Ice Breakers

We made an errand run across town this morning to pick up bike parts, books, and burritos. As usual, we made a detour to the coffee shop (no Saturday morning errand run is complete without stopping for a cup of joe).

While sipping our coffee we struck up a conversation with a very nice, retired gentleman. He’s an avid rider and was on an amazing, home-built Lightning P-38 clone. Prior to retiring he was a welder by trade (his considerable skill was apparent in the excellent workmanship of his bike) and he’s built many recumbents in collaboration with his friend, the retired engineer. It turns out we’re practically neighbors (small world) and he had rode across town too; the fact that we landed at the same coffee shop at adjacent tables was pretty cool.

One of the best things about using bikes for transportation is all of the nice people we meet. It rarely fails that when we stop for a few minutes someone will ask a question about the bikes; the conversations often take off from there and can lead to almost anywhere. It’s funny that this rarely happens when we travel by car. Maybe it’s our unique bikes that prompt people to speak up where they’d otherwise just pass by. Or maybe it’s that we’re enjoying ourselves so much that our expressions invite conversation. Whatever the reason, the many interesting people we meet are a big part of why we so enjoy getting around on bikes.

8 Responses to “Ice Breakers”

  • Joe3 says:

    Is that a photo of the bikes your riding? If so, what braand are they? Thanks

  • Alan says:

    Those are Pashley Sovereigns:


  • Loren Hackerott says:

    I was riding my bent to work one morning when a car passed me, and pulled quickly off the road. A fellow jumped out of the car and waved me down. He wanted to talk to me about my bent.

    He was a deputy marshal and ended up buying two bents from me. On one of the test rides we were maybe 15 to 20 miles out of town when he said he “just realized that if he had been on his MTN bike, he would have wanted off by now, but felt he could keep going all day on the bent.”

    You never know when or where you will meet someone interesting.

  • Erik B. says:

    “Whatever the reason, the many interesting people we meet are a big part of why we so enjoy getting around on bikes.”

    Indeed! Others on as well as off bikes. It’s being out of a car and in the elements that make conversation more likely to happen between strangers. Just a couple of days ago riding back from a shop, a young man who was riding his MTB on the sidewalk said to me “Hey, you don’t have horsepower.” When I looked at him a little bit startled, he said “You’re in the road with cars?”

    I just sort of smiled and said, “Ya know, we have every right to be here.”

  • Ian says:

    Alan, I got a WalMart folding bike about 3 weeks ago. I use it at our summer place in Bayfield, Ontario on the shores of Lake (ocean?) Huron. I’ve added a bicycle basket on the front and a Rubbermaid box on the rear rack, plastered with banana labels, plum labels..the codes that grocery clerks need to scan fruits and veggies. Also I glued on a $00.00 9/10ths label. A real ice breaker !
    It has been so much fun meeting lots of people across the generations who just start yakkin full of smiles and seemingly with lots of time to chew the fat. They talk about wonderful old Raleigh twenty’s they have tucked away in the rafters of their drivesheds (garages) etc. look kind of wistful at my helmet with its mirror and my wildly visible crossing guard safety vest and all of this yakking would never,…never occur if I had pulled into the parking lot with my 3000 lbs of sheet metal. Now if i could just reduce the weight of my bike’s engine by 20 lbs ..I would be so happy…I’m all ready happy but then would be Sooooh happy. Love your blog. Do not have the web yet at my summer place so have to catch you on return to my city home. The wait is always worth it.

  • Thom says:

    This is sort of a non sequitur, but those are cork grips, right? What do you do to care for them and keep them looking so nice? Is there a waterproofing treatment like wax or varnish, or something, that you would recommend?

  • Alan says:

    Hi Thom,

    Yes, those are cork grips. I coat them with amber shellac. Some people like the feel, others don’t. The surface is non-absorbent, so they get a little slippery when it’s hot and your hands are perspiring a lot. If you apply the shellac lightly, the surface texture comes through but you still end up with a fair amount of protection. I hit them with fine sandpaper once a year and apply another light coat – they’ll last a few seasons (at least) if maintained this way. I love the look and the feel of cork (probably leftover from my years as a fly fishing guide/shop manager).

    Here’s the shellac I’m using:


  • andy parmentier says:

    well now would be the perfect plug time for this story: i brought two books to read-a world atlas, and the other “spring jaunts” about getting around the british isles. so i just open the atlas at random to a map of the british isles..and looking especially at the north country, a thought forms that this would be a wonderful place to put in a boat, on the rivers of britain. and then opening spring jaunts also at random to a discussion about boating on the rivers of britian – in a handmade woven craft called a coracle.
    i brought this up because coracles were cited as a fisherman’s best friend. and the alliterative intangible (county of cork? coracle? cork grips conversation over coffee..”bike parts books burritos
    brummer-of p-38 fame)

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