Author Archive for

04
Feb
17

Your Bike Friends Are Nuts

“Your bike friends are nuts!”

How many times have you heard this from a spouse or a loved one?

Chances are that, if you have made the leap and started to ride a bicycle seriously enough so that you can spout off the salient differences between Campagnolo Record and Shimano Dura Ace or you occasionally find yourself waxing lyrical about the virtues of carbon fiber rims to complete strangers, you have probably have had someone tell you this.

And if the question on the table is the comparative sanity of someone who is deadly serious about cycling versus a person who one would consider to be normal then, yes, by almost any reasonable objective standard your bike friends are all probably a little nuts.

Of course, by implication, your spouse/loved one is probably suggesting that maybe, just maybe, you are a little nuts as well. Let’s call it guilt by association.

That’s not to say that there aren’t some perfectly normal people who ride bicycles. You can see pictures of them in the Land’s End Catalog; happy couples gently wheeling along in some New England idyll, a mating pair of sweater-clad preppies finding the sort of complete khaki-clad fulfillment that can be realized only in the pages of an upscale clothes catalog.

They aren’t Real Cyclists.

So, you may ask, just what is a Real Cyclist?

Perhaps the best way to describe a Real Cyclist is by analogy.  Meeting a Real Cyclist for the first time is a bit like meeting the current President of the David Cassidy Fan Club.

Stay with me here.

For those of you out there under the age of 50, Mr. Cassidy was a briefly omnipresent television star and teen heart throb from the 1970s.  In terms of his ability to leverage good looks and a modicum of musical talent into a squeals of delight from young teen girls, Mr. Cassidy had few equals.  At this point in the second decade of the 21st Century, approaching 40 years after the cancellation of the Partridge Family television show and his disappearance from the cover of Teen Beat magazine, anybody out there still carrying the flame for David Cassidy to the point of being the President of his fan club is going to be truly committed to the cause.

And probably a just little bit unstable.

davidcassidySo I am not that far off base when I say that Real Cyclists are probably a whole lot like the President of the David Cassidy fan club: by any objective measure Real Cyclists are utterly committed to their sport.  And probably a little bit unstable.  That’s because – and anyone who has ever met a Real Cyclist knows this to be true – to a Real Cyclist the bike is everything.  It is a lifestyle in the fullest sense of that overused term.  An all-encompassing obsession with two skinny 700c wheels rolling over warm tarmac.  Nothing else really matters.  It’s Bikes! Bikes! Bikes! 24/7.  Any conversation will eventually be steered to topics involving detailed descriptions of the  bikes that they personally own, the number of miles that they have ridden this week, or trivia about the Tour de France.  It can be so bad that the experience of meeting a Real Cyclist often leaves one with the disconcerting impression that you are in the company of someone who is inhabiting an alternate universe – a bike-centric planet peopled by Lycra-clad iconoclasts and odd ducks.

It’s all just a little bit disconcerting and off kilter.  Just like, I expect, the impression that you would be left with after a five minute conversation with the President of the David Cassidy Fan Club.

What I am trying to get across here is that being totally obsessed with what is, for most normal people, a fringe activity can lead to some really weird behavior.  It almost goes without saying that Real Cyclists are generally a clannish lot and can be rather dismissive of outsiders.  It is like being  a member of a special club, just like being diagnosed as obsessive compulsive is your ticket to membership in another  equally “special” club.  Only a fellow Real Cyclist can ever fully understand another Real Cyclist.

This can lead to problems.

For a Real Cyclist, proving your bona fides as a full-fledged member of the club to another Real Cyclist is all about the choices that you make about the details: the equipment, the clothes, and the traditions that define the sport.  Details matter, and getting it right is very, very important to a Real Cyclist.  Complicating this dynamic (a polite euphemism for “dousing it in gasoline and throwing a lit match”) is the fact that each Real Cyclist has an individualized set of immutable Strongly Held Opinions about seemingly trivial things like chain lube, bar tape, and leg shaving.  The more arcane the item or practice the more strongly held the opinion.  And there is nothing – and I truly mean nothing – about cycling that escapes the gaze (or judgment) of the Real Cyclist.  So, for example, a Real Cyclist can be expected to have not just a favorite brand of bicycle, but also a favorite brand of inner tube, spoke wrench, saddle bag, bike shorts, and personal lubricant to swathe upon one’s nether regions to avoid chafing.

As happens with most matters of honor between highly-opinionated iconoclasts and odd ducks, a Real Cyclist is willing to defend each of these Strongly Held Opinions to the death. This means that Real Cyclists often don’t play well with others, especially other Real Cyclists. A Real Cyclist would prefer to ride hundreds if not thousands of miles by themselves rather than suffer the company of a cyclist who they view as a dolt or a fool, i.e. someone who dares to challenge their Strongly Held Opinion about the benefits of riding a particular brand of tire, for example. Or, worse, suffer the company of someone who they view as a sketchy rider, the greatest insult that a Real Cyclist can bestow upon another human being.

The one category of person who is seemingly exempt from all of this drama is the bike mechanic. Real Cyclists love their bike mechanic. Often to irrational levels. A good bike mechanic is part technician, part psychoanalyst, part confessor. He or she is the person who feeds a Real Cyclist’s jones for riding; their connection, their dealer, their enabler, their source for what gets them high.

In short, a bike mechanic can take an unnaturally important place in the life of a Real Cyclist. And that’s where things can get really weird.

* * *

A short word about me.

The above observations regarding odd or off-putting behavior certainly do not apply to me.  Despite the fact that by any measure I should be counted among the ranks of Real Cyclists, I am not weird.  Having me as one of your bike friends is nothing less than total unalloyed wonderfulness. I am neither an iconoclast nor an odd duck.

And I can overlook a poor choice of handlebar tape on a friend’s bike. Honest.

I will also note here that I am a fair bike mechanic and, lately, a frame builder.  I build lugged steel road bikes in my garage for my own amusement.  While I don’t wrench (or build bikes) professionally, over the years I have been known to do work for my more impecunious or time-crunched friends.

So, no, it isn’t a mixed blessing at all to have me as one of your bike friends.  I am not nuts.

And then, of course, there is Karl.

Karl is a Real Cyclist. And, unlike me, he is nuts.

* * *

On that particular sunny Saturday morning I had eaten breakfast and then headed down to the local hardware store to pick up a few things. Being the social sort, I stopped to talk to the other kindred souls who also like to hang around the hardware store on a Saturday morning.   Your typical Saturday morning hardware store conversation ranges from grass seed to sports, with a little weather thrown in to spice things up.  Not being in a terrible hurry to get back, I next strolled over to the coffee shop, ordered a cup, and then sat down to look at the paper. All in all, as perfect a Saturday morning as one could hope for.

Returning home, I pulled the car into the driveway and shut it off. Arrayed before me were all of the classic warning signs that we had just had an unannounced visit from Karl. Exhibit 1 was leaning against the garage door; a comprehensively broken bicycle. This is not the first time that a broken bike belonging to Karl has showed up at my house unexpectedly; I’m sort of his “mechanic of last resort” when something breaks and the local bike shop is too busy to fit him in. Exhibit 2 was my lovely wife, still in her bathrobe, highly agitated.

“Your bike friends are nuts.”

“Let me guess; Karl stopped by while I was out?”

“Yes, Karl stopped by while you were out.”

“….”

“I wasn’t dressed.”

“Ah.”

“So anyway, he had some sort of accident and hit his head. From what I could piece together, Karl was on a group ride and he wrecked.”

“And so he came here? Who was he with? Why didn’t they stop and call his wife or an ambulance or something?”

“Oh, that’s the best part. Karl apparently didn’t want to see a doctor. He wanted to see you. He was pretty insistent about that. So he waved everybody off and showed up here. I don’t know how he got here or who he was with, but he kept ringing the doorbell.”

“So what did you do?”

“What do you think that I did?  I hid, that’s what I did.  Hoping that he would go away. When he didn’t, I stuck my head out the door and basically tried to shoo him away. I offered to call his wife to come and take him to the doctor but he was absolutely set on seeing you first.”

“That’s nuts. So where is he?”

“I called his wife anyway. He was scaring the neighbors and bleeding all over our front steps.”

“This does not compute. Karl wanted to see me first? Before going to the hospital?”

“He said that he needed to talk to you first so that he could tell the doctors what happened.”

“Are you sure that’s what he said? Because, even for Karl, that seems a little strange.”

“Hey, what can I say? He hits his head and becomes fixated on the guy who works on his bike. Weirder things have happened. I mean, listening to you guys talk, all that you ever really worry about are your bicycles. Heaven help us all if something was to happen to your bike. With a set of priorities like that, putting in a visit to your bike mechanic ahead of, say, going to the emergency room to make sure that the blood streaming from your head isn’t some sort of imminently fatal injury really isn’t such a stretch.”

“How long did he wait?”

“He showed up right after you left. His wife picked him up about five minutes ago. Your timing is impeccable.”

***

In the end everything turned out fine; Karl was concussed, which partially explains why he was wandering around my front yard like a baby duckling on acid.  And we actually did figure out why he crashed – Karl broke a pedal off the crank and that caused him to go down.

But as for why Karl felt compelled to seek out his mechanic before heading off to the emergency room to get his cerebellum looked at, I can chalk that up to only one thing: it is exactly what a Real Cyclist would do.  And Karl certainly earned his Real Cyclist badge that day.

Too bad my wife still won’t let him in the yard.  He’s nuts.

03
Oct
16

Later Just Happened: The Bike Is Painted

Last time ’round I said that I would stick to tradition and ride bike Number 5 for a while and paint it later.  Well, after a good solid shakedown period riding my latest creation to work, a couple of things happened.   First, it didn’t kill me, which is always Job #1.   Second, in addition to not killing me, it also didn’t fall apart, act weird, explode, catch fire, or bother the wildlife.

What it did do was start to rust which, being steel, you could expect.  You’d think that this would be a bad thing, but I’m quickly finding out that not all rust is equal, and that one person’s “rust ” can be another person’s “patina” in the right setting.

“Patina” is sort of the latest deal among hot rodders and car guys.  You can’t open an issue of Hot Rod Deluxe (cool magazine) or whatever without seeing some  vintage Ford roadster or ’60s Chevy Gasser with what looks like very old paint or, a lot of times, no paint at all.  And it goes beyond merely preserving an old, distressed paint job; there are folks who actually work to make a new paint job look like it has been baking in the sun for 60 years.  Not surprisingly, given this trend, there are products out there that you can use to, in essence, preserve a shitty old paint job and, yes, I had more than one person tell me that the “patina” that had popped up on my bike was really cool looking and I should find a way to keep it.

However, to conclude this part of the discussion in hot-roddding terms, I’m not into the “rat rod” look.  I like my rides “sanitary.”  As in sharp looking.  Think early ’60s custom or Indy racer.

Capturing that vibe, of course, required another visit to my friends at Roth Metalflake, purveyors of the bitchen-est custom paint on the planet. What makes Roth perfect for my home-brewed bikes is that (1) it is very high quality automotive paint, (2) the colors are killer, and (3) you can get it in a rattle can.  Yes, rattle cans.  I’ve got the compressor and spray guns and all the impedimenta necessary for painting cars, but the older that I get the more that I hate cleaning up.  With rattle cans you can just spray and toss.  Perfect.

Anyway, the colors that I picked were from a cool  (but sadly tragic) Indy-car from 1964: Eddie Sachs’ “American Red Ball Special” Halibrand Shrike.  Metalflake gold, white panels, red trim.  My bike has more gold than Eddie’s car, but the colors are pretty much off of the same palette.

Eddie and Dave MacDonald Died In A Lap 2 Crash

Eddie Sachs, Indy 1964

The color selection from Roth was “Custard Pie” flake over a white base.  I made up a set of decals – including the young lady – and then clear coated the whole shootin’ match with a two-part catalyzed clear.  I also picked out the “windows” on the lugs (fork legs, head lugs, etc.) with Roth pin-striping paint.

Take a look:

She is a

“Fixation”

Mr. Bad Example

High -Flange Goodness

Overall, I am happy with the way that it turned out.   The paint really “pops” in the sun.  There are one or two spots where the clear got a little hazy, but I was able to buff most of that out.  It’s almost a shame to ride it to work and place it at the mercy of the Bike Rack Neanderthals who are a little hard on the paintwork when parking or retrieving their rides.

02
Sep
16

I’ll Paint It Later

Okay, so it has been a while.

As a peace offering to my usual audience, the spam bots and random folks who land on this page as a result of a really misdirected Google search, I offer pictures of my latest project.

Behold, Bike Number 5.  A lugged steel fixed gear frameset.

number5-12The Details:

Columbus Chromor tube set, oversize (Schwinn used to use this on some of its touring bikes).

Short point “bikini” lugs

Paragon Machine Works rear track drop outs

Steel, straight legged fork, aero cross section

Hidden rear brake cable (in the top tube)

Geometry – 55cm top and seat tubes, 74 degree head and seat tube, 39 degree offset fork.

More Details:

number5-2

“Ass Harpoon” seat stay caps.

number5-3

IRD “Defiant Crank Set – 144mm bolt circle, 1/8 inch pitch, 46 tooth ring

Paint: unpainted for now, but I already have the paint sitting in my garage.  Roth Metalflake “Custard Pie”.

So, how does it ride?

I put about 100 miles on it last week, riding back and forth to work.

One word: smooth.

Another word: fast.

This is a good one.

KkQSGbI

 

01
Apr
16

New Shimano Add-On For Di2? You Heard It Here First…

While I am not a normal source for breaking news from within the cycling industry, this one is too good not to pass on.

shimano%20logo

You can expect an announcement in the next few days from industry-leader Shimano regarding their new “Shimano High Intensity Telemetry” add-on for Di2. The new system is comprised of a series of sensors buried under the bar tape and saddle that measure various biometric parameters in real time via galvanic feedback from the skin on your hands and glutes. Quietly deployed in the pro peloton this year, the system provides the rider with feedback on heart rate, lactic acid levels, calculated V02 and, oddly, cholesterol and (on the women’s-specific model) predicted ovulation.

The units also have a GM “OnStar”-like concierge feature that streams rider data to a central location (believed to be a facility located inside the ShimanoLand theme park outside of Osaka, Japan) where it is monitored in real-time. Among the more intriguing services offered by this concierge service is what Shimano engineers are calling their “Bail Me Out” option: Shimano will hail an Uber driver for you if your biometric data reveals that you are too tired to continue. (This algorithm is based on your level of fitness as calculated from your age, number of miles this season, calculated BMI, and the proximity of a good coffee shop). The video feedback from the derailleur-mounted CM-1000 ShimanoVision “action cam” is directly compatible with Apple TV.

20
Feb
16

I Am Done With Complicated Coffee

I had an epiphany this morning, standing in line at the Starbucks across the street from my office. No profound observations about Man and God or insights into Beauty, Nature, and What It All Means. Nothing that deep. It was, after all, 7:30 in the morning.

No, it was something more basic. More practical.

My epiphany was this: I’m done with “complicated” coffee. 

Yes, I Did Make Some Double Espresso Cups WIth The Taylor Bike Logo. You Know That You Want One…

 
Stated more precisely, I’m done with other people standing in line ahead of me ordering “complicated” coffee while us regular folks just want to get our java and bolt.

We all know what “complicated’ coffee is. And if you don’t, all that you have to do to find out is show up at just about any Starbucks or other “premium” purveyor of coffee and watch what people order. It’s your mocha frappicino. It’s your iced soy chai in a personal cup. It’s your skim, no whip, triple pump pumpkin spice latte. It’s any foo-foo drink that you’d care to describe. It’s the need to make a statement about personal empowerment masquerading as a beverage purchase.

And from the perspective of all of us waiting here at the back of the line, it’s a drink that takes a long time to order, and an even longer time to make.

Me, I’m not picky. Obviously. I drink whatever is brewed. Drip coffee, thank you. Maybe a shot of espresso, if it isn’t too much trouble. And I don’t hold out for “Sumatra” or “Pike Place Bold” either. Just make it strong and black. No cream or sugar. Like God intended.

This set me to thinking that there has to be a coffee place for those who just want a cup of joe and not have to wade through a lot of nonsense. I would call it “Just F*cking Coffee.” And there would be rules.

The rules would be the best part.

  • Coffee, and only coffee. Don’t start with that macchiato or frappachino crap. If you can’t ladle it or pour it out of an urn, we won’t sell it.
  • No coffee accessories for sale. No cups, no coffee presses, no espresso machines. No music CDs. Go pimp that crap somewhere else.
  • No gift cards. No credit cards. Cash only. Exact change appreciated. And especially no prepaid cards. From what I have observed from my spot at the end of the line, all of those Starbucks prepaid cards must be based on complicated arbitrages of obscure foreign currencies or negotiable instruments that must be reported to the SEC. They must, given all the receipts, signatures, and counter-signatures that appear to be necessary to complete a single sale. Paying for a cup of coffee simply cannot take that long, unless you are attempting to pay for your soy chai or latte using Romainian bearer bonds tied to Argentine peso futures or the Brazilian real.
  • You will get your coffee thrown at you if you are yakking on the phone or plugged in to an iPod while placing an order or paying.
  • WiFi? You won’t be here that long. Trust me.
  • The sugar and milk are over there, by the napkins, on your way out the door.

Am I missing anything?

10
Nov
15

Left Over Paint

Having finally finished up Bike Number 4 (“Miss Behaving”) it was time for me to catch up on some deferred maintenance on the rest of the fleet. I also needed to clean up the clutter in my workshop that always accumulates around a framebuilding project, especially during the thrash at the end when you finally push away the empty paint cans and tape and just want to bolt the damn thing together and ride it.

Ahhh….paint.

The killer paint job that I eventually laid down for “Miss Behaving” is its own story.  What I wound up with is a completely different paint job than I had first envisioned.  The blue metallic pearl that ended up on the bike sort of evolved and mutated over time as I muddled my way along.

And what also happened is that, with the color change, I had a lot of left over paint. Paint that ended up as the basis for a really cool accidental customization of another bike.

It went like this:

The original vision for Miss Behaving wasn’t the snappy cobalt blue that is on bike now, but rather a Lime Green metalflake, with black trim.  My thought was Lime Green would go with the wheels that I had for the bike – which were black. Whatever color I painted it had to work with black.  Lime Green works nicely.  So I bought paint – a color called “Gatorade Green” that I thought looked the part.

I painted the fork (see picture); and it wasn’t what I wanted.  A very cool color, sure. But not what I wanted.

After some soul searching, I decided that actually a bold blue ‘flake would be just the ticket.  The blue worked with the black wheels; let’s go with that!  So I bought more paint, this time a cool blue pearl called “Bad Azz Blue.”  I laid down a white base coat, like they suggested, and then started shooting pearl coats.
Lots of pearl coats.

Now I know that with pearl you build up the color gradually with lots of coats, but I quiclkly realized that I would go broke piling on the pearl coats before I got the color I wanted.

So…I stripped the bike and started over. This time I picked the blue metallic base coat instead of the white and then shot the blue pearl coats over that.

It worked.  Perfect.

But now I had a buttload of “Gatorade Green” paint and a slightly smaller buttload of  non-returnable”Bad Azz Blue” pearl left over from the two prior attempts.

Enter my commuter bike, the trusty and rusty 1998 Bianchi Volpe with a billion miles on it. One of the tasks on my to-do list was to blow a coat of paint over the frame in an effort to forestall further entropy over the winter. The bike still had its original jade green paint that was barely hanging on and, worse, the frame had some serious rust issues. It needed paint. Badly.

I decided to experiment a bit. I could always just get a can of Rustoleum and have at it, but where was the fun in that?  Looking at the many cans of leftover Gatorade Green and Bad Azz Blue pearl that I had lying around, I figured that I might be able to make the Gatorade Green turn a less bilious shade by shooting a couple of very light coats of the equally-leftover blue pearl over it.

Here’s the result – it turned a sort of reptillian metal flake green that, for some reason, reminds me of the album cover on Alice Cooper’s “Billion Dollar Babies.”  The crappy iPad pictures don’t do it justice; it is really cool looking.  In fact, I get more unsolicited comments about the bike and the color than with any of the other bikes that I own.  Sure, my spray technique can certainly use some work – getting the blue pearl to mist evenly over the green was hard to pull off on something as weirdly shaped as a bicycle, so there are a few splotches and blotches where the pearl got away from me. But overall it looks wicked. 

 I did some decals and then clear-coated the shootin’ match. We’ll see how it holds up to daily commutes to work this winter.

18
Oct
15

Some Pictures

I was hoping to have something nicer for you to look  at other than some crappy iPad pictures, but my buddy the photographer (who went ape over the bike when I first rolled it out) hasn’t showed up with his camera, so these will have to do.

“These” are pictures of my fourth bike, Miss Behaving. 

   

    
 

The Details: “MISS BEHAVING”

– Silver brazed lugged steel

– Richard Sachs “PegoRichie” tubes

– Richie-issimo Lugs and Bottom Bracket Shell

– Richie-issimo fork crown and Piccoli Gioielli Front/Rear Dropouts

– Internal rear brake routing

– Paint: Roth Metalflake BAD AZZ BLUE Pearl shot over a blue base 

– Decals and Headbadge by Taylor

– 74 degree head and seat tube, 39mm offset fork (56mm trail)

– 55cm top tube, 55cm (center top) seat tube, 40mm chain stays

– Campagnolo Athena 11, Old (2003) Chorus Hubs laced to Open Pro rims

– King head set

– Brooks Cambium saddle

– Nitto Two Bolt post (NICE)

– Nitto Bar & Stem
How does it ride?  Fabulous.  This is now my “go-to” bike.  I can definately see Miss Behaving getting a LOT of miles next season.  I’m also now a compact crank convert – the Athena 11 shifts perfectly, I can always find a perfect gear, and there is plenty of range to get my old and wrinkled ass up most climbs that I am likely to come across.  Again, perfect for epic rides next season.  I’m thinking Jerimiah Bishop’s Alpine Gran Fondo next September…




%d bloggers like this: