Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Bikes in Film: Barbara

Escape. For many of us, our bicycles are tools of escape. They take us away from the everyday, the common, the drudgery of routine.

In Barbara, a German film set in 1980s East Germany, the bicycle is also used as a tool, a means of escape. I don't want to get too deep into the plot, but just from the first sentence of this paragraph I am sure you can surmise it involves running up against the block wall of a repressive government, followed by an attempt to escape. There are romantic twists, and a contemplation of values, and how we arrive at choices concerning what is ultimately important in our lives. 

The wife picked this one out,  and I was not sure it would hold my interest, but it did. The bike scenes (there are multiple) are well done, and did have a part in keeping me focused; I don't think I would have been nearly as interested if Barbara had moved around in some sputtering old East German, or Russian, automobile. Check it out for some cold, rainy night viewing. Ha, ha - as if we have those around here anymore.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Monday Blues: Mystery of the Blue Bicycle

I frequently wonder about bikes. I guess that has become obvious to anyone who reads here regularly - what their stories are, why they are where they are in this world, what they mean to the people who ride them - things like that. Today's installment of the Monday Blues, comes with that spirit of wonder in mind.

A surprising and unlikely observation: What appears to be the same blue bicycle appears in the same location of a street scene in two different films, made by two different directors. Is this due to planning, or some strange coincidence? Is there some hidden meaning waiting to be discovered? A simple casual notice of recurring image leads into a multi-year pursuit to uncover a cinematic mystery. To find out more, you have got to read this, the Blue Bicycle: A Gainesville-Paris Research Project, by Charles H. Meyer. 

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.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Bicycling and the Presidency, Part 3

poster depicting the William McKinley (Republican) and Grover Cleveland (Democrat) bicycle gangs

Those Presidents elected in the late 1800s served during the first bicycling boom. Everyone who could ride a bike, did ride a bike, therefore it is not surprising that bicycles figured prominently in campaigns, nor that presidential hopefuls courted (or at the least could not ignore) the bicycle vote. Whether those men aspiring to the office rode or not, campaign miscellanea played to the image. Those images were meant to convey a simple message - yes wheelmen, this man is one of you, and is therefore worthy of your vote.

While Grover Cleveland lost reelection in 1897, in favor of William McKinley, it should be noted that it was during Cleveland's term in office that utilitarian uses of the bicycle were expanded. In 1896 the Army's 25th Infantry, stationed at Missoula, Montana began testing the effectiveness of using bicycles as an alternative to horses. Lieutenant James A. Moss, commanding an African-American unit, was given charge of the project, though he was not alone in his advocacy. As early as 1891 General Nelson A. Miles had made note of the potential use, and advantages, of the bicycle in a military setting: "The bicycle requires neither water, food nor rest, so the rider may push to the top notch of his own endurance without thought of his steed." Miles further noted that bicycles could move faster over fair roads, were not as conspicuous, could be hidden more easily, were noiseless, and that it was impossible to tell the direction of travel from its tracks.

The honor of being the first President of the United States to ride a bicycle may rest with his successor, Theodore Roosevelt but, William McKinley will forever be tied to the two-wheeled revolution in his own way. As America's twenty-fifth President "McKinley extolled the virtues of 'wheelmen', or bicycle devotees and good roads enthusiasts, etc." In October of 1896, while McKinley was in the midst of a hotly contested run for the Presidency, a group of several hundred wheelmen set out by bicycle and train, bound for Canton, Ohio. Along the way there were more stops to pick up even more riders. Once Canton was reached, a special bicycle escort led the group to the house of the Ohio state governor. There McKinley addressed the wheelmen and was in turn presented with a new bike of his own. A reporter for the Indianapolis News noted that McKinley "is not a bicyclist, but has frequently expressed his admiration for the sport, and no one will be surprised to see him at one of the cycle schools with his new wheel in the near future." The National Wheelmen's Club endorsed the ticket of McKinley and running mate, Garret Hobart.

While McKinley's link to the bicycle was more image-based than it was practical, his successor took a more hands-on application. Before Theodore Roosevelt was elected to the nations' highest office, he served the City of New York as Police Commissioner. During his time in that capacity, Roosevelt created the 29-member bike squad, popularly known as the Scorcher Squad. This was 1895, and by 1912 the NYPD bike squad had grown to a strength of 1,025 officers. At its beginning  the Squad was frequently used to stop speeding horse-drawn carriages; later, as automobiles became more common, the Scorcher Squad was employed in stopping reckless drivers. The athleticism and daring of those bicycle officers was often noted.

