Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

30 April 2012

When We Pedaled 100 Miles Barefoot In The Snow To Our Training Rides

On Le Col du Lauteret during Le Tour de France, 1930


At the New Amsterdam Bike Show, I bumped into someone who works at a bike shop I've mentioned on this blog.  As it happens, this person and I share similar tastes in bikes and attitudes toward riding.

He recently fixed up a vintage frame with components that were mostly from the same period as the frame.  After taking it out for a ride, he said there was something he simply could not understand:  "How did you climb hills with a 13-21 cluster?"

Back in the day, we didn't use cassettes that mounted on cog carriers on our rear wheels. They weren't available.   Instead, we used freewheels that threaded onto the hub itself.  We usually referred to the cogs that were on the freewheel as a "cluster."  So, a "13-21 cluster" meant that the largest gear had 21 teeth and the smallest, 13. 

SunTour "Winner" freewheel:  one of the best of its era

The ratio I just mentioned was the one most commonly used by racers. Usually, we rode them with front chainrings of 42 and 52 or 53 (or, sometimes, 54) teeth.  To compare, consider that most racers today are riding 12-23 or 12-25 cassettes with 39-53 in the front.

(Experienced cyclists know that in the rear, a smaller sprocket means a higher gear, but a lower gear on the front.)

"Sawtooth" pedals, a.k.a. Campagnolo Pista con denti


I was going to tell me young friend that, yes, we were tougher in those days before video games, i-Phones and such.  Yes, indeed, I would have told him that we pedaled--with our bare feet on "sawtooth" pedals--100 miles through the snow every day to get to our training rides. But my young friend is, of course, intelligent enough not to believe anything like that.  Besides, it's one thing for a middle-aged man who weighs about forty pounds more than he did in his racing days to say such things.  For a middle-aged woman to say it really would have stretched the limits of his credulity.  What I'm really saying in the previous sentence is that I would have simply felt silly telling a story like that.

Anyway, I ventured a few explanations for him.  For one thing, I said, we didn't know as much about cycling injuries in those days, so many of us pedaled and pedaled--in high gears--until we blew out our knees or hurt ourselves in other ways.  We thought we could "pedal through" whatever ailed us. Plus, the prevailing wisdom of the day stressed power rather than a high rate of RPMs. 

Also, I said, bikes and gearing were different.  Eddy Mercx won five Tours with only five gears in his rear cluster.  So, he was riding with ten speeds--in total.  Today, "ten speed" refers to the number of gears (sprockets) in the rear cassette of a typical (Shimano-equipped) racing bike.

What that meant was that the jumps or gaps between gears was much greater on five-speed clusters than it is on ten-speed cassettes with the same range of gears.  That is the reason why the smallest gears were bigger (typically 13 or 14 vs. today's 12 or 11) and the largest were smaller (19, 20 or 21 vs. 23, 24, 25 or even 26) than what's found on racing bikes today.

Back in those days, tourists rode clusters on which the smallest sprocket had 14 teeth and the largest comprised 28, 32, 34 or even 36 teeth. You can see that on a five- (or even six- or seven-) speed cluster, the gaps between gears would be enormous.  Some tourists would overcome that somewhat by having two closely-spaced sprockets (chainrings), along with one that was much smaller (the "granny" gear) in the front.  However, racers and others who ride a lot of training miles prefer smaller differences between gears because those differences are more noticeable on a lightweight bike that's not loaded down with panniers full of clothing and camping equipment.


"Corncob" freewheel.  Yes, I rode this very freewheel, and others like it!

In other words, we were riding those small ("corncob") clusters because of the quirks in the equipment that was available to us, as well as our relative ignorance about cycling injuries.  And, in my case, I had something (besides a few thousand fewer fat cells) in my body that I don't have now:  testosterone.  Of course, my young friend still has that.  So he has no excuse. (Ha, ha!)

29 April 2012

In The Bag At The New Amsterdam Bike Show





In "What I Carried In The Original Messenger Bag"--one of my early posts on this blog-- I talked about a role the eponymous bag played in my life.


It may have been the only bag I owned at that time in my life.  Or, I may have had one or two others.  Truth is, I didn't have much I could have carried with them. 


