Category Archives: Raleigh

Bits and Pieces

As I travel through this crazy world, I often run across something, and think, “I should write a blog post about that.”  (Sometimes, I think, “I should blog about that,” then I slap myself for using “blog” as a verb.) Shortly thereafter, I’m distracted by a honking car and I forget what I wanted to write about. Sometimes, I take a picture. That can help jog my memory, or make me wonder what the hell I was thinking when I took the picture. Then these pictures and blog thoughts stack up in my mind for a while and the next thing you know, it’s two months later and I forgot to write about whatever. I kind of blame the Twitter for this because in a way, I have written about the little random topic. But I only wrote 140 characters. So that doesn’t count. Thus I present another new recurring feature here: Bits & Pieces.

Bit 1:


RAB is RI’s community bike shop. I mentioned this organization a while ago when I took a class there. Then, they invited me to go to some crazy regional convention of community bike shops called Bike Bike Northeast. Shortly after that, I was helping out with Bike Valet and the next thing I knew I was on the board of directors. And thus I was one step further down the spiral of having bicycles take over my life. (Traveling down this spiral counts as a “descent.” I’ll know I’ve truly hit bottom when I enjoy cycling uphill more than riding downhill. I hear that step can only happen after one buys a pair of cycling shorts. I’m still holding out.)

But it’s been a happy descent, one I’ve enjoyed greatly. Recycle-A-Bike has gone through some major changes in the last year: getting our board together and really functioning, putting together different committees to get things done, and oh yeah, moving out of the Steelyard and into our own space! It’s not perfectly set-up yet, but we’re having open shops and classes and helping people fix up their bikes and get back on the road. During bike week, we had an open house for our new location, just to let everyone know where we are now:

The shop is coming along. It still needs quite a bit of work, but it is functional. Check it out at 12 Library Court, in Olneyville:

Right there on a little alley off of Olneyville square. Something called “Smokeez Smoke Shop” is at the corner, just before you turn in to the alley. I don’t know why they call it a smoke shop, seem like they specialize more in decorative glassware or something.

Bit 2:

No skateboarding in the Bank of America skating pavillion:

I did a little bit of skateboarding in my early teen years. It was mostly a means of transportation and an excuse to hang out with friends. (Kind of like cycling is for me today, but without the panniers.) As any teen who has ever skated knows, THE MAN is always out to get you when you ride a skateboard. Shop owners don’t want you riding near their stores because they think you might scare away customers, school principals don’t want you riding to school for whatever reason, and police don’t want you riding almost anywhere (or so it seemed when I was 13). So I was excited when I first moved to Providence to see that teens were allowed to skate on this nice flat surface without getting hassled by the man. In fact, for a few summers, someone even brought out ramps and rails every Thursdays so the skaters could have some fun. Last summer, I saw the tentative, awkward riding of a few people trying out some “fixed-gear freestyling.” But now, the skaters and cyclists are banned from the rink, and it sits empty, mostly unused except for the occasional concert or tape art installation. I’m pretty bummed out by this, when I first saw the skaters there, I thought it was a great sign that the city allowed its young people to have fun. Now, not so much. However, I’m happy to report, that the adjacent park is still safe for adults to park their cars.

admittedly, this is from January, but there are cars parked here every day

And evidently, the skating rink is okay for parking too.

But not okay for skateboarding.

Bit 3: Fenders!

So, I’m a fan of fenders these days. I have a pair of Planet Bike Speed-EZ Road fenders on my daily commuter. I would have installed a pair of regular plastic fenders, but the LBS didn’t seem to have any that would thread through the brakes without some fender reduction surgery. I suppose I could get a pair of more expensive metal fenders and crimp them around the brake calipers, but that’s not really the style of the bike. Of course, I’m not really sure if these “clip-on” fenders fit the style of the bike either:

That “I Voted” sticker does make it look rather smug, so maybe it is my style. They do seem to get the job done. They keep my tires from kicking up roadwater and mud onto my backside and legs. And that’s really all one needs from fenders. A little more length would help to protect my drivetrain a little better, and if I had mudflaps, that would be even sweeter. My yoga teacher recently returned from a visit to India and brought me a present!

