Monday, February 27, 2012

Mandatory 10,000th View Introspective Quicky

Welcome Flashblog Readers!  I don't know who you are, but you are out there.  I know this because my page counter tells me so.  If not for the counter, I might be led to believe that all the page views are all me editing my writing from my trusty Pentium 3 desktop at work, and the rest are Debi Palmer checking in to see what's new.

10,000 views is quite pathetic compared to some of the popular postings on You Tube.  I saw one recently in the sidebar that had 14 MILLION views.  Why?  Because it showed a pic of a hot babe and it said YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS!!!!  So in order to up my Flashblog stats, I present this You Tube inspired tease:


Oooh Flash, we LOVE your headset spacers!

Oh, and one for the ladies...

How do you like your pump...Presta or Schrader?

Excellent!  Now for the introspective part.   

Anyone with any motivation and a computer can write a blog about anything.  But surprisingly few do.  I write Flashblog because I like bikes, and bike gear, and how cycling has immensely improved my life, and probably literally saved my life.  I write Flashblog for myself, I don't write it for money, or sponsors, or for any reason involved with financial gain.  Some might call this mental masturbation, in fact, I pretty much view our entire American culture as nothing more than one big clusterfucking mental masturbation so who am I to claim that I am above this in any way shape or form?  I feel that most people do not have the time or the energy to focus on details, they are skimming the surface of life, putting in the time, the miles, the hours, doing what they like or think they should be doing, or what they have to do, and don't have the inclination to see the trees for the forest.   What I am doing with Flashblog is drilling down to minutia---headset spacers, drilled out parts, junk bikes, Dutch bikes, low gears,  cool bike shops, bike parties, whatever and where ever the spectrum of bike interest takes me.  My hope is that you find something interesting here, or, at the least, appreciate my writing, or at least the time it takes to produce the product.

I don't know who or how I've influenced anyone with this.  Except Debi Palmer, who thanks me for her low gears whenever we encounter each other on the road.

So enjoy your low gears and night lights and maybe I'll see you on the road too


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Flash In The Pan Rebuild

So this afternoon I took a rusted/flat-tired/weather beaten piece of junk vintage pink Huffy and in 2 hours transformed it into this.  I wish I had taken a "before" pic because the gestalt vibe change is dramatic.

The backstory is my friend is a struggling single mom with 4 grown kids, some of which are still living at home.  Her daughter a young woman in Berkeley, is supporting herself but has a 45 minute walk and bus commute to work and back everyday.  Her mom said if she had a bike she could cut an hour off her commute and save the bus fare too.  Mom has a back porch full of broken, rusted bikes and asked me if I could get one running for her daughter.  I wasn't sure, but I chose this pink Huffy beachcruiser over the Walmart mountain bikes, and also chose a classic Peugeot mixte, more on that later.  I also harvested tires, tubes, a saddle and assorted parts off the other bikes and hauled all this stuff to Flashblog headquarters.

Made in the USA...they don't make them like this anymore, thank goodness!

Now, I have to admit my faux Army bike is based on an old Huffy mountain bike frame.  Huffys were made cheaply, with poor parts fit, all steel so they weighed a ton, but even neglected they will last a lifetime.  This beachcruiser should have ended up in the steel bin at the recycling center, but I know my Huffys and knew this one just needed some oil.  My granddad used to tell me "Jimmy, oil makes the world go round."  My dad always oiled, never greased.  His bikes were black around the hubs, but they went for years.  Its in this vein that I vowed to simply oil this thing and move on.  But in my mind I wanted to paint it too, as fast as I could but still getting a descent result.  Why?  Its gratifying on some level to work fast and deliberately.

Armed with a crescent wrench, an oil can, a spray can of WD40, and a spray can of blue paint, I just tore into the thing.  I got the flat, cracked tires off and sprayed the rusted chrome wheels blue.  I had an image in my mind of monochromatic everything, I've seen photos of Dutch bikes like this.  Blue and yellow were the only colors I had on hand, so blue it was as yellow would do poorly over the rust.  I spray painted the frame after merely wiping it with a rag.  I sprayed the rusted chain with WD, squirted oil in the wheel and bottom bracket bearings, into the large gaps not sealed.  The paint was barely dry on the wheels when I put the replacement used tires on, then threw them on the bike, adjusted the chain, mounted a saddle, put on the Knog light, reflector, and voila!  JOB DONE!  I took it out for a ride and it is surprisingly nice, it soaks up the bumps with its long wheelbase and has an old-timey coaster brake.  I would ride this bike around town, proudly.  Total cost to get it running:  2 hrs free labor and $2 in spray paint.

        Its actually an attractive bike, no cables, brake levers or shifters to mar the simple lines

Here's the Peugeot, I love the frame and classic look, and spent some hours putting it back together.  I had to cut through a U-lock connecting the front wheel to the frame.  (I found a way to defeat the Kryptonite lock in 30 seconds, ask me about it some time as I don't want to put this dangerous bike theft info out on the 'net) This bike had also fallen off  a car driving down the freeway, and the rear wheel had dragged on the pavement.  

Must have made some nice sparks!

