Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

17 October 2018

Holy V, Jubilee!

In October 1964, Tetsuo Maeda filed a patent application in Japan for what would become, in my opinion, one of the two or three most important derailleur innovations in history.

It was the brainchild of his chief designer, Nobui Ozaki.  He was no doubt trying to make a derailleur that was easier to shift and shifted more accurately than the ones available at that time.  Did he realize that it would influence derailleur design for the next half-century?  Did Maeda, the owner of the company that employed Ozaki, know that for two decades, other derailleur manufacturers would wait, with bated breath, for his patent to run out?

Well, both of those scenarios came true.  You see, the patent Maeda filed in his home country--and a month later in the US--would cover a design still used today, in one form or another, on any rear derailleur that has even a pretense of quality.

I am talking about the SunTour Gran-Prix.  Over the next few years, SunTour would refine its design.  For one thing, it would replace its original single-spring design (The same spring that operates the parallelogram also tensions the chain cage.) with separate springs for each function.  And steel parts would be replaced by alloy ones, which in turn would become more sculpted and rounded.

The result was that the 1964 Gran Prix

would evolve into the first "V" derailleur in 1968.

I would put one of those on one of my bikes.  I mean, how can you not love a derailleur with those pivot bolts?

Of course, the V was further refined and became the V Luxe.  One thing I find interesting about the V and V Luxe is that they were lighter than most derailleurs made at the time--or even today.  

The V, according to Michael Sweatman of Disrealigears, weighed 218 grams.  That is only 13 grams (less than half an ounce) more than another influential derailleur that came out exactly 50 years ago

yes, the Campagnolo Nuovo Record--which, of course,was a refinement of the earlier Record and its progenitor, the first Gran Sport parallelogram rear derailleur.

For comparison's sake, the 1968 SunTour V weighs almost exactly the same as a Shimano Ultegra 6400 (introduced in 1988), 6401 (1992) or 6500 (1998)--or the Dura Ace 7402 (made from 1989 to 1996), all of which are in the 210 to 220 gram range. Later DA rear derailleurs (the 7700 series onward) shed 10 to 15 grams--and that with the use of a titanium upper pivot bolts!

The funny thing is that no matter how light a component is, someone wants it even lighter.  So I guess I shouldn't have been surprised to find this

I mean, how much weight did those holes take out of that "V" derailleur? 

I guess I shouldn't be too critical, though.  After all, not only was the Campy NR drilled out--or, sometimes, slotted in its parallelogram--so was the lightest rear derailleur of them all:

In case you were wondering:  The Huret Jubilee weighed 145 grams--before anyone touched it with a drill, mill or lathe!

16 October 2018

Hot Spots In The Evergreen State

Recently, Bicycling! magazine published its "Best Bicycle City in America" poll.  This year, Seattle got the top honor.

But, as we all know, no matter how good a city is for cycling, crashes are always a possibility, just as they are for motorists.

With that in mind, a local law firm, Colburn Law, sifted through five years of crash data and determined 15 "hot spots" in Washington State.  Not surprisingly, the first seven, and the majority of those on the list, are in Seattle. 

One reason is that crashes occur most commonly at intersections and, of course, there are more of those in a city.  On the other hand, more fatalities occur on open roadways, possibly because motor vehicles go faster on them than on city streets.  

The hottest of the "hot spots":  4th Avenue and Pike Street, Seattle

The Colburn report does raise at least two pertinent questions, both of which relate to the changing cycling scene the Emerald City as well as the Evergreen State.

One is how effective dedicated bike lanes will be in reducing the number of crashes.  I have not been to Seattle but, from what I've heard and read, it lags behind other "bicycle friendly" municipalities in its construction of lanes and other infrastructure, though the pace has increased recently.  And, some of the new lanes are separated, at least by pylons and planters, from the traffic lane.

Another question is whether the city's new dockless bike share programs will increase the number of riders who go without helmets--which, planners expect, would increase the number of injuries and fatalities.  So far, there doesn't seem to be any evidence of such things, as police have actually issued fewer citations to cyclists who weren't wearing helmets (which are required by law) in 2017 than in 2016.

Whatever the answers may be, they probably will have no bearing on whether Seattle "repeats" as "champion" in next year's poll.

15 October 2018

Goodbye, Josephine!

The other day, I introduced you to Negrosa, the 1973 Mercian Olympic I acquired in June and on which I just made some "finishing touches."

Well, one bike came into my life, not long after another.  So, I suppose, it was inevitable that one would part.

In this case, Josephine, the 1981 Trek 412 I refurbished, found a new home.  Someone really wanted it and made me a good offer.

I liked Josephine, but I figure that if I want another bike like her, it shouldn't be too hard to find one. Besides, Negrosa is now my L'eroica bike.

Also, I've spent a lot on bikes this year and wanted to recoup some, even if only a little.

Thanks for the memories, Josephine!

14 October 2018

To Wear Them Or Ride Them

You've heard of "mustache" handlebars.  Perhaps you ride them.

You probably know--or have known--someone with a "handlebar" mustache.

But, have you ever seen anyone with a "handlebar" mustache riding "mustache" handlebars?

13 October 2018

I Christen Thee Negrosa

Finally!  She's together!

No, that's not what someone said about me after I figured it all out.  (As if I ever did!)  I'm talking about...another bike.  I mean, what else could I be talking about on this blog, right?

Specifically, I'm referring to the 1973 Mercian Olympic (I mistakenly identified it earlier as a King of Mercia; Grant at Mercian confirmed that it's an Olympic) I bought in June.  The funny thing is that I didn't have to do much to it, but it took me longer to finish than it took to get Dee-Lilah, my new Mercian Vincitore Special, ready after the frame arrived.

In the case of Dee-Lilah,  I had all of the parts, and Eli (of Ruth SF Works) made a couple of bags for me and once Hal put it all together, it was ready to go.  I haven't found any need to adjust or change anything yet.

On the other hand, for the Olympic, I had to look for a couple of things, and make a couple of other choices. 

Right from the beginning, I replaced the tires, which were cheap and mismatched, with a pair of Continental Grand Prix 4 Seasons.  I also swapped out the SunTour freewheel for another SunTour--the ProCompe  that came with the bike (and is now on another) for a New Winner--and the unknown-brand chain for a Sedisport that'd been in its package for 30+ years. 

Image result for Cinelli oval logo
Old Cinelli logo.

After a couple of rides, I knew I wanted to change the stem from the 9 mm extension that came with it to a 10.  The stem and bars that came with the bike were Cinellis, in the old 26.4mm clamp diameter.  I like the bars, so I didn't want to buy new ones.  That meant looking for a stem in the proper diameter.  I also wanted to find one that had the old-style oval logo, like the one that came with the bike, but had no luck there.  Oh, well.  Cinelli has never produced an ugly logo, so I don't mind having the newer one.  Besides, the logo switch seems to have been made not long after the frame was built.

Now, stems before the 1990s didn't have "faceplate" clamps.  So, if you want to switch stems, you have to unwrap the bar tape.  I didn't mind, as the tape that came with the bike was a mess:  It was faded and felt as if it had been epoxied onto the bars.  And the rubber hoods were disintegrating on the brake levers.

Luckily for me, I managed to find a pair of original-style Campagnolo gum hoods for not much more than they cost 40 years ago.  Best of all, they were fresh and supple.  As for the tape, I decided to go with something basic but classy:  black Tressostar cloth tape.  I spiced it up a bit, though, with red bar plugs.

To match those plugs--and the red parts of the frame--I found some vintage red Christophe straps.  And the one truly unsightly part of the bike as I got it--apart from the brake hoods and tape--were the toe clips, which were rusted and pitted even though nothing else on the bike was.  They were from "Cycle Pro", which offered some decent stuff back in the day.  But, since we're talking about a vintage Mercian with Campagnolo parts, I thought only Christophe clips would do.  And they're what I put on those Campy pedals.

