Saturday, May 21, 2016

"Modern" Ambassador to Vietnam is a Cyclist

Ted Osius’ path to becoming U.S. ambassador to Vietnam began with bicycle diplomacy, soon after relations with Hanoi were restored in 1995. As a consular officer, he pedaled the countryside and endeared himself to the Vietnamese. Osius is gay and married, and represents a modern America: “I'm white, my husband's black and our kids are brown,” he says. Special correspondent Mike Cerre reports.

In the 1990s Ambassador Osius rode 1,200 miles throughout Vietnam as a consular officer and he still rides around the country as ambassador there today.

Of course, Secretary of State Kerry is well known as a serious recreational cyclist himself. The most amazing U.S. cycling diplomat in my view though was Alvey Adee who rode to and from work in Washington by bicycle over 100 years ago into his 70s. He would also travel to France to take bicycle trips in the countryside (until World War I, anyway).

Alvey Adee of Dept of State & Bicycle
Yes, John Kerry is 72 and Adee was 72, but times have changed and Adee didn't have the support for cycling Kerry has

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Bike to Work Day - I Don't

1995 Trek with Michelin Run'r tires installed
Why don't I want to ride this (or some other) bike to work tomorrow?

OK, I guess I'm kind of a grouch, or something. My thought is that since I ride all the other work days, I can take this day off, not just from riding a bike to work, but take the day off from work altogether. The effort of bike advocates to identify a day when good weather can be assured seems to me to miss the point, which is that bike commuting isn't a big deal; no need to wait for perfect weather.


Bike to Work Day, 2011
Apparently this was the last time I rode to work on Bike to Work day, in 2011

If we look at the above photograph, maybe another problem I have with Bike to Work day is that it is an opportunity to encounter a bike traffic jam. Gee, uhm, yeah no.

Now don't get me wrong - I am glad to see more people cycling, and riding in a line like this that might be going more slowly than I otherwise would enjoy is fine too, but the kind of overnight increase in the number of cyclists on some of these trails demonstrates immediately that the existing cycling infrastructure is not all it should be if biking to work is supposed to be a serious alternative (and not a one day celebration). Much of the Mount Vernon trail, shown above, is not wide enough to support the kind of heavy use it gets on Bike to Work day. Where are the pedestrians supposed to go?

Bike to work day poster Moscow 2015
Even the Russians have bike2work day, as evidenced by this poster from last year - this year, same day as here in America!

Another reason why Bike to Work day annoy me is that it is an excuse for the Washington Post to publish more dumb stories about bicycling. Like this one, Biking to work is great. If you can put up with the cars. And the weather. This listicle complains about taxis and cars passing too closely, then moves on to complain that you might get wet, "Riding a bike in wet conditions can too often make people feel like they’ve been returned to a time when they tottered around in soggy diapers." Generally this is baloney - if you ride a bike with fenders, it is amazing how rarely the weather is sufficiently downpour-ish that you get wet-wet. I've been doing this for 15+ years. Really, it isn't that big a problem. "Soggy diapers" - is a reference like that what attracts clicks?

The front page of the Washington Post weekend section on Friday had an illustration showing cyclists around the Lincoln Memorial and a few pedestrians with no cars at all. A caption reads, "A capital idea: forget Metro, ditch the car and start pedaling - Washington on two wheels." Framing the discussion this way is a bit dim - for most people it is an unrealistic idea to make a complete changeover to cycling. I get that the Metro problems present what seems like an opportunity to encourage more cycling, but if we could just get people to make one in ten of their trips usually made by car using a bicycle, that would be grand.

People in cars, myself included, don't seem to need "super fun events" in order to decide to use them

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Cyclist's Bucket List (Book Review)

The Cyclist's Bucket List: A Celebration of 75 Quintessential Cycling ExperiencesThe Cyclist's Bucket List: A Celebration of 75 Quintessential Cycling Experiences by Ian Dille

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The inside of the dust jacket states that the book "catalogs both the iconic and little known-the accessible and aspirational-sensory and emotional experiences that instill cyclists with a deep passion for the sport."

Well, perhaps. The book is organized geographically, by continent (more or less). The number of "experiences" described per region varies considerably - Africa gets one (although it crosses the entire continent north-to-south) while North America gets 33.

The type of "cycling experiences" described range from truly iconic professional races such as Paris-Roubaix to identification of places that would be nice to ride, such as the San Juan Islands of Washington state or Moab of Utah. The length and quality of the descriptions also varies widely.

For a coffee table sort of book, there are, when you stop to think about it, remarkably few photographs. Several of the two or three page descriptions, such as of RAGBRAI, have no photographs at all. Other than a few photos of the Tour d'Afrique at the beginning (provided by the Tour's organization) the rest seem to be purchases from Getty Images or the like, not produced for this book, shot by different photographers. They all meet the requirements of typical Bicycling magazine "dramatic place bicycle photography."

There is some "get there" and other on-the-spot information that might be helpful to someone who chose to read about one of these rides with an interest in actually doing one, but not much - this is in no way (OK, perhaps in a slight way) a reference book for embarking on these rides.

A public library near you may have this book. Sure, check it out, look through it, return it. It won't disappoint in that case. But this is not a cycling book to own and return to again and again.

View all my reviews in GoodReads of cycling books.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Official Handbook [of 1890] of the League of American Wheelmen

Official hand-book / League of American Wheelmen
Published in New York City in 1890. From the collections of the Library of Congress.

Explanation of the contents on the title page:

In my previous blog post I linked to a book "Tourists' Manual and Book of Information of Value to all Bicyclers" published in 1892, two years after this time. The illustrations of the two books show the evolution during this brief period so that by 1892 a "safety bicycle" already looked much like a modern bicycle, as opposed to the safety bicycles of 1890, which look a little odd or strange by comparison.

Bicycle design is still evolving towards what we would recognize as "modern" in 1890

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Tourists' Manual and Book of Information of Value to all Bicyclers (1892)

Tourists' manual and book of information of value to all bicyclers, by Pope Manufacturing Company
Published in 1892. From the Library of Congress.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Smooth 26 Inch Tires for Zippy Ride

1995 Trek with Michelin Run'r tires installed
1995 Trek Singletrack bike with 26 inch 1.4 inch wide Michelin Run'r tires installed

Michelin 26 inch Run'r 1.4 inch tires
Close-up view

When I bought this bike, it had some Kenda knobby tires that are 1.95 inches wide (according to the sidewall) installed. Ths rims of this bike are a little narrower than the wheels on newer mountain bikes I have and the 1.95 tires looked a little odd on the more narrow rims. Also, they are noisy when riding, even when pumped up, and likely do little to make the bike zippy.

I found these Michelin Runn'r tires at Bike Tires Direct. There are supposedly made of the same rubber compound as road bike tires (although lots more of it) and yet only cost around 16 dollars each. The sidewall says that the max inflation is 87 psi, but at 75 they seemed plenty hard enough. Bike rides great with these.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Evolution of My Bike Helmets & MIPS

The progression of bike helmets I have owned - at right, 16 years old (or so), in middle 8 years old, and the brand new one

The inside view of the three

The MIPS compliant LaZer Tonic helmet I just bought

Inside of new MIPS helmet - note the yellow inner liner that can move around

The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute (aka says that Bell, for example, recommends replacing a bicycle helmet every three years - I think I've seen that elsewhere. Yes, what a wonderful world it would be for companies that make helmets if everyone followed that - but otherwise it makes little sense if the technology doesn't change.

In the late 1990s, I had a Specialized helmet that was mostly good for me since it was sized as a large (not "one size fits all") and I have big head. It was simply a chunk of Styrofoam (tm) with a blue plastic cover held in place with tape around the edge of it, some holes for ventilation, and simple straps. Space between head and helmet was provided by bits of spongy padding. It was good to put stickers on (the outside) but I think I outgrew that somewhere in my 50s.

In 2007 I bought a road bike that I guess was a ramping up in my seriousness (or something) so I decided I needed a new helmet - I found the red one made by Tirreno (which it seems is a Performance Bike house brand) in a large size on sale. It has been what I have used since. It looked sporty but I didn't find it terribly easy to adjust the straps, and recently the plastic ring that grips the wearer's head broke. The ventilation slots, while numerous, are narrower than the older helmet, which isn't so good. I also eventually realized it has a design flaw - towards the front there are slots that come together resulting in a parts of the helmet facing forward that could hook something hanging down from a tree (or whatever). This is in fact amazingly stupid (from a design perspective). Yeah, it is highly unlikely, but still - completely avoidable.

I have read about the MIPS helmet technology that is supposed to help prevent concussions by allowing the head to roll more easily in the helmet. Some people think this is baloney and maybe it is, but at least it represents an attempt at an advancement beyond basis protect for your head from a chunk of Styrofoam (TM). All the MIPS helmets are more expensive but I was able to find a LaZer Tonic (which apparently is intended for commuters) with MIPS from Bike Tires Direct for $75 on sale. It doesn't look like a road racing helmet (oh well) but it has good large ventilation holes, fits me well, and it is supposedly safer (maybe). I've ridden a few times with it; it seems good.