Good news…bad news
The good thing about a headwind going somewhere is that it usually means a tailwind coming back. And so it was on today’s ride to downtown for Viva Streets Austin.
Viva Streets is a fledgling attempt to duplicate the ciclovias of south America, where large sections of streets are closed to automobile traffic during certain times of the month. This allows other forms of transportation and activity to reclaim the streets, if only for a little while.
In this case that means 6th Street from Brazos to Robert Martinez. Walking, cycling, skateboards, scooters, dancing, exercise stuff, et cetera, et al.
“Bicycles.” I suppressed my sarcastic self when asked if I “spin.” I desperately wanted to tell them that their bicycles were missing a second wheel.
It was humid…good thing it was hot
Because I am retired, I “work” at home. So I can’t bike to work.
Part of Bike Month is something called bike to work day. Like many other cities, Austin has a slate of events, including breakfast stations and afternoon beverage stations. There is also a ribbon cutting ceremony for a recently completed segment of separated bikeway downtown. Today is about celebrating those intrepid souls who ride their bike to work. Some of them ride significant distances. Kudos. Congrats. Pedal on.
While I applaud those who bicycle to work, I grow weary of the promotion and advocacy. Cute videos like this and this (I know a couple people in this one). Food stations. News reports. Press releases. But there is a small problem. All the promotion and celebration is chasing a goal that is a long way away, at least here in Austin. Housing and employment distribution, development patterns, lack of robust public transportation are headwinds against significant mode shift toward bicycles. Bike to work promotions also ignore the low hanging fruit of non-work automobile travel: short trips for shopping, errands, entertainment, etc.
It also ignores the invisible bicycle commuters. The ones who have no choice, who bike because they can’t afford a car. They ride on cheap bike shaped objects or poorly maintained used bicycles. They bike without lights and helmets. You can see them pedaling upstream on the sidewalk or on the wrong side of the road. They’re just trying to get from A to B. They’re not celebrating or being celebrated.
I’m not biking to work today.
For want of a nail…
My step-daughter is riding in the Real Ale this weekend. She asked me to look at her bike to make sure it’s ready. It was in good shape, just needed a few minor adjustments, some chain lube and air in the tires. Everything was going well until I got to the rear brake. As I was tightening the cable anchor the bolt stripped. Don’t know if I over torqued the bolt or it got cross threaded during last maintenance. When I removed the bolt to investigate a bunch of aluminum thread came out with it.
I removed the brake and headed to the nearest local bike shop. On the way I was entertaining myself with thoughts of worst case. What were the chances that the LBS had a stock of piece parts for various brakes? I could just hear the service representative suggesting purchase of a new brake. Now what are the chances that they had a the right brake in stock?
I was pleasantly surprised when the service representative turned out to be a bike mechanic. We’re in luck. He pondered the brake for a few minutes and then walked into the parts area mumbling something like “let me see.” He came back out with a set of taps and proceeded to rethread the anchor. Found a new bolt and presto…operational brake. I thanked him profusely and headed back to the house to reassemble the bike.
On the return trip I began to ponder why I didn’t have a set of taps in my toolset. Have to put that on the wish list.
When I got back to the house I found this fellow sunning himself on the driveway. Don’t know if he was just hanging out or wanted to offer bike fixing advice. He didn’t stick around long, slithering off into the bushes, probably in search of things to eat. Or maybe just some peace and quiet away from annoying bike mechanics.
Huffy Beach Cruiser. Classic. Steel everything. Simple. Nice big fat 26″ tires. Comfort seat.
Did a complete overhaul, including repacking hubs, headset and bottom bracket. Also did a little general cleaning to remove the patina of disuse. Although the bike wasn’t in bad shape. Just a little dirty and needing grease, lube and adjustment. Looks like this had been stored inside somewhere.
Keep your stupid carbon
Simple bicycles. Durable, inexpensive and easy to repair. No throw away components. No leading edge space age technology. Give me this kind of bicycle any day. The other stuff merely looks like high priced fashion accessories for “fitness.”
A fabulous morning ride to the shop. Clear blue skies, started on the cool side then warmed up. Lots of bike commuters out.
I wore my new t-shirt. None of the cagers seem to take exception.
Busy shop. Usual mix of issues. Tube patching, wheel truing, hub packing, headset and bottom bracket adjustments.
Learned a new trick today. One of more seasoned volunteers was working on an old Raleigh. The frame was a little rusted. He used corn oil to remove the rust. He can’t remember who taught him the trick. Apparently the corn oil soaks in and help protect the paint. Can’t wait to see how this turns out. This is a classic frame and restored will be an awesome bike.
Trip home was much warmer but enjoyable. iPod served up enjoyable tunes. Was able to pay attention to the lyrics.
Thus sayeth Jim Morrison
They are saying, “Forget the night
Live with us in forests of azure
Out here on the perimeter there are no stars
Out here we is stoned immaculate”
Thus sayeth Jimmy Buffett
With no plans for the future
He still seems in control
From a bronco ride to a ten foot tide
He just had to learn to roll
…What a fascinating modern age we live in. – J. Aubrey
A friend sent me a link about this new bicycle wheel. He offered it “without endorsement or commentary,” knowing I would more than likely make comments about it. The loopwheel replaces spokes with springs. Springs made of carbon fiber.
Interesting concept,except for the obvious drawbacks:
- made from expensive carbon fiber. Haven’t seen a price point for these yet but I can almost guarantee it will be well above a standard aluminum rim, steel spoke and hub wheel.
- not repairable. Well, actually there are methods for repairing carbon fiber, but highly unlikely these methods will apply t springs.
- failure modes. Spoked wheels tend to fail gracefully. Well except for the spectacular folding failure of front racing wheels with stupidly low spoke counts and radial lacing. How will these spring wheels fail when the carbon fiber goes crack!!?
- inefficient. Significant power will be lost to the springs when pedaling. The wheel will flex more than spoked wheel and absorb a lot of power.
- unstable. What dampens the oscillation inherent in spring systems?
- throwaway. Aluminum and steel have mature recycle and reuse streams. To my knowledge, carbon fiber cannot be efficiently recycled.
Meet George Jetson
And then there is the never ending question of when do we get our flying cars? Apparently, feasibility studies are underway. Once again we see people trying to invent and build something because they can without asking the question of whether they should.
Set aside that the idea that this will be horribly expensive to buy and maintain. Ignore the glaring issue that this is a solution looking for a problem. Are we really going to sanction this insanity? Far too many motorists can’t even control a vehicle in two dimensions, let alone three. What will the mishap rate be for these?
Here’s a hint. General aviation (private airplanes) has the highest mishap rate of any segment, including very risky military aircraft. The leading cause of crashes of small aircraft is engine failure due to fuel starvation. Yes, private pilots run out of fuel. It happens all the time. And these are people who get far more training and scrutiny than your average joe driving a car.
How will these vehicles interact with the surface transportation system? Will they be required to land at an airport and then transition to car mode? Or will be eventually allow takeoffs and landings direction on our highways? Who certifies the operators?
Progress? Not too sure.