Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

31 October 2017

Your Halloween Ride: Do It Right!

So you're going for a Halloween bike ride, are you?

There are some very important questions to answer.

Do you dress yourself up?

Or, do you dress up your bike?

Or both?

And who, if anybody, do you bring with you?

Finally, are you going to ride after dark?

If you do, be sure your lights are working!

30 October 2017

Into The Fall And The Sunset

You really know you're on a Fall ride when you see this:

That, along stretch of the East Coast Greenway that winds its way from Pelham Bay, near City Island, to Pelham Manor in Westchester County.  I was maybe half a kilometer from Pelham Manor--astride Arielle, my Mercian Audax.

I didn't get on the road until well after noon.  I didn't regret it, though:  The early morning was the coldest we had since, probably, April.   And I still rode to Connecticut and back, just beating darkness home.

So...I pedaled into blazing shades of orange, red and yellow scattered on the ground on my way up to the Nutmeg State.  And, by the time I reached Randall's Island--with only the RFK Memorial Bridge between me and home--I was riding into those same--or, at least, similar--hues spread against the sky, as the sun set behind me.

Marlee was not impressed. But she was happy to see me.

29 October 2017

What A Concept!

In "conceptual art", the idea behind the work takes precedence over traditional aesthetic, technical or material concerns.  Marcel Duchamp's Fountain is often considered the first "conceptual" work.  

A "concept bike", similarly, seems more concerned with some idea--or simply a crazy vision--than with rideability or practicality, at least for 99 percent of cyclists.

What would it be like to ride, instead of a bicycle, the idea of one?

28 October 2017

A Meeting In Kool Orange

A week ago, I was pedaling Tosca, my Mercian fixed gear bike, along the very northern tip of Manhattan.  I had no destination in mind:  I was simply enjoying a ride on an unseasonably warm day.  

Just before the Broadway Bridge, I stopped for a light.  So did a fellow crossing the intersection from my left.  I couldn't help but to notice what he rode:

We greeted each other. "Don't see that bike very often," I exclaimed.

Bill bought it, and another just like it in another color--yellow--in Princeton, from a Craigslist ad.  The person who sold it told him it came from a shop in that town.

It was most likely Kopp's, I told him.  At the time the bike was made--the early '70's, from what I could see--Kopp's was one of the few shops where one could have bought that bike.  It was one of the few shops that sold high-quality bikes before the '70's Bike Boom; even as the popularity of bikes surged, it was one of the few places that stocked Schwinn Paramounts and the bike in the photo.

It's a Schwinn Sports Tourer, second in Schwinn's line after the Paramount.  The Sports Tourer was the re-incarnation, if you will, of the Superior, which was made in 1962-63.  The model in the photo was made in 1971, the first year Schwinn made the Sports Tourer--which became the Superior in 1976.

The bike Bill rode, like other Sports Tourers and Superiors, was built around a frame constructed from filet-brazed Chrome-molybdenum tubing. The workmanship is quite nice:  the joints are very smooth and rounded.

Ironically, those joints are probably the reason the Sport Tourer and Superior didn't sell well.  Bike books and magazines published at the dawn of the Bike Boom claimed, almost unanimously, that high-quality lightweight bikes had lugged frames.  The brass filets brazed around the joints of bikes like the Sport Tourer and Superior served the same purpose as lugs and, like lugs, made it possible to use thinner gauges of tubing than those used on welded frames.

But those bikes made for nice touring and even all-arounder bikes. Bill replaced the wheels and derailleurs that came with his bike, as well as the handlebar stem.  But he kept the Specialites TA crankset, which he meticulously cleaned and polished.

He also kept another TA item:  the handlebar bag, which LaFuma made for TA.  That bag and crank--and the Brooks B15 saddle-- are almost worth what he paid for the bike!

We enjoyed a pleasant ride into Westchester County and back into the Bronx, chatting about our bikes and lives along the way.  After our ride, he sent me photos of his other bikes.  He has quite the collection, including an early Schwinn Super Sport--which replaced the Superior in 1964 and became Schwinn's third-line bike when the Sports Tourer came out in 1971. 

