Friday, September 30, 2011

Slurry Up!

The Buffalo Creek Fire had been burning for a week, or so, when Bill and I decided to go check it out.  No, we didn't drive over to the fire area and get in the way of the emergency vehicles and personnel.  We watched it from our mountain bikes.

At that time, mountain bikes were welcome on the trail going up Devil's Head, and we often rode it.  On this particular occasion, we took the fork in the trail which takes you to the western side of the mountain, rather than going to the ranger's cabin. 

There, on the back side of the mountain, we were looking toward the fire area, only a few miles distant.  As we settled in on a rock outcropping, we saw a plane approaching.

"I think that's a slurry-bomber," Bill said, pointing.

As if to confirm this, the pilot released a load of orange fire-retardent, and banked toward us.  He flew by, not much higher than our perch on the side of the mountain.  We waved, but I'm pretty  sure he couldn't see us.

We sat and watched the slurry bombers until it was too dark for them to fly.  From where we sat, after the sun was down, the fire had a lurid otherworldly appearance.

"I bet that's what Hell looks like," I said to Bill.

"I hope I never find out," Bill answered, as we both picked up our bikes to leave.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Missed Opportunity

I was riding along on my 1975 Yamaha XS-650, one fine summer day, rounding the curve on I-225, approaching Parker Road.  I had been living in Colorado for almost a year, and I was beginning to find my way around the Metro Denver area a little better. 

I had found a newsstand/magazine store, in Aurora, which carried some obscure British motorcycling magazines, underground comix and other things of interest.  I was headed back home from there on the motorcycle when I saw the truck.

I was in the right-turn-only lane, about to peel off onto Parker Road when a one-ton Chevy truck, with stock-sides mounted to the bed, went by in the left lane.  The bed of the truck was heaped with scrap metal, and it was obvious that it was on the way to the recyclers.

There was a variety of metal jammed into the truck.  There were bed frames, air-conditioner covers, pipe, car parts and sundry other bits and bobs gleaned from the dumpsters around town.  And, right on top of the pile, were two vintage bikes which looked to be honest-to-goodness Schwinn Stingrays.

I briefly considered swerving back into the through traffic and chasing the truck down to try and buy the bikes.  But, I was past the point of no return on the exit, and I wasn't sure they were really Schwinns.

That was 18 years ago, and I still wish I had chased that truck down...


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Walking the Dog

I know that there are products for walking the dog while you ride the bike.  I think they are a bit goofy, and probably more that a little dangerous, despite the "safety features" which the manufacturers tout in their literature.  But even those products would be better than what Val tried, one time.

I walked outside just in time to see Val swing her leg over her bike.  She had Dave's leash looped around the stem of the bike.

"What do you think you are doing?" I asked, incredulous.

"Well, I can't walk him, so I'm going to ride with him.  It will be like having a motor on the hills."

Now, the problem that Val had with walking Dave, a 115-pound Yellow Lab mix, was that he would drag her down the dirt road until he was tired.  Val would dig her heels in, screaming at Dave to stop, and he would pull her along in the gravel as though she was water-skiing.

"I don't think this is a good idea,"  I said.

"You just think you're so much smarter than me!"

"No, I'm sure you're smarter than I am,"  I said.  "I just doubt your common sense, sometimes."

She turned away in a huff, and said to Dave, "Let's go!"

At that point, Dave took off like a bat out of hell.  Val made it almost to the end of the drive, with the rear brake locked and the bike fishtailing under her, before she fell off.

Dave didn't even slow down.  Val's bike tumbled merrily along at the end of his leash as the big dog took off down the road.

Luckily, he saw something in the trees that he wanted to chase;  perhaps a fox or a squirrel.  The bike caught between two trees and stopped Dave dead in his tracks.

After I checked to make sure Val was unhurt, I retrieved the dog and the bike.  Other than chewed up grips and a ripped seat on the bike, both of them were likewise none the worse for wear.

Val stomped into the house, as I put her bike up and unleashed Dave.  I was glad that she did, because I was barely able to hold the laughter back until the door closed behind her.

Laughing while she was still outside probably would not have been a good thing...


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

You Can't Go Home, Again (Very Easily...)

The time came that Wes and I needed to head home.  We kissed the girls goodbye (repeatedly), and took off.

We rode across the highway, and into the neighborhood behind the Magic Mart store.  About a quarter mile down the road, we turned left and headed over toward Harbert Drive.  We had avoided Harbert on the way out, because it has a lot of traffic (by Savannah, Tennessee standards, anyway), but we were in a hurry to get back.  Time was ticking down on the bike I had borrowed.

Jeff had asked me to get his bike home by 4:00.  I didn't realize it, at the time, but he wanted the bike back before his dad got home from work.  Mr. Holland was apparently not too hip to loaning stuff out.

Wes and I turned right onto Harbert Drive.  I stood up on the pedals and cranked hard, to accelerate down the slight slope.  As I pedaled, the rim spun slightly in the tire and the valve stem ripped out of the under-inflated tube.

Well, neither of us had a spare tube.  Or a wrench to remove the wheel.  Or a pump.

So, we walked the couple of miles home.  It took a while, pushing a bike with a flat tire, and it was well after 4:00 when we walked into my driveway.  We also walked into a firestorm.

Mr. Holland was there, almost frothing at the mouth because I had "taken" Jeff's bike.  Apparently, Jeff didn't want to get in trouble for letting me use his bike, so he threw me under the bus and told his dad that I had forced him to let me take it.

It took about a half-hour  to get everything straightened out, during which time I was alittle concerned that my daddy and Jeff's were going to duke it out.

Finally, Jeff told his dad the truth.  To his credit, Mr. Holland did apologize to me (and Daddy) for the whole big thing.  But, Jeff and I never really hung out, too much, after that.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Look Over There!

When we were in the 7th and 8th grades, my best friend Wes and I had girlfriends who were, themselves, best friends.  We had our motorcycles, but no license, so we were not allowed to ride them to the girls' neighborhood.  Because of that, we had a hard time getting together with the girls, except on "date nights".

One day, Wes was at my house (he lived on the other side of the river, so we spent a lot of weekends at each other's houses), and we struck upon a plan to go see the girls.  We got Joy's bike out of the storage building, and aired up the tires.  Then, we went over to Jeff Holland's house to borrow his 10-speed. 

Jeff was fine with it, so we took off, with Wes on Joy's bike (this was before I destroyed it, riding off-road) and I on Jeff's.  We told Jeff that we would back in about three hours.

As we rode, Wes and I were goofing around like we alays did, and the 2 or 3 miles to the highway went quickly.  It would have been a lot closer, but we sort of wound our way through the neighborhoods to stay off of the "busy" roads.

After we crossed the highway (which was why we couldn't take the motorcycles:  we weren't allowed to cross the highway on them), we entered the parking lot of a grocery store.

Suddenly, Wes, on my left, pointed to the right, making the universal sign for "Look at that!", and I turned my head to look.  Unfortunately, Wes was trying to tell me to turn right, not look right, and he turned across in front of me, whereupon I ran right over him.

He went down in a heap, on the pavement, scuffed his jeans up, tore his shirt and bloodied his elbow.

Wes was very picky about his appearance.  He was a good-looking kid, and always had his clothes just so.  He was so upset about his torn shirt that he wanted to turn around and go home.  I, however, was really in the mood for a little snogging with the girlfriend.

"Trade shirts with me,"  I said.


"Yeah.  I can deal wit the torn shirt.  Nobody will even notice, on me." And, that was true.  I was as bad, then, as I am now about wearing stuff well past its usable life...

So, we swapped shirts and headed over to his girl's house, where both of our sweeties were waiting.

That was probably my first official action as a wing-man.

Tomorrow:  The ride home!


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Some Bikes Are Just Goofy

Case in point:  The Gary Fisher Grateful Edition.  TREK took a $450 Gary Fisher mountain bike and stuck some tacky GF-themed decals on it and set the retail price at $799 (as I recall).  It was a really expensive set of decals, that's for sure.

Yet, when we went to the Interbike Show in Vegas that year, I kept my mouth shut about how goofy the bike was.  At least, I did during the time that I was talking to Fisher, himself, and Bob Weir, from The Dead, about the bike.  It seemed like it would be pretty rude of me to talk smack about the bike to those two guys.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Devil's Churn

When Val and I visited Joy and Steve, back in the early 90s, we spent a few days touring the coast of Oregon.  One day, we drove to the top of Cape Perpetua, the highest point on the coast.  From the top, we could see Devil's Churn, a pretty impressive little feature on the shore, where incoming waves flow up a natural channel in the rock and then explode violently upward at the end.

We were going to drive down to the Churn, after taking in the view from the top of the Cape.  We were looking for whales, since that spot is known as a good place to see them swim by.  I didn't spot any whales, but I did spot a trail which led down to the Devil's Churn.

"I think I'll ride my mountain bike down that trail and meet you guys there,"  I told the other three.

"You can't,"  Steve said.  "No bikes allowed.  Hiking only."

He pointed at a sign I had not seen, which stated the facts he had just told me.

"Well, then, I think I'll run it.  I should get down there about the time you guys do."

So, we arranged where to meet at the State Park, below, and I took off running. 

The trail headed obliquely down the slope, and entered the woods not far from the top.  I ran along at an easy pace, as I enjoyed the uncharacteristically warm, sunny weather.  The shade of the trees and the downhill slope added to my enjoyment.

