31 January 2011

What Can You Generate On Your Bicycle?

Hub generator?  Bottle generator?  An '80's bottom-bracket mount generator?

None of the above for me.  Nighttime cyclists in this city have the same goal as denizens of the club scene:  being seen. Here, flashing lights are more useful than steady-beam lights because most streets are relatively well-lit.  As far as I know, none of the generator lights made today has a flashing mode.  

But I can think of another kind of generator that might be useful here, at least in the summer.  Here it is, in action:

Now tell me:  You really want to use your bike to make ice cream.  Admit it!

Once you do that, there's no telling how many appliances you can power with your bicycle.  Hair dryers.  Laptops.  Juicers.  How about a sandwich press?  After all, what's better than a panini for a mid-ride snack?

Forget ethanol or solar, wind or nuclear power.  You just saw the real solution to the world's energy needs!

30 January 2011

A Circus Monkey In Red

I've cycled long enough to have seen some truly strange components.  Some were mechanically or functionally quirky; others simply left me wondering what their designers and manufacturers were thinking.

And a few simply look strange.  To wit:

Its brand name is apt:  "Circus Monkey."  Actually, I think it looked rather like a Ferris Wheel designed by someone who jumps through hoops of fire.  

Although it definitely wouldn't look right on any of my bikes, and I probably wouldn't buy it even if I could use it (It's made for mountain bikes with disc brakes, and I don't have one), I actually like it.  Or maybe I like--or, at least, admire-- whoever designed it.  I mean, how could you not?  

To grossly paraphrase Shakespeare, a hub by any other name would probably spin as smoothly.  Still, who wouldn't at least stop and look at one called "Circus Monkey"?  Especially when it looks like the hub in the photo.

29 January 2011

Excelsior!, Or The Case For Bike Baskets

The next time someone makes fun of you because your bike has a basket, show him or her this:

The bike is an English three-speed.  So you know that once it's freed from the snow, it'll work just like it did before the storm.  What that means is that, for one thing, the brakes won't work worth a damn if the rims are the least bit wet!

Still, I'd take that bike over some of the others I saw in and around the piles of snow around the Bel Aire Diner:

Some would see that photo as a good case for a mountain bike.  Chacun a son gout.  Or is it de gustos no hay escritos?

But not all fourteen of the bikes parked around the diner were so isolated:

There are normally at least a dozen or so bikes parked around the diner. Sometimes some of them serve as "donor" bikes for the others.  

The US Postal Service claims that they deliver through snow, sleet, hail and the dark of night.  With all due respect to them, I can safely say they have nothing on the delivery guys at Bel Aire diner.  And, of course, the Postal Service doesn't serve French toast any time of the day you want it!

28 January 2011

Stopping Is Part Of The Journey

I can say with near-certainty that on this date at around this time, ten years ago, I was riding on rollers.  Back in those days, that's what I did during the winter.  Even after I stopped racing, I still was trying to prove something to myself.  Or, more precisely, to disprove something.

What was it?  Well, before I try to describe, let alone name, it, I have to say that what led me to ride rollers even after my racing days ended was the same thing that kept me training for soccer after I stopped playing it.  I knew full well that I would probably never play again and, even though I enjoyed playing, I wasn't mourning my acknowledgment that my playing days were over.  In fact, I felt surprisingly little.  But I still had the impulse to train as if I were still playing.

Something similar happened after I stopped racing.  Although I'm glad I raced, I wasn't upset when I knew that part of my life was about to end.  And once I "retired," I really had no urge to go back.  However, I wanted to know that I could.  

Why?  Well, I always want to feel as if I start or leave stages and challenges in my life on my own terms.  It's never a good feeling not to do something because you're not capable of it.  The worst of it is that you can't even kick yourself, in hindsight, for lack of effort if you simply didn't have whatever it took to do something that you wanted to do.

Perhaps I never got past or over being the ungraceful, unathletic pubescent child I was.  Until I started training and playing, I was taunted by other kids--and sometimes adults--not only for my seeming lack of athletic ability, but also for my perceived lack of manliness, or even the capacity for becoming a man, whatever that meant.

Those taunts were echoing in some recess of my brain.  That's the reason why, ironically, I spent more time on rollers and trainers in my early post-racing years than I did when I was actually racing.    In an irony within that irony, I was pushing my body--my male body--so hard because I was trying to poound it, or something about it, out of existence altogether, or at least into submission.

I've been on my bike once in the past two weeks.  I'm feeling antsy and hoping that I'm not gaining weight.  (At least I'm not eating any junk.)  But, at the same time, I'm not as ornery as I would've been back in the day.  When I couldn't ride--or after a few weeks of riding rollers or trainers--I used to feel resentful and angry that I couldn't do what I wanted to do but, it seemed, everybody else could.

I think that being off my bike for a few months after my surgery last year made me aware, for the first time in my life, that the times when you recuperate, or simply stop for whatever reasons, are also part of the journey. In fact, those times might be almost as important as the times when we're riding and training.   For some people, it's the only opportunity to reflect on the question of why they are doing whatever they do.

27 January 2011

Thirteen (Or More?) Ways Of Looking At A Cassette

For a time in my life, my favorite poem was Wallace Steven's Thirteen Ways of Looking At A Blackbird.  It's still a favorite of mine.

Now, as far as I know, there aren't any blackbirds anywhere near where I live or work.  In fact, there weren't very many living beings outside today.  Nineteen inches of snow fell on Central Park from last night into this morning.  Cold gusts whipped the snow around,  and thunder echoed the flashes of lightning that pierced the heavy clouds.  Why any living being would choose to be outdoors in such conditions is beyond me.

So, being indoors on a day that Charlie and Max slept through, I started to see the toes of glaciers creeping along my walls where the paint ran.  (No,I'm not taking intoxicants of any sort. )  And rows of tiles become an Andy Warhol painting of kaleidoscopes.

Which leads me to wonder:  How many worlds can be seen from the back of a cassette?

25 January 2011

Soo '70's

Seeing it snow again made me think of The Ice Storm.  I liked it, but I also remember thinking how the clothes, hairstyles and the things people did (Wife-swapping.  Key parties.  EST.) were sooo '70's.  I know: That decade included my puberty, adolescence and undergraduate years.

Now this is sooo '70's:

Not only is it from the '70's; it's English.  No one in the USA today would get away with making an ad like that.

And nobody would get away with making a bike like the Lambert.  Or, I should say, nobody would stay in business for even as long as Lambert did (just over a decade).  

Not only did they try to mass-produce high-performance bikes in England, they tried to keep their prices reasonable, perhaps a bit low--even for that time.  During the company's first few years, they made most of the components, as well as the brazed lugless cro-mo frame, in-house.  The components were the bike's undoing:  Most of them didn't hold up very well.  Worst of all was the so-called "Death Fork," which was one of the first production forks to be made of aluminum.  That piece was indicative of much else on the bike:  It was a possibly-good idea that wasn't executed very well, mainly because no one knew how it needed to be executed.

They offered a 21-pound road bike, which was about as light as you could get at that time, for $149.  They offered that same bike, plated with 24-karat gold for $279.

A price like that for gold?  Now that's soo '70's.

24 January 2011

Coming Out of The Cold and Leaving

I can't stop thinking about him.

OK, this isn't going where you think it's going!  

The other morning, when I was doing my laundry, I saw him.  He was riding a department-store mountain bike in the snow that had fallen through the night.  If he wasn't homeless, he looked like he was less than a paycheck away from it.  Or, if I want to be more charitable or simply literary, I could say that he looks like a grizzly bear that just came out of detox.

Wherever he doesn't go on his bike, he walks.  He doesn't even take the subway or bus, he told me. I believe him:  I've seen him around the neighborhood before, but I'd never talked with him until the other day.

He asked me whether it would be OK to put his shoes in one of the dryers.  I don't work there, I explained, so I don't make the rules.  And, I told him, I didn't think the person in charge was anywhere in sight. 

So he put his shoes--more like sneakers, really--in one of the floor-level dryers.  And when it heated up, he propped his feet against the door.  "Can't get frostbite," he explained.

After I loaded one of the other dryers, I went around the corner for a cup of tea.  I offered to bring one back for him--or a hot chocolate, coffee, or whatever else he wanted.  "Oh, no thank you, Miss.  You're too kind."

When I returned to the laundromat, he and his bike were gone.

