Bicycle Diaries: June 2007

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Dog noses

... & schutzblechfiguren

They're one of the few completely superfluous parts of old English 3speeds. Whether you're a beaterbiker or connoisseur you've probably paid them little attention until you started hearing an irritating clicking from the front of your Raleigh, Pashley, Rudge, or Hercules.

That's what exactly happened to me several months ago. I spent a couple of weeks going over that which rolls with the proverbial fine tooth comb. I didn't find the source until I was up at the Lake Pepin 3speed Tour. An old timer saw my intense concentration, then asked, Is your dog nose loose? Yep, that's what they're called and eventually all of them go loose. I fixed mine by wedging a small scrap of inner tube between the dog nose and the fender.

Don't even bother to look up info about them with google or on web-sites like Sheldon's. Dog noses and their eventual clicking are one of the small joys that we 3speeders have to find out about all on our own. But searching isn't necessarily futile. Mine led me to Germany which has an amazing Fahrrad kultur all its own. In fact it definitely beats the Brits on decorative, though useless, front fender ornaments; pretty surprising from a people known for their cool efficiency.

At the same time, the Quicker Vicar up in the Twin Cities, pointed out the following examples. They're called schutzblechfiguren, or shield badges. Their heyday was the 1930s and '40s with an incredible range of designs. While most are made of aluminum, a few come in Bakelite or steel. Today they're collected with as much enthusiasm as Schwinn head badges.

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The end is near...

Chicago Critical Mass
it isn't the only thing
that's going to end

Cyclelicious has picked up the story here. At the same time, in a letter from 1704 (currently on display at Jerusalem's Hebrew University) Sir Isaac Newton uses the Bible's Book of Daniel to calculate the date for the Apocalypse.

He confidently stated in the letter that the Bible proved the world would end in 2060, adding: It may end later, but I see no reason for its ending sooner.

Newton, who died 280 years ago, wrote that
the end of days would see the ruin of the wicked nations, the end of weeping and of all troubles, the return of the Jews (from) captivity and their setting up a flourishing and everlasting Kingdom.

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Chicago biking profiles

& a big ego trip

Liz, my next door neighbor, works for the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation. She manages membership. Her new project is a series of photos on what makes CBF members roll ... or tick, rather. I'm her first guinea pig...

She insisted on taking the photos in my natural habitat - Wells Park across from the apartment on Western Avenue. She also wanted action shots of my typical bike maintenance. I guess that's because all she sees of me and Beaterbike Dave is us cranking.

Of course, you should never disturb a would-be mechanic in the middle of delicate adjustments.

She let me have the photos so I'm posting them to highlight her talents as a photographer %)

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Obama vs. Hillary

from Saturday Night Live
(for once, they're funny)

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Bogotá traffic taming

Columbia rolls!

Enrique Peñalosa, while mayor of Bogotá between 1998 and 2001, was responsible for numerous radical improvements to the city and its citizens. He promoted a city model giving priority to children and public spaces and restricting private car use, building hundreds of kilometers of sidewalks, bike paths, pedestrian streets, greenways, and parks.

After organizing the Democracy in Movement Car-Free Day in 2001, he was awarded the Stockholm Challenge Award and rewarded by a referendum vote endorsing an annual car-free day and the elimination of all cars from streets during rush hours from 2015 onwards. As he has said,
In order to choose a city model we must have an idea of how do we want to live, because a city is really a means to a way of life. For example if we want a humane, child friendly city, motor-car road infrastructure may have to be limited and car use restricted.
Recently Peñalosa was a visiting scholar at New York University. He researched and is currently writing a book on a new urban-development model for the Third World, which covers fields such as transportation, land use and housing for the poor, pollution abatement, and public space. Back in July 03, Project Syndicate featured Peñalosa and his new urbanism policies.
In Paris, New York, and Mexico City, rich and poor alike escape the summer heat in city parks. But in many places in the developing world, open public spaces are as rare as stable democracies. That may be no accident. If it appears frivolous to write about public space in cities like Bogota, Delhi, and Lima, where poverty and squalor run rampant, consider that the government's subsidy of grass and concrete for pedestrians is a measure of its respect for human dignity and the democratic values.

