Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

14 December 2017

Bike Share Over The Cuckoo's Nest?

I haven't been to Eugene, Oregon.  From what I hear, though, it's developing the sort of reputation Portland had maybe fifteen years ago:  a town of young artists, old and latter-day hippies as well as other free spirits.  And cyclists.

Someone I know described it as "Madison West."

I guess I shouldn't be surprised. After all, the University of Oregon is there.  And, interestingly, several tech startups first saw the light of day there.  So did a certain company launched by a guy who paid a graduate student $35 for her design.

That graduate student was Carolyn Davidson. And the guy who bought her drawing was none other than Phil Knight, the founder of Nike.

Imagine that:  the designer of the Nike "Swoosh" was paid only $35. But, she says, it led to other things that made her quite a bit of money.

Oh, and the author of a certain book that became one of the texts, if you will, of the counterculture--and, later, a much-lauded film--spent much of his life in Eugene.  I am talking about Ken Kesey, who wrote One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.

So, I am not surprised, really, to find out that Eugene residents anticipate having something Madison has.  Austin, Texas--another town to which Eugene is increasingly compared--also has it.

I'm talking about a bike share program.  A local business owner is working on a plan for it.  Lindsey Harward's newly-formed company, Eugene Bike Share, will offer rides for a couple of dollars a day as well as yearly memberships.  Her current plan calls for 300 bicycles and 30 pick-up/drop-off locations.

While Eugene is the capital of the Beaver State, it has only about a quarter of the population of the state's largest city, Portland.  So, while it might not be considered a "small" city, few would confuse it with a megapolis or world capital.  

I find it interesting that the fastest growth in bike share programs is found in second- and third-tier cities like Portland and Madison.  And you could be forgiven for thinking that the bike-share concept is "trickling down" from world capitals and centers like Paris, London and New York.

The irony is that, as I learned recently, a city with about half of Eugene's population (though on a quarter as much land-area) had the first known bike-share program.  In 1976, La Rochelle, a lovely town on the French Atlantic (Bay of Biscay) coast, launched its fleet of velos jaunes for use by the public.  The current incarnation of the program is called Yelo and still uses, yes, yellow bicycles!

Hmm...I wonder what color Eugene's share bikes will be.

13 December 2017

Whenever They Drain The Canal...

I remember hearing about it when I was in Paris last year:  the Canal St. Martin was drained.

Even before the neighborhoods lining it became fashionable, I enjoyed walking along its banks, or cycling the streets that ran alongside it.  The old houses and industrial buildings that stand beside it made it seem more like the Paris of my imagination than the sites along the Seine did.

The canal connects the Seine with the Canal de l'Ourcq, which in turn connects with the Marne River north of the city.  From what I understand, St. Martin is drained every fifteen years or so.  I've often thought the detritus found at the bottom could tell some interesting stories.

It was drained in January of last year and, the last time before that, in 2001.  As the millenium began, the 10th Arrondissement--through which much of the canal runs--was in its transition from a working-class neighborhood to an area full of some of the most interesting galleries and trendiest cafes in the City of Light.  (Indeed, it was this area that suffered the November 2015 terrorist attacks.)

In this country, we call it "gentrification."  But to the folks who cleaned out the canal, it meant more and different kinds of refuse.

As for "different kinds", you only have to think of one thing that Paris had by 2016 but not in 2001:

Unfortunately, in the early days of Velib--Paris' bicycle share program--a number of the bikes were stolen.  Guess where they ended up?

Now, bicycles have been dumped in the canal probably since, well, there were bicycles in Paris.  So have motorbikes, house furnishings and even an old camera or two.  But if some archaeologist or historian were to study St. Martin's detritus, what would they learn from finding Velib bikes?

Probably the same things they'd learn from comparing the wine bottles tossed into the canal in one period with those of another.    One thing is for sure: You don't see any of it in Amelie or any of Alfred Sisley's paintings!

12 December 2017

In Delhi: Getting People To Ride Before It's Too Late

Delhi, like other major cities in developing countries, has an air pollution problem that some are calling a crisis. It's so bad that international players on the cricket field wear masks.

While political parties are playing the "blame game", more than a few people realize that some things must change.  Akash Gupta, the founder of Mobycy--which claims to be India's first dockless bicycle sharing startup system--tells of a report he recently read, which indicated that one of the reasons why people drive or take cabs to work or school is the problem they have with "last mile connectivity".  People can take public transportation, but to actually reach their destinations, they must make switches of transport.  And, the closer they come to their destination, the more likely it is that they will need to switch--whether from one bus line to another or to another mode of transportation entirely.

So, Gupta says, bicycling can offer a solution.  "Cycles should become a norm," he explains, "because they are easy to ride, quick to find, don't let you become dependent on someone else and are also cost effective."  That last point is not lost on businesses, who are finding that making deliveries by bike or e-bike is more effective--because it's faster--in dense city traffic.  

Even as bike share programs and delivery bicycles are becoming more common, and increasing numbers of people are riding for recreation, getting people to trade pistons for pedals in their daily commute has been a difficult task for city planners.  The biggest obstacle for most people is the motorized traffic that planners are trying to reduce.  Many people in Delhi echo a familiar refrain heard in cities all over the globe:  They don't feel safe riding among the cars, trucks and other motorized vehicles--or, more to the point, drivers.   

To that end, bike lanes and other physical infrastructure are being built.  But, as studies have shown, lanes by themselves don't do much to increase the number of bicycle commuters, or cyclists overall.  Vishala Reddy seems to recognize as much.  The founder and Director of Identcity has been behind many projects, such as car-free Tuesdays, to promote cycling during the past decade.  But she says that the real infrastructure consists of attitudes and incentives.  About the former, she says that more respect has to be developed for cyclists on the road.  As for the latter, she believes offices and other workplaces could offer them--and physical infrastructure, such as parking facilities, for cyclists.

Cyclists in Delhi

She and Gupta, unlike too many involved with planning in American cities, recognize that making cycling more appealing and safe is not just something that will make hipsters happy. They understand that their city's economic well-being--and, indeed, its very survival, as well as that of the planet--hinge at least in part on getting people's feet off gas pedals and onto bicycle pedals.  As Gupta warns, "If we don't start using e-vehicles or cycles now, it will be too late."

11 December 2017

Back When I Weighed Less, There Was Weyless!

Someone--I forget who--told me that you know you're middle-aged when you see all the young people wearing something and you remember the last time it was in fashion.   

Another definition I've heard for "middle age" is when young people wear what you wore in your youth and call it "retro" or "vintage".

And I started my gender transition just in time for my middle age!

I found myself thinking about such things when I came across this in an eBay listing:

The fact that they're water bottle cage clips alone earns them the label of "retro" or "vintage":  Most new bikes (and a lot of not-so-new ones) have bottle cage mounts brazed on, or otherwise integrated into, the frame; thus, most new cages are designed to be used with them.  The few new cages that are made for bikes that don't have built-in mounts are likely to have some sort of mounting system built into them, or come with straps.

When I first became a dedicated cyclist, some four decades ago, few frames--even at the highest quality and price levels--came with water bottle mounts.  Gradually, they began to appear on top-tier racing and touring bikes and trickled down to bikes in the lower price ranges.  Still, most cages--like the classic Specialites TA and REG models-- came with clamps, even if they were designed to be used with braze-ons.

The Weyless bottle cage, however, was designed to be used with the clips shown.  It did not fit on braze-on mounts.  Even though it was, even with its clamps, one of the lightest cages available (It claimed to be the lightest), it sank like a stone in the cycling marketplace of the late '70s.  That was just about the time high-level racing and touring bikes started to come with braze-ons. Within a few years, that feature would be found on bikes at all price levels.

But there's something else that makes those Weyless bottle clamps "retro." It's a trait shared with another Weyless part:

Yes, they both got that treatment called "drillium".  If you look at racing photos from that period, most bikes had drilled-out brake levers; sometimes chainrings and other parts also had holes in them.  Sometimes it looked silly, but I rather like the way it was done on the brake cable clip in the above photo:  The holes are bigger in the wider part of the clip, near the top, and taper down as the clip narrows toward the mounting screw.

I can remember when Velo Orange and other companies started to offer "drillium" parts about a decade or so ago. I couldn't help but to think back to my early days as a cyclist, when I so wanted one of those racing bikes with drilled-out Campagnolo parts!

Today, almost anyone who buys "drillium" parts or accessories--whether they're vintage or modern-production--is trying to achieve some sort of "retro" look.  The same can't be said, however, about everyone who bought something with the Weyless name on it.

How's that?, you ask.  Well, the company that made those Weyless bottle cages and clips--as well as some of the lightest seatposts, pedals and hubs ever produced--went out of business some time during the late '70's.  Depending on who you believe, its demise was a result of the '70's Bike Boom ending, founder Lester Tabb's shady business dealings or the warranty claims that resulted after it started a line of bike clothing made from wool that wasn't supposed to shrink--and, of course, it did.

