Winter dreaming

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A bit chilly. Damn windy. But every now and then the sun comes out from behind the cloud cover and the day suddenly becomes a whole lot more reasonable.

I find myself spinning in a much lower gear than I’d prefer. Long weeks off the road, and longer evenings occasionally spinning indoors on a trainer don’t do much for maintaining my climbing legs. The best I can say is that I’m not breathing hard, so the lungs haven’t atrophied during my vacation from riding.

Let me reconsider that last statement. No. In fact the best I can say is that I’m out on the road, enjoying being outside. That’s the best, and it’s quite good enough – so don’t let me kid anyone with my whining. A few miles down the road I meet up with another rider. We exchange nods and pedal in silence. Just before he hangs a right down a side road, directly into the wind, he looks at me and says something about the headwinds being a bitch. In direct contrast to his words is the look of contentment upon his face, the same look that mirrors my own.

This is the first winter I’ve not had a restoration project (or two, or three) underway. This is partly because I haven’t been looking, but mostly because I’m quite content with my bike family of the moment. I really thought I’d be riding my fixed wheel more over the cold weather months, but that simply hasn’t been the case. I really should do something about that I suppose, but my imagination is stuck firmly in the warmth of future months.

Aside from my Boulder Brevet, my other “long distance” bike is a 1971 Raleigh International fitted out with a three speed drive. I’m going to shoehorn a couple of multi-day camping tours into the coming summer months. At least one trip will be a three speed camping tour. I’d like to ride the length of the KATY Trail again, riding the International set up for light touring: Bullet proof Gatorskins, medium size saddle bag, small front panniers, and adequate platform in front for tent and sleeping mat. I’ll probably ride my Boulder for a week of the Big BAM in June.

Meanwhile, there’s still plenty of winter left. Despite the emerging sun this afternoon, the forecast calls for really hefty winds tomorrow, snow flurries, and another precipitous drop in temps. I’ll remain lost in reverie, in winter dreaming until the shadows grow just a little bit longer.

I hate trainers.

It’s no secret. I hate my trainer.

There’s nothing so boring as spinning without going anywhere. I can ride places all day long, but thirty minutes on this damn thing is just about as much as I can muster. (Not to mention that it simply embarrass the hell out of my Paramount to be securely anchored to it.)

Sure, I can jam out on tunes, and that’s certainly helpful. My brain doesn’t scream out quite as much, but it does eventually scream. And who am I fooling here? My body? I don’t think so – muscle memory just isn’t the same. I’m just spinning my feet in circles. Even when I fake “accelerate” it’s nothing at all like being on the road, like climbing a hill. Nothing at all like the feeling I get stopping to check out a place I’m only just that moment discovering by bike. The smell of Febreze is entirely unlike any scent that comes wafting in on the crosswind. (As is the smell of the wet dog lying on the floor next to me as I spin one futile circle after another.)

A couple of years ago I discovered cycling videos. After a ten hour or so download, I managed to get one loaded onto my iPad. I MacGyvered a mount and found that if I really suspended my disbelief I could watch the video and almost imagine I was out on the road. I briefly even flirted with the idea of creating my own summer videos that I might watch while pedaling on snowy days indoors.

I watched the video over and over again, too cheap to buy another and too impatient to muddle my way through another long download. I was excited when the company put their entire library online. Last month I signed up for their monthly streaming service and enjoyed a couple of weeks of stationary cycling diversity, but without any warning the service was suddenly not working. The video service ended their relationship with Apple less than two weeks into my first month. Unwilling to muck about with their new provider – you know: cancel one subscription, set up a new one, and don’t worry because we’ll find a way to credit you your missing two weeks – well, I said to heck with them.

They didn’t seem to understand why I would feel that way. (Service really is dead, and as far as I can tell so is any awareness that it ever existed in the first place.)

Guess I’ll go spin now. I wonder what’s on Pandora.

Anyway, I really hate that damn trainer.

Merry Christmas!

As usual, I’m up before the sun crests the horizon. I love this time of day more than any other – the quiet, the solitude, the unexpectedly sharp click of nails as the dog slowly treads across the kitchen floor to greet me. Mist, thick and foggy, obscures much of the view from my back door on this slightly damp Christmas morning. The forecast calls for fog much of the day, but with temperatures projected to be in the upper 30’s and low 40’s I won’t miss the opportunity for a ride. The presents are all wrapped. Last minute house cleaning will be underway shortly, the kitchen will soon be filled with the scent of baking, and later replaced by the sound of chicken frying in black cast iron skillets. And later on there will be more activity when family arrives, grandsons will rip through gift wrap and fight over toys, glasses will be raised in holiday cheer, and friends – from near and very far away – will be toasted. From all of us to all of you, we wish you a very Merry Christmas, a happy holiday, a festive Chaunakah – whatever or however you wish to call the season, enjoy it.

And me, I’m going to go ride my bike thirty or forty miles before the throngs arrive.

Short Journeys of Discovery

Every ride – whether close to home or abroad – is a journey of discovery if one’s eyes are open to the places and sounds and smells.

This morning I realized I had forgotten to purchase a couple of Christmas items. There are only two days until the holiday and rather than battle the crowds, I left the coziness of home and bed very early this morning. To my surprise, I emerged from the house to find remarkably warm temperatures. A short shopping trip and a rushed breakfast later, and I was out on the road to take full advantage of what was shaping up to be wonderful riding weather.

Almost immediately, I encountered this curious house: freshly painted and trimmed, it appears to nearly exactly match the green and cream of the owner’s vintage car. Coincidence? I wonder.

Rolling down the first long hill and into the town square I heard, then saw, the construction work taking place on a couple buildings. Emerging from under the more modern facade was a hand-painted sign, no doubt seeing the light of day for the first time in decades.

JRA outings have been infrequent this autumn as I nursed a belligerent knee back to health. Yesterday, in decidedly less friendly weather, I decided to test things by sprinting up several gravel roads as I left town and emerged on crumbling country roads. I am happy to report the prognosis is good! Contrary to this morning, my nose ran like a faucet and my fingers quickly grew stiff from the cold, damp wind.

Even with the wind, cold days are so lonely that every sound seems to be magnified.

But this December morning, the air is actually filled with bird song. That, and the smell of something rank. It turns out this lovely stopping point was not far from a landfill!

Before wandering onward, a train rumbled past, the racket briefly drowning out the birds and rustle of branches and dry leaves and dead stalks of corn.

The overcast morning very quickly turned to blue skies and sun. It wasn’t long before I found myself removing layers and in short sleeves. Like all my best rides, this one involved frequent stops to just look around, to see what has changed since the last time I traveled these roads, and to discover – or rediscover – the delightful sights and sounds, and occasionally even the less than delightful scents that make a place distinctly unique.

My refuge…

The final semester assignment for my Drawing students is a self portrait in charcoal and chalk that illustrates the theme of “Where’s my refuge?” As usual, I draw along with my students so I can model the kind of decision-making that artists engage in through the development of an artwork. To exemplify the theme, as it applied to me, well of course I would illustrate my refuge astride a bicycle, wind in my hair, sprinting along a lonely road a million miles from anywhere.

For the past couple of months my riding has been pretty limited. School seems to have kept me busier than usual. More worrisome than that, some sort of weird knee issue has emerged. I’ve been an especially strong climber this year, so suddenly finding myself with minimal saddle time, and scared to test the knee to much with climbing has left me a grumbly old fart. The few miles I’ve put in have been almost entirely flat and residential. Ugh.

My knee has felt very tentative during each ride. Walking up stairs has felt very tentative too. So I was overjoyed this cool, overcast December evening to pedal out of my driveway, both my knees and legs feeling strong. Zooming down the first hill was exhilarating, the brisk air harnessed more than a few tears, the moisture slid around the side of my face and quickly dried, leaving salty tracks in the wake. My first climb was a short one, but I did it sitting, as is my wont. In fact, the thing I’ve missed most has been seated climbing: I really don’t care to stand. Strong pedal strokes through town, and then up a longer hill, and another, and then finally the long climb back up to my house. The ride was relatively short – why tempt fate too much? It was probably a good idea using the past several weeks to rest whatever has been ailing me, and it is probably a good idea not to push too hard for a while longer, but it sure feels good to be back in my refuge, if only in short bursts.

Thanksgiving

The evening before Turkey Day is amazing. The moon rises over Table Rock Lake as family watches, comfortably perched on deck chairs, warm in our sweat shirts. I’ve brought no bike with me on this trip, confident in the forecast of drenching rain on the morrow. 

Enjoy Thanksgiving, world. 

Know-it-all

“Great looking chromed Capella lugs!”

“Thanks – looks pretty good for a mid-60’s bike.”

“Sure does, but I think you’re mistaken about the date – I’m pretty sure those Capella lugs place the bike at a 1973 model.”

OK, so maybe that’s not a verbatim transcript of the conversation, but it’s close enough. Our local tweed ride took place this past weekend, an event I always look forward to just because it’s fun to geek out gawking at the appearance of many vintage bikes all in one place. I was catching up with a fellow geek buddy when the gleam of chrome and electric green tubing caught our eye. A Raleigh International? A Carlton? We wandered over and found a Carlton-built Huffy, a bike I would’ve sworn was a Raleigh International.

In point of fact, I did swear it was Raleigh-built, and matter-of-factly stated it was built in 1973, the year Raleigh used those lugs on several models. Turns out I – Mr. Know-it-all – was off base by the better part of a decade. At least I was on target with the country – the All American Huffy Bike was built in England by Carlton.

Nathan, the bike’s owner, and I exchanged contact information. I promised to send him some of the online resources I frequently reference, and he provided me with some excellent background that he’d researched. Here’s what Nathan shared with me:

Hi Mark!

It was a pleasure meeting you as well. I thoroughly enjoy conversations with anyone who appreciates vintage steel!

After doing some homework, here’s what I was able to come up with:

  • As you stated, Raleigh bought Carlton in 1960.
  • 1973 was the only year Raleigh used Capella lugs.

However, from 1958/9 through the mid ‘60s Carlton still used Capella lugs:

http://www.classiclightweights.co.uk/catalogues/carlton-gittins-cat.html

On the May 18th post of this blog, under the illustration of the Capella lugs, the author states:

“In 1959 Carlton reorganised their range. Out went all the various lugs and in came a new style of lug designed for Carlton – the Capella lugs. A new range of models utilising these lugs were announced and these models – the Catalina, Clubman, Continental and Constellation – were to continue through to 1965. The other models in the range used either Carlton or Italian long-line lugs, although Capella lugs could be fitted to the Flyer if ordered.”

This was the first of many references I found to Carlton bicycles having the same model names as the imported Huffy’s. 

Here is a ’64 Carlton Catalina with Capella lugs:

http://classiccycleus.com/home/1964-carlton-catalina/

Just over half-way down this page there is a little more info on early ‘60s Carltons, and this was also the page that had the link (now dead) to the Huffy catalogs:

http://www.nonlintec.com/carlton/

Per this site:

“The Carlton Cycles site, which didn’t exist when the project was undertaken, has a list of serial numbers and corresponding dates. The serial number is M5992, which similarly dates the bike at 1964. It also notes that the Capella lugs were used only through 1965. 

Previous to this, I knew the following:

  • The bike was built after the Raleigh acquisition of Carlton, 1960 or 61. Raleigh continued to make bikes under the Carlton name for some time, although I’m not sure exactly when they stopped. In the 70s, some had both the Carlton and Raleigh names; eventually, though, the Carlton name was phased out. 
  • A 1967 Carlton catalog does not show the Catalina.
  • Pages from a mid-60s Huffy catalog (Huffy rebranded and imported Carltons in the 60s) show a very similar Catalina with quick-release hubs and the same color, brakes, and drive train. My bike has nutted axles, so it must predate the bike in those pictures.
  • The Weinman Vainqueur 999 brakes, of the style on my bike, were made from the mid 60s to the early 70s.
  • The serial number is nonstandard for Raleigh, indicating that the Carlton manufacturing process had not been fully integrated with Raleigh’s at the time the frame was made.
  • The Reynolds 531 frame decal is a very early one, common in the 1950s.”
  • Lastly, some of the Huffy catalog images themselves (at the bottom of the page, per Mr. Hufford): http://www.classicrendezvous.com/British_isles/Carlton.htm

A few Carlton Constellations:

http://spokessmann.tripod.com/id70.html

http://spokessmann.tripod.com/id32.html

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Huffy-Carlton-Constellation-Frame-Rear-Wheel-Rare-Chrome-and-Green-/251957434420

http://vi.raptor.ebaydesc.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItemDescV4&item=361289723925&category=22679&pm=1&ds=0&t=1447001022784

And some lugs on eBay with a little more info:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/NOS-Vintage-1960s-Carlton-Capella-Seatlug-/380828751860

http://vi.raptor.ebaydesc.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItemDescV4&item=361289723925&category=22679&pm=1&ds=0&t=1447001022784

Not exactly a smoking gun, but at least enough to challenge the Huffy being a ’73 Raleigh. Let me know what you make of all of this!

I’ll tell you what I think – I think Nathan’s got himself a damn cool 1964 Carlton.


 

Thanks to Nathan Lathrop for sharing photos of his Huffy Constellation. Incidentally, it turns out Nathan is a fellow graphic designer – learn more about his design firm, Tandem Creative Studio here.