Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cycling Magazines

I now subscribe to three biking magazines, of varying quality, with different audiences and "tone."

Bicycling is an obvious choice and the one I have subscribed to the longest. One could suggest that they try to be all things for all (cycling) people, but they avoid too much discussion of technical issues. There are always articles for beginners ("5 Rookie Maintenance Mistakes" and the like) with "lifestyle" pieces (diet, complimentary exercise programs) and human interest articles of various levels of interest and perhaps even appropriatness. The biggest draw for me ends up being information about new products and bikes, much of which is in highly abbreviated form, which means if something seems interesting I generally have to do follow-on research. The reviews, particularly of bikes, take great care not to offend the manufacturers who of course are also big sponsors. One has to learn to read carefully to know when they aren't very impressed with a bike since serious direct criticism is so muted.

One aspect that I find trying in Bicycling bike reviews is the use of various shorthand that mostly includes no explanation of what they mean by these terms. It's a "you can't have it both ways" sort of problem - by avoiding highly (of even vaguely) technical explanations of most everything, they are left with buzz phrases. (One exception are quotes from the company PR people, such as "the carbon fiber in the new XYZ is extruded by robot in Germany, then blah blah blah, resulting in the stiffest yet most compliant ride we've ever produced." Gibberish, in other words.)

Bicycle Times is a relatively new publication. The web site says, "Featuring the best inspirational stories, practical advice, and intelligent discourse from everyday riders, but with a focus on the pavement side of things." Since the same outfit publishes a separate mountain biking mag, that is out of scope - mostly this is about "urban biking" with commuting and "bike culture" both featured. Road racing is not a featured subject. The bike and other reviews are generally more detailed and more inclined to make technical points in a comprehensible and useful way. Sometimes there are even links to further background information - for example, a comment about a particular bike's "trail" has a URL/link to further background on this subject. Good.

Bicycle Quarterly, according to its web site, is a "magazine for discerning cyclists, who enjoy their bikes, whether on a weekend ride, commuting, randonneuring, racing or touring the countryside." Its main focus is on randonneuring and the history of randonneuring and it works out from there to topics such as racing (and racing isn't really much of a focus). Most of the writing is by the editor/publisher, Jan Heine. There is a lot of good technical information or anyway discussion of issues, but some of the research presented seems less than rigorous. The magazine's apparent editorial view is that many assumptions about how best to achieve bicycle design objectives are incorrect; for example, that achieving high speed on a bike is best accomplished with fatter tires and lower tire pressure, not narrow and high. There is something to this, but not (I think) to the degree BQ suggests. BQ also seems to feel that it's competition doesn't do very good work, for example saying, "Our detailed evaluations are based on weeks of riding in challenging terrain, not just a spin around the neighborhood." Because of the abbreviated format used, Bicycling doesn't talk about how much the bikes are ridden when reviewed, but it is pretty obvious it is much more than "a spin around the neighborhood." One detects self-righteous indignation.

BQ does get points (with me) for being very open about criticisms of bikes reviewed where they find problems. One reason is that where there are substantive problems described, the company is asked to make a statement and these are inserted in the articles.

BQ isn't a high budget publication, so reviews are limited in number and often are driven by someone loaning the publication a bike to be reviewed. This sometimes has funny outcomes - a Civia was reviewed with much criticism; the company response was that they had stopped making the thing, rendering the review pointless for the most part, but having made the effort, this small publication could hardly throw it out, it would seem.

Another oddity is that BQ doesn't have most of its content on its web site, although they do have present their photographs in color, which is good since the publication itself is B&W. And in fact the photographs are quite nice; Heine also published coffee table books about the history of cycling that are beautiful.

In the end BQ is an acquired taste that some folks may not acquire.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Park Tool School - Cassette vs Freewheel

Last Sunday I started going to six weeks of Park Tool School (for bikes) at Spokes Etc in Belle Haven (Alexandria, VA).

I find that sometimes I think I understand something well but because I don't have to apply that understanding (or lack thereof) I can get along fine without learning that oops - I had it wrong.


In the first class, we covered the differences between cassettes and freewheels (part of the rear wheel) among other things. Of course, I could have simply looked up the subject on Sheldon Brown's site but I double that I would have as good an understanding as I do now, having been walked through the exercise with real parts by a real person.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Another Blogger's Experience with Capital Bikeshare

Here is an assessment of the DC Capital Bikeshare based on actual use of the thing.

