Bicycle Diaries: April 2009

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3 days till Winston's Tweed Ride!

& the tweed thing
is taking off Down Under

The Sydney Tweed Ride will be celebrating the Queen's Birthday on Sunday, 7 June 2009. Meet up at Sydney Town Hall, 483 George St., Sydney, NSW 2000, for the 8am - 9am start. Dapper or Ladylike Tweed Attire to be Worn. Prizes for Best Dressed Male, Female and Child (under 12)!

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Stupidest bike lane


More spring rains...

and wet knees!

But less than month to go
for the Lake Pepin 3speed Tour!

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Inspired bicycles

in & around Edinburgh
by Dave Sowerby

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Rollin' in the rain

on the need
for keepin' dry

April in The Windy City has indeed been the cruelest month. The seasonal rains are back with a vengeance. Not that it's especially heavy. It's more of a constant, dribbling mist that creeps under your skin. And with temps fluctuating from the low 40s to the low 60s, it's almost impossible to get the layered commuter wear right. I shouldn't complain though. It's a regular, and therefore, expected part of living 41° 59' north of the Equator. Besides, there's a bit of comfort in the thought that Chicago bikers have been dealing with this for over 100 years.

For instance, the old Chicago Daily News published these two photos on 15 June 1915. Early summer is typically warmer than late autumn. But that particular summer was the coolest and wettest on record. So back then before the Age of Lycra and Gortex, the best way to keep dry was roll fast and carry an umbrella. The only problem was probably rolling single-handed in the wind. Thank goodness that there doesn't appear to be any traffic!

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ah, the memories

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Spring pothole bhaiku

in the Windy City

Potholes wound asphalt.

Covered in black scabby scars,

once true rims go THUNK.

Photos courtesy of Chicago Public Radio's
The City's Most Outrageous Pothole Contest

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City of cylicists

(early 21st Century)

Colville Andersen

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Booze, Bicycles, & Brits!

more details on
the Windy City's
Tweed Ride

I recently realized that there's already a Queen's Ride celebrating Elizabeth II's first visit to Chicago on 6 July 1959. So I decided to rechristen our august event the 1st Annual Winston's Tweed Ride! Still inspired by The London Fixed-Gear and Single-Speed Forum's Tweed Run and challenged by San Francisco's Thursday Tweed Ride, it remains a celebration of herringbone, hip flasks, and our noble steeds. Everyone is invited! If you have a Brit bike, do ride. If you don't, but enjoy tweedy elegance, do ride. If you do both, CERTAINLY DO RIDE!!!

2 May 2009 marks the 80th anniversary of Winston Churchill’s invention of his exquisitely dry martini: copious amounts of gin poured over crushed ice while he observed the vermouth from across the room. The route, designed by the Right Honorable Lee Diamond, is 10 civilized miles meandering past (and into) some of The Windy City's most infamous (and still open) speakeasies. Where else but in these lively establishments would the ladies & gents find more bracing refreshments and hearty victuals?

As with our fellow tweed runs, we hope to offer small, but significant, prizes for:

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Fat Lad's 6th Riders Writing Cycle


You have 120 words to convince us of why where you ride is the best place in the world to ride (even if you don't belive that to be true...)

Chicago is the best place to roll.


I must confess that I found it a bit overwhelming when I first got here. But I soon learned that for a big city it’s neither impersonal nor alienating. As a city that works it attracts people who don't quite fit in back home.


Miles and miles of small, distinct neighborhoods, 100s of coffee shops and bars, museums, music venues, as well as lots and lots of public space in the form of parks and beaches provide enough refuge for even the most peculiar personalities.


It also attracts and keeps them because of a hell of a lot of cheap bikes, the strong bicycle culture, our tolerant mayor, and the usually accommodating cops.

More on Chicago rolling here, here, and here!

