Jeff Lockwood

Jeff Lockwood

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‘Handups’ is not a word in Flemish!

By Jeff Lockwood.

I’m driving home after barely hanging on for a pathetic 16th place in a soul-crushing amateur cyclocross race in Rillaar, Belgium when I get an email from a friend in the United States asking me to translate “Handups are not a crime!” into Flemish.

The timing of the email turned my grimace into a smirk.

About two hours earlier, roughly forty local spectators dressed in unremarkable dark clothing that represent a statement of function over fashion, are gathered on either side of a demoralizing off-camber snow- and mud-packed turn that I’ve just cleaned. Instead of cheers or being offered quick sips of beer, I’m met with cold, judging stares and the din of Flemish conversation.

I could have definitely used an audible or alcohol-based moral booster, but offers of heckling, beer, money or other goods to racers during competition, at professional and amateur levels, are foreign concepts in Belgium—where ‘cross is king.

Thus, there’s no literal Flemish translation for “handup.”

This is a far cry from my experience racing ‘cross in the United States where friends and strangers along the course loft screams of support along with creative motivating heckles towards all categories and positions of racers. At one particular race I’m essentially stopped in my tracks and “forced” to drink a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon before I continue on my way.

A racer at a race in Flagstaff, Arizona gains some American-style motivation.

This week, the 2013 UCI Cyclocross World Championships are being held in Louisville, Kentucky—the first time in a land that’s beyond driving distance from Belgium. There is sure to be a large contingent of rabid European cyclocross fans descending upon the Bluegrass Sate. These supporters, along with the racers, are going to encounter a wholly different, yet just as enthusiastic and informed, sea of people lining the course.

Originally from Vermont, Amy Dombroski has spent the last two seasons living and racing at the highest levels in Belgium. From inside the tape, she’s seen crowds on both sides of the Atlantic.

“In America, chances are the spectators will be as fit-looking as the Elite racers. Whereas in Belgium every spectator, aside from the little whipper-snappers ripping about in their Sven replica kits, will have either a beer or a cigarette in close proximity.”

A family of Sven Nys supporters.

While the atmosphere on the spectator side of the course tape in the United States is more interactively celebratory, the scene in the party tents and along the courses in Belgium is most definitely a huge alcohol-fueled boisterous bash, but it’s a hands-off form of appreciation. Mostly. There have been isolated incidents that have led to racer injuries and racers abandoning their bicycles to chase after beer-tossing spectators [video].

While Dombroski recognizes the differences in the culture around the scenes, she’s quick to point out similarities.

“As different as the appearances are, the love is still deep and true in both countries. In America the love is authentic because whether a masters rider or a Category-whatever-number, he or she appreciates what the elite racers have gone through to be where they are, because they’ve experienced some of that "abuse."

A perfect slice of the Belgian cyclocross target demographic.

In Belgium the love is genuine because cycling culture is so deeply rooted. Belgians carry the emotion and ownership of cycling that I could only compare to Americans & American football.”

Ironically the Elite races will be held on Super Bowl Sunday.

After slugging out his professional career in the Belgian cyclocross pressure cooker, Ben Berden is a Belgian native racing in the US for the past two seasons. Competition in the United States is a welcome change for him. He appreciates the warm reception racers receive in the US. “There are 20,000 people at the races in Belgium, and they’re not really necessarily going for the race, but more for the party. Instead of beer handups and stuff like that, everybody goes to the beer tent.”

A scene from inside one of the party tents following the finish of the 2012 Cyclocross World Championships in Koksijde, Belgium.

Jonathan Page, a New Hampshire native, is a four-time US National Cyclocross Champion (most recently claiming the title two weeks ago), and has been living and racing cyclocross in Belgium since 2002. When asked about handups and heckling along courses in the United States, Page adds, “I’m not sure what to say about that. I’ve grabbed a few dollars in Vegas [at CrossVegas], and I’d probably do it again.”

How do I translate “Handups are not a crime!” into Flemish? After getting home and unloading the car, I text a Belgian friend for some translation help. Amused with my explanation of the essence of the statement, he ultimately delivers, “Een renner een pintje aanbieden is niet onwettig!”

When I press Dombroski specifically on her thoughts about the offerings of beer and money and heckling taken to the next level in the United States, she replies, “This is what makes the sport of cyclocross so unique—the varying atmospheres. They’re both different and I hope it stays that way. American ‘cross does not need to become Belgian cyclocross.”


Highlights from Eurobike 2012

By Jeff Lockwood

The annual European pilgrimage for the Eurobike bicycle tradeshow went down this past weekend in Friedrichshafen, Germany. As expected, the show unveiled all sorts of bikes and bits from manufacturers from around the world. Since this is essentially the first show of the season, many products make their debut here. Here is a basic run-through of some of the more interesting things we found.

Knog

Knog wins my award for most stunning…and kind of freaky…show display. Those pretty lights around the product moved and changed as you move the product on the table, even leaving behind a silhouette of the image for a few moments after you move it.

Mikili Bicycle Furniture

Mikili is a brand new company from Berlin that makes unique pieces of stylish furniture that incorporate the ability to store bicycles. All pieces are handcrafted by people involved with a social program for disabled employees in Germany. These bookcases, shelves and other pieces all have one part of the structure that cradles the top tube of your bicycle. Perfect for storing your Hemmingway books and framed pictures on the same shelf as your IRO. 

Endurance road bikes

It’s no secret that comfortable, long distance road bikes are becoming very popular. The main characteristics of these bikes include wide tire clearance, more relaxed geometry for comfort, and often rack and fender mounts. Yet there’s no denying these rigs are race-ready road bikes at their core. Soon enough you’ll be seeing more of these bikes at your favorite Gran Fondo or long distance non-paved road race.

BMC Gran Fondo GF01: The BMC Gran Fondo touts the ability to do everything from cyclocross racing to being a fast commuter. It features a lightweight aluminum frame, carbon fork, Shimano 515 disc brakes and a Shimano 105 CX groupset. While it touts long-distance comfort, it definitely looks to share the spirit of its Tour de France-caliber siblings. 

Cielo: The Chris King house brand, Cielo, offers the steel Sportif Racer. It claims to have the handling and speed of a more race-oriented road bike, but more comfort for all-day rides. This sexy machine offers trimmed-down chainstays and a lower headtube height. 

Bags

Thule: Thule, long-known for their car racks (as well as luggage and other bags), have introduced a line of pannier racks and bags. The Thule Pack ’n Pedal system is designed to offer commuters and adventure cyclists a full range of options for their respective needs.

The racks in the system use nylon straps to connect to the frame, and they’re then tightened down with a 5mm ratchet bolt. Within the Pack ‘n Pedal system are a variety of proprietary pannier bags, map mounts and even a protected adjustable iPad mount for the handle bars. Of particular note are the panniers. They attach to the racks with a very unique mechanism that allows for one-handed installation and removal. Off the bike, the mechanism in the bag folds inward to reveal a smooth surface that won’t catch on your clothing. The bottom of the bag stays attached to the bottom of the rack thanks to a magnet

The Thule Pack ‘n Pedal system is available in the US. 

