Better Than Cable Ties

Basil always has a compact shopping bag in his kit, along with these things:

They’re coated wire twist ties.  The combination is a different kind of emergency kit, one I deployed on a recent ride when I needed to shed a jacket, and had no place to put it.

I wrapped the jacket in the shopping bag, tied the handles, secured them with the shopping bag’s hook-and-loop fastener, and attached it all to the underside of Basil’s seat with the Gear Ties.

OK, it’s not elegant. Basil looks as if he’s wearing a post-modern bustle.  But it worked very well.  Utility counts!

These ties are kinder to bike finishes than hard plastic cable ties, reusable, and don’t require scissors for removal.

When the holder for another cyclist’s U-lock broke just as a recent ride started, one of these ties secured the lock to his back rack, solving a the tricky problem of how to carry it.  (If he keeps the tie handy, he won’t ever have to depend on a flimsy plastic holder again.)

Tours, Trails & Group Rides

Reading Terminal Market, by Accident

So I set out one morning to meet the BCP crew for what would have been my first official C ride. C rides are a bit faster than the scheduled D rides in which I’ve indulged so far, but ride leader Tim assured  me that I’m quite capable of handling his C excursions.  The gang was to meet at Penn Treaty Park. (As I’m sure, in fact, it did.)

I left the house at a little past 6 AM, caught a train, and ventured into Philadelphia, riding alone on the city streets for the first time. (I’d ridden in last year’s Tweed Ride, which in fact included a stop at Penn Treaty Park, but with someone else who navigated.) I’d printed out Google’s bicycle directions from the Market East train station, and viewed the route on Google Earth; I was good to go.

Or not.  Although cold, it was a beautiful, sunny morning, and there was very little traffic where I was riding.  A main street was missing a street sign, but I made that turn without difficulty, thanks to a lucky, and possibly logical, guess.  Somehow, though, I never found the park.

I missed my ride.  It’s an old problem. I couldn’t find my way out of a paper bag if I were facing the opening.  Another day, I will figure out what went wrong, and get it right.

In the meantime, though, I headed back toward the train station, and realized that I was passing Reading Terminal Market.  Reading Terminal is an indoor market full of food stalls and various other shops.  It’s often packed with customers, but at 9:30 on Saturday  morning there was lots of room to move about.

Not that we needed it.  I’d added Basil’s front bag to his frame in case I needed to shed a jacket later in the (anticipated) long club ride, so I was able to move him around using the handle on the bag’s frame.

We wandered around a bit, checking out the various venues.  Basil posed next to a store that sells honey in almost every imaginable form, including the marvelous dragon* below, which probably caught my eye because I’d seen the equally wonderful one, above, guarding a parking lot on my way back to the train station.

If I hadn’t had a healthy snack in Basil’s bags, I’d have been sorely tempted by the bakeries, even though I generally avoid such temptations.

The “general store” may be geared toward tourists, but it offers plenty of enticing treats, too.

This is Philadelphia, so naturally there are cheesesteaks on offer.  I’ve never eaten one, and don’t intend to, but these coronary-inducing concoctions are the city’s iconic food.   (Is orange squeezable cheese actually food?)  Competition among local shops for the honor of the best cheesesteak is hot, and sometimes bad-tempered, but this morning the mood was strictly genteel.

Not every offering is Philadelphia-centric. This stall offers linens from Provence:

Nor are dining options limited to cheesesteaks.  Foods from a wide variety of geographies are available.

There’s an “herbiary”, too, if you want to go home and make your own delectables.

Butcher, baker, and candlestick maker, all at Reading Terminal Market — and more!

Though no fan of cut flowers, I cannot resist the marvelous colors in stalls like this one. Basil didn’t mind posing here, either, and I noted how consonant his colors were with a number of the displayed bouquets.

I was sorry to have missed the anticipated 40 mile/64.3 km ride to Bristol, and even sorrier to have ridden only 7 miles/11.2 km by the time I got back on the train.  The moral, though, is that no bike ride need be a disappointment:  For the first time, I rode on Philadelphia streets, unescorted (though that “lack of escort” may have been an issue); spied new and interesting things; and enjoyed an unexpected look-in at a market to which I hadn’t been in years.

