Thursday, 31 December 2009

Bicycle Snow Cover!

As we head towards the New Year, I give you this image of our neighbor's awesome bicycle cover!

It is snowing here in Boston again and the forecast promises that it will continue doing so for four days straight. So far, I have not exactly been a heroic winter cyclist, but in 2010, I hope to get increasingly more comfortable. Other cycling goals include: touring long distance, conquering drop bars, developing stronger upper body musculature for wielding the Pashley, learning more about bicycle components, and dare I say, wheel building? Yes, that may be in my future over the winter months. Stay tuned and have a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Chance Encounters and Boston Vintage Bikes

Taking advantage of the mild temperatures a couple of days ago, we went for another ride along the Charles River Trail, this time a nice long one. We were taking a break to photograph the bikes (a totally normal part of any day, right?), when I heard a very polite yet excited voice from the trail. Was I by chance the person from Lovely Bicycle? I guess of all the girls out there riding loop-frame bicycles with enormous red bows on the basket, I must be especially recognisable? I attribute it to my unique facial features.

We invited the gentleman to join us on the dock, and a fest of bicycle photography and discussion ensued.

Apparently, he collects photos of people photographing him. So this is my picture of him, taking a picture of me taking a picture of him.

And this is his picture of me, taking a picture of him taking a picture of me taking a... Really, the philosophical implications are staggering. You can see this and many other bicycle related pictures on verdammelt's photostream on flickr.

Here is a shot showing off his bicycle better (admittedly posed in what Steve A. calls my "Lenin in Finland" stance). The bicycle is a vintage BSA 3-speed step-through, which he found abandoned, rescued, restored back to health, and now uses as a winter bike.

Here is a somewhat blurry close-up. Our new acquaintance is proof of how common these rare vintage bicycles are in Boston. A BSA randomly left abandoned on the streets? Yup. It is a pretty cerulean-blue colour with nice lugs and a beautiful fork crown. You can't see them here, but the bike also has shimmery red grips on the handlebars that set off the blue frame quite nicely.

And I love the unusual saddle. It is sprung pleather, with the look and feel of an old leather jacket - not the texture one normally sees on saddles. Overall, this is an excellent rescue, and the owner seems to care about bicycle and to like riding them very much. We enjoyed meeting him and thank him for posing for these photos!

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

This Just In: I Bid You "Aduh" Until 2010

Last Wednesday, I mentioned the fact that I worship the Lobster God. While the notion of an all-powerful crustacean may seem like little more than a flimsy basis for an ersatz religion ("ersatz" is pretentious for "fake"), it turns out there is some philosophical validity to the concept. In gathering information with which to "flesh out" (or more accurately "shell out") my new religion, I turned to a popular search engine and discovered an essay called "The Organism as the Judgment of God: Aristotle, Kant and Deleuze on Nature (that is, on biology, theology and politics)." Titles don't really get much catchier than that (Kant and Deleuze? You can't lose!), and so I began to read. As it turns out, God is indeed a lobster:

If you find all of that confusing, the author goes on to simplify the concept later in the essay:

Organisms occur in at least two registers: one strictly biological, the other political. But it is the same abstract machine of stratification, the same Lobster-God operant in any register from geological to social as the way to appropriate matter-energy flows from the Earth and build a layer that slows down the flow and funnels a surplus to a transcendently organised body. The abstract machine of stratification is biological and political at once. The geology of morals set forth by the Lobster-God is bio-political organisation.

Also, lobsters have claws.

Admittedly, though, this essay is pretty dry, and the Lobster God I worship is a bit more succulent. I prefer to believe the Lobster God is the all-powerful orchestrator of the great "Space Miracle," which took place when the Lobster God opened the Barbican Shoulder Bag of Infinity with the Pincer of Creation and the entire universe spewed forth from its leathery folds. Or, to put it another way, we are all merely fleas on the Dachshund of Time:

All of which is to say in a very roundabout way that the Lobster God appeared to me in a dream recently (I fell asleep watching "Atonement") and commanded me to take leave of this blog until Monday, January 4th, at which point I will resume regular updates.

In the meantime, though, I invite you to ponder this image, which was forwarded to me by a reader:

In the interest of rendering the photograph "safe for work," I was forced to add some garments. (You'll note that the originals are hanging from the handlebars.) If you're wondering why the crotchal region of the "virtual" garments is so sizeable, this was necessary in order to fully obscure the volume of the "secondary coif," which, like the primary one atop her head, was considerable. Should you wish to view the original photo as the artist intended, it is here.

