Monday, March 30, 2009

Rock Around the Clock

I am lame.  Due to work, family, weather and other reasons - including allergies that are killing me this spring - I've barely ridden a bike in over two weeks.  Well, outside anyway - excluding a cruise around the neighborhood over the weekend.

I have however hit the trainer in the garage a few times.  This usually occurs after the family has settled in - so, ah - 10:00 PM or so.  The other night it was 11:00 PM - 12:00 AM on the trainer.  Yeah - then try to sleep afterwards.  Climb off the thing soaked with sweat, ears ringing from iPod set to stun.  Perfect way to wind down before bed.

Today's torture session was a little early, 9:30 PM - 10:30 PM.  As I'm spinning along on my old RB-1, mounted on a 1980s era Supergo wind trainer, sitting in a cluttered garage, sweating away with the Ramones blasting in my ears - wonder how many other 47 year old guys are doing the same thing.

Must be at least 3 other idiots somewhere in the world rocking around the clock with me.

Then again, maybe not....

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tax Time. Touch Me I'm Sick.

It's that time of year - you know it, you love it, you can't live without it - tax time.  I can't really complain, since we usually score a refund.  Well, I can complain where the tax dollars go - but that's another story.

We've been going to the same tax guy for 15+ years - Calvin McLaughlin - nice guy who started a tax preparation business out of his house after retiring from Boeing.  Our taxes are not that complicated, we could probably do 'em ourselves. However, being way too easy to delay such festivities, an appointment with Calvin ensured the deed was done and correct papers filed.

We'd sit in the small home office, handing over paperwork, while Calvin filled out the official government forms, tapping away on his PC.  A few years later, we'd have to entertain our kids in the small room while this went on. Calvin's wife, who always seemed nice, would poke her head in to say hello - along with their dog, Lucky.

Over the years Calvin mentioned a few times that his son played "Rock 'N' Roll" and traveled around the world.  I'm the rock fan for sure, but for whatever reason never asked for more details.  I couldn't think of anyone even semi-famous with the last name McLaughlin. Teenaged picture of said son sitting on bookshelf, next to Cub Scout era Pinewood Derby car, didn't look familiar.  Finally, during one yearly visit I asked about his son.  "Have you ever heard of Mudhoney"?  "My son is Mark Arm".  I got a big kick out of this - and still do.  Further proof that the breeding ground for rock is mainstream suburbia.

I'm not a hardcore Mudhoney fan, but have a few CDs and dig some of their stuff.  During the grunge era that put Seattle on the map, Mudhoney should have gotten huge, but for whatever reason did not. They're an important band for many reasons and I'm lame for never experiencing them live.  Oh well.  They're still cranking out music, so I guess I have time.

Even after Calvin retired from the tax business, well into his 80s, he kept a few customers - including us.  We called him this year to set up an appointment, but he mentioned he's been sick - maybe in a few weeks.  We were sorry to hear that news and considered our Calvin era over.  I can no longer say I get my taxes done by Mark Arm's dad - my claim to fame - along with never seeing Star Wars.  Hey, I don't have much.

An old mountain bike and motorcycle pal of mine, Tony Meier, recommended a new tax guy.  New guy came over, collected our info and did a great job - refund is on the way.  He's also training for the STP this year and inspected my pile of bikes in the garage.  William is his name, taxes and number crunching is his game.

Perhaps a new era begins.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

From the Archives: 1988 Mountain Bike Specialists Catalog

Pulled from the official Dan O mountain bike archives - a 1988 Mountain Bike Specialists catalog - select pages (poorly) scanned for your amusement.

The mountain bike world was fairly simple back then. Suspension and disk brakes were a long way off. However, by this point quite a few companies had jumped on the MTB bandwagon.

Being insane, I remember receiving this catalog in 1988 and pouring over it. It was mailed in a Mountain Bike Specialists water bottle, an idea I thought was great. It arrived right before my wife and I were headed to dinner with my parents at Sizzler in Rockaway, New Jersey. That's right - Sizzler, remember those? I flipped through the catalog while we waited to get in. Why do I remember this - 'cause I'm insane - like I said.

Here's a few pages straight outta '88....

I included this page since it mentioned Ned Overend answering phones for the shop. After an additional few NORBA and world championships - he probably was allowed to bag the phone patrol.

This '88 Fat Chance is similar to the '86 Fat I own and posted about previously. I also own the Ibis Trials Comp pictured. I'll get around to posting that bike sooner or later.

This was the early age of aluminum. The Klein bikes were trick for their time. Guy pictured raced a NORBA national and did a 400 mile road tour on the same bike - pretty cool, eh?

This was back when Tom Ritchey produced his own bikes - welded by the man himself. That red and white Super Comp looks sweet. Check out the mile long stem.

Double click on the pictures for better viewing. Pretend it's 1988 and you're in line at Sizzler checking out the latest in mountain bike technology.

All you can eat buffet soon to follow. Burp.

The Rider by Tim Krabbe

I’ve heard of this book, but have never read it – until doing a little bike related media swapping with a fellow rider and coworker recently. I loaned him my Sunday in Hell and The Tour Baby! DVDs in exchange for his copy of The Rider.

I rarely read fiction. To me, real life is wacky enough, so there's little need to make anything up. Since this was a cycling based novel, what the hell – I gave it a go. Turns out I enjoyed it quite a bit. Really well written tale of a blow by blow account of a race, by the authors view in the race itself. Flashbacks to his childhood and other events included.

Originally published in Holland, it was translated to English in 2002. If you race bikes you can relate to the story, and even if you don’t race, it will make you want to race – or completely put that idea out of your head.

Literature genius, I ain't..... see what I mean? Google this book for more in depth reviews from people who are actually qualified for such matters. In school I basically majored in motocross and Ted Nugent. What can I say?

A few random examples from the book - he sucks you in from the first paragraph....

Meyrueis, Lozere, June 26, 1977. Hot and overcast. I take my gear out of the car and put my bike together. Tourists and locals are watching from sidewalk cafes. Non-racers. The emptiness of those lives shocks me.

On a bike your consciousness is small. The harder you work, the smaller it gets. Every thought that arises is immediately and utterly true, every unexpected event is something you'd known all along but had only forgotten for a moment. A pounding riff from a song, a bit of long division that starts over and over, a magnified anger at someone, is enough to fill your thoughts.

Forty-three nineteen. My gear lever feels like scab on a wound. During our reconnaissance ride I was using forty-three twenty here. Now I'm sticking to the nineteen, a matter of willpower. Krabbe's twenty was still clean as a whistle. Shifting is kind of a painkiller, and therefore the same as giving up. After all, if I wanted to kill my pain, why not choose the most effective method? Road-racing is all about generating pain.

As far as real life being more interesting then fiction, Jay - the guy that loaned me the book - got hooked on bikes about a year ago - along with his significant other, Jamie. They both now commute, tour and ride for fun - with multiple bikes each. Jay has lost 60 pounds and said bikes changed his life. To me, that's more impressive then any book written about riding.

Real life wins again.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Seattle Bicycle Expo

The Seattle International Bicycle Expo rolled into town today - presented by the Cascade Bicycle Club. I've attended this event for many years and back in my mountain bike club days, manned the BBTC booth a few times. My old mountain bike club pal, Scott Marlow, was the Marketing Director for Cascade for a few years. If I remember correctly, he mentioned 20,000 people attend this event. From the looks of today's crowd, I'd say the crowds have grown - it was jam packed.

Ian, Amy and I wandered the show for a few hours, giving mom a break from full time kid action. We had a good time, hot dogs included. Came home with the usual pile of catalogs, ride fliers and some stickers.