Now, of course, we all know that we really make our bikes our own with accessories.  I could have sworn I had a Silca frame pump somewhere--but I couldn't find it for the life of me.  Oh, well.  Hal had one, but it looked like hell.  He made a suggestion:  a Zefal HP or HPX.  I just happened to have one in the latter, in just the right size.  And, while it's probably from the 80s or even later, it looks good, if not period-perfect, on the frame.

And, yes, that's a real, live Specialites TA cage on the handlebars.  Like the brake hoods, it was in pristine condition before I mounted it.  I found, though, that I needed to use longer screws than the ones that came with the clamp.  I have a feeling they were designed for old French handlebars, which are narrower at the "sleeve" area than my Cinellis.

Yes, the bike came with that saddle!

The bag is from Acorn.  I have another, larger, black bag that Eli made.  

Even with those minor changes, I still can't believe my luck in finding that bike--with a Brooks Professional saddle in perfect condition, no less.  And so soon after getting Dee-Lilah:  It was like getting two birthday presents!

After accessorizing, there's one more thing you (or I, anyway) have to do in order to make your (my) bike your (my) own: name it.  So, after putting that bottle cage on the handlebars, I christened her Negrosa. 

Now I really have decisions to make whenever I go out for a ride:  Dee-Lilah, Negrosa, Tosca (my Mercian fixed-gear), Arielle (my Mercian Audax) or Vera (my Mercian mixte).  

12 October 2018

Will Miji, Sue, Connie and Rebecca Become A "Forgotten" Generation?

A few weeks ago, much was made of Serena Williams calling an umpire a "liar" and "thief".  Not long before that, tennis officials made a fuss over the outfit she wore, saying that it was "unbecoming" of the "traditions" of the "ladies" in the sport--or words to that effect.

While it's unfortunate that Serena has to take such criticism for, essentially, being a woman with a competitive spirit (and black), her experiences are nothing new.  In fact, if you subtract the race factor and change sports, you have an idea of what another group of female athletes faced at the end of the 19th Century.

The opening lineup of a race in Chicago, 2 March 1896.

Those accounts form part of Roger Gilles' new book, Women on the Move:  The Forgotten Era of Women's Bicycle RacingLike Serena and other athletes who come from backgrounds different from others in their sport, women who raced during the 1890s had to buck social norms--in their case, the ones of the Victorian Era.  

Some of those conventions were sartorial.  Women were still expected to wear hoopskirts; though "bloomers" had been invented, women were still castigated, or worse, for wearing them.  

What that meant,as Gilles points out, is that the first, now-forgotten heyday of women's racing didn't start until the 1890s--decades after men started riding bicycles--because it couldn't have begun any earlier.  The "safety" bicycle--with two wheels of more or less equal size--didn't make its appearance until the late 1880s.  Before that, cyclists rode "penny farthings" with high front wheels.  I haven't tried, but I imagine it's extremely difficult, if not impossible, to mount--let alone ride--such a machine when one is upholstered as women of that time were expected to be.

Although (sometimes self-appointed) moral arbiters of the time denounced women when they decided to "dress like men"--i.e., wear bloomers or shorter skirts--it had the not-so-surprising effect of attracting male spectators to the races, which were mostly on the track.  Even if they didn't take the women seriously as cyclists, those men and boys could see females, if not nude, then at least with less clothing than usual.

One result is that, ironically, some female racers were well-paid.  In fact, many were the sole breadwinners of their families (an unheard-of role for Victorian women) and a few even made more money than their male counterparts.

Still, female racers didn't get the same respect as the men.  Press coverage of the time tended to focus less on the competition between women on the bike than off it.  Instead of the races, journalists focused on the "catfights" and too often portrayed them as petty women rather than the competitive athletes they were.

So, while unfavorable coverage may not have been responsible for ending the first "golden age" of women's racing--which Gilles places in 1902--it may have helped to prevent a revival.  During the 1920s and '30's, there was renewed interest in racing--mainly the six-day variety--but I have not been able to find accounts of womens' races from that time.  

At least here in the US, there would not be more "glory days" for women's racing until the 1970s, when a generation of talented riders that included Mary Jane "Miji" Reoch, Sue Novara-Reber, Connie Carpenter-Phinney and Rebecca Twigg burst onto the scene and dominated their field for more than a decade.

