Thursday, January 21, 2010

Historic Bicycle Clubs

A fascinating article from the NY Times from a couple of days ago on the history of bicycle clubs.  Definitely worth checking out.  I like that the history parallels what was seen regionally in northern Nevada  with the famous Reno Wheelmen and other lesser known clubs such as the Carson Wheelmen and the Reno Ramblers.  Excerpt:

In the 1880s and 1890s, growing middle-class participation in cycling led to the formation of hundreds of clubs across the United States. The first to formwas the Boston Bicycle Club, created on Feb. 11, 1878. The following February saw a club formed in Buffalo, and the first New York City club came in 1880, also in February (something about the cold seemed to drive riders to associate in those days, perhaps for the warmth of the pack).

As the numbers grew, clubs began to develop along ethnic, racial and class lines. This was particularly true in New York and other urban centers, where recent immigrants divided into Italian, German, Belgian and Irish clubs. There was a Harlem Cycling Club, one for Mongolians and even a Norseman’s club, “which I saw somewhere advertised as ‘limited to the sons and daughters of Harold the Fairhaired,’” said Evan Friss, a doctoral candidate in history at the City University of New York, whose dissertation is focused on this period in the history of cycling.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

End Times are Here!

The new Eels record has "dropped" and on first listen it is a compelling companion to the recently released Hombre Lobo.  It actually would have fit nicely as a double album.  Here is the simple title track.  E certainly knows how to write spare and raw lyrics.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Has the World Changed After the Road Rage Trial of Dr. Thompson?

This is a good op-ed from the LA Times on the recent verdict and sentencing of Dr. Thompson for a assaulting two cyclists.  Two key passages pop out but the whole article is worth reading:  

There is no question that cyclists are almost always treated unfairly in the halls of a seemingly indifferent justice system, and for once, cyclists feel that the violent abuse they are regularly subjected to has been taken seriously. For that, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office is to be commended.

But this was a stand-alone case that does not represent some sort of sea change in the way that vigilante violence against law-abiding cyclists is handled. We should remember that it took more than one assault with his weapon of choice before Thompson was sent to jail.


The real issue here is not "scofflaw cyclists" or "motorists hell-bent on killing cyclists;" it is competition for limited road space. For that, motorists owe cyclists a debt of gratitude; merely respecting our need for safety is all the thanks we need. Every cyclist you see on the road represents one less car contributing to congestion. Yes, you may occasionally have to slow down for a few seconds, but those few seconds are offset by the time you save for every car that is not on the road ahead of you. Cyclists also neither consume gasoline nor contribute to climate change, and they cause far less wear and tear on the road than cars. These are benefits that accrue directly to motorists in the form of less demand for limited resources, driving regulations and limited tax dollars.
 Considering the recent hullaballoo about the anti-bike hate group on Facebook it would seem our work is cut out for us on both sides in terms of developing mutual respect.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Rivendell and Soma to Release New "Bargain" Lugged Frame?

If initial reports are correct it certainly looks like a good bargain at around $900 for a finished frameset.  Late this year or early 2011 for a release date.  Here's hoping that the small size doesn't get the 650b wheel size as I'm a fan of the 700c. I'm also not thrilled with where the seatstays hit the seattube.  Seems chunky but that's nitpicking.  Go to Rivendell or Soma Fabrications to check out more info on the bike.  Here is an excerpt from the Riv site on the bicycle as it stands now.

