Even Bull Head Taxidermy is About Bikes

From discarded bike parts, Bull Head Taxidermy is born

While you may not have heard of Andreas Scheiger, this Austrian artist/graphical designer and “bullhead taxidermist” owes much of his inspiration and probably some of his success to Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1993). When we think of Picasso most of us automatically think of his paintings.

Picasso Art
This is what comes to my mind when I think of Pablo Picasso

But he was also successful sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, stage designer, poet and playwright.

cabeza de toro (circa 1942)
cabeza de toro (circa 1942)

However in 1942, Picasso first displayed his sculpted piece “Cabeza de Toro” or Bull Head. The story goes that Picasso found both the rusty set of handlebars and an old bike seat, both which had been discarded on the side of the road. After considering what he could do with each piece he finally put them together to form Cabeza de Torro which is reported to have “shaken the art world”. I like the piece, but I guess there wasn’t much going on in art scene during 1942.

A bike fetish takes form

A fetish displayed
A fetish displayed

Adreas Scheiger had seen this piece before and it was on his mind when he decided to make is own version. Scheiger’s own words tell his story, ”Pablo Picasso saw it first and created his “cabeza de toro”. I needed a bicycle hanger. And then I needed a hanger for bicycle caps and while I was on it, something to hang my umbrella unto. And when left bare I see a tribute to my fetish, the bicycle.”

As you can see his project grew even beyond what even he expected. I’ve included some of my favorites pieces for you to enjoy.

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Kids Bikes – Making the Right Choice

And so it begins

There comes a time in most kid’s lives where they declare that it’s time to move up to a kids bike, aka “two-wheeler”. Those little scamps will come to you with their sweetest smile and work their magic and before you know it you’ve gone from “we’ll see” to on your way to the store.

In general, choosing a bike for you or for anyone can be a daunting task. There are so many choices today. However, when selecting a bike for a child there are a few guidelines that I’d like to suggest that will make your purchase a good experience.

I will remind you that I am not a bicycle professional. What I’m going to share with you is simply my opinion coupled with my experience. So, the bottom line is that this article is worth exactly what you paid for it.

If you have questions about kids bikes and proper fitting for your child then I encourage you to reach out to a proper bike shop.

1. What kind of bike

Balance bike

Balance Bike If you can start your child out young enough then I really recommend a “balance bike”. These bikes have no pedals, no crank set and of course, no chain. Balance bikes are great for younger riders.

The rider first walks the bicycle while standing over the saddle, then while sitting in the saddle.

kids bikesEventually, the rider feels comfortable enough to run and “scoot” while riding the bicycle, then to lift both feet off the ground and cruise while balancing on the two wheels.

The best scenario is that the rider is tall enough or the bike small enough that the rider can walk the bicycle while sitting comfortably in the saddle (seat), the whole time putting their feet flat on the ground.

Balance bikes allow the rider to concentrate on bike handling fundamentals such as balancing, leaning and steering without loosing focus due to the distractions of pedals and training wheels, etc.

We purchased one of these for our granddaughter and her 1st birthday and it was amazing to watch her over the next year or so. There was no training offered and yet she intuitively knew that if she got her momentum up she could lift her feet and coast. The only thing left is to introduce pedals, but I’m going to leave that for her mom and dad.

Pedal Bike

Pedal BikeThis of course is the most common type of bike you’ll find in both the big box stores and the bike shop. They range in price, style, quality and gearing. You’ll be tempted to go this way just because of familiarity.

I am a proponent of balance bikes but in all honesty a pedal bike can be converted to one if you wish. The pedals can be removed long enough for this to act as a balance bike, and then reinstalled.

It’s not easy to remove them but it does often require a special tool. Your bike shop can do it in less than a minute.

If you do go this route, keep this in mind; the left pedal on every bike is a reverse thread. This means that to install or tighten it you will turn the pedal COUNTER clockwise, and to remove it or loosen it, you will turn the pedal clockwise. Counter clockwise = towards the front of the bike. Clockwise = towards the rear of the bike. If you think about a while the reasoning will make complete sense.

