27 April 2013

A Semi-Sweet Goodbye

I have some rather sad news to report.

No, I didn't crash or get diagnosed with some terrible disease.  Rather, it's about something I did somewhat reluctantly.

You see, I sold the Schwinn Collegiate I'd mentioned in a few previous posts.  I actually liked it quite a bit:  While it was heavy and didn't have the nimblest handling (Then again, I can say those things about myself!), it was surprisingly quick when I got it up to speed.  Plus, it did have a certain charm, some of which had to do with the color.

But it was too small for me.  Perhaps I could have gotten a longer seatpost and stem for it, but either one, I felt, would have turned it into a Frankenbike:  Bikes like the Collegiate simply aren't meant to have, and don't look right, with them.

At least the young woman who bought it from me was truly happy to find it.  She lives in Williamsburg and, she told me, another bike "just like" it was stolen from her.  Actually, she said, it was a Collegiate "from around the same time", in a different color.

As she is about 5'5" (about 165 cm), the bike is just the right size for her.  When she test rode it, she looked very comfortable and confident on it.  Plus, she was wearing a sort of "Mad Men" outfit, which somehow looked right.

She was so happy to find the bike that she didn't quibble about the price.  Even if she had, I would been satisfied with selling it to her, as I knew the bike was going "to a good home". That, at least, balances some of the sadness I felt about letting it go.

25 April 2013

Biking Among Buds And Blooms

So far, this spring hasn't brought warmth and sunshine at the same time.  Most days, we haven't had either.  As I joked with a co-worker, it's like London without tea time, pub brews and all of the other things for which people journey to Cockaigne, a.k.a. The Big Smoke.

From Rolling In Boston

But I digress. Today we have had fairly cool temperatures with bright sunshine.  On my ride to work, I saw large numbers of trees in bloom.  The cherry blossoms are finally spreading their pink cheer, purple curls of hyacinths are rising from the ground and lilac buds are pulsing from limbs that have lived through another winter.  

Although I don't mind cold weather and overcast skies (as long as I'm not sloshing through sleet!), I can feel myself opening as I ride by spring blooms.

24 April 2013

My New Commuter Bags: Koki Bagatelle And Dilly

If you've been following this blog for a while, you know that on most days, I had been commuting with my Carradice Nelson Longflap saddlebag.  On occasion, if I didn't have much to carry, I'd use bungee cords to lash my tote bag to my rear rack.  But, I'd say that the Carradice carried my books, papers, lunch, change of shoes and, sometimes, an extra layer of clothing (or, on hot days, clothes to change in to) on about 95 percent of my commutes during the past five years or so.

It's hard to beat the sheer, flat-out quality of Carradice's canvas bags. Plus, I love the way they look, especially on classic steel bikes (or modern steel bikes inspired by them) like my Mercians.  When I attached a shoulder strap to my green Nelson, it looked something like an old-school duffle, satchel or Danish book bag.

However, taking it off or putting it on the bike isn't quick.  I briefly used a quick-release Bagman support, but I found that the quick-release latches weren't very secure.  I understand that more recent versions of the quick-release Bagman have corrected this problem.  Still, I didn't want to take the trouble of attaching it to my saddle.

Before I started commuting with my Nelson, I used various panniers.  Because of their shape, I found that papers wrinkled and crumpled, and clothes wrinkled.  Also, I found that some panniers had a rather wide profile, which I didn't like when riding in the tight spaces of urban traffic.  The difficulty of maneuvering was further exacerbated when I used baskets that mounted on the sides of the rear rack, as they were even wider and boxier.  (I once snagged one of those baskets on somebody's bumper!)

I could have lived with the Nelson's idiosyncracies.  However, I got a really good buy on a Koki Bagatelle pannier.  i was buying something else on eBay, and the seller just happened to have the new bag, with its tags still on it.  At the price I paid for it, I figured that if it didn't work as a commuter or shopper bag for me, I--or someone else--could find some other use for it.