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Sermon for your mount

from Australia's
Dashboard Jesus

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Stop me ...

if you think
you've heard this one before

Pure Vélopunk

The Smiths

Stop me, stop me
Stop me if you think that you've
Heard this one before

Stop me, stop me
Stop me if you think that you've
Heard this one before

Nothing's changed
I still love you, oh I still love you
...only slightly less than I used to
I was delayed, I was way-laid
An emergency stop
I smelt the last ten seconds of life
I carshed down on the crossbar
And the pain was enough to make
A shy, bald buddhist reflect
And plan a mass-murder

Who said I'd lied because I never
Who said I'd lied because I never

I was detained, I was restrained
He broke my knees
(and then he really laid into me)
Friday night in Out-patients

Who said I'd lied - because I never
Who said I'd lied - because I never

Oh, so I drank one
Or was it four
And when I fell on the floor...
...I drank more
Stop me, stop me
Stop me if you thinkthat you've
Heard this one before
Nothing's changed

I still love you
I still love you

But only slightly
Less than I used to

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Yanking our chain

A Brit's hilarious
on US news

A clip from Charlie Brooker's 8th April 2009 episode of Newswipe in which he compares TV News shows on both sides of the pond. Especially funny is Fox's Bill O'Reilly, five minutes in!

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Two wheels good?

the owl of Minerva
flies at dusk

Tough economic times are inspiring a new generation of practical product designers claims NYTimes blogger, Allison Arieff. From more energy efficient lightbulbs to high-capacity batteries, she highlights the trend from creating a need for things to creating things folks actually need. Unfortunately, General Motors doesn't seem to get it. Last week it announced a new partnership with Segway to produce the P.U.M.A., a battery-powered, beefed-up version of the personal transporter that made Segway (in)famous.

Give me the two-wheeled, self-propelled original anytime. The PUMA is frankly ugly. It looks like a pedal cab without the peddler. In comparison to the lowly bike, this 300lb behemoths is inefficient, requiring recharges every 35 miles. Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility would be better served by a next generation bike like the Strida, a foldy designed by Mark Sanders. At only 20lbs, it easily surpasses the 35 mile range of the PUMA. Nor does it depend on electricity produced by polluting coal plants.

Besides, if GM really wants to create something that every red-blooded American male needs, why not take a cue from Ohio-based designer Kile Wygle? He's created a motorized bar stool! It's comfy with a padded seat welded to a frame with a lawnmower steering wheel. It uses a fuel-efficient, five-horsepower motorcycle engine. And it's small enough to store in your backyard tool shed.

Just don't drive it to your neighborhood bar for a long night of drinking like Wygle did back on 4 March. After 15 beers, he quite literally hit the road and was subsequently charged with DUI by the Newark, Ohio Police. Gerrit Konink, Wygle's neighbor, witnessed the doomed venture from his window while having dinner.

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Happy Tax Day!


Risky business?

rite of passage?

Folks who don't roll wonder why I risk my life daily on the seemingly mean streets of The Windy City. Taking a slightly masochistic pleasure in their concern, I usually respond by recounting the three times that I've been doored. Then I wrap up with something like, It ain't so bad ... all y'have to do is keep your eyes and ears open. I frankly don't see myself as a big risk-taker. Ride a freak bike or a brakeless fixie if you really want to be risky.

That being said, urban biking - even with a helmet, mirror, and lights (front & back) - is not without its risks. So why do 1000s of otherwise sane people do it? Deirdre Fernand may have an answer. Writing in The Economist's Intelligent Life Magazine, she explores the allure of extreme sports. Certainly urban bikers don't encounter the same dangers as those wacky folks who bungee jump, free-run, or BASE-jump. But what they do share is that in taking risks they are not an aberration
The aberration is those of us who are slumped on the sofa of life. If we remove risk from our lives ... we never find out our strengths and weaknesses. We stagnate.
Finding yourself by confronting and overcoming life's dangers used to be a necessary step on the road to adulthood. Pre-modern societies required adolescents to pass through an often dangerous rite of passage before being considered full members of the community. But in Western societies today, paranoid parents, touchy-feely educators, and insurance companies spend a lot of time removing risks from children's lives. Fernand believes this is a big, big mistake. She cites Mark van Vuyt, professor of psychology at the University of Kent.
In evolutionary terms it pays for young males to compete in excessive risk-taking. If they thought something was too risky and didn’t do it, they wouldn’t distinguish themselves and wouldn’t get female attention.
The good news is that, despite this nanny state of affairs, folks are confronting and overcoming life's dangers. It's not that they're all doing it to get chicks. Rather, they do it to test themselves and, G-d willing, to finish every day with the satisfaction of surviving to roll another day.

