Buying Guide

Another bike blog I read frequently recommends products. Am I remiss in failing to do so, or am I countering consumerism by not encouraging you to buy more?

I kept my first new bike for 17 years – until it was stolen. When I went to replace it, I test rode more than 30 bikes before I said “Aha! This is my bike!” I am not necessarily recommending that.

If you are thinking about buying a bike, ask yourself: 1) what do I need? 2) what do I want? 3) what can I afford? Then think about how long you will own this bike and adjust #3 as needed. During that shopping spree 30+years ago, I started with a budget of $1000. Then I rode the bike that made me say “Aha!”. I realized that my previous bike lasted 17 years and I saw no reason to keep this one for any less time. Amortized over 20 years, $1000 is not much (even 30 years ago). The bike was on sale. It cost $1800, discounted for being old stock – it didn’t have the latest technology (Hyperglide) and it had passé technology (Biopace). For $30 I swapped out the chainrings for round ones. 30 years later I’m still riding it. (While shopping, I also rode a $4000 bike. It did not make me say “Aha!” Money is not everything.)

I read in the bike press that the number of bikes to own is “N+1” (one more than you already own). I don’t know any real people who actually think that way. That saying is a way to justify selling you things you don’t need and maybe don’t even really want. I think the correct number is “just enough”. That number could be 1; it could be more. I have a bike that I wouldn’t ride in snow, sand, and salt. That kind of riding required another bike. Could I get by with just the bike that I do ride in snow, sand, and salt? Not to ride across the country. So the answer for me is >1.

Okay, so you’re ready to buy something. Next advice – do your research, shop carefully, then go with your gut. Bike and equipment (especially clothing) choices are pretty personal. What’s right for me may not be what’s right for you. If you have a local bike shop, patronize them. (I don’t mean be patronizing – that’s the next sentence.) If you find a shop that is rude or discounts you (because you’re old, because you’re a woman, because you don’t know their lingo) find another shop. Go to a bike shop, not to WalMart. Do you know what you’re doing, and what you want, or do you need someone else’s expertise? How badly (or how soon) do you need something? Can you get it on sale? You can buy online, but don’t try stuff out at the local shop and then buy it online because it’s a few dollars cheaper. That’s rude.

Back to that personal example. When I bought the bike mentioned above, I had test-ridden a used bike from the same builder. It was beautiful (but also not available). His frame painter had a style he called “superfade”. It was not your average fade from one color to another. He started with a base color (We’ll say purple, as that’s what I saw and fell in love with. He starts at the back of the bike and paints a little over 20% of it purple. (These numbers are based on my recollection of a conversation with him 30 years ago. They may not be accurate, and he may have retired.) Then he mixes it with silver – 75% purple/25% silver. He overlaps the first coat and goes just past 40% of the frame. Now he mixes 50/50 and overlaps again, going just past 60% of the frameset. 25/75 takes him just past 80%. Pure silver (overlapping with the last coat) goes on the final 20% (mostly the fork at this point). Looking at the bike, you’re not sure what color it is. From one angle it’s silver. From another angle, it’s purple. As the light hits it differently, the metallic sheen of the silver is more or less prevalent in the mixed areas.

That was the most beautiful bike I’d ever seen. But the bike on sale at the local shop was red (and I’d been riding a red bike for the past 17 years). It made me say, “This is my bike” when I rode it. I wanted that superfade paint, but did I need it? I saved a lot of money and bought the red one. Truth be told, rather than pay full price for the bike and the cost of a custom paint job, I bought a second bike. Now I had a bike to go fast and have fun, and another bike to carry loads and ride to work.

This was to be part 1 of 2. I wrote a second post, very specific about specific products, but WordPress froze while “autosaving”. The only way to get out of that was to leave the page, so I was faced with the internet version of “my dog ate my homework”. The last recoverable version was only the intro. I decided that was god’s way of saying you don’t need to hear that part. WYSIWYG.

Super Spreader Saturday/Roxbury Ride

The first home football game of the season. 80,000 maskless and screaming fans packed together. It’s foggy, so little airflow. What you exhale, I inhale. Once the air gets hot enough, it will rise out of the stadium. Since the air is already saturated with moisture, the droplets will be left behind. The good news is that 90% of the university community has been vaccinated. The bad news is that the university community makes up less than ½ of the audience.

