Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Conflicted.

This showed up just now in my Instagram feed.




 





















I am immediately conflicted. 

I love a great group ride. I’ve enjoyed my fair share over the years. A few of them have been purposeful, like this one is. Most have been in celebration of the bicycle and some have had no overarching theme at all.

After my experience last week at Bike Happy Hour — an intensely internal one, admittedly — I wonder now where I can participate in bicycle community activities without feeling weird. I wonder if I am supposed to feel weird at every single community even going forward, until such time as there’s and end to the current round of fighting. (And let’s be clear: any end to the current hostilities would not be, and could never be, permanent or even very long term. There is too much at stake for the power players involved, overseas and here in the US. Sorry, but that’s what happens when you grow up and see things as truly complicated and messy as they are.)

Do I somehow summon the spoons to speak up for complexity and nuance? Will be I be shouted down simply because too many people in this time and place are too impatient for nuance? Or will I be shouted down simply if I identify (or am identified) as a Jew?

Maybe there’s a way out of this, but right now I feel a little stuck. Because right now, in too many places, too many voices are confusing — or conflating, if we’re honest — Zionism and Jewishness. For too many people, those have become one and the same. People who don’t like Jews in general are dictating the terms of my identity for me. And I don’t feel big enough or strong enough to counter their arguments.

If the idea of “doing-every-single-public-thing-for-Palestine” catches on at the current rate, I may end up riding alone all summer. I’ve done that before, and I can certainly do it again. I’d just rather not.

I have three more public bicycle events to check out in the next couple of weeks, during which I hope things will become clearer for me. I will hold off my inner verdicts until then, and I guess I’ll see what happens.

Happy riding.




Highway to Hell, and other Americanisms

I’ve ridden my bicycle for real, practical transportation since I was eight years old. I was eight years old in 1971. It was, as we say, a different time back then. It was far safer to ride a bicycle in most American towns and cities, for lots of reasons that include population, demographics and available consumer choices at the time. (Millennials, you can Google the Middle East Oil Crisis of 1972-3 to get the fuller picture. It was a wacky time.)

I continued to ride my bicycle even as my peers were getting their drivers’ licenses. (I got a learner’s permit too, but wasn’t really interested in driving and actually flunked my first driving test at seventeen. I wouldn’t try again until my mid-twenties. Another story.)

I rode my bicycle all over Gresham and, after I moved out, all over other towns and cities. It wasn’t always ideal but it was entirely doable. And safe enough, in those days, to do so without a helmet. (To be fair, only college kids with money could afford the helmets that were available at the time, so the rest of us went without.)

The freedom and ease that I felt whenever I swung a leg over the top tube and pedaled away was unlike anything else. And in some ways, it still is, even now when I can only ride shorter distance at slower speeds. (I have a helmet now. They got cheaper.)

Dan Sheehan, aka NOT A WOLF, has written an amazing and important essay about the state of travel on America’s roads today, and the state of Americans’ mental health behind the wheel. 

I urge you all to read it, if for no other reason that it will help you understand what’s at stake in the future of not only the environment, but in the health of our collective psyche.

May is National Bike Month

Pedalpalooza, Portland’s annual summer bicycle festival, begins June 1st.

Whoever you are, wherever you are, PLEASE slow down, consider combining car trips if you must drive, and SEE PEOPLE ON BICYCLES.

Travel safely.

https://dansheehan.substack.com/p/highway-to-hell   




Thursday, May 16, 2024

Coffee Outside in PDX gets a little more special this week.


Portland bikey peeps — Coffee Outside will meet up at Lords Luggage this Saturday, not a typical park locale but in support of a local artisan who makes bags for bikers, walkers and other Portlanders and is throwing a party to celebrate Portland maker culture.

Starts at 9am. Bring your own coffee fixings, pastries and fun. And stay for the party.



Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Bike Happy Hour, and then some

I enjoyed a nice ride to Bike Happy Hour this evening. Saw some friends, met some nice new people, did the bikey love thing, and everything was great.

Then came the Open Mic, where folks in attendance can get up and make announcements about upcoming events (mostly bike related but not absolutely required). One of the speakers was a fellow who decided to use his turn at the mic to speak out against “the genocide in Gaza,” and then urging everyone present to do the same. He also informed us that he has lobbied local transportation-oriented nonprofits like Street Trust and Bike Loud to issue statements condemning “the genocide in Gaza,” as if these decidedly local transportation-oriented nonprofits could effect any meaningful difference either way — or should.

I felt slightly uncomfortable. Then, the Bike Happy Hour host gave this man a big hug and the assembled crowd applauded, and I felt a little more uncomfortable.

Here’s why.

At bicycle-centric gatherings such as this, I’ve never heard anyone come out this boldly against genocide against any other group of people — in Somalia, Sierra Leone, or Anywhere else. In fact, the current climate seems to be quite open to statements about this particular conflict — which, lest we forget, began with an attack on October 7 of last year that was apparently months or even years on the making. The level of outrage about the attack against Israel never seemed to achieve the same volume, the same fevered pitch, or the sustain, from the general public as the Israeli government’s decision to retaliate against Hamas. Then, there was a lot of cry and hue against Israel, and against Jews (whether Zionist or not) from multiple sides.

While I am well aware that there is a lot more support for Palestinians than for Jews in a lefty town like Portland, finding this vibe at a bicycle-oriented event was really disappointing for me. Was I surprised? I guess not entirely. But yeah, I was disappointed. Was I nervous? I don’t know. I felt kind of alone. And of course, I suppose I would feel that way in this particular context. 

