30 November 2016

THE Tape Wasn't Number 1: A Pump Was. Or It Claimed To Be, Anyway!

Shopping online is like going to swap meets:  You find all sorts of things you never thought you'd see again.  That can be reassuring, especially if you remember something you used decades ago but have not encountered since and no one else seems to remember.  At least you can reassure yourself that your mind isn't doing the things you feared it would do when you got old--or that you're not having a flashback of something you first encountered in a haze of cannabis or the mists of Jack Daniels.

Last week, while surfing eBay, I found (and bought) a bike part that hasn't been made in decades, in its original packaging, for a reasonable price.  It's one of those things I might use if I actually go ahead with a project I'm contemplating.  If I find that I have too little time or disposable income--or simply feel too lazy--to carry out that project, I will probably hold on to that part I bought:  I might have use for it later. (Really!)  Also, it's something I used and liked in my youth, and the quality of it is very good.

When I decided to buy that part, I looked at the seller's website to see whether or not he had anything I wanted or needed.  Nothing else in his inventory (from a bike shop that closed down) fits either category, at least right now. But I did see something that brought back a memory or two:

In Philadelphia, there was a company called Skethea.  I don't know whether they aspired to be another Cannondale or Rhode Gear.  They seem to have made (or, at least marketed) only two products.  Both of them had names that proclaimed their superiority.  One of them is, the tape (or THE Tape) in the photo above.

Now, if you were around in the '70's, you might recall (if you can recall anything ;-)) that suede was very popular.  At least, stuff that looked like suede was en vogue.  Most things that purported to be suede weren't.  One example is a coat I had, which was made of cloth with a nappy finish.  Another is THE Tape.

I bought a set of it, in blue (of course!), to replace the plastic tape I shredded on my Nishiki International. I saw the same tape, in red, on another bike and thought it would look--and, I hoped, feel--good on my handlebars.

THE Tape was just a vinyl wrap, thicker than most, with a suede-like finish.  It could be had in a number of different colors, including two other shades of blue (Mine was a cobalt-ish hue.) as well as other shades of red and green, a few other colors and, of course, white and black.  As I recall, it didn't cost much more than plastic or even cloth tape.  And, because it was stretchy, it was easy to wrap.

If you've ever ridden a suede saddle, you know that, at first, it's more difficult to slide forward or back, as you might when you change hand positions on your handlebar, on it than on a seat with a smooth finish.  Likewise, it was a little more difficult to change hand positions (for example, to slide up or down the "hook" of the bar when climbing or descending) on THE Tape than it was on smooth or textured vinyl, or even cloth, tape.  

That little bit of extra force I needed to slide my hands along the bars revealed another flaw of THE Tape:  It had no adhesive backing, so the tape shifted and revealed gaps of bare metal.  The good news was that the lack of adhesive made it easier to un- and re-wrap.  The bad news:  The extra force needed to slide up and down on the bars made the tape stretch and, eventually, break.  

And normal use wore the nappy finish away.  So, after a few months you were left with "bald" discolored tape that soon disintegrated.  And, oh, yeah, it didn't look as nice as it did when you applied it.

I am aware of one other product made by Skethea, the company that manufactured THE Tape.  The Number 1 Pump (Yes, that was its name!) came out at around the same time as THE Tape:  about a year or two after Zefal introduced its HP Pump.  You still see lots of those Zefals in use today. But, unless you are around my age, you've probably never seen a Number 1 Pump.  I saw a few "back in the day", but I never owned one myself.

It was, I believe, an attempt to combine the best features of the Zefal HP  and Silca Impero pump.  So it had a thumb-lock valve that could be converted between Presta and Schraeder, and a mechanism that enabled the pump to bring high-pressure tires up to full pressure.  The Zefal had those qualities but was heavier than the Silca and required a clip.  The Number 1 Pump, therefore, put--or tried to put--the best Zefal HP features into a plastic body, like Silca's, that fit on the frame without a clip.

In an apparent attempt to distinguish it visually from the Zefal HP, Silca Impero and any other pump, the Number 1 had a clear plastic body.  Yes, you read that right.  So, you could see all those wonderful inner workings that the clever folks at Skethea dreamed up.  

