Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

18 June 2019

Trade War Sends Giant Back To Its Roots

When Trumplethinskin announced tariffs on goods from China, one thing was clear to anyone with an IQ of room temperature or higher:  Jobs would not suddenly re-appear in Ohio and Michigan and Pennsylvania.  Of course, El Cheeto Grande, not being a member of that exclusive club, went ahead with his move.  

Maybe I am not giving him enough credit for his intelligence:  After all, sold the promise of jobs returning, as if they'd simply migrated for a season, to large numbers of people.  Then again, at least some of those people are as desperate as he is avaricious or delusional, depending on what you believe.

So what are the results of those tariffs, so far?  Well, for one thing farmers--many of whose livelihoods are tied to exporting what they grow--are losing sales.  And it doesn't look like jobs are coming back to the US, at least not in the bicycle industry.

Prices are already increasing for many bikes and related goods.  But the world's largest bicycle producer found another way to deal with those new import taxes:  going back to its roots.

I am talking about Giant.  Chairwoman Bonnie Tu said, "we took it seriously," when Trump announced a 25 percent surcharge on almost everything coming from China.  "We started moving before he shut his mouth."

Giant's factory in Taichung City, Taiwan

That meant, of course, she had a very short window of time in which to act.  But act she did:  She shifted production of the company's US-bound bikes from its Chinese factories to the company's headquarters in Taichung City, Taiwan.

The first Giant bikes sold in North America during the 1980s were made in Taiwan.  So were all of the products the company exported to the America, and most to the rest of the world, during the 1990s and early 2000s.  

Bonnie Tu

Ms. Tu says, though, that the company's long-term plan involves moving as much production as possible as close to the markets as is feasible.  Right now, in addition to its Taiwanese facility and the five factories it operates in China, Giant also has a plant in the Netherlands and has announced they are building another in Hungary.

Will Giant start making bikes in the US?  Ms. Tu hasn't said as much, but it wouldn't surprise me if they set up shop in some low-wage "right to work" state in the South.  If they do, I just hope the bikes are better than some of the stuff that came out of Schwinn's since-shuttered Greenville, Mississippi plant.

17 June 2019

Keeping Out The Hordes Of Bikes From Canada

The US Department of Homeland Security's mission statement begins with this:

  The vision of homeland security is to ensure a homeland that is safe, secure and resilient against terrorism and other hazards.  

  Three key concepts form the vision of our national homeland security strategy designed to achieve this vision:

  • Security,
  • Resilience, and 
  • Customs and Exchange.

In their efforts to achieve that vision, the DHS has helped to keep out all kinds of threats, including would-be terrorists and weapons.

And, now, bicycles.

One mile separates Prescott, in the Canadian province of Ontario, from Ogdensburg, in the US state of New York.  That mile is the width of the St. Lawrence River. 

Until 1960, ferry service linked the two cities.  That ended when the Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge. The US side of the bridge is indeed in Ogdensburg, but the Canadian side funnels vehicles into Johnstown, a few kilometers east of Prescott.

There has been talk of reviving, not only a ferry service for vehicles, but of boat crossings for cyclists that would take 12 passengers and bikes on each trip.  

In fact, Brett Todd, the mayor of Prescott, has met with the Ogdensburg City Council to seek support--which he already has in his hometown--for a pilot project that would shuttle bicycles two weekends this summer.  He suggested the 19-21 July, which is Founders' Weekend in Ogdensburg, and 2-4 August, which is a civic holiday in Ontario.

Apparently, the folks on the New York side of the river are in favor of the project.  But their city council hasn't been able to do something that Todd has managed to do in his town.  He met with Canada Border Security, and they offered to support the pilot project, free of charge for two years. On the other hand, he explains, "Requests made by Ogdensburg city officials have not been met with quite as keen a response."

Those requests to the US Customs and Border Protection and Department of Homeland Security, he recalls, came back asking for new facilities and manpower the committee saw as excessive, especially considering how few passengers and bikes would be involved.  "An average family with a pontoon boat could bring that many people into the country," he said.

