Monday, August 18, 2008
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
In Portland, Oregon, the oft-awarded #1 bike-friendly city in the country, tensions are resulting in on-street brawls between cyclists and motorists. I implore you folks, remember your manners! If you read into all these stories, between the taglines and radical anecdotes, you will find that often the confrontations arise due to disrespect.
Cyclists who plow through red lights, ignoring the rules of civil society, invite the rage of motorists who would all love to ignore laws now and then too when they are in a hurry to get through the city. We should all respect the law.
Conversely, many motorists make the mistake of trying to teach cyclists a lesson by passing as fast and close as possible without actually hitting the cyclist. This poses a serious danger to cyclists and it makes sense that the cyclists are infuriated by it--resulting in the keying incidents and U-lock attacks mentioned in the above story. Both parties make the mistake that they are somehow invincible to the other--motorists safely protected by their steel shells and airbags, cyclists protected by their ability to make quick getaways and inspire the sympathies of society (Let all this be a lesson to you cyclists. Though you may feel that you are doing "the right thing" and that "everyone" agrees with you, this is not the case. Self-righteousness is ungentlemanly.) Both assumptions are dangerous.
Cyclists remember: if you are riding on a street with cars, behave like a car and never forget that cars have just as much a right to be there as you. Stop at lights, pass only when safe, don't "jayride" to get a head-start on green signals, and make yourself seen with reflectors and lights--no matter how "ugly" or "heavy" they may be. Motorists remember: bicycles have been around longer than cars and have just as much a right to ride on public roads as anyone else. They are not trying to make your life more difficult or your commute slower. In fact, many cyclists feel that they are doing their part to reduce the traffic congestion and pollution that make urban commuting so frustrating in the first place. Everyone could learn to have a little more respect. Wave hello to your fellow citizens, no matter how different they may be. Say nice things like "pardon me," "sorry," and "thank you." Smile at each other.
Cars are not the solution to traffic and the global climate crisis, but bicycles are not either. Bicycles can never replace cars for certain uses. Around-town, sure. But long hauls and family vacations, no. Cars are not going anywhere soon and the bicycle business is booming these days, so don't expect any less of them either. As society feels the pressures of population, resource scarcity and climate change we will need to learn new ways to tolerate one another.
Remember your manners gents. Respect your fellow citizens. Give them a smile and a wave. Let them pass when they are in a hurry (a Gentleman never rushes things, as you know). Never expect anybody to change their habits for any reason, ever. Remember that every person is entitled to their own opinions and habits. The only opinions and habits you can change are your own, and you should only do so for the better. To make society more enjoyable for everyone else, that is the Freewheeling Gentleman's creed..
Friday, July 25, 2008
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Watch the video to see how the makers of his Xtracycle also make a pedal-powered blender that mounts on the back.
Monday, July 21, 2008
This New York Post Article takes a novice's look at the phenomenon but leaves out one important cycling archetype: the Freewheeling Gentleman!
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Monday, July 14, 2008
This shocking LA Times article caused quite a stir in the bike-blogosphere. The Gentleman donates his two cents.
A 59-year-old motoring doctor (yes, a doctor) got in an altercation with two cyclists as they drove and rode respectively down Mandeville Canyon Road in Los Angeles. Apparently the man honked at the riders, then narrowly missed hitting them as he passed them, then veered in front of them and slammed on his brakes--sending one cyclist crashing through the rear window of his red Infinity and the other tumbling to the side of the road. According to the article, authorities believe that the man, Dr. Christopher Thomas Thompson, may have been responsible for an identical hit-and-run incident months earlier. Of course, these were cyclists of the lycra-clad, carbon-fiber variety riding side by side down a very fast road at very high speeds, but the story is tragic and even those more casual riders among us can relate.
I'm sure many of you cyclists have experienced enraged motorists. So it is easy to imagine this tragic scenario. Dealing with infuriated drivers is a truly frightening experience. It is easy to react with malice towards the frustrated drivers, but I implore you all to remember your manners and appeal to the laws of decency. It is too easy to assume that all motorists driving luxury sports cars are hell-bent on running over cyclists, but it is simply not true. One bad apple. One truly rotten apple at that.
