31 October 2012

Ghoulish Gear (And Girl)

You really can find anything on the Internet these days!

I mean, I just found a page of "Halloween Bicycles."

The image I posted last week from Park Avenue Bike's announcement of its Halloween Cyclo-Cross race is on that page. Here's an image from another ride announcement:

Somehow it seems appropriate for a Vancouver Critical Mass ride, doesn't it?

Now, here's the way I'm going to a Halloween ride:

From Riding Pretty

I really want someone to say, "Justine, I never knew you had that side to you!"

Of course, if I'm going to dress myself for the occasion, I have to do the same for my bike:

From Ciel Bicycles

30 October 2012

The Return Of The Fade?

The other day, while making preparations for the storm that's raining down on us, I spotted this:

Of course, it's not the kind of bike I'll ever ride.  And it's certainly not the sort of paint job I'd ever get on one of my bikes.  However, I think it's not bad:  The yellow main tubes and seat stay "fade" into a maroonish red on the chainstay, rear dropouts and front fork.  The seat and handgrips more or less match the maroon paint.

Could this be a signal that "fade" finishes are coming back?  This one isn't so bad.  If more had been like this, "fades" would not have their awful reputation and association with the '90's they now have.  

29 October 2012

A Whirlwind Of Bike Modifications During A Storm

So...what am I doing to weather Hurricane/Tropical Storm Sandy?  Bike stuff, of course.

I started with Arielle.  The Dia Compe Silver Shifters are pretty, but they haven't worked out very well.  I've had to replace the nylon washers three times because to keep the levers from slipping (and giving you an unwanted shift), I've had to tighten them really hard.  

I think the action on them is smooth.  As they are patterned after the Sun Tour Micro shifter, I though I could find a pair.  I could...for about $200 on eBay.   So, I went for a Dura Ace downtube shifter, which can be switched from indexing (click-shift) to friction (traditional) mode.

They're not quite as pretty as the Silvers, but they aren't bad, I'd say.  Plus, it's part of the same Dura Ace gruppo as my derailleurs.

I also plan on changing the levers on Helene.  Right now, I have Silver shifters mounted to Velo Orange handlebar pods.  The shifters were originally mounted on the downtube, and I decided to try them on the bars.  Since I ride the bars tilted downward, it's really not much of a reach to the downtube.  Plus, each shifter will need about a foot less of cable and housing than it would need on the handlebar, which will result in a quicker, smoother shift.

I'll probably make the same change to Vera. However, she had a more urgent problem, to which I attended:  Her rear rack was falling apart.  It broke at two of the welds.  Old bike mechanics' wisdom says that if a spoke has broken on your wheel, others will break soon.  I applied that sage advice to my rack, and replaced it.

I got a good buy on a Civia Mission rack.  I tried installing it on Helene, with the idea that I would transfer her Blackburn rack to Vera.  But I didn't like the way the Mission fit on Helene.  The Blackburn fits perfectly, and I didn't want to readjust it for Helene.

As it turned out, the Mission fight nicely on Vera.

Helene's rack mounts are higher on her seat stays than Vera's are on hers.  If I recall correctly, when I ordered Helene's frame, I told the folks at Mercian that I intended to use a Blackburn rack, mainly because I've been using them for about 30 years.  

Anyway, I rather like the way the Mission looks on Vera.  It'll be interesting to see how it holds up under daily use.

So far, it looks like only Tosca and the Trek will be spared this whirlwind of bike modification!

28 October 2012

Preparing For Sandy

So...The National Weather Service says we're about to get hit with the "storm of the century."  

To be fair, the NWS says Hurricane/Tropical Storm Sandy is doing things no other storm has done. Still, after the dire warnings we got about Hurricane Irene last year, I, like many other New Yorkers, are skeptical.

Still, I'm getting ready.   You know. flashlights, non-perishable foods...and my allen keys.  And screwdrivers.  And cable tensioners and cutters.  And, yes, chocolate!

Then, after I finish working on my bikes, I'll read some papers.  I've got time:   The college will be closed tomorrow!

27 October 2012

Freak Bikes

With Halloween only a few days away, I thought it might be fun to look at some "freak bikes".