And they could start a chain migration of more people--and bicycles. Oh, my!

16 June 2019

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day!

This is a tribute, my father, or to fathers in general, but to all of the men who are partners or friends in one way or another.

And, of course, to the dads who ride bikes.

Now, I know that sometimes parents will "sneak" out for a ride on their kid's bike--at least, if the kid is of a certain age.  But it's not often we see a dad on a bike designed for a seven-year-old girl.

What made Peter Williams all the more incongruous on his daughter's little pink bike is that he's six feet tall.  But he didn't just toodle around the block on his kid's toy:  he pedaled it 211 miles from Bristol to Land's End, the farthest point on England's west coast.

His ride raised over 52,000 GBP--more than five times his goal--for research into brain tumors, the cause of his daughter Ellie's death at age 7.

He and his wife, Kaz, had given Ellie the bike for what would be her last Christmas, though neither of them realized it at the time.  He and Kaz would soon notice, however, that her eye started to cross and that "it wasn't just a facial gesture."  Soon after, the once-athletic girl started to lose her balance, and her confidence.  They brought her to a doctor, who ordered an MRI.  The results revealed the frightening news:  Ellie had a brain tumor and only months to live.

She was diagnosed in Bristol, where Peter started his ride.  Although he and Kaz have their own bikes and regularly participate in group rides, he rode his Ellie's bike because seeing it made him sad and he realized that the best way to deal with his feelings was to "put it to good use."

That, he did.  

15 June 2019

They Got It Back--Wrecked

In another era--or was it another life?--I wrote for small-town and community newspapers.  In that role, I looked at police reports and blotters. It's a vice in which I still indulge, occasionally.

Sometimes those reports make me laugh.  How else could I react upon reading something like "a caller reported a man yelling and swearing on Street X"?  

On the other hand, I mutter "What fools!" when I read some items, like the one about the woman who left her wallet in a shopping cart.  (It didn't stay there for long.) Or the one about the woman who reported that checks and deposit slips were stolen from her car.  

Then again, I'm from New York, where one of the first things you learn is not to leave anything in your car, or cart!

Perhaps my Big Apple-induced jadedness extends even further than I thought.  In the Wisconsin Rapids Tribune, the police blotter reported that a caller complained about "kids on bicycles who kept on going into dumpsters." (Someone called the cops for that?)  But my favorite item is this:  "A Wisconsin Rapids man reported someone stole his child's bicycle...and then brought it back destroyed."

Hmm...Taking something from someone and giving it back destroyed.  For a moment, I thought, "That's what my country did to Iraq." 

(Also check this out.)


14 June 2019

Bike Infrastructure: A Path Out Of Poverty And Pollution

I share at least one attitude with poor black and brown residents of New York, my hometown:  a dislike of the bike lanes.

Our reasons, though, are very different.  My criticisms of those ribbons of asphalt and concrete are that too many of them are poorly conceived, designed or constructed.  The result is that such paths start or end without warning, aren't really useful as transportation or recreational cycling conduits or put us in more danger than if we were to ride our bikes on nearby streets.

On the other hand, members of so-called minority groups see bike lanes as "invasion" routes, if you will, for young, white, well-educated people who will price them out of their neighborhoods.  I can understand their fears:  When you live in New York, you are never truly economically secure, so you always wonder whether and when you'll have to move. (Those Russian and Chinese and Saudi billionaires with their super-luxe suites don't actually live here; when Mike Bloomberg famously called this town "the world's second home," I think he really meant the world's pied a terre.)  Also, as I have pointed out in other posts, cycling is still a largely Caucasian activity, or is at least perceived as such.  

My experiences and observations have made, for me, a report from the United Nations Environment Programme's "Share the Road" report all the more poignant, and ironic.  In one of its more pithy passages, it pronounces, "No one should die walking or cycling to work or school. The price paid for mobility is too high, especially because proven, low-cost and achievable solutions exist."  Among those solutions are bike lanes and infrastructure that, in encouraging people to pedal to their workplaces and classrooms, will not only provide cheap, sustainable mobility, but also help to bring about greater social and economic opportunities as well as better health outcomes.

