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Friday
Jun062008

A Million Bucks? What a Crock*


This is a bike that Koga has developed for Dutch Olympic hopeful Theo Bos. Koga claims they have spent a million US dollars developing this special one off bike.

I’m sorry I don’t buy it, all I see is just another carbon fiber bike. If this was new technology I might be convinced, but CF bikes have been around for twenty years or more, they were built for the Olympics in the 1980s.

It’s a bicycle fer Cri-sakes, not a Formula One race car; where do you get a million bucks. Give us a breakdown of where the million dollars went.

What about truth in advertising? Because this is what it is. You build a one off bike, and then you think of a number. Okay, a million dollars is a nice round figure.

Next, put out a press release saying you’ve spent a million developing this special bike that is so light a fart would blow it away.

The press and the general media, knowing sod all about bikes goes with the story.

When it comes to bicycle racing it is the strongest rider that will win every time. If Theo Bos is the best rider he would still win on a stock bike that anyone can buy.

Can’t Koga see that? If Bos were to win on one of their stock bikes, it would in the end sell more bikes. Because what they are saying is, our stock bikes are not good enough for the Olympics we have to spend a million dollars.

The smart thing to do would be to pay Theo Bos a million dollars if he wins the gold on a stock bike.



* UK translation: What a Crock = What a Load of Bollocks!

Footnote from Dave: Ooops! Koga not Kona, mistake edited. See first comment. Thanks Darren

Wednesday
Jun042008

Graffiti


A car collides into cyclists participating in a race in Mexico's northern border city of Matamoros on Sunday. One rider died, ten are injured.

This is extreme ugliness, man made ugliness as it always is. How can I write about a such a tragedy in a positive light? The answer is I can’t, but I can at least try.

A man paints a building pristine and white, and along comes a graffiti artist in the night and creates ugliness on one tiny corner of the building.

The owner of the building must go out the very next day and paint over the offending graffiti. If he doesn’t other graffiti artists will come and before long the beauty of the building will be destroyed.

For most reading this, the incident didn’t even happen in our country, so we can’t protest to our government. All we can do is paint over it and not allow it to spoil the beauty of the thing we love, namely cycling.

That doesn’t mean we ignore it and pretend it didn’t happen. The man who has to go out and repaint his building is neither ignoring it, nor pretending it didn’t happen. But he must deal with it, what else can he do?

Those who knew the cyclist that died will suffer the most, along with the people injured and their friends and relatives. Those of us who didn’t know them personally will suffer to a lesser degree, but never-the-less suffer.

Those completely detached from our sport will read the report and look at the sensational picture above and simply remark, “Will you look at that.”

Just as someone detached will drive by a building covered in graffiti and make a similar remark. One block further on they have forgotten about it. Those who care will not forget.

I hope no one comments here that graffiti has a beauty of its own. I am not writing about graffiti, it is just a metaphor. There will no doubt be those who even see beauty in the above picture as the riders and their bikes fly through the air in some grotesque ballet.

That is if they forget at the precise moment the camera froze this moment in time, someone died, and others were experiencing extreme physical pain.

The picture is ugly, the incident was ugly. It is impossible to write about such ugliness and make it pretty, any more than it is possible to write about it and make it go away.

Monday
Jun022008

James Starley: Father of the Bicycle Industry


James Starley (1830 - 1881) is considered to be the "Father of the Bicycle Industry." Born in Albourne, Sussex in the South of England, James Starley (Above.) left home at eighteen years old and took a job as a gardener.

Starley was a mechanical genius who gained a reputation for mending clocks and inventing useful gadgets. It is interesting how chance meetings in a person’s life can not only change the course of that individual’s life, but in this case change the course of history.

Starley’s employer, John Penn, bought an expensive sewing machine for his wife, which broke down. James of course fixed the problem and, what is more, envisioned improvements to the mechanism.

Penn knew Josiah Turner, one of the partners of the makers of the sewing machine, and in due course Starley was taken on as an employee at the London sewing machine factory.

His talent was such that Turner and Starley started their own sewing machine company around 1861. The pair moved to Coventry, in the West Midlands of England, because of the abundance of skilled machinists there. Coventry had previously been known for its clock making industry.


Once again a chance happening steered the company in a new direction. Turner's nephew brought a French Velocipede, (Above.) commonly known as a boneshaker to the factory in 1868, Starley again saw room for improvement and the company soon started making bicycles.


They built a bicycle called the “Ariel,” meaning “Spirit of the Air.” (Picture above.) The machine was lighter than the old Velocipede with a tubular steel frame and wire-spoke wheels that were far lighter than the old solid compression spoke wheels. James Starley later invented tangent or cross spoke wheels that were patented in 1874. Tangent spokes are still used today.

The Ariel evolved into the Ordinary or Penney Farthing bicycle, as the front wheel became larger in a quest for speed. James Starley would later partner with William Hillman to produce the Ordinary bicycle and also tricycles.