Turns out, there's a page filled with images of them.

This bike caught my eye.  It was posted on Bike Thing.  The blog's author, Tyler Stickley, says, "You suck at Photoshop when you make a monstrosity like this."

The ovalized wheel alone is enough to make this the Thalidomide Baby of bicycles.  

But I wonder:  Who is pedals what on this bike?  And how does one rider's shift affect another rider's ride?

At least we know only one person can ride--and pedal--this thing:

From Yabai Bicycle Club's blog.

I can just see a member of the NYPD's Bike Patrol riding this--in 1888 or thereabouts!  Said officer might have been chasing this guy:

From Tree Hugger.

26 October 2012

The Trek Changes Its Status, But Remains A Single

I've made a change to the Trek 560 I recently built.

As you may recall from earlier posts, I'd equipped the bike with a Velosteel rear coaster brake hub.  Well, I swapped it for a single speed rear hub.


I might use the Velosteel hub on another bike, perhaps an old mixte or mountain bike.  I hadn't quite gotten used to its idiosyncrasies   They include the "dead" pedal stroke of half a pedal revolution I experienced when I started pedaling again after braking and that when I backpedaled, it seemed that the hub had to find its "sweet spot" before the brake engaged.  (Other coaster brakes I've ridden would stop the bike as soon as I backpedaled.)  I suppose that if I rode the hub more (I put about 200 miles on it.) I'd get used to it.

But even if I were to grow accustomed to, and like, riding with the hub, I don't think I would have wanted to keep it on the Trek--assuming, of course, I decide to keep the Trek. It's a good bike, but a little bit too large for me.  Plus, for a winter/beater bike, I think I'd rather have something that can accept wider tires.

One thing you might have noticed is that some of the spokes are silver and some are black.

I didn't plan it that way:  It just happened that I had 28 silver and 12 black spokes in the length I needed, and the wheel needed 36 spokes. I used all of the black spokes and 24 of the silver ones.  So, every third spoke is black.

Somehow I think that might actually be a selling point!

25 October 2012

Autumn Morning Commute

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I teach.  

One thing I like about my morning commute is that it offers me some time in solitude and reflection.  Perhaps that seems paradoxical, as the ride is focused on getting to a particular place by a particular time for the purpose of working with and for other people.  

But I am fortunate in that, at least for now, I can avoid the morning rush hour.  I leave a bit later than most people and have a couple of routes that take me away from heavily-trafficked thoroughfares.  And at this time of year, the weather is neither too hot not too cold for my liking.  Plus, pedalling seems to open up my senses so that, for a moment, one of the many millions of trees that are changing,or have changed. color and the park benches on either side of it seem like the most beautiful things.

I'm not getting rich, or anything like it.  But, at least, I don't have to contend with the traffic on the LIE or GW, or start my day with all of those angry, depressed and indifferent people you see on the 6:42 from Ronkonkoma!

24 October 2012

The Race Of Your Life

Now, this looks like a tough bike ride:

Actually, the image is part of an announcement for Park Avenue Bike's annual Halloween Cyclo-Cross Race.

The Rochester shop that sponsors the race describes the course as "fast, fun and challenging" and the event as "a ghoulish recipe for fun".  Mountain bikes are allowed, as long as they don't have bar-ends.

Seeing that photo is almost a temptation to go to Rochester for the ride.  If it's any indication of what the race is like, I'll lose a bunch of weight very quickly!

23 October 2012

A Ride Becomes A Gallery Tour

To me, one of the great things about cycling in an urban area is the opportunity to see public art.  That was one of the highlights of living in Paris:  Few, if any, cities have as many artifacts--particularly sculptures exhibited en plein aire as the City of Light offers.

New York is not without its offerings.  The wonderful thing about The Big Apple is that sometimes treasures, or at least things that are interesting or amusing, appear when you weren't looking for or expecting them.

I saw this in the former Coast Guard station across the road from the deactivated Fort Tilden:

To me, it looks like one of those creatures in a cartoon that could either eat or play a really wicked joke on one of the characters.  

The gargoyle stands next to the pier from which tour boats depart during the season (which ends in September).  Was it supposed to welcome, or scare off, anyone who wants to take a cruise?

On my way down to my meeting with The Rockaway Orca (my working title for him/her/it), I chanced upon this mural near the Greenway in Williamsburg (where else?):

Sometimes my bike rides seem like surreal gallery or museum tours!

22 October 2012

A Schwinn From The Bottom Of The River And Tosca By Flatbush Falls

While riding with a friend yesterday, I chanced upon this gem:

To say it's in rough shape is to be kind:  It looks like it was fished from the bottom of the river.  But it was probably a very nice bike of its type in its time, and could be so again today with lots of TLC.

I noticed this chainguard before I noticed the rest of the bike.  In a strange way, it's baroque, art deco and modernist all at once.  I'm guessing that it was chromed before turning into rust; if it was, it would have really been something to behold!

In addition to a major overhaul and refinishing, the bike needs a seat. It also might need a skirt guard.  At least, I'm assuming that was the reason for the holes in the fenders.

Is this an ancestor of today's suspension systems?  Or maybe it just adds to the bike's aura of invincibility.

As you may be able to discern from the headbadge, the bike is a Schwinn.  From what I could see, I guessed it's from the 1930's or 1940's.  I wonder whether the bike originally came with the "holey" fender.  For all I know, Schwinn ladies' bikes from that time might have had skirt guards.

But the surprises didn't end with the bike:

Now, where do you think I was?  The Brooklyn Botanical Gardens?

Actually, I wasn't very far from the Gardens.  But this place is nothing like the Gardens:

Believe it or not, Flatbush Falls (what I decided to call them) is, as you can see, in front of an apartment building. (It's at the corner of East 16th Street and Avenue I in Brooklyn.  Of course, stopping to look at it was a dead give-away that I'm not from the neighborhood.  Actually, even if I hadn't stopped, I would have stood out in that neighborhood--which is home to thousands of Orthodox Jews--bceause of the bike I was riding and the way I was dressed.

Tosca's a great bike. But she's definitely not one someone in that neighborhood would ride.  Nor, for that matter, is the Schwinn I saw.

21 October 2012

A Cuevas Leads Me To A Beacon To Hollywood

For part of yesterday's ride to Point Lookout, an interesting fellow on an interesting bike accompanied me.

His name is Augustine, and this is his bike:

At first glance, it seems like another vintage road frame converted to single-speed usage.  In fact, it is.  But this is not just any old vintage from.  Oh, no. 

All right.  Looking at the headtube and fork crown may not give you a hint as to who made the frame.  But you can see that the builder did nice work.  You can especially see it in the seat cluster.  

It's a sure sign of someone who did some of the nicest lug work ever done in the United States: Francisco Cuevas.

He was born in Barcelona, Spain, where he learned how to make frames as a teenager.  But a little thing called the Spanish Civil War came along, followed by a Franco's dictatorship.  So, in the early 1950's, Senor Cuevas set sail for Argentina with his wife and young children.

He built frames for Argentina's national team, as well as other cyclists.  However, he and his family found themselves living under another military dictatorship, and emigrated to the US in 1970. After a stint with Metro Bikes, he built frames for Mike Fraysee's Paris Sport line, and then opened his own framebuilding shop only a few pedal strokes (literally!) from where I now live.  Senor Cuevas built Augustine's frame there.

When Cuevas came to the US, the "bike boom" was about to start.  During the "boom," boatloads of bikes came into the country, some bearing brands never before, or since, seen or heard about.  One name in the latter category is Beacon.

Apparently, there was a manufacturer of that name in Wisconsin, and a company by the same name that imported bikes.  I don't know whether they're related.  What I do know is that the importer had several house brands, including Astra (made by Motobecane in France) as well a line of bikes called Beacon, which were made in Japan and, later, Taiwan.

Like many Japanese bicycles sold in the US during the "bike boom" of the 1970's (including Nishiki, Azuki and the Japan-produced Univegas), they could be found only in the US.  In contrast, Fuji, Miyata and Panasonic made bikes in Japan that were also sold there, in addition to the bikes that were exported.

