Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Hitting your stride

It's not something I'd ever felt before, I can tell you that much. In the season opener of the 2008-2009 Shasta Race Series, I bolted off the Le Mans style start like Richard Pryor when he caught his hair on fire, my strategy: Go Till You Blow.

I got the hole shot.

I mashed out the first climb.

Through the flats and over the barriers, and twisting through the oak-studded single track, I could hear racers bearing down on me. Chains were slapping. People were spitting. One guy tapped my rear tire on a climb, and apologized. Through heaving gasps of desperation I replied something like, "don't worry 'bout it dude, we're in a race!"

They kept breathing down my neck as we worked our way across the course, but the buzz of many slowly turned to fewer. We covered more technical terrain, and then fewer. Upon dismount before the last set of barriers on Lap 1, my cleat got stuck in my pedal, but I managed drag my bike and free myself just before yard sale-ing in front of god and everyone at the chute. There was still the noise of being chased, too close, in fact, and it worried me immensely. Just behind me as I cleared the second barrier, I hear a BANG KLANG THWACK. THUMP. Followed by a hearty, "FUUUUUCK!"

And then silence.

A clear moment of silence. Just me fluidly remounting, trying to keep moving. Click. Pedal in. Click. Other pedal in. Don't hurl. Can you pedal harder? No? Well just try to keep it up.

When the cowbells and familiar voices of my friends and teammates broke the silence that was in my head, I was bombarded by words I'd never heard before: "GO GINO, GO MAN. GO GO GO GO MAN GO YOU'RE OFF THE FRONT!"

I was too scared to flip a glance over my shoulder for fear of veering off course into poison oak, oak trees, or rocks; my pace was still frantic. My pipecleaner legs were on fire. So I kept mashing the pedals, heaving, heart rate at 10% higher than whatever it should've been. The first glance I was able to steal found an empty section of doubletrack behind me about a half mile into the next lap, with no other racers that I could see. But I still didn't trust my eyes, so I mashed on. The first time it really sank in that I was in the lead position was at a 180º switchback, which gave me a clear view of the field. I had gained at least 15 seconds on the closest riders after the crash behind me, and by this point I had settled into a pace that I could maintain. And by maintain, I mean that the puke stayed right behind my epiglottis, rather than the outward side of it.

So here's the thing. I've never been at the front of any sort of race, ever. So I wasn't prepared for the mental switch from offense to defense. I was completely blindsided by the feeling of pedaling out there alone, wondering how much I could back off, but not so much that I would have to fight so hard again. I've only ever been trying to catch someone. This time, I had everything to lose. Focus, man!

For the last two laps, I managed to keep up my pace, avoid crashing, and ended up winning my first race ever. Now I'm fully aware that it's no big accomplishment, winning a Category C race in northern California, especially when I compare it to other things I've done with my life. But for a lifetime average joe athelete, maybe slightly less-than-average, well, it was righteous. I savored every tiny painful second of it, and I've run through the details of how I could've been faster a thousand times in my head. And if it never happens again, well, it happened once, and this once I got to taste victory. And victory doesn't suck! Especially when it comes with a 1st Place Pilsner glass and a $20 purse!

To use a cliché, sometimes the stars just align. Sometimes you cast that perfect loop with your favorite bamboo flyrod. Today, for me, it was winning this cyclocross race. But in my personal bigger picture, I feel like Claire and I have really hit a stride in Chico that feels juicy, and solid, and indescribably Good and Fun. We're squeezing this place for everything it has to offer, and it has taken three and a half years of living here to get to this point. And it feels like it only keeps getting better. We have an amazing, no AMAZING, group of friends - in Chico, and in the bay area. Our jobs are currently both going a million miles an hour and keeping us traveling all over California all the time, and for that I count my blessings daily. I have a wife that I'm nutso over, and we just celebrated five years of being hitched; it still rocks to see her every single day. We both get along with our parents, and even like them all. We live in a town that has three farmers markets every week. We eat fruit and veggies out of our own garden from May until late December. Even our neighbors, while half crazy or half redneck or both, are perfectly fine neighbors. Our health isn't horrible.

You know, things are just good right now when it's all said and done. Sometimes it's probably a good idea to step back, and write down all the goodness, because sometimes the badness can overshadow it. Sure, there are plenty of things that are bad-to-awful in my life, and they could each get me down. But not me, not now.

All of this, which is to say Happy Thanksgiving! Unless you're starving in a desert with no water and no way out, you probably have something to be thankful for. Just give it a thought, eh?

Oh, and here's the proof. Go Team Paul!

finish line

Monday, November 17, 2008

Cyclocross! Chico's annual Cross Dress Cross Race

Cyclocross: Galland Cross Dress Cross Race 2008 from Gino on Vimeo.

