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Monday
Jun092008

The West Ashley Greenway


I recently learned of SCtrails.net which lists all the Biking and Hiking Trails in the State of South Carolina.

On this website, I discovered the West Ashley Greenway, which runs from the Windermere district, just over the Stono River from James Island, to Main Road on Johns Island. I had heard of this trail, but I did not realize it was so long. (10.5 miles.)

On Sunday I decided to check it out and picked up the trail at about the half way point about a mile from my home. I headed west towards Main Road; there was no one else on the trail at 7:00 am. The first part of the trail was hard packed dirt and grass, easy riding on my road bike; I stopped to take a few pictures.




As I neared Main Road the trail went over some marshes; the last mile was loose stones and a little tough, but still ridable. (See below.)

The trail emerged under the railroad bridge on Main Road, just before the Stono River Bridge. There is easy access onto the Stono Bridge without having to cross Main Road, and even on the way back, you make a left at the foot of the bridge, and keep going left under the bridge (See below.) to the access road on the opposite side that takes you back to the trail head.

The trail was once an old railroad line and runs parallel with Savannah Highway (Route 17.) Savannah Highway is the main road South out of Charleston and has very heavy traffic. I will only ride it on the weekends when the traffic is a little lighter.

The trail enables me to bypass Rte.17 altogether. Main Road is also a busy two-lane highway that leads to Kiawah Island and Seabrook. Not good for riding, however, the Stono River Bridge has a wide shoulder, and once over the bridge it is only a short distance to a light where a right turn takes you onto Chisolm Road.

Chisholm is a road that goes nowhere; it just does a ten-mile loop and then joins back up with Main Road. As a result the only traffic on this road are local residents, and they are so used to seeing cyclists that they always give plenty of room when passing.

The road has a nice surface and much of it is shaded by trees on both sides, giving respite from the summer heat. (See picture below.)

On the weekend it is not unusual to see as many cyclists on this road as cars. Many local cyclists drive out there, then park and ride their bikes. I hate to do that on principal, plus we are a one-car family, so tying up the vehicle while I ride my bike would be a little selfish.

I am excited about the Greenway Trail because for me it makes riding Chisolm a possibility during the week and not just weekends. I actually enjoyed riding it, took me back to my old cyclo-cross days.

The European pros know from experience of riding on cobblestones, the faster you ride over rough ground the more comfortable it is. I rode this trail using the highest gear I could handle. A high gear gives more traction, and when you are pushing hard your weight is on the pedals rather than the saddle. Arms bent and holding the bars loosely allows the bike to float over the rough ground.

The only time I will not be able to ride this trail is when the ground is wet; I will also have to clean my bike a little more often. This is a chore I could do without; I would rather ride my bike than clean it. Oh well.


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?