Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Cycle chic in Cesar Chavez Plaza

Just after I finished locking my bike (Takumashi) to a tree at the downtown farmer's market, this lovely cyclist arrived on an Electra Amsterdam and locked it to the next tree over. 

If I were any kind of photographer, you would see that each of our bikes were sporting the canvas-and-leather Basil Kavan II panniers.  Since I'm not, you shall have to imagine my pannier-equipped bike just out of frame to the right.

Both Stephanie and I were delighted to see our panniers on another bike and we had a great chat about the best way to mount them, their suitability for shopping, and the knuckle-bruising task of fastening them to the rear stays.

Happy riding, Stephanie, and thank you for a very interesting and fun conversation! 

Summer riding

Remember all that whining in May about how it was still chilly and overcast?  Well, those days don't seem too bad right about now.  It was 104 Monday... not enough to cancel the planned "Seersucker Ride," a summer counterpart to the Tweed Ride.

But things have cooled down since then.  It's been a moderate 96 or so in the days since.  Sacramento is one of the few places where in a discussion of the weather, you'll hear a temperature of 96F preceded by the word "only."

But the fact is, our low humidity makes a day of 96F very livable.  If you're not stuck in the sun, you can get by.  A leisurely ride along the river isn't out of the question, nor is a few bike-based errands.  Going all afternoon and trying to do it at a brisk pace may be another story, however.  I wouldn't know, myself.  I try to get the outward section of my commute in while the morning is still cool.  Another peculiarity of our weather is that the hottest part of a summer day doesn't come until late afternoon, almost evening, so if I can head for the home office by 2 or 3, things work out fine.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Little fixes, big changes

Riding my Mercier mixte, Blaise, often left me feeling slightly unfulfilled and a little crazy. Here's why:

I've been struggling to achieve a more upright position on all of my bikes, convinced that this was the secret to riding comfort and fun -- and to recapturing the joy I felt at riding bikes in Flanders a year ago this month.  Blaise, then, should have been my favorite bike to ride.  It afforded an almost fully upright riding position, allowing me to move through streets in the same profile as a pedestrian.  No need to elevate my chin even an inch to see the road before me.  My hands were in a comfortable, palms-in position on the north road handlebars.

And yet, it wasn't perfect.  There was a tiny voice whispering in one ear, saying the ride was "too upright."  In the other ear, there was a voice telling the first one to shut up and stop finding problems where none existed.

But there was no denying the idiosyncrasies of a bike on which all of the rider's weight rested on the saddle.  Even the smallest pavement bump would shake the fillings in your teeth.  And steering the bike sometimes felt more like a suggestion than a command.

Finally, I took the plunge and adjusted the stem a bit.  But it was clear this was not solution.  On a whim, I made one more change and adjusted the bars to point just a touch downward.

What a difference!  I moved the bars maybe a half-inch in all.  But the new angle means my weight is distributed differently, with a just bit more on my hands. Still, my hands remain in a palms-in, natural position and there hasn't been a comfort price. 

But ordinary road imperfections are no longer kidney-jarring events.  Better still, I feel much more in synch with the bike's responsive handling... I just have to think left and it goes left, it seems.  This subtle change seems to have brought my bike into line with how it was built to be ridden.

I'll keep you posted as I learn whether there are long-term tradeoffs to be identified.  In the meantime, Blaise has gone from seldom-ridden sentimental favorite to the most fun bike in the stable.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Gnarly wrecked frame

In a weird way, I was almost proud of the intense damage I did to my bike in the accident last October.  The frame buckled and the forks were bent back to a ridiculous degree.  Looking at the bike, I felt lucky for getting out of the day with only a broken collarbone.

Now, though, I’ve been outdone, both in terms of frame carnage and good fortune.

My friend Steve, who is just beginning his re-entry to cycling, smashed into a car that exited a driveway immediately into his path.  His face collided with the passenger window and his bike inflicted significant damage to the car.  Steve, though, walked away uninjured (but shaken up, as you might expect.)

Check out the angle of the downtube.  It’s amazing what steel can absorb.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Is this a thing?

This CL seller acknowledges the bike has one 700c wheel and one 24" wheel.  No explanation, apology or perspective is offered.  He goes on to suggest the bike would be good for a "kid or small adult."

Is this some half-baked way to achieve a track position?  I think that may be giving way too much credit somehow.

See for yourself here.

