Saturday, November 17, 2012

Pedaling With My Old Man

Riding a bike with my Dad
Family. Never take them for granted while you have them around.
That's your's truly on the far left, with my Dad next to me.

Growing up I would get comparisons from people all the time saying how much I looked like my Dad. "You're the spitting image of your father!" I would hear people say. Growing up I never liked being compared to my Dad. Now I hope I can half his stamina when I get to be his age one day.

His name is Carlos. He's 52 years young and has an affinity for cheap sunglasses. My dad has been a hard worker all his life. He worked in the shipping and receiving department at a pharmaceutical company for over 20 years before being laid off as a result of corporate downsizing and moving the whole plant to Singapore. So now he spends his days going on long walks in the park, up to 14 miles at a time. He is also exercising for his health. He has recently been diagnosed with diabetes and high blood pressure, a common problem among many Latin Americans, young and old. He keeps his ailments in check by staying active. In his younger days, my dad was a bottomless pit. He could eat an eat and never gain weight. Unlike my Dad, it takes very little for me to put on the pounds. A couple of weeks without continual exercise and  I'm looking at my scale 10 pounds differently. Not my Dad. He was blessed with a high metabolism, which is only recently starting to slow down a little.

Today we went on a 20 mile bike ride around White Rock Lake, in Dallas. The old man kept up pretty well in the 1971 Schwinn Suburban that I lent him. Together we looked like the Dallas chapter of a Puerto Rican Schwinn club. It felt good to stick out like soar thumbs from all the Lycra and carbon that surrounded us. I think we were the only two people on the lake riding old, steel bikes. Anyway, it felt awesome being different in a good way.

Growing up my Dad, my brother and I used to do a lot of outdoor activities together. We would play basketball, go for hikes in the woods, and ride our bikes around town. Now that I am older, I appreciate him even more for still being there for  me and making himself available to go for a bike ride occasionally. As time goes on, loved ones and people that you hold dear start to go their separate ways. It's important that you take the time to show you how much you love that person by spending time with them while they are still around. As I get older I am starting to know my Dad more and more. Although I have known him all my life, I have never known him as an adult. His company comes at times where I could really use a friend and a familiar face. My old man is very appreciated in this point of my life right now, and I am not ashamed to say that.

I would like to do a ride in tribute of my Dad, and to raise awareness for Diabetes and hypertension among Latinos. I am thinking of a ride across the Lone Star State. I am going to need funding and sponsors for this endeavor. If I can get the money together I will be able to do this ride.  I will need to pay a camera crew to document this as a bike film, get navigational equipment and be able to recover the time off work I spend on this venture. If you would like to donate to my cause, check out the link on the sidebar of this blog page. With your donations we can make this happen. I will also be the first Puerto Rican to attempt long distance bicycle touring in the United States. Again, thank you in advance for  your donations to my page.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Winter Projects

The 2013 Lineup of Vintage Bicycle Restorations

Winter Projects to keep me busy this winter and into next year

As a self tribute to my bicycle restoration career, I have purchased the next four bicycles I plan to restore and permanently own in my stable. Each bicycle will be a labor of love and will take considerable amount of time to restore to their former glory. When they are finished they will be showroom worthy and some will be very valuable. Here's the lineup of bicycles I have set aside to work on this winter.

The first bicycle I have in mind to restore is this 1970's Peugeot UO8 touring bike. I comes equipped with Mafac "Racer" brakes, cottered cranks and a rear rack, which I may or may not replace. This will be my first project tackling french dimensions on a bike. I have found replacement decals on eBay for this bike, so I definitely plan to get it powder coated in a forest green or cream finish. The decals they sell are adhesive vinyl and can stick to the powder coat finish. I plan to remove all the rust and high polish all the chrome pieces. Once finished this bicycle will be the envy of all retro-grouches that gaze upon it. It will look like it was pulled out of a 1950's french post card. 

 Next on my to do list of bicycle restorations is this Raleigh Tourist DL-1 roadster bicycle, made circa 1976. This bicycle will realistically take me at least six months to buy and replace all the parts for. I got it at a bike swap for $50 dollars along with some other random parts and accessories. For anyone who knows anything about these bicycles this is an extremely rare find in the U.S. This bike features a 3 speed Sturmey Archer internal rear hub and rod lever brakes. It also comes with westwood style rims, although in this case I purchased this bicycle with the original front rim having been replaced. I plan to cut no corners on the restoration process, as correctly restored bicycles like this one can obtain a value of over $1,000 if sold to the right buyer. Although like I said, I don't have any plans to sell it. If anyone has one like this and has restored one already, please drop me a line in the comments section with tips and where I can find parts for one.

Anyone recognize the bicycle above? This is a 1979 Schwinn Le Tour, the same exact model and size I restored and powder coated yellow. This is the same bicycle that is featured in the heading on my blog. It's also in almost the exact same condition as the last Schwinn Le Tour that I restored. Surface rust has seized the bicycle on the outside. I am not too concerned though, as I have tackled projects in much worse shape. I love the way these steel frames ride. Once fixed up and dialed in these bicycles can keep of with a pack of Sunday bicyclists on much newer bicycles. They also make comfortable touring and randonneuring machines, as readers of my blog already know.

Last but not least is this circa 1982-1983 Peugeot PH10s road bike. This bike comes in pretty light at 25lbs and can probably be set up to run a 7 or 8 speed freewheel or cassette. Which begs to question whether I should do a full modern upgrade on this bike, brifters and all. I am definitely contemplating a metallic powder coat finish on this bike. I could also do a period correct restoration and see if I'll be able to reuse the simplex derailleurs, which are plastic, and the wheels, which are missing spokes. The all chrome fork has a big gash on it, possibly from being leaned against something or some heavy piece of industrial equipment falling on it. This bike will be sitting in my garage until I can figure which will be the most appropriate way to restore it. I will say this, however, that once restored this bicycle will be fast. 

All of these bicycles are tailored to my size, and I feel very fortunate to have run across them. Funding for these projects is pretty low right now, so this undertaking may be on hiatus for a little while. But stay tuned for a lot of how to articles, with new information that other sources may not have. 

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Sunday, November 11, 2012

The simple life- As it pertains to cycling

Living simple in the wake of corporate downsizing, and
how this relates to cycling

In the past week, the greedy, inhumane actions of some major corporations have left tens of thousands of people without work. In my area alone, one major technologies employer laid off 200 of it's employees, among them even some of my friends. Many are once again hitting the job trail trying to figure out if they can afford their current lifestyle or if they will have to lose it all and start over.

There are many theories as to why so many companies have been laying off, cutting full time hours and benefits from their employees. Fear over the introduction of a national health care bill, a "fiscal cliff" which is probably bad news for rich guys getting tax breaks, and even college educated Puerto Ricans (like me) that are starting to catch on about taxation without representation, and finally wanting to do something about it in their commonwealth are all current events some say have encouraged corporate downsizing.

Whatever the reasons for the job losses, these actions are wrong and whatever goes around comes around. I hope any pompous jerk who's laid off a bunch of people and is reading this takes that into heart. In the end, we need companies that can invest in their workers and in the economy of this country. So if you're going to high  tail it to Asia for the cheap labor then don't bother coming back. Take your goods over there as well and figure out how to sell them. Companies that keep making their employees suffer aren't getting away with much this time. People are used to being unemployed or underemployed, so they'll deal with it. In return these companies are basically falling on their own swords so to speak.

"Keep it simple" has been my mantra since 2008, when the economic crisis hit and I was fired two days after returning from my honeymoon. I had to learn how to hustle and teach myself to not have such lofty standards when it came to work. In the time it's taken me to get back on my feet I have worked as  a photographer, bicycle mechanic, sign installer, and even built furniture on call of an office once. I have also worked in  the medical field for two years reading and interpreting electrocardiograms. All this in only four years. I just did what I had to do. Let me tell you it's been a blast and an adventure at the same time.

Many young couples and young people who live on their own acquire debt. This can come in the form of student loans, car payments, or expensive housing. When I was in my early 20's, the loft lifestyle became popular. My roommate and I bought a futon, and we would spend a lot of time browsing the IKEA catalog for more contemporary furniture to dress our apartment with.

Still, our rent was low and we could afford it. I have personally witnessed many young people who find a nice paying job, move to the fancy, "arts district" side of town, ornate their lofts in IKEA furniture and buy a brand new car without even having worked at the job for a year. They do all this only to get the pink slip later. Then they are pulling hairs out trying to figure out what to do. 

Again, I say keep it simple. Buy a car in cash or buy it used, if it's even necessary to own a car. If you live two miles from your grocery store, your gym, your church, a bike lane- do you even need a car? I don't think so. Ride a bicycle instead. That will save  you potentially $800 a month in travel related expenses. Riding a bike is not for poor people. Its for smart people that keep it simple.  There is also the added side benefit of getting in shape and getting to avoid all those doctors visits later. More money in your pocket my friends.

A savings account is the best credit line you can have. If you deposit $50 a week into a savings account, you will have enough to fly to Germany in six months. Trust me, I have done it myself. Ever have a low balance on your account? Just transfer some money from your savings. No need to ask anyone for a bailout. There are some people who just aren't able to save anything. That's understandable, but for if times get better a savings account is the way to go.

Without complicating this issue of deep thought too much, I hope this article serves as a encouragement for those who have recently lost their jobs. To those of you who have lost your job I would like to say this; grow your local economy. I have yet to see a grocer in my residential area. If someone started a small chain of grocery stores that targeted residential neighborhoods, they would hit the jack pot. Zoning laws are outdated and are designed around suburban sprawl, time to do away with those too. Maritime, cabotage trade laws that prohibit exports from U. S territories have to end. For those of you who are unemployed and are visionaries, there is still a lot of options left and a lot of  untapped markets or markets that don't even exist yet. It's up to you to make it happen. Hustle my friends, and don't be afraid to roll up your sleeves and get some dirt underneath your fingernails.