Monday, September 30, 2013

third annual coffeenuering challenge begins this weekend (Oct 4)

The Coffeeneuring Challenge returns for a third year of cycling and caffeine fun!

Rules are here:

Portland was reasonably- well-represented last year, and the organizer is looking for a bump in numbers (though, to be fair, she's from Washington DC and wants more folks from her fair city to participate).

I enjoyed taking on the challenge last year and wear my coffeeneuring badge with pride.
I'm organizing a group ride the second weekend for local bikey buddies; and with seven weekends available in which to ride to seven difference coffee shops (or farmers' markets, or campsites where you brew your own -- new for this year), I will have myself a grand time.

Already on my list of shops to visit this year:

Arbor Lodge
Random Order
Velo Cult
Portland Farmers' Market
Nossa Familia Espresso Bar
World Cup

I'm looking for a few new places to check out this year. I certainly won't limit myself to seven coffee stops; Portland is coffee heaven and has so many shops to choose from that I may just overload.
NOTE: Bonus points if they offer stickers, as I am trying to amass a collection of a sticker from each place to send to the organizer as a bribe souvenir.

My first ride will be next Friday, October 5. If you're in Portland and want in on the group ride on the 13th, message me.
Happy riding and imbibing!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

oregon handmade bike show: a stroll

I went to the annual handbuilt bike festival today.

I had been working with a lot of personal stress over the past few weeks, and I hadn't really felt like going anywhere; but Sweetie pushed me out the door and told me the ride over would do me good.
I rode there between storm fronts. The air was warm and the wind was gusting. Rain clouds billowed huge and black in the west and were heading my way.

I got there in time to feel some large rain drops splat on my jacket. The show had opened at 10 and was on till 6 pm. I noted, at 2 pm, that there were relatively few bikes parked in the bike corral out front; not a good sign. I paid my ten bucks, walked in, and was immediately struck by the fact that there were far fewer booths than last year. "Thirty exhibitors!" the ads had blared. I counted just fourteen framebuilders among them. Definitely a smaller, leaner show. Still, I walked around and took a bunch of photos. Here are the highlights:

At left: Ahearne Porteur.
My favorite bike at the show.
All the hallmarks of his work, including gorgeous integrated rack and bags, a flask cage and sensible handlebar height-to-seat relationship.

Below: Contes four-wheeler ATB.
I was flabbergasted. On the one hand it was really cool.
On the other hand, I could not see myself ever riding one in practical application.

At Left: E-assist cargo bikes by Fear No Hill. I'm still not sure about front-loaders -- my experiences handling the few I've tried left me cold and sent me scurrying back to rear-loaders. But they seem cool all the same.

Below: TiCycles Extreme Cargo Bike, with an electric motor by Eco-Speed. Powered by solar panels. Truly insane, and even though the frame is titanium I bet the thing still weighs a ton.

At left: A lovely city bike by Winter Bicycles.
Stunning in its simplcity.

Below: The truth is that there was, in some ways, a lot more bike show out in the parking lot, especially by the time I'd had my fill of what was inside. It took me about ninety minutes for me to see everything in the show -- TWICE; chat with the two framebuilders I actually knew; get my questions about various products answered and make small-talk with a few other friends I ran into.

So I walked outside, and looked at the show in the parking lot. There were some cool bikes there.

The rest of my photos can be found here:

I appreciate that maybe the cost of a booth was higher this year; that maybe some exhibitors had just come back from Interbike and were tired; or that some framebuilders weren't ready to show new stuff right now. But at any rate, I was surprised at how much smaller the show not only looked, but FELT. The thrill just wasn't there in the same way this time.

Was it the show? Was it me and the warm pile of stress I've been sitting in lately? I have no idea. But I do know that, unless the previews promise something really different next year, I probably won't spring for the admission price. Because while it's cool to look at all the creative eye-candy, I don't feel like paying for the privilege of just looking anymore.

I am guessing it was at least my personal stress that played a role in my feeling underwhelmed.
The proof? I did an amazing thing today: When I came out and went to unlock my bicycle, leaning against the pole where I'd left it, I reached for my keys and discovered that my U-lock was still strapped to the front rack. I had not locked up my bicycle. And it was still there when I came out. This is probably the first time in decades that I've thought I locked up but did not. I was very lucky. And I will not repeat this stupid mistake again for another few decades at least.

Friday, September 27, 2013

oregon handmade bike show - sept 28-29, sandbox studios, portland

I'm going.
Saturday afternoon.
$10 at the door.
Rain and wind all weekend so dress for it and for heaven's sake PLEASE put a rear fender on your bike.
(Plenty of bike parking at the event)
Bring your lobster bib and be prepared to drool.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

On change and transition: a ride report

Today, Sweetie practically urged me out of the house to go for a ride. "It's beautiful out there," she said, and you're distracting me from work. Please go for a ride."

So I went.

I haven't ridden as much this summer, and since having some serious personal stuff come to light that I am struggling to work through I haven't really felt like riding much in the last few weeks. The truth is that I am working through some heavy personal stuff that points toward some inner work and change I need to do. I feel heavy and slow (even though I've actually lost a few pounds from not eating much during High Holidays, when all my stuff reared its ugly head and sort of shocked me for a few days).

Still, it was a beautiful day. I headed out, thinking I wouldn't go super-far (tonight is Simchat Torah and I still have to ride into town for services at my shul). I ended up taking a long, slow loop through North Portland, around the back side of St. Johns (I rode almost to Pier Park) and then back along N. Willamette Blvd. towards home. Below are a few shots of things I noticed and thought about as I rode.

Below: Sage advice? Maybe. Context is everything sometimes.

Blammo. After a house fire on North Houghton St. I felt this one in my gut as I passed by.

This business is actually still open. But the sign feels like the relic the auto industry may soon become. Not sure how I feel about this lately, in light of the expansiveness my life took on with all the air and car travel this summer.

Six Points, near St. Johns. Funkiness abounds in this part of North Portland, and I sort of love the grubbiness and tiredness of it. A lot more places in Portland used to look and feel like this.

But lately, gentrification has come to this neighborhood more and more, too.
On another level it's also part of my inner metaphor; time to clear out some of the funkiness from my soul.

On the way home, I came across this. I instantly thought of my Sweetie, and decided to take a photo. It may become related to the artwork for my album. I picked up the spark plug and took it with me for good measure.

Before I left the house, I pulled out my bicycle log, the notebook where I've been tracking my mileage. I had stopped tracking it in mid-July, feeling oddly listless and unexcited about riding in general and ambitious riding in particular. But when I pulled it out today, I wondered if that was just a symptom of something larger inside me, of all the change and turmoil of the last year that I am still trying to figure out how to deal with. So for now it's sitting out on my desk, and I will see if it speaks to me again.

A good ride, in spite of how much of it I spent in my head today, with some truly lovely moments of feeling my legs spin freely and the sun warming my back.  Total: 14.3 miles.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

everybody needs a place to go and just be

I have been dealing with a huge ball of stress that's been sitting in my belly for over two weeks now.
(It's my own damned fault, and it will take me awhile to climb out of the very deep hole I've dug for myself.)

Meanwhile, there's the bike. And I finally had time and energy to ride again this week.

I haven't ridden as much or as far over the past several months, because this summer I've been away more than I've been home with all the music and teaching stuff. I came home this past weekend from what I think will be my last outta-town gig for several months at least, and today I finally went for a bike ride. Nothing spectacular or ambitious, mind you; just a neighborhood spin that took me to a consignment shop (to sell, not buy) and then to Velo Cult for an hour or so before heading back home.

Velo Cult has become my bicycle hangout. When I need to be in a bike shop these days, I ride over to Velo Cult, buy fresh pour-over coffee or a pint of cider, and sit at the long table in the center of the cavernous room. The table was made from either a bowling alley or a shuffleboard corridor, I don't know which. It's huge, and from a seat facing north I can watch the mechanics working on bikes (the benches are fully visible, with only a short table/bench in front of each one). If I have lots of time and some cash, I might walk over to the local burger bar or the nearby pub for something to eat (I get it to go and bring back to Velo Cult, which the owner encourages; he keeps the pub's menu on the counter of his bar). If folks come in, I can chat, or not; if I don't feel like chatting I can read a magazine or check my messages (if I've brought something electronic with me). 


There's usually a healthy stack of bike-related magazines in a rack near the front door. Today, I brought a good-sized pile of Car Busters magazines and a couple of old bicycle manuals I no longer need and gifted them to the shop. Reading material cycles through this place, and if a month from now someone has taken a few of the magazines away, that's fine by me.

While I could have my pick of some sixty (!) bicycle shops in the Portland area to choose from, and there are certainly a few shops that are closer to my house, Velo Cult has become, hands down, my go-to place. It's pretty simple really. I spent close to twenty years of my life working in a bicycle shop. I may have burned out on the politics and everything that went with them; but I enjoyed the work most of the time and I still love the elegant machinery.

So, when I need to touch base with a familiar part of myself in an undemanding environment, I go to Velo Cult, a place whose owner and staff have welcomed me with open arms, a friendly smile and almost no questions. Today, I was very glad to ride over there and hang out for a pretty blessed hour of respite from my stress. When I left the shop to go home a cool rain began to fall, forcing me at length to pull over and slip on my Rainlegs and jacket. I pedaled briskly, heard the pitter-plat! of big raindrops on my shoulders and arms, and felt the vibration of my tires over the asphalt; my ability to feel a bike roll is like some folks' ability to smell. I reveled in the feel of rolling, the raindrops gently hitting my face and shins (I was wearing knickers), pedaled easily all the way home.

My stress is still here with me, and will be for awhile (I've got a lot to sort out these days), but that bike ride was a balm for my weary soul. I think that, in between lesson-planning and practicing, I'll probably take another one tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

coffeeneuring returns in 2013


Save the Date!
7 Weekends, Six Cups

What:  The Coffeeneuring Challenge
  Weekends between October 4 through November 17, 2013
  Anywhere a hot beverage is served at a location greater than one mile from where you started pedaling
Old Rules Along with New Ones, Based on Participant Suggestions!
Formal Announcement to Follow

Special to Portland-area BikeLoveJones readers:
I'm hoping to organize a Portland Coffeeneuring Meetup on at least one Sunday during the Challenge. I'll post the date and location here and on Facebook. Stay tuned.

when component snobbery is a little silly

Bicycle geek-out time:
Bicycle Quarterly's latest issue complains about the lack of a good 650b rim, citing failure of some pretty fancy Piacenti rims.
I built up a paid of wheels on some Sun CR-18 rims FOUR years ago and they're still going strong. I don't ride Randos on them like Jan does, but I commute on them daily and carry lots of stuff. No cracks, no warping, and the wheels continue to roll true.
Piacenti rims: $95 each
Sun rims: $28 each (at time of purchase, now 30 to 35 each)
Just sayin'.

Monday, September 23, 2013

finally, [fake] rapha for the masses

   It was only a matter of time before someone decided that counterfeit Rapha wasn't a problem. Currently available on eBay for something like $25 (far below the usual pricetag for "real" Rapha), from a seller in Indonesia. Bet your friends won't be able to tell the difference. And if they can, perhaps it's better that they pay full pop for something made in yet another country that's not part of the UK.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

first day of school 2013-14

First day of teaching, 2013-14.
I rode to and from in the rain in Portland.
After a summer spent largely on the go -- to some really good places, mind you -- I cannot tell you how wonderful this was.
It's September, and it's raining, and I am so happy to have been out riding in it.

Monday, September 16, 2013

grass-roots bicycling, the new-old bikelovejones style

This is a photo of a bicycle I had several years ago.

This was a Peugeot Orient Express from the mid-1980's. I got the frame at Citybikes when I worked there, on a healthy workers' discount. The frame was heavy, with a fork crown that I can only describe as medieval in appearance. And with a 21" measurement from bottom bracket to top tube, it was at the edge of being too big for me. Finally, the frame had been black but someone had tried to paint part of it a dark blue -- the blue paint was all over the seat stays and fading down the seat tube -- and it was sort of ugly. But I had a milk crate filled with parts and I wanted a rough-stuff city and touring bike that I could ride anywhere, in any weather. So I bought the frame and built it up.

It never fit me right. It was too big by a mile; I could manage the standover height but the reach to the stem was always a bit much. I stubbornly rode the thing for three seasons and then tried to build up an Xtracycle kit around it, which proved to be its undoing. Finally, I sold it back to the shop and put the parts on another, smaller frame.

That smaller frame was a Rivendell All-Rounder, which came to me from the original owner. He had ordered it custom in 1998, took delivery on it in 1999, built it up, rode it for a year or so -- and realized that it wasn't going to fit him. However, it fit me just fine, especially in the shorter top tube length. So when I acruired it from him, I swapped over many parts from the Peugeot, built up a new, nicer set of wheels, and called it good.

The thing is, it doesn't ride like the Peugeot. It's lighter, and feels different. Somehow it doesn't feel quite as rock-solid sturdy, though I know it probably is plenty strong for the riding I do. And while it is very pretty, with beautiful lugs and delicious green paint, it sometimes feel too pretty. I'm not tempted to over over the decals with paint or ugly stickers, but sometimes I still feel slightly sheepish riding it around town.

Rivendell began as a sort of grass-roots company, a mail-order house with a goal of offering practical bicycles and gear that, in the mid-1990's simply wasn't being sold anywhere else. Since then, the company has evolved into something more than just a mail-order house. It has become, in some ways, an enterprise with a cult following. How much of the cult remains, now that so many of the things Rivendell brought to the fore in bicycling are available in various forms and sizes from other retailers like Wallingford and Velo Orange? I'm not sure. I admit that once upon a time I, too, was caught up in the excitement; but these days not so much. Why? Well, because bicycles stopped being toys and became simply practical, affordable transportation for me; and because Rivendell has seldom gone out of its way to appeal to female customers. Rivendell has offered some clothing items in womens-specific sizing; but they've never sold as well and frankly, the whole enterprise vibes like A Guy Thing, what with all the cool knives, large swiss wristwatches and hatchets and other Guy Stuff they sell. Not that women don't dig Rivendell's vibe, but really, more women would rather buy from Specialized than from Rivendell.

Another thing seems to have happened along the way. Because Rivendell now has competition from other retailers who are offering similar bicycling products and philosophies, Rivendell has had to focus more tightly on the higher-end niche of the bike market -- Older Guys With Disposable Income, who are far more likely to be able to afford a three-hundred-dollar, American-made waxed canvas saddlebag or an eighty-dollar, American-made chambray shirt. What Rivendell has become, at least in some aspects of their product line, is the Fred version of Rapha. In this, I think they and other companies (like Velo Orange) aren't really representing a grass-roots approach to bicycling anymore.

Last year I bought an old mountain bike on craigslist for $25. It needed a fair amount of work and several parts had to be replaced. Newly "retired" from the bike industry, I was sitting on a veritable mountain of bicycle parts, including a couple of wheelsets; so I set about rebuilding the bike and turning it into a drop-bar rough-stuff touring and Rando bike -- even though I don't tour and I will probably not attempt another populaire (I think five is enough, thanks). I wanted a drop-bar bike that would feel different than my Rivendell -- and that's what I got. It's heavy, but comfortable; and if time and energy permitted I could see myself taking long day rides on it. It feels heavy and sort of funky -- not like the Peugeot, but in its own wa that I find satisfying. It's a grass-roots bike that I overhauled and rebuilt into something useful.

In 1994, when I began working as a bike mechanic, there were a few shops in Portland that offered used parts and were willing to repair older bikes. Citybikes was chief among them at the time. Today, while many smaller shops have since opened and are willing to repair older bikes, none has the supply of used parts that Citybikes once did -- and Citybikes' supply of used parts has dwindled over the years, thanks in large part to the ride of eBay and other online auction sites, and to craigslist, and other palces on the internet where used parts fetch a much higher price today. Fewer quality used parts are making their way to shops like Citybikes in Portland and Recycled Cycles in Seattle. People know more about what they have and what it's worth.Now you can even buy vintage touring shorts on eBay for about the same amount of money in 2013 dollars as they cost new in 1983. A pity.

So now it's up to me to create my own grass-roots approaches to bicycles and bicycling. Today, I have all the bikes I need, and probably could stand to let at least one of them -- my racing bike -- go in the next year or so. Racing again feels fairly unlikely, unless I have another mid-life crisis and somehow find the energy, time and money to train seriously again. (Racing without training is sort of pointless, and in my case, even painful.) I have a good supply of parts to see me out -- freewheels, chains and brake pads aplenty for me and for Sweetie's bike, the only bikes that I really have to take care of anymore. And I'm moving away from the whole lycra thing so I'm paring down my collection of jerseys and padded shorts to a minimal number, the number I'd need should I ever get the itch to go on a long, long ride. But mostly I wear street clothes when I ride anymore, shorts or pants or knickers, sneakers and regular shirts or sweaters, and a rain jacket when I need it.

At some point my transformation to Fred-ness will be complete. And at its heart, my interpretation of grass-roots bicycling will be some kind of de-escalating of the gear and the fanciness I used to be into, and it will just be about getting on my bicycle and riding places. Period.

I can feel myself heading there now.

That's no to say there aren't moments of regret or looking backward; my touring bike still has a cyclometer on it, and I suppose I will still wonder about recording miles until I remove this last cyclometer from this last bike. I still wear padded shorts and jerseys when I go for really long rides, but the truth is that my longest rides today are no more than ten to fifteen miles -- and who needs padded shorts for that? I still use panniers for the bigger loads, the loads that don't require a cargo bike but that exceed the capacity of my Carradice saddlebags, now ten and fifteen years old, respectively. Most of the time, everything I need to carry fits in a saddlebag.

I would like to be able to find the right balance in my new working life to make time for day-long rides again. It's been a crazy summer and early fall, and I haven't ridden as much or as far as I did last year. I'd really like to make some time for those long, meandering day-long rides with a sack lunch and no deadlines. And hopefully I will make time for those once I get my schedule set for the fall.

But for now, I've gone back to being the bicyclist I started out as -- a commuter, someone who rides to get from place to place simply because it's the most pleasant and convenient way to go. And on most days, it still is.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

fade to gray

I am shrinking my online presence, at least for awhile.

To that end I will only be using this blog, and true to the history of this blog, I'll pretty much only post about bicycles and related interests/activities.

My music widget will still be active here, and you can always go to my Reverb to listen to my stuff. But I will not be keeping a separate blog about my music for the time being.

Also, I am shrinking the amount of time and energy I spend on Facebook -- reducing both the posts I see in my feed and the amount of posting I do there.

I need to get back to density more. Spending more face time with folks, making music, riding my bike, playing with tools in my spare time, stuff like that.

Heading into radio silence for awhile.

Happy riding!