31 May 2012

Food Choices While Cycling

Starting a ride in the middle of the afternoon when you haven't had anything to eat can get you hungry very. very quickly.  All sorts of things start to look interesting and appealing.

And some things start to seem almost surreal:

A Halal Gourmet Hamburger?  Not so long ago, it never would have occurred to me to use the words "gourmet" and "hamburger" together.  And, while the idea of a Halal hamburger seemed plausible to me as soon as I knew what "Halal" meant, I'm not so sure I'd be thinking about hamburgers if I were thinking about eating Halal.  

Still, I just might go back and try it.  I wouldn't be surprised if it were good--whether or not I were riding my bike after not eating anything.

30 May 2012

Not A Hipster Fixie

I know that I've ranted and railed against "hipster fixies," espcially their garish color schemes (if, indeed, they can be called "schemes).  However, I rather liked this bike, which I saw on my way to work today:

For one thing, it cannot be properly considered a "hipster fixie."  It is indeed a fixie, but its frame is from a department-store mountain bike.  Plus, the bike is used for  restaurant deliveries.  Finally, the man who rides it is anything but a hipster:  He's a Salvadorean immigrant who was happy that I took the photo. 

I complimented the color scheme--which he did himself:  al frente, la rueda roja con la llanta amarilla; y, a trasera, al reves.  He complimented my Spanish, which makes him a truly nice man. (Really!)

Just for the sake of contrast, I propped Vera in the same spot after he left with the non-hipster fixie:

29 May 2012

Bicycles Are For The Summer

Mention "bicycle movies" or "movies with bicycles" and the first ones that come to most people's minds are Ladri di Biciclette (usually translated as The Bicycle Thief, but is literally Bicycle Thieves) and Breaking AwayBoth, I think, deserve their reputations, although BA is a bit more of a "feel-good" film than LdB.  

I've seen both more than once.   Seeing either one reminds me of what Robert Graves said about Shakespeare:  In spite of all the people who say he's very good, he really is very good.  

Anyway, there's a lesser-known (at least here in the US) bicycle film that I'd like to see again. Las Bicicletas Son Para El Verano (Bicycles Are For The Summer), released in 1985, was directed by Jaime Chavarri and based an eponymous play written by Fernando Fernan Gomez.  I have not seen the play, but it was well-reviewed.  I imagine it deserved those reviews if the film is in any way true to it.

The play and movie take place during the Spanish Civil War.  Luisito, the son of upper-middle-class Madrilenos Don Luis and Dona Dolores (Sorry, my keyboard doesn't have accent marks or tildes!)  wants a new bicycle, in spite of having failed his exams.  However, the war forces his parents to delay the purchase of his bicycle and that delay, like the war itself, drags on longer than any of them expected. 

More than anything, it's a story of survival and adaptation.  In that sense, it has more in common with LdB than with BA, although the dreams and hopes of one of the characters are as central to it as they are in BA.  I'll try not to give too much away in saying that, in time, Luisito has to abandon not only his hope of getting a bicycle, but his education and his dreams of becoming a writer, much as his father did.  Meanwhile, Luisito's sister Manolita has to abandon her dreams of becoming an actress after having a baby with a soldier who dies.  

Also, the story reveals class resentments between the family and their neighbors and friends but how, ultimately, they have to rely on each other in order to survive the privations of the war and the subsequent Franco regime.

Those of you who are fans of Pedro Almodovar will be interested in this film because it features one of the early appearances of an actress who would later star in several of his films:  Victoria Abril.

I don't know when I'll get to see the play.  But I'm sure there's a DVD of the film to be had somewhere.  The first chance I get, I'll watch it.

28 May 2012

The Joy Of A Staycation: Biking In The City

I like to take a "big" trip every now and again.  But Memorial Day weekend is one of those times I'd prefer not to.  The weather has been warm and sticky; it rained on and off on Friday and Saturday.  But one of the great things about being in New York on a weekend like this one can be seen here:

This is the view down Washington Street, near the entrance to the Holland Tunnel.  I was on a bike, and I had it all to myself.  

Ironically, the most congested part of Manhattan may well have been the Greenway along the Hudson River, only a block away.  Tourists always flock to the Intrepid, which is about two miles up the Greenway, for this holiday.  And, it seems that everyone who isn't going there renting a bike, or stopping to sprawl themselves across the Greenway to take photos.

Here is another view from Spring Street:

After my ride, I went to the barbeque my fiend Millie has every year.  I more than made up for all of the calories I burned on my ride!

27 May 2012

500 Posts, And A Bike That Will Not Help Your Resume

This blog has been in existence for almost two years.  And this is the 500th post on it.  

To celebrate, I'm posting a picture of a bike that "will not help your resume":

26 May 2012

The Cannibal And The Statue

Do you want to see a sign of a real hard-core racing bike?

I could barely fit a business card between the brake bridge and tire--which is a 700X25C.  Yes, that bike isn't meant to take anything more than 700X23.

The bike is an Eddy Mercx road frame from 1994, built as a single-speed with only a front brake.  It owner, who came to unlock it as I was about to snap a picture of the whole bike, says, "It rides as great as ever."  I'm sure it does:  Well-made European lugged frames constructed from Reynolds, Columbus, Excelle, Falk or Durifort tubing tend to ride well forever as long as you don't crash them.

One interesting thing about the Mercx bicycles is that if you removed their decals and paint jobs, they'd be indistinguishable (to most people, anyway) from the classic Italian frames of the day,  They even had Italian threads.  But they were made in Belgium, the home country of "The Cannibal"--whom I still believe to be the greatest bicycle racer of all time.

Not far from the bike in question was the Statue of Liberty

  It's in front of the Loews Building on East 61st Street, just down the block from the Hotel Pierre.  This is one of the "drafts," if you will, of the more famous (and much larger) version that looms over the harbor.  

I wonder whether someone has told some tourist that it is indeed that Statue of Liberty, and said tourists went home believing that they indeed saw the "original."

25 May 2012

Detroit: The Next Portland--Or Amsterdam?

Henry Ford with his bicycle in the early 1890's. 

David Byrne has said that one of the most memorable bike rides he ever took was in Detroit.  He described the backdrop to his Motor City randonnee as a "postapocalyptic landscape at its finest" and rates that trip with his spin along the Bosprous and Sea of Mamara in Istanbul.

Somehow I'm not surprised that he was so taken with the devastation of Detroit.  He is, after all, David Byrne.  But, if you've been following this blog, you know that some of my favorite rides here in New York take me through industrial areas of the Bronx, Brooklyn and Long Island City, which are so free of traffic on weekends that they're weirdly bucolic.  I feel the same way about the Wall Street area; the only problem with it is that there isn't nearly as much of it as there are of those old industrial areas.

The thing about Detroit is that he's not the only one who thinks it's an excellent cycling city.  Many riders, who live within the city limits as well as in the suburbs, appreciate the fact that the city is flat, save for the area around Dorais Park. They also like the extensive networks of paths and greenways that line the Detroit River, which separates the city from Windsor, Ontario in Canada. ("Detroit" means "strait" in French.)  In fact, some people cross the border to ride in the home of the Big Three.  

Interestingly (and, I'm sure for the people involved, exasperatingly), there is no way to cycle between Detroit and Windsor.  In fact, the buses from Windsor will allow bicycles only if they're disassembled and in a box or bag.    Even then, the driver has the authority to deny access if he or she feels the bus is too crowded.  On the other hand, there is work on developing a water taxi between the two cities, and it's believed that bicycles will be allowed on them.

Another interesting aspect to Motor City Cycling is that it has a velodrome--in Dorais Park.  If you know about the city's history, it may not be such a surprise:  After all, it was a center for bicycle manufacturing and riding before the auto industry developed.  (In fact, Henry Ford and others associated with the auto industry began as bicycle makers and mechanics.) Even after Chevys and Fords started rolling off the assembly lines, Detroit kept the flame of bicycle racing alive during the Dark Ages (at least for American racing) that followed World War II.

But, in another layer of irony, the Dorais Park Velodrome doesn't go that far back.  In fact, construction on it began during the riots of 1967, and it opened on the day Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon in 1969.  It lay unused and all but abandoned until it was discovered by suburban cyclists who were using the hill for training.

I am not an urban planner or an expert on Detroit.  But I, like almost everyone else in the USA, have some ideas about what Detroit's future could be like.  Denizens of Pittsburgh realized that the steel industry would never be as significant as it was until the 1970's.  So, they took advantage of the fact that the city had some first-class academic institutions like the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie-Mellon, and turned the erstwhile Steel City into a center for biomedical research and technology, much as Boston did earlier.  

Detroit doesn't have the sort of academic institutions that Boston and Pittsburgh have.  But what a lot of people don't realize is that not very far from Detroit are vast stretches of farms.  Michigan has always been a leading agricultural state; perhaps Detroit could become a center of agronomy and other "green"technology.

But even more important (for the purposes of this blog, anyway), the city might be able to take advantage of the shrinkage even its Mayor, David Bing, has advocated.  A more compact Detroit could be ideal for the development of a cycling infrastructure.  Perhaps, in a smaller city, the residential and business areas would be closer together, which would make bicycle commuting--and cycling in general--more feasible and enjoyable for more people.  

Who knows?  Perhaps Detroit could be the next Portland--or Amsterdam.

24 May 2012

Jerry's Bike

I wasn't a devotee of the Seinfeld show.  Then again, I don't think I've ever been a devotee of any TV show in a very long time.

However, I will admit that I saw a few episodes of Seinfeld during its original run.  One thing I remember is that he always had a bicycle--which neither he nor anyone else seemed to ride--hanging in his apartment.

I was reminded of it when I saw this bike:

As I recall, the bike in Seinfeld's apartment was a Klein mountain bike--in a really scary fluorescent green that makes the bike in the photo seem restrained.  Actually, this bike is probably the most understated Klein mountain bike I've ever seen.

Although they weren't my cup of tea, some Klein road bikes, like this one,  weren't bad-looking:

In the mid-1970's, Klein was one of the first builders to make bicycle frames from oversized aluminum tubing.  Trek took them over around the time Seinfeld's show began its run.  It seems that Trek made Kleins until about five years ago.  Since then, I haven't seen any new Kleins--or, for whatever reasons, the shops I frequent aren't selling them.

23 May 2012

Did You Catch That? Do You Wish You Hadn't?

When I was writing for a newspaper, we referred to some days as "slow news days."  That's when we'd publish stories about the spouse of someone who was elected president in some country none of our readers had ever heard of.  Or, for fun, we might put in a story about a duck crossing at the foot of a skyscraper.  You get the idea.

It was common knowledge that Wednesday was usually the slowest news day.

Now, what I write about in this blog isn't always news.  So what do I call a day like this.  "Slow blog day" doesn't sound quite right.

In any event, I'm going to take this post to present something that might make you chuckle or groan, or both, and is utterly inconsequential.  Here goes:  Along my ride to Point Lookout on Saturday, I came across a restaurant in Long Beach that has, possibly, the worst name in the world--in the English-speaking world,anyway:

Fear not:  There are better posts coming!

22 May 2012

A Small But Guilty Pleasure

As I've mentioned in other posts, I don't mind riding in the rain, as long as it isn't cold.  What I like even more, though, is something I've described as "playing chicken with the rain."

So it probably wouldn't surprise you to hear that one of my "guilty pleasures" as a cyclist is starting a ride just as the rain ends and arriving at my destination, or simply ending my ride, just as the rain begins. 

That is exactly what I managed to do today.  Of course, only leaving just as the rain ended, albeit temporarily, was intentional on my part.  Arriving at work just as the rain started again was merely a consequence of crossed fingers (or, what we called "birth control" in my teen years.  Don't ask!)  

Anyway, it's always nice to start the work day feeling as if I'd won, or at least gotten away with something.  Tonight I'll see whether I can do the same going home.

21 May 2012

Rainy Day Non-Riding Blues

You know it's May, and you know you're a cyclist, when it feels strange not to have ridden to work.

That is how I felt today.  When I went to out this morning, what fell wasn't just the mere pitter-patter of a morning shower or a tingly, misty drizzle.  Rather, the rain fell so heavily I could barely see out my window.

The weather alone might not have dissuaded me from riding to work.  However, I had two far-flung appointments more than ten miles from each other, and each was more than fifteen miles from work.  Perhaps cycling to them would have  been a character-building experience, had I been younger.  But I wasn't thinking much about building character today.

As I rode the train and bus, I felt a little guilty--and, paradoxically, cheated--over not riding today.  I guess I'm greedy:  We had gorgeous weather this weekend and, of course, I did two longish rides.  So I wanted to continue the "high" I got from those rides.  

I  got to work and found only two bikes parked in the racks. One looked as if it had been there long before today.  Its owner could at least have given it the treatment it deserves:

20 May 2012

How Did They Arrive?

Whenever I ride to a seashore, I can't help but to imagine who might have landed there first.  I always think about, not only who they might have been, but how they got there.

I also can't help but to wonder what they found

and what they left behind.

Also, I want to know how they left.  If they were forced out, did they leave on their own vessels?

And: Will they return?

19 May 2012


During the halfway point of a ride on Arielle today, I got a glimpse of what Mercian meant wnen they called the finish on my bikes "flip-flop.:

Here's another shot of the bike becoming a chameleon:

I can't help but to think the sea and reeds had something to do with the light bringing out the green in the finish.

18 May 2012

You Never Know What You'll Find Or When It Will Come In Handy

Today was beautiful.  But it was still hard to believe that summer is--officially, at any rate--just a month a way.  

It was pretty brisk when I started to ride down toward Coney Island.  But it warmed up fairly quickly as I pedaled through Long Island City and across the bridge into Brooklyn.  I could even feel the sun warming my face in the cool breeze as my wheels spun--without any effort on my part, it seemed--by the East River on the Kent Avenue bike lane.  

The air felt positively summery as I passed the Botanical Gardens and crossed Empire Boulevard--near the site of the former Ebbets Field--into Flatbush.  In fact, I was starting to wish I'd brought one of my water bottles with me.  Of course, riding through Brooklyn isn't the same as riding through the Mojave Desert: After all, there are plenty of delis and bodegas where one can get something to drink. 

Still, I kept on riding.   I felt as if I were actually going to ride straight into summer until I crossed under the Belt Parkway overpass.  As soon as I emerged from its shadow, the sun seemed even brighter.  But it also seemed about twenty degrees cooler--as if I'd pedaled from July back into April.  That's because I was by Sheepshead Bay.  The ocean lay not much more than a kilometer away.  

That's one of the differences between a spring and, say, a fall ride around here.  While the air temperature rose to about 75F (24C), the ocean temperature has yet to reach 60F (15C).   The differences between inland and shore temperatures were even more pronounced a few weeks ago, but they were still noticeable today.

As it happened, I'd left something in Arielle's bag that came in handy:

It's an old Sugoi jacket with a light lining:  One of the last pieces of cycling apparel I have from the days when I was the "before" photo, if you know what I mean!

17 May 2012

Velouria Captures A Working Girl

About two weeks ago, "Velouria" of Lovely Bicycle! fame came to town for the New Amsterdam Bike Show.  She stayed at my (very) humble abode.  Between all of our commitments and appointments, she still managed to photograph me and my bikes.  And, oh, yeah, we got a ride in together.

One shot actually is a pretty fair representation of me going to work on a brisk day.  

I was thinking of that day's "shoot" as I pedaled to work today.  As it was a good bit warmer, I wasn't wearing that jacket.  Also, since I didn't have any meetings, I was dressed a little more casually:  a light blue cotton skirt, flats, a tank top and a three-quarter-sleeve cardigan.  But, yes, I was riding Vera, exactly as you see her in that photo.

You can find that photo, and others, on her Flickr stream. I'm thinking of using at least one or two of them in the banner of this blog.

16 May 2012

The Ride Ends With A Light Show

I've long felt that one of the nicest ways to end a long bike ride is with a boat ride.  That's one of the reasons I pedal across the George Washington Bridge, and down the Jersey Palisades, Jersey City and Bayonne to Staten Island, where I hop on the ferry.

When I first started to ride, I was cursing myself for not getting on my bike until well into the afternoon.  But the weather had turned from briskly to pleasantly cool, and rays of sunshine were peeking through clouds that blanketed the sky but didn't really threaten rain.  The last few miles of my bike ride, and the one on the ferry, turned into a light show:

15 May 2012

What The Doctor Prescribed

If you're younger than I am, you may not have heard of him. But he may be, at least indirectly, one of the reasons you're on your bike now.

Dr. Paul Dudley White became President Dwight D. Eisenhower's personal physician after the Commander-In-Chief suffered a heart attack late in his first term.  At that time, few American adults rode bicycles, and the economy and landscape of the Unites States were increasingly shaped by the automobile.  

Today medical authorities cite Dr. White as the founder of preventative cardiology.  As a young doctor, he co-authored, along with Dr. Roger I. Lee, his first scientific paper.  It was about the coagulation of blood. Drs. White and Lee would develop a method, still in use today, for calculating the speed of blood coagulation.  Their studies in this area were very important in helping to understand the causes of heart disease.

He identified, or helped to identify, various heart and heartbeat irregularities for which doctors routinely test today.  Another result of his work was his establishing links between lifestyle and heart health.  At a time when part of the "American Dream" meant becoming more sedentary, he encouraged people to exercise; as convenience and "junk" foods were becoming more widely available, he promoted diets based mainly on lean meat, fruits and vegetables and whole grains.

Dr. White was also instrumental in having some of the first bike lanes built in American cities since the turn of the 20th Century.  Here he is, riding with Chicago's then-Mayor Richard Daley at the opening of that city's first lane:


13 May 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

To all of you who are mothers--and those of you who love yours, or someone who was one to you--Happy Mother's Day.

My mom is great. But she hates being photographed, and I've been able to take the few photos I have of her only by swearing I would never share them.  Since I do believe in honoring my mother and father (which is not always the same as obeying them), you will not see her photo on my blogs.  However, I'll give you the next best thing--to me, anyway. Here's a photo of a mom riding with her kid in tow:

From Public

12 May 2012


It must have had to do with the fact that today was an absolutely perfect mid-spring day.  Somehow I was feeling proud, if not invincible, the way I did when I rode in my youth.  Of course, I can't ride as far or long or fast as I did in those days, but I was feeling pretty good and rather proud of myself.  Perhaps it had something to do with seeing this

He just knew he looked good against that bridge and sky.  Of course, it wasn't enough for him to make me notice that.

That bird simply knew the bridges spanned a river, but his wings spanned so much more.  Well, that's what he seemed to believe, anyway.

Who am I to argue?

11 May 2012

Taming The Bicycle

From High Wheel Bicycle

On my bicycle, I've raced, toured, commuted and delivered pizzas, books, payroll checks, blueprints, contracts, machine parts and a few packages with "don't ask don't tell" policies, if you know what I mean.

