Friday, July 25, 2014

The Tour and a Reminder

I always have a hard time remember athlete names and which year they had what result.  It's not that the results don't matter to me necessarily but it's typically the at the moment experience that is important and not which year they won the Tour de France or National Championship or what have you.  I was reminded of this when perusing this gallery of historic photos from the Tour de France from the NYTimes.  As much as I might like certain eras or particular technology that went with the bikes, the real star of the show is always the country of France itself.  The fact is recent years with the technology available have been even more spectacular.  I'm able to stream via an app on my iPhone to my apple TV and see high resolution images of some of the most beautiful areas of the world.  So in the end it's great that we have an American in the top ten and three Frenchmen in the top 5 (when is the last time that happened?) but what is really great is visiting France vicariously every year.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

"Swamp Ass" and more bike art news....

I've been lusting after some of these posters and prints ever sine le tour started but this one particularly caught my eye for its capturing of one of the ugly truths behind cycling that many casual riders or non-riders are likely not aware of.  Actually, I rarely use chamois cream but I have a tub of it and won't deny that on a long ride it really helps with comfort and what a friend of mine commonly refers to as "swamp ass."

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Comprehensive Guide to the Bicycle

As a followup to last year's kickstarter here is another even more compelling project called the Comprehensive Guide to the Bicycle.  A little more info is below the video.

The Comprehensive Guide to the Bicycle is the young company's most ambitious work to date, a digital illustrated print which tells the story of the bicycle from its humblest origins, right through to present day.

Having spent hours illustrating each of the bikes in the print, Andy and Felicity, the couple who together are Wyatt 9, felt the funding they could get through Kickstarter was the best way to launch the print, and reach the goal to make the minimum print run.

Those who contribute to the project, or backers, in the official Kickstarter terms, are being offered the chance to own a copy of the new print. As well as a whole host of other options, from owning a T Shirt of the final design, to helping decide which bikes have been missed off!

Sunday Morning Music - Belle and Sebastian

In a catalog full of great lyrics this is one their best.  Incidentally, Stuart Murdoch's film is making its way to a theater near you.  Aesthetically this has B&S fingerprints all over it.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Eating on the Bike

The main reason to watch this is because of the two riders giggling through the whole series of foods they attempt to consume while riding.  That and the slomo camera work.  A little humor for your Friday.

Reno Cycle Chic

It's been a while since posting a few photos of Reno Cycle Chic so here ya go.  

The neighborhood...

I don't think that bike fits all that well.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Pump...looks like propaganda to me

Does the "N" on this guy's hat stand for knowledge?  The "solutions" they seem to suggest in the trailer seem dubious to me.

If our urban infrastructure model still revolves around the idea that the right way to get around is to have a 3000 pound vehicle manufactured to transport (mostly just) one person to and from work, then our society is still in trouble regardless of what type of fuel is being used. I'm more interested in the extraordinarily awful effects the oil/auto industries have had on urban planning and making so many of our cities ugly and unsafe.

I wonder if they get into how many goods are manufactured or shipped using fossil fuel products? Oil prices have a pretty direct effect on my grocery bill and pretty much every other product. That being said, it's liberating having made the choice to ride my bike to work so much over the last 20+ years.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

4th Street...Wow!

That's a lot of space!

It seems like there's been years of talking on the RTC's Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee about what to do about 4th street west of McCarran.   That section of the ride out to Verdi (the most popular ride in northern Nevada) has been problematic because of various jurisdictions being represented, miscommunication about speed zones, actual physical width of the road, etc.  

I knew from the last couple of meetings of the BPAC that the stretch of road was finally going to be repainted (and reconfigured) because of discussions we had had at the meetings with the intent of making the road safer for all users.  So I was pleased to find when I rode out there yesterday that the lanes truly were better.  Narrower car lanes make traffic travel slower and the increased space for a bike lane gives more room to the many recreational cyclists that use that route.  I love the psychology behind how infrastructure, not enforcement, is the way to modify user behavior.  If you haven't read Tom Vanderbilt's, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do, it's a  must read.

