Athena the Titanium Javelin

After a lifetime deprived of titanium bikes, this Pandemic Summer I acquired two. First the Ti Rush, which in spite of being haunted and requiring an exorcism has become my favorite, and then the Ti Javelin.

The majestic Titanium Javelin, one of only ten ever built.

I didn’t even know such a thing as a Ti Javelin existed until I saw one listed in the classifieds of BentRiderOnline.com. At first I had no interest; the steel Javelin is a monotube bike, and I don’t want to deal with flex. I continued riding my haunted Ti Rush, Titania, occasionally wishing I’d waited for a Medium to come up for sale rather than settling on the Small, whose seat has to be set all the way back on a modified rail. That Ti Javelin for sale is a Medium, the devil on my shoulder whispered. Revisiting the photos, I saw that the titanium version had a dual tube frame. And perfect welds; it had been Easy Racers’ trade show model, and looked great.

Look at that gorgeously welded titanium.

But what was it? There’s no titanium Javelin on Easy Racers’ web site; I’d never even seen one mentioned before. Apparently only ten were ever made. The model came out right as the Easy Racers company was tanking, and subsequently went out of business. Consequently the Ti Jav was never promoted or produced or advertised, and was quickly engulfed by the mists of time. But according to legend – by which I mean the seller – the Ti Jav was the fastest consumer bike Easy Racers ever made. According to legend, Fast Freddy Markham once rode this very same bike at record (for a consumer model) speed. And by “record” I mean not actually recorded, except in legend.

I bought the Ti Jav at the height of the pandemic summer, when bike shops were overwhelmed. It took a while to pack and ship, and when it arrived in Urbana I had to wait over a month for my friendly neighborhood bike mechanic, Simon, to get to it. While in overall great shape, it needed a few modifications before I could ride it. Finally, after two months, with Summer well over and Fall underway, I got to ride the thing, which I named Athena.

The modified seat mount. It came with two, and because I was worried the frame might be too big for me, I had the local machine shop modify one to allow closer seat placement. Turns out that wasn’t necessary, and cost time and money I shouldn’t have spent. Live and learn.
The previous owner cut down Athena’s handlebars for a more “aero” aesthetic. I’d prefer the original length, but I got used to these shorties pretty quickly.
In contrast, here’s the “cockpit” of my Ti Rush. Longer handlebars, and two bottle cages. The Ti Jav only has one, so on long rides I carry a second bottle in my seat bag.

Was she faster than my Ti Rush? Alas, no. But I don’t think she’s any slower, and Titania is pretty fast. “Fast” being relative, as I am a 52-year-old female non-athlete who bikes mostly for mood management. The same “engine” (me) yields similar speeds on both bikes. Supposedly the Ti Jav excels with a fairing. It has a smaller front profile and just zooms along, according to legend. But I have no intention of fairing either it or my Ti Rush, partly because they both have carbon fiber forks which are now known to fail, and I don’t want to stress them. Also, I just don’t like to ride my two-wheelers faired. In the Summer I prefer the warm air on my skin, and the quiet openness that permits conversational rides with friends. When I need a fairing, I ride my velomobile, Frosty.

Frosty the (Sinner Mango Sport) Velomobile, since the addition of retroreflective spots.

The Javelin’s bottom bracket is ten inches higher than standard Easy Racers frames. I was worried she would be hard to ride, but she’s only very slightly more difficult than a Tour Easy. Steering can feel just a little weird and unstable. I hate riding her on gravel, and I’m a little nervous on turns. On the other hand, the riding position is exquisitely comfortable, better than my other bikes. Because my feet are up higher, the seat reclines more, and my back feels like it’s being cradled and hugged. It’s possible a rider can get more “power” in this position, but I haven’t been competitive enough to find out over the few (220) miles I’ve put on her so far. The bottom bracket is still, thankfully, no higher than my hips. I did get tingly toes a few times, but not the foot numbness I used to get on my Grasshopper. If a bottom bracket is really high I imagine one’s feet could slip off without “clipless” cleats, but my preferred pinned platform pedals worked fine at this height.

The Ti Jav’s bottom bracket is high, but not higher than the seat.
The Ti-Rush’s bottom bracket is 10 inches lower, like all other Easy Racers consumer bikes (Tour Easy, Gold Rush, etc.). They’re called Easy for a reason.

The Javelin’s chain is configured differently than the Ti Rush’s, crossing over a central idler. This makes some noise while pedaling. I don’t think there’s any way for it to not make noise. It’s not terrible, but it’s always there.

The Ti Javelin’s chain crisscrosses over the idler. Because she didn’t have a kickstand, I had to lean Athena on posts and trash cans to take photos. I’ve since installed a kickstand, which may horrify some people but it makes long rides with photo stops much more enjoyable.

Right now, if I could only keep one bike, it would be the Ti Rush, because she’s a little easier to handle, and more versatile. But I barely know the Ti Jav. Winter is setting in, and I won’t be able to ride her more until next year. I might get faster on her. She’s a very nice bike. There were some beautiful moments on our rides when I felt like I was astride a javelin, flying through the air, hurled by Athena herself.

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My Bicycling Origin Story

Athena hurling the Javelin

I’m about to hit my 5,000th bike mile for 2020, and I’m buying yet another new-to-me used obscure recumbent, a rare Easy Racers Ti Javelin. A friend in an online chatroom today asked,

Have you always been this into cycling? Or is it something you developed as an adult?

Always somewhat, but this year I’m doing it way more. I have the pandemic to thank. No travel, and I’m not spending money on anything else really, so why not. Most of my socializing is happening on rides with friends; it’s outdoors, safely distanced, yet intimate because you get to know people through conversation and a little shared adventure.

Tell us your cycling origin story!!! How did you get to be so into it!

Like most kids in the 70’s, I was raised to ride bikes; that’s how kids got around back then, before parents drove them everywhere. Started with the typical banana seat kiddie bike, moved up to a Raleigh 3-speed. Lived adjacent to a college campus where biking was the way people got around. Even my Dad biked to work. Now everybody drives on campus, it’s horrible.

When I turned 18 or so I got my first grown-up bike with drop handlebars, what we then called a “ten speed”. It was a Ross. I moved with it to Santa Cruz, CA, in 1987, where I biked to get around. I always disliked cars and fought with my Dad over driving. He said I would “have to”; I said I wouldn’t until solar cars were available. I got my driver’s license and everything, but refused to own a car, and I really hated driving in California, because of the hills and the fact that my friends drove stick shifts I couldn’t manage. So I just stopped driving altogether.

I rode that Ross all around Santa Cruz, building up my leg muscles to get up the hills. In 1991, I moved to San Francisco and got a Univega hybrid. I noticed how rapidly consumer bikes were improving, going down in cost and up in quality. I biked a lot in San Francisco. Then my bike got stolen off Valencia Street in broad daylight. Thieves froze and smashed the urban U-lock. Actually that might have been the Ross that got stolen, maybe I replaced it with the Univega. I painted that (replacement?) Univega with dots of nail polish all over, to make it look distinctive and therefore less appealing to thieves. It never got stolen, but I didn’t ride it long, because in 1999 I discovered Brompton folding bikes while living in Europe.

I got my first Brompton on a trip to the Netherlands in 1999, and took it on trains all over the place the Summer I was based in Veyrier, Switzerland (near Geneva). The Brompton came with me back to San Francisco and became my primary bike. I never had to lock it outside; I folded it up and took it indoors with me, even to go shopping.

When I moved to NYC in 2002, the Brompton came with me, and it was perfect for that city. Bromptons were still obscure in the US back then, but now they’re very popular. NYC has at least 2 Brompton dealers now. I upgraded to a newer Brompton in 2011, and when I moved back to Urbana, IL in 2012, continued to ride it.

In 2013 or 2014 a friend of my Momz’s offered her fancy carbon road bike in trade for an art quilt. It was my first ever high end road bike, so light I could lift it with one hand. I started doing longer rides, which for me then meant up to 30 miles. I bruised my nether regions on that thing, actual bruises along my vulva. I also contended with back and hand pain. Looking at my hands vibrating on the handlebars, I despaired I would have to give up cycling to protect my “money makers.”

Then I discovered recumbents.

A friend had a Rans Rocket he let me try. It took me about half an hour of scooting around with my feet before I could even pedal it. Like learning to ride a bike all over again. But I knew if I could master a ‘bent, I could ride without endangering my precious aging hands.

I rode that Rans Rocket on a local “Moonlight Bike Drive,” a big group ride that went every month from Urbana to rural Sidney, IL, for ice cream and a return ride after dark, about 25 miles round trip from my home. At the ice cream break another rider talked to me about recumbents, and asked if I’d ever ridden a Tour Easy. I hadn’t; I figured my sense of balance was good enough I should be on racier models. He gave me his contact info anyway. He had a Tour Easy I could borrow, he said. On the way back, with a failing headlight, I fell while starting from a stop, and skinned my elbow.

Turns out the Rans Rocket is a notoriously “squirrelly” bike, and the Tour Easy is at least as fast. I emailed Dennis and borrowed his Tour Easy and half a year later he sold it to me when he moved away from town. By then I’d bought some other recumbents via the internet, which is really the only way I could try them as there are no dealers here. I had a Performer Toscana and a HPVelotechnik Grasshopper. But that Tour Easy was a lot better for me. I eventually sold my other ‘bents and became the Easy Racers (maker of the Tour Easy) connoisseur I am today. I took longer and longer rides, both because I was so comfortable and feeling no pain, and because spending all that money and time on bikes incentivized me.

Somewhere around then I got my velomobile, Frosty, which was also a game-changer, because now I could ride in colder weather.

So that’s how I became the total obsessive you see before you today. The End.

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Protective Bicycle Amulets

Available now at PaleGrayLabs.com.

I originally created these for my bike Titania, but got enough stuff to make extras, because selling merch is what made-up religion is all about. Comes with a signed & dated, hand-stapled, 8-page Velosophical prayer book so you can conduct your own bike exorcisms, call for supernatural help on the road, sing hymns, and more.

With this, I think I’m finally done with this obsessive bike side-project, and can get back to animating the Apocalypse.

 

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Exorcise Bike, Part 3: Prayer for Exorcism

EXORCISE BIKE

(A ritual prayer for Titania’s exorcism, to be performed next week after she comes back from a thorough cleaning and parts replacement.)

In the name of Velocipe Cycladia,
Goddess of bicycles and protector of riders,
Muse of mechanics and engineers,
Who hast inspired and brought forth the greatest achievement of human technology: the Bicycle;

We confidently undertake to repulse the attacks and deceits of poor maintenance.

Cast out from this Bicycle all corrosion and corroding agents.
Defend her components from gungeing up, her metal parts from bending and snapping, her chain from stretching.
From cracks and gouges, we beg You, Great Goddess, preserve the structural integrity of her frame.
Let not her sprockets wear down, nor her bearings become pitted.
O Lady Liberator, keep forever lubricated and freely moving her chain, bearings, sprockets, cables, pulleys, and pivot points.
Protect her tires, that they not be pierced or punctured with road debris, nor worn to the casing; and keep her tubes free of leaks and tears. Grant that her struts and spokes be strong, and her wheels true.
May her bolts remain bolted,
her fasteners fast,
her clamps clamped,
her loctite tite,
and her nylocs locked.

May any mistreatment, abuse, weirdness, improper maintenance, and sadness instilled in this machine by previous handlers, be cast out now and forever.

We drive you from this bicycle:
all unclean spirits,
all corrosive powers,
all cracks and abrasives,
all incorrect lubricants, solvents, and salts.

The sacred sign of the Wheel commands you, as does also the power of the mysteries of Velosophy.

Deign, O Goddess Cycladia,
to grant this Bicycle’s rider the foresight to maintain her,
to clean her as needed, and occasionally lube her chain;
to check tire pressure and brakes before each ride;
to replace parts as they wear out;
to apply grease before bolting.
Grant this rider the strength, courage, and humility to bring forth this Bicycle unto a qualified Mechanic when necessary.

Fill this rider with the spirit of love and dedication worthy of Your blessed Bicycle, that together they glorify Thy creation.

May Velocipe Cycladia be with this bicycle,
and with thy spirit.

Amen.

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Exorcise Bike, Part 2: Velocipe Cycladia

Velocipe Cycladia is the Goddess of bicycles and cyclists.

I had to make her up, because Madonna del Ghisallo just wan’t cutting it: not enough imagery, not enough paraphernalia, and no exorcisms I could find.

My new-to-me bike Titania needs an exorcism. Sometimes, if you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself, so I am writing it. (On the other hand, if I want bike repair done right, I take it to the shop. That’s the mechanic’s expertise; mine is art and making up new religions.)

Although not before named – or perhaps under many names – Cycladia has appeared with the bicycle almost from its beginnings. Evidence is in numerous vintage posters:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I removed some of these figures from their backgrounds, for possible future use:

But the Lady Liberator, at the top of this post, is my favorite. The bat-winged helmet especially inspires awe. So she will appear again in my next post, accompanying the exorcism prayer I composed today.

 

 

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