31 October 2013

30 October 2013

To A Virgin (Forest)

I went on a deep woods bike adventure today.

All right...I took a little spin after work to this place:

I wished I'd had my regular camera.  I did the best I could with my cell phone to capture the line of color on the rock ridge and its reflection in the water.

So where did I go?

My little jaunt took me to a virgin...OK, a virgin forest.  Where?

Would you believe Manhattan?  (You probably didn't believe there was a virgin anything there.)  Yes, at the very northern tip of the island, there's a wooded area in Inwood Hill Park where trees have never been cut or planted.  Take away the Henry Hudson Parkway bridge and the nearby buildings, and it's more or less the way it was when Peter Stuyvesant landed there.

I think it's one of those places best seen at this time of year.


29 October 2013

Two Fall Rides

In my next life, I'm going to look like this when I ride to work (or the farmer's market) at this time of year:

From Simply Bike

Sigh.  Well, at least in this life, I can do a fall ride like this.  In fact, I just might do such a ride soon.

From Mycle's Cycles

In the ideal cycling world, I could ride through such colors and have the long hours of daylight we enjoy in May and June.  And, oh yeah, it would all be located near a large body of water.

I don't ask for much, do I? 

28 October 2013

Parking Purgatory

I live in Astoria, which is about as close as you can get to Manhattan without being in it.  Here, there are people who own private houses but not cars.  That arrangement may be unique, at least in New York City (if not the United States) to Astoria and, perhaps, parts of neighboring Long Island City and Sunnyside.

Some of those homeowners rent their driveways to Manhattanites.  Some condo and co-op owners do likewise with their parking spaces. Some Manhattan drivers pay more per month for those parking spots than I paid for my first apartment in New York!

Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised:  After all, real estate of any sort is in short supply, and therefore expensive, in the Big Apple.  And New York drivers have long complained about the difficulty of finding parking spots:  Indeed, I've heard some claim that in Hell or Purgatory, one is resigned to wander the streets of this city in pursuit of unavailable places to leave one's vehicle.

As a cyclist, I used to feel so fortunate to be spared from such ordeals.  Note that I said "used to."  These days, I sometimes have as much difficulty finding space on a parking meter, signpost or other immobile object--never mind a bike rack--to lock up my ride as any benighted motorist has in finding a place to leave his or her wheels.

I admit that, as someone who's had bikes stolen and damaged, I am fairly picky about where I park and lock.  If I attach my bike to a meter or post, I prefer not to use the side closer to the curb:  On more than one occasion, I've returned to my locked-up bike only to find that a motorist backed his or her rear wheels on the sidewalk and left me with a "New York Pretzel"--and I'm not talking about those snacks you can buy from a sidewalk cart!

I know that some parking lots allow bikes to park for a fee:  In fact, I've used a couple of them.  But could the day come when homeowners in my neighborhood rent out their spaces to Manhattan cyclists?  And will such spaces cost more than I now pay for my dwelling?


25 October 2013

A Threepenny Atala

If you were going to turn your bike into a tribute to someone who is/was not a professional cyclist, who would he or she be?

When I rode my Colnago and Mondonico, I thought about inscribing the chainstay with "Nel mezzo del camin di nostra vita". But I decided against it when I realized it might have been too long for the short chainstays of those racing bikes.  Besides, saying that you're in the middle of the journey of our lives is kind of an odd thing to write--especially for a young person--on a racing bike. 

Then again, while I was racing and training I probably didn't encounter very many people who could read medieval Florentine Italian. And, if I do say so myself, I would have been riding too fast for them to read it anyway. 

I don't think I encountered very many people who were familiar with the works of Bertolt Brecht, either.  Such a consideration seems not to have deterred someone in California who turned a '70's Atala into a rolling monument to the German writer.

After painting the frame gray, its owner inscribed it with lines from Brecht's poems, plays and essays.

This section of the right (drive-side) seat stay is adorned with this gem, "When crimes begin to pile up, they become invisible."

The bike is for sale, minus its wheels, handlebars and stem, on eBay.  "Will make a great fixie, single speed and art school punk chick magnet", according to the listing.

20 October 2013

More Bike Safety Mythology

A brief article on Yahoo Finance outlines the growth of the Citibike bike share program in New York City.

What's particularly striking is that the data shows a steady, consistent growth in the number of trips taken and number of miles ridden.  I haven't taken a math or a statistics class in a long time, so if there's a term (which, I believe, there is) for the sort of curve plotted in those charts, I've forgotten it.  But, even to a decidedly un-numeric person like me, the graph and figures are remarkable.

