Monday, December 18, 2006

Gone fishing, or riding, or...

I'm taking off blogging for the rest of the year. Reading, and writing. I need a break from the masses of information that I attempt to soak up everyday.

Have a good, safe and fantastic holiday. See you in 2007.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

There is more to life than increasing its speed

Has anyone else noticed the proliferation of Amsterdam-styled (and other Euro-styled) bicycles coming to the US market lately?

There's the smugly overpriced Jorg & Olif which seems to be aimed at the Enviro-Yuppies. Rather than 'Stay Curious', their tagline could easily be "Ride our bike, look really unique, and save the world while you're at it. Just leave your Audi/BMW/Mercedes at home."

Then there's the Electra 'Amsterdam':

And who can forget the Kronan from Sweden?

Overall, I think it's great to see this fad/movement taking place. We could use more transportation/utility bikes in this country. It will be interesting to see which of these companies and bike models can stick it out for the long haul, and which ones will dry up. When someone brings over the Swiss Militärvelo, I might join the coup.

By the way, the title of this post was originally spoken by Gandhi. :-)

Monday, December 04, 2006

Team JuG and the Bobke

Last night Jeff and I had the pleasure of hanging out at Sierra Nevada Brewery, drink a few cold ones, and listen to Bob Roll tell story after hilarious story. I wouldn't know where to begin, but I'd suggest if you ever get the chance, go see him speak.

A couple of quick notes:
+ He is 100% convinced that Floyd Landis is innocent. After listening to his explanations of why, I'm starting to agree.

+ He purposely mispronounces Tour De France. His story about what led up to his conscious decision to do so had me in stitches. Let's just say he's "fond" of the French.

In other news, the 2007 KGSN cycling team was there as well; a lot of youngsters, and I hope that they kick some arse this year. Nearly all the KGSN elder statesmen have moved on to other, hopefully bigger and better teams. All of this year's sponsors had reps at the event, and I have to say, the Kuota bikes that the team will ride this year look beautiful... even if they are carbon. I didn't bother telling the Kodak Gallery folks that I worked at Flickr, but I'm sure they would've been cool with it. I'm thinking there needs to be a Flickr cycling team! :-)

We also ran into what seemed to be 70% of the Chico cycling community at the event. All the Chico cycling bloggers were there except for Tony Rocha. Chico Velo had big representation, as did Chico Corsa.

The other Chico Geno (with an E) was there. Here we are! What a blast!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Chico Gino Exclusive: An Interview with Grant Petersen of Rivendell Bicycle Works

The name Grant Petersen can bring on cheers or jeers depending on what person you mention it to. To some, he's the eccentric retro-grouch design mind behind Rivendell Bicycle Works. To others, he's one of the Premiere Thought Leaders of an entire world of Cycling That Simply Makes More Sense; a lugged-steel, racks-and-lights, wool-and-seersucker-based transportation-centric world that 99.4 per cent of bike shops and cycling magazines don't cater to. No matter how people slice and dice him, one thing is for certain. He's as down to earth as any guy could be, and his opinions on cycling are bound to evoke some discussion in any group of people with any kind of cycling priorities. Recently, Mr. Petersen was kind enough to take some time out of his six-days-a-week schedule to answer some burning questions that Chico Gino readers have submitted.

For those of you not familiar with Grant or Rivendell, here is an excerpt from the company's history to get you lubed.
From late ‘84 to late ‘94 I designed and spec’d bicycles and worked on catalogues for the U.S. division of Bridgestone Cycle, Japan’s largest bike maker. Bridgestone closed the U.S. office after ten years of no profit, when the dollar-to-yen exchange rate plummeted to the point where it became impossible to even break even. I was 40, and started Rivendell with $89,000, a mix of retirement money, savings, loans, and money raised by selling stock to friends.

True to the cliche, Rivendell was in my garage for two years. Now we have 5,000 square feet at about $0.90 per square foot, one of the cheaper rents in town. We like it here a lot. It’s easy to get to, close to good food and riding, and it feels like home, except that summertime temperatures average 90°F and winter days rarely get above 57°F. Seersucker and wool? You bet!

We’ve been profitable two of the past eleven years, but cash flow is neutral. Sales are about $2.2 million dollars per year. We’re just breaking even, there are no top-heavy salaries, and we fret a lot during slow weeks (and months). I do, at least.

Our mission is to make things that wouldn’t be made if we weren’t here, to offer an alternative to racing-centric bikes and parts, and to espouse a different approach to riding. And to resurrect and keep healthy many of the better ideas, designs, and styles of bicycles, clothing, and accessories that we personally like to use or wear. To sell lots of wool, and wipe synthetic fabrics off the face of the earth by the year 2010. That’s a joke. To still be around in 20 years. That would be great.

If you’d like to know more, just ask. It’s not a secret business we have here. —Grant

And now for the interview!

In your catalogs, web site, and in The Rivendell Reader, you write a lot about simplicity. Why is simplicity important?

Simple things make people feel smart, or at least competent, and complication has the opposite effect. If people feel smart and competent, they’re happy, and happy people are nice to other people, and it all starts or stops with how hard it is to use something.

Do you think simplicity should be a higher priority for designers of other products? In particular, designers of digital stuff?
Especially that, and I'm sure they're trying, but it's not reaching me. I don't like digital cameras with layers of submenus below the surface that you don't even know exist, and icons that I have to look up to understand. It all goes back to making me feel dumb, and in the case of cameras, it seems like it's just a consequence of trying to pack too many features into one widget. Just because a camera is capable of fantastic things doesn’t mean that I am, with that camera. I know they have instruction booklets for this stuff, but I think they rely on the instruction booklets too much. I want a digital camera that does ten things well and doesn't need an owner's manual. I think, if the designers knew they couldn’t supply instruction books, the designs would be simpler and the world would be a better place. It sounds glib to say that, and it would be too limiting in some cases, but for sub-$300 digital cameras, I think it should be the rule.

The newest bike from Rivendell is the A. Homer Hilsen. Is it true that Mr. Hilsen and Mr. Nigel Smythe knew each other? What's the story there?

They not only knew each other, but they were both friends of Paul Bunyan and the Easter Bunny, too. They came from a different time, when "digital" meant "of, or pertaining to, the fingers." They’re plain and honest, and their names are supposed to reflect that, to set them apart from the cha-cha-cha personalities and products. What “honesty” there isn’t in their actual existence is more than made up for in what they are, in them as products.

Rivendell is in the fortunate position of having a rabid following; some would say it's a cult. Are there downsides to being a cult leader, even if it isn't on purpose? And if so, how can future cult leaders learn from your mistakes?

Hmm... well, if I just rush in to an answer, I’m agreeing with the cult thing, and it isn't quite that. What we have here is a way of presenting information that lacks the “buy me and be cool” voice that smart and mature people find offensive. Most companies can’t get that voice out of their mouth. The ads and image are written by professional copywriters whose goal is to retain the account by flattering the company. It’s all over the place these days, because the “17 to 34” market buys so much stuff, and most of them are still looking to express themselves through their purchases.

We have a smaller mission and aren’t out to conquer that world, so it’s easier for us to seemingly take a higher road. As a consequence of just being normal, we do stand out, and every now and then somebody will think we’re infallible, or maybe it comes across as we thinking ourselves are that way. Of course inevitably we’ll do or say something that proves that to be false—maybe we’ll send a package ground instead of 2-day like they requested, or a new and packaged garment might have a flubbed seam or something, or we’ll get too casual with them on the phone and they’ll take offense. Then they turn on us like we betrayed them. They turn on us harder than they’d turn on a company that they didn’t feel as much kinship with, I’m sure, and I guess that’s the risk. It's a good risk, and it's not a risk for a business that nobody cares about, but it IS a risk.

You run Rivendell as openly as any company I've ever seen. Is there a conscious philosophy behind that?

Well, I wouldn't call it a philosophy, but I don't distinguish between "me" and "my company" when it comes to things like keeping secrets and telling the truth. It’s hard to keep secrets, so it’s best not to have any, but beyond that, I'm not exactly sure of what you mean by "open." Is that it? If it isn’t, just clarify it and I’ll try to answer it.

