Posts tagged ‘bicycle’
We’ve been flirting with rain. The wintertime landscape is clouds and pale light, the grey skeletons of trees, the dull gold of winter fields. Today the temperatures dropped, and it finally feels a little bit like winter.
It must be the light on days like these, but I love riding home in the late afternoon in the fading grey-ness. It is windless and silent. And I feel like I have fallen into some vintage photo, the colors are so subdued – grey, buff, steel blue and hints of ivory and amber. Almost monochrome. (With the exception of my very red, red bicycle, of course.)
My “good” cameras have been left at home on these rain-risk days … for now, just some of the iPhone snaps.
Day after day, year after year, I ride past an old grandmother. She is greying and stooped, her old bones are weathered and tired – yet she is sill beautiful, even sacred. At least to me.
For many years she stood … tall and proud, solid and steadfast, quiet and imposing, yet welcoming and kind. She was a dependable storehouse, a nursery, a warm and fragrant embrace for man and animal. She is a landmark, a sentinel, a piece of the landscape as much as any creek or any mountain. She has seen many years, and she is filled with her own stories.
I have known her for only a small portion of her life. I have tried to listen for her stories. I have touched her bones. I have felt her embrace.
When the tornadoes of April 2011 set upon her quiet valley, it was more than she could bear in her old age; she submitted and bowed down. I confess that I cried when I first saw her afterwards.
Yet still, even in collapse, she sits; her skeletal remains are always a comfort to me when I ride near. I stop. I see her, decaying in her bones and stories, settling gently down in the quilt of her soft field. Slowly, slowly, she sinks into the land, taking her stories with her.
She is an old grandmother. She is most beloved.
The essence of the reddest of red-heads … I am calling her Lucy.
Six months of collaborative creating which began with my bike fitter, Eddie at Cycology, to the actual fabrication of her bones by Natalie Ramsland at SweetPea … and finally home for the final build and “dressing up” by my most awesome local bike guy, Charles at Trailhead – who knew exactly what she needed to become the thing of my dreams. There was considerable tweaking along the way, a few hiccups, several re-do’s (some easy, and some not-so), but in the end I have to think she is my perfect bike. She fits me like a hand tailored Little Black Dress, for sure. And yeah – she loves me back as much as I love her.
I love that she is a perfect mixture of function and aesthetics. She rides like a dream, she is lovely to look at (and photograph, of course), she is a little sassy and a lot of serious; she will go the distance, yet has enough practicality for commuting and camera-toting adventures.
Each piece of her was thoughtfully and deliberately chosen, and I am very proud that most things were chosen from smaller and US-based independent designers – Chris King, Paul Components, White Industries, Bike Thomson, Velo Orange, Sugar Wheel Works, and of course SweetPea.
Drivetrain selection ended up being one of the biggest headaches, and the biggest challenge in trying to put together a bike from across the country without seeing it. Aesthetically, the Shimano group I originally had chosen ended up looking wrong. In the end, at home, we stripped the Ultegra group and dressed her up with some divine Campagnolo – which is exactly what she needed (and will always take me back to the bike I rode in Italy).
We topped things off a Brooks Ladies saddle, a set of Pitlock locking skewers, a Light and Motion pairing of lights, and a very sweet Tubus Titanium rack which will will hold my wonderful custom designed and hand-sewn North St. convertible pannier (thank-you Curtis), the perfect custom home for my camera gear and other “stuffs” I schlepp around. More about that bag to come; it’s amazing. Still doing some decision-making on fenders (or not) … we’ll see.
So these are some of the first of what I am sure will be many, many glamour shots of Lucy – some of her beautiful details, and her charming RED personality. She certainly won’t get lost in the landscape.
And speaking of Lucys … for any of you old enough to remember, did you know that there was an old episode of the original I Love Lucy (i.e., Lucille Ball), where she convinces Ricky, Ethel and Fred to ride bikes from Italy to France? I kid you not. Lol. The best part is the comedy of mishaps at the border crossing – and, of course, seeing Fred and Ethel on a tandem. If you’re up for a dose of 50’s sitcom humor, it’s worth a watch (heheh) – viewable for streaming online here, or this clip on YouTube.
I leave on my bicycle and often think: same roads, same fences, same old barns, same bike, same me … nothing changes.
And then I open my eyes and realize that nature, the natural world, is changing all around me. Beautifully. From minute, to day, to week, to season.
The same road is different each day in small and subtle ways. It is all the change I need.
