30 September 2020

What He Enables

I'm no political junkie.  But it's hard to imagine a lower point in the political history of this country than last night's debate.

I think Joe Biden did about as well as anyone could have in the circumstances.  He kept his composure about as well as anyone could have in the presence of Donald Trump.

Note a phrase I repeated in the previous paragraph:  "about as well as anyone could have."  The thing about Trump, I believe, is that he knows, deep down, he can't win a reasoned intellectual argument.  So he lies, gaslights, impugns character and otherwise attacks people in ways that can't be responded to under Robert's Rules of Order, or even the Marquis of Queensbury rules. 

Why am I writing about this on a blog about bicycling?  Well, I think Trump's behavior has implicitly given permission for folks who have power and strength--whether it's financial, institutional or purely physical; whether it's sanctioned by the State or some other recognized authority--to wield it deliberately or without discretion against those who are more vulnerable than themselves.

An example of what I'm talking about took place in Seattle, where a police officer rode his bicycle over the head of a protester:

Amazingly, that protester, known locally as "Trumpet Man,"  didn't end up with anything worse than some shoulder and neck pain.  Some might say the officer did what he did unintentionally.  Even if he did, he should be called to account:  At the least, he can use some re-training.  If his actions were deliberate, of course, he should be fired.  While most of us would assume--rightly, probably--that Trumpet Man was lying down as a form of peaceful protest, he could just as easily have been, as he pointed out, a mentally ill or addicted person who was having a seizure.

In several of my posts, I have pointed out that motorists very often don't realize (or care) that they are operating a potentially-deadly weapon, especially if they drive it into the path of a cyclist or pedestrian.  Well, to be fair, I am going to call out anyone who uses a bicycle in a like fashion--especially if the State bestows upon him the power of life and death.

28 September 2020

A First Time In Blue

This is one sure sign of Middle Age, with the Capital M and Capital A:  going for a colonoscopy. 

I last had one ten years ago, just nine months(!) after my gender reaffirmation surgery.  The procedure hasn't changed much (at least from what I can recall):  They knock you out for a few minutes and look for polyps

The good doctor didn't find any.  A week and a half ago, during our preliminary appointment, he told me I'd need a ride home, as the anesthetic would take a few hours to wear off.  

But he said nothing about getting there: a few blocks from the Intrepid Air and Space Museum.  That's about 7 kilometers from my apartment.  Despite the MTA's assurances, I still don't want to take the subway or a bus.  So, I did something that, in all of my years of living in New York, I had never before done.

No, I didn't visit the Statue of Liberty.  Rather, I rode a Citibike.  

The irony of that is that in addition to living in New York, I've visited several cities with bike share programs.  In those places, however, I rented bikes from shops and when I'm at home, I ride my own bikes.  Also, I repaired and assembled Citibikes a few weeks after the program started.  But I'd never ridden my handiwork, if you will.

The bike was about what I'd expected:  very comfortable but not very fast or maneuverable.  That, of course, is how they're built: to take the pounding of day-to-day use on city streets.  

In all, it wasn't bad.  The hard part, for me, was buying the pass and unlocking the bike, which I did via a Lyft app.  I don't think the problem was the system, as lots of other people seem to use it easily.  Rather, I am a bit of a techno-ditz:  Any time I use a new app or program, it's as if I'm re-inventing the wheel (pun intended).  Also, when I arrived, some of the docks at the nearest station weren't working properly (or was I not using them properly)?  I had to try a few before I heard the "click" and the green light flashed.

Although I don't expect to be a regular Citibike user, understand why it's popular, and I wouldn't dissuade anyone who doesn't have his or own bike (or a safe place to park it) from using those blue two-wheelers.

(Another bit of good news came out of today's procedure--or, more precisely, the screening:  My weight is the lowest it's been since I took my bike tour of the French and Italian Alps in 2001.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised:  For the past few months, I've cycled or walked just about everywhere I've gone, and one unanticipated, but welcome, side-effect of not going into the college is that I'm eating healthier food.)

26 September 2020

Cycling Into A Season

 This weekend is the first of Fall.  Leaves have not yet begun to change their colors, and the air does not brace one's skin. Still, there are some unmistakable signs the season is changing:  Sunlight flickers rather than glares against the surface of a sea still nearly as warm as the air on the beaches and boardwalk, which were nearly as deserted as they'd be on a winter's day.

