Friday, February 29, 2008

Proofhide Blues

w/ apologies to Ace, 1974

How long has this been goin' on?
How long has this been goin' on?

Well, if hipsters with toeclip pretensions
Don't admit that it's part of a theme,
We can't help but have our suspicions
'Cause we ain't quite as blind as we seem.
Though they said they were never intendin'
To look all the same in this way,
There ain't any use them pretendin'
It’s apparent to us every day.

How long has this been goin' on?
How long has this been goin' on?

Oh, our friends with their rivets and knickers,
Won't admit that the style is the thing
We can't help but have reservations
'Cause we ain't near as dumb as we seem
They claim to be minimal riders,
That shifters and lights are a pain.
We hear them and make no suggestions;
We did silly shit in our day. Hey.

And how long has this been going on?
How long has this been going on?
How long…?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Feeling underappreciated at work...?

Forwarded by my friend Andy in Duluth, MN... Home of Aerostich Rider Warehouse and - in August - the electrically exciting Very Boring (motorcycle) Rally!

PS: If you suspected that the above news clip was a hoax, you were correct. My buddy Andy sent me this link to, in which the item is thoroughly disproved - at some considerable length. The item and the characters in it took on lives of their own, it seems.

This blog's feeling is that the fake news item is more fun than the truth. Here's the link. Decide for yourself:

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Donald's Take on our Consuming Tradition

In my piece, found in an earlier post, Parts Worship - An Overview, I state that as Americans, we don't have a cycling tradition (as the Europeans do, say); we have a consuming tradition.

I don't recall bearing down on that sentence, but somehow it had resonance. It has been one of the most commented-on statements in the flabby, pasty-white body of my work.

My friend Donald is from the DC area but lived in Chile for several years and now resides with his wife and sons in Mexico City. Here's what rider-forever Donald has to say about our obsession with acquiring and displaying stuff:

Hi Maynard
In reference to the consuming cycling tradition pervasive in America, I have a couple of points of perspective for you.
1. Some 20 years ago, for my birthday present, Gloria found in a bookstore specializing in old books in Georgetown in DC, a couple of annuals of the League of American Wheelmen circa 1890. (They are in storage at my parents' house) I haven't looked at them in years, but they each have a couple hundred pages bound in fine leather. On not a single page could you find a reference to equipment, no reviews, no photos. They are entirely poetry and prose about specific cycling adventures and waxing poetic and prose-etic about cycling in general and the experience of nature, the vistas, the weather, the physical activity and exertion, etc. Of course, in that Victorian Era, it was very flowery and emotional writing. For our modern mind, it gets difficult to read after a while, but I tell you what - it's a breath of fresh air to not be barraged with fitness articles and product reviews. It's purely about the experience. That was an age of (consumer) innocence and of a real cycling tradition.
2. I have noticed that in the developing nations (Paraguay and Mexico) where there is a huge range of income and acquisitive power among the participants in cycling, there is little or non-existent emphasis on equipment/clothing and you see the entire range of sweatpants/tennis shoes cheap bikes to full Livestrong kits w/ $4k superbikes. Everyone just goes out to pedal and have a good time. It would be rude to look down at a fellow pedaler for his clothing or equipment because he may barely have the means for the cheapest ride available - he's out there just like you and the Victorians of yore to enjoy the out of doors, the open road, cycling camaraderie, the reward of a great view after struggling up the mountainside, etc. For instance, I imagine if I were to show up for a club ride in the States with my quirky, high-end, 18 year old bike I'd be ostracized even if I have the fitness to ride on par with my peers.
The consumer and performance focus of cyclists in the States now just ruins or distracts (at best) from the original and simple joy of the experience and the machine itself. Materialism and "technological sophistication" haven't made us happier or better riders, just "better equipped" and more physiologically knowledgeable. Bah! Humbug! So it goes.
yours awheel,

Maynard again: You know, I just don't know what we'd do without our friends. It'd be a dreary existence for sure...

Friday, February 22, 2008

Remember Denverites - It's TONIGHT!

It's TONIGHT at the Tattered Cover!

Here's what WESTWORD is saying about Michelle Dally's reading and signing of her new novel, A Highly Placed Source, TONIGHT at the Tattered Cover!

Michelle Dally writes about wanking and law-making.
By Patricia Calhoun
Published: February 21, 2008
Truth is definitely stranger than fiction — but fiction gets plenty strange in A Highly Placed Source, a very funny novel by local media-relations consultant (and former Westword staffer) Michelle Dally. Drawing from her experience in politics, journalism and motherhood, she's created an insider's story that touches on everything from youthful masturbation to opportunistic lawmakers to God. And the plot is only slightly less crazy than what's actually going on at the Capitol. "If I had written about what's happened this year in the legislature, the editors would have taken it out," Dally says. "It's purely unbelievable." But the fact that her book is a novel hasn’t stopped political insiders from trying to guess the identity of the Professor — the legislator with the lagging libido. "A lot of retired senators are laying bets, but it is fiction," Dally insists. Still, maybe she'll spill some secrets when she signs her book at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the Tattered Cover, 2526 East Colfax Avenue. For information, call 303-322-7727 or go to

Seldom will this blog strongly suggest that you appear at an event. Michelle Dally is one of us, a Denver cyclist, and she's a wonderful writer - by no means a "legend in her own room." This is a big deal. Please be there if you possibly can! It'll be big fun!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Father and Daughter; an animated short film

My friend Donald in Mexico City sent me this link. It's a YouTube short film, Dutch I believe, about a father, his daughter, their bicycles and a rowboat. It's eight minutes long and just delightful!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Stuff White People Like

My friend Will forwarded this link. I thought the post, describing white folks and their lives with bicycles, was right-on and harmlessly funny. The comments (some of the language is unkind and racist) reveal the limited perceptions of the readers, as you'll see.

As my work appeared in magazines over the years, especially when I was writing heartfelt personal stuff, I'd see letters-to-editors that were revealing in the same way as these comments. Many readers just didn't get it, didn't understand what you were saying or how you felt. They came to reading your piece already in the wrong frame of mind.

The writer of this post is wise and gentle. He or she is poking fun. Some of the comments come from readers who understand that. Too many do not.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Parts Worship - an Overview

Note: I wrote this piece in 1994. Bike‑Pro is no more, but nothing else has changed.

Thanks to a friend, I have on my desk a 1994 Pedal Pusher/800‑BIKE‑PRO Buyer's Guide, an amazing mail order catalog. My friend, a rep in the bicycle business, uses it as a resource, to stay abreast of the market.

After scanning a few pages, I couldn't believe he hadn't shown me the Bike‑Pro book before. I'd heard talk and read reviews but never held a copy in my hands, never been floored by the volume of detailed, exhaustively researched bike-parts data recorded in it. I'm always the last to know.

I’d heard Bike‑Pro offered a study of all one could wish to know about bicycle parts. That's what it does, and in astonishing depth. It's so startlingly over‑the‑top you don't know how to react.

You wonder how we got along pre‑Bike‑Pro, in our 100 years of cycling ignorance. How many lives, destroyed by tragically ruinous selections of bicycle parts, could've been saved by this book?

Is this book's existence, cataloging differences between pieces of hardware, evidence that there's meaning in those differences? What has any of this to do with bike riding? Why, despite how angry this catalog makes me, can't I put the damn thing down?

For instance: The Bottle Cage Overview, prefacing six pages of listings and descriptions, runs over 400 words, nearly half the length of this column. How much do we want to know about bottle cages?

The technical description of Grove Innovations Hot Rods Cranks runs over 700 words. I'd never heard of Grove Innovations Hot Rod Cranks. Had I heard of them and wished to learn all one can know of them, I could've (1) taken Mr. or Ms. Grove to lunch and picked his‑or‑her brain or (2) read the Grove Innovations Hot Rod Cranks section in the Bike‑Pro book. I’d learn more from (2), I'll bet.

I will, trust me, do neither. Mr. or Ms. Grove: please don't take offense; I'd love to do lunch but I don't want to know that much about cranks, yours or anyone else's. I sure don't want to read about them at Russian novel length.

More: The overview called Time Family of Clipless Pedals runs about 1350 words, longer than I could reasonably expect to hold my readers' attention.

I worked for the outfit that created Time's US ads; I know the Time folks. I've used their pedals and shoes for years. Even to write their ad copy, I never needed to know anything about Time stuff I couldn't pick up easily along the way. No mysteries, if you ask me.

I didn't know nearly as much about Time products as we learn in the Time Overview in the Bike‑Pro catalog ‑ before we read about individual items. We'll certainly possess more knowledge ‑ but what difference will THAT make?

What will our encyclopedic bike-parts knowledge change? Will breezes be at our backs? Will life be sweeter, spring days fresher? Will food taste better? Will we treat friends and strangers with kindness? Will human secrets unfold for us? Will love find us?

Love may indeed find us: Someone red‑hot may turn to us, desperate, unable to select the Time product that best suits his/her needs. Love may find us ‑ if we refrain from alienating that cute unfortunate by displaying our newly accumulated erudition on the subject of Time.

There's more. The Bike‑Pro Front Derailleur Overview is longer than this column. Even the cheapest one listed ($16.99), the 114‑gram SunTour XC‑Expert, seems, according to the catalog, to have lots to offer.

I'll bet every front derailleur listed works better than any front derailleur you could buy 10 years ago. Think back 10 years. How many of your rides did you feel were compromised by a less‑than‑perfect front shifter?

