Monday, June 18, 2018

new: 20 days of not biking

So this is my final year teaching at the day camp in the Kansas City area.
I gave my employer notice at the end of camp last year saying I was probably good for one more year of this, and then they needed to find and train my successor.
My employer didn't believe me (or thought he could talk me out of it), until he tripped over my Kansas Bike, boxed and ready to ship back to Portland.

When I came this time, I told him ahead of time I would not be riding to and from every day this year. Because of my health issues, my fatigue and the intense heat and humidity (tomorrow will be the first day the high is below 90F since I arrived), I knew that if I tried to ride every day I'd wipe myself out; and with many changes in the community I was serving, housing near the synagogue could not be guaranteed.

So here I am, not riding.
Even with a year's notice, my employer did not arrange housing for me until the day before I arrived, and, in a case of poor planning on his part, I was foisted off on two different hosts for a week each.
They've been lovely about it, and it's all okay -- my second host is especially nice, and has a ct for me to make googly-eyes at each morning and evening. (It's all fine, even if it feels like my visit this year may have been an afterthought to my employer. After six years it makes sense that on some level I might become taken a little for granted, and I'm a grownup so I can deal with it.)

And while I know my decision was the right one, and so far none of my hosts has minded picking me up or bringing me home, the fact is that not riding has been hard. I miss it, even for short distances; and being without a bike serves to remind me even more intensely how barren a wasteland the suburbs can be. This is especially true in Johnson County, KS, where voters refuse to allow KCMO transit to cross State Line Road for fear of bringing The Wrong Element (read: people of color) into their pristine, Stepfordian suburb.

I will miss the people here. They are lovely, sweet people and some have become cherished friends. But I will not, for one moment, miss the suburban landscape with its gated communities and oversized houses and manicured lawns that are maintained by someone other than the homeowner.
I will be very glad to return home a week from today, to our crappy little bungalow and my Sweetie's loving embrace. And the next day, I'll ride my bike again.

(Old photo, circa 2006: me on the Kogswell prototype behind the Citybikes Annex. Damn, that periwinkle was a pretty color.)

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Monday, June 4, 2018

Off-Season Coffeeneuring: let's talk gear

Let's discuss coffeeneuring gear for a moment.
Below: my standard setup includes a Klean Kanteen vacuum insulated cup with a sip-thru lid, held securely in a Profile bottle cage on the seat tube.

Really, any double-walled stainless steel thermal cup will keep your coffee hot (or iced coffee cold) for a lot longer than the cafe's paper cup will. If you don't finish it there you can take it to go.

Or you can make some at home (summertime Pro Tip: freeze cooled-off leftover coffee in an ice cube tray for iced coffee; when it melts you won't water down the taste) and take it with you.

Either way, it means paper and plastic cups out of the landfill. Bonus: some shops will take a nickel or dime off the cost if you provide your own cup!

For step-through frames, Velo Orange offers a sturdy metal bracket so you can mount the cage on the handlebar.

I'm on a mission to make single-use cups unfashionable. Feel free to join me!

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But wait -- there's more.

So there's this guy who made a semi-career out of testing and reporting on every possible coffee cup, grinder and press, and then he put all the results of his copious research online.

If you really want to geek out, check out the outdated but still very informative and entertaining Bicycle Coffee Systems page:

And if that piques your interest, check out the sub-page about grinding and brewing coffee::

Obviously, Some of the items on these pages are no longer available for sale, but might be found used in thrift shops or on craigslist. Other items have since come into the market since this site was last updated (in 2013), so consider this a starting point for researching your own system for bicycling with coffee.

Pro tip: Many small camp stoves and thermal cups ARE to be found used at thrift shops -- or even in free boxes if those abound where you live. (I scored a thermal water bottle today from a free box near my house.) So if you're like me and you want to support the re-use economy, keep your eyes peeled!

Friday, June 1, 2018

mountain biking comes to the city: gateway green

Starting next week, I'll be working (musically) every single weekend through June 24. So tomorrow, I'm taking a Saturday off to enjoy some bikey fun. I'll be at the Gateway Green Mountain Bike Festival, a celebration of the first completed phase of trails at Gateway Green. I'll take Stompy out and do some careful test-riding on the singletrack (I have work to do next week!) and say hi to the bikey peeps.

If you're in Portland, come on out to Gateway Green tomorrow between 10am and 3pm. Trimet makes it easy: Take MAX to Gateway Transit Center and ride the bike path north about a mile. The entrance to the park is on your right.

(Although Oregon has no helmet law for those 16 and over, it's a good idea to wear one out there in the dirt. Plus there will be a bunch of kids out there and, well, set a good example and all that stuff, right?)

It's going to be nice, so bring sunscreen and shades. See you there!

Friday, May 25, 2018

the week in bikeyness

It's been a bikey time here at Rancho Beth.
Even as I now prepare for what will likely be my last year of that month-long teaching residency in Kansas, my mind is filled with thoughts about the shape of the planet, and the shape of my Self. I want to stay connected to the things that matter, like living lightly and leaving a smaller footprint. My muisic career has too often NOT been about that, and I've longed to find a better balance between that and the things that really espouse my environmental values.

Last week, I begin working half-shifts at Bikes For Humanity PDX, a non-profit enterprise based in Southeast Portland (basically, across town from where I live).
They'd placed a job listing with and, being short of money and having no gigs lined up for July or August, I answered it.
They called me in for a lovely interview, and offered me a part-time seasonal position as a mechanic -- paying me slightly more per hour than my final wage at Citybikes six years ago. Happily, they understand that this is a second job and they are quite willing to work around both my music gigs and my Shabbat observance.

They're lovely folks, especially my boss Andrew, the Program manager.
Here are some shots from the last couple weeks of turning a wrench regularly again.

(below: don't laugh. After some lube and adjusting, it still works just fine. In a non-profit shop you don't fix what's not broken.)

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 (below: a combination of over-tightening, riding it hard and probably leaving it out in the rain. Both cranks looked like this, and don't ask me about that bottom bracket. Tragic.)

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 My boss' bike, a vintage Bianchi city roadster complete with -- OMG! -- that chain guard!

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 So sexy. The very definition of bike porn.

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 B4HPDX is a donation-based non-profit that gathers bikes, refurbishes them and send them out into the world through sales, earn-a-bike programs for adults, and grants to clients of social service agencies. In addition to their Portland shop, they run a seasonal satellite location in downtown Gresham and repair booths at every Sunday Parkways. Nice buncha folks. And they really like having a pro mechanic on hand to crank out refurbished bikes for their programs. I've been averaging two a day in a 3.5-hour shift. It feels good to be useful.

And now the truth: There is no way I could do this work full-time anymore. My hands could not take 10-hour days at a repair stand, four or five days a week. So while I'm glad to be making a little money doing something I know how to do, I also know that it's not a forever thing. I'm glad to do it part-time. I'm promised more shifts when I come back in July, and perhaps I'll wrench for them into early September until about a week before High Holy Days. After that, I hope to have more music work again to get me through the winter.
But for now, it's a really nice thing all around.

Portland peeps!
If you have bikes and parts to spare, why not drop them off this summer at B4HPDX?
I'm suspending my refugee bike efforts for the summer, because I haven't gotten many bikes and, well, I need to earn a living. 
I'm inviting folks to donate to B4H
They'll do good stuff with your donations.
Thanks, and happy riding!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

back in the saddle, at least a little bit

I was offered a very part-time job cranking out donated bikes for resale at Bikes For Humanity PDX, a small non-profit that empowers low-income people through fixing and riding bicycles. It's part-time and seasonal, and mostly I'd be coming in off-hours to overhaul/tune up used bikes. Occasionally I'd also help teach volunteers how to do simple repairs.
it's a little money in my pocket, which I sorely need in the absence of any music gigs in July or August. And it's a way to keep my hand in it without having to deal with the high pressure of wrenching in a full-service shop.

Today was my first day. I felt welcomed and appreciated and it was lovely.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

the case for schrader valves

Let's just say that, for the time being, cars have won here in America. Gas stations dot the landscape; the truck transport lobby leans hard on state legislatures and often wins; freeways expand and on and on. This may change in the future when we actually, really run out of fossil fuels; but for now, this is how it is, okay?

Which leads me to when it makes sense to fight, and when it makes sense to adapt.

Let's start small.

Presta valves (L) are found exclusively on higher-end bicycle tires.
Schrader valves (R) are found on automotive tires and on many lower-end bicycle tires.

(Brooks valves? Move to Europe. Nothing to see here.)

Schrader valves can be filled with a floor pump, a frame pump or the air pump at the gas station.

Presta valves can be filled with a floor pump or a frame pump.

If you get a flat on the road and you're near a gas station, you can use their pump only if you have the requisite valve adapter.

This effectively turns your Presta valve into a Schrader valve so you can fill it with air at the gas station.

These little brass or alloy adapters are small and easy to lose.
Thankfully, they're made by the zillions.

You've heard that the nice thing, the kind thing, to do is to carry a spare tune in your bag so you can hand it to a cyclist in need out on the road. That's something lots of regular bicyclists do, and it is a nice thing. But because of racing trickle-down in marketing and everything else, nine times out of ten that spare tube the well-meaning rider hands you is going to be a skinny, Presta-valved tube -- which is useless if you don't have that little adapter.

And then there's the whole hole thing.
You know, when you want to change out a tube and your rim is drilled for Schrader but all you have a presta tube? Relax. there's an adapter for that, too.
In fact, there are several ways to adapt that big fat Schrader hole for your presta tube. All of them require more little bits that can be easily lost and which are made in the zillions of millions.

I keep a little supply of these bits on hand in my home workshop, so that when someone brings in a wheel that is perfectly good but the presta valve has wiggled so much it now has an unrepairable hole at the base, I can swap in an adapter along with the new tube. (Because front and rear valves can then match. It's a small thing, but it's nice to do.)

With Schrader valves, there's the valve, and a tool to take it apart so you can replace it's internal workings. The springs wear out, or the tiny pin-head wears down.
This is what you need for that.

One tool. And replacement cores, which you can still find on the internet because chances are your local [US] bike shop hasn't carried them in decades.

Although the Schrader valve is simple to use and to maintain, no one can be bothered to fix it anymore. It's easier to just toss it and swap in a whole new tube.
Easier, but not necessarily cheaper.

A broken valve core is made of metal and can be recycled. A tube that is beyond repair cannot be. (You know that, right? You know that tires and tubes can only be burned in some remote developing country where the smoke can't possibly come back to haunt us and it's their problem now, whatever. You know that, right?)

This is why I keep a supply of Schrader valve cores and that simple little tool on hand.

Because if the valve is the culprit, I can fix it without having to replace the whole tube.
The fact is, Schrader valves last longer and I don't have to replace that valve core all that often; whereas Presta valves can fail if you look at them funny and you have to carry around those little adapters for every situation.

Okay, I'm getting a little silly, but really doesn't it make sense to simplify things where you can?
That's why all of my bikes use Schrader valve tubes exclusively. Because they are, in fact, a little more sustainable. And I'll take my sustainability where I can find it these days.
Rubber side down, and happy riding!

Sunday, May 6, 2018

bike hacks: stem shifters and cable housing stops

In my ongoing efforts to share more of my middle finger with the bicycle industry, here's today's bike hack.

1. Stem shifters were ubiquitous on tens of thousands of entry- to mid-level bikes sold in the USA from the 1960's to the 1980's. Easier to reach than shifters placed on the downtube, they worked just fine -- so fine that, for a relatively brief period in the 1980's, at least three manufacturers (Suntour, Shimano and Simplex) were offering very nice stem shifters with an internal spring-loaded ratchet mechanism (Suntour's "Power ratchet" was the smoothest of the three). Before it all ended, there was even an indexing model with a friction option, just like the mountain bike thumbies had.

Of course, because this is the bicycle industry we're talking about here, stem shifters went the way of the dodo when "Brifters" (brake-shift combo road levers) trickled down from pro racers to bikes for the great unwashed (the rest of us). With everything at your fingertips, you never had to take your hand off the hoods until you went into the drops to sprint. While that makes plenty of sense for racers, for entry-level road and touring bikes it's pointless -- and wasteful -- overkill.

(Warning: race technology trickle-down rant ahead.)

Never mind that brifters were far more vulnerable in a crash than stem or downtube shifters -- and, being made of a shockingly high percentage of plastic, far more delicate. Never mind that the complicated contortions often required for re-cabling brifters took away some of the best wrenching minutes of my life, never to return, while a lycra-clad customer fumed and fidgeted impatiently to get back on the road and finish his training ride to nowhere.
And finally, of course one brand was not easily compatible with another, meaning that you really had to work some serious voodoo to make your Shimano cogs and chain work with that Campy shifter. (And we used to joke that if you actually managed to make it work, rumor had it that one or the other company would send covert ops to kidnap you in the dead of night before you could tell other shop mechanics how you did it. Because planned obsolescence is the real patriotism.)

Since leaving the industry, I have made it my personal mission to avoid brifters like the plague on my home refurbishing projects. Not because they don't work -- they do -- but because it's not sustainable technology. Something that fragile and fussy has no business on any bicycle I lay my wrench on. Call me a crank, but since I mostly take old turds and turn them into real transportation, I have no worries.

Here's a lovely example of a refugee bike in progress. It came in with steel drops, suicide brake levers and a whole lot of rust. Since the bike is being turned into functional city transportation, off came the drops. But I saved the stem shifters, because they work and oh, hey! -- there's nothing wrong with them.

And look at how much room that leaves for a headlight or a bell. A very clean, classy look.

2. Cable stops, when and where you want them.
Here's a bike I recently sent off to Catholic Charities. A friend brought me the frameset with some parts, an ex-roommate's aborted fixie project. After taking off all the fixie bits, I rebuilt it as a multi-geared, practicel city bike. (Please notice the lovely stem shifters. Suntour Power Ratchets. They're pure friction,  incompatible with anything indexed and smooth like buttah. If you have any, I'll gladly accept them as donations for the cause.)


The frame had no hole drilled for a bottom bracket cable guide, meaning that, to use the front derailleur from my scrap pile, I'd have to fashion a seat-tube mounted cable stop with a short section of cable housing to make it all work.  Easy-peasy.

Helpful hints:
a. Wrap some cloth bar tape around the seat tube where you want the cable stop to go. The tape gives your clamp more purchase with less risk of stripping out the screw.

b. Make sure the unused side of the double stop is positioned so it won't interfere with the front derailleur function in any position. (I only mention this because some bikes with triples don't give you as much room to work with. I had to deal with this on one of my old bikes so I mention it now. You'll see in the photo that for this bike, it wasn't ever a problem.)


Dear Bicycle Industry: I'm disgusted with your insistence on pushing a trickle-down racing agenda in bicycle and component design. It's not "green", it's not cool and it sure as hell isn't sustainable. When coupled with your policy of purposely phasing out older technologies that still work just fine, it makes you all environmental pigs.
(Yeah, it's true, I never got over that conversation with my Shimano America rep back in the day where he chastised me and our shop for continuing to offer 5- and 6-speed freewheels, an "ancient" technology we had lots of demand for in our repair work, when our job was actually to stock and promote the newest bikes every year. Yes, he really said all that. So did his supervisor when I complained. Fuck you, Shimano. You murdered Suntour and now you're helping to murder the planet.)

Next time in Bike Hacks: Why disc brakes aren't the Second Coming.
Rubber side down, kids, and happy riding.

Monday, April 30, 2018

30 days of biking wrap-up

April 30 marks the end of #0 Days Of Biking, a worldwide celebration of bicycle riding at any distance and any speed.

Because I "banked" a few rides in anticipation of my travels during this month, I ended up coming out almost 30/30 -- I ended up being short one day of riding, a small thing.

Some photos from the end of the month.

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My health wasn't as much of a factor in this month of rides, due mostly to the fact that a ride of any distance counted. Still, on days when I tried to ride too far, I usually felt it the next day. My GI Doc says this is likely a component of the Crohn's; even though my gut is clear right now, the disease can still knock me down with fatigue. So I continue to enjoy riding when I can.
Hope your spring has been full of lovely rides.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

30 days of biking - update

So I'm six days from the end of this month-long bicycle party and here's how it's going.

Knowing that I'd be traveling out of town for a gig, I decided to "bank" some rides in advance by going out twice a day for a few days before I left.
This allowed me to have a ride count for each of the thirty days of April.
Yesterday I flew home from the East Coast, napped for a couple of hours, and then went out to the shed to finish up a refugee bike -- and then, to tally another ride and get myself current, I took that bike for a test-ride. It rides great, and while I was super-tired from flying I was also glad to get in a quick ride.

(the bike)

 (evidence of participation)

Today it's supposed to be near 80F! You can bet I'll be getting a ride in before my hebrew student comes this evening. Cheers and happy riding!

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

dear minneapolis (a love note)

Dear Minneapolis: Fine. You win. You're all the baddest-assed bike riders in April because there's ten feet of snow on the ground and you're out riding in it with spiked tires and heating up beer and venison over a camp stove at the park or whatever.
But if you come visit me here and I hear even a PEEP about how horrible it is to ride in the rain every day, or how it's amazing that all these gray days don't make everyone here clinically depressed, or some other ninth-circle-of-soggy-hell blah blah blah, I will make you ride with me across the Tillikum Crossing bridge while it's 38F and raining sideways.
Both ways.
Without fenders.
THEN we'll see who's the bad-ass.
Love, Portland

P.S. we'll have a fresh pot of real coffee waiting for ya.
..::all of the above typed with tongue firmly planted in cheek::..
Happy riding.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

presenting (drum roll, please)... Stompy, version 3

I acquired this bike about a year ago, and hadn't had much time to mess around with it until after I got back from camp last summer. By then, the short-track season was half over and I was too fatigued to contemplate ever racing again; but I did want to investigate the newly-opened Gateway Green cycling park. (I never got around to that last summer, either, but I digress.)

So after we hosted a lovely Passover seder at home, washed every dish in the house, put the extra table away and saw off all our out-of-town guests, I spent the first half of today sleeping in, from a combination of a depressive fluctuation and extreme fatigue from getting so much done over the last week.
I didn't wake up until almost noon, and it took me another two hours to find my equilibrium again.

After hemming and hawing I finally decided that, since the rain was returning tonight, I wanted to get something done before the day got away from me.
So I went out to the workshop, finished a refugee bike that had been sitting in the stand, and pulled down the new Stompy to put the finishing touches on it.

It's a simple bike -- it began life as an entry-level mountain bike from Iron Horse. Their low-end bikes can be found in big-box stores, while their high-end models are for sponsored racers and generally found in few bike shops (at least here in Portland).
I swapped in some V-brakes from another old mountain bike, knowing I'd appreciate the stopping power in dirt and mud.
I also had to remove the cranks and bottom bracket, which had rusted badly.
Turning this into a singlespeed would require a different crankset and bottom bracket. Since I was trying to spend as little money as possible on this, I settled for a NOS splined bottom bracket and some NOS cranks I found in the back room at Citybikes. (With my ex-worker discount they were dirt cheap, less than $20 for everything.)

I was able to use the same rear wheel and swapped in a singlespeed freewheel, which I found in a bucket at Bike Farm for five bucks. Yes, the gearing is super-low; I'm an old fart and figure that I've earned it. I don't mind coasting more these days.
The tires that came with it had been replacements, and hadn't been ridden much. 26 x 1.9's will be fine for this, at least until I decide how much I plan to ride it off-road. They're not fancy and have a decent, basic dirt tread that should work in wet or dry conditions for just noodling around.
Some Odyssey BMX pedals, used Oury grips and my Misfit Psycles FU2 bar (swapped from bike to bike to bike and having now taken up residence on every version of Stompy to date) completed the bike.  (** see Sad Note, below.)
As a singlespeed, it's lightweight and nimble.

It fits fine, will be simple to care for a a lot of fun to try out at Gateway Green when things warm up just a little more.

**(A SAD NOTE -- Misfit Psycles appears to have gone out of business as of late November 2017. There is still an online store but inventory is quite limited, just t-shirts and a few small parts. There's also nothing of theirs on on eBay. So you can't buy this handlebar anymore and boy, am I glad I saved mine.)

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.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Cheapskate repairs: Blackburn rear rack

In my ongoing quest to scavenge free parts and accessories for my refugee bikes, I sometimes come across components that are broken seemingly beyond repair. They get thrown out and I rescue them from dumpsters and scrap metal piles.
This rear rack was lying on the ground next to a dumpster -- presumably someone aimed for the dumpster and missed -- because the rear half of the struts had broken away from the top platform slats.
The welds weren't all that great to begin with, and the aluminum made for a weaker weld anyway.
So if I wanted to make it useful again I'd have to find a way to repair the broken connections.

(Left: The chipped paint reveals the break in the aluminum weld, between the end of the cross-slat and the round outside tube)

I tried epoxy, which didn't really work. (The forces involved in mounting a rack and carrying loads should have told me that.)

So then, I drilled holes in the top cross-slat, and then used galvanized metal stripping folded over on itself a couple times, wrapped it around the outside of the platform, and bolted it in place.

It held securely.

But then, I needed to cover the sharp edges  so anyone loading the rack wouldn't cut their fingers. So I added a few wraps of cloth handlebar tape, covered with a layer of electrical tape.

I tested the rack by sitting on it sideways on the ground. It held in place without problems.

I'm pleased with the repair and look forward to mounting it on the next bike I fix up.

Coming next: A porteur rack from spare parts, including a small broiling pan, to replace the old front basket on my BStone.
I hope to get started on this before the week's out, but may not finish it until I get back from my music convention in a couple of weeks.
Stay tuned.