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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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.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Henry Cordes Brown; Pioneer, Hotelier, Mild Curmudgeon

Henry Cordes Brown became a Colorado resident on his second attempt to strike it rich. An earlier move to California to try and make a fortune in the gold rush there failed and he had moved back to his home state of Ohio. In 1860 Brown moved to Colorado to try his luck in the Rockies.  A carpenter by trade, he opened a shop in Denver and staked a claim on a 160-acre plot near the edge of the town.

Brown's initial property investment turned out to be the smartest move of his life. He donated ten acres of his land to the city to be used as the eventual site of the state capitol. In response to this, other wealthy citizens began to buy pieces of his land to build mansions near what would become the center of state power.

Even a setback during the economic panic of 1877, when many Colorado millionaire's fortunes were lost due to the devaluation of the silver market, didn't slow Brown all that much. Though forced to sell his Capitol Hill mansion he was able to use the funds to continue investing in and developing property in Denver and within five years was one of Colorado's wealthiest men once again.

In 1879, nearly a decade after Brown had donated the land to build the new state capitol, he was still waiting for the groundbreaking to occur. In a fit of pique at the state's inability to take advantage of his generosity Brown attempted to take back the land that he had donated to the state. He built a fence around the ten-acre plot and sued the state to get possession of the land back. He lost the case in 1886 and was so upset by it that he refused to attend the official dedication of the new building.

Brown's best known legacy in Denver was the construction of the Brown Palace Hotel and Spa. In 1892 he began construction off what would become Denver's leading luxury hotel. He spared no expense in its construction, spending what was then the astronomical amount of $1.6 million. In what is most likely an apocryphal story, Brown is said to have built the hotel because Denver's most luxurious hotel at the time, the Windsor, wouldn't let him in while he was wearing his ranching clothes. Brown also served on the Colorado Board of Trade and was instrumental in getting the railroad spur from Denver to Laramie built, and he helped to found the Denver Tramway Company, the Bank of Denver, and the Denver Public Library.

Henry COrdes Brown died in 1906 after moving back to California to retire. His body was brought back to Colorado and he was placed in the rotunda of the state capitol for public viewing in return for his services to the city if Denver. He was buried in Fairmount Cemetery.

Friday, November 16, 2012

What's in the Stand: On Oiling Your Chain Too Much

This is a scene I see far, far too often. Somewhere along the line this person was told by someone, typically a friend, well-wisher, or, God forbid, bicycle mechanic, that they needed to oil their chain regularly to get the highest level of performance and service life from their equipment. Since people generally like to take care of the things in which they've invested the rider took this advice to heart and oiled their bicycle's drivetrain regularly and with enthusiasm.
But here's the problem; it freaking nasty and gross. Nothing good is coming from having your bicycle drivetrain looking like this. In fact, there are a great many bad things that come from having a bike that looks like this. First of all, the excess oil acts like glue, trapping dirt and grime and coating the parts of your bicycle with an abrasive glop that wears out parts. .

The two cogs pictured are a great example. The cog on the left is shiny and new,the cog on the right was removed from this bike. The teeth on the used cog shouldn't look like that. The teeth on the middle chainring looked the same. At this point there is nothing to do here but start replacing parts. This is the kind of job I don't particularly like because it frequently leads to a kind of domino effect, where changing one part leads to having to change just about everything else. A chain replacement ($40) can quickly spiral into a drivetrain replacement ($145-ish for parts and labor), and that still may not solve your problems. When a bike is this worn out it's a slippery slope to having a repair bill that's worth more than the bike.

Second, the filth is not isolated to your drivetrain. All the moving parts of the bike spray filth across the back half of the bike. The frame, wheel, and cranks all get covered with a heavy misting of sticky, black gunk. You can see it on the rim in the picture. The bigger problem with the filth on the rim is that the oil is getting sprayed on the brake surface which means that every time the rider uses the rear brakes oil and dirt are getting ground into the brake pads. This means less effective stopping power, increased pad and rim wear from the contaminants that are being ground into the parts, and, more than likely, squeaking brake pads. The solution for this is more new parts (brake pads), and a thorough cleaning of the rim.

Long story short, your bike shouldn't look like this. If your bike does look like this then you're doing something wrong. It's that simple.

How Do I Oil My Chain?
It's a lot simpler than most people are willing to admit. Glossing over a whole other argument over what kind of chain oil to use (In a nutshell: as long as it's intended for bicycles, go for it. Never use WD-40), I recommend applying the chain oil liberally and then, here's the crucial step, WIPING THE EXCESS CHAIN OIL OFF.
If you can see wet oil on the chain, you are not done wiping. If the chain is still black and crusty then you are not done wiping. Most chains have some kind of writing stamped on the outside of the plates. Can you read it? No? Then keep wiping. Your chain should look shiny, silver, and mostly dry. The oil has already gotten to where it needs to be (the inside of the chain rollers and in between the plates) and no amount of wiping will make that oil go away. If you're wondering if you've wiped enough then the answer is no, you probably haven't. Give it another wipe.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Brown Palace

The Brown Palace Hotel was built in 1892 and is Denver's second oldest operating hotel. It is located at 321 17th St. in downtown Denver.

The Brown Palace Hotel dates back to the boomtown period in Denver's history. The Denver railway spur to Laramie had been completed twenty years prior and the city itself was developing rapidly. People were flooding into the Front Range, many of them to take their chances as residents, but also, in steadily increasing numbers, as tourists.

The Brown Palace Hotel was built by Henry Cordes Brown, a carpenter turned real estate entrepreneur who had moved to Denver from Ohio in 1860.  When he settled in Denver Brown purchased a number of plots of real estate in the downtown area, generally being recognized as the primary homesteader of the Brown's Bluff or Capitol Hill area. Following his homesteading of what would become Capitol Hill, he shrewdly donated ten acres of his land to the State of Colorado as the site for the new capitol building. This act of charity worked out incredibly well for him; by donating the land for the state capitol Brown ensured that the rest of his land would increase in value almost immediately and he made a large fortune selling plots to Denver's nouveau riche who wanted to build mansions near the seat of state power.

