Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I Love My Bike - Book Review

Picked this book up from the library last weekend.  First glance, "Hey something to flip through at home", thinking one cruise through would be enough. According to plan, once home, flip through I did.  More then once as a matter of fact.  This is a great little book.

Simple formula of taking pictures of people with their bikes from various cities around the U.S.  It all works and I found myself studying the photos in detail, checking out the people and bikes, but more importantly - the cool backgrounds.  Well done portraits of people and their two wheel rides. If you ever have the need to photograph people and bikes, one awesome little reference book.

Another reason this book works is due to the majority of fixie hipsters contained within.  Fixie hipster I'm not, so that subculture of bikes and uniform was a cool change of pace, over the usual carbon race rig and wanna be racer look.  A look I've seen plenty of and guilty of myself, so nice change of vibe to see people in normal street clothes mixed with bikes.  Fixed gears, tattoos, urban transport, hipster scene.  It's all good and makes for some great pictures.

Book by Matthew Finkle and Brittain Sullivan.  Based out of Boston.  Nice job.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Vintage Bike Show - Hammer & Tongs

I had the opportunity to experience some vintage motorcycle gawkin' and picture snapin' over the weekend, courtesy of the Hammer &Tongs show on Saturday.  I hit this show last year and dug it, so penciled in for 2012.  Family schedule allowed some rare solo time, so armed with camera, off I went on a rainy and snowy afternoon to the festivities.

Show held at Downtown Harley Davidson in Renton.  That be Washington for all you non Pacific Northwest types.  Downtown Harley located next door to Renton Motorcycles, mega dealership that closed over the last year.  Welcome to the new economy.  Apparently when paychecks are running low, two wheeled tomfoolery is pretty easy to cut.  Bummer for all involved.

On a happier note, decent sized crowd and Pile-O-Bikes on hand for the vintage show, though not as many specimens as last year.  Still plenty of stuff to look over, bring back memories, and maybe even create new ones.  I recognized a few bikes from the previous show, but fresh vintage iron also mixed in.

Let's get started with assorted rambling and pictures...

Trick little restored Honda XR75, complete with Jeff Ward Racing goodies included.  This would have made some Racer Boy or Girl extremely happy back in '76.  Now probably making some old dude happy by restoring and staring at it.  Nothing wrong with that.  Cool little bike.

On the small bike note, Honda CR60 modified by BBR.  Look at that trick pipe - sweet!

Well used Bultaco Pursang 250 in that cool Bultaco shade of blue, circa 1978.  I always wanted one of these back in the day.  Plenty of two wheeled history associated with this famed Spanish marque.

1971 DKW enduro bike.  Yes kids, back in the stone age before iPhones, dirt bikes really looked like this.  Note the leading link fork, groovy exhaust system, and Johnny Space Commander headlight.  DKW stands for Dampf-Kraft-Wagen.  Dude, would that be a killer band name or what? 

The iconic Yamaha DT.  Many dirt bike careers launched via these bikes during the early to mid '70s.  A few of these buzzed around my childhood era neighborhood, much to the lust of motorcycle-less me.  A friend occasionally let me ride his 100cc model around the backyard, heady stuff for a 12 year old.  Thanks Ray Westcott, wherever you now may be.  I still remember roosting through the "puddle" in your yard, that turned out to be a leaky septic tank.  The stuff dreams are made of.

Nicely done Hodaka 125 set up for vintage racing, complete with modern up pipe.  A cottage industry has sprung up to supply the vintage scene with parts and upgrades.  Valuable resource for the vintage collector and racer.  Welding up expansion chambers for bikes 30+ years out of their heyday to race one again - almost brings tears to my eyes.  Vintage eyes that now require reading glasses.  Ironically, Hodaka displayed in front of faded, flared jeans, that were in style when this bike was new.  What comes around, goes around.  I'm just waiting for feathered hair and tube socks to return. The circle will then be complete.

Super sano Husqvarna looking vintage, yet plenty capable.  The black rims add a modern touch to this Swedish thing of moto beauty.  That's right.  Swedish thing of moto beauty.  Yeah, I'm weird.

Super trick Kawasaki KX modified for vintage racing via aluminum swingarm and modern shocks. Again, black rims really sets this off.  Very nice bike.  The unpainted cylinder/head combo, combined with the handmade down pipe - yes please.

Early Suzuki TM250 appears to have just rolled off the dealer floor, circa '72 or '73.  Totally restored and spotless.  Not recommended, but you could probably eat off those rims.

