31 January 2017

More--Or Mores?

If you mention English three-speed bikes, the first brand that comes to most people's minds is Raleigh.

That makes sense when you realize that not only did Raleigh make more such machines-- and make them for longer-- than any other bike maker, they  had also, by the late 1950s, acquired BSA, Sunbeam and other manufacturers of such machines.  If you aren't a three-speed enthusiast or haven't worked in a bike shop, you probably aren't aware of those brands.  Most people have seen bikes from those marqes but didn't notice because they don't know or care about such things, or because those bikes looked so much like Raleighs that they didn't notice the brands.

So it's not such a surprise that English bicycle saddles have a similar history to the bikes I've mentioned, especially when you realize that most English bikes (as well as machines from many other countries), until the 1970s, came with British leather saddles.

Now, a cyclist who isn't of a certain age can be forgiven for thinking that Brooks is the only British company to have made those iconic perches from hide stretched across rails.  Turns out, up to about the 1970s, a number of firms in Albion were making saddles similar to the ones Brooks offered.

You may have ridden one of their wares, perhaps without realizing it.  Among those saddle makers were Lycett, Wrights and one I re-discovered recently.   They all have remarkably parallel histories:  They started as makers of horse saddles or other leather goods, and they all were based--as was much of the British cycling industry--in and around Birmingham.  

(The name of that city is pronounced "burr-mean-gum" with an accent on the first syllable.  Folks in Alabama will tell you their largest city is "Burr-ming-ham", with the last syllable accented.)

Recently, I saw an old Holdsworth parked in my neighborhood.  I wish I had taken photos of it:  The frame was obviously from the 1960s or earlier, but it was kitted out with a combination of modern, mostly Japanese, components.  The bike, however, sported one item that was very distinctively of its place and time:

I rather liked the nameplate, with the Middlemore name bookended by an enlarged "M" and "E" at the beginning and end, respectively.  What puzzled me, though, is this:

So the rear plate says "Middlemore" but the side emblems read "Middlemores".  It would make more sense if the latter contained an apostrophe, as in "Middlemore's saddles".  Instead,it looks as if someone couldn't decide on the singular or plural.

The makers of that saddle can be forgiven.  The B89, which I believe was the model I saw on the Holdsworth, looks like a cross between a Brooks Professional and B17.  At least, the width seems to be somewhere between the two.  And the leather on it was as thick as I've seen on any, and appeared to be of very good quality.  Whoever's been riding that saddle seems to have taken care of it.

In doing some research, I found an entire blog devoted, not only to Middlemore(s) saddles, but to other items--some not related to bikes--made by the company.  Apparently, the firm was known as Middlemore & Lamplugh after the two firms bearing those names merged in 1896, and continued to make saddles under both names until 1920, when the firm was dissolved and one of its factories was sold.  Middlemore once again became a separate company, known as Middlemores Coventry, that continued to make bicycle saddles.

As Raleigh was acquiring many of the old British bicycle marques, a rival company, the Tube Investments Group, was buying up the bike makers Raleigh hadn't collected.  By that time, Raleigh also owned a number of component manufacturers, including Sturmey Archer---and Brooks.  In 1960, TI bought Raleigh, which meant that, in essence, they controlled the British bicycle industry.

TI would then "retire" some of the old bike and parts brands that had previously competed with Raleigh and its affiliates.  Somehow, though, Middlemore(s) managed to remain independent.  During that time, the B89 came out; later, a cutaway version (like the Brooks Swallow), the B89N, was offered.  And their tri-sprung saddle, the B3, found a following among some more leisurely cyclists.  According to one former employee, Middlemore(s) even made a saddle for Princess Margaret.

By the 1970's, however, much of their dwindling income came from rebadged saddles they made for a few bike manufacturers, including Lambert/Viscount and Moulton.  But as companies like Lambert/Viscount died out, were acquired or moved production overseas, Middlemore(s) dwindled and seems to have stopped making saddles altogether in the 1980s, although it existed on paper until 21 May 1991.

At that time, Middlemore(s) was one of the most longevous manufacturing firms of any kind in Britain or the world.  It had, in fact, existed for even longer than Brooks or Raleigh. 