Like many of the Japanese bikes made strictly for the US market during the "bike boom," they have solid, reliable lugged-steel (usually mild steel, but sometimes chro-moly) with clean, if not flashy, lugwork and paint.  Those are the very qualities that make them good city and upright bikes, like the one I saw in Rockaway Beach:

I think about the only orginal components on Peter's Beacon are the headset and, possibly, the seatpost.  His wheels were built around a Shimano internal-geared rear hub and dynamo front hub.  Velo Orange rims are laced to them.

The rims aren't the only VO components, as evidenced by the crankset, chainguard and fenders.  This bike is practically a  "poster child" for VO!

Finally, when I got to Point Lookout, I espied this old gem by the playground:

This one looks like it's from the 1960's.  And it doesn't look big enough for most adults.  Could it be that some little girl rode her mother's--or grandmother's--Schwinn Hollywood to the beach?

20 October 2012

On The Rocks, Into The Sunset

When I rode to Point Lookout today, I realized something about the place.  So did this couple:

Everyone and everything in Point Lookout must perch on the rocks.  I think that's actually written into the local ordinances.

Arielle understands as much.  And for being a good citizen, she (and I) got to end our ride in grand style:

19 October 2012

For Two, For History

As I've mentioned on other posts, I haven't spent a lot of time riding tandems.  Logistically, it's more difficult than riding a single:  You need, in addition to the bike itself, a partner, a place big enough to store the bike and money, for tandems tend to be high-maintenance.  

Once I was the pilot (the cyclist in front) for a blind woman on a charity ride.  I was riding a basic heavy-duty tandem--from Schwinn, if I remember correctly.  I think I rode a lightweight road tandem only once.  It's something I wouldn't mind experiencing again.  However, if I were to ride a tandem, I think I'd be even more interested in riding a track tandem.  I mean, for two riders to pedal a fixed gear, both have to be skilled cyclists who communicate well.  Were I to do a ride on such a bike with such a rider, I'd probably feel supremely confident in my abilities as a cyclist.

And I think I've seen the tandem I'd like to ride:

From Classic Rendezvous

This Schwinn Paramount track tandem is  believed to be the very first one ever made.  Jackie Simes and Jack Heid pedaled it to victory in a three-mile tandem race that ran through Johnson Park in New Brunswick, NJ in June 1951.  It would be the last professional bicycle race held in the United States for nearly a quarter of a century.

Johnson Park is near the campus of Rutgers,where I did my undergraduate degree. I took many a ride there, and witnessed a couple of races.  I knew that some important cycle races had been held there, but I didn't know, at the time, that the last professional race was run in that bucolic setting.

Check out this detail of the front"

18 October 2012

The Lighthouse Guides Another Ride

There may not be many lighthouses that still guide ships into and through harbours--at least not here in the US.  However, many are all but irrestistible as destinations, or at least landmarks for bike rides.

This one is only a few minutes' ride from my apartment.

It's at the northern end of Roosevelt Island, that sliver of rock between Manhattan and Queens.   It's what I usually envision when I'm pedaling over the bridge to the island, and it's the point at which I feel an escape from the city becomes a meandering, however brief, along the coast.

Ironically, following the lighthouse yesterday may have been one of my last opportunities for an after-work ride in daylight. 

17 October 2012

A Pinarello's Replacement On The Campus Bike Rack

In one of my early blog posts, I mentioned seeing a Pinarello on a campus where I worked.  I contrasted it with the near-absence of bicycles on another campus in which I worked, and that whenever I parked at the latter campus, my bike--even Marianela, the old Schwinn LeTour III on which I was commutig--was by far the best.

Well, the young man who used to ride the Pinarello has graduated.  But, yesterday, I saw another bike that surprised me almost as much as seeing that Pinarello did.

Seeing a late-model Cannondale, particularly in an upper middle-class suburban area like the neighborhood that surrounds the campus, is not remarkable in and of itself.  Seeing a Cannondale track bike is somewhat more unusual but, again, not entirely out of the realm of possibility.

What shocked me was how well-equipped that bike was.  Most track, fixie or single-speed bikes parked in campus bike racks have serviceable, but not spectacular components.  However, this Cannondale sported Mavic Ellipse track wheels, an FSA carbon crankset, a Ritchey Pro seat post, Salsa stem and Nitto bars.  

