Friday, December 8, 2017

Draft Animals: Living the Pro Cycling Dream (Once in a While)Draft Animals: Living the Pro Cycling Dream by Phil Gaimon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I have read Gaimon's two previous books and liked them reasonably well, so when I saw that he had another book coming out I was eager to read it. It focuses on his most successful year as a WorldTour rider with Garmin-Sharp in 2014, then his "remedial" year as a Continental level rider with Optum, followed by a less successful year with Cannondale (which was a successor WorldTour team to Garmin-Sharp).

The books successfully combines an interesting narrative presentation of what it is like to be on a WorldTour team with contemplation of several "what is the point of this?" type questions or considerations. At least for me, neither of these threads got in the way of the other.

Gaimon has a brisk style that I find easy and pleasant to read - I got through this in only a few days, which for me these days is highly unusual. (That alone is why it must be a five star read.) Gaimon's humor can veer into the juvenile, but my impression is that there is less of that in this book than the previous two books. One senses it was part of his identity as a professional bicycle racer, so it belongs.

One aspect of modern bicycle road racing is that we are in the post-Lance Armstong era - doping reached something like a pinnacle of technical success, then came crashing down. Gaimon, who has a tattoo that reads "clean" on his arm, was a professional road racer who established his career just when many sponsors were withdrawing support in reaction to the doping scandals. Most of the best known riders for some time however were all former dopers and one of the questions this book raises (but does not answer) is what the appropriate position is for a clean rider towards these former dopers. He does, however, describe many interactions between the two kinds of riders.

Gaimon occasionally makes comments about individuals that are not, let's say, particularly positive. That is, some of these people are almost certainly unhappy with him. The range of these comments varies considerably in tone and approach. For example, it becomes clear he has no use for the Schleck brothers, who are both (apparently) assumed to have enjoyed success largely through doping, mostly be descriptions of exchanges with them where other riders told them in one or another way to get lost. He is far more direct in his criticism of his former tour director, Jonathan Vaughters, and a few others.

One subject that surprised me in its absence is that while Gaimon had the difficulties of the contraction of support for professional cycling to contend with in the post-doping era, he says nothing about being an American professional bicycle racer in Europe as such. By the time he arrives to WorldTour cycling that mostly plays out in Europe that previously would have been mostly European riders, the challenge of success presented simply be being an American has been overcome, it seems.

One interesting aspect is that Gaimon's success with social media and skills at public relations ended up being perhaps his strongest contribution to a WorldTour team - which he realized was not what really what he was in it for. Now, however, as a "retired" racer, social media is fine and he is all about public relations, mostly it would appear on behalf of himself. http://philthethrill.net/ is the starting point for current information about "PhilTheThrill."

What will he write about next??

View my other book reviews.

Overman Wheel Co. Victor Bicycle Lithograph

Victor bicycles, Overman Wheel Company, Boston, New York, ...
Three women on bicycles

Will H Bradley was the American illustrator who did this, which was to be included in an issue of Harper's Magazine. Published in 1895, this is just before the height of the "bicycle craze" of the 1890s.

This is an for the Overman Wheel Company and their Victor bicycles.

www.loc.gov/item/2002721219/

Title-Victor bicycles, Overman Wheel Company, Boston, New York, ... / Will H. Bradley
Summary-Three women on bicycles.
Created / Published-1895.
Notes
- Lithograph printed by Harper & Brothers, New York.
- Reverse: cover by M. Parrish for Harper's Weekly, Christmas, 1895 [can't see since encapsulated with backing sheet].
- Promotional goal: US. D41. 1895; US. K22. 1895.
- This record contains unverified, old data from caption card.
Medium-1 print (poster) : color.
Call Number/Physical Location-POS - US .B732, no. 25 (B size) [P&P]
Repository-Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA>
Digital Id-cph 3b49660 //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b49660; cph 3a17246 //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3a17246; cph 3a29202 //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3a29202
Library of Congress Control Number-2002721219
Online Format-image
Description-1 print (poster) : color. | Three women on bicycles.
LCCN Permalink-lccn.loc.gov/2002721219

Victor Bicycles Poster,1896
This poster, also be Bradley for Overman, is probably better known.
Title: Victor Bicycles Overman Wheel Co. / / Bradley.
Creator(s): Bradley, Will, 1868-1962, artist
Date Created/Published: Boston : Forbes Co., [1896]
Medium: 1 print (poster) : lithograph, color.
Summary: Poster advertisement for Overman Wheel Company's Victor bicycles, showing a woman watching another woman riding a bicycle. Includes art nouveau style flowers.

OOPS! I eventually realized that I blogged separately about these two different items some years ago. Here, however I consolidated the information. And expanded it, slightly. Oh well!

Friday, November 24, 2017

Eiffel (Tower) Tandem Bike

Eiffel Tower Bike
Eiffel Tower tandem bicycle of 1896

New York Journal, December 20, 1896 - human interest article (of a sort) in the New York Journal newspaper during the "bicycle craze" of the 1890s.
RECONNOITRING TANDEM
The Newest Thing in Cycles Is Twenty Feet from Mother Earth.

Probably the most grotesque production in the cycling line is the Eiffel tower tandem. Der Stein der Weiser shows an illustration of this curiosity. It is a strongly constructed bicycle, supporting a pyramid shaped frame of hollow tubing twenty feet high. On top of this frame is a saddle with handle bars and treadles, the motion of which is transmitted by chains to the corresponding lower parts of the bicycle.

The chief difficulty with which the riders have to contend is to keep the machine balanced, as will be easily understood from a glance at the illustration, but it must also be very difficult for the upper rider to reach his seat, which cannot be a very safe one.
The illustration has "Sci.Am.NY" below it, which is probably giving credit to Scientific American where an article with this illustration may have appeared, although the text mentions a German publication (but seems to misspell the title?). The New York Journal newspaper of the 1890s was a relatively large newspaper in terms of pages and they filled it up with a wide variety of stories on various topics taken from other sources, the then-equivalent of click-bait. How (or if) these other publications were compensated for this re-use is not clear.

Riding high . . .
The do-it-yourself somewhat lesser modern version of this sort of thing

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thanksgiving and Bicycle Repairs (1897)

1897 Thanksgiving-Bicycle Comment
New York journal and advertiser, November 21, 1897

This is at the end of the 1890s "bicycle craze" in the United States and offers a sense that bicycles required paid upkeep. This appeared on a page of what were apparently intended to be humorous Thanksgiving anecdotes.


Sunday, November 19, 2017

Urban Cycling (Book Review)

Urban CyclingUrban Cycling by Laurent Belando

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The sub-title is "From the BMX to the Fixie" - it is something of a historical review of what could be called hipster or urban cycling.

There is some text but it is mostly the photography that draws you in. I got a used copy (from Powells online) for nine dollars and for that this is fun to have to page through occasionally. This is from a British publisher with some U.S. distribution, but it isn't the sort of thing a public library will have and anyway, I like to have a certain number of books heavy on photographs around the house, that I own. The book was originally published in France (in French) by a different publisher in 2015; this version was published in 2016. Most of the book is organized into "bike types" and "bike disciplines" (activities) with some "how to" type information at the end. They could have left the "how to" stuff out, which is mostly too brief to be useful.

View my other cycling book reviews.


