Music, beer, fellowship. A balmy evening after the first truly hot day of the year. Celebration.
Rex had fun.
First Tuesday is the monthly collective meeting for Yellow Bike. I always look forward to these days. It usually means a leisurely bicycle ride followed by meeting with my fellow bicycle subversives. Sometimes the meetings are fun. Sometimes they are tedious. But I never feel like I’ve wasted my time. Tonight’s meeting included creating a “book club.”
Lately the meetings have been followed by a post-meeting. Time for fellowship, beer and interesting discussions. This evening we debated the impact of 3D printing and the relative merits of nail guns versus manual hammering. There were several side discussions about wheel building, whiskey and scotch, various beers. Then there was wide-ranging banter about employment selection and management.
Bonus: I got to drink beer in yet another bar I’ve never been to.
Said my good nights and headed off into the moonless night. Quiet streets of late night Austin. A nice tailwind. I love riding during late night. Sparse traffic, well-behaved. Arrived tired but energized. Sipping a beer, listening to tunes, struggling with a way to describe what it’s like to ride late at night in this town.
On my ride down to the shop this afternoon I observed at least 4 cars sitting on the side of the road, emergency blinkers on, driver standing on the curb cell phone in hand desperately seeking assistance. Broken down.
The car is without a doubt very convenient method of transportation. If you can overlook the death, injury, environmental mayhem and debt. But when the car stops working…With my bicycle there is very little in the way of failure or breakdown that I can’t remedy with a little work. At the very least I can walk the damn thing home. Most cars these days require rescue and tow truck transfer to a repair bay. Fortunately, these individuals were safely within the confines of an urban center.
The sight of these broken machines reminded me of two occasions when my car broke down literally in the middle of nowhere.
Was driving from Spokane to Missoula in my Datsun pickup. It was late December night in a blinding snowstorm. I had just crossed the pass between Idaho and Montana and pulled into a rest stop. Unknown to me the idiot light for the alternator had burned out, so my vehicle couldn’t tell me that I had been running down my battery. After warming myself in the restroom I ran out to my truck, jumped in and turned the key. Click. Not the sound of a starter motor struggling to turn over the engine. Just the simple click of the key. It was then that I noticed that none of the lights on the instrument panel were working. Dead battery. And I mean dead.
It’s late at night on a remote stretch of interstate highway. Nearest town is 20 miles away. It’s -10 F and snowing. Not looking good. As I was pulling out my camping equipment and preparing to settle in for the night (and maybe longer) a trucker pulled in to relieve himself. I asked him for a jump but his electrical system was incompatible with mine. We did manage to wrestle my truck in front of his and he gently pushed me so I could pop the clutch and get the engine started. Drove straight through and parked in front of an auto parts store so I could buy a new battery in the morning.
I had just finished attending a mapping and mission planning conference at China Lake, CA. I decided that I could drive straight through and get home to Yuma that night. I was on I-10 just west of Blythe, CA when blam! Tire blowout. Pull over and change the tire. My car had a full sized spare. After getting back on the road I began a little mental debate. One voice was telling me to stop in Blythe and get the tire repaired. The other voice was calling me a wimp and saying I could make it no problem. What are the odds of another tire failure anyway. The voice of caution lost the argument and I pressed on.
There was a brief repeat of the debate as I exited I-10 at Quartzite to head south on 95 to Yuma. It was almost midnight and the voice of caution was not happy. But it lost again and I pressed on. You can see where this is going.
Twenty miles south of Quartzite BLAM! Another tire failure. Oops. Now I’m screwed. This is a remote stretch of highway. When I got out of the car the only sound was a soft desert wind and the baying of coyotes in the distance (at least I hope it was distant).
My luck turned when a north bound car stopped and offered me a ride back to Quartzite. After waking the local on-call repair guy (it was now almost 2 AM), we headed in his tow truck, got my car and back to his shop where I bought two used tires.
Somehow I just can’t complain that much about throwing a chain or having a flat on my bike in the middle of a city.
My Wife Left Me
Another business trip. The usual zero dark thirty departure time. After dropping her off at the terminal I found myself with some time to kill before heading to Yellow Bike.
Some mysterious force pulled my car towards one of my favorite breakfast spots: Dan’s. Got a short stack with eggs over and side of bacon. Coffee of course. Great start to another fine Monday in the ATX.
Got to the shop early anyway so I turned loose on some chores. I don’ t really think of them as chores; more like little acts of love. Refilled the grease guns, lube bottles and mixed some Simple Green. Restocked toilet paper. Did some reoranization of the supplies. The constant push back against entropy. A little poke in the eye of chaos.
Not very many shop users this morning. Actually had time to work on some bikes. After finishing one of the kids donation bikes, I started working on a fat tire cruiser. Adjusted the rear hub/coaster brake. Found a saddle and seat post guts.
Near shop close time one our volunteers was having problems getting the rear wheel in the dropouts. After struggling with it myself for a short time I discovered that the dropout width was too narrow. Amazing what 5 mm can do. Oh boy, another excuse to break out the big boy tools.
First checked that the frame was aligned. Then measured the rear wheel to confirm over nut distance. Then spread the dropout. Took several tries to get it to set in the correct distance, but finally got it right. Now the wheel slides in real nice.
Another excitement filled day of greasy bicycle goodness.
New addition to reading list
This book arrived this weekend. Opened it up last night to read the Preface and first two chapters. It resonates with a need I see here in Austin (and elsewhere). In particular the author’s viewpoint confirms one of my own:
…the bike industry stopped making quality, affordable transportation bicycles a long time ago. What we have been left with are bicycles that cost several month’s salary or garbage, bicycle-shaped-objects that breakdown after a few rides, if they are safe to ride at all.
I also heard repeatedly from local partners that even if impoverished people in their communities managed to obtain a quality transportation bicycle, there was no place for them to go to get the bike fixed…all of this adds up to a very unwelcoming environment for disadvantaged people and even some people who want to try bicycling for the first time.
How true. Especially the second issue. The author goes on to discuss co-ops, which stings a little but is true as well:
In response, do-it-yourself volunteer-run bicycle co-ops and collectives have been popping up in cities across the U.S. and Europe. While the intention is good, the loose organization structure tends to form around the limited time these volunteers can offer. Open hours are often sporadic and unpredictable. Also, many of these programs are based on the do-it-yourself concept designed for people with time to spare. Unfortunately, most disadvantaged people cannot afford the time it takes to build a bike or learn bicycle repair by trial and error.
Nailed it. Exactly.
Social Bike Business
This book is about establishing something different: the “social bike business.”
…program is designed to bridge all of these gaps by guiding struggling people toward their own entrepreneurial success. Advantaged people are well served by bike shops, collectives and co-ops. Now it’s time to create the places that invite our most disadvantaged neighbors to purchase their own bike–refurbished or manufactured locally through the program–and engage in a new career that will enable them to lift themselves out of poverty. Even obtaining a quality transportation bicycle can save a person several hours a day if they had been walking and save them thousands of hard-earned dollars each year. Bicycles shrink cities at no charge. [emphasis mine]
Barely started the book but I’m intrigued. As I stated in the beginning of this post, it resonates with some ideas I’ve had to fill gaps I see. I have to caution myself to read the book through before grabbing my lance and tilting at windmills, or add to the growing pile of lightbulbs which never get screwed in (thanks again to “The Professor” for that analogy–brilliant).
The book’s author, Sue Knaup, is founder of an organization called One Street. Had not heard of them until this book arrived. I see a new path opening up in front of me…might be fun to pedal down it.
Taught myself how to disassemble a Bontrager rear hub. Fortunately, the Internet was helpful with a detailed user manual. This included removing the freewheel body to diagnose why it was frozen (Old Guy post 4/7/13). Turns out it wasn’t the freewheel but the damage the chain did to the hub flange. So I salvaged as much as I could: freewheel, rim, spokes, axle, sealed bearings, QR skewer. Too bad. This could have been a good wheel.
Had to re-acquaint myself with SRAM grip shifters and how to route the gear cable. Was showing a new volunteer how to install cable and adjust rear shifting. All grip shifters are not designed the same: some are easy, some require you to disassemble to put the cable in. SRAM falls into the later category. She got to see me drop the little spring clip several times while my big fat fingers fumbled around trying to put it back in.
We also had to hunt for barrel adjuster for the rear derailleur and I guided her through adjusting shifting. Somebody had tightened both limit screws almost all the way in and I had to explain how to fine tune indexed shifting. I’ve got the how part down, not so good explaining the why part. Some users ask, some don’t care. She seemed interested in understanding so I gave it a try.