Even so, I was always looking at bags in stores and on street vendors' displays.  After I quit messengering  (I know, such a word doesn't exist, at least not officially!), I went to work for American Youth Hostels.  At the time, they operated an outdoor equipment store and mail order service from the Spring Street headquarters in which I worked. One of the first things I did after getting my first AYH paycheck (which, believe me, wasn't much) was to buy a shoulder bag that I hadn't seen anyone else carrying.  






These days, I seem to end up with more and more bags, even after self-imposed moratoria on buying new ones, and after giving away or selling ones I have.  Even so, I'll look at more bags, as I did today in the Brooklyn Industries outlet store where Lakythia and I stopped during our ride today.


You might say I have a bag fetish. It seems that other cyclists share it.  I say that after seeing how much time and space is devoted to discussions of them on various online fora, and the numbers of them available.  Plus, it seemed that at the New Amsterdam Bike show, which I attended yesterday, there were almost as many displays, and more makers, of bags than bikes.  








There were the classic, traditional saddlebags from Brooks, which also showed a couple of modern shoulder bags, tool rolls and other bags now in their line.  There were also the icons of cordura cartage--namely, messenger bags and backpacks from makers like Timbuk2 and Chrome.






A company called Truce is making some interesting-looking bags--including long backpacks that seem inspired by rock climbers' rucksacks--in just about any kind of bright color you can imagine.  Their name and palette seem to be a rebuke or parody of the pseudo-military imagery other companies try to invoke.  






At the other end of the spectrum, literally as well as figuratively, Elektra is offering canvas panniers that mimic, in many ways, the Berthoud bags--which, in turn, are modern renditions of the French panniers of old.


So, tell me, dear readers:  Do we, as cyclists, have an obsession with bags?  Or was the high number of them displayed at the New Amsterdam show just a passing fad?  Or could it be that there really is much greater interest in--and, thus, a bigger market--for bags because more cyclists want to use their bikes for transportation and in other practical ways?  

28 April 2012

A Bike Show, Then And Now





Today I did something I haven't done in nearly three decades:  I attended a bike show.  Specifically, I went to the New Amsterdam bike show in SoHo.


Naturally, I found myself making comparisons to the last show I attended, seemingly a lifetime ago.  That one was held, as the New York Bike Shows were for two decades, in one of the most unloved major buildings in the history of this city:  the New York Coliseum at Columbus Circle.   It was one of those boxy "International" style buildings constructed during the 1950's as part of one of the most cynical and duplicitous pieces of urban planning in the history of American cities, courtesy of Robert Moses.   


On the other hand, this year's New Amsterdam Bike Show was held in Skylight Soho, a renovated loft building that is part of a neighborhood that, around the same time the Coliseum was built, was nearly bulldozed for another one of Moses' schemes:  a cross-Manhattan expressway that would have connected the Holland Tunnel with the Manhattan, Brooklyn and Williamsburg Bridges.  It was one of his few ideas that, fortunately, never came into fruition.


All right, so you're not reading this blog for history lessons and half-baked ideas about architecture.  So I'll talk about some of the differences between the two shows, and how I was a different person at the time of each of them.


At the old bike show, the emphasis was on racing and touring bikes.  Mountain bikes were new; I think there was an exhibit or two of them.  But I don't recall any displays of utility or transportation bikes, which seemed to comprise the majority of bikes I saw at today's show.






Also, most of the companies that displayed at the old show were the "old school" names of the industry.  While a few American framebuilders and manufacturers exhibited, the majority of those who set up at the show were from Europe or Japan.  


On the other hand, most of the companies that showed their wares today were from North America:  mainly from the East and West coasts of the United States.  There were quite a few frame builders, a few manufacturers of bikes and even more smaller operations that made everything from purselike bags that attach to handlebars and racks to reflective clothing that looks just like stuff someone might wear to an art opening.  I'll talk more about some of those products in a future post.  While I liked some ideas and products better than others, I was glad to see all of those (mostly) young artisans, manufacturers and entrepreneurs: The stuff they're making might entice someone to ride his or her bike instead of a car to work or shop, or might entice someone else to ride a bike, period.  In contrast, most of the stuff at the old show had been made for decades and, through all of that time, was liked and disliked by the same people for the same reasons, and would entice no one into cycling for sport or recreation.