The official statement from the RTC sums it up well:
Bicyclists now have more room on West 4th Street! In partnership with the Nevada Department of Transportation, the RTC has completed a stripe redesign from McCarran Boulevard to I-80. Bicyclists will now have more space, and the improvements will have a calming effect on traffic. This route is often used by bicyclists following the popular Tahoe-Pyramid Bikeway.
Kudos to all parties for making this happen and especially Ernie McNeil of the Procrastinating Pedalers and BPAC who has been on something of a mission with this stretch of road.  It's not perfect but it's a far cry better than it was!

This was always the tight spot and now there is ample room.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Favorite Rides

"Oh hi, Addison."

I've got bikes for seemingly all purposes and I have to say this loop south of town that takes me near a 50 head herd of wild horses has fast become one of my favorites.  It is scenic, illustrates how quickly one can get rural, and has multiple surfaces that highlight the benefits of a road bike with slightly beefier tires rage we are in.  You could ride this route on most any bike and alter your route accordingly depending on whether you wanted more miles, dirt, or pavement.  There are easy alternate routes to make it more hilly or flat on the fly.  The best thing is saying hello to my mustang friends.

Roughly 25 miles as is but with lots of variations that could make the ride epic.  The McCarran section is best done earlier in the day but has big shoulders and bike lanes most of the way.

Happy Bastille Day!

Yesterday Artown here in Reno hosted a preBastille Day event including some amazing food from Beaujolais Bistro and other vendors in a picnic basket.  The highlight (besides the food and hard cider) was the Great Basin Costume Society who paid homage to France with various period costumes.

Not exactly sure what period...more like Marie Antoinette via Sophia Coppola.   But she's wearing a ship in her hair!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Band of Bike Brothers - The Taylors

A view years ago one of Jack Taylor's bikes showed up at the Reno Bike Project and there was an awful lot of lusting going on for that bike.  If it had been my size....

Anyway, this 1986 documentary on the Taylor brothers just surfaced on youtube.  Short but fun to hear them talk about bike technology and design evolution.

Sunday Morning Music - The War on Drugs

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Introducing the Reno Rambler Resurrectio?

What do you do when a bike you are going to review arrives and includes an out of favor wheel size, a parts spec from the dark ages, and a frame made of that heavy steel material with tubes joined together with a technology so out of date that no major manufacturers have used it in over a decade?  You go into the ride carrying some serious baggage about the review.  Everything about this bike seems to fly in the face of conventional wisdom.

I opened the box which seemed strangely light and pulled out the frame and rigid(!) fork and noticed how strikingly different the powdercoat paint scheme looked compared to most Agro modern mountain bikes.  Subtle even.  The clear-coated decals over the “sea foam” green were striking yet subtle.  The only mention of the name of the bike was on the downtube and the gleaming brass headbadge, unlike most modern bikes where any bit of open real estate on the frame is an invitation to place yet another logo in case you might forget what kind of bike you’re riding.  I had to begrudgingly admit that the overall aesthetic was tasteful and attractive.

The parts spec is going to be crap, though, I thought.  There was an awful lot of silver on the components.  Weird.  Was that actual metal instead of plastic?  The top mounted shifters looked so rudimentary.  Push lever to extend cable, flick it back to pull cable.  So simple.  Looking at the parts specs I noticed that they were lighter than the top of the line shifters currently in favor.  With so few moving parts I realized the shifter spec was simple, minimal and likely more reliable.   Who was this company, “Suntour”?

The rest of drive train included XCPro Derailleurs from Suntour as well as brakes from the company.   The shiny Microlite Suntour hubs are attached to Ritchey hoops.  The Ritchey Crankarms were striking as well.  Elegant, Low Q, and a nice polish to them.   Clearly the silver was growing on me as I noticed the way the sun popped off of the gleaming finish of the bike.

Huh...braze ons for a rack...could make this bike more practical than most mtbs.

The bulk of the other parts were also from the Ritchey archive.   The seatpost, stem, bar, headset, grips, tires, filled out the rest of the bike.  On top of that seatpost sat a stately black Brooks Leather Imperial saddle.  It was a nice touch as was the Bridgestone Bicycle bell attached to the bars to signal to other users on the trail.

Now, about those wheels…26 inch size must be a joke right?  Everybody knows going bigger is better.  My 29er rolls over things like a steamroller.  And who rides a lugged frame anymore in spite of the claim that a “in a traditional lugged joint, the lug serves as external butting increasing the strength of the joint.”  Surely the lugs with that Ritchey Logic Super Tubing by Tange, and the bike was going to be an anchor.