Gino's note: His answer here couldn't get more to the core of my question.

Of up-and-coming framebuilders in this resurgence of handmade bikes, have any piqued your interest? Do you even care?

I think it's good that lots of them are out there. It's hard to be an American framebuilder these days. There are hobbyist builders, many of whom seem to make nice-looking frames, and then there are full-timers. I'm neither, but I've been around long enough to have a perspective, and my perspective tells me not to envy them. I'd like to give them advice, but they aren't asking, and are probably too independent to take it even if it seemed to make sense to them.

The thing about framebuilding, though, and this is something few people and especially bike riders understand, is that there are custom framebuilders who are scattered all over the learning curve, with probably fewer than seven or eight at the top. It's not like being a tailor or a neurosurgeon, where the barriers to entry are long and difficult and people bail out on the way. It's more like being a desktop publisher or a photographer. Anybody can buy the tools and say, "I'll build you a custom," and that's pretty much all it takes to be a "custom framebuilder." So, unless you have a way to evaluate the frame, it's hard to tell how good the frame is.

I am not a builder myself, but I've heard more than one builder say that there are three big humps to get over on your way to becoming good. The first comes at about 50 frames, the next comes at 150, and the next comes at 500.

Building a frame is more than being able to braze or weld a frame that holds together. It's solving problems, and anticipating problems before you cut the tubes and stick them together. It's also knowing how to braze quickly and thoroughly and minimizing the pulling and twisting that occurs when you braze, so that the frame stays square as you build it. It's controlling your spillover, so the lug edges are crisp, while the joint is full. Plus, it's maintaining consistency over hundreds of frames, and when you do that, the challenge is avoiding cockiness and complacency. If you master the mechanical part, the challenge is maintain your consistency from frame to frame, over hundreds of frames, and to not become the “devil may care” brain surgeon, so to speak.

A custom framebuilder with 70 frames under his belt hasn't solved enough problems yet. It's possible that he's creating problems he doesn't even recognize. Another way to look at it—rather than seeing it as being overly hard on new framebuilders who are earnestly doing their best and want to make a life of it but haven't built a hundred frames yet—is that it's a real profession that requires lots of experience, and that makes it respectable in the same way that any hard-earned professional status is respectable.

I haven’t answered the part of your question about—“have any piqued my interest?” and “do I care?” I think I care, in the sense that I want them to do good and make a living and be happy, and I’m interested in what seems to be the rebirth of interest that’s giving birth to the builders and reviving others who’ve almost given up. As lousy a time it is to be building lugged steel, in some ways it’s the best time for it. Good lugs are more readily available than they’ve ever been, and the same goes for tubing. But then, not having to blacksmith lugs into fine form lowers the hurdle to entry and results in lots of frames that appear to be much finer than they actually are. Good lugs and tubing make good frames in the same way that good wood makes good furniture. Meaning, it has almost nothing to do with it, except as a starting point.

You and I both like to flyfish, and we both ride bikes. If you could take me on a bicycle-flyfishing trip, or a flyfishing-bicycle trip, where would go, and what flies would we bring?

If it's any trout stream in America with a good food supply and therefore a healthy population of trout between 12" and up to maybe 24", and the water is running clear and not too high, and it's fairly wadeable (so, not too deep), we'd need four flies only.

Three would be nymphy. A size 16 with a thin hare's ear body ribbed with gold, a peacock herl thorax, and a brown partridge hackle, on the long side. Then the same kind of fly with a muskrat body, black herl thorax, and a starling hackle. Then a pheasant tail nymph, tied with copper wire twisted together with 2-3 fibers from a pheasant's tail, but with a herl thorax, and no hackle. Then a size 18 elk hair caddis.

Four flies makes you fish them right and not blame the fly, and maximizes the time you spend fishing, not tying on flies.

Gino's note: Hey Grant, I can show you where to catch Goldens like this! :-)

There are an awful lot of young guys, and maybe some gals, graduating from places like UBI right now, with the aim to "make it" in the bicycle industry. Any advice for these new throngs of grasshoppers and greenhorns?

Find a style and stick to it, no matter how many sales you have to give up along the way, to people who want you to build their way, or with this or that material. If you can make your bike distinctive and recognizable in some way, that's good. Don't branch out, though, and don't copy people who are better than you are if you're going after the same audience.

I actually think it's not a fantastic growth industry, and I wouldn't be optimistic about it, but the narrower the focus, the better. Only unicycles. Only 650B unicycles. Only this, only that. Find something that nobody is doing, and do it, and THEN figure out how to sell it. It has to make sense, of course, but you don’t need a huge market. It’s way better to build nothing but lugged 650B unicycles in one color only and become the go-to person for anybody in the world who wants one, than to build whatever seems popular at the time, and find yourself competing with everybody else from the other “I do anything and everything” custom builder down the street, to the biggest factories in China. But, the temptation to capitalize on trends is too strong, and the rewards of going your own way are so remote and iffy at best, so you don’t see a lot of that happening. It’s just a hard way to make a living, I think.

In 1992 you said the following on the future on cycling:
"The best use of a bicycle is commuting, it's not racing or competing or recreation or anything like that. Ultimately its best use is getting cars off the roads and the government is not sympathetic to that idea at all. In terms of the industry, within five years there will be half the number of manufacturers as there are today. Whoever doesn't get their bills paid will go by the wayside. Also, when things go high tech in terms of their materials and design, it brings in a lot more industries into the marketplace. Consider how carbon fiber and titanium have brought aerospace and other non-bicycle corporations into the cycling industry. Those guys have the money to compete and smash and just snuff out the smaller companies. That happens and that's one of the consequences of advanced technology. So when we go to electronic shifting, which will happen within about two years, somebody like Westinghouse will get into making them, too. That will make it hard for Mavic and Suntour to compete with a company that large. So we'll have electronics companies making bike parts."
Nearly fifteen years later, how much of what you said still holds water? What has changed?

Things aren’t fully electronic yet, but they’re headed that way still. The Westinghouse prediction hasn’t come to pass, but as bicycles become more electric and electronic, it’s only natural that outside specialists will have a bigger hand in them. Westinghouse has its spies watching us constantly, and is ready to pounce when the time is right.

I feel more strongly about racing now than I did then. I don’t mind races, or racers, but I sure do mind the influence that racing has on equipment and riding attitudes. It seems like a big trick, to me. You flash it up and make it popular so you can fool new riders into going down this path of pain and not-fast-enoughness, and once you get them there, you assure them that they can go faster if only they ride your $800 wheels or the two-pound frame or chug the squeeze-gel you provide them. It’s like you’ve captured them like slaves, and now they’re serving you and can’t escape, and meanwhile, they’re missing out on the best kind of riding, which is just riding without comparing yourself to racers or wishing you were something you’re not, or not as good as you want to be. Anyway, it’s hard to talk about without sounding like a raving maniac, but the thing is, I feel like a raving maniac about it, too. I keep it under control to maintain a certain dignity, but let me tell you, I am not happy with the way racing has influenced bicycles and riding. I think it keeps too many people away.

One last note: I snagged photos in this interview without permission from Rivendell's web site, a Flickr user, and Sheldon Brown's web site. The trout photo is mine, from custom bamboo flyrod maker, Jim Lowe.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Prednisone + Coffee = Breakfast of Champions

I've written about my faulty sinus genetics here in the past, and now with the flu season in full effect at the Yahoo petrie dish, I've come down with the mess. Far too early in the season, at that! This all begs the question (again), why can't sick people stay the hell out of the office?

I haven't been on the bike in three weeks other than some lousy sickly commutes, and I'm starting to get serious cabin fever. I'm currently taking a week off from work for "vacation", and thus far have spent it inside drinking hot tea-based beverages, watching the Godfather movies, Step Into Liquid, among others... and staring at the pile of baseboards that I still need to install.

In an effort to quell the chronicness of this bout of sinusitis I started downing Prednisone (a gnarly steroid) again. I hate putting drugs into my body, but back in March when I ate the stuff it seemed to work like a charm. The past two days I've been embracing this unfortunate circumstance, and taking the doses with a morning cup of coffee, or two. Yarrr! I'm three days in now, and so far I feel slightly better; albeit I also feel like I could take The Incredible Hulk in a wrasslin' match. Who wants a piece?

So is it too early to say I miss the heat and wellness of Chico's blazing hot summer?

Oh, and if you haven't seen Step Into Liquid, you really should. Even if you're not a surfer, or even if you don't like surfing, it is nearly guaranteed to stoke you! The videography alone is beautiful and not to be missed. Add to that an absolutely positive upbeat theme, and people in a lifelong search of fun, and how can you go wrong? Highly recommended for people of all ages and all sexes. Just be sure to watch the wide-screen DVD; you'd be cheating yourself otherwise.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Rivendell Blériot frame, now what?

This weekend I got Quite The Good Deal on a new 57cm Rivendell Blériot frameset. The Blériot is made to sport 650B wheels, and is lugged steel. But of course!

Now what? How to build this puppy up? I've been thinking I'll build it up to be a workhorse commuter/townie/grocery-getter bike that could double as a mountain bike for fire roads and other rough roads that don't have big drops or boulders.

The following bikes aren't other Blériots, but they are points of inspiration thus far:

The beautiful commuter workhorse (Rivendell)

The elegant city bike (Curt Goodrich custom)

The offroad-ready rigid (Rivendell Atlantis)

See, the Blériot can take tires as big as 41mm WITH fenders. If anyone would make them, I reckon a guy could squeeze 50mm tires, if not bigger; and that would make for a fine semi-rough trail bike.

So what do you think in terms of a build? Mustache bars or Albatross? 48/36/26 triple? What on the rear? Lighting suggestions?

Before you quit reading, here is some stuff worth sharing that I've found along my 650B way.

On his blog, called Pork Rinds, Steve Hampsten so eloquently said:
The 650B is not a bike for the old, fat, and dorky. It's a bike for long days, wandering country rides, and the sort of attitude that comes with "going for a ride" rather than "having goals for the season." I have a goal for this season, I tell you: it's to ride my bike a lot and to go out for long, long days with lunch in a saddlebag.
Can I tell you? I dig Steve's attitude! And check out the 650B Tournesol and 700c bikes that he makes; the details are simply beautiful. Obscene, even.

I stumbled upon possibly the funniest Interbike photo of all time, on Sheldon Brown's site. For those of you not in the know, it's Grant Petersen kneeling in front of a spankin' new Bridgestone carbon fiber racing bike. Heh.

This bit is from the Blériot Owners Group on Yahoo! Groups:
"A couple members have asked me to give the brand and color of the nail polish that I think will make pretty good touch up paint. DISCLAIMER...I have not tried it on my Bleriot...only on my toes.

When my toes are held up to the frame it looks pretty darn good, but you might want to try it on an inconspicuous place first.

Maybelline COLORAMA #107 'tourquoise seas'

Best of luck,
Austin, TX"
Lastly, have a read about the real Louis Blériot, and his record-setting flight across the English Channel.

So anyway, I'd love to hear suggestions on buildup schemes for this Blériot!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Sheldon Brown, we're all with you man

Today I caught some news on Biking Bis that I have to share. I'm not sure why I hadn't seen it before now.

Sheldon Brown, who is also the colorful and opinionated voice of Harris Cyclery, has touched my cycling life, and more, through his prolific writing about cycling - and possibly the most by sharing bits of his personal life history. I've never met the guy in person, but I've asked him enough questions and taken enough of his advice that he feels like a good friend. I imagine he's A Good Guy. And I can't imagine that I'm the only guy out there that feels this way. Sheldon has likely contributed more to the online cycling world than any other single person.

At age 62, Sheldon has Multiple Sclerosis. And after a lifetime of cycling and countless miles of riding, he can no longer ride his bikes.

Biking Bis writes:
Lately, [Sheldon] has also been writing posts about his health, which sadly is deteriorating. The bicycle guru can no longer ride a bicycle and began riding a recumbent trike in September.

He's been to three neurologists who can't seem to agree on a diagnosis. Neurologist "#2", as he calls him, is of the opinion that Sheldon suffers from a primary progressive form of multiple sclerosis. Neurologist #3 says there might be something other than MS, or something in addition to MS.

His plight has hit the blogwaves this week at Bike Friday Walter, Bicycle Design and Cyclelicious.

Let's join those bloggers and offer our support for Sheldon by making a donation to the National MS Society or signing up next year for one of the nearly 100 MS bike tours that are held throughout the summer across the US. The rides are typically two-day events that cover about 150 miles. The season starts in Florida in April 2007, according to the calendar at the MS bike tour webpage.
In addition to my own donation, I'll definitely be hitting Yahoo! up for sponsorship for at least one of my local MS rides.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Bike polo

Ok, so who's up for the first annual bicycle polo match in Chico? I could see a fixed-gear bike coming in handy for this type of thing, and I'd also wear a mouth guard...

Photo by Robert K.

Monday, November 13, 2006

A specialty license plate I'd buy

I generally don't give a hoot about specialty plates, but this one is an A-OK message with no particularly silly political overtones. If California did something like this, I'd probably contribute my extra sixty bucks to the state coffers; especially if the money went toward more bike lanes and bike-worthy improvements. Here's the story from USA cycling.

Here are some other states with similar plates: Georgia, Texas, Washington, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Kentucky.

Funny, speaking of politics; all but one of the states in the above list are "red" states. Can we surmise that red states might be more bicycle friendly than blue states?

And finally, here is Chico Velo's tee shirt version:

Friday, November 10, 2006

Change of work: I'm going to Flickr

This isn't cycling related, but I feel it's worth mentioning here. I'm stoked to announce that in a couple of weeks I will be joining the Flickr team in San Francisco. I'll be leading interaction design efforts along with George and Stewart; Stewart is still Our Big Boss who wears the Big Hats. Rumor is that my first task will be to finally bring the Tuna Blaster™ product into the public light...

A few months back (nearly six to the day) Stewart put up a help wanted sign, and shortly thereafter we had coffee, or lunch. I can't quite remember at this point; we did both several times, come to think of it. It took a little while to get some things sorted out inside the Yahoo! Machine, but here we are about to close out 2006, and I couldn't be more pleased to be joining the team.

Flickr is the only other Online Thing I use on a daily basis besides Firefox and Mail. I'm a fan - a true Flickr nerd. And for those reasons I can't think of any other place I'd rather think hard about people, products, and the meaningful connections I can make between them.

This move of my weekday life to San Francisco will also reduce my back and forth trip by an hour each way, which, by my estimations, will allow me to reclaim about 100 hours of my life each year. And that's a lot of time to spend doing more important things, like ride a bike! ;-)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Lance Armstrong suffers through the marathon

This past Sunday, Everyone's Favorite Cyclist ran his first marathon. He had this to say about it:
“That was without a doubt the hardest physical thing I have ever done,” said Armstrong, who finished 856th in the New York City Marathon. “It was really a gradual progression of fatigue and soreness.

“I didn't train enough for a marathon,” he said, his right shin heavily taped as he shuffled into a post-race news conference. “In 20 years of pro sports and endurance sports, even the worst days on the Tour, nothing felt like that or left me the way I feel now.”
I ran the Boulder Backroads marathon in 2002, and it too was the hardest thing I've ever done. I even trained for it, but it was my first and last marathon. I just don't feel driven to run that far. It is too much pain with not enough distance covered. And you know, there's just too much injury involved in running. For me, anyway.

Between the suffering that takes place in a century and the suffering that takes place in a marathon, I'd choose the century any day. I see more sites. I get to go 40mph at times. I can eat and drink while I'm riding. I can stare at the beautiful details of my bike while I wonder why I'm putting myself through the pain.

Armstrong's final words really struck a chord with me. When asked if he'd be back to do it again, he quipped, "Now's not the time to ask that question. The answer now is no, I'll never be back. But I reserve the right to change my mind," he said. "I don't know how these guys do it."