Eventually, I rounded a corner on the trail and entered a natural arbor of blackberry vines.  I stopped in the green tunnel, and greedily started eating the plump, ripe berries.  I was thirsty, because I had neglected to grab my water bottle, and a little hungry, so the blackberries went down nicely.  In fact, I thought that they might possibly be best berries I had ever eaten.

About then, I heard a stirring in the bushes, and low "Hrumph".  I peered through the prickly vines and saw a large shape on the other side of the thicket.  I figured the bear on the other side was as fond of the berries as I was, and he was probably ready to defend his claim on them.

The rest of that run was probably the fastest I ever ran, for the longest distance I will ever carry that kind of speed. 

Randy is running in a trail race, this weekend, called The Bear Chase, in Bear Creek Lake State Park, outside of Denver.  I wish him luck and fair winds.

I've already run that race, myself! 


Friday, September 23, 2011

Rain Check

Valerie and I had wanted a tandem bicycle for quite a while, and I finally found a bike shop which would order one in for us.  We ended up with a Burley Rock and Roll, with flat bars and 26" wheels.  Basically, it was a mountain bike tandem, which came out of the box with slick tires for cruising on the pavement.

Out friends, Ron and Reva, decided that they needed a tandem. as well.  Ron and I rode the back road routes outlined in "Life In the Slow Lane" together, and the wives were wanting to join in.  So, R & R ended up with a TREK tandem.

The first time we all rode together, we followed the guide book for a 60 mile loop in mid-Ohio.   The day started out beautiful, but the clouds rolled in as the morning went by.  Eventually, we stopped at a transportation museum to look at the train cars, and it started raining as we toured the grounds. 

The four of us huddled under a porch roof on one of the buildings for about an hour, until we realized that the rain had set in for the long term.  It was decided that Ron and I should take his tandem back to his van, then come pick up the girls.

So, we took off, with Ron as Captain and me in the Stoker position.  Even though it was raining, we enjoyed the ride.  With the two of us on the tandem, we averaged just under 30 mph on the way back to the car.

I have to say, I enjoyed that part of the ride much more than the normal part.  Even though we were soaking wet by the time we got to the van, both of us were stoked by the quick pace we had maintained.

We picked up the girls, still happy from the wet sprint, only to find that neither of them planned on ever riding more 10 miles from the house, again.

I often think that that ride might well have been the first step toward divorce for Val and me.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Fish Ain't Bitin'

I was riding back down the access road at Waterton Canyon, one fine day, watching the fly-fishermen swing their rods.  Eventually, I pulled up at one spot to watch a guy cast, for a while.

From where I was, on the road above the river, I could see all the way to the bottom of the riverbed.  The guy fishing had a much more oblique angle, of course, and could only see the surface of the water.  That meant that he couldn't see what I could see;  three big trout hanging out on the downstream side of some rocks.

I sat on my bike, watching the fisherman's fly land 10 feet to one side of the three fish, over and over.  I considered telling him where the trout were hanging out, but I was enjoying watching them hold their position against the current.

Eventually, the guy plopped his lure down a few feet from the biggest of the three fish.  The fish swam toward it, seemingly sniffed it, then swam away from the fly and back to his original position.

I got back onto the seat of my mountain bike and continued on.  I wish, sometimes, that I was as savvy as that old trout had been, when it comes to passing up the fish hooks that life casts toward me.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Flippin' Gilpin

The winter that I worked at Campus Bicycles was pretty cold and snowy.  I was living over at Orchard and Parker Road, so my commute was about 15 miles in each direction.  I mostly rode the Surly Cross-Check, especially in the snow.

I was in the habit of leaving the apartment early enough that I could swing over to Kaladi Brothers for a latte, on the way by.  I would turn north off of Iliff at High Street, then swing west onto Warren, and then north to Evans on Gilpin Street.

One particular day, I rolled up to the stop sign at Warren and Gilpin, and suddenly found myself on the ground, seeing stars.  I had hit a patch of black ice, and fell so quickly that I didn't even have a chance to brace for the landing.

I got up, and almost fell as I stepped toward my bike.  That was one slick patch of black ice.

The next day, I was forewarned, and I slowed as I approached Gilpin.  I was very careful about the ice I suspected was still there.

I fell again, anyway.  That was some slick ice!

On the third commute of the week, the next day, I finally got smart and turned at the alleyway before Gilpin, which takes you right to the door of Kaladi Brothers.  To this day, I still take the alley, even in the summertime.

It still makes me nervous to approach that stop sign at Flippin' Gilpin...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


"I can't believe that guy is riding a motorcycle on this trail!  Doesn't he know this is for bicycles?!"

I looked at the guy standing next to me.  He had just ridden onto the SlickRock Trail, from the Sand Flats parking lot, and stopped next to me as I watched a guy on a GasGas trials bike climbing around on a rock outcropping.

"Actually,"  I said, as I looked back at the motorbike, "this is a motorcycle trail that we are riding bicycles on."


