Thursday, December 31, 2009

Out with the old, in with the older

I spent several days in the greater NYC metro area of my youth catching up with friends and family. I drove down since Megabus has eliminated their super convenient Hartford service. While I wasn't particularly in any mood to drive, this ended up being a good thing for a couple of reasons. As it worked out, driving the car enabled me to deliver some bulky items I've been meaning to get rid of, and ultimately bring home just as many bulky items. Oh well.

One of the first things I realized upon arrival at my Mom's house was that I had forgotten my own backpack when I loaded the carfull of stuff I carted down. Not willing to milk that many days out of the clothes on my back, I made a Christmas Eve trip to a couple of thrift stores to assemble a few days' worth of wardrobe on the cheap. I scored some more wool clothes to expand my wintertime outdoor clothing options, which was a bonus.

At the second store, a longtime thrift institution of sorts in Paterson, I found a rack full of rickety bikes between the men's clothing and housewares. Most of them were battered department store quality bikes that were not very good to begin with and were far worse for wear and neglect, but two of them caught my eye. One was a Tyler children's bike, only the second example of this Polish marque I have seen in person.

The other thrift store standout was a vintage Firestone single speed cruiser frame with an assortment of newer used parts affixed to it.

The front fender was mashed up from the store's ham-fisted display method of hanging the bikes over an angle iron frame. The frame had a pretty head tube badge, but was otherwise slathered in many chipped layers of poorly applied paint. I was sort of tempted to adopt it and save it from such an undignified fate, but then I saw the asking price of $79! I examined the tag carefully, but found no decimal point or other factor that would point to a more reasonable price. The moment a thrift store thinks something is "collectible" is akin to a precocious child realizing or thinking they are cute. The magic is lost.

It was good that the ratty cruiser bike was overpriced, as it wouldn't have left enough room in the car for the two bikes that two of my friends gave me during the remainder of my visit. The first is a hard-luck case, a sorely neglected urban beater of a mountain bike that a friend's roommate abandoned when she moved overseas. It was homely enough that it was able to sit unlocked and undisturbed outside of their Jersey City apartment building, which is saying something. I was hopelessly charmed by the combination of a lugged Bridgestone frame with a Biopace crankset, so I dragged the seatless bike flat tires and all on the Path train and the subway to my Brooklyn crash space.

My friend in Flatbush has an amazing knack for finding really cool stuff for cheap or free. Limited storage space means he regularly passes his unwanted finds along to friends on equal terms, so it's only a matter of time before he re-homes something really cool that he can no longer justify keeping around. The other morning, he offered me an old folding bike he had sitting in a relative's garage out in Queens. We met up there and dug it out as I was heading homeward. I have been on a folding bike kick for a while now, so any old folding bike would have made me happy. That said, I was pretty well blown away to discover that this was a 1940's BSA paratrooper bike! It had been "civilianized" with black paint and chrome rims and fenders at some point in the past, but a few minutes of fingernail-scratching revealed the remnants of the original olive-drab paint and a WWII-era serial number. It's in rough shape now and missing most of its original parts (including the sweet "BSA" chainwheel), but I'm really looking forward to restoring this bike when time and money allow it. I found a couple of websites with pictures and info, so I can gather some information (and parts, if I'm lucky) in the meantime.

Happy New Year, by the way!

Read more!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Do office chairs belong in bicycle racks?


Sometimes you don’t want to walk to the bar. Obviously (i hope) driving isn’t an option. I suppose for some reason you may choose not to ride. And, every once in a while, i am sure we all will ask a friend to push us to the bar in an office chair. It happens. Where should the chair be left? This and other hardhitting deep issues of Key West bicycle culture are being discussed and debated. Well, maybe not, but they sure make funny photos. I'm going to continue to post random postcards from this crazy little tropical island as well from roadtrips on the BBB every now and then, but mostly I will be writing and photographing for my new blog, Key West Velo.

