Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Bicycle: The Definitive Visual History (Book Review)0

Bicycle: The Definitive Visual HistoryBicycle: The Definitive Visual History by DK Publishing

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This is a coffee table book with very nice photographs of bicycles, from the 1800s to today, presented in the usual "floating against a white background" approach used in Dorling-Kindersley way.

This is DK.com's information about the book that includes some images of the pages. It says, "To tell the complete story of cycling, Bicycle profiles famous cyclists, manufacturers, and brands, and includes detailed images, maps, and histories of key races and competitions - from the first recorded race in 1868 to the Cyclo-cross World Championships to the Tour de France, triathlons, Olympic racing, and more."

My local public library purchases books like this and I like to check them out and page through them, enjoying the photographs and reading the captions. Sometimes I even buy a few (very few) of these often not inexpensive books. Still, the pleasure generally is in the photography - and this book has a lot of good photographs of books. But to suggest this tells "the complete story of cycling" even at some summary level is silly - it doesn't.

Here is just one simple example - a significant (enough) recent development that now seems to be dying out was the messenger cyclist-fixed gear trend. After all, there were several different movies celebrating bicycle messengers over almost twenty years, from Kevin Bacon's "Quicksilver" to Joseph Gordon-Levitt's "Premium Rush." For the world of bicycling, it was interesting to see how the "classic" messenger bicycle evolved, at first a fixed gear created from a castoff 1970s road bike that might or might not have brakes since the easiest way to stop was to cease pedaling - and which was great for messengers because it was easily maintained, cheap, and at the same time unattractive to theft. Then others, mostly young, began converting bikes to "fixies" but with hubs that would freewheel since riding a true fixed gear bike is uhm kind of annoying, followed by fixed gear bikes (that weren't actually fixed) being sold by various companies new, primarily to so-called "hipsters." (When I checked with Google on the continued connection between fixies and hipsters, I learned that, "Hipster’s and fixies go together like Donald Trump and being completely out of sync with the reality of everyday life." Yeah.)

Now it isn't like fixies are a big part of cycling history, but given some of the more obscure stuff the book does include, largely because people like photographs in coffee table books of obscure visually interesting stuff, then it seems hard to agree this book is anything like "complete." Rather, it is "selective."

OK, here's another example - bike share is a not a type of bike, but bike share bikes are a type that would seem necessary to cover in the "complete story of cycling." Not mentioned.

As someone who is somewhat interested in older Japanese bikes (Nishiki, Bridgestone, Univega, others) that had some popularity in the US before the Yen made them too expensive, I eventually noticed the strong Eurocentric and even UK-centric coverage. Cannondale has a fair number of examples included, followed by Specialized and Trek, but that's pretty much it for today's US companies.

There are some aspects that are to me really quite strange. Bikes are captioned with information about the origin (country), the frame material (ie, steel), gears (number of), and the size of the wheels in inches. The country of origin is the country of corporate ownership, not of the manufacture of the frame, which is how most people think about it. Or companies - Cannondale bikes that are "made in the USA" are bikes with American assembled frames, but many of the components come from Asia - the overall dollar value of the inputs to create a Cannondale in some cases might be less than 50 percent US. But for an example of a "hybrid" they have a Mongoose identified as "origin=US" which may be true as far as who owns Mongoose, but the bike was assembled from Asian components in Taiwan (or maybe China) but anyway, not in the US. And the way they measure wheels is odd, too - all the road bikes are described with 28 inch wheels, whether they are older ones with what are usually called 27 inch wheels or more modern road bike wheels that are a somewhat larger size that are usually said to be 700 mm wheels.

There are pages that point out the importance of the Pigeon bicycle for China. Another inset notes that bicycles are important in the developing world with a photo of some poor fellow riding his cargo laden bike in Kabul. Otherwise this is about bikes in the developed world, mostly Europe and somewhat the US. Which doesn't exactly correspond either to where the bicycles are made nowadays or where most of the bikes in the world are. But OK.