The only components that seemed incongruent were the flat pedals, intended for downhill mountain biking, made by Crank Brothers (makers of the Egg Beater pedals).  Don't get me wrong:  They're a high-quality component.  But they did seem odd on a bike that otherwise seemed to be built for the velodrome.

I wasn't able to get a better angle to take close-up shots because a motorcycle was parked next to the Cannondale.  But I think you can see why it stood out even in a bike rack that has hosted a Pinarello--and Vera, my green Mercian mixte.

16 October 2012

Mike From Far Rockaway

At the first rest stop of the Tour de Bronx, I chanced upon this machine:

A guy named Mike was riding it.  He built it himself, from a stock frame.  He said he plans to rebuild the wheel with a blue rim, but he wanted to ride the bike in the Tour.  I can see why:  I'm not the only one who noticed it!

He says he builds different types of bikes--single speeds, fixies, cruisers, kids' bikes as well as others--from stock frames.  I didn;t get a chnce to ask who (or what company) makes the frames.

He told me he works out of Far Rockaway, through which I pedal whenever I ride to Point Lookout, and that I could find him on the web.  However, my searches so far have proved unfruitful. I told him about this blog, and hope he remembers it.  Mike, I hope you see this!

15 October 2012

Tour de Bronx

These cyclists are assembled at the gate of...

Actually, they're not really assembled.  They're just waiting to continue the Tour de Bronx from its first rest stop/checkpoint.

At that rest stop was a sure sign that the ride was taking place in New York:

Bagels!  They were very good--not mere bread doughnuts.   I ate one with sesame seeds; poppy and plain were also offered.  Cream cheese, butter and jellies were also offered. 

There were granola bars and bottles of Dasani water at the  next two stops--and pizza at the end.  All of it free.

In fact, the ride is free, which the ride's organizers attribute to the "generous support" of sponsors.

I  heard some riders express disbelief that there were so many "beautiful" sights in the Bronx.  In particular, people seemed to be taken with the maritime views from the State University of New York (SUNY) Maritime College:

and from Orchard Beach:

not to mention some of what could be seen at the New York Botanical Gardens, where the ride ended:

Interestingly, the route took us through two cemeteries, St. Raymond's and Woodlawn.  The latter necropolis has vast monuments to rival those of Brooklyn's Greenpoint Cemetery and Pere Lachaise in Paris:

Yes, that's a monument for one person!

Of course, the Tour does have its share of less idyllic sights.  After all, it wouldn't be a Tour de Bronx without them:

There was a twenty-five mile and forty-mile tour.  Naturally, I did the latter.  Both rides take about the same amount of time, but the 40-miler is done at a faster pace.  Also, the terrain varies more. (Yes, there are real hills in the Bronx!)

The 40-mile ride is roughly the same length as the more-famous Five Boro Bike Tour.  I rode some of the early 5BBT's, and a few after that.  I was even a marshal in two 5BBT's.  In some ways, the Tour de Bronx reminds me of what 5BBT was in its early years, in part because of the smaller number of riders.  Also, like those early 5BBT's, the Bronx Tour isn't as tightly organized as the 5BBT has become in recent years.  In some ways, Bronx feels more like both a cyclists' event and simply a "fun day out" for those who might take a ride of such a length, say, once or twice year.  On the other hand, the 5BBT has become something of a media spectacle.  (That is not to say, though, that I'm not happy 5BBT exists or that it's become as big as it is. It's simply not my kind of ride anymore.)

And, most important, not all of the streets we rode for the Bronx tour were closed to traffic.  There is certainly a certain amount of "safety in numbers," but I think one has to be more vigilant on the Tour de Bronx than on the Five Boro Bike Tour. On the latter ride, all of the streets it traverses are closed to traffic.

Another thing I like about the Tour de Bronx is that it reallys shows the diversity--geographically, architecturally as well as culturally--of the only New York City Borough located in the mainland United States.  In contrast, most of the 5BBT runs through Manhattan and Brooklyn.  Cyclists on 5BBT spend very little time in the Bronx or Queens, and only slightly more in Staten Island.

In case you were wondering, I rode Tosca: