Sunday, December 20, 2009

Raleigh Sprite (c.1967)

It Lives!  The 1967 Raleigh Sprite I rescued from the scrap heap lives to ride another day.  The project is almost complete, I just need to do some cosmetic work on the fenders, and add a lighting system. The bike itself is almost all original, with the exception of the saddle, pedals, tires, and the front hub.

The rear hub is a Sturmey-Archer 5-speed -- all original.  The headset, bottom bracket, and 5-sp. hub have been completely overhauled.  The original front wheel had a bent axle, so the wheel was rebuilt (original spokes and rim) around a Sturmey-Archer dynamo hub which provides a front disc brake as well as generator power for the lighting system I'm going to install.

Detail pictures of the front and rear hub can be found on my Flickr site.  I'd also like to thank the guys at Aaron's bicycle repair in West Seattle.  Without their help, this project would never have been realized.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Bontrager Wingtips

I found these stylin' kicks on Urban Velo (a very cool blog, as well as magazine, for which you should really cough up some change.).  They say it far better than I do, so I'll just re-state the obvious then send you to Urban Velo for the drill down.

These are Bontrager Wingtips, though they haven't yet made an appearance on the Bontrager site.  They're built for cycling and believe it or not, they're spd compatible.  They feature all leather uppers and a buckle to cover the laces (which you will truly appreciate it if you've ever caught laces on a fixie).  But what sets them apart from other dedicated cycling shoes is the fact that they have style.  Should they come out in black, I will most certainly sport a pair of my own.

[image via Urban Velo]

2010 Co-Motion Americano Rohloff/Gates Carbon Drive

I spotted this bike on the EcoVelo blog and my heart skipped several beats.  I absolutely adore this bike.  It's hand made by Co-Motion (though I can find no hint of it on their site).

It has an internal hub gear setup (likely 5- or 8-speed, but I couldn't glean this info from the internets), disc brakes front and rear, and it's belt, not chain drive (like the Trek District [meh.]). All this adds up to low maintenance, a very desirable trait in a utility bike.

If I were a rich man (no word on price, but I'm guessing that it's probably not going to be cheap) there is no question that this bike would be in my stable.  Until then, it will likely just remain a fantasy -- another piece of bike porn tacked up on my wall...right next to the Pashley Guv'nor.

[image via EcoVelo]

Helmet or No Helmet?

First of all, let me say right off the top, I'm not going to tell you what I think you should do.  As always, it's your choice.  As for me, I generally wear one.  I usually skip it on short local trips and on the bike path, but always wear one riding in traffic.

A little back story: I've had two accidents where wearing a helmet has saved me from...well I don't know from what, obviously...but certainly things would have been worse.  Both involved a "right cross" scenario.  Once I went over (wasn't clipped in) and landed on my head on the other side of the car.  Once I was clipped in, and my head was slammed down on top of the hood.

Yes, I know the Euro-types almost never do, but keep in mind, Europe is not America.  In Amsterdam, for example, you have bike paths that will take you anywhere -- all separated from vehicular traffic.  I likely wouldn't wear a helmet there either (and not because of peer pressure).

In America you inevitably are out there jockeying for position with 2-Ton SUV's.  Vulnerable is an understatement.  Additionally I would say drivers state-side are in general much less tolerant of cyclists, and much less prepared for sharing the road with them.

Thankfully there are helmets from companies like Nutcase (that's my helmet in the thumbnail) that don't look quite so alien.  The Nutcase motto is "I love my brain," which is something to think about.  But as always (and despite what the lawyers will tell you), the responsibility and the choice is yours alone.

I would argue that experience and awareness play much more of a role than any sort of protective equipment.  But me personally, when I'm out in traffic with the assholes, I want every advantage I can get -- however slight.

And on a lighter note, here's a cartoon that elucidates a somewhat different point of view.

[image via Nutcase]

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Risky Cycling Doesn't Increase Risks

Or so hints a headline in yesterday's Guardian.

The headline goes like this: "Risky cycling rarely to blame for bike accidents, study finds." And the subhead: "Cyclists disobeying stop signal or wearing dark clothing at night [including lack of lights - ed.] rarely cited in collisions causing serious injury."

The supporting text seems to back this up, with the results from the UK Department for Transport study only finding such actions a liability in roughly 2% of the accidents they studied.

But all is not sweetness and light. Some 25% of cycling deaths were attributed to being rear-ended by a vehicle (again, not due to lack of lighting or reflectors or any of that...). Worse, the driver was found to be at fault nearly 75% of the time.

This is scary, because it implies there is little you can do to prevent yourself from being a statistic. This seems to almost contradict most of the other material I have read.

Perhaps cyclist awareness is partially to blame, but this is not suggested in any of the data. The CTC (a cyclist lobbying group) went on to make this claim:
We believe this report strongly supports our view that the biggest problem for cyclists is bad driving.
Interesting. And it runs counter to the current "wisdom" among bicycle safety specialists.


Monday, December 14, 2009

The Cyclist's Manifesto

The Cyclist's Manifesto is the second Robert Hurst book I've read, which should tell you that I like what he has to say enough to continue to buy his books. That, combined with the fact that I've been an avid cyclist my entire life will reveal my bias towards bicycles as a mode of transportation. A bias that Mr. Hurst most definitely shares.

In general I'm against continuing to read things that support what you already believe (what's the point?). It tends to lead to narrow-mindedness and intolerance of foreign ideas. But I do recommend reading this book even if you already toe the party line. He has a way of articulating ideas that really resonates and invigorates. I found it inspirational enough that I've re-dedicated myself as a soldier in the revolution. I learned some new things along the way, but in general it performed the role of a great pep talk, which is exactly what I was looking for.

However many copies of this book get sold my bet is that almost to the reader he is preaching to the choir. This is a shame because I think this book has a lot to offer the bicycle-curious. Some of his rants seem to play a little fast and loose with the facts (while staying true in a general sense). Additionally, his hard-line stance (even for a cyclist) may be repelling to some, but in the end his message is truly liberating.

The book begins with the history where cars and bicycles converge (if you didn't already know this, these histories are very much intertwined), continues on with the mess that we've created through political and personal cowardice, and ends with a bang that would likely convert even the hardened, gas guzzling SUV pilot.

Admittedly he provides no easy answers. He even claims that someone who doesn't own a car or even take the bus is still beholden to petroleum, like it or not. I'm left with the impression that if everyone went to bicycles tomorrow it would be an improvement, but still wouldn't solve the energy problem.

Anyone reading this book who converts to a bicycle way of life is unlikely to change the world, but will, however, change their own world. Dramatically. And that, comrades, is where this book truly shines.

The Torker Graduate

This is the Torker Graduate. It is a Sturmey-Archer (internal hub) 5-speed with drum brakes. Very low maintenance, and relatively inexpensive. Kind of a revamp of the Raleigh (pre-1970), but lacks Raleigh style (at least in my opinion).

Still and even so, I would consider buying one if I didn't already have two old Raleighs, one of which is a Sturmey-Archer 5-speed internal hub with drum brakes (the hub is original, the drum brake [front only] is not).

It's an interesting concept. I like the concept, but not so much the style. It looks like one of the spate of fixed/single speed bikes being built (Redline, is one example, Masi another) to quench the thirst for fixed gear cool. It seems caught between two worlds -- messenger chic and old school utilitarianism. "Pick a side, we're at war," as Stephen Colbert would say.

Still, an interesting concept. Virtually as maintenance free as a fixie (even more so, with the drum brakes), but with actual gears.