30 November 2017

It's Not A Chase! Really, They Swear It's Not!

During my formative years, I went to more than a few movies that featured car chases.  But, I swear, I was dragged to them kicking and screaming.  Really, I was!  

You see, most of my trips to the cinema (That's what I call a "movie house", now that I'm a snotty intellectual!) were made in the company of my father and three brothers.  My mother is not particularly a movie fan, let alone a cineophile, although whenever I go to visit her, we  see a movie together--albeit ones that involve more human interaction than piston-powered pursuits.

Still, I admit, I can get a thrill out of watching a chase.  Back in the day, I usually rooted for the pursued even though I knew he (Yes, he was almost always male, as was the pursuer.) would get caught.  When I watched this video, though, I was actually on the side of the chaser--and he's a police officer!

Of course, his being on a bike has something to do with it.  Also, he was chasing the driver of an ATV, which is illegal to drive on the streets of Washington DC--and most cities.  Thankfully, I haven't encountered nearly as many of them as I've seen motorized and electric bikes in the the bike/pedestrian paths!

As far as I know, that officer wasn't seriously hurt.  And I'm glad he was trying to do his job--though his employers deny that it was a chase--or, at least, that it did not follow the DC police department's "no chase" policy when it comes to ATVs.

Rather, the officer was "following" the ATV rider, according to spokeswoman Karimah Bilal.  It was "typical of what we do in this type of incident," she added.

29 November 2017

What If Vivo Had Viva'ed--Or Tech Really Was Superbe?

Today, if you are equipping a bicycle with a derailleur, you are probably choosing from models offered by three companies:  Campagnolo, Shimano and SRAM.  

There are a few smaller makers and marketers of gear shifters, but the Big Three comprise the vast majority of today's offerings.

If you've been cycling for as long as I have, you have seen other derailleur brands come and go, and have probably heard of others that met their demise not long before you started cycling.

When I started cycling in earnest, the recently-departed names I would sometimes see included Cyclo and DNB.  I'd heard about the otherworldly engineering and quality of Sanko derailleurs but would not see one up close until many years later.  

Some derailleurs that were common at the time I became a dedicated cyclist came from Huret and Simplex, two marques that have disappeared into the mists of time. Actually, Huret was acquired by Sachs--which also acquired Maillard, a maker of hubs, freewheels and pedals, and premier chain manufacturer Sedis-- which in turn became part of SRAM.

Less common, but still visible, brands from that time that have disappeared or been absorbed into larger entities include Zeus and Galli (which made those "midnight blue" parts that looked so great on white, silver or chromed bikes!).  While they made some fine derailleurs and other parts, they aren't much more than footnotes, except to collectors.

On the other hand, I and other longtime cyclists still lament the demise of SunTour.  For about a decade and a half, they were making the most innovative and best-shifting derailleurs available.  They also were priced lower than offerings from other companies, which made SunTour derailleurs, by far, the best values available.

Those of us who followed their trajectory believe that their downfall began with their Superbe Tech derailleur. (The Trimec derailleur, which preceded it by a couple of years, wasn't a bad derailleur:  It was just in the "why did they bother?" category.)  The Superbe Tech was, arguably, a noble effort:  It was an attempt to solve a problem that had long bedeviled cyclists who ride in a lot of mud and dirt--and riders in the then-nascent discipline of mountain biking.   That problem is that paralellogram derailleurs, which are usually made up of two linkage plates and are thus "open" inside the parallelogram, sometimes clog with mud, dirt or debris.

Try to put it back together!

SunTour tried to solve that problem with a solid parallelogram, with only one linkage plate.  The problem is that, in order to make up for the loss of spring-back strength afforded by a spring against a second linkage plate, SunTour put a complicated, finicky mechanism inside the parallelogram--and used larger-than-normal upper pulleys and pivots with springs that weren't adequately shielded from the very elements that SunTour tried to keep out of the Superbe Tech's parallelogram!  

Some riders got lucky and rode their Superbe Techs for thousands of miles and several decades.  Others--especially mountain bikers and "rough-stuff" tourists--had their mechanisms fail, without warning, after only a few rides or weeks.