Image result for see-through watches

I once had a watch like that.  For a while, thought it was pretty cool to see all those gears and pinions at work.  But after a while, the novelty wore off and I admitted to myself that watches with opaque faces and numerals in contrasting colors were much easier to read.  I stopped wearing the see-through watch, and I think I left it behind in a move.

But at least that watch held up to downpours I encountered while cycling and hiking, as well as some other forces of nature and my own recklessness and stupidity. So have my Zefal pumps.   I don't think the Number 1 Pump would have survived such things.  For that matter, I don't think the Number 1 Pump survived much of anything:  Within a couple of years of its introduction, it seems to have disappeared.  

I wish I could find a photo of that pump--or any information about Skethea.  They seem to have been one of those many small bike-accessories companies that sprang up in the US during the Bike Boom.  Cannondale is one of the few that have survived though, like most other manufacturers, they are making their bags (as well as their bikes) abroad.  A few other companies made it to the '80s and beyond; apparently, Skethea was not one of them.  A 1980 Bike Warehouse (now Bike Nashbar) catalogue lists The Tape; I can find no later reference to it.

If I ever find an image of a Number 1 Pump--or information about what happened to Skethea--I will post it.

29 November 2016

A Bike Santa Won't Leave Under The Tree

I try not to spend too much of my life living vicariously through others.  Sometimes, though, I can't help living, if only momentarily, through the triumphs and accomplishments of others:  There are some things I simply can't do on my own.  Then there are other things that, for all sorts of reasons, I probably will never do.  

For example, I doubt that I will ever decorate a house for the holidays in the ways I sometimes see.  Buying a poinsetta plant and, perhaps, hanging a wreath or the Christmas cards I receive is about as far as I go in bedecking my apartment for the holidays.  Even if I ever buy a big house, I doubt that I will ever turn it into the sort of display I have seen in my neighborhood during the past few years:

I took those photos last year.  The house's residents have created the same spectacle in each of the past six years I have lived nearby.  I passed by that house on my way to work this morning but didn't notice any decorations.  Perhaps they're in the works.  At least, I hope so.  I really love that display, more than I ever thought I could love such things.

For now, I will content myself with this:

which I found on brown bobbin.  Thank you, Melissa!

28 November 2016

Be The Ride You Want To Take

Published on Earth Day, 1971

We have met the enemy and he is us.

So spake Pogo in the comic strip that bore his name.  That quip is a twist on what Oliver Hazard Perry said after a naval battle:  "We have met the enemy, and they are ours."

There is at least one situation in which the enemy is both ours and us.  In particular, I am thinking about traffic jams--or, more specifically, being stuck in one.  I would guess that just about anyone in that situation thinks of him or herself as being stalled by--that is to say, the victim of--a traffic jam.  Does anyone see that, at the same time, he or she is a cause--however unwittingly--of that traffic stoppage?

From bluepearlgirl's world

You are not stuck in traffic.  You are traffic.  I can almost imagine someone using those words as a prelude to a saying that was not, contrary to popular belief, uttered by Gandhi:  "Be the change you wish to see." 

Whatever you think of any of those slogans, you have to admit that "You are traffic" sign offers some good advice:  Get a bike!

27 November 2016

Chancing Upon A Champion

Funny, how I can ride through an area I know well--or, at least I thought I knew well--and chance upon something I'd never seen before.

New York City's grid pattern seems utterly incongruous in places like Bayside, where North Shore coastline zigs and zags.  (In fact, it seems incongruous that it is, even if only officially, part of New York City.) The nearest subway stop is about seven kilometers away; only a couple of bus lines  along Bell and Northern Boulevards  (the neighborhood's two main throughfares) and a Long Island Rail Road stop just off Northern connect this neighborhood with the rest of the city.

"Neighborhood" seems like a misnomer, as Bayside feels more like what would be described as a "leafy suburb".   If you go there, you're not going for the night life; you are going there to raise your family or, as I did today, for a bike ride along the North Shore.