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Under the influence?

d(rinking &)rolling

Have you ever been a droller? Being drunk while rolling seems to be as much a part of biking as funky t-shirts. Any veteran masser can tell you lots of stories about the inebriated antics on Critical Mass. During the new Northside Critical Mass a few weeks back, I watched a droller back-end a parked police car! Luckily nothing happened. He was going too slow to have much of an impact and the cop was more chagrined than angry.

In fact, drolling is so common that there was a bumper crop of articles about it last week. Over at the NYTimes, City Desk blogger, Jennifer Lee, discusses the findings of a recent NYC Health Department report:
Some 21 percent of autopsies for New York City bicyclists who died within three hours of their accidents detected alcohol in the body, according to a Department of Health and Mental Hygiene study that examined fatal bicycling accidents in New York City from 1996 to 2005.
And across the pond BBC correspondent, Adam Easton, reports that Poland's Constitutional Court has upheld a lower court ruling that drollers, like drunk cagers, can be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The sobering news here is that the average prison sentence of the 2000 drollers convicted so far is 11.5 months. But not all judges, nor even all prison officials, agree. They argue that drollers are no different from drunken pedestrians who are self-propelled; and therefore less dangerous than your average drunk cager. So they should be fined rather than jailed.

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Bicycle wheels

Life is to be lived on the positive tip
Never lose the ground
You never gonna slip
If you never lose the ground Always draw the line
Never wear the frown

Should've got myself some bicycle wheels
Should've got myself some bicycle wheels
Should've got myself some bicycle wheels

On the wings of steel
There's dinosaur's in countries
Everyone that I've seen
There's dinosaur's in countries
If you know what I mean
I always keep a watch on the ever changing future

Doing what I want
And you could do what suits you
I said throw your hands in the air
I like to see your armpit hair
Throw your hands in the air
I like to see your armpit hair

Life is to be lived on the positive tip
I'll never lose the ground
You know I'm never gonna slip
Never gonna slip, cause I never lose the ground
Always draw the line
You know I never wear the frown

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The crucifixion considered as an Uphill Bicycle Race

thoughts on Good Friday
by Alfred Jarry

Barabbas, slated to race, was scratched.

Pilate, the starter, pulling out his clepsydra or water clock, an operation which wet his hands unless he had merely spit on them -- Pilate gave the send-off.

Jesus got away to a good start.

In those days, according to the excellent sports commentator St. Matthew, it was customary to flagellate the sprinters at the start the way a coachman whips his horses. The whip both stimulates and gives a hygienic massage. Jesus, then, got off in good form, but he had a fiat right away. A bed of thorns punctured the whole circumference of his front tire.

Today in the shop windows of bicycle dealers you can see a reproduction of this veritable crown of thorns as an ad for puncture-proof tires. But Jesus's was an ordinary single-tube racing tire.

The two thieves, obviously in cahoots and therefore "thick as thieves," took the lead.

It is not true that there were any nails. The three objects usually shown in the ads belong to a rapid-change tire tool called the "Jiffy."

We had better begin by telling about the spills; but before that the machine itself must be described.

The bicycle frame in use today is of relativelv recent invention. It appeared around 1890. Previous to that time the body of the machine was constructed of two tubes soldered together at right angles. It was generally called the right-angle or cross bicycle. Jesus, after his puncture, climbed the slope on foot, carrying on his shoulder the bike frame, or, if you will, the cross.

Contemporary engravings reproduce this scene from photographs. But it appears that the sport of cycling, as a result of the well known accident which put a grievous end to the Passion race and which was brought up to date almost on its anniversary by the similar accident of Count Zborowski on the Turbie slope -- the sport of cycling was for a time prohibited by state ordinance. That explains why the illustrated magazines, in reproducing this celebrated scene, show bicycles of a rather imaginary design. They confuse the machine's cross frame with that other cross, the straight handlebar. They represent Jesus with his hands spread on the handlebars, and it is worth mentioning in this connection that Jesus rode lying flat on his back in order to reduce his air resistance.

Note also that the frame or cross was made of wood, just as wheels are to this day.

A few people have insinuated falsely that Jesus's machine was a draisienne , an unlikely mount for a hill-climbing contest. According to the old cyclophile hagiographers, St. Briget, St. Gregory of Tours, and St. Irene, the cross was equipped with adevice which they name suppedaneum. There is no need to be a great scholar to translate this as "pedal."

Lipsius, Justinian, Bosius, and Erycius Puteanus describe an other accessory which one still finds, according to Cornelius Curtius in 1643, on Japanese crosses: a protuberance of leather or wood on the shaft which the rider sits astride -- manifestly the seat or saddle.

This general description, furthermore, suits the definition of a bicycle current among the Chinese: "A little mule which is led by the ears and urged along by showering it with kicks."

We shall abridge the story of the race itself, for it has been narrated in detail by specialized works and illustrated by sculpture and painting visible in monuments built to house such art. There are fourteen turns in the difficult Golgotha course. Jesus took his first spill at the third turn. His mother, who was in the stands, became alarmed.

His excellent trainer, Simon the Cyrenian, who but for the thorn accident would have been riding out in front to cut the wind, carried the machine.

Jesus, though carrying nothing, perspired heavily. It is not certain whether a female spectator wiped his brow, but we know that Veronica, a girl reporter, got a good shot of him with her Kodak.

The second spill came at the seventh turn on some slippery pavement. Jesus went down for the third time at the eleventh turn, skidding on a rail.

The Israelite demimondaines waved their handkerchiefs at the eighth.

The deplorable accident familiar to us all took place at the twelfth turn. Jesus was in a dead heat at the time with the thieves. We know that he continued the race airborne -- but that is another story.

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Bicycle built for 3


Shea's BIG Bike Session

bike bombing
in Santa Cruz!

Shea's BIG Bike Session
from Haro Bikes
on Vimeo

Shea Nyquist puts his old Haro frame
(or part of it anyways) to good use in Santa Cruz, CA.

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Little Ashes


The Queen's Tweed Ride

, 2 May 2009

Although I'm shivering in anticipation of tonight's last middle finger of winter, my thoughts are certainly turned towards spring. And so, inspired by The London Fixed-Gear and Single-Speed Forum's Tweed Run and challenged by San Francisco's Thursday Tweed Ride, I would like to announce the 1st Annual Queen's Tweed Ride! This celebration of herringbone, hip flasks, and our noble steeds will be hosted by British Bicycles of Chicago, or the BBC.

The auspicious day will also mark the 40th anniversary of RMS Queen Elizabeth II's maiden voyage to the colonies. The route, which is still in planning, will take us past (and into) some of The Windy City's most infamous (and still open) speakeasies. Where else but in these lively establishments would the ladies & gents find more bracing refreshments and hearty victuals?

As with our fellow tweed runs, we hope to offer small, but significant, prizes for
Most Dapper Chap

Most Snappy Lass

Most Stylish Noble Steed

Most Inspired Interpretation of Tweediness

Best Mustache
(open to both lads and inventive lasses)

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Like taking bread to the top of the world

twas' a grand ride
back though

Hovis Bread has been providing Brits with wholesome sustenance for over 120 years. But its iconic status owes more to its nostalgic commercials than to it's wholemeal breads. This example from 1973, directed by Ridley Scott, became an instant classic and was voted Britain's favorite commercial of all time. What could be more velopunk than a baker's apprentice pushing his delivery bike up a cobbled hill in Dorset? Hovis, by the way, also sponsors the annual London Freewheel,
a 14km central London route will be made traffic-free allowing thousands of riders to take over the streets and enjoy the capital’s most iconic sights including the London Eye, Victoria Embankment, Westminster and St Paul’s Cathedral and the Mall.

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Lenin's fart

Sometimes -
history needs a push.

Vladimir Lenin

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Swiss spaghetti harvest

This BBC Panorama documentary, first aired on 1 April 1957, presents the fascinating world of Swiss spaghetti production to millions of deprived and hungry post-war Brits.

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