REVOLUTIONS- biking in NJ
Wednesday, 2 November 2005
A tale of two bikes - fix vs. fix
1-2-05: This afternoon finished putting my Fujifix back together; after using the 16t cog for the Foldingfix, I took the 18'er off and put it on the fuji's wheel. However... The 18 with the 42 gearing was a bit spinny. So I swapped out the Fuji's 42 steel ring for a 43t aluminum one -- a ring that in a cool aesthetic touch I had driled out a while ago. Then finding this still not quite up there, I swapped it for a 44t Salsa chainring.
So far so good, but now the question remains: When I want to ride a fixed gear, which fix do I ride? The foldingfix admittenly is a perfect bad weather bike if one takes care to clean it and prevent rust around the joint; it had fenders, a more upright riding position, and the wheels are small so even w/out the fenders road spray is further away. On the other hand, the fuji's cantis make it a good all around bike... and the 2.444 is easier than the 2.625 of the 42x16. But the bigger front ring feels smoother...
But for now, both bikes are good to go...
Tuesday, 1 November 2005
Strangebike (or how I learned to stop worrying and love the fix)
11/01/05 - Modified my fixedgear Dahon folder some more yesrerday. Removed the half link from the chain and swapped out the 18t cog for a 16t, to give it 53x16 gearing. That's a 3.312 gear ratio which would be insanely hard on a normal bike but, with the reduction effect of the tiny 20" wheels it works out perfect aven for short steep hills.
Two days ago some folks at my work felt compelled to test ride the 'fix around the parking lot. "I like this bike" one guy said afterwards.
Today, stopping for my morning coffee, the guy behind the counter came outside and tried the bike.
Meanwhile, motorists still give me dirty looks. The other day on the way to work I was behind a truck at the light. After turning left at the traffic light, the truck got bogged down behind people making left hand turns into stores. I passed the line of stopped cars and zoomed over to where I get my coffee. The guy with the truck pulled in about the time I was walking thru the door. I got my coffee and paid as he was almost to the counter. Moral? The bike *is* faster, at least in traffic. And guess what the motorists don't always like that. They feel slighted. The fact that my folding bike looks particularly odd, causes many of them to shout remarks or beep horns. Like the guy in the truck who said "@sshole" under his breath as he walked past me into the store.
This sort of thing used to bother me. So did the odd looks from other cyclists riding full size bikes. I don't "need" to ride the folder any longer as I no longer take the train daily, but it handles nice due to the tiny wheels, and it has fenders. It's a practical bike for around town -- more so than ever now that it's fixed.
Then it dawned on me -- this morning -- when I was pulling around a turn getting as close to drafting as you can get to a dump truck in the process of jackknifing a turn -- this bike is fun! Who cares what folks think?
Thursday, 27 October 2005
The Dahon -- reborn (or, tales of a fixed folder 2)
10-27-05: After riding my fixed folder I found in the junk and built up, I realized it needed improvements I could not then afford. Specifically, the left crank kept working loose. Being a cottered crank there was only so much I could do to tighten it -- and, being cottered cranks, the chainring was impossible for me to swap out. This is important because tho for the first few days of around town riding the 48x18 gear worked okay the last few I felt it spinning like mad. Also, the bike didn't really fold up as well as I would have liked.
But my trusty Dahon folding bicycle, which I carried on the train, and which carried me through the worst parts of Newark for nearly a year -- as well as through scenic New England on a memorable trip were I was attacked by wild turkeys -- folded well, had proven itself in daily use both folded and riding, rack and fenders, and already had a modern bottom bracket with cotterless cranks.
The choice was clear: put the old folder in storage and convert the Dahon.
So the Dahon is fixed; 53x18 gearing, with the GT bmx r. wheel and stock front wheel; some tweaking was needed to get the larger rear tire to fit under the fender without rubbing but I made it.
The ride is better, the cranks are new and tight, and the 53t 'ring is easy enuff with the 20" rims and 18t cog -- but takes the edge off the mad spin. The cockpit fits better than the crowded reach of the old folder, although it still has the limitation of not being able to adjust handlebar height. But it works okay with the gearing;
i don't have to crank it out of the saddle so the upright bar position isn't an issue. By contrast the old folder could adjust bar position horizontally, but the frame was shorter so it was more cramped. Plus, I have the added bonus of knowing from experience that it can fold anywhere, anytime -- train, stowing in the car, work, etc.
The 53x18 is the "magic gear" for this frame; with vertical dropouts gear selection serves the dual purpose of both gearing, and chain tension; in conjunction with the half-link in the chain it is just tight. A little too tight maybe but it will work a tad loose over time and minor fiddling with the rear wheel's position gives it slack enough to spin freely tho' it is still quite tight.
Now fitted with a large seat pack, I have removed the rear carrier from the rack. Tho I may still strap things to the rack I do not want to carry a large container of stuff until I lose some weight as I weigh about 195 and the bike is only rated, per manufacturer specs, to 210 lbs!
Result: A perfect folding fix.
Tuesday, 25 October 2005
folding fixed gear -- a new insanity
10-26-05 -- On 10-24 I found a discarded folding bicycle today, what resembled a imitation of the Raleigh 20. Coaster brake r. wheel was shot as was the front, so I spun an 18t fixed cog onto a double spoked GT bmx rear wheel. Junk find front rim for now.
I cleaned it up, sanded the few rust spots, and painted them over in (closely) matchign white paint. Gloss black bmx front brake caliper, then flipped the handlebars and added bar ends extending the cockpit...
...I then replaced the cheapo seat I had on there with a somewhat nicer junk find, and added a pouch under the seart and a light (need the pouch to clip the light to as there is no way I can get a light mount big enuff fer the seatpost. Then I modified the bars with bar ends.
Later I intend to upgrade from the cheepo cottered cranks... we'll see if the bike lasts. But now I having a folding fix!!!! ;)
Thursday, 13 October 2005
Successful frame repair
Topic: tales from the garage
10-13-05: It's thurday. Modified my Fujifixed frame successfully! Some ultraweld liquid metal, sandpaper, and primer, plus silver spray, did a ton of good. The brake bridge had a hole in it which kept getting filled with road grime and spray fromt he rear tire. Concerned about rust over the long hual even with regular post-ride cleaning, I decided to fill it in.
Went off without a hitch and I am so looking forward to riding this thing!
(pic below shows the bike except for the patched rear brake bridge which was dine right after I took this photo)
Wednesday, 12 October 2005
The Cops Stole My Bike (and other tales from the street)
Imagine you lock your bike, go into a store, and come out. As you emerge you find someone using a powersaw to cut the lock off your two-wheeled ride. Chances are it's a bicycle thief, right?
Not in New York. According to a page 4 article in the New York Sun, NYC police had nothing better to do this past week then drive around Brooklyn stealing bikes.
Said the paper: "Police confiscated more than two dozen locked-up bicycles ...after local businesses complained that large lcusters of bikes around the Bedford Avenue subway station were impeding sidewalk traffic".
According to the Sun, police used everything including circular saws (!) to destroy bike locks and remove the parked bikes. And though some bikes were locked to MTA property near the station entrence -- which is appparently illegal -- the vast majority of the bikes taken "did not appear to be impeding traffic".
The absurdity of this act is surpassed only by the stupidity and outrageousness of it. Even if the structural integrity of the bike is not rendered useless -- a dented cut or cracked frame -- or the bike otherwise destroyed, the damage -- and potential damage -- is astounding. The police who cut the bike locks with power saws and threw the bikes into a van are unlikely to care about any damage they do to the bikes. And the bicycles' owners are unlikely to be reimbursed for any damage.
This sort of thing would make sense if the bikes had been left abandaned for weeks. Maybe even days. But we are talking about bicycles that are simply locked up. Imagine coming out of the store and finding that your car's windows had been smashed and it hauled away because someone thought parking it there might obstruct traffic? At least when they tow automobiles they don't damage them deliberately -- and they don't tow them unless they are illegally parked. Many of the seized bicycles were locked to posts -- a practice the NYC government claims is illegal, but which is actually advocated by the Police Department, in a brochure urging citizens to "lock your bike" to reduce theft.
This comes on the heals of a court ruling in which Manhattan Judge William Pauley III ruled just a month past, that seizing bikes at the monthly "critical mass" rides through NYC were illegal seizures.
Thankfully, not everyone is cheering this nonsense. Someone ont he city council introduced a bil this past summer which would require the city to give 36 hours notice before confiscating "unattended bicycles", according to the New york Sun.
Even here, though, the wording is a blatant attempt to make the cyclist look culpable. Parked bikes are not abandoned bikes -- locking a bicycle is not leaving it "unattended". The word conjurs up images of careless cyclists ditching their bikes. Clearly the outrageous seizures wouldn't be a big deal if the bikes were abandoned. So why use such wording?
Well, is a locked bike "unattended"? If so, does that mean that when you park your $50,000 car and lock the doors, it is sitting "unattended", fair game for anyone who wants to damage it or haul it off?
Meanwhile, here's one cyclist hoping this nonsense does not spread to New Jersey.
Wednesday, 5 October 2005
Bad Roads and Bad Cops
10-05-05: Riding home last night was another near death experience. The idiot PSE&G people have been tearing up the street with a criss-cross maze of patchwork, laying pipes and doing a crappy -- downright dangerous -- job of patching the road. But they usually didn't leave two foot trenches in the middle of the street.
Well, turns out they did.