A pair of bicycle fender mud flaps! I installed one on my Raleigh for my first post-injury ride, unfortunately, it fell off somewhere between my garage and my office (which I discovered when I got to the office). Luckily, “somewhere” turned out to be in my driveway, so it was easily recovered. Re-installation could require some duct tape.

During my recent travels, I came upon this fine specimen of fendering:

It’s hard to see the rear fender from here, but I wanted you to get an overall sense of the bike’s aesthetic. Let’s take a closer look:

I do admire the 1 by 7 (or 8 maybe?) drivetrain, but that fender is less than elegant.

It’s a nice looking commuter bike until you get to the kludged-together wooden rack and re-purposed plastic fender. Oh well, I guess we can’t all have custom paint jobs like this motorcycle that is often parked downtown:

It’s so patriotic, it has a bald eagle ripping through an American flag to reveal… another American flag!


A Month on the Raleigh

January and much of February sucked for riding. I’m glad it’s almost spring. In the 35 day period of 1/7/11 to 2/10/11, I didn’t set foot to pedal of my main commuting bike, the 2005 Cannondale Roadmaster 400 (a flat bar road bike, or performance hybrid, if you prefer), or my road bike, and there were 6 days where I decided it was better to walk than ride. The rest of the time, I rode my 1968 Raleigh Sports. I bought this bike for pretty much this purpose, so I can’t complain too much, and as a matter of fact, it was nice to have over a month riding just the Raleigh. I feel like I really got to know it.

If you don’t feel like going to my original post about the Raleigh, I shall summarize: It’s an old, heavy steel bike, with a Sturmey-Archer 3 speed IGH (internally geared hub). That is, it doesn’t have a derailleur. After seeing the derailleur on my Cannondale get clogged with ice and snow for the last 5 winters, I thought that an IGH might be the way to go. I bought the bike in July, and mostly saved if for rainy days. My idea was that this way, I’d be saving a little bit of wear and tear on the Cannondale.

There are a few small problems with my Raleigh:

First, it lacks a front fender. Fenders are kind of nice to have, especially for one’s “rain bike.” The lack of a front fender means that when I am riding through heavy rain or slush, it gets picked up by the front tire and dumped on my feet and ankles. Luckily, I’m usually wearing boots and rain pants, so this isn’t too bad. Still, one of these days, I’ve got to put a front fender on this thing. I think there might be some suitable fenders at Recycle-A-Bike. Once RAB’s new shop is all set up, I’m making it priority number 1.

Second, it doesn’t have a rack. I’ve grown to really appreciate the importance of a good rack and pannier system to successful bike commuting. Sure, you can just throw on a backpack, but in the summer time (and most of the spring and fall for that matter) that just means you are going to get all sweaty in the backpack area. Finding a rack for the Raleigh might be a little more difficult. There are some expensive options out there, but this was a $75 bike, so I don’t really feel like investing much money in it. I have actually spent more money on accessories for the bike than the bike itself cost ($50 for a new saddle, $20 for  a cup holder, 2 X $5 for front and rear light mounts), and I’m sure I’ll need new tires (and probably new wheels) for it eventually. In the wintertime, back sweat isn’t much of an issue, which helps confirm my choice for this to be my winter bike.

Third, the frame is a little bit small for me. This means I’m leaning forward  more than is intended for the frame, and I have the seatpost jacked so high that I can’t comfortably put my foot down when stopped. Nonetheless, like Rumsfeld would say, you go to work with the bike you have.

