Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

09 December 2016

What Have We Here? I'm Starting To Find Out

I haven't started to work on my estate-sale find yet.  I have, however begun to rummage through some components I have on hand and order a buy a few things (small parts) I need.

I did, however, begin to do a little research.  According to the serial number on the frame, and the information I found on the Vintage Trek website, my bike is probably a 1982 model.  The serial number pattern fits in with 400 series bikes made from 1980 to 1982, but the presence of a color band on the seat tube points to 1982.  On the other hand, the 412 pictured in the 1982 brochure has brazed-on brake cable guides and water bottle bosses, which my bike does not have.  Perhaps it's a 1981.5 model:  According to the VT website, the highest-priced Treks (Pro and 900 series), started to come with such bands in 1981. (The white bikes with blue panels are particularly nice, to my eye.) That feature "trickled down" to the 700 series bikes in the middle of that year (1981.5).  The 1982 brochures show 500 and 400 series models with it but, according to the website, some of those models came with color bands in late 1981.  

(Mercians, at least those made after 1970, are easier to track:  I had no trouble finding out Vera was made in 1994, as her original owner told me.  And, of course, I know that Arielle, Tosca and Helene are from 2006, 2007 and 2010, resepctively, because I had them custom-made in those years.

OK, so now I know the bike's origins, more or less.  Now I'm starting to learn a bit about the bike's quirks, aside from the ones I've already mentioned.  Actually, it's not a terribly quirky bike, from what I can see:  Threadings and other dimensions are standard, and in design it's much like other bikes of its type made around the same time, though perhaps somewhat better.

One quirk I found is in the componentry:  specifically, the Sakae crankset.  I know that some cranksets of that time were made with the 110 BCD chainring pattern, which is common today--and of which I have a few chainrings on hand.  I was hoping that the SR crankset--which looks rather nice--shared it.

Alas!  If you ever wonder what difference a few millimeters can make, you can see it here.  The black ring that I superimposed on the crank is a 110 made by Stronglight; the rings on the crankset have a slightly bigger bolt circle.  From the measurements I made, and Sheldon Brown's "crib sheet", it seems that the crank has the now-obsolete 118 BCD.  That means, of course, that I could find replacement chainrings only through swap meets and,  with luck, on eBay.

(My surprise is, I'm sure, mild compared to the frustration an owner of a Nervar Star crankset might feel:  Its 128 BCD, as close as it is to the 130 BCD of modern road racing cranks, still precludes interchangeability!) 

The rings on the bike don't seem to have much wear, so I think I'll keep them on for now:  They, and the crankset, look pretty nice.  (From what I can see, the arms are forged.)  The 52 tooth outer ring, standard for the era when the bike was made, is bigger than anything I ride now.  On the other hand, I am using 12 tooth rear cogs with my 46 and 48 tooth chainrings  (and a 17 with the 47 tooth ring on Tosca, my Mercian fixed gear):  something that didn't exist at the time the bike was made.  Then, most cyclists rode with freewheels on which the smallest cog had 14 teeth, which is what orignally came with the bike; racers sometimes used 13 tooth cogs.  If I use a freewheel with a 14 tooth cog, my highest gear will still be slightly lower than those of Arielle, Helene and Vera, my geared Mercians.  (Arielle, the road bike, has 48X12, while Helene and Vera have 46X12.)

One thing I have to say about the crank:  The bottom bracket--which, I believe, is the original--turns very smoothly.  I think someone recently overhauled it; still, I might take it apart if, for no other reason, to be sure that it has an intact protector sleeve.

Speaking of smooth bearings:  The headset feels good, but I might clean it anyway, just because I don't know when I'll do it again.  And I have a rear hub that I'm thinking of using.  The Phil that came with the bike is great, but it's 48 hole, and the rim it's laced to is 27 inches--which I'm not going to use, since I don't have a 27 inch front (The one that came with the bike wasn't salvageable.) rim, wheel or tire, and don't want to buy new ones.  The hub I have is pretty nice, though not quite as good as the Phil.

This is going to be an interesting project.  I'll probably start working on it in a couple of weeks, after classes have ended.

08 December 2016

What Is A Cyclist's Life Worth? $700 (CDN)? Six Months' Probation?

Yesterday, there appeared in The Globe And Mail an excellent editorial by Toronto-based writer Naomi Buck.  She started with what sounded (to most of her neighbors to the south, anyway) like good news:  a woman who drove a van that struck a pedestrian who was standing on a Toronto sidewalk was convicted of "careless driving".  For that, she got a fine of $1000 and six months' probation.

Had the driver done such a thing here in the States, it's unlikely that she would have been burdened with such a hefty fine or lengthy sentence.  To her credit, she took it upon herself to appear in court:  something that, under Ontario law, is not required of someone so charged.  In most such cases, according to Ms. Buck, the defendant chooses not to appear, leaving the victims' loved ones to read their heartbreaking words to a legal agent rather than the one who took their friend's, sibling's, spouse's, parent's or child's life.   

Had the driver--one Elizabeth Taylor--had her charge upgraded to "dangerous driving", she could have received a ten-year prison sentence if the incident causes bodily harm, and 14 years if it results in death.  However, Patrick Brown, a lawyer who has handled hundreds of cases in which pedestrians or cyclists were killed or critically injured, it's very difficult, at least in an Ontario court, to make a case for "dangerous" driving unless it was a hit-and-run incident or alcohol was involved.

From the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency archives.

Still, Ms. Taylor incurred more severe penalties than most drivers who run down cyclists or pedestrians, according to Mr. Brown.  "I actually think most pedestrian cases get dropped entirely," he said.  Three recent cases he litigated involving cyclist fatalities resulted in the drivers being charged with "careless driving" or lesser offenses, and in being fined $700, $600 and $85(!) respectively.

Even those penalties, however, are more than most drivers in the US can expect if they run down cyclists or pedestrians.  Still, the families and friends of cyclists and pedestrians killed by motorists in Toronto have to bear the same burdens as their peers in Montreal, Vancouver, Boston, New York, San Francisco, London, Paris and any number of other cities in this world one can name. 

Their feelings were aptly expressed by the 8-year-old son of Erica Stark, the pedestrian killed by the van Elizabeth Taylor drove.  "I'm mad at the driver," he wrote in a victim impact statement, which his father read in court.

"In a few years, he'll probably be mad at the justice system," Naomi Buck speculates.  "Who could blame him?"

07 December 2016

Riding On Paths Through History

During my first European bike tour, I pedaled along la Cote Opale:  the French shore of the English Channel.  It was difficult not to think about all of the wars that ravaged Calais, from Edward III's siege in 1347 to the Nazi invasion of 1940.   But even when I wended along the coast through more bucolic towns like Montreuil-sur-Mer and villages like Neufchatel-Hardelot, it was difficult not to remember that, as the sea lapped on their shores, blood once ran through their streets and mortar shells strafed the air where breezes flickered leaves and flowers.

I got to thinking about that today, on the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  I have never been to Hawaii, but I can only imagine what I might feel if I were to ride the Pearl Harbor Bike Path--especially if I were to see this:

Actually, there are sights other than those mothballed warships along the path.  From what I've read, though, it's far from the most scenic bike route on the islands, even if parts of it look pleasant: