Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Know when to flash'em

As I've said before, it's fairly easy to ride in most skirts,  with the occasional pencil skirt exception.
I do have a couple of skirts that are not decent without opaque tights.  They're mostly shirt dresses where the last button is higher than the hem.  In the summer when opaque tights are both hot and odd looking, I do resort to wearing shorts under those few skirts.
I have a couple of pair of just above the knee mostly cotton "workout shorts"  that I bought a couple of years ago at a big box sports store.   I should go back and see if  I can pick up a few more pair, because I also end up using them as painting clothes, and they're getting a lot of "character".

These do have a gusset,  but are unpadded, and mostly cotton with just enough stretch to stay put, not enough to feel sausage-like  I have tried riding with shorter, less form fitting shorts under skirts, but they tend to ride up too,  and even though I am not technically flashing anyone anything other than my shorts,  it doesn't look that way to the casual viewer,  and I don't care to think about the intent viewer!

Monday, May 30, 2011

5 minutes in Cambridge

On a whim, I decided to stop for a moment at a busy corner on my route in and document all the cyclists coming by for about two cycles of the light.  I can't be certain that I got everyone, but it's a nice sampling.  At this corner it's a 50-50 mix of people coming in from Cambridge and points west and Somerville,  and it's also about a 50-50 mix of people peeling off at MIT/ Kendall and people headed over the bridge into Boston.

This woman was the only one to ask what I was doing-although a lot of people  looked at me curiously

Friday, May 27, 2011

Fixing it so it brakes-part 1

I did a lot of bike work last Saturday- It was sunny for the first time in what felt like forever, so I dragged my bikestand outside and put Minerva up.
I removed her rear brake shoes, and slid the black rubber out of the metal part.  That makes it sound really simple.  The first one was really that simple.  The second one, was more like getting lobster out of the tip of a claw-  it came out reluctantly and in pieces.

Once the black rubber was out, the salmon Kool Stop pads slid in easily,  and then I reassembled them on the bike.

I can't really say until I ride in the rain, but the performance on dry tires was awesome!  I'm going to see if Harris will let me return a couple of packages of unopened Fibrax pads and exchange them for these on all three of my rod brake bikes.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Bike Dancing

The lovely weather is bringing out bikers right and left.

The first thing I noticed about this rider was the sparkly hula hoops that she had slung across her body.
The next was her enormous smile-  a smile that took over her whole face (even though she was squinting into the sun)

We chatted a bit at a light, and she said that she was off to a meetup of hoop dancers in Cambridge Common.  I wished I hadn't had to go to my livable streets meeting so that I could have followed her there to check it out.  Hoop dancing on youtube,

Speaking of Youtube, bikes and dancing,  I really loved the People For Bikes video that's been going round the blogosphere- especially the BMX trick guys.  This prompted a Youtube search which resulted in the most amazing bike video I have ever seen.   Wikipedia says that  Danny MacAskill  is perhaps the world's most renowned practitioner of what in the UK is called trials biking.  To me it looks like parkour or dancing on a bike.  It's incredibly amazing and terrifying, and he's an amazing athlete- absolutely one with his bike.  It's a bit long, but worthwhile!

Urban Repair Squad and the Perfect is the enemy of the Good

Image of DIY sharrow from URS website
I was at an advocacy committee meeting last night, and the subject came up of the perfect being the enemy of the good in infrastructure.  One of the guys at the meeting works for the T,  and often at a bus stop there will be a crumbling curb, or a cracked and broken sidewalk.  Unfortunately the way things work, if you touch it at all, you have to make it 100% compliant with current codes, including access ramps, pavement textures etc.   Now I think that all those things are good and I understand that the mechanism for making them universal is to tie them into repairs, so that they get done piece by piece and eventually they'll be everywhere.   But unfortunately too often it becomes an incentive to delay maintenance, because there isn't the money to do it "Right"  we can't do anything.

Anyway,  the guy was saying that we needed an Urban Repair Squad.
Evidently this is a loose collective that started in Toronto that dressed up as city workers and installed DIY sharrows, bike lanes, bike boxes. etc.   Obviously painting lines and stencils is easier than repairing curbs and patching potholes, but there's some appeal to having citizen initiative on things...

Their Manifesto is quite amusing-lots of great doodle cartoons explaining basic infrastructure types.  I think there are a couple of traffic engineers who could get something out of it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Spandex free at the stoplight

Today was the first really glorious day in a month that's supposed to be full of glorious days.  68- headed to 72, sunny, breezy!  Aside from nearly getting run over by a sidewalk cyclist going really fast down my narrow sidewalk as I put out the recycling (and yes I did yell at her)  it was a lovely morning!

I was so distracted by the lovely weather that I overshot my first stop of the morning- compost dropoff.  I was 4 blocks past the Whole Foods on a one way street,  but I didn't think my office mates would appreciate a bag of partially rotted food sitting in the corner all day, so I turned back.

The area where they have the compost bins at the back of the parking lot is being maxed out for employee parking and storage, but  Gilbert could squeeze in just fine.

We headed out through the construction zone again..

And then found ourselves in a mini-convoy of lycra free ladies riding down broadway, over the Longfellow and up to City Hall.  I got a shot of the the other ladies at a stoplight- Such big smiles!
What a lovely day to ride a bike!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Oh no, not again

After a beautiful day on Saturday where everyone came out into the sun and tried to get the moss out from between their toes,  it's back to the slog,  with pouring rain this morning,   and a chance of rain most days this week.  le sigh.

The small brown dog looked at me this morning as if to say,  Really?  You want me to go out in that?  He raced out, did his business and crawled back into his bed.

I find myself feeling the same way, without the option of crawling back into bed.   Think I need a day off the bike- gonna ride in to the train with the Scientist I think.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Splish Splash

In the flooded underpass (guess that reflector works!)
It's been a pretty dreary bike week- actually the whole month of May has been a bit of a washout.
It's been the kind of weather that doesn't make an established bike commuter think twice (or at least not thrice), but not particularly conducive for convincing someone to try commuting for the first time.  As I've written before at a certain point, biking becomes such a regular part of your life, that it's just simpler to get on the bike than to figure out the other options.  However when you're trying to convince new riders that this is a great time of year to get on the bike for the first time in months,  rain just doesn't help.

It's been misty, and a bit drizzly,  and there's been a bit of rain, but no serious rain at rush hour.  The only time this week I got soaked was when I walked to dinner without an umbrella and it started pouring as I came home.  So riding has been damp, but otherwise objectionable.  And at least there has been conversation with like minded folks, and free breakfast  :)

This evening was the clearest it's been all week, and I rode along the river path, dodging puddles, and mostly staying dry.  Fenders will take care of most of the puddles, although I keep contemplating a mudflap to keep my shoes completely dry.  It was only when I left trader Joe's and was riding on the sidewalk close to the road that I got splashed by a car passing through a puddle and got pretty wet.

Fortunately I was almost home, which is where I keep the dry clothes!

I had been craving preserved lemons,  so I put a quick tagine together with onions, chickpeas, a bit of chicken,  olives, warm spices, a bit of leftover tomato and said lemons, put it in the oven, and biked to Target to return the curtains that we decided not to use in the kitchen.  Again the path was reasonably dry,  except for the underpass,  although it had started to mist again :(

Home again, a nice spicy stew was waiting for me, filling the house with good smells, and bringing to warmth of a mediterranean summer to a New England spring night.

Monday, May 16, 2011

A quick note on bike week

AKA free breakfast week.
It's a gloomy week for it,  with a good chance of precipitation all week and chilly temps in the high 50's.  Of the four commuters in our office (2 year round, one 9 monther, and one newbie) I was the only one who made it through the chilly drizzle this morning (the other year rounder did have a broken brake cable)

However, a couple of good breakfasts:  Broadway Bikes on (surprise!) Broadway has their pancake breakfast tomorrow (Tuesday) and Harvard has their breakfast (lots of good swag including cheap blinkies) Wednesday at AuBonPain in Harvard Sq.  Thursday there's one in Kendall on Broadway,  and Friday there are events at Boston City Hall.

Lots of chances for free breakfast and conversation with your fellow bikers!  Hope to see some familiar faces, and would love to meet you if you're a reader- it's great to put faces (and bikes) to names.

