Monday, March 29, 2010

Flood or no flood

Flooded rivers, within reason and without property damage, are cool. Rivers are cool to begin with, but when they go over their banks and start flowing all fast and dangerous, it's awesome. The Connecticut is in full effect right now. It's actually the highest that I can remember. There must have been a lot of snow up in Vermont, etc.

Great meadow is totally flooded right now and I guess RT 17a is like barely passable.

The Farmington River, on the other hand, isn't It's flowing a little bit more than usually, but floods in Farmington, Colinsville or Avon or anywhere where I rode my bike yesterday. I guess the wilds of central Mass didn't get that much snow.

But, most of the weekend was spent with CATALOGUE and it was lots of fun!

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Bikes Outside: Where the C.C.B. At?

This Monday's Bikes Outside takes us back nearly a week to Elizabeth Park's Pond House for last Tuesday's annual CCBA dinner. There was a nice mix of bikes there: Schleppi's Classic-style Schwinn, Ken's geniunely old Columbia Tourist, El Prez's Motobecane fixie, Robin's Trek Hybrid, Rich's Breezer city bike, and my own Yuba Mundo cargo bike. In this motley crew, we had an internally geared hub, 5, 6, and 7-speed derailleur hubs, and a fixed single-speed. There was a wide range of frame styles and materials represented, with three or four different rim sizes between them. It was a veritable Benetton ad for velo multiculturalism. That said, these bikes do have a couple of things in common. They were all ridden in the rain Tuesday night (hooray for fenders!) and they all belong to friends of mine. I've personally ridden and/or worked on four of the six pictured bikes at some point. While I get a warm mix of comfort and pride gazing upon a rack full of my friends' bikes, it also means that nobody outside of my circle of friends actually rode to this bike-centric event.

Wow. Really?

A CCBA member in the know told me they believed attendance for Tuesday evening's shindig was 171 or 172. If that figure is accurate, it means that just 3.5% of event attendees actually rode their bikes there. I later learned of at least one attendee who walked to the event. This boosts the verified non-motorized attendance to 4.1%. Keynote speaker Jeff Miller devoted a fair amount of time to identifying and seeking ways to improve such paltry single-digit percentages. The CEO and President of Alliance for Biking and Walking should have been preaching to the choir at such an event. This below-capacity bike rack seems to say we have a long way to go.

How did we come to have such a disappointing turnout? let's look at some possible culprits:

The Weather
It wasn't very nice out that night. The chilly temperature and light-to-moderate rain certainly were a letdown after the fantastic weather we had the previous week, but it really wasn't all that terrible. I didn't even bother bringing my rain pants, and I made it to the Pond House and back without regretting that choice. Rain gear can be had pretty cheaply from many sources, so this excuse doesn't really hold water.

The Clothes
This was not a gala event. Several people were wearing suits or dresses, but I didn't see designer threads of the sort that would have precluded anyone from hopping on a bike for a few minutes, especially with the aforementioned rain gear. Our own Ms. Longstocking rocked a nice dress AND high heels whilst riding her shiny new Jenny to and from the event, so it can be done.

The Distance
I'm glad that people from further-flung parts of New England saw fit to show their support, and I certainly won't fault someone for driving from Providence or New Haven to join us. The more, the merrier. Many people had their hometown written on their name tags, so I could see that a lot of Hartford, West Hartford and Bloomfield residents were in the house. These people didn't have terribly far to ride, yet they didn't.

The Toil
In spite of the cold, the rain and the darkness, six people rode to that dinner, and had a fun time doing so. With minimal preparation and good company, a dreary night can be transformed with the addition of two wheels and two pedals. In fact, five out of six of us continued riding to meet up in Hartford for a beer after the dinner ended. You could have, too. We already belong to the same group. I hope that next time you will join us.

I apologize for stating the obvious, but the best way to get more people on bikes is to get more people on bikes. If committed bike users are a fringe group among the advocates, our strength and relevance in the general population is at a tremendous disadvantage. An organization that encourages people to bike everywhere should strive to boost the ranks of its own members who do just that as often as possible.
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Friday, March 26, 2010

Ten Speed the Plow

The Bread Cycle Works project will be having their inaugural event tomorrow, Saturday, March 27 (rain date Sunday, 3/28) from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM at their site across from 1055 Broad Street.

