A Brief Public Service Announcement on Locking Your Bike

27 05 2011

Sometimes I’ll see a poorly locked bike, and I’ll want to leave a note for its rider about how to properly secure it, but I never do because I worry that said note will attract the attention of opportunistic thieves.

Today was a little different though, because the bike in question was an ECOS bike, one of the fleet of bikes I maintain for the the University’s bike library, and guess who recently organized all the spare keys? The bike was locked over the handlebars, with a brake cable being the only thing actually securing the lock to the bike. (I forgot to take a before picture. Sorry.)

So, thanks to a spare key, let me demonstrate how to properly lock your bike:

The U-lock goes through the frame, wheel and bike rack. If this bike had a quick release back wheel, it would also need to be secured with a cable or additional lock.

Locking your wheels as well as your frame may seem like overkill, but this is campus, next to an LRT station, and the entire area is littered with bike carcasses from riders who didn’t bother to lock the wheels they wanted to keep.

In retrospect, I should've included some introductory niceties.

So I wrote the cheeky note. It turns out it wasn’t necessary because the lady who rented the bike came for it as I was leaving. I introduced myself to her and explained what I had done and why. She seemed quite surprised by the whole encounter, and I’m worried I might have scared her, even though we were both smiling by the end. Hopefully I’ll see her again when she returns the bike and we can have a laugh about the whole episode.

Critical Lass Goes Downtown

15 05 2011

Last weekend marked the fourth Critical Lass ride, where a group of lovely ladies on bicycles took to the streets downtown for a little riding, some refreshments, a little shopping and some Mother’s day merriment. We met in Churchill Square.

Group photo at City Hall. Huge apologies to Monie for cutting you out of the picture.

In the picture above, everyone is delightfully distracted by a skateboarding bulldog named Buttercup tearing up the square. We tried out each other’s bikes and chitchatted for for quite a while before setting off.

Last minute adjustments before riding away. Art Gallery in the background.

There was also a couple of lads that joined us on our ride. Baby Robert trailed along in a chariot (he was also at the first CL, in utero :-)), and uber-mechanic Keith rode his ’51 CCM converted fixed gear.

Front: Marilyn and Miss Sarah, behind them, Monie & Angel, behind them, Karen with Robert in the trailer and Deb and Judy bringing up the rear.

Miss Sable, looking ultra-hip on a red Dahon.

Getting together with other ladies who bike is always a fun time, and getting together with so many ladies who write bike blogs takes it to a whole other level. It was like half the people riding were taking pictures for their blogs, and as a result, we have pictures of each other taking pictures of each other. Check out Miss Sarah’s pics in Girls and Bicycles, Deborah’s collection on Loop Frame Love, and Keith’s pics on ravingbikefiend.

Red light means photo time! The downtown Pedways are one of my favorite E-town architectural features.

We biked down to 104th and checked out the shops and cafes (at least the ones that were open on Sunday), and then headed back to the south side over the High Level Bridge.

Deb from Loop Frame Love on her new (to her) Raleigh on the High Level Bridge.

It felt like every time I’d pull out my camera, the sun would disappear, but I finally did get a couple of sunny shots on the bridge.

Karen on her Linus with baby Robert on the High Level Bridge.

All in all it was a lovely day, and even though we did need our jackets and sweaters, the rain that was forecast never materialized, and by the end of the ride I still wanted more. The sun was a teaser for the rest of the week, which has been the warmest we’ve had so far this year, and I’ve spent all my extra time and energy since riding bikes, and breaking bikes (well, one), and fixing bikes (like, 40), which is why it took me a week to get this blog post up. Hello warm weather, it’s about time!

Have Mercier!

4 05 2011

We were still in the depths of winter when an especially lovely Mercier was donated to EBC. With tubular tires and hard to find French components, it wasn’t a bike for your average rider, and the derailleur and derailleur hanger had been bent all the way into the back wheel. Its lithe lugged steel frame with cast dropouts called to me though, and I’d visit it every time I went into BikeWorks. I fixed up the bent derailleur enough that I could ride it around the shop (there was still several feet of snow outside), and even on the cramped shop floor, that bike wanted to fly, and I’ve never ridden a bike that felt so quick and fast. I was smitten with this bike, but considering how little money and how many bicycles I have, I couldn’t justify buying it.

One day, I was giving some folks a tour of EBC/BikeWorks, and when we entered the bike “showcase” area I noticed the Mercier was nowhere to be seen. I began to panic – “my” little French bike had been sold! I kept it cool and continued the tour, but I was holding back tears. After everyone else had left, I frantically looked around for some clue of what had happened to it, and found the bike hanging unassumingly in the bike room. Relief! I decided at that moment that I would somehow scrape enough together to buy it.

Le Mercier, taking a break from going fast.

Justifying it as an early birthday present, I finally brought her home, where she sat in my living room where I could admire her while waiting for winter to loosen its icy grip. When the roads finally did clear, I wasted no time taking her for speedy rides, wishing the puddles and gravel and potholes would go away faster. When I ride this bike, I feel like it’s pulling me along, not me pushing it.

Spring and Mercier!

As lovely as this bike is, there’s a couple of issues. First is the rear derailleur. I was able to bend the derailleur hanger back into shape (I love steel – it was, like, 30 degrees off) but the derailleur itself was also bent, and the lightweight aluminum wasn’t as forgiving, though with some help from the Raving Bike Fiend, we got it working. The metal is probably weak, though, so I should expect to have to replace it soon.

The other question about this bike is the tubular tires. I figured this would be a great way to learn something new, but from what I’ve read it seems like patching them is difficult, replacements are expensive (even with a shop discount), and the whole system seems much more prone to failure than the common clincher. I decided I’d just ride them and deal with that problem when it arose.

It was only my third ride on this bike when I got a flat. I was a long way from home, a long way from anything, and I ended up using my shoulder bag as a sling to carry the bike two miles through the river valley to a place I could catch a bus with a bike rack the rest of the way home.

Sad bike and rider wait for a bus on a cool spring evening.

As I waited for the bus, I pulled three sizable pieces of gravel out of the completely flat rear tire, while moisture on the front tire revealed that air was also slowly bubbling out of it. Two flat tubulars? What had I gotten myself into?

Mass transit saves the day.

So, now I either have to repair or replace both tubular tires. Hello steep learning curve! My other option is to replace the rims with ones that take conventional tires, and I’m so torn between the two options that I think I’ll do both. Those beautiful tubulars are part of the magic of this bike, and it will be difficult to find comparable clincher rims without spending an arm and a leg. The tubulars seem so delicate, though, and it’s important to me that I don’t end up stranded somewhere, especially after riding hard for a long distance, so I’m going to build up a second set of wheels for when I feel like a more robust ride. Stay tuned for more updates once the Mercier is roadworthy again, including some pictures of the components that made the raving bike fiend drool!