Expect more of my same blurry photos and long winded stories but without any snow or ice...ever. Although, I must admit, the cooler weather down here lately has been great for riding. Mid 50's at night are chilly if you're sitting around, but feels great if speeding around on a bike. And we got lots of bicycles here of every type and rustitude. Here's a typical sight outside El Alamo when Scott, Dave and I are cruising around. There's thousands and thousands of bikes everywhere, I love it. Its truly the best way to get around.

Here's an unusual sight inside on Christmas night...IT SNOWED!!! Even though it was plasticky and not cold, people went nuts! BTW, this spot has $1 PBR's and $2 Yuenglings all day every day! mmmmm!

I will also be contributing to the Fixed Gears Bicycle Shop Blog and writing and photographing all the assorted road, time trial, cruiser, choppers and various crazy looking bikes that come through the shop. Its my new fulltime job; managing, organizing, learning and having a great time at Fixed Gears Bicycle Shop. The links between the two are hard to find, so here they both are. That was an awkward paragraph, my bad! But life is good, i encourage everyone to follow their hearts and manifest their dreams.

Fight the winter blues and live vicariously someplace warm through the blog, or plan a trip and come on down and visit! Hope to see y'all down here smiling and pedaling.

Ride on,

Key West Velo

click read more for a naughty elf picture


Read more!

Saturday, December 26, 2009


Hello, readers of the beat bike blog,

I'm going to take a break from this for a little while. I got hit by a car in Farmington last night on my way home from my parents' house. Someone took a left into me on Talcott Notch Road. It wasn't my fault. I'm ok, save for some cuts and bruises, but I need some time away from thinking about bikes. We've got lots of contributors, so I don't think you'll be missing much.

Have a good new year,
Brendan Read more!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Yule Ride

Note: You'll likely find less than a jewel of a post, but there is hidden lingual game to play; see how many puns on the word "yule" you'll find and win absolutely nothing.

Four so far.

My casual apologies for the puns...oh, five now.

Peter called me this early morning and eventually we met to ride single speeded cycles for a short spin. (Sorry no score for spotting alliteration.) We stuck to something of a habitual route in the East Hartford river valley, keeping to flats and gradual hills which were best for the bikes we bore. Actually, with the cool, damp air, I eventually confided in Peter, that while I was, as usual, happy to be out on my bike, it was not factually a glorious day for riding. Truly, the feeling was mutual, so we kept it short, as I will also keep this post, before there is any risudual pun damage on you, my virtual reader.

I count 16, maybe 17, should you care. Well, the new year of posts can only get better from here.

Read more!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

An open letter to Gary Fisher (Trek)

So, I went to the basement last night and discovered the bizarrest thing! It was as if I owned some R-Sys wheels.

Hello there,
A few years ago I bought a second hand Tassajara. I think it was probably a 2005 model. I haven't used the bike in a bit, but I put some studded Nokians on the wheelset to use for winter riding on a different bike. It's not the greatest wheelset: Bontrager Camino rims, Deore hubs and no name black-painted spokes. Winter time has returned to Connecticut and I was about to put the studded wheels on my bike last night and I noticed that many of the spokes had popped, like 1/2 of them on each wheel. I was totally confused, it appeared as if someone had cut them of the wheels had been run over or something, but my basement is pretty safe. I went to bend one of the broke spokes and it just broke, no flex at all. Apparently it was totally corroded, although you couldn't tell because of the black paint. The corroded spokes were popping because of the spoke tension. Has this even happened before? I thought most spokes were stainless. If I ride on salted roads, I do clean the bike off, because I guess you can't clean under the paint on the spokes.

Regards and happy holidays,

Anyway, merry xmas and such from the beat bike blog!

This might be my last post for awhile unless I bring a laptop on my minivacation. Although, I might have some interesting beach cruiser tales upon my return. Read more!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Staring at maps

View points south in a larger map

I've always stared at maps a lot. When I was little, I used to go on a lot of long car trips with my parents, so there were plenty of maps for reading material. My dad had a relief map of CT that I was awesome and it's still up somewhere in my parents house. Since maps have migrated to computers, I play with google maps at least once a day. I look at faraway places and create elaborate, multi-thousand mile routes around North America. If I go on a slight complicated bike ride, I'm generally on gmaps pedometer afterwards.

