Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas and Happy New Website

Hello all!

2013 marks an important new stage for Cycling Through History. We are in the midst of a massive content shift to a new website! This site will stay up and accessible for the foreseeable future, but all new content will be posted on our new website.

Thanks for bearing with us through the shift, and please be sure to update any RSS or link info that you may have regarding this website.

Here's the link to our new site once again...

Cycling Through History

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Larimer Square

Larimer Square is Denver's oldest city block. It is traditionally understood to stretch between 14th and 15th Streets on Larimer Street. It is considered a unique historical district and is not a part of the larger Lower Downtown neighborhood.

The first construction in Larimer Square dates back to 1858 when General William H. Larimer jumped the claim of the St. Charles settlement and renamed the area Denver City. Larimer built a log cabin on what is now the corner of 15th and Larimer Streets. By 1861 Larimer Street had 25 buildings and it at this time that Denver City and Auraria, a competing settlement across Cherry Creek founded by the Russell Party, decided to unite and become one city.
Larimer Square housed a lot of Denver firsts. It was the site of Denver's first bank, bookstore, and dry goods store. Also, Denver's first post office, theater, and city hall.

The area had become run down and seedy by the 1960s Modern development had moved away from the downtown area and the buildings were left to decay. Denver city planners were working in what they called the Skyline Urban Renewal Project, a plan to re-develop downtown Denver using federal dollars. It was a success, in that it was around then that Denver developed the majority of its skyscrapers and gained the downtown skyline that we are used to, but it also cost Denver much of its historic architecture.  The success of Larimer Square today is largely due to the work of conservationist Dana Crawford. Beginning in 1963, Crawford directed the rebirth of the Larimer Square District and ensured that the buildings that comprised Denver's first city block would not be sacrificed in the name of re-development. This was one of several historic preservation efforts that would take place in Denver over the next two decades, eventually leading to the near total re-development of the Lower Downtown district and the creation of a lively city center.

Fun Fact...
Larimer Square, the entire city block, is owned by a single person, real estate developer Jeff Hermanson.

Getting There By Bike...
It's easiest for me to get to Larimer Square by heading north along the Cherry Creek Bike Path. This is a nice sheltered path that heads right into the middle of downtown Denver. You can exit the  Cherry Creek path and reach Larimer Square from either Lawrence or Larimer Streets.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Castle Marne

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The Castle Marne
The Castle Marne is a large mansion in the Capitol Hill area of Denver, CO on the corner of 16th and Race Streets.

The Castle Marne was built in 1890 by Wilbur S. Raymond, one of the first land speculators in the Denver area. Similar to Henry Cordes Brown, Raymond purchased and built upon a large plot of land east of what was then considered Denver proper. The 80-acre plot he chose to develop, called the Wyman Addition, was not considered choice real estate. This was prior to the development of the state capitol and the mansions that now surround it, and the empty fields to the east of the city center were not seen as a great area in which to build new neighborhoods. Raymond invested $15,000 in the land and a further $40,000 in building Castle Marne. The house was designed by architect William Lang, who had designed nearly 300 Denver homes and buildings. One of the more notable features of the building is the "Peacock Window", a large stained glass window on the north side of the building.

The home was intended to be a show piece for further mansions that would be built in the area and sold to new Denver residents. This was all fine and good until Raymond and his family lost the property to their creditors barely a year after the Castle Marne was built. This was the beginning of a long series of ups and downs for the property. The building was owned, over the years, by a number of famous Denver residents. Colonel James H. Platt, U.S. representative from Virginia, Civil War veteran, and Cabinet member under President Grant, purchased the home in 1892. In 1894, after he died in a fishing accident at Green Lake, his widow sold the Castle Marne to John T. Mason, an Englishman who had established a chain of dry goods stores in Houston, Texas. He was a world-renowned lepidopterist and the first curator of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. He displayed many of his 400,000 collected butterflies and moths on the third floor of Castle Marne. The Capitol Hill neighborhood changed over time though. Wealthy Denverites left the area and many of the mansions were converted to apartments and mixed use buildings. In 1918 the Castle Marne was purchased by the Van Cise family and converted into an 8-unit apartment. Lyle A. Holland bought the building in 1934 and lived there until his death in 1972.

After Holland's death the Castle Marne entered a period of eclipse. The house was purchased in 1974 and was re-developed for use as office space and apartments, but that never happened. The plans fell prey to the ups and downs of the economy and the house deteriorated. From 1979 to 1982 the house was used as a center for transitioning parolees back into public life. The house was then unoccupied until 1988. Though the utilities had been turned off, water pipes leaked and, when the house was finally renovated, there was nearly three feet of standing water in the basement. The house had been heavily vandalized though, somehow, the Peacock Window had not been broken.
In 1988 the house was re-opened as a bed and breakfast. It continues in this role today.

Getting There By Bike...
The Capitol Hill area is great to ride through on a bike. There are a lot of beautiful houses in the neighborhood and tons of historic sites. I like to get to the Castle Marne by heading up through Cheesman Park. I ride north on Franklin until I hit the park, and then move north out of the park on Franklin again. Make a right on 16th and then head up to Race Street, and there you are.

Friday, December 7, 2012

What's in the Stand: Campagnolo Shifter Rebuild

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This is one of my absolute favorite things to do at work. It takes a while, and the chance to lose some small piece is high, but it's a neat job that has a high "Wow! I fixed that!" factor.

One of the ways in which Campagnolo has Shimano beat is that their ergo shifters are rebuildable. The other, and here's the big dark secret folks, is that it's really easy to do so. Campagnolo shifters are much simpler mechanically speaking than any Shimano shifter. Even your hideously expensive Campy Super Record 11 shifters are pretty basic in terms of construction and assembly. Since I just dealt with a Shimano Ultegra 6700 shifter that had some badly corroded internals, I'll tell you right now that there are a lot of tiny moving parts inside those things. A lot of them are also press fit, which means that you may be able to take it apart at home, but you probably aren't getting it back together. The most current model year of Campagnolo ergo shifters have approximately 20 parts inside. Compare that to 40-ish for a Shimano.

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Please update your RSS feeds and bookmarks. This page will remain up, but will not be updated after December, 2012.
The item I rebuilt was an older Record 8-speed ergo shifter. There was nothing mechanically wrong with this shifter. The bike had been loaned to a friend and they had taken a tumble, which resulted in a big chunk of the shifter body breaking off. The second photo to the right is the new shifter body and you can see the part that's missing from the original shifter. It still shifted, but the brake lever could not be re-mounted. The solution was just to rebuild the shifter internals onto a new shifter body. There's a caveat here: make sure the parts are available before you rip apart your shifter. The decision to rebuild the shifter, instead of simply replacing it, was based on the fact that 8-speed Campy parts mostly don't exist any more. A quick eBay search found a host of replacement shifters in varying states of disrepair, but the cost for the complete shifter was quite high. We were lucky and found a replacement shifter body at another nearby bike shop. Favors were called in, goods and services were exchanged, and we went home with an NOS Campagnolo Record carbon shifter body.

The rebuild procedure is super simple. Once you release the springs simply take the shifter internals apart from front to back. I have two helpful hints. The first is that, in this age of technological wonderment in which we live, we all have some kind of fancy phone with a camera. I use mine to take a lot of pictures of repairs that are small, delicate, or very specific. At least then you can have a record of how the part looked before you ripped it to pieces, and how it should look when you're done. The second hint, and something you will likely see in every What's in the Stand post from here until I stop doing them, is that I appreciate an orderly parts layout. I lay out a clean rag and all the small parts get organized, in order, on top of it. I do this for hubs, internal hubs, headsets, and so on. It really helps prevent having to look at a pile of dirty parts and wonder which part goes in first. In this picture the parts to the left are from the back of the shifter, the gap is where the shifter body sits, and then the parts to the right are from the front of the shifter. Simple as pie.
Other people have provided better blow-by-blow-write ups of how to service a Campagnolo shifter body than I can do, so I'll leave it to them. All I would say is that if you are careful, lay the parts out in order, and pay attention to what you're doing then this is a simple job. This 8-speed shifter had exactly nine parts inside it. The only fiddly part was getting the springs re-attached. I used a small dental pick to get them back into place but I would consider that part of the job more annoying than difficult.

