Things Change

Things change, including bicycles. I’ve decided to go ahead and change the Campeur into more of an all-round bike than it was previously.

The beautiful fenders, the non-rusting rear rack, the classic bell were removed. There is simply no need for these items as Birmingham. Respectfully, the summers are dry, needing to carry more than absolutely necessary is minimal, and there are no pedestrians to speak of. I also need to be faster with all of the exclusive road cyclists in these parts.

So far, I’m loving the feel of less weight and more lively frame. On its way are some new tires by the company, Resist. Model is the Nomad. What’s awesome is that the width will be (actual) 41mm compared to my present 33mm.

Pictures of the tires soon, but for now..


Saturday Mornings

Saturday mornings have become my favorite day of the week. This past Saturday was pretty solid as well. I headed out to the usual fog and humidity and arrived downtown on 2nd Ave S around 6:30. As I headed east, the morning sun which had been hiding for the past several weeks showed itself off. The warehouse district I pass through on my rides is pretty neat as I pass through Pepper Place and other mid 20th century signage that for some reason is still in relatively good condition.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Next stop, I decided to explore a little more and went to the Sloss Furnace rail bed. Sloss was a major iron plant producer back to even Reconstruction days. The stop turned out to be the perfect place to bring Walt later on in the day to check out the Diesel Train Engines.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

Turning South toward Red Mountain I decided to take another route to go over this large hill (in other parts of the country). The past route over this mountain is quite busy on some mornings. This time I took a road with awesome views and even a switchback or two. This route also features an alley road. There are many of these types of roads here for some reason. They’re in between a driveway and an actually road and mainly serve as a connection between larger streets and groups of houses. I love riding them because their so intimate in setting and no traffic to speak of (immediately below).

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with a4 preset

And back down.

Processed with VSCOcam with a4 preset

Per usual, I then met the family at Continental Bakery. This bakery resides in English Village and has some of the best bake goods I have ever had as well as coffee provided by Octane. I’m not a foodie either so that’s probably a reliable statement. :)

Equipment-wise, I received some VO Alloy handlebar plugs today to replace my existing Whiskey bottle corks that were used. Like ‘em.

Other Changes

Lately, I’ve been mentioning some changes in my daily rides. Of course, there are other changes having just moved across the country.

First and foremost. My home is the South. It will always be my rock to lean on, a friend I am most familiar with. It has its own personality, but one that is so often misconstrued and manipulated. My past few weeks here have reminded me that the people are its most precious commodity, all else is second.

Too, the cicadas and fireflies have greeted me several weeks earlier than the past few years. What a difference a small change of latitude does to nightly events. The lightening storms have rocked our humble abode many times as well. I could count on my fingers how many times a storm like that happened around DC in my time there. These (almost) weekly occurrences have forced the trees to become strong at their base to be able to bend and not break, I’m sure of. I however am still getting used to the greenery around Birmingham compared to the Beltway. In many instances, most of my rides end up being on roads that remind me of Oak Alley or what my 2 yr old son says, “tree tunnels”. I like it.

One of my closest friends, humidity, always makes an appearance. I’m not sure why I love it so much. When I describe it to folks where they don’t usually experience it, I always tell them that it is like a warm blanket. Probably not the best analogy though I admit. It is nearly 90% each day and nearly 100% in the mornings. Like an old friend, we seem to get each other and have the same relationship as it once was.

Hindsight can’t help but be close to 20/20. In many ways, I never got used to the concrete jungle in DC. I was never quite at rest even though I had a terrific church family and epic cycling community. However, the experience there was undoubtedly spectacular for my career and developing social skills I lacked. In some ride thoughts last week, I was thinking how this Southern boy got a swift kick in the ass when moving to DC. The Beltway taught me how to get around on my own two legs, to figure out how to get the job done even though often times it wasn’t entirely the most popular or easy choice and certainly not what I was used to. At the same time, I thought “every Yankee should live in the South and vice-versa”. Society-speaking, these two worlds don’t often collide in the most positive way and that’s really too bad. We can learn a lot from each other.

I continue to be amazed of what transitions I am making but also how easy it is. Picking up where I left off is odd at times. Per usual, I only notice these changes on my long rides where I can replay recent events. Per usual again, it’s by riding my bicycle that I think most clearly. Until seeing my last change, I plan to lean, turn and pedal my way over low mountains and green valleys in the deep South.

The 650B Ancestor: René Herse Randonneur

Velo Haven:

Fantastic article on what made these machines great. The bit on chainstay to dropout is fascinating as well as the internal routing through the front rack to the light. Thanks for sharing Jan.

Originally posted on Off The Beaten Path:


I had the opportunity to ride a favorite classic René Herse again recently. This is the bike that started the current trend of 650B bikes in North America. It’s the bike that made us re-evaluate front-end geometries and wide tires. It’s truly the ancestor of the bikes we ride today, and it has been hugely influential.

I first rode this 1952 René Herse more than a decade ago. I didn’t have very high expectations. Wide tires at low pressures? Must be slow. “Suicide” front derailleur? Must be difficult to shift. Huge amount of fork rake? A clear sign they didn’t understand front-end geometry back then. Today, we smile about these assumptions, but back then, they were deeply ingrained in all of us.

Imagine my surprise then when the old Herse was faster than my custom bike. It handled better and was more fun to ride. I set a few personal…

View original 1,109 more words


Since moving to Birmingham I have come to the realization that I will no longer have daily rides that are flat. But, at this point I’m so excited in how that develops me into a better cyclist. My current daily ride is taking me up Red Mountain twice as well as some other back roads. Red Mountain overlooks the city and used to supply just the right materials used to make steel. Think of Birmingham as your small Pittsburgh.


Some stats: the daily ride is 1300 feet of total climbing and xx total descending. The first of two ascents is 170 feet for 1/3 of a mile and the latter is 262 feet for about a mile. Total ride is about 20 miles with some options as sections to take so I don’t grow tired of it. Compare this to my old work commute of doing 680 feet of climbing over 23 miles, all of that a very gradual (barely noticeable) slog.

(I mapped out a ride for weekends which is about 1700 feet climbing over 25 miles. I don’t really know how much that is on the average suffering scale but I assure you it will have to hurt! Looking forward to it!)

This weekend I ended up removing the rear VO constructeur rack. I no longer need this and it was adding weight as well as added weight moving side-to-side when I am out of the saddle. I love the look of the bike without it too. Recent #oregonoutback photos inspired me to ditch it, so there’s that. The frame was made for upfront weight so why not?

I continue to lean towards getting some wide 700c tires. Specifically the 45mm (measure 41mm) Resist Nomad tires. (Link goes to an Ocean Air Cycles review) For the price they are a steal and have a skin colored sidewall option as well not to mention solid reviews. This would require me not to have fenders so that is the sticking point. For the time being, I am staying with the older 33mm Michelins and put the Grand Bois on the shelf.

It’s not a permanent move however, smaller tires, fenders and the rear rack can easily be put back on. Plus, I’m thinking the Resist tires would be pretty rad on some gravel and other rough surfaces. Plus a fresh look and feel. Climb on!