30 November 2015

Approaching Weather, Seen Clearly

In Florida--at least the part where my parents live--you can ride under a cloudless, sunny blue sky and see a downpour on the horizon.  That storm might soak you in an hour, or even less.

The reason why oncoming weather (or the weather you're about to ride or drive into) is so visible is that the landscape is flatter than any of my jokes fell the one time I went to an open mike and there are no tall buildings.  That means, of course, that you would never see approaching weather so clearly here in New York, especially in Manhattan.

Or would you?

This morning I took a spin up the Hudson River Greenway up to 125th Street.  The chill in the air turned to outright cold as I approached the river, but I did not mind:  It was invigorating and the surroundings are stimulating.  However, I think I was able to see the rain that local meteorologists are predicting for tonight.  Interestingly, it is supposed to come from the north--the direction in which I was riding when I took the photo (The George Washington Bridge is behind that veil of clouds)--rather than the west, as weather usually does.

August in Florida comes to November in New York. Who'd'a thunk?

29 November 2015

The Last Sunday

Americans regard Labor Day as the unofficial end of summer.   If it is, perhaps today--Thanksgiving Sunday, or the last Sunday of November--is the unofficial end of fall or the  beginning of the Christmas season.

Today felt like the end of a season of some sort.  The ride I took today was more than pleasant; the skies cleared of yesterday's rain and the crispness one could feel in the air a couple of days ago has given way to a bracing nip.

I rode to Point Lookout, in part because I hadn't ridden there in a while, but also because I figured that, since my route wouldn't take me anywhere near the malls or any other retail "magnet", I wouldn't encounter much traffic.  

Turns out, I was right.  In fact, the streets of Atlantic and Long Beaches--the first two Nassau County towns I encounter after crossing the bridge from Queens--were deserted.  I sometimes encounter that on Saturdays or High Holy Days, as a large number of observant Jews live in the area.  But to encounter hardly a car, cyclist or pedestrian on a Sunday, even when it isn't beach season, is unusual, to say the least.  

I did, however, notice that the bars were full, and it didn't look like the patrons were "doing" brunch.  When I glanced into one of the windows, I saw the reason why:  Most of the patrons, it seemed, were gazing at football (American-style) matches on wide-screen TVs as they munched on chicken wings and quaffed brews.

In fact, the largest congregation of people I saw outdoors were standing on line at an ice cream stand, open for the last time until, probably, March. (A handlettered sign read, "See you in the Spring!:)  Even the sorts of people one encounters along the beaches and Point Lookout in the Fall and Winter--bird watchers, philosophers and poets manques, fisher-men and -women--were gone, with a few exceptions:

It almost seemed as if the tide would have stayed out as long as that man and his dog trotted on the sandbar.  I wonder if these souls felt the same way:

Today I rode alone, by choice.  In other years, I have ridden on the last Sunday in November with people with whom I never rode--or even never saw--again.  Whether or not I continued to ride during the winter (I did in most years, though usually not as much as I rode during the other seasons), I wouldn't see them.   By the time the next cycling season began--in February or March or April, depending on that year's weather--they were gone, to new schools, new jobs, new towns (or even states or countries), new lives.

The mild weather we've enjoyed in this part of the world this fall may well continue through the next few months, and I may not cycle much less than I have ridden during the past few weeks.  Or we may be snow- and ice-bound, as we were for several weeks last winter, and ride very little.  Or there might be some other change in my life, for better or worse, that affects or doesn't affect how much I ride between now and the time lilacs and cherry blossoms start opening themselves to the furtive early-spring sun.

Whatever happens, today, like every last Sunday in November I recall, feels like the unofficial end of cycling season.  Any ride I take after today, and before the beginning of Spring or the new cycling season, will seem like an interlude rather than a normal part of the cycle. 

Somehow it seems fitting that I rode Arielle, my Mercian Audax.  Out of all of my bikes, she seems to most embody the spirit of my riding.  If I could only take one more ride, I'd choose her.  I doubt that today's trek will be my last before Spring.  Still, Arielle seems to be the right bike to ride at the end of the season.

(There isn't much to lean a bike against at Point Lookout!)

28 November 2015

We're Not All Surly Scofflaws

When Donald Trump said that Mexico was sending rapists to this country, many people rightly expressed outrage.

