Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Well… Finally

As my prayers have been answered, I wonder if that means God does exist? Someone has finally made a decent garment bag for cyclists. Years ago, I knew a friend who rode to work, year round, through rain, sleet, hail, snow and whatever other crap floats over Lake Ontario to dump on Toronto. She rode in cycling gear and changed at work for her corporate job. She carried her fashionable office wear in a garment bag, slung over her shoulder like a giant messenger bag. Meanwhile, I too rode to work, wearing the same street clothes I wore at the office. Fortunately, I work in the software industry and as such I could wear whatever I wanted. Thus it was fine that I ruined many a pair of cheap Gap jeans or even worn out Levi's – well, it wasn't fine and every time I snagged the right leg of my trousers into my chain, or rubbed a tire against my beige corduroys, I cursed, loudly. I went so far as to carry an extra t-shirt but that was it. I really didn't see any great solutions for transporting fine clothing (not that I own any) on a commute. Today, I ride a bike with full fenders and chain guard to lessen the ruining of jeans, but it still drives me crazy that I would require a rack and full sized panniers to carry a change of clothes and shoes but still not be able to carry a suit jacket to work - or anywhere for that matter.

Hector and Marnie from the BBC series The Hour

Then one evening, I spied with my little eye, the answer I had long sought. It was in an episode of BBC's The Hour. The main presenter on the news program, Hector Madden, is brought a fresh suit by his wife Marnie. She delivers said suit in what appears to be a military duffle bag that is in fact, an ingenious rolled garment bag. A furious Web search resulted in finding many very cheap tri-fold garment bags. The only one of any real quality from Victrinox had all the charm of a Hartford, Connecticut layover and cost $300 USD. It looks fine for the traveling business man but I'm no Willy Loman. I still wanted something suitable for cycling.

Enter Henty. An Australian company that has created a contemporary garment bag designed for cycling commuters or as a small carry-on with room for a suit, sundries and even a pair of shoes. While I still might pine for something with the classic look of a Filson or a Herschel duffle, or even the great looking Abingdon bag from J. Crew (though I question it is as tough as it purports to be), I don't know if any of them has the ingenuity, compactness or affordability of the Henty Wingman. At just under $200 it's not cheap, but still well under the Victrinox, the Filson or J.Crew garment bags all of which look too bulky for cycling in any event.

I'm become a proponent of purpose-built products over anything hybrid (though I am fascinated with "convertible" transformer-like stuff) and I think that's why I'd prefer this Henty bag. The only question is do I order one now or wait until the end of April when their American store comes online? Also, I'm planning a trip to the UK in August for a wedding, and I'd really like to bring my bike to do a week of riding. This bag might solve some of the logistics of packing for a bike tour and a wedding.

UPDATE: A prompt reply from a Henty rep assures me that I should wait until the American site is up, but to ensure supply not for speedy shipping per se. Additionally, the Wingman will be a slightly newer, shinier model. Can't wait. I even have a new credit card to use (after yet another card was compromised during online shopping – can't Jack Dorsey fix this?)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Pappa's Got a Brand New Ride

After a bit of humming and hawing ("hawing"? Is that right?) I decided upon a simple, affordable, no bells and whistles Fuji Bikes, Declaration – like the one pictured above. It's a no-fuss single-speed 44/16 set-up that will be my day-to-day ride. So yes, I'll add a rack and fenders (and a chain guard when I get around to it) which will remove any urban cool it may have had. They sell them in a variety of colours with fun coloured tires and rims but my goal was to get a simple bike that didn't break the bank and didn't call attention to itself. The only thing I didn't really like are the super-grippy handgrips and the brakes, which I'll adjust to my liking. I like the diamond frame, and that is lighter than it looks. In general, I like riding more upright but the geometry is good enough that my toes don't strike the front wheel in a track stand stop. Okay, I can't do that, but on my Specialized bikes and even my 1980s Bianchi road bike, that is a problem when stopping to yield at an intersection, and it's always bugged me. I'll be picking it up this week (not sure why I didn't just take it on the spot – I had other errands to do).

If you're interested in testing some of these, in Toronto, Bikes on Wheels in Kensington Market have plenty of sizes in stock (I tried a 54 and a 52 and a 48 cm model was on the floor) and at $525.00 CDN it's as good a price as you can expect for a new bike. It remains to be seen how long the finish on the chain and gears will last – I'm generally suspicious of painted chains and cogs.

UPDATE: I don't know the "why" or "how" of this, but just felt the need to report that my new Fuji is not to spec - rather than being a 44/16, it's actually a 46/17. This stuff matters to some people - I still plan on getting that front cog knocked down to 42. I understand from the Twittersphere that the 65-year-old Erik Speikermann rides a 48/16 set up. Should I worry that a man 20 years my senior rides a higher geared set up than myself? Maybe, if he were like, French or something. But he's not, he's German, thus stereotypes would have us believe that he probably enjoys more forms of self-punishment than others.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Everybody Pays

It was all over the Internet/Twittersphere about Washington State Rep. Ed Orcutt arguing in favour of a tax on cyclists because they create more CO2 than driving a car.

Apparently he's already apologized for his "over the top argument", thus simultaneously admitting he was wrong and stupid. 

Why Orcutt made the completely insane response to such a basic criticism in the first place is curious. The term knee-jerk reaction comes to mind (at least I know I'd like to knee this jerk) but he clearly thought about the (nonsense) argument thus indicating how little thought he can execute. I never get why drivers get their hate on cyclists anyway? Cyclists don't add to congestion or traffic woes, don't use fuel thus don't drive up demand or price on it and they don't damage roadways the way other traffic does. If anything, city buses are always pulling into traffic, damage the roadways and are noisy and slow. As a cyclist, I fear buses as vehicles with huge blind spots. Not that some cyclists don't ride badly, but really no more than drivers or pedestrians.

Also, where does this notion come from that "drivers pay for the roads" so no one else should use them? Elderly ladies who only drive on Sundays pay for roads; that kid with the part-time McDonald's job pays for roads; In fact, anyone who ever paid any tax, regardless of use "pays for roads"! Drivers pay tax on gas they use, maybe they pay a quarter on a toll, but most infrastructure is paid from the general pot of tax dollars. In fact, every single time someone suggests drivers actually "pay for the roads" with additional tolls or congestion taxes, drivers flip out.

Everyone pays for roads, but only a few think they own them.