Ha! That's how I feel EVERY time I do some long-distance event. It sucks, it hurts, and I hate it. I think I told Jeff those same words, more or less, after finishing my first century. But here we are a couple months later, and I'm planning on doing at least two centuries in 2007. I guess I'm a glutton for punishment.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Oxygen Break

Here Jeff takes a break at the top of some mountain outside Graeagle, California. Just to shake things up, we took a dirt ride a few weeks back. It was a blast, although I think Jeff is questioning his ancient fork.

I'm still around; just been busy traveling, working, planning a move of the weekday place, etc.

I haven't been riding nearly enough, but that's about to change... in the mean time I felt the need to come up for air myself.

I'm in Seattle right now for the IDEA 2006 conference. The number of cyclists, and number of cyclists riding practical bikes with fenders, lights and racks is really inspring. All types of people here rides bikes. Weather be damned.

Also, the number of breweries that make a mean, hoppy ale is outrageous. The weather has been fantastic. In fact, I think the whole rain thing is a scam; it is something Seattleites tell people from California to keep the population down and the people laid back. Well, I'm on to your little scam!

I love this town.

Update: This morning (Tuesday) it is pouring in Seattle. Perhaps someone here read my previous post, and had the powers that be turn on the rain in order to dissuade me from think that it doesn't rain in Seattle.

At any rate, when I went to grab a cup of coffee a few minutes ago I saw three riders in five minutes, all decked in rain gear, bikes with mega-headlights, fenders, Ortlieb waterproof panniers. They also all had disc brakes. I reckon there is something to that disc brake thing in wet climates.

I still love this town. And its coffee.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The New Business Cycle

Update: Nancy Keates responded to me via email. She confirmed that her tongue was, in fact, deeply embedded in her cheek in the WSJ article that I quoted. I figured as much. Nevertheless, my closing statement in this post still stands!


I laughed out loud when my buddy Tom sent me this article from today's Wall Street Journal. The opening line: A radical idea is sweeping the world of American bicycle manufacturing: building bikes that people will use for actual transportation.

Certainly the author, Nancy Keates, must be speaking tongue-in-cheek. If not, well God Bless Her Ignorance.

Regardless, Keates goes on to say:
Europeans, of course, have been riding commuter bikes for decades. In Holland, there are twice as many bikes as cars, and nearly as many bicycles as people. Now, in the U.S., the industry is pitching the new models as gas prices remain high and concerns over obesity grow. They also come as cities and states move to become more bike-friendly.
As fatness and obesity continue to spread (ahem), and as gas prices continue to be uncomfortable, it will be interesting to see if real-world transportation bikes become more of a market force. I love the sound of that idea: as we progress technologically and "evolve" as a race, we may quite possibly rely more heavily on one of the most simple of inventions.

Even over the course of my daily summer bike commute I've noticed a significant increase in the number of cyclists on the roads in Silicon Valley. Granted, half of them are on uncomfortable race bikes with their asses above their heads, decked out in full Spiderman™ suits just to ride a couple miles to work, but it's a start. It's also fun to beat those guys between traffic lights on my loaded down single speed, donning jeans and Chuck Taylors...

I would most certainly like to see less race-centric crap at bike shops, and more real-world applications of gear. It is actually quite difficult to go into your average shop in the United States right now and buy practical things like saddle bags, fenders, or dynamo hubs for lighting the way. Only specialty shops carry real-world gear. Doesn't that strike you as odd?

Based on simple observation, my guess is that there may be a temporary spike in bicycle sales while people get used to the new price of gas; that said, people are fat and lazy, and they won't continue to ride their newly purchased bikes. I have a neighbor in Chico that drives his V8 truck less than two miles two work while his new Trek hybrid sits in his garage... I also have a German neighbor that rides his Trek hybrid a couple miles each way to work. He has put about 400 miles on it this year just doing that every day.

Keates, and other industry folks seem to agree:
Whether many Americans will trade their cars for bikes remains to be seen. Sales of commuter bikes rose 15% over the past two years, according to Boston-based Bicycle Market Research Institute. However, at an estimated $900,000 in annual sales, it is still a small niche. Less than 0.5% of Americans commute by bike, according to the 2000 U.S. Census report. "There's no way it will happen here," says Bicycle Market Research Institute President Ash Jaising, who projects the segment's rise in sales will slow to 5% to 10% over the next two years. "The roads are just too dangerous."
The roads are too dangerous. On top of that, suburban culture (where most people in the U.S. live) and infrastructure simply doesn't support bicycles as a viable mode of transport. Try getting around Silicon Valley safely on a bike. It is no easy task. I feel spoiled in Chico. It is a pleasure to ride here.

Keates lists out a few companies that are now offering commute bikes, and I think due to her intended reading audience, it is an anemic list. I'd add to her list Rivendell, ANT, Surly and SOMA as viable choices as well. They all offer production bikes for less than the Trek Portland, which did make her list. They're all made of steel too, which offers a far more comfortable ride, is easier to repair, and will last longer than its aluminum counterparts.

I'm not arguing for saving the world, or for everyone to go car-free. Neither are a real possibility. However, I am encouraging you to get off your arse more than you do now, and ride that bike that has been collecting dust in your garage for the past twenty years. My reason is three-fold. Firstly, you meet the nicest people when you ride a bike; you're simply more exposed to each other, and saying hi is a lot easier when you're not behind a windshield with the radio blasting your favorite Justin Timberlake songs. Secondly, riding a bike is quite a bit of fun if you approach it with the right attitude; don't go out to race, go out to get some fresh air and look at your neighbor's crappy landscaping work; arrive at work refreshed instead of tight in the throat from sitting in traffic. And thirdly, our race is turning into a gelatinous blorg of cheese curds, and frankly it makes me sick! And that thirdly point *is* one that we can change.

Whether Nancy Keates is a sarcastic writer or not, it is a sad state of affairs that any article in the Wall Street Journal would need to start with that opening line.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Maybe the best reason to ride a bike

Remember how I was saying that you meet the nicest people on a bicycle? Well, if my previous post wasn't enough to encourage you to get off your butt and take that bike for a spin, maybe this post by my buddy Jeff, is. At one point, he says:
"I’m in the best shape I’ve been in since my first year of college."
His first year of college was almost 20 years ago (sorry to disclose that, dude). Forget about resolutions, the right time is right now.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Clever Chimp

Clever Chimp is a bicycle lifestyle outfitter, and they also maintain a sweet blog.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Ride Report: Ride the Rogue century

On Saturday, along with about 500 others, Jeff and I took part in the inaugural Ride the Rogue Century. The course started in the town of Rogue River, and meandered in a loop through the Rogue and Applegate valleys for 104 miles.

The course well very well marked, and everything was well-run. Kudos to the crew that pulled this ride together, and pulled it off. I've always had a magical picture in my head of what the Rogue River valley holds, and true to its name, I wasn't let down. The roads wind through various eye-candy-beautiful terrain (with only two small hills),including sections adjacent to the river, sub-alpine forest, and through a couple of small towns.

The rest stops were nicely placed; there was one about every 20 miles or so, including a stroke of genius stop located at mile 94. Placing one at this distance really gives you the fortitude to pull through those last painful miles, even if the only reason is because you get to see a bunch of other suffering fools who will finish the ride with you. That alone is enough to get you to the end. The absolute highlight for me was being pulled through Southern Oregon wine country in a slipstream averaging about 22mph; a close second was the 10 minute downhill at mile 35 (or so?), where Jeff and I were doing 35+ the entire time. :-)

Quite frankly, I wasn't prepared for the ride. My "training" schedule has been a joke this year because I split my time between Chico and Santa Clara. So my "training" rides have happened on Saturdays and Sundays, with a measly daily bike commute during the week. A graphic of my weekly training would look like an EKG:

That said, I made to the half way mark with no problems, averaging about 17.6mph. The halfway point also was the lunch rest stop... and after lunch I couldn't quite pull it together again. I stayed around the 17mph mark until mile 70, at which point I fully recalled the feeling of a full-on BONK; I mean, like BONKATRON 3000.

