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My bikefor a month: The Checker Pig, in front of the Hotel Raskolnikoff.

My bike, for a month: The Checker Pig, in front of the Hotel Raskolnikoff. It’s the one on the right.

By the grace of Zygote Press, the Ohio Arts Council, and the Grafikwerkstatt, I find myself in Dresden. Located in the former GDR, along the Elbe river between Berlin and Prague, Dresden is a city of a little more than half a million people, thriving in Germany’s post-soviet reunification, with businesses filling the shops and enough government involvement to keep it all running beautifully—at least it seems that way to me. But I’m getting off track. I’ve got five weeks here to carve wood blocks, set type, and make prints. And right now I want to talk about the acquisition of a bicycle.

Dresden is a terrific cycling town. Bikes don’t quite rule the streets: that honor must go to the excellent municipal tram system. But there are an awful lot of bicycles rolling all over the place, and plenty of shops. You see people of all ages, and bicycles of all kinds. That phrase used by American bicycle advocates—”we’re not holding up traffic, we are traffic”—seems completely unnecessary here. No one honks at cyclists.

The day we arrived, jet lagged and exhausted after about 35 hours traveling (curse the layovers), we walked around the early 19th century Neustadt, or “new town.” This is the neighborhood left standing after the war, a tight cluster of 4-story buildings with first floor shops, lining narrow, cobbled streets, all run down during the Soviet era, but still standing, then taken over by young people, including lots of squatters and entrepreneurs. As we passed one of them on the day we arrived, a city official giving a tour pointed out a shop where I could buy a used bike and sell it back at the end of my stay. Sounds good. I figured a city bike or a mountain bike—something with slightly fat tires to manage the cobbled streets and tram tracks.

I’ll spare you the details of prices, of second hand shops, co-ops, and rental shops, of stores closed on Wednesdays, or in the middle of the afternoon, of which take credit cards and which would not.

The long and short of it is that after two days that included all of the above, I went—still bike-less– to hang an exhibit of my prints with three other resident artists—Ellen Price from the US, Anna Garberg from Sweden, an Nicolas Sphicas from Greece. The show is in an old firehouse converted to a gallery, the Alte Feuerwache Gallery, in a slightly swanky

The Alte Feuerwache Gallery, at Fidelio F. Finke Strasse Number 4, which the Endomondo sports tracker tells me is just under 5 miles from the Hotel Raskolnikoff.

The Alte Feuerwache Gallery, at Fidelio F. Finke Strasse Number 4, which the Endomondo sports tracker tells me is just under 5 miles from the Hotel Raskolnikoff.

neighborhood called Loschwitz. And as I described my adventures to the gallery manager Hans-Peter, he said “I’ve got a bike back in the shed. Why don’t you just take that?”

Sheds the world over have the same musty smell, and the same kind of chronologically layered organization. For a person who cares very much about bicycles to be confronted with that smell and that style of organization at the hand of a generous person attempting to help out a visiting artist, the situation is precarious, indeed. “What, exactly, might I get myself into behind that wooden door,” I said to myself. This could be absolutely any kind of bicycle, in any condition, I knew. But one doesn’t want to reject hospitality. One wants to move gracefully around a foreign city.

In fact there were two bikes back in the shed—a rickety old three speed, and a very hot, full suspension mountain bike outfitted with Shimano Deore components: The Checker Pig 6000. Full suspension is not my style, but with everything tight, lightweight, and built for high performance, I felt like a very lucky man. “It was left to us by a lawyer who was moving away,” said Hans-Peter. “Take it.” So I did.

We put some pressure in the tires. I adjusted the seat. And Dresden was open to me in a whole new way. The trams are magnificent, miraculous, even, to a Clevelander. But on a bicycle I am faster. I don’t have to wait, or to change lines, or to walk to and from stops. Today, a beautiful, sunny Saturday, I pedaled the excellent bicycle trail along the Elbe River, which goes to Berlin and beyond in one direction, to Prague and more in the other. I didn’t go quite that far. I rode about 40 kilometers round trip, dallying for beer in a town called Heidenau. I don’t really know my way around Dresden yet, beyond the gallery, the Grafikwerkstatt print shop, and the Neustadt, where we’re staying at the Raskolnikoff Hotel. I get lost sometimes, but it doesn’t matter. I find my way. It’s perfectly comfortable mingling with the cars and the tram. I’ve got a bike now, and I am traffic.

