Category Archives: Sport

Piscine DELIGNY, Paris

When I travel, I like to find local swimming facilities. The oddest one was Piscine DELIGNY, a floating barge that contained a swimming pool(!), on the River Seine in Paris.

I’d guess that the pool was about 25 meters long by 15 meters wide. It was surrounded by two decks of private changing rooms. This superstructure hid the pool from the outside world and gave the pool and surrounding pooldeck a cozy private atmosphere. 

There was even a unique “ski nautique” concession: a winch powered by an electric motor would pull a skier from one end of the pool to the other! It’s the oddest skiing contraption I’ve seen anywhere. The ski ride was fast but brief.


IN the mid 1970s, while in Paris for a few days, I first found this unique pool. France has some great swimming venues, but this was unique.

Video from 1973

From Vogue:

This is the deck in La Piscine Deligny, Paris, 1975, perhaps the most glamorous public pool in history. It contained wood from a boat that transported the body of Napoleon Bonaparte. It was frequented, over the course of its 200-year life, by kings, by Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Errol Flynn. “Do you remember that day?” I ask sort of naively. Looking at Schlesinger’s photos, you tend to imagine a story lurking below the surface of each image. “Every day was like that,” he says, laughing. But of course.

Alas, nearly 20 years later, La Piscine mysteriously sank to the bottom of the Seine, never to be heard from again, so Schlesinger’s shot of its loungers, like all of the pictures in A Photographic Memory, offers a blissfully carefree record of a lost bohemia.


Deligny pool, or bath Deligny, a floating pool was open air on the Seine, moored on the left bank (Quai Anatole France, in the 7th arrondissement of Paris) since 1796. She owned a restaurant and private dining rooms.

The BRANDT brothers ( Edgar and Jules ) the fréquenterons assiduously among other famous swimmers from years 1898.

Deligny the pool was the place of the swimming events of the 1900 Olympics.

It was a popular place where you had to be seen.

Speed is relative

Einstein taught that time and speed are relative to our frame of reference. I experienced this in the swimming pool recently. I’m working hard to swim at less than one yard per second. It feels fast to me.

hof poolThe national swim teams from Hungary and Italy have been training at my local swimming pool. While swimming my (fifty yards in sixty seconds) laps, I looked up to watch several Hungarian swimmers swimming lap after lap, with no pause. One was swimming backstroke 50 yard laps in 14 seconds. That’s more than two yards per second — lap after lap. Gulp. That’s way over twice as fast as I swim freestyle. These guys are flying.

Their coach later explained that these guys are headed to the Olympics and most are under twenty-one years old.

I can’t blame this speed difference on Einstein. These swimmers are young, gifted, and train hard. It just seems like they’re in a different universe.

Mt Everest climbing history

I’ve been interested in mountain climbing since reading Jon Krakauer’s epic Into Thin Air tale of the disastrous 1996 Mt. Everest climbs. It’s what got me hiking. This well-done video documentary on YouTube contains footage of Mt. Everest expeditions from 1921 (with George Mallory, dressed in sport coat! ) through 1996 (Rob Hall, Scott Fischer, et al, R.I.P.):

Despite all the mod cons used by today’s climbers, Mt. Everest still kills. (It has killed many, but Pakistan’s K2 is the deadliest Himalayan peak.)

There are sports and sports.

Last October, this article provided a laugh about thugs in pro sports: NFL Goes A Month Without A Player Arrest For First Time Since 2009. Just one more reason to avoid watching pro sports.

When I was a boy, I was a fan of first the New York Yankees baseball team and then the Baltimore Orioles baseball and Colts football teams. I was a pretty good baseball and football player and loved playing both games. I was lucky to see the legends play on their home fields: Mickey Mantle, Brooks Robinson, and Johnny Unitas.

Then I grew up. Now that I’m an adult, I have no interest in professional team sports. Adults sound infantile when they gush about a pro ball team. Don’t these jock sniffers understand that any team will jump ship when a better tax break is offered by another city? Ditto the players? There is no team or player allegiance. Why cheer for any pro team?

Most pro teams are owned by closely held corporations. It makes more sense to watch their share prices and cheer for each uptick.

Have you seen today’s fans of professional sports? Most haven’t exercised since high school P.E. class.  Only I.T. professionals have more grotesque physiques. At least one author agrees: America’s Passive Obsession With Professional Sports Is Promoting Obesity. Malik Mohammed commented,

I never understood the obsession grown men have with sports. And it’s not just pro sports, even amateur college teams have fanatics. Why? Are these guys just living vicariously through people more talented than them? Are they trying to escape their own meager life with mindless hobbies? Or are they just conforming to the interests they think a man ought to have? The passion people have for a bunch of guys throwing a ball around is astounding.

Lucius Petillius Clarus added,

“We won, we won!” you’ll hear superfans say.

No you pathetic second-hander, “you” didn’t win. A group of highly paid men playing for money beat another group of highly paid men playing for money. They’re not even from your city. You don’t know them and they don’t know you. They don’t give a fuck about you beyond getting you to pay $50 for a jersey and $150 to see one of their games.

I do like other sports, though. Swimming, water polo, water skiing, surfing, cycling, hiking, self defense. Most of these sports demand fitness, which requires sustained training. They also require strategy, reflexes, and technique. Most involve little or no money. Most attract few spectators.

Some of my peers like to golf, or bowl, or snow ski. They call them sports. I call them pastimes. (I played golf as a teenager. My mother and I always walked; I can’t imagine riding in a golf cart! Golf is okay . . . if you’re a sissy.) Russians call chess a sport, which is silly.

How bad is the NFL crime problem? NFL Player Arrests since 2000

Truths about swimming

These observations will help you get the most from your swimming. (They’re from Australian podcast Effortless Swimming). Each is a short audio clip of less than ten minutes.  (The first truth is that one or two swim workouts a week won’t cut it.)

Listen  Part one


Listen  Part two


Listen  Part three

I enjoy listening to all Effortless Swimming podcasts.

Interval training

When a friend recently asked about my swim workouts,  I told him about interval training.  A swim champ taught me interval training in the 1980s.  It works.  It develops both speed and endurance while allowing you to concentrate on technique.  I use interval training for my swim workouts.  You can use interval training for your favorite sport.

Wikipedia has a simple definition. has a more complete explanation.

Here’s what I do1:
swimmer 150w blended

I use “fixed” intervals — intervals of a fixed duration.  I swim ten 50-yard laps on one minute thirty second (1:30) intervals.  If I swim hard I can come in on less than 0:55, but then I’m knackered and can’t recover in time for the next interval.  If I swim slowly, and come in on 1:15, I won’t have enough time to rest.  If I swim at about a 1:00 to 1:03 pace (that’s about 70 to 80 percent of full throttle), I can do ten intervals, maybe even 15.  Mind you, I’m gasping for breath by the last few intervals, but that’s a good thing.  Supposedly that’s when your body really benefits.  This ordeal requires about fifteen minutes.

stopwatchI like using a clock for intervals because it gives me an objective measurement of my performance on each lap.  When a 1:30 interval becomes easy, I’ll decrease it to 1:25, then 1:20, and so forth.  Or, I could increase the length of each lap to 75 or 100 yards (which would require me to increase the number of seconds in each interval).

I round out my workout by using a kickboard for alternating hard and easy kicking laps, and a pull buoy for freestyle pulls that strengthen the upper body and allow me to concentrate on breathing.  I don’t swim these against the clock.  I finish with some easy slow laps.

To get started in your sport — any sport — you can monitor your pulse after each interval.  You might see your pulse climb to 140 or more2.  (The younger you are, the higher you can push your pulse.)  Let it drop to 100 or less before beginning the next interval.  This will provide an idea of what sort of fixed interval works for you, for any particular exercise.

(I suppose that variable duration intervals — that is, always resting for thirty seconds regardless of how slowly or fast you swam/ran/whatever — a “fixed rest period”  — would be better than nothing.  I think, though, that fixed duration intervals, when adjusted to suit you, ensure that you always work hard on each lap.)