I am guessing that the copyright on the name "Weyless" had expired when, during the '90's, Southern California-based mail-order (and, later, online) retailer Supergo used the name for their line of bikes and parts.  I never used any of them myself, but from what I've read and heard, they were made in the same factories, and to almost the same specs, as bikes, parts and accessories from better-known brands, at a lower price.   And most of the riders who used them seemed satisfied with them.

The funny thing is that most folks who bought Supergo's Weyless stuff had probably never heard of the earlier incarnation of the Weyless brand. That is because most of Supergo's Weyless offerings were for mountain biking, in which most of the riders were (and are) younger than those in road cycling.  Most of them weren't even born--or were drinking out of baby bottles rather than Weyless bottles--when the original Weyless parts and accessories were produced!

It's also likely that those young riders didn't know that Supergo, at the time the original Weyless brand was on the market, was known as Bikecology, one of the first large mail-order bike retailers spawned in the '70's Bike Boom!

Hmm...If I'd called this blog "Bikecology", I wonder how many readers would have gotten it.  Perhaps I could have had a contest and the first person to identify it would get some original Weyless part.  The only problem would have been that I didn't, and don't, have any!

Note:  Supergo was bought out by Performance (who else?) in 2003.

10 December 2017

Shopping, The Right Way

Not so many years ago, stores posted signs reminding customers of how many "shopping days" remained until Christmas.  After today, twelve days would have remained, as Sundays weren't counted. 

I never see or hear the term "shopping days" anymore. I guess e-commerce has rendered that concept obsolete, as one can buy at any time an app is working.

But some of us still like to shop the old-fashioned way:

Hmm...Maybe he needs to look into getting a bike like this:

09 December 2017

Ride Before The Storm

It's here.  

I'm talking about the snow.  Ever since the middle of the week, the weather forecasters said we'd get the white stuff this weekend.  Well, they were right on target:  Flurries that fluttered down early this morning have turned into big, puffy flakes.  I don't know how much will accumulate, or stay, but everything looks like someone opened up a big box of confectioner's sugar and sprinkled it.

Good thing I went for a ride yesterday--specifically, the ride I took.  Although you could have guessed that snow was coming even if you hadn't heard the forecasts, there was no threat of it yesterday. Nor was there a hint of sun:  The overcast sky spread a blanket of that particular kind of gray seen just when late autumn is turning into winter--and the pyres of fallen leaves are flickering their last embers of color.

I tried to get those colors and that light without becoming a road pancake.  Oh well.  At least I managed to capture, I think, the you-wouldn't-know-it-was-the-Bronx-unless-you-were-there feel of that scene.

Anyway, at that point I was about a quarter of the way to what would be my destination:  

You guessed it--Greenwich, Connecticut.  That's the Town Hall, across from where I sat and consumed some dark chocolate and nuts.

Trusty Arielle, my Mercian Audax, got me there and back.  She seemed particularly quick and comfortable today.  Perhaps I was simply enjoying my last-chance-before-the-storm ride.  

So what am I doing today (besides writing this post)?  Reading some students' papers, and making some beet soup.  And enjoying yesterday's ride.

08 December 2017

Meeting The Urban Adventurer

Even as a writer, writing for so many years, I still sometimes find it odd that I have relationships with people that are formed entirely by words.  I even find it a bit unusual that I can have a connection with someone through images as well as words.

Those, of course, are the sorts of links one develops through blogs and other social media.  I have interacted with some of you through exchanges of comments on my posts. I have communicated with some of you through e-mail, and have even talked with a few of you by phone.  But, to date, I've met even fewer of you in person.

Well, two weeks ago, I finally came face to face with someone whose blog I've been reading for years--in its iterations on Blogspot as well as Word Press--and with whom I've corresponded by e-mail and post cards.  That last part is particularly interesting, as he created some of the cards himself.

I am referring to Shawn Granton, the author/artist of Urban Adventure League and the eponymous organization dedicated to human-powered explorations of the urban environment.  "Human-powered", of course, encompasses a number of modes, including feet and public transport, though Shawn's primary--and favored--means of travel seems to be the bicycle.

After work, I hopped on my bike and pedaled down to Oren's Daily Roast, a couple of blocks from the Metropolitan Museum. (Oren's costs a bit more than Starbucks but is worth it, both for the coffee and the relatively intimate atmosphere.)  We didn't have much time together, as he was trying to fit visits to a number of friends and relatives across several cities and states into a weeklong East Coast trip.  The time, however, was satisfying, as I felt no need for preambles.  Though I had never before seen his face, I felt that I already knew him at least somewhat, and that it felt a bit more like a reunion, however brief, of old buddies rather than an introduction.  That may be as much a testament to Shawn's easygoing personality as it is to anything else.

