Musings on Bicycling and Buddhism

Friday, September 30, 2011

Charlie's sending you a postcard

Hello My name is Charlie and I am a blue bicycle.  I'd like to send you this postcard from my trip:

My human, Jessie, who normally writes this thing, had a birthday last week.  I'd just like to say my birthday is June 2nd, and I'm a gemini. My human is a libra - we get along pretty well.  Jessie finally got me a new wheel like she said she would, but a little later than she said she would, but all in all I'm pretty fit as a fiddle now.

So for her human-type birthday, rather than getting new parts like I did, we went on an adventure.  We went with my new pal Oscar and his human Ryan.  Now Oscar is green and tall.  He is named after this Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street, who - I hear - is grumpy and mean, but then I don't watch much tv so that's just hearsay really.... but he really is a very nice bicycle - kind of a bit of a misnomer if you ask me.  He is taller than me and he is also a single speed.  I think he has some track bike in his heritage....

So we took a train, this large, loud thing that humans ride on rails, away from Boston to a place called Manchester-by-the-Sea. There were boats there. And then we went adventuring...

We stopped to get ice cream....

Oscar got pumpkin flavored.  Oscar really likes pumpkins.  I got the non-dairy lemon kind, because my human and I run on vegetables.  Even though it's Oscar who is green like vegetables.  

Anyway, we went up and over hills, and by the sea and through some town called Gloucester, past big houses and small houses.  There were other bicycles too! 

We went all the way to Rockport.  There are a lot of rocks there.  Sometimes humans lack subtlety.  It was scenic and touristy and the sun came out.  That way I don't have to worry about rust so much.

We saw the ocean!  

The humans took many pictures of us because we are just so pretty.  And the sunset was pretty too.

Then we took the train home to Somerville.  We were a little tired from all those hills, it's tough having just one gear sometimes.

I'll send you another postcard next time!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Birthday adventures....

View from Gloucester Harbor on my birthday, last Saturday.... fun bicycle adventures!  Will actually write about this once I get the better pictures and not just the smartphone pictures up and ready to go....


In the BBC show Doctor Who, in the revamp that began in 2005- the Doctor does through a somewhat difficult regeneration at the start of the episode The Christmas Invasion.  It makes him essentially sit out most of the episode, but once he comes to- the glorious words of Russel T. Davies come rolling off the tongue of David Tennant in a great performance of a stream of introspection:

Sycorax Leader: [shouts] I demand to know who you are!
The Doctor: [shouts, imitating him] I don't know!
The Doctor: See, there's the thing. I'm the Doctor, but beyond that, I - I just don't know. I literally do not know who I am. It's all untested. Am I funny? Am I sarcastic? Sexy?
[he winks at Rose]
The Doctor: Am I an old misery? Life and soul? Right-handed? Left-handed? A gambler? A fighter? A coward? A traitor, a liar, a nervous wreck? I mean, judging by the evidence, I've certainly got a gob.

You see, every time the Doctor regenerates he changes his physical form but he is the same "man" with the same memories, but his personality needs a little breaking in every time.... and in this scene he's so new, he's untested, he doesn't quite know who he is yet...

...and Charlie has recently had his own regeneration.  There's a little change up in here:

He has a shiny new rear wheel, that's true. He has a new chain, that is also true.  But what's really new and exciting for Charlie is the flipflop hub (by Orion) on this new rear wheel.  Fixed gear on one side.  Freewheel on the other.  Right now, as in the picture, he's set up fixed gear. (But he could go freewheel with a quick flip of the wheel!)

Charlie has regenerated as a fixie.  And we don't know exactly what sort of man that will make him- yet.  He also has rear caliper brakes by Shimano now instead of the ol' coaster brake*. Thank you Cambridge Bicycle for once again being awesome, and also for doing this all in one day so I didn't have to be without Charlie any longer than necessary.

Riding the fixed gear situation feels like learning to ride all over again.  Riding is physically challenging now, I'm actually tired/sore!  Getting stronger!  Running a 42/16 gearing situation at the moment, but I'm only just understanding what that means.  Pedaling constantly is taking a little getting used to.  Picking up the toe clips (pedal baskets) whilst pedaling is awkward. (Charlie says, "You wanna coast, bwahahaha no more coasting for you, you lazy old bum!")  Pedaling to stop is fun, even that is a workout.  It's making me more mindful of my posture.  I could go on and on... stay tuned while I write about trying to figure out how to do a track stand!

*Whatever happened to the coaster brake and the old wheel?
The old wheel decided that more than 3,500 thousand miles was long enough for that hub.  And goodness did I get the money's worth out of that hub. (But wait! you say, Charlie has gone more than five thousand miles!  Yes, but remember last November when the hub was replaced, so less the 5 thousand, but still from the spare parts pile...) The symptoms: As I would pedal the resistance would be normal, then all of a sudden it would drop to nothing, feeling almost as if I had downshifted to a lower gear, but there is no other gear, not on a single speed.  Then the resistance would increase, then return to normal.  It made pedaling erratic at best and kept hurting my knees.  The rear hub overhaul from a couple of weeks ago did temporarily relieve the symptoms but after this weekend's bicycling excursions on Cape Anne (more on that to come) it returned with a vengeance.    So rather than play the-let's-fiddle-with-each-part-of-the-hub's-innards-until-we-figure-out-what-it-is, it was time for a new wheel before winter.

Monday, September 19, 2011

To fall down at your door


This song is called "I'm Gonna Be (500 miles)", and it's by The Proclaimers, it first appeared on the soundtrack to the movie Benny and June (1993).  The man in the song would walk and walk to show his devotion to his love.  He would prove himself in the effort, and push beyond limitations to collapse in the doorway of his destination, giving it his all.... it's a noble sort of image.

Charlie has been this sort of bicycle.  He keeps going and going (even when things break).  Not bad for a bike rescued from a dumpster, eh?

Well Charlie has now outdone The Proclaimers and exceeded five thousand miles.

Here's to ten thousand!  Keep rolling young man!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Buttercups and Caramel

Charlie has had a rear hub overhaul and now he's rolling as smooth as butter...
...thanks once again Cambridge Bicycle!

We approach the 5,000 mile mark, should be passing it on Saturday!  More to come...

Friday, September 9, 2011

Butch Cassidy

and the Sundance Bicycle?  What goes through the mind of a person who spends too much time thinking about bicycles...

In the classic film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) with the ever wonderful Paul Newman and Robert Redford, there is, besides shoot outs and daredevil horseback riding, a bicycle scene.  Most of the attention it gets derives from Catherine Ross as Etta Place being perched on the handlebars of the bicycle... but that is not my reason for writing this.

There are a number of people who are very dear to me who love to point out historical inaccuracies in films. And so I endeavored to discover how accurate is this bicycle?  And so a casual observer deduction follows...

As near as a I can figure from the literature, this film is supposed to take place in the late 1890s. So should this bicycle have a fixed cog (as most all early, rear-drive train bicycles did)?  When watching as Paul Newman does his own bicycle stunts! One would of course notice this bicycle has a freewheel (he doesn't have to pedal constantly).  When were freewheels invented?  As best as I can ascertain, the early 1890s.  How quickly did the freewheel spread to the Americas?  Quite quickly (according to some vague statements on Wikipedia and not very thorough sources)... and backward pedal brakes followed shortly after.  (Caliper brakes came years later.)  The bicycle in the film has the proper sort of geometry for the time, to my amateur eye.  It has no handlebar brakes.  Even the saddle looks like the nightmarish contraptions that passed for a saddle back in the day.  As far as I can tell, set design person and prop master: job well done!

Where did this post come from??  The seed of an idea: There was a well known screen writer doing an event at my place of employment this week.  He asked me on one of the rainy mornings earlier this week what made me laugh or smile that day?  I told him about riding my bicycle in the pouring rain in my father's old blue raincoat and feeling, in general, like a blue whale due to all the gear (and of course, Charlie is blue too).  And laughing at myself.  He said that would make an excellent scene in a film, and then proceeded to regale me with a tale of an interview he did with Paul Newman, specifically about this scene.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Room for Improvement

Dear Mr. Tractor Trailer Truck Driver,

While I understand very well that your esteemed colleagues and yourself drive long hours to the farthest reaches of the country at ungodly hours in even the worst weather, under a deadline, and that most of us would not have access to almost all of the things we take for granted every day without you; really no matter where you are in this fine country, and as far as I know, everywhere else- a red light means stop.  And while I understand that I am, on this bicycle or not, always much smaller than you, that does not change the fact that the red light still means stop.  You probably spend more hours on the road than most, I would imagine you would know this very well.

Now we cyclists, as diverse a bunch as we are, get a bad wrap as folks to run lights, stop signs; cut off pedestrians, cars, kitties crossing the street, well- you get the idea...  Anyway even though my bicycle has no engine and only two wheels to your eighteen- as far as the law is concerned I have just as much right to the roads as you do.  And just as much responsibility to obey traffic laws.