Can-Am MX 175 straight out of 1978 for your viewing pleasure.  I wanted one of these back in the day.  Didn't happen.  A boy can dream, can't he?  Fast forward 33 years.  A man can dream, can't he?  Not going to happen.

To keep the Can-Am roll alive, later model 250 looking very orange.  Circa '79 or '80 if my failing memory serves me correct.  Superbly restored example of Canadian motocross technology from the era of Scott boots, cheap gas, and natural motocross tracks.

Motocross bikes ruled the show, but a few other vintage pieces sprinkled throughout, including this Honda CB160 set up for road racing. Specific class that allows racing on the cheap.  Cool set up.  Dig that ventilated drum brake, exposed air filters, and chin spoiler.

Maico 400 graces the floor amid a blur of activity.  Well, something like that anyway.  Fantastic looking bike, reminding me of similar Maico models my pals rode in the past.

Trick Bikes-O-Plenty at the show, this vintage race modified YZ included.

1980 Suzuki RM250 looking race ready.  I owned and raced a '79 Suzuki RM125 back in the day, so familiar with this era of RM.  By this point in motocross history, long travel suspension was the norm, though air cooling and drum brakes remained. Don't worry kids, you can still go plenty fast on something like this.  This was the coolest era of motocross bikes in my view, but hey, I'm a little biased.

Very red, very modified Honda XR.  Looks great and I'm sure fun to ride.

A few bikes for sale at the show, fueling the idea to race AHMRA events.  Someday, when time allows and the wallet is fatter, I'd dig doing just that.  For now, I'll dabble outside the tent, peering in with a camera.

Maico sits at table alone, hoping the cute girl with red hair notices.

The Maico parade continues.

Yamaha YZ 465 looking ready to roost.  Call me Mr. Cranky, but when motocross lost the open class two strokes, the sport lost something special.  In the right hands, very talented hands required, these bikes were the top of the motocross food chain.  Sorta like Tyrannosaurus Rex with knobby tires and loud expansion chamber.  Big boy pants required while piloting.

My favorite bike of the show.  And I'm a two stroke fan.  Custom framed, much modified and hand built, Jawa motocross work of art.  Powered by a '60s era Jawa speedway motor.  A very interesting bike that draws your eye to details of the construction...

Apparently, right side shifting converted to left side.  Amazing fabrication of brake pedal now in its place.  Modern carb fuels ancient Jawa motor.  Handmade frame cradles everything...

Stainless steel exhaust routes through the middle, complete with damped mount.  Notice the aluminum plate motor mounts and hand welding on engine case.  I totally dig the ancient looking Jawa motor, combined with the (relatively) modern looking bits and pieces...

Another view to ponder and soak up details...

Very cool bike.  Would I'd like to own, build, or maintain something like this?  Hell, no.  But I do appreciate the build, how different it is, and the work that went into it.  I talked to the owner and he mentioned it's also ridden hard and raced.  That's coolest part of all - it gets used.

Table full of awards ready to congratulate class winners of the Hammer &Tongs race series.  Fantastic looking awards, complete with photo of winning rider.  Very well done and more personal then the typical Awards 'R' Us plastic trophy.

Lined up memories awaiting inspection.

Hodaka fitted for modern vintage battle.  In high school, during the '70s, I remember stopping in Walt's Hodaka with a friend and his dad.  Small, well kept shop in a suburban New Jersey backyard.  Yes, a part-time backyard shop.

A few years later, we'd frequent another backyard shop near Hackettstown, New Jersey.  Place sold Puch parts, new Hercules motorcycles, and dirt riding accessories.  Shop opened by knocking on the house front door, then walking out back to the barn.  The tail end of a different motorcycle era.  A vast cry from the neon lit, modern motorcycle shop.  Was it better?  In a way, yes.  A lemonade stand compared to modern retailing, especially considering online sales.  But a pretty damn cool lemonade stand, run by folks who really knew their lemonade.

Please exit from memory lane.  Back to the show...

Spectacular looking CZ rests comfortably on plush carpet.  These bikes were a bit before my dirt bike involvement days, though I've always wanted one.  Festering in the back of my defective brain, the plan to race AHMRA lives, complete with a CZ in the picture.  Perhaps one day.

With a little elbow grease, this could be your next ride.  Then again, maybe not.  A very battered '78 Honda CR125 for your consideration.  I owned a '76 CR125 back in '78, but mine looked, ah, a little cleaner.  This one appears to have been stored under water.

On the other end of the scale, super clean '75 Honda CR125.

Museum quality 1978 Harley Davidson MX 250 leaning nonchalant to the left.  The motor was actually constructed from half a Sportster v-twin, then converted to two-stroke operation. Go ahead, don't believe me.

