Thursday, October 13, 2011

A low rate of return

Remember when Ikea gave each of its U.S. employees a bicycle late last year?

The company told employees the bicycles were "our way of saying ‘thanks IKEA co-workers for being strongly committed to working together.’ We hope this bike will be taken in the spirit of the season while supporting a healthy lifestyle and everyday sustainable transport.”

There was a fair amount of tongue-clucking at the time on bike blogs about how cheap the bikes seemed to be.  And I can't argue with that; the bikes seem to be pretty cheap.  But really, what did your employer give your for Christmas last year?  I think the best gift I ever got from an employer was a turkey or Honey Baked Ham.  So, you know, good for Ikea.

But it would appear -- in West Sacramento, at least -- that the bikes may not have kicked off the pedal-to-work craze Ikea may have hoped for.  On a recent visit to the store I found this lonely bicycle locked to the rack.  One.

Ikea stores tend not to be nestled in neighborhoods and the West Sac store is no exception.  If you were going to cycle to work, you'd have some hairy moments on Reed Avenue and the like.  So I guess it's not too surprising that there weren't a dozen of these waiting outside for shift change.

At least one employee is getting some use out of his or her free bike, and that's a good thing.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Sandwich stop

I liked the look of this colorful wall and the contrast with the oldest of my bikes. 

They make a pretty good reuben sandwich too.

A well-protected Free Spirit

I still miss my burgundy Free Spirit three speed from time to time.  It didn't have the solid feel of the Raleighs, but it was a lovely color and somewhat lighter.  There was a simplicity to it that made me happy.

So, when I saw this blue version parked near my office, I got a little bit nostalgic.  It seems to be from exactly the same era as mine.  The blue is named "Sheffield," which I certainly prefer to the ambiguous "Brittany" name given to the burgundy model.

As I stood taking photos of the bike, its owner appeared in the person of this smiley, pretty store clerk.  She strode up to me and said brightly, "thank you so much for being interested in my bike... I love it."

And she should.  It's in great condition and it's being very well protected with a serious chain.  It would take some work to liberate this Free Spirit and ride off.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Lighting in a pinch

The shortened days of autumn caught me off guard recently when I rode to work before realizing it would be dark before I returned home.  Naturally, the many battery-powered lights I've bought, including a few Knogs and Planet Bike models, were all safely at home on other bikes. 

I'm caught somewhere between buying enough lights so each bike has a set on it at all times and remembering to switch the ones I have between bikes as a new one is selected each day.  This is a distinct disadvantage to not having a dedicated commuter bike or even having just one bike, as most normal people do.

Anyway, I came up with an interesting solution to my lighting program.  My office is in the same suite as the offices for some retail shops in the touristy part of town.  On any given day, there are dozens of boxes of merchandise intended for sale at some street festival or another.  

Luckily, this week's collection of China-made novelties included those little flashing lights that you "wear" by putting a magnetic disk beneath your collar or lapel to hold the flashing button in place.  I borrowed a pair of these, attaching one to the rear fender and the other to the heron-emblazoned light fixture on my Raleigh Superbe.

Here's what the rear light looked like at the beginning of my ride:

Of course, they did nothing to illuminate the road or bike path for me, but nearly all the tricky sections of my commute were finished before it was more than twilight. 

By the finish, though, they were making me feel a lot better about my chances of being seen by motorists.  Here's what the front light looked like by the end of the ride:

Does anybody know just how difficult or expensive it is to rig full-time lighting on a vintage bike? I have no interest in investing in new or dynamo hubs, so I'm thinking it would be bottle generators or just a wider collection of Knogs and the like.  Any suggestions are appreciated.

Finally, a three speed in Ireland

As a collector/rider of Raleigh three-speeds, I was very excited about the promise of seeing tons of my beloved bikes on our trip to Ireland.  Just as vintage Schwinns seemed to be locked to every bike rack in Chicago, so too would Raleighs, Rudges, Humbers and Triumphs be chained to every footpath tree in Belfast, I reckoned.

Not true, it turns out.  Cycling in the north of Ireland in September was, well, difficult to detect.  On the road to and from Ballycastle, we encountered a dozen or so road cyclists on modern road bikes and wearing full cycling kit. After that, nothing.  Well, there was the occasional kid on a department store mountain bike and once there was a pair of muddy mountain bikes on the back of a Range Rover near Glenarife Forest, but pretty much nothing.

To be fair, we spent less time in the tonier spots of Belfast than our itinerary originally called for.  So, it's possible there was a wealth of bicycle commuters around Queens University that went unseen by us.  But based on my limited data, I concluded that bicycle commuting was almost nil.

One cousin offered an interesting explanation.  Riding a bicycle in the bad old days of his youth meant being vulnerable in a city that offered too many ways to meet with trouble.  Better to be on foot or in a car/bus, he said.  I don't know how much stock to put in that, but I certainly don't have the credentials to dispute it either.

As for the country roads -- those bucolic, winding paths through pastures and rolling hills that I was certain would be teeming with tweed-clad versions of myself -- I think I know why those were bicycle free.  About the 100th time I met a 2-meter wide vehicle coming toward me at 60 mph on a 3.5-meter wide country lane, I realized that cycling these roads would require nerves of steel.

Maybe those videos of English cyclists were just propaganda by British Rail.  Or maybe it's different in England and they're donning plus-fours and cycling away.  But in Ireland, I saw bugger all when it came to vintage bikes and country cycling.

Until, that is, I came across a 1950s Raleigh three speed with full chaincase and original components -- hanging from the wall of a pub in Hillsborough, up the street from my family's pub.  I saw exactly one vintage bike in Ireland and it was wall art.  Oh well.  Thankfully, there's more to life and to vacations than cycling.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Deadly handsome

There are few places more tranquil and bucolic in Sacramento than the City Cemetery.  It may seem odd to choose this as a cycling destination, but the beautifully cultivated gardens and abundance of shade trees make it ideal for a gentle ride on a warm day.

For a time, our family volunteered to take care of one of the many plots in the historic cemetery.  We "adopted" the Hatch family plot, and tried to keep the 19th century graves tidy and adorned by blossoming shrubs and flowers.   After a year or so, relatives of the Hatches returned to town and asked to see to the graves themselves.  Naturally, we happily stepped aside. One day, we'll find a new plot and resume the happy gardening project.

In the meantime, I still like to visit from time to time and ride slowly up the small hills and around the gently winding paths.  The way I see it, some of the cemetery's residents have been lying there since the 1850s and quite likely appreciate company of any kind by this time.  I ride for a while and then find a shady bench to check emails and maybe have a snack before riding back to the office.

On this visit, I brought Takumashi, my 1970s Nishiki Citisport.  I think he's looking just about perfect now with cork grips, a VO leather saddle and twined accessories. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Intriguing, affordable "Dutch" bike

When I came home from visiting Flanders two summers ago, I was taken with the idea to find a buy a Dutch bike in the U.S.  I don't know whether I was more surprised to find that it was possible to do so, or that it would cost $2,000 to do it.

If there had been a bike that simulated what I had seen on the streets of Bruges that cost a few hundred dollar's I'd have snapped it up in an instant.  There wasn't, and I didn't.  And that failure to do so is what started my bike-buying spree and this blog.

Well, now there is.  I stumbled across a link to this bike via Bike Snob today.  I had no idea it existed and have never seen anything similar in this price range.

On the one hand, I know a bike that sells for under $300 can only be so good.  I also understand that much of what makes a Dutch "Opa" what it is cannot possibly be found on a bike that sells for so little.

I get that, I really do.  But, I will admit to being intrigued by the idea of owning a Dutch-looking bike for $250 or so.  It even has a front rack suitable for lugging my little Dutch kids around on, if I ever happen to come into possession of little Dutch kids.

I've looked online for reviews with no luck.  Half of me is hoping to find ones similar to those written on the Flying Pigeon and giving me the freedom to move on and never think of this again.  The other half is hoping to read that it's surprisingly well-built and feels like the real thing.  If this is the case, I'm going to need someone to loan me some garage space.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A fabulous Fourth

I love the clarity of Independence Day.  There's no debate over the origins, no confusion over what the holiday is supposed to celebrate.  It's wonderfully clear-cut. This is at least half the reason July 4 remains a favorite spot on the calendar for me.

The rest, I suppose, has a lot to do with childhood memories of unmitigated awesomeness each and every July 4.  It was more than just the fireworks at night at Shiloh Park -- although those were certainly a high point.  It was also because July 4 was a kind of perfect point in the summer.  School had already become a distant memory and the post-Labor Day return was far enough away to hold almost no power over a boy's thoughts.

Once the calendar turned to August, there was a growing sense of dread that began to creep into the phenomenon of summer vacation.  It was impossible to stop the silent calculation of how many days of freedom remained each time you spotted the date on a bank sign or newspaper or carnival flyer. 

The cookies were a hit at Sunday's bbq in Sonoma and Monday's potluck
But in July, everything was still perfect.  The days were long.  You could jump on your Sting-Ray immediately after breakfast and ride it until dark if you wanted to.  Our signal to come home was provided by an huge old bell that stood in our backyard, a relic from some long-closed schoolyard, I guess.  My mom would ring the bell and the brass-on-brass gong would sound throughout the neighborhood and well beyond. 

When I mention that to my daughter today, I'm aware of how much freedom (and risk) she doesn't get to experience. She'll never know what it's like to be 10 and a couple of miles from home, fending for yourself with only a bike and a promise to come home when the bell tolls.  I've puzzled over whether this is because the world is more dangerous or because parents are more cautious, but ultimately it just is.
Jan walked our  patriotic pups in the parade

Which isn't to say she's suffering through childhood.  I suspect and hope she'll have equally happy memories to share when she's a parent, although her mom and I will be in a whole lot more of the photos.

Case in point, this most recent July 4.  Fiona spent the morning of the 3rd decorating her favorite bike, the Electra cruiser.  She took some bike-decorating suggestions from a Martha Stewart magazine she bought primarily for the cookie decorating suggestions.  Other inspirations came from her own mind.  In the end, she had a beautiful entry in our neighborhoods quaint little parade.

I joined her, outfitting the Schwinn Racer in flags and crepe streamers starry, red-white-and-blue garland.  Best of all were playing cards in the spokes.  I had completely forgotten how cool that sound is.  It really sounded like an old motorcycle... or, I guess, what I decided an old motorcycle sounded like when my friends and I would tear up and down the street with baseball cards and clothes pins mounted on the fender struts.

Here's hoping your Fourth was as fun and magical as ours.  And here's wishing you a long, happy summer full of freedom and fun.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Downtown bike crowding

It's frustrating but not surprising to encounter stores, offices and facilities with insufficient bike racks.  I usually try to tell a storeowner, politely, that I'm a customer, I arrived on a bicycle, and I'd find their business easier to patronize if it had a place for me to lock my bike.  So far, everyone has been, or at least sounded, appreciative for the input.

Last week, I had an appointment at a downtown building and arrived to find not a single space left for me to secure my Raleigh.  Bikes were on both sides of the handful of racks and a half-dozen were locked only to themselves, leaned against a window.  After some thought, I pulled my bike onto the unplanted and barren "demonstration garden" and locked it to the sign.

Situation normal.  But wait, as they say on TV, there's more.

The building in question is the headquarters of the California Environmental Protection Agency.  It opened in 2001 and for years -- YEARS -- CalEPA flacks were bragging about the countless green innovations incorporated into the design.  Special window placement minimizes the number of lights needed.  What lights are needed are "super-high efficiency" tubes that dim automatically when the sun shines in.  The roof is a tangle of solar cells.  The parking garage was built with electric vehicles in mind. 

Impressed?  Be quiet.  We're not even warmed up yet.

Low-flow fixtures installed in the bathrooms including the now-infamous waterless urinals.  Native grasses dominate the landscape and smugly refuse even a sip of water in our parched summers. (This may explain why I was able to park my bike in a "demonstration garden."  The point demonstrated seemed to be that plants need water to live.)