Public spaces are where poor and rich meet as equals. If governments cannot level the playing field in a global economy, they can at least equalize the enjoyment of a city during leisure time. In the Third World, this means offering residents clean and plentiful public parks and keeping the sidewalks clear for pedestrians. While the latter is taken for granted in the developed world, sidewalks in Latin America are often akin to disputed territory. Pedestrians shouldn't have to compete with cars. City and government officials should ensure that parks and paved paths become as ubiquitous to a city's landcape as parking spaces.

As Mayor of Bogotá, I was almost impeached for insisting that pedestrians win this war with the automobile and commerce. Shop-owners and drivers complained that sidewalks should continue to be shared with parked cars, as they had been for years. We had to explain that although sidewalks live next to roads, they do not belong to the same family. Rather, sidewalks are close relatives of parks and plazas.

Sidewalks are not merely for going from one place to another, they are for talking, playing, kissing, or sitting on a bench. To suggest that parking bays can be carved out of sidewalks is like saying a park or a plaza can be turned into an open-air parking lot with trees.

People need to walk to be happy. A bird can survive inside a small cage and even lay eggs and bear descendants. We, too, could live out our lives in the confines of an apartment. But just as a bird is happier in a cage the size of an auditorium and even happier when flying free, we walk better on a sidewalk three or ten meters wide. We are exuberant if offered an esplanade cleared of cars, noise and pollutants.

For thousands of years, city streets were pedestrian, even if shared with horses and carriages. Paintings up to the end of the 19th century depict cityscapes with people all about the street. Any eight-year-old child was safe walking about these streets. All this changed dramatically when automobiles appeared. Streets became lethally dangerous, particularly for children.

As automobiles drove pedestrians off to the side of streets, cities in the Third World should have developed a parallel network of exclusively pedestrian walkways. Nothing of the sort happened.

On the recently built road from Delhi to Agra to facilitate the flow of tourists to the Taj Mahal, there must be at least 200 pedestrians and bicyclists for each motor vehicle. But there are no sidewalks or bicycle paths alongside it. This regressive design is not exclusive to India; it is typical of the Third World. Investing in road infrastructure tends to be regressive in societies where only a minority own automobiles.

But upper income people drive and they make the decisions. Building an infrastructure for an ever-growing number of cars was a daunting task, one that absorbed the attention and resources of many Third World governments over the past three decades. After clogging every square meter of city street, they cut road space through the most spectacular natural settings. Practically no urban lakefront, riverbank, coastline, or mountainside has not been threatened.

Quality public pedestrian space, on the other hand, demonstrates official respect for human dignity and for society's most vulnerable members--the handicapped, children and the elderly. A progressive strategy towards public space deepens democracy, since the pedestrians and bicyclists who benefit most directly are lower-income citizens.

This is especially true in developing countries, where the population of cities will increase by more than two billion inhabitants over the next 30 years. The new urban areas to be created could be different, more egalitarian, and environmentally more sustainable than those built over the last 100 years. Public space networks of greenways, parks, plazas, exclusively pedestrian avenues, and streets could be the backbone of the new Third World city.

As for mobility in a pedestrian city, it is possible to structure low-cost bus-based transit systems and to severely restrict car use during peak hours. Generally, cities in developing countries cannot afford architectural jewels such as Notre Dame; but they can have formidable pedestrian avenues shaded by enormous tropical trees. Environmental and social sustainability worldwide depends to a large degree on what happens in developing countries' cities over the next few decades. There is not much reason for optimism now. But there could be: if the Third World frees its feet, its mind will follow.

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Namibia wants to roll

another small country
heard from

Michael Linke, founder and Managing Director of the Bicycling Empowerment Network Namibia, opines on lop-sided transport policy. It's failing to promote biking as a cheap means of transport for his country's poorest people.

The Namibian (Windhoek), 22 June 2007: A myth surrounds the idea of what makes cycling popular in a city.
The idea that 'cycling culture' is the key determinant is simply false.
Most of the European cities where cycling accounts for more than 40 per cent of daily trips have been through decades of car-dominated transport systems.

For social and environmental reasons their residents and town planners decided to make a conscious switch away from a car-dominated system, allocating funds to footpaths, cycle lanes and facilities to lock bicycles.

The residents of these cities are no more or less likely than any others to adopt cycling, yet once they had safe cycling facilities they had a choice.

Public education programmes may be necessary to kick-start the adoption process, but an Owambo or Afrikaner in Windhoek is as genetically predisposed to ride a bicycle as a Dane in Copenhagen.

Cycling also faces a perceptual challenge, in that it is regarded in developing countries as a symbol of backwardness, whereas motor vehicles symbolise progress and development.

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The thagomizer

paleontologists adopt
a technical term from The Far Side

Now this end is called the thagomizer,
after the late Thag Simmons.

thagomizer, n.
The cluster of spikes
at the end of a Stegosaurus’s tail.

Discover Magazine, 20.6.07: Gary Larson, creator of The Far Side, crossed over into anatomical nomenclature with a 1982 comic in which a caveman teaches a class this faux-scientific word. (Larson later joked, “Father, I have sinned—I have drawn dinosaurs and hominids together in the same cartoon.”) But when fossil evidence suggested that the dinosaur used its stego-tail as a weapon, scientists co-opted the moniker.

Ken Carpenter, a paleontologist at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, was the first to use the term professionally, quipping, “And now, on to the thagomizer,” when describing a specimen with broken tail spikes at a 1993 meeting. These days, the word appears in reference books and museum exhibits. It’s no surprise that scientists adopted Larson’s terminology, says Carpenter. “He has a completely warped mind, which we absolutely love.”

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The zen of pedalling

a guest post
from UffdaDave
I know it goes without saying but there is definitely something Zen about bicycling. Particularly after a change in one's lifestyle.

Once again I found myself on the short end of an employment issue -- a layoff to be exact. This is not my first layoff, that one happened 17 years earlier when I was running the media department of a teaching hospital. Isn't it funny how layoffs always seem to affect the laid-off employee and the services they provided but never seem to touch the people at the top who bring organizations to the brink of disaster?

Well, in any event, this isn't about layoffs, this is about the Zen of bicycles. Originally I thought about calling this article
Zen and the Art of Bicycle Maintenance but that really would be a direct ripoff of Robert Pirsig's famous book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance -- which is more a story about the metaphysics of quality than it is about motorcycle maintenance.

So, in my mind, if riding a bicycle is a Zen-type of experience then at least, for me, the true path to enlightenment comes through the journey of rebuilding older, neglected bicycles. In particular, the old British bicycles from the 1960's and 1970's. In a way, the discarding of old things in this country, whether they deserve it or not, seems to be a disturbing pattern of American life. The bicycle is no good because it's older, heavier and only possesses three speeds; much the same way the worker lacks value when they become older, heavier and more expensive. So we pitch out the old reliables for something shiny and brand new because, after all, the newer and shinier it is, the better it runs -- or maybe it's really the better to impress all the "right" people.

However, I digress. This is about achieving enlightenment, or at least searching for it, through rebuilding old bicycles. In the past I've managed to rebuild a few older bicycles; two
Raleighs, an Armstrong, a Hercules, a Colbert chain driven tricycle, a Cleveland Welding Company (precursor to Roadmaster), a J.C. Higgins and a Nishiki touring bike (that one was for my 12-year-old son who regularly joins me in rides around our countryside).

I even tackled a
Sturmey Archer 3speed hub, an experience I will never forget. Shortly after tearing apart the dirt and grease encrusted hub I realized it was more complicated than I had expected, and I had neglected to diagram the assembly. Fortunately the local bicycle shop was able to find an exploded view to help with re-assembly. My latest challenge has been a mid-1970's five-speed Raleigh Sprite I picked up from the Volunteers of American for a mere $10.00. I purchased the bike three months before my recent layoff and it sat in my barn until I suddenly found myself with a great deal of spare time.

