Saturday, December 31, 2011

Style Born of Convenience

I had a mountain bike, a few years ago, which always garnered a lot of attention at the trailhead and on rides.  It wasn't remarkable because it was ultra-exotic, or light as a feather.  And it wasn't even the recipient of an unusual paint scheme, like the Pink Bike or the Red Menace...

No, what always seemed to catch people's eye, and inspire comments or questions, was the set of grips I had on the bar.

When I built the bike up, I had gathered all of the parts into a box, and I took that box and the frameset home to build it up.  I got all of the parts hung on the bike, cabled it up, and got to the point where it was ready for a test ride.  The only problem was, I had neglected to throw the grips for the bike into the box, before I left the shop.

I looked around my workshop area, there at the house, and I found one yellow Specialized grip, and a red Gary Fisher grip.  I installed the mismatched pair of grips just so the bike would be more comfortable on the test ride, and planned on replacing them with a matching pair, the next day.

The next day, we were busy at the shop, and I had already left on my way to ride the bike at Waterton Canyon, before I realized that I had never changed out the grips.  No problem...I figured I would just do it, the next day.

I rode that bike for about a year and a half, and I never did swap out the grips for a matching pair, even after I wore the first set out.  I purposefully installed a mismatched pair, then, because I was accustomed to seeing them on that bike.

Since then, I have had a number of bikes with two different colors of cork tape, or two colors of grips.  I guess I just like the motley look, on some bikes.

x

Friday, December 30, 2011

Time In a Bottle

I wonder if celebrities, rock stars and movie stars, ever see a picture of themselves and remember the details of the moment it was taken.  After having thousands of pictures snapped, I suppose that all of those moments might run together in one's head.

On the wall in one of the bedrooms at my mom's house, there hangs a picture of me taken in 1994.  In that picture, I am climbing Fried Egg Hill, on the Slickrock Trail.  I am on my S-Works FSR, wearing a Specialized helmet, Mountain Hardwear shorts, and blue Pearl Izumi gloves, my hands on the Onza barends as I crank slowly toward the photographer.  My ponytail has fallen forward over my right shoulder, and my eyes are invisible behind Oakley Full Metal Jacket glasses.  My Shimano shoes are clipped into Speedplay Frog pedals, and I have on a Team Howling Duck t-shirt, rather than a jersey.

In my mind's eye, right now, I can see the photographer sitting on the rock, with a sunshade protecting him from the mid-day heat.  I hear the shutter click, and the photog calls out the roll and exposure number to me, in case I want to buy a print, later. 

For some reason, I do want a print.  There was something was so different about that day.  I had had the same guy shoot my picture at the same place, before, with no thought of buying a copy.  But, that ride had been pretty awesome.  In fact, the whole trip had been really fun.  I wanted documentation.

I remember realizing, as a senior in high-school, that I was having more fun than I should, and that I should enjoy it while I could.  This particular trip to Moab was similar.  It seemed to me that I must be peaking, that riding a bike would never be more fun.  And, it might possibly never be as fun, again.  I was in the best shape of my life, on the latest and greatest bike available, in the best surroundings I could imagine.

Looking back on it, I think I was right.  I still love riding, and I have had a lot of good times on a bike since that day.  But, I think that might have been the one best era of my life and the best specific ride I will ever take.

Later that year, I suffered the disappointment of not finishing the inagural Leadville 100 mountain bike race.  The next year, I suffered a repeat of that.  After that, some of the luster was gone from mountain biking.  I stopped racing (and therefore stopped training).  My fitness declined a bit, and I could see my performance level dropping just a bit, from year to year. 

There were some discouraging times ahead for me.  I got divorced, went through some economic hardships, got older.  Yet, I still feel a bit of that special ride, when I see that snapshot.  It reminds me of a time when i was on top of the world.

I'm glad I bought that picture.

x

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Homecoming

There are places in this world where I immediately feel at home, even the first time I ever see them.  Moab, Utah, is one such place.  Denver is another.

Granted, by the time I first made the trip to mountain-biking Mecca, I had read countless magazine articles, and a few books, about the area.  I read Ed Abbey's book, Desert Solitaire, while I was in Moab for the first time, in 1989.  I had waited until I was there to read the book, since much of it centers around Abbey's stint as a ranger at the Arches National Monument (now a National Park), in the early 1960s.

It's obvious that Abbey felt as at home, there, as he did anywhere in his life.  And, I found myself feeling the same way.  The terrain is rough and unforgiving, and the weather can be as bad there as anywhere I have ever been.

Yet, there was just something that spoke to me, and I knew it was going to be an important place in my life.  Unfortunately, I didn't figure that I would ever get to visit, very often, because it was so far from home. And, I never considered living there, as I just couldn't figure out what Val and I could do to make a living there.

Actually, I figured I could live a simple life there, but I just didn't think Val would have it.

The second place that I ever went which affected me the same way was the Denver area.  Fortunately, Denver offered the amenities Val was looking for, and we moved there.  I tell people that I moved to Denver for the mountain biking, and that was a big part of it.  Mainly, it was just because it felt, well, right to me.

Living in Denver allowed me to visit Moab pretty regularly, and I found that I preferred leaving Moab as a destination.  It remaines a very special place to me, more so than it might if I had made it my home and experienced it on a day to day basis.

But, even having lived in the Denver area for 20 years, it still seems special to me as well.  The mountain biking which drew me to the area is just remote enough from town that it remains a special treat, and just being within sight of the mountains makes me feel good.

I've neglected the bicycling a bit, the last few years, because I was riding a bicycle too much.  That is, since I was commuting daily, I didn't ride that much for fun.  I lost a bit of my connection to the trails of Colorado and Utah.  This year, I plan to get back to that sort of riding.