Every drop of paint used was "zero volatile organic compound" whatever that means.  The carpet is, I don't know, recycled milk jugs or something.  It was put in place without glue, further reducing VOCs, which I still will not pretend to understand.

Amazing, no?  Sit down.  Still not done.

Under the desks are vermiculture bins.  I'm not making this up.  They might be, but I'm not.  I think this means that if you work at CalEPA, under your desk, there is a big bin with compost and worms.  UNDER YOUR DESK.  The worms, who on any given day may be the only ones performing actual work in a state office, create organic waste which is then used in the courtyard flower beds. 

And this is just the building. We haven't even touched on what CalEPA actually does besides making its employees grow worms under their desks.

This agency is the author and prime mover behind the most stringent green regulations in the world.  This place is where the California Air Resources Board meets to defend itself against its critics, who claim that it has systematically destroyed entire industries and hundreds of thousands of jobs in the name of being the nation's leader in reducing carbon emissions and diesel exhaust.

To say that CalEPA would like us out of our cars is a vast understatement.  It's a bit like saying Charlie Sheen enjoys a drink now and then.

And yet, the best this outfit can muster for its thousands of employees is racks for a couple dozen bikes?  Surely fixing this problem can't be as hard as finding carpet that doesn't need glue or convincing union workers to keep a worm bin at their feet all day. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Random hipster kindness

So, I'm stopped at a light in midtown Sacramento, when a young guy on a single speed bike -- narrow bars, bright paint job, everything but the fixed-gear hub -- comes to a stop alongside me.

His hair had a splash of neon green in it. His wore a snug-fitting t-shirt and skinny jeans.  Oversized sunglasses.  A loyal, uniformed solider in the Hipster Army.

Not the sunny-dispositioned hipster in question.  But check out that satchel.

I'm getting more at peace with the world these days and less bristly when sharing space with folks whose cultural choices I don't share. Still, my inward reaction was at least a mild form of LATFH.

But then came a surprise.

"How are you?" he asked in the most pleasant of tones.  I think my response reflected genuine pleasure at this departure from the expected.

"Isn't it a beautiful day?" he asked.  It was, I agreed.

"Enjoy it!" he said as the light changed and he pedaled off.

It was just a young guy on a bike who made a choice to be pleasant, but it made a difference in my afternoon.  If he does this three or four times a day -- and his easy tone suggests he does -- this one kid is making the world a significantly brighter place. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Beautiful Peugeot

The girls and I found ourselves at Hot Italian, the center of Sacramento's cycling scene, on the evening of their Velo & Vintage fashion/bike show.

I can't tell you with any certainty about a single outfit or garment that was modeled.  I can, though, remember a good few of the bikes the models rode down the catwalk. 

For me, the Best in Show was this Peugeot sports/roadster.  So taken was I by this bike that I made a visit the following week to the place I suspected was the source for it.  I was right, and as I arrived at Edible Pedal, I saw it sitting regally inside the doorway.

I think this bike is just stunning.  The fender-mounted light, the chrome fenders, the full chainguard, the braided cable housing... it's all just so elegant.

And seductive.  I really felt a bit disloyal to my collection of English three-speeds as I found myself thinking it was more refined and, well, French, than the Raleighs.

Edible Pedal boss John explained that the bike likely isn't as old as it appears.  At least not all of it.  Closer inspection revealed some distinctly newer parts and components.  It seems to be an expertly created and beautiful Frankenstein, with parts coming from any number and age of Peugeots to make one stunning whole.

Monday, April 18, 2011

wish granted!

Thank you for your support and finger-crossing!

Last week, I became the owner of this marvelous 1951 Sports Superbe.  The seller was Rick, ace mechanic at my LBS and accomplished racer.  On a visit to the shop last month, another mechanic mentioned that Rick was looking for me, wanting to sell a bike.  Rick was out of luck, I informed the messenger, as I have not one more inch of room to store another bike.  A few minutes later, Rick walked in.  I pre-empted the sale, telling him I couldn't possibly buy another bike. The only bike I could be interested in, one I was sure he'd never sell, was the green Raleigh Superbe.

