Monday, January 31, 2011

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait.

I bought my 1980's Dahon folding bicycle well over a year ago.  It did not have a rack with it, which I was disappointed about.  I've been looking for this darn thing ever since.  A couple of times I saw one of these same bikes for sale on craigslist that had the rack.  I emailed the seller and asked if they would sell just the rack, but they would not.  In this past week I've learned about two bike shops in my new locale that I did not know about yet.  I had an opportunity to get out of the house, and go visit them this afternoon.  I just wanted to check them out, but I got a couple of happy surprises.  The first one was the rack I've been waiting for for so long now.  As you can see I've already installed it, and now the bike is complete.  This will probably come in handy while I'm in Hong Kong.  Where did I finally find this elusive piece of equipment?  The shop that served as the pot at the end of the rainbow for this particular item is Tri County Bicycles in Pottstown, Pennsylvania.  John, the owner, has a couple of these vintage Dahon folders for sale in shop, and one had the rack.  Unlike the craigslist sellers, he was happy to sell me just the rack, for quite an excellent price too!  He even made sure to give me the hardware to ensure proper attachment.  He specializes in the vintage scene a bit, with a back room full of happy surprises for those of us who have a special place in our hearts for these special old bikes.  Not only was there a pristine looking, green fuji sports 10 sitting illuminated in the front window, but there was a 52cm fuji frame in the back that looked to be the finest model, one of the best fuji ever put out back in the day.  It has the beautiful chrome lug work that we all love so much.  If you're in the market you should check it out.  His prices are more than fair.  It is too small for me, otherwise I would be grabbing it.  And this isn't all for this shop.  He is involved with one of the most successful bike share programs in the country, Bike Pottstown.  It was started about 2 years ago, and is going strong.  Hopefully other communities in the area will model themselves after it realizing it's worth.  Please check it out.

The next shop I visited is Alan's Bicycles in Phoenixville, Pa.  Again, just going there to check it out, but I got another happy surprise.  A pair of Nitto noodle bars for my fuji touring bike.  I noticed a couple of months ago that the bars on it now are actually malformed.  The left drop is bent inwards.  Plus, they are a bit too narrow for my comfort.  Alan had a whole box of brand new noodle bars, the exact model I've been looking at and wanting to get plus he had plenty of sizes.  These are some of the most comfortable bars you can get.  Now I have them and can't wait to get them switched out.  The pics above are a list of some excellent bikes he has on sale right now, many of them beautiful classics.  He is working on getting his website up and running, so I'm posting this here to try and help get the word out a little bit.  One bike in particular on that list is more than pertinent to this blog in that it is a classic titanium fuji.  He has it sitting in the front window waiting for that right person to come along.  It is quite shiny and beautiful I have to say.  

I know there are more happy discoveries waiting for me at both of these shops.  I look forward to my future visits to them.  If you happen to ever be in the area, then be sure to check them out.  There may be something there just waiting for you too.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

DIY Camera Mount

I came across this great idea for a do-it-yourself camera mount while reading another cyclist's blog.  That blog is and he has a link to the website which describes how to make this camera mount for yourself.  I'll post it here too.  This project cost me less than $3.  I have not been out on the road with it yet, but it feels pretty secure.  You see it here mounted on my Dahon folding bike which I will be taking with me to Hong Kong soon.  I'm very excited about the potential action footage I'm going to get.  Wish me luck.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Start of Fuji Crazy

1984 Fuji Touring Series IV

1977 Fuji Sports 10

1985 Fuji Bedford 3-speed

The ebay photo of the 2005 Fuji Royale

2005 Fuji Cross Comp

The ebay photo of the 1985 Fuji Opus III

While I'm having these memories of my bicycle past, I realized I've never talked about how this fuji craziness began for me.  I haven't really even thought about it until now.  I'm not sure if it began with the 1977 fuji sports 10 frame that I found September of 2006 in the Charlottesville Community Bike Shop and subsequently stripped bare to rebuild, or if it began with the 1985 fuji opus iii I found on ebay in December of 2007, which I consider a beautiful gift, and for which I had to rebuild the wheels.  I think when you put alot of work into anything it has a tendency to become a part of who you are. 