I wish only that we could have ridden together.  Perhaps another time...when he comes here again...or when I go to Portland?


07 December 2017

From Pearl Harbor...To Rinko?

A cliche about modern history is that World War II "changed everything".  But I have found it interesting to look at some of the specific ways the arts, culture, technology and politics were affected in the US and other countries.

On this date two years ago, I wrote about how the attack on Pearl Harbor transformed bicycles in this country.  On the day of the attack, the average American bicycle weighed 57 pounds (26 kilos)!  The US Government decreed that bicycles be made lighter, both to save on materials (rationing had begun) and so that they would be more nimble for use on the front lines. Not many bicycles were available to the general public, and production of children's bicycles ceased altogether.  

Those few people who were able to buy those lighter bike preferred them to the older, heavier ones.  So did the troops who had the newly-redesigned bikes--and who saw, and in some cases brought home, still lighter bikes from the places in which they fought.  (Yes, even with their changes in design, American wartime bikes were heavier than even the English three-speeds, French ballon-tired bikes or Dutch city machines!)  Ever since, no American company has made bikes--except those for industrial purposes--as heavy as the ones made before the war.  And no American who is not a collector has bought anything like those old behemoths.

Still, even with all of the bicycles that were made for them, the US Armed Forces didn't use nearly as many bicycles as their counterparts from both their allies and enemy countries.  In fact, Americans didn't use bikes on the front lines at all, while British forces made some use of them in that capacity.  On the other hand, "It was probably the Japanese who used the bicycle most during WW II," according to Bicycle Technology co-author Robert van der Plas.  "The invasion of Malaysia, with thousands of soldiers rolling into Singapore on bicycles, is one of the best-known instances," he adds.  

During the war, according to van der Plas, the Japanese used folding bikes designed specifically for warfare.  Some were later re-purposed for civilian use.  In reading about that, I couldn't help but to think about Rinko, the Japanese way of packing bikes for train travel.


While there is not a Rinko-specific bike, and a bike doesn't have to be foldable or collapsible in order to fit into a Rinko bag, it's hard to think of a system that is more tailored to making bikes more transportable and usable in places where space is at a premium and bikes need to be transported quickly and easily.  Fenders, pedals and other parts are made easily detachable (and retachable) so that the whole bike fits in a bag not much larger than the frame.

I can't help but to wonder whether such a system might be, directly or indirectly, a development of the war.

06 December 2017

How A More Accurate "Bicycle Census" Could Save Lives

There are a number of reasons why too many bike infrastructure projects--including any number of bike lanes I've ridden--do little or nothing to make cycling safer or more convenient.  If anything, some of those projects--including lanes that lead cyclists straight into the path of turning vehicles or merging traffic--put cyclists in more danger than they'd experience if they rode in traffic.

One reason why so many bike infrastructure projects are ill-conceived, -planned or -executed is that, too often, planners have an inaccurate idea--or no idea at all--of how many cyclists are riding along a particular route or at a given time.  As often as not, planners have only a rough guesstimate of how many people ride per day, month or year.

One reason for that is the planners' methods and equipment for gathering data are designed to give accurate counts of motorized, but not cycling or pedestrian, traffic.  That is at least somewhat understandable:  After all, cars, trucks and buses are easier to detect, whether by humans or devices, than cyclists or pedestrians.  Also, most planners are educated and trained to collect, and pay attention to, "big data"--and their experience reinforces that bias.

"Little data", if you will, is especially relevant in regards to cycling because cyclists--whether they're riding to work, or for fitness or pleasure--take a greater variety of routes and have a wider range of destinations than most drivers.  While one can find clusters of cyclists in certain parts of a city, and along certain routes and certain times, those of us who pedal aren't clustered to the same degree as those who go where they want or must by putting a foot on the gas pedal.

Some researchers in Texas are  aware of what I am describing.  They are working on a pilot program, backed by the Texas Department of Transportation, to find more "nuanced data", in the words of Greg Griffin, about cycling and walking in Austin and Houston.   

The goal, says Griffin, is to better inform, among other things, Austin's corridor project, which will build lanes along nine roads.   That project received funding from the mobility bond Texas voters chose last year, but the City Council hasn't approved construction plans.  A draft of those plans is expected to go before the City Council next year and Griffin, a Texas A&M researcher, hopes to better inform the project and others like it.