Correct me if I'm damnably wrong. There are no bad front derailleurs listed in the Bike‑Pro book, not a one ‑ you see panels of carefully researched, well written copy listing the myriad meaningless detail differences among all those good ones.

For centuries in the Middle Ages, learned churchmen argued in obsessive detail about how many angels could dance on a pin‑head. Hot topic then (before front derailleurs), not so important today.

Monks arguing about imaginary angels settled as many quarrels, gained or exchanged just as much wisdom, did about just as much good as does the Bike‑Pro catalog's five pages of dense, single‑spaced text about identically competent front derailleurs.

Many of us, I believe you’ll agree, confuse knowledge with wisdom. How much do we need to know about derailleurs to make a wise purchase if all of them, cheapest to dearest, work great? How much data can we absorb?

We don't have a cycling tradition in the US; instead we have a consuming tradition. I fear we are because we buy. The ad is our prophet. Catalogs are our bibles; they instruct and direct us in our consumption/worship.

That said - you have to appreciate the dedication it took to produce the Bike‑Pro book, the Herculean task of accumulating and organizing all that data. Strangely fascinating as it is, what does it contribute to our riding lives if...

You can write a history of a glorious lifetime in cycling ‑ and never mention a brand name.

The New Brotherhood

I wrote this a few years ago, a phonebook-thick Harley-Davidson Motor Clothes catalog open on my desk. You do not have to be familiar with every reference in this piece to understand what's going on. Our Hero is a particular type of motorcycle owner, but attitude and behavior like his is not limited to biker bars, Sturgis, Daytona and Laughlin.

He backed the FLSTF against the curb, kicked the stand down with his heel and stepped off. He raked his hair back and settled the chrome pilot sunglasses on his nose. Slipping off black fingerless gloves, he glanced at the stainless and gold GMT Rolex.

“Right on time," he thought, crediting the 45-degree, 96-cubic-inch Vee-twin that provided the Fat Boy's locomotion and its traditional, real-steel, feel.

Stretching his legs, he settled his butt onto the Fat Boy's saddle, only 27.5 inches from the ground. The sun beat down on his H-D Bootcut Leather Jeans, warming the soft black top-grain leather, nylon-lined to below the knee.

He checked the Rolex again. He wiped the smeared Swiss crystal on his Sturgis T-shirt. He turned, catching his reflection in his left mirror. He noticed that his hair looked maybe a bit too windblown.

"Shouldn't have left home without the Willie G. bandanna," he said to himself. Thinking about American original Willie G. got him thinking about his country.

He thought about Yankee know-how, the Code of the West, crab cakes, grange halls, Dixie Beer, 8-cylinder automobiles and grits 'n gravy.

He looked down at the massive, dull gray, cast aluminum 17-inch disc wheel hung at the bottom of the massive, polished, 50s retro 41mm Showa forks.

Gosh, he thought, I love America.

His eyes traveled down his long Gary Cooper legs to the tops of his "D" width 17-inch H-D Motorcycle Boots. Their gloss reflected his chrome-shaded impassive face and the hour he'd spent applying H-D Leather Care, cleaning, polishing and preserving their surfaces.

"I buy the best; then I take of it," he thought, "and it takes care of me." He yawned in the afternoon sun. Profound thinking made him drowsy.

He covered his mouth as he yawned, feeling the weight of the 14-k H-D Gold Wrench Bracelet on his wrist, good gold weight. He thought, for the 100th time, that he should wear that bracelet to the office. He'd never been able to nerve himself up to go to work wearing that bracelet, the linked Gold Wrenches and H-D "Bar and Shield" logos.

Let alone the tattoos. Monday mornings, Zest and water took care of those.

Hiking up the front of his soft, conchoed leather Willie G. Vest, he pulled the brass-finished Willie G. Signature Belt Buckle away from his soft belly. A red welt revealed itself where the top edge of the conchoed, tasseled, deep relief-sculptured collector buckle had pinched him.

He rubbed the sore red mark on his belly, already planning to add another buckle, smaller this time, to his collection.

He’d bought that buckle, the jeans, the vest and the Fat Boy, all of it, down at the Harley store in one evening. They'd had everything he wanted in stock. He just slid the card across the counter and walked out of there a biker, same as if he'd been one all his life.

It's a head shaker, he thought, and shook his head.

None of it would have happened if Andy from the DA's office hadn't told him how ok it was, how times had changed. How membership in what he'd thought was a distasteful private club had opened up. And seemed pretty cool, after all.

How guys like him and Andy were the new brotherhood, the BlackBerry Gypsy Jokers of the new century. How things might really be different, on a Harley.

He resolved to email Andy a thank-you in the morning. I'll buy him a Bud Light, he decided.

He’d seen the Fat Boy in Andy’s Harley catalog. Whatever that machine had, he knew he wanted it, right now. And he had no illusions: he knew the Fat Boy wasn't a road racer. He wasn't any road racer himself, not any more.

A man has to set that stuff aside, he thought, when he reaches a certain age. Not that he couldn't drive or ride or make love or whatever just as well as ever, when he felt like it.

But, hell, at 33, a guy's got more to think about than chasing around the countryside risking life and limb on some rice rocket. It's called maturity.

A biker. Who'd ever have thought it? Not that he'd never known anyone into cycles. A neighbor had that 160 Scrambler that always had a flat battery. And someone said a black-sheep cousin on his mother's side kept a Cushman Eagle stashed at a friend's house for years, out of sight of his parents. Wild guy for those days, he thought.

Be fun to meet that guy today, have him tell me old-school Cushman stories, he thought. Maybe I got my taste for American Iron from him.

He heard the unmistakable rumble of an Evolution Vee-twin. He turned his head and, sure enough, a guy on a brand new XL 883 Sportster Custom waved and turned into the Burger King parking lot across the street.

He looked at the Sportster and at the guy's shiny new leather outfit. He noted the Willie G. conchoed gauntlet gloves and stroker-style Willie G. hat. He watched the guy park the pristine black 883 and start walking toward the restaurant.

He watched the Sportster rider adjust his chrome aviator sunglasses, brush back his hair, grin and wave again. He sat there, leaning on the Fat Boy. He decided not to wave back.

“This being an individual's not always easy, bro,” he thought as he watched the Sportster rider enter the Burger King. “Enjoy your Whopper.”


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Off the subjects, like the World is Flat post...

As a contributor to Motorcycle Sport and Leisure magazine (UK), I get a complimentary copy each month. I'm glad I do, because finding MCSL isn't easy in the US. Late in '07, I noticed that my copy of MCSL was not appearing in my mail box. The publisher, Mortons Media, also produces Classic Motorcycle Mechanics, and that magazine was arriving regularly.

I wrote the subscription folks at Mortons. Yesterday, I got a letter, not a form letter but a personal, typewritten letter with a genuine signature, from DHL Global Mail, at Heathrow Int'l Airport Trading Estate. Uh, in England. They're the "distribution agents" for Mortons Media.

DHL Global Mail, it seems, is concerned that my copies of MCSL have not been arriving. They are sending me several copies and want to hear from me when they arrive. No kidding. I have a Subscriber Case Number there, and I'd tell you what it is, but I'd have to...

I emailed the Customer Serviceperson at DHL Global Mail and thanked her for her interest and attention. She responded, apologizing again for the non-appearance of my magazines and asking me if I'd be sure to let them know when the next ones arrive. You bet, I said.

Ms Shopland at DHL Global Mail realized just after she clicked SEND that she'd called me Mr. Maynard in her note, and wrote again to apologize. I assured her I was not going to hold a grudge, and I was beyond pleased with their interest in my problem and efforts in my behalf.

I think we all complain about customer service - and there's a lot to complain about. To be fair, though, we have to rave about the outfits that genuinely try to reach out to us, right?

DHL Global Mail. DHL Global Mail. DHL Global Mail.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

A Man...and his (new) Motorcycle

Here are a few views of my new Triumph, shot outside our posh digs on exclusive Capitol Hill in Denver. The snow on the grass has been there for weeks, as has the ice in the drive leading in and out of our underground garage - making entrance and egress an adventure in Scaryland.

This is your blogger, wearing his City Cycle (San Francisco) sweatshirt and his Oakleys, without both of which he can walk the streets in any city in the industrialized world - pretty much unrecognized.

The sweet Honda GB500 you see pictured elsewhere on my blog has found a caring new home with my old friend Jim in Bisbee, Arizona. Still in the family, you might say.

The World is Flat (and way smaller than you think)

Before you make up your mind about globalization, as if globalization cared, please read The World is Flat, Thomas L. Friedman's bestseller, subtitled A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century.

The book is endlessly interesting. I could pick any section to quote, but one chapter in particular held me spellbound. Friedman has just bought a Dell laptop, and he asked Dell to trace the "global supply chain" that led to his Inspirion 600m's arrival at his door.... (Note: nothing's changed here but the paragraphing: I just can't stand paragraphs hundreds of words long.)

"My computer was conceived when I phoned Dell's 800 number on April 2, 2004, and was connected to sales representative Mujteba Naqvi, who immediately entered my order into Dell's order management system.

He typed in both the type of notebook I ordered as well as the special features I wanted, along with my personal information, shipping address, billing address, and credit card information. My credit card was verified by Dell through its work flow connection with Visa, and my order was then released to Dell's production system.

"Dell has six factories around the world - in Limerick, Ireland; Xiamen, China; Eldorado do Sul, Brazil; Nashville, Tennesee; Austin, Texas; and Penang, Malaysia.

