31 October 2016

After You Make Your Pie...

When should you replace your helmet?

Giro, the manufacturer of the helmets I currently ride, recommends getting a new helmet every three years.    MET, an Italian constructor of cranial caskets, says that a helmet should be good for eight years after the date it's manufactured.  The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, on the other hand,says that while the rumors about sweat and sunlight degrading helmets aren't true (in the case of sweat) or exaggerated (in the case of sunlight), five years is a "reasonable" lifespan for the helmet of a cyclist who rides thousands of miles a year.

So, according to Giro, both of my helmets should be replaced (coincidence?) and the folks at BHSI would tell me that replacing mine would be a good idea.  According to MET's recommendations, one of my helmets should be retired, while the other has a year and a half or so left.

Giro, MET, BHSI and every other helmet-maker and safety organization of which I'm aware say that you if you crash your helmet, it should be replaced.  Some say that dropping it onto a hard surface is reason enough to consign it to the scrap heap.

I actually had planned to replace my helmets in the spring. About two weeks ago, I bought two new helmets, both Giros, that were on sale.  (This, it seems, is the best time of year to buy a helmet, as retailers are clearing out this year's stock to make room for wares from the new model year.)  Soon, I'm going to toss the older of my current helmets.  I'll replace the fitting pads in the other with thinner ones so I can ride it with winter headgear underneath.

I got a really good deal on the new helmets.  Still, before I bought them, I wish I'd known about this:

From Alienation Bicycle Components

I would love to read the report if Snell or the American Society for Testing and Materials did a crash test on pumpkins.  Do the kinds of patterns you carve in them affect their structural integrity?

Happy Halloween! 

30 October 2016

Tell Them Groucho Sent You

When I was a kid, we thought Rambler was a car old people drove.

Such a conclusion was based on the impeccable powers of observation children have:  Everyone we saw driving a car with the "R" was old enough to be one of our grandparents.  Also, everything about it just seemed like it was meant to be driven by someone who would have fit the demographic of Brezhnev's last Politburo.  The word for it--which I didn't know at the time, because it wasn't used in my blue-collar milieu--was stodgy.

Thus, when the brand died, one could, perhaps, have been forgiven for thinking that its demise came because all of its potential customers had gone to the Great Golf Course In The Sky.

I was just short of eleven years old at the time.  Not only had I seen what we would, in more politically correct times, call "senior citizens" driving Ramblers, I also noticed some cars--also, as often as not, driven by members of the same age group--bearing a brand that wasn't advertised on TV.

Several years earlier, that brand--named for the first known European to cross the Mississippi River--crossed the Rubicon, or the River Styx, or whatever body of water separates us from The End.  I am referring, of course, to De Soto.

Now, I don't recall the passing of De Soto--the car or the explorer (in spite of what some of my students might have you believe!).  The brand died around the time I was passing through a "terrible" age.  Aside from seeing  some of their cars--which, by the time of Rambler's end, were about a decade old--the only other reference I saw to the brand was in re-runs of You Bet Your Life.  The popular game show's host would urge viewers to go to their nearest De Soto dealers and tell them "Groucho sent you."   

Hmm...If you did utter that magic phrase, did you get a free duck on your dashboard?

Or, perhaps, if you bought one of their cars, you'd get this as a bonus:

I tried to find information on De Soto bicycles.  I don't know whether they were made by any company connected with the automobiles.   It wouldn't surprise me if they were, or at least if someone in the auto company had a hand in designing them.  After all, you can see some of the same "aerodynamic" features--which, on both the bike and the car, were probably more design flourishes than engineering innovations.  And, at the time of the ad (probably the 1950s), bicycle makers marketed their wares to appeal to the fantasies children--boys, mainly--had about the cars they would drive when they were of age.

From what little information I can find, I think I can safely assume that the De Soto bicycles of that time have no more relation to today's De Soto adult tricycles than the bikes today sold as "Motobecane", "Windsor", "Mercier" and "Dawes" have to the classic marques of the Bike Boom and earlier.  

29 October 2016

We Can Use The Jump, And The NY Post Needs To Get A Grip

The other day, I chastised the Mayor of Montreal for his plan to paint lanes that would be shared by bikes and buses on some of his city's main thoroughfares.  An editorial in the Montreal Gazette  lambasted the idea--rightly, in my opinion.

Today the script is flipped, if you will, in my hometown:  a sensible piece of bicycle policy is proposed, but an idiotic newspaper editorial denounces it.

You probably wouldn't be surprised to find out that said editorial is in the New York Post: you know, the rag that became famous for headlines like Headless Body In Topless Bar and has lately become the print media's biggest cheerleader for Donald Trump's candidacy.  They've published a lot of diatribes against cyclists and this city's attempts to be more "bike friendly".  Some of the latter, to be fair, were on the mark, if for the wrong reasons,  such as their early criticisms of bike lanes.

Today their editorial begins thusly:

It seems it's not enough to ease up on anti-social behavior, from urinating on the street to public pot-smoking:  Next, the City Council may let cyclists legally jump red lights.

Here in New York, many intersections have traffic signals with four-way red lights and "walk" signals that precede the green light by 20 seconds.  In principle, I think it's a good idea, because it allows pedestrians to enter the intersection before, and thus be seen by, motorists who might make turns.  If anything, I think the interval should be longer along some of the city's wider streets such as Queens Boulevard, along which many senior citizens and disabled people live.

The City Council proposal would allow cyclists to follow the pedestrian signal in crossing an intersection.  Frankly, I think a 20-second interval for "jumping" red lights makes even more sense for cyclists than it does for pedestrians, especially for cyclists crossing intersections from bike lanes.  Twenty seconds is plenty of time for cyclists to cross just about any intersection, and even the slowest cyclists at the widest boulevards will have enough time to get through the immediate traffic lanes and avoid motorists making right turns.

The Post does have one thing right:  Many cyclists already do that because we know that it's much safer to cross that way than according to motorists' signals.  But I guess I shouldn't be surprised that a paper of their caliber compares legalizing the practice to tolerating public pot-smoking and urination.

If you follow the logic, if it can be called that, of some of the Post's other editorials and articles, allowing public urination unfairly privileges 49 percent of the population (of which I am not a part:  boo hoo).  So, perhaps, it's not surprising that the esteemed editors would follow the passage I italicized above with this:  It's not as bad as it sounds.  Then, they use even more tortured, to put it kindly, logic to dismiss the City Council proposal.

Usually, when folks like Denis Cordierre propose wrongheaded policies about cycling and pundits endorse them (or oppose good ideas), I can attribute it to a lack of knowledge about-- usually because of a lack of experience in-- cycling.  The Post, however, has magnified that lack of knowledge with an apparent inability to construct a cogent argument. Had any of my students submitted anything like it, he or she would see lots of red ink upon getting it back!

I wonder what Alexander Hamilton would think of that editorial--or the Post?

28 October 2016

Ou Sont Les Cyclistes Jeunes d'Antan?

Ou sont les neiges d'antan.

If you recognize that line, you've probably seen (or at least read) The Glass Menagerie.  As great an artist as he was, Tennessee Williams didn't write that line:  He took it from Ballade des dames du temps jadis (Ballad of the Ladies of Ancient Times), a poem Francois Villon wrote some four centuries earlier.

The line means "Where have the snows of yesteryear gone?"  Most of us, I believe, have asked some version or another of that question at least once in our lives:  perhaps when looking at an old photo album or yearbook, for instance.

Even if I have no connection to the subjects of an old image, I can't help but to wonder who they are and where they might be now.  

This photo was taken by John E. Scott and is dated 27 October 1954.  Posted on the website of the Alabama Department of Archives and History, it shows boys with bicycles they'd won in a contest which may have been sponsored by the Montgomery Examiner in Alabama.

Hmm...Not only do I wonder where those boys are, I wonder whether any of them are still riding today.  One can hope!