In my head, this is what Cyclocross feels like.

This particular event is a yearly semi-private gathering of friends at Casa Galland in Chico, California. We get together and dress up like girls, drink beer, race cyclocross, and then drink more beer. See, Chico and bikes and beer go hand in hand.

Thanks to the Bronx (without permission) for the music. You guys rawk. Hard. thebronxxx.com/

Friday, November 14, 2008

Product Review: El Duke degreaser

El Duke (doo-kay)
Originally uploaded by Gino
After a quick test on a nasty cassette and chain, soybean-oil-based (which means biodegradable and non-toxic!) El Duke (pronounced El Doo-kay) degreaser rocks it. Makes gakked up parts shiny, smooth, good.

Sorry Park, but El Duke is my new way to get stuff clean. It's solid. Plus, a dog with a bone logo is unbeatable in itself. You know how we do.

You can get yer own El Duke here.

Monday, November 03, 2008

A Bicycle Light Mount for the Masses

After nearly six months of waiting, it's finally here folks: The Gino Light Mount, by Paul Component Engineering.

This bicycle light mount is designed to do two things:

1) get your bicycle headlight down low, where it should be. Handlebars are not a great spot to mount a headlight. (more on that below)

hold about 99% of every battery powered handlebar-mount style bicycle headlight on any 5mm (M5) brazeon that is on your bicycle. So, if you have a little front rack, or mid-fork brazeons, or even eyelets for fenders near your fork dropouts, then the Gino Light Mount will help you better light your way. It can also work for tail lights.

But Gino, why do I want my headlight down low?

Great question! A light that is mounted lower casts a beam that is closer to parallel to the ground, which results in a less bright beam that lets you see further ahead. And yes, the lower light casts more shadows from bumps, cracks and potholes, which is precisely what you want a light to do. Show me the surface irregularities, man!

The mount has undergone many thousands of miles of testing at this point, including a 500 mile tour of California, the Rocky Mountain 1200k, dozens of mixed-terrain rides, and countless
daily commutes, with good results! Here is one review: http://readytoride.biz/?p=342

That said, get your Gino Light Mount at the Paul store.

For more on bicycle lighting, and why down-low is better, see:
Bicycle Quarterly Volume 5, Number 2

You can also check out a bunch of long-distance bicycles that have been tested by BQ, nearly all of which have the lights mounted low, here.

Bicycle light mount

Mounted on my Saluki rack

David's Ti Rex with Gino light mount

Paul's Surly

Friday, October 24, 2008

Wheels North: Help medical research and (maybe) win a Richard Sachs frame

Wheels North is a bicycle adventure led by Eric Norris that is recreating the epic 1909 adventure of two young bicyclists, from Santa Rosa, California, to Seattle, Washington. Aside from an epic cycle adventure, Eric & crew are raising money for Histiocytosis research.

This description is from the Hystiocytosis Association of America:

Histiocytosis is a rare blood disease that is caused by an excess of white blood cells called histiocytes. The histiocytes cluster together and can attack the skin, bones, lung, liver, spleen, gums, ears, eyes, and/or the central nervous system. The disease can range from limited involvement that spontaneously regresses to progressive multiorgan involvement that can be chronic and debilitating. In some cases, the disease can be life-threatening.
About the frame you have a 1 in 100 chance of winning
Richard Sachs has been building bicycle frames since 1972, working entirely by hand in his Connecticut workshop (see his work at www.richardsachs.com). He has such a rabid following that his wait list for a frame is SIX years.

If you don't already own a Richard Sachs, this auction may be your last chance to order a frame. Richard stopped taking orders from new customers in August, but held a spot open for this auction. But more importantly, your $100 donation will go toward research for Histiocyctosis.

Proceeds from the raffle benefit the Histiocytosis Association of America and the Wheels North fundraising ride. For more info: www.histio.org and www.wheelsnorth.org

You can buy your raffle ticket here.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Rawland getting picked up by local dealer?

JimG sent me a link today to the blog of Marin County-based Black Mountain Cycles:

"There were two booths at [Interbike] that had bikes I place in the category of "bikes-I-didn't-design-but-would-like-to-own." The first is the new Salsa Fargo. The second were the bikes from Rawland... Thinking about why I like the bikes from these two brands, I see that they both have something in common: fat tires and drop bars. The combination doesn't get any better."

I can't say that I disagree... want to read it all?

Morning at the gym

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Product Reviews: Ibex wool cycling gear

I've been meaning to write a review on a few pieces of Ibex wool for about six months now, but I've been busier riding and using said gear than writing about it. As fall sets in, I find myself with a free afternoon full of ball sports that I'll never watch on TV, so now seems like a good time to tell you about some of the best pieces of clothing I own.

