Heading out the door this weekend, for a quick tour around town on my bike, I found myself looking at the same pair of lightweight leather gloves I have owned for the past 20 years.
The nondescript black gloves are nothing special, in fact they have a tear in the palm I sewed up with an unseemly blue thread, making them look like the hand-me-downs they were.
They came to me along with a 1978 Suzuki GS 750 I bought from a young man who had just moved back to Albuquerque, New Mexico in the US Southwest, where I was living, after his divorce.
For $575 he threw in a helmet, and the gloves.
GENEVA,SWITZERLAND – Perusing the Geneva Auto Show today with my daughter asking questions about cubic centimetres, litres per 100km, and the genesis of the phrase “horsepower,” was a proud moment – granted our picks for best in show were quite a bit different.
She tended towards the Cadillac Escalade, the Range Rover Defender and similar 4×4 beasts, while I admired the mixed heritage of Touring Superleggera’s Disco Volante, an Alpha Romeo based two seater that recalls the revolutionary 1963 Corvette styling.
The vintage two-cylinder Subaru 360 on display was another favourite.
In response to my daughter’s questions on the relation of engine displacement to fuel efficiency, I pointed out that the 360 was about 1/10th the size of the engine in the Escalade.
The Ford “EcoBoost” exhibit was a very cool way to illustrate the workings of an internal combustion engine and much more convincing than my charade of a firing piston chamber.
This was my third or fourth show in Geneva, and as always taking in the new car curves and engine specs on display is a great afternoon by any measure; however, the company of my girl Friday made this year especially fun.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Want a sub-two-hour calorie burner that’s fun, with nice views and libation options? I shook off my Sunday indecision late today following a Saturday night dinner with friends, finally asking my wife to prescribe an afternoon excursion.
I ended up taking my first real bicycle ride of 2013, heading across Pont Butin – filled with walkers taking in the fine weather – South to Chancy and re-crossing the Rhône on the quaint single lane bridge at the Pugny train station.
The climb from Pugny to Challex burned the haze from my mind without hurting too much.
The views from the top on a sunny day are not too shabby either; in warmer weather you can get a cold drink on the patio at the Auberge de la Treille while you take in the Rhône river snaking through the valley below.
The ride down to La Plaine is a blast, if short-lived – 3 km of switchbacks through front yards and close enough to the hillside dwellings to see what’s on for lunch.
GEX, FRANCE – Just back from a snowy work retreat at La Mainaz, below the Col de La Faucille pass in Gex.
The hotel, a homey chalet with rambling additions is a fine place to be holed up for a few days with good company.
The ample views of the Pays Gex below and the Alps beyond Lake Geneva were an appreciated counterpoint to the brain straining work at hand.
On two occasions – one early evening and one early morning outing – I headed straight up the mountain across from the hotel on a wooded trail towards the Col de La Faucille.
The depth of the standing snow in the Jura right now has turned the forest into a winter wonderland.
While co-workers were able to walk narrow hard packed snow trail in their boots, I strapped on snow shoes and went to explore the downy peaks and ravines around the Mont Jura ski station.
The massive snowfall this year, the views from the top and the proximity to Geneva (30-40 min.) make this a great afternoon getaway. Go for the snowshoeing, or the cross-country trails around La Vattay.
MONTREUX, SWITZERLAND – “We all came out to Montreux…” but this celebration was of a different kind, in homage to “Funky” Claude Nobs, the man who made the name Montreux Jazz Festival (MJF) synonymous with musical innovation, new talent, and unhinged jam sessions.
This was the man Stephan Eicher and fellow artists took a bow to last night at Stravinsky Hall, as he sang “Je n’ai pas d’ami comme toi” – I have no friend like you – and finishing with a nod to “Smoke on the Water,” and the image of Nobs on the big screen.
The sheer range of acts on display last night itself was a testament to Nob’s gift for recognizing and promoting diverse talent spanning genre and age; Bastian Baker, in his teens when he first met Nobs in 2006, played alongside Swiss musical icons Pascal Auberson, Francois Lindeman, Dieter Meir and Eicher, all more than twice his age. Auberson shared an intimate dream sequence ending with “Thank you Claude,” while Lindeman’s bereaved piano playing was a sombre note to the evening.
Meier and his perfectly named band, Out of Chaos, made me think, “It’s better to burn out than to fade away…”
Other stand outs for me included Barbara Hendrick’s rendition of “Strange Fruit,” (with Ulf England’s haunting slide guitar), Andreas Vollenweider’s enchanting harp ensemble, and Paolo Nutini’s rhythm and growling alternately reminiscent of Al Green and James Brown.
The show will go on and the 47th MJF poster, by Oscar Oiwa was unveiled as the tribute to Nobs came to an end. But the absence of “Funky” Claude’s voice and persona was palpable last night in Stravinsky Hall; I think we all paused for an awkward moment as acts were introduced, fully expecting his funkiness to stroll out on stage.
Read more on the new MJF poster and the artist who created it on GenevaLunch.
ST. CERGUE, SWITZERLAND – Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeet snow at St. Cergue (or thereabouts). The fresh snow above St. Cergue this weekend made for fresh backcountry skiing around the Bois de Couvaloup.
On my second climb in as many weeks, I explored with a ski mate, the area between La St. Cergue and La Dôle, and found a great mix of moderate climbs up well marked forest cuts, Lake Geneva views and sparsely travelled powdery slopes rewarding us.
The way up to La Dôle this time was easier, less of a technical climb, with more downhill slopes compensating, and plenty of food and shelter options on the way (Café La Barriette, Chalet des apprentis, Nyon Ski Club cabin).
While our route was never far from a car accessible road, the ample snow cover and threat of a good “white out,” gave a pleasant feeling of isolation.
Standing in front of the Nyon Ski Club cabin, our last stop before heading down the piste at La Dôle, I thought, “perfect family outing material,” the spirit of adventure within my teen daughter’s pain/ennui threshold.
One of the members there, lunching with family recommended spending the night and taking advantage of the club’s open kitchen facilities to cook up a cold weather feast.
CHF15 per adult and CHF6 for kids; get your fondue on!
LA GIVRINE, SWITZERLAND – OK, there are no wheels in this post. In fact, it’s all about the joy of pushing two planks up the side of a mountain through the evergreens… and the exhilaration of sailing down through fresh snow fields and open piste.
Just back from the first ski outing of the year with my friend Jeremy; a two hour thirty minute ascent of the Poele Chaud peak adjacent to La Dôle (1,628m and 1,678m respectively).
From our perch at the weather station/hut at Poele Chaud we were able to take in the stunning vista of the Swiss Alps across the lake, appearing to rise from the foggy soup that is the Leman Basin.
Despite the balmy 5 and 6 degree weather we had been sweating through on the way up, the exposed face where fellow backcountry skiers and one snowboarder were dropping off, was verging on icy, and I appreciated the extra windshell I packed.
The trip down through the trees and carving heavy snow was a good trick after the workout climbing the backside of the peak.
We took it slow, popping out of the bindings and hoofing it where the trees were too close, the turns too tight and the drop too severe.
And half-an-hour later, we were headed down the piste with the chair-lift crowd, on our way home.
A good day by any measure.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – As we approach New Year’s Eve 2012/New Year’s Day 2013, I find myself preparing for the bitter-sweet send-off of motorcycle number 13 in my catalogue of bikes and maybe not coincidentally, singing odes to another dreamer and fan of new beginnings, John Lennon, “Another year over, and a new one just begun…”
There is a particular satisfaction to letting go of this favourite bike at the close of a particularly hard year.
Why? Because this bike has been so good to me – and is such a great bike altogether.
“Instant karma’s gonna get you…“ Letting her go amounts to an act of faith on my part; that 2013 will be an auspicious year, that stalled personal and professional aspirations will be rekindled, that I will be just fine without this counterbalance in my life – for a few months anyhow.
