Volodymyr Zelensky and Marina Ovsyannikova are the two most admired people in the world right now, right? What they want we all want, what makes them sad makes all of us sad.
The newscast photo-bom is one of the best stories. The drag is, she's a mother of two, and what happens if she's in Russian jail for 15 years? or even one? Still, way to go. Just..hope she doesn't have to go to jail.
Here's Arnold Schwarzenegger's now-famous message to the Russians. It's worth watching.
Writing and even thinking about anything else seems disrespectful, but...for better or worse, bikes are central to everything I do, and this BLAHG has always been written as catharsis.
Here's what's coming up in this BLAHG. A warning.
More Ukraine, and old email to John, three old baseball players (should've left this out), Black people in pro sports, future bikes-modern bikes-our bikes and what that's like, a 1952 bike with a RapidRise-style rear derailer, the A. Homer Hilson, a thing about Apple suing small companies, titanium as a brand name and some techy bike talk, a preview of a pump we might not have for half a year, a profane patch kit possibility, Scott's latest robot sculpture of a cowgirl made of car parts and brake cables. It's not a good BLAHG, but there may be a good one in mid-May...we might have some fun news by then. Right now, business is horrible because we can't get bikes.
With Ukraine-wear sales, T-shirts and buttons and stickers...it looks like we're going to be able to donate about $19,000 to UNITED HELP UKRAINE. It's a pittance compared to donations from bigger groups and people in general, but itl'l feel good to wear the shirts and buttons and stick the stickers on bikes and poles downtown, as a way to kind of bond with other people who might not have anything else in common with you. It happened to me tonite.
John was going thru ye olde email archives and found this from 2009:
(and old baseball stuff)
I was looking up the dates when pro sports allowed Black people, and I didn't have to look up baseball, because 98 percent of my reading from age six through fourteen was baseball history going back to the early 1900s, and I mean guys like George Sisler, Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown, Rube Waddell, you name it.
Guess whose hand that is. It's his:
The A. Homer Hilsen was an inch away from being the Honus Wagner, but at the last minute his heirs got greedy and demanded, in addition to a 5 percent royalty, 24-7 access to "our books" (?) and the ability to buy an unlimited number of the bikes at our cost. The same law firm that protected the name "Honus Wagner" for the two heirs also had Joe Dimaggio, Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson, and at least a dozen others.
I pointed out that none of OUR customers would buy a bike simply because it was named the Honus Wagner. I said "bike riders aren't familiar with Hons Wagner, and that's not why people buy bikes, anyway. Go sell your Honus Wagner coffee mugs, coasters, and bobble-heads." So we went with A.H.H.
The first Black people in football, basketball, and tennis were all mid-'40s to 1950. I don't need to list the names. No disrespect intended by not doing it. You can google it.
Anyway, this led to wondering about the Harlem Globetrotters, which were formed in 1927, and that led to a flurry of Globetrotters videos, which I don't have time for, but I've spent time in worse ways
It's all a mixed-feelings kind of thing, isn't it? It's kind of like applauding and apologizing at the same time. But, a lot of skill.
This is a bike that somebody is trying to sell, but I think it's not a photograph, and I think the shadow is faked. It's a two-wheel drive bike. There's a lot that I don't understand about it, there's only so much an image can explain, and I see some of that—like the front wheel with the built-in shock absorbers...and, actually, nothing else. I'd get one for $400 "just to have." I think it'll be closer to $16,000 if it ever gets made, and probably the designer is hoping for an investor first, a manufacturer second, but that's just a guess. A normal person, even extremely well-heeled or whatever, cannot come up with alla the money needed to make it a real object.
You've seen this one, at least you have if you read these pages religioulously:
Either way, these bikes continue the century-old tradition of non-bicycle people entering the market, seeing everything as caveman, and overly confident that they can bring bicycles into the modern era...and in 2022, both of these bikes are victims of geniuses who think derailers, chains, and lubrication are yuck. The top one wows with far-out exposed mechanical complexity, the bottom one soothes with superficial simplicity.
Here's what's coming up in "normal" bikes:
"the lines of the fork mesh nicely with the hourglass-profile head tube" ?
