DIY: Make your own cycling knickers

By Marie Autrey. Photo by Adam Newman. Illustration by Stephen Haynes.

Clothes make the man. (Or woman.) The problem is what they make you into. A team jersey and Lycra shorts turn you into a cross between a NASCAR Chevy and some link sausages. Even if you ride like Superman on Sunday, you probably need to look like Clark Kent for the Monday commute. We’re going to show you three ways to make a pair of dress slacks into garb that will let you ride like the wind, and still climb that corporate ladder.

Materials

Start with a good pair of dress slacks. The quality you’re looking for tends to be high-dollar, so you may want to shop second-hand. You want wool fabric or a mostly-wool blend for sweat wicking and odor control. Test the fabric by taking one leg and twisting it like you’re wringing out a washrag. If it doesn’t return to shape immediately, look elsewhere. Brooks Brothers and Neiman-Marcus are reliable brands, and show up in thrift stores in the better parts of town. Dark colors and pleated fronts resist the indignities that com- muter clothes fall heir to.

I’m only addressing men’s clothing here, not to dis my own gender, but because it answers my experience. I’ve got the sort of straight up-and-down figure that fits into unaltered men’s garb. Women with more curves and fewer straightaways have an additional challenge. In general, women’s clothing exists to serve a look rather than a function, with lighter fabric, lower quality, and cut for the designer’s vision of womanhood, not for real bodies.

I lucked into some military dress slacks, dark gray, in a wool-poly blend. An online surplus house had them at two bucks a pair. (Many types of military surplus can prove useful to the cyclist. Watch for a more thorough discussion in an upcoming issue.)

Instructions

Step 1: The first step in any DIY project is to determine what you want. I wanted to turn these into a slightly long pair of knickers: short enough to stay away from the chain, and long enough not to bind my knees while pedaling.

Step 2: Try on the pants and have a helper mark the bony knob on the outside of your knee with a pin. Some acts, like riding a seesaw, just cannot be accomplished alone. With the pants off, measure down five inches from the mark, make a straight line with a T-square, and cut off the lower legs. Four inches provides range of motion, and the other inch represents a seam allowance.

Step 3: Take the amputated lowers and turn them wrong-side-out. If a cuff is already stitched in, snip it off and keep it; discard the rest. This will give you a circle of double-thickness fabric. Cut the side seam so it changes from a circle to a strip. If the pants you’re working with don’t have a cuff, cut a four-inch strip of fabric from the bottom and stitch it into a tube.

Step 4: Open up the outside seam of the pants two inches or so from where you chopped off the legs. This leaves a V-notch. Pin the tube to the bottom of the legs, starting at one edge of the V and going all the way around. Stitch over the pins, unpin it, and press the seam flat.

Step 5: Put the pants back on, and have your helper pull the cuff band up to the top of your calf. Overlap the ends, and mark the overlap. Sew on a snap, leaving enough room for two fingers between the cuff band and your leg.

Voila! Kind-of knickers. They’ll balloon a little at the knees but never bind. If you lose weight, or bulk up your legs, you can adjust the fit by moving the snap.

Variations

Let’s say you’re lucky enough to have a pair of slacks you want to ride in that is long enough. You can accomplish the same goal of keeping cuffs out of chains with the simple expedient of rolling up the cuff. Then make a loop of fabric and stitch it to the inside of the leg, so that when the cuff is rolled up, the loop can be passed under the roll and snapped to a snap on the outside seam.

You’ve undoubtedly seen this feature on safari shirts, to keep rolled-up sleeves from falling down. This will work best with fuller cuts and lighter fabrics not prone to wrinkling. This gives you a much more normal look when off the bike than knickers, and also keeps your shoes from becoming such a focal point. Any chain grease that gets on them will be on the inside.

For ultimate simplicity, stitch one half of a snap to the hem of the slacks, just behind the front crease, and the other half about three inches up from the hem, ahead of the rear crease. Snapped together, it will tighten the cuff enough to keep it out of the chain.

Sewing tips

For more thorough background, there’s plenty of info online, and Singer and Simplicity publish hardcover books with lay-flat bindings so you can look at them while you’re sewing. I’m not a seamstress: I inherited my grandmother’s 1908 Singer and was just fooling around with it when I made these. But a couple of tips will make the process easier.

Your sewing machine is like a bicycle. If it hasn’t been used in a while, some oil on the moving parts and a new drive belt will solve most problems. If it regularly breaks needles, that’ll require professional intervention.
Get a steam iron that’s clean and hot. Find the highest temperature that won’t damage your fabric, and keep the iron ready. Ironing gives the fabric its shape; the stitches hold everything together.

When joining two pieces of fabric, place the outsides facing each other, stitch down the edge, then fold back and press the seam open. This is basic, but I didn’t know it, and the first pair of knickers came out pretty goofy-looking.

Snaps do everything buttons can, and you don’t need to make buttonholes.

Knickers should be either short and snug or long and loose. Short and loose are bloomers, long and tight are Steve Urkels. Choose your shoes and socks carefully: they’re part of the ensemble.

Use plenty of pins: good, long ones with T-shaped heads. They lay flat so you can run over them with the sewing machine, and can be removed easily. Cheap pins rust and tiny heads make it hard to pull them out.

Cheap thread is no bargain.
 


Bicycle Times cover artist featured on Minnesota Public Radio

Here at Bicycle Times we’re big fans of the ArtCrank project. What was a one-off art show seven years ago has evolved into something much more. “A poster party for bike people,” the shows connect bike lovers with affordable art from local artists.

Featured in the story is artist Adam Turman, another Bicycle Times favorite, having illustrated three of our covers: Issues #13, #16, and our latest, #22.

   

Click here to read or listen to the story from MPR.
 


New Belgium announces 14th Tour de Fat

New Belgium Brewing today announced the 2013 Tour de Fat schedule. The tour, now in its 14th year, will spin into 12 cities across the U.S. Each festival celebrates the bicycle, showcases New Belgium beers, and provides eclectic and engaging entertainment for all. The event is free, yet all proceeds from food and beer go to local biking groups. Over its course, Tour de Fat has raised more than $2 million for nonprofit organizations.

Each festival kicks off with a police-escorted bicycle parade through city streets in celebration of the bike. Costumes are encouraged but not mandatory, though the truly aware come prepared. Each parade route is designed for people of all skill levels, wrapping up at the park for a day of both sensory stimulation and relaxation.

After the parade, the festival stages heat up with national musical acts, touring comedy groups, artistic ensembles and unexpected entertainment. New this year is the opportunity to heighten your beer knowledge through beer contests, providing the chance to explore new brews and revel in a unique lineup of New Belgium selections. Kids of all ages can test their bicycle prowess on art bikes, dance in the grass and explore a wide variety of games and activities, such as giant versions of telephone and Plinko.

One brave role model in each city will volunteer to trade their car for a bike and live car-free for at least one year. With a ceremonial pledge and a handing over of car keys, the celebrated figure commits to a year of human transport on the fully loaded commuter bike of their choosing. The crowd goes wild and the seed is planted: one inspired person on two wheels can make a difference in each of our communities.

Car-for-Bike Swappers are chosen after submitting an application describing why they are ready to give up their vehicle for the gift of two wheels.

Tour de Fat seeks to leave as small an environmental imprint as possible. Each stop has a solar-powered stage decked out in recycled materials and vendors who operate off the grid. In addition, the festival trucks and transport use biofuel sourced from recycled waste oils. Here is how you can do your part:

  • Please bring only what you need.
  • Compost and recycle your waste at convenient stations.
  • Ride your bike or carpool with friends and family.
  • Spread the word about bikes – we will show you how!

In 2012, Tour de Fat traveled to 15 cities, attracting a total of 74,400 festival attendees and 47,150 parade cyclists. In addition, the festival had an impressive 86 percent diversion of waste from landfills. Tempe, Ariz., raised the most money ($87,216) and New Belgium’s hometown of Ft. Collins, Colo., had the most parade riders and festival-goers with 21,000 people.

Schedule

  • Atlanta, GA, May 11, Piedmont Park *new location*
  • Washington, DC, June 1, Yards Park
  • Durham, NC, June 15, Diamond View Park
  • Nashville, TN, June 22, Centennial Park
  • Chicago, IL, July 13, Palmer Square
  • Minneapolis, MN, July 27, Loring Park
  • Boise, ID, August 17, Ann Morrison Park
  • Fort Collins, CO, August 31, Civic Center Park Area
  • Denver, CO, September 7, City Park
  • San Francisco, CA, September 21, Golden Gate Park
  • San Diego, CA, September 28, Golden Hill Park
  • Tempe, AZ, October 5, Tempe Town Beach

Race team wins epic Milan-San Remo while supporting African children

By Adam Newman

The African continent’s first professional UCI Continental team is off to a fast start, but its success will do more than just sell bikes, it is providing them to rural Africans as a way to get to school, visit a doctor, get clean water, or start a business.

The MTN-Qhubeka team (“qhubeka” is a Nguni word meaning “to progress”) has progressed straight to the podium after receiving a wildcard entry to the nearly 300-mile Milan-San Remo race in Italy and then putting its sprinter Gerald Ciolek across the finish line first.

It was a day to be remembered not only for the win, but because Ciolek’s teammate Songezo Jim was the first black South African to start a WorldTour event and because the weather conditions were so severe the race organizers were forced to reroute the racers by bus around a snowed-in mountain pass.

But the real heroes are back in Africa, where rural South Africans received Buffalo Bicycles in exchange for planting 100 saplings for a reforestation project or for removing more than 2,500 lbs. of refuse from their village. The bicycle can increase the workload of a person more than five times, and they can travel 75 percent faster or further.

The Qhubeka project isn’t new, since 2004 this volunteer-based organization has partnered with World Bicycle Relief to donate more than 40,000 bikes. It is funded by bike sales, corporate donors, events, and consulting. Since the race team rides Trek bikes, each time a Trek customer chooses a bike with the Qhubeka paint scheme, Trek will donate $200 to the Qhubeka project. You can bet there will be a big increase in sales after Ciolek’s win.

The bikes in Africa, on the other hand, are specially designed to handle the rigors of rural life. They have heavy-guage steel frames; sturdy wheels and tires; a weatherproof coaster brake; and can carry more than 200 lbs. The parts are made in Asia, and the bikes are assembled in World Bicycle Relief facilities in Africa, by Africans.

Watch for more victories by Team MTN-Qhubeka and by the Qhubeka project in Africa.
 


Highlights from the National Bike Summit

By Karen Brooks

Earlier this week we were on the scene at the National Bike Summit in Washington, D.C. Despite the bureaucratic sound of the name, this event is one I look forward to every year. It’s a true “summit” of the bike world, a gathering of passionate, idealistic, and “bike-partisan” people—always stimulating and inspiring.

Some of my favorite parts:

  • Showing up to the very chilly ride led by Black Women Bike DC the night before the start of the Summit, to find a healthy crowd of nearly 50 people braving the cold wind to ride and socialize. 

  • The presentation by New York City DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, and meeting her afterwards. She’s done a lot to make New York’s city streets more bike-friendly, and there are more than double the number of bike commuters since 2007 and has been a 50 percent increase in retail business on streets with bike lanes. I had really wanted to speak with her for the “Bikes to the Rescue” article in issue #21, but didn’t get the chance. Look for an interview in a future issue! 

  • Jacquie Phelan’s banjo playing in between sessions. Also, her assertion that to reduce obesity, Only Bikes Can Do it. (Get it?) 

  • The debut of a commercial by the American Automobile Association reminding drivers that bike riders are people too.
  • Karen Overton of Recycle-a-Bicycle comparing bike advocacy to the Brazilian dance-based martial art of capoeira: “It’s not a battle so much, but it’s coming together in a circle, building community, dancing, and engaging one another.”
  • Deciding to “sit down Oprah-style” on the comfy chair rather than stand behind the podium for the conversation with Georgena Terry and Natalie Ramsland—Terry then said, “As long as I get to say the line, ‘I don’t know, we’ve sued so many people.’ “

The only low point was the threat of heavy snow across Pennsylvania, Maryland, and into Washington, D.C. from Tuesday night through Wednesday. It caused cancellations of many of the meetings with Representatives and Senators—the main point of the Summit. It also caused me to abandon plans to ride back to Pittsburgh on the C&O Canal and Great Allegheny Passage trails. Harrumph. Still, it was a great event. Go if you can!


Join us at the Seattle Bike Expo this weekend

We’re packing up the van and heading to Seattle this weekend for the largest consumer bike expo in the USA. Once again held at the deluxe, two-story Smtih Cove Cruise Terminal overlooking Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains, we’ll be joining more than 200 other exhibitors of bikes, gear, travel, services, and more.

If you’re into mountain bikes, be sure to check out the Dirt Zone, a collection of exhibitors serving the fat-tire side of cycling, and the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance and Sweetlines will be hosting skills clinics in the Stunt Area.  

You’ll get a chance to meet Olympic silver medalist Jennie Reed, six-time world champion as well as Paralympic gold and silver Olympic medalist Megan Fisher, professional trials and mountain bike rider Ryan Leech (above), and dominant gravity mountain biker Jill Kintner.

The Classic Lightweight Bike Show has a "drillim" theme this year, where collectors have revived the 1970s practice of drilling out parts to save weight and add some bling. As always, all classic lightweight bikes are welcome in theshow, and the more the merrier. You will see British, Italian, French, American, Belgian, Japanese and other countries’ bikes represented, in one of the most dazzling shows of fancy bikes anywhere. Also welcome are "Keepers of the Flame" – modern custom lugged steel bikes equipped with classic style components. If you think your bike belongs in this show, bring it on down.

Finally, be sure to swing by the Cascade Bicycle Club booth to enter the drawing for some great prizes. 

See you there!


Preview: 2013 National Bike Summit

The author, left, with Natalie Ramsland and Georgena Terry at the Women’s Bicycling Forum. 

By Karen Brooks

Beginning today I’ll be attending the National Bike Summit for the third time. It’s a great opportunity each spring to meet cycling advocates from across the country and to even sit down with members of Congress.

Kicking things off this year is the National Women’s Bicycling Forum, a special day for female leaders and entrepreneurs from the cycling industry to meet and discuss owning and operating our own businesses, ways to close the gender gap in the industry, and how to encourage the cycling movement beyond the stereotype of "affluent white men."

  

This year I was asked to moderate the opening keynote address by Georgena Terry, above. Despite suffering from polio at an early age, Terry founded one of the first female-specific bike companies in the 1980s. She turned her basement operation into an international brand, turning out such iconic products as the Liberator saddle and the Cycling Skort, sparking more major companies to create products for women as well. She was joined by Natalie Ramsland, the founder and frame builder at Sweetpea Bicycles, a custom bike shop that focuses on women’s bikes.

Last night I joined the ladies from Black Women Bike DC for a VERY chilly ride around the nation’s capital. It was disappointing we couldn’t enjoy the weather we had last year when I rode from our office in Pittsburgh to the Summit, but I was amazed by the huge turnout.

Can’t wait to meet some more of you this week, and watch this space for more coverage from the 2013 National Bike Summit.  


Frostbike 2013 – New gear from Planet Bike, Velo Orange, Burley, and Yakima

By Eric McKeegan

Planet Bike

Planet Bike continues to develop innovative products for the practical cyclist. Out of the profits made from selling those innovative products, Planet Bike donates 25 percent to grassroots bicycle advocacy groups—more than $1 Million to date. Walking the walk, for sure. Lets check out a few of their new items.

Blaze 2 Watt Micro Light

This $40 light makes 140 Lumens from a pair of AA batteries, all while being cheaper, lighter and smaller than the previous version. Modern LED technology has been good to us cyclists.

Saddles

This new saddle has no fancy name, just two models, Pro and Comp. Designed to fill the gap between high-end race saddles and lower priced, over-stuffed saddles, the Pro and Comp share a perforated shell and cover, but little else.

The $58 Comp uses chromoly steel rails and foam and gel padding, the $75 Pro model gets Ti rails and thinner, all-gel padding. All those holes are designed to increase airflow and provide some vibration damping.

Airsmith pump

The Airsmith has a retractable hose to decrease stress on the valve stem while allowing you to get a better angle on the pumping action. The hose is Schrader valve compatible only—a Presta valve adaptor stores the handle. The composite Comp version is only $17, the alloy ALX goes for $25. Both include a water bottle boss mounting bracket.

Whispbar

  

WB200 Fork Mount Tray

Whispbar is Yakima’s more modern roof rack design, using lots of brushed aluminum and hidden hardware for better look with newer vehicles. The WB200 is a new bike tray with compatibility with both 9mm QR and 15mm axles. As someone who is constantly switching bikes, this is a very promising development.

The aluminum lever and axle for 9mm axles removes easily, the front cover flips up, a little switch is pushed down, and two 15mm axle stubs extend as the cover is closed. When not in use the tray can be removed in seconds, using a simple lever and cam system called QuickDock. A single lock secures the bike to the tray and the tray to the roof rack. This $250 tray will only work with the Whispbar system, no word yet if we’ll see a similar design compatible with Yakima’s older round bar system in the future.

Velo Orange

Grand Cru Drillium 110 Crank

This is a classy looking crank—don’t even try to argue with me about it. Utilizing 48-34 chainrings in a 110mm BCD, these cranks will provide the performance most riders need with style to spare. The Grand Cru is forged and machined to its final shape, and the chainrings will work with any 6-10 speed drivetrain. Yes, there is a square taper BB interface under those dust caps, which will make many riders (myself included) happy. The $200 price tag isn’t too shabby, either.

Dajia Accessory Mount

This is a pretty ingenious device. It is adjustable to fit almost any 4 bolt stem, weighs very little, and is only $15. The accessory bar is a 31.8 plastic tube, perfect for mounting a headlight out of the way of that big GPS unit or smart phone on your handlebars. These are in stock now.

Burley

MyKick Balance Bike

Balance bikes are absolutely the best way to get kids on two wheels. Burley has long been a trusted name is kids trailers, and this MyKick balance bikes seems to be a natural extension of the product line.

With a steel frame, lightweight spoked wheels, and zero-maintenance solid tires, the MyKick should have not trouble handling the abuse these little bikes have to endure. The rubber grips even use oversize ends to prevent poking holes in your little one during a crash. It comes in three colors (red, pink, green) and is available now for $130.

 


NAHBS 2013 – Breadwinner Cycles

Portland framebuilders Ira Ryan, left, and Tony Pereira joined forces to create Breadwinner cycles.

By Karen Brooks

Covering NAHBS is always tough—just about every booth has a cool story and some nice shiny bits to attract attention. This one was a bit of a surprise: a name I hadn’t heard before, but one that I think will make a big impact. Breadwinner Cycles is the secret-until-yesterday project of framebuilders Tony Pereira and Ira Ryan.

Pereira and Ryan’s business plan is to bring handmade bikes down from the rarified air they tend to inhabit and make them more accessible and affordable for the general public. They’re collaborating on a complete line of bikes, available as frame and fork for $2,000-$2,300, with just a 6-8 week turnaround time. They’ll do complete builds as well. In the next six months they aim to secure and outfit a Portland location in which they can produce 1,000 bikes a year. Since their current shops are located close to one another, they’ve been able to begin producing some bikes already.

The example that stuck out was this 650b-wheeled city bike with a front rack, dubbed “Arbor Lodge.” Aside from the usual generator lights, Honjo fenders, and disc brakes, it has a U-lock integrated into the frame in a convenient, yet unobtrusive way. The rack bag is by Blaq Bags, and that white stripe along the bottom flashes blue.

 

Breadwinner also displayed a road racing bike, a cyclocross model, a mountain bike, and these two: a black classic road bike with fenders and good tire clearance and a brown touring bike with front and rear racks. Both had matching pumps, naturally.

While we were chatting, another of Portland’s well-known framebuilders, Joseph Ahearne, came up and joined the conversation. We talked about why Portland boasts so many framebuilders—I haven’t added it up, but a significant portion of NAHBS exhibitors hail from there, this year and most years. So I asked these three if there was something in the water. It comes down to the city’s bike-friendliness, said Pereira. Getting around by bike is easy and common there, and so inventive types tend naturally to gravitate toward the bicycle as a good platform for experimentation and improvement. It’s cool to think that as more cities make bikes feel welcome, we’ll no doubt see more innovation and creativity surrounding the bicycle in years to come.


NAHBS 2013 – Road bikes

By Karen Brooks

Sometimes you just want to imagine yourself sailing down a silky-smooth country road, wine and cheese in the bag, and sun shining… Here at the 2013 North American Handmade Bicycle Show there are plenty of classically beautiful road bikes to inspire just such a vision. Here are a few.


Shamrock Cycles Fluid Druid

Simply a traditional road frame with fender capability. Pretty fenders, too. I love the little Brooks tool roll on the back of the saddle.


Soulcraft Grasshopper

“Sort of halfway between a road bike and a cross bike with the ability to do both.” Has clearance for 32c tires and, of course, a nice matching rack.


Engin

This more modern, stealth Ti beauty showed off Shimano 11-speed Dura Ace parts. Builder Drew Guldalian says that the front derailleur shifts so well, thanks to its extra leverage, “you could shift it with a broken finger.”

 


Bishop

This lovely midnight-blue bike was dressed in new-old stock Campagnolo Nuvo Record parts. I asked builder Chris Bishop where he soured such things, and he said he’d found a collector that was more interested in early 1900’s stuff to him, these Campy parts were new, so he let them go. The hubs were still in a sealed box.

The rear spacing is the very old-school 120mm (BIshop’s first build with this size), and the cogset has only five speeds—the customer wanted a simple bike to ride in a relatively flat place.


Gängl

This builder was a surprise—former road and track pro Rich Gängl has been building and painting custom bikes in Colorado for 34 years, but hadn’t been seen at NAHBS before. He had a full lineup of beauties, including his personal titanium road bike with carbon fiber seatstay and fork.

There was also this classic randonneuring bike, built with a generator hub and (Of course) matching pump and fenders.

This rare 1985 Gängl is built of Reynolds 753 steel and had a way cool vintage saddle.

This Gold Coast bike was waiting to be entered in the Best New Builder competition. The frame decoration is inspired by a stained-glass window made by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Coming up next

We’ll have more coming from NAHBS all weekend, and don’t forget to follow us on Instagram or Facebook to see more behind-the-scenes photos. 


Judge not, lest ye be judged — A guide to NAHBS

Cherubim by Shin-Ichi Konno won the President’s Choice award and Best of Show at the 2012 NAHBS.

By Gary J. Boulanger

If there’s anything my Catholic upbringing taught me (other than to fear the women in black and white), it was to withhold passing judgement on others, lest I get smitten by God Himself. As fate would have it, God Himself called upon me to pass judgement on independent frame builders at the 2012 North American Handmade Bicycle Show in Sacramento, California…and the oracle through which he chose to speak to me was show founder and organizer Don Walker, a bear of a man who knows how to command attention as well as wield a torch.

Like Moses at the burning bush, what was I to do? What would you do?

Don mentioned a few other judges’ names, and I felt more excited about the prospect of sharing responsibility with the likes of Dirt Rag publisher Maurice Tierney and Red Kite Prayer blogger Patrick Brady. As game day approached, though, I started feeling a bit more fear and trepidation about filtering through my collective knowledge of fine framebuilding and giving the backroom thumbs up or thumbs down treatment to some of the world’s finest craftsmen, Caesar style.

I contacted Paul Skilbeck, who handles communication for NAHBS. I told him I read the judging guidelines on the NAHBS website, but still felt a little in the dark about the minutiae needed to do it right. He put me in touch with Don Ferris, owner of Anvil Bike Works in Littleton, Colorado. Don not only provides fixtures and tooling to many of the world’s finest frame builders, he has also judged in the past and has a keen mind and eye for the finer points of what to look for.

His advice?

“In my humble opinion it’s best to judge a builder’s work from a builder’s perspective,” Ferris told me. “In the past judges fall primarily into two categories: fans of custom bikes and custom bike builders. They approach their tasks differently. As a builder I’m more interested in the craftsmanship displayed in the parts the builder made himself. I don’t care about how much info/pics they put on their Flickr sites, blogs, etc., about their process; I’m only interested in what I can see with my own two eyes. From there it is a process of elimination for me.

Intent

“I look first to assess whether the bike is built suitably for its intended purpose (and if a builder installed components on the bike, I assess them too. For instance, if I see items like wood handlebars, stems, seatposts, etc. on a mountain bike, I immediately dismiss it as a people’s choice category). Many are not. In my opinion, bikes are meant to be ridden and a builder who enters what would be an unrideable/unsafe bike is not worthy of my consideration.”

Symmetry

Second, he told me, was to look for symmetry, starting at the back end of the bike and moving forward. His goal is to eliminate a bike in as little time as possible to so he can focus on those he feel are truly worthy of having their craftsmanship noted as being above their peers.

“One of the hardest things to do on a frame is installing the seatstays; they should each intersect the seat tube at the exact same height and should be cotangent to the seat tube itself, i.e., they should be equally space from the centerline of the seat tube,” he added. “I then check the seat tube slot and make sure it is on centerline and the stress relief hole itself is centered on the slot. If tightened on a seat post, I check to see how parallel the sides of the slots are from top to bottom. Any sign of squeezing at the top is cause for dismissal.

“If the builder is present, have him loosen the seatpost clamp and check that the post is not too tight nor too loose. Same goes for seatpost clamp lugs that are brazed on the frame, the inside faces of the lugs should be parallel and not pinched. Stems also fall into this category. I saw one bike win an award with a builder fabricated stem clamp that was obviously deformed, pinched together, and ill-fitting. These items are very quick to check and if they’re off, I immediately dismiss the bike and spend no more time on it. If they’re good to go, I will continue on.”

Joinery

Third, Ferris looks for the craftsmanship displayed in the joinery. Sloppy shorelines, evidence of over or under filling the joint, on lug bikes are cause to stop evaluating the bike and moving on to the next. For TIG bikes, the welds should be consistent, show and even width around the joint and display an even fill (concavity/convexity) around the tubes.

“I look closely for signs of undercut or overheating (undercut is fairly obvious; overheating on a TIG-welded bike will show as a slight wave in the tube near the weld),” he said. “Pay close attention to bridge work and the seat stay intersection as that separates the true craftsmen from the rest. On fillet brazed bikes and look for smooth radii tube to tube, signs of overheating (distortion, wave as noted above) and excessive file work or file marks into the tubes itself. I give extra points to any frame/fork/etc. that is presented for judging unpainted. Paint can hide a multitude of sins.”

Alignment

Fourth, Ferris does his best to evaluate alignment. This is difficult to do on a built up bike, he added, easier on a bare frame, but again he looks for symmetry and anything obviously out of whack.

“I will look down fork crowns and see that they are on the same plane as the dropouts,” he explained. “Check down tube and top tube for how they intersect the head tube, sight down the head tube for parallelism to the seat tube, etc. During this time I also look at braze-ons to make sure they’re properly located and display the same symmetry (where applicable) as the rest of the frame.

Complexity

Fifth, if it’s made it this far, he evaluates the frame/bike as a whole and the complexity of the build (as long as that complexity has a purpose and is not just magpie bait). A modern mountain bike is much harder to build than a road or track bike so they’ll get credit for that, but that also means there’s more to screw up so it usually ends up as a wash.

Emotion

“Lastly, I check my own emotional response to it: Can I do this? Would I do this? Is it better than its peers? Is it cool? Do I want it?

“Judging is hard work because the reality is that whoever wins the various categories gets elevated above their peers and the award has a real world value well beyond the cost of the trophy,” he added. “I’ve seen bikes ‘win’ which, in my opinion, were completely unworthy of such recognition because it came down to fandom or how nice their website was or a judge was getting the bike in question, etc., etc., and not based on the quality of the bike itself.”

Gulp. We had more than 180 bikes to judge, with the lion’s share to be combed over before Saturday early afternoon.

I shared this advice with my other judges, which by the first day of the show included former Shaw’s Lightweight Cycles owner Terry Shaw and United Bicycles Institute president Ron Sutphin. I was now in the company of wise sages, and felt more prepared.

Judges going over the finer points of framebuilding at the 2012 NAHBS.

In Don Walker’s eyes my own experience must have made me uniquely qualified to share a seat with my fellow judges: a few years working with Richard Schwinn and Marc Muller at the Waterford Precision Cycles factory, where five master framebuilders churned out 1,500 lugged steel framesets each year, including those for Rivendell Bicycle Works. I learned proper frame design from Rivendell owner Grant Petersen, and spent hours on the phone with Richard Sachs, Salsa founder Ross Shafer, Reynolds tubing co-owner Keith Noronha, Henry James owner Hank Folsom, Ibis founder Scot Nicol, and Tom Ritchey, trying my best to absorb their knowledge and expertise.

Knowing that not every master framebuilder was attending NAHBS or even submitting work for consideration didn’t make our job easier. In fact, it made things really challenging; framebuilders are small business owners, machinists, welders, marketers, sales people, logistics managers, and psychologists all rolled into one. Award winners are rewarded with recognition from peers, vendors and friends, which usually results in increased business. Our objective was to peel everything away and judge each bike for what we saw in 3-D before us, nothing more, nothing less. Mix in the fact that builders from several foreign countries were also submitting work and now it becomes interesting!

Once we had our preliminary meeting to choose a scorekeeper (Ron), we agreed on the submitted guidelines and choose our approach. Judging was simplified by having exhibitors submit their entries by a specific deadline, and volunteer runners provided a schedule to exhibitors of when bikes would be picked up and returned to their booths on Friday and Saturday of the show. Our categories included:

  • Riding Discipline: City, Cyclo-Cross, Road, Mountain, Tandem, Experimental, Track.
  • Materials: Carbon, Titanium, Steel, Alternative (bamboo, aluminum, wood)
  • Construction: Lugged (any material, not just steel), TIG (ditto), Fillet brazed
  • Overall: Best Finish, Best Rookie and Best of Show.

In each category, up to three entries could be granted special merit. In some cases, we felt more than one entry garnered special recognition. In others, a builder’s interpretation of what represented their best work was nosed out of the top spot by a hair, while others fell way short of the mark. On a few occasions unpainted frames were presented as complete bikes, a very clever way to offer a true glimpse of the handiwork, much like a Michelangelo statue.

