Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Good Pesach!

We're second-night folk this year and our honored guest is Father Mike, a newfound friend and Jesuit priest.

Here's wishing everyone a blessed and joyous Passover.

Monday, March 29, 2010

More tweed

Me and my chum, about to depart for the ride.  If you look between my right arm and hip, you can just see the tiniest bit of the picnic basket mounted on the rear rack of the Superbe.  It looked smashing... sorry it didn't make the photo.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sacramento Tweed Ride!

Sacramento held its third and largest Tweed Ride today, a sunny, happy spin through downtown and along the Sacramento River.

There were, I dunno, 150 of us or so.  Dozens of gorgeous bikes including vintage three speeds, timeless racers, elegant Dutch city bikes, a couple of pre-war cruisers and a slew of Rivendell beauties.

My favorite of all the bikes was the nearly identical twin of my beloved Raleigh Superbe.  It was nearly the same bike -- 1969 instead of 72-74 and that awesome wine color instead of brown. 

More pics to come, but here's a quick look at how the day will be remembered around our house.  Fiona hit a patch of uneven pavement and her Raleigh Sports went out from under her.  She was completely focused on not bringing me and the other riders down with her, she bounced back up immediately (although it was clear it really, really hurt) and she got back on the bike in a minute or two and finished the ride!  So proud of that girl!!

Here's Fiona's Tweed Ride trophy being attended to by Rick Houston, the leader of the Tweedies and perhaps the nicest man you could hope to meet.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Huffy Sportsman 3 speed

Every time I read a post from someone looking for a commuter bike for "under $600" or the like, I want to yell, "haven't you heard of Craigslist?"

Here's a 1960s Huffy Sportsman that has everything I'm looking for in a commuter bike.  It has three speeds, which is all you need in flat Sacramento.  It has a rear rack for mounting panniers or a grocery basket.  It has fenders for rainy days, north road bars for an upright riding position and it's as solid as a tank. 

And, it's listed for sale for $100.  One hundred dollars!  Think how many fewer tears you'd shed when this gets stolen than if the same fate befell your $800 Breezer...

It's offered by Vintage Bicycle Supply in Sacramento, a shop that always has something worth seeing and riding.  Check it out here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Re-thinking my indifference to speed

Even the briefest examination of this blog makes clear that my brand of cycling has very little to do with going fast.  For me, it's all about comfort and the beauty of the bike itself.  Of my seven bikes, two seem to have been built to be fairly quick; the other five are solid, steady and not particularly speedy.

For those times when I want to get where I'm going quickly, I'll hop on "Lucky," my 1970s Corsaro 12 speed, or "Binshou," a Nishiki mixte 10 speed.  All other times find me on something you'd call a "city" or "commuter" or "touring" bike.

Today, I had the chance to ride a bike that was manufactured to be light -- by the standards of the 1980s -- and I was startled at the different experience it offered.  I stopped by Vintage Bicycle Supply in Sacramento to see what was new... or old.  When I picked up this Centurion Le Mans 12 speed, I couldn't believe how light it felt.

Granted, after pulling my Raleigh Superbe in and out of the garage, many bikes would feel pretty light by comparison.  But this bike felt lighter than my lightest by a long shot.

I left my Raleigh at VBS and took the Centurion for a spin through the park.  The tiniest effort resulted in speed.  Pushing it even a little, I quickly found myself going as fast as I was comfortable going on two wheels. 

It was a blast.  I may have to re-think this whole "speed doesn't matter" thing.  I mean, you're still not going to see me in a Lycra spacesuit astride a carbon fiber bike, but I will have to acknowledge that maybe those road cyclists tearing up the bike path may be on to something... going fast is fun.

The Centurion Le Mans dates to the early or mid 1980s.  Its lightness comes from Japanese-made Tange CroMoly steel. Mike at Vintage Bike Supply has it tuned nicely.  It shifts smoothly, brakes effectively and handles well, despite being about 20 pounds lighter than my Schwinn or Raleigh.

Mike's asking $150 for this ready-to-ride beauty.  You can find it and other classic bikes here.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Bicycles make people happy

One of my favorite depictions of the simple pleasure of riding a bicycle...

See it here.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A polite question

I'm serious about the polite part...  I don't want to invite another round of invective between casual cyclists/commuters and road/race cyclists.  I think it's safe to say we've heard all the anecdotes, slurs and insults by now from both sides.

But here's the question:

On the bike trail, I often am passed by a faster cyclist -- typically on a road bike and often in racing gear.  In something like 80 percent of these instances, the passing cyclist says nothing and makes no noise to warn me of his impending pass.  Sometimes I get a little hint of chain noise as a warning, but often the passing bike is remarkably quiet and my first indication of the passing cyclist is his appearance on my left.

Of these silent passes, a good many feature the faster cyclist moving all the way into the left lane, leaving me plenty of room and inflicting no harm other than the sometimes unsettling surprise of another ride appearing out of nowhere -- it's not always obvious that enough room was granted until the incident is over.

You're safe here, faster cyclist... tell me what you're thinking when you pass and I'll listen respectfully.

At other times, however, the passing cyclist shares the narrow bike lane I'm in and passes me with less than a foot between us.  This, I say with no pride, enrages me and often triggers loud and ungentlemanly remarks on my part. As you might guess, this process does little to improve my day or theirs.

OK, the question is getting closer, I promise.

It's starting to dawn on me that this happens too often to be explained by the convenient suggestion that all who are guilty of silent passing are sociopaths.  Fully half of those who earn my rebuke react to it with genuine-looking shock and dismay.  I suspect they go home to happy, balanced families and productive, charitable lives and later write in their blogs about the psychotic commuter they encountered who seems to suffer from Tourette's Syndrome.

So...  why not issue some kind of warning to the cyclist you're about to pass? 

The question isn't rhetorical.  I ask it fully ready to learn that there may be decent reasons why what strikes me as basic courtesy is in fact an unreasonable request.  Perhaps these racing cyclists pass so many slow ones that announcing "on your left" each time is too much to ask?  Or their confidence in their skills allows them to know that the margin I find distressingly close is, in fact, ample?  Or perhaps they used to ring a bell or say something but have learned that iPod earbuds are so common as to make this an archaic practice?

I'm not trying to answer the question...  I'm just offering some of the guesses that have occurred to me.

I'm genuinely interested in any thoughts road cyclists (or those who love them) have on this matter. I promise to vigilantly guard against insults or abuse from either side.  You're safe here, faster cyclist... tell me what you're thinking when you pass and I'll listen respectfully.

In the meantime, I'm going to continue my practice of heaping gratitude on those cyclists who do warn of their presence.  And, I'm going to work harder at suffering the other ones silently.  Or, if not silently, as least a little less profanely.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

This is Thomas MacDonagh, known in the Aran Islands as Fear an Rothar, or the "man on a bicycle."

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Family three-speed outing

It took a while for our busy schedules and the weather to get in synch, but today we finally accomplished a three-person ride using only vintage three-speed bicycles.

This was our first outing since Jan became the latest to join the three-speed club with the receipt of her Schwinn Breeze back in February. 

We rode to Old Sacramento for the St. Patrick's Day festivities and a late lunch at the Courtyard D'Oro, where Simon prepared corned beef and cabbage for the holiday.  If you're looking for a quality, tasty lunch at very reasonable prices, I highly recommend Courtyard.

We're pictured above after the ride home.  Bikes, from left to right are my Raleigh Superbe, Fiona's Raleigh Sports and Jan's Schwinn Breeze.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Anybody see a date on here?

OK, the photo is awful... too bright and too many reflections.  I'll try again in better conditions.

But even then you're not going to see a date on this Sturmey Archer hub.  There's a tiny mark that sometimes looks like a 9 and sometimes looks like a nick in the steel.  Other than that, I can find no date on this hub, which is on my Raleigh Superbe.

Anybody see something I'm missing?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Varsity Three-Speed in Old Sac


Parked next to the oldest schoolhouse in California today was the oldest Schwinn Varsity I've ever seen.  It's a three-speed model that looks a great deal like the Raleighs of the same era... down to the fluted, two-tone, English-style fenders.

I'd seen old photos of the Paramount in this familiar three-speed configuration, but I never knew the Varsity once looked this way.

One thing I hadn't seen before was this Brooks saddle.  It felt like leather, but looked more like vinyl.  The Brooks name was stamped into the vinyl rather than on an attached plate.  I didn't have time to examine it too closely, but I couldn't help wondering if it wasn't maybe a knockoff...

Still, saddle mystery aside, it's a cool bike.

Beautiful Omega 12-speed

I'm trying to learn that I don't have to own every beautiful bike I see.  Sometimes, it has to be enough to admire the bike and move on.

But this Omega is testing my resolve.  If I had seen it a few months or few bikes ago, I would have made a case for owning it.  As it is, I will post it here in hopes that someone nearby buys it and lets me look at it now and then.  It's amazingly clean and appears to be in brand-new condition.

I've bought from this seller before and have found his product descriptions accurate.  He also delivered the bike to me and waited patiently while I had my mechanic check it out.  So, if this Omega catches your eye and you don't yet have a full garage, give him a call.

You can see the Craigslist posting here.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Good deed again fails to go unpunished

I like to think I was always a considerate driver when it came to sharing the road with cyclists.  In any case, after becoming a bicycle commuter myself and surviving a ridiculous number of truly scary brushes with cars, I certainly am a careful and generous road sharer these days.

So I was more than a little surprised to find myself the target of a cyclist's wrath this morning.

The guy in question cycles past my house to the post office every day at about 10 and a little while later, rides back on the same street with a front basket full of mail.  I've always assumed he's picking up mail for a nearby business.

"There," I thought.  "What a good motorist am I.  I can hardly wait for Karma to bring me some wonderful cycling fortune in return for this act of... Wait.  Did the dude just yell at me?"
As I was about to pull away from the curb this morning, I saw the mailbike guyin the rear view mirror and didn't pull away until he was well past so I wouldn't interfere with him in the least.  Then, because there was no need to drive faster than he was cycling on the residential street, I stayed behind him and let him have as much of the lane as he wanted.  I even gave him an extra cushion so he wouldn't have that menacing feeling of a car breathing down his neck. 

When the road widened, I pulled into the OTHER LANE and passed him as though he were a car.  I'd estimate there were a good nine feet between my fender and his bike.

"There," I thought.  "What a good motorist am I.  I can hardly wait for Karma to bring me some wonderful cycling fortune in return for this act of... Wait.  Did the dude just yell at me?"

He did.  It was indecipherable, but it was pretty clearly not, "Thanks!"  It was an angry outburst, much like the ones I send after motorists who graze my panniers at 50 mph.  My wife and I looked at each other, puzzled.

"You gave him a TON of room," my wife said.

"Yeah, I did," I said, still confused. 

When we came to a stop sign -- that he blew right through -- he unveiled Chapter Two of his soliloquoy, complete with the international sign for "look how tall my finger is!"

It took me a few minutes to quit trying to make sense of the episode and conclude that this guy was merely the two-wheeled version of a very hardy species in this neck of the woods... the methed-out, four-toothed whack job.

So, what did I learn from this?  Well, here's a partial list.

  • The guy who rides past my house each day is a psycho.  This is not comforting.
  • Motor vehicles are not the only conveyance used by genuine a-holes.
  • After months of consuming a steady diet of "cars are bad" blog posts, I'd forgotten how infuriating a jerk cyclist can be.
  • My Karmic reward is probably going to be doubled now, since my kindness was met with scorn... I hope Karma gives me a Brooks B17 Special for my Corsaro bike.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Return of the Superbe!

The newest addition to the bike family came home from a brief stay at the Davis workshop of Theo and his high school shop class, where it was thoroughly cleaned and overhauled.  It looks as good as the day it was bought, something like 35 years ago.

It rides and shifts smoothly and while it's never going to be mistaken for a lightweight, it is comfortable enough to ride for hours and is more than quick enough for my needs.

I replaced the failed B72 saddle with a new one, but kept all the other original parts intact.

I didn't know it, but this was the Raleigh I was waiting for.  I like the Sports and Roadster models, but this design and color scheme makes me feel like one of the guys in this video.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Guess what's coming home!

This is not a new bike... It is my beloved Takumashi, whom you've already met.

But look whats on the rear rack!  It's a Brooks B72 -- a replacement for the one that failed in epic fashion.

Stay tuned for the unveiling of the newly restored and overhauled Raleigh Superbe!!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Delivery boy

My Corsaro 12 speed made a perfect delivery vehicle for a quick run downtown today to hand off a half-dozen boxes of Girl Scout Cookies to our friend at Bloomberg News.

The boxes were among some 1,600 sold by our Little Entrepreneur so far this cookie season.  She is 100 percent determined to reach 2,100 sales and earn the Girl Scouts top incentive prize -- a laptop computer.

It's worth noting that a good 500 or more of these sales have been made on behalf of U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, or part of the Wounded Warrior program.  Nearly every one of her customers has added to their order to send a box of smiles and home to a soldier far away.

If you're reading this from the Sacramento area and you'd like to order cookies for yourself or our soldiers, I know someone who can help you!