After another talented generation of women--including France's Jeanne Longo (road) and American Missy Giove (mountain) led their field during the 1990s, women's racing seems to have slipped into relative obscurity.  If global warming or one of El Cheeto Grande's tweets doesn't wipe all of us out, will some future historian write the equivalent of Gilles' book about the "forgotten" generation of women who raced from the 1970s through the 1990s?

11 October 2018

Did Lime Make Things 1000 Percent Worse?

Given how much I ride in Westchester County, I haven't ridden much in White Plains.  It seems that I pedal through all of the towns surrounding it, but somehow manage to miss WP.

Then again, I haven't found many compelling reasons to wheel through the city.  One thing I have noticed is that there are probably more signs telling cyclists (and skateboarders) not to ride on the sidewalks than in any other municipality in the area.

Lately, I've heard that the police are actually making efforts to enforce the law, especially since the dockless Lime Bike sharing company set up shop.  Although some locals say that there's been more riding on sidewalks since those green bikes made their appearance, Mayor Thomas Roach insists, [T]his is not a Lime Bike issue. This is a bike issue."


He may have a point.  After all, in places where Lime has come to town, the main complaint has been about bicycles left on sidewalks and other places where people could trip over them.  On the other hand, it may be that people on such bikes are more likely to ride them onto the sidewalks since the only stipulation seems to be that they can't be left in the street.

Whatever the situation, some in the city think the real problem is that there is so little disincentive to break the law.  Police officers who wrote tickets soon realized as much when they learned that the fine--$10--"hadn't been increased since the Eisenhower administration," according to Roach.

So, he says, it should be increased to $100--or 1000 percent.  Some agree with this idea, while others--not all of whom are cyclists--think it's too steep.  Some, like Laura Molloy, believe "something like $30 or $40 will make you think about it.  Fellow resident Joan Bennett thinks, "they should get a $10 ticket the first time," but "if there's a second time, they should get a much bigger ticket."

A vote will be taken on it at the next City Council meeting, 5 November.

10 October 2018

Oh, Deer!

In my four decades as a cyclist, all sorts of animals have crossed my path: dogs, cats, squirrels, chipmunks, cattle, chickens, rabbits, otters, raccoons, horses, armadillos, lizards, macaques and an Alpine Ibex.  And, of course, deer--including one that darted across the lane I was riding in the Bronx a few weeks ago.

A deer crossing might be one of cyclists' most common fears,at least in the Americas, as it can do some real damage and one has a chance of encountering one in rural or wooded areas from Alaska to Chile.  On the other hand, one doesn't have much of a chance of encountering an ibex or macaque unless one rides in their native lands.

Such fears were justified for a group of cyclists in North Carolina.  

Fortunately, none of those cyclists were hurt, even though the crash sent the deer flying over them.  The critter, though, wasn't so lucky:  It died.

09 October 2018

The Ride Is Good. Just Make Sure The Check Is!

I'm going to level with you about something:  I bounced a check, once--though not on purpose.

It was summer, and I was a poor student.  It was in the days before ATMs were widespread:  The bank I used--the one nearest the campus--didn't have them yet.  And, to my knowledge, direct deposit didn't exist.

I'd received my paycheck and deposited near the end of the day.  In those days, "hold" times for deposits were usually a bit longer than they are today. I miscalculated how long the check would take to clear (I think I counted days instead of "business days".)   I'd had a couple of outstanding checks (For all of you young readers:  There was no PayPal or any other way to pay electronically!), probably for my rent and school-related things. 

If the available funds were insufficient, the bank would "bounce" the check with the smallest amount.  In my case, it was for the princely sum of $4.00.

I ran to the bank, full of contrition.  The bank officer, I think, took pity on me:  She probably met other student/customers like me.  She reversed the fees.

Then I had to contact the recipient of that check:  an organization, some of whose members I knew.  In fact, I was even friendly with a few of them because--you guessed it--we rode (and, sometimes, drank beer) together.

