Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Out with old and in with the new?

"Auld Lang Syne", a Scottish poem written by Robert Burns in 1788, first verse is “Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should old acquaintance be forgot, and old times since?.”

Great for reflecting upon a year gone past for sure! For those of us that relish our attraction to older bicycles, bicycles that have character, history, were built to last. It's a great question also. They are things of days gone by, but still here serving a purpose. Transportation for the masses; and if we got it with out being pushed by $4.00 gasoline, they would be massed for transportation.

But since our society is truly still on a 12 step program from its oil addiction it will be a while before such radical ideas such as reuse and recycle, rework replace throw away, new and improved. I’m not saying lets toss our mp3’s and break out the 33 1/3 rpm vinyls, but there is so much life left in so many old/vintage bicycles! OK, OK, so there are plenty of other really important issues to talk about like solar, but this IS about bicycles!

I have plenty to be thankful for in 2008 and at years end I truly do say to those around me “Aren’t we lucky!” I am thankful that there are plenty of you that wrench life back into old things to make them new again, such as bicycles. I am thankful that there are plenty of you that will return to the streets as soon as the weather allows you to ride instead of drive. I would be even more thankful if only the rest would get it! Get it enough to at least make an effort to cease any unnecessary vehicle use and find another way to move around. As my old buddy Vin form says…It’s the parking, ______!

So to all that do get it, and are actually doing something about it, Happy New Year!

To the rest…maybe we should just say...Bike Me!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Spirit

It was a little after noon time this Christmas Day as my wife and I were walking our dog I saw a very cool thing. A young girl, perhaps about 9 or 10, was riding a bike. It looked very new so I just had to ask, and yes it was a Christmas present! When she answered her face lit up as a child’s face should on Christmas Day. Her Mom running along behind her said with a laugh,”She had to get out and put a few miles on it!”

Now being a stream of consciousness sorta guy, I had immediately had several runs of thought. The only “new” bike I got was when I was about 9 or 10 also. It was to replace the early 1950’s Balloon Tire Columbia I had been riding and had to grow in to. Even though my Columbia out weighed me by about double, and I nearly always finished last in any race, I liked it. Mostly because it never ever broke, the chain stayed on, tubes held air, etc.

My first real new bike was a three speed Columbia with a new fangled twist grip 3 speed shifter (See photo for a close example. Mine was red). Although not exactly what I would have picked out, I was very excited to get this bike, thanks Mom & Dad. However, it lasted about 2 years before the twist shifter broke. Because it was stuck in 3rd gear I had my first “single speed”. It was just easier to just cut the shifter wire off, repairs and parts were too expensive. A year or so later I ended up stripping the fenders off and it was closer to a road bike look that I had only seen in pictures. But that bike served me to delivering the Boston Globe 6 days a week to about 50 homes in my neighborhood. I think I made about $2.00 per week.

It was a couple of years later that I had my first job, dish washer at a local fried fish restaurant. So I got to earn minimum wage, at that time was $1.30 per hour, for washing hundreds of dishes, pots pans etc. all by hand. I worked about 10 or hours per week, so it wasn’t long before I was able to purchase MY very own first bike, a
Mercier. Back in the day it was one of the finest bicycles matched only by Peugeots and other European makers. Boy did I feel on top of the world!

So this past Thursday I had suddenly remembered the great excitement of those long ago Christmas and early spring days. All brought back for a quick minute by a young girl all but squealing with excitement as she put her first miles on her new bike! Who said that the Christmas Spirit was lost?

There are many things we remember, but is there anything as exciting as a new bicycle waiting to take us wherever we want to go? And especially as a child it seemed that the world was open to our travels. I rode that Mercier for the better part of 5- 6 years before I was able to buy my own car. And to put on hundreds of miles per week was normal.

Later in life I rode a motorcycle on many a cross country trip for many years and I have to say nothing can match that except, yep a bicycle. Why you may ask? Because even on a motorcycle you miss things, like the smile of child on her first ride on her new bicycle.

Ride more. See more!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Just Say Thank You

Although this piture is dated 12/25/2005, it has a point, even 3 years later. Santa is a member of the US Army on duty near Tikrit, Iraq (note the huge blast walls behind him). The picture was taken by my brother, a US Army Veteren from a generation ago.

Both are serving, although in different capacities, in a very far away place. Santa is on active duty and my brother is in a civilian logistical and support position. Both have been away for a very long time even since 2005. Both could, at the end of their respective enlistments and or contracts, return to civilian lives. Both choose to stay and serve.

Regardless of anyone’s position on this war, it’s still a war and very dedicated and brave people are willing to go into harms way. The bottom line is that they are all volunteers who willing stand between you and pain no one wants to feel. And they do it with a clear understanding that it has huge costs to them, including possibly takng their limbs and or lives. It really is about service and sacrifice which, in the end, is actually for all of us.

So as we go about our business with our families and friends this Christmas please remember that there are people; sons and daughters, farthers and husbands, wives and mothers, brothers and sisters, in far away places standing on the line for you and me.

If you see someone in uniform please be sure to thank them, show your gratitude for what they are doing.

Peace On Earth, Good Will To All.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Visibility- Survival of the Brightest

The other night (before all the snow) about 7PM, I was approaching an intersection when something caught my eye to my left. I had to look twice, first to acquire the object, realize it was moving and then second to identify what it was. All dressed on dark clothing face covered against the cold was a bicyclist. There was absolutely no lights, reflectors, bright clothing or because of the cold skin showing. Nothing on to help mark this person, just their dark light absorbing clothing. The truth is my wife spotted this person first and I am not sure I would have seen them before it would have mattered. And I think I am very observant and always looking for cyclists.

Now my first thought was, that person is in a dangerous situation, moving about in an urban area at night etc. etc. Then I thought, given the outcomes of many car vs. bicyclist crashes just how unfair was this person on that bike being!?!? I mean even a reflector or one piece of bright colored clothing would be better than nothing. When a bicyclist gets hit by a vehicle it ruins more than the just that bicyclist day.

There are so many ways to improve the visibility of a rider and their bike. It is crucial to be seen as far away as possible to give drivers time to react to what they see, make a judgment and then act. This is especially true during the colder months and winter it is paramount to be seen because drivers just don’t expect to see a person on a bike when it is 15 degrees out and or there is snow on the ground. The use of rear and front blinking lights, side visibility issues, reflective clothing, vests, the list goes on and on! There are many web sites you can
Google Bicycle Visibility for and check out for ideas and products.

Certainly there is no “Silver Bullet” that will protect you 100%, but you sure can increase the odds of NOT getting hit, especially at night. Complacency is cause for more accidents than any one would ever want to truly admit.

Safe Cycling - Act Accordingly..........Cyclist Visibility - 'Survival of the Brightest'

OK, So oil prices are down. Now what?

If you believe that Oil Prices will stay at the level they have been, think again!
OPEC WILL raise oil prices as soon as they can and as high as the market can stand. That is a simple rule of economics. Since it is Saudi Arabia’s(and others) major, if not sole source of income, when the price drops on the world market due to various economic variables it is like you or I getting a salary cut every time it snows here this winter.
So for OPEC to attempt to control the production rates of oil, which directly controls the demand i.e. price, because the demand now out weighs the supply is a no brainer.

So what can we do about it? I mean besides lip service to some broad stroke policy statement made in DC. Hmmmmmm what?

I starting to think about how I could reduce my costs associated with oil. I need it when I need it, heat my house, drive my car, lights etc. but I can reduce it. Turn lights out, change light bulbs out to low energy LED or fluorescent (yes I know there is an environmental impact with all this, but practically speaking) turn the heat down few degrees, and I drive slower when I do drive. Conserve more stuff and make that your life style. And since this about bicycles, use one more often than I have!

Yep, if we all demanded of ourselves the behaviors that we might be asking Government to do there would be fewer problems to solve. Behaviors that would directly put a huge dent into our need for OIL and might make it a far less of an issue in the overall picture. Too bad a few US auto makers didn’t get the message earlier, things might be brighter in Detroit this winter for all those associated with that industry. But alas it is human nature to take the path of least resistance. Won’t make you richer, stronger, or smarter, but it is easier.

This past week’s ice storm in the Northeast has forced the example of what is like to live without electricity, from a few hours to days and looks like weeks in some places. Imagine for just a minute, what it would be like to have that even more wide spread and for longer periods of time. Use your imagination because in this new world we all live in, with current events, economic and other wise, it’s not all that much of a stretch as it might had been say when gasoline was .50 cents a gallon.

So that visceral reaction to $4+ a gallon of gas will be back, maybe not at $4+ but $3.50 is not bargain either.

Ride more, save more!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Who are those Bike Guys in the Basement?

We were kids who grew up in a time and place that there were very few “rich” kids. And of those that were really rich, very few acted like they were. The fact is we are products of parents that grew up and lived through the Great Depression and came of age during WWII had cast us in a likeness of them as best they could. We were told to “make do with what you have" and "make your own fun” and “go outside and play.” Yeah, Yeah, you heard it all and that we walked to school up hill, in the snow, both ways. We are “Boomers”. OH my, we have a label…

So what does this have to do with us and bicycles? First, we did make do with what we had, or if we wanted something we got a job, paper route, mowed lawns etc. and bought it ourselves. Because, as a matter of fact, most parents in those days thought it wise to teach their children about money through the use of practical lessons. You earn it, save it, and then you will understand the value of it when you spend it. When something broke, you fixed or it sat there and maybe it got thrown out if you didn't. And when you worked the better part of a whole summer, at minimum wage, to save say $100, you just didn’t go buy the next best version of a something because v. 2.1 was newer and had cool new colors. So we have had our hands on bicycles for many years, learning something new almost every time.

Ok, so now we leap forward a few years to 2008. With all the headlines today, 2 wars, the economy, huge wild swings of oil prices, etc. reviving the old ways of making due with what you have, etc. just might be a great “new” way to live. Now mind you we have seen Nouveaux Rich spend like a CEO of a Big Three Auto Maker on a Junket to Washington DC during those Dot Com days. I am not advocating any life style over another, but the great throw away society we have evolved into, has got to slow down or else there will be nothing left to throw away and no where to throw it. Just because it’s not in your back yard doesn’t mean it's not in a back yard someplace else.

With all that could happen in our immediate future, not even to mention Global Warming, it has now become a very good thing to use a bicycle. And it is all the better if you can find one that has been around the block a few times before. We think it is very cool to find and rehab something that has a history, a story of moving people around perhaps over the very same streets some 20, 30, 40, even 50 years ago. To be perfectly clear, we like and deal with not so old bicycles, too. Newer bicycles have the advantage of newer technology and are great rides also! They have a place, and we carry some old school road bikes up though some fairly new rides. With us it just preferences, like one might have with food, drink, the opposite sex or say... bicycles. It is all good, just some are better than others, according to preference.

But to preserve something as if we were caretakers or guardians of a lifestyle, or place, or thing, in my opinion, is more than the right thing to do. It’s noble, in a way like helping an elder across the street, a lost child find mom, picking up a piece of trash off the street. If you think about the use of bicycles, especially in an urban setting, it is just so right. Bicycles are all that and more. Even if the parts are all used up there still is a frame, a skeleton to base a new ride on. Not just to produce a cool single, fixed, or whatever. But just how about just paying it forward?

Why do we do it, well I joked that “…you can only surf and drink so much beer…” well ok, maybe not. The truth is this bike stuff is great fun. Fun to help out with all that is above, and turn a wrench, get hands dirty, meet literally hundreds of like minded folks every month from all parts of the human constellation. The learning goes on.

We, Vin of ( ) fame and I (Shawsheen) have had a great first year in our Cambridge retail shop. You have made it what it is. A small funky place, right off the Green Line T Stop, where you can find a good used bicycle, vintage or not, from about $80 to $250. Are the bikes all perfect in terms of paint, decals and finish? Nope, but I can tell you this. The bikes are all realiable commuters, just like the people who come in here to buy them. And that is the absolute truth.

Monday, December 8, 2008


OK, so for the first entry here I agonized over just what to write about. I thought about how important it would be to set the tone and draw readers in for their exchange of ideas comments etc. I thought about how it would be important that I write about who we are, Ed (Shawsheen) and Vin ( the bike guys at the a Cambridge Antique Market. What we are doing with this project etc.

Then it hit me…like “Dawn on Marblehead”.

I would like to introduce this blog to whom we hope to reach. That would be you! And just who are you? Who is it that comes to the Cambridge Antique Market and purchases used and or vintage bicycles? Who is it that will ride a bicycle 300 out of 365 days per year or every weekend or to the store three times a week? Who is it that sees a used bike as an opportunity to recycle something that already is one of the greenest manmade things, or just someone that likes to save a dollar rather than spend nearly what was $4.00 per gallon of gas. Although, we all like to think that we are very different from one another, you do have a few things in common. How can we say this you ask…? Well we have literally met hundreds upon hundreds of you and these are some of the things we have learned.

You are often an under grad, grad or some other type of student in some shape or form. You are here in the great Metro Area of Boston/Cambridge/Somerville etc. to pursue a world class education. OR, you are a professional working in this wonderful urban area that is host to so many possibilities for incredible work opportunities even when the economy is in free fall. OR, you are a hard working person that is enjoying all that this area has to offer in way of the arts, music, sports and you most likely take part in it all yourself and an artist, ball player or musician. OR you live here because you want to, not because you’re passing through for what ever the reason. You love the drastic contrasts of the region culturally, its weather, its landscapes and all that which make up this place we all call home.

A few more observations are: you like inexpensive transportation and feel good about that when you use it. You appreciate form AND function when they are combined, as they are with bicycles. You appreciate things that are well made. You appreciate being green, not just talking about it and you probably are not one to brag about it either. You appreciate being healthy, as a matter of life style. You appreciate that you can take a 20, 30, 40 year old item that has a lot of use left in it and make something new of it again. You appreciate the fact that for most any given day, you travel faster and more efficiently than all those vehicles you share the road with. You appreciate riding your bicycle because is down right fun and it makes you feel more like the urban dweller that you are. A part of this living breathing urban space we call home.

We would like to say thanks for chatting with us when you come in and letting us know who you are!

We hope that Bike Me Blog, among many things, will be an exchange of practical information that is both entertaining and informative.

Next week. Who are the bike guys in the basement at the Cambridge Antique Market?

I’d like to have you all come up with a saying that includes Bike Me in it that we might use to end this blog each time!

Hit the comment button and give it a try!