Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hey! I Was There!

On one of the many trips we made to Moab, in 1993 a bunch of us pulled into the parking lot at the Slickrock Trail.  There, we saw a big old 1970s station wagon, with huge Thule racks on top, and enough clamps and wheel holders for about a dozen bikes.  The wheel holders, themselves, were fashioned from RockShox suspension forks, and the car was plastered with manufacturers stickers.

"Who do you suppose that belongs to?"  Bill asked no one in particular.

"Must be a race team of some sort,"  I said, pulling my bike out of the truck.

We all took off on the trail, and the big wagon was discussed a bit, then relegated to the backs of our minds.  On the the Slickrock Trail, it's best if you pay attention to where you are going, and leave the conjecture for later.  You don't want to be distracted by the question of who the cool car may belong to, and end up riding off of a 300-foot drop...

While we were out on the trail, we saw a guy in the distance, riding a polka-dot bike while another guy filmed him.  We watched for a while, because the guy was good, then we continued on.

When we got back to the parking lot, the big wagon was gone.

Months later, Bill walked up to me in the bike shop and handed me a magazine.

"Look familiar?"

There, front and center in the ad for a new feature-length film about mountain biking, called Tread: The Movie, was the big station wagon we had seen in Moab.  Of course, we made plans to see the movie, as soon as possible.

We got the chance, not long after, when the film premiered in Denver at the Paramount Theater.  It was a big industry extravaganza, with manufacturers displays and a general festive atmosphere.  This was huge, in 1994, to have mountain biking hit the big screen, and the public consciousness.

As we sat and watched the movie, those of us who had been on that trip to Moab nudged each other every time we saw the big wagon the screen.  Then, when the polka-dot bike showed up on the screen it occurred to us that we had not only seen the car, but we had actually been on the trail as they filmed the sequence we saw on the big screen.

It's a pretty goofy movie, really.  And, if you aren't a cyclist, it is probably close to unwatchable.  But, it stars a couple of guys I have met (Hans Rey and Greg Herbold - who happens to be the brother of Carol's sister-in-law), and...I was there when they filmed part of it.

So, I like it.  A lot.

I should get it on dvd.  I only have it on tape, and I no longer own a working vcr...


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Abandon Ship!

I don't often bail out from a ride before I get to where I am going.  But, there have been  few times when I have done so.  Once, last year, I just finally bonked to the point where I couldn't make the last 20 miles of a 100 mile ride.  But, one other time, almost 10 years ago, really sticks out in my mind.

Scott, Carol, a couple of other guys and I dropped some cars off at the eastern terminus of the Highline Canal, then we shuttled back to Chatfield Reservoir.  There, we started riding from the western terminus of the trail, with the plan to ride the entire 75 mile length of the Highline Canal Trail.

The first 30 miles, or so, went fine.  But, as we passed through the Aurora area, we began to have a problem with flats.  And, I was having a bigger problem than everyone else.  I replaced the first couple of flat tubes with my spares, and put the patched tubes in my bag "just in case".

Before it was over, I used every patch in both my kit and Carol's, as well.  At one point, I stopped and patched my rear tire, got on the bike and made only two turns of the cranks before my front tire was flat.

Eventually, I threw in the towel.  Riding on two flats, I left the trail and rode down Smith Road with Scott and Carol.  At the first restaurant/bar we came to, I called a cab and ordered a gin and tonic.

Scott took the cab to his car, then came back to pick Carol and me up.  After a couple more drinks, Scott drove us back to my truck, at Chatfield.

I bought new tires to replace the Hutchinson cross tires I had been running.  I don't know if the tires were particularly susceptible to goathead thorns, or if it was just the luck of the draw.  But, I had had my fill of flatting that particular set of tires.


Monday, August 29, 2011

The Friendly Skies?

The first time I flew with a bike, I packed my cheapo Motiv up in the airline-supplied bike box, and flew to Oregon to visit Joy and Steve.  I knew that the airlines were notorious for beating bikes up, so I packed the bike with as much care as I knew how.  I braced the fork, wrapped all of the tubes, wrapped bike clothes around it...all the tricks.

When Val and I landed in Portland, I went to the over-sized luggage office to retrieve the bike.  I had to wait a bit, as the big stuff is typically first on the plane, last off.  Finally, it showed up on a big cart.

Imagine just how happy I was to see tire tracks running across my bike box.  It had fallen off of the luggage tug, onto the tarmac, and ended up being run over by the trailer-full of luggage behind it. 

Of course, the airline had made me sign a waiver, declaring that they were not responsible for any damage.  That's another thing you have to love about flying with a bike...

Luckily, though, I had outsmarted the baggage handlers.  I had packed the box so tight, that the short edges of the carton hadn't even buckled.  When I pulled the bike out to reassemble it, there wasn't a mark on it.

