Monday, April 30, 2012
What is the difference between cycling and riding bikes? Is there a difference? I told Flower that cycling is "white" for riding bikes. What do I mean by this?
Well she certainly knew what riding bikes was. As kids when we wanted to hang out with our friends we had to decide what we wanted to do. The question would then arise "What should we do?" and the answer was often "Let's ride bikes". The name of the activity is quite descriptive: we are going to ride our bikes. Somewhere in my life I came to discover there was another name for riding bikes: "cycling". I thought little of it and rarely encountered the word. It was relegated to sports stores, sports media, and the likes. As a person who is far from sporty, I encountered these rarely.
So, does being sporty make something "white"? Well, no. Anyone can be sporty. However, cycling seems to imply riding road bikes in races. Think of the Tour de France. How many of those riders aren't white? In fact, in doing a google search of the subject, there are quite a few articles out there about how there are so few black cyclists and how none have won the Tour de France.
Cycling also seems to have all the hallmarks of a "white" interest. Expensive gear, suburban setting, snobbish names, pretentious myths. In football, you have a ball that you kick with your foot (yes, you also throw and run it...even more than you kick it). You have passes, where you pass the ball. You have the stitches all the ball, called...the stitches. You have the nickname for the ball...the pig skin....again, very....descriptive. What do you need to play football? A ball, some people, and a field. Soccer, of course is truly the sport of the people, but we're Americans so we pridefully refuse to accept something the rest of the world loves.
Anyways, cycling requires a bicycle (racing bikes are thousands of dollars), open road, tune-ups, tire-changes, pumps, patch kits, water bottles, mechanics, brake pads, spandex, spandex, spandex, helmets, etc. Of course, one could argue that football also requires pads and lots of them. And that cycling really only requires a beater bike that can be ridden on the road, or path, or anywhere two wheels can go. But my point is, once you're doing that, you aren't cycling anymore. You're riding bikes: an activity enjoyed by kids everywhere. Not because of their time in a race, or the exercise they're getting, or the pollution they're preventing, but because riding bikes equates to freedom. And this is often the first taste of freedom that a kid ever gets.
Sunday, April 29, 2012
When I look at vintage road bikes, I always look for bikes with lugs. What is a lug? A lug is a metal connector that joins the various tubes of the bike. The tubes are slid into the lug and brazed together. That means another metal is melted between the tube and lug. It solidified which secures the various tubes together. This is a stronger joint than a weld would be. This process is also more expensive as it requires more labor. So bikes with lugs are also indicative of higher quality construction (though Brumhilda is lugged, but not the highest quality bike).
This isn't the only reason people like lugs. They are also attractive. Because curves give them greater strength, they are often ornately decorated with beautiful curves (ooh baby!). Most bikes that aren't custom made no longer come with lugs. Additionally, newer bikes use newer welding methods that are just as strong. While that may be the case, I still think lugs are quite attractive ornaments on a beautiful road bike!
Saturday, April 28, 2012
The owner told me that he bought it from a bike shop in Foxboro in 1976 and used it for his paper route; and use it he did. The fenders and rims were very rusty, and the tires were obliterated. As I rolled it large shards of the rubber flew everywhere. It was clear the bike needed work. When I tried to shift the gears, the chain shifted off of the cog and got jammed. I saw this as a bad sign for the bike.
Nevertheless, I saw he needed love and took him home. It was cool to find a bike not only made in the USA, but made in Massachusetts.
The seller also stressed that it was the 100 year anniversary edition.
I tried looking up information on the bike and found very little. In fact most sites discussed the company year by year...up until the end of the 19th century. Then it explained where it was today. What in the world did Columbia do for the last 100 years? Anyways, I didn't get the impression it was anything special, it wasn't lugged, it was made of steel (though I couldn't find anything on it saying as much), and it weighed a ton.
Don't get me wrong, the bike was pretty cool. From a distance the bike looked like a pretty sharp. It had a very cool silver paint job, and its seat was classic vintage road bike. Although I wasn't crazy about its tiny rusty fenders, it was cool that it had fenders and they were fit the bike's sporty image.
I plan to get it some new tires, scrape off its rust, and hopefully get it shifting and braking safely. I am not sure it is worth putting much more money into it than that, but I'm not going to be the one riding it. I think Teresa has one more upgrade she is itching to make...
So I quite excitedly rushed to Union Cycle today to pick up the Univega now that her bar end shifters were installed. I was so excited to have these installed as I have been plagued by my poor balance when shifting with the down tube shifters. I was most interested in seeing how they shop would deal with the new cables. I wondered if they would unwrap and rewrap the vintage blue cotton bar tape around the cable. I thought they also might simply replace the tape with whatever they thought was comparable; I was wrong on both accounts.
