Archive for November, 2009
The Dark Ages are behind us and a new Renaissance or Golden Age of cycling is clearly afoot.
The number of people making bike frames, trailers, and custom racks grows day by day. Bike kitchens and co-ops proliferate. Advocates and urban planners are winning battles for better infrastructure and bike sharing programs. Tire and parts manufacturers are reproducing (and improving upon) classic designs. Urban bicycling revolutionaries are re-imagining and reforming societal structures. A few great magazines and hundreds of inspiring blogs are fueling the interest and passion of all involved.
There’s also a cambrian-like explosion occurring in bicycle morphology. Not too long ago one’s options for buying a new bicycle were limited to either a high-tech racing bike or a hardcore mountain bike — with little elegance or aesthetic appeal in either choice.
Now, there’s still racing and mountain bikes, but there’s also: touring, camping, and randonneuring bikes; city and porteur bikes; single speeds and fixies; utility and cargo bikes; commuting bikes; country bikes; and beach cruisers (what am I leaving out? Mixtes! and a huge selection of Folding bikes!). Then there’s all the incredibly beautiful vintage bikes (like this mixte porteur) that live on and on.
It’s truly a great time to be a cyclist!
The two main characters in the absurdist hipster comedy, Flight of the Conchords, get around New York City on bikes! Their rides are featured prominently in the music video, “Mutha Uckers”.
Jemaine’s rig is an urban cruiser with a comfortable seat, fenders and swept back bars. Brett’s appears to be an early 80s steel-framed Japanese sport bike (or is it a Peugeot?). Not a bad way to get around Manhattan’s lower east side.
I’ve spent a little time in Paris and could not resist posting this video clip from the show (if you only want to see the tandem bicycles skip to the :28 second mark). Without the context maybe some of the satire is lost, but still quite good.
The full version can be viewed here.
Riding back up the Bolinas ridge was a struggle.
The road climbs 1500′ in only four miles and as I described in my ride report the ‘man with the hammer’ was sneaking up on me. This pull-out along the serpentine road gave me an excuse to stop and rest, which turned out to be a brilliant idea! I ate half a sandwich and felt better.
The wikipedia bicycling glossary has this take on ‘the man with the hammer‘:
…a phrase that describes what happens to a rider who suddenly loses the ability to race, as in “The man with the hammer got him” or “He got hit by the man with hammer“. This is a reference to the experience boxers have when their legs become powerless and weak just before collapsing (as if they have been hit with a hammer) following a severe blow to the head. The abruptness with which this happens differentiates it from hitting the wall. Alternative expressions are “‘tapped’” short for “he got tapped by the man with hammer”.
Maybe it was the wall I avoided. Either way — hammer or wall — I needed rest and food.
The turnaround point of my ride: the mouth of the Bolinas Lagoon.
(For a cool aerial perspective of this spot, click the geotag under the image then click the satellite map and zoom to taste!)
A small fishing boat moored off Wharf Road in downtown Bolinas
Star Route Farms, one of the oldest organic farming operations in Marin. Founded by organic pioneer Warren Weber, a renaissance man who taught a Shakespeare course at UC Berkeley that I took when I was a grad student.
A distinctive non-native species found all over rural Marin county. They grow like crazy, shed lots of leaves and bark, and have a really strong aroma. For me, they’re as familiar a part of the landscape as native Manzanita or Douglas fir.
Highway 1: looking across at the approximate spot where the sign signaling the way to Bolinas (to the left) would be standing if the locals didn’t keep tearing it down to discourage outsiders from visiting.
A pesky cyclotouriste with a camera (now at sea level having descending from Bolinas ridge) causes a Snowy Great Egret to make haste.
Over the ridge and heading toward the ocean, I’m treated to a glimpse of the Bolinas Lagoon, the Bolinas Mesa, and the Pacific Ocean (visible in that order from near to far).
Nearing the ridgeline above Alpine Lake, Bolinas-Fairfax Rd. is about to intersect Ridgecrest Blvd. (hardly a Boulevard, in the traditional sense, look here for views of this so-called Boulevard).
Bear to the left to gain another 1000′ of elevation and to head toward the summit of Mt. Tamalpais (click here for some images from that ride) or bear to the right to lose 1500′ and descend to the Pacific Ocean and the town of Bolinas.
Bolinas is a famous haven for artists, writers, musicians, and philosophers and the first place I lived when my family moved to California from the mid-west.
The Bay Area is having a great Indian Summer. Temperatures nearing 70 degrees, negligible wind, and no fog.
A great excuse to ride out to the ocean: Fairfax to Bolinas (check out the route and elevation profile).
The ride is about 35 miles round trip with roughly 4,000 feet of hills to climb. The first eight miles cover the route to Alpine Lake, but by continuing up and over Bolinas ridge down to the ocean you add another 2400′ of climbing (and 20 additional hard miles) to that round trip.
I left the house around 12:15pm, but turned around just after leaving to fetch my cheap, plastic windbreaker. For most of the day I wore just a lightweight merino wool t-shirt and a pair of wool knickers (from Bicycle Fixation) with a heavier long-sleeve wool pullover and the windbreaker in reserve.
Loaded for the day, the Ebisu is no lightweight and my largest rear cog has only 27 teeth. Suffice to say I suffered greatly climbing the 1500′ Bolinas ridge on the way back. The truth is, I’m just not in top cycling shape this season and these kind of climbs are serious work.
In terms of food I brought: 2 PB&Js, a honey crisp apple, a couple slices of Havarti cheese, and two water bottles. In hindsight, this was a bare minimum; I should have brought more.
On the way out to the ocean, I stopped briefly at Ridgecrest Blvd, but otherwise rode straight to the coast in less than two hours. Now quite hungry, I ate one of my sandwiches and the cheese. It was good I didn’t eat more, because I would need every remaining morsel for the return trip.
Climbing back up to Ridgecrest (after relaxing at the beach in downtown Bolinas for 20-30 minutes), I starting losing all my power and I could hear Velocio’s words inside my head (never ride to the point of exhaustion; eat before you are hungry, etc., etc.).
Discouraged, as I was within a mile of the top, I nevertheless got off my bike to avoid bonking. Dizzy and seeing spots (at this pullout), I ate an apple and half of my last PB&J (saving the final half a sandwich for the energy boost I’d need to climb the last hill of the ride before descending home into Fairfax). Within five minutes, I felt good enough to continue.
I was super stoked, however, that I brought that plastic windbreaker, because as I flew down Bolinas Rd. in total shade I was amazed how cold my body had become (despite the day starting off so sunny and warm). With the sun getting low, around 4:30pm, I slipped the plastic windbreaker over both wool layers on the final steep descent (which is 4 miles long and where speeds can exceed 35 mph) and was very, very happy…and when I arrived home: very, very tired.
In a word: beautiful.
You may recall my earlier post lamenting the short supply of good bicycling shoes. Well, Vittoria has created a gorgeous, classically-styled yet thoroughly modern (cleated) shoe.
I found the picture at the Pushbike blog, apparently they’re in stock at their 24th St. shop in San Francisco.
After writing the previous post on bicycle saddles, I discovered this video about the Brooks’ manufacturing company over at The Velo Hobo. It’s a quaint look at the company behind this iconic piece of cycling history. (Skip to the 7:23 mark of the video to see the very cartoon-like English guy in charge of leather chamfering. He’s great).
When I built up my Ebisu I decided on a Brooks saddle, my first. I went all-out and purchased the Team Professional with titanium rails (figuring I’d save some weight) and by good fortune found a used version with nearly zero miles.
They say you need to break a Brooks in and indeed the leather softened up and took on a more comfortable quality after about 400-500 miles (though it has broken in a little unevenly from side-to-side. Sadly, I’ve heard talk that Brooks’ quality is deteriorating).
Nonetheless, I love my Brooks saddle. I’m a convert.
My other saddle is a Concor, Selle San Marco from the early 80′s (I double checked and although the wording has mostly worn away it is the coveted superleggera (Italian for Super Light) model — super comfy and still going strong after 25 years!
Seen from the back in this post, the Concor is the original saddle on my Guerciotti and usually stays there because I’m too lazy to switch the Brooks back and forth between bikes. But fairly frequently, I do switch them because as comfortable as the Concor is it just can’t beat the Brooks in that category.