As a few of you will know, I was raised in Indianapolis and tried futilely to go to school in Bloomington (Indiana University) in 1960. I enjoyed the town if not my classes, and stayed in Bloomington until 1966.
While there, I don't believe I ever threw a leg over a bicycle but evidently there was a thriving cycling scene - as represented in the movie Breaking Away.
Here's an article from a magazine called American Profile, about the movie, some of its stars and its refusal, in that terrific little Midwestern college town, to fade quietly away.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Here's a slide show from the NY Times, unforgettable images of the California Coast south of Monterey shot in the 1930s and '40s by photography immortal Edward Weston. The narrator is Weston's grandson Kim. Saying this stuff is brilliant doesn't nearly do it justice.
In the days when virtually all good bikes were steel, custom bikes were truly deluxe. You could ride for years and never feel the need to order one, never feel there was much to be gained by a custom fit or custom fussing.
Especially if you were normally proportioned, you could find a factory road frame that'd work fine and inspire love and loyalty.
If you did order a custom frame, and if your builder sized you, you had lots of decisions to make and lots of conferring with that individual to do during the process of your frame's design and assembly. Hey, it was custom....
It was not just a bike. For instance, my Lighthouse, built in 1990, came with two Silca pumps painted-to-match, one for the usual pump mounting-place along the seat tube and a longer one for under the top tube, for days when I'd bolt both the painted-to-match bottle cages to the frame.
Sometimes, builders would paint the cable ferrules (the 1/2" long reinforcing caps that fit over the ends of your cable housings). And the vertical slots in your seat post. And the little windows in your lugs. And the cut-away or relieved areas of your crank arms. And the little arty reliefs in your brake calipers or levers.
A few builders, including ex-jewelry maker Rocket Tim Neenan who built my Lighthouse, cast their own head tube badges and riveted them to their frames. David Schnitzer's 30-year old Lighthouse is gone now, but he's hung onto the badge in the photo - for his new one.
Friday, March 27, 2009
My buddy David Schnitzer lives in Seattle but was raised in Santa Barbara, on the Central Coast of California. He and I and Tim Neenan of Lighthouse Cycles in Santa Ynez, another lovely Central Coast town, are old, dear friends.
Schnitz organizes cycling camps based around a motel in rural Los Alamos, not far from Buellton, Santa Ynez and Solvang (the faux Danish town) in the Santa Ynez Valley. That valley, according to people-who-should-know, may be the best place in the US to ride a bicycle. Maybe not only in the US.
The Saturn team used to hold its early season camps there as did Motorola and the Postal Service. Watch this slide show - of Schnitz's second '09 camp, just ended. Schnitz ran the first '08 Jalachichi camp in February during the Amgen Tour of California. Campers spectated at the Tour's time trial stage in Solvang.
If you love to ride your bike on rolling, scenic country roads, some of the shots you'll see in this array will take your breath away. Trust me.
Here's a link to Schnitz's Jalachichi Cycling Camps site.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
In the '80s at the Interbike (bicycle) trade show, I happened to walk by the Merckx bicycles booth before the show opened. Building the booth was Eddy Merckx himself. The Cannibal had sweated-up his white t-shirt, unpacking bikes and assembling them for the show.
I wrote about seeing him there. I couldn't get over how the greatest cyclist of all time, no contest, was laboring there just as if he hadn't met the Pope or been honored by kings and befriended by luminaries all over the world.
I too had to build a booth at the show in those days, and I hated it. Whatta lotta work. But here was Eddy Merckx, swinging a hammer and building bikes.
If there's an equivalent in motorcycling to Eddy Merckx, it's Mike (The Bike) Hailwood. Here, from Superbike Planet, is a reminiscence by a friend of Hailwood's - on the 28th anniversary of Hailwood's (and his daughter's) deaths in a car accident not long after his retirement.
Read the letter; you'll see why I posted it.
Hailwood image stolen from wonderful site superbikeplanet.com
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Friday, March 20, 2009
Here, from Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, the bike biz's fine insider publication, is a piece about five advocacy organizations in five cities deemed worthy of cash, "nice-going" awards.
As you'll note, Denver CO, this blog's hometown, is numbered among the five.
I almost didn't put up this post 'cause I hate pushing Tamar's picture down the page.... Aw well....
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Here's a link to a piece from a Washington, DC, alternative paper, as it appeared in the Denver, CO, Examiner. Read it and see if I'm not right in my synopsis: The more cyclists, the safer it appears to be for each one. Helmet wearing is good and promotes individual safety. If we lean on people to wear helmets and they resist by simply not riding, does the safety of all of us suffer?
I ride a single-cylinder motorcycle and belong to the Four-Stroke Single National Owners Club. FSSNOC's fine magazine Thumper News has broadened its focus to include scooters.
Tamar and I wrote a piece for TN about her life with scooters: A 50cc Honda Metropolitan of fond memory and now her 150cc Piaggio LT.
We had an old shot of Tamar with the Honda, but we needed one with her Piaggio - to accompany the article. We took half a dozen photos this morning and liked this one best.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Here's a link, fresh from the pages of the NY Time Online, about the oppressive cost of car ownership vs other transport options. Read down a few 'graphs and learn of blessed relief, offered cheap (relatively) at your local bike shop!
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
First, here's a link to an IndyStar (Indianapolis Star Online) business section piece about the well attended Handbuild Bicycle Show there a week or so ago. Indy, as you'll read, does not think of itself as a bike-friendly town, especially compared to truly stellar bike cities like, say SEATTLE.
Indy is my hometown, and having ridden in cars and on my motorcycle there in recent years and seen the lovely, narrowish suburban streets with no shoulders, I'd have to agree. I'd like to be proven wrong; I haven't given up on Indy. I want to ride that Monon trail out of Broadripple.
This link takes you to an article from the West Seattle Herald online. Ostensibly about cycling's place in our culture and perhaps that of some country like France, the piece focuses on political obstructionist tactics among Seattle's bicycle-hating barbarians. Imagine resisting the extension of the Burke-Gilman Trail. Creeps and cretins....
Two good pieces, no agreement about good bike towns. Is that a surprise....?
Monday, March 16, 2009
and then you think about how many people can afford to buy them. There wouldn't be wheelsets costing thousands of dollars if those sets could not be sold. They can be sold, and that's the point.
They can be sold and will be sold; no one will raise a hand to say: What's going on here? This post is me raising my hand and wondering online about serious money for silly stuff: bike parts.
In this great nation, lots of people have made or are making so much money that they can just buy $4000 wheels for their bicycle on a whim. See 'em, like 'em, buy 'em. They don't save up.
They may in fact try to get a deal on the wheels, not 'cause the few dollars make a difference, but because the idea of paying full price offends them. They didn't pay sticker for the Lexus.
It's not just Joe Sixpack who can't believe we pay so much for bicycle stuff. Lots of us older riders are just as amazed. We never dreamed there'd be $4000 wheelsets - or riders aching to buy them.
Now, weekend riders buy $4000 wheelsets. They work hard. They deserve them. Nice wheels. Nicest wheels on the club ride for sure.
I think about how much wealth we have created in this country and what we have sacrificed to make it possible. Some of the things we ignore or merely pretend to care about are important, I'd say. Not that those wheels aren't important. Nicest ones on the ride.
I try not to think that it's a violation somehow to buy $4000 wheelsets, that it's thoughtless, raging consumption - those are unAmerican ideas; I fight against them. I'm no commie.
Tons of people can buy four thousand dollar bicycle wheels. At the same time millions of kids go to classes in rundown, dirty schools, classes taught by teachers who are just getting by. We have compulsory education sure enough but it so-often sucks.
We lament the low pay and low status of teachers in the car on the way to the shop where we buy the four thousand dollar wheels.
We have the most expensive health care in the world and it isn't the best in the world. You can add whatever unfairnesses upset you here. Use the other side of the paper if you run out of room.
I'm not blaming those unfairnesses on bicycle wheels, no way. But kids need education, we all need health care and almost no son of a bitch on this planet needs a four thousand dollar set of wheels. Guys who do need them get them free from their sponsors.
Does saying that make me a commie?
No one will stand still for higher taxes in this kind and gentle land. But if people can afford to buy luxury items costing a multiple of what "average" or "perfectly serviceable" items cost, there should be a surcharge, a way for those people to help others by sharing (kicking and screaming as the case may be) a bit of what this system has graciously allowed them to accumulate.
Let's say that 10% is a good rate, a luxury tax that shouldn't affect sales of items like $4000 wheelsets, but would do some good elsewhere. Four hundred dollars, say, collected each time a set of four grand mega-wheels or the equivalent was sold, would put books in the hands of schoolkids in low-income neighborhoods. Or give a shot at a living wage to their teachers.
Would folks who buy $4000 wheelsets or $4000 Rolexes balk at paying $4400 for them, knowing that the four hundred was actually going to trickle down to folks who might truly need it? Would they stop buying prestige items, items just a bit better than their friends have bought?
Is this redistribution of wealth? Sure. Is it creation of wealth? No. But we've proved to the world that we're on top of this widespread wealth creation stuff; we're Number One.
We should take a shot at spreading just a little of what we have around where it can do some good - for folks who can't make it to the Saturday club ride. Not because they're embarrassed by their low-budget bicycle wheels. No. Because they have weekend second jobs.
PS When Tamar and I lived in Tucson, I wrote a piece about guys I rode with several times. A few of them would tell you they had 15 racing bicycles in their suburban garages. I suggested in the local free bike paper that guys who had bikes they no longer rode could donate them to their clubs - for young riders or people who couldn't afford new bikes.
The guy who administered the email ride list took me off it. If you suggest to real Americans what they might do with their money, you are a pariah, an outcast. And proud of it, I say....
Here's a link you can follow or not at your whim. It'll take you to a nicely done test from VeloNews Online of a pair of Hutchinson carbon fiber, tube or tubeless clincher rims.
That's right: you can mount tires on these rims as you would normally, with tubes. Or you can mount them sans tubes; the tires will seal on the rim. They'll seal better if you buy the not-included Euro sealant - at $13/wheel.
Generously, tires for tubeless mounting are included. No cassette is included, but you can buy wheel models suited for Campy or Shimano cogsets.
The front wheel features 18 spokes, the rear 20. The wheels are light and run on good sealed bearings. I'm sure they ride wonderfully, and your bike feels lightfooted as Winged Mercury.
Why would I care about these wheels? Well, they're twenty-five hundred dollars the pair.
I know that the Hutchinsons are not the most expensive wheels for sale in This Great Land.
I know that some wheels cost (per pair) twice as much as these Hutchinsons, as much, say, as a restaurant quality Wolf Range for your kitchen - a luxury item I can sorta understand. You don't throw the Wolf Range in the trunk of your car and you'll have it forever, even if you crash.
The people who are buying these Hutchinson wheels and the ones that cost twice as much already own Wolf Ranges, am I right? So there's no conflict. Jeez, guys, This is a Great Land.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Saturday, March 14, 2009
I went back and forth about putting this link up on my blog. BMW, it seems, gives cars to artists the company admires (and who are perhaps from places where the company wants to do more business). The artist paints the car or a model of the car as suits his or her fancy.
Four of the cars are to be displayed at Grand Central Terminal in NYC.
These Art Cars are cool, I say. Take a look. Wouldn't surprise me if you agree. I like the Alexander Calder car, the Frank Stella car and the Esther Mahlangu car painted in the traditional pattern of a South African tribe.
I've been riding my nearly 20-year old Lighthouse road bike, made for me by Tim Neenan (then and now) of Santa Ynez, California. Neenan, one of God's more accomplished creatures, has recently taken up the torch again after years of creating (and helping folks create) gourmet meals.
Lighthouse Cycles lives again!
You will still be able to buy a frameset like mine, made in traditional steel joined by lugs. But more often, lucky Lighthouse buyers will choose fillet-brazed compact frames made with "today's state-of-the-art ultralight tubesets" - and probably carbon fiber forks.
I understand that my old friend David Schnitzer (Tim introduced us just after the War of Southern Secession) is working on a web site for Tim, who is better with some files than others.
I mention all this because a friend here in Denver, a longtime student of bike-fit, suggested I change stems on my own Lighthouse. The stem he recommended: The stock one, painted to match, that Tim sized and built for me in 1990!
So I did: I took the upswept Salsa off and put the stock stem back on. It works fine. I feel good on the bike. Meaning, and I don't want you to miss this - I can ride the same bike I rode 20 years ago. Same position. Hey, uh? Is that cool or what?
But, I do some things differently than I did two decades ago. I had to remove the bar tape to switch stems, so I bought a box of Bontrager padded tape - in black, same as the old tape. I re-wrapped one side and haven't bothered to do the other side yet....
So I'm riding with mismatched handlebar tape, left and right. You have to look close, but if you do, you would see two different tapes. I would never have done that in 1990, never have left the house with a bike treated disrespectfully like that. Like mismatched socks on a guy who dresses in the dark.
I'm not falling apart in every regard, I'm proud to state. But in tiny ways I've changed. As I said, you have to look close.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
As you will learn if you check out recent comments, I have lost a reader. Let's think, you and I, about why I lost him and how I should react to the loss.
If I never lose readers I'm pulling my punches, never revealing in print how I really feel. If a writer has strong feelings and speaks up in print, he or she will upset a reader now and then. Gotta happen.
Not every critical comment will alienate readers. It's interesting to reflect on what will provoke a reader to swear off your work, and what will hardly make a ripple.
To upset cycling's true believers: Criticize an old bike part. Criticize Brooks saddles. Suggest that some bike owners are posers (shock, horror), pretending to be something they are not.
Statements like those mentioned above are the ONLY way I've lost readers.
I've lost readers because I questioned the iconic nature of every old bike part. I've lost readers because I've pointed out the ridiculous use of pricey, heavy "comfort" saddles on bikes that'll never be ridden far enough for comfort to matter - or far enough to break-in the saddles.
I'm losing Reader Jon because I've suggested that thrift-store wool absorbs tobacco odor and preserves it in those natural fibers for years. I've said that the guy who looks good in knickers has not been born. I've said that the hipsters he defends so bravely seem to serve only to set a bad example.
Statements like those and almost no others have cost me readers.
On the other hand, I can pick on bike shop employees for all sorts of valid reasons. I can pick on Harley-Davidsons or Ducatis and their riders in motorcycle magazines. I can pick on bike racers of moderate talent who behave like prima donnas, unlike most pros. I can say awful things about SUV drivers or guys on loud motorcycles or guys in loud import cars. And no one cares.
No one cares.
Clearly, ex-reader Jon is upset that I find fault with my neighbors who ride single-speed bikes. I find fault with them, sure enough. Opinion-expressers all over this great nation find fault with them. It's a cheap shot, finding fault with them; they're ducks in a barrel.
They want to look like bike riders but they want to pee in the pool, create a hostile environment for all of us who pedal the streets of our cities.
They want to wear the uniform but they don't want anyone to notice that they all look alike. Or form opinions about them after seeing them, one after the other, scoff at the laws, riding without brakes or lights or helmets or simple grownup good sense.
We're not talking about looking both ways and soft-pedaling through a country intersection. No country intersections for these folks - they're an urban phenomenon, riding strictly where folks by the thousands can see them. We wonder: Would they ride if no one watched?
You could be forgiven for thinking that they ride the way they do to piss people off.
They succeed. Intentionally or not, they've pissed me off, and I for one should be glad to see so many new riders on our streets. They piss me off and when I say so, when I say that I'm pissed at them, then it's my fault. I've got to mellow out, dude. Breathe through my nose.
Soon, as Larry says, they'll go on to whatever's next. There'll be lots of shoddily built fixies for sale on Craigslist. Cheap. Free to good home.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Here's a link to Mark Levine's long-but-worthwhile piece about car-sharing and the car-sharing business. I've read several explanations of how car-sharing works, but they invariably read like computer owners manuals; I never make it all the way through.
This piece too spends a good bit of its middle on the business aspects of sharing cars. I managed to get through that part okay and enjoy the last page or two. Worth reading to the end, I'd say.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Robert Sullivan wrote this piece for the Times. He's a NYC cycle commuter and an observer of the scene there. In a hurry to put this link up on my blog, I haven't read the comments yet.
Great article. Take a look. I'm off to read the comments.
Ah - no comments yet, at 7:40 Mountain Time. You could be the first...
Friday, March 6, 2009
Thursday, March 5, 2009
This link will take you to motorcycle magazine Web Bike World's test of a new reflective and illuminated outer jacket. It looks suspiciously bicycle-y.
It seemed to me that if you have a flat black fixie with flat black chain, hubs, rims, bars and stem, seat post and cranks, if you have taken the brakes and reflectors off and never mounted lights, if you never shave or smile and ride day/night in an old watch cap and earthen-hued wool castoffs, if you've sanded the new off your saddle, you'd never wear this thing. I wouldn't either. We're so alike, you and I...
Here's the link.
Added later: As you will note, I got a comment from Jon suggesting that I somehow "get over" my resentment toward fixie riders. Taking the comment to heart, I reread my post, failing as I did so to detect anger expressed directly or subtly therein. I had to conclude that Jon may be reacting too sensitively to my sympathetic portrait of urban America's cool kids.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
When I started riding in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1975, I was far from a cyclesport pioneer. There was a long-established community of bikies - all around the bay. One of the oldest and most respected clubs was Pedali Alpini on the SF Peninsula. Here's a link to a site dedicated to the old days and that old club.
By the way, virtually all the names mentioned on this page were known names. You knew everyone in your area who wore black shorts, was the saying. I knew some of these guys, the San Francisco and Marin County riders, and admired all of them.
Owen Mulholland was the first American to ride in a press car at the Tour de France; he was Bicycling Magazine's racing editor back when. Owen took me under his wing in my early riding days. He got me my first real column writing job - with Winning Magazine, in 1983. He's still at it himself, publishing a book about cycling history every so often.
Lugged steel? Brooks saddles? Wool clothing? Nothing new under the sun, as the fella said...
Sunday, March 1, 2009
My last post offered a link to a NY Times article about the new, smaller Rolls-Royce automobile. I am not so much charmed by the car as I am by the people who make it and the writer who described it. Good attitudes, say I.
We look at the car and wonder how many of its owners became wealthy enough to afford it via humanitarian pursuits, providing AIDS meds for suffering Africans or buying books for schools in Arkansas. One suspects that Rolls owners believe the Lord helps those who help themselves, so they help themselves to distinguished motorcars.
As this is written, during the Handbuilt Bicycle Show in Indianapolis, I want to ask you why it's cool to build or own a $10,000 carbon-fiber urban single-speed bicycle, and not cool at all to own a new Roller.
The Rolls will do anything a car can do, congratulating its owner all the while for his/her taste and worldly success. It'll look like money, like snobbery, but it'll serve wonderfully nonetheless.
The urban single-speed will never leave its zip code. It will be no better at being a bicycle than a clean '80s Fuji Monterey. It will in truth not be as useful as the Fuji. The Fuji will go anywhere. The carbon fixie will go nowhere. The Fuji is to ride; the fixie is to be seen on.
The Rolls designer says that most owners have five or six car garages and think of their garages as wardrobes, as arrays of items from which to choose. The carbon fixie owner thinks of his room-full-of-bikes as a wardrobe too, an array of leisure time choices from which to choose.
Many of us, I suspect, are blinded by "bicycle-ness." Whatever a bicycle is or whatever a cyclist does....is okay. Cool even. Any niche market item that appeals to cyclists is cool, even if it is severely limited in function and so brutally expensive that it can't be parked in front of Cool Beans Coffee & Tea without an armed guard.
A Rolls-Royce is a refined, expensive, totally functional automobile. A carbon fixie is a pricey gilded lily. Can't blame Parlee. Despite the downturn, the demand is there - from authentic, gritty urban fixists across this Great Land.
I get the Rolls. I really don't get the Parlee. Speak right up if you do.