Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

30 March 2011

Not A Stepford Cyclist

One of the reasons I haven't ridden with a club in a long time is my aversion to groupthink.  As often as not, they're riding the same bikes or the same few bikes, and the componentry and accessories tend to be the same, or similar on each club member's bike.  They might even be wearing club jerseys.


No, I have no desire to be a Stepford cyclist.


Seeing everyone riding the same bikes, wheels or other components has no appeal to me.  But, to me, it would be downright creepy if everyone rode the same seat.  That is definitely not an area in which one should be a slave of fashion:




If the Tour de France riders were to use his seat, they never would have to worry about taking l'arret pipi.

29 March 2011

A Sort of Reveille

It's really strange.  The other day, when I was out riding through some old stomping grounds and along seaside bikeways battered by winter storms, I saw maybe two other cyclists.  Granted, the weather was chilly and breezy, but it was still more conducive to cycling than what we had through much of the winter.  


Today, if anything, was colder and windier.  Yet, during my commutes, I saw even more cyclists than I saw during our "heat wave" (when temperatures climbed over 70F) about a week and a half ago.  Some were dressed, as I was, in clothes we'd wear to work; others came wrapped in lycra on their racing bikes.  I'm happy to see them all:  They're definitely signs of spring, even if the weather isn't.  


And the bike rack at my second job was full.   It was yet another sign that the bike season is, if not in full swing, at least on its way.  


But one thing tells me it's not quite spring yet, whatever the calendar says:  the hue of the water.  The other day, when I crossed Jamaica Bay and clattered along the Rockaway boardwalk, the water took on an almost metallic, cobalt-like hue:




In some places, along the beaches of the Rockaways, that color was made a bit earthier, as if the dunes were spilling into the tides:




Of course, the water is still much too cold to swim, and will be until some time around Memorial Day. But the tone of the water is enough to tell you that we haven't quite left winter yet.

But sometimes I think that we, as cyclists, have our own clocks, much as other living beings have internal chronometers to tell them when to stay, fly away, change colors or go to sleep.  We are all just starting to wake up.

27 March 2011

Sometimes You Just Have To Ask



Today I parked my bike in a place where I never before parked it.


The funny thing is that it was a place where I used to go almost daily for about two years.  That was about a dozen years ago, at least, and I hadn't been back since.  I had no bad feelings about the place; I simply hadn't been in its vicinity.


The reason I never parked there is that I never needed to.  I worked just across the street from it and parked in a storage area of the building.  So I never knew whether or not the place would allow my bike to accompany me.


And I found out that the proprietor would let me park there the same way R.J. Cutler, the director of The September Issue got to talk to Anna Wintour:  he asked.


Actually, the proprietor is  nowhere near as ferocious as the famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) Vogue editor.  But he is an intense man who seems not to have aged at all since I last visited the place.  For that matter, the place hasn't changed since then--or, it seems, since the 1970's or thereabouts:




I mean, when was the last time you saw stools with Naugahyde in that shade of mustard-beige, and lampshades to match?  

The menu seems not to have changed, either.  In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if it hasn't changed since the 1950's, if the place has been around that long.  And most of its patrons--including yours truly--wouldn't want it to.  It consists of the sorts of sandwiches and dishes diners in New Jersey and New England (away from the Route 128 corridor, anyway) would have served during that time: things like spaghetti with fish cakes, meat loaf, roast beef sandwiches and some Greek and Italian specialties.  



Back in the day, I would buy a cup of coffee and a corn muffin on my way in to work. Sometimes I would go there for a sandwich.  It was all really good.  But today they had sold out of muffins and donuts and looked ready to close:  apparently, on Sundays they stay open long enough only to serve people going to, or coming from, church and the ones finishing up the weekend shift and the nearby bus yard. 


So, I had a baklava and cup of coffee.  These days, I don't normally drink coffee, but this was one good time to make an exception.  It was as good as I remember from back in the day.  And the baklava was not soggy, as it is in too many places:  The buttery texture of the flaky pastry really tied together the tastes and texures of the nuts and honey it contained, and the slight taste of cinnamon was the perfect "foil" for the rest of it.


The funny thing is that the proprietor was looking at me as if he were trying to remember where he saw me before.  Finally, I said, "I used to work in this neighborhood, and I used to come here."  

"When?"



"A long time ago.  About twenty years ago."  I stretched the facts a bit, but the truth is that it seemed even further in the past than that.  It was, almost literally, another lifetime.


The proprietor's wife, who had been putting away dishes of butter and jars of jelly, overheard us.  


As I left, she said, "Come back, will ya?"


I promised her that I would, next time I'm down that way.  

26 March 2011

The Season Is Starting, Slowly





Last year, at least, I had an excuse.  I was shaking off the cobwebs at this time a year ago because of my surgically-induced layoff.  But this year...Well, OK, the streets were covered with snow, slush or ice, or some combination thereof, for a good part of two months.  Still, I feel that I'm getting off to such a slow start to my cycling season.


Now I can recall years in which there wasn't a cycling season. It seemed that for a few consecutive years at the end of the last century, we had mild winters.  In fact, there were a couple of years where we barely seemed to have a winter at all.  The cold has never been a deterrent for me, but even with studded tires, commuting is not always feasible when there are snow and ice on the roadways.


Even so, I've never been tempted to move to a warmer climate.  Somehow I can't think of cycling, or anything else, without the rhythm of the seasons.  However, if I were to move to, say, Southern California, I suppose I'd adapt:  When you come right down to it, most people do what they need to do in whatever situations they find themselves.  It's a bit like learning foreign languages:  Lots of people, at least in this country, never do and assume they can't. However, I would think that at least some of them would learn, in one fashion or another, if they moved someplace else.


Ever since the warm weather we had a week ago, it seems we've returned to winter.  I suppose that if I were more religious or believed more in any sort of cosmology than I do, I'd say this was retribution for my arrogance in riding in the middle of major local roadways under the biggest, brightest moon I'd seen in a long time and thinking myself Queen of the Road, or some such thing.  


All right...If I get out for a good ride tomorrow, all will be right with the world.  Maybe I'll still be off to a slow start.  But even a slow start is a start, and a move forward.  

25 March 2011

Elizabeth Taylor Going Her Way On Her Bike



Hpw could I resist posting this photo of a 12-year-old Elizabeth Taylor on her bicycle?  This was taken by Peter Stackpole and published in Life magazine.  


Yesterday, Riding Pretty posted this shot of Liz:




A few people were simply born to be on camera.  Liz was one of them.  I think that was what defined her more than anything else.  She was a good, though not great, actress.  But she was a riveting, if not commanding, presence.  That, and her complete belief in herself and whatever she deemed just, made her an effective spokesperson for AIDS activism and research, and LGBT equality.  That is why she could get away with supporting those things when almost no one else could, or would.


And she sure looked good on a bike.  That's reason enough to miss her!

23 March 2011

One Definition Of A Really Hard-Core Cyclist


Would you ride your bike in this?


The weather report called for a "wintry mix."  I always thought that was a seasonal roll of Life Savers that could include, say, peppermint, spearmint, Wint-O-Green and Blue Crystal or whatever they call that flavor.


Our "wintry mix" turned into hail some time early this evening.  I heard it rattling against the awning in front of the house.  


Tomorrow's weather isn't supposed to be much better.  And to think that less than a week ago the temperature had climbed into the 70's and the winter seemed like just a memory!  Well, I guess we'll have more weather like that soon enough. 

22 March 2011

Blame It On The Moon

Once again, I cut through Flushing Meadows-Corona Park on my way home from work.  It was the site of the 1964-65 World's Fair, for which its iconic Unisphere was built.  Nearly three decades later, Men In Black was filmed there.


A German tourist I met in the park reminded me of that.  In fact, he said, it was from watching Men In Black that he first learned about the borough of Queens.  I was reminded of the time three young Germans approached me near the West Fourth Street subway station in Greenwich Village.  They asked me how to get to the South Bronx.  They wanted to go there because they had recently seen Fort Apache, The South Bronx.  I tried, to no avail, to dissuade them from going.


