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.”


World Bicycle Relief partners with Specialized to donate bikes

The idea is a simple one: for each of the limited-edition Source 2 LTD bikes sold by Specialized, the company (along with partners SRAM and Gates Carbon Drive) will donate a Buffalo bike to health care workers in Kenya through World Bicycle Relief, a non-profit organization that helps transform individuals and their communities through the power of bicycles.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the bicycle is hugely important to health services—akin to an ambulance. It expands the reach of healthcare workers by five times, enabling them to reach both the sick and clinics, including patients in the most remote locations who may previously have had no access to healthcare.

 

The Source 2 is designed to be the ultimate city or commuting bike, with a Gates belt drive, a SRAM 2-speed Automatix hub, pre-installed fenders and rack, and SRAM hydraulic disc brakes. It retails for $1,500. It is stocked only at select Specialized dealers but can be requested by any Specialized dealer.

The Buffalo bike is designed specifically for use in Africa where roads are often unpaved and bicycle maintenance is scarce. It is tested and assembled in Africa with sturdy, durable components that are compatible with local replacements for years of reliable use. World Bicycle Relief co-ordinates the Asian-source parts and supervise its assembly in Harare, Zimbabwe; Kisumu, Kenya; Lusaka, Zambia; and Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. Since March 2008, WBR has sold more than 40,000 Buffalo Bicycles across eight countries in Southern and East Africa.


Registration open for GranFondo Banff

I wouldn’t normally post about an event like this, but it sounds like an adventure, especially considering the 2012 event was shortened because there was a GRIZZLY BEAR ON THE COURSE. 

GranFondo Canada announced today that registration is now open for the second edition of the RBC GranFondo Banff, which is scheduled for Saturday, August 24.

The only event of its kind to take place completely within the boundaries of a national park, the ride will start and finish in the beautiful mountain town of Banff, Alberta, with a planned 142km course that takes cyclists into the heart of the Rockies to experience the awe-inspiring nature of Banff National Park.

Last year’s inaugural event was incredibly popular, drawing a sellout of 1,500 riders from across Canada, the U.S. and as far away as the United Kingdom. The bike route in 2012 had to be altered because a grizzly and her three cubs were feeding on the side of the road along part of the course. The same is possible in 2013. It is one of the realities of staging an event like this in a national park.

Capacity for the RBC GranFondo Banff is again limited to 1,500 participants and demand for the event is expected to be very high. For more information and to register, visit www.rbcgranfondobanff.com.


An invisible bike, coffee by trike, and how bike sharing came to DC

Today I’m bringing you a buffet of interesting morsels from around the world-wide internetz:

Photo by Gus Chan, The Plain Dealer

Growing bike rack business run by homeless men

When Cleveland was shopping for bike racks to install around the city a few years ago, they were forced to look out-of-state because there was no local option. Now, thanks to a program known as Metro Metal Works, there is. Run by Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry, the program cranks out bike racks at a local homeless shelter, employing people on the skids—many of whom are homeless or just out of prison. The program is so successful that Lutheran Metro has purchased a bigger warehouse space with room for more powerful welders.

Via the Cleveland Plain Dealer


The ‘Best Bike-Sharing Program in the United States’

You might not think of Washington D.C. when you think of natural environments for a bike sharing system, but today it is the United Stats’ most popular and successful program of its kind. It took countless people to make the dream a reality, but the root of the idea, Slate writes, can be traced to a graduate student’s late-night idea two decades ago. One of the most interesting takeaways from the piece: Capital Bikeshare’s largest number of employees are actually drivers—members of teams who redistribute bikes from locations with an excess to locations without.

Via Slate


Coffee and bikes, together at last

There’s no doubt the most important beverage for any cyclist—after water—is coffee, and espresso no less. Two product designers combined their love of both into a coffee-vending trike for off-the-grid delivery at festivals, street fairs, or anywhere really. Dubbed Velopresso, it was designed from the ground up as a rear-steer trike with a low carbon footprint, near silent operation, and the finest espresso available. The production model is expected to go into manufacturing in the UK this year, no word yet on prices. Wish I had one of these parked outside…

Via Neatorama


Designers redesign the bike—again

And finally, in yet another example of designers turning the bicycle into something it’s not: Designaffairs have built a bicycle they’re calling Clarity from a polymer called Trivex that’s completely clear. Used mostly in helicopter windshields and jet fighter canopies, it can made into any shape by injection molding. Designaffairs says it has “high impact resistance, lightweight properties and a gentle flexibility that usually would only be expected on an old Italian steel frame,” which is odd, because old Italian steel frames have none of those things.

Via Gizmodo

 


Review: Yuba Boda Boda

By Maurice Tierney 

The Boda Boda “Cargo Cruiser” is only the second bike from the Yuba braintrust, following the Mundo cargo bike released in 2006. Hard to imagine a bike company paying the bills with only one bike to sell, but Yuba has flourished with the singular purpose of the Mundo, which is carrying stuff affordably, comfortably, and efficiently.

I ride a Mundo, and it’s a great bike that can carry up to 440 lbs. of stuff, plus driver. Four bags of groceries? Two passengers? No problem. But It can be a bit much to handle sometimes. Stairs, small rooms, and public transportation all present challenges.

Enter the Boda Boda, which in simple terms might be described as half a Mundo. With its aluminum frame it’s half the weight (35 lbs.), half the payload capacity (220 lbs.), and twice as easy to maneuver. Surely not the same cargo bike.

On the contrary, maybe it’s not a cargo bike but a regular city/cruiser bike with some added room for stuff. It’s just a little bit longer than a regular bike, easy to maneuver onto bus racks and other public transportation, and its longness is perfect for a child seat or adult passenger, two full bags of groceries, or both.

There’s two models available; the step-through model comes in apple green or white and is more suitable to smaller riders (5’0″ to 5’7″) while the step-over model, which comes in green, is designed for humans from 5’7″ to 6’2″ and still easy to mount. Included are a Bamboo rear rack, cork grips, ding-a-ling bell, and kickstand. The spec is entry-level. At less than $1,000 it’s priced to get more people on it. The parts selection is perfectly functional without too many bells and whistles. A deluxe edition is soon to be, and it will up the ante with fenders and dynamo-powered lights front and rear. 

The ride is cruiser-like and functional with an upright position; big, wide, comfortable handlebars; and good pedaling efficiency. An 8-speed SRAM derailleur provides enough gear choices for most conditions. A custom Yuba saddle is a nice touch, although female tester Poppy found it more comfortable than I.

I see the Boda Boda perfect for folks just getting into the idea of the utility cycling lifestyle. Imagine hauling your kid to school while getting a little exercise—sure beats sitting in a steel box with a brain-frying device to your ear. Kid hauling, grocery getting and such are all good times (assuming the infrastructure is good in your town). Parking lots at the grocery store become a joy instead of a nightmare as you roll right in and park by the door while the automobilians struggle. That’s the life!

This life is yours for the low low price of only $999! Step Right Up! Other accessories include the Peanut Shell child seat at $169, Baguette bags at $77 each, and a center stand (recommended) for $69.

But wait! There’s more! What are all those other accoutrements attached to the Boda Boda pictured here? Why it’s a battery and motor! Yes, you are looking at the electric version of the Boda Boda, priced at $2,697. Well, yes that’s quite a few more dollars, but those bucks might make the difference between embracing the lifestyle and staying in your car.

The electric assist Boda features a BionX motor system for pedal assist and battery regeneration. The BionX system is the real deal. After a long day it can really make a difference between riding or not if you’ve got a lot of hills in your way. The 350 watt motor is good for speeds up to the gubmint-regulated speed of 20mph. And the 9.6 amp hour battery is good for up to 37 miles, depending on terrain and load of course.

And it’s fast! I hit the turbo button on the trigger and hit the top speed of 20 in half a city block, about seven seconds. It’s also rad that the BionX has regenerative powers, such that you can set the bike to slow you down and recharge the battery at the same time. This is best on downhills, but the brake lever switch can be adjusted to regenerate the battery as you approach stop signs. I actually used the system for a few days without charging the battery. I’d set the BionX into re-gen mode, ride the Boda like a resistance trtainer, and then expel the power when I needed a kick. The BionX system adds 22.5lbs. to the total weight of the Boda Boda, bringing it to 57.5 lbs.