27 October 2016

A Wrong Path To Bike Safety

I am generally not a fan of bike lanes.  While data from Antwerp, Belgium indicate that they cut the accident rate in half on high-speed (75KPH/45MPH or more) roads, that same study shows that a cyclist riding in either a separated or painted lane along a medium-speed (50KPH, or 30 MPH) has roughly the same accident risk as one riding on the road itself.  

The same research shows, most tellingly, that along low-speed roads (30KPH/20MPH)--meaning most urban streets--a cyclist in a painted lane is nearly five times as likely to get in an accident.  And, if he or she is riding in a separated lane, the risk increases to more than six times what it would be if the road had no lane.

Studies from other locales corroborate the main lesson of Antwerp's experience:  that bike lanes make cyclists safer only in comparison to riding on a highway.  On most suburban streets, the safety level is about the same as it is for lanes.  And on city streets, using bike lanes actually puts cyclists at greater risk for accidents than if they rode on sidewalks, which have long been considered--by planners and everyday cyclists alike--to be the most dangerous places to ride.

Yet transportation planners and "experts" insist that the best way to make urban cycling safer is to paint or install more lanes.  When confronted with findings like the ones I've mentioned, their response usually goes along the lines of "Well, bike lanes make people feel safer.  And if people feel cycling is safer, more of them will do it."

Some people feel safer if they sleep with a gun under their pillow. I wonder how well that logic works.

Anyway, it seems that in transportation planning--especially as it pertains to bicycles--there isn't an idea that's so bad that nobody can come up with something worse.  And, sadly, those worse ideas are just as likely to come from "bike friendly" burgs as they are to emanate from those places where one is not considered fully human without an internal combustion engine.

For the past decade or so, Montreal has been done as much as any city to encourage cycling.  Like other municipalities with "bike friendly" reputations, it established a bike-share program (Bixi) and turned disused byways like the path along the Lachine Canal into bike lanes.  To be sure, it made some mistakes, but on the whole, Montreal has probably done more than most cities (at least in the Americas) to consider cyclists in its transportation planning.

From CBC News

But now it seems that Denis Corderre, the Mayor the City of a Hundred Steeples, plans to take one of the most unsafe practices of contemporary urban planning and make it even more hazardous for cyclists--and just about everyone else.

La Rue St. Denis and Le Boulevard St. Laurent are the two main north-south thoroughfares on the island of Montreal, while Sherbrooke Street is one of its major east-west conduits.  Monsieur Corderrre wants to paint lanes on them that will be shared by bikes and buses.

Let that one sink in.  Bikes and buses in the same lane.  I don't see how anyone can feel, let alone be, safer.  Buses have a lot of blind spots, so it's easier for a bus driver to simply not see a cyclist in the lane.  Also, buses pulling over to pick up and discharge passengers, and pulling away from those bus stops are at least as much of a hazard as motorists making turns into intersections into which bike lanes feed.  

Oh, but it gets worse.  You see, Corderre's plan also calls for turning Avenues Papineau and de Lorimier--two other important north-south routes--into one-way streets simply to accomodate the bus/bike lanes.  

When I visited the City of Saints last year, I spent a fair amount of time riding all of those streets.  They are heavily trafficked, but one can ride them by exercising the same sort of caution one would employ on a major street in almost any western city.  Even a separate bike-only lanes would probably do nothing to make cycling safer.  In fact, they would most likely make riding more dangerous for the same reasons they put pedalers in greater peril in other cities.  On those streets, as well as on streets in other cities in which I've cycled, it's easier and safer to negotiate with buses when they, and cyclists, are part of the regular traffic flow.  I know:  I do it nearly every day!

Denis Corderre, reconsiderez s'il vous plait!

26 October 2016

Delizy & Poiret: Keeping Riders En Suspens

It seems that the moment the first bicycle--however you define it--was created, someone was looking for a way to insulate the bike, and rider, from shock.  When you look the Draisienne's wooden seat and the iron wheels of subsequent machines, you can understand why someone wanted to make them more comfortable to ride.  And if you know anything about the conditions of roads at that time, it's not hard (pun intended) to see the need for a shock absorber to make bicycles (and bicycle-like contraptions) more stable.

