Showing posts with label bikes parked in New York City. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bikes parked in New York City. Show all posts

29 April 2020

The Only Tour We'll See?

I saw the Tour de France today.

If you thought that was a cheap trick to get your attention, well, maybe it was.  The Tour normally doesn't begin until early July, a little more than two months from now.  Its organizers say that it's been rescheduled to begin on 29 August and run until 20 September.  Given how many other races and other sporting events--not to mention concerts, festivals and other gatherings--have been canceled altogether for this year, it wouldn't surprise me if this year's edition of the race meets a similar fate.

But, I tell you, I really saw the Tour today:

OK, it wasn't the race.  For that matter, it's not like any bike that would be ridden in one of the world's major competitions.  It seems rather like any number of other basic hybrid bikes one can buy:  probably not terrible, but not fantastic either.  Not bad looking, though.

Oh well.  It might be the only Tour de France we see this year.

14 August 2019

How Did It Get Here?

Now I'm going to subject you to another "look at what I found parked on the street" post.

I've seen this bike a few times before, locked to a post underneath the elevated tracks on 31st Street.  It's a spot I pass often, as it's right by Parisi bakery, a Dollar Tree store and a pub whose name I can't remember because I never go to it.

In my neighborhood, Astoria, you can see a greater variety of bikes than in most other New York City communities.  Even so, this one is unusual:  It's more like bikes I saw in Cambodia and Laos than anything I've found here.

First of all, that top tube has to be one of the thinnest I've ever seen.

And that internally-expanding rear hub brake is something, I believe, that has never been standard equipment on any bike made in, or exported to, the US.  I've seen brakes like it on a few older bikes in Europe, but not in the US.

I'm guessing that someone brought that bike with him or her from Southeast Asia or Europe.  

16 March 2019

Does This Bike Need An RU Screw?

When you ride your bike to work every day, certain sights become familiar.  Sometimes, though, they're not the ones you anticipate.

If you live in a city, you probably see bikes parked in the same places every day.  Some leave in the morning, on commutes to work or school.  But others remain in the same spot and start to look like street fixtures.

This Royce Union three-speed has been parked on East 139th Street for three years, maybe more.  I say two years because that's when I started riding along a route that includes the block on which the bike is parked.

The bike is from the mid-60s or thereabouts.  I know that because I had a bike just like it--actually, the diamond frame, a.k.a. male, version.  Also, mine was black and white.  It was lovely but, oh, I would have loved the color of this one. (That tells you something about the kind of kid I was!)

Royce-Union started in England early in the 20th Century.  Later, they started to manufacture bikes in the Netherlands and, by the 1960s, Japan.   Later they would make their wares in Taiwan.  I'm guessing that by now, their stuff is coming out of China or possibly Malaysia.  You can more or less trace the geographical history of bicycle manufacture from the company's timeline!

Not surprisingly, those '60's bikes--like the one in the photos and the one I had so many years ago--were imitations of English three-speed .  Whatever market existed for adult wheels in those pre-Bike Boom days was filled mainly by so-called "English Racers" from Raleigh, Dunelt and other British manufacturers and, to a lesser degree, similar bikes from Continental makers and Schwinn.

One detail of this bike I just love is the white saddle bag.  My bike had a bag just like it, in black.  The saddle was also like the one I see parked in the Bronx, but in black.

I also had to chuckle at the "RU" on the bag and saddle.  I attended Rutgers University many years ago.  Of course, many items pertaining to the school are emblazoned "RU", though in a very different style and color.  I couldn't help but to wonder, though, whether the Royce Union had any non-standardized parts.  In a way, I hope it doesn't, because I'd love to hear someone go into a bike shop and ask for an "RU Screw."

(You have to have gone to Rutgers to fully appreciate that one!)

13 July 2017

Bikes From The Night The Lights Went Out

I took Tosca, my Mercian fixed gear, out for a spin this morning. My plan was to finish before the worst of the heat and humidity we would experience this afternoon.  I succeeded at that, and at avoiding the downpour that would end them.

My ride took me through, among other places, the non-hipster parts of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  Believe it or not, they still exist, mainly south of the Williamsburg Bridge and east of Bedford Avenue.  They are, in some ways, time-capsules of what this city was like, say, 40 years ago.