I know what that refers to, but I don't know what it means or how deep down in the well he had to go to find it.
Here's one of my bikes, stripped of its saddlebag and shopsack, in race-ready mode. :
The round shape of the wheels meshes nicely with the derailer pulley wheels and the round cut-out in the side of the fork crown, in kind of a tripartite of circularity, using "the power of three," to suggest rolling down the road.
Let me tell you what it's like to be the owner or founder or whatever of a bicycle company that makes bikes out of step with the times. It's basically like--it makes me feel ancient and dying, like all of my bike values are history and nobody cares about steel anymore, and the friction shifting and square-taper cranks, normal headsets, lugs, are all artifactual things on their way out, and that all of you are being tricked into thinking they matter and are good--and THAT makes me feel really crappy and depressed.
On the other hand, everybody who works here is pro-all the good stuff, the steel and all--and so coming to work is great. We ignore most of the bike riding world here, because we can.
On trails, on every ride, hikers and other riders will comment on how they can't believe we made it up here on those bikes. I know it's meant at a compliment, but since these are the bikes I like and ride everyday everywhere I go, and they're not handicaps anywhere, I wince and shut up. I ride alone and with a few friends who also ride Rivendells, and I wonder whether they'd be riding them, or what KIND of bikes they'd be riding, if I weren't part of the picture. It's a reasonable question that I'm not asking to question their independence or to position me as their style guide. They know bikes, but I still wonder if they do it to make me feel good, which it absolutely does. But the thing is, most-to-all of my other old cycling friends, the ones who still ride and the ones who rode lugged steel Italian and American road bikes in the 1970s and 1980s, now ride the latest carbon bikes, and are on their third and fourth one. Their old race bikes have been sold or restored, and now they pull them out for the annual Eroica ride.
This bike will likely be in the next California Eroica:
Friend Ted Trambley--bike rider, bike restorer, bike collect who goes after only the old rare stuff that nobody else has--he came by last week with a bike that a mutual friend found in the basement of a house in Lodi, like the song. Here are some pix of it. It was a high-end pro bike from 1952. I think it was French.
Nice downtube decal and paint color. The brand is ALCYON, and everything is google-able now. This bike shows its wear, and it would be neat to see a brand new one, but this one doesn't look worse for the wear. Just because you can see the wear doesn't make it worse.
This picture would ordinarily be the mere finale, but now it's the Grand Finale, and you know why? Because...guess what? You'll never guess. I was so thrilled to discover this: It's a rapid-rise (opposite-moving) rear derailleur. You pull the cable to get the harder gear. It defaults/relaxes to the low gear. Oh my god. To me, for ME, this is so neat I can't stand it.
OK, now we're talking. The double-shifter: Well, one moves the derailer, or in this case I can justify "derailleur," since it is a Huret/French rig. The sub-lever adjusts the pulley cage to release or take up chain slack. Basically, to retension the chain, because back then the derailleur didn't have a spring-loaded pulley cage that did that automatically, like now. It isn't hard to operate.
The crank, dang, I should've put a magnet to it, but I'm pretty sure it's aluminum. They had aluminum cranks by then, and the "Durax" is a clue. Over the years, trade names with "DUR.." like duraluminum, dural, and even Dura-Ace have been used to describe high-strength alloys of aluminum, as opposed to pure, soft aluminum. Like, if you just came out with an aluminum something in the late 1940s onward thru at least the mid 1970s, somebody out there would doubt its dura bility. So they make up combo-words that combine durable and aluminum, and that's what's going on here, I'm sure. If some googlemeister discovers that this is indeed a steel crank, what I just said is still true.
The front derailer is a "rod-front." You grab the lever with your hand, move it forward or backward, and the derailer moves in and out. It's super positive, expecially with a double (would be trickier with a triple). But it requires some practice, which ... is a liability and most people, even me, would say cables are a better way to go. Will, who never needs a small chainring, wishes there were a currently made rod front. So do I, as an option. Why not the option?
I have mixed feelings about the ride and rules and the remembrance/homage-type vibe of events like Eroica. Basically, I'm for them, they don't hurt ME and all, but they're part of a scene that sends the message that steel frames and friction shifters aren't for normal everyday modern use, and I can't think of any frame material or shifting technology that is more appropriate. Like, the SILVER2 shifters were developed for derailers with a formerly-normal "actuation ratio" of about 2:1...which means for every 1mm of lever movement, the derailer moves 2mm. (I think that's what it means, I can't imagine it meaning anything else, and that seems to be how it works). But all modern derailers designed for 10+ speeds have a 1:1 actuation ratio, which means they don't move has much, which means you have to move the SILVER2 shifter farther, and sometimes, depending on where you mount them, too far. Nobody has thumbs long enough to push them thru 175 degrees of travel (am I losing you?).
But the thing is, the fantastic thing about friction IS...is that you can orient the levers on the thumb-mount thing so that the relaxed position is further forward and I'm sense you're dozing off here, but basically, you can account for the 1:1 stuff and make them work with 11/12 speeds. But ride them with 7-8-9 speeds, and all's super good.
Back to Eroica and old bikes and ours: I don't love that our bikes are lumped in with those bikes. There are tons of changes, I'd say improvements, but they're not something I can point out without seeming to dump on ye olde classics, which I can't do. Those bikes led to our bikes. But allow me a paragraph and an opinion here, for a second:
The quality of the best European frames was good for the time, but by the early '70s, the best American frames were much, much more sweated over and neatly brazed. And the quality of our Taiwan frames--far better, and neater. The lugs are better, the quality control/consistency. How do you even judge the quality of a frame? Not by looking at the joints. You could shove tubes together in lugs and paint over them and they'd look brazed. You could tack-weld tubes together (tiny weld to hold them in place) and then smear Bondo in a big fillet, and it'd look fillet-brazed. You could file and carve and paint them beautifully, but what if the bike doesn't hold together, what it if doesn't fit as big a tire in front as it does in back, or it doesn't ride right or even fit you? What have you got there, then? That's the point--what even IS a good frame?
I'd say a good frame for anybody
1. makes sense for the kind of riding you do and 20 percent more to cover some riding you wish you could do or kind of plan on doing later.
2. allows you to sit comfortably, however that is, and it's probably fairly upright.
3. won't ever snap or fail suddenly and hurt you
4. doesn't feel wiggly or steer too much "from the hips." It should feel like the center of steering is a little behind the head tube. I know what I mean, but maybe that's not clear to anybody else. But a bike that steers this way is safer, especially at high speed or on rough roads or in the wind or with only one hand on the bar, or even none (bad form, but sometimes it happens). The bikes should be mellow.
5. The frame material shouldn't degrade with sun exposure, or when it gets wet, or when it's just old; and it should bend and dent when it's overly stressed...not snap.
-Even the best American bikes copied, pretty closely, European geometries, which were seen as tried and true, which work fine for racing (not because they're "faster," which they aren't) and for the small to medium sized riders who typically rode them, but aren't all that great for allaround riding by normal people, and are all whacked out for big people...although they still "work," and ignorance is bliss as much as confidence can be arrogance. The most important and noticeable upgrades in design and stuff -- for unracing bikes -- are
(1) More tire clearance so you don't have to ride skinnies with no fenders;
(2) Higher front-ends, so you can get the handlebars higher even if they're drop bars;
(3) Longer chainstays and wheelbase for a better ride that isn't slower even if you associate short chainstays with speed.
The Europeans and early American builders seeeeeemed to care a little more about style and details, or at least had opinions about them. By the 1970s, headbadges had been replaced by decals, not an upgrade there, but the '70s bikes still had nice frame graphics/downtube decals. The frame proportions were nice, because steel allows skinnier tubes, and skinnier tubes just look better (to me, not to everybody).
Components definitely looked better back then. Modern derailers look pretty bad, even when they work well. In the '70s, I imagine you had to be kind of an artist to get a job designing derailers. An industrial artist, but still an artist, and you probably worked with pencils and paper. Now it's more a matter of buying and learning the right software, and "form follows function" maybe still, but it's out of sight behind it. I'm actually kind of getting INTO ugly front derailers. It feels like I've walked into a heroin den or whatever, and I was first creeped out, but now I'm shooting up in both arms and between ye olde toes, too. I've moved past wanting what I can't have, and now I'm liking the odd combo of putting a butt-ugly derailer that works onto a frame I've slaved over to make look pretty.