Actually, it came from Amarachi, an Italian company AMF owned at the time, along with Harley Davidson.  Yes, AMF, the bowling company. Bowling, motocross, and Harley Davidson.  Can't understand why that didn't work out.  Go figure.

Race modified and battle scarred Yamaha TT500 guards the entrance.  Restored Husky provides back up and On Any Sunday memories.  Tail end of Yamaha IT175 provides a little blue to the picture.

Harley XR 750 flat track bike.  An example where Harleys actually work in the dirt, and quite well.  I've never been to a flat track race, should add that to the agenda....

Another insanely well prepped bike?  Sure, why not?  Add this YZ 250 to the pile. 

Artsy slide show of additional pics, since I've temporarily run out of rambling comments. Bask in awe of my alleged photography skills and/or waste more time at work.  Go ahead, all your coworkers are busy with Facebook anyway...

Well, there you have it.  Time to wrap this thing up in a blur of pre-mix and knobby tires.  Fun afternoon of checking out old bikes - many given a new life - and talking with the folks involved.  Cool little sub culture that revolves around the vintage scene.  I hope you enjoyed the pictures and words reflecting the day.  I certainly got a kick out of putting it all together.

Thanks for reading.

Update:  If interested, also attended this show in 2014 and 2011.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Team 7-Eleven - Book Review

Santa left a few books under the tree this year, including this one.  It has something to do with bikes.  How did he know?  Santa is watching, so you better be good.  For goodness sakes.

Full book title is Team 7-Eleven.  How An Unsung Band Of American Cyclists Took On The World - And Won.  That's a mouthful, or an eyeful, if you can read silently.  Book written by Geoff Drake with Jim Ochowicz.  Why am I telling you all this?  Just look at the cover, official shot of Andy Hampsten, minus head, for the added bonus.  Man, that 7-Eleven team kit looked cool, eh?  All aboard the steel Merckx.  Makes my old school heart all a flutter...

Enough nonsense, let's get down to some serious reading. Oh yeah, I already read it.  And I dug it.  I may be a bit biased however, since this stuff is from my era.  My serious interest in cycling really took off around 1984, so many of the events and characters from the book, I remember from magazine articles back in the day.  

Even so, I'm far from being the Team 7-Eleven expert by any means, so did pick up some knowledge and insight.  How the midwest speed skating and cycling scene was the birthplace of it all.  Jim Ochowicz built this team from the ground up, during a time when American pro cycling was basically non-existent, on a world level anyway.

Back then, I also didn't realize how Eric Heiden really helped launch the team, via his Olympic speed skating fame.  Not being one to milk the limelight, he humbly used his celebrity status to draw attention and money to the team - and cycling itself - something he believed in.  Without  Ochowicz and Heiden, Team 7-Eleven would have never existed.  And the entire landscape of US cycling may have developed differently.  Consider that Team 7-Eleven morphed into Team Motorola, then into US Postal, along with the Lance Armstrong era.  Team 7-Eleven put a US based pro team on the world map.  And that changed the face of pro cycling itself for the better.  Well, for US fans anyway.  True?

The book takes you on the ride, from the very beginning, with all the famous characters along the way:  Davis Phinney, Eric Heiden, Ron Kiefel, Jonathan BoyerChris Charmichael, Andy Hampsten, Bob Roll - the list goes on with heros from an earlier time in the sport.  At one point, Greg LeMond was signed to ride for 7-Eleven, but the deal fell through.  Damn, that would have been something to witness.  Reading about the big races of  that era, now gone, like the Coors Classic and Tour de Trump, reminded me of flipping through the pages of magazines during the '80s, when this was all new.  And of course, when Team 7-Eleven headed to Europe to contest the big ones - like the Giro and the Tour de France.  It was truly a fantastic era for cycling.  Wanna argue about that?

Also, the corporation of 7-Eleven are heros of this era.  At the time, business was booming and money was available to invest.  They elected to go with cycling, knowing nothing about the sport.  They sponsored various teams, build velodromes, and really helped cycling grow in the US. Without 7-Eleven putting up the dough, US cycling may have never taken off during that era.  It was a great chain of events and mix of business and cycling personalities.

Ultimately, what I took away from the book, is what made me a 7-Eleven fan to begin with.  This gang of folks took on European cycling in an American way, annoying the old school cycling system.  The riders worked as a true team, ate Mexican food, got a little crazy off the bike, blindly went into race situations, pulled off spectacular victories, and experienced embarrassing failures along the way.  They went from being the underdogs to a respected pro team in the European peloton.  They paved the way.  They were the prototype American pro cycling team. They made history while thrilling cycling fans.  A very cool story to be celebrated. 