It's what used to be called a road-sport bike. It has light tubing (by our standards -- like the Rambouillet, A. Homer Hilsen), and accepts tires up to 28mm with a fender, or about 35mm without. It has two eyelets on the rear dropouts, one on the front, and hourglass mounts on the seat stays. It's not for loaded touring, but fits a rear rack anyway, and you can use that as a saddlebag support, or put a trunk rack or some other light load on it. It probably won't break-like-carbon if you load it up and head for the hills, but it's really not stout enough to do that fantastically well. The tubing is too light.
The tubing is Tange Prestige (heat treated CrMo). Tange is a tubing maker; Prestige is it's top, heat-treated CrMo tubing, and it's plenty good for any frame.
The downtube says the opposite of SOMA, and the model nameSan Marcosis in small letters on the back of the seat tube.
I think it's best and fairest to evaluate this frame in the context of the current bike shop selection, and the price, about $895. I want to say that, because if all you do is consider "lugs" and "steel" and "fork crown" and maybe even "Rivendell-designed" it's a short step away from being compared to frames that cost a whole lot more.
Please DO compare it to any carbon frame and fork. Compare the clearance, the bar height and comfort, the tire and fender clearances, and the overall look. DON'T compare it to an A. Homer Hilsen, etc., and expect the same details. The fork won't be as beautiful, but it'll look a whole lot better (by certain standards) than any carbon fork, and it'll be way safer, too.
This frame is perfect for anybody who wants a really nice, super comfortable, attractive, safe, and versatile bike for well under $2,000. It's great for any road rides, centuries, and (with 35mm tires run soft), some smooth fire trails.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Facebook Supports Anti-Cycling Hate Group

There has been quite a bit of angst recently in the bicycling world about the anti-cycling hate group on Facebook and the decision by the powers that be FB not remove the site even though some people in the group were calling for violence against cyclists.   Personally, I think we need to avoid the knee-jerk reaction to shutdown discourse even if it seems quite heinous to us and first glance.  I expressed as much in a couple of forums and drew the ire of some other cyclists by suggesting that the discussion should be ongoing and open because eliminating the page doesn't make the hate go away, it just manifests itself in other ways.  Below I clipped one of my responses.  Good issues to think about in our new digital landscape and what it means for discourse in the future:

I think I may be the respectfully dissenting voice here. Not because I don't find it awful and offensive what is being said on the page, but because I really have misgivings about stamping out "offensive" opinions. The public vs. private argument is compelling and a good point. But I feel that our legal definitions can't keep up with this weird new social media/digital world we live in. It's not as if closing down the page gets rid of the hate. Don't get me wrong, it's disturbing and I'm not defending the hatred. FB should know that if someone on the page says "Let's all go run over the cyclists at the Reno Wheelmen Saturday training ride" and they go do it, FB could be seen as bearing some of the blame. 
I would argue that what is happening with the cyclists taking over and countering the vile spew on the page is precisely what should be happening. A free exchange of ideas banging against each other! Even if it is in an ugly and distressing confrontation.
There's a lot to be said about this and this isn't necessarily the best forum to debate all of the ins and outs of the issues. I think I'll go ride my bike....

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sunday Morning Music - Belle and Sebastian

This song always reminds me of a couple of my past students who outgrew high school and the people in it after a couple of years.  Always made me feel bad that they were confined to the prison for another couple of years even thought they were ready for bigger and better things.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Monster Truck + Cyclo Cross = Monster Cross

In a bike world where everything old is new again I was struck by this discussion about "Monstercross" bikes and remembered the original 1987 Bridgestone MB-1.  It also put in the mood to test even further the range of riding that my Rivendell All Rounder.  I've put everything from skinny 1.25 inch touring tires on it up to 2.0 plus inch knobbies and it handles well with both (although better with a fat tire).   I'm still sold on my full suspension mountain bike for the rockiness of the trails around here but it's pretty easy to see that the Rivendell could handle most anything that a good rider can throw at it this side of crazy downhill racing.  

More pics of my MonsterCrossRivendell (for an interesting comparison photo go here):

Monday, January 04, 2010

Amanda Blake and a New Face

I've posted before about my fascination with the artwork of Amanda Blake so it only seems natural that I post about the recent gifts I received at Christmas.  You might recognize these images.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Favorite Music of the Decade

I’ve decided to forego my usual end of year music “favorites” post and instead focus on what has been a banner decade of great recordings.   There have been some wonderful end of years lists and it’s heartening that many of the artists I’ve adored over the past ten years are getting kudos.  I particularly like the NPR list on the most “important” music of the decade.  It’s interesting to contemplate Kelly Clarkson next to Bon Iver in a discussion of music that made a difference.  If you haven’t listened to the discussion of the music from All Songs Considered it is highly recommended.

As for this past year, even though I’m in love with several albums, I have to say it feels a little weak to me.   Neko Case is the obvious exception with her stellar album Middle Cyclone.  I also loved the Lily Allen record, Fanfarlo’s album, XX, and the latest from Eels (although I’m hopeful that the soon to be released End Times) is a more polished outing.