During the exercise portion of each interval, aim for an effort of about 60 to 80 percent of full throttle.

Once you’ve arrived at an interval that works for you, start with just a few repetitions.  Continue this routine for a few weeks until you can do these pretty easily.  Slowly — very slowly, in small steps — bump the number of repetitions up to ten.  Stick with it for months.  Try this routine at least three or four times a week.  Don’t give up.  You will see results.

  1. My times are pathetic compared to a competitive college swimmer.  He or she might swim ten 50 yard laps on a fifty or sixty second interval.
  2. An easy way to roughly measure your pulse is to feel your heart beats on the inside of your wrist or on your carotid artery on your neck.  Count the number of heart beats in ten seconds.  Multiply by six.  Easier (but less accurate): count number of heart beats in six seconds; multiply by ten.Measuring pulse


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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695


I’ve found that defining goals is more difficult than achieving them. Once you define your goal, you just need to imagine the path to your goal and then place one foot in front of the other. Then do it again. And again, ’til you reach your goal.

John Naber headshotIn the 1980s, I heard John Naber speak to a small audience of maybe thirty swimmers at our high school’s outdoor swimming pool. John is a famous swimmer who won four gold medals in world record times at the 1976 Olympic Games.

John began his talk by describing how impressed he was as a college student while watching East German backstroke Olympic champ Roland Matthes win Gold at the 1972 Olympic Games. John mused, “That looks like fun! Could I do that? Nah.” That night John looked at himself in the mirror and asked again, “Am I an Olympic champion? Nah . . . Mathes is a legend, and I’m just a decent collegiate swimmer.”

An impossible dream

A little voice in John’s head kept asking, “Could I do that? Well, let’s see, Mathes’ time for the 200 meter backstroke is 2:02.82, and my best time for the same event is (let’s say) 2:11.00. In four years time Mathes might knock a second or two off his 1972 time, so to beat him in 1976’s Olympics I would need to get my time below two minutes. That’s impossible!”

Then John made the great leap. “Let’s see, to beat Mathes in 1976, I’ll need to drop my best time for the 200 meter backstroke by twelve seconds, to something under two minutes (2:00.00). That means I’ll need to swim three seconds faster each year for the next four years. If I train twice a day, I might swim twelve workouts each week. That’s 624 workouts each year. To drop three seconds a year, I need to drop about .005 (five thousandths) of a second each workout. I’m sure that I can do that!”

Baby steps. 2496 of them.

John plotted a path with thousands of tiny steps to his goal: to win the gold medal in the 200 meter backstroke event at the 1976 Olympic Games. Then he worked hard for four years.

Dreams can come true.

John Naber, 1976 Olympics, winner, 200 meter backstrokeAt the ’76 Olympics, on the last lap of the 200 meter backstroke event, as John touched the edge of the pool, he looked up and saw the clock: 1:59.19 — a new world record, and exactly what he had set as his goal four years earlier.

John concluded his talk by speculating that most champions achieve great things not by chance. They set goals, plan paths, and then work hard to reach their goals. What looks incredible to us, is the result of careful planning followed by hard work.

This modest presentation, outside on a pool deck on a clear warm evening, was the best motivational speech I’ve ever heard.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Take a hike.

When I began working in northern New Jersey, I missed my Florida sports (swimming, biking, waterskiing) during the winter months. Then I read Jon Krakauer’s stunning true-life adventure story (Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster) about the 1996 climbing season on Mount Everest.

Krakauer’s vivid writing awakened childhood memories of traipsing through wintery woods, hanging out on rocks, and otherwise having a blast in the great outdoors. Hiking is just walking, isn’t it? How hard can it be? I headed for the nearest outdoor store and stocked up on hiking boots and all the mod cons for hiking. Luckily, northern New Jersey and New York State are loaded with well-documented first-class hiking trails. (New York / New Jersey Trail Conference website)

A great workout

My first winter hike woke me up. I gained about 800 feet elevation within a mile of rough footing that ranged from loose gravel to granite to frozen clay. This scramble beat the stuffing out of me! When I returned home, my quads and hamstrings went into agonizing spasms. I’d never felt such painful leg cramps.