Across the Channel, a number of French firms made leather saddles similar to the ones made by their counterparts in Blighty.  Some were of decidedly inferior quality, like the Adga Model 28s that came with Peugeot UO8s and other similar French bikes.  (The Adga 28, as Sheldon Brown wryly notes, probably did more than anything else to turn people off suspended leather saddles.)  Then there was Norex, a "second line" of saddles from Ideale, the best-known French maker.  

Ideale seems to have gone out of business in the mid-1980s or thereabouts.  From the next two decades or so, Brooks was just about the only brand of leather saddles available (and then only sporadically) in the US and much of the world.  A Dutch company continued to make similar products, which seemed to be of decent quality.  One possible reason why they weren't imported to America, or to most of the English-speaking world, might have been its name:  Lepper.

Note:  The images in this post came from "VeloBase".

30 January 2017

What Makes Primates Primary?

I was brought up--or, at least, inculcated with the notion-- that we are the Primary Primates.

So from what, exactly, does our primacy derive?  Well, for one thing, humans are the only beings capable of speech and language.  Esteemed scientists said as much.  For another thing, they also declared that only homo sapiens can think and reason.  And equally esteemed philosophers and theologians insisted that non-humans could not feel empathy or love, or have any sense of the possibility an after- life.  Thus, they concluded, non-human animals did not have souls.

Early on, I realized that all of the arguments for the superiority of humans were premised on some thing or another that humans could do but other living beings couldn't.  

That got me to thinking:  What if we constructed a hierarchy of living things based on whether or not they could ride a bicycle?  

Why would we do such a thing?  I don't know.  One thing I know, however, is that Max and Marlee wouldn't be too happy if I did--especially if they were to see this:

Of course, the fact that my favorite felines can't ride a bike (not yet, anyway! ;-)) doesn't make them less than any other living being, in my eyes!

29 January 2017

Out Front? Or A Fashion Accessory? Or A Human Shield?

If you live any place long enough, you notice changes.  Even if you find yourself with more choices in stores, restaurants or whatever--or if the buildings and parks get fixed up--you'll probably become one of those bitter or cantankerous people who grumbles, "I remember when..."

I'm starting to become one of those people in my current neighborhood of Astoria, Queens.   Before I moved here, I lived in Park Slope, Brooklyn for eleven years.  That was long enough for me to see it turn from "Dyke Slope" (The Lesbian Herstory Archives are still located in the neighborhood.) to a colony of affluent young couples who divided their work thusly:  one worked worked on Wall Street or was running a tech startup, the other pushed the kid in a stroller from pre-school to soccer practice or dance lessons while toting a yoga mat (and wearing $100 yoga pants).  

By that time, the joke was that the kids were the fashion accessories.  If you saw the way those parents (yes, some of them were men) pushed their carts, with the kid (or, more precisely, the kid's outfit) prominently displayed, you might think it wasn't a joke.

When some of those parents crossed the street, I really thought some of them might be using the kids as human shields!

I was thinking of them when I came across this bike:

It would be perfect for them, don't you think?

28 January 2017

In Pink

One week ago today, I marched with about a million (depending on whose count you believe) other people in Manhattan.  If you saw that demonstration, or the ones in Washington and many other cities around the world, you probably noticed that many of the marchers wore "Pink Pussy" hats.  

They make for a great statement.  And, if the day ever comes when we don't need to make such a statement, they'll be a lot of fun to wear.  They might even be seen as adorably goofy.

Someone suggested making a bike helmet to match.  Hmm...They certainly would be visible.  Let's hope that if it's ever made, it doesn't look like this:

or end up with a name like that!

27 January 2017

Call Me Paranoid, But....

You get pulled over, whether you're cycling or driving, even though you're within the speed limit and aren't violating any other laws.  Or a sales clerk follows you around a department store when you don't have any of the store's merchandise on you.  Or you don't get a promotion or raise given to someone who is, or seems, no better or worse an employee than you.  Or, worse, you're summoned into the HR office at your workplace to defend yourself against questionable or simply false allegations.

After such experiences, you might wonder, "Why me?"  If you are a member of a group of people who lives under suspicion--say, you are a young black male or someone who is, or merely "looks", Muslim or Middle Eastern--or merely someone who looks like you're "not from around here", you can't help but to think that your appearance or identity might have something to do with it.  And, in the workplace situations I've described, you can't help but to believe--too often, with justification (Trust me, I've been in such situations!) that someone in your organization "has it in for you" just because of who you are.

