Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

25 May 2017

I Will Tell You More...

Today I am going to explain something.

No, not the conspiracy Great Girl Conspiracy in yesterday's post.  Or quantum mechanics.  Or, for that matter, why the other line moves faster.

Instead, I'm going to talk about something far more mundane--at least, to almost everybody in the world but me.  I am going to tell you, now, about Helene.


Last week, I stripped her.  And shipped her.  Soon she will be in her new home, with a rider who will, I hope, appreciate her more than I did.

There was nothing wrong with her as a bike.  In fact, I liked her quite a lot.  I just didn't ride her much, at least after the first year or two I had her.  

You see, when I ordered her from Mercian, they had stopped making mixte frames with the twin-lateral "top" tubes because Reynolds--which makes the tubing used to build most Mercian frames--stopped producing those skinny frame members.  So, wanting a ladies' Mercian to go with my other Mercians, I ordered the "traditional" style frame, with a single top tube that slanted downward.

Then, about a year later, I came across Vera--an older Miss Mercian with the twin tubes.  Women's and mixte frames tend not to have very high resale values; even so, Vera's price was less than I expected.  


The rest is history, as they say.  Vera became my commuter when I had a longer commute because she has a stable and comfortable, but still responsive, ride.  Also:  Who doesn't like the look of a twin-tube mixte?  If I do say so myself, it is a stylish ride--and, of course, style is one of the reasons I wanted to have a nice mixte (or ladies') bike.

Not that Helene doesn't have style.  But Vera has more of the style, as well as the ride, I want from my mixte.  Helene, in contrast, rides a bit more like a road bike.

Anyway, aside from disuse, there is another reason I stripped and sold Helene:  I've ordered another Mercian.

Why?, you ask.  Well, if you've been reading this blog, you know I'm something of a Mercian aficionado.  I don't believe I can have too many Mercians; I know I can only have enough time to ride but so many of them (or any other bike) and space to keep them.

Still, you may be forgiven for asking why I've ordered another.  Well, the exchange rates have been favorable to the dollar for a while, and I don't know how much longer that will hold.  When I ordered Arielle, my Mercian Audax, during the time I waited for it, the exchange rate had become about 25 percent more favorable to the pound than it was when I placed the order.  So, this time, I've already paid for the cost of the frame.  When the frame is ready, I will only have to pay for shipping and, perhaps, some small additional charges for things I've requested that may or may not be included in the base price.

Now, the money I got for Helene doesn't come close to paying for this new frame.  But I wanted to seller her while she's still very clean:  There's barely a scratch on her.  Also, I am going to use some of those parts on the new frame as well as my current bikes--and, in turn, a few parts from my other bikes, along with a few more new parts I've collected, will go to the new frame.

Mercian's website says there's a 10-month wait for new frames.  I don't even mind that; in fact, I'm rather happy about it.  Why?  Well, next year will be a round-number birthday for me, and that frame will be a gift to myself.

Peter's Vincitore Special

And, given that I've ordered it for such an occasion, I've ordered what seems the most appropriate frame of all:  a Vincitore Special made from Reynolds 853 tubing.  Its design will be very similar to that of Arielle, so it will be a bike that is capable of both comfort and speed on long rides, and can accomodate 700 x 28C tires--as well as fenders and a rear rack, should I decide to add them later.  It will also have a nice, traditional quill stem and downtube shifters.


In addition to being a birthday gift to myself, I see the Super Vincitore as the sort of frame that hardly anyone makes anymore.  I am guessing that Mercian will make it as long as they can get the materials and they have framebuilders with the necessary skills and passion.  Still, I figure it's better to order such a frame sooner rather than later.

Now, all I have to do is find ways not to think about it all the time--for the next ten months.  That's, what, March?

Oh, in case you were wondering:  I have chosen Lilac Polychromatic (#17) as the main color.  The seat tube panel and head tube panel will be Deep Plum Pearl (#56).  All of that will be trimmed with white lug pinstriping and Gothic-letter transfers.  And a 1950's-style metal headbadge, if it will fit into the lugwork.  I've even found the handlebar tape--Newbaum's Eggplant--I'm going to wrap around the handlebars.  Finally, the new frame will get a well-aged honey Brooks Professional with copper rails and rivets, as well as one or two of the bags Ely made for me.

24 May 2017

Into, And Out Of, The Chaos

Now I'm going to tell you a secret:  You see, there's this place where we all meet and it's gonna change the world.

Someone told me I should write about a conspiracy or two--or at least hint at them.  According to that person who is an expert on what, I don't know, conspiracies and conspiracy theories draw viewers to websites the way free food draws, well, just about anybody to any place.

So...about that place and the meeting that will shake the earth--or modern society, anyway--to its foundations:  I'll tell you about it.  In fact, I'll even tell you who "we" are.

No, we're not the Illuminati or the Carbonari.  We're way more secret than that.  In fact, we're so secret that we don't even know who we are, let alone where we're meeting or why--let alone what the outcome will be.

But we exist, and we're holding such a meeting because, well, people who know better (or should) say that we are.  To wit:

The "they" in this snippet are female cyclists.  Specifically, it referred to the women on wheels who had emerged from whalebone corsets and hoopskirts some time around 1897, the peak of the first Bicycle Boom.  Now we were wearing shorter skirts or--shudder--bloomers with--gasp--socks!  Worse yet, we were setting new standards in fashion.

Now, all of you women who are reading this know that when we dress, we are doing it for each other.  I mean, when the Duchess of Cambridge wears one of those beautiful dresses for a gala or whatever, no man (well, OK, almost no man) pays as much attention to it as any of us.  I recall now a holiday spent with my brother and sister-in-law a year or two after they had their first child.   It was around the time Wheel of Fortune became one of the most popular game shows.  Watching Vanna White slink across the stage, my sister-in-law exclaimed, "I would love to wear that dress!"

The funny thing is that the bicycle, in a way, abetted this attitude.  When women started riding bikes, they weren't seeking approval from men.  If anything, they got scorn or derision from their husbands, fathers, pastors and other males in their lives--as well as some of their female elders.   We were riding and dressing for comfort and (relative) ease of movement--and to impress each other.  Since the men weren't going to approve (well, most of them, anyway), we sought encouragement from each other. 

Equally funny is that as we were mocked and scorned, we were also commodified.  At least a few businessmen saw that as we got on our bikes, we had more mobility--which meant more freedom to do all sorts of things. Like go to work and earn our own money.  And we could buy all of those outfits we would wear as we rode to our "grand rendezvous" where we got the "wobbly old world to wake up" and "adjust itself"--if, perhaps, not in the way the writer of that editorial intended. 

(At least they're not meetings of this organization.)

If you want to see a wonderful graphic story about how the bicycle changed women's history, check out Ariel Aberg-Riger's piece, posted yesterday on Citylab.

Speaking of late 19th-Century urban America, Aberg-Riger says, "Into this chaos came the bicycle."  And out came the modern woman.

Does that sound like a conspiracy, or what?

23 May 2017

Who And What We Need

When I was writing for a newspaper, a law enforcement official told me, off-record, that there are instances in which bodies are found but investigations aren't conducted. Or, said investigations are begun but lead nowhere quickly.   Then the bodies end up in a potter's field, donated for medical research, cremated--or simply, in the words of that official, "disappeared".  

The reason, he said, is the same as what probably caused those bodies to end up where they were found:   "Nobody knows them," he explained.  "And nobody will miss them."

I am thinking about that encounter, many years past, in light of writing about Alan Snel a few days ago.  Two months ago, as he was cycling down Old Dixie Highway in Florida when a motorist drove straight into his back.  Now he is moving back to Nevada, where he had lived and worked before arriving in the Sunshine State.   In his open letter to Governor Rick Scott, he wrote, "you and the political leaders just don't care enough to do anything to keep cyclists alive in your state."  

"Care" is, I now realize, the key word.  As articulate and energetic as Alan is, and as numerous as we (cyclists) may be, there is only so much we can accomplish if we don't have other people--whether or not they are cyclists--who care.  

My experiences as a transgender woman have taught me as much.  Lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgenders and others who don't fit into traditional notions about sexual and gender identity, by ourselves, are much more vulnerable to bigotry and violence when we are seen as the exceptions and the freaks--in other words, when other people cannot, or do not, see us as one of them.  And, people start to understand that we are as worthy of the same rights as they have when we are their sisters, brothers, parents, friends and colleagues.  

The same is true of cyclists, I believe.  Too often, we are seen as renegades or as members of some "over-privileged" group.  Or, people who don't ride think our lives are less valuable because we, for whatever reasons, aren't driving instead of pedaling.  On more than one occasion, I've heard people say, in essence, that the cyclist "had it coming" to him or her when he or she was struck or run down by a car or truck.

At such moments, we--cyclists--are an abstraction or bogeymen, and the word "cyclist" becomes an epithet.  That is because we are not seen as writers, teachers, engineers, carpenters or other professionals or tradespeople--or business people--who happen to ride bikes.  And we are also not thought of as someone's sibling or mother or father.

It's a lot easier to blame a victim you don't know anything about.  But when the person who's hit or run down is a loved one, finger-pointing and excuse-making just won't do.  Instead, you want answers.

Who?  How?  Why?  Those are the questions Jessica Martinez is asking, I imagine.  Police in San Antonio, Texas found her gravely injured father, Santiago Castillo, on the side of a street on the city's East Side.  Skid marks on the scene indicate that Castillo and his bicycle were dragged as much as 50 yards and a surveillance video from a nearby home show that two vehicles, including a dark SUV, struck him.

What makes this incident particularly egregious is that, according to the neighbor, one of the drivers stopped--to remove Castillo's bicycle from his car.  "So they had enough time to get [the bicycle] out of the bumper," said Linda Garcia, another relative of Castillo.  "But they didn't have enough time to wait there with him."  He lay on the street, at the intersection of Denver and Piedmont, until police arrived and he was rushed to the hospital.

Santiago Castillo, a 61-year-old father, died half an hour later.

I don't know whether Linda Garcia or Jessica Martinez ride, or have ever ridden, bicycles.  But someone they love has been killed by a hit-and-run driver.  He was a cyclist.  And they want answers.