Tuesday, April 30, 2019

30 days of biking: that's a wrap

I ended #30daysofbiking the way I began it: a bicycle meetup with my sister. We met for cheap sushi (at Sushi Ohana: get the spicy tofu. It's everything), talked for over an hour and had Awesome Sister Time together. We've promised each other to keep riding, and to ride together whenever we can this summer.
Along the way, I've had a chance to find plenty of interestingness around my fair city, including beautiful spring flowers, little bits of history and other slices of life.

You can find them all at the Joyful Riders Worldwide FB group, along with amazing photos by other Joyful riders from around the world.
I hope those pictures will inspire you to get out and ride more this summer, and beyond. Wherever you go, Happy riding!

(Shown here: a few photos from the month, some of which didn't make it into my ride reports because I simply took too many. Go for a ride and find the beauty where you live.)

Friday, April 26, 2019

bike builds: some things just won't change

The bike on the top is my current beast of burden, the bike that carries things. It's a 1989 Bridgestone MB-4 that I've built up and rebuilt four times since I got it eight years ago.
The bike on the bottom is a Peugeot Orient Xpress from the mid-1980s. I got the frame at Citybikes, built it up as you see here, and rode the crap out of it for four years -- until I tried to use it in an Xtracycle build and discovered that, at 21 inches, it would be impossibly big for me to mount and dismount safely. So I stripped off the parts and sold it back to the shop.
I suppose the way we build up our bikes says something about us, if we're daily bike riders and tinkerers; and clearly my default is comfort and stability.
I might ride the Bridgestone to shul tomorrow. I need a ride, and won't have time later in the day. Happy riding!

Thursday, April 25, 2019

A prayer for right now

Dear Is-ness: As I count each day of these seven weeks from Pesach to Shavuot, let me find the proper balance between abject fear and lightheartedness.
No. Strike that.
Let me instead find good people to surround myself with, who will understand why I need to lean more heavily into the fear and eschew a little more of the frivolity. Because the former is urgent, and too much of the latter a distraction.
There is a time and place for everything.
Right now, I cannot escape the direness of the world, of my city, of each day. So if some of my friends think I'm becoming a bit of a downer, well, I hope they understand.
Let me find the strength to do my small part to make things more fair and to push back -- for however many years, days or even hours -- the date of our human extinction so more of us can live well, and live in peace.
Who knows? If we can add hours of peace to the Earth's timeline, we may live to see it -- and all of us -- last a little longer.
If that means that some parts of my own life will have to change, to evolve -- well, okay then. Help me to be discerning and to know what to let go of, and what to make more room for.
If my friends who think I'm living The Bummer Life can't wrap their heads around it, sorry-not-sorry.
Shit is real and there is not another day to waste.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Cross-post: Somewhere between freedom & enslavement

(A post from my Music blog: Notes From The Road)
Hours before our outta-town family arrive for Pesach, I am finishing up the last of the cleaning and compiling additions for our haggadah, the book that provides the order for our seder (which is redundant, since seder means "order.")

At the same time, friends and family are sharing their preparations for the holiday via social media. And as I view these, I cannot help but ponder our individual and collective choices in our observance of this -- and every -- Jewish holiday.

It has become impossible for me to walk into a store and see fresh produce without considering all the steps required to get that produce from the farm in California, or Mexico, or wherever, to my dinner table. I can't help but consider the energy, in human and environmental terms, required for me to wear clothes that fit well, to eat good food and to travel to the places I go for work and for play.

This recent post on social media (below) stopped me cold.
Someone who traveled from one coast to the other on a sightseeing trip with their family, posting about how easy and cheap it is to obtain everything one needs for Passover in New York City. Of course, not everything in the photo was made in New York City, or even in the United States.
There are so many different choices reflected in this photo, so many cubic inches of particulate in the air, so many thousands of gallons of fossil fuels pumped out of the ground and converted into jet and auto fuel.
And for reasons I cannot begin to describe in detail, this disturbs me almost as much as the sight of veal disturbs my vegetarian friends. Because I cannot see this image without also thinking of all the resources used up to make it, and the travel and consumerism it reflects, so readily possible.

I am still trying to figure out what to do with my discomfort.

I don't know if this is turning me into one of the most strident and boring people ever (like Thoreau, one of my childhood heroes), or if it's just another layer of personal awakening.
And I won't yet take a guess. Not here, not today.
Because I have cleaning and cooking to help with, and family to welcome with a warm embrace. And at least some kind of freedom to celebrate.

