Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

30 June 2017

Why You Need To Read About The Paris Sewer System



So why am I beginning this post with a photo of a house in France most Americans have never seen?

Well, if you've been reading this blog long enough, you know that I'm a bit of a Francophile.  Yes, just a little bit.  One way you know that I'm American is that I am also something of an Anglophile and see no contradiction!

Anyway, the house is in a French city most foreigners (except, perhaps, from neighboring countries) never visit.  That's a shame, really, because it reveals so much about France that people don't experience during the three or four das they spend in Paris as part of their European trips.

You can probably guess one reason I included the photo:  I have cycled to that house.  And to this one:




Now, that's one tourists are more likely to see.  It's in Paris, on one of the city's most elegant squares, the Place des Vosges.  There's a nice little park in the middle of the square where Parisians take lunch breaks or walk their dogs or kids, or just loll around on the grass.  And folks like me ride or walk there, baguette and hunk of cheese in hand.  

One great thing about the Place des Vosges is that it's next to one of the most historic parts of Paris--le Marais--and literally steps from all sorts of interesting museums, galleries and shops.

Anyway, the house in Besancon and the one in Paris share something:  specifically, someone who lived in them.

I'll give you a hint:  He wrote the novel more people know about without actually having read.  In the English-speaking world that has much to do with a musical--a musical!--made out of that novel.  You may have seen it.

That novel is, of course, Les Miserables, written by none other than Victor Hugo.

Just as more people know about Les Miserables than any other novel without having read it, more people lie about having read Moby Dick than any other novel.  Now I'm going to tell you a secret:  If you're ever at a dinner party with a bunch of snotty pseudo-intellectuals, you can more or less bluff your way through a discussion of MD if you've read Old Man and the Sea! 

But I digress.  No, it's not really a digression:  It's part of what I'm going to say, just like all of those hundred-page long asides about the Paris sewer system or whaling in New England are integral to LM and MD, respectively.

You see, such seeming digressions are part of some of the best bike rides.  You might start with a destination in mind or that you are simply going to ride a certain distance or amount of time.  Unless you're riding strictly for training purposes, the parts of the ride you'll remember are the things you encountered along the way.


In the case of Besancon, I found myself there because of a challenge.  In the summer of 1997, I bought a round-trip ticket to Paris--with a return date of a month after my departure--and brought my bicycle, among other things.  I had no particular plan except to visit my friends in Paris and get on my bike. In those days, I used to take trips like that, staying in hostels or pensiones--or simply rolling out my sleeping bag--wherever I found myself when I stopped riding for the day.

I was talking to Jay and Isabelle, whom I've mentioned in other posts, when Isabelle asked, "Ou n'avais pas visite en France?"  As I tried to think of some place in France where I hadn't been, Jay blurted "Alpes"!

"Les Alpes?" Even though I understood perfectly well, I just had to make sure.

They both nodded. So did I.

And so I pedaled south and east from Paris.  That is how I found myself, five days later (spending days in Troyes and Chaumont) in Besancon, on the edge of the Jura mountains, which are a kind of sub-range of the Alps.  A few days after that I was in Chamonix and hiked up part of Mont Blanc.

Anyway, Victor Hugo was born in the house in Besancon.  That house, amazingly enough, is in a square that also contains the houses in which painter Gustave Courbet, writer Charles Nodier and the Lumiere brothers--considered the "fathers" of cinema--were born!

And, of course, I've cycled (and walked) to the Hugo house on Place des Vosges any number of times during my stays in Paris.

So why am I thinking about Victor Hugo now?  Turns out, on this date in 1862, he completed Les Miserables.  It was published soon after and became popular with soldiers on both sides of the US Civil War.  "I've been reading Hugo's account of Waterloo in Les Miserables and preparing my mind for something of the same sort," wrote Wilky James of the Massachusetts Free Black Regiment in 1863.  "God grant the battle may do as much harm to the rebels as Waterloo did to the French."

The funny thing is that the sections about Waterloo--and the Paris sewer system--are what got the novel both praised and lambasted.  But Les Miserables could no more exist without them than Moby Dick could without al the stuff about New England whaling practices--or our favorite ride without whatever you encountered along the way.

29 June 2017

A Currency Of Pleasure

Now tell me:  Is there a surer sign of an early summer day than this?



It was a little cooler than normal (high temperature of 27C, or 80F) but I didn't mind.  From that tree, you might know where I rode:  Connecticut.  



(I have to admit, I couldn't help but to think of the quarter coin dedicated to the Nutmeg State--one of the prettiest pieces of currency ever issued.)

Anyway, the sky was as bright and blue as my cell-phone photos make it seem.  I rode into a fairly stiff wind on the way up, which meant, of course, that I had it at my back on my way home.



I couldn't have asked for anything better. Nor could Arielle, my Mercian Audax.  

28 June 2017

In Theory, At Least...

Some things simply don't make any sense.  

On the other hand, there are many more things that make sense to somebody--but not to me.  Maybe they make sense to you, or someone you know.  Or perhaps not.

The category of things that make sense to somebody is comprised, in part, of ideas and inventions that make you scratch your head.  They make sense to whoever came up with them, and they might work "on paper" or in some alternative universe.  

One such idea/invention is a bicycle that's pedaled with both feet together.  How or why anyone came up with it is beyond me.  

For one thing, pedaling with both feet together means standing up, then sitting back down to propel one's self. Now, I realize there are people who ride that way normally, but they are almost always novices and, if they continue to ride, eventually shed the habit.




The creators of "Swingbike" refer to it as "The Athletic Perfection."  The reason, as I understand it, is that in standing up and sitting down through the pedal stroke, the rider has to pump his or her arms.  I guess that's somebody's idea of a "full body workout."

I don't know whether the "Swingbike" was ever produced.  Perhaps it was made under another name:  After all, there are many other machines with the same name; in some cases, they're called "Swing Bike" (two words).  Or, perhaps, it was aborted by copyright laws!

27 June 2017

Does The Driver Hate Cops--Or Cyclists?

Someone wasn't feeling the love in the City of Brotherly Love.

Around 2:30 yesterday morning, three Philadelphia police officers on bicycle arrived at the intersection of I Street and Erie Avenue to help with the arrest of a carjacker.

Suddenly, a black sedan--possibly a Nissan Altima--with tinted windows bore down, at high speed, a group of Philadelphia police officers on bicycle patrol.



Fortunately for the men in blue, they hopped off their bikes before the sedan tangled them into a mess of twisted spokes and sped off.

According to a Philly.com report, "Police said the driver's actions appeared to have been deliberate."  No! Really?  What I'd like to know is whether the driver of the sedan knew the carjacker, or simply had a grudge against cops--or cyclists.

26 June 2017

Receding Waves And Raising Imagination

Another beautiful early summer day means...a ride, of course.  This one took me to Point Lookout.  I pedaled against the wind most of the way out and with it most of the way back.  

When I got back, I talked to my mother and told her I "looked like a tomato."  She asked whether I'd used sunscreen; which, of course, I had.  In fact, both of my stops were for the purpose of applying "beach grease".



What was most striking about the ride, though, was that the tide at the Point had receded further than I'd ever seen before.  I can't recall the sandbars stretching as far and wide as the ones that were exposed yesterday.



Speaking of exposure:  I could just barely see that couple on the sandbar.  It didn't look like they were wearing a whole lot, though it looked like they were doing quite a bit.  One of the things they were doing, of course, was leaving something to the imagnation!

What else might we lose if and when sea levels rise?


24 June 2017

Bike Share In "Dutch" Country

Yesterday, I wrote about two bike-share programs that went bust.

One of them, Pronto, was based in Seattle.  Its demise came as a surprise to some, including yours truly, because Seattle has long had a reputation for all of the things one associates with cities that develop successful share programs.  For one thing, it had an active, vibrant cycling community long before Portland or other cities developed their reputations as two-wheeled utopiae.  For another, it also has a large population of young, educated and creative people:  the very sorts of people who are most likely to be bike riders in urban areas. 



In other words, it seemed to have a lot in common with other cities in Europe and North America where share programs have succeeded.  Some blamed the failure of Pronto on Seattle's climate, which may have been somewhat of a factor, although other places where share programs are popular get as much rain (or as little sunshine, depending on your point of view) as the Emerald City.

When we think of the cities where bike share programs have succeeded, we think first of the US coastal cities and European capitals.  But they have also worked well in "second" cities like Lyon, France (whose "Velo'v" is often cited as a model) and  Hamilton, Ontario.  Even a town like Chattanoga, Tennessee has managed to support a thriving program.

But most people, I think, wouldn't expect to find the ingredients of vibrant cycling communities or successful bike share programs--let alone attempts to develop other kinds of cycling infrastructure--in declining industrial cities like Reading, Pennsylvania (which I mentioned in an earlier post). Or nearby Lancaster.

I have to confess that when I think of Lancaster, I think of the Pennsylvania Amish Country or "Dutch Country".  My family took a trip there every summer, where we would visit farms and the so-called "Dutch Wonderland".  In those days mega-theme parks like Six Flags were either new or in development, the Dutch Wonderland and Hershey Park still could capture a kid's short attention span.

We would simply pass through the city itself which, even then, seemed to consist mainly of factories and old buildings that didn't seem to be used for anything but no one had gotten around to declaring as historic landmarks.  I liked the train station--which served the Pennsylvania and Reading Railroads, and now is an Amtrak stop--mainly because I liked trains and the Reading still had some of the old steam locomotives.

But Lancaster, like Reading, has witnessed the loss of its old industries and a population that has grown poorer, darker and older--though, to be fair, not to the same degree as Reading.  Interestingly, Lancaster has earned a new nickname: The City of Refugees.  It's believed that refugees make up a higher percentage of the population in Lancaster than in any other US city.

This is not what one normally associates with cycling:  Indeed, even today, when I ride through blue-collar and immigrant neighborhoods and suburbs of New York, I see no other cyclists. But, when you think about it, such places--like Lancaster and Reading--are exactly where cycling should thrive.  After all, generations of working-class people all over Europe, Asia and other parts of the world were, until recently, the vast majority of the world's cyclists.



So, in a way, we shouldn't be surprised that Lancaster is launching a bike share program.  What surprised me, in reading about it, is the degree to which the city is trying to develop a cycling infrastructure.  While I am not always enthusiastic about bike lanes, it seems that planners are at least trying to make them practical:  They lead to places like the train station and there seems to be some notion that a bike lane isn't just a few lines painted on asphalt or concrete.

Almost nobody believes that Donald Trump can actually deliver on his pledges to revive moribund industries.  After all, even if some company decided to build a steel mill or open a coal mine in Pennsylvania or West Virginia, it would be more automated than the ones that closed.  Thus, fewer workers would be employed--and few, if any, of them would be those men in their 50s and 60s who got laid off during the last economic downturn.  Instead, almost anybody who's not a direct adviser to Trump says that such workers should be retrained in the new technologies of the "green" or "greener" industries.  

It's not as much of a stretch as one might think:  People in industrial and rural areas tend to have more mechanical, and other practical, skills than MBAs or lawyers.  If we think of bicycles as part of the "green" economy, it's not hard to imagine employing workers from a variety of other industries--or simply folks who don't have the aptitude or desire for university--in them.  

One might say that nearby Reading--which I described in an earlier post--is attempting to do that, if on a small scale, with its efforts to make cycling more accessible for the working-class, poor and unemployed of that city.  Such efforts almost inevitably involve employing, directly or indirectly, the very people such programs try to put on bikes.  Perhaps something similar will happen in Lancaster.  If nothing else, as in Reading, Lancaster's new bike share program and infrastructure could make cycling affordable and practical for people who could benefit from it.

23 June 2017

A Lump Of Coal In The Emerald City And The Land Of Jade

A couple of years ago, bike-share programs seemed like "can't-miss" propositions. 

Most municipalities with programs--whether they're funded by cities or corporations, or are not-for-profit organizations, have reported great success.  Share programs have expanded steadily in just about every place they've been introduced, and other cites--some of which you might not connect with cycling--are clamoring to start their own share programs.


Bikes from Pronto, Seattle's late bike-sharing program


One rare exception has been Pronto, Seattle's bike-share program.  It closed on 31 March, citing low ridership.  Several reasons have been cited for the program's failure.  One is that the Emerald City has a mandatory helmet law.  Cyclists who ride without head armor can be fined $102.  More important, getting on a share bike is, as often as not, a spur-of-the-moment decision, and few people carry helmets with them when they're not on bikes.  Many bike-share users are tourists; even those who are active cyclists at home aren't likely to bring helmets with them because, especially if they don't normally wear them.

Three other cities with share programs also have mandatory-helmet laws:  Vancouver and the Australian metropoli of Melbourne and Brisbane.  Share programs in the latter two cities  struggled until they followed Vancouver's lead in including helmets and disposable liners with the bikes.  In 2015, Seattle installed helmet dispensers by the Pronto kiosks, but potential users seemed to find it an inconvenience.

Other factors cited in the Seattle program's failure are the city's terrain and climate.  Now, I can understand why people wouldn't want to pedal a heavy share bike up a hill.  I can even understand why someone wouldn't want to ride in the rain.  But long before Portland became the iconic "bike friendly" city, Seattle had a vibrant cycling community.  In fact, it once boasted more bike shops, per capita, than any other major US city.  The weather didn't seem to put a damper (pun intended) on cycling then, or now.

Then again, I can also understand why a tourist might not want to ride in the rain--especially if he or she is accustomed to more sunshine at home.  If you're used to, say, Florida, and you're only going to be in Seattle for a few days, you might decide to simply wait until you get home to start riding again.

While the causes of the Seattle share program's failures might be debatable, Lei Houyi knows exactly why his bike-share company is closing shop.


These bikes belong to Oko, one of the apps-based Chinese ride-sharing systems.


In contrast with its western counterparts, many Chinese bike-share programs can best be described as "Uber for bikes":  Riders can pick up, or leave, bikes on the streets, without having to look for a port or dock.  Wukong Bikes, based in Chongqin, also followed this model.  But they didn't follow a practice common to other Chinese share companies:  It didn't install GPS devices on their bikes.

The result was all too predictable:  Most of Wukong's 1200 bikes were lost or stolen.  By the time the company realized it needed tracking devices, Houyi said, it was too late:  The bikes were gone and the money had run out.


But, he says, even before his bikes started to disappear, the company was struggling because the bikes were of inferior quality to, and more easily damaged than, those of Ofo and Mobike, the leading Chinese bike-share companies.  The services of those companies are completely app-based.  So, while bikes left in remote locations can still be difficult for customers to locate, they are rarely lost, and when they are damaged, they can be fixed relatively quickly.

So, while I think bike share programs will continue to grow in popularity, they are not "sure-fire bets", even in the most seemingly "bike-friendly" environments, unless technological as well as cultural and legal factors are considered.

22 June 2017

Into The Hole--On A Sugar Rush And Killer Bread!

After the torrential downpours (I could barely see past my window!) on Monday, we've had two days of glorious, sunny weather.  It was warm, but not overly humid, with little wind--except in one part of today's ride:




I saw this same puddle/pond/wetland back in February:



Now, it wasn't my destination.  I just hopped on Tosca, my Mercian fixed-gear, and zigzagged through some side streets between my apartment and Howard Beach.  One of them dead-ended on top of a hill or mound, from which I had a view of the turbid body of water:



It looks to be the same size, shape and depth I saw four months ago.  A group of people--I assumed them to be a family because they were a man, a woman and two young children--were breaking up some concrete and dirt in front of a battered house.  They surprised me with their "hello's"; soon after, a man driving an old BMW eyed me suspiciously.  

But another man, seemed to study me from the trailer colony across the pond, decided (correctly) that I'm not any sort of official and gave me a smile.



The last time I saw this place, I could've sworn a wind blew that I didn't feel before I arrived or after I left.  Today, I had the same sensation.  In fact, I was even more sure of that wind, as it flickered my hair and braced against my bare arms and legs.  The last time I rode down that way, my arms and legs were covered.

Hmm...Could it be that The Hole has its own microclimate?



If what I saw in The Hole was an incongruity or a riddle, something else I saw along the way was a joke:




I looked for the driver of this truck.  I really wanted to ask whether Dave's Killer Organic Bread--which I had never heard of until I saw that truck--was actually being delivered in the same vehicle as Tastykakes.



