Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Moser 2.0 - a Vintage Racing Bike with Modern Components

Francesco Moser 2.0
I have been riding my "new" Francesco Moser for a couple of weeks now and wanted to share my impressions. This is the same frame that I rode last year as a fixed gear conversion, then sold, then bought back and rebuilt as a geared roabike with modern components. Since the summer, I have been vigorously shopping around for a road/racing bike for 2012. The Moser resurrection is an experiment to determine whether it is feasible to refurbish a vintage steel racing frame for this purpose without putting myself at a disadvantage in comparison to cyclists riding modern bikes. 

Francesco Moser, Lugwork
The Italian frame was built in 1978 and raced in Austria throughout the 1980s. Through an interesting coincidence, I happen to know who the framebuilder was, but that is another story. The frame is lugged steel and allegedly Columbus tubing. Whether "tretubi" or something nicer I do not know; there are no decals. The lugs are pointy with elegant cutouts. Chromed fork crown, dropouts and seat stay caps. I have not been able to find this exact model in a Moser catalogue; something is always different. As I understand it, Moser frames were handmade in small batches and the framebuilders would sometimes get creative with individual frames. This could be one of those.  

Francesco Moser 2.0
The current incarnation of the bicycle includes an older Campagnolo Vento wheelset. Retired by the previous owner, the wheels have got quite a few miles on them, but are in good shape.  

Moser, Noodles, Campagnolo Record 9 Speed Levers
Campagnolo Record 9-speed drivertrain and shifters, circa 1999.  

Moser, 52/39t Crankset
The crankset is 52/39t with 175mm crankarms. Not ideal in the long run, but at least it will allow me to try the bike. MKS Stream pedals and Power Grips as usual. 

Moser, 11cm Stem, Nitto Noodles, Campagnolo Levers
From my spare parts, the bike is fitted with an 11cm Nitto Technomic Delux stem and 42cm Nitto Noodle handlebars. White Fizik tape. Cateye computer with a cadence reader. Just to be silly, I finished the handlebar tape with thin strips of multi-coloured electrical tape, to match the "champion" bands on the frame. 

Francesco Moser 2.0
I bought a set of Campagnolo Veloce brake calipers and used the 700Cx23mm Michelin Krylion tires that I had on another bike earlier. 

Testing a Selle Anatomica Titanico, New Version
The saddle is a new generation Selle Anatomica Titanico (with cro-moly rails), on loan from the manufacturer. I will be comparing my impressions of this model to those of the previous version

Francesco Moser 2.0
The bicycle is a 52cm frame with a 53cm top tube (closer to 52.5cm). Right now it is set up with an 11cm stem, handlebars 1cm below the saddle, and the saddle positioned to emulate the seat tube angle with no setback. The positioning feels great, but would probably feel even better with the handlebars a bit lower and the stem a bit shorter (the current stem cannot be lowered, because there is no more space inside the headtube). The weight of the bike as shown here is 21lb. 

One reason I decided to get this frame back instead of looking for a different one, is that I remembered it having no toe overlap. Later I began to doubt myself, as several framebuilders told me that it might be impossible to make a road/racing frame this compact with no TCO. However, now the Moser is back and I was right: no toe overlap, as in none/zilch/zero/not-even-close. How did they do it? I will try to bring this bike to a framebuilder with one of those magic machines that can measure frames precisely; hopefully that will provide some answers. 

Moser, Noodles, Campagnolo Record 9 Speed Levers
So, riding Moser 2.0 so far... I think I got exceptionally lucky with how well this frame suits me. I did not fully understand or appreciate what it was until now. With the long stem, the geared drivetrain, and the lightweight modern components, the bike feels as if it has been unshackled and allowed to soar. The small size feels just right, the forward positioning is exciting, and the lack of toe overlap eliminates my main source of anxiety with small frames. The bicycle feels lighter and easier to propel forward than other steel roadbikes I've tried, including modern ones. Judging by the numbers on the computer, my speed when cycling on my own is more or less identical to what it was when I was riding the Seven Axiom over the summer. I have not had a chance to go on a group ride yet, but will report on that once it happens. Acceleration feels effortless - that same "slingshot" feeling that, once experienced on a fast bike is hard to give up. The ride quality over bumps is better than I could have hoped for. 

