Monday, October 25, 2021

A Milestone

This blog just reached a milestone - and I missed it!

A couple of weeks ago, apparently, I hit 3 million visits to The Retrogrouch

Understand that I'm the kind of person who gets a little kick out of seeing my car's odometer tick over a big significant number - like hitting 50,000 or 100,000 miles. I had one old car that turned over from 99999 back to 00000 (I doubt anyone born after 1975 will remember when odometers only went five figures before rolling over). I was stoked about that one for months. Yeah - I know - I'm kind of a dork.

Anyhow - I knew I was getting close to 3 million, but forgot to check for a while, then this morning I looked and saw that I'd missed it. Oh well. I should also point out that, on the scale of the internet, there are probably bloggers and other sites that reach those million-visit-milestones every few months, not years. 

Still - The Retrogrouch Blog may only be small taters. But they're my taters.

I first posted for this blog in August, 2013. I didn't know how long it would last, and I'm sure I never thought I'd still be writing it 8 years later - though admittedly I don't write or post nearly as often as I did back then.

Over the years, it's interesting to note, that the three most consistently popular articles in the blog's history were posted within the first 6 months since going online. Number one was a post about Tange and Ishiwata frame tubing, number two was on Bike Fit Then and Now, and number three was about the Bridgestone XO-1, a bike that still has something of a "cult-like" following. Month after month, those articles will still attract new readers, and occasionally generate new comments.

If I had to pick some favorite articles, I might pick the series I did about the American bicycle industry - and its shift from manufacturing bikes in the US to "designing" them here, and importing them from Asia ("Designed in America"). That one was in four parts and took a lot of research. I thought (still think) it was a pretty good history. I also enjoy the articles that explored vintage bike safety films or other educational materials - most of which would more likely convince people they'd be much safer not riding a bike at all. I long ago covered most of the bike education films I could find or had copies of, so there hasn't been a new post on that subject for a long while. But I had fun with those ones, being that they combined my interests in education (as a teacher), film (I teach a film class), and bikes.

I also enjoy looking back at articles about some of my vintage bike projects, documenting the process of taking a frame - possibly getting it repainted - and building it up like new. Those projects are very enjoyable to me, and covering them here in the blog, with pictures and descriptions of the process, is a great way to remember them. Some of those include my Expedition, 753 Mercian, and most recently, my Sequoia. I also covered the process of building bikes for my daughters (here, and here).

Well, now that I've hit 3 million, the question is, can I make it to 4 million? Hmmm. . . 

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Rolling Coal - Open Season on Cyclists

If you want to kill someone - and get away with it - it would be hard to find a better way to do it than to get the person on a bike and run them down with your car. 


Maybe so - but statistically speaking, it's very unlikely that a driver who injures or kills a cyclist will face any jail time, and in many cases may not even be charged with a crime.

There's a pretty egregious case of this brewing currently in Texas - where a teenaged driver of a big modified diesel pickup truck ran over about six cyclists while attempting to harass them by "rolling coal." For those not familiar, "rolling coal" is what they call it when these neanderthals modify their diesel pickups to spew noxious black clouds of smoke on demand, and they typically do it to their perceived "enemies" on the road, including Prius drivers, suspected "libs," and (of course) cyclists.

I had a brief article about it some years back, including a cartoon of sorts:

In this case in Texas, the 16 year old driver came up on a group of cyclists who were out on a training ride, pulled alongside of them, then hit the gas to drown them in his smoke. According to witnesses, he'd run down at least three of them before even attempting to brake. Several of the riders had to be life-flighted to the hospital with serious injuries, ranging from broken vertebrae, collarbones, hands and wrists, as well as brain injuries, cuts, bruises, and road rash. Many of them required surgery. Thankfully none of them died, but there's no question that they all have a long hard recovery ahead of them - both physically, and psychologically.

The teenaged driver's parents showed up at the scene, the boy was questioned by police - and then let go. This happened on September 25th - and as of today the boy still has not been charged with anything. The district attorney of Waller County, where the crash occurred, has insinuated that the police have mishandled the case and may have given special treatment to the driver because of his well-connected family's prominence in the community. The police chief denies any special treatment, but local cyclists claim that there is a long history of animosity towards cyclists by courts and law enforcement. The story is still being covered by Houston area news, and recently made it into Bicycling Magazine as well. (Links to Houston Chronicle, Bicycling)

Stories like this one just drive home the point that cyclists are frequently marginalized - and targeted - and that justice can be hard to come by.

A friend of mine used to say that it was not enough to assume that drivers might be inattentive, inexperienced, or clueless - he just took it for granted that drivers were actively trying to kill him - and rode his bike accordingly. I used to chuckle at that advice - but these days I can't help but consider them wise words.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Saddle Relief

Well, I finished my test period on the Brooks B-17 Imperial, or "Carved" saddle. I'd put several thousand miles on the saddle in that time, but when the year-long test period was over, I was actually glad to swap the saddle on my commuting mule. I took it off and replaced it with the Brooks C-17 I had been using previously, and it was a relief.

The C-17 saddle's top is made of rubber and fabric bonded together. Its look is somewhat more "modern" than the B-17, but the "feel" is similar. I find that it more or less "disappears" under me, like a good traditional B-17 (without the big hole in the top). I chose it for my commuter because it is more of an "all weather" saddle - more impervious to occasional rain showers.

The "carved" B-17 Imperial is supposed to relieve perineal pressure, but I hate to admit that I never got used to it. If anything, I felt that the big hole in the top led to more pressure - not less - and chafing. Even with padded riding shorts, I could feel the edges of the hole "digging in." I had hoped that it might get better as the saddle got more broken-in, but the sensation never really went away.

If someone is still tempted to try the Imperial, I'd recommend taking out the laces right from the start. Unlike regular versions of the B-17, the lower skirts on the Imperial are laced together from the factory, which is a trick people will use to firm up the top of an old saddle that has gotten too soft and saggy. But on a new saddle, it seemed to be overkill. I used mine as it was shipped, with the laces, for at least 6 months, and it made the top feel way too solid, as if it would never break-in. I eventually removed the laces, which allowed the top to flex more. It helped, but I could still feel that damned hole.

In the end, I'm just going to say that the regular non-carved B-17 - and also the C-17 (which has a similar width to its all-leather cousin) - are pretty hard to beat. Even if someone has concerns about "perineal pressure" I think these saddles - if properly set up for height and angle, etc. - will provide a lot of comfort, making the huge hole in the top unnecessary.