Thursday, 26 November 2009

On the (semi-)final choice of naming and a possible act of self-interested generosity.

As hinted at in my previous e-mail, I think "Floria" will be the new bike's name. However, as I am loath to give up on one of the other choices, I think the full name [drum roll] will be: Floira Die Fledermoose. I reserve the right to change my mind.

A possible act of self-interested generosity
I have been locking my bikes at work to the same rack at the same spot for over ten years. It isn't the best of racks for a number of reasons. For one thing, the bit that I like to lock my bike to is a little low and it seems that the right spot to lock to it results in an undesirable part of the bike rubbing against the rack. However, from wrapping Floria Die Fledermoose up with old inner tubes, I am thinking that one way to reduce the scratches would be to wrap parts of the rack with them! I am torn between asking official permission and simply doing it and waiting to see if anyone objects or even notices! ;-)

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

On Floria's first trip to work

I felt well enough today to ride Floria to work. I had left at about the right time, but then had to nip back to get something. I thought I was going to be late, but instead I arrived more or less on time! She is fast. She accelerates very nicely and the brake-shifters mean you can take advantage of that. I have only begun to get used to her and Boy! do I like what I see. The only major glitch with Floria is that I find the seat has a bit too much give. I have made plans to replace it with the seat from the Castafiore on the weekend as seat changing is too long and fiddly a job for a weeknight. I am rather beginning to think I made the right choice, even if I do say so myself.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

On a very tolerant cat and other matters

I had supper with James, Jennifer and Isla on Thursday. I was surprised to learn that one of their cats is far more tolerant of my quasi-niece, Isla, than I would have expected. Bandit the cat puts up with Isla's clumsy attentions to a remarkable degree. It is only when she tries to mess with his tail that he moves off. To my mind, this is an incredibly tolerant cat as I would have thought that the normal cat reaction to a toddler would be to move out of her reach post-haste!

On the naming of the new bike
I have received comments from some of my readers about the name for the new bike, but I have yet to make a decision. For that matter, I have yet to take her out for a spin. I had been planning to install accessories this weekend, but I have been down with a stomach bug and haven't had the energy. I have had other ideas for names. In line with previous bike being named for a fictional opera singer, I have pondered if naming the bike "Marguerite" after the only role she actually is seen to sing! I also pondered whether the new bike should be named after the fictional opera Die Fledermoose by Giuseppe Wagner referenced in the Rudolf Nureyev episode of the Muppet Show!

On the importance of being an information pack-rat
I picked up Leonardo from the bike shop yesterday. They had changed the cassette (rear gears) and it didn't look wide enough. I quietly asked if they were sure that was right range and was assured it was. When I got home, I counted the number of teeth on the biggest gear and got 25. I looked up the original specs to Leonardo on the pdf I had downloaded from the Devinci website. There, I found that the original cassette had had 34 teeth at the top end. I brought Leonardo back to the shop and politely asked that a cassette with the "proper" range of gears be installed, explaining that the mandate of Leonardo calls for granny gears. The staff at the place cheerfully obliged and made the change on the spot.

One of the issues in dealing with my local bike shop is that there is a cultural divide between them and I. The shop tends towards racing bikes which have narrower ranges of gears, whereas I, the tourer, would rather a wider range of gears. In fact, when I went to the shop the first time, the mechanic who had installed the narrower range arrived for work while I was there on a swish racing bike. This illustrates the difference in perspectives on cycling between the shop and your humble correspondent. I am not saying this is a bad thing and neither of us is at fault, merely that I should remember who I am dealing with.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

On the fatal fracture

At long last, I have brought the Castafiore home in order to strip her for parts. Pedals, tires, rims, seat and assorted accessories are being removed. This is also the first time I have had a chance to photograph the crack that has spelt her downfall. If you look at the photo below, you will see a rusty line running across the flattened end of the narrow down tube. This crack extends all the way through it, so that the tube is no longer doing its job of transmitting forces. For those of you needing orientation, the chrome structure at the top left of the frame is the bottom of the seat post.
I don't know for certain what caused the crack. I doubt it was any one event, but rather a combination of innumerable bumps, bangs, wear, corrosion and metal fatigue did in the Castafiore.

To be honest, in the weeks leading up the discovery, I had noticed that the Castafiore seemed to be handling at little skittishly, but I had put it down to non-structural factors. As well, I didn't really bother to inspect her carefully.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

On naming the successor to the Castafiore

Envelope please. Rrrrip. Hmm, it seems we have a black horse winner here, though perhaps, not entirely unexpected. She has spent much of her life in the public eye, fondled by many, including yours truly. Likely often the bridesmaid, but never the bride. She has a solid pedigree and will likely find she has much in common with her stablemate, Leonardo.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you my new bike.

She is a 2009 DeVinci Tosca. She was the floor model at La Cordée and thus was purchasable at an interesting discount. While she is a shade undersized for moi, I find that "flaw" lends itself to more responsive handling.
Given that her predecessor was named for a fictional opera singer and that her model is named for an opera, I entertained the notion of calling her "Floria" after the first name of the title character. Unfortunately, that isn't quite interesting enough, and neither is "Attavanti". While "Scarpia" has a bit of a ring to it, I am not sure it would do for everyday. As she is largely red, I am tempted to dub her "Vivien" as in Vivien Leigh a.k.a. Scarlett O'Hara. However, I am willing to take suggestions from the general public.

(Suggestions on what I might have bought are positively not sought from the general public.)

