Monday, October 25, 2010

Bike about weekend

It was a tough weekend to be in a car in the Harvard square area.  The Head of the Charles Regatta was this weekend, bringing a triple whammy of out of town drivers, closed streets, and even more competition for limited parking than usual.
Although the Scientist will often drive in to lab on Saturday and/ or Sunday depending on how busy he is, and sometimes I'll borrow his car to run errands that are either far away or involve heavy bulky objects, instead this weekend we tried to go everywhere by bicycle

First we biked to the new outpost of Flour bakery near MIT.  This part of Mass Ave has been undergoing a bit of a renaissance, after years of feeling like a forlorn DMZ between the MIT campus and Central Square.   Evidently MIT owns much of it, and hasn't done anything with it for whatever reason.  The new Novartis compound helps, and there are a couple of new stores and restaurants,  which start to make it feel like a real part of the city.  We snagged seats in the window, and not only was the bike rack full, but bikes zipped by on a regular basis- I'd say 20 bikes went by while we enjoyed our french toast.

I then did a small tour of the bike stores of East Cambridge, looking for a dynamo tail light for Minerva. I hit Cambridge Bikes, where someone ignorant started to tell me I'd need a separate dynamo for the rear (A level look and a quick explanation that I'd done it on two other bikes earned me a guy who actually knew what he was talking about, but who didn't have any tail lights.

I stopped at the hardware store to get some paint, then hit up Hub Bicycles, which I'd never been in before.  They couldn't help me with the tail light, but I browsed a bit, looking for something that I did need.  I didn't see anything, but they were very friendly and I wish them well.  They have a great location right on the bike lane down Cambridge.  I bet they get a lot of neighborhood traffic needing mechanical help.  Unlike most bike stores, they didn't appear to be selling any bikes,  so they're making it on wrenching and accessories alone. One thing that I noticed that seemed like a great idea "bike pyjamas"  a tyvek or similar cover for if you have to lock your bike on the street in inclement weather.

Finally, I swung past Broadway bikes, hoping that since they identify as a transportation cycling-oriented shop they would have something,  but nope.  They could special order it, but so could I,  and  partly I wanted to actually look at them and see how bright the different ones were, as I've heard some people (MDI) voice concerns that the standlights are pretty weak on the B&M rack mounted lights.  My fender mounted light is at least 90% of its full brightness on standlight setting, so if the tail lights are significantly dimmer, I'll get a fender light.

I did see this pretty cool Swedish Kronan military bike.  It has unusual geometry- it seemed really long for its height- as a comparison here's a photo of it next to Minerva, who is extra long.

At my last stop, at the Grocery store, I locked up next to a bike with this sticker:

I then shifted into painting mode, and finished painting the front fence and the front steps.  I still have a little bit of touchup, but it's mostly done, which is a good thing since I'm running out of weather warm enough to paint in.  Next weekend will be raking and clearning gutters, and then I'll probably be shifting into inside project mode for the winter!

After an afternoon of painting, we went to a dinner party to welcome some new faculty to MIT.  We still didn't want to drive, so we set off on bikes to North Cambridge.  A quick jaunt down Mass Ave, and we were there.  It honestly was faster and easier than driving and searching for parking would have been, and it was a lovely crisp night.   The Scientist was kind of shocked by how fast I can move on Gilbert in traffic- we don't ride vehicularly together very often. 

Sunday was grey and damp, and I was glad that I wasn't a rower.  We did finally break out the car to take the dog out to the Fresh Pond resevoir-  he needed a bit more exercise than a walk around the block.  Someone immediately took our parking spot, and we ended up parking 4 or 5 blocks away when we came back,  rather than try to find a closer spot.  The rest of the day was laundry and cooking for the week, with a quick trip by bike to Whole foods by bike to get some salsa.  Inspired by a dish I had at a restaurant, I made buttermilk biscuits from scratch, and we head them with home-made spicy red pepper jelly and prosciutto.  YUM.  Biscuits were a perfect thing for a grey day-  they're fast, they're delicious, and they make the whole house smell good!


  1. "A level look..."

    I can imagine that would be rather chilling!

  2. hey! i donated that kronan to broadway bikes. someone gave it to me needing a new rear wheel, and missing its saddle. i considered building a new wheel for it and doing an overhall, but eventually decided i didn't want another project bike. i donated it to BBS, figuring they're either recycle it for parts or put some money into it and make it functional again. good to see it's back in action!

  3. I've got to try this with the prosciutto!! I too love biscuits with red pepper jelly, but hadn't thought of the prosciutto! Have you also tried this with cornmeal muffins? Thats good too!!

  4. That is a neat military bike. I am always so happy when I see a roadster type bicycle parked, and make sure to lock up my Gazelle or Raleigh DL-1 next to it, hoping the owner will get a kick out of mine too. Very corny, I know.

    As for local bike shops having things like dynamo lights and other components truly useful for commuting - I have pretty much given up and go straight to Harris if I want instant gratification, even though it is 10 miles away.

  5. I've noticed that often people who work in retail begin to think they're experts on the products they sell. More often than not they aren't.

    But nothing beats the combination of arrogance and ignorance. And no place beats Cambridge Bicycle for the intensity of that attitude. (Okay, maybe the folks at Belmont Wheelworks are more arrogant, but they usually are decently knowlegable.)