So without further ado here are my favorite recording of the decade in no particular order.

Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

This one is so obvious it hardly needs mentioning.   The best parts of the album are the subtle gems like Poor Places, Radio Cure, and Reservations.

Sufjan Stevens - Illinoise

There aren’t too many artists that I like to throw the term “genius” at but Sufjan is one of them.  This album is so full of melodic surprises it’s the gift that keeps on giving.  Not many albums can make you feel like you see a glimpse of heaven and then move you to tears but this is one of them.

XTC - Fuzzy Warbles

Technically this is called an Andy Partridge collection but that is really unfair since the full Fuzzy Warbles set is XTC material/demos from the beginning of the band to the end.  It seems that we may have heard the last of what was one of the greatest and most influential bands ever and if this is to be their swan song it’s not a bad way to go out.  XTC should have been household names but alas it was not to be....

Neko Case - Middle Cyclone

I love Blacklisted and Fox Confessor but this is the album where everything came together for one of the great voices in modern music. 

PJ Harvery - Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea

Harvey is a musical treasure and even though I’m partial to White Chalk and Rid of Me top to bottom this is her strongest collection.

Radiohead - In Rainbows

While Kid A and Amnesiac are likely more important (although it still bugs me that they didn’t have the balls to release them together as a double album) In Rainbows is visionary.   The best thing they’ve done since OK Computer and perhaps on par with that record).

Of Montreal - Skeletal Lamping

Kevin Barnes crammed this album so full of pop hooks it makes me dizzy every time I put it on.  I’m not sure why Hissing Fauna is more lauded because Skeletal Lamping sounds like a masterwork every time I listen to it.

Eels - Souljacker or Blinking LIghts -

I had a hard time choosing between these two albums as a long time Eels fan.  Then I realized I didn’t have to.  Souljacker is more consistent as an album but Blinking Lights is a bigger artistic statement with its double album concept record from birth to old age.   Take your pick you can’t go wrong.

A.C. Newman - The Slow Wonder

The album lives at the top of my iTunes by virture of A.C.’s alphabetical listing.  That’s a good thing because it reminds me of just how good Newmans pop song writing is.  I’m a big New Pornographers fan as well but something about this album feels like perfection with its 70s pop song touchstones.

Cat Power - The Greatest

Haunting and powerful I could listen to her sing the ingredients on a cereal box and be moved.

Goldfrapp - Supernature

Glam rock meets disco and I am hard pressed to think of a more fun collection of  songs from the past decade although a nod should go to...

Lily Allen - Alright, Still

As mentioned before I love Ms. Allen’s new record but the slick production loses some of the charm from this album.

Dandy Warhols - Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia

This is just a personal (not so ) guilty pleasure for me.  I’ve said before that it is the album that captures a certain zeitgeist of the college experience (both good and bad) better than any other album.

Beck - Sea Change

What a weird record from Beck!   Crooning Gordon Lightfootesque songs is not exactly where most people expected him to go but it’s a disarming collection of beautiful songs about heartbreak.

Belle & Sebastian - The Life Pursuit

Musically and lyrically one of the most amazing song cycles of the decade.  I’m not generally a person who focuses on lyrics but they don’t come much more clever than this.

Franz Ferdinand - You Could Have It So Much Better
I know they wear their influences on their sleeves but FF keep putting out wonderful, danceable pop songs, that just make you want to move.  This album felt like a leap beyond their first collection.  Seeing them play “Outsiders” live still gives me chills.

Tom Waits - Real Gone

Just when you think Mr. Waits is going to get redundant he puts out one of his best albums ever in a ouvre that is without peer.   I bow down before Trampled Rose and the guitar solo on Hoist That Rag may be one of the best ever recorded.

Fountains of Wayne - Welcome Insterstate Managers

It’s hard not to call this a concept album with its “Office Space” lyrics and paens to the white collar work world --- through the prism of its shiny Carsesque  pop.  After releasing a couple of quintessential pop records this album shines even brighter.

Badly Drawn Boy - Hour of Bewilderbeast

has been curiousy inconsistent after this album that started off the last decade.   But Bewilderbeast stands as one of the best song cycles of the decade.

Honorable mentions?  Too many to name....