It is impossible to make a direct comparison between the Moser and the Seven, because the latter was two sizes too big for me. But for someone of my ability, the bikes feel as if they are in the same ballpark, or at least from the same planet. The revamped Moser is the first roadbike I've tried aside from the Seven that I can see myself riding and being satisfied with.  

Francesco Moser 2.0
On a critical note, Moser 2.0 is a bit squirrely starting from a stop and at very slow speeds. My bike handling skills are good enough at this point to not consider that a problem, but I wouldn't have felt comfortable riding it set up this way last year. Also, the bottom bracket is so low that with the 175mm cranks there is pedal strike unless I am very careful to keep the inside pedal raised on turns. Can't decide whether this means that replacing the cranks is a priority (trade, anyone?), or whether it is an opportunity to improve my technique.

Aside from this, there is the question of whether it is a good idea to ride a well used, retired racing frame with well-used, retired 10-year-old components and wheels if I mean to ride strenuously and possibly competitively. While the Moser frame is photogenic from a distance, it is in rough shape: scrapes on the tubes, missing paint, rust on the chrome. There is also a slight bulge at the rear of the headtube that, as I understand it, happened during the manufacturing process (the frame has been checked for integrity and shows no structural problems). If I decide that I like the bike and don't need a new one, it might still be wise to replace the components with less worn ones and have the frame repainted. Or start from scratch and get a framebuilder to replicate the geometry and tubing. It's hard to say, and for now I am just  excited by how great Moser 2.0 feels compared to almost every single new bike I have considered buying so far. 

Knowing that some readers are interested in the outcome of this experiment, I want to note that I don't think it's as simple as buying any old vintage racing frame and putting modern components on it. But I do think I got lucky and ended up with something pretty cool that I would like to investigate further - with a big Thank You to all those who pushed me in this direction.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Temperature Regulation and Underlayers

Ibex, Icebreaker Wool Underlayers
From a reader's email, quoted with permission:
...not sure how to put this delicately, but when I ride my bike in the cold I inevitably end up with a sweaty bra. Even if I am not exerting myself, the bra is soaking wet by the time I get to work and The Girls are not happy spending an entire morning waiting for it to dry. I've taken to stuffing paper towels in there, but was hoping you could share a better solution. How do you deal with this? Don't tell me you only wear wool bras?
Now approaching my third winter of cycling, one of the most valuable lessons I've learned is how to dress for the cold weather. Merely piling on layers can lead to overheating, then freezing underneath the sweat-soaked clothing when stopped at red lights. This is where choice of fabric becomes important. Wool and silk not only keep me warm, but regulate my body temperature - meaning that I sweat less underneath all those layers of warmth than I do wearing cotton or synthetic fabrics. And compared to technical synthetics, wool and silk do not retain body odor. 

When choosing temperature-regulating fabrics, the key to the whole system working for me is to start from the inside out. If I am wearing a wool sweater with a cotton long-sleeve tee underneath, that cotton is going to be drenched in sweat; it's better to wear a wool baselayer and a non-wool garment on top of that. Similarly, underwear matters a great deal, since it is the first thing to contact the skin. Cotton or polyester underwear will end up soaked in sweat, causing discomfort even if every single other article of clothing I am wearing is wool.  