From the 70 mile rest stop, I was a limp noodle with legs pumped full of battery acid. I rode alone from mile 70-90, most of the time thinking how stupid it is to ride more than 60 miles, and that now that I'd finish a century, I'd never have to do it again. I went through that mental battle where the devil on my right shoulder was going, "Dude, you just have to stop pedaling and lie down." And the little guy on the other shoulder was saying, "If you quit you pussy, you'll regret it!" I don't think he was an angel though... At mile 80, there is a hill that will test your mental stability. It was the only time in the ride that I flipped over to my little chain ring; it was all I could do to get through it! That hill was probably the loneliest stretch of road I've ever pedaled. Haha.

At mile 90, a team from Land Shark (at least they were all donning Land Shark clothing and bikes) showed up and pulled me into the genius mile 94 rest stop. I laid down, sucked down a Hammer Gel, a PowerBar salty/caffeine gel, a bottle of water, and limped my way toward the finish line... ending with an average overall speed of 15.6mph.

All in all, it was a beautiful day. We started out with layers of clothes on and numb fingers and toes; we ended with shorts and jerseys. I love that kind of cycling day. not too cold, not too hot.

We ended the day by staying at a nearby hotel in beautiful Ashland, picking up a six pack of Drop Top Amber, and ordering a pizza... and sleeping for nine hours!

So now that I've done a century, will I do another one? One part of me says that's enough, just like I said after my first and only marathon. I did it, and now I don't need to prove it to myself again. Sixty miles is a great distance to ride. I get a killer workout, the riding is fun, and that amount of time seems good for me to be on the bike. Beyond the sixty mile mark, in my case, is the point of diminishing returns. The exercise benefit isn't increased, but the misery is drastically increased. Plus, what am I proving?

The other part of me says that I Live In Chico; and because of that, there is no choice but to ride the full distance Wildflower. After all, it's only 96 miles... we'll see.

Oh, and I'll definitely be back at the Ride The Rogue again next year, whichever distance I choose. What a beautiful ride! :-D

Friday, September 22, 2006

Product Review: Brooks B17 Champion Special saddle

The Brooks B17 isn't laden with technology. In fact, it hasn't much changed in twice my lifetime. The only surprise I have had with the Brooks B17 Champion Special is that I love it, and if anyone tries to take it from me, I will have no choice but to freak out.

I have gone through more saddles than anyone I know. I've tried Selle this and that, cut-out saddles that claim to prevent numb plumbing, carbon this, Italia that, and I know with 100% certainty that my heart and my tender parts lie with the fine products from Brooks England Ltd..

(Above photo from Wallbike)

The Champion Special model is quite a bit nicer than the Standard in both looks and quality. Aesthetically speaking, I'm a fan of the hand hammered rivets and copper rails. The functional superiority comes in the form of leather that is significantly thicker than the standard. You might think that there is a downside to thicker leather; that it might take longer to break in, or hurt more. The truth is that both my B17 Standard (which I will review later) and my B17 Champion Special were both the epitome of comfort within 100 miles of use. By 300 miles I was in love, hence the freak out threat above. By 800 miles, the Champion Special is quite simply a hammock for my butt.

I can ride 70 miles with zero numbness, zero saddle soreness and no chafing. This statement comes after years of futzing with saddles, wasting money on every kind of gimmicky saddle out there. Well, almost every kind.

If you're wondering why your Italian/plastic/padded saddle is leaving you less than satisfied, I recommend trying a Brooks B17. Don't believe me though; just look at every long distance tourer or randonneur; they all ride Brooks, and I have no doubt why. Ladies, Brooks makes the B17 S, which is specific to your anatomy.

Some people have said to me with exasperation, "...but Gino, those Brooks saddles are just so heavy!" To that, I offer the truth: what you gain in less saddle weight doesn't matter the least bit (I have a future post on weight), and your body will thank you. Unless you're an elite racer going head to head against other elite racers, who gives a crank about a few grams?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Not cycling-related, but burning laptops rule

From my other blog, Push Button For:

Stock price be damned! Today there was a mass evacuation of my building at Yahoo! in Santa Clara. Apparently someone brought in their personal DELL laptop and had yet to heed their battery recall instructions. Here are the charred remains. The fire was on the 8th floor, and the acrid stench of burned plastic could be smelled eight floors down!

I have yet to find out who the person was; I would like to get a recount of how the events that led up to this transpired. If I get an update, I will let you know.

Update: The machine belongs to a Yahoo! Research Intern. It was his first week on the job, from what I've uncovered. He was simply sitting there at his desk, writing code when his machine started smoking, and then flaming. Welcome to Yahoo, grasshopper.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Chico Mountain Bikers site launched today

After a slow summer of slogging through designing and implementing a site using WordPress, today we launched a spankin' new version of Chico Mountain Bikers.

CMB is a great organization, and it's too bad there aren't more like it. Their mission statement goes like this:

To provide group rides for people of all riding abilities in an effort to foster the fun, exciting sport of mountain biking; to promote responsible mountain biking through respect for property, trails, and other trail users; and to unite mountain bike enthusiasts in an effort to continue a positive public image of the mountain biking community through involvement, positive advocacy and trail maintenance.
If that ain't wholesome I don't know what is.

I've built trails with them more than I've ridden with them, mainly because I work in Silicon Valley during the week. That said, it's mighty nice to help out local groups in My Home Town, especially when the result of volunteer labor is a healthy contribution to my community. Special thanks goes to Irvin Szeto, programmer monkey extraordinaire. Without his help, the site would still look like 1996.

Well guys, rock on with your new site. I can't wait to start riding some dirt again this fall.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Ride Report: 1st Annual Elk Flat 3/4 Century

Update: Jeff's recall of Saturday is here.

On Saturday, team JuG went out on a cross country cycling adventure from Chico to far western Red Bluff, CA. I on Lloyd, and Jeff on his black steel SOMA Double Cross, of whose name I am not aware.

We set out at just as the sun peaked over the Sierras to the East; the air was crispy, and the first signs of Autumn gave us a feeling of excitement as we set out into the semi-unknown. I say semi-unknown because this was the second time I'd done the course. Maps in pockets, loaded with food and drink, we were off.

No more than fifteen minutes into the ride the wind reared its ugly head; and didn't let up for 62 miles. We rode into a 12-15 mph headwind for 5 hours; the gusts must have been 20mph because if you stopped pedaling, you stopped moving. I can say that this was the hardest ride I've ever done.

This particular course takes you across California's Great Central Valley toward the Yolla Bolly Mountains and Mendocino National Forest. The views tend to be beautiful on a clear day, and once you are west of I-5 the traffic is minimal to nonexistent.

On this day the views were in fact beautiful, but between the wind and gravel we weren't too concerned with the views; instead we focused on staying upright and fuel intake! In fact, we ate like rhinos! Into my 137 pound body I packed 2 bananas, 2 granola bars, 1 AB&J (AppleAlmond Butter & Jelly), 3 Honey Stingers, 2 Powerbar gels (with salt and caffeine), half a bagel, and 4 bottles of water over 5 hours and 30 minutes. I also had a bagel with cream cheese and coffee before the ride. I think Jeff ate about the same pile of food and beverage.

It's a bit sad looking down at a 13.1mph average, and only covering 72 miles in 5:30. However, in training terms it was like climbing for 72 miles and should make next week's 104 mile Ride The Rogue seem like cake... assuming we're not assaulted by the wind again.

I'll definitely do the ride again; hopefully Jeff will as well. Although next time I think we'll check the wind predictions. If they are they same, perhaps we'll drive to Red Bluff, and coast to Chico effortlessly... and spend that extra time and energy sipping pints at Sierra Nevada!

Friday, September 15, 2006

For The Love of God, No Bum Camps in Chico

Yesterday I was shocked to see this article in the Chico ER, wherein one of our elected officials is suggesting a "free" campground for bums to leech the city of Chico. I wrote a response to the Editor. I'm not sure that they will publish it, so I am publishing it here as well. We have to stop this kind of insanity before Chico turns into the next Santa Cruz hell hole.

I am appalled that City Councilor Andy Holcombe is an advocate of keeping bums in Chico.

The fact that he is lamenting the beautification and invigoration of our town center is appalling and incomprehensible. Every citizen of Chico should take that as an insult and a personal attack.

With bums (or homeless people, according to the Political Correctness Guidelines) come crime and drugs. It is that simple. Why do people like Mr. Holcombe feel comfortable ignoring that fact? For other examples of California communities who have welcomed vagrants to their own demise, we only need to look south at Santa Cruz, where the downtown area is no longer a place families can go. You can’t walk a block in downtown Santa Cruz without being offered drugs, badgered for money, or harassed in some other way. Keeping and welcoming bums in downtown Chico will certainly take our town down the same path.

Dignity Village in Portland is a colossal failure, and for Mr. Holcombe to cite is as a possible example for Chico to follow should be a wakeup call for every Chico resident. Any interview with Portland Police, and with most elected officials, reads the same way: Dignity Village is a temporary solution to Portland’s massive homelessness problem, and it a failure. Dignity Village is not decent, safe or sanitary. It is a drug-ridden flophouse for people who generally aren’t willing to help themselves.

Mr. Holcombe also idealizes a “free campground” idea. My fellow Chicoans, there is no FREE campground. WE are the ones who pay for these people to destroy our town. We are the ones who give tax money to support societal leeches. Why can places like Carmel keep bums out and nobody blinks, but when Chico shows self preservation and civic pride, we are met with opposition from the inside? How can we let this go unheeded?

Chico is possibly the last quality town in California, and I feel that the residents of Chico need to stand up for Chico. Keeping bums out of our town and our downtown isn’t a crime. It is an act of civic duty; a duty for our community, our children, and our future.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Handmade Bicycle Show: March 2-4, 2007 in San Jose

Top bicycle framebuilders gather at public show in San Jose, CA

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The 3 rd Annual North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS), the world’s largest consumer show for custom-built bicycles, will run March 2-4, 2007, at the South Hall of the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California.

On display will be the finest crafted and most beautifully painted bicycles by framebuilding artisans from all over the world.

“A handmade bicycle is a thing of beauty,” says Don Walker, of Don Walker Cycles. The creator of the show, Walker says a mixture of passion and determination are responsible for the event’s success. “NAHBS is a celebration not only of the world’s greatest invention, the bicycle, but also the masters who have dedicated their careers to the creation of ridable art forms.”

Started two years ago in Texas, the event answers the growing need of framebuilders to meet and share ideas, and provides a venue to display their masterpieces to a public whose interest in handmade bicycles has increased in step with the recent resurgence of excitement about bicycling in general.

On moving to San Jose in 2005, the number of exhibitors grew from 23 to 90, and the number of visitors to the show grew from 700 to 2700. In 2006, more than 150 exhibitors and 10,000 visitors are expected. Among these visitors will be aspiring framebuilders, students of design, people with a casual eye for some striking style, and many cyclists looking to fall in love again.

Apart from dazzling displays of lug filing, pin striping, and tube bending, the show buzzes with ideas and knowledge as hard-learned skills and techniques are traded among the veterans, while tidbits are thrown out to the fledgling builders. Members of the public can glean gems of knowledge if they ask the right questions of the enigmatic and often eccentric masters of this craft.

Helping visitors to frame ideas and form the right questions are informative seminars throughout the weekend, led by industry insiders and the most famous names in the framebuilding world. For some, these seminars are the highlight of the entire show. Think of it like an audience with the great architect Sir Richard Rogers.

Adding a competitive element to the show are15 categories of awards based on visitor votes of all the bikes on display.

In only three years the show has built an extensive list of fans and supporters. "The NAHBS separates itself from the typical bike expo schwagfest thanks not only to the valuable presentations, but to the general audience who shares a passion for the knowledge and science behind bicycle design and frame material," said Teddy Allen of Gu Sports, a company that manufactures popular nutritional products for cyclists.

Whether building frames or other high-end cycling products like components, clothing, and energy bars, NAHBS exhibitors are a special breed not only because of their outstanding level of workmanship but also because they handle all elements of production, from design to shipping, in their own factories, without outsourcing.

This cottage industry aspect gives a very diverse look to the show booths, making it extremely valuable to exhibitors who can easily differentiate themselves in a grid of rows and aisles, as well as to consumers who, not exposed to repetitive products in every booth, can to zero in on the design that pulls hardest on their heart. And since many cyclists will tell you their bike is their second great love, eye candy is a pretty big deal at an event like this. “ Being a small builder in a sea of big box manufacturers is a daunting task, but having an opportunity to teach people about hand crafted bicycles at an event like the North American Handmade Show was a real honor and privilege,“ says Matt Bracken of Independent Fabrication, one of the exhibitors at the 2006 show who has already signed up for ’07.

Each handmade bicycle is the carefully considered expression of a skilled artisan who has dedicated many years to honing craft and style. Steel is the material of choice for most of these frame builders, who select from an exotic range to match the mechanical properties of the material to the myriad intended uses and physiques of their customers, who range from heart surgeons to cycle messengers.

Tickets to NAHBS Seminars are limited and cost $125 in advance, $150 at the door, pending space availability. Entrance to Exhibits only is $12 in advance and $15 at the show. More information about exhibitors, seminars, awards and other details can be found at

About The North American Handmade Bicycle Show

The North American Handmade Bicycle Show is dedicated to showcasing the talents of individuals around the world whose art form is the bicycle. It aims to be a gathering point – online and in person – for framebuilders and consumers looking for custom-made bikes, for the sharing of ideas and promotion of this special industry which has such a rich history. After two years of growing by leaps and bounds, NAHBS 2007 will feature still more exhibitors, consumers and a wealth of seminars. For more information, see .

Media Contact:
Jodi Hall
Tel: +1-415-990-1324

Exhibitors as of Sept. 6, 2006

Joseph Ahearne
Ahrens Bicycles
Bohemian Bicycles
Calfee Design
Castellano Design
Charter Oak
Cloud Nine Design
Coconino Cycles
Crumpton Cycles
Della Santa
Desalvo Cycles
Don Walker Cycles
Echelon Cycle
Engin Cycles
Grognard Bicycle
Igle Cycles
Independent Fab.
Jonny Cycles
Keith Anderson
Kent Eriksen
Kirk Frameworks
Kish Fabrication
Moyer Cycles
Nelson Titanium
Oswald Cycle
Patrick Cycles
Peacock Groove
Pereira Cycles
Rebolledo Cycles
Rex Cycles
Richard Sachs
Rock Lobster
Roark Titanium
Rue Sports
Sadilah Cycles
Soulcraft Bicycles
Steve Potts
Strong Frames
Thursday Bicycles
Townsend Cycles
Vendetta Cycles
Vicious Cycles
Vintage Studio
Waterford Cycles
Wolfhound Cycles

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Claire's new 1987/88/89? Bianchi Nuova Alloro

We found this lugged steel Bianchi Nuova Alloro in Los Gatos, CA this week. Not sure the model year (any help out there?), but the bike is in fantastic condition. See my Flickr photos for all the pre-cleaning details.

In its current state, it is 100% Italian, and 100% Campagnolo; even has the original bar tape, and cables. The paint is pearlescent white - just beautiful in the California sun. The details are stunning, and tell a story from a time when craftsmanship still outweighed mass manufacturing (even though it was mass manufactured). Example: Why don't bicycles come with the chain hanger braze-on anymore? Grant Petersen, why doesn't my Rivendell Rambouillet have one? It's the best idea that is no longer used, except on really expensive "custom" bikes.

Don't cringe, but the idea is to Rivenfry the bike to make it a more comfy steed; we'll put a higher stem on there, a Nitto Noodle handlebar, and a nice Brooks saddle. It's pretty to look at, but that current aggressive stance is not something one can ride very far before things start to ache.

Once we're done tweaking it to Mrs. Zahnd's liking, I'll post the 'After' photos.

