Saturday, July 30, 2011

Come Ride With Us!

Join International Bicycle Center, The Embrocation Cycling Team and Gaulzetti Cicli for our weekly Monday night ride! This ride is suitable for all ability levels. Whether you are new to the sport of road cycling or a seasoned pro looking for a nice recovery ride after a weekend of racing , we invite you to explore tranquil rural roads just minutes outside of Boston with us.

Start Location: International Bicycle Center Newton

Start Time: 6:00pm Monday Nights (while weather & light permit)

Distance: 25-40 miles

Pace: 15-18mph

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

International Bicycle And Roll It Forward Bicycle Donation At Orchard Gardens

March 3, 2011 Boston, MA

International Bicycle Center joined forces once again with Roll It Forward and Boston Bikes to deliver a fleet of used Trek and Fisher bikes to a huge group of kids at  Orchard Gardens in Roxbury. This is the third such event that this team has collaborated on, and by now they have the program down to a science. Or at least an art form. Okay, maybe an abstract expressionist art form, but an art form nonetheless. 

These things always involve a bit of mayhem, but this time around there was an army of volunteers to help direct that mayhem. The crew from Bikes Not Bombs was particularly awesome. The load in area was slightly less than ideal, the bikes had to be carried up a back stairway into a gym. Problem was, the stairs were entirely covered with a thick coating of ice, making it treacherous bordering on impossible to bring them in that way.

Some of the Bikes Not Bombs kids went to work hacking away at the ice, but the bikes had to get inside the gym fast, so a "system" was devised to get them in there. A bucket line was formed leading from the truck to the railing next to the backdoor to the gym. The last person in line next to the railing would hand the often deceptively heavy bikes up to the next member of the line, who was hanging awkwardly over the railing, doing what had to be irreparable damage to his or her lower back. Luckily, one of the guys from Bikes Not Bombs was gigantic, and he had no trouble whatsoever hefting the bikes up over the railing. 

Once the bikes were physically inside the building, volunteers set about laying down a safety course for the kids to navigate. 

Of course the drill goes: Sign in, get your helmet, get fitted for your bike, then head out to the obstacle course. Harold Knochin from International Bicycle was on hand to offer his expert fitting services to the kids. That's him next to the mayor, right behind his team of future Pro Tour racers. That tall guy in the red in the background? That's the MVP of the bucket line, the dude who hauled more bikes over that railing than any mortal should have been capable of. 

In the future pro bike racers will all have pink bikes with baskets. This girl is just way ahead of the curve on that one.

Mayor Thomas Menino came out to show his support and pass a few valuable lessons on to the kids. Whenever the Mayor addresses kids at these events he invariably works something about "always wearing your helmet" into his speech, but this time around he took it a step further, telling them that there were "microchips in the helmets" and that we'd know if they weren't wearing them. 

Kathryn Bennett of the Boston Housing Authority at the mic and Boston Bike Czar Nicole Freedman in the foreground. These bike donations wouldn't happen without them. 

Nate and some of the Bikes Not Bombs crew whose names we will get at the next donation, which is at Orient Heights in East Boston...tomorrow. Oops, suppose we should go pack some bikes. 

Special thanks to John Bilderbeck of Roll It Forward

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Bryan Philbrook Builds A Fisher Collection Sawyer

Bryan Philbrook swaps the parts from a Fisher Superfly SS to a brand new Fisher Collection Sawyer. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Franklin Field Kids Bike Donation, Dorchester, MA

Last Friday's donation of a bout 50 bikes and helmets to the kids of Franklin Field Boston Housing Authority development in Dorchester, marked the second successful collaboration between International Bicycles, Mayor Menino's Boston Bikes, and the BHA.

The folks at the Sportsmen Tennis Club were nice enough open their doors to a bunch of orange-shirted volunteers and a small army of really, really excited kids. There was, however, one rule laid down by the club management: "No skidding!" Giving a kid a coaster brake bike and telling him not to skid it is like putting a mouse wearing a tuxedo made out of Fancy Feast in front of a starving cat and telling him not to eat it.