Crème Cycles

I first spotted a Crème bicycle in a local shop in Antwerp, Belgium. I was immediately struck by its sleek aesthetic and lugged frames. Crème is a Polish company started in 2009 by a psychologist, a cosmetics R&D guy, and a “rock star.” This trio makes sure a “new vintage” style is just as important as the performance of the bikes. Pictured here is the women’s Café Racer, and it’s definitely worth noting that the company has a strong focus on women’s bikes because, they say, not many companies do so. Crème Cycles just started offering bikes in the United States, so check http://cremecycles.com for more info.

Electric Bikes

It’s no secret that electric bikes are becoming more and more popular. It’s also important to note that such bikes are no longer the domain of people who have no regard for style and little care for functionality. There were many unique, beautiful and useful machines on the show floor, all with batteries and motors attached.

SRAM: SRAM is finally getting into the electric bike game by with their E-matic system, which comprised of hub, battery pack and a battery rack to hold the battery. It comes with three different battery sizes, 32- and 36-hole hubs and is rated at 250w. Maximum assisted speed, as per law, in the US is 20mph and 25kph in Europe. The two-speed system shifts automatically. Chances are you’re going to see the SRAM E-matic system on a lot more e-bikes in the near future. Case in point…

Electra Townie Go: One of Electra’s most popular models is their Townie, and this year marks the 20th anniversary of the company. So it only made sense that the Townie would be one of the very first bicycles on the market to be fitted with the SRAM E-matic system. Townie Go, the name of the electrified version of the original bike, is perfectly aligned with Electra’s “simple, safe and smart” mantra. The bike retains its minimalist stylish lines with the lack of complicated cabling, which is especially surprising…and nice…on an electric-assist bike. The one-button system has a speed sensor for torque to give the rider the little extra push, but not to go over the 25k European speed limit. 

KTM Eshopper: KTM is well known as a motorcycle brand around the world, but they also have quite an extensive line of bicycles—more than a few of them are electric bikes. Of particular note is their 2012 Eurobike Award-winning eSHOPPER. The step-through 6061 aluminum frame is balanced on either end with two spacious racks, while fat 24” tires ensure you and your cargo have a smooth ride.

The stem is adjustable, thanks to a quick-release closure, and stopping power is provided by Shimano Deore hydraulic disc brakes. A hefty 250w Bosch motor is controlled with an intricate LCD screen atop the bars. KTM claims this electric-assisted bike will get up to 100 kilometers on one battery charge. While not available in the US just yet, there’s no doubt this would be one attractive and useful bike. http://www.ktm-bikes.at

Continental Belt Drive

Continental is well-known for it’s rubber, particularly tires. This year, the company has launched another product with rubber at its core: the Conti Drive System. Definitely looking to be an alternative to the Gates belt system, the Conti Drive System has a 14mm tooth-to-tooth distance, where other systems use 12mm. Continental says this allows for a lower tension installation. You don’t need to have the belt super-tight, which loses a bit of efficiency. While Continental says this system is not ideal for the stresses of mountain biking, it is ideal for trekking, city and e-bike use. 


An interview with cycling author Lennard Zinn

Editor’s note: This interview originally appeared in Issue #14. You can purchase a copy of this issue in our online store, or order a subscription and you’ll never miss an issue.

Interview by Jeff Lockwood, Illustration by Nicholas Rich

Lennard Zinn is an institution in the bicycle world—a legend. Legions of cyclists have learned to repair bikes from him, ridden bicycles he’s built, or used his advice as guidance on how to better enjoy the world on two wheels. He grew up in the science hotbed of Los Alamos, New Mexico. After graduating from Colorado College, Zinn immersed himself in the bicycle world. He started his own bicycle company, Zinn Cycles. He became Senior Technical Writer for Velo (formerly VeloNews), and is now the longest-employed writer appearing on the masthead, with 24 years’ experience. He’s also written a small library of books on bicy- cle maintenance, skills, and performance, most notably Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance and Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance.

What’s the path that led you to bicycles?

I was an alpine ski racer at Colorado College, and freshman year I got a knee injury. I started to ride a bike as a way to strengthen my knee, but started to get into it more and more. By the time I was out of college, I was on the National Cycling Team.

Towards the end of the 1981 season at the Tour of Ireland, I tore my gastrocnemius (calf muscle), and it didn’t heal correctly and calcified. It took about a year to heal, and in that time I didn’t know what to do with my- self. I had no income other than bike riding.

I couldn’t stand to be around Boulder without being able to ride bikes. So I moved out to northern California and started working in geophysics. I got laid off, and ended up working for Tom Ritchey at the end of 1981. I actually lived in his house at the very early part of the mountain bike thing, building Ritchey mountain bikes and Ritchey bull- moose handlebars.

Eventually I came back to Boulder be- cause my knee wasn’t getting any better. And then my grandmother died and left me $10,000. I thought, “Well…what the heck am I going to do with myself?” So I figured I’d start a frame-building business.

How did you get involved with writing about bicycles?

The writing came along later be- cause one of my former teammates, Felix McGowan, bought VeloNews in 1987 and moved it to Boulder. VeloNews never had any technical writing—it was all just race reporting—and he wanted to have some.

Another buddy from college had started Rocky Mountain Sports & Fitness magazine. In order to get some bike advertisers, he wanted to have some bike tech stuff. I had written some stuff for him, and Felix had seen it. And being an old teammate, he came to me first.

The book writing…it was sort of two things. One was that I had a customer, Lou Morgan from Chicago, who was really into time trialing, and would meet me at the wind tunnel at Texas A&M where I was working with guys like Greg LeMond, Lance Arm- strong, and all the top triathletes. On one of the trips, Lou said, “You know, I really try and read that shit you write in VeloNews, but it is so boring! What you should do is write a book because it would be great for insomniacs!” The other thing is there is an old classmate of mine from Los Alamos who owned a bookstore here in Boulder, Discount Books. My wife is a teacher, and each time she would go in there, he would tell her, “Lennard needs to write a book, and he needs to call it Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance.” One time she came home with a mock cover of the book he made up for her.

All of a sudden it just kind of gelled. I could really visualize doing it. I was aware, in my estimation, there just weren’t any decent books that answered the kind of questions people were constantly asking me about how to work on their bikes. So I just decided I could do it.

What’s the one piece of advice you have for people looking to learn about maintenance and fixing their own bikes?

I’d say just start doing it! I really think people tend to be scared off by it. They see the bike as a black box. They’ll maybe put a little chain lube on there. But they’re like, “My God! I took the chain off…how would I route it through all those jockey wheels and all those little tabs on the derailleur?”

If you don’t actually just get in there and start taking things apart, you’ll never learn. Be willing to make mistakes. You’re going to make mistakes the first time trying to work on a bike. You’re gonna try and adjust your derailleur and you’re going to turn the barrel adjuster the wrong way and make it worse. But that’s how you learn.

