Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Bikes on Trains, Trains on Bikes - and Christmas

It is Christmas Eve, so that means I am going to be setting up a decades-old (still has the 'Made in West Germany label on the bottom of the locomotive) LGB train at my parent’s house. Trains going around Christmas trees are a big thing in my family. In fact, there’s no tree that can’t be improved by a train. 

You’ve probably seen this train at the Rowayton Arts Center’s Holiday Gift Show - and if you haven’t: they are open today from 10:00am to 2:00pm so I recommend you go there and pick up a last-minute Christmas gift for the cyclist in your life. Like, say…I don’t know….a nice framed photograph from a local artist. 

One of my photographs sold at the show (hence the empty spot on the wall) so I replaced it with another…and you’ll have to see which one it is when you go there.

But you’ll also see the LGB train going around the tree and probably ask yourself: “Well, how did it get there?”

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin. 

This is a Landrider that was waiting for the ‘metal only’ bin behind a bike shop before I picked it up. This bike is known for two things: the informercials that seemed to market cycling toward the Metamucil generation…and for its complex automatic transmission. 

The way it worked was as such: the wheel would turn and make a special mechanism on the derailleur spin, and the centrifugal force would pull the derailleur away from the bike and make it shift. 

Not easy to photograph when in motion.

When I picked up the bike the rubber band that made the thing on the derailleur spin was missing (probably part of why the bike was being given away) so I replaced it with a large rubber O-ring from the hardware store for $4.49.

The reason the Landrider got all mixed up in the train set I loaned to the Rowayton Arts Center for Christmas is because (long story) I had to borrow that particular train back for a day in early December. But I didn’t want the show to be without the train for too long, so the very next morning I decided to ride the six miles to RAC with the train, so I packed it carefully in a city box pannier I never use and put it in a basket on a bike I’ve never ridden. 

I discovered something on this ride: the world is not ready for an automatic transmission. At least not this one. Sure, when you’re accelerating the bike shifts up but when at speed it would often shift up or down without warning, causing a distraction or my feet to slip off the pedals. Also my thumbs were constantly pushing for shifters that weren’t there. I had experienced a similar phenomenon when I went from my Jeep Wrangler (1995 - 2006), which had a manual transmission, to my Honda Element, which doesn’t. 

Part of the reason bikes are great is that they do what your body tells them to do. On the Landrider, the natural order of things is reversed.


The other thing I discovered on this ride is that if you come across one of those Ridiculous Car Antlers that has fallen off some Suburban, you can attach it to your bike and create your own Instant 3 Foot Law Reminder. 

The Landrider and I continued on. As my legs burned I wondered how much of my energy was being wasted in the centrifugal clutch. I was tempted to abandon the antler to cut down on wind resistance, but before I could do such a thing I arrived at the Rowayton Arts Center.

I returned the train (it was undamaged!) and rode back to Stamford. Because I realized how few Sundays were left in the year where I’d be able to ride about, I took side trips to Lorca and Pacific Swim Bike Run so I could write my #GiftsForCyclists series - thus leaving this dreadful bike (which will probably not be in my possession very soon) in the foreground of the shots I took. 

When I finally got home I discovered the antler bounced off somewhere on my journey - thus returning to the streets from whence it came (unbelievably, while out a couple of days later on my city bike, I found another antler in the road. Mind your tacky car decorations, citizens).

I can honestly say I will never ride this Landrider again.  But still, I got to ride a bike - and I got to bring a train on a bike instead of the other way around. Since today is the last day of the Rowayton Arts Center Holiday Gift Show, I hope all last minute Christmas shoppers enjoy it even more now that they know the origin story.  

And don’t forget: you can still buy raffle tickets for the BikePort Co-Op’s BPT-ONE if you can’t make it to Rowayton and are still short some stocking stuffers. I’m Mike from DIYBIKING.COM wishing you all a Merry Christmas. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

7:00pm Tonight in Stamford: Support Complete Streets

If you live in Stamford and don’t read this post all the way through I’m okay with that - provided you attend tonight’s public meeting (7:00pm at 888 Washington Boulevard) of the Board of Reps or otherwise show support for Stamford’s Complete Streets Ordinance. Write a letter to the editor of the Stamford Advocate, shout from the rooftops, borrow Speakerbike - whatever you need to do to be heard.