The writer of the article did a pretty good job until the last two paragraphs.  "Wondering how all of this extra biking has impacted New York's emergency rooms?" he asks.  He attempts to answer it by the city's Department of Transportation studies that show the average risk of serious injury to a cyclist plummeted 73 percent between 2000 and 2011. 

Now, perhaps I'm reading something into his article that isn't there, but I had the impression that he was implicitly relating the decrease to the Citibike program. If he is, then there's a problem:  the bike share didn't start until May of this year.

Then he goes on to promulgate a fallacy: that the decrease in the number of injuries and fatalities is, in part, a result of the construction of bike lanes.

As I've said in earlier posts,  bike lanes don't necessarily make cycling safer, especially if they are poorly-designed or constructed.  In fact, they can put cyclists in more peril when they have to turn or exit the lane--or if it ends--and they are thrust into a traffic lane with motorists and pedestrians who do not anticipate them.

I maintain (again, as in earlier posts) that nothing does more to make cycling safer on urban streets and byways than what I call the human infrastructure of cycling.  Even more important than the best-conceived and -constructed bike lanes is cyclists',motorists' and pedestrians' cognizance of each other.  That is achieved, I think, over a generation or two of cyclists and motorists sharing the streets on more-or-less equal terms and of not thinking of each other as, essentially, different races of people.  Such a state of affairs--which I have found in much of Europe--comes about from not only sheer numbers of everyday cyclists (commuters and people who use ride their bikes to shop, go to the movies and such) but also from large numbers of motorists who are (or recently were) regular cyclists themselves.

That is the reason why I always felt safer riding even in those European cities like Paris, where there are relatively few bike lanes, than in almost any American city in which I cycled.  And, by the way, the City of Light and other European capitals didn't have bike share programs until recently.

17 October 2013

Autumn Morning Mist In New York

So far, this has been quite a mild Fall, at least here in New York.  While the weather has been great for riding, there's one thing I'm not crazy about:  The days are getting shorter.

Here is a view from the RFK-Triborough Bridge, looking toward Manhattan, just before seven this morning:

I enjoy the mist, especially the way it's pulled across the pillars and posts of steel and and slabs of concrete, as some are trying to get a few more moments of sleep.

But, of course, if you're trying to get a few more moments of sleep, you won't.  So it is morning for you, even if the light hasn't caught up, and won't for a few more months.l

16 October 2013

Equal Opportunity?

If bicycles and bicyclists were to achieve public stature equal to that of cars and drivers, how would we know?

Well, I think I may have seen a sign that we're on our way:

While Vera was parked near Baker Field, at the very upper end of Manhattan, someone left a menu for a restaurant in my rack.

Menus and flyers are left on car winshields all the time.  I've even seen them rolled onto motorcycle handlebars.  But this is the first time I've seen one on any bike, let alone one of my own.

14 October 2013

A Day Off-- And Another Beautiful Day to Ride

In at least one way, Columbus Day is a terrible holiday.  Depending on how you look at it, on this day the United States celebrates a guy who got lost or the beginning of Native American genocide.

Italy has given the world Petrarch, Dante, Bocaccio, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, Puccini, Verdi and Gino  Bartali.  But we celebrate "Columbus Day" as a festival of Italian pride.  Mamma mia!

One nice thing about it, though, is that most people have the day off from work or school, so there isn't much traffic on the roads.  If the weather is nice, as it was today, people will be out and about--but not as many as, say, on Memorial Day, the Fourth of July or Labor Day.

There was no denying that it was a great day to ride. I took Tosca on a ramble through the Brooklyn waterfronts, the Hasidic neighborhoods and Coney Island. 

At Sheepshead Bay, I saw the Three Musketeers:


13 October 2013

A Fall Classic (For Me, Anyway)

One of the great things about doing a ride you've done dozens, even hundreds of times, before is noticing how it looks and feels different from other times when you've done it.

So it was on my Point Lookout ride today.  We had classic Fall weather:  a mix of sun and clouds and a high temperature of about 20 C.   

But we pedaled into wind that varied from 10 to 15kph from Rockaway Beach to the Point.   That meant, of course, that the ride home was more like flight. 

Arielle, my Mercian Audax, made the ride even better, as she always does.  She also  seems to be taking on the light a little differently--or is it my imagination?

Perhaps it has to do with her consciousness of line.

No, it has to be the light itself--or at least the changing Fall colors.

11 October 2013

How The Government Shutdown Affects Cyclists In Brooklyn

The Federal Government shutdown is now affecting cyclists.  Well, some, anyway, in this part of the world.