After two months, the Koki Bagatelle is looking more and more like a "keeper."  The Bagatelle is actually made for small-wheel bikes like Brompton and Dahon. So it is longer, but has a narrower profile, than most other panniers.  That means, among other things, that it protrudes over the rack platform, in contrast to most panniers whose tops are level with the rack platform.

What has surprised me is how stable it is.  It attaches to the rack with two alligator-type clips which are very strong.  

There is nothing to secure the bottom of the pannier to the rack.  Turns out, such a thing is not necessary:  The bag did not bounce, even when I ride on streets that bear more resemblance to the Ho Chi Minh Trail than to thoroughfares in modern first-world countries.  The mounting system also makes the bag easy to install and remove, though the latter is not a one-hand operation:  You have to pull the top of the bag, unclip one of the clips, then the other.  Still, removal is quick, which is particularly nice on a bag that's so secure when it's installed.

Once the bag is removed, you can set it down just about anyplace:  It has a "boot sole" rubber bottom that prevents wear and also keeps the bag from tipping over, even when it's unevenly loaded. 

Another reason I like this bag for my daily commutes is that I'm almost always carrying papers or manuscripts.  The bag's shape makes it very well-suited to this purpose.  I haven't tried carrying my laptop in it, but I would expect that, in its sleeve, my computer would fit very securely.

I happened to get my Bagatelle in a tan canvas material with brown leather trim. Personally, I think it looks great on Vera.  After using it for a couple of weeks, I bought a matching Dilly handlebar bag, which doubles as a shoulder bag.  

While it performs both functions quite well, I have two small complaints: 1. The length of the shoulder strap cannot be easily adjusted, and it's not easy to remove.  So, I have to bundle it up and tuck it inside the bag to keep it from getting caught in my brakes or spokes.  2.  There is no way to clip a light onto it, and the mounting bracket keeps me from using the light I had on my handlebar.  Plus, it's a bit small to use as a tote bag: It's more like a small purse or shoulder pouch.

Koki provides nylon rain covers with all of their bags.  I've ridden my bags in the rain and, while they provide a fair amount of water-resistance, they aren't as watertight as Carradice or, certainly, Ortleib bags.  But the rain covers will keep your gear dry and keep the canvas clean.

All in all, commuting with my Koki Bagatelle pannier and (sometimes) Dilly handlebar bag has been working out very well, and the quality of the bags seems very good.  I have been satisfied enough to take advantage of Koki's clearance sale on last year's models and buy another Bagatelle in another color, and a ""Budgie" handlebar/tote bag (which is a bit larger than the Dilly, but fits on the same mount as the Dilly).

For those of you who like ratings, on a scale from 1 to 10, I give the Bagatelle a 9.5 and the Dilly an 8.5.  My Carradice will return to the role to which it's best suited:  day and weekend trips.

23 April 2013

A Beginning: A Fixed Gear And The Wind

Pedal into the wind and let it blow you home.  Or, let the wind take you where you want to go and...

I know that I usually prefer the first option--especially when I'm riding my fixed gear.  Especially if I'm doing something really goofy like a metric century on a fixed gear.

On a clear day, with the wind at my back, I don't feel as if I'm riding a bicycle anymore: Rather, my bike and legs become conduits for the wind that takes me back, the wind that, according to the Navajos, begins life.

And when my ride on a current of wind begins at the ocean, it seems as if the world--or, at least, a season--has begun.

20 April 2013

Assembling, In Words And Pictures

What are the most important pieces of writing you have ever read?  

I know that's a biiiig question.  Interpret "important" in any way you like.  And the pieces of writing can be just that--whether they're works of Literature (with a capital L) or a warning label.

For me, those pieces of writing would include three of Shakespeare's plays:  The Tempest, Othello and Macbeth.  They would also include T.S. Eliot's The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock, Victor Hugo's Les Miserables and Sappho's Odes.  And, I must not forget NSC-68, Christine Jorgensen's autobiography (which I read as a teenager in the local public library) and The City of Ladies.

Oh, here's another:  Everybody's Bike Book by the late, great Tom Cuthbertson.  Mechanics tend to think spatially and visually rather than verbally, so anyone who can turn bike mechanics--or any kind of mechanics--into prose that's understandable, much less enjoyable to read, is a truly special kind of writer.

