Friday, April 30, 2010

Home brew cargo bike

I saw this homemade cargo bike parked in harvard sq and later on the Memorial  drive path.  I've seen instructions for this kind of diy cargo bike via bike Portland from a bike hacker, but it's one of those things that requires a welding rig, and I'm just not quite that hardcore. Yet.  

I aspire to someday own a bakfiets and I wonder how this system works. I hope to see the guy with his bike sometime so I can ask for more details.  The Scientist just wants to know what's in the box

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

David Byrne Tonight at MIT

So David Byrne, Jackie Douglas from Livable streets,  Nichole Freedman and a couple of people from MIT's planning dept are going to be having a livable streets discussion this evening, and the Scientist was able to get me tickets.  (it's now sold out)  The co-worker who was going to accompany me is sick, so if anyone who lives in Boston wants to go,  email me at bikinginheels(at) and I'll get you the details of how to get you a ticket.

Monday, April 26, 2010

mission creep

Sunday was a busy day.  First I made belgian waffles and read the paper while the Scientist watched Liege Bastogne Liege over the internet.  Then I sealed the bottoms of all the fence posts that are going into our new wood front fence (replacing the chainlink).  Then I started cutting down the scraggly yew bushes and taking limbs off the 20' juniper that we want to replace with a dogwood.  The Scientist emerged to put all the debris into lawn waste bags, and dig out the yew stumps, while I primed the fence posts.

I broke out the chainsaw and cut down the now limb-less juniper,  and then we both spent an hour digging out the stump.
After all that and another coat of primer on the fence posts, I started to work on bikes while the Scientist half watched basketball, half read scientific papers.   Since I've been rebuilding bikes, our basement TV room looked like a bike shop exploded down there.  I like to work on the bike with a movie running in the background (I've been on a "Tudors" kick recently).  After a bit of messing with Gilbert (put the chain on,  hooked up the roller brake) I reached a stopping point which requires a new shifter cable housing and a shorter fender nut.

So I put Minerva up on the rack.
At the meeting of the Boston Retro Wheelmen on Saturday, Somervillian and I figured out a way to mount the rack I found for Minerva.  Minerva has two rear attachment points- the rear axle and where the seatstay attaches to a special threading on the dropout.  The rack fits perfectly on the seatstay attachment point- but the bolts for that were just a tiny bit too short, and they're the dreaded Whitworth threading- bane of all Raleigh enthusiasts- a weird dead end in the evolution of modern threading.  It's not metric,  it's not "English"  but a bit in between.  While it's possible to order Whitworth threaded bolts (they're also used on classic British sportscars) a lot of people just tap the holes to a more common threading.
In this case, we figured out that we could move the fender stays to the axle, which gave us just enough clearance to put the rack on the seat stay attachment!  So that was one of my major issues with Minerva solved.  The other was the braking.  I got some tips from Somervillian (including that I'd re-assembled the brake shoes backwards- oops).  So after all the yardwork on Sunday, I decided to fix the brakes- after my scare last week, I wanted all the braking I could get.
So to get the brakes properly adjusted I had to take off the front wheel,  and while I was waiting for the Scientist to help me get it back on, I decided, hey, might as well clean and re-pack the front axle bearing!
Got all that back together and the front wheel on, then moved to the back.  Somehow I decided it was time to thoroughly clean and wax the chain.  And while I had that off, maybe I should put the chain guard on.  And once I had the crank off to replace the chain guard,  maybe I should clean and re-pack  the bottom bracket.
Next think I know, it's midnight, and I'm riding around and around the block trying to adjust the brakes and the shifting.    It's all more or less together,  although the chain case has some serious adjustment necessary to get it quieter,  and I had to stop at least twice on my ride in/ back to adjust the brakes a bit,  I feel like the braking has improved 100%,  and I can carry stuff!
Forgive the lousy pictures- Didn't head home until dusk- will try to get some glamour shots on a sunny day. Note the giant "fast rider" panniers I bought second hand.  I don't know that they're the right thing for everyday, but they're capacious (held a load of groceries, a new rear rack for Gilbert,  a lock, rain gear, lunch, and a bunch of tools) and well balanced.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sexy Beast

Parked in front of my office during the Earth Day concert on the Greenway:

I particularly love the curved seat tube

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Cute couple

Stopped at a light

 they looked like they were headed into Harvard Square for dinner

Friday, April 23, 2010

Bikes in the news

So there was a slightly patronizing snippet in the NY Times about a "women's bike shop"
Which was really unfortunate, because it looks like a nice shop and seems like it carries a lot of good solid transportation bikes.  It's too bad that the article trivializes it as a place for people who want designer bikes to go with their designer shoes.  No man would ever be interested in a practical and good looking way to cover short distances in a dense city environment without a special outfit-  how silly and trivial!  And they come in pink! grrrr.