And just to cap it off, I went cycling when I got home.  But that’s a post for another time.

* Edited:  Whoops. The dragon is not made of honey. But don’t let that detract from the generally excellent stock offered.


Chopper, Chopped

One thing I really looked forward to, once I had Basil, was being able to put him in the trunk of my car when it goes in for service. (Or any of our cars; a Brompton will fit into the tiniest of spaces!)

The other day, I dropped off the car (a taillight was out and it was time for an oil change), and went for a ride. That’s Basil, above, in front of the garage, with his front bag stuffed after I’d completed a few errands.

When I retrieved the car, I spied this exotic creature.  It belongs to one of the mechanics.  The geometry boggles the mind, doesn’t it?  (I was so bedazzled that I actually cut off the tops of those handlebars. They are taller than they appear here.  Much taller.)

I understand it’s ridden mostly on the beach, which seems prudent (sand upon which to land).  I got to see a demonstration in the shop, though, so I can testify to its rideability — at least in the hands of its skilled owner.

Note: discerning readers may observe that Basil’s M bag has a new flap.  It’s a fail, mostly because it’s not heavy enough. This one goes back to the drawing board. Grrr.



Of Bees (sort of) and Bromptons

Isn’t the Internet amazing? The first thing I thought of when I saw these

was The Legend of the Brompton Bumble Bee.

Actually, it’s the only thing I thought of.

The Legend is the best buddy of Andy, iCrazyBee, who rides with the London Brompton Club. Andy takes Brompton customization to an all-new level.  Beautiful, no?

If there were no Internet, would I have known about The Legend?  I think not.

My Brompton


A car needed to go in for service the other day. Since the garage is in another town, I put Basil in the trunk, and headed out with him while the work was done, so I could simultaneously knock off a few errands and sneak in a ride.

I was shocked to discover that a large building in a small strip mall was being torn down.  The largest store in this particular section had been a bookstore, with plenty of square footage.  The retail section stretched from the front of the store all the way to the back, and about 2/3rds of that distance had been beautifully tiled.

In the rear, where the other stores had shipping and receiving, the bookstore owners had installed tall, huge picture windows. The rear 2/3rds of the store were bright and light.

We’d heard that a gym was going in. Just what every community needs, right? Another gym. I tried to be philosophical about it; the one good thing was that gym-goers would at least reap the benefit of that view, which changed, naturally, with the seasons.

It is not to be.  The windows, indeed every part of the building, including the foundation, which was being destroyed the day I was there, is gone. I suspect the new construction will be no improvement over the old; quite the opposite.

When I parked Basil to take these pictures, I hadn’t noticed the single piece of litter in the area.  It was a closing notice for the bookstore, the tape from attaching it to the window still attached at the corners.  I tucked it in the trash and moved on.

My Brompton

Harbingers of Spring

Like swallows to Capistrano

flock the fisher folk to water.  March has eased on its way, and April is holding forth.

Basil, however, is an all-season kind of critter.

Gear Water Bottle Sagas

Water Bottle Fix, Take: 2 (?) (3?) (47?)

Here’s  solution to a problem very few people have.  Since I’m one of them, though, here it is.

Bike hydration is an issue for me.  I can’t wear anything on my shoulders for long. “For long” can mean as few as ten minutes, especially if I’m using my arms, or the item is heavy.  On long rides, then, a hydration pack worn on the back won’t work for me.  I have a waist pack, but I hate it because it’s so hard to fill and clean.  And yet . . . it’s kind of important to have water handy, especially if riding where convenience stores may not abound.

Last year, I bought a Camelback water bottle with a hose and valve.  Mine is stainless steel, but this is the idea.  On a previous cycle, this went into a bottle cage, and I could sip to my heart’s content without fumbling with the whole bottle.  Good enough.

Now that I have Basil, though, this isn’t the best solution.  A water bottle cage isn’t ideal on Basil as it widens his profile when folded, and is kind of a pain in the neck if I’m folding him often, as I do.  Brompton is developing a waterbottle for their bikes, and I’m sure it will be smashing, but it’s already a year and a half overdue (we call this kind of calendar problem “Brompton Time”).  In the meantime . . .

I found this Nathan waist pack at REI.  Replacing the Nathan bottle with the Camelbak solved the problem of how to carry water.  All that was left was to figure out how to get the hose somewhere useful, where I could reach it without thinking.

Mr. Diarist said “Magnets!”  It was a great idea, so I sewed a little pouch, popped a magnet inside, and attached it to my mesh vest.

Then I made a similar pouch, added an elastic band to it, and slipped it over the hose.

The tab connects with the magnet on the shoulder of the vest.

Here’s the back view.  The water bottle holster is worn slightly to the side.

(Yes, I’ve used it once, and it’s got grease on it.  How did that happen?  You have to really work to get grease on anything when riding a Brompton!)

I can grab the valve easily.  It’s possible that the dangling hose might be irritating, but it doesn’t bother me. I’m not going fast enough for it to go flying. If I cared, I could add another magnet to control the end, and then just pop it to use it when drinking.

No weight on my shoulders, easy access to water, and, best of all from my point of view, a metal bottle that can be refilled at any faucet or drinking fountain, without a lot of floppy drama.  Win-win-win!

(I’d really like Brompton to work this out, though. Their solution purportedly involves magnets, too, but just one small one which will hold the water bottle directly on Basil’s frame, with no cage.  I’m on their waiting list — times nearly a year now, I think. No doubt it will be worth the wait, but, in the meantime, summer’s a-comin’.)


Big Red Truck

On a recent trip to Manhattan, a crew showed up at 10 PM, blocked off the street where I stay, and proceeded to tear up the sidewalk and asphalt with jackhammers. The noisiest stuff stopped at 3 AM.  In the morning, they were all gone, and there were a bunch of steel plates where the jackhammers had played.

Several days later (this is a gauge of the urgency of the problem), this truck turned up.  A guy — possibly another annoyed resident among the many for whom sleep had been only a dream that night — walked by and saw me taking this picture.

He smiled and said “A detective, eh?”

“No”, I said, “I just like big red trucks.”

“Really!?” he asked, looking quite surprised.

It’s true.  Basil’s sometimes one of the neatest things on this block, but an enormous, commercial, long-base, red double-cab dump truck is nothing to sneer at.


Progressive V: Collegeville

I was dubious about this progressive ride:  I had only done 46 miles/74 km of the previous week’s planned 55/88.5, and another week of poor sleep suggested that I might not be ready for 60 miles/96.5 km of bicycling.  A 20 mile/32.1 km ride often seems insufficient to me; 35/56.3 is no problem, and 46/74 was great, but perhaps beginning to test my limits.

The day couldn’t have been more perfect, though.  I took this picture at 9 AM; it was cool, crisp and sunny, eventually evolving into crisp, sunny, and almost warm.

We rode from the Azalea Garden behind the Philadelphia Art Museum to the Collegeville Diner, and back again.  Saul and Mike and a crew riding with them joined us in Manayunk, rode along amiably, and then variously went on their ways elsewhere.

The bikes in question (except Basil, who was tucked under the table inside).  We weren’t the only cyclists at the diner; the early spring weather had brought out cyclists galore, even at the diner.

We lost one rider to a wrong turn, after which she decided to head elsewhere, and one (this one, I’m afraid) was rescued from her own wrong turn by George (who was following) and Michael, who was sent out from the main party to find out what had happened.  Sigh.

Nine of us made it to the diner, which is clad with a silvery diner-appropriate exterior.  It’s humongous

and endowed with marvelous doors.

The diner was our mid-point destination, and we enjoyed a convivial repast before hitting the trail again.

