Another Winter Night

3 12 2010

Last weekend, I finally admitted to myself that all attempts at fixing the zipper on my warm winter boots had failed, and that I couldn’t go all winter trying to keep them closed with reflective ankle straps, so I decided to go shopping. Understand that I’m on a really tight budget right now, so tight that there’s no room for groceries and new boots to coexist. Thankfully, I have some staples in my pantry and a good sense of where to find good food for free, so living without groceries won’t mean going hungry.

These are not the boots I bought.

Snow, porta bike, and new boots.

Later that night, I went dumpstering with some friends (hey, it’s more fun than spending Saturday night at the bar, and end of the month is always rich pickings), and all of us came home with good hauls of stuff. My prize was this pair of leather boots in excellent condition, the perfect size for my feet (plus two pairs of wool socks). They aren’t as warm as the boots I bought, so I think I’ll keep those for when it gets colder again instead of returning them, but what are the odds?

In the picture above, you see a bike that was saved from the scrap heap with a basket pulled from a dumpster as well as the dumpstered boots on a freegan fueled bod. Most people overlook the overwhelming ocean of waste we’re creating, but it’s amazing how much sustenance can be found in other people’s trash. If only there was a way to scavenge gas to heat my house.

Rugged Gongs

28 10 2010

Recently a friend of mine confidently informed me that it was not a bell that graced my handlebars, but a gong, the difference being that a gong is struck on the outside while a bell is struck from the inside. My response was to tell him that if he was going to get picky about bell vs. gong terminology, I was going to get picky about spindle vs. axle terminology, ’cause that’s the kind of bike geeks we are. Subsequent semantical research has revealed the line between bells and gongs is not so distinct, and that many people consider a gong to be a type of bell. Still, the word has now permanently entered my vocabulary.

Gong show & tell.

One of the prizes from last week’s big dumpster score was a broken bell, um gong, er technically none of the above cause it’s made of wood. I was smitten with the woodpecker bell from the first time I saw it on for the love of bikes, so I yoinked that “bell” out of the dumpster (with $25 price tag still attached – yowza) at woody woodpecker speed, even though the wooden “bell” part had snapped in half. But hey, I had carpenter’s glue and nothing to lose, and now the tiny (too quiet) original handlebar gong has a companion that simultaneously confuses the ipod adorned pedestrians of the High Level Bridge and makes them pay attention, if not to the bell, to my manic laughing because the pecking sound is hilarious. The woodpecker bell, like the the bird, is both awkward & awesome, and you’ll find me rolling ’round town, peck-peck-pecking and cackling, until the glue fails.

While You Were Sleeping…

14 09 2010

Here’s to friends who creep onto porches under the cover of darkness and leave flowers in unsuspecting bicycle baskets.

Morning surprise, dumpster delight!

Factory farmed flowers from the florist bring me no joy, but the same buds unsold, discarded and then rescued from a dumpster are pure delight, if only for one day.

Dumpster Booty

18 08 2010

Occasionally one will find a dumpster that consistently has such an enormous variety and quantity of non-gross stuff that it turns dumpster diving into pure entertainment.

Last week a companion and I visited such a bin during a longish late night bike ride. As he peered over the top of the industrial sized dumpster he said “Hey, there are bikes in here! A not bad Trek and a three speed.”

“Three speed?! What kind?” I asked as I scrambled up the other side. Few things get my attention like internally geared hubs.


“Crappy. Oh wait, how’s the shifter?” One of the ECOS bikes actually needs an old Shimano 3-speed shifter, and I had almost given up hope of finding one. I jumped in and found the bikes tangled up and underneath furniture, the 3-speed hub on a cheap, rusted late 70’s/early 80’s folding bike, but the shifter seemed just fine, so I decided I wasn’t going to leave without it.

Shimano 3-speed and all the fixin's!

With an adjustable wrench and some other dumpster bits we turned into makeshift screwdrivers, I got everything I needed to fix the library bike, plus my companion and I took the seats as well, the folding bike’s seat being similar but slightly wider than Poplar’s current saddle, so hopefully it’ll be a good replacement.

Amongst the other random crap, I also found an old vegetarian cookbook and a comic book from the eighties called CARtoons (cuz it’s about cars, get it?)

CARtoons 1980's vs CARtoons 2000's

I grabbed it because I thought it would be a nice juxtaposition to Andy Singer’s CARtoons. I still have no idea what to do with 2 iron-on transfers.

Evolution of CARtoons 1980's to CARtoons 2000's (with a BMX'er cameo). Click on the image to enlarge to read.

My bike takes me places your auto will never go. Go BMX kids!

Breaking Out the Summer Bike

11 03 2010

Three years ago, a couple of friends rescued a rusty old Raleigh from a dumpster,  got her working, dubbed her Marjory Stewart Baxter and gave her a second life. Sadly, they moved away not long after, but left Marjory to me to take care of. I’m so thankful they did, because she’s become my favorite bicycle ever.

Marjory Stewart Baxter and me. From this angle the tires look flat. It's the angle, I swear. Bicycle fashion shots with flat tired bikes are a pet peeve of mine.

That summer, I took a 4 week bicycle mechanics course at EBC where I learned by overhauling every part of that bike, cleaning and regreasing each nook and cranny, replacing all the ball bearings and cables, adjusting and tightening every nut and bolt. I found six different types of (dead) insects in her bottom bracket, including wasps and moths. I spent hours sanding off rust and trying to get those rusty steel wheels true, and I had a pretty good ride to show for it, until I had to replace the tires and found out that her wheels were an oddball 26×1-3/8 (597 instead of 590 for the bike nerds) size that was only manufactured for a few brief years in Canada. This meant any new tires I put on her would not be perfectly round and feel like I was hitting a bump on every revolution of the wheel, not fun.

Eventually, I ordered in some modern cheap alloy 26×1-3/8 wheels. I had to switch out the cones and lock-nuts on the axles to match the dropout widths but is was so worth the hassle. She weighs half as much as before, brakes 10 times better, fits standard tires and with a little love will glide smooth as sorbet for thousands more miles.

So this week, I’m riding Marjory for the first time since fall. How I’ve missed sitting upright on a perfectly balanced bike with a soft cushy seat, the only resistance the wind in my hair as I zip past cyclists with gear more costly than cars. Her only weak point is that her matching pinstriped fenders that gracefully save me from the puddles fit so close they leave no room for winter studs and can completely clog up with snow or mud. I’ve rode her everywhere else possible though, from mountain bike trails (as long as they’re dry) to overnight trips into the countryside, in style.