Lastly, if you've been losing sleep because you're wondering what the hot new bike fashion trend will be for 2010 (and not because you've been having nightmares about lobsters as I have), you can finally rest easy. Another reader recently forwarded me a Craigslist posting confirming something I've long suspected, which is that 2010 will be the Year of Rust:

55cm Broakland Pipe-Bomb Track Frameset - $1100 (potrero hill)
Date: 2009-12-23, 12:35PM PST
Reply to: [deleted]

For sale is a raw (unpainted, uncoated) Broakland Pipe-bomb frameset in size 55. Included in the sale is the frame, fork and Chris king threadless headset. The frame is perfect with no dents or cosmetic issues.
There is surface rust which I have been letting take over slowly and deliberately. It has seen a little over a year of use as a city whip.

Rarely do you see this much thought go into a track bike. From the Paul dropouts to the three different types of tubing. It is designed for both 700c front or a 26" for a little more aggressive handling and barspinzzz. Light and stiff, equally at home on the track or the street. Designed and welded in the bay! Why buy some NJS cast-off or alloy Cinelpropistadolan made-in-china rig when you can rep the local forces at work?

Although this ad is just for the frame set, if you want it I will throw in a Tange carbon seatpost that complements the look of the wound up very nicely. I'm sure I have an extra 107bb I can include. I have a bunch of track parts kicking around (Including the build in the last pic) so if you're looking for more than the frameset, I can make a deal. Otherwise, go to Montano Velo in Oakland and spend your hard earned dollars.

Check here for more info:

Feel free to email with any questions aside from low ball offers. Thanks for looking!

The cycling world has seen pre-rusted designer bikes before, but it's clear from this post that the trend has now taken hold on the "street" level. I also spotted a fashionably corroded bicycle in downtown Manhattan not too long ago:

Of course, it is the very nature of rust to "take over slowly and deliberately," so it's a bit ridiculous for the Craigslist seller to take credit for cultivating (or "curating") the rust. Then again, it is also human nature to rationalize the onset of the inevitable, and the sorts of people now riding intentionally rusty bicycles will soon also claim to be "greying out" their hair, or intentionally fading their tattoos, or even "wearing their breasts lower." Given this, the seller would do well to entertain the "low ball" offers he's now refusing, since what appears to be a genital defect could actually be a personal fashion choice. Maybe the buyer is simply letting impotence take over slowly and deliberately.

And with that I shall cede to the inevitability of the passing of yet another year and let this blog recede into the din of holiday revelry. To some this din is the cheerful sound of celebration, and to others it is the dissonance of a million fleas vainly crying as they cling desperately to the back of the Dachshund of Time. (To me, it is simply the soothing sound of sloshing about in a bathtub full of eggnog.) In any case, I'm deeply grateful for having had the opportunity to (hopefully) amuse you this past year, and I look forward to returning on Monday, January 4th. In the meantime, enjoy the rest of the holidays, ride safe, and in all endeavors be like unto both rust and the Lobster: Slow and deliberate (and reddish in hue).


Monday, 28 December 2009

Five Rivendell Fork Crowns

We were at Harris Cyclery the other day and I took the opportunity to photograph the fork crowns of the Rivendell frames that were hanging in the shop. Enjoy the colourburst!

the Atlantis

the original green Sam Hillborne

the orange Sam Hillborne

the A. Homer Hilsen

the Betty Foy

Nice, aren't they? I think the "curly-cue" design that's on the Betty Foy, the A. Homer Hilsen, and the orange Sam Hillborne tend to be most people's favourites. But as a girl of simple tastes, I prefer the one on the original green Hillborne.

Feeling Slow? A Simple Explanation

It's funny that no matter how much cycling experience we gain, we remain susceptible to those silly mistakes and those "duh!" moments. I am sure I have many, but the most recent one really had me smacking my forehead.

For the past month I had been favouring my vintage Raleigh and not riding the Pashley as much. When I finally did take out the Pashley last week, I noticed that it felt more sluggish than I remembered. I thought this was strange, but chalked it up to my having gotten out of shape and the vintage Raleigh being easier to ride. But the sluggish feeling kept growing worse, and neither of us could figure it out. Until finally, cycling behind me, the Co-Habitant realised what was wrong: My tires were nearly flat! There were no punctures; they were just low on pressure and neither of us had noticed.

I know it's absurd to overlook such an obvious thing as tire pressure; it is the equivalent of wondering why your computer is not working only to realise that it is not plugged into the wall. We do usually top up the air in our tires at reasonable intervals, but my Pashley slipped through the cracks. I wonder whether the cold temperatures played a role in it as well? Now that my tires are re-inflated, the Pashley flies again (really, the difference in speed and handling is amazing). However, I do think that I will replace its native Marathon Plus tires with Delta Cruisers come springtime; the latter just feel livelier and more enjoyable to me. In the meantime: If your bike is feeling slow, do check your tire pressure before looking for more complicated or sinister explanations!

Passing the Mantle: The End of the Aughts is Nigh

I'm not a fan of arbitrary deadlines, which is why I'm not really into the whole "New Year" thing. Change is a cumulative process and it consists of subtle gradations; it's not something that happens annually at the stroke of midnight. Nonetheless, just as the bicycle industry releases new models every year, we undertake "resolutions" as though we can change ourselves in annual increments. Ultimately, whether it's a bike or ourselves, the result is the same: we wind up with a bunch of hastily-applied "improvements" of dubious value which will most likely be phased out by the time the next model year rolls around.

Still, it's human nature to create reference points and plant metaphorical staff gages in the river of time, and so as the new year approaches we find ourselves reflecting on all that has passed. For example, Team Columbia-HTC owner Bob Stapleton is looking back on the year in cycling. Not only is he saying that Lance Armstrong's return has been good for the sport, but he's also saying that Armstrong is "passing the mantle" to sprinter Mark Cavendish:

There's certainly no doubt that Armstrong "is embracing" Cavendish, as we have at least one piece of photographic evidence:

Moreover, it's fairly high up on the Non-Sexual Man-Hug Intimacy Scale (NSMHIS), as you can see from this enlarged detail:

The NSMHIS starts with the fully-clothed handshake-and-back-pat combo and goes all the way up to the nearly-naked and oiled group hug, complete with crotchal contact:

However, while Armstrong clearly embraces Cavendish, Stapleton seems to be taking some liberty here, because while plenty of respect is in evidence I don't recall Armstrong actually officially "passing the mantle" to him. Sure, Armstrong may have passed a bit of saliva and perhaps some mucus to his shoulder, but as far as I can see no "mantle" actually changed hands. Of course, just because I didn't see it or can't remember it doesn't mean it didn't actually happen--I don't remember falling asleep in a bathtub full of eggnog while wearing a Santa suit on Christmas Eve either, but that's where I woke up on Christmas Morning. So I poured myself a cup of eggnog (I managed to salvage most of it from the tub) and headed off into the wilds of the "Internet" in the hope that I could find the actual Armstrong-to-Cavendish mantle-passing ceremony to which Stapleton had alluded and in which Amstrong declared Cavendish "Me 2.0."

My first stop was VeloNews, where I found a one-on-one interiew with Armstrong's director, Johan Bruyneel:

If any mantles had been passed, Bruyneel had nothing to say about it, though VeloNews not only misidentified Bruyneel as Axel Merckx but also misspelled "Axel" as "Axle."

Since the cycling media was clearly unreliable (a mistake like that is like adultery in an elevator--wrong on a number of levels), I figured I'd go directly to the source. It turns out Lance Armstrong maintains an online account with a popular social networking site, and he uses this account to share information with others. If Armstrong had officially passed the biggest-name-in-the-sport mantle to Cavendish he would certainly have mentioned it here. However, he didn't, though I did learn that he's apparently training in Hawaii:

If you've ever wondered what sets Lance Armstrong apart from other professional cyclists, it is his seemingly bottomless capacity for suffering. This, more than anything else, is the basis for his success. While anyone else would certainly find riding a bicycle around Hawaii in December to be tedium of the highest magnitude, to Armstrong it doesn't even seem like work. In fact, he almost seems to enjoy it.

At this point I was beginning to suspect that perhaps Stapleton had made up the whole "mantle" thing, but I figured I'd check back in with Cyclingnews to see if there was any more about it. There wasn't, though it does turn out that Floyd Landis may sign with Rock Racing:

By now I had forgotten all about "Mantlegate" and was instead overwhelmed by feelings of concern for Landis. Signing with Rock Racing is an even bigger warning sign than selling all your bikes on Craigslist, which Landis also did recently. While the listings have since expired, I did have the foresight to capture images of them through judicious use of "technology." Here is the ad for Landis's road bike from the 2005 Tour de France:

And here is his time trial bike from the infamous 2006 Tour from which he was eventually disqualified for supposedly applying a testosterone patch to his perineum in a scandal that was subsequently referred to as "Grundlegate:"

As disturbing as it is to see Landis attempting to jettison bicycles with such distinguished pedigrees through channels ordinarily reserved for things like stolen SE Drafts, kittens, and solicitations for sexual encounters in elevators, it was also in a certain way a bit of a relief and a rare taste of glamor (albeit, well, tainted). After all, the Tour de France is a much more compelling and exotic backdrop than the moldy bathtubs to which the Craigslist shopper is accustomed:

Specialized Carbon S-Works Frame 58cm - $650 (Basically New)
Date: 2009-12-27, 8:31AM EST
Reply to: [deleted]

58cm Specialized Carbon S-Works Roubaix frame only, comes with S-Works carbon headset and seat post collar, no fork, basically new (used twice - looks brand new with no blemishes or scratches anywhere). Originally retailed for $2800 , now a super low $650!!! Pro-level frame. Send a contact number if your interested.

I'm not sure why the seller chose to photograph the frame in the bathroom, though I would imagine it's either because the rest of the house was even more frightening, or because he was about to slip into the tub with the frame and a few gallons of eggnog.

Speaking of luxuriating in bathtubs with your bicycle, I was reading and enjoying the issue of Rouleur that came in my holiday gift basket when I encountered the following description of an old Gios racing bicycle:

As I write this, I have one in front of me, and it is a thing of peerless equilateral beauty. The tubing is seminal Columbus SL, the welds absolutely spotless and absolutely human. The blue itself is perfection, a tactile, dreamy azure--unmistakably Italian, unquestionably America. The lowercase Gios Torino decals on the down and seat tubes, each flanked by an understated Italian tricolour, are simply immaculate, simply right. [...] The bar tape is white, and the rake and chrome of the fork is the very essence of discretion, of judicious, considered design. [...] This, in the vernacular, is to die for, a gorgeous object that happens to be a bicycle. This is a 1973 Gios professional.

It's not surprising to me that the author should describe the tubing as "seminal," and I wonder if he will be similarly eloquent in the emergency room when he's forced to explain to a doctor how his genitals became stuck in the seattube of a 1973 Gios professional. It will probably be some sort tall tale about a stolen seatpost, a misplaced pair of pants, and a long ride home, and I'm sure he will be relying on the fork's considerable discretion as he spins it. I'm also sure that, once extracted, his member will be even more purple than his prose.

Also in the same issue of Rouleur was this ad for a Brooks Barbican shoulder bag declaring it a "Space Miracle," which as far as I can tell is like a regular miracle but in outer space:

I also thought "Space Miracle" was David Bowie's follow-up to "Space Oddity," so I was surprised to see it referenced in a decidedly terrestrial bag advertisement (or "advert" if you're British or pretentious). It turns out I was wrong about the album (that follow-up was actually "The Man Who Sold the Testosterone Grundle Patch"), but I'm still pretty sure that's Moby modeling it. I just hope he doesn't try to pass his "mantle" into that frame, because it could take a space miracle to get it out again.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

The Days Ahead

The pre-Christmas blizzard has come and gone, leaving in its wake a patchy landscape of snow, slush, ice, and mud. Yesterday the weather was mostly good and we went for a ride along the Charles River Trail - our first real ride together in weeks. In the afternoon everything looked lilac and utterly beautiful; it was a wonderful ride.

The previous night it had rained and much of the snow had washed away. Though the river bank was snowy and the river was iced over, the trail itself was mostly clear, save for a few stretches. What surprised me was how utterly impossible it was to cycle through those stretches.

Having ventured out in the blizzard last week, I thought that I "knew" snow - and with that thought, I proceeded to cycle straight through a snowy patch. As a result, I almost took a spill - twice. Apparently, the fresh, evenly distributed powder through which I rode last week was nothing compared to the lumpy mess of slush, ice, and crusty snow of varying density through which I now attempted to pass. Let's just say, the Marathon Plus tires said "No". And I don't think studded tires would have helped in this kind of snow either - though feel free to correct me if you disagree.

