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Apr. 5th, 2010


"i think it's important never to let anybody else do your thinking for you"

Today's video comes courtesy of discussions over at the Rivendell Bicycle Works discussion group.

Tim Wright is a knife maker and rides a bicycle everywhere:

Mar. 6th, 2010


womens' cycling apparel, part 3b: evidence

A follow-up to a recent discussion of womens' cycling apparel:

Readers will remember that I had a surprisingly pleasant and respectful exchange with the nice folks at Rapha (makers of exotic, high-priced and admittedly gorgeous bicycle togs, in some downright delicious fabrics). I was assured that Rapha was listening, and in fact was releasing a womens' specific line of bicycling apparel this spring. I was thanked for my perspective and invited to check out their line.

If you remember, I did so, and discovered that (of course) their sizing range does not extend upward enough to fit me. I'd be better off ordering one of their mens' jerseys (except that Rapha's stuff as a whole is really designed to fit skinny, near-starvation Europeans so their mens' large would probably not zip up over my womanly chest).

Today I found photos that prove Rapha's commitment to womens' apparel:

As you'll note, neither of these women have much in the way of hips or breasts. They are basically female versions of Rapha's male rider-models, perhaps a little more elegantly feline in that feminine way but basically pretty damned skinny.

(My mother, z"l, would say they were too skinny; but she always felt a zaftig woman, a woman "with some shape on her", as she would say, was a healthier woman. Being married to a beautifully zaftig woman myself, I agree.)

Thanks, Rapha. You've tried.
I'd say Keep At It.
You'll get there eventually; and when you do, I'll actually buy something of yours that fits.

Mar. 4th, 2010


even witch hunts require evidence

Yesterday this article appeared over at BikePortland:

The story came to light because someone has been leafleting eastside Portland with flyers claiming that the owner of a particular bike-based business is a cheat and a thief.

In the article, Jonathan Maus -- the editor of BikePortland -- comments on a number of allegations of dishonest dealings by The Recyclery, a bike shop in Portland that deals exclusively in used bikes and parts, and claims he's heard his share of complaints about the business.

While I, too have heard some murmurings about this shop's business practices, and considerably more about the difficult relationship between the owner and some of his employees (a few of whom went on to start their own bike business a year and a half ago), I worry about the tone of the article and the responses by so many BikePortland readers.

If you read the article you may see elements of a near witch-hunt; dozens of naysayers in the so-called "bike community" are basically calling for the owner's head on a plate. What I find disturbing, though, is that almost none of them are willing to dance in order to get it.

Not one specific case of a stolen bike (including make, model and serial number) has been listed in the comments section following this article, and all the while these readers are basically cheering each other on, whipping the angry frenzy higher.
The owner of the Recyclelry may be guilty of dishonesty. Or he may not be.
There is not yet enough solid, documentable evidence out in the open to make this determination.

This lack of evidence doesn't seem to bother the readers of BikePortland. It also doesn't seem to concern the editor, who decided to publish his article before researching and uncovering hard evidence. Perhaps the short attention span of today's online news readers requires faster turnaround of new articles. If so, then I think journalistic excellence suffers because reporters don't have time to research a story thoroughly enough before publishing it.

The problem with public opinion is that it can turn on a dime, and the resulting mob mentality around an especially juicy story can do serious damage to even the most honest of businesspeople.
Sometimes public opinion reflects an ability to make and understand informed arguments.
Unfortunately, public opinion also tends to reflect a very short attention span on the whole.
Today's tendency by too many online news outlets to publish articles before all the evidence is in only serves to reinforce this phenomenon, turning the media into the courtroom, judge and jury. That can't be a good thing.

I shudder at the tone of so many the comments following this article. I'd like to say heaven help the naysayers (if their allegations turn out to be false), but I have little sympathy for people who like to fan the flames of righteous indignation for little more than their own entertainment. Rather, heaven help other small businesses who buy and sell used goods. Regardless of the outcome in this case, one of those small businesses could become the next target when a fickle public grows tired of this one.

Feb. 28th, 2010


my race season, 2010

Looking over the available dates and checking them against my schedule, here's my projected race season for 2010. As you'll note, it starts later than most.

Portland Short-Track XC series, at PIR: The season runs weekly June 21 through August 2. I plan to race every week except the opening race (when I'll be at a wedding). I am SO grateful there's a short-track series IN town!

OBRA State Championship Short-track XC race: August 14, presumably at the State Fairgrounds in Salem. This may not work out for me schedule-wise (or transportation-wise) but if it does I'd like to go.

Blind Date at the Dairy, at Alpenrose: an early-season weeknight 'cross series that I am told is lots of fun and very low-key/no-pressure. I would like to do at least the first couple of races, before it gets dark too early. (I doubt I'd be able to do the later races because of my night-blindness.)

Cyclocross Crusade: Begins October 3 and runs through mid-November. As I did last year, I will race the Portland-area (transit-accessible) races, plus Barton Park; that's roughly half the races in the series.

US Gran Prix Portland Cup: First weekend in December. I will probably only sign up to race the first day, and enjoy the second day as a spectator and/or volunteer. (I learned from last year that I probably don't have the stamina to race full-on two days in a row.) A few people have asked me if I'd do this race again, even though it was so cold and so challenging for me; but when they throw a race like this practically in your backyard, well, you go and do it.

US Cyclocross Nationals, Bend: I really, really want to go to Bend this year. It's doubtful that I could afford to race -- or that I would honestly have anything left in the tank by then -- so I am beginning to network for ways to go with a Portland-based company as a booth-helper or something in exchange for room and transportation.

From the closing night of Portland Short-track XC, 2009:

STXC 2009 RACE 7 from Scott Barker on Vimeo.

Feb. 26th, 2010


knowing and unknowing

I have been going through some challenging times lately, both physically and mentally.
Reading ahead for this Shabbat about Aaron's breastplate and the two big stones (called Umim and Thumim in Hebrew) that the High Priest is supposed to use to get a direct channel to God, or universal wisdom, or whatever, made me wish for a Magic 8-Ball:

When times are hard it sure would be nice to have a sense of certainty that everything was going to work out okay. But lately I have really lacked that, and it has taken a toll on me.

So this morning when I woke up and felt really down in the dumps pretty much from the time I rolled out of bed, I wasn't sure how I would proceed with my day. I began to feel really, really upset, and I sat in the living room chair and sniffled a tear, and then another. Before I knew it my stress had washed over me and I was full-on crying.

Out of nowhere, our cat Yofi suddenly leapt up onto my lap, looked at me with big eyes, and settled down and began to purr. I began to pet her, and slowly I calmed down. I didn't know any more than I had before I'd sat down, but I felt calmer and suddenly amazingly able to get on with my day.

Clearly, I can't tell the future but our cat, being an amazingly sentient being, can. And that's probably much better than a Magic 8-Ball, anyway.

Feb. 21st, 2010


no, things aren't getting better just yet

Many thanks to pal Barry who turned me onto this article. In it I found a very thorough exploration of the myriad thoughts I have thunk since the world began going southward via The Current Recession, and where I've thought it might lead us as a society. Everything I've thought about -- and quite a few things I hadn't gotten to in my thinking -- are found in this article. And no, it's not terribly reassuring. Especially if you're under 30 (or, conversely, if you plan to live forever).

When I'd finished reading it I had two thoughts:

1. I worried for my nieces and other members of their generation, who may suffer the most if everything plays out the way the author posits. Their lives don't look very promising at this point, especially concerning their ability to find long-term work and stick with it. (One thing the author does hint at is that perhaps the children of Generation Y may be a little better off, at least mentally and emotionally.)

2. I felt vaguely reassured in my thinking, my deepest thinking-of-thinkings, the stuff I don't discuss with too many people, about my future and the future of people my age and a little older who aren't independently wealthy and have rich family connections. I felt grateful that I am the age I am, and that I chose the career I did (back when I chucked my music career in very late 1993 and decided to work with bicycles). In fact, my whole ability to live simply and on relatively little will probably serve me well. It will serve me far better than I ever imagined back when I began honing the fine arts of scavenging, mending, repairing and improvising, and above all, adapting during my childhood and adolescence. I saw a lot as a kid that I did not discuss with people. I just filed it away, "For Future Reference". I am referring to it heavily now, and although it's scary at times I am glad I have the file. Because I agree with the author of the article when he says that things WILL get worse for a lot of us, economically and socially.

I am grateful that I did not grow up with illusions of grand success and wealth, never grew up believing the patent lie that every person in society could work their way to security and stability. I understood that security and stability are fleeting, impermanent things, nice to enjoy when we have them but not something that will last. Things go in cycles, after all, and we are in one doozy of a long downhill slide right now. We won't be able to "grow" our way back to a boom economy. Things are too different, and there are too many of us in the world now. So more of us will scramble for fewer resources, and those of us with any common sense will realize we can, with creativity and patience, live reasonably well with far less than we've given ourselves credit for. Yes, my life will measure materially less than my parents' -- it already does -- but that doesn't mean it will be abjectly horrible. Just smaller, and perhaps a little shorter for some. Maybe even for me.

My father's inability to teach me about money according to the conventional wisdom of his day led, in a roundabout way, to my understanding today that a great deal of shit is way beyond my control, and always has been. The best I can do is to live quietly, and simply; to hold my loved ones close for as long as I get to be here; and to remember that I will only get to be here for so long, and no longer. I'll never be rich, and I could very well die younger for lack of access to health care, but if my life consists of several good decades ending with one bad day, I can't really complain. I only wish more people -- especially the people I know could understand all that, instead of wasting their days as if they'll live forever.

Feb. 15th, 2010


womens' cycling apparel, part three: stay tuned?

Last week I got an email blast from Rapha, the London-based manufacturer of fine cycling apparel. The email noted that I had not yet purchased one of their outstanding rain jackets. While there was no direct reference to my living in Portland, I'm sure their electronic global-shopper-tracking system made the connection and ran up the red flag. ("She lives in Portland and rides a bike everywhere; why hasn't she purchased one of our rain jackets yet? Must send email.")

At any rate, I felt inclined to respond:

Dear Rapha -- the reason I have yet to buy your rain jacket -- or, indeed, any of your other fine garments -- is:

1. I'm a real woman, with breasts and hips and a middle-aged belly. I carry my body beautifully and proudly through races, brevets and daily commutes.  Unfortunately, I have yet to see anything in your catalog that is made to fit real women like me.

2. I have yet to see any women -- even skinny, anorexic-looking ones -- modeling your apparel.

You make really, really lovely garments but sadly, they don't fit everyone. So I will continue to admire your designs from afar, but will save my money for cycling apparel that fits me. No hard feelings.

All the best in 2010, and happy riding --BH


This morning, I received this email response:

Hello Beth

Thanks for your mail.

 The eloquent description of your proud stance on the bike is wonderful! This is the sort of genuine response we need and crave.

Did you see that we have launched the first few items in our womens line? This will grow in the future and is a long overdue addition to our range.  

Kind regards, 


Jonathan Knight 

R A P H A Performance Roadwear


I was surprised and pleased that someone had acknowledged my email. While I am not holding my breath as to how much, if any, of their womens' line might actually fit me, it's a start and we'll see what happens. The brief snippet about their new womens' line is here. You'll note that the woman in the photo is not especially large, though she may be taller than me; so at least Rapha is making stuff for tall women, if not for especially big ones. (I pay attention to these things; the proportion of the bicycle in relation to the woman's overall proportion is a clue. I'm guessing she's about 5' 8" or 5' 9". But I digress.) The fact is that there are lots of women who want to ride their bikes and who are willing to spend money on cycling-specific apparel, as long as it actually fits. We'll see what Rapha has to offer in this regard. Meanwhile, I remain somewhat skeptical.

Feb. 12th, 2010



Read all about it here:

Basically, the City Council passed approval of the Bicycle Plan. That doesn't automatically mean the $630 million to fund it will follow; but with a plan approved and in place, it makes it easier to procure funding in fits and starts. To that end, the Council also approved a jump-start pledge of $20 million to get things going.

Considering how much we spend on automotive transportation infrastructure -- and how much of that is subsidized by the collusion between government and the private sector -- $630 million over the next 30 years is a drop in the bucket.

Good for Portland, for finally getting this thing approved and in the can. Now let's build it.

Feb. 10th, 2010


electronics, and other useful tools

A few months ago, Sweetie gave me her old Nano, because she had gotten an iPod (the full-size, bigger memory version). She showed me how to use it, including sync-ing with my computer so music I'd put into my computer could easily be transferred to the Nano. And it's been fairly straightforward. I load music into my computer, and when working on the computer I often listen to the music on the computer with a pair of headphones. Periodically, I'll remember to sync with the Nano to make sure new music from the computer would also be on the Nano.

There's just one problem. After five months, I haven't gotten into the habit of actually using the Nano. I've used it perhaps four or five times since I got it.

Examining this more closely, I realized that I just don't live the sort of life that encourages -- or really makes room for -- personal stereo use. When I take the bus, I'm too wary of potential thieves taking my bike from the front bus rack, so I don't feel comfortable using the Nano on the bus. While riding, having headphones is a no-no (and stupid, to boot). At work, I'm listening to the shop radio or to nothing at all (I actually like working with a quiet background when I'm trying to put together lengthy parts orders, with all their SKU numbers and pricing and everything). At home, there's no point; I'm spending time with Sweetie or working on stuff in the shed and reading, and using the Nano at those times doesn't make sense to me.

So a couple of days ago, after thinking it all over, I gave the Nano back to Sweetie. I don't really use this, I told her, and it doesn't make sense for me to keep it. She sighed, gave me a little hug, and noted that I didn't seem terribly crushed about it. I don't.

Which leads me to question, again, the need for a more wired life.