That, Rick said, was just the one he was hoping to sell.  And here, he inserted a bit of remarkable news.  He would sell it for the extraordinarily affordable price he himself had paid for it a few months earlier.  The deal was done.

I like to think of myself as fair and ethical, but I'm not completely sure that if I stumbled onto an amazing deal on a bike I would pass that good fortune along, intact, to the next owner.  I mean, I think it'd be OK to profit a little bit from finding a lottery ticket in the street, no?  Thankfully, Rick is made of better stuff in this department. I did, when it was all done, ensure that Rick saw at least some profit from his remarkable stewardship of the bike.

Now, a word about the bike -- with more to come at another time.

In 1951, Raleigh sold a number of different bikes under the Superbe name.  It seems to have been a designator of "trim level" rather than a distinct model.  You can see what those extras included in 1951 here.

This new bicycle rides as you'd expect a bike owned by a mechanic to ride.  The four-speed Sturmey Archer hub shifts easily, with the middle two of the gears being sufficient to me.  The lowest, marked "B" for reasons I don't yet understand, is extremely low.  This could come in handy, I suppose, but "1" seems adequate for the few hills in our region.  At the high end is "H" and I think I can guess what that stands for.  The gear equating to "2" on a three-speed is marked "N," which, I learned, stands for "normal."  That strikes me as a very English way to view things and I like it.

It's also complete.  You'll notice a difference in the rendering of the bike as sold in 1951 and in my photo of it soon after coming home (below).

That cylinder on the seat tube is a battery pack.  It holds D batteries and powers the lights when the bike isn't in motion.  Rick wisely decided some of the wiring issues were outside his expertise, but included all the gear with the bike.  Now, I need to find someone less phobic than I about these kinds of tasks and put the bike back into original condition.  Next on the list is more authentic tires, but that's another story.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

At last, cream Delta Cruisers

I've wanted cream tires for ages.  I've seen them on a number of favorite blogs and tried to order them several times.  Each time I tried, the supplier turned out to have none in stock and my order was canceled.  Apparently, they were much easier to come by in the 700c size.  I was looking for 26 x 1 3/8 to fit one of my vintage Raleighs, and those were scarcer than hen's teeth.

In fact, I'd given up on the idea of owning any for the time being.  I set my sights on Panasonic Col de la Vie tires instead -- and even started thinking they might be a better look.  While browsing for a deal on the Panasonics, I came across the Schwalbe Delta Cruisers from a supplier who claimed to have them in stock!

This is what they look like after a ride around the block.
I ordered them in a flash, half-scared that this supplier would run out before mine were shipped.

They came today, and I put them on Geordie, the 1971 coffee Superbe.  I like the look very much (although I suspect the gumwall Panasonics would have been a hit as well.)

I'm already a fan, if only for the fact that they were easy to install.  Some 26" tires are nearly impossible for me to mount.  My hands and thumbs ache for days after fighting them onto the rims.  I realize there is some degree of operator incompetency here, but still... these new tires went on the way I'd always assumed tires should.  A modicum of stretching/pushing to get the beads in place but no swearing, sweating and struggling.

After one ride around the block, they had picked up some gray road tint, but I've read that they reach a kind of static point in terms of discoloration.  In other words, they get a bit dirty and them stop getting dirtier... allegedly.  We'll see.  In any event, I can't imagine the sidewalls -- the only part anyone really sees -- getting all that dirty or being all that hard to clean.

Now, I've got at least one more Raleigh in need of new tires.  Do I snap up another pair of Schwalbes while I can, or do I go with the Panasonics?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Oh Amazon, how did you know?

If only my life were as interesting as Amazon and Tivo seem to think it is when they make "suggestions" for me.

A few weeks ago, I bought a pair of handcuffs from Amazon to use as a kind of café lock for my bikes.  The whole transaction was smooth, fast and successful.  I've already moved on to new projects and ideas.

Amazon, though, isn't ready for the fun to end.  They found my purchase intriguing, and have helpfully tried to find other products I might enjoy.  Take a look at what showed up in my "other items you might like" box this morning.

 Seriously.  Right there next to Sunlite inner tubes and Crane bells and whatnot sat this, uh, item.