During the preparation phase of a bike donation, there is inevitably this, "How are we going to get this huge pile of bikes and all those helmets into that tiny van?" Yet somehow it always works out. Sometimes it's not easy or pretty, and sometimes IBC service manager Erich Leas dies during the process, but it works out. Except for the Erich being dead part.

A whole lot of time, energy, and planning goes into one of these events, and without Nicole Freedman (on bike) and John Bilderbeck, there is no way any of it could happen.

Weeks prior to a bike donation event, the Boston Housing Authority circulates questionnaires throughout the development to help determine the sizes and genders of the kids. The question was asked "What if a girl wants a blue bike or a boy wants a pink bike" The answer: "She or he can have one...but it's not a contingency we plan for." It could happen, and Kim Jon Il could wake up one morning and decide not to put on enormous glasses.

Sometimes the accuracy of the information on the questionnaires is questionable. I never did see the 2 1/2 foot tall five-year-old. Then again, 2 1/2 foot tall people are easy to miss.

After checking in and signing the waiver, parents and kids head to the helmet fit station. Often the older siblings of the target-age kids end up getting helmets as well. A huge positive byproduct of these events is that kids end up wearing helmets and associating the riding of a bicycle with the wearing of a helmet, no matter what.

Once the kids have helmets, they move on to the bike fit station (that's where IBC comes in). Bike size is determined (often debated), colors are selected, and saddle height is adjusted.

Once the kids have their bikes sorted out, they head over to the skidding, I mean SAFETY COURSE, where they learn the rules of the road. Some kids are harder to reach than others — I saw the pink-jacketed girl in the above photo riding the wrong way down Storrow Drive without a helmet on Monday morning.

The phrase "joyous mayhem" always comes to mind at these things. We plan and plan, and stress and stress, and then it's over in a flash of fun and craziness.

This girl was so stoked about her new bike, she must have flipped her streamers in the air 100 times or more. Maybe it wasn't about the bike...who knows, she could have had reacted to a cardboard box or a folding chair the same way.

Doing the safety course with kids this age is pretty funny. "What does green mean?" "Well, green means that I'm 4-years-old, sitting at a stop light on my 16" wheeled bike with training wheels, which is kind of insane...someone should probably come and get me out of the street before I die."

If the Super Bowl featured a team of red bikes playing against a team of green bikes; I would bet on the red bike team. If a red bike were running for president against a blue bike and a yellow bike; the red bike would win. Red bikes are very popular.

The morning after this event, the bike donation crew headed out to Hyde Park for another event, which is a story for another day...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Eliot School Bike Rodeo

Yesterday IBC supported a kids bike rodeo at the Eliot School in Needham. Before I continue, allow me to describe what a bike rodeo is, because it might not be what you think. In fact, it wasn't what some of the kids thought, "this isn't like a REAL rodeo" one sharp kid observed, "there aren't any bull riders or anything." "And there aren't any clowns either" I added. "Well you LOOK like a clown with that stupid beard" another kid chimed in. OK, that last part didn't really are so well behaved these days, what, with the no cyber-bullying work shops and all. What happened to the good old fashioned cruelty of children? And what happened to back packs? Kids are now wheeling around carry on style luggage instead of backpacks. Don't they know it's never too early to start destroying their spines?

Although there wasn't actually a quip about me looking like a clown, there was one kid who said "Hey, I like your beard, you look like Abraham Lincoln." I told him that I normally don't sport such a weird beard and that it was for a Halloween costume. When I'd finished checking out his bike he said "Thanks Abraham Lincoln." I think that kid is going to do alright.

Ah yes, the beard:

So anyway...

A bike rodeo is an event put on by particularly awesome P.E. teachers at the elementary school level. The kids are rotated through a series of stations where they get tested on their knowledge of the rules of the road, they get their helmets fit properly, they get their bikes checked over for safety (that's where IBC comes in), and finally, they get to go cruise around and bicycle safety obstacle course to demonstrate their real world skills.

If they pass they entire course, the kids get a license to ride to school, and many of them end up using their licenses.