So yes: In response to the reader's question, I only wear bras made out of fabric that regulates my body temperature effectively, which for me means wool or silk. Wool is the more durable and somewhat more effective option. But wool bras tend to be plain and sporty looking, and not everyone likes that. Also, women with larger chests often report that these bras do not offer sufficient support. If you prefer a look and feel that is more lingiree than sportsbra, real silk bras are available with everything from decorative lace to underwire support and nylon stretch. After having tried a number of manufacturers, I have settled on Ibex for wool underwear, and on Winter Silks for some fairly inexpensive silk bras. I also like to wear Icebreaker leggings instead of stockings once it gets cold, and always Smartwool socks. There are other excellent options out there. But as long as it's wool or silk, there should be no need to stuff your bra with paper towels before cycling to work. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Iva Jean Rain Cape: Ethereal, Wearable

Iva Jean Rain Cape
When asked to review the Iva Jean Rain Cape, I immediately recalled the remarkably successful photos of this item I had seen in the lookbook several months earlier. I'd been mesmerised by the stunning model and bicycle, by the perfect combination of my favourite colours, by the foggy, milky, electric feel of the whole thing. But a staged photoshoot is one thing; the article of clothing itself could be quite another. What we have here is essentially a silver hooded cape, to be worn on a bicycle. The skeptic in me was thinking that few of us can pull off a garment like that without looking like we are headed to a sci-fi convention.

Iva Jean Rain Cape
When the Iva Jean cape arrived, I was relieved to find it quite wearable. The colour is a metalic slate gray, in no danger of being confused with an aluminum foil alien costume. The fabric is fluid and drapey, not stiff. And it is mostly noiseless (no swooshing). 

Iva Jean Rain Cape
The cape is made in Seattle out of a water-repellent, breathable nylon-polyester blend fabric with reflective piping. It is one size only and hits mid-thigh. I don't want to repeat manufacturer specs, so please read the complete list of features here

Iva Jean Rain Cape
Close-up of the hood, visor, rear vent and reflective piping. 

Iva Jean Rain Cape
The hood is roomy and can be loosened and tightened using a system of drawcords.

Iva Jean Rain Cape
 Rear view. 

Iva Jean Rain Cape
Stand-up collar inside the hood. The zipper extends half way down and makes the cape easy to put on and take off.

Iva Jean Rain Cape
The arm openings have velcro closure, as does the large front pocket. There is also a system of drawcords and thumb loops on the bottom for keeping the arms inside the cape. 

Iva Jean Rain Cape
Full rear view. 

Iva Jean Rain Cape
In use on the bike. Speaking generally, I must admit that I am not a "bicycle cape person." When I look down and see a tent draped over my legs, it abstracts the pedaling experience for me. That said, this cape is so lightweight, that this effect is diminished. What I like about it particularly is the breathability, the flattering shape, and the ease of movement it affords off the bike. With capes I can sometimes feel as if I am getting tangled in them, but this one has such an airy feel to it, that I could hardly tell I had it on. 

One thing to keep in mind is that this is a cape, not a poncho. It is intended for casual use, such as commuting. As you can see in the pictures, the forearms are somewhat exposed when I am holding the handlebars, because I am fairly leaned forward on this particular bike. The more upright your position on the bicycle, the less this will be an issue. [Edited to add: The manufacturer explains that it is possible to cover the handlebars with the cape like so. However, when I attempted this my arms felt constricted and I was not able to use it comfortably in this manner.]

Iva Jean Rain Cape
Having worn the cape in the rain a couple of times, the coverage was sufficient and there were no problems with the waterproofing. As far as temperature regulation, the cape functions as a light shell and you can layer underneath it. The vents provide good ventilation on warmer days. The front can be zipped all the way up to cover the neck up to the chin on days when you wish for a scarf.

I found the system of drawcords a little complicated, but I think this is a matter of preference and others will appreciate them, as they basically allow you to reshape the garment in a variety of ways. The one point of criticism I have, is what to me looks like some subtle bunching up of fabric around the seams (you can see it in pictures like this one). It could be just an unavoidable characteristic of the fabric used, but I am detail-oriented and my eyes keep being drawn to this. 

Iva Jean Rain Cape
The Iva Jean Rain Cape is available for sale online, and the retail price is $240. If you would like my review sample, please leave a comment with your email address by Monday, November 28th, 11:59pm Pacific time and I will choose a recipient at random. Continental US entries only please. In my opinion this cape will fit women up to size 10 US.