Total weight:  23.8 pounds

The Ride Report:

It was with a bit of trepidation that I put my leg over the bike and headed out to the closest trail to my house.  The comfortable Brooks saddle flexed under me almost acting like a bit of rear suspension as I hit the first bumps on the trail.

Having that absolutely anorexic looking steel fork in front of me made me a bit worried but as I hit the singletrack I noticed immediately how precise the handling was on the bike.  I looked at my best line and front wheel seemed drawn to it.  A surprise rock on the trail as I rounded a bend and with a little flick I was around it.  None of that steamroller effect from my modern suspension bike. 

Soon I found that the bit of flex in the steel frame and the smaller wheels made the bike feel absolutely spritely when getting up to speed.   When climbing the bike’s 23+ pounds felt nimble and light with the smooth, simple shifting allowing me to feel secure in my gearing choices.

When descending, the precise handling helped when choosing a line and I was able to slide my weigh off the back of the saddle and rely on my legs as suspension and the Ritchey Zmax tires to dig in and securely carve turns and pop over any obstacles. 

A couple of hours into the ride I stopped by the Truckee River to eat a snack and hydrate.  As I sat there I gazed at the Resurrectio and enjoyed the play of light on the water, sparkling off the gleaming silver parts and shiny frame. I realized I had been won over by the beauty and simplicity of this elegant machine.  Is it the bike for every trail I ride?  Maybe not.  But if the design and success of this design is any indication, we are going to see a new wave of big bike companies jumping on the bandwagon touting the smaller wheels and “nimble and simple” in the next few years as riders discover the joys of a light and fun riding bike with an elegant aesthetic and a bit of soul.

The bike review above is a bit of a tongue in cheek write up of my newly repainted 1992 Bridgestone MB-1.  I borrowed liberally from the original 1992 Bridgestone catalog.  The paint was done by GroodyBros out ofKansas City who did a spectacular job with the paint and with applying the decals that are available from Rivendell Bicycle Works.  The headbadge was taken from a design from the original Rambler bicycle company that dominated the industry in the early years of the bicycle boom in the U.S. plus the name came from the earliest recorded bicycle club in the Reno area.  Insigniaworks created the actual badge.

Annie is not as impressed with the Resurrectio as I am. 

Monday, July 07, 2014

Reno Gets Some Love From The NY Times

I was recently talking to somebody about how much I like Reno in part because it is something of a hidden gem of a city.  Hidden in the sense that much of the rest of the country still views it as the divorce capitol and second-tier (or third) tier Las Vegas wannabe.  Of course, nothing is further from the truth.  Reno has a great climate, geography, and location, in respect to the region.  It has a university, a burgeoning creative class, a respectable population of active seniors, an arts and culture scene, and is situated in a beautiful location.  I need to try and not be such an isolationist about Reno.

One of the interesting things that this article from NY Times mentions is the surprise that executives have when visiting to check out Reno for possible development is the Truckee river and bike paths running through the city and beyond.  These kinds of amenities, natural or human created, are some of the things that Reno must capitalize on if it really is going to make a leap into the 21st century as an urban center.  Quality of life is one of the great selling points for any city trying to attract top notch companies and Reno has that in spades.  It would be nice if Nevada as a whole could do a better job of getting citizens to invest more in education.  That is an ongoing challenge for the state and I say that as a teacher at the best public high school in the state with a nearly 100% graduation rate.

A few excerpts from the NY Times article.

Reno is among the best situated, less than a four-hour drive from San Francisco and in a state with no corporate or inventory taxes. It gained appeal as an outpost of Silicon Valley nearly a decade ago after a Microsoft licensing unit and an Amazon distribution warehouse moved in. California refugees were buying homes, lured by the relatively low cost of living and the 30-minute drive to Lake Tahoe.

But now, after several years scraping along the bottom in almost every measure of economic health, Reno appears poised to turn the corner, according to economists who study the region. Housing prices are slowly starting to rise. The unemployment rate has declined to 7.1 percent. New technology companies are arriving, and older ones are expanding, including Zulily, an e-commerce company for women and children’s clothing and home d├ęcor, which announced plans in May to double its warehouse and hire 600 people.