Perhaps one day I'll try Dave's Killer Bread and, if I survive the experience, tell you about it!  It's organic, so I suppose I'll live through it.  On the other hand, KandyKakes--especially a version they made with chocolate cake and peanut butter--was one of my favorite sugar rushes when I was a little kid.  I liked those butterscotch crimpets, too. 



 Later, when I was riding with a bunch of guys who pedaled hard and treated themselves with, um, non-prescription painkillers, I became an aficionado of Tastykake fruit pies.  I loved their cherry and blueberry pies; I probably would like them today, too, as those are my favorite pies (along with strawberry rhubarb--but, as far as I know, Tastykake has never made that!).  But my favorite--again, for its sugar rush, was their Glazed French Apple.

Of course, Tastykake Glazed French Apple pie is about as French as that bottled bright orange salad dressing sold in big-box stores.  The French aren't shy about sweet flavors, but I don't think they could come up with a sugarbomb like Tastykake Glazed French Apple Pie even if they wanted to.

Although I haven't eaten it in years, I'm still getting a sugar rush from thinking about it.  The apple filling, sugary to begin with, was further sweetened by raisins and I-don't-know-what-else.  And it was topped by a thick strip of that white icing that makes Twinkie fillings seem like grapefruit.

It looks like Tastykake's current French Apple Pie isn't glazed.  Still, I'm sure it would provide quite the sugar rush--maybe almost as intense as a glazed Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop Tart!

Maybe those Pop Tarts are delivered in the same trucks as Laughing Giraffe Cherry Ginger Granola. (With a name like that, I simply must try it!)

21 June 2017

They Weren't Planning To Have A Funeral For Him

When you raise a kid, you don't plan on having a funeral for him when he's 20.

I remember hearing that when I was about ten years old.   The person who uttered it was a relative of a classmate--who was the younger sister of the 20-year-old in question.

That relative was, of course, trying to deal with the grief he and his family were feeling just after a memorial mass.  Even though he, and others, knew the dangers the 20-year-old faced as a soldier in Vietnam, they were shocked to learn of his death.

I hadn't thought about that episode in a long, long time.  What brought it back for me today was a news story that came my way.  In it, Stephanie Groh Doersam says, "People don't plan to have to do a funeral for a 20-year-old."

She is a friend of Aaron Michael Laciny and his family.  Yes, Laciny is the 20-year-old to whom she is referring.  But what struck him down wasn't mortar fire.  Rather, it was automotive bumpers.  Yes, bumpers in the plural.

Around 10:30 Monday night, he was riding south on Charles Street, near the intersection with Charlesbrooke Road, in Balitmore.   There, a car struck him and drove away from the scene.  

Then a second vehicle struck him.  The driver of that one, at least, stopped and called the police.  But it was too late for Laciny:  He was taken to nearby Greater Baltimore Medical Center, where he died.

According to police, he was wearing a helmet but his bike didn't have lights or reflectors.  They are looking for the first vehicle that struck him, which "may have front-end damage to its bumper."  They are also reviewing private security video footage from the area.

Aaron Michael Laciny


Aaron Michael Laciny had just recently graduated from Baltimore City Community College and was interning at the Johns Hopkins Nano Energy Laboratory, where he was working to design and build new materials for inexpensive solar cells.  Questdrion Threat, a friend and classmate, said that Laciny--who friends jokingly referred to as "Bill Nye", in reference to the television science personality--wanted to "do research that would make the world a better place."

Neither Threat nor Groh Doersam--nor, for that matter, any of Laciny's other friends or family--expected to plan on having a funeral for him.  Or for any other 20-year-old doing nothing more perilous than riding a bike on a Baltimore street at night.

20 June 2017

If It's On Ebay, It May Not Actually Be Legendary

Many of us have gone to eBay in search of some long-out-of-production bike part or accessory--or in the hope of scoring a great deal on something current.  Or, perhaps, we are just looking for something no one else has.

I mean, think of the bragging rights you could have had with a corn flake shaped like the state of Illinois. Nine years ago, the owner of a trivia website bought it--for $1350.  

