‘Tis the season for more rides

Since my last post:

Shawn and I participated in the Tweed Ride, and we got a formal portrait done at the after-party at VeloCult:


If you look closely, you can tell our handlebars still have rain on them.

The ride was fun and it only rained for the last couple of miles. And after a couple of beers at the afterparty, I kept doing double-takes and thinking everyone was Shawn from the back, because he wears tweed all the time!

The next Saturday I rode out to Gresham via the Springwater with my friend Heather, and was pleased to find out she likes to stop and talk to pgymy goats as much as I do. There are two goats and a bunch of chickens living in the yard of a home in Sellwood, and the owner was home while we were visiting the goats and let us give them a handful of oats.

On Sunday I attended my first Bunny on a Bike ride to have truly excellent weather! This is the ninth year of the ride. It always happens on Easter and it’s mostly an excuse for families to show up on bikes while wearing bunny ears, and most of the years I’ve gone it’s been cold and/or rainy. The weather was amazing and 175 people showed up. There are some lovely photos here, alas, all the ones of me seem to be on facebook. (I wore bunny ears. And one of my Gunne Sax calico dresses from the 1970’s.)

On Tuesday (the 10th) I went on a bicycle ride with BikeSnobNYC aka Eben Weiss. Where, in true Portland fashion, it rained for the first time in days. I was surprised at first to show up for the ride and see mostly roadies, but then I remembered that a good portion of his blog is making fun of the racing scene–it’s easy to forget about because I just skip that stuff. I rode Miz Raleigh, and several of the roadie types told me they liked my fenders. The ride was slow and social, and it amused me to hear the sound of people clipping and unclipping from their pedals at stoplights. He gave a presentation at Powell’s bookstore that was funny, and I nabbed an Ass-Saver (pictured in this post) despite the fact that I have fenders on both of my bicycles. Because it says AHYSMB on it.

(I’ve got the book from the library, and here’s my short review: it’s not laugh-out-loud funny, but for the most part that’s not what this book is going for. The general theme of the book is that everyone just needs to be nicer to each other and more patient on the roads because it’ll make us happier. Which is fine, but stretching it out for a whole book got slightly repetitive. The Snob is so snarky on his blog that the often-seriousness of the book is both startling and refreshing. I know some of my friends don’t enjoy his sense of humor, but I always got the idea that there was a compassionate guy behind the jokes, and it’s nice to see that side of him more clearly, even if he still doesn’t suffer fools.)

This past Friday I attended Filmed By Bike, and as always I got a ticket to the 7pm show and hung out at the street party afterward. The movies have been better in previous years, I think, but I had fun anyway, especially since a big group of my friends was basically taking up the first two whole rows. Also? I won a raffle item, which I’ve never done before! Even better? The raffle item was a $50 gift card to Sock Dreams! There were a couple of jokes from friends that the raffle was clearly rigged. Later on that night I went to a nearby bar for the start of the Midnight Mystery Ride. It ended up under the west side of the Sellwood Bridge! When I left I ended up somehow guiding a group of folks back around and over the bridge and to the Springwater path, and I eventually ended up riding it alone, which was fine by me–it was a gorgeous night.

It’s getting to be that time of year–there’s more bike-y things happening all the time, and I find my calender is filling up with events. Shawn’s gone on overnight trips these last two weekends, which I’ve skipped to do other rides. Between that and the weather improving lately, I’m getting excited for summer and all the fun rides that’ll happen.

Speaking of events: If you live in the Portland area and aren’t tired of Shawn and I talking about our trip, we’re giving a presentation at the Hawthorne Hostel tomorrow (that would be Monday, April 16th). We’re going to have lots of photos, of course!

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Let me tell you about my amazing day

Yesterday was an amazing day. First of all, the weather was some of the best we’ve had so far this year! Sunny for a good part of the day, and warm-ish, if a bit windy.

Shawn and I got ourselves out of the house (late, of course) for the Biking About Architecture Ride. Our friend Jenny has an amateur interest in architecture, and leads rides where we look at some of the more interesting houses in a particular part of town. I’m hardly an architecture geek, but after a few of these rides, I’m starting to notice things I didn’t before when I look at houses. This one was in North Portland, and just getting to the start point was a nine mile ride for me and Shawn. We did six miles of slow riding with lots of stops to look at houses, and it just reinforced that I love Victorian and Queen Anne houses, along with the style called Portland Foursquare. And Roger might hate New Columbia, but I still think it looks better than military housing, or even most of Beaverton, so there.

After the ride was over, we went to a bar called The Twilight Room, where the poor bartender was a little over-worked. But the place had a good beer selection and a number of vegan options that were yummy and the company was excellent.

Shawn and I had a coupon for the PDX Bike Show, so we made the short trip from there to the Expo Center. Much of it was boring–tables for big charity rides, or people selling ugly lycra. But I did talk to a woman who does bicycle fittings about what I wanted out of a fitting, and I got her number, and that is exciting! We were there near the end of the day, and we ran into our friend Rob, who let me know that Felt was doing test rides outside. Felt? Don’t they make racing bikes? But after Shawn and I had looked at the booths and chatted up a few people we knew, I thought, “I’ve never actually tried a racing bicycle before…why not?” and walked outside. They were in the process of putting the bicycles away, but the company rep said it wasn’t a problem, what would I like to ride? “I dunno, I’ve never tried a racing bike, just touring and commuting bicycles…” He asked me my height, then grabbed a carbon-frame bicycle (the ZW4, as it turns out) and put some big Fixation pedals on it while I filled out a waiver on an iPad. He raised the saddle (not enough for my tastes, but oh well) and I cautiously started riding around the parking lot that was fenced off for test rides.

Dear Reader, I have trouble explaining what a life-changing ride this was. When talking about it via facebook, or text message, or just in person, I find myself abusing caps-lock and saying OH MY GOD a lot and bordering on incomprehensible sputtering. I shall attempt to restrain myself, although it is very difficult. I shall use a list.

1. It fit. This is the big one. This is the one I would like to have in huge sparkly flashing capital letters. I suspected that my dislike of most drop-bar diamond-frame bicycles was due to them not really fitting. I knew nothing felt quite right. I always wondered, would I know when something really fit? And guess what: I do. Sure enough, I need a women-specific bicycle. Sure enough, a bicycle that fits feels amazing. Sure enough, I could have my handlebars the same level or lower than my saddle and on a normal-looking stem if the bike actually fit. The bike was almost as comfy as my Raleigh 3-speed! And it’s a racing bike! I want all my bicycles to feel this good.
2. Carbon-frame bicycles weight almost nothing. Yeah, I know, duh. But experiencing that is different than knowing it. I could easily lift it with one hand.
3. It was so fast! No, seriously, I wished so bad that I had a good length of pavement so I could really speed up, instead of having to turn around at either end of the lot. The bike wants to go fast. Wheeee!
4. STI shifters: easier to use than I expected. (I still think bar-ends are better for touring bicycles.)
5. I don’t know if this is the geometry of the bicycle in general or the way it fit, but it felt….maneuverable? Is this what people mean when they say a bicycle is “responsive”? It just felt somehow easy to ride. I was taking my turns really sharp at either end of the lot and it felt great. I just felt really in control of the bicycle, which I didn’t expect–I thought a racing bike would feel like it wanted to get out from under me or something. It makes me wonder how I’d do on my usual nemesis of long/steep descents.
6. I can ride and brake comfortably from the brake hoods after all, when they don’t feel so goddamn far away.
7. Standing on the pedals didn’t feel great, though. Not sure if it was the low handlebars or the lightness of the bicycle, but it made the bike feel kinda wiggly.
8. The bicycle wasn’t ugly. I’ve poked around their website a bit, and Felt does make some hideously ugly bicycles, but their ZW line is attractive, for racing bicycles, and not exaggeratedly girly.

Shawn was inside at the time, and I thought, “Oh man, I want him to see this, and I want a photo!” Just as I was about to give up waiting for him, he walked outside, and I made him take pictures while I rode back and forth. Which is how we got this one:


(From Shawn’s Flickr)

Is it just me, or does that look “right” somehow? I don’t mean the fact that it’s a racing bike, but just the shape of me on the bicycle. What do you think?