I mentioned that most of the people with interesting new ideas and products are young or youngish.  This is another departure from the old bike show, in which many of the companies were represented by the patriarchs of the families who started and owned them.  And, yes, all of them were male.




In fact, the only females I saw at the show back in the day were the wives, girlfriends and daughters of the men who exhibited or attended.  I take that back:  One bike company had a group of young women in lycra (which was new in those days) and high heels pedaling their bikes on a trainer.  


In other words, the women were props and accessories.  I was neither.  Now there were female artisans, entrepreneurs and sales representatives.  And I got to speak with one author.  I hope to be an author.  I can hope for that.  


Another difference between then and now is one that has to do with circumstances of my own life.  When I attended all of those years ago, I went with some guys with whom I worked in the bike shop, the owner, his wife and some of his friends.  I had known them for several years, but now I haven't been in touch with any of them for at least two decades.   Today I went to the New Amsterdam show with someone I had not met until the other day.  However, I have corresponded with this person for nearly three years.  I'll tell you more about that in a future post.  


At the old show, I didn't meet anyone I already knew. At today's show, I saw Charlie from Bicycle Habitat (who had an exhibit) as well as owners and employees of other bikes shops whom I knew at least in passing.  Plus, I met someone I hadn't seen in about a dozen or so years.  She has been a sales rep for one of the few big bike manufacturers I saw at today's show.  The last shop in which I worked sold those bikes, so she was in the shop pretty frequently. 


What did I say to her?  "My, you've changed!"  All right, that was a joke.  In reality, I passed by her table a couple of times before we caught each others' glances.  In a split-second, I did an FBI-style age-progression image in my mind and realized I was looking at an older version of the rep I knew all of those years ago.  Then she took a longer look at me.  "Should I know you from some place?"


The real question wasn't whether or not she should have. The real question was the way she knew me--and I knew her.  


Finally, at the old show, I think one or two cyclists' organizations may have set up tables.  But they didn't have nearly as active a role as the organization at today's expo.  One--which I never would have imagined back in the day--is a group of women who take social and training rides.  I signed up.  Back in the day, I never would have done that.

27 April 2012

Bike Backdrops

Arielle in Point Lookout, NY




As Velouria and others have noted, bicycling and photography seem to go hand-in-hand.  Cycling experiences, and bicycles themselves lend themselves very nicely to photo-imaging, for a variety of reasons.


Tosca in Weehawken, NJ




Now, for those of you who like to photograph bicycles, I have a question:  Do you have a favorite backdrop or "prop"?  I always seem to photograph my bikes by bodies of water.  That may have to do with the fact that I have rarely lived far from a large body of water, and so much of my riding is alongside, or a few pedalstrokes up- or down-wind of them.   Then again, I don't think that where I've lived and where I've ridden are accidents:  I have always had an attraction, if you will, to the sea,


Speaking of cycling and photography:  I'm having a very interesting experience that involves both.  I'll tell you more about it soon.

25 April 2012

Ways To Go In The Bronx



For a short local ride, one of my favorite destinations has become Concrete Plant Park.  For one thing, I just love the idea that someone converted an old factory to a park.  Better yet, whoever conceived of the park was absolutely brilliant in actually incorporating the old machinery into a recreation area.


The concrete path you see is a bike/pedestrian path that is being extended along the Bronx River.  With the old cement plant on one side of the river, and some old brick factory and warehouse buildings on the other, the park feels rather like an old New England mill town, especially in the spring and fall.

What is also interesting is that every kind of transportation, except for aviation, intersects there:


Motorized vehicles are not allowed on the path.  But, just outside of the park and under the railroad trestle (where, if you look closely, you can see a passing New York City transit train) is the bridge for Westchester Avenue.  And, when I was there the other day, motorboats stuttered over the surprisingly choppy water.

I understand that the Parks Department plans to extend the path along the entire length of the Bronx River to Westchester County, a distance of about ten miles.  That would definitely make for one of the more interesting urban bike lanes. Actually, it already is:  We just need more of it.

24 April 2012

Let The Profits Roll In

From Knox Gardner

 According to economic surveys, the price of gasoline is dropping, however slightly.  Still, it begs the question of how long prices will stay down, and when and by how much prices will rise again.  If the long-term trajectory for gas prices is upward, I have to wonder what it will do to the way people commute and travel, and how they will shop and entertain themselves.  While gasoline prices in the US are still nowhere near the levels in Europe and Japan, long-term increases will, I think, impact Americans' way of life even more than Europeans' or Japanese people's lifestyles because so much of this country's landscape and infrastructure is designed for the automobile.

