Saturday, January 26, 2013

Cracked Rim & Brake "Dirt"

Riding in snow and ice even with studded tires can be challenging - also if one has any sense, it is important to clean up the bike fairly soon after to get the road salt mix residue off the bike. Wheel spokes in particular are vulnerable to the corrosive effects of that stuff; I am embarrassed (I guess) to admit that one year I rode in some bad weather and then parked the bike in my shed and forgot to clean it - much later I discovered the road glop had eaten its way into several spokes enough that when I gave them a wiggle, they snapped! Lesson learned. Ouch.

Cracked Rim
Crack discovered while cleaning the rim

So I took the old mountain bike (a Giant Boulder SE, more than ten years old) that I rode in the snow and cleaned it up and while cleaning the rear wheel I found that the rim had a crack in it. Aggh! What I actually had found, as revealed in a helpful comment (below) is an artifact of the manufacturing process that I had not noticed before. Oops.

Cracked Rim
Not surprisingly the crack goes through to inside of rim

Fortunately I have another mountain bike around that I can borrow a wheel from, but I will have to buy a new wheel.

Dirty Cracked Rim
In gloppy weather, brakes make a mess of rims

I didn't need to clean the other side of the wheel now! You can see just how much of the brakes end up on the rims in sloppy weather. I suppose I could buy better brake pads, too.

Anyway, this provides something of an answer to the question of why one gets something better if you spend more on a bike. This is a perfectly OK entry level Giant mountain bike but aside from being fairly heavy none of the components are terribly good (although none are terrible, either). In short I am not particularly surprised to have a cracked wheel on a bike like this. The question arises, at least in my mind, of whether I now take back this comment about low cost bikes and their quality quotient. After some ten minutes of contemplation (intermittently) I guess I would have to say no. I don't.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Snow Ride Home - Outrunning a Cervélo

Snow Bike
Snow-enabled old mountain bike with studded tires in front of house

There was a rather indefinite forecast that there might be snow this afternoon - so I rode this rather heavy old bike with studded mountain bike tires that are about two inches in diameter. If there is ice and snow, they are good to have, but this morning it was mostly clear, so the bike felt like a burden. However a couple of years ago I fell during a snow storm ride so I am trying to be more cautious.

Coming home I was glad to have this bike with its studded tires. The icy spots visible this morning were now covered in snow so it was harder to avoid them but with these tires it isn't necessary. I trundled along at a steady if slow pace. The most annoying aspect was the strong wind from the SW (or thereabouts) along the river.

Just on the DC side of the 14th St Bridge there was a rider in his sorta winter racing/training kit on a Cervélo who let me go ahead of him. Really, a Cervélo in the snow? So this will be the one time I completely drop a character on a bike like that. And while riding a heavy crap-cycle - that uh happens to have the right tires. So maybe not so crappy.

Snow Ride
Made it home! Let the weekend begin ~

Thursday, January 24, 2013

At Work After First Snow Ride of Year

Presumably not too old for this yet

But it did take a full hour. Same spinning, but bike going a lot slower.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Racing Without "Stimulants" Over 100 Years Ago

Doping in cycle racers has been well documented going back into the 1890s. Whole books have been written about Choppy Warburton, the Michele Ferrari of his day.

Famous racer from over 100 years ago, Bobby Walthour provides an example of discussion of doping in the press over 100 years ago, in 1901.

Madison Square Garden Bicycle Racing
From "The World", December 1901, showing Madison Square Garden for a six race. At bottom, rider Bobby Walthour says he'll ride without "stimulants"

"No, we do not take stimulants in any form, unless it is coffee now and then when we grow a bit sleepy. On the other hand they tell me that these foreigners use drugs. They use strychnine, which is a muscle stimulant. It is a bad business for them and sooner or later they will feel the bad effects of it."

"A man to do well in a race of this kind must keep his body clean and well nourished, and once he begins to take alcohol or strychnine he might as well just stop. I think we will win without much difficulty."

Monday, January 21, 2013

Inaugural Simplicity - 1895 View


From The St. Paul Pioneer Press.