The Sports 10 was hanging from a hook like a piece of meat in the 'old space' of the community shop when I found it on my first visit there.  I took it down, stripped off all the parts, and took the frame home to paint it.  I really shouldn't have done that, but I didn't like the way the rust spots looked.  My paint job didn't make it look any better though!  Anyway, I built it back up so that I could learn the mechanics of a bicycle.  Then I proceeded to ride it, though I didn't realize it was way too small for me.  I actually went on a 30 mile ride with it that was torture on my neck and shoulders.  It was during the time that I was rebuilding the parts onto the bike that something about the name 'fuji' began to appeal to me.  I really liked the way it looked on the seat tube, and the way they painted the shadows of the letters behind them.  I guess I got curious enough about fuji bikes that I began looking for more information about them.  

That must be what led me to discover the Opus.  I didn't go out searching for another bike, but when I saw the picture of it on ebay something was speaking to me.  I decided to bid on it.  I forget the details of how much the bidding started and if anyone else bid on it or not, but I was the winner at $63.  Shipping however was a different story.  The person selling it did not want to mess with taking it apart or anything like that, so we discussed the best options for getting it to me.  She fed-ex'd it, and had them box it tri bars and all.  The shipping cost was $179.  Given the total cost it was still a steal (no pun intended, 'steel'... get it?).  It wasn't long after I received the bike that I attended a swap meet in Westminster, MD where I met a fellow who used to race the Opus back in the day.  I told him the story, and he agreed that I got a great deal.  The day in December 2007 that the bike arrived at my house was very exciting.  I saw the truck pull up, and knew it was here.  I met the driver in the street, and helped him unload this huge (but very light!) box from the back.  We put it on my front porch where I proceeded to break into it with the anticipation of Ralphie in A Christmas Story when he finally got his Red Ryder bb gun.  As piece by piece was revealed (there was ALOT of tape) I knew it was something even more special than I had realized.  The componentry was high quality (superbe pro stuff).  The condition was very good for its age.  I began wondering immediately who the person was who used to ride it.  Did they race?  Did they just ride for their own fitness?  Was a time trial their last ride?   When I finally got it completely out of the boxes, I took it for a little ride up the street.  Twang, twang!  The spokes of the rear wheel started breaking!  After a feeling of initial disappointment I realized that it was time for me to learn some new mechanical skills, and I decided to rebuild the wheels myself.  I had learned enough at that point to know that the hubs were quality and I could still use them.  With the help of my friend Ken, who at the time owned a great classic/vintage bike shop in town called Syklo, I learned how to lace my own wheels.  Then I started learning about other things regarding bicycles, like proper fitting.  I didn't realize it when I bid on the Opus, but it is actually the perfect size for me, 55cm.  It feels like an extension of my body when I'm on it.  It took a long time before it was ready to ride.  In fact, over a year.  I'm a full time Dad, and my first child had just been born when I got the Opus.  I stared at it for months as I found the time to build the wheels to make it rideable.  Then I had to wait through another winter during which time I had to search for and acquire larger suntour winner pro cogs to accomodate the hills of central Virginia.  It had initially come with a 13-18 straight block.  That would have killed me if I tried to ride with that high of a gearing.  The day finally came that it was ready to take out on the road.  It was in the spring of 2009.  Later that summer I volunteered again riding with the Boys and Girls Club cycling challenge team, and then got to finish out the challenge by actually being one of the main coaches for the team.  I had never had the feeling of a perfectly fitted bike before riding the Opus.  It bullets down hills.  It feels very sturdy and solid.  It feels light as a cloud when I'm climbing up hills.  It really is a gift.

Maybe that's why I'm so fuji crazy.  These fujis I have all feel like they have been gifts to me.  

It hasn't always been the vintage ones.  I guess that has become a choice of mine, to stay focused on them.  (I just like the aesthetics of them better.)  But when I bought my first expensive bike after getting into all of this cycling stuff, it happened to be a fuji as well.  It was a 2005 Fuji Cross Comp.  I bought it from my local Performance Bike Shop.  I went in one week and it stood out on the rack.  It wasn't in the shop previously because an out of town customer had it on layaway, but then changed his mind.  They put it back on the floor at a discounted price.  I rode it around the parking lot, and felt pretty good on it.  I had decided already that a cross bike would be for me due to its versatility.  I didn't really know what kind of riding I was going to be doing.  I was so excited about getting a new bike and really wanted to get riding so I bought it.  I sold it so that I could get my 1984 Fuji Touring Series IV.  It was a clean swap.

The touring fuji was at my friend Ken's shop Syklo.  I noticed it one day when he showed me the upstairs.  He had been trying to make it fit and work for him, but was running into issues here and there.  I expressed interest in buying it, and when the time came that he was ready to let go of it, he let me know.  Again, the way it all worked out, it felt like another fuji gift had been given to me.  It is the same size as the Opus.  Those bikes are like brothers.  

I got another Fuji bike from Syklo, the 1985 Fuji Bedford 3-speed.  However at that time Ken had sold the shop to our friend Charles, who also did a lot of work through the community shop.  He traded it to me for a couple of Motobecanes.  He's really into French bikes so it was a good deal for both of us.  One day I had the Bedford stolen off the back of my car in plain sight.  I didn't see it happen, but I did see the kid on my bike just after he took it.  I happened to know one of them involved though he didn't realize it was my bike that they stole.  After coercing the police to actually help me, I did get it back late that night, and in a year I had the opportunity to meet those boys and their parents to discuss how their actions had affected me.  I hope from following through with a course of action with them to make them accountable helps them to think again before stealing anymore.  

Another modern fuji I have is a 2005 Royale from their Sforza line of that year.  It was another ebay purchase.  The seller had put her phone number on the ad.  I knew I couldn't get it if it went higher than the starting bid ($200), so I called her and asked if I could pick it up at the starting bid price if no-one else bid on it.  (It was located 2 hours from me.)  She said yes.  I watched the ad for the next 4 days, and NOBODY bid!  I couldn't believe it.  As far as I could tell it looked like a sweet deal.  How could anyone miss it.  It was a sweet deal.  The bike was only two years old, and new it sold for $1000 (due to the carbon fork and seat stays).  I did go get it.  Right now it is on loan to a good friend.  

Maybe it is the experiences I've had with these fuji bikes, and the connections I've made to other people through them that makes me fuji crazy?

Well, I could go on and on with fuji stories.  I don't think there is a definitive answer to why I'm now so fuji crazy.  The word itself even appeals to me.  My favorite apple is the fuji apple.  It really isn't just because it is fuji.  It is because I like their flavor and crispness compared to other apples.  It is something that just happens to be.  It is part of who I am.  I think Mount Fuji is beautiful (along with millions of other people).   I love that something so majestic and beautiful was chosen as the logo for a bike.  These fuji bike experiences have just happened.  I didn't make them happen.  That is what makes them special.  They just are.  I guess I am fuji crazy because fuji bikes themselves have become just part of who I am.  It just is.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Bicycling Roots

I'll have to get one of my senior high pictures from my mother.  In it I am posing with my Diamond Back Approach hybrid that I bought my junior year after saving for a couple of months.  I rode that bike from Holiday Estates to a summer job at Hilltop Nursery in Spaulding, IL where I grew up.  I also commuted with it for a few months when I worked at a child development center in Sherman, IL.  On a rainy day, my yellow rain jacket and silver helmet came in quite handy when the 4 year olds under my watch were being... shall we say difficult.  I used them as a show and tell and occupied them for half an hour.  I also rode it in one of the Capital City Century rides in Springfield, IL one year.  I think it was 1997.  At that point, I had never ridden more than 15 or so miles, and I chose to do the 60 mile route.  I didn't realize how difficult that would be.  Ten miles from the end I actually had to stop and lie in a ditch to rest.  While I was on the ground, another rider stopped to check on me.  He threw me a small power bar.  I was skeptical that it was going to help me, but I ate it, and in only a few minutes did feel better enough to finish the ride.  I have believed in energy bars ever since.  A couple of years ago I donated that frame to the Community Bike Shop in Charlottesville, Va, and now it is part of a tall bike my friend Charles built.  Also back in high school, my friend Rob and I would ride the country roads of Sangamon County (Riverton, Mechanicsburg, Sherman, Elkhart).  We would go out for 15-20 mile rides, talk the whole time, and enjoy the openness that miles of corn and bean fields provide.  

Before the hybrid, it was my first freewheel, which was a white frame with bright green grips, seat, and pedal.  I don't remember doing anything but riding around the neighborhood with it.  Before that one it was a black and yellow BMX.  I loved that bike.  My brother and I both got one.  I rode that everywhere around the neighborhood.  I crashed on it a few times.  One memorable crash (not my fault!) is when a neighbor, a man in his 40's I think, challenged me to ride as fast as I could down the 'big' hill.  Of course I took him up on it.  I rode all the way up the hill and then some.  Then I charged as hard as I could, pedaling out the tiny gear on the bike, but I kept pedaling all they way down anyway.  I was flying!  But that man was at the bottom, and when I got there he suddenly jumped in front of me and yelled.  I veered left into the curve where there was a pile of rocks gathered from the street, and skidded out flat on my face.  I had a fat lip for a week.  I hate that guy to this day.  I suppose I need to forgive him.