Coming down the dark hill -- the streetlight doesn't work -- the rear tire of my Fuji Fix made a sound like a bomb going off somewhere under the rear axle. Pissed off and worried about damage, I kept control of the bike and slowed, preparing to stop when I got to the bottom and check for damage -- a broken rim, spoke, or flattened tire.
Just as I got done cursing the idiot that left a two-foot wide and nearly six inch deep trench across the road, unmarked with cones or anything, where there were no lights, the bike launched itself over the second tranch. It was all I could do to keep control of the bike.
For now, there's no damage. But the Mavic Open Pro rims, though sturdy, were not intended for dukes-of-hazzard style riding more suited to a BMX bike!
It is only a matter of time under these circumstances till something goes.
Here's the big joke: Someone suggested I report the unmarked bomb craters to the police who could issue tickets for not marking them with cones, etc. The joke is, there were two policemen there during the day when the construction was ongoing. Woulda' been nice if they did their job...
Tuesday, 4 October 2005
10-04-05: Riding yesterday was so much fun.. for the most part. My friend Patty and her geared Raleigh; me on my FujiFix. We only did about 10 miles, maybe, but it was so relaxing...
Riding through the next town over, we stopped at a park, and noticed a dirt trail. Following it, we walked, then rode. My Fuji Fix was built up as a fixed gear touring bike -- I built it specifically for the 5 Boro, which is why it originally had 2 brakes; 35,000 people on the Varizano Narrow's bridge gives one pause.
But I now realize that I didn't need the rear brake any more than I did on my other fixed conversions -- and that many of the same qualities that make the bike a good all rounder for the road make it good for slow-paced, liesurely offroad cruises, save for the narrow (23c) tires.
Emerging from the woods, we headed home, when it happened. I rode into a bug at about 15-20 mph. Not just any bug. A wasp of some sort. It stung the insdie of the lower left lip, and as I plucked it out and my face swelled up like elephant man, I tried to find the stinger. No dice.
Talking with Patty I rushed off ahead to get home, riding like a madman. Except for the suburban environment I felt like one of those mad rushing bike messengers, tearing through the streets to try and get home fast as the poison made half my face go numb and I started frothing at the mouth.
I was almost home when I came to a T intersection. A green van sat there in the middle of the street, no turn signal. I didn't know which way to pass him on, left or right, but I couldn't wait; my lip was beginning to burn so bad my eyes watered. "Jesus chris get outa the street!" I yelled as I blew past the van, which i saw was sitting idle even though there was no oncoming traffic. Mother f-er was probably lost. Or asleep.
Finally I made it home, and some ice and a few painkillers did the trick. Today it's almost normal; very little pain. But thinking back I think I set a new speed record for those last 2 miles.
Reflecting on the unpleasant end to an otherwise pleasant ride, I must thank years or riding, off and on, for my lack of a crash. When injured or in pain our conscious mind leaps away and we often go back to instinctive knowledge -- epsecially when moving at high speed. What I've picked up over the years about riding has, for the most part, become instinctive. i can slow my fixed gear via resistance braking without consciously resisting the urge to coast. I can ride one-handed if need be. I know how far to lean into turns without going over.
Thanks to this, I got home safely. So did my bike. And thanks to the wasp, that ride will always be a memorable one, especially those last tearing 2 miles of pain.
Some would say it isn't worth it to keep riding after such an episode. I got right back on my bike and rode to work.
Saturday, 1 October 2005
More anti-bike Madness: When will it end?!
More anti-bike nonsense: Will this madness never end?
Read something the other day -- scary how close it mirrors the run-in I had this morning with two pukin' SUV captains...
According to a fixed gear bicycle rider from out west, who was on the ride, a San Francisco (9-30-05)Critical Mass ride turned into a brawl. Rider was attacked in an altercation with two pedestrians in business suits. Word was the bicyclists were jokingly saying things as they passed. The Suit took the banter seriously and kicked the guy off his bike and started beating him, fleeing only after confronted by a crowd of other riders...
The moral? Some people just get "set off". Usually it's bad drivers who don't like you pointing out the errors of their dangerous ways. This is different because it's a pedestrian.
We don't know who began the banter... maybe the pedestrians were angry at waiting for the bikes to pass and said something? However, if the Crit Mass riders were taunting these folks..... Makes no diff. The pedestrian was a nut job, flipping a guy off a bike cause he says something in passing is not a normal reaction -- it's the mark of a potential psycho. This suit is the kinda person who will one day go berserk and just start offing people cause they gave him the wrong happy meal at MickeyD's.
However we can't usually tell these types by looking at them so I pretty much try to keep to myself on my bike beyond a few mild gestures. Now if a car actually hit me [read, I couldn't dodge it] i would be pissed, cause it's happened in the past.
Verdict: The guy in the suit needs to take a pill, be booked for assault and cool his jets in a cell next to a very large fellow -- maybe that scary-lookin' guy from Oregon who ran over the Granny?
Maybe the Crit Mass riders who were acting like cowboys come in from a trail drive need to cool their beligerance a mite, too.
But it's a funny world. Drivers in SUVs shout crap at em all the time. Some scream and try to startle me into crashing. I don't pull them outa their stopped vehicles when I catch up to them at the light and beat them into a pulp. Why should nonriders, be they drivers or pedestrians (as in this case) be any less tolerant of bicyclists?
If the idiot in the SUV can shout remarks at others on the street, why can't Critical Mass guys on bikes? I'm not saying it's nice to do, or even wise -- but please don't be all in a phoney rage over it. You do it all the time in your SUV, dude... come one! Let's have a little common sense, double standards are just so Animal Farm --- kind of like that guy in the suit's behavior.
Look, Cars may be the bulk of the vehicles but the roads ARE multi use [bikes, cars, pedestrians] and there will be idiots in every group. As cyclists we see quite a few bad or dangerous drivers, careless pedestrians and even other cyclists who are reckless (listen in descending order). Unless they get violent we don't get violent. It isn't worth it...
IF I can restrain myself from turning into Rambo because a driver yells at me on my bike, why should this Pedestrian Suit go into Berserker mode because some guy on a bike said something to him?
This goes beyond a double standard, the guy was a time bomb waiting to happen. Was the cyclist smart or polite? No. Maybe he was even asking for a fight... but guess what? This is a civilized country. We don't go around beating the snott out of people even if they are bein' rude.
But the double standard is there... To get an idea of how it would play in the media [assuming the local SF media covered the incident?], consider: Even here in the fixed gear bike world, most people here are looking at the incident as the cyclist's fault -- "he started it" syndrome. Maybe he did start it -- who knows? But....
....what I know is, if I went ballistic, and hauled some driver out of his window at a stoplight and brained him with a brick because he had said something unkind, I sure as heck know *I* would be labeled the bad guy -- not the driver with a fractured skull. How is it any different here? Because the rude guy who was attacked was on a bike?
What times we live in.
So all this is going through my head as I am going thru the light and the two SUV -- one up the other's @ss -- turn right into me. Fortunately my fixed gear allowed for enough control to avoid a crash... but it was close!
And one more reminder that: Our society takes people that could never pass the background check for a handgun and sets them loose on the streets in a 3,000 lb GUIDED BULLET! Jumping in front of the bullet isn't the solution, nor is smashing it (tho if it hit me I probably would), but... They need to realize there are other folks on the road beside for them.
People need to take a pill and chill. Cool your jets, sheesh, the light will still be there if you wait and don't run folks down.
I think the in-your-face attitude of some cyclists may be part of the problem -- but also I think for most of the careless or reckless drivers it makes no diff. Certainly the pedestrians or drivers who attack cyclists (or run them over) cannot in any way claim their actions are justified by the fact that they find bicyclists "rude". You don't kill people for being rude. And anyway, many of these psycho set-off non-riders are just as rude, if not more, to others as they perceive those on bikes are to them.
As to how to handle the psycho or careless drivers, the fact remains kindness is not the answer. Saying that reacting with anger or flipping off a driver that almost killed you will only cause said driver to be more anti-bike ignores the fact that he is already irrevocably anti-bike, either out of carelessness or malice -- else he would not have nearly hit you! Such drivers are not all drivers, but those who are, simply see bikes as a nuisance regardless of how well behaved the riders are. And guess what, they ain't gonna be all nice and Mr. Roger's-like if we just smile at them and wave as they tear towards us at warp speed looking for blood on their bumper -- or simply oblivious to the danger they cause.
Mind you, I'm not saying attack the cars. Attacking people isn't the solution. But niether is gettin' run over by pretending the psycho driver problem doesn't exist.
Perhaps better police enforcement, but seeing as my run-in with the two SUV pilots happened in front of the local town hall/police station complex (at a light WITH A CAMERA!) and there was no response I fail to see this happened. The ultimate answer may just be defensive riding, awareness of one's surroundings, and, as a last resort, a real heavy bikelock...
Friday, 30 September 2005
fair weather riders -- don't be one
9-30-05: Woke up this morn to find the temp. hovering around 54 degrees, but it felt like the 40's. Two layers of warm shorts, and long sleeves should make all the difference. Remarkably, I saw my older neighbor, the one who's bike I fixed up, riding around in just a sweater and pants. Hope I am that cool when I'm her age.
For now, the temperature isn't so bad. But wait til winter. -15 degree wind chill, 20 degree highs, and blowing snow will pretty much force all bicyclists inside to indoor trainers and back issues of Bicycling. However, it doesn't have to be that way. Wider tires, an easier gear, and warm @ss clathes can make all but the harshest winter days tolerable. Don't be a fair weather rider. Keep it up thru the coming cold months.
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