With the fortune he made from real estate Brown decided to build a luxurious hotel and spa in downtown Denver.  One of the original plots of land that Brown had purchased was a small triangular piece of property at the intersection of 17th, Broadway, and Tremont. Originally used to graze his cow, Brown chose this piece of property as the site for his new hotel. Hiring architect Frank E. Edbrooke, Brown spared almost no expense in building his hotel.  Work began in 1888 and continued steadily for four years. Total costs for the hotel's construction were in excess of $1.6 million, a staggering sum at the time, and included red granite and sandstone from Colorado and Arizona, imported onyx for the atrium floor, the "Onyx Room" on the second floor, and the eight-floor ballroom, and $400,000 for furniture.

Fun Facts
  • The atrium lobby rises eight floors to a stained glass roof and every floor has a balcony lined with ornate iron railings and grillwork. Two of the grillwork panels are upside down and have been since the hotel was finished. The first was intended to be a craftsmen's statement regarding humanity's inability to attain perfection, while the second is said to be the action of a disgruntled builder.
  • The hotel was billed as Denver's second fireproof building, with no wood used in its construction. The walls are built of hollow bricks of fire retardant terra cotta.
  • The hotel derives all of its water from a privately owned artesian well located in its basement.
  • The hotel has never closed. It has been open continually, 24 hours a day and 365 days a year, since August 12th, 1892. All renovations, restorations, and repairs have occurred while the hotel has been open for business.
  • Pets are welcome at the Brown Palace Hotel, and they receive complimentary treats and pet beds when they stay there with their owners.
  • Because of its triangular shape the Brown Palace Hotel is considered a Flatiron-style building, much like the Sentinel Building in San Francisco.
  • Frank E. Edbrooke, the architect who designed the Brown Palace Hotel, was responsible for designing many of Denver's historic sites, including the Masonic Temple Building and Central Presbyterian Church.
Getting There By Bike...
 I still have a shaky notion of how I get places by bike in downtown Denver. Usually I just head in the direction that I think I need to go and then check the map on my phone after I realize that I've gotten lost. This also means that I don't have a great list of bicycle friendly streets to speed around on and end up doing a lot of miles on the shoulder of busier roads.
I rode west on 18th St. after I had gotten lost in City Park. 18th St. basically dead ends at the Brown Palace Hotel, where the street merges onto Broadway. I haven't ridden to it from the other side, through the middle of downtown Denver, so I don't think I'm qualified to give a great route if you're coming from that side.
A bonus stop in the area would be Trinity United Methodist Church, which is almost directly across the street from the Brown Palace Hotel.

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Plea to my Readers

A snapshot from a recent weekend ride near Boulder.
Hi all;
I deeply appreciate how many people take the time to read my blog. Numbers have been increasing rapidly and I'm impressed (and kind of intimidated) by the volume of people who are flipping through my blog entries on a daily basis. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I have a couple of very small favors to ask.

First, I would love it, absolutely love it, if you would "like" my page on Facebook. It's kind of an ego thing, but it also streamlines content delivery. If you don't use an RSS reader to get automatic updates when I add new content (which of course you already do), then liking Cycling Through History on Facebook (you can see the link in the sidebar to your right!) means that you'll get updated in your Facebook stream.

Second, if you liked what you read, or found it slightly informative, please +1 my articles on Google. This helps dramatically with page ranking and means that my posts will become more relevant in the Google search algorithm, and that more people will potentially be able to read what I have written.

Both of these favors are profoundly self-serving and I have no illusions about that, but I would greatly appreciate it if you would take the time to helpo me out with these two simple tasks.

Thank you again for reading,

Friday, November 9, 2012

What's in the Stand: Not Much

These hands used to be busy.
So...It's winter (or nearly winter) and things have slowed down. A lot. Which means that there aren't nearly as many neat things to look at and work on right now. This is a huge bummer for me because I prefer to be busy and have lots of neat bikes to tinker with. Instead, I'm drinking lots of coffee, eating too many pretzels from our keg 'o pretzels, and generally getting antsy.

And thus I'm reduced to providing you with one neat thing that I saw this week, and one photo I took ages ago that I laugh at every time I see it.

The neat thing first...This is a brake-activated rear light. The black plastic bracket that you can see clamped to the brake cable between the cable housing stop and the pinch bolt has a small switch in it. When the brake is used the cable is pulled, which then pushes the switch against the bottom of the cable housing stop, and the light turns on. Pretty neat idea and fairly well executed, like a brake light for our bike, but still kind of useless. If it's daytime no one will be able to see your little brake light turn on. If it's dark out then your rear light should be on and blinking all the time, which makes a brake light rather less functional. Still kind of neat though, and I had never seen this setup before I worked on this bike.

Secondly, if your bike comes in with warnings like this taped to the handlebars, or if you have ever created a warning like this for your bike, then you have slightly larger problems than a poorly functioning brake. I'll beat the mechanic's drum once more and say unto the world: "Fix your bikes!" A barely legible piece of Scotch tape might help you out while you cruise slowly around town, but I bet that during your next panic stop you end up grabbing a whole fistful of non-functional, totally unsafe brake lever. Please...just fix your bikes.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Baseline Road, Boulder County

Baseline Road is a major East-West road that starts in Boulder County and extends East through Weld, Broomfield, and Adams Counties. It stretches roughly 38 miles from end to end.

Baseline Road has a little more history to it than just being a major thoroughfare and a quick way to get across town. One of the more salient facts about Baseline Road is that it follows the 40th parallel. Most people who have lived in the area know this and it's a well-known bit of local trivia. The 40th parallel, and by extension Baseline Road, also served an important historical function prior to the existence of the state of Colorado.

The creation of Baseline road dates back to the 1840s and the various Territories Acts that the federal government put in place to control settlement and development of new land in the western United States. The creation of these territories, among them the Nebraska, Kansas, and, eventually, Colorado territories, tied together a handful of historical topics that shaped the development of the western states. Central to the creation of these new territories was the desire to build a transcontinental railroad. As early as 1845 the creation of a Nebraska Territory had been suggested as a first step towards building a transcontinental rail network. Previous plans to develop a transcontinental rail system had failed over arguments as to whether the railroad would follow a northern or southern route through the western United States.

The creation of these territories is also connected to the (potential) spread of slavery throughout new U.S territories, the growing friction between Northern anti-slavery politicians and Southern pro-slavery politicians, and the Missouri Compromise of 1820. In 1852, haggling in the Senate had tabled the creation of the Nebraska Territory after Senators had refused to pass the bill if slavery had not been allowed in the new territory, the allowance of which would have broken the Missouri Compromise which explicitly forbid slave ownership in parts of the former Louisiana Purchase that fell above the parallel 36-degrees, 30-minutes north. The Nebraska Territory, as it was originally proposed, would have decided the question of slavery through popular sovereignty, the right of residents to decide whether or not to allow slavery within the new territory. As it was pointed out in Congress this did not solve the problems that arose concerning the Missouri Compromise, but instead ignored them, allowing for the creation of pro-slavery states above the 36th parallel. The solution, as was eventually proposed through an amended bill, was the creation of two new territories, The Nebraska Territory and the Kansas Territory.

And Baseline Road became important because the 40th parallel was the dividing line between the two territories. The Nebraska Territory was to the north and the Kansas Territory was to the south. The creation of these two territories is historically important because they divided the country over the topic of slavery and pointed towards the conflict that would become the Civil War. Since slavery within the territories was being decided by popular sovereignty large numbers of both anti- and pro-slavery activists crossed into the territories to vote. Ballot rigging, intimidation, and widespread violence were the result. This was particularly true in Kansas, with pro-slavery "border ruffians" crossing in from Missouri and anti-slavery "Jayhawkers" moving in from the east for the express purpose of making Kansas a free state.

The creation of these two territories, and the changes they caused in terms of notions of popular sovereignty and national politics regarding slavery, led to the effective nullification of both the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and the Compromise of 1850. The political upheaval over the creation of these territories also split the Democratic and Whig parties apart, leading to the creation of two new, and largely geographically defined, political parties; the Republicans, centering in the anti-slavery North, and the Democrats, based in the pro-slavery South.

An interesting side note...
In school we always heard about the Lincoln-Douglas Debates. Everyone who took public speaking or participated in school debates heard all about these public debates between Abraham Lincoln, then a relatively unknown Senatorial candidate from Illinois, and Stephen Douglas, the incumbent Senatorial candidate and the author of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. The general topic of the debates was slavery, and one of the primary themes was the expansion of slavery into new U.S. territories. A major talking point was Douglas' insistence on popular sovereignty in the new territories, a stance which he claimed would ensure the representation of the people but his opponents said was a tactic to prevent him from having to take a stance on the expansion of slavery and avoid any political problems. Abraham Lincoln argued that popular sovereignty nullified the Missouri Compromise and effectively nationalized and perpetuated slavery. It's an interesting argument and I have to say it's a lot more interesting now than when I was taking debate in high school.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


So, sometime last night we rolled over 10,000 total views here at Cycling Through History. It's an arbitrary landmark in the grand scheme of things, but it's an impressively big one (at least to my eyes).

It pleases me to no end to know that people have stuck with me and continued to read this blog as I basically indulged myself by exploring a really inconsistent list of topics and then moved it halfway across the country. There's more of the same in months to come, so thank you again for reading. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Friday, October 26, 2012

What's in the Stand: Tapping Stronglight Cranks

Stronglight is a venerable French bicycle parts manufacturer that has been making high quality stuff since the 1940s.  I have seen more of their cranks than anything else, though I did get to see an absolutely immaculate Stronglight bottom bracket at one point. Fifty years of service and every bearing surface was still smooth as could be. They still make parts, and most of their stuff these days is of the carbon variety, but I tend to enjoy their older stuff more. They can still make an attractive alloy crank though, and the Stronglight website has all the info you could ever want and need about their current product range.

Stronglight cranks offer interesting challenges to bicycle mechanics. First off, they are French. Proudly French. And a lot of older Stronglight cranks bear that distinct mark of French manufacture, non-standard thread pitch and sizing. Second, original Stronglight cranks can have some weird bolt-circle diamters which can limit your choice in replacement chainrings.

As far as the thread pitch goes, French cranks used a different thread pitch for their pedal spindle than everyone else. French pedals are tapped at 14mm x 1.25mm (0.55" x 20.32tpi). Standard English pedals are tapped at 9/16" x 20tpi. The downside to this is that you can not fit standard, modern pedals into an unmodified French crank. The positive spin here is that it is relatively easy to retap those threads and make a modern pedal fit. All you need is the right taps (you friendly local bike shop should have them), and the experience and knowledge to use the tools effectively.

The bike in question, and the inspiration for this entry, had French threaded cranks and the owner wanted to use modern pedals on these older cranks. This is a perfectly reasonable thing to expect, and he brought it into the shop so that we could complete the work.
I'm obnoxiously opinionated and vocal about taps, and I will most likely get on your ass if I see you using one incorrectly. It's a personal thing, I can't explain it, but there it is. For some deep, unknown reason it really irritates me when I find dirty taps or dies. Not to wax overly philosophical, but I feel that it has a lot to do with respecting the tools that you use. If you genuinely love the tools that you use, if you care enough about how a particular tool fits in your hand and you went out of your way to buy good quality equipment, then take the time to take care of it. But enough of that.

Tapping cranks is fairly straightforward, but you do need to make sure that you are using pedal taps. They usually come as a pair since the two crank arms have opposite threadings. Park Tool makes a really good set for about $50. The job is the same as any other tapping job; go slowly, use plenty of cutting fluid, and make sure that you're clearing out the chips by backing out 1/2 turn for every 1 turn you go in. That and making sure you clean up afterwards. I like to spray taps with Speed Clean aerosol degreaser, and I have heard of people putting them in an ultrasonic cleaner. Either way, you don't want the tool to be put away covered with cutting fluid and metal chips.

Stronglight cranks, once they had moved to a cotterless design, also used a different thread pitch and size for their crank extractors. Most other companies stuck with the Campagnolo specified 22mm crank extractor, but Stronglight decided to use a 23.35mm crank extractor. If you want to get those Stronglight cranks off, you need the right tool. Harris Cyclery, former domain of Sheldon Brown, is one of the few places that still has these available. In 1982 Stronglight switched over to a 22mm design and things became easier.

The only thing that remains to be said about taps is that you need to be darn sure that you're using the right tap for the job. They come in all sizes and all thread pitches and it's pretty easy to mix up 5mm x .8mm and 5mm x 1.0mm. If it's close you can fix it by using another tap, but you could have also taken the time to find the right tool that first time around.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Richthofen Castle, Denver, CO

Richtofen Castle is a large estate that was finished in 1887 by the Baron Walter von Richtofen. The building is located in the Montclair/Monaco Hill district of Denver, CO.

This building tends to get described as "the Red Baron's castle". There is some slight confusion on this point. The Red Baron, Manfred von Richtofen, was a German pilot during World War I and is credited as being the greatest flying ace of that period. He had nearly 80 confirmed air combat victories before he was shot down and killed in 1918. Baron Walter von Richtofen, the man who was responsible for the construction of the Richtofen Castle in Denver, was Manfred's uncle.

Walter von Richtofen had moved to Colorado in the late 19th century in order to pursue and develop his business interests. His initial action once he had settled in Denver was to purchase 320 acres of land east of downtown Denver. His vision was to develop this new neighborhood into a center for health and wellness. Naming the area Montclair, the "beautiful suburban town of Denver", he built a home for himself and his wife and modeled it after the ancestral von Richtofen home in Germany. The building is absolutely one of a kind and there are no other homes in Denver like this. It really is a castle, with large stone walls surrounding the property, and immense wrought iron gates. According to Sotheby's International, the castle is approximately 14,000 square feet, with 35 rooms, including a replica WWI-era German pub (the "Red Baron Bar"), library, billiard room, and eight bedrooms.

In order to continue developing the health and wellness aspects of the neighborhood, von Richtofen built the Molkerei in 1898, a tuberculosis sanitarium that had some interesting beliefs about the healing benefits of fresh milk and the smell of cattle (No, really. The cattle stayed in the basement and the patients stayed upstairs, breathing in the healing barnyard odors). Within a decade the Molkerei was turned into an insane asylum before being made into the Montclair community center.

The building itself is actually really hard to see. The entire estate is surrounded by large stone walls, there is a lot of barbed wire, No Trespassing and Beware of Dog signs, big gates, and so on. The other factor is that the Baron's wife, Louise, didn't like the flat Colorado plains that surrounded the home. In order to make the area more comfortable for her, the Baron planted dozens of large trees and shrubs on the land surrounding the house. Now, one hundred years later, those same trees make for a very effective privacy screen.

Richtofen Castle is also notable in Denver history as being the site of one of the city's most sensational murders, that of Charles Patterson by his wife, Gertrude. Charles was shot in the back by his wife who claimed self defense after he had beaten her. The testimony offered in court was that Charles had knocked Gertrude to the floor when she, in self defense, pulled a handgun from her purse. Realizing that he was now very effectively outgunned Charles turned to flee the scene, but was unable to get out of the room before Gertrude had fired four times, missing twice, but killing Charles with two bullets in the back. The jury, all men from Denver, came back with a unanimous not guilty verdict following Gertrude's description of the events and she was acquitted of all charges.

Getting There By Bike...

The Montclair District is really fun to ride around. It's a very nice part of Denver and there are a lot historic homes in the area. I rode up Oneida Street, which had a great bike lane. The house is near Monaco and 12th, but you should stay off of Monaco if you're not in a car. Montclair is east of downtown Denver and you can get there very easily by taking 12th Street straight east. The house is located on the corner of 12th and Pontiac.

Friday, October 19, 2012

What's in the Stand: Dead, Dead Tires

Yes, you should have replaced this tire ages ago.
For the love of God people, please change out your dead, old tires.

Let's start from a more general perspective. Bicycles are pretty amazing things. Wheels (two of them, preferably round) are a large part of what make bikes pretty amazing. Narrowing in even further, we can say that tubes and tires, when they are well maintained and inflated properly, are a big part of why wheels are important. So by extraction, tires and tubes play a large, if not particularly glamorous, part in what makes your bicycle a fun and exciting thing to ride.

Tires do have an unglamorous job. They get dirty, they roll through mud and muck, and they rather thanklessly get asked to deal with whatever the world deems fit to throw in your bicycle's path. But even though they are all these things they tend to get ignored by a lot of riders. That is until there is a problem, and once you have a problem with your tires you are in a bad way. Once a tire goes wrong on you, you and your bike are effectively roadsided until you resolve the issue. You can ride around with a broken spoke, or one functional derailleur, or a single, poorly maintained 40-year old Mafac centerpull brake (don't do this last one, it's a bad idea), but you simply can't ride around with dead or flat tires. However, many people persist in doing so and, as someone who has had the opportunity to spend hundreds of hours of my life discussing tires with people, I am shocked, amazed, and dismayed by how little time and attention people pay to what is arguably one of the more important parts of their bicycle.

So here it is in a nutshell...

Spend decent money on tires now to cut down on hassle later. Plan on doing so approximately once a year if you ride your bike 3-5 time a week.

People seem to relate well to bikey things when you put it in car terms, so I would suggest that you replace your tires based on mileage.
  • 1,000-1,500 miles for nice, supple road tires
  • 1,500-2,000 miles for more durable commuter tires
  • 2,000+ for certain specific tires (Schwalbe Marathon Plus, Bontrager Hard Case, or Specialized Armadillo)
I can already hear the complaints; "Whatever Mr. Know-it-all Bike Guy, I got 5,000 miles on a single pair of $20 road tires." Well, congratulations to you. You're the exception, the far end of the bell curve. You have managed to extend the usable life of a product far past anything that its designers and manufacturers ever intended. Most of us will not do that, and most of us will greatly benefit from purchasing new tires well before they are totally worthless shreds of rubber.

If you do decide to purchase new tires semi-regularly, what will you gain? Quite a lot actually.
  • You'll gain relative freedom from flats. There is no such thing as a "flat proof" tire. There are varying levels of flat resistance though, and a high-quality tire will be more resistant to getting flats that a cheap one.
  • You'll gain traction and stability as you roll down the road. Tires, especially rear tires, become square as they wear out, meaning that they start to affect your steering and cornering. 
  • You'll get the fun of picking out new stuff for your bike and pampering it with a little TLC. It probably deserves it. 
So replace those tires! You won't regret it, I can almost guarantee it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Trinity United Methodist Church

Trinity United Methodist Church was built in 1888 and was Denver's first organized religious institution. It is located at 1820 Broadway in Denver. It is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Trinity United Methodist's history spans the history of Colorado. Denver City Methodist Episcopal Mission, the organization that would become Trinity United Methodist, was established on August 2nd, 1859, less than one year after the Russell Party had established the Auraria settlement on the shores of Cherry Creek. The organization began as a frontier church, led by 23-year old Jacob Adriance, a probationary minister who had been sent to Denver by Bishop Levi Scott of Kansas.

The congregation was largely static until February 28th, 1861, when Colorado became a federally recognized territory. Shortly after that Auraria and Denver City were incorporated into a single community and the area began to show signs of rapid growth. Aware of the potential for the growth of the church, Bishop Edward Ames arrived from Indianapolis and established the Rocky Mountain Conference of the Methodist Church. Seeing the need for a proper and respectable church building he promised $1,000 of his own money if the congregation could build and pay for a new church by January 1, 1865. Then governor of Colorado, and former church member, John Evans made a matching donation, offering his own money to the church if they could complete the work on time. With the goal of building a "substantial brick church eligibly located in the city," the congregation purchased a lot on the corner of 14th and Lawrence Street. The church was finished in 1864 at a total cost of $23,000.

Denver continued to grow and develop and the Lawrence Street Church faced difficult changes over the next two decades. Many of the churches founding members had opted to move to the newly built suburbs around Denver and the congregation had shrunk. In debt and with the potential to close the church doors hanging over them, the congregation decided to move. Getting loans and relying heavily on donations from congregation members they purchased four lots on the corner of 18th and Broadway. In July of 1886 Reverend Henry Augustus Buchtel arrived in Denver to take charge of the congregation. Uniting the congregation with a shared goal of giving their church a new home he began making plans to construct a new church building. Due to the new minister's energy and drive, by November 16th, 1886, over half of the funding for the new church had been donated and Robert S. Roeschlaub, Colorado's first licensed architect, had been hired to design and build the new church.

The church was completed in less than two years, with a capacity crowd attending services on December 23rd, 1888. The church is a landmark in what is considered Modern Gothic architecture. The exterior incorporates many elements of traditional Gothic architecture, while the interior is a modern amphitheater. The building is constructed from local sandstone and Castle Rock rhyolite and reflects Roeschlaub's intentions to stay true to the tenets of the Arts and Crafts Movement, using locally sourced materials that reflect the surroundings of the building. The literal high point of the building is the spire, standing 183 feet, and 7-1/2 inches. It was one of the tallest stone structures in the United States at its time of completion.

Trinity Methodist Church also houses one of the largest 19th century pipe organs that is still in use. Designed, built, and installed by New York's Roosevelt Organ Works, the finished product cost roughly $30,000 in 1887. The organ, No. 308 on Roosevelt's records, was powered by a dynamo in the church's basement, a curiosity since electricity had not yet come to the rest of the city. The dynamo was powered by a waterwheel, turned by a natural spring that had been discovered in the church's basement. The organ uses 4,202 pipes, ranging in size from less than one inch to thirty-two feet, and made of a number of materials including pine, mahogany, a number of different hardwoods, zinc, tin, and lead.

The building also houses an impressive collection of stained glass, nearly all originally designed by Healy and Millett of Chicago, and the J & R Lamb Company of New York. Since the church's construction the congregation has relied heavily on the Watkins Stained Glass company of Englewood, CO. Four generations of Watkins family members have maintained and repaired Trinity's stained glass windows.

This is an incredibly beautiful building that has been utterly swallowed by downtown Denver. There are skyscrapers on every side, multi-story parking garages, busy streets,  and pay-to-park lots on every side. The building is still there though, and looks just as good as it always has.

Getting There By Bike...
I approached the building on 18th, after turning off of Sherman. The area around the church is filled with one-way streets and can be very heavily trafficked during the day. There are a number of ways to get here by bike, and Google Maps knows them all. My only caveat would be that this might not be the best place to ride a bike unless you are comfortable and familiar with riding in traffic.
Trinity United Methodist Church is also directly across the street from the Brown Palace Hotel and Spa, another historic site that's worth a visit.

Friday, October 12, 2012

What's in the Stand: Terry Classic

It's got a tiny front wheel!

A Terry Classic in the wild.
  Terry Bicycles are a relatively uncommon brand and you don't see a ton of them come through the door. Terry Bicycles was started by Georgena Terry and they claim to be, and most likely are, the first women's specific brand of cycling equipment and bicycles. The bikes are generally well regarded, at least by the people that own them, and the company has also had a lot of success with their line of saddles. There's a certain generation of rider/bicycle that you see with Terry saddles and they generally love them. I think that Terry has some claim to be the first saddle manufacturer to sell some unbelievable number of a particular model, but I'm feeling too lazy to find the actual numbers. They also make very nice women's specific cycling clothing and do a booming business by catering to female athletes.

  Here's my opinion in a nutshell...They're good quality bicycles, but the two different wheel sizes? Come on.

  Lest you think I am among the uninitiated mouth-breathing masses, I will claim that I have a great understanding of exactly why Georgena Terry et al did this to their bikes. Smaller frames, which tend to get bundled under the label of "women's frames" but the same could be said of any small frame, are difficult to design well around your standard 700c road wheel. Think about it...as the frame shrinks, the wheels stay the same size. At the ludicrous end of the spectrum you end up with a tiny frame and monstrously proportioned wheels in relation to the frame. If we were to be more realistic we would be more interested in how the increasing size of the wheels in direct relation to the frame affects frame geometry. The big concerns that you hear about relate to seat and head tube angle. In order to get the bicycle to fit right, and retain a short-ish wheelbase, the seat tube of a small bicycle equipped with 700c wheels needs to become steeper, which affects fit along the top tube. As the frame shrinks toe overlap with the front wheel becomes a concern, which leads to manufacturers using slacker head tube angles. This in turn affects steering and handling. And all because you, ignorant designer of women's/small person's bicycles that you are, felt somehow beholden to the 700c wheel size. Enter Georgena Terry and her unique brand of bicycles which use two different wheel sizes on a single bike; a 700c wheel in the back and a smaller wheel (typically 650c or 24-inch) on the front. Terry also manufactured a line of bicycles that used two smaller wheels. I've seen both a touring bike and a mountain bike designed by Terry that used 24-inch wheels and they were both really nice bikes, just built for a very small person.
  This solves a lot of the problems associated with building smaller frames but it introduces obnoxious maintenance and bike-ownership issues, like having to carry two different tube sizes. Not a huge issue, but kind of a pain. Another longer term and more expensive issue arises when you either ruin your front wheel or get it stolen. There aren't a ton of options out there for high-quality 24-inch road wheel, or even 650c road wheels. This set of circumstances means that you are almost certainly buying a custom, hand-built wheel from someone like me. I'm happy to do this for you, we have the tools and the technology, but it's going to cost a bit.

  I will stake my claim and alienate thousands of people when I say that a smaller frame is better designed when it uses a pair of smaller wheels. Everything in proportion, right? There is absolutely nothing wrong with a small road bike using 650c wheels, and it most likely means that there is a greater chance that the frame will be designed well and have the correct angles and sizing that will make it handle like a road bike should. This even has a more recent application to the field of bicycle design when you start considering the steadily growing field of 29er mountain bikes. 29-inch wheels are gigantic and, I'm sorry to say this, they have no place on a 15" frame. This is essentially the same issue (giant wheels on a tiny frame), but using an even bigger wheel and trying to fit it onto a similarly tiny frame.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Castlewood Canyon Dam

Castlewood Canyon Dam is located in Castlewood Canyon State park, east of Castlerock, CO and near Franktown, CO.

The remains of the Castlewood Canyon Dam
Castlewood Canyon Dam was built in the 1889 and blocked the flow of Cherry Creek, creating a reservoir on the southern side of the dam. The dam was built in order to control irrigation and water flow for the farms that are found nearby. The southern branches of Cherry Creek were the site of lots of important Colorado pioneer history, and the communities of Franktown and Castlerock were some of the earliest towns built in what would become Douglas County. The dam itself was a strictly local concern until 1933 when it burst, sending a fifteen-foot high wall of water into downtown Denver, nearly 35 miles away. This remains the second worst occurrence of flooding in Denver history, with the worst flood taking place in 1864, less than a decade after the city's construction.In that case Cherry Creek flooded downtown Denver and caused roughly $6,000,000 in damage to what was then a fairly ramshackle pioneer's town. The Castlewood Dam flood killed two people but didn't do much damage to the downtown area.
Looking south along Cherry Creek
It's interesting to note that the Castlewood Canyon Dam breaking is still an important point of local history for people who live in this part of Douglas County. A few years ago there was a large effort to record local history and remembrances of those who were living in the area when the dam burst. Their stories are recorded in a document called "Where Were You When the Dam Burst".

To sweeten the deal, if you make the trek out to Castlewood Canyon there is a bunch more local history that's worth learning about. Franktown, the nearest community to Castlewood Canyon, was the original seat of Douglas County government, serving in that role from 1861 until 1863. Pike's Peak Grange No. 163 is located in Franktown and is listed on the national Register of Historic Places. The Cherry Creek Bridge, spanning Cherry Creek, is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is found immediately outside of Franktown within Castlewood Canyon State Park. The Russellville Gold Strike took place nearby, and during the Civil War Union and Confederate soldiers fought near the outskirts of Franktown.

If you're not into history then the scenery alone should get you down into this neck of the woods. Castlewood Canyon is a shallow canyon that has been cut into a bed of white limestone by Cherry Creek. The state park is also located at the northern tip of an area called the Black Forest, a part of the Palmer Divide. The Palmer Divide is a ridge that separates the watersheds of the Arkansas and Missouri/Platte Rivers. The Palmer Divide extends perpendicular to the Front Range and serves to create a series of micro-climates, lending to the creation of the Black Forest, a heavily wooded area of pine trees that is surrounded by relatively arid plans and grasslands. Even though this area is east of Denver, and almost everything east of Denver is flat and boring, this is a really great part of the state to visit. And it's close by, which means that you can probably get down here for some hiking of bicycling faster than you could get anywhere decent in the mountains.
Downtown Denver, after the Castlewood Canyon Flood

Getting There By Bike...

You could get all the way to Castlewood Canyon State Park by bike if you really wanted to, though it would take you most of a day to do it. The best way is to take the Cherry Creek Trail all the way south through Parker and into Franktown. It does in fact extend all the way down there, and then it's just a short hop over into the state park. Once you get to the park there are absolutely no paved roads, so some kind of wider tire is definitely required. But the area around here is gorgeous and you'll most likely be thee only cyclist on the road. And if you love exploring gravel and dirt roads on your bike (my new addiction), then this is the place to be.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Highland Lake Pioneer Cemetery

Highland Lake Pioneer Cemetery is on County Road 36, in unincorporated Weld County, northeast of the town of Mead, CO.

I found this great little pioneer cemetery completely by accident while I was out on a ride. The area around the cemetery is filled with fantastic gravel and dirt roads and I was out on my 'cross bike when I turned a corner and found this site completely by accident. I couldn't have been happier since one of my favorite things to find out here in Colorado is pioneer and settler cemeteries.

The community of Highland Lake was created by Lorin Cassandre Mead and his wife, Elizabeth, in 1871. After arriving in Colorado from the east coast Lorin and Elizabeth toured several of Colorado's newly formed towns, including Longmont (at the time known as the Chicago-Colorado Colony), and Greeley, looking for land that they could purchase and homestead. Disappointed by the high price of land near the quickly developing towns of the Front Range, the Meads decided to stake their claim near a natural spring they had seen while touring the area. This "prairie pothole", called Highland Lake by Lorin Mead after the body of water in Sir Walter Scott's poem "The Lady of the Lake", became the center of an 80-acre plot that was claimed and homesteaded by the Mead family.

The community developed quickly and the number of families in the Highland Lake area increased rapidly. By 1877 the Highland Lake area had its own school district, Weld County School District Number 33, along with a church and a post office by 1883. Though you wouldn't know it these days Highland Lake was a well known vacation spot for Denverites looking to get away from the hustle of the big city. Today there are a number of farms and homes in the area, but nothing that would attract a vacationer. However, around the turn of the century Highland Lake and the Gately family's hotel and boarding house were filled with weekend visitors.

It couldn't last for the Highland Lake community though. City officials and farmers had been campaigning for a new railway to come through their town for a number of years. Rail surveyors had been through Highland Lake in 1887 but even after fourteen years there were no definite plans to develop a rail line. In a bid to encourage the development of a rail spur local farmers made a plan to turn Highland Lake into a sugar beet town, dedicating most of the farming land to Colorado's most recent cash crop. It all came to nothing in 1906 when a rail line was finally built two miles east of the center of Highland Lake. Not to be undone, city officials quickly filed for the platting of a new town, to be called Mead, that would be located directly on the new rail line. In 1908 the new town received its incorporation papers and by 1916 most of the city and public buildings of Highland Lake had been picked up and moved to new sites in Mead proper. Highland Lake became a ghost town almost overnight and was reduced to a name, marking the site of a formerly thriving community in Weld County.

Getting There By Bike...
It's easy enough to get to Highland Lake Pioneer Cemetery by bike, though it means that you might have a slightly longer ride ahead of you. The town site and cemetery are located on County Road 36, north of Longmont, CO. If you are riding out of Longmont you can take E. County Line Road north until you reach County Road 36. Turn right and head east for almost two miles. The cemetery will be on the right hand side.

Friday, September 28, 2012

What's in the Stand: Mr. Merckx Stopped by for a Visit

E. Merckx
This bike is just really pretty. Merckx frames, especially steel ones, have all kinds of neat little touches that show how much time and attention went into making the bike look totally pro. The paint is usually really nice, I like the retro look of the lettering and the head badge, and I'm a total sucker for the little EM logo on the seat stay caps and how they made it look like a bicycle. They usually have some kind of internal cable routing for the rear brake as well which I think really adds to the clean look of a road bike.
I would love to own an older Merckx frame someday, though that falls into the "unattainable fantasy" end of my bike-related hopes and dreams. They're expensive when they're new and a certain generation of these frames (the generation that I like) are fairly collectible. When you see a nice one it's usually owned by someone who knows what they have and they aren't willing to part with it for less than a small fortune. I've seen a few beat up Merckx frames that have been converted into townies by the Fixerati and it makes my heart sad every time. With a heavy sigh I'll concede that at least they are still being ridden and that, for better or worse, is what bikes were meant to do. For the present I'll restrain my affection for these bikes to pawing over someone else's ride while I have it in the repair stand.

All issues of provenance and manufacture aside, the bike brings two topics to mind; handlebar accessories and bicycle computers.

This bike's owner is a follower of the "Too Much is Never Enough" school of thought when it comes to handlebar accessories. He has aero bars, arm pads, and two different computers. That's a lot of stuff draped over, bolted to, and affixed to the handlebars. All of it is purpose specific, the owner could probably give you a sound explanation for why each particular item is there, and none of the reasons would be bad...but I don't like it. If we were to digress into discussions about personal taste in bike aesthetics, I would describe mine as being fairly minimalist. I like luggage, particularly handlebar bags for longer rides, and I do use a Garmin 500 on my personal bike, but there are ways to install such things where they don't make the bike look cluttered. I like handlebars to be clean, if only so I'm not having to reach around a whole bunch of stuff when I'm riding the bike. It's particularly noticeable on a bike like this where the overall aesthetic is a little retro, a little bit like race machines from the '70s. On a steel road frame with nice, narrow tubes I like things to be pretty stripped down, if only so it looks like it's about to be smashed through the mud and cobbles of the Spring Classics.

