30 September 2017

Good Thing They Didn't Call It The "Jockbra"

In several posts on this blog, I've mentioned that Susan B. Anthony said, in essence, that the bicycle has done more than anything else to liberate women.

Since women started riding bikes, there are probably two things that have done more than anything else to encourage girls' and womens' participation in cycling and other sports.

One is Title IX, the 1972 US law that prohibits sex discrimination in educational programs--which include school-based sports programs.  Since then, the number of girls' and womens' sports teams in colleges and schools has expanded greatly.  As a result, more girls were encouraged to participate in sports, whether in their schools or outside of it, and one could argue that the subsequent increase in the proficiency of American female athletes has spurred other countries to improve their women's sports programs.

The other is what we now call the sports bra.  Before it was created, girls and women--if they weren't flat-chested--had to live with the pain of their breasts bouncing or the chafing of a bra's wires and straps.  Or they improvised support from duct tape and other items.  Or they simply didn't participate in sports at all.

The last option simply wasn't an option for Hinda Miller.  She had just started working for the theatre department at the University of Vermont and taken up jogging.  She used two bras which, I imagine, restricted her breathing and was probably only somewhat less painful than bouncing breasts.  

Across campus, Lisa Lindahl was dealing with the same problem.  She and Miller reached out to Polly Smith, who made costumes for the university's theatre department.  They bought some bras and tore them apart. "I was taking notes; Lisa was running," Miller remembers.  She was always asking Lindahl, "Does that feel good?"

None of them did.  They tried to come up with a solution when Lindahl's then-husband came downstairs with two jockstraps slung over his shoulders.  He was teasing them, but the proverbial light bulb lit up in Miller's head:  "That's what we want to do," she remembers thinking.  "We want to pull everything closer to the body."

She ran to the store, bought two jockstraps and brought them to the costume shop.  "The waist band became our rib band," she explained.  "We crossed the straps in the back because we didn't want them to fall and it went over our head.  And that was it."

So was the Jogbra born, 40 years ago this month.  It became a national brand and, two decades later, Brandi Chastain cemented its place in our collective consciousness.

Hinda Miller with a bronze plaque commemorating the Jogbra at the University of Vermont.

Today, Lindahl is an artist based in Charleston, South Carolina.  Miller served as a State Senator in Vermont from 2002-2013 and ran unsuccessfully for Mayor of Burlington (Bernie Sanders' old job) in 2006.  These days, she serves on the boards of a number of organizations as diverse as the Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and the Vermont Youth Orchestra.

If I do say so myself, few people in this world can appreciate the story of the Jogbra's origin as much as I can.  After all, I am a cyclist and someone who's participated in other sports--and someone who's lived on both sides of the aisle, if you will.  In other words, I am a transgender woman and one of (I assume) very few people who has used both a jockstrap and a sports bra!

29 September 2017

New Locks In The Town Of "The Wire"

Bike share programs have been popular in most of the cities that have them.  Share bikes provide an alternative to driving or even public transportation (which is often overcrowded or inconvenient) for many commuters, and have given people who don't have a place to keep a bicycle the option to ride.  And, of course, they're handy when a friend visits from out of town and you don't have a bike for him or her to ride.

One problem, though, is that in too many cities, those bikes have also been popular with thieves.  Roberto, my guide in Rome, told me that the Eternal City abandoned its program after bikes were stripped and abandoned, tossed into the river or simply disappeared.  Other cities that were among the early adopters of the bike share idea found that they had to redesign ports and locks and install tracking devices on their bikes.

The problem of theft and vandalism was bad enough in Baltimore that earlier this month, it temporarily shut down its program.  The locks on the bikes met industry standards, but were no match for thieves in Mobtown.  

Bewegen, the company that made the locks, believes it has come up with a solution:  a "Baltimore lock" that automatically clamps the bike into the station when its handlebars are yanked.  According to Bewegen, other unspecified safety measures are also being added to the bikes.

All of the bikes have been shipped to the company's Montreal headquarters, where they will be refurbished as the new locks are made. "It's going to be a hard overhaul," says Chris King, the company's US marketing adviser.  "We're stripping them down to the bone."  He said the company will pay for the cost of the locks and all of the work under the terms of its warranty with the city.

Once the work is done, company officials will go to Baltimore to oversee the installation of the new bike locks.  King has all but admitted that the 15 October target date might not be met.  "We'll take as long as it's going to take to make it right," he said.

And, hopefully, folks in a town known for Edgar Allen Poe, H.L. Mencken and The Wire will be able to enjoy their city on two wheels for many years to come.

28 September 2017

Watch For Recalls!

To my knowledge, I have ridden with three bicycle-related products that were recalled by their manufacturers.