Likewise, there would be plenty of righteous umbrage expressed if African-Americans were portrayed as gangsters,  "welfare queens" or even basketball players, just as we would not tolerate a broad-brushed characterization of Jews as money-hungry.

However, I've noticed that--at least here in New York--many people, including news anchors, think it's perfectly all right to characterize all cyclists as surly scofflaws.  I wish I'd recorded the segment in which an announcer on a local all-news station--the one to which most NYC taxi drivers listen--said that cyclists "never" obey the traffic law and that a proposed law would ensure that we do.

By Andreas Kambanis

Granted, there are cyclists who blow through red lights and sideswipe pedestrians and others. I don't have any statistics, but I know they don't constitute "all" cyclists, any more than the attacks in Paris or the World Trade Center are proof that "all" Muslims or Arabs, or people from the Middle East or North Africa, are terrorists.

What people forget is in painting all members of a group with a broad brush, they are further alienating themselves from that group, just as they are alienating members of that group from themselves.  That, in turn, causes some members of the group--whether they're Muslims or black teenagers or cyclists or whatever--to believe that, no matter how well they behave, they are lumped in with the worst members of their group.  So, they figure, there is no point in changing their ways--or they, out of anger, become even bolder or more brazen in their antisocial behavior.

What I heard yesterday on 1010 WINS is not an isolated example, and it is not part of a new trend.  About twenty years ago, a certain local television reporter staged an incident in which he, while crossing a street, was knocked down by a "cyclist".  (I put "cyclist" in quotation marks because, as the incident was fake, I have to wonder whether the person on the bike was actually a cyclist.  Perhaps he was just playing one on TV.)  As we were even more of a minority than we are now, there was even less outcry than there has been over more recent examples of anti-cycling bias.  Then again, the story had a shorter "shelf life" than today's anti-biker screeds.

So, I urge cyclists to be on the lookout for more examples of anti-bike bias in the meida, and to call the television and radio stations, news-papers and -sites, and other media outlets on it.  At the same time, I appeal to my fellow riders to be considerate of pedestrians, especially those who are elderly and disabled--and to obey traffic signs and signals.  After all, cyclists in Montreal and Paris do it, and it doesn't seem to slow them down.

27 November 2015

Thanksgiving Post-Prandial

I am sure that the ride I took yesterday didn't burn off nearly as many calories as I consumed during Thanksgiving dinner.   I suppose most people could say that the bike ride, walk, run, swim, skate or whatever they took (if, indeed, they took any of those) after their holiday repasts could say  .the same.  

Anyway, yesterday was a lovely day all the way around, from the beginning.  As I left to go to my friends' place, I was greeted by this:

The window is in a building two doors down from where I live.  I had seen the cat once before; if I do say so myself, she knows she's looking at a friend when she sees me.  Were there not a screen (as there was yesterday) or windowpane between us, I'd be stroking and possibly feeding her.  I'm sure she knows that.

What's striking about that cat is that her body is white and she has patches of colors on her head and rear--a reversal of what one normally sees. (Both of my cats have colorful bodies and patches of white.)  One of these days, I'll ask her human how he or she found her.

After spending the afternoon with food and friends (possibly in that order), I snuck out for a ride before dessert.  I tried to capture, on my cell phone, a tree in near-perfect late-fall sunset hue arched over a street.  What I got instead was the beginning of the sunset.  Oh well.

From there, I rambled over to the Worlds' Fair Marina prominade, which rims Flushing Bay from LaGuardia Airport to the Flushing Bridge, a span that provides some of the most necropolitic vistas in this city. Just east of the airport, I chanced upon this schizophrenic scene:

Then I went back for dessert, which added even more calories than I burned off.  But, hey, it was Thanksgiving.  And the food and company were great.

After that, I rode to visit a friend and co-worker in the hospital.  He's in a coronary care unit, where eating isn't allowed, so I couldn't bring any of the food I'd shared with my friends.  It was sad, but it showed me a few things for which I'm thankful. 

P.S. No Black Friday for me!

26 November 2015

A Thanksgiving Greeting

Being the person I am, I often think about roles.  That means, of course, I think of role-reversal.  So it probably wouldn't surprise you to know that I particularly enjoyed finding this:

Vintage postcard.  Posted on Bike Topeka

The poor turkey!  Someone's making him (I'm assuming that if he's Tom, he's male!) do all of the work.  Then he's going to be killed and stuffed by people who are going to stuff themslves with him, the stuffing and every other kind of food you can think of!