This bike was messed up, I swapped the rear wheel, mounted tires, and tuned the shifting and brakes, but didn't notice the front wheel was out of alignment due to a bent fork.  The bike is un-rideable, pulls hard to the left.  What a bummer!  That really harshed my vibe.  It can be fixed with a replacement fork, but that is beyond my gratis work on this project.  So one out of two ain't bad, the young lady will have a cool bike to ride to work and maybe when she saves enough bus fare she can get the mixte fixed and ride in classic geared style.

Thats it for now, keep on ridin' and wrenchin'


Monday, February 6, 2012

My Good Luck Charm

Hello, and welcome to Flashblog.  I'm Flash, and I'm pleased to report that my Team Alameda medal for "Most Rides Led in 2008" has not been stripped from me by the Cycling Arbitration Board.  In fact, they don't care a whit if I ate an entire cow made from pure clenbuturol, unlike the hapless Alberto Contador, Tour De France champion, who just saw all his gains of the last 2 years taken away from him by the CAB, and he may have to pay upwards of 2 million Euros in fines.  As a bike blogger, I enjoy the freedom of not having to endure urine tests just to ride my bike fast.  They don't even test for caffeine, so I'm golden!

So I started wearing my medal again last week.  I've worn it once or twice since 2008, but I felt self conscious those times, pretentious.  Not any more.  Last week I pulled it out of its box and was struck by its timeless design and rugged good looks.  I knew then it would be on my future rides, I had grown into it.

The ribbon is striped in blue, white, and orange, the TA colors, and the medal itself looks to be bronze, but I prefer the term "tarnished gold".  (wink)  The medallion is almost 2 inches in diameter, and is heavy.  Etched in relief in the center is a flaming torch and olive branches within a shield, Olympics style, with near mirror image old-timey cyclists riding on either side of it.  In the background are trees lining a road, and above them an old fashioned horse riding style helmet resting upon a parchment (?) that has the number "51" on it.

This is my Olympic gold medal for inspiring my fellow cyclists, most of whom are ride leaders themselves today.   The etching says almost everything about me, Flash.  However, I would change two details.

1.  In place of the trees I would prefer triangularly peaked mountains in the background.
2.  I would replace the parchment with a steaming cup of coffee

That's it, otherwise its perfect!

This is a classy dignified medal, suitable for wear with my Team Alameda kits.  But the thing is, I wear it less as a medal of achievement but rather for something more important to me in this time and place:  Good Luck.  Yes, I am getting superstitious.  I wear it as an amulet.

From Wikipedia:  "An amulet, similar to a talisman (Arabicطلسم‎ / transliterated: tilasim), is any object intended to bring good luck or protection to its owner. Potential amulets include gems, especially engraved gemsstatuescoinsdrawingspendantsringsplants and animals"

There you have it...engraved pendants.  Need I say more?

I will admit to being very fortunate in my cycling career, only having had one bad crash in 1975.  I've fallen since, but without injury.   I attribute this to veteran skills on the bike, innate good balance, using a mirror, and overall situational awareness.  Some people have it, some have less of it.  Believe me, I ride in large groups and the range of awareness is all over the spectrum.  I have also had my share of pure good luck too.

One day I was riding down Park Blvd just before the 580 underpass.  I rounded the corner to see I had the green light ahead, so I kept my speed up, which was around 25mph.  As I entered the intersection, my front tire caught in a road crack and instantly turned 20 degrees left.  By all rights I should have launched over my handlebars Superman style at 25mph.  By some miracle, I reacted,  the tire skidded sideways, then straightened and I stayed on my bike.  But there was a moment of deep, all-consuming utter dispair that welled up inside of me.  It was like I had crashed and I was feeling the agony of my broken, helpless body, perhaps a body that would never ride again, all because of some fucking little crack in the road.   Alameda Velo rider Alan Le perished in a very similar situation up on Grizzly Peak last year. 

And how many times have I had to grab a fistful of brakes to avoid some oblivious auto driver who blindly pulled in front of me and caused me to slide sideways to avoid a collision?  

I think about all the door-ings I narrowly missed.  All the rocks I've rolled over causing my tire to lose traction in a corner.  I've witnessed harrowing criterium crashes that happened to the side of me instead of in front of me. 

Even my worst crash in '75 could have been much worse as I didn't have a helmet on.  They hadn't been invented yet for non-racers.  I hit my head and scraped off the top of my ear, broke my left arm, but no concussion or other head injuries.  So very lucky. 

I like the idea of an amulet, a talisman.  Its romantic and quaint.  I know it makes no real difference, but then again, maybe it does in some way.  Because it changes ever so slightly, how I feel that day, how I ride.  It makes me feel Olympic caliber, ready for anything.  Confidence cannot be understated in this sportive activity.

Last weekend someone came up to me on the group ride and said, " You're the guy with the medal".   That sounded good to me.  How many people ride their bikes with a medallion hanging down under their necks anyway?  I do now, and I will continue to.  We, as cyclists,  need all the advantages we can get.  If a round piece of bronze or a stuffed pink moose help you get through it, then do it.  

Stay healthy, and get on your bikes and ride!