Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Charge!

For some reason, a bunch of kids from the other end of the neighborhood showed up at The Dead-end, one day.  They were on their bikes, and we were on ours, and we didn't really feel like sharing our riding space.  A challenge was issued, and we all lined up, facing each other, with about 20 yards separating us.

I had my toy Civil War cavalry sabre, and a couple of the other guys had sticks to use as swords.  Sword-fighting was big, in the neighborhood, when I was seven.

"Charge!"  I yelled and we all accelerated, us toward the interlopers, they toward us.  We rammed into each other in the middle of the street.  A couple of bikes and riders went down, while the rest of us engaged in close-in sword-fighting.

It was all over in about 30 seconds, when one of the other kids yelled, "Ow!  That hurt!"  That seemed to take the steam out of everybody.

We all sat on the side of the road, and looked at each others' scratches and welts.  It was a short-lived war, and totally unplanned.  Kids played differently, back then, I guess.

Too bad all wars don't end so easily...
x

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Snack Envy

For a while there, I fell victim to the marketing and only carried so-call "energy bars" and such on bike rides.  They are easy to carry, and contain concentrated energy, and whatnot.  You've heard the spiel.

However, I changed my habits after one particular ride.  Bill and I had been on the trail for about three hours when we came to a nice scenic spot and decided to take a break.  I pulled out a Clif Bar, and started eating it.  Bill pulled out a ham sandwich and some cheese crackers.

I briefly considered killing Bill and eating his snack.  But, I managed to maintain control, and bummed a cracker off of him.  The salty goodness was like a side trip to Heaven.

Since then, I have made it a point to carry some savory food on long rides. 

x

Monday, November 28, 2011

Gravity: Not Just a Good Idea...

It's the LAW, son!

Back in the old days, when ESPN was a new, unproven network, they didn't have all of the major sports contracts that they have now.  And, they didn't have all of the sports talk shows and recaps and countdowns shows, etc. 

In order to fill the void between the few major sports programs they did have, the programmers at ESPN covered some fairly little-known fringe sports.  I spent many an enjoyable hour, back then, watching the World Curling Championships, Unlimited Hydroplane boat racing and such.

But, my favorite thing to watch was Gravity Bicycle Racing.  It seemed like every race they showed was in California, and they may have all been.  For all I know, that might have been the only place in the world where these guys ever raced.

The bikes were cool, custom built and low to the ground.  They looked like miniature road-racing motorbikes, without an engine.  The bikes had full racing bodywork.  And, the racers wore full leathers, and full-faced helmets.  That was probably for the best, since the bikes would hit speeds of 65 mph and higher on some of the long downhill race courses.

I don't know if there are still sanctioned downhill gravity races.  I know that I don't ever see it listed in the programming guide on ESPN, nowadays.

There seems to be a resurgence in the grass roots level of gravity racing, though.  I see some cool modified bmx framed gravity bikes, here and there, on the interwebs.  And, there are a few purpose-built custom gravity rigs floating around out there, as well.

I might have to build myself one, eventually.  We have a few hills, in Colorado.  I'm sure I could find somewhere to ride one...

x

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Accidental Profit

I once had a customer come in to Campus, looking to trade an old Centurion road bike in on a new bike.  Greg pretty much laughed in his face, and told him he should just donate it to Goodwill.  The guy turned to me and asked if I had any use for it.

"Sure," I said.  "What do you want for it?"

"Five bucks, just so I don't give it away."

I handed the guy $5.00, and rolled the bike into the back of the shop, put my name on it, and hung it up.  About a week went by, and I had almost forgotten about the bike, when another fellow came in with an old bike.

This fellow had bought an old Falcon road bike at a yard sale, and wanted me to tune it up.  Unfortunately, the frame was bent at the top tube and the downtube, the result of a frontal collision of some sort.  So, I couldn't really work on the bike, since the frame was damaged beyond safety.

I gave him the bad news, and he was crestfallen.

"Wait here," I said to him

I brought out the Centurion, and showed it to him.  It was a good fit, and it was ready to ride.

"I'll trade you,"  I told him.  "I might be able to use the parts off of your bike."

So, he went away happy, and I took the Falcon home, and stuck it into my pile of bikes.  Eventually, a year and a half later, I stripped all of the parts off of the frame, and threw it away.  I was moving into my house, and I didn't feel like moving the broken frame.

Six months later, I came across the box of Zeuss parts from the Falcon, and decided to put them on eBay.  Made in Spain, and sometimes derided as being direct copies of Campy components, Zeuss compnents are apparently highly sought after in Japan. 

Every piece I listed ended up going to the Land of the Rising Sun, and I cleared about $300.00 profit on them.

Not too bad for an accidental $5.00 trade.

x

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sometimes, A Cigar Is Just a Cigar

I have a couple of favorite rides, here in Denver.  They aren't my favorites because of where they go (they are just on the way to various places, depending on the turns you make), and it isn't because they are epic (they average about 1-1/2 miles, each).  So, why are they favorites?