Naturally, I clicked on it to have a closer look.  (If you're an Amazon user, you're ahead of me at this point and know where this is headed.) Yep, I had now  changed the equation on another feature, the "items you've looked at recently" box.  By the time I got back to Schwalbe tires, my suggestions included a number of intriguing, horrifying, mysterious and wince-inducing products I will not show here.  I will say only that I had no idea there existed such a variety of dilators, riding crops and speculums (specula?) on our planet. 

So, I've pretty much convinced Amazon that I'm that dude from the basement of the pawn shop in Pulp Fiction.  Nice day's work.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Velo Orange saddles

I've been on the fence for a while about the Velo Orange saddles.  I've read conflicting reports about their quality and how they stack up against Brooks saddles.  Eventually I saw one, the VO version of the B67, in person, and found it surprisingly stiff.  The smallish difference in price, I decided, was not worth the risk of ending up with an inferior product.

Two things happened that led me to revisit this decision. First, I noticed that my Brooks B67 had splayed pretty significantly after only a few hundred miles of use.  The saddle had flattened noticeably and my attempts to re-introduce tension via the adjustment bolt were, at best, only moderately successful.  I started to think that maybe the stiffer leather of the VO saddle wouldn't be such a bad thing after all.

Second, several models of the VO saddles went on sale.  Now priced at $65, these saddles (at least the model 8 and model 5) now featured a price gap that made them worth another look.  In fact, the sale brought them down to the same prices offered by the actual manufacturer, Taiwan-based Gyes.

Come to think of it, there was a third factor to my decision.  In roaming the Internet, I stumbled across someone's photos of a restored Superbe nearly identical to my 1971 coffee-colored favorite.  The restoration featured a Flyer saddle, one of the Brooks being mimicked closely by a Velo Orange model.

So, I went for it.  I bought a black and brown Model 8 (or 5?) which is supposed to replicate the Flyer.  I put the brown one on Blaise, my Mercier mixte, and the black one on Takumashi, my Nishiki Citisport.

Aesthetically, they're a hit.  The brown saddle is a much better look for the blue Mercier than was the honey B67 that was on there before.  It's a very pleasant brown and I have hopes it will age to look similar to the Ideale saddle that would have been on this bike originally.  The black saddle is more accurately described as a very dark brown.  I think it's a more interesting color than the uniformly black of the Brooks saddles I own. 

But when it comes to saddles, looks aren't everything.  The jury is still out on whether these saddles will become sufficiently comfortable.  After about 30 miles on each, the Nishiki is proving more adaptable to the change.  In both cases, there's no mistaking the fact that you are sitting on something very solid and pretty hard.  There is no noticeable "give" in either case. 

In the case of the Mercier, though, it's more pronounced.  I can feel both sit bones after about 5 miles, resting somewhat uncomfortably on a hard surface. 

This sensation, I believe, is due to the stiffer leather.  So, I'm giving it 100 miles or so before I rejoice or despair.  I figure the stiffer leather will take longer to break in, so I'm reserving judgment.  My fear, of course, is that the saddle is too narrow for the mostly-upright position I have on the Mercier.  If this proves to be true, I may adjust the stem and bars to achieve a more aggressive position and see how much this helps.  After all, it's not like I have a shortage of upright bikes.

Interestingly, the VOs feature a fabric-like lining on the underside of the saddle.  This would appear to guard against moisture and dirt, but I'm wondering if it will provide an unwanted barrier to the effects of Proofide.  I slapped a fair bit under there anyway, and we'll see if it helps hurry the break-in period along.

I'd be interested in any perspective or counsel my experienced readers have to offer.  If a saddle isn't a good match, do you know right away or is patience a virtue in these situations?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Badass latte lock

I love café or latté locks on bikes. They always make me think of Belgium, where I was in constant amazement at the number of expensive Dutch bicycles left overnight on the front street secured only by one of these simple devices. 

Of course, this said more about the incidence of theft in Flanders than it did about the power of the wheel lock. Nevertheless, the simplicity of the wheel lock -- and the desire to live in a world where it would be sufficient to prevent anyone from borrowing your bicycle -- make it a favorite accessory for me.

Not long ago, Lovely Bicycle wrote about the wheel lock and I was reminded of how much the lock resembles a single handcuff.  I resolved to get a pair of handcuffs and add them to my security arsenal.  Sadly, my access to police equipment is gone, lo these last 15 years, so it wasn't a question of begging a pair from Property.  Likewise, the pawn shops that used to sell them downtown no longer carry them. This last item is less surprising than the fact that they ever carried them in the first place.  The pawn shop employees I asked seemed to think I was nuts for thinking they'd have such a thing.  I was, though, relieved and vindicated when one old-timer emerged from the back room to verify that my memory was correct... handcuffs had, inexplicably, been a prominent feature of his window displays in the early 1990s.

So, it was off to Amazon and then some fun waiting for the FedEx man.

First of all, the cuffs are much easier to carry than my u-lock.  Lighter, too.  They slip into even the smallest saddle bag.  After a bit of practice, unlocking them became very easy.  I did have to learn to lock them with the keyhole facing up, so I wouldn't have to stand on my head to get at it.

I'm not suggesting the cuffs offer the same level of security as a u-lock.  I imagine they wouldn't hold up well against decent bolt cutters.  I wouldn't use them, then, to lock the bike and leave it unseen in a theft-prone area for a long time.  But, for the quick coffee stop or an extra layer of security in a valet lot, they seem more than adequate.

I use them only occasionally as a wheel lock.  More often, I lock one cuff on the frame of the bike and the other around a stationary object. 

I wonder if their association with law enforcement doesn't offer some slight intangible benefit as well. I wonder if they might create a bit of extra hesitation on the part of the thief who would prefer not to tangle with something that could be the property of a cop?  On the other hand, maybe that'd make the theft all the more fun.  Dunno.

In terms of drawbacks, there is one big one I've found.  It turns out that parking meter posts and most bike rack tubes are far wider than I realized.  Finding a secure, but sufficiently thin, structure to which the "other" cuff can be fastened isn't always easy. 

But this still leaves their intended use,  as a wheel lock, a viable option.  I'm going to call this $13 investment a success.

three feet high and rising

Spring has finally decided to arrive, although it sometimes seems her heart isn't in it this year.  Chilly breezes and the threat of rain linger into our second week since the constant rain came to an end.  And, Winter is holding tight to some of the territory he claimed in March.

See those trees in the background?  Beneath them is where, during an ordinary year, you sit to do a bit of fishing in the American River just before it joins with the Sacramento.  This year, they are forty yards from the new shore.  The water levels outside the river's banks are ebbing, finally, but there are still a few remarkable sights to see.

Like this one.  This is the bike trail I normally take if my destination is midtown or downtown.  On this particular day, it was covered in water far too deep for biking through. For some perspective, follow the yellow line to the background... just to the left of one of the concrete pillars is a rectangle protruding from the water.  That is the map of the bike trail.  It's posted at eye level, which means the water is about three feet deep at that crossroads.  I have fenders and all, but three feet strikes me as a bit much.

Here's another example.  Ordinarily, the tourists seen here would walk down the gangplank to the Delta King and their lunch.  These days, it's an uphill hike to get to the grilled salmon.

Fortunately, I have found an alternate route that is now dry enough to let me bike across the river and then follow a little-used stretch of trail along the south bank.  As with much of river as it nears downtown, the wildlife on this bank runs more to the urban variety. Pit bulls seem to be the pet de rigueur these days among the outdoorsy types who frequent the south bank. 

Each day brings the water a bit lower on the trail along the north bank, and I hope to return to my usual route before much longer.

Finally, in the interest of fairness, I should point out that a delayed Spring may be a more appreciated Spring.  Scenes like these are everywhere, all at once, and will be on their way far too soon.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Keep your fingers crossed for me...

Remember this?  I first posted about it here.

I'm not going to say too much, because I am a very superstitious person.  But, it couldn't hurt to keep your fingers crossed on my behalf. 

More later, hopefully!!