Sunday, 15 November 2009

On an interesting possible source of a successor to the Castafiore

I took advantage of the car to drive around to various bike stores in search of information about a possible successor to the Castafiore. My first stop was the new MEC store in Longueil. (Much as I had feared, it is stuck in a suburban wasteland much like the Montreal MEC. Why are the stores near Montreal so badly located?)

I inspected the Nineteen Seventy-One and found it much to my liking. However, I couldn't try out a size XL bike so I am not sure as to the overall fit.

My next stop was LaCordée where I saw a DeVinci Tosca in red on sale at about $900. Very tempting, and very close the specs of the Nineteen Seventy-One. I didn't see anything interesting at Le Yeti, apart from the Surly Long-Haul Trucker and there the interest was academic as that is what Margo and Chris got for their Bangkok to Paris trip. I will point out that it is a low point in the cycling year, so stores aren't carrying as full a range of bikes as they might.

One thing that was bugging me at both the MEC and LaCordée was that the tires on the bikes were knobby as they were technically cyclo-cross bikes. (Cyclo-cross bikes have a partly off-road nature, hence the knobby tires.) However, my requirements are for a street bike and thus I want solid street tires such as the ones currently on the Castafiore.  Also on the Castafiore are fairly new and very strong rims. I was loath to casually dispose of them. Consequently, I was wondering how to store them until they should be needed.  I was also thinking about taking the pedals off of the Castafiore and using them to replace the toe clip pedals currently fitted to Leonardo while I am using him to commute to work.

I then stopped at Re-cycle cycles, which as the name suggests is a second-hand bike store. I often bike past there on my way to work, but I had never gone in. I was pleasantly surprised. The guy there was very with it and as I explained my bike requirements, he pointed out a number of bikes that might suit me. He then made the surprising offer that I could bring in my old bike and he could transplant salvageable components to a "new" bike. This rather caught my attention. After chatting a bit more, I made arrangements to come by with the Castafiore tomorrow to sort things out. I rather liked the guy's attitude which was bikes are there to be rebuilt and he seemed to know what he was doing. I wouldn't mind having a "new" bike custom-built out of older components.

While I looked around, I also saw a red DeVinci Oslo trying to seduce me at a good price. I don't know what tomorrow holds, but it should be fun!

Saturday, 14 November 2009

On the end of the Castafiore

I took my old commuter bike, a.k.a. the Castafiore, in for a tune-up today. When I came home from the gym this evening, there was a message on my answering machine saying that they had discovered the frame was cracked and she was no longer safe to ride.

I knew this day was coming as she was over twenty years old. Virtually the only part of her that had never been replaced was the frame. Still, it is a bit of a shock.

The timing could hardly be better as I have the use of a car for the next week which will make commuting and the shopping process easier. Also, it is November which is a quiet month for cycle stores on the whole. On the downside, many of my bike-advice relatives are relatively hard to contact at this time.

As I see it, I now have to make an number of decisions which are relatively interconnected. The first is when I should make a decision on the Castafiore's replacement. I could buy the new bike in the next week, or take all winter to do it. I could ride Leonardo to work for the next few weeks until the snow falls, or even go the BMW (Bus-Metro-Walk) route as of the week after next. Waiting is probably best.

The second decision is which type of bike do I wish replace the Castafiore with. I am rather fond of the dropped handlebar, road bike, though this is partly because I have rarely ridden anything else since I got my first ten-speed. On the other hand, the more common hybrid has much to recommend itself, not the least being I could probably score my Dad's old hybrid relatively easily. Furthermore, we are of a similar size. Whether I want to is another story as it has a relatively lousy top-end gear ratio. Alternatively, I could go the folding bike route. This would have the advantage that I could bring it up into my flat easily, meaning I would no longer store my commuter bike on the street. Margo has been suggesting this as an option for a while. What I don't know is whether you can put a milk crate on the back of one of them and still fold it!

The third decision is whether to get a new bike or go for something second hand. The second-hand option has the advantage of making the bike "pre-battered" and thus less tempting for bike thieves. However, this option reduces the selection considerably. One of the reasons for this is that I am unusually tall in this province and the likely stock of second-hand bikes in my size is probably relatively small, thus limiting the selection.

The fourth decision is where to buy an new bike. My local bike store has a relatively limited selection, though obviously they could order something. However, as mentioned in a previous post, the MEC Nineteen Seventy-One is very appealing! In addition, there are a fair number of other bike stores in Montreal, as well as the store in Sherbrooke where I bought the Castafiore and where my family has a very good relationship with the owner.

What I know I want is as follows: a metal frame for longevity; fairly fast ; the ability to carry a milk crate on the back.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

On the past and the future?

On the past
It was cold and clear when I rode into to work today.  Quite a nice day, for November.  At one point, I was struck by the smell of the cold leaf litter which sent me back to when I lived in Toronto which was more than thirty years ago.  It is very weird how smells can trigger memories.

On the future?
After poking around the MEC website for weeks, hoping for a glimpse of their line of bikes, I was pleasantly surprised to receive an e-mail from them announcing the arrival of the bikes on their website.  A quick browse brought me to their Nineteen Seventy-One model.  It is so me.  It fits a great many of the criteria that I would want to replace the Castafiore with: metal frame, drop handlebars, provision to hang gear such of racks and fenders on it, red paint, etc.  I also have an attachment to the name, as the name refers to the year the MEC was founded which was also the year I was born.

Is this the future for me? I don't know.