Riding across the Riverside Drive glass bridge in Chattanooga always gives me an imaginary sense of victory(?) over cars. I love standing on that bridge with my bike and looking down at the cars driving underneath; I am looming over them for a change (even it it’s only in my mind…).
Today’s destination was number 12 on the Utilitaire control card: to get my hair cut. My once-a-month-or-so trip to Chattanooga to visit my stylist, Chris, at Hair-A-Go-Go gives me a chance to ride into the city on the Riverwalk.
I will confess, I have to drive (shame on me!) to the northern terminus of the Riverwalk from home; but living about 40+ mi outisde of the city, an 80-mile round trip would be a big stretch for a reasonable commuter distance for me. Sorry. This way, anyway, I cut a little off of my driving distance, and get to ride the “scenic route” into downtown, and have some time to enjoy the destination. I think the approximate distance from the north end of the path to the Bluff View Art District downtown is about 8 miles one way, so the round trip makes for a relaxing and comfortable ride which I almost always make on Elisabetta.
Got my haircut, stopped into the downtown art supply store for a new pen, and then lingered around Coolidge Park for a little while enjoying the incredible sunshine and the balmy temperatures. I think we reached the mid-70’s. Lots and lots of people were out, walking, biking, sitting on benches on the Walnut Street Bridge, enjoying picnics in the park.
Before heading back, I stopped to treat myself at Rembrand’s Coffee House in the Art District. I was in the mood for one of their blackberry Italian Cream Sodas … it was heavenly, especially on the warm day. I am not exactly sure what makes it “Italian” (because I don’t remember ever seeing anything like this in Italy), but it is basically blackberry syrup, soda water, and some cream – yes, real cream – over ice. Not something to indulge in on a regular basis, but for an occasional treat, I shall have no guilt over it(!).
My hair is back to it’s short and trimmed state, my journal enjoyed the sun and the park (if not my attempts with the new pen), and I am still imagining the sweetness of blackberries and cream. A few scenes from the day … and a big thank you to the very kind new friends who have visited these pages from today’s Freshly Pressed; it was an unexpected surprise, and I am quite bowled over by the kind words and responses. Many thanks.
playing with new pens
Chattanooga has a thriving hipster population … Riverwalk
Scenic City bridges … Coolidge Park
I love creativity and fun – especially when it involves bicycles. From #30daysofbiking to #cyclingcaptuesday, I have always enjoyed the fun of bicycle games, the conversations they start, and the enthusiasm they kindle. And when the bicycle games get more people, new people, out riding their bikes more of the time, it’s even better.
My Flickr/blogger/Twitter friend and radonneur extraordinaire, Mary G, who has an excellent cycling blog, Chasing Mailboxes, cooked up a grand idea for some winter cycling fun. She is calling it the Utilitaire 12, and you can read all about it here and here. My own heads-up for this project first came from another great cycling blogger/friend, the “Old Guy” (and don’t let that moniker fool you – this guy can out-ride most 20-somethings) – and he’s already a few steps ahead of some of us on the Utilitaire challenge. Of course.
I won’t try to repeat all of the guidelines to the challenge which you can read for yourselves, but basically it involves making at least 12 destination trips by bike over the course of the next six weeks. There is a very do-able minimum mileage for each trip, and you can’t simply make the same trip over and over (like go to the grocery store 12 times). I think this is what I love about it most – it’s going to make me mix-up my destinations, maybe bike to a place or an event that I might not normally bike to, head to a variety of locations for different reasons. Go to a concert, attend a meeting, cycle to breakfast … and lots more (with a little wiggle room for a substitution if you need it). You can only officially log two trips per week, spreading the project out for some consistency, and you have to photo-document part of the journey. Cool beans, eh? Good for everyone, good for cycling advocacy – and I hope everyone will give it a go.
Today I got to log my first trip for my control card – a trip into town to the bike shop. Also stopped for coffee and to my optometrist to fetch some new contacts, but my project destination was the shop.
I love my bike shop – it’s kind of like a really great coffee shop, only with bikey stuff rather than caffeine. It’s got a certain “ambiance” – camaraderie, color, and conversation. And I had a great conversation with my bike shop guys, Charles and Andrew, had them looking over the Utilitaire project in the shop. We enthusiastically decided that this would be a fantastic advocacy tool for local cycling in our little town, and it looks like plans are into work to make a modified community event sponsored by the shop. How great is that?!