I’m by no means a master mechanic, but I do like to work on my bike, and see it as part of my cycling experience. Do you see maintenance as part of cycling, or are they completely divorced from one another?

I just don’t see how one can have the full enjoyment of riding a bike if they don’t [maintain it]. Most of my riding, I do by myself. And I love it! But there is never a nagging thing in the back of my mind like, “Oh boy, I’m way out here. If something breaks, I’ll never be able to get back.” It just never crosses my mind. And I think you rob yourself of a lot of what’s possible if you don’t sort of have that underlying confidence of, “I can fix this if anything goes wrong with it.”

What’s one common fix for people that’s generally not known, but that’s really simple to possibly fix on their own?

Brakes. People just get all wigged out about it, but it’s simple. People are most dependent on the brakes for safety. I’ve seen some unbelievable things—pads hitting the tire, ready to blow out the tire at the worst time; pads worn out; people not closing the quick-release on their brakes after putting them back on.

What’s your general philosophy about bicycles?

My guiding philosophy on the bicycle is that it’s a tool. And that’s why I never exhibited at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show…maybe it’s changed in the last five years, but it sure struck me as a place where the people who went were just looking at eye candy and weren’t interested in buying. It’s what got pictures in the magazines, and what people wanted to see…the stuff that has nothing to do with riding. The hand-filing of the lugs, the curly Q’s, and the curved tubes and the weird chains with half lengths, and all this stuff…$30,000 bicycles that are no more serviceable than a $1,000 one.

Most of the bikes I build are for really tall people. And the reason I do that is because those people…I can identify with them. I’m 6’5”, and I never could get a bike to fit right, and it was rare I got one that wouldn’t shimmy like crazy at high speeds.

I have a degree in physics, and had actually done my senior seminar on the stability of the bicycle and had written computer models in Fortran for bicycle stability. I had given seminars on it and really had some ideas I wanted to test out. I used to teach jewelry making with the leisure program at Colorado College, so I knew how to silver solder.

Tell me more about your work with bicycles for tall people.

I know they can’t get one that’s big enough, and any one they get that’s even close…by the time they geek out the post and stem and everything…that thing’s just going to be scarier than hell going downhill at high speed.

So that’s been my mission, to provide bikes for tall people that fit. That involves frame design in terms of making sure their touch points are in the right position.

I was the first one that I know of using 1-1/8” diameter steerer tubes for road bikes, and we had to make our own stems at the time because there weren’t any stems avail- able. But as soon as 1-1/8” headsets were available for mountain bikes, I was able to make a bigger head tube and use a bigger down tube and top tube. As soon as people accepted frames that weren’t lugged, you could do fillet brazing or TIG welding that allowed the freedom with angles and tube diameters that lugs didn’t al- low. Now I’m able to drop the top tube down and angle it… all sorts of things to stiffen up the front triangle.

Then I started making custom cranks that were proportional. Just like the frames were proportional to the size of the rider, I believed the crank ought to be proportional, too. With big people, you end up with cranks that are way outside what anyone else is making. It also allowed me to raise the bottom bracket. By raising the bottom bracket for clearance for those big cranks, it allows me to shorten the seat tube from the bottom as well as shortening it from the top. So I can just tighten up the whole front triangle and make the whole thing stiff enough to not shimmy.

So that’s what I think my gift is, if you will, in frame building, in the design aspect of it…making a bike that’s re- ally efficient for a [tall] guy, and also in terms of strength and durability and definitely in terms of performance of not shimmying and of being really stable at high speed.

What’s one major misconception of bicycles built for taller people, or in the construction of them?

Once you get to be an adult—at least with road bikes—basically everybody has the same length crank: 170-175mm, or even 165-180mm. With certain cranks, you can get that much range, but that’s still no kind of range relative to the difference in proportions of people. And then with wheel size, other than a few people riding 650B…smaller people can get away with smaller wheels… there’s no bigger wheels. Everyone’s got the same wheel size.

Now with mountain bikes you have a big range of wheel sizes, which is wonderful. I’m really happy about that.

One of the problems then, if you take someone as tall as me, and you’re going to fit them on a road bike with a 175mm crank, and you want to do the standard knee-over- pedal positioning, the seat has got to be way, way back over the bottom bracket in order to get the knee over the pedal. What you end up with really makes the bike terrible, in my estimation. You have a super-shallow seat angle in order to get the seat back far enough to get the rider’s knee over the pedal.

And what you end up with is the rider cantilevered way back over the rear wheel—weight distribution is awful. You have very little weight on the front wheel, and tons on the rear. It tends to wheelie the bike riding up steep climbs, and it doesn’t really have good weight distribution for handling on the descent.

And I think those bikes just generally do a disservice to tall riders and tend to discourage them from riding, because most tall bikes are too flimsy and too flexible. They just shimmy. And then with this positioning problem, the rider winds up super folded up at the hip angle because the seat is pushed so far back, and then the handlebars are not far enough forward and way too low. They’re just uncomfortable.

And that’s for a skinny tall guy! For a tall guy with a beer belly, it’s even worse! The shimmy is worse the heavier the rider gets. Those guys are the ones that really need to be riding a bike, and are the ones least comfortable and least safe on the thing.

You mention how mountain bikes have advantages because of the different wheel sizes, and that road bikes don’t have that. One of the questions someone posed for this interview is, “Should the road bike industry learn from the mountain bike industry and develop 800c, 900c, or even meter-diameter bigger wheels?”

Oh yeah! I agree entirely. For me, clearly a 29” mountain bike works way better than a 26”. There’s not even a comparison. On the other hand, I think it’s a disservice to make 29ers for five-foot-tall people. What makes sense is to have wheel size that is proportional to the rider.

What happens with tall bikes is that you end up with just more frame [that’s likely] to twist around. Say you had an 800c wheel… it would have proportionally larger cranks, proportionally bigger wheels—just like one of my 29” mountain bikes for someone my size—200mm cranks, 29” wheels, XXL size. If you saw that leaned against a house with nothing to compare it to for standard reference, it looks like a normally proportioned bike. Just like if you had a 16” mountain bike there with 26” wheels.

With road bikes, if you could scale up the wheels the same way, there are a number of benefits that would happen. One is that the frames would be quite a bit stiffer because you wouldn’t have all these tube lengths…super long head tubes and everything in order to deal with getting the rider’s handlebars up enough. You’d have proportionally more gyroscopic stability for the bigger riders. You’d have the more powerful guy—just like with the mountain bike—the bigger, more powerful person has an easier time dealing with the heavier weight of a rotating 29er wheel than the 5-foot, 90-pound person trying to turn it with a 29er. It just doesn’t make any sense.

If you go to the length where you scale up cranks and wheels and frames with riders, you end up being able to use the same gearing on all bikes. As the crank gets longer, you can maintain the same foot speed, but it’s not realistic to maintain the same cadence.

But more leverage gives you the same kind of advantage that higher cadence does. It allows you to put out the same power output with lower peak loads if you turn your feet around faster. So, you tend to build less blood lactate at the same workload. In a big rider, that makes much more sense.

When Jan Ullrich tried to pedal like Lance Armstrong, he trained and trained to try and figure out this super-high cadence thing that Armstrong was doing and it just wouldn’t work for him because he’s got these much bigger, heavier legs. It’s inefficient to turn big, heavy, long legs around at a really high rate like that. If he had a proportionally longer crank and proportionally bigger wheel and everything, then the whole thing, I think, would have worked a lot better. He would have been able to benefit from the lower peak loads that Armstrong was, except doing so by using more leverage.

If you weren’t working around bicycles, what do you think you’d be doing?

Wow. [laughs] You know, really… it was that whole thing with the lifestyle of bikes, and traveling to ride bikes…I grew up in a town where all of my peers got a degree in sciences, and all went on to get advanced degrees. My brother and his wife are both biochemistry professors at Cal Tech, and most of my high school friends are university professors. I suppose I would have done that had I not discovered bikes.
 

 

 

People For Bikes. Sign the Pledge.

It’s not hard, people. A few keystrokes, and a few clicks of the mouse, and you’ll help turn up the volume on a movement that aims to “unite a million voices to improve the future of biking.”

“The goal of peopleforbikes.org is to gather a million names of support, to speak with one powerful voice—to let policy makers, the media and the public know that bicycling is important and should be promoted.”

People for Bikes still has a long way to go. Only a handful more than 40,000 people have signed the pledge so far. Not only is it important that you sign the pledge, but it’ll help a lot if you got your friends, families, co-workers and riding buddies to join the cause. You know…”the more, the merrier.”

Sign the pledge.
I am for bikes. I’m for long rides and short rides. I’m for commuting to work, weekend rides, racing, riding to school, or just a quick spin around the block. I believe that no matter how I ride, biking makes me happy and is great for my health, my community and the environment we all share. That is why I am pledging my name in support of a better future for bicycling—one that is safe and fun for everyone. By uniting my voice with a million others, I believe that we can make our world a better place to ride.

Once you read that, click here to go right to the page where you fill in your email address, first name, last name and zip code. Hit the “submit” button, and you’re done!


Bicycle Industry Insider Profile: Matt Johnson

Aside from bicycles, of course, the main reason I choose to continue my futile search for fortune in the bicycle industry is because of the people I know and meet. There’s no shortage of extremely smart and passionate people who are insanely interesting, individualistic personalities. Sure it’s cool to be around famous athletes from time to time, but I much more deeply value the less publicly visible people that make the bicycle world go ’round. As such, I’ve decided to revive a special online series where we do a very brief standardized interview with some of these individuals: The Bicycle Industry Insider Profile Series. I want to share the stories of these people with the rest of the world through the Dirt Rag and Bicycle Times web sites. This week we have…

Name: Matt Johnson

Hometown: Chagrin Falls, Ohio

Current location: Asheville, NC

What do you do for/with/to bicycles? I started BioWheels in 1994 and have worked for the company since then. We are a bike shop hell-bent on being environmentally and socially responsible (green power, massive recycling efforts, living wage, advocacy, etc). I love to build wheels, problem solve and match folks to their ideal bio-motor vehicle. I have taught bike maintenance classes for 15 years and love to do it!

What’s the best thing about your job? I am my own boss and get to work with people seeking healthy lifestyles. Moreover, I never had to “sell-out”!

What’s the toughest part of your job? Qualifying who wants to do business with us and who is going to buy online. I want to give my best to all customers, but many choose not to value their independent bikes shops like we did in the 90’s.  We launched our web sales years ago to keep up, but I’d much rather put all available energies into the local market.

On a related matter, I wish that manufacturers would own up to their part in the eroding ‘bricks and mortar’ marketplace, but that is another conversation altogether.

What was the path that led you to work with bicycles? I’ve always been a strong mechanic. In 1993, I rode across the continent for 4 months, and I decided that I wanted to celebrate the amazing bicycle for the rest of my life.

What was your first bicycle? When I was 6 (1975), my Dad bought me a Tyler 20″ with a banana seat. We installed a BMX handlebar with a padded cross bar on it. I learned to jump on it while the neighborhood teen-agers egged me on to “go bigger”.

What bike do you currently ride the most? I ride my Maverick ML8 almost all the time. I find it to be the perfect bike for the mountainous terrain of Asheville, NC. It’s easy on this achy old body and makes long days in the saddle a pleasure.

Where is your favorite place to ride? I ride all over Pisgah National Forest, but have a nearly virgin 4000 acre tract of land near my house that is full of uber-single track. It’s usually just my dog Daisy (Jack Russell mix) wildlife and me.

What music goes through your head while you ride? Lately, the rockin’ beats of Perfect Circle’s Mer de Moms. That’ll change soon enough. I am not a fan of riding with headphones because then I can’t hear the critters scurrying around or the wind energizing the forest.

What are your interests aside from bicycles?
My wife (Amber) and daughter (Hyla) like to go hiking in the mountains. Years ago I started doing yoga regularly (that has shown to be a great pursuit). I am renovating an old farm in the country outside Asheville. After building the 1st Commercial Green Building in Asheville (BioWheels-Asheville), I have been thrust into green building and renewable energy projects. Having spent a couple years in heavy research, I have an optimistic eye toward solar-powered transportation.

If you weren’t working around bicycles, what do you think you’d be doing? Life would feel empty without bikes, but I have built an Electric Vehicle Ecosystem model (BioWheels RTS) project that I hope to roll-out in the next few years. I will always be an advocate for low-impact meaningful living.

Please share one of your favorite stories you’ve seen or been a part of while involved with the bicycle industry: We (BioWheels) have been involved in bike advocacy in Asheville since 1999. We have just begun to see the fruits of that work show up with new bike lanes all around town. In the past few years, Asheville on Bikes was formed to create an advocacy-based bike culture, which has enabled Eric (business partner) and I to focus on the shop.  On the dirt side, we used to have to do ton’s of trailwork before a local group (SORBA) was formed just a couple years ago. In short, the scene has really grown in Asheville, with the community really stepping up to make this a bike-friendly region. That is extremely rewarding and relieving at the same time.

I loved being on the podium at 24 Hours of Canaan a couple times, including 1995 (the year of mud). I’ll never forget the year that our 2-men, 2 women team won the 24 Hours of 7-Springs overall was very sweet. Ohhh, I used to be fast, now I just try not to crash.

Who would you choose for the next subject for the Bicycle Industry Insider Profile Series? Mitch Graham runs BioWheels in Cincinnati.

Why? He has built on the BioWheels legacy of advocacy and event leadership in Southern Ohio with a litany of events and advocacy efforts.


Bicycle Industry Insider Profile: Scott Gibson

Aside from bicycles, of course, the main reason I choose to continue my futile search for fortune in the bicycle industry is because of the people I know and meet. There’s no shortage of extremely smart and passionate people who are insanely interesting, individualistic personalities. Sure it’s cool to be around famous athletes from time to time, but I much more deeply value the less publicly visible people that make the bicycle world go ’round. As such, I’ve decided to revive a special online series where we do a very brief standardized interview with some of these individuals: The Bicycle Industry Insider Profile Series. I want to share the stories of these people with the rest of the world through the Dirt Rag and Bicycle Times web sites. This week we have…

Name: Scott Gibson

Hometown: Hudson Ohio

Current location: New Paltz NY

What do you do for/with/to bicycles? I design bags for endurance cycling & bike packing at wingnutgear.com, also develop mobile renewable energy platforms for shelters and trailers. Currently working on creating a rst responder kit that includes an electric bike with a solar powered cargo trailer to navigate disaster areas in the rst 24 hours, establishing communcations, assessment resources, clean water, power etc…

What’s the best thing about your job? I am my own boss. working and meeting other like minded people in the industry who think we can make a dierence.

What’s the toughest part of your job? I am my own boss.

What was the path that led you to work with bicycles? While in design school I took a summer intern with Tim Paterek and built my own frame when raised chain stays were all the rage. After school I started my own design and production company and rode to work. I needed a better back pack.

What was your first bicycle? Motebecane 12 speed, circa 1978.

What bike do you currently ride the most? Ritchie swiss cross with the swept seat stays.

Where is your favorite place to ride? Anywhere with my family, preferably behind my wife.

What music goes through your head while you ride? (literally or guratively) deep rootsy reggae, Burning Spear dub style.

What are your interests aside from bicycles? sustainable living practices, nding new applications for emerging technologies.

If you weren’t working around bicycles, what do you think you’d be doing? I don’t understand the question. Probably teach art & design or go start a sustainable living/survival camp somewhere , with bikes.

Please share one of your favorite stories you’ve seen or been a part of while involved with the bicycle industry: Working with Pedros festival at their last two festivals to show case the Tour de France in a cow pasture from my solar powered Alpha Tent.

Who would you choose for the next subject for the Bicycle Industry Insider Prole Series? Matt Johnson

Why? He runs BioWheels in Asheville NC, they combine bikes with sustainable living practices and have proposed a community based initiative to overhaul asheville’s transportation infrastructure to include electric powered vehicles and bicycles.


Bicycle Industry Insider Profile: Jeff Jones

By Jeff Lockwood

Aside from bicycles, of course, the main reason I choose to continue my futile search for fortune in the bicycle industry is because of the people I know and meet. There’s no shortage of extremely smart and passionate people who are insanely interesting, individualistic personalities. Sure it’s cool to be around famous athletes from time to time, but I much more deeply value the less publicly visible people that make the bicycle world go ’round. As such, I’ve decided to revive a special online series where we do a very brief standardized interview with some of these individuals: The Bicycle Industry Insider Profile Series. I want to share the stories of these people with the rest of the world through the Dirt Rag and Bicycle Times web sites. This week we have…

Name: Jeff Jones

Hometown: Southern California

Current location: Medford Oregon

What do you do for/with/to bicycles?  I design and build custom and production bicycles. I run Jeff Jones Custom Bicycles with my wife and partner Sheila.

What’s the best thing about your job? Working with bikes and the people involved with bikes sure is nice. The best thing is probably the bike riding, but I also really love working in the shop building the bikes.

What’s the toughest part of your job? There just aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do. I want to ride, I want to build bikes and develop new ideas. I’d love to build a bike for every like-minded cyclist on the planet!

The running of a business, the cost and availability of raw materials, the conflict between cycling as "a fun thing to do" and the harsh realities of the bicycle industry; fashion and hype, copycats and cynics, profit and loss. It’s not nearly as simple as I wish it was.

What was the path that led you to work with bicycles? It is all I have ever done and it is what I have wanted to do. As a young kid I’d ride with my friends. We would build jumps and go on long rides. We all worked on our own bikes and never thought of taking them to the shop for repair.

My dad taught me to stick weld when I was 13. I’d cut up old bikes and weld them back together again making side hacks, tandems  and a recumbent. I used a hack saw and grinding wheel to miter tubing. They weren’t pretty but they were fun to ride!

Hanging out at the local bike shop eventually got me a job, around 1985. I worked there and then another shop for a few years until I landed a job doing quality control at the GT bicycle factory in 1991. There I learned to build frames and all about making bikes. They sent me to Taiwan to oversee bike production for a month at a time. That was a whole new lesson in bike building there. After 6 years at GT, I left I to start a bike shop with my wife Sheila. About 5 years after that we sold the shops and moved to Oregon, and I started building bikes.

What was your first bicycle? I don’t know. I got a bike when I was about 5 and I could not ride it very well. At 6 I learned to ride on a borrowed bike. The first bike I owned and rode without training wheels was a star-spangled red, white and blue bike with a banana seat in 1976. Around 1978 I got a used Yamaha moto bicycle with full suspension. I jumped that heavy thing until the head tube separated from the down tube. Then I got a used Mongoose and rode that until I saved up enough paper route money to buy a black and gold PK Ripper. That was my first big purchase and first new bike.

What bike do you currently ride the most?
It’s a steel bike I built for myself a few months ago for longer rides and more open trails, as well as load carrying.  I’ve been using it mostly for riding into town.

Where is your favorite place to ride? I don’t have a favorite. I just like to ride where I can. I do really enjoy my rides from my shop/home up the mountain, on the forest roads. They go all over and I have different length loops I’ve found. I like that I can ride there often and I always get to finish with a ride home.

Riding on new trails in faraway places with the locals is something I like to do when I get a chance. I usually learn a thing or two.

What music goes through your head while you ride? (literally or figuratively) While I’m riding I think. I’m thinking about the bike and how it’s functioning. I just ride and think about anything, and if the riding gets technical and fast enough then my mind is cleared and I’m just on my wheels moving. It’s not really music but I like it and I am listening.

What are your interests aside from bicycles? Family, fun, the future, what is happening in and to the world.

If you weren’t working around bicycles, what do you think you’d be doing?
I have no idea and don’t want to think about it. No matter what, I’d still be riding bikes.

Please share one of your favorite stories you’ve seen or been a part of while involved with the bicycle industry: Many things have happened, but I don’t have any favorite stories to tell.

Who would you choose for the next subject for the Bicycle Industry Insider Profile Series? Scott Gibson at New Sun Productions.

Why? Every time I see Scott or get to talk with him we end up talking for while and it is always good.

More on Jeff Jones

We’ve written quite a bit about Jones and his bikes through the years. Here’s a quick recap:

Karen’s first impression of his titanium SpaceFrame

Karen’s full review of the titanium SpaceFrame (from Issue #141)

Another interview from 2004 (Issue #105)

Justin’s first impressions of the steel diamond frame in touring mode

Justin’s first impression of the fat front truss fork

A report from Jones’ visit to Dirt Rag HQ in summer 2008

A look at Jones’ Taiwanese-made steel SpaceFrame


Bicycle Times & Dirt Rag Hiring for Online Editor Position

After nearly 14 years of involvement with Dirt Rag, and now Bicycle Times, yours truly is going to see if the grass is truly greener…though I’m not sure how much grass grows in the desert. As such, Dirt Rag and Bicycle Times are hiring an online editor. Here’s your chance to dig in the Dirt. The details:

Online Editor

Dirt Rag and Bicycle Times magazines have an immediate opening for an online editor. The right candidate will be responsible for posting content to each web site every weekday. This content can and will include posting print articles online, writing exclusive online articles, interviews, stories and coordinating other online content. Additionally, the online editor will be responsible for sending out email newsletters, engaging readers through our Facebook and Twitter properties, and working closely with office staff to maintain consistent coordination between the printed magazines and online properties.

Applicants must possess extremely strong and proven writing ability, a working understanding of basic online/internet concepts, the ability to work independently, and basic knowledge of how content management systems (such as WordPress and Drupal) function. Basic image editing skills are also required.

While this is a part-time position, there is a chance it can lead to full-time employment.

To apply, send a cover letter, resume, references and writing samples to Maurice Tierney at publisher@dirtragmag.com.


Bicycle Industry Insider Profile: Dave Gray

Aside from bicycles, of course, the main reason I choose to continue my futile search for fortune in the bicycle industry is because of the people I know and meet. There’s no shortage of extremely smart and passionate people who are insanely interesting, individualistic personalities. Sure it’s cool to be around famous athletes from time to time, but I much more deeply value the less publicly visible people that make the bicycle world go ’round. As such, I’ve decided to revive a special online series where we do a very brief standardized interview with some of these individuals: The Bicycle Industry Insider Profile Series. I want to share the stories of these people with the rest of the world through the Dirt Rag and Bicycle Times web sites. This week we have…

Name: Dave Gray

Hometown: Waconia, MN…35 miles west of Minneapolis

Current location: Minneapolis, MN

What do you do for/with/to bicycles? For employment, I design bicycle frames and components for Surly. For enjoyment, I ride what I design.

What’s the best thing about your job? Foremost, I get paid to geek out on bike stuff – frames and components – that I like using. I’m selfishly-motivated to do my job.  But there are other aspects that make it enjoyable…Surly is owned by – and operates within – Quality Bicycle Products, a premier distributor of bicycles and bicycle components that employs lots of cycling enthusiasts.  So I get to hang out with scores of like-minded bike nerds every workday.  The QBP office/warehouse was built with multiple locker/shower rooms and ample indoor bike parking, so it caters to bicycle commuters.  And having easy access to 30,000+ cycling/outdoor products is pretty sweet.

What’s the toughest part of your job? Working within the walls of a distributor can be restrictive…and frustrating…at times. What works well for QBP doesn’t always


Bicycle Industry Insider Profile: Jeff Frane

Aside from bicycles, of course, the main reason I choose to continue my futile search for fortune in the bicycle industry is because of the people I know and meet. There’s no shortage of extremely smart and passionate people who are insanely interesting, individualistic personalities. Sure it’s cool to be around famous athletes from time to time, but I much more deeply value the less publicly visible people that make the bicycle world go ’round. As such, I’ve decided to revive a special online series where we do a very brief standardized interview with some of these individuals: The Bicycle Industry Insider Profile Series. I want to share the stories of these people with the rest of the world through the Dirt Rag  and Bicycle Times web sites. This week we have…

Name: Jeffrey G. Frane

Hometown: Rhinelander, WI

Current Location: MPLS

What do you do for/with/to bicycles?: I live life for/with/to bicycles.  Man, that sounds so pretentious.  Work/play/family/life all revolve around having fun.  Having fun often involves leaving the house and leaving the house involves bicycles. I helped start All-City Cycles and we do the fixed gear/track/singlespeed thing. It’s my job to steer the company in ways that make a positive impact on the culture and available machinery for riders who live life on their bikes.  (Again, I sound like an asshole, sorry about that)

What’s the best thing about your job? The best part of the job has got to be the free candy and back rubs.  I’m also super stoked to be able to make the kinds of things that we’ve (collectively) been wishing someone would make, to help design stuff that eventually becomes a reality and that people can own and enjoy.  That’s pretty rad.  Just the opportunity to throw a hat in the ring and say “What’s up world? This is my dream shit, I hope you like it.”

What’s the toughest part of your job? I’d say the toughest part is to keep an appropriate distance from a project that you are so emotionally attached to and care so deeply about.

What was the path that led you to work with bicycles? The best part of this whole thing is that having this job seems to make the rest of my life make sense.  I came up through my teens as a mountain bike racer in Wisconsin, was too scared of killing someone when I was 16 to get a drivers license,  spent six years in college as a Comparative Studies in Religion and Public Relations Major, and then got a job in a bikeshop.  What else are you going to do with a degree in Religious Studies and PR?  The bikeshop job led me to work at Quality Bicycle Products which then led to helping to start All-City.   Taken without the current outcome it looks like I’ve done “nothing” (in the typical “real” world “why don’t you get a real job already” sense), but all of that has led to this.  And this is pretty good.

Now I’m no self stylized bicycle evangelist,  if you want to drive your car or motorcycle or fourwheeler or whatever that’s great and fine with me provided you maintain a healthy respect for others.  I do firmly believe though that everytime I throw a leg over my bike my quality of life goes up.   That is what keeps me working in bicycles.  Why would I not want that for everyone; and now I have a chance to help make the available equipment better and give back to the cycling community, and hopefully encourage/enable others to ride their bike more often.

What was your first bicycle?
My first nice bike was a Trek 830.  We put it on layaway (does anybody still do that anymore?) and it finally came home on my 12th birthday.  I distinctively remember my mom saying “well I don’t know, I could see if he was racing, but it’s just so much” with regard to the price ($370).  That was the bike I really started riding trails on and I ended up racing it for a few seasons until I was old enough to have a job and buy myself a proper race bike (Trek 8700 carbon/aluminum held together with chewing gum and luck).  It was flat black with orange/blue decals and was the gateway bike that led to all of this.  I remember having the option of waiting for the nice bike or getting a department store mountain bike right away, I sometimes wonder where my life would be if I had chosen to get that Roadmaster instead.

Where is your favorite place to ride? If we’re talking off road it’s got to be the Levis trail system in Wisco.  Easily the best in the midwest that I’ve ever ridden and great camping too.  If we’re talking day to day life, I enjoy the riverbottoms near Minneapolis or just cruising around the city at night.  So many good times have been had with a backpack full of beer, a lazy summer night, and zero agenda other than having a good time.

If you weren’t working around bicycles, what do you think you’d be doing? If I didn’t have a steady job I’m sure I’d still be bumming around living out of my van (I got a license at 21) being a dirtbag.

Please share one of your favorite stories you’ve seen or been a part of while working in the bicycle industry: If you want the good stuff you’ve got to buy me a couple of beers first.

Who would you choose for us to profile next? Dave Gray from Surly.

Why? Have you ever looked into his eyes?  You’ll want to dive in and swim laps.


Bicycle Industry Insider Profile: David Cory

Aside from bicycles, of course, the main reason I choose to continue my futile search for fortune in the bicycle industry is because of the people I know and meet. There’s no shortage of extremely smart and passionate people who are insanely interesting, individualistic personalities. Sure it’s cool to be around famous athletes from time to time, but I much more deeply value the less publicly visible people that make the bicycle world go ’round. As such, I’ve decided to revive a special online series where we do a very brief standardized interview with some of these individuals: The Bicycle Industry Insider Profile Series. I want to share the stories of these people with the rest of the world through the Dirt Rag and Bicycle Times web sites. This week we have…

Name: David Cory

Hometown: MPLS, MN

Current location: MPLS 4th ring suburbs (yeah, that’s right, I love the suburbs)

What do you do for/with/to bicycles? I work for Quality Bicycle Products here in Bloomington, MN. I am the brand manager for Handspun Wheels. In addition to running the wheel program I manage Bike Builder, our in house bike production department.

What’s the best thing about your job? QBP is a great place to work, we are an industry leader, and we’re populated with people who are passionate about what they do every day.

What’s the toughest part of your job?
Waiting. Waiting for lead times, waiting for new products, waiting for production time. Patience is something that has been forced upon me.

What was the path that led you to work with bicycles? My educational background was in Political Science, and after putting in a few years at the MN Legislature I decided to try getting involved with bicycle advocacy at QBP. That resulted in an interest in our DC operations, which lead to going back to school for my MBA, which landed me where I am today.

What was your first bicycle? My first real bike was a 1987 Marin Palisades Trail mountain bike. I earned the money for that bike by making $1/hour babysitting when I was 15. 18 gears, knobby tires, and you know it was black as midnight.

What bike do you currently ride the most?
Lately I’ve been spending most of my time on the All-City Nature Boy ‘cross bike.

Where is your favorite place to ride?
Anywhere by myself.

What music goes through your head while you ride (literally or figuratively)? For ‘cross racing it’s always something heavy—Terror, XTYRANTX, Integrity- because cyclocross is always a festival of pain. Typically while commuting I’ll have some of my daughter’s little kid music stuck in my head—Backyardigans or Spongebob or something. That keeps me positive on those zero degree winter commutes.

What are your interests aside from bicycles? The Family, being outdoors, camping, dogs, Straight Edge, Hardcore music, HUP United.

If you weren’t working around bicycles, what do you think you’d be doing? Making process maps, or managing a brand that makes granola.

Please share one of your favorite stories you’ve seen or been a part of while involved with the bicycle industry: I’ve just been really impressed with how many great people are in this industry. I have been fortunate enough to get to know many people in the cycling industry who are still extremely excited and passionate about what they are doing. I also feel very fortunate to be able to make a living working with something that is still a huge source of enjoyment for me.

Who would you choose for the next subject for the Bicycle Industry Insider Profile Series? Jeff Frane from All City Cycles.

Why? He’s the real deal—he is 100% true to his brand and to riding.


Bicycle Industry Insider Profile: John Black

Aside from bicycles, of course, the main reason I choose to continue my futile search for fortune in the bicycle industry is because of the people I know and meet. There’s no shortage of extremely smart and passionate people who are insanely interesting, individualistic personalities. Sure it’s cool to be around famous athletes from time to time, but I much more deeply value the less publicly visible people that make the bicycle world go ’round. As such, I’ve decided to revive a special online series where we do a very brief standardized interview with some of these individuals: The Bicycle Industry Insider Profile Series. I want to share the stories of these people with the rest of the world through the Dirt Rag and Bicycle Times web sites. This week we have…

Name: John Black

Hometown: Grand Rapids, Michigan

Current location: Same, lived here my entire life.

What do you do for/with/to bicycles? My brother Tom and I are partners, Velocity is our company.  Together, along with the best people in the industry (maybe the whole planet!), we try to provide high quality, unique rims and wheels to all businesses in the cycling community.  

What’s the best thing about your job? There are many best things about my job, I absolutely love it, and I can’t imagine doing anything else.  Knowing what it takes to produce a rim from start to finish, I get a real sense of satisfaction when I see some one rolling down the street on our rims. 

I like taking an idea and bringing it to fruition. I especially like it when it works!  We don’t always hit a home run , but when we do, it is a great feeling.
  
What’s the toughest part of your job?  Paperwork, I hate it!  Jumping through all the hoops that our heavy handed federal, state, and local governments require is a major pain in the a**.

What was the path that led you to work with bicycles? It was the spring of 1978, I had just turned 14.  I was getting real tired of cleaning dog kennels, which was my first real job other than delivering papers, mowing lawns and shoveling driveways.  Tom was managing Alger Cyclery, a local bike shop, and I begged him for a job.  I wore him down, and he finally made me an offer.  You can see that I have been riding his coat tails for a long, long time.  I felt very fortunate to be making a whopping $3.65 per hour…at the time I didn’t know what I was going to do with all of that money.  There were several occasions that I was nearly fired. Bike wrenching did not come naturally to me, and it took me weeks just to figure out which end of the screwdriver to hold.  Eventually, I figured things out, Tom moved on, and I became manager.  In the mid-80’s Tom moved to Australia, and started tinkering in his shed. The first Velocity product was a water bottle cage.  He contacted me at the bike shop and asked if I would be willing to bring in some of the cages to see how they would go.  Over time, he successfully made his first rim, and I brought those in as well.  In 1991 or so, Tom and I started talking about the possibility of me quitting my job at the bike shop and starting Velocity USA.  We incorporated in August of 1992, abd by the summer of 93 it was my full time gig. I haven’t looked back since.
 
What was your first bicycle?  My first bike was a purple Schwinn Bantam that was handed down to me from my sister.  Being the youngest of five kids, I got all the used worn-out crap that my brothers and sisters no longer wanted.  I got my first new bike on my 8th birthday in 1972. It was a red Schwinn Speedster—I loved that bike.  The first bike I bought was a 1976 Schwinn Superior. I bought it within days of starting my job at Alger.  My first several paychecks went right back to my boss in order to pay for the bike.  I am still riding that bike today, and plan on being buried with it.

What bike do you currently ride the most? A white Milwaukee fixed gear that my staff bought for me last year.  It was one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me.  It is a great bike and a thrill to ride.

Where is your favorite place to ride?  Anywhere and everywhere.  Running out of pavement doesn’t stop me. If it looks interesting, that’s the direction I go.