Here is something I am sure Tom, rest his soul, would appreciate:

From Visual.ly

18 April 2013

What's On A Woman's Mind?

While looking through one of my discs, I came upon this photo:

I won't claim it as a contemporary counterpart to Le PenseurBut it got me to thinking nonetheless.

 I recall taking it at a WE Bike meeting in June at Bike Works NYC.  The shop offers a good selection of vintage and vintage-inspired bikes and accessories, as well as high-quality tools and parts.  It's in a space about the size of a Texas closet: Only in New York could such a claustrophobic space house a bike shop!

Anyway, I didn't take any notes about the photo.  So, perhaps, you could supply some.  Perhaps you could come up with a caption or one of those thought-bubbles you see in a comic strip.

What's on this woman's mind in a bike shop?

17 April 2013


For the past few days, I've had a relapse of the respiratory illness I had during the winter.  So, I was off the bikes and generally out of commission.

I finally got out today, to go to the store.  Along the way, I saw a bike that normally wouldn't capture my attention:  one of the many department-store "mountain" bikes you see parked on the street.  However, something struck me as odd about this one:

Did you notice what was off?  Here's a shot that might give you a clue:

Did you notice that the brakes are mounted to the rear of the fork?  That was the first thing that tipped me off to something else that's wasn't quite right:  Look at the angle of the fork legs.

Yes, the fork is mounted backward.  Was it deliberately installed that way by some kid who wanted to make his bike "different"?  I don't know whether that's more or less disturbing than the other probable explanation:  Whoever assembled the bike simply didn't know any better.  

Look at how far the front wheel is from the rest of the bike:

It's not merely an aesthetic concern, however. I simply cannot imagine how the bike rides with the fork in such a position.  I would expect the shopping carts in the local supermarket to have quicker, more responsive and more accurate steering than the bike with a fork mounted that way.  In fact, with such handling, I'd be afraid to ride the bike, especially in traffic.

I wonder whether the bike's rider notices anything odd or unusual about the ride.  Perhaps he or she has never ridden anything else and so has no basis for comparison.  Perhaps  this person thinks that bikes normally handle like that one.

Now that's a scary thought--at least to me.

14 April 2013

Bicycles: Food For Thought

Some years ago, Santa left a package of this in my Christmas stocking:

It was actually very good pasta.  If I recall correctly, it was made in Italy.  At any rate, it came in the trecolori of verte, blanco e rosso.  As much of a Francophile as I am, I'm not so sure that I would have wanted pasta en bleu.

I have seen cookies and other foods--usually sweets--shaped like bicycles.  I can easily imagine cutting vegetables and fruits and forming the pieces into two-wheeled crudites.  However, I have a harder time seeing meat, fish or fowl as velocipedic viandes.

All of this begs a question:  Has anyone ever eaten an actual bicycle?

One Michel Lotito--a Grenoble native who performed under the name "Monsieur Mangetout"-- would have answered, "Moi!"

The best part is that he ate not one, but eighteen, bicycles during his lifetime.  Apparently, it was his favorite non-food delicacy:  He also consumed fifteen shopping carts, seven televisions, six chandeliers and one Cessna 150 aircraft, among other objects you won't find on the menus of restaurants in his hometown. (I know: I've been there!)

Before partaking of his meals, he cut the objects into pieces and, when necessary, ground up the parts.  I don't know whether or not he said grace, but he did gulp some mineral oil before downing his repasts, and drank water throughout each "course".  If you ask me, his exploits give new meaning to the term "slider".

He claimed never to have suffered any ill effects from his galvanized gourmandizing, even though he consumed some substances that are considered poisonous.  He also said he never had trouble passing any of the estimated nine tons of metal he ingested between 1959 and 1997.  No Montezuma's  Revenge for him.  However, he also said that bananas and hard-boiled eggs made him sick.

On 25 June 2007, ten days after he turned 57, he died "of natural causes".

All of this, of course, begs another question:  Did he ever eat a carbon fiber bike?  If so, did its fiber content aid his digestion?

