Month: July 2013
I’m still grounded, so I haven’t used it yet, but Basil now has a Mini O bag as part of his burgeoning luggage collection. (This is not as insane as it seems: I do a variety of different kinds of bicycling, and what’s suitable for one type is often all wrong for another. )
At any rate, what I haven’t had was a bag that was truly waterproof. This Ortlieb bag claims to be, within reason. (Don’t dip it into a stream!) It’s also small enough that using it for long rides is probably feasible; the largest Brompton bags are like wind sails, and not really suitable for 30 mile/48.2 km trips, unless you’re touring and have no choice. The Mini O has a much smaller profile.
The Mini O’s mounting plate is integrated into the bag. It’s big (and relatively heavy), but also supports the bag well, and I can report that it clips on and off the Brompton block quite easily, just as you’d expect.
There’s a Brompton logo at the upper corner, which is a nice touch — and a useful identification tool, as I think Ortlieb also makes a similar bag with a different attachment device. (The logo is on the right, above, next to the peak of the mounting plate.)
Here’s the back view, and the side facing the cyclist. This is also the side of the front flap that opens: Those little tabs to the right and left sides are what you grab to pop the snaps. (You can just barely make out the round snap caps behind the tabs.)
The flap falls back toward the front of bag and bike, and this is what the rider sees. There’s a zipper pouch attached to the inside front, and a key fob (to the left, attached to the pouch) inside, and a surprising amount of room inside.
I was dubious about those snaps, but I needn’t have been: The upper edge of the frame is completely rigid, and getting the snaps to connect and close is not a problem. Nor does the frame flex when closing the flap. The snaps are sturdy metal, not molded plastic.
The inside bottom of the bag is supported by thin plastic sheeting, rather cleverly slotted into place. This seems quite sufficient, especially as the rest of the bag is so well -crafted.
Off the bicycle, the bag is supported on two sturdy feet and the back plate. It stands on its own, and is so well-balanced that it does not tend to tip even when the top flap is open.
On each side, there is a button to which the shoulder strap attaches. The top flap is designed to rest on this button, rather than to cover it. That’s a bit counter-intuitive, but probably adds to the waterproof aspect of the bag. I find that I automatically want to pull the flap over the button when closing the bag, but expect that this inclination will diminish over time.
A shoulder strap (supplied) clips — with a satisfying click — onto these buttons. Once clipped in place, the strap will rotate, but not disconnect. I find that I like this connection better than a snap hook, probably because, although the buttons stand out from the side of the bag quite a bit, the clip itself is flat and less obtrusive than a snap hook.
Its other virtues aside, this bag feels a bit odd when worn; that may not matter, as it will primarily be attached directly to my Brompton. I must remember to wear it with the front next to my body: The back plate is not a nice thing when pressed against a human waist! The unyielding nature of the bag — an advantage on the bike — is no such thing on a human.
Too, the bag is a bit awkward to use on a counter, rather than on a bicycle, as it is light weight and opens the “wrong” way. There’s no ballast to hold the bag in place once it’s off the bike, so pulling a wallet or whatever out of it in other circumstances can be clumsy.
There’s one last feature: The Brompton logo, and the trim on the handle, are reflective, which is always a nice touch.
I usually buy my Brompton gear from NYCeWheels in New York city, who give great service, but they were sold out of this black-on-black Mini O. I found mine at Portapedal Bike in Tempe, Arizona. I phoned to confirm that the bag really was there, and Al sent it out to me immediately: I had it by the end of the week. (Hint: want an out-of-stock waterproof bag? Go to the desert!)
That’s all I know so far. I took this new Mini O (and Basil) to the doctor’s office when I got my stitches removed, thinking, all-too-optimistically, that I’d be able to ride immediately, which let me report on what wearing it is like. Soon, I hope, I’ll be able to report on what it’s like to use it on Basil.
Practically an Acrobat
A Most Unusual Garden
When last seen on our very short ride in upstate New York, Basil and I had encountered this fellow:
He’s inside a marvelous arbor. Basil posed with him, next to the structure:
There’s an impressive crown soaring skyward, with decorative bits at the corners, and a curl of metal floating in the wind.