I found this article about Chinese resistance to Fixie culture much more interesting.  Although I thought the article was too hung up on whether the chinese appreciate irony or not,  I thought it opened an interesting window into bike culture in a country where there is no bike culture- just bikes and bike riders.   I'm not sure how to unpack the semi-ironic importation of Flying pigeons to the US in light of this story..

On the Sunny Side of the street

Love these big wheels

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The hour I first believed

So, the fact that rod brakes are marginal at best, and completely lousy in the rain is common knowledge amongst roadster lovers  Instead of smooth braking, I get a rattling jerky gradual slowing when I apply Minerva's brakes.
I've just been going slow and being even more conservative than usual these last couple of weeks.

And everyone talks about how much worse they are in wet conditions, so I was debating whether to ride home after this afternoon's thunderstorms, or bail and take the T.  Since it looked pretty clear, and the roads looked reasonably dry, I decided to bike home.

About halfway over the longfellow it starts to sprinkler,  and although it never really starts to pour, it gets steadily harder, and there are lots of leftover puddles in the bike lane.  I'm trying to decide whether to gut it out or bail and walk home, when I have to brake suddenly-  and got a big double handful of NOTHING.

Fortunately I wasn't going very fast, and wasn't panic stopping, just slowing a bit.
But boy do I sure believe the stories now about how lousy rod brakes are!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Hot off the presses

Just got home from the Boston Bicycle Safety Summit.
There was a huge and vocal crowd, lots of good ideas, a few rants, a couple of ramblers.  Your average public hearing.

My first takeaway is how incredibly quickly (two weeks-light speed in bureucratic terms) the heads (not just representatives) of all the major agencies (MassDot,  MBTA, BPD, Public,  Boston Department of Transportation, Boston Public Health and a guy who didn't say a word who I think was from public works) came out and spent 2 hours listening and being very open and responsive to the bicycling community.   The mayor was there for some of it,  and it is clear that he leaned on some people to be there, that this is important to him, personally.  The fact that Mayor Menino has become a bicyclist himself has had a HUGE impact on city policy.

My hands down, 1,000% absolute favorite moment of the entire evening-  when I had unlocked my bike and was waiting as the cross walk on Comm Ave, and realized that the guy next to me, with his Peugeot, in dress pants, shirt and shoes, was the MA Secretary of Transportation, Jeffery Mullan,  head of Mass DOT,   the guy who really controls the money, and therefore the policy in transportation infrastructure .  Ready to bike home.   Priceless!

(we'll forgive that he didn't appear to have lights on his bike- the summit was supposed to end before dark, but the panellists graciously stayed around to hear everyone out.)
This drives home to me how critically important it is to get people on bikes.  When people try to bike, they realize not only how rewarding it can be, but what the challenges are.  Nothing makes the mayor or the head of the DOT understand safe passing on a visceral level, like being buzzed by a 2,000 pound vehicle going 35 mph.  People can start to identify with the gal on 2 wheels instead of seeing her just as an obstacle.   Once people understand things from a 2 wheel perspective, not only are they more likely to be humane towards fellow road users, they are so much more open to suggestions that reflect that perspective.

My thanks to the Mayor,  his tireless bicycle Czar Nichole Freedman (seriously- she must be related to the Energizer bunny) and all the folks who turned out on both sides of the podium for starting down the path that I hope will turn Boston into a wonderful place to ride!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mysteries solved and unsolved

Saw this lying beside the bike path

And then a couple hundred yards further

and then a couple of hundred yards beyond that

Did someone deconstruct their bike on this section of the bike path?
Were they unconnected?  Was it some art installation? Guess I'll never know

On the other hand, I solved the mystery of the intermittent high pitched rubbing noise- my kickstand had come loose and was rubbing against the rear tire.   Easily fixed with a wrench, and a bit of threadlocker.

As a matter of fact, it IS tinfoil

Cute little cruiser, tinfoil seat cover and "spoke card"

The importance of running errands

Riding Minerva this week has been a bit frustrating, because she is NOT set up for carrying stuff.
I'm working on installing a rack but am running into idiosyncratic  Raleigh issues.  

In the meantime, all my weekly and daily errands are made more complicated and frustrating, and I can really see how people who try to start bicycling "transportationally"   get frustrated and annoyed.

I can't use any of my panniers (no rack)  so I'm using my Frietag messenger bag.  I've tried it with the waist strap and without, and either way it's a pain: literally- my shoulders ache, and figuratively, it keeps slipping, it makes mounting and dismounting a pain etc.  
And I have no basket,  so when I need to take off a layer halfway through my ride, there's no where to put it except crammed in on top of everything else.  And when I stop, i have to rummage around under everything for keys and wallet, which invariably migrate to the bottom.

Three errands last night,  three trips.
First, on the way home, stopped at a hardware store in search of hardware for the rack.  Because the hardware store is in a kind of seedy neighborhood, I had to strip the lights and be extra careful locking up (tough because I need a longer lock for Minerva- the rake and loop frame make it tough to get around any but the sveltist of racks).

2nd trip- desperately needed to take the compost to the pickup place. Seriously the compostable liner bag was starting to compost itself.  No place to put the stinky bag, and I definitely didn't want to put it in my freitag.
I ended up doing the ever-dangerous bag over the handlebars.  I went slowly and most of it is on sleepy streets, but I hate doing that.   Afterwards, I folded the bag up and shoved it in the springs of my saddle.

3rd trip.  This was the only easy one,  to the library to return my books. (The Wordy Shipmates, Wolf Hall, and Olive Kitterage)  This was easy from a biking standpoint, but it was too much weight and bulk to combine with another errand, so I had to go out again.

The Scientist, when I got home jokingly suggested that a salad sounded nice tonight, would I mind going out again....
I'm expecting a "care package" from Harris Cyclery  today, which I'm hopeful will move me further towards getting the other bike up and running.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Marathon Monday

For those of you not in Boston,  today is the Boston Marathon,  which in Boston is a really big deal.
For one thing is a slightly dubious local holiday "Patriot's Day"  The day isn't dubious, it celebrates Paul Revere's ride and the battles of Concord and Lexington.  But most people in the private sector don't get it off.

People try not to drive as much as possible too, because the marathon route creates a giant kink in the traffic flow in the SW quadrant of the city for most of the day,  so between that and the "holiday"  it was very pleasantly low-traffic on my ride in this morning.

More than any other city's marathon I've experienced,  there are signs and banners and runner specific advertisements all over, such that it feels like a very civic event.  My favorite ad was a cab-topper that said "most people won't even drive 26.2 miles today"

A confession- before I was a biker, I was a runner, and on days like today I sure do miss it.
Biking is great, don't get me wrong, but it doesn't leave me the same kind of tired, relaxed and happy that long-distance running did (even when I do long rides).

While training for my 4th marathon three years ago I developed a case of bursitis that left me unable to walk. Seriously- I needed a cane for a week. The doctors couldn't really find out what was wrong, although they think I had a stress fracture in  my hip.  And I've really not been able to run more than a mile or so since.

Lately though I've been reading all the hype about barefoot running and am thinking I should give that a try to see if I can do it without pain.  Because while I love biking, and it is a great way for me to combine the exercise that keeps me sane with the errands I have to do anyway,  it just isn't the same...


Last weekend I stripped almost everything off Robert, and started the process of building up his sucessor, Gilbert.  Let me start with a quick post on frame spreading.

In a perfect world, I would have done this before I had the frame powder coated, for feat of cracking the paint.  But I forgot, and as it happens the powder coat was flexible enough that I could spread it without incident.  
Perhaps this is obvious, but you should never try this with anything except an old steel bike.

The rear dropouts on this frame were 120 mm,  ad the hub I intended to put in them is 135mm. 
I followed Sheldon's directions for frame spreading, with a 2x and a stool. 
You put the fork of the bike (no wheel or fenders on the ground facing away from the bench, stool etc.
You put one end of the 2x up on the bench and thread the other under the dropout and across the seat tube as shown.  Then you push down on the end at the bike.  Do this a couple of times and then flip it and do the other side a couple of times.  Measure to see it it's too far or not far enough.

Next you need to check to make sure that the dropouts are still centered on the frame.
Sheldon suggests a simple test.  

Run a string between the dropouts and up around the head tube. 
Then measure the distance between the string and the seat tube:

This being one of the few things that's gone simply in this process, incredibly, I managed to get it right on the first try.  
My next task, for which I didn't take any pictures, was I had to file down the front dropouts to receive the axle of the generator hub.  Again, It would have been nicer to do this before powder coating, since this is a particularly vulnerable place to moisture.  I will coat it with something before I'm done,  I'm wondering if I can find car touchup paint in a matching color.  If that doesn't work, I might just use black touchup paint.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

mark your calendars

Wednesday night at BU's Morse auditorium Nicole Freedman and the city's Bicycle task force will be having a bicycle safety summit to discuss infrastructure and what we can do to make Boston a safer city in which to bicycle.
I appreciate that the city has reacted so quickly to the recent accidents.
The more people that can show up the better in terms of establishing community support for biking in boston, so please if you live here, make an effort to show up and show the city that we deserve their attention and the effort necessary to create safer streets.