Let's start with the garment that kicked off this love affair:

El Fito 3/4 knickers

Really, the Ibex experience starts with their packaging. It's kind of a low-fi nature-y version of the Apple unboxing experience (if you don't know what it's like to unbox an Apple product, go find someone with an Apple product box!). The products come in thin, minimalistic Ibex-branded boxes, and the whole experience is simply refined. It's a pleasure to open, and I think Ibex's attention to these tiny details simply reflects their dedication to making very fine wool products. The detail carries over to everything they make. I bet JimG rolled his eyes on this entire paragraph. :-)

Right, so the knickers. I purchased the El Fito knickers late in 2007 directly from Ibex. Over the winter, I was able to ride a couple of centuries, lots of mixed terrain rainy rides, and a few 70+ mile warmer days until Chico really started to cook in June. The stitching is second to none, and the weight of the knickers is definitely that of a company based in New England. It's pretty thick. Not uncomfortably thick - just thick enough to know you're wearing really high quality wool. The 'Climawool Lite' knee panels allow great movement without getting wonky in shape, no matter how long you wear them or go without washing them. The chamois is of similar quality to the priciest Pearl Izumi chamois I've ridden. I don't ever think about it, so it must be doing its job. Overall, I love the knickers. They're the perfect three season (northern California) cycling knickers. For those on the CA coast, they're easily a 4-season piece of gear. My wife, Claire, rides in the women's version exclusively, unless it's 100º outside.

I do have one gripe about the El Fito, but first a little tangent.

South by Southwest happens every year in Austin, TX, and like most years, I went for the Interactive part of the conference/festival. SXSW 2008 led me to a wonderful meeting with a rep from Ibex, at the Bikehugger party. I told her that I loved my knickers, but that the waistband must have been designed with either A) fat people or B) big butts in mind. See, the knickers fit perfectly, except that the waist band is about 2" too high for a skinny guy like me. The result is that the knickers work their way down as I ride, leaving a host of room for my, umm, junk to move around, the result of which would be chafing if one weren't careful. I've figured out that by simply rolling down the waistband TWO full times, no sagging, and thus no rubbing occurs. There's the gripe. If you're skinny, prepare to roll the waistband. If you have a gut, you're set, although you probably won't wear a size Small either.

Anyway, the Ibex rep (I'm leaving her name out on purpose) gave me an Ibex wool beanie at the Bikehugger party, and after a great conversation about product design, bikes and blogs, I gave her my card. A few weeks later, a tidy little package marked Ibex showed up at my house. But first:

the Ibex BeanieI don't know what one can really say about a beanie, but I can tell you that it is now my most-worn winter head garb. I took it on our Tour of the California Coastal Breweries (where it's always winter), and after a week of wearing it without washing it, it was just fine, and didn't stink at all. I slept in it every night, rode with it most mornings, and it's an indispensable piece of my bike wardrobe.

So that package showed up, and in it was a spanking new...

Arrivee Ibex bib short
Wool bib? I've never owned a bib, but I'm now sold on bibs now for certain types of riding. I sported this thing all spring and summer in Chico for all sorts of riding on and off road. In case you don't know, summer in Chico means HOT HOT HEAT, and I don't deal well with heat. The Arrivee bib never feels uncomfortable, and when it's super hot, just dribble some water down the mesh on your back and poof: instant air conditioning. I don't know if they intended that as a feature, but it's enough for me to buy another one when this one wears out. Oh, and the potential rubbing issues that I experience with the El Fito are completely erased with the bib. The first time I wore it on a 50 or 60 mile hilly ride, I did come home with tender nipples due to the shoulder straps. Hey, I'm just sayin'. I guess my nips leathered up though, because I no longer have that issue.

The Arrivee has the same OCD attention to detail as the knickers; the quality is equivalent to the price tag. Interestingly, I've learned through experience that there are a few times I won't wear it: brevets, camping and/or touring. Why? Well, it's a real pain when you find yourself having to do the #2 with a bib strapped over your shoulders. Just think of the logistics. I'd not considered it, but I discovered it on an alpine ride in the southern Cascades. It's something to consider! OK, I'll stop with that. If you're a racer or weekend warrior who doesn't like plastic clothing, get the Arrivee bib. If you have a big gut and tend to show crack, get the Arrivee bib. It's possibly the perfect piece of gear for all but the longest of rides. And even then, that's just my personal preference.

