31 December 2011

Old Salt, Or Diamond (Frames) With Rust

Steve of DFW Point-to-Point has a point:  Salt air really is rough on bicycle parts.  I should have taken a photo of the bike I rode when I was in Florida.  Every time I see it, the spokes and other parts are more corroded than they were the previous time I rode.  It seems the spokes get the worst corrosion.  At least, that seems to be the case for the non-plated, non-stainless spokes found on cheap bikes like the one I rode.

Whenever I'm in Florida, I see lots of bikes that have so much rust that it's a wonder they still run.  Even the more inland areas are affected by salt air, and there are many bikes that spend years or even decades in garages or on porches after their owners stop riding them. 

I must say that just about everyone who looked like he or she was riding long miles or doing any kind of training was astride an aluminum or carbon bike.  Those riders are young and tend to be more swayed by trends, but I suspect their choice of ride might be influnced by the salt air and humid conditions.  A mechanic with whom I worked spent a few years in Florida, where he worked in two bike shops.  He told me that he often saw parts rusted clear through, and hubs that rotted on the inside because of the humidity and salt air.

Well, this year is old, too, although it's not rusty.  So, as this will probably be my last post of 2011, I want to wish you a Happy New Year and lots of safe, enjoyable and fulfilling rides!

29 December 2011

Going To The Beach And Riding To The Ocean

Many years ago (before many of you were born!), I dated an astrologer.  Apparently, I am a Cancerian--or, as some politically-correct types would say, a "Moon Child.  However, Astrologer was not politically correct, at least not in matters of pigeonholing, I mean pegging, people's personalities and destinies.  So, she told me that I was "such a Cancerian."  

Later on, she would remove the "ian" suffix and continue the sentence.  But that's another story.

According to her--and everything I've heard or read (admittedly, not much) about the subject since, Cancer is a "water" sign.  In fact, Astrologer claimed that Cancer is the "ultimate" water sign and, according to her charts, I was about as Cancerian as one could be.

If nothing else, it was a pretty good rationale, at least for her, for ending our relationship.  But that's yet another story.

Anyway, I will concede that there is at least some truth to what she said.  I am certainly drawn to water.  Not to beaches, necessarily, but to water--wide expanses and endless vistas of it.  I am so drawn, in fact, that sometimes everything along the way can seem like the desert.

Now, I've never actually ridden through a desert and, truth be told, never had any desire to do any such thing.  This is probably as close as I'll come to it.  I can hardly imagine anything that contrasts more with the ocean.

Sometimes, at the end of a bike ride, the ocean greets me:  "Where have you been?"

Sometimes I cannot explain; when I can, the answer never makes any sense to someone who's gone to the beach.  I know I am a different person when I go to the beach from what I am when I pedal to the ocean.

Another day, I will join them again.  After that, I will continue the ride I took today, on my bike, to the ocean.

26 December 2011

Christmas, 4512 Miles From Casablanca

Do you see what I see? 

This is what, among other things, I saw for my Christmas Day ride.  It ain't Rockaway Beach; that's for sure.

I saw these sights while pedaling along the Atlantic Ocean on Route A-1A from Matanzas Bay to Ormond Beach in Florida.  When I got to Ormond, which is about ten miles from Daytona, I encountered something you'll never find in the Rockaways:

This guy thinks it's about time we've been slowed down.  And he means business:

Seriously, though, he wishes us all a good holiday!

23 December 2011

My Lost Brooks Saddle: It's IKEA's Fault! '-)

I solved the problem of my lost saddle by taking a trip to IKEA:

This stool was actually created for the home-furnishings chain that, it's said, made and sold the beds on which one in every ten living Europeans was conceived.  Hmm...If some couple wanted to get it off on a stool like this, would they have to add the saddle's break-in time to the nine months of pregancy if they want to figure out when their little one would be born?

Thanks to all of you who expressed concern and outrage.  May the bike gods and goddesses whisper in Santa's ear on your behalf!  And to anyone else reading this:  Happy Holidays!

21 December 2011

Losing A Seat

I can't believe it happened again.

I take that back...I can.  Things are becoming more difficult, which means that people are becoming more desperate, or simply opportunistic.

Whatever the explanation, I experienced something I thought I knew better than to allow to happen.  

I took Vera to take care of some business in Midtown Manhattan:  34th Street,  a block from the Empire State Building, to be exact.  I locked up the frame and wheels and took off anything that someone could abscond with...or so I thought.

