Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bike Hauler Project - Just Walk Away...

Being a recovering gear head, I still occasionally cruise Craigslist and eBay looking for interesting cars and motorcycles. Not to buy, just to gawk at really. I'm a bit of the old school Volkswagen fan and get a kick out of checking Bugs, Ghias, buses and the like.

I came across this Bug last week in the local Seattle Craigslist ads. Older Bug with a Mazda RX-7 motor - pretty wild. Check out the holes punched in the hood for the radiator. Not a bad interior with Subaru STI seats either. All this for $3900. Had me thinking for a few seconds. Then I came to my senses - my fixing and tweaking with car days are long over - as in decades over.

Still, I can't helping thinking this wacked out project would be a blast. Just needs a roof rack to hold a few bikes.....

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Custom Bicycles - A Passionate Pursuit

Weather here in the Seattle area has been great for January - in the 50s and mostly dry. Can't complain about that. The days are even getting a tad longer, another sign spring is on the way. Well, not exactly around the corner, but at least a few blocks away.

Over the past week, I did get a few commute rides in, along with one grocery run with messenger bag jammed full of food. Thought I'd get a woods ride in over this weekend, doubt that's going to happen - too many family related festivities at the moment.

I picked up a cool book at the library today, Custom Bicycles. A Passionate Pursuit, by Christine Elliott and David Jablonka. Really well done, large page book - coffee table material - that features many customer builders, some you may recognize, others you may not. Bruce Gordon, Richard Sachs, and Moots - to - Jeff Jones, Luna, and Bilenky. Plus many others. Excellent photography and bio on each builder included. Nice book, wouldn't mind owning a copy myself. I've flipped through it a few times already. It's well worth checking out.

The book is a reminder that high end bikes are rolling works of art - each featuring the craftsmanship and build philosophy of the builder. Production bikes today are done very well, but - if you have the dough to spend - the full on custom frame has something production frames don't have - perceived or not. Call it soul if you will. And in this age of mass produced items, a very cool thing indeed.

Still, the most important aspect of any bike, production or custom, is how often it's ridden. The more the better. True?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Klunkerz - A Film About Mountain Bikes

My recent post on Breezer bikes and Joe Breeze got me thinking about Klunkerz - the documentary about the early days of mountain biking. I picked up this DVD about two years ago at the local shop, uBRDO, and have watched it several times since. It's been about a year since I've seen it, so last weekend, son Ian and I fired it up. A little bit of Saturday night movie action for the two of us.

I dug this viewing as well. It's a really well done film that chronicles the birth of mountain biking - the sport itself and the machinery involved - told from the mouths of folks that spawned the whole shindig.

I've been mountain biking since 1984, so I'm familiar with the tale and even recognize some of the pictures and magazine covers featured in the film. Still, that's nothing like hearing the story from the people themselves - Gary Fisher, Joe Breeze, Tom Ritchey, Charlie Kelly - and other folks you may or may not be familiar with - that were key in the foundation and development of mountain biking. A special note of honor should go to Wende Cragg, the only girl of this early bunch of off-road bikers. Not only for the fact she kept up with this crowd, but documented much of it with a 35mm camera. Without her, many early images of this era wouldn't exist.

The film starts with the convergence of people who started this whole thing rolling - road racers looking for casual off-road fun, mixed with pot smoking hippies having a blast out in the woods. First on single speed Schwinn cruiser bikes, slightly - then heavily modified with multiple gears and beefier brakes. Eventually custom frames are crafted to replace the tank like Schwinns and the rest, as they say - is history. This was also the birth of an industry and the term "mountain bike". Hearing Gary Fisher, Charlie Kelly and Tom Ritchey describe the early days of business was interesting. As was Mike Sinyard of Specialized taking a Ritchey to Japan to be copied, to create the first production mountain bike in 1981 - the Stumpjumper.

The famous Repack downhill race is also featured, and really, when it comes down it, is the birth of mountain bike racing as well. Cool stuff indeed. Still, the piece I get the biggest kick out of is hearing about other groups in Northern California, who were doing basically the same thing - with no, or just fleeting knowledge of each other. Pretty wild, must be something about that area and the people in it. These groups of bike nuts, The Cupertino Riders and Larkspur Canyon Gang, look just as crazy and fun to ride with as the more famous gang of riders credited.

That brings up the question as to who really invented the mountain bike. Previously and in other parts of the riding world - people modified bikes for dirt riding - no doubt about it. However, the crowd documented here, without a doubt, started mountain biking as we know it today. If you dig mountain biking, some respect and admiration is due. Lucky for us, everyone involved seem to be incredibly cool people that would be awesome to ride with. They are one of us, since the mountain biking DNA originated with them.

The essence of this film is the way it captures the fun and free spirit of mountain biking. Playing in the woods on two wheels is coolest thing ever. If you ride mountain bikes, you already know that.

If you're a surfer, you have Endless Summer. If you're a dirt biker, you have On Any Sunday. If you're a skater, you have Dogtown and Z-Boys. If you're a mountain biker, you have Klunkerz.

That about says it. If you consider yourself a mountain biker, it's a must see.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Rivendell Reader

The latest Rivendell Reader is now available for download off the Rivendell site. I've been a fan of this publication for many years - the older print version and now the downloadable PDF version.

In case you don't know, it's put out by Grant Petersen, the guy behind Rivendell Cycles and the much missed Bridgestone USA. I don't subscribe to all his views on cycling - dislike of index shifting, clipless pedals and racing bikes. I'm not really interested in multiple types of bags for my bike or how to wrap my handlebars with twine.

I do however enjoy his views on bikes for transportation and general use. That's always a good thing. And even though I may not be interested in 15 different models of cloth bags for my bike, I really enjoy his written description and passion for the products he sells. The Rivendell Reader and Rivendell catalogs are works of bike geek art - and I mean that in a complimentary good way.

The Reader and catalogs go beyond typical bicycle info and include interesting stories on other topics as well. I always enjoy when they focus on one of their suppliers - some bag manufacturer, frame shop, etc. - and see the people involved and experience their story. You'll also find great articles that have absolutely nothing to do with bikes.

Rivendell is also very cool with showing the people behind the scenes with running their own operation. Much more refreshing then the usual marketing facade found on most companies. There's a homey, honesty that comes across as genuine and that's pretty rare nowadays.

Most catalogs I flip though, then toss into the recycling bin in a few minutes. The Rivendell versions I tend to keep and reread later. The other day I found myself rereading a 2006 Rivendell catalog that I saved and digging it yet again. Sounds nuts, but true - we're talking about a catalog here. Rivendell media promotes not just their company, but bicycling itself. You can't get much better then that.

Grant Petersen would be an interesting to guy to have lunch with and yak about bikes. There would be some disagreements and debate on some topics, but probably an interesting afternoon. Well, for a full fledged bike nerd like me anyway - and probably a few others reading this post.

If you've never checked out the Rivendell Reader, give it a go. Bicycling magazine it's not.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Breezer Mountain Bikes - Back in Action

I've read recently that Breezer was planning to put out mountain bikes once again. I've been checking their website for details and finally, lo and behold - there they are to ogle. They look fantastic - to me anyway. Fully modern hardtail with old school Breezer graphics. Smart parts pick - all XT - and really, do you need anything more? Fox fork - best out there. Frames available in steel and aluminum. I'd have a hard time deciding between the two, but would relish the opportunity should it arise. The 18.5" size looks to fit me perfectly. Please send money - small bills, unmarked. I'd really like to see one in the flesh, uh - metal, so to speak.

As you may or may not know, Joe Breeze is behind Breezer bikes. Well, used to be - he sold the company, but is still involved in some capacity. If you ride mountain bikes and don't know who Joe Breeze is, I suggest you get your ass to mountain bike history school ASAP. Call now, classes are forming. Financial aid is available to those who qualify.

The illustrious Mr. Breeze is one of the founding fathers of mountain biking - one of the folks who kick started this whole mountain bike thing - at least as we know it today. He designed and built the first actual mountain bike frame, after he and other famous cohorts (Gary Fisher, Charlie Kelly, Tom Ritchey, etc.) started thrashing around on old ballooner Schwinns. He also was involved with NORBA, the first mountain bike racing organization, and even designed the NORBA logo. Old school mountain bikers now nodding heads in approval and shedding a tear. Go ahead, no one is looking.

During the '90s and I don't remember exactly when production ceased, Breezer made some really nice mountain bikes. They looked very much like the new models - well, paint anyway. I always thought the bikes looked cool, since they retained a bit of the old Schwinn graphics - kind of a tribute to the ancient clunker bikes that started it all.

Later, Breezer focused solely on commuting and transportation bikes, with Joe himself very involved with the pushing the bikes as transportation agenda. A noble cause indeed.