Saturday, November 18, 2017

Generic Bikes of 1942

Pocatello, Idaho. Bicycle racks (1942)
Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information photo of women and bicycles in 1942

Title-Pocatello, Idaho. Bicycle racks
Contributor Names-Lee, Russell, 1903-1986, photographer
Created / Published-1942 July.
Subject Headings
- United States--Idaho--Bannock County--Pocatello.
- Idaho--Bannock County--Pocatello
Format Headings-Nitrate negatives.
Notes
- Title and other information from caption card.
- Transfer; United States. Office of War Information. Overseas Picture Division. Washington Division; 1944.
- More information about the FSA/OWI Collection is available at http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.fsaowi
- Film copy on SIS roll 16, frame 296.
Medium-1 negative : nitrate ; 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 inches or smaller.
Call Number/Physical Location-LC-USF34- 073822-E [P&P]
Source Collection-Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Photograph Collection (Library of Congress)
Repository-Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division Washington, DC 20540 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.print
Digital Id-fsa 8c32556 //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8c32556
Control Number-fsa2000050764/PP
Reproduction Number-LC-USF34-073822-E (b&w film nitrate neg.) LC-DIG-fsa-8c32556 (digital file from original neg.)
Rights Advisory-No known restrictions. For information, see U.S. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black & White Photographs http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/res/071_fsab.html
Online Format-image
Description-1 negative : nitrate ; 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 inches or smaller.

This comes from a large collection of materials best known for the "Migrant Mother" photograph by Dorothea Lange, taken in 1936. Here is general information about this collection. There are about 100 other depression-era and World War II era photographs in this collection.

In most of these photos from the 30s and 40s, the bikes are not particularly interesting, reflecting I think the poor status of bicycles as a means of transportation at the time. In most of these photos the bicycles are being ridden by adults for whom a bicycle was a poor second to motorized transportation (that is, a car). The main focus of bicycle marketing at the time, such as it was, was on children, although during WWII that was not active to save on the materials required.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Wildlife on Urban Cycling Travels

Hawk (?) or Falcon on Four Mile Run
Falcon - or Hawk? - on trail along Four Mile Run in Arlington VA

Saw this today - remarkable how much wildlife I see along streams on trails around here. This was no more than 100 yards (meters) from the 395 interstate highway going into Washington DC. And I saw a rather large fox while walking our dog this morning!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Paris Poster Featuring Cyclist-Photographer

Première Exposition Internationale de Photographie (poster)
Note the camera attached to the handlebars

Title-Première Exposition Internationale de Photographie
Summary-Woman riding a bike with a camera on the handle-bars.
Created / Published-1892.
Notes
- Color lithograph by Affiches-Camis.
- Promotional goal: Fr. K94. 1892.
- Exchange, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.
- This record contains unverified, old data from caption card.
- Caption card tracings: 1. Photographers 1892. I. Title. II. 1892.
Medium-1 print (poster) : color ; 130 x 100 cm.
Call Number/Physical Location POS - Fr .A48, no. 1 (D size) [P&P]
Repository-Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
Digital Id-cph 3b49687 //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b49687
Library of Congress Control Number 2002721228
Reproduction Number-LC-USZC2-1787 (color film copy slide)
Online Format-image
Description-1 print (poster) : color ; 130 x 100 cm. | Woman riding a bike with a camera on the handle-bars. LCCN Permalink lccn.loc.gov/2002721228

www.loc.gov/item/2002721228/

Monday, November 6, 2017

Idyllic Cycling Outing of 1896

Family Outing on Bicycles 1896 (lithograph)
Presumably used in advertising for this Indiana bicycle company

Title-Crown Cycles
Summary-Family outing on bicycles.
Created / Published-1896.
Notes
- Lithograph poster.
- This record contains unverified, old data from caption card.
Medium-1 print : lithograph.
Call Number/Physical Location-No call number recorded on caption card [item] [P&P]
Repository-Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
Digital Id-cph 3a48326 // hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3a48326
Library of Congress Control Number-2006684350
Reproduction Number LC-USZ62-48185 (b&w film copy neg.)
Rights Advisory-Rights status not evaluated.
Format-image
Description-1 print : lithograph. | Family outing on bicycles.
LCCN Permalink lccn.loc.gov/2006684350
www.loc.gov/resource/cph.3a48326/

Peculiar sort of advertisement - only the man's bike is properly visible, and even it is not shown in much detail. The front of the woman's bike is obscured and the child's bike is not visible at all. (At this point serious children's bikes were not much of a market since the cost was rather high for something for a child.) It is also interesting that the emphasis here, in 1896, is on where you can go with the bicycle and doesn't show the cyclists riding the bicycles.

1896 was the height of the so-called "bicycle craze" of the 1890s.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

"What Happened?" Bicycle Illustration 1897

1897 bicycle illustration "What Happened?"
Found on the Library of Congress web site - https://www.loc.gov/item/2010715933/
Title-What happened?
Contributor Names-Frost, A. B. (Arthur Burdett), 1851-1928, artist
Created / Published-[1897?]
Subject Headings
- Bicycles & tricycles
- Men
- Traffic accidents
Format Headings-Drawings.
Periodical illustrations.
Notes
- (DLC/PP-1934:0009).
- Forms part of: Cabinet of American illustration (Library of Congress).
- Published as cover of: Harper's weekly, 41:1093 (Nov. 6, 1897).
Medium-1 drawing : wash.
Call Number/Physical Location-CAI - Frost, no. 47 (C size) [P&P]
Source Collection-Cabinet of American illustration (Library of Congress)
Repository-Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.print
Digital Id
cai 2a12589 //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cai.2a12589
cph 3c38124 //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c38124
Note: digital file from intermediary roll film copy

The digitized version is not of very high quality since it was digitized from a photographic reproduction of the original item. That is why it has the color bar and rulers.

1897 bicycle illustration "What Happened?" detail
Detail from the above illustration

Above is a zoomed in view of the bicycle taken from the TIFF image - the level of detail, because this is digitized from a reproduction and not the original illustration, is not particularly good but at least provides enough to show that the person doing the illustration captured accurately the details of an 1897 bicycle.

You can tell it is a "fixie" as it would be called today - that is, the chain drive doesn't spin freely when the rider is not pedaling, the pedals move in concert with the back wheel. The easiest way to slow down or stop was simply to slow down or stop pedaling. This bike has a small post on either side of the front fork that stick out so that a rider could remove his feet from the pedals and rest them on the fork to allow the pedals (and rear wheel) to spin freely while descending hills - getting the feet back onto the pedals was tricky, but this bike also came equipped with a simple "spoon brake" that is visible - that is, a levered brake actuated by the right hand that pressed a post downward to the front tire, pressing a block of some material (perhaps also covered in rubber) against the tire to slow the bicycle. This can be a moderately effective braking system but if used frequently it was hard on the front tire. Certainly it was better than nothing! (And such brakes are still in use on bikes in many parts of the world.)

Another detail provided is the bicycle saddle - a non-standard bicycle saddle was a common aftermarket upgrade for bicycles in those days. Here the saddle is split in the middle, apparently to provide more comfort (or something). Such bicycle saddles remind me of the slotted McClellan saddle for riding horses used by the military that have a slot down the middle. As a teenager I occasionally rode a horse using such a saddle and didn't find it very comfortable, but the slotted nature of a bicycle saddle is less rigid and usually comfortable enough. Still, I don't have a good association with slotted bicycle saddles.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Dockless BikeShare Bike Hiding From Riders in Plain Sight

Little Lost Dockless Bike
Parked at this location on a busy street for a full week

This bike arrived at this location last Sunday morning. (The photo was taken from the local multi-use trail across the street from the bike that is heavily used by walkers and cyclists.) It is at South Wakefield St and South Walter Reed Drive in (South) Arlington, VA, at a bus stop. Biking by most direct route, it is less than ten miles from Capitol Hill, which is the middle (assuming you look at it that way) of Washington DC. Not the distant suburbs, but not a quick bicycle ride either.