SummaryI've since purchased Ibex leg warmers, and tested their arm warmers (on the summer tour); each product leads me to the same old boring story: I love the stuff Ibex makes. It costs a shiny nickel, no doubt. But if you can come up with the coin, you can rest assured that your Ibex duds will do you right, and last for a long, long time. I'm thousands of miles into these Ibex products, and none are showing signs of wear yet. Once I get my hands on a couple of pairs of their merino cycling shorts, my departure from plastic will be complete.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Todd Teachout

Todd Teachout
Originally uploaded by Gino
I rode with Todd for 30 miles or so on the recent RUSA 200k 10th Anniversary brevet in Marin county. It was my first brevet, and a wonderful cycling experience. Marin and Sonoma truly are cycling heaven on earth.

(Thanks for the pull!)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

El Gran Tour de bicicletas de la costa Cervecerías 2008

Update: Tour photos are here.

This Friday, Jeff and I are headed out for a 420 mile self-supported tour from Brookings, Oregon to San Francisco. This is a first for both of us; for Jeff it's a way to celebrate his 40th year, and for me it's a celebration of living in one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and being lucky enough to know people like Jeff.

Our route will traipse the coastline, and we've designed it with the intention of sampling the yields of as many coastal breweries as possible, hence our broken Spanish title: El Gran Vuelta de bicicletas de la costa Cervecerías 2008, which poorly translates to The Grand Bicycle Tour of the Coastal Breweries 2008. We thought about a French title, but really, this is California...

As regular readers may know, we are both beer connoisseurs of sorts, and there are simply too many breweries along our lovely coastline to just pedal past. So, on the list for this tour:

Humboldt Brewing, Arcata
Lost Coast Brewery & Café, Eureka
Eel River Brewing, Fortuna
Six Rivers Brewery, McKinleyville
North Coast Brewing, Fort Bragg
Iron Springs Pub & Brewery, Fairfax

And we may very well end the tour at 21st Amendment in San Francisco.

Several of my favorite breweries are just barely not on this course, including Russian River Brewing, Lagunitas, and Mendocino Brewing. Those plus several more are all in Sonoma county, and that sounds to me like a good three day weekend tour for a different time. :-)

Now I know that was an awful lot about beer, but really this tour is only slightly about sampling local beers along the way. In fact, it's hardly about beer at all.

It's mostly about moving along a ravishing and world-famous coastline under our own power, and on our own time.

Take photos. Stop to drink in the scenery; hopefully feel the fog, and if we're lucky, a bit of rain. Take any suffering in stride, and know that suffering is likely of our own doing, and that the sum total of the adventure is pure pleasure. See the coast in a way that most people never will. Camp out all but one night. Watch cable television the night we don't sleep out. Maybe see some stars and ocean and moonlight over the water. Get really dirty and definitely stinky. Ride these miles and have this adventure now, because I have no idea what tomorrow will deal.

That's what this is about for me.

Jeff is riding his SOMA Double Cross, and I, my Rivendell Saluki. We've given them several loaded riding tests, done some S24O trips this year, and I think we're ready. We've planned each day's route (over a couple beers), and that's pretty much nailed down. I've been testing a bunch of wool gear from Ibex all summer, and this tour will be the final beat down on that stuff before I write up several product test reports (including arm/leg warmers, knicker/tights, and a bib.).

Special thanks goes out to our families (my wife, his wife and daughter) for giving us the time and freedom to do this. THANK YOU!

Until we return, keep 'em turnin'!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Leaving Chico for a month of riding

Due to the fires and smoke that are consuming our area of northern California, Claire and I have decided to stay in Marin County for a month or two. Our home is fine, just smoked in. The way I see it, this stay in Marin will be a nice break from the smoke and heat, a chance to catch up with a lot of bay area friends, and a chance ride my bike every day in the wonderful coastal California weather. And, we'll still come home from time to time.

Butte county is currently down to five "active" fires, one of which is over 53,000 acres. CalFire is saying that the big one should be contained by the end of July. Contained doesn't mean out though. Best of luck to everyone in Chico, and all the brave people that have been risking their lives to fight the fires. Thank you.

My company has a San Francisco office, and I plan to make as much use of it as possible during our stay. I have my trusty Saluki, and will ride it over the Golden Gate most mornings to downtown SF. Sometimes I'll ride to the CalTrain station in SF, and shoot down to Mountain View to work HQ. The weekends will hopefully be spent riding with Claire, as well as some of the super swell San Francisco Randonneurs. I kicked it off by riding with JimG, Carlos and Greg this past weekend on a challenging mixed terrain ride in southern/west Marin. I'll have to ride the entire route next time...

The end of July will be broken up by a 420 mile tour from Brookings, Oregon to San Francisco with my good buddy Jeff, and that will put us into August.

Then, hopefully the air quality in Chico will be back to suitable for healthy life, and we can head home. If not, well, I could get used to this Marin County thing. I lived here almost 10 years ago, and had forgotten how nice it is, if you simply ignore all the foofy goofy people.