The next President of the United States will have a glorious opportunity to emulate Jeffersonian simplicity by riding to his Inauguration on a bicycle and going through the ceremony with his trousers tied in at the ankles.
New York Tribune filler item July 28, 1895.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Secret Race by Tyler Hamilton & Daniel Coyle (Book Review)

The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All CostsThe Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs by Tyler Hamilton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If I am going to review this, I should do it before Lance Armstrong's tell-all confess-all admit-all interview with Oprah is broadcast later this week. I gave this four stars because for the first 220 pages or so it is very engaging and moves along - the last fifty pages bogged down so much that it took me several days to push through to the end.

One hopes that most people who read this aren't just interested in descriptions of Lance Armstrong being bad, but both Hamilton and Coyle are well equipped to write about that. All things considered the book is a good combination of telling the story of Hamilton's bicycle racing career as a story unto itself, describing how doping became an integral part of his success, and including first hand descriptions of Lance Armstrong's race career, how he ran his team, interacted with other racers, and what his team's doping program was like.

Unlike David Millar's recent Racing Through the Dark tell-all reformed bike doper book, Hamilton clearly understands that most readers are not terribly interested in his full life story so he keeps the description of his life before racing short. The section about when he was part of the Postal Service team himself has the best descriptions of the culture of Lance's team and how the doping program (which is what it was) worked. After that, the description of his riding with CSC is interesting because Bjarne Riis, the team director, was (and is) an unusual individual and because Hamilton did well with CSC, although injuries kept him from doing much better.

Hamilton does a good job of making it clear how EPO and the "blood bags" (transfusing one's own blood during a race, drawn earlier) represented a huge improvement over previous doping, such as taking amphetamines, and how it making literally impossible to succeed in a world in which some races did take EPO and others didn't.

After describing being busted (the first time), the book becomes less interesting - particularly after he manages to win the U.S. National Road Championship in 2008 but then get busted again. His dog dies, his wife divorces him, he's a busted doper cyclist - life is not so good. But then he gets a new dog, new wife, and a new job and he tries to convince you, the reader, that life is now good (if not better). This last part is the hardest to get through and not particularly convincing or compelling.

There are a several things to read available on the Internet about Lance and doping and cycling racing that are more focused (and available free). The "reasoned decision" of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) is a book length PDF that describes year by year Lance's doping and the Postal Service (later Discovery) doping program (if you will). It is all about Lance and doping. If that is really what is of interest, it is more useful to read it than a book that in the end is more about Tyler Hamilton. A drawback of the USADA report is that it has no literary style, so to speak - it reads a like a government report (which is what it is).

Another interesting read is the transcript of seven hours of interviews with Floyd Landis by Paul Kimmage, The Gospel according to Floyd from November 2010.

One sees a number of patterns reading all this stuff. One is that part of Armstrong's success (at doping, and otherwise) was that he hired the best people to support him, including the medical people for the doping. Hamilton suggests that one of his own problems was that his doping doctor simply wasn't very good organizationally so he probably was been transfused with someone else's blood rather than his own because his medical "team" screwed up. Also, both Landis and Hamilton were quick to defend themselves against doping charges because in both cases they were absolutely sure that the charges were wrong. Landis knew he had done EPO and blood bags but not testosterone, and Hamilton was convinced he had only received his own blood back, not someone else's. The charges were wrong - that this didn't mean they were innocent otherwise seemed difficult for them to integrate into their thinking until quite some time passed. Finally, both felt that ultimately that they were ruined because unlike Armstrong they didn't have the connections and power to make the doping charges "go away" in the way Armstrong had in the past (according to them).

Some of Hamilton's anecdotes are pretty amusing - sort of. For example (and I suppose this is a spoiler) he suggests that for his second tier riders, other than his "A team," Armstrong was cheap - while he had the latest and best that Trek had to offer, most of his team didn't. One Postal rider, for example, "accidentally" backed his car over his crummy old Trek he was given in order to get something better. It's apparently not enough to work on Armstrong on the big moral issues, he wants him to look small in as many ways as he can. Hmm.