Now, I don't expect people who are accustomed to driving a couple of days to their favorite vacation spots to suddenly take up bicycle touring.  However, there seem to be signs that more people, particularly the young, are doing that.  Almost any time I take a ride outside of New York City, or take a road or a path that leads out of it, I see couples or groups riding bicycles laden with panniers and, in some cases, camping equipment.  I am also noticing more and more families (or fathers and sons or mothers and daughters) riding on the paths and trails.

If more of us ride our bicycles, that could actually become a tourist economy unto itself, as it has in places like Portland.  In fact, Elly Blue, a bicyclist, activist and writer based in Portland, makes such an argument.  She points out that 78 percent of visitors to the city say that its bicycle-friendly reputation played a role in their decision to travel there.  She also shows how such tours as RAGBRAI pour money into local economies--which, I imagine, has a real impact in states like Iowa, which ranks 47th among the 50 states in tourism.  Even in New York City, a ride like the Five Borough Bike can boost revenues for restaurants, stores and hotels as thousands of people come in from other states and abroad to join local cyclists for the ride.

So...Will Tourist Bureaux establish committees on bicycle touring?  Stranger things have happened!

23 April 2012

Springing Ahead

I try not to seem jaded, or to be condescending to the younger generation. ;-)  However, when you've spent enough time with anything--including bicycles and bicycling--you realize that there really is "nothing new under the sun."  To wit:

Add http://patentpending.blogs.com/patent_pending_blog/2007/01/first_front_sus.htmlcaption


About twenty years ago, suspension was the great "new" development in bicycles.  But, as you can see, it had been done a century earlier.  It was revived at various times:  If you're a bit older than I am, you may have ridden a Schwinn or Columbia balloon-tired bike with a big spring on the front fork.

What will they re-discover next?



21 April 2012

Bicycles On Earth Day



This photo was taken at North Carolina's first Earth Day celebration in 1970.  It can be found on the North Carolina State Archives' Flicker page.

I find it just a bit ironic to see so many "Chopper"-style bikes with "banana" seats in an Earth Day celebration.  In fact, it looks as though most of the seats are vinyl or plastic.  I guess a vegan could argue that those are more appropriate for ED, or any other day, than leather saddles.  Then again, all of the bike frames are steel, which is more environmentally friendly than aluminum or carbon fiber.  Is it also better than titanium for the planet?  

Of course, pretty much any bicycle, made of any material, leaves less of a carbon footprint than anything with a motor.


20 April 2012

From The Ferry

Today I didn't have classes.  But I had a couple of errands to run in Manhattan.  As it was a mild, almost warm, day and clouds passed across a sunny sky, I was more than happy to ride.  


Then, I found myself in the Union Square area.  From there, it's just a few minutes to the Staten Island Ferry.  I got to the terminal just as a boat was to depart.  


Besides Vera, there were about five other bikes on the boat going to Staten Island, and another dozen on the return trip. On both trips, I saw more cyclists than I'd normally expect to see at those times on a weekday.


I'm not a photographer, so take what I'm about to say for what it's worth:  Every photographer should ride the Ferry.  There are seemingly endless photo opportunities.  Plus, the interplay of water, skylines and the interiors of the boat makes for some very interesting light.


Plus, it can be a rather romantic ride:




Given that there are so many commuters on the Ferry, there are almost always sleepers:




and dreamers:




Of course, every nautical crossing must include a Gatsby Moment:




Finally, since I am one of those snotty New Yorkers who sniffs when I deign to use the word "tourist", I will offer you a photo that's about as touristy as you can get:



19 April 2012

Line And Form

In keeping with the tone and spirit of yesterday's post, I'm going to continue on the theme of cycling and visual imagery.

So, I want you to pay attention to the composition of the photo you see here.  I find it interesting that the lines in her dress--particularly the ones below her waist--flow in almost exactly the same way as the lines of her bicycle.  And the lines above her waist all but mirror the ones between the bricks in the wall.

Seriously...I am thinking about line, form and composition.  This isn't just another one of those blogs that shows pretty girls on bikes.  Really!

