Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

23 February 2019

They Turned Their Bikes Into TVs

If you ship your bike, what are the odds that it will be damaged?

Last year, according to Dutch manufacturer Van Moof, some 25 percent of their bikes were damaged before they reached their destination.  The problem was particularly bad when the bikes were shipped to the US.

So what did the folks at VanMoof do?  They made their bikes go stealth.  Well, sort of.  They thought about what Americans "really love," according to VanMoof co-founder Taco Carlier. "What would prompt couriers to be delicate with a parcel?"

The answer:  a television. Turns out, a big flat-screen TV in its box is about the same size and weight as a high-end commuter bike in its box.  So, the company started imprinting their boxes with images of televisions.  The boxes still have logos identifying them as bicycles, but at first glance, they look like they're bearing TV's.

So far, it's worked--even after a Wall Street reporter "outed" the contents of the boxes.

22 February 2019

Going Dutch In Colorado

You all have heard of NIMBY--Not In My Backyard.  It's how people react when their city wants to build a waste treatment plant, homeless shelter or anything else that brings people or things darker and dirtier than they are (on the outside, anyway) to their neighborhoods.

Me, I'd say NIMBY to big parking lots, high-speed roads and expansive lawns.  Then again, I've never owned a car (or house) or even had a driver's license.  

It seems that Pete Adeney shares my sentiments.  Known to readers of his blog as "Mr. Money Mustache", he is the guru of the Financial Independence, Retire Early" movement he proselytizes on his blog.  Its acronym, FIRE, also just happens to be the acronym for the industries--Finance, Insurance and Real Estate--that are the engines of the sorts of cities that are the antithesis of the one he wants to create. 

Now, he admits that he and his wife lucked out by finding tech-sector jobs that paid them extremely well. One of his tips, however, is to plunge yourself into DIY (He even built his own house.) and put even small change into investments. But the best thing anyone can do to stop up "the exploding volcano of wastefulness,"  he says, is to drive less.  He cites Ivan Ilitch, author of Energy and Equity, who in 1974 calculated that the average American male devotes more than 1600 hours a year to his car, whether on the road or gathering resources for his machine.  Or, you can look at it this way:  In 2017, the average amount borrowed for a new car was $31,099, which translates into a $515 monthly payment. (Those figures were $21,375 and $398, respectively, for a used car.)

A conception of Cyclocroft.

This knowledge informs his idea for a planned community, provisionally called Cyclocroft, between the cities of Longmont and Boulder in Colorado.  He's teaming up with B4place, an urban-planning consultancy based in the Netherlands, to try to bring the project into being.

Their proposed community would encompass approximately one square mile and be home to 50,000 people.  It would be a "compact" place, he says, where cyclists and pedestrians rule the roost, as in some Dutch cities, and automobiles wouldn't be allowed.  Nor would malls:  Instead, the small stores, like the parks and other public places, would be close to people's homes.

His choice of site, he says, will make the project possible because other "sustainable" projects" like the Google-funded "smart city" planned for Toronto's Quayside, "aren't creating any magic."  It, and other projects like it, are being built in cities that have sky-high costs because they "already destroyed by cars," he claims.  So the benefits of a pedestrian mall and bike lane accrue only to those who can afford to move to those places, and are lost the moment one ventures into the rest of the city.

Although Adeney is optimistic about his idea's chances of becoming reality, B4place's managers realize there are obstacles, such as NIMBYism and "the entrenched" who are "unchallenged and lawyered up," says B4place's Tara Ross, an American.  But, she says, even if it isn't built, it's a sign of eco-friendly urban developments to come because current development practices are neither environmentally nor economically sustainable.

21 February 2019

Beer and Bikes Go Together Better Than...Bell-Bottoms and Ten-Speeds

You can really date yourself if you had a pair of these

or even remember them. I'll just say that I recall them from the time I was in 8th grade, which is about when I got my first ten-speed bike.