Because this was ‘best of the best’ competition, many times our decisions were based on legalistic logic, and sticking purely to the guidelines, while other times it was a unanimous decision based on being thoroughly blown away. East Coast builder Chris Bishop managed to score a hat trick, taking home awards for Best Steel, Best Fillet, and Best Lugged.

As Terry and I were scrutinizing the steel bikes, we were drawn to Bishop’s Peter Johnson-esque thinly filed lugs, the workmanship and talent clearly apparent without paint. Ron agreed with our observation, and Patrick walked over and made in unanimous. Hours later, when the awards were being presented on the show floor, I ran into Peter and mentioned Bishop’s handiwork. I sent Peter to chat with Bishop, who was already talking with Terry. Young Bishop was having so much bike-geek fun talking with two of NorCal’s finest that he didn’t hear the original announcement over the PA system that he had won an award.

Don wanted to change things up a bit for the 2012 show. Instead of all the results being made public on Sunday, the lion’s share of the results were made public and ribbons were distributed to each award-winning handlebar by early Saturday afternoon. The top awards were saved for Sunday afternoon: Best Finish, People’s Choice, President’s Choice, and Best of Show.

Epilogue

After the show, I spoke with several builders to get a feel for how they thought the awards have evolved over the years, and the reactions were mixed. Several experienced builders like Soulcraft’s Sean Walling, pictured here, didn’t submit an entry.

“I understand how winning and award makes almost an instant impact on a framebuilder’s orders, but I do everything I can to build the bikes I need to build for my current customers,” he said. “Sometimes a beauty pageant distracts from the real craftsmen who have been building solid bikes for decades.”

Redwood City, California, builder Brent Steelman didn’t exhibit in 2012. The 51-year-old struggled with depression in 2011, and recently made the decision to turn his milling machines back on after almost throwing in the towel. He told me it was the positive response and support from longtime customers that convinced him it was worth carrying on the torch.

“I can appreciate how important it is for certain builders to win awards, but NAHBS is becoming more of an art show than I care to see,” he said over coffee at his shop in early March. “I think it’s great to get orders based on awards, but some people miss the point: American-made frames are making a comeback, and sometimes they don’t need to be overbuilt and frilly to be noticed.”

Show producer Don Walker’s efforts at cultivating attention to the handmade bicycle craft has been good to nearly everyone involved. One of the things becoming a show organizer has done, in my opinion, is put Walker in a precarious position as a framebuilder entering his own work into the judging contest. The other judges and I agreed it would be best for him to reconsider putting himself in any perceived incestuous situation which may reek of favoritism. In short, Don: we love you and your vision, but please refrain from taking away much-needed attention from another talented builder who could benefit from gaining a foothold in this crazy, lovely niche that many of us love so dearly.

See you all in Denver.


Handmade Bikes in the Wild – Naked Cycles

Editor’s note: Each year we cover dozens of the most beautiful bikes in the world at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show and other local shows. But what happens to them after the display booths are disassembled and the lights go out? After all, bikes are built to be ridden, not to sit around and look pretty. So we followed up with some of the bikes and builders we’ve covered in the past to see how these works of art are holding up.

By Montana Miller. Photos courtesy of Sam Whittingham.

Sam Whittingham founded Naked Bicycles on Quadra Island, British Columbia 14 years ago. He builds everything from steel track to long wheel-base cargo bikes. At last year’s NAHBS, he showed a gorgeous stainless steel road bike. We followed up to ask him where it’s been.

Dirt Rag: Where is the bike now?

Whittingham: The stainless "road adventure" I rode to the show and displayed last year has become my daily all road bike. Currently waiting patiently for me by the shop door.

What’s the best ride you’ve had on the bike?

I’ve had a few great rides on this thing. I did the 275km Victoria Grand Fondo, a huge epic on paved and not so paved roads with mondo climbs. Also did a few logging road exploratory rides. Most recent epic all road adventure was "100k on New Year’s Day". That included single track, road, logging roads and even some beach.

What kind of riding are you doing the most on the bike? Is it being used to do what it was designed for?

Definitely being used for that which it was designed and then some.

How many hours went into building the bike, and how many hours has it been ridden?

think build time on that bike was about 30 hours, with all the custom touches. Ride time is at least 400 hrs so far, with lots more to come.

Now that you’ve used the bike, is there anything you would change?

Not really. I swapped out the Nokon housing for standard, which improved the shifting. I also did my own change to the Paul Racer Brakes so they are linear pull instead of standard yoke pull. Not quite as powerful but completely eliminates any dreaded yoke pull fork shudder

What cool stuff are you bringing to Denver?

I’m concentrating on customer bikes this year.


Join us at the Winter Bike Shop Expo

By Karen Brooks,

If you happen to be in the southern New Jersey area this weekend, the Shore Cycle Club is putting on the annual Winter Bike Shop Expo. It’s a chance to check out new models from the likes of Bianchi, Fuji, Jamis, Giant, Specialized, and Trek, and to hear a couple of speakers: David Hale Sylvester, accomplished world traveler (by bike) and author of the book “Traveling at the Speed of Life,” and yours truly, Karen Brooks, editor of Bicycle Times.

The Shore Cycle Club’s newsletter pointed out how important it is to keep riding through the winter—if you haven’t, and need some motivation, come out and visit the Expo.

Hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Sylvester will be speaking at 12:30, and I’ll go on at 2:00.

It’s all happening at Atlanticare Lifecenter, 2500 English Creek Ave Egg Harbor Township, NJ, 08234.

Hope to meet some Bicycle Times readers there!

 

 

 


‘Brews, Bikes & Bucks’ brings out cycling royalty to support Trips For Kids

By Gary J. Boulanger.

The sky was blue, the sidewalks were bustling, and the IPA was flowing on a warm, 62-degree Sunday afternoon in Marin County as a gaggle of Mountain Bike Hall of Famers gathered in San Rafael, California on February 10 to raise a pint and funds for Marilyn Price’s Trips For Kids organization, which takes underprivileged youth out on the trails.