Photo from Simply Bike
 

18 April 2012

Cycling Images

Most people would probably say that photographs are more "realistic" than drawings or paintings.  On the other hand, they would probably associate dreams, fantasies and other reflections of the imagination with painting, drawing and other graphic arts.

I held such notions before I saw images from photographers like Eugene Atget and realized that they were sometimes just as fabricated (I don't mean that word in a derogatory sense) as the canvases of Titian and Fragonard.  And, in their own ways, those photos can be as impressionistic and visionary as much of what Monet, vanGogh and Picasso did.

The lines between the fantastical and the quotidian are blurred in cycling art as much as they are in other kinds of art.  I think you'll see that in this photograph:



and this poster:

.

Is it "just" my imagination, or are those two images related (aside from the fact that each one has a human and a bicycle)?

17 April 2012

Italian Ices, Gelati and Cycling

I have long felt that Italian Ices are the perfect refreshment for a bike ride on a summer day.  As we've had summer-like weather here in NYC (even warmer than Florida!)since the end of last week, I've been slurping them down. 

I usually go with one of the classic flavors--lemon or cherry--especially when I stop at the Lemon Ice King of Corona, which has made my favorite Italian ices for as long as I can remember. (Hey, I knew about them before The King of Queens "discovered" it!)

LIKC is what some would call "old school":  While they offer ices in a dizzying array of flavors, including watermelon, bubble gum and spumoni, they don't do gelatos or sorbets.  They make all of their ices themselves, and their fruit flavors actually have bits of fruit and are flavored with the fruits, or the juices from them.  

On the other hand, I've found another place that makes wonderful "traditional" Italian ices, as well as the creamy ones-- and gelati and frozen yogurt-- a bit off my commute route:


Pesso's is located in Bayside, in a quiet residential neighborhood.  The owners are very friendly and obliging, and they--like LIKC--will let you sample any flavor.  In fact, at Pesso's, if you ask for their newest flavor, they will insist on your sampling it "just to be sure you like it."

Today I sampled--and ordered--the most unusual gelato flavor I'd ever heard of:  olive oil. Yes, you read that right:  olive oil gelato.  

I didn't know what to expect, but I can still say that it's not anything I could or would have expected.  It had a lighter, creamier taste--more like a really good vanilla or cane syrup ice cream.  I didn't taste the olive oil when it was in my mouth.  However, a few minutes after I finished a small cup of it, I could taste the olive oil, ever so slightly.  And, it left that smooth but not slimy after-texture a really good virgin olive oil leaves in the back of your mouth.

I would definitely order it again.  The only thing about it, though, is that I wouldn't mix it with other flavors, as I would with, say, a fruit ice and chocolate or vanilla sorbet. About the only things I can image combining with the olive oil gelato are nuts, specifically almonds, pistachios or walnuts.  

Now, I rather doubt that olive oil gelato will be on the training table of the Italian national cycling team any time soon.  But I would welcome it at the end of a long, hot ride.  

16 April 2012

Arielle Opens Up A Ride

Yesterday I took a chance.  The last time I rode to Point Lookout, it was closed to all except residents of the eponymous village.  I figured that even if it were closed, I could still go to one of the other stretches of shoreline that are near it.  Though not as scenic, they would nonetheless provide a nice setting for a warm, sunny, breezy early-spring day.

Fortunately, luck was on my side.  Stuff like that happens when I ride Arielle. 


I think that she really likes that spot, and knows how much I like it.  So she called in a favor and the gates opened on this spot that overlooks the ocean and the bay.

Or, maybe being the nimble bike she is, she wanted to see a peloton:



At least, I think that's what a peloton would look like if it were ridden on waves by ducks.  Duck racing?  You didn't hear about it from me!
  

14 April 2012

Nina: A Nice Person In A Nice Bike Shop

You've probably seen the following in your favorite bike shop:



  • MAMILs
  • Fitness buffs who want to try a new sport/activity
  • Customers who have more money to spend than riding experience
  • People who haven't ridden since they were kids and are intimidated by all of the newfangled bikes and accessories
  • Women who are there with their boyfriends/husbands--and, much less frequently, men who are there with their girlfriends/wives
  • The ones who've decided to go on the next MS (or other charity) ride, but haven't been on a bike in years.