I've thumped along potholed city streets, rumbled down rocky hills, rolled along county roads and routes departmantles past fields, castles, cathedrals and through forests and villages. I've woven my way through pacelines and drafted riders I would pass and others who would ride in races, and in places, I have never seen.   I've cycled over ice and through fire.  (I'm not making that up!)  I've ridden alone, with friends, with lovers and after breakups.  And I've pedalled away from a person or two.

On the other hand, I've never done BMX, bicycle polo or paintball on bicycles.  And I've never ridden a high-wheeler, although I sometimes think I'd like to.  After all, my cycling ancestors did so.  They include Auguste Rodin, H.G. Wells and Mark Twain, who wrote an incomparable account of the experience.  

He tamed his bike the way he tamed just about everything else: with his wit and irony.  Really, I don't see how a cyclist can not develop at least a little bit of either quality.  

10 May 2012

Rene Herse Demountable

Imagine getting started in cycling (or just about anything else) without the Internet.

Well, if you're of my generation, you don't have to remember.  You relied on books and magazines--and your local club (if you had one) and bike shop.

I was reminded of this when I came across a page that archives some old articles from Bicycling magazine. 

I thought about the bikes I learned about--and, in most cases, never actually saw--while reading the magazine.  Their names alone were journeys into places I had yet to visit and times I would never see.   I mean, when you thought the choices in bikes were among three-speeds, Columbias, Murrays and Schwinns, names like Hetchins, Routens, Jack Taylor, De Rosa, Alex Singer, Mercian, Pogliaghi and Rene Herse seem other-worldly.

And, of course, there was no way I could have afforded those bikes.  All I could do was to save those copies of Bicycling and read about them--and look at the photos.

From Laek House

To this day, I haven't seen some of those bikes.  One I'd really love to encounter is the Rene Herse Demountable.  

Yes, it's a folding bike.  The mechanisms used to collapse were found on the down tube 


and the top tube

 Note the placement of the shift levers!

The Bicycling article makes folding the bike seem easy.  I wonder just how easy it--or, for that matter, transporting it--actually was.  If nothing else, I'm sure it was a better ride than just about any other folding bike ever made.

The demontable I'd really like to see is this women's model.

Super-rare Rene Herse women's Demountable.  Photo from Bikeville.

I can only imagine what some Japanese collector would pay for it.

09 May 2012

The Original Bike Luggage?

I was looking through some of the photos I took at the New Amsterdam Bike Show.  One of them got me to reminiscing.

Brooklyn Cruiser bicycle

There was a time in my life when milk crates served as furniture, storage units, shelving--and bicycle luggage.

Milk crates have been attached to rear racks with zip ties, hose clamps, rope, bungee cords and old inner tubes.  When I had a milk crate on my town/commuter bike, more years ago than I'll admit, I attached it with toe straps.

You can even use a milk crate to turn your bike into a tandem.  Why didn't I think of that?

Whenever I see of milk crates, I think of Lego blocks.  They are structured, and fit together, in much the same way,and come in the same colors.  They are fun--and practical.

Remember:  Milk crates are your friends!

08 May 2012

Following The Scent In The Light Of Another Season

Assisi, Italy.  By Aaron Huey, in The National Geographic, July/August 2007

The past couple of days have been a bit chillier and wetter than what is normal for this time of year.  Or, perhaps, it just seems that way because of the mild, dry winter and April we had this year.

Somehow, at least for me, the unusual weather conditions left me feeling as if Spring hadn't arrived. Perhaps I am one of those creatures who doesn't respond so much to the season itself as to the change from the previous season.  I barely noticed that change from February to March to April.

However, the chilly, damp weather of the past few days left me feeling, ironically enough, that Spring had finally arrived.  I first noticed it one day last week, when I rode to work.  The rain had just passed; it washed the air with the scent of blooming flowers and reflected a subdued yet forgiving light of a dissipating cloud cover.

I could have followed that scent, in that light, all day.  But that day's ride had to end at work. But, at least, the sky had cleared and I pedaled home in the moonlight.