I would almost say that there is a fourth small problem with the bike: the gearing is less than ideal (it’s too high). I live at the top of a hill, and the quickest route home involves grades in the  7 to 12 % range. The lowest of the Raleigh’s three gears is not low enough to really handle these grades, and even downhill I’m never going fast enough to adequately use the highest gear. This could be changed by swapping out a larger cog, but I don’t really have the patience for that right now (frankly, I’m afraid something might fall apart if I try to remove the rear wheel). I say that it’s almost a problem because after a few weeks of riding the Raleigh exclusively, I became accustomed to its gearing. First, I picked a less steep commuting route. This added a mile to my commute in each direction, but that’s just bonus miles. Secondly, I just got used to using only the two gears. On my Cannondale, I’m shifting the rear derailleur all the time, often skipping gears as I accelerate down a big hill.  I don’t know if I’ve just become acclimated to it, or my legs are becoming stronger, but when I ride the Raleigh and don’t have dozens of gears to chose from, I don’t really miss it.

The upright posture has been a nice change of pace as well. Matt from thinks that the upright posture is ideal for city riding, while I do see it’s advantages, I find it a little bit harder to look behind me, and in general I feel less agile on the Raleigh than I do on my Cannondale. At this point, the Cannondale almost feels like an extension of my body. I have very precise control of the Cannondale at very low speeds, which is nice for riding in traffic. When I ride the Raleigh, it gets a little wobbly as I get slower, and if I look behind me, I inevitably turn a bit in the direction I look.  As I approach a stoplight, I often swerve a little bit before putting my foot down.  These tendencies have lessened as I racked up more miles, but I’m not sure if they will ever go away completely. There is a certain feeling that I get while riding the Raleigh, like I’m not in a hurry. This is probably good, because there is no way to make the Raleigh hurry. It just wants to keep you going slow, and with all of the snow we had in January and February, this isn’t such a bad thing. In the 35 day period, I got in about 90 miles on the Raleigh, with the longest single ride lasting about 4 miles. I don’t think I’d want to ride this bike for much longer than that, but I think that it’s weight, paucity of gears and upright posture have made for a good change of pace, and maybe even a bit of a winter training regimen.

With the recent warming trend, I’ve been back on the Cannondale for the last week or so, but looking at tomorrow’s forcast, it looks like I’ll be dressed like this…

… and riding the Raleigh.

Winter Riding Tips / Video Round-Up

One of these days, I’ll get a helmet cam and create thrilling videos of my daily commute for all of you to enjoy. In the meantime, I’ll present you with three cycling-related videos that were recently posted on the internet.

The first is an earnest, but fun look at winter cycling tips in Chicago:

BikeSnobNYC did his usual job of mocking the video frame by frame, so I won’t attempt that here. I’ll just point out that the video was shot and edited by my former classmate, Elizabeth Press, seen here in the middle of putting on layer after layer of winter clothing.

This video does bring up the issue of cycling in the winter, something I have not yet addressed. It seems like many of the “other” bike blogs have already addressed this in earnest, prescribing all manner of wool (both technical and traditional), silk, gore-tex, gore-mex, splats, &c. My commute is very short, so I’m not sure that I have the best advice to give w/r/t winter cycling, however, I lived in the frozen wilds of Edmonton Alberta for two winters, where I did pick up a thing or two. Actually, I picked up four things during my Canadian exile that I consider essential to my winter commute.

Thing 1: Waterproof Pants.

These aren’t the exact ones I have, but they look pretty close. I prefer waterproof pants that go over whatever I’m wearing to the office that day. Then I just whip off my pants, and I’m ready to go. So to speak. These are useful in warmer seasons as well because I don’t really like getting my pants soaked by the rain.

Thing 2: Face Mask

I wear this when the temperature gets below 30 degrees or so. That’s not such a low temperature, but my ride includes speeds up to 25 miles an hour, so there is often more windchill than one would experience while walking.  Some riders might prefer a Balaclava.

Thing 3: Thin Balaclava, Headband or Skull Cap

I have a thin balaclava that I fold up over my head so that I get a thick layer around my ears, but a little bit of a stovepipe effect to release heat out the top of my head. Some people prefer to just have a headband to keep their ears warm, then have a full stovepipe out the top of their helmets. These people are crazy.

