Monday, May 2, 2022

When guide books can’t keep up with reality

I recently scored a copy of the 2014 book Pedal Portland by Todd Roll.

It’s a great book with excellent routes and easy-to-read maps, and includes a number of routes that echo some of the Sunday Parkways routes, so you know they’re mostly easy, enjoyable rides.

The challenge is that the book was released in 2014, before thousands of homeless people began camping along car-free paths like the Springwater Corridor and Springwater South. I used to ride these paths pretty frequently, but when I began getting harassed and even physically threatened by men camping and running bicycle “chop shop” operations in the bushes along the path, I made the sad decision to stop riding alone there.

Now that my health has returned enough for me to enjoy some longer rides, I’d love to ride out there again, but I don’t dare. In 2022, Portland’s homeless population has exploded all over the city, with encampments popping up everywhere from the Springwater Corridor to Laurelhurst Parkand, and several dozen large encampments near freeway ramps and on residential side streets.

Most of the people living in these encampments are not dangerous; they’re just unable to find affordable housing and often unable to find and keep steady employment due to a host of circumstances and a lack of relationships. But some homeless people are suffering from substance addiction, untreated mental illness and other issues that have rendered them angry and willing to commit violence to get what they need to survive. The last time I rode on the Springwater, back in 2016 or so, I was accosted by two men who’d laid trip wires across the path in an effort to make riders crash so they could steal their bikes. I’d seen the trip wire, and was trying to turn around and find a street that would lead me off the path. They ran map to me and yelled that they wanted to buy my bike. I yelled, “No thanks!” and began to pedal away. 

One of the mend caught up to me, grabbed at my jacket and tried to make me crash. I kicked out at him from the side, knocked him down and pedaled furiously until I was certain they couldn’t catch up. I continued my ride along residential streets and took a shortcut back home.

When I got home I called the police department’s non-emergency number and told someone what had happened. I was informed that, due to understaffing, they would not send someone out there right away, and that I should just avoid riding along the Springwater “for awhile, I’m sorry I can’t tell you how long.”

When I reached out to fellow bike riders about it on a bike chat site, and the mostly male respondents told me I needed to learn some self-defense and “take back the Springwater.” A couple invited me to consider riding with a gun concealed beneath my jacket. None of these responses appealed to me and in fact made me feel more isolated than ever. 

Six years later, I still avoid the Springwater. So has the City of Portland; since 2017 their Sunday Parkways routes have no longer included the path and so far there are no plans to change that. Because the simple truth is that there are simply too many people camping outside all over the east side of Portland, and not enough places for them to live safely and affordably. It feels like the city government has given up, calling it a “national” problem and bringing all the larger issues into the conversation whenever someone asks pointed questions about zoning and development.

The truth is that yes, capitalism is to blame. And yes, a LOT more people are living closer to the edge than ever before. But with the polarization happening everywhere, and more and more elected officials having washed their hands of the social compact, there remains very little that I can do beyond my small circle of influence. And so I revise routes, staying away from places where campsites are bleeding out onto multi-use paths, and into city parks. I stick to quiet streets deep in the heart of residential areas that are away from the conflicts, and carry a stouter lock than I used to.

I am also aware that having a fancy bike makes me more of a target for thieves anywhere I park.

So I am looking for a successor to the Rivvy. I will likely transfer parts to a less-flashy frame and let this one go. I’m considering this possibility as a path of lesser resistance. I don’t want to, and should have to, participate in some kind of “arms race” to keep me and my bicycle safe on a neighborhood ride. Is that expressing too much “privilege” in the face of so much need? Or is it simply a desire to live quietly and to avoid the fray more and more as I get older? I’m not invincible and I don’t want to feel like I have to be on high alerts whenever I leave my home. Maybe that’s privilege, or maybe it’s just a reflection of my 0ce on the timeline.

Feel free to scold me if you think I ought to be a martyr for some utopian greater good. 

I’m too old to utopias anymore.

..::sigh::..

I’ll be taking more bike rides as the days get warmer and dryer. And I’ll be mindful of where I ride.

That’s the best I can do.

If you go out this week, happy riding.




Saturday, April 23, 2022

A sunny day inspires me to go for a ride. Thank goodness.

 Photo dump from my morning ride around Woodlawn and Overlook.

Free box finds, a gorgeous blue sky and flowers so red they reminded me of my father (z’l). Seven miles of goodness.

#noticebeauty 

#freegan

#ridebikesbehappy

 






Wednesday, April 6, 2022

And another thing. Bicycle non-profits are killing me.

I went to the CCC (Community Cycling Center) last week to look through the scrap metal and also find some used pedals for a bike I'm fixing up.
I was told that scrap metal is no longer available to poke through ("we're mostly selling it by the pound if it doesn't get taken at Salvage Sunday," they told me. "We're not giving anything away anymore.").
The cheapest used pedals I found that would work for my project cost $15/pr.
I left them in the bin.

Then I wandered around outside to see what used bikes were going for these days.
Tuned-up mountain bikes are now running between $250 and $450 and newer bikes are costing more than that. A used recumbent was selling for over $1,200.

Most of the shop is filled with new products, and used things are taking up far less space now.
It's likely a combination of inflation, smaller supply of used stuff and the higher cost of running a non-profit and paying higher wages. And it all adds up to the fact that, on my very part-time income, I can no longer afford to shop at the CCC.

The fact is that everything connected to bicycles costs more, and has been costing more since long before inflation skyrocketed. 

so I keep looking for old bikes and bike parts and collecting whatever I can find, in order to fix them up and get them back on the road. Sometimes, I will buy a bike for super-cheap ($40 or less), so I can fix it up and flip it. Sometimes, I will find a bike for free and just fix it up to give to someone who really needs a bike.

I'm glad to have more energy again. And when I'm not working on music, I'll divide it between fixing bikes and riding them all spring and summer long.

I'm glad to be out of the bike business, and happy to be able to enjoy bikelove on my own schedule.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Go outside and ride if you can.
Rubber side down, folks!

EXTRA: Portland bikey peeps -- this Saturday, the Ladds 500 returns in full living color.
10 am at Ladds circle (SE 16th and Ladd). Bring coffee, snacks and a bike and take as many laps around the circle as you can. Ride 500 laps and you'll complete an actual century -- that's a hundred miles! See you there!


Saturday, April 2, 2022

The cycling scene has grown ridiculous.

Since regaining enough energy to enjoy short bike rides again, I’ve also been slowly getting back into my wrenching groove. I’ve started working my way through the stack of old bikes out back, fixing them up and beginning to move them along. I have nearly all the spare parts I need, but now and then I go looking for a part online.

Lately, I’ve come along old parts I used to have on one of my bikes, or that I used to sell for cheap.

Rivendell used to sell this Simplex front derailleur in its catalog.

 

The derailleur was simple and worked well.. I liked it because it could be made to work with either double or triple chainrings and it was basic and sturdy. And because it was relatively uncool at the time, Rivendell bought a case of them and sold them for six bucks each. I bought two, and put one back “just in case”. (Admittedly, this is something a lot of iBOBs and Riv owners have done over the years, because if something is simple and affordable, we’ve learned that the bike industry won’t keep it around for very long.)

The first Simplex went on my Rivvy and worked like a charm for five years of heavy-duty commuting and mini-touring. Then one day, the red plastic half of the clamp began to show cracks. I figured I had a few months before it would fail and I’d have to swap in the second one, and I was right. The second one lasted almost seven years. By then, Rivendell had long ago sold its last Simplex front derailleur, so I ended up installing something else.

The derailleur showed up today on eBay. For sixty bucks. That’s ten times what it cost in 2002.

Honestly, I expect inflation to take its course. But ten times the original price for an old, nearly obsolete part seems a bit much, and I’m speaking as a former bike shop inventory manager. That’s a derailleur we would have had in a bucket on closeout at my old shop.

It gets better. I’ve subscribed to the iBOB listgroup for years, following discussions with varying degrees of interest depending on what else has been going on in my life. I barely followed it over the last couple of years, but with returning energy to ride bikes, I began following it again. And what I found was downright wacky. Discussion topics now range from “gravel” bikes to 12 x 1 drivetrains, with a significant side trip into carbon-fiber frames.

What the hell happened to the iBOB list?

The same thing that has happened to the larger bike scene while I wasn’t paying attention:

— disc brakes

— carbon frames (even in the pages of Bicycle Quarterly)

— 650b tires taking over the world, with a small but vocal pushback from those who insist “26 ain’t dead”

— old road bikes selling for cheap because everyone wants old mountain bikes and new “gravel” bikes.

Things run in cycles, I know that. And I know that the current cycle in the bicycle industry will run its course, and the industry movers and shakers find The Next New Thing to trickle down from racing and entice the non-racing masses. Rivendell has made a great case for “regular” bikes (while at the same time selling non-custom whole bikes for more than I paid for my fully-custom frame set in 1998) and that’s a good thing. But no one deep inside the industry is really talking about sustainability the way I want to talk about sustainability.

I want to get people excited about fixing their own bikes, and getting their hands a little dirty, and to take control of their bikes by learning to do the sim0e things themselves. I want bike shops to be more enthusiastic about helping folks really own their own bikes by supplying new and used parts for older kinds of bikes to keep them on the road longer. I want the bicycle industry to stop glamorizing racing as the be-all, end-all just to sell fancy, high-end parts that don’t hold up in the real world.  

I know that won’t happen anytime soon, not until we truly run out of old parts and the new ones fail so quickly that shops and manufacturers can no longer keep up. But a gal can dream.

I think a ride is in order this afternoon.

Cheers, and happy riding.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Miraculous to ride in the sunshine again.

 It feels miraculous to ride in the sunshine.

Today's high was in the mid-60s, and it looks like it will be that way through much of the next several days. I am taking it slow. I rode a mile down the road today to meet a friend for coffee. She hasn't been riding all that much either, so we've promised each other to work our way up to a half-hour social ride together later in the spring.

I'm not going far, and I'm not going fast. My thighs burn when I start out and I'm taking it really slow for now.

The whole stretching thing has always eluded me. Even when I was racing a decade ago, I never learned how to stretch properly. But clearly there's a need for me to learn a few basic stretches and use them before and after every ride, because if I don't my knees hurt afterwards. At my age, that's not going away. So I'll ask my doctor for a few good leg and foot stretches to help me loosen up a little.

But once I got going today, it was nice. Cold in the morning, but sunny. Everything is blooming right now -- daffodils, dandelions (ugh, the mowing!), and the first leaves of the tulips are coming up. In a few weeks the daffodils will fade and the irises will come in. I love riding during the spring here, and even if I don't go very far from home, there's still a lot to see.

I've started working VERY part-time at a synagogue in NW Portland, once a month. As part of my learning, I'm going to one Saturday morning service a month and just sitting in back, following along and learning a new prayerbook. My goal is that, before the summer's over, I'll be strong enough to ride all the way there, a distance of about six miles. If I don't make the goal I won't beat myself up (that's what Trimet is for!), but it's just a nice idea of returning to something I used to be able to do.

Today was lovely. I'll hope to get another ride in this weekend.


Monday, March 14, 2022

After a rough winter, leaning into spring: bikelovejones returns

I won’t lie. It’s been a very rough winter her at Rancho Beth.

Between all my usual pesky medical things and a new twist, my health took a nosedive in the early fall, and stayed there for months. It took time to get a proper diagnosis, but it appears that I got slammed with serious case of Crohn’s-related anemia. I had a blood transfusion a couple weeks ago, and that helped restore some oxygen to my blood. Next up, five weekly infusions of iron by IV (because I can’t take iron pills anymore), after which it’s hoped I will be back to full density and able to function again.


So, in a fit of optimism, I signed up for Urban Adventure League’s Mileposts Ride on May 7.

Between now and then, I’ll need to put my All-Rounder bike up in the stand and give it some love after months of benign neglect.

Along the way, I’ll be going through the small mountain of bikey things I no longer use or need, and will bring a small backpack of them with me to the Bicycle swap Meet on Sunday, April 3rd to make some quick cash. I will also have a casual reopening of the Bicycle Brain Trust next month, and locals can come by and hang out and dig bikes together. I’ll announce the reopening date in a future post.

Meanwhile, I will hope to begin taking your old, unwanted adult bicycles for refurbishing and distribution to those in need, sometime in late April when I’ve made some space. Stay tuned.

And a special note of #gratitude to each and every one of you who reached out to me while I was down and out over the last few months. Your notes of encouragement and goodwill meant and still mean a lot to me.

I look forward to being able to ride my bike around Portland again this spring.

I won’t ever be fast again, but I’ll be happy to ride.

Happy riding, and keep the rubber side down.



Friday, December 31, 2021

Fighting like hell to get in one more ride in 2021

It got up to 36F by 10am today, and the sun came out, and the sky was beautiful and winter swirly.

So, against my knees’ protestations, I pulled down the singlespeed, pumped up the tires, and took a little ride around the neighborhood.

I didn’t go very far, because even bundled up I was shocked by the cold. But I made it several blocks down Dekum and took a little loop through the park before turning around and going home.

It felt like a very tiny  hours later, my knees still hurt. I’ll have to slather them with CBD balm tonight at bedtime. And I don’t care. It felt good to get outside anyway. And when the weather warms back up into the 40s next week, I just might have to do it again.

Happy new year.