When I came out, after about an hour and a half, my saddle and seatpost were gone.  Perhaps the thief wanted the bike and, upon realizing he (All right, I'm sexist.) wouldn't get it, took what he could.

So now I'm out a Brooks B-17 saddle in honey.  Yes, I'm glad the thief didn't get the whole bike or, say, the wheels.  Still...

20 December 2011

Workin' It

Some bikes look right only when they've got half of their paint missing and look beat right down to their inner tubes.

Well, all right, I didn't see the inner tubes on this one.  But I imagine that they have, if nothing else, the feel and scent of a pair of flip-flops swished and slogged through curbside puddles during a summer rainstorm.

But, really, can you imagine this bike--from Worksman Cycles--new?  The paint job may have been rather attractive, if in a utilitarian sort of way.  Somehow, though, it wouldn't have looked right.

I must say that in my more than three decades of cycling, I've seen only one "virgin" Worksman.  One shop in which I worked was an official Worksman dealer.  Highland Park Cyclery did a brisk business inside a ramshackle building (which was torn down after HPC moved to fancier digs) at the foot of a commercial strip across the river from the college (Rutgers) I attended as an undergraduate.  Some of the stores and restaurants offered deliveries, some of which they made on bikes.  Those shops and restaurants already had their delivery bikes--Worksmans, mostly--before I started working at HPC.

So it was something of a surprise--to me, anyway--when I found myself assembling a brand-new Worksman.  I didn't mind that:  Although it wasn't a bike I'd've bought for myself, it was easy to work on.  Plus, one could not deny that it was suited about as well as any product could be to its purpose.

What surprised me, though, was that it wasn't a business that bought one.  Rather, he was--as I recall--a married middle-aged man who ran a "consulting business" from his home.  He never consulted me about what his business consulted on, but he seemed prosperous and his family harmonious.  

He said he'd wanted his Worksman to use as his "human powered station wagon."  Later, I saw him hauling groceries, building supplies, books, and even furniture on it.  Another thing I find interesting, in retrospect, was that he was looking to become less dependent on his car (which he sold not long after buying the Worksman) at a time when gasoline prices were falling, at least relative to what they were in the days around the Iran Hostage Crisis.

Although I saw that man on his Worksman nearly every day, it didn't seem to wear much.  Granted, Highland Park wasn't as harsh an environment as New York or other urban zones for a bike.  Plus, I'm sure he didn't subject it to the same kind of abuse as most delivery people did to theirs. 

Apparently, in spite of the fact that the bikes never seem to die, there's enough of a market for new ones that the company is thriving, and did even during the leanest of times in the American bike market, and before the current vogue for "cruisers".  I guess that disproves the notion that if a product is so well-made that it never needs replacement, the company making it will lose sales and stop making it, or even go out of business.  (Some old-timers claim that was the story of Weinmann concave rims and Sun Tour V-GT derailleurs.) In any event, the bikes are being made in the Ozone Park area of Queens, NY, about seven miles from my apartment and just off the route of a few of my regular rides. 

Afterword:  I was looking up Highland Park Cyclery.  Apparently, they've moved up the road into neighboring Edison and have renamed themselves Joyful Cycles, in a reference to 1 Thessolonians 5:16-18.  Ironically, Frank, who owned HPC while I worked there, and his wife Wendy were about as antithetical to religious fundamentalism as any two people could be!

18 December 2011

The End Of A Ride As I Know It

Arielle was rather sad.  

We went on one of our favorite rides and we saw that it had changed.

The "lookout" point of Point Lookout has been fenced off since the last time we visited.  My fence-climbing days have passed; I figure that if I won't do it to help save the planet or some such thing, I won't do it to go and sit on some rocks (concrete slabs, actually) that jut into the water.  Plus, I learned in no uncertain terms that I'm not welcome.

As many times as I've ridden here, I don't make a very convincing resident.  For one thing, it seems that the locals--if they ride--ride beach cruisers.  Plus, my income falls short by a digit or two for living in the village of Point Lookout.

I assured Arielle that nothing is her fault; she wasn't upset with me for going on a ride I couldn't complete.  Yes, I rode home--64 miles in all--but I don't consider it a complete ride.  