The first was the fork on my Cannondale racing bike, one of the company's early models.  In those days, Cannondale made their aluminum frames but supplied them with steel forks made by Tange and other manufacturers.  When I bought the bike, a couple of my cycling buddies warned me that the aluminum frame would fall apart, even though they didn't actually know of any instances of it happening.  So they were as surprised as I was when the fork and not the frame was recalled, especially because many of us had ridden with Tange forks--or even frames made out of Tange tubing, not to mention the firm's headsets--without any problems.

To Cannondale's credit,they made that process of exchanging my fork about as easy as it could have been.  That would have been reason enough for me to continue buying their bikes, if only I liked the way they rode.  I know that some of you love the ride of your Cannondales, and I won't try to convince you that you should ride anything else.  Those bikes just aren't for me.

Anyway, my second recall resulted in my third:  When Control Tech said there was a problem with one of their stems, which I happened to have on one of my bikes, the shop from which I bought it offered me a lighter and more expensive Syncros stem as a replacement.  Not long after, that stem was recalled!

In each of those cases, I was fortunate enough to get news of the recall in a timely way.  In those pre-Internet days, it meant that I was in regular contact with the shop from which I bought the stems and was working for the shop in which I bought the Cannondale.  I wonder whether I would have learned about the recalls so quickly--or at all--had I been like most customers who return to the shop infrequently, or not at all, after buying their bikes.

But even in this day of smart phones and such, consumers sometimes don't hear about bicycle-related recalls.  One reason, I think, is that they are not announced in the media the way recalls of cars or household appliances are.  And, even if the recall of, say, a faulty seat post were mentioned in the evening news program, most people who aren't dedicated cyclists probably wouldn't think it has the same potential for harm as, say, a faulty water pump bearing in a pickup truck's engine. 

So it is especially important to be alert and diligent.  It's also a good idea to stay in touch with the dealer or company from whom you bought your bike.  That said, bike shops are staffed by human beings, who occasionally forget, or neglect, to tell some thing or another to their customers.

2008 Felt S32

According to Mark Ashby, that is what happened to him.  He bought his 2008 Felt S32 racing bike from the Bikes Unlimited of Williamsburg, Virginia in 2011.  Over the next two years, he brought the bike in for regular maintenance.  In fact, according a lawsuit he's filed against the shop, the Felt and ADK Technologies of China (which manufactured the bike for Felt), a check-over and other maintenance items were performed as late as 13 April 2013.

Later that month, Ashby crashed on Colonial Parkway in Williamsburg.  This caused him to "suffer severe personal injuries adversely affecting his health and well-being," according to documents filed in the court.  The cause of the crash, Ashby says, was the fork's steerer tube, which broke and caused him to lose control of the bike.

The Colonial Parkway, where Mark Ashby crashed.

The suit alleges that Bikes Unlimited knew about the recall but failed to notify Ashby. They did indeed know about the recall--of 2009 model B12, B16 and S32 bikes, which was initiated the following year.  The recall was expanded to 2008 S32 bikes--the model Ashby rode--but not until 2014, the year after he crashed.

I am not a lawyer, but I don't think I have to be one to see that Bikes Unlimited was not at fault.  Still, I think this story shows the importance of being alert (Check the Consumer Products Safety Commission website!) and maintaining a good relationship with those who sell you, and maintain, your equipment.

27 September 2017

A Journey Continues Across Generations

Some things are worth saving for their intrinsic value, artistic merit or historic or cultural importance.

More often, though, the stories behind objects are what make them valuable--at least to someone, if not to everyone.  

Such is the case of a bicycle that hangs in Les Sorensen's garage.  The Cooks Mills, Illinois resident inherited it from his uncle Einar when he died in 1978.  Einar never told Les the story behind the bicycle.  Rather, the younger man learned about it from letters his uncle's friend, Ed Warren, wrote to his mother.

Those dispatches were sent out daily during a trip Warren took with Einar and his brother Kay in 1922.  Their 62-day journey--which Einar rode on the bike in Les's garage--took them from their native Illinois to Los Angeles.  Some letters were sent  from familiar-sounding locales like Reno, Nevada, while others came from places where one might not expected to find so much as a rubber stamp, let alone a post office.

Along the way, the three young men stopped and worked for money to pay for their trip.  Einar sometimes stayed and worked a little longer than the others, but he would catch up to them.  While they made friends along the way, some places were rather hostile.  When they rode through those not-so-safe areas, they hid their money in their handlebars.

Les didn't find any of that cash.  I am sure, though, that some dirt and dust from their route was still embedded in parts of the bike:  For much of the time, they were riding on unpaved roads and they often had to carry their bikes.  One of Warren's letters says that one day, they portaged their machines 18 miles through the desert.

