Friday, December 12, 2014

diy cheapskate bikes - it's a thing

In a fit of rebellious pique, I went ahead and created a new Flickr group.

For everyone who loves the aesthetic of bikes like Rivendell, Alex Singer, Pereira and the like, but who could never afford one in a zillion years -- or whose sensibility is offended by the cost of such bikes -- DIY Cheapskate Bikes is for you.

Have you found a bike on the super-cheap and applied component and design choices to it, to make a cheap bike that rides like a dream without burning a hole in your wallet? Share it with the group here:

The guidelines are simple and all spelled out at the group.

I was inspired to create the group by a fellow on FB who found a super-cheap department-store mountain bike and who turned it into a smooth-riding  roadie country bike with some thoughtful -- and affordable -- parts upgrades. He reports the bike rides beautifully, like no other road bike he's ever tried.  That, and my own efforts to build up an affordable light touring bike that fit me without requiring contortions of either body or wallet, led me to wonder what else people have come up with in this vein.

So check it out, and if you have done this sort of thing, follow the guidelines and share some photos of your DIY solutions. Think of it as something bikey to do when the weather turns really, truly foul.

Happy riding.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

on practicing contentment

Contentment is something one generally needs to practice in this world.

Let's face it. Unless you live in a yet-to-develop country and sleep on a dirt floor and cook your just-killed food over an outdoor fire, you are being tempted by modern life all the time.
So am I.
I admit it.

We are taught every day to want more stuff. It's not accidental. It's what keeps the wheel of commerce spinning and props up our consumer-based economy.

Today, over on eBay, there's an auction for a vintage mountain bike that I would really like to own. In fact, it would be a replacement for a frame I once had, and sold because it was too big for me.

Here's the bike I once had, a retro-fitted Peugeot Orient Express from the mid-80's:

It was a great bike. But its 21" frame was just too large for me to ride comfortably, even with raised-up handlebars. In the end, I stripped off the useable parts and sold the frame to Citybikes. A couple years later, I was shocked to see the same frame, rebuilt and being ridden by a new owner, and hanging on a hook at the end of a light-rail car. I felt that pang of longing as I looked at the rebuilt bike.

Today's offering on eBay:

This one is, according to the seller, completely original. It has not been ridden terribly much, and he's selling it for a reasonable price.

If money were no object I'd be all over it. It's the bike I've missed, and the frame is the right [smaller] size for me.

However, we don't exactly have money to burn these days and I need to plan carefully. So I decided to take a different tack.

Today, I'm going to be grateful for the bikes I do have, and I will ride one of them later on, and I will practice the art of contentment. How do I do that? Well, I have no real training in this, but here's what I figured out. I can ficus on some simple facts and hopefully they will help me remember my blessings.

I live in a warm, dry house with two cats and my Sweetie.
I enjoy reasonably good health.
I get to do meaningful work -- I could stand to do a little more, but that's okay.
We have enough money each month that our bills are paid and there's food in the cupboard.
We don't have tons more than that, but we have that and that is a lot right there.
And best of all, we have family and friends and a community of good people to be part of.
So on the whole, life is pretty damned good these days.
And I already have a bike to ride, a nice one that fits me comfortably.
So life is actually very good today. Maybe even stellar.

I will let this bike go. Someone else will buy it and hopefully enjoy it.
And I will ride my bike and practice contentment.
I won't even apologize that this post does nothing to help the economy.
I'm not sorry about that at all.
It's raining and about 50F, and not a bad day to take a little spin. So I'm going to go do that.

Happy riding, wherever you are.

Monday, December 8, 2014

i love it when people get me

I submitted a resume for a staff educator position at a summer camp back east.
What was nice was that they found me through a Jewish music network, and reached out to me asking for a resume. They liked what they saw, and today i had a skype interview with one of their staff.

Best moment: "We like your car-free lifestyle. We could totally set you up with a loaner bicycle for the summer to ride around the campus; and the nearest town is only five miles away so you could go there on your days off, too."

I love it when people get me.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

winter biking begins

Yesterday, i rode for the first time in over a week. It was slow, cold going and in the end I shortened my trip with the help of transit. I was tird, vulnteble and feeling tossed around by a cold east wind that grew stronger as the afternoon turned to evening. I had an accupincture appointment in the evening that really helped move things throu, but left me feeling deeted enough to toss my bike on the bus for all but the last mile home. A hot bath and an early bedtime were in order.