I'm talking about the local chapter of the Century Road Club, who organized the Princeton Century.  That check was for the ride's registration fee.  I explained the situation to Susan, the club's treasurer.  Of course, she didn't think I was trying to scam the club and I gave her cash, which she refused.  I still got my ride patch!

I must say, though, that I still feel a bit embarrassed when I think of that bounced check, as understanding as Susan and that bank officer were.  After all, who bounces checks for $4.00--and for a bike ride?

(At least I didn't become an accountant!)

Image result for bounced check image

What got me to reminiscing about that story?  A story about another bounced check involving a bike ride.  This time, though, the issuers of the check were the organizers of a ride--and, apparently, they bounced others related to that ride.

Jill Jurca discovered one of those bounced checks when she was balancing the books of the Delta High School Band Parents.  Through the Delta County Chamber of Commerce, she'd heard that the 24th annual Tour of Colorado, held from 24 to 30 June, was passing through town.  The organizers were looking for local groups to provide meals  for the ride's 1500 cyclists.

One thing I know about school bands:  They need every dollar they can get, so they look at every possible way to raise funds.  This one looked really good to Jurca:  The Tour paid $1800, and the band provided a hearty breakfast for the cyclists, who pedaled through four mountain passes in a loop that covered about 700 kilometers (425 miles).

The Chamber of Commerce, from whom Jurca learned of the Tour's impending arrival, also got a rubber check--for $1320.  So did the Kiwanis Club of Delta County, which got stuck for $1365. Those organizations worked with other local groups to provide lodging, meals and entertainment (including a beer garden).  In addition to money, it took months of preparation to provide those services to riders.

A Denver Post reporter tried to reach the tour organizers, to no avail.  It seems that most of the information on the Tour's website--where, in previous years, registration for the next year's ride would begin as soon as that year's ride ended--has been wiped away.  All Jurca has is a statement, which she forwarded to the Post, saying that some of the Tour's sponsors didn't come through with money they were promised, so Tour organizers don't now--and aren't sure when--they will have the funds to make good on those checks.

Susan and that bank officer weren't upset with me. But Jill Jurca is with the Tour--and I can't say I blame her. "You're dealing with kids and band students and that's not OK to do this," she says.

08 October 2018

Into The Ocean Blue...To Where?

In school, we were taught that Christopher Columbus "discovered" "America" on 12 October 1492.  

During my elementary school years, we got the day off on 12 October.  Then, around the time I was beginning adolescence, "Columbus Day" was moved to the second Monday of October.  So it is observed today.

As the story goes, he set sail for India. Instead, he landed somewhere between Port-au-Prince and Santo Domingo.  Thus, he didn't even make it to what we call America (i.e., the continent) today.

What I have never understood, though, is why we have a holiday for a guy who got lost.

And, as an Italian American, I don't know why he's a source of pride for us.  I mean, we have Michelangelo, Galileo, Leonardo, Raphael, Dante, Bocaccio, Cassini (OK, he turned French), Marconi and all sorts of other folks who distinguished themselves in every imaginable field.  Heck, we even have great fashion designers.  I'd rather have a day for Armani or even Versace--or, of course, any number of Italian cyclists.

All right, I'll shut up and go for a ride--and enjoy my lasagna afterward!

07 October 2018

Make It What It's Always Been

Yesterday, I wrote about Floyd Landis' attempt to redeem himself.  He sees it as an attempt to redeem cycling.

I have no idea of what his political affiliations might be--or, indeed, whether he has any.  Whatever they are, or aren't, I can see him wearing this T-shirt:

Then again, I've always thought cycling is great--even if dopers and makers of useless gadgets muck it up sometimes.

06 October 2018

A Cheater Or A Helper?

When I was writing for a local newspaper, I talked to police officers as well as their commanders.  One of the brass I saw regularly was, as it turned out, very well-read.  He told me his favorite novel was Les Miserables.

"It poses a question that we, in law enforcement, always deal with."  That question, he said, is this:  "Is redemption possible?"

