Friday, April 30, 2010

DIY rack box

I stole the idea from Bowery Lane Bicycles.  Every time they posted new photos of their bikes, I found I was only looking at the cool boxes they have on the back.  Here's what I'm talking about:

It took a bit of looking to find the right box.  After a beautiful meal at Enotria, their wine manager kindly gave me a box from a case of Far Niente winery.  It proved too beefy to go on a rear rack, but it's a gorgeous box that will find some other cool use.

Eventually, I found the right size box at a local wine merchant and the owner sold me four of them for a very fair price.  Here's the box in question:

And here is the box being examined by my assistant, Scamp.

I selected two bikes to be the test subjects.  Both have wire racks on the back instead of aluminum platform style racks.  The first subject was Takumashi, the '70s Nishiki touring bike.  For this mounting job, I drilled three pairs of smallish holes in the bottom of the box and ran zip ties through, fastening them under the wire rack.  I was dubious of this method at first, but it proved to be effective enough and much less time-consuming than the method to follow.

Here's Takumashi wearing his new storage gear:

The next subject is a bike most of you haven't met yet... It's a 1980 Sears three-speed named Roebuck.  (I've always wondered how Mr. Roebuck felt about his partner's name living on as the company moniker and his own fading away).

For this project, I drilled two holes in the bottom of the box and in a thin strip of wood that went under the box and rack.  I ran bolts through the box, rack and strip, and fastened lock nuts under the strip.  This is very sturdy... You can lift the bike by the box and not disturb its position on the rack.

Here's Roebuck, wondering why he's been posed next to a swimming pool.

Roebuck is going to keep his rack.  He's been designated the grocery-getter for his geometry and ease of riding, but also because he's the bike that causes the least worry when I have to leave it locked for a while.  Takumashi will likely relinquish his rack and return to his life as a unadorned tourer.

Total cost for each bike was about $3.25.  The boxes do their job well.  I put a golf towel in the bottom to keep the lock and other stuff from bouncing around too much.  One slight drawback is that the box prevents use of the saddle loops and a saddle bag with repair kit.  More on overcoming that another time.

Explain, please

I rode about 30 miles today, 15 east, turned around and then 15 west.

Somehow, the wind was in my face on both legs of the journey.  The tall grass along the trail and three branches all bent toward me.  On the way out, I consoled myself thinking of how fun and easy it would be to coast back with the gusts pushing me along.  If anything, it was worse on the way home.

How is this possible? 

Monday, April 26, 2010

Weekday ride for two

Jan and I took the morning off and hit the bike trail today.  We rode 12.5 miles along the river, stopping briefly to watch the ducks with their newly-hatched ducklings and to enjoy the perfect weather.  After a late breakfast, we rode home, pleased with ourselves for pushing the mile count about twice as far as the usual "let's go for a ride" ride.

My friend Don confirms this counts as a 25-mile ride, which is greatly reassuring to me.  I honestly wasn't sure if two halves of a ride bifurcated by a lunch or museum visit could be lumped together in polite cycling society. 

Because the distance was longer than Jan's usual ride, I picked my Raleigh Superbe for the outing as it would be a bit more in line with a relaxed pace.  It performed beautifully and the Brooks B-72 was very comfortable.  I think it'd be good for even longer rides without discomfort.

Here's the Superbe with Jan's Schwinn hybrid, waiting for us to return from our walk to the river's edge.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Who needs a car?

This charming cyclist thought about taking her car to the hardware store for a quick errand, but decided that with a little preparation, the bike would do just fine.

Those are a pair of hedge clippers in her backpack.  here's a better shot.

Not everyone would feel comfortable transporting a pair of foot-long blades on her back, but this lady saw no problem once the clippers were firmly shut and carefully secured.  I think she was right, but I certainly couldn't fault anyone who decided big-knife-buying was a job for four-wheeled transport.

Hats off to Michael (which I think is an awesome name for either gender) for her brave cycling and for her instant, smiling agreement to pose for a photo!  I love people who are uninhibited and comfortable enough to answer "sure!" to the "May I take your photo?" question.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Bicycling Hall of Fame in Davis!

Davis beat out a half-dozen bigger cities for the right to host the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame.  The Hall opened this morning, drawing a large crowd of diverse cyclists.

Davis is a city that loves its bikes, and it's good to see the Hall go to such a deserving location.

 Photos by

Read about the Hall and its opening here and here.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Oh hail no!