Tanzanian girls ride to school on bikes provided by One Girl, One Bike, a non-governmental initiative.

All of this is especially true for women and girls in developing countries.  Far more women are the main or sole providers for their families than most people realize.  I think that in the Western world, we think of such domestic arrangements as a result of marriages breaking up or the father disappearing from the scene for other reasons.  Such things happen in other parts of the world, but in rural areas of Africa, Asia and South America, for example, a father might have been killed in a war or some other kind of clash.  As for girls, very often they don't go to school because a family's limited resources are concentrated on the boys--or because it's not safe for girls to walk by themselves, or even in the company of other girls.

Now, of course, bike lanes in Cambodia or Cameroon are not a panacea that will resolve income and gender inequality, any more than such lanes by themselves will make the air of Allahabad, India as clean as that of Halifax, Nova Scotia.  But bike infrastructure, as the UN report points out, can help in narrowing some of the economic as well as environmental and health disparities between rich and poor countries, and rich and poor areas within countries.  

Of course, it might be difficult to convince folks of such things in non-hipsterized Brooklyn or Bronx neighborhoods.  Really, I can't blame them for fearing that, along with tourists on Citibikes and young white people on Linuses, those green lanes will bring in cafes where those interlopers will refuel themselves on $25 slices of avocado toast topped with kimchi and truffle shavings glazed with coriander honey and wash them down with $8 cups of coffee made from beans fertilized by yaks and infused with grass-fed butter and coconut oil.

(About the avocado toast:  I can't say for sure that anyone actually makes the combination I described, but it wouldn't surprise me if somebody does.  On the other hand, the coffee concoction is indeed mixed in more than a few places.  I tried it once.  It tasted like an oil slick from the Gowanus Canal.  Or maybe I just couldn't get past the oleaginous texture.) 

13 June 2019

The Sacrilege of Cycling In The Park

Once, I rode through a gate of Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn.  I'd visited the necropolis before:  Two of my relatives, as well as some far-more-famous people, are buried there.  Being the naif I was, I figured that if pedestrians and motor vehicles were allowed, so were bikes.

Well, I was a few bicycle lengths into the graveyard when someone on a motor scooter pulled up alongside me.  "No bikes allowed," he bellowed.

"Oh, sorry.  I didn't know..."

"This is sacred ground, you know."

Well, that part I didn't know:  I figured that since Greenwood was non-sectarian, it wasn't "sacred."  Also, since I've slept in graveyards twice in my life and the residents didn't seem to mind, it didn't occur to me that any of Greenwood's denizens would object to my quiet two-wheeled vehicle.

Apparently, that "sacred ground" rationale is used to ban bikes from cemeteries all over the world.  I don't understand how a bicycle is more sacrilegious than, say, a van with "Puppies" and "Free Candy" painted on its side

It's also the so-called reasoning behind the Frankfort (KY) city commission's vote to ban bicycles from Leslie Morris Park, the site of the US Civil War site of  Fort Hill .  The Commissioners, with Mayor Bill May casting the deciding vote, cited Fort Hill's status as "hallowed" ground: A local militia deterred an attempted raid by a Confederate cavalry unit in 1864.  Although Kentucky didn't secede from the Union during the Civil War, an attempt was made to set up a Confederate government in Bowling Green.  Had the raid succeeded, Frankfort--which was staunchly pro-Union--could have fallen to the Confederates, and Bowling Green would then have been the capital of the Confederate State of Kentucky.  While such a turn of events might not have tipped the war to the Confederates, it almost certainly would have prolonged the war and delayed a Union victory.

In any event, cyclists had been riding on the rudimentary trails around Fort Hill.  Some of those trails were little more than traces formed by deer that populate the 120-acre park, and most were laced with thorny bushes.  Some cyclists, like Gerry James, enjoyed the challenge they posed.  More important, he says, was the opportunity to ride so close to his downtown home.