I have a computer which allows me to use e-mail, post to a blog, and communicate with friends, family and co-workers when the need arises. It's very handy and I use it pretty much every day. But that's not the same as needing to take the computing along with me, to be able to access it on the go whenever and wherever I happen to be. For me, computers are things I use while sitting at a desk. The take-along technology is cute, but in truth I have no real use for it. Should the time come when I return to turning a wrench full-time (and that time IS coming at Citybikes, hopefully in less than a year's time), I can't see the need for keeping a mini-computer at my bench. I'll be too busy working on bikes and interacting with the public to fuss with a tiny computer.

Does living a less-wired life make me look less hip? Less intelligent? Less savvy? Less marketable?
Maybe all of the above, but I don't normally hang out a lot with people that I need to impress like that, and I guess in my own determined, rebellious sort of way, I don't much care. I will live a less-wired life and be just fine. I have my hands, my tools and my skills.

Today is my father's yahrtzeit, the anniversary of his death. And today I am reminded of a time when my mother chased me out of the kitchen for burning a pot on the stove (I'd left boiling water and forgotten about it, distracted by a magazine. The pot burned black until the copper bottom seared off, and Mom was livid because it was not the first time). My mother yelled and shooed me out of the kitchen, telling me I was not allowed back in unless she was there to supervise. I was twelve, and felt humiliated; I would be useless if I couldn't learn how to cook, and I would starve when I grew up and moved out.

My father, straightening up between voice lessons in the music studio in our basement, came up to see what the noise was about. I was in my room, crying into my pillow. My father came in, sat down on the bed, and calmed me down. When I told him what had happened and that I feared I'd never be self-sufficient, he reached for a pad and pen on my desk. "Let's make a list," he said, "of the things you DO know how to do." And so we did. I would tell him something I knew how to do, like fix a flat tire on my bike, or pick a lock with a bobby pin when I forgot my house key, or level my desk by shaving a little off the bottom of the too-long leg, or haggle for the best prices at yard sales; and he'd write it down on the pad. When fifteen or twenty minutes had gone by, he stopped me, and showed me the pad. In his tiny scrawl, he'd filled two sheets of lined paper front and back and was halfway through a third. I looked at the list, blinked hard, and looked at him. And I remember he had the sweetest smile on his face, a look of admiration mixed with bemusement. "Honey, " he said, "I think that you know how to do so many things, you're well on your way to growing into a self-sufficient adult. And the cooking? Well, you know what? Lots of people can't cook, and they can't do half the other things on this list, either. You know how to do plenty. Let the world cook for you, my love. You won't starve. Not even close."

My father never learned how to use tools very well; a truly gifted musician, he knew his way around a piano keyboard with ease, but barely knew how to properly handle a saw or a screwdriver. And yet, when I open my toolbox and reach for a spoke wrench or a file today, I think of my father and I smile, and I know I'll be alright. I won't starve.

Feb. 9th, 2010


usa cycling collegiate team of the month

As a proud alumna of Portland State University (B.A. '01), I am happy to report that collegiate cycling is alive and well at the home of the Vikings.

Portland State's Cycling Club is featured this month at USA Cycling's Web site. USA Cycling (formerly known as the US Cycling Federation, back when I got my race mechanic certification with them) has done a lot to grow the sport at the collegiate level. PSU has made great strides to bring bike racing back into the fabric of campus life. Previous attempts at fielding a bike team met with varying success and were mostly short-lived, most lasting a few seasons before folding from lack of support and members. When I was a student at Portland State in the 80's there was NO organized cycling activity at all; when I returned to the campus in 1998 there was a fledgling attempt at a cycling club that lasted a few years and folded, mostly for lack of financial support. But today, PSU Cycling has a thriving racing scene for eligible students, and also a friendly and welcoming recreational scene for the larger PSU community (students, faculty, staff and alumni). PSU Cycling members appeared at the PIR Short-track XC series last summer, and at nearly every cyclocross race of the fall (I lined up with at least four of their women as part of a crowded Barton Park start field in November).  I am happy to be an alumni supporter of PSU Cycling and I hope they go far.

Read all about the team's accomplishments here. As a club sport, PSU Cycling is supposed to be self-supporting, which means that these college students have to pay for race fees, uniforms and transportation to local and regional events. And oh, yeah, they also have to juggle their academics with time for training, racing and, um, sleeping (remember kids, resting is part of training.)
Sure, they get discounts on bikes and some gear, but nobody's getting a free ride (ahem) here.
If you're inspired to help them out, You can make a check to PSU Cycling, and send it to them:

PSU Cycling
c/o Portland State University
PO Box 751
Portland OR 97201


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