After SunTour ended up in the trail dust of history, a Long Islander named John Calindrelle came up with a seemingly-simple solution:  the "Grunge Guard".  Like its name, it was a simple, if inelegant solution:  basically, a rubber boot that covered the derailleur.  It was inexpensive and did the job well, at least until the material (neoprene)wore out or an edge got caught in a branch, bramble or derailleur part.

So, Mr. Calindrelle came up with another solution:  a derailleur that, technically, differed little from Shimano and SRAM units popular at the time (around the turn of the millenium) and was made like the pricey CNC mechanisms coming from the likes of Paul and other small manufacturers.  The difference was that Calindrelle's derailleur--called "Vivo"--had "lips" that allowed for precise fitting of an improved version of the "Grunge Guard."

Vivo rear derailleur

Apparently, not many of those derailleurs were made.  At least, they were made only for a couple of years. During that time, he made one change in the design: Where the first Vivo derailleurs had traditional cable routing (housing looped behind the derailleur body and into a fitment on the underside of the parallelogram), the revised versions took cables that went straight into the parallelogram from above, which eliminated other points that could clog with mud and bind.

Drawing in patent application for new improved version (V2) of Vivo derailleur

Shimano, interestingly, didn't see his rubber-boot design as a serious competitor against their derailleurs.  The Japanese behemoth, however, wanted to use that cable-routing system. So, in 2002, Shimano bought Calindrelle's patents.  As he later explained, selling his ideas made him far more money than making his derailleurs or boots ever would have.

So...SunTour and Mr. Calindrelle tried to solve the same problem.  SunTour's design seemed like a good idea and was elegant.  However, it had unanticipated flaws that would lead to the failure of the Superbe Tech and, arguably, SunTour itself.  Calindrelle's creation, on the other hand, was inelegant but worked flawlessly--and, ironically, led to the end (if by different means) of his business operation.

How might our derailleurs be different today had SunTour's Superbe Tech design worked--or if it had been more remunerative for John Calindrelle to continue manufacturing his creations?

28 November 2017

Bicycle Safety In The City: It's About Him

I have long said that much of the opposition to bicycle infrastructure--or simply encouraging people to get out of their cars and onto a saddle--is really class-based resentment.  In other words, people who are upset when they see bike share docks taking up "their" parking spaces or a bike lane that takes "their" traffic lane away believe that liberal elites are coddling privileged young people who are indulging in a faddish pastime and simply won't grow up.

What they fail to realize is that creating awareness and infrastructure doesn't just protect trust fund kids who ride their "fixies" to trendy cafes where they down $12 craft beers.  A goal of efforts to encourage cycling and make it safer is also to protect those who, by necessity, make their livings on their bicycles.  Edwin Vicente Ajacalon was one of them.

Like most of the folks who make food deliveries on their bicycles, Ajacalon was an immigrant--in his case, from Guatemala.  He arrived in this country--specifically, to Brooklyn--a year ago.

He did not, however, live in the Brooklyn of fixed gears and craft beers:  Though he was only about eight kilometers from Hipster Hook, he lived a world away, in a single room he shared with five other men who, like him, are immigrants who delivered food by bicycle.  And the area in which he usually worked, which realtors dubbed "Park Slope South" some years back, is really still the hardscrabble working-class immigrant community it was when my mother was growing up in it.  The only differences are, of course, that the immigrants come from different places and that the neighborhood--hard by the northwestern entrance of the Greenwood Cemetery--is dirtier and shabbier, and still hasn't entirely recovered from the ravages of the 1980s Crack Epidemic.

Only one block from that entrance to the necropolis, around 5:45 pm on Saturday, Edwin Vicente Ajacalon was pedaling through the intersection of Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street.  There, a BMW sedan smacked into him.

The driver, to his credit, remained at the scene (and has not been charged with any crime). Unfortunately, there probably was nothing he or anyone else could do for Edwin:  Minutes later, the police would find him lying down in a pool of blood, halfway across the block from where he was hit.  Someone checked  his vital signs and found none, which means that, although he was pronounced dead when he arrived at the hospital, he might've died as soon as the car struck him or when he struck the pavement.

All anyone could do after that was to pick up the pieces of his bicycle which, along with a sneaker and a hat, where strewn about the street.

