Friday, June 3, 2016

Bicycling Across and Around the USA plus Around the World

Happy 40th Birthday Bikecentennial!

Here are a couple of informative and entertaining videos you'll enjoy if you are thinking about packing your bike with all your possessions and hitting the road for life-changing adventures. The first film is about the great cross-America ride to commemorate the USA's bicentennial in 1976, called Bikecentennial, which saw 4,000 people pedal across the nation. There are some fun events planned to celebrate their 40th birthday this summer.

And, here's a helpful Adventure Cycling Association primer on how to get started with bicycle touring. Anyone can do it on any working bicycle. Like the amazing Lloyd Sumner who pedaled over the horizon with $5 in his pocket, stopped and worked to earn money as needed, and ended up circling the globe. Adventure Cycling also has route maps that make touring a lot easier than guessing how to get from point A to B (which is how I did it).

Free 115-page photo eBook!
Speaking of around-the-world cycling and bicycling around the world (as in how people of different lands use their bikes and cycling), I just learned of the beautiful free photo eBook 'Bicycling Around The World'

Quoting the photographer, Paul Jeurissen (the writer is Grace Johnson),

"‘Bicycling Around The World’ celebrates bike travel and culture around the globe.

In 2010, Grace and I set off on a multi-year bicycle tour covering four continents. Wherever we go, we search out bike culture, dramatic landscapes and remote places.

So come pedal with us through the icy Himalayas, the barren Pamir highway, tropical East Africa and the chaos of Dhaka in search of unique cycling images.

We also show you glimpses of bicycle culture via painted rickshaws, overloaded cargo bikes and even two wheelers piled high with cotton candy.

By the end of this book, we hope you’ll agree that the world is best viewed from a bike saddle." Get the eBook here!"

Note that the link takes you to Paul and Grace's Bicycle Traveler International Magazine on Bicycle Touring, which has other free eBooks about bicycle touring subjects; a great resource.

Thanks, Paul!

Friday, March 25, 2016

2016 North American Handmade Bicycle Show Report (NAHBS)

2016 NAHBS Report
With spring comes great riding and quite a few bicycle shows!

Last month I attended my second North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS), which took place February 26 through 28. It was the 12th edition, and attracted a whopping 179 exhibitors and 6,500 paid attendees (I paid $22) - the largest NAHBS yet. 

Here’s the NAHBS website and NAHBS Facebook page

The person we have to thank for coming up with the idea of NAHBS is founder, president and Kentucky framebuilder Don Walker of Don Walker Cycles

Don has created a fine thing in NAHBS, a unique show that changes locations every year, is open to the public and designed for makers of custom bicycles, products and the suppliers who support them to display their wares (like tubing and framebuilding tool makers).

Also unique is that you can even place orders and buy products from many of the vendors and I overheard some builders were happily taking full advantage. Keep in mind that many work in small - almost secret - shops and mostly make sales online or via the phone.

This year the show took place in California’s capital city, Sacramento at the Convention Center downtown. Along with its rich cycling history and famous bicycle club The Sacramento Wheelmen - of which I am an honorary member (don’t miss their Sierra Century April 16th!), Sacramento is where you can pick up the splendid 32-mile American River Bike Trail, also known as the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail

The convention center was an intimate setting very different from crowded bigger shows you’ve probably been to. And it’s always exciting to walk into an entire hall full of bicycles, products and accessories most of which are almost impossible to find at the retailer level. That’s because so much of it is special order or custom built for consumers. And then there are the one-off eye-candy pieces made to win the best-of-show awards.

Mark Di Nucci's work was the talk of the show
I was only able to attend the show on Saturday - nowhere near long enough to cover everything there. But, you can see lots of photos and read some excellent behind-the-scenes on the bike judging by my friend Patrick Brady over at Red Kite Prayer. He did a wonderful 4-part story with lots more to enjoy such as Mark Di Nucci's artistry (photo).

I hope you get to go to one of these NAHBS sometime. Maybe next year when it travels to the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on March 10-12. If you do get to the show, I want to share a secret with you. Don’t spend all your time gawking at the bikes and products. Instead find the bike builder whose booth it is and ask them to show you what’s cool. One of the awesome things about NAHBS is that the builder is usually in the booth and if you just ask, you can meet them and they’re delighted to talk to you. Here's some of what I learned doing that in Sacto.

