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.