Checking out kids bikes doesn't take a whole lot of tools, allow me to make a bullet point list of what is required:

  • 13, 14, and 15mm box wrenches for axle nuts and stem bolts
  • 8mm Allen wrench for loose kickstands (there will be many)
  • 5mm Allen for stem bolts and assorted loose items
  • 6mm Allen for stem bolts (Lots of loose bars)
  • Chain lube (bikes get left out in the all expensive toys)
  • Pliers for straightening out crooked valve stems (Magna's come stock with these)
  • A well-functioning floor pump

The floor pump...

by the end of a kids bike rodeo your arms will be destroyed from pumping up all the tires. A great ploy is to bring at least two pumps and rope the kids into pumping their own tires. They will actually be completely psyched to do it too. And they love putting valve caps back on. Of course I will tell them that valve caps are not really all that important, and that they will likely wreck their tubes on a sharp curb edge (probably because their parents didn't pump up their tires for three months) before the valve begins to degrade from exposure to the elements. This I do for posterity, so that in twenty years these kids won't come into IBC and say "I am really, really ANGRY with you people. I just had a computer installed yesterday, and after I drove for over two hours back to my house, I noticed that there was no valve cap on my rear wheel (they never say tube, never)... this is unacceptable, I demand a new valve cap for FREE!" Such is the over-inflated (pun intended) role of a valve cap in people's minds, they think that they are actually worth something. Ya, the ones in the form of light-up skulls and dice are, sure, but the standard black ones...they're about as valuable as Zimbabwean pennies.

Most of the bikes (at least in Boston's suburbs) are generally in pretty decent shape: a little lube, a little air and they're good to go. But then there are a always a few bikes that make you go "Wow, this thing is a death trap. I wonder if this kid gets 'running scissors' and 'eye-poking sticks' for his birthday?"

Bike rodeos are always fun and the end result is that you get kids riding to school, which is pretty cool. Thanks to Craig Brenhiser and the Eliot School for putting this thing on!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

National Take A Kid Mountain Biking Day

Riding mountain bikes with kids is awesome. I know that's kind of a shaky thesis, but I think I can back it up.

On the first Saturday in October, NEMBA hosted a National Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day ride in the Middlesex Fells. About 80 kids showed up to ride, eat pizza, and spray paint bike themed T-shirts. My role at this event was to lead rides. Often leading kids rides is akin to herding chickens with their heads cut off, but I got lucky with my group, they were all little rippers. We started with about eleven kids, six of whom were from a Cub Scout troop. The scouts only had to ride, I think it was a mile, for their merit badge. So they cut out after the first part of the loop. Which was good because that group contained that one kid. That human cannonball kid. The one who takes no instruction and is hell bent on taking out every other kid in his path. I breathed a great sigh of relief as I saw him roll away. Though our National Mountain Bike Trail Patrol rider may have been cursing under his breath: "Damn, I guess I'm not going to be needing these sutures then...boring!"

The scouts get a little pre-ride maintenance talk

A big part of riding with kids is quickly determining the group dynamic and assessing the kids' skill levels. At one point I hopped a log and pointed out the easier line to my right for the kid right behind me who totally ignored me and went straight for the spot where I had hopped it. He threw his front wheel up, tagged the log pretty hard, then his rear wheel hit and sent him flying. I thought he was going down for sure, but no: he didn't even put a foot down, he just wrestled the bike back into line and rode out of it smiling.

Later on the same kid (full disclosure: the "kid" was GB NEMBA President Adam Glick's son Sam) cleaned the above rock obstacle. It was one of those things where you had to commit 100% or fall on your butt. One of the adult guides asked "So, when you do something like this how do you think about bailing out." "You don't" I replied. I told all the kids who were trying it to "go full throttle, no brakes, all or nothing, do or die!" Sam pulled it off and it was rad.

Another View. It wasn't any easy move for anyone.

Sam wasn't the only rock star either. We had kids in the group who hadn't really been on a mountain bike ride, ever. The first time we stopped for a log-hopping clinic they weren't having any of it, but the second time we stopped, they went for it and got over the thing with varying levels of grace and composure.

We were close to completing out allotted loop but the crew was still rarin' for more. This was a solid group with good skills and exceptional fitness, so we blew past the turn for the parking lot and continued on, all the way up to the Bear Hill fire tower. There we had a little rock-upping clinic that, due to a rear wheel not quite getting de-weighted enough, turned into a flat-fixing clinic.

There were a couple good do-over sessions on rooty uphills. The sponge-factor (or maybe it's the lack of fear-factor) is so much more apparent in children. On the first attempt they'd flail all over in too small of a gear and ride off the trail. But with the smallest amount of coaching they'd blast right up the thing, no problem.

The mantra of the day on the descents was "control, not speed." While "letting it go" is the best policy on descents for adults or older kids, if you tell younger kids to "let it go" they will really, REALLY let it go, not stopping until their bars jackknife and they end up munching on gravel.

You don't have to wait until the next National Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day to take a kid mountain biking. Go do it this weekend, you won't regret it...unless the kid is that human cannonball kid. In that case bring some bubble wrap, hockey pads, and a cell phone with 911 on speed dial.

The next big NEMBA event is the Wicked Ride of The East up in North Andover on Halloween. So get dressed up and come on out for some killer riding!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Kids Bike Donation Part One

IBC has another couple kids bike donations coming up. Once again we'll be working in conjunction with Nicole Freedman, The Boston Housing Authority, and Mayor Menino's Boston Bikes. The first step in the process this time around was to do a complete inventory of trade in bikes to see what we had available for donation. As the trade in bikes come in over the course of the year, the bikes don't — how can I put this lightly? — get put away on any particular sort of order. They get put in piles, huge piles. And they become entangled, horribly entangled. Bars through spokes and pedals through frames and training wheels through everything else. I hate training wheels. They do nothing to teach a child to ride properly, all they do is allow the child to pedal as fast as they want with no eye toward steering or balance. It's like teaching a teenager to drive by having them jam down the gas pedal while ignoring the steering wheel. That, and they are a terrible tangling and tripping hazard.

Speaking of hazards: during a kids bike wrangling session in the warehouse, you will smash the ever-living bejesus out of your head on one of the 2 x 4's comprising the shelves at least three times. The first time you go "I saw that comin'. Well now that I know better I should have no problem avoiding hitting my head on anymo — WHACK! AAGH! CRAP!" The first two usually occur close together and the third time usually occurs after you've let down your guard at the end of the day and you're all tired. That one's the worst, you're lurching along, hunched over like Quaisimodo, dragging two 16" wheeled bikes across the floor, and you don't quite duck quick enough or long enough and WHAM! At that point you just want to fall on the dusty floor and cry.

But when all the curses were said and all the untangling was done there were 190 bikes deemed ready for donation.

There are hundreds of kids bikes up in the IBC warehouse right now, when I go up there I feel like I'm walking into the last scene in Raiders of The Lost Ark. Sometimes I get all creeped out.

And then I see these things sitting up on the shelf and I completely lose it. I know that vampires use Thule Atlantis 1800's for travel coffins. Seriously, watch the video below:

Luckily I've got James Morrison and Peter Bradshaw up in the warehouse to keep me company a lot of the time. That's Embrocation Cycling Journal headquarters right there (below). Pretty glamorous eh? Funny, James and Peter were sitting right there, I wonder why they didn't show up in the photo? Come to think of it, I've never seen them outside when they weren't all smeared with embrocation, and they do wear a lot of sunblock. I hear they're even into night time cross races. Two skinny, veiny dudes, two travel coff— I mean Thule gotta start to wonder.

Although there are scarier things than vampires in the IBC attic, things like this this:

You stopped screaming yet? Then take a look at this:

I can't pinpoint what year the above pictured Mantis hails from. I think it should jump back into the hot tub time machine it came out of, but hey, if you're into it you should call IBC Newton and offer them something for it. Or maybe if you're a member of the Fearless Vampire Killers you could offer to exterminate the inhabitants of the warehouse in exchange for this vintage monstrosity.