Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Kittens at work!

I meant to write about this a couple of weeks ago, but just didn't get around to it. One of my co-workers, Al, recently rescued a trio of tiny kittens that a neighbor had found in the grass catcher of his lawn mower. They were about two weeks old at the time, and TINY! The first Saturday Al and his wife had the little ones, his wife had plans the whole day, so Al brought them in to work, where he fed them and took care of their needs in between fixing and assembling and selling trikes. I'd never seen kittens so young, and it was just amazing to me how tiny and frail they are at that age. And cute!!!!

Here's little Chelsea enjoying a meal in Al's hands. And no, contrary to what someone posted on my Flickr page, that's not Phil's Tenacious Oil he's being fed!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Macgyver on a bike?

I've seen some inventive repairs in my life, both in my bicycle work and theatre work, but yesterday a fella came in off the trail with an improvisation that really surprised all of us. Alas, I was unable to get a photo, but I'll try to describe in words what he did.

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

Summer Evenings!

I've been lucky to have the chance to enjoy some lovely summer evenings of late... Last night, on my way home, I stumbled upon our local "Concerts on the Green" event, and listened to a fun bluegrass group as the evening cooled things down. Families on blankets and lawn chairs, some other folks with bikes... even a couple of our customers with their tadpole trikes. A classic summery event.

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

A Field Trip!

Yesterday, I went with John (owner of bikes@vienna, my employer) to the Patagonia store in Georgetown, in Washington, DC. We had been invited to show off folding bikes to the staff and customers at their shop as part of their "Bike to Work Week", which strangely falls several weeks after most other folks' "Bike to Work Week".

It was a slow day of business for them, unfortunately, but it was still fun to do and we did get the word out a bit about folders. We had a sampling of Bromptons with us... each of the three bar styles as well as each of the gearing systems we have in stock - two, three, and six speed. In addition we had catalogs and pricing sheets to hand out, along with some freestanding banners provided by Brompton. Several of the shop staff took test rides, as did some of the customers. All seemed to really enjoy themselves and were surprised at how easy and fun they were to ride.

As it turns out, this may have been a good "practice run" for us, as the folks at Patagonia would like us to come back on a busier day to show off the bikes. Anything we can do to get the word out helps, so we'll make the trip down there again.

While I was there, I also took the opportunity to take one of the bikes out on the street, where I unfolded it, hopped on, rode around a bit, then folded it back up again... all in front of a bus full of tourists. I clearly caught a lot of people's attention, as I heard comments as I did this. Next time I'll make sure I have business cards and brochures to hand to the folks on the bus!

Friday, June 11, 2010

A Ride On My "New" 1978 Proteus

Well, Spring has settled in, and Summer is just round the corner, so I've been trying to get out and ride, with limited success. This week, on my "weekend" (Tuesday/Wednesday) I did manage to get out for a short ride on the lovely 1978 Proteus Design road bike I bought last fall.

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

2010 Cirque du Cyclisme

Regular readers of this blog will know what Le Cirque du Cyclisme is... a gathering of classic bike enthusiasts and their wonderful bikes. This year marked the 13th year of the event, and the third here in Northern Virginia. A few years back, when it was in Greensboro, NC, I managed to get down for the weekend, and attended the Saturday seminars, as well as the Sunday bike show/swap meet. Since it moved to Virginia, I've only been able to get time off work for a few hours on Sunday, so I make a fairly quick lap of the show floor and peruse some of the fun offerings at various folks' tables full of bikes, frames, and parts. Fun time all around, made more fun this year by bringing a friend along who had never been.

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