But I didn't have to do anything like that for the youngish man from Munich I met today.  He remarked on the wonderful light of this afternoon turning into this evening in that park as I took this photo:




All of the light has seemed different since my moonlight ride on the wee hours of Saturday morning and the "Super Full Moon" that rose that evening.  Plus, it seems--even more than other full moons I've seen--to have brought some strange sights my way.


I encountered one of them in the bike rack at work:



I wondered whether that vestige of a downtube was there only to support the front derailleur.  There seems to be no other rationale for it.  Maybe it was conceived by someone who believes that we have heads so that we'll have someplace to put our helmets. 



Or maybe it was designed by the same person whose bike was attached to a fire hydrant by the longest chain made of 3/4" thick case-hardened links I ever saw.  I doubt anyone could have cut that chain, at least not with the sort of tools bike thieves carry with them. But it didn't take someone with a PhD in quantum mechanics to figure out that he could lift that bike and chain over the hydrant and into the back of his van. (I didn't see the theft. I just know that professional thieves, at least at that time, used vans. So, that bike's owner and I assumed that scenario played out.)


The sad thing is that faux seat tube isn't even the worst piece of bike design I've ever seen.  Actually, I've seen a lot of things much worse than that.  You tend to come across them when you work in a bike shop for a while.






Maybe the designers of that bike and the owner of the bike that got stolen from a fire hydrant could have blamed the moon--even if it wasn't the Super Full Moon.


And that friendly German tourist and I can blame it for the photos we took in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.



21 March 2011

To Do: Build New Rear Wheel

A dreary, rainy, chilly day. Amazing, how spoiled one can get after a couple of nice days.  But it's officially spring. And  we had a "Super Full Moon" the other night.  No wonder my late night-early morning ride didn't seem so dark!


Tomorrow it's supposed to clear up.  I'll ride to work and, hopefully, for a bit after that. 


I'm going to build a new rear wheel for the rear of Marianela.  A couple of spokes have broken on the one I have.  I think it had to do with the build quality of the wheel.  So I'm going to build with another flip-flop hub (Formula sealed bearing under the IRO brand.) and a Sun CR-18 rim.  Normally, I prefer Mavic rims, and that's what Arielle, Tosca and Helene have.  But Mavic doesn't seem to be making anything in the 27 inch diameter these days, and I don't want to take chances with used rims. The alternatives are Weinmann (which I used to like, but seem to get mixed reviews these days), Alex and a couple of "mystery" brands.


I know, 700 C is the standard diameter.  That's what all of my Mavic rims are.  But Marianela came with 27" wheels, and the rear brake is a long-reach centerpull with its pads about as far down as they'll go.  I really don't want to get a longer brake, as all that seem available are BMX-type brakes, which wouldn't work well on the bike or with the levers I'm using.  Plus, in spite of its length, the rear brake is powerful.  That has to do with the long straddle cable which wraps around the lug that joins the stays to the top tube.


The wheel will probably cost more than the bike did.  But I figure that it's still cheaper than buying a new hybrid or low-end road bike.  I've done that before, and within a year I end up replacing all of the parts.  Plus, for a heavier bike, I like the way Marianela rides.  

20 March 2011

Twin Tubes, Again

Slept late but still got out for a late afternoon ride.  Along the way, I saw someone riding a bike I haven't seen in a long time:




If it looks like the seat tube swallowed up the rear tire...it did, sort of.  That's because the seat tube isn't a tube.  Rather, it's a pair of parallel tubes, much like what one finds in place of the top tube on a mixte frame.  On this bike, the rear tire actually runs between the twin parallel tubes.


I didn't see this exact bike.  But I saw someone riding one like it.  Like the one in the photo, it was a track bike, which is the sort of bike on which this frame design seems most appropriate.


The idea behind it was to make the chainstays and wheelbase shorter, which gives the bike more torsional stiffness while making it more responsive and its handling more sensitive.  It seems that every generation or two, someone pushes the idea that stiffer is better.  And the last time that idea came around, I bought into it.  After all, I was still a guy back then. So what  did you expect.  Stiffer is better indeed.  


Anyway...before I get myself in any deeper, I'll tell you more about the bike.  I actually got to ride one when I was working in a shop about thirty years ago.  It was indeed the stiffest and most responsive bike I'd ridden up to that time.  But it was so sensitive that if you sneezed, you'd probably end up across the street.


The funny thing about them was that the road models seemed to be even more extreme than the track models.  Maybe that was because the shortness of the stays and steepness of the frame angles seemed even more unusual for a road than a track bike.  Look at the photos on Bianchigirl's page to see what I mean.


Back then, we all thought the Rigi was some radical new design.  Turns out, an English builder had the same idea, and for the same reasons, before World War II:




To learn more about this late 1930's Saxon bicycle, check out Hilary Stone's article on Classic Lightweights UK, a beautiful and fascinating website for the bike enthusiast.


I guess in another decade or so, someone'll revive the design.  Plus ca change, plus la meme chose.



19 March 2011

A Grand Record And, How I Became Queen of the Road





I didn't post yesterday because I was a bad girl.  I stayed up well past my bedtime and partied.  At least I rode my bike to and from the bash.


Being the warmest day we've had since October, lots of people were riding for the first time this year.  One of them, I suspect, rode this bike:




It was parked in the same rack, at my second job, where I've seen a Pinarello.  I couldn't get a better photo of it because the bikes were parked so close together.  But I think you can see that it's a nice bike:  a Motobecane Grand Record, circa 1973.

The frame was made with Reynolds 531 double-butted tubing, those nice curly Nervex lugs and Campagnolo dropouts.  The bike was originally equipped with a mixture of high-quality French components and Campagnolo Nuovo Record shifters.





This specimen still has the shifters.  However, the crankset was replaced with what looks like a late-model Sugino AT triple.  It's a fine piece of kit, and allows for a small sprocket of 24 teeth.  I'm guessing that its owner wanted a triple, which wasn't possible with the original crankset.




This is the Specialites TA "Professional" crankset, which is what originally came on the Grand Record.  A number of European bikes, including a couple of models from Raleigh, sported this fine piece of machining and polishing.  Notice that the chainrings were attached to only three arms, as was common on cranksets (including Rene Herse's) until the 1970's.  Nearly all modern chainrings attach to either five or four arms.  The newer designs are supposed to be stiffer and more secure.  That may well be true, but plenty of really strong riders rode--and even raced--on three-arm cranks.


Anyway, these days replacement chainrings for those three-arm cranks aren't available from many other sources besides eBay.


After work, I went to the party I mentioned.  A colleague was celebrating a round-number birthday; the guests included some other colleagues as well as friends of hers I'd never met before.  They were all astounded that I rode there.  "But it only took me 45 minutes," I pointed out.  


The colleague offered to let me stay at her place.  I would've accepted, except that I remembered Charlie and Max.  Did I leave enough food for them?  And how full was their litter box?, I wondered.


So I assured my colleague that I had a good time.  I think she knew that, as I was one of the last people to leave.  But I fibbed about something else:  I said I would ride my bike to the Long Island Rail Road station, which was only two blocks away, and take the train home.  


You can guess what I did instead.  I rode home, about twenty-one miles.  It's not a great distance, certainly, and as I didn't drink any alcohol (I never do.), I could easily ride in a straight line.  As it turned out, even if I couldn't, it wouldn't have been much of a problem because the roads I took were almost completely free of traffic at that hour.  

Surprisingly, I didn't feel tired, even though I started to ride at about four in the morning.  The weather had gotten chillier, but I didn't put on the tights I'd brought with me.  So I rode with my legs bare below the hem of my skirt.  I didn't feel cold; I felt invigorated.  And the full moon was so bright that, had I stopped, I could have read Ulysses.  But I didn't stop, not even for a traffic signal.  Some of them were blinking their red lights, but--OK, I was a bad girl--I ran a couple of red lights.  OK, maybe more than a couple.  If a girl runs a red light and no one's there to see it....



And, I'll admit something else:  I took some main roads on which I wouldn't normally ride.  I'm not talking about the Long Island Expressway; I'm talking about main local thoroughfares like Jericho Turnpike, Hillside Avenue and Queens Boulevard (a.k.a. The Boulevard of Death).  


As I was riding those nearly empty streets, I thought for a moment about a Pinky and the Brain episode.  In it, Brain carries out his latest scheme for taking over the world:  He gets Pinky to help him create an alternative planet Earth.  He lures people to it by offering free T-shirts, which he correctly identified as an irresistible draw.  So, emptied of its former inhabitants, Brain finally "takes over" this world.


The difference was that I didn't suffer the empty feeling Brain had in the end.  Instead, by the time I got home, I was starting to feel tired.  And I fell into a very nice sleep--after I fed Charlie and Max.

17 March 2011

Green, Green Bikes





On "St. Patty's" day I found a page of--what else?--green bikes.


Here's an image that caught my eye:






Danielle of Studio 1212 created this image.  Speaking of creation and craftsmanship, check out this bike from Vendetta Cycles:

This model is called--what else?--the Green Hornet.


Better that, I say, than another green critter:



I can remember when Puma made only athletic shoes.  Back in those days, I wore some, including cycling, running, basketball, soccer and wrestling shoes.  It was all fine stuff, and they always seemed to fit me well.  



Now, this may be heresy for a transwoman to say, but I much preferred Puma that way.  Now they've become a fashion brand, or are trying to become one.  


What I like even less, though, is the bike on which they company is putting its name.  It looks suspiciously like something a shop tried to talk me into buying about fifteen years ago:




I couldn't find a photo of one in green.  Maybe they were never made.  It seems that every Slingshot I ever saw was in black, even though the one in the photo is red.


All right.  To make up for that, I'll show you a whole rack full of green bikes, courtesy of Bikehugger:






Of course, if one really wants to cycle in style on St. Patrick's Day, the bicycle can't be the only thing that's green:



15 March 2011

On The Horizon: Spring

Gatsby had his green light across the harbor.  For me, bridges on the horizon always seem to signal something. 




I hadn't been to this spot in months.  Today I took a little detour over that way on my way home from work.  It is odd, at least for a waterfront area in New York, in that it seems to open up every time I see it.  And the bridges are somehow clearer against every sunset.




I mean that literally as well as metaphorically.  The old Fort Totten Army base, which is near the foot of this bridge, has been turned into a park and its buildings are being given over to civilian--or other--purposes:




The bunkers in the background are very similar--and are in very similar condition--to the ones in Fort Tilden (at the other end of Queens, at Breezy Point) and Fort Hancock in Sandy Hook, NJ.  As I understand, those bunkers were built during the Spanish-American War of 1898 and were little used after that.  

As much as I enjoy the beauty of the water and landscapes around all of those places, it is a little disconcerting to know that those places were all used for the purpose of conducting war.  I hope that they will never be used that way again, just as I hope la Place de la Concorde, where I have enjoyed a stroll or two, is never again used as it was in the days of Robespierre.



For now, the place has its past and I have my moment in it. 




Then there was the ride home, part of it along the paths in Fort Tilden, along Long Island Sound and underneath the bridges I saw in the distance, very close to where Gatsby saw his green light.

14 March 2011

Next Year In Provence?

This ain't Peter Mayle's Provence:


German cyclist Tony Martin won this year's Paris-Nice race, which ended yesterday.  Here he's shown on the 27 km time trial to Aix-en-Provence.

If Monsieur Mayle were to write a book about training for the race, would he call it "Next Year In Provence"?  


13 March 2011

The Gates To The Seasons

Today I took out Tosca for the first time since the week before Christmas.  In fact, this is the first time any of my Mercians have been out since then.


At Alley Pond Park, we got an interesting welcome:




The "gate" is in Alley Pond Park, near the Queens-Nassau line.  I hadn't been there in a long time.   In fact, the last time I was there, I was on a mountain bike.  So were the three guys who were riding with me.


We didn't need--or, in my case, want--an open gate or door. We used to feel more drawn to entrances like this one:




We were young.  They were guys; I was living as one--and trying desperately to show that I was one of them.  We wouldn't talk about the signs of spring we saw or felt; the seasons didn't really matter.  Nor did the quality of the light.  Actually, I cared about that and other things I didn't talk about then.  




At the end of the day, there was the day's ride and the bike.  Some things don't change.  In fact, even though I'm not and probably will never be in the kind of shape I was in back then, some things are better.  That includes the ride and the bike.


Each of them has brought me to the gates of a new season.

12 March 2011

On My Bike, I Know The Season Is Changing


Tonight's post on Girls and Bicycles reminded me that cycling is, above all, a sensual experience.  After you've done some miles in the hills, any slice of pizza can seem like the manna from Heaven, and even the most ordinary cup of tea or bottle of beer (not that I've drunk the latter in a long time) can seem like the nectar of the goddesses.  


And, in the course of a ride--even a commute or a short "shake off the cobwebs" ride at this time of year--the senses attune to the subtlest nuances of light and the finest variations of clarity and mist in the air.


The photograph you see was taken from a park near the Nassau County line.  The ride there was flat yet invigorating. Perhaps that was the reason why I could sense, in every pore and orifice of my body, the play between the light that is opening from dimness to softness and the wind's inspiration turning the weariness of bare limbs stretched against gray skies into calmness that will turn to serenity as the clouds open for glimmerings of reassurance.


It's a wonderful feeling, even if it's momentary. But moments like that make rides and get you through the day, and night.  Really, what other reason is there to ride a bicycle? 

11 March 2011

Rose, Thou Are Well


O Rose, thou art sick!
The invisible worm
That flies in the night,
In the howling storm,

Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.

I took a slightly different route to work today.  Along the way, I found this:


Does this mean the rose's (with an unnecessary apostrophe) have gotten well? 

10 March 2011

Nuke This

I'm selling a couple of things on eBay.  So, naturally, I did a little "shopping."  In addition to bike items, I like to look for books, music and vintage brooches and other accessories.  Ebay is actually quite a good source for the latter:  When someone cleans out an attic in Iowa or goes through Aunt Hattie's estate in North Carolina, all kinds of interesting things can turn up!


Anyway, it almost goes without saying that eBay is one of the first places you check if you're looking for discontinued bike parts.  And, sure enough, something I rode about fifteen years ago and hadn't thought about in about ten appeared:




The hub is a Nuke Proof, which was made during the 1990's. That was the time when it seemed that every mountain bike bum who was still living with his parents so he could have access to his father's lathe and drill press was making what an old riding partner used to call ELS--Expensive Lightweight Shit. 






For a short time, I had Nuke Proof hubs.  Two pairs, in fact.


The bodies were made of carbon-fiber weave, and the aluminum flanges were apparently bonded to them.  With what, I still haven't found out.


Whatever it was, it wasn't very strong or suitable for the purpose. On three of my four of my Nuke Proof hubs, the flanges separated from the shells and collapsed inward toward the center of the axle.  


From what I understand, this wasn't an unusual occurence.  In fact, I know a couple of cyclists to whom the same thing happened.  


Nuke Proof replaced my hubs.  Or so they said.  To this day, I think they simply Super-Glued them back together.  About a week after I got my wheels back, the rear one on my road bike collapsed again.  They didn't want to replace those hubs again.  But Mike Rodriguez, who owned Open Road Cycles in Brooklyn, was one of NP's better customers.  He got yet another set of new NP hubs.  And he let me take a pair each of Dura Ace and XT hubs, plus some other parts, in exchange for those hubs.  I don't know what he did with them.  


Apparently, Nuke Proof is still in business.  To be fair, they made other parts, and for a time they were also making frames, or at least having them made to their specs.  As far as I know, those products held up better than those hubs I, and a lot of other cyclists, suffered with.


I never heard of anyone getting hurt from mishaps from Nuke Proof hubs. That might be the reason NP is still in business:  If nobody got hurt, they probably didn't have any lawsuits.  Still, those hubs must have cost them a lot in warranty claims!


Those hubs are easily the worst bike hubs--and one of the worst bike parts--I ever had.  


Tell me about some of the ELS (with the emphasis on the "S") you've ridden, dear readers.

09 March 2011

Fixin' to Sleep


Well, my plan is working.


I installed a fixed gear on Marianela so that my commutes and errand rides would give me more of a workout.  