Tunnels.

These rides are not along railroad grades, with holes punched through the living rock of the mountainside.  They are just rides down neighborhood streets, over-arched by trees from both sides.  As you ride down the street in the Spring and Summer, you are in a leafy tunnel of cooling shade.  Errant bits of sunlight fall through and splash on the pavement under your wheels, and the air had a green glow as though you are riding through a cloud of biofluorecscent plankton in an atmospheric ocean.

One of these rides is along Iliff Avenue, between Colorado Boulevard and University Boulevard.  It is one of my routes to the coffee shop, from my house.  Yet, I rarely ride it.  It is too close, and too easy to get to. I don't want it to become mundane, so I save it for special occasions.  Riding it as a rarity keeps it special.

Familiarity breeds contempt.  Absence makes the heart grow fonder.  Too much of a good thing is bad...for whatever reason, I don't take that route very often.

But, I know it's there if I need it.

x

Friday, November 25, 2011

Dropout

One of those things I would love to learn how to do is to build bike frames.  Specifically, I want to braze frames together, either with lugs or fillet-brazed.  So far, I have only managed to do very basic brazing.  My torch is a cheap "hobby-level" model, and I really haven't taken the time or spent the money to deal with major projects.

The first brazing job I did was on my first Formula One frame.  I cut out the tig-welded vertical dropouts and replaced them with track ends, because I wanted a fixed-gear 20"-wheeled bike.  I struggled with that conversion, and actually ended up burning a hole in the tube on the drive-side chainstay.

One problem I was having was that I was using nickle-copper brazing rod, which requires a higher heat than brass.  I didn't now that, when I bought the brazing rod, and only found out after I was having the problem with overheating the tubes. 

Nickle-copper brazing rod is made of the same alloy that U.S. 5-Cent pieces are made of (that's why we commonly refer to the 5-Cent piece as a "nickle").  So, to repair the hole I had left in the chainstay, I took a "nickle" coin and brazed it into place, then ground everything down smooth.

That frame modification held up fine for the whole time I owned that bike, and I never heard any complaints from the guy I sold it to.  About a year after I had done that work, I read somewhere that using a 5-Cent coin to patch nickle-copper brazed joints was an old trick that a lot of hot-rod builders had used, back in the day.

Since then, I have found a good source for 1/16" brass brazing rod, and that has simplified things.  I have replaced a couple of broken rear dropouts on bikes, with no problem.  But, I still need to work on my technique before I trust myself to buld a whole frame.

x

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Day Post: Why I am Thankful for Bicycles

I grew up in the South, y'all.  As such, I was locked into a lifestyle and a culture that, back in my youth, virtually excluded helthy excercise from an adult man's life.

Oh, sure, if you worked manual labor you might stay fit, but even ditch diggers can grow fat on a diet consisting of beer and fried.  Just fried...no need to modify that, in the Confederacy.

So, as I grew older, and left the bicycle behind, I also grew bigger around.  By the time I was in my mid-20s, I had settled into carrying about 225 pounds around on my 5'10" frame.  I was not happy, nor was I comfortable.

When I saw a book about mountain biking, a light bulb went off in my head.  Hurt like hell, but it illuminated the idea of getting one of those cool bikes that looked so much like a motorcycle, and riding around on it to burn off some of the lethargy and avoirdupois.

So, I got a mountain bike, and started riding it around Memphis.  I remember how amazed my wife and our friends were when I rode 15 miles in one day.  Hell, I was pretty stunned, myself.

Soon after, Val and I moved to Columbus, Ohio.  I like Columbus, in great part because it was the first place I ever lived that had anything resembling a "bike culture".  At least, I wasn't looked upon as a freak because I rode a push-bike past college-age.

Eventually, I fell in love with actually riding off-road on my mountain bike.  Then, one fateful vacation later, Val and I pulled up stakes and moved out here to Colorado.  That was when the bicycle was instrumental in a huge change in my life. 

The amount of riding I had done while living in Central Ohio had "slimmed" me down to about 190 pounds.  Within a year of moving out here, I was tipping the scales at 150 pounds, and I had never felt better.  It's sad, but I hit my physical peak about 15 years late, according to statistics.

I no longer weigh 150.  I am, right this minute, closing in on 180, but I have plans to remedy that.  And, those plans involve bicycles.

As many stories as I have told about suffering through disastrous rides, or painful injury, you have to keep in mind that I honestly believe bicycles saved my life.  I figure I would have had a heart attack, or worse, by now if I hadn't fallen in love with an activity which not only thrills me, but also strengthens me and makes me healthier.

I saw pictures of my 30-year high school reunion, and I was stunned at what some of the skinny kids look like, now.

There, but for the grace of bike...