Twenty years ago, I came home to a place I had never been.  This year, I am coming home to a place I never left.

x

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Mind The Edge

We were riding the loop from the Matthews-Winters Park lot, along the Dakota Ridge Trail on top of the Hogback, and back around through Matthews-Winters Park, on the Red Rocks Trail, to return to the parking lot.  At the point where we had climbed the steep pitch up the rock face on the Red Rocks Trail, we pulled over to the right to take a break.

We walked over to the edge of the rock face, which overlooks the trail up which we had just ridden.  I stumbled over a rock, and Tony said, "Watch out!  You're pretty close to the edge!"

I sat down on the rock, with my legs dangling over the edge, wondering just how bad a fall it would be if you slipped off.  It looked like a pretty bad landing zone, from where I was sitting, but you never know...so I figured Tony was just being a Nervous Nellie.

Later that month, I was watching the news when a story came on which detailed a tragic death, earlier that day.  A girl had been hiking on the Red Rocks Trail, and had fallen to her death.  The news clip showed the scene of the tragedy...right where I had sat and wondered if you could survive a fall from there.

Every now and then, something drives home the fact that there is a reason that what I do for fun elicits a pretty strong adrenaline reaction.  It is actually dangerous, and I find myself needing to stop and take stock, at times.

x

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Keys

The first weekend that I owned my 1994 Dodge Ram 1500 pickup truck, Tony and I loaded up for a trip to Moab.  As per our usual habit, we left after I got off work on Friday night, at 7:00, and arrived at Sand Flats around midnight.  We drove into the camping area, and looked for a camping spot. We finally found a spot with no one in it, set up our tent, and went to sleep.

The next morning, I woke up at about 6:00, and left the tent in my long underwear and a t-shirt, to get something out of the truck.  Of course, the door was locked, so I went back to the tent and grabbed my shorts.  I stuck my hand into the pocket and...no keys!

"Tony, wake up!  I can't find my keys!"

The problem was, I had bought the truck used, and I only had the one key.  I had planned on getting a duplicate made, but I just hadn't had time before we left town.  We emptied out the tent, looked all around where our footprints were, from the  night before, but just couldn't find my keys.

I was sitting on the tailgate of the truck, still in my long underwear, when a truck drove up.  A girl got out, wearing the Americorps Volunteers uniform.  She told us that we had to take our tent down and move on.  The spot we were in was not a camping spot.

I explained to her our situation, and she told us that she really didn't care that we were there, but that the ranger was going to be coming by soon, and he would probably ticket us.  Then, she drove off.

"I tell you what," I said to Tony,  "let's take the tent down, and pack everything back into the truck.  Maybe if we aren't actually camped, the ranger won't ticket us for parking here.  Then, we can ride our bikes to town and get a locksmith..."

This was before everyone in the world had a cell phone.

So, we put the sleeping bags in the back of the truck, and took the tent down.  Then, as I picked up the ground cloth, which had been under the tent, I saw something shiny in the sand.

My keys!

We loaded the truck up, drove to town, and I had 4 copies of the truck key made.  One went in my wallet, one went in a hidy-place on the truck, one went on Tony's key ring and the other I reserved to give to Valerie when I got home.

I make darn sure that I have an extra key to every vehicle before I take a trip, now.  I don't want to go through that, ever again!

x

Monday, December 26, 2011

Shirt Off His Back

It had been a trying day.  The temperature was well into the 90s, even up high in the woods, two or three riders had run out of water (so I was running low, after letting them have some of mine), and there had been so many flats that no one had any spare tubes or patches left.

"A couple of more miles, and we're done," I thought to myself as I followed the club riders down the trail.

Then, I saw Terry pull to the side of the trail and stop.  I rode up and stopped beside him.

"I've got a flat," he said, looking at his front tire.

"Crap,"  I thought.   "What now?"

I motioned to the rest of the riders to go on.  "We'll see you at the trail head," I told them.

I pulled Terry's tube out of the tire and looked at it.  It alread had a couple of patches in it, and a new cut.  I felt around inside the tire, but I couldn't find anything.  Whatever he had picked up in the tire was no longer there.

"I'll just ride on the rim," Terry said.

"No," I said.  The trail was pretty rocky, and I didn't want him to destroy his rim.  "Let me think..."

I noticed that Terry had a long-sleeved t-shirt strapped tyo his CamelBak.

"Let me have that," I said, pointing at the shirt.

He handed it to me, and I twisted the shirt into a thick rope and stuffed it into the tire.  It reached about halfway around the rim.  Terry and I took off our jerseys, and I twisted them up and stuffed them into the tire, then popped the bead of the tire back over the rim.

"Take it slow and easy," I said to him, as I put the wheel back on his bike, and we took off toward the trail head.  Fifteen minutes later, we rode up, shirtless but grinning, to the rest of the group, with Terry's rim intact.

x

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Bicycle Under The Tree

I never got a bike for Christmas, myself, but one of my earliest memories is of a bike under the tree on Christmas morning.  It was in the duplex where we lived when we first moved to Donelson, so I was either 3 or 4 years old, and the bike was my sister's present.

It was a blue Sears middleweight, with the loop frame and painted fenders.  Daddy had stayed up late assembling it, only to realize that he had inserted the handlebar into the stem backward.  Unable to pull the grips off, he had resorted to cutting one off with his pocket knife so that he could set it straight.

I didn't notice that, and I don't know if Joy did, either.  I just remember seeing it sitting there, sillhouetted against the curtains on the front window.

Joy had that bike for years.  It was the bike she was riding when her foot slipped off of the pedal as she rode in flip-flops. And,  I suppose that she had it until she got her ill-fated FreeSpirit 10-speed which I destroyed by riding it off-road when I was in junior high.

The blue fender had a bruise on it, for it a long time.  I suppose it had gotten scratched and Daddy had touched it up with mis-matched paint, slightly darker and a little more purple than the factory blue.  But we always referred to it as "the bruise".