View all my reviews of cycling books on GoodReads.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

After the [Bicycle] Ride (1897)

After the [Bicycle] Ride-1897
After the Ride

Title: After the ride
Creator(s): Harmon, F. T., copyright claimant
Date Created/Published: c1897.
Medium: 1 photographic print.
Summary: Photograph shows man drinking from a glass and holding a piece of cake while sitting on door of icebox; bicycle at left.
Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-11780 (b&w film copy neg.)
Rights Advisory: No known restrictions on publication.
Call Number: SSF - Interiors -- Kitchens -- 1897 [item] [P&P]
Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.print
Notes:
Title from item.
Subjects:
Kitchens--1890-1900.
Eating & drinking--1890-1900.
Refrigerators--1890-1900.

www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2012647910/

Somewhat oddly, the subject headings don't include anything about the bicycle, but at least the bicycle is mentioned in the "summary" - "bicycle at left."

Apparently the cyclist shown was wanting some refreshment after an early "tweed ride" (or "tweed run" - where today cyclists dress up to evoke early cyclists and their attire).

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

"Paying for his Fun" - Bike Repairs

Pays for Fun
Title: Paying for his fun

Summary-Man working on bicycle wheel.
Created / Published- [between 1890 and 1899]
Subject Headings
- Bicycles & tricycles--1890-1900
- Wheels--1890-1900
- Cleaning--1890-1900
Format Headings-Photographic prints--1890-1900.
Notes-Copyright by F.T. Harmon.
Medium-1 photographic print.
Call Number/Physical Repository-Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
www.loc.gov/item/97511391/

It is a somewhat amusing notion reflected in this photograph from the 1890s that the bicycle rider "pays" for his fun - riding the bike - by spending time fixing the bike. Of course in the 1890s bikes were manufactured with lower tolerances and for a given amount of riding I would assume more repairs were required than for a good quality bike made today.

Still, for the most part I find working on my bikes to be relaxing, although I mostly do fairly basic stuff. I don't do anything with bottom brackets, headsets, or truing wheels. (I guess some people might say that doesn't leave much . . . )

Recently I had a little crash - I managed to end up with both the front and rear wheels out of true on the bike I was riding. I noticed the problem with the rear wheel immediately and got it fixed but it took me a while to realize the front wheel was a bit off - then I had it fixed also.

For me, paying someone to do certain repairs is better than the aggravation/frustration of trying to do it myself without having the right tools or much experience. I'm quite lucky since there is a shop about a mile away, Spokes Etc, where there is a dedicated wheel builder and "wheel mechanic", Bill Mould, who for 20 dollars will correct any true a wheel, putting in in one plane but also making sure it is still round.



Saturday, November 12, 2016

Robots to Deliver DC Packages on Bike-Free Sidewalks



The above video isn't specific to DC



Apparently the delivery bots are a little late in arriving since it is November and they have not yet appeared

This article from a transportation think-tank suggests deliveries will start later this year.

By the end of this year, Washington, D.C. will be the inaugural testbed for a new type of delivery service: last-mile ground deliveries, performed by robots, for the low cost of $1.

Starship Technologies, a European company, is working with the D.C. City Council to establish a first-of-its-kind pilot program that will allow the company’s robots to conduct package, grocery, and food deliveries within city limits.

The company’s robots are a couple of feet tall and take up the same amount of space on the sidewalk as a pedestrian. Weighing in at 30-35 pounds, the inexpensive robots are equipped with nine cameras, two-way audio capabilities, and a lockbox for its cargo.

“They’re social robots,” explains Henry Harris-Burland, Starship’s marketing and communications manager. “The robot acts like a pedestrian and it knows it’s at the bottom of the food chain.”

From a cyclist's point of view, it is interesting and perhaps amusing that DC's central business district legal ban on riding a bike on the sidewalk is suggested as a plus - "Another advantage to testing in D.C., in addition to its low-density development, is that cyclists are banned from riding on sidewalks within its perimeter." The article has a map of the DC "no riding on the sidewalk!" area, which I suspect would be news to many who ride bikes in DC, based on my observations. Hopefully the robots won't be too surprised when it turns out there are some bicycles on the sidewalk being ridden after all.

Per this article the droid-delivery-bot operates autonomously unless it gets into trouble, in which case the remote operator would take over.

One wonders what if any cues the robot takes from pedestrians walking along with it - DC pedestrians are not known for being law abiding, I would say. (When I travel to Seattle I always have to remind myself of this local trait that I have acquired.)

What may have worked in Estonia to deliver pizzas may be more challenged by the US capital city. I guess we'll see. I can't say I'm looking forward to having short bots to watch for in addition to all the rest of it.

Of course there is the other aspect of it - didn't people on bicycles used to deliver stuff? Oh, sometimes they still do! Well, for the moment.

Special delivery messenger, U.S.P.O.
DC postman speedy delivery by bike (from a while ago . . . )




Sunday, November 6, 2016

Celebrity Bicycle Reporting (1896)

A rather fanciful article about a then-famous singer, Lillian Russell, in the New York Journal that was for the time a daily newspaper with more pages to fill than most as well as presumably more readers to attract, so apparently they were inclined to long dramatic reports.

LILLIAN RUSSELL'S UNLUCKY CYCLING,
Title-The journal, May 19, 1896
Place of Publication-New York [N.Y.]
Created / Published-New York [N.Y.], May 19, 1896
www.loc.gov/resource/sn84031792/1896-05-19/ed-1/

LILLIAN RUSSELL'S UNLUCKY CYCLING, Thrown from Her Golden Wheel and There Are Disastrous Consequences.

In Collision with Another Bicycler Where Miss Schumacher Was Killed.
She Sprains an Ankle Badly, and That Is Only the Beginning of Her Troubles.

THEY ENSUE ON A HARLEM STAGE, While Singing in the "Little Duke" Her Ankle Weakens and She and Fred Solomon Fall Flat Before the Audience.

Lillian Russell, diva and wheelwoman, played an engagement with her famous golden bicycle at Manhattan avenue and West One Hundred and Sixth street yesterday afternoon that had not been advertised, and that very nearly resulted In serious injury to the noted singer.

By a strange coincidence her contretemps took place just at the place where Miss Theodora Schumacher met her death April 30, and Miss Russell, who is not at all superstitious, now says she believes "In that sort of thing a little bit."

Miss Russell went for her usual ride in Central Park yesterday afternoon. She wore a tan bicycle suit that fitted as if she had been melted and run Into it, and the gold lace with which it was trimmed was just sufficient In quantity to suggest the pomp and circumstance of the stage.

WAS AT HER BEST.

To the gay throng of riders and drivers along the West Drive the fair Lillian never looked prettier. She sped along at a merry pace, threading her way In and out of the procession of T-carts, broughams, phaetons and other park traps without self-consciousness. Every one turned to look after the well-rounded figure, and the gorgeous bicycle upon which it was so advantageously set off.

"She may lose her voice," It was remarked, "but so long as she has that bicycle we will adore her still."

That was but one of the comments her appearance called forth.

Miss Russell turned out of the Park at the One Hundred and Sixth street gate leaving tho policeman there bewildered by one of those smiles that it is her habit to bestow with such effectiveness.

A scorcher ice wagon was coming up Manhattan avenue at a pace that should have called for police interference. Miss Russell saw it. but she could not see the bicycler who, just at its far side, was riding hard to beat the Iceman and so rebuke the entire Iceman fraternity.

TOOK HER CUE QUICKLY.

"Hi, there!" shouted the driver.

Miss Russell took that as her cue to dodge, and her experience having led her to be prompt when she hears her cue she wheeled suddenly to the left. The Iceman tried to pull up as best he could and his horses just missed the distinguished rider.

Rut the bicycler beyond had no time. He had not seen Lillian nor the glitter of her golden wheel and he ran full into her. There were yells from bystanders and the two bicycles seemed to be doing a golden skirt dance in which some hosiery was shown. Prom out the confusion came feminine Grand Duchesse's screams. The ice man pulled up and ran to solve the golden puzzle. Bystanders and a policeman also came, and with difficulty Miss Russell was extricated from the Involved situation. She was bruised and the pretty costume was pretty no longer. Her ankle hurt her, and the golden wheel was as If it were a game of jackstraws in which the trick was to pick out the back bone.

