Sunday, December 30, 2007

Tour de Florida (Canyon)

Well, I'm back in San Diego after a lovely trip to Oregon for the holidays. It rained almost the whole time, but we had a light dusting of snow on Christmas--the first time it has snowed on Christmas there for quite a while. I took a little jaunt on the Peugeot yesterday to put it through its paces, having previously only ridden it up and down the alley to get the derailers adjusted. I rode down through Balboa Park on Florida Drive to Pershing, then turned around and came back. It's a pretty short ride (about 4 mi. round-trip), but from my house to Pershing, there were enough elevation changes to work through all of the gears and also enough flat open space through the canyon to open 'er up. I never had a ten speed when I was a kid, so it was a new experience for me and a lot of fun. Hopefully, many more such rides in the new year. I didn't take a camera with me to take any pictures, but go to my Google map to see my route. You can also see the Street View of Florida Drive if you open a regular Google map of San Diego--I'm not sure why it isn't an option on my customized map. Especially noteworthy is the nice bicycle lane, although the road surface itself is not in great condition.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

From the Family Archives

I recently came across this photo of my father, circa late 1940s/early 1950s, the proud owner of a new Schwinn. Since not a lot has been going on with my bikes lately, I thought I'd post it. Imagine him tearing around the dusty back roads of eastern Nebraska on this thing. Not sure what happened to the bike--it's probably in somebody's barn or garage. I don't know much about Schwinns, can anybody identify the model from this picture?

Monday, December 3, 2007

End of an Era

I discovered while working on my new old 10-speed Peugeot this past weekend that it needs some specialized tools to really take the whole thing apart. As a result, I was basically just able to clean things up a bit and replace the tires and tubes, rather than re-pack bearings and whatnot like I wanted. On the plus side, the front and rear derailers are now working well. The main problem was the gucked-up chain. I cleaned the chain with Pedro's Bio Cleaner twice with a toothbrush and then let it sit in a moderately heavy coat of oil overnight. I then wiped off the excess oil and--viola!--the chain was nice and smooth.

My irritation at not being able to access all parts of this bike with common tools got me thinking about bike culture again. It was with the 10-speeds in the 1970s and 1980s that most bicycles became mechanically inaccessible to the average rider. Special tools and more complex gearing systems ensured that even folks with the desire to work on their own bikes have to amass an arsenal of specialized, expensive, or hard-to-come-by tools. This means that professional mechanics at bike shops become the keepers of "bike wisdom" and know-how, which creates a mystique of exclusivity and inaccessibility for the average person. It also creates a sub-culture of amateur "gear heads" who become obsessed with the minutia of bike parts and tools, living out their fantasies of ditching the corporate world for the life of a grease monkey or professional racer. Most people associate an interest in bikes and DIY maintenance with this exclusive and frankly obnoxious subculture, and don't want to have anything to do with it.

I refurbished the Columbia only with common tools available at any hardware store (except the cable cutters and chain tool), most of which I already had in my toolbox. The Peugeot, on the other hand, which is almost the same age as the Columbia, is virtually inaccessible to me with the tools I have and what little common sense I possess. Unfortunately, the trend over the last three decades has gone the way of more complex and inaccessible bikes, and the bikes that everyone could work on themselves have virtually disappeared. Sure, lots of folks do all their own work, but they're people who see working on their bikes as a hobby to invest both time and money in, and these people are a distinct minority. The average person is completely intimidated by their bike, and wouldn't know where to begin. I have been, and largely still am, that person. It's not the whole reason, but I think it's a big part of why more people don't get out of their cars and onto a bike.