Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Matter of Importance: Finish the Ride

It may just be the most important ride you do all year.

Sometimes in life it becomes necessary to take a stand, to make a statement. A loud statement. Increasing numbers of hit and run collisions involving drunk and negligent drivers, hostility against cyclists, and weak penalties against perpetrators of these violent crimes, has prompted voices in the bicycling community to rise. It is something almost palpable in its intensity. Drivers of motor vehicles may have become inured, numbed to the hostility that takes place around them - hostility and violence that results in some thirty-five thousand deaths each year, and a hundred thousand more serious injuries. Those motor vehicles are machines of isolation, nurturing self-centeredness. When was the last time you exchanged greetings with a driver stopped next to you at a red light? A year ago, five, ten, or more? When was the last time you exchanged greetings with a bicyclist stopped next to you at a red light? Today, yesterday, every day you ride? That ability to connect face to face is what is unique about  our community, what fosters camaraderie, gives us strength, makes us feel. So when we read about another bicyclist being killed as a result of a hit and run, or someone is severely injured due to the careless inattention of another moronic driver who just does not care, the community collectively shudders and mourns.

Like most weekends in Southern California, there is a lot going on as the last weekend of April approaches. There are races and group rides, and things that have absolutely nothing to do with bicycles. By all means do those, but save just a little time on Sunday for Finish the Ride. It is past time to make a statement, to emphasize that the status quo, the continuing needless loss of life and limb is unacceptable. Make a statement with Damian Kevitt, make a statement for Luis 'Andy' Garcia, make a statement for the community, for yourself. It may be the most important ride we do all year.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Fast Bike, Slow Bike

Cue the old codger voice-over: One thing I have noticed as a result of accumulating the miles over the past few days from the saddle of the ol' yellow Basso - riders coming up today have it easy. Times have changed.

In its heyday, the Basso was a svelte stallion. It was light, and that lightness made it quick out of the gate. With an 12-21 rear cluster and 52-42 up front there was nothing, between chasing Mr. Rogers at the Rose Bowl and chasing Tony up LaTuna Canyon, that it could not handle. Keep in mind the 21 was the bail out gear, the gear of last resort, and only used in extreme situations. Granted 52-12 was not going to win me many sprints, but it was just fine for sitting in. It was all we needed. Though maybe not all we wanted.

Fast forward to the present - carbon fibre this and carbon fibre that have made todays bikes a mere shadow of the weight they once were. That light weight translates into speed; todays bikes take a fraction of the effort to move. By comparison, the Basso now accelerates with all the speed and grace of a Budweiser clydesdale. Once it gets going it is buttery smooth; it is the get up and go that does not quite match up. When I pull into the stable at the end of a ride, the legs feel like they have put in twice the distance they actually did, you know, all wobbly and robot-like. What happened, I ask myself, knowing full well that the Basso would not be able to respond to the question? Certainly the steel didn't gain weight over the past twenty-five years. Neither would the accumulation of years cause it to move slower.

Yes, kids today have it pretty good. It is little wonder the current generation of upstart racers seems so much quicker. And it is not just the lightness, the gearing plays its part as well. While my generation was struggling to crank over those biggest of gears because that was the way it was done (never mind you, I know what that says about thinking for ourselves), today's kids have other models to learn from. And not just the gears - don't forget the crank lengths. Why I was perfectly happy and well adjusted with my 170 mm's, Mr. Smooth pedaler, until it was pointed out that I could add more power, more speed to compliment that smoothness, if only I would move up to 172.5 mm arms.

So bikes have changed over time, and maybe the way we ride them as well. Do bikes, like people, get older and slower? Or does comparing old and new cloud any comparison we might try to make? Would all these questions be moot if I simply turned the Basso into wall decor, and only rode the KHS?

Well, of course nothing has really changed for the old filly. It is as fast as ever it was, maybe even faster, since its component build is better (presumably) and certainly lighter. Twenty or so years of riding lighter bikes has a way of skewing perception, playing tricks with one's memories. Or, was the Basso and all its older steel contemporaries always rather sluggish and slow? Did we never realize that because, well because there was nothing else to compare it to. Did we just never notice until they became old and creaky, until the new kids took over? The Basso may not be the bike of choice when I saddle up these days, but there is something to say for that quarter-century pairing; we have aged together, and pretty much in tandem. The Basso may not be as speedy any more, it struggles perceptibly to get up to speed. But then if I am going to be truthful, I don't seem to be as speedy, and I certainly struggle more to get up to speed.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Monday Blues: Blue Sky, but Black Water