It's kind of funny to realize now that bell-bottoms in any fashion became so popular right around the time people like me, young and old, were getting our first bikes without full chain guards!

Of course, fads are not always synchronous. (Bikes are still around, but ten-speeds now refer to cassettes, not bicycles!)  I have been cycling almost continuously since those days, but I can't remember the last time I wore a pair of bell bottoms.

The new pairing these days seems to be beer and bikes.  At least, that's the case with hipsters and milennials--though enjoying a brew after a spin is a custom as old as, well, two wheels.

So, it makes sense that two companies extremely popular with the demographic I've mentioned are teaming up to create a special edition:

I rather like the bike but I must say that I don't want to pay for something that's a vehicle to advertise someone else's products.  Still, the New Belgium Brewing graphics on the Brooklyn Bicycle Company machine isn't as blaring or glaring as the "billboard" graphics on bike jerseys worn by wannabe racers.

20 February 2019

Don't Move These Bikes!

Although it's only 80 kilometers from London, the land on which the town of Milton Keynes stands was mostly farms and woodland until the town designation order was made in 1967.  Though equidistant from London, Cambridge, Oxford, Birmingham and Leicester, MK, as it's known in Britain, was never meant to be a suburb of any of those cities.  Instead, it was planned as a hub, albeit a smaller one, in its own right.  Since then, it's become one of the UK's technological incubators--which is somehow appropriate, given that some of the oldest Bronze Age tools were found when it was excavated.

Some people deride or even loathe it for its modern architecture and art. (The "concrete cows" are the butt of many jokes.)  Other people love, or at least appreciate it, for the very same reasons.  One thing that can't be denied is that some of it, especially the public art, won't be found anywhere else.

An example is this mural:

John Watson created it in 1978 and, with the help of students from the nearby Stantonbury School (now known as the Stantonbury International School), installed it on the side of a building in the Stantonbury retail centre.

Well, a retailer wants to destroy the retail centre.  Aldi, based in Germany, has supermarkets all over Europe and in the eastern US.  They want to demolish the building the tile mural adorns.  The supermarket chain says, in its plans, that the mural could be "reprovided somewhere (nearby)".  However, Ian Mitchie, chairman of Public Arts Trust Milton Keynes, is applying to Historic England to have the artwork listed.  Moving it, he said, is almost certain to destroy it, as ceramic tiles don't take well to relocation.

19 February 2019

Pumping His Pedals Into Plowshares

Do you love to ride your bike but hate to shovel snow?

If you answered "yes", meet Rob Wotzak of Milford, Connecticut.  He shares your passions and came up with a way to indulge one while making the other less onerous.

Although his pedaled tractor plow is new, the idea had been simmering in his mind for years.  "I had a rusty old tractor plow sitting behind my barn," he said.  Finally, two years ago, he "grabbed the plow and a pile of bike parts" and "started cutting and welding" his first prototype. 

As the saying goes, the third time is the charm:  The model he's using came after that first attempt and another.  One of his motivations to create such a machine, he said, is that "legs are stronger than arms" but that using it is still a "workout."

Still, it looks like a good example of Yankee ingenuity to me!

18 February 2019

When We Have A Female President....

Three years ago, I wrote about how, late in the 19th Century, Presidents' Day was bicycle day.

Back then, it wasn't called Presidents' Day:  On 22 February, George Washington's birthday was commemorated.  (Abraham Lincoln's birthday was remembered on the 12th; in some states, such as New York, it's still a holiday.)  In the early 1970s, the US government decided to move certain holidays to Mondays.  Thus was Presidents' Day, observed on the third Monday of February, created. 

Today's the day.  A few shops and online retailers are running sales, as they do on other holidays.  But in the Bike Boom of the 1890s, new models were unveiled and bike shows, along with sales, were held on that day.

On this blog, I've also mentioned that during that first Bike Boom, Susan B. Anthony said that the bicycle has done more than anything to liberate women.  

