Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

04 August 2015

Your Secret Is Safe With Me

Nearly every one of us has done something we won't admit--except, perhaps, under extreme duress-- to having done.

People have confided such misdeeds to me. Back when I was a Rutgers student and riding with the Central Jersey Bicycle Club, a ride leader about three times my age whispered to me that he voted for Richard Nixon.  One of my fellow students, who wanted to be the next Sir Kenneth Clarke, confided to me that he once paid full price for a copy of Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet--in hardcover, no less!  And a woman I dated tearfully related how, around the time she was entering puberty, she had a crush on David Cassidy, a.k.a. Keith Partridge.

Of course I assured them their secrets are safe with me.  I am not breaking my promise:  I am sure that none of them read this blog.  In fact, I know the Nixon voter never will, unless he can see it from that great bike path in the sky.

Now it's time for me to come clean.  No, I won't tell you about the things I've done behind closed doors:  Some things are best left to the imagination.  (I assure you, though, they were done only with consenting adults and no endangered species were harmed.)  I actually had a Members Only jacket--and copy of Spandau Ballet's True. (The latter was a gift--I swear!)  I also straddled the 80s trends of camouflage and neon colors:  When I wanted to look tough and macho, I did camo, but in my heart of hearts, I loved that neon pink, especially my Italian winter cycling jacket in that color. 

And I also--please, please don't tell anyone--wore something that looks even more ridiculous now than Duran Duran's hairdos: 

So you wore them, too?  OK, I promise not to tell.  I had a pair of those Oakley Factory Pilot goggles, circa 1985, in--you guessed it--neon pink. 

To be fair, they were more practical for cycling, in a number of ways, than traditional sunglasses.  For one thing, they had interchangeable lenses. So you could wear smoke-gray on sunny days, the amber lenses on cloudy days and clear ones at night.  Also, because they wrapped around the temples, they provided protection from wind and insects as well as sun.  (I really appreciated them the time I got caught in a sleet storm during a ride!)  Finally, they weren't as fragile as other sunglasses were.

But they seemed to cover the face of just about anyone who wore them. 

Now that's a strange combination:  Oakley Factory Pilots with a "leather hairnet".   But he needn't worry:  His secret is safe with me!  ;-)


03 August 2015

They Have Been Done; They Will Be Done Again

Who made the first dual-suspension folding bike?

No, it wasn't Dahon.   Nor was it Montague.  Even Moulton's double-shock folder has antecedents.

We may not ever know for sure who made the very first bike of this type.  I did find out, though,that one was made 100 years ago by a company that's still making bikes.

Perhaps not surprisingly, it was developed for use in war.  Some of the earliest foldable or collapsible bikes were made for soldiers to carry on their backs. Some, like the one I'm about to mention, even had mounts for guns or rifles.

In 1915, all of the major European powers were embroiled in World War I.  Some of the best-known developments of that conflict are the machine gun (which is said to have inspired the ratcheting freewheel) and chemical weaponry.  It may also have spawned bicycles with suspension and some of the earliest foldable bikes.

Bianchi Dual-Suspension Folding Bike, 1915

A bike that could both bounce and fold was created for the Italian Army by--you guessed it--Bianchi.  The company claims that it was the first of its type.  That may well be true, but it's always difficult to say that anything was a "first" in cycling because so many designs simply disappeared without a trace only to be resurrected, sometimes by "inventors" who had no idea of their previous existence.

Still, I don't think folks at Bianchi are stretching the truth very much, if at all, when they say the dual-suspension folding bike they created for the Italian Army in 1915 was the first of its kind. There don't seem to be any records of bikes with dual suspension or folding bikes much before that date. Also, it's hard to imagine that the technology of the 19th Century--in bikes as well as manufacturing techniques--could have made suspended or folding bikes practical or widely available much before that date.

Whether or not it was the first bike of its kind, it's yet another example of how this passage from Ecclesiastes applies to the bicycle world:

What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun. 


02 August 2015

She Rides In Australia

A friend expressed consternation that today I cycled to Connecticut alone,  something I've done before.

I have also done that ride, and others, with friends.  But, she says, she wonders how I can ride alone.  

She is about a decade and a half older than I am and has not ridden a bike since she was a teenager.  That was typical for the place and time in which she grew up.  She says she'd thought about riding again but had difficulty finding other riders, particularly female ones.

"And the roads are so dangerous.  Don't you worry?"

I explained, as I've explained before, that I am careful but that cycling, while it has its risks, is really no more dangerous than any number of other things people do.  "To tell you the truth, I feel less safe crossing some streets--especially Queens and Northern Boulevards--as a pedestrian than I feel when I'm biking," I elaborated.

Her fear is a common one. In fact, a recent study shows that it's the main reason why women don't ride bikes.  To address that fear or reality, depending on one's point of view, Cycling Australia has initiated the "She Rides" program to get women to take to the same roads men ride every weekend.

Participation Coordinator Alex Bright said that while most women cycled as children, getting them back in the saddle as adults had been difficult.  In the hope of encouraging more women to ride, "We wanted to create a program that connected them with like minded women to help them get going and riding," she explained. "We wanted to provide a way to support women to get on their bikes because a lot of women feel unsafe on the road."

She rides group in Parramatta
Members of a She Rides group in Parramatta, New South Wales

That program includes an eight-week course that now operates in 46 locations throughout Australia.  Charlene Bordley has coached three She Rides programs and says that while physical fitness is a benefit of riding, "it's also about mental fitness."  Riding for the first time in their adult lives--or, in some cases, for the first time in their lives, "is freedom for some people," she said.

Bordley, Bright and others involved with the program are doing something right:  Ninety percent of the women who have participated say they are more likely to ride on bike lanes or quiet roads than when they started, while 78 percent are more likely to ride busy streets.  

Manju Prajesh is one of those participants.  Even today, she still can't believe she now has the confidence to ride on the road.  "We have totally lost our fear," she says.