A Year On Two Wheels

In late August, 2011, I bought my wife an Electra Townie single-speed bicycle and myself a Trek Navigator 1 so we could ride together on the streets of our quiet neighborhood.  Surprised and happy was I when my wife immediately took her bicycle for a ride the afternoon I brought it home.  She does not much like exercise activities or the idea of exercise for its own sake.  For my own part, I immediately began to ride the streets of our neighborhood trying to figure out a circuit that would cover every bit of distance without doubling back on itself that included some of the subdivision’s gentle uphill grades.


Just outside the neighborhood there’s a bike path that runs maybe a couple of miles, total, and I pretty soon started riding out on it after making circuit within my subdivision.  Gently rolling hills were at first a challenge, but not for very long.  Regarding the bike path, too many pedestrians upon it for safe travel – they naturally assume it is a sidewalk (although signs declare it a bike path), so I started riding in the street.  But before getting out on the street, I bought a bike helmet – a pumpkin-sized Bell Faction that made me look like Bob Dole (or sillier) in a tanker’s helmet.  Prior to that, I’d been riding around in Stepford Country Club hat my grandfather had had for probably 40 years – with the brim turned up all the way around.  I looked way, way, way cooler in the country-club hat than anybody has ever looked in a bicycle helmet, but the thought of brain injury and the various Rancho Levels decided me in favor the helmet.  I started riding to worship services.

I pedaled all winter in all weathers because a) my skin is pretty much water-proof, and b) I need exercise all year round and much prefer strenuous, outdoor activities for all around fitness and health to those practiced indoors.  I bought some cheap winter cycling tights from Sierra Trading Post, and wore under them the polypropylene long-underwear I purchased a hundred years ago when I lived at Portland, Oregon, and also with some hand-me-down fleece and winter running togs I already had.  With a Planet Bike rear rack and SKS fenders, the Navigator was a great winter ride – with a couple of drawbacks.   First, the so-called comfort seat isn’t really comfortable at all after one gets used to riding – it impedes full leg extension on the downstroke.  Second, the bike fat tires and wide wheels make for a stable, predictable, but generally slow ride.  I got to the point where I wanted to cover longer distances in less time and wanted a larger range of gears.


My friend, Eric, gave me his 1985 mid-range Razesa bike with Esge rack, Triplex panniers, Stronglight crankset (with lock-tight fused on English pedals), Shimano 600 rear derailleur, Weinmann brakes and rims, etc, Simplex downtube shifters, and 12 speeds.  I gave him a kayak I hadn’t been using, although he’d asked nothing in return for the bike.  I’ve changed the bike some, but it is a great bike on which I began taking 15 to 20 mile trips regularly.  I got the bug for a road bike in Selma, Indiana, during the fall/winter months of 2011 when I rode a 1979 or so Raleigh Grand Prix and thought it was pretty cool, even though I didn’t understand how the gears worked.  I’d been unable to ride bikes like that when I was a kid and had a Schwinn Stingray – the gears didn’t make sense to me and I had zero motivation to figure them out since we were all basically ruining our Stingrays to make “moto-cross” bikes out of them with different handlebars, seats, pedals, and so forth.  What a revelation about 40 years later to find that the bikes we’d always termed “derailleurs” were interesting enough to put my mind around and learn to ride.

When you’re new to something, you tend to take advice from people who seem credible.  My neighbor, Charles, a long-time bike guy with a shed full of relatively high-end bicycles, cautioned me against clips and clip-less pedals saying a number of people he knew broken collarbones using them.


One of the problems with the ancient Spanish bike – a bike shop somewhere had loc-tighted English threaded pedals onto French threaded Stronglight crankset, so that when I wanted to use a different set of pedals on the bike, it was impossible because the ones it came with were fused on at the threads.  So, in addition to learning about threading, cranksets, and other oddments, I got a Shimano 600 Biopace crackset so I could use different pedals (Shimano 600 because the bike’s rear derailleur is Shimano 600 and it was what my local mechanic recommended) but the Biopace cranks were just an oddball bonus.  At least that’s how it turned out, in my estimation.  Probably the best thing I did early on was replace the many years old Michelin racing slicks with a set of Continental Gatorskins – a great, puncture resistant tire.


The Razesa’s quill-stem was almost fused or rusted into place, but once it came loose, I was able to raise the handlebars sufficiently that when I was also able to raise the seat, likewise nearly rusted in place, I was able to ride with much greater comfort.  I eventually replaced the goofy-looking and pumpkin-like Bell Faction helmet with a similarly priced, more typically goofy-looking Specialized helmet with better adjustment features.  I bought some bib-shorts and a cycling jersey marked-down at Amazon and Sierra Trading Post, respectively.


Wanting a little bit heavier bike that I could take on long rides that involve camping (if I manage to find suitable racks for it), I bought an even older Miyata 610.  This bike’s frame is larger – maybe 58 centimeters – than the Razesa (56 cm).  I took it for a six or seven mile test ride at Louisville, Kentucky, before buying it.  The bike’s condition, the manufacturer’s attention to detail, and the fact that I’d read about this model bike for a month and a half decided me on it over the Ross Gran Tour of similar vintage with complete curlicue Shimano 600 groupo that the seller, Michael at Old Bikes Belong, also had on hand.

Christov 1

Back in mid-September, when I started writing this post, I’d participated in my first long bike ride.  Long for me was 50 miles of the Highland Rim Bicycle Club’s Elk River Century.  A friend and I signed up for it.  Hills like the land had been accordianed in a car wreck.  That’s me in the picture above riding the Razesa through part of Moore County.  We got rained on hard later in the day.  Back in July I wore the same silly-looking outfit while riding the same bike through Indiana farmland in triple-digit temperatures.  While at the farm, my father-in-law gave me the 1974 or so Raleigh Sprite he’d had in Honolulu (as evidenced by the bicycle license plate hanging from the seat).  It’d been in one of the barns for probably 20 years.  The tires held air when I pumped them up and I rode it around a bit in the drive.  It’s in my garage now, in pieces, awaiting the powder-coater’s attention.  Day before yesterday, Saturday 6 October, I broke out a pair of winter tights and rode about 15 miles through the cold-seeming Fall drizzle on the surface streets of some of Stepford’s more uppity neighborhoods.

Miscellaneous Thoughts for Wednesday


Yesterday evening, after a family bike ride with the Trek Navigator, I took the Razesa for a short six-mile ride at dusk.  As I cornered while moving quickly and had to quit pedaling hard to make the turn, I imagined I could feel the chainstays and seatstays flexing slightly as I rode.

Last night I corresponded with a bicycle restorer about a 1978 Trek 700 series with Campagnolo Gran Sport group.  I have been really interested in Bruce Gordon’s Taiwanese manufactured BLT, and Carl Strong’s “Personal Blend” as touring/camping bikes, but at this point balk completely at the prices charged for these bicycles.  I’ve seen pictures of the Trek 700 series set up for touring, but they’ve got a completely different, Suntour, group (and I hope I’m using the term, group, correctly meaning drive-train, brake whatnot, seatpost, and headset).  The Trek’s probably a 10-speed, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a problem considering I don’t make full use of the 12-speeds my Razesa’s got.

I’m still fully enjoying the Razesa bicycle.  Frequent, even short, rides have helped me keep the weight off and clear my mind.  I do want to get out in a kayak more this year.  It’s been about a year since I last paddled.  The Pionier 450-S sits under a tarp in my garage, and I need to dust it off and look it over, maybe this weekend, to make sure it’s ready to paddle.  Then inspect the gear in the boat-shed and get it packed and ready.  Once that’s done, it’ll be easier to load up and head out on a whim.


Last week, while at Gallatin, I worshiped with Reformed Baptist congregation in a part of town bypassed by commercial-strip or residential splendor, and it was good to spend an hour or so with other believers.  Here at Stepford, the Reformed Baptist congregation with which my wife and I have worshiped for probably five years or more, has been and continues to be an oasis of biblical sense and real theological inquiry for me, as well as source of good fellowship.  Although it has another official designation, I think of it as Ziklag Baptist Fellowship more than I do as Stripmall Church.  It is wonderful to have no target demographic beyond the elect God sends our way, even though sometimes I wish God would send more.  There is something glorious about maintaining, for as long as we can, a Reform witness in the metaphorical steeple-shadows of several “First Churches.” 


Every minute with my family is of greater worth than all riches.  We are grateful for God’s happy providence and humbly rely upon God’s sovereign and sustaining will.

Heart, Quiche, Pedals, Crankset, Seat


Last Tuesday I spent the morning working at Murfreesboro, and took a lunch break there, instead of back at the office where I had a lunch in the refrigerator that I’d brought from home.  Four generic fig-newton cookies, a quarter cup of trailmix, and a sandwich.  The Barnes & Noble Starbucks’ café at The Avenues mall had a Mediterranean quiche with feta, spinach, I-don’t-know-what-else.  I had that and their largest house coffee.  The quiche I ate was about three-quarters the size of red brick.  It sat in my stomach like a red brick for the better part of that day.

Square Quiche

About 3:45 am Wednesday morning, I awoke with severe pain, like I imagine it would feel to have push knives stuck into my back, just left of my shoulder blade, as well as two more in my chest at solar-plexus and top-left chest.  Then, my jaw, teeth, and temples began to hurt.  I took a couple of generic Tums but couldn’t get a belch out.  Took some baking soda mixed in a glass of water, produced a belch, but experienced no relief.  I took an aspirin on the off chance that it was a heart-attack.  The jaw pain was entirely new, as was my inability to get relief from antacid treatments..  I lay down, but couldn’t sleep.  After about an hour, I was able to get to sleep.  I felt better in the morning.

I’ve eaten a lot of quiche over the years.  My wife makes an excellent vegetarian quiche with either zucchini or yellow squash.  She’d made some with yellow squash earlier in the week.  Wednesday evening for supper, because I obviously cannot be taught, I had a piece of leftover vegetarian quiche.  Within an hour and a half, I again had the same symptoms as I’d had early that morning.  I tried the same stuff I tried earlier, and again, no relief; but I was able to fall asleep.



In the morning, I felt better and went to the office.  I called my doctor and he opined that I should betake myself to a hospital emergency room.  Family history, being awakened by pain, pain in jaw, teeth, temple, etcetera; he suggested that I check in to the ER of the hospital in the town where I work, but although they’ve got a new building, it’s the same lousy hospital with the same lousy standard of care – I’d rather seek treatment at Pizza Hut.  My doctor suggested I drive to Middle Tennessee Medical Center, a Saint Thomas hospital, at Murfreesboro.

“Okay,” I said, “I’ll get it done today.”

“I would do it now,” he said.

I finished up what I was doing and went.

MTMC seemed staffed, from admission to cardiologist, with courteous, efficient, concerned, and competent professionals, as opposed to the two other hospitals I mentioned above that seem staffed by people who’ve gotten in to trouble in other places and can’t find that kind of work anywhere else.

By the end of the day, everything had checked out fine:

  • Triage EKG – good;
  • Vitals – good;
  • Bloodwork – good;
  • Chest X-ray – good;
  • More bloodwork – good;
  • Non-nuclear stress test (running uphill on the treadmill at the end of 10 minutes) – good

The cardiologist came in while I was tucking in to the meal I was finally served about 3:00 pm said all tests indicated what I experienced had nothing to do with my heart but was, as I suspected, a confluence of odd symptoms resulting from a change in diet.  I don’t think I’ll be eating quiche, or anything comprised largely of cheese, any time soon.  And I’m going to make sure we’ve got some baking soda in the cabinet.


Friday I fastened a trunk-rack onto the back of Thursday, my 850, and tied the gold Razesa road bike to it.  I was hopeful that Luke, Stepford’s premiere bike mechanic, could get the old pedals (which were on pretty tight and resisted initial attempts to loosen them) off the bike so we could install the new MKS Lambda pedals that arrived earlier in the week.  But when I arrived at Luke’s house after work, he was not there.  I left him a telephone message and picked up a couple of pizzas for supper as my wife’s parents were scheduled to arrive for a weekend visit.

Luke called back after we’d eaten, and my father-in-law and I took the bike back over there.  Luke had ordered a couple of beefed-up-looking pedal wrenches, and with me holding the bike down with my approximately 173#, he attempted to remove the drive-side pedal.  No joy.  Using an extender pipe, he easily lifted me up trying to loosen the pedal.  He eventually removed the crankset and stuck the drive-side in a vice and very nearly tore the vice out of his workbench trying to remove the pedal.  Again, no joy.  Luke said he’d put the bike together in the morning; my father-in-law and I went home.

In the morning, Luke telephoned saying he had one more thing he wanted to try.  Upon arrival, we found he’d built a simple jig, but needed us to again hold down the bike.  Again, we and the bike were lifted off the ground, but the pedal’s connecting nut or whatever it is that holds it to the crank remained unmoved.

Sadly, but with a bike I can still ride because it has intact pedals, I returned home.  I took with me an Italia racing saddle to try out on my Trek Navigator, because by about the fourth mile of my early a.m. Saturday ride, that bike’s wide “comfort” seat was pretty uncomfortable.

Because the Razesa has a Shimano 600 rear derailleur, Luke suggested I attempt to find a two-ring Shimano 600 52/42 crankset for tapered bottom bracket because it might be compatible, although he suggested a smaller ring sized 39 instead of 42 to facilitate hill-climbing.  There’re a lot of hills at Stepford.


The Razesa’s crankset has no big, obvious logo markings, but at Luke’s house Saturday morning we were able to discern the marks I have reproduced, below:


Very faintly, on one of the cranks, I thought I could make out “glight” left behind by a decal long since worn-away.  I Bing-searched (because I’m boycotting Google as much as possible) the word-fragment and the information above and found reference to a French bicycle part manufacturer called Stronglight.  Here’s what I think happened with the pedals on the Razesa’s crankset:

  • Stronglight crankset is threaded according to the French way of these things that was compatible with the bike’s original pedals, a set of narrow Iberia’s Eric included in a bag of stuff when he gave me the bike
  • Eric said he bought the pedals currently on the bike after buying a pair of cycling shoes too large for the original pedal/toe-clip arrangement
  • The new pedals were probably purchased in the U.S., and are threaded according to the U.S. custom in regard to things like pedal threading
  • The new pedals, threaded on to the French cranks, did not seem sufficiently tight-fitting to make for confident riding
  • Whoever installed the new pedals used loc-tight and a lot of torque to horse down on the pedals when threading them on again, and the loc-tight plus force, plus friction/heat fused the aluminum of the pedals to the aluminum or whatever alloy of the cranks

I’ve exchanged emails and spoken by phone with Michael Carroll of Old Bikes Belong at Louisville and he has a double-ring 52/42 Shimano 600 crankset for square-tapered bottom bracket.  Michael confirms the likelihood of my hypothesis, above.

I’ve located a Stronglight crankset that looks several years older (due to its clunky styling) than what’s on the Razesa, but I’m not sure that’s what I really want.  Anyway, the Stronglight’s probably again got that French threading that would make installation of axe-head pedals problematic.

It would be nice to have a smaller ring better for hill-climbing, but I really do like pedaling downhill at 45 – 50 mph using the large ring.  I may phone up the Rivendell Bike guys and ask up about their souped-down crankset, dunno yet.

Later:  I called the 800 number on the Rivendell site and spoke with Kevin, to whom I must have sounded like a boob because I don’t use the vocabulary of an experienced cyclist.  It’s got to be difficult in a customer service capacity to rapidly assess over the phone based upon fragment-sentence utterances the relative cognitive ability of the person you’re talking to who is trying to communicate but is not doing so using the jargon of one’s particular area of expertise.

The upshot of what Kevin had to say was yes, the double ring crank setup Rivendell sells will make hill-climbing a lot easier and will essentially be like riding the smaller ring I’ve already got (42, theirs is 40) with an even smaller ring to shift down into (I think, 32).  That kind of bummed me out because riding downhill fast on the Razesa’s smaller ring means essentially a lot of coasting, whereas the larger ring (52) allows for pedaling pretty much all the way down most of the hills at Stepford I’ve pedaled.

The other thing Kevin gave me to think about is that before I buy a cransket (and he confirmed that I can change out the chainring sizes on a given crank) I need to determine the threading on the Razesa’s bottom bracket – Italian or English, and there’s no easy way to make that determination short of removing the bottom bracket and looking for some tell-tale markings thereon.

I’ll give Luke a call to see if he noticed or recalls which it is.


I think it was Sunday morning that I removed the comfort seat from my black Trek Navigator 1.0, figured out the seatpost clamp device that held the seat to the post and got it clamped down on the Italia racing seat.  A “flat seat” Luke called it.  Installed on the Trek, the seat looked pretty cool.  Below are a couple of pictures I took after a short ride last night:


I think I’m going to keep looking for a more comfortable seat.  To the good, with the small saddle, I was able to pedal faster and felt much more in control of my bike while cornering.  That said, I had a different kind of discomfort after three miles with the new seat.  I’ll try it out on a couple of more rides, but I’m thinking maybe a used mountain bike seat would work better.

January 2012

My maternal grandmother would have been a hundred years old this year.

I recall that when I was a kid, I used to imagine what it would be like to live past the year 2000.  Turns out it’s a lot different than what I expected; so far, so good.

October 2011

I had a job interview on the Umpteenth Floor of a large, downtown buildingg.  Back at the office, I worked it out, and the expense associated with the job for which I interviewed would have required many more dollars per year to make the change worth the difficulties, in terms of travel and parking, worth my while.  On the other hand, the thought of working with the people who interviewed me, capable and intelligent people for whom I respect, held appeal for me.

I’ve tested for some other jobs and have more testing to get done.  Hopefully, soon, I will have found other employment.  Sad thing is, I thoroughly enjoy the work I do and am pretty good at it.

November 2011

This past Thanksgiving we spent at my wife’s family home with her relatives, and had a pretty good, if very brief visit.  The kids enjoyed tractor rides and combine rides, running around the inside of an empty grain bin, climbing on gravel piles.  I went along on these activities to keep an eye on my young son and take pictures for my wife’s scrapbooks.  I snapped self portrait; I look less misshapen in the Plexiglas reflection than I do in real life.  Funny how that corrects for asymmetry of feature.


December 2011

Early in the month my wife’s parents stopped over on the way to and from a visit with friends and family in a couple of neighboring states.  My father-in-law and son spent some time on a cold day riding around in the driveway.  Here’s my father-in-law on the Trek Navigator 1.0 I bought in August.  This was taken before I got a set of SKS fenders with mudflaps for my birthday and a Planet Bike rear rack for Christmas.


December was an eventful month.  Ron, employed longer by may agency than probably any other person at the time, retired.  Ron’s the guy who taught me how to witch for water, about synthetic motor oils, in addition to being the one person I respected enough to let use my office as a hallway from time to time and who, when he flared up at some ass-hatted thing I said or did, I listened to without anger.  Our unit misses him, and I am grateful for his participation in my real-world education.

The weekend of Ron’s retirement party, my family celebrated the birthday of one of my favorite relatives, a cousin who resided in the town where I work and with whom I visited pretty regularly.  The day after her party, she took ill and was transported to the local hospital where she died early the following morning.  The week after that, I marked another year closer to my own half-century.

Last Christmas Eve and Christmas Day we spent at home with friends and part of my extended family.  On the day after Christmas, we again traveled to my wife’s family home where we remained about a week.  My son and I threw snowballs at each other, he made snow-angels and kicked the little snow-men I made for him to destroy.  We had a good visit.  While there, I rode a 40 year-old Raleigh Grand Prix and really liked it.  I started thinking about buying a really old, really cheap road-bike pedal longer distances than I can reasonably cover in limited time on my Trek Navigator.  My son (not yet four years of age) enjoys making pictures with my camera when he can get his hands on it.  He took this and other pictures of things of interest to him –



2011 was a bad year for paddling.  I think I may have canoed and kayaked about six or seven times, if that.  My son’s old enough to really miss me when I’m away on a Saturday or Sunday, I’ve had family obligations to fulfill, my summer was busy with deadline work, I had trouble with my E-68’s hullskin fitting properly on its frame and wanted to throw the kayak into traffic or burn it.  I guess, mostly, time spent with my family is more important to me than recreational activity away from them, although I do still need solitude.  I skipped congregational worship less in 2011 than any year in recent memory, probably because I have really enjoyed being a part of the small congregation.  Smart people, real theological discussion and teaching of the sort that character in Fiddler on the Roof imagines he’d have if riches were his.  Lately, I’ve started “teaching” a secondary Sunday School class.


I’ve mentioned elsewhere, maybe in this space, that I’ve enjoyed bicycling more than almost any other fitness activity because it’s something I can do right from home; I don’t have to load up a bunch of gear on my car and drive some place to bike.  It doesn’t sound like much, but I’ve been pedaling about 25 – 30 miles a week.  Several times I’ve ridden to Sunday service.  Probably the greatest distance I’ve biked in one day has been 12 or so miles.  Takes a long time on my bike.  I’ve ridden whenever I’ve had the chance, whatever the weather.  I bought a couple pairs of cold weather cycling tights.  I got bicycle clips to keep my cuffs out of the chains when I pedal in jeans or sweats.

Here’s a picture of my bike that I took today at a local nature preserve.  Bike needs cleaned-up, and maybe I’ll get to it this week.  That rack bag is a Zefal that came with an apparently out of production seat-post rack – both in nearly new condition for $10.00 from the local bike mechanic.  The rack on the bicycle is a Planet Bike Eco Rack, the fenders are SKS, and the lights are Blackburn Flea USB rechargeables.