Saturday, October 18, 2014

Surprising DC 1922 News Photo of Everyday Bike Commuter

Surprise find, photo of a Washington DC bicycle commuter in 1922

The Washington Herald., October 01, 1922, Sunday Edition, Page 7

"Miss M. Kearns, an employe of the Interior Department, has ridden her bicycle to the office daily for the past twenty years."

And later I find, by chance . . .

Same photograph, deposited by photographer Underwood & Underwood at the Library of Congress and online

Title: Woman rides bicycle for 25 years
Date Created/Published: c1922 Sept. 16.
Medium: 1 photographic print.
Summary: Miss M. Kearns with bicycle.
Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-68742 (b&w film copy neg.)
Rights Advisory: No known restrictions on publication.
Call Number: SSF - Bicycles and tricycles [item] [P&P]
Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
* Photo copyrighted by Underwood & Underwood.
* This record contains unverified, old data from caption card.
* Caption card tracings: Photog. I.; BI; Bicycles...; Shelf.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Internet Archive Captures of This Blog

At work I have some involvement with web archiving. Our program is selective in certain subjects as compared to the work done by the Internet Archive, which seems to try to take in as much of what is on the Internet as it can. (There doesn't appear to be a better way of defining the scope of the Internet Archives efforts, but it is clear that they don't harvest everything. For one thing, they respect robots.txt so if a site uses that to prevent indexing or crawling of the site, then IA won't harvest it.

This blog has existed since July 2010 and now has over 500 posts. It isn't clear to me if IA now attempts to harvest all of the blogs in Blogger or has some mechanism for choosing (such as size, or frequency of posting, or popularity, or ?? - whatever it is, IA has been archiving this blog since January 27 2012 a few times a year.

Calendar of captures (harvests) of my blog by the Internet Archive

Each year for which there are captures has a calendar of the months with dates circled when the site was harvested. In 2012 a harvest was made of the blog as it was on January 27 2012, the not again until September 22 (which resulted in the capture shown below). After that it was harvested more frequently but not on what looks like a regular schedule.

IA capture of this blog from September 22, 2012

Looking at the archived version of my site reveals that I haven't changed its formatting since 2012. The only obvious different in fact between now and then is that the ranking of "popular posts" has changed - in September 2012, a post about a Soviet time trial bike was the most read, but now it is a post about the book "Bicycling for Ladies" - this is the result of some outside sites linking to the "Bicycling for Ladies" post, I think. It seems clear that for this not-that-much-read blog, the "popular posts" remain at the top by virtue of readers seeing them there and clicking on them, for the most part.

If one looks at a (far) more famous bicycle blog, Bike Snob NYC as captured by the Internet Archive, it is clear that they have been capturing some Blogger blogs for a long time - the captures for Bike Snob go back to July 7, 2007 for a blog that had only started in June 2007! Perhaps it was the frequency of posting that caused this. In this case, the comparison of the then-blog and the today-blog is more revealing - Bike Snob has zero advertising in July 2007. And the subtitle for the blog was "Finally--a catty, gossipy, nasty, and critical blog for bicycles!" rather than the present "Systematically and mercilessly disassembling, flushing, greasing, and re-packing the cycling culture." (At some point during the next year Bike Snob changed the subtitle to what it is now, according to the versions in the Internet Archive.)

What is the significance of this? Particularly in terms of cycling? Probably none. Except that even pretty obscure stuff that may disappear from the Internet, including stuff about bicycles and cycling, may be stored away in the Internet Archive.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

1973 Raleigh Sports Bicycle & a 1973 Bike Repair Book

Someone who I know who is in a retirement home decided he wasn't going to be using his bike and offered it up on a listserv, with more information than that it was a "used bike in rideable condition" - when I learned it was a Raleigh, I decided to take it.

Raleigh Sports from 1973 - seen from above

In the 1960s when I lived overseas, my parents bought me a bike much like this one, with the three speed hub shift and full painted fenders. This is a somewhat later model but much the same thing - a 1973 "Sports" model. Despite the name, the bike was a utilitarian transportation vehicle-bicycle and not particularly sporty. However I remember it was great fun to run when I was in fourth and fifth grade. (Unfortunately later my parents decided we should get rid of it, which probably made sense since it would have been too small - but still, a little sad now.)

The Sports model is described by Sheldon Brown - including this paragraph:
Most modern bicycles are designed with the primary intent to catch your eye on the sales floor, and persuade you to buy. That is not what a Raleigh Sports was about...these were designed to provide solid, dependable transportation for the British public, at a time when only the upper classes had motorcars. These bikes were built to last 100 years, with reasonable care.

The condition, given that the bike is more than 40 years old, seems very good to me. It shows signs of even use and OK routine maintenance. The paint is chipped in many places and the handle bars and other chromed components have rust spots. On the other hand, the brakes work OK and the three speed shift works well, although it required some adjusting. The pedals spin better than all the pedals on my newer, nominally better bikes (which is food for thought ~). Unfortunately at some point someone removed and replaced the Brooks leather saddle with a very crummy modern foam thing, which is extremely ugly. For now I am just riding this bike to and from Shirlington nearby and it is fine for that.

Drive train works flawlessly

The chips in the pain are visible, but don't affect the way the bike works - and it does work

The fellow who gave me the bike more or less insisted I take a helmet and this book, published in 1973, which gave me the first clue as to what year the bike was purchased (although the hub is dated clearly, so that was an easy determination). This seems to be the first edition of "Glenn's Complete Bicycle Manual" - at that time it wasn't unreasonable to publish a book with that title that has reasonably complete coverage of issues one might encounter on most quality bicycles.

Cover of "Glenn's Complete Bicycle Manual" that may yet turn out to be useful

Sample pages showing photographs to provide guidance on how to make bicycle repairs correctly

Note hot pants-wearing model demonstrating a bike with the saddle at the correct height

Page with one of about a dozen photos of young woman on bicycle in then-in-vogue so-called hot pants. In one photo, Glenn is shown measuring her with his tape measure. It is a somewhat wacky aspect to this otherwise straightforward and serious book.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Pro Cycling on $10 a Day by Phil Gaimon (Book Review)

Road Rash and Ramen Noodles: True Tales of Pro Cycling on $10 Dollars a DayRoad Rash and Ramen Noodles: True Tales of Pro Cycling on $10 Dollars a Day by Phil Gaimon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The first odd thing about this is that the print edition I read had the title that the Kindle edition carries, Pro Cycling on $10 a Day: From Fat Kid to Euro Pro. Both editions are from Velo Press. This seems . . . odd.

Gaimon blogs for VeloPress, for example this blog post. Having read a few of these, I was hoping for an enjoyable reading experience and I was a little let down by what I found, thus three stars.

I am a long time bike commuter and I have the usual too-many-bikes and even blog about cycling history myself but I realize that my interest in professional bicycle racing these days is pretty low. I was more interested a few years ago, but unlike those who were turned off by doping, I am turned off by the adoption of new bicycle technology and parts that are clearly I will never adopt, I suppose largely because of the cost but also because the marginal gains are so small. And yet I still look at VeloNews many days of the week and read a few stories and vaguely follow some of the big stage races. So one question is why I even read a book like this - I guess because bicycle racers are the most noticed practitioners of cycling in our society and because I have read a number of such books and enjoyed some of them in the past.

Phil Gaimon is now a rider for Garmon-Sharp. The book (memoir?) in an autobiographical account of what it took to get to that point, including a longer-than-usual amount of time in what amounts to the minor leagues of cycling before arriving in the big leagues.

Right at the start, Gaimon announces he is clean and that in this his book is different than the Tyler Hamilton etc body of work that has been published by former dopers. OK fine; the attempt at humor he used to announce this at the start of the book alerted me to a problem I would have throughout, which is that Gaimon has one sense of humor and I have a different one and most of what is recounted as humorous didn't seem very funny to me. He also boasts that "these words are mine" (that no ghostwriter helped) which is fine, but one wonders about the editing - the writing could have been better.

Aside from not being written by a doper, a major plus this book has over recent cyclist memoirs by Tyler Hamilton types is that it skips details on his upbringing and proceeds quickly to what most readers are interested in. So that is a plus.

The book has a "confession," a preface, and introduction, then eight chapters and an epilogue. The chapters are entirely chronological. Fine - but (I guess) because he is someone who has published lots of blog-length writing, each chapter is subdivided with headings in bold, like "stop and smell the ham sandwich" or "speeding gets you there faster." Since the book flows chronologically in its telling, there is no particular reason for this approach except to simplify transitions, or so it seems to me. Perhaps this is more about how I read than a valid criticism, but I feel the book would be a more pleasing read without this choppy approach. (A Dog in Hat, also published by VeloPress, demonstrates this is possible - it is a much more flowing read.)

VeloPress is a niche publisher of cycling books, but I got mine from a public library. Presumably the audience is expected to be people who know a fair amount of bicycle racing, particularly in the United States, because there was little background information provided if the reader didn't already know these things. (There is a silly glossary at the book that in several pages tells you more about Gaimon's sense of humor than anything else.) What I'm getting at is that readers who don't know something about professional bicycle racing and races in the U.S. may lack the context to understand some of this.

I pay far more attention to my local professional baseball team than I do to professional cycling and I have the strong impression that the baseball players often have rather juvenile ways of acting out to amuse themselves and others. I think Gaimon went further than necessary to provide examples of such behavior among his fellow cyclists.

Gaimon criticizes a few people quite directly by name; since most of these names didn't mean much to me this provided mild entertainment but I assume some of these people are pretty annoyed. He has a particular problem with Francisco Mancebo, to the extent that he ends up something like the villain - he is still muttering about him in the last pages of the book.

The highlight moments of the book are when he retells some of his race experiences in detail, when his unusual choice of words works in combination with his efforts to convey what is like for him in the moment. There are a lot of good moments like that in the book.

I hoped for more than I got, but it is good. You have to give Gaimon credit for trying.

View all my reviews of cycling books on Goodreads.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Health Benefits of Cycling (1890s)

From "Plain home talk about the human system--the habits of men and women--the cause and prevention of disease--our sexual relations and social natures" (1896)

Cycling is recommended for exercise to improve health:

Among popular modes of exercise, outing, and "sport," bicycle riding is the fin-de-siecle craze of the nineteenth century, and has, without doubt, tempted more people of all classes to healthful effort than any other form of exercise. It has been taken up by men, women, and children, of all ages from three to eighty, and is even being recommended as a new "cure-all" for a large variety of common complaints. Many physicians have not only experimented with its effects upon themselves, but also made a close study of the effects upon the people in general. Veteran riders have been subjected to inspection, to discover if any impairment of physique or function has been occasioned by it, but the tests thus far reported are very favorable to riding ,; the wheel." The lung capacity is markedly increased (about half an inch), and the heart (itself mainly a bundle of muscles) is somewhat increased in size and power — an effect which may in some cases be carried too far. In short, the whole muscular system shows development, for the muscles of the back, chest and arms are largely called into action, as well as those of the legs. Even in the men who ride "hump-backed" it has not been possible to discover any permanent physical deformity : but taking a spin, those who carry bicycling to excess, especially when not originally extra robust, are likely to suffer from nervous exhaustion, or by over-strain of the heart and arteries; and many sudden deaths, some from apoplexy, have followed speedy or long "runs."

Woman depicted riding a bike in an ad in The official directory of the World's Columbian exposition, May 1st to October 30th, 1893.

Text of the ad:

IF YOU ARE A BUSINESS MAN, to clear your brain, to smooth off the rough edges of business cares. The Rambler Bicycle affords a medium/air excellence for "comfortable exercise."

IF IN POOR HEALTH s you can regain good health through the judicious use of the Bicycle — the Rambler Spring Frame reduces excessive vibration and makes exercise safe.

IF IN GOOD HEALTH,, Bicycle Riding will keep you so. In your children the Bicycle lays the foundation of a healthful and useful life. A good intellect reaches its highest excellence only in a healthy body.

IF YOU ARE A WOMAN, the Bicycle affords a most pleasant means of obtaining exercise, which you, of all others, most need. Riding any Bicycle is exercise — riding Rambler Bicycles is "comfortable and luxurious exercise."

IF YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL, Bicycle Riding will preserve your beauty. Exercise means health. There is no real Beauty without Good Health.

IF YOU ARE NOT A BEAUTY, you may at least make yourself more attractive. The Bicycle brightens the eye, puts a flush of health on the cheek, takes you out to nature, to the pure fresh air. They are yours ; enjoy them — do it "luxuriously" on a Rambler Bicycle.

Today any number of health and exercise benefits are claimed for bicycling - just Google "health exercise bicycling."

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Innovative Bicycle Design Not Appreciated (1893, today)

Image from page 89 of "The Wheel and cycling trade review" (1888)
Caption: First annual run of the International Crank Inventors Cycling Club

This is something a cartoon in the March 3 1893 issue of the "Wheeling and Cycling Trade Review". At this point inventors were constantly developing, patenting, and trying to sell innovative new bicycle designs of all sorts. For the bicycle trade generally this was likely a little tiresome, thus the attempt at something like humor.

A Kickstarter for an innovative bicycle design that is a little too innovative, apparently, judging by its lack of success.

It probably would have surprised the cyclists and bicycle sellers of the 1890s to learn that people are still trying to overhaul the basic design of the bicycle today.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Life is a Wheel: Love, Death, Etc., and a Bike Ride Across America (Book Review)

Life is a Wheel: A Passage Across America by BicycleLife is a Wheel: A Passage Across America by Bicycle by Bruce Weber

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

A few years ago when I read the NYTimes more regularly, I saw an article by this fellow describing part of a bike trip he was making solo coast to coast across the US. I read it but for some reason I found it less than compelling and didn't bother to try to find other articles in the series.

More recently while trawling in an online catalog for new-ish books about cycling, I found a record for this book, which he created by reworking and expanding on the articles published in the Times. Somewhat oddly, the sub-title as reported in GoodReads isn't the same as what is on the book itself, which is "Love, Death, Etc., and a Bike Ride Across America" (and not "A Passage Across America by Bicycle").

Keeping in mind that the GoodReads "my rating" reflects _my_ impression of the book and is not a more general (or generic) assessment of the book as others might find it, I gave it one star because I simply lost interest (as in completely - I stopped reading it at page 83). People have been writing books describing their long distance trips by bike since bikes were first invented (a particular favorite of mine is "Around the United States by Bicycle" published in 1906 - the authors managed to ride at least a bit in each of the states in the continental U.S.) and there is a kind of continuum from "more about the _bike_ trip" to "more about the _author_."

Around the United States by Bicycle (1906) - route map

When on page 83 of the print edition he starts in on "background" about one of his past girlfriends (not his current girlfriend at the time of the trip), that was the end for me. I felt like this was too much memoir about this fellow who had drawn me in with a promise to describe a bike trip that only appeared in the narrative from time to time and was not sufficient to hold my interest.

View all my reviews of cycling books in Goodreads.