Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

31 July 2011

Under A Clear Blue Sky

Today I took Arielle on one of our favorite rides:  to Point Lookout.  Although the temperature topped 90 F, it was quite a nice day for cycling:  The sky was almost preternaturally clear, which meant that the humidity was fairly low.  And, along the stretch from Rockaway Beach to Point Lookout, I was pedalling into the light wind/strong breeze.  That meant, of course. that it blew me back on the ride home.




I am not boasting when I tell you I took that photo.  It's not a postcard or an illustration; you get an idea of what kind of a day it was if someone with my photographic skills (or lack thereof) can take such a photo.


Of course, there has to be something to complicate a perfect day:




Can't you just hear the theme from Jaws" in the background?




Those guys have no idea of the fate that awaits them!


Actually, they were fine.  But you can see, from this photo, the sandbar that, just a bit later, came to the surface, as it does when the tide goes out.


Tomorrow I will probably do a short ride, or errand rides, as I am going to Prague the day after.  Somehow today's ride seemed like a perfect sand-off, and a perfect follow-up to the ride I did with Lakythia yesterday.  Yes, life is good.

30 July 2011

Letting Sleeping Dogs And German Bikes Lie By The Sea

What's that about letting sleeping dogs lie?




They are under...a broomstick, a couple of trees and a clear blue sky.  Seriously, they are under the care of a couple of park rangers at the old Fort TIlden site, which is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area.


Lakythia and I rode there, among other places, along the ocean.  I can tell already that she's a real friend:  At Rockaway Beach, she saw me in a bathing suit and didn't flinch.  As this is a family publication (ha, ha), I won't post a photo of that, or of me when I was soaking wet.  However, I will post a photo of her.  She's absolutely radiant, just having returned from two weeks of voyaging along the Italian coast.  




At Rockaway Beach, we feasted on the round loaf of whole wheat bread I bought in Parisi's Bakery, a mozzerella and tomato salad I brought and a tortellini salad she brought.   Now, just because my last name is Valinotti, I don't want you to read any bias into what I'm going to say next:  You really can measure the level of civilization of any nation by the amount of olive oil and garlic it uses in its national cuisine. ;-)






All right, there are other things that determine how civilized a society is, such as the transport bikes (or lack thereof).  This one, as best I can tell, is either German or Dutch.  The few inscriptions on it were in what looked like German.  I tried to photograph them, but none of the inscriptions are legible in the photos.


However, I thought the headlight was attached in an interesting place, in an interesting way:




I don't think this bike had a hub generator.  Rather, it seems to have had a bottle-type generator mounted to the front fork.  There was a brazed-on tab for one, and it looked as if the generator had been mounted at some point.  Was it stolen?  Or was it removed for a repair?


I was curious to know more about the bike.  But sometimes I guess it is better to let sleeping dogs lie.

29 July 2011

Anticipation: Cycling in Prague

In four more days, I'm leaving for Prague.  As you might imagine, I've been reading what I can about cycling the city.  And the comments on everything--from facilities to guided tours to cycling itself--are very mixed.  I guess that's not surprising, given what a metropolis Prague is.


One interesting insight offered by the Lonely Planet guide is that while cycling is becoming more popular, and the city is building bike lanes and doing other things to make cycling more popular and safer, and viable for commuting, things are nowhere near as good as they are in Vienna and some of the German, Dutch and Scandinavian cities.  Part of the reason for that, the LP editors say, is that while the central city is flat, it is surrounded by hills, which makes commuting from the outskirts less enticing for most people.  Also, they say, the lanes don't yet form a unified system that the lanes in other European cities are.   


Of course, comments like those aren't going to stop me.  Whatever they have in Prague, it must be better than just about any American city--and many European cities--had twenty or thirty years ago.  One thing that sounds familiar is the warning LP and a few other sources give:  Czech drivers are anti-cyclist.  As if they aren't in other places!


What I have decided is that I'm going to rent a bike.  If I were going to be away for longer, or if I were going on a tour or a cycle-camping trip, I'd want to bring one of my own bikes.  But, as a general rule, I like to travel as light as possible and, in these days of "security" measures and airline policies that seem increasingly capricious, I want to make everything as simple as possible.  For example, whenever I go to see my parents in Florida, I take only a carry-on bag with me, even if I'm going for ten days, as I did during the most recent Christmas season.


I still haven't decided, though, whether to take a guided bicycle tour. I might take one for my first ride there, as I've never been in Prague before and know only a few basic phrases in Czech and German.  (I once knew some more German, but it has all but disappeared from disuse.  On the other hand, I have had numerous occasions to use my French and Spanish.)  However, the reviews I've read of read of various guided tours are even more mixed than what I've read about cycling generally in Prague.  


I'm sure, though, that cycling there will be interesting.  How could it not be if people park bikes in places like this?:




28 July 2011

Mixte-O-Mania

Miss Mercian II is almost there.  Today, Hal at Bicycle Habitat installed a new headset for me.  I'd hoped to get it in silver or gold.  However, because the original headset has a short "stack height," the number of headsets I can use is limited--unless I replace the fork with one on which the steering column wasn't cut.  And why would I want to replace the fork?  So the headset I got is black, albeit of high quality.


I'm also making a couple of other changes, which you'll see when I unveil her--after my first ride.


And the mixte-o-mania continues.  I found this photo of an old Raleigh Super Course mixte:




Back in my early adolescence, when I was barreling around town on my Schwinn Continental, I wanted--for a time, anyway--this bike.  Of course, back then I wanted the diamond frame, which was no less pretty than this one.


Its color remains, to this day, my favorite shade of red I've ever seen on a bicycle.  I don't remember what Raleigh called it, but I would say it's a deep candy-apple shade.  And it looked great with those white panels and outlines.  


I didn't get the bike.  It was just as well, really:  Later, I ended up buying a Peugeot PX-10, which was a much nicer bike.  When I started to work in a bicycle shop, during the mid-1970's, I saw that the quality of all but the three or four top models of Raleigh was declining.  In fact, I saw more than a few new (at that time) Records, Grand Prix and Super Courses--not to mention Sprites and three-speeds--with misaligned frames, bottom bracket threads that weren't cut properly and bearings that seemed to have sand instead of grease in them.  


Even so, those red Super Courses sure were pretty!  Not as pretty as my bikes though, just as no other cats are as cute as Charlie and Max! ;-)

26 July 2011

A Storm Coming

In the part of Florida where my parents live, one can see a storm coming from miles away.  In fact, I've pedaled into them.  The good news is that most of them don't last long, so it's usually possible to wait them out.


On the other hand, there aren't many parts of New York where you can see a storm coming so clearly.  Where my parents live, it's flat and there are almost no buildings of more than three stories.  The campus where I work is sort of like that:  Though there are more buildings, more densely spaced, than in my parents' area, none are high.  And it's kept that way because the JFK International Airport runways are only three to four miles away.


So it's possible to see a storm coming, as I did when I was leaving:




I decided to chance it.  But I pedaled only two blocks before a rain fell that, along with the darkness, made it impossible to see more than another block away 

25 July 2011

Pondering Marianela's Fate





I'm still debating what to do with Marianela.  I don't think selling her will bring enough money to make it worthwhile.  I suppose I still could donate her, which might be a halfway noble thing to do.  


But even that doesn't seem feasible, in a way. When I donated the Bridgestone Mountain Bike, at least it was a bike that its intended recipient--an immigrant who's working in construction, landscaping, restaurants or wherever else they need cheap labor--would be happy to get.  It's in a fairly common size, albeit a little bigger than the mountain bikes I used to ride.  And, not having suspension but having good, basic components, it makes a a good transport bike and is not overly complicated or esoteric.

However, mixte frames of any quality are hard to come by in Marianela's size.  My two Mercian mixtes are both custom frames--one (Helene) built for me and the other (Miss Mercian II) built for Pete, from whom I bought it.  Just as most clothing manufacturers still seem to think that women don't need inseams of more than 30 inches, bike makers seem to think either that there aren't any women over 5'6" or that those of us who are taller are just men with a couple of different parts.



So, the fact that it's a tall mixte is almost, by itself, reason to keep Marianela, even if Miss Mercian II becomes my commuter.  I could keep Marianela locked up outside, so the limited space in my apartment wouldn't be an issue.  And, as I mentioned earlier, I think that there will still be times when she'll come in handy.

If I keep her, though, I might get a pair of plastic fenders to replace the ones I took from her.  They wouldn't be as pretty as the fenders (Velo Orange Zeppelins) I had on the bike, but they might be more practical for a bike that's going to be parked on the streets and not well cared-for.  



I would definitely need to replace the seat, though.  Right now, she has the one that came with Miss Mercian II.  That seat is one I wouldn't ride in any case, and it's entirely unsuited for upright bars.  I suppose I could buy a Brooks B-67 or something similar for MMII and return the Gyes to Marianela.  But the Gyes is pretty well broken-in and I don't want to take the time to break in another saddle.  Besides, something cheap, and possibly made of synthetic materials, just might make more sense on a bike I'm going to leave on the streets.  

24 July 2011

Urban Bicycle Anthropology--Or Is It Archaelogy?

There are bikes on encounters, it seems, only when they are locked to sign posts or parking meters in large cities.




Talk about a Frankenbike!  This is a Schwinn Varsity, circa 1974-75.  I base those dates on the color and the fact that Schwinn was offering it around that time, which was when I first started to work in bicycle shops.


That a Schwinn Varsity or Continental of that vintage is being used for a city transport bike is not unusual.  I had a continental, and I recall what a tank it was.  And, it was a "lightweight" bike:  The Varsity was, if I recall correctly, about three or four pounds heavier.


Well, someone lightened this Varsity.  It has alloy rims and Continental Gator Skin tires. (I know those tires are not lightweights, but compared to the original equipment, they're helium balloons. )  And those bars--they alone save about two pounds over the original equipment!  I know they're not the originals because they're alloy.  That alone would have halved the original weight, but then most of the bar was cut away.

Is the bike's owner a messenger? Can't be a hipster:  The bike still has its derailleurs.  They're the originals, in fact:  Schwinn-branded Huret Allvit on the rear and a Schwinn-branded Huret on the front.  What's really strange, though, are the shifters.  Yes, they are also the originals, but stem-mounted shifters really look strange with those bars--and brake levers.



And on this bike we find the ultimate weight-saving measure:  no saddle.  Yes, that has to be at least two pounds of avoirdupois excised from the ensemble.  Believe it or not, I've actually seen cyclists ride without saddles.  The thing is, nobody believes you when you tell them that's how you lost your virginity!


Anyway...I concede the seat might have been stolen. However, when one sees a parked bike without a seat (but with a seatpost remaining in the frame), it's usually starting to decay, and is often missing other parts.  So I'm wondering whether the bike's owner removed the seat when he/she parked the bike.  Usually, though, when cyclists remove their seats, they take the seat post, too, because their bikes have quick release clamps.  Whoever removed the saddle of from this Varsity must have used a tool of some sort.  Given that the bike has good tires and fancy brake levers, perhaps the seat is a Brooks or something similar.


Ok,I'll admit it:  I must be a real bike geek if I can look at a parked bike and speculate as much as I have about how it might have come to be what it is now.

23 July 2011

Progress Report: Miss Mercian II


Marianela feels exposed these days.  Well, she should see Miss Mercian II:  She’s barefoot.  Or tireless, anyway.  Wait, is that the right word?  Well, you get the idea:



She may not have shoes, I mean tires, yet.  But she’s got some nice accessories, like the fenders:



And you remember the Gyes Parkside with my DYI Carradice bag quick-release?  Well, I think MM II is going to wear her well:




Especially since she has gloves, I mean grips, that match, more or less:




The shifter is a Sun Tour micro-ratchet model.  It’s one of a pair, but I’m only using the front.  That’s because MM II is going to have only one chainring on the front:


Amazing, isn’t it, what you can find if you hit a bike shop at the right time.  That’s how I got the Origin 8 chainring, which is really the Rocket ring.  And the chainguard is from BBG in Oregon.

I cleaned the cranks (They came with the bike.) and the logos just happened to come off. ;-)  They were a bit tarnished, so I rubbed them with some fine steel wool. I followed that with a couple of dabs of Simichrome polish, and, after buffing the cranks, I wiped everything down with some Never-Dull pads. 

The cranks, by the way, are Shimano Deore FC-MT 60.  About 20 years ago, higher-end mountain bikes were equipped with them.  They are like a triple version of the Sugino Alpina, which means that they would make nice touring cranks.  But they came with those infernal Bio-Pace chainrings.  The ones that came with these cranks were pretty worn, which gave me a good excuse to get rid of them.


About the accessories:  The cage is from King—not the same one who makes the headsets.  This King makes these cages from stainless steel in Colorado. 


And the rack, which came with the bike, was made by a classic British manufacturer:  Tonard.  If you look at some of those old English club bikes, the racks and bag supports might have been made by Tonard.  I don’t know whether they’re still in business, but it seems like they made some good stuff, on par, quality-wise,  with similar Carradice, Karrimor and Chossy products


And, because I’m so self-indulgent, I’m going to leave you with a couple more shots of the lugwork and tubes.



22 July 2011

Hotter'N Hotter'N Hell?

Yesterday, I rambled (or babbled, depending on your point of view) about a ride I've never done in a place I've never been anywhere near.   I've been to Texas once in my life, and came away convinced that nowhere is near anywhere else in that state.  Perhaps you can forgive me for having such an impression if you understand my perspective:  New York, where I live, is closer to either Boston or Washington, DC than Dallas is to Houston.  And Houston is further from Wichita Falls, the home of Hotter'N Hell Hundred, than New York or Boston are from Montreal.  

Anyway, after I declared my fascination with (which, I guess, implies some interest in doing) HHH, I was a wuss today.  The temperature  reached 104 degrees in Central Park.  Even though the humidity, by definition, can reach only 100 (percent), it seemed to be even higher than the temperature.  



Penny-farthing thermometer


I might have gone for a ride had I wakened earlier, or gone toward the water.  However, as much as I dislike the heat and humidity, they weren't what deterred me.  I took one look at the haze that smudged the sky and said, "I am not going to breathe that shit!"  I could have dealt with the heat simply by hydrating--I've done that on rides when the temperature, if not my mileage, reached the century mark. However, I do have a fairly sensitive respiratory system, and I didn't think going for a ride in those conditions would do me much good.  I might go for a short hop later tonight, after the temperature cools to, oh, about 92 degrees.  To the folks in Wichita Falls, that's probably a chilly Hotter'N Hell Hundred.  (Is that an oxymoron?)

21 July 2011

Hotter Than...

Today was so hot...


Today was hotter than...


Today has been one of those days when, it seems, everyone has his or her own version of one of those two declarations.  Today was so hot that my lycra melted off me.


I could have used that line a few years ago.  These days, I don't own any lycra bike clothes, or much of anything in lycra.  So I have to come up with something new, I guess.


Being the religious sort that I am (ha, ha), I can't say hotter than aitch-ee-double-toothpick.  But it seems that a bunch of riders in Texas can.  They even have a ride named after it:  The Hotter 'N Hell 100





Now, I'll admit, I have never been to HHH (the last "H" is for "Hundred") or, for that matter, Wichita Falls, Texas.  But if it's even hotter than it is today, or they have days like this every day for months on end (as they have in the part of Florida where my parents live), I'm not so sure I'd want to go there, at least at this time of year.  


Now, I have ridden in the mid-afternoon heat of days even hotter than this.  So I suppose that I could condition myself for HHH.  After all, I have ridden a hundred miles on days when the temperature reached 100 F.  I admit, though, I haven't done anything like that in a while.


But something about the ride intrigues me.  Well, any ride with aitch-ee-double-toothpick in its name is bound to get my attention. The grandparent of all such rides is, of course, l'Enfer du Nord, or the aitch-ee-double-toothpick of the North, otherwise known as the Paris-Roubaix. It's held in early spring every year, and the weather has ranged from hot and dusty to windy and snowy--and everything in between.  At least, anyone who signs up for HHH knows it's going to be hot, or so I imagine.


Is that hot weather guaranteed?  If the day turns out, by some chance, to be more like a perfect spring day--say, 70 degrees F without a cloud in the sky or much humidity--can the participants demand a refund of their registration fees?


Hmm...What if a cyclo-cross race were held and all the mud dried?  Or what if there were no snow for Iditarod?  What would people do?


If you're reading this and you're going to ride in HHH, I wish you well.  Have fun!



20 July 2011

A Tipping Point And A Sea Change

I never saw this day coming...

Most of us, by the time we get to a certain age, make this declaration (perhaps with a sigh) over one thing or another.  Some of us never thought we'd be working in the jobs or careers in which we've found ourselves.  Others never thought we'd see our kids (fill in the blank).  Still others never thought they'd see the day they'd buy a non-American car--until, of course, they bought their Camries.  And then there are those who never,ever thought they'd eat raw fish and rice until they had sushi.

Well, I am having a "I never imagined this would happen" moment.  In my case, it's neither a good nor a bad thing.  All I can say is that it, looking back, it seems inevitable (Doesn't everything, in retrospect?) and I'm rather enjoying?

So what is this milestone in my life?  Well, I now have five bikes.  That ties my personal record, which I last achieved about a dozen years ago.  However, I don't have any of the five bikes I had then. 

You see, of the five bikes I now have, I acquired three specifically because of something that's happened in my life since I had those other five bikes. And I got the other two because of the ways I think about my riding and my bikes has changed since my life-changing event.



Some of you who have been following this blog (or my other) may have already guessed what's happened.  I reached a tipping point last week when Miss Mercian II arrived at my door:  I now own more "women's" than "men's" bikes. Specifically, I now have three mixte and two diamond frames.

Hey, we're talking about something even more important--at least for me--than the Senate going to the Republicans or the House to the Democrats.  I can already feel the ground shifting under me or, at least, the road conditions changing under my tires.  Yes, it really is Ariel's "sea change" in The Tempest.

All right, so I was being just a little hyperbolic.  (Is "a little hyperbolic" an oxymoron?)  But just today it occured to me "girls rule," if you will, in my bike stable.  Back when I had those other five bikes, if you had told me this day would come, I would have said that you've been inhaling helium out of inner tubes.

I had thought about selling or giving Marianela away. The former wouldn't bring me very much cash, really.  The latter option might be a nice thing to do.  I've already given one bike to an organization that helps immigrant workers; perhaps someone else could benefit from the largesse. 

Then again, I could leave her locked up outside and use her for errands that are really short or that take me to high-risk places.  She's serving that purpose now, and she has been my regular commuter and transportation bike.  So she'll get a lighter workload, which she might appreciate. And I could also use her as a loaner or guest bike.

But most important, if I want to keep that majority for which I've fought long and hard ;-), I've got to keep her!



18 July 2011

Stripping Marianela

Oh, the indignities of being a commuter bike.  


It's a good thing I didn't complete the one and only course I ever took in gender studies.  Otherwise, Marianela and I would really be at it.  And, really, in spite of what you may have heard about me, I'm really not the argumentative type. ;-)


You see, she is in the process of donating parts to other bikes, namely my new Miss Mercian.  She insists I'm stripping her.  I mean, today she had to endure being seen without fenders along a busy thoroughfare.  Imagine how you would feel if lots of people were looking at you after somebody took your fenders.


Not only that, the--She's insisting that I say "her"--Gyes saddle is gone.  Actually, she traded it for the saddle that came with the new bike.  






It would have been one thing if I'd actually finished that gender studies course and taken others.  But can you imagine what Marianela would be saying if she'd read The Handmaid's Tale?  She'd tell me I was turning her into a Breeder or something.  


Well, I'm not going to give her a copy of THT because, truthfully, it sucks.  It has plot holes you can pedal your Surly Long Haul through, and I simply couldn't believe that women had, in essence, developed a collective case of Stockholm Syndrome--one of the basic premises of the book.


And, let's face it, if Marinela is protesting the loss of "her" fenders and saddle, she has a mind of her own.  I respect her for that, even if I disagree with her accusations!  

17 July 2011

A Bumette's View

I was such a bum today.  Actually "bum" has kind of a male connotation to it.  At least, I don't recall anyone referring to a woman as a "bum."  Are there bumettes?  Hmm...That sounds like the name of a band or something.


(Speaking of bands:  I actually played drums for a local punk rock band when I was in college.  Back then, it was perfect for me because I didn't have to be very good at it, and I could do it drunk, which I often was in those days. But I digress.)


So how much of a bumette was I?  Well, for one thing, I slept very late.  And when I opened my door, I felt as if I'd stepped into a blast furnace.  That destroyed my incentive to do much of anything.  So I didn't ride today.  


And what do they say about idle hands?  Well, actually, I had stuff to do, but I procrastinated a bit.   I finally listed a few things on eBay, including a couple of parts I pulled off the bike I just bought.


I find that I prefer photographing most bikes and parts in daylight.  So I find myself moving into all kinds of weird spaces and position to get the light or space I'm seeking.  Sometimes, I'll go into the driveway next to where I live, as it is partly covered.  And it offers some interesting views:




Once I leave the confines of the driveway, the shifters turn  into deadly weapons:


Tomorrow morning, I'm definitely getting up early and going for a ride!

16 July 2011

Where All Of The Pie Plates In Brooklyn Went

Believe it or not, someone has actually come up with a use for those "pie plate" "spoke protectors" that were found on so many Bike Boom-era ten-speed bikes.


I saw this display at Brooklyn Bikes and Boards, which is located a couple of blocks in back of the Brooklyn Academy of Music.


It's located in the same storefront as a shop I used to frequent:  Bicycle Station, which was owned by Michael Rodriguez.  Before he owned that shop, he owned Open Road, just around the corner from the Bergen Street apartment where I lived.  A former lover was convinced that I moved there for that reason.  I deny it.


Mike was one of the better mechanics I knew.  And, as it happened, his build and his riding style were much like mine, at least in those days. So his recommendations usually worked well for me.  As you might expect, I bought a couple of bikes and a bunch of parts and accessories from him. And, we did more than a few training rides together.


Brooklyn Bikes and Boards is, like many other shops in this town, cluttered.  And they seem as if they know what they're doing:  They seem to be catering to a clintele that's younger and more self-consciously, or at least more aspirationally, hip than I am.  


Anyway, the owner--whose name I didn't get--was happy to let me take the photo.  And, I have to give "props" to someone who can do anything at all with those "pie plates." In one of the shops in which I worked, we used them as Frisbees.  But I think that BBb display is a better--and safer--use for them!

15 July 2011

First Glance at MM II

OK, Velouria.  I'm going to give you, and everyone else reading this, a quick "just out of the box" look at Miss Mercian II.






I didn't fully assemble it because I am going to change a few things.  I plan to keep most of the components because they're all good, if not at the same level as the ones on my other Mercians.  


The cranks, hubs and brakes are from Shimano's Deore DX line.  When it was introduced in 1987, it was one step below Deore XT, making it Shimano's second-best mountain bike set.  (I hate using the word "gruppo.")  When the Deore XTR came out in 1991, it moved the DX to third in Shimano's mountain bike line.  Then Shimano introduced the Deore LX line in 1994.  It was priced somewhat lower than the DX but incorporated some of the more desirable features of the XT and XTR lines.  Some time after introducing LX, Shimano discontinued DX.


So, I've gotten a first-rate frame with second- to- third-tier (but still perfectly good) components.  That will work fine for me if I'm going to commute on this bike. I'll just ride the components until they wear out.  




The head-to-downtube lug on this bike has a noticeably longer point and larger cutout window than the same lug on my other Mercians.  There's nothing wrong with this; it's just a different kind of look.  I think the lug on this bike works well with the color and the fact that the "top tube" is two parallel tubes.


Finding this bike was utterly serendipitous.  I was looking for something else on eBay and, for fun, I decided to type "Mercian" in the search box.  Mercians don't show up often on eBay and, when they do, they tend to command good prices.   What made this bike even more of a find is that it's a mixte--only a small percentage of Mercian's productions is this model--and it was in a large size.  And, if Mercian didn't offer the finish that's on my other bikes (Number 57, a.k.a. "flip-flop" purple to green) or lilac, I would have chosen "British racing green," which is the color of this bike.


I didn't assemble it completely because of the changes I plan to make.  As an example, I didn't bother to put on the front fender, which was removed for shipping.  Instead, I'm going to strip the Velo Orange "Zeppelin" fenders off Marianela.  (The ones that came with the bike are plastic.  I think they were painted, because the black seems to be coming off in spots on the side you see when the fender is installed.  The underside is gray.)  And, as I mentioned in a previous post, I'm taking Marianela's saddle for this bike. 

Poor Marianela!  I'm so mean, stripping her that way!  You'd think I was a guy or something. ;=)



At least the handlebars, brake levers and chainring I'm putting on this bike are new.  


Don't worry. No bikes are being harmed in this process.

14 July 2011

Climbing On Bastille Day


This photo comes from Cycling Art Blog, which I discovered when looking for news about the Tour de France.


As far as most French fans are concerned, the next-best thing to a Frenchman winning the Tour (which hasn't happened since Bernard Hinault took his fifth and final Tour victory in 1985) is a French rider winning on Bastille Day.

That didn't happen today.  Samuel Sanchez of Spain won this day's stage, which included a steep climb to the Luz-Ardiden ski station in the Pyrenees.  However, a French cyclist, Thomas Voeckler, kept the yellow jersey, which is worn by the race leader.  As he's not known as a climber, almost nobody expected him to do that.  Even he didn't even expect to finish the day in first place overall.



I didn't ride up Luz-Ardiden.  However, I did ride up Tourmalet and Aubisque, both of which have been part of the Tour's legend.  Having done those, among other Pyreneean climbs, as well as a number of Alpine climbs in France, Switzerland and Italy, I think each mountain range is difficult in its own way. 


The Alps are higher; I pedalled up several mountains that were over 2000 meters high.  The sheer lack of oxygen at the highest levels makes those climbs difficult even for well-conditioned cyclists; dehydration is also a hazard.

One can encounter those same conditions in the Pyrenees.  However, even though they aren't as high as the Alps, some of the climbs are every bit as challenging because, I think, they're even steeper than some of the Alpine climbs.  One reason for that is that the roads in the Alps are more modern:  Because the Alps are smack in the middle of Europe, they are more heavily traveled than the Pyrenees.  That is probably the reason why there, one finds more modern roads, which tend to have climbs that are more gradual and evenly graded, even if they longer, than the older roads of the Pyrenees.  



Some Tour riders concur with my observations.  See that:  The great minds think alike! ;-)  And we all love the grand tradition of a ride on Bastille Day.

13 July 2011

She's Here, Along With Diss

Miss Mercian II arrived today.  I haven't had a chance to unpack her, as I've just gotten home from work.  And I'm not about to start assembling a bike while I'm in the skirt and blouse I'm wearing!


But, as you can imagine, I'm looking forward to it.  I opened the flap of the box and pulled away enough of the bubble wrap to see how elegant the frame is with its dark green paint and gold pinstriping and lettering.  I really think the brown grips, leather saddle and mudflap will complement it nicely.


Poor Marianela is giving up those parts.  Is a lady who sacrifices for another lady even more noble than the man who does the same?


What kind of a rhetorical question did I just ask?  Hey, this is a bike blog!  I never promised not to be self-indulgent.


The amazing thing is that Pete just dispatched the bike yesterday--in England.  In Suffolk, as a matter of fact.  Things take longer to get from Suffolk County, Long Island to my place than it took for the bike to come to me.  There is an ocean between me and Pete; there is only Nassau County between the New York City borough of Queens, where I live, and Suffolk County.  Then again, a plane or ship making the trip from Albion to America is less likely to get stuck in traffic than a truck on the Long Island Expressway (a.k.a. The World's Longest Parking Lot). 






In our exchanges of e-mails, Pete told me about the Diss Cycling Club, which is based in his area.  Its president owns the local shop, which has the earliest recorded Mercian sale.  In the shop, he also has a photo of himself sharing the podium with Beryl Burton, whom I mentioned in a previous post. 


I intend to read more about the club, and about British cycling clubs generally, as they seem to have an interesting history and culture.  


And now I'm up to my fourth Mercian.  That, in itself, is going to be interesting when I write my post(s) about all the bicycles I have owned--or all the ones I can remember, anyway!

12 July 2011

Another Mercian On The Way

What do a Miss Mercian bike and Anthony Hopkins have in common?  

They're British.  And, soon, they'll both be residing in America.

Pete, from whom I bought the bike, sent me a tracking number.  He's checked out this blog and asked me, "Have you picked a name for her yet?"  I told him I'll name her once I customise her. 

 

I envision her as a sophisticated roadster/elegant commuter.  So, today I also ordered a pair of Tourist handlebars, which are patterned after North Road bars, from Velo Orange.  However, instead of ordering cork grips, as I originally planned, I decided to order a pair of Kraton rubber grips with a "basket weave" pattern.  I figure they'll go nicely with the Gyes Parkside saddle I'm going to take off Marianela.  And, I plan to install a pair of handlebar-mount shifters.    Finally, I might take Marianela's fenders, too:  They're the VO "Zeppelin" fenders, with a brown leather mudflap, which I think will look really nice on the Mercian.

Of course, Marianela will get the saddle and fenders that come with the Mercian.

This is going to be interesting, to say the least.  And lots of fun.

11 July 2011

Childhood Summer Riding

Today was a good bit hotter than yesterday.  Yesterday's sky, as blue as the sea and clearer--as it always seems to be in those ideal memories of Childhood--turned hazier, as it often does when one tries to recall that blue expanse of yesteryear.  


The only riding I did today took me to and from work.  I was about a mile from work when Marianela's rear tube developed a slow leak.  I was just barely able to get to work, and before I rode home I had to fix it.  That, in the college where almost nobody else rides bikes.


But none of that took my mind off the riding I did over the weekend.  For some reason, I found myself thinking about a group of boys who rode in circles and did wheelies in the park at Point Lookout.  As it turns out, I had a photo of them:




Now tell me:  Does that look like someone's childhood memory of summer, or what?

10 July 2011

Two Great Rides, And I Won!





I followed yesterday's wonderful ride with another today.  Arielle and I took one of our favorite jaunts: to Point Lookout, along the Atlantic coasts in the Rockways and Nassau County.  Along the way, we managed to avoid some of the crowds and the Tour de Queens.  I've no objection to the Tour; I simply didn't feel like riding with 1000 other people.






Besides, the ride along, and to, the water is sublime on a day like today.  It was just a bit warmer than I like, but at least there was practically no humidity.  The only downside to that, of course, is that even though I drank all of the water I brought with me, I made two stops besides Point Lookout so I could fill my bottle and for other beverages.






The tide was in at Point Lookout, so I kicked off my shoes.  The waves washed between my toes and left--seaweed.  I saw lots of it today.  And, for a moment, I wondered whether I should find some fisherman's net and harvest some of it.  Just as I think of making pesto whenever I see fresh basil, I now have visions of miso soup when I see seaweed!


Before I left on my ride, I was watching the auction for the Miss Mercian and just barely resisted a temptation to increase my bid.  Turns out, I didn't need that higher bid:  When I got home and checked, I found that I won the bike for exactly the amount of my highest bid.  The shipping is going to cost a bit more than I thought it would, but from what the seller and Fed Ex say, I should have the bike within a week of shipment (or dispatch, as the Brits like to call it.)


I've been thinking of how I'd like to set it up.  At the moment, I'm envisioning a nice, classy transport bike. I'll keep all of the components, as they're of good quality.  However, I will definitely replace the saddle.  I might take the Gyes Parkside off Marianela (sorry!), as it's like the  Brooks B67 and I really don't want to spend the money for, or break in, a new saddle.  Also, I have set up the Parkside for my "quick release" Carradice bag.  And I'm also thinking of installing either the Velo Orange Montmartre or North Road bar with cork grips.  But if I install those bars, I might want a wider saddle.  Perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself.  But I think you can understand why!







09 July 2011

At The End Of Today's Limits





Well, the thunderstorms we had yesterday got rid of the heat and humidity--for a couple of hours this morning, anyway.   To be fair, although it turned into a warm, sticky day, it wasn't nearly as bad as yesterday.  Still, I overdressed:  After going to Parisi's for a couple of snacks to take on the ride, I changed from the tank top I'd been wearing, and intended to wear, on my ride for a heavier, three-quarter sleeve shirt.  At least the shirt is cotton, and kinda cute (or so I've been told).


Anyway, it felt good to get out earlier than I had been riding, and to ride with Lakythia.  She says that today I pushed her past an old limit of hers.  It was funny to hear that:  For a moment, I though of myself riding in a studded leather bustier.  Then again, I've never owned one of those, and finding one to fit me probably wouldn't be easy!


What she meant was that we went on a longer ride than any other she'd taken in a long while.  The funny thing is that I wouldn't have known that unless she'd told me:  She was tired, but so was I.  It was the kind of day that would have tired out just about anybody who was riding five or more hours and wasn't a Cat III racer.


I do have one excuse for being tired:  I rode in a fixed gear.  I don't mean to blame the bike;  Tosca, when I pedal her, just wants to keep on going.  But I simply didn't have the option of shifting gears, which I would have liked later in the ride.  When you can't shift gears, even ascending a ramp to a bridge walkway can seem like a real climb.


I find that it's always late in a ride of two hours or more (depending on the season and my condition) that I notice the difference between the way my bikes feel.  Arielle and Helene remain comfortable and, like Tosca, just want to keep on going.  


However, I feel that of all of my bikes, Arielle can "carry" me the most at the end of a ride:  I can just find a comfortable gear and she'll get me home.  Plus, the drop bars allow me to find a position that's comfortable.  Paradoxically, sometimes I want to ride in the "drops" when I'm tired, because the efficiency of the position helps the bike to maximize whatever energy I still have left.  Of course, I can also do that on Tosca, but I can't shift to a lower gear.  On the other hand, on Helene, riding on the forward position of the Porteur bars isn't as efficient as riding on drops.  Then again, if I want to, I can ride upright on Helene, which I can't do on Arielle or Tosca.


Of course, I didn't explain all of this to Lakythia, mainly because I wasn't thinking about it while we were riding.  However, if she wants to know more about such things, or turn into a gearhead, I can help her with that, too.  For now, I'm content to have found someone else with whom I enjoy riding.