I'd like to hope that the park will be open again in the spring.  If not, well, what can I say?  Over the past few years, I've begun a new chapter in my life, which includes having found new riding buddies.  I guess it's also time for me to find new places to ride locally.

14 December 2011

A Cycling Holiday Like None You've Seen

Between all of the student conferences, papers and exams, and all of the people who have decided that they absolutely must have a meeting about their pet projects, I have to remind myself that this is the "holiday season."

Indeed it is.  Chanukkah celebrations have begun, and, of course, the Winter Equinox, Christmas, Boxing Day and Kwanzaa will soon be upon us.  I want so much to do a ride for fun...

My current situation got me to thinking about a "cycling holiday."  On the other side of the pond, that means taking a vacation on two wheels.  But I was thinking of the phrase in the American way:  a holiday (what the Brits and other Euros would call a "fete") that includes cycling.

Now here's a cycling holiday you won't see in America or Europe:

Actually, this photo was taken during Yom Kippur. Can you imagine anything like this along the West Side Highway or along I-95?  

12 December 2011

The Ghost Of A Hipster Fixie (For Bronx Jon)

If you've cycled in New York, or any number of other cities, you've probably seen a "ghost bike."  It's painted white, and is usually an old, donated or discarded, bike.  This somber reminder of a cyclist who's been struck or killed by a motor vehicle is locked to a sign post or other structure by the site of the accident, and is accompanied by a small sign.

When I went to meet Lakythia for a ride yesterday, I saw one I'd seen many times before.  Not to make light of it, but I couldn't help but to think, "Where else but in Williamsburg?"

The neighborhood is, after all, the de facto home of the "hipster fixie."  As far as I know, this is the only bike of that genre to become a "ghost."  It commemorates "Bronx Jon":

To Jon, or your family or friends:  I mean no disrespect.  I'm glad that you've been so memorialized.  I think, though, that your memorial may well be one of a kind.

10 December 2011

Christmas Bikes And Trees

For Christmas, a lot of kids dream of finding a bike under the tree.  Actually, most kids who got bikes for Christmas--myself included--didn't find their wheels "under" pine branches strung with lights.  More likely, their Schwinns or Columbias or Raleighs were beside the tree, or in another location altogether. You have to live in a fairly big place in order to have a big enough space for a tree under which a bike can stand.

Anyway...wherever Santa actually leaves the bike, we still have an image of Christmas that includes a bike under the tree.  But I wonder:  Has anyone imagined a holiday season in which the bike becomes the Christmas tree?

This is part of a massive display from the Assiniboine Valley Railway in Winnipeg. 

Bikes!  Trains!  Sleds!  Trees!  Sounds like a Christmas diorama come to life.  

07 December 2011

Bike Noir

Really, I don't like to leave my bikes in the rain.  But sometimes it's inevitable.

Such was the case last night.  I managed to just beat the rain on my way to work.  As you may know, one of my favorite games is "playing chicken with the rain."  So, I always run the risk of getting caught, or parking, in the rain--or of going to work dry and coming out to find a wet bike.

I guess I shouldn't be so surprised that Vera would take to a rain-slicked night.  The raindrops and streetlights bring out her natural glow, I guess.

She likes to show a little leg now and again.  Given that she kept going, and got me to work before the rain, I can certainly indulge her!

05 December 2011

Into The Corners Of The Evening

Tonight I took a slightly different route home from the ones I normally take.  Part of the reason I did that was to avoid a very snarled intersection I pedaled through on my way in.  (Why do they call them "construction" projects when they're tearing things apart?)  Also, I wanted a bit of variety to shake myself out of my doldrums, as I've been a bit "under the weather" for the past couple of days.

So, from being under a blanket of flannel, I pedaled into a developing blanket of fog.  

Plenty of cyclists, including yours truly, have talked and written about cycling in rain, snow and any number of other weather conditions.  But I can't recall the last time I heard or read any mention of fog.  I guess there isn't much in particular you can do about it.  You don't really need your foul-weather gear, but lights and other high-visibility accessories are a good idea.  

I rather enjoy cycling in fog, especially when it builds, as it did on my way home tonight. And, no, I'm not phased by cemeteries:  I'm respectful of the dead, and they haven't done anything terrible to me. On two different bike tours I actually slept in cemeteries.  I cleaned up after myself before leaving, which may be another reason why I have good karma, or whatever you want to call it, in necropoli.  But I digress...

