Saturday, August 29, 2009

Temporary Interruption to Bike Bag Project

I know a lot of you are anxious to see how my saddle bag turns out, so I wanted to let you know that my project is temporarily on hold until our current very warm weather passes. About the last thing I want to do of an evening is sit with a heap of wool on my lap. I think it's supposed to be cooler in the next few days, so I'll probably get back to it soon. Never fear.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Bicycles in the Kibbutz

Our friend Yanek of bicyclog in Israel has just posted a lovely photo essay of bicycles on a kibbutz.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Making a Saddle Bag, Part II

Boy, I had no idea so many people would be interested in my inept efforts to put a saddle bag together! Things are going slowly, but so far, so good. All I've done since my last post is cut and position the four plastic panels (cut from two cheap three-ring binders) that will form the front, bottom, back, and top of the bag. The sides, with their own plastic panels, will be what actually gives the bag its shape.

In the photo below, I've just pinned the panels into place, but last night I got two panels fully stitched in. I'm using what my wife tells me is a backstitch, which she showed me how to do. I started off pretty slow, but by the end of the evening, I was getting much faster and more confident with my stitches. Once the panels are all sewn in and all the pins are removed, the bag will finally start to take shape as I begin the process of attaching the side panels to the body of the bag.


Making a Saddle Bag, Part I

Can I Make My Own Saddle Bag?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

New Blog: Bike San Diego

Calling all San Diego bicycle bloggers, riders, shop owners, advocates, enthusiasts, and anyone with an interest in sustainable urban development! A small group of San Diego bicycle bloggers has just launched a new site called, appropriately, Bike San Diego. Drawing inspiration from sites such as BikePortland and Streetsblog, the primary mission of Bike San Diego is simple: to provide a one-stop source for bicycle-related news, events, and advocacy in America's Finest City. This is an all-volunteer effort at citizen journalism by and for bicycle riders in metro San Diego and San Diego County. is in pre-launch status right now; the site is up and content is flowing, but the editors are accepting suggestions from the community as the site takes shape. This is your site, riders of San Diego, be the change you would like to see in the world and help us provide content that is relevant to you! Please send your comments, suggestions and tips by filling out the Contact Us form at

Monday, August 24, 2009

Monday Pet Peeve

I think it's just coincidence that these things occur to me on Mondays. I came across a reference to "casual" urban bicyclists today and it started me thinking about how much I hate that word when it's used to refer to people who don't ride for sport. Just because I don't have a racing bike, wear lycra, or clip-in to my pedals doesn't mean I'm "casual." Sure, I ride for fun sometimes (it's always fun, after all), but I also run errands and do all of our household grocery shopping by bike. It certainly doesn't feel casual when I'm grinding up a hill with 30 lbs. of groceries in my baskets, and that's really not the word I would use to describe my assertive lane-taking and hyper-awareness of my surroundings while riding. Non-competitive? Sure, I'll own that. But casual? Hardly.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Making a Saddle Bag, Part I

Here we go. The first thing I did (this was weeks ago) was to take some rough measurements of the original bag (I'll post them in a wrap-up post at the end of the series) and translated that into a paper mock-up. Why did I do this? I'm a visual learner, that's why. I needed to know that this was possible, physically in space. Whatever, that's how I think.

Then, after I picked out some fabric, I disassembled my paper mock-up and laid the pieces out on the fabric to cut out the pattern. I cut approximately a 1" seam allowance around each piece. I'm double-layering the bag, so I did two cut-outs for each piece seen below. The small pieces that would have been the side flaps for the top have not been cut out yet, but I'll come back to that later.

At this point, I decided that I was going to need to incorporate some sort of stiffening material, since the wool itself was too floppy. I decided on the flexible plastic cover of a small three-ring binder, cut to fit. I am stitching this stiffener between the layers of wool on the two side panels as well as the front, bottom, back, and top flap of the bag.

