Monday, December 28, 2015

Legends of the Tour (Book Review)

Legends of the TourLegends of the Tour by Jan Cleijne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don't read many graphic novels - this is in fact a graphic work of non-fiction, documenting some highlights of the Tour de France's history.

Graphic novels can vary widely in amount of text included, and this is at the (very) low end. That was fine for me since I have read at least a dozen different books about the Tour, but I'm not sure that this would be so good for someone who isn't already familiar with the Tour.

The author's style is mostly dark and for the most part he focuses a lot of attention on the dark aspects of the Tour's history (dark in the sense of forbidding and/or foreboding) but the Tour takes place in July, in France, and much of it doesn't have the look and feel of most of this book. That says more about the author than about the subject, I suppose.

The low-text graphic novel approach results in some simplification of what you might read elsewhere - the competition with Hinault and Greg Lemond ends with the two of them riding hand-in-hand, celebrating their sort-of-joint-victory - hmmm. Published in June of 2014, he deals with the problem of doping and Mr. Armstrong's interview with Oprah at the end while expressing hope for redemption for the Tour's future - that the challenges will come from road and the race and not the challenges of doping without discovery, I suppose. Well maybe it will work out that way.

The nice thing about a book like this is it is possible to read through the whole thing in several sittings. It is also interesting to go back and page around and look at it later.

View all my GoodReads reviews of cycling books.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

"The Best Gift of All"

1922 Christmas Bike Ad (Detail)
1922 Bicycle ad before Christmas
The herald. (New Orleans, LA), December 14, 1922, Christmas, Image 23

I like that the bicycle is said to be "right up to the minute." The prices seem quite reasonable.

Times Boy and bicycle 1921
The ad is from the same period as this bike, the early 20s

Note headlight connected to battery under one of the two top tubes, horn, and tire pump. Pretty nice.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

New Old Bike - Trek Singletrack from 1995

I happened to read in a blog post (elsewhere) that a "bicycle cooperative" (non-profit) in Alexandria (Virginia) not far from where I live would be having a "house cleaning sale" of old used bikes, at Velocity Bicycle Cooperative. I went over yesterday morning and found a 20 year old Trek mountain (sort of) bike for $60 and bought it.

The condition was remarkable - it was missing one pedal and also the seat post and saddle, but otherwise everything was there and worked. The bike was incredibly dirty, however, and with the missing seat and uninflated tires it looked pretty sad. The front of the bike frame is green and the back part is blue. This sort of paint scheme was common in the 1990s. A quick check suggested that little work would be necessary to make the bike ride-worthy. Put on some pedals and a seat post and saddle plus clean it up and off you go. The bottom bracket and headset both seemed fine and the derailleurs and brake systems appeared OK too.

Trek Singletrack 1995?
Just purchased Trek Singletrack bike after some cleaning and refurbishing

I wasn't too sure about the age when I bought this but it seems to be a 1995 model, looking at a 1995 Trek catalog someone has helpfully digitized. This has one of the two color options offered that year; "dry ice green-dry ice blue fade."

Trek Singletrack 1995?
A simple bike that will do what I want it to do (but at a more reasonable weight)

I had a CroMoly Giant mountain bike from one of my sons that has shocks on the front fork and is rather heavy - over 35 pounds. It hasn't aged very well, unlike this bike, so I wanted a replacement - ideally one that was lighter and without the (pointless) shocks in the front fork. This bike is just about exactly 30 pounds, which isn't too bad, although it too is CroMoly (steel) frame. Something that I can ride in snowy weather, to use with some studded mountain bike tires I already have mounted on an extra set of rims. This bike will work great for that. (I need to clean it up after such riding, though, to avoid components rusting.)

It is hard to know what to think of a used old(er) bike like this. It was extremely dirty and the rings and cogs showed some wear, but I'm guessing they were original. The wheels were original, in fact pretty much everything except the tires seems to have been part of the original bike. The 20 year old wheels were absolutely true, so even it was allowed to accumulate too much greasy dirt it wasn't abused. Nice that it all works well.

I had a seat post that works and an (ugly) saddle and some pedals, so I had little to do before taking it for a ride. I was pleasantly surprised that the tires and tubes hold air fine. I did a first pass at cleaning the worst of the dirt but I'm going to have to make another go at cleaning the thing.

60 bucks! Good deal!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Car Crash (NOT involving me ~) on Bike Commute Route Home

Washington Post short story about this crash.

"A person is dead after a fiery crash near the U.S. Holocaust Museum in the District." - the story is dated 11/10. The accident happened some time between Monday the 9th and Tuesday the 10th - oddly the story fails to provide any time or date at all. I just know that I came upon the crash site when I rode to work Tuesday morning (the 10th). "The driver lost control and hit a large tree, according to the U.S. Park Police. The car then caught fire." The Park Police are involved because the tree the driver ended up crashing into is on Park Service land. "The driver ... was headed south on Raoul Wallenberg Place near Maine Avenue in Southwest Washington." Yes, the driver was on Raoul Wallenberg, but crashed at least 50 fifty after the turn onto Maine, so the accident took place on Maine. I would assume the vehicle made the turn from Wallenberg at very high speed cutting through the intersection but nevertheless failed to negotiate the turn properly, jumped the curb, demolished some bollards, then hit the tree.

