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Thursday, October 30th
The Poor Man's Path Racer, Part II
Note: click on any of the images below to see a larger version (uses pop-up windows)

Still a-bornin'
Born but still naked
Hands down, my favorite forum on the web is the Internet Bridgestone Owners Bunch, generally known as the iBOBs. It started before the Internet, one of Grant Petersen's ideas when he was running Bridgestone USA, and the "forum" was then on newsprint. In 1994, just as the Internet was first blossoming, Bridgestone folded its US operation, and Grant handed over the BOB to a series of e-stewards, as it were; it's now kindly and capably sustained by Alex Wetmore at

I mention all this because it's the iBOBs who have made it possible for me to build Trevor Wong up so quickly.

It's in the Bag
It's in the bag! (Photo by Wes)
For example, the stem he's wearing in these photos is temporary (and quite unprepossessing), but a nicer one will be coming as a gift from Carla Waugh--of the iBOBs!

But where did the unprepossessing stem come from? From iBOB Wes Oishi's parts bins over on Pico Boulevard! Wes had kindly asked me to bring the frame over for a chase & face, which necessitated my figuring out how to carry a nice fresh frame on my Bottecchia the couple of miles to Wes's place. Hence the plastic sack protecting him from the straps of my courier bag. (It worked quite well--no paint damage, and fairly comfortable on the back. There was, however, a strange whistling sound made as I rode: the wind fluting across the open steerer tube!)

By the fountain at Park La Brea
I'd already installed the headset, wishing to try out the shade-tree mechanic's headset press of all-thread rod with nuts and washers. (This in fact worked--but it made a three-minute job take thirty, and I'll be buying a real headset press anon.) Wes got out his Very Fine Tools (which certainly cost a great deal more than the frame itself!) and went at it, and soon we had the bottom bracket threads cleaned up and the edges nice a parallel, whereafter we dug up a stem from what Wes referred to as a "parts graveyard," snugged things up, then made sure to waste a good bit of time jawboning before I took off and let him get back to work.

Once home, I got as far as the state expressed in picture #1 up at the top, then it was off to chores. This morning, I got a lot farther: crankset, chain, and saddle meant I could ride. I still wanted a brake, especially on an unfamiliar bike (he's a fixie), and had even bought a cable hanger for the long-reach centerpull I'd thought I had.

That turned out to be a long-reach sidepull--the longest-reach sidepull I've ever seen, just audaciously long, but still elegant.

And so we rode off to the Farmers Market, stopping at the fountain in Park La Brea for a ceremonial photograph.

The cheap frame's looking good, and riding sweetly. I'm going to leave him in his present state for a few days before loading on the fenders and the rack. He's such a young one, I can't put him to work right away!

Read the entire story in The Silk Purse Project

Richard Risemberg on Thu, 30 Oct 2008 16:22:23 -0800 [link]  

Monday, October 27th
The Poor Man's Path Racer
The Poor Man's Path Racer
Click on the image to see a larger version
I've long thought that, should I ever be able to afford a custom, I'd get a variation on the old British "path racer" concept: a fixed-gear bicycle with room for larger tires and fenders, something that rides as well on unpaved roads as on asphalt, and is comfortable for longer rides over less-than-perfect pathways.

It will be a long time before I can afford a custom, if ever, and vintage path racers are few and far between on eBay...but, last week, I found something quite odd on that selfsame eBay: a Taiwanese-built (by Maxway) TIG-welded frame with track drops, a full set of rack and fender braze-ons, and clearance for 700x40C tires! At $224.95 (shipped!) from Bike Island, it was still out of budget, but I had decided to sell my Trek 610 frame, which I simply didn't care for, so (assuming the frame does sell in this not-a-recession we're enduring), I'd about break even financially.

All the old parts except the stem and headset will fit right on, and the new frame came with a reasonably good headset, so I won't be spending much, if anything (depending on how my own auction goes).

I have no illusions that it's a great frameset, but I have challenged myself to build a bike that is both attractive and capable out of this $200 sow's ear, and I think I can do it.

It doesn't look so bad in the photo, does it?

We'll call him "Trevor Wong"--because he's a Chinese realization of a British concept, and also because I have Wongs in the family. And, of course, on the Internet "TW" is the top-level domain for Taiwan, where he hails from. He'll be my lock-anywhere load-toad, burdened with rack and panniers and perhaps a good old-fashioned British saddlebag as well.

Stay tuned for updates, right here.

Read the entire story in The Silk Purse Project

Richard Risemberg on Mon, 27 Oct 2008 16:31:44 -0800 [link]  

Saturday, October 25th
Evolution Continues
milkrunner1008_08 (181k image)
Click image for larger version
Here's a photograph of Gina's 650B mixte conversion project, the Milk Runner, in his latest incarnation, and looking very handsome sporting a pair of Belleri porteur handlebars and a Carradice "Barley" saddlebag. We're waiting to obtain a shorter stem (around 70mm ought to do the trick) before taping the bars. Also, there's a chainguard on the way as soon as I can remember to pick up a cutting wheel for the drill motor, as the Raleigh Sport chaninguard I have is about two inches too long, not being made for a mixte with the extra frame members at the unusual angle.

This is what we call a "Three-Mile Bike," one not meant for long rides but for shopping, dining, and visiting in the general neighborhood. Single-speed, fairly low gearing for now, platform pedals, skirt-friendly Brooks Flyer "S" saddle, those nice Velo-Orange "Zeppelin" fenders...a relaxed bike. We might try a basket on it too.

Tonight it's carrying Gina on our weekly date: just a couple of miles, to a quiet Thai restaurant we like.

See more photos of the Milk Runner on our Flickr site.

Richard Risemberg on Sat, 25 Oct 2008 17:20:05 -0800 [link]  

Thursday, October 23rd
Bike-Specific Classifieds
This site I encountered is brand-new, so there's not much in it yet, but I suspect it's worth trying if you have something bicycle-related to sell, especially as they are doing the usual free-ad promos. They take display ads as well as classifieds. I've stuck an ad for Bicycle Fixation on to see what happens.

Wrote them a letter about a minor issue, and they responded personally and right away, so that's a good sign, at least!

Everybody's got something in the garage to get rid of, or a part you need for your project, so it's worth a try, I think.

Pedal Classifieds

Richard Risemberg on Thu, 23 Oct 2008 07:05:26 -0800 [link]  

Tuesday, October 21st
Truly Crazy Bikes, 1937-1943
If you think tallbikes are wacky, you're way behind the curve. This compilation, apparently from Eastern europe though part of the narration is in German, displays the astounding inventiveness of bicycle builders and tinkerers from the era just before and during World War Two.

Recumbents, tallbikes, taller-than-tallbikes; tandems, triplets, quads, quints, and more; handbikes, unicycles, porteurs; trailers; a tallbike incorporating a working seamstress at her sewing fact damn near anything on wheels that can be powered by human muscle, in a diversity far beyond anything we see these days.

A few circus-type bike tricksters as well--all great fun.

Many thank to Bruce Wilson for sending us the link!

Richard Risemberg on Tue, 21 Oct 2008 16:20:16 -0800 [link]  

Sunday, October 19th
Last of the Hemp City Knickers v1.0
As you may know, the Hemp City Knickers will be getting a makeover when we order in some more next month, so we are clearing out the last of the original design.

The new design will have belt loops, probably fit a wee bit snugger, and will most likely not be made out of hemp, at least not this time around.

If you want a pair of the originals, and you are a size 38 or a slimmish 40, this is your last chance, as we have only a few left. Since we do have to clear them out, we've reduced the price one last time to $90.00--a genuine deal for a garment of this style and quality. (Note that the olive color will no longer be available at all.)

Take one last look: Hemp City Knickers v1.0.

Richard Risemberg on Sun, 19 Oct 2008 14:41:29 -0800 [link]  

Wednesday, October 15th
Bike Luck in La-La Land: Orange 20's New Bigger Digs
One of our favorite local bike shops, Orange 20, has finally moved out of the charming but impossibly cramped little shed they occupied for over a year, and moved two doors down the block to a former furniture store, which seems so capacious by comparison that it's like stepping from a closet to a ballroom.

Now they have room to display all their bikes, parts, accessories, and clothing, and repair more than one bike at a time! I also noted a stage at the front of the shop (where I stood to take my patented Crappy Cellphone Picture), so, if we're lucky, there may be concerts or other community activities.

