Thursday, December 31, 2009

Farewell to a wonderful year!

2009 was one of the greats, at least in my book.

We rented bikes in Brugge and Diekirch, found a friendly and helpful LBS, went on a CL bike-buying binge, discovered the fun of riding as a family and had a wonderful time.  My work situation allowed our little cyclist to enjoy 1.9 stay-at-home parents and we enjoyed every day.

Heck, even the broken collarbone was an adventure and not without its measure of laughs.

Thanks to each of you who read this blog or even check it now and then.  Here's wishing you a happy, healthy and joyous 2010!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Your opinion, please...

One day before too long, my Nishiki commuter is going to get a new saddle.  I keep delaying the move for a couple of reasons: the vintage mattress saddle is comfortable and no longer squeaks; my self-imposed bike-budget chill-out is still in effect; and I can't decide which color saddle to get.

I'm 99 percent sure I want a Brooks B67.  Maybe a B68.  But the question is, black or antique brown?

As you consider, keep in mind it's likely to have shellacked cork grips on the north road bars.  The twine grips on there now are fun, but less-than-ideal in terms of comfort and durability -- the stiff shellacked unit keeps cracking and becoming two or three separate mini-grips.  Not a big deal, but cork grips would be a maintenance-free solution.

So, all you Lovely Bicycle admirers, chic cyclists and others who know a thing or two about what looks good... black or brown?

used and abused

I've wondered from time to time how my gorgeous Basil panniers would hold up to years of use.  While I think they're certainly drizzle-proof, they make no claims of being designed to hold up to downpours, outdoor storage or years of Sacramento's merciless sunshine.

Today, locked up outside Tower Cafe, was a demonstration of what the Basil Kavan IIs might look like after all of the above.

They were faded, to be sure, and had lost some of their shape.  Still, they were fairly presentable.

A couple of factors led me to conclude that these bags had been subject to the harshest of tests.  First, they were on a bike that despite being only a couple of years old at the most (the Schwinn Coffee), looked like it had been through the wringer. 

Secondly, they were locked up pretty snug.  While this proves nothing, the practiced use of a cable running through the bag straps, saddle rail and finally the u-lock seemed to suggest they're in the hands of a downtown apartment dweller who has to protect them from prolonged absence by the owner.

Perhaps I assume too much.

When I first saw the locking technique, I thought the owner had missed something.  Upon closer inspection, though, I realized that if you unstrapped the bags, they'd still be cable-locked to the saddle and and u-lock.  Here's a closer look:

The way I figure it, this outcome of weathering is the worst that can happen.  With even a modicum of care, my Basil bags should be looking fit and trim for years to come.

Does anyone have first-hand experience over the years?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Wishing everyone who reads this a blessed and happy Christmas and a wonderful 2010.

Under the tree for me this year was a handmade scrapbook chronicling my year in bikes, from our rental bikes in Bruges to the bike-buying frenzy that has only recently slowed.  My lovely wife also procured a 1945 edition of "50 Years of Schwinn-Built Bicycles -- The Story of the Bicycle and Its Contribution To Our Way of Life, 1895-1945."  It's a beautiful book with hand-drawn illustrations of the early Schwinn models and a thorough history of the company at Peoria and Lake streets in Chicago.

Pix to follow soon.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

My homage to EcoVelo

A while back, EcoVelo posted a neat roundup of tips to make the bike-or-car decision easier in the months when a heated car is pretty tempting.

As good as the tips were, I was struck by the fact that EcoVelo and I seemed to be sharing a common dog!  The photo illustrating his "ready, set, go" technique of keeping a bike at the ready showed a pooch that was almost indistinguishable from our Bessie -- at least from the back.

So here, in a holiday tribute to one of my favorite biking blogs, is the Bessie (and Laddie) version of ready, set, go.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Ow! Ow! A double?

Since my big fall I've read about a million stories of cyclists breaking a collarbone.  I'm actually pleased to have x-ray proof that I'm in this elite club.

But this week, Polish racer Maciek Bodnar upped the ante considerably with the rare double clavicle break.  Yikes.  At least I had one hand to use for everyday tasks.

Read about the break here

Using the Basil panniers

To me, the Dutch-made Basil Kavan II panniers are the best-looking rear-mounted bags available. The natural canvas and brown leather make for a very classic, handsome look.  Whichever bike I put them on instantly becomes the most Euro-authentic-looking member of the stable.

Here, for example, is Takumashi, my Nishiki Citisport, magically transformed into a something you'd expect to see rolling home to an English cottage from a quick spin to the greengrocer.

What's more, they're huge.  Forty one liters of capacity mean a shopping cart full of groceries can disappear into them without spilling over. After a few uses, the leather straps become a bit more flexible, and practice makes the user much quicker and getting in and closing them.

On a recent trip to the grocery store, I placed a full paper bag of groceries into each side.  There was plenty of room left over at the top -- I could have easily divided another full bag between the two bags, maybe even a fourth.

The only thing that comes close to a drawback on these bags is a question of practicality.  First, they're attractive enough to be a bit of a theft magnet... or at least that's my assumption.  I wouldn't want to leave them on a bike left out of sight for more than a short bit.  And, while they're not particularly difficult to install or remove (with a bit of practice), it's simply not realistic to think you'll be able to pop them off and take them into the store with you.

