.  

The V, according to Michael Sweatman of Disrealigears, weighed 218 grams.  That is only 13 grams (less than half an ounce) more than another influential derailleur that came out exactly 50 years ago

yes, the Campagnolo Nuovo Record--which, of course,was a refinement of the earlier Record and its progenitor, the first Gran Sport parallelogram rear derailleur.

For comparison's sake, the 1968 SunTour V weighs almost exactly the same as a Shimano Ultegra 6400 (introduced in 1988), 6401 (1992) or 6500 (1998)--or the Dura Ace 7402 (made from 1989 to 1996), all of which are in the 210 to 220 gram range. Later DA rear derailleurs (the 7700 series onward) shed 10 to 15 grams--and that with the use of a titanium upper pivot bolts!

The funny thing is that no matter how light a component is, someone wants it even lighter.  So I guess I shouldn't have been surprised to find this

I mean, how much weight did those holes take out of that "V" derailleur? 

I guess I shouldn't be too critical, though.  After all, not only was the Campy NR drilled out--or, sometimes, slotted in its parallelogram--so was the lightest rear derailleur of them all:

In case you were wondering:  The Huret Jubilee weighed 145 grams--before anyone touched it with a drill, mill or lathe!

16 October 2018

Hot Spots In The Evergreen State

Recently, Bicycling! magazine published its "Best Bicycle City in America" poll.  This year, Seattle got the top honor.

But, as we all know, no matter how good a city is for cycling, crashes are always a possibility, just as they are for motorists.

With that in mind, a local law firm, Colburn Law, sifted through five years of crash data and determined 15 "hot spots" in Washington State.  Not surprisingly, the first seven, and the majority of those on the list, are in Seattle. 

One reason is that crashes occur most commonly at intersections and, of course, there are more of those in a city.  On the other hand, more fatalities occur on open roadways, possibly because motor vehicles go faster on them than on city streets.  

The hottest of the "hot spots":  4th Avenue and Pike Street, Seattle

The Colburn report does raise at least two pertinent questions, both of which relate to the changing cycling scene the Emerald City as well as the Evergreen State.

One is how effective dedicated bike lanes will be in reducing the number of crashes.  I have not been to Seattle but, from what I've heard and read, it lags behind other "bicycle friendly" municipalities in its construction of lanes and other infrastructure, though the pace has increased recently.  And, some of the new lanes are separated, at least by pylons and planters, from the traffic lane.

Another question is whether the city's new dockless bike share programs will increase the number of riders who go without helmets--which, planners expect, would increase the number of injuries and fatalities.  So far, there doesn't seem to be any evidence of such things, as police have actually issued fewer citations to cyclists who weren't wearing helmets (which are required by law) in 2017 than in 2016.

Whatever the answers may be, they probably will have no bearing on whether Seattle "repeats" as "champion" in next year's poll.