13 April 2013

This Is Your Brain On Two Wheels

Back when Nancy Reagan was telling us to "Just Say No," this commercial was all over the airwaves:

About a decade later, we were subjected to "This Is Your Brain On Heroin":

Last week, President Obama announced a brain-research initiative.  According to scientists who could be involved, this project is far more ambitious than the human genome project because, frankly, we know less about our brains now than we did about our genes three decades ago.  Also, the genome project had a clearly-defined goal; by definition, such a thing is all but impossible in brain research.

Anyway, I'm waiting to find out what they might tell us about bicycling's effect on the brain.  I'd love to see the commercial for that!

12 April 2013

The Future Of Cycling Fashion?

I dream of the day I can go to a job interview or board meeting dressed like this:

From the Osprey Packs bike blog

I'd settle for looking as good as she does in a skirt, heels and chainmark!  

Now, if someone made those shoes compatible with Look, SPD or other cleats and someone raced in them, that would be interesting, to say the least!

11 April 2013

The Grass Is Greener...

Believe it or not, I've actually mowed lawns.  For those few years I lived in New Jersey, my brothers, parents and I took turns cutting the grass around the house. And, I would sometimes make some money by leaving neighbors' and strangers' lawns shorn.

Having been a city girl for most of the rest of my life, I haven't cut very many lawns since those days in the Garden State.  But, if I ever have to leave the Big Apple (or urban life altogether), I now know what I need to make the transition easier:

10 April 2013

Miyata 912

Today I saw one of my bikes parked on the street.  Well, sort of.

As I was on my bike, and in a hurry, I didn’t get a chance to take a photo.  However, I did find an old photo of a bike just like it. 

I rode this Miyata 912 for a couple of years.  At the time, it was Miyata’s second- or third-line racing bike.  It came with Shimano 600 components, or as a frame—which is how I got mine.

As you can see from the photo, I set it up as a sort of daytripping/light touring bike, with wide-range gearing, a rack and wider tires than would normally be ridden on such a bike.

The lugged frame was constructed from chrome-moly steel tubing which Miyata claimed was “triple butted”.  I wasn’t quite sure of what that meant.  All I knew that the bike gave a pretty stiff and stable ride.   I took it on a few overnight and weekend trips, with a light load in the rear and a handlebar bag on the front.  The bike handled smoothly, but I’m not sure I would have wanted to load it for a long tour, or with camping equipment.

I knew a few racers and other cyclists who rode the Miyata “Team Pro,” which was the company’s top-of-the-line racing bike.  At least two claimed it was the stiffest and quickest road bike they ever mounted.  Mind you, they were riding Italian bikes before they got hold of their Team Pros.

While the 912 was not quite in the same class, more than a few were raced.  I had the feeling that the differences between it and the Team Pro had more to do with geometry than materials or workmanship: The Team Pro didn’t even pretend to versatility, while the 912 had slightly longer clearances that probably could have taken fenders (albeit narrow ones) if I’d wanted them. 

The 912, as you can see, was also very striking, visually—especially, if I do say so myself, with the yellow cable housings I installed on it.

For me, there was just one problem:  The top tube was a bit long for me.  As a result, I rode it with a stem that had a rather short extension, which blunted some of its handling qualities, at least somewhat.

I finally sold the 912 to someone whose torso was longer than mine.  He was grateful.

09 April 2013

Six Years With Max

Six years ago today, I took Max into my home.

A few months earlier, my friend Millie rescued him from a street that divides a shop in which metal is cut, bent and welded from another in which auto bodies are painted, sometimes in bizarre schemes.  Just down the block from it is a commercial bakery that supplies restaurants in Manhattan as well as in Queens:  the place from which Marley was rescued.

Millie kept Max in her house for a time.  But she already had other cats, and a guy who briefly moved into the neighborhood took him in.  He disappeared, as he was wont to do, for two weeks.  A neighbor heard Max’s cries.  Fortunately, the guy returned a day later, and Millie took Max from him.