There are other kinds of people you meet in bike shops.  But, based on my experience in working in shops and having visited many others, the people I've mentioned are the one who seem to be found in just about any shop.

Today, I met someone who doesn't fit any of the above categories.  I stopped in the shop--James Vincent Bicycles of North Bergen, NJ --in the middle of today's ride.  The shop has been in business for 75 years and, even though it carries "serious" racing and mountain bikes from the likes of Cannondale, Trek and Giant, it attracts a lot of people from the immediate neighborhood, sometimes for non-bike-related issues.

The young woman I met today is one of those neighborhood denizens.  Actually, her father was there for a non-bike issue, and she accompanied him.

But she wasn't one of those bored and resentful family members who doesn't share her relative's enthusiasm for cycling.  In fact, she was on the same kind of wheels as her father rode:






Nina could get around perfectly well without that cart.  But her father couldn't:  He had no legs.  He'd gone to the shop to have something in the chasis tightened:  He could feel it coming loose, and it would've taken only a decent-sized hole or crack in the sidewalk or pavement to immobilize him.


I only got to talk with Nina briefly.  She seemed like a very nice and intelligent young woman.  I'm guessing that she rode her cart to the shop so that her father would have it in case he needed to leave his at the shop.  Even if that's the case, she's doing a great thing in helping him and experiencing, however briefly, the world as her father does.


I rode behind them for a few blocks until they turned.  I continued down the Jersey side of the Hudson River to the Bayonne Bridge, and through Staten Island to the Ferry.  I'm not religious, but I can say I felt blessed:  two good legs, a great bike, a beautiful day and an interesting ride.



12 April 2012

A Simple Life?





Normally, I'm happy to get home from a trip to Florida.  These days, I'm happy to see my parents, in part because I don't know how many more years they'll be in this world.  But, apart from them and some lovely bike-rides (The good and bad news is that they're all flat!), I have almost no motivation to go to Florida.


Since I got back last night, though, I'm feeling a little wistful. I think the feeling started on Monday, when I rode down A1A through Painters Hill and Flagler Beach.  Along the way, I stopped, for no particular reason, in one of those stores that sells things made out of seashells.


The proprietress was one of those friendly, helpful and sun-bleached people you meet by the sea, though not necessarily by the trendy beaches.  "Anything I can help you with, let me know," she intoned in a voice of sunshine and sea salt.  She wasn't one of those surly, hipper-than-thou storeclerks you see working in trust-fund enclaves.  She probably wasn't making a lot of money, but she also, most likely, didn't need to. 


I imagined myself in her place, but with my cats and bikes.  I imagined myself closing the store and riding Tosca up and down A-1A or along any number of other roads.  It used to amaze me there weren't more fixed-gear bikes in Florida; this time, I saw a pretty fair number in and around St. Augustine.  Of course, their riders were young, or seemed to be:  I don't expect a senior citizen who hasn't been on a bike since he or she was a teenager to hop on a track bike.


Anyway, I'll be back to my normal rides, work and such soon enough.  One day, if I can afford it and don't have to worry about property values, I might have a house that looks like this (ha, ha):



10 April 2012

Half A Century On A Cruiser



Today I rode the longest distance I've done on the cruiser I borrowed from my parents' neighbor:  52 miles.  Given that it's designed to make the rider feel as if he or she is sitting on a sofa chair while the boardwalk goes clack-clack-clack under the tires, I feel good about the ride.

The bike I rode is certainly nothing like these, which I saw parked in front of a convenience store near the Old City:



At least, I got to St. Augustine faster than Ponce de Leon did when he was looking for the Fountain of Youth.


And I will say that even though I wrecked the original rear wheel, the bike is sturdy if flexy. 



If it had been about fifteen years ago, I would have tried to ride the bike across the moat just below the castle.  After all, there's no water in the moat and no water=no alligators. 

There is a dedicated bike lane for much of the length of A-1A.  One way in which drivers--even the transplanted ones--here differ from the ones in New York is that they don't use the bike lanes to pass or double-park.

Plus, the beaches, inlets, dunes and ocean are beautiful.  Here is a view from the bridge over the Matanzas Inlet:



Check out this formation on a nearby beach:


St. Augustine, in addition to the tourist traps one would expect, has some interesting establishments.  At least, the spirit behind them is not what you'd find in New York:



A Giggling Gator?  I'm having a hard time picturing it.  However, I have to love a place with a sign that says "Open when we get here\ Closed when we leave."