The man apologized so nicely that Miss Russell refused to make a complaint against him. The Iceman called a cab and the diva was helped into It and driven to her house, at No. 318 West Seventy-seventh street.

The article goes on to talk about her performances after this incident, which were affected by the injury to her ankle somewhat.

As it happens, the illustration in the article was taken from the photograph used to produce this item from the Library of Congress photograph collections - Lillian Russell is at the lower right:

Actresses Bicycle Riders

Title-Actresses as bicycle riders [7 illustrations of actresses with bicycles: 1. Effie Ellsler; 2. Cissy Fitzgerald; 3. Anna Held; 4. Queenie Vassar; 5. Mrs. James Brown Potter; 6. Miss Georgia Cayvan; 7. Miss Lillian Russell
Date Created/Published-1896.
Medium-7 prints : halftone.
Call Number: Illus. in AP2.L52 1896 (Case Y) [P&P]

Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
Notes:
* Halftone repros. of photoprint.
* Title and other information transcribed from caption card.
* Illus. in: Frank Leslie's illustrated newspaper, vol. 83 (1896 Dec. 3), p. 365.
* Caption card tracings: Sports Bicycles; Women ; Actresses; B.I.
www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2001696508/

Reading the wikipedia description of Lillian Russell, it turns out she was influential in a law passed in 1924 to limit immigration from certain parts of Eastern Europe (from which some of my in-laws ancestors came) as well as entirely from Asia. So while I guess I will publish this blog post it is not intended as a celebration of her views on that. At all.



Saturday, October 29, 2016

Predicting Women's Attire After Bloomers Take Hold (1895)

"The Bicycle Dress" 1895
http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82016014/1895-08-16/ed-1/seq-8/

The Topeka State Journal. (Topeka, Kan.), 16 Aug. 1895. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

An illustration in a newspaper in 1895 shows what the future of women's bloomers may be into the 20th century (which then wasn't very far away).

Further down on the page, there is this short article (or more like collection of mostly snarky and contradictory observations):
FAIR DEVOTEES OF CYCLING

Fate has decreed that the bicycle girl in bloomers shall become a spinster, observes the Salt Lake Tribune.

The bloomer gives to a shapely women says the Galveston News, a great opportunity; in fact, two of them.

A Boston girl started on a trip around the globe and before she had gone 1,200 miles she received 85 proposals, she says.

If "equal rights" means anything, it means a man's right to keep out of the way of a woman who is just learning to ride says the New York Mail and Express.

Chief Badenoch of Chicago punishes rowdies who assault women in bloomers. He shows gentlemanly instinct. The question of what is a proper costume for a woman is not to be settled by rowdies on the street.

The women of Osnaburg, O., set their dogs on a Canton wheelwoman because she wore bloomers, says the Cleveland World. The women of a Connecticut town about 40 years ago gave one of their sex an order to leave town when she put on the first hoopskirt they ever saw. In six months they were all wearing them.


Monday, October 24, 2016

Washington Boy Shows Joy of Cycling

Boy on Bicycle (in Washington DC, 1890s)

Digitized image from a glass plate negative that shows some degradation. It was likely taken at a studio in the late 1890s. The descriptive record does not have an exact date. Studios sometimes had a bicycle and subjects would be posed sitting on a bike that belonged to the studio, but this I think this may have been the boy's bike - you wouldn't think a studio bike would have a headlight, and the front tire is quite dirty. But that's just a guess. He looks quite happy!

www.loc.gov/item/2016713286/

Title-Boy on bicycle
Contributor Names-C.M. Bell (Firm : Washington, D.C.), photographer
Created / Published-[between 1873 and ca. 1916]
Format Headings
Glass negatives.
Portrait photographs.
Genre
Portrait photographs
Glass negatives
Notes
- Title is unverified name of sitter or person who ordered the photograph, from handwritten label on negative sleeve or negative.
- Date based on span of years of C.M. Bell Collection.
- Negative number assigned by Library.
- Gift; American Genetic Association, 1975.
- General information about the C.M. Bell Collection is available at hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.bellcm
- Temp note: Batch 55.
Medium-1 negative : glass ; 5 x 7 in.
Source Collection-C.M. Bell Studio Collection (Library of Congress)
Repository-Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA