Monday, August 27, 2012

How to Restore a Bicycle- Part 4: The finished product

Enjoying the fruits of your labor-The fiinished product

I finally got finished with this bicycle restoration. After months of waiting on parts I was finally able to put it together and, here it is. There are a couple of alterations that I had to make from the original state of the bike. The bicycle is now a single speed. The rear Atom hub and rim were so rusted that they were impossible to salvage. The same goes for the front rim and springer fork.

I am very happy with the end result. There is no better feeling in the world than to see something to the finish, in this case, the retoration of this bicycle. Here's a couple of more photos of the newly restored Schwinn cruiser.

Stay tuned for more restorations and tips on how to restore your old bike.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Premium Rush- Movie Review


If you do want to know what happened in the movie or already saw the movie, feel free to read right on ahead. I went into this movie with no expectations, and what I received in return was a genuinely good time. 

This movie's plot goes back and forth between different times of the day, and flashes back and then flashes forward. If you are not paying attention, it's easy to get lost in the plot. For those who pay attention the movie reveals clues as to what happens in succession. 

Wylie, a New York City bike messenger, picks up a package of little apparent value, but it's significance is worth a lot of money on the black market streets. Nima, a hard working grad student on a student visa from China, has made a deal with the Chinese mob to get her son from China into the US. The mob will grant her son gets passage into the U.S and gives Nima a "ticket" or a receipt with high value, that she will need to present as proof that she has paid the ransom price to get her son into the U.S.

This "ticket" is the cause for all the drama in this film. Wylie is assigned to deliver this ticket and runs into a corrupt cop who wishes to steal the ticket and exchange it for it's value on the streets. This dirty detective is into some money problems with the Chinese mafia and has the murder of one of their gang members on his hands. Hoping to steal the ticket to get out of his problems with the mob, this cop intercepts Wylie and a chase ensues. 

This movie accurately portrays the New York bike messenger community as well as the hipster subculture that is prevalent in the Northeast United States. It does make a point that being a messenger is a low paid job considering the high risks involved, and that those who do it are in it for more than the money. I really enjoyed the stunts in the movie, most which where not digitally modified. There was even a cameo appearance of Squid the bike messenger, a local legend that is said to the the best real life bike messenger in New York City.

It also brings into life rivalries that exist in real life among the cycling community. Manny, Wylie's rival in the movie, owns a high end carbon fiber road bike, and demeans Wylie for riding on his old, steel single speed bike with no brakes. Wylie proves to Manny that it's not about the bike more than it is the engine when he races Manny head to head in a race through Central Park. Wylie blows by a group of older cyclists in a cycling club that ride on their very expensive bicycles, acknowledging them as he passes by. Despite the bike snobbery at the beginning, this movie shows that cyclists of all types can come together and put their differences aside for the greater good.

Bike snobbery is a common issue that tends to divide the cycling community. If cyclists of all types, commuter and recreational, were to embrace each other on the road, this would facilitate a given area to become more bike friendly. Just a thought (ahem..Dallas politics), just sayin'. 

Although the plot line in this movie is very similar to Quicksilver, I enjoyed the plot more than the 80's Kevin Bacon acted film. Premium rush is a movie that captures urban cycling for what it is in the 21st century. The dangers and the high risk environment that the cyclists experience might be over-hyped, but there are also real life scenarios and subcultures that this movie brings to light. Check it out, go watch it if you haven't already, and make sure to let me know what you think afterwords.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Premium Rush- Good or Bad for the Cycling Community?

Premium Rush- How does this make us look?

Okay, okay, before anyone thinks I am going to do a negative preview about the only cycling movie in the last two decades, let me just start out stating that isn't the case. I am actually eager to see this movie when it does arrive in theaters. This movie gives us something to think about. There are cyclists of all types: recreational, commuter, and even bicycle messengers. Yet this is the only movie that has come out in a long time that will portray an image to the public about cyclists on the streets. Are they responsible, law abiding people that just choose an alternate mode of transportation? Or are they reckless, suicidal daredevils that will put their lives as well as other peoples lives at risk?

I'm all for a little bit of blockbuster action and scenes where the cyclist maneuvers themselves out of dangerous situations and shows expert bicycle handling skills being put to use. But in all honesty, that doesn't represent all cyclists, not even bike messengers. Some messengers take risks and they end up in hospitals or worse, that is a fact I hope they bring to light in this film.  Just like the Fast and Furious movies brought with them a cult following of souped up street racers, this might also have the same effect on young teenagers or adults just looking for the next big adrenaline rush.  It might raise the sales of single speed or fixed gear bikes with bull horns or tiny four inch handlebars. If people start to act on the reckless behavior of the messengers in this film, this might make things harder for regular vehicular cyclists just trying to get around on the road. Drivers might be more aggressive towards cyclists and cities will not want to support measures to make roads more bike friendly.

It might also have a positive effect. It might bring fresh blood into the cycling market and make cycling cool and attractive to a younger audience. It could raise awareness for cycling and increase ridership, even if it's out of a faddish, in the moment reasoning. Many dedicated cyclists have gotten into it because they thought it was cool. Many baby boomers started cycling in the 70's and 80's when movies like Breaking Away and American Flyers came out. Movies have the power to make something interesting and appealing to a lot of people. They also have the power to portray something negatively to a massive audience. There is much left to be seen, and I can't wait till it comes out in theaters.

Here's a short movie trailer for Premium Rush. 

There are many local cycling groups and organizations that will ride their bicycles to the screening of this film. I hope that the promoters are doing what's in the best interest of cycling and the cycling community. I would have liked to see a movie about bicycle racing or even bicycle touring, like The Motorcycle Diaries but on a bicycle. This is my two cents. Consider this another one of my bike rants.

What do you think about this movie? Feel free to comment and share your thoughts.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Bike Friendly Garland is here!

Bike Friendly Garland, Texas

Although Garland, Texas has a long way to go before becoming bike friendly, there is a group of people who are now trying to change that.

On the outer edges of Dallas and Richardson, with it's wealthier cousins Plano and Allen to the north, exists a city of blue collar grit that has been virtually been left behind in all of the recent developments of the last 30 years or so in North Texas. In this case, left behind is sort of a good thing, because the it's bones still resonate traces of a time where there were more pedestrians and bicyclists on the road. It's downtown area is virtually shut down after 5pm, but you can still see the beauty of what it once was. The old Plaza theater, the hand painted murals on the walls, the mom and pop coffee shops. Surburban Assault even wrote an article about car-centric Garland and the irony that it's downtown was very bike friendly. All roads leading into downtown garland are residential. There is no major freeway running alongside the downtown area. Downtown Garland is in the middle of a city which is landlocked by 3 major freeways and one toll road. For this reason, the term "Garland is Car-land" is regularly used by locals to refer to it's lack of bike friendliness.  But that's all about to change.

Bike Friendly Garland is out there to show that it is possible to get around the city of Garland by bicycle. Among it's group goals are to promote and facilitate bicycle ridership, educate people about the rules of the road and seek support from the City of Garland to make improvements for safer and complete streets. 

On October 28, 2012, Bike Friendly Garland will have it's first inaugural ride to kick off the group and to get the ball rolling on the task at hand. Here is an event flyer from their page with details on when this event will take place.

If you are a north Texas local, I encourage you to show up and give these guys your support. Their task is a seemingly big one, since Garland is a seemingly large city. But if everyone works together, I believe that Bike Friendly Garland will have success in their goals and will have the necessary support to carry them out. My best wishes to Bike Friendly Garland in their endeavors.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Introducing Johnny's Customs

Johnny's Customs- Introducing the Prototype

When I first started my "Transform your Klunker" column on my page, I did not know what direction I was going to go with it. It has given me the opportunity to explore making a few custom bicycles as well as restoring some bicycles to "like new" conditions. I finally have concluded that if I am going to continue doing this as a hobby and maybe as a future entrepreneurial venture I need to give this a name. So, henceforth, I am now Johnny's Customs.
The bicycle featured is a Mango cruiser that I recently wrote an article about.  I took this yard sale find and transformed it into something that you can only find in upscale bike shops in uptown. For those who live in uptown Dallas you know exactly what I am referring to. When I did research on some custom bicycle cruiser designs, I found that there were countless accessories to customize cruisers with. I had to order many of the parts put on this bike online because there is not a large enough demand for custom bicycle accessories where I live. I modeled this bike after cruisers you would typically see in California and Miami. Cruisers are coming back as a fashion statement in cycling. And although they may not offer much in the way of speed and utility, these bikes are fun and a joy to ride. Here's a few more shots of my first custom cruiser.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Cycling and the Environment

We all know cycling is good for the environment- here's why.

Nowadays around contemporary subcultures it is very common for people to do things because it is "the green thing to do".  Whether it is a faddish phase or a sincere commitment to protect the environment, there is a growing awareness that riding bikes instead of driving is the right thing to do. People may not be aware of all the benefits cycling infastructure like greenbelts can have on the local environment. Here's a few concrete reasons why riding your bike will benefit the environment, no pun intended.

It improves the local climate- I can use my own local area as an example of the current state the environment is in. Downtown Dallas is a twin city to the adjacent city of Fort Worth and the smaller cities surrounding it. On average, the daily temperature high in downtown is ten degrees higher than anywhere else in the surrounding area, even Fort Worth. In the last two or three years there has been a resurgence of highway construction projects in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, otherwise known to locals as the Metroplex. At the same token, last year was the hottest summer on record, with over 3 months of temperatures above 100 degrees. Coincidence or the result of deforestation and global warming? That is for the reader to decide. It is a proven fact that where there are no trees and only asphalt and concrete, the temperature is usually hotter than in places where there are parks and greenbelts. Right now downtown Dallas sits on a giant concrete slab. More trees should be planted and complete streets put into use.

Carbon emissions from vehicles is another example of why riding a bicycle is beneficial for the environment. With the deadlock Five O' Clock traffic and the dust in the air from the construction projects, it makes for a very polluted scene in Dallas. There is more of this to follow, as the city has approved yet another highway construction project that will redo all the arterial roads to Dallas, replacing them with new ones. Construction is said to take another four years to complete. All these carbon emissions go straight to the atmosphere. The carbon limit for a sustainable atmosphere is 350 parts per million. There are now places on Earth reaching above 400ppm. The destruction of the ozone layer has caused us to worry about things like the daily UV idex. Skin cancer and other forms of cancer are now more common than ever.  The environment, both locally and worldwide, as well as our health would greatly benefit from a reduced dependence on cars and car infastructure. Let's talk about how riding a bike can also help our overall health.

It improves our health- It's no secret that cycling improves our health and the results even show in our physiques. From reducing stress, improving circulation, alertness, and our emotional health; all these benefits can be attributed to cycling. It is also a great way to fight the obesity epidemic that is plaguing developed countries like the United States. Obesity is a disease that needs to be medicated with exercise, a proper diet and lifestyle. Cycling is a great way to get one of the three remedies to fight this disease. It needs to be complemented with other factors aforementioned, but it may be one of the most important steps in fighting obesity. 

In my own personal experience, cycling is yet to bring me to the peak of fitness or make me a spokesman for fitness in general. I'm still an average guy of average American build. That means, like most American men, I am slightly overweight by Body Mass Index standards with a soft mid section. Not fat, not idealistic, just common. I do realize, however with some adjustments in my diet cycling can get me where I need to be, but it is only a factor in the whole equation.

It improves the social environment- Communities that are accessible by bicycle are more united because of it. When neighborhoods become bike friendly, people interact with each other and they become more personable. In turn, the social environment improves dramatically. This may result in lower crime rates, higher quality of life, and increased entrepreneurship in areas where cycling is more accessible. There are other positive side effects to introducing cycling in a community. The need to close distances between home and the necessities of life will result in the creation of small markets for the community. Whether it's a local corner store or a farmer's market, people will begin to buy locally and grow their own local economy. 

Here's a few good reasons to continue on your journey to become more environmentally friendly through cycling. If you were looking for inspiration, this article may serve to motivate you to get up and going. Whatever the case may be, there are many good reasons to get into cycling.