$1350 for one corn flake! Just think:  For that price, you could've gotten pancakes--yes, pancakes--at the Opus One Restaurant in the Radisson Blu Hotel of Manchester, England.  Of course, they weren't any old pancakes: They were layered with lobster, caviar and truffles, and finished with a Dom Perignon Rose hollandaise sauce.  

But it's not shaped like the state of Illinois, you protest.  All right, then, you probably wouldn't have been interested in some of the other unique items sold on eBay--like a Casey Anthony mask.  Or a hockey team.  

Here's my favorite:  The Meaning Of Life.  That went for a winning bid of $3.26.

Now, since this is a blog about cycling, I'm supposed to stick to the weird bicycle-related stuff, right?  Well, I didn't find anything like Hugo Koblet's comb--or the, um, chronographs used by the Festina team in the 1998 Tour.

But I did find a velodrome.  Well, sort of.  

Here is your one in a lifetime chance to own the one and only legendary* Bomberdome.

At the end of the listing, the asterisk is explained thusly:  may not actually be legendary.  

The "Bomberdome" is based on the so-called Wall of Death, which is billed as a velodrome but really looks (to me, anyway) more like an oval boardwalk built at a 45-degree angle to the ground.  Apparently, the original was built as a circus attraction during the 1930s.  



Five years ago, a UK group that calls itself the Ministry of Bicycles built the "Bomberdome" and showcased it at events all over the country.  Although it can be disassembled, it can't be transported in your SUV or van.  No, it needs its own trailer, included in the sale.  Although the MoB describes that trailer as "VERY dubious", they are quick to add that it "as yet has never let us down".

As I write, there have been 30 bids on the dome and the price is up to 285 GBP.  There are still 4 hours and 21 days left in the auction.  Still, you might get it cheaply enough that you can afford a backyard big enough for it.  You might even find it---where else?--on eBay!

If you want to ride the Bomberdome, you might want to fuel up.  Pancakes?  Corn flakes?


19 June 2017

Two Different Views Of A Good Day

You know it's summer--or close to it--in this part of the world by the fulsome, verdant foliage:



Those trees stand next to the Veterans' Memorial in Greenwich, Connecticut.  Yes, I took a ride there.  Once the rain stopped, around ten o'clock yesterday morning, the sun appeared as if it were in the next frame of a film.  And, while it brightened the day, it also turned the air soupy in short order.

Still, it was a good day for a ride.  Arielle, my Mercian Audax, was ready for anything:





On the other hand, Marlee and Max were ready for only one thing:



I had a great time.  I'm sure they did, too!

18 June 2017

Happy Father's Day!

Some parents talk about their failures in raising their children.  Of course, "failure" can be defined in any number of ways:  Perhaps the child didn't follow the career path the parents wanted.  Or he or she married the "wrong" person or didn't get married at all--or didn't have kids.  Or end up with the lifestyle the parents envisioned.

I have to say, I am guilty on all counts. My career and lifestyle are nothing like what my parents--especially my father--wanted from and for me.  And, yes, I married the "wrong" person--and never married again after that.  But none of that is either of my parents' fault--really.

I will, however, admit there is one area in which I've failed miserably in the making of my parents.  You see, I tried to turn both of them into cyclists--even to the point of giving them bicycles as gifts for some occasion or another.  I don't think my mother ever rode hers (If I recall, it was sold when my parents moved from New Jersey to Florida.) and my father may have ridden a couple of times with me.  Though his bike survived the move, it, too was eventually sold.

So...I can't say that my father (or mother) and I bonded over bike riding.  For that matter, if I recall correctly, I didn't learn how to ride from either of them:  I got those lessons from my grandfather (who died before I turned eight) and an uncle.  

I failed, but I think my parents have forgiven me by now.  A lot has been forgiven, or simply written off as vodka under the bridge, as Alexandr Revva might say. 

(Why did I choose him?  I confess:  He's one of the few Russians whose name I can spell!)

Anyway, in the spirit of father-child relationships, I offer this, from one of my favorite comic-strip series:



Happy Father's Day!

17 June 2017

It's Done--I Think!

My "winter" project is more or less complete.

Back in December, I found a 1981.5 Trek 412 at an estate sale.  It was looking for a good home.  I thought I'd finish it during my January recess from school and ride it during the winter.