On this date in 1977, one of the most infamous blackouts in history darkened New York City.  Brooklyn's Broadway, which cuts through the borough from the East River to East New York, incurred some of the most serious looting and arson that night in a city that was already suffering from a reputation for anarchy.  

At that time, all of Williamsburg--and much of the rest of this city--bore more resemblance to  today's South and East Williamsburg than it does to the nightlife capital to its north and west.  Hipster-equivalents of that time never would have ventured into such a place:  In fact, about the only young white people to be found were those who were born and raised there and hadn't gone to college, joined the military or gotten out in some other way.   And, perhaps, a few punk-rockers and anti-establishment artists, who are practically the antithesis of hipsters.

You see, in the year Howard Cosell supposedly exclaimed, "The Bronx is Burning!", most residents of neighborhoods like Williamsburg were poor or blue-collar.   If they were white (usually Italian, German or Irish) they weren't young.  Those who were young, or even middle-aged, were likely to be Puerto Rican, Black or Hasidic Jews--like the folks who live in the non-hipster enclaves today.

I saw them on the streets today: the kids running and doing the kinds of things kids do everywhere when school's out.  Their mothers were never more than a few steps away, propped against poles or fences or sitting on stoops in front of the houses.  

Even with the hipsters nowhere to be seen, I saw plenty of bikes.  Some were being ridden, mainly by folks like me who were pedaling through the neighborhood.  Others were chained to parking meters, signposts and other immovable objects.  Ironically, they might have been new--or, at least, not more than a few years old--during the days to which I've alluded, but I probably would not have seen them because, in those days, there were relatively few cyclists in this city, and almost none in neighborhoods like the ones I've mentioned.

I saw this French ten-speed bike from around the mid-1970's as I spun down Franklin Avenue:

Paris Sport was a "house" brand for bikes imported by Park Cycle and Sports of Ridgefield Park, New Jersey.  They were made by several French manufacturers, most commonly Dangre-Starnord, a company based in Valenciennes (a northern French town along the Paris-Roubaix race route) that also sold bikes under the France-Sport and Nord-Star brands.

So it's not surprising that the bike resembles machines from Gitane, Jeunet and Mercier made in that era.  What I found interesting, though, were some of the apparent changes.

The reason this bike caught my eye was the Sun Tour bar end shifters ("Barcons").  One rarely sees them on any bike parked on a New York street, and they certainly were not original equipment on the bike.  More likely, the bike had shifters on the down tube or handlebar stem, and they probably would have been made by Huret, the manufacturer of the "Svelto" derailleur that probably is orignial equipment.

Seeing Weinmann "Vainqueur" centerpull brakes on a French bike is not unusual. However, if you look closely, you will see that the "yoke" that pulls on the straddle cable is not Weinmann's.  This one looks clunkier, and the cable hangers on the steerer tube and seat bolt are thinner than the ones that usually came with Weinmann brakes.  The hangers look like they could be Mafac, but may have been from CLB, whose  brakes and fitments (except for their later "Professional" sidepulls) looked like cruder versions of Mafac's offerings.

I am guessing that someone simply replaced parts as they needed replacing, or simply didn't have the money to do a complete "makeover".  (I mean, what else would explain such good shift levers with such ordinary derailleurs?)  I am also guessing that whoever rides the bike now "inherited" it from somebody and has no idea of what I'm talking about.

The same might be said for this bike parked a few blocks away:

It's the first time I've seen a Royce Union--or, for that matter, any bike with a chainguard like that--in such a color.

It looks like the same model as (or one similar to) the Royce Union three-speed my grandfather gave me about three years before I could ride it. Like my old bike, it was made in Japan.  But the color--and the head tube that could have passed for aluminum if not for the rust spots--reminded me of a bike I often saw a couple of decades later:

The Vitus 979 was, of course, one of the first widely-ridden aluminum frames.  It was available in anodized blue, green, gold, red, purple and the pink shown in the above photo.  As much as I love the other colors, whenever someone mentions the Vitus 979, that rose hue is the first that comes to my mind.

Somehow I doubt that the Royce Union came with such a finish.  I suspect that the bike had once been purple or magenta, or perhaps even red, and had faded--a common fate for the paint on Japanese bikes of the time.

At least it's being used, or looks as if it is, if not by its original owner--who may or may not have lived in the neighborhood the night the lights went out.

26 August 2015

This Bike Is Like A Tatoo Because...