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Yeah, I’m down with OPB. Other People’s Blogs, that is.

I’m generally wary of compliments from people I don’t know, especially in the blog-o-sphere. So much of what so many bloggers have to say to each other feels more about self promotion than sincerity. But after a bit of clicking around, I’m proud to have been tapped by Portland print maker and blogger Drew Kail for the “One Lovely Blog” award.

There are two reasons: One is that Drew’s relief prints are teriffic, especially in the way they play with the transition of positive and negative, each taking turns carrying the information of an image. That’s the stuff of print-making. My own work is significantly dependent on color, and I truly admire folks like Dru (and like my friend Claudio Orso) who do it all in black and white. So thanks Drew: even though we’ve never met, and I hadn’t run across your work before, it means something to me to hear from someone with your skill.

The other reason: I clicked through the list of fifteen blogs Dru follows–the listing of which is part of passing on the word of “one lovely blog”–, and they are generally teriffic–relevant to art and fine writing. He clearly had found stuff that makes sense, and which coheres.

As that particular requirement to forward a list of blogs might lead you to believe, the “One Lovely Blog”  award is indeed built for promotion. The rules:

1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link.

2. Name 7 random things about yourself.

3. Pass the recognition to 15 blogs you enjoy and let them know.

I’ve already taken care of that first rule, and I hope the mandate doesn’t undercut the sincerity of my gratitude. It’s not just checking off an item on a to-do list to say “thanks” in this case.

As for that second rule:

1) I’ve just returned from a long weekend of bicycle camping on Kelly’s Island with my lovely wife and two kids.

2) I’m searching for a good set of Maillard 700 high flange hubs and a few other select parts to help me complete the restoration of my old Peugeot racing bike, which I sold more than 25 years ago and recently (at least two owners down the line) bought back

3) I’ve been about 2/3 finished tuck pointing the front of my 102 year-old house for about 10 years.

4) The first fish I ever caught was a 10″ small mouth bass. I caught it with a line tied to a clothespin, sitting in a rowboat with my uncle and grandfather.

5) I never had pets as a kid.

6) I’m constantly trying to figure out what to do next.

7) I invented the Water Moose Portable Sprinkler Park, which converts a fire hydrant into a water wonderland. Behold:

That final requirement of the Lovely Blog Award–posting links to fifteen blogs a person follows and admires– is no small thing. You’ve got to work to be able to comply with this rules. You can’t be one of those bloggers who’s all about “me.” You’ve got to follow other people who have something to say. Following 15 blogs isn’t as time consuming as following 15 newspapers, but it does take a bit of prowling.

Fortunately, we only go back to the blogs we like. The blogs that I pay attention to generally fall into three categories: They have to do with bicycles, art (especially printmaking), and urban-ism, especially in Cleveland. So  Here’s my list.

BIKES

Old Ten Speed Gallery is exactly that, a portrait gallery of old bikes from the era when they used to call them “ten-speeds.”

The blog at Momentum (a cycling magazine). Momentum is an asset when you ride a bike. When we ride bikes, we guard our momentum like diamonds. That’s why so many of us run red lights.

Bikesnobnyc:  How he maintains his daily pace of snobbery is a marvel.

Urbanvelo. Years ago, when I fell in love with bikes, it was a sporting, recreational thing. These days, people ride bikes in the city, and it’s largely about transportation, style, and culture. The blog at Urban Velo steadily grazes on cycling news around the internet and comes up with plenty of images, video, and cultural notes, in addition to the product reviews which do not interest me at all. They picked up the story of my old French bike once.

PRINTMAKING AND ART

Some bloggers are good at simply showing you what they’ve been up to. It’s a kind of conversational fluency that Hooksmith has in abundance. Plus, it’s great to find other people worldwide who deal with the peculiarities of obsolete printing equipment, such as Vandercook presses.

Speaking of Vandercook presses, the Vanderblog has great information about maintaining them, troubleshooting, presses for sale, etc.

Printmaker Alex Gillies keeps a diary of his wood block adventures in a blog called Against The Wood Grain. He’s got a great style, and he’s happy to take on projects with unconventional printing surfaces, such as a solid body guitar, or a skate deck.

Letterpress printer Larry Thompson blogs about the the kind of thing letterpress printers deal with as they use and restore old equipment. His Greyweathers Press seems to have produced several beautiful books, setting –among other things–great examples of English poetry in editions worthy of the words. Take for example this edition of William Wordsworth’s Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey. 

Woodblock printer Matt Brown tracks his adventures on the Ooloo Press blog. He does color wood block prints, as I do, with different blocks for each color, but his are a bit more nuanced, and he practices Japanese Hanga tradition, instead of using a letterpress.

Karen Sandstrom’s blog Pen In Hand is about drawing, and much more than that. It’s about going into a second career, becoming an artist. After a first career writing about the arts at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, she went back to school–to art school, no less–and launched a second career as an illustrator. So you know, if you’ve worked at newspapers all your life and are wondering what to do next now that the industry is in the tank, this is frequently inspiring. And nice to look at, too.

It’s almost like cheating to plug printeresting under circumstances like this: It’s a steadily robust gush of great print material related to printed matter of all kinds. Broadly read. Fueled by half a dozen regular contributors.  And they’ve got this great how-to zine project going on–for Printeresting’s Rum Riot Press exhibit, they’ve asked a dozen artists to make simple how-to zines in that cool, single sheet book format. Check it out!

Heavy Metal Press Co.’s blog is essentially promotion for that shop, but the photo documentation of the jobs they take on shows they are truly ambitious and have serious capacity to register, deeply emboss, and other feats that make letterpress printing look luxurious, and they are not afraid of a complex job.

 

CITIES AND URBAN NEIGHBORHOODS, PARTICULARLY CLEVELAND

The blog 100 days in Cleveland ended with the publication of a calendar (which has the same name as the blog) and a book (called New To Cleveland: A Guide to (re)Discovering the City) with writer Justin Glanville. Even though the hundred days are up, it’s still worth a look back at illustrator Julia Kuo’s affectionate renderings of the everyday details of the city.

Rustwire.com is Angie Schmidt’s blog about rust belt cities admires the innovation and pans the stagnation that’s common in old industrial cities like Cleveland.  In this post, Cleveland City Hall’s Poverty of Ambition, she takes on Cleveland’s response to bicycle advocates who wish the city were moving faster to accommodate the more energy efficient mode of transport.

I met Erin O’Brien through an old newspaper job, where her column “Rainy Day Woman” held forth on subjects diverse as internet porn and a family recipe for a Hungarian cucumber salad.  Her Blog, The Erin O’Brien Owner’s Manual for Human Beings, is at least as diverse as that–a constant supply of domestic bliss and deep Cleveland culture, from the food to the way people talk.

If you care very much about cities, odds are you’ve run across James Howard Kunstler’s high energy sarcasm, either in his books or in his blog “clusterfuck nation.”  My first encounter with Kunstler was his book The Geography of Nowhere, which makes its way through the history and illogic of urban and suburban development in the US. It’s nowhere near as nice or hopeful as Jane Jacobs, even if he did follow up with a book called “Home from Nowhere.” But Kunstler is just plain fun to read, and the vast majority of the time, even if he’s not offering solutions, I find myself cheering him on. In addition to his main blog, you’ll also find his “eyesore of the month” there–a photographic celebration of just about all the crappy things we Americans have done to the American landscape.

 

Well there you have it.

What are you reading these days?

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Facebook friends and readers of this blog have peeked in the window on something I’ve been doing for almost three years.