"Yep," I continued.  "These trails were laid out in the 1960s by guys riding motorcycles:  Triumphs, BSAs...bikes like that.  And, that was all you saw out here until the early 80s, when the mountain bikes started showing up.

Just be glad that they were more tolerant of us than you are of them."

At that, I clipped in and rode off, as I waved to the motorcyclist.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Equipment Failure

As Brad rode along on his single-speed, he picked up a Remora.  Like the parasite fish who attaches himself to a shark, riders on racing bicycles who suck your wheel on the bike path take advantage of your strength in order to make their lives easier.  It is bad manners to draft without an invitation.

Eventually, Brad dropped his pace a bit, forcing the other rider to either slow down, or pass.  The Remora blew by, without so much as "Howdy", and forged ahead.  At this, Brad stepped on the gas, planning on returning the favor and drafting off of the inconsiderate rider.

Just then, an errant shoestring wrapped itself around the axle of one of his flat pedals, and forced Brad to coast to a halt so that he could disentangle himself.  The Remora faded into the distance, and Brad continued on his way.

Dang laces...


Like Wearing a Kilt

Tony and I were getting ready to go for a ride, and he went into the tent to change into bike shorts and a jersey.  I stepped behind the truck, stripped down, pulled on my shorts and threw my clothes on the tailgate. 

As I sat on the tailgate, in my bike shorts, lacing my shoes, Tony emerged from the tent.  He gave me an odd look, and started fiddling with his bike.  I pulled on my jersey, and Tony gave me another sideways glance.

"What is it?"  I asked him.  He obviously had something on his mind.

"He looked at my pile of clothes, on the tailgate of the truck, and asked,"Are you not wearing underwear?"

"Well, no,"  I said, a little confused.  "I've got my bike shorts on."

Then, it dawned on me.

"Do you wear underwear with bike shorts?"  I asked him.

"Yeah..."  he said.  "Aren't you supposed to?"

I had been riding with Tony for years, at this point.  He was a really skilled rider, a former pro BMX racer.  And, that was the problem.  The BMX guys raced in long pants, much like their motorcycle-racing counterparts, with no chamois. 

So, they wear underwear beneath their racing pants.

I explained to Tony the purpose of the chamois (it keeps the seams of the shorts from chafing you, mainly), and told him that he should try riding with just the shorts.

He went back into the tent, and re-emerged a couple of minutes later.  I could tell, by the look on his face, that he wasn't sure riding Commando-style was a good idea.

We rode for a few hours, and ended up back at camp.  As we were getting off of the bikes, Tony turned to me.

"Y'know...I was a lot more comfortable on the bike,"  he said. 

I think he thought I was kidding him, until he actually rode in just his bike shorts and found out how they worked, first-hand (so to speak).


Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Penguin

In The Blues Brothers. Jake and Elwood refer to the Mother Superior of the Catholic orphanage they grew up in as "The Penguin".

I acquired my 1910 Iver Johnson bicycle from a junk pile on the grounds of a Catholic orphanage, here in Denver, a few years ago.  I had stopped by because they were having a rummage sale, to benefit the orphans.  But, I was disappointed to see that there were no bikes for sale.

I was deep into the Grinder Bikes era of my life, and I was looking for old road bikes to convert to fixed-gear.  Unfortunately, there were none to be had at the sale.

However, I had seen a huge pile of bikes in a fenced-in area as Randy and I drove in.  So, I asked the nun in attendance if those bikes were for sale.  She told me that they had been donated to a youth-bike program that they ran at the orphanage, and I would need to talk to Mother Superior to find out if I could buy some.

She led Randy and me to the office of the Mother, and introduced us.  I explained that I was very eager to support the orphans, but I needed bikes...not the stuff that was for sale at the Rummage Sale.

We struck a deal, and I donated some money in exchange for picking a certain number of bikes out of the vast pile in the fenced area.

As I walked into the enclosed are, I saw the Iver Johnson frame sitting on top of a pile of junk metal.  I immediately threw it into the truck.

Randy sort of raised his eyebrows, so I explained to him what the frame was.

Iver Johnson was the brand that Major Taylor (the first black man to be World Champion of any sport) rode during his career in the early 20th Century.  Their road frames were recognizable by the truss-frame design (Trust the Truss, their ads said), and I had long wanted one, to compliment my high-wheeler.

I loves me some historic bicycle designs.

I worked on smoothing out the cobby repair to the broken seat tube, then had the bike powder-coated to emulate an aged copper-plate (like I had seen in a photo of an Iver Johnson track bike).  Then I built it up as a slightly-modernized fixed gear.

I call the bike "The Penguin", in honor of its origin.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Spin Doctor

Some people are spinners on a bike.  They ride in a slightly lower gear than what they could actually push, and maintain a speed by spinning more quickly.  Others are mashers, and they ride in the highest gear they can manage to push at any given speed.  They maintain their speed with muscle, rather than spin.

I am a spinner.  That's probably one reason I like riding a fixed gear.  Carol is not a spinner.

This came into play the first time we rode a tandem together.  I had borrowed the rental tandem from the shop, and the two of us rode from Parker up to the Cherry Creek Mall area, on the Cherry Creek Trail.  At one point, the trail dipped down. slightly, and went under a street.

As we headed downhill, I simply spun faster to maintain our speed, rather than shifting up to maintain our cadence.  I heard Carol go , "Whoa!"

She had been unable to keep her feet on the pedals at 120 rpm, and actually lost her footing.  I coasted and let her get her feet back into the toeclips.

"Sorry about that,"  I said.

I made an effort to remember to keep the cadence under 100 rpm, from then on.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Apocalyptic Bikes

I read quite a bit, and i always have.  My tastes are pretty catholic, and I read fiction, non-fiction, short stories, novels, the phone book...whatever.

One thing I have noticed, through the years, is that a lot of authors recognize the value of bikes as transportation, even if American Culture, at large, does not.

In the The Stand, Stephen King has a number of his characters utilize bicycles for transport on their way to Boulder.  Later, a bike allows Tom Cullen to escape Las Vegas before its destruction.

I recently re-read War of The Worlds.  I noted that, during the panicked exodus from London, the bicyclists and the motorists were out in front of the flood of humanity fleeing the Martian invaders.  The narrator's brother rides a bike out of London, on a flat front tire, lacking any other transportation after the trains have ceased running.

I've often thought that I would be riding and fixing bikes in a post-apocalyptic world.  But, where would we get new tires and tubes, or chains, to maintain them?  I can see a Road Warrior scenario where, instead of gasoline, the marauders will be after bicycle parts.

Maybe I should write that screenplay...


Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Sometimes, things go wrong with bikes, which you just can't understand.  A headset that you just adjusted comes loose withing a block of riding, or or a newly replaced tube is flat before you even get the pump stowed away. 

Usually, you can find the cause, if you look closely, though.

One of the guys in the shop came out, and quietly asked me to look at a bike in the stand.  I excused myself from the customer who had just bought the bike, and walked back.

"I don't know what's going on," the mechanic said.  "The bike was shifting fine, and now the rear shifter won't even move."

I looked at the bike, spun the cranks and tried the shifter.  Sure enough, it seemed that the shifter was frozen.  Five seconds later, I thought I knew what the problem was.

"Did you install a kickstand?"  I asked.


"Take it off and put it back on.  You clamped the cable to the frame, with the kickstand,"  I told him, as I walked out.

"You didn't even look at it!  How do you know that's the problem?" he called after me.

I had tried the shifter, and it was locked.  Then, I had pulled the cable, itself, to see if the derailleur would move.  I could see that he cable didn't move, between the bottom bracket and the derailleur, when I pulled it at the down tube.

I saw the mechanic look under the bike, and the expression on his face, when he saw the cable clamped down, let me know that he would make that mistake, again.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mission Accomplished

When I first worked at the bike shop, I was just a mechanic.  The Service Manager was a fellow named Dan.  Dan fancied himself to be a road racer, and he was real weight weenie.  He would go through tires and tubes, weigh them, and only buy the lightest ones in the shop for his bike.

One day, I rode my Schwinn World Sport to work.  I had just gotten a set of small commuter panniers, and I had mounted them on the bike for the first time, that day.  I rolled in to work, with the panniers full, and my lunch strapped on the rack.

"How much does all that stuff weigh?" Dan asked.

"I dunno.  Let's find out,"  I said.

I picked the loaded bike up, and hooked it onto the bike scale we had hanging from the ceiling.

"Thirty six pounds," Dan said, reading the weight from the scale.  "Looks like you succeeded in making a pretty nice bike into a pig."

"Looks like it,"  I replied, as I pulled the bike down.

I've always considered my road bikes to be beasts of burden.  I use them to carry stuff, and myself, from Point A to Point B, so the weight doesn't really bother me.  But it would bother me to not be able to carry my stuff along..


Monday, September 12, 2011

Up, Up and...Awaaaayy!

We were having our yearly tent sale, at the bike shop, and the big stripy circus tent was set up on the grassy area in front of the store.  On the sidewalk, directly in front of the store windows, we had a series of tables, covered with clothing, used parts, etc.  The sun was always a problem, in the afternoon, if you were working those tables.

Our DiamondBack rep came through for us, and loaned us her Easy-Up shelter to put over the sidewalk.  Three of us set the thing up, and I was a little nervous about the weather.

I went inside to talk to Scott.

"I'm not sure we should raise the Easy-Up, yet," I said.  "It looks like it might get stormy..."

"Ah, go ahead and put it up.  We'll tie it down, later."

Fifteen minutes later, a sudden thunder shower bore down on us.  Before we could even get outside, a gust of wind picked the Easy-Up off the ground, and it flew about 15 feet up into the air, as it headed north across Cottonwood Drive.  It barely missed a couple of cars which were driving by as it crashed into the parking lot of the bank across the street.

Needless to say, Caroline (the rep) was not too well pleased when she saw the bent struts on her brand-new shelter, the next day.


Sunday, September 11, 2011


One year, when Tony and I were racing the Winter Park Series on a regular basis, there was a racer who sorta annoyed me on a regular basis.  He was swapping 1st and 2nd overall point standings with another guy, throughout the season, so he was obviously a serious racer (unlike me).

So, he was very aggressive out on the course, and pretty unpleasant to ride around.  He always made sure to let you know that you shouldn't be out there getting in his way, as he passed you.

In the last race of the season, the Tippererary Creek point to point (28 miles long), he got away off the front, and I figured I wouldn't see him again, until I got to the finish line.  I was surprised to see him on the side of the trail, about 15 miles in, begging everybody who passed him for a chain tool.

Now, in NORBA racing, you are not allowed to accept help (or tools) from anyone else.  So, that would have technically disqualified him, anyway.  I rode on past him, with my chaintool in my seat bag, thinking that he was an idiot for not carrying his own damn tool.

He ended up in second place for the overall series, because of his oversight.  I couldn't feel too sorry for him.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Pinch Me!

Tony and I were having one of those great rides on the Porcupine Rim Trail.  Both of us were in the zone, flowing along on the trail as though we were riding down a sidewalk.  Drops, step-ups, rock gardens and all of the other challenging features of the trail passed under our wheels like smooth pavement.

I was running 50 psi, front and rear, in my tires, because I had read an article about tire design which stated that the tires I was running would actually hook up better at higher pressure than low.  So, I ran them 12 psi higher than normal just to check that theory out, and it was working like a charm.

We hit the flat, sandy stretch of singeltrack, which comes just before the trail drops down into the canyon heading to the Colorado River, and stood up to crank out a few more miles per hour.  I was in the big ring, pumping the cranks when I heard the unmistakeable sound of air escaping from a tube.


My front tire got squirrelly, and I almost went down as I stopped.  Tony pulled up behind me.

"What's up?"

"I must have run over a cactus thorn, or something,"  I said.  "I've got a flat on the front."

I pulled the wheel, and stripped off the tire.  After I pulled the tube out, I pumped a bit of air into it, to find the hole.  I didn't find a hole, though.  I found two...snakebite

"How the hell did I get a pinch-flat, riding on sand, with 50 psi in my tire?" I asked.

"Wow, that's weird," Tony said, looking back down the trail.  "There isn't a rock on the trail for 100 yards."

I patched the tube, and put it in my CamelBack pack, and installed a new one.  Then, we took off, again.

I never did figure out how I got that flat.


Friday, September 9, 2011

I Think That Trailer Might Be Overloaded

One of the most commonly-asked questions, at the shop, when I was selling a trailer was, "What is the weight limit?"

"Well,"  I would tell them, "the manufacturer recommends 100 pounds, max..."

What I didn't tell them was that the trailer would carry many hundreds of pounds, if they wanted to pile it in.  The problem, then, became a lack of stopping power, on the bike.  The tires on bikes just don't have enough rubber on the road to safely stop a heavy load.

I know all of this, because I once pulled a Burley trailer, loaded with all of the supplies for a shop picnic (grill, charcoal, beer, food, ice, etc., for 15 people).  I think the trailer probably had 250 or 300 pounds in it, plus the 160 pounds of me on the bike.  Add in the 25 pound bike and 20 pound trailer, and I was rolling a GVW of 450 to 500 pounds...on 1,9" mountain bike tires...on a gravel road.

I didn't want to tell people that the trailer would handle more weight than recommended, because I was afraid they might be as stupid as me, and overload the thing!  I didn't want to be responsible for someone getting hurt.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

One Man's Trash...

The first bike I ever pulled out of a dumpster was Frenchy, a bright-red Gitane with the flashy foil wraparound decals.  It was in the dumpster of the apartment building that Val and I lived in when we first moved to Denver.  I never did use the frame for anything (it was too big for me) and it was hanging in the rafters of the garage when Val and I split up.  All of the parts, even the steel wheels, found a use, though.

Since then, I have pulled quite a few bikes, or partial bikes, out of dumpsters.

 I saw a handlebar sticking up out of a construction dumpster as I walked into the grocery store, one day.  When I looked inside, there was a 1992 MB-3 Bridgestone mountain bike in there, minus its front wheel.  I took it home, installed a set of wheels I had left over from a fixed-gear conversion, then sold the bike.

Once, as I rode to the coffee shop, I cut down the alley between Warren and Evans, and saw a wheel in the dumpster.  The wheel was attached to a 1980 Schwinn 5-speed cruiser, with a drum-brake rear wheel.  I rescued it, built a front drum-brake wheel for it, and installed a girder fork.  It belongs to one of the baristas at the coffee shop, now.

Another time, I was walking up the alley to look at a garage sale, and I saw a handlebar in the dumpster a couple of houses down.  It was on a crappy old department store bike, but the bar and stem were cool, vintage, French Tourist models.  As I wheeled it back to to my truck, the guy at the yard sale said, "I knew I should have pulled that out and sold it!"

"Yep," I replied, as I strolled by.

Why do people throw good things away?  I don't know, but I'm not too proud to rescue them!


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

That Weird Guy Down the Block

"Hey, mister," the kid said, "I have a flat tire.  Would you fix it for me?"

I had become that weird guy down the block, always working on bicycles in the driveway, and all of the kids in Pataskala, Ohio, knew me.  They would come by with non-functional brakes, squeaky chains, and all of the other ills that kid bikes are prey to, and I would fix 'em up and send them on their way.

I had a different attitude about flats, though.

"I won't fix it for you," I said, and the kid's face fell.  "But, I'll help you fix it."  He cheered up, again.

So, I got out the necessary tools and a patch kit, and I had the kid pull his wheel off, dismount the tire, and pull out the tube.  Then, we got a bucket of water and the pump, and he found the hole.  After that, I walked him through the patching process.

Once it was all done, it had taken about 5 times as long to finish up than it would have if I had just patched his tube for him. But, the kid rode off with a new experience, and a certain amount of pride in having fixed it, himself.

I am still stunned that people go to bike shops and pay good money to have someone else fix their flats.  Maybe they need to look that kid in Pataskala up, and ask him how to do it...


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Why I Changed Powder Coaters

I had used the same powder coat company for 10 years before I finally decided I had to find someone else.  I had sent a few bikes to them, over the course of six months, which came back with problems.  The powder would have runs in it, or the the flat faces of the head tube and seat tube would have a thick layer of powder coat which I would have to trim off.

One of Brad's frames came back with so much powder on it that you could barely see the lugs!

Then, I sent a Bianchi frame to them for a coat of red.  It took three weeks to get it back, and when I did...the damn thing was Kelly Green!  That's about as far from the color I had picked out as you can get, on the color wheel.

One thing I just cant't abide is a color-blind powder coater.


Monday, September 5, 2011

Boom Town

I had decided to just install a new tube in my ten-speed, because I has already patched the tube in the rear wheel about four times.  I was hoping that it was just a bad tube, and replacing it would stop the run of flats I had been having as I rode back and forth across the college campus, going to class.

I levered the old tire off, stripped out the tube, and intalled the new one.  As soon as I got the tire on, I noticed that the pump was not sitting where I kept it.  I looked all over the dorm room, and couldn't find it.  I figured Wes had probably loaned it to someone, so I took the wheel and threw it in the car.

I was going to town, so I thought I would just stop at the Shell station next to the UT-Room Restaurant and use their air hose.

I pulled in, and the attendant walked out.

"I don't need any gas, today,"  I told him.  I filled up there, pretty often.  "I just need to air up my tire..."

I pulled the bike wheel out, and showed it to him.

"I'll get that for you,"  he said, and took it out of my hand.

Before I could stop him, he jammed the hose onto the valve and let 'er rip.  Of course, the high-volume capacity air hose blew the tire right off the rim, since he didn't ease a bit of air into it to seat the bead.

BOOM!  There went my brand-new tube.

The grease monkey just handed the wheel back to me, turned around and walked away.  I was so mad, I just got in the car and drove away.  Had I stayed, I would have ended up in jail by the time I was through.

I went to school there for another four and a half years.  I never spent another penny at that Shell station.


Sunday, September 4, 2011


Over in the Rampart Range, near Devil's Head Mountain, is one of my favorite mountain bike descents, anywhere.  It is a single-track we referred to as "The Luge Trail", because heads downhill a snaking, sunken trough with banked turns that looks like an Olympic luge run, minus the ice.

One day, I decided to shoot a video of riders coming down the Luge Trail, at speed.  The only problem was, I only had one video camera (a huge RCA VHS camera), so I couldn't set cameramen up at every turn to capture the whole run.

So, I got Jesse and Brad to be the riders, and I shot the whole trail by waiting at a turn, then filming them from the time they came into view until they went out of sight.  Then, they would stop, head back uphill a ways as I set up at the next good vantage spot, and we would repeat the ride-by, there.

In this way, we made our way down the trail, until it spit us out into the valley below Devil's Head. 

When it was done, the video was really good.  The jump-shots from turn to turn captured the feeling of the flowy trail as the guys went by the camera at speed, kicking up rooster tails of gravel and dust as they blew through the turns.

I was glad it turned out well, because it was a royal PIA to shoot.  It took over an hour and a half to get down the trail, shooting video, and the finished product was, as i recall, just over eight minutes long!

I wish I had a copy of that video, on dvd.  But, all of my self-shot videos ended up disappearing from the bike shop, at one time or another, and now I have none of them.  We didn't have YouTube, and such, back in those days, so hard copies were all we had, and now they are gone...


Saturday, September 3, 2011

I'm Such a Sissy

Since I have Taylor Davis on my mind, today:

One day, when I was 15, I was riding my Suzuki TS-100 around town when I decided to follow a trail, which I had never noticed, which led off of the street I was on and into some woods.  As I rode along, I saw some guys on 20"-wheeled bikes (Buzz Bikes and Stingrays) knocking around.  I pulled up close to them, and saw that one of them was Taylor Davis.

At this time, I mostly knew Taylor through association with Johnny.  I had never really been around him, on his own, and really didn't know much about him.

We talked for awhile, sitting beside the trail, as the guys he was riding with knocked around a bit.

Presently, one of those guys said to Taylor, "We're going to the drop-off," and then the other guys rode away.

"What's the drop-off?" I asked Taylor.

"Follow me, and I'll show you," he said.

So, I followed him about an eighth of a mile, and stopped at the top of a dirt bluff.  The trail dropped off of the bluff and followed the fall-line straight down to a bumpy, gravelly run-out.  The drop was near-vertical, and probably 25 feet from top to bottom.

"You gonna ride that?" I asked Tay.

"Sure," he said, as he pedaled forward and dropped off the edge. 

The transition was sudden enough, virtually a 90 degree angle at the lip, that Tay had to hop his rear wheel up a bit to keep the chainring from hitting the edge.  It was a trick we all routinely employed at the skate park, years later, but I had never seen anyone do it before that day.

He rode his bike out through the run-out area,and skidded to a halt.  Then he looked up at me, and yelled, "Come on down!"

I just shook my head, waved my goodbyes, and turned back, the way we had come.  I knew that if I dropped off that edge on the motorbike, I would bottom the exhaust pipe out on the lip and end up tumbling ass over teakettle down the face of the bluff.  So, I swallowed my pride and rode away.

But, I rode away with a new respect for Taylor.  And, I date the start of my friendship with him to that day.

He's been gone for two years (plus a couple of weeks), now.  When I think of him, out of the blue, I almost always see him, in my mind's eye, flying down the "drop-off" on his Buzz Bike, like it was nothing.


Friday, September 2, 2011

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

In June of 2002, I was living in a garden-level apartment over on Lincoln, and working part-time at Treads in Englewood.  The shop was only about a mile and a half from where I lived, so I usually rode the bike down there, after getting off work at federal Highways.

On the 8th of that month, I drove home, changed clothes, and jumped on my KHS fixed gear to ride to the shop.  As I rode along, I noticed a weird quality to the light, which I had not noticed through the windshield of the truck.  I looked up, and saw the sun in the sky.  Oddly, though, I could stare right at the sun without any discomfort.

By the time I got close to the shop, ash was filtering down out of the sky. Nuclear winter?

No, it was a forest fire: The Hayman Fire ended up being the largest fire in the recorded history of Colorado.  It burned until almost the end of July, and limited our Front Range mountain biking for quite a while.

Funny how I didn't even notice anything wrong from inside the truck, but I was attuned enough to my surroundings, on the bike, to see it...


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Padded What?

When I was in college, and riding my Triumph 10-speed, I decided that some bike shorts might be a good investment.  Riding on a Brooks saddle, which was not yet molded to my rear, in cut-off jeans and tighty-whiteys had me thinking good thoughts about chamois-lined stretchy-pants.

Nowadays, buying some shorts would be a simple purchase.  Just go down to the local bike shop, and pick some up.  Or, if your shop isn't convenient, get on the internet and order some from an online vendor.  In 1979, however, it was not that simple.

There wasn't a bike shop within 100 miles of Martin, Tennessee, at that time.  And, of course, the internet was still a ways off.  (We used punch-cards in the Basic Programming class I 1982!)

So, I went to the local athletic clothing store, and asked if they could order me some bike shorts.

"We have plenty of shorts that you can ride your bike in, hon," said the lady behind the counter, as she pointed to a rack of running shorts.

"No, you don't understand,"  I replied.  "I'm looking for the shorts with the pad in the seat, made especially for they wear in the Tour de France."

"We ain't no French store," she retorted, and turned away.

As I left, I heard her talking to one of the college-aged sales clerks.  "Padded shorts!  He was looking for shorts with a diaper in 'em, or something!" she snorted.

I went to school there for 5 years, and I never set foot in that store, again, after that.

Ten years later, in Columbus, Ohio, I finally bought my first pair of bike shorts at Bike Nashbar.  I kinda wanted to drive back to Tennessee, take them into that store in Martin, and show them to that woman behind the counter.

But, I just rode my bike in them, instead.