Jews are not a huge subgroup here. And over half of Portland’s Jews are not affiliated with any Jewish institution. For some, the cost of admission is too high (though synagogues have come a long way since the 1970s, and nearly all of them are willing to work with someone on a tight budget). For others, they don’t feel a big pull towards organized religion. And for the rest, they see their Jewish identity at best as a thing that doesn’t matter much, and at worst a thing to be played down in favor of assimilating. Jews as a group are hardly monolithic. 

As someone who did not grow up in a Zionist home and whose connection to Jewish communal life was almost nonexistent until adulthood, I struggle with how I feel about Israel for lots of reasons. But at this present time, with college campuses up in arms and too many refusing to make a distinction between Israelis, Zionists and Jews because nuance is too hard, yeah. I felt alone and a little nervous. I’m not sure I can feel any other way at this time or in this place.

And mostly I felt so alone because I didn’t expect global politics to enter a chilled-out, bicycle-oriented space so selectively. 

I stayed for a few minutes after the Open Mic period was over, then said my goodbyes and left. 

I felt sad and annoyed and nervous all at the same time. The ride home helped a little. But only a little.

I don’t know if, with all my health issues and everything else going on, I feel like expending much more energy on this. But I felt like it was important enough to warrant a mention here. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Bike Summer 2024: Coming soon to a Portland near you

Bike Summer begins in June, with a kickoff ride on June 1 at the North Park Blocks. Check out the Pedalpalooza calendar here:

https://www.shift2bikes.org/pedalpalooza-calendar/

Bike Summer merch is available for pre-order here:

https://www.shop.rendered.co/pedalpalooza

Portland is a great place to ride a bicycle. There are events being added all the time. And join me and a bunch of bike-loving folks at the opening ride.



Monday, May 6, 2024

Clean getaway: Why I'm glad I left the bicycle industry

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I currently own three bicycles.
(My health has made it harder for me to ride often, but I still love bicycles and probably will forever.)
 
-- 1999 Rivendell All-Rounder. The bike I ride most often. It has the greatest grocery capacity with a big saddlebag and front basket, and it shows its 25 years of honest wear beautifully.
 
-- 1988 Peugeot Orient Express. I got this a couple years ago because I'd been looking (for almost a decade) for an Orient Express in my size and this was what the universe offered.
 
-- 1960s Cape Cod converted into a singlespeed city bike. I love singlespeeds and have enjoyed building up and riding this one. Sadly, my knees are letting me know that singlespeeds may no longer work so well for me, and I am preparing to sell it soon.

I share this here because I've just come across an article that beautifully explains what I think of the direction bicycle design and the bike industry have taken. 
 
I was planning on leaving anyway in 2012 because my hands were taking a beating and my body could no longer handle ten-hour days at a repair stand. (Non-mechanical events at the shop forced me to leave sooner than I had planned, but it was coming before the next busy season regardless.)
 
As this article confirms, I think I left just in time, before things got silly and worse.
See for yourself. And understand why none of my bicycles use newer designs and materials.


Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Bits and pieces: updates

1. After trying some ergonomic grips on the All-Rounder and liking the additional support they offered, I went ahead and found some for my Peugeot as well.

These corky rubber grips by Asti/Shorex are a nice, more affordable alternative to the Ergon GP-1 grips which retail for over $40 even on Amazon. Yes, they’re made in China. And they cost less than half of what the CP-1’s cost. Now that I am unable to work very much and find myself on a very tight budget, I will get what I need for as little as possible in order to be able to ride my bike.

They have a slightly larger diameter than the used set of ergo grips I found for the All-Rounder, which may actually be beneficial for my arthritic hands. (According to my OT, a larger diameter grip means I don’t have to bring my thumb and forefinger as close together to maintain a grip, which can ease some of the strain and pain.)

2. Remember that funky saddlebag rack I got, then cleaned up and had powder-coated? Well, it works far better on a road frame than on my ATB frames, so I’m letting it go cheap. US shipping only please. I’m asking fifty bucks because it’s cool, vintage and British. Even at that price I’m eating much of the powder-coating cost and you’re getting a heckuva deal. Reach out to me if you’re interested.

3. I hope to start volunteering a couple times a month at Bike Farm now that Passover is behind me. My task will be to show up during an evening open shop period and be available to answer questions and talk someone through a repair as needed. (The idea is that I talk them through in order for them to learn hands-on, and because I can’t really do the repairs myself anymore.) First and third Tuesday evenings for Alphabet Night. Come in, say hi and give the Bike Farm a little love in the form of spare change.

It will be nice to lend some support based on my knowledge and experience, even if I cannot parlay that into paying work anymore. I still love bicycles and their elegant technology and this is a nice way to give something back.

4. Later this spring when the weather warms up, I will be selling off pretty much all the rest of my shop tools and accessories at a discount. I may wait until there’s another swap meet, pay for a little table space and offload them there. But if there’s anything you’re looking for specifically, reach out to me now and ask. I am more than happy to see if I have what you need and let it go separately. The time has come when I can’t really do significant work, even on my bikes, anymore. 

I think that the first time I have to pay a shop to fix a flat it will positively gall me. Looking at it another way, I’ve paid my dues and then some, and it might be nice to pay younger hands to lavish some love on my bike. The jury’s still out on which perspective shows up when the time comes.

5. After unsuccessfully trying to sell my singlespeed, I’ve decided to hang onto it for another year. I’ll put some ergonomic grips on it, and since I’m going mult-modal (bike and bus) a lot more often, it could be the right bike for trips in town where I don’t have to bring groceries home.

It’s spring. Happy riding!