For the "docked" Capital Bikeshare system, this area is at the edge of the present network of bikeshare docks. The nearest station is now about one-third of a mile away. There are about (per https://www.capitalbikeshare.com/how-it-works) 3,700 Capital Bikeshare bikes available across the metro DC area with this network.

This orangy bike is part of Mobike's dockless bikeshare. In the DC area, Mobike has started with 400 of their "dockless" bikes. Mobike ("the world's largest smart bike sharing company" they say) has a press release with some details of their plans.
Mobike is a re-imagination and delivery of the ultimate urban bicycle with innovations such as the chainless shaft transmission, non-puncture airless tires, a lightweight aluminum anti-rust frame, an enhanced and durable disk-brakes and an auto-inspired five-spoke wheel. These functional design elements result in a maintenance-free bike, with each Mobike’s lifespan estimated at 4 years of fix-free cycling. Each bicycle is connected to the Mobike IoT network via GPS-embedded smart lock; forming one of the largest IoT networks on the globe.
Some of this isn't accurate for DC - apparently Mobike bikes are usually single speed bikes with a shaft drive (no bicycle chain, but rather a drive shaft like a car). Here, in their first US location, Mobike decided to have a three speed gear system and apparently for the time being they aren't able to combine a low cost durable three speed hub with their shaft drive system, so you get a bike chain (with chain guard to keep chain grease off clothes). Some of it sounds good in one way but is more about reducing the company need for bike maintenance than anything else - as they mention, they hope for "4 years of fix-free cycling." (Four years without lubricating the chain will be . . . interesting.) So the "non-puncture airless tires" (by which them mean flat proof) are mostly about avoiding any company time spent fixing flat tires and not because you are going to prefer the ride of a bicycle with hard tires. (Part of the genius of the basic bicycle design is that the shock absorbing system is built into the inflatable tire, which is mostly not possible with airless tires.) And the "auto-inspired five-spoke wheel" (that has five pairs of spokes, or ten spokes, but OK) is also about low maintenance since unlike regular bike spokes, no maintenance or adjustment of spokes like these is even possible. (The idea that people using bicycles want something inspired by automobile design is curious.)

To get back to the subject at hand. Mobike's PR continues:
Mobike’s distinctive silver and orange bikes will be initially deployed at key downtown locations such as DC Metro stations, university campuses, and public parks. To use the service, users simply need to download the Mobike app, register, and scan the QR code on the bike.
While they may have been "deployed at key downtown locations" this one has been ridden to an obscure South Arlington location where hundreds if not thousands of people have seen it there. Since use of the app is presumably still becoming commonplace, in the course of a full week no one has been interested in using this thing. And Mobike, which is presumably seeing it with their gigantic "Internet of things" network, can't be bothered to move it to some place where it might be useful since that would cost money.

Is there anything seriously wrong with this scenario? Not sure.

Post Script: After a week and a day, the bike disappeared from that location. Perhaps the Mobike people reacted to my tweet (to them) on the subject.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Dockless Bikeshare Parking Example

MoBike in front of Library of Congress Madison building
MoBike in front of Library of Congress Madison building

The most recent rider left it near the front door. The nearest bike rack is about 100 feet away, just barely visible in this photograph (if you click on it and zoom in). As it happens, the nearest bike racks were all full, but a plaza like this isn't intended for bike parking on a random basis like this.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Part of My Commute on YouTube



Someone's video of the trail I use for several miles of my commute. The video starts where I join the trail on my commute.

I understand why the camera angle is the way it is, to show the area traveled through more fully, but this doesn't show very well the condition of the trail itself and how (for example) the width varies. The last mile or so (starting around minute 11) shows the most recently "upgraded" part of the trail that is wider than most of the trails around here, but this isn't obvious from the video (alas). I also find it disconcerting when the video is playing at 300 percent of actual speed. . .

Monday, September 25, 2017

LimeBikes on Mt Vernon Trail Near National Airport

LimeBikes near National Airport on Mt Vernon Trail
Two LimeBike bikeshare bikes parked on the grass just off Mt Vernon trail

At around 6:45 AM, there were two of these LimeBikes in the same location, although one was on its side. I was surprised to find that they were still here on my ride home, around 4:45 PM. Now though both were on their kickstands, looking like they were posed for a bikeshare ad!

The LimeBike user agreement states, "Upon conclusion of your ride, the Bike must be parked at a lawful parking spot, i.e. the Bike cannot be parked on private property or in a locked area or in any other non-public space." Keep in mind that these dockless bikeshare bikes are "locked" by disabling the ability of the rear wheel, but not locked to a fixed object. One wonders if the Park Service thinks of the areas adjacent to the trail as a "lawful parking spot" for such bikes.

In Seattle there was considerable discussion before permits were issued to operators of dockless bikeshare systems about where they could and should not have their bikes parked. That hasn't happened here as far as I have seen, with DC government in particular taking a wait-and-see attitude.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Perceptions of Bicycle Safety Have Changed (Since 1991)

Man and boy on bike in DC
Man and boy riding a bike with a dog perched on the man's shoulder near the U.S. Capitol Reflecting Pool

This photograph from the Library of Congress collection taken in near the Capitol reflecting pool in Washington DC suggests that in the 25 years since 1991 safety in cycling has changed a little bit.

Contributor Names - Patterson, Laura, active approximately 1989-2000, photographer
Created / Published - [Sept. 1991]
Subject Headings
- Reflecting pools--Washington (D.C.)--1990-2000
- Cycling--Washington (D.C.)--1990-2000
- Dogs--Washington (D.C.)--1990-2000
Format Headings - Film negatives--1990-2000.
Notes
- Title devised by Library staff.
- Date from caption information for contact sheet ROLL CALL-1991-507 or corresponding negative sleeve.
- Contact sheet available for reference purposes: ROLL CALL-1991-507, frame 20/20A.
- Contact sheet or negative sleeve caption: "Reflecting pool."
- Forms part of: CQ Roll Call Photograph Collection.
Medium - 1 photograph : negative ; film width 35mm (roll format)
Source Collection - Roll Call portion of CQ Roll Call Photograph Collection (Library of Congress)
Repository - Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.print
Digital Id - ppmsca 38847 //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.38847
Library of Congress Control Number - 2015646966
Reproduction Number - LC-DIG-ppmsca-38847 (digital file from original item)
Rights Advisory - No known restrictions on publication.
Description - 1 photograph : negative ; film width 35mm (roll format)
LCCN Permalink - https://lccn.loc.gov/2015646966

LimeBikes on the Mall (Dockless Bikeshare Arrives in DC)

LimeBikes on National Mall
While jogging during lunch Friday September 22 I came across these two LimeBikes

I almost wonder if the LimeBike people put these here like this, or if some users actually left them aligned with this bike rack. I have yet to see a MoBike bicycle around, but two days after these were announced as being available (I think that's right) here these are at lunch time on Friday September 22.

When I rode home hours later, I saw another one parked on a sidewalk along Independence. It was not near a rack, just standing on the sidewalk held upright by its kickstand. Because people here are used to bicycles being locked to something, these bikes seem odd just standing with a lock merely disabling the back wheel (using a Dutch bike approach). In the above case, the bikes are nicely placed near bike racks, which I suppose keeps them more likely to remain upright but also makes it harder for anyone else to use the rack as intended. Hmm.

