Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

27 August 2015

In Twilight And Afterglow With Arielle

It was a gorgeous late-summer day...and life intervened.  The new semester is starting, so I had various things to attend to, including course outlines and finding and restoring links to readings and films I'm assigning my students.

At least I got out to ride in the middle of the afternoon,.  I took Arielle, my Mercian Audax, off the peg and inflated the tires.  I knew she would feel great after spending a week on a rented hybrid, but Arielle exceeded my hopes and expectations. I felt as if I were in a race car suspended by hot-air balloons.  Or maybe a flying carpet with jet engines.

Whatever the metaphor, the bike overcame the deficiencies in the human engine.  Possibly the best part of all was riding a Brooks Professional--which is starting to feel really broken-in--after whatever was on the rental bike and the cheaper leather seat on my LeTour.

The bike felt so good I just wanted to keep on riding it.  And that's what I did, all the way to Connecticut.

I'd've gone even further than I did into the Nutmeg State, but I really didn't want to ride back in the dark.  I have lights, but riding back from ConnectIicut means passing through a couple of dodgy neighborhoods.  I've ridden them in the dark, with no problems, but I prefer to avoid nocturnal rambles in them.

I descended to the Queens side of the RFK-Triborough Bridge just as the sun was setting.  From there, it's only a kilometer to my apartment after 120 kilometers of delightful cycling. 

I arrived in a glow of twilight, and in an afterglow of an invigorating ride--and, of course, my adventures of the past few weeks!


26 August 2015

This Bike Is Like A Tatoo Because...

I've never had a tatoo, and I probably never will have one. Every once in a while, I see one I like.  However, even seeing such a tatoo has never made me want one.  

It's not that I have any religious or philosophical objection to tatoos.  Nor am I afraid of the needles, at least not anymore:  After all, I have had surgery.  And, even though I grew up in a time when tatoos were associated with outlaw bikers, prisoners and the sorts of military folk who live, work and die by the motto Caedite eos.  Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius, I have never had any fear of, or prejudice against those who have their bodies pricked and painted.  Perhaps my attitude is a result of having two uncles--one of whom is my godfather--with tatoos.

Even when I see a tatoo I like on someone else, I have no wish to get one for myself.  Perhaps it's hypocritical, but I find myself thinking, "Good for him (or her)."

I feel something similar about some of the wild bike finishes and color schemes I see.  I saw an example parked near Columbus Circle today:

I had to go inside a Starbuck's to take the photo because the bike was parked too close to the glass wall for me to take a photo from the outside. Believe it or not, I actually liked the look:  In some strange way, those colors and shapes actually work together.  

Still, I would never make any of my own bikes look anything like that.  And I definitely would not put wheels like those on any bike of mine.  But if that bike makes its owner happy, that's what matters.  Right?

25 August 2015

After Paris....A Ride In The Bronx?

Two years ago, the former chief of the French National Police caused a stir when he said that certain parts of Paris were starting to resemble the Bronx.

He was making reference to the increasing crime in those Parisian arrondissements--namely, the 18th, 19th and 20th.  (It also just happens that those neighborhoods contain the city's greatest concentrations of African and Middle Eastern immigrants.)  He is not the first Frenchman, or European, to make such a comparison:  the worst parts of cities, or the banlieues are often likened to New York City's northernmost boroughs, usually based on impressions gleaned from such films as Fort Apache, The South Bronx.  While I certainly wouldn't compare Port Morris with the Place des Voges, not all of the Bronx is poor and crumbling and even its worst parts aren't quite as dangerous as some other urban neighborhoods.  But I guess "Camden" or "North Philadelphia" or "The South Side of Chicago" doesn't have quite the same ring.

Anyway, there is a certain irony in the former police chief's comparison.   It can be seen in certain areas, such as a stretch of the Grand Concourse near Yankee Stadium where I rode today:


While the buildings are in need of maintenance, some are quite nice:  People actually lived in them by choice.  More to the point (for the purposes of this post, anyway), they bear the influences of Art Deco and classical architectural styles found in many Paris buildings.

Also, you may have noticed that the Grand Concourse, like the Boulevard des Champs-Elysees, is wide, has a parklike median and is lined with residential as well as commercial buildings. 

The parallels I've described are not merely coincidental.  At the end of the 19th Century, most of the Bronx was still wooded or farmland; all of its industry as well as most of its population was concentrated in the southernmost part of the borough.  But new waves of immigration would fill Manhattan's tenements and trains almost to their bursting point, and many longtime Manhattan residents sought bigger apartments as well as more open space but wanted a manageable commute to work.  The city's subway and trolley lines were extended into the Bronx, and new street and apartment buildings were constructed. 

Around this time, a man who had been a surveyor, mapmaker and engineer for the New York Central Railroad (then the second-largest corporation in the US, after the Pennsylvania Railroad) was appointed the chief  topographical engineer for New York City.  His name was Louis Aloys Risse. At age seventeen, he emigrated to the US from France, where he was born in 1850.  Thus, it comes as little surprise that while on a hunting trip (!) in the hills of the North Bronx, he conceived of a boulevard, inspired by the Champs-Elysees, that would connect one end of the borough with the other, and with Manhattan.

So...Do you still think it's so odd that I'd take a ride in the Bronx while still in the afterglow of my trip to Paris?