 

09 April 2012

Whatever Doesn't Stop Us, Slows Us Down

All right.  So I've slowed down, and I can't blame it all on riding a cruiser.  I also won't make the excuse that I'm enjoying the sunshine, blue skies and surf, although I am indeed reveling in those things.

I won't even blame the not-much-longer-than-my-hand lizards that darted across my path in Painters Hill.  I must say, though, that I found myself thinking of Geico commercials, even though I have absolutely no reason to buy auto insurance.

However, there is one thing I can blame for slowing me down momentarily.


This adorable (in his/her own way, anyway) creature wandered into my path after a few lizards played chicken with my wheels.  What he/she expected to find in the path, I'll never know.  That particular stretch of path is bounded by tall grass that ends on the banks of the Florida Intracoastal Waterway, which parallels the Atlantic beaches on the other side of the path and Route A-1A. 

Perhaps my armored friend was confused or trying to evade a less likeable creature.  Or, perhaps, he/she didn't find any edibles to his or her liking, and thought that a cyclist might be carrying some tasty carbohydrates.  In fact, I wasn't, as I was trying to burn off the lunch I had with Mom and one of her friends, and build an appetite for dinner, which would consist of leftovers from Easter dinner.  Fortunately, said dinner consisted of foods that taste better the second or third day.

Mr./Ms. Tortoise rowed along the path on front legs that were more like flippers, and back into the tall grass.  Then the lizards darted out, and the ocean seemed to deepen in a shade of turquoise at the end of a surprisingly desert-like dune.


08 April 2012

On A Borrowed Cruiser, Again

Another holiday with parents in Florida means...another ride on the borrowed cruiser.



A neighbor of my parents bought the bike years ago.  Now, at age 85, arthritis and other health problems keep her from riding it.  Now the bike's riders consist of me and a couple of her kids and grandkids.  However, I think it hasn't been ridden since I rode it at Christmastime.  That's the reason why she was surprised when I told her I'd done some repairs, including the installation of a new rear wheel.

Last time I was here, I rode a few miles on a flat because I was nowhere near an air pump.  I'd been riding a stretch of A-1A along the ocean, past Gamble Rogers State Recreation Area and a bunch of foreclosed-upon or otherwise-abandoned houses.  I once had a wheel from which spokes flew off at high speeds; I didn't have to ride at such high speed for them to fly off the wheel on that bike.

Plus, the old rear wheel had one of Shimano's old coaster brake/3-speed hubs.  It's one of the worst Shimano parts I've ever used or worked on:  the gears never adjusted quite right.  If you've ever had an out-of-adjustment 3-speed (Sturmey-Archers made after about 1970 never stayed in adjustment), you know that's not just an inconvenience:  You're pedalling hard or spinning fast, and all of a sudden, you find yourself in "neutral."  You push a pedal forward and your face hurtles toward a very close encounter with your handlebars. Or, worse things can happen.

Plus, as a long-ago shop mechanic, I learned that hubs have to make up their minds as to whether they're going to be coaster brake or internally geared.  From what I've seen, a hub can't do both well.  Usually, it's the gears that suffer.  At least, that was the case on the Shimano, Sturmey Archer and Sachs coaster brake/3speed hubs.

To my knowledge, Shimano doesn't make such a hub anymore--or, at least, not the model that was on that bike.  SA stopped making them, but have started making them again since the takeover by SunRace and the move to Taiwan.  Sachs, after taking over Huret, Maillard, Sedis and other French component manufacturers, was in turn swallowed up by SRAM.  I don't think they're making internally geared hubs with coaster brakes.

Anyway, the bike now has a coaster brake rear hub, an Alex rim (not as good as Mavic or Velocity, but better than what was on there) and DT spokes.  Plus, it has a Michelin mountain bike tire, albeit one of the cheaper ones.

So far, so good.  But now I'm going to reveal that I've spent too much time around messngers, hipsters and wannabes.



Actually, I installed that pink chain as a bit of a joke. I don't know whether the nice (She really is!) old lady from whom I borrowed the bike, or her kids or grandkids, will notice.  If they do, I hope they share my twisted sense of humor.