They fasten to a rear rack -- and to chain stays and/or fender struts by good old-fashioned leather straps.  This means they'll go on racks tubes of any width or configuration, which cannot be said of many panniers.  One friend described the installation procedure as a "six swear word" process, but I've found myself getting quicker at swapping them out... I'm down to one or two muttered curses now.

On my first installation, I found there was a lot of leftover strap to deal with.  I couldn't seem to make it disappear the way it had in online photos and reviews I'd seen.  So, I emailed the sales staff at Basil to ask their advice.  I received a friendly answer within a day (in the flawless English that is universal in Holland) with useful suggestions and genuinely warm wishes on my new purchase. That kind of service makes the bags even prettier, in my book.

I wish I could find more occasions to use them.  Determined to find one, a few days ago I put them on Blaise (the Mercier mixte) and set off for the grocery store.

This is Blaise with the Basils empty.

And here they are fully loaded with everything from a six pack of soda to a big box of spring mix.

Any suggestions for how I get more use out of these gorgeous panniers?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Predator on the trail

Bike mentor Dave offered sage advice when asked about riding the dodgy stretech of trail between the River and downtown Sacramento:  "Just ride like a predator, man."

I'm not 100 percent sure what that looks like, but I think of it every time i ride the pedestrian/bike bridge and the camping area immediately south of the river.

And I thought of it this morning when I shared the trail with a real, live predator.

This wasn't the actual guy, but you get the idea.  He wasn't quite as bold as the pair I encountered in October (read about that bizarre event here) but he wasn't as shy as I expected either.  He loped across the trail a dozen yards in front of me and then stopped to watch me go by.  I clanged away on the brass Crane bell, and it did seem to produce a flinch, so who knows.

Yes, I'm fully aware that coyote attacks are exceedingly rare, (although not unknown) but I rode faster from that point on... like a predator.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


All I can say is, don't try to put one past Filigree!  Despite my poor photographs and some confusing distractions, the Lovely Bicycle enthusiast spotted the minor adjustment to "Lucky" that has made a big difference in the pleasure associated with riding this handsome bike.

Here's a closer look at the surgery locale:

The crew at Peak Adventures tried valiantly to fit the SKS fenders under the snug-fitting brake mounts on the Corsaro.  Alas, even the narrow 35mm fenders rubbed to a distracting degree.  Finally, the tough decision was made to trim the fender behind the brake mount.  It's a different look, but not one that most would notice at a glance.  But it's well worth it... Lucky now rides smoothly and silently.

Maybe this bike is lucky after all.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Minor surgery

I will admit there have been times when I was worried about the bike I bought on Friday the 13th.

I named him "Lucky" to stave off any bad ju-ju, but when the plan to resurrect my wrecked Specialized on the new frame didn't work out (read about that here) and then the fenders proved to be a monumental puzzle... well, I was thinking the name wasn't enough to stand up against an onslaught of minor setbacks and headaches.

Here's how he looked when he came home (the first time):

And here's how he looked when he came home yesterday afternoon from minor surgery:

Notice anything different?  It's very minor, but it changed Lucky from a bike I felt sad about to one I'm going to love to ride.  Hint: he's a lot quieter now.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Cool stuff you don't find in a car

When you drive a car, there tends to be one obvious and self-evident route to your destination.  I figure in the 10 years I've lived north of downtown, I've made the trip something like 2,000 times.  And probably 1,980 of those trips involved the same roads each time.

On a bike, though, the route isn't so pre-ordained.  Too much traffic on 16th Street?  Skip through the Salvation Army parking lot to 17th... or 18th so the park doesn't get in the way.  For me the best route is seldom the most direct, but rather the least trafficked or the most scenic.  Although, it must be said that "scenic" is a term seldom applied to approaching downtown Sacramento from the north.  "Pungent" and "A little scary," yes... "scenic," not so much.

It was on just this kind of bike route that I rediscovered one of the coolest businesses in Sacramento.  The New Roma bakery is tucked off the main streets in a residential neighborhood that long ago lost its luster.  It wasn't positioned to draw customers from the highway, but to serve the families in the houses alongside it.

It's a relic from another time... when you bought cakes or loaves from the people who made them that same day.

On Friday, I rode with Jan to her downtown hair appointment.  While she was at the salon, I pedaled over to New Roma for a sandwich, a coffee and a long sit in one of the white resin chairs sitting outside the front window.  I ate my lunch, watched the kids play at recess in the school across the street and took in the sights for an hour.  I planned to buy dessert, but couldn't manage another bite after two "samples" offered by the ladies behind the counter -- baseball-sized hunks of cake; chocolate raspberry and half-and-half.

It was an awesome way to pass the time.  I felt like Tony Soprano sitting outside Satriale's, except without my crew and with (slightly) less fear of being whacked.  And it was a great experience I'd have missed entirely had I been in a car instead of on my bike.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Age quod agis!

Yesterday, nothing went right when I tried to ride to a lunch appointment.  It took an eternity to find the right replacement tube, the mislaid tire levers, and a strap to attach the pump and lock.  Even topping off the tires was a complicated mess.  Blood pressure rising, I discovered the hammer on my new brass bell was bent, so I stopped to fix that.  When I finally started off, it only took a block for the fender rubbing to become unbearable.  Time to switch bikes.

Bike No. 2 had a flat.  I fought with the tire (Schwinn size #@^*% that is almost impossible to get on or off the rim) and finally decided to move on to bike No. 3.  I made it two blocks this time before the sound of the cogs sliding on the pie plate became infuriating.

