This past Sunday morning, with an inadequate night's sleep behind me and a pair of cargo bikes crowding the bed of a borrowed pickup (thanks Prez!) I made my way toward Dudley Mass at the crack of still-freaking-dark-out. As tired as I was, it was definitely a morning well spent. I sold very little, bought a bit more, and generally had a good time checking out cool old bikes and chatting it up with other bike people. I saw several people I have met over the years in the New England vintage scooter and motorcycle scene. Two wheels good!
Things had gotten pretty slow by noon and we started to pack up. With everything loaded, I wandered back in for a farewell lap through the Do-Right flea market to have one more look at the items for sale and their modern indoor plumbing. There were still a few bike vendors lingering into the early afternoon as well. Toward the back of the huge building, there was a room full of classic bikes that I think had been up for auction. Most of them were swoopy American balloon tire bikes, with a few British 3-speeds and a few earlier antique bikes thrown in for good measure. The old bikes lined up on the freshly refinished battered 19th century factory floor made for an especially pleasing scene. I could dwell happily in a space like that.
I spotted the remains of a Pope-built Columbia headtube badge and zoomed in for some macro shots of a Hartford hometown favorite. It wasn't until I backed away that I realized that this rusty old bike was none other than my grail, the pinnacle of my dream bike wantyness, an unrestored genuine Hartford-built Columbia Chainless! I hunkered down and leaned in for an extra-close look, taking care not to further corrode it with drool enzymes. It was in rough shape to be sure: rusted all over, tires rotting off of deformed wooden rims, and a pair of latter-day cottered cranks and pedals looking decidedly out of place. The wood and metal framework was all that remained of the seat, but it was there, which was good. The drive side was facing the wall, so I didn't get as detailed a look at the bevel-geared drive shaft as I would have liked, but it was still pretty damned cool. Nobody was around the bike, and the roll of raffle tickets on the handlebar offered no clues about its story. I pulled myself away from the stately machine and made my way home. I like to think I will have a chance to see it again someday.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
No fenders on the everyday bike. Quite often, back of coat or backpack coated in mud. Not unheard of to get some dirt on face, specifically, in mouth. Once, got bits of mud on ivory-color dress while riding to art opening because there was a puddle that wanted to be ridden through. Except for the dress incident, perceived this all as an exercise in building character.
IMMEDIATELY BEFORE: Functional SKS fenders that were plain black and boring. At least they weren't navy blue.
Monday, February 22, 2010
This morning's Bikes Outside features a Mongoose MGX locked up in front of an apartment building across the street from the Broad Street Community Garden. It was just accumulating snow last Tuesday, but the owner could have been having all sorts of fun riding around a snowy park instead. I have a hardtail Mongoose mountain bike frame that I started making into a ghetto 96er snow bike for that very purpose, but it has been a low priority. That has already been named Snowgoose, but mine is an open nomenclature and I'm willing to share.
Mongoose is a brand that lost their way the past decade or two. There was something solid and straightforward about them back in the day, but more recent models seem to be all about flash and hype. There seems to be a lot of stuff written on this bounce bike's frame--perhaps a bit more than the world needs to know. It's like the bike equivalent of tuner-style cars with Eibach, Toyo,"powered by Honda," et cetera plastered all over. Part of me wants to replace the "Powered by SRAM" decal with "Powered by legs" or some other admittedly prosaic but more accurate slogan. With tubing this large, I suppose designers felt compelled to fill up some of the space, but they could have gone in more interesting directions. How about a series of photos? Perhaps Haiku...
I spent the first half of yesterday at the Dudley bike swap meet sharing a table with Erik. The booth next to us specialized in vintage BMX bikes, so in among the Hutches, GTs and Thrusters were a few of the looptail Mongoose frames I would have liked to own as a kid (not as much as I wanted a "Tri-Power" Thruster, mind you, but neat bikes just the same)
Here's my brilliant marketing idea for the day: I think that if Mongoose, or any of the 1980's BMX superpowers started selling reasonably well-made 26" bikes that were essentially scaled-up vintage 20" BMX bikes, they would sell like hotcakes. The nostalgic force is strong with the thirtysomething demographic, and people have done far more ridiculous things to harken to their youth. A 130% sized BMX bike sounds ridiculous, because, well, it is, but I still kind of want one now.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
I've been noticing a trend in Craigslist classified ads to declare any bike with name ending in "i" or "enze" Italian, which in most cases is akin to calling a Pontiac Lemans French. What's in a name? Well, in this vein, I finally built up the Bianchi frame that began hanging around my basement this summer. While Japanese made and therefore not as authentic as Brendan's Colon-ago, it does rate over those Craigslist beauties by actually coming from an Italian company, for what that's worth.
