Friday, March 23, 2018

scraps of the world

Yesterday I ran errands by bike. it was cold but sunny and I managed to get everything done.
Plus, I scavenged some free parts for future refugee bikes.
Double-plus, I found this vintage Deco nightstand sitting out at the curb and -- YESSSS! -- I had a way to get it home.

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Amazingly, I was able to strap this to my little porteur rack (with some John's Irish Straps -- available at Rivelo, go get some and keep them in your saddlebag because when you need them they are awesome and perfect).
Pro tip: wider upright handlebars make heavy front loads easier to handle on the bike. My current bar of choice for this is the Surly Open Bar but anything similarly shaped will work fine.

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In the end, I think I'm going to totally re-do my side of the bed to make space for this and pare down what I keep there. because I really really like it.
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Scavenging is a way to keep stuff out of the landfill and also how I keep my squirrel-brain engaged and happy. I may not be rich -- or even financially secure, frankly. But I have a scavenger's eye and that helps me keep it together. And sometimes I even find something useful along the way.

Happy riding.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

all the beautiful bikes: spring bicycle plans

I've taken delivery on some basic, complete bicycles that I'll spend the next couple of weeks whipping into shape for Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement. Then I'll be taking a bit of a break for my summer touring season in May and June, and I'll resume the bike-love in July when I'm back in town.

Thanks to everyone who has brought me bicycles, locks, racks and lights, and to a few folks who kicked in money to help make a couple of frames complete with the procurement of some forks and other bits I couldn't scavenge on my own. When these bicycles are finished by early April, you will have helped over 40 newly-arrived families obtain sustainable, affordable transportation, reducing
their dependence on cars and giving them a freedom of mobility some may have never known  before.

Thanks so much, and happy riding!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

resistance takes many forms. some are actually legal.

I've been thinking lately about my income taxes and what they actually support.

As more social services have their funding drastically cut and more money is diverted to building up our military, I think more and more about what it would mean to be a tax resistor.

And then I realize I already am one. Without breaking a single law.

My work history makes me a tax resistor. I have spent my entire adult life working at lower-income, hourly-wage jobs or, more recently as a piecemeal freelancer scraping to get by. In both cases, my low income has reduced and sometimes eliminated my tax burden. The government has precious little to thank me for regarding my work history. And since I did not get a whilte-collar job or obtain all the trappings of a middle class American Dream, I have precious little to feel guilty about.

My lifestyle choices make me a tax resistor. I don't engage in annual tourism -- a vacation for me is a three-day campout somewhere close by, if we can get away. I don't own a car. I ride a bike or take public transit everywhere. I don't buy new clothes (and haven't in a very long time). I get food from the back shelves, heavily discounted because it's past the sell-by date (but still perfectly edible).

And probably most important of all, I decided long ago that I would value time over money -- which meant that I seldom worked overtime during my years in the bike industry, because I felt a body and mind needed regular rest and recovery. I didn't kill myself in order to have extra to put in some retirement fund; I simply worked to earn what I needed to live. I still do. I have no retirement fund,  and I don't exactly have what would traditionally be called a career. I am having an interesting life, though, and that feels like the better choice for me.

When I die, I will die poor. And I'm fine with that. I think that's the way it should be.

And all of these choices, conscious and not-so-conscious, are perfectly legal.

I am doing my part to not support the current regime in its quest to out-Korea North Korea. I will not help the current administration kiss Russia's ass. I will not invest in anything even remotely connected to a stock market that has always rewarded the rich at others' expense. I absolutely refuse to support a regime that purposely disenfranchises anyone who isn't white, Christian and male.
 And so, I resist in the ways I can, quietly and legally and intentionally.

Below: The latest refugee bike, liberated from a friend's garage and delivered to me earlier this week. After a tune-up, a replacement saddle and a basket, it's ready to take someone to school or work in style (dig those old-school chrome fenders!). And I'm positively delirious that the person who will ride it is someone who is making a fresh start here in the US, someone who escaped war and terror and risked everything to get here. I would love to run into this bike and its rider next summer at a Sunday Parkways, or pass it on the street as its owner rides it to work or school. Almost nothing is better than that. Because that, too, is a sort of resistance against the lopsided power structure in this country.

I am still accepting donations of complete bicycles, locks and lights.
If you're in Portland and need more space in your garage,hit me up. Thanks and happy riding!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

steady growth is not a sustainable earth model

I have been sneaking peeks at the racing scene periodically, just to see what's up.
These have been fewer over time, but today I took another peek and found two things:

1. The Giro d'Italia plans to have its Grand Departure in -- wait for it -- Jerusalem, Israel.
Right, I know. Israel has almost NO road cycling scene (though mountain biking is huge and flatland BMX enjoyes a youth following in the cities), owing largely to the fact that it's mostly desert and it's in the middle of an otherwise inhospitable Arab Middle East, half of whose residents would like to see Israel nuked off the map. So yeah, it's kind of a wacky place to begin a road race that will be in Italy the rest of the month.

Then, there's the environmental impact. Bicycle racing is anything but "green" -- watch the trailers and trucks in the parking lot at any road or mountain race and you will see piles of waste being generated with every repair, ever souvenir, every rush-job to sublimate a leader's jersey with the right team, etc. etc. etc. And most of that waste, in the new era of the collapsed plastics market, is bound for the landfill.

Fast forward to this morning. I held an informal bicycle tools and parts yard sale while I finished a repair on a friend's bike. A few people came by, all of them folks I knew from Portland's cycling scene and most of them current or former local racers. As they poked and prodded their way through my boxes and selected their purchases, we talked about the unsustainability of all things carbon, the unsustainability of new bike manufacturing, and the sheer madness of a constant-growth business model that is emblematic of the bicycle industry. The truth is that I got out of the industry just in time to avoid the worst of the hypocrisy -- of carbon-fiber, disc brake-equipped commuter bikes, of $400 childrens' bikes (seriously? Who can afford or justify a bike your kid will outgrow or destroy in a few weeks?) and the trickle-down from racing that refuses to die and still, sadly, informs too much of the consumer bicycle market.

In the end, it's all stuff, mountains of stuff, way too fucking much stuff. And I've grown weary of it.
I've grown weary to the point that I doubt I'll ever buy anything new again (including tires and tubes; they're readily available in decent used condition all over the city, mostly free for the taking). Who needs jerseys? Who needs padded knickers if all you're doing is riding to work and back? Who needs an eleven-speed drivetrain, for crying out loud? Nobody I know personally really uses much of that anymore. We all just ride our bikes. And when they break down, we fix them ourselves.

A new generation of consumers has moved into Portland, people who don't seem as interested in getting their hands dirty at all -- witness the rise in the number of mobile bike repair businesses and also the number of downtown bike parking facilities that keep a mechanic on staff.Shops that used to do a steady business in used bikes, parts and tools have shifted to selling those items online, where more money can be made from overseas collectors. And yes, I've been guilty of that, too; though I am now rethinking that part of my scavenging and reselling schemes.

Because when you get down to it, this emphasis on always making new stuff and shipping it around the world may be great for economies, but it's lousy for the planet. It's lousy for the poorest among us. And more and more I fear it's becoming lousy for our souls.

It's highly possible that in the future there won't be a need for this blog -- I may eventually reach the conclusion that curating my life feels less and less necessary and so I won't write here as often.
I'm not done yet, but wrapping this up is a distinct possibility in the future.
And now, a bicycle ride.
Happy riding!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

bicycle stuff yard sale: sunday 3/11 9-noon

Portland bikey peeps: I'm selling off a bunch of parts, tools and accessories in an effort to make space in my workshop and my life. Sunday, March 11, 9am till noon.
Go to my Facebook page and PM me for location.
Proceeds will support my ongoing Refugee Bikes project.

Below: The latest, a department store bike back when department store bikes weren't so terrible.
A tune-up made it nicer to ride, and someone is going to be happy to take this to work or school very soon.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

off-season coffeeneuring: society hotel cafe

On Friday, I rode into downtown Portland to meet my sister for a cup of coffee. I suggested we check out the cafe at the Society Hotel in Old Town. The hotel is co-owned and was remodeled by an acquaintance of mine, and has gained a following for its cozy, hostel-styled rooms and affordable pricing. But I didn't know about the cafe. So we met there.  I have to say that, while the atmosphere was pretty nice -- and the acoustics still allowed for conversation, an increasingly rare thing in Portland eateries these days -- the fare was merely okay. The coffee was fresh and hot but not amazing; and my sister told me she's had far better Dirty Chai drinks at at least a half down other places. (My coconut macaroon was actually good, moist and substantial.)
I'd say that if you know you'll be in Old Town and need to make a stop, this would work just fine. But as far as cafes go it's not a destination stop, especially with so many other choices nearby.
I'd give it a 7.5 out of 10 stars, with the caveat that it might be worth checking out in the evening when the menu changes up a little. (We were there at 1:30 in the afternoon, kind of a down time for hotel cafes in general.)
Happy riding!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Cheapskate hack: Porteur rack

I'd been wanting to try a real porteur-styled rack on my bike for a long time.
I liked the idea of a platform that sat close and low to the fork crown, allowing for larger and/or more oddly-shaped loads. But the cost of new, factory-made racks remains prohibitive, averaging over $150. Custom models start at around $200.

Inspired by a similar rack on a bike I'd seen several years ago, I decided to try making my own.

1. I obtained a canti-boss mini-rack cheap on craigslist ($18)
2. I mounted it on my bike. Then, I used hose clamps to install a miniature broiler grill (sans drip pan, about 13" x 9") that I'd found at Goodwill ($4)
3. Finally, I mounted a discarded rail from a very nice factory-made rack that I had scored at the CCC's Salvage Sunday for something like $0.50.
Additional hardware needed to put it all together -- hose clamps, L-braclets and various nuts a bolts -- came to another $6 and change.

Photos below show the basic assembly process.

After I'd installed the platform, I realized that carrying any load more than around 3 or 4 lbs. on a rack mounted on cantilever struts would break the rack. So to increase strength and triangulation, I installed additional full-length struts I'd salvaged from a WALD basket.

Hose clamps hold the platform securely to the mini-rack.

L-brackets (above) hold the guard rail securely. Front pair of bolts also secure the full-length Wald basket struts (bottom end incorporated with fender stay bolt, in fork eyelet.
Total cost of creating and assembling my porteur rack came to around $30 and change.
And it actually looks okay. My bag fits nicely in the rack, and with the addition of a couple of lashing straps it's sturdy enough to manage a short case of beer or a trio of growlers (something to keep in mind for summer barbecue season).
I'm quite pleased with how it turned out.