Well, as with almost any project, not everything went exactly as planned.  Some parts I'd intended to use didn't fit or work with other parts, and, well, I changed my mind about a couple of things along the way.

I finally got it into rideable (for my purposes, anyway) condition by Spring recess, in April.  And, as I mentioned a few days ago, gearing wasn't quite to my liking--and the crankset (which had been sitting in my parts box for I-don't-know-how-long) stripped when I tried to remove it.  So I had to "destroy it in order to save it", to paraphrase one of the more unfortunate commands of all time.

But now I think the only thing I might change is the bars--to drops. (Actually, I might make this bike "bi" and switch between drops and Porteurs as need, and whim, dictate!)




In putting the bike together, I didn't try to do an "original" or even a "period" restoration.  Instead, I tried to rebuild the bike in the spirit of the original (Yes, I know, that's an extremely elastic term!) while suiting my needs and tastes as a rider.  So, I decided not to refinish the frame (also, in part, because I didn't want to spend the time or expense) and when I didn't use parts that came with the bike, I installed components and accessories from within a few years of when the bike was made--or that at least don't look out of place on a bike of its time.




What that means is that the bike now consists of the following:

Frame and fork-- Trek 412, of Ishiwata 022 tubing.

Headset--  Stronglight A9 roller bearing (came with frame)

Wheels--   Rear:  Specialized sealed bearing hub (made by                                       Sansin) sealed bearing 
                          Sun CR 18 Rim, 700C
                          36 DT spokes, 2.0 straight gauge, 3 cross
                
                  Front:  Suzue sealed bearing hub
                           Sun CR 18 rim, 700 C
                           36 Wheelsmith spokes, 2.0 straight gauge,                                3 cross

                  Continental Gatorskin Hardshell tires, 700 X 32

Crankset--   Shimano A 124 triple (1986 model), triple
                            46/42/28 rings

Derailleurs-- Rear:  SunTour VxS with sealed pulleys
                    Front:  SunTour Spirt (top-normal)
                    Shifters:  SunTour PD-M (racheted)

Freewheel--  SunTour Winner Pro five-speed, 13-26

Chain--         SRAM PC-830

Pedals--        MKS GR-10 Platform (like Lyotard Berthet)
                    MKS "Basket" toe clips
                    Generic leather toe straps

Brakes--        Weinmann Carrera (first version)
                       with Mathauser "Kool Stop" pads
                  
                    Tektro 4.1 inverse levers 

Handlebar--    Velo Orange Porteur 

Stem--           Specialized 9mm, made in Japan (Nitto?)

Seat post--     SR Laprade alloy (came with frame)

Saddle--         Brooks B17

Fenders--       Velo Orange Hammered, 45mm, with flap                              from RuthWorks SF

Rear Rack--     Blackburn Expedition stainless steel

Front Rack--    Nitto M18.

Bottle Cages--  Twofish

Pump--            Zefal Competition, converted

I plan to put a decaleur made by Mark Guglielmana on the stem.  I've been using it on Vera (my Mercian mixte) and like it a lot.  The reason I want to shift it to the Trek is that there isn't enough room under the headset nut for a decaleur (or anything besides a headset spacer).  The Stronglight A9 that came with this bike isn't the original:  Apparently, the original (probably Japanese) had a smaller stack height.  Moving the decaleur will allow me to use my RuthWorks Randonneur bag on this bike.

Rebuilding this bike has been an interesting--and so far worthwhile--experience!


16 June 2017

What It's Really About

We've all seen the "On This Day In History" columns.  I like to look at them:  Sometimes I learn about people and events I never knew before.

For example, I didn't know that on this date in 1903, Ford Motor Company was incorporated, and in 1961, ballet star Rudolf Nureyev defected from his native Soviet Union.

I have long known, however, that quite possibly the most-commemorated events of this date never actually happened.  Yet they will be remembered long after most of the others are forgotten.

I am not talking about the fact that, one year ofter Henry Ford's motor company came to be, one of the most famous writers in history got married.  And he married the most unlikely of people:  someone who had no interest in literature and, when asked by a journalist what she thought of Andre Gide--on the occasion of his winning the Nobel Prize for literature, no less--said, "When you've been married to the greatest writer in the world, you tend to forget the little guys."