 At some point during my educational process (still ongoing) I learned that 1. water is colorless, and 2. the color we do see is a reflection of the color of what is most prevalent around it. Blue, grey, and green, tend to be most common, as might be expected. For some reason, though, there are those bodies of liquid that don't adhere to that rule. Take the little reservoir behind the dam in San Dimas Canyon for example. Its shallow depths always seem to be a dark inky black. The conditions of the day do not seem to matter - it can be grey and overcast with filtered light, or it can be bright and sunny - the water will be black all the same. One interesting side effect of that inkiness - when conditions are right, the surface becomes quite a good mirror.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Weekending C&V: A Davidson Impulse

Bill Davidson has been hand-building bicycles out Seattle since 1973. During that time he, and his staff, have built over six-thousand custom bikes. That works out to roughly two hundred per year, though I imagine the first year, or few, did not approach that output. Davidson frames have become well respected for their ride-ablitiy, their comfort and handling. The bike shown here, which I recently saw at the Claremont Velo, is fully decked out with pretty jewelry - Campagnolo components - from top down. Customization of Davidson frames extends beyond the forming of raw tubes, of course; you wonder what the inspiration was for the fade paint scheme, like a white hot flickering flame perhaps, transitioning from white to yellow, and hot white. There is no fancy lug work on this one like I have seen on some others, and the Campy is not flagship (the shifters are mismatched), it is just pretty standard in that regard. My Basso uses the same basic lugs, which makes them kind of blue collar I guess. In fact, I guess they were probably born about the same time - c.1990.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Thursday Night Ride: This Spot Will Do

What was I going to do? Biologists tell us that bees are under pressure all around the world. I don't know what convinced the little bugger that my handlebars, and that spot on them in particular, would serve as a good landing platform. I let it take a moment of rest; why not? After all the Thursday night ride was at its first regroup, and there was no rush. It had been a long day - for me, nine hours at the computer, the whole time looking forward to this ride. The bee had probably been even more busy, flowers are in bloom all over the place after all. The overcast sky made the hour seem later than it was, and the wind. The wind was blowing making it oh so difficult to get back to the warmth of the hive. There was some need to get moving before darkness fell completely but, can you realize how difficult it is to make any headway with those little transparent wings?

The bunch was stopped for just a few minutes, just long enough for everyone off the back to regroup. I let the bee sit there for that brief period of time; maybe that was all it needed to get back home. When it came time to kick off with the group, a little puff of breath encouraged the little crooner in velvet jacket to hurry on its way. We both had some hurrying to do, it was something we had in common. The reasons may have been different - necessity for the bee, desire for myself - but the action was the same. The little rise up to Gladstone was next, and always prompts someone to attack. A slower mile and a half through old town San Dimas, but then the speedway of Covina Avenue and Badillo Street. Yes, we both had some hurrying in our immediate futures.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Bonelli Spring: Cistus, Eschscholzia, and Pepsis, Oh My

Everything that could possibly bloom right now is in full-flower, or leafing out bare branches. Rock Rose, Elderberry, California Poppy, Mustard, California Black Walnut. Tarantula Hawks are on the hunt, poking into holes in the ground in search of prey. Downey feathers of young birds of prey can be spied with an eagle eye. Grass is narrowing the, normally wide, fire roads into single and double tracks. Waist-high mustard covers certain hillsides. It is a beautiful Spring at Bonelli, but as you know they don't last long; before much time has passed the heat will clamp down, drying everything out, returning the palette to Summer browns.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Hakkalugi Rebuild I: Headset and Fork

Here you see the first two components to be added to the Ibis. From an earlier post, you already know I was unable to keep the original fork; I think the Surly substitution will fill in well. The new fork was been topped off with an orange Chris King headset giving you all the indication you need as to the new color scheme - think Irish tricolor - green, white, orange. I can't regret the black too much, it exists in the decal already and sets the other colors off. If you are going to build up a frame from scratch, have a vision and stick to it. If you have any advice on orange components (or have any lying around) send them my way.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Monday Blues: Connecting Dots...

That is the new connector from the southbound 605 to the eastbound 10, as seen from the San Gabriel River Trail several weeks ago. Looking at it as I rode along at an easy pace, started me thinking about expense. How much do you think that bridge cost? When you consider everything from the engineering, to the labor, and the materials it would not surprise me if this one bridge cost more than the entire thirty-seven miles of the SGRT which, after all, is mostly a three inch thick layer of asphalt laid atop the levee. Is it worth the expense? If cars, as we know them today, are nearing the end of their reign, when do we begin to view constructs like this as wasteful and unnecessary, and begin to invest in what comes next?

Blue: A color, a mood or emotion, a genre of music. Tune in each Monday for another installment of the Blues, with a cycling twist.
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