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: