Glow

Sub-atomic, nuclear glow; snowy whiteness, bleached and silvery – like the hoar frost that only days ago crusted the windshield of my car; pallid, colorless, ashen, and pasty…washed out and waxen, entirely bereft of warmth or color, pale and anemic looking  legs that haven’t been kissed by the sun since last November, when old Sol simply wasn’t even at his best even then, betraying my Gaelic-Nordic ancestry.

Yesterday was the very first “shorts day” of 2017.

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Biding my time

It’s 9:00 am, Sunday morning. I’ve been up since a little after four, grading art history essays; the bank of windows that line my wall next to me have gradually changed from a densely black night through the various colors and values of a rosy dawn. And now the day beyond the glass looks marvelous. The sky is blue with only a few wisps of cloud. Nary a branch moves; there is not a hint of wind. A quick check of the internet informs me that the outside temps are hovering – for the moment – just below freezing.

I’ve set aside my rubrics and finished reading art history essays, and I could easily layer up and hit the road, but I linger. There’s no question I will get in a few hours of saddle time today. The question is when.

Do you ever do this? Bide your time until the “optimal” conditions present themselves? Well, I certainly have done…and from time to time it bites me in the ass to do so. Not so many weeks back the January weather promised a late afternoon window of opportunity. The morning had been freezing drizzle and the evening looked equally forbidding. But that afternoon of promise was forecast to be a small slice of heaven.

So I waited, and bide my time. The morning drizzle never appeared. In fact, the temps weren’t at all as miserable as the published forecast. Still, I knew that the afternoon would be terrific, so my bike continued to lean against the wall. The morning passed by, and as mid-day turned to afternoon, and the sky began to turn gray, so too did my mood. Rechecking the online forecast, I was shocked to see that the world had turned upside down. Instead of an incredible afternoon, conditions were only going to get worse. The morning freezing drizzle arrived late and by the time I realized what I’d missed the road was glazing over with ice.

I see that this afternoon promises to be in the upper forties. I could bide my time and wait for things to improve, but I can already hear a bird chirping outside my window. Squirrels are racing up and down one of the huge cottonwoods. And I think I’ll take what I’ve got right now.

Cold New Year’s Day Ride.

It’s New Year’s Day, and brunch with good friends ran long. I’d planned on joining one of the local clubs for a 2017 kick off ride, but that wasn’t to be. By the time we’d parted company, the ride had already begun. I was looking forward to a ride from the River Market, through downtown, and looping around The Plaza, followed by an hour of libations.

After brunch, I spent a few hours in the studio finishing up an illustration. The sun that had promised a better looking day was hidden behind gray banks of clouds. Although not as windy as the past few days, nevertheless the breeze felt cold. I knew my ride wouldn’t be a terribly long one before I gave up the ghost, but I needed to get outside and put in a few miles of road time.

Heading out, my first thought was “Brrrrr!” Almost immediately my stocking cap crept up on top of my head and my ears were exposed. I can’t seem to keep the darned thing low enough on my head when I ride. Coasting at speed down the first long hill, the cold air rushed in around my eye glasses and I immediately teared up. My nose was running like a faucet, and my fingers were only passably warm, despite the heavy gloves that covered my hands. But my saddle position was excellent and I felt comfortable spinning on the big ring. Before long, my legs were starting to warm up as the revs added up.

Near the edge of town there’s a small lake. There are literally no cars on the road today – perhaps people are at home, in bed, nursing a hangover or catching up on lost hours of sleep. I pause briefly to make a photograph, to document the ride. The temps are hovering just above freezing, although the breeze makes it feel a lot colder. I enjoy stopping here beside the water, if only for a moment. A short stop and then I’m off again, spinning quickly, feeling pretty darned good, moving along at a decent clip.

So 2017 has arrived. I’ve shared a meal with good friends. I made artwork in the studio. My Chiefs won the Division. And I got in a good ride. I figure it would be pretty tough to top that as a beginning to a new year.

 

Shinier.

Winter riding is hit or miss in Missouri. We’re pretty much central in every way possible – geographically, politically (well, maybe not so much as we’d like to believe), climatologically. The weather either cooperates or it doesn’t… and when Mamma Nature decides to get ornery, I find myself pacing around the house, walking in and out of the studio, desperate for something – anything – to keep me from going stir crazy. I hate being house bound.

Setting up shop at a table in my studio, I arranged an old toothbrush, clean rags and paper towels, and a container of Mothers Mag and Aluminum Polish near at hand. Situating myself comfortably in a chair, I pulled my 1966 Paramount over beside me and set myself the task of making the shiny bits and pieces just a bit shinier.

This is such a fun bike to ride, and the restoration underscored a particularly understated elegance. The white frame harmonizes well with touches of red, and it’s all nicely complimented by the classic silvery components. And doesn’t a clean, shiny bike simply go faster?

There are times when I truly enjoy keeping the ride simple: No bags or extra gear, just a lightweight frame and downtime shifters, something that responds quickly, and I’m off and down the road. This is a bike for those times.

As the morning waned, the afternoon promised warmer temperatures – albeit with a bone rattling wind. Flags whipped straight out from the poles – not lazily, but with incredibly violent energy. Layers were definitely called for!

I enjoyed a chance to christen my new wool Paramount jersey by using it as a top layer. Bob Freeman of the venerable Elliott Bay Cycles organized a group buy of these jerseys and I jumped at the opportunity. He wanted an appropriate jersey to wear when riding his early 60’s Paramount, and who am I to argue with that sentiment?

When the thermometer is hovering around the freezing mark, I find my normally long, luxurious rides tend to evolve into something that is faster paced and shorter. And so it was on this particular afternoon. Only two other cyclists to be seen, one of whom caught up with me on the return route. Breathing out gouts of steam and sniffling wetly, we chatted about different roads, steep climbs, and warmer days – exactly the sort of conversation in which cyclists tend to engage. I’d made a few small adjustments to the Paramount before heading out, and I was pleased to suddenly realize that no further adjustments seemed necessary. Often enough, I find myself hyper-aware of small changes and this simply wasn’t the case: the adjustments were “invisible,” which means everything felt in perfect alignment.

Back in the studio later that afternoon, I opened my email and read the first of what has developed into a rather remarkable correspondence these past couple of days. Unexpectedly, I’ve been gifted with some very interesting background information relating to my 1946 Hobbs of Barbican Superbe. I need to get my thoughts together about how best to organize this information, and will be sharing the story soon.

 

Idle hands

Brief, beautiful side light in the studio…

…and then it was overcast again. I’ve been hard at it for the past nine hours, engrossed in writing. From time to time I noticed that despite the heat churning out of the small furnace I have out here, my feet seem to be bone chillingly cold. The day is a murky gray for nearly the entire time, and my eyes are suddenly growing weary just as I am almost ready to wrap up. Then suddenly I hear a bird singing and the day turns bright and looks quite cheerful through the glass – this, despite the December cold I know is on the other side. From my perch at the drawing table, I look up and notice the sun has bathed the tubes on my bikes with a beautifully diffused light. Time to knock off work for the day.

Knocking off work, but not  elbow grease. A quick sandwich of leftover turkey and a bit of muscle applying and rubbing out Mother’s, this nice long point GB Hiduminium stem is nearly ready to be used on my Hobbs. I’m going to pull the bolts on Christmas afternoon to tidy up any grunge under them, then polish the bolt head best I can while they are out.

This next week holds the promise of riding weather and there’s no school, of course, due to the holiday break. I plan to get a bit of riding in to make up for the past couple weeks of below zero temperatures and boring revolutions mounted to the indoor trainer. The GB Hiduminium stem should be a nice pairing on the Hobss. I look forward to installing that, along with the Williams 1200 crankset I picked up recently; I trust they will occupy a pleasant few hours of my time one morning this coming week.

It’s winter and time to do a little reorganizing as bikes gather in the studio. It seems that access to the south entrance is a little difficult to negotiate at the moment. The 2016 frame purge continues and these are the bikes I plan to keep. A couple more have been set aside – the last three, in fact – to be photographed and put up on the auction block. As the hooks go vacant, I try not to get too excited about the frame that will be coming my way in February. (More about that when the time comes.)

I find myself overly rich in components and wheels. Shall I auction some of those off as well? Or hang on to them on the off chance some worthy frame comes my way? It’s a tough call. Generally, soon after I pass along a particularly choice part that I “will never have a use for,” I find myself in great need of that very thing.

In my sedentary state I find myself pondering many things that aren’t top of mind during my more active riding months. For instance, it occurred to me to look over the rando-style bag I designed and constructed over a year and a half ago. I used a really lightweight cotton duck on this prototype bag: the result is absolutely minimal heft. However, I worried (needlessly, as it turned out) that it wouldn’t hold up in use.

The bag doesn’t rely on a decaleur at all. Instead, I have fashioned a solid and relatively “quick release” system that mounts the bag to the Jim Blackburn rack on the underside.

These are the sort of things occupying my thoughts at the moment. I’m in no real hurry to work on the Hobbs because until my new project arrives in February, I really have no other to busy my idle hands.

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.

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.