Car crash site near Tidal Basin
Looking down Maine Avenue (to left) and Ohio Drive (to the right) - Ohio Drive continues past the Jefferson Memorial as well as access to the 14th Street bridge to Virginia

Car crash site near Tidal Basin
Here you can deduce more easily what must have happened, with the scorch marks and demolished bollards

Riding by this, the scorch marks made a considerable impression on me - generally I think of cars crashing and bursting into flames as something that happens in movies made in the 1960s-70s, not something that happens, but apparently it did here. I was reminded of the quote, "If you don't like the way I drive, stay off the sidewalk!" (A quote from where? I don't know. Bad librarian.) This is a part of my ride in - typically I ride inbound on this sidewalk because the alternative on-the-street route is circuitous and involves a stop light that I can otherwise avoid. But I am always alert even up on the sidewalk to what the cars are doing, because people here do drive fast and often do dumb things trying to cut across lanes, so I am not so sure I feel all that safe just because I am up on the sidewalk.

Thursday, after the Veterans Day holiday, I was surprised to see the tree draped in ribbons and balloons and a bottle of champagne at the foot of the tree, an apparently memorial to the driver who died. The Park Service was not, it seems, interested in that since by my ride home it was all gone, along with the yellow incident tape.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Optimism & Bicycle Parking and an XO-1

Reasonably rare 1993 Bridgestone XO-1 parked on the street

I work on Capitol Hill. I have an older 1982 Bridgestone road bike, but it is so old that it misses the period when some Bridgestone bikes were sold in the U.S. that then became legendary, such as the XO-1 above.

The XO-1 attracted a lot of attention for its odd "moustache" handlebars (which are not shown too well in my photograph) but it's failure to fit into well understood bicycle categories of the 20-plus years ago seemed to be the biggest problem, and perhaps surprisingly for a bike not made in mass numbers, this was the subject of discussion even decades later - see this 2013 blog post for example. Sheldon Brown's site of information about older bicycles includes the relevant pages from a digitized 1993 Bridgestone catalog that show the bike more clearly and describe its features, as well as its price then (ranging from $1,115 to $1,175) and that only 1,000 were being made. Only 1,000!

My main surprise is that anyone would park a gem like this on the street. Yes, it has a U-lock and also a cable lock, but . . .

Monday, November 2, 2015

1884 Bicycle Down Capitol Steps

"Perilous Ride"
"A Perilous Ride" - riding a bike down the U.S. Capitol Steps in 1884

From the Library of Congress:

Title: A perilous ride / Platt Brothers, artist and photographer, 1116 12th St., N.W., Washington, D.C.
Date Created/Published: [Washington, D.C.] : [Platt Brothers] [1884]
Medium: 1 photograph : albumen print on card mount ; mount 17 x 11 cm (cabinet photograph format)
Summary: Photograph shows a man riding a bicycle down the steps of the U.S. Capitol as another man with a bicycle waits at the top.

Earlier the only image available online was a digitized B&W copy negative - that is, someone made a copy of the printed photograph and then digitized the negative. This is a reasonably high resolution image produced directly from the print. You can make out more details. (Click on the photograph above and you go to Flickr and you can zoom in from there.)

There are several unusual aspects to this bicycle. Unlike the usual "penny farthing" of the time, the smaller wheel was in front, not in back. Also, it did not rely on pedals attached to the center of the wheel but used a treadle system. As it happens, Wikipedia has an article about this model of bicycle, the "American Star Bicycle" and uses this very photograph in the article - but the older, B&W one.

The Library of Congress believes the photo dates from 1884 (which is why 1884 is in brackets; it wasn't printed on the photograph, apparently or it would be without brackets) but the Wikipedia article says 1885. Well, close enough.

A possible rationale for this photo is that even for an experience rider, this stunt would have been impossible I think on a penny farthing, which would have plunged forward over the large front wheel. So this is demonstrating that attribute of this book.

I'm pretty sure the Capitol Police would not allow you to ride a bike up and down the Capitol steps now. . .

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Per Arlington VA Police, Cyclist=Scofflaw but Motorists are OK

Cyclists need to obey those darn laws

Motorists? They just need to be careful

This is of course absurd. It makes sense only if cyclists are presumed to be scofflaws and motorists are law abiding folks who probably would be well advised to be careful of those scofflaw cyclists. In fact there is no evidence at all that cyclists are more (or less) law abiding than people driving cars. There is considerable evidence of course that when cyclists or motorists do dumb things and have accidents involving cyclists and cars, the cyclist suffers much greater consequences.