We're defending cables and levers here; mechanical bikes, not electronic ones.
Here's our entry into the future 70-year old lookback, a future version of the Alcyon 1952 bike...with comments from a 32-year old bicycle journalist in 2092.
Look at all those gangly things on it, sticking out everywhere, and the wheels look so fragile with those skinny wires. The tires actually had air in them, and they popped all the time. The frames were made of steel, and people would typically ride the same frame for 30 years. Imagine!
You had to move your hands all around just to shift gears (make the bike easier or harder to move) and to slow or stop the bike. The silver things on the end of the handlebar connect to cables and move the "derailers." The curved levers up front activate the brakes. So mechanical! I bet the cables froke all the time, they look so fragile.
It's hard to imagine what the purpose of the curves and holes painted creamy white. A lot of work for nothing!
More superfluous painting and metal curves, and the gray line protects a cable from braking. The cable connects to "derailleurs," which de-rail the chain--another dinosaur "bicycle" part.
This is a genius, magnificent, complicated device, the "rear derailer." I'm no engineer, but it seems to move the chain with help of the cable and the levers on the end of the handlebar. I moved the lever and the derailer started to move, but it stopped short, so maybe it's broken.
(Yeah well, the captions might be kind of stupid, sorry. But modern bicycle are definitely turning into boring-looking, detail-hidden mystery machines with electronical magic.)
Here's an interesting story in the NYT, related to trademarks and Apple:
this next page is harder to read. Hold down the COM key while typing + to enlarge it. Sorry.
My understanding of trademark law is based on a little experience having a business with the same name as a sanctuary in Tolkien's Middle Earth and also Rivendell Mountain Works, a mountaineering equipment dealer that had me under its spell in the 1970s and to a certain extent still doe; and dealing with a law firm that bought the rights to all Middle Earth names from somebody who bought them from somebody who bought them from J.R.R. Tolkien himself when, in either a drunken stupor or during a massive brain fart, sold them to somebody for who knows how little in 1981.
(Rivendell Mountain Works, I should make it clear, was actually helpful and supportive during the year-long ordeal. They gave me tips and helpful advice, and one of our customers, a lawyer, was a superhero.)
(For the record, I read and loved the books, my wife has read The Hobbit and the Trilogy thirteen times, and all things related to The Lord of the Rings are major sacred cows around here...and the reverence for Tolkien and what Rivendell was in Middle Earth has been more influential than I let on about. It's something to try to live up to, at least. Make good things, be selective, and so on.
But the thing with trademarks, I think, I hear and have been told, is that if the Big Companies don't sue the tiny companies, then their trademark is weaker when some other bigshot starts using it. So they have to defend it all the time.
(We made peace with the Rivendell-owning law firm. It wasn't fun or easy or pleasant, but we did and it's over.)
Still, the Apple thing bugs me, because it seems they're casting too wide a net, you know? It makes me want to name a bike or product apple/apple something, and have a slogan always attached to it, something like "Guess what? We're not the computer people." I don't like being bullied like that. Who does? Maybe we could make apple stickers or buttons and give the profits to a charity and suggest you put them all over the place, especially down in Silicon Valley, especially on stoplight poles around HQ there. Or t-shirts with an apple, any kind of apple, maybe even an apple with a bite out of the right side of it. Get everybody wearing them. Would Apple go after the screen printer? Would they go soft on the screen printer if the screen printer identified the client?
I know this is petty and childlike or whatever, but grrrr... is all.
Kind of related:
I have been noticing for a few years now that "titanium" is now a model, not just a material. I've seen a titanium car/suv that isn't titanium. A titanium model pen, hardhat (workman style...I'm not referring to "titanium" being used as the name for a color, which is how it's used on Thousand brand bikehelmets). I THINK shoes, but I'm not sure. ---------
Here's a car I wouldn't buy for ten dollars if I couldn't sell it:
I appreciate the emotion and dedication and skill that went into it, but it's still a car. Titanium bikes can be fine, but it's not like titanium is detectible in the ride, and people always talk about it as thought it is.