Certain details described give this book a sense of veracity that is absent in say Millar's book. (Not that Millar's isn't true, he just didn't include such things.)

* When new doping technology with good results would appear, it would be obvious because one rider or sometimes a team would suddenly perform otherwise superhuman feats, with little shame even though it was understood that this would be received as a new doping advance and not as some kind of training accomplishment. He mentions Bjarn Riis specifically, moving back and forth in the peleton as if riding a motorcycle on one occasion.

* Doping works best with coaching - with Postal, Hamilton didn't take full advantage of receiving a blood bag (his own blood drawn earlier and then transfused back in to increase his blood's oxygen carrying ability) because no one explained that the next day or so his body would not "read" this correctly and he would feel bloated and less powerful but that he could ride through that feeling - Bjarn Riis of CSC provided that valuable coaching advice.

* The "technology" of doping was constantly advancing, which gave an advantage to people like Lance who were at the cutting edge of such things. The first use of blood bags involved using only fresh ones, which had to be done within four weeks, but not long after it was possible to have one's blood acceptably frozen and then reuse that, simplifying the race calendar choices since there is a problem with giving your blood to use it later - if you just had a pint of blood drawn, your race results (if you are forced by your team to ride) in that situation are terrible.

And more. Those tidbits are interesting. And go along with Landis and the USADA report have to say.

When I reread my review of Millar's book, I remembered that one of the big negatives was his offering at least a half a dozen explicit answers to the question, "why I decided to dope." By contrast (unless I missed it), Hamilton doesn't do that even once. I believe his thought was more that you read his book and you decide.

Until Lance comes out with his version of all this, checking this out from a library for a quick read doesn't seem like a bad idea.

View all my reviews

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Parents, Guns, Bicycles in 1938

From a series of interview extracts described as "parental problems" from the Library of Congress American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940. The collection is described as follows: "These life histories were compiled and transcribed by the staff of the Folklore Project of the Federal Writers' Project for the U.S. Works Progress (later Work Projects) Administration (WPA) from 1936-1940." The materials are presented with images of the typed interviews as well as searchable full text.
My son, now a boy of seventeen years of age, had his heart set upon a gun. He implored us to give him a gun as a birthday present. We, being rather 'modern' and against lethal firearms as a means of developing youngsters, were opposed to giving him a gun and at last persuaded him that a bicycle were a better present-even though it cost us more. But our neighbor's case was different. Their son, a chum of our boy, wanted a bicycle. The mother, however, remembering a bad accident that once happened to someone she knew was in fear of a bicycle but had no objection to a gun. So their boy, wanting a bicycle, got a gun. Our's, wanting a gun, got a bicycle. Both boys, as things turned out, were quite pleased, for by exchanging their gifts each had, frequently enough, the present he at first desired. And we, baffled parents, had no alternative but to philosophise upon the irony of things.

Parental problems - gun or bicycle for the teenager?
The typed page from which the above text was taken

The document makes clear that the person interviewed was in New York City and that the interview was done in August of 1938. Presumably the name of the "worker" is that of the writer, not the interviewee.

STATE New York
ADDRESS 51 Bank St. N.Y. City
DATE August 26, 1938

Friday, January 11, 2013

Circuses & Bicycles 1900

Someone at work knows I am interested in historical images of cycling so she emailed me a link the this image in the National Library of Ireland's Flickr area.

Photo from the National Library of Ireland

Title - Mr Minton ? & Mr Lloyds, Circus on spiral rail, circa 1900
Main Author - A. H. Poole Studio Photographer
In Collections - The Poole Photographic Collection
The National Library of Ireland

I have to say, this is not exactly the most impressive feat involving a bicycle, but for a small circus . . . in fact, it would seem like setting up that spiral would have been a lot of work, so one guesses that they did something with it beside have this guy ride the bike up it. And what happens at the top, anyway?

A Library of Congress search for "bicycle" and "circus" brings up mostly posters.

Cropped and rotated image of 1900 circus poster from Library of Congress online presentation

Title: The Adam Forepaugh and Sells Brothers, America's greatest shows consolidated--The miraculous Melrosas
Date Created/Published: Buffalo, N[ew] Y[ork] : Courier Company Lith. Dept., c1900.
Medium: 1 print (poster) : chromolithograph ; 71 x 105 cm.
Summary: Poster showing circus performers riding bicycles on tightropes.
Reproduction Number: LC-USZC4-10501 (color film copy transparency)

Most (if not all) of the LC digitized circus posters are like this one, taken from a color negative that was produced before digitization from the original was more commonplace. I rotated the image (deskewed) and took out the color bars. The LC version is here.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

1897 View on "Woman and the Bicycle"

This book, The Out of door library. Athletic sports. published in 1897, has several chapters about cycling, including "Woman and the Bicycle" by Marguerite Merington. Apparently Ms. Mergington was a playwright. And the bibliographic record tells us that "The chapters in this volume originally appeared in Scribner's magazine."

The text is a little high-flown, or something.
Woman and the Bicycle
By Marguerite Merington

The collocation of woman and the bicycle has not wholly outgrown controversy; but if the woman's taste be for the royal pleasure of glowing exercise in sunlit air, she will do well quietly but firmly to override argument with the best model of a wheel to which she may lay hand.

Never did an athletic pleasure from which the other half is not debarred come into popularity at a more fitting time than cycling has to-day, when a heavy burden of work is laid on all the sisterhood, whether to do good, earn bread, or squander leisure; no outdoor pastime can be more independently pursued, and few are as practicable as many days in a year. The one who fain would ride, and to whom a horse is a wistful dream, at least may hope to realize a wheel. Once purchased, it needs only to be stabled in a passageway, and fed on oil and air.

No, this is not nearly as readable as Bicycling for Ladies written by Maria Ward and published in 1896.

Interesting that the text does reveal something about the anticipated pace of riding for a woman rider:
An hour of the wheel means sixty minutes of fresh air and wholesome exercise, and at least eight miles of change of scene; it may well be put down to the credit side of the day's reckoning with flesh and spirit.
Also, as usual much time is spent discussing the best attire for women riders. Here the author indicates that for some riders, special attire was not practical since they might be riding to or from work (for example) that would obviate the ability to wear anything other than clothes suitable for the destination - and that this is OK.
Short rides on level roads can be accomplished with but slight modification of ordinary attire ; and the sailor-hat, shirt-waist, serge skirt uniform, is as much at home on the bicycle as it is anywhere else the world over. The armies of women clerks in Chicago and Washington who go by wheel to business, show that the exercise within bounds need not impair the spick-and-spandy neatness that marks the bread-winning American girl.
The phrase, "armies of women clerks" reminds me of the 1899 video of Parke-Davis employees leaving at the end of the work day that shows a fair number of bicycle riders, both men and women - dressed not in special cycling clothes but in their regular work attire (or so it appears).

As usual, poor cycling posture is subject to criticism, but a man is used to model this rather than a woman

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Bicycle - the Great Dress Reformer (1895)

As noted in any earler post, the Library of Congress has digitized many of the "centerfold" color illustrations from Puck magazine - this one from 1895 demonstrates how both men and women's attire were affected by the interest in cycling. And 1895 was not yet the height of the cycling craze.

Puck Magazine - "Dress Reform" 1895
Both men and women's attire were affected by the "bicycle craze"

Title - The bicycle - the great dress reformer of the nineteenth century! / Ehrhart.
Creator(s) - Ehrhart, S. D. (Samuel D.), ca. 1862-1937, artist
Date Created/Published - N.Y. : Published by Keppler & Schwarzmann, 1895 August 7.
Medium - 1 print : chromolithograph.
Summary - Print shows a man and a woman wearing knickers and bloomers, standing with a bicycle between them, shaking hands; to the right and left are examples of nineteenth century fashion.
Reproduction Number - LC-DIG-ppmsca-29031 (digital file from original print)
Notes: Title from item.
Illus. from Puck, v. 37, no. 961, (1895 August 7), centerfold.