If you're in LA, check it out. It's a happy sign for local bike culture, indeed! And still next door to Pure Luck, and across from the Bicycle Kitchen and Scoops, at the corner of Heliotrope & Melrose, AKA the Bicycle District.

Orange 20 Bikes

Richard Risemberg on Wed, 15 Oct 2008 17:35:15 -0800 [link]  

Tuesday, October 14th
Closer and Closer to the Real Critical Mass....
There's Critical Mass, and there's the real critical mass. The former is a rolling party disguised as political action; the latter is simply when there are enough cyclists on the road that cycling becomes "normal," as it is in places such as Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Vienna, and most Japanese cities (as well as countless cities and towns in the developing world). We wrote about this recently in our article on Safety in Numbers.

We've got a long way to go before we achieve the lower-case critical mass, when the chain-reaction effect will cause the number of cyclists on the road to burgeon dramatically, but we're slowly getting closer.

This morning I had a number of walking chores to do--dry-cleaning drop off, shipping orders at the Post Office, wasting time in coffeehouses, etc. I was out at rush hour, and again, the increased number of cyclists of all sorts out on the road impressed me--two in particular.

After leaving the Post Office, I stopped in at Massimo's Mudspot for a cuppa, and saw a classic old Raleigh locked up outside. The owner was having his own brew inside, a great tall fellow named Jim; the bike, complete with old-school generator lighting and seatpost clamp-on rack, had belonged to his dad, and Jim was now using it for his basic transportation--riding it as far as Calabasas, some forty hilly miles away!

Then, as I was strolling home, I saw a chic middle-aged Asian lady, wearing cigarette-leg pants and formal makeup, whizzing down the sidewalk on a classic lugged mixte with drop bars, and making better time than she should have been among pedestrians.

These in addition to the usual scatter of mountain bikes, hybrids, and fixies that crisscross the Miracle Mile on a workday morning.

Little by little, neutron by neutron, closer to the real critical mass....

Richard Risemberg on Tue, 14 Oct 2008 10:10:20 -0800 [link]  

Sunday, October 12th
Morning Ride
fromObservatory101208 (162k image)Hadn't done a decent hillclimb for a few weeks, and hadn't been to the Griffith Observatory in months, and that was a real deficit! As a child I constantly pestered my parents to take me there, and as I grew it remained as regular a part of my life as waking up, it seemed. Day and night, I would go, by every sort of conveyance, not just for the exhibits inside but for the view from its parapets, and the trails leading up from the parking lot. To me, it's the crowning glory of Griffith Park a 4,000-acre park comprising mostly wild hills and chaparral, and it self the crowning glory of Los Angeles.

I left the house a bit late, but the air was still cool after our single day of real fall weather yesterday; I followed the route I used to ride on my last commute, before I started working for myself, then went past the old shop and headed up Ferndell Drive. Pedaling steadily uphill, passing under the shade of eucalyptus and sycamore trees in the lower canyon, then oaks and toyon on the upper slopes, and then no foliage tall enough to give shade at the very top. Then the Observatory's famous building and even more famous view.

There was a bit of haze, a bit of smog, and smoke from a distant forest fire, but it was still a classic view. If you click on the image above, you should see a larger version.

And for those who think fixies aren't suited to hilly lands, please note the 25-story skyscraper in the very middle of the picture; that's where I had started from a good bit less than an hour before. (It's around the corner from my apartment.)

After enjoying the light and the air, the sounds of birds and the smell of desert plants, I headed back down, using the fixed-gear to restrain my speed so I could enjoy my last few minutes in the park. Birds all around, each calling in its own peculiar way; I didn't want to cover any of that music up with wind noise!

On the way down I heard a little chime from my pocket: a text message from Gina. Detoured slightly once I was near home to meet her for coffee at Massimo's--a good end to the morning, a good start to the rest of the day.

Richard Risemberg on Sun, 12 Oct 2008 19:23:32 -0800 [link]  

Saturday, October 11th
Elegant Austerity....
Just a reminder, folks, that just because the stock market's down, it doesn't mean you gotta dress down: we have lower-priced versions of our two flagship products online right now, at recession-friendly prices: our LSD knickers, a rayon version of our Classic Wool Knickers, is still earth-friendly (rayon is made of wood), still great-looking (with a silk-like finish), and still only $95.00 a pair.

And if you can live without merino wool (we admit we can't), you can buy the hemp & organic cotton version of our Four Season Jersey for $115.00, a full sixty dollars less than the merino hoodies.