I offered to take Max home—when I was ready.  You see, during that time, Candice, who had been in my life for twelve years, died.

I jokingly referred to her as my “ballerina”:  She was pretty and thin even though I fed her what I fed Charlie.  And she always seemed to be walking en pointe.

In some ways, Marley reminds me of her. She liked to jump into my lap, cuddle and curl, as he does.  Also,  she was a bit skittish, though very gentle, as Marley is. While Max always seems ready to greet anyone I bring into my apartment, Marley is more cautious:  It takes him some time to work up the nerve (or whatever cats have) to meet my guests.  However, once he “comes out”, he rubs himself against my guest and licks his or her hand.  Candice was like that, too.

She died  a little more than a year after my first Charlie.  They were about the same age (15 years), though Candice spent a little less time in my life because I adopted her when she was three years old, while Charlie came home with me only a few weeks after he was born.   But both he and Candice shared some important times in my life, including the early and middle parts of my transition.  And I owned about a dozen bikes (though not all at the same time) and rode about a dozen more during that time!

Then Max came along.  I’ve gone through some more changes (and bikes) and he has just loved, and loved some more.  He doesn’t have to do anything else.

08 April 2013

The End Of A Day At The Beginning Of A Season

During my ride home, I stopped at the Long Island City piers just in time for this:

And, in one sign that Spring is finally springing on us, I saw a willow just beginning to open itself to the sun that's finally warming it:

07 April 2013

A Thread Or A Loaf Of Bread?

It seems that every time I take Arielle out for a ride, I see other pretty bikes.

Today's trek was no exception.  On my way to Point Lookout, I wasn't even a mile from my apartment when I saw this gem locked to a signpost:

At first glance, it might seem like just another bike-boom era French mixte bike.  But, as I passed it, the white pinstriping on the lovely blue fork caught my eye.  When I turned did an about-face to get a look at it, I noticed some nicer detailing than one usually finds on such a bike:

If those aren't Nervex lugs--which they probably aren't, given that the frame is built of regular carbon-steel tubing rather than, say, Reynolds 531 or Vitus 888--they are a reasonable facsimile.  More to the point, some care seems to have been taken in joining and finishing them.

Also, you might be able to see the brazed-on pump peg and shift levers.  The components were typical of bikes from that era:  steel cottered crank, Huret Luxe derailleurs, Normandy hubs and RIgida steel rims.  Everything, it seemed, was original equipment except for the tires and the brakes.  The latter component had a label that read "centerpull," but no brand name.  Bikes like these usually came with Mafac or Weinmann centerpulls; I am guessing that this bike came with the former, as the bars sported Mafac levers.

The steel "rat trap" pedals are also, I suspect, original equipment.  They are a variation I've seen only on a few bikes:

It looks like a cross between a cage and a platform. I've never tried such a pedal, but I suspect it would be more comfortable with soft-soled shoes than the steel cages on pedals found on similar bikes.

Even with such lovely details, I couldn't help but to chuckle at the bike's brand name:

If you've ever been in a boulangerie, you know that a ficelle is a long, skinny loaf of bread. (Not all French breads are baguettes!)  Actually, "ficelle" means "thread" or "string"; it's the diminutive of "fiche", or strand.

I've seen only a few of these bikes, even in France:  They seem to have been a small regional manufacturer.  I can't find any recent information about them, so I don't know whether or not they're still in business.  Perhaps they were taken over by a batard like Peugeot.

06 April 2013

Getting Badged

Now I'm going to repeat a shocking confession I made in one of my earliest posts on this blog:  I was a Scout.

Actually, they're called "Scouts" today.  But back when I was in uniform, they were "Boy Scouts".  So, you might ask, if I was dealing with a gender-identity conflict, why did I join the Boy Scouts--especially when neither of my parents, nor any other adult in my life, nudged me into it?

You might have guessed at least part of the answer:  I was trying to fit in.  But I also got to spend time away from home and school on camping trips and such.

I mention my Scouting because, believe it or not, the Boy Scouts had a merit badge for bicycling.  (They still have it.) I was the first in my troop to earn the badge; if that troop still exists, I'm guessing that others have earned it.