The closure of Mount Rushmore, the Grand Canyon and other sites administered by the National Parks Service has been well-publicized.  But another NPS site here in New York is also off-limits to visitors:  Floyd Bennett Field, which is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area.

When GNRA opened in 1972, it was the first national park in an urban area.  It includes a number of areas that abut the Atlantic Ocean and Jamaica Bay in Brooklyn, Queens and the northern Jersey shore.  

Floyd Bennett Field, at the southernmost part of Brooklyn, sits across Jamaica Bay from Rockaway Beach. It's about as big as LaGuardia Airport and, in fact, was the second-largest airport (after Newark) in the New York Metropolitan area until LaGuardia opened in 1937. Howard Hughes, Amelia Earhart and other pioneering aviators embarked upon some of their groundbreaking flights from Floyd Bennett.  

In 1941, on the eve of the USA's entry into World War II, Floyd Bennett became a Naval air station, a role if played for three decades until larger aircraft, and easier entry for ships at more modern ports, rendered Floyd Bennett obsolete as a military aviation facility.

There has been talk of making it function as an airport again, perhaps for small private planes.  That seems unlikely, however, as the paths of its runways (which are longer than those at LaGuardia) criscross those of nearby John F. Kennedy International Airport.

I, for one, hope that Floyd Bennett never becomes an air terminal again.  Its runways make all but ideal bike lanes.  When I lived in Park Slope, Brooklyn, I often pedaled down to Floyd Bennett for a pre- or apres- work ride.  I also participated in a couple of the sanctioned weekly races held every week in spring and summer--and a couple of impromptu wildcat races.

According to one website, a group of cyclists was planning such a race for this weekend.  Of course, they have to cancel, as the runways and paths will be inaccessible to them.

I am guessing that the race is not the only ride so affected by the government shutdown:  There were probably other rides (if not races) planned in other government-run sites.

10 October 2013

Monk On A Bike

Today is Thelonious Monk's birthday.

I have no evidence that he was (or, for that matter, wasn't) a cyclist. However, there is at least one frame builder--and there are at least a few bike shops--called "Monk Bicycles", "Monk Bikes" or some variation thereof.

Any one of them could base its logo on this:


And, of course, one of Schwinn's more successful bicycles--the Criss Cross--shares a name, if only coincidentally, with one of Monk's albums.


08 October 2013

The Wheels Of Change

One Christmas, I (or one of my brothers--or my brothers and I) got a Spirograph set.

If you're of a certain age, you might remember it.

A set consisted of interlocking wheels, bars and gears and pens. Using them resulted in some interesting shapes, patterns and designs--if, at times, inintentionally.

One of us came up with a design that looked something like this:

For years, I thought the rose windows in the great cathedrals of Europe were drawn with a toy my brothers and I fought over.

We came up with other designs that looked like various wheeled vehicles:

I wonder whether any bicycle builders drew their inspiration from one of our favorite childhood toys.

P.S.  Last year, Hasbro, the company that made the original Spirograph, made a new drawing kit with the same name.  Sadly,that is about the only thing it and the original have in common.

06 October 2013


When I was very young--which, believe it or not, I once was--bicycles with small-diameter (usually 20 inches) wheels and "banana" seats were popular.

The models oriented for girls were usually white or pink or lavender and had flowers, rainbows and such painted on them. But the ones for boys sported racing stripes and other things meant to evoke racing. 

One example of a girls' bike was the Schwinn Lil' Chik.  For boys, Schwinn made the "Krate" series (apple, orange and pea picker) while Raleigh offered the "Chopper".

Schwinn, Raleigh and other companies seem to have stopped making those bikes some time in the late 1970's.  If I recall correctly, the Consumer Products Safety Commission published a warning about them, or banned them outright.  I also heard that Schwinn, Raleigh and other companies that made such bikes were facing lawsuits from the families of kids who were injured when the bike toppled or, more commonly, when the struts of the banana seat broke.

It seems that nobody was even making those bikes or seats until a few years ago.  I don't know whether the government changed its regulations or whether the struts are better-designed or made with stronger materials than the old ones.  But, somehow, they are recapturing a part of the market and showing up in what would have been the most unlikely places:

I'm guessing that the banana seat on the back of this Trek hybrid is intended for a passenger.  I've ridden bikes with 15 to 25 kilos--about the weight of a young child-- loaded on the rear.  However, my loads--which usually consisted of clothing, camping and hiking equipment, notebooks and such--were packed into pannier bags attached to the sides of a rear rack.  Weight carried in that position is more stable than the same amount of weight fastened to the top of a rack--or on a banana seat.