What makes the new ban so galling to him and others is that it came in the wake of another plan, recently scuttled, to develop those paths so they could be used by runners and joggers as well as cyclists and others who want to spend some time outdoors.  In fact, an elaborate plan was developed that would have kept those lanes at least 300 feet from any historical, environmental and archaeological sites.  Moreover, its costs were minimal and some of the work would have been done by volunteers, including Scouts who were trying to attain the Eagle rank.

Civil War Cleanup Day slated at Fort Hill
A Civil War commemoration at Leslie Morris Park, site of the Fort Hill monument.  From the Frankfort State Journal.

The project, which had many proponents, was seen as a way to make an historic site accessible to more people and connect it to the downtown area.  It was also viewed as a way to encourage exercise in a state with some of the worst health outcomes (though, interestingly, one of the lowest rates of chlamydia) in the nation.  Business leaders, too, liked it because they believed that it would bring investment to an area that, while economically stronger than the rest of the state, still does not attract or retain young talent.

One reason why the young leave the city and state is because projects like the Fort Hill trails are cancelled, or aren't even conceived in the first place. Of the vote, James--who founded the Explore Kentucky initiative--said, "It makes Frankfort look like an anti-progress city."

12 June 2019

His Way In L.A.

In March, I wrote about a guy on a bicycle who wove in and out of traffic on Interstate 95.

"Only in Miami!" exclaimed the driver who recorded the scene.

Well, it seems that "Magic City" isn't the only place where a cyclist might pedal among cars, trucks, buses and other vehicles doing 120 KPH (75 MPH).  Last Monday, a man was seen riding down the 101 Freeway near downtown Los Angeles--during rush hour.

"Only in LA!"  That was the response of the driver who recorded the scene.  

That driver ought to know a thing or two about crazy scenes in LA:  He's Jake Asner.  Yes, the grandson of legendary actor (and activist) Ed Asner.  

The cyclist, though, is not unique to the City of Angels.  The California Highway Patrol reports that last year, it received more than 1200 calls about people walking or cycling on freeways near the city.  

But the guy who rode on I-95 may remain unique to Miami, or anywhere, for some time:  He had nothing but a headband, hot pink socks and a thong protecting him against the Florida sun.  (Hmm...Maybe that should be the uniform of some team.)  

And he was riding backwards.  All of those cyclists on the LA freeways haven't done that yet!

11 June 2019

R.I.P. Bruce Gordon

I had been cycling just long enough to know that the frame was different from any other I had seen.

Like nearly all quality lightweight bicycles of the time, it was built from high-grade steel tubing (in this case, Reynolds 531) joined by lugs.  And there was nothing unusual about the finish, a pleasing but not flashy bluish-green, unadorned by pinstripes, bands or any other kind of markers.  It didn't even have a decal bearing the name of its maker.

What I could see, though, were that the lugs--the longpoint "fishmouth" style popular at the time--were more meticulously finished than on any other frame I'd seen.  And the paint had a "quality" look that made my Peugeot PX-10 seem about as refined as a tank.

That frame's owner had brought the frame, built with Campagnolo components, to Highland Park Cyclery, a New Jersey shop in which I would later work. I would ride with him later.  I wasn't impressed with his riding (You might say I was a snot-nosed kid), but I liked his taste, at least in bikes.

As it turned out, that frame was built by Bruce Gordon.  He was one of a group of builders, which included Mark Nobilette, who trained with Albert Eisentraut, possibly the first of the wave of American builders who would ply their craft in the 1970s.  Eisentraut would stop building frames, and leave the bike industry altogether, a few years after I saw that frame.  

Well, I have just learned that Bruce Gordon--who would go on to design and make racks as well as other parts and accessories for bikes--was found dead in his Petaluma (CA) home on Friday.

Image result for bruce gordon bicycles
Bruce Gordon, 2010

While he gained renown for his touring and racing bikes, he also was building 29ers and "gravel bikes" before they were called 29ers and "gravel bikes."  He realized that some cyclists, particularly those accustomed to road bikes, wanted a bike that could be ridden on what the English call "rough stuff" but didn't want the width or weight of mountain bikes.  Also, such bikes are more versatile than mountain or road bikes.