I have seen many younger cyclists in altercations with motorists in downtown San Francisco in my years as both a driver and cyclist. I can assure you, from both sides of the issue, that letting tempers fly NEVER produces a favorable outcome for you--because no matter how fast you are behind your steering-wheel or handlebars, your opponent will inevitably catch up with you at the next light.
Honking or driving too close to a nearby cyclist will hurt their ears (remember that your soundproof car muffles the volume of your horn, and pedestrians/cyclists get an earful) and may result in you having your windows or lights smashed at the next light. These are relatively safe times, but it happens. In certain cities you must also be aware that cyclists sometimes have posses--especially couriers-- and you could invite a lifetime of terror for yourself. Remember that starting the fight is never acceptable--and you should expect a retaliation if you make that mistake. This not to say you should retaliate if you are wronged. You should always be the "better man." Missing a traffic light is not such a big deal as it seems when you are speeding to make it. If you are in such a hurry to get where you are going, you should have left earlier, with time to spare.
The same is true for cyclists. If someone has broken the rules of road-decency and you have been wronged, do not catch up to the driver and spit on/through their windows or scratch their paint with your keys (as I have seen many do in my hometown of San Francisco) . Remember what Gandhi said: "An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind." Just grin and bear it. Turn the other cheek. Be the better man. Maybe your decency will rub off on the driver, maybe it won't. But leave the spitting and eye-jabbing to the thugs. And believe me, there are plenty of thugs out there hell-bent on ticking-off motorists, but they generally do more harm than good.
The problem is that driving and cycling in today's over-crowded, traffic-plugged society leads to the condition of "road rage." Cyclists are no exception. Put five cars and five bikes in the same traffic jam and I assure you everyone will be frustrated. The slow pace and inefficiencies of modern traffic are frustrating indeed. Time and energy wasted sitting behind someone else's exhaust pipe is time and energy wasted indeed.
This gentleman readily admits to getting quite flustered behind the wheel. That is why I forswore driving in favor of walking and cycling for around-town errands, and using my metropolitan area's public transportation for my weekday commutes. Commuting by car across the Bay Bridge and dealing with a 50-year-old bottleneck that just gets worse by the day made me angry before I even set foot in the office Monday morning. Add to that arriving home infuriated after a long drive of delays and you can imagine the stress that driving put on myself as well as my coworkers and family. What a terrible way to start and end the day! Despite my change in lifestyle and my embrace of trains for long-distance travel, I still find myself behind the wheel now and then when borrowing a truck for hauling or renting a car for an out-of-town trip. It is amazing how quickly I revert to my old road-raging ways just moving a piano from San Francisco to Berkeley! Or getting stuck in Bay Area traffic when I rent a car in an attempt to get away from Bay Area traffic!
Road rage is a fact of modern existence and I hate to say that like traffic, it doesn't seem to be getting any better. All you can do is attempt to avoid situations when road rage can harm you. Take alternate routes. Encourage your municipality to set up "Bicycle Boulevards" or at least bike lanes.
The real solution is, and this may be hard for die-hard motorists to swallow, less driving. Ask any city planner or transportation engineer and they will tell you that traffic NEVER gets better. It just gets worse and worse every year as the population grows, because more cars mean more congestion. Even adding lanes to existing freeways does little to solve the problem because backups will inevitably occur at every bottleneck. What can you do? Skip the rat race (the true gentleman has always been a non-conformist) and blaze your own path. This can be as easy as taking the bus over that same highway commute, but using your travel time to write a journal instead of fuming about the bad manners of the motorists around you. Or work close to home and eliminate the expenses and time you would otherwise be giving to oil companies and sitting in traffic.
I hope this reflection has been constructive. When tragedy strikes, the Gentleman always consoles his friends and family in any way he can.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Bizarre, nightmare-inducing old bike safety film from 1963. Made in a time before helmets, but also before road rage. Features some great old bikes! Including a green Schwinn just like mine (the one with Slim on the handlebars). It's still running strong--a testament to he lasting durability of those heavy steel 3-speeds the industry forsook so long ago.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Rivendell now offers a "budget" ($250) 650b wheelset. If you're not so sure about your wheel-building prowess, this is just about the cheapest way to convert your road bike from 700c to 650B.
