Illustration for Dirt Rag

Amanda Zimmerman, the new Dirt Rag art director, commissioned an illustration from me to go with ‘Last Chance For Gas’, which is the piece that closes the magazine. Amanda encouraged me slip in a cycling bird reference, too, which was fun.


We went back and forth with sketches of the inside and outside of the shop, and the narrator and the new commuter he sees outside. Finally it all came together with both, and I floated the panel anchored by the big rectangle of the window that separates the two people.

Calling the the shop ‘Paradise Cycles’ was about the last idea, when you’d think it would’ve been the first. My favorite part of the finished picture is the pile of tires on the left.

Surly Dingle

I got some use out of my Surly “Dingle” cog today, riding up Peavine Road. Peavine is remarkably low-traffic, even around 5:00.

This Dingle cog has a 17 tooth cog and a 21 tooth cog. The Quickbeam’s 40 and 32 tooth chainrings make a large gear of 63.9 i nches and a low gear of 41.4. I have my usual 15t cog on the other side of the wheel for a 72.5″ gear. Your exact development changes depending on your tire size and crank length, of course; I’m running 35mm Paselas and 170mm cranks.
Dingles are also available with 18, 19 or 20 tooth big cogs. I chose this one because I’m an extremist. Also, I’m remarkably weak, and I wanted something that would take the pain away.

I rolled around town a little, cutting through the park to get onto 2nd, which took me out to Hill Road. This was the highest traffic leg of the loop, or maybe it just felt like that because the shoulder disappears halfway to Peavine and I was passed by a big rig and a dump truck that was tailgating him.

I rode out Peavine, and switched to the low gear when it got a little steep. There’s a nice shaded turnout there at just the right spot, but of course I went another hundred feet up the road and changed gears across from a dirt driveway on a blind corner.

Of course, there was fender-fussing, where I had to brute-force a little more slack from one side and finesse the quick releases about halfway before the fender wouldn’t rub the wheel in its new position. The Dingle makes the low gear axle position about half as far back as with just the two rings and a 15t cog.

The 32×21 is a nice low gear for that road. There were a couple times when I spun out on some slight downgrades, but the sustained climbing felt really good.

When I got to Power House Road, though, I switched back to the 40×17 and navigated the steep washboard gravel road. Too much speed and you just start bouncing around! The trick seemed to be to stay off the rear brake. The 35mm tires seemed to handle the gravel fine, though.
There was one big black pickup that came up the road, throwing a lot of dust. I took a deep breath and half-closed my eyes to get through that roiling cloud.
There’s also a house with two enormous Rottweilers. They came running out the driveway, but I said “HEY!” and they let me go. I’m glad Power House Road is a lot shorter than I thought. About the time I started saying “this road sucks,” it was over.

Right turn on Baker Creek, and I’m almost home. I stopped at Ed Grenfell park for some water, and because I always like to make a circuit of the park and cross the bridges.

Great Divide Race

Update: Well, the race is over, two guys beat the course record, and several guys were laid low by dehydration. Praise be to folks who are smart enough to drop out before they damage themselves permanently. After the last couple years, finishing on a fixed gear is starting to seem… impossible. Nathan Bay, the only finishing singlespeed rider this year (and only the second after Kent Peterson?) finished 8 hours over the limit. Topofusion shows it as 8 minutes over, which boggled my mind at the unfairness of it all. :^)

Follow it here.
Read the posts from the bottom, one at a time. This would make a great movie, just the phone messages, some maps and lots of footage of the route. It would be hypnotic.

These guys are racing from Canada to Mexico down the spine of the continent. On bicycles. Unsupported. Everything they need, they carry on their backs.

Here are the stats from Topofusion, updated by Scott Morris (probably not the same one I knew at Sony). A lot of the positioning is best-guess, since they self-report from payphones to an answering machine, and some of them don’t seem to do much of that. Tom Purvis transcribes it all onto the GDR blog.

Dave Nice is doing it on a fixed-gear machine. Whoa.

It’s the only sporting event I’ve ever found remotely interesting, and I wish them all the best best best. Holy cow, man.

Optimum Tire Pressure – 35mm tires.

Update 7/2/2007
I’ve extended the graph a bit, because I intend to gain a bit of weight this summer. Now I can use it to figure my tire drop when I weigh 275 with a 25 lb bike (180 lbs on the back wheel).

Now if someone could just figure out the line for 45mm and 54mm tires!
The latest issue of Bicycle Quarterly had a short article (by their standards) about how to optimize your tire pressure to get the ideal 15% ‘drop’ front and back. The drop is how far your tire deforms when you get on the bike.
If your tires are too hard, they bounce on road irregularities and rob you of speed. Also, it’s less comfortable. Too soft, and there’s too much drag.

The BQ tests corroborated a Frank Berto test that indicated 15% is the ‘sweet spot’ between too soft and too hard, and included Mr. Berto’s chart.

Unfortunately for me, it didn’t have a line for 35mm tires, which is what I currently run. I found two places where the gap between 32 and 37 evenly divided into fifths, and measured me a new line.

I even weighed my bike, with me on it, with the tires on a doctor’s scale and a decorative cinder block (which was the perfect height) to get the weight biases fore and aft. It came out 40/60 with some random (but light) stuff in the basket.

So I plotted the tire pressures, made sure it was also a 40/60 ratio, and pumped up the tires to 55 front and 75 rear with my hugely aggravating SKS Kompressor pump that probably needs a new red rubber part to grab the stem.

NAHBS autograph hound

I had such a good time at the North American Handbuilt Bicycle Show, you couldn’t believe!

I arrived shortly before closing, because Amtrack was… six-plus hours late. I actually laughed out loud when I realized (sitting in the train for an hour in a marsh in Benicia) that I might miss the show for a second year in a row! Last year, I broke my arm two days before it, and was in surgery on the day I was supposed to be there. About three seconds after that I got really angry, thinking that I might get in so late that I’d be stuck in San Jose!

My friend Mark saw the whole show twice, came to the station three or four times and had to walk a dozen blocks to find a cell-phone charger for his car so he could find out what happened to me. Total hero.

My other friend Mike I was supposed to meet up with there said he kept marvelling at things going “there’s no way Phil* would willingly miss this!”

I also missed out on meeting the iBOB (Internet Bridgestone Owner’s Bunch) folks, which was a real shame. I spend a lot of time internet-yakking about bikes with them, and I would’ve really liked to meet some of them face-to-face. Ah well, I guess I’ll remain a mysterious cypher for another year. (Yeah, that cracked me up, too… or was it only me?)

I did meet Rick and Gina. He remembered that Angelina had bought my knickers for me, and I told Gina I liked her bike. She’d had the same trouble with the Amtrak pizza that I had (chicken mysteriously become sausage and pepperoni). They’re really cool. I’m happy they’re part of my internet circle.

I talked to a guy at the Bilenky booth while I was waiting for Mark to get back from parking the car (and after I’d just walked in without paying – sorry, I didn’t see anyone taking money that late).
Wow. I’d heard about Bilenky for years, but never seen the caliber and coolness of their bikes.
bilenky

Mark made a big deal out of showing the girl at the gate his wristband, which almost blew my cover, and we were off! I was like a kid on a sugar high going back into the candy store. I think I may have been a little much for some people coming off the second day of a big show, but most of them seemed as amped as I was.

The thing I did this year that I wanted to do last year, was get builders’ autographs and a little line-drawing of a bicycle. Kind of a bike-signature, which is a pretty weird idea. Over all, I’d say most people were surprised and flattered. Some were non-plussed but did it anyway. Very few actually came across with a drawing, but the ones that did were great!

I saw Richard Sachs in his booth, and looked at his bikes. Mmmm… smooth. Ira Ryan was away from his booth, but I got a shot of his pink porter**. If he had a ‘cross bike there, I spaced it out, but the pictures I’ve seen of his ‘cross bikes… they have a different aesthetic than Sachs’, but maybe more my style.

I got Sacha (Vanilla) White’s autograph. He’s super-friendly, coming out to meet anyone stopping into his booth and chatting them up. Cool. He talked a bit about teaming up with Rapha for a couple things, and how they sponsored his ‘cross team with a load of gloves and gear (knickers?). We agreed that it seemed like a perfect match, with them “kinda coming from the same aesthetic.”
That’s Sacha White’s autograph at the top of the page. Tom Oswald was about the last guy I talked to, he was starting away from his booth as they were shutting off the lights, but came back to talk to me. I was inarticulate and weird, and he was gracious and smart. Oddly, he randomly chose to sign under Sacha, bringing it full circle.

I got to Bruce Gordon’s booth and flitted from bike to bike like a crazy moth, or possibly a bee. “Wow. I didn’t know… look at this! And… hey!” I could kind of see the Petaluma influence on my aesthetic, and the Rock n’ Road genealogy in my Quickbeam. Great stuff.

I asked Bruce for his autograph, and he said “sure, if you buy my CD – it has professionaly pictures of every bike here, I’ll sign anything you want!” I was like “I paid $5 for a Heineken***, I’ll buy your $7 CD.” I asked him if he remembered my friends from Dempsey’s. He did, which launched him on a good reminiscence, culminating in “that Lisa – she was as cute as a bug’s ear!”
Then he spied Mark’s camera. “Are you shooting FILM? Is that a… no. Wow. Can I hold it?” Apparently he used to be a “Nikon man – Nikon FM,” but he really coveted a Leica. If I ever see him again, he won’t remember me for our mutual friends… I’ll be the “Guy with the Leica Guy.” :^)

I talked to Mr. Old Man Mountain, and admired his Alfine bike. No fenders, but a nice minimal rack (panniers only). I liked the bars especially well. They were milled down out of a big chunk of aluminum. I was like… “so you work with Old Man Mountain racks and make the bikes?” and he was like “oh, I’ve been doing the racks a long time, it’s all me.”
He’s a young guy, and for some reason I expected sort of an old man…


Ties with Sacha White for “simple, tag-like signature.” Maybe second.

Got Rick Hunter‘s autograph, and he loaded me down with a pocketful of postcards. Nice guy, really affable. I’d only ever really seen (paid attention to?) his forks, usually attached to Matt Chester customs. His bikes looked great! I love me the curvy-tubed 29ers!

Speaking of which, I only sideswiped the Retrotec booth, but those bikes looked a lot more put-together than the ink-jet four-page catalog he sent me a couple years ago. Yow. Nice. No pics. :(

I got Wes Williams’ signature, and got to tell him I’m happy he’s back in the bike business. He said he took a break to sell cars “for good money – real good money.” Maybe I should do that.

He drew me a Mountie, which is the original curvy-tube 29er. That is a good-looking bike. The one he drew looked like it had a rigid, curved fork, too. Nice.

I spent a little time in the Ahearne booth, because the details in his frames are so… detailed. They’ve got my found-object funky aesthetic going, along with my bike-love. I talked to Joseph Ahearne about “bikes-as-art,” and he was really amenable to showing some frames at the McMinnville Art Walk if I could arrange it. Woo. We’ll see. That would be totally cool. It could be across from Tommy’s Bikes in the Courtyard where we used to have our shop, and, and… :^)

Cool guy. He was really into the autograph thing; he seemed to think it was flattering and hilarious at the same time. His bike drawing was exactly the kind of thing I was looking for. He showed it to his friend in the booth, who was like “mmm… maybe it needs an arrow pointing to it that says ‘bicycle’…”

I’d gone by Steve Potts’ booth and took a billion pictures of the vintage blue Potts up on the rack, and chatted with the woman manning**** the booth while Steve was talking to the Reynolds people. After I scared Tom Oswald with my stalker-like intensity I spied Steve back at his booth and went over to see him. Steve Potts’ bikes really formed my idea of what a mountain bike, and a bike in general, should be. I’d seen him around, and been by the WTB shop a couple times, but I finally got to tell him that. It was good.

I introduced myself as a born-and-bred Mill Valley boy and asked for his autograph, “and a little drawing, maybe a bicycle or something,” and asked if he remembered my old friend Will Hassinger, who used to work at WTB. “Let me tell you something about Will,” he enthused, “I knew Will before he was born!” He went to work on the drawing, and told me stories about Will as a kid, “eight years old, with his skinny butt sticking up out of the dumpster, looking for mechanical things – to take apart! – I LOVE Will!” That would’ve been about when we used to crash into each other to see who had the harder head. I believe it was a tie.

He went back to the drawing, and asked me if I still lived in Mill Valley. I described McMinnville, and he said he knew it; he’d gone through last year and really liked it. They (him and who, I dunno) take road trips all over the country and never touch the interstate. “That’s how you see the country – the real country.”
He said he was coming up again, and he’d be in my store. “We’ll have dinner together!” I said “Sure! My wife’s the best cook in the world!” I left there dead chuffed. Steve Potts is coming over to my house! :^)

After we got in the car and drove away (ignoring the talking navigator’s bogus directions), I spied a beautiful silver bike flowing through traffic, and I tried to see what it was. Mark was like, “is it a Bianchi? Chrome?” I’m craning my neck, and then I refocus and I’m like “that’s GINA‘s bike!”
Sure ’nuff, Rick and Gina, moving through the streets like fish.

The show, even though I only got about two hours of it, was a total knockout. I can’t wait for next year’s, which should be in Portland. Very exciting, and a whole lot closer.

* Mike is one of about seven people who are actually allowed to call me “Phil,” since they knew me when it was really my name. They’re the ones who’d call my house and say “Is Phil there?” And get my mom going, “No. There’s no ‘Phil‘ here.” long pause. “There’s a Philip. Would you like to speak with HIM?” They put in the time, they get the perks.
** I’m officially tired of the French spelling. Partly because I have to pronounce French words all French, which is irritating and affected, but mostly because I’m a Porter, (by way of my mom), and I drink Anchor and Deschutes porter, and I went to Porter College, and we live in America, dammit.
*** On the train.
**** :^)

NAHBS

I almost didn’t make it.

My original sooper-genius plan (unencumbered by facts) was to ride my bike to Salem, take the train to San Jose for the North American Handbuilt Bicycle Show, rent a pickup from Enterprise and drive home with a bunch of plants we’d left with Sharon when we moved.

Ha. Haha. Enterprise only rents one-way in California. U-Haul costs $900 to go one-way from Santa Rosa to Portland. Five half-barrels filled with herbs aren’t worth it. Ryder is a bargain, though! $600 one-way. Most other companies don’t do it at all.

After much poking, I found that Avis rents one-way, and their biggest, most capacious vehicle is a mini van. That thing isn’t that mini, either. It’s a 6 cylinder Chevy with a long nose that looks more like a low-rider SUV than a mini van.
$150 dropped off in Salem, where I always get lost.

In the end, I drove my car, drove all around Salem looking for a bogus address before I found the Amtrak station. After 24 hours on the train, I was 7 hours late getting into San Jose so I got two hours at the show in a frenzy (but had a great time), went to San Rafael with Mark, had lunch with my Dad at Fred’s in Sausalito the next day, and got a ride (I drove) with him to Santa Rosa.
My train diary.



Belgian girl’s blog: siskalifornia.blogspot.com

Monday morning I rented the van, loaded up with garden statuary, the Kaiserin Frederich rose Angelina waited a year to get, lots of art and art supplies, including four cases of letterpress type(!) and jammed home.Santa Rosa to McMinnville, new Personal Best of 9:45 total time, including a 45 minute Denny’s stop in Redding. Stopped to eat, stopped to pee, stopped for gas.

It took me about a week to recover.

American Cottage Industry Transportation Bikes

A discussion on the iBOB bike list between framebuilders Doug Fattic and Tim Fricker about making transportation bikes in America, for Americans, inspired a little thinking on my part.

Doug has developed a transportation bike for the Ukraine, and Tim was thinking about something between the extremes of making fine bicycles for discerning cyclists and designing a bike to be built in China to reach a price point acceptable to American non-cyclists.

I thought about the people I’ve met who went to the UBI framebuilding school, or just bought a welding rig to make their bike ideas tangible. It seems like a LOT of people have recently learned to braze and TIG weld because they are ON FIRE about bicycles. What if all the people learning to build bikes got together? They can’t all be the next Richard Sachs, but they could make some money and help change the world.
Perhaps they could organize themselves into a giant, distributed labor pool.

It occurred to me that ‘local production” could be quite local: a network of American ‘microfactories’ making transportation bikes to a predetermined design. “Microfactured in America.”

A franchise.

Say you’re the franchiser:
You get cheap welding labor from people who are working in their garages. Cottage industry piecework.
They get a ‘kit’ of tubes. You’ve bought the tubes in vast quantity (with all that startup capital), and had them mitered, possibly by a subset of your cottage industrialists, bundled and shipped to the workers.
They get the plans for the bikes in a small number of sizes, and the plans to make cheap jigs out scrap wood.
They get a network of other folks who are also all fired up about bikes and excited to make them.
People in each city get access to locally made bikes, and every builder has a network of family and friends he or she can evangelize, and who are rooting for them to succeed. The “Farmer’s Market Bike” can even be sold and displayed at Farmer’s Markets. :^) Income could be supplemented with ‘$6 tune-ups’, and retrofitting Wald racks onto other bikes, while free air and tool use could create more community good will.
Bikes stay local unless another builder needs a few extra. Or, with good communication amongst the distributed workpool, labor may divide naturally between good sellers and efficient welders.
You get some initial ‘franchise costs’ which you roll into tubing and plans, and you mark up the tubes and build kits somewhat, to get a percentage of each bike and recoup some of the costs of designing the bikes and keeping the pieces flowing.

Like a car dealership, but the factory is on-premises.

Every town has autobody shops that paint repaired door panels, etc. There might be a way to get small batches of bikes painted in “durable automotive finishes” with whatever’s been mixed, or is popular. Sparkly dark green comes to mind. People like these colors, and they already associate them with transportation.

The bikes could have a simple headbadge decal and a small seat-tube band with the bike size and model, and the builder’s name, address and signature.
A downtube decal that says “Main Street” or “Cottage Bike” could brand them, but I don’t like down tube decals, and wouldn’t drive a car that said “FORD” in big letters across the side.