With its straight-arrow streets and its well-defined, well-ordered yards and other spaces, it's hard to believe that I've actually missed something on previous rides. But today, I turned down a street I'd never ridden before--Corbett Lane--and this caught my eye.

So now I know how the street got its name: James Corbett, the World Heavyweight Boxing Champion from 1892 until 1897.   He won the title by knocking out the "unbeatable" John L. Sullivan and, many historians of the sport argue, changed prizefighting from mere brawling to an art form because of his scientific training and fighting techniques.  He defeated Sullivan by wearing him down with feints and jabs before delivering the knockout blow.  Muhammad Ali, among others, would win titles in the same way.

But he also changed boxing by simply making it more palatable to many who abhorred it.  (Because it was so widely denounced, boxing was illegal in most states, which made it difficult to schedule bouts.)  "Gentleman Jim" was a beloved figure both in and out of the ring because of his manners, clothing and movie-star looks.  In fact, once his boxing career ended, he made more money from acting, on stage and films, than he ever did in the ring.  

In a way, I'm not surprised that he lived in this house:  It is attractive but not ostentatious, though I had to chuckle when I saw this in front:

Tosca, my Mercian fixie, somehow looks more appropriate.  At least she doesn't flinch from a history lesson! 

It was a short but sweet ride, if you'll indulge me a cliche, even if it looked as if I was riding straight into winter on my way home:

26 November 2016

Today's Ride: A Cosmic Connection To Paris Sport?

"All steel to minimize breakage due to varinging (sic) temperature changes in North America."

First of all, as a writer and English teacher, I want to know what is meant by "varinging temperature changes".

I've inferred that whoever wrote "varinging" probably meant "varying".  Now, I know that what we mean by "whine" in America is "whinge" in England.  Hmm...Maybe "varinging" is another Britishism (Does such a word exist?) of which I was unaware.

All right.  If we accept that "varinging" is "varying", then it begs this question:  What in the world does "varying temperature changes" mean?  Are there "unvarying temperature changes" or varying steady temperatures?  

(By the same token, I have always wondered what "close proximity" meant. Is there "far proximity"?)

Anyway...Since I'm bringing up such issues in this blog, you've probably inferred that the italicized passage at the beginning of this post refers to a bicycle--or a bike part.  Actually, the latter is true:  the wordsmith who created that piece of meaningless or misleading (depending on your point of view) copy was referring to a Huret Svelto rear derailleur: a thoroughly unexceptional piece even when it first came out in 1963.

And where did the pointless paen to it that opened this post appear?  It graced the one and only known brochure of one of the many bike brands that came and went during the 1970s Bike Boom in North America.  I am talking about Paris Sport.

Image result for paris sport bicycle
For "varinging temperature changes".

I hadn't thought much about PS in a while.  Today I saw one of their bikes locked to a lamppost when I was out riding and shopping. (I have an excuse for the latter:  I needed a couple of pairs of flat-ish shoes I can dress up or dress down. Really!)  Back in the day, I saw and repaired quite a few of them.  

I'm guessing that if you weren't living in the Northeastern US during the Bike Boom, you may not have seen a Paris Sport.  But in these parts, a number of shops sold them along other popular brands like Peugeot and Raleigh.

The Paris Sport I saw today is like about 90 percent of bikes bearing that brand one would see back when they were popular.  It was a basic French ten-speed, much like those from other Gallic makers of the time.  It had a carbon-steel lugged frame, steel cottered cranks and Weinmann center pull brakes. (Sometimes they came with Mafacs.)  And the derailleur was not atypical, although other French bikes like it were as likely to come with Simplex Prestige derailleurs.

That last fact provides us with a clue to what the writer of the brochure's copy was trying to say without saying.  Those Simplex derailleurs worked well enough when new.  And they would continue to do so as long as the plastic from which they were made didn't wear out or break.  (If you see an early 70s Peugeot UO8 with its original derailleur, it probably wasn't ridden much.)  As to whether the weather had anything to do with its longevity, I don't know.