Enjoy the rest of your Thansgiving weekend!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

'Lovely' Touring Bike, Given Away!

Touring Bike with Its New Owner
In case you did not catch the update on the original post and the subsequent twitter announcement, I selected the recipient for the Lovely Touring Bike give-away a couple of weeks ago. This give away has proven to be an especially difficult one, and I wanted to make sure the bike and the new owner were a good match before making the announcement here. Happily, it seems that they are. 

Lady Bike Project, 'Before'
It was a year ago now that I spontaneously bought a beat up Shogun touring bike, because the geometry looked promising and I liked the colour. As I didn't need another vintage roadbike, I decided to turn it into a Lovely Bicycle project. It occurred to me that if refurbished with new components, it could make the perfect "starter" bike for a woman who does not otherwise feel confident on a roadbike. What makes the bike good for this purpose, is that it has fairly relaxed angles, stable handling, a comfortable feel over bumps, and no toe overlap. The combination of these characteristics is not easy to find, particularly with smaller sized frames. Upon a reader's suggestion I decided to try and solicit sponsors for refurbishing the bike and then give it away. There were glitches along the way with component choices and sponsorship commitments, and the project took longer than anticipated. But once finished, the bicycle came out wonderfully:

Refurbished Shogun 400
In the end, there were two main industry sponsors for this project: Velo Orange donated a headset, crankset, fenders, leather handlebar tape, and touring saddle - components that were specifically requested by me. Harris Cyclery assembled the bicycle and contributed spare parts. A number of readers (JustineG.E., Neighbourtease, Spindizzy, Cedar, Somervillain) made crucial contributions to the build, including components, accessories and monetary donations, and I too made personal contributions. The total worth of the bicycle as shown is around $1,000 and most of the components are described in detail here and here. Granted, it is a large sum to spend on a vintage frame. But no equivalent bicycle exists today at that price point. 

Refurbished Shogun 400
Because of the unique nature of this project, it was extremely important to me to give this bike to a person who I felt really understood what they'd be getting, and best stood to benefit from this bike's combination of characteristics. A lot of thought went into the component choices, with the goal of maximising comfort and minimising the aspects that normally make people uncomfortable and nervous when riding roadbikes. This was not meant for a roadcyclist who was simply unhappy with their current bike, but specifically for someone who had trouble handling roadbikes in the first place. No effort was made to make this bike "fast" by roadcycling standards, which pretty much made it unsuitable for anyone interested in that aspect of cycling. The way I saw it, the "lovely touring bike" would give the new owner an opportunity to travel long distances at their own pace, on a bicycle that was lighter, faster and better at handling hills than an upright city bike, with multiple hand positions afforded by the dropbars but without the intimidating "racy" qualities of typical roadbikes. 

Touring Bike with Its New Owner
The give-away entry requirement was to submit a ride report, which would be included in a Lovely Bicycle compilation some time in the future. My criteria for selecting the recipient were that (1) they were the right height for the bicycle's 52cm frame size, (2) they submitted their own entry, and (3) what they wanted in a roadbike was compatible with what this bicycle could give them. I was somewhat overwhelmed to receive over 70 entries from around the country: I'd thought that the limitations of the sizing alone would yield a fairly small circle of applicants. But as I read through the entries, I was even more surprised how few of them seemed relevant to this particular bicycle. This is an issue I experienced with previous give-aways as well, but this time it was more acute than ever. The majority of the entries gave no explanation for why they wanted this particular bike, other than that it would be nice to win one. Others entered on behalf of their wives or girlfriends. Others still interpreted this bicycle as a more comfortable alternative to their modern racing bike. In the end, I received a grand total of four entries that I felt were truly relevant, and interestingly, two of them were local. 

When I picked a name from the 4 finalists at random, I selected someone who was not only local, but had her own bicycle blog and was not a stranger to me... which made me worried that selecting her would be biased. So I nixed my selection, went back to the entries and re-read them, considering each entrant's circumstances more carefully... and kept coming back to the local blogger as the obvious choice. She had a fear of bicycles with drop bars after an accident some time ago, but really wanted to give them another try. She had been looking for a bicycle exactly like the one I was giving away, but not having much luck. She had an appreciation for vintage steel frames and knew what to expect from them. She was interested in comfort over speed. She was the ideal height for the bike. Finally, being local she could try the bike first and determine whether she would be able to ride it. And that is exactly what we did.  

Touring Bike with Its New Owner
In short, please meet "cycler," the bicycle's new owner and the author of Biking in Heels. You may recognise her as the owner of "Gilbert" - a customised Raleigh Lady's Sports, which is her daily transportation bicycle. After much, much deliberation, I concluded that since nothing in this give-away indicated that local readers and other bloggers were ineligible to participate, it would be biased not to give the bicycle to cycler at this point, given how right they were for each other. After she tried the bike, this was confirmed; they are a perfect match and I wish them many happy rides together. 

The "Lovely Touring Bike Give-Away" was an experiment that I enjoyed, but also found more difficult than any other give-away I have done so far. For a number of logistical reasons, repeating it is probably not feasible - though I suppose never say never. 

There is also the huge collection of ride reports I've received from readers! Some submitted ride reports despite not entering the give-away, and I have over 100 total. I am thinking of making a compilation over the winter, and making it available in some sort of (free) e-zine format. One option I am considering is choosing a handful of my favourite ride reports and publishing them in full. Another option would be to play more of an editiorial role and publish excerpts from many reports according to themes. My thinking is not entirely clear on this yet, but it could be interesting. Or it could take forever. Suggestions?

With sincere thanks once again to all of my readers, to all of the "Lovely Touring Bike Give-Away" entrants, to the donors, and to the project sponsors Velo Orange and Harris Cyclery, wishing you all a wonderful weekend and happy cycling.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

10 Cycling Blogs I am Thankful For

Just as you all do, I like reading cycling blogs. I need my fix with morning coffee, and a pick-me-up now and again throughout the day. Other's cycling blogs inspire me and keep me going with my own; without them Lovely Bicycle would probably not exist. For that and more, I tip my hat to them this Thanksgiving and invite you to pay them a visit. In reverse alphabetical order:

Entertaining ride reports from the most mundane trips on the local cycling paths to a grand tour of Western Ireland. I love snarkypup's narrative voice and savour reading her posts. 

To me, Dave of Portlandize is the voice of reason when it comes to North American transportation cycling. He says many of the things I'd like to say, only calmer, more eloquently and more succinctly. 

Midlife Cycling
Justine of the 4 Mercians is a unique blogger in too many ways to list. Her personal narratives combine analyses of life, academia and cycling in a way that always teaches me something new.

Let's Go Ride a Bike
LGRAB was one of the first cycling blogs I discovered before starting my own, and I continue to read with interest. Undoubtedly "the" blog for women looking to start cycling for transportation.

Endless Velo Love
G. E. offers an unpretentious, friendly perspective of a bicycle enthusiast who started as a novice and is happy to share her learning experiences.

EcoVelo
Alan's thorough reviews, technical analyses and inspiring photography made me a fan from the start and keep me coming back for a daily dose of bicycle goodness.

Copenhagenize
For years, Mikael Coleville-Andersen has stayed true to his goal of promoting cycling infrastructure in cities around the world. I don't always agree with him, but he never fails to provide food for thought.

Biking in Heels
A local-to-me blog, cycler's thoughts on cycling and bicycles in the greater Boston area are both familiar and different from mine, and always compelling.

Bikeyface
Another Boston blog and fairly new on the scene, this weekly cartoon is hilarious, profound, and not always safe for work. Beards one week, pubic hair the next? Thank you, bikeyface!

BikeSnobNYC
A cozy blanket of artisanal sarcasm, Bike Snob is a classic. No matter how dismal life gets, the meandering posts and bikesnobian logic reassure me that all will be okay in the end.

What bicycle blogs are you reading these days? Feel free to share, and enjoy the Thanksgiving weekend!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

On Holidays and Travel

His Tiny Little Heart
With all the talk about skyrocketing costs of airplane tickets for Thanksgiving, many people I know have decided to stay home this year and keep it low key. But rather than being upset about it, they seem relieved: A casual Thanksgiving with the immediate family instead of a full-on family reunion and hours spent in airports? The very idea seems to be an instant de-stresser. 

The decision to live far away from friends and family - combined with the expectation that we still ought to be close and get together as frequently as possible - creates an uncomfortable predicament. Though many are reluctant to admit it even to themselves, getting together with loved ones for the holidays often brings more stress than joy, fanning the flames of family conflicts and fostering new resentments. And when it's over? Well, so is the long weekend, and back to work you go. 

But people are not built to function like this - moving from one set of stressors to another, with no sense of relief. A holiday is meant to be a break, a time to relax. Airports and airplanes are not relaxing to most people. Neither are hours spent driving. Despite our society's quest for an ever-better quality of life, it seems that we've unwittingly designed our lives to maximise stress. 

Why bring this up on a blog about bicycles? Because the travel-induced stress of the holidays strikes me as the same type of problem as the stress of commuting long distances to work in a car or via public transportation. There is a great deal of new research coming out about the effects of travel and transportation choices on physical health, mental health, familial and social relationships, and overall quality of life. In retrospect, all of the findings are common sense - which only highlights the fact that society as a whole has been moving away from common sense notions of well-being. For those of us who are trying to get back to those notions, the bicycle has been a great help - not only in the immediate sense, but also in the sense of helping us realise all of this at the most basic and visceral level.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Motobecane Grand Touring, Town & Country Edition

Motobecane Urban Grand Touring
The Co-Habitant has been riding his Motobecane redux creation for the past month, and as far as what he was looking for it is a mission accomplished: The bike is nice enough to enjoy riding, but not so nice that he is unwilling to leave it locked up in the city. 

Motobecane Urban Grand Touring
This project started out as a game of sorts, where the idea was to build up a complete bike using only parts we already had.

Motobecane Grand Touring Frame
The frame is a Motobecane Grand Touring that an acquaintance gave the Co-Habitant a year ago. Made of Vitus 888 tubing, it is nicer than the Super Mirage model of his former roadbike. Being a touring frame, it is also somewhat more relaxed, so it made sense to build it up as a transportation bicycle.  

Motobecane, Fender Attachment
Many of the components were moved over from the other Motobecane frame. 

Vintage Belleri Porteur Bars
Others had been acquired in the past, waiting for the right project. It was particularly nice to finally have occasion to use these original Belleri handlebars. Surprisingly, they fit bar-end shifters. The combination looks eccentric, but it's convenient. The stem could be longer, but this one was already filed down to accommodate the French  sizing, and we did not want to ruin another one.

VO City Levers, Shimano Bar-Ends
Fizik handlebar tape, in brown. The only exception to the "must already own it" rule, I bought this in Vienna (the brown and honey colours are not sold int he US). "City" brake levers from Velo Orange - these are very convincingly "vintagey."

Sugino Alpine Crankset
The least vintagey part of the bike is the Sugino Alpina crankset. We figure that the out of place crankset and bar-ends lend a sense of humor to a bike that may otherwise have come across as too perfectly French. This way it feels more approachable. 

Vintage Brooks Colt
Speaking of approachable, initially we were not sure whether this vintage Brooks Colt I'd acquired some time ago could ever be made ridable, as it had a nasty ridge along the center. I'd tried the "blocking" (water soaking) method, but the ridge persisted. However, the Co-Habitant managed to flattened it after a couple of rides on the water-softened leather and reports that it is now quite comfortable. 

Spanniga Pixeo Tail Light
He mounted a Spanniga Pixeo tail light on the rear fender, and uses a removable CayEye headlight on the handlebars.

Motobecane Urban Grand Touring
In the future there might be a rear rack in this bicycle's future, but for now it sports a roomy (but rather inconvenient to open and close) Minnehaha saddlebag.

Locking Up
I have to say that I am thoroughly enjoying the existance of this bicycle: Finally we can go out and leave our bikes locked up in the city for hours, without the Co-Habitant constantly worrying about his. It is by no means a "beater," but it is sufficiently unprecious for him to relax about its fate.

Motobecane Urban Grand Touring
An additional benefit of having built up this bike, is that it showed us how different two models from the same manufacturer and vintage could be. This Grand Touring frame is exactly the same size as his former Super Mirage, but the front wheel on this bike is considerably "further out" - probably a combination of a more relaxed headtube angle and more fork rake. Unfortunately, he no longer has the other frame to compare exact measurements or to photograph them side-by-side. And while he expected for a bike with Vitus 888 tubing to feel nicer than a hi-ten bike, the difference between the two (with the same wheelset and tires) still managed to surprise him. The ride is considerably cushier and the bicycle is much lighter in weight (26lb with the build shown, not including the saddlebag). Having ridden this bike myself and enjoyed it a lot more than any other '70s-80s Motobecane bike I'd tried earlier, I am now curious to try the mixte version. A number of readers have written me about being disappointed with the ride quality of the vintage French bikes that one typically finds for sale in the US, so this might be a good model to look for. More pictures of this bicycle here, for anyone interested.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Why Cyclists Ignore Bike Racks

New Bicycle Racks in Cambridge Latin School Courtyard
Although there are plenty of complaints about the lack of bicycle parking here, my impression is that the greater Boston area is better than many places in this respect. There are bicycle racks all over shopping districts, outside post offices, libraries and prominent places of business, next to transit stations, throughout college campuses. But I notice that cyclists do not always choose to use the racks, preferring to lock their bicycles to alternative structures instead. There will sometimes be a rack that is almost entirely empty, and nearby there will be some bicycles locked to trees and sign poles. 

His and Hers Phillips Bicycles
The other day I saw a group of cyclists locking up their bikes outside a cafe - each one of them ignoring the racks and going for random other structures. I commented about it, and we had an interesting conversation. Here are some of the reasons they gave for not using the racks provided:

. Transportation bicycles with big tires, fenders and headlights don't fit some types of racks. 

. The "tethering post" types of racks that are installed along sidewalks are often placed too closely to the road, and careless drivers can damage bicycles with their cars when parallel parking. 

. These racks can also stand too closely to pedestrian lines of travel, and people bump into the parked bicycles when walking past them, sometimes knocking them over. 

. Others lock their bicycles too closely to yours, scuffing or scratching it, or even knocking it over in the process. 

. Bicycle racks attract thieves, since that is where they look for bicycles and where it is easy to get multiple bicycles at a time. 

Some of these points reflect my own experiences. There are racks I cannot use, because my bike won't fit except locked to the very edge (a spot that is usually already taken by another bike with the same problem). And while this has not happened to me, I have seen cars hit bicycles locked to those individual racks they place along the edge of sidewalks. Pedestrians brushing against my bike and others' bikes scuffing it is less of a concern, because I don't baby my transportation bikes. And I had not given much thought to the possibility that bike racks could attract thieves. 

While not all of these issues are solvable, they are worth addressing when installing bicycle racks. It's a shame when resources are spent to create racks that cyclists find unusable. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

How I Got My Moser Back...