Happy Thanksgiving!

x

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Bring Yer Own, Next Time

One of the guys who rode with the club was a water mooch.  Despite me telling him (and everyone else) week after week to bring enough water for an all-day ride, he consistently showed up with two water bottles on his bike, and nothing else.  Invariably, before the day was out, he would come to me and bum some water out of my 100-ounce capacity CamelBak.

Now, I am many things, but water-mule is not one of them.

Finally, I had had enough, so I filled a water bottle and put it in my holder on the seat tube, just for this guy.

Sure enough, 3/4 of the way through the ride, he pulled up beside me and casually mentioned how he was out of water.

"Here,"  I said, handing him the bottle I had filled for him.  "Take this."

"Thanks," he said, with a smile.

He didn't smile for long as, on his first big gulp, he found that I had filled the bottle with cheap tequila.  It had a rather explosive effect on him.

"Oh, sorry,"  I said, as he retched on the side of the trail.  "I filled that one up for after the ride.  My mistake."

I then gave him a bottle of actual water, and the ride went on.

He never asked me for water, again, after that.

x

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Stability

"Yeah," the dad said, as he drug the bike out of the back of his car, "I bought this bike online, for my kid.  I got it for half what you guys charge for one..."

"So, do you have a problem with it?"  I asked him, as he set the bike on the pavement.

"My boy is having trouble riding it.  He says it's hard to balance."

I looked at the bike, then at the dad.

"Did the bike come assembled, or did you have to put it together?"

"I put it together.  I called a couple of shops and they wanted more than I spent for the bike to put it together."

"Well,'  I said, looking at the fork, which was on the bike backward, "I can see one problem with the bike.  Problem is,  because of our liability as a business, if I take it in to work on it, I am going to have to do a thorough check on to make sure it's safe.  That will pretty much constitute a major tune-up, which is $65.00."

"That's ridiculous," the dad spluttered.  "Just tell me what's wrong with it, and I'll fix it myself!"

"Well, what I can see from here is that the fork is pointing the wrong way..."

At this point, the mom got involved.  Up until this time, shae had been standing quietly beside the car.

"Pay the money, Henry!  If you put the damn fork on backward, there's no telling what else you did wrong.  I won't let Jimmy ride this thing until I know it's safe!"

I ended up basically disassembling the bike and putting it back together, again, to make it safe and ridable. 

Mom came in to pick up the bike, sans hubby.

"He's so cheap," she said to me, as we loaded the bike into her car.

"And not much of a mechanic," I thought to myself.

x

Monday, November 21, 2011

Neither Rain, Nor Snow...

When I had arthroscopic surgery on my knee, in 1996, I had some complications after the surgery.  Due to blood pooling within the knee, and clotting against the nerve trunk which goes down the leg, I spent about a week off of my feet.  While I was off my feet, I was also off of the bike.

I went back to work as soon as the doctor cleared me to stand for more than 20 minutes at a time.  I had a lot of stuff to catch up on, at the bike shop, and I was happy to be back in circulation, and out of my house.

That first morning, I decided to go get the shop's mail out of the box.  We tended to only pick the mail up every few days, because the box was on the far side of the shopping center, out of sight of the shop door.  So, we just didn't think to go get it, every day.

I started walking toward the box, and decided I didn't want to walk 40 yards there, then 40 yards back.  I eyed the shop bike, in the bike stand, and decided to go for it.  I got on the bike, and started to pedal.  Immediately, I figured out that I did not have the range of motion, in my knee, which I needed to make a full revolution of the pedal.

At least, I couldn't pedal all the way around if I was sitting down.  So, I tried standing up, and found that if I leaned my body to the left as my right foot came over the top of the pedal stroke,  I could actually pedal.  I was so happy to be back on a bike...

I got back to the shop door, with the mail, and Scott was there.

"I've never seen anyone actually limp while riding a bike,"  he said, as he took the mail from me.

"Is that right, Marshall Dillon?"  I asked in my best "Festus" voice.

I managed to stay off the bike for a few more days.  The next time I got on one, I could actually keep my butt on the saddle.  It was nice to be back.

x

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Ben Franklin Owes Me

When I was in the 4th grade, I checked out Ben Franklin's autobiography from the Calvert City Elementary School library.  I was fascinated by Franklin for many reasons, not the least of which being that he was a printer, and that always caught my imagination for some reason.  Now, in the age of word processing and desktop publishing, it might not seem as cool to kids as it did to me, then.

But, then again, it might not ever have seemed as cool to other kids as it did to me...

Anyway, at one point in his tale of growing up, old Ben tells a tale of  crossing a pond by flying a kite, then getting in the water and letting the kite pull him to the other side of the pond.  (Yes, Ben Franklin invented kite-boarding...minus the board.)  Now, I'm no swimmer, but I do love to ride a bike.

So, I decided that it would be very Franklin-cool to launch a kite, attach it to my bike, and cruise along like Bronson on his Sportster.

I waited for weeks, watching for a day when the wind was strong enough to pull me along.  At last, the day arrived.  It was March, in West Kentucky.  Basketball was in the air (as it always is, in Wes K-Y), but so was a strong west wind, howling along at about 25 mph and gusting even higher.

I got my bike and my kite, and headed for a straight stretch of road near the Country Club.  I got the kite in the air, made sure the string was pulling tight, and attached it to the stem of Big Red.

Then...nothing.  I sat on my bike, with the kite straining against the string, totally motionless. 

I'm supposing that, if you had a kite with about 100 square feet of surface area, it might pull your bike along.  But, my Batman and Robin paper kite from Ben Franklin's just didn't cut it.

Franklin, you owe me.  Next time, put a better description of your kite in the book, dammit!

X

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Dang!

I went on a night ride, one evening a few years ago, and took a hip flask of Jameson's Irish Whiskey with me.  It was a cool evening, and I thought it might be nice, at some point, to stop and have a nip to warm the old bones up, a bit.

But, I ended up stopping at a bar, instead.  I had a few nips, there, and chatted with some folks for a while.  Then, I rode home, enjoying the cool nigh air on my face.

It was the next morning before I realized that, somewhere along the way, my flask had gotten out of my pocket.  It was like the Irish whiskey inside was insulted that I had passed on drinking it, and I drank Kentucky bourbon, instead.

Dang! 

Oh, well.  I hope someone found my flask, and enjoyed the contents.  I'd hate for that much Jameson's to go to waste.

x

Friday, November 18, 2011

Bullies

Okay, I have a problem with bullies.  I went to enough primary schools, in my  youth, that I was able to profilr these guys.  And, I grew to hate them.

In the 7th and 8th grade I rode the school bus to school.  On that bus was a guy named Pete Mullins.  Pete was 16 years old and still in the 8th grade.   Looking back on it, I don't really understand why he was still in school.  Pete decided to pick on me on the school bus.  And I, having been the new kid in school on more occasions than I wanted to remember, wasn't real hip to that.

Eventually, he and I came to an impasse.

My mom was working part time at a fabric store, along with my sister.  My cousin, Jeff, was spending the week with us.   I was 13 years old, and Jeff was nine.

One day, I was asked to bring lunch to my sister at the cloth store.  So, Jeff and I rode to the fabric store on our  bikes.

As we rode along, I saw Pete Mullins step into the road, along with a kid I had never seen before.  As we rode up, I told Jeff to keep cool.  I knew that there would be trouble.


To make a long story short, Pete stepped out into the road and stopped us. He said that he was going to kick my ass.  But, in his typical backward-ass country accent  from the area, it sounded as if he was threatening to kick my "ice",

I picked up Big Red, and slammed it down on Pete's bare foot.  He jumped back, and screamed out in pain.

I got back onto the bike and rode away.

Jeff and I rode to the fabric store, and gave Joy her lunch.  Pete never confronted me again, and I forgot about him as I started riding my motorcycle to school.

Bullies...I hate them.

x

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Silver Lining

We moved out of Nashville, when I was eight years old, and lived in Gilbertsville, Kentucky, for a few months.  Then, we moved a few miles down the road to Calvert City.  I ended up going to three different elementary schools during the 4th Grade.

After the 5th Grade, we moved once again.  This time we ended up in Savannah, Tennessee.  My mom still lives there, and so did my dad until he passed way in 2010.

The last time I visited while my dad was alive, he said something along the lines of, "I think all of that moving around turned out pretty well."

I had never actually talked to Daddy about that, before.  Ours was not a family where the kids were asked what they thought about moving.  We were just told that we were going, and we went.  So, I took the opportunity to tell my dad how I really felt about that aspect of my life.

I told him that I wish that we had never left Nashville.  I think that all of that moving, and leaving people behind, stunted my ability to form lasting relationships with people.  You have to keep in mind that, in the 1960s and 70s, there was no email, or Facebook.  Long distance calls were expensive, and forbidden to 10 year olds, generally.

When you moved away, you were actually gone.  And the people you left behind were out of your life.  Now, I have a hard time maintaining any sort of long-distance relationships.

Silver lining?  The bicycle became an important part of my life in Calvert City.  I was allowed to go out, on my own, for the first time in my life and I took great advantage of that.  My parents would actually ask me the best way to get to places in town, because I had learned the shortcuts on my bike.

In Savannah, that freedom continued on, and I learned my way around town well before the old folks did.  In Nashville (Donelson, actually, a suburb), we were restricted on wehere we could go.  And, even as we grew older, we would have been limited to our own neighborhood, hemmed in by I-40 on one side, and multi-lane urban streets on the other.

I wish I had thought of that while I was talking to Daddy.  As it was, I only talked about the negatives.  And, too much of our relationship focused on the negatives.

x

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tripjacker

One of the guys I rode with, back in the day, was a serial tripjacker.  He had a habit of accepting an invitation to go on a ride and then, after everyone had met up, changing the whole trip.

"Oh, you don't want to go to Mount Falcon...I know where there's this sweet trail that's a 25 mile loop, all downhill!  You guys'll love it!"

"But," I'd say, "we only have 3 hours to ride."

"Oh, man.  It's only 20 minutes away.  It's so sweet!  You guys would rather go there, wouldn't you?"

Of course, everyone would decide to change plans, despite my objections.  Invariably, the "20 minute" drive would turn into an hour and a half, and the first two miles of the ride would involve 3000 feet of elevation gain while picking our way through baby-head rocks.

I finally got to the point that, when he would show up and change plans, I'd just make sure no one was in the truck with me, and then I'd go to the originally planned ride and ride by myself.  After a while, a couple of my friends caught on, and would jump in the truck with me.

"We'll meet you there!"  I'd call out the window of the truck as we left the parking lot.  Then, we would drive to our original destination.

Eventually, I just stopped inviting the tripjacker along, and I stopped accepting his ride invitations.

x

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Put A Lid on It

I got all the way to the far west side of Denver before I realized that I didn't have my helmet in the truck with me.  I had my mountain bike, and my shoes and gloves.  Just no helmet...

I gave it some thought, and finally decided that I could probably get away with one short mountain bike ride without a helmet.  But, I wasn't really comfortable with it.

I ride my road bike, routinely, with no helmet.  I have done more than one 100 mile loop with only a cap on my head.  But, I had never gone mountain biking without a helmet, before.   I told myself it would be okay, so long as I took it easy and just rode to be out in the woods, rather than for speed.

I got all the way to the trail head, telling myself it would be okay.  Then, I turned around and drove to a bike shop in Lakewood and bought a helmet.

I enjoyed the ride, a lot, after that.

x

Monday, November 14, 2011

In The Key of Goofy

A few years back, when I was selling fixed-gear conversions on the internet, I was a sponsor/advertiser on the The Fixed Gear Gallery.  So, I decided to attend their get-together (The Fixed Gear Symposium)in Traverse City, Michigan.

I packed my orange Peugeot into my hard-sided travel case, locked it up, and shipped it to the event location.  A few days later, I flew from Denver to Traverse City.

Since I was traveling, and catching a ride to and from the airport, I carried a keychain with only my house key on it.  I didn't want my normal wad of keys in my pocket, while riding, and I didn't want to chance losing them.

Of  course, when I went to unpack my bike...

Yeah, the key to the travel case was on my normal keychain, back in Denver.  Eventually, I just borrowed a screwdriver and forced the locks on the case.  I wasn't going to leave the bike packed up, all week, and I wasn't too concerned about the case, which I had picked up at a yard sale for $20.00.

I had a great time on the group rides and whatnot.  Then, at the end of the week, I packed the bike up and put some straps around the case to hold it closed.  The bike got home, with no problem, and I ended up donating the travel case to a charity rummage sale.

I included the traps with the case...

x

Sunday, November 13, 2011

All Of Our Lives as An Analogy for History

Remember when you first got a bike of your own?  Suddenly, you were able to easily travel for distances only dreamed of before, at speeds totally beyond your ability in the past.  Yes, your parents and other adults colud travel farther, faster, with less effort.  But, you were no longer limited to the length of your street (or the confines of your neighborhood, or whatever).

In the latter quarter of the 19th Century, society experienced something very much like our young liberation.

When the bicycle became widely available, people in the lower classes suddenly were able to travel under their own power over considerable distance.  Horses were expensive, and only the upper classes were able to afford them.  Train tickets were expensive, and automobiles were but a blip on the horizon.  The bicycle was the great equalizer.

So, society was changed in an overarching manner.  Folks from widely-spread communities could interact. Different cultures interacted, and the world became much smaller for those whose travel had, until then, been limited to a radius of a few hours' walk. 

Nowadays, we all go through the titanic changes that society once went through, on our own...because of the common two-wheeler.  Each of us is a world unto ourselves.

How weird is that?

x

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Police Impersonator

I was on the 16th Street Mall, here in Denver, one Sunday, taking advantage of the fact that bikes are allowed to rid there in the Sabbath.  I was having a good time dodging in and out among the tourists, the homeless and the mall shuttle buses.

Eventually, I stopped, and grabbed a Diet Coke.  I stood on the sidewalk, with my bike against a tree, and listened to a busker playing guitar and harmonica.

"Excuse me, Officer, I need some help."

A homeless guy was walking by me, asking a cop for a hand.

I continued listening to the busker, but the ragged old guy was still beside me, talking to the cop behind me.

"Don't ignore me, man!  I'm a person, just like anybody else!"

I looked around behind me, thinking I'd tell the cop to get off his ass and help the guy.  But, there was no one behind me.  Just then, I realized the old guy was talking to me.

"I'm not a cop," I said to him, amused at the thought.

"Yer socks say different..." he muttered, as he moved off.

I looked down and, sure enough, I had worn my navy blue "POLICE" socks that I had bought through the employee order program at the shop.