As you probably guessed, I’ve been riding the Bikeducken lately - you know, that cargo bike I welded last year from the parts of eight discarded bicycles. Two photos taken with my phone really capture everything anyone needs to know about a city that’s been shaped by cars:

This is my bike pausing at the parking lot at Ridgeway last Friday. As you can see there are a lot of cars searching for an elusive parking spot. Some of the motorists - both in and out of this parking lot - were staring at me; presumably because the Bikeducken looks strange. But you know what? I was staring at them because what they chose to get to where they’re going was a lot more odd than what I chose.

As you can see, I had no trouble finding a parking space at Ridgeway. But going forward: I want trouble. 

I’ve long ago lost count of the number of passionate cyclists I know that won’t bike through the heart of Stamford because they are too afraid - hence the empty bike rack. Anything this city can do to reduce that fear - including bike lanes - needs to be the big priority in 2015. Hand in hand with that has to be actions - including blanketing the city with usable bike parking that encourages people to not drive their cars into or through the city. Bikes take up less space, and that means motorists have fewer cars to compete with when searching for parking on their own. 

Adopting and aggressively implementing a complete streets policy - which will save lives, by the way - is the only direction this city can travel in. 

You don’t even have to take my word for it: gas is cheaper now than it has been in years and AAA cited that as part of why we’ll see more traffic on the roads this holiday. The National Bureau of Economic Research also published a report five years ago that concluded that increasing the provision of roads would do nothing to relieve congestion

And what was just discovered in California isn’t just a final nail in the car culture coffin, but it is a financial disaster: $1 billion was spent to widen a mere ten miles of the 405 freeway and traffic commute times increased by one minute after it was completed

A shorter way to say we've spent a lot of money on a problem only to make it worse is known as ‘induced demand’: We’ve thrown gobs of money at cars and all it has done is encourage people to drive more. Now is the time to encourage people to drive less. 

Please attend tonight’s hearing, take action to support Stamford’s complete streets ordinance, or both. We’ve already killed four pedestrians on our roads this year. Let’s try for none next year. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

#GiftsForCyclists Part III: From Pacific Swim Bike Run: The Gift of Wrench Smarts

Just as I said a few days ago when you saw it in front of Lorca: that awful-looking bike parked in front of Pacific Swim Bike Run deserves an explanation. But you’ll have to wait. This is still DIYBIKING.COM’s #GiftsForCyclists special and it can’t be slowed down.

On 575 Pacific Street in Stamford, you’ll find Pacific Swim Bike Run (the same shop that created the Hot Chocolate Classic to benefit The Pacific House Shelter for the Homeless a few weeks ago). On paper, it’s supposed to be a shop I’d normally avoid. It specializes in bikes that are fast that are bought by people who want to go faster and after riding argue with their friends over who was the fastest. 

But it’s not that. It’s a fun, non-intimidating place to shop or take a class. Even though I have mostly skinny tire bikes in this shot they also have a well curated selection of children’s bicycles and gear. And they carry a few bikes that would cause any cyclist’s eyes to light up on Christmas morning. 

This got my attention walking in the door. Like the beautiful custom bike that BikePort is raffling off it is just an outstanding color. Don’t you just want to hang it on your tree? 

Now you can buy this or any other bike here for a cyclist this Christmas. Because the shop is less than a ten minute walk from the Stamford railway station, New York City friends reading this can make an easy trip here to do a little Christmas shopping - possibly for themselves. 

But if you are shopping for the cyclist who has everything, I recommend you visit PSBR and get him or her a private class with a bike mechanic. For $89 an hour, a PSBR mechanic will teach one or two people (there’s a gift for the cyclist power couple in your life) any topic related to bike repair. Think about it: it’s like Batman hiring out Lucius Fox.*

What’s taught in this period of time is up to the cyclist: it can be as simple as fixing a flat, replacing a bottom bracket, brakes and drivetrain adjustments - any wisdom a cyclist wished they had before they had ruined a perfectly good shifter when building a mountain bike. 