Capital Bikeshare in the City

He notes that the lighting system (two tail lights, one "blinkie" front light) go off when you stop. Well, that's a fact of life with simple hub generator systems.

He notes that the bike is heavy so one won't be able to ride terribly fast, but a "shareable" bike is going to need to be very strong (and yet not impossibly expensive) so one is kind of stuck with that. And given the flat terrain of most of DC, this isn't so bad as it might be.

I find the geometry of these bikes interesting. The axle of the front wheel is directly in a line with steering tube - this is quite unusual; usually the axle is an inch or more forward of that. Basically the bike has zero "rake" so the "trail" is greater than usual. "More trail is nice at high speeds (motorcycles usually have 80 mm of trail) but can feel sluggish at slower speeds" means this is a puzzling design decision since these are low speed rides. Hmm. Perhaps this is made up for by the head tube angle but I can't judge that by eye.

The drive system is an internal shift rear hub - and there is a thing that looks like a derailleur that is a chain tensioner. This should further insure that users don't end up messing with the chain.

Italian Online Exhibit - Bicycle History

The first Italian "bicicletto" seems to suggest (at least as I read it) an Italian spin to the history of the development of the modern bicycle.

I hadn't realized that Bianchi dated back to 1885. That must make Bianchi one of the oldest bike makers still operating.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Urban Short-term Rental Bikes

In the past week or so, I have seen a half dozen Capital Rideshare bikes being ridden on the National Mall (see example below). My impression of the riders is that they are using it as a tourism tool, which isn't the usual point of the exercise, but it's a start and anyway, some use is better than no use.

Looks pretty good

The Capital Rideshare bikes are similar in nature to the gray bikes in similar (and much greater) use in Paris (below).

Me & a Rental Bike in Paris

Here is a photo of an example of an urban rental bike in Barcelona - but it is less customized as a rental; more of a "regular bike." I note the plastic chain guard on one of them is already broken. The extensive use of brittle-looking plastics on urban rental bikes is puzzling.

1913 Suffrage Parade Photo - Two Bikes

At first I didn't see any bikes, but eventually I saw one with a fellow next to a car on the left. With a hat - a police officer? Perhaps. Then I noticed the bicycle leaning against a tree on the right. Is it with the photographer? Probably not, but it seems odd for it just to be there, waiting to be stolen. Or 100 years ago there was no bike theft? There certainly were bike locks then, but I don't see one here.

Suffrage pageant - Long Isl. (LOC)

From the Library of Congress Bain Collection (via Flickr); more information is available at

Good Balance - Egyptian Style

I have some bicycle photos in my Flickr sets; here I have (just barely) caught a fellow riding with a few hundred pita breads on a rack balanced on his head. This is common on the streets of Cairo. Occasionally one or two will fall off in the wind but I never saw a rider drop an entire rack.
Taken from inside a taxi. The non-working meter is visible.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Capital Bikeshare Usage - Online Real Time Map

This map displays usage of Rideshare bikes in the DC area in real time.

Not so much usage yet, even in good weather, it seems. Still I have seen four or five being ridden, which seems pretty good since they are so new.

The Washington Post has this article on the topic.

Monday, October 11, 2010

"Bicycle Chic" - NYTimes

NY Times article that I missed covers the fashion aspects of increasing amount of cycling in NYC. Well, maybe.

december 9.

More Riders, Fewer Crashes

This article suggests that when bike ridership increases, fewer crashes result (for the cyclists . . . ).

The rationale is that as there are more cyclists, motorists realize that they must adapt to their presence and (in effect) drive more safely (relative to the cyclists, anyway).

But when there are a lot of bicyclists on the road, according to this theory, drivers take notice. They become more attentive, slow down, pass more cautiously, double-check their blind spots, expect the unexpected. They sense that the road has become a more complicated place, and adjust their behavior accordingly. As a result, the road becomes safer, presumably for everyone.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Bicycle Baggage Bill(s)

It seems than in the late 1897s, cyclists lobbied their state legislatures to get laws that would allow them to take their bicycles on trains as luggage for now cost - apparently railroad companies were charging almost as much for the bike to ride as the passenger.This article from the Louisville Bicycle Club describes the situation in Kentucky, for example~
Cyclists used to get around the worst stretches of country road by getting on a train, and trains seem to have been plentiful in the late 19th century. But some of the railroads levied a heavy surcharge for taking bicycles on board, and cyclists resented it bitterly. A Louisville group headed for the Kentucky Division’s annual meet in Cynthiana in 1897 encountered heavy rain at Versailles, and proposed taking the train on to Lexington where they’d stop for the night. The fare on the Southern Railroad was 36 cents. But it was another 25 cents for each bike. And as they stood there considering, a salesman took two 75-pound trunks on free. They rode on through the rain and mud rather than knuckle under to slimeball railroads. The next year’s session of the legislature passed a “baggage bill,” making bikes free baggage. Gov. William O. Bradley, Kentucky’s first Republican governor, vetoed it.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

"Whirls of the Wheel" (1897)

In the 1890s many newspapers had coverage of cycling in the sports section as well as elsewhere, since much of what was discussed wasn't that sporty (that is, having to do with competition - but that's true today, I suppose).

Here is an example, a column titled "Whirls of the Wheel" in the Scranton Tribune of 1897.

One finds a laundry list of items:
The French Touring club has 50,000 members.

A low gear is a slow gear. A high gear is a fly gear.

Harry Tyler denies that he is about to resume racing.

Jay Eaton will follow the southern bicycle circuit from Nashville.

There is a rumor that J. V. Parsons has married an actress in Melbourne.

When buying a bicycle it is a good thing not to forget to take a receipted bill.

A bill for the taxation of bicycles has been defeated in the Vermont legislature.

The Louisville Track association is planning a match race between Bald and Kimble.

The bicycle has developed another deadly characteristic. An Ohio man has killed his wife by sand-bagging her with a bicycle tire.

During the week ending April 1, 1,359 new members joined the League of American Wheelmen, making a total membership of 60,029.

A visit to a second-hand bicycle shop is the best thing in the world for a man who wants to study the advances made in blcycle construction.

Tom Winder, the around-the-coast cyclist, is to repeat his trip this year. This time he will do it in search of new material for his course of lectures.

A bill has been introduced in the New York legislature for the prohibiting of the propulsion of baby carriages on the cycle paths of that state outside of the cities.

Jacquelin, the speedy Frenchman, has asked for a two weeks' furlough from army service, so he may compete in the Grand Prix, tho greatest race of the year in France.

The duty imposed by the German government on American made bicycles is only $1, and in consequence large numbers are sold there. Evidently the German finds no trichinae on the American bicycle.

John V. Clendenning, of Louisville, the new treasurer of the League of American Wheelmen, has been given a surprise. The executive committee has named a New York bank as the repository of league funds.

Five months ago A. P. Black, of Brooklyn, was run over by a truck while riding his wheel and injured, so badly that he has been confined in a hospital over since. Through the League of American Wheelmen he has brought suit for $10,000 against the owner of the truck.

This is the way the states stand on the bicycle baggage bill question. For Arizona, California, Colorado, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina 8. Against Kansas 1. Doubtful-Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan-3. Non-commtttal all the others.

What, one wonders, was the "bicycle baggage bill" being considered before Congress???

Article describes Annie Londonderry Progress

Text of newspaper article from 1895. Article titled "Nervy Miss Londonderry."
From The Evening Times. (Washington, D.C.) September 16, 1895.


Here it says that she only had to ride 10,000 miles to fulfill her wager to travel around the world "by bicycle" - and that she had done that by the time she reached Chicago (on her way to Boston). So the article notes she was still considering finishing her trip by train.

99 Cycling Posters from the Past

Very nice set of bike posters on Flickr. Unfortunately not set up so I can embed easily here.

Friday, October 8, 2010

1895 Cartoon Lampoons Women Cyclists' Attire

"Doubtful" - Lady Cyclist cartoon (1895)

From The Evening Times. (Washington, D.C.) September 16, 1895.
Follows a short article about Annie Londonderry's trip by (or with) bicycle around the world.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Cyclists in Deadly Accidents

This news item is like many that I see now that I set up a Google news alert on "bicycle" - there is an item like this almost every day!
The president of the Wisconsin Cycling Association has died from injuries suffered when he was struck by a car while bicycling Friday in Waukesha County. Jeff Littman was also a well-known bike racer and co-owner of a bike store. Authorities said the driver of the car, who wasn't injured in the crash, said the sun blinded him and caused him not to see Littman and another bicyclist.

Have to remember to be careful out there.

Women Cyclists of the 1890s

Annie Londonderry, who rode around the world on a bicycle, also made a bold (for the time) fashion statement.

From the St. Paul Daily Globe, April 14, 1895

Annie Londonderry "Costume" 1895

Generally in 1895 women's cycling attire was more conventional, as shown here. (San Francisco Call, June 1, 1895)

Ladies Cycling Club San Jose CA 1895

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Cycling Fiends of 1894

While searching for information about Annie Londonderry, who rode around the world in 1895, I found the following article that demonstrates that doctors were quite free with their opinions about cycling.

"In my daily wait in Central Park," said Dr. Sayre, "I have been very much struck by the number of young men who ride bicycles in harmful positions. They lean over till their noses almost touch the front wheel, their arms fixed to the handles with the rigity of death, their chests caved in and their backs bent into a semicircle. The girls ride in better positions than the men as a rule, because their feminine self-respect prevents them from making themselves ridiculous."

"I have spoken to several of the young men in the park about it, saying to them: 'Now, my boy, why don't you sit up like that pretty girl." This usually has the effect of making them getting into better positions and also of making them feel uncomfortable."

"They tell me that they stoop because the resistance of the wind is decreased in this position, and they get more purchase on the wheel. But the exercise, if it really necessitates such a position, is worse than useless. The bicyclists should take time, and not be in such a feverish hurry."

From the article "The Cycling Fiends" in the St. Paul Daily Globe, October 22, 1894

Odometer Made More Appealing

Searching for posters and advertising for bicycles from the late 19th century turns up many things. For only a dollar one could have an odometer to keep track of how far one traveled. It isn't clear what year this is from - one notes the rather large number of miles the rider has accumulated. An allusion to Annie Londonderry and her cycling around the world?

Veeder Cyclometer

Seattle Blog Entry on anti-Bike "Culture"

Analysis of the conflict between the forces of darkness and light, titled Seattle's Socialist War on Driving Cars Gears Up. The title is supposed to be ironic, I guess.

You wouldn't think you'd have to explain that a human-powered, 20-pound, two-wheeled machine is vastly less expensive from every angle than a gas-powered, 4-wheeled car weighing several tons, but again, these are people who--in their rush to banish cyclists from the road, and despite the bumper stickers which spell this out--fail to consider that each bicycle is one less car to clog traffic.

The more interesting part of the blog entry is most people don't have much of a grasp of the relevant laws.

Many people don't know that it is legal to ride your bicycle on a sidewalk in Seattle--at a safe speed, and yielding to pedestrians, not yelling to them--or that cyclists can ride two abreast in the street. Seattle requires you to have a helmet, brakes, and, at night, a white light on the front of your bike with a red reflector on back. Cyclists can use crosswalks, but not heedlessly endanger pedestrians or impede traffic. Cyclists are required to use hand signals. A person in a car can't open their door to traffic (bike or otherwise) in a way that impedes traffic.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Capital Bikeshare Bike Station - Arlington VA

I saw my first Capital Bikeshare bike station this morning and took some photos. This one is in Arlington (Virginia) near Pentagon City. Several bikes were checked out. The whole operation looks pretty slick.


The bikes are fairly nice - I guess there is a three speed internal hub shift. The handlebars have this plastic faring that looks quite perishable with various instructions printed on it. In front of the handlebars is a kind of funky small rack with bungy cord to hold a purse-sized item in place. Somehow a basket would seem more useful.

Note rack on front

Book on how Portland got to be Bike Central

New book by Portland's bike program manager explains the twenty year or so process.

Its small chapters outline issues such as the challenges of retrofitting streets with bike lanes, building off-street paths, adopting and enforcing bicycle parking codes and encouraging people to incorporate bicycling into their daily lives. In addition, it describes overcoming obstacles, business opposition and negative media coverage.

Even in Seattle . . .

Seattle article about how even there cyclists are generally described as causing traffic problems in the media. In particular, the new mayor is often called the "bicycling mayor" as if that's a bad thing.