Tuesday, June 9, 2009


One thing I enjoy when riding is the greater engagement one has with the world than in a car. The richer sights and smells often allows me to make observations about a locale than I would whilst motoring.

Today, I set out on my Fuji America to run some errands. As I proceeded down a neighborhood lane, I noticed a set of keys in the roadway. I stopped and picked them up. Evidently, they had been run over by several automobiles. Were I driving, I would probably would have been included in that number.

Using my incisive deductive skills, I walked up the steps to the nearest house. The owner was home and thanked me for finding his wife's keys. How she managed to either get into the house or drive off in her car without her keys will remain one of life's little mysteries.

Just a little feel good story on a bright summer day.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Run What You Brung

Following the wisdom of readers of this blog, I went with their choice, my 1980 Fuji Gran Tourer, to enter in the 2009 Le Cirque du Cyclisme.

The morning, very early morning, of the event, my son and I saddled up on the Gran Tourer and trailer and headed out for Leesburg, about a 42 mile journey. Mrs. Otaku declined to join us, but did prepare some of her special cycling onigiri and other treats for the boys.

We headed down the Capital Crescent Trail and crossed the Potomac at Chain Bridge:

The Potomac is still a pretty untamed river, one is always surprised by scenes like these well inside the Capital Beltway:

We eventually hooked up with the W&OD Trail and started a 30 mile slog out to Leesburg. A lot of folks rave about this trail, but I find it pretty charmless. Most of the way it is accompanied by a lot of power lines. Admittedly, in Fairfax County, it goes through a few quaint town centers, but the banlieues of Loudoun County are a dreary progression of indistinguishable townhouses and McMansions that are much more "mc" than "mansion".

A bit after 10 a.m., we pulled into the parking lot of the Leesburg Best Western, the purported location of the event. This parking lot was suspiciously empty and after querying somebody with a bike rack, I discovered that this day's events were being held at the Loudoun County Fairgrounds, another six miles or so down the W&OD Trail. This had the effect of putting the day's total mileage just a smidge over 100 miles, which is a pretty good workout with a trailer full of 5 year old boy, onigiri, and other sundries.

We finally arrived at the Fairgrounds and chatted a bit with the lady selling tickets. She seemed amazed that I had ridden all that way (her words..) in unremarkable shorts, tee shirt, boat shoes. For those interested in such things, boxers, not briefs. She then posed with our rig:

We then rode up and into the large structure housing the show and swap meet and right up to the administration desk. I asked the woman in attendance if I could enter my bike. She appeared a little suprised at a ride in wanting to show, but after inquiring as to the year of manufacture said it was fine. After some discussion, we entered the bike in the "open" category, 1974 to 1980.
We unhooked the trailer, which the admin folks graciously stowed behind their desk and put the bike on display.

So here it is, my Fuji Gran Tourer on show:

We didn't win or place on anything, but I had a number of discussions with interested parties and some quite generous comments.

I ran into Sam Day and his s.o. Rak (sp?). Sam is now the owner of what used to be my Trek 620 and is keenly interested in vintage bikes/parts:

Sam helpfully pointed out a set of Suntour Cyclone track pedals on sale. I've been after a set of these for a while, so even though they were a little rough, I picked them up.

As one would expect, there were gobs of beautiful bikes. One that I particularly liked was this Bilenky mixte:

This is a Colnago sheathed in leather with snakeskin embossing.

There was a booth where this sort of leather was on sale should one want to give one their own bikes a similar treatment.

I handed the camera off to my son to take some pictures. He showed a distinct interest in the back of saddles:

And flashy wheels/components:

Around 3 pm, we called it a day and started the trek back. We stopped for some soft serve ice cream at the Herndon DQ and made it home in time for dinner, Mrs. Otaku's shabu-shabu.