Friday, April 16, 2010


I've made no secret of my love of cabbage.
Or at least, I've tried not be be secretive of it.  Or at least it's an open secret?

Cabbage,  brussels sprouts, cauliflower,  basically any cruciferous veggie.

Now I'm branching out to Kimchi, the Korean pickled cabbage dish.  I love Kimchi when I have Korean food, but I never remember to get it at the store, or they never seem to have it when I'm looking for it.

I did the hard part about two weeks ago. Let me rephrase that to put "hard" in quotes, because it was dead simple.   I read a bunch of recipes online, and gathered that it's not a terribly exact science, so I combined a couple of things that sounded good.  The only thing I would do differently is to salt the cabbage first separately, otherwise it bleeds off a lot of liquid that if your jars are full you have to decant.

I chopped up a Napa cabbage in big chunks.  Grated a Daikon radish with a cheese grater.  Chopped up some scallions that were wilting in the veggie drawer,  added an inch of ginger and a 3 cloves of garlic, 2 Tbs of red pepper flakes.  1/4 cup kosher Salt, soy sauce, a good squirt of soy sauce, a Tbs or so of the liquid that separates off of yogurt and a squirt of fish sauce.   Packed it into jars and left it on the counter for a couple of days.  Transfered it to the fridge and waited.

The other night I was digging around for dinner ideas, and I opened up the jar and tasted it.

Salty, spicy, crunchy, YUM.  More please!
I had to hold myself back from finishing the whole pint jar I opened up in one sitting.  I should have made more.  Fortunately now that I know how easy it is to make, I can whip up a new batch any time. Which might have to be tomorrow.  After all it takes a week or so, and I don't think this batch will last that long.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Elegant red mixtie

This woman was so elegant in her dress trousers as she waited to enter traffic at Charles Circle.
Unfortunately I was basically in motion, so the photo isn't the best.
I'm lucky that in Cambridge (and Boston) there are an increasing number of people who ride in their work clothes, and I'm resolved to try to capture more pictures of them doing it.  Bear with me as I learn to do it better

DIY and the need for Expertise.

I've been taking Robert apart, and starting to build up his successor. I spent all weekend messing, gave myself an anti-manicure cleaning the chain first with PB-Blaster and then simple green. Anti- in that my hands may never be the same again. So much for the career in hand modeling!

So I've been thinking about DIY. Then I read a post on the excellent blog DFW Point to Point about having service done at a bike shop. Steve- I love the line about how after working on cars, bikes are easy. Being able to do it indoors is key.

On one hand, I'm enough of my father's daughter to never pass up a project that requires the purchase of new tools. And in this world, there's a lot of yahoos that work at bike shops, and I'm pretty sure that if they can figure it out, I can. On the other hand, I'm busy, and sometimes it takes me a while to get projects done, and sometimes it's worth it to pay to get it done faster, especially if it's something that disables the bike while it's in process..

However, even the most yahoo infested bike shop has a grizzled veteran, who can help the yahoo out when there's a funky trick to getting something to work. For the rest of us, there's the fantastic legacy of Sheldon Brown. I can't say how many bike repairs I've blundered through with my laptop open next to me, checking between operations to make sure I've got it right.

But Sheldon is gone now, and he didn't write about EVERYTHING on bikes. Sometimes you get stuck, and it doesn't make sense, and you need someone to help. And sometimes there's a trick, and sometimes you just know by feel after the hundredth time you do it. So sometimes you need to talk to someone with expertise.

Saturday afternoon, after I got the chain case on the new frame and put the left side crank on was one of those times. - The damn thing whacked the chainstay with every revolution. I had spread the frame to accept the 8 speed internal geared hub, but I couldn't believe that the tolerances were that close. So I packed it all into the Scientist's car, and headed to Metonomy Vintage bikes/ Cambridge Used bicycles where they can probably re-assemble a Raleigh BB in 5 minutes blindfolded, they do so many of them.

And Ed and Vin, bless their hearts, despite the fact that they were crazy busy, put it on a stand, looked at it, scratched their heads, looked at it again, and realized, that I'd installed the cups so that the whole spindle was shifted over. AND I had the crank on backwards (it looks symmetric, but it's not quite- you can tell because there's a heron on one side).

At a lot of shops they would have told me to drop it off and they'd look at it on Wednesday. After all, they get paid to do that work, why should they give it away for free. I really appreciate that they were willing to give a few minutes and the advantage of their expertise.  I'm really really lucky to be part of a bike community, where people are willing to share their knowledge, instead of guarding it jealously as the precious commodity that it is.

And you know, customer service generosity pays. I'm not really in the market for one of the reconditioned used bikes that are their stock in trade. But I try to buy parts there when I can (they're one of those places that regularly stocks brake shoes for Minerva). And whenever someone tells me they're looking for a cheap, simple bike, I steer them away from a big box, or even a regular bike store and point them there. My dental hygenist for an example from this week, a grad student in the Scientist's lab a couple of weeks ago, coworkers. And now you, gentle reader. I've received no compensation for this recommendation. Except for the kind sharing of expertise, freely given.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


So it happened.

Something I've been worrying about for weeks.

Since the weather turned and all the newbies came out to play.

I was hit by another bike.

I was riding along the Charles River bike path, crossing Mass Ave.  The pedestrian signal had just changed from walk to flashing orange,  and there were probably 20 people (bikes and peds) in the crosswalk, and I know that light has a long warning cycle, so I proceeded at a measured pace into the crosswalk.  Wham!
A woman travelling along the stopped cars over the Mass Ave bridge ran the red light.  I don't know if she was just planning on creaming any pedestrian who happened to be in the crosswalk.  I suspect she didn't think that far ahead.

Fortunately she had almost stopped, and I was almost out of her path, so she just clipped my rear wheel.  Still.  It could have been so much worse.  What if she'd hit a baby carriage?

I yelled at the top of my lungs, (and believe me, for a 5'6" 140 pound gal, I got a set of lungs).
"What the HELL are you doing?!"   You have a RED LIGHT!!  There are PEDESTRIANS Crossing!"

She said "sorry, so sorry" and rode off.
Still at the top of my lungs ( and believe me about 100 people within a 100 yard range heard me)
"Bad enough to have to worry about getting hit by a car, but to have to worry about getting hit by a bicycle?"
I really hope she was shamed and will think twice.
Because it could have been so much worse.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Minerva Goes to Brookline

This morning the Scientist headed off to Bermuda for a field research trip, and I headed to the Dentist.  No,  life is not fair.

My new dentist is in Coolidge Corner Brookline,  which is a tough ride through Brighton/ Allston from my house.  It’s not that far, it’s just that a) traffic is pretty bad along the arterials in that part of town b) to keep people from cutting through the neighborhoods, the side streets are all one ways to keep you out, and c) the arterials are lined with parked cars and the occasional double parked delivery vehicle.  Add a busy bus line, a couple of train tracks and an intersection where two bikers have been killed,  and I was not looking forward to it.  

To make matters worse,  I took Robert apart this weekend and started putting his parts on the new bike frame.  I’m about 1/3 done, which means that I’ll be riding Minerva probably the rest of the week.  While Minerva is lovely to look at and a pleasure to ride,  I’m still not as completely comfortable with the gearing and the braking as I’d like to be riding in tough traffic.  I was planning on biking mostly on the bike path this week to compensate.

I left super early, partly in hopes that I would miss the worst traffic, and also to allow time if I needed to detour or otherwise re-evaluate.   And….. It wasn’t bad.

I did become a pedestrian to make the left turn at the intersection where two bikers have been killed.  People run the light, and jackrabbit their left turns, and I just didn’t feel comfortable hanging out in the middle of the intersection with my left hand hanging out, waiting for a break in traffic. After that hitch, things went surprisingly smoothly, and there were even some of the new bike lanes along Harvard street.  Evidently they were just painted.  Like over the weekend.           

I pulled up a few blocks short of my destination,  30 minutes early, and decided to grab a coffee- only to realize that I didn’t have a lock!  My normal lock was in a pile with the rest of Robert’s accessories in the basement.  There wasn’t time to go back and at 8AM the chances of finding a lock for sale in the neighborhood were nil.  

So I headed to the dentist’s office, found a secluded location back in a corner of a parking garage, tucked Minerva behind a jersey barrier, and went up to the office.  I told the receptionist that I was worried about it,  and she said- bring it on up- we have people do that all the time!  I knew I liked this dentist!
When I brought Minerva up, and she realized how big she is, the receptionist balked a little,  and we ended up putting her in a unused corridor that leads to the emergency exit stairs.  

