Friday, July 30, 2010

Human error, continued

After much delay with my original plans to get the Lady Raleigh her new rear wheel, it finally seemed like it was going to happen yesterday.  The shop had ordered my new Sun CR-18 26 x 1-3/8" alloy rim (foreshadowing!), and I was excited to see the whole process.  (For anyone interested in reading about what's involved in wheel-building, Sheldon Brown can of course explain it better than I can.)

First, we had to free the Lady's Sturmey-Archer hub from the old wheel by snipping all the spokes with a heavy duty wire cutter.
Can you see the ones that I snipped?

Here's a close-up of some of the worst rust on this rim.  I bought the bike from a little old lady who said that she kept it up at her vacation house in Maine; now I wonder if I should have asked if that was on dry land or actually in the ocean...

Next, we pulled out all the remaining spoke bits and measured the hub so we could calculate the spoke lengths.

Once we had our spoke length (which I think was 190 mm?), we began to prepare the new spokes by dipping their ends in Spoke Prep, helpfully left over from a previous customer's expensive wheel build.

We then began lacing the rim to the hub, when (can you guess? can you guess?) we discovered that whoever placed the order had got a 36-hole rim instead of the 40 holes needed to match up to the mid-1960s Sturmey-Archer hub.  Sigh.

I really like Quad Bikes.  They're so nice and unassuming, they're a nonprofit business, and they  frequently don't charge me anything for the little jobs I stop in for.  The guy helping me was super embarrassed, since he was also the one who cut down my kickstand the day before.  But just a patch of bad luck.  A misjudgment here, a careless mouse click there; really, these things can happen to anyone.  I still like Quad Bikes.

So now I wait for a 40-hole rim, and the Lady Raleigh just waits.

Side note #1: Opinions on what color tires I should get for when all of this is done?  Stick with the gum wall (very mid-century)?  Jazz it up with white walls (which would pick up the white on the rear fender)?  Go for plain black, or black with reflex?  For whatever reason, cream tires just aren't speaking to me on this one.

Side note #2: On kickstands, instead of another Pletscher, we're trying the Porteur Double Kickstand from Velo Orange.

Adjustable legs mean no saws necessary, so hopefully there will be no problems this time...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sweat and setbacks

There's been a lot of human error in my bicycle dealings over the last week and a half.

First: Kickstand self-installation
Here is a picture of an environment that is not conducive to calm or joyful bicycle work:
not well thought out

What you can't see in the photo is how hot in was in my living room or the actual puddle of sweat that formed underneath my body.  The kickstand plate is in such an awkward little spot, and I didn't have an Allen key that was quite the right size or that could easily be maneuvered in the space.  I just couldn't get the kickstand to sit correctly, and things kept slipping out of place and keeping me from being able to properly screw everything together.  It was a frustrating attempt to do something that seemed like it was going to be incredibly simple, and it made me so angry that I didn't even want to look at the kickstand or think about anything bicycle-related for about a week.

Second: Bike shop installation
Once I stopped being mad, I took things over to Quad Bikes to let someone else take care of it for me.  I have to admit, I was a little bit pleased that even there, with the repair stand and all the right tools, it still took some wrangling to get the kickstand attached; but it did get attached.  Then came time to cut down the legs.  They had a nice little circular saw, and the kickstand had pre-marked notches for height adjustments, so this seemed like it would be straightforward.  We cut once, but it was still a little bit too tall.  Then we cut again, and it looked like the right side was a little bit taller than the left, so we needed to cut a little bit more off to even it out.  Then it still looked a little high.  Can you guess what happened next?  Of course, we cut again, and when we got the bike on the ground, it began to tip first to one side, then the other.  Too short.  Sigh.  Who knew this would be so difficult?  So the shop is ordering a new one, and fingers crossed, third time will be the charm.

Coming up: Part I of the Lady Raleigh's new wheel.  Here's a sneak peek:

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What's do we have here?

Oh, hello!
Legs crossed, so demure. 
Now let's get your shoes on!