He and other researchers are trying a number of methods to count cyclists, such as gathering data from Strava and other apps.  Of course, not all cyclists use them, so Griffin and his team are also installing pneumatic tubes similar to the ones used to count cars along roads frequently used by cyclists.  Those tubes, however, last only a few weeks, so he is trying to have permanent counters installed and recruiting cyclists and others to interview cyclists about their riding habits.

A variety of methods must be used, he says, because using only one would skew the results toward one type of cyclist over another.  For example, merely taking data from apps, he says, would result in "planning for people that are buying apps--instead of your community."

 He and others hope that better methods of taking a cycling census, if you will, will help to lay a "foundation for being able to save lives through infrastructure changes."

05 December 2017

Bikes For Kids In "Bike City"

All right, I'll admit it:  the culture snob that is moi might actually look at It's A Wonderful Life.  Again.

You see, inside the heart of this fan of Mizoguchi (especially Osaka Elegy) and John Coltrane is someone not above a little sentimentality and a happy ending or two every now and again. 

Anyway...If you've been reading this blog, you've probably noticed that I like telling stories of folks who get bikes to kids who might not otherwise get them, especially during the holiday season.  What's not to like about a kid riding a bike for the first time?

That is the experience 400 kids in Portland, Oregon had the other day.  Their "Santa Claus", if you will, is the city's nonprofit Community Cycling Center.  Since 1995, the program has provided over 10,000 bicycles to children from lower-income families.

It's not hard to understand why someone would volunteer for such a project.  "Everyone can remember the joy of their first bike and the feeling of being on a bike as a kid and the excitement and freedom and joy that comes with it," says Kassandra Griffin, who works with the Center.  And other organizations, including Trauma Nurses Talk Tough, aid the Center's efforts.   

The Nurses provided helmets for the children who received bikes.  Like other volunteers, they are motivated by the sense of community their work provides and seeing the delight of kids--who are given safety lessons--taking their first rides.  "I've been an emergency nurse for 12 years," said Geri Gartz, "and...this is one of the best experiences I've had in my career."  

What's not to like about seeing a girl like Nolia Okada getting a pink bike, especially when her family "couldn't afford" it, according to her mother Momo Okada.  "She's going to practice and we can be riding together."

Could this be the beginning--or, at least, part of--a wonderful life?  One can hope.  

04 December 2017

A Reunion, A Ride Into The Sunset--And Congee

So, it looks like my "meeting in Kool Orange" might be turning into a friendship.  Or, at least, a cycle-buddy relationship.

Yes, Bill and I went for a ride the other day.  He was on his Kool Orange Schwinn Sports Tourer from 1971, and I pedaled my 1981 Trek 412.  

I know:  I have to post a photo of it on my sidebar, with my other bikes.  I've had it almost a year now.  It's still a work in progress, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to keep it--even after I get the Mercian Vincitore Special I've ordered!

Anyway, Bill--who said he'd been feeling a bit under the weather--was moving at a rather sprightly pace through the backstreets of industrial Brooklyn when we chanced upon a shop in Bushwick.

"Can I help you."

"No, just want to take a look. Any shop with two Bob Jacksons looks promising."

Those bikes were, as it turned out, an entree, an appetizer or whatever you want to call it.  Haven Cycles has quite the selection of vintage bikes:  I noticed, among other bikes, a classic Raleigh Competition, a Schwinn Paramount track bike and a Serotta track bike equipped with Shimano's 10-pitch gearing and gold-anodized Super Champion Arc en Ciel tubular rims.  There was even a Raleigh ten-speed made for the British market (it had the lamp holder brazed to the front fork) and the usual selection of ten- and twelve-speed bikes converted to single-speed city machines--including a lovely metallic lavender Motobecane.

I was especially taken with the Bob Jackson of Robin, the co-owner, who outfitted the bike with Surly's best rear rack, a White Industries triple crankset, Phil Wood hubs and, of course, a Chris King headset.  The frame was intended for loaded touring, and that's how Robin equipped it.

Anyway, she left a comment on my post from the other day, describing an incident later that day that bore too much similarity to the ones I described in that post.  She and co-owner Jon were, fortunately, able to re-unite a stolen bike with its rightful owner a year after it went missing.

