Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

23 October 2016

The Ride I Missed, And The One I Did

I should know better than to make plans to go on a big organized ride.

I kinda sorta promised someone else I would go on the Tour de Bronx.  We hadn't made plans to meet up, but I told this person I was going on the ride.  

A few years ago, I did TdB and enjoyed it.  Other riders remarked about some of the places the Tour visited:  the Maritime Academy, the waterfall, parks full of cliffs, the Riverdale streets that look more like they belong in Princeton than in the Bronx--or the Bronx that many people envision, anyway.  And the hills.  More than one rider expressed surprise that there were so many--and that there was so much of interest to see in the borough.

Today, though, I woke up later than I planned.  And a semi-emergency came up.  As a result, I got on the road about three hours later than I'd planned.  Worst of all, I rode to the starting point of previous Tours de Bronx, near Yankee Stadium--forgetting that this year's starting point was near the Botanical Gardens, about five kilometers away.

Now you know why I never pre-register--or, most important, pay the registration fee in advance--for such rides!

So, instead, I took my own ride into the upper reaches of the Bronx and Westchester County.  How could I not?  The wind, which blew steadily at about 30 KPH and gusted to 60, was somewhat softened, for me anyway, by the clear skies, sunshine and foliage:

I took Vera, for no particular reason.  Actually, I think I knew, deep down, that this day's colors would become her:

Everything seemed to be dressed in such colors today, even the park benches:

Those were found in Fordham Park, next to the namesake university.  The foliage graced a park in Scarsdale, though such colors were everywhere.  

Interestingly, the most traffic-free part of my ride came after I crossed the Randall's Island Connector to the southern tip of the Bronx. There, the factories were idle and warehouses closed, so there were no trucks plying Walnut and Oak Avenues, or the numbered streets in the 130s and 140s.  There wasn't even much traffic entering or exiting the Bruckner Expressway.  

On the other hand, I encountered surprising numbers of cars and SUVs along some of the tree- and mansion-lined streets of Scarsdale, Tuckahoe and the western section of New Rochelle.  I guess a lot of people decided today was a perfect day for a Sunday ride.  Thankfully, I didn't encounter any hostile drivers.

Perhaps this man talked to them:

Until a year or so ago, the sign for this street--in the South Bronx--didn't have a tilde (squiggle) over the "n" or an accent on the "e".  So, people who don't speak Spanish referred to the street as "Louie 9".  It reminds me of the Montreal Metro station and Boulevard named Pie (with an accent grave on the "e") IX, for the longest-reigning Pope in the history of the Roman Catholic Church. Anglophones in the city often call it, with amusement, "Pie Nine".  

For the record, Louis Nine served 13 years in the New York State Assembly and is remembered for his battles--sometimes victorious, sometimes not--to obtain housing for low-and middle-income families and families with handicapped children, as well as employment opportunities for young people and members of minority groups.  

I saw Louie 9 near the beginning and end of my ride--and the fall colors in between.  Maybe next year I'll do the Tour de Bronx again.

Note:  Once again, I apologize for the quality of these images. I took them with my cell phone, and could not prevent the glare you see in some of them.  

22 October 2016

Arielle Is Ten; Tomorrow Tosca Turns Nine

Today marks an anniversary for me.

No, I am not secretly married in some other state or country.  And I am not talking about the beginning of some business venture, sobriety or any other milestone people mark in their lives.  

Actually, today is a milestone, for me anyway.  You see, ten years ago on this date, I got my first.  And you know what they say:  There's nothing like the first.

If you've been following this blog, you may have guessed what I am talking about:  my Mercians.

Yes, on 22 October 2006, I picked up Arielle--my custom Mercian Audax--from Bicycle Habitat in Soho.  My first ride with her took me through streets in the neighborhood, in the East and West Villages and other parts of lower Manhattan.  

You could say I fell in love.  Actually, that happened before I got the bike:  Hal Ruzal, the Mercian Maven at Habitat, let me ride one of his bikes.  And he seemed to understand what I wanted:  something responsive, but not necessarily a racing bike.  Something comfortable, but definitely not a fully-loaded touring bike, let alone a mountain bike or hybrid.  

Also, I wanted something beautiful.

He recommended getting a custom (my top tube is shorter than is typically found on bikes of my size) version of the Audax, a bike made, as he said, "for centuries and day rides."  And, as he pointed out, the horizontal dropouts with adjustment screws would allow me to shorten or elongate the wheelbase a bit, allowing a faster or cushier bike.

On that first ride, I could see that I had the best of both worlds.  I felt as if I were on a magic carpet that could dodge and outrun the taxis (yes, even New York taxis!) or anything else on the road.  The couple of times I stopped for traffic lights, strangers complimented my new steed.

I knew then, to paraphrase one of the most famous movies of all time, that my ride that day was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

Today, ten years later, I've owned and ridden Arielle for longer than all except one bike I've ever owned.  And she's been in my life for longer than any lover (or my former spouse) and all except a handful of friends (and two cats) were.  She's also been with me for longer than I've stayed on any job or lived in any one place.  

Plus, she's led to some other beautiful relationships.  One year and one day later, I wheeled Tosca, my Mercian fixed-gear out of Habitat.  Helene, my first Miss Mercian followed almost three years later.  Another year later, I found Vera, my green Mercian mixte, on eBay.  

I've enjoyed many rides with them.  Some of them are on this blog.  They've all been great, beginning with the first, ten years ago--already!--today.

21 October 2016

HP-Turbo: A "Lost" Brake From Weinmann?

If you bought a new ten-speed bike of better-than-marginal quality during the '70's Bike Boom, there's a good chance that it came with Weinmann brakes and/or rims.

Most made-in-Chicago Schwinn bikes had one or both until about the mid-1980s.  So did many European bikes, if they didn't have Mafac brakes or Rigida rims.

Nobody ever got really excited about most Weinmann products:  They weren't flashy, but they usually did their jobs and their prices were reasonable.  The best example of this was their "Vainqueur" center-pull brake, which came on everything from the Schwinn Paramount (the touring model) and Raleigh International to the Schwinn Continental and Raleigh Grand Prix.  It was even found on some bikes from French constructeurs and English bespoke builders, who would attach the brakes to brazed-on bosses.

Probably the one product the company produced that was noticeably different from its competitors was their concave rim.  It unique shape was said to give it superior strength to other rims.  I don't know whether the shape had anything to do with it, but I know (because I used to commute on a pair) it was strong--and noticeably heavier than other alloy rims.

In the late 1970s, Weinmann tried to modernize its offerings.  That is when they brought out the concave rim.  Around that time, they also introduced their "Carrera" brake, meant to compete with Campagnolo.  The quality was excellent and the finish beautiful.  However, it lacked the flats on the center bolt that allowed the brakes to be centered with a hub cone wrench (a nice Campy feature adopted by other brake-makers). Their quick-release device, apart from its finish, was no different from the one on the less expensive models. It had only "open" and "closed" position, while Campy's could be opened or closed partway.  

Another attempt to appeal to appeal to the ultra-high-performance (or simply rich and fashionable) market resulted in their version of the "Delta" brake--which, as "Retrogrouch" and others have suggested, may have been made for them by Modolo.  I never used Weinmann's or Campagnolo's Delta brakes, so I won't argue about the effectiveness, or lack thereof, some users claimed. There is no denying, however, that Campy's version may well be the most beautiful brake ever made.  Weinmann's had a more high-tech (for the time, anyway) look, and was available in black as well as silver.

A few years later, Weinmann came up with another interesting and unique brake:

The HP-Turbo was introduced in 1984.   I could find little information about it, so I don't know how long it was produced.  I also couldn't find testimony from users, so I have no idea of how effective, or not, it may have been.

From what I can see, it's a centerpull brake with the straddle wire coiled around cams to which the brake shoes are attached.  I am guessing that the cams push those shoes into the rims, and that the arrangement is intended to somehow magnify braking power or modulation by increasing the mechanical advantage.

As I said, I am only guessing:  I may have been a mechanic, but I have never been a mechanical engineer.  For all I know, the brake might have been a revolutionary idea for which the cycling public wasn't ready.  Or, perhaps, some people tried it and found that it was complicated and, perhaps, the cams or other parts of the mechanism clogged with dirt or gunked up with grease. (They don't look very well-protected.)  Maybe it cost as much as good sidepull brakes, which came on about 90 percent of new bikes at that time) or cantilevers, which came on most of the rest of new bikes.   Or people thought it was just too ugly to put on their nice bikes.

Whatever its fate, I am curious about it.