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hello, yellow

Summer must be bringing out the yellow bicycles!  This one was just outside my window at work on Friday, and every time I caught a glimpse of these bright fenders, my day got a little bit sunnier.
I've gone back and forth on gum wall tires in the past, but with this particular reddy-yellow frame, they look just about perfect-- almost like the bike had its rims painted to match.  They tie in nicely with the handlebar grips as well, and then the black saddle picks up the black in the tires and the pedals.  Nice work, yellow bicycle!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Separation anxiety

I might be a little bit paranoid, but when I'm out and about, it's a million times easier for me to relax and enjoy what I'm doing if I can keep an eye on my bike.
The view was a lot better than the "savory bread pudding."

When I started riding in December, I could have my pick of the racks and signposts just about anywhere I went, and priority parking was pretty easy to come by.  With the onset of warmer weather, naturally, bicycle parking has become rather more difficult, and it's not often I get such a clear sight line to my Frida. 

I didn't realize just how much this would bother me until the other day when I was at another cafe, again sitting at a window counter but with my bike parked across the street.  It was almost completely hidden behind a Mini Cooper-- funny when you think about how gigantic Frida is for a bicycle and how tiny the Mini is for a car (unless of course you're in Italy, in which case a Mini Cooper will start to look like an SUV).  I was trying to read but found myself looking up every minute or two and straining to see if I could still make out a saddle through the Mini's windows.  As if this weird compulsion weren't bad enough on its own, about ten minutes after I sat down, this red truck double-parked just a few cars down, with a jumble of at least three bicycles tossed haphazardly in its bed.  Eep!  Why do you have so many bicycles back there?  And why are they all tangled up like that?  What are you doing?! 

It just sat there, idling, for the next 20 minutes, while I began to have visions of a team of organized bike thieves creeping up and down Mass Ave hidden behind a screen of parked cars, snapping U-locks and reporting back to the truck with their loot.  Perhaps I was extra jittery from the espresso, but even after the truck eventually pulled away, I wasn't too anxious to linger about while my bicycle was still out there all alone, potentially in danger!

Sigh.  I think if I have children someday, I might end up being one of those moms with the kid-leashes.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Cats and bicycle accessories

My sister decided to go the Hello Kitty route for her new bicycle bell.  Appropriately, one of her cats decided to say hello.
I think kitty approves.

Also, I was very pleased to see her apartment now populated by bicycle-ish things like shellac and Wald folding baskets.  All very good; but melonaute, you had better have yourself a headlight by now, or else!!!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Stopping by the park on a cooler evening

As you may have heard, it's been hot.  Really, really, disgustingly hot.  Just as many people will look out on a snowy day and think, "no way I'm bicycling in that kind of weather," I see 90-degree temperatures in my 10-day forecast and die a little on the inside.  (To be honest, my tolerance for heat is even lower than this.  I get anxious as soon as numbers beginning with 8 start to show up.)  Among other things, this has negatively affected my progress on Part 3 of the Let's Go Ride a Bike Summer Games.  "Covering new territory" has been pretty low on my list of Things That Seem Appealing When I'm Already So Effing Sweaty.  I've still been riding to get places I need to go, since it is better than walking in the heat, but my extracurricular activities have been heavily curtailed as I retreat to an underpants-and-popsicles existence. 

Coming to my bicycle after work today, though, it was one of those instances when you put your feet on the pedals, and it just feels so good.  I didn't have the most time to detour, but I did take a long-er way home.  There's a left turn about halfway through my regular route that is the perfect off-ramp for nights when I decide on the spur of the moment that I'm not ready to go home yet and just want to toodle around a bit.  Tucked among the quiet side streets is a small gated park (which happens to be in Lovely territory) that I've walked by a million times but never entered.  I was about to glide by again when it occurred to me that it was sort of ridiculous that I'd never gone in, especially since I lived directly across the street from it for a year.  So we went.

The sign on the gate said No Bicycles; but I wasn't planning on riding, and Frida promised to be on her best behavior.  The tall trees always made the park seem dark and secretive when I would pass by.  It was sunny today, but inside, it still felt shadowy and hidden away from the rest of the neighborhood.  I know a lot of people take their dogs through, but today it was empty, and very, very quiet.
Frida blends right in.