An hour later, I emerged, teeth clean and shiny, to find Minerva waiting for me.  Biking in Boston isn't so bad!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Riding in your work clothes

It was much cooler today, although still warm enough to wear my Architect shoes: a pair of Rem-Koolhaas designed Mobius shoes.  I'm going to blog a picture of them without my foot in them because I'm too shy to put a picture of my ratty toenails up on the internet.  The footbed, sole and heel wrap around in a continuous loop- hence the name.

They were surprisingly excellent biking shoes.  I've had problems sometimes when biking in flat bottomed shoes that my foot creeps forward until my arch is over the pedal instead of the ball of my foot.
These, partly because of rubberized soles, had no problem with that.  They were also incredibly stiff and very efficient feeling.
Anyway,  what I wanted to blog about was as I was riding up Cambridge street, I was waiting in traffic, instead of lane splitting my way up to the head of the queue.
A biker came up and instead of passing me, stopped and waited just behind me, which is a little uncommon.   Just because I think it's rude to cut in line, doesn't mean I have hopes of getting others to share my view.  He followed me for a couple of blocks, through a tricky bit of vehicular cycling (passing right turning cars on the left etc).  I was a bit surprised that he hadn't passed me, but was riding aggressively enough to do the VC stuff.  We ended up stopped at the light at the top of Government center, and I struck up a conversation about the flower beds there.  About a minute in, I realized he was wearing a clerical collar, and I asked where he was biking to.  He was going to work at St. Paul's Cathedral.   I tried to take a picture, but unfortunately the light changed, and we had to hop up on the median.  He was reasonably gracious about it (what was he going to do- curse at me?)  but I think he thought I was taking his picture for the novelty "Priests on bikes!"

But mainly I wanted to show, as I always do, that its possible to bike in the clothes you work in.
Unfortunately the picture doesn't show his collar- you'll have to take my word for it.  But he was gone before I could check the photo.

Park Serve?

Any takers for a meet-up/ volunteer morning group with the DCR's Park Serve Day?
Again, it's the morning of April 24th.  If the weather is good we could have a short ride along the river trail, a potluck picnic lunch either along the (newly cleaned up) riverside, or in my backyard in Harvard Square.

please let me know, because I need to coordinate with their group coordinator if there's more than a couple of us.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


It's been an up and down day.
The morning was fine, and I wore my leopard print pumps which always puts me in a good mood.
About halfway through my ride though, a  cab cut into the bike lane right into me- I was more or less even with his passenger door, and he was driving about the same speed as I was (I wasn't coming up along his side- he'd pulled up next to me) and I could see him starting to veer over.  I'm ringing my bell, and yelling,  and I stop as he's about 9" over the line and jump to the curb. I yell at him something like "what the hell are you doing"  and he shrugs, as if endangering my life was no big deal.  The thing that really pissed me off was the exiting passenger says in a scornful tone- "Get over it-  you were in his blind spot"
First of all, if I were in a "blind spot" it was because he had just passed me on his way into the bike lane.  Secondly, last time I checked, when you change lanes you have to check your blind spots for traffic.  I'm afraid I was beyond coherent argument at that point,  yelled an unladylike epithet, and biked off shaking.

A block or two later, I realize that the nut holding my front fender stay to the dropout had gone missing, and the stay was flapping in the wind.  I thought I had a 5mm nut in my bag (what, don't you?)  but I must have dumped it out by mistake.

Unfortunately that puts me at 0 for 2 on fenders.   The back one went on Monday- cracked straight across.  The rear one is now in 3 pieces- the first joint is under a hastily crimped on fender bridge which has been holding unsteadily for 3 months now.  Since I was in a hurry (of course) when it broke,  I hobbled the rest of the way to my destination, fender listing and lurching.  When i got done with my meeting, I figured out a way to wedge it between parts of the rack. It's stable for now, but it's not going to do me a lot of good in the rain.  Talk about a funky fender line!

I keep deferring maintenance on Robert, thinking I'm about to take him apart and rebuild him.  Other than chain lube and a wash a month ago he's had no real attention.  Frustrating to feel like I'm on a broken down beater when everyone is out on their fresh spring rides!

On the other hand- I got the Albatross bars that I ordered from Rivendell, sooner than expected-  On the way home I had Albatrosses (Albatrossi?)  coming and going!

It was reasonably chilly this morning, but by this evening it was very warm- even hot! (81 degrees!)
One of the things I love about riding in the evening is the microcurrents of air- pockets of cold when you go past a garage entrance-  moist coolness when you pass a flower bed, followed by heat radiating from a stone wall,  and the metallic smell of hot manhole covers.  A wave of hyacinth's pungency, followed shortly after by manure from the horse carriages.     I really enjoyed my ride home in the warm twilight, and saw probably 50 other riders.  After months of feeling like the only one (crazy enough to be) on the road,  it's nice to have some company,  even if it results in the occasional traffic jam.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Stopping to smell the flowers

My Daffodils are finally blooming!
It seems like they're the last on the block, because my yard has only a northern exposure,  but at long last, and for a short few days, I have bright yellow blooms to begin my day!

On my ride in (at mid-day because of an early meeting that required a car) Robert  just had to stop and admire this fantastic grove of cherry trees.
I wore my favorite blue and white flowered dress (I liked it so much that I bought two!)

Even the tiny little sucker sprouts are blooming

How lucky I am to be able to bike on a day like today!

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Oh the weather was delightful this weekend!
I did more basking and spring cleaning than riding, but am looking forward to riding all week with lovely weather forecast all week!

For a special Easter treat we had popovers-Somehow they seem festive disproportionate to either their complexity or their indulgence-  it's just fun to turn a half a cup of pancake batter into a inflated balloon of pastry!  Crunchy on the outside, tender on the inside- delicious with home-made fig jam.
The recipe is dead simple
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
1 tbs melted butter
1/2 tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Whisk the ingredients together until they're very smooth (can be done by hand, but a food processor is easier)  Grease muffin cups or a popover pan, and divide evenly among the cups.
Bake at 400 for 30-35 min. (start checking at 25) or until golden brown.
Enjoy with butter and preserves immediately!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Robert goes to the game

Through the generosity of a friend with season tickets,  the Scientist and I went to a Celtics game last night.  (they lost in overtime- it was tough, but a good game- Houston is a scrappy team)
Since it's near my office, I just stayed a bit late and went directly there.  The Scientist was going to meet me there by bike, but it didn't work out and he ended up parking a long way away and walking there.

I've found that biking to a game (Celtics or Red Sox) is by far the best way to get there.  Both of the stadia for these teams are famously in the middle of the city, where there is no parking, and even though they run extra trains when the game gets out, the T is always a zoo afterwards.  Driving is a nightmare- you either pay $$$ to park nearby and inch along in a traffic jam before and after, or you pay$ and walk a long way before and after.

It's great after the game to unlock steps from the exit door and zip along past stopped cars.  The Scientist and I left the Garden at the same time, and we got home at almost exactly the same time (he passed me a block before we got home, but he had to hunt for a place to park, while I could roll up to the front door).

This makes me think about the "third leg" (or is it third rail) of bicycling promotion- auto parking!
People always talk about the chicken and the egg of biking-  if we get more people biking, they'll increase safety by making drivers aware and demand more infrastructure, vs if we build more infrastructure for bikes, people will be safer and more people will ride.  The Third Way so to speak,  is to make parking and driving a car a pain in the a$$.  The reason so many people bike to my office is that there's no place to park, and biking is more flexible and convenient than the T.    In Boston and other dense cities, it's often easier to get around by bike, partly because of traffic, and partly because "there's nowhere to park".  Most places (even a lot of the suburbs)  are dense enough that you do most of your everyday errands within 2 miles of your house, which makes biking ideal. 
Unfortunately taking parking away is a sure way to incense drivers.  Its tough to take a fantastic "free" amenity (as in people don't have to pay the external costs of parking and roads) and make life "harder" in order to make bicycling more appealing.    I know that once there's a robust bike culture it's easier as I see that in Portland OR,  there's a big movement to turn car parking spots into on-street bike "corrals". While it would be great if we could encourage denser development so that every place would be like Boston- I'm not going to hold my breath.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Bare Legged!

This morning had all the sunny brightness that yesterday lacked.
I rode out without tights for the first time in months.  My legs were pale, and my toes were a bit chilly by the end of the ride, but it felt so springlike!

I went out for a walk at lunch, and promptly got blisters on both heels from wearing sandals for the first time this spring.

Saw this bike parked next to the river- maybe its all the green things sprouting and budding, but the wheel color really caught my eye (the green railing behind didn't hurt)  I kind of wish the frame was as purple as the handlebars and cranks,  but that would be a LOT of color

It's supposed to be lovely all weekend-hooray!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Ride, interrupted

I left the office, and turned onto my normal path home, only to find it barricaded after a couple of blocks.
I became a pedestrian and started weaving my way through a rapidly thickening crowd.  About half way along the closed section of  road, I realized that it was closed for a presidential motorcade!
I stopped for a couple of minutes, watching a woman in a jacket emblazoned "U.S. Postal Service Police"  opening up mailboxes (presumably checking them for bombs).  A K9 unit went past, tails and ears up.
The motorcade arrived, but all I saw of it were flashing lights at a distance as it headed into a garage.  Sorry, pictures didn't come out.