BikeCad software (my Best of Show pick)
BikeCAD is my best of show

My NAHBS 2016 started when I met BikeCad Bicycle Design Software’s guru, Brent Curry. He was standing in a booth with a little signage and a computer on a table - no shiny eye candy here to attract the crowds. Because I’m toying with the idea of framebuilding again, I recently stumbled upon BikeCad so I walked over and introduced myself.
BikeCad is free online software that lets you design bicycles and lots more. In order to fully design and use the plans to build your bicycle(s) from, you’ll need to pay for the Pro version, which is $500 Canadian. This gets you some amazing capabilities as Brent demonstrated on his PC. First he put in body measurements to create a giant cyclist almost 8 feet tall and 300 pounds. Then he mocked up a crazy-small bicycle putting in its measurements. Immediately the rider and bike were rendered on the screen with this behemoth squashing an itsy-bitsy wheeled bike.

But wait, said Brent, watch this!” And he started making changes. Very quickly the giant started looking like he was on a custom fit bicycle. Next, Brent clicked the mouse a few more times and the bike became a mountain and then a triathlon bike showing what the fit was on those. He also showed how when you were happy with a frame design you can even print out templates for marking frame tubes for cutting perfect miters even with hand tools.

The more Brent showed me, the more applications I thought of for BikeCad. For example, anyone can use it to plug in their body and bicycle dimensions and see a perfect animated representation on the screen. Then, by experimenting, you can see right away how you’ll look with a longer or higher stem or a different seat height. Previously, the only way I knew to do that is through video analysis on a trainer and the time consuming process of changing parts/positions.

Since returning from the show and thinking about it more, to me BikeCad was my favorite product at NAHBS. And, while it might not be a bicycle, frame or component, it’s definitely a handmade product so if I was giving out the awards it would be top of the list.

Wheel Fanatyk’s amazing bike tools
After visiting with Brent, I hustled across the show to the Wheel Fanatyk booth. I’ve only seen photos of their beautiful wheelbuilding tools and I just had to lay my hands on them. Husband and wife team Ric and Donna Hjertberg were working the booth. You might know Ric from his years owning the celebrated Wheelsmith bicycle shop in Palo Alto, California, or from his spoke brand Wheelsmith.

As the supreme wheel and spoke guru, I knew Ric would be busy talking to 5 people at once, which he was. I gave him a wave and asked Donna if I could play with their toys and she was happy to let me. I most wanted to see how the handmade dial indicators on their P&K Lie truing stands function. P&K call them “clocks,” which should tell you how sophisticated they are (photo).

Unlike standard dial indicators that swing wildly and are difficult to read, P&K’s make it a complete no-brainer to see how far out the wheel is both laterally and radially. Which means that you can exactly see the effect of every turn of a nipple to quickly true wheels. And, if that’s not enough, the stands are designed and constructed so extraordinarily they’re works of art, too.

Donna also let me try out the $2,900 Morizumi Spoke Machine. It cuts and threads spokes, which solves the problem bike stores/mechanics have of keeping on hand the right length spoke for every possible wheel. Wheel Fanatyk offers other ingenious tools for wheel lovers and a lovely wood display stand by Ric’s brother and woodworker Jon.

Two trick bikes
Back on the show floor one of the busiest booths was English Cycles. By the number of people surrounding it, I was drawn to a bare-steel road bike on a pedestal. English Cycles is Rob English’s company but he wasn’t near the bike to talk to. The person who was there told me to pick it up, which I did.

To my amazement, the STEEL bicycle (silver fillet-brazed Reynolds 953 tubing) weighed just over 9 pounds. English has made a name for himself by thinking outside the box and also for proving that his bikes work by racing and winning on them. So, it’s likely if you’re up his way in Oregon you’ll see him on this stunner of a roadster (note that UCI rules have weight restrictions but not the races in Oregon Rob competes in).

With gravel bikes and road disc brakes all the rage, I next took a look at Calfee Designs Adventure model. It has received rave reviews and I like the concept of a 650B wheeled go-everywhere carbon bicycle.

The fat tires provide a super comfortable yet still fast ride and the carbon frame could care less about rain, snow and slop. Plus for overnighters or even credit-card touring with a small load, you’ve got the control, power and minimal maintenance of discs.

Spurcycle Bells
You may have already seen Spurcycle bells because even at $49, they have taken the noisemaker market by storm. At NAHBS they were actually assembling the bells to show how much handcraftsmanship goes into each one.

The thing that makes them unique is their tiny footprint, which leaves plenty of handlebar real estate for all your perhaps more important accessories. They also make the perfect ping to grab attention yet not startle. And, they’re built of brass and stainless steel and even guaranteed for life.

Here's another very interesting new bell by Knog, the "Oi."

Rocket7 handmade shoes
At $1,450, you may think you’d have to be crazy to order a pair, yet seeing the Rocket7 custom shoes in the flesh would probably convince you that it would sure be fun to try a pair - because it did me. After you make a mold of your feet following their instructions (or have them do it - they’re holding a clinic in Northern California in May), they build custom shoes for you.

They use the lightest materials such as their Ultralite Carbon, which they say can build a size 42 at 125 grams! And they can customize the fit and feel of the shoes many ways for perfection.

No wonder so many pros choose Rocket7s, including Tom Boonen and Greg Van Avermaet. There are also stock models starting at about $495.

Eroica California
After NAHBS, the next big festival for those who love handmade things is Eroica California, taking place in Paso Robles April 8, 9 and 10. They had a nice booth at the show manned by Wesley Hatakeyama who runs the event and who brought a couple of his beautiful vintage rides and a display case full of super-rare goodies, like one of the first Campagnolo quick releases, circa early 1930s.

How rare? Enough that none other than Mr. Campagnolo himself, Valentino, walked over to meet Wes and see his rarities. Rumor has it that there’s now a possibility that Campagnolo might get involved in Eroica at some time in the future - a perfect match. There’s still time to register to ride Eroica, too.

Final notes
Other highlights for me in no particular order included, SRAM’s eTap wireless electric shifting, which was just as cool as at Interbike and which I will be reviewing soon (rumors at the show were that Shimano has one in the works but their booth staff denied it); Honjo’s prototype titanium fenders(!); Silca’s Hiro adapter (photo) for those hard-to-access valves; Abbey Tools’ carbon/ti pro-mechanic superlight hammer; and Caletti Cycles best-in-show-winning artist-painted matching bicycle, shoes and helmet ensemble.

To learn more about these products and to find out a lot more about the 2016 NAHBS hand-makers, I’ll leave you with this excellent reference that provides the names, websites and social media links for all the companies that were at the show

You'll also enjoy these extensive interviews with the builders.

If you see me at Eroica, be sure to say hi. Look for me on a fire-engine red LEJEUNE.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Help Identify Jeff's Strange Wooden Bicycle From Italy

My friend and fellow bicycle aficionado, Jeff, sent me these photos with the note,

"Take a look at the bike I picked up. It says Made in Italy on the seat cluster. I'm calling it the broom stick bike. Looks like a one-off to me as I've never seen anything like it. If you can share the photos maybe someone will have some ideas."

Happy to help, Jeff. Take a look readers, and if you can offer any information, please let me know and I'll pass it along to Jeff. If you're interested in wood bikes, Calfee's Bamboo Bicycle has lots of fans. And here are the famous Italian Cerchi Ghisallo bicycles, rims and handlebars. Or get a gorgeous wood display stand for your bicycle with Wheel Fanatyk's Wooden Bike Stands.

Monday, April 13, 2015

L'Eroica California Ride Report in Photos

The first American L'Eroica ride took place April 11 and 12, 2015 in Paso Robles, California, and I feel lucky to have been there. Here are a few photos and captions from what should become an essential annual event for anyone interested in celebrating cycling history with classic bicycles, fun people and epic riding.

I should say heroic riding, because that better relates to the Eroica name, and the accomplishment of completing the rides on a vintage machine. Though there are no bike-checks, official L'Eroica Italy rules require riding a pre-1987 (or facsimile) racing bicycle (I chose a 1974 Peugeot PX-10 kind of like this).

This means riding in toe clips and straps, using friction shifters, relying on old brake designs and pedaling up steep, long, dirt climbs on way-too-difficult gearing - or climbing off and walking, which many of us had to do. 

L'Eroica celebrates the romantic days of cycling when many roads were dirt, you rode for hours without seeing a car and you could stop in cafes out in the country to break bread and enjoy a little vino-fino with good friends before pedaling on to your destination. 