My order went out by email to the Dell notebook factory in Malaysia, where the parts for the computer were immediately ordered from the supplier logistics centers (SLCs) next to the Penang factory. Surrounding every Dell factory in the world are these supplier logistics centers, owned by the different suppliers of Dell parts.

"These SLCs are like staging areas. If you are a Dell supplier anywhere in the world, your job is to keep your SLC full of your specific parts so they can constantly be trucked over to the Dell factory for just-in-time manufacturing.

"'In an average day, we sell 140,000 to 150,000 computers,' explained Dick Hunter, one of Dell's three global production managers. 'Those orders come in over or over the telephone. As soon as those orders come in, our suppliers know about it. They get a signal based on every component in the machine you ordered, so the supplier knows just what he has to deliver.

"'If you are supplying power cords for desktops, you can see minute by minute how many power cords you are going to have to deliver. '

"Every two hours, the Dell factory in Penang sends an email to the various SLCs nearby, telling each one what parts and what quantities those parts it wants delivered within the next ninety minutes - and not one minute later.

"Within ninety minutes, trucks from the various SLCs around Penang pull up to the Dell manufacturing plant and unload the parts needed for all those notebooks ordered in the last two hours. This goes on all day, every two hours. As soon as those parts arrive at the factory, it takes thirty minutes for Dell employees to unload the parts, register their bar codes, and put them in the bins for assembly.

"'We know where every part in every SLC is in the Dell system at all times,' said Hunter.

"So where did the parts for my notebook come from? I asked Hunter. To begin with, the notebook was codesigned in Austin, Texas and in Taiwan by a team of Dell engineers and a team of Taiwanese notebook designers."

A few paragraphs later:

"Where did those parts come from? Dell uses multiple suppliers for most of the thirty key components that go into its notebooks. That way if one supplier breaks down or cannot meet a surge in demand, Dell is not left in the lurch. So here are the key suppliers for my Inspirion 600m notebook:

The Intel microprocessor came from an Intel factory either in the Philippines, Costa Rica, Malaysia, or China. The memory came from a Korean-owned factory in Korea (Samsung), a Taiwanese-owned factory in Taiwan (Nanya), a German-owned factory in Germany (Infineon), or a Japanese-owned factory in Japan (Elpida).

My graphics card was shipped from either a Taiwanese-owned factory in China (MSI) or a Chinese-run factory in China (Foxconn). The cooling fan came from a Taiwanese-owned factory in Taiwan (CCI or Auras).

The motherboard came from either a Korean-owned factory in Shanghai (Samsung), a Taiwanese-owned factory in Shanghai (Quanta), or a Taiwanese-owned factory in Taiwan (Compal or Wistron). The keyboard came from either a Japanese-owned company in Tianjin, China (Alps), a Taiwanese-owned factory in Shenzen, China (Sunrex), or a Taiwanese-owned factory in Suzhou, China (Darfon).

The LCD display was made in either South Korea (Samsung or LG Philips LCD), Japan (Toshiba or Sharp), or Taiwan (Chi Mei Optoelectronics, Hannstar Display, or AU Optronics).

The wireless card came from either an American-owned factory in China (Agere) or Malaysia (Arrow), or a Taiwanese-owned factory in Taiwan (Askey or Gemtek), or China (USI).

The modem was made by either a Taiwanese-owned company in China (Asutek or Liteon) or a Chinese-run company in China (Foxconn). The battery came from an American-owned factory in Malaysia (Motorola), a Japanese-owned factory in Mexico or Malaysia or China (Sanyo), or a South Korean or Taiwanese factory in either of those countries (SDI or Simplo)."

Friedman's description of the supply chain goes on for two more pages. Then, in Nashville, USA, it is made into the notebook Friedman will see when he opens the Dell box:

"That was thirteen days after I'd ordered it. Had there not been a parts delay in Malaysia when my order first arrived, the time between when I phoned in my purchase, when the notebook was assembled in Penang, and its arrival in Nashville would have been only four days.

"Hunter said the total supply chain for my computer, including suppliers of suppliers, involved about four hundred companies in N. America, Europe, and primarily Asia, but with thirty key players."

I don't know that I, your humble blogger, have anything to add. Anything missing?

The World is Flat, Copyright 2005 by Thomas L. Friedman
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, NY, NY

Friday, February 8, 2008

Riding in our cities: LA vs Chicago

From Streetsblog, here's a piece comparing the pedalin' mayor of bike-friendly Chicago with harsh treatment from law enforcement in Los Angeles:

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Mt. Tamalpais Hillclimb, 30ish years ago

Here I am circa 1980, climbing Mount Tamalpais in Marin County, CA, on my Specialized Allez road bike. It appears that I'm wearing Lycra shorts, but the jersey is wool, the brake cables are visible and the rider is achingly young. I'm wearing what we called a hairnet, a "helmet" made from horsehair-stuffed leather tubes. We all wore them; many of us survived. Sorry for the indistinct photo. My old Berkeley friend David King, living in Ohio these days, found the photo and scanned it. Perhaps the quality of the image reflects the quality of the rider...
Posted by Picasa

Running water, outdoors

As I've mentioned, I have not been able to wash my bicycles with a hose. More accurately, I can wash the paint off of 'em but I have not been able to rinse them worth a damn. There are hose connections on our building but the handles have been removed, as is typical on apartment buildings, I guess.

