Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

27 May 2015

Maintenance And Makeovers

I've been back to riding regularly, more or less, for nearly two months.  It feels really, really good:  I'm starting to overcome how little riding I did this winter, and my age.

It's a good thing I'm back in the saddle most days.  You see, being the old-time mechanic I am, when I'm not riding I work on my bikes.  Now, there's some maintenance I normally do during the winter:  I usually replace my cables and chains. Sometimes I install tires, brake pads, cogs and handlebar tape.  More rarely, I'll put on other new parts or accessories, depending on how badly they're worn.

But this past winter I went "above and beyond" what I needed to do.  You see, I changed the looks of my bikes a bit.  

Here is Arielle, my Mercian Audax, with her "makeover" that she didn't need, if I do say so myself:

After Ely of Ruth Works made those bags for me, I had a feeling that they would look even better with a Brooks honey saddle and handlebar tape.  I asked Ely; he encouraged me and assured me that (in his opinion, anyway), it would look fine with the paint, whether it was showing its purple or green side. (It's Mercian's #57 "flip flop" finish.) 

I was fortunate to find this slightly-ridden "pre-softened" Brooks Professional--with copper-plated rails--for $100.  Apparently, it was made during the time Sturmey-Archer owned Brooks. At least, the style of the nameplate on the rear (which I like a lot on this saddle) would indicate as much.

Tosca got a similar revamp, except that she got a current Brooks Professional.  Somehow I don't think it's that much, if at all, stiffer than the "pre-softened" saddle was when it came out of the box.

Somehow I get the feeling the bikes, the leather and canvas are going to grow old together nicely.  I could say the same for Vera, my green Miss Mercian mixte:

The saddle is a B17 and I used one roll of tape on the handlebars.   The front bag on this bike--and the British Racing Green paint--seemed to call out for the honey leather even more than my other bikes did.

And, no I didn't leave Helene--my other Miss Mercian--out.  I'll have some shots of her soon.

26 May 2015

A Ride For Sally

When we're young, it's difficult and even hurtful to learn that people we admired--whether celebrities or family members, teachers or others in our everyday lives--are, well, people.  We might find out that our favorite actor, writer, athlete, aunt or uncle did immoral or even illegal things.  Sometimes finding out the dark side of someone we took as a model for one aspect or another of our lives is painful even after we thought we'd "seen it all".

One celebrity about whom I never became disillusioned is Sally Ride.  In fact, I found myself admiring her even more as the years went by.  It seems that being the first American  woman in space was just one of many accomplishments in her life.  Few people have ever done more to encourage girls and young women to study math, science and technology--fields from which they were too often discouraged, dissuaded or even bullied out of studying or working.  

I think now of Sophie Germain, whose parents took away her clothes--and heat and light at night--in an attempt to stop her from studying mathematics, which was deemed inappropriate for a "proper" young lady.  I also think, in this vein, about 1977 Nobel Laureate Rosalyn Sussman Yalow, whose parents wanted her to get a college education but protested when she decided to study Physics on the grounds that "no man would want to marry" her.  

If Dr. Ride faced such opposition from her family or anyone else, she never let on.  In fact, she did not let on much about her personal life, including her relatively brief marriage to a man and her later, much longer partnership with a woman.  Most people did not know about those things until they read her obituary three years ago.

Whatever the circumstances of her life, she understood the difficulties young women and girls faced--and still face--in pursuing STEM careers.  So, she did everything she could to help them--and their teachers, who sometimes were not confident of their own abilities to encourage their students in those areas.

Here she is helping a student understand some of the principles of gyroscopic motion with--what else?--a bicycle wheel:

She would have been 64 years old today. If I could be in Northern Virginia two weeks from now and I were still racing, I'd take part in the Ride Sally Ride.

25 May 2015

Why I Didn't Spend A Day At The Races

Sometimes I start a ride with no particular destination or itinerary in mind.  Believe it or not, every multiday tour I have ever taken was such a ride.  I would buy a plane ticket to Paris or San Francisco or Rome or some other place and bring my bike, bike luggage and whatever I planned on carrying in the bike luggage with me.  Then, upon arriving at Charles de Gaulle or Fiumicino or SFO, I would decide to ride in one direction or another and decide on destinations—or, more precisely, a series of destinations—some time after checking into a hostel and looking at a Lonely Planet guide or a Michelin map.

It’s easier to do such things when you’re young—and male.  Although I never stopped riding altogether, save for a few months after my surgery, I don’t have nearly as much strength or endurance as I did when I was still living as a man.  Also, because of the circumstances of my life, I don’t have as much disposable income as I did as a male in my thirties. (It must also be said that I was in my thirties during the ‘90’s, when the dollar went so much further abroad as well as in its own country!)  But I sometimes go on day rides when without a set route, or even destination in mind.  It gives me, however briefly, the same sense of freedom I used to feel when embarking upon those multiday tours.

More often, though, I find that I start a ride with a destination or route in mind and find myself changing my mind when on the road.  Call me fickle if you will, but sometimes external factors—or a simple turn—can cause me to change my ride.  The latter is what happened to me today. 

I intended to ride to Somerville so I could see the races.  And I had a vision of riding home as the late-afternoon early summer sun descended the Watchung hills on my way back to the city.  That last vision came to pass, but for reasons I hadn’t planned.

For one thing, I started riding a few hours later than I intended.  I still could have made it to Somerville in time to see some of the later criteriums.  And, although I was pedaling into a wind blowing out of the west, from the hills I was ascending, I was still making fairly good time.  I was riding up more hills than I did on previous rides to Somerville because I took—part of me says unintentionally, but another part of me would claim or credit my subconscious—a slightly different, and unfamiliar, route.  In spite of my relative unfamiliarity with the route, I knew I was going in the right general direction.

Neighborhoods that haven’t quite recovered from riots nearly half a century ago gave way to suburbs and, finally, rather charming little towns with real old-time shopping strips and, in one town, an “opera house”.

Late in the 19th, and early in the 20th, centuries, nearly any town of any significance had an “opera house”.  Now, those places weren’t staging productions of Tosca or The Marriage of Figaro.  Rather, they showed musical plays or vaudeville acts.  When “moving pictures” came out, they were often shown in such halls.

Some of those “opera houses” were merely workmanlike or had a kind of sentimental charm.  But others were, if not masterpieces, at least interesting works of architecture.  Sadly, some were lost during “urban renewal” or other “development” schemes.  But others, like the one I’m showing in this post, were converted to everything from art galleries to concert spaces to restaurants.

My ride included that opera house as well as hills and meandering river valley.  Somehow I lost my incentive to see the races; it became very, very satisfying for me to ride through moments, light and the warmth of the sun on my skin. I didn’t see any place exotic.  Perhaps that will come again another day.  But for today, I was happy.  I didn’t take the ride I’d planned, but perhaps I took the one I needed.