Was Jean Valjean the thief and escaped convict Inspector Javert pursues from one end of France to another?  Or was he the industrious benefactor and kindly benefactor of Montreuil-sur-Mer who had to be coaxed into accepting its mayoralty but still declined the king's offer to make him a chevalier in the Legion d'honneur

There's a parallel, I think, in Floyd Landis' story.  He was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France victory after failing drug tests. Later, he was involved in a federal whistle-blower lawsuit against Lance Armstrong.  It was settled this past spring, and he is scheduled to receive about $1 million.

So, is he going to ride off into the sunset?  Or is he going to fund his business? (More about that later.)

No, he plans to fund his Floyd's of Leadville Pro Cycling Team with one of his former teammates, Gord Fraser.  He is seeking a UCI Pro Continental license for the team, which will be based in Canada.

His motivation, he explains, is that he likes the sport.  Referring to what he and his fellow riders did, he explains that it is "part of the reason" the bicycle racing "is at a low point now."  Though he "can't fix what happened in the past", he says, he wants "to help."

"I understand I hurt the cycling community," he admits.

He believes that starting a team is the thing to do because "teams are going away."  He was referring, no doubt, to the recent dissolution of two longtime US teams, Jelly Belly-Maxxis and UnitedHealthcare. 

Floyd's of Leadville is, as you've probably guessed, his business, based in the Colorado town where he lives. It offers soft gels, tinctures and creams for pain relief.  The common ingredient in all of them is...cannabis.

As you probably know by now, Colorado was one of the first US states to legalize marijuana for both medical and recreational purposes.  But, in most other states--and in the eyes of the Federal government-- it's still not legal for medical or recreational purposes. 

The irony of being a pot purveyor (well, all right, it's not quite as simple as that) doesn't seem to be lost on Landis.  His website points out that his business was borne of a "crossroads" when he realized he could no longer depend on opiods to relieve his pain.

So...Is Floyd the guy who tried to claim that the unusually high levels of testosterone found in his blood were "natural"?  Or the guy who helped to bring down a team and a generation of riders?  Or the man who, apparently, is trying to rebuild a sport--to be a benefactor, if you will?

And should we see him as someone who used some substances to gain an unfair advantage--or one who will use others to help young riders win, and more important, ride, in ways he never did?

05 October 2018

En Vive B Vivit: A UBI Scholar Teaches Other Women

One year ago tomorrow, I reported on the scholarships Quality Bicycle Parts (QBP) was offering scholarships for women to learn bicycle mechanics at United Bicycle Institute's (UBI) school.  It's being offered again this year.

One of the great things, at least to me, about that scholarship is that it's open to all types of women, including trans folks like yours truly or anyone else who identifies as female or femme.  

Now, you might wonder how such a thing is an advancement for women, as being a bike mechanic isn't the steadiest (in most places, it's seasonal) or most lucrative work.  Learning the bicycle inside and out at a place like UBI can help someone prepare for other work in the bicycle industry, whether as a shop owner or for companies like QBP.

In fact, what's being offered isn't just a "mechanic's scholarship", as some of the bicycle press has reported. Rather, it's a Professional Repair and Shop Operation curriculum.

The only qualification, aside from gender identity, for a candidate is current employment in a bike shop in the US or any of its territories.  The employment needn't be paid:  interns, volunteers and trainees will also be considered.  Thus, I imagine, someone working in a community recycle-a-bicycle program would be a candidate. 

The deadline to apply is 2 November.

The 32 women who win the scholarships will attend the February 2019 classes in either of UBI's Oregon campuses. (Ashland and Portland)  

If you are one of the lucky ones, there's a chance that one of your instructors will be B Vivit, who graduated from the course last year.

B Vivit (left) at UBI's school

At that time, she was the floor manager at Huckleberry Cycles in San Francisco.  After the course ended, she was giving feedback to some of the instructors via text. "They recommended I apply to teach," she said, "because they overheard me helping other students and teaching during class."

That sounds like as much of an endorsement as any:  The course uncovered a talent a student could contribute to, not only the UBI, but the world of cycling generally.  After all, to paraphrase someone whose name I won't mention, it isn't just about the bike.

Oh, by the way, Park Tool, one of the sponsors of the scholarship, supplies each participant with a travel tool kit she can take home with her.