Mostly noted as America's most obese President, one would not expect any connection between William Howard Taft and the bicycle. As far as I can tell, you would be correct in that assessment. 

President Woodrow Wilson, Taft's successor, was another person entirely. More than any other President, before or after, with the possible exception of George W. Bush, Wilson was a true avid cyclist. His travels around Europe, and specifically England, before he became President of the United States were frequent. While it seems they were mostly for pleasure, he often conducted business along the way. During the summer of 1908, while on one of those trips, he travelled from Edinburgh to the Lake District. During this trip he attempted to locate the house in which his mother was born in Carlisle; he also stopped in at the home of Andrew Carnegie where he unsuccessfully tried to convince Carnegie to make a contribution to Princeton University.

On 14 June 1920, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reporting from Westfield, Massachusetts, noted that President Wilson had ordered the finest and lightest model bicycle from a local manufacturer, speculating that he would be doing some bicycle riding over the summer. Regrettably, his days of long summer touring were probably over by then, as the Secret Service was unlikely to let him participate in any such adventure. Regardless of this, I have to think that the journals, Wilson supposedly kept, of his earlier travels around Europe would make for interesting reading.

If you search the internet using the terms President Warren G. Harding and bicycle, one of the results will lead you to answers.com, where you will be informed that Harding "loved to ride a bike." I don't know about Harding himself, but the woman he married, Florence Kling De Wolfe, worked fourteen years at the newspaper owned by Harding, riding from home to the office by bicycle.

Of all the American Presidents, Herbert Hoover had one of the more interesting and adventurous connections to the bicycle. In his early 20s Hoover travelled to Kalgoorlie, in western Australia, where he was employed as an inspection engineer in charge of mine exploration and evaluation. Most of his time was spent traveling from mine to mine over a vast territory of holdings belonging to Berwick, Moreing & Co. of London. Much of the journeying could be made in the relative comfort of horse and buggy. For longer stretches across the outback, however, Hoover had to resort to travel by camel, which he disliked. On one such camelback trip, while far out into the desert, Hoover was overtaken by a bicycle messenger, who had ridden 390 miles over a three day period in order to reach him. Hoover knew these "cycle specials" to cover great distances, often being chased by packs of dingoes, or groups of Aborigines. The lesson to be learned was clear, and Hoover began to carry a spare bicycle attached to the back of his buggy during his longer trips. About this, he wrote: "because it is often 50 miles from water to water; and if an accident should happen to the team, a bicycle is the only salvation." For more on Hoover's experiences in Australia see this story in Stanford Magazine. I am unaware how often he may have turned to the bicycle in order to get from mine to mine, or whether he may have used one while in town. 

Sometimes the President's better half, the First Lady (or future First Lady) have interesting connections of their own. Following his time in Australia, Hoover with wife Lou, moved on to China where he was, again, engaged in the mining business. They were among the group of Westerners besieged in the city of Tientsin during the Boxer Rebellion. Lou, it was noted, was a familiar sight, riding around the city by bicycle, somehow managing to avoid being shot during the upheaval, as she carried supplies to the front lines. She may have avoided falling victim, but her bike did not. Her biographers have noted how the tires on her bicycle were shot out at one point. Regrettably there does not seem to be any photo documentation of Lou riding her bicycle during that time of conflict. In fact, the only visual legacy of her riding prowess, comes from the back of a burro at Acton, California at age 17:

In 1921 Franklin D. Roosevelt contracted polio at nearly forty years of age. The affliction dogged him for the rest of his life, and he spent much time and effort to hide his reliance on a wheelchair. During the younger years of his youth, however, he was quite the cyclist. At fourteen years of age, while a student at the Groton School, Roosevelt took a bicycle trip through Germany. Though Roosevelt talked his way out of tickets each time, the teacher with him recalled that they were often "arrested" for traffic violations.