The letters and other memorabilia Warren's daughter assembled into a book, which she gave Les, offer no indication of any motive--except, perhaps, fun--behind their ride.  When they arrived in California, Kay decided to stay and join the military.  Einar and Warren returned, with their bikes, to Illinois.

The bike Einar rode--and Les now owns--is a Rugby, made in St. Louis.  According to the report I read, the bike had wooden rims, though the ones in the photo look more like chromed steel--and not of the same time period.  I am guessing that the wheels were replaced a few years ago, when Les rode it for a season.

Born 12 years after his uncle's adventure on the Rugby, Les is, shall we say, getting on in years.  He never could sell his antique treasure, he said, so he wants to keep it in the family.  So, he plans to send it to Kay Sorensen's granddaughter in Oregon.  

And, I'm sure, the stories will follow as the Rugby makes another trip to the Pacific. 

26 September 2017

Jeff Whitehead Is No Crazier Than Any Of Us

No matter how much you've cycled, it seems that any time you decide to pedal any further than the nearest corner, someone will tell you you're crazy.  

That is what happened to Jeff Whitehead when his neighbors learned he was riding from his home in Laguna Park, near Waco, to Rockport, in another part of Texas.

About 300 miles separate Laguna Park from Rockport.  Jeff Whitehead wasn't going that distance to train for a randonnee or race, see a monument, meet some personal goal or visit a friend or relative.  At least, he wasn't going to see any relatives or friends he knew before he took his ride.

The people he would meet in Rockport became his friends--and, some might say, relatives after he arrived.  You see, he was motivated to take his ride by seeing the television coverage of Hurricane Harvey, which devastated so much of the Lone Star State's Gulf Coast.  "I decided that it was just time to come to do whatever I could to help," he explained.

The destruction wrought by Harvey would make driving a car impossible.  That was one reason why Whitehead decided to ride his bike.  Another is that being on two wheels, instead of four, and not being surrounded by metal and glass "made it easier to go around talking to people" because his mode of transportation had him "in the same boat as they are."  Still, he realized that because he could take that ride, he was luckier than they:  "I did it through a choice; they didn't have one."

His neighbors still might think he was crazy.  To me, he's no crazier than any one of us who's gone out of our way to help strangers--or ridden a bike 300 miles.  In other words, he's as crazy as any other dreamer or hero.  And I'm sure the folks in Rockport appreciate whatever form of insanity Jeff Whitehead might possess! 

25 September 2017

Para Esas Mujeres, Una Opportunidad Fantastica

More than 120 years ago, Susan B. Anthony said that the bicycle has done more than anything else in the world to emancipate women.  She certainly had a point:  Cycling itself gave women freedom and mobility we hadn't previously experienced.  It also led to less-restrictive clothing than women had previously worn which, of course, freed us in all sorts of other ways. I mean, I simply can't imagine living in a whalebone corset and petticoats.

Still, the bicycle's potential for emancipating women hasn't come close to being realized.  While I still wish that women's racing would get the attention it garnered, say, 30 to 35 years ago (in the days of Rebecca Twigg and Jeanne Longo), I think the real power of cycling for women lies elsewhere.

One example is in VeloCuba in Havana.  Three years ago, Nayvis Diaz left her job in the Ministry of Foreign Trade and sold her Peugeot car to finance the opening of this rental and repair shop.  All of its seven employees are women, including Dayli Carvo, who once raced for Cuba's national team. 

One of VeloCuba's employees works on a bike.

In addition to repairs and rentals, VeloCuba also conducts bicycle tours of the Cuban capital.  "We place great emphasis on knowing historical matters," Diaz says of her guides, who conduct tours in English, French and German as well as Spanish.  "We are very keen for our visitors to discover art, architecture, new places they can go at night, and learn about Cuban society," she explains.  

VeloCuba has, in its brief history, expanded to two locations--one in the central neighborhood of Vedado and the other in Old Havana.  It has not arrived at its success, however, without running through a couple of obstacles. 

One is something that even the expertise Diaz gained in her old job couldn't resolve:  how to get bicycles.  In spite of its relatively rich history of cycling, the island has no bike industry.  So, VeloCuba has had to buy bicycles from tourists visiting the island.  

The other is that for more than half a century, Cuba, like other Communist countries, had no advertising. Even today, there are few advertising venues. The shop's clientele, therefore, has been built mainly through word of mouth. At the risk of sounding sexist, I daresay that is something we, as women, rely on in so many areas of our lives.

In addition to bicycle rentals and repairs, VeloCuba repairs and maintains wheelchairs--for free.  Diaz sees it as a way to "offer some help to society."