"I finally said to hell with the whole idea, got in the car and drove to lunch."
I finally said to hell with the whole idea, got in the car and drove to lunch.  Creeping around in the back of my brain was a thought of putting an end to all this bike nonsense.  Of course, I didn't mean it, but it was a surprisingly negative feeling considering how much better I've felt since I've started riding -- and buying -- bikes.

So today, I thought it was important that I get on a bike and ride.  Just for the fun of riding.  I'd pick a bike I knew would work...  one with an internal gear hub, to eliminate even the whisper of chain noise.  Five miles later, and all was well with me and the bikes again.

Sometimes, you have to ride just to ride, I decided.

It may very well be that I am the last person in the world to have encountered this Zen koan, but I thought it was kind of cool that I came across it today, the day of my "just ride to ride" discovery. 

Five students of a Zen master was back from the market on their bicycles. As they dismounted, their master asked : Why are you riding your bicycles ?"

Each of them came up with different answers to their master's query.

The first student said "It is the bicycle that is carrying the sack of potatoes. I am glad that my back has escaped the pain of bearing the weight"

The master was glad and said : " You are a smart boy. When you become old you will be saved of a hunch back unlike me"

The second student had a different answer. " I love to have my eyes over the trees and the sprawling fields as I go riding"

The teacher commended : "You have your eyes open and you see the world"

The third disciple came up with yet a different answer : " When I ride I am content to chant 'nam myoho renge kyo'"

The master spoke words of appreciation " Your mind will roll with ease like a newly trued wheel"

The fourth disciple said : "Riding my bicycle in live in perfect harmony of things"

The pleased master said " You are actually riding the golden path of non-harming or non violence"

The fifth student said " I ride my bicycle to ride my bicycle"

The master walked up to him and sat at his feet and said "I am your disciple!"

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Cool or weird?

A friend sent this link to the new "Moof" bicycle, designed in Amsterdam Sjoerd Smit and offered for sale ($600) by Areaware, a NY design firm.

(See more on the Moof here) 

At first, I was taken by the in-frame light and the recognition of the basic beauty of the commuter bike frame.

The more I look at those huge TIG welds and think about the unforgiving aluminum, the more I'm inclined to dismiss it as a designer project that will come and go without leaving much mark.  But what do I know?

Any thoughts?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Family portrait!

My brother is visiting for Thanksgiving and wanted to see all the bikes he's been reading about.  So, as long as they were all out of the garage, shed, wine room and other hiding places, it seemed like a good opportunity for a group photo.

Here are my six, plus Fiona's "Crumpets" lined up for review.  Special prize for anyone who can name each of them from left to right.  Proper, given names, please!

Please note "special prize" should not be confused with "expensive prize" or "prize of any value whatsoever."

But still, give it a go!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dad and Daughter Three Speed Adventures!

At last, the Kid's Raleigh is back from a lovingly performed restoration by the bike shop at MLK High School in Davis and its mensch of a teacher, Theo.

Here's the short version of the story: I bought a woman's Raleigh Sports on Craigslist for about $50.  The chainguard said "Colt," but everything else screamed Sports.  Hub is a 1968, but bike may be a year or three older.

I took it to Theo, who was eager to restore it for a very reasonable donation to the school's bike shop program.  A week or two later, Theo called with bad news.  "I feel like a surgeon," he said.  "The farther I get into this, the clearer it's becoming that the patient isn't going to make it."  The head was "ovaled," and even persistent hammering was unlikely to make it right again.  He thought I might want to pull the plug before he sprang for the new wheel, brake and other parts.  I agreed.

To my surprise, The Kid was more than disappointed.  I tried to interest her in other bikes, including a sweet English-made Hercules, but it was clear her heart was set on the bike she'd decided to name "Crumpets."

I pause here to note that Crumpets is an awesome bike name.  OK, let's move on.

I left the bike with Theo for a while... broken collarbone, so no hurry to go fetch a bike I couldn't lift into the car and couldn't ride.  This turned out to be a good thing.  As the bike sat in Theo's shop, he had a change of heart.  He called one morning to say a student had double-dared him to prove his skills by fixing the Raleigh... surgery was back on!

A week or so later, and Crumpets came home!  New front wheel and brake... all new spokes on rear wheel... restored Sturmey Archer hub... cleaned within an inch of its life. 

The Kid was overjoyed.  She even likes the old Schwinn saddle that's there as a place holder for a better-looking one to come. 

Best of all, we've already been on three good rides together, she on Crumpets and me on my three-speed Schwinn.  Recently, we rode through the neighborhood delivering goodies she'd sold for Girl Scouts.  I rode Takumashi who, while not a three speed, still made a handsome companion to Crumpets, don't you think?  He even wore his prized Basil panniers for the occasion.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Identify this bike!

Can anyone shed some light on the heritage of this beautiful garage find?

The gorgeous stainless chain guard features "Invicta" in block letters with "Qualitas, Firmitas, Libertas" on a scroll beneath it.  The headbadge is really something... a griffin and a stag framing the company's crest.

It's pretty clearly an English roadster (or sports?) complete with Sturmey Archer three-speed hub dated 1964, dynamo lighting and fluted fenders.