Hmmm...Maybe there is a reason they aren't supposed to be available to the general public.

x

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Colonel

I never knew his full name, and I doubt that he was actually a Colonel, but the old guy who dug through the dumpsters behind Campus Cyclery was ex-military.  He wore full camouflage battle fatigues and combat boots, with a beret on his head, every day.  In the middle of the summer, he would pull off the blouse of his uniform, and wear a sleeveless camo t-shirt.

He rode a bike, with a huge trailer attached, everywhere he went.  All of his worldly possessions were in that trailer, strapped to the bike, or on him. 

I went out back, one day, and the Colonel was rummaging through the dumpster.

"I'm sorry," he said, and backed away from the metal container.

"No problem,"  I said to him.  "Are you looking for anything in particular?"

He told me that he scrounged worn parts for his bike (the parts we threw away were often in better shape than what he had on his bike), and he was looking for some spokes to fix a wonky wheel on his trailer.

I measured the spokes on his wheel, and went inside.  I came back out and gave him a dozen spokes to fit his wheels.  He didn't want to take them, for free, so I asked him to clean up the area around the dumpsters, as payment.

I talked to him a few times after that.  He summered in Denver and, around the end of August, he would ride south and east, to end up in Florida for the winter.  Apparently, he had family here, and in Orlando.  He was too proud to ask them for a place to stay, but he liked to be near them.

In the years since I left Campus, I've seen Bill (that's his given name) around the area a lot, during warm weather.  I suppose he's probably in Florida for the winter, at his point.

Wherever he is, I hope he is doing okay.

x

Thursday, November 10, 2011

My Left Knee

My left knee is a bit problematic me.  If I try to run, it hurts quite a bit, and tends to to turn sideways if I make a misstep.  This is because, when I was 37 years old, I decided to take up freestyle bmx riding.

I was out with Shawn, Jesse and a couple of other guys, one cold night, on the freestyle bike, riding the Tech Center.   We had spent the evening attempting wall rides, bar spins, etc.  The other guys, all in their teens, were pretty accomplished at street riding.  But, I was just a beginner, and I was awfully proud to complete a bar spin, occasionally, without crashing out.

Eventually, we ended up in a parking garage.  As we were riding down the ramp, I was standing on the rear pegs, and pulled the front wheel up, and rode a manual down the slope.  Then, I over-balanced and started to fall backward.  Reflexively, I stepped off of the peg to catch myself.

That was the end of that ride.

The next day, I got an MRI.  The verdict:  torn medial collateral, torn meniscus, torn anterior cruciate ligament...Basically, I had blown my knee out.  The doctor recommended surgery, but I asked him it would be possible to do without.

"Well, as long as you keep the muscles in the leg strong enough to hold the joint together, you may be able to put it off for a few years.  But I can't guarantee it," was his answer.

Thirteen years later, I still haven't had the surgery.  And, I don't want to, if I can avoid it. 

x

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Scary Gary

There is a little rental house, catty-corner to mine, which faces Iliff Avenue.  I still refer to this place as "The House of Dracula" because of the vampire who lived there when I first bought my house. 

He was tall and painfully thin, with skin tone like white chalk and jet-black hair.  His woman, the Bride of Dracula, was as corpulent as he was emaciated.  Her skin had a weird, transluscent quality which, along with her scarlet lipstick (I think  hope it was lipstick), lent her the appearance of a bloated tick on a dog's ear.

I saw her, every now and then, out and about in the back yard, while the sun was still up.  I never saw The Count, himself, except after the sun was down and it was fully dark.  He would mow the yard in total darkness, with no flashlight or other form of illumination other than the starlight.

He was the most domestic vampire I've ever been around.

After The Count and his Bride moved out, the next denizen of the house was the interesting fellow after which this post is named.  Gary was one of those guys who never had a real job.  He made a living, of sorts, as a petty drug dealer and a metal scrounger.  He would drive his old pickup, with the expired Michigan license plates and no thought of insurance coverage, up and down the alleys of Denver, scrounging whatever metal he could find in and around the dumpsters.

One day, he came strolling into the back yard, high as a kite, and invited himself to sit down with me.  We got to talking, and he told me his life story.  In the midst of it, Gary mentioned that he had seen me working on bikes, a few times, and that he had a pile of bikes he had pulled from the dumpsters.

"I haven't separated out the aluminum and the steel, yet," he said.  "Come over and see if there's anything you need."

So, with the audience in the theater shouting "Don't go in there,"  I followed Scary G into the shed behind The House of Dracula.  There, he had a literal pile of derelict bikes.

I dug through the bikes, and pulled out a few interesting examples.  I ended up with a Specialized StreetStomper for Scott's collection (Scott actually helped develop that model, and named it), plus a couple of others.

For the rest of the time that Scary Gary lived back there, he would periodically come over and tell me he had some bikes to look at.  In return, I gave him some useless wheels and frames, a pile of fluorescent light fixtures, and various other bits of scrap metal.