The goodwill she is creating may help her to realize another dream she has:  that "one or two days a week, only cycling is allowed in the city."

I think Ms. Anthony would approve.

24 September 2017

What Do You Have To Stand On?

There have been maybe a couple of times in my life when I was genuinely proud of myself.  

One of them was the first time I did a "track stand."

Back in those days, we didn't have cell phones.  It's a good thing, probably.  Then again, the NYPD doesn't enforce the ban on talking on your phone while driving.  Then again, it may not apply to cycling.

Image result for standing on bicycle
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I swear, I wasn't talking on a phone.  I was listening to an invisible sea shell!

23 September 2017

Would You Go To Summer School For That?

I am going to make what is possibly the most startling confession for an educator:  I wasn't the best of students.

I wasn't terrible, mind you:  I was one of those students who did just well enough: sort of like the Italian football squad in the opening round of the World Cup tournament.

Oh, I made dean's list a couple of times, but that was in spite of myself.  You see, I was (and still am) one of those kids who loves to read and write, but hates to do schoolwork.

I always figured that if I moved on to the next grade, if I went from being a sophomore to a junior or whatever without getting into too much trouble (which meant, at times, that I just didn't get caught--wink, wink) I was doing well enough.

Another rationale for my under-achievement was this:  I never had to go to summer school.  To most kids, that was like the death penalty.  And I survived.

But if they'd given out cool stuff for going to summer school, I just might've gone voluntarily.

Apparently, a couple of folks up in the Finger Lakes region of central New York State realized there are other kids who feel the same way.  So they approached Newark Police Chief David Christler  to administer a fund, which they started, for "deserving young people who, for whatever reason, did not have a bike or performed service worthy of reward."

According to Christler, the couple realized that "bike ownership influenced their lives when they were young and now it seemed right for them to pass on their good fortune."  He added that establishing the fund was easy; the hard part was establishing criteria for deciding who should receive the bikes.

Newark PD pix
Jahmariyan Cornwell receives a certificate for a new bike for his attendance and particiaption at summers school. Neark (NY)  Police Chief Dave Christler is at the left; next to him is summer school principal Kari Hamelinck.  To Cornwell's left are Newark detective Gary VerStraete and K-9 Officer Dan Weegar.

School superintendent Matt Cook and summer school principal Kari Hamelinck decided, with input from teachers, that the bikes should be awarded on the basis of "attitude, citizenship and summer school attendance."  On those bases, one student from each summer school class--18 in all-- received a certificate redeemable at the local Wal-Mart for a new bike, helmet and lock.

OK, so it's Wal-Mart. Still, getting a bike when you didn't have one is something.  And, if it keeps kids in school--and performing better than they would have otherwise--it sounds good.

Hey, I might've even gone to summer school for that!

22 September 2017

To Fall!

Today the autumnal equinox arrives at 4:02 pm EDT.

I'll be on my bike by then.  In fact, I might have even finished my ride.

I haven't decided where I'm riding.  Then again, apart from the usual changes (Is that phrase an oxymoron?)--you know, the shorter days and the changing colors of the leaves--we never really know what a new season will bring, do we?

From Treehugger

For that matter, you or I can take a ride we've taken dozens or even hundreds of times before.  We know the way; we know the terrain and the road conditions.  But we don't always know what lies ahead on any given day, on any given ride.

Out for a ride. On to a new season.

21 September 2017

Against The Wind, Into A Passion

In 1972 or thereabouts, he pedaled from Buffalo, New York to Erie, Pennsylvania.  "My butt has never been the same since then, honest to God," he says.

He doesn't mention what saddle he rode.  My guess is that it was broken-down, rather than broken-in.

More than likely, it's the saddle that came with the bike when he bought it. That is what most people ride, at least until they realize they can replace seats that are uncomfortable for them.  In this case, however, it may not have been possible for the Buffalo-to-Erie cyclist to swap out his bum-buster.

You see, that saddle came on a Columbia bicycle--but not one you might have ridden when you were a kid (or, perhaps, are still riding now!).  Rather, it's one of the Columbias made by Albert Pope's company in 1886.

Jim Sandoro bought that bike in 1970 at a flea market just outside of Cleveland.  A couple of years later, he took his fateful ride. "Like idiots, we didn't think about the wind," he recalls.  "In the old days, they used to pedal from Erie to Buffalo"--in the direction opposite from the one Sandoro rode--"because they knew better."  His ride into the wind, he says, took "16 grueling hours."

Jim Sandoro with a Maid of the Mist bicycle from his collection

Since I have never ridden a high-wheeler, I can only imagine what that ride was like.  The bike, however, helped to form a collection of vintage bicycles and rare bike memorabilia Sandoro and his wife, Mary Ann, have amassed over the past half-century.   They have concentrated their efforts on bikes and related items made from the 1860s through the 1920s, especially models related to their native Western New York State.

On Saturday, that collection will be displayed for the public for the first time in the Buffalo Transportation/ Pierce-Arrow Museum, which they founded and built.  The museum has been devoted mainly to automobiles and, more recently, the Frank Lloyd Wright Filling Station.  But now the Sandoro's collection, which has been augmented by bikes they purchased from the former Pealing History Museum in nearby Orchard Park, will take a prominent place in their museum.

And, if you plan to ride there, you might want to pay attention to the wind!

20 September 2017

A "Fancy Ladies" Bike Tour

Am I a "fancy lady"?

If I am, I can join others like me on a ride made for us.

Yes, it's called the "Fancy Ladies Bicycle Tour".  Best of all, it's being held in 50 different locations this Sunday.

There's just one problem, and it's a logistical one:  None of those locations are near me.  So it might be a bit difficult (not to mention expensive!) to book an airline ticket and hotel reservations.  Oh, and I have to be at work on Monday!

Oh, well.  The starting points for the "Fancy Ladies Bicycle Tour" are in a country I would gladly visit again:  Turkey.  I once spent nearly a month there.  Of all the countries I have visited, it's my favorite. (I don't count France as a country I've visited, as I've lived there.  So, for me, France is in a special category.)  It offers a great combination of artistic and cultural treasures with natural beauty.  The food is great. And the people are lovely:  I mean, they ones I met were warm and hospital and, very often, physically attractive!  My only regret was that I didn't get to do any bike riding when I was there.

The Tour has no admission fee.  The only requirements for the Fancy Ladies Bicycle Tour seem to be, in addition to being a woman, dressing up one's self and one's bike.  I think I can do those things.  

This is the Tour's fifth year.  The first version was held in 2013 in the coastal city of Izmir (formerly Smyrna) with the objective of promoting bike riding among women, while marking World Car-Free Day.  What's really interesting is that the Tour is not sponsored:  it formed and spread entirely by cyclists showing up for it.  Now, that's definitely my kind of ride!

19 September 2017

Could The Insurance Capital Help Cycling Bloom In The Rosebud City?

Bicycling is good for business.

Cities large and small are discovering how this is true, and not just for bike shop owners.  Obviously, we are good for coffee shops, bakeries and such.  But we--cyclists--use most of the same products and services as everybody else.  Thus, we will patronize the same sorts of businesses.

But we are also good for business, especially in urban downtown areas and on Main Street-type shopping strips in smaller towns, in the same way that pedestrians are.  Stores in such environs--whether they sell books or craft supplies or serve babkas or craft beer--are more likely to find customers among those who walk or pedal in front of them than from drivers who pass by because they can't find a parking spot.

That, I believe, is a reason why more cities here in the US are trying to make themselves "bike friendly"--or, at least, are doing the things they believe, rightly or wrongly, will make them so.  Chambers of Commerce or Business Improvement Districts will install bike racks (good) and nudge their cities into painting bicycle lanes on the streets (sometimes not so good).  They perceive that making their shopping areas more attractive and convenient for cyclists will do more to help business than squeezing more cars into already-crowded streets could.

Apparently, some folks in Hartford, Connecticut had the same idea.

Now, when most people think of Hartford, the insurance industry comes to mind.  It still is known as "The Insurance Capital of the World", with good reason.  Those with a sense of history might recall Connecticut's state capital was also a major industrial center.  In 1850, a native named Samuel Colt invented a precision manufacturing process that enabled the mass production of revolvers--which, of course, bore his name--with interchangeable parts.  His method would be adopted by a couple of guys named Richard Gatling and John Browning who made their own firearms, and the Weed Sewing Machine company, which dominated the market at the time.

Weed would also produce the first bicycles manufactured in the United States.  Albert Pope, another Hartford native, saw British high-wheeled velocipedes at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition and bought the patent rights to produce them in the US.  Since he had no manufacturing facility, he contracted Weed, who would produce everything but the tires.  Soon, production of bicycles--Columbias-- overshadowed that of sewing machines, and Hartford became one of the leading centers of bicycle-making in the US.

Lest you think that the city's energies have been devoted entirely to commerce and industry, some very creative individuals in the arts have called Hartford home.  In fact, a couple of books you may have read--A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn were written in a house that is today a museum dedicated to their author. (I was there once, years ago, and thought it was interesting.)  And one of America's most innovative poets, Wallace Stevens, was an executive with the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company!