I loaded the MoBike and LimeBike Android apps. The MoBike app was a lot more intrusive, more or less asking if it could have access to everything on the phone. Really? Why? I declined to give access to anything other than location, so perhaps that it why the map labels displayed in Chinese - a map of Washington DC, but still. The MoBike app was also in a big hurry to have me "top up" an account with some $ from a credit card. Whoo, let's see where these bikes are, first! The LimeBike app seems to be tailored for the US, which is a better approach I would say, and only wanted to know my location, which makes sense. It noted that the first ride is free and didn't start hitting me up for $. So aside from the fact that I have seen LimeBikes near where I work in DC (and not a MoBike) I already like LimeBike better than MoBike.

I'm curious to see if dockless bikeshare can work in Washington DC that already has a successful "regular" bikeshare system. My doubts include whether people will really park them properly (whatever that might mean, which isn't clear to me, except that certain kinds of bike parking will not work well) and whether a system that only locks the bike wheel and not the bike to a fixed object can work. Among other doubts . . .

I might give one a try. We'll see. First ride is free, after all.

As an aside, I did manage easily enough not to use a car on "Car Free" day (9/22/2017) but it was pretty much business as usual, commuting to/from work on a bike and not going anywhere in the evening requiring a car. So I'm not thinking I should give myself too much credit for that one . . .



Saturday, September 9, 2017

My 2,000 Character Response to WaPo Article on Bicycle Commuting

The Washington Post has an article, "Cycling to work means better health and a longer life. Here’s how to get started." that I made a comment on (that will be lost in the sea of comments, which is probably just fine). I have reproduced it here. You only get 2,000 characters for a comment!

Bike to Work Day, 2011
Line of bicycle commuters on Mt Vernon trail several years ago on "bike to work" day

"Cycling to work means better health and a longer life. Here’s how to get started." The first part of this title is surprising since typical headlines for stories like this include the word "may" - as in, it MAY mean better health and a longer life - or it may not. I guess that the author (and editor) felt OK with leaving that out is encouraging.

I'm not sure that the approach provided that much useful "here's how to start" guidance but as a selection of somewhat inspiring stories with some selected suggestions it is fine.

About the e-bike commuter, it says, "And she gets to work without sweating, traveling nearly as fast as a car." Since we are talking about pedal assist bike, and since this is Washington DC, this seems unlikely on hot days. Simply standing around outside is enough to start sweating in much of July-August, and although the self-generated breeze from riding does carry away some perspiration, you can't get away from some sweating. And the "traveling nearly as fast as car" suggests a high rate of speed but it is really more the slow-and-steady-wins-the-raise over automobiles that kill a lot of time in traffic jams. Those e-bike commuters I see who want a high rate of speed, which is certainly possible with some of them (over 25 mph on some pedal assist bikes) often create hazards for themselves and others, particularly when on multiuse trails that were intended for around 15 mph max.

The article doesn't include the suggestion that seems most useful to me - anyone thinking about this is likely to have seen a neighbor who is a bike commuter - the thing to do is to ask that person their advice. A lot of getting started is overcoming certain seeming obstacles specific to a location that a neighbor can likely help with. And this ties in with a pleasing aspect of bicycle commuting, which is that most of us eagerly help each other. It's a community you get as part of being a bike commuter.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Bikes Vs Cars (Documentary Movie)



Video from Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling

Recently the Washington Post woke up to an issue that had been percolating for a while - a controversy over where to put a multi-use trail that will run parallel to an widened version of an existing interstate highway (I-66) in northern Virginia that is a key commuting route for workers seeing to get into Washington DC (and other points). The problem (or challenge) is that widening the highway (and having a trail with it) will push further into the backyards of many homeowners along the route. These homeowners and their neighbors would prefer to have the cyclists and pedestrians who use the trail on the highway side of the large sound barrier wall that is now an established element of such highways. If the trail is on the neighborhood side of the wall, the trail users will be in what is now someone's backyard (in effect). Not surprisingly most users of such a trail would prefer to be on the side of the wall away from the road traffic, for pretty obvious reasons. Most of the trail users (other than those who own these homes, it seems from the Washington Post) are not concerned with riding in what was recently someone's back yard if the alternative is riding in a concrete and asphalt valley with a bunch of cars, trucks, and buses. Particularly since one can guess that even after the highway is widened the traffic will be going slow or at a standstill, generating lovely exhaust for cyclists and pedestrians to consume in large quantity along with large amounts of waste heat during the warm months of the year.

To me, that such a discussion is proceeding with so little consideration for the views of the trail users says a lot about the relative power and interests of motorists versus pedestrians and cyclists in this country.

OK, enough of that, now a bit about the documentary movie "Bikes vs Cars" that I just watched on Netflix.


Trailer on YouTube for the documentary "Bikes vs Cars" that also invites you to pay to view the whole thing

The New York Times had a reasonably positive short review.

A review on the CityLab site suggests that the movie is "waging the wrong war."

The movie was made in Sweden and was not intended specifically for an American audience. (Some parts of it are sub-titled). The narrative moves shifts between Sao Paulo, Los Angeles, Toronto, and Copenhagen, with a different focus in each location. In Sao Paulo, the emphasis is on a particular activist who zips through the streets on her single-speed bike but eventually attends meetings with mayor - her character (if you will) is the most developed. On the other hand, former Toronto mayor Rob Ford is presented as the buffoonish voice of the most extreme enemy of cycling (which is pretty easy to do given things he has said on camera). A certain amount of factual information is presented, but unlike many discussions of the advantages of cycling, the move doesn't devolve into a sea of facts that are difficult for most people to assess. The main fact-based point is simple - the number of cars is apparently going to jump from one billion at the time the movie is made to twice that in 2020 and in cities such as Sao Paulo and Los Angeles in particular (but also many others not mentioned specifically) the utility of owning a car that is unable to get you anywhere in continuous traffic jams by itself suggests there is a problem.

I think the CityLab reviewer missed a certain point. The movie title, "Bikes vs Cars," is meant ironically. The "vs" relationship is not bikes vs cars but rather a conflict between a vision that allows a vast worldwide growing middle class to have and use automobiles even as the resources to support that are limited and a vision that for something more sustainable and realistic. This alternative reality is where Copenhagen fits into the story, although I thought the main weakness of the movie was that relatively little was shown and said about the successes of cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam.

This is not a documentary intended to provide a viewer the best possible facts supporting views one way or the other (and certainly not all possible facts for all possible views). It is an attempt to stir a particular emotional reaction - outrage. That's OK, in fact that can be a good thing.

Movie web site: http://www.bikes-vs-cars.com/thefilm.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Hikers with Bikes (1920 News Item)

If I am writing about cycling history I usually write about 1890s, but I came upon this photograph of two young women with bicycles and was intrigued.

Beverly Bayard & Lorline Davis [with bikes] - news photo, 1920
These two young women walked across America but were photographed by a news service in NYC with bicycles

Sometimes it is possible to find articles in Chronicling America that are about the same persons who appear in online collections of digitized news service photos. In this case, the photograph had the names of the two young women and these names seemed a sufficiently unusual combination that it would be easy to find any articles if they existed. And in fact I found several, including this news service article from the Idaho Republican for October 1, 1920. It has a photograph, but a different one (without bikes).
NEW YORK.—The Misses Beverly Bayard and Lorline Davis, of Los Angeles, are in New York after a walk across the continent which took them four and a half months.......Miss Bayard is an illustrator and Miss Davis a newspaper writer. "The story you are taking will be the last one printed in our scrapbook," Miss Bayard said. "We're going to put the dear old record away in moth balls, hunt up a garret in Greenwich village and go to work. "It has been a wonderful adventure and a wonderful experience. I want to say if there are any girls in New York who are tired of the big city, and who want to renew their souls, let them get some stout shoes, some trousers, khaki shirts, knapsacks and start on a hike."
It seems that they walked, not bicycled, across America. Why the Bain News Service photography did this photograph of them with bicycles in a mystery. They seem to be something like rental bikes - they don't look suitable as equipped for distance riding. So while I found more information about these two, I did not find the story I would have guessed I would find. Sometimes that happens.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

"The Almighty Bicycle" (in 1896)


The Almighty Bicycle - The Most Startling, Sudden and Powerful Influence Ever Known in the History of Trade - article from the New York Journal from the summer of 1896, the height of the 1890s "bicycle craze."

The Almighty Bicycle - The Most Startling, Sudden and Powerful Influence Ever Known in the History of Trade.  (June 1896 article)
"Infographic" illustrating the growth in bicycle cycles from 1891 to 1896

From the text of the very long article:
IN all the wonder story of commerce and money dealings from the days of the Phoenicians there is no chapter so astounding as that which tells of the bicycle. A toy, it has overturned the trade of nations within the compass of five fleeting years. Serious people laughed at it and called the folk who rode it today those same serious people have recalled their capital from world-wide enterprises and started it anew In the bicycle business to save'themselves from commercial shipwreck. The whirring of these cobweb wheels has been like the spider's spinning - silent, wonderful. Fortunes have been made as if by magic.

The facts and figures are appalling. Commerce, for all its keen vision, can not read them aright. Five years ago, in this whole wide country, not 60,00Q bicycles were made or sold, and the solid, stolid business men made mock of the Mark the change. In this year of grace and pneumatic tires, four-fifths of a million of wheels be marketed in the United States alone. The leaders in the bicycle trade say that an average price for these machines us $80. Multiply. There will have been spent this year in the United States alone, for bicycles. The world is bicycle mad.

The article is quite long, but the suggestion is that the popularity of bicycles and the amount of money spent on bicycles by consumers caused a fall in other products, including from the sale of horses to cigars and jewelry.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Summer of Glass on Mt Vernon Trail

More glass Mt Vernon trail
Bits of glass from a broken bottle distributed on overpass bridge of Mt Vernon Trail near National Airport

If you click on the photo you can see a bit more of the glass, which in this image isn't that bad looking. Some days there has been quite a bit more than this.

There are three different overpass bridges on this trail near National Airport. Since the beginning of June there has been new glass appearing on one or another of these bridges at least once a week and sometimes more often. One sees cyclists pulled to the side of the trail changing flats (not surprising) as a result. It is obviously malicious since it happens over and over with the same kind of clear glass each time, spread across the trail. There are never sizable chunks of a bottle as you usually see with a broken bottle. There have been several dozen different times glass has appeared anew.

The clever aspect here is that on this part of the trail, given how the bridges are constructed, there is no place for the glass to go unless it is swept up by someone.

I have regularly sent email reporting this to the contact email on the web page for the Park Service people for the GW Parkway. Apparently they are able to send someone out to clean up much of the glass but sometimes it takes a day or two. It is quite . . . annoying. (To clarify - it is annoying that someone keeps putting broken glass on the trail, not that it may take a while for the NPS to clean it up. The NPS is not funded to sweep the trails on a daily basis!)

Quite a few cyclists don't seem to see the glass, even when it seems very noticeable to me - they go riding on through it at speed. I slow down and sometimes walk the bike through it.

Ugh.



Saturday, August 12, 2017

Bike Parking at Nationals Ball Park & Clothing Options

Nats bike parking lot as changing station
Bikes can serve as a drying rack, but leaving this much stuff in a public parking area is an interesting notion

Also, the part where he changed his clothes made an impression on the folks managing the parking area - I asked. They of course have no guidance on what to tell such people. "Hey mister, change your clothes in privacy!" I do give him credit for having arrived even earlier than I did (this was the only bike there when I got to the park) and he tucked it back out of sight of the street at least.

The saying that when you go to a baseball game you never know what you will see is usually understood to pertain to the play on the field. Ha ha - small joke, sure.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Four Mile Run Trail Open

New observation platform along Four Mile Run (Arlington VA)
New observation platform along Four Mile Run

Part of the trail along Four Mile Run that I commute on has been closed requiring a detour. Finally the trail is open. It is somewhat odd since the barriers and signs that had closed off a portion of the trail have been removed but otherwise there is signage suggesting the detour is still in effect.

As is usually the case, since they replaced the old asphalt trail with new asphalt, the new trail is easily 18-24 inches wider than what was there before. It is crazy better than the Mount Vernon Trail that it leads to, for example.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Anti-Cyclist Tract From 1896 (AKA the "Bicycle Road to Hell")

Anti-Bicycle book from 1896

Historical and humorous sketches of the donkey, horse and bicycle. The bicycle viewed from four standpoints: anatomical, phisiological [!], sociological, and financially. Also an allegory on the bicycle road to hell

What a title page!
HISTORICAL AND HUMOROUS SKETCHES
OF THE
DONKEY, HORSE AND BICYCLE.

THE BICYCLE VIEWED FROM FOUR STANDPOINTS :
ANATOMICAL, PHISIOLOGICAL, SOCIOLOGICAL,
AND FINANCIALLY.

ALSO AN ALLEGORY ON THE BICYCLE ROAD TO HELL.

THE VEIL OF VICES STRIPPED.

WITH NUMEROUS ANECDOTES AND REMINISCENCES
OF BYGONE DAYS.

By Dr. C: E. NASH,
LITTLE ROCK, ARK.

Dr. Nash published this book himself. He also made sure it was deposited for copyright registration at the Library of Congress. What was he trying to do with this book?
We would not undertake to say but that some of the purest and best class, of women are riding bicycles ; some of the most cultured and refined ladies are indulging in what they consider a refining exercise. Their endorsement has led to untold liberties, their sanction to immoralities of which they are ignorant. A sanction of an evil by the good gives double force to the evil. The motive for writing this book is to try to improve the morals and manners of those who stand in the way of good manners and right living, not by a progressive but a retrogressive movement.
Oh. Well.

The guy is a bigot, and he attacks more than cyclists. Not particularly humorous - pretty nasty. Ugh!


Saturday, July 29, 2017

Commuting in Heavy Rain


Tweet shows Four Mile Run as it was during my afternoon commute

The Washington Post called it a "heavy summer rain event" that was "very strange." Perhaps not the most sensible day to commute by bike? Where did I put my common sense?

Yeah well.

For one thing, in the morning there was no rain at all - the rain was only going to show up later in the day. It is easier to deal with any rain, including heavy rain, if it is only on the way home. Even if the stuff in my Timbuk2 bag got wet on the way home (although it didn't) it's no big deal once I'm home. Also, I have done this commute for a long time and I have a good sense of where the problem areas might be in different kinds of weather. I had decided that aside from getting pretty wet, there were few serious risks. I didn't ride down Independence Avenue but rather more slowly through the Capitol grounds and down the National Mall. Once I get past the Jefferson Monument to the 14th Street bridge I am on trails the whole way home (for about seven miles). There are parts of the trail that can flood, but there are ways around those spots.

It was 70-some degrees (ie, around 20 C) but I decided to wear a rain slicker. I wore a thin wool t-shirt under it. Of course, I was soaked after riding 10 miles, but I was neither cold nor hot.

