It’s the Light.

I am what is termed a “teaching artist,” an artist who teaches others to make and consider and appreciate art. A good part of my professional life prior to education was as a designer, creative director, photographer, and illustrator, so it’s pretty safe to say that I’m fairly fine tuned toward and aware of the visual world around me.

Light, in particular, catches my attention, as do patterns, and colors, and textures. Typography, and the rhythm of letterforms. But light! The contrast of light against shadow. Light upon a reflective surface, carving a highlight along an edge, disappearing or emerging from murky shadow.

My studio is a workspace rather than a display area; it’s not a gallery but a place of books and tables and shelves. A sofa filled with lounging black labs, and a cat or two. Floor-to-ceiling windows and diffused light entering from a side door. Various of my bikes lean against book shelves or hang from a rack, and these tend to rotate out with those hanging from ceiling hooks out in the workshop – their number varies dependent upon what bike I rode last, the one I just dismounted from, the one that saw road time yesterday.

They lean there, waiting for the next ride, directly in front of my drawing table, immediately before me as I sit, pen in hand. The late afternoon light enters at an oblique angle, bathing things in a soft glow. It doesn’t take much for me to become engulfed in the sight. I am obsessed with bikes of a certain ilk to begin with, and the light simply renders an already attractive subject even more so.  The lines, the design. It’s the light.

Stuff.

2016 was a milestone year for a couple of my bikes. Although I’ve no idea what month the frame was built, my venerable 1946 Hobbs of Barbican Superbe turned 70 this year. In August, my 1966 Paramount marked 50 years since its birth. I don’t find it weird at all to celebrate bike “birthdays,” especially when I can match a serial number to a date or date range. Thus, I made certain to get in a good long ride on my ’89 Paramount in late September to coincide with the time of the month that frame was finished up at Schwinn.

One of my favorite “speed” bikes is a ca. 1989 Freschi Supreme Super Cromo. The Freschi marque itself is a bit of a cypher, information on the web is largely cut and pasted repeatedly from the same source. Without definitive information by which to date this bike, I’ve relied entirely upon the “ca.” 1989 provided to me by the previous owner. To that end I’ve arbitrarily settled upon a birthdate of Thanksgiving, a holiday that falls on a different day each year. It seemed like an appropriate gesture, and for the past several years my tradition has been to take my chrome baby out onto the road for a fifteen or twenty mile ride.

And so it was today. This morning I bundled up in layers, and the Freschi and I headed out into the 38 degree gloom. The trees are nearly barren already, but the days are still warming up most afternoons. Hell, I even still have roses budding, so it’s really weird to find myself huffing and puffing down the road, my breath visible in the morning light.

Happy birthday, Freschi.

Time to Layer Up

32 degrees. Wasn’t it almost 80…umm… day before yesterday? My face is actually windburned, my cheeks a rosy, warm, cherry red; my nose and forehead are matching dumplings of scarlet. I had to dig around in my drawer of cycling duds to find the warm stuff buried underneath cotton t-shirts and shorts. Happily – and surprisingly – I came across two thermal under layer shirts I bought on clearance last May, and then forgot about. So, an undergarment, a top layer, then a lightweight jacket. My arms and core are in good stead; a similar approach for my legs, a wool cap and a pair of gloves, and I’m off and down the road.

Somehow, when it’s cold, every bump in the road seems to be magnified until my legs and ears warm up. Pedal, pedal, pedal. Head up a hill. Soon enough, I’m no longer aware of the cold except on my toes. They’re always cold, it seems to me.

No need to fill my water bottle with ice today – my water is cold enough as is. I’ve a small chunk of Genoa Dry Salami and some Brie in my bag, a snack for when I stop in a remote spot along the railroad tracks near the river. A few minutes to enjoy my tiny repast, take in the sun, and peel out of my top layer.

Then I’m off again.

Exploring New Roads

Chancing upon a gravel road, I pedaled that path to see where it led, round tight corners bordering Missouri River bluffs and through farmlands pretty and cozy and nestled and hidden. Between fields I rode, flanked by ponds and streams; horses, livestock, and waterfowl were my neighbors, and one cowboy rehearsing with a lariat, a young steer his understudy. Up and over very steep hills, I climbed and panted; my breathing at times labored as my wheels reached each summit. And yet the November air brought forth a growing chill in the waning afternoon light.