Getting ready to part with a loved bike inevitably follows the seven stages of separation:
- Anxiety at the thought of being without two-wheels.
- You picture yourself on a new bike on a high road with tangerine trees and marmalade skies.
- Disdain, for your faithful but tired horse.
- Betrayal, when your bike refuses to start for a prospective buyer, or suddenly develops a phantom short in the headlight wiring.
- Shame and repentance, for having thought less of an old friend.
- Amends made, starter and headlight miraculously fixed.
- And again anxiety at the thought of being without wheels. “It feels just like starting over…“
I am at stage two right now – though my wife is trying to disabuse me of the future bike “Double Fantasy“.
For me, the world of owning and trading used bikes is a “Walter Mitty” affair, a chance to live out alternate realities with each unique machine enriching and adding depth to the life experience (it is also less expensive than serial marriage/divorce).
“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one, perhaps one day you’ll join us,” and the world will ride as one.
Here’s to happy and safe motoring in 2013!
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - (and the EU, Israel, Malaysia, UK, US, Zambia) Following last week’s snow dumping and recovering from a vicious chest cold, I took a “virtual” bike tour of the web to air out my brain and found a few gems worth mentioning.
Who would’ve thunk Top Gear’s James May was a bikers best friend? May sings the praises of cycling in a recent blog post, but says cyclists are in his experience, sad sacks who must “cheer up or fall off.”
It’s official, or nearly, now you can ride to work in style on recycled paper thanks to Israeli inventor Izhar Gafni’s cardboard cruiser.
Gafni’s creation costs a mere USD 9 to produce, is a visual stunner, is made from mostly recycled cardboard treated for water and flame resistance, and weighs just 9 kilos. The inventor is currently arranging mass production with bikes selling for under USD60. I can’t wait to get my hands on one.
Looking for a “natural sourced” bike frame? Check out Bamboo Bike Studio‘s bamboo frame kits starting at USD699 (components extra).
In less virtuous news, Zambia’s former Minister of Mines is on trial for allegedly stealing 20 bicycles destined for small-scale farmers. Really? this guy gives the Grinch a good name.
Tired of looking for a handy bike rack or a sign post to lock your bike, wheels and saddle to? Ma-Sistemas “Biceberg” and Bigloo concepts could change your mind about biking to work…The secure, under and above ground bicycle storage designs allow you to stow a bike, helmet and minor accessories in a rotating bike locker, retrievable via an interface similar to an ATM machine. Very cool indeed (especially the underground), remains to be seen just how many municipalities will find these cost effective…
Yeah for the Malaysian Tourism Ministry! In a move to promote bicycle tourism in the country, the Ministry is encouraging airlines to waive additional fees for bicycle baggage.
Related to a favourite peeve of mine (e-bikes masquerading as bikes), the European Parliament has voted to separate legislation for pedal power cycles and E-bikes. Thanks EP.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – With the weather a continual melancholy grey, I find myself walking past my tarped motorcycle for days on end and singing Richard Thompson’s “1952 Vincent Black Lightning“.
Like many bikers I know, I am uncharacteristically superstitious of talking smack about my current ride or coveting other bikes (they tend to get sudden “hiccups” when they think they’re being traded up – or down).
My 90′s street bike is a great all around performer (toss salt over shoulder) but the reality is 100 horses in Geneva is about as useful as, well, an ashtray on a motorbike.
More and more I find myself shamelessly ogling older “workhorses”; bikes that climb the tachometer methodically and feel like a trusted hand tool under the pegs. I dream of bikes made for three up, that you can strap a hay bale on top of, or hot wire on a cold wintry road when the ignition key has mysteriously vanished.
Favourite exes include a 1978 GS 1000, another ’78, CB 750 Supersport and a 76 KZ1000 police edition with foot boards and a heel-toe shifter.
What I would give to feel again the torpid roll of pistons through sticky cold oil when I kick over my bike in the morning…Until then I’ll keep singing to myself, and sneaking glances at motorcycle tractors of old.