The rest of the ride home was mostly uneventful.  The only exception was when I pulled up at a red light in the bike lane next to an SUV whose driver suddenly decided she wanted to be going the other way.   Rather than proceeding through the intersection and finding a place to turn around, she decided to do a U turn right there at the intersection.  She backed up,a bit started to turn into the opposite lane,  started to back up (into me!)  at this point I yelled, and she looked behind her (at me) surprised that anyone would be there!  I scooted out of harm's way and she finished her (very awkward) maneuver.  The woman waiting to turn in and I exchanged eyerolls and shrugs.

When I got home, I had a bit of time, so I made Mole' for dinner.  One of the things I miss about Salt Lake City was this fantastic place called the Red Iguana that had something like 6 or 7 moles every night- fantastic.  You could get a little sampler plate with chips to test them all out and pick your favorite.

Most moles take hours and a list of 20+ ingredients.  This one, from Rick Bayless, can be made on a Thursday night (if you have the right ingredients- which I happened to-dried chiles keep for a good long time).

Slice 4 plum tomatoes in half, and put them under the broiler until blackened (about 10 min for my lousy broiler).  Start a skilled heating over low heat and (optional) let the dog out and change into jeans.

Tear up 2 dried ancho chiles, and toast them in a dry skillet, pressing them down while they warm until they get a bit lighter red in color (5-10 min) and you can smell them- better to undercook them than t let them burn. Put the chiles in a bowl with water to cover, and stick them in the microwave for a minute to help them soften (or soak for 30 min).

Slice a half an onion, and chunk 2 cloves of garlic.  Cook over low heat in a bit of oil until translucent.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine, onions and garlic, roasted tomatoes,  1 cup peanuts,  the ancho chiles (but not the soaking water) 2 slices bread, torn in chunks,  2 chipolte chiles in adobo (from a can)  1/2 tsp of cinnamon and 1/2 cup chicken broth. Process into a paste, scraping down the sides as needed.

Heat 3 tsp oil in a saucepan until it shimmers, then turn all the chile paste into it.  This is a step unique to moles (although I've seen similar steps in some indian food)  but you want to "fry the paste"  until it starts to turn a darker red around the edges, stirring with a spatula for 3-5 minutes.

Add 3 cups chicken broth,  1/2 cup red wine,  1 tbs apple cider vinegar  and 1 tsp salt.
Stir until it's well combined, and let it simmer for about 20 min.
At this point, the Scientist was on his way home, so I divided the sauce (about the thickness of gravy)  in half,  put half of it in the pressure cooker, added chicken thighs, and cooked for about 5 minutes once it got to pressure .   The rest will go straight into the freezer for a later meal.  Serve with tortillas and chips (also good over brown rice). YUM!

Composting by Bike

It's been a tough week, between what might have been strep throat and the torrential rain.
But finally, on Thursday- got a chance to ride!  Although I'm lucky to have lots of public transportation options, I feel like my independence is pretty limited by not having the bike.  Sure, I could rent a zipcar or bike in the rain, but there are a lot of daily errands that need to be taken care of, but don't seem urgent enough to take special measures.

I wouldn't quite describe it as a lovely morning, but at least it was dry and warm-ish, if a bit grey, with the hope of sun by lunch.
I wanted to ride in via the bike path for any additional loveliness I might squeeze out of the morning, but because of the non-biking week, the composting really really needed to be emptied, and stopping at Whole foods on the way to work is the easiest way to empty it.

I'm really glad that we have the opportunity to compost- it's been incredible how much it reduced the size of our weekly trash- easily by 50%.  It's tough to have outdoor composting in a dense urban area, and I'm not quite committed enough to do worm composting.   My brother In Denver had curbside comport pickup, but we're not that advanced.  The city of Cambridge does promote commercial composting pickup, and Whole Foods allows people to use their bins for personal compost.
This is not a fun load to carry like a case of wine or a bag of dogfood- it's can be a little stinky and has a tendency to drip compost "tea".
 For this purpose, I have an old re-usable bag, that has a tear in the upper part, but works just fine for carrying icky stuff.   Thanks to a tip from my sister-in-law, I use compostable bin liners that are like really weak plastic bags- they make things a lot less messy.
 Once I've dropped it off, I can fold the bag and slip it on the rear rack where it's downwind of me.  A quick shmear of alcohol cleanser and I'm on my way!
The main downside to this program is that I never get any "finished" compost for use in my garden.  I think it's been offered for pickup at the public works dept, but I always seem to miss it.