After the Fall

I took a spill in September on the Kogswell. Dumbest kind of fall: I was gaining momentum up a hill going about 8mph when one of the grips slipped off and I pulled the wheel perpendicular and went down hard. It was the little half-grip on the right side -shortened to make space for the Nexus grip shifter. It had been loose for a while, and I found myself twiddling with it while I rode. I should have tightened it with some cloth tape underneath, but I never did.

So, down I went – hard, but not dangerous because of my slow speed. I haven’t ridden much for the rest of the year -a 40 mile ride here and there, but my shoulder was hurt, now better, but I still need to go to PT to finish it off.

Its not a big deal as far as crashes go. But its interesting how easily bliss can be derailed by a little dumb thing. Falling happens to everyone on a bike – the goal is to make it less likely to happen. Clearly, my neglect of the grip was going to bite me eventually.

Still, I plan to ride a Super Rando series next year – starting with the Rainbow 200K in San Diego. Here’s to happy riding in 2011!

Grand Bois 38mm Tires On Their Way

At long last, Grand Bois releases their 38mm all-around performance tire. If it feels and lasts like a Hetre, then its a clear winner. Between the venerable and dependable Col de la Vie, the new and well-received Soma B-Line tire, and the high performance Pari-Moto from Pacenti, there are fantastic choices in the “choice” 650B size of around 37-38mm. I must say that I’m very attracted to the tread pattern with those deep grooves and soft-looking rubber.

This reads rather technical, but having ridden plenty of miles on 650B, there is a subtle joy running those size tires on that size wheel. The ride quality can’t be replicated on a 700c wheel with fat tires. That’s fun too, but different. More weight spinning around. So, good news for commuters, mixed terrain riders, les metrics, and randonneurs.

You can read more on Jan’s blog here.

Austin City Riding

Folding bike and a bike shop

Last weekend in Austin, I gave a paper and organized a couple of panels at the excellent Flow conference. I’d been to San Antonio before, and liked it, but as a Californian I grew up thinking Texas was just about the opposite of most things I was used to. In San Antonio, this idea was supported upon my visit to the Alamo (there’s no basement indeed). Most California kids do a report on the missions at some point, and each mission spends a lot of time talking about the native peoples, the Spanish economic system, revolts, the Mexican period, and annexation after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildago. The Alamo didn’t discuss much of this — but focuses on the victorious Texas Republic!

I’d always heard Austin was a fantastic place, and after a short weekend there, I’m really warming to the place. I was warm, too – but a nice, welcoming kind of warmth, especially at night at the many outdoor bars and eateries. I stayed at the Hotel San Jose on South Congress, which I’d strongly recommend. Visited many of the places on my terse to-do-list around there: saw a show at the Continental Club, browsed the curiosities at Uncommon Objects, and ate a lot of BBQ. One of the coolest things about the S. Congress area is the mid-century vintage vibe that’s been embraced by business owners. I also loved the trailer food set up all around town:

Pool at the Hotel St. Jose

Trailer food

Mid-century vibe at Snack Bar

Waiting for the bats at S. Congress St. Bridge

I took my Tikit to explore a little more. There is something quite satisfying about getting to a hotel room and having a usable city bike ready in 15 minutes. I don’t bring a folding bike on trips for fitness, but to see stuff beyond the pedestrian range, the tourists’ gaze, and mass transit corridors. Traveling with the bike was as easy as ever, although TSA broke one of the latches on the Samsonite case on the return flight (I got it cheap at Macy’s – not the Bike Friday edition). Nevertheless, I was excited to explore the city. But time was not on my side for cruising the countryside, as the conference was just too damn interesting. I got to go up and down Congress a few times, rode around the Capitol grounds and U-T Austin, and along the river for a bit on chip-seal. I enjoyed riding around Austin, for sure. There were many roadies heading out to Hill Country, and a very good group of transportation riders moving about the city with ease and grace. The conference happens every two years, so I’ll be back in a while, sooner if I move there! Quite the seductive place.

Démontable Travel Bicycles

Rene Herse long produced a “démontable” model for travel. This design used quick releases on the top and down tubes to allow for easy disassembly.

The idea of getting a take-apart bike has been rolling around in my head for quite some time. S&S couplers and the Ritchey Breakaway system offer excellent options. Many custom builders can use the Ritchey fittings for about half the price of S&S couplers. Some folks seem to be ordering customs with hybrid systems that make up for the perceived fragility of Ritchey’s small bolt on the downtube joint by getting the mullet: all-business S&S coupler on the down tube, and party at the Ritchey seat cluster. Here’s a glam, big-hair metal Ahearne donning such a set-up:

The elegance of the Herse idea can still be had:

Watanabe démontable, designed by Hiroshi Iimura

I know of three builders who can do a Rene Herse-style démontable: Toei, Wantanabe, and Mark Nobilette. If anyone knows of more, let me know. The Nobilette system was displayed at NAHBS, and A. Wetmore, among others, took several photos found here. I’ve seen the bike in person, with paint, as my friend Sky owns it. It comes apart in quite the cultivated manner.

Cyclofiend Jim does a good job of explaining it here.

Map Randonneur Project and Sky's Nobilette Démontable Randonneuse

I thought I’d compare a traditional 650B frame (MAP Rando Project) with a contemporary custom take-apart randonneuse (Nobilette). The seatstays hit a bit lower on the seat tube, and the seat cluster and bb are fillet brazed, but seems pretty similar in shape. I wonder if the demountable is stiffer. Its a nice option.

Of course, as I discuss in this post from last year, traveling with a bicycle offers benefits and drawbacks. The idea of a take-apart frame means that you have your regular bike, set-up your way, ready for long and short rides. I’d use one for randonneuring and cyclotouring. For short city rides, on and off trains and buses, a folder might work better.

Japanese Bicycle Bling

Lots of folks know about Keirin racing and the stream of nice bikes that came from Japan during the Bike Boom of the 70s and 80s. Attentive readers of global manufacturing will also be aware of the yen’s rise and the subsequent suffering of Japanese manufacturing. I spent some time in Yokahama and Tokyo in 1996 (and would love to visit again — with a bike), just after college and just as I became invested in the connections between transportation cycling, urbanism, and sustainability. I was delighted to see so many practical city bikes in use and locked up around Japanese cities and in the countryside.

Nowadays, I turn to Japan for its pockets of activity in passhunting, randonneuring, and strict adherence to French-inspired design. Larger operations like Panaracer and Panasonic combined with smaller craft manufacturers like Kaisei, Honjo, and Nitto to constitute a center of classic cycling stuff. Digg deeper, and you find design outfits like Grand Bois and small shops like Toyo and the venerable Toei.

Its hard to find out about the scene, as even in the age of global interconnection, a language and an ocean makes up a large expanse. Jitensha Studio in Berkeley, serves as a gateway to the Japanese market in the U.S. Luckily, there are also a few blogs that allow a peek into the interesting and wonderful world of Japanese rando stuff:

Grand Bois Website and Grand Bois Blog

Toyo Blog

Some great photo collection that I know nothing about.

Fun with Albatross Bars

Nitto “Albatross” bars are special upright city bars that allow for bar-end shifters or inverse brake levers. They are wide, and if set up high on a quill stem, can get up there pretty good, which is why a lot of folks with back problems swear by them. They go well with the Rivendell style of rambling and ambling riding. If set up high, you’ll be exercising your quads mostly (that’s how it feels to me), and not getting the efficiency that you would with drops even or below the saddle. The higher they are, the more likely you’ll need a wide sprung saddle like a Brooks B66 or 67. Slide ‘da bars down, and they become better over distance. Great for touring.

Also… pretty fun on dirt? For sure.

Photo by Nathan

+++ Swrve Jeans +++

Nearly all my life, Levi’s jeans have been my defacto uniform. When we were kids, we didn’t ever use the word “jeans” to describe denim – we used the name brand. 501s, the only Levi’s I wear, are cut for panning gold, but perhaps not ideal for riding around doing errands.

I picked up a pair of indigo Swrve jeans several months ago, and find them to be the perfect riding pants. True, you can ride in anything, and one doesn’t need to acquire a she-she “bicycle” wardrobe (and I don’t like doing product reviews!). But if there’s one piece of bicycle-specific clothing that can become essential for utility riding, these are them. There’s a little lycra sewn in with the cotton, and it provides just a little give. They even have a nice little reflective stripe visible when your drive-side pant leg’s rolled up. They’re made in the USA, and for that, are worth every penny.

City Councilman Gloria to ride DownTownies Sunday

Here’s the news:

San Diego City councilmember Todd Gloria, Council District 3, has agreed to join the SDBikeCommuter Downtownies for a bicycle ride through his district this Sunday, 7/25. He will be joined by Anthony Bernal, District 3 Council Representative.

This promises to be a unique opportunity to spend time with your councilmember, discussing bicycle issues close to your heart, as well as finding out what is on the City’s agenda to improve conditions for cyclists in your area. For the next election you will know where Todd stands, whom to vote for and why!

Departure from Velo Cult Bike Shop, 2220 Fern St., South Park. at 09:00 on Sun. 7/25.

Councilmember’s Gloria’s district includes most of what is considered the “Uptown” area of San Diego, and includes zip codes 92102, 92103, 92104, 92105, 92115, 92116 and the following neighborhoods:

* Balboa Park
* City Heights
* Golden Hill
* Hillcrest
* Kensington
* Normal Heights
* North Park
* South Park
* Talmadge
* University Heights

Please go to for more information and discussion on this event.

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

I lived in a little town in New England for four years while in graduate school. Northampton, Mass has a population of about 30 thousand people, but with Smith College in the heart of town, and four other colleges near by including the University of Massachusetts Amherst only 45 minutes away by bicycle, we got a lot of big bands, big lectures, and great bars, cafes, and local culture. As a Southern Californian, I fell in love with the novelty of the small, bookish New England town in the late 1990s, and went everywhere by 3-speed. When I visit, I’m kind of heartbroken because Northampton is so far away. I know every corner of that town – it has a deep familiarity.

Northampton, Mass

My Protovelo was in my mother-in-law’s garage since April, when I left it up there in hopes of riding the SFR Russian River 200K – a trip I never made. So, there my bicycle sat while I rode the other bikes I’m lucky to own back at home. While the bike was away, I began to think of selling it, or at least painting it. This bike was one of the first raw-clear-powder-coats that came from Rivendell, and the early ones didn’t have the best rust protection. Living in San Diego, that’s not too big a problem except for the salty air here on the coast. There’s a small amount of surface rust that’s very slowly crawling up the fork ends. No big deal, and it will get paint soon, but its fun to enjoy the steely look a while longer.

I rode it on the Popularie, and took it out for a little two hour jaunt along Sunset Cliffs and Pt. Loma today. It feels quite nice to ride. Its bigger than my other bikes, at 60 c-c, with 175mm cranks and a long top tube at 60cm. With mountain gearing, its perfect for touring, but not the best for long, hard efforts. I like a 58×58 with a road set-up for that. But the differences in ride quality feel nice and the details are enjoyable, too. Navy blue, pea-sage green, maybe gun-metal paint soon…. But unlike that little New England town 3,000 miles away, the Protovelo now hangs again in my bedroom, ready to visit every day on a ride.