As celebrity ride leader, Andy Hampsten told me (Andy owns Cinghiale cycle touring company in Italy), L'Eroica is designed in part, to help preserve our classic backroads and hopefully prevent them from all being paved over and turned into highways.

The Paso Robles L'Eroica began on Saturday with a cycling festival. The banner event was the concours d'elegance bike judging, which was followed by a dinner. On Sunday, the rides took place. We had short, medium and long course options of about 40, 65 and 125 miles. 

I opted for the medium ride and rode with my Spokesman teammate John Pollard in our vintage style Santa Cruz Wheelmen wool jerseys. John brought his custom 1980s Peter Mooney. Among the other unique aspects of this ride was vineyard reststops, complete with wine tasting and even wine-filled bike bottles to take along!

Enjoy the photos and captions and say hi if you make it to next year's event!

The meet & greet Saturday morning

Concours d'elegance judging about to begin

Judges with clipboards scrutinzing

Bianchi had a nice booth at the show

A couple of Brian Fessenden's Pogliaghis

Lovely Jo Routens

Reinforced bottom bracket

Hellenic stays and piercing cable routing

The Jack Taylor area in Classic Rendezvous tent

Double front brakes

Super badge

Retro ride rig

Carminade - a rare French marque

All the way from Utah in style

Like those photo booths at arcades

A genuine gonfleur on a 1938 Bianchi

Andy arrives to lead us off

We were on the dirt 75% of the ride

Not a car in sight & almost all day

It wouldn't remain flat for long

First vineyard reststop - complete with wine tasting

Trying to keep pace with Andy (in Giro pink)

Caught up with him at the reststop

A photo out of the 1950s

L-R: Tom, Keith, John, Jim & Ryan
More Eroica CA photos
And more

Saturday, December 27, 2014

New resource: 1991-1999 Bicycle Specifications Archive

Just in time for a new year, I'm pleased to announce a handy resource for buyers of used road and mountain bicycles or those needing information to keep one on the road or dirt. It's Anthony ("Tony") Alsberg's collection of bicycle specifications.

From 1991 until 1999, in our Bicycling Magazine West Coast Editorial Office (which was located in Soquel, California - photo), Tony disassembled, weighed, reassembled and recorded the specifications (specs) for over 100 road and mountain bicycles we were testing and reviewing in our pages.

Many of these bicycles are from famous brands still around today. But, others are from companies now out of business, like Bridgestone bicycles. So, these specs can be helpful for finding how the bike was originally equipped and for learning more about the bike design. Also, if you're restoring a classic old bike, having the original specs is a huge help in finding the correct replacement parts.

For each specifications sheet, there is an accompanying road test and photograph(s) in my library somewhere. All I have to do is find it!

Enjoy these specs from the 90's,

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Jim's Last-Minute Cycling Gift Guide

Happy Holidays and happy the-time-of-year-no-one-knows-what-to-get-for-their-favorite-cyclist (which might be YOU!).

Here are a few sure-to-please cycling gift suggestions - well, if you count my last tip, it's more like many thousands of bike gift ideas, so keep reading! (And be sure to share this, so that you get the gift you really want!)

Your Home Bicycle Workshop e-Book ($19.95)
Let's start with a suggestion dear to my heart: my very own Your Home Bicycle Workshop e-book. It's the only book of any type all about setting up the perfect place for your loved one to work on all your bicycles. And you can download it right away so it's the ideal last-minute gift. It's in the RoadBikeRider e-bookstore where you'll find many other great cycling reading gifts available right now.

Bicycle Quarterly Classic Bicycles Calendar 2015 ($15)
Every year about this time I start searching local bookshops for a nice, new bicycle theme calendar for my office wall, and to give as a gift. But, I almost never find anything. So, I was happy to discover the magazine Bicycle Quarterly’s Classic Bicycles Calendar, that features 12 studio-quality photos of famous road bikes and a short history about each one, too. They'll also love receiving Bicycle Quarterly magazine next year ($36 for a year's subscription in the USA).

Pedro’s Super Prestige floor pump ($65)
All roadies need a good floor pump because it’s the one essential tool for keeping tires fully inflated so that they always enjoy great rides. But I’ve found that lots of riders use their pump for so long that it barely works anymore. If your loved one has been using the same pump for eons like this, they will be delighted to receive a huge upgrade in the form of Pedro’s Super Prestige. Its best trick is being able to grip Presta and Schrader valves every time with an airtight seal and without having to change the pump’s head in any way. It’s also easy to pump, has a nice and very visible gauge, a long hose and is built to last.

Boa Closure Cycling Shoes ($varies)
This gift idea is for a somewhat-new technology that many road riders love when they try it: shoes with Boa Closures. It’s a system that uses tough, thin wire/filament laces that you tighten and loosen with a ratcheting dial. This allows fine-tuning the fit along the entire length of the shoes simply by turning the dials. And the result is even more comfortable shoes and power transfer. To buy this gift, you’ll want to give them a gift certificate to a bike shop that carries shoes with Boa Closures so that they can get the right fit and features. Here's a page showing the many shoe brands using Boa Closures.

Specialized S-Works Evade road aero helmet ($250)
A new helmet is always a great gift because with use, helmets become less effective. And new helmets continue to improve offering more protection and comfort. Plus, in the case of Specialized’s S-Works Evade, you’re actually also giving them the gift of free speed because it’s a wind-cheating aero helmet proven to reduce drag and save them energy on every ride. There are other companies making road aero helmets, too, such as Giro's new Synthe ($250).

Keep On Kovers for Speedplay pedals ($16 to $20)
Keep On Kovers make a great stocking stuffer for anyone riding Speedplay road pedals (look for lollipop-looking pedals on your giftee’s bike). They’re rubber cleat covers with a great trick: they go on and stay on (unlike all the others that you have to put on and take off every time you stop/start)! These covers don’t interfere with pedal entry/exit one bit and they fully protect their Speedplay cleats and even keep the screws in should they loosen. Even better, they won't lose them or forget to bring them along on rides because they stay on their shoes!

Bike Mechanic Tales from the Road and the Workshop ($24.95)
I just received this new book from VeloPress and I’m reading it every chance I get because it immediately jumps you behind the scenes of professional racing and puts you in the team car and pits with the mechanics. These are the overworked guys in charge of keeping everything running, from the bikes, to the cars and trucks, to organizing the pits, to even helping dress their riders and care for them during races. If they have any interest in the nuts and bolts at the pro level of our sport I’m sure they’ll be as taken with this book as I am. The many photos alone are worth the price of admission.

Camelbak Podium bottle ($10 for 24 ounce)
Every roadie needs new, clean and high quality bottles, so you can’t go wrong gifting them a Camelbak Podium bottle or two. They’re so easy to drink from and leak-free and tasteless, that they’ve become my favorites. They’re also available in different sizes and insulated versions, some with custom graphics, too, so you can get whatever you think best matches their bicycle or kit. This is an inexpensive gift with high value to your rider.

Grease Monkey Wipes ($9 to $20)
A clean bike is a happy bike - and rider! You can make it super easy for them to keep their baby showroom clean by gifting them a supply of Grease Monkey Wipes. These handy towelettes are saturated with a citrus cleaner so they simply wipe to clean their frame and components - even greasy drivetrain parts. They’ll be as amazed as I was how much easier these make bike cleaning. They come in the handy packets shown (easy to take along on rides) or in canisters, too.

Etsy cycling gifts (all price ranges)
Type "bicycle" in the hand-made gift resource/community Etsy and you'll bring up tens of thousands of ideas. That's how I found BryansRebicycling's Silver Infinity Spoke Bracelet shown, a super-cool recycled bike-part gift idea, and hand made, too, for only $14.98 plus shipping! But there are almost endless other choices, so happy searching and shopping!

Velo Orange Porteur Rack ($165)
This beautiful front rack has been out of stock on the Velo Orange site for some time, however, it's such a nice porteur rack - a type kind of hard to find - that you might want to give a gift certificate for it and just let them wait for the shipment to arrive. Porteur racks have a wider platform than standard ones, so they're ideal for city bikes that carry larger loads (French newspaper deliverers used these racks). Velo Orange's is made of polished stainless steel so it adds class along with versatility to your around-town ride. The rail is removable.

Last, but not least, in case you're wondering what I want for Christmas. It's this P&K Lie Special250 Truing Stand. Might as well dream big, right?

Here's hoping you have wonderful holiday,
Jim (aka Santa)