At the show, I met Maurice Tierney, Head Honcho from Dirt Rag magazine, one of my favorite mags. I scored a few bonus points and a Dirt Rag patch by wearing my Dirt Rag sweatshirt to the event. Dirt Rag has also recently launched new magazine called Bicycle Times - aimed at commuting and general transportation riding. Check out both publications - sort a 'zine that's grown up without losing the 'zine feel. They're great magazines with lots of reader submitted stories, photos and art work.

Even though I'm a race fan, occasionally dabble at racing (slowly) and love race bikes - road, 'cross and mountain - I've been psyched over all the utility, commuter and randonneur type bikes I've been seeing and reading about. These bikes makes sense and appeal towards real world use by normal folk, not just full fledged bike geeks. This needs to be the wave of the next bike boom and I think we're headed that way - I hope.

An example would be Civia, company based out of Minnesota, that produces commuter bikes. I talked to the sales guy for a bit, I wish these people success. Here's an example of what they do, that front rack is real cool.....

Moots makes rideable art out of titanium. The no nonsense look of their frames combined with unbelievable weld quality puts them on my favorite list. Here's their 'cross bike set up as a commuter....

Carbon Serotta set up as a randonneur style bike. I guess the giant handlebar bag protects the uh, flowers from the breeze....

This is just plain wacky. Dig the windshield wiper. Maybe you could sell ice cream out of it....

Expo also included a vintage display with some nice bikes out. Like this Schwinn Paramount.....

Old Gios and Eddy Merckx bikes included. Both are classics that I'd would love to see my garage.....

Don't remember the make of this vintage deal - check out the split seat tubes to allow tucked in rear wheel....

Okay, back to modern - yet old school frames. I talked with Andy Newlands, one man show behind Strawberry Bicycles. This guy has been putting out nice frames for 35+ years. If I were to purchase a custom frame, he'd be on my list. This was my favorite frame of the show....

Don't know the story on this, but it appears to be a new Moulton style frame. Wild. Sorta reminds me of a mini Ducati motorcycle frame.....

I've talked to the people at Co-Motion at a few shows and really like their bikes. Here's their new 26" wheel touring bike. Looks like an old school, drop bar mountain bike, but that's not really the intent. Shorten the chainstays, cruise eBay for a Tioga disk wheel, throw on a suspension fork and pretend you're John Tomac from the '90s.....

Overall, not a bad way to spend the afternoon. Saw some cool stuff, met some nice people, spent time with the kids, mingled with the bicycle subculture - always a good thing.

This concludes my official Bike Expo report. Not exactly like being there - but better then being nowhere. Whatever that means.

Tune in next time. Same Bat time. Same Bat channel.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cyclocross and Donuts

Bike Comrades....

I discovered this last night: MFG Cyclocross.
New ‘cross series scheduled for this fall. Zac dude involved with it also runs CBS. No, not the television network - a high end custom and fit shop here in Seattle. He’s also worked for Seven Cycles and apparently custom fitted a few zillion people.

As if you don't know - Seven is a high end production shop in Massachusetts that spawned off Merlin, which spawned off the birth of Fat City Cycles (R.I.P.) – which morphed into Independent Fabrications. The Boston area is a hotbed of bike manufacturing for the East Coast. Wicked, huh? Maybe you didn't know.

I also saw Zac guy race ‘cross at Marymoor one year – complete with friends heckling him on every lap. I don’t personally know these folk, just know who they are – sorta like a crazed stalker. If the group of people are any indication of what the upcoming series will be like – should be fun.

I’ve been incredibly lame riding myself. It’s been well over a week since turning a pedal. I am however eating like I’m riding, so I’m fueling up for the next commute. Top Pot donuts currently are the training food of choice, so I’m ready to fly.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

From the Archives: Fat City Slim Chance

I have a few old bicycle magazines laying around the house. Okay, a ton of old magazines. Actually - a stupid amount of magazines. I am the magazine fanatic. I have issues dating back to the early '80s up to current stuff. Over the years, I've dumped piles of magazines from other interests, but the bike magazines remain. I can't seem to throw those away.