We haven't had a female President yet in the US. However, in Denmark, Helle Thorning-Schmidt was the Prime Minister from 2011 to 2015.  Here she is, doing what many of her countrywomen do every day:

17 February 2019

Follow The Money?

I suppose we should be grateful any time a town installs a bicycle parking rack.  And we should thank whoever donated the funds for it.

Still, this one left me wondering, "What were they thinking?"

A special bike parking rack was unveiled the other day, for Valentine's Day.  It's red, which is appropriate enough.  And I can understand the wish to use the unveiling to celebrate some aspect of the town's history.

But I think there's something a bit incongruous, to say the least, about putting an image of an oil rig on the bike.  

Maybe I shouldn't complain too loudly. After all, cycling, like the arts, have been used to glorify or sell all sorts of things that haven't been good for the planet, or the spirit.  The Charge of the Light Brigade, anyone?

16 February 2019

What We Can See Because of Ken Bukowski

During a conversation with an acquaintance of mine, I mentioned that I served as a "captain" on tandem rides for the blind and visually impaired.

This acquaintance, who makes workplaces ADA-compliant, wasn't surprised.  "Really, the only thing a visually-impaired, or even a blind, person can do that you or I can't is to drive a car," she declared.

Still, I must admit that of the ways one can become disabled, losing my sight is the one I fear most.  Even after hearing my acquaintance's words, and similar claims from others who are, or who work with people who are, visually impaired, I have a difficult time imagining how I would do almost anything I do now without my sight.

Certainly, I don't know how I'd ride (except, of course, on the back of a tandem) or how I might have worked as a bike mechanic. There are, however, people who have assembled and fixed bikes without the ability to see.

From The Buffalo News

One of them was Ken Bukowski.  Until September, he'd worked at Shickluna Bikes and Darts in Buffalo, New York.  For more than three decades, he assembled and repaired bikes, and gave customers lessons on how to shift gears and ride safely.  He was so good at all of these things that some customers were unaware, at first, that he was blind.  According to shop owner Tom Pallas, "many times he steered us to a missing tool because he heard where we had set it down."

Left sightless from a gunshot wound to the head at age 24, Bukowski went to the Blind Association of Western New York (now the Olmsted Center for Sight) to learn how to type.  Soon, he was enrolled in the Association's pilot program for bike repair.  When he completed that training, the Association convinced Pallas to hire him.

They worked--and-- rode together.  In fact, they pedaled the Five Borough Bike Tour on a tandem in 1987.  The thing that made him a good rider is probably the same thing that made him a good mechanic:  "concentration", according to Pallas. 

In addition to fixing bikes, riding and organizing rides, Bukowski did other things people don't normally associate with the blind:  bowling, skydiving and cooking. About the latter, his wife, Elaine Filer, said that because he didn't work much during the winter, by the time she got home from work "he'd have almost the whole dinner prepared."  

She was not the only one to benefit from his culinary skills:  For many years, he also volunteered as a cook at the Little Portion Friary, a homeless shelter in Buffalo.

He finally stopped working at the shop because of his bout with cancer, which claimed his life on 11 November.  He was 65.  Whether or not you think he lived a long life, you can't deny this:  He left an example. That, certainly, is something any of us, regardless of our abilities or disabilities, can do. 

15 February 2019

Motorist Who Mowed Down Cyclist Arrested

On this blog, I have often decried the lackadaisical or even hostile response from law enforcement officials when a cyclist is maimed or killed by a motorist who was speeding, driving while impaired or operating the vehicle in some other illegal manner.

I also try to bring attention to law enforcement officials who are diligent in pursuing those who endanger or destroy lives by hurtling down the road inside two tons of steel.  In Michigan's Macomb County, just outside of Detroit, such work by the constables has led to the arrest of a man who blew through an intersection at 70 MPH, mowed down a cyclist who happened to be crossing the road, and didn't stop or even slow down.

