Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Reminder about cleaning stuff up

Hey! Don't forget that we're going to be cleaning up stuff up on Saturday down at the confluence of the Park & Connecticut Rivers. Without a doubt, it's going to be awesome.

11am - 2pm. It's in this area. I've got two tshirts to give away to the person who collects the most trash and the person who collects the most interesting piece of trash. Thank Connecticut River Watershed Council for giving me three tshrits this year (I get to keep one for myself).

In honor of cleaning, I want to go for a bike ride the next day. Not sure of the route, maybe a little dirt thrown in. Email me if you're interested.

I think that all of the water in these pictures eventually went into the Connecticut River.
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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Badass hawks

Johanna and I tried to do some mountain biking today, but it didn't go very well because I thought it'd be a cool idea to ride without tools, a pump, a tube, or anything other than my wallet, keys and phone. So, I was punished by mountain bike gods (or cyclocross gods, because I was riding my 'cross bike) and got a flat.

After regrouping, Johanna decided to go for a run instead and I rode around on the old Stumpjumper. Nothing interesting, though I did encounter this sort of creepy guy. Then later, there was this badass hawk that I happened upon that had just disemboweled a duck. Damn! The fury of nature!

I couldn't figure out where the hawk had flown, so I did not get a picture of him/her. Read more!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Such a DB

A friend of mine was in need of transportation. Like many carless Hartford residents, this young man, whom I shall call Squiggy for no real reason other than the enjoyment I get from saying "Squiggy", found that area bus schedules don't mesh well with his school and work schedules. As a bike-loving man about town and veteran scrounger, I was asked to keep an eye out for a decent bike at a price ranging anywhere from free to cheap. After a few weeks, the ever-generous trash night and a friend cleaning out his garage found me in possession of two free 1990's Diamond Back Topanga mountain bikes. Neither was quite fully functioning, but there were enough parts between the two to make a decent rider. The slightly larger of the two bikes had more intact parts and higher end components, so its smaller, downmarket brethren got cannibalized. Reduce, reuse, bicycle.

I haven't really thought about the Diamond Back brand since I was in elementary school and coveted a lighter, faster BMX bike than my own ponderously heavy (but indestructible) looptail Fuji. My friend Mike had a chrome Diamond Back with black accents. I remember him sticking a black, die-cut Oakley decal on the black, hard plastic seat, creating the convincing illusion of the only custom-molded Oakley seat in town. This decision made him the most visionary aesthete in the 5th grade. DB later came out with some pretty badass snakeskin motifs on their BMX bikes, but I stopped thinking about them altogether sometime late in the Reagan administration, when a hand-me-down Viscount 10 speed made me focus on road bikes. I digress (habitually, you'll get used to it.)

The look of these two bikes is unapologetically 1990s, with splatter paint and little touches of neon pink here and there. I have this sudden urge to ride to Tower Records to buy a Blues Traveler tape when I look at them. They both have Shimano Biopace cranksets, which long ago fell out of favor, but Saint Sheldon liked them and my old Shogun had them, so I'll consider this an asset. The "DB" logo these frames wear proudly on their head tubes predates the now-common shorthand for douchebag. My favorite detail is the star-spangled "Designed in USA" followed by the pink "Made in China." Why pink? Did test marketing find a watered-down pink China less threatening than the full-strength red variety? It was obviously vital to make it known that this furrin'-made bike has that all-important 'Merican pedigree.

I did a trial assembly and took a test ride the other night. The front derailleur isn't right, which seems to be the case with every used bike I get. The chain needs a good cleaning and lube, but is surprisingly unworn, which makes me happy, as the Biopace setup calls for a different chain than any other that I have around the house. Of all the things I've observed thus far whilst riding in diagnostic mode, the most apparent is that I'm growing fond of this bike. The short seat tube/long top tube geometry is well suited to my own peculiar dimensions (short legs/long torso) I may end up scrounging up some parts and building up the donor DB frame at some point. I've been thinking about putting together a snow bike this winter, and this could be just the thing, even if it is a bit heavy. Before I devote any more thought to the donor bike, I'll be riding this one around for the next week or so, sorting it out and replacing parts as needed. Today, for example, the sidewall on the rear tire blew out on my way home from work, so some new tires just went to the top of the list. I was just thinking that I didn't have enough projects... Read more!


I received a text message late on Friday from a blogging brother, Joel AKA Billy Hoyle. Little did I know, but he was in Durango during the Single Speed World Championships. Very cool.

I can't seem to get the picture of my phone because my card reader is acting up, but there's a picture of a bunch of single speed mountain bikes locked up in weird places and Joel's text: "Im in durango this wknd & the singlespeed championships are going on. town's nuts." I replied asking him if there were lots of men in skirts and superhero costumes and he replied "howdyouknow?"

Since I was in Connectict, I didn't do any of the aforesaid stuff. I did go on a pretty awesome dirt road (and a bit of single track) ride with Salem & Art Roti yesterday in the wilds south of Glastonbury yesterday. Since those guys are better than me, the limits of what I can ride on a 'cross bike were pushed. Oh, and another plug for Kool Stop salmon brake pads. Those things are so awesome. My bike actually stops now and stops pretty well. 'Cross races this year are going to be much different: I will go slow & stop, instead of going slow and crashing into trees.

I also went to Peoples State Forest. No bikes there.

That picture of Jacquie Phelan was stolen from her website and isn't even from 2009. I guess everyone is still hung over from the race and haven't posted any pictures yet.

UPDATE! Here's Joel's picture:

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

White Castle Bicycle Drama

I am starting to suspect that fast food and bicycles should not be mixed, though, most likely, the the problem is just the fast food! After a good night of drinking, it was decided I would be forced to try White Castle for the first time. Never had it before, and was kinda excited to finally have one of them damn shooters!

We spied Issac pedaling by and he soon joined us and brought his bicycle inside as he did not have the key to his lock. As we entered, the register person and the cook noticed the bike and shouted angrily, “Get that thing outta here!” Issac again tried to explain that he didn’t have his lock and he was only waiting for us to order food.

The cook then broke into a frenzy of angry yelling and gestures, “That guy is NOT getting served. Nope!” Then more to himself as he took the order from the two people ahead of us in line, “I ain’t serving them, bringing that bike in here, don’t know what they was thinking, crazy-ass, I AINT’T serving them.” Then to us as the cook hooted and hollered in agreement, “Excuse me sir, we are not going to serve you with that bicycle in here, please take it outside. Issac relented and went outside, he smartly was nor ordering any food.

We got back to the apartment and I suffered through one of those “burgers”. Shit that was bad! The “meat” was like 3 sheets of construction paper slapped together. BLAAHHHH! Never ever again. But, those round chicken ring things…

And how do you burn off bad food or get ready for the Monday Night Ride…

Pollard, pedi-cab driver with skills, about to get some air at Mikey and Jason’s crib, errr..make that ballroom!

And here is the rest of it.

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

First bike ride of the second quarter of my life or last bike ride of the first quarter

I'm not all together certain. It was my 26th birthday yesterday and I went for a bike ride on the old singlespeed. It was the first time I took it out since I broke my thumb with it back in June. Since then it's developed a new chain and a new rear cog. I'm still riding with a 20t, but I'm using a Surly cog instead of an Endless Bike Co. one. So far, it rides exactly like it did before. The Surly cog is steel, though, and the Endless Bike one aluminum. It'll be interesting to see which lasts longer. Steel is suppose to by a significant margin.

Fall is definitely arriving soon.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Uncertain of the ironic value

Tomorrow, I turn 26 and you what that means: I have to get a new drivers license. So, this morning I went over to the DMV in Wethersfield. There's no reason for me to drive a car to Wethersfield, because it's nearby, so I rode my bike. As you can probably imagine, there aren't any bike racks at the DMV and people give you sidelong glances if you go to the motor vehicles' department with a non-motorized vehicle. Or maybe, the sidelong glances were because they thought I was getting my license reinstated after a DWI. Who knows?

My feet, waiting briefly before the head got its picture taken.

Further, if the government can make the DMV as effecient as they have, they can totally do health care. Damn! The whole thing took like six minutes. That's way faster than it was last time when I went to AAA. My pictures doesn't even look half bad.

One other bonus was that I was down at the end of Wethersfield Ave during working hours, so I could take the cool flood control cut through.

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Wavy rim requires
Many twists of the spoke wrench
Truth is now beauty

Building my new ride
Odd, oversized parts require
Trips to the tool store

Rear derailleur works
Shifts perfectly every time
Front one won't comply

Three rims befuddle
Three different diameters
All "26 inch"

My bike needed parts
I found many on ebay
And now I am broke Read more!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Rest in peace Dan Carey

Friday was supposed to be a good day. I had taken one of my furlough days. At 10, I was supposed to go over to the Urban League and learn more about their bike shop operation and see what I could do to help. From there, I was going to head out to Salisbury and do the Mt. Riga ride that I always talk about, but never do. Despite the rain, I thought it'd be cool.

I was putting the bike in the car and getting ready to go and Luis called me. I had left a message last night on his phone about dumping in Keney Park and bad it's getting. It appears that actual dump trucks are now driving into the section behind Keney/Waverly and leaving building material waste. He's got an ordinance submitted about raising the fines and increasing signage (that I wrote). These dumpers definitely need a $5k fine and perhaps have vehicles confiscated.

But, the phone call wasn't about that at all. He called to tell me that our Town and City Clerk was found dead in his home. While there was no reason for me to disbelieve him, it didn't really sink in right there in my driveway. So, I drove to City Hall to see if it was real. It was. City Hall had ground to a halt and most everyone was milling about looking very distraught, myself include now. I drank like four cups of coffee and paced around. I couldn't figure out why this had happened and I knew that there was nothing I could do to help. So, I left.

Brendan in his stylish PVC raincoat.

I'm not sure if it's selfish or not, but I went for the bike ride anyway. I knew that it'd be steep, arduous, pretty and solitary. Those were all the sorts of cathartic things that I was looking for. Mt. Riga Road was pretty steep. Sunset Rock Road was really steep. It averages 10% for two or so miles and is unpaved. I also have finally seen Bash Bish Falls. Cool falls.

As I riding along Mount Washington Rd. along the high valley the separates the Taconics and Berkshires (or at I think it does) I was thinking about how when I mountain bike, I get this sort of a deja vu for certain sections of trail. As in, when I pass through that section I'm always remained of someone or some event. I don't know if anyone else gets this, do they? But, I was thinking that whenever I'm on Mount Washington Rd., one of my favorite roads anywhere, now I'm going to think about Dan Carey and his passing. And some how, this ride was a tribute to this guy that I really respect and with whom I was privileged to work. I don't how know meaningful or whatever it is considering he wasn't a dude who ride a bike, but he did often have bike messengers in his office combing through land records for lawyers and would not understand why I'd ride my bike to work in a snow storm.

I'm sure the City is going to name something after Dan and that's fitting, because his name needs to be imprinted somewhere in the City he served with honor and skill, but for me Mt. Washington Rd. has been renamed.

Sorry about the maudlin post, but I'm pretty broken about all this. Here's the obituary.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Danny MacAksill is still awesome

Even when he goes to his depressing London office:

Update! I was unlocking my bike outside Bin 228 last night (because I'm fancy) and that Band of Horses song from the previous Danny MacAskill video came on. I really wanted to ride home in an awesome trick laden manner as he does in the video. But, I don't know how to any awesome tricks and I was riding my 'cross bike. But, it did feel pretty cool to start riding at least the same music as such a talented man. Read more!

The congestion that wasn't

If you live around Hartford or in it, you may have heard about the Get Motivated! seminar at the Civic Center today. Joe Montana, Laura Bush, Colin Powell, Rudy Giuliani and some other people came and it only cost $5. It was supposed to cause Hartford to grind to a halt with traffic never before seen in our City. Mike McGarry was very worried about it and started telling me about the terrible problems impending weeks ago. My political leanings aside, I couldn't figure out why people thought there were going to be hordes taking the day off to come to this.

It seemed that the hordes didn't come. I took a detour down Trumbull on my way to work and couldn't find any hordes or even any more traffic than usual. Rick Green concurred. However, I have to admit that I'm pleasantly surprised that bicycles are billed as the best alternative transportation by Mr. Green and others (like the DOT! in fact their map is pretty good). None the less, I didn't see anyone extra people riding their bikes today.

Actually, additional conversations have suggested that if you entered Hartford from the west or north, it was slightly more difficult than usual. Read more!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Warsaw Pick

I have an affinity for the oddballs, orphans and survivors of the mechanical world. With bicycles, that means things that never sold well (probably for a good reason,) whose rarity make them more the stuff of sideshow curiosities than valuable collectibles. It suits my budget, in a way, as the entry price point to acquire such machines is low. They languish in dusty garages until someone tires of them hindering their access to the Weedwacker; then they become the stuff of garage sales and trash night finds. This works for me. My income and taste both compel me to pass by a carbon fiber wunderbike to gaze and grin at an off-brand three-speed or cargo trike. I like things with a history, even if I don't know what it is.

I recently went to a swap meet to look at old bikes. I made a point of not bringing a significant sum of money along so that I would not be tempted to buy another bike that I don't particularly need or have space for. I almost made it back to the parking lot, nearly home free, when the fateful distraction took place.

It's a Tyler. A Polish-made 3 speed with patina to spare. A snazzy red and white throwback to days gone by and not particularly missed. It has a sturdy lugged steel frame in the swoopy cruiser/paperboy style. The fit and finish are not what I'd call excellent, or even particularly good. You can almost imagine some strapping young worker delivering Communist propaganda from a handlebar-mounted basket. It sports a Sturmey Archer drivetrain, dated 1969, which may or may not be original to the bike. A quick once-over shows that this Tyler has had a hard life. Everything on the bike seems to have been messed with clumsily with blunt metal, or possibly stone, tools. The rear axle is stripped, making proper chain tension impossible, the front axle is a piece of threaded rod jammed violently through the hub without bearings. It needs parts and attention that I don't have time to lavish upon it. As it sits, it's kind of a piece of crap. Naturally, I love it.

It was cheap, so now I own it. I attempted to ride it to Bike-To-Work Day last month, with underwhelming results. The factory-crimped end fell off the brand new shifter cable (shoddy reproduction). I selected 2nd gear by threading a paper clip through the tiny gear-selector links at the hub. The chain fell off as I pulled in to the Old State House. I rode this untested relic fully expecting it to shed a component or three as I breezed through Bushnell Park and I wasn't disappointed. The only thing that held true were the unworn but age-checked vintage American-made Uniroyal (!) 26 x 1 3/8tires. I knew this ride was a lost cause, but I felt like it was a necessary initiation, like breaking a wild horse (not knowing whether the role of said horse in this flawed analogy is played by the bike or myself.) I made it back home, parked it in front of the couch, and let it serve as decoration until further notice. It stands there now, with a new chain and a front wheel borrowed from my cheaply made, but ever-so-charming mid 60's Columbia tandem.

In time, friends or dump scores will yield a combination of parts that will make it work again. I'll find a good axle or another front wheel while looking for something else in the garage. I don't know how or why this cold war relic has found its way to Hartford. Perhaps it was the personal mount of one of the many Polish immigrants in the area-- a sentimental keepsake from the old country. Maybe some entrepreneur thought they would get rich selling these cut-rate bikes to would-be Raleigh and Schwinn customers in the 1960's. I don't know what the story is but I know that it has one, and that's good enough for me. This thing is a survivor. It deserves to live, and be ridden, again.

I used to ride a 1965 Vespa, which could squeeze a tremendous amount of miles (90+ mpg) and pollution (worse than a diesel bus) out of a gallon of gasoline. I stopped riding it when I learned how incredibly horrible two-stroke engines are for the air, but I confess that I do miss it. Nearly everywhere I rode it, some aging Italian would tell me about the Vespa or Lambretta scooter they rode around their hometown 40 or 50 years ago. The stories differed in content, but were always delivered with a smile and a warm glint in the teller's eyes. Maybe the Tyler will be its human-powered counterpart. Maybe some future cruise around New Britain or over to the Polish National Home will elicit that knowing smile and a story from back in the day. Until then, it looks like another orphan device has entered my ragtag project queue. Read more!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

2 cats part 2: 2nd place

So, it's the midst of Hurricane Dan, there was a mountain bike race in Ashford at the June Norcross Boy Scout Camp. Though it must be said, the rain did stop on the second lap.

I think this email exchange between me and someone who did the Cat 1 race pretty much sums it up:


That was simultaneously some of the most difficult and fun riding I've probably ever done. I did a lot more 'racing' against other people than I usually end up doing: I had the lead for awhile, dropped to second, then the third, then caught back to second and even fended off some of the older guys. The funny thing is that this was happening at about 6 mph.

I agree about the course. I have a hard time imaging it dry, but I'm guess it would be super fast- like Winding Trails without sand. Hopefully it's not so ruined that we can't ride it next year.

- Hide quoted text -

On Mon, Aug 31, 2009 at 7:42 PM, wrote:
Hey Brendan,
Nice ride on Saturday. Sucks that you guys got the course when it was really destroyed. The course keep changing on each of my laps and by the 3rd one it was wrecked. Too bad because that was a really cool course and would have rocked had it been dry.
I believe you are right, you can have additional barriers if they are natural.
The one sad thing for me was that I thought that I had won the race upon completion. I didn't realize a guy who had passed me midway through the first lap was my age. :-( Ok, not so sad. The guy beat me by over ten minutes; I didn't have a snow ball's chance in hell. He was flying.

I also hope that the trails are able to recover, because the race really did a deed on the trail and I want to race there again next year. Then again, those boy scouts looked more than capable of fixing them.

So, should I do that 50 miler at the Landmine Classic?

These pictures were taken nowhere near the race. The second picture's photo credit is Elmar Tusch. No good pictures because the wise Johanna decided not to attend the race.
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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Bike crimes

Weird crimes involving bikes in the Courant lately:

Man Charged With 1999 Hartford Murder

Homicide Probe In Hartford Focuses On Injured Bicyclist
Bicyclist Grabs Necklace Off Pedestrian, Police Say

And something that's not a crime: this pleasant LTE about someone from Simsbury who took a bike in Hartford with his family and went to the Science Center. Mr. Novy should come back to Riverside Park in October with the family for some cyclocross.

UPDATE! From the Times, what is it with hypocritical attorneys general?
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