This is particularly ironic given the location, which is right where a major bike trail crosses a busy street. Under VA law, if the cyclist is required at this location to walk his bike and not ride in the crosswalk then this needs to be specifically posted, otherwise the cyclist is free to cross the street on his bicycle in the crosswalk. The obvious for accidents with the bike trail+crosswalk across Walter Reed is with left-hook and right-hook turn accidents from cars turning from S Four Mile Run Drive where the driver doesn't see the cyclist in the crosswalk because the motorist failed to exercise due care.


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Lanterne Rouge: the Last Man in the Tour de France (Book Review)

Lanterne Rouge: The Last Man in the Tour de FranceLanterne Rouge: The Last Man in the Tour de France by Max Leonard

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I recommended this to a colleague who I know occasionally reads books about professional cycling, who surprised I had read it given that I had announced I had not watched any of the current Tour de France or read much about it.

Oh well. Some things don't necessarily make sense.

I have read at least a dozen different books on the TdF, some that are like this that coverage the entire history of the event and others that focus on a particular race or individual or team. Thanks I guess to doping and the present evolution of the bicycles themselves in directions that seem less and less like a bicycle I might ever have anything to do with my interest in the TdF races of the 21st century seem to have disappeared, but I can still enjoy reading about races of the 20th century.

The trick is to find a book that has some new or interesting angle, and with its focus on the "lanterne rouge," that is, the official last-place finisher of each of the Tour races. This theme makes it possible for the author to recount different anecdotes than those that have often appeared in more than one previous book.

I also came away feeling I had learned a few things about the TdF - for example, that the race at times officially recognized the last place finisher in some way but generally has preferred not to, and in some cases changed the official rules to discourage riders from attempting to place last. (At certain points the "lanterne rouge" rider would be invited to criterium races after the TdF that were much more lucrative than anything that might be offered to riders who places say next to last.) And I gained some additional understanding why some riders finish towards the end, such as sprinters and domestiques.

It was a good and easy read. If some of the material about the early (or late) races is not so interesting, the generally chronological organization makes it easy to skip over such things.

This is a small thing, but I am puzzled by the lack of any effort to edit books like this published by English authors for the U.S. market other than having a computer go through and replace "colour" with "color" and the like. Oh well.

View all my reviews

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Gironimo! Book Review

Gironimo! Riding the Very Terrible 1914 Tour of ItalyGironimo! Riding the Very Terrible 1914 Tour of Italy by Tim Moore

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I got half way through this and put it down and didn't pick it up again. That was enough.

This is a sort of travel/cycling/cycling history book. The author, who has written a book of this sort before, was inspired by the terrible-horrible-very bad Giro of 1914 to attempt to recreate that race today with his own individual grand tour attempt. The somewhat unusual touch was to do this using a period-correct (mostly) bicycle that he purchased and rebuilt for this purpose.

Much of the first third of the book focuses on acquisition of the right (which turns out to be wrong) bicycle for the trip and getting it into condition to be ridden. This part was amusing even if a little silly sometimes and I enjoyed it. The author does have this shtick of putting himself down that gets a little tiring.

Once the book transitioned to the actual trip, I gradually became less and less interested. For this genre an author will move back and forth from describing his present travels to some historical anecdotes that somehow relate. The way that this was executed in this book didn't hold my interest.

View all my reviews

Monday, July 6, 2015

Cycling in Moscow

I spent the last week in Moscow (for work). Moscow how has a bike share system now and I saw bikes from the system being used, but I did not attempt to take pictures of people riding around, mostly because of my reliance on my phone for photography for this trip.

Moscow bike share station on Tverskaia

Generally in the center of the city where we were we did not see that many cyclists given the density of population, but we did see some. They were usually riding on the sidewalk at a modest rate of speed, not in the street. A few arguably crazy people did ride in the streets, but it didn't seem for the most part like a good idea.

Bike to work day poster Moscow 2015
A "bike to work day" poster in a Moscow Metro station

For whatever reason, some events and products are advertised in English, so "На работу на велосипеде" is described on a site named

На работу на велосипеде! — 21 мая, Москва from Let's bike it! on Vimeo.

The 2015 Bike to Work Moscow video

There were occasional green bike lanes, both around the Sadovaia ring road and up near Moscow State University, and they got some use, although of course we saw one police car on several occasions that regarded the bike lane as its parking area. Out near Moscow State University we saw a fair number of riders who seemed to be out enjoying the weather. There is a path along much of the Moscow river that was also a popular cycling venue.

Moscow State University
Note the green painted bike lanes

Sunday morning on the way to the airport there was a lycra-clad fellow working away on a road bike, riding on the ten lane (or whatever it is) road. It seemed completely crazy to me but apparently legal enough - it isn't a highway in the usual sense but cars are mostly traveling at a pretty good clip.

Helmet use was fairly infrequent. Their Moscow bike share bikes had steady headlights rather than blinking ones, which for winter when it is pretty dark much of the time would seem important. (I guess they run the system through the winter?).