Actually, even though I'd never entered the park before today, it's the setting of one of my favorite Cambridge moments:  The year I was living across the street was my first year of architecture school-- a year notorious for keeping students in studio almost nonstop, at least partially so they can be broken down into itsy bitsy architecture pieces that will theoretically be molded into great big architecture geniuses by the end of their training (I remain unconvinced by this methodology).  I was walking home one night/morning in the spring on one of those nights where you first notice that the air doesn't feel so cold and you don't have to walk fast anymore.  It was probably around 4:30 or 5, and as I made my way, barely awake, through this neighborhood of enormous, dark, silent houses, I found myself suddenly surrounded by birdsong.  It was as if I had stepped into a bubble that was full of nothing but singing birds, with no other noises to interfere, and it was so incredibly loud that the sound almost started to feel tangible.  Every minute of sleep I got that year was precious and jealously guarded, but I had to stop.  I just stood in the middle of the street, listening and feeling like I was in a dream.  I'd never heard anything like it, and no matter how many times I passed by the same spot at the same hour, I never heard it again.  I like to imagine now that every one of those trees in the park was covered, branch by branch, with birds, and they'd all just woken up at the same moment and were really excited about it.

No birds today, though.  Just me and Frida in the park.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Wedge issues

As others have noted, biking in heels is a lot easier than walking in them.  Not easier?  Biking in platform wedges.  Obviously, right?  I mean, just look:
There's a solid inch of cork under the toe there.  But apparently, I needed to try this out for myself to be sure.

It's par for the course for women's fashion that the rare pair of heels that is actually, miraculously easy to walk in would have to be difficult to cycle in.  Whereas your average pair of high heels makes me feel like the balls of my feet are being continually stabbed with flaming knives if I try to wear them for more than ten minutes, these are notably flame-stabbingness-free thanks to the platforms.  I knew this extra height would affect the ride once I got on the bike, but I seriously underestimated just how much.

The problems were apparent almost immediately.  It felt like I was riding a bicycle that was two sizes too small, and it was hard to really feel the pedals, which was disturbing and uncomfortable.  My legs felt incredibly inefficient; starting from a stop was touchy; and I think my balance was generally a little bit off.  All of that from just one little inch!  Once again, I'm learning how sensitive bicycle geometries can be to the smallest of adjustments, and an inch here is no small thing. 

Still, my ride to work is very, very short, so I didn't want to take the time to go back for other shoes or stop to adjust the saddle height and instead just wobbled along, feeling kind of foolish.  It was non-fun. 

not excited to ride home

The one upside was that I did find it considerably easier to put a toe down at red lights, which was especially helpful for me since I'm trying to train myself to stop automatically hopping off my bike whenever I come to a stop.  I don't know why I started doing that, but it's been a really hard habit to break and it makes me feel amateurish, particularly if I'm sitting out in an intersection waiting to make a left turn.  So then, these were good as "training toes," though that was about it for positives, bicycle-wise.

In short, this is what I learned today: don't bike in platform wedges.  Just don't.  I do not think you will enjoy it.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Plans for the Lady?

a shot from the Lady's very short stay at home
For the past few weeks, the Lady Raleigh has been sitting in storage at Quad Bikes while I tried to think of what to do about her decrepit real wheel.  There was a brief but thrilling moment where it seemed that there might be salvation from California, with dear reader Corey K. offering to check out what appeared to be a Raleigh rim with Sturmey-Archer hub in place; but it was not to be.*  Then there was an inquiry with a local craigslist bike guy, who happened to have a like-new rim from a 1960s Raleigh Sports that he could give me; but he ended up advising that if I were going to be rebuilding the rear wheel anyway, I might as well upgrade to an alloy rim to up my braking power.