Gordon stopped building frames a few years ago.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, building frames is hard on the body, and builders often quit after developing arthritis, carpal tunnel and other ailments.  Two years ago, he tried to sell his business.  A crowdfunding campaign was launched to buy his framebuilding shop and retail store.  Apparently, it didn't work:  Because of the large amounts of money needed to rent a space large enough for a shop, and for all of the other expenses (including inventory that may sell slowly), the bike business rarely proves lucrative.  Custom frame building is even less so:  It seems that those who don't retire from the trade for health reasons end up leaving it because, paradoxically, higher-end frames, bikes and parts have smaller markups, and sell more slowly, than mass-market stuff.

So, since he closed his shop, he had been selling his remaining inventory, equipment and intellectual property.

Although I never owned one of his frames, I will miss him, if for no other reason that he made what might have been the first unique bike I ever saw.

10 June 2019

Jury Awards Cyclist Injured By Bike-Lane Obstruction

Sometimes it seems that there aren't any penalties for creating hazards in a bike lane.  I can't begin to count how many times government vehicles park in them, or civilians use them to pick up or discharge passengers.  Worst of all, though, are objects left thoughtlessly or deliberately in our paths.

Such an obstruction ended the career of a Securities and Exchange Commission official.  In April of 2016, James Schnurr was pedaling down a bike lane in his Jupiter, Florida neighborhood when he struck a stanchion.  According to his complaint, he "was ejected from his bicycle and hit the ground," causing "significant and permanent injuries."  The SEC hired an interim replacement for Schnurr in July of that year and he retired permanently that November.

James Schnurr

In addition to incurring expenses for his medical, nursing and rehabilitative care, Schnurr suffered a loss of earnings (he was making $248,000 a year) and the ability to earn money in the future, according to his complaint.  So, he filed suit against the homeowner's association that oversees Jonathan's Landing and Jonathan's Landing Golf Club, Inc.

He claims that the companies erected the stanchions--which are typically used to hold up chains, velvet ropes or cloth belts to delineate crowd-control boundaries--but failed to provide pavement markings, signage or other warnings as to their "hazardous nature."  It is not clear as to why the companies erected the stanchions.

The association and golf club fought the charges. Still, a Palm Beach County jury awarded Schnurr 41 million dollars but  determined that all parties shared responsibility. Schnurr was deemed 50 percent responsible due to "negligence. The homeowner's association was 45 percent negligent because it failed to notify Schnurr of the dangerous conditions, while the golf club's 5 percent negligence contributed to his loss, injury or damage. Now it is up to the court to determine whether that $41 million will be cut to reflect how responsibility was distributed.

Whatever happens, I hope this leads to more awareness of how cyclists are endangered, whether deliberately or unwittingly, by obstructions in bike lanes that are supposed to be safe for us.

09 June 2019

If You Need A Wheel....

Yesterday's post got me to thinking about my own experiences with bike theft.

I have lost a few bikes, and even more parts, to thieves.  As for the latter:  Saddles (including a Brooks), pedals and wheels have disappeared while my bikes were parked on the street.

So what do you do if someone takes your front wheel?

08 June 2019

How Safely Is Your Bike Parked?

What's the difference between true love and an STD?

Only one of them is forever!

Not many things in life are "forever". (On a purely semantic level, nothing is, because, well, none of us is forever!) One thing that that doesn't last for eternity is security, at least the kind provided by bike locks.  Sooner or later, someone figures out how to pick, break or hack even the best security device.

That is what happened with the Ottolock.  Given that it's a light, flexible band, I am not surprised.  I imagine that there isn't much consternation among Ottolock's creators, either:  The Portland (where else?) company acknowledges that it's not a primary theft deterrent.  It should be used only for short durations in low-theft areas, or in conjunction with a stronger U-lock, according to company representatives.