Leaving Chico

Monday, June 16, 2008

The S24O and beer

In my little world of bike camping, my fellow Chicoans seems to have a hankering for tasty suds after a hot summer ride. And they (and by 'they' and mean 'we') like them cold. Really though, who doesn't want to swill a cold one when camping on a summer day?

With this in mind, could this backpack cooler be modified to work on a rack? If so, it might be the perfect hot weather beer carrying pannier. With that in mind, I'd love to hear feedback from anyone who has devised a good beer carrier for S24Os.

Thanks to Design House Stockholm for such simple and useful design.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Back in the olden days

Old Skool Gino
Originally uploaded by aerocha

It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.~Ernest Hemingway

Friday, May 16, 2008

Rivendell Bombadil: my two week fling

I recently had the opportunity to thoroughly test ride the 52cm twin-top-tubed Rivendell Bombadil prototype, and in short, I can sum it up like this: the Bombadil is a bike that is going to take you by surprise.

touts La Bomba as "a stout-tubed mountain bike for rough riding and heavy loads. It's not Dutch-heavy, but by contemporary standards of expensive, fine bicycles, it's out there on the edge."

The one thing I thought when I first picked it up was, "man, this thing is light!" I wasn't the only one that thought so; every cyclist friend that happened to stop by my house during my time with the Bomba said the same thing, neither coaxed nor influenced by me.

Grant had set the bike up for himself, and I imagine it has been his main steed for a while, as he's working out the kinks and tweaking things. So, when I picked the bike up, I took it as is.

La Bomba was wearing the new Pacenti Quasi-moto 650Bx2" tires, which are billed as Pacenti's hardpack tire. I could post another review on those tires, but I'll just be quick here and report that they are easily as nice as any XC race tire I've ever used, and I used a lot of race tires back in my off-road triathlon days. They're tacky, they roll wonderfully, and the plush factor is that of a Cadillac. Great tires, and I'm praying that Kirk's new smaller knobby will fit my Bleriot.

The cockpit was set up with 46cm Noodles, and thumb mount shifters on the flat part of the bar. It was also fitted with a new style Tektro brake lever (not sure of the model) that featured a smooth spoon-like lever - excellent to the touch. Some purists might cry heresy over the V-brakes, but they were just fine for me.

The first thing I did was lower the bars a couple of feet (kidding! only a couple of inches!). After banging it out for a couple of weeks, I would have preferred a flat mountain-style handlebar. I found that in Chico's extremely technical volcanic terrain, that I needed to be in the drops quite a lot simply to have more leverage on the brakes. This is more a result of the terrain where I live, and my personal preferences, so don't take it as a recommendation or anything like that.

The biggest gripe I had with Grant's handlebar setup were the friction thumb shifters. I use friction thumbies on my Bleriot, but on this bike they never quite, um, clicked for me. Firstly, the thumbies felt in the way when I rode with my hands on the flat part of the bar. Lastly, every time I used the top-n-flat part of the bar, the jarring terrain would cause my hands to slightly touch the shifters. After a few minutes of riding I'd have to trim the shifter a bit to remove chain rub and/or unintended rear shifts.

Again, I feel like this is a result of the terrain here. If I rode smoother single track, fire roads, reg'lar roads or gravel roads it would have never been an issue. Below is a photo of a "trail" in Chico on which I tested the Bombadil.

If I were to set up my own Bombadil for pure off-road riding in the Chico/Sierras/Shasta area, I'd use a mountain flat bar and MTB brake levers with trigger shifters. The versatility of this bike shines when thinking about how to set it up though, because you could rig it as a pure mountain bike, a touring bike, an Epic Tour Through Tibet bike, or just a great all-rounder. Any of these setups would suit the Bombadil.

The bike has three bottle cage mounts, and I used two of them. When I first saw the double top tube, I wondered if the second top tube would get in the way when pulling the water bottle from the cage; it didn't.

It's probably my racing past, but I found myself wanting my Camelbak simply so I could pedal and drink while humping over the volcanic baby heads in the trail. Bottle cages + mountain biking over rough terrain = stop every time you want to drink.

The last thing I'll mention about the setup were the pedals. The left pedal was a Grip King, and the right pedal was one of those bad boy Spyder BMX pedals from Tioga. Hands down, for grippyness, the Spyder pedal wins. Even when wet with slick-soled shoes, the Spyder remained sticky. The Spyder pedal also has little spikes installed, which caused a few flashbacks to dented bloody shins, and those BMX Bear Trap pedals we used to use in the early 80s. The surface is significantly smaller on the Spyder than the Grip King though, so over a longer ride, the Grip King becomes the more comfortable pedal.

One other pedal observation I made when riding over Big Rock Technical Stuff is that due to its longer base and thicker body, the Grip King tended to cause more pedal strikes than the Spyder. Clipless pedals would likely eliminate the issue completely. Heh.

The Ride & Handling
The bike was fitted with the Tubus cargo rack, and a Nitto front rack, which I didn't load or use. So with that in mind, everything up next is in the context of riding without any loads.

Handling is where the Bombadil gets creepy. And by creepy I mean Awesome™. I've ridden one other mountain bike (my USA-made Schwinn Homegrown Factory Pro) that was so sure-footed, so easy to turn at any speed, or that tracks so well when huffing up steep-and-technical pitches at 2mph. When grinding up the most technical terrain, I simply pointed the front wheel, mashed the pedals, and it just went. It just felt like riding a caterpillar (the bug, not the tractor) that slinks over every object you put in its path. Gooey would be a good descriptor. I'm sure this certainly had to do with the Pacenti tires, but the bike's geometry is certainly at work as well. Off-camber turns? Tight switchbacks? No problem.

I was absolutely SHOCKED to find out, after (hesitantly) returning the bike that the trail figure for the Bombadil is 68mm. Make of that what you will.

I'm no weight weenie, but I'm certainly conscious of it in my bikes. Not once when climbing, descending, or riding fire roads or singletrack did it cross my mind that the Bombadil is a heavy bike. I wouldn't race on the Bombadil, but that isn't what it is made for.

If you have the coin to put down for an exquisitely crafted lugged steel mountain/adventure touring/touring/do-all 650B cycle, the Bombadil might be the bike for you. At $1600 for the frame and fork, it is more in the Mercedes-Benz Gelaendewagen category of off road vehicles. But the enjoyment of the craftsmanship, detail, performance, and interesting conversations that will happen as a result of owning it are, in my opinion, worth it.

I don't know what the final design of the bike is going to look like; I have no idea about the two top tubes, the trail figures, or anything else. But, based on the bike that I ran through the ringer, I wouldn't change a thing about the frame and fork.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Why I ride

Today, Tony and I climbed into one of the local canyons to Centerville. It's a fun climb, and the road actually turns into gravel and spits you out a few miles above the little "town" of Magalia.

Rather than take the gravel this time, we turned around where the pavement ends. I strapped a Sony point-n-shoot camera to my front rack, turned on the video recorder, and bombed the hill.

70 degree days, strong coffee for fuel, good health, sunshine on my skin, wind in my face and nice people around me. This is why I ride.

Saluki Cam: 40mph down Centerville Rd., Chico, CA from Chico Gino on Vimeo.

Music: 'Ouray' by Andy McKee.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Introducing the Chico Wheelmen Touring Club

The rains are stopping soon, so it's time to do some cyclotouring and bike camping!

In the interest of meeting like-minded people, and fostering a healthy community of Cyclotouring in Chico (which totally doesn't exist right now), I'm starting a new cycling faction, and it may or may not operate under the auspices of Chico Velo.

May I introduce the Chico Wheelmen Touring Club.

Here's how the Chico Wheelmen Touring Club will operate:

1) We don't race. This style of riding is non-competitive in nature; self-sufficiency and camaraderie are paramount.

2) The Chico Wheelmen Touring Club is not a sausage party. Women are welcome, and encouraged. The name is just a fun throwback to the golden days of cycling, when people rode penny farthings (high wheelers), and bicycles that were made for real-world riding. Fat tires and steel frames are ok, and even encouraged. We will ride dirt roads sometimes.

3) The club is 100% unofficial. There are no dues. There are no membership cards. No politics. No drama.

4) The newest person at the meeting is the President of the club for that week, always.

5) We'll meet up for a beer/soda somewhere, every week. Maybe we'll swap stories, have how-tos, or have slideshows, or whatever. Or maybe we won't.

6) No hero worship.

6b) No training plans.

7) We love our official Chico Velo pals, as they fight for cyclist rights in Chico. We'll probably ride in all the Chico Velo events, in addition to our own unsanctioned, unsupported weekend excursions.

8) We'll do local tours and bike camping trips. We'll also strive to go elsewhere to do some bike camping as well. Maybe the Sierras, maybe Shasta, maybe wine country, maybe the coast. Maybe all of the above.

9) If we get a dozen cyclotourists that are interested, maybe I'll design a run of wool jerseys, marking the inception of the CWTC. :-)

The mailing list, and the Google Group is here:

If you're remotely interested in cyclotouring and bike camping, I think this will be fun. I look forward to seeing you on the new list.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

On passion

My SXSW 2008 report

I was recently in Austin, TX for SXSWi, and probably the best thing I saw was 20x2, which wasn't actually part of SXSW. The gist is this: ask a question, in this case, "What's the difference?" And then, give 20 people 2 minutes each to answer the question. Got that? Twenty speakers. One question. Two minutes each.