Perhaps we will ride together again--he, on one of his other bikes, perhaps, and me on one of mine.

27 October 2017

At Age 8: Pedal Power!

What was I doing when I was 8 years old...?

Whatever it was, it certainly wasn't as interesting or important as what Nicole Basil did.

Now she's a senior at New Trier High School in the Chicago suburb of Winnetka.  Ten years ago, she asked her parents the sort of question that only a child can ask: one that is innocent but doesn't have a simple answer.  She wondered, aloud, why she could have a bike and other kids couldn't.

Nicole Basil, 18, founded Pedal Power when she was 8 years old.

Now Pedal Power collects and distributes about 300 bikes a year.  After the bikes are brought to distribution centers, mechanics decide which ones can be tuned up and used as motivational rewards for Chicago public elementary school kids.  Those that aren't deemed worthy of repair are sent to the bike repair program of Northside Learning Center, a Chicago high school for students with special needs.

Most of the bikes are donated on the main donation day, which will be on 11 November this year, although bikes can be donated any time at the Home Depot in nearby Evanston or at the George Garner Cyclery stores in Northbrook and Libertyville.  The man after whom the stores are named has been involved with the program since its second year.  "It's impressive that she and her family are so dedicated to this cause," he says.

Nicole was always the "point person" and public face of the program, but she is taking more of the organizational reins from her parents, Mike and Melissa Basil.  Now, she says, she is the "people person" who publicizes Pedal Power and talks to people about prospective new locations.  Meanwhile, her brother Bennett updates the website and handles other responsibilities.  A number of their friends, and other people in the community, are also involved in the project.

Nicole hasn't yet decided where she wants to go to college, but she says she likes "the problem solving aspects" of engineering.

If she could start Pedal Power when she was eight years old and keep it going for a decade, I don't know what problems she can't solve!

26 October 2017

Carrying The Wrench For Her Husband

About three weeks ago, I wrote, in passing, about my days as a bike mechanic. I mentioned, among other things, that during the time I worked in bike shops, I knew of no female mechanics and that all of the female bike shop employees I knew about were salespeople.

These days, slowly but steadily increasing numbers of (mostly young) women are donning shop aprons and picking up wrenches.  Some are no doubt encouraged by women-only bike repair classes offered by Recycle A Bicycle and other cooperatives, as well as a few bike shops and other cycling-related organizations.  Also, as I mentioned in my post, Quality Bicycle Products is co-sponsoring scholarships for women to attend the two-week Professional Repair and Shop Operations classes at the United Bicycle Institute.

Najia al-Natour is not likely to attend such classes.  Then again, she doesn't need to: She had a "pro" as a teacher.  In fact, she was married to him.

The 73-year-old Palestinian used to work alongside her husband in front of the house they shared.  He died 12 years ago, leaving her as the sole breadwinner for her family.  Given that there aren't many options available for residents of the Balata refugee camp, where she now lives, and that many residents of the camp and its surrounding area get around on bikes in various states of disrepair, it made sense for her to continue in her husband's profession, despite some opposition.

According to the article I read about her, that opposition came from her children and grandchildren.  I assume that it had something to do with her age, though it may also have to do with her doing a "man's" job.  Whatever the reasons for their, or anyone else's, objections, she doesn't care:  She is proud of her job, she says.

As well she should be.

25 October 2017

Not Too Famous For That

How many of you remember Paris Hilton?

I confess:  When she was in the spotlight, I didn't pay attention to her.  That is, until she was arrested for DUI.  It wasn't her arrest that made me take notice.  Rather, it was something she said not long afterward:  "I'm too pretty for prison."

Well, she did get prison time for violating her probation agreement.  That, as I recall, was about a decade ago--around the time Kim Kardashian-this generation's Paris Hilton-- was becoming, well, Kim Kardashian.