After our visit, Bill and I continued riding through back streets of Brooklyn and Queens on a chilly but beautiful late fall-verging-into-early winter day.  He--a photographer--commented that the day's light, as lovely as it was, looked more like early winter.  I agreed and couldn't help but to notice that the day definitely felt like winter once we started crossing the bridges over Jamaica Bay into the Rockaways and back into Brooklyn, near Floyd Bennett Field.

Yes, we rode into the sunset.  Please don't read too much into that:  We rode into the sunset, but not off into the sunset!

Anyway, after that, we rode to his place and he introduced me to King's Kitchen, one of the many Chinese restaurants in his neighborhood: in Sunset Park, right next to the namesake park and a few blocks from Maimonidies Hospital and a point where Asian, Hispanic and Hasidic communities converge.

Few things warm the bones after a cold ride like a bowl of congee!  In all, it was a day of happy endings, wouldn't you say?

03 December 2017

Sticks, Stones and Old Inner Tubes

You've heard the expression, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but whips and chains excite me!"

You haven't?

Well, this post is proof.

Hmm...Maybe the "sticks and stones" should be changed to "rims and spokes".  But they don't break people's bones--unless, of course, they fail and said people crash as a result.

Anyway, here's a whip made from inner tubes:

Of course, one has to be appropriately dressed.  So here's another way to use those old inner tubes:

And your chains can be turned to faithful friends who will stand guard:

I hope you're enjoying the weekend!

02 December 2017

How "Bicycle Friendly" Is It, Really?

Toronto is often rated as one of the world's most livable cities, although many cyclists will challenge its 2015 designation as a "bicycle-friendly" community from Share The Road

One thing that makes the city inhospitable is the same thing that casts a shadow over cycling in other places:  theft. According to a recent report, only one percent of the bikes stolen in Toronto are ever recovered.

I would suspect that New York and other cities have similarly minuscule recovery rates.  I also imagine that, like the people mentioned in a story I encountered, cyclists who get their bikes back are more likely to have done so through their own efforts than with any help from the police.

In August, someone broke into the locker if Joshua Henderson's condo on the Bay Street Corridor and took his BMC racing bike.  He soon located it in a Kijiji listing:  He knew the bike was his and the person who listed it was the thief because the photos in the listing were taken in the locker.  

Joshua Henderson's bike on Kijiji

So, Henderson set up a meeting and asked the police to accompany him.  An officer told him to postpone the meeting, and he did.  But when he couldn't contact the investigator the following day, he decided to go on his own.  He filmed the encounter, including the part where the thief fled when Henderson announced that the bike is his and the police were on the way.  

In a way, this story has a not-unhappy ending:  Henderson gave police the video and details of the transaction, both of which they credit for helping them catch the thief, who was wanted in other breaking-and-entering cases. Even after all of that, Henderson says he still feels "anxious" riding his bike.

On the other hand, Corrine Dimnik and her husband are anxious about getting new bikes.  Their Cannondale racing bikes were taken from their condo's underground parking garage in May.  Like Henderson, they saw their bikes listed on Kijiji.

Corrine Dimnik's bike on Kijiji

Dimnik says she contacted the seller and scheduled a meeting in front of two uniformed police officers who were taking her statement.  But the officers told her she'd have to reschedule the meeting until plainclothes officers were available.  

About the same time the Dimniks lost their bikes, another was taken from a neighboring townhouse. The neighbor's bike was posted on Kijiji by the same seller but the neighbor was dealing with a different division and got her bike back.  Dimnik told the officer who took her statement about her neighbor's experience but he didn't know anything about it.  

By that time, Dimnik says, the seller wouldn't answer calls about her and her husband's bikes.  They haven't replaced their bikes and, she says, they're not sure that they will. 

I've known a few people who were similarly disillusioned about losing their bikes--and the lack of help they received.  One didn't take up cycling again even after moving to a rural area where bike theft is almost non-existent.

I am sure that there are many, too many, more stories like theirs in the Big Apple, as well as in Hog Town and other major cities--even the ones deemed "livable" and "bike friendly".

01 December 2017

World AIDS Day.

Today is the 30th World AIDS Day.   

Beginning in 1988, it's been observed every year on 1 December.  Over the years, a number of events have been held--to raise awareness, funds or simply spirits.  Among those events are, not surprisingly, bike rides.

Although their festivities last year didn't include a bike ride--and, even if it did, people probably would have gone for the free barbecue--Adelaide, in Australia, had one of the best posters announcing the date.

30 November 2017

It's Not A Chase! Really, They Swear It's Not!

During my formative years, I went to more than a few movies that featured car chases.  But, I swear, I was dragged to them kicking and screaming.  Really, I was!  