But there was probably a reason why the writer of that copy didn't take a direct swipe at Simplex derailleurs:  Some Paris Sport models came with them.  At least, they came with the next-highest model of Simplex:  the Criterium.  It's the derailleur that came on the Peugeot PX-10.  It usually had a silver-colored main parallelogram, in contrast to the red one found on the Prestige, which came on the U08.  

Paris Sport was a "house" brand of Victor Cycles (later known as Park Cycle and Sports) in Ridgefield Park, New Jersey, just a few minutes away from the George Washington Bridge.  Owner Vic Fraysee and his son Mike, who were racers, had a hand in the development of just about every world-class road racing cyclist the US has produced since the 1960s.  They had a training facility attached to their shop, which served as a kind of community center for local cyclists.  

So, their lineup of Paris Sport bikes didn't include only the kinds of bikes Peugeot, Gitane and other French makers were offering in the United States.  It also included professional-level bikes made in France (usually from Reynolds 531 tubing) and equipped with top-of-the-line French or Campagnolo components.  The Fraysees' shop also housed a custom frame building operation which employed, at different times, Francisco Cuevas (of Spain and Argentina), Pepi Limongi (France) and Dave Moulton (England).

Apparently, bicycles were sold under the Paris Sport name until the mid-1980s or thereabouts, and the Fraysses' shop continued for some time after that.  A shop called "The Cosmic Wheel" has been operating in Park Cycle's old location for the past two decades, but aside from location, there is no connection between the two shops.   These days, Mike Fraysse owns the Burn Brae Mansion, which has served as a location for a few movies and TV episodes.

By the way:  The Paris Sport I saw today didn't have the original Huret Svelto rear derailleur.  It was converted to a single speed.

25 November 2016

My Annual Black Friday Rant

As if we don't have enough orgies of consumerism!

Now, I am not going to get all self-righteous on you for not participating in the one that took place today.  I am referring to this thing we have here in the US called Black Friday.  

This day is premised on this notion:  Consumito ergo sum.  Or Shopito ergo sum.  Which would Rene Descartes find more appalling:  This spectre of gluttony--or my Latin?

It seems that BF became an "event" or a de facto holiday just before "reality TV" and "selfies" came along.  Somehow I think that BF is the prototype of both:  It's one of those things people do to say they are:  they are part of this time, this place, this culture.  It's like leaving an "I was here" graffito, and is just as ephemeral:  The moment that credit card transaction is approved and the flat-screen TV or whatever is brought home, the moment, the fact of having been there, means nothing.  

A Black Friday "bargain....

I guess none of this should surprise me when I recall that all of those so-called journalists are really nothing more than cheerleaders for one grotesquerie or another:  an invasion, bad behavior by a celebrity or an "election" in which people vote--if indeed they vote--for one candidate only because they have fueled with enough hate, or simply disdain, for the other candidate.

Of course, I don't mean to blame what Black Friday has become on journalists, any more than I blame them for wars, natural disasters or even Kanye West and Kim Kardashian.  They--most of them, anyway--are products of the same culture that gives us Kanyashian and selfies and Black Friday.  Therefore, they have learned to do nothing more and nothing less than what others have learned:  You validate yourself (or at least feel that you're doing so) by promoting yourself, buying stuff or getting other people to buy stuff. 

...and another

And that stuff almost never includes quality bicycles.  Or, if it does, they are buying a brand because they heard somewhere that it's the "best" brand--or it simply happens to be en vogue.  Almost any bicycle purchased on Black Friday comes from a "big box" store, will be under a Christmas tree in four weeks and in a landfill in four years, if not four months.  The excitement of having gotten a "great deal" on it will have long passed.

24 November 2016

I Don't Think This Is What They Mean By A "Turkey Trot"!

While riding my bicycle, I've been chased by girlfriends, cops, boyfriends, dogs, an ex and drivers who seemed to want nothing more than to intimidate or harass me or any other cyclist they happened to see.

I must, say, though, I have never been chased by turkeys:

"Turkey's chasing bicycle".  Hmm...That doesn't seem like a fair fight:  a whole country in pursuit of one cyclist. 

Happy Thanksgiving!


23 November 2016

She Couldn't Have Seen It Coming, Either

Last week, I wrote about poor Saul Lopez, killed in a freak accident of the sort no cyclist--or anyone else, really--anticipates.

