Monday, January 31, 2011

The Lost Cyclist

I am deep into this tale of late 19th century wanderlust. Wonderfully rich with world history, three intrepid bicycle travelers set off—two go East and one sets off West. The single traveler, Frank Lenz, is a cocky soul who used to race high wheelers in his native Pittsburgh, but to get sponsorship for a world tour he succumbs to the inevitable popularity of the "safety bicycle".  And just a year before, William Sachtleben and Thomas Allen ride their bikes on a jaunty tour of Europe, Turkey, and across Mongolia before their trek across the United States. The two groups intersect, but never meet, on the west coast of the U.S. After 20,000 miles Frank Lenz disappears in Persia, (present day Eastern Turkey) and Sachtleben sets out to discover what happened to the iconic traveler.

The tale is a fascinating account of cycle touring through countries like China and English-occupied Burma where the natives had never even seen a bicycle. Toting a revolver, a change of clothes, spare tubes, and pounds of camera equipment, Frank Lenz hires coolies for protection, then follows telegraph lines and railroad beds, fords rivers, develops malaria, yet he also connects with bicycle clubs in Mandalay and Calcutta. The popularity of the bicycle is celebrated worldwide—hard to imagine that kind of excitement today.

Lenz chronicled his journey so the book is chock full of photos of ordinaries (high wheelers) and safety bicycles. At that time, cycling was proving it's popularity with two competing bike manufacturers in Massachusetts. Author David Herlihy knows his historical bike stuff. He is also the author of Bicycle: The History. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

Family Adventure Tour

Laughter. Smiles. Sunshine and warmth. And safe. What more could you ask for on an August weekend except for lots of happy families riding bicycles.

We pedaled on a linear route called the Island Line, a former railway that runs from Burlington through Colchester and connects with South Hero by way of a marble-lined causeway. Some groups started from home, others parked a car at an access point, and even one family rode with all their belongings in panniers.

With numerous parks that sport playgrounds, snack bars, restrooms, water fountains, and ball fields; with bridges, a gravel-lined causeway (former railway) that juts out across Lake Champlain—complete with a bike/pedestrian-only ferry—the route is a bicyclist's dream.

The Family Adventure Tour (FAT) was organized by Local Motion and consisted of a two day ride for families complete with sag wagon, tenting, swimming, campfire with S'mores, volleyball, and dinner/
breakfast. The cyclists returned the next day by the same route.

A year before I had suggested a family ride to Local Motion, pledging to help with the route and planning. Adele Dienno at LM immediately liked the idea, realizing the value it would bring to the community and further support Local Motion's efforts toward getting families outdoors. It is a natural progression from their Safe Routes to School program.

The future of bike riding is with our children. If we expose them to cycle touring: tenting, cooking over a stove, building fires, and riding safely, they will appreciate the fun and possibilities of further travel whether it be a long weekend or a multiweek adventure. Dream...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Burlington's Earth Clock

Traveling north from the southern end of Burlington's waterfront bike path the trails curves away from the shore, past park benches and swings around this curious stone structure that looks like a miniature Stonehenge. At sunset during certain times of the year there might be a group holding candles, or singing or talking. Curious, I stopped by for a look at the signage. It's an earth time clock.

According to Circles for Peace "The Earth Clock is a 43-foot diameter stone circle consisting of 14 five-to-ten-foot-high stones in a ring. The stones are aligned like a compass. When you stand in the center and look west to the Adirondack Mountains, the five stones on that side are positioned to mark the horizon where the sun sets at the Solstices, Equinoxes and the mid-points between these times of the year.

The center of the circle is a sundial made of flat granite, so when you stand in the exact center of the circle, your shadow tells the time of day."
It's a peaceful spot. Get off your bike and explore the timetable. Hang out on the benches. Watch the ducks paddle by, even in winter. Listen for the crack and boom of winter ice on the lake. Contemplate our own little slice of chocolate pie—Burlington—a diverse corner of earth.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Spoke Bracelets

I learned how to make spoke bracelets last evening at Bike Recycle Vermont. We practiced the twisting and shaping on non-shiny spokes then moved on to the steel type for a more polished look.

Upcycling Bike Parts/Craft Circle

Thank you, Christine!

Check out these creative entrepreneurs:
Bicycle Spoke Bracelets
Bike Thing Blog

Monday, January 17, 2011

Winter Chimes

I finished constructing my chimes. It is totally made of bicycle parts. Frames provide the actual chimes; the wire is cable; a sprocket is the striker; a reflector should catch the wind.

The wind chimes may still be a work in progress though. I have yet to hear the musical notes in a gentle breeze, which some may point out is the idea behind chimes to begin with...hmmm. I may move the gongs a bit closer to the horizontal cog.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Cycle Chimes for Non-Cycling Times

It's nice to have somthing bike related to do in January besides routine maintence on my fleet in our dark basement. Uggh, I'd rather go out and ski laps in our backyard...

My 8-year old son and I attended the weekly Crafters Circle at Bike Recycle Vermont. His creation (shown here) was inspired by a simpler version suspended from a light fixture inside the shop. He especially liked crimping the ferrules (I learned a new word) with needle nose pliers. This connected the pieces of cable and all the chain rings, etc. together.

I made chimes too, using cut up bike frames, and will post a photo once it's finished.

Curious about other recycled wind chimes I did a quick search and came up with another beautiful creation. Can you hear all the lovely sounds?
Second Wind Chimes

Monday, January 10, 2011

"Uh, excuse me, your bike could use some oil."

I notice bikes. My husband notices models and makes of cars. I can't always tell you the exact model like my hubby, but a bike is a magnet whether it's locked to a post or hitching a ride on some one's automobile. I just have to acknowledge it with a look.

So when a bike sits forever at a bike rack, through rainy days, or all winter long, neglect piled high as the snowdrifts, I feel for them like a mom concerned for her child running outdoors without a coat. You see, to me a bike is like a friend; treat it with respect and a little maintenance goes a long way. So when I'm cruising along, enjoying the sound of the birds, it upsets me to hear a creaky bike.

I want to stop the cyclist and say, "Uh, excuse me, your bike could use some oil."

But somehow I can't quite do it. And shouldn't either because, frankly, I'm thankful. Thankful they chose to ride and not drive.

I believe the average bike rider uses their bike as a tool—a means to get from here to there. Throw a leg over the saddle and start moving. Some people never clean their cars or forget to regularly change the oil, or wash the grime. It's the same for their bicycles. It will still function—even if the noise is deafening.

But in my reverie I would smile and offer to oil their bike for them, like some grease goddess from heaven. That could be my mission in life, oiling bikes. I'd never be without a job. I could pedal all the time. And that one act could mean one more bicycle could keep moving for a little bit longer.

Now, about that low tire pressure...

Friday, January 7, 2011

Designing Jewelry at BRV

I had an especially interesting evening at Bike Recycle Vermont, digging through bins for a coveted bike part, then using the smelly degreaser to clean the grime before heading back to my seat and threading the part on my necklace. I wasn't sure what to think as I initially headed inside for the Thursday evening class (I was already half an hour late)—clearly most folks knew each other, a 20-something group of bike riders, the camaraderie evident. But there was one person with grey hair and, though I didn't know her, I realized maybe I wouldn't be the oddball.

This month BRV is putting on a series called Crafters Circle, using re-purposed bike parts. Last evening's event centered on fabricating jewelry. I am intrigued by the upcoming classes on wind chimes and spoke bracelets.

I brought a bead kit along with me to add some color to my necklace. Notice the bearing race, quick release spring and screw, and aluminum brake parts (top). A woman created earrings from spacers and screws; another cut patterns from a tire tube for a bracelet; one person braided tubes into a belt. A lady was inspired by two freewheels—she connected both with a length of cable and will use her creation as a towel rack.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Man Who Rode His 10-Speed Bicycle to The Moon

I was attracted to this book by Bernard Fischman because of its whimsical illustrations and its unique size. The edging of the paper itself is unusual—a teal color that matches the color of the water on the cover. The book is all of 100 pages, yet it's an account of a lonely man who rides his bicycle around the streets of New York City and discovers he is truly not alone and that bicycles are often magical transportation. It is a sweetly written story, one that left me with an urge to locate more of Bernard Fischman's writing, but it appears that this is his only work.

The Man Who Rode His 10-Speed Bicycle to The Moon is hardcover, copyright 1979.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

3000 Miles in 2010

I woke up on December 31st hopeful that the temperature was warming for the day. We had 12" of snow on the ground with a dusting coating the sidewalks. I had not ridden for almost two weeks and had nearly moved my bike into the basement for the winter. I peered out at the thermometer and, holy cow, it was already 39 degrees Fahrenheit! Warm enough for me to ride... It is common to have a January thaw where all the snow disappears before the next big dump of white stuff, but clearly it was coming early this year.

Without much convincing, my oldest boy (a computer lover) wanted to accompany me on a ride to Best Buy to look at netbooks. Sunshine was quickly melting the snow into puddles. As we pedaled we negotiated the best line through the existing snow. It was a special treat to ride with my son who normally holes up with his iPod or would rather do errands by car. My son's bike does not have fenders. Mud and melting snow rooster-tailed up the back of his blue parka and even left mud freckles on his face, but clearly he was having a good time.

By the time we arrived back home our bikes were covered in mud. My son hopped off his bike and immediately went inside to recover from his hard seat (I guess I'll have to do something about that this spring). But with a satisfied smile I spent a half hour wiping both bicycles and oiling the chains. The 12 miles tipped my yearly total over the 3000 mile mark!

Phew, talk about right down to the last day...