Tweed Ride 2016

This year’s Tweed Ride was fun, but just a wee bit disappointing. Why? Well, I sure wish there had been more vintage bikes on hand – other than my own, of course. Modern bikes and dress up. Hmmm.

I do look forward to this event though. It’s fun to get out and ride one of my vintage bikes, get all duded up in something resembling period attire, and join a group of others of similar mind. This annual ride is sort of turning into a hip, fashiony event. But still cool. Folks are out on bikes, enjoying themselves and the day.

My bike of choice today was a 1946 Hobbs of Barbican. It’s a fixed wheel time trial bike. Staying true to the form of the time I was dressed head to toe in black as British time trialists would have done in the 30’s and 40’s. (An alpaca jacket would have been required – which I don’t have. Fortunately, it was a warm day so no harm, no foul.)

I arrived early, hoping to get in some sketching. Unfortunately, I found out the damn ink was running low in my pen.

Well crap. Guess I’ll just ride my bike.

Tweed Ride 2016

5 October, 2016. This year’s Tweed Ride was fun, but just a wee bit disappointing. Why? Well, I sure wish there had been more vintage bikes on hand – other than my own, of course. Modern bikes and dress up. Hmmm.

I do look forward to this event though. It’s fun to get out and ride one of my vintage bikes, get all duded up in something resembling period attire, and join a group of others of similar mind. This annual ride is sort of turning into a hip, fashiony event. But still cool. Folks are out on bikes, enjoying themselves and the day.

My bike of choice today was a 1946 Hobbs of Barbican. It’s a fixed wheel time trial bike. Staying true to the form of the time I was dressed head to toe in black as British time trialists would have done in the 30’s and 40’s. (An alpaca jacket would have been required – which I don’t have. Fortunately, it was a warm day so no harm, no foul.)

I arrived early, hoping to get in some sketching. Unfortunately, I found out the damn ink was running low in my pen.

Well crap. (Pentel Pocket Brush Pen in Canson 180 sketchbook; Kansas City, Missouri.)

I Like to Tinker.

Shiny. I’m like a crow when it comes to chrome frames and parts. I love the stuff.

At the moment I’ve got two chrome frames left in the herd. There’s my Freschi Supreme Super Cromo, which is a fun, quick racing bike. And then there’s this one, my Katakura Silk.

It was very nearly original when I acquired it, save for the saddle and the handlebars. In the beginning I was set on keeping the bike as close to original as possible, but I like to tinker. The more I tinkered, the more components got switched around, swapped in and out. I was surprised and pleased when I discovered the bike easily converted over to 650b. I ran that configuration for a while, then put everything back onto my Cycles Toussaint Velo-Routier.

Well, the Cycles Toussaint didn’t make the final cut and I sold the frame and fork. The component kit and 650b wheel set are back on the Silk, and I’ve been taking the rebuild nice and slow to avoid any temptation to take short cuts along the way. Besides – and I may have mentioned this before – but I like to tinker.

I’ve no idea why I began this iteration with a Vetta saddle installed. I know it doesn’t fit my sit bones correctly. That’s why it’s in the parts cabinet and not on a bike. I sincerely hate padded saddles, and I know that Brooks Pro and Selle Regal and Brooks Cambium fit my butt like a glove. Should’ve started there, but I didn’t. In fact, I tested out several Vetta saddles I have on hand. And while they looked pretty cool, that, in fact, is simply not the point. So, with several Brooks Pros to pick from, I finished tinkering with Vetta saddles and mounted one that was nicely broken in.

Lightweight randonneur bars with MAFAC levers. Damn, I love how MAFAC lever feel in my hands! I set the bars up pretty high, so this is a very upright riding bike.

The fender line is almost right, but I still need to correct it where the rear fender meets the stays. A longer bolt and spacer solves that problem. I’ll tinker with that a bit more this weekend. I probably also need to add a chain link.

So, cool! More tinkering!