IThank you for reading, anyway, even the race and politics. "Kiev" is the Russian version of "Kyiv," which is the Ukrainian version of "Kiev," and it's now pronounced "keev," one syllable. It seems like WWIII, although to technically be a WW you have to have teams of countries against one another, and this time it's Putin against the rest of everybody else. Most Russians are against it. How to be for it?
The next two months are going to be tough-to-hellish around here, because we have so few bikes to sell, and we're not cutting payroll. So, buy something now and then if you can, please.
We're getting MUSA pants, shorts, and baggies (formerly "knickers," and we may revert to knickers again, I can feel it coming--although, they're not what comes to mind when you think of knickers. Since the last batch-o'-baggyknickers, we've been using Berry-compliant, military-spec, made in USA fabric, and it costs us between $14 and $16 per yard, which I have good reason to believe, because I've been around the block, is three to four times what L.L. Bean and Patagonia buy their fabric for. The old fabric was not made in the U.S. but we bought it here in small amounts, and it cost us $6.50 a yards, so I'm guessing the biggies who buy fifty times as much as we do and buy it overseas...probably $2.50 to $3.50 per yard. But yes, just a guess.
But this is how we're going, and they are really good garments. They fit well, last long, work great for riding and everything else. We're ordering lots of everything, going into our line of credit, prepaying for everything because that's how it goes, and..give them a try.
Eric M., one of Will's buddies and a fellow with skills, was pushing us to get custom bandanas. We usually don't buckle on stuff like that, but and after a few false starts we asked him to lay out a bunch of lug silhouettes on the template, and he did such a great job that we had to go thru with it...so we're getting a new bandana, also MUSA, made by the same bandanamakers that make our normal ones. Minimum order to get the printing style we wanted was 5,000, and all 5,000 had to be the same color, but the good news is, we got to pick the color. so...we-all-here hope you like it. It's kind of Atlantis-y:
We're selling them for $8.00, which is a decent markup for us and the only way we could justify this frivolous indulgence. We'll include one free with every bike or frame you buy from us, and there's nothing retroactive about that, so please don't make a stink if the policy kicks in five hours after we've shipped your bike.
The much-ballyhooed and long-awaited G.O.A.T. gloves are being airfrieghted from P.A.K.I.S.T.A.N. today, which means we'll have them by E.N.D.O. Month.
They're light because they aren't dyed. By internal demand, they're "on the green side" of all bike gloves. No dye, no chrome-tanning, no plastic wrapping, and the backs are—brace yourself for a new one—85 percent organic cotton. Not sure what that means, can imagine, can NOT prove anything, but if the maker was lying about it, I imagine he'd've said 100 percent. There is no visible logo, either, just a cloven hoof embossed on the inside palm of the right one only.
Here's one I've been wearing everyday. I know I've said this before and showed it before. I'm typing this wearing the gloves, because -- I've said this before, too -- they "disappear on my hands" to the point where I forget I have them on. You should have such luck. The faint smell of funky goat fades o'er time.
In an email update probably the one after next, Will'll announce their availability. They are uniquely unpadded for minimum "I'm wearing gloves!" feel.
Glove lore: In the 1970s riders wore gloves partly to scrape off their tires after running over some suspicious sparkly stuff. You put the web between thumb and pointer finger on the tire to flick off whatever before it sunk in. Nobody talks about that technique anymore, because nobody wants to get in trouble for suggesting it. I'm not suggesting it, but on the front wheel you do it in front of the brake, and on the rear wheel you do it behind the seat tube.
GRAVEL NEWS? From a big company's website:
It would not make the cut here. I'm not saying our standard here is super high, but we would not accept any part of that. If you like it, fine.
Specialized is going "D2C"—a term I wasn't familiar with, but it means "direct to consumer," kind of the way we sell most of our bikes. It's causing a ruckus and big news in the fancy portion of of the industry. Dealers don't like it because they figure, sometimes rightly and sometimes not, that they helped Specialized build its reputation, and now Specialized is cutting them off.
A major motivation MIGHT BE that dealers owe Specialized several million dollars—past due and with no hope of collecting on it, even with an accounts receivable staff of thirty (a guess, based on Bridgestone having five in the 1990s when we were selling 32,000 bikes a year to maybe 300 dealers. Specialized sells more than 1.25 million a year, which is probably ten percent more than Trek.