Most pre-teens, middle-school kids, and teens love BMX bikes. These 20″- or 24″-wheel bikes are great for cruising around the neighborhood. Some BMX bikes, called “freestyle” or flatland bikes, have special pegs and handlebars for learning tricks and doing stunt riding.

Pedal Bike with Training Wheels

Pedal Bike with Training WheelsThe next question to ask is, “training wheels, or no training wheels?” While I’m not a big fan of training wheels, you may be. My reasoning is that the wheels are rarely installed properly or are of such poor quality that the rider leans one direction or the other so that there really isn’t a lesson in balance at all. It seems to me that more bad habits are developed than are overcome.

If you do choose to go with training wheels I would suggest you get them off the bike as quickly as possible. In other words, work with your child a few hours each day over one weekend and you’ll make wonderful progress. I will say that I have had great success in teaching my own children to ride by doing so on grass. It is a bit harder to get momentum up but if the crash and burn the landing is much better than pavement.

2. Size

Selecting the properly sized kids bike is important here. Avoid the mistake of purchasing a bike that is too big, with the logic that “she’ll grow into it”, or “he can almost reach the ground”.

For safety reasons your new cyclist will need be able to slide off the seat and while continuing to straddle the top tube, be able to put at least one foot on the ground.

She has figured this bike out.
She has figured this bike out.

It may be difficult to size the right bike especially if you are trying to surprise your little guy or gal with a new kids bike. You may be able to strike an agreement with your local bike shop (LBS) to return after the surprise, and get the correct bike with your new rider available.

Here are some guidelines of kids bike sizes based on child’s age and height. Remember this is only a guideline; your child must be able to put a foot down in order to be safe.

Age

Child’s Height

Bike Wheel Size

Age 2 – 5

26 – 34 inches

12 inches

Age 4 – 8

34 – 42 inches

16 inches

Age 6 – 9

42 – 48 inches

18 inches

Age 8 – 12

48 – 56 inches

20 inches

Youth

56 – 62 inches

24 inches

Note: With adult bikes they are measured with frame size. Kids bikes are measured by wheel size as detailed above.

3. New or Used

I love new, but that isn’t always my choice. A used bike might be the best to start with. Not only do you have to teach your kid how to ride but also how to take care of a bike. You child must learn that a kids bike is an investment and should be treated well. Dropping it on the ground should be discouraged, leaving it outside to be rained on is a big “I don’t think so”, in my house.

Finding a used bike should be very easy. Hopefully there is one in the family. If not, there’s Craig’s List, The Swap Sheet, The Little Nickel and of course yard sales. But remember just because you found a great deal doesn’t mean you put your kid on a bike that is too small or too big. The right sized kids bike is a safe bike.

4. Where to buy

If you go the new bike route you’ve got a big decision to make. You can find new kids bikes at places such as Target, Walmart, and many other large box stores. You’ll be tempted to go there because you can walk away without emptying your retirement account. One bit of caution, “you get what you pay for” really comes into play here. The qualities of the bikes are subpar. The welding appears to have been squeezed out of a toothpaste tube and the components are the cheapest thing the builder could find. This bike is built as a throw away bike.

I really suggest that you go to a LBS and buy a brand you’ll recognize. You can find kids bikes made by Trek & Schwinn and others that will be far more superior for just a little more investment.

In the late 80s we purchased a “mountain bike” for our oldest daughter. We spent somewhere between $200 and $300 for a brand name, Raleigh. That was a lot of money then and is so today. However, we passed that bike down to the next 2 kids in line. Each new kid was able to choose a new paint job and I rebuilt the bike for them. This bike is still in my shop, with my youngest daughter’s paint scheme, and it has held up all these years. In the long run the investment paid off much better than buying a $75 bike every 2 years.

The other nice thing about buying from a LBS is that many shops offer free lifetime tune-ups or at a minimum a check up after 30 or 60 days. You’ll also be able to tap into the collective knowledge of the LBS guys and gals to help you in sizing.

5. Equipment

For older kids and larger kids bikes you see an introduction to equipment such as brakes, gears, shocks, etc.

Smaller kids bikes will come with “coaster brakes” where you pedal backwards to engage. Hand brakes may be too difficult for small hands to pull, or not sufficiently powerful for safe stopping if they are designed for small hands.

As you move to larger sizes you’ll find gears and hand brakes. This will add a new dimension to your cyclist but as they mature they’ll naturally get the idea. If you are not familiar with gearing and shifting your LBS can help you explain that to your son or daughter.

6. Color

For some, color, is at the top of the list and more than likely getting the right color will be the most important feature for your child. If you’ve found a bike that is adorned in a “Dora the Explorer” theme, the success of passing that down to your son is greatly diminished. I really like the idea of repainting the bike with your kid but that is time consuming and challenging if you’re not familiar with bikes.

Therefore, I recommend buying a bike that has been painted a neutral color, such as green, yellow, red, blue, white etc. Avoid camouflage or pink if you want to hand this down to a sibling of a different gender.

7. Budget

I really hope you’ll be able to push out of your comfort zone and spend a wee bit more on the bike. It will last longer and most importantly, if taken care of, it will continue to work. This means your kid spends more and more time outside being active.

8. Safety Equipment

This cannot be overlooked. In many states helmets are required on minor children, although I’ve rarely seen it enforced. Helmets save lives. It’s that simple. Get your kid in the habit of wearing one each and every time he or she gets on the bike. If you can get them to wear other equipment, gloves and guards, etc., that’s good but the helmet should be non-negotiable.

Trying to describe how to measure your kid and find the proper helmet could be an entire post. Rather than do that I’m going to link you to this very good article on how to do so.

I’m sure that after I post and re-read this I’m going to find a lot of information that I missed sharing with you. I may update this as I go along. I’ve been working on this post for about 5 or 6 days now and during that time I’ve been trying to write while under the haze of pain medication. A back injury 10 days ago has set me backwards and certainly kept me off the bike but I didn’t expect it to keep me from writing well. If this post seems disjointed, I’ll apologize now.

Let’s bring this to a close. I really want your kid to ride a bike. Not because it helps me but because it may be one the greatest things your kid can do during his or her adolescent years. It’s healthy and it may, as it did in my case, launch me into a healthy adult life.

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The Athlete’s Hangover

I wake up, body battered. Lying in bed for an hour trying to get up. Every muscle in my body screams for relief. I roll out of bed and step on a heart rate monitor that is misplaced on the floor. I wonder how it got there. The smell of sweaty clothes fills the room like a waft from the men’s locker room at the gym. My morning urination is much darker than it should be, resembling apple juice. I need to drink more water. My swim goggles and swimsuit are hanging on the shower curtain. I find some of my clothes from the day before in the bathroom and the others in the hallway leading into my bedroom. Every step I take down the stairs feels like needles stabbing my quads. I wonder which workout caused this pain. The blisters on my forefoot are starting to break open. I hope I am not bleeding on the tile. I walk into the kitchen with a case of cotton mouth that feels like the Sahara Dessert. As I pour water into a glass I notice an array of water bottles spread throughout the entire kitchen and living room. Some with remnants of water and others with electrolyte mixes. I wonder which workout each bottle was from and which bottle was mine or my mom’s. I find a tire lever by the stove, an allen wrench on the counter, and a set of new brake pads on the kitchen chair. I grab a bruised banana that resembles the bruises on my body and pull the peel back. I throw the peel in the trash and notice an assortment of candy wrappers and other quick energy supplement wrappers. I wonder how many calories I consumed yesterday. I can’t find my watch. My pedals and saddle bag are missing from my bike. I wonder why I took them off. I have a couple mis-matched cycling kits to choose from. I dig my sweaty, dirty leg warmers and gloves out of the hamper. I grab some energy bars that expired in 2009 and a couple of the bottles from yesterday that are lying around.