What music goes through your head while you ride (literally or figuratively)? Whatever my iPod is pumping out at the moment, which is usually oldies, classic rock, and anything that came out of Motown.  In my opinion, the best music was written in the 50s and 60s. I mean, how can you not like Great Balls of Fire by Jerry Lee (The Killer) Lewis?!  There is some good stuff from the 70s too.

What are your interests aside from bicycles?  My wife (high school sweetheart) of nearly 24 years is of great interest to me.  I enjoy traveling with her, which doesn’t happen nearly enough. But now that our youngest boy will be a senior in high school this fall, the time is coming when we can blow Dodge a little more often.

If you weren’t working around bicycles, what do you think you’d be doing?  After being in the bike industry for 32 years, I just can’t imagine doing anything else. I am exactly where I want to be.

Please share one of your favorite stories you’ve seen or been a part of while involved with the bicycle industry:  Hmmm, that’s tough, it seems like each new day brings a new favorite story.  I suppose one of my favorite stories was in the early days of Velocity…when I was knocking on doors and making phone calls to introduce myself and our company. Many people, including names that more than a few people would recognize, told me that a new rim company was the last thing this industry needed.  They went on to say that basically: my efforts would prove to be futile, there just wasn’t any need, or room for another rim company. Well, we are still here, and I am glad I didn’t listen to them.

Who would you choose for the next subject for the Bicycle Industry Insider Profile Series? This is my most difficult question to answer, there are so many fantastic people in our little industry.  Seeing as how I have to make a choice, I pick  David Cory of Quality Bicycle Products. 
 
Why? David is the brand manager for Handspun wheels at QBP, he loves bicycles, and he is a wealth of knowledge.   If I ever have a bicycle related question, he usually has the answer. He is generous with his time and the information he gives us.  Besides that, he is just plain nice.


Bicycle Film Festival Turns 10

That colorful celebration of the confluence of bicycles and film, The Bicycle Film Festival, is celebrating 10 years of bringing unique, independent and bicycle-related films to audiences around the world.

To celebrate, the Bicycle Film Festival is throwing a three-day event in New York this weekend (June 16th through the 20th). Details can be found here,  but you can expect live music, some bicycle rides, art shows, a lot of bicycles and…of course…a whole bunch of movies involving bicycles.

The festival then moves on to a few dozen other cities around the world. You can get all kinds of more info on the BFF web site here. And here’s the official BFF 10 trailer here…

 


Bicycle Industry Insider Profile: Grant Petersen

Aside from bicycles, of course, the main reason I choose to continue my futile search for fortune in the bicycle industry is because of the people I know and meet. There’s no shortage of extremely smart and passionate people who are insanely interesting, individualistic personalities. Sure it’s cool to be around famous athletes from time to time, but I much more deeply value the less publicly visible people that make the bicycle world go ’round. As such, I’ve decided to revive a special online series where we do a very brief standardized interview with some of these individuals: The Bicycle Industry Insider Profile Series. I want to share the stories of these people with the rest of the world through the Dirt Rag and Bicycle Times web sites. This week we have…

Name:
Grant Petersen

Hometown:
Lafayette, CA

Current location:
Walnut Creek, CA

What do you do for/with/to bicycles?
I started Rivendell Bicycle Works, and still work here.

What’s the best thing about your job?
I like the people I work with and our customers. And it’s nice to be able to recognize a need or want, then work on it and see it appear and have people like it. It’s a pretty good job—good and gratifying work. I like working with other small vendors. In five or six cases we’re a big part of their business, their biggest or near-biggest customer, and they like us, and that’s fun.

We’re still small…12 people, but we have just enough sway, or influence, or potential, to get neat stuff made that we couldn’t get made if we had to buy 100 and could sell only 20 a year.  So, we’re big enough to matter, to make a difference to small business who’ve lost customers over the years to cheaper competition. So yes, one of the best things about work is mattering to…and helping…other small fries and medium fries.

What’s the toughest part of your job?
Stress related to slow deliveries from those small vendors we love so much, and having a payroll we can barely afford, and so not being able to raise wages. And being stereotyped as a “retro” company, or “ha ha, Rivendell hates carbon…what a charming, quirky bunch!”

What was the path that led you to work with bicycles?
The Path of Luck & Least Resistance. I rode a bike, worked at REI, wrote two regional where-to-ride books, and knew some people who helped me get a job at Bridgestone despite my unqualifications. I was a 30-year old bike nut with no fantastic future, and Bridgestone treated me like a Buddha, educated me about bike stuff, and gave me tons of responsibility that opened up worlds for me. I never had an immediate boss there, or a department head to scold me, make me sad, and hold me down.

What was your first bicycle?
An all-steel all blue solid-rubber tired fixed-gear two-wheeler that could never be sold these days. Fixed-gear, no brake kid’s bike. Then a Murray sting-ray, a Sears 3sp, a Schwinn Varsity, a Peugeot UO-8, a Raleigh Competition, six Tom Ritcheys, and then a few Bridgestones. Now…our bikes.

What bike do you currently ride the most?
I fell off my A. Homer Hilsen and broke my thumb and can’t ride for another month. I get around on a Kickbike scooter. It’s a blast, but it limits my range.

Where is your favorite place to ride?
Mount Diablo, Shell Ridge, and Briones Regional Park. All close by. Not Moab..not Whistler—all local. It’s the best bicycle riding in the world.

What music goes through your head while you ride? (literally or figuratively)
Ninety-percent is Bob Dylan. Five percent English Romantic poetry…I have almost two hours of it memorized and I recite it to myself constantly. Five percent other poems. I don’t ride with an iPod or anything. That’s cheating, and it interferes with thinking.

What are your interests aside from bicycles?
Evolution, astronomy, Bob Dylan, fishing, poetry, film photography, behavior, hiking, pull-ups and dips, and most of all, my fantastic family and dog. Not so much, my cat.

If you weren’t working around bicycles, what do you think you’d be doing?
You know, even thinking about that scares me. I have 5 years of college, but no degree. I can’t wear suits and haven’t combed my hair for 42 years. I do keep it clean, and it’s not dreadlocked or matted or anything. But I don’t comb it, so I always look a bit unkempt. I don’t do well around authority figures, and I’m not that great at math unless it’s bike math (I’m a whiz at that). Ever since I was little I worried about how I’d support a family. This is the only way I can imagine.  I am truly a one-trick pony, with few skills marketable outside this bubble.

Please share one of your favorite stories you’ve seen or been a part of while involved with the bicycle industry:
Can’t think of any. Stuff happens, but it’s not like…hilarious or fascinating enough to retell.

Who would you choose for the next subject for the Bicycle Industry Insider Profile Series?
John and Tom Black, of Velocity Rims.

Why?
I like them because although they have a rim company, they’re accessible and have a “we can do it, sure” attitude. They don’t always ask the V-word (Volume). They lead the way for 650B rims, doing them when nobody else would. They’re interested in rims and bikes, not just numbers. If there’s a problem, they own it right now and deal with it. They’re honest—you can trust their noise to the letter. That is so rare.


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