Category Archives: Chicago Velo Blog

Endings and Beginnings

Three generations of Diamond women make goofy faces

Three generations of Diamond women make goofy faces

It has been a little over a month since my sister and I found out our dad died. In that month, we have experienced what feels like a lifetime worth of startling discoveries and what seemed like a continuous barrage of shocks. A lot of what we unraveled is deeply personal and hard to share on such a public space. With the extraordinary aid of my wife, sister, kids and family plus many good friends and kind newly met individuals, we are at the start of a new beginning.

Our mom was living in a very difficult environment, and her condition was far worse than we knew or could even imagine. The circumstances of how our parents came to live as they did and the harm it did to them has left us reeling. Because my wife and I are caregivers to Jackson, our son who has a wide variety of special needs, we are never able to travel or leave town.  In the 13 years since his injury, I left the Chicago area exactly twice…for my sister’s wedding and to visit our parents 6 years ago. While there were certainly signs that their health and lives had deteriorated, it turned out to be on a level that was completely unexpected. We have spent the past month travelling between our respective homes in Chicago and the Bay Area and Cleveland while dealing with all the fallout. Meanwhile, my wife had to manage all of Jackson’s caregiving and keeping things functioning on the home front during the final month of her break. It was very hard for all of us, and a super bummer tough summer for my wife and children. 

Over the past month, we saw to our father’s funeral, re-homing our parents’ elder dog, emptying out over 40 tons of belongings and junk out of our parents’ home then hiring a hauling company to spend a full week after that finishing the job. We listed their home for sale and have dealt with a maze of financial, legal and administrative challenges and lots of hotels, road food, and stress. We were away from our immediate families, who had to deal with great challenges on their own. I relied on my work colleagues to keep things afloat while I was away or otherwise busy with these affairs. We saw to getting our mom into the hospital, then rehab in Cleveland, and finally to move with us to a new rehab hospital 15 minutes from our Evanston home. We experienced the very best and the very worst in health care and elder care. We ran all over the city and suburbs of Cleveland dealing with insurance, document gathering, wrecked cars, FedEx, certified mail, notarized documents, bank accounts, assets, debts, properties and so many other things. The good that came of this is that mom is here with us. She will now make her home in the Chicago area as she has little family left in Cleveland and while the future is still very uncertain for her, for the moment, she is being cared for, she is safe, she is getting good nutrition, and she is tended to by a variety of therapists and medical professionals.

I know my sister and her awesome husband Joe have their own challenges to face back at home, and will try their best to get their lives back to a new normal.  My sister and I are grateful that the tough month we have endured has also brought us closer together, and neither of us would have been able to get through all of this without the other. We hope that the new life we are embarking on, and that are mom is working on, will allow us to see one another more frequently, and that we will stay more involved in each other’s lives. I hope that I will also be able to get back to a more normal life at home, and be there for my family and to resume caregiving for Jackson, but there is still much left to do, and so much of what my mom must deal with over the near and long-term future are unknown. 

But here we are. The good part is she is near us and she is safe and she is being cared for and we can be a part of her lives, and she can be part of ours.  As hard as this has all been, this is what matters the most, and it is the best of the new life ahead.

While dealing with all of this, I had an MRI on my still sore shoulder to discover two complete tears and a ¾ tear of various parts of my right rotator cuff, requiring surgery.  This is going to require me to cancel the last two months of the tours I had hoped to run this year.  I am issuing refunds to all the season ticket holders this week, and working on catching up with correspondence from the many kind souls who have reached out to me and my family during this past month. I’ll be getting the loaner bikes on sale soon, a plan already months behind, but hopefully next on my agenda with the time off I will have from the rides. I feel like I was already somewhat of a hermit…barely seeing friends or family due to life circumstances.  The bike tours provided a great social life for me, and I will miss doing them for the rest of the year, but hope to resume them next Spring.  I’ll miss riding while recovering from yet another shoulder surgery, and I’ll probably be jonesing for some kinship, friendship and socializing as the year spills into the fall and winter. I hope to snuggle in with my family, and as much as it pales in comparison, at least get some trainer rides in the basement as I recover.

In the interim, I get the chance to play music again, at least for the weekend, when the old bassist for one of my bands comes back in town for us to do a one-off reunion show at Reggie’s Music Joint. So many people I am friends with now don’t even know that I spent most of my life as a musician, and many of the people I know from that life I haven’t seen in years and years. If you aren’t doing anything this Saturday night, please consider joining us.  I can honestly say it would be so good to see people and share some good times with everyone. 