But as we celebrate our freedom story, I think we must also remember that the price we pay for that freedom takes many forms, including the potential for other kinds of enslavement. And I think that Pesach may be a perfect time to ponder the relationship between our various enslavements and freedoms, to sit with the tension found there, and to think about how and why we might want to reconfigure ourselves and our understandings. How we might want to reconfigure our lives, even a little, after we safely reach the other side of whatever chasm we're trying to cross.

Chag Pesach Sameach!
A zisn Pesach to all who celebrate.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Ivan Illich was right

In his seminal book, Energy and Equity, Ivan Illich proposed an ideal traveling speed for humans of ten miles per hour. Automobiles, he said, were capable of speeds that made the world blur, adversely affecting our physical, mental and spiritual health.
Horses trot along at an average pace of ten miles per hour.
Bicycles pedaled easily and comfortably, at a non-racing speed, average between 10 and 11 miles per hour.
And life taken at this pace can be truly taken in, and absorbed and experienced.

Which is the primary reason I love riding a bicycle for transportation. Because if you see something interesting, you can actually pull over, stop, and take a closer look if you want, without risking a high-speed accident on a freeway (as you might in a car going 60 miles an hour).
And seeing the world -- really seeing it and taking it in -- is part of the point of riding a bicycle.

Happy riding.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

How much schwag do we need? And when? And why?

When I began working at Citybikes in 1995, I was like a kid in a candy store. Everywhere I looked, there was something cool for me to admire, to covet, and eventually to buy on my worker discount.
Over the ensuing 18 years, I acquired a LOT of stuff.

Of course, I needed some of it. I had parts to install, either as replacements or upgrades on my existing bikes; and then of course I needed to lay in a supply of the cool stuff that was being blown out because it was no longer being made; and then there was the schwag.
The schwag was what identified you as a bicycle enthusiast. The best schwag, the stuff you could only get at trade shows and from dealer reps, identified you as bicycle industry insider -- someone who knew something about the Secret Inner Workings, or knew someone else who did.

In the end, it was all just stuff.
Some of it was good stuff, of course. Stainless steel flasks and thermal coffee mugs, wool socks, shoes and bags (thanks, Chrome and Timbuk2!) that I obtained while working in the business are still in my closet and dresser, being worn and used today. My Timbuk2 messenger bag is now over twenty years old; I ordered it, and another for my wife, direct from T2 back when that was pretty much the way every bag was ordered. They were sewn to order in San Francisco, and came with the shop's order. Mine is festooned with patches and shows a significant amount of wear.

This is the bag in its original patched state, about ten years ago. It was stolen from me, and I was sad. About four years ago I found it on eBay, stripped of all the patches except for the reflective stripe I'd sewn on. I bought it back, applied more patches, and now I'm using it again. It's had quite a journey over the years, and though a singlestrap bag isn't really good for my shoulder I can't let it go. When it's empty, it folds neatly in half and fits inside a larger suitcase, making it handy when I travel.

The rest of it? Stuff.
Lackluster, ordinary stuff, made temporarily "cool" by the application of a logo or brand.
(My favorite example of this is basically everything that Campagnolo ever sold, includng nuts and bolts that were not marked with a logo but which came in a plastic bag that was. I have a tiny plastic bag that is imprinted with the blue Campy logo, containing two small allen bolts that look no different than whatever else is in the drawer of allen bolts in my workshop. Hilarious.)

Alongside these, I've collected and given away dozens of water bottles, keychains, hats and t-shirts over the years. There is nothing inherently special about a keychain. It's whatever memories we associate with the keychain that make it special to us.
What advertisers are counting on is that you'll want the keychain because of whatever cache comes with it when its new; whatever memories you add are up to you, as long as you buy the damned thing -- and whatever larger, more expensive product is associated with it.

And that is why I'm in the process of unloading all the schwag I still have after two decades in the bike industry. Because it's just stuff, and I don't need it.
Most of it I am giving away. A few select items I'll sell online, because I know they'll sell and frankly, money is tight these days.

And when I go to the odd bike show, I turn down offers of Yet Another Free Plastic Water Bottle.
Because as long as we grab all the free stuff, factories in China will keep cranking it out, to become eventual landfill fodder and floating ocean waste.

If enough of us eschew the schwag, perhaps coporations will look for more sustainable ways to capture our attention. At least until enough of us realize that endless shopping isn't the point.

Happy riding.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

The fourth First Annual Ladd's 500, a bicycle relay

(Below: Aerial view of the center circle in Ladd's Addition, from last year's Ladd's 500 bicycle relay.)

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Someone figured out that if you ride the loop around Ladd's Circle in southeast Portland 500 times, it would equal roughly 100 miles. And that's how the Ladd's 500 was born.
Now in its fourth year, The Ladd's 500 is a relay ride.
The goal: The complete a century by riding 500 laps around the Circle.
The conceit: do it as a relay, both to ease the pain and to make room for friends and an excuse for a party.
Solo riders can bring two bikes and do exchanges between them and make it a solo relay.
There are other rules, but since this is an unsanctioned non-race, the rules are made to be broken.
The motto of the event is "Let's do something stupid."
Which is perfect.
Because riding in circles again and again for several hours in a residential neighborhood, and trying to avoid getting smacked by the racer wannabes trying for the Holeshot To Nowhere, Is pretty damned stupid.
And a helluva lot of fun.

So I returned for my second Ladd's 500.
This time, as a solo rider with no reasonable way to get two bikes to the event, I decided to raise awareness for Crohn's disease research and patient support by making my Crohn's the point of the ride. Signing up as Team Poopy Ass, I decided that, in the absence of a second bike, every time I went to the porta-potty it would count as my exchange. My goal was to complete as many laps as I could for as long as I could ride, and leave just a tiny bit left in the tank for the ride home.

Mission accomplished. I had a great time riding and hanging with some of my Portland bikey people, and answered a few questions about my life with Crohn's disease. (Online, I raised a little scratch for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation, which was cool.)
Tallying up my miles -- strictly out of curiosity, of course -- I rode the actual loop around 13.5 miles (including an entry lap to get to the inside of the circle, and two more laps to get out, plus 69 actual event laps that counted). I didn't count the distance ridden during my multi-modal trip to Ladd's Addition, or my ride home.
And when I got home I had a delicious, two-hour Shabbes nap.

These guys got up at 3am to bike hundreds of scratch biscuits to hand out during the ride.
They required 250 pounds of flour, and were pretty tasty.
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The Pit, where teams did rider and bike exchanges. It was also the only safe place to stop and get off the course for teams and solo riders alike. It got nuts out there at times.

The leader board. Teams stapled their names to a wooden board and kept track of their own laps using an honor system. All in good fun.
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At the end of 69 laps, including four "exchanges," I was still smiling but ready to go home.

I earned this puppy.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

30 days of biking: Interestingness

I stopped tracking the number of miles ridden some years ago, when Ir ealized that I would no longer be a competitive rider in any way. Since then, I've made it a point to ride when and where I feel like it, and to record instead moments of interestingness along the way.

Today's ride included several such moments between errands, and a lot of quiet contentment.

It's Spring in Portland, and time for tulips.

Happy riding.


Tuesday, April 9, 2019

refugee bikes UPDATE

So I began doing this project I think about 3 1/5 years ago. In that time, I've taken in dozens of seemingly dead bikes. Most of the whole bikes I've taken in were repairable, some with additional labor and parts, and today those bikes are out on the road somewhere.

Some of the bikes I've taken in were either way too fancy and lightweight to withstand the rigors of rainy-climate commuting; or they were inappropriate for Portland's hilly topography; or they were beyond repair and/or completely unsafe. These bikes were either sold off to raise funds for additional parts and accessories; or they were stripped down and the parts used on other bikes being tunedup for distribution.
To date I have tuned up or overhauled nearly 70 bikes, 65 of which are documented and numbered over on my Flickr page.

The latest one, numbered 65 (there are two or three that didn't get counted or photographed), is shown here, a gift from a member of my synagogue. It was a department store bike with a badly bent fork and front wheel. After bruising myself badly trying to straighten the fork, I gave up and accepted a fork from Kai at Upcycles, which fit beautifully without requiring any cutting down. Today, the bike is complete and ready to ride, and it rides just fine.

I continue to need some accessories to complete the bikes:

-- headlights and tailights, battery-operated, with mounting brackets;
-- locks, preferably U-locks with keys (cables are useless against bike thieves and combo locks are easier to hack and/or break)
-- patch kits and tire levers
-- 26" (559) x 1.5-1.95 Schrader inner tubes (even when in need of patching, this is the most needed size and valve type and the hardest to find affordably)

If you or someone you know has any of these sitting around unused, please consider sharing them with me so I can put them to work. I'd be grateful!


In other news, I'm continuing to enjoy #30daysofbiking, even with arthritic knees and hands. A hot bath with Epsom salts tonight really helped loosen things up. The last few rides have been filled with sights and sounds of Spring here in Oregon; unfolding buds and flowers, birdsong and the barking of new puppies out on their first walks in the neighborhood. I love this time of year, when it warms up just enough to wear only a sweater and rain shell; and it will be like this probably through May or even June. Our real summer won't show up until sometime in July, which is why we harvest tomatoes as late as October here. Right now, while friends in the midwest are showing off their first harvest of peas and lettuce, we haven't put anything in the ground here yet because it's still much too cold. But there's plenty of color to enjoy.

Wherever your bike takes you this week, happy riding!

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Sunday, April 7, 2019

Update: my brother-in-law's abandoned crap bike

Ten or twelve years ago, my brother-in-law (known hereafter as my BIL) was told he needed to exercise more for his heart health, and as part of managing his diabetes. So he and my sister started riding bicycles together on the weekends. Turns out he enjoyed it, but the bike he had at the time didn't really fit him properly and he sort of hated it. I promised I'd keep my eyes peeled for something else.

As part of my ongoing project of looking for old, dead bikes and bringing them back to life, Three years ago I spotted an abandoned bike leaning against the wall outside the former home of Upcycles bike shop. It was truly sad: a department store bike with a shock fork that was bent at the crown (do you know what kind of impact is required for a bend to happen there on a cheap, heavy shock fork?) and a slightly tacoe'd front wheel.

No photo description available.Seeing that it had a few usable parts, I took it home with the intent of stripping it.
When I got it home and put it up in the stand, I recognized that the fork was really the only thing that had been damaged beyond repair; the frame was fine, the headset cups were still round and the front wheel could be brought back.
So I found a rigid replacement fork and swapped it in; repaired the front wheel; and dialed out the rear shock -- oh yeah, it was a full-suspension mountain bike -- as much as I could to remove the worst of the bounce. By the time I was done, the bike wasn't so awful anymore and I put it away as a potential refugee bike.

No photo description available.
A week later, my BIL saw it, asked if he could try it, and was hooked. He liked that it was lighter than his current bike and seemed to fit better too. He's been riding it ever since and still likes it.

He brought it over for a tune-up this weekend -- as the family wrench it's my job to make sure my loved ones are riding bikes that are tuned and safe -- and along with the usual brake and gear adjustments and cable lube, there was now the stick issue of a bent chaniring.

Only it was more than one ring. The entire spider had been whacked somehow (in a fall, perhaps) and the whole drive-side crankarm and rings were out of alignment. On a set of cranks this cheap, there was no point in trying to straighten it.
So I set about looking for a replacement.

Fortunately, I was able to score one locally for ten bucks. I overhauled the bottom bracket (a good thing since the original bearings were cheap races; I removed them and installed loose bearings instead), turned the spindle around to accommodate the new crankarm, and voila! The bike is lovely again. I also swapped in some more durable metal pedals.

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As part of my #30daysofbiking pledge, I used two days of test rides to fulfill my goal of a bike ride each day.

Next time my BIL brings the bike over I'll try and figure out a way to attach a regular rear rack so he can carry groceries. Right now, the only thing he can use is a seatpost mounted rear rack, which limits both weight and carrying capacity. But he came and got the bike last night and was quite happy with the tuneup. And I was happy to know he'll be riding again shortly.

Because as I learned awhile back:

-- No bike is crap if it can be made safely rideable and enjoyable by someone. A department store bike is still a bike.
-- Everyone who can ride ought to be able to.
-- Too many bikes are languishing in basements and garages for anyone to go without a bicycle of their own.
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Happy riding, everyone! Rubber side down, and be safe out there.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

30 days of biking - Day One

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 I won't post photos or ride reports here every day, but the best bits will show up here at least a couple times a week this month.
Day One was glorious, simply because it was a bike ride with my sister, my life-longest best friend and one of the coolest people in the universe.
She was celebrating a new [to her] bicycle and loving it. I was celebrating being able to ride with my sister, on errands and in search of coffee and pootling around a few of Portland's northeast neighborhoods.
It was perfect.