The 15-year-old was riding to school when a truck collided with another, and the impact sent both careening toward him as he crossed an intersection. 

Today, unfortunately, I am going to write about another cyclist who fell victim to an unforeseeable mishap with a motor vehicle.  Aside from the cyclist's victimization, there is some other bad news, but there is some good news--for now, anyway.

The good news is that the 34-year-old cyclist, whose name has not been released, is alive after a power line--carrying 7200 volts of electricity-- fell on her.  The hospital treating her says she suffered burns, but has otherwise not commented on the extent or severity of her injuries.

Background: the crash scene.  Inset:  Mark Wayne Hunter.  From KATU News.

So, how did the Tigard, Oregon cyclist end up under a live electrical conduit on her?  That's where the bad news comes in:  A driver who has been charged with DUI crashed into the pole bearing the power cable.  Mark Wayne Hunter, 50, has also been charged with recklessly driving the van he crashed, fourth-degree assault and criminal mischief.

The crash occurred at 2 am (local time) this morning in front of the Tigard Police Department headquarters.  A police officer who was walking through the parking lot saw the incident unfold.  That officer  ran over to aid the cyclist amid the downed power lines while waiting for the ambulance that took the cyclist to Emanual Medical Center's burn unit.

Let's hope the cyclist recovers and be thankful that police officer happened to show up at just the right time for something no one could have seen coming.


22 November 2016

How To Turn Your Touring Bike Into A Racer

In one of my early posts, I talked about a Romic Sport Touring bicycle I had in my youth.  For a time, it was my only bike, so I did my "fast" riding, touring and even my errands on it.

"Fast" riding included everything from actual races to informal contests with riding buddies that ended with one of us buying the other beer and/or lunch.  Sometimes the later were part of vigorous club rides; other times, they were training rides that turned into impromptu competitions.  "Touring" could mean anything from a day or weekend ride to a longer trip with panniers and a handlebar bag.  

The Romic had a geometry and build that made it suitable for many different kinds of riding:  rather like Arielle, my Mercian Audax.  I did my first European bike tour on it, with the first pair of wheels I had built for me:  Campagnolo Nuovo Tipo hubs, Super Champion 58 clincher rims and Robergel Sport spokes.  I also had a pair of tubular (sew-up) wheels with those same hubs and Super Champion Arc en Ciel tubular rims, which I used for racing and "fast" rides (the planned ones, anyway!).  

In addition to switching wheels, I would  move the adjustment screws on the dropouts:

If I wanted to ride faster, I would move the screws inward to bring the wheel closer to shorten the wheelbase.

Now, many new frames come with vertical dropouts

which don't allow for any adjustment.  So, if you have a sport touring bike and want to shorten the wheelbase, you're "shitouttaluck" as we used to say in my old neighborhood.

Or are you?  Apparently, someone came up with a way to shorten his wheelbase:

At least, that's how an e-Bay seller in described his 1978 Motobecane Grand Jubile's encounter with a sewer grate:

"Good condition for its age but frame suffered an impact (hitting a sewer grating) which caused the wheelbase to be shortened slightly."

Hmm...Maybe the next time someone steals a pedal or wheel or saddle from one of my parked bikes, I'll tell myself that the thief did me a favor by lightening my bike.  I'm sure that will help the bike (and me) to go faster! 

21 November 2016

Like It's 1999

So why am I posting a video of Prince's Party Like It's 1999?

Well, I didn't say I wouldn't be self-indulgent in this blog.  Some might argue that the mere act of starting this blog--or any other--is self-indulgent.  Maybe that's how it should be.

That said, I'm glad you're reading this.  I'm lucky:  I get to write something because I want to write it, and for no other reason, and some people (like you) will actually read it!

You might say that I'm partying on this blog.  True.  But it's not 1999.  So, you might wonder, why the Prince video?

Well, today's "party" is number 2000.  Yes, that's how many posts are now on Midlife Cycling. 

And I am indeed going to "party like it's 1999".  In other words, I'm riding, writing and blogging  as if there's always something new to write about:  another ride, an interesting idea or story, a product past or present, another journey.  None of it ends.