So…while I hate to announce the rides are done for the year, I intend to keep the rides going next year.  I thank everyone that has supported me and my family through this all with help, a kind word, a message, or just their love and thoughts. It has made all the difference and I thank you all. I’ll post the bike sale details soon and maybe I’ll see some of you this Saturday for the Replica Republic show.

Replica Republic/Discoveries of the American Scientific/OUTDrejas
Reggie’s Music Joint
Saturday September 2, 2017

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Goodbye Dad

Charles Nissan Diamond

Charles Nissan Diamond

Last night, my father, Charles Nissan Diamond died unexpectedly at his home. It hit my mom especially hard and I drove out to Cleveland today to begin the process of helping her, making arrangements for his funeral, and meeting the family that is congregating to celebrate his life. It has been a hard couple of days and I suspect they won’t be easy for a while.

My sister Rae sent me the picture above, which I love and shows a side of my dad that not many knew.

I love you dad and I miss you already.  Peace to you and mom and Rae and all of our family.

FRIDAY NIGHT’S TOUR IS CANCELLED.

I am going to have to cancel Friday night’s make-up Downtown Night Tour as I will likely still be in Cleveland and in any case will be in no position to lead a group of riders through the streets of downtown Chicago at night.  I am sorry for this. I will initiate refunds for all that pre-registered and be in touch about the status of the season pass for those that purchased one this season. As I look through the posts on Chicago Velo, it is depressingly notable how many of the posts are about tour cancellations, postponements and rescheduling. I know it isn’t the time to make big decisions about everything after a major event in one’s life, but as I sort through these tasks, I will be taking stock about the future of the Chicago Neighborhood Bike Tours as well.

Take care everyone and hopefully I will see you soon.

At night, Chicago is particularly lovely

Buckingham Fountain

Buckingham Fountain

SPECIAL NOTE ABOUT THE TOUR AND THE WEATHER:

The weather report is indicating the strong likelihood of thunderstorms during the hours we would be touring. While we do indeed hold our tours in the rain, we do NOT hold tours during storms, particularly when lightning might be present.

I will be at the start of the tour to either run the tour as scheduled, or to greet riders that show up if the ride has to be cancelled.
IF the ride needs to be cancelled, we will have a rain date of next Friday, July 28 at the same time. Pre-paid riders will have the option of a refund or rain-check. Hopefully our weather luck works out and I will see everyone tomorrow.

THANKS! – Lee Diamond

 
 

When Chicagoans speak of their downtown area, they most often refer to it as the Loop. The term does indeed represent the central business district of the downtown area and is a designated Chicago Community Area, but Chicago’s Downtown also includes adjacent neighborhoods and communities and many of the iconic buildings that people associate with downtown Chicago like the Field Museum, Wrigley Building, Merchandise Mart, Union Station and the Water Tower which all lie outside of the Loop proper.  The term the Loop is most frequently thought to originate from the loop that the cable cars made at the turnabouts along State, Lake, Wabash and Madison. Later it referred to the Union Elevated Line, an elevated train that connected the various independent el train companies to one another in a central business district Loop.

Agora

Agora

For much of the decade that I have been organizing the Chicago Neighborhood Bike Tours, I have offered mini-tours of the various Downtown districts which I held for the City of Chicago, and longer night tours of the same areas.  The mini-tours were 6 to 10 miles and offered the greatest hits of the major sites of each Downtown Community.  The night tours were 10 to 14 mile tours that used the night as a filter to highlight sites and buildings that were particularly impressive for night-viewing.  A comprehensive tour of any of these areas would be impossible due to the density of all of the magnificent sites in any of these areas, as well as the challenge of very dense and busy downtown vehicle traffic. 

LaSalle Street Bridge

LaSalle Street Bridge

I have created a Google Map with our Route, and sites of interest in each of the different Community Areas.

This year, the tour combines iconic buildings and sites of all the different downtown community areas in a combined night tour. There are fewer stops and an exciting route that offers a breathtaking view of Downtown Chicago in all its nighttime glory. All riders should bring a helmet as well as front and rear lights to see and be seen. We ride in rain, but not in storms.

I hope you can join us for a one-of-a-kind view of Chicago by bike at night.

Biking Downtown Chicago at Night

Biking Downtown Chicago at Night

Inspiration for this post’s title from the great Ohio band Orchestraville and their album, “At Night, it is Particularly Lovely”, available to listen to for free on Bandcamp here.

Downtown Chicago Night Bike Tour
Friday July 21 at 7:00 PM
Buckingham Fountain at 301 S Columbus Dr in Chicago

Buy Tickets | Facebook | Chainlink | Downtown Night Tour Map

 

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DOH! Tour of Hyde Park postponed until Saturday June 24, 2017

University of Chicago Presidents House

University of Chicago Presidents House, an 1895 Gothic Revival mansion by Henry Ives Cobb

NOTICE:  The Tour of Hyde Park originally scheduled for this Saturday has been postponed two weeks. The new date is June 24, 2017 at 11:00 AM

I have done some stupid scheduling over the last decade of organizing the Chicago Neighborhood Bike Tours.  I once scheduled the Loop Night Tour during the Taste of Chicago only to discover that our starting spot was completely inaccessible on the night of the tour. I have also managed to schedule tours on the same day as Tour de Fat and Bike the Drive and brilliantly picked out dates that coincided with major neighborhood events for the neighborhood we were touring.  More than once.

My method of scheduling has changed as a result and I now consult various bike events websites, bike club calendars, city websites, and websites for neighborhood organizations and chambers of commerce to try to prevent these self-inflicted errors. This year, for the first time, I scheduled the entire year at once. This was convenient for poster printing and forward planning, but had the disadvantage of not allowing me as complete of a calendar of events to compare against, not that my immediate scheduling error was directly the result of this.

What I did NOT do in this most extreme and recent example of scheduling dunderheadedness is consult the University of Chicago’s website or calendar. This would have been a great thing to do, given that this Saturday was supposed to be the Tour of Hyde Park, but before it was that, it was already scheduled as University of Chicago’s Convocation Weekend

Since large sections of the campus, the Midway Plaisance, and numerous major streets and points of interest are going to be shut down and closed to traffic, and thousands of visitors will be coming to Hyde Park to celebrate their family member’s graduation, it is not possible to do the tour on Saturday.

As a result, we will be postponing the ride for two weeks and hold the Tour of Hyde Park on Saturday June 24, 2017 at 11:00 AM.  I will notify all ticket purchasers, send out my email newsletter, and I have updated the Event page, Facebook and Chainlink pages in addition to this post. If you are able to help spread the word to anyone you might now that was planning to come, that would be VERY much appreciated.

My apologies for any inconvenience and my sincere thanks to season ticket holder A.M.C. who alerted me to this problem. I hope to see many of you in a couple of weeks at the rescheduled Tour of Hyde Park.

I’ll be the one with the big red face.

Tour of Hyde Park
Saturday June 24, 2017 at 11:00 AM
Washington Park Field House at 5531 S Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Chicago

 

 

 

 

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New Old Bike Day

Geoffrey Butler 3-Speed Conversion

Geoffrey Butler 3-Speed Conversion

Everyone loves New Bike Day. In this case, for me it was an old bike I already had, that was recently remade into a 3-speed, and it might be the zippiest 3-speed there is. 

I got the Geoffrey Butler frame back in 2009 from a classified ad on what was then the Serotta Bike Forum, since re-christened the Paceline Forum. The frame was in great condition and the bike brand is named for a semi-obscure British racer turned bike shop owner. Geoffrey Butler opened a shop in the 1960s in South Croydon, England which is still there today. He was the younger brother of Claud Butler, a better known British shop owner with their own branded bikes. The frame I bought was a mid-to-late 70s model made with Reynolds 531 tubing and long Campy dropouts with all the cable stops intact, but no bosses or braze-ons for shifters or bottle holders. The lugs are particularly gorgeous, especially at the junction of the seat stays, top tube and seat tube. I researched what I could of the frame and even contacted the shop about finding out more about the exact year or other details, but was unable to gather much. I was told they get these requests from time to time, but don’t have any information on the old shop frames unfortunately. Geoffrey Butler contracted with several British frame builders who did the custom frames for G.B. and it seems rather unlikely I will ever be able to discover much more about it.