Still, I can see the egg on their faces when "Lock Picking Lawyer" posted this video showing how easily he cut the band:

07 June 2019

How Strong Does A Helmet Need To Be?

Current bike helmet testing procedures are fairly rudimentary.

That statement comes from two Swedish companies whose names are associated with safety.  One is well-recognized by Americans:  Volvo. I can recall when the company's ads included the claim that their cars were "the safest" on the road.  The other is POC, which makes helmets for cycling as well as other sports.

They have a point:  Most helmet tests "involve being dropped from different heights on either a flat or an angled surface" and might mimic low-speed falls onto curbs.  They do not, as Volvo and POC state, "take into account vehicle-to-bike accidents."

Previously, the two companies collaborated, along with Ericsson,  on another project aimed at making cyclists safer in the presence of cars.  In January 2015, they exhibited a prototype of a car-and-helmet system created to warn Volvo drivers and cyclists of their proximity to each other which, the creators believed, would prevent crashes.  That system, however, was not developed commercially.  As noble as the intentions of its creators may have been, such a system is fairly useless--unless, of course, the car and helmet have compatible systems.  That would be the case for the small percentage of drivers and cyclists (outside Sweden and a few other countries, anyway) who drive Volvos and wear POC helmets.

Now, a helmet that can withstand a collision with an automobile might be more practical. Still, I think it's fair to ask:  How much more practical is it?  Are there any studies that show how many collisions involve the cyclist's head slamming against the hood (or some other part) of a moving car or other motor vehicle?  

If a cyclist is run down from behind by a motorist who blew through a red light (as happened to Frank Scofield), how likely is it that the cyclist's head will make contact with the vehicle?   I can't help but to think that in such a collision, or the one that took the lives of five Michigan cyclists three years ago, helmets, no matter how strong, might not have made the difference between death and life, or prevented permanent injuries.

Don't get me wrong: I am in favor of making helmets safer.  But I also think they should be designed to protect cyclists in the conditions they have the greatest chance of encountering.  If someone can show me that a helmet made to withstand impacts with motor vehicles  can prevent , or could have prevented, fatalities in a significant number of crashes, then I'm all for what Volvo and POC are trying to do. Otherwise, I have to wonder just how useful it actually is.

06 June 2019

Sam, Sam The Bicycle Man

If I am ever near Seattle, I just might take a side trip to Sequim.  Why?  The lavender fields, which look like a little bit of Provence in the Pacific Northwest.

It also sounds like a place with interesting characters--like Sam, Sam The Bicycle Man.

With a name like that, he could have been one of the folks in The Spoon River Anthology if its author, Edgar Lee Masters, had a more sanguine view of small-town life.  What I am about to relate about Sam, though, comes from Sequim resident Tim Wheeler.

Wheeler's family purchased a dairy farm just south of the town.  A small creek cut across the bottom corner of the farm, isolating a one-third acre parcel that was "worthless for any agricultural purposes," in his words.  When they arrived, Sam Wyatt--The Bicycle Man--was already living there, having rented the space from the farm's previous owner.  

Sam lived in a tar-paper shack he'd constructed.  It contained a makeshift kitchen and single bed, and was heated by a tin stove.  There was also an outhouse. On his porch, he plied the trade for which Tim and other kids would recognize him.  As Wheeler recalls, "He could take any junked bicycle, no matter how rusty, and reconstruct it into a bike that some needy child could ride."  For Wheeler, Sam "took steel wool and polished off the rust" after adjusting the bolts and tightening all of the nuts and bolts.  But he couldn't find a proper seat.  So, he cut a chunk out of an old automobile tire and "wired it on the seat stem poking up from the bike frame."  

Wheeler rode that bike "hundreds of miles on all the scenic byways" in his area.  If he had a problem, "there was Sam, Sam the Bicycle Man to fix it for me."  Recalling that bike, Wheeler says, "No brand new plaything under the Christmas tree ever gave me as much joy as that bicycle."  What Sam did for Tim, he did for other kids in the area even though "I can't recall any of us paying him a penny for his work."  