The literary spouse in question is Nora Joyce.  And, of course, she was defending the reputation of her beloved Jimmy.

And he wrote a book containing the people and events that are being commemorated today--far more than the founding of FoMoCo or the defection of a ballet dancer.  The events happened on this date in 1904 and, like the people involved in them, were creations of the man who set them down on paper.

Now, you all know no one ever called him "Jimmy".  (At least, I don't think anyone did!)  James Joyce wrote a book that did exactly what he said it would:  It's kept generations of professors, critics and scholars busy arguing over what it's "about".


The truth is (drumroll), his Ulysses is the Seinfeld of modern literature:  It's not about anything at all. At least, not really.  Sure, there are parallels between his characters and those of Greek mythology.  But the stories about the gods and demigods, like all tales embedded in systems of belief, are explicit attempts to explain the meaning and purpose of, if not life itself, then the world around us.  

I can find no such attempt in Joyce's book. When I say that, I don't mean it as a condemnation:  One could (and I have) argued that some of the great works of literature--including no less than Shakespeare's Hamlet-- really aren't "about" anything, except perhaps the foibles of the characters themselves.  

Now, of course, even with all of my erudition (ha!), you shouldn't take only my word.  I am even willing to consider (though not without a fight) that I could be wrong.  You see, the esteemed author of the "Cycling In The South Bay"--whose credentials are impeccable--claims that Ulysses is really a book about bicycling.

On what is this claim based?  CITSB's author offers the following evidence--13 mentions of bicycle or bicycling in the 782-page tome:

  1. “They passed from behind Mr Bloom along the curbstone. Beard and bicycle. Young woman.”
  2. “His eyes followed the high figure in homespun, beard and bicycle, a listening woman at his side.”
  3. “Gerty MacDowell loves the boy that has the bicycle.”
  4. “As per usual somebody’s nose was out of joint about the boy that had the bicycle off the London bridge road always riding up and down in front of her window.”
  5. “W. E. Wylie who was racing in the bicycle races in Trinity college university.”
  6. “But he was undeniably handsome with an exquisite nose and he was what he looked, every inch a gentleman, the shape of his head too at the back without his cap on that she would know anywhere something off the common and the way he turned the bicycle at the lamp with his hands off the bars and also the nice perfume of those good cigarettes and besides they were both of a size too he and she and that was why Edy Boardman thought she was so frightfully clever because he didn’t go and ride up and down in front of her bit of a garden.”
  7. “His right hand holds a bicycle pump.”
  8. “He smites with his bicycle pump the crayfish in his left hand.”
  9. “Love on hackney jaunt Blazes blind coddoubled bicyclers Dilly with snowcake no fancy clothes.”
  10. “He had sometimes propelled her on warm summer evenings, an infirm widow of independent, if limited, means, in her convalescent bathchair with slow revolutions of its wheels as far as the corner of the North Circular road opposite Mr Gavin Low’s place of business where she had remained for a certain time scanning through his onelensed binocular fieldglasses unrecognisable citizens on tramcars, roadster bicycles equipped with inflated pneumatic tyres, hackney carriages, tandems, private and hired landaus, dogcarts, ponytraps and brakes passing from the city to the Phoenix Park and vice versa.”
  11. “of course hes mad on the subject of drawers thats plain to be seen always skeezing at those brazenfaced things on the bicycles with their skirts blowing up to their navels even when Milly and I were out with him at the open air fete”
  12. “pretending to read out the Hebrew on them I wanted to fire his pistol he said he hadnt one he didnt know what to make of me with his peak cap on that he always wore crooked as often as I settled it straight H M S Calypso swinging my hat that old Bishop that spoke off the altar his long preach about womans higher functions about girls now riding the bicycle and wearing peak caps and the new woman bloomers God send him sense and me more money”
  13. “can Milly come out please shes in great demand to pick what they can out of her round in Nelson street riding Harry Devans bicycle at night”
QED

Actually, I am rather willing (Is there such a thing?) to accept that writer's claim, especially after stumbling over this:



Jim Joyce, eh?  Well, even if he'd used a less-obvious pseudonym, all of those critics and professors and commentators he wanted to keep busy would have found him out sooner or later, don't you think?  ;-)