Allright, let’s wrap this up. The Boda Boda is a great way to expand the endless possibilites of cycling. Priced right, it’s a no-brainer for those looking to get deeper into the possibilities. The electric verision, while costing more money, breaks down even more walls to cycling nirvana.

 

A quick tour of the Yuba Boda Boda cargo bike from Bicycle Times on Vimeo.


Raleigh Canada to end production at Quebec facility

In a statement today, Raleigh Canada announced it will be ceasing manufacturing and assembly at its Waterloo, Quebec, facility. The facility will remain open as a warehousing and distribution center. 

Raleigh Canada’s Waterloo facility has manufactured and assembled bicycles on a seasonal basis for over 30 years. Manufacturing and production employees at the Waterloo facility will continue to be actively employed until they are laid off at the end of the normal seasonal production cycle in June 2013. As a result of Raleigh Canada’s decision to cease its bicycle manufacturing and assembly activity, approximately 100 production employees will not be recalled from their normal seasonal layoff in January 2014. 


Ding! Ding! The official Bicycle Times bell on sale now

Every great bike deserves a great bell. We’ve partnered up with Portland Design Works to bring you this special King Ding bell with our logo laser etched on it. The solid brass bell with a brass striker gives the perfect tone and sustain. The alloy mounting hardware fits 22.2-25.4 handlebars and includes a rubber shim for a secure fit.  

Get one now in our online store for just $19.99


Take the CycloFemme pledge and encourage women to ride

CycloFemme is a celebration of women on bikes. Its annual Mother’s Day ride unites riders, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity or bicycle preference to share in the joy of cycling. In 2012, its first year, 163 rides were registered in 14 countries with many others joining in to celebrate in their own special way.

For 2013 they are inviting women—and men—to ride to honor the past, celebrate the present, and empower the future of women in cycling as they aim for twice the number of rides in twice the number of countries on May 12, 2013.

Take the pledge and share: Print out the pledge, sign it, and take a photo to post on Instagram with the hashtag #ICycloFemme


Adventure Cycling announces 2012 Bicycle Travel Award winners

The Adventure Cycling Association‘s Awards Program began in 2003 as a way to recognize organizations and individuals who are doing extraordinary things in the name of bike travel. For 2012, five individuals and a bike shop have been recognized for their contribution to bicycle touring and travel. 

The June Curry Trail Angel Award acknowledges individuals or groups encountered during a bicycle tour who have time and again made cycling journeys easier. The 2012 recepients are Byron Seeley, Kelly White, and Vicki Howell, of Jeffrey City, Wyoming. Located in a ghost town halfway between Rawlins and Lander on the TransAmerica Trail, these three provide resources and shelter to cyclists where none otherwise exist.

The Pacesetter Bicycle Travel Award is for those whose efforts have contributed to the success of bicycle travel. The 2012 recepient is Ian Klepetar of Gansevoort, New York. In 2007, Klepetar dreamed up Bicycle Benefits, a program through which users display reflective helmet stickers to receive discounts at local businesses.

The Sam Braxton Bicycle Shop Award honors bicycle shops that provide exemplary services to bicycle tourists. The recipient of the 2012 award is Pacific Coast Cycles in Oceanside, California, for the incredible care and attention with which they serve their customers. The shop, opened in 1977, is not very large, but shares the same spirit and tenacity that Sam Braxton’s shop once exuded, one that creates life-long bonds and friendships, instead of just returning customers.

Finally, the 2012 Volunteer of the Year Award goes to Christopher Marsh of Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Marsh’s work in New Mexico on the development of Bicycle Route 66, and his efforts toward its official designation as U.S. Bicycle Route 66 have gone far beyond Adventure Cycling Association’s expectations.

Nominations for the 2013 Bicycle Travel Awards will open Monday, July 2, 2013. If you would like to know more about past winners and how to nominate someone, visit www.adventurecycling.org/awards.


Rechargeable taillights help visibility both night AND day

By Justin Steiner,

It’s force of habit; without thinking twice, I hop in my car, start the thing and immediately turn on the headlights. Middle of the night, middle of the day; doesn’t matter.

Why, you ask? The short answer is that I just feel safer being as visible as possible to other road users. Largely this desire to be seen is driven by two experiences. One, years ago, I was hit from behind in broad daylight by an old man who simply “didn’t see” me, despite the fact I was riding in the middle of the lane of travel wearing a BRIGHT yellow jacket. And two, my experience as a motorcyclist has taught me that being seen can be the difference between life and death. Not to get all serious on you, just pointing out the facts.

Anyway, back to the lights. I recently purchased a pair of rechargeable rear lights for my girlfriend and I, in an effort to fend off motorists this winter. Like many mornings on the way to work, it was dreary and overcast today. So, as usual in these conditions, I turned both my front and rear lights to flash mode, hoping to make myself as visible as possible. With rechargeable lights front and rear, I don’t feel guilty burning up batteries in daylight on the way to work. Of course having lights won’t necessarily protect me from having another roadway incident, but the peace of mind is well worth the investment in my opinion.

Over the years, we’ve tested quite a few rechargeable headlights, but comparatively few rechargeable taillights. Below are a few USB rechargeable, lithium ion or lithium polymer powered options that might be of interest.

Blackburn Super Flea – $45
The Super Flea powers three bright LEDs between 15 hours (steady) and 28 hours flashing.
Bontrager Ember USB – $30
Bontrager’s Ember puts the power down through one1/2-watt and one 5mm LED. Burn times range from 7 hours to 35+.
Cateye Rapid 1 – $35
Cateye’s Rapid 1 employs one “high-powered” SMD-LED to provide 2 to 10 hours of run time.
Cygolite Hotshot 2W USB – $40
Cygolite utilizes one two-watt LED in the Hotshot, providing 4:30 to 300+ hours of illumination.
Knog Boomer USB – $40
Knog’s one “super-bright” Boomer LED burns from 3:30 hours to 12 hours.
Light and Motion Vis 180 Micro – $49
The Vis 180 Micro powers three LEDs (one rearward facing red, one amber on each side) between 4 and 20 hours.
NiteRider Solas USB – $45 
The Solas powers one two-watt LED between 4:30 hours and 36 hours, depending on mode.
Serfas Thunderbolt (UTL-6) – $45
The Thunderbolt stands out from this group by using 30 micro-LEDs to pump out 1:45 to 9:30 hours of light.

Sure, these lights are more expensive than a regular AA- or AAA-powered taillight, but you also have to account for the cost of replacement batteries. On average, a AA- or AAA-powered blinkie of comparable light output retails for right around $30. Add in around $10 for rechargeable batteries, and you’re at a very similar price point to those listed above.

Of course, another viable alternative would be a dedicated hub dynamo setup with front and rear lights. This setup is highly viable if you’re riding the same bike all of the time. That said, it seems most folks who run dynamo lighting systems also supplement those lights with additional lighting.

And lastly, here’s a story about how LED lights work as well as an LED headlight group test from last year. For even more up-to-date reviews, check out Bicycle Times Issue #20

One way or the other, the moral is the same; be seen to be safe. Ride safely out there.


Now in stock – new Bicycle Times cycling kit

 

We’re excited to annouce the debut of our first Bicycle Times riding kit, made by Voler. It’s perfect for riding with friends, century rides, racing, you name it. Fly the colors of your favorite cycling magazine. 

You’ve got options

Embracing the style from the pages of the magazine, the new kit features a club cut jersey with a full zipper, raglan sleeves, and three rear pockets. The shorts are available in bib shorts or traditional style, each with a high-end chamois. 

 

We’ve got them all in a huge range of sizes from extra small to XXXL, as well as ladies-specific sizes.

Get the set

Tops and bottoms are sold separately, though you can order a package deal that includes matching socks, and get a free subscription. It’s also available with bib shorts or traditional shorts—your choice!

  

And for a limited time, you can get any of this great stuff for 15 percent off during our holiday sale. Just use the coupon HOLIDAY15 at checkout in our online store. There’s lots of closeouts on markdown for the holidays as well.There’s still time to get a gift for a riding friend – or yourself.  

 


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