We laid crayons on the fender, and set the bike out in the sun on hot summer days, then blended the softened Crayola colors into multi-hued crayons.   (Or, in my case, into brown, since I seemed to always overdo the mashing together part.)

It's funny to me that I have so many memories of someone else's bike.  But, Joy and I were close (and remain so, even though 1700 miles separate us), and I saw a lot of that bike as we rode on the dead-end, or played cowboys, or whatever we did around the neighborhood.

I wonder, sometimes, if my dad had any idea, when he was struggling to get that bike put together, probably cursing under his breath as he skinned a knuckle, just how many miles would pass under those wheels and how many memories would be generated by the bike.  Those days seemedto me as if they would last forever, but now they seem more like memories of a landscape glimpsed through the windows of a moving train.

But, those glimpses are anchored in my mind, to a great extent, by the image of that bicycle under the tree, so many Christmases ago.

I hope you all had a great holiday, whether it was Christmas, or Channukah, or Kwanzaa or Tet, the Pagan Solstice Celebration, or whatever...  And I hope that all of you have had, or someday will have, your own memories of a bike under the tree.

x

Saturday, December 24, 2011

MIA

I know where most of my old bikes have gone.  My Spyder Bike went to an underprivileged kid when I got Big Red.  I sold my Triumph 10-speed to a co-worker, in Ohio (and he crashed into a tree and broke the frame).

I have sold, traded and given away many other bikes.  I may not know who, particularly, owns them, but I know that they went somewhere.

Yet, there is one bike I can not account for.  The purple Western Auto Buzz Bike that I got when I was 14 is missing in action.  It is no longer at my parents' home, but I have no idea where it went.  It was the last bike I got before I got my driver's license, and I lost interest in when I started driving.  I just recently realized that I can't account for it.

Big Red is still around.  I have had it since 1971, so it's not like every bike I had before I started driving is gone.  I just don't know where that purple bike went.

x

Friday, December 23, 2011

Sometimes, Bicycling Seems a Bit Expensive

About 12 or 13 years ago, I bought a 1983 Volkswagen GTi from Jesse Swift.  It was well-used, but I got it cheap and really enjoyed driving it.  I ended up passing it along to Per and Stefan Wigand, after a while, for the same price I had paid Jesse.

I was working at Destinations, at the time, and I had just gotten divorced.  Money was tight…well, money was pretty much non-existent.  I was using my credit card to buy groceries, because rent and other bills took the whole paycheck, most months.  I had bought the car in an effort to cut my gas usage.  The 1994 Dodge Ram 1500 was only getting about 11 mpg, around town.

It so happened that I wore the tires out on my mountain bike, not too long after I got the GTi.  I preferred Continentals, at the time, so I called up the rep and ordered a pair.  Even at Employee Price, the pair of tires cost me $90.00!

So, you can imagine my trepidation when I noticed that the rear tires on the GTi were worn out and needed to be replaced.  I went to the tire shop, told them what I needed, and asked for a quote on some usable tires.

I was a bit shocked when the quote for two car tires, with balancing and installation, came out to $5.00 less than what my mountain bike tires had cost me at wholesale.

The economy of scale, I suppose…

x

Thursday, December 22, 2011

My Outlook On Looking Out the Window

We are a mobile society, and we have been for all of my life.  My family and I lived away from our home town, the town where my grandparents lived and my parents had grown up, for most of my life.  So, I spent a lot of time, in my youth, sitting in a car, looking out the window.

As I grew up, my time in the car never seemed to lessen.  If I wasn’t traveling to visit someone, I was traveling for work.  Many more hours were logged, looking out the window of moving car.

I have always been something of a history buff.  Growing up in the South, I was fascinated by the Civil War, and the people who fought and/or lived through it.  As we would drive past historical markers at the sites of skirmishes, or full-on battles, or drove through battlefield parks, I would look at my surroundings and try to imagine how things had been, a hundred years earlier.  I looked at old warehouses and hotels, when we drove through towns, trying to imagine what they looked like in the heydays.

I still do that, particularly in the urban setting.  But, having become a mountain biker, I look at the landscape a bit differently than I used to.

“That looks like an old mining road going up that hill,” I think to myself.  “I wonder if I could get my bike up that slope.”

“That railroad grade would make a good way to get into the forest…”

“I wonder if I could follow that deer trail…”

I see the world as a place to be explored, now, as well as a place where others went before. 

x

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

States

How many states have you biked in?  I started keeping up with my "biked-in states" after I got back from visiting my sister and brother-in-law in Oregon, in the late 80s.

As near as I can figure, I have biked in 16 states, so far:  Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, Indiana, Colorado, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Washington, Oregon and Arizona.

I haven't biked in Georgia since I was about 7 or 8 years old and visiting relatives, but I biked there.  I have mountain biked in all of the other states on my list, excluding Kentucky and Mississippi.  I lived in those states well before I ever heard of a mountain bike (the early 70s and late70s/early 80s, respectively).

I need to add some states to the list.  It has remained static for about 15 years, now.  I think maybe I'll have to take a trip to New Mexico, this Spring...

x

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Right Tool, Or Wrong Tool?

Sometimes, the right tool is the one you have with you.

I had taken my flat black fixed-gear mountain bike to Moab so that I could ride with Carol and Colin, and stay at about their speed while still being challenged by the terrain.  Colin was only 10, at the time, and Carol had not mountain biked on a regular basis in years.

One morning, everybody else chose to sleep in, so Carol and I headed up to Porcupine Rim.  I knew that she would enjoy the view from High Anxiety Overlook, and that the out-and-back ride from the parking lot would be well within her skill level.  But, when we got there and I pulled my fixed gear out of the truck, I saw that the bottom bracket was quite loose, and needed to be adjusted before we took off.