For most merit badges, the scoutmaster or some other adult approved by him was supposed to supervise whatever work you did for the badge.  At that time, there still weren't very many adult cyclists--at least not in the part of New Jersey to which my family had moved me.  So, my scoutmaster, Mr. Kroner (who was also a county judge) basically took my word that I did the rides of fifteen, twenty-five and fifty miles.  Being the good Scout that I was, I kept my Scout's honor and did those rides.

As I remember, I had to show that I could fix a flat tire and do a couple of other basic repairs.  I demonstrated those to Judge Kroner.  He quizzed me on the rules of the road and hand signals, and He signed off on the badge.

Actually,  Cycling wasn't the only merit badge I earned for doing things I would have done anyway. As I recall, there was a merit badge for Scholarship, which required, as I remember, a "B" average and to do some sort of research project or paper.   There was also one for Reading:  I think I had to read twelve books and write brief reports or summaries. Mrs. McKenna, my English teacher, signed off on both of those merit badges.

Perhaps the strangest merit badge I earned was for Fingerprinting.  At that time, a show called "The FBI", starring Efram Zimbalist Jr. as Agent Erskine, aired every Sunday night. My father never missed an episode. I often watched it and actually found myself fascinated with how fingerprinting and other techniques were used to solve crimes. I asked Judge Kroner about the badge; he arranged a visit to the forensics lab for me, where one of the officers showed me how fingerprints were made and what made each one different.  All I did was listen to the guy and I had another badge.

But I digress.  Today I take issue with the Scouts' ban policies on gays (and, to my knowledge, trans boys).  But I also do not forget that they were the first group  of people to reward me for cycling!

05 April 2013

A Nice Graphic From Philly

I came across this infographic from Bike Philadlephia.  It compares bicyclists in the City of Brotherly Love to those of other cities.

Actually, I like it as much for its design as for the information in it!

04 April 2013

A Shopper On Campus

Today, in one of the college's bike racks, I saw something interesting:

I apologize that I couldn't get take a better photo.  But, as you can see, it's a small-wheeled bike that doesn't have a folding or collapsible frame.  It seems like a variant on the "Shopper" bike, which Bobbin and a few other companies have re-introduced during the last couple of years.

The medium-wide semi-slick tires are what one might expect to see on a city bike.  And the bike's low profile makes for quick mounting and dismounting.  Those features were common on the "shopper" bikes Raleigh and a few other English companies made during the 1960's and 1970's.  Those bikes were very popular in Albion, but didn't seem to find much of an audience anywhere else.  I think one reason may be that, in the US at any rate, people equated the small wheels with folding or children's bikes.

The bike in the photo differs slightly from those bikes, and from the Bobbin "shopper" I saw at Adeline's and in last year's New Amsterdam bike show.  For one thing, the Bobbin, like the classic "shopper," comes with an internally-geared hub, while the bike in the photo has a rear derailleur with six speeds.  Also, the Bobbin and the older bikes had fenders, chainguards and lights:  They looked rather like  classic three-speeds with smaller wheels and a somewhat tighter geometry.  

Also, the bike in the photo has white(!) rims and chain.  Could the maker (I could find only a "C" logo) be trying to appeal to hipsters?  Even if that's the intent, I think it's an interesting bike.  I was surprised to see it parked at the college.  Then again, it might be just the right bike for a lot of student commuters or for students on residential campuses.  In other words, it just might become a "collegiate" bike.


03 April 2013

A Serene Life On My Bike

One day, I was talking with someone I admired as an artist and took as a kind of spiritual adviser.  (I was young then.)  I asked her what she wanted most.  

I was expecting something deep and profound--or, at least, something that would have sounded deep and profound to me back then. (I think it was around the time I read Herman Hesse's Steppenwolf and Siddhartha.)  Here's what she said:

A simple life and innocent times.

Now, at the time I thought neither was possible--and, that, in fact, they were marketing tropes.  Yep, you can live the simple life if you can afford it, and you can have innocent times if your world is, well, a simple place.  The truth is, of course, that I never could have had innocent times because I wasn't so innocent and times were never simple because I was simpler than I was willing to acknowledge.