Also made my first shopping list for supplies: hand cleaner, Simple Green, etc. So that means I get to freak out the SUV moms with my cargo bike tomorrow.
Well not really a job in the traditional sense of that word. Don’t have a boss and I’m not being paid but I will be doing work. One of our volunteers moved on to other things. Their “job” was something we loosely titled shop steward. Basically a logistics job making sure the shop is stocked with various cleaning supplies and consumables, taking care of bulk recycle of paper/cardboard, provide rags and towels, etc.
logisticsn(functioning as singular or plural)1. (Military) the science of the movement, supplying, and maintenance of military forces in the field2. (Economics) the management of materials flow through an organization, from raw materials through to finished goods3. the detailed planning and organization of any large complex operation[from French logistique, from loger to lodge]logistically advlogistician n
Commonly referred to as a work party. Each month we try to schedule a work party at the shop. Various clean up and organization tasks. Sometimes we try to undo the work of the unsort gremlins (who visit the shop each night to foster chaos).
Today we concentrated on the outside. Some trimming and landscape chores. Then we turned to cleaning up the scrap metal and organizing wheels.
Timmy, Destroyer of Wheels
A little known diety in the pantheon. Scrapping wheels to make room for those that actually have a chance of being part of a bicycle again.
Wall of Wheels
Had this on my to-do list for some time. Need to triage the wall of wheels. Pull out those that are scrap or future art and sort by size. One of these days…
a superficial or insincere display of concern for the environment that is shown by an organization
I recently became party to an email discussion that has started another internal mental debate. On one hand I want to educate and change behavior; on the other I don’t want to lift a finger to help a certain corporation. I won’t name names but if you have any intelligence at all you’ll figure out who I am talking about. I’m probably going to piss some people off and for that I apologize. Anybody reading this should clearly understand that these are my opinions. I speak for no organization or company. Just exercising one of my first amendment protections.
The conversation revolves around a new commercial location and a corporation’s desire to “partner” with a local non-profit to promote/encourage cycling. Nice thoughts but I have doubts that this company really gives a hoot about cycling or making their stores more accessible. At best they’ve managed to only provide a paltry few bicycle parking racks and some fix-it stations.
Location, Location, Location
What really has me in a non-cooperative mood is the location of this new store. Couldn’t have picked a worse place to accommodate bicycles if you tried. Now I understand that there are a lot of variables that go into real estate transactions, especially for large commercial enterprises. A great deal of compromise. The problem is that, in my very humble opinion, not one single thought went toward bicycles in the design of the building or the access roads and parking lots. I’m not saying this idly. I have watched the construction of this building for some time and routinely bicycle in and around the area. (remember, I am part of that “fearless 1%” and will ride my bicycle almost anywhere).
Here is a satellite view of said location. This place screams “go away”. I mean the parking lot covers more acreage than the damn store. And it is further surrounded by pavement, none of which has any bicycle accommodation other than the flimsy protections of Texas vehicle code. The shopping center that this store is anchoring couldn’t even paint the few sharrows it begrudgingly installed correctly.
Once again we see bicycle transportation as a media and community relations afterthought. Feel good without substance.
Various thoughts and emotions have been warring all day ever since I read the latest e-mail (in a long string of e-mails) about tomorrow’s “Chat With The Chief.” The first such emotion is relief that a family obligation prevents me from attending. In my present state of mind I’m not sure I could be civil and temperate in his presence. He is, after all, a consummate politician and that usually triggers another emotion: contempt. Then again, he is just another person on a bicycle (or some would have you believe).
Or at least that’s what I thought until I read the details. Apparently the little social ride before the question and answer session will include police escort. I see. Yup. That’s contempt I’m feeling. The police chief requires escort to ride his bicycle but us normal everyday people get to fend for ourselves. Interesting.
Then there is the laughter triggered when contemplating the Thursday Night Social Ride participants. I imagine the mental anguish they must be experiencing trying to decide whether to listen to him and his colleagues or go on a fun night ride with a few hundred like-minded people.
This snark is not meant to detract from the hard work of the organizers. I’m glad the chief and a representative from the district attorney’s office deign to try to explain themselves. And it must not be fun trying to coordinate schedules and protocol. Herding cats comes to mind. I just don’t think the audience will hear anything new or positive. In fact, there is the very real possibility that they’ll hear condescending lecturing and obfuscation. Blah blah yada yada.