Tuesday, April 3, 2018

dear minneapolis (a love note)

Dear Minneapolis: Fine. You win. You're all the baddest-assed bike riders in April because there's ten feet of snow on the ground and you're out riding in it with spiked tires and heating up beer and venison over a camp stove at the park or whatever.
But if you come visit me here and I hear even a PEEP about how horrible it is to ride in the rain every day, or how it's amazing that all these gray days don't make everyone here clinically depressed, or some other ninth-circle-of-soggy-hell blah blah blah, I will make you ride with me across the Tillikum Crossing bridge while it's 38F and raining sideways.
Both ways.
Without fenders.
THEN we'll see who's the bad-ass.
Love, Portland

P.S. we'll have a fresh pot of real coffee waiting for ya.
..::all of the above typed with tongue firmly planted in cheek::..
Happy riding.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

presenting (drum roll, please)... Stompy, version 3


I acquired this bike about a year ago, and hadn't had much time to mess around with it until after I got back from camp last summer. By then, the short-track season was half over and I was too fatigued to contemplate ever racing again; but I did want to investigate the newly-opened Gateway Green cycling park. (I never got around to that last summer, either, but I digress.)

So after we hosted a lovely Passover seder at home, washed every dish in the house, put the extra table away and saw off all our out-of-town guests, I spent the first half of today sleeping in, from a combination of a depressive fluctuation and extreme fatigue from getting so much done over the last week.
I didn't wake up until almost noon, and it took me another two hours to find my equilibrium again.

After hemming and hawing I finally decided that, since the rain was returning tonight, I wanted to get something done before the day got away from me.
So I went out to the workshop, finished a refugee bike that had been sitting in the stand, and pulled down the new Stompy to put the finishing touches on it.

It's a simple bike -- it began life as an entry-level mountain bike from Iron Horse. Their low-end bikes can be found in big-box stores, while their high-end models are for sponsored racers and generally found in few bike shops (at least here in Portland).
I swapped in some V-brakes from another old mountain bike, knowing I'd appreciate the stopping power in dirt and mud.
I also had to remove the cranks and bottom bracket, which had rusted badly.
Turning this into a singlespeed would require a different crankset and bottom bracket. Since I was trying to spend as little money as possible on this, I settled for a NOS splined bottom bracket and some NOS cranks I found in the back room at Citybikes. (With my ex-worker discount they were dirt cheap, less than $20 for everything.)

I was able to use the same rear wheel and swapped in a singlespeed freewheel, which I found in a bucket at Bike Farm for five bucks. Yes, the gearing is super-low; I'm an old fart and figure that I've earned it. I don't mind coasting more these days.
The tires that came with it had been replacements, and hadn't been ridden much. 26 x 1.9's will be fine for this, at least until I decide how much I plan to ride it off-road. They're not fancy and have a decent, basic dirt tread that should work in wet or dry conditions for just noodling around.
Some Odyssey BMX pedals, used Oury grips and my Misfit Psycles FU2 bar (swapped from bike to bike to bike and having now taken up residence on every version of Stompy to date) completed the bike.  (** see Sad Note, below.)
As a singlespeed, it's lightweight and nimble.

It fits fine, will be simple to care for a a lot of fun to try out at Gateway Green when things warm up just a little more.




**(A SAD NOTE -- Misfit Psycles appears to have gone out of business as of late November 2017. There is still an online store but inventory is quite limited, just t-shirts and a few small parts. There's also nothing of theirs on on eBay. So you can't buy this handlebar anymore and boy, am I glad I saved mine.)

Friday, March 23, 2018

scraps of the world

Yesterday I ran errands by bike. it was cold but sunny and I managed to get everything done.
Plus, I scavenged some free parts for future refugee bikes.
Double-plus, I found this vintage Deco nightstand sitting out at the curb and -- YESSSS! -- I had a way to get it home.

Image may contain: bicycle and outdoor
Amazingly, I was able to strap this to my little porteur rack (with some John's Irish Straps -- available at Rivelo, go get some and keep them in your saddlebag because when you need them they are awesome and perfect).
Pro tip: wider upright handlebars make heavy front loads easier to handle on the bike. My current bar of choice for this is the Surly Open Bar but anything similarly shaped will work fine.



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In the end, I think I'm going to totally re-do my side of the bed to make space for this and pare down what I keep there. because I really really like it.
Image may contain: bicycle and outdoor

Scavenging is a way to keep stuff out of the landfill and also how I keep my squirrel-brain engaged and happy. I may not be rich -- or even financially secure, frankly. But I have a scavenger's eye and that helps me keep it together. And sometimes I even find something useful along the way.

Happy riding.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

all the beautiful bikes: spring bicycle plans

I've taken delivery on some basic, complete bicycles that I'll spend the next couple of weeks whipping into shape for Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement. Then I'll be taking a bit of a break for my summer touring season in May and June, and I'll resume the bike-love in July when I'm back in town.

Thanks to everyone who has brought me bicycles, locks, racks and lights, and to a few folks who kicked in money to help make a couple of frames complete with the procurement of some forks and other bits I couldn't scavenge on my own. When these bicycles are finished by early April, you will have helped over 40 newly-arrived families obtain sustainable, affordable transportation, reducing
their dependence on cars and giving them a freedom of mobility some may have never known  before.

Thanks so much, and happy riding!


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

resistance takes many forms. some are actually legal.

I've been thinking lately about my income taxes and what they actually support.

As more social services have their funding drastically cut and more money is diverted to building up our military, I think more and more about what it would mean to be a tax resistor.

And then I realize I already am one. Without breaking a single law.

My work history makes me a tax resistor. I have spent my entire adult life working at lower-income, hourly-wage jobs or, more recently as a piecemeal freelancer scraping to get by. In both cases, my low income has reduced and sometimes eliminated my tax burden. The government has precious little to thank me for regarding my work history. And since I did not get a whilte-collar job or obtain all the trappings of a middle class American Dream, I have precious little to feel guilty about.

My lifestyle choices make me a tax resistor. I don't engage in annual tourism -- a vacation for me is a three-day campout somewhere close by, if we can get away. I don't own a car. I ride a bike or take public transit everywhere. I don't buy new clothes (and haven't in a very long time). I get food from the back shelves, heavily discounted because it's past the sell-by date (but still perfectly edible).

And probably most important of all, I decided long ago that I would value time over money -- which meant that I seldom worked overtime during my years in the bike industry, because I felt a body and mind needed regular rest and recovery. I didn't kill myself in order to have extra to put in some retirement fund; I simply worked to earn what I needed to live. I still do. I have no retirement fund,  and I don't exactly have what would traditionally be called a career. I am having an interesting life, though, and that feels like the better choice for me.

When I die, I will die poor. And I'm fine with that. I think that's the way it should be.

And all of these choices, conscious and not-so-conscious, are perfectly legal.

I am doing my part to not support the current regime in its quest to out-Korea North Korea. I will not help the current administration kiss Russia's ass. I will not invest in anything even remotely connected to a stock market that has always rewarded the rich at others' expense. I absolutely refuse to support a regime that purposely disenfranchises anyone who isn't white, Christian and male.
 And so, I resist in the ways I can, quietly and legally and intentionally.

Below: The latest refugee bike, liberated from a friend's garage and delivered to me earlier this week. After a tune-up, a replacement saddle and a basket, it's ready to take someone to school or work in style (dig those old-school chrome fenders!). And I'm positively delirious that the person who will ride it is someone who is making a fresh start here in the US, someone who escaped war and terror and risked everything to get here. I would love to run into this bike and its rider next summer at a Sunday Parkways, or pass it on the street as its owner rides it to work or school. Almost nothing is better than that. Because that, too, is a sort of resistance against the lopsided power structure in this country.