The BMX was my second bike.  My first (discounting any tricycles) I think must have been a Schwinn Stingray.  I'll have to ask my parents to see if they remember.  It was a blue frame, banana seat, and the high handlebars.  I did like that bike, but on rides around the block with my friends I would always have to yell for them to wait for me because my shorts would always get stuck on the front of the banana seat as I would get back on.  

I guess bicycles have always been a part of my life.  Back then though I couldn't change my own flat, or tell you what gear ratio meant.  Over Christmas I took a trip back to Illinois to visit family.  Cycling is alive and well in the area due mainly to the Springfield Bicycle Club.  This group has actually been around for over 30 years.  I was also happy to discover a new bike shop in Springfield, Velo-Mine.  They have a couple of beautiful classic fuji's around, an 80's track and Professional (both too tall for me though).  They are an all around bike shop catering to all types of riders.  There is also a Sangamon Valley Trail being built at the present time.  Six miles have already been completed.  While driving around central Illinois (and after riding on many narrow, hilly, winding, rural roads of Virginia) I was realizing how great of a place it really is for cycling.  Traffic is fairly low.  Roads are nicely paved and fairly wide.  There definitely are not really any hills to contend with.  (I realize that is a negative for some people.) 

My next trip back I'll have to be sure to do some riding, and roll out some more old (and new) memories.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Comparison Pics for Visibility at Night

Here are some pics with no reflection for comparison.  I had some reflection on the back of the heels of my shoes that I smudged out in the rear facing photos.  The lights are visible.  Some lights out there though aren't as good as even these.  Thankfully these are not the best on the market.  Those might be made by Light and Motion.  I hope to get some of those in a few months (when I can afford it!).  However, imagine coming upon me from a distance much further away.  A driver might wonder what that little red light that isn't moving really is.  You can see how head to toe reflective gear leaves no question of what it is to drivers coming up from behind.  The front light helps opposing drivers see and maybe even recognize that it is someone on a bicycle, but its main purpose really should be to help you see hazards in the road.  Riding a bicycle in the dark should be taken very seriously.  It is in fact a real life and death matter.  

Monday, January 3, 2011

Night Riding Visibility

In preparation for going to Hong Kong to adjudicate, I began going over the piano music I will be listening to while I'm there.  I'll be doing this in the evenings over the next few weeks.  My commute isn't very far, only a mile one way, but at least it gets me on the bike, and lets me stretch out a bit after being couped up inside so much lately.  As I've mentioned in a previous post, I don't really like to ride at night.  That does multiply the chances of having an encounter with a motor vehicle.  However, there are things you can do to try and minimize those chances.  When I got home earlier tonight, I thought I would take some pics again of what I might look like to a car driver out there on the road.  The stuff on my head, arms, waist, and ankles is all reflective material.  It is not lights.  You can see how important it is to include reflective material along with any lights you use as part of your night riding gear.  You can't have enough of it.  It really helps you 'pop out' and be seen better.   If you can get it on any moving parts of your body or bike the better.  It shows other drivers that you are in fact a human being.  Also, the higher up the better too.  For instance, getting something visible on your helmet or head will show drivers that you are a human being as well.   A road that is usually very fast and busy during the day, in the evening is less so.  I rode a bit to the right, just off center in the lane keeping a comfortable distance from the curb.  At the stoplights, I took the middle of the lane, and held it through the intersection.  Tonight drivers gave me plenty of room as they passed.  I was confident that I was being seen.  If I didn't have that gear I wouldn't be as confident of that, and if fact wouldn't even be out there.  Please don't ride at night without lights and reflective gear.  

Bicycling in Hong Kong

This March I will be traveling to Hong Kong to adjudicate piano at an annual music festival they have been holding since the 1940's.  I did this 6 years ago, and have been invited back for 2011.  I did not have a cycling life back then.  Now I do, and hope to incorporate it however I can into my month long stay.  I have discovered that cycling is alive and well there.  A local advocacy group, the Hong Kong Cycling Alliance, has been working to educate the public.  There is also the sport side supported by the Hong Kong Cycling Association.  I am considering taking my folding bike along, and am trying to figure out if it will make sense to do so.  Otherwise it seems I can rent a bike there for a reasonable rate.  I am looking forward to the different ways Hong Kong is going to enhance my cycling life.  Stay tuned for more regarding this trip later in the spring.