Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Turning Heads (and Headtubes!) On a 19th Century Rudge

1892 Rudge
In the realm of collecting old things, a distinction is generally made between the vintage and the antique - the latter typically defined as being over 100 years old. When it comes to bicycles, my interest in this category has been limited to detached historical curiosity at best. It’s not that I don’t appreciate early two-wheeled machines. But oftentimes they are just too far removed from the bicycle as we know it today, for them to register in my brain as bikes and excite me on the same tactile, visceral level.

And that is pretty much how I felt during one of my visits to the Three Speed Hub, when proprietor Nick pointed conspiringly toward a shadowy corner of his warehouse space and waited for my reaction. The enormous object that stood there resembled a bicycle in form, but at the same time deviated from a bicycle in subtle, yet significant and somewhat disconcerting ways.

1892 Rudge
“It’s a 19th Century Rudge!” Nick explained.

Ah, 19th century. I had guessed as much. I regarded the thing politely and asked some questions about its history, all the while longing to resume fondling the 1950s Oscar Egg that was more in keeping with my interests.

 “And just wait till you see how it rides!” Nick continued.

I snapped out of my daze. “Oh, is it ridable?” I said, as casually as possible, while uttering a silent prayer that he wouldn’t attempt to convince me to try it out.

“It’s ridable all right, you’ve never seen anything like it! Here, let's take it outside and you can give it a go…”

“Why don’t you ride it and I’ll photograph you,” I offered instead, following along apprehensively. Nick is of the breed of collectors who believe that all bikes - no matter how old, precious, or rare - ought to be ridden. In the past he had tried to coax me onto all sorts of machines, regardless of their size, decrepitude and trickiness to handle, with varying degrees of success. But I would rather forego this century-and-a-quarter old beast that was clearly several sizes too large for me.

1892 Rudge
Outside I had a closer look at the Rudge's construction. The dramatic, almost Pedersen-like slope of the top tube gives the bicycle an intimidating, oversized stature. However, the height of the saddle suggests it can be ridden by considerably smaller persons than it may at first appear. Another oddity I soon notice is that the front wheel appears to be smaller than the rear. I ask Nick about this. Initially he had assumed the front rim was a modern replacement, smaller than the rear because the previous owner could not get ahold of the period-correct size. However, he soon learned that the mismatched wheels are most likely correct for this model - which is a very rare 1892 Rudge Model D, nearly identical to the bike pictured here.

1892 Rudge
Another remarkable feature I soon observe is the monstrously thick chain.

1892 Rudge
Here it is next to an (already oversized by modern standards) early 20th century roadster chain.

1892 Rudge
And notice the flat teeth on the chainring, to accommodate it!

1892 Rudge
The reverse-setback seatpost beneath the sprung A. E. Wilby saddle is also interesting. 

1892 Rudge
As is, of course, the front spoon brake. 

1892 Rudge
Foot pegs at the rear axel help mount the bike on the fly - 

1892 Rudge
like so!

1892 Rudge
While foot rests on the fork blades facilitate the "hipster coast" (the bike is fixed geared).

1892 Rudge
But all of this pales in comparison to what is by far the coolest feature of the 1892 Rudge: the headtube! Or, rather, the steerer! Or really both, since they are one and the same. 

1892 Rudge
As you can see in the pictures, the stem, headtube and fork are all one, connected to the top and downtube via hinges, so that when the rider turns the handlebars the entire front end pivots. 

1892 Rudge
In motion, this looks something like this. To the observer, it does look as if there is something different about the front end, even if you can't put into words what that is until someone points out the funky front end construction. 

1892 Rudge
However, from the rider's perspective (yes, I was soon riding the bike myself!) the front end handling feels strangely normal - in an early roadsterish sort of way, which is to say, rather deliberate and delayed. It is only the visual aspect of things that takes getting used to - that is, seeing the headtube turn when the handlebars turn.

As far as sizing, I am still not sure whether this bicycle was meant for someone of my height. Lowering the saddle nearly as far down as it would go allowed me to pedal comfortably. However, I could not clear even the lowest part of the top tube (which is still above saddle height), and had to lean the bike over considerably when standing over it. 