Taiwanese Fat Chance?

Checking my Facebook posts this morning, came across this update from MOMBAT.  

MOMBAT?  That short for the Museum of Mountain Bike Art & Technology.  That's one museum I'd like to spent an afternoon visiting.  It's housed at First Flight Bikes in North Carolina, and if I ever find myself in that part of the country, will drop in for sure.

Back to the update.  Seems they're selling off a few of their vintage bike collection, and one caught my eye, being the Fat City fan.  Fat City Cycles super expert I'm not, but know a fair amount about the history and models - as well as owning a '86 Fat Chance and '91 Yo Eddy - from back in the day.

Fat City bikes were all hand made in the U.S.A.  First at their Somerville, MA location, then later via a joint venture with Serotta, in New York state.  That's what I thought anyway...

According to this ad, Fat City dabbled with frames made in Taiwan for the Canadian market. Out of the many Fat City related articles, catalogs, and other stories over the years - I've never heard of this.  True?  If so, doesn't surprise me since Fat City was growing at the time.  Interesting story anyway.

Picture of the '91 Taiwanese Fat Chance, courtesy of the MOMBAT site.  Click here for more views and details.

I can't confirm or deny the off-shore frames for Canada story, but found it kind of interesting and adds another piece to Fat City Cycles lore.  Would I buy this bike?  Probably not.  But for a collector, a possible cool bike to own, just for the history of it all.  If interested, it could be yours.  Act now.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Team JL Velo Cyclocross Season - Pile-O-Pics

For your amusement, a kaleidoscope of the entire 2011 Northwest Velo/JL Velo Racing cyclocross season. Well, at least the events where Racer Boy Ian participated - that's my boy. It was a fun fall for both of us. Him on the racer side and me on the camera side.

I took a few zillions pics during the 'cross season, some already posted on my little ol' blog. I also posted team only pics in Google for the team to cruise through. Slideshow of 'em all below. Grab a drink and pull up a chair.

Some technically a little blurry and/or not perfect, but not bad. Intent was to capture as many teammates as possible with emphasis on the junior racers. What's cooler then kids looking pro and racing 'cross?

Labor Day Cyclocross Championship. 09/05/11. Milton, WA.

MFG Series Race # 1. 09/11/11. Kirkland, WA.

MFG Series Race # 2. 09/18/11. Issaquah, WA.

Seattle Series Race # 1. 09/25/11. Redmond, WA.

MFG Series Race # 3. 10/02/11. North Bend, WA.

Seattle Series Race # 2. 10/09/11. Lakewood, WA.

Seattle Series Race # 3. 10/16/11. Everett, WA.

MFG Series Race # 4. 10/23/11. Redmond, WA.

MFG Series Race # 5. 10/31/11. Seattle, WA.

MFG Series Race # 6, 11/13/11. Seattle, WA.

Seattle Series Race # 7. 11/27/11. Monroe, WA.

Washington State Cyclocross Championship. 12/04/11. Arlington, WA.

Well, there you have it. Pile-O-Pics reflecting our 'cross season. Next fall will roll around sooner then expected. Time flies when you're getting old. Until then, much mountain biking and even a little pavement cruising in the works. Now its your turn to ride and grab some pictures.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Steelman XO-1

Cruising through the Steelman site, came across his modern version of the iconic Bridgestone XO-1. Very cool bike, eh? Handmade steel, disk brakes, mustache 'bars, celeste paint. Awesome "do everything" rig with a higher end edge.

Click here for more pics, including frame details. Very nice indeed.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Welcome to 2012

No better way to ring in the new year then a mountain bike ride. True? Sunny and 50 degrees, pretty sweet for the first day of January and 2012.

2012? Sounds like we should manning personal flying machines. I guess in a way, we did just that. Crummy photos as proof, shot on the fly, heading back home through the neighborhood.

With recent rain expected the local trails to be Mud-O-Rama. Not the case, slightly wet and all around perfect. Due to a crazy workload, holiday festivities, along with other excuses - first time I've been riding in weeks. Been awhile since Racer Boy Ian and I cruised the trails together. A great day out. Some singletrack cruisin', Clif Bar eatin', and father-son talkin'. Nothing better then sharing a ride and outdoor time with your kids.

Happy New Year to all who actually check out my little ol' blog. Hope your upcoming year is full of fun rides, cool trails, and great folks to be with. Let's bring on 2012 with as much time as possible on two wheels.