As one of the Presidents serving during the time of the Great Depression, the Roosevelt White House often received letters from Americans seeking relief for their, often, desperate conditions. With money tight everywhere, many people relied on the inexpensive bicycle for their transportation needs. Even these, however, where out of reach for many. Notes requesting aid to purchase a bicycle were not uncommon. Take for example one such note from a girl whose family lived in Massachusetts to First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt: "The school I attend is very far and as I am not very healthy I often get pains in my sides. My father only works for two days a week and there are six in my family it is impossible in almost every way that I get a bicycle. I am in the eighth grade and am very fond of school. Sometimes I have to miss school on account of the walk is so far. I have often thought things would pick up and father might be able to get me a bicycle, but instead they have grown worse. I assure you that the bicycle shall not be used as a pleasure but as a necessity." I can't imagine any of these letter writers receiving anything more than words of encouragement and promises that their condition would improve, but what letters like this point to is the humble importance, and often necessity, of the bicycle. Perhaps the most equally utilitarian of all mobility tools.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Void in a Beautiful Day

Yesterday, I wanted to go for a ride. I truly did. It was a beautiful day - mid-70º, sunny, calm air. It was a perfect day to be out on a ride. It was a perfect day just to be outside, period. Instead, I hated the day. I sat around by the computer waiting to read a name. One name. Through the late morning I sat. Into the afternoon I waited. I dreaded that when I finally saw it, the name would be a familiar one. I wondered as minutes, then hours, passed. Would I be relieved to find the name belonged to a person I did not know? I probably would; how could I not be?

Baseline Avenue. So many people I know travel that street. Many of them do so daily, or nearly that often. I do as well. It is a major bicycle route through this area. Commuters to and from work. Recreational riders out for a spin. Students heading to school (though fortunately not this particular day). Racers on a long training route. Often is the day I spot a familiar rider headed the opposite direction, or someone I don't know but see, same time, same place, each day. 

Let me tell you a little about Baseline - it is a fast street, even on two wheels. Heading west bound, that is. Thirty miles per hour can be approached with no trouble. Heading the other direction, though, that is another matter. That little bit of slope is all it takes. That and direction of travel make all the difference in the world. As I ride eastward (the upslope direction) along Baseline approaching Mills Avenue, there is a spot where the grade changes ever so slightly. It levels out; maybe even slopes downward, though not for long - twenty, thirty, forty feet, maybe. To people driving by the change is probably imperceptible. Anyone who rides this stretch of road though, will know it is there. At the end of a long ride, I look forward to it as welcome relief before I turn onto Mills. From Mills it is exactly seventy-three one-hundredths of a mile to home. As short and insignificant as that one spot along my route is I looked forward to its arrival, the role it plays in my ride.

That little leveling of the road will carry a different meaning now. Yesterday a bicyclist lost his life there. I suppose that twenty to forty foot stretch of pavement will seem less welcoming from now on. The pavement may have been warmed by the sun Friday morning but, regardless of the sun shining down, it quickly became a cold spot and will likely remain so, not just for me, but for all who are aware of its new significance.

The longer the day wore on, and then into the night and there was still no word, still no name to give the victim. Victim, unidentified bicyclist, both are terribly cold and impersonal terms to have to apply to another human. An inadequate way to leave things. When I awoke the next morning to discover the identity of the rider - Mr. Ali Mirage - I was relieved to realize that, in fact, his was not a familiar name. At the same time I realized that other people will have awoken that morning to the pain of loss - the aching void that opens following the loss of a loved one, a friend. For those people, moving on, would carry an entirely different meaning than it would for me.

I will be able to ride this morning, but I will feel for those who, because of their grief, will not. Though I did not know him in life, I will pass that spot of road and think of Ali Mirage, and will likely do so each time I pass that spot from this day forward. I will wonder who Mr. Mirage was, I will wonder if he was a long time rider, or if he had only recently taken up riding. I will wonder what he was about that day - was he on a regular Friday morning ride, one for pleasure, or was he attending to some business? There is much to wonder about. Ride in Peace, Mr. Mirage, ride in peace.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Bicyclist Killed in Claremont

Richard Mancuso, of the Claremontian is reporting that a bicyclist has been killed just up the street on Baseline near Mills. I will post more when I know more. Actually now that I look at the photo closely, it appears as though the cyclist may have been in the process of making a turn. Hard to know for sure. 

Update: I visited the scene. The police are still sorting things out at this time and did not have much information to share, but I did make an inquiry of one community officer for what he knew. An older gentleman, presumably in his 70s was hit on Baseline near the Edinboro Avenue intersection. Edinboro is on the north side of Baseline; there is also an access to The Bungalows which is what is shown in the photo below. It can be a troubling spot - and I have almost come to grief there as well in the past. Baseline is closed in both directions, and while the victim appears to be in the left turn lane (as if turning onto Edinboro from eastbound Baseline), there is no guarantee that is where he was hit. My thoughts are with the family and friends of this man.

Update: The cyclist has been identified as Mr. Ali Mirage from the neighboring city of La Verne. There is still speculation swirling around about what exactly happened, questions still needing to be answered. Baseline in both directions has a bike lane, traffic has been noted as being especially light, the rider was traveling with traffic, not against. The driver stayed on the scene and was released. Did the cyclist swerve suddenly in front of the auto? Did the driver drift into the bike lane? Did excessive speed play a role? If the rider made an error of judgement some questions will never be adequately answered.

Again, my thoughts are with the family and friends of Mr. Mirage.

Cycling Claremont: The Kube

The Kube, designed by architect Rafael Vinoly, is a part of the recently completed Kravis Center at Claremont McKenna College. This glass "living room" seems to float upon a thin sheet of water and Mesabi black granite paving. The Kube, in true Modernist style, is one of those structures integrating interior with exterior. From the CMC website: "Earning the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED Gold Certification, the Center includes notable sustainable features such as radiant panel chill beams for heating and cooling, naturally lit internal space, and "green roof" decks, all that take advantage of its Southern California climate.

And yes I know the question has been burning a hole in your head, it has been wearing as quickly as that tread on your rear tire from all the skids you have been doing lately. Since the black granite is flush with the surrounding concrete, you can indeed ride on water. Sometimes I think it would make an interesting sociological experiment - sit nearby on a warm day and make a study of how many people cut a corner in their flip-flops, kick up a spray from their wheels. How many are bold enough to go all the way - from one side to the other. While I doubt that such things are encouraged, if you are going to design something like this, you surely must do so with the knowledge that people are going to play?

No cars though; get on your bike to see it, or hoof it on over to the Colleges.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

New Year, New Project

New year, well, not quite - but it is fast approaching. It has been a while since last I owned a green bike, it is just not a commonly used color in the transportation world. Schwinn made it work, although their green was a much darker shade, than the candy-apple green Ibis went for with their Hakkalugi. Of course, when Ibis released this model in 1997, they did not dedicate it with sweet, rainbow-tinged descriptors like "candy-apple" green; no, they opted for "gang green", a play on words to match the "hand job" cable hanger, and "Moron" Tange tubing with "more on the ends" aka, "big butts". Thankfully, the previous owner(s) kept the original tubing decal on the seat tube and, as far as I can tell, all the others as well.

Not really a Christmas present, the acquisition of this Hakkalugi frame simply happened to coincide with the holiday. Since it will be a full-fledged cyclocross machine, and will not need to be ready until the 2014-2015 season - nine or so months away - it will be a long process over that time. There are many things to consider - components for performance, colors to compliment or contrast, yadda, yadda, yadda. When all is done, I am hoping that it will be as fun to ride, as it seems like it must have been for the Ibis folks to come up with that slew of clever names. Also, since a new ride is coming into the stable, one will be heading out to pasture. Watch for a post about it soon.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas

This could be a good time to catch up on old posts here at the CLR Effect that you may have missed out on. But, no - it is even better to spend it with family and friends. Maybe even squeeze some riding time into the days. See you after Christmas with a glimpse at a new project - hint (as if you really need one): What's green and has (or more correctly, will eventually have), two wheels? Merry Christmas all!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Monday Blues: Alcon Blues

Modraszek Kolektyw photo

"A landscape is not a thing - a city is not a business" reads the slogan of the Krakow [Poland] social and artistic Alcon Blue Collective… "We operate without institutional support, our budget is nil, we have cardboard wings and the burning need to make ourselves heard on the topic of Zakrzowek."

Zakrzowek is a green space near the city center of Krakow. The space contains a reservoir, where once there was an open-pit mine, surrounded by meadows. The park-like Zakrzowek is home to the endangered Alcon Blue butterfly. In 2011 Zakrzowek was fence off, the public shut out, the future of the Alcon Blue put on notice by a developer who bought the land to with the intention of constructing a new housing project. The Alcon Blue Collective grew out of, and in response to, the desire to keep the space public, to maintain it as habitat for the butterfly. Read more about the Alcon Blue Collective and their artistic mission here.