It was supposed to rain all day today and I was resigned to getting wet on the way to work.  But when the sun came out late in the morning and looked intent on staying, I decided a rain jacket strapped to the rack would be more than enough insurance.

As it happened, the skies opened up about three miles into the 5.5 mile ride.  Worse than the rain were winds, whipping off the river and slowing me to a near stop.  I parked my bike in my office, dried off and decided to adjust my schedule to ride home as soon as the weather looked milder.

The sun came out and the winds stopped.  But I hadn't been there nearly long enough to feel good about leaving.  The sun stayed out and played among white, billowy clouds.  But I was on a phone call I couldn't leave.  On another call, I looked out the window at the perfect day and decided I'd make a run for it as soon as I was off.

Naturally, it was raining when I got back on the bike.  But rain's not a big deal.  Once you get used to the cold water on your face, it leaves you with mild temperatures and an empty bike trail. I was getting into it and really enjoying the ride.

Then the deluge came.  Hard winds and rain, pounding off my rain jacket and soaking my pants and shoes.  Still, it's just water.

Then I noticed the rain kind of hurt.  Then it hurt kind of a lot. It was hail. A lot of it.  A surprising amount of it found its way into my helmet and pounded icily on my scalp.  A conservative estimate of the number of hailstones that hit my head is in the neighborhood of 67 quadrillion.  It was like a tiny bird with a beak made of ice was pecking at my head at millisecond intervals.

Hail seems unfair, somehow.  It's crossing the line, out of bounds.  As kids, we understood that snowballs were fair but iceballs and slushballs were not.  They were in violation of the Playground Geneva Convention and only the most cowardly resorted to them.  What are hailstones but tiny ice balls?  Not fair.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Creepy nature

I know it's harmless.  I don't care.  These things are super creepy to me.

I noticed it across my lane of the bike trail just a few yards before I would have rolled over it.  I can guarantee that would have been a spectacle.

Two other cyclists stopped while I was contemplating the thing and confirmed two important points: 1) it wasn't a rattlesnake, although this time of year is when they start appearing on and near the trail; and, 2) it's creepy, creepy creepy.

I think I prefer the coyotes.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

New bike shop in Old Sac

Old Sacramento, the section of downtown restored to its 19th century appearance, just got a promising and vibrant new business.  The family owned Practical Cycle opened this month, bringing rows of shiny rental bikes and a spotless showroom of steel-framed beauties to the busy tourist spot.

If there's any justice in the world of commerce, this business will succeed wonderfully.  They rent easy-to-ride Worksman bicycles in a spot where thousands of tourists pass each day and within a few hundred yards of the American River Bike Trail.  They also sell a variety of Worksman bikes as well as Pedego electric bikes.

Owner Tim is joined by his son Cassidy in the new venture, and the family presents a happy, customer-friendly face to a section of town not previously known for stellar customer service.

As the name implies, Practical Cycles isn't the place to go for an upgrade to your carbon fiber racer.  Tim's cycling vision is more compatible with those of mikespokes -- bikes that will last forever, bikes you can ride in your normal clothes and, as Tim puts it, bikes that will go fast (when you're going downhill).

My office is in Old Sac, and every day I see families dragging kids around from one salt water taffy store to the next, or trying to get them enthused about the memorial marking the terminus of the Pony Express.  I've got to believe that a lot of these families will see the wisdom in renting a few of Tim's bikes (at only $5 for an hour!) and pedaling alongside the river for a spell.

Check out the beautiful Worksmans and Tim's other offerings here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A bee in the bonnet

So there I was, riding happily past huge bushes of wildflowers, enjoying the sunshine and beautiful day.  I had just finished the section of the Sacramento-Davis ride that takes you alongside I-80 and I was alternating between grooving to the nature around me and freaking out at how much longer this stretch seems when you're not in a car.

I felt something hit my helmet.  That's not true.  I felt the distinct sensation of something hitting my scalp, despite the fact I was wearing a helmet.  Something small -- but with detectable mass -- had managed to achieve the precise angle necessary to enter the air vent over the right side of my forehead and fling its tiny body against my somewhat larger one.

And once on such an intimate basis with me, he was in no mood to leave.  Can't blame him, really.

I'm not a particularly fast cyclist, but it turns out I am a remarkably fast bee extractor.  The instant I felt the impact, I knew it was a bee.  Maybe it was the humongous bushes of wildflowers alongside the path, or maybe it was some innate ability to recognize Apis Mellifera, but there was no doubt in my mind about the identity of my new cranial visitor.