I also like to look at things close to me and see if there's some undiscovered woods that I've never been in. The map above is an example of woods I don't know much about. I've been on a lot of the paved roads in the area, including the strange road the goes passed the DMV in Plainville. Crankfire says that you can ride Bradley Mountain and I've been on the Newington Bike road rides out to that reservoir. Now that we've turned the daylight corner, I can start planning this stuff, I guess. Read more!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Here We Go A-Barreling

I was introduced to the frightful joy of downhill snow biking in the mid- 90's by my friend Bald Matt in Queens. He had two old mountain bikes with BMX handlebars which we brought to the local "Suicide Hill" sledding spot. This particular hill had one or two decent-sized berms running its width. Bald Matt pedaled furiously downhill for each descent, barreling like mad, catching sizable air with each spectacular berm-hit. My runs consisted of more coasting than pedaling, but that made for enough speed to keep me entertained and fearing for the safety of myself and everyone else on the crowded hill. I haven't done any downhill-bike specific day trips since then, but have thoroughly relished every snowy hill that I've happened upon while riding since then.

Late Saturday night, we finally got our first proper snow. I know it has snowed before this winter, but this was the first nice, dry, fluffy proper snow. At no point in the overnight storm was there any rain or "wintry mix" garbage. That was snow as it should be. El Prez sent out his virtual Bat Signal for a Sunday afternoon trip to Riverside Park for sledding. I don't own a sled, but I did have a hankering for some snow biking. Kerri was among those intrigued by the idea, and in a photographing mood, so she offered me her commuting bike for snow flogging, on the condition that I would fix anything that I broke. That seemed fair. We made our way through Constitution Plaza toward the Riverfront Recapture area. The elevator by the outdoor amphitheater was not working, despite it being within the posted hours of operation. The next logical choice was to ride down the slopes of the amphitheater itself, which was fun and more than a little bit dicey.

A half dozen people answered the call and met up at the top of the dike at the northwestern corner of the park. We took turns flying down the steep, fast slope on the lone snow tube.

I only did a couple of runs on the bike, as the climb back up proved a difficult mix of heavy bike and low traction. It was a total hoot though!

We wrapped up the afternoon with a ride over to the railroad bridge to watch and listen to the ice on the river drift and collide.

Read more!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Climate change

When you ride a bike in the woods, you're acutely aware of temperature, precipitation and ground hardness- even if you're a crappy mountain biker like me. Well, even if you spend a lot of time outside, you become more aware of the weather. To that end, wearing heavy overclothes, I often say things like: "Last Wednesday, I did this ride in a t-shirt!" or "Good thing we can ride across this pond now." Actually, the latter I would never say, because I'm scared of falling through ice and think that I'm fat. Though, on Friday when Dario, Salem and I were doing some walking across ice, finding cell phones in snow banks and rubbing Manchester the wrong way. I was none too pleased about the walking across ice.

Yesterday, Salem and I did some mountain biking at Grayville. I did that NEMBA ride there a couple of months ago and thought that I'd never return, because it's pretty far from my house and the trail network is moderately confusing. Going back was great, because there are some awesome trails there.

The much ballyhooed snow fell (that guy has a Land Rover, what's his complaint about snow?), precluding mountain biking today. So, I went for a walk.

Read more!

Friday, December 18, 2009

How I helped Lance Armstrong win the 2010 Tour de France

I rode down to my local Radio Shack yesterday for a resistor to repair my new old car's speedometer. Philosophically, this was an unpleasant task. For one, I am working on a car again after a rather blissful year of not owning one, although it was my choice to buy one for some travel, so I have no right to complain. But secondly, I not a big fan of Radio Shack; they repackage low grade parts and sell them for five times the price of quality parts you can get from an electronics distributor, but ever since Hatchery's closed in Hartford years back, they are the only game if you need parts today. At least I did have the solace of getting to run an errand on my bike.

Being a cyclist who cavorts with a variety of other cyclists, I am aware to some degree of the realm of professional bike racing, but I will say this knowledge isn't foremost in my thoughts. So, while I walked around the Radio Shack store with my bike helmet on my head, somewhere within that styrofoam I knew that company is sponsoring Lance Armstrong, but I wasn't really conscious of the fact. The first clue to not jog my memory was when I noticed the Livestrong bands in the box next to the register and on every clerk's wrist. Hmmm. Then, on purchasing my $1.05 worth of resistors, I was asked if I wanted to add a dollar to support the Livestrong fund. Call me what you will, I did not. Still, the memory didn't click.

I'm getting old I suppose, so it didn't dawn on me until this morning when the sun rose, "Oh, right, Lance Armstrong, new Radio Shack cycling team." So, if Armstrong wins the Tour de France this year, a small portion of my purchase will go to that effort. Maybe he'll blow a quarter nostril of snot just for me!

Be strong. Go ride your bike.

Read more!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


When you ride a bike, you often find yourself off the beaten path. And, if you ride in a more urban environment, that often involves being under bridges, semi (or fully) abandoned roads, organic paths, etc.

As winter has been setting it, there's been a lot of discussion about the homeless in and around downtown Hartford- mostly regarding a no-freeze shelter near Stone Field Sculpture or not near it. As you can imagine, homelessness increases when the economy becomes crappy. Conversely, the money available for organizations who help the homeless when the economy becomes crappy, so there's a lot of scrambling to secure services for a larger customer base. There State also seems to have an intense desire to cut mental health services.

Now, I don't claim to have any more than a cursory understanding of homelessness and its trends, but, without a doubt, there have been a lot more people living and hanging out under bridges or other less traveled places this year than I've ever seen- not just a couple, but a rather profound increase.

It hasn't been super cold yet this year, but sleeping under a bridge with a burning trash can probably isn't sufficient if the temperature drops below 20. Do the service providers know how to reach these fellows? Most temporary encampments are within two miles of the no-freeze shelter on Lafayette, so it's not that hard to get there.

So, I guess the Eel 4 route is something of a depressing tour of economic collapse. Although, I'm really trying not to be some poverty tourist. But, even being a weirdo riding by on a bike makes you feel privileged. I suppose the best I can do is say hello and treat people like people.

Read more!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Hot dog!

I had this really serious post planned about something, but that can wait until tomorrow I suppose...

Because, I just got a press release from the people who produce the Man v. Food show on the Travel Channel. Tomorrow's episode takes place in Hartford (elsewhere in CT, too, but they're calling it the Hartford show, which is good). The Hartford dining involves Woody's, an institution. It's on tomorrow (Wednesday) at 10pm. You should watch it. Maybe not emulate it, because I understand that the host, Adam, loses to food often.

I guess Hartford is finally hitting the big time, first Ghost Hunters at the Mark Twin House and now this. Ghost Hunters is also returning to go to the Old State House and it seems they once went to the Hartford Conservatory.

Speaking of spookythings, I rode through Wintergreen Woods this evening, where they found that body. It wasn't really that spooky, but slightly weird.

Photo credit to BillNJ on the virtualtourist site.
Read more!

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Eel 4, with one fewer participant than its name

While 50 or so people did some exciting driving in Shelton yesterday, only three decided to participate in the fourth Eel. The overriding theme was obviously the weather. It started off cold, but just in a cold way, then it warmed up and started raining. Although, it only warmed up to 32°, so it got a lot worse when the rain started falling. But, I know that there are places elsewhere where the weather is considerably worse and people still ride in it for fun. We're still not prepared for this stuff around here.

Dario, Salem and I arrived in Bushnell Park at 11 with a good diversity of bikes (respectively, a skinny-wheeled fixed gear, a single speed mountain bike and a geared mountain bike). There was some kind of bagel explosion, trash cans were frozen into the pond and the port-o-john was tipped over. I guess it was a crazy night in the Park. Shortly before leaving, we ran into Johanna's dad, which isn't all that remarkable, because he lives right nearby.

We up through the Keney Trail and then across the river to South Windsor, etc. We didn't go as far as we hoped, but there was good reason. In essence, the ride is still in progress. Dario and I also had a rather hilarious crash on the iced-over bridge over the Hockanum River near its confluence with the Connecticut (I think you can only make light of crashes when no one is hurt. No one was hurt in Shelton, thankfully). That whole thing about bridges icing before everything else is very, very true.

The winnings from Saturday were thusly enjoyed after the ride.

So, yeah, weird poses, huh?

Read more!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

We still go

Weather be damned. Read more!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Above the fold

I had a nice ride today. The sun was shining and I was happy to see a fair amount of bikes out and about in spite of the cold. Stoplight conversation with other cyclists is a rare pleasantry come mid-December, so a brief chat in West Hartford brightened my mood even more. I rode Route 4 west past the reservoir to Route 10 south into Plainville. This is a good route to ride, especially if you stray from Farmington Ave. and take Talcott Notch Road to bypass the less scenic part of Route 4 where traffic bottlenecks coming off of I-84. This detour, while hilly, is a great way to go to the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival in the summertime without choking on exhaust fumes. This is also an especially fine way to meander into Collinsville, if you hang a right off Route 10 after you pass Miss Porter's School. As nice as all of those diversions could be, I took the more prosaic and direct 4-10 line, as I was on a recovery mission.

I had to pick up my scooter at the scooter shop in Plainville. El Prez was kind enough to loan me his Xooter Swift for this purpose. This particular Swift has been personalized quite a bit. It has seen some handlebar swaps, custom fit modifications, field improvisations and so-called Yankee ingenuity (or Met ingenuity, as I believe El Prez's sympathies are with New York's N.L. franchise [which is as it should be]). Aside from the uncomfortable-to-me seat, which is one of the most subjective pieces of any bike, I was impressed. El Prez has been hammering on this thing for some time now, and it has proved quite sturdy through daily use and at least one Eel race. I feel like I've seen it everywhere for years, but this is the first time I ever actually rode it.

I loaded the front rack with my motorcycle helmet and my ginormous cargo bag (folded and nearly empty at first) and brought some extra clothes. It made for less-than-optimal weight distribution, but the bike rode just fine (it was nigh-impossible to lean it upright on anything, though). With my combined schlepping I put about 20 miles on the bike, which easily quintupled my lifetime total miles ridden on folding bicycles. I liked it. I have been wanting a folding bike for a while and have been thinking more about them lately. Between the approaching holidays and some potential educational pursuits, I will be spending some time in the New York City metro area and possibly visiting Boston at some point. I'd prefer to make these trips without driving, and folding bikes are the best bet for toting along on a bus or a train without a hassle. Today's little trip has reinforced my folding bike aspirations.

At my destination in Plainville, I set about readying for the return trip to Hartford. With the front wheel removed, the folded Xooter fit most of the way into the cargo bag, at least enough for the straps to fasten. I hoisted it clumsily into place and plied it with tie-down straps until it seemed unlikely to budge. I slung my crappy freebie messenger bag over the protruding bits of Swift frame and garnished this increasingly ridiculous-looking assemblage with a stretch-net.

I had to sit awkwardly close to the front of the seat to accommodate the ungainly bundle, but other than that, the return trip went well. I have seen the folding-bike light, so you haven't heard the last of me going on about them. I have a potential folding bike project in the works. More on that soon.
Read more!

Stupid weather

It is supposed to be nasty and disgusting tomorrow (Eel 4 day). I would like to go for a ride, but I don't want to catch my death. I'll get up and post my intentions on here by like 9:30. I'll also still probably end up going to the park and seeing if anyone comes. Maybe we'll do a really short ride or just go get a beer.

In other news, I did that Beer Cross race today. Nice course, rideable snow. I came in third... though there were only seven or eight riders. I had first for the the first lap and a half or so. I should have held on to it for longer. Maybe making a gap is a good idea. Oh well. I'm still not very good at this stuff. Read more!