The final part of this repair was that the shifter was on a gorgeous 1981 Pinarello. Our customer was the original owner and she had updated the drivetrain in the '90s to a newer 8-speed ergo shifter setup. Prior to this is had Campagnolo downtube shifters. It was also my size which meant that I may have taken a slightly extended test ride around the neighborhood. I have a lust in my heart for a classic Italian road bike, and this was a bike worth coveting. And now the shifter works so it's even cooler!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Denver Turnverein Hall

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The Denver Turnverein was established in 1865 and has been at its present location at 1570 Clarkson St. since 1922. The German Lodge last met in July of 2012 and the center now serves as a community dance hall.

The Turnverein were German social and cultural centers with an emphasis on gymnastics and health, social and political education, and community development. The Turners, as the members were called, first established clubs in Germany in the early 19th century. The organization was one of several nationalist gymnastic movements of the era, aimed at training a strong and fit national population. The Turners found their purpose in the wake of the Napoleonic domination of Germany, training German youth for a life of fitness and military readiness while also inculcating a sense of German national identity.
Though initially a conservative nationalist organization, by the 1840s the Turners was becoming increasingly liberal and politically radical due to the influx of craftsmen and Jewish members. They also began offering more diverse activities, establishing reading rooms and political education seminars in addition to the standard gymnastics practice. Turners were active in the political Revolutions of 1848 in Germany and, as a result, many Turner chapters were disbanded and many leaders of the movement were put in jail. Following the Revolution of 1848 the Turners pulled back from political agitation and concentrated on gymnastics and physical education yet again.

Following the failure of the Revolutions of 1848 to create democratic institutions in Germany, many Germans left their home country and settled in the United States. The Denver Turnverein was established by German immigrants to Colorado who were interested in creating a shared cultural and social space for members of their community. The Denver chapter was opened in 1865 and by the 1920s was the largest active chapter of the Turnverein in the United States with over 250 members. The Denver chapter was active through both World Wars, with many active members serving as United States soldiers. The chapter also saw a boom following World War II when returning American soldiers, who had been stationed in or around Germany and had become used to German customs and lifestyle, joined the Turners in order to continue their connection to the community, and the physical and social atmosphere of the clubs.

Interesting Side Note...
The Turners are largely credited with the inclusion of physical education in the American school system. Cities that had large German populations typically had members of the local Turnverein serving as directors of the physical education programs in the local school system, and this was certainly true in Denver where the Denver Public Schools Physical education programs were dominated by members of the local Turnverein.

Getting There By Bike...
The Denver Turnverein is on the corner of Clarkson and 16th streets.16th Street is a bicycle boulevard with a nice large shoulder so that should be considered as a primary means of getting to and from the building. The building is a couple of blocks off of Colfax, immediately behind the Fillmore Auditorium. The neighborhood directly surrounding the building is relatively traffic free, but be aware of increased traffic as you get closer to Colfax.

Friday, November 30, 2012

What's in the Stand: Aging Flatbar Shifters

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What's in the Stand...
Shimano flatbar shifters have a tendency to age poorly. There are a couple of reasons for this. The more destructive reason, and the less fixable, is that something in the shifter itself is broken. It happens. The insides of these things are mostly plastic these days and sometimes the teeth on the pawls get stripped, or you manage to snap something to small pieces during some epically mistimed upshift. We've all been there I suppose.

The more common reason these things stop working, and the one that you hope happens to you, is that the grease inside has solidified into something resembling brown taffy. The good news about this particular problem is that it's more than likely fixable.

Here's how we break down the diagnosis....
-A customer comes into the door and says something like, "Sometimes when I shift it doesn't feel like there are any clicks. The lever just moves and nothing happens."
-You, being the expert at bicycle maintenance that you are, inspect the bike. Does the shifter fail to engage? Or does it engage inconsistently? If so, huzzah! Take the bike from the customer, tell them it will be ready by tomorrow, and then whisk it away to the back.
-Hose out the shifter with Speed Clean aerosol degreaser, or something similar. I like residue-free degreasers for this job. If you can open the shifter, or remove part of the cover, then so much the better. If not, put the nozzle into the derailleur cable hole and let 'er rip.
-Immediately begin shifting the bike enthusiastically. If the stars are aligned then the shifter will wake up and start to work better almost immediately. If not, it may take a couple of hosings or letting it soak overnight to break down the grease further.

Hopefully this solves the problem. There are a handful of times when I have tried this remedy that it has not worked. If it's a nicer shifter (LX, XT, etc.) then you can usually take the thing apart and have full access to the shifter mechanism. This makes cleaning it out much easier.