Gary made a sudden departure, one day, and I never saw him again.  That was not really a surprise...

x

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Life Imitates Art

I think that I have mentioned that our mountain bike club, at Destinations, was call Team Howling Duck.  It was a mostly nonsense name, with very little meaning behind it, but people always asked just what it did mean.

One year, we decided to do the Moonlight Classic night ride through Denver as a Howling Duck ride.  We had shirts made, with the club name on the sleeves (which we ended up getting for free, since the t-shirt guy applied the vinyl letters upside down on the sleeves), and showed up en mass for the ride.

Cody showed up, and announced that everyone would know that we were Team Howling Duck, for sure, when we rode by.  And, he was right.

Cody had brought a Burley trailer, decorated with crepe parer and the club name, much like a high school homecoming parade float.  Inside, nestled into a bed of straw, were a half-dozen live ducks from his parent's menagerie.

For once, the high-wheeler didn't get all of the attention, on the ride.

x

Monday, November 7, 2011

Perspective

We had been on the trail for over an hour, riding the Dakota Ridge/Red Rocks/Matthews-Winters loop and I was feeling pretty manly.  We had endured some lung-busting climbs, navigated through numerous technical rock gardens, dropped off of ledges and flown along the undulating ribbon of singletrack at amazing speed.

My leg muscles were burning, and I was thinking that I was pretty studly, as we approached the paved road, ready to head under I-70 to the north parking lot.  We had been forced to park there because the Matthews-Winters parking lot was full.

We stopped to let a couple of cars go by, then we saw a cyclist approaching, so we let him go by as well.

He was a paraplegic, riding a hand-cranked 3-wheeler, arm muscles bulging as motored up the grade.  We waved, and he gave us a nod on the way by.

I didn't feel quite so studly, after that...

x

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Shocking Realization

Back in 1994, I got what was reported to be the first Specialized S-Works FSR frame to come into the United States, on an Employee Purchase deal.  I was ultra-excited to have it, and I immediately set to building it up with the parts I had been stockpiling as I had waited for it to arrive.

I pulled the Specialized Future Shock off of it, and replaced it with a Manitou 3, built up some wheels with A/C hubs, installed cranks from the same company, etc.  When it was done, it was a pretty fancy bike (but still weighed in at 27 pounds).

Soon after I got it finished, one of our customers came in a fell in love with my bike.  He wanted one just like it, except he wanted to retain the carbon-legged Future Shock. 

I told him that I had no idea what it would cost to build, though.  I had spent 6 months gathering up parts and components, and I hadn't really kept up a running total of what was on my account, and what I had spent cash on.

He told me that money was no object, and to just get everything together.

So, I started ordering parts.  As I invoiced everything, I was pretty shocked.  The retail cost of Geoff's bike, without buying a replacement suspension fork, was $5800.00...in 1994!

Even with my employee discount, that meant that I had somewhere in the neighborhood of $3500 to $4000 invested in mine.  Keep in mind that I was only making about $14000 a year, at that time, working in the shop.

I can guarantee you that the ext time I built myself a bike, I kept a little better track of what I was spending...

x

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Mountain Bike Ride

Wow, I'm so glad to be on the bike the mountains are gorgeous, I hope it doesn't rain oof forgot about that drop-off I'll have to remember it next time man, going uphill already crap, don't I have a lower gear?

Gasp...gasp...why a I riding up this stupid mountain?  This is crazy pant..pant...there's a flat coming up just gotta hold on whew  I needed a break  I wish the whole trail was this easy...crap  I forgot about this ledge oof just made it!

Wow, the Aspens are pretty who put all of these rocks here?  I don't remember this being so rocky, last time I rode here is that a deer?  It is!  Oh, hell, it's coming this way I can't afford to slow down with that little pitch coming up oh...good..he turned the other way...

Aaaagh...my lungs are going to fly out of my mouth come on flatten out, you stupid trail!

The top!  The top!  Oh my god!  At last, I get to head down!

Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
eeeeeeeee-crap, a log, a rock, another bicycle...made it! eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Back already?  I need to do this more often!

x

Friday, November 4, 2011

In Which We Find Out Why Jon Doesn't Ride a Recumbent Bicycle

I don't enjoy riding a recumbent bicycle, even though I fit the profile of those who do.  I am a "mature" male, with facial hair and a bad back, who enjoys riding long distances under my own power.  Yet, I stick, exclusively, to the "uprights".

It's not that I have never tried a recumbent.  When I lived in Ohio, Pete left his with me for a year, or so.  He didn't have a convenient space to store it, so I let him put it in my basement.  While I had it, I took it out for a few rides.

I noted all of the "advantages" of the recumbent style, during those rides.  It was very relaxing, and quite efficient on the flats.  If you didn't get in a hurry on the climbs, the laid-back bike was pretty enjoyable.