Steering problems, while riding a side-by-side tricycle tandem, caused by the unequal power input of the ageing James on one side and his stronger son on the other that prompted James Starley to invent the differential drive in 1877. This also solved the problem of the different speed of the inside and outside wheels when cornering. The differential was ready and waiting when the motor car needed the device.

Also brought into the bicycle manufacturing business was James Starley's nephew John Kemp Starley who would later start his own company in partnership with William Sutton. The early tricycles that John Starley worked on with his uncle were lever driven; later models were chain driven.


This chain drive would feature in John Kemp Starley’s “Rover” (Above.) safety bicycle first built in 1884. The Rover had 26 inch wheels that are still a standard size today, and although the frame did not have a seat tube, the diamond shape is basically the same as bicycles built today.

The name Rover had been previously used on a James Starley tricycle, (Left.) however, the name really suited the new bicycle as it freed the people to “rove” all over the countryside.

Others had experimented with chain-driven "safety bicycles" but the Rover was really the first practical model. It made its mark to the extent that "Rover" means "bike" in some countries such as Poland.

In due course, motor-driven bicycles became motorcycles and were followed by motor cars. John Kemp Starley experimented with an electric tri-car around 1888 but the petrol-driven Rover 8 h.p. car was released in 1904, two years after his death.

The Rover car company still exists. (Although throughout the years, it has been under different ownership.) Today they produce the Land-Rover.


William Hillman who partnered with James Starley to build bicycles, also went on to produce cars and for many years Hillman was a famous British name in automobiles.

And the first bicycle Starley produced, the “Ariel” became a famous British motorcycle.

Motorcycle enthusiasts will remember the Ariel 1000 Square Four from the late 1940s, early 1950s. (Pictured left.)

John Kemp Starley’s Rover set the standard design for the bicycle that has remained basically the same since. However, it was his uncle James Starley who paved the way for the “Safety Bicycle” with his use of chain drive. This, along with his other inventions and production methods, makes him the Father of the Bicycle Industry.

Assorted Starley bicycles can be seen in Coventry’s excellent Transport Museum. The City of Coventry is well worth a visit for this museum and for the beautiful cathedral.

Friday
May302008

What brings them here?

This blog gets around 1,200 hits a day now. Many people find it via a Google search. Here are some of the more unusual phrases that people have used to arrive here.

When can you shave your legs as a cyclist?
Any day that has an “R” in it. That way you avoid stubble on a Sunday.

Geek forearm numbness
Try changing hands

Wheelbarrow effect
The next big thing after the greenhouse gas effect

Beautiful Amazon bike snob
I guess if you are a beautiful Amazon, you can be any kind of snob you want

How heavy is a Dutch bike?
Beats me; that’s kinda like asking how long is a piece of string?

A man was riding up hill on his bike, yet he was walking
Is this a trick question? Yet was the name of his dog

Bottom bracket education
Set your sights a little higher; go for a top bracket education

Dave’s auction income
Not very much

Gay torn jeans blog
This blog has many facets, but that’s not one of them. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

How do you fix a bike?
You remove its nuts

My head is loose; can I still ride my bike?
Yes, just don’t ride over any bumps

What does one-way road mean?
Here’s a clue; if everything is coming towards you, you are on one and going the wrong way

Diamondback approach
My advice, don’t approach a diamondback

Can I ride further on a regular bike than on a stationary bike?
Duh, let me get back to you

Pictures of little men on bicycles
Are you the same person looking for the gay torn jeans blog?

Thursday
May222008

A short story: AJ, the cyclist, and a large brown dog

Driving his old Ford truck on Rural Route 61; AJ was rolling along at about sixty, his usual 5 mph over the speed limit. Some distance three cars were ahead of him. As they approached a bend in the road, he saw the brake lights come on.

As he caught up and took his place behind the other three, he noticed a lone cyclist up ahead. "Damn cyclist," he mumbled, "Why do they have to ride in the middle of the road?"

Actually, the cyclist wasn't in the middle of the road, he was about two feet out from the edge of the lane, but with traffic approaching from the opposite direction, the lead car driver was being cautious.

The opposing traffic passed and the first three cars went around the cyclist. AJ realized he would have to wait as another vehicle was coming towards them. "Damn it," he cussed again.

The car passed and AJ when around the cyclist. He thought about honking his horn just to show his displeasure at the delay, but instead he just hit the gas pedal hard and roared by in a demonstration of raw power.

A few miles further on he saw brake lights again, and as he caught up to the same three cars, he saw them stop, then one by one swing clear over to the opposing lane. As the last car completed this maneuver, he saw the reason.

A large brown dog was trotting along the edge of the road. Strangely, AJ showed no anger or frustration this time. Just fear that the animal would suddenly dart across the road in front of an approaching van.

He stayed back some distance so as not to startle it, and when the van had passed, he took a wide sweep around the dog as the other drivers had done. He even considered stopping to pick it up, he had thought about getting a dog, but it probably belonged to someone living close by.

Some nine months earlier AJ had taken early retirement when the company he worked for had been making cutbacks. He and his wife had bought an old farmhouse on about eight acres in a rural area. He had bought the old truck to haul lumber and other materials. This particular day he was on his way to pick up some fence posts from a farming supply depot, some fifteen miles along Route 61.