Last night, I just barely kept myself awake to read the papers that had to be read and prepare my lesson for today. I think I fell asleep immediately after dotting the last "i" or the end of the last sentence.


Then again, I didn't get nearly enough sleep the night before.  

07 March 2011

Interesting Vintage Light





I confess:  I bought it because I had one like it in my youth. And the price was right.


It's a German-made Union "bloc" generator, on which the headlight is attached.  Generators of this type are made to mount on the front fork.  This one was most likely made during the mid-1970's.  I tested it, and found its light output to be surprisingly good, given the light's small size and old-style bulb.


The best-known generator of this style was made by Soubitez of France.  It--especially in its later iterations--was very stylish, as Soubitez products tended to be, and lighter in weight than other generators.  


However, the light on this one is larger than the one on its Soubitez counterpart. It is also, as you can see, mounted on the side of the generator, while Soubitez's light was mounted on the front of the generator body. (Sanyo and other companies emulated Soubitez in this detail.)  


Some would  argue that the Union was a somewhat more efficient generator.  Having owned both, as well as other generator sets made by both companies, I would say they were about equal in that regard. 


French constructeurs commonly installed Soubitez generators (on brazed-on brackets) and lights on their touring bikes and randonneuses, while many Dutch and German city bikes were equipped with Union products.


I was going to use the Union bloc generator in the photo on Marianela.  However, the strut from the basket got in the way.  






That's too bad, because I think it would have looked right on the bike. And it's a good generator.  The light is good, too, especially considering that it's an older technology.  Perhaps there's a halogen or LED bulb that would fit. 


Some would say that would violate the "spirit" of having a light like this.  But I'm all for new technology (when it works better than the old) with old style.  And, for me, that would have been the point of using it.

06 March 2011

Exceeding Their Grasp

Although the day was almost as mild as yesterday was, I didn't ride.  In fact, I barely got out of my apartment at all.  I wasn't the only one who stayed indoors:  The driving rain that began some time early this morning seemed not to let up.


As much as many of us would like to think Spring has sprung, some things tell us otherwise:




Stretching toward the light of a sun that is beyond them, their wizened fingers must weather the wind and rain, for now.  They remind me of what Robert Browning wrote in Andrea del Sarto:  "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp/Or what's heaven for?  All is silver-grey/Placid and perfect with my art:  the worse!

05 March 2011

Biking Bauhaus

A warm, or at least mild, early March day.  And I spent a good part of it doing errands.  At least it was on my bike.


Is a day like this one a foreshadowing of the season that will soon come?  Or is it a respite from the long, wearying season we've been experiencing?  Or is it just a teaser?


What if days like this were labeled?  What if bikes were so labeled?  Some announce themselves as racing bikes, city bikes or "comfort tourers" (whatever they are) in the decals on their frames or other parts.  Nearly all bikes--even the ones that aren't so marked--are marketed under one designation or another.  


What if there were truth in advertising?  One bike might be labeled, "sound design, solid construction."  Another would have to say, "Ignores 140 years of accumulated wisdom."  Yet another would have to say, "Designed by art-school dropout on crystal meth."  


Or they could tell you what they offer.  "Arcane design and proprietary parts."  How would you like a bike that so announced itself?  "Plastic with a pretentious name."  Then there are those bikes that could tell us they offer a "comfortable ride," "speed" or, perhaps, "flawless shifting and braking."  They could take their inspiration from this:




That building is in my neighborhood, more or less.  I've always wondered whether "Cornice and Skylights" was an advertisement?  An announcement?  The name of the firm that built or manages it?


Whatever its story, it has nothing on this building on the eastern end of Long Island:




You guessed it: Ducks and duck eggs were sold inside this building by a duck farmer.  (Now there's a career!)  Now it's a museum or visitors' center or some such thing.  I'm not surprised, as the days when one could make, or order in a restaurant, a dinner consisting of duck, potatoes and vegetables from Long Island are long past. (Such a dinner could be had during my childhood.  The ingredients could even be bought at our neighborhood's Waldbaum supermarket.)


Hmm...Can you imagine a bike shop or factory shaped like the product made or sold inside?  Is that Bauhausian?  Or some other -ian?  Or Ian?