The main problem is having water mixed with sweat (or who knows what) run into my eyes that then irritates them. It is kind of hard to ride with your eyes closed. I have this cap-thing I wear under my helmet (see below) that has a bill which is usually great but it failed with this amount of rain and my eyes got pretty irritated; I had to stop several times as a result.

Barrier cap-thing gift for Christmas 2014

My main concession to common sense in this weather is to ride at a conservative pace - it is easy to misread what you are seeing with water accumulating in unusual ways and it is better to ride into trouble at a moderate speed than while riding as fast as possible.

One aspect of being out in the rain in weather like this is how striking it is how little people driving cars are thinking about how unusual the weather is or are making the slightest adjustments to it. A modern car, with radio (or whatever) on, windows shut, AC turned up, isolates the driver a significant amount (says the cyclist). I could give examples but I am suddenly bored by this subject.

Spindle with cars

Monday, July 24, 2017

Shakespeare Would Ride the Bicycle if Alive Today

Shakespeare would ride the bicycle if alive today
Brochure from Cleveland Indian bicycle company-Shakespeare Would Ride the Bicycle if Alive Today

Libraries sometimes have in their collections brochures that are treated like a book. This is such an example - the University of Delaware had digitized this "book" that is a 12 page brochure from the Cleveland Bicycle Company, published in 1896. It is available from the HathiTrust digital library consortium web site in full. I found the cover the most amusing; the remainder is not so clever (and one is reminded of certain kinds of unfortunate default racism of earlier times).

It seems an odd marketing approach in the America of 1896 to try to tie cycling to Shakespeare.

And would Shakespeare have been amused??

Title : Shakespeare Would Ride the Bicycle if Alive Today
Corporate Author: H.A. Lozier & Co.
Language(s): English
Published: Cleveland : The Company, ©1896.
Subjects: H.A. Lozier & Co. > Catalogs.
Bicycles > Catalogs.
Physical Description: [12] p. : col. ill. ; 14 cm.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Bicycle Sign With Bike Made of PVC Pipe

Bicycle Sign from PVC pipe

Photograph from a new collection online of color photographs, "Roadside America," that doesn't have any bicycles however. This sign is made to look like a large bicycle, made (it appears) mostly of PVC pipe.

Title-The Great Escape bike sign, Route 29
Contributor Names-Margolies, John, photographer
Created / Published-1988.
Subject Headings
- Signs (Notices)--1980-1990
- United States--South Carolina--Spartanburg
Format Headings
Slides--1980-1990.--Color
Genre-Slides--1980-1990.--Color
Notes
- Title, date and keywords based on information provided by the photographer.
- Margolies category: Main Street signs.
- Purchase; John Margolies 2008 (DLC/PP-2008:109-4).
- Credit line: John Margolies Roadside America photograph archive (1972-2008), Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
- Forms part of: John Margolies Roadside America photograph archive (1972-2008).
Medium-1 photograph : color transparency ; 35 mm (slide format).
Call Number/Physical Location-LC-MA05- 1777 [P&P]
Source Collection-Margolies, John John - Margolies Roadside America photograph archive
Repository-Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.print
Digital Id-mrg 01777 //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/mrg.01777
Library of Congress Control Number-2017703891
Reproduction Number-LC-DIG-mrg-01777 (digital file from original color transparency)
Rights Advisory
No known restrictions on publication. For more information, see "John Margolies Roadside America Photograph Archive - Rights and Restrictions Information" www.loc.gov/rr/print/res/723_marg.html
Online Format-image
Description-1 photograph : color transparency ; 35 mm (slide format).
LCCN Permalink-lccn.loc.gov/2017703891

This article has a photograph of the building along with the bike-sign on top.


Saturday, July 8, 2017

Women Bicycle Racers of 1898

Women Seven Day Racers, NYC, 1898
"Young women who will strip for the seven days bicycle race championship" - click through to Flickr to zoom

From the New York Journal and Advertiser, November 13, 1898, photographic supplement.
www.loc.gov/resource/sn83030180/1898-11-13/ed-1/?sp=15

Riders identified are Tillie Anderson (who today seems the best known of these riders, with an entry in wikipedia), Clara Drehmel, Lissette (last name not given, identified as "Mlle. Lissette" who was a French rider), Lizzie Claw.

This newspaper often tried to appeal to what one could consider a prurient interest - here, the notion of the women racers "stripping" in order to race (which is demonstrated in a sequence of photos on the page).

Simpson Chain with two women riders 1896
Lissette shown in mid-1890s photo from France

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Trails - Just Like Roads?

OK excuse me for a little grumpy kvetching.

Lucky Run (Arlington VA) multi-use trail - early morning
Lucky Run trail re-striped just like a roadway

Above is part of the multi-use trail near my house, that runs next to a steam called "Lucky Run." Streams in this part of the world are often called a "run" (for running downhill, I guess). The stream is the right.

Riding home from work a while ago, I came across a private company with road type equipment applying these nice new painted yellow lines the trail. A worker encouraged me to avoid riding through the fresh paint. Yes . . . the trail has been here all the 25+ years I have lived here - the previous yellow lines had faded into oblivion but apparently someone decided to spend a few dollars to freshen that aspect up.

I have no problem with spending money on the trail - far from it. However as money to spend on this trail, and most others I see, applying yellow lines seems far less useful than doing some maintenance. As you can see in the photo, there are cracks in the asphalt. It is possible to apply some glop (sealant) on those that keeps water from building up below, then freezing and expanding and creating bigger raised cracks, which are prevalent elsewhere along this trail. If such raised cracks appear, they can be ground down and then sealed. (This was done about five or so years ago on the Mount Vernon Trail at some point when the National Park Service must have been better funded - it greatly improved the trail.)

I don't see the need for the yellow stripes on a trail like this, really. This is not a little roadway. The most important thing for all trail users is to apply common sense in their use of the trail.

Yield to...?
Who yields to whom? An Arlington County sign with different users

As it happens, this particular Arlington County sign is not from near my house but elsewhere on the trail network. Arguably these are becoming less common because horses on County trails are almost nonexistent (at least around this southern part of the County). While intuitively it makes sense that people on wheels (cyclists and also skaters) yield to foot traffic (here for some reason hikers, not simply people walking) I suspect all that is meant by that is that cyclists aren't to force walkers off the trail from behind. I am a bit suspect of the Virginia use of the word "yield" in such laws since all that motorists have to do for pedestrians (or cyclists, by the way) in a crosswalk is "yield" while in DC the motorist must stop. Hmm.

Small pile of asphalt
Effectively part of the Four Mile Run trail with a dollop of asphalt for fun

Meanwhile elsewhere on the local trail system a company doing some road resurfacing left a six inch tall pile of asphalt on the small sidewalk that in this particular location connects to wider segments of the local multi-use trail network (and is reasonably heavily used, in fact).. Thank God no one has had the idea to put a yellow link down the middle of this. This is a location where most people thankfully do apply common sense; for example, I usually stop my bike if another bike is coming - it is too narrow for two oncoming bikes to get by one another without some avoidable risk. Or sometimes the oncoming cyclists will stop first. The asphalt, already here for about five days, just adds to the fun.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Washington Post "Bicentennial of the Bicycle" piece

Washington Post short visual feature covering the highlights of the 200 year history of the bicycle.

The presentation in the print edition of the Post was a little more easy to digest than the online version - online the "trends" that are to the right are more difficult to connect with the "turning points" that are to the left (assuming I am understanding the approach correctly).

It may or may not be that the people who prepared this knew much about the subject, but the emphasis on "firsts" means that the main trends are obscured. The Rover of 1885 is not that significant itself but rather as an early example of a bike that is more recognizably similar to a modern bicycle and the kind of bike that led in the U.S. to what was generally considered a "bicycle craze" in the 1890s. The 1890s bike craze itself is not mentioned. However the authors get it right when they characterize the following decade in the U.S. as "the automobile rises, the bicycle falls." It would have been good to mention however that the League of American Wheelmen along with the bicycle industry of the 1890s pioneered the "good roads" movement that gave way to advocacy for highways and so on for motorists.

The "correct" position for riding
A cyclist and his typical bike of the 1890s that is much similar to a modern bicycle

One of the authors is named Pope but amazingly (or is it ironically) there is no mention of Colonel Albert Pope, the most well known manufacturer of bicycles in the 1890s who then moved on to try to succeed as a maker of automobiles (which didn't go so well). His "Columbia" brand for bicycles in particular still exists; the company claims some derivative connection to the original Pope Manufacturing Company.

Pope Mfg Co booklet back page
An ad in an 1890 booklet for Columbia bicycles manufactured by Pope's company

The most surprising omission is the development of well-organized and reasonably funded bike share systems in North America in the 21st century, following their introduction elsewhere in the world. Washington's Capital Bikeshare is a leader in this area, in fact.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Four Mile Run Renewal

Four Mile Run new asphalt
This "intersection" has been widened

This can be a complicated spot for cyclists and pedestrians to negotiate when several come together at once going in several directions. As part of a project to improve the area along the nearby stream, the asphalt was completely redone here.

I was glad to see that a segment of fence was moved so that it was no longer aligned with the concrete walkway. Previously when riding towards the concrete walkway from the asphalt while turning to the right the end of the steel fence could be something a rider could end up crashing into if anything went wrong. That risk is now reduced - good!

Four Mile Run new asphalt
Fence has been moved away from concrete walkway

Oddly though gentle curve of the asphalt edge along the right is straightened out for about the last two feet. A reasonable principle of road design is that the curve of the roadway should be consistent and predictable - it seems neither of those that it straightens out. Now of course this is in plain sight, but when riding and paying attention an oncoming bicycle and possibly walkers or runners, it is better if the edge of the path is laid out predictably, not oddly.

It almost certainly looks like a small thing, but over almost twenty years of commuting and other riding, it is just this kind of thing that I have negotiated poorly, leading to dumb falling accidents. Now the asphalt part of the intersection is much wider, but when turning to the right the concrete walkway is just the same relatively narrow width as it was before and a rider will naturally gravitate as far as possible to the right while making the turn when there is an oncoming bicycle.

FourMileRunDetail
Asphalt curves to right but straightens last two feet or so for no obvious (good) reason

It's great that there is more asphalt to help reduce some of the difficulty navigating this intersection and that the fence was moved, but the one detail could have been better. Well, in my view anyway.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Ask a Pro (Book Review)

Ask a Pro: Everything You Should Be Scared to Know about Pro CyclingAsk a Pro: Everything You Should Be Scared to Know about Pro Cycling by Phil Gaimon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Phil Gaimon is a retired pro road cyclist. In general I don't read about current pro road racing any more (for example, it has been years since I killed time looking at VeloNews online) but I read Gaimon's "Pro Cycling on $10 a Day" and liked that, so I thought I would give this a try.

This turns out to be a collection of Gaimon's Q&A columns published in VeloNews. This are arranged in the book over the years when he was riding and writing them, which means his experience and some of his views expressed evolved over time.

The sub-title is "Deep Thoughts and Unreliable Advice from America's Foremost Cycling Sage" - this gives you a sense of his occasionally ironic and mostly sarcastic and self-deprecating tone.

One doesn't really know the nature of the typical questions he received but many he chose to answer are from aspiring racers, which I suppose isn't that surprising, and occasionally the answers he gives might be useful to those folks. From a general reader's perspective the Q&A approach means the flow is mostly random in terms of topics covered, but the entertainment value makes up for that I guess.

Gaimon writes well in terms of producing something that is amusing and engaging and also (this I consider a good thing) a quick read. But if you aren't at least somewhat interested in modern bicycle road racing, there is no point in picking it up much less trying to read it.



View all my book reviews.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Merckx: Half Man, Half Bike (Book Review)

Merckx: Half Man, Half BikeMerckx: Half Man, Half Bike by William Fotheringham

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


During the height of Lance Armstrong's successful run of Tour de France victories, I began to watch a some professional bicycle racing on TV and the Internet. I even watched a criterium in Arlington where I live in person. But once the doping aspect became more obvious, I lost interest in current bicycle racing. I guess I couldn't tell you the name of three people who will be racing in the Tour de France this year, as one example of my lack of present interest.

I am still interested in cycling generally however, even if my main association is as a bicycle commuter 20 miles each workday. And I find that I still like reading about older bicycle racing if the book is well written - pretty much when Greg LeMond is done and Lance gets starts is when I lose interest.

William Fotheringham, a British author, has written a number of biographies of 20th century cycling figures, including Tom Simpson, Fausto Coppi, Luis Ocana, and others. I thought I would try this one about Merckx who is arguably the greatest all around road cyclist-racer of all time. I found it a very enjoyable read.

Merckx was nicknamed "The Cannibal" and was famous for his unrelenting approach to bicycle racing. Some of the time it would have seemed more sensible in terms of preserving himself long-term or short-term (or both) to have eased back in some situations, but he almost never employed any strategy other than to attack, to push for the lead, to strive to put himself out in front in order to win the sooner the better.

As a biography, the author works to associate some of Merckx's personal story and background with this unrelenting approach, but this isn't don't so heavily as to be annoying. Fotheringham has a good approach to relating accounts of the different road races described. As a sign of my interest, I read this from cover to cover without some long pause, distracted by some other book(s) in my "to read" pile.

I have read enough before about bicycle racing after WWII to the end of the 20th century that many of Merckx's competitors described in the book were familiar to me, but enough detail about them was supplied that it wasn't necessary in order to enjoy the book.

YouTube videos of documentaries referenced in the book:


Merckx is featured but did not win this race


A biographical documentary about Merckx covering the 1973 racing season

Merckx was the winner

These are all about 90-110 minutes in length.

View all my book reviews.

Monday, May 29, 2017

General Motors Had a Legit Cycling Connection - Who Knew?

"Good Pedaling Position"
Illustration from "Bicycle owner's complete handbook of repair and maintenance," 1953
Title: Bicycle owner's complete handbook of repair and maintenance.
Main Author: Kraynick, Steve, 1911-
Language(s): English
Published: Los Angeles F.Clymer [1953?]
Subjects: Bicycles > Maintenance and repair.
Physical Description: 126 p. illus. 22 cm.
hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015000490691?urlappend=%3Bseq=46
The illustration of the winking cyclist above, showing his "good pedaling position," comes courtesy of the New Departure division of General Motors - that seemed surprising for this 1953 book. So time for a little research. Aha, here is a bit of history of New Departure.



Brief video history of New Departure manufacturing company which developed a popular version of the coaster brake (known as the New Departure Coaster Brake) as well as ball bearings and other machined parts for different finished products. They were acquired by General Motors but continued with the "New Departure" name, and to make bicycle coaster brakes. The New Departure coaster brake dates to 1898!