The Co-Habitant checks my tires whilst enjoying the view of Boston across the river. I love this picture, because it captures the feeling of living in this area in a way I can't quite explain verbally. And I have a funny story about my tires, but will hold off on that till the next post.

After yesterday's ride, I think the realities of winter have finally hit me: My God, I won't be able to cycle "normally" again for the next 3 months! Sure, on good days I may feel safe enough to cautiously ride from Point A to Point B. But I can pretty much forget those fast long rides I have grown used to over the Summer and Fall. During the warmer months, I probably averaged around 100 miles per week on the bike, over 80% of them recreational. It should come as no surprise then, that the comparatively minimal cycling I am doing now leaves me wanting more. So what do I do, get a trainer? That's not the same as "real" cycling, and I just can't see myself getting into it. Instead, I think I simply need to accept the limitations of winter, and to stay positive by planning for the next season. Since I enjoy long rides so much, perhaps I should try to develop my endurance and challenge myself - set some goals, devise a training schedule, think of some local destinations I would like to cycle to, and so on.

A year ago, I could not have imagined that I would ever develop an interest in the "athletic" aspect of cycling - but there you have it. Those are my thoughts on cycling as we head towards the New Year. What are yours?

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Owls, Bears, Bicycles

In the Co-Habitant's words, our tree ended up looking "very organic," decorated with golden berries, wooden forest animals and round ornaments in shades of copper and gold. The bicycles seem to like it.

Happy holidays and enjoy your winter break!

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Wednesday Competition of the Knowledge of the Bicycle Snobs NYC! (And Announcement of Short Recess.)

Even though I worship the Lobster God (I'm totally off the Chicken God, He answered none of my prayers), this does not mean that I can't observe Christmas. In fact, an important part of Lobster God worship is using other religions' holidays as an excuse to not do stuff. (This holiday parasitism is actually one of the holy Three Pincers of my faith, alongside sloth and cheese consumption.) For this reason, I will not be posting tomorrow or Friday, and will instead be deeply immersed in observing the Three Pincers until Monday, December 28th, when I will return with regular updates. (At least until New Year's Eve and Day, which I will also probably use as an excuse, even though Lobster God New Year is actually celebrated on February 29th, or what crustacea apostates call "Leap Year.")

Another thing my benevolent and delicious Lobster God allows me to do (praise and melted butter be unto thee, o Lobster God!) is accept gifts on regular Christmas, even though Lobster Christmas is not until what you infidels call "Arbor Day." (Arbor Day was Earth Day 1.0.) However, my Lobster God does require me to gloat over gifts (gloating is a sacrament), so I will now gloat over this seasonal holiday gift basket I received from the good people at Rapha:

Actually, Rapha just sent the Rouleur stuff--I made the seasonal gift basket myself using wilted celery, potatoes, and an old "compact disc." (I read how to do it in Martha Stewart Living.) The little book is the latest issue of Rouleur, and the big book is the "Photography Annual." It's full of photography as you would expect, and in the spirit of the season I've garnished it with Stoned Wheat Thins and vegetarian bacon (both staples of my helper monkey, Vito's, diet):

(All You Haters Covet My Gift)

Having gloated, rather than leave you with nothing I will now present you with a short quiz. As always, study the item, think, and click on your answer. If you're right you'll know, and if you're wrong you'll receive a consolation prize in the form of "Christmas in Hollis."

Happy Holidays (or happy holiday avoidance depending on how sardonic you are) from my "family" to yours, and ride safe if your regional weather pattern allows. Thanks very much for reading and emailing, and I'll see you on Monday the 28th.


2) What's going on here?

--Rigorous shirt testing
--Rigorous bra fitting
--Rigorous knuckle tattoo-planning

(Fixed-gear freestyler pulls off the elusive tight-pants-palp-to-tire-pressure-check.)

3) Bad news for fixed-gear freestylers! Milwaukee, WI is on track to ban:

4) Where? Why? How?

5) Not only does this Philadelphia Craigslist ad feature a disembodied hand, but it also features a:

"Dura-Ace features and feel but with a tad more weight--and a lot less money."

6) This is a quote from:

***Special "Units of Measurement"-Themed Bonus Question***

"CC" stands for "cubic centimeters" and is commonly used to measure engine displacement in motorcycles.

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