TREK and Specialized are buying up individual stores and chains, so they have some control over how their bikes and other merchandise is displayed and the amount of floor space allocated to their brand, and so they can essentially rule out one another from competing in the same shop. This isn't secret, it's not vile, it's just the kind of thing that has to happen when your volume is so high.
General squawking related to that bike and the direction bikes-r-headed
Everything becomes slick, techy, overkill, color-coordinated, accessories integrated. Everybody's goal is the magic blend of tech and macho with cross-gender appeal. It's how you get timid people to relax in the woods and feel ready for anything that'll never come in the city. The customer must be over-armed, and in the case of the bike above, ready to "drop the hammer on the bikepacking scene," to borrow a phrase from another big brand. The shorts, jersey, helmet, gloves, shoes, and sox...more matte black with orange-ish accents no doubt. It's allright, no skin off my nose, but it points to the way bikes are marketed these days, to whom, what the priorities are, and what they think (or know) the average customer values and looks for. The bikes are kind of a cross between high-tech electronics and monster pickup trucks. Everything just so, conceived of and overly debated during meetings of sales and marketing and engineering; something for every branch of the company, and a high fives and go-team-go as soon as they thing they have your number.
Bikes to me shouldn't be like that. They're mechanical things that should reveal their mechanisms as much as practical, not because of any inherent goodness in doing that, but because revealed springs, pivots, sprockets, and brakes show how simple the bike is and make it easier to understand and to fix if you must. Showing these things de-mystifies the bike, and people pay more for magic and mystery than for obvious "technologies" like hammers.
The visible movements are part of the bike's beauty. You've squeezed brake levers on a stationary bike and watched the calipers move in, and on one hand it's boring, and on another it's beautiful and reassuring. You see how the friction is created that slows or stops the bike, and you do it with your HAND! It's nothing you can really completely appreciate until it's gone, which it will be. Yesterday I learned--this is proof of how out of it I am--that there are now bikes with brakes with hydraulic hoses hidden completely: inside the bar, inside the stem, inside the fork blades or top tube and seat stays. The same bikes have electronic shifting. It's like they're being driven by the made-up-need/benefit? of hiding connections that might, heaven forbid, de-mystify the bike.
People willingly and all the time naturally but at some level inexplicably pay more for false magic and stuff that they know they can't do themselves. I imagine replacing the fluid in hydraulic brakes is an example. You'll pay somebody more to deal with a hydraulic fluid leak than you would to, like, replace a brake cable. A case can be made that anybody who can learn to read can learn to replace a brake cable in about three minutes. It's just not hard and doesn't require more than simple and cheap hand tools, Hobson-Zingo style,
And it goes to the whole bike, or the whole whatever kind of vehicle it is. It's a cultural shift that affects everything, so why not bikes, too?
We'll never make bikes that way. We know what the slippery slopes are, and we try to avoid them. Ultimately we have to be able to complete bike, to offer complete bikes, so there are some unavoidable compromises. If you work here you know the front derailer situation is dreadful. Manufacturers would probably rather not make them at all. They are all ugly and confusing to set up, with weird cable routing for the first time in history. You can't say, on one hand, that you love bicycles, then on the other hand say what difference does it make how a front derailer look? A bicycle has 25 to 33 parts, depending on how accessorized it is. The parts are made in different countries (ideally) by different manufacturers, so of course they won't all look like they're part of the same family. That's how it should be. They don't have to be made according to the same aesthetic, like one guy (even me!) is overseeing everything. That can be OK or good, that has an appeal to many, but it's NOT the only way. Individualism and surprises, even shocking ones, can look even better than fully integrated "packages."
"Form follows function" is the most abused expression in at least the bike industry, the only industry I pay attention to, but probably it's misused or twisted around all over. It seems to say that if something works, it's beautiful. Or maybe that function matters more than beauty. That part has to be true, because nothing's a stupider shame than a beautiful thing that doesn't work..obviously. But not all things that work are beautiful, and ... and... well, the thing is, there's always a way to make something that works look good, and that's what you're supposed to do. END OF THIS.
I've written 20 letters to the NYT and never got one published. I bet that's common, but I also bet Eben Weiss (BSNYC) could get one published within three tries. The letter standard is high, I admit I may not be clearing the hurdle, but I'm following all the letter guidelines. Now and then they let a low-grade letter in, and that's what I'm always hoping for. I wrote this after seeing the figure skating stuff:
Hoi means "the," polloi means people—meaning commoners—so it's strictly not necessary or right to say s"the hoi polloi." It's all kind of pretentious anyway, and maybe that's what ruled me out. I can see that, I'd have done it, too. It's not like I ever took a Latin class. Maybe it's Greek, anyway. Wait--Greek wasn't a written language, was it? I get confused.
Last Blagh I compared the power of the Hobson-Zingo cable cutters to the beak of an Amazonian parrot, which I know nothing about, and got this, which i seriously totally dig, and which, by the way, I would never call trivia even though the writer did. In any case, it seems that parrots have figured out how to do crack hard things:
Here’s your "clamping power” trivia:
This is the smartest bicycle guy in Taiwan assessing the market prospects of our new derailer folly project:
I don't think it's a folly, or I wouldn't be spending money and time and wasting other people's time on it. The goals isn't to "compete in the market." It's to reintroduce the best movement ever in a rear derailer, and if Shimano offered its original RapidRise rear derailers--if they, like, reintroduced them on the 10th Anniversary of their second failure, then we'd be happy and wouldn't be pursuing this. We're calling them OM derailers, for "opposite movement," because they default, with a relaxed spring and no cable, to the low gear. There are advantages to this and no disadvantages, unless you use indexed shifters, in which case you're better off with normal derailers---because modern indexers let you "sweep" three cogs at ones, but only against the spring. Forgive the short explanation there, but since these are a year away anyway AND this is already a super long BLAHG, I don't feel good about a long explanation on that.
We have about 90 NOS Shimano Nexave RapidRise derailers that we're reserving for builds. If you're getting Silver shifters, you might want to consider them. We make you have to ask. The default is still a Deore, which is a fantastic derailer.
On the SILVER OM derailer, we have two irons in the fire. It could be that neither will pan out (second wild west metaphor), in which case, we have at least three more options.
The ancient night-rider on the right was Robert's, and he left it here when he moved back to Hawaii. I think they didn't want it on the plane. I threw it out today.
The rest are mine, collected and misplaced and refound over the years.
For a guy who claims to hate plastic, I have a lot of it in my lights. I have one generator light, too. I like all lights, at least all my lights. The 100 lumen one is totally fine on roads at night, when there are street lights and stuff. I've used it on trails at night, and it's remarkably sufficient there, too. You go slower so you don't run ahead of your light, big deal.
Cygolite doesn't make the 100 anymore. A dim one now is like 260, and they're good for me for anything, although I have 300, 310, 350, 650, 800, and the 900 Night Rider. The 800 and 900 are like, forgive this analogy, assault weapons.
The thing with lights is, everybody always wants more. People hate night. I get it, I'm not above it, but last week I had a 300 that I thought was my 650 and I was amazed at how bright it was. I felt like a chicken.
This is a Berber child in Morroco. Her parents are inside the house and she's yelling, Mommy, Mommy...white people!" It's true. My wife was nearby and asked the Morrocan guide what the little girl was yelling, and that's what he said. I don't know where you go with that, but there it is.
That's me walking. I walk down hills I crash on if I try to ride down them. I can ride down this one some times in the year, but now it's all steep and loose gravelly. Dan and Jeff ride down it, not me.
This isn't a typical trail here, mostly they're not as steep and a lot woodsier, but the riding here, in general and definitely at this time of year, might be the best in the world (says somebody who has not traveled much). It is at least as good as it needs to be. If you're out here from out of state and want to ride, we can tell you where to go and if you want, go along with you. No offense if you want the first but not the second. We can lend you a bike, but for god's sake, you can't sue if you get hurt, OK? Just be mellow about it. The rides at best aren't speedy-intense. It's funny, like--when you see videos or promo clips of people riding, they're dolled up like motocross racers in full gear and doing damn stupid shreddy trail-destorying, hiker-endangering stuff, and we don't dress or ride that way. It's best to treat the trail like rice paper. Did you read Will's "ride vs hang" thing a couple of email updates ago? Like that is how they are, at best. These are our trails, we know them, and there's no "conquering" them, you just ride them and rest when you're tired.
Dan regularly makes this corner on his GUS. I've made it twice in fifty tries.
That bluish thing is our new bandanda. It hadsn't been washed yet, so was still kind of stiff, but I didn't know it was poking up along the side of my head like that.
Customer Jim came by on Saturday and was heading out on his Roadini for the road climb on Mt. Diablo, but Dan and I invited him to try the trails instead, and he did, and did fine, as you'd expect of a geologist.
That's customer Jim on his Roadini. He wasn't planning on this ride, but he was leaving when Dan and I were, he was going up the road, and we suggested he ride the trails, which...he'd never been on.
This is the smartest bicycle guy in Taiwan assessing the wisdom of our new Opposite-Movement (OM) rear derailer:
The answers to his questions are YES, NO, YES, whatchoo talkin' about, Willis?"* and NO.
There's nothing wrong with liking Gary Coleman.
Thru the end of this month, all profits from the sale of Peace-wheel T-shirts goes to him. We have a way of getting they money to him. Let's do this.
Golf is a thing I think about more than I should and than I play it (twice in the last thirty years). I played it when I was nine thru twelve, on a 9-hole par 27 course with the longest hole 131 yards up a hill. My best score was 42, and I used a putter, nine-iron, five-iron, and four-wood. These were the days of the small-headed woods with a sweet spot the size of a nickel.
Golf got a boost in this country when
Black people started buying cheap used bikes in the mid 1890s, which meant cycling lost its cache, and golf and tennis took over, because you had to be a member of a whites-only club to play them. Bikes got Black people, at least some of them, out of buses and gave them recreational opportunities other than singing in the blues. But back to golf. About twenty years ago I conceived of speed golf, which I think is a thing now, probably an offshoot of CrossFit. In speed golf the way I imagined it, time would count, strokes wouldn't, and you could use whatever clubs you wanted, but you had to carry them all. Imagine if speed golf was a big thing, imagine the specialty gear it would spawn. Adjustable heads, for sure, and probably adjustable shafts. Maybe club faces with adjustable surfaces with adjustable "coefficients of friction" to control ye olde balle spin." You KNOW the mfrs wouldn't just leave the gear alone. And then the SHOES. Then the team sports, foursomes...then the Olympics. That's how it goes.
In my recent "anti-competition" mode, I'd be more for uncompetitive golf, where you just go out and thwack and walk. "Thwack-walk" golf. You get to talk with your golfing partners or conduct business or whatever golfers do, make big deals, but no scoring. Sign me up for that one, except I'd rather ride my bike.
But in good golf news, there's this:
He won a million dollars, which, after expenses and his caddy fee still comes out to a lot.
We are getting real decals made. This one is right off ye olde printer and taped in place on the prototype Homer from 2003 or so and a bike I ride a lot still. This decal ought to piss off or baffle your LBS mechanics, but they should be able to get over it.
Tomorrow Russ and Laura from PathLessPedaled are coming by and are going to make a video and interview will and I. For sure I will not read the comments, if any.
Here's Dan on one of the longest bike-legal singletrack trails. This is clips of him on different segments, on his Gus. Thing about riding videos is...the ones you see on fancy sites always show people blasting down, throwing dirt, getting air, dressed like the mayhem banshees that they are. That's not how you ride trails when you're just riding them, not showing off in order to help Patagonia or somebody else sell you some mountain biking clothes, or some overkill bike. The way you ride when you're riding to cover ground and enjoy it is ten times slower and unimpressive in video, but it feels great as you're doing it. It's not scary, you have time to stop for an old lady hiker (no comments, please), and you extend the time riding, and see more, because you don't have to concentrate fully and exactly only on the trail ahead. Plus, if you crash, you're going slower. So anyway, here's Dan.
and here's another
Here's Jeff on Charlie on easy stretch.
Above, Jeff on Charlie after I'd crashed right there on my Charlie.
This is a good way to rig Albatross bars. It's one of many good ways, but it's how I like to do it to make more hand room in front of the brake levers. A Billie or Choco or other bar does that automatically, but sometimes you might not need all that sweep-back, and then, this is a good way.
Long hand place.
Short grips. You don't have to make them THIS short, but this is NOT too short. There's nothing wrong with not having all of your hand on the grip with room to move it back and forth. It seems more important than it is. Don't overthink it. On the other hand, it is super nice to have more room in front of the grip, and shortening the main grips and scooching the brake lever all the way back achieves that. On builds, we go kind of stockish conservative, but you can request a 90mm or 100mm grip, whatever you like, and brake levers (and shifters, too, if they're thumbies) scooched all the way back. It's radical, it requires cutting the grip, but it is a good way to go.
On my cork grips shown here, I was riding them too long--108mm--for years, and only yesterday I got around to cutting them shorter with box-cutters. Mucho mejor, ahhh...
I was in a rare parking lot last night, walking passed the front grill of a gigantic pickup truck, and I stood next to it and noticed the top of the front of the vertical part of the truck came up to my shoulder. I think Will has addressed grill-height before, but I'd never stood so close to a truck and understood the danger to cyclists and pedestrians...as much as I did last night. I think they should do those crash-tests with dummies differently. Use dummy pedestrians and cyclists on DROP handlebars, and then if the dummy doesn't roll over the hood upon impact, you gotta throw out the vehicle. When I was seventeen in 1971, I was crossing the street in a crosswalk, riding my bike, and got smacked by a car going 35mph (that was the speed limit, he wasn't braking, he didn't see me). I rolled over ye olde hoode, my head smashed the windshield, and I can't say that's WHY I haven't won a Nobel Prize yet, but at least I'm here and able to write the BLAHG.
But they won't do those tests or make those requirements, because people would squawk too loudly, the economy would somehow tank, and Biden doesn't want any more trouble. So there you go. A good case for sitting upright.
I was fretting last night over a huge tax bill we're facing, the result of --- well, mainly stocking up for the future so we can actually assemble complete bikes even if our suppliers are short and late. We've done that, a pretty good job of it, but it has jacked up our inventory, and we're taxed on inventory, and that's the problem. We have to borrow money to pay the taxes, which isn't uncommon here, but this year it's a horrible amount, I'm ashamed to even say.
No monday-morning quarterbacking, please. In ye olde Blame Game, The whole thing makes me feel incompetent.
ONE point of this is that COVID may have made it easier to sell bikes, but it also made them harder and slower to get, and introduced a parts-panic that led us down the road of too much inventory.
In the early years of Rivendell, when we had our Rivendell Reader newsletter with a section called the Progress Report--a daily or at least weekly venting session like I'm doing now--this habit was formed there. It's not a weakness or a strength, it's not a cry for help, it's just a fact and it's venting, and sometimes it helps to vent, and I reserve the right.
The Ukraine stuff has me not caring about this as much as I would. There's still the day-to-day, but Russia-Ukraine puts it in perspective. We'll get through it. Not sure about the war thing, but on we plod. What we do is what I want to do, and who I work with is who I want to work with, no matter what's happening about 6,109 miles east of here. Thanks, google.
GOTTA end on an upnote, just have to. The following is a story about a Swedish Olympian. There are two stories. If you've made it this far in the BLAHG, thanks--and if everything else sucked, this won't.
There are two links to the NYT stories. I think the way they work is, if you have a subscription you can open them. If you can't open them, I've cut and pasted the story and images, and let me tell you, that is tedious work and makes me feel like a time-wasting fool. I don't know whether you'll read this far or read them. I feel like I'm wasting my time...which I don't want to do. So, let me know. Send to email@example.com, and put your name and WHOLE THING in the subject field:
JOE BLOW WHOLE THING
Maybe we'll send you a bandana on your next order. It's not a way to trick you into ordering; it's just that I don't want to put Sergio in chage of sending out a bunch of free bandana. Must respond by March Here's a feelgood thing. If the link works, use it...if it doesn't, well then, I've cut and pasted the story below it.
If that link doesn't work, here's the article in screenshots"
If that link doesn't work...sorry.
Longtime customer and friend Derek Lietky came by and dropped off a column I wrote for Bicycling magazine in June 1994, published a few months before Bstone closed. The magazine asked me to write a kind of why we were closing or what went wrong or something. It is here:
Rivendell came after Bstone but that's the only mild sense that it's a continuation of it. I worked at Bstone, I didn't run it, and I had influence over the bikes, not control of them. I was between the sales staff and USA management and Bridgestone's Japan division. I worked IN California, but went to Japan a few times a year, and even in California I worked far more closely with the Japanese guys than with the sales staff here. My friend and Bstone sales rep Chris Watson, now of Arundel, were pretty close. He was always supportive, and not just supportive, but influential. He always knew things before anybody else, I consulted him, we were buddies outside of work (and on the same racing team), and we're in touch still, and he's still helping me.
and a good way to end a way too long BLAHG. I'm going to reel them in from now on.