Out of the zillions of bikes out there, the occasional one really catches my attention and starts the mental gymnastics of how can I afford this. The new Breezer mountain bike is on that list.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Cycling Sells Beer

As cheesy as this '80s ad is - bet it's less goofy then anything Michelob Ultra comes up with, while Lance is on board....

See what I mean? I wonder how many Ultra coolers Lance gets to keep for the ranch - bet quite a few.

Actually, that 'cross ad is kinda cool in a retro way. How many mainstream ads feature cyclocross?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Fat Chance Forever?

Considering how much time I spend on the Internet and being the Fat fan, you'd think I've found most everything Fat related on the web. Apparently not so.

As proof - a few links and pictures I dug up while doing some Internet cruising tonight. Instead wasting time staring at a computer screen, I should be suffering on the trainer in the garage. Does looking at bikes still qualify as "training"?

In January, I think so.....

Some nice pics and story on the Fat pictured below at Check it out for more views of the Yo Eddy, before and after the restoration. The site appears to have been set up quite awhile ago, still worth a visit.

The site above also included links to a few other Fat related sites, including this German site dedicated to Fat City Cycles - that's been idling in cyberspace for 10+ years, since it refers to the last rendition of Fat City when it was located in Vermont - and still in business. You can find the pics below and other Fat related info at FATFANS.DE. Yes, that's Chris Chance manning the torch. If you're a Fat fan, worth a visit for sure.

Finally, something up to date. Groovy Cycleworks did the frame restore of the Yo Eddy frame at the top of the list. They also offer frame decals, bearing replacements, and replica Yo Eddy forks. Besides keeping old Fat frames flying, they also build some pretty - uh, groovy frames themselves. Looks like a cool frame building operation. I plan to cruise back there to check out all their stuff.

It's amazing that long after it's demise, Fat City Cycles still lives in the hearts of old school mountain bikers everywhere. Not many companies, bike or whatever related, can claim that kind of interest, loyalty and remembrance.

Fat City......R.I.P.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sunday Solo Ride

After a few week absence from the woods, hit some local singletrack at St Edward/Big Finn Hill today. Almost 50 degrees, trails wet enough to be fun, but not super muddy. Felt great to get out and had me thinking while riding - "I never get sick of this" - as in riding bicycles. Unless something stops me physically, this whole bike shindig appears to be a lifetime obsession. I guess there's plenty worse things to be obsessed with - no?

Son Ian wasn't in the mood for a ride, so a solo run for me. That's okay, in a busy house getting some time alone can be rare. If this was a few months from now, I'd be fitter and would have taken the opportunity to rip it up a bit. Since I'm in the middle of the winter riding slump, a fun cruise through the trees is all I needed. Spring and pretending to be fast is many weeks away.

While riding, I ran into John Zilly, who I know from old school BBTC circles. He was riding with his 7 year old son, which is always cool to see. John is the author of a few riding and hiking trail guides, including Kissing The Trail, which as become a Seattle area classic mountain bike guide.

When I got home, Ian was bummed he decided not to go - especially when I told him about running into John Zilly. Ian has flipped through the pages of Kissing The Trail a thousand times and would have liked to meet him.

Oh well - you snooze, you loose.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Bike Dilemma

Ten year old son Ian is just about ready for a new bike. His current 24" wheel Specialized Hotrock is a tad small now. It's been a great bike that he's ridden for 2 years with many fun rides, two Indie Series, and a few 'cross races thrown in.

For the dough, around $350, we've gotten our use out of it. Plus, it's still worth something to sell used. Deduct that from the original cost and we're talking cheap fun and a lifetime of memories.

He's still riding it, but I need to score him something else in the next few months. Being the single paycheck family of four, money is tight - so I can't throw down big bucks for the replacement. There's also other non-bike items on the bill list at the moment - like the almost ready to explode CV joints on my car. Joy.

Getting a super trick bike also may be a waste, since he could outgrow it pretty quick. Still, considering he races and rides a little more then the average 10 year old, need something decent. I've had him straddle a few new 26" wheel bikes over the last few weeks. Bikes with 14" or 15" frames are still too big, partly due to 100 mm travel forks now being the norm. Jacks the front of the bike up a bit, increasing the stand over height. At this point, something with an 80 mm fork would be better.

I've been batting around a few ideas...

One idea is to get me a new bike (heh, heh), then pick up a frame (new or used) for Ian - then transfer my '04 Fox fork and 11 year old XTR parts over to him. That would be a sweet bike for a 10 year old, no?

