Five distinctly different bicycles. 


I own, try to maintain, and ride five bikes. I am limited to five by available storage space in our garageless house. My finances, income and willingness to maintain more than five bikes also limit me to five. I often wish I had fewer. Having said that, if I had more income and more storage space I’m guessing the number of bikes I was willing to own would increase. I love unique, handcrafted bicycles that are expertly engineered and aesthetically pleasing to the eye. 


All five of my bikes get used. Each has a purpose with not a lot of overlap between bikes. I go more in depth on this in the link to “My Bicycles” in the drop down menu or link above on this website. 


I’m at a comfortable place with the bikes I currently own. I enjoy riding each of them when used for their intended purpose. Each one of them stands out when used like this. 


When one bike gets neglected for a period of time I find it extremely refreshing to get back on it. My Ellis is a recent example of this. I call it my “go fast” bike because it has the skinniest tires (700c x 32mm) of any my large wheeled bikes (as compared to my small wheeled Brompton folder). The Ellis is my summer fair weather bike as well. I avoid riding this in wet conditions. We’ve been having an unusually wet summer. I’ve been riding my A-train with an all-weather belt drive/IGH drivetrain more lately because it requires no cleaning or lubing after wet weather rides. This past Sunday it was a deliciously cool, dry and low humidity day so I took the Ellis out for a ride. After a month without riding this bike it was like falling in love all over again.  The ride of this custom frame built for me by Dave Wages back in 2008 is silky smooth and very responsive. It’s a joy to ride. The time away from this bike made it so very clear. 

The wonderful thing is this happens with all my bikes. I miss them when I haven’t ridden them in awhile. I’m very lucky to have each one of these five bikes. 

TBT: 1978 Chicago Tribune Boul-Mich Bike Rally, Chicago, Illinois.

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Poster artwork for the race was done by famous artist Leroy Neiman.

In August of 1978 I was 15 years old. My family had moved to the Northwestern suburbs of Chicago from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I left behind a supportive racing community in Pittsburgh and was struggling to find a replacement community in Chicago. Soon after arriving in the Chicago area I learned of a big race scheduled to take place on the streets of downtown Chicago and Grant Park on September 4th. My age placed me in the Intermediate Boys age group. At the time the United States Cycling Federation (U.S.C.F.) governed all racing in the U.S. This was amateur racing. All racing in the U.S. was amateur at the time. The age group you raced in was based on your age as of January 1st of the current year. Since I was 14 years old on that date I raced the entire year as an Intermediate Boy, ages 12-14. The Boul-Mich did not offer a race for my age group. In a case like this a person was allowed to move up in age groups. I was allowed to race in the Junior Men’s race. Junior men’s was for riders age 15-17 as of January 1st. Intermediate Boys and Junior Mens had restricted gears. Even though I was racing with the Juniors I had to use Intermediate Boys gearing. That was limited to a gear no larger than 89 gear inches.

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I look like I’m about to puke.

My dad took a few pictures of the day. The picture above is at the start line. I am in the 2nd row middle wearing the red and white jersey and “hairnet” helmet. This race drew a huge field of big names. On the left of this picture is Jeff Bradley in the Kretschmer Wheat Germ jersey. He is a future 7-11 team member. He is the current U.S.C.F. Junior Men’s National Road Champion in this picture. I’m not sure why he’s not wearing the National Champion’s jersey. Back in July he had nipped Greg LeMond at the line to win the National Championship Race in Milwaukee, WI. Greg had been the defending National Champion and would win again the next year. I was in Milwaukee and got to see the Junior Mens race. Also in this race is future Giro d’Italia winner Andy Hampsten. He was lined up on the first row just out of this picture on the right.

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Starting lap #2. I’m in there somewhere.

The race started out fast. I was hanging on quite nicely. I had finished 13th in the final sprint in the Intermediate Boys National Championship Road Race back in July. So I had the speed to hang with the big boys. I ran into a small problem on this course. The roads were rough in down town Chicago. The potholed streets were causing me to drop my chain. I dropped it twice on the first lap. Both times I was able to reach down and put it back on and then chase back on to the back of the pack. What was causing my chain to come off so easily? Well, back then the five speed free-wheel was the available gear set-up. In 1978 the 6-speed freewheel was just around the corner. Imagine six gears on one hub? When setting up my bike with the restricted 89 gear inch sized gearing I noticed there was a lot of gear overlap on the traditional 10-speed set-up. I did something really radical for the time. I eliminated one of the front chain rings and ran my bike as a 5-speed. That’s right!! I was running a 1x drivetrain way back in 1978. The problem was a lack of any type of chain keeper on the front to keep my chains from dropping off the chain ring. Unbelievably I had not had a single issue with dropping a chain the entire season. Not until this race.

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Racing by Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park, Chicago Illinois. It’s blurry, but I’m on the right in the red jersey with white stripe going down the side.

On lap 2 I lost the chain again. It was getting harder chasing back on. The pace at the front was high. I ended up eventually having to drop out of the race. The chain continued to come off and I was getting cooked having to constantly chase back on. It was very upsetting not finishing this race. Although I wouldn’t have finished high up in the race, I knew I had the speed to race with the Juniors. I was bummed.

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Still in there somewhere.

After my disappointing race we stuck around to watch the main event. The Senior Men’s race. It featured a field of top racers in the U.S. I can’t remember all the names but I know Dale and Wayne Stetina were there. It was a thrill to watch them race. Dale was the reigning Senior Men’s National Road Champion and Wayne was a previous National Champion. They were very dominate on the national racing scene in that time period. And they were mega-stars to me. It was a thrill to watch them race in person. I had watched Dale win the National Championship title back in July in Milwaukee. It wasn’t my first time seeing them race.

I only raced from 1977 to 1980. That short time and all the experiences I had during my racing years really shaped much of who I am today. I lost the desire to train and race over the years since. I never had the competitive fire or genetic make-up needed to go much higher in the sport, but I’m grateful for the experience.  To this day I love the sport of bicycle racing even with all its problems and issues. It’s a beautiful sport when it’s pure.

 

 

 

Bringing back childhood memories while riding a bike.

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Short path near the dog park.

 

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Taconite pellets all over the ground between the rails. The trains spill them on their trip down the hillside to the harbor ore docks.

Summer evenings. The time between dinner and sunset. When the sun fades and the heat of the day lingers. A hint of cooler air appears in pockets of air as you move about. As a child this time of day was spent outdoors. Friends and neighborhood kids would be out too. We’d spend this precious time running around, playing, and riding our bikes. Burning off that last bit of kid energy before bed time. There was a sense of freedom and being totally in the moment.

Some how I lost that feeling, the ability to enjoy the moment. It was around age 13. I had started taking my bicycling to new levels. I was spending my summers training and road racing. Evenings became the time for recovery and sitting around. A week ago my wife and I were sitting on our porch enjoying the evening. A thought popped in my head. I looked at my wife and announced I was going for a bike ride around our neighborhood. I only had an hour before sunset and it was a beautiful evening. I didn’t change into “biking clothes”, I didn’t fill my water bottles, I didn’t put on cleated bicycle shoes. I didn’t put together a repair kit and pump to carry along in a bicycle bag. And here’s the big one, I didn’t grab my cell phone and shove it in my pocket. I simply got up, walked inside grabbed my Brompton and went.

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Logs stacked down by the paper mill.

I rolled away from my house with no destination in mind. I purposely tried to take the quieter streets, or streets I don’t normally take. As a top priority, I took any paths I came across. I’d go down paths just to see where they took me. Every neighborhood has hidden paths that connect streets to other streets. Some are dirt, some are paved trails. Paths can only be found and used when on a bike or foot. Growing up my neighborhoods didn’t have alleys. Alleys can be a great way to get around a neighborhood. My neighborhood I live in now has alleys.

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A little known, and little used, bike path. Paper mill on the right, creek on the left, Irving Park straight ahead.

I had so much fun that night I decided to do it again last evening. Although, I did take my phone so I could take some pictures this time. Here’s a link to the route I rode: //rwgps-embeds.com/trips/10542401/embed

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There’s nothing better than a path through a wooded ravine with a creek next to it. I remember thinking as a kid that these kind of paths were secret. Only kids knew about them.

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Seen from the bike path, Moline Bakery Equipment manufacturing plant.

The Brompton is a great bike to bring back this kind of feeling. Although it’s an “adult” bike, the small wheels remind me of bikes I would have ridden as a kid.

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The main drag through West Duluth at sunset.

Last evening I did something I never do as an adult. When I reached the main drag through West Duluth I rode on the sidewalk. I never ride on sidewalks. At this time of the evening I had the sidewalks all to myself. I looked into the windows of closed shops as I rode along. I rode with my eyes wide open. I noticed little businesses I didn’t even realize were there even though I’ve ridden down this street a thousand times on a bike and in cars.

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The main drag is quiet on a Tuesday at sunset. The overpass in the picture is Interstate Highway 35.

I felt like a kid again. It’s a shame it took me 40 years to slow down and feel this way. I think I’ll try to do this more often.

 

Sunday coffee ride with Susan

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Susan’s Bianchi and my Brompton in Canal Park.

It happens between one and three times every year. Susan and I get out and ride bikes together. Susan loves to bike. She just doesn’t make it her top priority like I do. She has many other interests that keep her busy. When she does get out on a bike it’s usually with me. Not always. But we always have fun when it is the two of us. We had a relaxing ride with a coffee stop in the middle. We headed down to the Canal Park area on the lakefront. I’ve become so good at avoiding crowds sometimes I forget that Duluth is a huge tourist destination. Canal Park is the main tourist attraction. A former industrial area that has been turned into shops, cafes, restaurants, and recently micro breweries. It is peak tourist season right now. And Canal Park was bustling.

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Another purpose of this ride was to get some pictures of me with my Brompton. I’ve been asked to submit a guest blog post for possible use on another blog. A post about how I use my Brompton in Duluth.

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Since I normally bike alone I don’t have any pictures of me and the Brompton. Only pictures of the Brompton. It all went good except we somehow lost my camera. We split the picture taking between my iPhone and my Sony Elph pocket camera. Fortunately we still had some of the pictures that were taken on the phone. The camera is lost for good. I even went back down to look for it after we got home and realized it was missing.

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Despite the lost camera fun was had by all. It was fun to sit on the patio at the coffee shop on a beautiful Sunday morning and people watch. We just wouldn’t want to do it all the time.

Where did that come from?


Went out for  ride on dirt today. I headed for the Brewers Park trails a mile from my house and this sight stopped me in my tracks.  What the heck? That trail wasn’t there last time I rode by here. Couldn’t have been much more then a week ago. This is located in Western Duluth where Skyline Parkway crosses Keene Creek at the power line right of way. 

The pace of new trail construction in Duluth is staggering. A ceremony was held this week to celebrate Duluth trail systems recognition as 1 of 6 trail systems worldwide to become a IMBA Gold Level Ride Center. More to come. 

TBT Racing in the 70’s.

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That’s me in 1979.

1979 was beginning of the end of my short lived amateur racing career. I was a first year Junior racing in the USCF. 1978 had been a great year. I had made it to National Championships in the Intermediate Boys age group. I finished 13th. I had big hopes for my first year as a Junior. A move from Pittsburgh in the late summer of 1978 to the Chicago suburbs changed the way I trained.  I didn’t realize it till years later, but I never adjusted my training to make up for the loss of the high quality club racing I had done in Pittsburgh. I became frustrated and it was no longer fun. By time 1980 came around I decided to take a break from racing. I never went back.

Getting out to vote.

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Bike locked up at my local polling place.

Today is a primary voting day in Minnesota. I always vote. State officials are expecting an extremely low voter turn out today. In my precinct there were only three races to vote on. One state race, one county race, and a local judiciary race.

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Heading out to my polling place to vote.

A few words on politics. Skip this if you don’t wish to read some political views. It’s VERY rare I ever voice my opinions. I’ve learned my views are exceptionally rare and very unlikely to be taken serious in most conversations. But with this years race my views may carry more gravity.

Time warp back to 1984. I was in college. I did some volunteer work for a presidential campaign. One of the major parties. It must have been a bad experience. Or my college studies may have awakened something in me. I can’t even remember what was going on or what happened. But I made two decisions back then I felt I had to make. They may or may not have been related. 1) I vowed never to vote for a Republican or Democrat in a major national election. 2) I vowed never to step foot in a Walmart. I have kept both of those vows with one exception. I did go into a Walmart once while on the Appalachian Trail in 2001. I think we bought Vitamin I for some physical pain I was having.

My major issue with the two main parties is with who they represent, not you or I. The ginormous spending on a military offense department. And the aggressive means the parties use to limit any other voices in the conversation. They work together to do this.

Both parties represent the moneyed interests, the people and businesses with money and Wall Street. They both appoint Wall Street insiders to run the Treasury department and the Federal Reserve. They both use our Department of Offense to defend the interest of the people with  money around the world. They both govern through conflict rather than compromise.

That’s in a nutshell.

When another voice rises it usually comes from a fringe party. These fringe parties are usually the alternative choices to the two major parties. I would like to see a third party with a moderate platform. A candidate that can bring every one together. I don’t see that with any party. No one will work with the Republican candidate. Republicans won’t work with the Democratic candidate, and the third party candidates would have an incredibly huge hill to climb to get anyone to work with them with their radical platforms.

What’s the solution? Hell if I know. But I haven’t seen it yet.