This morning when I came to the Boston end of the Mass Ave Bridge to the light with Beacon Street and the light was red, I stopped.  You did not elect to make that decision.  Several seconds after I stopped, on the stop line too! mind you... Here you come and slow down enough to stop, but do you stop? No...  first you bump into me with your front right wheel casing and then begin your right turn, and due to the lovely turn radius of a trailer then hit me with your trailer as you turn.  Perhaps I now come off as daft or insane?  Yes, it is legal to make a right on red in Massachusetts, don't get me wrong; but into oncoming traffic, cutting of cars that have the right of way? Really?  I did get off my bicycle and got out of your way and I wonder if you heard me yell: "Thanks for stopping at the red light!" at the top of my lungs, probably not considering the rain...

Today you have done your profession a disservice.  Growing up with a father who was a mechanic, he worked almost exclusively on big rigs, in my youth I always had an awe of big rig drivers.  As a job in high school I worked at a car garage.  These same guys were some of the most considerate folks who came in. Having been aided by truckers when in stranded automobiles my esteem was not diminished.  But today when you almost took my life my consideration vanished.

My point is that I should not have to wonder if I'm going to be run off the road or run over when I act under my legal obligation to stop at a red light.  Really it's not that complicated.

So the next time you see a bicycle start through a light a little early, it may not be some lazy jerkface- maybe it's a person with a burning desire to live, trying to preserve their own existence.

These worlds do not have to be at odds.  They do not have to be mutually exclusive.  My father worked on big rigs, but he also built bicycles and rode them with great enthusiasm.  He may not be alive now to comment for himself, but treading on another human being this way is never okay.

Signed the feisty girl on the blue bicycle who likes vegetables and takes on buses daily, and now tractor trailer trucks... apparently

Friday, September 2, 2011

Charlie's Summer Vacation

Charlie would like to share some pictures various humans have taken on various adventures this summer, some feature other friendly bicycles:

This is from a trip to visit Mint in Charlestown. I, and this is Charlie by the way, had never been to Charlestown before, but I got to go past the USS Constitution, Old Ironsides! I'd like to go on a boat soon...

This is Betsy. She is my cousin. Well, she's my human, Jessie's cousin Watson's bicycle. She has a beautiful Raleigh mixte frame. I'm not sure how old she is, and you never ask a lady her age.

Sometimes we go to visit her by the coffeeshop in Inman Square when Watson is there. Here we are!

We also spent a lot of time with Jenny this summer. She did not know how to ride a bike so we spent time with her and Victor, Victor Junior, Victor the 2nd, (all from Cambridge Bicycle's rental fleet)- learning how to ride!

Jenny is a prodigy and was riding under her own power in about 2 and a half hours on the first day. Other training adventures included Memorial Drive on a Sunday when they close it to cars, Bicycles win!! And these are from our Minuteman Bikeway trip, all the way to Arlington Center! Not bad for your third time on a bike Ms. Jenny!

Here are some photos from that trip:
Here we are in Arlington Center! Time for humans to get iced tea!

This is Jenny and Victor by Spy Pond, we all went bird watching. Also it is very important to watch out for small humans, children I think they are called, they do not keep consistent vectors or trajectories....
And here is Jessie, hoisting me into the air. I'm still not quite sure why humans do this with us but it sure is fun! Wheeeee!

And this is a car that I'm friends with. I don't have a lot of friends that are cars but sometimes I meet this one places. It belongs to Jessie's boss, Jennifer.

Looking forward to more adventures!


The countdown is on, this was bound to happen eventually and now it approaches- we are nigh onto 5,000 miles!

On this day last year I was in the scramble to complete a goal of:

Goal: 2,200 miles by 9.24.10
Miles ridden to date: 851
Miles left to goal: 1,349
Days left: 23

Now I'm clocking in at ~4,849 miles since Charlie and I have been together, meaning we've gone about four thousand miles in the past 365 some odd days. (I haven't calculated a standard deviation and my calculations are based on Googlemapping where I ride every week (not sure what their margin for error is), perhaps I should get one of these? )

Looking back: Those first months as a bicycle commuter were tough ones. Not only in the physical aspect but also in how much I had to learn about bicycles, what to pay attention to, what tools to carry, etc. I still have so much to learn, but it is a rather exciting thought, indeed.

The present: Charlie's back wheel started to wobble a bit, but rather than waiting until the popcorn sound returned we stopped by the shop. And once again they were wonderful (thank you! thank you!), coaster break was tightened, headset needed a little help in that department too, and we're off!

Looking forward: It'll be time for another tune-up soon (it's been that many miles already?!), before winter. The front tyre is looking like it may need to be retired. I've pulled hunks of glass out of that Gatorskin enough times now (hurray for kevlar!) that it's starting to show... And we will be revisiting the flip flop hub situation... more to come with that in time.

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Tour de What You Will by Jessie Calkins is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License