If we define "suspension" as anything that insulates ("suspends") the bike or rider from shock, one could argue that pneumatic tires, invented by John Boyd Dunlop in 1888, were the first form of suspension for two-wheelers.  In fact, one could even say that when, a decade earlier, John Boultbee Brooks stretched a piece of leather between two rails, he was the first to achieve the goals of every suspension system created since.

So, really, it's not such a surprise to see a suspension bicycle gracing an advertising poster early in the first worldwide Bike Boom:

I could find very little information about Delizy and Poiret.   All of it was in French--which, fortunately, I can read.

 Apparently, D et P started making bikes around 1890 and weren't in production for very long:  I saw an announcement for the dissolution of the company dated 17 July 1892.  Their bikes were made and sold at 22,rue Duret in Paris.  This factory and showroom stood  just off the Avenue de la Grande Armee, which streams into Place Charles de Gaulle Etoile (the location of the Arc de Triomphe) and was, until 15 or so years ago, lined with the boutiques of the major French (and a few foreign) bike makers.

All right.  You know that I find stuff like this interesting.  So do you:  Otherwise, why would you have read this post?  But you also know that writing this post was just an excuse to put another cool vintage bike ad on this blog!

25 October 2016

Now Drivers Can Cross The Line, And Cyclists Are Happy About It

Whenever I visit my parents in Florida, I get out and ride at least once.

Some rides--such as those along Route A1A, which rims the Atlantic Ocean--are beautiful and peaceful.  The calm is occasionally interrupted by traffic in popular beach towns like Flagler and Ormond Beaches, but for the most part, it's pretty orderly and no driver has done anything hostile or dangerous toward me.  Some, I suspect, may be cyclists, but the others just seemed like people who are relaxed and enjoying themselves, or simply courteous.

When I head inland from my parents' house, though, things change.  There, I find myself riding through wooded areas and swamps, or along rivers and creeks.  Those rides are also pleasant and enjoyable, but riding the one-, two- or even four-lane roads toward the Sunshine State's interior is a different experiences.  Although one encounters less traffic--on some roads, you can go for an hour or more without encountering a motor vehicle--the way drivers interact with me is very different.

On such roads, drivers leave less room when passing.  To be fair, many of those roads are very narrow.  But some drivers, it seems, just don't want to deviate even in the slightest from their path.  Or, perhaps, they are not cyclists and are therefore unaccustomed to us.  Indeed, I might be the only cyclist they see that day.  

I've also had drivers tail me even though they could easily pass me.  Then they would bang their horns in frustration and make a sudden swerve around me, affording me only a berth thinner than Benotto handlebar tape.

Then there were those who simply roar down the road as fast as the laws of physics will allow, stirring up whirlwinds of pebbles and dirt and wakes of rustling reeds and mussed-up hair.  They, perhaps, are the most disconcerting drivers of all.

From CBS North Carolina

I have never cycled in North Carolina, but I imagine that all of the scenarios I've described are pretty common.  Cyclists there have long  complained about cars and trucks passing close enough to "take the skin off the back of your hand", as more than one cyclist put it. Another cyclist, Randall Bennett, recalls his arm being clipped by the mirror of a passing car.

Apparently, a section of North Carolina traffic code all but mandated such behavior.  Until the beginning of this month, it was illegal for a driver in the Tar Heel State to cross over the center line to pass a cyclist.  Also, a driver was required to give a berth of only two feet to a cyclist he or she passed.

On the first of this month, changes that were made to House Bill 959 of the State Legislature went into effect.  As a result, it's now legal for a driver to cross over the center line to pass a cyclist, as long as there's an assured clear distance ahead and no oncoming traffic.  Also, drivers have to give cyclists more room--four feet instead of two--when passing.

From what I've read, it seems that both cyclists and drivers are happy with the change:  Cyclists say that it makes conditions safer for them; drivers say the same thing and that it makes them less worried about incurring fines.

Let's hope that, down the road (pun intended), both sides see the results of the new law as a win-win situation.

24 October 2016

But I'm A Rider, Not A Fighter!

Make love, not war.  But be prepared for both.