So if the cyclist you’re shopping for is long on toys but short on how to maintain them, visit Pacific Swim Bike Run and give the gift of Wrench Smarts. Ask about getting this at the PSBR front desk or contact them at or 203-504-8960. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

* or James Bond hiring out Q, if you prefer. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

#GiftsForCyclists - Part II: BikePort Co-Op Raffle Tickets for BPT ONE Custom Bike

“Do you have a dollar?” I asked.

My friend at BPT Creates in Bridgeport didn’t hesitate. He pulled out his wallet and began to hand me one as he said: “Yeah. Do you need to feed the meter?”

“No,” I said, recalling a much-loved line from Richard Dreyfus’ character in Jaws:  “I need something in the foreground to give the tire some scale.”

What I was doing was taking pictures of a custom bike made by the Bikeport Co-Op in Bridgeport. Most custom made bikes are beautiful just by default because I appreciate how someone decided they wanted a bike and went about getting one the hard way. 

This one’s in another class by itself: the frame is simple, elegant and bears a fascinating paint job. The seat is big, the ape hanger handle bars are gloriously over the top and the 4” wide tires have to be seen to be believed. 

Few bikes look like they should sit in an art gallery and cruise city streets at the same time, but this one is. Even though there is only one (it is called the BPT-ONE) there is a chance for all to own it - which is one of the two reasons it goes on this #GiftsForCyclists special.

The Bikeport Co-op is selling raffle tickets for the BPT-ONE through next week. One ticket is $7.00 but you can also buy in quantities and get an even better deal: Three tickets cost $18, Five cost $25, Ten cost $50.00 and 25 tickets sell for $100. 

At these prices, raffle tickets for BPT-ONE make the perfect stocking stuffer. And you can buy them easily: simply click on this link and in less than a minute you have the best stocking stuffer for any cyclist anywhere. The raffle ticket number gets emailed to you and you can deliver that ticket number any way you want. Print it out on holiday paper, write it in a card - give it to them over the phone. 

Not only will the receiver wait with anticipation over the drawing (which takes place on Dec. 27th) but here’s where the money raised from the raffle goes: it helps the BikePort Co-Op make Bridgeport a better place to bike. This organization has only been around since May and they’ve been able to, among other things, provide a dozen kids helmets, gloves, locks and complete bicycles through their Earn-A-Bike initiative (which is similar to the fantastic Ohio City Bicycle Co-Op in Cleveland). The BikePort Co-Op also organizes regular group rides and is set to open bike clubs at three Bridgeport high schools and two elementary schools. 

So buy these stocking stuffers today and like the Bikeport Co-Op on Facebook. Not only will you make a cyclist you know smile, but whether you buy the Golden Ticket or not, you’ll make a lot of young cyclists you don’t know smile too. I also strongly encourage celebrities (Taylor Swift: are you reading this?) traveling through the state to stop by BPT Creates to take a selfie on the BPT-ONE to help get the word out. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

#GiftsForCyclists - Part 1: Lorca's Cyclist Gift Box

Just to clear the air: that hideous, cringeworthy, full-body-shudder inducing bike parked in front of my favorite coffee shop deserves an explanation. But because this is Part 1 of DIYBIKING.COM’s #GiftsforCyclists special, you’ll have to wait. 

Since the hashtag is self explanatory and one that isn't getting a lot of use on Twitter at the moment, I’ll just go right out and say that if you are buying presents for any cyclist this year check DIYBIKING.COM every day until Christmas - and follow my suggestions to relieve your holiday stress. 

Let’s start here: Cyclists have a very special relationship with coffee. I’ve documented this several times and, as a service to readers, biked around Stamford on what eventually became The Bikeducken to see what coffee cup lids would splash the rider the least

So if you’re in or near Stamford and want to buy a gift for that special cycling/coffee lover hybrid in your life, stop at Lorca at 125 Bedford Street in Stamford.