Yet...I didn't fall in love with it, and I decided I didn't need to own one.

Why?  Well, it is all about the position. 

Look at the powerful animals, and the stance they take when attacking another creature, or defending themselves.  The big cats, and the canines, crouch down with their chest close to the ground, legs tensed, head erect, ready to pounce or accelerate in an attack.

Large primates, man included, stand up tall and push their chest forward, and rotate their shoulders forward.  A professional boxer looks like a coiled spring, ready to fly toward you and wreak havoc.

When an animal rolls over on his back and presents his soft belly to you, he is giving up.  That is the submissive stance, pretty much universal throughout the mammalian world.  Puppies show you their bellies, when they are grovelling for forgiveness.

I don't want to feel, or be perceived as, submissive as I pedal down the raod.

So, I don't like riding a recumbent.

Yeah, it's a self-esteem thing, I suppose...

x

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Hey, Slick...

Back in the day, I would often meet Brad over at the Willow Creek Starbuck's, where he worked, for a bit of urban mountain biking.  Particularly in the wintertime, there were days when we wanted to ride the mountain bikes, but couldn't get up to the mountains.  So, we would ride the paved bike trails, and swing off on the occasional bit of bootleg single track that kids in neighborhoods had built.

Eventually, we would stop for coffee, somewhere.  Some things never change.

One day, as we rode, we encountered icy patches left over from a recent snow/melt/refreeze cycle.  For some reason, every time we hit one of these icy spots, Brad rode right across it and I...well, I did not.

I fell about 10 times, that day, and landed on the same spot on my left hip, every time.  I was a bit sore, and frustrated, by the end of the day.

It's funny how that will happen, sometimes.  I don't know what causes one to continually auger in on the same part of the body, over and over, but I have seen other people do it, too.

x

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Importance of Communication

Bill and I were on his tandem, on our way back to Parker from the Park Meadows Mall area.  We were riding on the E-470 Bike Trail, and Bill was on the front of the tandem, as usual.

At one point on that trail, you have to take a sidewalk for a short distance, alongside a road which passes through an underpass to get to the south side of the trail.  As you go under the highway, the slope beneath bridge is covered with a concrete slab. 

As we rode along, at about 15 mph, Bill suddenly veered to the right and up the concrete slope.  Then he turned back to the left, and we followed a parabola back to the sidewalk. 

This happened so fast that I didn't even have time to brace myself.  As we came off of the concrete slope, onto the flat sidewalk, there was bit of G-load applied to the saddle I was sitting on.  The seatpost, which was extended about 250mm out of the frame, could not support the extra load, and it bent at the point where it entered the frame.

Bill ended up with a seatpost with about a 40-degree set-back in it, because he didn't warn me about the maneuver.  It was a learning experience, I suppose, because he always let me know what was coming, after that.

x

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Giving the Finger

It had been a good ride.  Carol and I had met Joe and his friend Chris at Rampart Reservoir, that morning.  We parked the cars at the dam, and took off on the singletrack trail which follows the shore of the reservoir. 

All of us had ridden well, and we had made numerous tops just to take in the views and shoot the bull.  About a half mile from where we would hit the dam road to get back our vehicles, we stopped at the top of a little rock garden and talked about how nice the ride had been.  Everyone took off, with me bringing up the rear (as usual).


I made one pedal stroke, hit a rock, and took one of those slow-motion headers where you keep thinking you are going to be able to avoid the fall, but you hit the ground anyway.  I put my left hand out to break my fall, and that was a mistake.  I wasn't very successful at breaking the fall, but I did a good job of breaking my ring finger.

I actually don't know if I broke it, or if I just dislocated the first joint.  All I know for sure, besides the fact that it hurt like hell, was that the tip of the finger was pointing outboard at about a 45 degree angle.

"Are you okay?"  Carol asked, over her shoulder.  She had stopped when she heard me crash.

"Not really," I said.  I held my hand up, and Carol gave me a curious look.  With my glove on, she couldn't really see what was going on.  I took the glove off, and her eyes widened.

I told her that I could ride, and I just wanted to get back to the truck.  So, we took off after the other two guys.

Once we got back to the trucks, I stood at the tailgate telling the other two guys what had happened, as Carol changed out of her bike clothes in the cab.  I had a 1994 Dodge Ram, at the time, so there was plenty of room for changing.

I held my crooked finger up, grabbed the end of it and popped it into place.

POW!

"What the hell was that?" Carol called, from the cab of the truck, as Chris fainted.

Chris was an Emergency Room nurse, so I was a bit taken aback by his reaction.  We propped him up, and got him conscious again.  Then, he told me about the two hand surgeries he had just gone through, after shattering his little finger in an accident.

I guess that had made him a bit sensitive to digit injuries.

I felt pretty bad about making Chris faint, but I was very glad to have my finger straight, again.  It took a month for it to stop hurting, but I at least didn't have a hooked claw on my left hand.

x