Friday, July 29, 2011

Steampunk bike

I'm not normally into "freak bikes"  Although I understand the fascination with tinkering and reshaping the definition of  what can be considered a bicycle, many of them have such awkward proportions or deliberately hard to ride designs that they're mostly a curiosity.  This bike has a steampunk sensibility and attention to elegant craftsmanship that to me take it a step up from just being freaky.

The curves of the frame, and the monochromatic palette help tip the scales away from "freak".  Lucky to find two matching fenders for such different wheels.

I think that the fork/ rack connection is particularly simple 

Ok, so some of it was a bit freaky......

When I was taking the pictures, I thought this was a vintage Miller light, which I covet. However, it might just be a batter operated cheapie that's been spray painted.  I remember the reflector being more complicated and faceted than the cheapies, but I can't really tell from my backlit photo.

The steering wheel- I wonder how it handles?

Bike Accident

I suppose it was only a matter of time- but  wait it's not what you think!

I was walking back from picking up lunch, and was checking out a bike riding by.  I was wondering if the "carbon fiber" pattern of the fenders could possibly actually be carbon fiber, and why anyone would pay that much money for fenders,  when I stepped off the curb, and bam!

I guess I just misjudged the step, and caught my heel on the curb, and wham, I was down on one knee in the gutter.  I guess that will teach me to check out bikes while I walk!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

top tube?

I don't think I've ever seen such an oddly curved (or perhaps bent?) top tube.

I suppose it's the geometric equivalent of a sloping top tube,  but it's kind of an odd look.

Definitely unique.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

You know those well educated cars?

You know, the ones with three or four stickers from Ivy League colleges in the back window?  Extra points if they're a mid-80's volvo wagon?

Who knew there was a bike equivalent?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Modernized Phillips

After building up Gilbert, I have a soft spot for modernized English three speeds,  and I found a great example in this copper colored Phillips parked next to the ART (American Reparatory Theater).

Front and rear Sturmey Archer Drum brake hubs (3 speed in back, generator in front)

Fantastic placement of a horn-  I was sooooo tempted to see what it sounded like!

And sparkly red grips!  I wondered if the front light was a stock B&M retro, or if it was "modernized"

I especially like the retrofitted fender stays.  A lot of the original fenders on these old steel bikes fail at the  stay attachment to the fender.  This is a seamless integration of modern stay and old fender (or a VERY good paint job to make the fender look original).

Charming rear light.  I assume it's an LED retrofitted into a vintage housing.  Note what appears to be cat5 cable for the wiring :)

The hubs were built into stainless steel rims which is unusual- I couldn't read the manufacturer.  I am not certain, but from the fender line, I wonder if they're 650B.

All in all a lovely modernization of a classic city bike.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

When bike seats attack


Doesn't look very comfortable, I have to say...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Hot rides in the city

I knew it was going to be a hot ride when my radio said it was 83 at 7:00 when my alarm went off.

I took a couple of steps to arrive at work not a sweaty mess:

1) Wear as little as possible- skirts for women, shorts for non-cross dressing men. Today I wore a light colored all natural fibers sleeveless dress (silk liner, cotton exterior).

I love these polka dot heels ($19 at DSW)
 I also didn't dry my hair- evaporation being a good thing to encourage on a day like today.

2) Icewater.  I don't normally bring a water bottle on my 5 mile commute, as I just don't think a normal healthy person can get dehydrated that fast.  However, icewater helps cool you from the inside, and is a real help above and beyond hydration.

3) Stay away from cars , and seek shade as much as possible.   I don't know if you've noticed, but cars put out a lot of heat, and being stuck in among a bunch of them in not a good thing in the heat.   I chose to ride on the dirt path, which I normally avoid, but it was in the shade, and the concrete was not.

An advantage of taking the multi-use path along the charles is that I personally don't feel the need to wear a helmet there, as I do on a city street.YMMV.  I keep a "vented" style helmet around for the couple of days this time of year when my bern helmet's holes are not enough airflow,  and I put it on before I ride through the city, in traffic which might cause me take evasive action or wreck.

4) A handkerchief is the fastest way to make yourself presentable at your destination.  If my face is dry, I feel 100% more pulled together, even if the small of my back is a bit damp.  I have a bunch of vintage linen-cotton hankies with cute leaf appliques, which I treasure, but any kind of hankie works wonders.

5)  go slow.  Not a good day to set a PR.   I have to consciously remind myself to shift down a gear, and go slower than I feel "comfortable" doing,  because I know once the breeze of my passing stops, I'll be hotter than I 'd like to be.

What steps do you take to cope with the heat of riding in summer?

Strange and rare events

I was going to post today about riding in the heat (it's supposed to be 100 today, which is about as hot as it ever gets here).   However, my post was completely hijacked by two strange and rare events.
The fact that they both happened on the same day, within 1000 yards of each other makes me wonder if the stars are in alignment!
For our first miraculous event:  A state trooper pulling over speeding motorists on the Longfellow!

I have NEVER seen this in 5 years of biking this route.  I did a speed survey with an engineering friend whose company lent him their radar gun, and on the other side of the bridge (where the construction is) we found not a single motorist was obeying the speed limit,  and we had two (out of a sample size of about 50) that were going 20 miles above the 30 MPH speed limit.    There's never enforcement, except sporadically on the cambridge side of the bridge by CPD.  And yes, he's pulling people into the bike lane, but I'll not quibble.   I had seen him getting out of his car with radar gun in hand as I passed, and then walked back up from Charles circle to tell him I thought he was doing a great thing! He had already pulled over someone by the time I got this far, so I didn't want to mess with them.

For our second miraculous event:  A meter reader giving tickets to double parked trucks on Cambridge Street!

Cambridge street is always a slalom between people turning left and double parked delivery vehicles on the right.  It's actually usually not that hard for bikes to get through, but drivers get cranky and try to gun through small gaps, which can be dangerous. Considering how much it holds traffic up, I'm really surprised that there hasn't been more enforcement.   Traffic moved with record efficiency today with no double parked trucks at the top of the hill.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

locking up

So summery and elegant.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Monday, July 18, 2011


Well, Carmaggeddon was the non-event that anyone who really thinks about traffic could have predicted.
If you build it, they will come has a flipside-  if it's not available, people will find other ways.

I had heard about the ridiculous Jet Blue cross town flights stunt.  I had not heard about bikers and transit users taking the opportunity for a multi-modal race, and whupping the plane. As anyone who has flown into Houston's Intercontinental airport knows- flying doesn't take nearly as much time as all the folderol involved in flying (driving an hour to the airport, getting your bags, security etc etc).

I thought that this article by Tom Vanderbilt had a wonderful conclusion about what this kind of challenge can show us:

"the reasons people give for not cycling in America are often as much failures of the imagination, or a priori rationalization, as anything else"

In other words,  people think biking is harder than it actually is. 

Friday, July 15, 2011


This bike was just stopped at the grocery store, but it had features that made it look ready for a long distance adventure at the drop of a hat:

Sturdy  rack, and I love the red and white bar tape (red anodized hub and cables too!)  The stem mounted bell is a nice touch.

Red blue and yellow saddle lacing

Red chainstay guard and nice rear rack (tubus?  Painted white?)

A perfectly customized saddlebag- I'm curious about both the image, and the pin,  which when blown up says "Christian" with a cross and a crown.
R-R-R-R-R-RED rear hub (sexy!)

Someone who also loves playing the guitar?  Note the red headset too.

I'm not such a fan of the turquoise and red color scheme of the Betty Foy  (whoa- newsflash, looks like current production are cream with turquoise accents), but this appeals to me, partially because it seems so bespoke (no pun intended).  This is someone who put a lot of thought into the details of their bike, with a fabulous result.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Hubway is Here!

I don't know exactly when it went live, but the new Boston bike share system website is up!
I checked it out a couple of days ago when they asked for input on station locations (when is cambridge coming on I wonder...)
Annual memberships are $85, although pre-enrollment is $ 60.  I'm not sure when the stations are actually opening, but I suspect any day now!

I'm slightly tempted to buy a membership just to promote it,  but on the other hand, I rarely don't have my bike.    A couple of weeks ago though, I had not ridden in because it was pouring when I left in the morning.  In the afternoon, I needed to meet someone on the Longfellow bridge.   I ran out of time to take the T,  so I ended up taking a cab :(    The bikeshare would have been perfect as a way to get there quickly and simply.
A compromise might be to sign up for a pre-enrolled membership this year ( thinking of it almost as a charitable donation to support a good cause)  and then using the 24 hour passes when the need strikes after the first year.

One demographic that I think would really be well served by this is people living in teeny tiny apartments without a place to store a bike.  I was at a jobsite in Beacon Hill this afternoon,  and bike parking is made tough by all the "ye-olde" lamp posts and signs (too big to fit a lock around),  and the lack of parking meters.  Apartments are small there, and elevators are infrequent.  If I lived there, a bike share might be a better solution for getting downtown than dealing with the hassles of storing a personal bike.


I've seen this biketruck around a couple of times but never been able to get a picture.

I chatted a moment with the rider for just a moment,  and it's a project of the city of Cambridge to collect the recycling from bins on the street using bikes as the collection vehicle.  A lot of the dense city squares (Harvard, Porter, Central) have on street recycling cans,  and no parking, so this is probably a pretty efficient way to empty them.  It's a Metro-Pedal Power bike.  It seems like they've gotten to be a pretty big business here- I'd love to go see their facility sometime and see what all they're up to.
I like the wheels, although I couldn't quite make out what they said.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How I stopped worrying and learned to love the Kale

I'll have to admit that until recently Kale and Kolrhabi were in a close race in the "vegetable least likely to succeed" competition in our CSA bags. Yeah yeah, I know it's good for me, but still.... We tried blanching it, then sauteeing it with garlic and olive oil: meh.  Tried cooking it with Indian spices and chickpeas,  kinda chewy, not that exciting.  I'll admit that a lot of it went to waste- to the point that sometimes I just didn't take my allotted bunch at the CSA stand.

But I've seen the light,  and it's yummy, and I want everyone else to know, that you too friend can enjoy Kale!  The answer is KALE SALAD.

But wait, you say,  isn't Kale tough and chewy, and don't you have to boil it into masticatable submission?
The secret is to get the right kind of kale.  Eschew the curly stuff that looks like it belongs along the edges of a sad buffet line, and look for the dark dark green,  narrow leaved, pebbly textured "Tuscan Kale"  (aka Cavalo Nero, or Dinosaur Kale).

You want to create very narrow strips (almost a chiffonade),  which is easily accomplished by rolling the leaves and slicing into 1/4" wide strips.  I wouldn't use the parts that are stem only, but you don't need to remove the entire rib.
Make a lemony garlic dressing- juice of one lemon,  2x that volume olive oil,  1 large clove garlic, pepper and salt, whisked together until emulsified.  Let the dressed kale sit for at least 10 minutes before serving -the lemon juice will help tenderize the fibers.
While the salad sits, make croutons.  Tear stale bread into smallish chunks (1/2" or so),  Heat a bit of olive oil or butter in a heavy skillet,  add the bread and toss to coat with fat,  stirring occasionally until toasty brown (or place in a low oven for half an hour).

Toss in the breadcrumbs, a lot of pecorino cheese (1 cup grated fine to one normal bunch of kale), and enjoy!

Honestly,  this was so good the first time that I made it that I had seconds for dessert.   And when there was no kale in last week's CSA, I actually bought some at the farmer's market.  I made it for our July 4th party, and everyone was skeptical, but we actually finished most of a giant double batch,  and I even saw people getting second helpings, which has not happened with any other dish I've made with Kale  Yes, it was that good!

And unlike most salads that are lousy the next day, this one is still good (a bit less crisp) as leftovers.  YUM.

Monday, July 11, 2011


I've been complaining for a while about a busted bike rack at the grocery store near me.  I tried the city of Cambridge, and then the customer service person at the store, without any luck.  The bike racks were always full, and having a pole, without its ring was a real wasted opportunity.
Finally, about a month ago they put up "comment online" signs everywhere at this store,  and so I did.

Not only did I get a nice email from the general manager promising to follow up,  but yesterday when I was there:

Ta-Da!  Back in action and doing double duty for customers!
Hey it's a small victory, but a victory nonetheless.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

There's efficient, and then...

There's really efficient:

puts electric cars to shame !

Friday, July 8, 2011

Impressive Gains

The Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO)  which attempts to do region-wide planning for all the towns and cities in the Boston area just released data from their latest bike/ ped counts.  Most of the locations are in/ around the Charles river basin,  so I don't know how these would compare to the counts say on Hampshire in Somerville, or Mass Ave in Central Sq.

I think that it's very interesting that there's such a huge increase across all the bridges-  112% across Longellow,  80% across Mass Ave,  even 65% over the Anderson bridge, which is not fun to bike over, with no bike lanes, and a lot of traffic.   Also worth noting is the weather- despite it being May, the weather that day was MID 40's and still there was such a dramatic increase.   Imagine if it had been one of those glorious 60 degree days that feel like the most beautiful spring day ever?

I'm biased I know, but this seems like both confirmation of the increase I've seen in cyclists,  and a validation of "if you build it they will come" There's been a big increase in infrastructure in the last 3 years especially, and I can't believe that the uptick in numbers isn't related.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Brown Bagging it

Since Gilbert's "appointments"  (grips, basket, saddle)  are brown, I've been on the hunt for a brown leather bag to turn into a daily pannier.   After a lot of ebay trolling, I finally found what I was looking for- a dark brown leather bag with a handle, a shoulder strap and a pair of outside pockets.

Varying from my usual MO, I decided to try the "Klick-fix"  hardware from Rixen & Kaul.  The advantage of this hardware is that it has a bar on which the hooks are mounted, allowing them to slide back and forth to accommodate different racks and chainstay lengths.  Ortlieb offers a similar system,  which is actually simpler, but it's only available as part of an Ortlieb bag, not as a stand-alone part.  the Klickfix is actually a bit simpler than the Ortlieb to adjust to a variety of tubing diameters with a spring loaded system,  and accommodates the very oversized tubing of my two Steco racks.

As I did with my previous bag,  I added a 12" brass stabilizer bar inside the bag instead of just using the provided two washers to help distribute the weight and keep the bag from cupping inward.  

As you can see, the bag has two large outer pockets, a small inner zip pocket, and a large main compartment.  There is an open pocket on the "wheel side"  which might be a good place to slip a rain jacket.  I may add an interior button and elastic strap to keep the inner pocket a little more closed even if the top flaps aren't buckled down.

The Klick-fix system is a little more complicated to mount on the rack than the Ortlieb (or maybe I'm just still getting the hang of it.  you have to pivot the red tabs out, freeing the black hooks, and then lower it onto the rack.  

Once the black hooks are seated on the tube of the rack, you push down (and slightly in) on the red tabs, which are spring loaded.  Once you get them down far enough, they pop under the bottom of the tube,   where they are held in place by the springs.

Unlike the Ortlieb, removing the bag isn't just a matter of lifting up,  but is the reverse of the mounting process,  although it is a little simpler because you don't have to be as finicky about pivoting the red tabs out of the way.  Basically, you push down, and a bit out on the red tabs, and once they clear the tube, they pop up and away.

 I adjusted the pannier hooks based on pretty low heeled shoes, and I think I'm going to have to adjust them a tiny bit more to eliminate heel strike when wearing higher heels.

 Adjustment is simple- but does require a screwdriver.  You loosen the two screws on each hook,  and then they slide along the bar as needed, then tighten them back up again.

I put this together over the weekend, and have now used it a couple of days this week.  I'm getting a bit better with the Klick-fix,  although it's still not quite as smooth as the Ortlieb.  Unfortunately the first day I rode in, one of the toggles that hold the top flap to the pockets broke off somewhere along the road.   I'll go to the shoe repair store this weekend and see if they have anything that might replace it- otherwise I'm going to have to create a button-type closure for that side.  The pockets are very deep though, and I haven't had any fear that things might fall out of the pockets, even when unsecured- it's mainly that the bag tends to gap open in the middle if left completely unfastened.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Wild wild -bundle of joy

The Scientist emailed me a photo of the mini-flock I featured here:
They have at least tiny baby turkeys to add to the group!

Update:   evidently there are a lot more of them, and they're called "Poults"