What I saw was this.
Apparently their solution was to simply tape the cables to my handlebars over the bar tape. How incredibly tacky. I was so embarrassed. On top of this tacky move, the new cable was black instead of blue, so it didn't match the rest of the bike. Did they not have blue? I would have waited patiently if they needed to order it. Why didn't they even ask me? I had worked so hard to beautify my bike, and now she looks...ugly.
I think what bothered me the most was that when I walked in, the mechanic looked up at me and then just went back to what he was doing. He acted like he didn't know me (and didn't talk to me three days ago about the bike I was picking up). While I was waiting as a different person retrieved my bike, I tried again to get his attention, but he happily ignored me. Was he ignoring me because of the tacky job he did? Or is he just a bit awkward? I thought he should tell me how it went, whether he replaced the nut, what I should do about how tacky it looked. I was most unsatisfied :(
The good news is that on the short ride home, it did seem to shift well. Unfortunately, I still think I'm going to need to to another shop and have the rewrap my bars for me. Total bummer.
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
The Univega Gran Turismo is in the shop, so I rode Large Marge the Electra Townie Euro to work today. I usually ride the Univega, so it had been a while since I rode Large Marge. Other than fearing the large hill on the way to school, I didn't think much about it. As I started down the road, I immediately felt a bit uncomfortable. This was shocking! This is the comfort bike! I was comfortable in my sitting position, but I was working totally different muscles than on my road bike and they were not thrilled to be being used. I also wasn't getting the power I get from the Univega. I never thought much about what people said about road bikes being faster and more powerful. I figured, who cares? I'm not going anywhere in a rush. But the difference is remarkable. The road bike just gives me a lot more for the pedal.
As I continued on my trip I was happy to be using the much nicer Shimano Deore shifter that is indexed and incredibly comfortable. This was a stark contrast to the Univega's down tube shifters. Each time I try to shift the down tube shifters I lose balance and almost tumble into the street (at a much faster pace!).
When I finally got to the steep hill I started dropping gears. Then I realized that my gears didn't go any lower. The hill was simply brutal even in the lowest gear. Because my weight is so far back on the bike I simply don't have the position to get the power to go up the hill. Even when I stand up, it is difficult because I am too close to the handlebars when I stand.
I was surprised at just how much harder I had to work to propel this bike than my road bike. I think partly it was simply that I was using different muscles, but the geometry of the bikes certainly affects the power that I can get from each.
As I went home I passed a crowd of delinquent children who yelled something or another at me and laughed to themselves. This is nothing new, though I was somehow more self-conscious on Large Marge. I think I felt a little silly. I kind of felt like a little kid riding a bike that is meant to look like a chopper.
So where do Large Marge and I stand? Well, this is something I'm not really sure about either. She is a really pleasant ride at a slow pace on a level ground. She can handle a load of cargo without flinching, and I do love her. However, when push comes to shove and it is time to ride, I find myself wanting to ride my Univega. Maybe Large Marge will become a back up bike that is taken out for leisurely rides from time to time. I considered the idea of selling her, but I have a strong attachment to the bike that brought me back to riding. So for now, she and I are in a bit of limbo, but I have to say for what Electra was aiming to do with this bike, I think they did it really well.
P.S. I miss you Univega
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
While I wait to hear back about the installation of my suntour bar end shifters, I thought I should explain my reason for shifting from down tube shifters to bar end shifters. First let's exam our options for shifters.
What are the types of gearing?
There are several types of gearing. These are methods of changing gears. Obviously, single speed bikes don't have any methods of changing gears so aren't relevant to this discussion. There are hub gears which are often used on 3-speeds. There are also shaft driven gears, which are sometimes paired with hub gears. The most popular gearing system is a derailleur. In this system an arm of sorts physically slides the chain from one gear to the next.
|The arched component above the front chain rings is the front derailleur. The rear object dangling below the rear cassette is the rear derailleur.|
How do shifters work?
Essentially, a cable runs from the shifters to the derailleur(s) (along the frame of the bike). If there are two shifters, one runs to the front derailleur where it shifts along the chain rings (the front gears). The other shifter (usually on the right) leads to the rear derailleur where it shifts along the rear cassette (back gears). The front chain rings cause major shifts and the rear cassette makes smaller more nuanced changes. Generally speaking, a rider will usually stick to one front chain ring and shift among the rear cassette.
What categories of shifters exist?
There are generally two categories of shifters for derailleurs. Friction shifters are found on most vintage road bikes, and change gears by literally increasing and decreasing the tension on the derailleurs making them move the chain in one direction or another. These gradually drag the chain, so the rider has to listen to the gear shift to wait until it doesn't rattle anymore to ensure that he is fully in the new gear. This can make for a bit of an imprecise and challenging operation, but it gives the rider complete control over just how much the chain shifts.
Come the mid 1980s, index shifters were introduced. These click from one gear to the next. In this way, when the rider shifts, the gear is moved exactly to the next gear with no judgement put in the hands of the rider. As an operator of the machine of the bike, this makes the rider's job much easier.
What types of shifters exist?
Vintage road bikes were originally equipped with down tube shifters. These seem strangely placed, but they are meant to be shifted by a rider who is riding in the drops of the drop bars (the bottom part of the round road bike handlebars). I have these on my Univega Gran Turismo and are the type I'm replacing. The reason is that I lose my balance whenever I go to shift and it makes me quite unsteady. I have a strong feeling this is because the bike is a bit large for me
|Down tube shifters|
|Bar end shifter|
I swung by Union Cycle today to speak to another person about my bar end shifters. He took one, played with it for a moment, and slid it right into the end of the bar. Well, that was easy. Or so it seemed. He looked them over and asked where an extremely important nut was that went to it. Well, darn, there always has to be a catch, now doesn't there? He said he'd do his best to rig something up. I guess that is good news! It is certainly preferable to "it ain't gonna happen." Anyways, he didn't seem too discouraged and said he'd see me on Thursday, so I think he's going to make something happen. I walked home after leaving my bike behind. I learned a number of things today:
1. Bar end shifters seem to be pretty universal (which is probably why I couldn't find anything online about different sized ones).
2. Walking home is a lot longer than riding home!
Monday, April 23, 2012
I bought these suntour bar end shifters off craigslist. I had to buy a bucket full of other used components that I didn't want to get them. The advertisement claimed that there were almost enough components to outfit a bike.
I have a bunch of bike components. They are mostly for a vintage touring bike. I have wheels, a set of handlebars, bar-end shifters, a weinmann brakeset, a triple crank and a front derailleur. Its almost enough to outfit an entire bike. The front wheel is a Gentleman's super champion clincher and the rear wheel is an old Mavic tubular wheel. I also have nuovo record derailleurs that I could include for a little extra. Email me if interested.
Here are the images that were included. I just noticed I didn't get the saddle/seat post I paid for :(
Well, I took my shifters to the bike store today and asked them about putting them on my Univega. The guy at Union Cycle removed my bar plugs and tried it out. No luck :( He suggested I could get some Nitto bars which he said were beautiful and would match my bike...unfortunately they also went for 70 dollars :( So many sad faces in this post! Anyways, I love my current handle-bars and this makes me sad all around. Anyways, he suggested I go back tomorrow and talk to another guy about my options. I don't really think Union Cycle is geared towards vintage bikes. I am a bit bummed, but I am staying optimistic.
Tiny hole :(
Sunday, April 22, 2012
So, I forced a friend to ride Brumhilda in order to get a feel for it. The bike was probably a bit big for him and his pants a bit baggy, and he ended up taking a spill trying to get on. In doing so he hurt himself and scuffed up the yellow Atozi saddle. I was pretty sad to see the new saddle banged up, but I felt worse for pressuring him into it, his falling, and then his feeling bad for bruising the saddle. He offered to replace it, and I told him the offer was generous enough and he need not replace it. Being a good guy though, he ordered a new one without my knowing and dropped it off here at the house today. That was totally unnecessary and super nice. Thanks Ryan!
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Today I ended up working on some of those infinite spring chores that I mentioned putting off for the bicycle. Today, a number of friends came over and we weeded and mulched our front flower bed. It needed it...badly. Well, it took all day, and so I wan't able to ride today. I always feel quite guilty when I don't get at least one ride in. Perhaps this is because I put so much money into my bikes. I think this is like when people buy gym memberships: that way they feel guilted into going to the gym. I'm not sure it is exactly the same; after all I love to bike and I would do it no matter what! Nevertheless, a little guilt may keep me riding more often and that certainly can't hurt!
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Today I rode to some friends' house to help them with a project. On the way home I went down a street that leads to a detour so it was empty of cars. Instead a pair of young girls were riding their bikes on the street. One of them started to catch up with me and I heard her say she was going to beat me. I pedaled faster and not surprisingly I beat the 11 year old chubby girl on the pink BMX. She then decried "fuck you!" I was aghast! As a teacher I immediately responded with "that isn't appropriate." She said nothing at first but then replied "my bike is prettier than yours." Although I was very tempted to argue with her on the subject, I relented and said "that may be true, but that was inappropriate language." She said she knew it was inappropriate, and proceeded to pedal into traffic.
That girl was out of her league. I beat her in our bike race, and my bike is totally prettier. Eat it potty mouth!
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
After I installed my new Shimano PD-M324 Clipless/Clip Pedals, I decided it was time to give them a shot. The instructions they came with were in every imaginable language, yet were largely incomprehensible in any language I suspect. Although both the pedal and cleats were simple to install, figuring out how they fit together was a bit of a mystery. Finally, I was able to get them to work by angling them forward and pressing hard. Yet, they were still challenging as it was hard to line up the cleat on my shoe with the clip on the pedal. To disengage them was easy enough, I simply rotated my heal away from the bike and pulled upwards.
When I finally got a shoe clipped in, I road up and down the street with only one clipped in as practice. I returned to the driveway to give it another shot. This time, I clipped my right foot into the pedal, but when I went to mount my bicycle, my shorts got caught on the nose of the seat, and I lost my balance. I felt myself lose my balance, but I couldn't do anything about it. I simply flopped onto my side and scraped myself up a bit. To add insult to injury, the sprinkler then watered me.
After a miserable few moments, I remounted the bike and went for a longer ride. I practice clipping and unclipping as I rode the bike. I wasn't surprised that it was easier to clip in as I rode on the down stroke. Nevertheless, it wasn't easy to do, and ultimately, I ended up hurting myself pretty badly when I tried to clip my left foot in, but didn't line it up correctly and scraped my ankle on the sharp edges of the pedal.
I was most unhappy with my various injuries, but I look forward to mastering these beasts.
Today, the Shimano hybrid pedals arrived. I picked up a pair of cycling shoes at Bikes-Not-Bombs for cheap, so I decided to get some pedals and try them out. Now, ironically enough, this type of pedal is called a "clipless" pedal. As Sheldon Brown explains "Up until the late '80s, the choice was between plain pedals or pedals with toe clips and straps. Since "clipless" pedals provided a way to have a secure attachment to the pedal without the use of toe clips, the name stuck, even though it is sometimes confusing to newcomers."
I didn't want to truck around with an extra pair of shoes at all times, so I was ecstatic to learn that hybrid pedals were made. These pedals allowed you to clip in on one side and ride a flat pedal on the other side.
The "clipless" side
The flat side
I watched a couple of youtube videos which insisted that this would be a cinch. I bought a pedal wrench, automotive brake degreaser, and heavy grease. I plopped down my tools and got to work. Here is the original pedal, which is beautiful, but was never incredibly comfortable and had one side flat for riding and the other was uncomfortable. I'll miss this pedal, but I'm sure it'll get a second life, perhaps on Brumhilda!
At first I tried using the allen wrench to remove the pedal from the inside of the crank arm (the back of where the pedal meets the arm pictured above). The allen wrench kept slipping, so I went for the pedal wrench instead. Now I knew that I was supposed to turn the wrench to the right to loosen the left pedal (as it is threaded backwards to keep it from coming off when pedaling). However, I was still unable to figure out what that meant when looking at the pedal. I turned and turned, and then looked it up, and I was turning it in the wrong direction. When looking at the pedal, the wrench should be turned clock-wise. I hope this info helps someone somewhere!
I next sprayed the threads of the pedal rank with the automotive brake degreaser and then wiped it out with a rag.
Next, I applied a very light amount of this all-purpose grease (wiping off the excess) to the threads of the pedal and tightened the pedal using the pedal wrench. The operation was fairly easy after all!
The flat side of the pedal
The clip side of the pedal
The finished product!
Monday, April 16, 2012
Today I went on a slightly longer bike ride than my norm. It was very warm out and I sweat profusely. Additionally, I'm still plagued by the seat that I'm certain was lowered and a problematic toe-overlap that I'll discuss at a future date.
I was riding down dump road, which leads to Norton when I saw the light blinking red warning of an oncoming train. I was shocked. I was fairly certain these tracks were no longer in use, and I had never seen these tracks in use. I wondered if a freight train was coming by in the middle of a Monday, and these strange hours were what prevented me from ever witnessing this in the past. As Flower and I patiently waited, I saw a back hoe approaching from far down the tracks at an incredibly slow pace.
I was once more puzzled. Why was this back hoe on the tracks, and more importantly, how did it trigger the railroad crossing light? As it approached, I noticed it was actually riding the rails like a train. This of course begged many new questions like how did it get use the tracks without getting in the way of the trains? I had plenty of time to ponder this, as the back hoe crawled at an excruciatingly slow pace. I rode off with far more questions than answers about the back hoe.
After traveling the rest of the distance of the street and taking a right, I noticed a police officer directing traffic and a bit of a back up. As I approached I realized that I had actually caught up to the backhoe again as it crossed another street. More intriguingly, I noticed that it actually had treads that it lowered, lifting itself from the trails and moving off of the tracks.
I also noticed that it may not have been a back hoe. The front arm didn't come to a scoop, but instead a round plate of some sort. I think it may actually have been a large magnet that perhaps they were using to clear the tracks of loose nails and debris. Of course I don't really know, but it was one of the stranger things that you can really only see around Attleboro!
Farewell, strange mechanical giant!
Sunday, April 15, 2012
Today we went to Vegfest at Worcester Technical High School. It was a beautiful day and Vegfest was great. It had tons of free samples, pins, literature, and stickers. It also had innumerable t-shirts, crafts, and food to be bought (also some shoes, but not in my size). Of course the highlight of Vegfest was the vegan ice cream truck Like No Udder. The special brownie sundae was delicious! Anyways, the second best vendor was Worcester's Earn-a-bike. In reality they just had some literature and some less attractive t-shirts. At the bottom of their price list they also listed messager bags, but didn't list the price. Maybe no one asked because of that, but when I asked the man quoted me at $10. How in the world could someone go wrong with that?
As I paid for it, the man told me it was from Bailey Works. I looked the company up and it is a bicycle bag company in New Hampshire. He told me they were given to Earn-a-bike because they were samples or prototypes. This one in particular was a large sample and was labeled as such.
The inside of the bag is lined with waterproofing.
Inside there was a place for a laptop
There was also an inner zipped pocket.
The main pocket is giant!
Unpictured, the bag also has a waist strap and a place to clip a light. The best thing about the bag is that I looked it up on the Bailey Works website and it regularly goes for $139! These are custom made bags that are manufactured here in the USA! Whoa!
Saturday, April 14, 2012
When I got my Univega back from having the fenders put on, I immediately took it for a ride (obviously). When I did I noticed something weird. It was in a different gear than I had left it in (the brakes also squeeked a bit). I was puzzled, but decided that this may have happened because they needed to access something or took it for a test ride after they fenders were installed. No harm no foul, right?
Not long later, my new saddle arrived and I went to install it and I realized that the black vertical lines that run up and down the seat post were no longer fully exposed (meaning the seat had been lowered). This again puzzled me (as did the fact that I didn't notice this immediately when I went for a ride).
Here is a picture I took of the bike when I first bought it. Notice the fully exposed black vertical lines on the seat post.
Here it is the day I brought it home from getting its new fenders installed.
Here it is the day I installed the new saddle (also notice the cameo by Flower).
Problematically, I also noticed that up and down the seat post were zig-zag scratches from someone trying to raise/lower the post without properly loosening it.
The scratches are probably best seen in this photo...along with the shards of metal that were scraped off the post.
How and why did this happen? I was not happy about this at all. Yet, I'm also too much of a wuss to call out the bike shop for doing it. Darn Providence Bicycle, I loved you so much. How could you do this to me?
The saddle (fancy word for seat) that the Univega Gran Turismo came with had seen better days. It was particularly worn on its nose, and I'm not sure it ever offered an immense amount of comfort. Additionally, the entire bike is getting a makeover, so a switch from black to brown seemed in order. I ordered a Brooks Flyer on ebay used and it arrived in pristine condition!
As with my of the stuff I open for my bike, Lady Esmeralda decided to test it out first. Clearly she finds it immensely comfortable to sit on (and she is smart enough to realize it is not meant for an upright rider).
When I bought the bike, the woman selling it offered to replace the saddle with a newer racing saddle, but I wanted to keep the bike's original components together as much as possible. This is the original seat, and I'll be sure to save it (because I hoard and everyone deserves to be buried in tact...just ask the eunuchs of yesteryear).
Clearly my first attempt isn't exactly level, but this gives you a pretty good idea as to what the seat looks like on the bike.
As you can see, the Flyer model comes with springs for extra shock absorption....I'm delicate. Overall I think the bike looks great, and I can't wait to ride it! I hear these saddles have a bit of a break-in period in which they form to your contours, so the more I ride it, the more comfortable it should be!