Friday, January 13, 2017

Slower In the Cold? Facts and Psychosomatics

It seems like I've had a few conversations lately where cyclists have mentioned off-handedly the notion of being "slower" in the cold. Since I don't experience this phenomenon myself, my gut reaction is to question it, which, in turn is met with insistence that it's a well known fact, complete with Reasonable Explanations.

Here are some popular explanations I've heard:

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Sticky, Squishy Love, Part I: Some Notes on Tubular Tyres

I had no preconceived notions of tubular tyres, until I tried them, for the first time, 6 years ago. A friend in Vienna lent me his track bike thus equipped. I had it for about two weeks and rode it for hours on end around the nearby park and countryside. I do not recall the brand or model of the 23mm tubulars. But the memory of their soft, squishy, very particular ride feel stayed with me for some time and I knew that some day, when the opportunity presented itself, I would have a set of tubular wheels for one of my own bikes.

The opportunity presented itself this summer, when a friend agreed to build me a set of lightweight "vintagey" wheels (this was the prequel to my learning to do it myself). He suggested using tubular rims for the build, and I readily agreed. On riding my bike with the new wheels, I was so ecstatic that my husband grew curious and wanted in on the action. So we built him some tubulars too. And he liked them so much, that he then built another set for his second bike. Long story short... 6 months later and with 3 sets of tubular wheels between us, we feel sufficiently committed to this setup to have now sold off most of our clincher wheels.

Why? Well, I can only speak for myself. And here are some notes on my experience.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Gifts That Make You Go Broke!

Well, it's only early January and already this year is off to an interesting start. The other evening I had a visitor. A neighbour from down the road arrived in his van ...and dropped off half a dozen or so vintage bikes! Most of them were for me to photograph, and he'd be back to collect them later. But two of them I could keep, if I wanted them. Well then!..

Now, if you were to ask me which English 3-speeds are definite musts in my hypothetical dream vintage bike collection, I would say without hesitation that it's a tie between two: the Rudge, with its "hand of Ulster" chainring, and the double-forkbladed Humber. And wouldn't you know it?

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Retrospective Resolutions

Over the holidays I was doing a major house cleaning, which included sorting my clothing. In the process I discovered something unexpected. Most of my current wardrobe - sweaters, dresses, skirts, even socks and hats and gloves - are of my own making. As a rather proficient knitter and a middling but brave sewer, I have always made bits and pieces by hand. But there is a difference between that, and being able to make most of the clothing I need myself. The latter had long been a dream. But some time in 2016 it became a reality. Is there such a thing as a retrospective New Year's resolution? If so, I achieved one of those last year. And to notice this was such an odd feeling - like the opposite of (the more usual) making a resolution and not keeping it. So perhaps keeping a resolution without making it is the way to go?

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Old and New

Visiting the Gap of Mamore a couple of days ago, we intended to photograph the formidable pass in a way we had not had a chance to when transversing it on bicycles earlier this year. But before we reached the mountain road, we made a detour for a tiny hamlet by the beach at Tullagh Bay, having noticed something there that piqued our curiosity.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The (Murphy's) Law of Convergence

Traffic patterns are an interesting thing. And interesting especially to observe on quiet country roads, where each encounter - rare as it is - stands out as an act of vehicular drama.

One curious phenomenon I've noticed, is what my friends and I have come to refer to as the Law of Convergence.

See if you've ever encountered something akin to the following:

It's a quiet day. I am cycling along a lovely, gently winding country road. I have not seen another vehicle for miles.

Along this empty road I pedal and pedal, till I finally notice something ahead: There is a delivery van pulled over on the side of the road in the opposite lane. The road has no shoulder, so the van takes up a good part of the actual traffic lane. Which affects me not at all, since it's the opposite side of the road. I keep riding.

Just then I spot something else up ahead. Another cyclist! I can just make out their figure in the distance, heading toward me in the opposite lane beyond where the van is parked.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Does Your Bicycle Want to Be Named?

I was visiting friends who had given their 5 year old daughter a bicycle for Christmas. They encouraged her to come out and show it off to me and the other guests. Shyly, the girl wheeled it out to the garden. Purple. Princess decals. Streamers. Training wheels. And already splattered with mud - a good sign of use!

"And have you named the wee bike yet?" asked the mother, probably for my benefit. In reply, the girl gave us both a look suggesting her patience for adult displays of stupidity was being thoroughly tested.

"Oh mummy! The bike doesn't want to be named."

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Won't Be Long Now

I am noticing that every year there is more and more attention paid to the Winter Solstice. On the radio this morning they where playing solstice-themed songs. I hadn’t even known they existed. They were also discussing Solstice parties. Some parents called in, to say their kids are being taught about Solstice in kindergarten and primary school, complete will little celebrations. Overall it seems that quite a few people are celebrating Solstice now, either in addition and in leu of religious festivities.  I've received a few cards and emails this year that actually wish me a Happy Solstice, unironically. And I'll be going to a party tonight.

Winter Solstice is an easy occasion to mark. It is obvious and observable, and the buildup to it is trackable. But the notion of celebrating it per se, used to confuse me. The shortest day. The deepest recess of winter. Is that not rather glum? Then it hit me, that what's being celebrated is the turning point. The shortest day is also the end of shortening days. Days will only get longer from here on.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Elusive Finish

Most bicycle builds begin with a vision, a plan, an ideal of what it is the maker wants to accomplish. Then, somewhere along the way, reality intervenes. Unforeseen compatibility issues arise. Certain parts turn out to be unavailable when the bicycle is being assembled. Budgets shrink. Inevitably, compromises are made, and the end result can deviate quite a bit from the original vision.

It was exactly 4 years ago now that I built the frame and fork for this bicycle. And 2 years ago that I first assembled and rode it. In between these two events, I underwent some major life changes, including a move overseas. When I finally got the opportunity to put the bike together, I just didn't have the stamina - or the resources - to care about the details as much as I did back when I was planning the build. On a short visit to Boston, I dragged the frame, fork, and a burlap sac full of spare parts, to a friend's house. Mumbling "doesn't matter, let's just get it ridable," we used whatever compatible parts were on hand.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Winter Animal

Ah winter, with its fabled gift of rosy complexions! Alas to me it has been overly generous. I am one of those people whose face turns a deep beetroot red after time outdoors in cold weather. Not awash with a flattering pink glow. Not charmingly rosy-cheeked. I am talking blotchy all over coverage. It's the kind of pigmentation that has prompted people to ask "did you run a marathon to get here?" even if I hardly exerted myself. And it's the reason I try to allow myself a 10 minute "cool down" between reaching my destination by bike and entering any kind of professional environment (the facial equivalent of waiting for sweat stains to dry?).