Light Action: A Lesson in Patience

Shimano Light Action Bar End Shifter

Shimano Light Action Bar End Shifter on Paul Components Thumbie

If you’ve read any of my posts you would probably infer that I hold bicycles pretty high in the hierarchy of super important things that humans have invented. Indeed, the bicycle as we know it evolved from a long history of rich people’s toys and false starts. I find it rather unfortunate that the modern bicycle finally began to be taken seriously about the same time cars and airplanes were invented. Indeed, if horses didn’t poop so much and weren’t so damn skittish, maybe we wouldn’t have bothered with the automobile. Imagine a world where people went places by bicycles and horses. Nope. Too easy. Humans would rather go to great expense to suck oil out of the ground to make a vehicle so energy inefficient that the only plus side is that it makes it easier for teenagers to make out in private.

So what does this have to do with the picture above? It’s to illustrate my point at how awesome bikes are. There’s beauty in simplicity and patience. How such dysfunctional race of beings that infest a planet they don’t care about can make such a simple machine that, despite its drawbacks (it’s not as fast as a car) can get us where we need to go just blows my mind. Seriously: we can ride a bike anywhere given enough time. Not only that, bicycles have a low cost of entry (pretty much anyone can afford one), they are cheaper to fuel (burritos give the best milage per unit), and they can be stunning examples of simplistic beauty. No matter what kind of bike you ride, they are all beautiful not only because some can be aesthetically so. But even the cheapest POS from REI still does the same thing as a Rivendell or S-Works Tarmac Disc…it has two wheels and moves you forward. You need at least one leg and a lot of patience to operate one.

<nonconformist_view>
         Patience, Dear Reader, is something that cars have destroyed — a hundred years ago. They have literally sucked it out of the earth as if they drank our milkshake.
</nonconformist_view>

I’m not saying that we should all hate the automobile. I just think that, deep down inside, they are ugly and dirty.

End of line.

Cyclocross Films: For the Love of Mud

I am going to try something new here. Usually I don’t feature work that is not my own, but I just saw the teaser for a new cyclocross video and I am so excited about it. It is called For the Love of Mud by Benedict Campbell.

I am excited about it for two reasons: First, because it is about cyclocross, a sport that I have been following for a while now. But because there are so few ways to explain it to people. I think this film, will do that. Second, the videography is amazing. The feel of the visuals and the music mixed in with the pain of the riders just gives me goosebumps.

When the full film drops, I will get back to you all here for a review.

Grass Racer Reincarnate

Mercier Kilo OS Double Top Tube Grass Racer

Mercier Kilo OS Double Top Tube Grass Racer

I have always wanted a nice townie to ride around the city. Santa Barbara is not super hilly and we have a lot of beach here. But I wouldn’t be caught dead on a beach cruiser nowadays as they can be a bit of a a bummer to ride anywhere.So a while ago I bought this double top tube bicycle frame online. It is a Mercier Kilo track frame but with a double top tube reminiscent of an old grass track racer. I think having a double top tube made the bike more rigid. In any case, the original paint job and component spec for the Kilo OS is not great, so I stripped the paint and clear powdercoated it. Instead of the crap wheels and components that come on most track bikes, I speced a build kit that would rival…nay, put all the other townie bike companies out there to shame. I envisioned something completely different while building it up from the frame. This isn’t quite Rivendell quality. But it turned out quite nicely.

First things to add were the Velocity A23 rims and Shimano Alfine 8 hub. I had the folks over at J&B build them for me through the bike shop. They are fantastic wheels. Combine those with Challenge Limus 33 Cyclocross tires and an IRD Defiant Track crankset and I was in business. The final touches came when I was working out the geometry of the frame. The 56cm frame fit me okay with the standover height, but the top tubes are almost horizontal so they are pretty long. Drops, although cool and traditional for a grass racer just wouldn’t do. I decided to make this a more upright and sophisticated ride. So on went some Ahearne MAP bars and a Paul Components Flatbed basket. I tightened everything up with a Chris King GripNut headset.

So to rival a Linus or a Public or a Civilian or the like, this is my attempt at making the perfect townie bike. Before you say anything, I know the tires are too knobby for the street. So I will take the demerit on that. But people are throwing kale and carrots directly into my basket at the Farmer’s Market. How badass is that? See the gallery below.

CycleMAYnia 2014

CycleMAYnia 2014. Giant dude with reverse pennyfarthing.

CycleMAYnia 2014. Giant dude with reverse pennyfarthing.

So nobody told me Durago was going to show up to the Velo Vogue fashion show on the first of may. Even though I first caught sight of the bike, the big dude holding it was even more fascinating. I am wondering what a tweed ride would be like with this guy. He would probably upstage everybody. In any case, it was a fun fashion show and a lot of people were there to showcase their bicycle-style clothing and some really awesome bikes. Even though I think fashion shows are silly to begin with, I still cannot say anything bad about this. Anything that promotes the use of bicycles or makes bikes seem cool is alright by me. See below for more pictures.

 

Luis and the Mexican Connection

Luis and his Mexican Benotto.

Rides a Mexican Benotto.
Shot on Ortega Street in Santa Barbara, CA.

I have been highlighting Luis on here a lot lately because I just can’t help it. He always comes up with the coolest bikes. You can see his other posts here, here and another of his bikes here. Today he stopped by with an amazingly well-preserved Benotto double-top tube bicycle. I had never seen one of these in person before and I was so stoked I had the opportunity to take some pictures of this. Benotto bicycles started in Turin, Italy in the 1930s. In the 1950s, they expanded into Mexico, producing most of their bikes there. They kept the same old European styling well into the 1970s. Luis’s bike is a classic example of a late-model Benotto probably produced in the late 1960s or early 1970s. It has all the hallmarks of a pre-war european bicycle complete with triple-sprung leather saddle and rod-actuated brakes.

This particular bicycle has been in Luis’s family for a while now and he recently moved it here from Mexico. It is remarkably well preserved and has only a few scratches and a light patina of rust on the chrome parts. But looking at a bike like this, you’d expect some character to show its age and to me, that makes it all the more desirable. Amazingly, the rims have not a spot of rust on them and the spokes themselves are even clean. What strikes me is the unique lug setup on the frame. It’s almost as if it were built using steel sleeves attached to the horizontal tubes, slipped over the steer tube and down tube and welded into place. Though not traditional fillet-brazing, it gives the bike a unique look that a lot of the nicer European bikes just cannot meet.

For me, and definitely for my friend Luis here, this bike is perfect for getting around town and getting rad. Bring on the next tweed ride and we’re in business. Thanks, bro.

Luis

Luis and his Leader 725 track bike.

Rides a Leader 725 Track Bike.
Shot on Ortega Street in Downtown Santa Barbara, CA.

You may be saying to yourself, “didn’t that fixie scene die out like four years ago?” I thought so. But that was when people were buying them because they carried some sort of hipster caché. Indeed, it used to be college students insisted on getting a beach cruiser. Not so anymore. They all want fixies. Why? Well they’re faster, easier to handle and a lot smaller and lighter than a cruiser. There are very few people left who are buying them because they are cool. Fixies aren’t a hipster accessory anymore. Those people traded theirs in a long time ago on account of the fact they realized they were posers. The people these days who are still riding them? Men and women. Real men and women (except for my friend Chris, he just hasn’t yet realized that he’s never going to be cool). Face it: track bikes aren’t going away. There are plenty of hardcore riders out there who scoff when they hear the scene is dead. They were never part of it.

Bikes are bikes. Everyone likes different kinds. But those that stay true to their roots are the strongest riders of all. We’re not triathletes for crissake. Our bikes aren’t just some type of tool, accessory or a means to an end. If I treated my bikes like that I’d kick my own ass.

Dean and the Celeste Blue Acquisition

Dean and his beautifully-restored 1964 Bianchi road frame.

Going to ride a beautifully-restored 1964 Bianchi road frame.
Shot in Downtown Santa Barbara, CA

So my friend Daniel Quinones has a buddy named Dean who just acquired possible the most beautifully-restored Bianchi road frame I have ever seen. It’s amazing what you can find with just a little perseverance and patience. Dean found this frame on Craigslist. He got it from a guy who repaints and restores frames and was offering the frame for an almost-unheard-of price. “So what?” you say. Big deal, it’s just another celeste blue frame with a Bianchi sticker on it. If any of you out there are saying that silently to yourselves, well, reevaluate your priorities. Either that, or just open your mind a little bit. In case you forgot, it’s that squishy thing behind your eye holes and above your neck.

Listen.