I'm usually confused by people's relationship with their cycling computers. More often than not I see bikes with either broken or non-functional computers on the handlebars. Even more strange are the bikes I handle with parts of broken computers still attached when the customer has just finished telling me that they don't have the other pieces any more. The same goes for light mounts. There are so many bicycles cruising around with broken or old light mounts attached to the handlebars, and more often than not the rider doesn't own the lights any more. It's crazy. Just take them off if you know you aren't going to use them any more.
This bike had two computers, a heart rate monitor and a Campagnolo Ergobrain setup. Both of them were set up in such a way that if you were to get out on the aero bars you would have them about six inches from your face. I suppose that's a good way to keep your eye on your heart rate but I would find it distracting. The Ergobrain computer is worth a mention because it's complicated, expensive, and doesn't exist anymore (though there are rumblings from the Campagnolo camp that they are going to implement a similar computer again sometime soon). The Campagnolo Ergobrain is a wired computer that has sensors that extend to a wheel magnet, and the ergo shifters. When it's properly set up it tells you all kinds of things, such as speed, cadence, mileage, and your particular gear combo at the moment. It's very similar to the Shimano Flightdeck computers and they have a similarly difficult set up procedure. The computer has to be installed when the bars are untaped so wires can be run along the handlebar and plugged into the shifters. Wires are also extended along the downtube to the sensor for the wheel magnet. When you program the computer you have to know the tooth count for every cog on your cassette and your chainrings so the computer can accurately generate your data given a particular gear ratio. It generates your cadence data by doing fancy math, which is odd since computers with actual cadence sensors have been around for about as long as this computer.

The man himself, Mr. Eddy Merckx

It all makes my head spin. The best thing that ever happened to cycling computers was the creation of Garmin's line of GPS-enabled goodies. When I got mine I became an immediate convert. They're small, they're easy to use, and they provide way more data than a computer like the Ergobrain or a Shimano Flightdeck ever could. It won't tell you what your current gear combo is, but I like to think that's reasonably easy to figure out without a computer (Hint: look between your knees at the gears).

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

John Evans

John Evans was, at least within the scope of Colorado history, a big cheese.

Originally from Ohio, he was a political mover and shaker long before he crossed the border into this fair mountain state. He was a teaching physician who founded two hospitals (Indiana Central State Hospital in Indianapolis, and Lakeside Hospital in Chicago, later known as Mercy Hospital). He founded the Illinois Medical Society and the Illinois Republican Party, he was a personal friend of Abraham Lincoln, and he helped found Northwestern University and was elected the first president of its Board of Trustees.

Because of his ties with the Lincoln presidency Evans was appointed the second governor of the Colorado Territory in 1862. Evans was a force to be reckoned with in the early years of the Colorado Territory. He had a personal background and a financial interest in railroads and a rail connection from Colorado through the mountains to Salt Lake City was high on his list of goals. The territorial legislature under Evans was quick to incorporate the Colorado and Pacific Wagon, Telegraph, and Railroad Company as a lure to bring investors to the area. While this didn't have the immediately desired effects of creating an extensive rail network throughout the west, pressure from territorial governments did lead to the passing of legislation that led to the creation of the Transcontinental Railroad.

While resident in Colorado Evans was also an important figure in the founding of the University of Denver, then known as Denver Seminary, which began life as a private Methodist college. To share a bizarre factoid, the University of Denver is still listed as "Denver Seminary" on all of its business and tax documents since the official name of the institution has never been changed. The Washington Park neighborhood developed around the University of Denver and was known, at the time, as South Denver, a separate city entirely. Evan's relationship with the university and the neighborhood that sprang up around it weren't always rosy though. Evans planned to open an 80-acre stock yard in South Denver, on land that would now fall between Logan and Clarkson, and Mississippi and Florida. His plan was to use the stock yard as a stagin area for Texas cattle that he would then transport around the country with the newly developed rail system. Residents of South Denver fought him on this matter and they were successful in stopping the development of the stockyard.

John Evans political career is marred by one of Colorado's most well known political gaffes and wartime tragedies. It was Evan's great misfortune to be in charge of the territory during the Sand Creek massacre. There is far more information on the Wikipedia page for the Sand Creek Massacre, but the long and short of it is that Colonel John Chivington, placed in charge of an Indian-fighting regiment of the territorial militia under Evan's authority, attacked a Cheyenne Indian camp on November 29, 1864. The massacre was so brutal, and so unprovoked, that it prompted a huge surge of anger and indignation, eventually leading to a Congressional inquiry. As a result of all this Evan's political career came screeching to a halt. Chivington had already been released form the Army by the time the Congressional inquiry was taking pace so he was not eligible for the dishonorable discharge that politicians in Washington D.C. felt he deserved.

Following his rather forced withdrawal from politics, Evans put his energy into developing Colorado's rail system. He was largely responsible for obtaining the land grants and resources necessary to develop the Union Pacific rail line from Cheyenne to Denver. Completed in 1870, this rail line opened Colorado to a huge tide of commerce, settlers, industry, and tourism. Evans remained the Colorado rail network's greatest financier until his death in 1897.

Getting There By Bike...
There are a lot of sites that are related to John Evans. The Rio Grande Railroad gave Evans a bell from e Rio Grande steam engine. The bell is located on the DU campus and you can walk right up and ring it since it still has the clapper inside. 
You could also ride your bike to either Evans, Colorado, or to Mt. Evans, both of which are named after him. If you felt like a really long trek you could go to Evanston, Illinois which was also named in his honor.
If you choose to visit the site of the Sand Creek massacre, it's located at Big Sandy Creek which is administered by the National Park Service who preserves the area as a historic monument.