Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Opening a New Folder

Bicycling means freedom. I decided that when I learned to ride one at the age of seven. I was allowed go anywhere I could ride to, as long as I got home in time for dinner. It was not only my first taste of mobility, it was also the first athletic activity at which I was any good, and it's still in the top three. 

Folding bikes, because they can be taken with me to places I would otherwise not have a bicycle, extend that freedom. For that reason, they have long interested me, and I've owned several. To me, the ideal bike would fold small enough to carry with me anywhere like a cell phone, and have the capabilities of a full-size bicycle. We're not there yet. Probably we'll never get there. Folders usually compromise on rideability or portability to favor one over the other. Those that compromise less are generally expensive. The choice is thus based on the rider's intended uses and budget. 

A while ago I began looking for a folding bike that could replace my non-folding bikes. There were several points of origin for this, in addition to the reasons already given. It was a continuation of my search for the one bike that could go anywhere and do anything. A few years ago, I read accounts by the late travel writer and touring cyclist Eric Newby of his experiences touring on Moultons, of which he was an early adopter and advocate. He wrote of the advantages of small wheels and low centers of gravity. But Moulton bicycles are seriously expensive. What might do the same job for less money? In 2009, I had started building a Surly Cross Check in a touring configuration as the bike I would use for everything and take everywhere, including on travel. That summer, while recovering from a broken elbow, I started riding a recumbent trike that had 20-inch (BMX size) wheels. It has a wider gear range than models with larger wheels, and the wheels are easy to store, transport or change tires on. As I resumed building the Cross Check in 2010, I happened upon Surly's rationale for using 26-inch (MTB) wheels on their dismantleable Long Haul Trucker: the wheels allow it to fit in an airline-standard case, and the tires are readily available worldwide. With the airlines becoming stricter and charging more to carry bicycles, traveling with a standard bike can get expensive. And I noticed that the price of such a bike was getting up there with the better folding bikes. While last year I was considering which of these I would like, a 2008 Dahon Speed TR turned up on Craig's List at an attractive price. Within 20 minutes the deal was done, and the next day I collected it from the seller. Very soon after, I brought it on a trip to New England. 

The surprise has been how completely it replaced my other bikes. The Surly is still unfinished and I plan to sell it. I'm debating whether to keep a standard bike at all. Admittedly, my old drop-bar Raleigh is about ten pounds lighter, and has the classic look that I still identify as what a bicycle should look like. But I still don't ride it much any more. Sometimes I wish I had drop bars on the Dahon; they could probably be fitted, but I'd lose one of its advantages for urban riding, which is that all the controls can be accessed without changing hand positions. I wouldn't use the Dahon for racing, but I don't race anyway. Dahon lists this model as a loaded touring bike, and I'd use it for that. Loaded with full touring bags, it has better balance and handling than the custom-made touring bike I built 38 years ago, which disappeared from the garage where it was stored in 1987. Thank goodness, I can stop missing it. 

I've ridden it on everything from big urban group rides to unpaved woods trails to frequent grocery-shopping trips. So now I have a folding bike that can go almost anywhere and do almost anything. What adventures would I like to take it on? 

Monday, November 7, 2011

2012 DC Tweed Ride set for November 13

The Dandies and Quaintrelles have announced Sunday, November 13 as the date for the third annual DC Tweed Ride. The ride is free, but there is a $15 charge for the after-ride party. The space for the party is too small for the number of people likely to be on the ride, so they're encouraging pre-registration to make sure you get in.

You can see yours truly in the lower right corner of the photo collage for the ride announcement, riding my Trice recumbent trike in the 2010 event. With the only recumbent and only trike, I got more attention than with the Raleigh Roadster I rode in 2009. Not sure whether I will ride the trike this year or the Dahon folder that I have recently been favoring for urban settings.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Redundancies and Solecisms

Since I monetized my blog (sold out to greed and corporate interests) by allowing Google to place ads on it, which so far has netted me about $3.47, I'm looking at what ads show up. I sold ad space for 20 years, and take a professional interest. The process of ad placement on the page is entirely automatic, based on the content of my posts. So the one I just posted mentioned trikes, and an ad for "three wheel trikes" showed up. I wonder what other kind of trikes there might be besides ones with three wheels. People just don't pay attention to language. Quite often when I am out on a ride on my trike, passersby will call out, "nice bike!" This is of course inaccurate, since bike is short for bicycle and by definition, means it has two wheels. Sometimes I correct them. More often I just seethe inwardly. As a regular reader of Craig's List, I've also noticed that "recumbent bike" to many people means a type of stationary exercise equipment that has no wheels at all and doesn't go anywhere by means of pedaling--though perhaps it goes somewhere by peddling, which is why it's on Craig's List in the first place.

Live Free and Die

On a trike riders' forum I subscribe to, the perennial subject of whether bike helmets increase safety has come up. Someone complained that their head gets hot when they wear a helmet, and suggested that on a trike, which doesn't require balancing, helmets might not be necessary. Then everyone else had to weigh in. It occurs to me that while a trike doesn't fall like a bike does, it can flip (I have lifted a wheel a few times in fast cornering), and if it did, it is perhaps likely to land upside down.