I've never had a tatoo, and I probably never will have one. Every once in a while, I see one I like.  However, even seeing such a tatoo has never made me want one.  

It's not that I have any religious or philosophical objection to tatoos.  Nor am I afraid of the needles, at least not anymore:  After all, I have had surgery.  And, even though I grew up in a time when tatoos were associated with outlaw bikers, prisoners and the sorts of military folk who live, work and die by the motto Caedite eos.  Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius, I have never had any fear of, or prejudice against those who have their bodies pricked and painted.  Perhaps my attitude is a result of having two uncles--one of whom is my godfather--with tatoos.

Even when I see a tatoo I like on someone else, I have no wish to get one for myself.  Perhaps it's hypocritical, but I find myself thinking, "Good for him (or her)."

I feel something similar about some of the wild bike finishes and color schemes I see.  I saw an example parked near Columbus Circle today:

I had to go inside a Starbuck's to take the photo because the bike was parked too close to the glass wall for me to take a photo from the outside. Believe it or not, I actually liked the look:  In some strange way, those colors and shapes actually work together.  

Still, I would never make any of my own bikes look anything like that.  And I definitely would not put wheels like those on any bike of mine.  But if that bike makes its owner happy, that's what matters.  Right?

13 October 2014

A Good Bike Mystery

While I was riding yesterday afternoon, this bike caught my eye:

If you've been following this blog, you know my favorite color is purple, followed by certain shades of green and certain shades of blue.  Well, that bike is one of those certain shades of green. But somehow I knew it wasn't the only reason to look at it.

Clarks of Harrow.  Hmm, I've never seen that name on a bike before.  Obviously, it wasn't made by them.  But a close-up look provided me with some possible clues:




The lamp bracket on the front fork is almost a dead-giveaway that the bike was made in Great Britain for the British market.  Another clue to the English nature is this:

Flat-plate wraparound seat stay caps were used almost exclusively by bike makers in Blighty.  After establishing with near-certainty that it is indeed a British bike, I wondered who might have built it.

One possible clue lies here:

The lug, while fairly simple, seems to have been scalloped to a point in the manner of another English maker:

This 1966 Witcomb L'Avenir shows a lug style it often used during the 1960's and '70's.  Then again, so did a number of other British builders, including Holdsworth and Claud Butler.  I don't think Mercian ever used such a lug shape, and I simply can't imagine Hetchins having employed it.

In brief, it was a pretty nice bike that caught my eye. About the only components that looked original were the seatpost (I couldn't see an identifying mark) and Campagnolo steel headset.  The rest of the parts included a Velo Orange crankset, new Dia Compe 610 brakes, Shimano Tiagra derailleurs and Tiagra hubs laced to Sun M-13 rims and shod with Continental Gatorskin tires.

18 July 2014

Mystery Bike

Yesterday I saw this bike parked on Greenpoint Avenue:

Of course, I loved the color and was fascinated with the way the twin-lateral tubes curved from the seat tube to the rear dropout. It's not the first time I've seen such a configuration.  Still, something told me there was something strange about the bike.

The Huret Allvit derailleur on the rear was more than likely original equipment.  To paraphrase Frank Berto, it shifts poorly forever.  The crankset also looked as if it had never been removed from the bike, although I suspect that, at some point, a chainguard was.

The shift lever was a plastic model from Simplex.  Perhaps the derailleur was a replacement after all. Or maybe the shifter was.  It was interesting, though, to see it on a brazed-on boss.  But what I saw in front of it:

Or at the bottom bracket:

Perhaps my initial belief that this bike was French was wrong after all.  Almost any Gallic ladies' or mixte bike of the era from which this bike appeared to be (the early 1970's or earlier) that wasn't made by a constructeur had lugs.  Perhaps I was looking at a cleverly-disguised masterpiece.

Not surprisingly, the wheels and pedals were replacements. So, too, was the rear brake, I suspect:

Nearly all modern caliper brakes are mounted in a hole through the front fork crown or a bridge connecting the rear stays. At one time, calipers that clamped like the one in the photo were common.  Later, they were used on bikes that originally were equipped with cantilever or rod brakes, which usually weren't drilled.  But no one, it seems, made such brakes after the mid-1960's or thereabouts.

Stickers from Transportation Alternatives and other cycling-related organizations indicate that this bike is, or had been, ridden regularly.  I wonder whether its rider has or had any idea of what he or she is or was riding.