The only problem was, I had neither a bottom bracket lockring spanner, nor a pin wrench for the adjustable cup.  It had been so long since I had ridden off-road with an adjustable bottom bracket that I no longer had those tools in my CamelBak.

I had a small tool kit in the truck.  It didn’t have the bb tools in it, either, but there was a flat-blade screwdriver.  I placed the tip of the screwdriver in one of the slots of the lockring and, using a rock for a hammer, knocked it loose.  The tip if the Phillips screwdriver from the kit just grabbed the hole in which the pin spanner would have fit, and I was able to turn it and get the bearings adjusted.

Then, using the flat screwdriver and the caveman hammer, I locked everything back down.  The bike was ready to go, and I didn’t have any more problems with the bottom bracket for the rest of the ride.

I did decide to replace any adjustable bottom brackets on my older bikes with cartridge versions, but I never did.  I still have a few of the old-school  bottom brackets in use…just not on any dedicated off-road bikes.

x

Monday, December 19, 2011

Walk Of Shame

I was riding to work on the DiamondBack Voyager II snow bike that I had built up, for that season.  I had the 26"x1.95" studded tires on it, and the bike was working great on the icy roads.  I was 3 miles from home, heading downhill on Dahlia, and everything was going smoothly.

I made the turn at 4th, in order to jog over one block and hit Eudora, which actually crosses 6th, unlike Dahlia.  I accelerated on 4th and, since the bike had been riding so normally, I blanked out the fact that there is always a lot more ice on that shaded stretch of street than anywhere else on the ride.  I got to the left turn on Eudora, and leaned into it at speed, as if I was on dry pavement.

The bike stopped pretty quickly when it hit the ground.  The pedal dug into the ice and acted as an anchor.  I had no such anchor, however, and I continued on down the street for about 25 yards, laughing all the way (as the song says).

I got up and started walking toward the bike, and promptly slipped on the ice and fell down.  It took a few moments to get back to the bike, and get rolling again.  I can assure you that I was a bit more careful on the turns, from there to the lab.

x

Sunday, December 18, 2011

And Suddenly, The Road Jumped Up and Slapped Me

I have crashed my bicycle a few (hundred) times through the years.  The great majority of those crashes happened on a mountain Bike, and I consider crashing to just be an unfortunate part of riding off-road.

Of all my crashes on the road, I can tell you a reason for all of them except for one.  Mostly, road crashes occur when I hit something which upsets my equilibrium.  You know, a patch of gravel, some wet leaves in the apex of a curve, or some ice gets in the way...

But, one day, I had a crash I still can't account for.

I was riding my Raleigh SuperCourse fixed-gear to work, at Campus Cycles, from my apartment at Parker Road and Orchard.  I had already passed the house I was to buy, three years later, and I was at the intersection of Iliff Avenue and Colorado Boulevard.  The light was green as I approached, then turned yellow as I entered the intersection.  I stood up to accelerate through the intersection and...

And... the next thing I new I was over the bars and crashing into the pavement in the middle of the north-bound lanes of Colorado Boulevard.  I saw my pirate-skull tail light bouncing across the road in front of me, and a garbage truck approaching from the south at what looked to be a pretty high rate of speed, just as I was registering the pain in my  knee that I had landed on.

I disentangled myself from the bike, picked it up, and ran/limped to the far side of the intersection.  Once I was on the west side of Colorado Blvd, I set the bike down on the sidewalk and went back out into the street to recover my tail light.

I checked the bike out.  Nothing seemed out of the ordinary.  I looked at the street surface, and I could see no hole or object which could have stopped my front wheel and caused me to flip over.  I could not come up with a reason for my sudden launch subsequent splashdown in the street.

I put my tail light in my pocket and rode on, trying to come up with a reason for the crash.  But, I never could.  It's still a mystery to me.

x

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Apples Are Falling, Could It Be It's Gravity?

That's a line from a song I wrote, years ago, called Novocaine Blues.  Of course, it refers to the apocryphal story of Sir Isaac Newton formulating the Law of Gravity after being bonked on the head by a falling apple.  I'm a big fan of Newton.  I'm glad that the aliens came down and fed him all of that information...

Newton's Third Law holds particular significance to bicyclists:  For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

This is what causes a bike to move forward when you pedal, and what causes you to slow when you put on the brakes.  It's also what causes an overly-padded bike seat to be uncomfortable.

Periodically, someone will look at the saddle on whatever bike I am riding and declare that there is no way that the unpadded leather seat could be comfortable.  "I would need on of those big padded seats," they invariably conclude.

I try to explain to them that the padding actually causes pain, after a short while.  When you first get on one those miniature sofa cushions, it does seem comfy.  But, this changes after a while.

When you sit on the padding, it compresses, and stays compressed as long as your weigh bears on it.  True to Newton's third law, though, the padding is pushing against you with a force equal to that which is compressing it.  If you weigh 150 pounds, you probably are (at a guess) putting about 100 pounds of force on the saddle, in cruising mode.  The rest of your weight is supported by your hands on the handlebars and your feet on the pedals.  Of course, the amount supported by your feet increases if you sprint in the saddle (and it increases a lot if you stand to climb or sprint).

But, just for illustration, let's stick with 100 pounds of force on the saddle, compressing the padding.

That means that the saddle is pushing back against your bum with 100 pounds, or so, of force.  Soon, hot spots make themselves known, and you are forced to shift your weight to relieve them.  Then, they appear again, at another point, etc.

With an unpadded saddle, there is no compression of foam rubber to generate the reflective force.  Your weigh is borne by a flexible, but non-compressive, surface.  Pressure exists, but it is direct pressure, not a re-directed Newtonian kick in the ass.

