Wednesday, 30 January 2008


It's not exactly an old bike, but this story has been making the blog rounds lately, and it's pretty cool. Sixteen-year-old kid built a bike entirely out of wood. I bet it's fun to ride for about ten feet. Most kids make a spice rack or something. I don't even remember what my big accomplishment was at sixteen. The best part is that he was inspired by stories his Dutch grandfather told him about building bike wheels out of wood during World War II on account of rubber being scarce. Wooden shoes AND wooden wheels. What will the Dutch think of next? A wooden bike, apparently.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

How to Fix a Bent Fender

Well, maybe more like: "how to jerry-rig something so that your bent fender doesn't rub on your tire (without spending any money)." This is a problem I'm having with the new old Schwinn Suburban. The old Schwinns were designed so that the fenders fit very closely around the tires. This is a nice aesthetic touch, but it also means that any little bend or tweak in the fender or its supports can put the inside of the fender in contact with your tire, causing undue wear and tear on the tire, and undue frustration when peddling (plus a really annoying rubbing noise).

I've been trying all sorts of ways to bend the fender out where it is rubbing (at the very back of the fender), but all to no avail. The fender itself is not noticeably bent, but I think the support is tweaked a little. The problem is where the fender support is attached on the inside of the fender (see arrow on picture above). The tire is actually rubbing on the support piece, not the fender itself. I considered taking the support off, but then the fender would flop about and rub on the tire anyway. Soooo, long story short, I think I solved the problem with a couple short pieces of plumber's tape (the metal kind) and some bolts salvaged from old brake shoes. Basically, I just used the bolts to fasten the pieces of plumber's tape on as extensions for the support arms where they bolt on to the frame (circled on the photo above), making the support arms longer and forcing the fender out away from the tire a little more. The photo below shows my Frankensteinesque innovation.

Obviously, you don't have to use salvaged bolts from brake shoes if you have suitable bolts laying about, but I didn't. Plus, it's a good reminder to save everything, because you can probably find a use for it later. I don't know how well this fix is going to work in the long run, but it all seems pretty stable for now. Of course, the front fender is rubbing too, but I think I can just bend that one out.

PS--If you use metal plumber's tape for anything, you'll need a pair of aviation snips to cut it, available at any hardware store.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

1977 Schwinn Suburban

Yes, another bike. That's three, for those keeping score. We found this one at a garage sale for $40. My wife has been looking for a bike since last June, and we found it about two blocks from our house--must have been fate. Anyway, as the title of the post suggests, it's a 1977 Schwinn Suburban. It's a ten speed--no Sturmey-Archer hub, unfortunately--and it is a seriously nice-looking bike. It has a sort of red/rust/brown color and the paint is in pretty good shape, with the usual dings and scratches. It also has the usual rust, dirt, and grime all over.

It seems to be mostly original, with the exception of newish cables and a newer seat that doesn't really match the old style of the bike very well. The tires are newish, and everything else seems to be in great shape.

Today we did the major cleaning: frame, chrome, derailers, and chain. The chain is soaking in oil overnight after two rounds of cleaning with Pedro's and a toothbrush. Tomorrow, I'll buff the rust off the rims with steel wool, make some brake adjustments, some seat post and handlebar adjustments, and it'll be good to ride. Cosmetically, we'll wipe it down again and apply a coat of Turtle Wax to bring out the color. Long term, I think the crank bearings are going to need re-packing soon, and I'd like to try to find a better looking seat for it. The brake shoes are going to need to be replaced soon as well, but I think that's it (assuming the tires hold air over night).

As with all of our bikes, the Suburban has (according to one website) "absolutely no value to collectors." But, of course, the point should be whether an old bike has value to its owner. This bike makes my wife happy, it's stylish as all get-out, and that's really what matters, isn't it?

Friday, 18 January 2008

For Work or Play

These two beautiful posters from the early 20th century (Adler, 1910; Hawthorne, 1920) embody the era when bicycles were taken seriously; when they were still used as everyday transportation and as recreational vehicles. Don't they look happy? And snappy? Cycling doesn't have to be all Spandex and bike shoes, now does it?

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Upas Street Trail

So, I've heard tell of a trail that links the various parts of Upas Street from the northeastern corner of Balboa Park to the northwestern corner. If you're traveling west on Upas, the paved street stops at Alabama Street, then picks up again at Florida Street, then runs all the way to Vermont Street, where it dead-ends again, then picks up again at the northwestern corner of Balboa Park. Well, the dead ends are all connected by trails, so I decided to set out with the Peugeot and the camera on a little expedition today to see if there was, in fact, a good way to get from one side of Balboa Park to the other without a car. You may remember that I bemoaned the lack of such in an earlier post. Well, the answer is yes and no. You can get from one side of the park to the other without a car, but it's not really a trail for the faint of heart or weak of knee.

I started from the corner of Pershing Street and Wightman Street, rode down Wightman to Arnold Street, then turned south to Upas. At Upas and Alabama, Upas dead-ends, but if you cross Alabama to the dead-end turnout, you find the entrance to the first leg of the trail.

The first section of the trail between Alabama and Florida Streets is too steep and narrow to ride comfortably, so I walked down. At the base of the hill, you're in Florida Canyon and at Florida Street. Cross Florida, and continue up Upas. The climb up is formidable, and also not ridable for most. There are no sidewalks, however, so keep an eye out for cars coming down/up the hill.

At the top of the hill, the street levels-out for few blocks and you can ride all the way from Park Boulevard to the next part of the trail, where Upas ends at Vermont. The trail entrance is on your left, marked by a gate to keep cars out, and a helpful sign informing you of the "HILL".

There is a hill, and it is substantial, so most riders will be dismounting again. The trail is also pretty rough, and probably not the best for road bikes (it would be fun on a mountain bike). But, man, is it beautiful. I'm always amazed by Balboa Park, there are so many beautiful places tucked away.

The trail then crosses the 163 on a pedestrian bridge.

On the other side of the freeway, take the trail to the right, which is another steep climb, and not exactly bicycle friendly.

At the top, you come out in the northwestern part of the park, near the Marston House mansion, and here Upas Street picks up again.

By this time, though, I had abandoned Upas Street for a ride through the park. You can either get on Balboa Drive, which runs south down the western side of the park (and which is an obstacle course of bad pavement, car doors, and drivers pulling in/out of parking spaces), or you can toodle along on one of the paved paths. I did the latter, and eventually ended up at the lawn bowling greens for a few minutes. Then, I got on Balboa Drive for a ride down to the far southern boundary of the park, overlooking I-5 and part of downtown.

Where Balboa ends, or rather where it turns back and loops north, there's a really wicked hairpin turn at the base of a gentle (but velocity-building) downhill grade, which is really fun to whip around at top speed, if you're comfortable with that kind of thing. Then, I toodled back up through the park on the trails, and picked up the Upas Street trail again and headed home. It was a beautiful ride and hike, but in terms of ease and convenience, I would say that it is not an especially practical way to get from one side of the park to the other without a car.

For a few more pics, see my Picassa album, and for a map of my route, see my Google map.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

A Brand New Shiny Bike!

I found this sticker template gratis on the "Properganda" page of Los Angeles cycling advocates C.I.C.L.E. I would take this brand new shiny bike. Yes I would.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Have You Seen This?

I Can Do That, I Just Don't Want To...

I mean, who can't balance like that? Sheesh, so easy...
I found this on and thought I'd share it. Circa 1900, the golden age of bicycles.

Bikes on Campus: SDSU Students Want to Ride

A story in today's Union-Tribune discusses the ban on bicycle travel on SDSU's campus, and the students who are trying to get the ban repealed. The university cites safety concerns because of sidewalks jammed with pedestrians, as well as the damage some cyclists cause by cutting across green spaces and landscaping. Campus safety officers actually ticket bicycle riders for riding on most sidewalks on campus. Students are citing environmental and parking concerns in their efforts to get the ban repealed.

My wife works at SDSU, and I can confirm that during the semester the sidewalks are very crowded, but the answer is not to ban bike travel. Bike lanes and approved bike routes on campus would help a great deal, as would an education and enforcement campaign to encourage responsible cycling. If officers are already ticketing riders, why not focus only on the irresponsible ones?--the ones who cut across lawns, ride too fast, and disregard "Yield" and "Stop" signs. So many students live within cycling distance of campus, why not create a safe and welcoming environment for them once they arrive? Cycling on campus is possible, and on a sprawling campus like SDSU, should be encouraged. Instead of banning bike travel altogether, campus planners should look for ways to integrate bikes into their campus plan.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Just When You Thought The San Diego Reader Couldn't Get Any Worse

I usually try to keep this blog pretty on-topic (i.e. old bikes) but occasionally I allow a random rant to creep in. This week's San Diego Reader, the most pointless media source in town, is the subject of this particular rant. The cover story this week has the ridiculously terrible title, "I Would Rather Be In Here Than Standing in the Fast Lane." The cover photo features a giant truck looming over a small car. The title and picture don't seem to go together, but I was hoping it would be about road rage or transportation alternatives, or something. Then, I open to the story inside, which features a giant photo of a wrecked bicycle in the middle of an interstate. Ooh, I think, maybe a story about how bicycles aren't afforded their rightful status as transportation in this car-oriented town. Nope, none of the above. It's a relatively pointless story about the people who "manage" traffic, CHP, and CALTRANS. No mention of alternative transit strategies, no probing questions about why exactly we as a culture are so obsessed with automobiles, and not one word about bicycles. Why the mangled bike in the center of the freeway? I'm tempted to say that it's just another example of how our car-crazy culture disregards the legitimacy of alternative transportation, but then, I don't think the Reader is even paying enough attention to make a statement on the issue one way or another.

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