Jon - 1 :  Airline - 0


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Pizza Pie

"You guys are the most unhealthy bunch of bike-shop employees I've ever seen!" exclaimed our Specialized rep, one day in 1994.

He was looking at the remains of two extra-large pizzas, and a large order of Buffalo chicken wings, as though he just couldn't believe his eyes.

"Well, like I said, that's pretty much what we eat, every day," I lied.  I had told him that the remains of a lunch a grateful customer had sent us was our normal lunch diet, just because I knew that he wouldn't approve.  He was one of those bike-snobs who talked incessantly about what he ate, and how hard he trained , and how fast he was, etc.

I didn't much like him, so I made it a point to bug him, like that.

He eventually left the bike biz, and became a "factory certified Harley frame-builder", according to his wife.

I wonder what he thought of the Harley-guy diet...


Saturday, August 27, 2011

More Lightning

The club ride was going well.  We had driven to the upper parking lot of Mt. Falcon, and headed out on the trail loops which criss-cross the top of the mountain, and eventually we ended up at Pricess Annes's Overlook.

The overlook was named in honor of England's Princess Anne, who visited Colorado, and toured Mount Falcon, years ago (I thin it was sometime in the 1950s).  It affords views of the Denver area, to the east of Mt. Falcon, with a precipitous drop directly below.

As is often the case, storms were brewing over the valley, in the late summer afternoon, and we all sat and watched the storm clouds pile up.  I was a little nervous about the weather, since I was the ride leader.  I always felt responsible for the safety of the riders, when I was in charge, and I didn't want to have anyone get hurt.

My hair was still long at the time, and I had it pulled into a ponytail, as was my custom.  As we sat, watching the weather develop, and discussing the possibility of getting wet, I suddenly felt an odd sensation.

My ponytail began to spread apart, and individual hairs started to float free.

"Dammit!" I thought, remembering the time I had gotten knocked off my bike by lightning, on Kenosha Pass.  "We're about to get struck!"

"Everybody on your bikes!"  I shouted.  "Let's go!  Now! Now!"

People began to scramble off the rock, and get on their bikes.  This group had ridden with me, before, and knew that something bad was going down, if I was that adamant.

I waited until everyone was on their bikes, and heading away from the overlook, then I took off, myself.  Dave was just in front of me, and I was telling him to get a move on, when the bolt hit the rock...right where we had been sitting.

Man...lightning just seems to follow me around!


Friday, August 26, 2011


The last night on the trail, as we made our way around the White Rim Trail in 1993, was a full-moon night.  We were camped on a flat area, a quarter mile from the vertical face of The Rim.  The night was calm, and the temperatures were hovering in the mid-60s.

Someone in a nearby tent was snoring, loudly, and I woke up just around midnight, as the log-sawing went on in the treeless desert.  I lay in my sleeping bag for a few minutes, then decided to get up and have a drink of water, and look out of the tent for a while. 

I opened the tent flap and looked out across the surrounding area.  The moon was up, but still low in the sky, and the moonlight was illuminating the sheer face of the rimrock as if it was lit from within.  The ground between our camp and the rim was lit, dramatically, but there were no shadows from my point of view.  It was as though an artist had painted the scene, but forgot to shade in the low spots.

I sipped my water and thought to myself that this was an important moment in my life.  I felt the weight of not only the years I had already lived, but those ahead of me as well.  I could feel the looming presence of great change to come, but I couldn't envision what those changes might be.

I knew, however, that I would see those changes come from the seat of my bike.

Five years later, as my marriage was augering in like the Hindenburg, I thought back to that night and felt as if I was connected with the me who had sat in the desert and watched the moon move across the rock, foreshadowing the changes I was experiencing.  And, I drew a little comfort from the fact that I had sensed the changes on the horizon, even if I wasn't able to foresee what, exactly, they might entail.

And, through those stormy times, I rode my bike and found comfort in the familiarity of pedaling, and of the memory of that realization that things were changing.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Never Too Young...

I was never too young to get hurt on a bike, anyway.  One of my earliest memories is of  just that.

I say it's a memory, but it seems almost like a dream.  Details are sketchy, in my mind, but the basic facts stay with me.

My mom and dad, my sister, and I were visiting some relatives, of some sort, at their house which was located somewhere other than where we lived.  (How's that for details?)  The house was located near a train track, and you could see the raised rail bed from the yard.  In my memory, it looms over the yard like Hoover Dam.

I swear, this really happened!  A lot of my early, early memories have this dream-like quality to them.

Anyway, while the grown-ups were visiting, in the house, we kids were amusing ourselves outside.  One of the kids had a bike, one of the old-school paperboy bikes with a rack on the back.  I had never seen a package rack on a bike before, and it fascinated me.

"Want to ride on the back?"  he asked me.

Of course I did!.  Soon, he was pedaling me around the yard.  I was seated on the rack, and I had my feet on the chainstays, in lieu of passenger foot-pegs.  Then, as we went over a couple of bumpy spots, I half-stood to keep the rack from paddling my butt.

At that point, my right foot slipped off of the chainstay, and went between the wheel and the frame of the bike.  The spokes of the wheel raked the skin off of my ankle bone, before the bike skidded to a halt, with my ankle firmly wedged in place.

I can't remember how I got loose.  I think Daddy was involved.  However it was, I was screaming and crying and just generally acting like my foot had been sheared off. 

It was all very dramatic.

I don't remember all of the details, like I said, but I sure do remember how that hurt...


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Driveway Carnage

Not only have I backed over my own bike, but my family has a rich history of backing over bikes for me.

When I was 4 or 5, I had the little red tricycle on which the wasp hid and stung my hand.  One day, I parked it in the drive, just like all of the grown-ups.  My uncle, Ronnie, came out and got into his 1957 Ford, and backed out of the driveway...over the top of my trike. 

That was the end of that particular tricycle.  Nothing on it was salvageable.

Five years later, I got Big Red as a birthday present.  It was probably less than a week later that I not only left my bike in the drive, but I laid it down rather than propping it on the kickstand.  I can't tell you why I did either thing, but I can tell you why my mom ran over the front wheel.

It was because I don't know how to take care of my things, according to Momma.

That particular incident wasn't as destructive as the trike incident.  The wheel of the car rolled over the front wheel of the bike, and bent it slightly.  But, it was still rideable.

Those old steel wheels may not have been very light, but they were plenty tough.  That same wheel was on the bike, 35 years later, when Daddy brought it to me here in Denver, so that I could refurbish it.  It was a bit wobbly, but I could still ride no-hands.

It's been a while since one of my bikes got backed over.  I am hoping to make it a long while, yet, before it happens again!


Tuesday, August 23, 2011


I heard that question a lot, for a while.  I spent about 2 years riding nothing but fixed, even on a mountain bike, and people tended to be confused about that choice.

The basic reason was that I had become somewhat bored with the bike, around town.  I wasn't mountain biking on a regular basis, and commuting/riding around town had lost a lot of its challenge.

One day, on a 30-mile ride on my cross bike, I realized that I couldn't remember changing gears since leaving the house.  I decided to see if I could get through the rest of the ride, comfortably, in the gear I was in.

Sure enough, I got to the house still in my 42x17 gear, which happened to be the same gear I was running on my fixed-gear.  At that point, I figured I might as well just ride fixed, and not carry all of the extraneous drivetrain parts around.

And so, I became a fixed-gear zealot.  I rode fixed with guys on geared $5,000.00 Serrottas and carbon TREKs, and stayed in my usual position in the pack.  I went mountain biking (on the easier trails, I admit), and enjoyed the challenge of getting over obstacles without smacking a pedal.

And, everywhere I went, someone would ask , "Why?"

I didn't ever have an answer that suited them, but I did have one which worked for me:  "It's more fun to me, right now, than a geared bike."

Last year, I made the conscious decision to start riding with multiple gears again, as I was getting back into mountain biking and 100-mile road rides.  I found that adjusting to the freewheel for those rides was difficult, if I had been riding fixed 90% of the time.  So, I rode the freewheel 90% of the time, and rode the fixed, occasionally, for fun.

And that, after all, is why...


Monday, August 22, 2011


It's funny how random circumstances can shape your life.

Once, in 1995, I was building up a new mountain bike for myself, after hours at the shop.  I had all of the parts I needed, already paid for, and I was really looking forward to just getting the bike done and going home.

I got all of the parts hung on the frame, and realized that it was after nine o'clock, and I was dead tired.  So, I threw everything into my truck and headed home, happy that I was off work, the next day.  I figured I would finish assembling the bike, in the morning, then go for the inaugural ride.

The next morning, I put the bike in my stand in the basement, hooked up the cables, and got everything adjusted.  It was only when I went to install the grips that I realized I had never grabbed a new set for this bike.

I rummaged around in my spare parts, and finally came up with a pair of the same grips.  The only problem was that one of the grips was black, and one was red.  I installed them, and figured I would just take them off and put on a matching set at the shop.

Two months later, I realized that I had never matched up the colors on the grips.  I was wrapping the bars on my road bike, at the time, so I wrapped one side in black, and one in "natural" (brown), in honor of my mountain bike.

I ran bi-colored grips for years, and thought of it as my signature.  Eventually, it was more convenient to wrap both sides in the same color, or to use matching grips, and I abandoned my mismatched color scheme.

Now that I think of it, though, it might be time to get my groove back, grip-wise...


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Walk Softly...

For years, I cycled in cotton socks.  I wore the spandex shorts and the brightly-colored jerseys, but I really just never thought about my socks, that much.

Eventually, working at the bike shop, I decided to try out a pair of the short, thin foot covers.  I never really liked ankle-length socks, so I was a bit hesitant to get into them.

But, that first ride with wicking socks was an eye-opener, and I ended up buying a few pairs of them to ride in.  I continued changing into cotton socks for daily wear, though.

As years went by, I found myself wearing regular socks less and less, and bike socks more and more.  Eventually, I found that I was wearing bike socks, almost constantly.  Now, they are all I wear, unless I have on a suit.  Then, I still wear dress socks.

I got a new dresser for my bedroom, last year.  As I transferred my bike socks into their new drawer, I tried counting them.  I stopped counting at 75 pairs of bike socks, and still put a few in after that.

Sock it to me!


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Keys To the Kingdom

After I had been working at Destinations, full-time, for about two months, I still didn't have a key to the door.  This wouldn't have been a problem, except that there were many times when I needed to stay late and finish a repair, but Scott was going home and I had to leave, as well.  Or, I would want to go in early, but I had to wait for Scott to get there and open the door.

I was told that I didn't need a key, and I wouldn't want the responsibility of having one.

One Sunday, in April, the day dawned sunny and unseasonably warm.  Scott and I were the only two scheduled to open, at 11:00, and I showed up at about 10:45.  I knew Scotty wouldn't be there until the crack of 11:00, so I settled in to wait.

After a few minutes, some customers rolled up, and asked if we were open yet.

"Not until 11:00, on Sundays," I told them, sitting on the sidewalk, next to the front door.

Three or four more cars pulled up, and we had the same conversation each time.

Eleven o'clock came and went.  No Scotty.  A half-dozen people were waiting for us to open, and all I could do was tell them that I didn't have a key.  It wasn't that I wouldn't open up.  I just couldn't.

Scott showed up at 11:35, looking a bit sheepish.  After we got the first rush of customers taken care of, I walked over to Scott.

"Get me a damn key,' I said.

I had it before closing time.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Jon's Clubhouse

"I just don't like it," I overheard Scott's sister Catie say.  "Jon treats this shop like it's his clubhouse."

And, she was right.  I did treat the shop like it was my clubhouse.  I came into work at 9:30 (at the latest), and worked until 7:00 without a break.  During that time, I managed a shopful of mechanics, sold bikes, worked on bikes, and just generally put out fires, all day.

At the end of the day, after I locked up the shop and counted the money in the till, if I had something to do to my own bikes I used the shop to do it.  If friends called, looking for me, I would invite them down and we would drink beers, and talk bikes, and work on bikes.

The shop was my clubhouse, my home away from home.  I didn't realize it, at the time, but it was my safe haven, a place where I could relax and be myself, away from a marriage which was disintegrating around me.

Everyone should have a clubhouse, when they need it.


Thursday, August 18, 2011


In hoodoo, a mojo is a sacred bag, filled with symbolic items and worn around the neck.  Back in the day, we attached charms to our handlebars and referred to them as bike mojos.

A bike mojo could be just about anything, but in order to have any true meaning, it had to come to you unbidden.  In other words, it could be something you found (but not something you sought), or something given to you (but not something asked for), just so long as it held some significance for you.

A mojo was not just decoration, but it was also a combination of good luck charm, prayer flag and personal identification.  At least, it was all of those to things to me.

My favorite mojo was a molded plastic medieval warrior, carrying a blue shield (but missing his sword), 3-1/2" tall, which I found while riding my cross bike, one day.  I zip-tied him to the front brake cable housing on the Avail, and transferred him from cross bike to cross bike until I eventually sent my last cross bike to Charles, as a single/fixed racer.  The warrior, whom I always called Arthur, now resides on one of my toy shelves.

Another favorite was a small tiki god, from Hawaii.  He was almost a cheat, as I did ask for him.  But, I reconciled that with the fact that I didn't plan on putting him on the bike when I did ask for him.  He ended up on my M2 StumpJumper after living on the top of my dresser for a few months, with no purpose. But, possibly reflecting his sketchy status, he was lost during an urban night-ride in the Denver Tech Center.

Carol had a Teletubby on her bike, for a while, which she found on the street near Crowfoot Valley Coffee, in Castle Rock.

Other people in the bike shop had a variety of found strings of beads, friendship bracelets, etc.

The last mojo I attached to one of my bikes was on my fixed gear commuter.  It was a studded dog collar-style bracelet which I found on Lincoln Avenue, as I was riding downtown to do some watercolor sketches of a big church I had noticed a while before.

No, wait, I take that back...I have a broken bracelet of some sort on the RockCombo handlebar.

Old habits, I guess...


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Now, Weight Just a Darn Minute!

I've fought with my weight my whole life.  When I was 6 or 7 years old, I was the skinniest kid in my class.  A couple of years later, I was the fattest.  Even though I was healthy weight, in high school, I felt fat, because all of my friends were skinny.

As an adult, my weight yo-yo'd up and down, from a high of 225 pounds to my comfortable weight of 165.  When Val and I moved to Colorado, in August of 1992, I weighed 190.  I wasn't completely out of shape, due to my growing love affair with the bike, but I was carrying a lot more weight than I was comfortable with.

I started working at Destinations Cyclery in February of 1993.  still weighing in at 190 pounds on the old bathroom scale.  By September of that year, I was down to 150.  Mountain biking five or six days a week, and racing whenever I could get a weekend day off put me in a calorie deficit, big-time.

It got to the point that I couldn't gain weight, even if I tried.  People started approaching me, concerned about whether I had cancer and just hadn't told them.

I told them I didn't have cancer, but I did have a sickness...I was suffering from bicycle fever!

I no longer have that "can't gain weight" problem,I'm hovering around 175, right now.   But, I do still have the fever.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011


When I was 4 or 5 years old, I had a little red tricycle, just like every other kid in America.  It had a red frame, white wheels and white handlebars with red grips on them.

One day, I jumped on the seat and grabbed the grips, ready to take off on some adventure, or another.  Suddenly, I had a searing pain in the palm of my hand.  A red wasp had landed on the red grip, and I put my hand right right on top of him.  That did not make the wasp happy, and he had let me know that, in his own way.

It was quite a while before I wanted to get back on the trike, and even longer before I stopped checking the grips for wasps. 

Sometimes, even today, I find myself nervous about grabbing the grips, first thing in the morning.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Patch or Replace?

I have to admit that I don't always trust patches on bike tubes.  Many things can go wrong with the process.  A seam in the tube can interfere with adhesion of the patch, or the glue can be too old and not hold.  Or, user-error can come into play.

So, I tend to replace the tube with a spare, and patch the tube which went flat.  I then put the patched tube in my bag, just in case...

But, I occasionally get in a mood where I don't want to waste tubes, and I start patching them instead of replacing the,

Once, I had ridden the same tubes, all summer long, and really didn't keep up with how many flats I'd had.  When I replaced the rear tire, I pulled the tube out and was a little surprised:  18 patches! 

Hell, I should have kept that tube, forever.  It was more patch than tube, and probably more thorn-resistant than any commercially-available tube.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Cognitive Dissonance

Destinations Cyclery, where i worked during the 90s, was situated in a little strip-mall in Parker.  Like all strip-mall owners, the landlord was concerned about liability in the parking lot and on the walks.

So, like many retail property owners, he posted up signs on the building:


The sign was screwed to the wall right where we lined up the used bikes and on-sale bikes every day.  And, of course, when we started selling skateboards, and renting rollerblades, it was right where we let people try them out.

Too bad the sign didn't mention paintball, because I'm sure we would have set up a target range there, if it had...


Saturday, August 13, 2011

It's All Downhill From Here

I have owned two different houses since I moved to Colorado, and each of them has been a training aid for a cyclist.  My first house, out in Elbert County, sat 1300 feet higher than the bike shop.  So, every trip home on the bike was hill-training.

But, at least it was an obvious climb.  The house I have now really doesn't seem to on top of a hill, if you drive to it.  But, if you ride a bike to it, from any direction, you go uphill.  The slope from Colorado Boulevard is subtle, and I have had people argue with me that it's not uphill.  I invite them to ride a bike a couple of blocks away, then come back.

The come back up the non-existent hill with a new respect for gradual elevation change.

It's amazing how different the world is from the seat of a bike!


Friday, August 12, 2011

The Sad Story of My First Brooks Saddle

Wen I was 18, and heading off to college, I decided that I needed a 10-speed to get around campus.  Johnny, Wes and Jimmy all had one, so I didn't want to be left out.

At that time, there was a bicycle repair shop/used bike shop in a little shack behind the Ford dealer.  The guy who owned was a crusty old guy who bought bikes and yard sales and auctions, then fixed them up for repair.  In those pre-eBay days, that was how it was done.

So, I went to the little shack and told the guy what I was looking for, and how much money I had to spend.

"Got whutcha need," he said, and went to the back of the shop.  He returned with a red Triumph 10-speed, the same level bike as a Raleigh Grand Prix, with cottered cranks and chromed steel wheels.  And, it still had the original Brooks B-17 on the seat pin.

I paid him the princely sum of $30.00 (this was 1979, thirty bones was a pretty good chunk of change, when the minimum wage stood at $2.15/hour), and left.

I rode that bike a lot, especially Freshman Year, and everyone was appalled at my seat.  That was a time when the leather saddles were considered passe', and everyone wanted the padded plastic versions.  But, I like my Brooks, and I loved the way it looked, too.

After I got out of school, I didn't ride for a few years, and the bike was stored away.  In my late-20s, I came back around to pushbikes, and bought my first mountain bike.  Not long after that, I went and got the Triumph out of the shed.  Imagine my disappointment when I saw the Brooks saddle, curled up like an autumn leaf and completely useless!

It was years before I got another one...


Thursday, August 11, 2011

How Do You Get Away With That?

Back when I was married and working in a bike shop, some of my friends were curious about how I got away with buying so many bikes.

"Doesn't your wife give you grief?" they would ask.

Fact is,she didn't even notice.  If she had known how many new bikes I had brought in, it might have killed her.

As it was, if she noticed a new bike, she realized that it was out of her control, I guess.

I miss those days.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Heroes and Obsessions

Many people who know me are aware of my obsession with the 1993 Bridgestone X0-1, but many are not aware where it comes from.  They assume that I am just one of those aging hipsters who has bought into Grant Petersen’s outlook, and that I want an artifact from days gone by, a  proto-Rivendell, of sorts.

But, my love for the orange all-rounder actually dates from when it was a new bike, available from the dealer (although, unfortunately, out of my price range, at the time).  I guess I could have come up with the cash, but I was too busy buying suspension forks and indexed shifters.  I wasn't into the bike as an alternative mountain bike, necessarily.

I wanted the bike for two reasons: 

1.  Style. It was orange, and it had mustache bars on it.  Back then, the mustache bar was a radical departure from the norm, brought back to life by Nitto and Petersen for the XO series of bikes.  For a while there, if you wanted the bar, you had to buy the bike.

2.  John Stamstad.  Stamstad was a hero of mine, due to his status (at the time) as the premier long-distance mountain biker on the scene.  Stamstad was famous for living on doughnuts and sugary drinks, while belting out huge rides and winning races, such as the Iditarod, while living in the back of his pickup truck.

One day, he realized that there was no World Record for consecutive miles mountain-biked during a 24-hour period.  So, true to his form, JS decided to set such a record, just so there would be a benchmark.  What bike did he choose for the 24-hour ride?

Yep, the Bridgestone XO-1, weird handlebar and all.  He rode the XO-1 352 miles, that day, off-road.

I met John at the inaugural Leadville 100 bike race, and tried to be cool about it.  But, I imagine that I came across as a weird fan-boy, anyway.  Oh, well...

Anyway, I couldn’t afford an XO-1 then, so I figured that I would get one later, after the depreciation set in and made them affordable.  Alas, that was not to be.  Nice examples, today, sell for 1.5 to 2 times the price of the bike when it was new.

So, I bought a Handsome XOXO frame, recently, and built it up.  I have outlined the build, elsewhere, so I won’t repeat it here.  But, I will say that I built it up to resemble an XO-1 which had been bought new, then upgraded, gradually, through the years, a piece here...a piece there.

The Handsome is an homage to the Bridgestone, and my particular bike is an homage to my favorite Bridgestone rider.

Now, to wear it out like Stamstad would!  (Good luck!)


Tuesday, August 9, 2011


One-piece cranks, like you commonly see on cheap American bikes and lower-end bmx bikes are "Ashtabula" cranks.  The flat-bladed forks found on the old Schwinns are known as "Ashtabula forks", too.

Why?  Well, for one thing, the older versions on the Schwinns were made in Ashtabula, Ohio, by the Ashtabula Bicycle parts Company.  Their parts were so prevalent, back in the day, that the name Ashtabula became the generic name for such parts, much like "Kleenex" became the generic for facial tissue.

An odd little footnote in bicycling history:  Ashtabula built one of the earliest (some say the first) complete bmx bikes available, in the mid-1970s.

While we now think of Ashtabula parts a cheap and heavy, but the actual "Ashtabula" parts were well-known for high quality and durability, back in the day.  Of course, they were also heavy like a boat anchor...


Monday, August 8, 2011

Cycle Song

Quick, sing a song about a bicycle.  I know you can.  So many songs have been recorded by so many artists, it's hard to think anyone would not know at least one.

"Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do..." sang HAL, the rogue computer in 2001, A Space Odyssey, a line from a song most commonly known as A Bicycle Built For TwoQueen sang of a Bicycle Race, and even exhorted the Fat Bottom Girls to "Get on your bikes and ride!"

Kraftwerk gave us Tour de France,  and bands a s diverse as Pink Floyd and Red Hot Chili Peppers sang of human-powered two-wheelers.

One of these days, I'll make the modern equivalent of a mix-tape (a playlist on my iPod) consisting of nothing but bike songs...


Sunday, August 7, 2011

On High

Tony and I stopped for a breather as we came down the Portal Trail.  There was a slab of rock, where we stopped, that cantilevered off the side of the cliff face we were traversing.  So I lay down on it, and put my chin on my hands, looking over the edge of the rock at the road, 300 feet below.

Tony lay down beside me, and was also watching the cars go by.

"We're like gods, up here,"  I said.

"What do you mean?" Tony asked.

"Well, " I said, "we know that those people in those cars exist.  And, we know where they are.  They may believe that we exist, that cyclists are riding on this trail, but they can't prove it."

"Yeah," Tony mused, "we are theoretical to them, and they are factual to us."

"Ten-four," I said, in the manner of the Greek gods, on Olympus.  "Let's ride."

And so, we continued on, in all our glory...


Saturday, August 6, 2011


Sometimes, things happen for a reason, even if we don't see it at the time.  Two lines of continuity cross, and a confluence occurs to produce a certain result.

One day, I happened to buy a kid's bike in a package deal.  I didn't need the bike, and I told the guy that he could keep it, if he wanted, but he insisted that I take it.

I put that bike in my storage building, and pretty much forgot about.

A couple of months l repaired  a bike for an acquaintance at the coffee shop, when he mentioned that his little boy needed a bigger bike.  Unfortunately, times were a little tough, and he was having to save up some money to get the new bike.

I went out to the storage building, and pulled out that kid's bike, and showed it to Dad.

"Would that work?"  I asked.

"Yeah," he said.  "What do you need for it?"

I told him to bring his little boy with him, when he picked up his repair, and we would figure it out.

The day came, and Dad and son showed up.  I pulled Dad's bike out, and we settled up.  Then, I pulled out the little bike.

"Try this out," I said to the 6-year-old.

"Really?" he asked, looking at Dad.

The look on his face, when his dad told him to take a ride, was priceless.  But, it didn't even compare to the look he gave me when I told him that his dad had bought the bike for him, and he cold take it home with him.

"I didn't pay you for that," Dad said, as his son took another spin on the bike.

"No, but your boy paid me plenty," I told him.

I like that kind of profit on a deal.


Friday, August 5, 2011

Movie Bikes

I hate it when bikes in movies do stupid, unrealistic stuff. The scene in Breaking Away, where Dave drafts the 18-wheeler at 55 mph, yet is riding in his small chainring, comes to mind. 

But, the worst example is probably that of the bicycle in Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid.  Not only does Butch, who has never seen a bicycle before, master not only riding, but he masters riding with Etta Place on the handlebars, the first time he ever gets on a bike.  Pretty quick on the uptake for a western outlaw, that Butch...

How about the magic Raleigh track bike in Quicksilver?  I would love to have a fixed gear bike which magically gains a freewheel whenever I want to ride down some steps.

Just like movies about musicians, written and directed by the tone-deaf, movies featuring bicycles would certainly benefit from some expert consultants on the set.


Thursday, August 4, 2011


Well, actually, just lights.  Specifically, I am thinking about bike lights, and how far they have come in the past 30 years.

My first bike lights, in the late 1970s,  were a set of bottle generators, with a headlight mounted on one, a tail light on the other.  One of the generators mounted to the fork tube of my Triumph 10-speed, and the tail light generator mounted to the seat stay.  They were both sensitive to the speed at which the tire turned the generator, so they got dimmer as you slowed down, and winked off completely when you stopped.

In the mid to late 80s, I had battery-powered headlight which was a diving flashlight equipped with a handlebar clamp.  It ran off of 2 D-cells, and was quite a bit brighter than the generator light ever hoped to be.  Still, the bulb was a 6-watt incandescent unit, and it was more of a "be seen by" light than a "see other things by" light.

In the 90s, halogen bulbs came on the scene, and rechargeable alkaline batteries appeared in bottle cages across the land.  The lighting increased exponentially, but so did the cost. 

Now, I have a light with LED bulbs and a Lithium-ion battery which runs for 17 hours, continuously, on low beam.  It has a strong beam, and I thought it was just about perfect, until the first 24-hour race I used it in.  Guys with lights only a year or two newer than mine would come up behind me, and I would cast such a shadow in the the beam of their lights that I couldn't see the trail (all while my light was still on!).

Five dollar LED flashlights, which run on 3 AAA batteries outshine even the best lights of the 1980s, now.  It really makes me wish I could travel back in time to the times when we did a lot of off-road trail rides...


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Snow Busines Like Snow Business

I pedal along and I think to myself that there can be nothing better. The temperature is quite a few degrees below zero (F) and nobody has yet ventured out in their cars.

My tires cut the first tracks through the snow, and my breath fogs the morning air.  Nothing else interferes with my cognition...nothing exists other than the cold and the snow.

I think to myself, "I can't wait until Summer, so I can ride in the warm air..."

And I continue on, my tires crunching through the now.

"I know that I will miss this, when the sweat is pouring down my face," I think...

But, I am wrong.  I find myself riding through the heat, six months later, and I don't miss the cold, at all.

Screw the cold weather.  I am a hot-temp kind of guy!  No...wait..Screw the hot weather...

Aw, man!  Maybe I just like riding a bike...


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Man's Best Friend

Bill had disappeared around a turn, a few turns before I hit the whoop-de-doo on the Jeep trail just a bit too fast.  My Manitou 2 fork bottomed out, and my body weight was thrown forward.  I felt the rear wheel lift off, and I knew that things were about to go pear-shaped.

Time can disappear during a crash, leaving you wondering just what the hell happened.  Or, time can slow down, and flow forward slowly, like cold molasses on a winter's day.  That's what happened, during this particular crash.

I felt my rear-end leaving the seat, as the bike's rear-end left the trail.  My shoes unclipped from the pedals, and I began what seemed like a slow rotation around the handlebar grips.  The gravel and roots on the trail stood out in sharp relief from the dirt surface, as I contemplated which ones I was going to land on, and how much that was going to hurt.

I finally managed to let go of the grips, as my feet went over my head. I was flying along above the front wheel, momentarily.  Then, the bike flipped away to one side as I continued to rotate through the air.  I was dreading the landing and, at the same time, wishing it would just happen and that all of this could be over with.

Finally, after what seemed like minutes but was, probably, no more than two or three seconds, I landed on my right shoulder with crushing force.  Things sped up a lot, just then, but I still heard the crack as the shoulder separated and dislocated.  It was neither a pleasant sound, nor a pleasant feeling.

I rolled and tumbled for a few yards, and ended up lying on my back, in a huge rut in the trail.  My head was downhill from my feet, and black things were flying through my field of vision.  I tried to get up, but the pain in my shoulder prevented me from doing so.

After a few seconds, I saw Bill's dog, Avalanche, running down the trail.  We had left her behind, when we hit the downhill, and she was just catching up with me.  I was happy to see her.  Just having a dog there, some companionship as I tried to figure out what to do, would be a big comfort.

Avalanche saw me, and slightly altered her route down the trail to come to me.  Good old Avalanche!  Here she came, running right to me, to give me show her concern... to...jump right over me like I was a log and keep on running down the trail!

Damn dog!

I finally manged to get on my feet, but I couldn't even pick my bike up, much less ride it, with my shoulder throbbing.  My arm was hanging at an odd angle, and I knew I had to do something to get my shoulder back together.

I remembered seeing Clint Eastwood pop his shoulder back into place, in some movie, by tying his belt to a tree, wrapping the belt around his wrist, and throwing his weight backward.  Seemed simple enough, except I didn't have a belt.  So, I just grabbed hold of a sapling, and jerked my body backward.

Let me tell you something about people in movies:  They feel no pain when they are pretending to do something like pop a wayward humerus back into its socket, so they don't scream like a little girl react the way I did when it pops back into place.

I fell to my knees, and tried to not throw up.  Eventually, my vision cleared, and the pain in my shoulder reduced to a dull throb.  I picked up my bike, and headed downhill, a lot more slowly, where I met Bill, who was heading back up to see where I was.

That shoulder still bothers me, 18 years later, and I have to get the occasional steroid shot to keep it working.  But, I survived, and came out tougher on the other side of that crash.

I never did really care much for that dog, after that, though.


Monday, August 1, 2011

Take The Long Way Home

A couple of years ago, I made it a habit to go on night rides, once a week, during the summer.  I would usually send out an e-mail to my friends, in case someone wanted to go with me, but I rarely got any takers.

One particular evening, on the way home from riding around downtown Denver, I stopped off at The Handlebar and GrillThe Handlebar was one of my favorite restaurants, as much for the bicycle-themed decor as for the food (which was good).  Alas, The Handlebar and Grill is no longer around...

Anyway, I stopped in for a beer at the bar, on the way by.  That was not an unusual thing, after the night rides.  What was unusual was that I ended up getting into a joke-telling contest with the bartender, and a big discussion about bourbon whiskey with a couple of fellow patrons.

This led to much sampling of bourbons, and much hilarity before I finally headed home.

The restaurant was only about 4.5 miles from my house, just on the other side of Washington Park.  I would bet that I increased that 4.5 miles to about 8 or 9 miles, what with all of the weaving back and forth down the street.

I made it a point to avoid that level of imbibing on a ride, from then on...