Sunday, December 29, 2013

Urban off-road bicycling: pdx

My mountain bike, an old Bridgestone MB-4, has been hanging on a hook since my last short-track race in July 2012. That's right, my short-tack bike has not been ridden in a year and a half. In fact, it still has the dust from that last race, a fine film of motocross powder that can barely been seen on the frame and rims. When I go to grab my city bike, sitting to one side, I sometimes have looked at my mountain bike and winced in shame and guilt.

But a plan is hatching in my brain, a plan that would allow me to ride off-road, have a good time doing it, and not have to depend on rides out of the city.

What if I look for off-road opportunities within Portland's city limits? Between the many side streets in Portland's eastside neighborhoods marked with "Roadway Not Improved" signs, the tiny skills park at one end of New Columbia, and Leif Erickson drive up in Forest Park, there really is no excuse for me to avoid off-road riding if I carve out regular time for it. And becuse it's all small stuff, short "courses" that aren't so technical as to be dangerous, I can use them simply to keep my off-road skills from contentedly packing up and flying to Reno.

I have another week of vacation, and the weather forecast calls for showers and temps in the high 40s during the day. I have some time this week to check out a couple of possibilities and hopefully establish some regular rides that I can pull out of my pocket when I need to go a shred a tiny bit. Will I race again? I don't know. It looks like I'll be invited back to Kansas again in June (the contract is being prepared and I should see it in January), so if I do race it will only be a few short-track races. But really, I find I'm less interested in racing and more interested in Just Riding for fun. I can't predict what kind of riding I'll be doing next summer, but I know that on Thursday morning this week, I'll be
taking a spin on a mountain bike with pumped-up tires and a freshly-oiled chain and seeing what kind of skills I've managed to hang onto after a year-plus of sticking to pavement.

(Special thanks to Joshua Bryant for suggesting a good route up to Forest Park.)



Wednesday, December 25, 2013

winter rides are sometimes the best rides


Winter rides at the end of the year are often some of the best rides I have.  

A few days ago, I had some time to ride and the weather had warmed up considerably from the cold snap of the last couple of weeks. So I headed out for an afternoon spin. Not knowing where I wanted to go, I headed south for a little while, puttering around the neighborhood, and then turned east. I knew I wanted to try and ride up Rocky Butte at least once, and I had not been there since late last winter. I also had not ridden as much or as hard this year, and I could feel it in my legs. So when I found myself at the base of the hill there was really only one thing to do: go up.

It was harder than I thought, and easier. Harder because I did have to stop and walk my bike a couple of times. Easier because once I got into a groove, I managed to stay on the bike and keep pedaling. I was rewarded at the top with spectacular views, and a brief encounter with an enormous hawk.





This morning, I enjoyed another cold-weather ride, this time with more sun, in and around a great deal of inner N/NE Portland. This was my annual Christmas Morning Ride, a tradition I've maintained since Jr. high school when I realized that I could ride like an idiot on streets that were virtually deserted, and there'd be no one around to stop me. (Well, one year a policemen pulled me over after watching me weave back and forth across four empty lanes on East Burnside in Gresham, Oregon; I was sixteen and he wanted to know why I wasn't home opening Christmas gifts. Once I explained my rationale -- and that I was Jewish -- he let me off with a warning and told me to get my butt home before I froze to death -- it was below freezing that morning.)























As in years past, I enjoyed a mellow ride on nearly-empty streets, hard winter sunshine and dry weather, with a high of around 40F. Home how, and basking in the afterglow of a cold winter ride. May all your rides in 2014 be as satisfying and enjoyable as these.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

laugh-o-the-week: saddle covers

Today on eBay, this priceless Carradice Saddle cover:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/NOS-Carradice-SADDLE-COVER-FOR-LEATHER-SADDLES-W-HOLES-FOR-STRAP-LOOPS-/271350121225?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3f2dba4309

When I worked at Citybikes, we sold these things for about twenty bucks each. When we could get them. carradice was notorious for filling only parts of large orders to shops. We'd order fifteen saddlebags, ten Bike Bureaus and  dozen saddle covers, and nine months later we might receive a third of the order. So I get the whole scarcity thing.