If that doesn't turn you into a vegetarian, I don't know what will.  (Then again, I'm not saying that you should become one.  A chacun son gout.

All right.  I know I'm not supposed to use French on Thanksgiving, the most American of all holidays.  But even Francophobes will, I suspect, forgive me this year in the wake of the Paris attacks.

Anyway...I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving.  And, if you don't celebrate this holiday, I hope this day is joyful and fulfilling.  Finally, to my readers:  Thank you.

25 November 2015

Jan, We Want To See You Back On Your Bike--Real Soon!

Talking about another person's misfortune is always difficult, especially at this time of year.  It's especially difficult when that person has provided us with companionship, knowledge or adds pure-and-simple joy to something we already love.

Jan Heine is one such person.  Even people who will never become randonneurs or randonneuses, or have no interest in classic touring and trekking bikes, enjoy Bicycle Quarterly, in which he shares his experiences of rides and equipment, illustrated with some wonderful photographs.  He has written and edited books about bikes and riding, all of which are as interesting and informative as they are attractive on a coffee table.

His most recent adventure, in Asia, ended prematurely during his descent of Hehuanshan Pass, the highest road in Southeast Asia.  A car travelling in the opposite direction turned left, in front of him--too quickly for him to steer out of a crash. 

He writes, "I was lucky to escape without life-changing injuries."  Still, "the impact was hard enough to break my shoulder, my arm, one or two vertebrae, and a few ribs."


Here's to wishing Jan a speedy recovery ... and that he rides again soon.  After all, we want to read more about his adventures and the bikes he rides, don't we?

"The Retrogrouch" posted a nice "get well" message to him yesterday!

24 November 2015

Spinning Their Wheels

It rotates around an axis. At the axis is a gear, which in turn is spun by another gear connected to it with a chain or belt. 

It sounds like a bicycle wheel, right? 

Well, it could be.  Or it might be something else you've probably ridden.

I'm talking about a Ferris Wheel.  The method of propulsion may be a bit different (an engine instead of a pair of legs), but the basic operating principles are more or less the same.

So, perhaps, it's not surprising that someone has created a bicycle-powered Ferris wheel:

That, at least, makes some kind of sense.  But a Ferris Wheel-powered bicycle...I dunno:

Then again, one can argue that bicycles are powered by Ferris Wheels--or that Ferris Wheels are oversized bicycle wheels with people riding them.

23 November 2015

After The Foliage: November Cycling

Went out after the rain yesterday.  I know I could have ridden one of my fendered (Is there such a word?) bikes, but getting wet or dirty wasn't my concern.  The rain was a cold, rather dreary, one, and I simply didn't feel like starting a ride in it.

The rest of the day was overcast, mostly.  But the cloud cover, and the air generally, were most definitely those of November.  Gone are most of the leaves; most of the trees (except, of course, for the evergreens, of which we don't have many in this area) are bare.  Thus, the colors of the day do not blaze from foliage; rather, they are suffused with light that is growing dimmer.

October, with its fall foliage, which I love as much as anyone does, dazzles the senses.  Somehow I feel November, with its more austere shapes and hues, sharpens those senses.  At least, that's how  I feel when I ride during this month.

And Tosca, my Mercian fixed-gear, sharpens me as a rider, I believe.  Her responsiveness makes me more responsive to my conditions--and rewards me with an exhilarating but still comfortable ride.

There was another reward, as I looked to the west from the Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge:


22 November 2015

If You Can Survive New York...

At one time in my life, I very seriously thought of moving to San Francisco.

In those days, "The City By The Bay" still seemed to be basking in a patchouli-scented twilight.  I haven't been there in a while, but I've been told that money from the high-technology and financial-services industries has changed the city's character quite a bit.

Anyway, 'Frisco just seemed to be more friendly and relaxed than New York in those days, though it still had almost everything I love about cities.  Plus, there are those stunning views!

I figured--like most New Yorkers--that if I can survive here, I can live anywhere.  And, once I got used to the hills, commuting on my bike would be easier.

Or would it?

From SF Gate

21 November 2015

When I Took A Shot, I Mean, A Ride

Have you ever ridden a Sling Shot bicycle?

1995 model--like Stelios' bike

These days, SS is producing a line of bicycles with conventional tubing dimensions and geometry.  At the same time, they have continued their signature frame design:  the one with the cable in place of the downtube.