Friday, April 1, 2011

My new thing

As you may have noticed, the number and frequency of posts has been dropping around here.

I think it's safe to say that I've grown tired of my fleet of city and commuter bikes and have been eagerly searching for a way to recapture the excitement and optimism that characterized this blog in the early days.

Well, I found it.  There's a whole new world of bicycling open to me now that I have discovered a way to combine my love of bikes with my lifelong love of the art of clowning.

Here's me on my latest CL find. I'm not 100 percent sure how this will do on the levee road that leads to the bike trail, but I'll figure it out.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


This is getting old.

What isn't pictured here is the 65-mph winds that roared through here in the early hours of this morning.

Don't believe that teaser sun icon on Tuesday, the other maps I've seen show relentless rain all the way to April.  And don't put much stock in those temperatures.  When it's wet and windy, that alleged 53 feels more like 33 to me.

I keep telling myself that this can't last forever and soon enough it will be roasting here.  But it is getting harder to keep a positive attitude in this soggy winter that won't end.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Back on the horse

I'm happy to report that our post-Christmas ride and wreck did not prove overly off-putting to my little cyclist, who so loved the bike Santa brought her.

Rad at Peak Adventures restored the bent crank to like-new condition, and Dad replaced the broken, scattered accessories.  Decked out for a blustery Spring day, my little one saddled up and rode with me to Old Sacramento on the American River Bike Trail.

The only train tracks on our route were handled carefully and quickly and the rest of the ride was happily uneventful.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh!

St. Patrick brought us a one-day reprieve from the relentless rain and gloom that is marking this Spring.  I, for one, am grateful and thrilled. 

Sure, I know that I could still ride in the rain -- and I do often enough -- but between the weather and travel and work, it's been quite a few days since I've been on a bike.  Not wanting to waste today's sunshine, I headed to Capitol Park for fresh air, people watching and sunshine. 

Our family St. Patrick's celebration is going nicely, albeit in a low-key way.  Thanks to the last-minute arrival of Irish bangers at Costco, we're having two excellent dinners in a row this week.  Last night was bangers, beans and mash, and tonight is corned beef, cabbbage, spuds and carrots.  Yum.

When I was younger and a bit (!) more militant about these things, I never tired of pointing out that corned beef and cabbage is an American re-invention of an Irish dish... kind of like Chop Suey.  Now, I figure A) it's delicious; and 2) it seems to make people happy.

So, to the several thousand people who received one of my mini lectures between, say, 1974 and 1999, I'm genuinely sorry and grateful to you for not punching me in the mouth.

I hope your St. Patrick's Day was as happy and pleasant as mine.

An beannachtaí agus Naomh Pádraig a bheith agat ar lá atá inniu ann agus i gcónaí!!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Small touches

I must be running out of changes to make to my bicycles.  I got pretty excited this week about the success of a truly tiny project.

Some time ago, I bought stainless steel frame pumps from Sunlite.  The pumps very nicely approximate the original pumps that came on Raleigh Superbes and Sports and make a handsome addition to other bikes as well.  Besides, with these in place, I don't have to stuff a pump into a saddle bag or try to remember which bike has the pump mounted on it before I set off to the office.

For the Raleigh's, attaching the pump is too simple.  There are brazed-on pump pegs on the down tubes and that's that.  For the Schwinns and the 10-speeds, however, there are no pegs.  The pumps come with black plastic straps that have a peg fitting, and these do the job pretty well.  They are not, however, terribly pretty.

So, I picked up a pair of cast-off clamp-style pegs from Mike at Vintage Bicycle Supply.  In a moment of inspiration, I painted them metallic gold first.  This took them from dingy steel to sparkly gold, which matches the details of the Corsaro perfectly.  It also made the tiny "made in France" engraving vivid and readable.

After some consternation trying to mount them on the seat tube, it occurred to me that not all tubing is of the same diameter.  They fit perfectly on the top tube and the Corsaro has a distinctly unique, new look.

Don't try to read it here... my photography will give you a migraine.  But it's there and it's clear and it's cool.

Like I said, sometimes it's the small things that provide a bit of excitement in a quiet week.