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.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Weekend C & V: Eroba Le Grand Prix

Now. Now I wish I had paid more attention to this one. Saw it at the farmers' market last Sunday, stopping just long enough to snap this one quick shot. 

Eroba was a Dutch manufacturer of bicycles, who built in the city of Echt between 1920 and 2005 when the company became insolvent.

In the 1950s to 1960s Eroba sponsored a racing team - Eroba-Vredestein, and whose biggest name rider was Dutchman Wout Wagtmans. Wagtmans was a widely popular racer, but no more so than in his home country. He was also one of the most successful Dutch riders of the era. In his first Tour de France (1953) he won two stages and finished fifth overall. The following year he captured another stage victory in addition to wearing the Yellow Jersey for seven days. Adding to those wins were two stage victories in the Giro d'Italia. In 1955 he won another stage at the Tour, and wore Yellow for two more days. 1956 saw him in Yellow for another three days of racing, another stage in the Giro as well as a ninth place overall finish in Italy for a second consecutive year.

Wout Wagtmans

I don't believe that Le Grand Prix was Eroba's top of the line model, that distinction may belong to the Race, but at the same time I don't believe Le Grand Prix was the lowest (although with an 80 year span of building, this is made difficult to determine without hard/fast dates). Looking at this bike, I would say somewhere middle-range. The company was founded by two brothers, frame builder Jef, and Harry Geurts. The name Eroba, in actually an acronym - Echter Rijwiel Onderdelen en BAndenfabriek (the Echt Bicycle, parts and tire factory). Initially they had a quite respectable reputation for quality and were able to attract many top Dutch racers to their bikes. Over time, though, the strategy of quantity over quality gained more traction, they began to mass produce out of their factory (600,000 per annum) and sell through non-bike specialist retailers, such as supermarkets. As a quest for ever greater profit took hold, quality and detail continued to decline; experimenting with plastic parts did not help their reputation. Within a span of a mere six years, the company went bankrupt three times, the final time shutting the doors for good.

I would date the bike shown above to the 1970s. It certainly predates the company decline, and shows evidence of a certain tradition of quality and detail. I only wish I had taken more time to study with a little more attention. The only other photo of an Eroba Grand Prix I have seen shows an Eroba sticker on the seat tube, as well as a steel material sticker near the top tube junction; this one has neither, though there appears to be residue from a sticker down on the seat tube near the bottom bracket. Most of the information on the Eroba company, presented here, came from this one source.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Fast Digs Update II: The Los Angeles Agricultural Park + A Surprise

Yet another venue from Los Angeles's past which hosted bicycle races, was the Agricultural Park.

Regional History Center, University of Southern California (USC)

Los Angeles Public Library collections

from the collections of the Regional History Center, USC

The three photos above show riders lined up at the start of what is described as a twenty-five mile bike race, held on 3 October 1893. The location is the Los Angeles Agricultural Park, now known as Exposition Park. The team from Riverside (top photo) won first place, the Los Angeles Athletic Club team (2nd photo) came second. The bottom photo clearly shows that the track at the Agricultural Park was constructed for horse races, but it was also used for bike, dog, and even, camel races and, later, automobile races. Agricultural Park lasted between 1872 and 1910, at which time the grandstand and other structures, including a brothel, were demolished - three years later (1913) Exposition Park opened in its place.

I am not sure how frequently bicycle races were held at the horse track, but a story in the Los Angeles Herald of 4 September 1899 records the events of an annual Butchers association picnic, which was held at Agricultural Park. Among the events of the day was a one mile bicycle race, won by W. Boross. Second place went to W. Boerster, third to E. Moriarty, and fourth to J. Fernandez. At a distance of a single mile (one lap of the track?), I suggest that the participants may have been members of the butchers' association, rather than members of one or another local racing club.

This information will be added to Fast Digs. That original post can be accessed here.

Now, on to the surprise. I have recently been corresponding with a man who's father was among the racers competing at the 1937 Six-Day races held at the old Pan Pacific Auditorium (among other international races). I don't want to give away too much at this time but expect some good stuff in the next update to Fast Digs. To pique your interest I will say that this man's story involves an escape from Spain at a time when that country slid in to the chaotic turmoil of civil war. The more correspondence that is exchanged, the more fascinated with it all I become. There will be photographs, reproductions of race programs, and of course, story tying things together. Stay tuned, it really is good.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Damnable Sliver of Steel

For a dog, it is the itch beyond reach of scratching. For a writer, it is the word that just will not come to mind. For an artist, it is that color that no amount of mixing can match. For me, it is that insidious sliver of steel. Unlike the word-blocked writer, insidious is the perfect word for this most despised of foes. Glass and thorns are simple annoyances; their paths through rubber outer and inner casing are clear, straight and true.

where is Bicycle Repairman when you need him most

Those slivers of steel are different than anything else. Like the worst of any sic-fi alien brought to life by a Hollywood writer, they insinuate themselves by indirect paths, working themselves deeper over a period of time. Where the aliens wrap themselves around a vital part of human anatomy, feeding and growing off their victim, and unable to be dislodged without great harm or death to the host, the sliver subtly burrows with the same outcome. 

On more than one occasion I have have been compelled to dig out a sliver, causing more damage than the offending stray could ever have managed by itself. Wheel rotation coupled with internal and external pressures causes them to follow an indirect path from outside, in until they finally protrude through the threaded inner casing. But only just. Just enough to puncture and cause a slow agonizing leak of air. Just enough to feel with the flat of a finger. Just enough to scratch at with a nail. Just not enough to be able to grab hold of. The protrusion might as well be microscopic - no two fingers working in tandem can hope to gain traction. No pair of pliers are fine enough to grasp. I try pushing them through, to no avail. And so I scratch and I scrape, and I dig, first with fingernails, then with needles, tacks, nails, becoming ever more frustrated and desperate. 

Though it feels like one, it is not a battle I am engaged in, it is surgery. And I am no surgeon. A fine layer of rubber dust settles beneath the object of my concern and makes clear that unmistakable fact. This surgery is better accomplished with microscopes and fine medical instruments. All I have to wield are cudgels and dull-bladed sabers. Frayed threads inside reveal a clear picture of the desperation of the procedure. Pocked rubber outside marks the probing, a scar that will not heal, will only grow worse.

To make matters worse, I know where they come from, those slivers of steel. They are the product of double-ply metal belts, the kind found in, and exposed on, motor vehicle tires that have been allowed to function past their use-by date. They grind away beneath the weight of the passing behemoths, are scattered across the roadway. Too insignificant to see, they lie in wait, unobtrusive, but no less damaging for their scale. Shards of glass rarely cause problems these days, thorns are easy to dislodge once they have done their damage, nails can be avoided. Those thin slivers of steel, though, they are another matter altogether. They are the inevitable fate of the Red Shirts. They are the itch that cannot be reached, the color that cannot be matched. They are my fait accompli.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Monday Blues: Vandalized Bicycles

Not really sure what to make of these. I spotted them across from each other at the Colleges. Someone passing by maybe needed a mountain tube? Maybe they weren't smart enough to realize you couldn't get the tube without taking the wheel off? Neither bike has quick release skewers, so there wasn't really much chance of success with that endeavor. Or was it simply vandalism - I'm going to ruin this guys day and mess up his bike? Things could have been worse, but that does not make these wanton acts, disregard for other people and their belongings any easier to see.

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.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sunday Options: Waiting

waiting. the only bike-related photo worth sharing from the day, proved to inspire the day's post

We wait. Time passes. A minute, two, three, sometimes more. The earth turns and we see it in the sun above. Shadows shift below us. Leaves fall at our feet, acorns on our heads. Autos pass, their drivers envious that we can enjoy this morning outside. Mornings such as this are meant to be enjoyed. Other riders pass, nods and peace signs given in camaraderie.  When the signs are immediate, when we are involved in the action, we see time passing. In other instances the actions marking time are drawn slowly. The imperceptible escape of air from a tube punctured five miles back on the road, only becomes noticeable five miles further along. We stretch that time, hoping we can roll to the next regroup. When it works, if it works, no one needs to wait.

Waiting when on a bike, means time to talk and listen. Little moments of our lives are shared, incidents of slight consequence. Enquiries turn to jokes, and then to heckles. All the while we watch, and time passes. Stealthily, or not, we see it passing, we feel it. Sometimes we hear it. Always we experience it. We are in this together, and that is why we wait.

jammin' in Claremont Village on a Sunday morn - guitars and bottles

The Inland Empire Women Cyclists teamed up with the regular Sunday Coates ride today. It wasn't the competition-fueled ride these groups typically become when left to their own. It was a fun morning and a slightly longer route than normal. Waiting or rolling, I think everyone took something worthwhile from the time.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Hurry on Over, PVBC at Dale Bros Brewery