But this saddle cover is selling on eBay right now for NINETY bucks. Seriously?

I have my old Carradice Saddle cover. I've repaired it twice with new stitching and proofing wax rubbed into the stitches. Now almost ten years old, it's still going strong, though now I need to play it safe and run a thin plastic bag underneath it during the rainy season. I understand how desirable good gear can be. But when it finally gives up the ghost, I have lots of more affordable -- and easier to find -- options right here in town, including  very stout shower cap I can pick up at Fred Meyer for around three bucks.

Just sayin'.


Happy shopping, kids!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

destination d-i-y: kid-to-cargo trailer conversion

Welcome to another installment of "destination D-I-Y".

Today, I present my new-old cargo trailer.

I bought this in summer of 2012, before I quit working at Citybikes, from a former co-worker who was moving out of town. I paid $15 for it, and at the time it came with 20" wheels, ripped and moldy fabric panels (eew!) and no trailer hitch. I took it home and began collecting parts to make it better. Subsequent upgrades were obtained either for free or for trade, with the exception of the Burley "classic" trailer hitch which ran me $12 used on craigslist and one of the 24" wheels which cost another $20. So if I just count actual money spent I'm into this thing for under $50 total.

Best part: the webbing. I got all of it for free by scavenging it at local construction sites. Parr Lumber wraps their lumber piles in the stuff, and after the wood gets used the webbing gets tossed by the contractor -- unless someone snags it first. The metal cam buckles that often come with the straps are handy and they do work -- just cinch them down tight once you've got everything where you want it to be. In the event that I had to tie real knots I secured those with zip-ties and covered a few of those messy knots with some downspout-sealing gasket-tape (stretches and stays in place, available at Harbor Freight for super-cheap).

The result? A trailer that's perfect for towing my guitar and amp to gigs, as well as fetching groceries and other large items around town. And it's a much more stable ride than a two-wheeled cargo bike.
It looks funky and junky and it creaks a little under load, but I like it.





Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Kansas bike is going to Kansas!

Earlier in the fall, I brought home an abandoned bike with a bent frame and fixed it up.
I decided to keep it in case there was an opportunity for me to travel with a bike next year.
Today the opportunity was verbally confirmed, and during the negotiation it s clarified that my employer will pay for the cost of shipping the bike ahead. so it really will be the Kansas Bike.
It's mostly ready to go -- it's tuned up and rides decently. It just needs a few more things to make it my rolling home-away-from-home for the three and a half weeks I'll be there in the summer. So over the next few months I'll be looking for super-cheap used accessories, including a rear fender and some cheap grocery panniers. 

I'm pleased, both at the prospect of the gig and at the prospect of having a bike that fits me while I'm there. I'll have to research some longer rides for my days off there.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/bethness/sets/72157636676177663/




Tuesday, December 10, 2013

can it ever be too cold to ride?

In my case, I'd have to say the answer these days is, Yes.
Yes, it can be too cold to ride. Even when you dress for it, as I have done: laters of thin wool and wind-resistant riding pants, sweaters and a wind-proof shell, all extremities covered with hat and gloves and neckwarmer, shoes covered with an extra pair of old wool socks, my bicycle's toeclips with wind-covers installed for the winter. Yes, I am doing everything right. And it is still too cold ride some days.

For the last few weeks, Portland has been in the grip of some of the coldest temperatures we've ever seen in late November and early December in a long time. Lows have been in the teens. Highs have often been below freezing.
(My friends in the Midwestern US can go ahead and chuckle now. I know you deal with this stuff all the time; we'll compare notes when you guys start seeing 45 inches of rain a year, okay? It's all good.)

I missed some of it by being in Mendocino (along California's beautiful northern coastline) for Thanksgiving. There, we walked around in shirtsleeves along the rugged, windswept headlands. The high was near 70 some days! I definitely got some Vitamin D during that trip and, in spite of not having a bike to ride, I came home physically refreshed from walking outside every day.

Since returning home, I have resorted to multi-modal transportation most days. However, the last few days have just been Too Damned Cold for me to ride in, and when I've had to venture out I've taken the bus or gotten a ride in someone's car.
When does it get too cold to ride a bike? When I do so and the next morning my knees creak painfully from having been out in sub-freezing temps, that's when. I stubbornly rode errands last Thursday, to Portland State and then all the way up into NW Portland to deal with the album art and then to teach. By the time my class got out at 6 pm, the temp had dropped down to 21F and my knees let me know they were not up for a long ride over the Broadway Bridge. I hopped MAX over the river and all the way up to Overlook before riding the rest of the way home.

I love riding my bike, don't get me wrong. It is still the loveliest way to get from place to place. But when the thermometer tells me it's below 20F, well, that is just too cold for my knees. I still look younger than my age (I always have, since I was a kid, only now it's a source of amusement rater than frustration), but I can tell you that my joints really are fifty years old and riding when it's this cold out only confirms it.

Today it's going to reach a relatively balmy 32 degrees. Yessss! I'm going to ride over to Velo Cult and see what's happening. The sun may even peek out from behind the cloud cover now that the snow has melted. I'll be sure to leave before dark.



Monday, December 9, 2013

How many water bottles do we need, really?

Lots of water bottles are out there in the world.
Not only in the bicycle industry, but, well, everywhere.

These will be handed out at a convention later this week. And millions -- not thousands, but millions more -- will be given away at events, contests, fundraisers and all sorts of gatherings in just the next few months around the world. Every single bottle will eventually be lost, tossed, given away and/or re-gifted somewhere. I'd be willing to bet money that more than half of these bottles -- and I'd guess there are hundreds of them in this room -- will eventually end up in a box headed to Goodwill or to a landfill within a year of being received by the event's participants.



Thinking back to my post about the very expensive "vintage" Rivendell Bottles being offered on eBay, I can't help but ponder just how silly this seems to me -- and how terribly wasteful.
I have a handful of plastic water bootlegs left over from my hers in the bicycle industry. The newest is about a year and a half old.


When I reach for a water bottle, nine times out of ten it's a stainless steel number by Klean Kanteen. (Other companies make such bottles, and all seem fine, though be sure the plastic cap is BPA-free before you buy one). Washable and very durable -- one of my bottles survived a fall down a ravine in Grand Canyon National Park last summer -- they are simply the best way I've found to carry water with me anywhere I go. The tops usually come with a loop so you can hook them on a bag or belt and then you're less likely to lose the bottle. And as long as you empty them beforehand, they are allowed to be brought aboard an airplane (where the flight attendant will cheerfully let you refill it with water).



So why are so many plastic bottles continuing to be made and offered everywhere in the developed world? The truth is, we don't need them. There are a zillion other things people could get at gatherings that would be far more useful and meaningful than Yet Another Plastic Water Bottle. Think about that next time to participate in a bicycle event and you're offered one. When it happens to me, I politely refuse, and when I get home I write a letter to the event organizers asking them to reconsider why they offer in their goody bags next time.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

when it stops being funny: specialized-as-bully

A few years ago, an enterprising young woman opened her own custom wheelbuilding business. Called Epic Wheelworks, it was very successful, growing slowly and steadily as more Portland bicycle enthusiasts began to order custom wheels from the small business. Then, the Specialized Bicycle Company stepped in, and forced Jude to change the name of her business or face an expensive lawsuit for trademark infringement. Apparently, they had bought the rights to all uses of the word, "epic". Anyone who dared to use the word anywhere, even in a sentence in a book report, could get sued by Mike Sinyard and his thugs. Owner Jude Kirstein decided not to risk her small business against the 900-pound gorilla that is Specialized, and caved, changing her company's name to Sugar. By all accounts she is doing well, and not only because she's good at what she does, but probably in some small part because the David-and Goliath story of her brush with Specialized earned the sympathy of Portlanders who generally have a strong independent streak and love to stick it to the man whenever possible.

Well, it's happening again. This time, a small bicycle shop near Calgary, Alberta is being forced to change its name. This time, the shop was named for a region in France through which an epic -- oops! -- bicycle race is run each year. The owner of Cafe Roubaix Bicycles is being told by Specialized that if he doesn't change the shop's name immediately, he'll be sued. Specialized is on slightly shakier ground this time, even with their cadre of high-priced attack dogs lawyers; Fuji has a bicycle model called Roubaix and so far there is no report of the two bicycle manufacturers duking it out with each other in court. Apparently Specialized prefers to spend less money going after smaller fish in its efforts to Protect The Brand.

Here's what I think: If you want to support this small business owner, call him up and ask to buy one of his shop's t-shirts with the name Roubaix on it (the artwork is very nice, by the way). If enough of us were to suddenly be seen wearing these, Specialized would have to sue each and every single one of us, a PR faus-pax that even they would not be stupid enough to commit. Or would they?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

laughable unreality part five: rapha handlebar tape

 Saw this on eBay yesterday and laughed out loud:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Rapha-and-Cinelli-Handle-Bar-Tape-/291029889276?pt=Cycling_Parts_Accessories&hash=item43c2bbb0fc

Starting bid is $75.00. A close-up reveals that this is no ordinary handlebar tape:

























In fact, it looks almost exactly like, well, tennis raquet grip tape...


















... which is also available on eBay for a starting price of about $5.00 a roll.

It seems Rapha is putting their name on anything these days. When I see it on insoles, I'll know they've really arrived.


Okay, everyone back to work.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

made by hand

In 1996, A co-worker and I took the train to Eugene, Oregon for the grand opening of a new warehouse and manufacturing facility for Burley Design Cooperative. Burley was still a co-op in those days; its one hundred worker-owners handled every aspect of manufacturing and management of the business.

During the tour of the new facility, Roger and I were shown the wheel-building department, a large corner of the building given over entirely to rims, spokes and hubs and the systems needed to build and true them. What we saw there blew our minds: after initial, loose lacing by three workers seated at a large round counter, each wheel was then placed on a conveyor belt which led it to a large machine that proceeded to tension and true each wheel using computerized arms with spoke wrenches on the ends. I had recently learned how to build wheels from scratch at Citybikes, where I was still something of an apprentice mechanic at the time. Seeing these machines do what I had understood as a human-based craft. I looked on the scene with equal parts fascination, awe and horror. Turning to Roger, I asked, "why did you just spend two days teaching me how to build a wheel?"

Roger told me not to worry. He believed that many customers would still pay more for a human-made "craft-built" custom wheel. And years later, I can tell you that he was right.

The fact is, machine-built wheels DO save time, and at the lower end of the scale, they also save money. But a wheel that is strong enough to carry a large rider and/or a heavy load stays true longer, and is more durable, than a cheap machine-built wheel. Over the next fifteen years I would watch -- and eventually educate -- a steady stream of overweight American recreational riders, who would whine when told that their thirty-dollar wheel simply wasn't strong enough to support their weight; sigh, and then hand over the hundred dollars or more that it would cost to build them a much stronger custom wheel.

The other fac of life is that, while most shops still sell factory-built wheels -- and many of these now use higher-end parts -- when the wheels arrive at the shop someone still has to spot-check and true them before they can be put out for sale. In otherwords, the final test of a wheel's quality is still up to a skilled human mechanic. Think about that the next time you hear how machine-made products are not only cheaper, but better, than human-made products. That's not always the case.

So when I recently saw this being offered up on eBay, I was surprised, and then amused.



This is exactly what the wheel machines at Burley looked like. And here was someone who was shutting down their manufacturing business, selling off these now-older machines.
Meanwhile, I still know how to build wheels from scratch. Forgive me if I'm feeling a little smug right now, but once again human-based skill reigns supreme.

Go to your local bike shop today and hug your mechanics. Or at least bring them a treat.

Monday, November 25, 2013

overthinking it, maybe

With thanks to Velo Cult for the photo.


Friday, November 22, 2013

New music web site

If you've been following my music exploits, you know that I've raised money to record an album of my original music. I'm happy to report that the album has been recorded and is in post-production as I type this. I anticipate a release date in early January 2014.

Meanwhile, I invite you to check out my new web site, which includes samples of mixed, but not-yet-mastered, songs from the album, over at http://www.beth-hamon-music.com. Read a little about the music, listen, check out the calendar and if you like what you hear please use the contact form to let me know.

It's quite cold and dry here in Portland this week, with highs in the upper 40s and lows below freezing. With enough layers, riding is not unpleasant, at least for short distances. But now that I make my living with my voice I am forced to make choices about my riding that will certainly reduce the miles, especially during the winter months. So I have sadly bowed out of Cranksgiving tomorrow, giving up my spot to a teammate and choosing instead to help out indoors at the venue. It's like that now. I am sad to have to make the choice but also philosophical about it.  
As long as I can still ride anywhere at all I'll be happy about it.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

tried and liked/didn't like in 2013

It's time to consider what worked and what didn't in this year of bicycle riding.
Feel free to respond in the comments below with links to your own lists.

Tried and Liked: 

1. Mileage tracking. This worked when I felt like it, or when it seemed like a good idea to record my miles just to see how many I averaged in a week. When I tracked my miles I tended to ride a little more, and a little more often. I took a break from this during the summer, and that's why it appears on both lists. See below.

2. Swrve urban cycling pants. To be fair, I'd already had a pair of these that I got last fall -- but I got them at Goodwill and had to take them in with needle and thread to get them to fit right so those don't really count. Then, this year when I was feeling a little flush, I scored a few pairs either new or used on ebay, on purpose, so that counts. Swrve make slacks and jeans that are specifically cut to be comfortable on the bike as well as off it. And they look nice enough for me to wear at my teaching job. The really nice ones are almost nice enough for me tow ear at synagogue services, which is saying something about just how nice these pants are. They downside is that if buy them directly from Swrve you need to wait for older colors and cut to go on sale or you'll end up paying well over $100 a pair. The 97% cotton/3% lycra blend in their Cotton Regular Fit Trousers wears quite well. I also ended up getting a pair each of their Cordura jeans and their Lightweight Regular WWR (Water & Wind Repellent) trousers and both are doing a great job of Not Being Blue jeans and being Comfortable On The Bike. Yes, a hundred bucks is a lot of mony to spend on a pair of pants; but on a pair of pants I wear almost every darned day, it turns out to be a good value if they last several years.

If I still had a little extra money to spend I'd spring for a pair of their middleweight WWR trousers for commuting in Portland's cold and wet winters. Even at $125, I'm easy enough on most clothing that they'd last long enough to eventually justify the price.

3. Chrome Bamboo fabric t-shirt. Not currently offered during the wnter months, but popular enough that Chrome will probably (hopefully!) bring it back in the spring. Basic black, hangs very nicely and looks slightly nicer than a regular cotton t-shirt. I have two of these and have gotten away with wearing them in my classroom on warmer days. In crew and v-neck styles. Ideally, find a friend who works for Chrome and get it through them, because at $60 retail it's a bit steep. I haven't tried it, but Swrve makes a bamboo t-shirt at half the price of Chrome's, and it comes in more colors besides basic black. It's also still available.

4. Local Handmade Shoe Covers. These are available at Citybikes Annex in Portland. They're locally made in Portland of lighter-weight waxed cotton with a rubberized material covering the bottom of the toes, and they wrap around the entire shoe and go up to the top of your ankle. They do a surprisingly good job of keeping your shoes dry, they fit over street shoes (and even some lightweight hiking boots) and they come in sizes to fit most feet. Mine are nearly a year old and they work very well -- better than the Rivendell Splats that I'd gotten the year before. As with all such shoe covers, they're really not meant to be walked around in at length, so remove them when you get to your destination to save wear and tear.



5. Kucharik merino wool cycling cap. These used to fit my head sort of funny and wrong -- then, shortly before I left Citybikes, the latest Kucharik order had come into the shop and I tried on one of the new wool caps. I bought one in mid-September of 2012 and put it back for when the weather turned really cold (by which time I'd left the bike industry). The cut and fit are greatly improved and the caps hold their shape well through regular use. If you machine wash, be sure to wash gentle cycle and drip dry. They also fit pretty well under a variety of "urban" or "city" style helmets. They're soft, non-scratchy and come in a wide variety of colors. I wear this one, in Team Slow's orange and black, daily now that weather has finally turned cold enough.

 
6. Planet Bike Blaze Micro 2-Watt headlight. Now in a smaller package than previous years. It takes up less room on my handlebar, and still puts out a bright enough beam that I can direct it slightly downward and actually see where I'm going. My rechargeable batteries work well in this.

Tried and Didn't Like:

1. Mileage Tracking. When I struggled with some personal stuff in the middle of the summer, stuff that included some radical changes in my cycling patterns which were directly connected to a radical change in careers, I left off tracking my mileage for nearly two months. I was sad, frustrated, scared that all these radical shifts in my life would make me fall flat on my face -- and I just didn't feel motivated to think much about riding beyond the bare minimum needed to get me from place to place. For a little while, at least, it was a good idea to take the pressure off by not tracking my mileage. Of course, when I found my head again in the fall and decided to go back and try and estimate the miles I hadn't tracked, it got a little messy. Still, taking a break was just something I had to do.

2. Carradice Bike Bureau. I got one of these late last year, after my Tried-and-Liked report went out; and I used it a fair number of times to haul my laptop back and forth to work. I liked having the laptop at work; it made lesson-planning and parent emailing handier. But I didn't care for lugging the heavy laptp back and forth in the rain in a pannier that was so large it made my bike feel lopsided when loaded. I got a smaller device a few months ago and that has made the Bike Bureau almost unnecessary. I'm hanging onto it for now, but I may end up selling it before too long. It's just more bag than I need.

3. Generator hub lights. I had installed a generator hub on my All-Rounder a couple of years ago, a used model that had been pulled from one of the discontinued Citybikes rental fleet. While I found the reliability useful, the extra weight and my inability to afford the best generator lights money could buy rendered the hub superfluous over time. The hub worked with cheaper lights, but also burned them out at an alarming rate; I went through THREE Bush-Muller Secu-lite Plus taillights in about 14 months' time. After I burned through the last one, I decided I was done, and went back to rechargeable battery lights. I sold the wheel, along with the still-working front light, and reinstalled the original front wheel (which I'd saved all this time just in case). My bike lost several pounds as a result, and my smaller lights handle rechargeable batteries quite easily. If I was a serious rando rider and could afford the super-bright fancy generator systems available now I could justify the extra weight and cost; but as a simple urban commuter I just can't make that commitment, and I find I don't really miss the generator.

4. Sadly, the Portland Design Works FenderBot taillight has proven to be something of a disappointment. I had bought the regular RadBot 500 taillight for my Sekai Quasi-Rando -- it fits on the same rack bracket as Planet Bike lights do -- and figured I couldn't go wrong with a version that would bolt directly to my rear fender for the All-Rounder. However, the difference in the brightness, the shape of the light beam and the blink patterns between the former and the latter make the FenderBot sort of substandard by comparison. I will be looking at a way to attach a bracket to the rear rack of the All-Rounder so I can get another Radbot 500 for that bike.

5. Surly Big Dummy. This was the hardest one to write about. I started using a longtail cargo bike about seven years ago, to haul tools and bikes to 'cross races and to carry my guitar to gigs. As my cargo needs changed and I got older, I found I was occasionally having balance issues when the bike was fully loaded (though nowhere near the recommended capacity). I ignored it and upgraded from an Xtracycle add-on and mountain bike to a Surly Big Dummy. I liked the added stiffness of the Big Dummy's frame, and kept riding. This past year, I found that it was getting harder for me to balance heavy loads on only two wheels. After three rides to or from gigs in the last six months where I laid the bike down because of balance issues I finally asked my doctor what was happening. She suggested that we all begin to experience changes in how we deal with balance as we age; it was not surprising that I had begun to feel less steady under these conditions now I've begun my fifties. My doctor reminded me that most women my age are not towing the heavy loads I am by bicycle and that I am still ahead of the curve as regards my daily physical activity levels. She suggested I try something that would give me more points of contact on the ground -- like towing a trailer or perhaps switching to an adult trike. I switched to hauling everything in a trailer and the change in stability and security was immediate. So I am selling my Big Dummy. I hope to find a buyer for the whole bike soon; if not, I'll probably dismantle it and sell of individual parts.

The very best thing about bicycle riding in 2013: Showing a car-dependent suburban community a glimpse of the bicycle life. In June of this year, I spent three weeks teaching at a large synagogue in Overland Park, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City. Overland Park is a sprawling suburb with a "big box" store on almost every corner, and only one road with a bike lane that I could see. My night blindness meant I could not rent a car, so I would have to make do with a bicycle and trailer.
As part of the contract, arrangements were made for me to stay in a private home near the synagogue and to borrow a bicycle and trailer from congregants so that I could tow my guitar and music supplies back and forth each day. For special events or field trips located farther away, I would be car-shuttled by someone from the synagogue, or on the bus with the students. Each morning and evening of the summer program, I could be seen hauling my guitar along Nall Avenue, a decidedly suburban road with no bike lanes -- but with unusually wide sidewalks that saw very few pedestrians other than a handful of early morning joggers. As part of my thanks for having a bike to borrow, I did a little tune-up on the bike before returning it, replacing the brake pads and seatpost and truing up the wheels a little. By the end of my time teaching there I had made my impression, and some of the students had taken to calling me The Bicycle Lady.

There is a possibility that the synagogue will invite me back again in June 2014. If they do I may make arrangements to ship a larger bicycle that fits me better, to save my knees and encourage me to ride more and farther on my days off. If it happens, I will once again have the pleasure of watching peoples' reaction as they realize that I am not towing a child in the trailer. Bringing the bicycle life to communities that aren't used to considering it gives me a sweet little rush. I hope to have other opportunities to do it elsewhere as my new career continues to grow [hopefully].

Happy riding.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

SSH! Riding a bicycle is good for you

Today, I felt really tired and thought about taking the bus to teaching tonight. But in the end, I pulled out the trailer, loaded up the guitar and set out. It turned out to be the right decision. The weather is cool and sunny, and by tonight it will get downright crisp. No rain is forecast, and I'm locking the guitar up at school so my load going home will be light. And bynthentime I was about halfway to school, I noticed that my mood had elevated a little and my pedal stroke was smooth as ever, even after three very hard-working days in a recording studio.
Riding a bike is good for you, but don't let that be the main reason you ride. Mostly it's just a really nice way to get places. So enjoy.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

back to the bike

Three days off my bicycle really sucks.
However, I had a good reason. I spent those three days in a studio recording my album. The studio is clear across town from where I live and I had too many instruments to cart back and forth and I needed to save my voice from the cold mornings we've had; so in the end I decided to go all diva and just stay off my bike.
Done now.
Tomorrow I can ride my bike again. Thank God.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Back to reality: presenting Team Cheap-Ass

There has been a lot of buzz of late in Portland's cycling scene. Over the last few years, several custom frame builders have scaled back their truly custom efforts in order to design frames that are slightly less custom, more affordable and have a shorter turnaround time. Two custom frame builders recently joined forces to create a brand that would allow them to work together and have time to race, be with their families, and still pay the bills. A slew of small companies have sprung up, offering everything from designer vinyl bags to cordura handlebar boxy bags, from custom built wheels to an entire line of lights, bells, fenders and other accessories (that last company is making all this stuff in Taiwan, mind you, and merely branding it with our fair city's name). In short, bicycling has become so accessorized and hip and, well, commodified, that now if your bike wasn't made by hand by a guy wearing Carhartts and mutton-chop sideburns and who didn't charge you at least three grand for the frame set, well, dude, who are you anyway?

For the last year-plus, my "roadie"-looking bicycle has been a sort of Frankenbike, one I bought for a song on Craigslist, took home in a trailer, stripped down to the frame and rebuilt with a motley assortment of mostly used and some new parts.
It has become the most comfortable, best-fitting road touring bike I've ever owned. Yeah, it looks like a freak show under me because of the late 80's goofball ATB geometry, and because in order to find a frame with short enough reach I had to find one with a top tub that comes maybe up to mid-thigh when I stand over it. But so what if my bike doesn't look so perfect when I'm riding it? My form isn't so perfect, either, and I still manage to ride this thing all over town.

This has lately gotten me thinking: what if someone started a club where the requirements for membership were:

A. You had to know how to build and repair your own bicycle;
B. You had to ride a bike at club rides or races that you had built up from parts; and
C. The original bicycle couldn't have cost you more than, say, fifty bucks. Twenty-five if you started with a frame set.
D. If folks really felt a need for matching kit, it could consist of a tee-shirt or maybe a hoodie. You want padded shorts or a jersey? You're on your own, try Goodwill.
The club could be called Team Cheap-Ass. And I'd sign up with my beautiful, cheap, fully functional Frankenbike.

Not to diss or piss on the truly organized and well-funded teams and clubs in our fair city, or on the businesses who contribute their fair share to promote bicycling here. The beauty of living in bicycle-mad Portland is that we can all ride our bikes and do our thing. Celebrating the truly broke and resourceful among us would just be another way of doing that, while at the same time perhaps lowering the bar for organized participation in this thing that far too many call "Portland's Bicycle Scene".

Obviously, this post is written with my tongue partly in my cheek. But if you're interested in seeing how many folks out there just might meet the criterial, or you just want to go somewhere where you can bike-watch AND people-watch at the same time, consider the Bicycle Fashion Show being held a week from tomorrow at Velo Cult at 2 pm. I guarantee there'll be at least a few beloved cheap-ass bicycles there, including mine.
Happy riding!




Tuesday, November 5, 2013

laff-o-the-week: more ebay silliness

Today on eBay: some poor guy thinks he's sitting on a gold mine:



If you clicked on the link, you read that right.
Yes, really.
Buy-It-Now price is a hundred bucks.
And if you don't like blue, he's got two more of these in green, priced similarly.

Grant Peterson may indeed be getting ready to do a soft retirement. Emails to the Rivendellegentsia are now signed by somebody named "Dave" (huh?).
New arrivals at the web store seem to be focused on an ever-smaller customer base of Boomer Dudes With Disposable Income.
(Um, seriously: a four-hundred dollar cycling rain jacket?)
And a lot of Rivendell stuff -- gear, parts and catalogs -- have been tossed up on eBay in the last couple of years.
Whether the bloom is off the cult of personality is up to the individual. But last I heard Grant is still upright and breathing.
This is not angsty-dead-guy-soup-can art.
It's a freaking plastic water bottle.
From a company owned by a guy who is still very much alive.
So yeah, I'm gonna ridicule a water bottle with an opening bid of $100.
Because it's just plain silly.

Hilariously enough, the seller is located in my fair city.
I have one of these things sitting in my shed. If you want it, message me privately. I'm sure we can do a whole lot better than a hundred bucks. In fact, if you want it I'll GIVE it to you (local pickup only), just because I'm feeling a little silly myself.

The commodification of bicycling nostalgia is really getting to me.
Time to go outside.

UPDATE, 11-6-13: The buyer has lowered the price on two of his bottles to $72.00, the third is now $54, and all show up as being discounted (meaning that the original asking price is there with a line through it.)
Huh.