French bike, California wine

I tried a longer wine box on the back of Blaise, the Mercier mixte.  It just seemed too big for the rack and a bit too heavy to be practical. Still, I think it looked way cool, and it led to the more practical design that I have on my Sears three-speed now.

Many thanks to Chad at Enotria for donating the box and getting the idea off the ground.

If you’re in the Sacramento area and looking for the some of the finest food the region has to offer – and what is almost certainly the best wine list – visit Enotria on Del Paso Boulevard.

Trail ride surprise

Now that I’m cycling longer distances in my quest to become capable someday of a proper bicycle tour, I’m finding how much fun there is to be had on the American River Bike Trail a bit farther east.

My most recent outing took me to the Nimbus Fish Hatchery – which is a mind-blowing operation to raise and release salmon into the river – and the nearby recreation area above the dam.

Here’s Lucky, 20 miles into his 40+ mile day, posing alongside a giant fiberglass salmon.

At the recreation area, I stumbled onto a big deal.  The NCAA Women’s Rowing Championships were in full swing!  I’m a poor news consumer lately and had somehow missed that our city (near enough) was hosting such a prestigious event.  My iPhone is not equipped to capture far-away action, but here’s a shot of a team from Florida crossing the finish line.

And here is Lucky, aglow from the good fortune at finding our resting place was also the scene of big goings-on.  Serendipity.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Riding double

Spring has been a long time coming in Northern California.  We had the coldest May in 61 years and one of the wettest in a long time.  (I should point out in the interest of full disclosure that “cold” doesn’t really mean the same thing here as it does in other parts of the world.)  Still, this warm weather season feels earned in a way that others have not.

And, of course, there is no surer sign of spring than young lovers on the bike trail.  I spotted these two nearly a quarter-mile away.  I was determined to capture their cycling romance on film, but the young man’s neck tattoo suggested it would be a good idea to ask delicately.

As it turns out, both he and she were friendly, warm and genuinely pleased to be photographed.  They were miles away from any reasonable stopping point on the trail, so I have to assume this unique tandem ride was a fairly prolonged thing.

Yes, it looks dangerous.  But they were having so much fun that it seemed silly to point that out to them.

Ballpark Nishiki

I found this Nishiki city bike waiting in the valet corral after the baseball game.  I don’t recognize the model, but I sure recognize those fenders. Doesn’t it look a lot like a Raleigh Sprite?  I wonder if it’s from the era when nearly all the bikes were made in Japan?

I like how it’s parked alongside a KHS Green.  I’ve always thought the Green evokes the best of 70’s-era upright utility bikes.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Baseball and bicycles

My brother Terry is visiting this week and he’s a willing participant in bike fun every time he’s here.  So, when I learned there was an 11:35 a.m. game at Raley Field in nearby West Sacramento, I decided it would be the perfect bike outing for us.

Raley Field is home to the Sacramento River Cats, a AAA-dominating team affiliated with the Oakland A’s.  And, it’s just down the road from my office, making the entire trip no more than 6 miles or so, 5.5 of which are on the bike trail.

The ride was easy and slow.  The Kid came along on her mountain bike and we all enjoyed the mild, warm weather, the riverside wildlife and the lush green growth all around us.

I was a bit nervous about taking a hard-to-replace bike on this trip because I was unsure of the security of bike racks at the ballpark.  We’ve been to a million games, but always arrived by car.

To my surprise and delight, Raley Field has “valet parking” for bikes.  Actually, there’s nothing “valet” about it, but there is a dedicated corral for bike parking and it’s supervised for the duration of the game.  Most folks lock their bikes anyway, to ensure that nobody falsely claims one as their own and rides off.  Still, it’s miles better than a rack sitting out somewhere unguarded.

Now that I know one of our favorite destinations is supremely bike-friendly, I think we’re going to save $8 in parking fees for nearly every game from now on.

Three speeds and a good attitude

I was in the midst of admiring this old-school three speed when its owner arrived to unlock it and ride it away.  While many people would react poorly to finding someone ogling their bicycle, this student took it in gracious stride.  When I asked to take a photo, she responded "Sure!" before I could explain that I have a cycling blog and am not just some weirdo.  She stayed on her phone call at my insistence... I felt the photo was imposition enough.

I love that attitude.  I'd really like to be someone who says "sure" more often and "why?" "who's asking?" or "what do want to know that for?" a little less.

I've never heard of a Bay Pointe bicycle.  It looks pretty much indistinguishable from the jillions of other utility three-speeds of that era, including my Sears (Free Spirit) city bike.