When the frame arrived, it was in relatively good shape with a bit of age showing on the paint and some surface rust in various spots. Every purchase or sale I have ever made on that forum has been easy and hassle-free. I first built the frame up as a traditional 70s road bike with a combination of Nuovo Record, Cinelli, 3T, Mavic, Brooks and miscellaneous parts. The lack of shifter bosses and the configuration of the cable routing was a bit of a bummer and the friction shifting and mismatched parts proved clunky and in the end I decided to convert it to a fixed gear for road bike. I had an old Shimano 105 crank, a no-name stem and seat post and a slightly dented set of Nitto drop bars anodized red to play off the logo. I built up a set of wheels with Formula Hubs and Sun M13ii rims with a Dura Ace 16t cog, an old Campy Record front brake and kept the Brooks seat, adding some red leather Brooks handlebar tape to top it off. This was my daily rider for the next couple of years, replacing the much abused Sekine I had been using steadily for some time.

Fast-forward a few years, and I decided to get Duane Waller from Chester Cycles to repaint the bike and recreate the down tube logo, leaving the badge logo on the head tube and seat tube intact. (I never did replace that Reynolds 531 sticker!)  He did an amazing job and the frame looked like I had picked it up in South Croydon fresh from making.

My buddy Michael Abene and I rebuilt the bike with mostly Miche parts and wheels. Nice as it turned out, to be honest, it didn’t really see much use at that point, as by then I had gotten my first modern bicycle, a carbon 2013 Ridley Fenix which I ride/rode just about all the time. I had a few other bikes that I would use for other types of riding, but even just doing the tours, I almost always rode the Ridley. Modernity is a spoiler for sure.

Last year, Michael had turned his Specialized Langster track bike into a 3-speed with the aid of the fine folks at Turin, who built him a Sturmey Archer fixed-gear hub with a White Industries freewheel (better shifting under load than the S.A. freewheel hub) laced to H Plus Son rims and a bar-end shifter. When he sold the Langster, I bought the wheels and shifter from him. I won’t lie…I know my way around bikes pretty well, but I am in no-way a fan of bar-end shifters and was stymied by what else to use with drop bars, as normal 3-speed shifters can’t get around the bends. I also plead the Fifth when it comes to internal geared hubs and never really liked working on 3-speeds. Turin had rigged an interesting method of shifting the internal hub by connecting the cable through the rear brake mount and down the seat stay to the hub, which could have worked, but still didn’t solve the shifter problem for a man that disavows the bar-end shifter.

Then earlier this spring, my friend Ben Fietz opened a new bike shop in Albany Park with his buddy Steven Blum. I called him up and chatted about the project and then took it to over to their shop, Tailwind Cycles to brainstorm. I wanted to keep the rest of the build the same and convert the fixed wheels to the new wheel set with some solution for shifting. Initially I proposed using the front-derailleur shifter of a touring integrated-shifter (touring bikes have 3 front chain rings and the left shifter operates the front derailleur), but the cable pull length was all wrong. He proposed using Gevenalle (Retroshift) and the guts of a Sturmey Archer shifter, but the direction of their shifting mechanism was backwards. Then we looked at using a Paul Components Thumbie with the SA shifter, but Paul told him he didn’t think it would work. It looked like I might be stuck with the stupid bar-end shifter, but he proposed using a standard SA shifter on the quill stem. I found a picture of this and sent it to him and he said that was exactly what he had in mind. Bingo.

(Side note….given the copious amount of research I did on 3-speed shifting for drop bars, and the multitudes of people and posts that I saw who have run into this issue before me, SOMEONE needs to build a 3-speed shifter with an open-end articulated clamp. For real now. Some of the solutions I saw out there were quite ghastly.)

He also reconfigured the routing to follow the down tube and under the chain stay like a traditional 3-speed. It turned out quite nice and I still have space up front for my Crane bell (every commuter needs a bell), a light and my Garmin mount. I did the shake-down ride today, and I am convinced that this is the world’s best, fastest, and certainly most stylish 3-speed in existence. And if I am wrong, I don’t even want to know.

So once again, I have my nice daily rider and a good bike for the Chicago Neighborhood Bike Tours. It might be nearly as old as I am, and I missed taking its maiden voyage on my birthday by a couple of days, but all the same, I love New Old Bike Day.

Hopefully you can join me on Saturday for the Tour of Logan Square to see it in person.

It’s so purdy….

 

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