Saturday, July 11, 2009

PHOTO Cyclist?

Natural Landscaping
Originally uploaded by Apocaplops
I'm starting to not deserve my name, with how little I've been posting photos lately. Now that I have the bikes pretty much where I want them (famous last words), I'll be going back to photo cycling more often.

I've mentioned before that one difficult part of being a photo cyclist is that bringing a camera onboard is not necessarily an easy task. I'm thinking of building some kind of rack so I can carry my larger cameras along, which are really my favorite cameras to use if I have the choice. But your everyday camera really is best left to digital nowadays, much as I hate to admit it. I have an Olympus OM1 that makes a great saddlebag camera, but the seasons seem to change before I ever get the 35mm rolls developed.

I already have a wonderful digital camera, the Canon XT, with a great lens and flash setup, but it's really much too big to carry everywhere. That's why I'm pretty excited to try out the new Olympus Pen digital camera. It's got great image quality, a reputation for great lenses, the ability to use old lenses via adapters, and best of all, it's TINY. It might be the new official camera of photo cyclists everywhere.

It's really just like Olympus to find a great compact-camera niche like this. They did so first with their Pen series of half-frame cameras, then the OM system with great quality in a small package, and now I think they've finally found a way to be "Olympus" again, now in a digital market.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Motobecane: Francophilia

I studied German in school, though I'd like to add French eventually. I think it's because it's so different than English, so foreign. German is similar enough to English that many of the words are spelled and pronounced similarly, cognates. Like the language, the French don't really do anything "the right way" by American standards, and of course that's appealing to me. Their cars are odd ducks, or gorgeous, depending on your point of view. The Citroën DS is a prime example of this - a plush dream of literally riding on air, swept yacht-like looks, and controls, well, made with the French logic.

The beautiful(?) DS.

Plush, if illogically appointed interior.

It's the same way with bicycles. The older French names like Rene Herse and Alex Singer conjure up images of beautifully constructed bikes that excelled at transportation while looking beautiful. Elegant steel frames, shiny metal fenders, polished racks all added up to a bike that could comfortably cruise for miles. They're the kind of bicycles collectors rightfully drool over, and spend big eBay bucks on.

The bike boom in the seventies saw somewhat of a reduction in the status of French-built bikes. Japanese components like shifters, derailers, and cranksets, came to be the equal and then far superior of the French. Japanese frame designs improved to the point that customers no longer looked down on them, but rather preferred them. The outmoded French threading on bottom brackets and pedals became a joking point in bike shops everywhere, and the French began to lose ground quickly. In many ways this is similar to what happened recently when Taiwan, and now China, took over the production of most bikes.

That's not to say they're bad bikes. The Peugeot in particular is the "in" hipster bike for fixie conversion, and Motobecane, as always, plays a sort of second fiddle, and though I've been looking for a Peugeot, car or bike, for quite some time, I was more than ready to pounce when a free Motobecane Grand Jubilé came my way. It needed wheels, seatpost, and saddle, but otherwise it was in great shape with the original Suntour Cyclone components intact. After some contemplation, I appropriated the Suntour shifting gear for Holly's new mixte, since its Simplex stuff was so awful, and threw the (made in France rims!) budget fixed/free wheelset on the Moto. Local bike mechanic Jon-Marc Eyer cried foul when he saw that I had hipster-fied such a nice bike, but with a name like Jon-Marc, of course he's going to be a French traditionalist.

Appropriately, I used my extra-special French Ideale 90 saddle, which I had been saving for something like this, and suited up the wheels with a brand-spankin-new set of 700x28 Tim Potter edition Paselas. I'll get shit from friend and Pasela dogger Mike Weigand, who trashed them in the newest edition of "Dreamboat Cyclist" magazine, but they're bulletproof for riding our rutted roads, and I have yet to get a flat on a set. The frame is a bit odd as it's got tons of clearance and long-reach brakes to make you think "touring bike," but no rack braze-ons, or even water bottle cage braze-ons! It works great with the fenders though - no toe overlap at all, which is important in a fixed-gear. And now for the pics:

Ideale saddle with extra-rare hand-hammered copper rivets. Rare because the French have long since lost the strength to hammer rivets by hand.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The blues

Holly's Raleigh Super Course Mixte is up and running, which is great. Boy is it smooth, and pretty. It came with a bent fork that has since been straightened, and crummy plastic Simplex derailers that have been replaced by the nice Suntour Cyclone stuff taken from my Motobecane project. I was worried about how nice the frame would be, since online photos can be deceiving at times, and some of these old frames are heavy. Turns out the paint looks quite good, with only a few chips, and most of the stickers are good too, though the Raleigh on the downtube is faded, and Sir Walter on the seatpost is almost unidentifiable. The frame is Reynolds 531, though apparently single-butted, and not super lightweight, a fact the steel rims do not help. Still, it's a big step up from the heavy but beautiful 3-speeds Raleigh was making at the time. This bike was probably fourth from the top of the line at the time it was made, and most likely the nicest women's bike. Some years the Super Course was made in the famous Carlton shop in England, though I don't think this is one of them - the mid-range components and cottered crank don't point that direction, anyways. It has a nice upright riding style, and a sprung Brooks B-66 saddle to match. Holly wants some aluminum fenders and maybe a basket eventually, which will probably look nice. Even as is, it makes quite the bike.

I was hoping to have a his-n-hers photoshoot of the new bikes, but gremlins seem to plague that Motobecane. I've switched the bike to a fixed/free wheelset, and ever since problems abound. First, a tube exploded, which scared the dickens out of my riding friends. That was sorted later, and I got to enjoy the first ride on it this morning to class. It was interesting and I'm not sure I'll take to riding a fixie or not at this point. Upon arrival to school I did my best hipster impression, trying to lock up the rear tire to skid to a stop. The chain broke immediately, and it's a good 1/8" chain too. I'll be a little more careful how I reconnect the chain next time, I suppose.