Remember that these are recession-proof: unlike overvalued stocks and overpriced real estate, these will retain their value for as long as you own them!

Richard Risemberg on Sat, 11 Oct 2008 17:42:16 -0800 [link]  

Wednesday, October 8th
A Sliver of Silver...
...Silver lining, and perhaps silver in your pocket. One of the sweeteners added to the hideous Corporate Pirate Protection Act--excuse me, the Wall Street bailout--to garner a few more votes was a provision allowing employers to offer employees who bicycle to work up to $20 a month for upkeep and maintenance as a tax-free benefit, subject to qualifications. As Wired notes:
Titled "Transportation fringe benefit to bicycle commuters," Sec. 211 of the Bailout Bill says bike commuters are eligible for reimbursement expenses including purchase of a bicycle, bicycle improvements, repair and storage. Over a calender year, bike commuters can receive up to $20 a month covered by their employer as a tax-free benefit.
To read more, see the post on Wired's blog.

Richard Risemberg on Wed, 08 Oct 2008 14:11:07 -0800 [link]  

Tuesday, October 7th
Hemp City Knickers Reviewed in Cycling Spokane
User John Speare posts his thoughts on our pants at Cycling Spokane (That didn't sound quite right, did it?)

Richard Risemberg on Tue, 07 Oct 2008 17:44:24 -0800 [link]  

Saturday, October 4th
"Saturday Transit" in Amsterdam
Here's a charming, simple, and most pleasurable little video assemblage of Saturday morning bicycle traffic in Amsterdam. Particularly noticeable to your editor here, besides the sheer number of bicycles and the delightful way they suffuse an atmosphere of carefree efficiency into the streets, is how intrusive and noisy the occasional car or motorbike seems in the context of a quiet form of transportation,the nearly total domination of racked and fendered citybikes, and the fact (which takes on an added dimension after the recent complaints in Seattle) that these Amsterdammers, casual though constant cyclists all, have no trouble whatsoever negotiating tram tracks in the street--something that apparently demands too much skill of US riders.

No helmets, no Lycra, no logos, no carbon, just sturdy bikes and happy riders, taking care of business and pleasure in one of the wealthier cities on Earth.

See lots more, including the still photo version of this film, at the Amsterdamize website.

Richard Risemberg on Sat, 04 Oct 2008 06:10:20 -0800 [link]  

Friday, October 3rd
Raleigh Roadster, Odd Rack
raleigh_odd_rack (84k image)Yes, another crappy cellphone picture! But I had to take it, not having seen this bike in the neighborhood before, and the cell being the only (if-you-can-call-it-a) camera I had handy.

An old Raleigh roadster, a real classic, with one of the odder rear racks I've ever seen: a sturdily-built platform rack with a couple of folding metal fences to help hold your load.

I've no idea whether this is original to Raleigh, some old Brit design, or something the rider made or had made. It's sort of like a Pletscher on steroids.... I've heard of Dutch racks that were something like this, so maybe the bike is a cross-channel hybrid.

Anyway, looks like it's ridden, and looks like it carries loads--there are extra bungee cords you may be able to see in the muddle of cellphone pixelage--and it's a handsome if somewhat worn machine.

A sign of intelligent life in the universe, or so I say to myself whenever I see a bike in practical use.

Note: Two readers (Bill Connell and David Pertuz) have written in to opine that it seems to be an old-school child seat! Looks like a handy cargo rack as well, to me.)

Richard Risemberg on Fri, 03 Oct 2008 09:40:14 -0800 [link]  

Thursday, October 2nd
Trees & Bikes
A group called TreesNY has come up with a simple and inventive piece of street furniture that protects street trees and provides bicycle parking at the same time!

To quote:
Trees New York conceived a new kind of street furniture. The solution encompasses a way to support nonpolluting cyclists and protect trees: a bike rack that doubles as a tree guard. We sponsored an international student competition in a search for the best possible designs. Available to you are our two winners--the Adonis and the X-Type. Our models will safeguard trees, encourage bikers' clean transportation, and increase the attractiveness of your neighborhood.
See their brochure for more info, or to order one. (Note: file is a PDF.)

Richard Risemberg on Thu, 02 Oct 2008 16:07:12 -0800 [link]  

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