The rail along the back, just above the elegantly-attired Mr. Goose, features a series of head sculptures.
They’re cast of metal, and feature a most distinctive phiz: a portrait of the artist, perhaps?
There’s a nod to Mr. Goose’s own kind (or his cousins) along a support beam.
Half-hidden behind the arbor is an almost-secret garden, with a clearing, places to sit, and more whimsical creations. Not having been properly invited, we did not enter.
Over to the right were more surprises. Fancy a cup of coffee, anyone? These appear to be coffee grinders (though I suppose they could be spice grinders . . . yuuummm . . . Indian, anyone???)
But wait! What was that rising from the scrub farther to the right?
It’s three colossal figures!
Remember those computer components you tossed? They may have found a new life in New York state, reborn as Component Homage:
Front and center is Steel Man (not to be confused with the Tin Man of Oz fame). (Steel Woman? Who am I to say?)
Farthest right is Spinning Tower (though it doesn’t spin; it’s just enticingly endowed with lots of gears and wheels):
Should anyone care to sit and contemplate these wonders, the creator has provided a bench
. . . a regal bench, no less.
You can just make out part of Basil’s frame, below. He and Mr. Goose visited while I snapped pictures.
Would I have spotted this most unusual garden if I hadn’t been riding my bicycle? Perhaps . . . but then, if I’d been in a car, I would likely have been in a hurry, wouldn’t I, so it just wouldn’t have been the same, would it?
(Rochester, New York)
Not in the Saddle Again
Basil got an airing, and I got stitches removed, but there’s still no cycling allowed just yet.
I took him with me to the doctor’s office, on the chance we’d be spung from this loathsome purgatory, but no such luck.
Afterwards, Basil posed under a grape arbor, but this is not what he’d like to be doing.
We’re both feeling grumpy and dissatisfied. This is no way to spend a summer.
Not too long ago, Basil and I set out for upstate New York. We usually take a tiny car when we go, but this time traveled in the nearly ancient, but little-used, truck Mr. Diarist and I keep for special duty.
Basil just disappears into the back of the SUV. There’s plenty of room for him, my suitcase, a kit bag, a footstool and a bunch of other junk. (And for at least three more Brompton bicycles!)
Basil didn’t get much of a workout on this trip, as it turned out. There were thunderstorms all week — wonderful thunderstorms with marvelous loud bangs and fabulous light flashes all over the skies — and very little else, meteorologically speaking. I do draw the line at cycling in lightening storms.
When we slipped out, it was for one of the shortest rides I’ve ever taken on Basil — just over three miles. Storm-strewn debris was everywhere, though not as much as I had expected to see.
Unlike the theoretically sturdier trees, feathery flora seemed to have braved the storms without much difficulty — and, in the case of this example, with some flamboyance.
Usually when we are in this area, Basil and I ride the towpath next to the Erie Canal , but rain was threatening, so I decided to explore a neighborhood for the first time. I knew this ride would be a shorter one than our twopath excursions.
This was an area that we’d driven through the day before, and was near a large intersection with which I am familiar, so it got elected. All was serene at mid-day, the sky only slightly overcast.
Though they aren’t necessarily convenient (or, in some cases, even safe) I’m fond of the old-style narrow sidewalks of these neighborhoods, and the simple, wide streets. Asphalt has a hard life, though, and shows the wear-and-tear that northern winters wreak.
There was no cookie-cutter modern development here; homes look as if they sprang up, one by one, as land was sold. Which means, too, that trees weren’t removed, wholesale, to make identical lots, giving the landscape a much more natural, organic, feeling than developments have.
Lush summers make even the plainest home look luxuriant — though those steps are a nice touch. (Were the double peaks original, or the result of a room added later?)
There is a bit of an alpine theme going on in places; this may be a very practical homage to Rochester’s winters, which are fierce.
Snow presumably slides off these roofs far more effectively than it does conventional ones, though I wouldn’t like to be doing maintenance on those inclines.
I love this unexpected bright blue door on the façade of an otherwise retiring house.
In the silver lining department, the demise of this tree did not mean the death of the house next to it, as the tree thoughtfully fell toward the street.
Basil did his traditional tree pose, but not beside one of the magnificent older trees that abound here; they were all in someone’s yard, and we are loathe to go tramping over other people’s property to get the shot. Next to the sidewalk, yes, but actually in the yard? Nope.
The wind picked up, and the rain returned, but not before we met this dapper fellow, who reigns over a most interesting world. But more of that later . . .
(Rochester, New York)
Innovations in Parking
Urban parking: The sky’s the limit.
Now your vehicle can ride a primitive elevator and spend the day braving the elements high above street level. I’ve seen these contraptions in Philadelphia and New York City (where this one is located).
It’s an interesting solution, though perhaps not without its downside: I’ve read reports of cars being mangled when not loaded properly, and of at least one worker crushed when a car brake wasn’t set correctly.
But what really caught my eye was this sign: Room for only thirteen bicycles, so I’m guessing they aren’t being stored celestially.
On the Tracks
When in New York, I stay with The Manhattanites in Washington Heights, in northwest Manhattan. The neighborhood was originally mostly Dominican, culturally speaking, but it has been gradually gentrifying. Starbucks arrived a few years ago, in the area where The Manhattanites live, when things began to change.
North of their apartment, though, the area still retains an aggressively ethnic flavor. I like that; I’ll be sorry when it’s all gone bland and become not-distinctive-anything, and the only food available is chi-chi, and the only shops mainstream.
At the moment, though, store fronts still spill out onto the sidewalk, and street vendors abound, selling anything and everything.
Fresh fruit and produce are trucked in and sold in the open air, set out in the crates in which they arrived.
Most, if not all, of the businesses are hole-in-the wall mom-and-pop affairs, and the offerings aren’t what you’ll find at your local chain. Chocolate con 1 rolo? Oh, yeah!
Floridita Broadway Bakery specializes in Dominican cakes — if I were a carb eater, I’d be working the shops all up and down the street!
On hot summer days, helados (icy treats — could be ice cream, fruit pops, or anything similar) are available from push carts.
There’s some ethnic gentrification going on too. This is a rather fancy market selling Latin foods and ingredients notably not available at the ubiquitous Gristedes groceries.
Inside, the appearance of the street stands has been recreated, with notably carefully selected goods — offered at much higher prices. That’s not surprising, though, as there’s rent to pay and utilities to fund.
El Tren de la Slaud offers productos naturales y organicos. Does that engine look like the Acela? Not sure that’s the best illustration; Amtrak’s Acela engines can go super fast, but track and traffic limitations keep it in the slow lane.
Victor’s Bicycle is a large, old school, bike shop on Broadway at west 174th, not far from Manny Bicycle on Bennett bet Broadway and Fort Washington. They’ve both been around a while, so it’s probably safe to say that there’s been “bike culture” of some sort in Washington Heights a long time before Adeline Adeline arrived in lower Manhattan.
There are a lot of working bicycles in the neighbourhood; food delivery is a big deal in Manhattan, where kitchens are small or virtually non-existent, and good food is only a phone call (or a computer screen) away.
Some things will never change, though. An RV caught on fire in the George Washington Bridge Bus Station when I was at Manny Bicycle, which shut the terminal down for hours, and resulted in the scene below. (And shut down most of the George Washington Bridge for hours.)
Outside the station doors, emergency workers were dealing with angry and incredulous New Yorkers who just could not believe that they were not allowed to enter the smoke-filled terminal (which incidentally also smelled of burnt rubber and fried electricity).
Don’t ever tell New Yorkers what they can’t do. They don’t like it, and they know you’re wrong, even if most of the fire-fighting power of upper Manhattan is called out to deal with the crisis.
Also, it’s a New Yorker’s god-given right to use his phone whenever and wherever he pleases. Neighborhoods may come and go, but New Yorkers will stand their ground forever. Ya gotta be tough to survive in the big city.