07 June 2014

A Guest? Or An Alien?

Perhaps you’ve noticed them:  the bikes parked on your block, at your workplace, in front of your favorite bookstore or café, or by any other building or structure that’s part of your everyday environment. They’re there for a couple of days, a week, a month or two, or longer.  Then they’re gone.

They can be any kind of bike, from a Columbia pulled out of a trash heap to a Campagnolo-equipped Colnago, a fixie or a downhill bomber, a classic three-speed or vintage ten-speed.
They’re there, then they’re gone.  Where do they—and, more important, their riders—come from?  Where do they go?  Why are they parked to the parking meters, signposts or fences where you see them?

At different times in my life, one of those bikes has been mine.  I’ve parked in front of campus buildings where I took classes for a few weeks, a few months.  I’ve locked my bike near office buildings where I took workshops or seminars, or worked temporary jobs.  I’ve left my bike chained in front of houses or apartment buildings where I tutored young people who were having difficulties pronouncing Spanish sounds, conjugating French verbs, following the currents of history or constructing a sentence—or simply passing some test or another.  And I’ve had to secure my bike to whatever immobile objects stood around court and precinct houses, sports areanae or performance spaces when I was writing some story or another for a newspaper.

And then, of course, there were the times I parked a couple of times a week, or every day or every night, for a week, a few months, or even a year or two in front of the house or apartment building of someone with whom I had a relationship—or simply some sort of recurring business or errand.

I wonder whether the bike in the photo has a story like any of the ones I’ve mentioned.  I saw it every day for a couple of weeks, then it was gone.  The last time I saw it, I didn’t notice any scratches or marks that weren’t there the first time I saw it.  That’s especially interesting, perhaps even a little disturbing, on such a stark white bike.

18 August 2013

You Never Know Where You'll Find One

Here's another example of a bike that, as I rode by it, caught my eye for a reason I couldn't discern until I stopped to look:

It's a Motobecane mixte from the early 1980's--the "Nobly" model, I believe.  I assembled and sold a few of them back in the day. This one is a basic model, made from carbon steel tubing and with stamped dropouts that don't have a threaded "ear" to mount a derailleur.  If I recall correctly, it came with a Huret Eco derailleur, mounted with a "claw", as derailleurs often were on low- to mid-level ten- and twelve-speeds.

One thing I know, though, is that it didn't come with this component:

By the time this Motobecane was made, very few (if any) off-the-shelf bikes came equipped with the Specialtes TA Vis-5 (commonly called the "Cyclotouriste") crankset.  By the 1980's, even European touring bikes were coming with more modern triple cranksets from Stronglight, Sugino and Shimano, which didn't require as many mounting bolts--and, by which time, offered just about the same range of gears--as the TA. 

It's also incongruous to see the crank on this particular model because it was intended as a "sport" or "ville" bike.  While a few Rene Herse city bikes were equipped with TA Cyclotouriste cranksets (particularly if the owner lived in a hilly city), a bike like the one in the photo was more likely to have a double or single chainwheel in front.  

(For the record, I'm almost entirely sure that the bike in the photo originally had a Japanese-made Sakae Ringyo (SR) crankset.)

What I find really incongruous, though, is the fact that the TA crankset, which is intended for triple and wide-range double chainwheels, used as a single-speed.  It's a bit like using a Swiss Army knife to open a candy bar wrapper.

I wonder whether the bike's owner, or whoever installed the crankset (the same person?), realizes that he or she could sell the crankset on eBay for more than what he or she could get for the rest of the bike.

12 July 2013

Christo, Bike Burritos and a Peugeot P8

By now, you've seen the Bike Burritos I attach to Arielle and Tosca when I don't need a larger bag.

Now I'm going to ask a question you'd probably never ask: What might a bike look like if it were finished to match my Burritos?

Well, it's not an exact match, but you get the idea.  I saw the bike parked in Tribeca, near the home of the Film Festival named for the neighborhood.

If you look closely, you realize the bike wasn't painted in that pattern:

The "finish" seems to be some kind of contact- or wall-paper wrapped around the frame tubes.

From the unwrapped parts of the bike, I guessed that it's a Peugeot P8 from around 1983.  I feel confident in saying that because I assembled dozens of them while working at Highland Park Cyclery.

Now I know what one of those bikes might have looked like if the creator of the Bike Burrito and Christo had collaborated!