New Departure Coaster Brake

The New Departure coaster brake was still in use when this book was published; instructions are provided for its repair.
hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015000490691?urlappend=%3Bseq=96

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Bicycle Messengers of 100+ Years Ago

The Fast Flying Bike Messenger

From http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045462/1908-08-23/ed-1/seq-43/
Evening Star newspaper. (Washington, D.C.), 23 Aug. 1908. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Library of Congress.
In Washington, a city of few hills and with asphalt streets and but little congestion, the messenger boy prefers to ride a bicycle to the more ancient but slower method of walking. The bicycle boy, if he is working by the "piece," of course, makes more money than his rival on foot, so that the spirit of emulation drives many messengers to save enough money to purchase wheels, so consequently they have no money to spend on novels.
From an odd article about what messengers in Washington DC read.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Hertz Rent-A-Bike? (1971)

Bike story [Bicycle rental store, District Hardware]
A "Hertz rent-a-bike" in Washington DC in 1971

The Library of Congress has a collection that was given to the Library for which rights were also given, the U.S. News & World Report Magazine Photograph Collection. This includes photographs from the 1960s and 1970s.

This odd example apparently was a possibility to go with a magazine story about cycling. I was surprised to see the "Hertz Rent-a-Bike" sign on the door. I had never heard of such a thing. It does not appear as convenient as Capital Bikeshare!

Title-Bike story [Bicycle rental store, District Hardware]
Contributor Names Leffler, Warren K., photographer
Created / Published-1971.
Format Headings-Film negatives--1970-1980.
Genre-Film negatives--1970-1980
Notes
- Title and date from log book.
- Contact sheet available for reference purposes: USN&WR COLL
- Job no. 25159-A, frame 17/17A.
- Forms part of: U.S. News & World Report Magazine Photograph Collection. Medium 1 photograph : negative; film width 35mm (roll format)
Call Number/Physical Location LC-U9-25159-A- 17/17A [P&P]
Source Collection U.S. News & World Report magazine photograph collection (Library of Congress)
Repository Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
Rights Advisory No known restrictions on LCCN Permalink lccn.loc.gov/2017646391

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Infographic Guide to Cycling (Book Review)

Infographic Guide to CyclingInfographic Guide to Cycling by Roadcycling Uk

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


This was something I found at my local public library.

This is a publication of Roadcycling UK which tells you several things immediately - the focus is almost entirely on road cycling (and not any other kind of cycling) and it is written with UK cycling history featured heavily.

There are some infographics at the beginning about "bike tech" that are useful in the way I would think of being a "guide to cycling" but after that it is largely about different kinds of professional racing and the history of some of the most famous races, particularly (but not only) where there was exceptional performance of a British cyclist. If you aren't interested in professional racing there isn't much here of interest. At all.

I find it somewhat sad to see in print that with the disqualification of Armstrong, once again Greg LeMond is the only American to have won the Tour de France.

As a book for a public library in the US, I don't think this is a very good selection. Oh well.

View all my cycling book reviews.

Friday, May 12, 2017

A Roosevelt (or Two) on a Bike

Archie Roosevelt on Bicycle at White House
Archie Roosevelt, son of the then-president, Theodore Roosevelt, on a bicycle at the White House. The bike is too large for him.

Title-Archie Roosevelt on a bicycle
Contributor Names-Johnston, Frances Benjamin, 1864-1952, photographer
Created / Published-c1902 June 17.
Format Headings
Photographic prints--1900-1910.
Portrait photographs--1900-1910.
Notes
- H19130 U.S. Copyright Office.
- Title and other information transcribed from caption card and item.
- Frances Benjamin Johnston Collection (Library of Congress).
- Formerly in LOT 4273.
- Multiple copies of print found.
Medium-1 photographic print.
Source Collection-Johnston, Frances Benjamin, 1864-1952. Portraits
Repository-Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
Digital Id-cph 3a19334 //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3a19334
Reproduction Number-LC-USZ62-17136 (b&w film copy neg.)
Rights Advisory-No known restrictions on publication.
LCCN Permalink-https://lccn.loc.gov/2001703918



Something completely different

The Nationals' Ball Park has a "Presidents' Race" of the racing presidents that includes Teddy Roosevelt - who never won a race until 2012. Here the presidents raced using local Capital Bikeshare bikes.

Johnston With Bike
The portrait of Archie Roosevelt was taken by this photographer, who posed dressed in a man in this self-portrait with a high-wheel bicycle

Title-[Frances Benjamin Johnston, full-length self-portrait dressed as a man with false moustache, posed with bicycle, facing left]
Contributor Name-Johnston, Frances Benjamin, 1864-1952, photographer
Created / Published-[between 1890 and 1900]
Subject Headings
- Johnston, Frances Benjamin,--1864-1952
- Cross dressing--1890-1900
- Bicycles--1890-1900
Format Headings
Albumen prints--1890-1900.
Portrait photographs--1890-1900.
Self-portraits--1890-1900.
Notes
- Title devised by Library staff.
- Forms part of: Frances Benjamin Johnston Collection (Library of Congress).
- Exhibited: "Who's Afraid of Women Photographers?" at the Musee d'Orsay, Paris, France, Oct. 2015-Jan. 2016.
Medium-1 photographic print mounted on layered paper board : albumen ; photo 20.9 x 14.9 cm, on mount 25.3 x 20.3 cm.
Call Number/Physical Location-LOT 11734-3 [item] [P&P]
Repository-Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.print
Digital Id-ppmsc 04884 //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsc.04884
cph 3b29741 //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b29741
Library of Congress Control Number
2001697163
Reproduction Number
LC-DIG-ppmsc-04884 (digital file from original) LC-USZ62-83111 (b&w film copy neg.)
Rights Advisory
No known restrictions on publication.
LCCN Permalink
https://lccn.loc.gov/2001697163

Saturday, April 29, 2017

New Sort of Bike Share ? Maybe

OFO and UNDP US-Launch Event
ofo bikes in New York City, not for use but for a press event (it seems)

Here is the press release about "UNDP [United Nations Development Programme], Chinese bike-sharing start-up ofo join forces to support innovative solutions to climate change challenges."

An article in the Economist ("The Return of Pedal Power...") last week described a new (to me at least, but not entirely new it seems) bike share system that frees users from having to get or leave the bikes from fixed locking stations, rather a rider gets to a destination and locks the bike wherever, then other users can find it there and access it for their use with a smartphone app.

The ofo system is in use in China and Singapore and also San Francisco - in SF it is known as BlueGoGo. Not surprisingly there is a web site.

The Bluegogo Medium channel has a step-by-step description of the process for San Francisco usage. However the SF model, apparently reflecting a lack of enthusiasm for the "leave your bike any old place" model in a US city, does have docking stations - "When you finish the ride, easily return your bluegogo bike to any of the stations (list of bluegogo stations can be found within the app or here) and lock it." Except the link to a map for the stations is 404. Not very encouraging.


U.S. video of how to use BlueGoGo bikeshare bikes, which does not mention use of locking stations


Generic ofo instructions for accessing a bike in China without a docking station

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

After I published this blog post, then I found this blog post that explains more about BlueGoGo and its dockless competitor that is a company called Spin which is looking at setting up in Seattle, where the most recent publicly operated bike share failed.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Earring Flattens Bike Tire

Earring Flattens Bike Tire
Flat tire as result of picking up the sharp end of an earring

Another bike commuter showed up while I was parking my bike at work with this earring in her front tire - not her earring, of course. Anyway, it managed to stay in the tire while she rode briefly, letting all the air out just as she came up to the rack.

I hadn't seen that one before - flat tire by jewelry.

Not a great photo - I didn't realize the phone camera was not focusing on the right spot.