Randy Menendez  

Randy Menendez, a 60-year-old father,  was riding his bike home from a friend's house at 6:27 pm on 3 February.  He'd planned to watch the Super Bowl with his family, according to his sister Roseanne Menendez.  He was crossing Groesbeck Highway in Warren when a gray Dodge Charger with a temporary tag in the rear window, and tinted side windows, struck him.  

He didn't make it. His clothes and mangled bike were scattered across the road.  

Some time after the crash, the driver had the Charger towed to a house in Detroit, where police found it under a tarp.  

The car, it turned out, had been leased.  That no doubt helped police in finding the driver, a 24-year-old man whose name hasn't yet been released.  He faces a charge of leaving the scene of a fatal crash, a felony that carries a 15-year sentence.

Although I commend the police officers' work, I have to wonder whether other charges will be brought against him.  At the risk of seeming vengeful, I'd like to be sure that someone who took a cyclist's--and father's--life with such seeming disregard won't get out for "good behavior" after, say, five years.

14 February 2019

Happy Velo-tine's Day!

To my readers:

I love you!  

The Velo-tine's Day bike tour will take place on Saturday the 16th in Albuquerque, New Mexico,  and has been organized by Routes, a local bicycle tour and rental company.  If I were in the neighborhood, I just might join them!

13 February 2019

Performance: The End Of An Era?

When I first became a dedicated cyclist, as a teenager, I discovered the mail-order catalogues.  They had all sorts of exotic bikes and parts, most of which I couldn't afford and weren't found in the local bike shops.  I pored over those catalogues the way other kids devoured comic books or teen magazines--or the way some young person in a remote village might indulge him or her self in magazines filled with images of the latest fashions from New York or Paris.

Before the '70's Bike Boom, there was Gene Porteusi's Cyclopedia, that printed cornucopia of, seemingly, all things bike-related.  He was one of the old-timers who kept the flame flickering during the Dark Ages of cycling in the US.  

Somehow I don't think much of anything changed in his catalogues during their history.  For most of his career, he was dealing with a small audience--few American adults were cycling during the quarter-century or so after World War II--and a limited selection of goods.  Actually, in the later years of Cyclopedia's run, he limited his selection:  He didn't offer any Japanese parts, not even a SunTour derailleur, even after people started to choose them for custom-built frames.

For making those wonderful V-series and Cyclone derailleurs, and other great stuff from the Land of the Rising Sun, widely available, much of the credit goes to the mail-order companies that launched in the wake of the Bike Boom.  I am thinking now of Bike Warehouse, which later became Bike Nashbar; Bikecology, renamed Supergo; and, possibly the 800-pound gorilla among them:  Performance Bike.

Well, it looks like Nashbar is the last catalogue standing.  Well, not exactly:  Nashbar still exists, but I reckon that hardly anybody shops from its catalogue anymore. For all I know, they might not even have a printed catalogue these days:  I'd guess that, save for their outlet store, all of their sales are on the web.

And the web, ironically, is one of the things that destroyed the other two.  Actually, Performance took over Supergo.  But now it looks like Performance is nigh:  Its parent company filed for bankruptcy protection last fall, and all of its retail stores will close next month.  In addition, over 100 staff members have been laid off at Performance's Chapel Hill, North Carolina headquarters.

Add caption

Although you could buy stuff from Performance's website, it never seemed to generate business in the same way that other retailers' websites did for them.  Plus, the web made it easier to order from overseas retailers when they offered better prices or the exchange rate was favorable. As an example, during the past few years, it's often been cheaper to buy Shimano components--Performance's bread-and-butter, if you will--from UK retailers like Ribble or Chain Reaction because, in addition to the favorable exchange rates, US customers benefited from not having to pay the value-added tax (VAT) levied on purchases made by native or European Union customers.

The coup de grace for Performance, though, might have been tariffs the Trump administration imposed last year on bikes, e-bikes and products related to them.  An already-reeling Performance was hit with higher overhead costs and, from what I've read, had no choice but to raise prices.  That, of course, would drive away an already-dwindling customer base that was attracted mainly by the company's low prices.

So, for better or worse, we may be witnessing the end of an era: the one of the mail-order catalogue, in the bicycle industry as well as in other businesses.   

12 February 2019

How Would Honest Abe Ride?

In almost any capital city, there are people—mostly young, and mostly male—who pedal to work.Some, especially in European cities, ride in the suits, dresses or whatever they wear to work.  Others make their commutes in bke in bike team kit or other athletic garb.  Then there are the hipsters or wannabes on fixed-gear bikes.

Which would Abe Lincoln be?

11 February 2019

Caught In Hipster Hook

Yesterday I was riding up and down Hipster Hook.  As far as I know , it’s not an official designation. Roughly,it extends along the waterfront from the Brooklyn Navy Yard to the  Socrates Sculpture Park, about a kilometer from my apartment.

Along its length, an interesting combination of bikes are parked on its streets.  Some were inherited from parents or other family members.  Others were bought in yard sales, retrieved from basements or have more mysterious or unspeakable provenances, if you know what I mean.  Then there are the Dutch city bike- shaped objects and objects shaped like imitations or mockeries of vintage bikes.

In the latter category, I saw this on Franklin Avenue in Greenpoint, near the dead center of the Hook:

It looks like a Motobecane mixte from the ‘70’s, sort of.  Emphasis on the “sort of”:

Fortunately, a really nice vintage bike was parked just a few sign posts away:

Miyata has long been one of the mass manufacturers I respect most.  This particular bike is interesting because it alsobears the Koga name on its head tube.  To my knowledge, only in Europe were Miyatas sold as “Koga-Miyata.”

10 February 2019

What's His Motivation?

Some kids are burdened with the weight of parents' unfulfilled (and perhaps unfulfillable) dreams.  You see them on Little League fields, in Pop Warner classes and ballet classes.

A few of those kids may actually want to become ballplayers, dancers or whatever, and will do whatever it takes.

What about this kid?

09 February 2019

Riding Into Public Service, And Through History

He starts every morning with a ride.  He's retired, and the rides are for his health and fitness.

Back in 1965, however, he pedaled to get around.  He was 19 then and looking for a job.  So he pedaled 2 1/2 miles (4 kilometers), resume in hand, to someone who might be able to help him.

Now, I should mention that the fact he was doing so in 1965 was significant.  For one thing, relatively few Americans rode bicycles if they were old enough to drive.  For another, Reginald "Reggie" Brown was applying for a job for which his mother was rejected two decades earlier.

She had done military service during World War II.  Still, she didn't get the job in her local post office because it didn't have segregated bathrooms.

Now, as a transgender woman, I know a thing or two about being denied the use of a bathroom--and about not getting a job because of an identity you've always had!  I can understand whatever anger, grief or resignation she might have felt.  And I imagine that those things were on Reggie's mind when he tried to get a job as a mail carrier.

Governor John McKeithen and his staff were so impressed with young Reggie that they passed on his information, and added their own recommendation.  Two months later, he was working as a substitute mail carrier.

As satisfying as the job was, Brown did not see it as an end unto itself.  His goal, he said, was public service, and his real passion and dream was to work in law enforcement.  

Eventually, he joined the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office, where he became the first African American to become a Chief Administrative Assistant and attain the rank of Major.  After 25 years in the office, he was elected to the Constable's Office, where he served another 18 years.  There, he worked on raising standards for the deputies as he started community programs to do everything from raising public awareness of their rights and responsibilities to helping the needy.

He has written My Bicycle Journey.  Proceeds from the sales of that book will go to St. Vincent de Paul charities.  He hopes, however, that its message will benefit everyone.

Who wouldn't be inspired by someone who rode his bike into public service, and through history?

08 February 2019

How Not To Go To Court

A guy has a court hearing.  He rides a bike to it.