I am still accepting donations of complete bicycles, locks and lights.
If you're in Portland and need more space in your garage,hit me up. Thanks and happy riding!


Sunday, March 11, 2018

steady growth is not a sustainable earth model

I have been sneaking peeks at the racing scene periodically, just to see what's up.
These have been fewer over time, but today I took another peek and found two things:

1. The Giro d'Italia plans to have its Grand Departure in -- wait for it -- Jerusalem, Israel.
Right, I know. Israel has almost NO road cycling scene (though mountain biking is huge and flatland BMX enjoyes a youth following in the cities), owing largely to the fact that it's mostly desert and it's in the middle of an otherwise inhospitable Arab Middle East, half of whose residents would like to see Israel nuked off the map. So yeah, it's kind of a wacky place to begin a road race that will be in Italy the rest of the month.

Then, there's the environmental impact. Bicycle racing is anything but "green" -- watch the trailers and trucks in the parking lot at any road or mountain race and you will see piles of waste being generated with every repair, ever souvenir, every rush-job to sublimate a leader's jersey with the right team, etc. etc. etc. And most of that waste, in the new era of the collapsed plastics market, is bound for the landfill.

Fast forward to this morning. I held an informal bicycle tools and parts yard sale while I finished a repair on a friend's bike. A few people came by, all of them folks I knew from Portland's cycling scene and most of them current or former local racers. As they poked and prodded their way through my boxes and selected their purchases, we talked about the unsustainability of all things carbon, the unsustainability of new bike manufacturing, and the sheer madness of a constant-growth business model that is emblematic of the bicycle industry. The truth is that I got out of the industry just in time to avoid the worst of the hypocrisy -- of carbon-fiber, disc brake-equipped commuter bikes, of $400 childrens' bikes (seriously? Who can afford or justify a bike your kid will outgrow or destroy in a few weeks?) and the trickle-down from racing that refuses to die and still, sadly, informs too much of the consumer bicycle market.

In the end, it's all stuff, mountains of stuff, way too fucking much stuff. And I've grown weary of it.
I've grown weary to the point that I doubt I'll ever buy anything new again (including tires and tubes; they're readily available in decent used condition all over the city, mostly free for the taking). Who needs jerseys? Who needs padded knickers if all you're doing is riding to work and back? Who needs an eleven-speed drivetrain, for crying out loud? Nobody I know personally really uses much of that anymore. We all just ride our bikes. And when they break down, we fix them ourselves.

A new generation of consumers has moved into Portland, people who don't seem as interested in getting their hands dirty at all -- witness the rise in the number of mobile bike repair businesses and also the number of downtown bike parking facilities that keep a mechanic on staff.Shops that used to do a steady business in used bikes, parts and tools have shifted to selling those items online, where more money can be made from overseas collectors. And yes, I've been guilty of that, too; though I am now rethinking that part of my scavenging and reselling schemes.

Because when you get down to it, this emphasis on always making new stuff and shipping it around the world may be great for economies, but it's lousy for the planet. It's lousy for the poorest among us. And more and more I fear it's becoming lousy for our souls.

It's highly possible that in the future there won't be a need for this blog -- I may eventually reach the conclusion that curating my life feels less and less necessary and so I won't write here as often.
I'm not done yet, but wrapping this up is a distinct possibility in the future.
And now, a bicycle ride.
Happy riding!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

bicycle stuff yard sale: sunday 3/11 9-noon

Portland bikey peeps: I'm selling off a bunch of parts, tools and accessories in an effort to make space in my workshop and my life. Sunday, March 11, 9am till noon.
NO EARLY BIRDS.
Go to my Facebook page and PM me for location.
Proceeds will support my ongoing Refugee Bikes project.

Below: The latest, a department store bike back when department store bikes weren't so terrible.
A tune-up made it nicer to ride, and someone is going to be happy to take this to work or school very soon.