It was so hard for me to get off the bicycle and give it back. It was almost painful. The company rep and I talked about the bike, and the one I tried? Is $3,199. Ouch. Yeah, not happening. But…but…they make one with the same fit, lower-end components, aluminum frame, for $899. And I admit, I’m thinking about putting it on my list of bikes to buy. The internal debate is something like: But I don’t race. I don’t even do club rides. But maybe I’d do club rides if I had a bike like this one. Maybe I’d do races, even. Can you ride an aluminum frame for cyclocross?

Clearly, a few more test rides are in order, and of course the company rep made sure I knew that Bike Gallery sells Felt bicycles.

My priority, right now, is still getting a bicycle for touring and randonneuring. I think it’s sad that despite the recent upswing in touring, only Terry makes a women-specific touring bike (which is way out of my price range), considering that almost every company makes a women’s racing bike (at multiple price points).

Oh, and the rest of my day! Because it wasn’t over yet. Shawn and I made the trip, into a rather fierce headwind, to NE 42nd and Tillamook, where a new bike shop was having a huge party for their grand opening. Lots of our friends were there, we took turns waiting in a long line for a couple of free beers, we ogled bicycles. Turns out my friend Audrey had tried out the same Felt bike I did and loved it too. Maybe we’ll become bicycle twins? I saw Rob and just about jumped up and down talking about the bike and thanking him for telling me they were doing test rides, much to his amusement.

They had a digital photobooth set up. I took a set of me alone with my beer, and one of me and Shawn being nauseatingly cute. Our friend Meghan arrived on her new custom MAP bicycle and we stood around admiring it and trying not to drool on the nice paint job.

Then Shawn and I rode home, on a night that smelled like cherry blossoms and daphne flowers and somehow, summer.

(But not before stopping at the 12th and Hawthorne carts to share a pizza from Pyro, and a peanut butter and chocolate Whiffie.)

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Restlessness

For the last two weeks I have had one illness or another. First it was a sore throat that became a sinus issue, with the usual malaise that implies, then it was (eeew) pink-eye. I rode a bicycle twice in the whole two weeks, an eight-mile round trip to buy yarn and a short jaunt to an art thing.

In the last few days I have started feeling restless. I was staying home as much as possible because my eye was gross-looking (blood-shot and swollen), and because pink-eye is so contagious, but I mostly felt fine.

Out of boredom I’ve been looking at bicycles online, reading about frame geometry, and re-reading old posts on Lovely Bicycle. I think I’ve mostly succeeded in further confusing myself. There are just so many factors to deal with in terms of how a bicycle fits and how it handles vs. what kind of riding you want to do. People who’ve been thinking about these things for decades have completely different opinions, and speak them as though they were facts. And I’ve ridden only a handful of bicycles, none of them high-end, and so I’m not even sure I’d notice the difference between one bike and another. Would I be able to feel how flexible one frame is compared to another? What does “responsive” even really mean?

I might end up trying to measure the trail of my Raleigh and my Novara. I do wonder if it explains some of the difference in their handling, especially on turns. Then again, maybe it’s just the difference in my posture and/or the handlebar setup. Or something else entirely. See what I mean? This stuff is bewildering.

Don’t even get me started on the differences between randonneuring and touring bicycles. Or all the variations in drop bars.

On the positive side, I think it’s possible I’ve found my dream touring bicycle: the Terry Valkyrie. I know there’s some debate about whether women need women-specific bicycles, but I know I personally fit the stereotype they’re going for–longer legs, shorter arms and torso, an unwillingness to feel “stretched out,” etc. The Terry Valkyrie has a lovely short top tube! That is so exciting to me! It’s the shortest I’ve seen on an off-the-rack bicycle, even if this bike isn’t really “off-the-rack.” If you know of an off-the-rack women-specific touring bicycle–especially one less than the Terry’s $3,500–please let me know!

Tomorrow, though….tomorrow I get to actually get on my bicycle and go somewhere! There’s an overnight trip with Cycle Wildto cabins at Battleground Lake. It’s an easy 23 miles that I’ve done several times before. I cannot wait to be on the road with friends, especially knowing there’s a cabin at the end, in lovely surroundings. I almost wish the ride out was longer, but after two weeks of almost no biking, I should probably go easy on myself.

