Sunday, December 30, 2012

Modern "Commuting Wool Top" (Shirt)

For Christmas I received a very nice cycling shirt, made of Merino wool by Bontrager (which is part of Trek). I was a little surprised - I didn't realize that they made anything like this. I googled the full name of the thing and found it on their site and in various outlets, although I get the impression it may be discontinued - it was half price at several places and on the Bontrager site I was unable to find it either using browse or their search.

Perhaps Bontrager couldn't figure out how to market what is quite useful simply as what it is - a wool cycling shirt. They seem to have wanted it to serve as a fashion statement "on and off the bike."
On the bike, to the office, to the market, to the pub, around the city. If that sounds like you, then the 100% merino wool long sleeve Commuting Wool Top has the go-anywhere fashion and on-bike performance you need to transition seamlessly from riding your bike to looking right at home, no matter where your bike takes you.
Commute Shirt
The Bontrager wool commuter "top" (shirt)

In the list of "features" they continue to focus more on form than function: "Midweight, casual, high-collar long sleeve wool top for short commutes and trendy destinations." The "high-collar" part is simply a collar designed with buttons so that it can be buttoned up to create a high collar for windy or cool conditions - clever. There is also a single buttoned pocket on the back, off to one side, since cyclists may not have pockets in their shorts.

Certain features are pointless or silly - yes, there is a reflective edge to the one pocket, but in the dark this would contribute effectively zero. Even stranger are the epaulettes - are those a fashion feature for the hipster (or whoever) at the pub, around the city, etc.? For men I associate epaulettes like these with tour bus drivers and the like. And I don't understand why they don't call it a shirt or a jersey instead of a "top."

Adm. Arthur K. Wilson (LOC)
Now here are some epaulettes

The shirt is also a bit oddly sized, even by the standard of cycling clothing. I received and XL, which fits just right - but I am usually a medium for shirts, not large, so to have an XL fit is a little unusual. The site does say, "If you prefer a slightly roomier fit or are in-between sizes, consider ordering one size up" but this seems more than that - also the only sizes available are XL and XXL.

The MSRP is $79 which isn't that bad in my mind (given what I paid for a Merino wool "base layer" shirt last year) but it seems to be available from some outlets for half that, which seems a great deal.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sarah Grand & Cycling - A Later View (1899)

Sarah Grand was a British feminist who traveled in the United States to lecture (and presumably sell more of her books). In an earlier post, I looked at an 1897 article about her suggestions for optimal cycling attire for women. (This article was published as filler material in a number of newspapers in the United States.)

I have since found a similar sort of filler item, but a shorter one from 1899, Sarah Grand and Her Bike, that uses a photo of Ms. Grand to demonstrate that she was not a "new woman" who practiced what she preached - she did not "ride in bloomers or trousers."

Sarah Grand with Bicycle
Illustration with article from the Kansas City Journal., June 04, 1899

The Creator of the "New Woman" Does Not Hide in Bloomers or Trousers.
From the New York Journal

Sarah Grand, the author of "The Heavenly Twins" and the creator of the new woman in literature, rides a bicycle. We might expect her to ride in bloomers or trousers, or some other garment unlike any thing worn by the "old" woman, but instead of that we find her dressed in skirts of a decorous and graceful length.

Mme Sarah Grand has had herself photographed in bicycling costume just as she is about to mount her wheel. She has had this done because she wishes the public to know just what an ideal new woman looks like. You may see her on this page.

Sarah Grand is entitled by marriage to bear the good old Irish name of "McFall," but with curious taste she prefers the remarkably pretentious name of "Grand." Her husband was an army surgeon and she was separated from him. It is said that he was the original of the wicked colonel In "The Heavenly Twins," who was fond of long glasses of brandy and soda and of pretty girls, and for these sins was boycotted by his voting wife and brought to a sudden and terrible end by the author.

Sarah Grand is engaged regularly in literary work, but she achieved no success comparable to that of "The Heavenly Twins."

The full article as it appeared

A little research reveals that the photograph of Sarah Grand that was the basis for the newspaper illustration, claiming to show her as a "new woman" not wearing her suggested cycling attire was from 1896, before she made her declaration against using traditional women's clothing for cycling.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Russian Winter Tale - Bicyclist Chased by Wolves

A Bicyclist Chased by Wolves
From the Alexandria [Virginia] Gazette, November 11, 1892. Newspapers apparently had to fill their pages and had access to general interest stories of this sort - this one appears to have been published in several papers across the U.S. around the same time. No illustration provided, alas.

Mr. Fred Whishaw gives in "Land and Water" an account of his being chased by wolves in the district of Pakoff. He had gone to Russia with a bicycle, and at the time he fell in with the wolves was on his machine, having covered a distance of some 12 miles in an endeavor to "head" some elk. I had (he says) ridden but a mile or two on the return journey when it struck me that I ought to alight and refresh my machine with a few drops of oil but hardly was I on foot than, happening to glance back along the road, I saw something which at first sight caused a thrill of pleasurable excitement, but soon gave place to very different sensations. Hardly a quarter of a mile behind, and coming toward me at the long gallop which covers the ground at a wonderfully rapid pace, were five large gray wolves. I saw the leader raise his nose, and, catching sight of me, cock his ears and give tongue, just as a dog might. There was no doubt about the fact. I was being hunted. I was speedily up and away, and as I caused the pedals to whirl in a manner to which they were entirely unused, I tried to calculate coolly the probable relative swiftness of bicycles and wolves. I had at least ten miles to go before I should reach safety. I might possibly do that in three-quarters of an hour, if the machine and my breath held out. Could the wolves accomplish the distance in less time? The situation was by no means one for trifling. When I had ridden a couple of miles or so I ventured to glance back, the result being the instantaneous conviction that the wolves had gained upon me. They had gained a hundred yards at least. At this rate I quickly calculated that they would pull me down just about two miles before I could reach my destination and city of refuge, Lavrik; unless, indeed, they could not keep up the pace, which i flattered myself was rather hot.

Another two miles and another peep behind me. The wolves were barely two hundred yards away now, and coming along as though they enjoyed it. I could swear that the leading wolf licked his lips as he saw me look around. I tried a spurt. The road was as level as a billiard table, and I strained every nerve to the utmost, but even as I did so it was borne in upon me that spurting would not do. I must slacken off at once, for I could never keep up the terrific rate at which I was now traveling. In fact, I must economize all my staying powers in order to last out the distance at even my former rate of progression. Then suddenly an idea occurred to me. I would ring my bell loudly and continuously, and see what effect this would produce. I pressed the gong, and turned to observe whether the sound would check my pursuers. The effect was instantaneous. No sooner did the first clang of the gong ring out than the wolves, every one of them, stopped dead and disappeared behind the trees. I gave a yell of defiance and delight, and dashed on, ringing away for dear life. But my triumph was short-lived. Oh looking back a few moments after I found that my foes were again in full pursuit. However, I had gained a little.

On we flew, my gong sounding harsh and strident in the silence of the forest. It was magnificent; at least it would have been if it had not been so horribly dangerous. There was a rut trodden by horses running all along the very middle of the road. I avoided this and rode at the side, which was smooth, for the runners of the light sledges do not as a rule wear the snow. It was easy enough, of course, to avoid the rut when riding straight ahead; but while looking round there was the danger of my front wheel slipping into it. and either checking the way of the machine or even causing a capsize. I had just turned my head to look round upon my pursuers for the twentieth lime - alas! they were still gaining, and were now within fifty yards. Hearing a loud clatter in front of me, I turned back again to see what new danger threatened me from that direction. In thus twisting back and round again I allowed my front wheel to go out of the direct line. The next instant I was in the rut, and. before I had time to see what was happening, was, with my trusty bicycle, buried a couple of feet in the snow at the side of the road. I gave myself up for lost. All this did not take long to happen, and as I emerged from the snow I was in time to see two things. The first object that met my gaze was a magnificent bull elk, followed by four smaller ones, just in the act of trotting across the road, not ten yards from me, striding through the snow at a long trot, their heads well raised and resting back on their shoulders. The other object was the little pack of wolves. Scarcely fifty yards behind me when I upset, these were upon me in a moment, and I had barely time to seize the heavy spanner of my machine and put my back to a tree when, to my delight, the wolves - then but five yards from me - pricked up their ears, passed me like a flash of greased lightning, and darted away in pursuit of the elk. I picked up my bicycle, and. to put it mildly, rode away with all speed. I think I rode those three miles in "record time," anyhow, I was fifteen minutes less than two hours from the start when I scudded into Lavrik, and if I had not ridden twenty-eight miles I must have done very near it.

Frederick Whishaw wrote a book about his travels in Russia, "Out of doors in Tsarland; a record of the seeings and doings in Russia" in 1893 but it does not include this story or anything about travels with a bicycle. The above tale seems to have come from a journal, Land and Water, published in England by the "Country Gentlemen Publishing Company" and does not seem to have been digitized. Yet.

Wolf from Flickr

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Santa on Bike; Letters to Santa, 1897

Santa Riding a Bike (1897)

From the Richmond Dispatch newspaper, December 19, 1897. Illustration above accompanied the text of dozens of letters to Santa Claus from children in Richmond Virginia, including these that have requests for bicycles.
Dear Santy Claus:
I want you to bring me a bicycle, a lock-bracletle, a doll-baby, sewing machine, and nuts, candies, fruit of all kind,and popcracker all kind; and bring them to my address, 216 N. 21 St.
Your little friend.
The next letter is from the same family ~

Dear Saunta Cause:
Please bring me a gun, a pound of shot, a bicycle, and some fireworks; that is all. I live at No. 216 21st Street.
Your little boy.

1212 Floyd Avenue,
Dear Santa Claus:
I want a bicycle and a watch and chain and a harp and a drum. That's all.
Your little boy, ELLETT READY.

Dear Santa Claus:
I wish you would bring me a bicycle and a bunch of switches; a pack of popcrackers, a box of candy, a air-rifle, and a pound of shot. Yours truly,
1401 Grove avenue.
Several letters are worded as if Santa's delivery of the items personally isn't part of how they understand things ~

Dear Santa Claus:
Richmond. Va. Dec. 2d.
Please send me a bycycle, and it will be thankfully received.
Yours respectively,

Dear Santa Claus:
Please send a bicycle and a wagon & goat and harness. From your little boy,
1123 Floyd Ave., Richmond, Va
A number of letters included requests for others ~

Dear Santa Claws:
I am a little boy 3 1/2 years old. I want you to bring me a bicycle, and a pack of popcrackers, a horn, and some candy. Phase bring Minerva (our colored girl) a bicycle, too, and my little brother Harold, something pretty. I am going to be a good boy, and go to bed real soon. Please come, Santa Claus; don't forget.
I was surprised by the extent of the requests made by many of the children's letters; this one balances that out somewhat.

Richmond, Va,
207 S. Pine St
Dear Santa Clause:
Christmas is nearly here, and I would like for you to bring me something nice. I will be thankful for anything that you bring me. From your little boy,

A few years ago I had a blog post with the similar illustration, shown below, taken from an ad for Stearns bicycles from the bicycle industry journal "Cycling Life" (issue for December 24 issue, 1896).

Santa On Bike (1896, Cycling Life)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas-time & New Woman Cycling Attire (1897)

Sarah Grand was a British feminist and writer - somehow an article about her development of a more modern cycling costume for women riders came to be published in a newspaper in Los Angeles in 1897. Wikipedia notes that she had traveled in the U.S. to publicize her novel mentioned in the article. The byline for the article is given as London.

From "The Herald" (Los Angeles) December 26, 1897.

The illustration shows a much more structured design than the article describes

I have reproduced the highlights of the article, below.

By a judicious combination of ideas based on Shakespeare and common sense, Madame Sarah Grand, the world famous authoress of "The Heavenly Twins," has evolved a bicycle costume for women that is a startler. She calls her new bicycle dress for women her "Christmas bicycle costume,"and considers that in devising it she has given additional cause for rejoicing among women during the coming holiday season.

To begin to explain Madame Grand's costume, it is necessary to take the Rosalind of Act II, in "As You Like It," and, using her as a lay figure, to build the Madame Grand costume around her. Madame Grand is an enthusiastic admirer of Shakespeare, and the more she studied the free and easy grace of Rosalind of the russet doublet and hose, the more she became convinced that, had bicycles been in use during the Shakespearian era, the doublet and hose would have been the costume that level headed women would have adopted. . . .

So Madame Grand proceeded to think out her Rosalind bicycle costume, discarding one by one the nineteenth century articles of dress that fettered the sex when awheeling.

"No waist for me," said Madame Grand, at the beginning of her studies. "A waist on a bicycle is absurd. I can never bear to ride In anything tight, especially corsets, and I like to feel free and comfortable." And away went the corsets, and after them the waist, then the skirt and the bloomers, until Rosalind the lay figure was deprived of everything that pertained to modern costuming, and stood ready to be rehabilitated . . .

The costume is made for winter wear, although it can be fashioned readily enough into an attractive summer rig for the athletic girl. It is made of white fur . . .

"Nothing is unfeminine for a woman," she said, when asked about this point, "unless she chooses to make it so. I think we are beginning to show nowadays that we can do many things which used to be thought 'unfeminine,' and be womanly nevertheless. Bicycling Is one of them, and the wearing of a rational bicycle costume goes with it. The skirt is evidently not the thing. I have had two bad accidents from mine catching, and it was made by an excellent tailor. This is what led me to devote a good deal of thought to the subject, and made me come to the conclusion that an
easy and pretty costume might be modeled from Rosalind's dress."

One of several copies of a photo of Sarah Grand with a bicycle in 1896, but nominally under copyright of some sort.

Unfortunately I do not see any immediate possibility for access to Cycling World Illustrated, the magazine from which the image of Ms. Grand and her bicycle was apparently taken. The Online Bicycle Museum does have some pages of 1896 issues on line that are entertaining and particularly about women riders, but not complete issues.

Since I wrote this post, I discovered another later article about Sarah Grand and her cycling attire that I have a separate blog post about.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

U.S. Post Office Carriers With Bicycles (1903)

Another short video (silent film) taken from a paper roll that was printed for copyright deposit that is part of the America at work collection in American Memory.

TITLE - Carriers leaving building, U.S.P.O. [Version 2]

CREATED/PUBLISHED - United States : American Mutoscope & Biograph Company, 1903.

SUMMARY - Male letter carriers of the U.S. Post Office are the subject of this series on the Postal Department. The camera was placed to show a large number of uniformed mail carriers as they leave the main post office to deliver letters. They can be seen walking down the steps of the building toward the camera position. Some mount bicycles and ride away, while others just walk. There are also some women in the film.

NOTES - Copyright: American Mutoscope & Biograph Company; 22Aug03; H34973.
Cameraman, A. E. Weed.
Cameraman credit from Niver's, Early motion pictures, p. 48.
Filmed August 5, 1903 in Washington, D.C.
Source used: Niver, Kemp R., Early motion pictures, 1985.
Received: 2/2000 from LC lab; ref prints and dupe neg; preservation; Paper Print Collection.

USPO cyclists image from video
Screen grab from video showing several mail carriers with bicycles

If one believes the summary, some of the mail carriers are off to deliver mail on bicycle - perhaps one of them is shown later in this video (with his "flying dismount"). In the 1890s bicycles were very expensive relative to workers' incomes - by 1903 the prices had fallen quite a bit but securing them somehow would still seem useful, but this video and photos I see rarely suggest anyone locked their bikes up in public. Bikes are visible, stacked against one another leaning against a wall - if they were riding every day, one would expect something a little better than that.

The summary states, "there are also some women in the film" - yes, but the two I notice are at the very end and are not letter carriers (and don't get on bicycles, either, unlike the Parke Davis employees video that shows many women riding).

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

$6,000 Bicycle for Christmas ?

A recent Anthropologie catalog included an ad for "the Looker," a "handmade" copper bike from Van Heesch Design in the Netherlands. Anthropologie says it will get "better with age" since it will turn "brilliantly green." Only $6,000 dollars - oh, plus $250 delivery. Oh and uh "some assembly required."

Van Heesch has a channel in YouTube where they have videos of the $6,000 bike being used in different locales - here is Amsterdam

For good or bad, the metal portions of the bicycle are not made entirely of copper, rather it is a more regular sort of bike entirely plated in copper. There are lots of photos of the thing here. Don't want copper? Well, how about brass or perhaps zinc. (The possible appeal of zinc seems more than a little mysterious.)

None of this has to do with the traditional sort of Christmas "bicycle as gift" that I am familiar with, as shown in this photo from the Library of Congress ~

"Christmas of 1930" (with bike & tree)
"Christmas of 1930" photograph from Library of Congress

Item Title-Christmas of 1930. Norma Horydczak on bicycle in front of Christmas tree, wide view.
Horydczak, Theodor, ca. 1890-1971, photographer.
Credit Line: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Theodor Horydczak Collection, LC-H812-1190-004
Full record at this location.

Of course it was during the Depression. I guess she was lucky to get a bike at all.

Perhaps you have decided that you can't spring for a $6,000 copper-plated bicycle that isn't assembled and costs as much or more to have delivered ($250) as an OK occasional-use bike from a box-store - OK, fine, be that way. But Van Heesch has a copper-plated bell - surely you can afford a bell? Actually, perhaps you can't - the site says, "if you’re interested in purchasing a bell please write an email to" Presumably they then look you up in various sources and come up with "your special" price. Or decide you can't afford what they want for these bells and then ignore you?

Happy Holidays!!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Online Book About Bikesharing Programs

Public bikesharing in North America : early operator and user understanding

Available here as a PDF.

A few bikes are "checked out"
Capital Bikeshare station in Arlington

LCCN permalink:
Type of material: Book (Print, Microform, Electronic, etc.)
Personal name: Shaheen, Susan A., 1966-
Main title: Public bikesharing in North America : early operator and user understanding / Susan A. Shaheen ... [et al.].
Published/Created: San Jose, CA : Mineta Transportation Institute, College of Business, San José State University ; [Springfield, VA : Available through the National Technical Information Service, c2012.
Description: xiv, 138 p. : ill., maps ; 28 cm.

This is a "high level" review of the topic. It's good that it covers all possible issues and provides summary breakdowns in many categories but from this you usually won't know what the situation is with a particular bikeshare system for any particular category.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Early Bike Commuters - 1899 Video

44 second video copied from American Memory

It appears that the film starts just as the rush of workers on bicycles and on foot begins at the end of the work day. Was the policeman at left there every day to maintain order? While the copyright deposit date is given as 1903 the actual date of filming is July 5 1899. They would be just back from the previous day's national holiday (one assumes). Filmed in Detroit.

Parke Davis worker 1903
Screen grab - note a fair number of the riders are women

TITLE - Parke Davis Employees

CREATED/PUBLISHED - United States : American Mutoscope & Biograph Company, 1903.
SUMMARY - Photographed from a single-camera position, this film encompasses a scene of a large number of people either walking or riding bicycles as they leave what appears to be a factory. The title indicates they are employees of a drug firm.

NOTES - Copyright: American Mutoscope & Biograph Company; 11May03; H31670.
Cameraman, F. S. Armitage.
Cameraman credit from Niver's, Early motion pictures, p. 245.
Duration: 0:44 at 20 fps.
Filmed July 5, 1899 in Detroit.
Source used: Niver, Kemp R., Early motion pictures, 1985.
Received: ca. 1991 from LC lab; ref print and dupe neg; preservation; Paper Print Collection.

Parke Davis worker 1903
Number of riders builds . . . no one wears a helmet, of course, but they all seem to wear hats

Parke Davis worker 1903
One fellow politely doffs his hat to the police officer

Friday, November 30, 2012

Checking Out a Bike

In front of the BnF

Since I have a short term user account with Velibe for using bikes for a week, I just have a subscriber number and pin and have to interact with one of these stations each time I get a bike. Fortunately they have an English option. Also, this one has a different interface than the first ones I used which confused me a little.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Velibe Bikeshare Station at BnF

Velibe station, looking down stairs that form the side of the BnF

This is where I drop off my Velibe bike in the morning and pick one up when the workshops are over at the end of the day. So far there are always bikes there. In the morning sometimes the slots are all full! Then there is another station just a few hundred yards (meters) down the same road so I can go down there and it seems to be much less popular so there are more empty slots to drop off a bike.

The Velibe station is between the roadway and a dedicated bike lane that runs left to right (in this image). There is a no bike lane in the opposite direction although there is a lane for cars in that direction, which seems odd to me. Two car lanes and a bike lane in one direction and only one car lane in the other direction. I have seen some bikes going in that direction on the roadway, but some ride down below closer to the river on a path there. I have noticed this a lot - people choose different ways to go the same direction on their bikes. So far as I can tell, the drivers seem not to expect cyclists to stay off the road just because the cyclist has an alternative route away from the road.

When I check a bike out of the BnF station, I have to look back that no cyclist is coming up the bike lane since you back the bike out of its "docking station."

I now appreciate more a well maintained bicycle. The bike I rode back to the hotel today had a broken spoke or something - the rear wheel was quite out of round. Since these bikes have a coaster brake for the the back wheel, it didn't affect braking but it made the ride a little wonky. Others have had different "issues." None have been so much that I turn the bike in to get another one, though. I do check that a bike has air in the tires first but more than that while it is locked up isn't possible.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Velibe in Paris at BnF
Velibe station near the National Library of France

So I am in Paris for some workshops at the National Library of France and going from the hotel to the library and back by bike.

Friday, November 23, 2012

"Flying Dismount" Delivery - 1903 Video

Another short bicycle video from American Memory.

Special Delivery Messenger makes a "flying dismount"

Special delivery messenger, U.S.P.O. [United States Post Office]

CREATED/PUBLISHED - United States : American Mutoscope & Biograph Company, 1903.

SUMMARY - As the scene opens, the front of a house, the shrubbery, a staircase, and the sidewalk are visible. From camera left, using a flying dismount, comes a bicycle rider in the uniform of a special delivery messenger. After parking his bicycle, he goes up the stairs to the front door of the house. A woman emerges, he hands her a letter, returns to his bicycle, then rides off out of the scene.

NOTES - Copyright: American Mutoscope & Biograph Company; 22Aug03; H34970.
Cameraman, A. E. Weed.
Cameraman credit from Niver's, Early motion pictures, p. 307.
Filmed August 7, 1903 in Washington, D.C.
Source used: Niver, Kemp R., Early motion pictures, 1985.
Received: 2/2000 from LC lab; ref print and dupe neg; preservation; Paper Print Collection.

I wonder where in Washington DC it was done?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Early Cycling Videos

Posting some "found" materials from the Library of Congress site these days.

Bicycle Trick Riding, No. 2 from American Memory

Bicycle trick riding, no. 2 from (or by) Thomas A. Edison, Inc.

CREATED/PUBLISHED-United States : Edison Manufacturing Co., 1899.

SUMMARY-Opens with a man riding a bicycle in a backwards circle, on a stage with a painted backdrop of a city street. He dismounts, then remounts the cycle and rides in a forwards circle, pausing and balancing for a moment as he rears up and spins the front wheel. Continuing in the circle, the man moves in front of the handlebars and continues pedaling briefly. For his next trick, the cyclist makes one circle and then pauses center stage as he does a balancing act to the left side of the bike, with his left leg on the pedal and his right on the front wheel. Ends after he remounts but continues to hold the bicycle motionless.

From Edison films catalog: "Neidert," of national fame, does stunts on his wheel that are simply wonderful. Makes his bicycle rear up, and rides around the stage on his back wheel; besides a lot of other easy things, such as riding on one pedal and riding backward, seated on handlebar. 50 feet. $7.50.

One wonders where this last paragraph comes from - presumably some documentation from that period since his trick riding is not all that exciting today.

Monday, November 19, 2012

"A Brilliant Idea" - Bicycle Comedy of 1896

I found a script deposited for Copyright in 1896 for a "comedy sketch" about bicycling in American Memory - a married couple's adventures in owning bicycles.

Page 4 of "A Brilliant Idea" comedy sketch 1897
Page 4 of the 10 pages of script

Jack and Fan (short for Fannie) attempt amusing dialog - Jack dirties up the living room pillows while working on his bike while Fan is out learning to "mount" (get on) a bicycle. And while she was out, Jack bought her a new "wheel" for her birthday! Eventually it segues to a discussion of her desire to modify her cycling attire - "not too short," says Jack (not surprisingly).

One could easily read too much into this, but overall this short vignette suggests how bicycling introduced new aspects to social life.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Riding in the Cool Rain ~

I have been commuted 10 miles each way to and from work by bike year round for quite a while but only recently put fenders a bike to ride in the rain - boy, does that help a lot! A great improvement.

Presented like this, it seems a bit much

Here is what I wear when the weather is done around 40 and rainy, which it was one day recently.

* Helmet - my everyday helmet. I only have one helmet and it has my required parking sticker on it (rather than put it on a bike, which would be a problem since I have several bikes I ride to/from work).

* Baseball cap - keeps rain from running down my face, which can be very unpleasant in a heavy rain.

* Waterproof rain jacket - I have used something called an "O2 Rainwear Cycling Rain Jacket" from Nashbar for what seems like ten years. This is an extremely lightweight jacket made of some 3M fabric that is good at the waterproof part although it doesn't breathe as well as some more expensive material (I assume). At $30 it comes with a stuff bag and is easy to have along "just in case." The main drawback is that it is fairly fragile material, easy to tear. I have not purchased a more expensive GoreTex sort of jacket because this can be used in layers or by itself and it has worked pretty well so far (and doesn't cost a lot).

* Long sleeve cycling jersey with hood - cheap lycra jersey from PerformanceBike. I like to have a long sleeve jersey like this with a hood since I can take the hood off easily if it is more than needed (or put it on) and the hood keeps wind from going down my neck.

* Short sleeve jersey - Another cheap jersey from Performance, to add a layer if it is 40 or below.

* Long sleeve base layer shirt - For me, a fairly pricey long sleeve thin (not heavy) Merino wool shirt from Ibex. I got this last year - it replaces a layer of polypropylene. Works well.

* Performance bike shorts - The more expensive "Ultra" Performance brand bike shorts last longer and compare with name brand bike shorts. The less expensive Performance brand bike shorts seem shoddy.

* Bicycle tights - I have had these so long I don't remember where they came from. They are just lycra or some lycra cotton mix and aren't waterproof or windproof. When it gets down to freezing I have some more substantial (and expensive) windproof/waterproof tights, but at 40 degrees they are too warm.

* Lightweight wool socks + pair of cotton socks - the shoes I wear in cooler weather are a size large so I can wear more than one pair of socks.

* Shimano RW80 Winter Road Boots - these are something I bought several winters ago in order to stop using summer shoes with various over-shoes and trying to cram extra socks into the shoes. They work quite well, although they are only moderately waterproof. And once they get damp inside, they are very slow to dry out.

* Addidas rubber shoe "booties" - If it is raining more than a drizzle, I usually pull these on.

* Performance Nanuk Waterproof Thermal Gloves - Silly name, but whatever (as they say). Somewhere around 45 I want to have full finger gloves and these are what I wear down to around freezing; cooler than that I want something more serious than these gloves. They aren't really waterproof although it does take a long time for them to get damp all the way through. Unfortunately they take a good long time to dry out.

So there you have it!

Bridgestone Sirius with (cheap) fenders
Newly installed fenders on 30 year old bike for rainy weather

The fenders mean that rain doesn't soak my backside; in fact, after ten miles in moderate rain the other day I could sit on a chair and not get the chair damp - pretty good! And the fenders make it a lot easier for the waterproof aspects of my footwear to work successfully - again, the other day when I got to work my socks were dry inside my shoes.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Racing Through the Dark by David Millar (Book Review)

Racing Through the DarkRacing Through the Dark by David Millar

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Because of all the Lance Armstrong related hubbub I have not reviewed this because I thought I should do something more than just review this one book, but better to do something than nothing.

Many people who are not cycling enthusiasts will not know who David Millar is - there is a Wikipedia article that provides a lengthy overview. (Arguably it is a wiser time investment to read what is in Wikipedia than the book.)

Millar rode for several teams and was someone from whom success was expected not long after turning professional, then in 2004 he was caught doping and sat out two years. In 2006 he returned to riding as a vocal advocate for riding clean.

This memoir that clocks in at close to 350 pages has four parts: childhood through youth and early riding career, then his progressive conversion to doping followed by his being caught and banned for two years, and finally his reborn career and stance as anti-doping advocate.

The first section is too long - there is no compelling reason to have included most of what is here since little of it provides any background or explanation for what follows. Simply starting to read at page 58 or skimming up to this point would be a way of avoiding most of the pointless reading.

The second section - his professional career from 1997 through 2004 - is the most interesting part of the book. I have not read Tyler Hamilton's new book but I would guess it is similar. Millar avoids taking direct responsibility for his actions explicitly and offers a variety of excuses, including "it was expected," "the other guys were depending on me," "what I did at first wasn't doping, it is easy to slide over the line into doping" and more.

The description of his life as a cyclist and his fellow riders during this period reveals that things were quite bad - one wonders that something didn't set off a reaction then, long before Lance was busted. Riders didn't just take things to perform better during the race, they took various things to recover faster and took sleep aids as well. At one point Millar took a sleep aid while drinking (despite knowing this was unwise) and jumped from a window injuring an ankle and then not being able to ride for months.

The drinking aspect was not something I expected as apart of the story - for a professional athlete, Millar drank quite a lot. In only one photograph in the book where he was not on a bike is he not holding a drink. I suppose one can give him credit for being open about this.

The third section of the book is about being busted and serving a two year ban from riding. Millar is suitably grateful to folks who saw him through this period but in places he is whiny - given that he is a professional athlete who would drink, take pills, then injure himself it's kind of hard to feel sorry for him. He also moans and groans about his personal financial difficulties, the details of which I forgot about the instant I finished reading about them - given how much this subject may have occupied his attention during this period he likely thinks he kept description of this short, but it seemed labored to me.

The last section is the redemption section - as with many memoirs written by athletes who are still active, he doesn't want to annoy his new teammates so this is not terribly revealing (or interesting).

He makes an exception for his former teammate Bradley Wiggins who left Garmin-Slipstream for Team Sky. Millar describes his unhappiness at this (in large part, he says, because he took a pay cut so that Wiggins could earn more) and shares that he and his teammates regarded Wiggins' chances to win the Tour de France, his goal, as slim. "We looked forward to watching him fail" and "we were certain that he'd never be on the podium at the Tour." (Work on this book was completed long before the 2012 Tour de France that Wiggins won.)

Lance Armstrong comes up twice - early in his career he and Lance were both riders for Cofidis, although they didn't have that much contact since Armstrong was just coming back after cancer treatment. Much later, after the doping suspension, Millar lectured Lance at a cocktail party and Millar describes that incident in some detail. Otherwise what one gets relative to Armstrong's situation is confirmation that the culture of doping was widespread, pervasive.

The issue of doping overshadows the subject of bicycle road racing in this memoir, which is unfortunate. From time to time Millar does provide descriptions and analysis of some of his races and racing accomplishments but this comes across as a secondary topic. Millar had a number of big races where he just failed to win and much like his excuse-making with doping, he usually offers excuses for those failures. (As a memoir written with a co-author it seems remarkable that in numerous places a reader forms a less than good impression of Millar - not that he was doping, that he makes excuses and doesn't take responsibility for it more directly, and like that.)

In the 338 pages here there is around 120 pages of interesting stuff. There are some photos, both color and black and white. There is an index that can help you what what he may have said about particular people or events without plowing through all if it but no timeline for Millar's career, which would have been helpful. (You can look up his professional career accomplishments.)

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Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Masked Rider by Neil Peart (Book Review)

The Masked Rider: Cycling in West AfricaThe Masked Rider: Cycling in West Africa by Neil Peart

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Neil Peart is the drummer for the band Rush - as an author he is mostly known for writing a book about a 55,000 mile trip by motorcycle after his daughter and wife died in less than a year. This book was written and published years before that and is much lighter.

Peart had participated in cycle tours in Europe but decided to try something more challenging that would be combined with an interest in Africa, so he went on an organized bike tour of Cameroon in 1988. The operator only had Peart and three other clients on the trip. The book is a description of his trip and what it was like.

Generally "adventure" travel books don't describe organized tours but in this case the tour was probably more arduous than many independent cycle tours. The tour lasted for a month, for one thing. In the per-Internet world, they were quite isolated almost the entire time, relying on the relatively modest belongings the carried on their bikes.

There is plenty of description of how physically difficult this was over the month, with the heat and generally primitive conditions. (They generally used lower cost accommodations even when western style ones were available, mostly to keep costs down.). He does a good job of describing what he saw and experienced. Much of the focus, as with most travel books, is on his interactions with people, both the people of Cameroon and his fellow travelers and the tour leader. (I wonder what his fellow travelers thought of this - it is somewhat critical of each of them.)

From time to time Peart engages in introspective reflections that I gather are more the point of his motorcycle book - I found these passages did not interrupt the narrative. I enjoyed reading this and will likely read it again.

You were always aware this was a book about travel by bicycle but there was not much description of anything particularly technical about that aspect. As a cyclist I felt like I had a good sense of the difficulties for cycling in this part of the world as a tourist from reading this (although things have likely changed since this was almost 25 years ago). The tour operator is still in business at

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Bicycle Polo in 1896

As usual, I have noticed a drop-off in the number of bicycle commuters and other riders as the weather gets cooler (and wetter).

In the 1890s, there were various attempts to encourage cycling during cooler months - in 1896, one strategy was to encourage new indoor cycling activities, including an article in the October 17 1896 Washington Evening Times about "Bicycle Polo".

Bicycle Polo 1896

The most exciting novelty of the wheeling season has been bicycle polo, which was practically unheard of until about a month ago. It is a rather dangerous game, but not more so than polo as played with ponies at an East Indian gymkhana or a Meadowbrook Hunt meet. A low-geared bicycle has decided advantages in playing it, because it is so much easier suddenly to check or start it. Precisely so, a low-geared pony-that is to say, one that can start or stop promptly and is quick in turning is preferable to one that is merely fast. Of course, the rider in bicycle polo must have a quick eye for distance, be able to ride "hands off" at any angle, and to turn in the shortest compass. In spite of Its difficulties. the game will be the principal attraction at most of the big exhibition meetings in the riding academies this winter.

WHBPC | 4th World Hardcourt Bike Polo | GVA 14-18 août 2012
Bicycle polo is still around . . . photo from Del~Uks Flickr offerings

Sunday, October 14, 2012

"Cycling a Benefit to Women" (1897)

Cyclists in Washington 1897
From the Summer Washington DC Evening Times cycling page
Cycling a Benefit to Women.

Women, perhaps more than men, are benefited by wheeling. Before the bicycle was perfected, horseback riding was the only outdoor exercise of the kind suited to feminine needs, and good, gentle, sound riding horses were hard to find, expensive to buy, and still more expensive to take care of, so that few women kept one. Good bicycles, although costly, seem to be within the means of almost every person; at all events hundreds and thousands of women and girls who never could have owned a horse go gaily over our streets and roads on bicycles that are quite equal in price to any but the finest Kentucky steeds. The good effect of this change from sedentary indoor life to free and exhilarating exercise in the open air is already quite noticeable even to the casual observer. Prejudice has rapidly given way before the fascinating progress of what at first seemed but the fad of an hour. and we have already become accustomed to seeing sunbrowned faces, once sallow and languid, whisk past us at every turn of the street. The magnetism of vivid health has overcome conservative barriers that were impregnable to every other force. And this is, let us hope, but the beginning of a revolution, humane and soundly rational, which will bring an era of vigorous physical life to women.

From the Washington Evening Times.
July 31 1897

Monday, October 8, 2012

Adding Fenders (for Winter ?)

No, I haven't been making many blog entries. Not sure how to explain that. Will see if I become more inspired . . .

I bought these fenders as a "daily special" probably two years ago from Bike Tires Direct - then let them sit in the box ever since after I realized (duh) how difficult, if not impossible, it would be to get them onto my (other) bike that has disk brakes that is nominally the "bad/rainy/wet weather bike." They were about 12 dollars so it didn't bother me that much to have bought them and not to use them . . . saving them for a rainy day. Ha ha.

Well actually not that funny since there were lots of rainy days but the fenders just stayed in the box, contributing nothing.

Bridgestone Sirius with (cheap) fenders
Cheap black fenders don't look that bad - from a distance

I decided I would see how they work in practice on this bike - it certainly was easy enough to install them. When it rains, these should keep the water from coming off the front tire in particular and bouncing off the downtube onto my shoes - also just keep the bicycle cleaner (hopefully - have to see).

Of course this means I'll ride this bike in some rain rather than the "dedicated" bad weather bike, but I am having various problems with the drive train and brakes on that bike so it can sit until (or if) I figure them out.

These are very lightweight, "polycarbonate" - that is plastic. They are adjustable in ways that mean you have to make sure the adjustment bolts are tight on a regular basis. Perhaps if I decide that I don't think fenders slow me down (which the randonneuring types would assure me they don't) I will buy some proper custom fit Velo Orange hammered fenders.

Although not prominent in this photo, another retrograde aspect of my winter rig that is shown here is my headlight - now I could buy a 200 lumen light with the battery built into the light unit for less than I paid for a 100 lumen unit with a rather large-ish battery that is separate and connects to the light with a cable. I think this unit is now three years old. Still, the battery holds a charge well, why should I replace it? Hmm.

The "incorrect" position for riding
We see from this 1892 book illustration that fenders are not an innovation

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Capital Bikeshare Load Management

Riding in across the 14th Street Bridge, I pass this relatively new Capital Bikeshare station on the way to work, or if on a recreational ride. Here on a Thursday morning (relatively late for me, after 9 am) this station at the Jefferson Memorial has only one bike left - but still, there is one. I don't think I have ever since a station with no bikes other than right after the earthquake, when they were all grabbed up.

Capital Bikeshare station, Jefferson Memorial
Only one Bikeshare bike left

While it isn't clear how much ferrying of bikes around is required to keep the Stations equipped with the optimum number of bikes for that location, based upon typical use patterns, I do see a large CaBi truck from time to time that is used for this purpose. The fact that it is so rare to see a station without any bikes (or one completely full) indicates to me that the CaBi people are pretty good at this.

Washington DC Tidal Basin Bike Rental (1941)
1941 bike rental station for recreational riding at the Tidal Basin

Not far from the Jefferson Memorial (to the east rather than southwest), presumably where one can now rent paddle boats, there was this bike rental outlet years ago. Of course for the most part the users of CaBi bikes are a different profile than these sorts of bike renters. Today despite CaBi I still see riders in DC using other bike rental companies - they seem to be tourists rather than residents. The CaBi model and other bike rentals are different in that CaBi is really about point-to-point in less than 30 minutes, then you "check out" another bike to continue on. I have only once seen a CaBi bike locked up at a location without a rider. (For one thing, they don't come with locks.) Other rental bikes do come with locks and are more for all day cruising.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Travels with Willie: Adventure Cyclist (Book Review)

Travels with Willie: Adventure CyclistTravels with Willie: Adventure Cyclist by Willie Weir

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a compilation of columns Willie Weir wrote for Adventure Cyclist magazine. Weir's role in that magazine, it seems, is to provide an article each issue that serves to motivate its readers to further exploits in the activity known as "adventure cycling." Given that the readers of the magazine are all members of the Adventure Cycling Association, there is a certain "preaching to the choir" element to this, and Weir chooses to focus on a narrow part of the activity, the opportunity to meet, talk and even bond with people through travel by bicycle.

Weir's view is that world travel by bicycle is exceptional because one's bicycle serves as a way to present yourself to others that opens up conversations in ways that other travel does not. Almost all of the 42 chapters in this book serve as examples of how that has worked for him - from Turkey to Thailand to different parts of North America. So most of the detailed anecdotes are about the different people he met - how they met, how they spent time together, and so on.

Of course most "bicycle-travel" literature focuses heavily on the "human relations" aspect of the trip, but here there is rather little of anything else. One realizes eventually that he sometimes rides with his wife on a tandem and sometimes they take separate bikes, but there is perhaps one sentence about the implications of undertaking such trips with one's spouse - how they make it work. There is one anecdote about getting bicycles onto flights as checked baggage without paying a "bicycle fee" but there could be many such stories about having a bicycle during international travel that seem like missed opportunities (one guesses . . . ).

Presumably this monochromatic aspect is the result of a book that is compiled from short articles that each had roughly the same goal and weren't intended to serve as part of a long narrative. I'm not saying I didn't find it enjoyable to read - mostly I did - but it became clear after about 50 pages that this wasn't really going anywhere it hadn't been already except to swap in different locations.

Weir's style also became a little fatiguing over the length of a book. His average paragraph has (I'm estimating) two sentences, but there are quite a few paragraphs of one sentence. If you pause to consider what you know about writing it seems like he could have consolidated a lot of these little paragraphs into longer ones that flow better. What may work fine as an article doesn't necessarily work for extended reading.

The book has some black and white photographs - these serve to show the scenery occasionally mentioned as another benefit of adventure cycling. Some of the photos are quite good.

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Monday, September 3, 2012

Trail Safety Enhancements

The newly configured transition from crosswalk to trail

As Mr. Lenin said, one step forward and two steps back. Or did he say two steps forward and one step back? I can't keep that straight.

This is at Walter Reed and Arlington Mill Road in Arlington (Virginia). The Country does occasional maintenance on the trails that sometimes is difficult to understand, although most of this effort seems OK.

Previously there were two steel bollard-type posts that sat in steel sleeves that were in the asphalt - the sleeves stuck out of the asphalt an inch or two and the steel post could be locked to the sleeve.

The previous hazard - helpfully marked by someone with yellow paint

A while ago one of the steel posts disappeared, leaving the sleeve as a hazard - you wouldn't want to ride your bike over this bit of metal poking out of the asphalt. Eventually someone (from the County? one assumes) came along and painted it yellow like this. It then stayed like this for a month or so.

How long will this piece of plastic last?

Finally the County came along and removed the remaining steel post and both the sleeves and installed this plastic thing. I guess a bicycle is an "authorized vehicle" (ha ha). Typically these plastic bollards (if that is what one calls them) don't stay in place very long, but the mounting thing that would remain if the plastic strip disappears wouldn't be the same kind of hazard for cyclists as the previous steel sleeve - but still, it won't be something you want to run into directly since it could cause a rider to lose control.

Often these developments feel like an evolution of compromises . . .

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Slaying the Badger (Book Review)

Slaying the Badger: Greg LeMond, Bernard Hinault, and the Greatest Tour de FranceSlaying the Badger: Greg LeMond, Bernard Hinault, and the Greatest Tour de France by Richard Moore

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The title doesn't mean much to people who aren't (relative to regular people) deep into road racing history and would know that "the badger" is Bernard Hinault, who won the Tour de France five times. The sub-title however makes the subject somewhat more clear: "Greg LeMond, Bernard Hinault and the greatest Tour de France" - this book ponders what Hinault meant when he seemed to promise that after winning his fifth Tour in 1985, he would work in 1986 to help LeMond win his first. (A problem with Mr. Hinault is that his statements can often be understood in more than one way.) To do this, the author (who observed the 1985 and 1986 Tours firsthand) interviewed Hinault, LeMond, and others who might provide some insights. He then inserts material from these recent interviews into what is first a review of Hinault and LeMond's history in cycling followed by a day-by-day account of the 1986 Tour.

The overall result is a decent history of the Tour in 1985 and 1986 with some background that reads well, other than these occasional detours into further musing on what Hinault really was thinking. Motivation ("what was he thinking?") is interesting, but since Hinault is clearly not going to offer more insights than he has to date, the constant returning to this topic in this book eventually became a little tiresome - but that could be me.

The author notes in an afterword for the US edition that in the original UK edition, the sub-title was "the greatest ever Tour de France" - he took "ever" out of the sub-title to suggest that he is open to other suggestions on which was "the greatest ever." I'm not sure he has solved the problem - what I think he means is that this was the greatest duel between two riders in a Tour de France - but that would have made for a rather long sub-title.

An interesting point made several times in interviews in the book is that regardless of what he had in mind, Hinault effectively created a situation with his tactics that meant he was in a race with the rest of the field plus LeMond while LeMond was in a race with Hinault alone, and that this simplified things greatly for LeMond even as Hinault may have mercilessly messed with LeMond's mind.

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Friday, August 31, 2012

Another Shaft-Drive Bike Poster from BnF

In my previous post I wrote about the use of Pinterest to present bicycle posters from the French National Library on Gallica. My example was a poster for a chainless shaft-drive bicycle - I didn't notice that there was another poster in their Pinterest collection that is a shaft-drive bike, and one that shows the shaft-drive aspect better.

Did chains break all that often?

The BnF has posters not just from France but from other European countries on their Pinterest "Velo Board." It appears that the above chainless bicycle was made in Denmark by Nordisk Cyclefabrik - ah the things you can discover with Google. Small print on the poster indicates that while the bicycle was made in Denmark and the poster was likely intended for use in Denmark (since it advertises a Danish location for purchasing the bicycle) the printing was done in Paris - so presumably this is how it got into the BnF, through some sort of copyright-like deposit.

Someone in Denmark created a blog post (in English) describing this Danish chainless bike if one wants to know more.

This poster, as with the other, emphasizes the reliability of a shaft-drive bike over a bike with a chain - that chains break and you can avoid that with a shaft drive. It may have been that manufacturing practices at the time produced chains that were less reliable than today - other than bikes from box stores, I think most chains are pretty reliable nowadays (unless abused). Modern attempts to market chainless bikes have focused more on their being cleaner and easier to maintain, particularly for belt-drive systems combined with an internal hub gear system.

The one somewhat fanciful aspect to this poster is the effortless way the rider is proceeding up what looks to be a reasonably steep hill - this shaft-drive bike is still a single speed bicycle and riding up a hill while seated would generally require a fair application of effort. (While I have seen many photos and images of both men and women in the 1890s bent over their bicycles to ride quickly in so-called "scorcher" position, I have never seen a photo where the rider has stood out of the saddle to ride up a hill.)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Chainless Bike Poster from BnF via Pinterest

The National Library of France Gallica digital library now has a Pinterest account that includes a set of bicycle posters.

One of the posters from Gallica's Pinterest selection

This poster for a chainless bike; that is, for a bike using a shaft drive rather than a chain, is less detailed than most bicycle posters that show the bicycle accurately. This appears to have the shaft drive on the left side of the bike, but typically it was put on the right side - the same side where a chain would run.

While there are still occasional efforts to revive shaft drive systems for bicycles today, they aren't very successful. More successful has been the effort to adapt disk brakes for road racing bikes - I was interested to see Leonard Zinn "throw some ice water" (as he put it) on this notion in his column today. My own experience with Avid cable-actuated disk brakes on a road bike (although not for racing) has been that they are more maintenance headache than they are worth.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Swedish Inflatable Helmet Won't Go Away

Several news sources, including Slate have given some coverage to further developments of a "invisible" (inflatable) Swedish bicycle "helmet". (I put "helmet" in quotes because as an American, I'm aware of the importance of tort law, and I suspect that what these folks have created doesn't amount to a helmet but is some sort of "inflatable cranial protection system" or the like.)

The instigation for this coverage would seem to be a new video depicting the work of the two Swedish women who came up with this idea and who have slogged away for seven years (at least; it isn't clear) on its development as a commercial product.

A brief description of how the "invisible" bike helmet has gotten to where it is today

Slate presumably covered this cycling news because of the "man bites dog" nature of it - most coverage in the general press of bicycling is like that (or else scandals with Lance Armstrong et al). The Slate author is highly skeptical, focusing in particular on the cost ($600) and that the thing is only usable once and then needs to be replaced (for another $600, apparently).

My thinking is (perhaps) a little more nuanced.

More or less instantly inflatable personal crash protection devices are not new, leaving aside car air bags (which are attached to the vehicle, not to the person). Riders in cross country equestrian events can use a vest that inflates when the rider is "separated" from the horse. (This development was a result, it seems, of Christopher Reeves' accident.) Here is one example. The cost is roughly comparable to the invisible helmet, but it is reusable. In short, the basic idea is not so radical as it might seem.

There is a difference, of course - the invisible bicycle helmet completely replaces the usual helmet a cyclist would wear while the inflatable equestrian vest augments a safety vest that was being worn otherwise to improve it. From the standpoint of improving safety (as the number one goal) it is easier to identify with the "augment" approach than with the "replace" approach. In fact, if one wanted to enhance safety of bicycle riders, the simplest way to do that is to wear a better helmet - a motorcycle helmet - and not an inflatable helmet (that has to work its way up around your head to do its work).

The main goal though is not so much safety as to have some safety while serving the all important desire not to muss one's hair or to be uncomfortable (which one of the inventors declares traditional bicycle helmets to be) and to have something that doesn't make your head look like a "mushroom" (which is a statement in the video . . . ).

Bicycle helmets are a relatively recent development - one can review the Wikipedia article on bicycle helmets to confirm this. Early helmets were not very good in various senses; but since the development of the polystyrene foam approach now used it feels like we are stuck with helmets that should and could be better in protecting a rider's head. Looking at how to improve today's helmets would seem more useful than switching to a $600 alternative exotic option.

But yes, anything that sits on your head may muss up one's hair - there is little to be done about that. Making a helmet that is comfortable seems more easily rectified. The "it isn't attractive" aspect has been addressed by a number of companies, including these options from a company called BandBox

The whole fashion statement aspect of cycling can be amusing - Nutcase makes helmets that are intended to be more appealing (I confess I'm not sure why) to a certain audience and I see them here in the D.C. area, but in the summer it seems a little crazy - a helmet with less ventilation? Little tiny holes? Talk about comfort ! (or lack of comfort . . . ) Quite reminiscent of early Pro-Tec bicycle helmets in appearance, but given the greater amount of foam, likely less comfortable.

Perhaps these folks could get the price down to more like $300 (although who knows - part of their price has to be their insurance or whatever to fight law suits from those who decide the thing didn't protect them when they have a hurt skull notwithstanding use of the product) and make it so it is reusable - would it make more sense? I have trouble getting too excited about it even then, but who knows, someone might be pleased to pay six to eight times the cost of a regular helmet to avoid mussed hair. Here in heat-and-humidity land, I'm not sure I see that wearing a big fluffy scarf-collar thing around my neck is more appealing than a ventilated helmet. This isn't Sweden.

A particularly interesting question not addressed directly in the video (although sort of implied) would be whether this helmet is safer than a typical bicycle helmet for the user. I would assume that if it works correctly, your head is happier bouncing on a firm air pillow to absorb shock than polystyrene foam.

There is also the theory that has some support that motorists ride more carefully around cyclists who are not wearing helmets than those who are. So this "helmet" could be useful in encouraging motorists (who would not perceive the protection of a helmet) to be more careful around cyclists wearing this device.

There are apparently endless issues to consider here - but I'll stop now.

Hains Point loop
I don't know, I think the helmet adds some joie de vivre

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

"Nobby" Bicycle Suits (1896)

"Bicycle Suits" (1896)
Cycling attire ad, 1896

From "The Referee and Cycle Trade Journal: a Weekly Record and Review of Cycling and the Cycle Trade." Volume 17, Number 1 - May 7, 1896.

Women cyclists of the 1890s often wore special clthing specifically created and intended for cycling, such as bloomers. I usually think of the tweedily attired male cyclists from the 1890s as riding in a version of their regular clothes, but this kind of ad suggests otherwise.

The slogan of this company, Rosenwald & Weil, seems a bit obscure - "Distinctive gentility in style - like brevity in composition - represents greatest merit."

Thursday, August 9, 2012

100 Years of Bicycle Component and Accessory Design (Book Review)

100 Years Of Bicycle Component And Accessory Design: The Data Book (Cycling Resources) (Cycling Resources)100 Years Of Bicycle Component And Accessory Design: The Data Book (Cycling Resources) by Van Der Plas Publications

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The sub-title on the book itself is "authentic reprint edition of the data book." The "data book" referred to is a 1983 Japanese publication that Is several hundred pages of line drawings of parts of bikes, apparently taken from a variety of publications. It is somewhat whimsically organized, grouping together particular components and then providing examples from the 1880s through the 1950s. (It isn't clear why it refers to 100 years of data; the book doesn't cover 100 years.) the book was compiled for Japanese cycling enthusiasts originally. The Japanese book translated is a compilation from four longer volumes of similar materials put together by the president of the Japanese Joto Ringyo bicycle company.

The book's description says it includes English translations of the Japanese text, but there is little text provided so this doesn't amount to much. Apparently this American edition sound some interest since the copy I have is a second printing. Still, it is Something for enthusiasts and the almost complete lack of information about what one is looking at is peculiar. This book is not to be confused with something like "the Dancing Chain."

I happened to find this at Half Price Books in Seattle for 20 dollars and at that price it has a certain entertainment value but at the original price of $39.95 it doesn't seem worth having.

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Bucolic Cycling Image

Bucolic Cycling
Filler illustration from 1896 cycling magazine

"The Referee and Cycle Trade Journal: a Weekly Record and Review of Cycling and the Cycle Trade." Volume 17, Number 1 - May 7, 1896.

An idealized view of cycling in the 1890s - perhaps. Hard to know if it is idealized or not, actually.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Nice 1891 Paris Poster

L'Etendard français, bicyclettes et tricycles
From the Library of Congress

Title: L'Etendard français, bicyclettes et tricycles / J. Chéret, 91.
Creator(s): Chéret, Jules, 1836-1932, artist
Date Created/Published: Paris : Imp. Chaix (Ateliers Chéret), 20, rue Bergére, 1891
Medium: 1 print (poster) : lithograph, color ; 123 x 88 cm.
Summary: Poster showing a woman riding a bicycle, carrying a tri-color pennant.
Library of Congress

Many such posters include a fair amount of accurate detail of the bicycle but this on is more impressionistic.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Schwinn Five Rider Pacing Bike (1896)

I discovered this article about an early Schwinn "Quint" - a bicycle that seats five riders who would be able to attain a very high speed and a single rider would then try to set speed records riding behind them, drafting.

The Referee and Cycle Trade Journal: a Weekly Record and Review of Cycling and the Cycle Trade. Volume 17, Number 2 - May 14, 1896.
The article in the online presentation of this magazine.

Quint Bicycle with Team
The Schwinn "World Quint" and the bike that would draft behind it

It is Exhibited on the Road and Track and Causes Astonishment.

The quint made by Arnold, Schwinn & Co., to be used in pacing Johnson, made its appearance last week and was given a trial at the Thirtyfifth street track. Kennedy made an attempt at Steele's state record of 1:55, but the track being in poor condition and the men not being used to the machine the best time made was 2:08. The chains on the machine were too tight to admit of its being ridden as fast as Kennedy was capable of going. The makers had figured on the chains stretching enough in riding the quint to the track to make them about right, but the chains didn't stretch. This fault was easily and quickly remedied, and the big affair was out on dress parade Sunday, the riders being clad in white suits. The boulevards were covered in the morning, a crowd of cyclists following at all times. The machine is a fine-looking affair, is substantial and ought to serve its purpose well. It has been shipped to the team in Paris.

Quint Bicycle Action Shot
An "action shot" of the quint on the track

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Paris-Roubaix, 1896

The "crack rider" Fischer, the winner

"The Referee and Cycle Trade Journal: a Weekly Record and Review of Cycling and the Cycle Trade." Volume 17, Number 1 - May 7, 1896.
Full article in "The Referee".

Much to my surprise, detailed coverage of the Paris-Roubaix "tourist riding" race of 1896 in France in a publication from Chicago. (The article various spells the German winner's name "Fischer" and "Fisher.") The article starts as follows:


Averages Over Eighteen and a Half Miles an Hour on the Journey—
Linton Holds Him Even for a Part of the Distance.—
Eck and Johnson's Plans
Paris, April 21.—[Special correspondence.]

Favored by glorious weather, the opening road event of the season, Paris to Roubaix, 280 kilometres, or 174 miles, duly took place last Sunday, forty-eight riders out of an entry of a hundred facing the starter at the Porte Maillot at 5:30 a. m. The value of the prizes was as under: first, £40, second, £20, third, £12, fourth, £8, the following five £4 each, and the tenth was a case of champagne. A prize of £6 was awarded the leading man at Amiens. A. V. Linton managed to secure this sum, winning by half a wheel from Fisher. All along the line road records were smothered, the winner Fisher, riding throughout the race at an average speed of over 18.2 miles an hour, which pace in itself constitutes a record for tourist riding.
". . . Tenth [place prize] was a case of champagne . . . "

The top finishers, their nationalities and times
In the presence of over 10,000 people at the Roubaix track, Fischer, the German, wheeled six laps, having secured the first prize, and covered the full journey in the wonderful time of 9 hrs. 17 min.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Vertically Compliant in 1896 . . .

I'm just kidding - while bicycle advertising from the 1890s can seem surprisingly familiar more than 100 years later, they didn't talk about "vertically compliant" bike frames. Not that I understand what bicycle reviews mean with some of their phrasing, but vertically compliant seems to be the opposite of rigid - that a bike frame flexes vertically.

Rigid Bike
What they mean is, buy this bike!!

"A bicycle with the strongest, most rigid frame built." An 1896 ad from
"The Referee and Cycle Trade Journal: a Weekly Record and Review of Cycling and the Cycle Trade." Volume 17, Number 1 - May 7, 1896.
Full volume of issues

Here are some modern discussions of this sort of thing:

* Bicycle frame compliance

* Frame design

* Carbon fiber frames and compliance

I tend to give a lot of credit to developments in bicycle design of the 1890s but it seems intuitively obvious that this is one of those "there can be too much of a good thing" situations. I am reminded of the infamous SNL skit where Ed Asner, leaving for vacation from his job running a nuclear reactor, says, "Remember, if something goes wrong, you can never put too much water into a nuclear reactor." In the bike frame ad the meeting is clear - the more rigidity the better! Well, maybe . . .

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Chain Lube . . . Russia?? 1896 Product

Getting advice on what to use to lubricate a chain on a bicycle is interesting - people usually have pretty strong views and they are typically all over the place. This guy's review is fairly low-key although he builds a fairly typical level of enthusiasm for his particular favorite, but at least he runs through an analysis that makes sense.

The ad below, from 1896, is interesting since the product claims to be "the only chain lube on the market - by which they mean the only "dedicated chain lube" product, not used otherwise for something else.

Russia Chain Lub
Ad for Russia chain lube

from "The Referee and Cycle Trade Journal: a Weekly Record and Review of Cycling and the Cycle Trade." Volume 17, Number 1 - May 7, 1896.
Full volume of issues
Russia Chain Lubricant Use the Best - It is the Cheapest
Improvement is the order of the day
The only chain lubricrant on the market. Will not soil the hands or clothes, keeps the chain bright and clean. As a lubricant it is superior to any Graphite on the market. Can be handled with a kid glove. It positively will not gather dust, and will save wear on the chain and sprocket wheel.

"Ha ha, you're a sight! Why don't you use Russia Chain Lube, same as I do?"

"I will hereafter. No more graphite for me!"
So the main advantage of this product is that it goes on clean, unlike graphite. And then a bit of comparative advantage in lubrication is claimed too, why not.

I can't imagine why it was called "Russia" chain lube . . .