I occasionally pull out an old copy to read once again. The Pile-O-Mags live in a closet, once a spare room, now my son's bedroom. They're buried behind toys and clothes, so I can't really see what I'm grabbing - it's sort of like playing the lottery. I reach back there and pull something out - sometimes it's cool, sometimes a waste of time. At this stage, it's all free entertainment.

Out of my ancient collection, Bicycle Guide is my favorite. This great magazine lived from the mid '80s up until the early '90s. I think it was the best all around bicycle publication ever printed. The writing style and detail was impressive. They covered mountain and road bikes, a bit of racing, interviews - a little of everything.

Posted is an example from 1991 that featured a Fat Chance Slim Chance article. Compare the detail and length of the road test to some newer magazines. Don't get me wrong, I dig some of the newer publications - but Bicycle Guide rocked.

This old Fat is pretty sweet - cool fork, great color, dig the Mavic parts - nice. I've never owed a Slim Chance or even seen one in the flesh, uh - metal. Make that steel. I'd take one now though.

I'll occasionally raid the archive for future posts. Excuse the semi-lame scan job, I'll get that sorted out for the next installment.


Sunday, March 8, 2009

Chess Whiz

Ian entered a chess tournament on Saturday. It's been awhile since the last tournament, since his interest in chess has dropped off the map recently - kids change as they grow - and they pick up and drop various interests. For a few years, chess was the thing and he was pretty good at it.

When Ian was around five years old - maybe even four - he asked me how to play chess. I don't know where this came from, since we didn't have a chess board at home. At this point, he doesn't remember where the fascination originally came from either - maybe from a book or something on TV. In any case, that Christmas Santa dropped off a chess set. Chess expert I'm not, but I did remember the basic moves from my childhood. I grew up in the no Internet, no computers, no cable TV, no video game era. We played lots of board games - including chess. I showed Ian how to play and he quickly picked it up.

After a short amount of time, he could beat me if I wasn't really tuned into the game. Ian learned to read at an early age, trips to library now included chess books - which he read and studied. Ian being our first child, we didn't know if it was normal for a kid to read at four years old and study chess books at five. He also was a little geography expert and could find all 50 states on a unmarked map or quickly find almost any country on a globe. Pretty amazing.

Having a July birthday, we waited until Ian was six years old before starting Kindergarten - where we discovered the school chess club. From the club we learned about local chess tournaments for kids, so we checked one out. That was it - Ian dug the whole thing. We had no idea this whole scene even existed. Hundreds of kids playing chess against each other at each event. Everyone plays five games against kids matched together by grade level and ranking.

Each game can last up to one hour (though they rarely do), so it's a long day. It's amazing these young kids are tuned into each game for that amount of time. In between games, they run around playing soccer, basketball, play practice chess games, and act like usual rambunctious kids. The chess season runs from September and pretty much ends with the state championship event in April.

We started hitting chess tournaments regularly and Ian did well, including qualifying for the Washington State Elementary Championship. He continued to improve and his interest continued from Kindergarten through 2nd grade. Lots of tournaments and he qualified for state every year. By this point, he could easily beat me - no problem. I occasionally catch him off guard and win, though that's rare. He beats me 99.9% of the time and I'm actually trying.

Ian did well by just by winging it, we took all this pretty casually. At the level he was playing at, many other kids belonged to a serious chess club and/or had a coach. Most write down every move of their games to study later. I asked Ian if he wanted to record his games. Nope - no thanks. His chess club at school was also more fun oriented with no official coaching and only ran for a few weeks each year. Tournaments are usually held at schools and I could see some schools were more serious about chess then others. Still, Ian's trophy collection grew and he scored some overall wins for his grade. Not too shabby. A big confidence booster and fun for him.

When Ian hit 3rd grade this year, I could tell his interest in chess had almost disappeared. We didn't play chess at home all summer. We did a tournament a few months ago and he took his first real beating - since his ranking is high enough now to play the more serious kids. This further killed the "chess thing" for him. I didn't push it - should all be for fun and a learning experience. I thought maybe the chess phase was over. He did sign up for the school chess club though and enjoyed that. Most of the kids are beginners and he's sort of the little expert and helps some of the other kids learn. I think he gets a kick out of that aspect.