This is my hangover from a 3 workout day.

I roll my bike outside to see John Sherwood and my mom waiting for me to go for a 3 hour road ride.

Nothing like a little hair off the dog that bit’chya to set the morning straight.

My mom and I set off on our first ride with John. We head down 2499 to avoid the construction that surrounds our house (they are slowly trying to trap us cyclists in Highland Village). I lead them off onto the sidewalk that winds through the neighborhood to Chinn Chapel. A women walking her dog on the sidewalk caused me to slow down. I give the old roadie hand jester to the riders behind to slow. Then I hear some screeching and a metal to cement sound. I turned just fast enough to watch John sliding Super Man style across the sidewalk onto the grass. The way his arms were trapped under him as he slid made me think he was possibly unconscious. So I gave the infamous “Ohhhh Nooo!”… Luckily he was ok. I was hoping I did not ruin his training ride within the first 5 minutes. He had some great winter cycling gear on that allowed him to slide across the cement like a penguin on ice. Only one minor tear in his tights showed. Those super man and cobra back core exercises kept his head up just long enough to not slam it into the pavement.

We went on to have a great 50 mile ride in the sprinkling rain and wind.

I promise this stuff is not as dangerous as it sounds. Its just that crashes always spark writing stories.

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Sometimes Life Gets in the Way

Sometimes life gets in the way. I haven’t run in over a week; doctor’s orders until he gets my sacrum rotated back into place.

“How does my sacrum get rotated out of place”, I asked?

“It could have been that way for a long time and you are just now getting enough pinching of your L4-L5 from being out of alignment that it is causing the nerves running to your hamstrings to produce symptoms, or else you stepped in a hole the wrong way while running, or maybe it was one of your crashes into a tree”, he replies.

My jury is still out on any of this, but I am doing what he tells me, and giving the therapy a chance to work. I will take the rest of December off from running, focusing on my swimming and biking instead.

Tuesday, in celebration of my birthday, I did a 47-mile bike ride with a few friends, and my son. We road 1 mile for every year old I am. I was thrilled being in the great company of Christina Smith – a pro-rider for Rouse Bicycles, Ricky Bobby – our semi adopted son who just got a scholarship to ride for Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Daniel – always willing to humor his mom and drag her around on his wheel, and my friend Pattie – the new women’s wrestling coach at Lewisville High School and along for the ride. The weather was perfect in the mid 70’s, and the first day of winter promised to be one of the very best! It was, and the ride was awesome.

Wednesday at my master’s swim session, Coach Tom had us finish our workout with a 100-yard sprint for time. I did a 1:10 from the wall, my fastest to date with him. After a long layoff from the early days of triathlons in the 80s, and a brief 6 month training period for an off-road ironman in the early 2000’s, I have been swimming consistently now for just under 2 years with Coach Tom. I am happy with my progress in times, especially given my limited time to swim of 3 days a week, for an hour at a time. He is prepping me for a mile swim for time the week after Christmas, so that we have a base line going into the last 4 months of training before the World Championship race in Spain.

Today, Thursday, was a day off from training, but a long, day of waiting at the hospital. My husband, Scott, had a back fusion of L4-L5. That is one heck of a surgery and not one I would wish on anyone. He has one of the best surgeons in America, and everything went great. There is a lot more to it than this, but they went in the front side of his body first, to replace the center of the disk and fill it with bone morphogenic protein and cadaver bone into a titanium cage, and then they flip you over and go in through the back with screws to fixate the spine. It will be a road to recovery in the coming days, weeks and months, but we both look forward to a much better quality of life because clinically, he will be more flexible and able to do more rehabilitation without all the pain he had before. Scott had the best possible team of surgeons working on him today, and great support from our family and friends who surrounded his hospital bed before they rolled him into the surgery room, as our neighbor Ray said a prayer. We are truly blessed.

Scott says I should bring my indoor trainer to the hospital and ride a few hours during the day; he is of course, under the influence of a morphine drip right now. Just so you know, I have no intention of actually doing this. However, I wouldn’t put it pass me to do a few hundred pushups or sit-ups in my rollaway bed here in his awesome hospital suite over the next day or two, should I get bored of my 40-hours of online continuing education I have to complete before year-end to renew my CPA license.

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Set-Backs

There are always set-backs during training. So many things can get in the way and they should. At times family, friends, work, school, illness, or injuries can put a hold on training. When spending as much time training as I do it is a constant juggle.

I have studied the scientific principles of training for quite some time now. The easy part is understanding theories and methods. The hard part is applying it to my own life. Training is more of an art than a science. Every person is different. No two people react the same to a given training regimen.

I get caught up in what my friends are doing much of the time. I love to train with friends. It helps me to motivate and push myself a little harder than if I was solo. So sometimes I may do a little too much since my friends are doing it. I ignore the fact that they are training for something different or that they react differently to training.

This week I think I pushed myself a little past my bodies limits. It started off with a tree getting up close and personal with my shoulder. My friends and I left from Denton on our mountain bikes to ride south towards Lake Grapevine to complete one lap on the Northshore trail and then ride back. The ride south was awesome! We had a nice tailwind that pushed us to my mom’s neighborhood in Highland Village in the same amount of time that it would take to drive there! We all knew that the ride back was going to be brutal, but atleast it would make us stronger.

We arrived at Northshore to take a quick break so that I could eat some skittles, and Lucas (wolf berry) Brusseau could eat some goji (wolf) berries. I made jokes about how Luke turns into a werewolf after eating wolf berries. “That is why you are so fast! It is like that movie where the guy turns into a werewolf and beats everyone in basketball! Except you turn into a gnarly mountain biker!” Well I guess me saying that motivated him, because he took into the trail like a wolf into the night!

We chased him to the best of our abilities through the 12 mile loop. I felt like I was riding better than I had in a long time. Mountain biking always reminds me that I truly enjoy cycling. Sometimes road riding just gets boring. Wolf berry waited for us at a trail crossing. I howled at him as I rolled up to let him know his pack was right behind.

I love riding mountain bike trails with a fast group, because it makes all the people we pass think we are a pro-team. We caught a father and son riding together. The kid could not of been older than 10. He was riding like a beast! It is so cool to see families spending time together on the trail. It is an amazing thing to be able to have fun with your parents doing activities like this. I am blessed to have my mom. When I have kids I will make sure that I spend time playing with them outside.

As we passed the father and son team I miss-judged a turn. The father and son watched me almost eat dirt. Luckily I never actually hit the ground. My wolf pack had gapped me after this little stop so I had to kick it up a gear to try and catch them. The problem was that I had lots of gears to kick up in my legs but no handling skills to accompany the speed. So the father and son got to watch me hit the deck this time. The crash did not hurt so I jumped back on to attempt chasing again. Next thing I know I miss-judged another right hand turn and slammed my shoulder into a tree! It didn’t knock me off my bike. I felt stunned at first with no pain but immediately after followed an intense rush of pain that took the wind out of me. I hopped off my bike and came down to my knees. Jon told me, “Like mother like son! You two love trees don’t you?” My mom face planted into a tree recently in case you were wondering.

After the father and son caught back up and asked if I was alright, I decided to try and keep riding. I don’t think they thought we were a pro-team anymore considering how many times they saw me on the ground! It was very painfull riding out of the trail. Every little bump in the ground killed me.

I decided to get off the trail on to the road so that I could meet my back up with my pack after they got down with the trail. Stopping made the pain worse. I think my adrenaline numbed the pain slightly.

We started the trek back to Denton into a killer head wind. I decided after cringing in pain everytime I tried to put any power into the pedals that I should just go back to my mom’s house. Once I got back we went to the ER to make sure everything was ok. I knew that nothing was broken, but my mom, being a protective mother, wanted to make sure. The X-Rays came back negative. I was diagnosed with an Acute Cervical Strain and Contusion. They put me in a sling and sent me home.

Back to what I originally was talking about. There are always set-backs in training. This time it was an injury. Which probably came at a good time, because I am sick now too. Injured and sick…Hmmmm… If this is my bad injury and illness for the year, then I am lucky.

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Training Camp

I planned to go camping this past weekend with some friends from the UNT Cycling team up in Oklahoma for some long training on the bike. There is a mountain that has a ~ 3 mile climb and 8% average grade that I wanted to ride up and down until my legs fell off. Well… things do not always go according to plan with training regimens.

I was scanned by a DEXA machine in the exercise physiology lab at UNT last week. I found out that I have osteopenia in my lumbar vertebrae that is near osteoporotic. A staple amongst endurance athletes. Apparently I need to be doing heavy squats and add some plyometrics (jumping, box jumps, high skips, etc.) in to my schedule. So last Tuesday I hit the rec to get some plyometrics. Problem was I think I did way too much for my first time in 6 months. I felt great while doing it, but my legs have felt like poop for a week now on the bike.

I also decided to go ahead and do a 4.2 mile run here in Denton. I always tell myself, “It is just a training run. No need to kill it.” But once they say go I have trouble not trying to race. I chased my friend (who is a much faster runner than I) into the darkness of South lake park. I thought to myself, “This sure is a dark run for a Christmas light run.” I took over the lead only for a moment before a high school cross country runner bolted by my friend and I. My friend then accelerated to keep the boy in sight. I watched my friends dreads as they swung back and forth, trying to get as close to his back as possible without clipping his feet. He later told me he was glad I kept clipping his feet, because it made him speed up. We ran as 2nd and 3rd for a good 3 miles before we hit the hills! I made the first couple in his draft but was dropped on the third as his breathing never seemed to get as loud as mine while going up. Now I just had to pace myself and try to hang in. I was kind of glad he dropped me, because I was not supposed to be racing anyway. Now I could just stay aerobic for the rest of the race.

I was pleasantly surprised that I came in 3rd only 39 seconds behind my friend who out-sprinted the cross country kid for 1st. A time of 26:55 for 4.2 miles had me stocked considering I have not done any speed training.

That was good and fun, but the next morning was the trip up to Oklahoma for some serious training. I felt great until I tried to pedal my bike. We were not even going fast, and I felt like I was beginning the time trial of my life. My legs were screaming for mercy. I told my friends that I knew my way around and that they could go ahead, yet they slowed down. I was mad on the outside but glad they slowed on the inside. The climb up Mt. Scott came to quick. Immediately I was dropped by the first turn. My legs had no strength to turn the pedals over. I gave it my all just to make it up in my granny gear. cut my ride Saturday very short at 1:40. We planned on 4 hours but just was not happening for me.

Saturday evening we went into Medicine Park for some dinner. After scaring all the locals in the restaurant with our hysterical laughing and watching my friend try and eat the biggest, sauciest, chicken Alfredo I have ever seen, we went back to our campsite to sit by the fire and make sweet music. I worked on my tribal dance around the fire while playing the Jinbeh as my friends all swapped instruments and sang together.

The friends I have right now are the best I have ever had, and I met them all through racing and training.

Sunday morning I woke up, wishing it was not 25 degrees outside, to go pee outside the tent. After some breakfast and hiking around the local trails we suited up for some cold cycling. My legs felt a little better but not good enough to do the planned 5 hour ride that day. I only made it up Mt. Scott twice with a total of 2:20 ride time. I like to keep the fun factor in my training so I was happy with the ride. Any more and I would of felt miserable riding.

We packed up to eat at the Meers Hamburger Stop just outside of the park. What an amazing find we made that day! Great food, great people, great feel, and great location. After stuffing our faces in 1/2 lb longhorn burgers, frickles (fried bread and butter pickles), and peach cobbler with homemade icecream we started the trek back home to our normal lives.

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