When anyone dies so suddenly and tragically, we can lament the loved ones who will never see him again, and those whom he will never see--as well as the things he won't have the opportunity to do.  For poor Edwin, those things include celebrating his fifteenth birthday.

Yes, you read that right.  Edwin Vicente Ajacalon was 14 years old when he was struck and killed while making deliveries on his bicycle--one year after emigrating, alone, from Guatemala.  He has no family here in the US, save for an uncle with whom he briefly lived.  Like his roommates, Edwin was working other odd jobs in addition to delivering food on his bicycle--and, after paying rent, sending money to his parents in Guatemala.

So...Now we know that bicycle safety is not just a matter of protecting pampered post-pubescents.  In this case, it's about protecting the livelihood of a boy in his early teens and the parents he was trying to support.  And they can't even afford to come to the US to claim his body. 

27 November 2017

Greetings From Asbury Park, New Jersey

By now, everyone has seen what might have been just another postcard from a fading beach resort

had it not graced the cover of a certain singer/songwriter's first album.

By now, everyone has heard of Bruce Springsteen and someone's claim of having seen him for $1 before he was famous. I swear, it's true!  

One of the great things about getting to be, ahem, a certain age is that the statute of limitations runs out.  You see, when I saw the then-obscure Bruce, the legal drinking age was 18.  Still, I was a few years shy of that.  So were a couple of the youngsters who accompanied me, and their siblings who were just on the other side of that age.

In those days, the Stone Pony was a "dive bar" in what was then a dying town.  If you were in Atlantic City before the casinos opened--or have ventured more than a couple of blocks away from its "strip"--you have an idea of what Asbury Park was like in those days.

It had become so unfashionable, in fact, that this was nearly demolished:

I used to ride through it and, as often as not, have no company besides a pigeon or seagull or two.  Now it houses a bar and a few stores--and you can't ride through it.  Cycling isn't allowed through the promenade, but even if you've spent your life riding criteriums and downhill slaloms, you couldn't have ridden through the crowd I encountered there the other day.

I'm not complaining.  I had a great ride down there, from my place in New York, and back up to Long Branch.  I reckon I did about 120 kilometers in total before taking the train back.

Though it was warmer--about 14C--the air felt almost as chilly as it did during my Connecticut ride on Thanksgiving day, when I started in OC conditions and the temperature didn't get much above 5C.  I wasn't complaining, though:  My seashore ride had the sun and clear skies I saw during my ride to the Nutmeg state.

No, I didn't see Bruce, or stop at the Stone Pony. I did go by it, though. Not surprisingly, it's become a tourist attraction:  While some parts of the city are still worn around the edges and suffer from unemployment and poverty, the beachfront and downtown areas draw strollers, shoppers and others from around the area.

By the way:  Contrary to what some have mis-reported, Bruce was not born in Asbury Park.  He did, however, spend his formative years--at least, musically--in the city.  

On the other hand,"Bud" Abbott of the Abbott and Costello comedy team was born in AP.  So were Danny DeVito and Leon Hess.  And, as much as it pains me to mention her name, Wendy Williams.  

Oh--a fellow named Arthur Augustus Zimmerman also first came into this world in Asbury Park.  In 1893, he won the first World Championship of cycling.  

Finally--You might say that Asbury Park is where the "joy buzzer" went to die.  At least, that's where its inventor--Soren Adam Sorensen--drew his last breath!

25 November 2017

A New Hip And A Broken Heart: A Race Uphill

What do Pittsburgh and San Francisco have in common?

Well, I've never been to the former steel-making capital, but I'm told that, like the City By The Bay, it has some really good Irish bars.

And hills.

In fact, the City of Bridges claims the steepest hill on a public street in the United States:  Canton Avenue is supposedly even steeper than Lombard Street.

And Denton Dailey plans to scale it, and 13 other hills, on his bicycle.  They're part of a race called the Dirty Dozen.  It's being run today, and it's been a part of every Thanksgiving Saturday since 1983.

60-year-old to attempt Pittsburgh bicycle race featuring "savage" climbs
Denton Dailey

Over the years, 1657 riders have entered the race.  What sets Dailey apart from the others is not his age, even though he is 60:  Three years ago, then-69-year-old Paul Salipante completed the race.  