What's interesting about fog is that it develops more subtly than other kinds of weather.  Stopping to watch it won't let you see how it gathers or creeps across the land.  At some point, you just notice it, like some image that's developed on a screen before your eyes, but at the same time hidden in plain sight.  In fact, sometimes you feel the moisture against your face before you see anything.  Or, you feel, as I did, what seems to be a drop in the temperature.  It felt about ten degrees colder by the time I got home than it did when I started although, according to weather reports, the temperature remained constant at 54F (12C), which is rather mild for this time of year.

Most of the drivers were also going home.  Some of their cars turned their lights on automatically, so I wonder just how much, if at all, they noticed the fog developing.  

 Now I'll leave you with my favorite literary depiction of fog, from one of my favorite poems:

The yellow fog that rubs its back on the window-panes
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap
And seeing that it was a soft October night
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

(From "The Love Song Of J.Alfred Prufrock" by T.S. Eliot)

03 December 2011

The Season

In her most recent post, "Velouria" wrote about what seemed to be the end of her road riding season and the beginning of winter.  The signal, for her, came when the group with whom she'd been riding packed it in for the season and she no longer had a fast road bike to ride.  Fortunately, she found another group that will continue to ride every week as long as they're not snow- or ice-bound, and the road bike she'd converted to a "fixie" has become a road bike again.

Still, her post got me to thinking about the way the seasons signal themselves for cyclists.  Some of us mark the beginning or end of road- (or off-road) riding season with our first or last rides of the year with some group or another of riders.  Other cyclists, perhaps, see the beginning or end of their cycling seasons (or mark different riding seasons within the year) as the daylight hours grow longer or shorter.  Other cyclists, I imagine, have other kinds of seasonal cues.

Somehow, though, I felt I saw a clear signal of winter's approach the other day, when I managed to sneak over to Rockaway Beach before work:

30 November 2011

A Season Ends With A Stranger In The Wind

The other day was unusually warm for this time of year:  The temperature reached 69F (20C) and there were wispy high clouds. I don't think we'll see another day like that until April or, perhaps, March.  I was fortunate enough to get home early and take Arielle for a spin.

I rode out to Rockaway Beach.  The ride seemed strangely arduous for one that is almost entirely flat. Have I gained more weight?, I wondered.  Is something out of adjustment? (A quick glance told me the answer was "no.")  Or should I have eaten something besides oatmeal cookies for lunch?

Well, I got my answer at the Rockaway boardwalk.  Another cyclist and I were playing tag along the long straightaways and bridges from Howard Beach into Broad Channel and Rockaway Beach.  I learned his name: Devon.  "Good workout riding into the wind, isn't it?"

He was indeed right:  The wind whipped flags like whitecaps.  I could feel it as I was riding, but somehow I didn't think of it as the reason I was (or seemed to be) riding slowly.  Perhaps I didn't think about it because, as bracing as it was, it was not a cold wind, as it came directly off the ocean to the south of us.  While the water temperature has dropped since August, it's still about twenty degrees warmer than it will be in February.  

As we rode back, I realized that we'd actually been keeping a fairly good pace.  Even in that wind, the ride down to Rockaway Beach didn't take much longer than it normally would; now, on our way back, we were practically flying.

It may be a while in coming, but I'm sure there will be another day, and another ride, like what I experienced the other day.  And perhaps I will run into Devon again.

27 November 2011

Another Voyage of Discovery

I realize now that I've been cycling for so many years because it's always been a window of sorts. Sometimes I see interesting things across my handlebars; other times, I have interesting experiences when I get to wherever my bike--on today's ride, Arielle--takes me.

Sometimes I think she has an even better eye than mine for form. It seems that rides with her lead me to pictures like this:

I don't feel that I've "captured" the bird or the fisherman as much as Arielle brought me to them. Even when I take a ride to some place I've been many times before (in this case, the Canarsie Pier), a scene like this is a discovery. That makes the ride an exploration. Now you know why I keep on cycling.

26 November 2011

Crossing Bridges After Work

Today I did something I often did when I was young and unattached:  I took a ride after work.  I'm not just talking about the commute home:  I rode through the rest of the afternoon and into the early evening--fifty miles after work.

The best part is that today's ride, like the ones I used to do, was spontaneous.  I took a route I've ridden a number of times before, but it was unplanned.  I did one part of it; then, feeling good, I simply continued.