So how did Prince himself "party"?  Well, here's a photo, and a link to a video, of him from the last days of his life:

Click here for video.

He looks relaxed and carefree.  If that isn't "partying", I don't know what is.

20 November 2016

Bringing Good Cheer--On A Bicycle

I love Velo Orange. Chris, the proprietor, is friendly and helpful. (Plus, he's a Francophile!)  So are the other VO employees with whom I've dealt.  And I've been happy with their products:  Apart from a bottle cage of theirs that broke (which might've been my fault), everything I've bought from them has served me well and looks great.

On their "Specials" page, I noticed something I've never before used.   

Their "six pack rack" attaches to their front racks (of which I've used two, and currently use one)  and, as the name implies, is designed to hold a six-pack of beer.  As Velo Orange's site points out, it can also be used to tote a purse, a small camera bag, your lunch or other similarly-sized items.

Like most VO items, it's attractive.  I imagine it does what it's designed to do.  On the other hand, it highlights a crucial difference:  between toting and delivering.

That is not to denigrate VO's six-pack rack.  It's something you use to carry a six-pack or whatever home at the end of a ride on your retro- or retro-style bike.  However, I don't imagine a delivery person would use it.  And anyone who's delivering beer probably isn't toting the other things that fit into the six-pack rack.

No, if you are a liquor delivery person--or simply serious about hauling beer--this is what you need:

From Phyllis Ramsey on Pinterest.

A liquor delivery bicycle.  Hmm...Apart from the sign, what makes it different from other delivery bikes?

19 November 2016

Another Ride: Another View Of The Season

Today was almost as unseasonably warm as yesterday was.  Somehow, though, it looked more like a day of this time of year, which can't be called "fall" because almost everything that is supposed to fall has already fallen.  The season is tipping toward winter.  The sky reflected it.

Yesterday, I saw lots of bare trees and sunshine.  Today, though, a curtain of thick gray clouds filled the sky and the air with the kind of shadowy light that induces a "long winter's nap".  And the bay and ocean, even during high tide, seemed as listless, almost as drowsy, as the sky they reflected.

Oddly, though, that light and air energized me.  I felt as full of verve, and my bike felt as lively under me, as on yesterday's ride.  Perhaps feeling good was making me feel good:  Even after a 140 kilometer (85 mile) ride that included some hills and a headwind most of the way to Connecticut on yesterday's ride--and cleaning my apartment afterward-- I felt as if I could have ridden forever.  

I didn't do that.  I did, however, ride 105 kilometers (65 miles) on Tosca, my Mercian fixed-gear bike.  Granted, it was a flat ride.  But I was riding into a stiffer headwind on my way out--to Point Lookout--than I encountered yesterday.  That meant, of course, that my tailwind was also stronger on my way home.

Today I encountered almost no traffic for long stretches of Beach Channel and the Rockaway Peninsula and the south shore of Nassau County.  Part of the reason for that, of course, is that people aren't going to the beach.  But it seemed that even fishermen and surfers stayed home today.  And, even along the commercial strips of Cross Bay Boulevard and by the mini-mall in Long Beach, I didn't see as many motorized vehicles as I would expect to see on a Saturday.  Maybe people haven't begun their holiday shopping.  

Not that I minded seeing so little traffic, of course.  Or even the gray skies:  It framed both the bare trees and the bushes still sprouting their flowers and fruits with a kind of austere beauty different from what yesterday's clear skies and sunshine highlighted.  

Two days, two rides that made me happy.  On two different bikes through two different kinds of landscapes.  Autumn might be falling into winter--and we've had the worst election I can remember--but I am still blessed.

18 November 2016

Seeing Them Again

Days like today induce cognitive dissonance.  The temperature would have been right a month or more ago: about 17C (64F).  Not that I was complaining:  of course I went for a ride.  

What I saw, though, reminded me that fall is tipping toward winter.   Not that I was complaining about that, either:  Some of the sights were quite lovely in sensual as well as more austere ways.

