Friday, June 24, 2016

It's Not All Doom and Gloom!

So you may have heard some interesting political news from Europe this morning. But take it from someone who lives on the Ireland/UK "frontier" - everything is fine! Absolutely fine, I tell you. The price of imported rapeseed oil has only gone up by 400% so far. They won't be starting to deport the cross-border cattle till next Tuesday. And it will surely be weeks yet before they begin building the wall.

Now, I know that in these confusing times, opportunity for reflection can be difficult to come by. Which is why I'd like to help - with some reflective leopard-print decals from the Swedish manufacturer Bookman (who also make some cool lights).

Thursday, June 23, 2016

On Vestigial Gearing and Its Evolutionary Implications

How do you know when you've got gears you don't use or need? It's a tough call. Some might even say there is no such thing as "gears you don't need," especially when it comes to those low-low-low ones. If you can set up your bike with a sub-(sub)-1:1 gear, go for it! And even if you usually don't use them, you never know when they might come in handy, so better save them for a rainy day. I mean, who knows - you might go on a long trip where all the climbing comes at the end, when you are already right and truly exhausted. Or you could be called upon to rescue a cat from a tree.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

On Use, Admiration, and Admitting to Wanting a Pretty Bike

As you can see, I have been taking this weight-savings thing quite seriously - to the point that I've now removed all but the most essential parts from my roadbike. Can't you tell that my new wheels are practically light as air?

Okay, I tell a lie. But I am in the process of stripping my bike. As I'll soon be sending the frameset off to get painted. Note that I write painted, not re-painted. My roadbike's titanium frame is nekked as the day it was born, which is the way I wanted it when I ordered my bike over 4 years ago. Or so I thought.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Hercules? I'd Say It's a Hercu-More!

Hercules Folda

One of the wonderful things about vintage bicycles, for me, is the wildcard factor. Because, more so than with off-the-shelf modern bikes, we never really know what to expect. We may think that we are familiar with a particular bicycle's manufacturer and history. Or with what bicycles of its construction style/pedigree/tubing/era are generally like to ride. And then we try the (really quite unremarkable, unassuming looking) thing and Bang! What? This bike is awesome. And I mean like, unusually awesome. That is to say, awesomer than the sum of its parts, or awesomer than it "should" be considering the type of a bike it is.

Now, I am starting to develop a theory (and I know it sounds nuts, but hear me out here) that Ireland - or at least Ulster - is, for some strange and mysterious reason, a dumping ground for such machines. Because I have tried just one too many of these bicycles here to believe it can be pure coincidence. Take for instance, this vintage Hercules Folda - borrowed from a lovely local man called Raymond - whose paintings and restored 1970s Whitcomb I introduced you to earlier.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Notes from the Small, Yet Grand, All-Ireland 650B Tyre-Test Party

650B Tyre Test Party

"Hey, how do you like those tyres?"

It is a question we inevitably ask our fellow riders, when we spot them sporting some that are rumored to be good.

And how might they reply? Well, some might reply with unqualified enthusiasm (“Oh, they’re great! They’re the best!”). Others by launching into detailed descriptions of improbably nuanced sensations. Others still will quote the sciencey rhetoric from the latest articles on the subject - as if the technical data trumps personal experience.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Toward an Understanding of Weight Weenie-ism

The other day a friend playfully referred to me as a "weight weenie," in response to my describing a bicycle as "exceptionally lightweight," in a perhaps over-enthusiastic tone. Now, in fairness, as someone who genuinely could not tell you any of her bicycles' exact weights, I think I am pretty safe from that diagnosis. Nevertheless, I do not like the term. Firstly, because - being the visual literalist that I am - I immediately picture a cocktail sausage (or similar) made of carbon fibre, which is not very nice imagery to pollute my mind with. But also, I think the term is becoming increasingly misapplied to the point that it's really just another way of policing each other's choices of gear. And that is a shame.

Monday, June 13, 2016

I Said, Goddamn!

80s Italian Modern/Vintage Build

You know that scene from Pulp Fiction? Well my reaction was very much like that. Except, well, without the cocaine. But then who needs cocaine, anyway, when there are bicycles? Glorious, lovely bicycles in their endless iterations, ever-ready to give us a thrilling contact high?

He wheeled out the candy-red, chrome-tipped, white-accented, vintage-modern-sparkly concoction into the flickering mid-afternoon sunlight and what else could I say, but god damn?

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Share Your #BikePeeing Adventures, Win Some Underpants!

As most of us have long discovered, everything is better when it involves cycling. Touring? At its best when it's bike touring. Camping? Far more fun when it's bike camping. Fishing? Make it bike fishing (as these folks have!), and now we're talking. In keeping with that fine tradition, I draw your attention to a neglected, yet essential part of the life/cycle experience: bike peeing.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Of Vintage Mixtes, Friends, and Playing the Bike Cupid

I don’t know whether it is quite as popular in the US these days, but here television is teeming with reruns of house-buying shows. You know, like potential buyers look for a new home and the host helps them decide? There is one, it seems, for every imaginable scenario. First time buyers seeking practical, yet cozy “starter homes.” Families looking to move and choosing between town and country. Retired couples relocating abroad. You name it.

The format is pretty much standard: The hosts of the show will interview prospective buyers with a psychotherapy-esque degree of depth, then find them a selection of (what they believe to be) suitable properties. The pros and cons of each are then rehashed endlessly, until finally the prospective buyer chooses one - or none at all.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

'Brifter' Bliss for Sweptback Handlebars

It was not till I unpacked the demo Clementine, that I realised I had never seen a full-on Rivendell bicycle before. I mean, of course I have seen Rivendells. I have even owned one myself, and have ridden half a dozen others besides, maybe more. But none of those had been in-house builds. They had been built up with components from the frame up either at Harris Cyclery in Boston, or by the bicycles' owners. So I never realised till now that Rivendell has their own distinct way of putting the bikes together, with a few somewhat quirky (who would have guessed!) signature touches.