From 34th Street in Manhattan, where I've been teaching a Saturday class for a technical college, I pedaled up the greenway that skirts the Hudson River.  Because I'm trying to make this story fit all of those cheesy narratives I've ever heard, I'm going to tell you that I was guided by a light.

If you've ever ridden, walked, run, skateboarded (Is that a verb?) or rollerbladed over the Greenway, you've probably seen The Little Red Lighthouse.  Actually, it's called the Jeffrey's Hook Light, but most people refer to it by the name I used, which is also the title of a children's book inspired by the structure.  It hasn't functioned as a lighthouse in decades:  It stands under the George Washington Bridge, which spurred development on both sides of the river, which in turn lit up that treacherous stretch of the Hudson even better than any lighthouse could.  

It was at the lighthouse that I decided to continue riding. So, naturally, I crossed the bridge and rolled along the edge of the Palisades through Bergen and Hudson counties to the Jersey City waterfront.

From there, I continued down through Jersey City and Bayonne to another bridge, which I took to Staten Island and the Ferry named for it.

After I got off the boat, I cycled past Wall Street, the South Street Seaport and up the East Side to one of those bridges, which took me home. 

24 November 2011

Giving Thanks

I know I'll have to drop whatever pretense I have of being a hipster who's full of post-modern irony.  But I do indeed have reasons to give thanks.  Not least among them is that I didn't have to travel yesterday or today, and that I still got to share a Thanksgiving dinner with people I love.  And I got to ride a bit before going there--on a really nice bike.  I know there's more, but those are certainly ample reasons for giving thanks!

23 November 2011

Up The Col Du Galibier: The Day Before Thanksgiving

In the last moment of my life, I saw the day before Thanksgiving...

I'd just pedaled a few strokes around the virage; a bed of wildflowers turned, in an instant, into a glacial field.  The sun was so bright it turned into the kind of liquid haze through which dreams skip and float along with the words that make sense only in those dreams.

It was noon.  We were all lined up--the boys on one side, the girls on the other--to leave school for the day, the next day, and the three days that would follow.  For some reason, when I was a kid, that was always my favorite moment of the year.  Even the seemingly-capricious discipline of the Carmelite nuns who taught in our school could not make that moment less happy.   They could cast a pall over the day before Christmas Eve, over Holy Thursday.  Whether or not they loaded us down with homework, they left us in such a mood that Christmas, even if we got the gifts we hoped for, seemed more like a truce, and Easter was just too holy of a day to really consider as a vacation, even if we were home for the week that followed.  

But noon on the day before Thanksgiving always seemed like the most carefree moment of the year.  In most years, it began the last interlude of Fall; the lights of Christmas only accented the darkness that consumed ever-larger parts of the days that would follow.  In that moment, on the day before Thanksgiving, one could still see the last flickerings of the autumnal blaze that burned green leaves into the colors of the sunset.  Somewhere along the way, they turned as yellow and, for a few days, as bright as the sunlight that filled the air around the mountain I was climbing on my bike.

It was just about noon; I would soon be at the peak of le Col du Galibier, one of the most famous climbs on the Tour de France.  From there, I would have a long effortless ride to the valley.  In the meantime, each pedal stroke would become more arduous.  I'd been pedaling all morning, but even more important was the altitude:  I was more than a mile and a half above sea level.  The air is thinner, and even though my breath steamed as I puffed up that mountain on that July morning, the sun burned through the layers of sun screen I'd lathered on my arms and face.  

Bells rang.  Dismissal?  Or the cows in the herd down the mountain?  I stopped for a drink and one of the crepes I'd packed into my bag.  I took a bite and a gulp.  

You're free.  I wasn't sure of whether I was hearing that.  Perhaps I was giddy from the thin mountain air.  Yes, you're free.  But I wasn't hearing it:  It was being told--or, more precisely, communicated--to that child who was being dismissed from school on the day before Thanksgiving.  You can go now.  What are they talking about?  Who's "they"?

You don't have to do this again.  I'd never heard that before, certainly not in those days.  What did that mean?  What won't I have to do again?  Climb this mountain?  Go to school?

Down the Col du Galibier, through the Val de Maurienne, as the eternal winter of that mountaintop turned into the hottest day of summer in the valley, my mind echoed.  What, exactly, wouldn't I have to do again?

