Saturday, November 21, 2015

simple upgrade: add a basket

The mini-rack that had long been on the front of my All-Rounder was simply not living up to any real standard of usefulness. So last week, I scored a Wald basket and today I swapped it in.

If you're thinking of a basket for your bike, look no further than Wald USA.
Wald is over a hundred years old, based in Kentucky, and makes really excellent bicycle baskets.

I've used a few of them over the years:

My Peugeot city bike rocked a Wald detachable basket on the front.
It was handy for a sweater, a sack lunch or library books.
I built this bike up in around 2004.
I still miss it terribly today.
Above: me on the Kogswell Porteur prototype I got to test-build in 2006. I built it up on a tight budget, and could not afford a fancy porteur front rack; so I installed the biggest Wald basket I could buy, and stuffed it to capacity. While it was wobbly going with all the weight, I liked the capacity anyway. Eventually, I decided that 650b wheels really weren't all that, and sold the bike to a friend.

These days, I ride a Rivvy All-Rounder that came to me about eight years ago as a frameset. I ride the crap out of it, basically, and these days that consists of shorter-distance, mostly daily rides around town. So when I decided to junk the mini-rack, my obvious choices was -- yup -- another Wald basket. This one is a smaller sized detachable model, the 3114, which doesn't seem to be available at Wald's web site (but you can find it in many bike shops, as I did).

Below: The All-Rounder with its new basket. (Yes, I am aware that it looks startlingly similar to my old Peugeot. I really loved that bike.)

One issue with these mounting brackets is the support bracket rubbing against the head tube whenever you turn the handlebars. I've seen bikes where the basket support bracket had ground against the head tube so much that the paint had worn away and the bracket had begun to wear away the metal.

I knew I'd have to tweak everything slightly to avoid that fate. So I carefully bent the support bracket slightly more level, allowing it to prop against the handlebar stem instead (so both the stem and the basket would turn together). To keep metal from bumping into metal, I added some padding to the support bracket: I cut a section of wine cork, slit down the middle lengthwise and carved out a ridge inside each half, deep enough that thw two halves fit together again. Then I wrapped the whole thing in some tape. Besides padding the metal, it also eliminates the rattling noise usually associated with baskets.

I rode the bike on errands this afternoon and the basket worked beautifully.

Wald baskets are made in the USA, by workers who are paid a living wage and benefits, and they last a good long time. They improve a bike's utility tenfold and I have never been sorry for adding a basket to my bike.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

coffeeneuring challenge 2015:10 -- arbor lodge coffee & cyclocross crusade finale

My last Coffeeneuring ride of the fall, a quick stop at Arbor Lodge, and then a five-mile ride down to Portland International Raceway for the final day of racing in the Cyclocross Crusade series.

I had a lovely time. When I ran out of coffee, friends offered to refill it for me at one of the dozens of pop-up tents lining the race course. They also plied me with energy bars, pizza and a Voodoo doughnut before it was all over. A great end to the 2015 fall coffeeneuring season.

Evidence photo: Arbor Lodge Coffee, corner of N. Rosa Parks and Interstate.

Below: a portable outdoor oven/grill. It came on the back of a cargo bike.  Sausages and onions being grilled on a shovel (yes, that's a can of PAM cooking spray on the tabletop; it worked like a charm on the shovel).

The chef, who tied his hair back with -- what else? -- a giant zip-tie.

(Below: for those who've only raced in USA Cycling-sanctioned events, this is called a dollar hand-up. They are totally legal here in OBRALand, where we run our own racing scene with USA Cycling's help and, frankly, have more fun racing than the rest of the country. I used to race 'cross. I still have the dollar bill I got as a hand-up in my very last race.
Total distance: around 12 miles.
Thanks for following along and happy riding!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

possibly the very last "tried & liked" list ever

The "Tried & Liked" list originated with the iBOB crowd -- that group of mostly-male, mostly older enthusiasts of All Things Bridgestone Bicycle -- a number of years back. iBOBs would share their lists of things they tried and liked or didn't like with each other.

I joined in the fun for several years.

This year, I realized that there wasn't a whole lot left for me to try and report back on, because this whole listmaking seemed to depand on buying new things every so often. And since leaving the bicycle industry three years ago, I'm just not buying as many new things as I used to.

So here is my list of everything bikey I tried this year. I suspect that it may be the last such list I post, since I am buying less and less; so enjoy.

1. Tried and didn't like:

-- approaching the Tilikum Crossing bridge from the west side of Portland during rush hour. Because, really, all the funky turns and crossings getting from Moody onto the bridge are a cluster. A well-marked cluster, but a cluster nonetheless. It's fine on a Sunday morning, I suppose; but I'll avoid it during rush hour.