AJ picked up the fence posts and as he pulled out from the supply depot. The road was clear except for a cyclist, the same one he had seen earlier. He waited for him to pass; now there was traffic coming in the opposite direction. "Damn it, that's the second time you've held me up today," he complained to himself, wishing the cyclist could hear him.

AJ turned towards home. Some four or five miles into the return trip, the old truck spluttered, and then stalled. He was on a downgrade so he was able to coast then pull onto a patch of dirt at the side of the road. After several unsuccessful attempts to start the engine, he got out of the truck, lifted the hood, and stared at the engine.

He was not even sure why he was doing this, he had no tools with him, and even if he had, he would not know where to start. He had been an accountant all his life, and had absolutely no mechanical knowledge. He reached in his back pocket for his cell phone, it was not there.

Then he remembered he had left the phone charging overnight in the kitchen. It was not in its usual place on the dresser with his wallet and change. "Now what?" he mumbled as he looked up and down the road. Nothing but farmland and open fields in either direction.

There was no alternative but to walk, and he had to walk on the road, tall grass and weeds at the side made it impossible to walk there. There was a white fog line painted on the edge of the road and no more than a few inches of paved road beyond that; AJ started to walk along this white line. He could have crossed over and walked facing the oncoming traffic, but he was hoping someone would stop and offer him a ride.

He had not walked far when he heard a car coming; he turned and waved a thumb. The car roared on by without even slowing. He walked on and the same thing happened again. He quickly realized his chances of getting a ride were slim. He was not particularly well dressed, and he never stopped to pick up hitchhikers.

He stopped pausing and turning every time a car approached from behind, it was pointless. For a while, he walked with his left thumb out, but then discontinued that as he resigned himself to a long walk home.

He noticed when there were no cars coming towards him, cars would swing over to the other side to pass. However, when there was traffic in both directions, they passed by a 60 mph with no thought of slowing down, often missing him by inches.

At one time, a large eighteen-wheeler went by, and although it missed him by at least two feet, its shear size, and those huge wheels, gave AJ the scare of his life. And the back draft almost blew him off his feet.

He must have walked at least five or six miles and was by now in a trance like state when he heard a cheery “Good morning.” The same cyclist he had seen twice before that day sped silently by him.

Somewhat startled AJ didn’t respond immediately, then called out, “Do you have a cell phone?” The cyclist had gone on by and did not understand what AJ had said. Then sensing it was a call for help, the cyclist slowed.

He looked back over his shoulder for traffic. It was clear and he did a U-turn and rode back to AJ. “Do you need help?” he asked. “Yes, do you have a cell phone?”
“I do,” answered the cyclist as he came to a stop and reached into his rear pocket for the phone.

“Thank God,” AJ said as he took the phone. “I broke down miles back and I must have walked for over an hour.” Just then, a car approached, “Here, let’s get off the road,” AJ said, “These damn cars won’t give you an inch.”

“Tell me about it,” said the cyclist. “That’s why I always ride about two or three feet from the edge of the road. It forces drivers to slow and make a conscious effort to pass me. Otherwise they just blow by as if I wasn’t there, missing me by inches.”

“What motorists don’t realize is, if I ride on this white line,” the cyclist stomped on the line with his heel to emphasize. “There are large pot-holes or places where the road simply disappears; not to mention tree braches and other debris lying at the edge. If I come up on one of these obstacles, either I hit it, with the risk falling into the road, or I swerve out into the road. With cars passing within inches at a high rate of speed, both could be deadly.”

AJ was inclined to agree with the cyclist but didn’t answer as he felt rather hypocritical in view of his previous attitude. The cyclist continued, “That’s why I ride out there, the inside wheels of the cars having worn it smooth. It is safer, and people can see me.”

AJ called his wife and told her what had happened. “Help is on the way,” he said as he handed the phone back to the cyclist. “Thank you so much,” he added. He looked at the cyclist for the first time and was surprised that he was an older man, maybe about his own age. Earlier when he saw him, he imagined him to be much younger.

“Do you need a drink?” The cyclist offered AJ his water bottle. “Thanks, I will.” As AJ took a drink, the large brown dog appeared, wagging his tail and slinking down at AJ’s feet. ”Do you think he needs a drink too?” the cyclist asked.

“Probably,” AJ answered, “I saw him earlier on my way out here.” AJ cupped his hands together as the cyclist poured some water for the dog to drink.” The dog lapped up the water.” Looks like you found yourself a dog.”

"It would seem like it.” AJ answered as the cyclist mounted his bike again and pushed off. “Thank you again,” AJ called out as he pulled away. “Glad to be of help,” the cyclist called back.

AJ slipped his belt from his pants and looped it around the dog’s collarless neck. “Here boy, let’s sit under this tree and wait for Momma.”



Footnote: The above is a short work of fiction, one that could take place anywhere in the US. (Or the world.)

Just a different way to get the safety message across. Also, to explain to motorists that we ride a certain way in the interest of our own safety.