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Songs about bicycles

I generally try to have everything on this blog be original. There are many entertaining and thought-provoking things to post that I’ve seen elsewhere, but I figure that most people who read this blog are either: 1. Fellow cyclists, and therefore read other bicycle blogs, or 2. People who read the blog because they know me (hi Mom!) and might not be that interested in things like advocacy or lists of rules for female cyclists in 1895 (seriously, EVERYONE posted that one, it seemed like).

So even if a blog post is really thought-provoking, I generally just leave a comment on their blog, instead of making a post about it here. It’s not a hard and fast rule, though.

And today, y’know what? I just want to be silly. So I’m going to post youtube videos for songs about bicycles. Because they’re fun.

VIDEO NUMBER ONE: The Bike Song by Mark Ronson & The Business Intl
Filmed in France. That automatically makes it fancier.

VIDEO NUMBER TWO: I Found A Bike Today by Francobollo
At 44 seconds in, he puts his foot on the pedal, and it makes that “thunk” when it engages that just says “old three-speed” to me. Love. Just in general, this is probably my favorite of the bunch in terms of the video itself, even if both this and the first video have a lot of themes in common.

VIDEO NUMBER THREE: FussVomGass by Skero
Okay, honestly? I have no idea what they’re saying for 99% of the video because, um, it’s in German. I like it anyway. I just pick out words like “cruiser” and “critical mass.” (If you speak German, feel free to translate?) I’ve been told that it was filmed in Vienna.

VIDEO NUMBER FOUR: Bicycle Race by Queen
A true classic. I always sing this when I go out for karaoke. Preferably while wearing my helmet or rain jacket. Warning! Not safe for work because of naked ladies on ten-speeds.

Got any others? Feel free to share!

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Ding! Ding!

When I started riding the Raleigh as my everyday bicycle again, I noticed that my bell was dinging constantly. It’s the kind that goes “brrring brrring” and I got it at the Tour de Fat in 2007. It has the New Belgium Brewery logo on it.

And it was dinging at all times. A constant, cheerful “ding…dingity ding…ding! ding dingity.” It was louder if I went over bumps in the road, too. Especially if I was going downhill and picking up speed–when it was loudest–it would drive me nuts.

What was funny, though, was people’s reaction to my bell. On several occasions people clearly thought I was intentionally ringing my bell in a friendly “hello” kind of way, and would ring their own bells in response. People who passed me would turn and look, thinking I was trying to get their attention. Most people, both pedestrians and cyclists, seemed to think it was amusing.

As it turns out, it just needed to be tightened a little bit, which made me feel silly for putting up with it. And now it’s silent unless I intentionally ring it. I almost feel like something’s missing.

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Raleigh Improvements

So as I’ve posted about before, I have a 1961 Lady’s Raleigh Sports that I adore. I lent it to my friend Katrina while on the Big Trip, and got it back a couple months ago. My friend Keith (whom you may remember as our host in Edmonton)(and who is also my roommate’s husband now) has been visiting for the last month or so, and has helped Shawn do some work on it.

So, what have we done to Miz Raleigh, as Katrina calls her?

The most obvious thing that’s changed is that we removed the big front Wald basket. I have mixed feelings about this. I’ve started thinking that it looked “off” on the bike, but damn, it was useful. The bike doesn’t have braze-ons for a rear rack, and I don’t want to force one on there, so carrying stuff is an issue.

Shawn got me a secondhand black Carradice bag that hangs under the back of the saddle, (photo) which is fine, but it requires more fussing with than a basket or pannier. The classic look can’t be beat, though.

Taking off the basket had one fun side effect: I can now ride the Raleigh no-handed. Whee!!

The front wheel has been swapped out for one with a dynohub and alloy rims. The rims are lighter, but the dynohub means the bike’s actually become heavier! The dynohub is older than the bike but similar to what you could buy then. It creates surprisingly little drag, but it also doesn’t put out much power. We’ve hooked it up to a cheaper light for now. It has a totally useless halogen, and a flashing LED. I have a headlight on my helmet anyway, but the bike will eventually get a nicer light. Another advantage of the new front wheel is the alloy rim, which is much newer. It has way better stopping power when wet than the original steel rim. I’ve had a close call (and a fall) while riding on wet days with the old steel rims, so that makes me pretty happy. If the rear wheel fails for whatever reason, I’ll probably get the hub built into an alloy rim as well, but it’s not a priority.