The happy bicyclist in my avatar, and the wheels and street scenes that appear at the top of this page are part of a children’s book I started making in February, 2009.   Using wood blocks and moveable type, I’ve nearly completed Common Household Rhymes for the Modern Child, a collection of multicolor relief illustrations, and accompanying rhymes.

I’m releasing it Friday, December 2 at William Busta Gallery. I hope you’ll join me.

I wrote, illustrated, carved, typeset, printed, and bound it. There are 74 wood blocks, eight linoleum blocks, and one block cobbled together out of wood and copper wire used to make each book.  A total of 17 pictures, plus moveable type. We’re talking old school. 

I’ve hand cranked the cylinder of a half-century-old Vandercook proofing press at Zygote Press 10,000 times. I’ve adjusted registration by the width of a sharp pencil line, slipping in whisper thin strips of lead, and cranking it over again. I’ve stitched 100 bindings.  So you can imagine I am, shall we say, enthused to send this out into the world with a party.

I’m exceedingly grateful to Bill Busta for believing that to be a good idea. So I hope you will join me at his gallery to be among the first to see this collection of children’s rhymes and accompanying pictures.

"After your bed time, the moon gets up high. The grown-ups keep talking. Nobody knows why.

The rhymes play in the realm of domestic life in a decidedly Cleveland setting. There’s vernacular architecture, and a couple of nods to specific buildings. There are cats, mice, an orange fish, a bicycle ride in the depopulated city at night, and a workbench cluttered with tools. There is the true fact that adults get to stay up much later than children do.

The subjects are very familiar to kids, but the words don’t talk down to them in any sense. In fact, they aim high, calling on kids to observe, make connections to the world around them, and to other rhymes, and bits of culture. This is a book for parents of strong readers.

I’ll continually add to this story on this blog, but for now, I hope you’ll save the date and join me for my book launch. We’ll have some wine and light horsd’oeuvres. It’ll be fun.

Common Household Rhymes for the Modern Child

Book Release Party

6 to 9 p.m. Friday, December 2

William Busta Gallery,

2731 E Prospect Avenue  Cleveland

216-298-9071

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At least it shouldn’t be criminalized.

I reserve judgment on DC Councilperson Muriel Bowser’s attempt at a pedestrian-friendly law only because I don’t know what impact slower residential streets would have on people who currently don’t walk or cycle.

Bowser has proposed reducing the speed limit on the Federal City’s residential streets from 25 miles per hour to 15 miles per hour. Maybe a lot of people would walk or  ride bikes if the cars went 40 percent slower on residential streets. I don’t know.

I don’t think the councilperson knows either. According to the article, Bowser says “concerns over speeding in residential neighborhoods has [sic] discouraged residents from walking and cycling.” But I’ve lived in DC and walked to work every day for years, and that doesn’t square with the reality I saw.

Additionally, the graph (which seems to be the one Bowser cited) shows that the significant payoff in terms of reducing “the probability of pedestrian fatality” comes at about 45 kilometers per hour, which is almost 28 miles per hour, which is already faster than the speed limit on those residential streets.

The likelihood of pedestrian fatality in a crash goes up when the speed on impact goes up. But below about 45 kph (about 28 mph), the increase is pretty small.

If the speed limit on those streets were 65 KPH (40.3 mph), and the proposed reduction were to 40 KPH (24.8 mph, which is almost identical to the current limit) then we’d be talking about a significant payoff.  That change would reduce the likelihood of pedestrian fatality from about 30 percent down to less than 5 percent.

But the payoff in the Bowser proposal (can we call it that?) would be a reduction in the probability of pedestrian fatality from less than 5 percent down to maybe 3 percent. It’s a whole lot of change for not much benefit.

Further, I certainly don’t have the impression that 25 mile-per-hour motor vehicle traffic has much impact on the decision to walk on the sidewalk. Neither do I believe cars traveling at 25 mph have much impact on the decision to ride a bike. Residential streets at 25 miles per hour are a pretty friendly environment.