What a score! Oh, and Claire's wondering what to name her new girl. "It must be a girl, because no boy could ever be so beautiful," says she.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Chico Gino Exclusive: An Interview with Sacha White of Vanilla Bicycles

For anyone with bicycle priorities, the Vanilla badge has at the very least crossed your radar. Most people in my sphere of influence experience physiological reactions when presented with images of Vanilla bicycles which include, but are not limited to: drooling, kneeling, hand wringing, and emitting low volume loose-lipped fox whistles. And in the fringe case that someone with bicycle priorities hasn’t seen a Vanilla, I suggest you look into the label, and the founder of Vanilla Bicycles, Sacha White.

I recently had the opportunity to catch up with Mr. White (via email, but who’s keeping score?) and ask him some questions about his history, his company’s history, what Vanilla is up to now, and in what directions he may steer his fledgling, umm, White-hot company.

On with the show:

In a past conversation we had, you mentioned something about futzing with Vespas when you were younger. How did that lead to an interest in bicycle frame design?

From age 13 to age 20ish I was heavily into restoring, customizing and riding classic Vespas and Lambrettas. This was my first taste of real metalwork and industrial design.

When I was 21, I moved from Colorado to Portland, and started working as a bike messenger. With that, my focus shifted from scooters to bikes. For a while I was just riding them, then I started tinkering, and then got into full rebuilds. After a little while, I realized that the types of modifications I was doing to my bikes would only be interesting for so long. At about that same time, the frame that I was messengering on had broken. I took that frame to a builder for a repair, and saw him working on a new frame. I think at that moment the passion that I had for scooter restoration and my new love (bicycles) came together and a light bulb went off. The rest is history.

What was the first bike you designed, built and sold? And how did the transaction come about?

The first two bikes that I built were for my wife (my girlfriend, at the time) and me.

I sold my third frame to a good friend and racing buddy for like 50 bucks over my cost. He wanted a cross frame and fork to race that season. His was actually the first of my bikes to be ridden.

That first cross race was super nerve racking, because my friend Jeff was racing #3 my friend Sam was racing #4 and I was racing #5. Each of those bikes had minimal test time before being raced, and for all I knew they would all just fall apart that first day. It’s funny to think about how nervous I was then, because not only did those bikes make it through their first race, but all of those bikes are still being raced at an elite level today.

Did you realize at that point you might be onto something?

I really took frame building day by day back then. I didn’t have big ideas about building a business or being successful. I was just enjoying myself, and learning a lot.

Has the company head count grown yet, or are you still doing everything yourself?

I am happy to say that I have two employees, but I have been able to structure things so that I can focus on designing and building the frames myself. My employees handle all of the extra tasks that come with running a business ie; parts ordering, bike assembly, custom wheel builds packing and shipping etc.

Will there ever be Vanilla production frames?

I don’t know. When I think about doing the same thing over and over again, it makes me kind of sleepy. One great thing about doing all custom is that there is always something exciting and challenging waiting in the wings.

There seems to be the beginning of a shift happening in the cycling world - away from high tech materials, and toward comfortable all-day rideable bicycles, many of which are made of steel. Why do you think that is?

Cyclists are more sophisticated now. It has gone way beyond recreational and people are really integrating bikes into their everyday lives. City bikes with full fenders, lighting systems, unique handlebar setups etc. are becoming accepted, and in this neck of the woods they’re the norm.

There are currently a few companies out there making exquisitely crafted steel bicycles. Which ones are the most beautiful and useful in the eyes of Sacha White? Why?

Mike Flanigan / ANT is building some very beautifully utilitarian stuff. He is a perfect example of the useful citybikes that we were talking about above.

Peter Weigle is a one man shop. He has been building for over 30 years, but his designs and paint schemes are very current. He is also one heck of a nice guy.

Pedersen bikes from Denmark have always been beautiful to me. I like that their frames are a total departure from the standard diamond frame. I would like to build a primer grey ss cross bike out of one.

These are just a few, but I respect and am inspired by a lot of independent builders out there.

Are there any big bike companies worthy of admiration?

I have some Specialized sunglasses that I like. (Gino laughs out loud)

I like some of the frame shapes that bigger companies are doing with carbon. The cruiser-esque curved top tubes and seat stays. That kind of design flexibility would make working with a material like carbon attractive to me - but this does not mean I am going to start working with carbon.

How long does someone have to wait for a Vanilla bicycle as of August 2006?

The wait is about 22 months right now.

Are there any Vanilla bikes living overseas yet?

There are. A couple in Europe, a couple in Africa, a few on order from the Australia area.

Africa? Where in Africa? I didn’t realize there is a cycling contingency in Africa.

I think there must be a cycling scene everywhere. It is an internationally loved sport, like soccer. Don’t you think so?

A few years ago I was in a hilly road race as a cat 3. There was a man that none of us had seen before, who won that day. It turned out that he was the Kenyan national champion.

As for my sales in Africa, I have a repeat customer in Egypt (the Egyptian bank notes are beautiful works of art by the way) and there is a journalist that I built a travel road bike for, who is living in South Africa, but is covering stories all over the continent.

What's the most amazing thing someone is doing, or has done on a Vanilla to date?

I pulled two good friends from their wedding ceremony to the reception in a chariot that we hooked up to a Vanilla. There was a little bike parade, endless champagne, and tender Barry White jams.

Vanilla has been victorious at cyclocross nationals, and my bikes have been raced at cross, and 24hr MTB worlds. My friend Steve raced a bike that I built for him in the Iditasport race in Alaska (walkers, skiers and bikes racing against each other. No roads), and also in a self supported race along the continental divide from the border of Canada to the border of Mexico. I get letters from customers who are in the middle of epic tours.

Earlier this year, your daughter ditched her training wheels. Does she now ride a Vanilla?

No but the two of us are going to build a bike for her soon.

If you could have any - but only one - bike to ride for the rest of your life, which would it be?

A single speed cross bike, maybe with couplers.

It is the year 2099, a hundred years after the first Vanilla rolled out of your shop. How do you want the cycling history books to read about Sacha White and Vanilla Bicycles?

It’s hard to look that far forward. Right now I build my bikes so that 40 years down the road when the paint is scratched up and only half of the vanilla name is legible the bike will still be riding like a dream. Also, the unique touches that are built into the frame will be as fine as the day they were created, because they are part of the structure, not superficial fanciness.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Roid Landis, you make me sick

I'm totally disgusted by this news of Floyd Landis. If he is guilty, at least his legacy will be that of a cheater - and it will also clarify why he won the other big races this year. Get in the boat with Jan Mr. Landis. It's your turn to paddle.

I've about had it with pro cycling. When all of these jack asses are finished doping and cheating, maybe I'll regain respect for what I used to think of as amazing athletes. Until then, I'm chalking them all up to no better than the likes of Barry Bonds, and all those other fat, bloated pro ball players. Puke.

I bet Lance Armstrong is stoked that he got away with it.

Give me my upright, heavy steel touring bike, a wind sail of a handlebar bag full of food and a camera, and an open road. I don't want my cycling endeavors to remotely smell like any of those professional cheaters.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Another online cycling route finder: Bikely

Today Kent points out Bikely. Bikely is a cycling route finder that is simply a Google maps-based mashup in which cyclists can create, share, and find cycling routes. Thus far the number of quality routes is quite anemic. There are a few quality routes, but not enough to make me go back to use it. Hopefully this will change in time.

I went ahead and tested their route creation functionality, and wasn't very impressed. I went through the process and created a route for Honey Run that starts where you leave Bidwell Park, and ends at Peet's Coffee downtown. It was also the first route anyone has created for Chico - but I'm not surprised at that.

The Bikely experience is even less refined that Gmaps Pedometer, and Gmaps is still pretty rudimentary. I won't go into detail about the user experience here; I rant about user interfaces on my other blog, Push Button For. But just to use one example: Why can't I print detailed maps of a route? The printed map is the most obvious thing I can think of that would actually make Bikely useful, and it isn't there...

I will again say that the opportunity is ripe for someone to create the killer app in this space. The key is setting up an experience that is so easy - to use AND to create new routes with - that the cycling community will feel compelled to use it, and even feel like they can no longer live without it. Only then will the user base grow large enough to contribute enough content for an app like this to be truly useful. Any VC folks, feel free to get in touch. :-)

It's cool to see so many of these homegrown versions popping up though - it means someone will take it by the reigns and do things the right way!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Does anyone ride in this weather?

This, my friends, is Chico's forecast for this week. I have found that in these tempuratures, I have to be finished riding by about 10:30am before it becomes pretty miserable. And then it doesn't start to cool down until 8pm or so. I guess this is when being down in the Bay Area during the week isn't all that bad.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Cycling in Japan

I find it necessary to point you to this heartfelt bicycling call-to-action, wherein a Japanese fellow feels compelled to encourage Bangladeshis to ride more often. I love his use of Enlgish.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Cycling Innovation in Portland, Oregon

In some circles, it is a well known fact that Portland, Oregon is both a cycling mecca and a brewing mecca. When two beautiful forces such as bicycles and beer can coexist in a tiny geographical location, good ideas simply cannot be stopped.

Adam Roberts, an internet friend, flyfisherman, and amateur framebuilder in Portland, OR, has been perfecting what I consider to be one of the best ideas (Adam, patent your design quickly!) in cycling's recent history. May I now introduce the Bottle Drop™!

Could there be a more refined way to open a chilly bottle of your favorite locally-brewed suds than on your bike?

There are other Portland companies hot on this beercycle trend, and I feel it important to note Ahearne Cycles and their complete set of beautifully handcrafted bicycle racks - many of which showcase a bottle opener, among other sensible features.

Inspired by all of this why-didnt-i-think-of-that innovation, I am currently doing some design research of my own to determine how to build the best flyfishing-specific, beer drinking all-rounder bicycle...

Thursday, July 13, 2006


I have created a new group on Flickr called Randonneur!. Have a sharp-looking classically styled bicycle? Add your photos to the group.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Those funny orange icons: The RSS Tutorial

A few people have asked me what those orange little broadcast icon thingies on the top right of this site are. And since I am an interaction designer by trade, I feel that I should explain them to you, so that you can make the most out of your web experience.

So what are the icons?
Those orange icons represent my RSS feed. Depending on who you ask, RSS stands for different things. But since this is my blog, I say it stands for Really Simple Syndication. You might also see other icons that represent an RSS feed that look like these:

But not on my site. Here you just get the little orange broadcast icon like this one:

It is succinct, and the most visually appealing of all the icons that represent an RSS feed.

The truth of the matter is that they are all very similar, and basically all represent "Hey, if you click me, you're going to subscribe to this site's RSS feed. Sweet!"

What does RSS do?
RSS is useful for several things. What RSS does for bloggers, news outlets, and other folks and organizations that publish content to the web is allow a very simple way to syndicate the things that they publish.

Why would they want to syndicate their stuff? The same reason radio announcers like Howard Stern or Rush Limbaugh syndicate their radio program to stations all over the country: so that more people can easily hear what they have to say. Well, I guess Howard Stern no longer syndicates his show since he moved to Sirius, but you catch my drift.

How can I use RSS to read blogs, news, etc.?
If you see that list of bike bloggers on my right hand column, I read them everyday, but I never actually go to those web sites. I subscribed to those sites' RSS feeds, and I use my RSS reader to read them. My RSS reader is really similar to an email application like Outlook, but it pulls down RSS feeds from the internet instead of email. This makes my life a bunch easier, because all that interesting (or not-so-interesting) content comes to me, and I don't have to do anything to get it once I subscribe! Here are some screenshots of the RSS reader I use for my Mac.

What RSS readers are out there for me to try?
As you might guess, there are quite a few companies built around providing products and services for RSS consumption and production. I do all my work and play on an Apple Powerbook, and I use NetNewsWire. For PC users, I would recommend giving FeedDemon a try. Or if you are inclined to use free web-based products, NewsGator is a good way read and manage your RSS subscriptions online. It also synchs reasonably well with the aforementioned desktop-based products. The last one I should mention that you can use is My Yahoo!. If you don't want to try any of these, you can go here to see a much larger selection from which to choose.

In closing
I hope that this little tutorial will enhance your internet experience. RSS is a super time saver for the daily browsing that you might currently do. It also can lead to information obesity if you aren't careful - because it is so easy to use! And we all know that information obesity leads to less cycling.

RSS is as easy as email, and ten times as fast as bothering to go to all those web sites everyday. Happy RSS'ing!

...and be sure to subscribe to Chico Gino!

Dutch innovation addresses common cycling problem

Fietsersbond, a bunch of Dutch cyclists, have banded together to create the first (that I'm aware of) cycling-specific door-to-door route finder on the web.

Lucas van Grinsven reports:
The volunteers needed to be much more precise than commercial digital map makers for car navigation devices like Navteq (NYSE:NVT - news) and Tele Atlas (TA.AS), jotting down details such as road surface, scenery and if a road is well lit.

"Detail is what cyclists need and what makes this so valuable. You need to be able to choose a safe route at night, and a racing cyclist wants a hard bike lane and no dirt roads," said 34-year-old Erik Jonkman, one of 70 volunteers.

The Dutch version is a grass-roots undertaking that has required many man-hours to complete just one city's version of the route finder. The user interface is very rough around the edges, and since I can't read Dutch (and I don't know the roads of Utrecht), I can't very well comment on the quality of the information that cyclists are entering into the database.

This idea is very, very cool, and I can definitely see a commercial application of this type of thing. Even in America, Google and Yahoo maps don't even come close to cutting it. Just last weekend I mapped out a 70 mile route from Chico to Red Bluff, CA, and I ended up riding through 4 miles of loose gravel, and shouldered the bike to cross one stream - none of that was on any map. And that's not to say I didn't enjoy those parts of my adventure either. But I digress.

The mashup of a GPS company, a cycling sponsor, and a killer design and engineering team sounds ripe for the picking. If there are any VC's out there who find this idea interesting, feel free to get in touch. I'll lead the design and research for the company that needs to be started...

I should also mention that Fietsersbond is a member of the European Cyclists Federation. The ECF web site is a wealth of fantastic information on pedaling around Europe. You should check it out if you are remotely interested in such an endeavor.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Ok, vacation's over.

I'm back. What can I say? I've been blogging for a decade now, and I can't stop. Blogs are part of my life at work, and also how I get things out of my head. They are how I communicate with friends that I might otherwise lose touch with, and they are how I can tell stories about my life. I'm going to go ahead and say it with some reserve: I love my blogs.

And with that, let's pick up things and start pedaling again!

I'm wrapping up a 10 day vacation, and here's the short of it:

First off, I needed it badly. Ten days away from the Bay Area was fantastic.

What did I do?

  • 2 days kayaking, camping, and exploring California's Lost Coast with Claire: One day in Whiskeytown, one at the mouth of the Klamath River where it opens into the Pacific (scary, majestic, brutal, humbling, freezing cold, miserable, and beautiful) in Yurok territory.
  • 1 day and night in Ashland, Oregon, my new favorite town to visit.
  • Flyfishing with not much luck due my own damn fault.
  • We hosted a fantastically fun BBQ with twelve good friends!
  • Hosted some friends from the Bay Area for an evening after said BBQ.
  • Drank an enjoyable amount of local beers and wines from the Real NorCal and Southern Oregon.
  • I turned 32 on June 28.
  • I put 200+ miles on the new Rivendell Rambouillet, which I have deemed The Blue Sheep™. I simply love the bike, and couldn't be happier with my decision. For those who have been emailing me, here is a painfully detailed set of photos. Enjoy! The head badge displays a true statement: Always willing, ever able.

    And be sure to take a look at Jeff's 108.67 mile day. Can you say salt? That's from the Mile High 100 ride we did a couple weeks ago.

    Oh, and I have a draft of my next post, tentatively titled, 'On Dogs, Dog Owners, and Bicyclists'. Inspired by the fact that I was chased by a dynamic duo that consisted of a Rottweiler and a Pit Bull on a recent ride from Chico to Red Bluff, and fueled by a flurry of recent posts around the web on the subject, it's time to put my thoughts out there. Stay tuned.

    Well, it's good to be back after a couple weeks off. Heh.