But I digress.  For the first time in decades, I thought of that encounter when I stumbled across this photo:

I can just imagine unrolling what's strapped to the saddle and unfurling myself on it, in a field where I might fill the basket on the front of the bike:

I guess there are actually people who live that way.  Goddess bless 'em.  (Hey, changing genders turned me into a feminist!)

Both photos come from the lovely blog A Serene Life For Me.

02 April 2013

The Persistence Of Dropped Top Tubes

What if Salvador Dali were hired to design a bike frame--and he only did the top tube?

The result might look something like this:

I had never before seen such a frame sporting Bianchi logos.  But now that I think of it, I'm not surprised.  The Bianchi in the photo was made in Japan for Bianchi during the 1980's.  Back then, the most famous Italian bicycle manufacturer was rebranding bikes built by Panasonic, Bridgestone and, it was rumoried, Miyata, for the US market.

When you look at this Panasonic closely, you realize why Bianchi made such a move.  During the 1970's and early 1980's, Japanese makers like the ones I've mentioned, and Fuji and Nishiki, took over much of the entry- and mid-level market for road and touring bikes in the US. There were good reasons for that:  The Japanese companies were offering better bikes for the money than most of their  European and American rivals.  Their quality control was more consistent:  Highland Park Cyclery sold Miyata and Panasonic when I worked there, and I don't recall having to return one for a defect.  On the other hand, I saw braze-ons break off a Peugeot and Treks that had miscut threads and wheels that didn't hold up for very long.  

Perhaps the biggest "draw" of Japanese bikes was that their drivetrains usually shifted more accurately and (a major selling point with new cyclists) more easily than those on their European counterparts.  The Panasonic in the second photo was the lowest-level ten-speed bike the company offered at the time, but its Shimano derailleur outshifted all but the very top models made in Europe at the time.  The BIanchi is a few levels up from the Panasonic, and its Shimano gears were more accurate and less fussy, I would submit, than any others--except for the ones made by Sun Tour.  

Of course, BIanchi would not be the only company to re-brand Japanese bikes for sale in the US.  Some of the most famous examples of such bikes were the "Voyageur" and "LeTour" lines Schwinn sold; Raleigh, Peugeot and other companies would also offer bikes from the Land of the Rising Sun.  Other companies, like Motobecane, would continue to make bikes in their home countries but equip them with Japanese derailleurs, freewheels and cranksets--and, later, other components--for American cyclists.

But not all of those companies offered bikes with the frame design of the BIanchi and Panasonic you see in this post.  In fact, frames with top tubes so shaped were made for only a few years, or so it seemed.  A couple of years ago, Trek revived  a modified version of it on their "Belleville" city/porteur bike:

I have never ridden a bike with such a configuration, but I can see the benefit of it, particularly for cyclists with disproportionately short legs.  I would think that people who, for other reasons, want a frame that offers more clearance than the traditional diamond design but don't want something more rigid or stable than a traditional women's, or even a mixte, frame would also like such a design.

Here's what I always wondered:  If you buy one of those bikes, do you get a watch with it?  Or a bike computer:  Imagine if Salvador Dali designed those!

01 April 2013

The New Me

Spring has (supposedly) sprung upon us.  Yesterday was Easter.  So this is supposed to be a time of renewal--or, at least, to shake off my midlife crisis.

So I decided to take on a new sport.  Actually, I made up my mind to, finally, take a go at one of the few areas of cycling I'd never before tried.

No, I'm not doing a biathlon or ice-fishing on my bike.  What I'm doing, instead, is something I always said I was "too old" to do, mainly because by the time I'd heard about it, I was already older than most of the cyclists involved in it.

I'm talking, of course, about BMX racing.  If this is how I resolve my midlife crisis, I figure it's better than being a "cougar" or buying a red sport convertible (which I couldn't afford, even if i wanted it).

So far, my decision is working out well.  I already have my first commercial endorsement:

Coming soon to a box of Kellogg's Corn Flakes near you.