-- The rising price of "decent" ran gear that is made in China. Come on, people; I've made my USA-made Burley rain jacket last for twenty years with careful upkeep, mending and occasional washings in Nikwax to re-proof the fabric. I look at Chinese-made raingear today that doesn't last more than three seasons and is as expensive now (taking inflation into account) as Burley was then.
Not worth it.

2. Tried and liked:

-- installing flat pedals on every bike I own. All three of my bicycles now have flat pedals. So far, I like the grippiness of the VP pedals I got from Rivendell; but the raised lump in the middle is a little uncomfortable on longer rides. For all-around comfort I like the Redline platform pedals I've installed on the other two bikes; but they are heavier by far than the VP's.

-- installing WALD 8095 upright "Touring" bars as an alternative to the North Road uprights. The B'stone has the Walds, the Riv has the North Roads. I like the difference between the two bars; but if I had to live with only one bike I'd be fine with the much more affordable Walds. If you want to get super-geeky about it and see photos, here's a discussion -- a discussion! -- about the various upright bars and their virtues.

-- Coffeeneuring. I took a break from participating in this event last year due to health issues that kept me off my bike more regularly during the fall and winter. This year, I felt better and resumed my coffeeneuring adventures. The point is to ride your bicycle, drink coffee, and enjoy yourself. That's a concept I can get behind. Although the "official" event is seven weeks long and ends this Sunday, I may continue the adventure through the winter by seeking out new places to enjoy coffee by bicycle.

-- Paring down my bicycle holdings and buying far less stuff. Because the fact is that I just don't need as much bicycle stuff as I used to, or as used to think I needed. I'm down to three bikes and a trailer and may well go down to two bikes and a trailer by spring. I once dreamed of bike-camping long distances but the reality is that this is less and less likely as I get older, so out go most of the panniers and stuff. The boxes of parts are slowly being sold off, bringing in much-needed cash and space; and I am enjoying living a bicycle life where I don't think about what I'll wear or who I might hope to impress. I just don't care anymore. I just want to ride my bicycle around town and enjoy my city, and I don't need a ton of accessories to do that other than a bicycle, lights, rain gear and a very good lock.

-- getting rid of the cyclometer. This one was hard. It took a couple of years to finally convince myself it was a good idea. I had kept track of my mileage for a decade before finally chucking the cyclometer this summer. It has made all the difference in how much more I enjoy riding, and reminded me that riding a bicycle is about riding a bicycle, not about consuming miles -- or things.

Happy riding!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

fixation: a short history of bicycle preferences

Home today, nursing the remants of a chest cold that will not die.

My thoughts turn to possibly the best bicycle I ever had, a 1980s Peugeot Orient Express.
The Orient Express was that oddball, a Peugeot bicycle designed in France and built in Japan.
It had standard (non-French threading throughout, a very decent selection of Suntour parts, and a fork crown that was so overbuilt it bordered on medieval. The thing weighed a ton and with its slung-back geometry was not a speedster by any means; but it just looked so cool that I dreamed of owning one. When a frameset came my way via Citybikes, I built it up into what became the perfect 26"-wheeled city bike.

I outfitted it with a rear rack, a Carradice bag and a front basket, fenders and lights, and a Brooks saddle. For the next five years or so, I rode it to death, riding it even more than the 700c-wheeled Rivendell LongLow I had at the time.

I had to sell the Peugeot, sadly, when I decided to rebuild it with an Xtracycle kit and discovered that an already-too-big frame was impossibly big when I added the kit on the back. I couldn't reach the ground while seated unless I lowered the saddle to an uncomfortably low riding position. And so, after agonizing over my options, I stripped the frameset and sold it back to the shop, and chose a smaller mountain frame for my Xtracycle project.

I've kicked myself ever since.

Subsequent bikes and over a decade later, I've built up these bikes, and discovered that they are all basically in the image of that Peugeot city bike:

1. Rivendell All-Rounder, ca. 1999: This bike came to me after I'd sold the Peugeot frameset, and then built and test-rode a prototype Kogswell Pourteur. I first rode this bike with drops, but eventually, I sold the blue Rivendell (which, though made "custom" for me in the 1990's, had never fit me quite right) and refashioned the All-Rounder as an upright city bike. This remains the go-to bike today.

2. A few years ago, The Kansas Bike came to me. An old Diamondback mountain bike from the first generation of the department store downfall for the brand, probably around ten years old. The fork was flat-out hideous, clunky and fat and ugly; and there wasn't much to recommend the rest of the bike, either. But it was free, abandoned at the synagogue where I used to work. My boss couldn't locate the owner, most likely one of the homeless guys who camped out behind the temple regularly, and asked me to make the bike go away. I took it home, straightened the bent derailleur hanger (something my boss hadn't noticed, and likely the reason the bike was abandoned), and found it was perfectly rideable.

When it became clear that my summer teaching residency in Kansas was to become an annual thing, I swapped in some street tires, better handlebars and friction shifters, and shipped the bike east. It now lives in the senior rabbi's house, ready for me to ride whenever I visit. I left an old Carradice "Overland" Pannier with it, stuffed with a spare helmet, mini-pump, some tools and an old Burley rain jacket. At some point on a future visit, I will need to overhaul the bottom bracket, but there's no big rush. Maybe next June when I return for my teaching residency, I'll take a couple bottom bracket tools with me and just get it done on one of my days off or something...
Even though the bike is basically a POS, I've grown rather fond of it and its backstory.

3. My most recent city bike buildup is this 1989 Bridgestone MB-4, which I got in trade a few years back for a Thomson seatpost that never made it onto a bicycle. (The seatpost had been a gift from a dealer rep when I was still racing, so I didn't pay for that, either; making the bicycle basically free.)
I retro-fitted with with modern racing bits, and raced it for most of a season before deciding it was time to hang up the lycra for good. (I enjoyed racing, but my gut did not.)
It sat for over a year while I focused on other projects, Then, last year, when I decided to overhaul the Rivendell, I re-built the B'stone as a replacement city bike.  By now, you'll note that a strong pattern has emerged...
I no longer own or ride bikes with anything other than 26" (ERD 559) wheels. This does two things for me: first, it simplifies -- and reduces -- the number of spare wheels, tires and tubes I need to keep on hand; and secondly, it reduces the need -- or, frankly, the desire -- for more than two or three bikes in my stable.

This pattern has even made itself apparent elsewhere, a common thread running through my life.
I made this quilt (all by hand) in 2000, and used pieces of old curtains, shirts, and other things.
 (Close-up, at left: Note the crank arms. They're from an old Campy cap I wore during my brief stint as a bike messenger in the 80s.)

And the handlebars? Look closely.
Upright, with a nice tall stem -- not unlike the stem used on the Peugeot and the Bridgestone (that's the same stem, by the way, used on both builds).

I do have one bike left with drop bars, but as times goes by I have to admit that it is less and less satisfying to ride. In the end, I may strip it down and sell off the parts I don't need, and transfer the nicer bits to existing bikes. There is something about braking from the hoods that, even with shorter-reach levers, is no longer so comfortable for my hands. So I am riding upright bikes basically all the time anymore, and enjoying it.

What patterns have emerged in your bicycle preferences over the years? It's good to check in now and then, I think, and see what's no longer needed.

Food for thought.
Happy riding!

(Left: Slug Velo Fall Colors Ride, October 2003, on the Peugeot. Twelve years later I still have that green Carradice bag, those wool tights and the cotton sweater-vest.)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

coffeeneuring challenge 2015:9 -- AJ Java, NE Portland

I came home from Kansas, caught Sweetie's cold, and spent several days hacking up unspeakable things. Feeling better today, but still coughing, I decided to tempt fate with a short, sunny "bonus" ride. Strangely, my cough faded a bit as I rode along.

On the other side of Peninsula Park, at the southwest corner of NE Albina and Rosa parks, sits AJ Java, a place I've gone coffeeneuring before; but now they roast their own coffee in-house and I wanted to see if it was any different. The outside looked tired, frayed around the edges; the painted signs up top had faded almost to nothing, and the only identifying logos were painted on the glass doors and window.

(At left: Where the action happens.)

But is the coffee any better now?
It tasted fresh, hot and pretty darned good, though nothing special. I paired it with a slice of day-old chocolate bread (which was actually quite tasty!) and called it Good.

 (At left: the kids' corner at AJ Cafe)

After I left AJ, my cough was still bothering me a little, so I limited my ride to loops around back alleyways and cross-streets, taking a crisp scenic route back to my house.

I sort of wish I could record the feeling of riding on a day like this, with cool air and the colors of a late autumn afternoon; but some things are better left unrecorded.

(Above: Peninsula Park)
I finally ended up back home after a short, lovely ride of just under than five miles, which was all my lungs could handle.
I have one more coffeeneuring ride planned before the deadline, and I'm hoping some Portland-area friends will join me for it. Stay tuned.

Monday, November 2, 2015

cycling for change

The Community Cycling Center, a non-profit bike shop where I worked as a mechanic and lead instructor, has just released a beautiful new video about their programs.

Check it out here.

Nice to see that this non-profit has blossomed in such a great way, serving underserved populations in Portland and giving them tools to organize in their communities for positive growth and change.