Now, I'm no physicist, nor a physiologist.  Perhaps my understanding of the forces in this instance is flawed.  If so, and you have a better explanation as to why I can ride all day on a Brooks but I can barely manage 50 miles on a padded saddle, let me know.

For now, I will go with this explanation.

x

Friday, December 16, 2011

Carry On, Soldier

When I worked at Destinations, my main motorcycle was a 1975 Yamaha XS-650B. I also had a 1974 Norton 850 Commando, but it was not quite reliable enough to be the "main bike".  It was more of a toy, while the old Yammie was a vehicle.

The Yamaha had a luggage rack on it.  It was the old-style square-tube package carrier which sat over the rear fender, and it was sturdy enough (and attached solidly enough) to use as a handle to pick the rear of the bike up off of the ground.

At some point or another, I decided that I needed to be able to carry my bicycle on the motorbike.  So, I took an old strap-on trunk rack and mounted it onto the package carrier.  When I carried the bicycle on it, it sat tranverse to the bike, just as it would on the trunk of a car.  I had to be careful to remember the bike was there, so that I wouldn't smack it on something on the way by.

I never had a problem related to carrying the bike.  But, a driver in Parker did, one day.

I was on my way to Destinations, riding the the XS, and I had my Specialized M2 mountain bike on the bike rack.  It was about 9:00 A.M., so the traffic was pretty heavy.  I had seen a couple of drivers give me a double-take, as I went by, but I just ignored it.  I had ridden the high-wheeler enough to be accustomed to the gawking of the hoi-polloi.

As I was passing the intersection of Lincoln Avenue and Parker Road, I saw a driver in he oncoming lane staring at me.  He was still staring as I went by him.  I assume that he was still staring when he rammed into the rear end of the stopped car in front of him.

I heard the impact, and looked in my mirror just in time to see the back of the car that the guy had rammed settling down onto the hood of the staring driver's car, after the impact.  I just kept riding.

I wasn't sure what else to do, at that point.

I am thinking of getting a similar package rack for the Scrambler.  I just hope it won't cause mayhem in the streets!

x

Thursday, December 15, 2011

"Special" Bikes

You see a lot of "special edition" bikes around if you go to as many yard sales, thrift stores and junk yards as I do.  My ex-neighbor, Scary Gary, had a Murray in "Official Bicycle of the 1984 Olympics" livery.  He was convinced that it was worth big bucks, and couldn't understand why I didn't get excited when he showed it to me.

Had it been one of the Murray-badged Serottas from the actual Olympic games, I would have gotten excited.

Leaned up against my storage building, in the back yard, I have a Dr. Pepper mountain bike.  It's a Murr-Huff-Master of some sort, obviously produced as a store-giveaway prize of some sort.  Still, it's a piece of crap.

One "special" bike I would like to have, though, is a Red Rocker from the early to mid-90s.  At that time, Sammy Hagar was heavy into mountain biking.  Using his celebrity clout, he got Gary Fisher to build a limited number of all-red, tig-welded mountain bikes, branded Red Rocker (Sammy's nickname, before he became known as The Guy Who Ruined Van Halen).

They are cool, with rigid forks and thumb shifters (as was the state-of-the-art, at that time), and a bunch ofSunTour components, of course.

Sammy, if you are reading this, I'd happily accept one of those bikes as a Christmas gift, if you want to give it to someone who will ride it, rather than throw it on eBay.

I'll even take back the Van Halen crack, if Sammy sends me a Red Rocker!  (Size Medium, btw.)

x

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Snapper

The first summer tht we lived in Savannah, I was 11 years old and the new kid in town.  I didn't have any friends, yet, so I spent a pretty solitary summer riding my bike and knocking around.

One day, I was riding down Pinhook Road, heading out of town, and I crossed the Horse Creek bridge.  As I approached the bridge, I could see a large object of some sort in the road, on the other side of the creek.  It looked like spare truck tire, or something.

As I approached this object, I saw that it was actually moving.  It suddenly occurred to me that it was a turtle...a huge turtle!  I drew nearer, thinking that I would try to get the thing out of the road before it got run over, but I decided to not do that.  In fact, I gave the turtle a wide berth when I saw the large, beaked head and realized that this was no ordinary (albeit huge) turtle. 

It was an Alligator Snapping Turtle.  A Snapper this big could have probably bitten my hand off, if it had gotten ahold of me,  It could certainly have taken a chunk of flesh.

So, I steered around the monster, and rode on.

Later, as I was returning home, I saw the turtle was still in the road.  As I got nearer, I could see that it had, unfortunately, been run over.  Its shell was broken, and there was blood all over the road.

The sad part is, I could tell that someone had purposefully run back and forth over the turtle.  They must have been in a large pickup truck, because I don't believe a normal sedan could have gotten over the big old reptile.

I rode on, hoping that the local rednecks wouldn't feel like treating me the way they had treated the big Snapper.

x

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

How I Know I am Growing Old

In the mid-90s, there was a magazine ad (for some forgotten product) which featured a photo of a pro mountain biker dropping down a rock face.  The rock, where he was dropping in, was concave, so he was dropping vertically, past a slight overhang, 15 feet high.  It looked pretty awesome, and a little scary.

On one of our early trips to Moab, Bill and I found the spot, off of the Slickrock Practice Loop, where that photo had been taken.  So, of course, we spent an hour dropping in at that same place, taking pictures of each other, trying to recreate the ad photo.

For a few years, that was our gut-check spot for newbies to the group.  We would take them to that spot, and drop off of the edge and see if the new guy would do the same.

It was astounding how many people took a pass, even after seeing us do it.

At least, it was astounding to me, back then.  Now, at 50 years old, I'm not sure that I ride that particular rollercoaster.  I tend to break, now, instead of bounce.  And, the recovery time from falls in such spots gets longer, every year.

Still, though, just thinking about it makes me want to go and take a look at it, in person.  I wonder if I can still find it...

x

Monday, December 12, 2011

Can I Get a Push?

When I was 3 and 4 years old, we lived in a duplex in the same Donelson, Tennessee, neighborhood in which Momma and Daddy later bought our first house.  This was just east of Nashville, on I-40, which was under construction. 

As a matter of fact, all of the Interstates which now criss-cross Nashville each ended at the edge of town.  So, to get from I-40 to I-65, you had to drive surface streets through town, then pick up the southbound highway on the outskirts of the city.

I mention this, because that was what we did 3 weekends out of four, heading to Hohenwald to visit our grandparents and other relatives.  It was an 80-mile, one-way, drive which ended up taking about 2 hours, back in those days.

One of my earliest specific memories is of the first time I took my little red trike to Hohenwald.

We were getting ready to make the trip south, and I asked Daddy if I could take my tricycle.  I had really been enjoying riding it, and I didn't want to do without it for a whole weekend.  Daddy said yes, so I ran out and got the tricycle, ready to go.

I pushed the trike into the driveway, got on it, and started to go.  I was pretty sure I knew all of the turns, so I wasn't too concerned about getting lost.  But, as I thought it through, I realized it was a pretty good distance to pedal, all under my own power.

So, I yelled for my sister to come and give me a push.  That's how I usually got up the hill, coming back from Donna Seahorn's house, so I figured it was the best way to make the 80 miles to grandma's.

I was pretty disappointed when Daddy just laughed, made me get off of the trike, and then threw it into the trunk of the '64 Fairlane.  I had really been looking forward to the ride...

x

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Two Degrees

Oh, no!  Not another story about riding in cold weather!

No.  Actually, it's about Kevin Bacon.

I'm sure you have heard of the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game, where you try to connect Kevin Bacon to another actor in fewer degrees of separation than the other guy playing, or you try to come up with an actor who has no connection, in order to stump your competition.  For instance, connect Kevin Bacon and Sean Connery.

Sean was in "Wrong Is Right" with Mickey Jones who was in "Pyrates" with Kevin Bacon.  Sean Connery has a Bacon Number of 2.

So do I.

In 1986, Kevin Bacon made a movie called "Quicksilver" in which he played a stock trader who, after losing all of his and his parents' money, becomes a bike courier.  In a scene at the beginning of the movie, Kevin Bacon is riding in a cab and pays the cabbie to try and keep up with "the messenger in the maroon beret".  That messenger (in the maroon beret) was played by Nelson Vails, who had won a silver medal in the 1984 Summer Olympics for the individual sprint track race.  (He was also an ex-bike messenger.)

In 1994 (or 1995...I forget), I was working at Destinations when I heard the front door open.  I looked up, and who should walk into our shop but The Cheetah, himself:  Nelson Vails.

Nelson was a sales rep for some energy gel, or something, at that time and he was making a sales call.  We talked for a while about this and that, and then he went into the office with Scott to do his job.

So, I have a Kevin Bacon number of 2...which gives me a Sean Connery number of 4, I suppose.

Hmmm...

x

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Yuck! Really?

Back when PowerBars first hit the market, much was made of how handy they were for racing cyclists.  They had plenty of carbs for energy, and other nutrients that (supposedly) made them more nutrient-dense than normal food.  Therefore, you could (supposedly) carry more nutrition in a smaller, lighter package than what was possible with "normal" food.

But there was one "advantage" to PowerBars that I heard of from a lot of racers.  That "advantage" was that PowerBars were sticky enough that you could peel the package off of the bar, and stick the bar onto your stem or top tube.  Then, when you needed a bite, you could just peel the bar off of your bike and eat it, without having to deal with the wrapper.

When some racer would tout this so-called "advantage", I would glance over at my bike, with splotches of dried sweat, and snot, and who-knows what else, all over the stem and top-tube...and I would shudder.

It still kinda makes my stomach roll, a bit, to think of it.

x

Friday, December 9, 2011

I Have Not Grown Taller, But My Bikes Have

Back in the 90s, when I was actually racing mountain bikes and riding aggressively off-road, I liked small mountain bikes.  I am 5'10" tall, yet I rode 15" and 16" frames, mostly.  I found that I could flick them around better, and I enjoyed the extra stand-over clearance that the shorter seat tubes allowed.  Once I figured out to use riser bars on the 135mm sems that the short top tubes necessitated, I even stopped going over the bars at the drop of a hat.  (I could have used a higher rise stem, but I just didn't like the feel of that, for some reason.  Of course, even with the riser bars, I had the grips 3 to 4 inches lower than my seat...)

As I got older, and my riding style changed, I found that these smaller bikes seemed cramped.  Even my 54cm road bikes began to feel a bit on the tiny side.  So, I gradually moved up to the medium-sized frames, 17" or 18" for a mountain bike and 56cm or 57cm for a road bike.

When I designed the ti Funk "do-everything" bike, I based the measurements around a 1988 Specialized RockHopper in the 19" size, combined with a 57cm road bike.  So, it has a 57cm seat tube and a 56cm (22in) top tube.  There is no terrain over which I will ride a bike, nowadays, where these dimensions don't work for me.  It has plenty of room to stretch out for long road rides, and enough standover clearance for any technical terrain I will currently attempt to ride.

Now, when people ask me what size bike would fit them, I can no longer give them the short, racing-oriented, answer that I was taught to give in a retail bike store.  I have to quiz them about how and where they will ride, what their goals are on the bike, and how aggressively they want to compete with their companions.

Keep that in mind when you are looking at bikes.  One person's "too small" may be another person's "racing" size.  And another person's "way too big" might just be your "comfortable for long hauls".

There is no universal answer to bike sizing, and anyone who tells you that there is is only trying to sell you something (a bike or their outlook, perhaps). 

x

Thursday, December 8, 2011

My Favorite Bike

As you may have gathered, reading through these little stories, I have owned quite a number of bikes through the years.  I have no idea what the total number might be, but it has to be well over one hundred.  I have, at different times, owned from one to 30.  On more than occasion, I have completely turned my inventory, in other words sold all 20 of the bikes I owned then ended up with 15 different bikes, within a two year period.

If you count the bikes I bought and converted to fixed gears, or rehabbed and sold, the total number of bikes I have owned probably goes over 200.  Yet, I have no problem telling you which is my absolute favorite.

My favorite bike of all time is usually the one I am riding at any given moment, or the one I have ridden most in the period prior to you asking me the question.  I find myself repeatedly pedaling down the road, admiring the scenery, feeling good to be under my own power and thinking to myself, "I think this is the best bike I've ever owned."

Then, a day later, or maybe an hour later, I will be on a different bike, on a different ride, and the same thought will pop into my head.

Maybe that's why I always own so many bikes:  It's hard to get rid of them, when they are all your favorites.  In fact, if you read back through the archives of my blog, Two Wheels, and find the posts where I talk about selling bikes, the reason is always the same:  I haven't ridden these bikes lately.

While some say that "familiarity breeds contempt,"  I find that lack of use breeds disinterest.  That's why I only count the bikes I ride as being "mine".  I have nice, perfectly usable bikes (such as the KHS Team Softail and the vintage Nishiki road bike) hanging around that I no longer consider mine.  They have been replaced in the stable, and can no longer be my favorite...

Unless I happen to take them down and go for a spin.

x

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

New Bike Fever

One of the fringe benefits of working at Destinations was that I got a new mountain bike every year.  I worked out a deal with Scott, after I had been there a couple of years, which allowed me to afford that and also was a benefit to the shop.

Basically, I bought a new bike (or frameset and parts) every Spring.  And I bought fairly high-end, blingy stuff.  I always had the latest suspension, or shifters, or cranks or whatever, and a nice frame.  I bought mostly on my store account, so that I didn't have to pay all of the cash up front. 

During the year, I would trot the bike out to show customers how the high-end stuff worked.  If they wanted to try it out, I would let them demo it for a day or a weekend.  Then, the next Spring, I would trade it in to Destinations for a credit of 90% of what I had paid for it.

Generally, Scott would forgive the balance of my account (as a sort-of "late Christmas Bonus"), and I would have X-number of dollars on my account to order new stuff.  My old bike then became a rental bike, and we would rent it for a year before selling it.

The shop made money, I rode an essentially free bike every year, and everyone won.

Nowadays, that wouldn't be such a great deal for me, as I don't particularly care for the new high-end "performance" mountain bike stuff.  And, I don't know that the deal would be so great for the shop if I was buying and riding the retro-grouch stuff I prefer at this point.

It was nice, back in the day, though.

x

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Dive..Dive!

We had already been through 13 water crossings on the ride, each of them a little deeper and a little colder, as we went.  Bill had assured us the trail was rideable, and we had scheduled it as a club ride, open to all levels.  For the most part, everyone had given up on staying dry, and we all just waded through the knee deep, then thigh deep, then waist deep water of the crossings.

We finally came to what Bill swore was the last water crossing.  The only problem was that the crossing was about 10 yards wide, and we couldn't see the bottom.  Plus, the water was flowing out from under a snow shelf, so we knew it was going to be extra freaking cold.

"Let's just turn around,"  someone said.

"No, no," Bill said. "It's rideable.  I've ridden it, before."

"Prove it."

Since Bill was going to ride it, I decided I would give it a shot, as well.  So, the two of us rode into the water.  Halfway across, the water was up to the top tube of my bike, and I was struggling to maintain momentum.  Suddenly, Bill hit something underwater, with his front wheel, and went over the bars into the water.

I swear that I saw his feet come up out of the water as he went over.  Yet, somehow, when it was all over, he had managed to keep his head out of the frigid water, and his hair was still dry!

He waded back to the side of the creek, and conceded that we should turn around.  Of course, that meant I had to ride back through the freezing cold water, again. 

Oh, well.  Once you're wet, you're wet...

x

Monday, December 5, 2011

Kickstands

When I got my first new bike, I got the "kickstand talk".  I don't know if every little kid with a new bike gets this same lecture, but everyone I've ever mentioned it to recognized it.

"I don't want  to see you dropping this bike on the ground.  It's got a kickstand on it, and I expect you to use it.  This is a nice bike, and I don't want to see it lying in the grass, or on the driveway..."  etc, etc.

I don't, to this day, know what the big deal about laying your bike on the grass was.  But, also,  I still don't like to do it.  Every time I do, I expect the 1967 version of my dad to show up and spank me, or something.

I tend to lean my bike against something (a tree, a wall, another bike, whatever) rather than lay it down, if it doesn't have a kickstand on it.  Of course, all of my commuters, and a few of my other bikes have kickstands (because they are cool).

So, use those kickstands.  I don't want to see you dropping your bike in the grass...

x

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Moots Mounts

In the early 1980s, as the mountain bike industry was going through its infancy, the accepted standards were not yet in place.  The 26x1.5" rim was widely used, but it wasn't quite universal.  Some companies produced bikes with 24" rear wheels and 26" front wheels (Cannondale and Raleigh come to mind).  There were a smattering of 650b-wheeled bikes, as well.

Some people had the desire to run more than one size wheel on the same bike, according to the conditions.  They might want to run knobby mountain bike tires, one day, cyclocross tires, the next and road tires the day after.  Getting all of these tires, and two different wheel sizes, to fit in the same frame was no problem.  You can stick a 700c road wheel with 35c tires on it into almost any mass-produced mountain bike frame and fork from the 80s.

The problem is that the cantilever brakes won't work with both diameters of wheels.

Kent Eriksen solved that problem on the early Moots bikes, built in Steamboat Springs.  He produced a product called Moots Mounts, which were cantilever mounts that attached to the seat stays or the fork legs, by means of a band clamp.  You could loosen the clamp, move the mount to the correct position for whichever wheel you were running that day, then tighten it back down.

The Moots Mounts were available as an aftermarket item, so that you could convert road frames to cyclocross use, or avoid the mud buildup problems of below-the-chainstay U-Brakes, if your bike was so equipped.

I wish that Moots Mounts were still available.  They go for obscene prices whenever they show up on eBay, so finding vintage units is not really an option.  It seems to me that someone would produce something like them.

Some people say it wouldn't be worth the cost of tooling up for such a limited market.  Yet, PAUL Components makes the Thumbies mount to convert bar-end shifters into thumb-shifters.  That isn't a huge market, but it is apparently big enough to make it worthwhile not only for PAUL to tool up, but IRD has tooled up and produced their own version.  Both of these sell for well over $50.00 a pair, and two different companies are finding enough buyers to make it a viable product.

I wish I had the connections in the industry to get this product built, again.

x

Saturday, December 3, 2011

More Tool-Time

As you may have gathered, I have a bit of a tool fetish.  I own a lot of bike tools that most people will advise you to not buy.  It is generally cheaper for the average hobbyist mechanic to pay a shop to perform the work that these tools are for, each time they need it,  than it is to buy the tool.

But, I guess I'm not the average hobbyist, in reality.  I work on dozens of bikes a year, and build a lot of bikes for people.  And, I mostly deal with older bikes, so I use a few tools on a regular basis that many bike owners will never use.

A few years ago, I was building fixed gear conversions for sale.  I had a web site, and a company name, and I think I built up a pretty good reputation as GrinderBikes.  At that time, I was missing a couple of tools from my arsenal, and I would go down to the Englewood location of Treads, where Scott was working as the manger, and use the tools I was missing.

One day, I went down to the shop to use the fork threading tool, from the Campagnolo tool kit.  Scott had sold that tool kit to Gene as part of his percentage of the ownership, so it was still in the shop.  But, it took me 20 minutes to find the thing, buried under a bunch of cardboard boxes and bike parts.

Keep in mind that this tool kit is in a wooden box, 20" front to back, 30" wide and 2-1/2" deep.  It is neither small nor easily misplaced.  It was obvious that no one had used any of the tools in the kit in weeks, if not months. 

I had just sold a few bikes, and had some cash in my pocket.  So, I went upstairs and talked to Scott.

"I'll give you $1000.00, cash, for that Campy tool kit,"  I told him.

"Seriously?" he asked me.

"I have the money in my pocket,"  I told him.

Scott told me that he would run it by Gene.  If it was okay with him, then it was okay with Scott.

I heard back from Scott about 2 days later.  It was a go, so I took the cash down to the shop and brought the tool kit home.  In that kit, I got a number of tools I was missing, including a bottom bracket tap, headset press, fork threading tool and fork crown cutter.

It was a bargain, to me, but not the sort of purchase I (or most people) would recommend to most home mechanics.  And, I know that I could always get my money back, on eBay.  The Campy tool kits are pretty collectible.

But, I don't think I will ever sell that kit.  Not, at least, unless I am just destitute and desperate for cash.  I like using those tools, and I get a real kick just from owning them.

x

Friday, December 2, 2011

Good Quality Tools Are Less Expensive In the Long Run

When I first started working at Destinations, part of the pitch was that, even though the wages were low, you got the Employee Discount on goods.  Many people work in bike shops solely for that discount, and I have to admit that it was an attraction to me.

I had to go through a 30-day probation, before I could order anything, and all through that time people were asking me what I would order as my first Employee Purchase.  That's the kind of thing bike shop employees talk about, ad nauseum, during the slow times.  I wouldn't tell the other guys, so they engaged in speculation, smugly assuming that I was going to order a new bike, or some other high-end item.

That is, after all, what had attracted them into shop life.

When the day came, I went to Scott and asked him if I could make the order, myself.  He was cool with it, so I dialed up Quality Bicycle Products and made the order.  I still didn't tell the other guys what I had ordered.

The day came, finally, when the QBP order arrived, with my stuff in it.  Everybody gathered around to see what sort of blingy item I had ordered.  They seemed somewhat confused when I pulled out...a Park Tools wheel truing stand.

My next item to order?  I bought a Silca Super Pista tire pump, the next week.

Both of these items were things I had been lusting over, for quite a while.  But, as a consumer, paying retail, they had always been out of my price range.  I was very excited to be able to buy professional-grade tools, much more so than getting a discount on bikes.

That was in the early Spring of 1993.  Both the Silca and the Park stand have been in constant use for 18 years, and both are still great.  I've replaced some expendable parts on the Silca, and the park stand is getting fussy about staying centered, but both have been used thousands of times throughout the last 18 years.

I would say they were both good investments.

x

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Business...Your Own...Mind It

I was riding down Parker Road, heading north to the bike shop and another day at work.  As I approached Pine Lane, riding very close to the white line at the edge of the road, a car pulled up beside me.  The woman driving it rolled down the passenger's side window.

"You shouldn't be riding a bicycle here!"  she shouted.

"Why not?"  I replied, as she paced me in her car. 

"It's not legal.  You're not supposed to ride on the road!"  She was yelling very loudly, almost screaming, even though she was only about 10 feet from me.

"It's legal in all 50 states, " I told her.  "Uniform Vehicle Code.  Look it up."

"You shouldn't be riding here.  It's not safe!"

"It would be  hell of a lot safer for me if people like you would pay more attention to what you're doing, and worry less about what I'm doing."

At that, she rolled her window up and floored the accelerator.

I have to admit that I felt safer, once she was gone.

x