This is not the actual bee in question.  Well, it could be, I suppose.  For all I know, the bee that hit me in the head could very well have had a career in modeling before he met me.  This seems unlikely, so let's say for the sake of moving things along that it is a different but similar bee. 

By the time you could say, "Oh God, I hope it's not Africanized," I had my helmet off and was whomping it against my still-pedaling leg to dislodge Beezer (as I have now decided to name him).  My efforts to jar him loose came to nothing, unless you count dislodging the clip-on blinky from the back of the helmet and sending it scattering across the trail as an accomplishment.

Finally, I had to stop, get off the bike and get serious.  In that moment, though, I realized that I had no idea of how to get rid of this bee.  He wasn't letting go and I wasn't reaching in there to get him.  It was then, dear readers, that I thought of you and how much you might enjoy a photo of this merry encounter with nature.  I abandoned the cause of dislodging the bee and reached into my pocket to retrieve my iPhone.   

Beezer, I now realize, is a very shy bee. He had no interest in being photographed for my blog and took his leave at once.  Come to think of it, it is nearly impossible that he is the same bee who posed for the Wikipedia photo above.  Or, if he is, then the experience left him determined not to repeat it. I have heard such things about modeling jobs and photographers and I am prepared to believe them.

The departure of Beezer did not deter me from documenting the event.  I snapped a photo anyway, using a handy stand-in for the petulant star.  Audience, please note that in this particular production, the part of Beezer is played by Nearby Wildflower Blossom.

I like to think that somewhere in an apiary near Davis, a tiny blogger is writing (or dancing or buzzing or emitting chemicals) to recount the story of his brush with another species.  When you speak of me, Beezer, be kind.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sacramento to Davis -- a first mini tour!

I've been cycling almost daily for the past nine months without really going anywhere.  Typically, I ride the 5.5 miles along the rivers to my office, or head in the other direction -- also 5.5 miles -- to the Sacramento State to work, read or relax there.  For ages now, I've thought and talked about riding a bit further and testing my ability to one day do a proper bicycle tour with 40 or 50 or more miles in a day for an extended period.  Something always seemed to prevent this from happening.  Often it was weather or work schedule, but just as often it was a pretty flimsy and invented excuse.

Velouria of Lovely Bicycle had a similar cycling goal for this year.  Unlike me, however, she tackled it in much more decisive fashion... she simply got on her bike and pedaled to a destination 18 or 20 miles away.  I found this inspiring and decided the time had come to actually go somewhere on my bike.

The cycling Mecca of Davis, California is almost exactly 20 miles away from my home.  This seemed a good distance and the destination itself is very pleasant.  If you don't know Davis, it consistently ranks among the most bicycle-friendly cities in the nation.  There seem to be as many bikes as cars on the streets and infrastructure and motorist attitudes are more like Copenhagen than California.

These are part of every intersection.

The trouble is, getting to Davis from Sacramento involves crossing the Yolo Causeway, a splendid sanctuary for avian wildlife that is flooded every winter and farmed every summer.  And, crossing the causeway means riding on the bike path that runs alongside I-80.  Something like 20 percent of the ride is spent next to cars approaching 85 mph.  You're separated by a concrete wall and a fence, but it's difficult to shake the idea that you're about to be decapitated by a rogue hubcap.

Here's the view as you approach Davis and look to your left.

But here's the view to your right:

Believe it or not, after a mile or so, I felt like I had one ear tuned to the bird festival going on to my right and had almost tuned out the sometimes-deafening highway next to me.  I had one exciting encounter with the local wildlife, but that, as they say, is another story (and another post).

Soon enough, the path leaves the interstate (but never strays too far) and becomes much more pleasant. I was not tired when I arrived, and spent a very pleasant hour or so cycling through town and relaxing on the campus of UC Davis.

On campus, everywhere you find a dormitory or cluster of academic buildings, you find a Belgian-looking throng of parked bicycles.

I will admit that when I started the journey home, the saddle on Lucky Jitensha did not feel quite as comfortable.  Otherwise, though, I was fine and ready to go.  I stopped just outside of Davis to get Lucky's photo with the Sacramento skyline visible (barely) behind him.  This is our proof that we actually went somewhere.

I'm already eager to build upon this fun start, maybe by researching other destinations and quieter routes, or by driving to a less urban spot and starting from there.  Further, I suspect there may be a new saddle in Lucky's future.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Two more from the bike swap

Here are two more bikes that caught my eye at the bike swap on Saturday.