I have been helping our building manager with snow shoveling. I try to clear the paths that people use for walking and cycling around the building. I have accumulated some favor points, probably. I asked him if I could use the connections. I have a hose, I told him.

He said, sure, you have to get a universal key, the device that operates the handle-less spigot. A trip to Ace Hardware provided the 4-Way Stem Key, as it's called, a short hose and a new cheap plastic nozzle. I'm giddy with excitement.

This may seem like a minor score to you homeowners and half-duplex renters with the luxury of personal garden hose access. No big deal. Perhaps it isn't a big deal. No, it is a big deal. Imagine, running water outdoors! Clean bicycles and even motorbikes! Quality of life! Hoo-ray!

A Highly Placed Source

Tamar and I join with customers and friends of Denver's Salvagetti Cycles on Sunday mornings for short, social rides to breakfast. The store and the ride have been more than merely helpful in our orientation to our new home. We've made a buncha great friends on Sunday mornings from 1234 Speer. Oh, at 8:00.

Among them are a guy named Brian, just discovering cycling, and his wife Michelle. Michelle is a media relations consultant (it says here on the book jacket) and a damn good writer (I say here on my blog). She also works with the Dumb Friends League. Here, stolen from the League web site, is a description of what they do:

Founded in 1910, the Dumb Friends League is a national leader in providing humane care to lost and abandoned animals, rescuing sick, injured and abused animals, adopting pets to new homes, helping pets stay in homes, and educating pet owners and the public about the needs of companion animals.

The Dumb Friends League is the largest animal welfare organization in the Rocky Mountain region, welcoming tens of thousands animals to our two shelters. We turn no animals away.

Worthy as her work with the League may be, I'm not writing this post to urge you to check out their web site and SEND MONEY to the DUMB FRIENDS LEAGUE. No way. I'm reading Michelle's brand new novel, A Highly Placed Source, and I resent having to put the damn thing down to compose this post.

Michelle, whose last name is Dally, will be signing her new book A Highly Placed Source in the Tattered Cover bookstore on Colfax in Denver, Colorado, on Friday evening, February 22nd. Be there....I'll spring for coffee.

Even if you don't live here and/or don't ride the Salvagetti Cycles Sunday Breakfast Ride, I submit to you that Michelle Dally is one of us, but savvier. Her book is about politics and religion and the media and childhood and adulthood. It's really funny and it's right now. You'll like it and loan it to friends and recommend it to people you encounter on bike paths.

A Highly Place Source by Michelle Dally; Ghost Road Press, 2007. $19.95

Friday evening, the 22nd of this month. See you there...

Information from a highly placed source at the Denver Public Library reveals that the library already has four copies of Michelle Dally's new book, A Highly Placed Source!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Winter in Denver, a lament...

I figure, of the 15 or 20 regular readers of this blog, a dozen or more of you are friends of Tamar's and mine. So here's a personal update: How Maynard and Tamar are doing in Denver. In winter.

Tamar is faring far better than I am. She has a great job at the Denver Public Library. She works with caring, civilized people and can choose among several paths to (relative) wealth and fame in library work. She's painting and drawing and knitting and cooking up a variety of storms.

Tamar's five years in Tucson did not erode her back-east-winter coping skills. So she has adapted well to Rocky Mountain winters. It isn't easy - you can't pedal or ride your scooter in the winter here, not if you're susceptible to fear - but she's riding the bus and dealing with it.

Tamar is tough.

I'm not so tough. I'm suffering in ways you'll understand and ways you may not. I have not experienced a genuine winter since 1968, when I lasted one sorry, sun-deprived year in Washington State.

We were told - and we believed - that Denver winters are only intermittently cold and snowy. It would snow, people said, and then suddenly the sun would come out. In a matter of hours the snow would be gone - vanished! You can ride at least four days every week, we heard.

But last year and this year the snow came and stayed. I toughed it out last year, certain that the weather was fluky, that this year would be different. Alas, winter '07-'08 is more of the same.

I've never been good at winter. I never tried winter sports. I did buy an indoor trainer decades ago when I was more concerned about off-season fitness. I remember the boredom vividly. I rode one again in '05 after a crash. I have no warm feelings associated with indoor trainers.