If you haven't ridden one of those bikes, you may have seen one.  In place of the downtube, a thick steel cable is attached to the bike with a spring.  Early versions of the frame, from the 1980s, actually had two cables, and the springs were hooked onto the bottom bracket.  On later models, the spring is found at the top tube.  And, on nearly all Sling Shots, there is a hinge on the top tube just before it meets the seat tube.

Stelios Tapanakis, who worked in several New York City bike shops during the '80's and '90's and co-owned Park Slope shop Rock'n'Road with Stella Buckwalter in the late '90's, was a big fan of Sling Shots.  He owned and rode both a road and a mountain model, each equipped with typical components (mostly Ultegra on the road bike and XT on the mountain bike) of the day.  He allowed me to try his bikes on a few occasions. 

The hinge

I didn't dislike either bike.  If anything, I found them rather unremarkable.  I don't mean that in a negative way:  They both reminded me of other bikes I'd ridden and, in some cases, enjoyed. 

1990 model.  I rather like this one.

In particular the road bike reminded me of at least a few Columbus SL frames I'd ridden (and a couple I owned).  Perhaps it had to do with the shocks which, Stelios explained, were the stiffest ones Sling Shot was offering.  (The bikes could be purchased with softer springs.)  I didn't notice any major difference in shock absorption from conventional steel bikes I'd ridden.  Nor did I notice a significant difference in acceleration or responsiveness.

What really surprised me, though, was that the Sling Shot seemed noticeably heavier than the Mondonico Criterium I was riding at the time, even though both bikes had very similar components and wheels and had the same tires.  (I didn't weigh either bike; my impression came from lifting both bikes.)  Even in those days, I wasn't a weight weenie; still, I couldn't help but notice the difference.

I also felt a difference--though less noticeable--in weight between his mountain Sling Shot and the off-road bike I rode at the time:  a Jamis Dakota.  In a way, that surprised me even more than the difference between the road bikes, as the Jamis was a mid-level bike.  Although I upgraded a few of the parts, the overall package was not on the same tier as the equipment Stelios was riding on his mountain Sling Shot.

As for that bike:  I noticed a bit more of a difference in the ride between it and the Jamis than I did between his road bike and mine.  The Sling Shot actually did feel as if it were absorbing more shock than my Jamis, on which I  had a Rock Shox Mag 21 fork, if I recall correctly. (When I bought the Jamis, mountain bikes still weren't sold with shock absorbing front forks; they were still considered an after-market item.) But the Sling Shot also felt less stable going down a hill, as if the bike had a loose head tube.  Stelios used to say that it allowed him more control of the bike.  I suppose that if I'd done more downhill rides, I'd have felt the same way.

So, while neither bike had a disagreeable (to me, anyway) ride,  I could see no reason to sell the bikes I had and "upgrade" to a Sling Shot frame, which cost about twice as much as my Mondonico and who-knows-how-much more than the Jamis.

I got to thinking about Sling Shots when I saw this photo on Memphis Cyclist:

I tried, unsuccessfully, to find more information about that bike.  Is it my imagination, or does it look like it--like the Sling Shot--has a cable instead of a down tube?

The top tube looks like someone crossed a truss and a camelback frame.  What if Sling Shot were to make a frame like that?

Turns out, they did--sort of:

Now I'm going to reiterate something I've said in earlier posts:  In my nearly four decades of cycling, nearly every "new" idea I've seen was indeed new--twenty, fifty or even a hundred years earlier!

20 November 2015

Michelle Dumaresq: 100% Pure Woman Champ

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance.  

This day was first observed in 1999, one year after Rita Hester was murdered in her Allston, Massachusetts apartment.  She was killed just two days before she would have turned 35 years old.

Her death came just a few weeks after Matthew Shepard was beaten and left to die on a cold night in the Wyoming high desert.  Their deaths helped to bring about the hate-crime laws now on the books in the US as well as many state and local statutes.  Moreover, Hester's killing--while not as widely publicized as Shepard's--galvanized transgender activists all over the world.

Because I am--at least to my knowledge--the only transsexual woman with a bike blog, I am going to use this post to honor one of the greatest transgender athletes of our era.

Michelle Dumaresq was born in 1970.  In 2001, she entered and won her first competitive mountain biking event--the Bear Mountain Race in British Columbia, Canada.  After she won two more races, her racing license was suspended in response to complaints from other female riders.  The cycling associations of British Columbia and Canada, after meeting privately with race organizers, tried to pressure her into quitting.  Of course, she wouldn't, and after a meeting with UCI officials, it was decided that she could continue to compete as a female.