The first is a Dutch-made Union, complete with coat (skirt) guard and dynamo light.  Dutch bikes seem very rare in these parts. 

And, here's a unique folding bike manufactured for Firestone and sold in the 1960s for folks to toss in the massive trunks of their Impalas.  I'm getting warmer to the idea of having a bike in the back of the car for those times when business takes you out of town but still leaves a little time for a quick ride.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Sacramento Bike Swap

Today's bike swap in Fremont Park was a much bigger deal than I expected.  I don't know why, but I kind of had it pegged for a handful of vendors selling fixie parts I didn't need... So, I figured I could mosey over a couple of hours after the starting time and not miss a thing.

Wrong.  There were a couple dozen booths set up, and some genuinely interesting bikes and bargains.  And, I'm told, the good stuff was gone within a few minutes of the "official" start time of 8 a.m.

I saw plenty of bikes to admire, but only two that I had to actively resist buying.  One was this Fleetwood, made for Sears in the 1960s.  It's a lovely chrome 3-speed, filet brazed and shining like a new dime.  It does, though, weigh about the same as three less beautiful bikes combined.

The other great temptation was this Bianchi folding bike.  I honestly don't know why I didn't scoop it up on the spot, as I've always wanted a folding bike and this one was of top quality and condition.

A little while later, I saw that there had been a good reason for me to not become the new owner of the Bianchi.  It was bought by the one person who could give it a better home than me!  Andrea, pictured here with her beautiful new bike, is the co-owner of Hot Italian, a downtown restaurant that celebrates the bicycle and all things Italian.  She's been a huge help to cycling in Sacramento and has a gorgeous venue on 16th Street in which to showcase this bike alongside the Vespas and gelato.

Congratulations, Andrea!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!

Wishing all our readers a happy, healthy and blessed Easter...  Hoping it's a day of family fun, spiritual celebration and maybe a bike ride.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Mercier family expands!

I was thrilled to learn that one of my very favorite bicycle bloggers, Velouria of Lovely Bicycle, is the new owner of a gorgeous, vintage Mercier mixte. 

Careful readers may recall that my first vintage bike acquisition was this very same brand and style of bike and it occupies a place of great honor in my fleet.  Here's my Mercier, Blaise:

To be joined in this by someone whose taste in bicycles I admire so greatly is a genuinely happy experience!

It will be fun to see what Velouria does with her mixte.  I hope to glean lots of good ideas from her on outfitting and accessorizing it beautifully.

Congratulations, Velouria and happy riding!  Here's hoping we get these two lovely bicycles on the same coast one day and go for a ride...

You can check out Velouria's new ride here.

By popular demand...

At Mikespokes, we're all about customer service.  You asked for a photo of the Superbe with the picnic basket, and by golly, we're going to provide exactly that.

In fact, here's three of them.

For the Tweed Ride and picnic this weekend, I had the basket strapped to the rack.  It was a tenuous connection, and I knocked it off twice dismounting the bike.  Later in the day, I saw someone with a similar basket attached simply by using the spring/clamp thing on the Plescher-style rack.  This was genius... I came home and did the same and the basket was more secure and looked better.

It wasn't until I saw these photos that I noticed how "smooshed" the basket looks by the pressure of the clamp.  Next time, I'll turn it around so the clamp is pressing against the hinge side rather than the open flap side. 

Here's the crooked shot... my attempt to be artsy and fit the whole bike in the frame. It reminds me o watching Batman when I was a kid... all the scenes in the badguys lairs were shot with a slanted camera to convey "crookedness," I guess.  So, this is what my bike would look like if it were going to be used as a getaway vehicle by The Riddler or Penguin.

Looks like a good deal

These his-and-her Raleighs appear to still be floating around on Craigslist.  The price seems more than fair, especially if the bikes are in decent condition.  It's hard to say from the photo, but I'd say they're Sports, but they could be Superbes.  If only I had a place to put them!

In an uncharacteristically restrained moment, I did not contact the seller, so I can't say for sure they actually exist.  Sometimes, deals on Craigslist bikes that seem too good to be true are just that.  But, this listing has none of the usual clues -- there is a phone number and a "respond to" link.  Also, little details about prices for the child seat and Brooks as separate purchases suggest a real seller to me.

If you have more room in your garage than I do, and an extra $199, snatch them up!

See them here.