Speaking of lights, though; I now have a rear fender light! (photo) I used to have a bikeportland.org sticker there that says “If you were riding, you’d be happy by now.” The light is battery-operated, but it looks good and is nice and bright.

I swapped out the older leather saddle for the Brooks Champion Flyer I bought on tour. That saddle doesn’t work for any kind of riding with drop bars for me, but it’s just fine when I’m sitting upright. I love the way it looks on this bike, and I can definitely feel the springs doing their job over bumpier road. I do think a wider saddle might be more comfy, but I’m going to give this one some time before giving up on it entirely. I wonder if Clever Cycles has the lady’s model of this one (which is shorter and wider) in black? Hmmm…

What else? Keith did a couple of smaller maintenance things, like taking up the slack in the chain and fixing an issue in the rear brakes. Shawn rubbed oil into the frame and fenders, which makes the bicycle look gorgeous even with the dents and rust.

I’m ridiculously excited about riding this bike again. I end up going everywhere with a big goofy grin. (For another love letter to the Raleigh Sports, and a list of various changes made to one, read Snarkypup’s recent blog post.) It’s so comfy! And I feel taller on Miz Raleigh than I do on my Novara Randonee. Some of it is the upright posture, sure, but I think the bottom bracket is higher too. In general, though, I feel like I’m riding “on top” of the Raleigh in a way that I don’t on the Novara, although that might the low-ish handlebars. I love how maneuverable the bike feels, and I just feel so confident on it.

I asked Shawn the other day, “Is it silly for me to love this bicycle so much?” and he said, “No.” Of course, he was busy taking pictures of it at the time, so he might be biased.


(The Carradice was temporarily removed for a repair.)

There’s an entire flickr set of photos of Miz Raleigh that Shawn has taken, some old and some new. And now that this bicycle has had some obvious changes, I should probably get a new picture for the header of my blog! (Side note: Holy crap I wear those socks a lot.)

I’m not done tinkering with the bike yet, of course, but the rest can wait. Other than getting a different headlight, I also want to replace all the housing. Some of it is original and is cracked and falling apart. The shifter cable housing is black and doesn’t match the bike. I’m thinking of hammering out the various dents in the fenders, and/or trying to remove the rust or patch the paint, but that’s all more ambitious stuff.

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New Year’s Goals

I’ve decided that rather than New Year’s resolutions, I’ll have goals. These are the ones that are bicycle-related.

My goals for this year:

*To have three bicycles:
1. Miz Raleigh, who’s recently had some changes that I’ll document in another post.
2. A drop-bar bicycle for touring and randonneuring that has been professionally fitted. I love my Novara, but it’s probably too small. And if it turns out I’d benefit from a custom frame, I’d like to know, ’cause right now I’m half convinced that nothing off the shelf will fit me.
3. A city bike. What I want is something with the functionality of a Dutch bike but lighter and faster. My current thoughts are to buy an older (as in mid-1980’s) light-ish steel mixte frame like a Nishiki or Univega or Raleigh, and put on an internal gear hub, full chain guard, rear rack, skirt guard (I might crochet this), upright handlebars, fenders, maybe drum brakes (possibly even a rear coaster brake), maybe a small front basket. Something that allows me to hop on while wearing heels and a full skirt to bike across town without a second thought. Part of me wants to get super-fancy with this–new powder-coat paint! Fancy hammered aluminum fenders! But I worry that it’ll take away from the everyday-ness of the bike and be too precious.

*Have generator lighting (at least in front) on all my bicycles.

*Learn how the hell chains work so that I’ll never again be stuck hitch-hiking in Saskatchewan because my chain is broken. Not that I see myself biking through Saskatchewan again anytime soon.

*Do more long rides outside of touring. More specifically, train for a 200k brevet. This is part of why I want a fitting–I want to be able to ride longer distances comfortably. And if I feel okay after the 200k, try for a 300k. Join the RUSA.

*Do an overnight trip on Miz Raleigh.

*GET FASTER. Gaaah I am SO SLOW.

*Blog more. Hah.

In other news! Shawn and I went to the cabins at Stub Stewart with friends for New Year’s for the second time in a row. No snow this year, alas. Here’s a photo of me, taken by Shawn, on a former old railroad trestle:

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