Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Bike Happy Hour

I went.
I went multi-modal because I knew I couldn't ride the whole way there without suffering.
It was nice to get outside and socialize with folks I mostly did not know, though I also saw a few old friends. Jonathan Maus (our host) was thrilled at the turnout, and held forth about this and that thing and candidate in the upcoming election, where we will chosoe a new, more representational City Council and Mayor. I was more involved in a conversation about how we will all need a very long time -- perhaps a generation or more -- to really process the number that Covid did on us individually and collectively.
I stayed for about ninety minutes and could feel my energy draining, so I left, riding all the way to Lloyd Center before tossing my bike on the bus to get up the hill.
Whenever I stopped to catch my breath, I looked up at the sky, which was the most beautiful thing I saw this evening. Portland skies are often beautiful during the rainy season, so I made it a point to notice.
It was cold.
My knees hurt, most likely from the cold and from not having ridden very much.
My hands hurt whenever I leaned too hard on the handlebars or when I applied the brakes.
I could feel how out of shape I'd become over the last five years.
Quite frankly, Covid had done a number on me, too, and it was highly unlikely that I'd get most of my fitness back.
When I got home, I was tired and melancholy and achy.
Tonight is my second night with the CPAP machine, and I understand it could take several days or more to grow used to it.

I feel positively assailed these days by so much change and I don't like it.

I'm glad I could still ride my bike, but it was such a hard won moment of victory that I'm paying for with achy knees and a tired spirit.

I hope things will improve when the weather warms a little.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Bicycle socializing, anyone?

Hey, Portland bike peeps --

There's another Bicycle Happy Hour tomorrow from 3 to 6 pm at SE 27th and Ankeny.

The weather will be decent, in the mid 50s.

Anyone care to join me? 

I need to get out of the house and be social with other bike people.

No cover, but there are refreshments and indoor seating if it gets too cold.

See you there!

Monday, February 12, 2024

Pass it along.

Tom of TomCat Bikes came by today to buy some of my stuff, tools and wheels mostly.

Just before he left, I gave him the sign that I’d inherited from Q’s Bike Shop after Quinn died. I was there in Waldport that magical summer of 1994 when Quinn painted the sign, and it hung in my shed for twenty years. Now it’s going to another career bicycle mechanic who understands the importance of lore. Tom asked me to sign the back for him and I did.

I believe Quinn would be pleased.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

I admit to some schadenfreude here.

Yeah, I know.

But this warmed my heart.

The driverless car is right down there with Elon Musk and a cashless economy in my list of Things That Are Bad For Our Souls.

So when a crowd in San Francisco destroyed a driverless “Robocab” and then stood around to watch it burn, I admit that I giggled with glee.

Have a good week.

Saturday, February 10, 2024

The end of the Bicycle Brain Trust.

When we bought our little house in 2003, it did not come with a basement or garage.
Fortunately, we'd been gifted a stack of Home Depot gift cards as wedding presents.
They totaled enough for a healthy down payment on a Tuff Shed, and allowed me to set up a home repair shop.
I've enjoyed using this space for twenty years and being a local Bike Lady to all who asked for help.

With all the hand troubles happening and my disability claim in progress, I've decided it's time to close the Bicycle Brain Trust and let go of that part of my identity. I'll be a fully-retired bicycle mechanic, no longer taking in bikes to repair and/or donate elsewhere. There are more than enough other folks doing this work in Portland now and I am content.

In a couple of days, a bike industry friend is coming over to buy the big tools, and most of my stash of parts. I am winnowing down my holdings to two bikes and enough small tools and parts for me to minimally maintain my own bikes.

I have been blessed to be the Bicycle Lady for over thirty years, and I am blessed to be able to set that aside on my terms and just enjoy riding my bike when I feel like it. I have no regrets.

It has been a truly wonderful ride.