Anyway, it seems that creative thinking lives on in Hartford. For years, the city's Business Improvement District has run a "safety ambassador" program.  The "ambassadors" patrol downtown streets, acting as security escorts, providing free help to stranded motorists and acting as additional sets of eyes and ears for the police.  In May, the BID added bicycle maintenance and repair to the work done by the "ambassadors" in order to encourage bicycle commuting and assuaging some of the fears associated with it, according Jordan Polon, the BID's executive director.

Eddie Zayas, a Hartford "safety ambassador",

Ambassadors give their phone numbers to people who ask for them.  Maureen Hart was one of those people. Just a few days after getting that number, she was riding home from a concert when she got a flat.  She called that number and became one of 42 cyclists who have received roadside assistance since the program started. 

"It's such a cool service," she said.  "I know people who live in Portland and that's a really bicycle-friendly city.  They don't have anything like this.  This is amazing."

Well, you can't have bicycle-friendly cities without bicycles.  And Hartford was making them long before most people ever heard of Portland.  Now the capital of the Nutmeg State looks ready to teach The City of Roses how to make it even easier to ride in their city.

(Here's another fun fact about Hartford:  It's also home to the oldest continuously-published daily newspaper in the US.  The Hartford Courant has been in print since 1764, making it 87 years older than the New York Times--and 12 years older than the United States itself!)

18 September 2017

Lady Godiva He Ain't

When I was writing for a local newspaper, I was talking to a police officer when a call about a robbery came in.  The caller had gotten a glimpse of the suspect, so the officer asked for a description.

"He was wearing a T-shirt, blue jeans and sneakers."  As the officer wrote it down, he repeated it to the caller, just to be sure--and asked for more detail which, apparently, the caller couldn't (or wouldn't?) provide.

He hung up the phone.  He saw that I was just barely suppressing a laugh; his knowing smirk was a signal that I could release it.  "How many other guys fit that description?," he wondered aloud.

I'm recalling that incident after seeing a news story out of Fort Worth, Texas.  Apparently, at around 5:45pm on Saturday, a man on a bicycle chased down a female jogger and assaulted her.  

Now, my heart goes out to that woman and I hope the guy is caught.  He, however, might be as difficult to spot as the perp in jeans, T-shirt and sneakers, although his apparel was entirely different.

The difference was, well, that he had no apparel at all.  That's right:  He rode his bike naked. According to a witness, he'd been sitting on a park bench before he took off his shorts, hopped on a bicycle and pedaled westbound on Rogers Road.

Police say that the suspect is a white male who's about 5'10" tall with a slender, athletic build and short brown hair on his head but none on his body.

The woman, thankfully, escaped his clutches.

I hope he's caught.  If he's riding around naked, he probably will be, very soon.  Somehow, though, I doubt that he is:  For all we know, he might be wearing jeans, a T-shirt and sneakers at this very moment!

17 September 2017

How Many Tubes?

Almost everybody loves the look of a twin top-tube mixte frame.  I own two. (You're going to hear about them very soon.)  They are practical and stylish, and in the days when Reynolds, Columbus, Ishiwata and other tube manufacturers made the skinny top tubes, could be made with the same quality as the best diamond-frame bikes.

They can be a lot of fun, too:

I have to admit: At first glance, I thought it was one of the stranger-looking mixtes I've seen.  But I love it!  I think if there were no limit (due to space limitations and finances) to the number of bikes I could own, I'd want it!

16 September 2017

What Does This Shop Have In Common With The Packers?

In My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Toula (played by Nia Vardalos) falls in love with a non-Greek American, Ian Miller (played by John Corbett). When he has dinner with her family, he mentions that he's a vegetarian.  The entire family stops and gasps.  Toula's Aunt Voula says, "That's OK. I make lamb."

A former co-worker of mine told me that was pretty much the definition of "vegetarian", a term of derision or approbation in her hometown of Green Bay, Wisconsin.  She insisted she wasn't joking when she told me that Jell-O with mini-marshmallows and Reddi-whip is considered a "salad" in "cheeseland."

She also affirmed another stereotype:  People in her native city live for football (the American version).  As it happens, Green Bay is the smallest city in North America with a major-league sports team.  (Between 1972 and 1995, that distinction belonged to Quebec City, where the Nordiques of the World Hockey Association and, later, the National Hockey League played.)  The object of Green Bay denizens' affection is, of course, the National Football League team known as the Packers.

Interestingly, the Green Bay Packers hold another distinction:  They are the only North American major league sports team that is publicly owned.  As I understand it, the Packers are, in this sense, no different from a public utility like an electric or water company.  