That is unless you are reading this after 10:00 pm Saturday, local time. If you are quick, you may still have time to join in at the Hoppy Holidays party. A bunch of fun people are there, raffle prizes, live bands, carnitas and beef tacos and tamales, the brews that made Dale Bros famous, as well as seasonal flavors. The Winter Haze and Bl 'oak (a black beer aged in whiskey barrels) deserve a taste, or more. You just need to head over before it is too late. Whatever you contribute goes to help the mission of the Pomona Valley Bicycle Coalition. Slainte.

welcome, through the archway

sorry Daniella, you win the red eye flash award tonight
(actually, I guess you can't see it at this size)

band in the brewery

raffle table

Cory of Coates

more arrivals

tasting room full, the patio fills up

Dale Bros

A Morning Building Bikes

How long does it take to build thirty bikes? Not that long when you have nine manned work stands continuously in use. Nine, or more, laborers working at assembly and another several getting bikes ready to be assembled. It doesn't hurt that these bikes came partly built to begin with - attaching handlebars, front wheels, and pedals, then making adjustments to brakes and saddles, adding air, and they were ready to roll. Beside the Rotary members, there were others from the Claremont Senior Bicycle Group as well. It was cool to walk up the driveway with stand over my shoulder, tool box in hand and hear, "hey Mr. Wagner", and look up to see a high school friend of my son already hard at work.

This is the fifteenth year that the Claremont Rotary Club has undertaken the Bikes for Kids project. Funds are donated by Rotary members for the bikes which are purchased through the assistance of Coates Cyclery. Meanwhile teachers at the local schools submit the names of students whose families may be suffering from hardship conditions and would benefit the most from these gifts. A week from today the families will gather at a local restaurant, Casa de Salsa, for brunch, and the bikes will be handed out along with locks and helmets. Each bike will be sized for the kid who receives it, any final adjustments will be made, there will be a safety talk, and they will be on their way. Another thirty kids with a new sense of pride and all the benefits that come from owning and riding a bike. Cheers to all who donated their morning.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Five Photos from a Bonelli Ramble

I've been a little more occupied with the book lately, so not a lot of time to devote to words for the blog; so mostly just photos here. It was strangely quiet this particular day at Bonelli. Even though there were four other riders on mountain bikes heading out from the same parking lot, at the same time, I passed not a single person while I rode the trails.

most people are unwilling to walk to the head of this little inlet, but there are typically a few who do and can be seen fishing from the shore. not today

old fence line rambling across a hillside

I had never been on this particular trail until this ride. Wrapping around a little hollow in which a small grove of cedars (and one pine) are growing, this part of it is really nice. If not so out of the way, I would have expected to see a picnic table in the shade under the trees

cactus pads and knobby tires


Caps Not Hats...

This has been in my post pipeline - that sort of blogland limbo where posts in various states of completion reside - for a few months I believe. Anyway, just in case it was unclear where my loyalties lie:

Let me go on the record as stating that this blog writer is a caps not hats supporter.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Need to See: Kualis Cycles

Looking at bikes. There are those of us who look at bikes quite frequently. There are others who question our state of mind when we do. Each of us may have different reasons in this voyeuristic habit. Those reasons could be functionally simple - the beginning of a selection process upon deciding it is past time for a new bike. Those reasons may fulfill a personal appreciation of stylistic form, finish, or the artistic flair of detail. Other reasons may be more mechanical in nature, a study of geometry, or the engineering of form.

One of the blogs over in the right hand column I visit every time there is a new post is Builder's Life, the blog of Kualis Cycles. Gawd, those are some nice frames. Kualis builds in steel and titanium, and the blog is littered with enough road and cx frames to make me go weak at the knees. I especially like this latest showing - Kuono's Ti road 5 - shown above, which combines the familiar titanium satin finish with some color up front. And I do like that green.

There is a lot out in the Ti world that stops me in my tracks, makes me envious, from the grand daddy, Litespeed, to the well-known custom guys like Moots, Lynskey and Seven, to lesser-knowns such as Roark and Van Nicholas. From what I have seen over the past year or so Kualis, whose owner/builder by the way, previously built for Level and Seven, ranks right up there with the best.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Cyclist Down Near El Roble

I had to run some errands this afternoon, and as I was on my way back home, I came upon one of those scenes you never want to see. After turning a corner further up the street, I looked down to where the middle school is, saw all kinds of flashing lights, two fire trucks, and an ambulance. There were all kinds of students with their bikes standing around. There was a car that looked like it might have been involved. Strangely, there were no police; considering there was an injury involved, I had assumed there would be. At this time I just don't know any specifics, whether the incident can be blamed on the inattentiveness of one person or another, or what have you.