What color is your helmet? I wear a white helmet, which is noticeably cooler (in temperature if not in appearance) than the dark green helmet I used to wear. It is also more visible, which could be helpful--and I have front and rear lights on it, originally for better visibility as my head is higher up than the trike (or bike), and has the additional advantage that whatever bike or trike I'm riding, I have lights.

Back when bike helmets first appeared, we all thought they looked dorky and resisted wearing them. Since then they've been styled more attractively, and we've gotten accustomed to wearing them. I wear mine almost every time I ride, whether on bike or trike. Better to be a live dork than a dead hipster. The debate over whether they really make a difference is more about people resisting the "domination" of wearing a helmet. Last week a motorcycle rider in an anti-helmet protest group ride fell off his bike onto his head (at low speed) and was killed by head trauma. There were people commenting approvingly that he died for his freedom. Personally, I think there are freedoms more worth dying for than the right not to use a piece of safety equipment. The thing is, you won't know if it makes a difference until you are in an accident, by when there is nothing you can do about it.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Seersucker Style Today

Has it really been seven months since I posted anything here? Time flies whether you're having fun or not. Speaking of having fun, today is the second annual Seersucker Social ride, lawn party and after-party. I'm going. Perhaps, the thought arises unbidden, I ought to be working. So I'll give out business cards and claim it was some kind of work.

Last year I rode my Raleigh DL-1 Roadster that had also been my steed on the first Tweed Ride. However, that bike went to its new owner last week. While I really liked the Roadster, it was a favorite bike that I rode only about three times a year. So this year I will ride my recently-acquired Dahon. This has the advantages of plenty of gear range (something the roadster definitely did not have), and easy portability to get to and from the venue (which since I sold my Volvo wagon last year, the roadster also did not have). I have a morning event to go to at Landmark Education, so I'll take the bike in the car, park by a Metro, and take Metro to the starting point.

As the Dahon lacks the full gear case of the Roadster, style will be compromised somewhat with practicality--which means I'll wear shorts instead of trousers. But they will be seersucker!

Seersucker, by the way, has nothing to do with Sears (as I once thought). It is an Anglicization of Farsi words meaning "coffee and sugar" and referring to the alternation of dark and light colors and different textures in the fabric. It probably originated in India and first came to the attention of Europeans through the Middle East centuries ago. Its coolness and style have long been appreciated in warm weather. While today's forecast is not as warm as last year's (which was like cycling in a sauna), it will still be a pleasure to stay cool and look good at the same time.

The Dandies and Quaintrelles, organizers of the ride, have as their motto, "Redemption Through Style." Put your trust in seersucker, my children, and ye shall be redeemed!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Tweed Ride Coverage on Russian TV!

There was a camera crew filming the Tweed Ride on November 14th, and while we were in front of the White House I noticed them filming me. One of them spoke to me with what sounded like a British accent. Next day this clip was on the Dandies and Quaintrelles web site. I'm in the clip, near the end. As the only recumbent and only trike on the ride, I got more attention than I got last year riding my Raleigh Roadster, which was theoretically more in keeping with the event.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Time Flies Like an Arrow

It seems like no time has passed since the Seersucker Social in June. The 2010 Tweed Ride is tomorrow. I've been so preoccupied with working that I hardly paid this any attention.

I was the last rider on the Seersucker Social. I'd had some mechanical difficulties with the Roadster. The gear case, installed for the Tweed Ride, had come loose and needed to be secured. I did this, then set off with the bike in my Volvo 240 wagon, intending to take Metro part of the way. When I got the bike out of the car, it was clear that something was wrong--the chain had come off the chainring and was jammed inside the gear case. There was nothing for it but to return home and sort it out. By then my margin of time had disappeared. I got to the start after everyone had left and followed the route by myself. I arrived just in time for the last of the drinks.

It was growing dark by the time I left, and I was glad of the dynamo lights on the Roadster. Next day the Roadster's back tire was flat. Four months later I still haven't fixed it. Gear cases are great for keeping your clothes clean, but terrible for removing wheels!

Now the 2010 Tweed Ride is tomorrow, I still hadn't fixed the tire, and I hadn't even really committed to going--I told myself that my business took precedence, and booked an appointment for 4 p.m. in Alexandria. Then tonight I asked myself if I could do both. The answer is yes, if I do two things that run contrary to form: get an early start and leave before the party is over. I can ride the Trice, which goes well with tweed and handles long rides and hills better than the Roadster does.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Seersucker Social June 12 in DC

I've been neglecting my blog for a few months while dealing with health, weather, and business, and I've had a nasty cold for the past week, so here this is, almost last minute. 

The Dandies and Quaintrelles, who brought us the wonderful and wildly successful DC Tweed Ride last November 15, are having their second event, the Seersucker Social, on Saturday, June 12, starting at 3:30 pm, with a reception afterwards at the ride destination Hillwood Estate. More than 450 people attended the Tweed Ride. Registration is free for the ride itself and $20 for the after-ride party--including food and drink. Having spent the week resting up and recovering, I plan to be there with my Raleigh Roadster.