23 January 2011

Gyes Parkside: Product Review

I've been commuting on my Gyes "Parkside" saddle since September. 

I've been riding it on Marianela, my old Schwinn LeTour III.  The new saddle, oddly enough, didn't look out of place on a bike whose finish has more pits and pockmarks than some streets in this city.  Perhaps it had to do with the saddle's brown color, which goes nicely with the frame's orange hue.

Yes, it's an attractive saddle.  Now, the inevitable questions:  Does it ride as well as it looks?  And how is it holding up?

Well, I'll deal with the simpler question first:  The seat seems to be breaking in, not breaking down.  Being a sprung saddle, it doesn't take as much to break in.  But it also doesn't have to break in as much as an unsprung saddle would need to in order to be comfortable.  I say this as someone with Brooks B17 narrow saddles on two of her other bikes and a standard B17 on another.  

Of course, I'm not comparing those saddles to the Gyes Parkside.  However, I've had a Brooks B66, which is similar in dimensions and other design characteristics to my Gyes.  (I'm such a fast woman!)  As I recall it, the top is flat, as it is on the Gyes.  However, it seems that the way the top flares toward the end (or tapers toward the front, depending on your persepctive) is more gradual yet not as smooth on the Gyes.  Sometimes I have felt the edge of the top of the saddle.  Then again, I was wearing thin skirts and stockings when I felt the edge of the saddle rubbing against the inside of my thigh.  Back when I had the B66, I was living a different lifestyle and dressing differently for work, which was the destination of most of my rides on that seat as well as the Gyes.I should also add that I felt the rubbing after about two hours of riding:  near the end of my commute home.  And, perhaps I won't feel it anymore as the saddle breaks in more.

Perhaps the most significant difference between the ride of the Gyes and my memory of the B66's ride is that the Gyes seems a bit cushier.  I think the B66 had somewhat firmer springs than the Gyes saddle has.  If that's the case, and if I'm correct in recalling that the B66 has somewhat thicker leather, it may mean that a Gyes may not last  as long as the B66.  That is not to say, though, that the Gyes isn't a sturdy saddle.  If anything, the carriage rails and springs seem to be as robust as those on the B66, or other Brooks saddles.  And, if this matters to you, the Gyes rails are chromed steel, while current B66s and B67s (which are the same as B66s, except that they're made to fit modern seat posts with intergral clamps) have rails and springs that are painted black.  

On the whole, I give the Gyes Parkside two thumbs up.  It can be had for about a third less than the equivalent Brooks models.  That makes them a good value which will get even better if the Pound Sterling should recover some of its valule against the dollar.  

22 January 2011

Cross Tubular

Today was cold, but at least the air was calm.  But tomorrow the temperature will drop and winds will gust over 20 MPH; tomorrow night is supposed to be the coldest in six years.  And it won't be much warmer during the coming week.

It all means that the patches of ice on the street--not to mention the mounds of snow that stretch like soot-stained alabaster dunes between the streets and sidewalks--aren't going away any time soon.

I didn't ride today because I had a bunch of errands to do.  I might take a short ride tomorrow.  I'll probably take Marianela, just because I don't want to clean a lot of slop and salt out of my derailleur-equipped bikes.  And I just replaced the chain, chainring and cog on Tosca.  

But there's another good reason to ride Marianela:  She has the knobbiest tires.  A few weeks ago, I installed a pair of cyclo-cross tires on her.  Well, their manufacturer (Kenda) calls them cyclo-cross tires, but I rather doubt that anyone actually uses them for that purpose.  They're heavier than most cyclo-cross tires.  And, being much cheaper than most tires used in cyclo-cross racing, I have to wonder how long they'll last.  If they get me through this winter, I'll be happy, as I paid only nine dollars for each of them.    

So, while they're good for the money and the purpose for which I'm using them, they'll never be mistaken for what some regard as the finest cyclo-cross tubular ever made:

These are the Grifo Neve tires, which were made in Italy by Clement.  Back in the day, Clement tubulars were often regarded as the finest tires available.  The pros rode them, and they were often original equipment on Campagnolo Nuovo Record-equipped bicycles.

Like those tires, the Grifo Neves were made with silk casings.  Less expensive tubulars used cotton and, later, nylon casings.  

I used to ride tubulars, but not the Grifo Neves or any others that were intended for cyclo-cross.   I wonder what the ride might have been like.  Do any of you have experience with them?

20 January 2011

Taliah Lempert's Vintage Rollfast

I recently came across Taliah Lempert's website.  She is a Lower East Side artist who is known for her "bicycle paintings."  She's a cyclist herself, and she owns and rides a stable of bicycles that includes everything from a folding bike she rescued from the street to a nice Bob Jackson track bike.  (It's definitely not a "hipster fixie.")

Actually, I'd seen some of her paintings before.  But, until I found her website, I knew--as many other people know--her only as the "bicycle painter."  I don't mean that to dismiss or pigeonhole her:  I thought of her that way simply because, somehow, I managed not to know her name.  

I like her work because it actually manages to capture both the aesthetic pleasures as well as the dynamic beauty of bicycles.  That, I believe is a result of her deep love of bicycles and cycling.  

Among her paintings, I was most taken, oddly enough, by this one:

I say "oddly enough" because it's a bike I've never ridden.  In fact, I've pedaled astride a tandem exactly twice in my life.  Each time was pleasant enough.  But it's difficult to find good partners and situations for riding a tandem.  Plus, the care and feeding of one is difficult and expensive, not to mention that storing one in a one-bedroom apartment isn't easy.

So, living in New York, one doesn't see many tandems.  And one is even less likely to see the one in the painting, for it hasn't been made in at least thirty years.  That was about when I saw the only specimen I've ever seen of this particular tandem, which was made by Rollfast.

I saw a fair number of Rollfast bikes when I was a kid.  That's not surprising when you consider that I grew up in Brooklyn and New Jersey, and Rollfast was a locally-produced bike.  They were first made during the 1890's by the D.P. Harris hardware company, located just three blocks from the former site of the World Trade Center.

At that time, that part of Lower Manhattan--which includes, in addition to the former World Trade Center site, parts of what are now known as Tribeca, Soho and slices of what would become Chinatown-- was known more for grimy factories and musty warehouses than fashionable stores and trendy bars.    If you saw Tribeca or Soho today, you'd have trouble remembering that those were once gritty manufacturing districts. Fifty years ago--before much of the neighborhood was cleared out for construction of the World Trade Center-- there were factories that made everything from ladies' hats to construction machinery.   One out of every four books purchased in the United States was printed and bound in that part of town.  And, of course, Harris was making Rollfast bicycles --and later, parts, after Harris entered a partnership with the H.P. Snyder Company of Little Falls, NJ and Snyder took over the manufacture of the bikes.

Although Harris wasn't driven out by the World Trade Center, most of the other manufacturing companies were.   What seemed to cause Rollfast's decline--and retreat--was the ten-speed bike boom of the early 1970's.  All of Rollfast's bikes were heavy, and most of them  had balloon tires.   Plus, they were sold through department stores like Montgomery Ward and J.C. Penney, though often under those stores' private labels.  So, even if the quality of Rollfast was equal to that of, say, Schwinn--which, in fact, it wasn't--they never would have had the same cachet as Schwinns or other bikes sold by bicycle dealers.  But Rollfasts were sturdy and sometimes quite lovely.

Perhaps one day they will have the status of an old Schwinn, or possibly a Ross.  The latter brand will probably be the next "hot" vintage bike because they were well-made, if heavy, and because it's now all but impossible to get a vintage Schwinn at anything like a sane price.  Rollfast's  day will come, too, I believe.  

19 January 2011

With The Light Of This Day

Today the temperature went over 40F.  Yesterday it came close to that.  For the first time this year, we've had consecutive days on which the temperature rose above freezing. 

As a result, all of the ice and much of the snow that had accumulated since Christmas were gone.  So I rode to and from work for the first time this week.  It might be the last time, too, as the temperature is supposed to drop by twenty degrees tomorrow and we're supposed to get another snowstorm.

Last week, one of the office assistants asked how I rode to work.  I had to think fairly hard.  I actually have three or four distinct routes, and a couple of permutations of each one.  I don't think much about which way I'm going;  somehow I just know where to turn.  In a similar fashion, lots of passengers know, without seeing any signs or hearing any announcement, when the train is pulling into their station.  Sometimes the passengers don't even have to see the station, or anything around it.  