It's easy to feel the things I've described in the previous paragraph if you are cycling, particularly in some place where there aren't many adult cyclists or where people are, for whatever reasons, hostile to cyclists.  Or, worse, if you encounter some traffic cop on a motorcycle who has nothing better to do and, being on a bike, you are an easier target in his quest to make his ticket quota for that month.

Lately, other cyclists and I have felt a similar kind of unease--some might call it paranoia.  Within the past week or so, a number of localities have passed, or merely discussed, ordinances that have no other purpose than to harass, or simply discourage, cyclists.  And it's hard not to wonder whether the inauguration of Trump has something to do with it:  Could velophobic legislators and law enforcement officials feel empowered by the Bike Hater-in-Chief in much the same way xenophobes and bigots have felt emboldened to carry out acts of hate?

I want to thank dear reader Coline--who lives in Scotland, no less!--for pointing out two of the latest pieces of legislative lunacy.

The first comes from the state of Montana, where there is a draft bill that, if passed, would ban cyclists from riding on two-lane country roads that lack shoulders. Now, I have never been to Montana, but the article Coline sent me corroborates what I've heard from people who've been to The Treasure State:  most of the state's roads--and, basically, all of the roads outside of the towns (aside from the Interstates)--fit that description.  What that means, of course, is that cycling would be off-limits in much of the state.

What sort of message does that send to some fourteen- or fifteen-year-old in a state that is already automobile-centric?  If that kid can't get from one town or another--let alone ride for fun--he or she is likely to say, "To hell with it; I'll have my license soon!"  And, of course, such a ban would deter folks who might have considered a vacation there.  Personally, I wouldn't want to take a trip somewhere if I couldn't ride--unless I were going, say, to climb a mountain or hike a glacier.

Roads like this could soon be off-limits to cyclists in Montana.

The bill also contains another stipulation that would discourage riding:  Cyclists always have to ride single-file, no matter how large their group or how wide the road.  Hmm...Isn't discouraging social interaction among people of a group, or in a particular situation (such a workplace), the easiest way to "divide and conquer"?  That, of course, is what tyrants have always done to exert power over people they want to subjugate.  (Why do you think the slave-merchants brought people from different African clans and tribes aboard their ships?  Those captives didn't speak each other's languages and therefore were kept in a captivity even more pernicious than the chains that bound them.)

Will Montana's new motto be "Where Cycling Died"? 

The second authoritarian absurdity to which Coline alerted me comes from California.  Actually, it falls best into the category of nanny-state nonsense.  While Montana's bill is not yet up for a vote, the ridiculous regulation I'm about to describe became law in the Golden State on the first day of this year.  

Section 27400 of the California Vehicle Code prohibits a person from wearing "a headset covering, earplugs in or earphones covering , resting on or inserted in both ears" while cycling.  It calls for a fine of $178 for a violation.

Now, I want to say that I never ride with any sort of listening device in my ears.  When I'm riding in traffic, I want to be as alert as I can be to traffic and other parts of my surroundings.  When I'm riding in a more bucolic area, I prefer to listen to ambient sounds such as tides and wind or, if there are no such sounds, to simply enjoy the silence.  If I am riding with other cyclists, I cannot interact with them if my ears are plugged and Metallica or whatever is blaring in them.

That said, I can think of no reason to outlaw ear peices or headphones for cyclists.  As the article I've linked explains, if the practice poses any danger, it's only to the cyclists themselves.  Also, as the article points out, there are clusters of cyclists who wear devices while riding. They include urban areas where people are riding to work, doing errands or taking their kids to the park.  They also include college campuses.  Such places are easy targets for police officers who are over-zealous or simply see an easy target.  I don't think it's a stretch to say that the law, like those against loitering (which can be interpreted in all sorts of ways) targets people who have little wealth and power.  In other words, it's a law after Trump's own heart!

26 January 2017

When An Iris Doesn't Fit: Twofish

All four of my Mercians have a few things in common besides, well, being Mercians.  For example, they all have Phil Wood hubs and bottom brackets, Zefal HPX pumps, Brooks saddles and at least one part from Nitto.  In addition, all of them have Ruth Works bags, made by Ely Rodriguez, attached to them.