He also won't distinguish himself if he scores points on the hills:  last year, 58-year-old John Brockenbrough  did that.

So what make Dailey unique--well, almost-- among Dirty Dozen entrants?  

Only one other rider--Gene Nacey in 2011--entered the race with an artificial hip.  In May 2015, Dailey's a ball-and-socket joint ruined from years of accumulated injuries was replaced with a titanium and ceramic hip.  

Surgeons fixed his body.  But they couldn't do anything about his broken heart:  Not long after, a longtime girlfriend broke up with him.  Dailey says his intense training of the past year has been as much a way to recover from that as well as to acclimate to life with a new hip.

However the race ends, Denton Dailey--who is a professor of, ironically enough, robotics and electronics at a local community college--sounds like a winner to me!

24 November 2017

How I--And Arielle--Gave Thanks

I certainly had reason to give thanks yesterday.

Just after I posted, the friends who'd invited me for dinner called to say that the start time was pushed back--from 2 to 5 pm due to an "emergency". Whether it was in the kitchen or elsewhere, nobody said.  Not that it mattered.

I didn't mind.  You see, after I posted, I glanced outside and was treated to a picture-perfect late-fall morning:  The sun, totally unimpeded by clouds, mist or anything else (well, nothing that I could see, anyway!), set the last red, yellow and orange foliage aglow and burnished the brown leaves with a warmth, to the eye anyway, that felt like brick fireplace just starting to spread its heat.  

It was so beautiful, I didn't care about the temperature--which stood exactly at the freezing mark.  How could I not ride on such a morning?

Or afternoon?  Arielle, my Mercian Audax called, and I hopped on.

Well, I felt so good  The brisk air braced my skin and I saw almost no traffic anywhere.  In fact, in this normally-busy shopping area, I saw no traffic at all!

Now, if that picture

or this one

looks familiar, it's because the shopping area and the "Connecticut quarter" tree are, in fact, in Connecticut--Greenwich, to be precise.  I felt as if the town, the hills I climbed on my way in, the roads and the world were mine, all mine.  OK, I shared--with a few other cyclists I saw.  

I don't normally boast (really!).  But I couldn't help but to tell everyone about the ride I took--140 kilometers (about 85 miles) round-trip.  

The food was great.  And I felt absolutely no guilt about how much of it I ate.  I'll be eating some of it today--  there were leftovers for everyone--and I'll get to re-live, for a moment, a fine Thanksgiving Day.

22 November 2017

Ride-along Cassidys

By now, you've heard that David Cassidy is gone.

Now, I am not going to idolize him.  Plenty of teen and pre-teen girls (and more boys than would care to admit it) did that back in the day, as we say.  And, as too often happens to young people who become famous literally overnight, it was--at least in some ways--his undoing.  Like Michael Jackson and others, he simply couldn't live up to the fame he achieved so young.  I don't think anybody could have.

I will admit that I watched The Partridge Family.  Everybody did.  At least, everybody I knew did.  Our Friday Night Lights, if you will, were TPF, The Brady Bunch, Room 222, The Odd Couple (still one of my favorites) and Love, American StyleMy parents, like many others, didn't really want their kids to watch that last show, but relented because it was, well, Friday night.

But no parent I know of ever tried to stop his or her kid from watching The Partridge Family.  I suspect that not all females who fawned, overtly or covertly, over him were under the legal voting age (which had gone from 21 to 18 during the time the show aired).  I also suspect the same could be said for his female fans--or his soeur d'ecran Susan Dey, a.k.a. Laurie Partridge.  She was, and is, pretty, though I liked her better years later, when she was on L.A. Law.

The Partridge Family and The Brady Bunch made their debuts the same month--September 1970--as All In The Family and The Mary Tyler Moore Show precisely because they weren't AITF and TMTMS.  If you were around then--or, even if you weren't--you know it was a tumultuous time.  The Kent State students were gunned down only a few months earlier; the Vietnam War raged on with no end in sight, like the protests it sparked.  The energy of the Civil Rights Movement inspired, in many ways, the Women's and Gay Rights Movements, which changed people's (particularly young people's) ideas about families and society.