Well, it seems after attempting to get the trains running on time, shouting tora, tora, tora, and generally being bombed into submission, the old Axis powers finally teamed up to produce a very nice bike. Made of a Bianchi spec'd Tange tubeset, this light blue lady sports a stretched-out, relaxed-geometry wheelbase and just plain rides nicely. After my dissatisfaction with the ill fitting Shogun, I am once again very much at peace with the world old older bikes that can be obtained on the cheap. In this case, $30 for frame, fork, headset, seatpost, and some other bits I didn't use.
Of course, for $450, I could have had a Firenze GL5000?
(Actually, I did at one point; it was rescued from a dumpster but it never stopped being complete rubbish.)
Thursday, February 18, 2010
This blog is not really an arbiter of cool stuff, because, well, we're not that cool. All the fixed gear bikes or cyclocross (or whatever else is cool in cycling) in the world won't help. However, I like to think that I know cool stuff when I see it. As a public service to those of you in and around downtown Hartford, I'm writing to inform you of two cool things within walking distance of each other tomorrow night.
1) 6pm-8pm Dawn Holder and her cool sculptures at the main branch of the library (500 Main Street) Dawn's art is awesome. And, to make it bike related, she rides a bike pretty well.
2) 8pm Andrew WK (along with Ninjasonik & The Rizzla) at the Wadsworth (600 Main Street).
Remember, don't stop living in the red.
Oh yeah, this is all free! Read more!
Bikes can be detailed, precise machines, but another of their graces is that they don't have to be. If you eyeball the valve lash on an internal combustion engine it will produce awful noises--for a only very short while--but I've enjoyed fantastic shifting for years on bikes with eyeball-straightened rear derailleur hangers. So much can be awful and wrong with a bike and it will still serve the purpose of propelling you faster than you can walk, maybe even in greater comfort.
Case in point: my commuter, errand, rack, general transportation bike. It was rescued some years back from the metal heap at a town dump. Flat tires, seized chainring bolts, missing cables, and all, it made the five mile trip home along side me while I pedaled my other bike and held on to the orphan's stem. Sure, it needed some work, but with mostly salvaged parts I had a nifty new bike with a stiff made in the USA frame that didn't flex much even with a heavily loaded rack.
The years passed, and so did the miles. Things wear, and wear, and then wear some more, but it is a bike and still faster than walking. With likely over 10,000 miles on the drivetrain, I decided to finally put on some less worn parts, not so much because it no longer worked, but more because I have a pile of scrap aluminum that the spiky chainring needed to join. Along with the ring, the brake pads, chain, and cogset (although, I was able to reuse the 11 cog on account of my 140 pound weakling status) were finally put to rest. I took particular amusement from the chain with its loose rollers and generous lateral play.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
I realized last week that I'm not sufficiently zen. I was once, when I did a book report on The Cat Who Went to Heaven. I made this board game called "Nirvana or Hell" or something like that. You rolled a stone, drew cards and strove towards asceticism. The more you slept on an uncomfortable bed, divorced yourself from worldly trappings and wondered down the eight fold path, the closer you went towards winning the game. Although, you couldn't really win, because there's nothing zen about board game competition.
Anyway, I bought this old Colnago 'cross frame (with Reynolds 531!) off eBay awhile ago. I have no idea why. I already have one old and weird 'cross bike, but for some reason I felt that a second was needed, especially because it would be shipped from the Netherlands if I won. It arrived packed in newspapers I couldn't understand, lots of bubble wrap and milk cartons. It was actually quite a pretty looking frame and some other parts came along with it. I acquired a couple Nuovo Record parts off of eBay and then it just sat. Unsure of what to do and feeling paralyzed by the presence of this strange fancy bike, I ended up posting it on craigslist. Of course, the only responses I got were from TJ and Salem. Salem just wanted to buy the Mafac brakes.
Then, like in a lot of religions, I had an epiphany: I should make this into a fixed gear! It had sliding (and elegant) Campy dropouts and would be suitably absurd. So, I plunked down $120 on some CR18s laced to Formula hubs and built it up.
Admittedly, 38:17 is a little low of a gear for riding on the road, but it's very comfortable off road. I'd really like to have a 40t chainring, which would put me at 63 gear inches, right now I'm at 60 1/2". But, the bike performed quite well as a silly fixed gear 'cross bike on the yesterday's factory tour.
A lot of the parts aren't period correct, especially the Bontrager seat post of my mid 2000s Gary Fisher. I actually have a 27.2mm NR seat post, but I got so fed up with the stupid position of the second bolt, that I gave up and threw the single bolted one one.
Also, I have no plans to take the brakes off. They're very pretty as is. Read more!
Above: pigeon, dog, shoe and bike tracks this afternoon in Bushnell Park. I took a short ride today at lunchtime, passing through the park twice. The snow of the uncleared areas made for much cleaner (and prettier) riding than the slushy streets. I had a great ride yesterday afternoon in the greater Newington metro area with El Prez, Brendan, Salem, Erik, and Ken. The curb-found Diamond Back was still filthy from the muddier portions of that ride, so I figured the snow might help clean it some. I saw one young sledder and a few people with their dogs in the otherwise quiet park. I stopped to play with a friendly brown Newfie that may have outweighed me. He had a really giant head.
Monday, February 15, 2010
I was hoping to find something that could tie in to the winter Olympics, Presidents Day or Valentines Day for this Monday's Bikes Outside, but the best I could find this past week was a bike that didn't cost a lot of dead presidents locked up outside the Gold Building downtown.
Huffys don't tend to get a lot of love. Few will do anything but scoff at how awful and cheap they are, yet they have been best-selling bike brand in the US for decades. They are kind of ubiquitous. A friend of mine who recycles dumpster and curbside bikes has found more Huffys than any other brand. It's America's most popular disposable bike.
George P. Huffman was a comparative latecomer to the 19th century bike boom when he is said to have overseen his first bikes being made in 1892, but the Huffy lineage (Davis, Dayton, Huffman-Dayton, and finally Huffy) has some parallels to Hartford's own Columbia brand. Both were originally made in sewing machine factories; Columbias at the Weed Sewing Machine Company on Capitol Ave (Weed is still quite popular in the area) and Huffman's bikes and parts at the Davis Sewing Machine Company bicycle in Dayton, Ohio. Both brands were churning out cheap high-volume bikes by the 1960's, with heavy tubing, ugly welds and clunky components. They were still kind of charming in their own way (my mid-60's Columbia has lousy build quality, but I'm still fond of it) but things got aggressively tacky from the 1970's onward.
I've seen some very cool older balloon-tire era Huffys, my favorite being the Radio Bike, but like many US manufacturers, they were phasing out awesome for cheap in the twilight of the 1950's. There were some latter-day exceptions, like the Nottingham-sourced "Huffiegh" Sportsman 3-speeds and some recent higher-end BMX frames, but their bread-and-butter these days is cheap Chinese-made bikes that are spec'd to a very low price point.
Anyway, back to Pearl Street for a parting glance at this week's street-parked workhorse. Ashtabula cranks, hi-ten steel tubing, and everything else that makes a bike heavy and slow are in effect here, but this mountain-style bike is obviously getting the job done for somebody. I'm pretty sure I have seen this bike in this spot before, so it seems to be on commuter duty. I didn't see any Rivendells downtown on this February afternoon, so Team Huffy gets the win. It takes more patience, physical effort and heart to daily ride a heavy bike so they get this week's nod for keepin' it real.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
It's a beautiful day today; happy Valentine's Day!
Yesterday, Salem and I rode up to Congamond to spectate the NEMBA ice race thingy. My right knee has been bothering me with increasing intensity and frequency lately. I think it's because I smashed it into a root and rock about a month ago. Some think it's because I have new shoes and the cleats aren't lined up perfectly. I lean towards the smashing, because I've never had cleat or float problems affect me while walking and this has started hurting me while I walk. Maybe that whole "shoes ruse" thing is correct, but I'm still blaming the root and rock. I almost didn't go yesterday because of my knee, but I shift my cleat a bit and I seemed ok riding to Constitution Plaza. So, we journeyed up and back. It was very nice. My knee started complaining a bit, but then when kinda numb and everything seemed ok.