Time for a horrible explanation with next to no visuals because I'm not that tech savvy. The shift levers wind the shifter internals, which are held under tension by a spring. The clicks in the shifter are caused by detents in the shifter internals. There are a pair of spring loaded release catches attached to the shift levers, and it is these catches that click into the detents and hold the internals in place. If you take a shifter apart the two catches will be really obvious. You'll see them as soon as you start clicking the shifter around. Gunk tends to get built up on these catches and they can bind. Find them, blast them with degreaser, and then use a small pick to manually move the catches on their pivots. This has revived shifters that I thought were total goners. This is a repair of last resort though, and since it's time consuming and not a sure thing you should probably only try this on shifters that the customer is completely unwilling to replace.

But you should also ask yourself something...Why are you trying to revive these shifters? If you're doing this repair then they already meet two of the three criteria in my trifecta of standards that almost guarantee replacing the part (#1, "Old and nasty", #2, "Broken". #3 would be "Unsafe"). There are good reasons to try and do this for a customer, but there are equally valid reasons to not do this and simply replace the part.

This repair should go one of two ways. First, you could restore some function to a part that would ideally be replaced. You need to use your judgment whether or not this is a good idea and whether or not the customer will be best served by reviving a used part. Sometimes we do this to be nice, others because of a customer's budgetary concerns. Second, you could replace the shifter (and cable since most new shifters come with a new derailleur cable attached), and more than likely improve the shifting performance for not that much money. It's up to you to decide whether or not your time is better spent fiddling with old broken parts or selling new working parts. You also need to know your customer well enough to know whether or not they're ok with the potential for marginal functionality in an old rehabbed shifter, versus the guaranteed shifting performance of a new part.

So there ya go. Be sure to only use your new-found knowledge for good.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Baron Richtofen's Molkerei

First things first....
Cycling Through History has a new home, new web site, and new look, all thanks to the hard work of my brother James. Click on the link and be sure to contact him for all your graphic design, illustration, and web development needs.
I will be phasing out this site, though it will remain up for the sake of link continuity. I will be migrating all content over to the new site in the next couple of months and will stop posting on this Blogger site at the end of 2012. I would greatly appreciate it if all of you would move over to the new site with me and change whatever links, RSS feeds, or other contact info that you may have to the new site. The link is below.....

Cycling Through History

On to history...
The Molkerei was built by Baron Von Richtofen in 1898. It is located in the Monaco Hill neighborhood, not far from the Richtofen Castle, on E. 12th Ave between Oneida and Newport Streets.
Baron Walter Von Richtofen came to Denver in 1877. Like most people who moved here in the early days of Denver he had hopes of striking it rich in the Mountain West. Instead of gold and minerals, Baron Von Richtofen came to Denver to develop real estate and to try his luck in what he hoped would be a booming cattle market. In fact it was booming, but for nearly everyone else besides him. In 1885 he published a book titled "Cattle Raising on the Plains of North America". He claimed that the Great Plains, and specifically the Front Range of Colorado, was the premier area for raising cattle and believed that North America would shortly become "the most important beef-producing country in the world". His book was a success in that he sold a lot of copies and it attracted a large number of wealthy investors to Colorado. He, however, failed in the cattle business and lost a great deal of his own fortune as a direct result of the winter of 1886 where crushingly cold temperatures killed cattle kept out in the fields. But the book sold well so he was able to use the profits from that to continue developing real estate east of downtown Denver.
In 1885, the same year that he had published his book, Von Richtofen built his Molkerei, or "milk house", one block west of the Richtofen Castle. It was originally intended as a tuberculosis sanitarium where the patients would rest and recover by consuming fresh milk from the Baron's cattle that were kept in the basement of the building, and by breathing the healing barnyard odors that swept upwards through the slatted floors of the building (No, really).
The Molkerei didn't last long as a sanitarium, becoming an insane asylum and then eventually the Montclair Community Center. The building is still in great condition and the Montclair neighborhood is really attractive, with lots of great historic homes to look at.

Getting There By Bike...
I approach this neighborhood from the south by riding up Kearny until it connects to 1st, and then crossing over to Oneida. There aren't any good bike paths that connect to this part of Denver so you need to ride through neighborhood streets. There are a lot of quiet streets along the way though and a little time with Google Maps will help you find an easy path to the Molkerei.