Meanwhile, got my errands done on what began as a foggy-soup morning but turned into an incredibly beautiful day – still no sign of winter, cycling in a tee shirt. Checking off one on the control card. Hope you will join in the bicycle game fun. 😀
A couple of weeks ago, I spent several hours working with a bike fitter – something I never would have envisioned myself doing. I am certainly no speed-racer type, I’m not an uber high-mileage junkie, nor did I ever feel like I was having problems (discomfort, pain, whatever) with any of my bikes. As I have written before, I’m probably considered by most as not being one of those serious cyclist types. Dedicated, enthusiastic … yes. “Serious“, skilled, fast … not so much.
So what was I doing? For one thing, I am a proponent of efficiency and ergonomics and, I suppose, conservation of energy. If I can find an easier way to do something, do it more efficiently and with less effort, you can bet I am signing on.
Several years ago I worked with a couple of swimming coaches for similar reasons. It’s not that I had any intention of competing, or swimming the English Channel, but I was interested in becoming more efficient in the water, more streamlined (or “slippery” in the water, as they liked to say), along with wanting to minimize wear-and-tear to my rotator cuffs. It was amazing what a few adjustments to body alignment, rotation and sweet-spot drills did for me; I cut my stroke count down by 8-10 strokes/50 yds, I am preserving my shoulders, I love the nearly “effortless” feeling, and I am faster. (OK, maybe just a little less slow.) For me it simply means I can swim farther in less time and with less wear-and-tear, which is about all I’m after.
Back to bikes – and the bike fitting. It was a pretty fascinating experience. My fitter, Eddie from Cycology Bicycles, was a really wonderful guy – very patient, extremely detail-oriented and knowledgeable, and great about explaining the significance of all of the measurements, angles and adjustments he was measuring and making changes to – not to mention he had a very impressive curriculum vitae (along with some amazing photos) of “serious” professional cyclists who come to him for fittings. (Yeah, next to them, I did feel like a bit of a doofus, I will admit.)
I was measured from top to bottom and sideways and back. Height, weight, femur length, inseam, wingspan, my level of flexibility, you name it. Eddie also had an interesting self-engineered set of electronic scales he could use to measure weight distribution while I was on my bike – it’s an interesting ratio to look at, as he adjusts saddle height and other positioning. He took a look (and more measurements) at my position on my Dolce, which ended up being a remarkably near-perfect fit for me with only a couple of areas that could be changed – handlebar width (narrower), possibly my crank length (shorter), and some tweaking to my cleats.
Finally, he moved me onto the Serotta fitting bike – an amazing little bike-like device enabling multiple adjustments with countless combinations for riding styles. Basically, he sets it up with his calculated settings for ultimate bike fit for the rider, and then can tweak it from there. It was really remarkable to feel the difference a slight adjustment of angle/height/length could make. But now I know what my ideal “numbers” are, because I was able to feel them.
So where is all of this leading? Well, for one thing, the adjustments made to my Dolce have made it even more comfortable and efficient for me to ride. After my experience, I fully endorse a bike fitting session by a qualified fitter – it’s not only an education, but you will be amazed by the changes that small adjustments will make, regardless of your riding style and level of cycling seriousness. Do it.
But there was another motive for my fitting, and you may have already guessed. After years of lusting after her Sweetpea bikes, and having some great phone conversations with Natalie Ramsland over the past few weeks, she is now building a custom bike for me. The frame geometry is custom, designed for my optimum set of measurements; she and Eddie have nailed down the perfect fit. And beyond the frame, this bike will be fabulous in every aspect … Natalie has an uncanny sense for knowing my aim, mechanically and aesthetically. The build list reads like a perfect dessert menu: Brooks, Chris King, Sugar Wheel Works…
Most of all, I love that my bike is being built by an incredibly inspiring and talented woman framebuilder – a rare thing in the predominantly male bicycle-building world . Watch her video, read her blog; her bicycles are stunning, and her thoughts are insightful and meaningful. I feel we are on the same page, in so many ways, philosophically.
Another bike? Do I need it? I am not sure … What I do know is that I will love this bike, it will fit me in every way, it will be beautiful, it will make me happy to ride it, and I will cherish it and everything that went into making it become uniquely and specially mine. The tentative plan is to make a trip to Portland to have Natalie do the final fit once the build is complete, and to hopefully have a chance to explore the amazing world of Portland bicycle culture for a few days. Fingers crossed.
And so, this is how it begins.