These were my thoughts as I headed out of town, sort of fulfilling a long-term fantasy. As I ride to work, I fantasize continuing on out of town instead of stopping. Today I did that. I was on the road at 9:30 AM, nearly 4 hours later than if I were riding to work on a Saturday morning. I had the day off for the holiday weekend – one of the perks of working every Saturday for 20+ years is that I get a three day weekend when holidays roll around. Of course, so does everyone else, except that they have to work one holiday weekend/year and I don’t. The sidewalks were packed. Traffic through campus was bumper-to-bumper. It was good to get out.

I rode to the once-iconic Roxbury Tavern. Tom had taken over an old roadhouse and decided he wanted a new clientele – people who would sit and eat and talk, with drinking incidental to that. He got rid of the TVs, the video games, the pool table, and the piano. He instituted nightly specials – not the usual bar food, but a Cuban night and (on Wednesdays when we stopped in after rides) an Italian night among them. Spaghetti with Italian sausage and garlic bread was on the menu. Victor was more prone to the mushroom burger and homemade fries, which came with Tom’s own garlic or jalapeño ketchup. Homemade pickles were on the table as an appetizer. The beers were from a small brewery just down the road. Tom was a curmudgeon, and I mean that in the best way. On the other hand, on Paul’s birthday, he serenaded him with “Happy Birthday” on trumpet, guitar, kazoo, and nose flute. I probably told that story here before, but it seemed worth repeating.

Tom retired and there were hints of small changes with the new ownership. Perusing the menu, it looks like a typical roadhouse with the bar food usual suspects. I haven’t been inside. They do have a couple of goats living in the backyard, so it isn’t totally a typical roadhouse.

I stopped to say hello to the goats and have a snack. The bar wasn’t open yet. The goats had less to say than the sheep a few miles down the road. The cattle tend to just watch, sometimes with what seems like idle curiosity, and sometimes looking like they wonder about those humans sometimes. While I anthropomorphize, do they bovimorphize? The town roads were quiet. The fog slowly lifted and the grey was just a little higher off the ground. I had in mind 70 or more miles, but at about 50 the clouds started leaking. Rather than wash off the fresh wax-based chain lube from this morning, I cut the ride short, ending at 61 miles. I froze some cherries earlier this year, so Sunday I baked a Labor Day cherry pie in lieu of riding.

Breaking news! I just learned that the early discount for Cycle America‘s coast-to-coast tour in 2022 has been extended to September 18! Now’s your chance if you want to see the continent the way it was meant to be seen – by bike!

A great Vuelta a España comes to an end. Primož Roglič gave up the red jersey for the middle stages when he didn’t need the pressure. When the chips were down, he answered every challenge. He won the final time trial for his 4th stage win, to go with his Olympic Gold Medal in the same event. It was his third consecutive victory in the Spanish tour. For those who need people from the US in order to feel a connection, Sepp Kuss of Colorado rode brilliantly in support of Roglič, frequently setting the pace in the mountains to narrow the field to the elite climbers, and finishing 8th overall. Lawson Craddock of Texas rode well in support of his teammate Magnus Cort Nielsen, who won three stages. Joe Dombrowski of Virginia finished 39th overall. Thanks to NBC for great coverage, beautiful shots of the scenery, and daily updates on YouTube for those of us who don’t pay their subscription fee.

The Euskaltel -Euskadi team from the Basque region of Spain was invited to the tour. The bikes they ride come from Orbea, a worker-owned co-operative in Mallabia, Spain. In my youth, we dreamed of a co-operative commonwealth; a world in which the production and distribution of goods were owned by the people – not by the government in the name of the people, but by co-operatives owned by the people they served. We worked to build such a system, with co-ops providing food, books, bikes, housing, taxi service, engineering, banking, health care, and car repair; but we fell short of the yogurt production facility we wanted to start. Not all of those co-ops survived, and the association was loose. We discovered that the co-operative commonwealth exists in Mondragón. Mondragón is a network of 96 co-ops employing 81,000 people and divided into four sectors: finance, industry, retail, and knowledge. Orbea is one of those co-ops, owned by the workers who build the bikes.

Favorite Son

Busch Light can in its natural habitat. It will eventually assume its protective coloration. (The blue pigment fades to a pale green. The process has begun.)

A Busch Light can means the half-fast cycling club cleaned its adopted highway again. No further news on that front.

I never tire of this view. Sorry if you do. Look! No litter!
Madison’s Favorite Son, Joel Paterson (from a previous festival – I brought no camera this time)

Our neighborhood summer festivals were combined into one this year. We walked down to the park just long enough to see the set by the Joel Paterson Trio. Joel grew up a few blocks from here. He spent his teen years playing the blues at a neighborhood bar, then moved to Chicago where he plays in multiple bands. A self-proclaimed guitar geek, he plays swing, rockabilly, country, and blues (and a little Hawaiian guitar).

Joel on all instruments in a home pandemic recording
From his all-Beatles solo acoustic guitar album
Guitar and clarinet blues jam
The Western Elstons, his country band
And here’s a full set of his band Modern Sound, from a festival in Spain.

There’s lots more where that came from, including some Scotty Moore (Elvis Presley’s guitarist) and Chet Atkins tributes. I think he should be famous. Listen and see if you agree.

Yeah, I’ve been riding my bike a lot. Back-to-back weekends with centuries coming up in September, so 50-60 mile rides twice a week as well as daily commuting and Wednesday night rides. I haven’t ridden 100 miles in a day since 2019, so we’ll see if I still can.

Hot and humid Wednesday Night Ride

It’s tobacco season, so last week I rode past a crew out cutting tobacco, and this week rode past sheds full of drying tobacco. If you’re not from around here, you probably didn’t realize Wisconsin is tobacco country. Tobacco used to be grown here as cigar wrappers and is now mostly for chewing. It was once a major cash crop. A farmer got an allotment from the state, allowing a set number of acres to be grown. It was hard work (hand planted, hand cut, hand tied and hung, hand stripped from the veins after curing, and bundled for sale) but virtually guaranteed income. If you had an allotment, you grew tobacco. I had a friend who bought a farm with a small allotment and the neighbors thought she was crazy because she chose not to grow tobacco. The tobacco shed (a large barn with louvers that can be opened to increase airflow, and a network of framing from which to hang the poles with bundles of leaves draped over them) was used for storage.

COVID cases are on the rise again and I just finished another tour of duty on the COVID units. Most of my patients this week were not vaccinated. I was vaccinated in December and January. While it is true that I am now magnetic, that’s just my personality and I was that way before the vaccine;) If you have seen the videos of people purporting to prove that the vaccine makes one magnetic, they are either more ignorant than I think they are, or they just blatantly dishonest. The videos show people sticking non-ferrous metals to their skin and claiming it is because the vaccine made them magnetic. I have duplicated that with a penny, bobby pin, paper clip, money clip, button, and a Post-It note. Only one of those would have stuck were magnetism at play. Lest you think I did anything heroic this week, I was safer in this gear (and the sanitation process I go through as I enter and leave each room) than you are if you go into a store, restaurant, or bar (especially if you don’t wear a mask, or anyone else in there doesn’t). You don’t know if you are near someone who is positive. I do.

The Ride (getting closer)

Carol was the Nurse Case Manager for Trauma. At daily rounds, she was often the only one who got my jokes. Everyone else looked puzzled. In turn, I was the only one who got her cultural references. Everyone else looked at us blankly.

She turned in her resignation on short notice. It was whispered that she had cancer. Soon I saw the notice for her funeral – on a Saturday, so I had to remember her the way I knew her – by working. In her obituary I noted that she was 3-4 months younger than I; thus the same high school graduation year. Not only did we think alike, but we had the same cultural touchstones. Like Geoph, it was pancreatic cancer. Like Geoph, it was fast.

My first personal encounter with cancer (that I recall) was my favorite singer. The call went out for a bone marrow donor and platelet donations. While donating platelets I was tested but not a bone marrow match. Kate Wolf died soon after. She sang of cancer (not her own) in her cover of Muriel Hogan’s “Agent Orange”.

I will be riding to benefit the Carbone Cancer Center on September 26; 100 miles or so. If you can, please add to my donation at: https://runsignup.com/half-fast I ride to remember the friends I have lost and I ride to try to keep that list from getting any longer. Thank you. If you have stories you want to share, please add them in the comments.