Sunday, April 27, 2014

Distracted Driver, Nun Edition

Nuns using bicycles - but not what I observed yesterday - from Flickr user FixedGear aka Pete

Yesterday my wife and I went to a Nationals day baseball game, a very traditional and pleasing daytime spring activity. (The Nationals also won, and the pitcher had a complete shutout game for the first time in his short major league career, so that was cool.) We drive a car to the games . . .

On the way home, while merging onto the SE Freeway in the District of Columbia, I was surprised that the Jeep SUV that ended up behind me was being driven by two nuns in traditional habits. Because of the sunglasses they were wearing and their choice of vehicle as well as certain aspects of their appearance, at first I thought they some people simply dressed up as nuns, but their Virginia "choose life" license plate and further thinking led me to realize, no, these are real nuns out tooling down the freeway in their Jeep. The nun riding shotgun in the front was apparently too old to be familiar with modern communications technology but since they were apparently late for some important event (or whatever) the driver was texting while driving. Yeah, on the freeway. Oblivious, apparently, to the implications or possibilities for a poor outcome.

As a mostly-cyclist, this sort of thing drives me crazy. If we can't trust the nuns to work out the moral and other problems with texting while driving, then . . . oh well. And the noise level from dedicated motorists whose view is that it is entirely the cyclists who break the law (Google reports about 16,800,000 hits for "cyclists break law") - yeah.

And no, I don't have a photo of this because I was driving my car. Not messing with phones or cameras. Their plate was VA 6090CL.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Striking Workers With Bicycles - 1916 Photograph

Sometimes it takes a little looking, and zooming in, to find photographs from 100 years ago (or so) of bicycles and cyclists.

Bain Collection photograph from Library of Congress of striking workers "on parade"
Catalog record:
Title - Cloak Makers Parade, 1916
Creator(s) - Bain News Service, publisher
Date Created/Published - 1916.
Medium - 1 negative : glass ; 5 x 7 in. or smaller.
Reproduction Number - LC-DIG-ggbain-22182 (digital file from original negative)
Call Number: LC-B2- 3907-14 [P&P]
Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
The catalog record does not indicate the inclusion in this photograph of cyclists, who are at left.

Detail from above photograph showing bicycles and cyclists in parade on this July day in 1916

A helpful Flickr user clarifies:
There is another (similar) photo in The evening world., July 08, 1916, Final Edition, Image 1 with the following text: "The picture shows the striking cloak and suit makers lined up before office of the Joint board, Cloak and Suit Makers' Union at No. 34 East Twenty-first Street, to draw their weekly allowance of $2 each. The line, four deep, reached down to Fourth Avenue and around into Twentieth Street. About $80,000 is paid to the strikers each week by the board." (

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Remote Control Brake for Your Kid's Bike - God Help Mankind

Ugh. That's all I can say about this one.

"MiniBrake: to make cycling safer for kids all over the world!"

This YouTube video was mentioned by the NYC Bikesnob blog - it seems to represent a new low in parenting. Or something. The young Hungarian developers of this idea have setup an IndieGoGo project to fund commercial production of these devices, which are a remote control brake system for kids' bikes. If your child is riding off into danger as you talk on your cell phone (as shown in the video!), you just punch a button on a remote and the brake is applied. Since the remote has a range of 50 meters, the brake automatically applies if it moves out of range of the remote, and also applies if the battery is running low.

I suppose I could launch into my personal list of the reasons why I have problems with this, but I think each of us can do that for ourselves.

Note that they maintain that, "MiniBrake does not replace parental care and prudence!" Umm. And, "The product contains a „black box”, which logs all braking events." Oh great, already heading down the Strava path, if only for "braking events."

They have had this funding opportunity open for five days and raised about $3,300 of their $75,000 target, which they hope to achieve by May 11. Well, who knows.

Addendum: This isn't a new idea - as we know, there are few new ideas with bicycles. Some British folks came up with "Bike Stoppa" (but URL appears dead) in 2008 - it was written up news article but they seem to have ceased production, although someone sold one for several dollars used on eBay as recently as March of last year. It probably doesn't say much for the commercial chances of this endeavor for the Hungarians that the British version failed.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Bike Deconstructed (Book Review)

The Bike Deconstructed: A Grand Tour of the Modern BicycleThe Bike Deconstructed: A Grand Tour of the Modern Bicycle by Richard Hallett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of those rare books that I get from the public library that I will probably buy a copy of later. Overall it is well done and interesting for someone with a general interest in cycling and bicycle history but who is not an expert already.

