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.