This morning, there was a mountain bike ride at Meshomasic State Forest that Salem to which alerted me. My knee started to hurt me last night a bit, but I hoped I could either sleep it off or scare the pain with whiskey.
I woke and it was ok, but the more I used it the worse it felt. I debated going some more and sort of took my time getting ready, perhaps to erode my resolve. The bike still went in the car and was driven over to Glastonbury. Taking my time brought me there about ten minutes after the 9:30am start time of the ride, but I made out only one set of tire tracks, so I thought I might be able to catch up. That very quickly became an impossible proposition because my knee hurt so bad that I was only able curse at myself for getting out of bed. None the less, I followed the tire tracks for a good four miles before eventually giving up at riding back to my car. Ugh.
So, the lesson, I think, is that you should not ride if it hurts. Read more!
Friday, February 12, 2010
In October I walked into a bicycle and sandwich shop in Provincetown, almost as an afterthought before leaving town. It was a blustery day in the off-season -- which I contend is the only time to see Cape Cod – and our visit to the Edward Gorey House was the priority item on the itinerary for the day. Going into the bike shop made me feel like a little kid again, in that I wanted just about everything there, but could not afford anything at the time.
There were picnic backpacks more practical than baskets, but less aesthetically pleasing. Even on sale, they were more than the $10 I had given myself as a vacation allowance. There were colorful horns in the shape of pig heads. Weeks later, while watching a documentary about one of the entertainment venues in town, I learned that the awards granted to drag queens were these horns, but repainted metallic colors. The store was geared toward tourists, but was not filled with the typical schlock. To me, it seemed intended for the person who was so inspired by the beauty of the Cape as to suddenly need picnic and cycling equipment. Somehow, having gone to Provincetown every autumn for the last five years, I had never stopped into the shop.
I do not remember exactly how it happened. Maybe Interstatement pointed her out to me or maybe I stumbled upon her myself, but it was love at first sight.
I notice color. Her strong, yellow frame radiated amidst rows of boring navy and black frame bikes. Her handlebar grips and saddle were both leather with visible x's of stitching on the grips. This was a bicycle that begged to be ridden proudly about town, along the beach, and through the beech forest. Her name: Schwinn Jenny.
After a bit of swooning, we departed, heading back into the cold, October rainstorm. Try as I might, I could not get her out of my head. I fantasized about riding her around town. These were not general fantasies, but detailed ones that included various outfits and destinations.
Then it occurred to me. What if she's good to take 'round the block a few times, but doesn't have what it takes to go the distance? What if she's all style and no substance? Like any love-struck fool, I
stalked conducted some research before making a move. Who else had taken her out? Did she disappoint? Did anyone actually ride her 'til the wheels fell off? Ten pages worth of Google searches showed that nobody out there has been talkin' smack about my Jenny. On to phase two.
I recently adventured out to WilliRico with Interstatement because he wanted to visit Scott's Cyclery, and I gravitate toward old factory towns, especially ones I spent lots of time in during the 90s. This is another place I somehow never stepped foot in, even though I was in Willimantic at least three days a week for four years. I was not even 100% positive where it was on Main Street, and as a result, we schlepped a heavy folding bike from where we parked on the other end of the downtown. While he barraged the owner with questions about things I did not have any vested interested in, I wandered around the store, this time feeling less oppressed by my financial situation; soon, I could spend a little money again.
Among the new bicycles and related equipment were some old-as-dirt bikes, including a Bone Shaker. I quickly found an inexpensive set of fenders for my daily bike. There was a nice range of bicycles that I would actually ride in the shop (i.e. not those crazy racing bikes with curvy handlebars that do absolutely nothing for me aesthetically or physically) and after exhausting the main part of the store, I headed back toward the repair section. It was here where I saw her: my Jenny. She was next to an adult Trike, folding bike, and the BoneShaker.