What guides them to disembark at the right stop?  Is it some sort of internal clock?  Or some other cue?

To tell you the truth, sometimes I'm just navigating by nothing more than light.  Somehow the glare of signals and the way in which the day's light fades--or grows brighter--is enough for me to know which way to go.  Sometimes.

17 January 2011

They're Coming Along For The Ride Now

I haven't made a habit of checking the statistics about my blogs.  But today I took a peek. 

It seems that during the past week, one of my early posts on this blog has been viewed more times than any of my other posts has been in the history of my blog.  In fact, that particular post is now the most-viewed in the history (such as it is) of this blog.

I wonder why they're all reading "Edvard Munch Comes Along For The Ride" now.

16 January 2011

Takin' It Slow In The Snow

When there's snow on the ground and ice on there road--the conditions we've had here since Christmas--you ride more slowly.  Of course, it makes sense, especially if you ride in the dark, as I sometimes do when I'm riding home from work.  There's nothing like hitting a patch of ice you didn't see when you're pedalling at 20 mph!

Even though I know it's sensible to ride more slowly in the conditions we've had, I don't make any effort to do so.  Somehow I just find myself pedaling, sometimes, as if the cold air were turning into molasses.  I wonder:  Does cold air slow us down?  Or is it the somnolence I often feel on winter days?  The latter makes some sense:  After all, most primates move more slowly--if, of course, they're not hibernating.  Does it have to do with the shorter days?

Or maybe it has to do with the fact that, about this time of year, I'm starting to lose whatever conditioning I built up during the summer and fall. 

Another good reason to cycle more slowly, I've discovered, is that brakes--rim brakes, anyway--seem to take longer to stop than they do in milder weather.  I wonder whether the cold surface of the rim has anything to do with it.  Or, perhaps, brake pads harden a bit in the cold.

From Cyclelicious

If my hypotheses are correct, do they also apply to disc brakes?  I've never owned a bike that had them, and I've ridden them only a couple of times, never in the cold.  But those of you who've ridden them--or all of you scientists and engineers:  What do you think?

I experienced the inverse of what I described the first time I cycled into the Alps. Just outside of Pontarlier, I had just crossed the border from France into Switzerland and, on a descent about a kilometer into Switzerland,  I got a flat.  When I pulled on my brake levers, it took more and more force to get the bike even to keep the bike from accelerating, let alone to slow it down or stop it.   Fortunately, the turns in the road weren't especially sharp and  only one car passed me from the time I pedaled out of Pontarlier.  So, I was able to stop the bike not far from the base of that descent.  

When I took off the wheel, my finger glanced off the side of the rim as if I'd touched a frying pan.  And my fingertip throbbed red for the rest of the day.  

I wonder what riding in winter there would've been like.

15 January 2011

Pro-Flex Reflection

Today I took a very short ride along the river to the Long Island City pier.  Along the way, I saw someone riding a bike I haven't seen in a long time.  

Back in the day,  a couple of my riding buddies had them.  I even knew a guy who raced on one.

If you were a National Off-Road Bicycle Association (NORBA) member in the early to mid 1990's, as I was, you knew someone who rode this bike if you weren't riding it yourself. This bike, the Pro Flex, was one of the first mass-marketed full-suspension mountain bikes.  

The first time I saw one of those frames, I thought that the rear was something Salvador Dali might've made if someone had stolen his palette and brushes and left an Erector set in their place. 

I never owned one, or any other full-suspension bike. However, I did have the chance to ride it.   I was not prepared for the springiness and cushiness of the ride, accustomed as I was to hardtail mountain bikes and very stiff road bikes.  In fact, I found the bike's bounciness disconcerting--like something I might expect of a pogo stick on wheels.  

I suppose that had I raced off-road, or simply become a more dedicated off-road rider, I would've appreciated the Pro-Flex or some other full-suspension bike.  But having such boingy ride was rather distrubing to me:  I felt that I had less control over the bike.  

Plus, I came to feel about this bike, and full-suspension bikes, the way I came to feel about carbon-fiber bikes: They're great if you're willing and able to replace them every couple of years.  (I was riding a lot, and hard, in those days.)  A year or so after I first saw those bikes, the suspension mechanisms broke on some of them.  Once, during a ride on a trail upstate, I saw a guy lash the ends of his frame together so he could ride his suspensionless suspension bike back out to wherever he parked his car.

Later versions used elastomers.  They were shaped sort of like miniature tires, and performed one of the functions of a tire:  shock absorption.  The problem was that, in time, the elastomers either hardened or they collapsed like deflated tires.  In either case, they no longer absorbed shock.  They were replaceable, but not easily.  Plus, they were a proprietary part.  Thus, anyone who still has one of those bikes would need to find replacements on eBay or, as "Citizen Rider" did, improvise new parts.

I'm guessing that ProFlex bikes have been out of production for at least a few years now.   That would account for their relative rarity these days.  Plus, performance-oriented mountain bikes simply don't last as long as good road bikes because they get more wear and tear.  I know that because I  wore out more chains and sprockets, and broke more parts, in my first two years of off-road riding than I did in twenty years of road riding.

It will be interesting to see whether this bike develops "cult" status and collectors start buying them.  That brings me to another parallel with carbon-fiber bikes:  They date themselves, which means that they don't grow old gracefully.  A quality lugged steel road frame will always look and feel right, whether it was made in 1930 or 1960, or just last year.  The same can't be said for a full-suspension bike from 1990.  That means, I believe, that neither the Pro-Flex nor any other full-suspension bikes will become "classics" in the way some iconic road bikes have.

14 January 2011

Midwinter Reverie

It just figures:   Right after a snowstorm, I'm surfing the web.  And but what to my wondering eyes should appear?

At one point in my life, I would've said that I wouldn't mind seeing those ladies.  Now, since I have become more honest--or, truth be told, since I've started to turn into one of those crotchety people who doesn't care what anyone else thinks--I will say that I want to be one of those ladies.  In my next life...

I found it interesting that both of them were using toe clips.  I, for one, like to use some sort of foot retention on all of my bikes, and for all kinds of riding.  Plus, having ridden with some European commuters and urban cyclists, I know that their cycling is no less "serious" or "intense" than that of sport cyclists.

Speaking of which...I find myself thinking about taking a new European bike trip.  I don't think I'll do it this year:  I want to be in better shape, physically and financially.  Plus, I don't want to go there merely to do rides (or other things)  I've done before or to pursue ghosts.  I simply want to enjoy the ride.

12 January 2011

Women on Ladies' Bikes--or Ladies on Women's Bikes?

Wouldn't you know it?  Today's "Lovely Bicycle" post shows three images of women on or with bicycles--specifically, transportation/commuter bikes.  Some of the comments that follow the post deal with the question of what a "ladies'"or "women's" bike is.   Some hate those terms; others, including Velouria, the blog's author, think that such terms denote distinctions that are more meaningful and useful than "unisex" or related terms.  Plus, "ladie's bike" or "women's bike" is simply shorter than the alternatives.

So...I read her post and the comments that followed.  Next thing you know, I'm seeing images of women on bikes everywhere I look--at least, everywhere in cyberspace.  Even though I was researching an entirely unrelated topic, I kept on finding images like this one:

Now there's a way to shake up the Miss America contest.  Instead of the swimsuit struts and talent charades, why not have the contestants ride "ladies'" bikes down the Atlantic City boardwalk.  Of course, the young women would have to wear dresses or skirt outfits.  I mean, wouldn't you rather  that your country was represented by someone who can pedal with grace and style instead of some other contestant who can only sing pale imitations of songs that were popular when your mother was born?

Somehow, though, I don't think Grace or Sally from Louis Malle's Atlantic City would ride a bike down the boardwalk. And even if they did, I don't think they'd convince very many other Americans to do the same.

11 January 2011

Before The Next Storm: Last Bike Standing

The week before Christmas, the bike rack was as full as it was in September.  Throughout this winter intercession, there have been two bikes--until today.  Then there was one:

Yes, that's Marianela.  She doesn't seem to mind the cold so much as being perched on a snowbank that's turned to ice.  She doesn't seem forlorn or lonely.  But I think she wouldn't mind a warm blanket and some hot cocoa.  There's noting like imputing one's own wishes to a bicycle, right?