All In The Family and The Mary Tyler Moore show reflected those changes.  The Brady Bunch did, in a different and less-threatening way:  Mike is widowed. (Carol is divorced, but that was downplayed.)  Moreover, Mike has boys and Carol has girls; the females take on the Brady surname when Mike and Carol wed.  Shirley Partridge, played by Shirley Jones, is also widowed.  And her kids, like the Bradys, are about as wholesome as can be:  Their hair might be long, but it is straighter than I ever could have been, and shiny.

That might have been the reason I never had a "crush" on David Cassidy--or, for that matter, Susan Dey (at least when she was on that show):  They were just a little too good, a little too cute, for my tastes, even in my jejune fantasies.  That, by the way is how I also felt about Paul McCartney, as much as I've always loved the Beatles.

Speaking of whom:  In the Partridge Family's heyday, David Cassidy's fan club had more members than the Beatles' and Elvis Presley's fan clubs combined.  I'm sure that none of the members cared that the show or the music (a bit about that later) were cheesy:  They, like much of the show's and "band's" audience, wanted to indulge in simplicity and innocence--or, at least, a fantasy of it.

I'll admit:  I can't hate someone who looks the way he does on an old three-speed (which, actually, wasn't so old back then).  Most of all, I can't hate someone who had Shaun Cassidy for a half-brother.

You might recognize that image even if you didn't see what it came from:  the ill-fated Breaking Away television series.  In it, Shaun takes on the role Dennis Christopher played in the film:  Dave Stohler, the young man who's marooned in Indiana with his obsession for bicycle racing and all things Italian.

I actually saw the TV series years after it aired.  It didn't take long, for only eight episodes were made.  The show had the misfortune of making its debut during the 1980-81 television writers' strike.  It normally takes a TV series at least a season--normally 24 or 26 episodes--or two or three to develop a following, even if it is based on a movie as loved by both critics and audiences as Breaking Away was.

So, a show featuring Shaun Cassidy never got the chance to  live up to the promise its predecessor generated--just as his half brother, as a thirty-something and middle-aged man, never could shine as brightly as his predecessor, if you will--the younger David Cassidy, a.k.a., Keith Partridge, did.

21 November 2017

What Kind Of Man Is He?

Most of us, at one point or another, have broken up with a boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse--or simply ended a friendship.

There are, as often as not, sadness and hurt feelings. Fortunately, in most breakups, both parties have at least some sense that the end of their relationship coming and they go their separate ways.

On the other hand, there are those splits that don't end so quietly, especially if one or both parties are particularly angry, resentful or vindictive.  I know:  I've been involved in a couple of them.  In some of the worst cases (including one of mine), the one who's at the receiving end of the breakup says or does something in an attempt to damage the person who broke up the relationship.  Facebook can be a particularly nasty but effective weapon to achieve that.

So, why am I writing about such things on a bike blog?  Well, in Boca Raton, Florida, 65-year-old George Morreale was riding his bicycle near Yamato Road and Interstate 95 in April 2014.  It would be his last bike ride:  A pickup truck struck him, fatally.

Paul Maida, a 33-year-old West Boca Raton resident, claimed that he was in the passenger's seat while his girlfriend, 27-year-old Bianca Fichtel, was at the wheel.

She was initially charged but turned over e-mails that pointed to Maida driving at the time of the crash.  Those e-mails, according to prosecutors, showed that he asked her to switch seats before they returned to the scene of the crash.

So now you know one of the crimes for which Maida was found guilty in July:  leaving the scene of a fatal crash.  He was also found guilty of driving with a suspended license and filing a false report to the police.  He was, however, acquitted of DUI manslaughter.

Yesterday he was sentenced:  12 years in prison.

I know I shouldn't make light of something like this, but this thought popped into my head:  If I were Ms. Fichtel, I wouldn't visit him.

20 November 2017

First Flakes, First Time

I saw snow for the first time....

...this morning.  This season.

Yes, flurries floated down to my helmet and the roadway as I pedaled to work today.  A few flakes fluttered through the air as I arrived on campus and locked my bike to the rack. 

By the time I'd finished my first class, the snow had stopped and none of it accumulated.  Still, I have to wonder if it's a harbinger for the season:  I don't recall seeing snow this early last year.  Then again, I've seen earlier snow in other years and perhaps any sign of winter is a surprise, given how warm it was during October and the first few days of this month.

So, does seeing snow for the first time--this day, this season--mean much of anything?  Probably not, at least for me or anyone else who lives in this part of the world.  But for the guys in the photos, it's another story.

You see, they are the Rwandan National Cycling Team.  They were at a camp in Utah, training for the Tour de Gila (their first US race) in 2007 when they encountered the white stuff on the side of the road.

They were so in awe of it that they were stuffing it into their jersey pockets, not realizing that it would melt.  Some of them also put it on their heads and got a case of brain freeze.

I sort of envy them, for their cycling abilities and for their sense of wonder at seeing snow for the first time.  I wonder what could stop me in a similar way during my commute!

19 November 2017

Working In Mysterious Ways

If you have ever read Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, you might recall this:

Miss Watson she took me in the closet and prayed, but nothing come of it. She told me to pray every day, and whatever I asked for I would get it. But it warn't so. I tried it. Once I got a fish-line, but no hooks. It warn't any good to me without hooks. I tried for the hooks three or four times, but somehow I couldn't make it work. By and by, one day, I asked Miss Watson to try for me, but she said I was a fool. She never told me why, and I couldn't make it out no way.

Now, if Twain had been writing a century and a half later, Huck might have said something like this:

18 November 2017

The Power Of A Basket?

About fifteen years ago, I saw someone riding a classic Cinelli track machine (fully chromed!) adorned with one of those flowery plastic baskets you see on little girls' bikes.

Had I seen it a few years earlier, I would have winced.  Or, if the bike was parked and its owner wasn't anywhere in sight, I would have torn the basket off.

Instead, I smiled...knowingly.  I had finally come to the realization that whatever keeps a person riding a bike is good.  That day, I saw nothing in the basket and have no idea of whether that rider--who had maroon hair and high boots--ever carried anything in it.  But if that basket made that bike more fun--let alone made it more useful--for her to ride, it couldn't have been bad.

I also realized that baskets, racks, fenders and other accessories--as well as wider saddles, higher handlebars and stems with longer quills and shorter extensions, might well keep the bike on the road or trail and not gathering dust in a garage--or, worse, rotting in a landfill.

What got to thinking about that chrome Cinelli track bike with the basket was this:

Karl King, a partner in an Arkansas blacksmith shop, built the bike near the end of the 19th Century.  It might've been consigned to the local landfill, if not the dustbin of history, at the dawn of the automotive age had King not built that front basket on the front. 

He wasn't using it to bring home pizzas or six-packs of his favorite craft brew, however.   That basket had a seat belt in it, as its museum display sign notes.  Take a closer look and you will see pegs--footrests--"just below the gooseneck" and in front of the mini-seat on the frame's top tube, as its museum display sign notes.  

King's granddaughters, Kay Stark and Genevieve Jones, rode in those seats. Long after his death, they donated the bike to the Nevada County Depot and Museum, housed in an old railroad station in Prescott, 95 miles southwest of Little Rock.  According to a museum posting, "the old two-wheeler looks as if it carried its last rider long ago and luckily found its way into the museum just before someone consigned it to that last great bicycle resting place, the scrap metal yard."

Hmm...Did the basket have anything to do with it?

17 November 2017

Meet Mr. Bicycle of Harrisburg

I can't begin to count how many times I've seen people riding bikes with quick release levers that were twisted shut without engaging the cam.  Or racks, fenders or other accessories or parts that were just a bump away from falling off the bike--or into the wheel. Or, worse yet (for anyone who's not riding on a velodrome), brakes that are improperly set up or adjusted.

Now I've seen all sorts of other problems on peoples' bikes, such as rusty chains and soft or flat tires.  But the other problems I've mentioned can result in accidents and injuries.

Ross Willard understands this.  About 15 years ago, when the retired railroad executive was volunteering with a food program, he noticed children riding bicycles with brakes that didn't work.  The Harrisburg, Pennsylvania resident then started to fix bikes on street corners, at community events and in other venues, using tools he kept in the back seat of his car.

Ross Willard

That toolbox in which he kept his wares became "a bigger toolbox", then "the van, the trailer and the warehouse".  The enterprise he couldn't contain would become Recycle Bicycle Harrisburg, which opened its first shop ten years ago.  He, the founder, still serves as its "chief mechanical officer."  And he operates a bicycle collection point, repair facility and teaching center for repair and maintenance.  

Recycle Bicycle Harrisburg has a "do it yourself" philosophy, according to Willard. There is no charge for any repair, or even a bike, but visitors (except for very young children) are expected to make their own repairs, with the assistance of volunteers.  And people can take bikes in exchange for helping with repairs or other shop work.

He sees an irony in all of this. "In a sense, it's socialism," he says.  "I don't own the bikes....the people own the bikes."  That ethos, however, developed out of a sense of personal responsibility bordering on libertarianism that was inculcated in him by his parents.  "If you see something that needs to be done, don't call the government.  Go fix it," he says.  "And that's what we do."

He started fixing bikes for kids because he saw how important they are to young peoples' sense of well-being.  "The bicycle is freedom," he explains.  "The kids need bikes to see the world." 

The same could be said for adults and bicycles.  In particular, Willard's organization has another "target audience" in addition to children:  residents of halfway houses.  A prison guard from Willard's church told him about the needs of those recently released from jail and prison.  Among them is transportation--to and from job interviews, work, group meetings and other required programs.  Most cannot afford a car; even those who can might have trouble paying for gas and insurance.  Also, "if you give them a car and the computer dies, they have gpt to pay somebody" to fix it, Willard notes.  But they can bring their bikes to Willard's shop as necessary.

Recycle Bicycle Harrisburg also provides other valuable resources for halfway house residents.  For one thing, they can perform their prescribed community service by volunteering in the shop.  And for those who are trying to build up their resumes, that work counts as experience.  And Willard is willing to provide them with a reference, which nearly all of them need. 

On top of everything else, the halfway house residents experience, like the rest of us, freedom while riding a bicycle--though they, having been incarcerated, might feel it even more intensely.  Also, for some of them, daily or several-times-a-week bike rides are the first regular exercise they've had for years, or ever.

For what he has brought to his community, parolees, kids and other residents of Harrisburg have affectionately dubbed him "Mr. Bicycle".

16 November 2017

If It's Good Enough For Bond, James Bond...

This is just what the world needs:  another bicycle from a maker of luxury cars, with a price to match.

Of course, these days, $21,000 won't get you anything that most people (at least in the developed world) would define as a "luxury car."  But I can remember when such a sum was sufficient for two, or even three such vehicles, and a good new basic transporter vehicle could be had for about $2000.

For that matter, I can remember when $27,000 would pay for the contents of even the best-stocked bicycle shops: even the most stratospheric custom and racing machines didn't cost much more than $500.  When I was 14, the idea of paying $250 for a new bike--a Peugeot PX-10--seemed decadent or simply crazy. 

(Three years later, I would buy a PX-10--used--for that amount of money!)

So, what kind of a bike does $21,000 fetch?  

Not surprisingly, the frame is made from carbon fiber.   It weighs 770 grams (1.7 pounds) and the complete bike tips the scales at 5.9 kilos (13 pounds), according to the company's press release.  That same release says the bike is designed for comfort as well as performance.  One way this is achieved is through a wider-than-normal fork design, which leaves more room around the front wheel than other designs, thus preventing "aerodynamically unfavorable vortices."

The bike features, among other things, SRAM's wireless shifting,  with levers that "operate just like the paddles found behind the steering wheels on Aston Martin's sports cars."

OK--so now you know the luxury car maker behind the bike.  Aston Martin indeed collaborated with Storck bicycles to create the "Fascinerio.3"  While Storck probably had more to do with the design of the bike, one aspect is distinctly Aston Martin:  the finish.  In the photos, it looks like a shade of gray one sees on many other carbon bikes and parts.  However, depending on the light in which it's viewed, it can change subtly to silver or green--specifically, a variant of AM's iconic "Racing Green". 

We can all cringe or wince at the price.  But if you were James Bond, would you want to ride any other bike?

Note:  The article I've linked quoted the price in Australian dollars (27,000).  I've converted it to US dollars at current exchange rates.