Most of all, civic boosters are on edge waiting for Tesla, Elon Musk’s electric vehicle company, to announce the location of its new battery factory that is expected to employ more than 6,000 people. Tesla has said it is considering Nevada, Texas, California, Arizona and New Mexico.

Reno is not far from one of the few lithium deposits in the country, it is relatively close to Fremont, Calif., where the vehicles will be assembled, and its industrial park has tens of thousands of acres of land for the auto company’s new expansive factory. Tesla officials did not respond to requests for comment.

“There are solid reasons to be optimistic about Reno,” said Greg Bird, an economist at Moody’s Analytics. “We’re starting to really see the data turn for them.”

Visiting executives are surprised to learn that the Truckee River cuts through downtown, where a restaurant scene is emerging. Bike paths wind through the city and beyond, and urban gardeners raise chickens in their backyards. A new downtown boutique hotel has no casino. Instead, its main feature is its 164-foot climbing wall.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Sunday Morning Music - The The

A 30th Anniversary newly remastered version of Soul Mining came out this week so it seemed like a good time to revisit this song.  Wish it was the full length version.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Happy 4th of July!

My back hurts a bit just looking at this image.  Happy fourth of July, or as I like to refer to it...the day before the Tour de France starts.  I know very little about the pro riders on the grand tour this year but at this point it's more about enjoying the scenery of France which I miss.  The race really is just one big love letter to the country which is one of the most beautiful places on, culture, food, it has it all.

This is the right way to enjoy the Tour de France

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Rivendell Bicycle Works...Has Vindication Come?

Every few months I raid my closet for t-shirts (I seem to acquire them very regularly, that or they breed) that are worn out enough to become bike rags for cleaning my stable.  I pulled this Rivendell shirt that I've had for I don't know how long.  This is one of those shirts that has been hanging by a thread in terms of getting the death penalty and stuffed into the bike rag bag to be sent to the bike stable in the basement.  Something about the slogan, "Vindication will come. Just you wait." has stuck with me and saved this shirt from the gallows on more than one occasion.

I don't necessarily find myself aligned with all of the products and ideas that come out of RBW Headquarters in Walnut Creek (double top tubes?) but I well remember that in the mid to late 90s and early aughts Rivendell truly seemed like one of the few voices of reason in an industry bent on carbon road bikes with clearances for 25mm tires.  To be sure there were other voices decrying the specialization of bicycles to the point of barring most people's actual riding needs from the discussion of what to look for in a bike.  Here are a few things that Riv was ahead of the curve on in terms of where the bicycle industry is right now.

Steel is, and always will be, Real

It's not that every company gave up on all steel bikes in their lines.  But usually it was the low end bikes only that maintained the venerable frame material.  And while few still hold on to the lugged steel frame (unless you are a small artisan builder) Rivendell has always maintained that steel is not just adequate for frames, but is actual better in so many ways for most riders.  Again, other companies didn't eliminate steel, but Riv kept the torch burning brightly for nice chromoly for several dark years.  Without them the "budget" smaller companies whose stock and trade is steel frames would not be the same (Surly, Soma, and now who knows how many small house brands, etc.).

Country Bikes (aka "Gravel Grinders")

Gravel Grinders sounds so much more agro than Grant Peterson's term coined a few years back for bikes that could glide along on pavement admirably, but hop off onto a dirt or gravel trail.  They were the odd ducks on the bicycle landscape up until not too many years ago.  Now it's the hot niche in the industry.  And, Country sounds like a reference to a kinder and gentler time and definitely is in keeping with the type of riding you see on the Rivendell website.  But it's really the same idea...a bike that can do many things well and capitalizes on the notion of fun as opposed to racing.

From the Riv website.  Their designs match their local geography perfectly.

Wheel Size

Like so many companies, Rivendell was stuck with the 26" or 700 options early on in their bicycle lines.  But early on you could see rumblings of discontent with designing a frame around the a too big wheel for riders that were smaller in stature.  Not to mention the issue of clearances for more rubber in those frames.  It shouldn't have been a surprise that in recent years a third option became the focus of Rivendell's designs.  650b wheels weren't really new, just out of favor.  Now they dominate everything Riv does and have bled over to the mountain bike industry to such an extent that 26" wheels are considered practically unrideable and 29er wheels are only for the very tall.  Of course, in the mountain bike industry they are not called 650b.

