Sunday, February 24, 2019

Recollections on Discovering my Father's World War II Diary

Emblem Patch of 45th Division and C.J. Barnes sitting on jeep.
Thunderbird Patch of the 45th Division and CJ Barnes in France, 1944
(Photo: C. J. Barnes Collection)
After my father’s funeral in 1991, my mind was in a blur. Late that night I found myself rummaging through his belongings that were neatly organized in his attic desk. I found a tall and narrow black notebook that would fit neatly into a breast pocket. I opened the notebook and instantly recognized his back-sloping left-handed writing. I had discovered something he never shared with any of his family. It was his secret World War II diary (Barnes 1945). He had written the diary for my mother. Astounded by my find, I read the diary as if it was a page-turning novel.

The title of the Diary was Record of Service in the US Army. The 2005 version annotated and edited by Chris Barnes (Barnes 2005) is The World War II Diary of C. J. Barnes: An Account of Service in the 45th Division 171st Field Artillery Battalion March 21, 1942, to September 24, 1945.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Washington DC’s Vision Zero Problem:

The Case of the SuperFresh Site Development near Spring Valley Shopping Center

Walking around the future construction site, the representatives of the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) including the new director, Jeff Marootian, got a firsthand view of the alleys in which pedestrians, cars, and trucks would mix together in unsafe numbers. The representatives of DDOT listened and were very friendly, but in the end, they stated that alleys are meant to service buildings and not pedestrians. This, in a nutshell, is the District’s Vision Zero problem. When push comes to shove, vehicles are favored over pedestrians, even in alleyways. Although DDOT has an active pedestrian and bicycle unit, the regular staff still are not incorporating a mobility focus consistently into their more general work.

Friday, November 30, 2018

A Short History of the Birth of Bicycling

Cartoon of Velocipede Cycling Class, NYC 1869
Figure 1. Cartoon of a Velocipede Riding School in New York, 1869
(Source: Harpers Weekly 1869)

The adults in the bicycle riding class wobbled, crashed and generally felt out of control. Due to a new-fangled invention called the velocipede, in the late 1860s a host of new classes sprang up to teach adults how to ride a bicycle (figure 1). Mastering the awkward, heavy riding machines required the novel ability to balance on two wheels. It was a new experience for those who generally walked, rode horses or moved about in carriages.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Thrill of the Mountain: Bicycling Down Chestnut Ridge

Sign along roadside on top of mountain
Truck Warning Sign Atop Chestnut Ridge near Uniontown, Pa
(Photo: Doug Barnes)
In the 1970s my friend Dave and I were both new to road cycling. During one summer, several times a week we “pumped the mountain” on our new bikes. The mountain in question is what locals call "Three-Mile Hill." It’s hardly a hill.

At the top of Chestnut Ridge, Dave and I are sitting on the deck of the Summit Inn and resting from our climb up the mountain. The Summit Inn is an historic “porch” hotel that dates back to 1907. It sits atop the most western edge of the Allegheny Mountains near Uniontown, Pennsylvania. It sometimes is covered in the clouds, but this day the weather is clear. Dave and I have a great view of the foothills below.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Story of my 1976 Sekai Competition Bicycle

1976 Sekai Front Bicycle Headbadge
1976 Sekai Front Headbadge
(Photo: Doug Barnes)
The US in 1977 has its largest trade deficit in recent history (Lawrence, 1978). Asian and European companies are making inroads into US markets with sales of less expensive or higher quality products. Fears abound that this will hurt the US economy. Sound familiar?

Trade concerns also were felt in the booming bicycle industry during the early 1970s. Consumers began turning away from American-made bicycles such as Schwinn and began favoring brands from Europe including Raleigh, Peugeot and Motobecane. This all changed in the mid-1970s as Japanese companies began taking advantage of their low-cost and high-quality manufacturing facilities to penetrate US markets (Brown n.d.).

Even companies like Schwinn got into the act, importing bicycles from Japan and relabeling them as “Schwinn Quality.” The World Sport and Le Tour models introduced by Schwinn in 1972 were made exclusively in Japan (Crown and Coleman 1996). This was paralleled by the emergence of high-quality component manufacturers including Sun Tour, Araya and Shimano. The Japanese bicycle invasion was in full swing.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Five Bicycle Hardware Tips for Older Riders

Two older bicyclsts on bicycle trail in Venice Florida
Older Bicyclists on Legacy Trail in Venice, Florida.
(Photo: Doug Barnes)
It’s not uncommon to see a 50- or 60- or even 70-year-old riders hunched over bicycles that look like they belong in the Tour de France. Those bikes are designed to reduce air resistance by bending the body into the shape of pretzel. I am sure it is thrilling to go fast on such bikes, but for the average older rider, it’s a very uncomfortable position. The back gets sore, the hands go numb and the knees complain. There is a better way.

Tips for younger bike riders are frequent in magazines and on websites. Advice for the older bicyclists is uncommon, despite the fact that some people ride well into their 70s and 80s. Even young riders eventually grow old facing problems such as sore backs and swollen knees. To continue enjoying riding what I call the "Happiness Machine," older riders need to forget advice geared towards younger enthusiasts and bicycle racing. To compensate for the stiffness and inevitable consequences of aging, older riders can make some sensible changes to both bikes and riding techniques.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

How Bicycle Coaster Brakes Work

1960s coaster brake service manual cover.
I can see a puzzled look suddenly come over the young woman’s face as she picks out a cruiser bicycle to ride at the C and O Canal Bicycle Loan program at Great Falls, Maryland. She sheepishly asks, “Where are the brakes?”

“Just pedal backwards. The bike has coaster brakes.” This information doesn’t quite compute.

“Pedal backwards. Really?”

“Try it out. People have been riding bicycles with coaster brakes without a problem for more than 100 years. The one on this bike is a Bendix Coaster brake that was popular in the 1960s.”

The forty or fifty year old bike she is going to ride is Columbia bicycle that is very popular in the program. The brake is a Bendix Model 70. Bendix began manufacturing coaster brakes in 1924 after deciding to diversify from its car parts business and to start producing bicycle components. The company produced bike parts until the demise of its bicycle division in the 1980s. During the 1950s and 1960s Bendix coaster brakes were quite common on Schwinn, Columbia and many other major bicycle brands.