A bike full day

As suggested I met with the other riders for the tweed ride at the park in West Cambridge.
We stood around for a while admiring each others bikes.   One amazing bike was this early 20th century Austrian "swan frame" bike (with double curved downtubes)
It had been passed down in a family,  and rehabilitated with new alloy wheels with a modern coaster brake to replace the  old "stamp brakes"  originally- the precursors of rod brakes and even less efficient).
The owner had relaced the skirtguard through the fender holes using waxed sail thread- note also the rack- stand.

There were more modern bikes with amazing luggage:

And some great tweedy outfits:

Yes, this is me with my 1936 Lady's Tourist and a supremely ill fitting vintage dress

After a while it became apparent that there wasn't really a leader for the group (it turned out that the leader had broken his collarbone, and the ride had officially been cancelled, but we hadn't gotten the message)  So we set a course by iPhone and headed out.  After a couple of stops for course adjustments, we rode east along the river, turning South on North Harvard street, and then up Cambridge Street over the Pike.  We continued through Brighton to Beacon st,  being glad of the bike lanes which went almost all the way there.

 A mile or so down Beacon we arrived at the Waterworks museum,  which was a steam punk delight.  We watched a kind of silly film, wandered around to see the exhibits and admire the machinery.  They let us park our bikes inside, because their bike rack hadn't been installed yet.

 The building was amazing- A Richardsonian Romanesque,  with an enormous vaulted machine hall.

 The thing that is so impressive about these old civic buildings was that even in buildings that were industrial in nature, every detail was carefully considered, and even the machinery had decorative flourishes and details which are missing in contemporary industrial equipment and construction.

 There was an amazing wood panelled ceiling 4 stories up,  and incredibly detailed brickwork.

Unfortunately my camera was almost out of batteries, so I didn't get as many pictures as I would have liked.  I would like to go back and spend a bit more time on another occasion.

As we left the building for a group photo, we encountered a couple of people who I think were from the Charles River Wheelmen on a set of nice touring bikes.   They joined us for a bit, and several of them wanted to test ride my bike and the old Austrian Bike.

The main group headed off to find a pub for lunch and refreshments, but I headed back to Cambridge with Gabby, one of the other riders.  I was thankful for her company not only because I enjoyed talking to her, but because I had a slow leak in my rear tire, and she had a pump so that I could stop every so often to replenish it.

Other than the tire issue, and a tendency to drop out of 2nd gear (need to fiddle with the indicator chain) the 1936 Lady's Tourist handled beautifully on its first real ride since I brought her home last summer.  It's an incredibly comfortable bike to ride,  set up almost perfectly for my size.  It has a wonderfully upright posture,  with extremely swept back handlebars.  The gearing is also very commodious,  managing to feel both sprightly in 3rd gear, and comfortably stable in 1st.  If it wasn't such an antique that I was reluctant to mess with it, I would be sorely tempted to modernize it into an everyday bike.  As it is, I may give it a set of salmon Kool Stops and newish tires and see where that takes us.

After the (much quicker) ride home,  I took a quick shower- even though the day was cool, my vintage cashmere with silk lining dress was quite warm.   I then headed off on Minerva to borrow the Scientist's car,  and then headed out to Harris to pick up Gilbert.   I took him for a quick spin around the block and the difference is amazing- it feels so smooth- no longer like there's gravel in the freewheel.  They said that they cleaned out the roller brake and relubed it too,  so it should be good to go for another year or two.

After a day (week) of riding bikes with long wheelbases and narrow handlebars,  riding Gilbert is incredibly different.  The wide albatross bars, and relatively short wheelbase aren't actually unstable feeling, but definitely more responsive and active.  I like the "open ribcage" feeling that the albatross bars give me, but they almost feel cartoonish in comparison with the narrow cockpits of the DL-1 type bikes.  The frame is also a lot smaller,  and in comparison with the roadster frames, it almost feels too small.  All this will pass after a week on the bike I'm sure,  and then the DL frames will feel big again.

The wonky left crank was much more noticeable after a week off the bike.  I need to get it replaced and a new left blinky pedal.  I think there's something wrong either in the threading or the crank itself that eats the guts of the pedal generators- I've killed three on the left in the time I've had one on the right.
Still, it's great to have Gilbert back, and I'm very happy that his hub is up and ready for another year of service.  A funny note- Elton said that while the bike was waiting to be picked up so many people wanted to buy a creel basket, that they're going to order some creel baskets just to sell as bike baskets.  Nice to know that Gilbert is a trendsetter!
I also took a look at  the "Lyt" Led generator light at Harris.   This is a new B&M light that is a really attractive price point  $50-ish for a light that's brighter than Halogen, if not as bright as my Edeluxe.  I was hoping that it might be a nice fit in Gilbert's "other" eye socket,  but unfortunately it's a bit too big.

 It would fit within the metal, but not within the plastic enclosure.   I have the guts of a battery LED light to put in the plastic enclosure, so I need to work on that.
Anyway,  a very bike filled Saturday as a beginning to bike week.

"Braking" news

Just noticed that Harris is now carrying Kool Stop shoes for rod brakes!
Image off the Harris Website

Salmon koolstop is the widely considered the best wet weather brake compound yet known to man or woman, and they form that orange rubber into all kinds of shapes and sizes to fit all manner of brake apparati.  Until now however they haven't been available for rod brakes, which can use all the braking help that they can get!

This has been on many roadster aficionados wish list for a long time, and I don't know how long they've been available, but I for one am very excited!!!  (I'm such a geek I know).

Friday, May 13, 2011

Tweed Ride!

I've been waiting with bated breath for Blogger to come back up, because I JUST learned about a tweed ride on Saturday.  It's  very short notice, and I have a really busy weekend, but I'm going to try to make it, and I thought others might also not have heard about it (it's not terribly well publicized I'm afraid).

What information I've been able to find:
Ride starts at Lowell Park at the corner of Brattle and Fresh Pond Parkway at 11AM.  This is not a car parking friendly location FYI,  so I would strongly suggest riding to the start.  The intention is to ride to the Newton Waterworks museum, tour the museum (sounds like they may be waiving admission fee if you're on the bike, but I'm not 100% on that).  There will be a stop somewhere on the way home at a pub for socializing and fun.  Scheduled for 11AM to 5pm.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Rack Fail and the improvised solution

About halfway down Cambridge street I started to hear an awful noise,  so I pulled over immediately.
the bolt that holds the rack to the seat-stay bridge had lost its nut and the whole rack had rotated back  45 degrees until it hit the fender.

While I was wrestling the bolt back through the stay, my co-worker P__  happened to be riding past, and stopped to see if he could help.  He had a couple of nuts floating around in his bag, but unfortunately, none of them fit.

A quick solution came to mind, and I detached one end of my rack strap from the axle,  looped it through the rack, and then around the seat tube, and then attached it back to the axle.  Problem solved!

The weight is borne by the axle anyway, the nut at the bridge just prevents rotation, and the rack strap wrapped tightly around the seat tube kept the rack from moving much.

I was even so bold as to stop at the grocery store and ride home with a fully laden pannier.  I didn't break any land speed records, but I made it home just fine, found a nut that fit the bolt, and was certain to soak it in Loc-tite before tightening it back up.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

It was a dark and stormy night

Ok,  more drizzly than stormy, and it was mostly gloomy not dark,  but it's such a classic title that I couldn't resist.

I made a giant batch of spaghetti sauce this weekend for friends of mine (a colleague of the Scientist's and his wife) who just had a baby, and could use some easy dinners.   I had planned on taking it out tonight to their house in Belmont ( a streetcar suburb of Boston), and decided to follow through despite the cloudy weather turning into drizzle on the way home. I'm really glad that I have brakes that aren't affected by weather on Minerva, since Gilbert is still getting refurbed.  I've been riding Minerva since Friday, and the hub brake has really proved itself in the rain a couple of times already, especially compared to the rod brakes alone.

 It's a serious haul up Belmont hill,  and between the drizzle and a bit of sweat, I was pretty damp by the time I reached their house.  I had changed from the dress I wore to work into jeans, which may have been a mistake, because jeans are much slower to dry than tights.

The baby was adorable, red faced and milk-fed sleepy.  Their 4 year old was sweet and engaging.  I admired their kitchen and we discussed the cabinet maker who'd made both our cabinets.
After a bit though, I was pretty chilled from my damp clothes and needed to hit the road. And of course they have a newborn to take care of, so I didn't want to overstay my welcome.  I also didn't want to ride home in full dark.

On the way home I ran into my friend Cris riding his Raleigh 3 speed fixed gear (yes SA makes a 3 speed fixed gear hub).  I wasn't a total surprise, since I'd emailed him for Belmont route advice, and he lives a couple of blocks away from my friends.   We chatted for a couple of minutes, but it was too raw to stay still for long, and we headed our separate ways.

Riding Minerva the DL-1  for an extended period  like this week is interesting.  It takes a lot to get moving,  but once she gets up to speed, she's really got a lot of momentum.    Even up hills, she seems to really glide upward  and going downhill is the fastest I've gone on a bike for a while.   I find that I end up pumping my upper body quite a bit when I'm starting from a dead start.   But after I'm really moving, she cruises like nobody's business.  I don't know if it's the wheel size, or the wheelbase, or what, but it's a vastly different riding experience than the livelier Sports frame that Gilbert is built off of.  Different muscles are definitely getting used and in some cases complaining!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Bike Walk

I took my bike into Harris Friday and ended up at work without a bike on a lovely afternoon.
I decided to call my Mom for a little pre- Mother's day chat,  and walk towards the river, with the intention of catching the red line from Charles street.
An hour and a half later, I was home, having decided to walk the whole way since it was so lovely.
And since I was on foot, I had lots of chances to check out the bikes parked along the way- and I saw some great ones:

This green bike was a great color with nice bones, given charm with sparkly saddle and matching grips.
The owner came out of Kinko's while I was checking it out, and was relieved to recognize me from bike-y events (instead of a stranger casing her bike).  She introduced herself as C, and told me that she'd bought it in NYC,  and that it was no particular brand, but that it got her around just fine.
Which after all is what they're for.

Slightly further down I found this "Porteur" style bike.
What I liked about this bike was that it hit all the Porteur notes with inexpensive and widely available standard parts.  The frame was a Trek, but one with decent lugs  and it looked like it had been powder coated cream.      

The fenders were plain old SKS instead of Honjo, the front rack was Blackburn instead of VO and the threadless stem had been tapped for a bell.   I had never seen a threadless stem tapped like that- only regular quill ones. 

 I really like how regular parts and a good eye for detail create a really distinctive looking bike on a budget.

At the racks outside of 1369 there were a ton of bikes (as always). 
This one looked like an art project (or an attempt to use up extra paint) to personalize an otherwise unexceptional ride.

The stars of the rack were a pair of Surlys (I wonder if they were together or not?)  which had been taken in very different directions.  The first was a Big Dummy:

 I've seen a couple of Xtracycles around, but I think this is my first Big Dummy.  And boy is it big.  The tires are enormous!  And this one is fully kitted out as kid carrier and grocery getter extraordinare.

The other Surly was taken in a much more refined direction, complete with Brooks saddle, Honjo fenders, cloth taped and twined bars, and yes, another threadless stem mounted bell.  Have I just been missing these bikes all along, or is this a new trend?

This next bike isn't lovely in any way, but I was intrigued by the "Dawes" label.  I think of Dawes as being one of the great European touring bike companies, so I was really confused by what basically looked like a BSO. 

Wikipedia informed me later that yes, Dawes Cycles specializes in handmade touring bikes,  but that there is also a Dawes USA which is not affiliated in any way.  Gosh, I hope not!  Kind of confusing to have the same name..

From across the street I wondered if this next bike was bamboo- but the tubing seemed too small.  That's because it was an old Gold frame wrapped almost completely in black gaffers tape.  It does have quite a distinctive texture, and you wouldn't have to worry about chipping the paint!

Finally a semi-generic fixie had a really cool lock in silver.   Which makes me think that the lock manufacturers are really missing an opportunity here. They could probably sell a lot of locks in hot pink, green, yellow etc.  They're not thinking about locks as anything other than function, but there are a lot of people out there who might just buy a fun colored lock.  The other cool thing that only looked semi-functional,  is what look like leather cable retainers (?)  Also,  I know that Knog light fixtures are really cool looking, but I don't really hold them as real bike lights- they're just not bright enough.