With all the snow around Hartford, the bike sightings have been down a bit of late. I was out of town most of the past week, so that didn't help matters on the bike-spotting front (though it was very helpful on the snowboarding front). I have learned that when I'm scrambling for Bikes Outside blog fodder, there are two places where I'm virtually guaranteed to see a bike or three parked. One of these is the library, as last week's Murray demonstrated. Another proven venue for bike-spotting bounty is Park Street. This Monday, we meet at the spot that combines both favorable conditions, the Park Branch of the Hartford Public Library. I have spent a fair amount of time at the Sucursal Calle Park over the years, and the sheltered entryway has proven a popular and convenient bike-stashing spot for me and many others, including the owner of this Schwinn Traveler III.
This is classic bike boom ten speed material here: hi-ten steel frame, steel 27" wheels, and turkey wings activating the front center-pull and rear side-pull brakes. Nothing on this frame suggests anything more detailed than a Japanese origin, but Panasonic is probably a good bet for the role of "Schwinn Approved" manufacturer in this case. I've read that they produced the non-Chicago Schwinns, specifically the Le Tour, during the 70's and early 80's.
I didn't see or meet the owner of this bike, but the slam-dunked nose-down saddle and nosebleed-high stem seem to suggest that this tall Traveler might be a less-than-perfect fit for them. What appears to be a double-thick bar-wrapping job could help ensure the rider's hands are well-cushioned wherever they end up. The bright red paint and chrome fork ends on this bike still look presentable after 30-something years.
Monday, January 31, 2011
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Remember the MDC trails? Remember CT's flawed municipality liability law? Me too!
Monday, January 24, 2011
This morning's Bike Outside was spotted this past Sunday afternoon at the Hartford Public Library. With high temps barely into the teens and stern frostbite warnings on the radio, I was surprised to see two bikes locked up upon arriving for yesterday's Baby Grand Jazz show. This is one of the better bikes I've seen wearing the Murray badge. The componentry is solidly 1970's with some 60's aesthetic nostalgia thrown in, especially the champagne (pronounced in the manner of The Continental, of course) paint and the chainguard lettering. The 3-speed hub was too crusty to identify, but I'm assuming it's a Shimano or Suntour based on the decidedly non Sturmey Archer thumb shifter. The Altenburger Syncron brakes are great period pieces. They have a mixed reputation, but they are credited as the precursor to the dual-pivot sidepull brakes that are the modern road bike standard. They are also setup with the right hand lever activating the front brake, an arrangement more familiar to motorcyclists or European bicyclists.
The very presence of this bike on the roads yesterday called for some teeth-gritting fortitude on the rider's part and some sturdiness on the 40 year old bike's part. That said, I hope the owner is faring better than the salt-encrusted Murray's drivetrain. So very very salty! Had I spotted this bike in motion, I'm sure that I would have involuntarily cringed to hear that poor rusty chain laboring around. I want to take this bike in and give it a hot shower and a major overhaul in front of a roaring wood stove.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
CT Transit buses don't like bikes despite those front racks. Or at the very least, they don't like bikes in Hartford. Maybe they think bikes are taking their business. Who knows?
Anyway, back in September I was riding to work and dealing with a particularly unfriendly bus. I passed it around South Green's bus stop and then it passed me, then I passed it again. I guess the driver got mad about this, because when he passed me at Main and Buckingham, he slammed on the brakes in the middle of the intersection right after he passed me. I was force to switch lanes to avoid the bus, but there was a Rav 4 waiting for me in the other lane that had stopped because a bus had pulled out in front of it. I hit the Rav 4 and broke its taillight and dented the rear quarter panel. I was contrite and apologized. The driver was very concerned that I was going to take off.
Called 911, etc. The cops were initially nice. I admitted fault for hitting the car. They gave me a warning and right before I was about to leave, they changed their minds and decided to write a ticket for following too closely. I thought that was unfair, but despite being a fellow City employee, I avoid arguing with cops.
