Friday, October 2, 2015

The $500 3-Speed: Possibilities Five Years Later

Almost exactly 5 years ago (wow!) I suggested that those looking for a city commuter bicycle in the $500 price range consider a refurbished vintage 3-speed, in leu of what was then available new for the same cost. My reasoning was, they would be getting a product both higher in quality and pleasanter to ride than the then-available alternatives.

Today, the economic landscape is changed from what it was 5 years ago. Nevertheless, the $500 figure remains amazingly stable as the budget those looking to buy their first city bike quote me. Luckily, the bicycle industry has changed as well. More options for budget priced city bikes are available now than there were 5 years ago. Is it still worth it then, to attempt going the vintage route? Here are my updated thoughts on the subject.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Pyramid of Garvagh

Pyramid of Garvagh
One of my favourite destinations for day rides is the village of Garvagh. Located just over the hill to the south, it makes for a convenient midway point of a metric century ride with some breathtaking views. The first half of the trip involves some sustained climbing, but the lovely descent with panoramic layered mountain vistas more than makes up for it. The village of Garvagh itself is tiny, but interesting. It began as a large private plantation in the 1600's, settled by the Canning family. Gradually it developed a market-town center - essentially one street, which today is lined with shops and cafes housed in attractive old stone buildings. There is also a museum and a handsome clock tower. The original plantation manor has been knocked down to make way for a school some decades ago, and most of the land has been parceled out and developed. A portion, however, has been preserved as public parkland.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

How Much Should a Handbuilt Bicycle Cost?

As someone who promotes the idea of handmade bicycles and related products, I sometimes get questions from readers regarding various aspects of the custom framebuilding industry. At the forefront of this are questions about pricing. How much should a handbuilt bicycle frame cost? Which builders offer a "better value?" How do tubing choices affect pricing? One reader, in fact, has recently asked how much money he could expect to save by supplying his own tubing.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Dawes Transporteur: a Lovely Frankenbike for Everyone and No One

Dawes Franken-Porteur
Some time ago I wrote about a mystery Dawes frameset that was bought by a friend under the impression it was a tiny 53cm frame that could be built up as a winter racer. On receipt, the frame turned out to be of the "long and low" variety - its 50cm seat tube and virtually non-existent head tube completed by a whopping 56cm of top tubage. The purchase price not being worth the return postage, the frameset was kept - and submitted to me on a "see what can be done with this!" basis.

Monday, September 21, 2015

"Hi-Viz" Knitting with Reflective Yarn

Reflective Knitting
As it happens, there is quite a bit of overlap between bicyclists and knitters. And so, on occasion, the subject of knitting makes an appearance on this blog. This time, however, it is particularly apt, as I am doing some "hi-viz" knitting. I am making a sweater out of reflective yarn and wanted to share my impressions with others curious about what working with it is like.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Review: the Velo Orange Porteur Bag

Velo Orange Porteur Bag
For as long as I've owned transportation bicycles with porteur-style front racks, I've been looking for a simple, easy to use everyday carry bag to go with them. And while a variety of porteur bags has been available on the market for a couple of years now (see my earlier review of the Swift Polaris), none were quite what I was looking for. Namely, they were too much bag for what I needed, and they lacked the convenience of quick access. The sort of bag I had in mind would be just large enough to fit my laptop and camera equipment, would have a low profile so as to eliminate swaying, would be quick and easy to clip onto the rack, and would allow me to access its contents on the go. Before all my projects were put on hold during my move to Ireland, I had begun to talk about designing a bag of this type with an interested party, and was just about to revisit the subject this summer - when a parcel from Velo Orange put a stop to those plans. By god, they have beat me to it: They have made a low-profile, easy to use, easy to access porteur bag. And the design is simpler, more practical, and lighter in weight than anything I had envisioned myself.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Randonnesia, the Strangest Thing

With this year's Paris-Brest-Paris behind us, and the season of brevets at large drawing to a close, I am hearing (or, more likely, seeing) that endearing neologism pop up in conversations again: randonnesia.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

In Passing

It’s a maddening maneuver I remember well from my days as a driver. But to experience it while cycling is somehow both funnier and more annoying. Take this example from earlier today:

I was cycling home at a fairly decent clip, when I heard a steady wooshing sound suggesting another rider was close behind. After some minutes of this, the wooshing grew more frenzied and I knew he was about to overtake me. Split seconds later, that was exactly what happened. The rider, down in the drops and red in the face, was giving it his all. I expected him to continue in this manner down the road, rocketing past me until he was but a dot on the horizon. Instead, nearly as soon as he passed me, the man immediately slowed down - until he was cycling at the exact same speed as I was, only now some meters ahead of me. By god, he had passed me just for the sake of passing!

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Magic Twig (on the Absurdities of Bicycle Photography)

The Magic Stick
Although I tend to avoid those types of shots in general, every now and again I post a photo of a bicycle that appears to be free-standing, posed in the middle of a field or some such, without a kickstand or anything else to prop it up. Inevitably someone asks how I achieve this magical feat. Well. Naturally, I use a magical twig! The technique is hardly unique to me, and in fact I recall seeing this so-called trade secret revealed on at least a couple of other "bike photographer" websites, which I cannot seem to find now. Basically, you prop the bicycle up with a stick against the bottom bracket. Then photograph from the drivetrain side, and later photoshop the stick out. Here is one example of a photo taken in this manner. And here is another.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Hi-Viz Camouflage?

I was in the passenger's seat of a friend's car as we drove toward town, when suddenly he pressed the horn and gestured out the window. "Hey, there's our friend So-and-So!"

"What? Where, I don't see him."

"There, right beside you! Must be doing his evening run."