Moser 2.0
So I bought my Francesco Moser frame back from the person I sold it to, and built it up as a geared racing bike with modern components... despite having sworn off vintage roadbikes earlier. Yeah, I know. Allow me to provide some context:

I got this 1978 Moser racing frame in Vienna two summers ago, mailed it to myself in the US and built it up as a fixed gear. It rode nicely, but wasn't really suitable for fixed gear conversion with its low bottom bracket and resulting tendency toward pedal strike. Once I got my fixed gear-specific Mercian, I moved the components over and decided to sell the Moser. Building it up as a geared roadbike was not feasible: I would have had to spend a fortune on new wheels and components only to put them on an old steel frame, with no guarantee that I'd like the end result. It seemed wiser to buy a roadbike that I could test ride beforehand.

Moser 2.0
For what it's worth, I still believe that it is not financially practical for a "civilian" (i.e. a person who is neither a wrenching enthusiast with spare modern groupsets lying around, nor someone with bike industry connections), to take on a project like this. However, I have not really been a "civilian" for some time: I am interested in bikes not only for personal use, but also for the sake of learning and writing about them on Lovely Bicycle. And I do at this point have industry connections, as well as readers who are interested in making specific projects happen. All of these factors played a role here.

One of my readers offered to donate some of his used modern Campagnolo components and his old racing wheels if I were willing to experiment with a vintage racing frame. Around the same time, the person who bought the Moser from me built it up (with modern Shimano parts) and discovered that the bike felt too small for him. Luckily, I'd sold the frame locally. I saw this as a cue to buy it back. 

Moser 2.0
The second-hand components I received were a 9-speed Campagnolo Record drivertrain and levers circa (I believe) 1999 and a Campagnolo Vento wheelset of similar vintage. I already had the headset, stem, handlebars, tires and seatpost among my own spare parts. I bought a new bottom bracket, brake calipers, cable housing and bar tape at Harris Cyclery and they built up the bike for me. 

The Moser is now finished, and I've ridden it - but not as extensively as I'd like before writing about it. I am also waiting to put some finishing touches on the bike before I take pictures. Not sure what I will do with this bicycle in the long run. The frame is 33 years old and was raced for years by the original owner. The drivetrain and wheelset are around 10 years old and well-used. Even if my impressions of the reborn bike are positive, I have concerns about frame/component failure and will need to think about that aspect more carefully. But it is certainly informative to compare this bicycle's handling to the modern roadbikes I have been trying over this past summer and fall. Let's just say I am surprised. 

Moser 2.0
I am glad to have the Moser back; in a number of ways it is an even more unique bicycle than I thought. I hope to share my impressions in the coming week and fingers crossed that it doesn't start snowing in the meantime. Stay tuned, and a huge thank you to everyone who's helped me with this project! 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Rider Fatigue and Bicycle Design

Randonneur Flying, Hanscom AFB
While I'd heard cyclists speak of rider fatigue in relation to bicycle frame design and ride quality, I did not understand what exactly this meant until I got a chance to experience and compare a number of different bikes myself. Riding a variety of bicycles over the same routes, I've noticed that some make me more tired than others independent of the ride's intensity. I can be cycling strenuously on Bike A and really feeling it in my leg muscles, yet remain energetic for the duration of the ride and even feel "refreshed" rather than tired at the end. Or I can be cycling at a moderate speed on Bike B and not exerting myself much, yet feeling more worn out than during the more strenuous ride on the other bike.

A reasonable assumption would be that a heavier and slower bicycle would be more fatiguing than a lighter, faster one, but for me that is not always the case. It seems to have more to do with how the bike feels on the road. When a bike does not do a good job dampening road shock, I begin to feel exhausted very easily. I also seem to be sensitive to a bicycle frame's tubing, because some bikes just feel more effortful to propel forward than others, despite similar geometry, size and fit. Oddly, positioning does not seem to have as much to do with it for me as these other aspects: Some bikes I can ride for a long time in an upright position and some bikes I can ride for a long time in an aggressive drop-bar position, whereas on other bikes these very same postures begin to feel exhausting sooner.

What has been your experience with fatigue on different bicycles? Have you noticed any patterns or connections? I suspect that there is no one formula to this. No doubt it is a complex interaction between a number of factors, including individual anatomy.