Friday, December 2, 2011

Scattered thoughts

Cambridge recently repaved and re-striped Mass Ave through Central square which is a huge improvement!   Interestingly along much of the distance they striped three lines-  the parking lane, a 18" or so buffer, and what looks like a 5' bike lane.   Where they found the space, I can't say, because the lanes were already pretty narrow.   The idea is to encourage bikers to stay further away from the doors (although if you rode the right of the lane, you'd still be well within the door zone).  Unfortunately this buffer disappears at the cab stand, where it might be most useful and is almost  completely absent on the eastbound side.  I think it's a useful improvement,  I just wish that they could find some way to extend the bike lanes all the way to Trowbridge/ Putnam.  I'm afraid the only way to get real lanes in would be to remove parking though,  which is an issue that Cambridge hasn't really attacked yet.

I was riding the Shogun on the Minuteman, and noticed a runner doing a head check before he passed someone who was in front of both of us.  When in turn, I passed him, I slowed and asked him if he ran competitively.  He said "Yes,  why?"  When you run in a dense pack, you learn pretty quickly to do a quick check before you pass someone, to avoid collision with someone coming behind you.
If you just jogged on the MUP by yourself, you might never develop that habit, so he had to have experience running in a pack.  I've also seen a lot more runners with head and/ or tail lights,  which is fantastic when they're using a MUP- makes them much easier to see and makes everyone safer.

Dec 6th is the last day to write a letter in support of the Casey overpass,  send it to   and he'll get it where it needs to go.  They're going to make a decision on it by Dec 15 I think,  which is amazing turnaround!

Transportation Alternatives in NYC is leading a new initiative to investigate traffic enforcement and accident investigation by the NYPD.  I think that this is very important work, and as I keep repeating here, liability, and holding drivers accountable for negligence is as important, or possibly even more important than infrastructure in creating safer cycling for everyone.

I see this biking family pretty regularly on my route- they look like they're on their way to school in a mini- bike train.
Bike lanes on Atlantic Ave/ The greenway!!!

They've been going in in stages over the last couple of weeks, looks like they've gotten as far as my office. will have to ride them soon to see how they work.  Now that Hubway is gone for the season, I don't ride that corridor as much,  but will make a special trip to investigate further

Finally I liked the effect of the wreath I carried home the other day so much that when I saw a mini- wreath for $5, I had to get Minerva her own seasonal decoration.  Held in place with zipties, which sneak between the rod brake rods and the handlebars
While I was taking these photos outside my office, a construction worker came up to ask if it was a new bike (perhaps thinking that's why I was taking pictures of it :)  ) and he said "I hear those old style bikes are coming back"   You heard right!   I told him that Minerva is actually a lady of a certain age,  but we agreed for a couple of minutes about how great the old heavy duty bikes are-  I said that she's like a Cadillac - she needs a V8 (patting my thigh) to get going, but once she's moving, nothing stops her, and the ride is fabulous.


  1. Hi There! Do you mind sharing what kind of bike Minerva is and if you bought her locally, where? I live in the are and I'm in the market for a bike like her.

  2. AADP. Minerva is a Raleigh DL-1 from 1971, and I bought her from a "picker" who I met through Craigslist. more info here

    A rod brake roadster isn't for everyone, as they can have braking issues when it is wet. I've compensated for that by adding Koolstop brake shoes on the back and building a custom front wheel with a drum brake.

    Locally, I'd stop by Cambridge Used Bicycles in the basement of the Cambridge Antique mall near Lechemere. They may not have a DL-1, as they're a bit rare, but they'll have lots of other vintage practical city bikes.

  3. Let me be a bit more forceful. My personal opinion is that a DL-1 is NOT a good choice for an all weather commuter in city traffic without significant upgrades to the braking system. While I commuted on her before the upgrades were all in place, I was very very careful to not ride when there was even a ghost of a chance of rain. I thought these reports were over blown until this happened

    However the much more common vintage english 26" wheel bikes have a lot of the qualities of the 28" roadsters (fenders, upright riding position, although not quite as much float in the ride) and more functional caliper brakes.

  4. where did you get the wreath? I was lifting the small ones at Whole foods but they still seem to big and heavy. that one is perfect!!! I want one on the Boxbike.

  5. Trader Joe's
    Probably a faux wreath would be a better long term solution, but for now I'm enjoying the smell of fresh pine every time I walk past my bike at work!

  6. I was walking my DL-1 past a big recycling truck this morning just as one of the guys was jumping down to grab some barrels. His eyes lit up when he saw my bike and he said "wow--that's an oldie-but-goodie, eh?" It made my day.

    I'd second all of your comments--love it for so many reasons but it's best when you have other bike options for foul weather because the brakes truly do become quasi useless. It's beyond me how English people designed a brake that doesn't work when it's raining...

  7. Sarah, yes it's ironic isn't it? That said, it is possible with a more than a fair bit of tinkering to make them all-weather. I've ridden Minerva a couple of times in light to medium rain, with good results, but lacing a new wheel and hacking the install to use the rods is not a trivial thing, and requires a significant investment of time and energy, and the original questioner would probably be better off with a Ladies' sports if she wants a vintage city bike. There's a pretty amazing flikr set of a Dl-1 rebuild for Seattle (front AND rear hub brakes) here:

  8. Thanks so much for the advice! I went to Cambridge Antiques market and fell in love with a 1967 Raleigh 3 Speed. It is in beautiful condition but I wasn't too impressed with the Caliper brakes, even on dry pavement. Was the update to front drum brakes terribly expensive? my problem is that I want the all weatherness of a Dutch bike with the nimble handling of the roadster. If I'm going to go through all this trouble to update the Raleigh I might as well just buy the Dutch bike. But it has to handle well in traffic. On a lot of Dutch bikes I feel like I'm steering a yacht!

  9. AADP, do the brakes have koolstop pads- they're the orangy pink ones? That helps a lot. Having a wheel built with a hub brake is probably $200-$300, less if you do the labor yourself. $80 for the hub, $40 for the rim $40 for the spokes, and $40-$60 for the labor to build it up.
    If you get the Sturmey archer dynamo-drum brake hub X-FDD you will get a generator light as well as a hub brake,which is nice, however it's all a lot of money.

    You would get much better performance from the caliper brakes with an aluminum rim instead of a steel one, and Harris has replacement wheels with aluminum rims for $150 back (3 speed) and $50 front.

  10. Cycler, The seller of the bike, who was very helpful, told me it had kool stop brake pads. Maybe I wasn't finessing them right, maybe they need to be adjusted, maybe they need new cables, it could be a myriad of things.
    I do not have the skill level to replace my own wheels (really, I'm excited that I can raise and lower my saddle myself) but to start out with replacing the rims would be inexpensive enough and then I could always save up for hub brakes later.
    I guess I'm just worried that I'll spend all this money trying to rebuild the bike and it still won't be exactly what I want and I'll just end up with a pretty antique. I've also promised myself that I won't become a collector of bikes as it's an expensive hobby and my third floor walk up doesn't have room to store a bike collection. But it was SO beautiful, and if restored it would be a totally unique bike. I guess there is no right answer to this one and I'll have to learn from experience.
    Anyways, thanks so much for your advice!

  11. Love the wreath on the front of your bike! :) One year, I attached a leather strap of jingle bells on my bike and it jingled along as I rode. :) One person I passed said that I had made their day. :) :)