1892 Rudge
In motion, the (surprisingly reasonably geared) fixed drivetrain picked up momentum with a steady eagerness, so that soon I was circling the industrial parking lot at speed - which the spoon brake actually helped shave off when it was time to stop (my feet did the rest). All in all, riding the 1892 Rudge with its pivoting front end, odd fit, differently sized wheels and monster chain, did not feel all that different from riding an early vintage roadster. I would not choose it for a personal commuter bike, but that is mostly due to the awkward top tube. Did the Rudge Model D exist in a drop frame version? I have a feeling it did. And if so, I might reconsider my disposition toward antique bicycles.

If you are in the Boston area and are interested in trying the 1892 Rudge Model D for yourself, get in touch with Nick through the Three Speed Hub. The bicycle is not for sale, but available for historically informative joy rides!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Unexpected Autumn

Aghanloo Church of Ireland Graveyard
Last year I was away from Northern Ireland for most of October. And as far as Autumn scenery, I'd assumed I wasn't missing much. From having lived in England in my 20s, I remember this time of the year being rather bland. As summer came to an end, at some point the leaves would start to change from green to a sad yellowish brown, promptly shriveling in the process and disappearing altogether soon after. I assumed it'd be more or less the same over here and did not harbour expectations of remarkable foliage. But oh how wrong I was! 

Autumn in Ballycarton
These days I have difficulty riding my bike without craning my neck to gawk at the magnificent colourbursts that pepper the landscape. The Autumn foliage is not as pervasive as it is in Northeastern US. Rather than a blanket of colour, here it comes in patches. But if anything, this only makes it more striking. An impossibly luminous golden tree stands in a clearing of a drab green forest. And on this crisp, chilly day, passers-bye can't help but orient themselves toward it, as if it were a giant hearth emitting not only light but warmth. 

Autumn in Ballycarton
The tree's sprinkling of fallen leaves covers a mossy embankment, lighting up the dark, pine-shaded corner with a brassy glow. The leaves smell forest-spiced and sun-toasted, without a hint of rot, suggesting - falsely - a climate of crisp sunny afternoons rather than days upon days of overcast dampness.

I have noticed other instances of this magical crispness that preserves plants from summer wholly, like pressed flowers in the pages of a book, rather than letting them rot away slowly in the season's demise. The meadows are strewn with blanched, bone-dry stalks of Queen Anne's Lace and the gardens are lined with perfectly dried Hydrangeas. 

Red Ivy, Aghanloo
Blackberries hang on to their edible plumpness for as long as they can, until one day they turn into sundried candied kernels, with no wilting process having taken place in between. 

Red Ivy, Aghanloo
It's as if someone waves a magic wand and the berry gives up its juices on the spot to the crisp Autumn air, its remains now exuding a subtle, jammy perfume.

Tiny Yellow Apples
Elsewhere, fruit at once familiar and strange ripens heavily on twig-like, moss covered branches, glowing in vibrant shades of gold, red and plum. 

Red Ivy, Aghanloo
But the most amazing sight of all is the ivy. Flame red, it covers the white exteriors of cottages, the gray stone walls of church yards. 

Aghanloo Church of Ireland Graveyard
The ivy leaves are supple and waxy, showing not a single sign of dryness. From last year I try to remember what becomes of them as the season goes on. What happens to ivy in winter, and how will it get to that state from its current rich, oily, crimson splendor? 

Red Ivy, Aghanloo
For a moment, thinking of this evokes an image of human red hair, year by year losing its lustre, thinning and turning gray. Autumn's inevitable waning does bring to mind aging, hence its sad and sentimental connotations. I, however, am, more than anything, curious. And this curiosity makes me feel awake, not sad. It makes me want to get out on my bike and ride past all the ivy-covered stonework I can find and take it all in.

Aghanloo Church of Ireland Graveyard
We think of Autumn as a transitional, transformative season. It is a shapeshifter - with the light, the landscape and the weather changing rapidly on an almost daily basis, until it all settles down into the more solid and stable state that is winter. In that sense, Autumn can be conceived as a journey of sorts. And in Northern Ireland this year, it is an exceptionally beautiful one.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Is Uneven Pannier Load Problematic?

Untitled
When I ride a pannier-laden commuter bike, it is not uncommon for one side to be bulging while the other sits nearly empty. This is not because I can't be bothered to distribute the weight evenly, but because one of the panniers houses my enormous photo/laptop bag and I don't always have anything to put on the other side to compensate. I've cycled with this type of uneven rear load pretty much the entire time I've owned bicycles with rear racks. In the past, I've usually had a briefcase-type pannier clipped to one side of the rack, with nothing on the other, which is really no different from having unevenly loaded double panniers. But it's when I switched to the latter system that observers really began to notice. Over the past month in particular, I've received quite a few questions and concerned comments about the issue! These tend to fall into one of two categories: (1) Does the weight not pull to the side and cause handling issues? and (2) Isn't the uneven load bad for the bicycle frame?

Speaking from personal experience, my answer to the first question is "Usually, no." When riding an upright commuter bike - even a fairly lightweight one like my 25lb mixte - I simply do not feel the asymmetrical pannier load (typically 10-15lb on the lefthand side - though on other bikes I've tried as much as 40lb) once the bike is in motion. I do feel it when walking the bike. And it makes keeping the bicycle upright on a kickstand tricky. But once I put foot to pedal, the weight more or less disappears and I think nothing of it. Even when cornering, I've never felt it to be a problem on this type of bicycle. That said, I have not tried riding a roadbike, at roadbike cornering speeds, with the same setup. I can see how in that context the weight disparity could be problematic, and I'd be curious to hear from cyclists who have experienced this for themselves.

As far as an uneven load being bad for the bike… I imagine that would depend on lots of factors, including what sort of weight the bicycle was built to accommodate in the rear, and how chronically, as well as for what distance and duration, the owner rides it unevenly loaded (assuming the weight is always on the same side). I have seen a few twisted vintage frames, where it had been suggested they got that way through chronic uneven load carry. But without knowing the owner, it is impossible to tell for sure. My own commuter bikes have all been fairly stiff laterally, and I've never feel any twist in the frames as a result of uneven weight at the rear. But these things are not always perceivable, and it hasn't been long enough to gauge long term effects. Just in case, I try to alternate the side of the load and never make it ridiculously heavy.

In general, I would say that the average utility bike can certainly handle uneven rear load distribution, and as long as you feel comfortable with the bicycle's handling there is no need to worry. As always, YMMV, and I welcome others to share their experiences.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Captain, My Captain! A 100 Mile Tandem Jaunt with Chris Kostman

Tandem Century with Chris Kostman
Oh where to begin. Well, let me try it this way. During my last stay in Boston, my friend Chris Kostman came over to visit from LA and we rode 100 miles together on a tandem bicycle. Though I know Chris through the bicycle industry (he is a race organiser, ultra cyclist, and owner of AdventureCORPS), prior to this visit we had never actually cycled together, spending our time instead walking the stuffy hallways of bike show venues. 

Tandem Century with Chris Kostman
Admittedly, we make an unlikely pair. He: an outrageously athletic, squeaky clean, slightly weathered Californian golden boy, who says things like "shades" (instead of sunglasses), and "bogus," with a straight face. Me: a pallid, shoulder-shrugging New England-Euro hybrid who speaks with an indeterminable accent and shows up to dinner in tattered mismatched ensembles. And yet, somehow we click. We click in an easy, unforced sort of way that has kept the friendship going for more than 4 years now, despite the distance and the infrequent meetings. 

Chris Kostman at the Ride Studio Cafe
Okay, so that all sounds very nice. But why meet now, and why the tandem ride? Ah. Well now we approach the essence of the story. So you see, this one time we were talking on the phone and somehow the idea came up that wouldn't it be nice to ride Paris-Brest-Paris together, on tandem. I forgot who said it first. But this detail is less important than what happened next: The other person didn't laugh, but instead was silent for a few seconds and then declared it a marvelous idea. There was only one problem. Well, okay, a whole slew of problems, but in the interest of time I will limit myself to the crucial few. For one thing, I was now living in Ireland and Chris in California, so we couldn't exactly train together. Neither of us had completed a ride longer than 200 miles in recent years (okay, so in my case never, though Chris used to do things like RAAM back in the day). And finally, we had never cycled together. After some level-headed discussion, we decided that none of the obstacles were necessarily unsurmountable. But that before we went any further in our Parisio-Brestian fantasies, we should at least find out whether we're tandem-compatible. Given that I was already planning a trip to Boston and Chris would be nearby for a racing event around the same time, we decided to meet up especially for this purpose. 

Tandem Century with Chris Kostman
I asked my former cycling club (which shall always be my cycling club in spirit), the Ride Studio Cafe, whether the demo Seven Cycles tandem they keep in the shop would be available during Chris's visit. It was, and it also happened to fit us both fairly well. 

The day before our big ride we picked up the tandem and took it for a 20 mile shakedown spin. Here I should mention that my previous tandem experiences consisted of this and this. Both were lovely, but short. This shakedown ride would actually be my longest tandem ride to date. By contrast, Chis has over 20 years of experience captaining tandems, which includes setting the 24 hour off-road tandem cycling record in 1990. Like I said, we make an unlikely pair!

Untitled
But it hardly seemed that way when we got on the bike and began to pedal together. The novelty of doing bikey things with Chris dominated my impressions of the shakedown ride; we just basically blabbed the entire time with me occasionally interjecting to give directions. I am not sure how much I even noticed the actual bike or thought about our compatibility at this point. But as nothing broke on the bicycle and we didn't bicker, we figured things were looking good for our 100 mile ride. We fiddled with the gears a bit and decided we were all set. 

Prior to Chris's visit, we had discussed what type of ride we wanted to do. Would we focus on speed and performance, or on sightseeing? Since we'd never cycled together before, we decided on the latter. And, as Chris does not often get to visit New England, I designed a route that wound through the scenic northwestern suburbs of Boston, taking in paved backroads, dirt roads, mountain views and historical landmarks dating back to the Revolutionary War. The distance was just under 100 miles, with 4,000 feet of climbing. 

Tandem Century with Chris Kostman
Our Seven loaner tandem (titanium frame, steel fork, disc brakes, 700Cx35mm tires) was designed for mixed terrain long distance rides, which made it perfect for our trip. We did not change a whole lot about this bicycle's setup other than using our own saddles and luggage. I also requested drop handlebars for the stoker's position, instead of the bullhorns the floor model was fitted with.

Tandem Century with Chris Kostman
By the time we were through with it, our bicycle looked totally pro - a glorious mish-mash of clashing colours and textures; with twine and canvas not neglected in the mix. We were ready to go!

Tandem Century with Chris Kostman
As the stoker of our tandem, my main responsibilities would be (1) holding myself in a way that did not disbalance the bike, (2) contributing to the captain's pedaling efforts, and (3) navigating. Having thoroughly enjoyed my previous tandem experiences, I was not nervous about my role and had a pretty good idea of what to expect. The only question marks were how I would handle the distance (I was told by several experienced stokers that the miles are harder on one's body on the back of a tandem than on a single bike), and whether Chris and I were compatible as tandem partners.

Tandem Century with Chris Kostman
There are many things to consider when choosing your tandem captain. And one seldom-mentioned aspect is their clothing. Think about it: You will enjoy a view of this person's back for hours. It is important, therefore, that you like the back of their jersey. That said, I appreciated the texture and aesthetic of Chris's wool Velo Cult jersey. The fuzzy relief of the text in particular offered a rich visual experience, inviting a thorough, meditative examination of the tiny red loops of thread during the quieter parts of the ride. 

Tandem Century with Chris Kostman
A pair of snazzy, old-school cycling shoes on a captain can also be fun for the stoker. For some reason, catching glimpses of these in my peripheral vision as we pedaled made me feel as if we were cartoon characters and always put a smile on my face.

Tandem Century with Chris Kostman
But, silliness aside, I think it's important for the stoker to get comfortable; to feel like it's their own little world back there. Achieving a position that's as close as possible to the position you have dialed in on your single bike is helpful - though on a tandem this presents its own challenges. For instance, for stokers who prefer drop bars, an important thing to consider is handlebar width - in relation to the "width" of the captain. This is not something that had occurred to me prior to this ride, but if you look at the above picture it becomes obvious why it matters. On a tandem, the stoker's handlebars wrap around the captain's saddle, which places the stoker's hands, when on the hoods, very near to the captain's hips. If your bars are too narrow, you can find yourself groping your captain's behind! Normally I ride with drop bars that are 40-42cm in width, but on the tandem we went with a 44cm bar. However, even that proved not quite wide enough, and, in the course of our ride, my thumbs would occasionally rub against Chris's hips - something that, over 100 miles, was not only an annoyance but resulted in my thumbnails being buffed flat. Over the course of a 700 mile ride, I imagine this would have "buffed" my nails down to the meat, as well as worn holes in Chris's shorts! So essentially, this means that to ride with Chris I should use handlebars at least 46cm in width - substantially wider than what I find optimal on a single bike. Not a dealbreaker for us as tandem partners, but a compromise. 

Tandem Century with Chris Kostman
Of course the important measure of tandem partner compatibility is cadence. And here is where the fun begins. While I tend to spin at a high cadence when cycling on a single bike, Chris pushes a considerably higher gear and pedals at a slower rate. Somehow we had not known this about each other prior to getting on a bike together, and the realisation of it in action had comedic effects - in particular when climbing hills. As we soon discovered, if we went with Chris's pedaling technique the only way I could contribute adequate power was to stand up; I could not push his gear if I stayed seated. This resulted in an interesting climbing technique, whereby Chris would pedal seated and I would stand behind him, chatting away into his ear and quite content to pedal in this position. On steeper, harder climbs, we of course both stood up (scary stuff on a tandem!!), but on longer milder drags we became this rear-tall creature, with me towering over Chris and enjoying open views of the landscape.

We also tried my pedaling style on multiple occasions, with Chris switching to a lower gear and adapting a faster cadence. However, on hills this was not always possible, as the Seven demo tandem was geared a bit too high. Funny enough though, I kind of liked our rear-motor method of skipping up hills and was happy enough to do it for surprisingly long stretches. Whether it's sustainable over a 1200K brevet is another question!

Tandem Century with Chris Kostman
As I write all this, it strikes me that my two dominant impressions of our tandem ride were that (1) we had a good time together, and (2) I was extremely comfortable on the bike over the 100 mile distance. And that these impressions are so strong, I have to remind myself about the potential incompatibilities described above and about the problems we experienced. 

For one thing, we had a crash less than 10 miles into the ride, when the tandem wiped out beneath us as we attempted a turn in deep sand on an unpaved part of the route. I remained clipped in, and the bike fell on top of me, not so much hurting me as surprising me. The incident stunned both of us, as neither Chris nor I are in the habit of crashing, sand or no sand. So we're going to blame the tires that came with the bike - neither of us huge fans of this particular tread.

Tandem Century with Chris Kostman
The other thing was a bit more serious. Not quite half way through the ride, we were powering up a steep paved climb, both of us standing up and pushing hard in a high gear, when - and this has never, ever happened to me before, so it was a huge shock - I yanked my left foot right out of the clipless pedal. Since I was standing up, leaning forward, and putting in a big effort at the time, this resulted in a rather spectacular tumble, whereby I first fell onto the nose of my saddle with my pelvis, then bounced off of that and crashed smack onto the top tube. In the midst of these flailing acrobatics, Chris managed to keep the bike upright and bring it to a stop. And then for a few long seconds we just stood there trying to process what had happened. I felt no pain yet, only annoyance, cursing my stupidity for not having used my own pedals - the ones on the demo bike must have been worn out. Eventually, we recovered our composures and got going again. And only in the bathroom at home later that night did I see that my entire crotch and inner thigh area was one all-encomassing black bruise! I also had a series of lesser, interestingly-shaped bruises, from where the tandem had fallen on me during the sandy crash earlier.

Tandem Ride to Sterling, MA
…All of which makes it kind of interesting how I could have felt so good and cheerful on the bike throughout this ride. As far as comfort and energy levels, this was by far the easiest 100 mile ride I've ever done. The route I put together combined two local 100K rides that I used to find quite challenging as far as climbing, but which now felt like a lazy, easy jaunt. Part of it must have been due to an overall increase in my fitness over the years, part of it the ultra-comfortable bike (titanium plus fat tires? ooh la la!), part of it the food (more on this later), and part of it Chris's powerful captaining. Whatever the reasons, I am not complaining.

Tandem Century with Chris Kostman
We reached Mary's famous lamb in Sterling, MA, then the Fruitlands in Harvard, MA, with very little strain - to the point that, at the Fruitlands I felt a bit disoriented and wondered what happened to the big climb that led up to the scenic overlook! Did we take the wrong road? I kept warning Chris there'd be a climb, and then suddenly we had already reached our destination. Stopping for photos, coffee and scenic exploration ("Can we cycle to Thoreau's cottage through these woods?"), we were in no hurry to complete our century, so the ride took us about 10 hours. Our rolling average was 13.8mph, which isn't too bad for a relaxed, sightseeing ride either. And throughout this, we talked to each other non-stop, with zero lulls in the conversation. 