The counter looks like this these days - but be assured this pile of goodies won’t block your view of the good looking staff. Lorca has actually assembled a variety of gift packages: There’s one just for people who like iced coffee, a ‘World Traveler’ gift set, a knitting club gift box, the tried-and-true Coffee Enthusiast Gift Box and others. But the one that caught my eye is The Cyclist Gift Box

Given my expertise in coffee spillage while bike riding (and my second-degree burns to prove it) I did not want to post about this gift idea until I had a chance to check out the lid with my own eyes. 

My photo of the lid didn’t come out well (it is actually a pic of a jet engine at Westchester Airport*) but be assured this lid was made with minimal spillage in mind and maximum reliability. In addition to the Traveler coffee mug, the $50.00 package also comes with a cup holder for handlebars, a bag of coffee and a tree ornament made from recycled bike chain links. 

So that’s the first gift on the DIYBIKING.COM #GiftsForCyclists’ special. Head into Lorca and pick one up today - and get a hot cup of caffeinated holiday cheer for yourself while you’re at it. Chain your bike to the parking meter. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

*made you look. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Happy Hanukkah from DIYBIKING.COM

Needed to take a moment just now to offer a Happy Hanukkah to all who celebrate. 

I do not personally celebrate Hanukkah, but I chose to honor it with welding. I recently took a discarded Saint Tropez frame and a couple of afternoons in the welding room brought me what you see here. As you know I’ve already found success with Christmas wreaths so I decided to branch out into other holidays.

This wreath isn’t for sale because it is hanging on my door and the #bicyclemenorah isn’t for sale because I sold it to a gentleman in Illinois. I hope he gets joy from it, and I hope all my Jewish friends - whether they bike or not - get joy from the season.

And if anyone from any faith needs advice on what to buy for a loved one this season, keep checking back with DIYBIKING.COM because I’ll be posting some #giftsforcyclist ideas. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Pacific Swim Bike Run's Hot Chocolate Classic: A Fun Thing That Matters

I am pleased to precede this post with a notice that Food Bank Biking brought 35 pounds of food (including two turkeys, carried in style in my homemade bike trailer) to the Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County

I’d have written a more comprehensive post about this but I’m at Christmas Defcon 4. If you celebrate the holiday, you’re probably there yourself: you’re not sure who is left you need to buy a gift for, you begin to hate your friends who insist on letting you know via Facebook that they finished all of the Christmas shopping in April, and you are So Busy you don't have time to do stuff that is A) fun, or B) that actually matters. 

Now Pacific Swim Bike Run in Stamford is going to give you a chance to do both tonight: they are holding their second annual Hot Chocolate Classic at their shop: 575 Pacific Street from 6:30 to 8:30 pm.  

PSBR wants attendees to make a minimum $25 cash or check donation to The Pacific House Shelter for the Homeless, which is just down the street from PSBR. 

This ties in to Food Bank Biking for the simple reason that cyclists want to bring hungry people food. It also ties to me because I once pretended to be homeless for 36 hours in Keene, New Hampshire 20 years ago so I could write about it for a sociology class I was taking at the time in college. The experience made me think about homelessness and hunger differently and more often than I ever did (and it began a long tradition of me never telling my mother about any dangerous things I've done until after I've done them). 

Now The Pacific House provides breakfast and dinner to about 60 to 80 people every day - and that number can push past 100 as the weather gets cold. So by bringing a donation, you help bring the holiday season closer to what’s important and further from what's not important - like those ridiculous antlers people put on their Dodge Durangos. 

(Little sidebar: I am letting go of my antler hatred this year since I am -  as you obviously know - am not immune to flirting with immaturity with my Christmas decorations).

But anyway: The Hot Chocolate Classic also features a 3 mile course consisting of 4 3/4 mile loops, with the race start and finish at Pacific Swim Bike Run. 

There will also be prizes for the Ugliest Christmas Sweater, most Festive Costume and, according to their site, ‘fastest overall male and female.’ It is for that reason I am asking all ugly Christmas sweater wearers attending this event tonight to eat your Wheaties this morning - for the simple reason I want PSBR to be forced to combine prizes and create a “Fastest Overall Ugly Christmas Sweater” category. 

I hope you attend The Hot Chocolate Classic tonight. PSBR said on their web site they want to provide three meals for The Pacific House, so pull out your wallet, put on that hideous Christmas sweater, and start feeling the holiday season the way it is meant to be felt. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Ohio City Bicycle Co-Op Winter Expo Tonight (And Other Cleveland Facts)

So in the middle of November another mind-numbingly dull drive through Pennsylvania got me to Cleveland. The first thing I wanted to do was gather research about bike parking (more on that in another post).

The second thing I wanted to do was drop off some of my artwork at the Ohio City Bicycle Co-Op for their Winter Expo.

Some of you will recognize the welded metal fish from my solo art show at Lorca a few months back (incidentally: someone has stolen the narwhal off the shelf from Lorca, so B.O.L.O. Details are sketchy but the miscreant left the penguin and took the narwhal. If you’re reading this and you have the narwhal, you must bring it back. Right now, I imagine anyone who lives in a ten-mile radius of Lorca is laughing hysterically while the rest of you are befuddled, so I will move on. 

I was thinking about winter in general and the Ohio City Bicycle Co-Op’s Winter Expo in particular a few weeks ago when I biked by this tree in Shippan Point in Stamford. It looked pretty, but since I was in a foul mood at the time I made a point to mention the very same tree would look like a set piece from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road in a couple of weeks.

See? My story checks out. 

Now a couple of days after I took that photo, I saw other leading signs of winter: three sets of those ridiculous car antlers. Trees on the roofs of cars (and a great video from Bike Friday showing a tree on the back of their new - and intriguing - cargo bike). And finally, on this morning’s ride to Darien, I had to wear this.

This is a serious candidate for the photo of me that will go on the back jacket of my first book on cycling. The neoprene mask isn’t attractive, but it keeps me warm. I recommend it for any bike trip when it is under 32 degrees - just remember to take it off before walking into a bank. 

With the trappings of winter on many of us - I already have my winter bike at the ready - it is good to remember that, as cyclists, there is still much we can do to celebrate the season.

Like attending tonight's Ohio City Bicycle Co-Op’s Winter Expo.

I do wish I could go - but my Cleveland trip was when it was, and I am spending tonight in Stamford while the expo goes on (it starts at 6pm and goes on till 10. 

I will be there in spirit with my works. One of which, as you saw, is this.

The one I made for the Co-Op’s winter expo last year (which I also was unable to attend) sold, so I figured I’d make another one with a different style. I believe the fork hails from The Mysterious Raleigh Sports. I almost never get to see who buys my work, so whoever buys this please tweet me a picture of it (just it - no pictures of you using it, please) after installing in your home or place of work - @michaelknorris.

As an aside: while I was volunteering at the Ohio City Bicycle Co-Op this last time around, I learned something: if you want to make a bottle opener from an old shift lever, saw the bottom straight up at a ninety degree angle, and then saw the top as such. 

Also, while in Cleveland on this trip, I learned that a bike share program called Zagster launched. I know nothing whatsoever about the company other than the fact my spell checker despises that name. I stumbled across a docking station on my way to Fridrich’s.

I also learned that Ohio City Burrito - right next to Joy Machines -  knows how to do bike parking in front of their businesses. I hope the new Republican Congress offers tax breaks to businesses who commission bike racks like this (not a bad thing to do before you come to Cleveland for the 2016 convention).

I also learned, while shopping at Blazing Saddles, that Bike Cleveland is responsible for a lot of yellow signs telling drivers to share the road and watch for bikes. 

The last thing I learned was that if it rains in Cleveland Jesse Pinkman will finish his shift at Walt’s lab early.

There’s a lot more I learned from Cleveland but that will have to wait for another post. In the meantime, if you are anywhere near Cleveland tonight head to the Ohio City Bicycle Co-Op Winter Expo. The Columbus Rd. Bridge is still closed, so if you need help getting there visit this link. Have fun and make friends - and I wish I could be right there with you. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.