Other female riders felt she had an unfair advantage.  Their resentment was, not surprisingly, based on a common misunderstanding.  Dumaresq had her gender reassignment surgery in 1996, five years before her first victory, and had been taking female hormones--and a male hormone blocker--for several years before that.  By the time she started racing, she no longer had any testosterone in her body (Biological females have traces of it.) and she had lost most of the muscle mass she had as a man.

I know exactly where she's been, as I also had the surgery after six years of taking hormones and a testosterone blocker.  A few months into my regimen, I started to notice a loss of overall strength, and I noticed some more after my surgery.  Trust me, Ms. Dumaresq, as talented and dedicated as she is, had no physiological advantage over her female competitors.

I remind myself of that whenever another female rider (usually, one younger than I am) passes me during my ride to work!

But I digress.  Michelle Dumaresq had the sort of career that would do any cyclist--male or female, trans or cisgender, or gay--proud.  She won the Canadian National Championships four times and represented her country in the World Championships.  That, of course, made the haters turn up the heat.  When she won the 2006 Canadian National Championships, the boyfriend of second-place finisher Danika Schroeter jumped onto the podium and helped her put on a T-shirt that read "100% Pure Woman Champ."

Ms. Dumaresq would have looked just fine in it.

19 November 2015

Protecting Your Image

Over the past few years, I've noticed more cyclists--particularly of the commuting and utilitarian variety--wearing "urban" bike helmets.

Now, I get that not everybody likes the look of racing helmets.  But, in terms of aesthetics, our lids have come a long, long way from the days of the "Skid Lid" and "Turtle Shell".  Today's helmets are sleeker and better-ventilated than anything available thirty or forty years ago (save, perhaps for the "Skid Lid").  Plus, they offer at least some choice in colors.  When I got my first helmet--a "Turtle Shell", of course!--you could have it in any color you wanted as long as it was white.

If you have seen my bikes, you know that I'm not apathetic about their appearance.  You have also probably figured, by now, that I don't want to ride with a helmet that clashes terribly with my bike or clothes. 

Still, I try to be at least somewhat practical.  If I had to choose, I'd rather have a comfortable helmet (which, for me, means good ventilation above all else) than one that will get me admitted to the trendiest bike café.  I feel the same way about the clothes I wear while riding:  while I usually ride to work in whatever I wear on the job, my skirts are usually A-line or flared and my pants are really pants, not second layers of skin.  Also, my heels are never higher than the profile of the tires I ride. ( I will let you interpret that as you will!)

Back to helmets:  Whether it's finished in matte black or covered with tweed, if it offers any kind of protection, it's still going to look like a helmet.  Thus, for the truly image-conscious, the only solution is one that isn't visible until it's doing its job.

Believe it or not, a Swedish company has created such a helmet.  Actually, the Hovding (which means "chieftain" in the native tongue) isn't really a helmet so much as it's, as the company's website proclaims, an "airbag for cyclists". 

An airbag it is--one that, when deflated, fits into a collar the cyclist wears.  (One can debate how fashionable it is.  Let's just say it's not to my tastes!)  Upon impact, the "helmet" puffs up around the cyclist's head.  Good thing:  Any cyclist who has even half as much fashion sense as I have (which may not be saying much) wouldn't want to ride his or her city's boulevards encased in such a thing.

The idea of the Hovding is, if nothing else, novel.  However, when I saw it, I had this question:  If I'm riding at, say, 40 KPH (which, believe it or not, I still do sometimes!), will the bag be deployed quickly enough?  Also, I have to wonder whether its effectiveness. affected by whether the cyclist takes a tumble on his or her side or hits something head-on.

Let me tell you: Wearing a helmet isn't so bad.  It just takes some getting used-to.  And even the least expensive helmets available today are better-ventilated, lighter and offer more protection than anything that was available when I first started covering my dome.

18 November 2015

The First Bike Tour Of The First National Park

At this time of year, most of the roads in Yellowstone Park are closed to wheeled vehicles or are being prepared for winter use.  As weather permits, brief periods of day cycling (as well as walking, roller-blading, roller-skiing and other forms of non-vehicular travel) are allowed. 