Full record and TIFF.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Bicycle Metaphor for "In with the New Year" (1898)

The Library of Congress has digitized many of the "centerfold" color illustrations from Puck magazine including this one that shows a young woman riding in on a bicycle as the arriving new year 1898.

Puck Magazine - New Year's 1898
1898's arrival will (hopefully) drive out "Bryanism" and "hard times"

The text reads, "Puck's greeting to the new year - Good luck to you! No punctures, no breakdowns, and easy roads!"

Title - Puck's greeting to the new year / Ehrhart.
Creator(s) - Ehrhart, S. D. (Samuel D.), ca. 1862-1937, artist
Date Created/Published - N.Y. : Published by Keppler & Schwarzmann, 1898 January 5.
Medium - 1 print : chromolithograph.
Summary - Print shows Puck holding a lithographic pen, greeting the New Year, a young woman labeled 1898 riding on a bicycle and spilling flowers from a cornucopia straped to her back; an old woman labeled 1897 rides off on a bicycle into a dark and dismal background, stirring up a cloud of dust labeled "Bryanism" and "Hard Times", and showing two furies.
Notes - Title from item.
Illus. from Puck, v. 42, no. 1087, (1898 January 5), centerfold.

From the Library of Congress - full record and TIFF version. The cataloger who created the records (such as the one above) has a blog post at the Library of Congress site about the Puck collection that this comes from.

After having created this entry, I realized that "Puck's greeting" (Good luck to you! No punctures, no breakdowns, and easy roads!) was the same as a title of a blog post from a fellow in England who covers some of the same 1890s-1900s bicycle topics that I do - oops. (His blog appears in "my blog list" but that doesn't mean I look at the entries all the time.) Well, I have presented an image of the full layout of the magazine pages and provided the full record as well as a link to the full record so my post is a little different. And different people can independently come to the same idea.

Blog Stats - December 2012

I took up this blog for various reasons - one was that I kept bumping into "factoids" about cycling history that I felt others would find interesting; also, I thought it might teach me a few things about using certain web-based resources (that otherwise I imagined I understood but didn't have hands on experience with).

From the Blogger stats for as of 12/31/2012

I started the blog in May 2009. Some time during the past six months or so, there was a day when I went into Blogger and my blog posts had mostly disappeared. Given how much time I have put into creating them and that I don't have them backed up locally in any way, I remained remarkably calm - anyway, later the same day the posts reappeared, however it now appears that the dates were somehow screwed up. Blogger's cumulative page views now thinks I started getting page views in 2008 when the blog only started in May of 2009. (I hadn't noticed this until now.) Conversely now none of the blog posts themselves are dated before July 31 2010 - during the first bunch of posts (as dated now), there are many instances of multiple posts on one day, which I don't think I was doing. So somehow the dates assigned to the posts got messed up. Since all the posts still seem to be there, I guess that's not a big deal, but it's . . . weird.

I had a blog post in June 2011 when I talked about having blogged for two years with some statistics - this earlier post confirmed I wasn't losing my mind.

Wheels to Bikes stats March 31, 2012
Blogger stats from March 2012, when the blog had a lot of growth

Since April 2012 I have had a significant drop in average daily page views - it was around 150 per day and now it is more like 90-100. Most of my page views are driven by Google searches, so I can't imagine what change occurred that drove the page views down. I have only added "content" that can be the target of searches . . .

Pages with highest number of page views

One change I made in 2012 was to add the "widget" on the right with "popular posts" that drives traffic to those pages from any blog entry that someone comes upon from searching. The Soviet time trial blog entry is by far the most viewed because (apparently) it attracts interest from visitors who came to look at something else but I also see it as a search target (see below).

Highest number of fixed search arguments that brought in users

Of course there are many variants that I see of these search arguments. ("Bicycle patents" or "old bike patents" and so on and not just "bike patents.")

Mostly North American users but a fair number from elsewhere