The 15th Annual ‘Brews, Bikes & Bucks’ attracted local riders, supporters, and bike industry personalities to the Broken Drum Brewery where the owner, Noah Berry, donates all proceeds of the day to Trips For Kids, based just down the street. The non-profit receives the bulk of its funding from the Re-Cyclery Thrift Shop at 610 4th Street, with inventory donated from local supporters and several bicycle companies.

The nice weather brought out several pioneers, many of whom rode in on bikes, including Joe Breeze, Otis Guy, Gary Fisher, Scot Nicol, Charlie Kelly, Chris Lang, Dave Garoutte, James McLean, Jacquie Phelan, Mert Lawwill, Bruce Gordon, Sky Yaeger, Dave Koski, and our own fearless publisher, Maurice Tierney.

From left: Chris Chance, Joe Breeze and Mert Lawwill. Chance and Breeze are legends with the torch, and Lawwill was the star of "On Any Sunday", plus a talented mountain bike suspension designer.

From left: Chris Chance, Scot Nicol and Otis Guy. Chance ran Fat Chance Cycles out of Boston, once called the Ibis of the East. Nicol founded Ibis Cycles, called the Fat Chance of the West? Either way, Guy is always smiling, and is fitter than you’ll ever be.

Charlie Kelly and Gary Fisher started a little home-brewed company called "Mountainbikes" in Marin County back in 1979, and Charlie still flies the flag in Fairfax with this more modern machine.

 

Above left: Trips For Kids founder and director Marilyn Price enjoys gathering the tribe together every year, and Joe Breeze seems pleased as a schoolboy. Above right: Mert Lawwill raced motorcycles with Steve McQueen, designed full suspension bikes with Gary Fisher, and still cuts a mean figure in black leather. Son Joe handles marketing for Shimano America.

Maurice Tierney with Gary Fisher and his wife Alex.

Local gal Sky Yaeger designed many Bianchi, Swobo, and Spot bikes you see in your neighborhood. Now she’s whipping up something really special for Shinola, a new company based in Detroit.

Like several Marin County-based Mountain Bike Hall of Famers, Joe Breeze has his name on the down tube, and lives within riding distance of the Broken Drum Brewery in San Rafael.

Bruce Gordon was a key figure in the development of the 29er tire in the 1980s, and this 2013 model shows off his updated Rock N Road tires, featured in the latest issue of Bicycle Times.

After some socializing and bench racing with old pals, Gary Fisher and his wife rolled out to catch the Larkspur ferry back to their flat in San Francisco.

The 15th Annual Trips For Kids fundraiser, "Brews, Bikes & Bucks" gathered at the Broken Drum Brewery in San Rafael, California. Among the mountain bike pioneers were Chris Chance, Joe Breeze, Gary Fisher, Jacquie Phelan, Mert Lawwill, Otis Guy, Chris Lang, Dave Garoutte, Maurice Tierney, Sky Yaeger, James McLean, Dave Koski and Broken Drum owner Noah Berry. Not pictured: Charlie Kelly, Bruce Gordon, and Scot Nicol.


A look inside Bicycle Times Issue #21

The waiting is over, the first issue of 2013 is here. It has already shipped to subscribers and will appear on newsstands across the country February 12. Remember, if you subscribe, not only will you never miss an issue but you will likely get it before anyone else. Don’t want to wait? Order a single issue or subscription for your tablet computer, or order a single print copy here.

On the cover: "Lame Lighter 2.0" by Rich Kelly.

What’s inside 

Bikes to the Rescue

By Karen Brooks

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, bicycles came to the forefront in New York City as useful and appropriate tools for helping communities recover.

Mackinac island: “Watch the Bike!”

By Jeff Potter

There’s a small island between two Great Lakes where bicycles reign supreme, lending effortless style, clean air, and a relaxed pace to life for residents and tourists alike. Kings of the scene are the dock porters, who haul amaz- ing loads with their own leg power.

Interview: Trek president John Burke

By Gary J. Boulanger

The head of the largest bicycle company in the U.S. speaks about lessons he learned from his father, the company’s down-home approach, and the Lance effect.

Product reviews

We test two heavy-duty, long-distance, adventure-touring bikes: the Co-Motion Divide and the Salsa Fargo, as well as two stylish and practical city commuters, the Viva Kilo and Fairdale Flyer.

Plus:

  • Retroshift shifters
  • IRD thumb shifters
  • Planet Bike Cascadia 29er fenders
  • Knog Bouncer U-lock
  • Bontrager cold-weather gear
  • Endura Urban Softshell jacket and Urban pants
  • Rapha winter gear
  • Axiom Kingston Commuter 18 pannier
  • Bontrager Interchange Market pannier
  • Hyalite Equipment Swingline panner.

New column: Fix It

By Eric Mckeegan

Our column on bike maintenance and repair kicks off with some friendly advice on the most basic step for bike health: how to properly lube your chain.
 

 


CycleSF ride and festival to take over San Francisco streets

Registration opened today for the first-annual CycleSF, a ride for bicycle riders of all stripes to cycle around San Francisco to raise funds for the San Francisco Recre­ation and Parks Department. Twenty-four miles of San Francisco streets will be open for cyclists to create the city’s largest cross-town bike parade.

The event will take place on Sunday, April 28, with a fundraising goal of more than $100,000. Funds raised will go towards new bike racks in San Francisco’s parks, as well as the Recreation and Parks Department’s scholarship fund that supports recreation programming for low-income children and families.

The mission of CycleSF is to promote cycling as part of a healthy lifestyle, and to celebrate the role of the City’s Recreation and Parks Department in providing a healthy recreation environment. The event aims to build civic unity through a fun-ride that invites bicycle riders of all levels to traverse our city together, and communally experience San Francisco’s diverse neighborhoods from the seat of a bike. Thousands of bicycle riders will raise funds to support SF Rec and Park’s recreation programming and park system.

Produced by Jumping Fences Inc., CycleSF is not a race, but rather a fun-ride. The ride will start at 7 a.m. in the China Basin/Mission Bay area, navigate around the city, and end in Golden Gate Park. The course will be monitored by the San Francisco Police Department during these times. As the ride is not a timed race, there will be designated traffic breaks staffed by SFPD and SF MTA officers where vehicle crossing will be directed at critical points. There is also an “Elite” Rider option for riders to pay an extra $35 to ride in an escorted pace group, ahead of the main event.

Interested organizations and individuals should get involved by sup­porting the cyclists along the route, riding in the event, donating to support the work of the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department, or by celebrating at the Finish Line Festival in Speedway Meadow in Golden Gate Park. The Finish Line Festival is open for the public to enjoy food and beverages at CycleSF food truck station and beer garden, entertainment at the official CycleSF costume contest, yoga provided by lululemon athletica, live music and more!

Registration is open at www.cyclesf.org. There are great fundraising and donation incentives including a chance to win a bike from PUBLIC Bikes, CycleSF Bike Jersey and Bib Shorts! For more information on the event beneficiary please visit http://www.cyclesf.org/beneficiary

CycleSF Quick Facts:

  • Ride starts at Terry Francois Blvd at Mission Rock St
  • Route lengths: 13 miles or 24 miles
  • Route finish point: Speedway Meadow – Transverse Dr, Golden Gate Park
  • Registration Fee: $40
  • Suggested donation: $25
  • Elevation gain: 24 mile course = 1,200 feet, 13 mile course = 800 feet

Bicycle Times staff commutes more than 10,000 miles in 2012

By Shannon Mominee

At Rotating Mass Media, publishers of Dirt Rag and Bicycle Times Magazines, we practice what we preach and do our best to ride our bikes to work.

Through rain, snow, wind, sunshine, and the dark of night, our staff commuted by bike to and from the office 594 days, equaling 10,762 miles, in 2012. That’s an increase of 231 days and 4,075 miles over our 2011 total. Unfortunately, that number doesn’t reflect the days spent working from home, during which rides at lunch or to end the day are encouraged.

Those 594 days and 10,762 miles in the saddle saved 538 pounds of carbon from entering the atmosphere and kept about $2,000 in our pockets, instead of handing it over to the oil companies.

Our estimated 720,000 calories burned riding to work is equal to 2,400 Snickers bars. Fortunately, we eat more than candy around here, so I don’t need to estimate the number of cavities kept at bay. If you can’t relate to candy bars, picture 4,800 cans of Dale’s Pale Ale or 2,667 chocolate-frosted Dunkin’ Donuts. We actually may have come close to consuming either of those….

Overall, Bicycle Times Editor Karen Brooks, right, led the charge again, commuting 128 days for 3,200 miles. This earned her a staggering $256 at the rate of two bucks per round-trip commute. Let’s hope she spent it on something nutritious or fun. (Brooks says: “I will probably spend it on chocolate donuts!”)

How many days did you commute this year? 


Review: 45NRTH Wolvhammer winter cycling boots

By Stephen Haynes

There are very few cycling goods out there that live up to the perceived reputation inherent in the name given to them. The Wolvhammer winter boots from 45NRTH are a fine example of performance actually meeting perceptions.

“We started from the conceptual standpoint of making a mountaineering boot work for cycling, rather than taking a cycling shoe and trying to make it warmer” says Daivd Gabrys, brand manager at 45NRTH, a rather new brand that specializes in cold-weather cycling products. It is this focus that makes the Wolvhammer boots stand out from the competition. 

 

The inner boot is lined with 45NRTH’s Monster Fur, a super soft and warm layer that makes me think of some masochistic plush doll hugging my feet. The inner boot is laced up with a cinch closure that can be tightened up with gloves on. No need to tie laces. The Aerogel Jaztronaut insoles are noteworthy as well for their suppleness and resistance to the cold coming up through the bottom of your foot. These insoles can be purchased separately for $50. 

Getting my feet into the inner boot has been the biggest chore for me. There is a little pull tag to gives you a little purchase while cramming, but it always seems to be a bit of a struggle. I hardly consider it anywhere near a deal-breaker though, more like the price of admission, and a pittance at that.

  

Once you’ve got your feet secure in the inner boot, the three-part (Cordura, Sympatex, and fleece), water-resistant outer zips up with a water-resistant zipper that is locked down with a Velcro strip. A Velcro ankle strap also secures the upper of this mid-calf boot.

A nice mudguard on the heel, over the toe and surrounding the lower foot, keeps the really nasty splashback at bay. These things even have a gaiter hook should you need extra protection.

An SPD-compatible Vibram sole rounds out the bottom of the boot and reiterates the fact that “robust” doesn’t seem adequate it when talking about these things. On the dozen or so rides in the Wolvhammers they’ve not yet disappointed; keeping my feet both warm and comfy (and this from a guy who generally has cold feet issues). I can confidently say that they are, without a doubt, the most comfortable riding shoes I currently own as well.

The Wolvhammer’s are stiff yet responsive while pedaling. What I mean is, they interact well with the pedal as far as stiffness is concerned and seem to spring board you out of each pedal stroke. Plus, they’re oh-so-squishy comfortable. The one setback I’ve had while wearing them is walking in them. Despite looking at the construction from a mountaineering boot point of view, they hike more like a cycling shoe. Which is ok because, well, they’re cycling boots!

I look forward to many more rides with the Wolvhammers. I only hope that our winter here in Pennsylvania gets a bit more winter-ish to give me the opportunity. 


Pre-ride the Fast Freddie Gran Fondo February 2

Multiple U.S. Pro Road Champion and Giro d’Italia stage winner ‘Fast Freddie’ Rodriguez is excited to share his East Bay California roads with friends during the August 17 Fast Freddie Gran Fondo. There will be four routes to choose from: Gran, Medio, Corto and Piccolo/kids.

Registration opens February 1, and anyone interested in pre-riding the 100-mile Gran Loop with Freddie Rodriguez on February 2 can register here. The pre-ride, like the main event in August, begins and ends at the Claremont Hotel in Berkeley, California, where Rodriguez has called home nearly 20 years.

Rodriguez, 39, began his professional career with Team Saturn in 1996, and has raced alongside Tour de France yellow jersey wearer Steve Bauer, three-time World road champion Oscar Friere, two-time World road champion and Olympic gold medalist Paolo Bettini. Recently, he raced for Team Exergy, placing third, fifth, sixth, and 11th in the first four stages of the 2012 Tour of California against the world’s top sprinters.

To register for the Gran Fondo, visit ffgranfondo.eventbrite.com after February 1.


‘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.”


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