Thing 4: Lobster Gloves

These provide the warmth of mittens, and the dexterity of a lobster. Some people just use mittens, although it can be difficult to use some shifting systems without lobster-levels of dexterity. Either way, most cyclists will tell you that regular old gloves aren’t going to cut it when it gets really cold.

Keeping with the earnestness theme, what could be more earnest than social justice advocates’ concern with immigrant communities’ transportation needs?

There’s not much footage of people actually riding bikes, but what footage there is features people riding on the sidewalk.

This is certainly something I see around here: cycling on the sidewalk instead of in the street. I understand why people are tempted to do it, riding in traffic can seem more dangerous, but it is almost always safer. Cycling advocates like to spend a lot of time focusing making cycling safer for people just like them (mostly white, mostly middle class). I’m reminded of when I helped RIBike with the “light up the night” event. I’m not sure where I’m going with this, but it’s something that could use more attention. And since I’m not sure where I’m going, I’m going to shut up before I put my foot in my mouth.

I forgot to mention earlier, that I also wear a jacket in the winter. I think it would qualify as a “snowboarding” jacket. It’s mostly water repellent, but not 100%. It’s not particularly noteworthy except for the fact that it is not a very heavy coat.  Even with my short commute, I can generate quite a bit of body heat while cycling. A medium-weight jacket over my work clothes is plenty on most winter days. When it gets particularly cold, I add a hoodie for one more layer of warmth.

This jacket was one of those bargains you always remember. It was originally $90, then marked down to $50 because it was out of season, then marked down to $25 because it had been on the racks for a while. It’s served me well for about 10 years now, but I guess I could get rid of it in favor of a $400 cycling jacket from Mission Workshop:

We begin this film with our hero riding a ferry from one part of Amersterdam to another. I’d say that he is on his commute, but it doesn’t look like he actually does any work during the rest of the day.

it's cold out here, luckily I have a $400 outer jacket to wear over my $235 inner jacket. I'd better put the hood up.

After I get off the boat, I'll take a gratuitous shot of row after row of Amsterdam bikes

Could you do this with any normal jacket? I don't think so.

This video has more rack focus than a Scorsese film

I think my favorite thing about this video is the fact that he is modeling a cycling-specific jacket, one that is designed for use on a road bike – or some other bike where the cyclist leans forward. But he’s riding a completely upright Dutch city bike. There’s nothing wrong with a Dutch city bike, but if you are going to ride one, you can just wear regular clothes. That’s pretty much the whole point of a Dutch city bike! Okay, back to our story, where our hero has returned to his canal boat home.

Uh oh, what’s this?

This doesn’t look good. The jacket has cable routing for portable audio devices.

phew, it's cold again

I guess I should put up my hood in order to further insulate myself from hearing any noise from the outside world while I....

....haphazardly mount my city bike

Biking through the city while wearing headphones. Always a safe idea. Note the skinny jeans – the perfect complement to cycling-specific jackets. Of course, this is an Amsterdam cyclist, so he is coddled by:

Protected bike lanes! (Note that even the bike symbols in Amsterdam have chaincases.) Alright, now I’m just being a hater. Who wouldn’t want bike lanes like those?

Ahh, now he’s leaning forward about 2 degrees, which utilizes many of the features of the “slim-fit, seam-sealed, waterproof jacket cut for life on the bike.”

Soon he reaches his destination: Pristine – a “Lunchroom/Gallery”

…where the depth of field is so shallow, you need a rack focus to read from one side of the menu to the other.

There are a few other product demo videos on Mission Workshop’s Vimeo Page, all of which are equally entertaining. I’d go through them all, but I’m working at mocking Mission, not providing them tons of free exposure to my dozen of readers.

But I can’t resist one more, the video for the Shed Messenger Bag. This one was filmed in Paris, where our protagonist (let’s call him Claude) rides a fixed gear bike from the top of Montmartre. It even sports an aerospoke front wheel. Epic.

I’m going to skip the part where he packs his MacBook into the bag, but I have to mention that every Mission Workshop video shows and Apple product at some point.

After Claude orders his coffee, the barista rings him up in slo-mo.

maybe it's just that all French coffeeshop employees work very slowly

Almost everything is in slo-mo. I guess owning one of these bags turns every day into an epic urban journey of self-discovery. Just about the only time the video approaches regular speed is right after Claude runs across a fellow cyclist, this one on what appears to be a vintage track bike. They gaze at each other knowingly….

because it’s on!

The film is back up to full speed as we get to enjoy some serious Cat 6 racing action.

I could go on, but I’ll spare you the details. These guys even made a video about installing a product display in a store in Portland. Maybe I’m trying to compensate because I just bought a new jacket from a different hipster-clothing brand based in San Francisco. But I totally needed that. And it was on sale… and it will make me go faster, right? Product review to follow.

The Indignity of Walking: Armored Car Edition

After enduring the horrors of walking 1.5 miles to work (and back!) yesterday, I was back on the bike today! I opted for the “long route” to work which features a more gentle slope. This route also gives me one “bonus mile” each way which helps boost my smugness calculation up a little bit. Let’s take a quick look at the SmugCalc to see how I’m doing:

This is from August 21, 2010 to today

Ugh, I’ve got a long way to go after all of that driving I did while visiting the family in Kansas. And it doesn’t look like I’ll be able to get in many  40+ mile weekend rides when the roads are in this kind of shape. Instead of comparing bicycle miles to automobile miles, maybe I should combine cycling with walking and transit and call them “smug miles” or something.

Speaking of roads, this morning I took a look at Hope Street, and thought the roads looked pretty clear.  However, they turned out to be rather slushy at points and with occasional ice patches here and there. But traffic was light, and I didn’t have any problems on my ride. It felt good to be back on the saddle, and the old Raleigh proved to be a sturdy steed for winter riding. I only saw one other cyclist out there today. So even if my SmugCalc score isn’t so great, at least I can feel smug about the fact that I am far more hardcore than the rest of you punks!

Another thing I can feel smug about – I’m not this guy:

While it may look like the armored car is making a turn, in fact it is parked right at the corner of Westminster and Dorrance, blocking a wheelchair ramp (not to mention the pedestrian crossing). And yes, there is a completely open parking place right around the corner.

A classic ride from ’68

I was raised in a car-loving family. From my father, I learned the valuable life skill of being able to identify many cars by their headlights at a distance of 1/4 mile.  I remember when my dad would get home from a business trip and go over the tally of different cars he saw while driving on the highway. “Let’s see,” he’d say, raising his glasses to his forehead in order to take a closer look at the small piece of paper where he’d written down his findings. “I  saw 10 Thunderbirds [the car he was driving], 5 Corvettes, one old Galaxie, 27 Tauruses, [etc].” My dad worked as a statistician and economist for many years, so it’s not too surprising that he kept himself entertained on long drives by counting cars. Of course, this car obsession was passed on to me and my brother. To keep in touch these days, my brother and I send cellphone pictures of the interesting cars we see. Sometimes we include notes about what’s going on in our lives, but more often it’s just the car.

Brother sent me this pic of a typical ride in the gaslamp district of San Diego

You may have hydraulics - but how about 2 hoodscoops and a superflous roofscoop? Pawtucket: Represent!

That’s one souped-up Dodge Neon, hey? I saw another Neon the other day with an “M” logo affixed to the middle of the trunk. For those of you not in the know:

Proper logo placement would be on the passenger side of the trunk, not the middle. How gauche!

This is used on BMWs to indicate that the driver is more of a douche than a regular BMW driver. The M  stands for “More douchey.”

I tried to whip out my camera to take a picture for my brother, but I was no match for the extra performance that the ebay-purchased M badge imparted on the trunk of that black Neon. It was almost as fast as my brother’s M3.

