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Monday
Jul242017

Over bar the shouting

The 2017 Tour de France is over. Over bar the shouting, that is. There is much shouting about Team Sky’s dominance. Cries of, “It is unfair to have a $40 million budget, when most teams have to make do with a fraction of that amount.” The French crowd were booing Chris Froome, not because he had done anything wrong, but because he owed his win to the strength of his team

Yes it is unfair, but then isn’t life unfair everywhere? There are always those individuals and groups who have more than others. What can you do about it? I might as well say it was unfair when I built frames and had to compete with the large import companies who had a huge advertising budget that I could never match.

Such an argument would be as futile, as it is to blame Sky for their success in obtaining better sponsorship than other teams. The French AG2R team operates on a shoe string compared to Sky, yet they were still able to challenge Sky on several occasions.

If France is so desperate for a Tour winner, why is the French government not throwing in some money? France is not a poor country, there has to be some large corporations that could sponsor a team like AG2R.

The problem is professional cycling shot itself in the foot, by turning a blind eye to doping for so many years. Sponsors do not trust the sport any more. But the Tour de France alone must do wonders for French tourism.

Team Sky dominated the race, Froome did not. To me he looked vulnerable at times, and he never won a stage. Uran did remarkably well, considering he had little or no team support. Dan Martin too. Warren Barguil’s attacking style was a joy to watch. Of course if he had been closer in the GC standing, he might not have been given the freedom he was.

And what if Alejandro Valverde, Geraint Thomas, Richie Porte, and Jacob Fuglsang, had not crashed out, what a different race that would have been. Would Froome have won, with the extra work load of running down these additional great riders? We will never know.

Roman Bardet rode a good race, as did his AG2R team, the only challenge to Sky. His time trial performance let him down, and I was glad he hung onto his podium place by a scant one second. It would have been sad to see him drop off the podium.

Mikel Landa will have his day I’m sure, especially if he changes teams. Wasn’t Michael Kwiatkowski amazing? Rode himself to a complete standstill on the Col d’Izoard, then two days later had recovered enough to almost win the time trial.  Beating Froome and only one second off first place.

Fabu Aru got a lot of stick for attacking Froome when he had a mechanical. I thought it was funny as hell. I burst out laughing when it happened. Aru was another who had little or no team support. What a different race it would have been if Fuglsang had not crashed out. These two Astana riders would have worked well together.

We have had a good Giro d’Italia, and Tour de France. The sport is better for having a more diverse talent base, instead of one or two riders riding unchallenged. Young riders are improving and Froome is slowing down, not sure he can win another Tour

Looking forward to the Vuelta. What say you?

 

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Monday
Jul172017

Rights and Privileges 

As cycling becomes more and more popular, more people choose to ride a bike to work each day rather than drive. We start to hear calls for cyclists to be licensed, or a tax imposed, in the same way automobile drivers are licensed and taxed.

The idea of licensing cyclists usually comes from city governments rather than on a state or national level. The argument is usually along the lines that bike lanes and other facilities cost money, and it only seems fair that cyclists should pay some of this cost.

However, in practical terms any attempt to tax or license cyclists in the past has always turned out to be a bureaucratic nightmare. It always costs more to implement such a plan than the income generated. Plus law enforcement and the court system has to then impose fines on those not having a license.

Sidewalks have been in place in cities everywhere since before the beginning of the last century, and no one has ever suggested that pedestrians should pay for sidewalks. Sidewalks make it safer to walk, bike lanes make it safer to ride a bicycle. And anyway revenues from drivers’ licenses or even road taxes do not pay for roads. So really that should be the end of that argument.      

When automobiles first appeared there were no laws or regulations, you could simply buy a car, jump in and drive it. Pretty much in the same way as we can buy a bicycle today and ride it anywhere.

Later because of wholesale carnage on the roads, laws were passed and licenses issued to drivers. As a result, driving is a privilege, one that can be taken away, whereas cycling like walking is a right. Although cyclists and pedestrians are still subject to the laws of the road. It appears no one can be prevented from walking or riding a bike, even if they break the law.

So what is a right? There are so called God given rights, but as people have the right to choose whether they believe in God or not, how does that work? If you don't believe in God, do you not have any God given rights? Are you obliged to respect other people's God given rights? As it is, the only God given right I can think of is our right to live.

If you look at The Bill of Rights there are very few actual rights. I don’t see a right to ride a bicycle mentioned. There is the right to bear arms, the right to practice a religion of your choice, etc.

After that it appears the function of government (In theory anyway.) is to leave us alone, and we are free to do as we please as long as we follow certain laws wherever they apply. It appears to me that rights are rarely granted, they are simply taken for granted. Is riding a bicycle on the highway is a prime example this?

I know to even suggest such a thing will cause outrage among a great many cyclists, but before we all get our anti-bacterial padded shorts in a twist, let’s think about this. In recent years cell phones have become available and some assume it is their right to own one and talk and send text messages whenever they please, including while driving.

It turns out this is not such a good idea so in some places this practice is being outlawed. Have people lost a right, or was it just an assumed right in the first place? 

A few years ago, people had the right to smoke just about anywhere they pleased. However, that right infringed on everyone else’s right not to breathe secondhand smoke. So, now that right has gradually been taken away, and smokers are now privileged to smoke in fewer and fewer places.

Because riding a bicycle on public roads is for the most part not a danger to other road users, it is doubtful than anyone will stop us doing it. Cycling is a good idea. It cuts down on congestion in our cities, it is better for the environment, and it should be encouraged because it is good for the physical and mental well-being of the participant.

My question is, are there any true rights or privileges? Or is this just an ongoing daily debate among millions of people, on the streets, on the talk shows and in the courtrooms? We all have certain rights, and we get to keep them as long as they don't infringe on the rights of others. If they do we may lose those rights, it is happening all the time.

In which case there is little difference between rights and privileges, either can be taken away. We should all remember this and in particular those cyclists who blatantly and regularly flout the laws of the road.

 

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Monday
Jul102017

Restored to its former glory

The Campagnolo Company was founded by Tulio Campagnolo in 1933, so 1983 marked the company's 50th. Anniversary. To commemorate the occasion a limited edition special Super Record Group was issued, featuring gold plated inserts and special engraving.

One of these groups was presented to me, by Campagnolo with the understanding I would build a special frame to showcase the Anniversary Group at the 1983 Interbike Trade Show, held in Las Vegas. The bike I built is the one shown here.

After the show the bike was sold to one of my dealers, Cycles Olympic, in Diamond Bar, CA.  I never heard of it again until around 2005. (The year I started this blog.) The new owner had bought the frame at a swap meet in New Jersey. It was a frame only, the 50th. Anniversary was gone. Who knows where?

It broke my heart, but there was nothing I could do about it. Like any other frame I built they are no longer my property, and I have no say over their destiny. But to buy such a bike that was built as a showpiece, then strip it of its parts, as if they are the only thing of value. And the frame ends up in a swap meet.

Call me overly sensitive if you will, but this was degrading. “Your work is worthless in other words.”

The sad thing is the original Campagnolo Group is probably now hanging on some lesser production frame.

In time I got over it, and at least the new owner appreciated the frame.

It got rebuilt with regular Campagnolo parts, and changed owners a couple more times.

Imagine my delight when this last week the current owner, John Ames, sent me pictures of this 1983 Criterium model, restored to its former glory with another 50th. Anniversary Group. John Is moving long distance and the bike is up for sale. I hope this time the bike will stay intact.

There were only 36 of the Criterium model built. The frames were built in Columbus PS (Pista Sprint.) A tubeset intended for building track bikes.

The head angle was 74 degrees, with 1 1/4 in (32 mm.) fork rake for quick but stable handling. The BB is also slightly higher.

People who own these say they ride and climb like you wouldn’t believe.

The asking price is $4,500, but it seems Campagnolo 50th. Groups alone are going for about that amount on eBay, I think the price is fair. Once again my interest is purely sentimental, not financial. The frame size is 57 cm (Center to Top.) and the frame number #9832. The paint is original.

I don’t usually get involved in private sales, but I feel John has done me a huge favor in restoring this one to its former glory. If we can find it a new safe and loving home, it will please me no end.

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Wednesday
Jun282017

Night or Day, these lights could save your life.

I first bought lights for my bike some years ago because I was setting out on my morning ride before 6:00 am and in the winter months it was still dark. My first lights were the cheap kind that run on replaceable AAA batteries. I soon grew tired of replacing batteries and they were unreliable as the batteries would vibrate loose, and the light would go out.

I soon invested in a set of the rechargeable kind. 700 lumens of light, the equivalent of a 60 watt bulb, it projected a beam of light up the road some 50 or 60 feet ahead. I could actually see where I was going. The other thing I noticed, people didn’t pull out in front of me. They would stop and wait for me to pass, even though they were some distance away, and had time to pull out.

Although the headlight is only about 3/4 inch (2 cm.) diameter, in complete darkness the light is so intense, it appears to be much bigger.

Drivers I’m sure mistake me for a moped or scooter, and assume I am traveling at a greater speed that I actually am.

The other thing I noticed, drivers gave me more room in passing.

I seldom ride in the dark any more but as I already have the lights, I use them in daylight too. Imagine yourself in this scenario. You are riding in the city, or some country road, and a car comes barreling across a parking lot or a along a driveway. You can tell by his speed he probably does not intend to stop. Most likely he hasn’t even seen you, you might be hidden behind trees or bushes. All he sees is a gap in traffic and he is going for it.

When this happens to me I go into defensive mode, and slow getting ready to stop. But at the last moment the driver sees my flashing head light and slams on the brakes. If I had no such light, I know this driver would not have stopped, even if he saw me. I would not register as a danger or threat to him.

I cannot think how many times this actual scenario has played out over the years, which is why I label these lights a “Life Saver.” I would not usually make such statements, unless I truly believed it. Other times there have been a line of cars coming towards me, and someone has pulled out to overtake. They the spot the flashing head light, reconsider and pull back in line. How mant cyclists are killed in such head-on colisions?

My under the saddle tool bag (Below right.) is actually a padded camera case I picked up for $5 at Wal-Mart. It is strapped under the saddle with a couple of nylon toe straps. I poked two holes in the zippered rear flap and threaded a black plastic zip-tie through to make a loop to hold the lamp. The rear light comes with a seat post clamp, but I figured it would be more visible in this position

Both the front and rear lights in flashing mode, can be seen a mile away. Especially if you are riding in the shadow of trees, the lights show up even more.

I can’t count the number of times drivers will actually slow as they pass, to comment about the light. “Those are the best lights I’ve seen,” is pretty typical. One time I was taking a roadside break when a car stopped. The driver said, “I could see that flashing red light a mile away, I thought it was a cop car.”

With so many distracted drivers on the road, it is good that they see a flashing light and think it is a cop, or some other emergency vehicle. At least you have their attention. With having advanced warning there is a cyclist ahead, they have time to adjust their speed to accommodate road conditions and other traffic. I generally find that most drivers will go clear over to the opposing lane to pass, and if they can’t do that they at least slow and pass with caution.

I have had good luck with the Nite Rider brand of lights. I have had them several years now. One of them stopped charging and I sent it back to the maker. They fixed it under warrantee, and sent it back. Apart from that I’ve never had a problem. They are spendy, around $80 for the head light, and $50 for the tail light. But shop around and you can find the same brand for less.

(Left.) They plug into your PC with a USB cord to rechage in a couple of hours. Or you can use a phone charger.

They are now available in over 1000 lumens. I advise you use a steady beam in the dark, as the flashing mode is distracting to both the rider and other road users.

In day light the flashing mode uses less current, and actually draws more attention that a steady light.

I am surprised when out riding, I see more cyclists without day time lights, than with them. How much is your life worth? Anything you can do to make yourself more visible is a plus. Personally, the added peace of mind these lights give me makes it money well spent. Getting drivers to stop and not pull out in front of me, or turn in front of me, because of these lights, just makes my ride safer and more pleasurable.  

 

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Wednesday
Jun212017

Tiny Ripples on the Pond of Life

A line in my song “Prodigal Child” goes:

“I used to lie in the long grass and watch the clouds go by, as a child my world was happy, only people made me cry.”

Sadly today it is still people who make me cry. I will go so far as to say there is not a single thing wrong with this world today if it were not for people.... Or to be more precise, people misbehaving.

Hardly a week goes by that there is not some act of terrorism somewhere. I can handle the occasional natural disaster, but I can’t understand why people can’t behave properly and not kill other people. It makes me sad… It makes me cry.

It seems to me the biggest drive in life is to affect the lives of others. We can do this in a positive way or we can do it in a negative way. Unfortunately many people do not figure this out.

Young people especially. Bullying, vandalism, destroying things, which if taken to extremes includes killing people. All effect the lives of others in a negative way. Events sometimes so horrendous they affect a whole nation, and even the World beyond.

If any good is to come from these insane acts, it can only be that we need to realize and teach our children that this urge to affect the lives of others is natural.

It takes almost no thinking or effort to do this in a negative way, when with a small conscious effort it can be quite easy to do so in a positive way.

Who knows what affect a simple smile, a kind word or action can have on the rest of the world.

For every action there is a reaction. Actions both good and bad have a ripple effect, cause a chain reaction so to speak.

Like a ripple, the affect has most of its power felt by those close to its source, further out the ripple has less affect. 

However, ripples can start small, cause others to join in, and they can gain energy and travel far.  A harsh word or unkind act can ruin someone’s day and may push someone who is unstable enough over the edge that they might just kill someone.

Giving the finger to a fellow traveler on the highway may cause that person to drive angrily and aggressively, resulting a crash that kills someone. On the other hand a small ripple started by a simple smile, if joined by enough other small ripples can form a large wave that travels far, and affects a lot of people.

Today I will try not to let the rudeness and negative acts of others affect me. If it stops with me, at least I am not passing it on where it might gain momentum. I will try to start my own tiny ripples, with positive thoughts and actions. Who knows, it may just gather momentum, travel round the world and come right back to me.

 

How do you deal with negativity?

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