Actually, if she had her own volition, she would've wanted to get home after seeing this:

That's the "It's gonna snow any  second" sky.  Light snow began to fall about five minutes before I got home.  If it snows as steadily and heavily as the forecasters expect, I probably won't be riding into work tomorrow. 

 Mine was the last bike standing today

10 January 2011

Fixed On Ice

After the winter storms we've had, there are patches of ice and encrusted snow on little-used sidewalks and streets.  Fortunately, I did not encounter any of them on my ride to work this morning.  I also didn't find any on my way home, except for some I found along the path in Flushing Meadow-Corona Park.

Sometimes I like to detour through the park, even though it adds to my commute, because the park is both nice and has a lot of resonance for me.  If you saw Men In Black, you'd recognize it as the site of the Unisphere, perhaps the most iconic structure of the 1964-65 World's Fair, which my family attended when I was a child.  

Going through the park also allows me to avoid the area around Main Street in Flushing, where I encounter the heaviest and most chaotic traffic to be found between my apartment and my job.

But at least those streets are kept clear.  Such is not the case for sections of the park, which sees few visitors on weekdays in the midst of winter.  

As you may know, I installed a fixed gear on Marianela last week.  There's a very fine art to riding one on a glazed street or path.   

Of course, you probably won't embark on a ride across a glacier on your fixie, if you're going to ride anything at all.  But when you come upon a frozen puddle in your path, the best thing to do is to keep your line and move ahead.  

As best as I can tell, the way to do that is simply to release all of the tension in your muscles, at least to the degree that you can.  A white-knuckled grip will only make you more likely to skid and fall; so will any sudden attempt to stop or any attempt to accelerate.  

The best way to pedal is to let your legs continue to spin at whatever pace you were riding before you saw the ice.  Not only shouldn't you try to accelerate; you also shouldn't try to dramatically slow down (or stop) your bike.  You just want to let your legs keep up their momentum.  

Any attempt to accelerate or to make a stop will land you on your side, or some place where it will hurt even more.  So, for that matter, will making a turn.  If there's an obstacle on the ice, you're better off trying to ride through than to turn or slow down for it.  

Ironically, I took a minor fall today, but not on ice.  I was about fifteen minutes from home tonight when I somehow jerked my handlebar when pushing down on my left pedal after the traffic signal turned green.  I flipped onto my side, spilling the contents of my baskets.  Fortunately, two very nice young Asian men saw me and helped me to get up and gather the stuff that spilled.    They really must respect their elders in their culture!

09 January 2011

Bonhomme de Neige, Au Velo

If you've ever wondered what I looked like when I was riding my bike during the winter, back in the day, take a look:

Feom:  "A Short Introduction To Cycling

OK.  So I didn't have as much of a sense of style as he does.  But what do you expect?  He's in France!

When I was a messenger, I did a fair amount of cycling in in snow and sleet.  Once, I had to make a delivery on a street that was a solid sheet of ice.  If I remember correctly, I was riding a three-speed bike with knobby tires.  Somehow I managed to ride, without falling, to my destination.  The man who signed for it gave me a tip and shook my hand.  From the expression on his face, I couldn't tell whether he truly appreciated my efforts, admired my endurance or was covertly ridiculing my stupidity.

Then there was the morning I cycled to work and it was 8 degrees below zero (Farenheit, that is).  At least it was dry and the sky was clear.  Plus, the fact that I was keeping a pretty good pace (Or was it the, ahem, substances I used to, ahem, fortify myself?) kept me from feeling the cold even more than I might have otherwise.  In fact, I felt colder while I was working:  It may actually have been colder in the automotive radiator shop where I did, basically, whatever found me.  I guess that was part of the responsibility that came with making 75 cents more, per hour, than the minimum wage at that time--and I was still in college!

Now, wouldn't you get up in the morning and ride half an hour in minus-8 for that?   The guy in the photo does it for less!

08 January 2011

Decided: Crankset

I bought a Sugino Alpina for Arielle.  To tell you the truth, I knew I would.  I'd thought about getting a Velo Orange Grand Cru fluted double crankset.  But, even though I like some "retro" stuff, I don't do "retro" for retro's sake.  And that's what I feel the Grand Cru crankset is.  

But most important, with the Sugino, I know what I'm getting.  I've ridden several of their cranksets before, and they have always been good, functional items that were good values.   And the Alpina is definitely one of the prettier cranksets I've seen.

Now, I have some Velo Orange accessories on my bikes.  But I haven't used one of their major components yet.  (They offer brakes, among other things.)  If the crank were defective in some way, I'm sure they'd take it back.  

The difference in price between them is not great and therefore would not have been a factor in my purchase.  VO is selling the Alpina for $175 and their own crank for $190.  When I admitted to myself that I was leaning toward the Alpina, I found it for $150 at Ben's Cycle and Fitness Center of Milwaukee.  They sell on eBay as well as on their own website and in their store, and I've bought a few things--mainly track cogs and other track-related parts--from them previously.  

On top of the good price, I got free shipping via UPS.  

I think Arielle and I are going to be happy with the Alpina.

07 January 2011

PC Bikes, Florida

Last week, while spending the holidays with my parents (and riding their neighbor's beach cruiser), I stopped in the local bike shop, PC Bikes of Palm Coast.

It's a small shop, but Jeff (l) and Jake (r), pictured below, are friendly and helpful.

They sell road, mountain and comfort bikes from Trek, Gary Fisher and Giant.  They also have, as one might expect in a Florida shop, a couple of adult tricycles.  But what I found most intriguing were the locally-designed Sun bikes, which I had never seen before.

This model seems like a cross between a mixte and a baloon-tired utility bike like the current Worksman or some of the old Schwinns.  I rather like the way the rear rack seems to be a continuation of the tube that intersects the top and down tubes.  

I really liked the looks of this one, though:

Although I didn't measure it, I am almost entirely sure that it has one of the longest wheelbases I've seen on a single bike.  What that means is an ultra-stable, even cushy ride, which Jake cited as one of the goals in design .  Part of what gives this bike such a long wheelbase is a feature I don't recall having seen before:

This is probably the first bike I've ever seen in which the frame's seat tube doesn't end in the bottom bracket shell.  I don't think I've ever seen another bike, save for a recumbent,  on which the pedals were so far forward from the seat.  And, with the exception a tandem I saw once, I don't think I've ever seen another  bike with a rear wheel that was set as far back from the cranks and pedals as this one is.  

Just what I need for cruising down the boardwalk at Daytona Beach!

05 January 2011

We Made It!

Lately my wireless connection has been misbehaving.  That's why I've posted only once this year before tonight.

At least I rode to work yesterday.  I'm teaching a winter intercession course at my "second" college.  They offered me a course before my main job offered me one, and I couldn't have taught both.  Plus, this course is an elective called Readings In Prose Fiction.  Basically, I can assign anything I want in it.  The other course I was offered was a required course in writing research papers.

The college at which I'm teaching is the one that had the full bike rack almost any time I rode in.  It's also the one where I saw a Pinarello parked in the rack.  That bike wasn't there yesterday.  In fact, I was a bit surprised to see any other bike at all.  Although the temperature reached the 40's (5-8 degrees Celsius), there were still piles of snow and ice around the edges of the parking lot, and at the bike rack.

Even if we weren't blessed with the remnants of last week's storm, there wouldn't be very many more bikes parked on campus.  The campus feels like a ghost town, at least in comparison with the regular semester.  To be fair, that's the case in most schools:  Fewer courses are offered, and fewer students attend.  As I understand, financial aid isn't available for students during the winter session.

Anyway, it's nice to be able to park my bike without having to maneuver others.  On the other, I miss the crowded bike rack:  It's nice to know that there are so many cyclists in the college.  Plus, the prof with whom I'd been riding home toward the end of the semester isn't teaching during the intersession. Sometimes I like riding home alone, probably because I interact with people on my job.  But I was enjoying the company of that other prof.  She and her husband had recently begun to take some longer rides on weekends, she told me.  

Somehow I imagine that she'd be riding in if she were teaching.  After all, she cycled through the coldest weather we had at the end of the semester--in a skirt.  So I know I wasn't the only crazy one in the college!  She has nicer legs, though. ;-)

Mine got me to work, which was about an hour and fifteen minutes from my apartment.  One other person at the college could say the same thing.