You see, most of my trips to the cinema (That's what I call a "movie house", now that I'm a snotty intellectual!) were made in the company of my father and three brothers.  My mother is not particularly a movie fan, let alone a cineophile, although whenever I go to visit her, we  see a movie together--albeit ones that involve more human interaction than piston-powered pursuits.

Still, I admit, I can get a thrill out of watching a chase.  Back in the day, I usually rooted for the pursued even though I knew he (Yes, he was almost always male, as was the pursuer.) would get caught.  When I watched this video, though, I was actually on the side of the chaser--and he's a police officer!

Of course, his being on a bike has something to do with it.  Also, he was chasing the driver of an ATV, which is illegal to drive on the streets of Washington DC--and most cities.  Thankfully, I haven't encountered nearly as many of them as I've seen motorized and electric bikes in the the bike/pedestrian paths!

As far as I know, that officer wasn't seriously hurt.  And I'm glad he was trying to do his job--though his employers deny that it was a chase--or, at least, that it did not follow the DC police department's "no chase" policy when it comes to ATVs.

Rather, the officer was "following" the ATV rider, according to spokeswoman Karimah Bilal.  It was "typical of what we do in this type of incident," she added.

29 November 2017

What If Vivo Had Viva'ed--Or Tech Really Was Superbe?

Today, if you are equipping a bicycle with a derailleur, you are probably choosing from models offered by three companies:  Campagnolo, Shimano and SRAM.  

There are a few smaller makers and marketers of gear shifters, but the Big Three comprise the vast majority of today's offerings.

If you've been cycling for as long as I have, you have seen other derailleur brands come and go, and have probably heard of others that met their demise not long before you started cycling.

When I started cycling in earnest, the recently-departed names I would sometimes see included Cyclo and DNB.  I'd heard about the otherworldly engineering and quality of Sanko derailleurs but would not see one up close until many years later.  

Some derailleurs that were common at the time I became a dedicated cyclist came from Huret and Simplex, two marques that have disappeared into the mists of time. Actually, Huret was acquired by Sachs--which also acquired Maillard, a maker of hubs, freewheels and pedals, and premier chain manufacturer Sedis-- which in turn became part of SRAM.

Less common, but still visible, brands from that time that have disappeared or been absorbed into larger entities include Zeus and Galli (which made those "midnight blue" parts that looked so great on white, silver or chromed bikes!).  While they made some fine derailleurs and other parts, they aren't much more than footnotes, except to collectors.

On the other hand, I and other longtime cyclists still lament the demise of SunTour.  For about a decade and a half, they were making the most innovative and best-shifting derailleurs available.  They also were priced lower than offerings from other companies, which made SunTour derailleurs, by far, the best values available.

Those of us who followed their trajectory believe that their downfall began with their Superbe Tech derailleur. (The Trimec derailleur, which preceded it by a couple of years, wasn't a bad derailleur:  It was just in the "why did they bother?" category.)  The Superbe Tech was, arguably, a noble effort:  It was an attempt to solve a problem that had long bedeviled cyclists who ride in a lot of mud and dirt--and riders in the then-nascent discipline of mountain biking.   That problem is that paralellogram derailleurs, which are usually made up of two linkage plates and are thus "open" inside the parallelogram, sometimes clog with mud, dirt or debris.

Try to put it back together!

SunTour tried to solve that problem with a solid parallelogram, with only one linkage plate.  The problem is that, in order to make up for the loss of spring-back strength afforded by a spring against a second linkage plate, SunTour put a complicated, finicky mechanism inside the parallelogram--and used larger-than-normal upper pulleys and pivots with springs that weren't adequately shielded from the very elements that SunTour tried to keep out of the Superbe Tech's parallelogram!  

Some riders got lucky and rode their Superbe Techs for thousands of miles and several decades.  Others--especially mountain bikers and "rough-stuff" tourists--had their mechanisms fail, without warning, after only a few rides or weeks.

After SunTour ended up in the trail dust of history, a Long Islander named John Calindrelle came up with a seemingly-simple solution:  the "Grunge Guard".  Like its name, it was a simple, if inelegant solution:  basically, a rubber boot that covered the derailleur.  It was inexpensive and did the job well, at least until the material (neoprene)wore out or an edge got caught in a branch, bramble or derailleur part.

So, Mr. Calindrelle came up with another solution:  a derailleur that, technically, differed little from Shimano and SRAM units popular at the time (around the turn of the millenium) and was made like the pricey CNC mechanisms coming from the likes of Paul and other small manufacturers.  The difference was that Calindrelle's derailleur--called "Vivo"--had "lips" that allowed for precise fitting of an improved version of the "Grunge Guard."

Vivo rear derailleur

Apparently, not many of those derailleurs were made.  At least, they were made only for a couple of years. During that time, he made one change in the design: Where the first Vivo derailleurs had traditional cable routing (housing looped behind the derailleur body and into a fitment on the underside of the parallelogram), the revised versions took cables that went straight into the parallelogram from above, which eliminated other points that could clog with mud and bind.

Drawing in patent application for new improved version (V2) of Vivo derailleur

Shimano, interestingly, didn't see his rubber-boot design as a serious competitor against their derailleurs.  The Japanese behemoth, however, wanted to use that cable-routing system. So, in 2002, Shimano bought Calindrelle's patents.  As he later explained, selling his ideas made him far more money than making his derailleurs or boots ever would have.

So...SunTour and Mr. Calindrelle tried to solve the same problem.  SunTour's design seemed like a good idea and was elegant.  However, it had unanticipated flaws that would lead to the failure of the Superbe Tech and, arguably, SunTour itself.  Calindrelle's creation, on the other hand, was inelegant but worked flawlessly--and, ironically, led to the end (if by different means) of his business operation.

How might our derailleurs be different today had SunTour's Superbe Tech design worked--or if it had been more remunerative for John Calindrelle to continue manufacturing his creations?

28 November 2017

Bicycle Safety In The City: It's About Him

I have long said that much of the opposition to bicycle infrastructure--or simply encouraging people to get out of their cars and onto a saddle--is really class-based resentment.  In other words, people who are upset when they see bike share docks taking up "their" parking spaces or a bike lane that takes "their" traffic lane away believe that liberal elites are coddling privileged young people who are indulging in a faddish pastime and simply won't grow up.

What they fail to realize is that creating awareness and infrastructure doesn't just protect trust fund kids who ride their "fixies" to trendy cafes where they down $12 craft beers.  A goal of efforts to encourage cycling and make it safer is also to protect those who, by necessity, make their livings on their bicycles.  Edwin Vicente Ajacalon was one of them.

Like most of the folks who make food deliveries on their bicycles, Ajacalon was an immigrant--in his case, from Guatemala.  He arrived in this country--specifically, to Brooklyn--a year ago.

He did not, however, live in the Brooklyn of fixed gears and craft beers:  Though he was only about eight kilometers from Hipster Hook, he lived a world away, in a single room he shared with five other men who, like him, are immigrants who delivered food by bicycle.  And the area in which he usually worked, which realtors dubbed "Park Slope South" some years back, is really still the hardscrabble working-class immigrant community it was when my mother was growing up in it.  The only differences are, of course, that the immigrants come from different places and that the neighborhood--hard by the northwestern entrance of the Greenwood Cemetery--is dirtier and shabbier, and still hasn't entirely recovered from the ravages of the 1980s Crack Epidemic.

Only one block from that entrance to the necropolis, around 5:45 pm on Saturday, Edwin Vicente Ajacalon was pedaling through the intersection of Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street.  There, a BMW sedan smacked into him.

The driver, to his credit, remained at the scene (and has not been charged with any crime). Unfortunately, there probably was nothing he or anyone else could do for Edwin:  Minutes later, the police would find him lying down in a pool of blood, halfway across the block from where he was hit.  Someone checked  his vital signs and found none, which means that, although he was pronounced dead when he arrived at the hospital, he might've died as soon as the car struck him or when he struck the pavement.

All anyone could do after that was to pick up the pieces of his bicycle which, along with a sneaker and a hat, where strewn about the street.

When anyone dies so suddenly and tragically, we can lament the loved ones who will never see him again, and those whom he will never see--as well as the things he won't have the opportunity to do.  For poor Edwin, those things include celebrating his fifteenth birthday.

Yes, you read that right.  Edwin Vicente Ajacalon was 14 years old when he was struck and killed while making deliveries on his bicycle--one year after emigrating, alone, from Guatemala.  He has no family here in the US, save for an uncle with whom he briefly lived.  Like his roommates, Edwin was working other odd jobs in addition to delivering food on his bicycle--and, after paying rent, sending money to his parents in Guatemala.

So...Now we know that bicycle safety is not just a matter of protecting pampered post-pubescents.  In this case, it's about protecting the livelihood of a boy in his early teens and the parents he was trying to support.  And they can't even afford to come to the US to claim his body.