Friday, November 16, 2012

Ah yes. Back to the bike stuff.

No snow, but this ride was a lot colder than it looks in the photo.
Whenever my life gets busied up, this blog tends to take the brunt of neglect. I suppose it's only fitting that if something is going to wither, it might as well be a blog. After all, it's made up entirely of electrons, and electrons don't need much to survive. Still, neglect is neglect. I'll try to put things back on course, at least for the time being, with a potpourri of bike stuff from the hopper.

The Denver area has now officially had snow twice so far this season, yet it hasn't been enough to make fat tires worthwhile. I'm not complaining much, and I have a feeling that a solid blast of snow will be along soon enough. Regardless, my Pugsley remains my most often ridden bike around home as of late.

When I'm at work downtown, I invariably use Denver B-cycle. I do have a fondness for B-cycle's somewhat clunky red bikes, so around this time of year I soak up my appreciation for them before the system is shut down for the year, which this year will be December 14. I'm fortunate enough to need to get around to meetings and other things, so I ride a B-cycle most days. I always look at bikes, and sometimes I even remember that I have a camera on my phone to take a photo of some that I see. Here are a few that caught my eye recently.

The first is a Peugeot mixte of likely late '70s or early '80s vintage, with a lot of carefully chosen new parts installed by an obviously adoring owner. The arcs of the fenders perfectly follow the curve of the tires; evidence of a masterful installation. Plenty of chrome, gold and aluminum with a garnish of honey leather. Nicely done.
A well comported Peugeot mixte. Note the vintage-y, French-y reverse brake levers.
I like how it's all tarted up in a manner only a bike geek would appreciate or possibly even notice.
Gold looks good on a bike.
The next bike spotted out in the wild is a 1992 Stumpjumper FS, which was one of the first production bikes originally spec'ed with front suspension. The Specialized Future Shock was a badge-engineered version of the Rock Shox Mag 20. The frame of the bike was of good stuff; Tange Prestige oversized tubing. The bike also had a full Deore DX group including top-mount thumbshifters at a time when most other bikes in this range had already gone to trigger shifters, which are less desirable to me and others of my admittedly eccentric ilk. Back when they were new, I remember thinking this bike was a great value at about $850 or so, and others must have agreed, because it was not uncommon to see them out on the trail.

Several years ago I rescued a well-worn frame and fork of one of these Stumpjumpers from a dumpster behind a college apartment building on move-out day. I ended up building it into a rigid commuter for one of my brothers-in-law and I still have the functional Future Shock fork somewhere in my shop.

The specimen that I saw still had its original Future Shock fork, but the fork had apparently died and was resting in peace at the bottom of its stroke. The bike is apparently ill-sized to its current rider, with a bottomed out seat and what would appear to be a very long reach to the handlebar. Except for the limitations of the finicky air/oil fork, I would anticipate this era of Stumpjumper FS to live forever, much like its rigid steel ancestors.

I'd be willing to bet that the owner doesn't know this bike is a 1992 Specialized Stumpjumper FS.
Note the nicely yellowed pie plate.  
The last bike that I recently saw and took the effort to capture in a photo is a Surly Pacer in British Racing Green, though the photo doesn't make the most of the color. I went through a phase of a month or two in duration in which I thought a Pacer was probably my next bike. It's got nearly the tire clearance of a Cross-Check, but it's a little tighter, steeper and presumably faster. However, my interest in skinny tires has always been fleeting, and is part of a recurring cycle in which I eventually re-realize I'd much rather go for fatter rubber. This cycle coincides with a renewed admission that no formula involving a faster looking bike actually equates to a faster me.

The Pacer that I photographed had a dropped chain and a sort of loneliness about it. Maybe it was an undue influence of the cold, overcast day. Once again, this model of Pacer is an example of the long line of Surly bikes sporting a nice green hue.
Somewhat forlorn Surly Pacer in British Racing Green.
Riding a bike in the constantly changing environment of the Denver city center can be challenging, but it is a place in which discoveries are made every day. Apart from bike stuff, I like to try to capture some of the other things I encounter, so the following, in no particular order, are a few random things I've found interesting while riding during the past few weeks.
A full-sized American sedan mated to a motorcycle front end. I wonder what it says on the vehicle registration?
"No comment," replied this suburbanite.
A menu from a post-hipster café? A shopping list? A party recipe?
Along the lines of observations while out riding, but in a different vein, are the changing conditions for bikes on Auraria Campus in downtown Denver. Recently, Auraria Campus, which is an unusual multi-institutional home to three higher-ed entities including the University of Colorado Denver, Metro State University of Denver, and the Community College of Denver, opened its first cross-campus bike route, indeed its first area in which a bike could be legally ridden across campus. This is a major step and a huge improvement over a policy logjam reaching back a few decades, an accomplishment for which the campus deserves accolades.
The Curtis Street bike route is marked with diagonal stripes as it crosses a central pedestrian corridor.
Previously, bikes were only allowed where cars were allowed, which meant busy streets and vast car parking lots, both of which are of limited value for reaching actual campus destinations via bike. Although bike racks exist within campus, bikes were required to be walked from the campus perimeter to racks near buildings in the interior. Keep in mind that Auraria is a commuter campus with virtually no on-campus housing, and located in the core of the city. Broad car parking lots are a dominant visual feature, yet students, faculty and staff are ostensibly encouraged to use alternative transportation.

I discovered Auraria's implausible bike policy during my first week on the campus several years ago, when I was pulled over by a bicycle mounted officer and given a warning for riding on what appeared to be a multi-use path that intersects a multi-use path maintained by the City of Denver. I was riding slowly and courteously, and the officer was courteous with me, yet I was incredulous, as I'd never heard of a university campus where bicycling was not allowed.
Bike parking at the North Classroom Building was recently expanded, though it's already filled to capacity.
During the following years, I investigated casually as a student, and then officially as a member of the Chancellor's Task Force on Sustainability. I worked my way through various campus staff and administrators, but the origins and purpose of the bike exclusion policy were hazy and responses generally fell in two groups. One group of responses acknowledged that policies didn't allow bike riding for safety reasons, primarily to remove the possibility of bike/pedestrian collisions, but don't worry, you can still walk your bike anywhere. Meanwhile, squadrons of campus maintenance vehicles–golf carts, small trucks, large trucks, and ATVs–were and are still driven all over campus, driving on sidewalks and paths, weaving around pedestrians, sometimes at high speed. Apparently, somehow these much larger and faster vehicles do not pose a safety concern.

The second type of general response was that the official or campus administrator was completely unaware of policies excluding bicycling on campus, often accompanied by an admission that they had never even thought to ride a bike to campus.

After many years and through the efforts of many people, in the end, the policy logjam appears to be easing. Things seem to be changing for the better. The present situation is far from perfect, but we now have an East-West bike route, and a future North-South bike route has been hinted. An on-campus Denver B-cycle station is even planned for Spring 2013. However, the next logical, critical, yet somehow missing step should be education of campus occupants as to the purpose of the new bike lanes.

Whenever I've been on the Curtis Street bike route, pedestrians and parked service vehicles are omnipresent in the clearly marked bike lanes, even though parallel sidewalks, driveways, or service docks are nearby. Additionally, pedestrians inattentively walk into the lanes without looking, sometimes in front of approaching bicyclists. I don't like to think this way, but without a solid effort to educate all occupants of the campus regarding its new bike lanes, inevitably, any collision will probably be blamed on the bicyclist, regardless of actual fault.
Walking and talking is not uncommon on the Curtis Street bike route.
A delivery truck parked squarely in the middle of both lanes of the bike route, even though a service dock is close by.
To be fair to Auraria, delivery trucks are a common sight in Denver bike lanes outside of campus, too.


  1. Thank you for helping to normalize my own bike gawking. My wife is is still always shocked that I can name the brand (and usually model) of a bike at a glance, but be clueless of the gender of the bikes rider.
    Apparently it often looks suspiciously like I am checking out women as they ride by.
    Fortunately I married an understanding woman.

  2. Glad to help out. I've always noticed bikes by not necessarily riders, something I didn't even consider prior to having a significant other. I fell under similar suspicion as you, but concerns eased when I couldn't describe even simple details of the rider.

    As it is now, I think my wife wouldn't mind for me to notice the rider instead of the bike. I think I'll have to steal your term 'bike gawking' as it's the best descriptor for this activity.

  3. I'm Sunday morning whimsy-ing about a squadron of bike cops whose sole purpose is to pull over and ticket pedestrians on the bike route.

    1. As much sense as it would make, and as satisfying as it would be to witness, I don't see it happening anytime soon. Nice whimsy though.