Tandem Century with Chris Kostman
I tend to live with one foot in a dream world, and the logical part of me isn't at all sure riding Paris-Brest-Paris is feasible next year. If we do go for it, the plan is to complete the shorter of the qualifying brevets next year individually (me in Ireland and Chris in California), then meet up in Boston again to complete the longer brevets on tandem together. By then we will have to figure out The PBP Bike as well, making sure its gearing, fit and setup will suit our needs optimally for the event, as well as for travel. As far as the bike, I am thinking we could go one of several ways. Chris may be getting a Ritchey Break-Away road tandem for himself and his wife later this year, which could work for the two of us as well. Or I could try to finagle a longer-term loaner from Seven (the demo bike really was amazingly comfortable). Or, we could go a different way entirely and attempt to get our hands on a vintage French randonneuring tandem. With his old-timey shoes and his preference for downtube shifters, Chris would be right at home!

Tandem Century with Chris Kostman
Are we compatible as tandem partners for a ride as big as Paris-Brest-Paris? There are disparities in our pedaling techniques, experiences, fitness levels. But on this ride we've shown not only an easy willingness to compromise, but also an ability to take things in stride and to continue getting along when things went less than smoothly. Who knows, that might prove more important than starting out with matching cadence. 

So…thanks, Captain!  I had a wonderful time. It was epic, never bogus. And always remember your shades. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Allure, and Lure, of the Headbadge

New England Builders Ball 2014
So here's a question for you: Have you ever bought a bike, considered buying a bike, or wanted a bike solely because you loved the headbadge? Last week a guy I met confided that he was ordering a bicycle from a specific builder for this exact reason. And just as I opened my mouth to tell him I thought that was kind of nuts, I stopped myself - remembering that time when a friend sent me a link to an auction of a vintage bike - its frame decrepit and several sizes too big - sporting a headbadge with my name on it. Apparently, the obscure and long-defunct manufacturer briefly produced a model under this name, and for the 3-year duration of its unremarkable existence it got its own headbadge - all floral and Jugendstil-like brass; sadly, far more interesting than the machine itself. As a certain vintage bike collector I know would say: "How can you not?"

Well, thankfully I was sensible enough to resist. But I can't deny that, for a few misguided moments, my finger hovered over the "buy it now" button. So, who am I to say? Whether we're attracted to a headbadge because of some personal connection, or because we find its imagery or symbolism appealing, if it pleases us it might be as good of a reason as any to want a bicycle.

New England Builders Ball 2014
Among contemporary builders, the headbadge I am most attracted to is that of Chapman Cycles. Seeing it never fails to induce a sort of aesthetic salivation, and I can stare at it transfixed for hours. The large silver anchor appeals to my love of the sea and reminds me of state I grew up in. But I also like the way in which it is rendered - intricate, and with a deeply etched look to it, like an exuberant sailor's tattoo. Seeing it again at a bike show last weekend, I couldn't help but fall prey to its charms all anew, and for god knows how long I stood there tracing its outlines with my finger in appreciation of its glorious anchoriety. So maybe I wouldn't go quite as far as to order a bike from Chapman Cycles for the sake of the headbadge alone. But if I couldn't decide between two builders and one of them was Chapman? Yeah, I think the headbadge would win me over. 

Looking at the bare head tube of the bike I was riding today, a couple of people asked when it's getting a headbadge. "Come on, it needs an identity!" But I guess I don't really feel that's necessary. My bike's identity is contained within itself. A headbadge, however, could lend it allure. As a narrative tool, it could suggest a history, tell a story, invite the viewer to collaborate in an act of mythmaking. It could appear to either resolve or deepen the mystery of the bicycle's origin. All interesting stuff, but the question is do I want that? 

I flip through folders of interesting headbadge photos I've taken over the years. There are ships and mermaids, flowers and snowflakes, letters and numbers, animals and insects, gods and deities, indecipherable symbols. I add the Eiffel Tower headbadge to this collection and wonder whether someone out there will buy a bicycle because of it. "Did you know they installed a glass floor there this year?" I'd heard a woman examining it say to the man beside her. "I did not know that, hon," he replied, "I did not know that."