I don't remember where I first read or heard that aphorism. Perhaps it was a slogan for a store that sold sex toys and guns.  Now, where I would have found such a store, I don't know...

Seriously, though:  I have long felt that the bicycle is one of the greatest "weapons for peace", if you will.  If nothing else, it could help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels if more people start pedaling instead of driving to their jobs and schools, to shop or just for fun. That, in turn, would lessen the likelihood of a war over finite resources.

Also, I think cycling breaks down at least some of the social barriers that are created, or at least fortified, when people are encased in shields of metal and glass.  Although some cyclists play games of one-upsmanship when it comes to equipment or the level of another cyclist's skills (actual or percieved) and physical fitness (again, a or p), I think it's harder to feel superior to, or to be made to feel inferior to, other cyclists when one is on a bike.

That could be the reason why, in my experience, cyclists are generally more accepting of other people's differences than other people.  That may be a reason why our politics tend to tack a bit more to the left than average.

Still, we face the reality of war--or, at least confrontation, if not violence--just as anyone else does.  Back when crime rates were higher here in NYC, I knew of cyclists who were jumped for their bikes, or who fell victim to thieves who strung fishing line between two poles at just the right height to snag a cyclist.  Some perps also scattered debris on streets or created other obstacles to stop or divert cyclists and snatched their steeds from them.

In those days, one had to use particular caution when entering or exiting the Williamsburgh Bridge:  neither the Brooklyn neighborhood for which it is named, not the area on the Manhattan side of the bridge, had begun to gentrify. Two old riding buddies, and another acquaintance, lost top-of-the-line bikes when approaching or leaving the span.

Concerns about crime were not, however, new to cyclists in those days.  In fact, our peers from a century earlier also had to think about highway robbers, sexual predators and other predators.  Such criminals, it seems, were enough of a concern that one Marcus Tindal wrote "Self Protection On A Cycle" for Pearson's, a magazine that, apparently, was a more left-leaning and even more literary version of The Atlantic or Harper's.

In his article, Tindal outlines the various ways in which a cyclist can fall prey to thieves, thugs and perverts--and how to fight back. Here is an illustration from what is, to my mind, the most interesting part:

Tindal shows us that the bicycle itself can be one of the best weapons for self-defense.  Interestingly, many of the illustrations are of women on bikes, reflecting the cultural changes that the bicycle engendered (pun intended).  And some of the advice is, shall we say, quaint--like the suggestion 

More than a century after its publication, someone turned the article's illustrations into an enjoyable series of animated GIFs.

23 October 2016

The Ride I Missed, And The One I Did

I should know better than to make plans to go on a big organized ride.

I kinda sorta promised someone else I would go on the Tour de Bronx.  We hadn't made plans to meet up, but I told this person I was going on the ride.  

A few years ago, I did TdB and enjoyed it.  Other riders remarked about some of the places the Tour visited:  the Maritime Academy, the waterfall, parks full of cliffs, the Riverdale streets that look more like they belong in Princeton than in the Bronx--or the Bronx that many people envision, anyway.  And the hills.  More than one rider expressed surprise that there were so many--and that there was so much of interest to see in the borough.

Today, though, I woke up later than I planned.  And a semi-emergency came up.  As a result, I got on the road about three hours later than I'd planned.  Worst of all, I rode to the starting point of previous Tours de Bronx, near Yankee Stadium--forgetting that this year's starting point was near the Botanical Gardens, about five kilometers away.

Now you know why I never pre-register--or, most important, pay the registration fee in advance--for such rides!

So, instead, I took my own ride into the upper reaches of the Bronx and Westchester County.  How could I not?  The wind, which blew steadily at about 30 KPH and gusted to 60, was somewhat softened, for me anyway, by the clear skies, sunshine and foliage:

I took Vera, for no particular reason.  Actually, I think I knew, deep down, that this day's colors would become her:

Everything seemed to be dressed in such colors today, even the park benches:

Those were found in Fordham Park, next to the namesake university.  The foliage graced a park in Scarsdale, though such colors were everywhere.  