While it's interesting to compare and contrast the different approaches to the question, there is undoubtedly an underlying competition that takes place, even if unspoken. The content, the performance, the delivery, the passion; they all come into play, and in my mind, there was one clear winner.

My friend and colleague, Simon Batistoni (of Flickr ilk) was invited to be one of the 20, and what follows was his answer to, "What's the difference?"

Simon, if you happen to read this, you totally rocked it, and inspired me and everyone else in the room. Hopefully you've stopped shaking by this point...
The difference, in a word, is passion.

In all our pursuits and endeavours, it is passion which leads to the creation of the genuinely great, or the superlative experience.

Think about it - who do you most associate with passion; Steve Jobs and his irritatingly exquisite products, painstakingly put together by folks who care about the minutest details or… well… Bill Gates?

I've seen the effects of passion in the panels I've attended here at South by Southwest. All of the best panels have been hosted by people with a genuine passion for what they're talking about.

In all honesty, some of them have had so little real content that they've actually subtracted from the sum of human knowledge.

But when that nebulous non-content is delivered with infectious passion, it still has value. The raw emotion itself inspires, leading us to new insights and ideas.

The greatest music ever produced, from the snarl of the Sex Pistols to the intricate scales of Rachmaninov, is fired through with deep, passionate enthusiasm and dedication. And the same is true for every other creative field:

The writing of Dickens or Ginsberg or Phillip Pullman; the art of Rothko or Monet; superlative graphic design or exquisitely prepared food by chefs like Thomas Keller - passion informs all of these things.

Life… is better with passion. It crackles with electricity a little more; sings a little more.

So my plea to all of you is this: let go of all those other influences on the things you do. Shut out the shareholders, investors, editors or producers; ignore the spreadsheets, monthly growth charts and budgets. Whatever it is you do in life; however you do it, feed your creativity with your passions, be they kittens or cushions, candles or cattle-prods, cocktails or cave-paintings.

Channel that energy into everything you do. It's the easiest, most fulfilling way to truly make a difference.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Sheldon Brown interview up on Rivendell site

Grant & Co. have uploaded the Big Sheldon Interview over on their site. It is an 8 page in-depth candid talk with Captain Bike, from Rivendell Reader 25, around December 2001.

In the post on the Rivendell site, Grant says:
In the intro to it, last paragraph, you may notice the word "knowledge" is spelled three different ways, only one of them was correct—not even half. Sheldon never would have let that happen.
To which I would add: just think of it in baseball terms, my friend. Sheldon loved baseball, and .333 is hall of fame material.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

More words about Sheldon

This wonderful email came through my inbox from a fellow named John S. Allen. His words, and the stories about Sheldon and Sheldon's family are too good not to repost.
Friends -- Sheldon's memorial service will be held off, so that family and friends can gather. (This info from his wife, Harriet Fell). She'll let us know when it is to be.

More info:

In 1972, I was halfway home with a flat tire and walked into a bike shop that was just closing -- the bicycle Revival, River Street in Cambridge,. or maybe Western Avenue. Sheldon stayed late to fix it. That's how I first met him.

There were 46 bicycles in or around his house "with a few shared wheels", by his recent count, mostly in his basement. He didn't buy bicycles off the shelf -- as a challenge to his mechanical ingenuity, and a way to spend less money and spend more time doing what he liked to do, he cobbled up customized bicycles from parts he acquired mostly through special deals, barter or secondhand, to suit himself or someone in his family. He often came up with a something unique, clever and useful. You may read about his bicycles on his Web site. He had an eye for style, but also, one or two rusty clunkers hung out by the back door getting rustier, for the quick ride to the convenience store, and several old hulks of bikes lived under the front

Much more history could go here...later for that. As David Wittenberg described him in an e-mail this morning: "He knew more about bicycles than anyone else I know, as was always happy to share what he knew." Lemonade out of lemons, serving his lifelong interest in photography: he drilled a hole through the handle of the cane so he also could use it as a monopod for his camera. He could no longer ride a bicycle because he lacked the coordination and leg strength to mount or dismount. He rode a Greenspeed recumbent tricycle slowly.

You wouldn't have known about his illness from his correspondence, except when he openly mentioned it. He hated euphemisms and didn't mince words: he wrote "I am now a cripple." He remained upbeat, active and involved and said that his illness was much harder for Harriet to take than for him, though "it's damn inconvenient." With his usual mechanical ingenuity, he had bought a hoist secondhand and rigged it to lift his electric 4-wheel scooter in and out of the back of his minivan, and that's how he got around.

