Wednesday, October 16, 2019

What do you do if you can't ride? Walk.

For several weeks now, my left hand has been giving me more and more trouble. Decreased grip strength and flexibility, more stiffness, swelling and pain.
I had to stop fixing up old bikes over a month ago. I rode last week but it was painful whenever I had to lift my bike onto the bus rack, or use the front brake lever (with my left hand).

Still, I had work to do.

I powered through my High Holy Days work, wincing whenever I played guitar.
I came home, and tried to practice for my upcoming recording session.  yesterday morning, I hit a wall, and called the doctor. By the evening, I was in the urgent care office, getting a cortisone shot in my hand.

The pain was epic, technicolor.
First, the lidocaine shot, which made me yell a ragged, loud sound that rang up and down the hall.
Then, a second shot of cortisone with a little more lidocaine mixed in, which also hurt but this time like a massive liquid bruise flowing through and around my left middle finger joint and beyond. I yelled again, but it came out sounding like a clear note.

Today, I rested at home until around 4pm, when I was climbing the walls and couldn't take it anymore. I went for a long walk around the neighborhood on a grey, drizzly afternoon with fall colors everywhere. Walking along the same streets I usually ride allowed me to slow down and see things even more up close, and although it took awhile longer, I enjoyed it.

I'm off the bike for at least the next four days, and hope that by then the pain will subside enough to let me take a spin on my Rivvy. Because right now the colors are just too good not to be outside.

If you're riding this week, may all your miles be beautiful.

Image may contain: plant, nature and outdoor

Friday, October 4, 2019

ABC = Always Be Coffeeneuring

Scenes from today's ABC ride. Shout out to Tarik Saleh (of the world famous Bike Club), with whom I enjoyed a lovely second breakfast at Breadwinner Cafe. We had a fascinating conversation about bicycles, renewable energy, bacon, art and death.

The man, the myth, the legend.
Tarik Saleh created the best rules ever for a bike club, and you can join!
Check out to hook up with some club merch!
And remember, Try not to be an ass.

Below: the latest colorway. That yellow really makes it pop. This one's going on my bookbag.

One final caution:

Now that the days are shorter and wetter (at least here in PDX), make sure you've got fenders and lights on your bike and reflectivity everywhere possible. I used to think it was a bummer having to dress like a Christmas tree on LSD in order to feel safe; but time and reality have softened my views on fashion and now I just want to get home alive.

Your local bike shop (or construction supply store) has tons of reflective solutions to make YOU pop at night for a very reasonable investment of money, time and adhesives. DO IT.

And happy riding.

refugee bike update: THANK YOU

Just a shout-out to my Portland readers and their friends who've brought me their old bikes for Catholic Charities' refugee resettlement program.


I've received bikes and parts all summer, and fixed most of them up and moved them along well before the end of August.

Right now I'm working on a couple of build-ups -- two mountain bikes that I'm building up from parts around a couple of donated frames (special thanks to Kai at Upcycles for those!). When those are done, I'll have some space for more bikes. If you or another Portlander you love has an old dead bike floating around, let me know.

A special note on type of bike --

While I will take almost any bicycle if it's whole and complete, I prefer old mountain style bikes with derailleurs. That's because Portland is a very hilly town -- it was built over a bunch of little dead volcanoes -- and giving someone a single-speed with a coaster brake when he'll end up living at 185th and southeast Hell is kind of mean.

Also, for liability reasons, I cannot accept children's bicycles. Please donate those to Community Cycling Center for their afterschool programs.

If you want to see some of the bicycles that have enjoyed new life in the refugee resettlement program, check out my flickr album.

Below: Just a few of the bikes you've donated to this program, repaired and ready to ride. Thank you!

Thursday, September 26, 2019

It's Fall! ...and an announcement for my Portland readers

Greetings, bicycle lovers!

Fall officially began on the 22nd. But we've been easing into it with a one-step-forward, two-steps-back sort of gait for a couple of weeks. Today marked the beginning of the end of warm days in the high 70s/low 80s, with a high reaching only 67F and the week's forecast introduces us to successive nights in the 40s.

I couldn't be happier. After a summer that included more humid days than I used to, I'm ready for sweater weather, even if it comes with the need to carry raingear in my saddle bag from now through next June. Tomorrow I'll be swapping out the shorts and cotton socks, and swapping in the woolies (my dresser's only large enough for one season's worth of clothes).

Once my music work is finished for the season (Oct 18 is my last day when I have to be in top vocal form for severa weeks), I'll look forward to some rides in the local parks to admire the turning leaves and the cooler air. Nothing ambitious anymore, but always pleasurable.


And now, for that announcement for my Portland readers:

As I get farther and farther from lots of bicycle repair work, the time is coming when I will need to let go of some of my bicycle parts and tools. Rather than post a detailed list and toss it all up online, I'd rather make it available to local folks first, on a cash-only basis. I'll announce a day and time for either late October (I promise it won't be Haloween) or early November, likely a Sunday. I will post the date here and invite you to email me for a location, day and time.

I will be selling stuff at stupid-low prices because I want it to get into the hands of bike mechanics who will use it. I don't care if you're a hobbyist or a working shop pro, I have some tools and want to see them go into good hands. I will be selling things affordably enough that I hope I won't have to endure a lot of haggling. I just want to move things along with the least fuss possible.

Whatever's left at the end I will donate to my favorite bicycle nonprofit, Bikes 4 Humanity.

Along with the tools I'll be moving along a few random parts and possibly some accessories (clothing, camping gear and bags).

So there you have it. Watch this space for an announcement and help me gain some clarity.

And happy Fall riding!

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Coffeeneuring for the hell of it

So the Coffeeneuring Challenge will soon be up and running.
And this year, I don't think I'm going to sign up for it in any official way.
Partly because it overlaps my High Holy Days schedule enough that I don't want to HAVE to ride on a rainy day if my voice tells me it's better to stay indoors; amd partly because I feel like I've done everything I can do with this and still have fun.
I have enough patches and bandannas to last awhile; and in fact will be passing sme of the extras along to friends because I just don't need them anymore.

But still, coffeeneuring is a perfect excuse to ride your bike somewhere.
So if you want to get a cup of coffee, treat yourself and ride to a cafe. Support the local economy. Move your legs and breathe some outdoor air.

Drink up! And hapy riding!

Saturday, September 7, 2019

seasons turning: a ride through north portland

I woke up too late to make it to shul this morning so I decided instead to enjoy a little bike ride around North Portland before the rain came in the late afternoon.
Stops along the way included Peninsula Park, N. Willamette Boulevard (a couple of scenic stops), and the compass rose viewing area at the south end of University of Portland.

Some pix from the day's ride, which meandered for a couple of hours and stayed deliciously cool and cloudy the whole time.


Sunday, September 1, 2019

It's all in the label: Surly edition

This weekend, an item appeared for sale on eBay, a nice wool cap in lovely purple stripes.

 I think it's attractive.
If I didn't already own one each of a simple knit cap and a wool brimmed cycling cap, I might consider buying it.

Except for one small thing: the price.
The opening bid on this wool cap is $30.
That's right, thirty bucks for a factory-made cap that is pretty but otherwise unexceptional.

Here's where things get interesting.

The hat was advertised not by its material first, but by its brand name, which somehow seemed to make that high opening bid okay.

The hat was sold by Surly Bikes. On the other side it had a small label with its logo on it.
And for a moment, even in MY jaded mind, the price tag wasn't so crazy. Because I, too, have been conditioned to shop for brands. That's especially true when it comes to bicycle-related things.

But I caught myself, and regained my senses. That tiny label on one side is why the seller is charging -- and may well realize -- his asking price. The allure and the "lore" of the Surly brand is so strong that even a simply knit cap can demand a higher price if you stick a "Surly" tag on it. Never mind that it's too bulky to fit under a helmet, or that there's nothing about the style of the cap even remotely related to cycling; that little tag makes all the difference.

I reflected on this paradigm ten years ago with the Rapha brand, marveling at how the application of a carefully-researched and well-branded name could increase the price of a cycling jersey by two to three times its prior value. EVen after Rapha was bought by a Walmart subsidiary in 2013, people still flock to the brand.

So once I realized what tricks were being played on my mind by a combination of my upbringing and the phenomenon of branding in today's capitalist economy, I calmed down, had a chuckle and moved on. Because when I can buy a knit cap for five bucks, why spend thirty? Especially since the only reason for the high price is a stupid little tag that could be easily removed?

To be fair, some heavily-marketed items are worth the higher price in terms of function and quality. That's why I continue to be picky about the jeans and shoes I wear. But in so many cases, perfectly acceptable non-branded versions of some items are a third of the price, work just as well and look just as nice. And while this may not always be the case, especially if the Buy Local crowd has their way (they won't in the end, but I digress), it's true enough for now that if you have three kids to outfit for school, you can do it a lot cheaper and more simply then this.

This is the power of branding. The right combination of style-making, words and tag placement is enough to make us lose our heads and want to buy something that may not really be all that special.

I am working on the habit of examining each and every one of those moments when I'm tempted to lose my head. If I stop and do a seven-second check in, I find I'm less likely to shop in general. On my budget, that's a good thing. But learning how not to lose our heads economically may be good for the whole world, too.

I'm going to enjoy a bicycle ride today, to find my head again. It's Sunday, a perfect day for it.
Happy riding!