Back in 1883, those roads hadn't been built.  In fact, there weren't many paved roads anywhere between the Mississippi River and the Sierra Nevada mountains.  Any sort of travel was therefore arduous; one can only imagine what it would have been like to ride bicycles with sixty- or seventy-inch front wheels through the rugged terrain of what would become Yellowstone, the world's first national park.

Even in such conditions, a few intrepid cyclists dared to pedal (or, at times, push, carry and simply slog with) their bikes through woods, canyons and rivers.  Among those cyclists were C.S. Greenbaum, W.K. Sinclair and W.O. Owen of the Laramie Bicycle Club in Wyoming.

Yes, they rode through Yellowstone on those bikes!

At that time, there were two entrances to the park. One, in Bozeman, Montana, was 900 kilometers (560 miles) away.  The other went through Beaver Canyon, Idaho, some 1500 kilometers (900 miles) from LBC's home base.

The three men chose the Idaho entrance.  To get there, they took a train across Utah and met up with a team, wagon, outfit and guide in Beaver Canyon.

Rebecca Connell Walsh made this most interesting podcast about the three men and their ride, the very first through Yellowstone:

Yellowstone's First Bicycle Explorers

17 November 2015

Paying People To Ride To Work: Will It Work?

Some people will ride their bikes to work because they enjoy riding.  Others do it for the exercise.  Still others pedal to their jobs because it's more convenient or less expensive than taking the bus or train, or driving.

Then there are those who won't ride to work--or even get on a bike--unless they're paid.

Apparently, the council members of a town in Italy were thinking of that last group of people. 

Nestled in the hills of Lucca, in the Tuscany region, Massarossa is about 35 kilometres north of Pisa.   The town has set aside 30,000 Euros (about 21,000 USD) for a pilot scheme that would pay workers to ride their bikes to their jobs.  Cyclists would be paid 0.25Euros for every kilometer cycled, up to 50 Euros per month.  Conceivably,  a bicycle commuter could pocket up to 600 Euros per year.

Now, as I said, some people could be enticed to ride if they're paid.  That begs the question of what kind of person could be so persuaded?

The answer might come from the experience of a similar program that ran for six months last year in France.  The country's transport minister enlisted corporations and other employers to pay their employees to ride their bikes to work. 

While the number of bicycle commuters increased, it could be argued that the program didn't achieve another of its stated goals:  reducing auto traffic.  You see, most of the people who took advantage of the program had been using public transport before they started pedaling to their workplaces. Relatively few made the switch from driving their cars to their jobs.  Of those who did, most were already carpooling.

I don't know how the folks in Massarossa plan to get people away from four wheels and onto two.  But some of the plan's logistics are interesting:  Cyclists will use a phone app to record how much they've ridden. And the plan will be funded from traffic ticket fines.  By law, those funds have to be invested in road safety.

Whether or not the plan works, it's worth trying, especially if someone can come up with a way to get folks out of their cars.

16 November 2015

How Are Bike Share Programs Used?

Bike-share programs, as we know them, have been around for a decade.  That seems to be enough time to notice some patterns in, and draw conclusions about, them.

A Rice University study has done just that, at least in regards to the share programs in four US cities.  It notes two very interesting trends.

A new study of bike-share programs in Sun Belt cities shows more people are using the program for recreation.
From Wikipedia Commons

The first is that in Sun Belt cities, bike share programs are increasingly used for recreational cycling.  That makes sense, given the longer cycling seasons in such places.  Also, it makes sense when you realize that many retirees live in and around those cities, and that in some, "snowbirds" spend at least part of the year.  Moreover, some residents of colder climes take vacations in those places, and their cycling is, almost by definition, recreational.

The study notes another trend that I have witnessed here in New York:  More and more share bikes are used for transportation.  If someone is living, say, on the Upper West or East Sides and working in Midtown or the Financial District, riding a bike to work is almost as fast, even for a slow cyclist, as taking the subway.  Also, since many office buildings and some residential buildings have Citibike ports in front of, or within 50 meters, of them, it can be more convenient than having to walk several blocks to or from a subway station.

If a commuter is fortunate enough to have a Citibike port near his or her residence or workplace, there is another convenience:  The bike can simply be taken from, or wheeled into, the port.  The cyclist does not have to look for a free parking meter, telephone pole or other spot where he or she can lock up a bike in relative safety.

The study also makes another interesting observation about transportation uses of bike share programs:  Workers use them to run lunchtime errands or simply to get lunch if they don't want to use their cars or mass transit but the distance is too great to walk.  This could be a very important fact to consider when starting new bike-share programs or expanding those that already exist in lower-density cities like Houston and Denver, which are more highway-oriented and car-centric than cities like New York, Boston and San Francisco.

Even though a city might be lower in population density, it can still experience problems with traffic congestion--and, in the case of Denver or Los Angeles, air pollution.  The Rice study seems to show that expanding bike share programs in those cities, and starting new ones in other cities like them, can help to unsnarl traffic tie-ups and improve air quality--which, of course, can only improve overall public health and safety.

A View During My Commute

One morning last week, fog hung low across the skyline.

To my eyes, it made the scaffolding on the building in the distance stand out all the more.  I wonder whether there is a purpose in that color scheme.  Or did the contractors just use whatever happened to be available to them?

I almost want the building to look like that when it's finished.  Somehow, it would fit in the industrial area surrounding it. 

15 November 2015

Cranksgiving Is Just Around The Corner

Today is the 15th of November--the middle of the month.  It means, among other things, that Thanksgiving (in the US) is not far off.

When I first saw an announcement for a "Cranskgiving" ride, I thought it would be just a post-prandial pedal trip around local streets, perhaps beyond.

Turns out, the ride--at least the version scheduled in Miami--is a bit different.  For one thing, it will run on the 21st, the Saturday before Thanksgiving.  But even more important, it's something I could not have imagined before I heard about it, but made perfect sense once I did:  a combination alley-cat race and scavenger hunt/food drive.

Actually, in one way it resembles a brevet:  There are check points and riders have to stop at every one of them.  But those checkpoints aren't just tables where ride cards are stamped.  Rather, they are stores, and every rider has a list of items to buy.  The first participant to the finish line with all of the items on his or list, and having visited each checkpoint, wins the race.

Of course, one doesn't have to race in order to be part of the ride.  Simply doing it for the sake of the cause--all of the food purchased will go to Camillus House, a one-stop place for those who are homeless, addicted to substances or otherwise in need or other difficulties. 

Versions of "Cranksgiving" are scheduled in other cities on the 21st, including my home town of New York.  Had I known about it earlier, I wouldn't have made the commitments I had already made for that day. Oh well. Maybe I'll do my own version on another day.

14 November 2015

The Attacks In Paris


Isabelle. Je suis Justine.  Tu vas bien?

Oui.  Comment ca-va?

Bien.  J'ai vous vous reveillez?



No problem.  (She likes to use that phrase.) 

J'ai entendu les nouvelles de Paris.

Yes, it is terrible.  But we were not there.

Je suis tres hereuse pour ca.

Would you like to talk to Jay?
Il dort?

Oui, mais se reveillera.

I didn't want her to wake him.  At least I knew he was at home, in his bed.  But she brought him to the phone. 

Desole de te reveiller.

Don't worry.  Mais, besoin de redormir. 

That's OK.  J'ai voule etre sur que vous etes OK.

He thanked me for calling.  I assured him that all I wanted was to know that he and Isabelle were not casualties of the bombings, the shootings, that rocked Paris and its environs yesterday.  I knew that, chances were, they weren't there when those terrible events went down, but I just wanted to be sure.

Then I called Michele.  No answer.  Asleep, I hoped.  I left a message.  Just before I started writing this post, I found an e-mail from her.  All right.  I can breathe a little easier.  Can they?

None of us had gone to the Bataclan together.  But we'd walked those streets, ate in restaurants and sipped espressos in the cafes near it.  When I heard that death struck at Le Carillon, I stopped cold. 

It's just a block away from the Quai des Jemmapes, on the eastern bank of the Canal St. Martin.  Back in August, after a lovely morning ride, I enjoyed a picnic lunch of fresh foods and Badoit water I bought along the way.  As the sun softened the green tint of the canal and leaves that flickered in the breeze, it was hard to imagine anything terrible, let alone the blaze of guns or an explosion.

After my canal-side reverie, I retreated to Le Carillon for a cappuccino to cap off my lunch.  By that time, most locals had finished their lunch and were back at work or passing the rest of the day along the old, narrow streets.  I went to Le Carillon because it was the nearest café, but it was a place I would have chosen otherwise: It seemed like a real old cozy neighborhood watering hole Parisians themselves would habituate, not some place trying to look the part for hipsters who wanted an "authentic" experience. 

