Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

01 May 2016

May Day And Bicycles

Today is May Day.  In much of the world, it's celebrated as a sort of Labor Day--which, in this country, has become mainly an occasion for shopping or taking an end-of-summer trip.

It's also been celebrated, particularly in the British Isles and Scandanavia, as a spring festival marking an end to the long nights of winter.   To some, it might seem paradoxical that this day was chosen to honor labor.  Well, that tradition started with the Haymarket Massacre, which took place during the first week of May in 1886.  

But, even if there were not such a tragedy to observe, I think that it would make sense to pay homage to labor at this time of year, as spring is flowering.  Many see hope at this time of year; others think about what could be--and what isn't.  It's no coincidence that so many uprisings take place around this time of year:  Think of the Easter Rising of 1916, and the Paris and Prague Springs of 1968, for example.

I am struck by how many people participate in May Day processions--or go to them--on their bicycles.  That makes sense, too, as this is the time of year when many people end their winter hiatuses and begin cycling in earnest--or begin cycling again for the first time in their adult lives, or ever.  Not for nothing does Bike To Work Week come in May.  
Also, in much of the world, bicycles are the transportation of working-class people.  As Sheldon Brown point out, those English three-speeds manufactured by Raleigh, Dunelt and other companies for a century took millions of British workers to their shops, factories, schools and other places where they worked or studied.  The bicycle is still the main way people commute in many areas; in some places, mainly northern European and North American cities, people--especially the young--are  becoming bicycle commuters (and cyclists in general) by choice rather than necessity.

At the May Day Parade along Bloomington Ave, parader who gave his name as "Carlyle" helped set the fire-breathing float in motion driven by bicycles .

Who knows the meaning of May Day--and the importance of bicycles in it--than this man, who gave his name as "Caryle" and helped to set in motoion a fire-breathing float powered by bicycles in last year's Minneapolis parade?

30 April 2016

What Do You Learn While Cycling?

You learn all kinds of things while cycling.  Some come from those deep ruminations that naturally come with that meditatative state you fall into while pedaling.  You start to ponder the Big Questions, like "Do I cook that wild farm-raised alligator shrimp fish I bought last week?  Or do I go for takeout Chinese?  Tacos?  Pizza?"

Other great lessons come from the things our bodies tell us.  Like the time you tried to do that half-century on two hours' sleep after you pulled a hamstring.  Or plunged down that rock-strewn hill the day after you broke up for the fifth or sixth time with someone with whom you have nothing in common but talk about marriage anyway.

Then there are those little bits of information we get from fellow cyclists and other people we meet along the way.  You know, news about sales, new "dive" bars and the "in" bike cafes:  All the important stuff.

Finally there are the things you would never, ever have found out had you not taken that ride a little later or a little earlier than usual, along some route you told yourself you'd never ride, ever again:

Hillary may well have stolen New York City.  She wouldn't be the first.  Some would argue, as I would, that a Dutchman did the same in 1624.  (Actually, Native Americans have had a whole continent stolen from them, just as African Americans' history and community was taken from them.) For that matter, I wouldn't be surprised if the one who wrote that graffito was involved in stealing the very spot--on the waterfront of Williamsburg, Brooklyn--from some working-class Italian or Jewish or German or Puerto Rican family who used to live there--or the jobs they might have had.

And we all know that Bush The Second stole the election of 2000.  Which means, of course, that he not only stole this country, he stole the 21st Century and, possibly, the third milennium.

Oh, the Five Boro Bike Tour will pass that very spot tomorrow.  Except that it will be going in the opposite direction from the one I'd been pedaling along the Kent Avenue Bike Lane.  So they might not ever learn that Hillary Stole NYC--or that there's construction in the bike lane, and they should proceed with caution.

29 April 2016

More Designers And Engineers Are Into The Fold

I have owned two folding bikes in my life.  The first, a Chiorda from the 1970's, I didn't have for very long.  But I rode the second, a Dahon Vitesse, to work for a year and a half.

As I've said in my post about the Dahon, I am not against folding bikes per se.  In fact, I see a real need for collapsible bikes that give a satisfying ride.  I just think such bikes are few and far between, although that could change one day.

That last statement is not just something I said to appease those of you who love your collapsible bikes or to prevent a flame war.  My optimism about the future of collapsible bikes is based on the fact that a number of designers and engineers are creating new and interesting ones.  Perhaps one really will be the folding bike of the future.

For some, getting a folder--or any bike--might be part of "going green".

It seems that Josef Cadek took that notion literally in designing his "Locust" folding bike.  It seems that whenever someone is creating a "modern" design, he or she seems to think it must be done in shades of white, gray or beige.  Not that I dislike those colors:  I just like variety.  (It drives me crazy that every other bike made is black, or so it seems.)

I have no idea of how the Locust rides.  One thing I will say for it, though, is that it's hard to fault for its shape or size when folded.  The same could be said about Thomas Owen's "One" which looks, well, more modern, at least in its tonal palette:

Since we live in a world in which we have to do so much in so little time, we have to "multitask."  So must our devices and gadgets.  So, since many cyclists ride with backpacks (I rarely do), Chang Ting Jen perhaps thought it was natural to come up with this:

Yes, a backpack bicycle!  Supposedly, it weighs only 12 pounds.  Of course, most people wouldn't want to carry much else if they have such a bike, as light as it is, on their backs.

You can read more about these, and some other interesting concept bikes on the Incredible Things webpage.