Saturday, October 3, 2015

Cage Match

So I'm strolling through the parking garage of my employer (as one is wont to do), and I see this:

Secured storage area?!? For bicycles?!? Whatnow?!?

Several days later, this appears:

By golly, that's a big ol' fenced-in cage around the bike rack area. For several days, it had no gate (you can just make out the opening on the right edge of my photo), so I wondered if we were just going to count on the social-psychological pressure of a fence coupled with the legendary niceness of Iowans to protect our bikes, but just yesterday, it got a gate controlled by the same Borg-cube entry credentials that let people into the building.

This is awesome news for me (though likely ho-hum news for you), as I've lost a couple headlights and a rain jacket (during friggin' Bike Month, no less) to pilferers. I'd even taken to stashing my bike elsewhere in the parking garage, off street level and away from the prying eyes of passers-by.

Now, before we commend my employer too loudly for this act of generosity, let's remember that the same employer provides lavish gym and locker room facilities on all of its other campuses around Des Moines, while only recently adding a small locker room with a couple showers for the downtown peons. They also put an electric car charging station in this garage long before the secured bike parking, when the number of bikes locked up each day far surpasses the one friggin' Chevy Volt that I see plugged in maybe once a week. And given the state of our downtown facilities, I'm wary of how long that keycard reader is going to work and how quickly it will get fixed when it stops working. I'm just imagining being locked out of the cage with my ride home trapped inside...

But hey, progress. They might just get this whole biking thing figured out by the time I retire.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Beware Of Popes Coveting Bikes

Just a public service announcement, since the news tells me there's some dude named Francis hanging around 'murica this week: DO NOT LET HIM HAVE YOUR BIKE.

Somehow, when this new Francis guy says, "My Father says everything's negotiable," it sounds a little more ominous...

Sunday, September 20, 2015

A Disturbance In The Force

Answering the question that absolutely no one was asking, why yes, you can buy a Huffy-made, Star Wars-themed fat "bike" from Target for the low, low price of three hundred dollars:

 Or, if you aren't a fan of the Darth Vader colorway, you can be a stormtrooper instead:

Now, I can't sit in my glass house and lob stones at the circa-2015 Star Wars cross-promotional marketing machine, seeing as I was the kid in 1977 who would plead with parents, grandparents, and random strangers to buy him absolutely anything that had Star Wars on it (and having soft, easily manipulated parents, I usually got it). But, um, wow.

I'm trying to grasp the logic of a front disc brake (likely cheap and cheesy) paired with a rear V-brake (also likely cheap and cheesy). But that's applying the mindset of a bike person to what is really a bike-shaped object/extremely large prize from the bottom of a cereal box. Here's an easy tipoff... if the "bike" you're looking at is within easy reach of a box of pool noodles (see second photo), you should look elsewhere.

(Aside: Just noticed the 27.5" mountain bike -- using the term loosely -- in the background of my first photo. So that marketing hooey has even made its way to the box stores. Calling Jan Heine, the 650B revolution has arrived, but you might want to be careful what you wish for.)

I will say that in the late-80s, my personal discovery of mountain biking had a reptilian-brain connection to the original Star Wars trilogy, as zipping through the woods on my first MTB was the closest I'd ever been to the Return of the Jedi speeder bike chase sequence. But if you want to have that kind of fun these days, I suspect that these Target fatties are not the bikes you're looking for.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

How The Other Half Rolls

Many electrons are wasted around here on the bikes that yours truly, Grand Pooh-bah of The Cycle (the ugly dude in the photo to the right) rides, but it's been a while since I've featured the cycle stylings of my long-suffering spouse. Thus, I give you... the little Cannondale:

This is a v1.2 photo, after I'd already given it some love in the form of flat pedals (replacing clipless), new grips, new tires, new saddle, some lights, fenders, a bottle cage, and (of course) a bell. The previous owner had clearly ridden it a lot but taken good care of it -- all the things that are usually hurting on a 20-year-old bike (like those vintage Grip Shifts) were just fine.

This is a gen-yoo-wine Made in Bedford, Pennsylvania Cannondale from the mid-1990s, welded from big ol' aluminum tubes, natch. The thing I find neat about it from a bike-nerd perspective is that funky front end... on a mountain bike, Cannondale called that extra triangle the Killer V configuration. It was designed to provide more standover clearance, eventually to make space for a suspension fork, and generally, just to look cool. On a hybrid like this one, it doesn't get a snazzy marketing name, but it ticks the "standover clearance" and "looks cool" boxes, at least to my eye. Our tandem has a similar front end, and my delicate dangly bits appreciate it every time I have to stand over the big bike at a stop.

I toured the Cannondale factory as a Pennsylvania shop rat just before the turn of the century and was able to see how they could rapidly prototype oddball designs like this... draw it up in CAD in the morning, a computer-controlled laser cutter slices exactly the right miters into the right tubes, pass those tubes off to a welder, and by the end of the day, you have a rideable frame. If it doesn't work out, start over again tomorrow. It's a far cry from those "Designed" in the U.S.A. companies (including the Cannondale of today) who have to send their blueprints overseas and wait for the shipping container to bring the results across an ocean.

(Ranty aside: If it seems like I kinda talk about Cannondale in the past tense, that's how I see them after Dorel shut down Bedford. As far as I'm concerned, if it didn't come out of Pennsylvania, it ain't a Cannondale. Neener neener neener.)

But enough harumphing, and back to the bike at hand. Here's some action-shot proof that my tandem stoker does more than just stoke tandem (at least until she sees that I've put a slightly silly picture of her on the blog and tells me I have to take it down):


This is v2.0, after she determined that the reach to the stock flat bars was a bit too much Swapped those out for some inexpensive riser bars with some sweep, and the smile tells you the verdict. (Apologies to the bike photo nerds for not capturing the drive side of the bike, or the bike in its entirety... when you're being buzzed by a crazy woman in a parking lot, you take what you can get.)

Perfection was not attained, however, until v2.1, with the addition of a key accessory:

Big ol' basket? Check. The bike's now functional, and just as stylish as its pilot.

(If you were sucked into the Cannondale company/history nerdery above, is a great resource, with a catalog archive going all the way back to 1973 when they only made backpacks, bike touring bags, and bike trailers.)