Overall, a very fine event, well worth attending if one is afforded the opportunity.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Some Help From My Friends

Earlier today, I put up a post about the upcoming Le Cirque Du Cyclisme this coming weekend in Leesburg. I described how I intend to ride over for the show/swap meet on Sunday and shared some of my agonizing about whether it would be appropriate to even enter a Fuji into a show that is lousy with the most coveted vintage French, Italian, and other euro bikes.

Later in the day, while riding my Gran Tourer, pulling the trailer carrying my little boy home from a hard day at kindergarten, I continued to ponder this, and finally decided that I couldn't decide.

But I did decide to rely upon the wisdom of the readers of this blog, so I've put up a little poll to the right asking which bike, if any, I should enter in the show, or if the whole thing is just plain wrong.

To recap, my America and my Gran Tourer are the only two that are in a condition to ride the 40 miles each way to the show, so those are the only options. In principle, I could get the Del Rey up and running by this weekend, but it really isn't a special enough model to warrant this. In a heroic effort, I may be able to get the Finest going, but I'm still debating some aspects of that build.

So it is the America, the Gran Tourer, or just leave well enough alone.

Here is the Gran Tourer:

Here is the America:

Thanks in advance for any input.

The Circus Is Coming To Town

So who is going to Le Cirque Du Cyclisme?

Formerly held in North Carolina, the event was moved last year to Leesburg, Virginia, a short 40 mile ride each way from my home. Indeed, it is mere feet from the Leesburg Loop, a quite nice ride I take whenever I am able to trick Mrs. Otaku into doing some miles on the C&O towpath (she despises this...).

For informational purposes, this event is an outgrowth of the Classic Rendezvous mailing list, the venerable and rarified gathering place for the most discriminating vintage bike connoisseurs. I used to keep tabs on this back when I was still a campy-phile, but since moving downscale a little, I pay less attention to it.

Nonetheless, it is so close to home and so chock-full of the finest european drool-ware.

Unfortunately, I missed the event this year, but I'm pretty determined to make it out Sunday for the bike show. The weather currently seems promising for a ride out there (and back..) and my schedule seems clear, no birthday parties for any of Otaku Junior's friends. I'll probably ride either the Gran Tourer or the America. The Mondia is much more to the style of the event, but this bike isn't shaken out yet.

Plus, I like the idea of adding a little vintage Fuji to the stew should I decide to enter my ride in the show. The high end America is a little more congruent with Le Cirque than the distinctly working class Gran Tourer, which would probably be one of the few entries with a derailleur claw. On the other hand, I'm quite enchanted with the Gran Tourer's ride and the customizations I've done on it.

But I don't want to be a spectacle or the object of derision. Maybe I could enter it as a "Fucci".

Anyone else going? If you want to meet on Sunday, look for the guy with some sort of Fuji and possibly a trailer, small boy, and Mrs. Otaku in tow.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Living With 35s

Followers of this blog will recall that I recently built a new set of wheels to which I mounted 35mm Specialized Armadillo Nimbus tires. These are the widest tires I've ever had on a road bike. As I age, it seems that my tire size and waistline are slowly increasing....

Over the past several days, I've had the opportunity ride on the new wheels a number of times, including a trip out to Tyson's Corner from my home in Silver Spring, which is about 40 miles round trip. I've been keeping these inflated to about 75 psi.

Overall, about what I expected. The ride is markedly more comfortable than higher pressure and narrower tires. The gravel path that forms the beginning of many of my rides is much more comfortable. Rolling resistance is noticeably higher - I can easily detect this coasting down familiar downhills. The bike does not accelerate as sprightly. However, none of this is objectionable for the trade off in comfort in short to medium length rides.

Bottom line - this seems to work for what I intended, a comfortable set of wheels for daily use. Given the higher rolling resistance, were I going on a longer trip on good pavement, maybe more than 50 miles, I'd probably take the time to swap the wheels to a set with a narrower tire.

Or maybe just pump these up to their max pressure of 100 psi. Perhaps that is my next experiment.