This morning, I awoke feeling better-rested. I had appointments downtown and went multi-modal, riding across the Broadway Bridge in low, bright winter sunshine. It was warmer today than yesterday, and I was surprised to feel energy in my legs after the draining evening I'd had. I enjoyed feeling lighter and more energetic, and part of things on the street again as other riders passed me.

I didn't mind being passed. I no longer worry about such things when I ride. I am slower than I used to be, and I was never really very fast anyway. It's all good. I was just happy to be out on my bike today, and it felt good. As the winter goes on it won't always be so light and easy. But today it was, and I'm glad.

Friday, November 28, 2014

i miss biking

I have spent is entire Thanksgiving week at my in-laws' home in Northern California, visiting with my partner's family. Her parents are elderly; her older brother has spent the week in bed with a cold he caught on his second day here (they got here two days earlier than we did); and their 5th-grrader daightter has been by turns bored, surly, demanding and lonely for peer company (she is an only child of older parents, and my partner and I are childless). There have been walks into town each day, a Thanksgiving meal shared with everyone, and a trip on Thanksgiving morning to deliver meals to the homebound in the community (done by car, of course; there were over twen meals to deliver).

I have not ridden a bicycle since last Saturday. And I am heere until Sunday. This will be an entire week off the bike. Amd I really don't like it one bit. Not riding has made me bored, listless, and a little grumpy. I cannot wait to get home and pull out a bicycle on Monday morning.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

ebay laugh-of-the-month: Ross headbadge

Surfing the interwebs today, I found this:

Someone on ebay is selling this headbadge right now for a price of $22.00.

Realize that the three-speed bike it was originally attached to was sold new at a hardware store and probably sold for under a hundred bucks back in the day.

Makes me ponder the wisdom of decorating my shed with all the headbadges I saved from all the dead frames I'd dismantled over the years.

Okay. Done pondering. We now return you to your scheduled bicycle obsession.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

race report: Gateway Green Community CX

Gateway green Community CX was a demonstration event designed to showcase what might be possible as Gateway Green is developed into a bike-friendly city park. Friends of Gateway Green are raising money to help pay the costs of the first phase of development. They got permission from the city to hold this event only about a month ago, and scrambled to get everything in place: course design, volunteers, sponsors, and a raffle.

All told, for a grass-roots cyclocross event, it was a lot of fun. Sparse attendance was probably mostly due to both the short notice for the event and the fact that it was pretty cold today (lows in the upper 20s, high around 40F). Muddy ruts made during the course design phase yesterday had frozen solid overnight, and did not thaw completely until the last race of the day. Due to current space limitations at the undeveloped greenspace, the course itself was rather short for a 'cross course -- they're usually around 2 miles long, and I'm not sure this one was even a full mile long. But what it lacked in length was more than made up for in some of the challenges: the long run-up was even longer and taller than the legendary run-up at barton park; and there was no gravel on which to gain a foothold. The entire length was slick, semi-frozen grass punctuated by thorns and brambles that had not been pulled from the course. Follwing that was a switchback that led to a slightly off-camber downhill that was slick with peanut-butter type mud; the key here was simply to watch your speed, let go of the brakes and coast down. This turned out to be the most fun part of the course for me.

The final part of the course, was a series of small berms, short-track style, through some trees and increasingly steeper and harder to ascend; the last berm required a lot of speed or you simply would not get up it all the way -- and if you didn't make it all the way up you could easily fall backwards and down the berm again, which I did twice.

I raced at noon, which was pretty ideal in terms of temperature and mud; most women completed 10 or more laps. I was on pace to finish 6 but had to stop halfway through my race for an urgent call from mother nature, which meant giving up a lap in the process. Because this was an unsanctioned, demonstration event, my re-entry into the race was no problem. If this had been an OBRA-sanctioned, competitive event and i had baled like that, I would've been listed as DNF and not allowed to hop back on the course to finish. I was glad for the unsanctioned component; it took a lot of pressure off and let me simply enjoy myself and the thrill of riding in the mud again, something I realized I'd missed.

It was nice to reconnect with old teammates and friends who were glad to see me back on my race bike. Still, My cough all the way home reinforced why I had felt it necessary to walk away from racing cyclocross. I am home now, drinking hot tea and hoping the itch in my throat will stop after a good night's sleep. I'm not scheduled to sing anywhere professionally for a little while, but I do need to take care of my voice.

I took some photos when I wasn't racing myself, mostly Singlespeed with a few shots from Mens' B and C:

All in all, a lovely, fun day. Taking nothing away from OBRA, of course; but sometimes the pressure to race and ignore one's physical issues makes it hard for me to enjoy the sport. Given the chance to do more unsanctioned races, I would absolutely sign up.