Interestingly, the most traffic-free part of my ride came after I crossed the Randall's Island Connector to the southern tip of the Bronx. There, the factories were idle and warehouses closed, so there were no trucks plying Walnut and Oak Avenues, or the numbered streets in the 130s and 140s.  There wasn't even much traffic entering or exiting the Bruckner Expressway.  

On the other hand, I encountered surprising numbers of cars and SUVs along some of the tree- and mansion-lined streets of Scarsdale, Tuckahoe and the western section of New Rochelle.  I guess a lot of people decided today was a perfect day for a Sunday ride.  Thankfully, I didn't encounter any hostile drivers.

Perhaps this man talked to them:

Until a year or so ago, the sign for this street--in the South Bronx--didn't have a tilde (squiggle) over the "n" or an accent on the "e".  So, people who don't speak Spanish referred to the street as "Louie 9".  It reminds me of the Montreal Metro station and Boulevard named Pie (with an accent grave on the "e") IX, for the longest-reigning Pope in the history of the Roman Catholic Church. Anglophones in the city often call it, with amusement, "Pie Nine".  

For the record, Louis Nine served 13 years in the New York State Assembly and is remembered for his battles--sometimes victorious, sometimes not--to obtain housing for low-and middle-income families and families with handicapped children, as well as employment opportunities for young people and members of minority groups.  

I saw Louie 9 near the beginning and end of my ride--and the fall colors in between.  Maybe next year I'll do the Tour de Bronx again.

Note:  Once again, I apologize for the quality of these images. I took them with my cell phone, and could not prevent the glare you see in some of them.  

22 October 2016

Arielle Is Ten; Tomorrow Tosca Turns Nine

Today marks an anniversary for me.

No, I am not secretly married in some other state or country.  And I am not talking about the beginning of some business venture, sobriety or any other milestone people mark in their lives.  

Actually, today is a milestone, for me anyway.  You see, ten years ago on this date, I got my first.  And you know what they say:  There's nothing like the first.

If you've been following this blog, you may have guessed what I am talking about:  my Mercians.

Yes, on 22 October 2006, I picked up Arielle--my custom Mercian Audax--from Bicycle Habitat in Soho.  My first ride with her took me through streets in the neighborhood, in the East and West Villages and other parts of lower Manhattan.  

You could say I fell in love.  Actually, that happened before I got the bike:  Hal Ruzal, the Mercian Maven at Habitat, let me ride one of his bikes.  And he seemed to understand what I wanted:  something responsive, but not necessarily a racing bike.  Something comfortable, but definitely not a fully-loaded touring bike, let alone a mountain bike or hybrid.  

Also, I wanted something beautiful.

He recommended getting a custom (my top tube is shorter than is typically found on bikes of my size) version of the Audax, a bike made, as he said, "for centuries and day rides."  And, as he pointed out, the horizontal dropouts with adjustment screws would allow me to shorten or elongate the wheelbase a bit, allowing a faster or cushier bike.

On that first ride, I could see that I had the best of both worlds.  I felt as if I were on a magic carpet that could dodge and outrun the taxis (yes, even New York taxis!) or anything else on the road.  The couple of times I stopped for traffic lights, strangers complimented my new steed.

I knew then, to paraphrase one of the most famous movies of all time, that my ride that day was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

Today, ten years later, I've owned and ridden Arielle for longer than all except one bike I've ever owned.  And she's been in my life for longer than any lover (or my former spouse) and all except a handful of friends (and two cats) were.  She's also been with me for longer than I've stayed on any job or lived in any one place.  

Plus, she's led to some other beautiful relationships.  One year and one day later, I wheeled Tosca, my Mercian fixed-gear out of Habitat.  Helene, my first Miss Mercian followed almost three years later.  Another year later, I found Vera, my green Mercian mixte, on eBay.  

I've enjoyed many rides with them.  Some of them are on this blog.  They've all been great, beginning with the first, ten years ago--already!--today.

21 October 2016

HP-Turbo: A "Lost" Brake From Weinmann?

If you bought a new ten-speed bike of better-than-marginal quality during the '70's Bike Boom, there's a good chance that it came with Weinmann brakes and/or rims.

