30 June 2015

Family Portrait Day

Today is Family Day.  So you’re gonna see lots and lotsa pikshas.

In the previous sentence, my roots were showing.  I’m going to my hairdresser on Thursday.

Anyway…Now I’m going to show you some portraits of family members.  It’s a particular but close branch:  The Mercians.

Yes, I’m going to show you my bikes, after their winter makeovers and some riding.

First I’ll start with Arielle, the first Mercian to come into my life:

You’ve seen some photos of her already. But I wanted to show her after 500 miles, post-facelift (and overhaul):

I’m liking it more and more with the honey leather.  I think the bags have something to do with it:  The color of the canvas (“Nantucket Red”, which is really more like salmon pink) works with both the green and purple of the “flip flop” finish and the honey saddle, bar wrap and toe straps. What do you think?

As you know from a few previous posts, Tosca, my fixie (and the second Mercian I acquired) got a similar treatment.

I’m happy with the way the colors play off each other.  However, I wasn’t able to find a double track toe strap to go with the other leather accessories.  Then again, I guess the mismatch isn’t as noticeable as if, say, I wrapped the bar in a darker color.

The third Mercian to come my way is, I realize, one I haven’t written as much about lately.  Helene is a 2010 Miss Mercian with similar geometry (but with slightly more tire and fender clearance) to Arielle, which is a custom Mercian Audax.  

The rear bag is a bit larger than the one I use on Arielle and Tosca.  As you can probably tell, it was also made by Ely Rodriguez of Ruth Works SF. So is the handlebar bag, doubles as a clutch or shoulder bag when removed from the bike.

Finally, here is the last Mercian I bought. Ironically, it’s the oldest:  Vera, my “other” Miss Mercian.  It was made in 1994 and I purchased it in 2011:

Somehow the boxy randonneur front bag and larger saddle bag make the most sense—and look best—on this bike, although I could use them on my other bike.  Perhaps it’s because Vera has a longer wheelbase and is therefore the most stable with a load on it.  I wonder what it would be like on a longer tour.

She seems really happy to have those bags, and the Brooks B17 special.  So am I.  In fact, I’m happy with all of these bikes:  As similar as they might seem to someone who doesn’t know bikes or Mercians, each has its own character and personality.  Still, they all make me happy when I ride

Now, here’s the rest of my family:

La-Z-Boy, a.k.a. Max

 and La-Z-Girl, a.k.a. Marlee!

29 June 2015

While His Fixie Gently Weeps

Sometimes I think that if Salvador Dali had composed music, it would’ve sounded something like the tune to  While My Guitar Gently Weeps”.

Now, if he’d designed bicycles it would have been interesting, to say the least. While going to the store, I think I saw an example of what might’ve resulted:

For one thing, I was intrigued that this bike came from Biria, a company that’s been known—at least in the US—mainly for city bikes with upright bars.  Perhaps if Biria’s focus is indeed urban bikes, this model makes sense.  After all, I don’t think very many people in small towns in Wyoming or West Virginia are going to ride a bike like that.

Another thing that caught my attention is how close the rear tire comes to the seat tube:

And that’s with the wheel all the way back in the dropout:

What’s even more interesting is that other attempts to shorten the wheelbase (or, at any rate, the rear part of it) have included curving the seat tube, as on this KHS bike from the mid-90’s:


And Schwinn, in the mid-70s, offered a bike called the Sprint with a similar seat tube.  Like many other Schwinns of that era, it was an extremely strange bike:  Save for the curved seat tube and the short (at least relatively) wheelbase, it was no different from the Continental.  At least the KHS was based on something that bore some semblance to a track bike.


Then there was the Rigi, made in Italy during the early 1980’s.  I never owned, but I had a couple of opportunities to ride, one.  It certainly lived up to its name:  I can recall few, if any, other bikes that were more rigid and transferred power to the rear wheel as much as that bike did.


I would be really curious to find out what effect, if any, the curved top and down tubes have on the ride of the Biria I saw today.  Whatever its ride, I don’t think its rider has to worry about stopping power:  It has a coaster brake on the rear wheel and a caliper brake for each wheel!

28 June 2015

There's Hope--Really!

While pedaling up a hill, I saw this:

Now, the hill wasn’t particularly steep or long, and I was riding Tosca, my Mercian fixed gear.  But right now she has a gear of 47x17, which isn’t high but isn’t exactly a climbing gear.  Still, I managed to get up that hill without getting out of my seat or breaking a sweat.  But I have to admit that I liked seeing “There’s Hope”—which is all I saw as I started the climb.  It was only about halfway up when I realized that the place was a barber- and beauty-shop.  Until I saw the subtitle, I thought it might be a storefront church or one of those centers where twelve-step programs meet—neither of which would have surprised me in that neighborhood.

I think it’s kind of funny that a barber- and beauty-shop would have such a name.  Perhaps I should have gone in and asked whether they’d make the same claim for someone who’s as completely un-photogenic as I am.

Anyway, after ascending that hill, I came to a garden.  Well, all right, the name of one—sort of:

Somehow I never associated Eden with mountains.  In any event, I’m glad the city created that green mall along Mount Eden Avenue, which traverses a low-income neighborhood that immigrants from the Caribbean, Latin America and West Africa call home.

A bit further up in the Bronx, I felt a bit like an urban archaeologist when I came upon this, across from the WoodlawnCemetery:

Here in New York, one occasionally sees advertisements that were painted on the sides of buildings decades, or even generations, ago.  Although almost nobody would consider them Fine Art (at least, not with a capital “F” and a capital “A”), some show a level of illustrative vividness—and pure-and-simple imagination and craft—one rarely finds today.  That is why I have respect both for whoever created, and whoever actually painted, those ads. I am sure those people are, unfortunately, long dead.

On the other hand, the graffiti “taggers” who painted their "signatures" on the building next door (which I wasn't able to photograph)  may be alive and well.  Perhaps they have become “legitimate” artists; perhaps they are doing things entirely unrelated to art.  Or—this being the Bronx—they also might be long dead.  Somehow it’s strange to see graffiti (at least here in New York) that seems almost as much an ancient artifact as a grotto unearthed by some construction crew building a hotel or office tower or parking lot in some city along the Mediterranean.

Speaking of history:  Believe it or not, in the Bronx, there’s a still-standing house that’s even older than this country.  This house was built sixteen years before the Declaration of Independence—and two centuries before I was born:

The Valentine-Varian  House is now home to the Museum of Bronx History.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t open when I got there.  But I’m going to make it a point to go there again soon, when it is open.

If that house is still standing—and I climbed some hills (by choice)—I feel that I can say, after all, There’s Hope!

P.S. Can you guess what this building is?