I went to a car show the other day down at The Steelyard. Once again, I should have taken more pictures. It was a car show – people want you to admire their cars, right? Clearly they wouldn’t have been bothered by me snapping away. There was a real variety there – some classic convertibles, some new performance cars, a few hot-rods, even a few low riders. The one picture I took pretty much sums it up:

A study in contrast

On the left is a Factory Five GTM. Essentially, it’s a kit car – the company provides the chassis and aluminum body and the buyer has to provide an engine and drivetrain – it’s designed for a Corvette engine and Porsche transmission. Now that I think about it, this is similar to cycling enthusiasts who buy a frameset and then build up a bike around it. You can either pay a shop to put it together, or put it together yourself. On the right is an early-90’s Caprice Classic with custom hydraulics. Oh, and it’s a Station Wagon. In the way back of the wagon, the owner has the full hydraulic system on display.

I may have mentioned earlier that when I was about 13 or 14, my dad bought a 1963 Ford Galaxie convertible. I don’t have  a picture readily scanned, so here’s one I pulled off of the internet:

The thing was gigantic. It could hold six passengers (sorry, no seatbelts – they weren’t required in cars until 1964). It could also carry two cellos (in hard cases) in the trunk. Our family owned a 1981 Ford F-150 at the time. It’s a full-size truck, but the Galaxie was actually longer. It handled about as well as could be expected of such a heavy beast, that is to say – not very well. The V-8 had a nice burble to it, but there was certainly nothing “high-performance” about it. Oh but it was a delight to drive on a warm spring evening with the top down. Essentially, I was raised to love classic cars. I’d always hoped to own a classic convertible before I turned 40 (that way it wouldn’t be a mid-life crisis purchase, right?). Instead, I’ve given up on car ownership, so now I own this:

That’s a 1968 Raleigh Sports. Lugged steel frame, 3-speed Sturmey-Archer hub, made in Notthingham, England.

intact head badge

As mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been trolling craigslist to see what’s out there. I came upon this Raleigh, and it seemed to be within easy biking distance. I arranged to take a look at it (coincidentally on my birthday) and took off from work on a hot & muggy day.

East Bay Bike Path on a muggy day

I took a good look at the condition of the frame and wheels – it all seemed to be in pretty good shape. As you can see from the picture below, it’s lost its front fender at some point in the last 42 years, not to mention the saddle and grips.

After inspecting it for damage, I took it for a short spin. The upright posture was a huge change from riding my Cannondale hybrid. And I found it quite… pleasant. One problem though, I couldn’t get the hub to shift. It seemed to be stuck in a very high gear. I got back to the seller’s house and flipped the bike over. While pedaling, I pulled on the shift cable. The hub changed gears, so it seemed to be a simple lack of cable tension. After a little price negotiation, the bike was mine! Now, how to get it home? The seller agreed to swing by my house with it in a few days.

As has been noted elsewhere, it may be called “sports,” but there is nothing sporty about this bike. It’s heavy and upright, great for getting around town at a slow pace. I took it to work last Thursday, and from there to Recycle-A-Bike for a meeting. Before the meeting, I ran into Douglas, one of the RAB volunteers. He took a look at my dangling shift cable and got out some tools. 5 minutes later, I had 2 gears! I had been dreading the ride up College Hill, but it was far easier with the lower gearing. I wasn’t spinning like I usually do on the Cannondale, but I was certainly riding at a reasonable speed.

I took it to work on Friday as well. Spouse left at the same time on her Rocky Mountain hybrid. I was able to keep up with her (although she wasn’t trying very hard). It was another scorcher on Friday, perfect weather to grab some iced coffee. I prefer to get my iced coffee from Seven Stars because they add the extra little touch of making it with frozen coffee ice cubes. The problem is that it’s a too far from the office for me to get there by foot in coffee-break time, and I don’t like carrying a drink while riding my bike. However, across the street from Seven Stars, there’s small LBS #2, which carries bike cup holders! Check it:

That’s all for now. I’ll write a full review later. Oh, and I bought got a new road bike last week as well. I’m too excited about it to write anything just yet.

The End