So, if Paris Hilton was indeed not "too pretty for prison", then is anyone too rich/famous/talented/beloved or fill-in-the-blank to have his or her bicycle stolen?

Well, it seems that at least one professional athlete's stature didn't keep him from losing his bike.  As a 20-year-old rookie who is currently sidelined with an injury, he's not one of the better-known players in his sport.  However, he is something of a celebrity in the city that is home to his team, for that team, and the sport they play, play large roles in that city's life and identity.

That city is Pittsburgh, and the team is the Steelers of American football.  

JuJu Smith-Schuster, a receiver, rode his Ghost bicycle to the team's practices.  After reporting it missing on Tuesday, he posted a message about it on social media.  "Why people got to be like that?" he wondered.  

He didn't have to wait long to get it back.  That night--Tuesday--a man called from a bar in nearby Mount Oliver after realizing, from a TV news item, that the bike he'd purchased earlier in the day was indeed Smith-Schuster's bike.  The man turned the bike over to police, who turned it over to Smith-Schuster.

Interestingly, Smith-Schuster doesn't have a driver's license, although he says he plans to get one "before the weather gets cold."  He still needs to work on parallel parking, according to one of his teammates.

That wouldn't be a problem, would it, if he rode his bike to work?  All he needs to remember is that he's not too big or talented, and he will not be too famous, to lose his bike.

24 October 2017

You Really Can Go Places On A Bike. They Would Know.

I don't get to Philadelphia very often.  It's not New York snobbery or any other sort of disdain that keeps me from going to The City of Brotherly Love:  I simply haven't much occasion to take a trip there.

Still, it seems someone there is listening to me. ;-) At least, that person heard me say, "You can really go places on a Bicycle."

That person may have been in charge Bicycle Coalition Youth Cycling.  That program, previously known as Cadence Youth Cycling, began in 2007 by Ryan Oelkers and former Philadelphia Flyers president Jay Snider.  The Bicycle Coalition took it over in 2013.  Through its decade of service, it has used cycling as a way to teach healthy habits, independence and leadership to high school students.

BCYC offers a scholarship fund for deserving athletes.  One of this year's recipients is Tamia Santiago, an 18-year-old freshman studying computer science at Drexel University.  She says the award "really wasn't about the money."  As a member the BCYC Youth Advisory Committee, she traveled to bicycle summits nationally in addition to participating in Youth Cycling's Race, Triathlon and Cyclocross teams.

Tamia Santiago

The program, she says, helped her in "knowing that there are challenges out there" and that "if you don't attack them, you will never get stronger."  On her college application, she wrote, "My bike is not an object but a tool to build a better me and a better future."

Krystal Philson might have said something similar.  Like Santiago, she is an 18-year-old freshman--at Trinity College, in Hartford, Connecticut.  The program, she says, is "about more than just riding your bike."  It has been an agent for change in her life--actually, in her self:  "It definitely made me a more outgoing person."

Krystal Philson

No doubt that quality came in handy when Ms. Philson attended her first gala and took her first plane ride, both as a result of participating in the Bicycle Coalition Youth Cycling program.  Like Ms. Santiago, she is going places on--and because of--her bike.

23 October 2017

UPS: Coming Full Circle In Toronto?

Some cities, apparently, are starting to realize that they simply can't squeeze any more cars, trucks or other motorized vehicles onto downtown streets than are already creeping through them.

Toronto seems to be the latest such town.  And United Parcel Service might just be realizing that fewer vehicles with internal-combustion engines--including the company's own iconic brown delivery trucks--might be good for business.

The city and the package-delivery service are teaming up in a pilot program involving one delivery bicycle in a heavily-trafficked area.  According to Mayor John Tory (what a name for a politician, eh?), the test vehicle, which carries a large cargo hitch in the rear, won't be allowed in bike lanes.  It will, however, be permitted to use designated off-load zones on some city streets.

Currently, about 400 UPS workers deliver 20 million packages annually on 200 delivery vehicles in "The 416."  What the company learns from the pilot will "determine our strategy going forward" for cargo delivery "on a larger scale in Toronto and potentially to other cities across Canada" says UPS Canada President Christopher Atz.  

His company's officials say that this part of their plan for a more sustainable city.  There is reason to think it will succeed:  It first launched such a program in Hamburg, Germany five years ago.  That city is Europe's second-largest seaport, but like many other European cities, its streets are narrow and some areas--including the upscale shopping district of Neuer Wall--are surrounded by water.  In such areas, therefore, there is no space behind the stores where trucks can make deliveries.

If this project takes hold in North America, it could be said that UPS has, in a way, "come full circle":  It started as a bicycle messenger service in Seattle 110 years ago!

22 October 2017

Turn, Turn, Turn (Apologies To The Byrds)

I used to know somebody who said she had "tried riding a bike" a number of times.  The reason she never stuck with it, she said, is that she could "only ride straight ahead."  The reason, she said, is that she "never learned how to turn".

This guy seems to have the same problem:

21 October 2017

Another Mixte In The Mix

Today's post won't be about Max, or any other cat.

It'll be about a bike.  Specifically, it'll be news about one of my own bikes--as if I haven't given you enough lately.

This item, though, has nothing to do with any of the bikes on the side-bar of this blog.  It has to do with my commuter "beast" bike that almost never enters my apartment.

For three years, that bike was a '70's Schwinn LeTour.  It was one of those rare bikes made in a woman's version big enough to fit (more or less, anyway) someone my height.  

(Funny that when I lived a man, I was of average height.  Now, as a woman, I am taller than about 90 percent of my sisters!)

Well, that bike was stolen.  That is one of the reasons, of course, to have a "beater" bike:  Losing it doesn't hurt as much as having a nicer bike disappear.  You buy such bikes cheaply and spend as little as necessary to make it do whatever you need it to do.  And, if you lose that bike, you repeat the process.

Anyway, I went to a few sidewalk and yard sales and checked Craigslist, where I found this:

From the information I've gleaned, Fuji made this Allegro during its 1986 model year.  The frame is constructed from "Valite" tubing.  How or whether it differs from the carbon steel Fuji and other manufacturers used on their cheaper models, I don't know--or care.  I must say, though, that the bike does feel livelier than the LeTour.  That may be a function of its geometery, which seems a bit tighter.  If nothing else, the wheelbase is shorter.

And, interestingly, this bike has SunTour dropouts with the "ear" for mounting a derailleur.  They actually look like the SunTour dropouts on my Trek 412, except for an additional set of eyelets:  a handy feature, as I've mounted a rack and fenders on the bike.

Originally, the bike had 12 speeds shifted with steel SunTour derailleurs and stem shifters.  As you can see, I took those off and turned the bike into a single speed.  The derailleurs were still operable, but the chain, freewheel and cables were rusted.  So were the springs and all of the other brake hardware.   In any event, I gave the derailleurs, brakes and some other stuff--including the flat-ish bars and brake levers that came with the bike--to Recycle a Bicycle.  And I replaced the brakes with a pair of Raleigh-branded Dia Compe centerpulls I had lying around.

If you read this blog regularly, you won't be surprised to see that I installed Velo Orange Porteur handlebars and bar-end brake levers.  I don't like the hand position on most flat bars:  The grip area of the Porteurs allows me to keep my hands in a position something like that of the ramp and brake lever hood area on the handlebars of my road bikes.  The Porteurs also allow me to use a stem with a slightly longer extension, which improves handling.

So far, this bike is working well as my daily commuter.  And, yes, it's a twin-tube mixte, so I feel at least like I'm riding with some style.  And isn't that what really counts? ;-)

20 October 2017

In Cuba: Away From Bikes, And Back

It happened in the US after World War I.  It happened, perhaps to a lesser degree, first in England, then in Continental European countries, after World War II.  And it happened in China and Cuba during the early years of this century.