    Why don't you visit Harris Cyclery? I'm not 100% sure, but I think they might have dynamo lights in stock. It's a nice scenic trip, especially at this type of year. There are a few nice routes to there from Cambridge.

  6. About that... I've been since told that it is only the B&M 4D Lite Plus that is very dim in standlight mode. The other B&M taillight, the B&M Seculite Plus (which is the one you have, right?) is bright enough. They are both fender-mount lights, and I think Harris & Peter White carry both of them. I am not aware of other B&M fender-mount lights for sale in the US.

    The explanation I heard was that the 4D Lite is "15 years old" and thus has somehow inferior innards. Capacitor technology hasn't changed in, like, forever, and the LEDs are the same when drive by dynamo or stored energy, so I am really not sure what B&M messed up. 15 years ago or not, they should've looked at it then and fixed it. How can they keep selling it all these years when their other fender-mount light is so much better?

    Anyways, Spanninga also makes dynamo taillights and the usual suspects carry them, too. I have no personal experience with rack-mount dynamo taillights, so I cannot comment on them.

  7. MDI-
    Unfortunately there isn't a Seculite rack mounted light. I have the battery powered version of the 4D Toplight, and it's pretty lousy, but that's party because I broke the switch housing when replacing the batteries the first time.
    I guess my only choice is the Dtoplight plus, which is kind of bug eyed looking.

    Somervillain they had "restored" it by putting a mishmash of components and plastic fenders on it. I'm curious how it rides- the geometry looked really strange.

    I am 100% sure that Harris carries dynamo tail-lights, but I just didn't have time in my day for the trek, and I like to go to the other shops from time to time. I will say that this is my first bad experience at Cambridge bike. They have a bad rap, and as a lady of a certain age with heels and a sensible skirt, I'm not their target demographic, but they've always been pleasant and helpful other than this guy (and his superior called him down pretty quick).

  8. I have one of those bike pyjamas tarps--I keep it at my office, to cover the bike outside when the weather is bad. It works pretty well, but has to be bungeed in a high wind.

    I recently brought my bike in to Emily at Hub for a tune-up, and she seemed knowledgeable and did a good job. It's definitely a welcome addition to the neighborhood.

  9. I stopped in on Hub a few weeks ago while I was in the area to pickup a frozen turkey from Mayflower (aka the Fresh Killed place) and agree that it's a very friendly shop that could do with a little more inventory. I also wound up looking for an excuse to buy something and wound up going home with a new rack for the Raleigh.

    I had also stopped in on Belmont Wheelworks and was surprised to find a B&M dynamo taillight in their inventory. I suspect that may have been a special order, though, as I've never seen any dynamo lights in Wheelworks. Like others, I tend to go to Harris for that sort of gear.

    Oooh and new Flour branch! I haven't been to that location yet, but was at the Middlesex Lounge the other night with The Girl for a NerdNite talk on cooking for geeks (which unfortunately was just another "sous vide is awesome" presentation) and we both kept on getting distracted with watching folks rolling by on Mass Ave with various species of bicycle.

  10. Cris,
    I wish I'd known about the cooking for geeks thing.
    I keep hoping that the Scientist can find a decommissioned constant temperature water bath for me, so that I can try Sous Vide on the cheap..
    I guess you would really really need to decontaminate it before cooking food with it, but it would be the perfect thing.

    Flour was packem stackem, not surprisingly. There's a real need for stuff like that in the area. Miracle of Science is great, and we like it a lot for breakfast, but it's not a "sit all afternoon with a cup of tea" kind of place.

  11. The talk was from the author of a new O'Reilly book called Cooking for Geeks, which might be worth picking up if you're interested. It's basically an O'Reilly-esque intro to molecular gastronomy and chemistry based cooking. Less about recipes and more about general principles and defining models.

  12. Hi,
    I have to put in some good words for Emily and Hub Bicycle. Emily just build a dynamo hub wheel and installed lights on my bike! She is awesome. Since she didn't carry what I was looking for, I bought the hub and the lights (Sanyo hub and BM 4DLitePlus fender light from Longleaf Bicycles; IQ fly at Harris)and brought them to her. She's near my office so I was able to drop off and pick up the bike the same day.
    A day or so after installation, the rear light wasn't working properly - took forever to turn on and was randomly bright. Emily rechecked everything and determined it was the light. Just to be sure, I brought in the Seculite off my damaged bike and that worked much better. I am sending the 4DLitePlus back to longleaf cycles - it may be defective. BTW, i chose the 4DLitePlus because I thought that it would be sturdier but since the lighting system is complete, I'm leaving it as is.
    Anyway - I see that Reelight has a rear rack light that I would love to try out as well when I have bike with a rear rack. However, doesn't seem to be sold in the US.
    Also, those of us in the Boston area are really really lucky to Harris Cyclery. They will answer emails or you need to go to the store but they do know their lighting systems.

  13. I also have to put in a nice word in for Emily at Hub Bicycle. She's very friendly -- not just friendly, but very thoughtful and practical, and her shop feels like a very inclusive and welcoming place. (This is a big deal for misfits like me.) I tell people to check out her shop even if she won't have what they need. :)

  14. mayamocha--we also had to have a 4D Lite replaced, with similar symptoms to what you describe. After my own experiences and what I heard from others, including your report, I am just not sure what to think about this particular model. I'll repeat that it is most surprising that B&M won't take action despite so many issues with this light.