I wonder what the safety record is for today's "banana" seats, especially given that increasing numbers of them are being attached to bicycles like the one in the photo.

05 October 2013

The Ride Of The Material Girl

In the latest issue of Harper's Bazaar, Madonna recounts, among other things, some terrifying experiences as a 20-year-old native of Rochester, Michigan living in New York.

OK, I'll admit it:  She's one of my heroines.  If I could have been born female, I would want to be like her.  Whatever you think of her singing, her "material girl" persona, love life or study of the Kabalah, you have to say this for her:  She follows the beat of her own drummer.  She's daring and, at times, courageous in ways I never could have been.

Anyway, I also know she's done some cycling over the years.  Here she is preparing for a ride in Malibu in 1989:

From About.com

And, more recently--this past August, in fact--she was seen pedaling with her adopted daughter on la Cote d'Azur:

From the Daily Mail

Somehow it doesn't surprise me.  After all, she and I are the same age, and we both come from similar milieux.  I continued to ride my bike as my peers abandoned theirs the day they got their drivers' licenses.  And she was, well, Madonna.  Neither of us could help but to be who we are; both of us ride bicycles.

04 October 2013

Autumn Dream Ride

For me, one of the worst things about having worked in education for so long is that I've done much less autumn riding than I'd like.  If I had my way, I'd take an extended cycling vacation around this time of year.  For one thing, I love the weather and foliage.  For another, it's much less expensive to go to most places at this time of year than it is in summer.  

If I could take off for a week or two, I probably would do this guy's ride:

He's in Cotswalds, England.  I mean, for someone who rides Mercian bikes with Brooks saddles, what could be a better fall ride?  About the only other places where I'd like to spend October as much as I would in that part of England are the Vosges, Vermont and, perhaps, Maine or Quebec.


(Both photos are from cyclinginfouk.co.com.

03 October 2013

Another Bike To Work Month

Here in New York--as in other places--May is Bike Commuting Month.  And Bike to Work Week takes place during that month.

It makes sense:  In any given year, May is the first month with long stretches of weather most people find favorable for cycling.  Those who don't commute (or do any other cycling) during the winter usually resume pedaling in later March or April, but the weather is very chancy and people are as likely to ride a day here, a day there.

I have argued that there should be two Bike Commuting Months--one in Spring, the other in Fall.  If May is a good time for the former, I think the latter should be in October.  There might be a day or two of "Indian Summer", as we've just had, but the oppressive heat and humidity of summer are past.  On the other hand, it's rare to experience sub-freezing temperatures, even at the end of the month.  And, Interestingly, October is typically the driest month. 


Now I've learned that in at least one city--namely, Atlanta--this is Bike Commuting Month.  It looks like the folks in the capital of the Peachtree State have some pretty ambitious plans for, as the month's organizers say, getting folks to trade steering wheels for handlebars'".

02 October 2013


During the 1960's and 1970's, the "shopper" was a popular genre of bicycle in England.

Usually, it was a small-wheeled bike with a longish wheelbase.  This designed allowed it to be wheeled in and around marketplaces easily, and made it more stable than other small-wheeled bicycles when loads were carried on it.

People often mistook them for folding bikes as, to the untrained eye, they looked somewhat similar.  However, a shopper typically could not be folded.  More important, even when they are unfolded, "folders" are typically more compact than "shoppers."

Bobbin seems to be trying to revive the genre in Albion and introduce it to Americans.  I wonder how many Yanks, upon hearing the term "shopper", expect a bike like this:


01 October 2013

Indian Summer Bike Parking

Some would have considered today's weather perfect for cycling:  The air was warm and the sky was clear.  Myself, I prefer it to be a tad cooler, but it was fine.  

When I was growing up, people called such weather at this time of year "Indian Summer."  Does anybody still use that term?  I don't, mainly because when I hear "Indian" these days, I think of someone from the South Asian subcontinent. I've never been there, but somehow I have a hard time associating any but the hottest and most humid New York weather with that part of the world.

Anyway, lots of people were riding today. I rode to work and, afterward, to my doctor's office, where I had blood drawn.  

I started going to that doctor in the fall of 2002.  For my first few visits, my bike was the only one parked in front of the office.  More recently, I would see one or two other bikes whenever I parked.  But, today I was greeted with this:

I am sorry for the less-than-stellar quality of the photo, which I took with my cell phone.  But I think you can see that the scaffolding in front of the building is lined with bikes, and nearly any other space that can be used to lock a bike has been taken.

Whenever I encourage people to ride to work or for errands, I tell them they "don't have to worry about finding a parking spot".  It looks like I might have to re-think that claim!