The "it" is this:  Greater prosperity led people to forsake the bicycles they had used for transportation and recreation in favor of automobiles.  When it happened in the US, surviving bike manufacturers sold the public on the idea that a bicycle is a toy--or, that if it is indeed useful as transportation, it is suitable only for those who aren't old enough to drive.  On the other hand, in England and the rest of Europe, adult cycling survived mainly as a recreational activity practiced by a slowly but steadily declining portion of the population.  

In the US, England and continental Europe, those who switched from cycling to driving seemed, as often as not, to see the bicycle as a symbol of privation--or of those things which they had "grown past" or "grown beyond".  This was particularly true for poor or working-class people who acquired the means to own a car:  They simply would not dream of "going back".  I believe that this is one reason why we see more bicycle disdainers among people who are, say, over 50 than among the young.  

Similar phenomena have taken place in China and Cuba.  In both countries, especially China, the bicycle was a, if not the, primary means of transportation-- particularly in cities.  The leaders most identified with those two nations--Mao Tse-Tung and Fidel Castro--had much to do with turning people into cyclists.  Both rulers saw the bicycle as a "people's" way of transportation, and the "Communist"* parties they led promoted it as such. 

But while the numbers of bicycles and cyclists in China grew steadily from the time of the Revolution (1949) until the end of the century, Cuba experienced a surge in cycling during the 1990s.  The Soviet Union, the island's chief benefactor, had just collapsed.  In its wake, the supply of cheap petrol that had flowed to the Pearl of the Antilles dried up.  So did the cash subsidies from Moscow, which meant that less was spent on public transportation and other infrastructure improvement.  

And so did the supply of bicycles from the Soviet Bloc.  Some people bought bikes from foreign tourists or other sources.  It was at that time that the first bicycles were manufactured in Cuba:  one model, called the Minerva.  It left most people wishing for imports and black- or gray- market bikes:  The Minerva was of "poor quality," according to Lazaro Pereira, a bicycle repair specialist in the city of Cardenas.  "The forks split, and when this happened, passers-by would mock people falling off their bikes," he recalls.

I imagine that alone would have stopped some people from cycling.  But in the early 2000s, the island began to recover from the loss of Soviet subsidies and cycles, and people abandoned two wheels in favor of four.  Bicycles developed a "negative connotation...associated with the poverty that characterized this period," according to Naybis Diaz Labaut, the owner of VeloCuba, a repair and rental enterprise in Havana.  She has seen "significant movement in the world of bicycles in Cuba" during the past five years or so, which has allowed her to open two shops.

All of the bikes she rents, or that her guides use on tours, were purchased from foreigners.  Even with the increased interest in cycling, the bikes sold in Cuba are "Chinese models made of iron" and "of poor quality," she says.   She believes that cycling "has a big future in Havana" even though it has yet to achieve the popularity it's regained in the provinces.

Still, one of the biggest challenges to the growth of cycling in Cuba, she says, is motorists--and not only because many of them won't get out of their cars and bike on their bikes.  There is a "lack of motorist education," she explains:  A generation of people has grown up without cycling, while some older motorists have been away from cycling for a long time.

That sounds like a problem we still have in the US and it won't change tomorrow, as several post-World War I generations didn't ride bikes as adults, or at all.  At least the Cubans have lost only a decade or so rather than a generation.

19 October 2017

Cycling: Socially Profitable--And Good For Business

As an undergraduate, I took an economics class.  The thing I remember most is the professor intoning, "Marginal Revenue equals Marginal Cost", then pounding the podium  and shouting "Always!"  I don't recall, exactly, what that means, but I do understand--more or less--by two other phrases he seemed to use in every class:  "supply and demand" and "benefit cost analysis."

That last phrase might be one of the few things I actually understood in that class, which may be the reason why it's probably the only thing I took from that class and used in my daily life.  Well, sometimes, anyway.  I guess most of us perform some version of a "benefit cost analysis" when we're making important decisions.  

Of course, the "benefits" and "costs" are not always monetarily measurable, or even quantifiable in any other way.   For example, we might give up some free time in order to volunteer for something, or simply to help someone.  The "cost" of the free time can't be measured; nor can the "benefit" of serving meals at a soup kitchen.  

Sometimes the costs and benefits of something are both quantitative and qualitative or, if you like, empirical and subjective.  An example is a city's efforts to encourage cycling.  

What's interesting is that the authors of a study from the Spanish research group Applied Economics and Management, which is based at the University of Seville, set out to discover whether building cycling infrastructure in their city--and generally--is a net gain.  One thing that sets their study apart from others like it, however, is that the economists involved didn't try to calculate only business profitability.  Instead, they tried to measure what is commonly called "social profitability":  Does the investment make the city a better place to live?

Now, if you ask cyclists--or people who want to make their cities "bicycle friendly"--that question in reference to bicycle infrastructure, their reflexive answer would be "Yes!"  And, on the whole, the authors of the study agree, but with some caveats.

Those researchers seem to share some of my skepticism about bike lanes.  Indeed, they conclude that it's not enough that Seville has constructed 140 kilometers (about 87 miles) of bike lanes or 260 bike-share share stations.  They are just two elements of a scheme that would actually entice more people to ride bikes to work, school, shop or play.  The authors, therefore, advise that other  "complementary services", such as places to safely and securely park bicycles at the beginnings and ends of routes, are necessary.  Absent such measures, they say, cycling for transportation in Seville "will probably enter a period of stagnation, not to say decline."

Yes, they understand that "bicycle infrastructure" isn't just bike share programs and bike lanes and that they alone don't make cities "bike friendly."  (If anything, the poorly-conceived, designed, constructed and maintained bike lanes I've encountered probably keep people from cycling and discourage those who've just started.)  Moreover, they also acknowledge that public projects often end up costing a lot more than anyone anticipated, especially in a country like Spain, notorious for its corruption and the over-spending that results from it.

Even weighing in such factors, the researchers found a remarkably high social profitability to the bike lanes and stations that have been constructed. That, even as University of Seville Economics Professor Jose Ignacio Castillo Manzano, the chief author of the study, says that his team used a "conservative approach" that didn't take into account such factors as the reduction of traffic and noise levels or the national and international recognition the city has earned for its use of the bicycle.

So, the short answer is, yes, building bicycle infrastructure--the right kind, anyway is socially profitable--and good for business!

18 October 2017

Can't Stop Thinking About Him

I took the day off from work yesterday.  I'm going in today and I hope to have time afterward for a ride (besides my regular commute), however short.  I think it's the best way to deal with my feelings about Max.

He's not the first cat I've lost.  But he has experienced so much with me.  To be more exact, he was a sweet, loving presence through both the joys and the trials of the past ten and a half years.  

Max was at the door when I came home from a couple thousand days of work, a few hundred bike rides, trips to see my parents in Florida, trips to see my friends in France and other trips to Italy and the Czech Republic--and to Colorado, for my surgery.  He was with me during some difficult times, when people who said they would "always be there" for me changed their minds, and when a beau revealed his true, abusive, colors--and nearly destroyed my life.   

Most important of all--at least to me--he was with me as I was re-defining myself as a person, and a cyclist.  He didn't care whether I raced or if a 150 kilometer ride took half an hour, then an hour, longer than it did when I was in my twenties, thirties or even early 40s.  He didn't even care when I had a "bad hair day": something that was never a concern of mine when I was younger.

I had long heard that orange cats were the friendliest.  Max certainly lived up to that.  He was all love, all the time.  And when he wasn't basking in someone's affection, he was doing the other thing he did best:

A friend of mine, Michiko, called him "The Zen Cat."  Now you know why.  Maybe I should remember his calm affection today, as I ride to work and, hopefully, somewhere--even if it's just a park near work--afterward.

17 October 2017

R.I.P. Max

I've just lost a friend.

You've seen him on these pages.  He's one of the most loving and friendly beings I've ever known. 

Sometimes he would climb on me while I was sleeping.  I didn't mind: When I woke to him, I felt the sun rising.  He looked like a sunrise.