So I set about rebuilding another bicycle and the journey began.

Usually when I get into these older bicycles I find, as many of you have likely found too, a whole nest of problems. They range from broken pieces to corroded fittings to odd nuts and bolts and pieces; cobbled together from other bikes and forced to fit together. This bike would prove to be different. The cups and cones sparkled after I cleaned them, and the plating was still entirely intact. Even the cotter pins in the crank set came out with very little effort although, I must confess, I was using my new cotter pin press purchased from Bikesmith Design. If you constantly find yourself banging away at crank cotter pins I highly recommend investing in the press, it was the best $50.00 I spent in a long time.

Within a half day I had the bike apart, cleaned up and almost nearly reassembled. All I needed was a new set of tires and tubes, a few quick adjustments and I was reading to roll. I put the wheels back on, the front first and then the back, and gave them a spin to check their movement and alignment. It was then I noticed a problem with the back wheel, it seemed to make a jump left then right on every rotation. The rear rim had been ever so slightly crushed inward and the damage had missed my inspection at purchase. Fixing the wheel was beyond my abilities so I needed to find a cheap alternative.

This is where I began to feel a bit of enlightenment begin to wash over me. Here was this bike, impeccable and in great shape. Everything was working as well, if not better than brand new (okay, maybe I exaggerate a bit there). Still, it was a 30-year-old bicycle I had purchased for $10.00 and it required very little work. Instead of focusing on the one small problem I continued to marvel at my good fortune in finding a bicycle that was still in such immaculate condition.

Maybe even closer to the enlightenment was the realization that I found joy in the simplest of projects on one of the simplest of machines. For the last four years I hated my job. The management was mediocre at best, uninspiring, lethargic and lacking in leadership. Like a shiny new bicycle from a big box store my old office was all about image and flash. But the old bicycle is different. It's all about stability, quality and experience.

The solution to my rear wheel problem was as simple as the bicycle itself. I went back to the
Volunteers of America and made another $10.00 donation on another good bicycle that I parted out, including a good rear wheel. The frame from the parts bike was donated to bicycle coop (along with other parts I had been holding onto) and the bent wheel was recycled. The circle of reduce, reuse and recycle. Okay, some purists might claim that I was mixing parts and could destroy what little value the old bicycle had but that wasn't my goal. My goal was to recycle a bike to ride for exercise and enjoyment.

When I was first laid off 17 years earlier my wife asked me what I thought I might do next. I don't know, I said. Maybe I'll spend the summer riding my bicycle and figure it out. That was on a Friday evening and she thought it was a good idea. By the following Monday I had another job and almost did no riding that summer. Now after years of pursuing two masters degrees and jobs I really didn't like, my wife finally confronted me about the summer of 1990 and told me the one mistake I made was not spending the summer on my bicycle as I planned.

This time is different. In my latest journey I've rebuilt the bike and logged in a great many miles in just two months. I haven't achieved total enlightenment yet, and I haven't figured out my next move but I'm closer now than I was 17 years ago. The Zen of peddling has set me upon the new path.

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Bored with the internet?

Ride your bike, damn it!

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Chicago to Miami in 30 days

with the Ingo-bike

Sighted on last month's
Chicago Critical Mass

I wondered what the hell it was. Then during a google search on another topic I stumbled across a few jpegs. First called the Exercycle, the pedal-less, gear-less bike was invented by the Huyssen brothers and manufactured by Chicago's Ingersoll-Rand Corporation from 1934 to 1937. The inspiration for the Ingo-bike was the limber platform of some homemade scooters that moved with the up-and-down motion of the rider.

So it's powered by the rider making a bouncing motion on the platform which turns the eccentric hub rear wheel. It has a tall front stem that connects the handlebars to the front tire for steering. To prove that it worked, a team of Ingo-Bikers made an incredible trek from Chicago to Miami on the odd machines in just over 30 days.

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