Or the city's newest public enterprise:  The Green Bay Bicycle Collective's new Community Bicycle Shop, which has just opened in a city-owned garage at 418 4th Street.  This shop will hold bicycle maintenance classes and allow people to come in and work on their bikes for free.  "If the garage door's open, anyone can come in," explains Heather Gentry, the Collective's president.  She says the Collective also plans to launch an "earn a bike" program, in which students and other young people can learn volunteer at the shop in exchange for a bike, in the spring.

Rebecca Nyberg of  Brown County Public Health describes this new venture as one more piece of her organization's effort, begun in 2004, to get more people, especially students and the young, to cycle and walk for transportation as well as recreation.  Part of the effort, she says, has involved making bicycles more readily available and easier to access, and cycling safer and more practical.  "We realized that if we don't make the right thing easier to do, we won't get anywhere with people," she explained.

And so her organization and the Collective have worked together to create a public good in a city that has a surprisingly (at least, to those who aren't familiar with it) rich history of communal effort and community ownership.

15 September 2017

You Can Have It In Any Color You Want, As Long As It's Marina Blue

One of my favorite bloggers, "The Retrogrouch", has written a few posts about bicycles made for folks who have more money than interest in actually riding a bicycle.  The bikes he mentions in those posts usually have, at minimum, five-figure price tags and features for which there is little, if any, earthly reason.  Some of those bikes really seem to be intended as wall installations or fashion accessories--or simply status symbols.  A few are even made to match the owners' cars with six-figure price tags.

The Retrogrouch has written eloquently, with just the right amount of cynicism, about such bikes.  There is nothing I can add to what he's said, so I try not to write about those machines.  

Today, though, I will write about a bike that might seem like a subject of his scorn.  Yes, it's a bike that matches an expensive sports car.  But, to be fair, it seems to be designed with actual cycling in mind.  And its price tag is more or less in line with other high-quality bicycles of its type. It's not a bike I'd necessarily buy for myself, but I could understand a real, live cyclist wanting the bike I'm about to mention.

If you have a BMW M5, it's the bike you simply must have.  It's painted in Marina Blue--of course--to match the car.  I rather like the color myself.  It comes with Continental Cruise Contact tires.  They're not the model I ride, but I ride other Continental tires.  And the design is something I might choose if I were in the market for an all-arounder or "gravel" bike.

The deal-breakers for me, though, are the carbon fiber frame and disc brakes.  Then again, this bike is not made with someone like me or Retrogrouch in mind:  Someone who's buying an M5 or some other car in that price category probably wants the "newest and latest" tech gadgets.  So, it makes sense the bike is so designed.

If you want the bike, however, you have to act quickly:  Only 500 are being made.  And you can only get it from a BMW dealer--for 1400 Euros (about 1650 dollars at today's exchange rate).  That's about a tenth of what Audi charges for its e-bike.

14 September 2017

In My O-Pinion, This Could Be Interesting

Derailleurs are great.

Well, most of the time--for me, anyway.  With the exception of Tosca, my Mercian fixed-gear, my other "fun" bikes have derailleurs on them.  Cyclists have been using them for nearly a century; in that time, derailleur-equipped bikes have gone from having two cogs to eleven on the rear wheel.  (When I first became a dedicated cyclists, five in the rear was normal; six-speed freewheels were new and exotic

I think 8 rear gears is the "sweet spot" where a wide range of gear options intersects with relative durability and un-fussy shifting; 9 gears--which I use--sacrifices a bit of chain life but greater availability of cassettes across a wider selection of gear ratios and price ranges.

Aside from Tosca, I have one other derailleur-less bike:  my commuter/"beater", which has a single-speed freewheel.  Most commuters here in New York don't have to negotiate many, if any, hills.  I myself make one climb of any significance on my way to work in the Bronx.

Now,  if you don't have to ride hills or are very young or strong, a single-speed bike is a great option if you want to do as little maintenance as possible.  If you're really young and strong, or a messenger, (I was all of those.)you might even like a fixed-gear single-speed.  (At times, I have commuted on a fixed-gear and, as I've mentioned in other posts, I've been a messenger.)  But if you're not-so-young or athletic, live in a hilly area or simply want to sweat as little as possible, you might prefer a variable-gear bike.

If you want variable gears but don't want to use derailleur, you only other option--at least, if you live here in the US--is an internally-geared hub.  The most familiar kind is the classic three-speed.  Sturmey-Archer made several models, but by far the most popular (or at least common) was their AW, which came on the Raleigh, Dunelt, Robin Hood and other English bikes.  Shimano, Sachs and a few other companies also made them; the one marketed by SunTour during the 1960's and early '70'd has long been rumored to be a re-badged Sturmey-Archer.

The problems with those hubs are that they don't offer a wide variety of gears, the spacing between gears is less-than-optimal and, with the exception of the old (pre-1975 or thereabouts) Sturmey-Archer models, they tend to wear out quickly.  Moreover, they don't transmit power (turn your pedal strokes into wheel revolutions) very efficently and weigh significantly more than a hub with a cassette or freewheel combined with derailleurs.