20 Years and the Future

Next week a celebration of sorts is happening with a gathering of Rivendell owners and RBW employees in Walnut Creek as fans acknowledge the company that has poked and prodded the bike industry in a positive direction for most of these past two decades.  I haven't quite decided if I'll head over to take part with my Rivendell Allrounder.  I'd be more tempted to ride my Gunnar Sport from Reno to the Bay, which ironically, is very similar to the early road bike designs Rivendell was first pushing 20 years ago.  Compare the photo below, to this review of the early Riv Road.

My Gunnar Sport...owes a little something to early Riv Road designs.
I'm not sold on everything that they do but it works for them.  I still like a nicer looking wool kit from Rapha over the rather shlubby looking ensembles that seems to be the stock and trade of the Riv world.  But that's just me...and I do not so secretly lust over that Hunqapillar bike frame which looks like the new and improved Allrounder designed/built around a larger wheel.

So here's to another 20 years of Riv getting people on bikes.  And getting people to "just ride" no matter what the conventional wisdom of the industry might be telling them to do.  At this point it seems that Vindication has come for the company.  Wish I could get another one of those t-shirts though.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Reno and Midtown - Two Feet From Greatness

It seems like every month there is some new list that a magazine or organization puts out touting "The Best Bicycle Cities in the U.S."  The only suspense with these lists tends to be which way the top ten are going to be shuffled this time around with the usual suspects (Portland, Minneapolis, Seattle, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Washington D.C., etc.) gracing the top of the list.

Every morning and evening I cross Virginia through the middle of what has become the Midtown District that everyone in Reno points to as this hotspot of small businesses.  It's filled with many charming businesses, boutiques, and bars, and has a few spots that are rough around the edges.  Much like Reno in many ways.  But that is part of its charm.

Yet as much as I admire Midtown and the development going on in my neighborhood, I cross Virginia and find myself shaking my head.  Midtown is poised for greatness as a smaller business district if the city and business owners can just take the next two steps:  Make the street eminently bike and pedestrian friendly.  Simply put, make it safer and more pleasant to get around, a la a complete streets revamp that makes me people feel comfortable walking and riding from Mt. Rose Street, up to the intersection of California Ave.

It seems redundant to keep posting how much of a benefit adding bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure to a business district can be so I'll point you to various resources for more details.

In much the same way that Midtown is poised to be a great business district with the right urban infrastructure, Reno is poised to capitalize on two other bike related strengths.  The first, the strong "creative class" of young entrepreneurs who want to get shit done and create a modern urban vibe for the city.  The second, is the fact that Reno is often touted as a good place for retirees because of its generally lower cost of living in the west, the preponderance of cheap and free activities in the cities calendar of events, and its generally pretty mild climate and geographic proximity to a bunch of activities.  

When this recent study pointed out that a third of the U.S.'s recent bicycle boom was made up of people aged 60-79 I couldn't help but think that Reno is poised to take advantage of this if only we can do a better job of making people of all bicycling skill levels feel comfortable traversing the city.

And herein lies the challenge for us as Reno residents.  How do we push our local businesses, politicians, and city organizations, to create a modern urban city embraces quality of life issues?  The old modes of thinking that businesses should have parking available right in front is outdated and doesn't promote a larger goal of quality of life in the city.  These are the types of issues that I am particularly focused on in Reno's Mayor Candidates.  

On the face of it Hillary Schieve seems to represent the way forward while Pezonella is the status quo.  But the younger Schieve hasn't exactly shown much in the way of progressive thinking about our urban design so much as touted herself as a business woman.  And Bob Cashell, who has endorsed Pezonella, has been more of a supporter of complete streets and bicycling than one might think at first glance.  Perhaps Pezonella will follow in Cashell's footsteps in supporting Reno as a cycling community.  

Either way, I'd like to see the two candidates pushed on these issues because Reno is poised to be one of the great cities for cyclists.  We could be the type of city that people and businesses move to so as to enjoy the benefits of the quality of life we offer.

A gallery of the good, the bad, and the ugly, from by Midtown neighborhood:

How about some bike corrals instead of all of the auto parking?
Note the pole in the middle of the sidewalk

A partial attempt at multi-modal transport