Sam also rode his own bicycle to do his errands and visit relatives, who were scattered all over the Pacific Northwest.   He was doing that in his seventies, according to his grandson, Russell Wyatt.  He visited "every one of his brothers and sisters," according to Russell.

Tim Wheeler was in his early teens when Sam died.  At his funeral, the church was "packed" with kids for whom he'd built bikes.  I'd bet that they, like Tim, "learned to value old things, to try to fix broken things before we buy something new."  

But perhaps the greatest lesson Tim Wheeler learned from Sam, Sam The Bicycle Man was that "every child deserves food and shelter, and a bicycle, and lots of love."

I can hardly think of a better legacy.

05 June 2019

The Kids Aren't Riding: Why That Matters

Depending on where you live, you might think that this is a great time to be in the bicycle business.   More and more adults are pedaling to work and for fun.  And wherever you look, new bike shops are opening, the online business be damned.

At least, that is the picture you'd see in certain urban areas and, perhaps, some inner-ring suburbs.  And most of those adults you see riding are relatively young and well-educated.

It is among that demographic in areas like Boston, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle that one sees bicycle culture flourishing.  On the other hand, in areas where people are poorer, older and less educated, one sees few adult cyclists, and nearly all of them are male.  As often as not, they are riding machines "rescued" from basements and junk piles, and seem to be held together by duct tape.

Those older, poorer and less educated people aren't the ones who are driving the bike business.  They don't buy new bikes or even spend spend money to refurbish old ones, and they certainly aren't the ones buying hand-tooled leather-and-oak craft-beer bottle holders. If they go to bike shops, it's because their bikes have problems they can't fix themselves.

I am not conjecturing:  I see such riders on my way to work or any other time I venture out of Hipster Hook and into the outlying areas of my city.

Those folks are not fueling all of those bike cafes serving Marin Macciatos or Linus Lattes.  Nor is another group of people.  The reason is that the cohort I'm about to mention doesn't ride at all.  At least, fewer and fewer of them are.

I am talking about children and adolescents.  While sales of adult bicycles and accessories are on the rise, that of bikes and related items for kids is plummeting.  At least, that's what industry analysts are saying.  They are genuinely worried about the future of the children's bicycle industry.

Time was when bikes for kids were the "bread and butter" of most bike shops.  I can recall such a time:  Shops were busiest in the Spring, around the time the school year began and during the weeks leading up to Christmas.  In fact, shops often had "layaway" plans for kids' bikes, in which the buyer paid for the bike over a period of time.  It was sort of like a "Christmas Club" for bikes.  

(I remember having a Christmas Club when I was a child and adolescent.  Nearly all banks offered them.  If I recall correctly, I opened my first one for a dollar a week when I was about ten years old.  When I started delivering newspapers and other work, I increased the amount I saved.  Do banks still offer such accounts?)

Even though most shops have at least a couple of kids' bikes for sale, not many seem to be sold.  Instead, I reckon, most such bikes are sold in department stores.  In a way, I can understand the reasoning:  Most parents can only, or want to, pay as little as possible for a bike that the kid will outgrow in a couple of years, if not sooner.  And, since there are more single-kid households than there were when I was growing up (I have three siblings; we weren't seen as a large family), there's less of a chance the bike will be "passed down".  

Aside from changes in the family structure, there is another compelling reason why kid's bike sales are falling:  Fewer and fewer kids want new bikes for Christmas or other occasions.  Instead, they want electronic toys.   I would also imagine that other outdoor activities are becoming less popular with young people for this reason. 

Finally, I will offer an observation that might help to further explain the decline of the children's bicycle industry:  Today, many kids are discouraged or even forbidden from venturing outside by themselves, or even in the company of other kids.  These days, when I see kids under 14 or so on bikes, they are accompanied by adults.  The days of kids going out and exploring on two wheels seem to be over.

So why should readers of this blog care about the children's bicycle industry?  Well, we might be keeping the adult bicycle industry thriving.  But how often do we buy new bikes?  After a certain point, we don't buy a whole lot of accessories:  When we have what we need (and want), we tend to stop buying.  

Also, in a point I don't enjoy bringing up, none of us is going to be around forever.  So when we go to that great bike lane in the sky, who will take our place?  Will today's adolescents ditch their X-boxes (or whatever they play with now) and climb over two wheels?  We should hope so; so should the bike industry.

04 June 2019

Death While Training For A Memorial

For the past several years, Florida has been the state in which a cyclist has the greatest chance of being killed by a motorist.

That point was underscored, for me, by a story that came my way.  The other day, Deputy Sheriff Frank Scofield was training for a memorial ride to honor 9/11 victims when he was--you guessed it--struck from behind. 

The motorist who ended his life on a county road blew through a stop sign. But that motorist wasn't a "good ol' boy" in a pickup truck or some drunken sunburned youth.  Rather, the driver in question is 75-year-old Lajos Toth of Lake Helen.

Volusia sheriff: Deputy killed in bicycle crash died ‘doing what he loved’
Deputy Sheriff Frank Scofield

The road where Deputy Scofield took his last ride is County Road 415 in Volusia County.  You might the collision "hit home" for me because Volusia is the county directly south of the one in which my parents live.  Just about every time I visit my parents, at least one bike ride takes me into the county, which includes Daytona and Ormond Beaches and The Casements.  

Frank Scofield was training for a ride to commemorate 9/11 victims.  Now I am writing a post to remember him.

03 June 2019

From Riding Without Tires To Leaving The Competition In His Tracks

Some of us have ridden bikes with mismatched or missing parts.  We may have ridden such bikes because we didn’t know any better.  Or we may have been too poor for a “proper” machine.

Such was the case for Richard Carapaz.  His father brought home a blue BMX he found in a junkyard.  That bike was missing a seat, pedals or brakes.  He rode that bike—without tires on the dusty roads near his home.

That home was in the Ecuadorean village of Playa Alta, near the border with Colombia.  “Alta” means “high”, and that’s no exaggeration:  It’s in the Andes.

Riding in such conditions surely helped him during the past couple of weeks, when conquered climbs on the Alps and

Dolomites.  Those ascents, and strong time trials, helped  him to win the Giro d’Italia.

That victory made him the first Ecuadorean winner of one of the Grand Tours.  While racers in neighboring Colombia are among the sport’s best, cycling has been relatively unknown in Carapaz’s native country.

Whatever else happens, Carapaz is unlikely to forget his roots:  His family has saved that bike he rode without tires.

02 June 2019

Nine Years: What Writing This Blog Is Teaching Me

Nine years ago today, I started this blog in much the same way I start many of my rides:  I had a general idea of the journey I was undertaking, but I had no idea of where it would take me along the way.

About all I really knew when I published that first post was that I'd be writing about me and bicycling.  And, I supposed, anything related to them--which, of course, is open to very wide interpretation.  

Image result for cyclist looking at the road ahead

So, if you've been following this blog, you've heard me ramble or rant about any and all sorts of things:  history, art, architecture, literature, New York, Paris, food, gender and more.  If you'd told me, for instance, that I would try to explain how a certain molecule works, I might have wondered whether you were partaking of substances that have only recently become legal, and only in a few states!

The fact that I write such posts (however ineptly) might be the reason why I've kept this blog going.  While I never imagined writing a post like that one, or some of the others I wrote, I also knew that this blog could not simply be a recounting of my rides or a discussion of equipment.  

 I realize now that this blog has become a forum for my experience of bicycles and cycling.  Whatever I see when I ride, what I think about when I'm adjusting my derailleur, what I recall from rides past, and the things I've learned about everything from urban panning to music as a result of my rides, are all part of my cycling experience.  

Really, I can't think of much that doesn't relate to bicycles or bicycling.   At least, there aren't many things in my life that I can separate from my experience of cycling. So, I expect that as long as I continue to write this blog, it will take twists and turns I never expected.  

Thank you, dear reader, for taking the journey with me.  I'm not done yet!