Most made-in-Chicago Schwinn bikes had one or both until about the mid-1980s.  So did many European bikes, if they didn't have Mafac brakes or Rigida rims.

Nobody ever got really excited about most Weinmann products:  They weren't flashy, but they usually did their jobs and their prices were reasonable.  The best example of this was their "Vainqueur" center-pull brake, which came on everything from the Schwinn Paramount (the touring model) and Raleigh International to the Schwinn Continental and Raleigh Grand Prix.  It was even found on some bikes from French constructeurs and English bespoke builders, who would attach the brakes to brazed-on bosses.

Probably the one product the company produced that was noticeably different from its competitors was their concave rim.  Its unique shape was said to give it superior strength to other rims.  I don't know whether the shape had anything to do with it, but I know (because I used to commute on a pair) it was strong--and noticeably heavier than other alloy rims.

In the late 1970s, Weinmann tried to modernize its offerings.  That is when they brought out the concave rim.  Around that time, they also introduced their "Carrera" brake, meant to compete with Campagnolo.  The quality was excellent and the finish beautiful.  However, it lacked the flats on the center bolt that allowed the brakes to be centered with a hub cone wrench (a nice Campy feature adopted by other brake-makers). Their quick-release device, apart from its finish, was no different from the one on the less expensive models. It had only "open" and "closed" position, while Campy's could be opened or closed partway to allow for wheels that developed wobbles.  

Another attempt to appeal to appeal to the ultra-high-performance (or simply rich and fashionable) market resulted in their version of the "Delta" brake--which, as "Retrogrouch" and others have suggested, may have been made for them by Modolo.  I never used Weinmann's or Campagnolo's Delta brakes, so I won't argue about the effectiveness, or lack thereof, some users claimed. There is no denying, however, that Campy's version may well be the most beautiful brake ever made.  Weinmann's had a more high-tech (for the time, anyway) look, and was available in black as well as silver.

A few years later, Weinmann came up with another interesting and unique brake:

The HP-Turbo was introduced in 1984.   I could find little information about it (I discovered it in an eBay listing), so I don't know how long it was produced.  I also couldn't find testimony from users, so I have no idea of how effective, or not, it may have been.

From what I can see, it's a centerpull brake with the straddle wire coiled around cams to which the brake shoes are attached.  I am guessing that the cams push those shoes into the rims, and that the arrangement is intended to somehow magnify braking power or modulation by increasing the mechanical advantage.

As I said, I am only guessing:  I may have been a mechanic, but I have never been a mechanical engineer.  For all I know, the brake might have been a revolutionary idea for which the cycling public wasn't ready.  Or, perhaps, some people tried it and found that it was complicated and, perhaps, the cams or other parts of the mechanism clogged with dirt or gunked up with grease. (They don't look very well-protected.)  Maybe it cost as much as a good sidepull brake, which came on about 90 percent of new bikes at that time, or cantilevers, which came on most of the rest of new bikes.   Or people thought it was just too ugly to put on their nice bikes.

Whatever its fate, I am curious about it.  

20 October 2016

A Beast Of Burden

For one more day, one more post, I am going to keep up the silly "theme association" I started the other day.

My post on Monday mentioned, in passing, Jean Paul Sartre.  Tuesday's post featured a photo of him on Le Petit Bi, a French folding bicycle developed just as Europe was going to war.  Yesterday, I wrote about another folding bicycle (actually a sort-of folding bike), the Donkey Bike.

So now I'm going to show a bicycle--or its rider, depending on your point of view--serving as a donkey:

From Top At World

Perhaps he is employed by a certain Presidential candidate.  If that's the case, he might not get paid.  Worse, he might need to build a wall around himself if he presses said candidate for what's due, or anything else!

When I was a messenger, I might've built such a wall, or protected myself in some other way, when I went to some of the locales I serviced--especially when I knew what was in some of those packages I carried.  Let's just say that the contents of some of those packets were, um, plant-based and others were chemical.