I pedaled to Connecticut, for the 20th time this year.  There, the signs that fall is leaving us were even more visible.  

This memorial to Greenwich residents who died in World War II, Korea and Vietnam seems even more like a memorial with the bare trees behind it than it does during the spring or summer, when everything is budding or in bloom, or during early or mid-fall.  I am willing to visit such monuments, not to celebrate victories, actual or perceived heroism or other exploits, but to remember what a tragedy it is that people die--and others' lives are ruined--over conflicts that are never resolved, no matter how many young people sacrifice themselves to the siren call that echoes Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. 

Anyway, my ride was most satisfying.  It might be the last Connecticut ride I take this season.  If it turns out to be so, I would be satisfied:  I felt good, and the bike--Arielle, my Mercian Audax--glided over the roads and paths.  

While I was sitting by the memorial, a woman walking by stopped to admire my bike.  Then she got a glimpse of me. Omigod, how are you doing?   She was a student of mine last year; now she is working, ironically, at Greenwich Hospital.   And, near the end of my ride, I got a glimpse of a young guy who, it turned out, is a current student of mine.  It took a moment for us to recognize each other because, I guess, we were "out of context".  I was not in the sort of clothes I wear to work, and he had shaved his goatee since I last saw him--yesterday.

Funny thing is, I chastised him last week about something.  I never had to do that to the my former student whom I saw today in Connecticut. But they were both happy to see me, I think.  Maybe it's because I was having such a good ride.

17 November 2016

Saul Lopez Probably Never Saw It Coming

When a cyclist ends up under a motor vehicle, do you assume--if only for a moment--that it was some careless driver who was texting, drunk or simply not paying attention?

I admit: I do.  Perhaps it's because I've heard and  read too many of those stories.  

Do you also assume that a single motor vehicle, and driver, was involved?  Again, I admit that I do.  Reason:  See above.

Now, when you hear that two motor vehicles collide, do you picture both of them stopped as a result of the impact?  If you answered "yes", welcome to a club that includes me.  

Also, if you are like me, you probably don't expect a cyclist to be run down by one of those two vehicles that collided. In fact, I'd never heard of such a case--until today.

Saul Lopez was struck and trapped under a pickup truck at the corner of Glenoaks Boulevard and Vaughn Street in the San Fernando/Pacoima area.
The crash site in Pacoima.

The other day, in the Pacoima neighborhood of Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley, a 2016 Dodge Ram pickup truck was headed south on Glenoaks Boulevard.  It collided with a 2006 Chevrolet pickup truck running eastward on Vaughn Street. 

The impact sent both trucks careening southward to an intersection where the Dodge struck a 15-year-old boy who was riding his bike westbound, to school, in the south crosswalk at around 7 am.  He was pinned under the truck and after police arrived, Saul Lopez was declared dead at the scene.

Saul Lopez, from the GoFundMe page for his funeral costs.

The good news--if there could be said to be any--is that both drivers stopped at the scene and cooperated with police.  Neither was arrested.  It's not clear which of them had the right of way.

A GoFundMe page created to cover the costs of his funeral has already raised nearly $28,000: about $13,000 more than the goal.  If only it weren't necessary!

16 November 2016

Hasta La Vista, Esquire!

Yesterday, I mentioned Vista bicycles.  If you became a cyclist around the time I did--or were in junior high or high school when I was--in the US, you probably saw a lot of them, if you didn't have one yourself.

Vista Esquire, circa 1972

I got my Schwinn Continental just as the '70's Bike Boom was building up steam.  At that time, shops routinely ran out of Schwinns, Peugeots and Raleighs, which were the most popular brands in bike shops.  I had to wait three months for my Continental, which was not unusual.  But not everybody was willing to wait for one of those brands, and dealers knew that such customers would buy pretty much any ten-speed that resembled, even in the most superficial ways, bikes from those companies.  

Head badge from early Vista bicycle.

Some accused Schwinn of suppressing production in order to create such a demand and, consequently, drive up prices.  Truth was, they, like most other bike manufacturers, simply couldn't keep up with the demand: US Bicycle sales doubled from 1970 to 1972.  Even the boatloads of bikes that arrived daily from Europe and Asia weren't enough to satisfy consumers.

Schwinn Collegiate, circa 1972

Schwinn, however, did something else that made their bikes--and, by extension, other ten-speeds--more difficult to find, especially in rural areas.  On the eve of the Bike Boom, in the 1960s, Schwinn tried to eliminate from its dealer networks the small-town stores that sold tractors, feed and fertilizer, hardware, guns, cars or whatever else alongside Schwinn bicycles. (Some kept only a couple of bikes in the store and if the customer wanted another model or color, or needed a different size, the shop ordered it.)  The company wanted their bikes sold in showrooms devoted to their bikes and that stocked a sizeable number of Schwinn bikes and accessories.  Jake's Feed and Seed or Rick's Rifles couldn't or wouldn't make the investment in showrooms and inventory and were thus shut out of what would become a lucrative enterprise.

Vista Esquire, circa 1971

In response, a group of manufacturers and suppliers formed the National Independent Dealers Association and put together a line of bikes.  It's long been rumored that one of those manufacturers was Columbia bicycles of Westfield, Massachusetts:  Early Vista bicycles, for all of their attempts to look like Schwinns, had the style of everything from welding to graphics seen on the Columbia bicycles found in department stores.  

I knew more than a few kids--and a few adults--who rode them when they couldn't get Schwinns.  Vistas sold for about 20 percent less and were lighter than the Schwinn models they were designed to compete with.  From my limited experience with them, they clattered in that same clunky way as department store bikes like Columbia and Murray.  

The early Vistas had the same components as Columbias of the time:  Huret Allvit  derailleurs and steel one-piece cranks-- which were also found on Schwinns-- and cheap sidepull brakes.  Around 1972 or 1973, however, Vista began to equip their "Cavalier" and "Esquire" with their own brand of derailleur.  At least, that's what a lot of people thought.

Made-in-Japan Vista 15 speed bike with 64 cm(!) frame, circa 1975

In-the-know cyclists, however, soon realized that Vista had simply rebadged the SunTour GT rear and Spirt front derailleurs, and the ratcheted "power" shift levers bolted onto the handlebar stem.  Folks like me who had the chance to ride those Esquires and Cavaliers simply couldn't believe how much easier, and more accurately, their gears shifted than the ones on our Continentals and Varsities--or even on some of the more expensive European racing bikes.

Made-in-Japan Vista Elite with Shimano 600 components, circa 1978

That move probably did as much as anything to popularize the Vista brand and to keep sales even after the Bike Boom died down.  Some time around 1975 or so, Vista began to offer a line of "professional" bikes made for them in Japan.  Those bikes resembled the mid-level ten (and later twelve) speed bikes from Takara, Azuki and other Japanese marques, with their lugged frames made out of high-tensile (and, in a few cases, straight-gauge chrome-moly) steel tubing outfitted with components from SunTour, Shimano, Sakae Ringyo,Takagi and other well-known manufacturers from the Land of the Rising Sun. By the early '80's, Vista was even offering an "aero" model with flattened chrome-moly frame tubes, early "deep V" rims from Araya and Shimano's 600 EX "aero" components.

Head badge from Japanese-made Vista

Those Japanese-made Vistas were good, but mostly indistinguishable from other bikes from the by-then-more-familiar Japanese brands.  Thus, thirteen- and fourteen-year-olds who bought American-made Vistas weren't, if they were still riding, buying Japanese-made Vistas when they went to college and beyond.  Instead, they purchased ten- (or, by that time, twelve-) speeds from such iconic brands of the 1970s and '80s as Fuji, Miyata, Motobecane and Raleigh.

The Vista brand seems to have disappeared some time around 1984 or 1985--a couple of years after those "aero" bikes came out.  By that time, Schwinn was making a series of missteps that would cost much of the market share it once enjoyed.  (As an example, the company's management acted as if mountain bikes were just a passing fad at a time when other manufacturers were making their mark in that discipline.)  And the quality of other American mass-produced bikes (with a few exceptions like Trek), which wasn't very good to begin with, fell off precipitously and, within a few years, nearly all production shifted offshore.