A couple of guys took to the water on Point Lookout, the destination of my day's ride.  So did a few boats.

Amid the sorrow and chaos of the past few months, today's ride gave me moments to reflect.  Riding itself has rarely felt so good.  I could hardly ask for more.

25 September 2020

Cyclist Struck By Hate

It’s one thing when a motorist strikes a cyclist accidentally.

It’s something else when done with intention.

But I’ve heard of few things more despicable than this:

The driver not only drove into a Black Lives Matter protester on a bicycle intentionally; she made a point of expressing her hate.

The latest report says the cyclist’s injuries are not life-threatening. But he may have emotional scars that will take a long time to heal, if they ever do.

I am no lawyer, but I reckon that the woman should be charged, at the very least, with assault with a deadly weapon.

24 September 2020

Out Of Line In The Lane

After taking a late-day bike ride, eating a dinner and reading, I dozed off, with Marlee curled up on me.  A couple of hours later, she woke me for some food and water. Then I  stepped out of my apartment for a few-minute ride on the deserted streets and bike lanes.

Well, they weren’t totally  deserted:

The cops were looking at their smart phones.  I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that the NYPD is using those devices to communicate with their officers.

I will write about that bike lane soon.


23 September 2020

How Long Could He Hold It?

It boggles the mind to realize that on the last day of a three-week race, a lead of less than one minute in overall time (for the whole three weeks) is considered "insurmountable"--unless, of course, you're Greg Lemond or Tadej Podacar.

The one explanation I can come up with is from my own (admittedly) very limited experience with racing:  It's a lot harder to make up time than to lose it. Really, it doesn't take much to give up a minute or more to an opponent:  a flat tire or other malfunction, a slip or fall,  a miscalculation of an opponent's move--or simply a wrong turn.

At least, those are the things we hear about in race reports.  I wonder whether riders have lost races due to events that would be inconsequential in daily life.  

Specifically, I'm thinking of "nature calling."  If we're not racing, we stop when we find a place to "let go." But I suppose that's not possible in a race.

Or if you're being pursued by cops.  

On Saturday night, a 38-year-old man was riding light-less on a Yakima, Washington street.  A constable pulled up toward him, intending to talk to him about the dangers of what he was doing.  But when the officer turned on his bright lights, the man took off. 

After making a few turns, he ditched his bike and backpack and started running down a driveway.  He tripped on a low fence.  The officer threatened to use his Taser on him if he tried to continue his flight.

Then, according to the officer, the man put his hands up and exclaimed, "I just need to poop."

Later, when the police searched the bag the man tossed, the found three cell phones, brass knuckles, a pill cutter, $240 in counterfeit currency, more than 100 blue oxycodone pills laced with fentanyl, nine suboxone strips, two pipes, a scale, knives and some suspicious checks.

Oh, and the police discovered the guy had felony warrants for a Department of Corrections violation, possession of heroin and identity theft.

This leads me to wonder:  What if he'd just "held it" a little longer--and stayed on his bike? 

22 September 2020

Time And A Time Trial

The other day, it looked as if the Tour de France would end with its first Slovenian winner.

It did.  Except that the winner wasn't the Slovenian most observers expected.

Going into the race's final stage, it seemed that Primoz Roglic would bring the race's maillot jaune home:  His 57-second lead seemed all but insurmountable, especially since the final stage was a time trial up a mountain:  the sort of event in which he usually does well.

Primoz Roglic (in polka dots) and Tadej Podacar

And he did.  Except that Tadej Podacar, all 21 years of him, did even better.  Two years after winning the Tour de l'Avenir, and one year removed from his third-place finish in the Vuelta a Espana, Podacar became the Tour's youngest winner.  

His final push has been compared to that of Greg Lemond in the 1989 Tour.  Entering the final day of the race, Lemond trailed Laurent Fignon, who won in 1983 and 1984, by 50 seconds.  And the race's final stage was a time trial:  an event in which Fignon tended to do well.

Well, Lemond rode the time trial of his life and earned his second Tour victory.  