In other words, although we were employed by a legitimate courier service, my fellow and messengers and I became, at times, offspring of donkeys and horses, if you know what I mean.  I don't think most of us signed on for that.  I know I hadn't.

19 October 2016

In Polka Dots, On A Donkey

You're probably familiar with "word association", as a game or a technique for sparking creativity--or as part of therapy.  For example, "dog" can lead to "cat", "walk", "shoe", "sole", "survivor", "guilt" and so on.  

Well, my blog is lapsing into a kind of "theme association".  The other day, I happened to mention Jean-Paul Sartre.  Yesterday I showed him on a folding bicycle.  So today I am going to--you guessed it--talk about a folding bike.

The bike in question first saw the light of day fifty years ago.  I don't know how long it was in production.  In fact, I could find almost no information about it.  But I did find this neat promotional video:

I just love the polka-dot pantsuit the woman is wearing.  I think that no matter what she was wearing, she would have had trouble mounting that high-wheel bicycle.  Of course, nobody would have been riding such a bike in 1966, but I guess the makers of the video had to find something that would have been difficult for just about anybody to ride.

I also love seeing folk singer Pete Newby looking more like an Oxford professor than any folk singer I've ever seen.  Can you imagine him (or anyone) going to the Tweed Ride with the Donkey Bike?

Now, I admit, the Donkey isn't a folding bike, strictly speaking.  It probably doesn't even qualify as a collapsible bicycle.  With such a small front wheel and wheelbase, it needed only a way to quickly remove the handlebars in order to fit it in a car trunk.

The handlebar is probably the strangest, and most interesting part of the bike.  I've flipped handlebars on my bikes, but I don't think doing so changed the look--or, I imagine, the ride quality--as radically as bars that can be ridden as far forward as most racing handlebars, then be shifted to a position under the seat so that the bike is ridden with the rider's hands grasping at their sides, rather like riding a sled.

I can just imagine a bunch of "mods" cruising up and down London streets on their Donkey bikes.  Really groovy!

18 October 2016

Into The Fold On Being And Nothingness

Handing over a bank note is enough to make a bicycle belong to me, but my entire life is needed to realize this possession.

That insight came from none other than Jean-Paul Sartre.  Yesterday, I made a reference to him.  Well, wouldn't you know it?:  Today I came across the above quote, and this photo:

Here he is riding "Le Petit Bi":

This bike has been all but lost to the mists of time or, more precisely, the ashes of World War II.  Andre Jules Marcelin, a French Nobel Laureate (1926) physicist, invented it and received his first patent for it in Luxembourg in October 1939.  The following year, he received patents for it in France and Switzerland.

No one seems to know who manufactured the bike or how many were made.  All that is certain is that only a few exist.  Did the war severely curtail their production?  Or were many destroyed in bombing raids and such?

Professor Marcelin did his research at the Laboratoire de Chimie Physique (Chemical Physics Lab) of the Sorbonne-University of Paris.  He and other Sorbonne scientists held seminars on Monday nights where writers, poets, painters and other artists to speak.  It's possible that Marcelin met Sartre there, as well as Francois Picabia, seen here on a Bi:

Interestingly, that photo and the one of Sartre ended up in a Nazi propaganda magazine called Signal, which tried to show that life was normal for the French people under the German occupation.  

That Marcelin went to the trouble of filing for patents in multiple countries shows that he saw some sort of commercial potential in the Bi.  He even had plans for a foldable tandem and a motorized Bi:

Perhaps most intriguing of Marcelin's designs is the one he patented in 1935, four years before the Bi, for what looks like a foldable recumbent bicycle.

Whatever its history, the Bi did have something of a legacy.  One of the first lightweight folding bicycles, the Bickerton, came out during the 1970s.  The first prototype of it borrowed heavily from Le Petit Bi:

The Bickerton that finally came to market had a significantly different design, most likely because Harry Bickerton (who was an engineer) saw that he couldn't make the bike out of aluminum (as he did to achieve his bike's light weight) if he were to use the Petit Bi design.

So, although Andre Jules Marcelin patented Le Petit Bi, perhaps no one will realize its possession--or, more precisely, it.