My heartbeat quickened. I inched the surrounding bikes away from her so that I could marvel at close range. Things blurred. Next thing I knew, a worker was holding my credit card as collateral and I was putting on a helmet so I could ride Jenny around the block. Only days after a snowstorm, the roads were gritty and a little icy. There was no slipping or skidding. She shifted gears without a hiccup as I headed up the hill toward the hospital. If I could have ridden home, I might have just kept going, not because stealing from a local bike shop is cool, but because it ached to return her. I promised the clerk that I would return in a few weeks for her.
When the big day arrived, I called ahead to make sure Jenny was still there. It would have been a long drive followed by a hard letdown had I arrived to see her spot in the shop vacant.
Our first time was not in the middle of a sunny afternoon like I'd imagined, but late at night. Every jolting pot hole was muted by her springy saddle. The return trip home was even later, nearing four in the morning. She softened the blow of being awake at that hour.
Our first real time together, though, when everything jived, was only just today. It was in the mid-30s, bright, and a relaxing end to a chaotic week. She beckoned.
We meandered out of Frog Hollow and arrived at Constitution Plaza downtown. The paved path along the Connecticut River was cleared of snow and ice more than most sidewalks I have seen this week. We passed a handful of people out enjoying Riverside Park. After taking a few victory laps in the parking lot by the Boathouse, we headed down the unpaved path. This was a rougher ride. The Jenny handled better in the snow and on loose rock than I was expecting her to.
We saw animal tracks, a sign warning us of the firing range, and a tree that was mislabeled with a poster that read "bike." She shifted effortlessly on hills. Even with the layer of snow, she put on the brakes faster than my other bicycles are able to in dry conditions. She handled the mud just fine, thankyou. Most importantly, I did not humiliate myself by falling off her during our first daytime ride.
On the way home I spotted the Barrio Style bike and his owner. It was like getting a glimpse at a celebrity while wearing Prada and riding in a limo, for a change. Except in this case, the limo was my Jenny, and she was looking foxier than any car I have seen in this area.
Should there be any readers who wish to be riders Saturday, Brendan and I will be pedaling up to the NEMBA ice races on Lake Congamond.
Plan to depart from underneath the western pointy end of Phoenix building up on Constitution Plaza (above street level) at 11am. At the risk on being noninclusive, the ride will be about 50 miles round trip, and while speed, testosterone, and competitive forms of estrogen should be left at home, something just shy a 15mph pace is needed to get us to the lake in good time. Bring shoes that work for walking as some of the usually bikeable shortcuts may have a covering of the white stuff.
Remember, ice and F150s apparently literally mix, but not in a good way.
Handcuffs for bike locks are as common as rusty fenders here in Key West; but this awesomely strange combination of handlebar and bar ends is certainly not. I wondered who the rider was as I passed this bicycle going into the Bottle Cap Lounge as well as when I left. Perhaps the owner was sitting next to me? Perhaps they are seven or eight feet tall? Or enjoy riding standing up with good posture? I dunno, but bless them for making me smile!
Many people here simply do not have cars and use bicycles for everything; commuting to work, grocery shopping and towing their jet-skis! This dude prolly ain't getting into the large chainring anytime soon.
A fixie with a basket isn't too weird, but jumping sharks!?!? Really!?! Luckily we didn't have to dodge any this night during our pier tour. I bet a bite from one would mos def leave a bruise.
But...if a jumping shark had attacked us, I would have whipped out my sword and used my pirate skills to battle to the death! I have also found it to be very effective when drunk tourists stumble into the street in front of me while riding. A loudly yelled "ARRRRRRR" and a sword over my head usually sends them running back to a sidewalk of laughing bystanders. (yeah, go ahead and call me trash for not yet taking down my Christmas lights!)
We've all seen the Hartford messengers stacking their fixies on parking meters and poles in front of Mad Dawgs, Vegas and other spots. Well, down here in Key Weird, we hang our cruisers in trees when going out for swanky dinners. There's actually a second cruiser in the back of the tree and both are locked up in the branches.
a few more after the jump...
This installation, part of Sculpture Key West can be found at Fort Zack until April. Have a seat here in the shade if the sun and beach gets too hot for you.
Considering I took this during the Holiday Lights Bicycle Tour, it isn't really weird. There were also a few other bicycles with dogs, actually a lot, but only one trike with a dog and so many lights. Well done!