Let me say before going any further, that I hope the injured rider was not severely injured, and can make a fast and complete recovery.

I can imagine a parent saying right now, "you are never riding to school again", I can imagine other parents saying "this is why I don't let you ride to school." While there is bound to be that initial fear and reaction, we can't let those thoughts win out. If we are ever to solve our urban transportation woes, to make it safer and easier for people to get around by less negatively-impactful means, a certain level of attentiveness is required. Especially in school zones. The street on which the incident occurred has a reputation for high speeds, and has been the scene of multiple collisions over the years. There is only a single pedestrian-activated traffic light, no stop signs along an entire stretch of road. As much as I hate waiting at such traffic control devices it may be time to consider them.

Best yet, of course, would be for people to simply Pay Attention! I can only imagine how many collisions could be avoided by following that basic, straight-forward principle. I won't even rant about the parent who, not a half mile away, driving her own kid home from the same school, was not paying attention even though staring straight at through me, rolling through a two-way stop intersection where my cross street had the right of way. Well, alright, maybe I will rant a little. Good thing I was paying attention, I do believe I would have gone ballistic if forced to listen through one of those "I didn't see you" confessions. 

Pay attention out there.

Backpedal: Cycling Claremont, The Martinez Frescoes

This was originally published as a Monday's Mural at the Claremont Cyclits, 14 June 2010. Over the intervening period of time, those original photo files were lost. This was not all bad, as it presented me with an opportunity to go back to the space, take some more photos and expand on the text.

The frescoes of Ramos Martinez are such an integral part of the setting in which they were created that it is virtually impossible to separate them. The setting is the Margaret Fowler Garden on the campus of Scripps College in Claremont. The Fowler Garden occupies a Mediterranean-style wall-enclosed courtyard. Its architecture, fountains, sculptures and plantings compliment the frescoes, which were painted along the entire south wall of the enclosure between 1945 and 1946.

The frescoes consist of nine panels, each measuring 9' x 7', though the two end panels each wrap around a doorway, and are less descriptive by their nature. A description of the mural by Claremont Heritage describes them as depicting the progress of "human achievement of civilization and culture", from an early state of natural being, to bearing the "burden of artistic creation and cultural heritage."

Apparently, Martinez completed the two end panels first before moving on to the others and, passed away before the frescoes were finished. You will notice that they are in various stages of completion; panel three, for instance, is only sketched and shaded. Panel six, though further along than panel three, is likewise incomplete. Martinez studied art in Mexico City at the National Academy of Art, before journeying to France for additional training. While in France he became acquainted with other styles and painters - post-impressionism, symbolist, and cubist, Paul Gauguin, were among his influences at this time. Pablo Picasso, and fellow countryman, Diego Rivera, were counted among his friends. It wasn't until he returned to Mexico that Martinez's style really blossomed, combining images from Mexican culture with the European mural tradition. His impact was so significant that he has been described such: "the true force behind contemporary Mexican painting wasn't Diego Rivera, it was Alfredo Ramos Martinez." Mexican contemporaries of Martinez, such as Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros, gained wider attention due at least in part to their focus on political and social upheaval, whereas Martinez largely painted images of daily life. Martinez gained wider acclaim after moving to Los Angeles in 1930 when his work became popular with the Hollywood elite. Exhibitions in San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego increased exposure of his artistry. Beside the frescoes at Scripps College, two additional large-scale murals have survived - at the chapel of the Santa Barbara Cemetery (1934) and the Coronado Public Library, originally at La Avenida Cafe (1938).

As you enjoy the Martinez frescoes, be sure to not ignore the Margaret Fowler Garden which, on its own, is an intriguing space with its arched porticoes and doorways, colorful tile work, fountains and trailing vines. The garden comes alive in the brightness of Spring, and is a cool cloister during the hot Sumer. Certainly worth a visit.

The Cycling Claremont series of posts highlight some of the local businesses I have been known to frequent because I like what they offer, because they are bicycle friendly, or because they provide something unique or interesting, and which visitors to Claremont may also like.


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