Sept 8, but there's some time-sensitive material here, so get right on it

Sept 8, but there's some time-sensitive material here, so get right on it


You've seen this photo? This one taken with iphone. We've had this photo in our bathroom for 18+ years.

Here's the story behind it.


Friend Dan and I went over to Fairfax, about a 40 minute drive, and pedaled up a road to a high trail that heads north to the top of Repack Road, the historic 2-mile, 2,100-foot descent that serves as the primordial stew that turned paperboy bikes into mountain bikes, and we pedaled our CLEMs on the rocky road toward Repack--here's a picture of Scott, not Dan on it:

I know what you're thinking--that it looks like a photo Grampa Moses took in the '50s with a cheap camera and he didn't even try. No, it was taken in August 2018, with an Olympus XA with Ilford FP-4 film, and I'm sure I didn't do everything right, and it was mid-day, which is not ideal, but I'm not a grampa and I tried to compose it right, and it's good enough.

That's a rocky road. When people talk about mountain bike riding, there are I guess the yahoos who jump off nature-carved rocks in Utah canyons and make attempts not to skid over the super sacred hieroglyphics, but by normal standards, this is a super rough and rocky trail, and the sections like this are faster to walk than to ride, and a lot easier. But the difficulty, going up OR down, isn't the bumps, not unless you're trying to go fast DOWN it.

On the way up it with Dan, we saw some riders coming down. It's rare to see riders up there, at least on that rocky road. It's accessible to 6 million people within an hour's drive, and you can take public transportation a lot of the way if that's your style. Take the Larkspur Ferry from SF Ferry Building. Ride bike route 20 just west of the ferry building about 1/4 mile, to Fairfax--a 37 minute ride--and ride Bolinas road (just west of the theater) West, a climb to mile marker 3.75, about a 32 to 45 minute ride. Then go North on  Pine Mountain Truck Road. The fewer the better, though, right? You don't have to be a people hater to prefer seeing nobody on a bike ride. Stay on the main rocky road, don't take any left turns, and you'll hit the top of Cascace Canyon Road ("Repack") in 35 to 50 minutes. Don't crash on the way down. It's the worst 2 mile descent of my life. The fastest time is 4:22 (Gary Fisher); then Joe Breeze (4:24), and me and my buddies do it in 12, and that seems sane.

The riders we saw were nice, but agog at the bikes we were riding. Thumbs-ups and awww-rights, which is fine, but we were riding 2.2-inch knobbies on stout frames and everything good. We weren't under-biked at all. Rocky is challenging, but you don't get bumped around. The challenging part is traction and steepness.

In rock climbing, there's the universally understood thing where, after the first ascents were done in using every bit of rock-damaging equipment and construction tools and weeks and months of climbing with rest periods in between, the climbs that followed used fewer and lower-tech tools, and anybody who climbs with grampa's climbing gear—electrick stone-drills and military approach tactics—is banished and stoned.

Riding the trails of Mt. Tamalpais with full-blast modern bikes is a move in the opposite direction from the first paperboy bikes. It took a few years to evolve an appropriate (strong, safe, geared, good brakes) bike, and that's only a good thing, but the didn't stop. The typical modern mountain bike on a typical trail is like a Hummer in a high school parking lot. It has lead us to develop our own totally dedicated pure mountain bike that's compatible with any modern drivetrain but accepts traddy stuff, too, and is a step forward, not back..

The frame is long, like the CLEMS, but fits tires up to 2.8 inches. I don't recommend automatically maxing it out with those, but it will take them, which means among other things, that you can really whop badly a rim holding a 2.2 and still have the tire roll clear through. It would be hard to do that, but there it is.

No suspension or discs, but otherwise Normal for modern mtn bikes. The S M and L use 27.5 tires, the XL, 29. We might get a 2XL. There will be roughly 25 of each size available, in three or four nice colors. So in other words and so on, maybe 6 blue Mediums, 6 greenies, 6 sage-ies, and 7 Other Blue ones.

We'll ride the four samples and if anything has to change, we'll change it. Prices undetermined, but frame fork nothing else will likely be about 1500 for TIG and 1900 for FILLET, and we'll have all the stuff for complete bikes, and you can buy them in any stage of completeness you like. To complete a bare frame and fork, in standard form, basic or techy, will cost (on top of the frame/fork price) about $1700, but there are ways to go up or down.

We'll have the samples by Friday the 7th, is the plan. Deliveries are always late, but if that happens, we'll build up two by Saturday and four by Tuesday and we'll ride them around. 

It's going to be a big bill for us, and the way it all works here, the only way it works for us making good bikes that aren't cheap and we have no money cushion or Daddy Warbucks keeping it all together. It helps moods and lives here immensely when we get some kind of prepayment, before we have to pay the huge bill.'s really likely that we'll offer a discount, either dollar or percentage, off either the frameset or a complete bike, if you pay it before December something. It's not an ideal time, family-peace wise, to be buying yourself a new bike.

If you are interested,  stay tuned and save money and supercharge your patience. It may be a few months before your bike comes in, but we'll ship them out or build them up and ship them out in the order received. I expect we'll have them by mid-March.

You can ask anybody here any questions except what the model name is. That will be revealed sometime around the 11th. It's the world's best bike name of all time.


In the U.S. bikes were status symbols for white people from about 1870 to the mid 1890s. You had to be rich to buy one, because they cost $135, several months wages if you made an average wage for a white person. Through the late ‘80s all U.S. cyclists were, besides white, young and rich and men. Old people were too scared to ride the funny high-wheelers, and even if a daring woman wanted to, her mandatory corset, dress, and modesty didn’t allow the high perch. The “safety bike” alternative to the scary high-wheelers came out in England in 1885, and by the late 1880s revolutionized bike riding in the U.S., too. The safety bike (which is like today’s normal bike, with two wheels about the same size) took over because it was easy for anybody.

(At the same time in Germany, a bicycle shop employee and engineer named Karl Benz developed a 2-stroke engine and made a three-wheeled car.)

Slavery was banned in 1865, but legal oppression kept most black people too poor to buy a new bike. But in the mid 1890s, at the height of Jim Crow and when bikes reached their first mechanical & ergonomical peak, white people sold off their ’90-’92 models to buy the newer bikes, and sometimes black people bought the old ones for about $10—still a lot for them then. With poor and, especially, black people riding, wealthy whites couldn’t flaunt anymore. White cyclists didn’t like that, wanted to discourage black people from riding, so they lobbied the League of American Wheelmen to ban blacks from joining after 1894 (this gaffe was corrected in 1999), and the famous Lithographers, Currier and Ives, made a series of “Darktown” cycling lithographs intended to make black people look dumb on bikes.

Meanwhile, still in Germany, Karl Benz added an extra wheel to make a four-wheeled car, and when Americans starting making cars, too, it was over for bikes. The car’s growl, speed, even the exhaust, were exciting to everybody. For men, the car’s weather protection and range increased the pool of court-able women, and women would rather go on a date in a car than on a bike. The car afforded opportunities, in all weather, that the bike has never been able to muster.

From then on bikes were for kids, who rode them for transportation and delivery work, but had to wait for cars. To tide them over, bike makers copied car/motorcycle features, like fat tires, fake gas tanks, huge fenders like wheel wells, motorcycle-ish headlights, horns, handlebars shaped like exhaust pipes, and streamers simulating exhaust. In any case, adults drove cars, teenagers wanted to be adult-like, and kids rode bikes because they had no options. Ironically, it would take a post-Woodstock mishap when drilling for car fuel to get teenaged baby boomers back riding bikes (as vehicles of protest against environmental destruction brought about by car-feeding). The boomers aged, are now in their mid-to-late 60s, and want speed with less effort now. Ready for the eBike!

eBikes have the potential to take cars off the road, and solve getaround and sweat problems for people of all ages. So do motorcycles and mopeds, which have more speed and range than “eBikes” and have had 120 years to get the bugs out, but eBikes have advantages over cars, motorcycles, and mopeds: They’re marketed as bicycles, so they horn in on the bicycle’s green/sporty reputation; and as long as the federal district court judges and magistrates and Uncle Sam and his minions don't treat them like bicycles, they don’t require registration, licensing, or driver tests, so all ages can drive them.  THat is a huge selling advantage. And unlike cars, they get to use bike lanes and multi-use paths. (It may be a problem for cyclists when eBikes take over, but now, for eBike riders, it’s a plus.)

The bicycle market is shrinking, bicycle businesses are panicking, and for the second time since the 1890s, motors are threatening to snuff out the pedal-bike, because it's just not natural to resist something that delivers speed without effort. We’d love to see eBikes replace cars for downtown trips and commutes—give them half of every freeway!— but we don’t make eBikes, because the motor makes them not bicycles, and we're not a motorcycle company.


The new mountain bike's name can be found in these letters:

This first one is kind of nonsense, but it's acceptable. A low-bar.



and this one which is missing an apostrophe, but still counts. It's a little grosser, but conjurs images of either cruel or hungry cockney hoodlum children explaining to a reporter how they eat on the streets, but probably telling him what they figure he wants to hear, and maybe this answer is said with that attitude and a little disgust with the question. I wasn't there, it's all speculation:


This next one could be about slums in Africa:

Another travel warning theme, somebody to steel clear of even in Switzerland:


My daughter didn't get into the game much, but mustered up this one, a good thing to remember when you're in a funk, that at least...: (this game allows missing punctuation)


And my wife took a higher road with this one, about an opera singer's nightmare:


The cardboard + sharpie + big smooth table makes an unbeatable combination for coming up with phrases. Personally, I think that's the best tip on any topic you'll get all month. It is sheer delight to move the lightweight, organic-feeling, smooth-sliding letters around. Sensory nirvana, and when you get


out of it, that's a bonus! 

So take those letters, send in as many word combos as you can muster, and we'll print them out here. Then we'll reveal the ultra-superbe name of our mountain bike. Do this by September 14 to be eligible to win microcopic prizes. IF there is a grand prize and if there are ties, the first one in with it wins. If two come in at exactly the same time, we'll go alphabetically by first name. Fair is fair, Zach.

You can send your entries by email with YOUR NAME - WORD THING in the subject space, but YOU MUST FOLLOW UP WITH them on a POSTCARD, which should be stamped as late as the 14th. No postcard, no chance. If you have a lot, use a big postcard, or even a notecard.

Send postcards to:


2040 North Main #19

Walnut Creek, CA 94596


attn: VINCE


It's kind of complicated, the combo of email and postcard. The email is just in case we lose the postcard, but it's the postcard we really want. It's a complex game, the rules of which ought to be followed if you want to have a prayer of winning anything.

Winners will be picked by impartial judges. We're ALL impartial! But the point is, it won't be just me, and maybe I won't even vote. Don't enter if you're a lousy loser.














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