Back to this weekend. Since this tournament was promoted at Ian's school, he elected to sign up and join some of his classmates. At most tournaments, Ian is the only one there from his school - so it was cool to have some other kids attend. We all sat together, talked and played basketball between games. Nice change from Ian being the lone chess wolf representing his school.

Ian wound up doing really well and tied for 1st place in his 3rd grade group. Due to tie breaker rules, he officially came in 2nd place. He was psyched. With this result, he qualifies once again for the state championship in April, this year to be held in Spokane. Overall, his school came in 7th for the team trophy - a nice result.

Today, Ian bugged me a few times to play chess and dragged out his book used to record moves - previously unused. Looks like we'll be making a trip to Spokane next month. Pretty cool really.

Picture posted is from this weekend. For a peek into the chess world for kids, check out the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer. It's worth checking out, even without the chess.

This whole crazy chess deal has been awesome for Ian and introduced the family to something new. Daughter Amy is now playing and attends Ian's chess club, even though she doesn't start school until September. My wife Lori assists to help supervise the kids. I've volunteered at times and designed some shirts for the club. From what I've seen - all of this is a great experience for everyone involved.

Checkmate and out.....

Friday, March 6, 2009

Davidson Frame Shop

Shared lunch today with my fellow work and riding pal, Brian Willett. We hit the Mexican place located on the stairs between Pike Place Market and the waterfront - that I never remember the name of. Killer food - really good. Mental block of the name - sorry. Helpful, ain't I?

As with our usual routine, when we occasionally hit this place for lunch - stopped by Elliot Bay Bicycles on the way back. It's a small shop that's also the home of Davidson - as in Bill Davidson frames. In addition, they carry Bianchi, Orbea and Rivendell and have a cool collection of vintage road bikes on display to gawk at. On top of this, a few rows of interesting used frames for sale on the ceiling.

During today's visit, got to talking to one of the employees and he invited us to check out the frame shop. Even though I've been there a few times, have never seen the frame shop - which is located behind the retail section. Guy gave us a little tour and we checked out the frame building fixtures, welding gear, and some frames under construction. Nice little unexpected surprise that made my day.

Small frame building shops like this echo the history of bicycle manufacturing and offer something mass produced bikes do not - perceived or otherwise. You can get measured to fit, talk to the builders, and get something made that reflects your riding style and intent - right down to the paint color. In this day and age, a rare and very cool thing indeed.

I hope small shops like this continue to survive and make great bikes. I've been fortunate to own some nice bikes over the last 25+ years, but never went the full custom route. If and when I dig up enough dough for the next road bike - will march down to Davidson or somewhere similar and actually talk to the person making my frame.

Man, I look forward to that day. It may be awhile.....

Monday, March 2, 2009

Fat City Cycles Tour

Fat Tire Journal clip of Fat City tour sometime during the '90s. Chris Chance himself giving the tour. Some cool old mountain bike history to check out.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Personal Rides: Bridgestone RB-1

The year was 1991 and I was itchy for a new road bike. My early ‘80s Raleigh Competition was riding just fine, but hey – when duty calls you answer. It was my duty to upgrade to a spiffy new road machine. The search began to replace the Raleigh with something new.

This was back in the day of dual incomes and no kids, so I was ready to pluck down some serious dough. Being bike magazine fanatic and bike shop wanderer – I had a few bikes on the list. Maybe a Bianchi, Davidson or even a Fat City Cycles Slim Chance. I visited a few shops and test rode some bikes. The chances of finding a Slim Chance to test ride was, uh – slim. I remember the sales guy at Elliott Bay Cycles not letting me test ride a Davidson on the floor – strange and a potential lost sale.

I did ride a Bianchi or two, plus some others – including a Bridgestone RB-1. The RB-1 felt great, but I thought it was too cheap – since some of the frames alone I was looking cost more. Over a few weeks, I test rode the RB-1 a few times – once back to back with a nice Bianchi. No contest, the Bridgestone rode better and felt fantastic. I plopped down the $750 (or so) for the RB-1, thinking I’d upgrade some parts later. I was working in Everett (that be Washington) at the time and scored the Bridgestone from Bicycle Center in Everett.

Bridgestone USA in that era, as many bike geeks know, was run by Grant Petersen - and they put out bikes that avoided current fads and just plain worked. They weren’t afraid to break up component groups, so they cherry picked parts from various manufactures and made some cool bikes. The RB-1 was a perfect example with a Sugino crank, Shimano derailleurs and hubs, Avocet 28c tires, Ritchey stem – and of course, a lugged steel frame.

I swapped the Avocet saddle out instantly for a Selle Italia Turbo model – but otherwise rode the bike stock. There was no need to upgrade anything on it. A few years later, I did install some wider Scott handlebars and Shimano bar end shifters, just to experiment a bit – and eventually swapped out the pedals out for clipless. Otherwise, it remained as spec’d by Bridgestone.

Since I sold the Raleigh after picking up the Bridgestone, the RB-1 was my only road bike from 1991 through 1997 and it was used quite a bit. I did some commuting on it, but it was mostly the weekend road bike. During that era, I did way more mountain biking, but did some road riding as well. The two STP (Seattle to Portland) rides in ‘91 and ‘93 stand out in my mind. The STP is a Northwest classic recreational ride that everyone should do at least once. 200 miles, completed in one day or two, your choice. My choice was two days and I felt incredibly good on the '93 ride and cranked both days. The '91 and '93 rides were done with some fun coworkers and created some lasting memories.

In 1997 I bought a Ibis Hakkalugi and semi-retired the RB-1. The Ibis took over as the bike of choice for road riding and the RB-1 lived mostly on the trainer in the garage. In 2004 I dusted off the RB-1, installed some new Ritchey 28c tires I had stored and the Bridgestone saw daylight once again. It was kind of a revelation after not using it for real rides for a few years - it felt great. I rotated it back into the commuting schedule and put some miles on it. The RB-1 frame and fork have a nice feel, then combined with the 28c tires - a sweet ride. It's a very cool bike and now a cult item - as is most items from Bridgestone, now that Bridgestone USA is no more.

In 2006 the upgrade bug hit again and I started test riding some modern road bikes. To show how well the Bridgestone rides - that old bike holds it own against modern stuff. Probably not a fair comparison, but I took a quick ride on a $4000+ Serotta titanium bike and it didn't feel that much nicer then the RB-1. For awhile I considered upgrading the RB-1 with STI and newer wheels. I didn't want to deal with spreading the RB-1 frame to 130 mm spacing to accept a newer rear hub - plus the bike is cooler in its retro state. I did wind up buying an Ibis Silk Carbon, the lure of carbon was too strong (sorry Grant). I didn't want to like carbon, but they ride damn nice - no denying it.

I still ride the RB-1 occasionally and enjoy it. If I were to get a custom steel frame built, would bring the RB-1 to the builder and say "copy this", just with 130 mm spacing for modern equipment. For an 18+ year old, mid priced, production bike - a pretty strong compliment.

1991 turned out to be the "Year of Bridgestone" for the Dan O estate. Besides the RB-1, I bought a MB-Zip and a MB-3 for my wife that year. I was a Bridgestone fan for sure and even though Grant Petersen's current bikes from Rivendell are not totally my "cup of tea", so to speak - I have a huge amount of respect for what he's contributed to the bike world.

Pictures posted are of my RB-1 in 1991 or so. It looks the same today, minus the goofy bar tape (now black) and sports clipless pedals and the bar end shifters previously mentioned. I also included the RB-1 page from the 1991 Bridgestone catalog and a magazine ad from that time. Bridgestone had some great no nonsense advertising as well as great bikes.

Thanks for reading and keep riding - old or new bikes.