Harriman Park, New York StateI loved hiking — especially in the wintertime, when there were no insects on the trails, or snakes, or tree leaves to block vistas, and most sensible hikers stayed home. I hiked almost every winter weekend. I learned two secrets to enjoying snowy wintertime hiking: dress in layers; stay dry.

I hiked the Catskill mountains, the Adirondacks, the Ramapos, the Shawangunks. A special treat was being the first human on a freshly snow covered trail; animal tracks laced the trails. I used snowshoes on deep snow, crampons on ice, and occasionally cross-country skis in open country.

Rattlers and mooses and bears! Oh My!

Hiking in mountainous backcountry gave me a needed break from technology. Everything about hiking is dirt simple. No computers. No networks. No electricity, even. It’s a thrill to hear wolves howling, rattlesnakes rattling, or to come face to face with a moose while hours from the trailhead. Hiking also introduced me to rich local history: Revolutionary war era mines, forges, tanneries and forts.

From freezer to pizza oven

Fort Lauderdale Las Olas blvd bridge approachNow that I’m back in Fort Lauderdale, where our summers are like living inside a pizza oven, I’m finding that summertime hikes also beat the stuffing out of me. It’s a different sort of punishment. The brutal summer sun, humidity, and temperatures in the 90s mean that I sweat like a pig. The footing couldn’t be easier. I walk the two miles or so on sidewalks to my fave swimming pool and two more miles back home. During a two mile walk I drink half a liter of water from my water bottle. My shirt becomes thoroughly soaked with sweat; it looks like I’d worn it in the shower. The walk along Fort Lauderdale’s easy paved sidewalks in the hot sun is a surprisingly tough workout.

There are no moose or wolves along my route to the pool; only large lizards. The other day the thermometer read 92 degrees F; the “feels like” temperature was 110 F — just like a pizza oven.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Vinegar as a swim goggle cleaner

Most swim goggle manufacturers recommend that after use, users rinse them in clean water. I hadn’t rinsed a new pair for about a month, and the caked on chlorine and salts made seeing through them like looking through a kaleidoscope. Opti Sphere, the manufacturer, discourages rubbing the inside surface of the lenses. (They’re coated with antifog treatment.) I couldn’t think of a cleaning method that would both remove the grunge and preserve the antifog coating.

Seal gogglesAfter an easy Google search,  I found the answer: white distilled vinegar. (Yes, there’s a website devoted to vinegar.) I first tried the recommended four-hour soak in a 50 percent vinegar and water solution.  I saw little improvement. Next, I tried a fifteen-hour soak in a 50 percent solution. Voila!  While the goggles were still wet, I gingerly wiped the lenses with a soft cloth that was soaked with the vinegar solution. After a thorough clear water rinse,  the goggles’ lenses were restored to like new crystal clear condition.

I’m pleased as punch with this fix. It’s simple, easy, cheap, and effective.

(first published 2 November, 2014)
Update, 21 March 2015 I had a pair of goggles whose lenses were so crusted, that while wearing them it was impossible to read the pool clock . I figured that they were goners, but I soaked them in a 50% vinegar solution overnight, and the lenses cleared a little. I soaked them a second night, rinsed them in clear water, and wiped the lenses with a terrycloth towel. They improved again. After a third overnight soak in 50% vinegar, the lenses are nearly crystal clear!

Here’s what works for me:

  1. After swimming, immediately rinse goggles in clear water
  2. Place goggles in protective plastic case to prevent scratching in transit and storage
  3. At home, soak goggles overnight in 50% vinegar solution
  4. On the next day, rinse goggles in clear water
  5. Wipe both sides of both lenses with a terrycloth towel
  6. Rinse goggles again in clear water
  7. Replace goggles in protective plastic case
  8. Transport goggles to swimming site
  9. Enjoy swimming with clear goggle lenses

I’ve found that the next day once I jump into the pool, if I wipe the lenses with a soaked old swim suit while the goggles are immersed, the lenses become crystal clear.