All along the return trip, the speedier riders regularly re-grouped to meet up again with the slower ones.  I was one of those; I did pretty well until the last 12 miles/19.3 km or so, when I just couldn’t keep up the pace — which admittedly, was a little faster than as described for D rides.  I dropped to a true D pace, and was grateful for the company of a couple of other riders as I poked along at 10 mph/16 kmph instead of 13 mph/20.9 kmph.

I don’t know if it’s the club culture, or just the “culture” on these particular rides, but this is the nicest group of people ever.  My doubts, and my flagging speed, were met with encouragement and great confidence in the likelihood of all going well.  (Tom whipped past me at high speed a couple of times saying “I think I can, I think I can” which made me laugh, spurring me on in the best possible way.)

A friendly, positive attitude has been a component of every ride I’ve taken with the Bicycle Club of Philadelphia, which, unsurprisingly, just makes me want to ride more.  I go to some lengths to meet up with the club, and it’s more than worth the effort.

Basil and I had ridden 61.71 miles/99.3 km by the time we got back to 30th Street Station. He seemed pretty pleased with himself — he was in exactly the same shape as when we’d taken off, in  spite of having handled over sixty miles of roads, asphalt trails, and gravel beds along the way.  Does anything faze a Brompton?

I was half-dead, but so glad I’d done the ride.  Now I know something more about my riding abilities:  60 miles/96.5 km is probably too much to fully enjoy, at least at my current level of fitness, even in cool, cycling-perfect weather.  My optimal distance probably maxes out at about 45-50 miles/72.4-80.4 km).  We’ll see if that changes over the summer.

(Note: I just did the metric conversions for this post, and I’m dying a little bit here.  Point-seven-kilometers and Basil and I would have done a metric century.  Point-seven-kilometers!  If I had only known . . ..  Maybe I should be sprucing up those math skills, too. )


Italian Fountain Century

So there was this quirky listing in the Philadelphia Bike Club calendar. I finally remembered to ask about it on the most recent Progressive.

In my defense, all winter long there were cyclists pacing the “fountain” ( (I was one of them, sometimes) trying to keep warm while waiting for  fellow riders to show up for a group ride. So this didn’t seem totally unlikely:

Level A, B, C, D, xyz, 12 mph, 100 miles. Meet at the Italian Fountain behind the Art Museum.  The ride leaves at 7:00 am.  85th/87th Anniversary, 3rd Annual Italian Fountain Century is again being held on April 1. An all new spectacular route this year, counter clockwise, which means the riders will have to count backwards.  The Fairmont Park Commission has issued a permit which forbids parking in the circle because the outer perimeter is one tenth of a mile where cars normally park. This will make for a car free route. There is a 1 cent per lap registration fee only payable in pennies which will be thrown into the fountain.  The Italian Fountain has been taken away for renovations so this event will be canceled if the Fountain is not restored and working by April 1.

And, in further defense, there are some pretty strange cycling events out there. It’s not as if I thought this was a real ride . . . I thought it was, perhaps, an eccentric excuse for a party for (how do I say this delicately?) eccentric bicyclists.  I asked about the vertigo component (kidding, I was kidding!), and ride leader Tim said something about medical sponsorship.  “Sponsored by Meclizine!” I chirped.

[Current state of the Italian Fountain.]

George, looking perfectly innocent, said that 1,000 bagels were going to be given away (one for each lap), but that this was a problem for the Jewish riders, since Passover won’t be over by the time of the event.  Sadly, this bit of information did not deter me sufficiently:  I was wracking my brain to recall if I’d seen, among the many faux-food Passover offerings, faux bagels made with matzoh, instead of leavening.

In typing the text of the listing, I see that my cursory perusal missed a few significant clues.  What, for instance, are xyz ride ratings? There’s the Anniversary/Annual discrepancy (could just be careless writing, right? The fountain may be older than the event, right? Right?)  And the counting backwards; just a little humor, right?  And pennies for registration?  It would be nuts, but it could happen, right?

The most critical bit of data that escaped me was the date.

Tim says that one person falls for this every year.  I’m sure glad I didn’t send an email to the ride leaders. That sort of thing just sticks around in the innerweb ethers forever!