I sat at a wooden table on the sidewalk.  So did a few other people.  It's hard to imagine that sidewalk with bodies sprawled over it--even more difficult than it was, the first time I saw the Place de la Concorde, to visualize the blood of French monarchy and nobility spilled all over it.  But certainly not as difficult as it is for those who witnessed the darkness that descended upon the City of Light.


13 November 2015

Vendredi 13eme Avec Jacques

I typed "Friday the 13th bicycle" into a Google search bar.  This is what came up:

"Montxgear" posted it on Pinterest with the caption "Friday 13th, 1922.  Jacques may not have won the Yellow Jersey today, but he did  receive the Pink Cravat for the most expressive moustache."

When I was a kid, it seemed that every "evil villain" (Is there any other kind?) had a sinisterly baroque moustache.   I think of such characters as Dishonest John (who had the best laugh of any cartoon villain), Snidely Whiplash, Boris Badenov and Dick Dastardly.  

Turns out, some of the biggest villains in real life had similarly imposing moustaches--among them Joseph Stalin, Gengis Khan and Saddam Hussein.  (So that's where he hid the WMDs!) 

Friday the 13th and bad guys with moustaches:  They go together like bike racing and...

12 November 2015

Reunited With A Favorite Bike

For those of us who are dedicated cyclists, nothing hurts worse than having our beloved rides stolen.  It's happened to me a few times.  I lost bikes that, frankly, were meant for the purpose: "beaters" that were meant to be locked in urban combat zones.  However, I also lost a relatively nice bike and my first custom build to thieves.

For a time, I thought that having had more than one bike stolen was a sign that one was a true New York cyclist.  Just about everyone with whom I've ridden in the Big Apple has had at least one bike to theft.  In fact, one fellow with whom I sometimes rode in Prospect Park actually sat shiva after losing his classic Ron Cooper.

(I am now recalling how, when drafting him, I would see the tzitzit dangling from the tallit katan he wore under his jersey!  Only in pre-hipster Brooklyn, right?)

For about 99 percent of us, having a bike stolen means never seeing it again.  That's because bikes are pretty easy to transport, take apart and repaint.  Also, law enforcement agencies--at least here in the US--don't seem to make bike theft a high priority.  That's at least somewhat understandable in areas with lots of violent crime but less so, I feel, in relatively tranquil places like suburban or rural college campuses.

Still, when we lose our bikes, we try not to lose hope of being part of the 1 percent whose machines are recovered.  As with just about any other kind of theft, the more time that elapses from the moment the bike is filched, the less likely that bike is to be reunited with its owner.  And, of course, if you lose your wheels far away from home, there's even less chance that you'll ever see them again.

Such a realization left a fellow named Thomas "bummed/heartbroken" the day he left Japan in 1992.  For the previous two years, he'd been stationed in the  northern part the country as a US Navy Pilot.  The riding was "beautiful" there, he says, and the Mercian Strada he'd purchased as a college student a decade earlier got him around. 

He'd raced on that bike against folks like Davis Phinney, Alexi Grewal and Andy Hampsten before even most cyclists had heard of them.  It also made an appearance in the movie American Flyers.  As he explains it, he rode as an extra with the Cinelli team.  The bike the team issued him broke three weeks into the filming, so his Mercian took over.

Well, one cold day a year into his tenure in the Land of the Rising Sun, he stopped at a ramen house to warm his bones with a bowl of noodles.  He parked his Mercian outside the eatery and--you guessed it--his bike wasn't there when he came back out.

He filed a report with the local Japanese police as well as with base security.  No luck--at least not for a while.

In 2009, he was stationed with a squadron in San Diego. As he tells the story, one "glorious" day (Aren't they all in San Diego?), a box appeared on his front porch.

You guessed it:  his Mercian was inside the box.  At least, the frame was, anyway:  the Campagnolo and Cinelli parts, and even the fork, were stripped off. 

Somehow or another, the frame was recovered in Japan.  Because he was in the military, Thomas was much easier to track down than his bike. 

He spent the next few years tracking down replacement components. Once he found them, he sent the frame back to Mercian for restoration. "I'm sure that my next ride on the bike will give me just as much and more joy than that first ride in 1981."

Even though I read and watch all sorts of dark and moody books and films, I like a happy ending now and again.  This one is even better than the one in Breaking Away, don't you think?