Such a significant change, from 25 mph to 15, could even exacerbate the tension between motorists and other modes.  A 40% reduction of the speed limit is huge. Motorists will blame it on cyclists, and it will increase the perception of them as a special interest group.

But my real concern is about unintended consequences. Bicycles have to obey laws, too. A significant appeal of bicycling—and I would say a defining characteristic of the experience—is that you get out what you put in.

Cycling is satisfying because it rewards effort. If you want to get there faster, you push a little harder. Speed is earned not only in the moment by that pushing, either: the ability to go fast is built over time—weeks, months, and years. And for a whole lot of cyclists, easy cruising speed is faster than 15 miles per hour. This proposed law flies in the face of that hard-won capacity for speed, and at a very low threshold.

When a group of people is motivated by the intrinsic result of their effort, a law putting that kind of limit on their reward invites problems, including scofflaw cyclists, and the righteous indignation of the same people the law would seem to be trying to help. It creates a new way to levy fines on a group of people who already feel marginalized.

In brief: I just don’t like it. But hey, I’m open.  Persuade me.

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IN TRAFFIC

If you’re going to say something about yourself and your bicycle, it’s polite to let the bicycle go first. That’s what you do for your friends, right?

Therefore: My bicycle and I have been in the news a bit lately.

First, I have to create an infinite loop of self-reference by telling you that a post that first appeared on this blog has been picked up by NPR’s Bill Chappell for his blog. He asked me a few questions, then amplified the story, which you can find here. That brought a bit of traffic my way. Here’s a bit of Cleveland bicycle traffic, courtesy of Shawn Mariani. 

Second, the Civic Commons radio show and podcast invited me on a show about bicycles in the city. They had B&K Bicycles owner Neil Kauffman, Akron transportation planner Curtis Baker, Bike advocate Diane Leese (whose spectacular Outspoken Cyclist radio show can be heard on WJCU), and Earth Day Coalition Transportation Program Manager John McGovern on to talk about issues, and they had me on to tell them what it’s like to ride a bicycle in Cleveland. You can find all that here.

To save time in my little monologue, I didn’t note that on most mornings, the first thing I do after breakfast is take my daughter to school—and I do that in a car. Neither did I note that most people who ride their bikes a lot also own cars–a fact that often gets lost in the confrontational dialog between motorists and people who ride bikes.

But here’s what did get on the air–which you can hear in context with all the rest of the people who contributed to the show.

I roll out onto Detroit Avenue in Lakewood, and the noise of the city is my soundtrack. Over my left shoulder I hear the cars coming up behind me. I flick in and out of sunlight in the shadows of buildings. I pass cars and busses. Cars and busses pass me.

There’s movement all around, and I am part of it, balanced on two wheels. This is why I ride my bike to work:  It’s about speed and balance, the physical experience of physical laws. A bicycle is a gyroscope that takes you places.

There’s no separate bike lane on Detroit but the traffic is calm. If you ride a bike a lot, you get to know  the different moods of traffic like Eskimos get to know different types of snow. Cars in a hurry take I-90, or Clifton. Detroit’s neighborhood traffic is less hurried, less stressful. Which makes it perfect for bikes.

I ride down the street with the cars. We mingle in a friendly way. I take the lane when it makes sense and give it up when I don’t need it. Mostly I yield to cars at cross streets, but when they give me right of way, I look the driver in the eye and wave a thank you. I wave to fellow cyclists, too, many of which I see routinely: Erika the barista, Shannon the nanny, Darren the architect. When I get Downtown, I don’t have any trouble parking, and I never get parking tickets.

I don’t think about the gas I don’t burn, or the cost of foreign oil, at least not in association with my bike.  To me, biking to work is about the joy of movement, and about being in control. It’s a truly conservative form of transportation in that cyclists are self reliant. No bus schedules. No loan payments. I get out what I put in. If I want to get there a little faster, I just push a little harder.

Public conversation about cycling is typically about confrontation—cars against bikes, either in tragic accidents or pressing for more space on the roads. That’s what makes good news stories. Confrontations like that certainly happen. They happen just between people in cars, too.