Why convert from 700c to 650B? There are many reasons, but mostly that 650Bs allow you to mount fenders and install much fatter tires than 700c wheels allow. Install fenders and fat tires on your road bike and wah-lah: instant class and a more gentlemanly ride. More supple tires just look and ride better. Why do you think the all-'rounder bikes of yore had 26" wheels and fat tires? It also lowers the stand-over height--which benefits us gentlemen with aging bodies.. I will post more when I becomes a true expert on the subject, but for now simply suggests that any gentleman wishing to re-purpose a road bike, read up on 650B conversions.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
So when it comes to the track bike mania of late and "art bikes" like the ones featured in this RVCA video, the Gentleman is reluctant to accept their true value. But when Antonio Colombo of Cinelli bicycles endorses it, it demands my attention.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
There is one occasion, however, when it is imperative that the Gentleman make himself noticed. That is when cycling at night.
There was a time when many bicycles came with full lighting systems. These lights were part of the bicycle's initial design and were integrated into the machine flawlessly. My 1963 Raleigh Sport still has it's original lighting system in full working order: a bottle generator powering a large chrome bullet-shaped headlight mounted on the stem and a smaller red taillight mounted on the left hand seat-stay (see below--this model is actually a Superbe with a hub-generator, but the lights are identical).
Myra Simon wrote a treatise on bicycle lighting systems that I highly recommend reading. It can be found here. Also, a fine selection of modern high-end generator systems can be found at Velo Orange. I do not endorse them over any other distributors, but they do carry the best selection I know of. Their Spanninga Safe Set (available elsewhere) provides a high-efficiency bottle generator, a halogen headlight and a taillight for around $60. This is perhaps the easiest and most economical way to equip your bicycle. Installing and wiring the generator-headlight-taillight system is a nice weekend project. The price may seem steep, but is in fact quite comparable to battery alternatives.
Also you will have peace of mind knowing that your lights will never fail when you need them most (a disaster!) and you will never need to buy a battery again. In this day-and-age of carbon credits and green guilt, knowing that you do your part by riding a human-powered vehicle with human-powered lights can save you from some of the soul-searching your energy-wasting comrades will have to deal with.
The small initial capital required to get started with a generator lighting set pays off when you take into account the battery savings and peace of mind you will acquire from doing something healthy and responsible.
Oh yes, another great source of information and equipment is Peter White Cycles.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Monday, June 9, 2008
Thursday, May 29, 2008
The Gentleman has been seeing more and more Randonneur-type bicycles popping up here and there. It seems to be a growing trend. We couldn't be happier! At the Gentleman's local San Francisco bike shop, Box Dog Bikes, one of the owners Gabe designed and built up this great model. As he says, it's "Basically something between my Ebisu Rando bike and my [Rivendell] Atlantis." So for those Gentleman out there not quite willing to spend a small fortune on a Rivendell, this prototype could be a solution to your long-distance riding needs. The Gentleman envies Gabe's bicycle collection.
Randonneuring is non-competitive long distance group bike riding. When the demand is there, the Gentleman will lead a Gentleman Randonneur Army.
Friday, May 23, 2008
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Fast forward to around 3:30 to skip the poppycock.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
The Gentleman is a firm believer in good manners and decent, gentlemanly behavior. The recent ubiquity of email and the cellular phone as primary forms of correspondence has challenged centuries of communications etiquette. The Gentleman sees a call for action.
Check your messages less frequently. Relax. Good things come to those who wait. Think before you act or speak.
Read Whatever Minutes from N+1 magazine, an excellent meditation on the subject.
"A letter is an unannounced visit, the postman the agent of rude surprises. One ought to reserve an hour a week for receiving letters and afterwards take a bath." - Friedrich Nietzche
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
The Gentleman appreciates Paul Frank's attempt at an affordable city bike. How complicated can it be to produce a solid, dependable steel-framed bicycle with a relaxed non-racing geometry? The technology has been around for 100+ years! Paul Frank saw profitability of such a simple product and put together this City model with a wide sprung saddle, fenders, chain guard, rack and 3-speed coaster brake included! Hurrah Mr. Frank.
Scott Schuman writes the Sartorialist column for Gentleman's Quarterly, RFK's favorite "fag rag" and one of the Gentleman's favorite magazines. He suggests that all Gentleman occasionally peruse its pages for information about the season's finest Italian shoes. (The Gentleman also recommends N+1 and The Baffler magazines presently.)
Schuman has compiled a nice collection of photographs featuring stylish ladies and gentlemen from around the globe. A simple search for the label Bicycles on his blog yields a delightful array including the two below. Enjoy!
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Copenhagen Cycle Chic features beautiful European women on beautiful European bicycles--a Gentleman's Dream.
The people of Bikes? Rubbish! ride some funky bicycles with long skateboards attached to the back, but the Gentleman appreciates their good photography, cycling philosophy and personal style. Stylish young couples like these look great in photographs and the Gentleman encourages other beautiful people to photograph themselves enjoying their bicycles without sweating.
These two are wedding photographers, and therefore appear to be living life in a permanent wedding-photo state, which is how life always appears through the freewheeling Gentleman's eyes. The pure elation of coasting down a country road with your love to buy a bottle of fine wine rivals the joy and excitement of few things in life, weddings coming close.
The Gentleman particularly loves "Sarah's Commuter Bike."
and this excerpt:
Why do you ride bikes?
1. There's no better way to feel like a kid again
2. It slows life way down
2. It's great exercise(easy or hard-you pick)
3. It's a romantic way to spend time with the one you love
4. It's better for the environment
5. We sail right on by the fuel pump
6. We don't sit in traffic
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Schwinn Coffee (Men's) & Cream (Women's)
This gorgeous new bike features a 3-speed coaster brake. It is quite possibly the best Gentleman's bicycle for the price. MSRP is $389.99 for the 3-speed but Performance Bicycle offers an alternative 1-speed coaster for $250.
What a beauty!
Raleigh is giving away a Raleigh Coasting Bike! Gentlemen enjoy the childlike reverie of coaster brakes. And this bike comes with a front rack specifically designed for six-packs complete with a built-in bottle opener that sets the Gentleman's heart aflutter.
Enter the contest here.
Friday, May 2, 2008
The Gentleman is comfortable riding a Mixte. He has no qualms with lesser minds who consider the versatile style to be a solely feminine beast. Many an older Gentleman could benefit from the step-through frame. The Gentleman wishes this Mixte was his.
There are many imitators but only one true original. The B72 was standard issue during the Golden Age of Gentleman's Bikes. A truly lovely seat that will never wear out.
The Gentleman has a tough time ordering B72s since most local bicycle shops do not carry them as normal stock. They should, because a Gentleman does not like ordering things online. Definitely DO NOT order a B72 through "BikeSomeWhere.com." They rip a Gentleman off.
My fat Gentlemen friends swear by the triple sprung models.
Only the best for the Gentleman's jewels.
The Gentleman believes that a woman should know her place.
On a lady's bike!
Speaking of ladies. Annie Londonderry rode around the world on a unisex fixed gear bike with wooden wheels and no brakes! Take that you condescending messenger-wannabes who speak down to women at bike shops. We don't see you riding around the world on your fixed gear!
For more on the great three-speeds of yore, visit Retro Raleighs.
But a Gentleman observes the spectacle from the finest seats in the house. He does not race himself. The Gentleman never breaks a sweat.
But the Gentleman also lusts after the racing bike. The Gentleman has a libido. The Gentleman is a human being. And some track bikes are undeniably beautiful. The Gentleman is a steward of beautiful things, a collector of art.
The Gentleman is not a codger. Sometimes he can take off his tie and take a little beauty like this one for a spin around the block. The Gentleman is a sporting man, who appreciates life's finer pleasures. He enjoys exercise and stretching his muscles.
A Gentleman admires the fixed gear racing bike for its simplicity, its speed, and its beauty. Like a gazelle that the Gentleman has hunted, he hangs the racer on his wall and can always remember his younger, faster days. Anyone can tell you that a track bike is meant to be admired, not ridden.
The Gentleman has nothing against fixed gears bicycles per se, and in fact he loves them for their silent grace. He knows that the Gentleman of yore rode on fixed gear models before the advent of the freewheel. A Gentleman embraces simple technological luxuries like the freewheel.
The Gentleman NEVER rolls on Deep Vs. The Gentleman knows that flashy colored rims, top tube pads, mismatched wheels and spoke cards are in poor taste, the stuff of loud-mouthed punks.