Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

17 April 2014

A Late Spring, But I'll Take It

Yesterday's ice melted; I got out for a while.  Though still cold for this time of year--and windy--it was a rather lovely day.

One thing I've noticed, though, is that everything seems to be budding and blooming later than it has in other years.  I'm not complaining, though, especially after seeing this tree:

or this patch near it:

16 April 2014

On The Rack: Titanium

In the wee hours of this morning, we had snow flurries and freezing rain.  I wasn't awake, so I know about them because of the weather report and the glaze I saw on the windshields of parked cars this morning.

There were also some ice patches on the street.  So I decided to delay going for a ride until the temperature warmed and the glaze melted.  In the meantime, I did a bit of web surfing and came across this:

Now, those of you familiar with Tubus racks won't find this image remarkable.  And it isn't, really, except for one thing:  the rack is made of titanium.  Someone's selling it, slightly used, for $200.

I've never owned or used a Tubus rack, but the ones I've seen look to be very well-made (though, I must say, I like Nitto's finishing and overall workmanship a bit more).  Still, I'm not sure of how I feel about a titanium rack.  I'm sure it's strong.  But titanium is flexier than steel tubes or thick aluminum alloy rods or tubes.  So, even though I believe a Tubus titanium rack won't break, I have to wonder whether it might shimmy more than an alloy or steel rack from Tubus, Nitto or even, say, Blackburn.

The original Carradice Bagman supports were offered in titanium for a couple of years. But they seem to have been discontinued before Carradice completely redesigned the Bagman supports a couple of years ago.  Apparently, some people reported their bags--especially the larger ones like the Nelson Longflap and Camper--bounced and swayed.  To be fair, the clamps on the original Bagman supports--both in the steel and titanium versions--weren't the strongest, so that could have been a source of some problems.

Anyway, I said earlier that I'm not sure how I'd feel about having a titanium rack.  Even if swaying and flexing weren't issues, I have to wonder what benefit such a rack offers, aside from weight savings.   How much of a difference would 50 to 100 grams off the rack would make if you're carrying 30 to 40 kilos with it--and you're riding wider, heavier tires than you'd ride on an unloaded bike.

Given what I've said, I'd still take a rack made of titanium that mounts on the seat stays and rear dropouts over one from carbon-fiber and designed to attach to the seat post.

15 April 2014

Environmentalism And Cycling

From Chronicles of the Voyager

My birth as a "serious" cyclist--that is to say, my interest in 
riding "long distances" (i.e., beyond my neighborhood) and better bikes--coincided, more or less, with the early '70's "Bike Boom".

Although some professors and other professionals rode their bikes to work, and there was a small but growing number of adult cyclists (with whom I rode), for anyone to continue pedaling when he or she was old enough to have a driver's license was still considered a bit geeky, vaguely counter-cultural and even subversive.

Then, there was a lot of talk about the environmental benefits of cycling.  Back then, scientists were saying that the world's oil, coal, natural gas and other fuels weren't going to last forever If we were lucky, they'd last another century, maybe two.  That was, of course, if we didn't make ourselves extinct with all of the pollution from burning those fuels.

Ironically, the first energy crisis that followed the Middle East Oil Embargo of 1973-74 all but put an end to the bike boom.  Sure, some of us continued to ride bikes, and even buy new ones.  But in spite of al of the attempts to link cycling with environmentalism. most people bought bikes for recreation or simply because it was fashionable to do so.  Once the price of petroleum spiked in the US (though it was still nowhere near what most Europeans or the Japanese paid), unemployment skyrocketed. A commuter or some other cyclist who uses his or her bike to help him or herself earn a living might buy a new bike, if it's necessary, and continue to buy parts and accessories or use the services of their local bike mechanics.  But those with no such commitment aren't going to spend their money, especially if they've lost their jobs.

As history progressed (which is just a somewhat pompously academic way of saying "as time moved on"), some new cyclists came into the fold and some of us continued to ride, although we might have morphed into different kinds of cyclists from the ones we were in the beginning.  

One thing I couldn't help to notice, however, is that by the 1980's, any mention of environmentalism or even energy conservation had disappeared from discussions about cycling.  Such a state of affairs continued into the '90's and even the early part of this century.  One reason is that the cost of gasoline fell in relation to the overall cost of living.  Another, I think, is that cycling increasingly became the province of upper-middle- to high-income men and was increasingly seen as part of a "lifestyle" in much the same way as buying an SUV was.

Over the past few years, I am noticing that talk of the environment has returned to discussions about cycling.  I hear it in my conversations with cyclists and read it in bicycle-related publications, even in mainstream media coverage about cycling.

One reason is, of course, that gasoline has become more expensive (though, once again, is still not nearly as expensive as it is in Europe or Japan).  That makes some people more aware of the finite-ness of our resources.  Also, I think more cyclists have seen their favorite riding places turned into malls, condominium developments or despoiled in other ways. Finally, I think another reason is that there are more female cyclists.  Perhaps I am thinking in terms of gender stereotypes, but it seems to me that places with strong environmental movements tend to be places in which women play a greater role in policy- and other decision-making processes.