I've looked up Invicta, but can't find it in any of the usual places, including Sheldon Brown's site.  So, if you know Invicta, please speak up!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

river scenes

Every once in a while I remember how fortunate I am to have a scenic commute.  I read bike commuter blogs every day that focus on dodging car doors, dealing with angry motorists and avoiding winter potholes. Although I do like riding on city streets for fun -- stopping at a bakery or farmer's market, seeing familiar neighborhoods from a new perspective -- my actual commute allows me to miss out on the daily business of sharing the road with cars.

My ride to work basically consists of following the American River for four miles until it meets up with the Sacramento River, and then following that another mile to the office.  Each day, it seems, some new variety of wildlife or some new vista presents itself.

This week, I rode into the midst of a colossal goose conference.  About 160 Canada geese were chilling on the grass near the confluence of the two rivers.  They didn't seem to be eating or doing much of anything.  Maybe just resting up for the rest of the flight south... dunno.  I read somewhere that Canada geese (not Canadian geese) are more and more likely these days to just stay put all year round.  That's certainly what I'd do if I were one.  I took a few photos of this gaggle, but like all my photos of birds, they turned out to be just a blurry collection of black dots on a green background.  I'm sparing you.

A little further down the trail, I came across a scene that is as common as any other along the river.  Every day, I pass at least a dozen men walking or riding the trail, moving to or from their sleeping spots on the banks or under the bridges.  They almost become another part of the scenery.  Every once in a while, though, a fellow's circumstances or greeting cuts through the clutter and you're reminded that the cyclists and joggers are in the minority when it comes to river trail users.

This is Wesley and his dog, Aphrodite.  Wesley greeted me warmly as I cycled near the city's water intake plant and I asked to take Aphrodite's photo.  Wesley's been in Sacramento 23 years, living outside most of that time. No hard luck story from Wesley... (although I'm sure he's had plenty of trials)... he said clearly and soberly that he just flat out prefers living outside and is unable to abide "closed in spaces," shelters included.

Like me, Wesley is trying to figure out why the past week has seemed so much colder than other Sacramento autumns in recent memory.  We shared similar tales of being baffled by feeling so cold despite temperatures that aren't any lower than in most Novembers. The stories diverged in one important way, of course.  I was talking about having to turn the heat on earlier than usual.  Wesley was talking about waking up with frost on his sleeping bag.

Finally, here's a rare bit of proof that the Sacramento remains a working river.  It's not all tourist boats and jet skis.  I don't know where this barge full of rock (or is it broken concrete?) was headed, but it was cool to see a little bit of river-based commerce survive in this century.

Friday, November 20, 2009

My brush with bikeblog fame

Earlier this year, when I started reading about bikes and cycling on line, I found a ton of web sites that reminded me of all the reasons I'd never been a "bike person" before.  Angry rants about helmets... geeked out lectures about components... endless yammering about shaving a gram here or a second there... none of it seemed to understand or speak to what I found interesting about cycling.

Slowly, though, I started to find evidence that I wasn't alone in my appreciation of beautifully designed bikes or in my belief that riding should be, first of all, fun. First one site, then another... some extolling the virtues of vintage three-speeds, others celebrating the timeless beauty of the Brooks Saddle.

But the best discovery of all was a site called EcoVelo.  (check it out here) Its creator talked about bikes in a non-judgmental, non-preachy way.  Comments and discussion were civilized. There seemed to be room and respect for casual dawdlers and racers alike. And his bikes!  Beautiful bikes... lugged, steel frames, thoughtfully designed and expertly photographed.  His product reviews were informative and unpretentious.  The bikes in his fleet are expensive, but there wasn't a trace of snobbishness in his descriptions of them. Genuine enthusiasm is contagious and each visit to EcoVelo found me thinking of a new way to accessorize -- or simply appreciate -- my growing herd of bikes.

"I never got to meet Springsteen, but I always imagined if I did, he'd be gracious, patient with my gushing praise and willing to chat about what we both liked in his songs."
As I read more entries and saw more photos, it started to dawn on me that the creator of EcoVelo rode the same bike trail I ride -- EcoVelo was local!  Then, in a stroke of luck, I met him and his lovely wife at the Tweed Ride.  Recognizing the his-and-her Pashleys, I approached as one might approach a rock star.

I never got to meet Springsteen, but I always imagined if I did, he'd be gracious, patient with my gushing praise and willing to chat about what we both liked in his songs.  So it was with Alan, Mr. EcoVelo.  He and Mrs. EcoVelo, Michael, indulged me in a lengthy chat about my bikes, their bikes, my collarbone, you name it.

Better still, Alan works a few blocks from my office and agreed to meet for lunch.  We did so today, and I learned more in an hour than I would have in a month on my own.  Here's to a genuinely good fella, and a great ambassador for cycling.

Do check out EcoVelo.  You'll see remarkable bikes, excellent photography and informed perspective... and pretty much everything from my Christmas wish list.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"Lucky" -- the rebirth of Obi (sort of)

Just about four weeks after I wrecked my beloved Specialized hybrid in a ridiculous wreck (see here) I brought home my new bike -- a 70s era Corsaro that was supposed to feature the components from the wrecked bike. Complications arose and the final product ended up including very few of the old parts. (Details here)

Nevertheless, it's a beautiful bike in its own regard.