But it was a massive heart attack rather than the MS that ended his life last night. He was 63.

He leaves Harriet, a PhD professor of mathematics and computer science at Northeastern University, and the first American woman to complete Paris-Brest-Paris. You may read about that too, on her Web site. Her opening line when she first met Sheldon: "I see you're riding fixed." And then he noticed that she was riding a Holdsworth, a high-grade British bike of the day.

Bicyclists and computer gurus mixed at their wedding in 1979. Would you believe that my seat was next to that of artificial intelligence guru Marvin Minsky? It was. Sheldon and Harriet rode away on a tandem.

Their two children, George and Tova, are both now doctoral students in mathematics.

Sheldon was widely read, with a special interest in science fiction. He spoke French, and read Jules Verne in French, having brushed it up when Harriet was on a fellowship in France and the family spent a year there, 1988-1989. He wrote with lucidity and technical precision, though he had been a square peg in a round hole with conventional academics and never earned a college degree.

Favorite quote from Sheldon:

"Everyone I know in bicycling is at least a little bit crazy, present company included."

Amen, to which I would add, the craziness I know in bicyclists often leads in good directions, or the bicycling keeps it within bounds. I know of a lot of people *not* in bicycling who are very much crazier :-)

Favorite quote about him, I don't recall from whom (Harold Lewis, Ed Trumbull?):

"When they made him, they threw away the mold."

This afternoon, I went out for a bike ride. That always helps get *me* going in the right direction when things are getting out of bounds :-).

I stopped at the post office in Weston and a woman in line ahead of me was saying that everyone is depressed because the New England Patriots lost the Super Bowl game last night. Well, we all have our troubles, I guess.

John S. Allen

Member, Massbike Board of Directors.
Regional Director for New York and New England, League of American
League Cycling Instructor #77-C and Member of the League's Education


Monday, February 04, 2008

Farewell Sheldon Brown. You're a legend.

Today I received the news that one of cycling's most storied and passionate characters, Sheldon Brown, passed away.

I don't really know what to say.

Rob Hawks, a bay area cyclist summed it up as well as any:

"It is undeniable that Sheldon has influenced many, many people in the bicycling world. I read with sadness of his passing. The thing though that I've always remembered about Sheldon all along are some of the non-cycling elements to his communications with others. I loved and will now miss the quotes contained in his signatures to postings to the list. I'll also remember an email exchange I had with him off list regarding music. I had come to discover a band very late in my life and many years after the date of a recording, and mentioned this band and recording to Sheldon. His response had such enthusiasm in it and it put me in mind of being on the opposite side of the experience where one can look with a little bit of envy at someone who is just being exposed to a work of music, literature or film that had a profound effect on you at an earlier time.

Certainly, I've looked over Sheldon's cycling oriented articles, but I've also been intrigued by the other parts of his vast web pages and all the other passions in his life.

Poke around on those pages. It is amazing I think to see all the different things a single person can be so enthused about and really get into in a big way.

Farewell Sheldon, but you'll never be gone.

rob hawks
richmond, ca"

With that, all I can add is this: Sheldon, we only ever communicated via email, and you only ever offered sage advice, and always with a level head and sense of humor. You were always a great point of reference to all of us, and like Rob says, you'll never be gone.

Rest in peace Sheldon. Your contributions to cycling and general Good Will are as large as anyone in history.

With that, JimG (idea) and I (execution) offer up to anyone who wants them, these badges. Sheldon, whether you like it or not, you have a posse.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Tour de Ed - a great excuse to come to Chico

My friend, and the leader of Chico Velo for nearly as long as I've been alive, Ed McLaughlin sustained a severe spinal cord injury a little over a month ago during a regular group ride, and is currently in the spinal cord rehab unit in Santa Clara. If you've ever heard of the Chico Wildflower, or ridden it, Ed is the brains and brawn behind that spectacular ride.

The cycling community here in Chico is putting on a ride, called Tour de Ed (February 23rd), to raise money to help with his recovery. So, if you're in the area, you might consider coming to Chico for this ride.

The Tour De Ed follows the same course as the old Almond Blossom ride. It takes you on an easy 20 or so mile ride on quiet country roads through the almond orchards when the trees are in full bloom (spring comes early in Chico!).

The farmer's market is rocking the same morning, and the ride starts late (10am) so you can chow down at one of the local eateries (or at the market) before the ride. If there is enough interest, a few of us have talked about heading out for an S24O later that same afternoon to Woodson Bridge SRA, and back Sunday morning.

Do what Ed would do, and get on your bike!

Here are the links:
Tour de Ed info, and
Ed's status updates.

If you think you want to come out, let me know. It'll be a good day (or possibly weekend) of riding, and any excuse is a good excuse to camp out for a night.