The plot outline of Lemond-Fignon is thus a close parallel to that of Podacar-Roglic, except for one thing:  Fignon and Lemond were both well-established cyclists in the prime of their careers.  Roglic, at 30, is about the same age as Fignon and Lemond were during their epic duel, but it's hard to say where he is in his professional career, which he began at 24:  several years later than is normal.  On the other hand, it will be interesting to see whether Podacar's  victory signals the beginning of a long road, if you will, to canonization in the cycling world.

Only time will tell.  On Sunday, a time trial determined the winner of the world's most famous race.

20 September 2020

R.B.G.: Hearing The Shofar As I Pedal

As you know by now, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away on Friday night.

I heard the "breaking news" on the radio that evening, as members of an observant Jewish family were returning from shul to their home just up the block from me.  Rosh Hoshannah had just begun.  In times past--and in some Orthodox communities--it's heralded by sounding a shofara horn made from a hollowed-out ram's tusk.

The shofar was, and is, still used to call attention to significant events, and to warn of danger. RBG's passing seems like a shofar blast.

She didn't single-handedly keep women from living out the nightmare of The Handmaid's Tale. But very few people did more to bring the status of women and girls--and, by extension, others who have been disenfranchised--closer to equality with that of men and boys.

While I didn't know her personally, I have the sense that she did what she did because of something she understood, perhaps viscerally, and which I came to understand during my gender transition:  Anyone who doesn't have agency over his or her body and mind is a slave.  

When I understood that, I believe, I truly became a feminist.  Before that, I supported a woman's right to choose, in all areas of life (including reproduction), and equal opportunities.  But, until I started living as a woman, they were merely "issues."  Once I began my transition, I realized they were matters of my own life:  Even though I never have been, and never will be, pregnant--and, thankfully, do not have to worry about having a hysterectomy without my consent--  I realize now that I could choose to take medications and undergo medical procedures to align my body with my psyche without having to ask permission from any man--or worrying about being imprisoned for violating a law written and enforced by men.

I could also continue cycling for the same reasons.  Until recently, women weren't allowed to ride--or drive--in Saudi Arabia.  In other societies, women and girls are discouraged, or even intimidated, away from such things.

My life--which includes cycling--is possible, in part, because of Justice Bader Ginsberg's work.  Her passing is, among other things, a warning, or at least a signal, that I cannot take it for granted:  a shofar blast, if you will.

How I Don't Want It To End

In my will (yes, I have one of those), I have specified, among other things, that I want my body used for medical or scientific research. Beyond that, I don't care what happens to me or how anyone chooses to memorialize me.

Well, all right, I don't care much.  There are some things, though, I don't want:

I mean, I like sports as much as the next person.  But a funeral party in a sports bar?   People actually do such things?  

You learn all kinds of things while bike riding! 

19 September 2020

1000 Books For A Bike

As a Scout, I earned a merit badge for reading.

Until I saw it in Clayton and Magee, the Red Bank, NJ  men's and boys' clothier  that sold Scout uniforms and equipment, I didn't know that such a thing existed.  Nor did my scoutmaster, or anyone else in the troop.  To get the badge, I had to document that I'd read at least 12 books in a year--something I normally do--and write reports, reviews and critiques on them.  

My English teacher, Mrs. McKenna, was also unaware of the badge until I mentioned it. She happily signed off on it and mentioned it to the rest of the class, which included a few other Scouts.  To my knowledge, only one other kid pursued that opportunity.

I don't remember exactly how many books I read, but I know that I easily exceeded the requirements.  I don't think I read 1000, though.

Ayan Geer and Kristopher Depaz did, however.  For their achievement, the Riverhead, Long Island residents got a reward that I never could have dreamed of:  new bicycles, presented to them the other night at their town's public library.

Not to take anything away from their achievements, I will mention that Ayan's favorite books were "Crocodile and Hen" and "Pete the Cat." Kristopher didn't specify a favorite, but mentioned that he loves playing soccer with his father and wants to be a professional player when he grows up.  
One more thing I should mention:  Ayan and Kristopher each read 1000 books before starting kindergarten.

Forget about a merit badge:  They should get medals.  Solid gold ones.  And bicycles for life.

18 September 2020

E-Bikes On The Boardwalk?

It looks like electric bikes, or e-bikes, are here to stay.

Although I don't plan to start riding one any time soon, I have nothing against them.  If anything, they're good for people whose knees are giving out on them, or for other people who--whether through aging or some other cause--don't have the strength or stamina they once had but still want to pedal two wheels.

What makes them controversial, though, is their relationship with unmotorized bicycles, other motorized vehicles--and traffic, whether it consists of pedestrians, cyclists or motor vehicles. Specifically, should they be subject to the same rules and regulations as, say, motorcycles?  Or should they categorized with non-motorized bicycles and be allowed to share designated bike lanes and paths with them?

Cities, states and other jurisdictions are coming up their own mandates.  Beach resorts and towns face another question:  Should electric bikes be permitted to roll alongside regular bicycles on boardwalks?

The City Council of Ocean City, Maryland will have to come up with an answer to it when it meets on Monday.  Last week, Councilman Tony De Luca introduced an ordinance that would have amended the city's traffic and vehicle codes to allow Class One motorized bikes--ones that stop assisting the rider when a speed of 20 MPH is reached--on the boardwalk.  Class Two and Three e-bikes, which have a throttle and can reach higher speeds,  would have been banned.

DeLuca's proposal didn't garner enough support to become part of the city's law.  On Monday, the Council will hear opposing recommendations from the Bike Committee and the police commission.  The former cites e-bikes' usefulness for people who are rehabilitating from an injury or have bad knees, while the latter points to difficulties in enforcing e-bike rules and the fact that cities like Virginia Beach ban them altogether.


17 September 2020

I Don't Want To Be A Guinea Pig Again

This morning my father and I were talking about one thing and another.  "If they come out with a vaccine (for COVID-19), would you get it?" he asked.

"That depends.  If it comes out before Election Day, or even Inauguration Day, I'd have to wonder whether its approval was rushed."

Afterward, I found myself thinking about some of the worst bike parts I've ever used and owned. They were introduced as the lightest, best, strongest or "must-have" in some other way.  I can't help but to think that I, and some riding buddies who also experienced problems like the ones I incurred, were "guinea pigs" for the makers of those components.  

Of course, my collapsing Nuke Proof hubs weren't quite as catastrophic as a faulty vaccine might be.  The shop from which I bought those hubs replaced them with other hubs and equipment. But what do you do if the vaccine causes some physical or medical problem that can't be reversed? 

Note:  If the typeface in this post looks different from that of my other posts, it's because Blogger, in all of its infinite wisdom, decided to change its page and make it impossible to use whatever typefaces you've used before.

15 September 2020

Cranking Up A Classic Marque

A little over a year ago, I recounted discovering--along with other novice American cyclists in the 1970s--bicycle and component marques known to generations of riders in other parts of the world.  

What I didn't realize was that some actually were, or would soon be, on the brink of extinction or being changed beyond recognition.  I am thinking of bikes like Falcon, Gitane and  Legnano, who made all sorts of machines from Tour de France winners to urban delivery conveyances--and companies like Nervar, Weinmann, Huret, Stronglight Simplex, Mafac and SunTour, who made the components for those bikes, and others.

Those manufacturers are gone now. (Weinmann-branded rims are made in China and the SunTour name lives on in SR-SunTour forks, which bear no relation, other than the name, to the revered maker of derailleurs and freewheels.)  So was Chater-Lea, a British company that made bicycles and even, for a couple of decades, cars and motorcycles.  But C-L is best known for what the English call "fittings":  parts like pedals, headsets and bottom brackets. They even made frame tubing and lugs.

Chater-Lea's quality was, in its heyday, second to none.  Custom frame builders specified C-L's parts; so did larger manufacturers for their best models.  I never owned or used any of their stuff, but I encountered some when I first worked in a bike shop.  A couple of my early riding companions--who pedaled through the "Dark Ages" when few American adults cycled--rode bikes equipped with C-L.

Those bikes were older than I was.  They sported those pencil-thin steel cottered cranksets (which may have been made by Chater-Lea) you see on old-time racing bikes and that fell out of favor once good-quality mid-priced cotterless cranks became available.  To my knowledge, C-L made bottom brackets only for cottered cranksets, and their pedals were of the traditional "rat trap" variety.  

So, while the stuff was of high quality, its designs were dated or even obsolete. (Clipless pedals all but killed the market for high-quality traditional pedals.)  That is why I was, if unknowingly, witnessing the "last gasp" of a once-revered name in the cycling world:  In 1987, they would cease after nearly a century of making bike parts.

Last year, Andy Richman, a British cycling enthusiast who lives in the US, decided to revive the brand with a ne plus ultra pedal that echoes the company's old designs but employs the highest-grade materials and finished flawlessly.  He said, at the time, that "if jobs are going to come back to the UK, it's got to be for making this kind of stuff."  In other words, "high end, beautiful, artisanal" items.

The new Chater-Lea crank comes in single or double chainring variations.

Now he is introducing a second Chater-Lea item.  Appropriately enough, it's a crankset.  But it's as much a departure from C-L's cottered sets as the pedals are a refinement of a traditional design:  The Grand Tour is a "sub-compact" crankset with 46/30 chainrings (a classic Randonneur/Gran Fondo configuration) designed to fit on JIS square taper axles and work with up to 11 speeds.

If you want to equip your bike with these items, save up your pounds:  You'll need 595 of them (about $775 at current exchange rates) to buy the cranks, and 250 ($325) for the pedals.  

Does Richman plan a complete Chater-Lea bike?

14 September 2020

On Your Mount, In The Saddle

Sometimes we are redundant. We repeat ourselves.  We say something we've said before.  And sometimes it's OK.  Someone, I forget whom, told me that when you use different words to say the same thing, it shows only that you're trying really, really hard not to repeat yourself.  Or that you have access to a thesaurus.

I am guilty of this literary tic.  How many times have I referred to my bicycle as my "mount" or "steed"?

Of course, I am not the only person to use equine-related terminology for bicycles and bicycling. (Why do we call bicycle seats "saddles?")  Moreover, more than a few have folks have used horse-related metaphors and imagery to portray human-powered two-wheeled ambulation.  Hey, the owners of North Division Bicycle, a well-regarded shop in Spokane, Washington.

North Division Bicycle Home Page

I've never been to The Evergreen State's "Second City."  The first syllable of its name is pronounced "Spoke."  If that doesn't suggest cycling, I don't know what does.

(Who would be the Four Cyclists of the Apocalypse?)

13 September 2020

What Kind Of Protection Do You Want?

I've seen bike helmets that don't have vents.  I simply can't imagine riding one:  Even with my latticework casque, I sweat when the temperature or humidity rises.

On the other hand, those vents let in the cold and rain.  The former isn't such a problem as long as you can fit a balaclava, beanie or some other form-fitting form of insulation under your helmet.

The rain is another story.  I've worn shower caps or even plastic bags under my helmets.  They're fine for keeping your head dry, but not very comfortable when it's warm and raining.

And, even if you keep your head dry, there's still the rest of you.  Do you wear a full rain suit?  A poncho?  Or do you need only to cover your shoulders and upper torso?

Hmm...Maybe this headgear could be made to ANSI specifications.

Could it also be made with a COVID mask--or even one of the face shields I've seen on a few people?

12 September 2020

Shelby Cycle Museum

More than two years ago, I wrote about a municipality that was best known for its epomymous bicycle company.

From 1925 until 1953, Shelby Bicycles were manufactured in the Ohio city for which they were named.  While most of their wares were sold under other names, such as Goodyear, Firestone and AMF, others bore the company's name and are prized by collectors for their stylishness.  One was even ridden to a transcontinental record.

While some manufacturers, such as Schwinn, Raleigh and Peugeot, were major employers, it can be argued that none was as integral to its community as the Shelby Cycle Company was to its town.

Restored 1938 Shelby. Photo by Aaron W. Legand

At the time I wrote my earlier post, the Shelby Cycle Historical Society, a tax-exempt organization, was forming and seeking members.  On Tuesday (perhaps appropriately, the day after Labor Day), it received a grant to create the Shelby Bicycle Museum on the grounds of the original Shelby Cycle factory.

I can't help but to wonder how many other bicycle "company towns" existed late in the 19th, and early in the 20th, Centuries. In those days, bike manufacturers were smaller and their markets were mainly local: No giant (with a capital or small "g") manufacturer or conglomerate dominated the industry.

11 September 2020

Dreams And A Memorial

Lately, I've had some very strange and vivid dreams.  Perhaps it has something to do with my crash. Or the pandemic might've brought them on:  I've heard other people say they've been having "weird dreams" and "nightmares" since COVID-19 ravaged cities and countries.

