Confessions of a lapsed bike blogger

by Raymond Parker on January 14, 2015

in Autobiography, Blog, Photography

rocky-on-parkinglot

shoot by bike, 2015

It’s been nearly two years since I wrote a blog post for VeloWeb, or updated other content.

Here are some of the reasons for my absence:

  • Diminishing returns. From a high of 10,000 unique visits a month, a Google algorithm tweak in 2012 cut traffic to VeloWeb by a third. Just like that. I guess Google’s bots decided this site sucked. In turn, this meant ad revenue also took a hit. Returns on ads are modest, but they paid for hosting. Thank goodness this site wasn’t the source of my income, or employment of others, as was the case for many sites hit by the update. After 2 years of neglect, VeloWeb traffic now hovers around 3,000 visits per month.
  • Diminishing interest. There are a good many excellent bike blogs on the Interwebs that examine the minutia of the latest bicycles and accoutrements — review sites, really. As I’ve mentioned here before, I’m not a gear freak. I like quality machinery that gets the job done. Though I worked for years in the bicycle trade — and perhaps that explains my aversion — talking bike tech actually bores me to tears.
  • Diminished cycling. The disaster that cut short my long-distance cycling hobby required a response that would assuage the need to see scenery passing by. I bought a new car. The horror! The first month of my fall from grace included a trip to the Yukon, traversing part of a route travelled years before by bicycle. I carried my old trekking bike on a roof rack as campsite transportation.
  • Personal issues. Without turning this into a confessional (there are also plenty of sites in the blogosphere that trade in confessional writing), I lost my father in 2013, which precipitated a long period (ongoing, really) of internal examination — Who am I? What am I doing here? What are my priorities?

The answer to the last part of that existential query didn’t include churning out regular blog posts for VeloWeb. I’d burned out. In fact, my days didn’t include any kind of writing or creative output for a long time. The muse had disowned me.

Shoot by bike, 1984

Where I’m going

Recently, I’ve focussed, so to speak, most of my attention on my other passion and long-time career: photography. I’ve launched a new website, raymondparkerphoto.com, where I now agonize over the poor quality of my photographs and avoid writing about camera gear! :)

I have found, by way of some of my “vintage” photographs made under much more difficult financial constraints than I face today, inspiration to tell the stories behind my work, as well as to pursue some new images. I’ve already redirected some posts, formerly gathered here under the tag “pictures and stories.”

It is this last fact that has helped me return to the bike, if only occasionally, to make short trips carrying my camera gear to locations, a practice I used three-decades-ago to discover the subjects for my Eighties Vancouver portfolio. As we know, the bicycle is still the best way, next to walking, to appreciate one’s surroundings.

The photograph that heads this post was made on one such recent foray, with an old film camera, inherited from my grandfather.

I hope those who have enjoyed my photographs here will join me in my new home on the Web. It’s possible I’ll also update some of the content on VeloWeb, in 2015. Happy New Year, by the way!

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Best Gloves Ever, 1983

When it comes to summer cycling gloves—and appropriate weather has finally arrived to forego winter gloves—I’m a big fan of traditional fingerless leather and cotton crochet hand armour.

I’ve sought out this style for more decades than I care to ponder, stocking them at many of the bike shops where I worked. The pair illustrated above (with Mamiyaflex 6X6 camera and Ilford Pan F Plus developed in Perceptol) were the best specimen I have ever owned.

The best examples (over the decades) seem to be made in Pakistan. Unfortunately, the quality of the leather and padding seem to have declined—at least in the ones I’m seeing  in local shops—in recent years.

I’m holding on to the last “bombproof” pair I own, though they have acquired a certain ripe nose.

As you can see in the illustration below, the palm leather is real and substantial. I can guarantee, from selfless personal stress testing, that such material will save your hide in case of spills.

Though I suffered a badly bruised palm from a 70 kp/h “endo” on a logging road some years back, I hate to think what my hand would have looked like were it not for the protection of similar gloves.

The very gloves pictured here saved my palms during a 50kp/h wipeout that saw me slide the width of the road, into the gravel shoulder. Only one fingertip wore through to the meaty bits. Oh, and my favourite bibs were shredded, along with my hip.

They are also survivors of my worst cycling debacle. But for some lost stitching, they remain intact—which is more than can be said for this grizzled senior cyclist.

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Second Best Gloves Ever

I know some people don’t like a lot of padding in their gloves and some cyclists forego the use of gloves completely. This article is not for them.

On long brevets and bumpy roads, my ulnar nerves signal their appreciation for the extra insulation. As above, should my skills or fate fail me, I have a second skin between me and the road.

The palms of these gloves can be cared for in a similar manner to leather saddles. I hand wash them occasionally (to combat the aforementioned odour), use saddle soap and Brooks Proofide. Most recently, I tried out some products bought to care for my leather jacket.

The cotton back is, to my mind, more comfy on hot days than synthetics, though you may find yourself with a spotty tan.

Poking around the Interwebs I notice there are a few interesting examples on offer (e.g. Bike Nashbar) that look somewhat more serviceable than what I’m seeing locally.

What kind of summer cycling gloves do you love?

Remembering Earth Day

April 22, 2013

In my haste and diversion, I almost forgot today is Earth Day. How easily we are distracted, by our troubles and our fancies, from our duty to tend our garden. Perhaps that is the best place to start, close to home. This morning—a glorious blast of spring—I noticed the riot of colour outside my city […]

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Handling bad weather with winter cycling gloves

April 18, 2013

Even as we transit spring, towards summer, it’s not too late to discuss winter cycling wear. Local weather over the last few weeks has prompted the question Do I carry sunblock, or sou’wester? The “Wet Coast” climate is arguably harder to dress for than colder, drier areas, doubly for exposed extremities, especially hands. Dry cold, […]

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Thoughts on the bike

March 25, 2013

The sky was dark at noon, hidden by roiling charcoal clouds. Thunder rumbled, it seemed, from the depths of the shadowy forest. I battled an angry headwind, laced with stinging rain.

Nineteen years ago now, on a solo 2-month tour, I found myself, or rather had ridden myself onto, a winding, unpaved section of the Alaska Highway, between Teslin and Swift Current. […]

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More bikes about town

February 28, 2013

Indeed, it seems there are more bikes around Victoria, British Columbia, every day. Even in the dead of what goes for winter here—and it can be miserably wet—the bike racks are rarely empty. So it is no great accomplishment, as I ride or walk around the city, to pull my iPhone from my pocket and […]

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