Quality steel is hard to come by these days. Sure, you can get a bitchin’ steel frameset from Surly and ride around screaming “Surly double-butted 4130 ChroMo – NATCH!” until your vocal cords resemble loose guitar strings. Maybe a few people will listen to you. Nothing against Surly, I love those bikes. I have two of them. But when your rolling on Italian steel (coincidentally, my old nickname from high school…better not to ask), you can just scream “Andiamo!” and have something worth talking about in a conversation. This bike comes from the same legendary line that produced the Paris-Roubaix-winning bike for Fausto Coppi in 1950. They are the oldest bicycle company in the world producing 45,000 frames a year by 1900. That’s the turn of the last century…Let that marinate in your brain case next time you are riding dirty on your Taiwanese whip. Dean plans to throw an internally-geared drivetrain on this bad boy and ride the F out of it. We’re going to keep tabs on Dean and his bike as the project progresses. So don’t touch that dial. Hey, check some more images of his frame below!

– Italian Steel

Tyler

Tyler and a 2014 Kona Jake Cyclocross Bike.

Tyler and a 2014 Kona Jake Cyclocross Bike.
Shot in an alley off Ortega Street in Santa Barbara, CA

Some of you may not know about cyclocross. It’s a sport that has been around for quite a while but has really blown up lately. It started out as a steeplechase format where you would ride your bike from one point to another across fields and fences, rivulets and hills in relatively straight line. Nowadays, it is done on a preset track loop with a certain amount of dirt, mud, inclines, etc. What it boils down to is you ride a road bike with knobby tires through the mud and gravel, getting dirty and rad the whole way. There are sections where you must dismount and carry your bike up steps or inclines. The bikes needed to race cyclocross used to be just modified steel road frames that used cantilever brakes and knobby 700 x 35mm tires. Now, there are special models available from a number of manufacturers made specifically with cyclocross in mind. The Kona Jake line is a good example of where cyclocross is heading. Disc brakes are becoming more common and aluminum frames are reserved for the lower end price ranges.

But due to the less-than-aggressive geometry of these bikes, they make fantastic commuters. I myself have a Surly Crosscheck that I built up with a SRAM Force road gruppo and a Brooks saddle. Although it has a steel frame, it is light enough to get the job done and I don’t have to worry about being delicate with it. Cyclocross bikes are sturdy, comfortable and fast. The 700c wheel size means you have tons of options for tires and a larger cassette ratio means you can tackle the hills on your commute or on the course. Whether you call them CX, cyclocross or if you’re a Fred, a ‘cross bike, they are truly an awesome fit for lots of uses.

Luis

Luis and his 1950 Schwinn Cruiser.

Rides a 1950 Schwinn Cruiser (well-seasoned).
Shot on State Street in Downtown Santa Barbara, CA.

Some of the time, I like to see an old bike left as it is. A patina of rust and faded paint. A saddle that looks like it has seen many miles. These are the things that make bicycles unique among all other antique vehicles. But an old bicycle is far more precious than an old car. If you find an old car in this condition, it’s a safe bet you will have to get a tow truck to take it to your garage only to get it in running condition. There’s too many dollars attached to that…But a bicycle? The simplicity of a vehicle for which you are the engine is unmatched in this world. The average person with little or no mechanical knowledge can easily get a bike in rideable condition. Then, it becomes free transportation. Well, burritos and beer cost money, but they are cheaper than gas to the mile.

Luis showed up with this awesome piece of 1950 Chicago steel the other day. His gal, Serena has also made an appearance. Bicycles create a circle of people with the same interests. Just like old cars, stamps and blenders. Our antiques are precious. They are products of the past and have been through it all. You may know who rode your old bike before you, but chances are, you don’t. That’s the beauty of the mystery of old bikes. Provenance is for valuables. Cycling is forever. See more of Luis’s 1950 Schwinn below.

Mike

Mike

Rides a SB Cruisers custom hand-built BMX cruiser
Shot on State and Ortega in Santa Barbara, CA
Buying a bike computer and going for a ride.

Mike came in a while back with his hand-built BMX Cruiser. I thought the paint job on this thing was really awesome. He had a half-link chain and was going to install a cycling computer on it to complete the project. Reminiscent of Cook Brothers Racing, these cruisers are built here in Santa Barbara by appointment only…meaning, essentially, you need to know the right people. In any case, you can see a few of these bikes around town and they will all blow your mind.