A bicycle frame is a kind of truss, a triangulated structure designed to support your weight without collapsing, and to do that, it has to be vertically rigid. It's designed to hold huge vertical loads. the only vertical flex ("compliance") is in the fork, which is a beam outside the truss of the frame. The fork can flex, but even it flexes minimally COMPARED TO the tires, especially when they're soft.
A frame has to be laterally stiff, too. It's triangulated laterally...to achieve that. The seat stays and chainstays flare out and are solidified by the rear wheel, but that's about it. It's minimal triangulation compared to the vertical triangulation, but it still works.
But try to imagine the frame flexing vertically. What tubes would have to bend? And for any tube to bend, there'd have to be an opposite response in an adjacent tube. Does the seat tube compress or bow when you sit on the bike? No...and if it did, like if it was rubber, the seat stays would have to bow out when that happened, and if you think that happens with bike frames OF ANY material, well, my gosh, the conversation ends here.
So, in an unsuspended frame, no shocks or anything, your best hope for mechanical cush is in the tires, and they're super excellent at it, as long as they're fat and soft enough.
But even more than the tires, you get cush from your body. You've got all those ankles, knees, hips, and elbows, and hands, and those are your springs. You don't need to "work on" the technique to absorb shocks. All you have to do is, like on a trail, stand on the pedals with your crotch off the saddle, and you'll automatically be doing it right. Like, if you jump down from a three-foot stump and land on the street, nobody has to tell you not to land on your heels with your knees locked. You might do that once in your life when you're three, but never again, and it's the same on a bike.
Bikes can HELP some. Longer wheelbases put you further away from the wheel centers, which means further away from the bumps. But mostly it's tire pressure and technique. The contribution of a longer wheelbase counts, but th main thing a longer wheelbase does is keep the bike rolling straighter when you're going fast or riding over bumps. It's NEVER a drawback, at least not in the wheelbase lengths we use on our bikes. A six-foot wheelbase might be a bother here or there, but a four-foot wheelbase isn't. That's about the longest we go.
When you ride a bike, the things that affect how it feels beneath you are, I think, these things in roughly this order:
1. Your body position, which is determined by the location of the saddle, pedals, and handlebar relative to one another.
2. (tie) Tire pressure and general steering feel ("handling")--which depends on geometry and what you're used to.
3. I think that's it.
THIS next thing, don't skim. It's about "performance."
Most days of the week my ride to work takes about 15 minutes, and since I have some pride left and kind of a lifetime of a certain amount of rides generally considered hard, I make three to six of the 15 minutes to work really hard by picking hills and going as fast as I can up them. I have about eight options every day, some are one-sprint rides, some are two, one is four, whatever. Hold on now-- so today's was a common one, a roughly 3-minute split, then five minutes of easy, then another roughly 1-minute split.
I use a digital watch on a handlebar or a front bag (Banana sack on handlebar, like this):
My normal three-minute section is continuous, but I take my split times along the way at mailboxes and manholes and a road sign, and typically the first three splits are: 1:37 - 2:37 - 3:08. And my last hard section after the rest is like 1:04., for a total hard time of 4:12.
Today I rode the HubbuHubbuH (tandem in, no stoker), and my splits were
1:32 - 2:28 - 3:04 - and the 4:04 on the watch there.
I was surprised at the first split. Four days ago I rode 1:28, so it's not like this was a record, but on the 1:28 day my total time for the same route was 3:02--so, basically the same. It takes some time to reach over and hit the button, and my finger has mush (all fingers do, don't imagine something that's not there)..but on a TANDEM--that's the deal.
I've had similar riding experience on "light" and "heavy/loaded" bikes for years, and I understand that physicists can prove that lighter bikes and wheels are faster, especially up hills, but my actual experience is different. I do this kind of thing 3-4 days a week and have for years, and I ride bikes with baskets with crap in them and half-full big saddlebags, and I ride bikes that weigh seven pounds less than those, and the difference, even on a roughly 8-minute climb. My fastest time on an unloaded Charlie Gallop on one often-repeated route was 6:55. On my heavily loaded Cheviot, it's never more than 7:12.
You can say and think anything you want, maybe that I subconsciously do this or don't do that; or scold me for being so non-objective in this, as you continue to vote with the physicists. As ye olde saying goes, all I know is....
I am really tempted to put an apple on this, the logo for our new (upcoming) floor pump:
Maybe add a leaf to one or both of the eyedots?
We considered other names. Humpty-Plumpty (too cute). Pumpmaster (sounds too cheap). Air-God (might get us in trouble). Air-Allah (definitely trouble). Peter Pumper (ehhhh...), and then we got this note:
Of course, I blocked his email address, because if you're nuts enough to read this, you might be nuts enough to harrass him by email. Is this what it's come to?
For the record, I've always liked the name Mike, and he just reminded me of that. It's not the Mike "Plumpatire" Edmonds pump, and I might have come up with "Mike" anyway. I was considering other names. Pat Plumpatire was in the running.
But the real thing is, I appreciated his early enthusiasm for the pump and his assurance that he'd buy the first one. We'll send him the first one we unpack. It may be six months, we just don't know. We know it works well, because we've been using it. We've used it at least five years-worth of home use by ye olde non-professionales.
It’s not all metal, it’s not made in the U.S., Germany, or Japan, (or Russia), and it’s not our original, start-from-scratch pump with all the classiness that you’ve come to expect from Rivendell. But it’s a really good pump. It’s made by a pumpmaker who makes nothing but pumps, and makes pumps for others, too. They’re not pump rookies, and they have quintillion pumps out there in the world.
Mike Plumpatire is their high-volume floor pump, with a just-4-us wooden handle, because we’ve broken too many plastic handles. We’ve been using one for a few months. The two-way head is easy, it stands up on its own fine, there’s more plastic on it (the foot, the gauge, the cap) than we’d LIKE, but it’s used in places that don’t get a lot of stress. This manufacturer is not in the business of making things that turn into internal regrets later on, and “in normal use” it may last a decade.
I JUST GOT a photo of the final pump with the decal. They want to know where we want it positioned. I think it looks fine where it is.
I asked about spare parts and what was likely to fail, and she said the head fails (gaskets wear out) after about 7 years. I don't know how many on-and-offs that is, but everything else seems to hold up.
I personally don't care about pressure gauges, and I think some aftermarket hand-held ones might be better.....but you GOTTA be able to tell by your thumb, and if you rely only on pressure gauges, that's just the wrong attitude. The whole tire-pressure world is wacked out, anyway. Manufacturers tend to suggest much higher pressure than anybody here rides, and at least in mtn bike tires they're probably accounting for suspension forks to address the shocks. Tire pressure is something none of us here likes to talk about, because our personal recommendations are out of spec with the mfr's recommendations, and there's a certain amount of risk in doing that. So by all means, go by the mfr's recommendation. Seriously.
Best way to inflate tires: Pump up really hard to help seat the bead. You'll hear it pop into place. It can help to lube the bead and low-lower sidewall with a tire-lube installing substance--Schwalbe makes some. Or you can use soaped water. It all dries in several minutes, but helps seat the bead in the meantime. Do it before you start mounting, so it does't get on the rim. This is not a "must-do." Mark never does it, for instance, and ... now that I think of it, I think I'm the only one who does, and most of the time I forget. It is a "theoretically good idea," though.
Scott at the muffler shop next door makes robot-statues out of car parts, and this time he used a bunch of brake cables (he got from us), too:
We better not run out of brake cables. I can't say this was a waste, just...well, it's a lot of them, is all.
We're working, with a distributor buddy, on a patch kit. The idea is to get people to fix tubes, rather than throwing them out. Don't create waste, etc. There's a concern that this kind of artwork on the tin lid will bum some people out. I'm kind of thinking that with all heck breaking loose over there in Ukraine, and lots of other things that have happened and still are...this is nothing. Maybe the second batch will be softened, but this is the front-runner so far:
And it's going to be a really good kit. It's no fair to say, "...but is that necessary?" Of course it isn't, but how harsh is it, really? You may have to keep the tin from your children. The message is good, and this is a good way to make it. I mean, to really drive it home. Once you patch the tube and add the tire and put it on your bike, you maybe could pump it up with Mike Plumpatire. Armed with both, the world will be your oyster.