A typical Moscow cyclist in most respects - not riding on the road (this is a pedestrian-only street) but atypical in wearing a helmet

Away from the center of Moscow on a work day, we would see the occasional person riding, again generally on the sidewalks - but on the main thoroughfares these are pretty generously sized, so there is room. The typical rider was not wearing business type work attire - this isn't the Netherlands by any means.

At least people in Moscow are seeing some cycling going on. What they think of this activity and the cyclists in particular I don't know.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

"Older" Diplomats on Bicycles & Accidents

Secretary of State John Kerry had a serious bicycle accident while getting his recreational cycling in while in France, taking time from negotiating with the Iranians. Kerry is 71.

One tends to think of recreational cycling at 71 as an activity taken up only recently by people of that age but there are examples from 100 years ago, even among high level diplomats - Alvey Adee, a career diplomat of the late 1890s up through World War I, made regular cycling tours in Europe before WWI and rode to and from work by bike.

Alvey Adee of Dept of State Riding Bicycle to Work(1914)
Alvey Adee riding his bike to work at age 72

If Adee looks a little tentative in this photo, perhaps it is because he had an accident of his own wile cycling the previous year:

Secretary's Machine Wrecked and He Narrowly Escapes Receiving Serious Injury.

Assistant Secretary of State A. A. Adee had a narrow escape from serious injury this morning, when he rode his world-famous bicycle, which was carrying him to his office in the State Department, into the automobile being driven by J. E. Baines. of Browning Baines, coffee manufacturers, as Pennsylvania avenue northwest. Mr. Adee'a bicycle was damaged to such an extent that he was unable to ride it. He escaped serious Injury, however, although miraculously. Following the collision, Mr. Baines jumped from the car, assisted Mr. Adee to his feet, brushed the dust from his clothes, and after making an inventory, found that the aged cyclist was practically uninjured. The accident happened at Sixteenth and Corcoran streets. Secretary Adee was going west on Corcoran, and was turning into Sixteenth when he came immediately in front of Mr. Baine's automobile, which was going south. Mr. Baines turned his machine about, but not in time to keep Mr. Adee, who had not till that time seen it, from colliding.
I suppose one difference is that in the press reports of Kerry's accident he has not been referred to as an "aged cyclist" (or for that matter, aged diplomat).

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Tsar of all the Russias - Riding Incognito?

From The Wheel and Cycling Trade Review, November 27, 1896 - a filler piece that is perhaps apocryphal. Tsar Nicholas II began his reign in November 1894.

Accidents are no respectors of persons. The Emperor of Russia, who in his cycling excursions wears the uniform of a colonel in the Russian army, recently met with some misfortune to his wheel, and, dismounting, proceeded to correct it. While doing so an old general from the provinces passed. Not receiving the salute due to him, the general walked up to the wheelman he thought was an ordinary colonel, and requested an explanation of the omission. The Emperor politely informed the irate general that he had not had the honor of becoming acquainted with him during his short reign; otherwise he would, of course, have saluted the general as befitted his rank.

I could not find a public domain photo of Nicholas with a bicycle, although there are at least several photos of him mounted on a bicycle or with one, all taken (I think) after he abdicated. So this will have to do.
Sankt-Peterburg oldfoto 13633
Emperor Nicholas II and his family for a walk. On the bike Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich, in a wheelchair - Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, behind stand the Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich and his wife Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna. 1902.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Barrier Arm Hits Me on the Head

The gate shown up here came down and hit me smack on the helmet as I stopped

On April 22, I left work and the Capitol Police decided to test my helmet. I wrote the message below to one contact and started to make an official complaint, but the process is more trouble than it is worth, in my view. These barriers built into streets have always made me nervous, and apparently for good reason.

Yesterday I left the Madison garage at about 5:15 pm. I usually turn right, but I was going to the ball park and turned left. I stopped immediately and talked to someone on the sidewalk for a few minutes, then I proceeded in the regular traffic lane down the hill. As I approached the intersection, the gate was up, the plate was down in the ground, the light was green and the pedestrian walk signal showed 20+ seconds. I was traveling between 15 and 20 mph in the center of the right side traffic lane.

As I approached the intersection in full view in the middle of the traffic lane the arm was activated and lowered. The plate thankfully did not come up. I managed to stop just as the arm hit me right on my head (not by intention, that is just how it worked out), but since I was wearing a bike helmet, I was mostly just surprised and not injured. I pulled over about 50 feet from the observation post where I guess the person operating the arm is located (although I don’t know for sure). Two police officers were outside talking and one eventually asked if I was OK.

I did not stop to talk to the police further about this at that time. I felt both foolish and angry and the police didn’t seem interested in any event.

In short, be careful.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Happy Days of Riding - 1896 Washington State Example

From my alma mater, the University of Washington - "H. Ambrose Kiehl and his daughter, Laura Kiehl, on a bicycle, Washington"J

I found this in the Flickr Commons. It appears the daughter is sitting on the top tube side-saddle (in effect).

Below is a father-son photo from roughly the same time taken on the other side of the world.

Unidentified father and son posing with a bicycle for a travelling photographer - from the State Library Queensland (Australia)

The first photo is posed to give the impression of what the pair would look like while riding, but they are leaning up against a fence. The second photo presumably was intended as a posed family portrait and would have been provided to the purchaser in a cropped version, but this uncropped copy with the second child peering in from the side is more entertaining for us now, looking back. Bicycles were often used as props in photographs of the time so it is not obvious that this bicycle even belonged to these folks.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Tandem Penny Farthing - 1892

Illustration from an 1892 book on cycling

The 1892 book Wheels and wheeling; an indispensable handbook for cyclists, with over two hundred illustrations is from a time when the "Ordinary" (or Penny Farthing, a bicycle with a large front wheel and a very small rear wheel that was driven directly by pedals attached to the front wheel) was still somewhat in competition with the "Safety" - a safety bicycle being much more like the bicycle we know today.

The page with the description includes the following:
Muller Tandem Bicycle. The tandem roadster of the Muller pattern has been given a thorough trial by many different riders in and about New York, and in spite of its 64-inch gear with only 51-inch cranks, it climbed in good time all the hills ridden by the ordinaries and safeties, and went ahead of every-thing encountered on the road. The frame (on which Mr. Muller holds his patent) can be applied to any size wheel, and made its appearance about three seasons ago, when, fitted with two 56 Expert wheels, Mr. V. H. Muller and his brother rode it, defeating all tandem teams of prominence. Last spring they gave the frame a thorough trial on a pair of 50-inch Springfield Roadster driving wheels,and on it made a tour of Europe, where its novel lines attracted much attention among the cycle manufacturers.
Be that as it may, one doesn't see any of these around now. Apparently this is one of those ideas that just didn't catch on. One can imagine it had something to do with these being a paired fixed gear arrangement - no coasting. On the upside, it does appear that the rider in the rear has a brake. This would result in an unusual partnership, with the front rider responsible for steering and the rear rider for braking.

Joys of Commuting - Sunrise in DC

Stopped to take this with my camera phone

Not as good in the photograph as the impression made in person (so to speak) but you get the idea - sunrise, and so on. Nice after all the nasty weather.

The Capitol dome looks a little odd because it is covered in scaffolding.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Carefree Riding Days are Coming Soon - Again

1927 - riding in DC

From the collections of the Library of Congress
Bicycle rider;Washington Monument in background, Washington, D.C.
Creator(s): Harris & Ewing, photographer
Date Created/Published: [1927]
Medium: 1 negative : glass ; 4 x 5 in. or smaller
Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-hec-34542 (digital file from original negative)
Rights Advisory: No known restrictions on publication.
Call Number: LC-H2- B-2126 [P&P]
Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
-Title devised by Library staff.
-Date based on date of negatives in same range.
-Gift; Harris & Ewing, Inc. 1955.
-General information about the Harris & Ewing Collection is available at
The trees with their leaves suggest this is probably fall and not early spring, but for some reason this photo reminds me that this winter is coming to an end and more carefree riding is ahead. No ice!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Stop and Smell the Cherry Blossoms ! No Wait ......

Stopped on commute home at tidal basis edge, under cherry trees, to take this

The motorists were beeping at one another trying to escape the city before the next snow storm, but I was able to stop and take this of the fog over the tidal basis, which is unusual.

What looks to be something on my lens is a jet flying over the Memorial, having left National Airport.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Sad Bicycle on Capitol Hill

This lonely and completely ice-covered bike near Capitol South metro stop

Now of course the conditions are fine but this morning everything was covered in ice except for the asphalt used by cars, so I came in on Metro.

This old Specialized, perhaps not abandoned by seemingly not much loved, made me sad. Is one to feel sympathy for inanimate objects?

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Indoor Trainer From 1896

Very little (that isn't digital, or made of carbon fiber) for bicycles is all that new.

Page with ad as printed.
RIDE ON THE STURGIS HOME TRAINER The most startling thing of its kind ever invented. You simply put your own wheel [bicycle] on, mount, and ride straight ahead, just as you would on path or track. No fastening or support of any kind. Very little noise. Rollers are connected, and power is transmitted by chain; steel bearings; rollers are adjustable to resistance.
It is interesting that this photograph, part of an ad for this new product, was taken outdoors when the product was intended for indoor use. Since this publication was not for cyclists but for the bicycle "trade," it emphasizes the possibility of bicycle sellers to use this device for teaching new riders how to ride a bicycle, but the "testimonial" in the ad also talks about the usefulness as a training method.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Back to Bicycle Commuting

Mount Vernon Trail bridge near National Airport - solid ice

Last week Monday was a holiday and the government (and my job) were closed due to weather. The remainder of the week I went to work by Metro. It was the first week when I worked the "full week" (or as much as was available to work) and didn't ride one single day to work on my bicycle. Ugh.

Today I took my heavy yellow monster and rode to work. The trails in Arlington and roads in DC were fine, but the Mount Vernon Trail was not great. In the morning some of it was slushy, which presents traction issues if you slow down. The temperature fell during the day and most of the way was frozen solid on the way home. I ended up riding more than I would ever do otherwise using the small ring on the front of this old mountain bike, spinning very slowly in the lowest possible gear.

This bike has 1.95 inch wide mountain tires that have studs - amazingly it is possible to ride along at a slow steady pace on conditions like this bridge without difficulty - frozen ruts are the biggest problem.

Since I stopped to take some pictures and stopped somewhere else to talk to a guy and generally was riding pretty slowly, it took me close to an hour and a half to do what should take 45 minutes at most in regular weather.

An odd trade off with tire pressure - I ran with the tires at 50 pounds per square inch, which is somewhat too soft for the miles where the roads or asphalt trails are bare but is certainly too hard for conditions like what is in the photograph. A compromise, but not a great one.

Somewhat embarrassingly I will take Metro again tomorrow, because it will be colder and I think I am up for this every other day but not every day.

Where is spring?!?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Online Bicycle Travel Magazine "Bunyan Velo"

Bunyan Velo Issue 5

"Bunyan Velo is a quarterly collection of photographs, essays, and stories celebrating the simple pleasures of traveling by bicycle." An example of the amazingly well executed publications that are available online for free. This particular irregularly published magazine features more articles that are longer with more photography than anything you would subscribe to published in print on a regular basis. My only quibble is that it is too much!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Presidents Day, Jimmy Carter, and Cycling

Whippet172 on Flickr has a ten year old photo of Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn with their pair of Rivendell bicycles. I should not embed the image in my blog without permission, which I don't have, but I can link to it).

President Carter was the first president for whom I cast a vote, while living in Leningrad USSR (where my father was working at the time) via absentee ballot. More recently I saw President Carter give a speech at American University in Cairo in 2008 while I was working there for some months. I strongly admire President Carter, both his time as president and his activities since leaving elected office.

Not the photo I was searching for!

I was looking for a photograph of President Carter riding a bicycle where the he and the bicycle are in motion, and in which he is not wearing a helmet. (The photograph occasionally appears with some remarks criticizing him for the lack of helmet.) Instead I found th rather different photograph (above) in which President Carter is also not wearing a helmet, but does have some headgear. And that isn't a Rivendell bicycle.

Flickr user Buster&Bubby has this information:
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter biking in Yangshuo. According to a tourist web site: "In 1987, The USA president Jimmy Carter visited Yangshuo, his wife and he insisted that went around Yangshuo countryside by bicycle. Since that time, Rent a bicycle go around Yangshuo countryside has become the first choice to the tourists." Photo from lobby of our hotel.

Aha, I found the famous (or perhaps not so famous) photograph I was looking for. What do you know, he is riding his Rivendell.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Riding with Horse-Drawn Traffic the Library of Congress A cyclist appears about 2/3 through this short film, riding in with the horse drawn carriages. Riding in traffic with carriages and horses almost makes riding with automobile traffic look relaxing.

Title - South Spring Street, Los Angeles, Cal.
Summary - From Edison films catalog: Various equipages pass, including a tally-ho and six white horses. A peculiar, open-end trolley car comes along; bicycle riders and pedestrians. 50 feet.

Advertised as part of the "Southern Pacific Company Series" (Edison films catalog): The Southern Pacific Company ("Sunset Route") offers special inducements to winter travelers, by reason of its southern route, thereby avoiding the extreme cold of the winter months. Its course lies through a section of the country that presents a variety of beautiful and picturesque natural scenery. It is also the direct route to the popular resorts of Southern California, thereby making it a favorable route for tourists. The following subjects were taken by our artist while traveling over the very extensive lines of the Southern Pacific Railroad Co., to whom we are indebted for many courtesies, and without whose co-operation we should not have been able to bring before the public these animated photographs of interesting and novel scenes (p. 43).

Created / Published - United States : Edison Manufacturing Co., 1898.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

WMATA Bus Driver & the "Rule of Law"

I don't usually blog about my commute but I had a silly interaction with a Metro 22A bus on my way home and ended up writing this long complaint in WMATA's online complaint form and thought, having spent so much time typing it up, I would "reuse" it here.

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The above Google satellite view shows how Arlington Mill Dr deadends into Walter Reed. The two left lanes are controlled by a light and are for turning left. Shortly before the intersection, a new lane is added on the right that goes into a cutout for right turns. Between the right turn cutout lane and the two left turn lanes is an island for pedestrians or cyclists from the trail to cross either Walter Reed or Arlington Mill.

Both the 22A bus and I (on a bicycle, on the trail) were proceeding away from Shirlington towards Walter Reed. I wished to proceed in the crosswalk across the cutout and then across Walter Reed to the trail on the opposite side. The 22A bus wished to turn right. Although the operator saw me approaching the crosswalk on my bike, she proceeded into the crosswalk and only stopped when she realized I was right beside the right side of her bus and that if she continued she would run into me. After she stopped and I stopped, she then started inching forward, but I banged on the bus and went around in front of the bus and explained that in the crosswalk I had right of way. (Which I believe is true - in Virginia the law seems to be that motor vehicles must yield to persons in the crosswalk, which includes mounted cyclists.) The operator's response was that "I have the green light."

I believe the operator is wrong about that - I don't think the stoplight on the island is to control the right turning traffic in the cutout but rather the two left turn lanes, but it isn't obviously one way or the other. (The main reason I think this way is that the crosswalk I was in comes into the cutout at an angle and is not controlled by any pedestrian signal.)

However I am willing to concede the operator is correct, but I think it makes little difference. Safety is supposed to be a priority in public transit operations and an operator whose first thought is about the green light she missed and not the cyclist she almost killed is displaying lack of professionalism in the worst way.

I intend to talk to the Arlington Police about the intersection and the traffic control, but again I am primarily concerned with the poor and aggressive driving attitude of this operator. I would note by contrast that every work day during the school year, I approach this intersection from the opposite direction and there are always school buses waiting to turn right in the same way as your bus driver was. In every case the school bus driver yields to me as I come across Walter Reed and then cross that cutout in the crosswalk.

You should be embarrassed that the school bus people do it right (regardless of the applicable law) and your operator is so poorly trained.

I would appreciate a response that the operator has been spoken to. The operator will likely report that I seemed excited. Well, yeah. After tangling with a city bus, one's pulse rises 100 points.

Good day to you.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Bike Mechanic: Tales from the Road and the Workshop (Book Review)

Bike Mechanic: Tales from the Road and the Workshop (Rouleur)Bike Mechanic: Tales from the Road and the Workshop by Rohan Dubash

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I saw a one-sentence description of this somewhere and thought it was a bike mechanic memoir, to complement the many "my days as a road cyclist" books available. "Bike Mechanic takes a look inside the daily life of the unsung heroes of the peloton, the bike techs who keep the stars riding." But in the book itself, one reads, "this book is a collection of stories with some tips and hits that we thought would be useful to amateur mechanics and road cycling enthusiasts alike. It certainly isn't comprehensive; there just wasn't space."

The book table of contents is as follows:

The Daily Grind
Bike Washing
Team Car
The Truck
Team Garage


Frame and Forks
Bottom Bracket
Contact Points
Cleaning and Lubrication

The "On the Road" section is the closest to describing what being a professional road race bike mechanic is like, but this is only about a quarter of the 272 pages; the remainder are a somewhat whimsically selected look at the tools, workshop, and use of these tools for caring for high end road bikes.

Although a paperback, this is a nicely produced book with good paper and well reproduced photographs.

The two authors convey stories or instructions on how to carry out a mechanical procedure with equal skill. They know their subject and their writing is interesting to read as well.

The photography is by Taz Darling - some of her racing photography is available online. The book includes both action oriented photography and the kind of photography appropriate to a "how to" book; both types are executed well.

If there is a drawback, it is that there is so much in it and I still am not sure of the best way to attack a book like this. I read the first third or so in a conventional start to finish way, but eventually started jumping around.

View my reviews of cycling books on Goodreads.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Not an Attraction of Bicycle Commuting

Riding in sleet results in ice droplets forming on brim of hat

I could see those droplets as I rode along but my attention was mostly focused on staying upright. When I got home I discovered that the droplets were frozen. I don't mind so much riding in the cold or riding in the rain, but riding in freezing rain and/or sleet is not something that is enjoyable in the usual sense, except when it is over, I guess.

I used to wear a baseball cap under my helmet in order to have a brim to keep water off my fact, but the hat wouldn't fit under the helmet well - this little brim works fine. Usually not adorned with ice, however.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Seattle Seahawks Win; Player Celebrates with Fans by Riding Bike

Seattle Seahawk borrows police bicycle to ride around field, celebrate with fans

When I lived in Seattle, my understanding was that the Seattle Police were among the first in the late 20th century to resume active use of bicycles as a standard means of transportation for some officers. (I thought I could confirm this easily with Wikipedia, but their article on this topic is awful.) The Seattle police web page on their bicycle use doesn't make this claim, but so maybe they were, maybe they weren't.

This was a resumption of police bicycle use since urban police had certainly used bicycles actively in the late 1800s. I have mentioned this in earlier blog posts - for example, a newspaper story from Washington DC in 1897 describing the DC police "bicycle squad" mobilizing to catch scofflaw bicycle racers.

The Seattle Police tweeted, "Just bring the bike back before #SuperbOwlXLIX @mosesbread72 :-) "

Friday, January 9, 2015

Studded Tire Performance in Icy Weather

Photo from several years ago, but bike and tires look same now

I have a 15+ year old heavy ChroMoly Giant mountain bike with studded mountain bike tires - they were sold under the NashBar brand, but were made by Kenda (I think). 1.95 (or really 2) inches wide. There are two rows of studs, kind of alternating in position relative to one another looking across the tire. They are far enough out from the center of the tire that one can significantly influence how many studs may be in contact with the ground by changes in the tire pressure.

Three days ago it was snow, not ice, and I had the tires at 55 pounds per square inch. I made pretty good time but the studs were not really necessary. Two days ago the conditions were much more icy for about half the ride, in other words, the part that is NOT MAINTAINED BY THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE (unlike Arlington County, which pretreats its bike trails, God help us). I rode to and from work with the tires inflated only to 40 pounds per square inch and clearly that improved the studly-stickiness of the tires - very little sliding around. On the other hand, on bare pavement, the road resistance is pretty noticeable (and unpleasant). A compromise.

Typical Mount Vernon Trail conditions - thanks for nothing, NPS

This morning I increased the pressure to 50 pounds per square inch since I was hopeful that the trails would be more clear today, but there were still significant areas that were covered from one side of the trail to the other. 50 pounds per square inch was too much to have the same kind of good traction that 40 provides, but I chose to ride along the edges of the trails where there was less bare ice or in a few cases off on the frozen ground along the trail. The improvement in rolling resistance by having more air in the tires made up for a small amount of slow riding in the few really bad spots.

I have now had these studded tires for something like eight years - maybe more. Of course there was at least one year where I didn't use them at all, but I don't ride them much. Originally I thought that if I rode what must be cheap metal studs on lots of bare pavement that I would pound them flat (ruin them) in no time, but in fact they seem to show little wear at all.

Last year I realized that I had lost several on each tire - they are kind of like short thick nails, with a head at the opposite end from what sticks out of the tire. Nashbar sells replacement studs with a tool for installing them and that works fine. I am now riding with a full complement of studs.

I see that there are road tires with studs - the rows of studs are of course much closer to each other. I assume that overall in most urban conditions these would be faster but for now I will stick with the mountain bike approach.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

A Bicycle Race as Analogy for Federal Budget-Making (1898)

From the cover of Puck magazine, 1898 (cropped version)

Image of the full cover.

Item record from the Library of Congress
Title: A handicap needed / Dalrymple.
Creator(s): Dalrymple, Louis, 1866-1905, artist
Date Created/Published: N.Y. : Published by Keppler & Schwarzmann, 1898 January 12.
Medium: 1 print : chromolithograph.
Summary: Print shows a bicycle race on the "National Track" with the man in the lead labeled "National Expenses" easily outstripping the second bicyclist labeled "National Revenue"; a man labeled "Dingley" is giving the second bicyclist a push.
Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ppmsca-28769 (digital file from original print)
Rights Advisory: No known restrictions on publication.
Call Number: Illus. in AP101.P7 1898 (Case X) [P&P]
Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Perhaps not surprisingly, I am more of a Krugman-ite in my economic views so I don't actually see that some imbalance in this race is a problem. It seems reasonable to me that some of our economic thinking today could be more advanced than the economic thinking of 1898, right?

I think it is correct that this is an analogy, but like most semi-educated folk (I have two masters degrees but was never able to open the door behind which I would have found a PhD) I am not always right in the simile-metaphor-analogy parsing process.

The illustration shows the Capitol dome off to the left; perhaps this "National Track" is supposed to be on Hains Point?

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Arlington Trail Snow Removal ROCKS

At long last, parity (if only in Arlington)

Clear roads and clear trails, on the same day. Thanks County government!!

Where Arlington County trail clearing ends

I stopped on my way home to take this photo. This is where Arlington County's trail clearing efforts came to an end - the Mount Vernon Trail maintained by the National Park Service has had nothing done and tomorrow will be an icy mess.

My photo doesn't show it clearly, but it is pretty funny (to me) how Arlington's mini-plow went in a nice little circle clearing the trail before heading back into Arlington.

I suppose the National Park Service will do something when hell freezes over.

Arlington County Plows Bike Trails Early

Arlington Country bike trail along Four Mile Run - plowed at 6:45 am

The DC streets I saw, however, were not plowed at all. Crazy.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Arlington County Pre-Treats Bike Trails

Tomorrow we may have and inch or two of snow, starting around 4-5 am. Maybe.

There had been discussion of more allocation of resources to clear snow from "mixed use" (that is, bike) trails, but I had not realized this could include pre-treatment before the snow. On my way home today, turning off the Mount Vernon Trail onto the trail along Four Mile Run, I noticed the tell-tale lines on the pavement indicating some kind of vehicle had come through and applied some kind of treatment in advance of the snow's arrival.

Looking away from Shirlington, you can see the application of some sort of liquid treatement both coming and going

Apparently this is where the vehicle turned around since a fair amount was spilled.

Looking towards Shirlington, you can see that the narrower trail means just one direction of application

I have no idea how helpful this will be. Find out tomorrow, most likely.