So it's finally happening on Thursday.  The Lady Raleigh will be getting a brand new Sun CR-18 alloy rim, and I get to come watch!  I really wanted to try doing it myself with the wheel-building class at Broadway Bicycle School, but you have to have completed their advanced course first, and they don't even have another wheel-building class scheduled for the rest of the summer.  Plus, the advanced class seems like it would be perfect for the Lady Raleigh herself, since it covers wheel truing and overhauling the headset and rear hub; so it would be good to have her up and running for when that starts in August.  

I have a lot more to say about the basic class that I'm taking at Broadway (short answer is: I love it!), but just wanted to give a quick update on the Lady's health for now.

*Here's Corey K.'s hilarious summing up of the encounter:
"He was a bike guy- in too good of shape, and too clean-cut to be a fixie-kid hipster. I don't know if it was ignorance or malice. But the Craigslist rim in question, while in decent enough shape, was a 27 x 1 1/4 rim like a '70s 10-speed would have. Bah!"

Typically Cambridge

The workaday milk crate

the dinged-up paint job

 the barebones lighting scheme

finished with a dash of well-worn elegance and European charm.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Just a peek...

... at my sister's new bicycle!  I've literally been begging for photographs and finally got a few precious snaps.  Anyway, here it is, with the man-bike (and man-owner) visible in the background, before getting some final work done at Recycle-a-Bicycle:
Just look at that Brooklyn hipster back there.  Can you believe he didn't already have a bicycle?!
Love the white inset on the head tube, and the gum wall tires nicely pick up the gold of the Phillips lion head badge.

Speaking of head badges, the man-bike comes with a rather jaunty one of its own:

My sister and her boyfriend got to pick these bikes out of what sounds like an awesome, giant warehouse, where they also came across a huge fleet of some 200 Batavi:
Apparently, Recycle-a-Bicycle received these as a donation but only to be used as rentals, not sales.  That's too bad because they are kind of cute, in a modern, imagine-the-Entrada-Spirit-had-a-baby-with-the-BUB kind of way.

I'll be heading to New York for the holiday weekend, where I will see if I can successfully ride the man-bike and hope to visit some cool bicycle shops (suggestions?).  That is, unless it's as hot as it is in Boston right now, in which case I will just eat popsicles and scowl all weekend long.  We'll see!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Monday, why can't you be more like Friday?

Today is, in a word, totally disgusting-- oh, snap! So disgusting it needs two words! Anyway, it's hot. It's incredibly humid. And there have been threats of severe thunderstorms all day, which, somehow, are not predicted to cool things down much at all.  I often face a rather stubborn headwind on one stretch of my commute to work; today, it was just as stubborn except it was also BURNING HOT. Ugh. I ended up scrapping my after-work plans to conduct both business and pleasure excursions around town due to the aforementioned disgustingness and also a vague fear of being struck by lightning on my steel bicycle (Question: how valid is this fear?), and instead, I rushed home to guiltily turn on my window a/c, take off my pants, and eat too much of a $15 block of torrone.

It's hard to remember just how gorgeous it was only a few days ago on Friday:
Perfect weather, the gently sinking sun, the river, a book, and a bicycle.  I will have it again!  Just not today.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

ZOMG It's Caturday!

(Paws, you guys!)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Why it took me five years to buy a bike

[Soundtrack for this post is reader's choice: David Bowie or Noah and the Whale]

I moved to Cambridge to start grad school five years ago [unrelated: yikes] but didn't buy a bicycle until this past December, despite the fact that Cambridge is such a bicycle commuting city and I wasn't ever planning on having a car.  I thought about it; I said I ought to do it; but I never did it.  Looking back, I can't help but lament the wasted bicycling potential of those years and wonder why the heck it took me so long to get with the program. 

My reasons for not buying a bicycle were pretty common, and anyone who's reading this will already know the answers to my arguments; but all the same, here they are:

1. I hadn't had a bicycle since I was about 13, and even then, I hadn't really been riding much for my last few years of bicycle ownership.  I grew up in a typical suburban environment, where the high school had an enormous parking lot since kids who lived less than a mile away would still drive.  So it had been a long, long, long time since I'd been comfortable on a bike.  You never forget how to ride a bike?  I wasn't convinced.
Answer: It turns out that even if my first few rides had a few shaky starts, it's true; you really don't forget, particularly when you ride an upright bicycle which keeps your center of gravity at basically the same place as if you were standing.