There are two other times when I can recall such deep, detailed night voyages, if you will:  During the weeks and months after my gender reassignment surgery and in the aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

My post-surgery dreams--some of which were beautiful--may have had something to do with the anesthetics and other drugs.  On the other hand, what I experienced in late 2001 and through much of 2002 (and on a few later occasions)  may have been a reaction to the pain and grief I experienced around me.  Other people, I learned, also had odd and terrifying dreams during that time, so in that sense our psyches (and, in some cases, our bodies) were responding to the attacks in the same way many of us would process the current pandemic.

Some of my dreams involved bicycling to places that weren't physical locations as much as they were rapidly-changing series of images.  In others, I would retrieve a bicycle--which I may or may not have ridden or owned in my waking life--in places I'd never anticipate, like the house of someone I knew in the dream, or some place that looked like a bunker or butcher shop.  Or I was trying to retrieve something--or even a person--while riding my bike.

I rarely talk about my dreams with anyone, though a few have figured, one way or another, into my writing.  I am mentioning them now because 19 years ago, the last event (before the current pandemic) that "changed everything" took place.  I am talking, of course, about the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.  Although I did not know anyone who died, or was even injured in them, it was impossible to escape the grief and sadness if you were here in New York.  Someone I'd never seen before, and haven't seen since, cried on my shoulder.  Someone else--an old riding buddy--rode to the site and stayed for three weeks afterward, helping in any way he could. (He was a welder and metalworker.)  One night, he called me, in tears.  I told him he'd done more than anyone had a right to expect of him, and he should go home and spend time with his girlfriend.

He did. Others didn't, though.  Some of them--messengers, food deliverers or others who would now be called "essential workers"--locked their bikes to a rack by the Towers.  A year later, only one of those bikes was retrieved. 

At last, the public gets to visit the 9/11 Museum - amNewYork
Bike rack at 9/11 Memorial

Perhaps I was trying to retrieve one of them in the dreams I've mentioned.  Or, perhaps, one of them was me.

10 September 2020

Isn't Losing Your Bike Bad Enough?

 Having a bike stolen is a bummer.  Stealing a bike makes someone a bum, or worse.

Sometimes I think the authorities don't take bike theft seriously because of a perception that we're all recreational rider; that for an adult, being on a bike doesn't serve a real purpose.

Of course, you know better:  You may be a bicycle commuter.  Your bike might be your primary, or only, vehicle, whether by circumstance or choice.  

Sometimes, it seems, we're not "redeemed", and the thefts of our mounts are not taken seriously, if we're not using our bikes for some "higher" purpose.  That is why I had mixed feelings when I read about Jim Plummer Jr. of West Warwick, Rhode Island. 

Of course I empathised with him in losing his bike, and rejoiced on reading that a Facebook campaign enabled him to buy another.  I had to wonder, though, whether the incident would have been noted at all had he not been riding as part of a benefit for the Children's Cancer Research Fund.

Bicycle used to raise money for pediatric cancer research stolen
Jim Plummer, Jr.

I don't mean to disparage charity rides or campaigns:  I've done a few, and intend to do more.  But I don't believe we should have to do them in order to justify our riding, or for the thefts of our bikes to be as worthy of attention as other thefts.

08 September 2020

What's It Worth?

This is a $12,000 bike!

He'd just "wiped out" on a sand-dusted L-shaped turn.  I saw him, picking himself up.  Blood streamed down his legs and from his elbows.

Can you move your shoulder?  Your knee?

He bent his joints and back and nodded.  At least you're OK, I assured him.  Go home, take a rest.  You're probably not hurt, but you're in shock.

He pointed to his $200 saddle, torn in the rear.  Then he jerked his bike to the right and looked for damage.  At least I didn't scratch the bike.  Honestly, I'm worried about that than my body.  I paid $12,000 for it.

Other riders passed.  I alerted them to the sand "trap."  One rider asked if the guy on the $12,000 S-Works carbon-fiber wonder was OK.  He nodded.  I picked up a piece of something.  That's from my front shifter, he said.  It's a little plastic thing, but Shimano'll probably charge me $100 for it.  

Then he tried to route the chain back on to the larger chainring by starting at the bottom and spinning the pedal backward. But it wouldn't go.  I noticed that it was stopping at something that looked like some sort of chain guide on the seat tube.  He affirmed that, indeed, the comma-shaped plastic pi6ece served that purpose.  Electronic shifting is great, except at times like this, he exclaimed.

I've never worked on such a system before, but I suggested that he try threading the chain through the guide and rotating the crank as if he were pedaling.  It worked. Well, it meant that he could use only his large chainring, but it was OK to get me home, he said.  I'm going to bring it to my mechanic.

More riders passed us. I don't want to keep you from your ride, he said.  Are you feeling OK?  Can you see clearly?  He nodded twice.

I guess I'm lucky.  I wasn't wearing my helmet.  He glanced at it. But look--it was cracked on the rear.  I know I'm stupid:  It's a $300 helmet.

Note:  I actually encountered this rider the other day as I descended the ramp from the Veterans' Memorial Bridge to the Rockaways.  All of the dialogue is real, at least as best as I recall it.

07 September 2020

This Labor Day Ride?

Today is Labor Day in the US.

This year, the holiday is different:  Most large gatherings, including parades, have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  So have many organized bicycle rides.

I have to wonder whether these riders would have been sanctioned for not keeping their "social distance":

Perhaps they're all related?  After all, your family can't make you sick, right?

06 September 2020

How "Kool" Is This Lemon?

Back in my youth (yes, I had one of those!), I bought a Schwinn Continental.  It was available in several colors.  One, as I recall, was called "Kool Lemon."

In fact, several Schwinn models were available in that hue.  One, a "muscle" bike with a "banana" seat and stick shifter (that may account for at least some of the decrease in birth rates), was called the "Lemon Peeler."

Somehow I'm surprised that Schwinn never offered a bike like this:

05 September 2020

Bicycle Bob At 100,000 Miles

Back in 1991, he set a goal.

Last month, after twenty-eight years, he reached it.

His goal?  Cycling 100,000 miles.

That feat is, in itself, impressive enough.  More awe-inspiring, though, is that he gave himself that milestone, if you will, to reach when he was 67 years old.

Oh, and Bob Mettauer hadn't been on a bike in about half a century.  As a teenager in Long Island in the 1930s, he ran deliveries for a local butcher.  On Saturdays, he said, he'd typically ride 50 miles.

Then, as they say, "life happened"--in his case, World War II.  After serving in the Navy, he moved to California, where he worked for the phone company until his retirement.  

His neighbors in Casa Grande, the Central Coast  community where he settled 34 years ago, know him as "Bicycle Bob" and have followed his exploits.  He used to ride 20 miles a day when he was younger, he says. "It just kept adding up, so I set 100,000 as my goal."  These days, he rarely leaves his neighborhood because of the "crazy drivers" but was recently "doing nine miles a day in the morning."

To reach his goal, he's ridden three different bikes. The first didn't last long, he said.  The second one took him through 40,000 miles.  His current bike "has plenty of life."  But, he says only half-jokingly, "There's not much life left in the guy who rides it."

If I were a betting woman, I think I'd put my money on the man before the bike. He's only 95 years old, after all!

04 September 2020

Out Of Season

Late summer + Late afternoon =  Winter?

Perhaps that equation makes sense if you are the sort of person who grows sadder as the summer draws to a close.  In normal times (whatever that means anymore), the days grow shorter and cooler at this time of year.  So, if winter isn't incipient, fall is certainly on its way--with the barren season not far behind.

Although the air was warm when I mounted my bike, I felt as if I'd taken a ride in the middle of January or February, after the bright lights of Christmas and New Years' festivals are switched off.  Coney Island, like other seaside destinations, seems to retreat into hibernation from that time of year until Easter or Passover.  During those spring holidays, people congregate on the boardwalk, and sometimes even venture on the beach, even if the roller coasters and Ferris wheels and other attractions have not yet opened.

But such gatherings were absent yesterday.  Granted, it was a Thursday afternoon, but in normal (there's that word again!) times, I would have to weave around groups of strollers on any summer afternoon that didn't include a raging thunderstorm.

Most people would say that Coney Island is "dead," or at least closed, when the Cyclone--one of the most iconic amusement park rides in the world--and Wonder Wheel are still, their entry gates locked tight.    But, for me, what really shows that a stake has been driven into Coney Island's heart is this block:

I remember riding the "bumper cars" with my grandfather as a child, and trying to win prizes at the shooting range.  Tourists usually come to "the Island" for the "big" attractions, like the Cyclone and Luna Park.  But, for me, the real spirit of the place--in all of its grit and garishness, in the hustle of its carnival barkers and the pulsing of its shopowners'  hunger alongside the expanse of ocean--is in places like the shooting gallery, the sideshows and the old man--actually, he turned out to be exactly my age, save for a few days!--who sat in front of one of the padlocked doors.

He saw me riding and taking photos.  We talked.  He told me a bit about his life and how he ended up there, like a piece of driftwood on a more remote beach.  I assured him that what happened to him could happen to any one of us, myself included.  "I don't want to keep you," he said.

He wasn't keeping me.  I still have choices:  I would ride back to my neighborhood, where some would complain about restaurants and bars that aren't allowed to serve patrons indoors.  He would look for the bits of work--sweeping sidewalks, unloading trucks--the few still-open hot dog stands (Nathan's, and others) and other shops could offer him, and pay him a few dollars for. 

I rode to winter.  He was living in it. I rode home.

03 September 2020

Bicycling While (Fill In The Blank)

It was a hot afternoon.  I was pedaling home after teaching a summer class.  A van pulled up alongside me. One of its tinted windows rolled down.  "Nice legs!" 

I was still early in my life as Justine, but I guess I was already jaded enough not to hear that voice--or, at least, act as if I hadn't heard.  I continued to ride.  The van inched closer to me.  "Nice bike!"

Again, I ignored the voice.  But the van jacknifed in front of me.  Two doors opened.  Two men in uniform bounded out.

"What's your problem?"

"I hear stuff like that all the time.  I ignore it."

"Well, you should listen to us. We're cops."

"Well, I've never heard a cop talk like you."

"Shut up.  Show me your ID."


The cop's partner demanded to know what I was doing "in the projects."  I politely pointed out that I wasn't "in the projects" and even if I were, it wouldn't have been an offense.

"Don't be a wise-ass! Show me your ID."

At that moment, I realized he was seized with "roid rage."  His partner most likely was, too.  My immediate goal, then, was to not end up in their van.

Then the guy who "complimented" my legs and bike lectured me about listening to cops and doing as I was told--and not making trouble.

To this day, I don't know what kind of "trouble" I was making.  It's probably a good thing I didn't find out:  If those guys could make up an "offense" (being in the projects) I didn't even commit, I could only imagine what sort of story they'd concoct if they hauled me off and I ended up...in a ditch?

I thought about that incident when I read about Dijon Kizzee.  He was riding his bicycle "illegally" in South Los Angeles on Monday. At least, that's what the cops claimed when they stopped him. 

LA Deputies Kill 29-Year-Old Dijon Kizzee After Stopping Him for a “Code  Violation” on His Bicycle |
Dijon Kizzee

He tried to flee.  Deputies shot and killed him.  Later, a gun was found on the scene.

Oh, but this story becomes, shall we say, even more interesting when the LA County Sheriff's  Department tells it.  "During the contact, a fight ensued between the suspect and deputies.  The suspect produced a handgun and a deputy-involved 'hit' shooting occurred."  

A "deputy-involved 'hit' shooting"?  Did that come from an episode of Miami Vice?  Or is it a re-creation of an event that never made it into the history books:  something that a constable in, say, Mississippi or Alabama did after a wardrobe change--from blue to white?

The LASD statement continues:  " The suspect's handgun was recovered.  The suspect was pronounced deceased at the scene."

What piques the curiosity of some, and the ire of others (including Dijon Kizzee's family) is what the reports don't say--or how they contradict each other.  What law, exactly, was he breaking on his bike? Did he flee or did he fight?  And, when he "produced" the gun, did he drop or aim it?

Do I have to mention Mr. Kizzee's race?  I don't know much about the laws in LA or CA.  Maybe there is some stature about Bicycling While Black (BWB) in La-la-land.  Likewise, I may have violated a regulation against Bicycling While Transgender (BWT)that came into existence the moment two cops pulled alongside me one hot afternoon. 

Black Lives Matter!