I guess that the salts that deposit on the lenses are slightly basic. (Chlorinated pool water has a pH of about 7.4.) Vinegar is an acid with a pH of about 3. I guess that the vinegar neutralizes the salts that cling to the lenses, so the salts lose their grip on the lenses. In any case, the vinegar soak solution does work. Try it!

Addendum, February 2016: How to apply anti-fog treatment to goggles

Celebrities on bikes

Evel Knievel with bicycle in Fort LauderdaleWhile searching for bicycle in Fort Lauderdale, Google turned up an odd search result: a photo of Evel Knievel in his caped suit, standing with his bicycle in front of his Fort Lauderdale house. (Who knew?) Was he preparing for a ride to the grocery store? Or a training ride on highway A1A? This picture is part of an entertaining article in Cozy Beehive from 2008 titled Celebrities Who Ride Their Bicycles. It features photos of everyone from Albert Einstein to Frank Zappa with their bikes.

I guess that cycling is chic. Here are more photos:

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Recyclable Bicycle Exchange

I believe in recycling. So does Jeff Torkelson, who’s a generous Fort Lauderdale cyclist who additionally believes in giving to his community — and he has acted on his beliefs. Jeff created the Recyclable Bicycle Exchange (“RBX”) in Fort Lauderdale to convert unwanted and/or unneeded bicycles into dreams come true for kids who otherwise couldn’t own bikes.

Recyclable Bicycle Exchange and Jeff TorkelsonI first met Jeff in 2013 when he came to the Marino Campus to introduce the students to the Broward B-cycle bicycle sharing system. Jeff is its founder and manager. He gave away free bike helmets; I still use mine almost every day.

Our local newspaper, The Sun Sentinel, published in December an article titled Bike exchange turns trash into treasures about Jeff and RBX. It explains,

He decided he wanted to give back to the community after his father died of cancer five years ago. The idea for the exchange came about when Torkelson started volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Broward County.

“Here were children living lives where it was considered ordinary not to have a bike,” said Torkelson, 47. “I always thought every kid had a bike, that it was part of growing up.”

Future RBX mechanicOn the RBX website, Jeff defines the RBX mission:

To supply quality and safe bikes to the kids (big kids too) of South Florida, including the kids of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Broward County (BBBS), as a means of introducing an entertaining activity that promotes an active lifestyle.

The Recyclable Bicycle Exchange Facebook page contains RBX news and reviews . . . and big smiles on little cyclists.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Alex Moulton’s remarkable designs

I’ve always admired Englishman Alex Moulton’s innovative solutions to thorny mechanical problems. His compact, lightweight, and simple elastomeric “donut” suspension design allowed the BMC Mini car of 1959-1970 to provide amazingly spacious interior room compared to its tiny exterior dimensions. Then he re-thought the humble bicycle, which resulted in a compact frame with tiny wheels and . . . elastomeric donut suspension.

Moulton BicycleWikipedia’s biography Like most memorable inventors, when searching for solutions, Alex Moulton returned to first principles. Though Dr. Moulton died in 2012, his Moulton Bicycle Company continues to manufacture his unique bikes.

loudspeaker iconHere’s a well-done audio program about Moulton bicycles, including Dr. Moulton’s commentary:

I’ve cycled through Moulton’s lovely canalside town of Bradford on Avon (and its surrounding hills). It’s beautiful country for bicycle touring. That’s why it’s remarkable that Moulton bikes are so maneuverable on crowded city streets.

Brief BBC video biography (1min 42sec)

Obituary, The Telegraph (UK) 2012

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Record bike ride info

I recently installed MapMyRide on my Android phone. I’m very happy with it. It uses GPS data to record speed, distance, and route of each bike ride. I use all of its default settings except Auto Pause; I turned it on so that it pauses each time that I stop the bike.

MapMyRide scheenshotI like hearing my split stats (time, distance, and speed) read to me at mile increments.

When you return home, tell MapMyRide that you’ve ended your ride. You can view your route on a map as well as your total distance, average speed, Calories burned, and average speed for each 1-mile segment. You may save your workout details for later viewing.

The free Android version does everything that I want. The paid version allows real-time tracking of your ride by a friend or family member and apparently it also integrates with a heart rate, bike speed, and cadence monitor. There are also Apple IOS and Blackberry versions available.

I know that we can mount dedicated bike computers that will provide much of the same ride information, but that requires careful mounting, sensor wire routing, and calibration. With this app, a rider just needs to run the app, press Start Workout, stick the phone in his pocket, and go.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Disguise your smartphone’s phone number.

Burner screenshot on smartphoneWhile watching a Youtube video clip about the recovery of a stolen bicycle, I learned about Burner, a smartphone app that allows a smartphone user to temporarily mask his or her phone number with an alias phone number. It’s available for iPhones, but not yet for Android phones. (originally published on 31 December 2012. 9 July 2014: Burner is now available for Android phones, as well as IOS.)

Theft recovery seems like a perfect use for telephone anonymity. The victim, who’s a Portland, Oregon resident, responded to a Seattle Craigslist for sale ad for what seemed to be his stolen bike. He used Burner to make his phone calls appear to originate in Seattle.

Bike theft is a low-risk occupation. Watch a NYC resident steal bikes in public view.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

A cure for muscle cramps

I’ve always been bothered by painful muscle cramps in my legs after strenuous exercise. They wake me at night after a hard day of hiking, biking, or swimming. Occasionally they’ll occur during a long hard bike ride or a hard swim workout. For decades I thought that I’d just have to tolerate the pain. Yes, some cyclists fill their water bottles with Gatorade, but it’s loaded with sugar. I thought that it was a useless gimmick. I’ve tried gorging on bananas to replace lost potassium, with no apparent effect.

gu-brewDave at Lauderdale Cyclery suggested that I try drinking a solution of Gu Brew and water (one tablet per water bottle) while cycling. I was skeptical, but was pleased to find that It actually works! No more cramps at night, and only occasional minimal hints of cramps when after a flip-turn, I push off the pool wall.

I drink this solution when swimming, cycling . . . any form of exercise. I wish that I’d discovered it earlier. The tablets are available in a variety of flavors. I don’t have a favorite flavor; I like them all.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Swim stuff online

I like to swim. Even in Fort Lauderdale, finding just the right swim gear can be tough. I’ve found that is a reliable source of everything I need to make swimming a joy.

Here are a few of my fave items:


    • AquaSphere Seal swim goggles. Over the decades I’ve tried every brand of goggle. On my face, they all leak, save one. The Seal goggle is the only one that does not leak . . . on my mug, anyway. It also provides a beautiful wide angle view. It probably creates more drag than smaller goggles, but I don’t care. Sports Authority stocks this goggle with smoked lenses.
    • Sporti swimsuits. Sporti is SwimOutlet’s house brand. Sporti mens suits are priced at about 60% of comparable Speedo suits and seem to be of comparable quality.


  • Coppertone Water BABIES sunscreen, in a pink plastic bottle. SPF 50. Contains zinc oxide. Not greasy. Stays on skin throughout an hour’s workout and more.
  • UltraSwim shampoo and conditioner. Chlorine quickly dries out my straight fine hair and turns it to straw. This shampoo seems to break chlorine’s chemical bond to hair. It’s the only shampoo that keeps my hair soft the day after a swim.

Choice of swim gear is highly personal. These items suit me. Your mileage may vary.

Looking for a nearby lap pool?

Swimmers’ Guide maintains a useful database of public accessible pools that are suitable for lap swimming. It’s great for travelers.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Pushing the limits of road bikes

These guys perform tricks that look impossible . . . on a road bike. Fantastic riding from England. The 6-minute video is beautifully photographed and edited.

Youtube videos: Road Bike Party 2. All tricks were performed on one bike: The Making Of Martyn Ashton’s Colnago C59 Disc. Postscript: Martyn broke his back last September when he fell ten feet during a demo. His legs remain paralyzed. His mates helped him finish the video.

City Biking

Ralph Bueller, in an audio interview, claims that in Denmark, Holland, and Germany, more than 25% of trips by people over 60 years of age are done on bicycles. In the U.S., less than one percent of such trips are done on bicycles.

Looking south from 30th Street at bike lane in 9th Ave in Manhattan on a cloudy afternoon
Looking south from 30th Street at bike lane in 9th Ave in Manhattan on a cloudy afternoon
A friend points out that in most European cities, residences, shopping, and employment centers are clustered next to each other. Most American development follows the sprawl model: housing, shopping, and work centers are separated by dozens of miles of overloaded highways. The availability of affordable cars after WW2 encouraged sprawl. Now car-clogged sprawl is strangling us.

Bicycles offer many advantages over cars where commute distances are less than ten miles. It’s time for the United States to stop sprawling and return to a cohesive community model.

Two recent presentations from Australia:

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Amazon as importer and distributor

Jeff Bezos’ Amazon continues to disrupt traditional commerce models.

Recently I was in the market for a bright LED (light emitting diode) bicycle headlight. Top shelf LED headlights by Niterider and Baja Designs with outputs in the 2000 lumens range sell for $300 to $450. I searched Amazon and found a much cheaper alternative.

SecurityIng® 4 Modes Waterproof 2800 Lumens Cree XM-L U2 LED Bicycle Light
Lamp diameter 0.5 inch
The headlight that I bought is made by China-based Securitying, a company that I’d never heard of. It claimed to produce 2800 lumens, its reviews were favorable, and Amazon sells it for a mere $40. It’s tiny, good and bright, but not perfect. It arrived with no instructions or o-ring mounts, and its low-medium-high-off pushbutton switch isn’t ideal for vehicles. Its output is probably closer to 1200 lumens — not the claimed 2800 lumens. Still, it’s very bright with a nice broad beam.

The interesting part of this is that the Chinese manufacturer seems to have no US-based presence. They’re using Amazon as their importer, American warehouse, distributor, and warranty claims center. I wonder how many other off-shore manufacturers are doing the same?

P.S. I’m so happy with this light that I bought two more: a second to use together with the first one, plus a spare.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Google Maps for bicycles needs work

Last Thanksgiving, I again cycled 19 miles to a friend’s house. Again, Google Maps on my Android phone helped, but revealed flaws in its bicycle routes. It tried to route me about four miles out of my way.

While on Stirling Road, rather than routing me directly westbound on Stirling Road, Google Maps wanted me to head a couple miles north to Griffin Road, head west to Flamingo Road, then head south for about two miles to Stirling Road.

google maps bike route

This route would make sense only if Stirling Road were impassable. In fact, Stirling Road is friendlier to bicycles than Griffin Road. (Google Maps correctly suggested that cars use Stirling Road.)

Afterward, I used Google Maps’ user feedback facility to inform Google of this bug. With luck, Google will correct it before next Thanksgiving.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Against the wind

I was thinking about biking and how much pleasure it’s been over the decades, from my first tricycle, through my 20-inch bike with training wheels, through a succession of bikes of all types.

Schwinn Continental bicycle, c 1960One emotion runs through my memories of all of my bikes: freedom. The only bad memories involve headwinds. Hours and hours of headwinds.

In the 1960s I attended college in the middle of Kansas. I had no car, and saved my money for a new Schwinn Continental (a gorgeous but heavy 10-speed bike). I’d regularly ride that bike about 20 miles to Salina, KS. The roads were flat, but the never-ending wind was a killer. I’d not yet learned about the near-necessity of padded bicycle shorts or gloves. The rides would just beat me up, especially if I faced a headwind both northbound and southbound. (Yes, it happened sometimes — a front would come through and the wind would shift direction by 180 degrees. Result? Forty miles in first and second gear!)

Last month I was amused to find a Kansas bicycle podcast and the first thing that they mentioned was the difficulty of cycling into the wind. That persistent Kansas wind.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

David Byrne’s Bicycle Diaries

David Byrne (once the Talking Heads guitarist/singer, now world music producer) is an avid bicyclist. While on concert tour, he uses his folding bike to explore the local color. A few years ago he assembled his worldwide bike travel notes into a book titled Bicycle Diaries.

ListenDavid Byrne on folding bikeYou can listen to him read a chapter from his book. David Byrne reads his Australia chapter from his 2009 book, Bicycle Diaries. I like his transportation philosophy: use a bicycle when it’s appropriate, such as in urban settings and for short to medium length rides. Use other transport modes when they make more sense.

I found a humorous reading of Mark Twain’s Taming the Bicycle on 648px-PSM_V38_D791_An_ordinary_bicycle_with_lines_of_forceI could sympathize with his difficulty in learning to ride a penny-farthing bike. The proper name for this design was Ordinary Bicycle. They had a large front wheel with pedals, a small rear wheel, and no freewheel — you couldn’t coast — and just one speed — you couldn’t shift gears. Oh — no brake, either.

Philip K Dick
Philip K. Dick
dwg: Pete Welsch
Librivox provides “Acoustical liberation of books in the public domain”. The readers’ voices bring life to the authors’ words. The authors include unexpected surprises: I spent a pleasant hour listening to The Defenders by Philip K. Dick (1928 – 1982). (Who’s he? An imaginative writer. Hollywood based Blade Runner, The Minority Report, Paycheck, The Matrix, and Total Recall on his short stories and novels.) The Defenders introduces a world in which humans have burrowed deep into the Earth to escape radioactivity caused by a never-ending war that’s fought by robots on Earth’s surface.


ListenThe terrible destruction of total nuclear war between the Western and Eastern Blocks has succeeded in sterilizing the surface of the earth. No living creature can now exist there and all humans on both sides, have fled to the hives built miles below the surface where they constantly work to produce the war materials necessary to carry on the battle. For 8 years now, the actual fighting between these super powers has been conducted by robots known as Ledeys since only they can sustain the terrible levels of radiation caused by the constant bombardment. They are the Defenders, standing between the combatants far below and ultimate victory or defeat. Life is hard in the tunnels, but liveable, while it is lethal on the surface. The ledeys keep the generals informed on everything through vids and pictures; but how can this continue? what will happen? Who will win? (Summary by Phil Chenevert)

I look forward to listening to more Librivox readings on my smartphone. I’ll listen to more Phil Dick stories and then Edgar Allen Poe is next.

Mark Twain’s penny-farthing bicycle? Riding it sounds as daunting as riding a modern track bike: no freewheel, gears, or brakes. I’ve ridden them in a velodrome only. Some daredevils (somehow) ride them on the street. I think they’re nuts.

Congratulations to Oracle

I called the America’s Cup competition in San Francisco Bay wrong. So did almost everyone else. Larry Ellison’s Oracle Team USA’s 72-foot long catamaran recovered from an 8 to 1 deficit to Emirates Team New Zealand and won. Yes, OTUSA came back from certain defeat to win sailing’s most prestigious trophy by a score of 9 to 8.

Every aspect of this year’s America’s Cup was controversial.

  • The “USA” in the Oracle Team USA moniker is meaningless; OTUSA’s onboard crew consists of exactly one American and nine Kiwis and Aussies. Its helmsman is an Australian. The OTUSA crew list reveals that this is a corporate — not a national — team.
  • Most potential teams stayed home because of costs. Larry reportedly spent upwards of $200 million.
  • Tbe boats look like trampolines.
  • The crews are dressed in helmets and what appear to be NASCAR driving suits.

The “yachts” and the racing resembled Formula One more than yachting. Have a look at the final race on YouTube.

Slate scowled in The Miracle on San Francisco Bay:

There’s really no rational reason for someone who isn’t from New Zealand and/or some type of robber baron to care even one bit about the America’s Cup, or to root for Larry Ellison and his team of sailing carpetbaggers.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695