Worst of all, if riders neglect (as most do) even the minimal maintenance internally-geared hubs require, they can fall  to the ravages of rain, wind and other elements almost as easily as the exposed parts of a derailleur.

For some time, European commuters and utility cyclists have had another option:  a gear box.  

The German-made Pinion gear box is a standard feature on about 90 different bike models sold in Europe.  It is a rarity in the US, but that could change:  The company is opening an office in Denver in conjunction with Gates, the manufacturer of the Carbon Drive System.

Think of Pinion as an internally-geared hub on your bottom bracket:  The box contains a set of epicyclic gears, like the ones inside the hub, in an oil bath.  But, unlike the hubs, which had oil caps on their shells, Pinion requires an oil change every 10000 km or so.  The good news is that Pinions appear to be more hermetically sealed than internally-geared hubs, so the lubrication is less prone to contamination and, one assumes, runs more smoothly.  

Kalkhoff Trekking
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The main downside to Pinion is, apart from its weight, the fact that it can be installed only on a Pinion-specific frame. For some, that limitation is counter-balanced by its greatly reduced maintenance, ease of shifting and the fact that it's available in a number of gear configurations, with 6,9,12 or 18 gears in a range from 295 to 636 percent.  This means a wider range of gears, with narrower steps in between, than is possible in an internally-geared hub.  It's also available with a die-cast magnesium gear box, which cuts the weight somewhat, in addition to standard aluminum model.

13 September 2017

Not Paved With Gold: Lined With It

We've had some insanely nice weather the past few days.  That's going to end late this afternoon or tonight, according to weather forecasts.  Rain will fall, but it won't be anything like what folks in Texas and Florida have experienced.  And it won't be accompanied by wind.

This morning's commute, though, was a treat:

Hell Gate doesn't seem so Hellish when the sun rises amidst the columns of morning.

From the dawn horizon, I rode the Randall's Island path underneath the Amtrak trestle (a.k.a. the Hell Gate Bridge) to the Randall's Island Connector.

Randall's Island Connector: The Bronx's new car-free link to Manhattan from STREETFILMS on Vimeo.

Legend has it that people emigrated to the US after hearing that streets in America were "paved with gold."  Believe it or not, such stories still circulate and entice the poor, the hungry and the ambitious to come here.

Of course we all know the streets aren't "paved with gold".  But, for a moment, it seemed as if the Randall's Island Connector was lined with it:

A good day has followed.

12 September 2017

Yes, Cycling Is Intoxicating...Especially If You Ride This Bike

I've been reading about bamboo bicycles for the past few years.  I have only seen two in person, neither with a rider aboard.  So, apart from what I've read in a few cycling magazine and blog reviews, I know nothing about their ride qualities.  And those reports vary widely.

It seems that there are basically two types of bamboo bikes:  the ones that have some sort of metal at their joints and the ones--like Calfee's--that are made by joining bamboo tubes with hemp.  

I must say that if I were rich, I'd buy a bamboo bike as an objet d'art or a conversation piece, but certainly not as my only bike.  From what I've read and heard, such a machine--an odd term, isn't it, to use in reference to something made of bamboo--would give a cushy but not very snappy ride.  That, of course, would rule it out for a "do it all" bike, let alone one for fast rides.  

A bamboo bike might not "ride on rails".  But neither would the latest creation from Portland (where else?)-based wooden bike specialist Renovo.  A wobbly ride on it, however, might not be the fault of the bike itself--or its materials.  Rather, the problem, if you will, is more likely to lie with the rider.

You see, the latest Renovo model is made from barrels in which Scotch--specifically, Glenmorangie--was aged.  The renowned distiller, who is marketing the bike, ships the wood to Renovo in Portland, where the frames are crafted and finished--with the distiller's name on the right chainstay.

And, of course, the wood is infused with the world-famous libation.  Dr. Bill Lumsden, director of Glenmorgie's distilling and whisky creation, says that the casks are used only twice to make The Original, "a whisky which balances hints of ripening peaches and citrus fruits with creamy vanilla notes, to delight malt connoisseurs and amateurs alike."

Now, I don't know whether you'd notice those hints of peach and citrus or notes of vanilla while you're riding.  I'm not even sure they have anything to do with the color and texture of the wood, let alone the bike's durability or ride quality.  Does the whisky dampen shock?

Whatever the case, Dr. Lumsden says that even though his creation is mixed with the wood, customers shouldn't combine it with riding the bikes made from the barrels in which it's aged.  The original should be consumed apres-velo.