Ted Efremoff, artist-in-residence at The Workshops @ Billings Forge gave me a quick synopsis yesterday at the farmers' market.

Ted and fellow artists Emcee CM, Alexander Hill, James Holland and Rebecca Parker plan on doing every step of the bread-making process using human power and recycled objects. They are developing bike-based equipment for plowing and threshing the wheat. They seek to educate, engage and share this experience with the residents of the Frog Hollow neighborhood and beyond. For more info email tefremoff ("at") Read more!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Catalogue: me

I've been given the singular honor of being featured in Joe, Joel and Nick's monthly Catalogue show. Come check it out (and tell me that I should stick to bikes)!

Please accept this E-Minder-Invite to attend the March CATALOGUE show:

Saturday, March 27th
8 o'clock

56 Arbor Street
Hartford, CT 06106
Suite number forthcoming

Brendan Mahoney is a soup-eater, a daily morning one, and this practice is done alone, in the morning, in the kitchen, before work, one hit of Romen per day. Brendan is a craftsman of soup, a proud cook, and lover of those noodles that you can't get anywhere else. The broth packets, however, he has retained and must now purge. With us, Brendan shares this cleansing. He will be cooking soup all night, a bowl at a time, and maybe you'll get one if you ask him. Don't know. This is a celebration. This celebration will include soup, hot-plates, Brendan, soundscapes, boiling broth, maybe video feeds? Love those.

Brendan is a Hartford warrior, writer of referenda and avid bike-man who works for the city. CATALOGUE is a monthly event that showcases artists, musicians and other creative endeavors, and is hosted by Joe Saphire, Nick Rice, and Joel VanderKamp. The event is a collaboration between artist, curator, community and space. CATALOGUEs for Nick Rice's February show, as well as other previous shows, will be available on Saturday the 27th.

Contact us for directions or questions:, and please pass this invitation along to those we might have missed.

Joe Saphire
Nick Rice
Joel VanderKamp

It's free and the beer's free!
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Monday, March 22, 2010

Tour de Talcott

I don't what it is this, but starting late last summer and into this year, I've started finding all sorts of new singletrack. Maybe I've got my eye out more or maybe I ride with a more open mind, who knows? Obviously they're only new to me, because if other people weren't riding on them, there'd be no trail.

Yesterday, I decided to the Tour de Talcott. Personally, I think Trans-Talcott sounds better-- more Kraftwerkian. I rode this section the opposite direction of the way I usually do and found this cute little swath of singletrack that I must have ridden by 100 times.

View newly discovered in a larger map

Nothing else really happened yesterday, besides the riding of the bike. There were quite a few other mountain bikers out, so I didn't get lonely. I think at Penwood I saw the guy who writes that Charlie Rides a Bike blog. I don't know what he looks like, but I recognized his bike. His group was intense, unlike when I need to walk up a hill with my singlespeed, these guys run up them.

Oh, I did discover another new trail at Penwood, but I didn't explore it. There appears to be a new green-blazed trail that runs between the creek/road and the really, really hard to ride section of the Metacomet. It spurs off that little section of singletrack that cuts away from the creek/road. Anybody ever ride it? Where does it go?

View somewhere in this area in a larger map

It also appears that the creek/road trail had some maintenance done to it. Thanks who ever did that.

So, yeah, it was a good day, but I suppose any day is when it's sunny and you get to mountain bike for 3 1/2 hours is.

Monument to a fallen hang glider?
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Bikes Outside: All The Single Speedies

This morning brings the bike-spotting lense back to La Paloma Sabanera for another Bikes Outside two-fer-one special.

Standing proud at the corner of Capitol and Babcock, this shiny Mercier looked brand-spanking new and was drawing a fair amount of attention. A neighborhood kid walking by as I snapped a picture said, "That's a sexy bike!" Elementary school-aged kids rating the sex appeal of anything is either mildly unsettling or a somewhat obscure Jhumpa Lahiri reference. Come to think of it, he might have actually called it a "sexy-ass bike." I dunno what constitutes an "ass bike", but I'm still fairly certain his statement was quite complimentary.

This fresh powder blue single speed was rockin' a flip-flop rear wheel that was flipped (or is it flopped-- I always forget which is which) to the freewheelin' side, so the bike features a brake, unlike last week's brakeless freewheeling urban attack Mongoose.

At the next signpost (can we get a bike rack here already?), I saw another blue single speed, this time a fixed-gear Schwinn Madison. I know of at least two blue Madisons in Hartford, but this is the only one with facial hair. This mustachioed brakeless fixie has more of a rough-and ready look about it. This bike has definitely accumulated some miles, and I mean that in a good way. Perhaps the third graders in my neighborhood would call this a "Ridden-ass bike" though that phrase lacks the smooth phonetic flow of the other compliment. The cow horn handlebars look like a home-brewed drop bar chop & flop, based on the inverted Bontrager logo. DIY FTW!

I briefly met and chatted with the bikes' owners inside the coffee shop and was having a good conversation when I was recruited by La Paloma's owner to help unload a new refrigerator. As I showed my commitment to supporting my favorite local haunt and eating unspoiled food, the young pair left to continue riding and enjoying the beautiful weather, and really, who could blame them? It has been awfully nice outside these past few days.
Have a great week and enjoy this lovely-ass weather.

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

I'm Conversating to the Folks that Have No Whatsoever Clue

We're not on bicycles in droves because we're afraid we will muss our hair or get raped in a dark alley.

I don't really believe that hype, but take a glance at the guesses made around the blogoverse about why females are outnumbered by males as daily bike commuters in the United States, and those two items come up again and again.

Help end the speculation. The Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals is gathering information about what prevents girls and women from biking altogether, or biking more frequently than we do. The survey runs through May 15 and only takes about ten minutes to complete. Even if you do use your bicycle as your primary method of transportation, you should take a few minutes to speak your mind, so that we're not continuously portrayed as shallow or easily scared, unless the results show that we are indeed both of those things.

Gentlemen should not participate in the survey. Read more!

In what form will our punishment come?

First off, I want to thank Ms. Longstocking for bringing such controversy to our blog. We love it! The East Coast Greenway is a big deal, even the much maligned CT DOT bike map recognizes it. One would think that Google would at least incorporate that map as a starting point.

In her next post, I heard a rumor that she may take on the Apple and the iPhone. ;-)

Winter is drawing to a close, and unlike last year when it was nice and in the 50s, this year it's nice and in the 70s. In fact, the weather is nice, The Courant took a picture of Lucas in a hammock. I've been able to do lots of mountain biking and wear a tshirt.

So, at what cost? Will the stock market crash? Is it going to snow on Wednesday? Are we enjoying nice weather on the backs of those in New York and Fairfield county who've had trees fall on their cars?

Koi are in full effect again this year.
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Friday, March 19, 2010

Travels with Karlee

As two of my friends' wives have said, I'm going walk-about. But alas, I'm not cool enough to do it on a bike, at least not yet, so the bikes are stowed away in the back of an '86 Volvo wagon, and we're headed out to see what we can find.

If you'd like to follow along with the trip, I'll be making posts to , a rather poor attempt to mimic Steinbeck. In the mean time, keep ridin' Hartford. Read more!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Is Google taking us for a ride?

Outsourcing does not work.

Not too long ago I was riding in a vehicle with someone who had a GPS -- a device I considered worthless before the trip. The robot voice instructed us, on more than one occasion, to make poor choices, like drive the wrong way down a one-way street. Because I knew the area, we were able to shut the useless device off. Google Maps, another not-so-local entity, is as senseless as a GPS. Give me a potentially outdated atlas any day. At least it's likely to have traffic flow clearly marked.

I know I am supposed to feel gleeful that Google has decided to add the bicycle mapping feature. Already I could request directions for trip taken by car, public transportation, or on foot. Even knowing the way the pedestrian map feature let me down, as it never let me travel through parks or along railroad tracks, I felt a split second of hopefulness and joy.

Google Maps for Bikes (or whatever they're calling it) is worse. Not only do they ignore the ability for bikes to travel through parks (you can map a trip through a small part of Bushnell Park, but not all or even most of it), they ignore that the East Coast Greenway -- a major bike trail! -- goes through the park. So, whether a cyclist wants to follow the ECG or simply take a more scenic route, she can not rely on Google Maps to send her there.

But wait -- there's more! Out of curiosity, I requested directions from home to work. Besides not knowing that the ECG exists, Google Maps instructed me to pull a U-Turn on a one-way street and then backtrack to go up Broad Street, down to Asylum Street, and so forth. Illegal maneuvering aside, this is silly because I could have made a simple left-hand turn from Capitol Avenue onto Broad Street.

I know that some folks think Google can do no wrong and that I should just be patient as they make updates to their database, but I maintain that companies should iron out the wrinkles before, not after, releasing a product. Also, we should stick to making our own maps in the community. If Google can not create common sense instructions, acknowledge a major bicycle path, or recognize one-way streets, how can we trust it to know where construction might be interfering with a route?

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Ridin' of the Green

In honor of the Irish portion of my ancestry, I wanted to share with you some pics of Raleigh's Irish X-Frame model bikes. Available in ladies and gents models, they were marketed by Raleigh for the first third of the 20th century-- ostensibly for use on the rough roads of Ireland, but also secretly because the Irish were just too awesome for run-of-the mill limey bikes. One of these joins the Columbia Chainless in my bicycle fantasy garage. I do love a full chaincase, at least until I have to work on it...

I'm charmed by the wording of this vintage ad, even it it seems to be dissing Irish infrastructure just a wee bit.

"The Irish X Frame model, as its name implies, has been specially designed for use on the reputably bad roads often to be found in Ireland, or where the ground to be continually traversed is of a broken and exceedingly rough nature, thereby necessitating a frame of somewhat more substantial and stronger character than is usual."

I was talking bikes with an older guy who shared an anecdote about Irish cycling. He said that back in the day, Irish lightweight road bike enthusiasts were in the habit of jamming a broom handle up into the steerers of their forks . The idea was that it would hold the tube together and keep you from crashing when the steerer inevitably broke, enabling you to coast gingerly to the side of the road. It's a fun story and a great image, regardless of whether it actually happened.

Irish singer-songwriter Luka Bloom wrote one of the all-time great bike-riding songs (and coined my favorite alternative term for a bicycle) in the title track of his 1992 album, The Acoustic Motorbike. I was fortunate enough to spend the summer of that very same year in Ireland as part of a student exchange program. I rode a borrowed bike while staying in the village of Pettigo, which was bisected by the border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland. This preceded the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, so the border was marked in varied manners ranging from small unassuming signs to high-walled compounds guarded by machine gun wielding soldiers. I opted to ride the bike through the quiet, unmanned crossings and limit my interactions with anyone holding a loaded weapon, a personal policy that serves me well to this day. I often wondered why the IRA didn't simply do the same. Maybe they did. Anyway, It's an awfully pretty place to ride around if you ever get a chance. I'd imagine it's even nicer now without the periodic bombings. Most places are.

Irish X-Frame pics and ad thanks to

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Thank you Lance Armstrong.

Since I'm a dork, I have an alert setup with to send me articles tagged with "bicycles". For years, I'd get like one a month or so. It'd usually be at the end of some important race like a Spring Classic or Grand Tour, or maybe every couple of months about some guy a bike. As there was that mini gas saving push to ride bikes starting in 2008, there were a few more articles and now they have that Spokes blog (and that stupid one about the reporter who rode a bike in France), but that hasn't changed too much. But, the biggest up tick in the number of alerts has occurred since Lance Armstrong announced his comeback-- like, there were daily updates on Paris-Nice and that article yesterday about the problems associated with televising bike races. That article was pretty surprising. I thought that complaining about bicycle racing on tv was provenience of weird bike bloggers.

Also, you ever try a front rack? They're freaking awesome! In the last 18 hours, I've carried a 12pack of Miller Lite and my lunch, so far it's like nothing I've ever experienced. I recommend this one: the Pletscher Athlete. It's simple, cheaper and can go on the front or back. It also has this cool mousetrap system to hold smallish items.

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Happy daylight savings time!

I love daylight savings time a lot. It's shame that today was so dreary and overcast, because it'd still be nice and light outside. To celebrate, I went for a bike ride (big surprise, huh?).

I have come to own a 1985 or 1986 Diamondback (Diamond Back?) Apex. It's a pretty sweet ride, though lacking some of its original cool parts. Salem is a generous man with his bike frames, though he's very particular about which components are going to leave attached to said bikes. In other words, you aren't going to get the Deore deer head derailleurs for free. It did come with the sweet Suntour U-brake and period Shimano cantis. The shifting parts of the drivetrain are Deore, albeit newer than the bike: early 1990s (or maybe late 1980s) Deore thumb shifter and a early to mid 2000s Deore XT derailleur.

This bike is unique, in my opinion, for three reasons.

1) The spacing for the rear wheel is 126mm. I know that some early mountain bikes were spaced that way, like Bridgestones, but I find it weird. Presently, I have a 130mm wedged in there. It doesn't seem to be causing any problems

2) It's painted like a snake. Its former owner did this and he's a famous artist.

3) This is one isn't true anymore, but for a brief time all major component manufacturers were represented in the drivetrain: Shimano shifter, derailleur and cassette; Suntour cranks; Campagnolo chainring and a SRAM chain. The SRAM chain was worn out, so I bought a KMC chain. That's why this isn't true anymore.

So, I rode it around the reservoir much like it had done 25 years ago and it rides quite nice. The bike is not very fast, which I chalk up to it being kind of heavy and having a really, really relaxed head angle. However, the relaxed head angle and very long wheel base do a have a benefit: it descend really, really confidently. It's a little more stable than my 29er and 20x more stable than my rigid Stumpjumper. It almost feels like I'm riding my suspension bike.

The woods were not nearly as mucky as I thought they were going to be. I guess water deficits have some silver lining, though I did encounter one creek that was very difficult to cross.

I also forgot to mention that I ran into the mysterious man who runs Remove Sunglasses At Tunnel. Read more!

Bikes Outside: Non-friction at the Library

This Monday's Bike Outside was in good company among a handful of rides locked up at the Hartford Public Library on Friday afternoon. While all bikes in attendance were of the fat 26" tire variety, this particular Mongoose had some key features to set it apart from the rest. You see, this bike is all about taking it up a notch. While some mountain bikes have front suspension, this one has dual suspension. While some bikes are a little beat-up, this one is really beat-up. While many Hartford bikes have one missing brake, this one is missing brakes front AND rear. There's something to be said for that kind of thoroughness, and that something is "Aaaaiiigh!!!! No Brakes!!!!"

I had to dodge a guy barreling down the sidewalk on a brakeless mountain bike as I was walking down Capitol Avenue a few weeks back. I'm pretty sure this is the one, as I recall a flash of white and a remnant of V-brake jutting out. The rest of the moment was obscured by my life flashing before my eyes and fighting an overwhelming urge to give chase and administer a vigorous dope slap. While fisticuffs might have satisfied a certain knee-jerk instinct of anger/self-preservation, It likely would have ultimately made things worse. Not being threatened with immediate bodily harm on Friday afforded me a clearer head with which to seek out a more positive solution.

While I was at the library, I procured a piece of scrap paper and some adhesive tape. I wrote a short note that I intended to tape to the bike, directing the bike's owner to a couple of inexpensive sources for some brakes. Alas, the Mongoose was gone when I returned to the bike rack. I tucked the note into my tool bag on the off-chance that I see the bike again soon.

If the owner of this bike happens to be reading this, I encourage, nay, urge you to go to the Urban League's bike shop at the corner of Woodland and Sargent. They are open from 4-7 PM Tuesday-Thursday. They have a box full of old brakes, some of which will fit your bike. I'll even pay for them if you don't have spare cash on hand (provided you come on a Tuesday). Also, get off the sidewalk. Thanks. Read more!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Bikes outside: excess

UPDATE! So, I came home and Johanna told me that this post was kind of mean. She's right, so I apologize to the owner of the gold Bianchi. Since my New Year's resolution to stop being a jerk, I hope he accepts my apology. Although, I won't rescind my comments on the upside down handlebars. Upside down handlebars aren't right!

I hope Chris doesn't get mad that I'm stealing his project, but I saw a bike outside today that I wanted to comment on briefly.

I had lunch today with Marisa at Ichiban. This Bianchi was chained out front. It had weird aero bars and upside down handlebars, something I never understand, and it had upside down brake levers. It also looked like it was prepared to ride across the continent. Inside, the owner looked like his was simply riding to lunch. Doesn't that strike you as slightly excessive? Does he bring eight changes of clothes to walk around the block? What does his car look like? How many bomb shelters does his house have?

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Woof woof

You may have noticed that it was nice today. So, when the whistle blew at work today, my Colnago and I headed down towards the Wethersfield meadows. Things were pretty typical, though I noticed that they "regraded" the roads. They don't use gravel, or smooth the dirt, it appears that they used chewed-up asphalt to resurface. It doesn't seem like a good idea, because the stuff is super-rough and the runoff from it can't be good for the River.

Anyway, I was riding along and up ahead of me was a Maxima with a large black lab next to it. I'm pretty sure at some point on this blog that I've complained about people who go to the Meadows and drive their dogs. It pisses me off, but there's nothing new about it. The weather gets nice and people drive around with their dogs next to there cars, sometimes the dogs are even leashed. I slowed a bit as I approached. The dog had run off the road ahead to the right, but just as I got close to the car, the dog ran in front of me and I hit the dog. Not hard at all, I braked to try and not hit the dog, but I hit the dog none the less and the dog didn't even seem to care. I'm not very good at imparting rage extemporaneously, so I said yelled at the driver something like, "Watch where you put your fucking dog!" and I don't think that really makes any sense. He stared at me totally baffled, perhaps because I yelled something that made no sense, or because he hates bikes or maybe because he realized he's a terrible dog owner.

But, what the fuck? I've got nothing against dogs, but this moron seems to, because if I was driving a car or riding faster or riding a motorcycle, I would have injured or killed the dog. When did we become so lazy that we need cars to walk a dog? It's disgusting! It's bad enough when people walk dogs unleashed in public spaces and they chase after you or try to bit you, etc. However, violating the sin of sloth must count double if you drive your dog instead of walking it.

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Monday, March 8, 2010

Bikes Outside: Schweet Home Chicago

This week's Bike Outside is no less than an American icon. The "Electro-forged" Chicago Schwinn is the bicycle equivalent of a slant six Dodge: Ubiquitous in its day, by no means the fastest or the lightest of its kind out there, but sturdy as hell. It's overbuilt and under-appreciated. When a post-apocalyptic mutant runs out of gasoline to power its 1970 Dart, it can pull an intact 1970 Schwinn from the nearest bomb crater and pedal onward.

I found this bike chained to a railing on Farmington Ave in Asylum Hill. Judging from the extended paintless area on the frame of this bike, it has been chained thusly thousands of times. This and the rest of the paint layer surface strata make this beater a patina powerhouse. It wears the scars of a lifetime of hard usage without fanfare or apology. If terms like unassuming and badass can coexist in a single place, they can do so on this bike. It's also old-school all the way. I like the cloverleaf chainwheel, the alloy quill stem and the stem shifter. The upright handlebars and skinny chain guard make it look more like an old 3-Speed at a distance until you spot the derailleur out back. The "mattress" style saddle has seen better days, making this a short-trip bike for all but those with the hardiest posteriors. A front caliper has gone AWOL, leaving a lonely left brake lever behind and continuing the widespread Hartford tradition of one missing/malfunctioning brake.

This was another instance where a bike's owner came out as I was photographing it. The fender-equipped Schwinn has served as his foul-weather beater for the past few decades while his nicer Fuji comes out when the weather is nice. We had a good time talking bikes and such until I remembered that I had already been running late before I stopped to bike bond. I've forgotten his name (I'm terrible at remembering names) but I'll probably catch up with him at his store one of these days when I have more time. Nice guy.

The basic idea of this bike has been recreated in Schwinn's current retro lineup as the "Willy" with some welcome updates to the gearing (twist-grip 7-speed vs. stem shifted 5-speed) and brakes (which now stop the bike when applied). Schleppi's Jenny is its femme counterpart.

These Chicago-made bikes rode the final wave of the American bicycle industry before it crashed on the shores of the Malaise Era and retreated overseas. An affordable, decent domestic bike for everyday people became the stuff of tag sales and flea markets after that. Luckily, bikes like this will be around for decades to come. They will outlast us all. This Schwinn is just plain solid.

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