Oh, I’m on a personal boycott of the media now through the November elections. I’ve turned it all off. I deleted “news” sites on my phone. I listen mostly to podcasts these days. I was increasingly annoyed by the coverage….or lack thereof. The media isn’t asking the hard questions or holding the candidates accountable for what they say. It’s quite sickening to be honest. And a waste of my time.

Think hard about what your vote says. Don’t believe there are only two choices. There are many choices.

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Bees love our front yard!! It’s a mini prairie.

Everything but the bike……

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Hiking on the SHT through Enger Park.

It’s that busy time of summer. We enjoy the bounty of local foods. Susan has started calling August and September harvest season. We participate in a CSA (community Supported Agriculture) and get a weekly share. Susan does some gardening in our small urban yard. The past 7 or 8 years we freeze and can our way through these months. Putting away fresh, mostly local organic foods. Last weekend was blueberry picking weekend.

We make a day trip out of it. We drive a couple hours east along Lake Superior to the Bayfield Peninsula in Wisconsin to Highland Valley Farms. It’s a beautiful berry farm carved out of the North Woods nestled in a small valley. With 10,000 blueberry bushes you can pick till your hearts content. We also make a stop in Washburn at the Coco Bakery and Cafe for lunch. They offer both Gluten Free and Vegan options. A rare place both Susan and I can have multiple menu choices. Once home we freeze berries, I make GF/Vegan Blueberry pie, Blueberry jam, Blueberry lemonade, Blueberry pancakes, a second Blueberry pie…..it’s Blueberry heaven for a week or two. We picked about 35 lbs of berries. I normally make freezer jam. The past five years Susan has been learning how to can. So we took our jam making to a new level and canned the Blueberry jam. That way there isn’t jars of jam taking up freezer space.

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Blueberry jam in the basement pantry ready for winter.

All this to say is when the harvest is happening it takes priority. Cuts down on the bike rides. I used to go out for rides anyway. That left Susan with more than her share of the work. Now that I’ve learned how much I enjoy having this kind of stuff around during the winter months I’ve been putting in the work to help make it happen.

Friday I had to do a medical transport back to Duluth from Fargo, North Dakota for my job. That was an 11 hour day. I made the most of the drive. I’ve only made that drive a couple of times. It’s 250 miles straight west to Fargo. There are no freeways. The first 210 miles is all two lane roads through the North Woods. Much of it is National and State Forest lands, and Native American Reservations. It is also scenic lakes country. I only took a couple of pictures. Th highlight for me was crossing the Mighty Mississippi River. Although it hasn’t quite reached it’s “mighty” status here in Northern Minnesota. In fact, if you weren’t paying attention you wouldn’t even notice it.

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The “Mighty” Mississippi River not far downstream from it’s Headwaters.

I saw this drive as somewhat epic. Not only did I start this drive East of the Mississippi, cross the river and end up West of the great river, I also drove through 210 miles of the North woods of the Upper Midwest.

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Driving through a couple hundred miles of North woods.

The last 40 miles opened up onto the Great Plains of this massive continent.

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Reaching the Great Plains.

And eventually I arrived in Fargo. That’s right, the Fargo made famous by the Coen Brothers. You betcha!

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Arriving in Fargo after crossing the Red River of the North. A river that flows North.

I was fascinated at having this opportunity to drive across the state of Minnesota. Perhaps I’ve spent so many years traveling at the speed of a bicycle, that moving at 60-70 mph for five hours is a novelty to me.  Of course, the whole time my mind was wondering what it would be like to bicycle the same route.

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Ahwww, back to Duluth and the biggest of the Great Lakes.

Ever since I started to get back in to cycling more than a decade ago, my rides had become a priority. I sacrificed time with Susan to put on miles. We fell into a routine of me riding my bikes and she would spend time gardening and working on her interest in Fiber Arts. We’ve come full circle and are now making an effort to spend more time together. That usually involves hiking more than anything else. Yesterday was Saturday. We got out to enjoy some of the hiking trails and parks right in our own backyard. The Superior Hiking Trail now traverses the city of Duluth, mostly along the ridgeline above the city. It’s a 300 mile footpath that stretches from the Border with Wisconsin to the south, through Duluth and then heads to the Canadian Border following the ridges of Lake Superior. It’s one of the major reasons we moved to Duluth from the Twin Cities back in 2001.  The trail is now more 50% longer than when we moved here.

Today we parked west of Enger Park and did an out-and-back section that included Enger Park. It’s a gem of a city park situated on a high point above the city. It has an observation tower and elaborate gardens. Here’s some highlights from the day:

The gardens at Enger Park:

The Japanese Gardens at Enger Park:

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The mission for today. Run a few errands and then finally get out for a bike ride……