My renter's insurance (Liberty Mutual, they're good!) thankfully covered the Rav-4 damage, because the repair bill was almost $1000. I plead not guilty, because I figured taking evasive action to avoid an angry bus shouldn't warrant a $170 fine. My court date was today and I won! The State's attorney at first thought I was operating a motorcycle, but when I told her it was a bicycle she questioned how I could even receive a ticket for failure to signal a turn ((C.G.S. §14-242) which is what the ticket ended up being for, not sure why the cops told me something else). She also told me to be careful.
Anyway, thank you CT Judicial Branch for being lenient with me. Watch out of buses. Read more!
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Monday, January 17, 2011
"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds"
These words, derived from Book 8 of The Persian Wars by Herodotus, have been associated with the US Postal Service ever since they were chiseled above the entrance to the New York General Post Office on 8th Avenue circa 1914. A fine sentiment, to be sure, but I suggest that today's bike messengers have more in common with the mounted couriers of the original text than today's minivan-driving mailman. Maybe Persians making deliveries on horseback during a 50-year long war aren't so terribly far removed (2,500 years notwithstanding) from bicyclists dodging traffic on roads that have become increasingly hostile territory over the past century.
This is Madison number three for the first Bikes Outside bike single model hat trick. I see today's bike around frequently, as I work between two of its regular stops. The working messengers were among the very first to be seen out and about after last week's blizzard, and this bike has the salty layer of filth to prove it. The Ghostship pad shows some regional bike love. The railing in front of the Capitol Annex on Trinity Street is one of the more convenient unintentional bike racks in town.
This week marks the first anniversary of the Bikes Outside series. I've missed a few weeks here and there, but I've enjoyed having another reason to stop and gawk at random bikes.
Saturday, January 15, 2011
As you might expect, I'm really going after this thing cross country skiing whole hog.
Yesterday evening, the Snails ventured forth into the woods without bikes, but with skis! It was so intense that Dario's ski exploded.
Today, I took a solitary journey into the land of King Phillip. I saw some hawks and I saw a mutilated deer. It was intense. Things are generally intense for me. Skiing down the Metacomet was a lot of fun because the foot traffic had made a nice little track and I got moving pretty good. Steady improvement in my skills!
Friday, January 14, 2011
Fixed gear mountain biking is like regular mountain biking, but harder. It greatly expands one's likelihood of hitting feet on rocks, roots, etc. and greatly reduces one's ability to reposition weight on the bicycle because one has to keep the pedals moving. Don't get me wrong it's fun, but it's harder.
Thursday, January 13, 2011
While automobile accidents remain the #1 killer of les enfants, I am unaware of any progressive legislation that would ban minors from riding in motor vehicles. Back in my day, kids had to fend for ourselves. We could sit in the front seat or back seat. We were not restrained in special seats. Hell, I remember sitting on my parents' laps, both as a passenger and as a co-pilot.
Now, the bratties have to sit in car seats facing back until hitting puberty and stay out of the front seats until they cut their wisdom teeth. They are not forced to wear helmets yet, though it's doubtful that any of these measures are significant if, say, mom had some whiskey in her coffee and has to drive 85 mph in her SUV to get her spawn to soccer practice on time, and damn, there's a tree!
On average, four children die every day as a result of motor vehicle accidents and many others are injured. The scenario created above is not just snark. One in four child fatalities resulting from motor vehicle accidents involved the driver drinking. And, as we know, speed kills.
What can be done about that? Try to ban children under six from riding on bicycles that are controlled by adults.
"But wait," you say,"if only 1.7% of traffic fatalities involve cyclists, shouldn't the focus be on the bulk of the crash victims and causes? To that, I'd answer "Stop using logic. It's unamerican!"
Oregon State Representative Mitch Greenlick, sponsor of House Bill 2228 explained his own logic:
We've just done a study showing that 30 percent of riders biking to work at least three days a week have some sort of crash that leads to an injury... When that's going on out there, what happens when you have a four year old on the back of a bike?
The research looks at riders biking to work, but not necessarily at riders with child cargo. It makes total sense to introduce a bill before conducting relevant research. Totally.
I'm more interested in answering Greenlick's question though. Admittedly, I can be a less than responsible driver at times. I'm the same way on a bicycle. But, when I have had to drive other people's children, my driving habits changed completely. The radio volume is turned down low, I'm constantly checking all mirrors, there's more appropriate distance between my vehicle and others, and my speed is exactly where it should be. I come to a full and complete stop. I do this not out of maternal instincts, but out of utter fear of what the parents would do to me should my negligence result in injury or death of their children. I have not had the opportunity to tow children around via bicycle yet, but I know that my riding skills would be improved in the same way.
If we rarely hear about bicycle-vs-bicycle or bicycle-vs-tree fatalities, then what is really the issue here? Since we're talking about El Prez, some busybody got all up in his face about his decision to schlep some of his spawn via bicycle. Her concern was not that he would slide off the road into a ditch or that he would flip the bike by doing wheelies. It was that a car might slide into the bike. So, instead of doing something more useful, like holding up a gigantic sign telling motorists to slow down so they don't skid into El Prez and Lil Prez, she went after him. You know what that's like? It's like telling a female not to walk (or ride) alone at night because somebody else might rape her. And trust, having heard that sentiment more than enough, such comments are not welcome.
A Fact Sheet of death, mutilation, chaos, and destruction explains that motor vehicles were involved in 90% of deaths of children under 14 who were in a bicycle-related crash. But here's the catch: nothing on this fact sheet mentioned children as passengers on bicycles or riding in bike trailers-- these were all children commanding their own bikes. Look, kids are pretty stupid. Even if your kid is an Honor Roll Student, she's still stupid. That's the nature of children. Their brains have not matured. Their fine and gross motor skills kind of suck. They have no real grasp on mortality. There's a reason we do not let thirteen year old kids drive cars (anymore). Behind the wheel, they'd put too many others in danger; behind the handlebars, its basically only their own lives they are endangering. Adults are better prepared to handle both motor and pedal vehicles, so our "accidents" have less to do with physical development and more to do with laziness and irresponsibility.
Others have made comments on this proposed law already. Dave of Portlandize jokingly predicts, "And next it will be to make it illegal to cross the road with a stroller, because people pushing babies in strollers get hit at crosswalks by people driving." Later, he urges lawmakers to help give cyclists better access to roads if they are really serious about our safety. After the post on Bike Portland, someone asked whether people drive differently around cyclists with children than they do around adult cyclists. Another comment on that same post was particularly on the mark:
I still don't understand what Representative Greenlick expects me to do with my child, if I can't put him on my bike. Leave him at home? Never leave the house? Purchase a car? If this bill isn't anti-family, then it's anti-woman. It's certainly anti-bike and pro-car.In the articles on this matter, it was stated over and over that the introduction of this bill was a way to start a conversation-- though many have been wondering if the way to begin discussions is in the most extreme way possible. Would it make more sense to begin it in a way that acknowledges that child bike passengers may be vulnerable and that there are several approaches one might take to address this, such as mandating reflectors or flags on trailers, or ticketing motor vehicle operators for traveling too closely to bicycles carrying children?
Since this bill pertains to progressive Oregon and not to our Land of Steady Habits, we don't have to all panic at once. What's more, we can rejoice (just a little) that there is now a warrant for the arrest of a driver who not only hit and killed a cyclist last month, but then sped off with his tail between his legs. There's no bringing back the victim, but this is beginning to sound a little bit more like the justice we have come to expect. Read more!
Work had me ridiculously busy and rather stressed from late November until the end of the year. While I didn't have adequate time to begin or resume any full-fledged bike builds or other major projects, I did find that I could wind down and relax a bit at the end of my hectic days with a few minutes of wheel building. I had accumulated a few low-to-medium priority wheels to build, so this was a good way to avoid falling too far behind.
Wheel #1 was a composite affair. El Prez had a 700c flip-flop wheel on a Motobecane setup as a fixed-gear and a new 20" Weinmann BMX rim laced to a faulty coaster brake hub. Both wheels had 36 spokes, so I was tasked with mating the Quando flip-flop hub from the big rim to the the 20" rim by any means necessary. The resulting Frankenwheel would be destined for his Xootr Swift folding bike.
There were a couple of issues with the Quando hub. Firstly, the bearings were kind of shot. Secondly, it was meant for a frame with 120mm rear spacing-- fine on the old Motobecane, not fine for the 135mm rear spacing of the Xootr. The Xootr has an aluminum frame, so cold-setting is out of the question. A new set of bearings made the hub much happier about spinning. A round of spare parts scrounging at Maison D'Interstatement turned up a longer axle and a spacer/locknut combo that added up to 135mm.
The hub was ready to go, with a caveat: since most of the extra spacing had to go on the left side of the hub to maintain a straight chainline, the wheel is no longer symmetrically dished and effectively can't be flipped around for use with a freewheel. Neither of these things are deal-breakers in this case. I think the inherent overbuilt strength of a 36-spoke 20" wheel should more than compensate for the weakening effect of an off-center dish. Prez was only interested in the fixed-gear function of the hub, so he wasn't bothered by the loss of freewheeling capability. The best way to see how it holds up is some vigorous real-world riding of the sort that its owner is both qualified and inclined to dish out.
The spokes are Wheelsmith 2.0 mm, with DT Swiss brass spoke head washers making for a snug fit in the hub flange. I used UBI's online spoke calculator for the lengths. As of this writing, the wheel has been in use for several weeks and El Prez is pleased with its performance. This was my first time building a 20" wheel and I liked it for it's compact, manageable "laptop" size. There are a lot of neat hubs besides fixed (internally-geared, dynamo, drum or disc brake) that are rarely built into this configuration, and I'd like to see more. There's a lot of potential for folding bikes to become more useful and fun for more people. Read more!
As you may have noticed, it snowed yesterday. Since I've recast myself as a skier, I decided to do some awesome skiing. Initially, to get in my car and ski outside of Hartford, but driving was quite difficult for most of yesterday. So, I decided to ski out my front door.
Monday, January 10, 2011
Sunday, January 9, 2011
Re: the poll. Road bikes, huh? I like going for road rides and all, but if you look at the tag cloud thing, mountain biking is the biggest tag. Does this mean I should write about road bikes more or that y'all are reading this blog as self-flagellation?
Anyway, mountain biking in the snow is great, but it has a rather narrow window unless you own a Pugsley or Fatback, so last year I started cross country skiing. While I have access to equipment, downhill skiing is far too expensive, and I know that you can hike up a hill with a snowboard and ride back down for free, but I don't own a snowboard. I'm really bad at cross country skiing, but improving. I didn't fall the last couple of times I did it and yesterday was going pretty well until right near the end. I attempted this more difficult trail that traverses a pretty steep hill and ends with two switch backs. I figured that because I could ride it on a fixed gear 'cross bike, somehow that meant that I could ski it because somehow that translates. Nope. I did a pretty awesome face plant, though.
So, you should try cross country skiing!
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
I headed back to Urbana-Champaign, Illiniois for the holiday break and managed to put together a rather slap dash multi-modal itinerary. To satisfy my yearning for a long cross country train trip, I booked a one way outbound Hartford to Champaign trip on Amtrak for a reasonable $142 just days before departure. I didn’t have a fixed return date due to some personal complications so I left the return leg open to be determined once I got settled in Illinois. The trip could last three days or all week, and there was a possibility of getting a ride back. Lots of balls were in the air from a planning perspective.
Due to my continuing car free status the first sub-leg of my journey was a five mile bike ride to Union Station in Hartford on a chilly Christmas Eve morning. The train left at an uncomfortable 6:50AM and the earliest bus in from East Hartford wouldn’t get me to the station in time. I loaded up the sturdy rear newspaper rack on my 3-spd Huffy (unloaded a sprightly 47 lbs) with a large duffel and a backpack secured by bungees. I locked the Huff right in front of the station at a bike rack, tucked my helmet into a plastic bag tied to the frame, and had plenty of time to figure out catching the train.
The next leg of the journey was the most imposing, seventeen hours from DC to Chicago on the Capitol Limited. What does one do on a train for seventeen solid hours, and why does it take that long? I found that the key to successful long distance train travel is to relax. I was on vacation anyway and would be spending a lot of time reading. A train ride is just another venue for reading interspersed with relaxed gazing at rolling landscapes. One gets to know other passengers on the train, especially when traveling solo. Train travelers are a diverse and interesting bunch and more liable to chat than your standard airplane seat partner. I’m generally not a chatty traveler (a bit shy), but found myself having some educating multi-cultural discussions with my seat partner and another traveler in the lounge car. Another bonus relative to car travel is that one can “walk” the train. Tired of sitting? Take a walk. Grab a bite to eat at the cafe car. Do jumping jacks or yoga if it pleases you.
The only part that I didn’t like about the train ride was the overnight portion. Sleeping in the coach seats was marginal, sort of like a poorly designed business class seat for international air travel. I’m a champion sleeper, but still woke up several times during the night to change positions with sore spots and portions of my body tingling. This could be managed with strategic pillow placement, but I definitely haven’t mastered train sleeping. Despite the rough night I was pleasantly surprised by the post apocalyptic industrial landscape on the south side of Lake Michigan coming into Chicago. The factories, refineries, chemical plants, and power plants - some clearly abandoned and collapsing - flank the lake for miles and could be the backdrop to a Mad Maxx movie. I anxiously awaited the dune buggies that would hijack the train and steal all the diesel.
There was a rather long seven hour layover in Chicago before the short trip down to Urbana-Champaign. I parked my bags in a locker at the station and went for a walk. There was four inches of fresh snow on the ground and Chicago wore it well. I hiked past the Field Museum and the Planetarium and found Northerly Island, which had been an airport until 2003 when Mayor Daley had the runway destroyed in the middle of the night to protect Chicago from terrorists. From there I strolled through the gentrified neighborhoods of the South Loop. I also had some time to walk around West of the Loop. I am under the impression that Chicago developers overbuilt downtown condo buildings and hope to find a reason to move to the city and take advantage of their short sales and foreclosures.
The return six hour flight back to Connecticut was an entirely different animal than the composite thirty-six hour train trip. I lucked into a First Class upgrade on the short Chicago to Detroit leg and grabbed a couple of snacks that were exclusive to the forward cabin. On the Detroit to Hartford leg my seat mate pulled me into a discussion of my reading material, Pollan’s In Defense of Food. I got to ask her how she liked her David Sedaris book and we veered off into John Irving and J. D. Salinger. I’m now planning to check out Salinger’s Franny and Zooey on her recommendation.
My multi-modal trip behind me, I reflect on how many different ways there are to get from Point A to Point B. In my quest to find the “best” ways from A to B this was a productive trip. Experiences with the Hartford to DC train and the Bradley Flyer bus are new options that have bought their way into future trip plans. The Bradley Flyer is a key enabler for my car free lifestyle. Yeah for transit! Yeah for bikes!
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
The bike rack in the parking lot at the corner of Ann and Pearl Streets was a nice, albeit poorly installed, one. The "Wave" or "u-n" configuration is one of the more useful forms a bike rack can take, and it was even a nice shade of green. The half-assed and ham-fisted manner in which it had been bolted to the ground made it loose and wobbly, but it was large enough that I felt secure leaving the Yuba there for hours. It was also visible from the office of my employer for added peace of mind. Here it is this past autumn with the Yuba and some selfish asshat's obnoxiously-parked BMW:
For the past week or so, the rack was concealed by a giant mound of plowed snow. I locked my bike to a signpost across the street and grumbled at how inconsiderate it was to completely bury the only bike rack in a section of downtown that is disproportionally over-devoted to car parking. As the warmer weather melted the snow, however, it was revealed that the plow-hack had in fact destroyed the rack as well.
The person or persons responsible for plowing this lot should replace this bike rack at once. Failing to notice an 8 foot long bike rack, or any fixture on your customer's property is inexcusably unprofessional and incompetent.
Also, can the BMW drivers please give it a rest and park within the lines? The owner of this X3 is fully deserving of the term Masshole.