I am talking about Max, the orange cat who's lived with me for ten and a half years.

He came into my life on 9 April 2007.  My friend Millie rescued him from a street near us.  She told me that when she saw him, she walked right up to him.  He did the same for me the first time I saw him.

What that meant, of course, was that he is anything but a feral  cat.  "He must have had a home before," Millie observed.  When I saw him, I couldn't not give him one.

The vet said he was between five and seven years old when I brought him home.  So, that means he lived about sixteen or seventeen years--a pretty good lifespan for a cat.

Even if he'd been in my life for only a day, he could have given me a lifetime of happiness:  That is what he carried with him, and couldn't help but to give.  He greeted everyone who came to my apartment--including Marlee, the day I brought her home--like an old friend and playmate.

He died late Sunday night, after I'd come back from a nice ride, had a sumptuous dinner and talked to my mother.  I wrote yesterday's post about the ride I took Sunday, the day before, because it was just too difficult to talk about Max.

He won't be waiting for me at the end of my next ride.  Not physically, anyway.  I believe, though, that I'll see him at the end of many rides for a long time to come.

Note:  In a sad irony, I lost another cat--the first one I had who was named Charlie--on 16 October in 2005.

16 October 2017

Seasonal Indecision

Yesterday was one of those days that couldn't seem to decide whether it was very late summer or not-quite-early fall.  

My ride started in a cool mist on Tosca, my Mercian fixed gear.  It was actually pleasant:  I felt every pore and orifice of my body opening in a very pleasant way.

I headed for the Rockaways.  The cool mist clung to silent streets, still homes and closed stores--and to me--as I spun through the western Queens neighborhoods near my apartment.  

But, after I crossed under the "el" (elevated tracks, or viaduct for those of you who don't live in New York), the warm mist turned into a mild steam bath on my way across Jamaica Bay to Beach Channel.  Then, as I crossed the Veteran's Memorial Bridge into the Rockaways--and from the waves and clouds of Jamaica Bay to the tides and sky of the Atlantic--I experienced something I normally experience in early spring:  the temperature seemed to drop 20 degrees (F).  That is normal in April, when the air temperature on the mainland might be in the 70s (F), but the ocean is only in the 40s.  Yesterday, however, the air and water temperature were probably not very far apart:  somewhere near 70F, though it felt cooler along the Rockaway Boardwalk.

It's one of those odd coastal days that I truly enjoy:  The sky is overcast, though still only slightly less blue than the sea on the horizon, and that cool mist swirling about me.  I rode under that sky, by that sea and in that mist all the way to Point Lookout.  

Then the clouds broke and the sun peeked through--at least as I looked eastward from the Point.  Behind me, conditions were the same as the ones through which I'd ridden from the Rockaways.

And that is what I rode in all the way home.  I didn't mind:  Such conditions are actually welcome, at least for me, during the last few kilometers of a 125 kilo fixed gear ride!

15 October 2017

Comment Moderation

As of yesterday, I began to moderate comments.  So, if you don't see your comments right away, please don't panic.

I have started this practice because, lately, I've received quite a few "spam" comments.  Mind you, none were mean or offensive; most were non-sequitirs or were merely trying to sell us something.  But I don't want spammers to take up space on this blog, which should be for me and those of you who are interested.

I guess I should count myself lucky:  Until a month or so ago, not much "spam" found its way to this blog.  Hmm...Could attracting spammers be the price of fame? (As if I have gotten so much of that from this blog! ;-) )

I hope you all understand.

A Curious Vehicle

You know you're getting old when you mention a name that was on everybody's lips when you were young--which doesn't seem all that long ago--and a young person has no idea of  who you're talking about.

That happens from time to time when I teach:  I might utter the name of a song, band, TV show, movie or anything that was part of the culture or news when I was young and my students look at me as if I'd started to speak Basque.  

Something similar could happen if I say "John Howard" to a cyclist who's, say, a couple of decades younger than I am.  Actually, the young 'unz might think he was part of the British Invasion or some white-bread politician. 

But if you're my age, or not much younger, you remember that he was part of that generation of cyclists that put the USA on the bicycle world's map. His star rose as American racing--and cycling--rose from its "Dark Ages" during the 1970s.  

It's hard not to wonder what he would have been like had he been born, say, a decade or two later than he was.  Greg LeMond was no doubt a talented rider, but coming along nearly a generation after Howard gave him the advantage of having faced better-trained competition than Howard had at home before he went to race in Europe.  But Howard did well in a greater variety of events, including the early Ironman triathlons.  Moreover, Howard held a land speed record that stood for a full decade--a geological age in the world of sports records.

He also was something of a philosopher:

14 October 2017

She's Back. And She's Like I Remember Her, Only Better!

She's ready.

In late June, I sent Vera, my Mercian mixte, back to England for some rejuvenation.  She was riding just fine as she was, but I wanted to fix a couple of things.  One was the seat lug:  I think someone tried to jam a 27.2 seat post in it when the bike really takes a 27.0.  As a result, I had to use a shim to keep the seat post from slipping.

Vera no longer has that problem.  The folks at Mercian replaced the seat lug.  They also took the old cable guides off the down tube and replaced them with bosses that can be used for shift levers--like the ones that are on the bike now--or the cable stops that are used with Ergo/STI shifters, which I would need if I ever change to bar-end shifters.

I also wanted to clean up the bottom bracket, headset and other threads.  Not surprisingly, they did a good job at Mercian--Hal, at Bicycle Habitat, told me everything went together easily.

So why, if I have worked as a bike mechanic, did I let him put the bike together?  Well, he's the one who introduced me to Mercians.  Also, Vera was getting special treatment, so I figured it was only appropriate to give the job to someone who's been working with bikes for far longer than I did.  Plus, he enjoys working on Mercians.

Finally, though, I wanted to allow Vera to be the pretty bike she is.  That's why I had her re-finished.  I liked the old finish (British Racing Green with gold transfers and lug lining) well enough, but I thought Vera should get a chance to kick up her heels.

I decided that I don't want all of my bikes to be the same color, but I want to keep them in a "family", if you will, of colors I like.  As I've mentioned, the Vincitore Special I ordered is going to be painted Lilac Polychromatic (#17) with Deep Plum Pearl (#56) head tube and seat tube panels, topped off with white transfers and lug lining.

Because of the slope of the twin top tubes, it's difficult to put panels on a mixte frame without distorting the proportions of the frame.  At least, that's how I feel.  So, I opted for a single color:  Mauve Pearl (#53), with white transfers and lug linings.

And I simply could not resist the '50's style headbadge.

I was pleasantly surprised to see a seat-tube transfer that matches the headbadge.


And, perhaps, one of the more esoteric decals of all:

I knew that Reynolds made "respray" decals, but I hadn't seen many of them.  

You may have noticed something else about Vera's new look.  Hal convinced me not to use metal fenders again:  He believes I broke a couple of pairs of aluminum fenders on this bike because the aluminum is thin and because I "squeezed" them into the frame.  He also convinced me that this bike would look better with black fenders than with shiny (or matte-finished) silver ones.

The SKS/Bluemels fenders Vera now wears have piping on their sides.  They reminded me, somewhat, of the "ribbing" on some of the classic English and French fenders--and the Velo Orange Facettes I had on this bike before the "makeover."

The piping, though, serves a non-decorative function:  They're reflective. 

The bags were made by Ely Rodriguez of RuthWorks.  I will most likely keep the seat bag on the bike, but I may use one of the other bags Ely made for me on the front, where I have a Nitto M12 rack.

This "makeover" didn't change Vera's ride.  Then again, I didn't want it to:  It's nimble and comfortable.  And, yes, stylish:  Isn't style the point of having a twin-tube mixte?

As much as I love Vera, getting her back now makes me even more eager for the Vincitore Special I ordered.  Just five more months, if all goes as planned!