Hey gang! I've written a little bit about some changes in my life here, but I haven't sat down to write about the biggest change. Until now.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Hey gang! I've written a little bit about some changes in my life here, but I haven't sat down to write about the biggest change. Until now.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
... with books! Books that those of you of a certain age (can you say Boomer?) might very well recognize.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Sunday, August 29, 2010
No, really... they still make them! The look just the same as they used to... long, thin white sticks of sugar, corn syrup, corn starch, tapioca, gelatin, and artificial flavors. And they taste... well, awful, honestly. One of those things that makes you wonder what you were thinking as a kid! The packaging is the same as I recall from childhood...with one exception: the word "cigarette" no longer appears anywhere on the package. Other than that, take a look, and you'll see they look just the same... names like "Lucky Lights" and "Kings", in boxes that look like cigarette boxes, complete with a fake tax stamp on the top.
Really strange... given current thinking about smoking, you'd never imagine someone would think these were a good idea still. Go figure.
Friday, August 13, 2010
I've tried to get a Centurion Yahoo group off the ground, but it's suffered from a remarkable lack of activity. If you're curious it can be found here:
And a few more photos of my bike can be found at:
Sunday, July 18, 2010
Friday, July 2, 2010
Folks who know me also know of my fondness for road bikes from that era built by Trek. Back when I bought my first Trek, in 1980, they were still a fairly obscure company, not the dominant force in the industry they are today. It was kind of "you mean someone is building high quality bikes in Wisconsin????" at the time. And back then, they were largely handbuilt, using what at the time were pretty standard construction methods, but which today are considered "classic" (or antiquated, depending on your point of view!). I've been fortunate enough to own a total of five of their bikes from this period, and the 530 is one of the three I currently own. It's one of their more "racing oriented" models, so it feels a bit more nimble and agile than my other two, which were "sport touring" bikes.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Apparently, somewhere along his ride, or perhaps over the course of several rides, 4 of his 5 chain ring bolts (chain rings are the big sprockets attached to the cranks that you turn with the pedals) had worked loose and fallen off the bike. When the rider realized this, he figured he needed a temporary fix to get him to the nearest shop, so he turned to something near at hand... grass stems! Seriously... he used a number of strong, fibrous grass stems to TIE the chainrings in place! The amazing thing is, it worked. I'm not sure how far he rode that way, but any distance is pretty remarkable.
So, next time you have a mechanical problem on your bike... maybe you don't have to reach for your cell phone first!
Monday, June 21, 2010
And tonight I enjoyed a walk along our local rail trail and was treated to another installment of the Amazing Firefly Display! I don't know if they are actually more active or abundant this year, but it sure seems that way. I've had a number of walks lately graced with the luminous display of these amazing little critters. Magical.
All the while, whenever I'm outside in the evening these days, it seems the air is filled with frog song. One of my favorite sounds of summer!
So, where you grew up, was it "firefly" or "lightning bug?" I recall both, but I can't be sure which was New York and which was Maryland. Hmmmmm...
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Friday, June 11, 2010
It was a gorgeous day... the sun was out, it was warm, but not unbearably hot, and the humidity that we'd suffered with for a few days had mercifully blown away. A perfect day for a ride. I headed out on our local rail-trail for a nice, relaxing ride.
Aside from a few trips back and forth to work (a really short ride), this was really my first ride on this bike, so I was anxious to get a feel for it. I have to say, it's everything I hoped for... light and nimble, but not squirrely. I like my road bikes to be responsive, but not stiff as a board, and this bike fits those criteria nicely. Built from the classic Reynolds 531 double butted tubing, there's just enough flex for comfort and a lively ride. There's a reason this tubing was a hallmark of fine bicycles for years, and I'm fortunate enough to own several bikes made from it.
In addition to the frame tubing and construction, the bike features very high quality components, most from Campagnolo's classic Nuovo Record group. Beautiful, durable, and smooth in operation, Campy's parts were another sign of a fine bike back in the day, and still are, although Shimano has captured the lion's share of the market today. One relatively unusual feature of the Proteus is the use of Campy's bar end shift levers, which really weren't that common back then. Most Campy equipped bikes used their downtube mounted shifters, while bikes that came with "bar-cons" tended to use the very fine SunTour Power Ratchet model. Frankly, the SunTours are better, but it's fun to have a drive train that is "tutti Campagnolo", even with bar-cons.
As it turns out, the one problem I encountered on my ride was with the shifters... Shortly after I turned for home, the tension screw on the right lever began loosening up, ultimately getting so loose that the derailleur inevitably moved to the smallest cog in back, severely limiting my gearing choices. Basically, I had two to choose from... the highest gear of about 100 "gear inches", or one slightly lower at about 80. Lucky for me the trail is pretty flat! And silly me, when I left for the ride, I grabbed only a spare tube and tire levers. Mr. Be Prepared was anything but! Ah well, it was still a fun ride.
More photos of the bike can be seen at: 1978 Proteus Design Road Bike
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
All in all a good show, but I got the feeling there were fewer bikes this year. There just seemed to be more space between the bikes, and it just felt more sparse all around. And this year there seemed to be a distinct lack of "city" bikes and other bikes outside the realm of road bikes. Granted, the event generally does focus on "classic lightweights", so the fine steel road bike is the norm, but in years past there seemed to be more mixte framed bikes, and bikes with upright handlebars and more casual or utilitarian use in their design. As a fan of such bikes, particularly the high quality ones, it was a little disappointing.
That's not to say there weren't some lovely bikes to ogle... there certainly were. In particular, I was taken with the two late 70s Treks here:
I've owned a 1980 Trek for 30 years now, and it's a lovely bike (you may have read about it here before). I now currently own three late 70s/early 80s Treks, and I'm a big fan of that brand in that era. The two shown are really great examples... not truly "original equipment" bikes, but set up with mostly components of that era, as one might have customized them at the time. Which makes perfect sense that Trek sold both framesets and complete bikes. My own 1980 started as a complete, standard model 414, but I immediate swapped out the wheels, and over the years, altered any number of things, to the point where she now has a mix of eclectic parts ranging from 80s to 90s era. It makes for a fun and functional bike, if not a showpiece.
One other high point of the show was meeting framebuilder Doug Fattic and seeing the fixture that he uses for framebuilding. Unlike many such items, Doug's is set up so you can use the fixture itself to lay out the design of a frame, rather than starting with a paper drawing. It looks like quite the setup, and I'd love a chance to try one out sometime.
I keep thinking I need to carve out some time off for the event and really immerse myself in the whole weekend of seminars, banquets, auctions, and bike show. And I keep telling myself "this year I'll show some of my bikes"... but with a full time job as the head mechanic at a small, busy bike shop, it's hard to really make a good case for taking that much time off at this point in the season, when we are really, really busy. But maybe someday....
More photos are at:
Cirque du Cyclisme, Jun 6, 2010
Thursday, May 27, 2010
This past Sunday, I participated in the first of what may be many "Brommie Yummie" rides... a sort of progressive dining by folding bike event. A group of intrepid Brompton owners rode about lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, dining on doughnuts, vegan baked goods, and English "chip shop" fare. Read more about it here:
The photo above is of some of the riders walking through an unexpected street fair. All part of the fun!
Below is the organizer of the ride, Steven Huang, standing in "crane stance" among our bikes, gathered in a compass circle on the site of the former Todd Shipyard in Red Hook Brooklyn.
More photos are at: Brommie Yummie Ride, May 23, 2010
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Yesterday, I found myself with a set of bikes in my repair stand that made quite a contrast. I tried to get a good photo of the pair, but I fear that it really doesn't do justice to the strange duo I was working on.
To the right, you can see a classic old Schwinn Twinn, the basic tandem out of the grand old Scwhinn company in Chicago. In contrast to the very high end Paramount tandems of the era, this one is a heavy, sturdy, simple workhorse. I won't hazard a guess on the weight, but suffice to say it took some effort and grunting to get it up there in the stand. These were the bikes that were the staple of many a rental fleet, especially a beach towns, where many a happy couple cruised the boardwalk on sunny days. Sturdy, welded steel frame, stout steel wheels, all steel components... and one gear with a coaster brake in the back. Not the kind of bike you'd want to take on long, hilly rides, but for a mellow outing with a friend or sweetheart, perhaps a picnic midway, it was just dandy. This one was found at a yard sale for next to nothing, and I'm sure it will give the new owner a lot of smiles.
On the left, and difficult to make out, is the main frame and back wheel of a much newer tandem.... a tandem recumbent to be more specific. Even more specifically, it's from the Vision line of recumbents, and aptly named the Double Vision (for all you Foreigner fans?). It doesn't look like much without the seats and front wheel, but when fully together this is quite an impressive bike. It seems to go on forever... a very long bike that makes squeezing it in the shop a challenge. I generally find myself driven to sardonically calling them "Battlestar Gallactica" when we have one in the shop, and everyone in the shop knows which bike to which I'm referring. Don't get me wrong, they're good bikes, and the owners I've talked to all love them. They're just a bit of a pain to maneuver around our small repair area.
I actually have a bit of a soft spot for the Double Vision, of all the tandem recumbents. A number of years ago, we had one come into the non-profit bike shop where I worked in Portland, and all of us mechanics just had to give it a try. I have to say, it was a challenge. As I'd never ridden a recumbent previously at that point, and had exactly one tandem ride under my belt, I could not get solid control over it on the first try. Luckily for me, a colleague had a lot more experience with both, so he took me for a spin around on it, with me in the "stoker" seat. It was a blast, honestly.
Anyway, it was a funny situation yesterday with such two very different tandems in the same repair stand. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, each represents a very different set of requirements and limitations, as well as price range. Both could be a lot of fun to ride. And I find it fun to work on such very different bikes. That's one of the joys of my work... I get to handle all manner of bikes. Do I have my favorites? Sure, and I have those that I'd just as soon not work on, if I can skip it. But I honestly enjoy the variety of working on such a wid variety... it's one of my versions of fun!
(Oh, and in the window behind the tandems is a Brompton P6R in Apple Green. I seem to have become the arbiter of what goes in the front window, and it's usually a Brompton of some type. Big surprise, I'm sure.)
Sunday, April 4, 2010
Saturday, April 3, 2010
At the shop, folks are coming in with their bikes, in the time honored tradition of everyone remembering they own a bike in the same narrow window of time. We went from a virtually empty repair ticket board to one that's chock full of tickets, with turnaround time for most repairs now about a week and a half. Ah, if only some of these people had thought to bring their bikes to us in January or February.
In other realms... tiny traces of green appeared, then blossoms... overnight the forsythia outside door went from bare to glorious gold about a week ago. The first signs of spring leaves are cropping up on the branch tips.
And tonight, I extended my ride home, to take in a couple of marshes and the strident song of spring peepers! Mixed in were a couple other species of frogs or toads... I need to look up what they were sometime, since I don't know all the calls. And a Fowler's toad hopped away in my headlight beam as I rolled down the path. Finally, as I was headed home, a red fox hesitated, then bolted across my path, disappearing into the brush.
A lovely night.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Here's a shot of the trio of gents who won the "Best Dressed Male" prize, a lovely Brooks Barbican messenger bag!
The Philadelphia Daily News has some photos up, and I show up in two of them:
I'm in photos 5 and 8, behind and to the left of the woman dressed as a stewardess, who I suspect is the sole reason I appear in any photos at all. It pays to be near one of the winners of "Best Dressed", apparently!
I've also posted some of my own photos on Flickr:
Brompton US Championship, March 20, 2010
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Steve was all decked out in a boxer's robe and trunks, with gloves, for that "Rocky" look. I thought with the race being in Philly and all, he'd be a sure bet for Best Dressed Male. No such luck... it went to a trio of guys in velvet coats, plastic top hats and shiny silver pants.
Steve, by the way, designed the t shirt for today's race, as well as the 2010 Brompton World Championship shirt. He works at Bfold in NYC part of the year.
Monday, March 15, 2010
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Thank you to all my readers for your understanding and patience.
Monday, March 1, 2010
That's not to say 2010 wasn't good... just that my time was measured in hours rather than days. I still enjoyed the show and saw some amazing, wonderful bikes. And I got to visit the folks from Brompton, who sent Katharine from their UK offices, as well as their US agent, Ed Rae. I spent a fair chunk of time at their booth today, and it seemed they got a good amount of attention and interest. I think people were suprised to see a folding bike there, even more so one made in England. But the Brompton is essentially a handmade bike, so it fits in better than one might think.
After visiting with those folks, I then went on a lap around the show, checking out the various builders' work and also checking out some of the tools and materials of the trade. As in 2008, I found the show inspiring, and I hope it helps get some more momentum behind my efforts to get my own framebuilding moving forward. It always helps to see other peoples' work, to see the kinds of things that folks get excited about as well.
For me, bikes built from a more "transportation" perspective appeal to me. To my mind that encompasses commuting and errand bikes, as well as touring and randonneuring cycles. And luckily for me, that range of bikes was well represented at the show. It's lovely to see the various special touches builders are incorporating into bikes designed to get you and some stuff somewhere. Custom racks, classy bags and bag hardware, fenders, lighting systems, all integrated into the design of the bike... it makes for an elegant, practical, and artful bicycle. One of the nicest bikes I saw was this "mixte" from Yipsan, complete with custom rack with some lovely woodwork incorporated into it. The customer apparently has a thing for sunflowers, and that was an inspiration for the overall design for the bike. It's not merely a beautiful bike, however... aside from the rack and lighting system, the bike also has an internally geared Shimano Alfine hub and disc brakes, which makes for a solid, reliable and worry free bike.
Sacha White, aka "Vanilla Bicycles" of Portlan, OR, was also there, and par for the course, showed some impeccable work. Below is one of his interpretations of a "practical" bike. Gorgeous machine, and eminently useful.
In a different vein, Richard Sachs was there, showing his impeccable work, slanted mostly toward the racing set:
Then, in the realm of the whimsical and weird, there was this bike from Ground Up that incorporated a rearward facing "flamethrower"... a system incorporating some sort of fuel compressed in a tank, with a nozzle facing aft over a small burner cup, similar to a tiki torch, which ignites the vaporized fuel! Photos of the system in action are quite amazing!
And finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't include at least one photo of this amazingly shiny, sparkly bit of bicycle "eye candy" from Cherubim... an amazingly finished and polished machine utilizing some older classic parts, highly plated and polished. Gorgeous!
More photos can be seen at: NAHBS February 28, 2010
Also, Google NAHBS 2010 to find other folks' pictures... I'm sure there are lots that are better than mine. I'm still getting the hang of shooting these bike shows.
Friday, February 19, 2010
Just a lovely evening... crisp air, a crescent moon in a bright sky, and I spotted a Cooper's Hawk swoop into a tree just ahead of me at one point. I stopped and watched him for a minute, then he suddenly took off. As I followed him with my eyes, I saw another, smaller Cooper's coming from the other direction. They both made arcing turns to fall into parallel flight, then flew away into the darkening sky. Beautiful! Perhaps a mating pair, since the second one was noticeably smaller than the first.
Oh, and before you drive yourself crazy looking for the hawk in the picture above, he's not there. This is just a nice shot of the moon through the branches of a tree that I shot a few minutes later.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Well, um... we did! As you know if you live here, or if you've followed my blog. In fact in February we've gotten something around a total of 30" of snow, all in the space of a week. So as that series of storms was descending upon us, I decided to give it a shot and ordered a pair of snowshoes online. There were a few snags along the way... but yesterday around noon, there they were, thanks to UPS! So I decided to waste no time and headed out to try them out on... you guessed it, my beloved C&O Canal!
What a blast! It's an amazing sensation to be out in deep snow and to be able to walk ON it, instead of sinking deep and having to slog through it. It's all about surface area, I suppose, and these suckers have plenty of that. Sizing of snowshoes is based on weight, so for me a 30" x 9" snowshoe is the best choice. They look huge but once they're on, they're really not ungainly. Maybe it's because I read and heard many warnings, but I really didn't ever feel like I was having to work hard to avoid tripping on my own feet. I'd heard that was one of the adjustments you have to make, essentially adopting a wider than normal stance, but I didn't really have to think about it. Perhaps my mind and body compensated unconsciously, or perhaps I naturally walk a little bowlegged (I'm suddenly reminded of a recent Prairie Home Companion "Lives of the Cowboys" sketch... but I digress!). Either way, I found it easy and natural to walk in them.
And what a gorgeous day! A little chilly, but not windy, and while it was mostly overcast, it was still lovely to be out in the snow in solitude. I think the whole two plus hours I was out I saw exactly two people, both on skis. The towpath was covered in snow, as were some parts of the canal, and the woods to either side wore it like a soft white blanket. View of the river were as always spectacular, and the water itself was an amazing shade of green. There were a lot of ducks out and about, and a couple of kingfishers (skittish birds!), and a fair number of deer. I managed to get a few good pictures of the deer, and even some nice shots of the ducks. Even the trees were remarkable, with their branches and trunks standing out in dark contrast to the snow.
Take a look at the flickr album Feb 17, 2010 Snowshoeing on C&O Canal to see more shots, including a series of closeups I took of the severed end of a large, fallen tree branch. A surprisingly beautiful thing.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
More snow that is. We were sitting here with about two feet, give or take, already on the ground, and then yesterday another storm rolled in, bringing with it somewhere around another foot of snow and lots of wind. It may still be coming down a little in some parts of the DC region, but I think it's now mostly the wind we have to worry about.
Anyway, I went for a nice long walk in the woods and around Vienna today, while it was still coming down.
Apparently, the local NBC affiliate sent this reporter and her cameraman out to stand next to Maple Ave, in Vienna, and talk about the snow. We're weird in the DC area... weather is a major news story. I suspect any of you in the midwest are thinking "this is news????"
Anyway, one of the featured topics was apparently the Vienna Inn, a local institution, a tiny little bar/restaurant with great chili dogs that seemed to be the only open business in town. Note the number of cars in the lot... and I'm sure more folks walked! Busy day for them.
More photos can be seen here:
Feb 10, 2010
Monday, February 8, 2010
I went out on Saturday for a nice long walk in the woods behind my place, and took a BUNCH of pictures while the snow was still falling. It was probably a good two feet at that point, and I think we topped out around 30" here, but I don't know that for sure. That's me after the walk. If it looks odd, it's because my right arm is sticking out, holding the camera.
And here's a shot from Sunday, and my walk in to the shop. I'm lucky that a good part of my commute involves a walk through the woods. This is the small stream I cross every morning, looking very wintry and lovely.
Feb 7, 2010, day after storm