But what I tell people about riding my bike to work is that day after day, month after month, nothing happens except that I get where I’m going and have a good time on the way.

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Today’s cycling news includes two sad facts:

First, my friend Erika got hit by a car while riding her bicycle to a lunchtime meeting. Please join me in wishing her a speedy recovery.

Second:  a whole lot of people’s favorite bicycling comic, Yehuda Moon and the Kickstand Cyclery, officially ceased publication as of yesterday.  For the unfamiliar, the strip attracted a worldwide audience with its deep understanding of cycling culture, especially the range of different cycling communities, and how they so often disagree. The Cleveland-based creator, Rick Smith, announced a hiatus a few weeks ago, and then yesterday posted that the Kickstand was closed for good. Please join me in thanking Rick for years of insightful humor and engaging stories. Best wishes to him, as well.

For both of those reasons, I’m posting something happy. These are scenes from Clam Boy and Big Sister Kitty Begin: Or, The Forty-Ounce Puddle of Glass,  a little children’s book I made, in which a boy and his sister go for a bike ride and come upon a broken bottle in the road.

As any cyclist or other human knows, a broken bottle in the roadway is not only an insult to the eyes, but also an assault on the the tires.

But the boy and girl don’t just leave it for someone else.  By cleaning up the mess, they discover that they have super powers that can help make the world a better place.

I billed this  as “two young patriots’ coming-of-rage story.” And sometimes it feels that way when you see a mess someone else made and left behind, tarnishing your neighborhood as if that didn’t matter.  But really, it’s not a story about rage.

Really, this is about making the world a better place, and realizing that individuals–even little ones–have this in their power.

Raise your hand if you’ve had this feeling: You’ve taken responsibility for something–someone else’s mess, or some kind of communal neglect–and by taking responsibility, you felt empowered.

Riding bicycles has that effect, too:  you take responsibility for your own transportation, and it helps you realize just how capable you are.   You go where you want, when you want, without buying gas or waiting for the bus. You do something most people think is just too hard. But  your secret is that it’s fun, and it makes you feel good.

No matter your station in life or your politics, when you ride a bicycle, you get out what you put in. You work harder, you go faster. Or you take your time, and you enjoy the scenery.  You pour your energy into them, and out comes joy and transportation.

At least, until someone whacks you with a car.

But I hope Erika and all of us will remember that incidents like these are extremely rare. For most of us commuters, months go by without any hostile interactions with people who drive cars.

The empowerment we feel riding bikes helps us get back on them, too. We remember, I think, that we ride our bikes because we personally get something out of it. It’s not so much about saving the world.  We do it for the feelings of balance and speed. The invigoration of exercise. The knowledge that we will not get parking tickets. The knowledge that we can get there all by ourselves.

And if by getting around on bicycles we pollute just a little less, so much the better.

That’s what Clam Boy and Big Sister Kitty are about: knowing you have the power to go, to be, to do.  You put yourself at risk when you take responsibility for something, but the risk comes with rewards.

My kids invented Clam Boy and Big Sister Kitty as super heroes. I stole the characters and wrote their stories. This bike ride scene is from the second book–a prequel–which gives their origin: how they got their superpowers and assumed their new identities.

The first of their stories, Clam Boy and Big Sister Kitty Liberate the Tree and the Sun and the Moon and the Entire Landscape–is about how they cleaned up the scenery after one of those blue plastic grocery bags got caught in a tree (and stayed there, “tarnishing the sun, and darkening the moon, night after day, for weeks on end”).

These books are how I started printmaking. They’re both printed from hand carved linoleum blocks–separate blocks for each color–and bound by hand. You can find them –and learn the rest of the story–here. 

All of us have super powers.  It’s just a matter of using them. When was the last time you used yours?

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One "High End" Peugeot from the '70s.

I walked up the wooden set of steps to get into Blazing Saddles Cyclery on a Saturday morning.   James Rychak and co-owner Travis Peebles run their used bike shop out of an old laundry building on the West side of Cleveland. I was there because I’d seen a Craigslist ad for “two high-end Peugeot frame from the ’70s.”

“We take old bikes and put them back into use so that they’re not what they were originally, but something tailored to the way the buyer rides,”  Rychak says.

Old bikes are more popular than ever right now, and Blazing Saddles is building a business on that market.

The appeal of old bicycles is difficult to explain to someone who doesn’t have it.  They are durable. They’re recycled. In an industry driven by a steady stream of shiny,  new, must-have products, they have endured.

My love of bicycles was born while I was in high school, at  the peak of the ‘70s bicycle boom.  At that time the finest bicycles in the world were still made of steel—hand crafted, chrome molybdenum or chrome manganese tubes braised together with curvaceous lugs. Craftsmen built the best of these frames one by one, and master frame builders put their names on them. These days the fastest bikes are made of carbon fiber, and new, hand made steel frames occupy a niche market, fed by folks like Cleveland’s Dan Polito, and Joe Bringheli. But that’s another story.

Circa 1982

I’ve owned a couple of fine steel bikes, and pedaled them tens of thousands of miles. My first serious racing bike was a Peugeot with a Reynolds 531 steel Frame and sew-up tires.

I bought it from Heinze Linke’s shop, the Madison Cycle Center, on Madison Avenue in Lakewood. Heinze worked at NASA by day and opened his bike shop in the evening. He was a godfather of bicycle racing on Cleveland’s west side. His shop had posters of Eddy Merckx and Bernard Thevenet, the biggest names in cycling at the time. Its racks were filled with fine racing machines. Anyone who has put in more than a few hundred miles on a bike like that knows this is true: It’s one thing simply  to own  a beautiful, hand crafted object, but it’s quite another to ride it, feeling the way it transmits the road to your muscles, the way it responds when you jump.

That's me in the middle, sporting the burgundy jersey, because the Cleveland Wheelmen had signed on to the notion that "Cleveland's A Plum."

I joined a racing team, the Cleveland Wheelmen. There were races in Detroit, Windsor, Akron, Canton, Dayton, Buffalo, and more. One year I got some black alphabet decals and put CLEVELAND on the front of each of my fork blades. My training logs show I rode that bike more than 30,000 miles.  It would have been about 1985 when I sold it.

Fast forward to 2011. I’ve been commuting to work for almost a decade, but lately I started riding fast again. I’m out of shape, but having a ball, and it makes me miss that bike.  So a few years ago I took up the habit of prowling Craigslist to find old bikes that awaken the joy that old Peugeot and a few other bikes had kindled in me. That’s what brought me to Blazing Saddles.

Rychak put the frames up on the counter.  One was too big. No sense looking at that. But  the other one, well, there was no way to deny that it happened to be the same make, model, year, size, and color as my old Peugeot.

Rychak told me the bike I was looking at came to Blazing Saddles from a guy who got it from his father.  There were chips in the paint, and specks of rust, but only cosmetic damage. I almost immediately noticed some flaking decals on the front of the fork blades, and I knew what they meant. But it didn’t sink in until I turned the frame toward me, so I could make sure everything was still straight and true. Those flaking decals on the front of each fork blade were the remains of of what I had put there almost 30 years earlier:  black helvetica letters spelling out  CLEVELAND.

Represent.

This was my bicycle. Not just the same make, model,year, size, and color but the very same bike I had pedaled all those miles. Those Cleveland decals were proof as good as a notary stamp.

Since I sold this bike, Ronald Reagan completed his presidency. So did George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush. Now  Barack Obama is in the White House, and nearly thirty years after the last time I saw my bike–I had the chance to buy it back.  I paid the asking price, without even an attempt to bargain down.

Now my old Peugeot –the frame, at least–is hanging in my basement, waiting for me to scrape together cash and make good on my commitment to restore it.   It feels like I’m on a mission, to track down the rest of the components that once made it such a beautiful machine.   This could take years. I’m not in a hurry. Anyone know where I can get a set of Maillard 700, high flange hubs?

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