Near the end of that day, I reached St. Jean de Maurienne, just a few kilometers from Italy.  There, I would see the stranger who, inadvertently, caused me to see that I could follow no other course but the one that my life has taken since then.  A year later, I would move out of the apartment I'd been sharing with Tammy; about a year after that, I would change my name and begin my treatments.

22 November 2011

Riding Off Into A Sunset Of Foliage

November is a strange and interesting month, especially this year.  It may have to do with the fact that we had a warm, wet fall before our late-October snowstorm, which seems to be the reason why the foliage (Can you call it that in Brooklyn or Queens?) has changed colors later in the season than it has in previous years.  And, while the red and gold trees may not be as striking here as they are in, say, Vermont or the Adirondacks, the city's buildings can provide a nice backdrop to the leaves of sunset.

I took that photo just before starting to ride with Lakythia and Mildred to the Canarsie Pier and the South Shore of Brooklyn.

Off into the "sunset" we rode!

19 November 2011

Power To The People: Bicycles At Occupy Wall Street

I haven't been posting as often as I had been a few months ago, mainly because my classes are bigger this year and, it seems, falls into one of two categories: those who need more and those who demand more.  I guess that's just part of being in the current economic situation.

And so is Occupy Wall Street.  I've gone to it three times and learned that bicycles are becoming an integral part of their protest, movement, or whaotever you want to call it.  That's not surprising, really, when you consider than in much of the world (and, increasingly, in some parts of the US), bikes are transportation for the "99 percent."  And, as a form of recreation, it's far less energy-intensive, and less expensive than other activities.

However, bikes are an important part of OWS for practical reasons.  Some of the protestors got there, or come and go (as I did) on two human-powered wheels.  Some of those who've stayed are transporting food and water (which, interestingly,they're getting from the taps of local homes and businesses) on bike-towed trailers or tricycles.  

But what I found most interesting of all can be seen in this photo:

Yes, this young man is powering his cell phone and laptop computer with  power he pedals into a generator.  Someone at OWS started rigging up these bicycle-powered generators after police seized the gas-powered ones they'd been using.  Now, in addition to making power for cell phones, laptops and other electrical and electronic devices, the generators are being used for a variety of milling and grinding purposes, including the making of compost, which they are using themselves in Zuccoti Park and giving to farmers who are selling fruits, vegetables and other foods in nearby markets.

While I'm on the subject,  Crowdrise, Times Up and other organizations are accepting donations of bicycles, as well as tires, tubes and other parts--and, of course, money to buy bikes and parts--for OWS.

If OWS turns into a full-blown revolution, will bicycles be credited (or blamed)?  After all, what revolves more--and is therefore more revolutionary--than a bicycle wheel?

14 November 2011

Strange But True In NYC

New York City may well be the "Frankenbike" capital of the world.  Even if you live here for a couple of decades, you'll see permutations of bikes you simply won't see anywhere else.  

Today I'm going to show you two "Frankenbikes" that were parked near a train station in my neighborhood.

Until I saw the first, I never realized what, exactly, my commuter bikes have always lacked:

They are mountain bike "bar ends," which were very much in vogue during the mid-'90's.  I used a pair myself.  There was a good reason for them:  Mountain bikes, at least as they were configured then, didn't offer a variety of hand positions.  That could be very tiring on a ride of an hour or more. So, bar ends like these were made to clamp on the ends of flat bars.  Most, like these, used a wraparound clamp; a few had ends that inserted into the handlebar, much like a bar-end shifter or brake lever.

Here, the person mounted them on the middle of the handlebar to get an "aero" position.  That's exactly what the  owner of that bike needs.

It's a Schwinn Suburban from, I'd guess, the early 1970's or thereabouts.  Essentially, it was a Varsity or Continental with upright bars, fenders and a single rather than a double chainring in the front.  Like the Varsity or Continental, it's a tank.   At least the "aerobars" can  help its rider lop a few seconds off his or her commute.

The bike also has a generator lighting system.  I wonder whether it works.  Lots of people buy or inherit used bikes like that one that have generator lights on them.  Often, the person who buys or inherits the used bike never even knows whether or not the lights actually work, for they do no night riding--or, perhaps, even know how to use the light.  Or the person riding the bike may well know that the light doesn't work but simply doesn't bother to take it off.

At least the generator and lights are where they're supposed to be.  The same can't always be said for any bike you'll see parked here in NYC:

A headlight in a water bottle cage--on the top tube of a women's bike?  In some crazy way, it seems ingenious.  After all, the light on that bike is in a less prone position than it would be on other parts of the bike.  Plus, it could be really useful for checking runs in my stockings or rips in my pants legs.

No kind of bike paint job is more widely detested, justly so, than the '80's fades. (Some of the most unfortunate samples from that genre were found on Klein bicycles of that era.)  However, around the same time, there was another kind of paint job that was as almost as bad, and common on European bikes (or bikes for the European market,at any rate).  I call it the tricolored Easter egg look:

The owner of this bike, or the person from whom the owner bought or was given this bike, probably brought it in from Italy or someplace in Europe, as I don't think this model was ever inported to the US.  In fact, I think that around the time the bike was made, Atala bicycles were no longer being imported to this country.  Some of their better models were rather pretty, but I was never particularly impressed with the rides of the ones I tried.  Plus, the workmanship was such that we used to joke that its paint and chrome flew off when the bike was operated at too high a speed. 

Anyway, even though these two bikes caught my attention, they're hardly the most mutated bikes I've seen here in New York.  Unfortunately, I never photographed the crazier bikes I saw. But then again, I'll probably see others that are just as zany.

12 November 2011

Another New Addition (!)

No, I didn't buy another Mercian.  (Having four is almost an embarrassment of riches, really!)  Rather, my "new addition" was installed on Vera.

She, like many other bikes built at the same time (early 1994) she was, has low-rider rack mounts on the front fork.  Vera is, if I remember correctly, the third bike I've owned with those mounts.  However, I've never before used a low-rider, or a front rack of any other kind.

Had I kept Marianela, she would have gotten a front rack.  I've had handlebar-mounted baskets on other bikes but felt they mounted too high, which worsened the bikes' road-handling.  Given that most of the bikes I've used as commuters had more relaxed head angles and, hence, less responsive steering, than my road bikes, that was no small consideration.

So, I decided that I was going to mount some sort of fork-mounted rack on Vera.  I really wanted to use the lowrider mounts.  However, I was willing to consider other ways of mounting the rack.

I first considered the Velo Orange front racks because the materials and construction looked good, and their prices were relatively reasonable.  However, the VO Randonneur front rack wouldn't have worked, because the legs are too short to reach the low-rider and are not adjustable.  (Constructeur rack legs like the ones on the VO Randonneur mount higher on the fork than lowrider bars.)  

I also looked at the VO Pass Hunter.  Its struts bolt onto cantilever/V-brake bosses, which Vera has.  It's a somewhat larger and beefier version of the old Mafac racks that bolted onto the centerpull brake pivots.  Although I would have preferred to use the lowrider mount, I wasn't opposed to using a brake-mounted rack.  However, I wasn't willing to do something else the Pass Hunter would have necessitated:  drilling out my front fork crown.  

That crown is drilled and tapped for 5mm bolts, like the ones used on most water bottle cage and rear rack braze-ons.  The Pass Hunter has an integral mounting bolt that's meant to fit in a hole large enough for a brake pivot bolt.  I simply didn't have the heart to drill out that nice classy fork crown.

So, that left me with two other options, apart from getting a custom rack.  One would have been to buy one of the front racks made for mountain bikes:  They mount on the cantilever braze-ons but have an adjustable strap (like the kind found on Blackburn-style rear racks) through which the brake bolt passes.  The rack is cheap, and looked sturdy enough, but wouldn't have looked good on Vera.

So, with a sigh, I resigned myself to spending the money on a Nitto M-18.  I know, from using other Nitto parts, that their quality is second to none.  And, often, their prices aren't, either.  However, I was lucky enough to find a really good deal on one from Tree Fort Bikes in Ypsilanti, Michigan, which also matched another retailer's price on another item I bought at the same time.  

Still, the Nitto had the same problem as the VO Randonneur:  the struts weren't long enough to reach the lowrider mount. Luckily, the struts are replacable with longer ones that Nitto makes.  It seems that Rivendell is the only retailer that carries those struts (Even the Japanese retailers didn't have them!), so I placed my very first order with Riv.

The struts are really made to attach to a front dropout. 

So I cut them, and within fifteen minutes, I had the kind of rack I wanted on Vera.

It, like the Pass Hunter and Randonneur, is really intended as a handlebar bag support.  But I plan to use a basked on it or simply to strap my purse or shoulder bag on it when I ride to work.