This could mean he doesn't have a car or can't drive.  Or, perhaps, it's the easiest and most convenient way to get there.  Another possibility is that he's trying to turn his life around by getting sober and exercising.

That last possibility seems plausible given that one of the charges against him is drug possession.  

But he arrives late.   All right, maybe he got lost or got a flat along the way.  Or there might be some other reason.  Perhaps it might have to do with the stolen property he's was charged with receiving.

Turns out, that stolen property included a chainsaw, an iPhone and groceries--in addition to an adult tricycle and two bicycles.

Oh, and those two bikes aren't the only stolen wheels he's had in his possession.  When he arrived at the courthouse in Laconia, New Hampshire, police detained upon the request of police in nearby Gilford.

Two nights previous, there'd been a break-in at Piche's Ski & Sport Shop on Gilford Avenue.  Guess what was taken during that burglary.  

Jeffrey T. Wyatt, a local transient, admitted knowing that the bike he rode to the courthouse--valued at $1800--was stolen.  He denied, however, any involvement in the burglary.

In addition to the thefts, receiving stolen property and drug possession, he also has charges of threatening with a deadly weapon, criminal trespass and willful concealment pending against him before he was arrested at the court house--for arriving on a stolen bicycle.

20 Million Hacks

Mumbai has two and a half times as many people as my hometown of New York.  Its population is also about half that of Canada, and a third of the UK or France.

It's been said that there are 8 million stories--the same as the number of people--in the Five Boroughs.  Well, one might say that there are 20 million ways of using a bicycle--one for every resident--in the City of Seven Islands.

At least, that was the impression I got from yesterday's post on HackadayIn the Gateway to India, it seems that bicycles are used, not only for transporting one's self, but also for moving other people, cargo that seems better suited for ship containers, hay, livestock and even gas cylinders--12 to 16 at a time!-- that weigh 15 kilos empty and 30 when full. 

I don't know which would scare me more:  the potentially-explosive cargo, or that those bikes, with 300-kilo loads, have the same brakes found on typical roadsters.  Come to think of it, I shudder thinking about maneuvering such rigs through winding, narrow, crowded streets that make Broadway in lower Manhattan seem like a Dutch bike lane.

07 February 2019

They Aren't Blamed. So Why Are We?

In each of the past five years, more Americans have died from opioid drug overdoses than from car crashes or gun violence.

One reason for this, of course, is improvements in automotive safety.  Another is the campaigns to reduce gun violence, which have succeeded in a number of cities.

But no one would suggest that we should celebrate those developments when people are dying because they were prescribed drugs that they, and possibly their doctors, didn't realize were so addictive.  If anything, people from medical experts to the loved ones of those who've died will say that everything from the pharmaceutical and insurance companies' roles in creating and fueling the epidemic of addiction, to the ways in which the drugs act in the body, needs to be investigated.

And one rarely, if ever, hears anyone blaming the overdose victims themselves for dying in greater numbers than people involved in car crashes or shootings.  Thankfully, most Americans now understand that addiction is a health problem, not a moral failing, and that addicts need help in overcoming the ways in which the drugs overtook their bodies and minds rather than condemnation for "letting themselves" become addicted.

Would that such understanding were extended to cyclists and pedestrians.

In 2017, 27 cyclists and pedestrians were killed in San Jose, California.  An equal number of people were homicide victims.  

As in other large urban areas, the homicide rate in the San Francisco Bay Area, which includes San Jose, has been falling for a number of years.  I don't think anyone is unhappy about that, and don't believe they should be.  It shouldn't, however, be used to trivialize the number of cyclists and pedestrians who are killed.  While not many people are doing that, they are engaging in a kind of victim-blaming they would never direct at someone who dies from an overdose.  Such people believe that cyclists and pedestrians are "over-entitled" for having the right of way, or for having lanes dedicated to them.  

I won't deny that there are careless pedestrians and cyclists.  I would submit, however, that there are far more motorists who are reading or sending text messages, talking on their cell phones, or doing any number of other things that distract them from their surroundings. But it's odd that they are seldom blamed when they crash into other vehicles, let alone pedestrians or cyclists.

So, yes, we should be happy that fewer people are being shot, stabbed or beaten to death.  But we mustn't lose sight of the fact that increasing numbers of people are meeting premature demises while walking or pedaling to school or work, or for exercise.  In other words, a cyclist or pedestrian who is run down by a motorist is as likely as not to be an experienced, responsible cyclist or pedestrian who follows the rules of the road and takes all of the necessary precautions.

Opioid addicts, homicide victims and other people who die from causes not of their making are not blamed for their own deaths.  Why should it be any different for cyclists and pedestrians?

06 February 2019

She Wants Girls To Have Fun

It's hard for us to believe, perhaps, that in the early days of cycling, a woman astride two wheels was seen as provocative or even transgressive almost everywhere.

These days, it's hard to picture any major European city, and even a few American cities, without women pedaling to work, to school, or even for fun--sometimes alone, other times in the company of friends and, often, with a baby or toddler in a rear seat or trailer.

In much of the world, however, the situation for women and bicycles isn't much different from how it was in the western world in the 19th Century.  If anything, in some places, the sight of a woman on a bike can incite outrage, revulsion or even violence.

Pakistan is one of those places.  It's one of the more conservative Muslim countries, where women aren't even welcome to sit at tea stalls, congregate in parks or ride a bike for fun.  In fact, a woman in a public space without a purpose--like going to the market or school--is viewed as a threat to public morality.  It's uncommon even to see a woman riding a bike for a purpose, as straddling a seat is seen as a vulgar and sexlike act.

One woman who dares to challenge this social taboo is Zulekha Dawood.  The 26-year-old activities organizer at a community center organizes and leads rides through the streets and alleys of Karachi.  A year ago, when the weekly rides began, only a few young women participate; now as many as 30 women and girls join Dawood.

Zulekha Dawood leading a ride in Karachi.

What makes her efforts all the more remarkable is the part of the city in which the center is located, and where most of the rides go.  It's not a leafy enclave of professionals who were educated in London or New York or Toronto; rather, it's Lyari, a gritty working-class area in the southern part of Karachi.  

This illustrates a criticism that's been made of women's equality movements in Pakistan and elsewhere:  They're usually led by affluent or upper middle-class women, who have access to the education and networks that make it more possible for them to bring their visions into reality. On the other hand, the girls and women who participate in Dawood's rides face more opprobrium because their poorer and less-educated families tend to be more religiously and socially conservative.  

And, to be fair, many such families see marriage as the best hope for their daughters.   They believe that a woman who isn't "modest", or is simply "too independent", will make her less desirable to the "good" families of young men who could provide for her.

Although Dawood's rides are for the sake of riding, she understands that for participants--some of whom she herself has taught how to ride--riding a bicycle is mobility, pure and simple.  If a girl or a woman can ride just because she wants to, she is also more likely to ride to the school or job that will allow her to live a more independent life.  

Surely she understands something my favorite Woodhaven native sang in her best Queens English:  Girls just wanna have fun.  And her critics are upset that she and those who join her rides are doing just that.

05 February 2019

The Shadow I Saw

Last week, I wrote about the coldest cycle-commute I've pedaled in many years.  The temperature rose gradually during the week, reaching the freezing mark on Friday and the 10-15C (50-60F) yesterday and today.

We didn't get much snow during the cold spell--the squall we experienced brought more wind than anything else--but the fallen flakes stayed on the ground and froze until the thaw.

The result has been mud everywhere.

Neither Punxsutawney Phil nor Staten Island Chuck  saw his shadow.  According to legend, that means Spring will soon arrive.  But I still anticipate more cold weather before the thaw becomes permanent (at least until next winter):  After all I saw this shadow

of a bare tree.  

04 February 2019

The Morning After--A Game And A Guy Losing His Shirt

While out riding yesterday, I stopped in Recycle-a-Bicycle's Brooklyn shop.  I left a few things with them that I know I'll never use but they might need some time.  They were happy for it.

Then I told them the real reason why I stopped there:  I figured it's one place where I might find people who care less about the Super Bowl than I do.

Turns out, I was right. Two of the fellows working there didn't even know which teams were playing.  And I was so proud of myself for knowing only that the game pitted the New England Patriots--who, it seems, everyone outside of New England hates--and the Los Angeles Rams, who used to play in St. Louis and before that in Los Angeles.

Today I'm hearing about how "boring" the game was and that some guy took off his shirt during the halftime--and why it was or wasn't OK for him to do that fifteen years after Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction".  Interestingly, I've heard nothing about the advertisements during halftime, which are usually among the most creative, or simply oddest, to be seen on TV.

Bicycle commuting

Me?  I didn't watch, didn't listen. And I rode to work this morning, refreshed, on my bike.  I hope not sound smug, but I thought it ironic that I was getting healthy exercise on my way to the college on the morning after a game when a few dozen guys pounded at each other's bodies for millions of spectators who ate and drank the most unhealthy things imaginable.

03 February 2019

Fitness And Birth Control In One?

If you peruse the listings on eBay, Craigslist or other selling sites, you'll find bikes for sale from sellers who have no interest in cycling or no idea of what they're selling.  Those bikes might be part of an estate sale, or they might have been left behind when someone moved.  

Most of the time, the ads read something like "I don't know anything about bikes, but I know this is a good (or expensive) bike."  The bikes usually are misrepresented, though not deliberately, and are often overpriced because, as an example, the seller knows the bike is a Peugeot but doesn't know a PX-10 from a U-08 and tries to sell the latter for the price of the former.  

Then there are those ads in which the seller tries, unsuccessfully, to describe what he or she is selling.  Parts are misnamed; brands are confused with other brands, and wheels and frames are mis-measured.  

Rarely, though, does one find so much disdain expressed for a bicycle and for cyclists as I found in this Irish ad:


Do you want to spend several hours of your day staring at a man's spandex clad buttocks? Do you want to preplex co-workers and family with details of how you spend most your weekend in uncomfortable, sweaty, silence? Or do you just want an excuse to escape from your significant other for large periods of time? Then look no further, for I have a racing bike for sale!

It has a carbon fibre fork but the rest of the frame is aluminium. It has those pedals that clip your feet in, this is apparently good for cycling but it sucks if you need to stop suddenly because you'll probably fall over, to much pain and embarrassment. It also has a saddle that goes up ridiculously high. This is also good for cycling, I'm told, but I think it really goes up that high so you can present your posterior to other, similarly engaged cyclists as a form of mating ritual. 

The seat is also designed with racing in mind, by which I mean it's light, by which I also mean that it's not padded a huge amount. It can't imagine it does much good to your reproductive health, but maybe that's the point. Fitness and birth control in one.

It has many toothy wheel things, which I am reliably informed are called 'gears'. My brother says it has 20 but I count 12, but I never was any good at maths. There is no combination of switches you can press on this thing to make climbing hills any more pleasant, unfortunately.

It's got twirly handles, I haven't got much to say about those. Probably aerodynamic or summat. It also has kevlar tyres, which I assume makes them bulletproof. Now, I'm not the biggest fan of cyclists but I would draw the line at shooting at them.

Comes with a free helmet to protect your brain when some braindead Irish driver inevitably knocks you into a ditch, despite the fact that your colour scheme is so fluorescent that you could be radioactive.

(In all seriousness, my brother gave this to me as he spent god knows how much on a new carbon-fibre bike, and I have no interest in it. Here's more details on the bike:

http://www.roadbikereview.com/cat/latest-bikes/road-bike/trek/1000/prd_290760_5668crx.aspx )
Shipping: To be arranged
Payment: Cash