newport cruiser

newport-cruiser, originally uploaded by BikeTinker.

At the end of June, I went down to Anaheim for a trade show. My internet friends David and Doug were kind enough to take me on a bike tour of their area – Irvine, Newport, the beach.

I didn’t take my camera, since I didn’t know the bag situation, and drew this beach cruiser from memory. I’ve been around Beach Cruisers my entire life, but never saw them in their natural habitat. I’ve always lived an hour or less from the Pacific, but always where the hills arc out and drop into the ocean. Beaches are colder, windier and foggier, and either back up to cliffs, a highway, or a parking lot. I realized at Newport Beach that this was why beach cruisers are called beach cruisers!

Enough of the epiphany. Everyone else in the world already knew it.

The ride and cameraderie were great! I’d only ever known David and Doug from internet bike forums, but none of us turned out to be axe murderers, and I like them even more in real life.

David loaned me a silvery-blue custom Rivendell All-Rounder for the ride, and Doug is the best tour guide ever. His knowledge of 100 year old scandals and current interest gave great depth and texture to the ride. Why is the surf so awesome at Newport Beach? How much of this will survive a 3 foot rise in ocean level?

We rode the Balboa Ferry, visited FunZone (“There’s always money in the Banana Stand!”), and ate at Charlie’s Chili. The whole time I was thinking “so THIS is why there are Beach Boys songs!”

I got an awesome sunburn (bright red bearded guy remind you of anyone? “Hmmm? Satan, maybe?”) – Portlanders beware the sun! It was completely worth it, and I’d do it again.

All photos courtesy of cyclotourist

New Camera

I’ve been spending my tinkering time playing with my new camera, a Sony Nex 3.

The tinkery bit comes from the two adapters I bought for classic lenses. I’ve been using my Exakta lenses for about a week, and the Canon adapter came yesterday. This is what I’ve actually been spending my time on: researching lens options for the Nex. Idiotic.

I’m going to put the finishing touches on Angelina’s Belleville (old saddle, maybe old grips), and use the new camera to take the photies. In the meantime, I went to a parade and took pictures of people with my 135mm Angenieux (a 203mm lens on the Nex) . Totally unbikerelated, but I did go for a mountain bike ride beforehand.

riding on the shoulders, originally uploaded by BikeTinker.

Cop Chariot

Spotted this strange machine after dropping off the bike for the Pimp’d Bike area at PedalNation (only half an hour late). It’s like a Segway without the “Seg.”

I chatted momentarily with Rob English of English Cycles. His beautiful blue mountain bike is on display at the OBRA booth, and he built a townie for NuVinci, which is “something of a departure” for him.

His personal road bike is 11.5 lbs and is a little bit more like this:And… the setup for Pedal Nation looked good, but like a nightclub during the day. Or a tradeshow before the guests arrive, which it was.

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.

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.
**** :^)

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.