This winter has not been so severe as last year's. That doesn't mean it's tropical here. I have not ridden a motorcycle since Thanksgiving. I have done one sorta decent bicycle ride since Thanksgiving. It snows, it doesn't get warm, the snow turns to ice, the ice stays on the streets.

The Cherry Creek bike trail runs along the creek. It's shaded for much of its distance and stays snowy and often icy, even without motor traffic to pack the snow into ice.

I don't believe it has dropped below zero this winter. The cold is manageable. Often the sun shines and the streets, especially those that are exposed to warm afternoon sunlight, look inviting. But the ice...

The ice, inches deep, stays on the edges of the city streets, effectively narrowing them so that you cannot get out of the way on your bicycle. You are forced to ride in the lane with the cars. I see people riding on icy, slushy, snowy streets and I am inspired with awe. It's scary to walk and they're out there mixing it up with the text-messagers in their cars. I'll pass, thank you.

If indeed the polar ice caps are melting, how come the ice at Seventh and Washington never recedes? Al, due respect, come to Denver, take a look.

Because we live in a highrise, a situation I enjoy, we have no access to a water hose, a situation I hate. I can't keep my bicycle clean. The streets are sprinkled with that ice-melting stuff. The snow quickly turns wet and dirty, so one's bicycle is spattered awful each time it's ridden.

I've never been able to tolerate a dirty bike. Now I am forced by circumstances to do so. I ride my Bike Friday. A dirty Bike Friday offends me less than a dirty Rivendell or Lighthouse.

I can wash my bike by hand if I take bike and buckets down ten floors and outside the building. In freezing weather, splashing water on the sidewalk is an antisocial act. This dirty bike issue may seem trivial. I know and care deeply about the people behind each of my bikes, is the thing. Leaving a bike filthy seems to me to show disrespect. Or maybe I just hate a dirty bicycle.

Because I write about bicycling and motorcycling and must generate articles year 'round, the enforced layoffs in wintertime are worrying. If I have no riding experiences and little contact with riders, I am afraid I won't have story ideas. I do get story ideas but I worry anyway.

Tamar and I talked about this at some length and we decided that I need to get outta Dodge for a few weeks - once or twice during the winter. As I type that sentence, I feel like a wuss - lots of Americans thrive on winter. Not me.

We love Denver and don't want to move away. We feel good here much of the time. We've made good friends and found a great place in a super neighborhood. When spring comes, the riding will be terrific, both pedal and motorized. Most of the elements are in place.

I don't need to go to Monte Carlo or Rio. I need to escape to somewhere simple and affordable, where the big attraction is traction.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Not a retraction, exactly...

It has come to my attention that my post of last week, A Week Away from my Blog, is harsher in tone than I intended. It isn't that I misled readers or made statements that cannot be defended. I got caught up in my indignation, is what happened, and I hurt the feelings of good people.

I committed none of the above rudeness on purpose. I did not name names and I'm sure most of my readers had no idea at whom my anger was directed.

Nevertheless, the persons who were the targets knew they'd been targeted - and for that I am sorry.

Please do not read into this apology a new willingness on my part to forgive the misappropriation of cycling's old days by folks with products to sell.

If I'd learned all I knew about Mercedes-Benz history in M-B brochures and M-B authorized histories and in magazines featuring lavish M-B ads, I would not consider myself an expert on those lovely automobiles.

I'm sincerely sorry for my untempered anger in that post. Please talk another look at it. I've rewritten it after due reflection.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

A few 'graphs from Steve Wilson's "Down the Road"

Thanks to my friend Corey, source of the best motorcycle lore found between covers, I'm reading Down the Road, Genuine Mileage on Classic Motorcycles, by Steve Wilson. The book is graced with terrific drawings from Wilson's friend Nicholas Ward.

You can (and should) order it from Aerostich Rider Warehouse:

Down the Road features column-length and longer pieces about the old-time UK motorcycle industry, about some of the characters who kept it alive and a few who helped smother it. Down the Road is about Wilson's lifelong love for old British motorbikes, for good or ill.

Here, used without permission but with gratitude to Steve Wilson for writing it, are a few paragraphs about the old Brando biker movie The Wild One:

The film's real strength, though, lies in the unforgettable moments created by Brando - the homework (he did) with real bikers paying off with utterly natural rhythmic dialogue, as when he explains the fatal accident with "I did a big brodie, and I went out, and that's all." Or when he enters the the empty Bleeker's Cafe for the first time, his stolen trophy dangling head down by a thong from his wrist, walking slowly down the row of vacant swivel chairs at the counter, casually spinning them, the impatient and the dreamy in perfect balance.

The only possible response to materialistic Amerika as represented by the town seemed to be embodied in Brando's enigmatic, magnetic sense of style, both his awesomely cool take-no-shit front, and the confusion and vulnerability he also managed to convey beneath it. Mere style may have been shown by now to be a partial and inadequate response to a complicated world, but it spoke to us at the time, and as Johnny might have said, (in answer to the question: What are you rebelling against? - MH) "What else have you got?"

And the ending, with Johnny redeeming himself by wordlessly returning the stolen statue to Mary Murphy with a dazzling half-smile, though Brando hated it (the ending - MH) as Hollywood phoney, does touch something in us that can still hope for redemption to come from women's kindness - as well as letting him roar off down the road on the (Triumph - MH) T'bird to freedom... Now surely that's a window on the biker soul?

I dreamed I saw the knights in armor comin'

Because of the two posts I put up on my blog last week, I have encouraged the true-believer Knights of Cycling's Old Days to rediscover me as their enemy. Welcome back, boys.

When I write about cars 'n' bikes or about cycling clubs or cycling etiquette, the KOCOD pays me no heed. I have to conclude that they don't do a lot of cycling. Rather they keep the Old Days flame flickering, no matter which way the wind blows - for which purpose they do not have to leave their computers.

It's indoor work and so often leads to overweight, but someone has to do it. No tan lines on true-believers.

If you do not ride, you can use one bike for everything, as the KOCOD claim was done in the Old Days. They're wrong. We didn't use one bike for everything - very few of us did everything - but embracing that fantasy evidently gets guys through the night. The reality of what was done is not so helpful.

I've been writing about cycling since 1983, two columns per month. That's 25 years. Hundreds of columns.

I've never done tests or fitness articles. Only opinion pieces about the culture. I've written about every damn thing you could imagine, and starting as I did in the years before blogs and extreme views expressed in bike magazines, I was often out on what passed in that era for the edge.

I hardly ever pissed anyone off. I remember angering a pedal-and-shoe manufacturer. After raving on the phone about how well his system worked, I suggested that there were aesthetic aspects of his (truly ugly) shoes that might prove troublesome sales-wise. He screamed at me.

I upset a few people when I wrote about my difficulties with mid-'80s Campagnolo parts. I'd been a faithful Campy user and advocate for years but they lost me for half a decade back then. Only one crazed, raised voice disturbed the silence as the Shimano years began.

Perhaps, you might suggest, I have not been forceful enough in expressing my feelings. That could be why I have not heard more screaming. I've preferred to believe that reasonable people can disagree - as the saying goes.

We're done talking about reasonable people now. We can begin talking about the KOCOD.

I saw an article in the Rivendell Reader years ago about an old French pedal, a pedal I knew to be so flawed in design and function as to render it useless. The article raved about the pedal. It was clear that the writer had never set foot on one of those pedals, but felt qualified to write at length about them anyway.

So I wrote about the rose-colored glasses of the Knights of Cycling's Old Days. I mentioned the rewriting of history for personal or commercial reasons. I loved those old days, I wrote, but I didn't love everything about them. No one loved everything about them - then. Now...

I had not realized that I had offended the righteous. I had placed myself outside the pale. I was called unflattering names. My journalistic credentials, never questioned in the past, were thrown to the ground and trampled by the KOCOD herd.

I promised myself that I would never write about Old Stuff again. And I didn't, until I saw that an amazing preponderance of the Rivendell bicycles pictured on the owners forum were topped by Brooks leather saddles. Have all these people, I asked myself, tried lots of saddles? Have 90% settled on the same heavy, expensive, high-maintenance ones?

So I wrote about that phenomenon on my blog and heard the email equivalent of loud voices.

Just last week, I saw a revisionist piece on a bike company's web site. It claimed that back in those glorious Old Days when we rode that wonderful Old Stuff, we each had one bike that did it all. Whichever way our cycling led us, we rode that same trusty, sturdy, versatile bicycle.

We toured, we commuted, we pedaled to the Tour de France start line. We cyclo-crossed in winter and picnicked in summer. We rode club rides and Paris-Brest-Paris.

We had multiple lives in cycling, but we had one bike. Steel. Short enough to race, long enough for fat tires and fenders. Light and responsive but unbreakable. Fitted with eyelets for racks and heel clearance for panniers.

I began noticing bicycles in late '74 and continued noticing them until I sat down at the computer today to write this post. I never saw those bikes I described in the above three paragraphs, nor did I know anyone who even wanted one. We wanted purposeful bikes, not bikes-for-all-seasons.

If you read about how common those bikes were, or how we each used our one bike for all missions, ask yourself why anyone would want to mislead you about how things were.

Ask yourself if that person is reciting some KOCOD party line, or if someone very close is trying to sell you something by invoking a romanticized, false image of the Old Days and the Old Stuff.

Please buy a bike if you feel the urge. Choose what bike to buy on its own merits, not because of something someone tells you about the past.

There were always bikes that claimed to do it all. Close-outs, they were called.