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.

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