For this to work, need a frame with v brake mounts, since that's what I'm running. Scoring me a new (cool frame, XT, XTR level) mountain bike is also out of the picture - just too expensive. I've been cruising eBay and Craigslist daily for something used. There's a huge amount of clean used bikes out there.

I've also considered grabbing something off Bikes Direct, since the prices are insane. If the frame sucked, the parts kit alone is worth the price. When it comes down to it, this probably won't fly - 'cause we're still talking $1500 - $1900 or so. Motobecane may not be on the what's cool list, but a full XTR bike with Rockshox SID for $1800 is an amazing deal.

On to some other ideas.....

Here's Ian's current steed. The stem is 3 cm longer then stock. Since this pic was taken, the seat post has been jacked up another inch or so. I measured Ian the other day and he's almost 4' 11", he'll be standing 5 feet tall in no time. This frame is labeled as 11", but measures 12" to the top of the seat clamp. It also has a pretty short top tube - under 20 inches.

As mentioned, I've been watching Craigslist and eBay daily. I've seen a few local 13" frame mountain bikes advertised, but all have been 30 pound lower end bikes. That's not gonna work. I did spot a new (in box) 14" 2008 Klein Attitude with Deore kit and Rockshox fork on eBay. This was a no bid sale, buy now at $799 (retail was $1500+), that would have been perfect. Explaining that $850 (with shipping) is a deal for this, didn't fly with non-riding wife when discussing a "kids bike". I agree, a little out the range, but damn - that would have been cool.

Time for more options......

This NOS 14" Klein frame is currently up for bid on eBay. I've been watching the bidding, lots of action, and price is still under $200 (with no reserve). A few days left on the action, I'll jump in at the end and try to score it - unless the price rises to stupid levels.

I'm also considering this frame from Performance. The smallest size looks good fit wise, under 4 pounds, disk and v brake mounts, all for $119. Not as trick as the little Klein, but a killer deal and totally cool for a 10 year old.

I've also considered the Carver Mini, a really cool frame. It can use 24" or 26" wheels, or a combo of both to create a mini 69'er. Amazingly, there was a new frame listed on eBay last week, with no bids. When I checked the sizing however, I think he'd outgrow this too fast. The seat tube is 12", the same size as his current bike. Too bad, this would have been fun to build up.

If I score Ian a frame, will look for a used suspension fork to pair it up with, pirate some parts from his current Specialized, then see what I have in the garage to build up a decent bike. I'll also keep my eye on eBay and Craigslist for other deals. I'll get something going for sure. Frame, complete bike - something.

During this process, I may sell off a few classics in the garage for some extra dough. My '88 Ibis Trials Comp will be put on the action block. My '91 Yo Eddy - maybe. It's cool having those bikes around, but I don't ride them - but do ride my more modern bikes. We'll see. If anyone out there in Internet Land has something that would suit Ian, let me know.

Maybe a Brinks truck will crash into the house while I'm waiting and weighing out the options. Then I'll march down to a local shop, like uBRDO, and order a new Yeti for Ian and I. In matching colors, of course. Yes, a trip to Dream Land can be entertaining at times.

Over and out.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year

Time rolls on and 2010 is officially here. "2010" sounds like we should be flying personal hovercrafts and eating protein pills instead of cheese burgers. Ground control to Major Tom.....

First of the new year is also a call to arms to end my holiday riding slump. I did so with an hour slog on the indoor trainer, the 9:00 through 10:00 PM shift, time punch clock not required.

As usual, iPod set to shuffle to make the hour seems just a touch less painful. Highlight of the hour long blitz of tunes - The Hives. Great song, cool video - who knew Swedish dudes could rock......

As the new year rolls in, it also marks the 1 year anniversary of this little ol' blog. It's been a fun project and I get a kick out of doing it. It doesn't exactly pull in the numbers Bike Snob NYC or Fat Cyclist do, but I wasn't expecting that. I wasn't really expecting anything - just an outlet to write to bike related fluff - like the other zillion similar blogs out there.

According to Google Analytics, I get about 700 visitors a month and almost 2000 page views. I find that amazing, along with checking out what areas the hits come from - all over the US and many other countries. The power of the Internet. Just knowing that anyone reads my fluff is flattering.

It's all been really cool. I've received positive comments and connected with other bike crazed nuts from around the world. I've become a fan of this whole social media aspect of the Internet in the process - blogs, facebook, personal websites and the like. It's great stuff and makes things possible that weren't even imagined not long ago.

Happy New Year to everyone out there in Internet land. Thanks for reading and keep on riding.