Don't worry! I'll still ride my bike, and share my jaded opinions about the bicycle industry and offer ride reports right here at my blog. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, February 8, 2024

The unneccessarily high prices of bike components

The older I get, and the less ambitious my riding becomes, the more I ponder what it is the bicycle industry actually thinks they're trying to sell me.

Today's example: Handlebars.

A good handlebar is sturdy, durable and comfortable. Unless you're a racer, weight ought to be farther down on the priority list (though I know that an awful lot of non-racers are still weight weenies, I just don't understand why).

Here are three examples of very nice upright handlebars that are ideal for commuting and touring.

Nitto makes incredible products that undergo rigorous product testing. I have a pair of Nitto North Road bars on my All-Rounder, and I bought them while I still worked at Citybikes. I was able to get a pair of "scratch and dent" bars on a discount from a dealer rep, or otherwise I wouldn't have sprung for them. I wanted a more swept-back reach and those gave me exactly that. The original North Road bar came in your choice of aluminum alloy (expensive) or CrMO (slightly less expensive). I chose the steel bar and have been happy ever since.

Nitto also makes bars for Rivendell, according to their suggestions. Here's an example currently available online. I believe Rivendell sells this new for around $200.

When I was retrofitting the Peugeot, I wanted a similarly designed bar but didn't want to spend a lot of money on what would be a secondary bike. So I sprang for twenty-five bucks plus shipping for an Elson Touring bar. It's basically a cheap copy of the North Road in steel, similar enough in shape and reach to the North Road to make me happy, and it works just fine.

The last example I'll share is one I've used on many bikes, including my Rivendell when I first built it up: Wald Model 8095 is a simple, cheap touring bar that's made in the USA and is durable enough for years of daily commuting (which is what I did with mine for over a decade before finding the North Roads on discount). I still love this bar. It puts my hands in a comfortable position that's kind to my wrists, and on the right stem it can ease the strain on my back. I still recommend this bar to anyone looking to convert from drops to uprights. It's a very affordable way to convert your bike and see what you think of riding more upright without spending a fortune.

Each of these handlebars will make a fine upright position on a bike.

And while the Wald bar CAN break, I've seen only one of these break in thirty years of turning wrenches. And I still use one now, on my singlespeed bike. I know that the likelihood of breaking in anything other than decades of wear and tear and a crash is incredibly low if installed correctly.

Nitto makes an amazing handlebar, and a strong one. The likelihood of breaking from daily wear and tear is even lower than on the Wald bar. But the difference isn't great enough in my book to justify the difference in price. And I'm certain that it isn't the only reason a rider will choose a Japanese-made Nitto bar over an American-made Wald bar.

I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that cache is part of the equation here. Nitto got more famous in the Amnerican market when Rivendell hyped it in their catalogs, and Rivendell bikes grew in fame and cache among a certain segment of the bicycle market. And that, I think, is why many buyers don't mind the great difference in price between the two.

The third bar, the Elson, is a newcomer to the market, presumably made in China (judging by the price) and sold with a "cool" model name to highlight the appropriateness of the model among the stylish tourist set. It leans a lot harder towards the Wald end of the scale, but it's made of steel and I'm comfortable using it on my bike.

Consider all the ways in which Rivendell's marketing has influenced the bike market over the last three decades, and you'll see leather (and imitation leather) saddles, upright touring bars, baskets and canvas saddlebags, and all the rest on many models of "city" and "touring" bikes across the pricing spectrum.

Now that I'm out of the industry and can 't afford even discounted nicer parts, I'm content to look for more affordable parts and older technologies that work quite well on my bike.

If you want to buy the Nitto bar because you specifically dig Nitto products, by all means dive in and enjoy yourself. But if you want to build up a perfectly good, sturdy bike for your daily commutes and weekend adventures that won't break your bank, plenty of more affordable options are out there. In the end, you really only have to impress yourself.

Happy riding.

(Below: a tallbike with an upright handlebar. You could do a lot worse.)