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Booming announcer: "Saturday, Saturday, Saturday, race fans, fans, fans..."
Enough of that, but more to the point, NEMBA will be hosting ice races on Lake Congamond (on the MA/CT border near Granby). I will likely ride up there, so in case there is interest in doing the same, I will post a time and meeting in Hartford here tomorrow should others wish to join in spectating, or even racing after a hearty warm-up.
More info: http://www.nemba.org/forums/showthread.php?t=24948
I spent a happy portion of my late teens and early twenties meandering around the northeast quadrant of the US. My scaled-down version of the full-fledged American RV experience replaced the Class A Winnebago with a 1972 VW Campmobile and the tow-behind dinghy with a bike or two.
I recently found this Shimano Biopace-equipped hubcap, which lived on the right (drive side) front wheel of my rig. The 42-tooth chainwheel was on the right rear wheel to aid with hill-climbing. Read more!
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Monday, February 8, 2010
Today 's Bikes Outside feature is my favorite thus far. Somebody obviously put a lot of time and care into decorating this cruiser-style bike and I really like that. It gets bonus points for D.I.Y. resourcefulness, as the multicolor striping you see there is all neatly-applied strips of colored duct tape. I spotted this one on Park Street in Frog Hollow. The Spanish-speaking owner came out as I was photographing it and was good-natured, if somewhat mystified at my interest in it. Our verbal exchange was brief, as my own particular brand of French-inflected Spanglish serves as little more than an efficient way to confuse and alienate speakers of all three contributing languages. It's kind of sad, really. I need to work on that.
In this bike's owner, we have personified the nullification of every excuse anyone has ever given for not riding. You think you're too old? Unless you are well into your 70's or older, this man has you beat. Too cold? Temps were in the low 20's this particular afternoon. Are you too tired, too sore, too out of shape? I invite you to check out the custom cane mount. This man walks with a cane, hooks it on to the rack and frame of his heavy single-speed bike and rides on. The majority of Hartford's cycling public (myself included) look a bit more wussy all of a sudden. You sir, are awesome. That's très imponente!
Now stop reading this, bundle up and go for a ride. No excuses! Read more!
Sunday, February 7, 2010
Sunday mornings often find me on Clark Street, and subsequently taking a ride through Keney Park. It's a nice way to clear my head. I lost a cousin in a motorcycle accident this past week, so I was especially appreciative of this morning's brisk ride. I didn't see another person inside the park, which made it all the more peaceful and reflective. This was just what I needed. The weather was bright and beautiful, more picturesque than my last overcast trip down this particular path.
The snow on the path was crunchy and compacted, well-suited to the smooth and relatively skinny 40+ year old tires on my Robin Hood. I know I really ought to change them, but nobody makes a red line tire in the 650A size. They complement the patina of my stately Nottingham beater so nicely as it is. The age cracking adds grip.
Be well, ride safe. Read more!
Saturday, February 6, 2010
This post is dedicated to Peter who recently added the following message to his winter bike: "One less fixie." Peter dedicated that message to his student who was embarking on learning to ride her fix gear and learning to ride in traffic on the streets Philadelphia. You go girl!
So of course, with all that is trendy, what the world certainly doesn't need now is another fixed gear bicycle. Don't worry though, I'm not trying to be cool (for me, any attempt to that end would require oh-so much more than any bike could provide), and in fairness, this isn't so much another fixed gear as a replacement for the cherry red Fuji I just passed on to a new home.
So I like my new bike. Assembled on an old Raleigh Technium platform(steel lugs and stays with glued aluminum main tubes), it rides comfortably, fits me well, and is PINK! I even liked it enough to grab it for 40 miles of hills and dales through Colchester, East Haddam, and Salem despite having to pedal like a sillier person than I usually am on the downhills. Sometimes a cobbled together bike like this just works right and one likes it very much.
2) When I extend the toe clips, this will give me even more fender/toe overlap in sharp turns.
3) I fit it with a long stem for the short top tube, my I like short stems and long top tubes. I don't have the skills to fit a longer top tube.
4) It isn't pink.
I'll keep playing with the Shogun, but in the mean time, I supposed the world has an extra fixed gear, and I like it.