2. The gear.  Not only would I have to purchase a bicycle, but then I'd also have to worry about all of this extra stuff-- locks and helmets and little blinkie things that you clip to your bag and reflective ankle straps and vests and detachable wheels that you carry inside with you, and then what if something were to break?  It all looked so foreign and overwhelming (and expensive), and I felt like grad school was enough to worry about, so why would I want to add one more thing to stress about?
Answer: Again, the choice of bicycle made a big difference.  Since I went with a Dutch-style bike, I was choosing something that was designed to be more or less stress-free, with its internally geared hub and quick-release nothing and covered chain.  No pant cuff rolling, no wheel or saddle carrying, no Lance Armstrong racing helmets required.  Just get on and go and carry on with your life.  It's actually made my life less stressful, since it's so much easier to get around and I no longer have to spend time planning out elaborate bus and train routes and then waiting for them to show up.

3. I always lived within 10-15 minutes walking distance from school, so it seemed like it wouldn't really save me any time to ride a bike once you considered the time it would take to carry the bike outside and then lock it up or unlock it and put on/take off all the biking gear.  So I just walked.  It seemed easier and just as efficient for the mostly short trips I was taking.
Answer: While I do like walking and love living in a city where it is possible to get to many of the places I need to go on foot, it is just so much easier to bike.  In the winter, you end up spending less time out in the cold, even if it does take time to lock up, etc.; and in the summer especially, my feet are so much happier.  I think I may have particularly wimpy feet, so even flat shoes-- ballet flats, Keds, strappy sandals-- would leave me blistered and bloody when walking those distances.  (It should go without saying the heels were an impossibility.)  Plus, the brick sidewalks around town will chew up a shoe faster than you can say "$15 heel replacement."  Pedaling suffers none of these problems. 

4. Related to the gear issue, there was the clothing.  And I don't just mean spandex racing suits-- those were obviously out of the question.  But would I be able to cycle in a skirt?  What if I were wearing low-rise jeans-- would my butt be showing when I bent over to pedal?  Would I have to plan out cycling-friendly outfits every time I wanted to go somewhere by bike?  I didn't want to buy a messenger bag or a backpack and, as mentioned before, the pants rolling thing just seemed weird.
Answer: Again, choosing a Dutch bike makes all of these concerns irrelevant.  A step-through frame and an upright riding position mean that skirts and the hip-huggingest of pants are all okay, even if you may occasionally want to wear some precautionary shorts.  And racks, baskets, and panniers mean that you can carry your things in whatever kind of bag you please, and not only that, but you can carry more things farther.

5. The biggest thing that kept me from riding was fear of cars.  Since I was a child in my previous cycling life, I rode on the sidewalk; and since I lived in a suburban neighborhood, there were very few people on the sidewalks, so it was clear sailing.  Riding in the street seemed dangerous and scary, and to be honest, the helmets only made it seem even scarier.  I didn't know if I could do it.
Answer: Getting comfortable riding in the street just takes time, though actually not as much time as I had expected.  Part of that is being lucky enough to live in a place where there are a lot of cyclists on the road, so cars are more used to dealing with them and it's a little bit easier to find your place in the system.  As Velouria from Lovely Bicycle! detailed in a recent post, you just keep going where you need to go and slowly expanding the areas to which you're willing to travel, and before you know it, it simply doesn't feel like a big deal any more.  Even though I was actually hit by a car last month, I still don't find it that scary to ride in the street most of the time now, whether I'm wearing a helmet or (more frequently) not.  I take various measures to increase my visibility, I signal my turns, and I follow the rules of the road including stopping at red lights.  That doesn't mean that cars don't sometimes still ruin my day, but it's all part of the effort to be a responsible, respectful, and predictable user of the street.  And of course, whenever it makes sense for safety or convenience's sake, you can always get off and walk on the sidewalk.

Like I said, I don't expect anything I've written here to be particularly mind-blowing to readers of this blog, but I did want to offer up one more person's experience of reintroducing cycling into her life.  Anyone can do it; more people should; and I hope they do.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mini-post: Bicycles on the brain

I just saw a little sidebar ad for "Framed Wedding Invitations" and got momentarily excited because I thought it said "Frame Welding Invitations."  Which I would want.  Yes please, I would like to come and weld a frame!

I got a new way to walk (walk walk)

Yesterday's mid-morning commute on Cambridge Street was just a mess: blocked lanes, construction,  garbage trucks, city buses, moving vans, one fire truck, and stressed out drivers backed up as far as the eye could see.  I was putt-putting along, sticking out my left arm to merge into the lane whenever some new obstruction would block the de facto bike lane area and gamely stopping for all the lights and traffic cops.  But it was hot, humid, and too close to too many cars.

Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw it: the sidewalk!  Shady, tree-lined, peaceful-- ahhh.  I suddenly remembered that I didn't have to stay on the road; I wasn't stuck on my bike the way I would be in a car.  One look was all it took to convince me, and before you could say "smell ya later, street traffic!", I was hopping off and making my escape.  I walked my bicycle the rest of the way, and judging by the pace of the cars I left behind, I didn't really lose any time.  Just another object lesson in how much more convenient it can be to ride a bicycle in the city.  

Big thanks to cycler for introducing me to my new favorite web comic, Yehuda Moon.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Ships that pass in the morning, and speak each other in passing

Last night, Dottie from Let's Go Ride a Bike recounted her story of a brief but unpleasant interaction with a fellow cyclist she encountered on her morning commute.  While she didn't explicitly describe this passive-aggressive fellow, for better or for worse, my mind immediately supplied the following image:
Thank you, Merriam-Webster Visual Dictionary Online.

Oh, this guy.  Can't we all just get along? 

But it's not all bad news out there.  See, I ran into him, too, on my way home this morning.  Since I was coming from the gym and my legs were exhausted, I was pedaling even more slowly than usually up the barely existent hill that leads to my house.  This guy was coming down the hill the opposite way (of course, not coasting!) and I caught him looking over at me as we got closer.  He opened his mouth to say something, and with Dottie's story fresh in my helmetless head, I was bracing myself for some kind of disparaging remark.  So what did he say as he zoomed by in all his speedracey glory? 

"Nice bike!"

Oh Frida.  Is there a man alive who can resist your charms?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A sweet little nothing

I've already put in two official entries for Part II of the LGRAB Summer Games, so this act of Frida decoration is purely for its own sake.  I had been forming elaborate plans to craft my own headbadge, with thoughts of various metals and glues and laser cutters in the works; but then a lovely package from an etsy order showed up to remind me that decorating your bicycle can be as simple as tying a bow:

It's so basic that it almost seems not worth mentioning, but I've been surprised at how happy it makes me every time I see it.  It seems that J-Lo may have been right about something...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Much Madness is divinest Sense- To a discerning Eye

These things are bound to happen.  You go from ignorance and a lack of comprehension to gathering knowledge and developing a sense of perception and discrimination.  You start to see things that would have escaped your notice in the past.  Sometimes these things bring you joy... and sometimes they bring you pain. 

I've never been much of a fan of "beach cruiser" style bikes.  Still, coming home the other day, I was drawn over to this display in front of a local bike shop that I never visit (not a Frida kind of place):
So beachy, so cruisery; but colorful and clearly eye-catching, and I can see how people would be attracted to them.  Before I started really looking at bicycles, I would have simply chalked them up as not my style and moved on.  But now-- and especially after reading certain blogs-- all I can see is this:
what the holy hell is going on here??!!!!

I hope none of the employees was watching me while I was photographing, because I know I was grimacing heavily and making audible gagging sounds the entire time (with a rising pitch of hysteria as I saw more of the... details).  I know these things won't bother a lot of people, who might just see the flowers and the plaid and think "cute bike!"; and like I said, I probably wouldn't have paid attention earlier---- okay, except for the bizarre and horrible termination of the top tube on the blue bike (Seriously, what the eff is that?  That entire area is just a cluster fuck).  They're still bicycles, they'll still make someone happy, and there are many far worse things existing in this world.  Right?  And it's nice that a "hard core" bike shop is making an effort to carry styles for a different kind of rider.

I just need to remind myself of all of the beautiful and interesting bicycles I'm seeing for the first time.  And breathe.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Night rider

While there are some issues surrounding cycling safety that are clearly up for debate, nighttime visibility is really an uncontroversial Good.  For those whose personal preferences tend toward the subtler end of the spectrum, then, this can seem like an area where practicality must trump style.  Fluorescent triangle vests for everyone!!

But it needn't be so.  Recall the lovely Cordelia:
in daylight
One of the things that attracted me to the KHS Green in the first place was that its look was so basic, so unassuming, it was as if it were trying to look like a silhouette of a bicycle.  Cool.  The bad thing about silhouettes though?  Hard to see in the dark.  So:
with flash
Here Cordelia is sporting a Bright Bikes kit in "Black Caterpillar."  As you can see, what is essentially invisible in daylight becomes quite noticeable under direct light, adding a layer of safety that doesn't scream, "yooooooooo! check out all my neon fluorescent reflective decals!"   The $18 kits come in a variety of colors and are super easy to apply in almost any kind of configuration you would like, so you can be as subtle or unsubtle as you please.  I immediately felt more confident about riding my bike at night after I got her taped up good and intend to give Frida a similar treatment in the near future.  I highly recommend checking them out

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A blushing bike

Wednesday ended up being an unexpectedly stressful bicycle day, what with the sudden news of the lady Raleigh's infirmity.  Fortunately, the day didn't end there.  Wednesday was also the long-anticipated first meeting of my five-week bicycle maintenance class at Broadway Bicycle School here in Cambridge.

I was the second to last of seven students to arrive, and all eyes were immediately on me as soon as I rolled in the door.  Okay, not me, Frida.  With everyone else riding some variety of hybrid or road bike, Frida came along with her giant handlebars and full chain case, looking like some kind of beautiful alien, apparently.  The room was full of questions about how the ride was and what kind of bicycle was that exactly and wow it's big, isn't it, and where did it come from again?  One person actually said, "I don't think I've ever had bike envy before this!" and got an "I know!" response-- awww.  I tried to keep Frida from preening too much, but I think I spotted an extra glimmer in her rear fender...  After the crowd reaction, our instructor came over and gave his own version, which was more along the lines of, "I'd better take a look at this.  Oh boy, this... is going to be different..."

The first class was on changing a flat and had us learning about such things as tubes and tires and bicycle nipples.  Mr. BroadwayBicycleSchool mentioned the process of changing out a rear tire on a bicycle with a chain guard and internally geared hub with a distinct tone of dread; but we were only doing front tires today.  Perhaps as Frida's way of making up for her "difficulty," I found it super easy to get the tire off and on and was done long, long before many of the others with their quick-release levers.
I did it!  And I replaced the rim tape.
I'm sure that had a lot more to do with the particularities of our individual tires and rims and whatnot, than with any preternatural mechanical dexterity on my part, but it still felt a little good to make it look so easy in front of all the guys (plus one other girl).

Throughout the class, the nice Air Force man working on the other side of my stand kept asking me questions about how I liked the Brooks saddle and the hub brakes, and it just seemed like he was so curious about the Dutch bicycle in general.  So I offered to let him test ride her after we got out.  He took a little zip around the block, and when he came back, he explained that he would've gone farther except he thought he would get "too jealous" if he kept riding!  So much Frida love!  Then it was a quick trip to the pet store to buy some ridiculously expensive but eco-friendly cat litter (a portion of which, it turns out, was spilling out of one of my bags the entire way home; look for the trail on Cambridge Street tomorrow!), and Frida was in for the night.

Now, I don't at all mean to say that my bicycle was "the best" out of any of the others there, or that quick-release levers are "bad" and bolted-on wheels are "good."  I mostly certainly had the hardest time lifting my bike onto the repair stand, for instance.  But it should come as no surprise to anyone reading this blog that I've decided that my gigantic, heavy Dutch bicycle is the best bicycle for me, and I've accepted all the various trade-offs involved with bringing such a creature into my life.