They also have King headsets.  Arielle, Tosca, Helene and Vera are also have another King in common:  water bottle cages, specifically the Iris model.  I have been very happy with them:  They are easy to use, hold the bottle well, don't bend and haven't shown any signs of breaking or even wear.  And, yes, I like the way they look.

Only recently have I discovered a "problem" with King Iris cages.  Actually, it would not have been a problem if I hadn't stumbled across the 1981 Trek I've been working on.  That frame doesn't have braze-on mounts for water bottle cages.  Most Bike Boom-era ten-speeds, even high-quality ones like my Romic and Peugeot PX-10, didn't have them. Around the time my Trek was made, a good bike was as likely as not  to have brazed-on water bottle mounts.

Most water bottle cages of that time, whether the high-quality ones from Specialites TA, Blackburn or REG, had tabs for clamps (which sometimes were supplied with the cages) as well as mounting holes.  On the other hand, many modern cages--like my Irises--do not have the provision for clamps and are made only for braze-ons.

I know that adapters are available.  Basically, they are plastic bands or zip-ties cinched with a plastic boss that contains a nut into which the cage is bolted.  I have never tried them, so for all I know, they may work just fine.  But I don't think they're worth $15.  Also, they just wouldn't look right on the Trek (or, for that matter, any other decent bike).

So, the obvious solution is to use a classic or classic-style cage with clamps.  Turns out, I had clamps but not, to my surprise, cages I could use with them.  So, I searched for some vintage or vintage-style cages.  In particular, I would have loved to find the single-clamp model TA made for a few years.  Back in the day, they cost about $4 or $5 new.  The ones I found on eBay were listed for $50 or more, and some of them looked as if they were fished out of the nearest bayou.  And other classic steel cages--or even the old Blackburn alloy ones and the near-clones made by Minoura and other companies--were expensive and some, shall we say, looked as if they had been more than used.  

Finally, I came across something that looks like a stainless steel version of those early Blackburn cages:

The welds on it are very clean and the finish is nice.  It weighs about twice as much as the Iris, or almost any other modern stainless steel cage:  The manufacturer lists a weight of 96 grams.  Then again, almost any vintage steel cage weighs at least that much--and if I were so concerned about weight, I wouldn't be putting my effort into a bike like the Trek 412, would I?

The cage is made in the USA by Twofish.  They make a similar cage with an attachment that allows it to be strapped onto a frame.  People seem to like it, but I would rather go with the more traditional clamp setup, especially on a vintage bike.

Perhaps the best part of all is the price.  When I bought my  Iris cages, I paid $14 to $17 each. To me, such prices are entirely reasonable for good-quality stainless steel cages, especially ones made in the USA.  And Ron Andrews makes those cages (as well as the titanium version) by hand in his Durango,Colorado garage.

Now, I don't know whether equally colorful individuals or little elves in Sequoia trees weld the Twofish cages.  But they are made in this country, in California:  one of the highest-wage states.  So imagine my delight in finding this cage for $10.50.

Unlike most modern cages, this one has "tabs" that will accommodate vintage-style metal water bottle clamps.  The ones I have will fit just fine.

And I think it will look right, and fine, on the Trek.  That is what matters most, doesn't it?

25 January 2017

If You Can See The Difference....

One of my favorite bloggers is The Retrogrouch.  So, I intend no disrespect to him with this post.

He is, of course, not the only cyclist to refer to himself as a Retrogrouch.  I am mainly in sympathy with him and the others who so identify themselves:  I ride steel frames, hand-laced wheels, downtube shifters (on my geared bikes), pedals with toe clips and Brooks saddles (except on my LeTour).  And all of my cranksets have square tapered axles.

On the other hand, I ride cassette hubs on my geared bikes (though the Trek 412 I'm building will have a screw-on freewheel).  The chief reasons are convenience and availablity:  No high-quality multiple-sprocket freewheels are made today (All of the good ones are single-speed.)  and most of the new-old-stock freewheels one can find on eBay and in other places have gear ratios that are useless to me.  (I am "of a certain age" and don't race, so what can I do with a 12-13-14-15-16-17-18?)  The unusued ones command exorbitant prices, while buying a used one is risky:  Your chain may or may not play nice with it.

And, as you can see from the photos in my sidebars, some of my components are black.   Some see that as a sign of a "sell-out", but there were indeed black components in the '70's and earlier.   Even the high priests of "shiny silver" at Velo Orange (which is actually one of my favorite online retailers) concede as much.

So, having said my piece about Retrogrouches, I want to introduce another species or clan or tribe (depending on your point of view) of cyclists.  I will call them Retrogeeks.  

Now, Retrogeeks and Retrogrouches are not mutually exclusive.  In fact, many can be identified, and would identify themselves, by both monikers.  One notable exception would be the late, great Sheldon Brown:  His encyclopaedic knowledge of all things bicycle made him a Retrogeek but, although he rode mainly steel frames and many older components, he did not think old is always better than new.  So he is not a Retrogrouch, though some have called him that.

One hallmark of a Retrogeek is that he or she knows authentic vintage bikes and parts from ersatz ones, and can tell whether or not an old bike or part was modified. Today, I am going to conduct a sort of Rorsach test that might help you to begin to figure out whether or not you are a Retrogeek.  Take a look at this photo:

Now take a look at this:

They are both images of the old Zefal Competition pump.  With its color scheme, you probably wouldn't be surprised to know that many pro and semi-professional French bikes of the '60's and '70's came with it.  The only other portable bike pump that was considered its equal (or, in some eyes, its better) was the Silca Impero.

What is the difference between the two Competitions in the first two photos?

If you look at the first two photos in this post, you will see that the pump in the second has the traditional press-on valve fitting, like the ones available for Silca pumps. To my knowledge, all Competitions came with it.  The pump in the first photo, in contrast, has a thumb-lock fitting--from a Zefal HP pump, the Competition's successor.

Pity that poor HP.  Had it been functional, I probably would use it on the Trek 412 I'm putting together:  It was the pump of choice at the time the bike was made.  Apart from the finish (polished on the Competition, silver anodized on the HP) and the color scheme, the only difference between the Competition and HP is in the head.

One nice thing about the Silcas is that you can change the head simply by twisting it off.  A Zefal head, on the other hand, attaches to one of the strangest-looking screws ever made

all the way inside the body.  Zefal used to make a tool for the purpose.  The only one I ever saw (or used before today) resided on Frank's toolbench in Highland Park (NJ) Cyclery, where I worked.

From Yellow Jersey

A screwdriver with a long flat blade would unscrew it--as long as the shaft is about 400mm long. (At least, I think that's how long the Zefal tool was.)  My longest screwdriver is only 12 inches (about 300mm).  So I resorted to another implement

or, I should say, collection of implements.  Assembled, it makes me think more of a crane--or of something made with an Erector Set-- than of any other hand tool I have ever seen or used.  

It consists of a 3/8" socket drive with two extensions--  one of 10 inches (250mm), the other 6 inches (150mm), a 3/8"-to-1/4" adapter and the blade assembly from one of my reversible screwdrivers which--wonder of wonders!--fit into the 1/4" socket.

Getting the screw out wasn't difficult.  But reassembling was a bit trickier.  I dropped the screw into the pump shaft and jiggled it until the threads protruded from the bottom.  Then I inserted my contraption and held it against the screw and screwed the head on for a couple of threads.  You can't screw it on all the way since the hole at the bottom of the pump has a hexagonal shape, into which the inner lip of the pump end fits.  

So, after threading the head onto the screw for a couple of threads, I rotated the pump body until the hexagonal lip of the pump head skid slid into the hexagonal hole at the bottom of the pump body (easily yet snugly:  the parts were well-machined). Of course, I lightly greased the hexagonal parts and the screw threads before re-assembling everything--and, between disassembly and reassembly, I cleaned out the shaft and gave the inside a light coating of fresh grease.

The "operation" was a success:  I pumped two tires to full pressure (90 PSI).  Yes, I cleaned out the head before I re-assembled the pump.

I know I could have kept the Competition as it was.  I ride only Presta valves, so the press-on fitting would have worked just fine. (I know:  I used both Silcas and Zefal Competitions for years.)  But it is easier to pump high-pressure tires with the thumb-lock attachment.  Plus, I now have a pump that nobody (or, at least, hardly anybody) else has.  Don't worry:  I saved the original Competition head and screw, just in case I decide to convert it back.

Now, if you've been following this blog for the past few weeks, you can guess which bike is getting this pump.

24 January 2017

Going Dutch--Into The Wind

I haven't spent a lot of time in the Netherlands, and it's been a while since I've been there.  So I won't claim to be any kind of an expert on the country or its people, both of which I loved.  I will, however, offer an impression, which relates to a comment on yesterday's post.

Like just about every place I've ever visited, the Netherlands and the Dutch people have their paradoxes. They can be most readily seen in, I believe, their art.  This is a nation, remember, that has given the world Vermeer, Rembrandt and Mondrian as well as Collin van der Sluijs and, of course, Van Gogh.  The contradictions can also be seen in the country's history and social policy:  More than a few historians and econominsts have argued that capitalism as we know it began in the Netherlands in the 16th Century, but in more recent years it has become famous for having a social "safety net" that is tightly woven even by the standards of its western European neighbors.  Also, the country that embraced the social order of Calvinism more than any other would become among the first to legalize same-sex marriage, heroin and other drugs and the right to die.  And, finally, what other nation could have produced a politician like Pim Fortuyn, who famously declared, "I'm not a racist.  I like Arab boys!" ?

I mention all of those things because, if you know about them, what the commenter brought to my attention makes perfect sense.  Perhaps an orderly society creates the need for people to do crazy things:  Sports like bungee-jumping aren't invented in places like Syria and western Sudan.  Mountain biking was born in America, not Afghanistan.  

So a competition that forces cyclists to pedal into 100 kph headwinds would originate--where else?--in the land of tulips and stroopwafels.  Oh, it gets even better:  The riders aren't astride the latest aerodynamic carbon-fiber bikes.  Since they are riding in the Netherlands, they are required to ride--what else?--Dutch-style city bikes.  You know, the kind in which the rider sits up like a dog begging for the treat in his owner's hand.  The kind with fully-enclosed chainguards and wheel covering so extensive that you can pedal to your wedding in your gown or tux.

Naturally, the Headwinds Championship is run along the Oosterscheldekering storm barrier that protects the land from the sea, but not the riders (or anybody or anything else) from wind.  I have alongside seawalls and other coastal barriers, so I know that if the wind is blowing the right (wrong?) way, they can act as funnels or tunnels, especially if the barrier is on an isthmus or some other narrow strip of land.

The competition is organized on short notice, so as to all but ensure the worst possible conditions.  I wonder whether the race is organized by the same folks who put together the Paris-Roubaix race.  I wouldn't be surprised if some of them are Dutch!

23 January 2017

Pumping And Sailing

A couple of days ago, I returned from a week in Florida.  Aside from a couple of brief spells of rain, which passed quickly, the days were sunny and warm, so  I did a fair amount of riding.

Now, I know that spending a week or two there every year hardly makes me an expert on cycling in the Sunshine State.  But I can comment on something I've noticed whenever I've ridden there:  wind.  I wouldn't say there is more of it than in New York. It is however, more noticeable, as the terrain is flat and even in the urban areas, the buildings aren't as densely clustered--and certainly not as tall!--as in even the most suburban neighborhoods of New York.  

When I rode to St. Augustine from my parents' house, I pedaled into a fairly stiff wind almost the entire way there.  The flip-side of that, of course, is that I breezed back:  I completed the 52.5 kilometers back to my parents' house in about half an hour less than it took me to pedal the same distance to St. Augustine.  I had a similar experience in riding to Daytona Beach, although the wind wasn't quite as stiff.  On the other hand, on another ride, I breezed down to Ormond Beach but fought the wind on my way back.

Today the wind will be much stiffer than anything I experienced last week:  Gusts of 80-110 KPH are predicted.  This would certainly be a day to plan a ride into the wind and with it coming home!  The thing is, though the cross-winds could be really tough.  

Hmm...If I could manage to ride into the wind for a bit, perhaps my ride home could look something like this:

22 January 2017

A Nomad And A UFO

Whenever I am in Florida, as I was a few days ago, I see lots of recreational vehicles as well as "campers".  In fact, when I ride along A1A, I pass by at least one RV or camper park.

Although trailers towed behind cars or carried on the backs of trucks are referred to as "campers", and people who use them--or even RVs--say they are "camping", I have a difficult time equating them with the camping I have done.  

There were days when I pedaled until I got lost, or couldn't pedal or see--or just didn't want to ride--anymore and simply unfurled my sleeping bag in a field or stretch of woods, or under a bridge.  There were also times when I pitched a tent or simply strung a piece of canvas or plastic between trees or other immobile objects and slept under it.  Perhaps having had such experiences makes it difficult for me to think that a person watching a wide-screen TV, even if he or she is in the open air, is "camping". 

Still, I can understand why people travel with "campers" or RV's:  They want to travel whenever they want, wherever they want, with as many of the conveniences of home as they can take with them.  That is also one of the reasons why they don't, and probably wouldn't, tour or camp by bicycle:  Even if you have front and rear panniers, a handlebar bag and a seat pack, you can't carry many of the comforts of even the most basic homes.

Perhaps a UFO could get them to travel by bicycle:

UFO stands for Urban Freedom Outlander, and this trailer is the Mark II model.  If there were camper trailers in ET, they might look something like that!

If the space-alien look isn't your thing, perhaps you might consider this:

Would sleeping in either of those trailers fit your definition of "camping"?  Even if it doesn't, at least pedaling either of them constitutes a bona fide outdoor activity--and, I would imagine, a workout!

21 January 2017

Why I Didn't Ride Today

Thick gray clouds blanketed the sky.  Still, today was mild for this time of year, with the temperature rising to 45F (8C).  Even after a week of sunshine and temperatures in the 70s, as I experienced in Florida, I would have gone riding on a day like today.

But I didn't.  Why?  

Well, believe it or not, there was something I felt I simply had to do.  If you followed the news today, you probably know what I'm about to tell you:  I marched in Manhattan.

To tell you the truth, I spent more time standing than marching.  A few hundred thousand other people can say the same:  At times, we were literally standing shoulder-to-shoulder.  

I should have known how crowded the streets would be when I rode across the 59th Street/Queensborough Bridge and, as soon as I descended the ramp on the Manhattan side, I could ride no further.   

Even though there seemed to be no room even for another flyer or sign on the Manhattan side, I found a signpost on which I was able to lock my LeTour.  I returned, hours later, to unlock and ride it back over the bridge.  

Some might say that I wasted my time, that such a march "won't change anything".  Of course, it won't nullify the result of the elections.  But it did bring together people who feel the same way: that the result of this election does not represent them, does not represent us.

Why was it important for us to come together?  We--most of us, anyway, I suspect--are angry about that the Orange Man was inaugurated yesterday.  We were not, however, acting upon our rage: doing so would have brought us down to the level of his campaign and the hatred it manifested.  I realized as much when I saw how respectful, even nice, marchers were toward each other.  Each of us, I think, was happy that the other marchers were there, whatever their reasons or motivations.  Many of us are "outsiders" or "minorities" of one kind or another; just about everyone else, I suspect, loves or is loved by someone who fits those descriptions.  Because we were there, together, we were not alienated, and the message behind our signs and shouts is that we will not allow ourselves to be alienated by the powers that are seizing control.

Tomorrow, I hear, will be like today, weather-wise--at least until mid-afternoon.  Perhaps I will ride.  But I will not regret that today I could ride over the bridge a mile from my apartment, and no further.  There is still further to go.  I can still go further.

20 January 2017

What Now? What Next?

Like many of you, dear readers, I have dreaded this day for the past two months.  Longer than that, actually:  Unlike those of my friends and acquaintances whose world  view was best depicted by a famous New Yorker  cover`, I didn't believe Trump's victory "couldn't" or "will never" happen.

The world view of those said it "never could" or "never would" happen.

Some pundits are counseling us to "wait and see".  I wonder whether they actually believe that "it might not be so bad" or they are simply in that kind of denial into which people often descend after accidents, disasters, abuse or other kinds of life-changing truamae.  

It may well be true that the Trump presidency (assuming, of course, he makes it through his term) might be very different from what some of us might expect.  After all, he holds--or, at least, has expressed--all sorts of contradictory views, and has been known to change them "in a New York minute" or less.

For example, probably no President-elect since Reagan has expressed more disdain for environmental issues--and has been more of a cheerleader for fossil fuel exploitation--than The Orange-ator.  (Whatever else you want to say about him, Nixon was more of an environmentalist than any of his successors besides Jimmy Carter.    Yes, Obama called attention to climate change and got China to sign onto the Paris accords, but he also pursued policies that exacerbated the environmental effects of domestic energy development and, to a large degree, exported our dirty energy sources.) Given that most cyclists--or, at least, the ones I know--tend to be more environmentally conscious than the average American, one would expect them (us) to be horrified at the prospect of a The Donald in the White House.  

Moreover, he has expressed disdain for adult cyclists, especially after John Kerry crashed.  He once sniffed that he hasn't ridden a bicycle since he was a kid.  After all, real men drive Rolls Royces, right?  Actually, no:  They hire other people to drive them.

But here's where things get interesting.  You see, Trumplethinskin once sponsored a bicycle race.  Not any old bike race, mind you:  the largest one ever held in this country, at least since the days of the six-day races.  The Tour de Trump ran for two editions before he withdrew his sponsorship (citing financial difficulties) and Du Pont took over both the financial obligation and the right to name it after themselves.

Some cursory research (i.e., a glance through Google) confirmed what I'd suspected:  since the Tour deTrump/Tour Du Pont ran for the last time, in 1996, there hasn't been another stage race of quite the same stature in the USA. Raul Alcala, who won the second and fifth editions, placed as high as eighth in the Tour de France and seventh in the Vuelta a Espana.  The fourth edition of Trump/DuPont was won by a former Tour winner: Greg Lemond.  And he who is unmentionable (at least in the cycling world) won the final two editions of Trump/DuPont.  In its heyday, the race was even envisioned, by some, as part of a "Grand Slam" that would include the three major European tours and some race or races in Asia.  

It's interesting, to say the least, that Trump actually sponsored such an event, however briefly.  My research (again on, ahem, Google) indicates that no other President has ever been associated with a bicycle race, whether as a sponsor or participant--even though every President from Eisenhower onward, with the exceptions of Reagan and, ironically, Nixon, cycled during his adult life.  Even they, however, never made a point of expressing hostility toward cyclists the way Trump has.

So...What are we to make of the fact that the Inaugural Parade proceeded along a bicycle lane?  

19 January 2017

Leaving Perfection Behind

I hold an advanced degree.  My professional life brings me into contact with some very intelligent people.  And according to the standardized tests, I am of above-average intelligence.

Now I will give you an opportunity to question the validity of standardized tests.

If you've been reading for the past week, you know that I've been in Florida and, for most of that time, have had nearly perfect cycling weather.

Well, I'm leaving it all behind me.  Yes, I'm going back to New York in January.  Flying into JFK, no less.

18 January 2017

A Painterly Ride

I am going to write something that might cause envy or resentment in some, especially those of you who are reading behind sleet-streaked windows.

Yes, today's weather was once again glorious.  Actually, it was a bit warmer than the past few days:  During the return part of my ride, the temperature rose to 82F (28C), according to the sign on the Buddy Taylor Middle School.  And the sun shone through puffy cumulus clouds that drifted across the sky.

So I rode up to Bings Landing, the site of the Mala Compra ("bad bargain" or "bad buy") plantation, and back down Route A1A, including one of my favorite stretches.

I wish my photos could do justice to the light that flickered with the dance of the waves and reeds.  At the observation stand from which I took those pictures, I chatted with a retired couple from North Carolina who commented on the light, and the view.  "Now you know why it's called Painters Hill," I explained.

As the saying goes, a lovely time was had by all--especially the ones who came dressed for the occasion:

With their fashion sense, how could I not share my nuts, seeds and granola bars with them?  And, even in such finery, they were not too haughty to refuse!

I was not surprised to see people walking through the sand or fishing. A few even tried to ride the waves, such as they were.  But I didn't see anyone swimming.  Yesterday, I was tempted to dip myself in the water, but after taking off my sneakers and socks, and letting a few waves lap up to my calves, I realized that the water was a bit on the cool side.

Normally, on such a day, people would line the pier at Flagler Beach, whether to fish, watch birds (or wait in the hope of sighting a dolphin, whale or shark) or simply pass enjoy the view and pass the time.  But I noticed that the pier was empty, as it was yesterday and the other day.  

I also couldn't help but to think that the pier looked smaller than it was last year.  Sure enough, it is:  Hurricane Matthew washed away part of it and, according to the gate keeper, it might be closed for another year because the insurance company doesn't want people there until repairs are made and the pier passes inspection.

Still, it was a wonderful day and ride. With the kind of light I had, how could anything have been otherwise?