As with many books, the "blurb" is disingenuous - it says, "Do you know the difference between a head tube and a headset?" [and several other such questions] If not, this is the perfect guide for you. This sort of over-inclusive enthusiasm from the publisher (one assumes) is amusing, but probably not accurate. At less than 200 pages and with half of most pages allocated to photographs and the occasional diagram, the author assumes a fair degree of interest and acquaintance with bicycles and is a few steps beyond an introduction that clarifies what's what.

The focus is on "road bikes" but as the author explains, more than just for road racing - "the road bike is a fast- and easy-running machine with ergonomics suitable for a wide range of riding conditions. More specifically, it is a lightweight bike equipped with dropped handlebars, narrow(ish) tires, and an efficient connection between feet and pedals."

There are seven chapters: Materials, Frameset, Wheels, Drivetrain, Brakes, Contact Points, and Accessories, along with a glossary, index and limited suggestions for other reading.

Because of the abbreviated length of the text, the author makes quite a few categorical statements about subjects where there are other opinions - that's just a consequence of this kind of approach. In 35 pages he says what he can about road bike drive trains but there is no comparison to the detail in something like The Dancing Chain at 400 pages.

This isn't a book that I have sat down and read from cover to cover - although I suppose you could. I page around, look at the photographs, read the captions, maybe read some of the text, learning a few things and being entertained. A caption for a photograph of a modern handlebar says, "The oversized bulge at the handlebar center point adds strength and stiffness where needed as well as increasing the surface area available for clamping." Oh - I wondered about that. An explanation of the benefits of the modern threadless headset over the more traditional threaded headset convinced me of the advantage of the modern approach (even as I continue to admire the elegance of the appearance of my 1982 road bike with a threaded headset).

The photograph credits are from dozens of sources, mostly manufacturers, which is surprising since they were processed to achieve a standard and pleasing appearance in the book.

A fun and entertaining book to have around.

View all my reviews of cycling books on Goodreads

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Denmark and Cycling in 1898

Evening star. (Washington, D.C.), 16 April 1898. has this short item on its page featuring a variety of stories about cycling for the many in those days who were interested in the topic, towards the end of the cycling craze of the 1890s. This was arguably more for business types interested in selling bicycles in Denmark but has some interesting description, from an American perspective, of cycling in Denmark at the time.

Recent reports received at the State Department give some interesting facts in regard to the bicycle in European countries.
Vice Consul Bloom in Copenhagen says: "All classes, from the royal princes and princesses to the poorest workmen, use the bicycle in Denmark. The number now in use is estimated at about 100,000 for a population of 2,300,000). The roads through out the kingdom are excellent. Denmark is a flat country, with hardly any hills, and must be considered ideal from a cycler's point of view. If American exporters ship frames and wheels separately, they are sure to be on the safe side, or they can stipulate that they will not have anything to do with the duty, and leave that question to be settled by the Danish importers. There are no differential duties. The retail prices are from $25 to 100. The demand is mostly for the cheaper grades, and large quantities have been sold recently at $10 free on board New York."

From the National Museum of Denmark - in 1940 King Christian X could have chosen a bike, but certainly everyone else here seems to have done so

This situation is contrasted with that of Germany, also describe:
Consul General Cole at Dresden says: "Bicycles are used in Dresden by the wealthy and the middle or well-to-do classes. The lower and poorer class could hardly hope to accumulate enough money to buy them, although the remarkable reduction In the prices of American wheels may place them within reach. The streets of Dresden lire paved with asphalt and stone blocks, or macadamized, and are kept hard and smooth by constant rolling. They are clean, and furnish delightful avenues for wheeling. In the Grosser Garten are many miles of dirt roads, level and smooth, and, besides these, roads are being made in the park exclusively for cycling. Throughout Saxony the roads are hard smooth, and kept in good repair. Americans supply the largest number of wheels sold In this market, but there is considerable traffic in English bicycles."
The article goes on to describe the situation in similar detail for selected regions of Italy, France, Spain, and (somewhat oddly - since it is not part of Europe) Canada. (The article starts on the bottom of the page, fourth column from the left.)