She was definitely the prettiest, though.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My poor lady

Bad news from the shop: lady Raleigh needs a new rear wheel.
Oh lady Raleigh, you're suddenly so much pricier.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The squeaky [saddle] gets the grease

I'm really enjoying the Let's Go Ride a Bike Summer Games, not only for the thrill of potentially winning some truly fabulous prizes, but also because the various "challenges" provide that perfect little push to do things you might not otherwise think to do or get around to doing.
Part II: June 7-June 27: Learning Experiences
  • Perform a maintenance task — big or small!
  • Decorate your bike
  • Read a book about cycling
  • Carry a load on your bike — groceries, etc.
  • Test ride a different type of bike than you normally ride
Last night, I took on a (very small) maintenance task with my Brooks saddle.  I'd been noticing on some of my quieter rides that the springs on this sprung saddle had been making a small racket, which I think made Frida sound like an old lady-- which she is not!  After some basic googling, it seemed that a few drops of 3-in-One on all of the metal bits on the underside would clear things up... and really now, when has a little extra lube ever been a bad idea?

Normally, I would've just held a paper towel under the saddle to catch the drips and done it without taking anything apart, because I am lazy.  But since this would be my official maintenance task and I wanted to be thorough, I went all the way and removed the saddle from the seat post.  I'd also read that when you first get your Brooks baby, you should put a coat of Proofide on the underside to help protect it from water; which seems less of an issue when you have fenders and non-porous skirt guards, but hey, here was my chance to do it up right.
Hello, squeaky.

I used a long, thin paintbrush to help me reach some of the nooks and crannies that would otherwise have been tricky.  Fairly obvious, maybe, but I still felt pretty clever and resourceful when I thought of it!

As I was sitting there lovingly spreading goo across my saddle and smelling all of the oil and grease and leather, I felt very "Charles Ingalls in Little House in the Big Woods"-- all those scenes of him coming home on winter nights to sit by the fire, greasing his bear traps and filling his gunpowder horn and repairing the leather straps on his bullet bag.  The Little House books were a huge part of my childhood, and I still read the entire series an average of once a year, so this was a very comforting parallel.
Totally Ingalls style.

Now I just want to color some butter with carrot peels and eat a roasted pig's tail, and I'll be all set.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The wind beneath my wheels

Follow-up regarding the Gap shorts I mentioned earlier for riding in skirts.  I tried them out under my dress for the Tweed Ride (I promise to stop talking about this now), and they worked... kind of.
Here we are, riding along, with my lightweight skirt beginning to blow up and reveal the dress's lining.  Still, everything's basically where it should be.

Wheee!  Fun!  And then every so often, this would happen:
Photos from iamtonyang's flickr album
Wheee-oooaaa!  Can you read my internal monologue at this moment? 
"Feeling a little naked... but I know I'm wearing shorts... I'm going to continue on as if this is entirely what I intended.  Play it cool, play it cool!"  
I'm glad that from the photo it does look like those are shorts and not just underpants, because it kind of felt that way.  I mean, I don't think it would be Earth-shattering if my underpants were showing, but I was just a little thrown by how much less... substantial they felt in practice versus what I had imagined.  I like, too, how photos from the ride reveal that I spent much of the day pedaling a bit knock-kneed-- a valiant effort to preserve my modesty, as a lady ought.

Also, the shorts tie at the waist with a ribbon drawstring, which is very cute and everything, but it means the waist won't always lie as flat as one might like under thinner fabrics.  Again, not unworkable, but not ideal either. 

So there you have it: another idea that is perhaps better in theory than in practice.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Speaking of cats

My contribution to the Bike and Cat Gallery: This is Stella, examining my first bicycle last December.

Stella is a very photogenic cat.  When she's not sniffing bicycle wheels, she enjoys such things as
posing with typewriters,

attempting camouflage,

emphatic lolling,

and most frequently, relaxing in a ladylike fashion, with paws crossed just so.