Below, I've sewn the stiffener into the two side panels and then pinned the side panels to the piece of fabric that forms the front, bottom, back, and top flap. I did this so that I could get an idea of what size I need to cut the rest of the stiffener panels. I'll do four separate panels: front, bottom, back, and top flap (although I may just triple-layer the top flap so it's not too stiff). In the photo below, I've stuffed the bag with napkins to give it some shape.

What I discovered in the process is that the top flap seems to be a bit too short. I think to fix this, I'll cut one single piece that will be sewn to the top flap, and that will run around the sides and front and overhang just a bit. If that's not clear, I think it will be later on. Anyway, so far, so good.

Previously: Can I Make My Own Saddle Bag?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Bike Entrance

A very nice photo of my 1955 Huffy/Raleigh Sportsman by Adrienne of Change Your Life, Ride a Bike! Thanks Adrienne!

Cottered Crank Appreciation Society

I really like cottered cranks. The more I work with them, the more I like them. Maybe it's the contrarian in me, but I like that they are considered antiquated technology, and I like that most bike people have a low opinion of them, or don't have a clue about how they work. I like that they're slightly more complicated than they need to be, and I like the fact that they are also ridiculously simple. I like the collection of esoteric knowledge and the little tips and tricks that you pick up about working on them.

I've had three running conversations lately about working with stuck cotters and other finer points of cotter extraction. This, along with more experience, has made me want to update my "how to" posts about cottered cranks from last year (I'm not even going to link to them because I don't think they're very good). I'll be doing a new series of more detailed posts in the near future, but in the meantime, you are welcome to join my new Cottered Crank Appreciation Society. Our motto: "Oil it, clamp it, whack it."  

Monday, August 17, 2009

Can I Make My Own Saddle Bag?

I have no idea, but I'm going to try.

This ratty old nylon saddle bag came with my 1955 Huffy Sportsman and was probably originally supplied along with the Huffy's Taiwan-made saddle to appeal to American consumers who wanted the look of an English 3-speed without the cost, or who perhaps just didn't know any better.

Being the thrifty fellow that I am, I just cannot bring myself to hand over $100-$130 for an imitation leather saddle bag made by Brooks, and even less willing to pay almost $400 for a real leather one. And the bags at Velo-Orange and other places, while perfectly lovely in their own right, are just not what I'm looking for.

I'm using the old bag to create a pattern, and I've already made a mock-up out of paper. Over the weekend, I bought a yard of a nice, tweedy-looking wool remnant at the fabric store ($3.98) and I'll track down some leather and buckles to make straps.

I will disclose readily that I have zero sewing ability, although I have had some experience bodging together split seams and popped buttons. I will be trying to do this completely by hand, without mechanical aid. We'll see what happens.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

An Analog Mind in a Digital World

I don't blog about blogging much, but it seems the OBB is getting noticed lately by folks who would like me to take advantage of their services to make my blog better. I usually get a few press releases and solicitations, but not many. Lately, however, I've been contacted by the very persistent folks at the health site Wellsphere, who want to add my blog to their listing. I think it's weird, since this isn't a health blog at all.

I've also been contacted by people at feed aggregation services, who want to make it easier for potential readers to subscribe to my posts. Apparently, I'm supposed to provide them with a description of my blog so that people know what they're getting before they sign up for a feed. Here's a thought: read the blog before you sign up! That way, you'll know what you're getting. Anyway.

All the attention has made me think for a moment about how and why I run this blog. I guess I think of it more like a self-printed newsletter. Instead of printing and stapling thousands of copies and handing them out at the grocery store, I'm putting it up on the Interwebs and letting people find it. Based on the number of times the OBB comes up in my own random Google searches for old bike stuff, it seems like the right people are finding me (right people = those who find my posts either useful or interesting).

So I guess what I'm saying is that I'm not going to exert any effort whatsoever to increase my readership, but I'll just keep electronically handing out my little newsletter outside the virtual grocery store and figure that folks will either read it, or throw it away as they see fit. It doesn't bother me one way or the other. That being said, however, I'm also psyched that almost 90 people are now "following" this blog through Google. I like having readers because it means I must be providing something worth reading, but somehow it seems disingenuous to me to actually pursue means to increase my readership. Anyway, if you've made it this far through this Andy Rooney-esque post, you're probably one of my regular readers, so I guess I'll just close by saying thanks for reading.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Oh Portland, What Will You Think of Next?

Sometimes I really wish I was back home in Oregon. Okay, well all the time, but stuff like this makes me want to be there even more.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Monday Pet Peeve

The word bike is derived from the word bicycle. The "bi" part indicates two (as in wheels), while the "ke" evokes the hard "c" in cycle. A bicycle is a human-powered, two-wheeled vehicle. A motorcycle is not a bicycle, and thus is not a bike. If we followed the same etymological logic, a motorcycle would be a moke, not a bike. Allowances will be made for the word motorbike, which is acceptable. That is all.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Reader Project: Guiseppe's Vendor's Tricycle

Friend of the OBB, Guiseppe (whose 1973 Schwinn tandem was one of the first Reader Projects) recently sent me photos of his new project, a vendor's tricycle of unknown make and vintage.

"A few days ago I found, beside a dumpster headed for the trash, a fixed gear vendor tricycle. Looks like it was once used to sell ice cream. The vending box is completely rotten, but the frame and all the bike stuff are great. Dirty, a bit rusty and in need of paint, but nothing I can't manage. A good friend of mine is a carpenter, and we plan to build a whole new unit for the front."

It looks like an amazing project, and I hope we'll be seeing some after photos soon.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Rediscovering the Value of Repair

Our local newspaper, the San Diego Union-Tribune is pretty much a waste of time. Most of the time. Today, they're running a story headlined: "If it's broke, many consumers fixing it." Ignore the grammar, the content is actually okay.

But what the U-T misses in their story about saving money by repairing, rather than replacing broken appliances, household items, shoes, etc. is the experiential value gained by doing simple repair jobs yourself. Of course, this is not something our culture as a whole is very comfortable with. Doing your own repair is often seen as demeaning, a waste of time, or just downright impossible. The attitude, "why should I do it when I can pay someone else to do it" still prevails, even in tough economic times. It's an incredibly priviledged attitude, and it's deeply engrained in the psyche of American consumers.

My advice is to just try to do your own repairs. Start small on something with pretty low stakes. Fashion a new handle for that box fan whose original plastic handle snapped off years ago (that's what I'm about to do), gain some confidence and move on to something bigger. The point is not only to save money, but to gain something more valuable: independence, competence, creativity, and pride in your work. Even if it's just a box fan handle, making something work again in a world that often seems broken is no small achievement. If anything good is to come out of this bad economic situation, it's not consumer confidence, it's consumer competence.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Blog Love: The Mixte Gallery

Boy, it has been a while since I did a blog love feature. What better way to get back into it than by promoting a new blog by an OBB reader. The Mixte Gallery, run by our friend Doohickie, delivers what it promises, and it needs your mixtes; or photos of them, at least. Not sure what a mixte is?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Old is the New New

While I've been taking some time away from blogging, I've been getting emails from a whole bunch of people with old bikes. Some are from readers who want to share photos and stories about their bikes, which I love, while some have been one-liners: "how old and/or valuable is my bike" -- which I hate. Short answers: "I don't know" and "not very."

But anyway. So, I guess I'm back to blogging now. Here are some old bikes from readers. Enjoy!

John's 1969 Schwinn Racer, 1974 Schwinn Breeze, and 1977 Schwinn Speedster:

And Wayne's 1970s Fleetwing and 1964 Raleigh Superbe:

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Time for Tweaking

The OBB is undergoing some design/cleanup maintenance, so please bear with any temporary irregularities in font, layout, etc. Comments will not be affected.