Sunday, September 27, 2009

Personal Rides: Yamaha Twin Jet 100


In my continuing Personal Rides series, I've been posting pictures and stories of bicycles I've owned in the chronological order that I acquired 'em. I'm not done yet, still have a few to go. In the meantime, thought I'd toss in some motorcycles - since my obsession with all things two wheeled includes some moto powered versions as well.

My interest in motorcycles goes way back to maybe age 12 or so. It was the early '70s and the dirt bike, mini-cycle and mini-bike boom was in full swing. Lots of kids in the neighborhood buzzed around on Honda CT-70s, Z 50s, Yamaha Mini Enduro 60s - as well as crude mini-bikes - complete with Briggs and Stratton mower engines, centrifugal clutches chattering away. Man, I wanted a motorcycle so bad - it hurt.

During this era, our family made occasional visits to relatives we had down by the Jersey Shore. My cousin Billy, about 5 years my senior, kept an old Yamaha Twin Jet 100 in the garage - a '60s model, slightly battered and outfitted with knobby tires. He usually let me ride it around the yard and that was always the highlight of the trip. Cousin Billy was the older cool cousin to me - had motorcycles, car projects, as well a great sense of humor. I remember one family get together, when he took me for a ride on the back of his Honda 750. To me, at the time - it felt like the fastest thing on earth.

During one visit, my dad asked him if he wanted to sell the old Yamaha. Cousin Billy just told us to take it home - for free. I was stunned. This was like Santa Claus giving you the whole toy shop. A great childhood memory for sure. We somehow wedged the bike - sideways - into the trunk of the family '69 Buick Skylark for the ride home. I couldn't believe it, I now owned a motorcycle.

Well, technically my brother and I owned a motorcycle, since he was part of the deal - even though he didn't know how to ride one. My mom was not thrilled with whole situation, as you'd expect when it comes down to motorcycles. The story of Cousin Billy crashing the bike, sans helmet, a few years earlier and laying in the woods unconscious, didn't help matters.

We lived in Randolph, New Jersey at the time, in an apartment with no garage. My school pal and fellow rider, Ray Westcott, let me keep the bike in his shed - a short walk up the road. It was an old shed, complete with a dirt floor - the smell of the dirt and gasoline is etched into my brain for life. Ray and I were in the same grade, but he was one of those kids who was big, or in any case, more mature for his age. He owned a few dirt motorcycles during this era - a Yamaha DT100, Montesa Cota 123, and at this time - a Hodaka Super Rat. I though the Super Rat was the trickest dirt bike ever - red frame, chrome tank - seemed like an exotic motocross bike to me.

For reasons I don't remember, Ray lived with uncle and grandmother at the house. His grandmother spoke only Italian and I recall his uncle as being super nice. I also remember meeting his dad a few times, who occasionally left his Norton Commando in the shed as well. Ray told me he'd snuck a few rides out on the Norton when no one was around. When I think back on it, that means were talking about a 12 or 13 year old buzzing the streets on a 750. Pretty crazy. Hey, it was the '70s.

Right across the street from Ray's house, you could cut into a small patch of woods, then dump out onto a decent sized field. I'd take the Yamaha over there, complete with my Kmart sparkle red helmet, and ride laps around the field. At times, there could be a few others buzzing around as well. Nobody cared and nobody complained. I already knew how to ride a motorcycle - shift, work the clutch, etc - from previous bummed rides. However, riding around on the Yamaha honed those skills. One time, my brother headed over to the field to try the Yamaha. He couldn't quite get the clutch action figured out, then after a few unintentional wheelies, had enough. I vividly remember that day, since Ray was also there riding the Super Rat. I remember him passing me over and over as we lapped the field. I was in awe watching that Hodaka blow by.

Since the Yamaha was really a street bike, its shortcoming in the dirt became apparent as I used it more - despite the knobby dirt tires wedged under the fenders. I wanted a real dirt motorcycle, so thought I'd sell the Yamaha and apply that money towards a Yamaha DT or Hodaka. My dad found someone to buy it and off it went - if I remember correctly for $75 or $100. My plan was foiled however, since my non-riding brother Tom, reminded everyone that technically half the money was his - so I had to fork it over. $50 doesn't buy much dirt bike action - even in the '70s - so the upgrade plan was shot down. It took another year or two to score another bike.

I didn't hang on to this Yamaha very long and compared to motorcycles I later owned, where I remember every little detail, it's a bit of a vague memory. After some Internet poking around, think it was a '65 to '67 model. It was a 100cc twin two stroke motor, so 50cc for each cylinder - tiny by modern standards. It would be fun to own today as a vintage material, don't think there are many around.

Picture above was pulled off the Internet. I have no photos of my actual bike. Mine was red, not black and nowhere as clean. Still, it was officially my first motorcycle and there's something to be said for that. It was the springboard for later motorcycles, lots of dirt riding, motocross, and other action. Lots of fun memories.

Thanks Yamaha and especially Cousin Billy.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Spawning Salmon and Glowing Tires


Long family day out today. Trip to Issaquah for a freebie Geocache event that walked us all around Issaquah, free lunch included - provided by Rogue Ales. Nice. Wife Lori and son Ian are into this Geocache scene. Daughter Amy I attend to round out the family unit and get some exercise in.

Downtown Issaquah retains most of its old school charm, even with the explosion of retail stores and housing nearby that's occurred over the last 20 years or so. Still a cool place to spend an afternoon.

As an added bonus, Issaquah Creek that runs through downtown has thousands of salmon that return to spawn each fall - returning to the fish hatchery located in town. It's quite a sight and reminder of being in the Pacific Northwest. Next weekend is the official Salmon Days Festival, jammed packed with folks, vendors and events. Hitting Issaquah the weekend before was a better deal - no crowds and you can actually find a parking space.



The salmon head home to spawn, then die, mission accomplished. Then the cycle repeats as it has for millions of years. Well, at least until man got involved. The runs now are much lower in number. The fish look small in this picture. Trust me, they're pretty damn big and powerful fish. At times, you can see 'em fight each other, complete with biting. Not shown, salmon jumping up fish ladders into the hatchery. How they find their way back to the their original spawning ground is incredible. Oh yeah, they're pretty tasty also - especially grilled. Mmm mmm good.



While in Issaquah, I stopped in Veloce Velo to poke around. I've heard of this shop, but never visited. Talked with the manager Jason Goff for bit and checked stuff out. Nice shop, more of a high-end place with Moots, Colnago, Willer, Look, Pinarello and Specialized. They do custom fittings as well. Next door, they're planning to expand with a bigger mountain bike section in 2010. I drooled over a customer's Moots Psychlo X set up for all around use - Wound Up fork, fat road tires and fender mounts. Super nice - as it should be for $6000. Jason also showed me a built up Salsa Chili Con Crosso that goes for $2200 or so. I'd go for that for possible cross use. Great bike for the dough. I also looked over a Niner frame for the first time - would build up into a sweet 29" mountain bike. When in Issaquah, check this place out.

On the drive home, stopped in Kirkland for frozen yogurt to top off the free lunch, goofed around the beach with the kids, and said hello to the folks at uBRDO - another cool shop. While there, picked up a copy of Cyclocross Magazine and Urban Velo. One must keep up with important research and inspiration. When in Kirkland, be sure to stop by uBRDO as well.



The old Ibis glows with anticipation.


After dinner, a little late night wrenching for Project Cyclocross. Pulled the fenders off the old Ibis Hakkalugi that serves as my crappy weather commuter - if not a pretty damn nice crappy weather commuter. This bike reeks of old school Ibis goodness, circa 1997. Cleaning and lubing the rear derailleur cable cleared up the glitchy shifting I'd been ignoring for months. I raised the stem a smidge to max height to get the bars up some, trued the rear wheel - then mounted cheap 35c Michelin Transport tires I picked up online for $8 each a few years ago - complete with reflective sidewalls. Yes, the ultimate in 'cross tire technology. Carbon tubular rims with Tufo tires - who need 'em? I got reflective sidewalls baby.

After the transformation from commuter to 'cross weapon (ha!), a test ride down my dark street. During a small bunny hop to feel the cushy tires, one SPD pedal releases and I crash my groin into the seat upon landing. Ouch. Yes, I am smooth - and in pain.

Plan is to hit dirt on the 'lugi tomorrow. It's been a few years since I've ridden off-road on this bike and even then, just a few times. I'll attempt a few running dismounts and remounts to convince myself I'm a cyclocross racer, then go for the MFG event at Sammamish State Park next week. After my first taste of 'cross a few weeks ago, I'm itchy for more.

That's the plan anyway. We'll see what happens between now and then. Should be interesting. I hope in a good way.....

Friday, September 25, 2009

Ode to the Flickstand



Back in my bike shop days, the fairly ancient times of the early '80s, spinning wrenches at Whippany Cycle - conveniently located in Whippany, New Jersey - many bikes still sported kickstands. Yup, kickstands - those goofy appendages that allegedly hold your bike upright at rest.

We'd have rows of bikes lined up outside, awaiting repairs, all happily leaning on their kickstands. Most new bikes were outfitted with one before they left the shop, just another way to add a bit of accessory dough to the sale. We sold a truckload of Greenfield stands back in the day.

For lower end bikes, kickstands - not a problem. At times however, people purchasing a higher end bike would request one as well. We'd internally cringe, while politely trying to talk the customer out of it. It adds weight, it just not done on a "nicer" bike - plus on some bikes, you couldn't even remove the rear wheel once it was fitted - since it took up space on the chainstays and blocked the rear wheel from being removed. Unbolting the kickstand, before removing the rear wheel, kills some of the "quick" in "release".

Even after the "kickstand talk", some people were not deterred. That's when we offered the "Flickstand" as a compromise. This little gizmo was made by Rhode Gear and clamped around the downtube. Once adjusted, it allowed a wire section to fold into the front tire - locking it and letting your bike rest against a wall, fence, or whatever - without rolling or having the front wheel flop around. It actually worked really well and we sold lots of 'em.

Still, I hated the way it blocked the downtube logo and thought the thing was a waste. Who cares though? If it made people happy and scored a few bucks for the shop - so what.

As far as I know, Rhode Gear is out of business, though Greenfield survives to this day - still manufacturing kickstands, right here in the good ol' USA. There's something to celebrate about that fact.

In this modern era of bicycle retailing, how many bikes go out the door with kickstands? I'm guessing not many, since most road bikes are race oriented. I can still see a use for them on cargo bikes and recreation rigs though.

With the increased interest in basic transportation bikes - maybe a Flickstand come back? If so, I'll gladly show you how to mount one up - just for old time sake.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Cords of Fun


Witness the wasted rear tire on my "nice weather" carbon Ibis. It's a Michelin Lithion, 23c to be exact. I'm guessing about 4000 miles to toast this tire. Not too bad really. The front tire is still useable, though I usually replace both tires at once.

I love wearing bike parts out. Seeing the cords poke through is proof of the miles being ridden, fitness being gained, fun to be had, adventures experienced - and money saved. What? Another set of tires to buy is money saved?

Considering almost all of my road miles are commuting miles, springing for new tires - compared against gas, parking and other car costs - bike tires seem almost free. It's pretty easy to justify nice bike goodies when it involves getting your ass to work.

Besides the money savings, bike commuting kills sitting in traffic or in a bus - hands down. No comparison.

I can't wait to start wearing out the next set ....

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Starcrossed in Redmond

Big time cyclocross racing hit Redmond tonight with the annual Starcrossed event, now in its 8th year. Son Ian and I have attended for the past 3 or 4 years - I think. At this point, it's all a blur - like life itself.

Starcrossed is great spectator event with the course winding around Marymoor Park, including the velodrome. Add in a beer garden, food, music and official race announcers - and you have yourself a little scene. A bigger crowd then the usual bike race anyway. We're not talking NASCAR here, but a slightly larger collection of sub-culture bike freaks usually found at a 'cross race.

If you're looking for a blow-by-blow race report, you've come to the wrong place - try Velonews a few doors down. I do know some dude from Switzerland won the men's elite race, and Alison Dunlap (of mountain bike fame) came in 2nd or 3rd in the women's elite race. I know, I know - try not choke down all the details at once.

What I can offer are some lame photos with actual comments.....



We arrived at the "tail end" of the CAT3 race - just in time to spot this guy racing in a homemade robot costume. As spectacular the aluminum foil covered shorts and cape are, wish I grabbed a front shot instead - to fully capture the foil covered, cardboard box head. It was a work of art. How you can breathe and/or see with a box on your head, during a 'cross race - that is the true work of art.



Nothing says "pro photography" like getting porta-potties in the shot.



Unidentified racer glances at NOS banner and considers a frame mounted nitrous oxide bottle for the next 'cross race.



Just follow the tape. It's so easy, a cave man could do it.



The finish line, complete with Starcrossed banner to remind you what race you're in. Some of these guys sprint so fast for the line - if they continued straight into the velodrome banking as a ramp - could probably clear 13 buses, just like Evel Knievel.



It's like a freight train of pain. Hey, the race announcers could have used that line.



The beer garden - strangely the most popular area of the course.



Blurry racers chew up the course. My little Canon camera is useless for action photography, especially in low light. One day Santa or the Easter Bunny will bring me a digital SLR. Maybe some photography skills will be included in the box, right next to the warranty card and wrist strap. Oh, I hope so.



Ian practices his podium salute. Who knows, maybe in a few years I'll capture this for real - with my shiny new digital SLR camera.



I have no idea why I included this shot. Besides people milling about, there's nothing going on. Please ignore.



Barrier section next to beer garden. It's amazing how fast and smooth these racers dismount, run, and jump back on. Very impressive. Even the plastered people in beer garden think so.



It poured for most of the men's elite race. Super wet, super slippery, super sketchy - like 'cross is supposed to be.



Well, there you go - another highly detailed race report, filled with insightful interviews, insider information, and award winning photography.

Tune in again next week. Same bat time, same bat channel.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Skateboards 'N' Dirt - The Perfect Combo

My old Mackie Designs, mountain biking, and all-around pal - Brian Stan - sent me this video of himself trying out a mountain board at a recent party.

What's a mountain board? An off-road skateboard of course. Sound safe? Of course not.

Witness for yourself.....



video

Expert commentary provided by another old school Mackoid, John Barchasch. Nice.


Besides the lasting memories, the aftermath.....















We now return to our regularly scheduled programming. Thanks for your patronage.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Escape from the Norm










Slight escape from the norm today. Every few months I take a day off work to meet some old pals for lunch, get there by bike, and get a few hours to myself - a rare deal being Family Guy.

Overcast and windy day, empty Sammamish River Trail, Mexican food at one of my favorite places to eat, some laughs with old friends, Brian and Kevin. Stopped a few bike shops to poke around afterwards, then headed home.

A low stress day, 30 mile easy cruise, and a few attempts at artsy pictures to capture the ride. Back to the normal grind tomorrow.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

My Co-Worker Races Cross





Fall means cyclocross season and yes, it is here. The Pacific Northwest is a bit of cross hotspot, with numerous races in the Seattle area. Today was the first race of a new series promoted by the folks behind MFG Cyclocross along with a few other sponsors, including the cool people at uBRDO. This race also happened to be in my backyard - Big Finn Park, located in scenic Kirkland, Washington.

Over the years, I've attended a few cross races as a spectator, but have never raced myself. Even though I race the (very) occasional mountain bike race, when it comes to racing, my joke is "I have the mentality, but not the ability."

Since this race was rideable from the house, son Ian wanted to enter, and the uBRODO crew was involved - I thought I'd give it go - plus I always wanted to give cross racing a try. Now was the time, do or die.

I considered the CAT 4 Masters 45+ race at 9:00 AM, but decided to go with the wacky Category Du Jour class for cross newbies. As a goof, the Category Du Jour class for this race was titled "My Co-Worker Races Cross." Yup, humor - along with pain - still lives with cross.

Since I'd be racing my mountain bike, have absolutely no running dismount skills, and at 48 years of age - thought I'd give the newbie class a try. As a bonus, the 12:10 PM start time was easier to digest and was the same time as Ian's Junior 10 - 12 age class. Both races scheduled for 20 minutes. Sounded good to me. Thought it be fun to have us both out on the course at the same time.

Plan in mind, Ian and I rode over from the house - nice change from loading up the car and driving somewhere. We signed on the dotted line, then rode around a bit to warm up, but never got a chance to pre-ride the course, due to other races in progress. Who cares, we'll wing it.

We line up for the 12:10 (ish) race. I have no idea who or what type of racer shows up for the Category Du Jour class, but soon find out. Kid on a single speed beach cruiser complete with a bright orange Protec helmet, younger dude with baggy shorts on a cross bike, tattooed girl also on a cross bike - and me, the semi-old Dork on a mountain bike. So, a massive field of 4 racers. This should be fun.

Ian's Junior 10 - 12 class, lined up behind us, had a quite a few kids - great to see. All of 'em on real cross bikes and running clipless pedals - except for Ian on his mountain bike, still racing with platform pedals and sneakers.

My goofy class takes off first and away we go. Course is a mixture of pavement, grass sections and a little bit of singletrack. Mostly flat with a few small elevation changes and only one running barrier section to embarrass myself on. Beach Cruiser Kid is off the front right away, with me in second place, holding off Baggy Shorts Dude. Tattoo Girl follows in fourth position. Baggy Shorts Dude hangs with me for a bit, then I lose him. I can see Beach Cruiser Kid at various points during the race, but can't catch him. The 20 minute race goes by quick, only 2 laps around the course. Beach Cruiser Kid officially kicks my ass on a beater singlespeed. I maintain my second place finish, with Tattoo Girl overtaking Baggy Shorts Dude for third place. Baggy Shorts Dude brings up the rear in fourth place. An epic battle indeed.

Immediately after the race I'm bombarded with sponsorship offers and pestered by the media for comments, flashbulbs going off in my face. My handlers push them away, while I congratulate Beach Cruiser Kid on his impressive win. I'm soon whisked away by helicopter to escape the crowd and get a head start on training for the next cross race. Beach Cruiser Kid - you will be defeated.

Huh, not quite - but I did congratulate the kid who won. He's all of 19 years old and proves the engine is the real factor, not the bike. Still, on a real cross bike - or any other "real" bike - he'd be even faster. Nice job.

Even though I'm goofing here, a race is a race. It hurts, though fun, and you learn a few things. I should have pre-rode the course for sure. I spent some time on the first lap just seeing where to go. I also wasn't hydrated enough. It was warm today, but I was insanely thirsty for such a short race. In cross fashion, I used no water bottles for the race. I also discovered I didn't suck as bad as I thought I would. If I actually practiced running dismounts for the barriers and used a real cross bike - guessing I could at least hang for the 30 minute CAT 4 Masters 45+ class. Maybe. It would be fun anyway and I may give it a go. Plenty more races coming up.

In any case, I had a blast during this race and it sparked my interest in doing it for real. I do have a cross bike, my '97 Ibis that I use for commuting. Just need to yank off the fenders and get some cross tires. Not exactly the trickest bike out there, but I'll fly the old guy, steel flag proudly.

Oh yeah - Ian's race. He did great and had fun as well. Being as I was on the course at the same time, only saw him for an instant. No crashes and finished ahead of a few kids. I give Ian and the other kids credit, racing is tough and they did the same 2 laps I did. Plus, lifting bikes over barriers is not easy at 10 years old. The kids rock and deserve some praise.

A few pictures of the faster folks in action.....









Thanks to my Neighbor Dan, some actual video of my stunning second place finish. Keep in mind, the barrier section was filmed in slow motion, so that you - the home viewer - can study the detail and improve your cyclocross skills. You can thank me later.....



video



In addition, Neighbor Dan capture Ian's race as well. Watching kids go at it is always cool.....


video



A fun day for all. Ian and I had a blast, daughter Amy and Mom cheered us on, neighbors caught their first cross race - complete with video - thanks for that. Thanks to MFG Cyclocross, uBRODO, Raleigh and the sponsors for putting this gig on.

We may hit the next event as well. It's all good.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day Weekend


After a busier then normal work week, complete with overtime - a lazy Labor Day weekend. Slept late all three days and goofed around the yard with the kids. On and off rain over the weekend with cool temps - a reminder fall is on the way.

Ian and I did get out for two mountain bike rides in our local woods on Saturday and Monday. With the rain, trails were in great shape. Dusty conditions replaced by tacky dirt, leaves and pine needles. Yup, fall is around the corner. Smelled great in the woods also. That wet, Northwest forest scent. Fresh, clean and a pleasure to experience.

The ride on Saturday included spotting three other dads riding with kids. That sets a record, but still one I'm looking forward to seeing broken. Riding with your kid is something that is truly special. If you're a parent, you know where I'm coming from. If you're not a parent - trust me - it's cool.

Ride today, partly in the rain - but still felt great - included running into some old riding pals from my BBTC days, Lenny and Jenny. They haven't seen Ian since he was a baby. Now he's riding with me. Time flies.

Long weekend is almost over. Back to the rat race tomorrow....