The crew at Peak Adventures put in a huge amount of work to conquer the incompatibility of old and new parts.  Particularly vexing were the fenders.  The SKS 45s that were on the Specialized wouldn't fit, and the 35s I ordered weren't going quietly either.  Ryan,  a.k.a. "The Hammer," cut, dremeled (sp?) and fabricated until they worked.

A couple of very pleasant outcomes -- the SRAM shifters from the Specialized looked ugly on the bars of the new bike.  Thankfully, they didn't work well with the new bike's cogs and I went back to the original (and infinitely better looking) stem-mounted stick shifters.  The bike looks 100 times better without the big, black shifters on the bars.
Getting rid of the twist shifters meant losing the ugly black grips as well.  This cleared the way for cork grips, now sporting a couple coats of shellac.  Unvarnished cork grips are softer on the hands and a delight, but they get dirty almost immediately.  Two coats of clear shellac produced a rich golden color that will go very well with the Brooks B17 honey saddle I'm hoping Santa brings... for Thanksgiving.  Who can wait for Christmas when this bike so clearly demands a honey Brooks B17 Special?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Dutch bike in Davis!

This lovely Dutch bike and its lovely rider were spotted zipping to the Village Bakery in Davis Thursday. The bike is a BPS "Basic," made in Holland, purchased in the U.K., and shipped to Davis when this charming lady and her family moved back to the U.S.

Our rider was a very good sport about having her photo taken and proudly showed off her beloved BPS, complete with skirt guard, three-speed internal hub and sturdy rear rack. Mother to a 2-year-old, she has had trouble finding a compatible child seat and recently bought a trailer.

Surely there are vendors importing Dutch-made child seats, no? Basil? Any suggestions?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Easing back

Took my first ride since the fall today -- not counting a few quick laps around the block. I went about 10 miles and took it nice and easy. Just cruised along the bike trail to Discovery Park and hung out by the river for a few before heading back.

My shoulder felt fine. I wouldn't want to do a lot of off-road stuff just yet, but road cycling wasn't a problem with the swept-back handlebars on Blaise.

It was good to be back out there. The weather has been perfect for the last couple of weeks and it was driving me crazy to know that it's likely to be cold and rainy by the time I'm fully back in action. At least today I caught some of the autumn sunshine and leaves.

I think Blaise was happy to be back out there too... don't you think?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Just a little longer...

I thought I was going to bring home my new/old bike today; the still-unnamed synthesis of my beloved and wrecked Specialized and the Corsaro frame I picked up on Craigslist. As it happens, there were complications with combining the two bikes into one, and it may be another four days or so before it's ready.

As everyone but me probably knows, putting together two different eras of bicycles leads to complexity.

The Specialized 700 wheels wouldn't fit on the Corsaro frame -- axles too wide. The rear cog from the Specialized wouldn't go on the Corsaro 27" wheel -- cassette vs. freewheel. The Specialized's brakes wouldn't work with the Corsaro either. And, because the Corsaro cog was a six speed, there were issues adapting the seven-speed shifters. Same with the front, where I ended up with a three-ring shifter for a two-ring bike. If that wasn't enough, the SKS fenders (size 45) wouldn't fit either.

So, where now? Well, I ordered 35 SKS fenders for one thing. Next, the very patient Tyler at Peak Adventures walked me through a number of options before I opted for restoring the stem shifters on the Corsaro. This should eliminate the shifting problem, but may create a new one, because I remain a bit of klutz when it comes to friction shifting.

When it's all done, there will be very few traces of the Specialized on the Corsaro frame. Handlebars, rear derailleur, brake levers, bottom bracket. Visually, it'll be a completely different bike. On the plus side, I have a box full of components waiting for another frame, another chance.

Here's the Corsaro with the Specialized handlebars and rear rack. Those big black shifters will go and the bars will be much cleaner with cork grips.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sacramento Tweed Ride's debut a big success!

For a first-time event -- that only took shape over the last month or so -- the first Sacramento Tweed Ride was a huge success! About 80 riders took part in this celebration of bicycling slowly, with style and grace.

The day began at the Bicycle Kitchen, moved on to the Capitol for a group photo and then to One Speed, Bonn Lair, Revolution Wines, Hot Italian and The Rubicon.

The girls and I joined them for the launch and ogled the most beautiful bikes in Sacramento. There were brand-new Breezers, Surlys and Electras, but also a great collection of one-of-a-kind builds using vintage lugged frames and huge doses of individual style. The Pashleys from our friends at EcoVelo were stunning as were a number of vintage Raleighs, Cinellis and others.

Here's Fiona's video of the ride's start... you'll note from her commentary that she's partial to Raleighs.

Adding to the fun was the great number of good sports who donned tweed coats, plus-fours, skirts, jackets and hats... picking the best-dressed riders was no easy task.

Congratulations to the planners and organizers, and thanks to the generous sponsors. To read more about the ride and get on the list for next time, check out

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Obi's rebirth imminent!

Exciting news!

In an earlier post, I described how my Original Bike's frame was bent beyond repair.  It was time for a new bike.  To be more precise, all I really needed was a new frame.  My damaged specialized had a brand-new drive train and quality components.

I checked out frames from Soma and Pake, but in the end opted for a vintage cro-moly frame to supply the comfort and stability I was looking for.  I bought a 70s-era Corsaro on Craigslist.  Over the past couple of days, the crew at Peak Adventures has been selecting the best components from this bike and the Specialized and building a "best of" creation that should be ready by the end of the week.

Here's the Corsaro and the foundation of my new/old bike:

It's a deeper red than comes across in the photos and the trim is a very appealing gold color.  Tyler at Peak Adventures noted it's a perfect bike for a 49ers fan -- which I'm not, unfortunately.

Here's one more look from the other side.

Next time you see it, it'll have the Shimano components (or most of them) as well as my beloved fenders and rear rack.  Stay tuned!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Takumashi's mini makeover

I bought Takumashi, my Nishiki Citisport, with wide riser handlebars and cheap black foam grips.  I kept the riser bars for a while for two reasons... first, their width came in handy as it matched the width of the Basil Kavan panniers I had on the back.  I figured if I had wide handlebars, I'd be less likely to ride into spots that were too narrow for the bags on the back.  Second, I believe that a semi-upright position is better for me on some bikes.  Some weight on the hands seems to translate to more responsive steering and a little more agility.

But I finally gave it up.  They just weren't the right look for that bike.  I put on some north road bars from Pyramid and was very happy with the result.  My hands were back and in a comfortable position, but I still felt plenty of control.  The grips were another story.  I tried cork grips for a while, but they kind of shredded against the brake levers.  I was waiting for some Schwinn molded grips to arrive when I got impatient and decided to make my own grips out of twine.

I'd seen references to twining handlebars on Lovely Bicycle and one or two other spots, but I had not read enough to make this more than a shot in the dark.  I used ordinary garden twine, the stuff I use to tie my tomato plants to the stakes.  Here's a look at the grips up close.

First, let me say that I know the wrapping job is imperfect.  In fact, this was only going to be a trial run to see what I learned about wrapping, tying off the loose end, etc.  But, when I was done, I was fairly pleased and seriously doubted whether I'd do as good a job the second time around.  Besides, the knobby "mistakes" toward the end of the grip actually help -- they give a little extra grip to my hands when I'm riding uphill or just trying to find a bit more speed.

When all was said and done, I liked the result, as imperfect as it was.  I didn't want the twine to look too precise.  The color and fraying twine give it a kind of organic, bamboo-ish look that I like on my Japanese bike.

I was so pleased, I did the chain stay too.

Some shellac on the twine to solidify it and adhere it to the bars and I was done.

For a far less random, much more clearly thought-out primer on twining bars, see Lovely Bicycle here.

Friday, October 30, 2009

My Big Break

I promise to move on to new topics very soon, but this new x-ray of my shoulder was too cool to leave out.  It shows the break much more clearly than I remembered seeing it on the first set of x-rays.

That big white peninsula that goes horizontally across the top is my clavicle.  That biggish island floating offshore?  That's not supposed to be there.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

My LBS is better than your LBS

I'm sure yours is great too.  But check out this get well card from the crew at Peak Adventures.

What a thoughtful thing to do!  And how eco-responsible to recycle a birthday card for a get-well purpose... the altered message wishes me a happy "breakday."  It's signed on the inside by the best bike mechanics in town, including a thumbprint of genuine Schwinn axle grease.

These guys are great and their willingness to share their expertise has been key to my enjoyment of cycling these past six months or so.  I'm pretty sure you don't get this treatment with a department store bike.

Musician Taylor Mitchell dies after coyote attack while hiking

Musician Taylor Mitchell dies after coyote attack while hiking

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

RIP "Obi" 1993 - 2009

Yep.  It's official.  Tyler called this afternoon with good news and bad news.  The good news?  'you've been wanting to buy a new bike, and now you can." 

The bad news is this means that Obi is done.  Apparently, I bent not only the forks, but the frame itself.  It's simply not safe to ride in this fundamentally compromised condition.

Indulge me for a moment as I repeat for the umpteenth time that I really loved this bike.  Each time I bought a new/old bike, it highlighted some aspect of how Obi already was awesome.  As I kept searching for more roadster/upright style bikes, I was reminded of how nimble and responsive Obi was with the semi-upright position and riser bars.  As I sought out lugged steel, it pointed me back to Obi's great mixture of cro-moly comfort and lightness.  Lately, I'd even started to appreciate the color... a kind of purplish burgundy.

I bought it at City Bicycle Works in 1994, I think -- no later than 1995, in any case.  I remember that both my bike and girlfriend were quite new on some morning rides through Land Park and I know that this particular girlfriend (a cute little reporter from the Bee!) came into my life in 1995.  My friend Dave Valdez -- a bike cop and candidate for World's Nicest Guy -- took me to his favorite bike shop and made sure I got the right bike for my size and plans.  I rode it off and on over the next decade and a half, but it was in the last six months that Obi found his groove.  See my earlier post on "Making My Specialized More Belgian."

More later on the task ahead -- rescuing the brand-new components, choosing a frame and building a new bike.  But tonight, I just want to be sad about Obi. Here's one more look... didn't he look proud of his new fenders and drive train?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Fall -- Aftermath

I can't end this story without mentioning our Bike Trail Good Samaritan, Frank.  Jan and I stopped Frank to ask him the name of the access road we were on so Jan could find it in the car.  Frank did far better than supply the name. He stopped his ride, checked me over for signs of a concussion, etc., and insisted on staying with me while Jan fetched the car.  At the time, I thought this was unnecessary, but it's clear to me now that I wouldn't have done that well left on my own with the post-accident adrenaline coursing through my system.  There's every chance I'd have freaked out -- or passed out -- without Frank chatting away about bikes, jobs and coyotes.  Thank you, Frank. 

Now for the damages.  We went straight to my doctor's office and from there to the x-ray lab.  There, the looks on the faces of the techs told me our medical visits weren't over for the day.  Both our techs were too professional to diagnose for me, but when they stare at the monitor somberly, point at it and then look at each other, you know there's something there.  If I needed another clue, it came when one of the techs suggested we take the x-rays with us "in case" my doctor wanted me to see a specialist "right away."

After a little prodding, that's exactly what happened.  I was squeezed onto the schedule of an orthopedic specialist who told me I'd joined the legions of cyclists who have broken a clavicle.  Treatment consists of wearing a splint and waiting about 8 weeks for the bone to knit itself back together.  No surgery, no complicated harnesses and no special postures or regimens.  Just get used to left-handed life and be patient.

Six days later, I've regained a great deal of mobility in my right shoulder.  There are plenty of things I can't do -- mostly involving moving my elbow too far from my ribs -- but an increasing number of things I can.  And, I'm getting very good at brushing my teeth, shaving and eating as a lefty.

But enough about me.  How, you ask, did the bike come through all this?

Not good, it turns out.  In the immediate aftermath, I was convinced my front wheel had merely turned 180 degrees (or 360) and become jammed under the frame.  Now, it's clear that I bent the forks to a ridiculous degree. 

Here's a "before" photo:

And here's an after:

Hmmm...  something's different here, but what?

Jan's taking "Obi" to my LBS friends tomorrow.  I'm afraid they may look at it solemnly, point at the forks and then look at each other... like the x-ray techs did.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Fall (Part Two)

So there I was, pacing around my bent bicycle and arguing with myself over whether I was seriously hurt or simply inconvenienced.

At times, I was sure I was fine. I was using both hands pretty freely, going so far as to make a couple of attempts to twist the front wheel back into position so I could ride away. At other times, a kind of nauseated, panicky feeling kept rising up, telling me something was very wrong.

The thoughts that come into your head at these times can be very strange. At one point, I looked down the access road and thought how nice it would be to sit and watch the river for a while. At another, I noticed a huge flight of cedar waxwings and made a note to tell Jan about them when she arrived. In between these moments, the memory of why I was standing there would return, like a hot flush over my cheeks.

All the while, I was aware that my senses were kind of overloaded and that things were, well, a bit weird.

So at first, it didn't strike me as odd that a pale German shepherd was trotting through the brush by itself. It was perhaps 50 yards away and I noticed a woman with a jogging stroller another 20 yards or so past him. That's her dog, I figured... she should have him on a leash.

Then I saw the woman stop in her tracks, look at the creature and turn on her heel. She sped the stroller back down the trail much quicker than she'd arrived. That's when I saw the shepherd's partner, or to my eye, identical twin. And then I became aware of the pair's funny, slinking gait.

The front of my brain said there was no way these could be coyotes. They were simply too big. The back of my brain -- the part that kept trying to get the attention of the idiot who thought he was going to climb back on his bike in a second and ride off -- said they were coyotes, freakishly large coyotes. Or, more to the point, predators. Predators who were about to cross paths with an injured bi-ped.

The argument in my head found a higher gear:

They're more scared of me than I am of them, right? Of course they are. They won't come anywhere near me. Except they kind of are getting closer. I'll just stand up really tall and wave my hands over my head... wait, I think that's for mountain lions. And I don't think I can really raise my right arm, come to think of it. I read somewhere about putting your bike between you and an attacking dog. But these aren't dogs. And do I want to rely on advice from a biking blog? It was probably written by some fixed-gear hippie who knows f- all about dogs. And less about giant coyotes.

The two beasts trotted in a diagonal line across my path. Fortunately, they seemed to be heading across the access road and into another swath of brush along the trail. They weren't going to attack after all. I had been silly to even consider...

Wait. Shit. He's coming this way. That's pretty close. That's like 20 yards. Where's the bike again? How'd I get that far from the bike? That was dumb. I'll just discreetly step over toward it... He's stopping. He's looking at me.

He stood in the middle of the access road and considered me for a moment. Then he made his move.

His move was not a sprint or a lunge, but a squat. Right there in the middle of the road -- maintaining eye contact, mind you -- the beast did his beastly business, leaving an impressive pile on the solid yellow lines. Then he trotted off into the brush.

Now, I am not a shaman or a mystic, but I know a horrible omen when I see one. And as omens go, this has to be one of the all-time worst. I'm pretty sure that when Mother Nature wants to really give you the finger, she sends a giant coyote to come and stare you down while it takes a dump. It's her way of saying, "you're not in town now, smart boy... you're not in charge of anything out here."

There and then, the argument in my head was over. I was hurt. I needed help and I was going to take it.

(coming soon... Part Three -- Diagnosis, Denouement and Lessons Learned)

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Fall (Part One)

On Wednesday, Jan and I drove to the William Pond Recreation Area and set off on our bikes to explore an eastern stretch of the American River Bike Trail. It was a perfect autumn morning and we were both taken with how much prettier this stretch of the trail is than the section closer to our home. After about six miles, timekeeper Jan indicated it was time to turn around and head back. I let her ride on ahead a bit as I dawdled behind.

After a couple of miles, I realized I was lagging way behind enjoying the scenery and wildlife, and that it was time to catch up. At the intersection of the path and an access road, the path began a long, lazy curve, enabling me to see riders who were a quarter-mile or more ahead. I scanned this group for Jan's bright green pullover with no success.

I glanced back to the trail in front of me and got two suprises, one small and one large. The small surprise was that I had drifted toward the center line of the bike path. No big deal, as no one was approaching in the other direction. The large surprise? The center of the path at this mini intersection was marked by a pole, three feet high, but no more than a couple of inches in diameter.

It was instantly apparent to me that I was going to hit this pole. There was no time to evade it, but there was time, strangely, to formulate the strong hope that it was a pole of the flimsy, break-away variety and that I would blast through it with only a wince and a clatter.

It wasn't and I didn't. In an instant, I was flying off the right side of the bicycle. Before I hit the pavement, another strangely lucid thought presented itself. This, I thought, is a real fall. This is not the embarrassing but harmless kind of fall I'd experienced before when my foot got stuck between the bike and a curb and I toppled like a felled redwood. Nope, this is the real deal, I thought, and whatever happens, I will have been in a real bicycle accident from this moment forward.

After that, no more thoughts. Just disconnected events. I was aware that I hit on my right shoulder, hard. I was aware of a small bounce of the helmet against the pavement and I remember feeling pleased at myself for wearing one. I remember getting to my feet instantly and pulling the bike off the path, but I'm not sure if this was done to protect myself from being run over, to protect other cyclists, or -- more likely -- to erase evidence of the embarrassing episode.

Because, really, a pole? Who hits a pole in the middle of the path? And yes, it was a bright yellow one. No pothole, no deer, no wet leaves... just one pole and one stupid rider.

In light of what I know now about my injury, the stuff that happened next is pretty remarkable to me. I paced around for a bit, fluctuating between total denial ("this did not happen, did not happen...") and the growing sense that I might be hurt for real. Still, I was convinced that after I caught my breath, I'd be able to get on the bike and catch up to Jan. The front wheel seemed stuck somehow, but in a minute, I'd gather the strength to wrench it free and be on my way. I even politely shooed away a couple of would-be helpers, assuring them I was 100 percent fine.

After another few minutes, the "I'm hurt" side of the internal debate was getting the upper hand and I decided to call Jan. After scaring her to death with the first, brief call, I called again, to tell her it wasn't that bad, but to come anyway. I hung up and waited for her to arrive.

And then things got really weird.

(Tune in next time for Part Two -- The Interlopers)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Rain riding, part two

Another rainy day and another chance to see if the fun of cycling is worth getting wet.

  • It was a soft day, gentle rain, calm winds and not cold.
  • I wasn't commuting and so faced no time pressure.
  • The experience is still novel for me.
I loved it. I was dry and happy in rain pants and jacket. The SKS fenders performed perfectly. My feet and face were a bit wet, but an extra pair of shoes and socks in the rack bag would have solved that problem, had this been an actual commute.

I think the best part is the solitude. I rode maybe 11 miles and saw two other cyclists and two runners. Company was provided by a covey of quail, a dole of doves, a rafter of turkeys and a tiding of magpies.

Plus, when it's raining, anyplace can look like Ireland. Here's a few seconds of the ride, featuring the turkeys and a wonderfully quiet spot along the American River.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Number five

I've been looking at a lot of three-speeds lately. I've really fallen for the vintage Raleighs, with their straightforward design, upright position, and fluted fenders. I've even tiptoed into a few Ebay bidding wars over some of them. Along the way, I found a beautiful old Raleigh Sports with the Little One in mind. I took it to a new friend in Davis who runs a high school shop class and loves three-speeds himself. It should be returning home in another week or so with new brakes, shifter and front wheel.

While at his shop, I found myself transfixed by this Schwinn Racer.

It began to occur to me how similar this particular Schwinn is to the Raleigh Sports models I've been coveting. Same design and setup. Same Sturmey Archer three-speed hub. And while "made in England" is a pretty cool attribute of the old Raleighs, "made in Chicago" is, well, maybe even cooler in my book. They came in vibrant, American colors and just look faster.

This one was made in July 1970. It's a more intense blue than comes through in this photo, and it shifts and rides smoothly. It's a pleasure to ride and fun to look at, too. It is unnamed as yet, so suggestions are welcome. I keep thinking of Chicago-based names, but our beloved Berwyn took the best one of those with her to cat Heaven this summer.

Family rides

Our little cyclist's new acquisition, a Magna mountain bike from the UCD Davis bike auction, hit the trail for the first time Saturday. I bought a seat post, scavenged a saddle from her old bike and had Peak Adventures add a new shifter and rear derailleur. The Little One is new to shifting gears, but after a few test rides and a few discussions ("Think of the left shifter as changing families and the rear shifter as changing the kids in each family"), she's riding smoothly and keeping up nicely.

This development opens up a lot more family bike ride options for us. On Saturday, Dad and daughter rode to Acorn Day at the California State Indian Museum. The Little One was a star acorn grinder and mush-maker.

On Sunday, Mom joined us and we made a circuit of the downtown area... we started at New Roma Bakery for coffee and rolls outside, moved on to the Capitol to read under the trees, and then rode home via Old Sac and the American River Bike Trail.

Here's Mom and The Little One, along with Fusion (the Magna) and Blanche (Mom's white Schwinn.)