March Blahg. Less reading, more pictures, small mouthfulls. A Whitman's Sampler!

March Blahg. Less reading, more pictures, small mouthfulls. A Whitman's Sampler!


I know what you're thinking, if what you're thinking is what I used to think: Thumbtacks are the originals, pushpins happened maybe during the Nixon administration. And yet:


 I don't know how the humble thumtack performed as a drawing aid, but maybe because they're kind of flat, so when making a line of some sort, they didn't entirely block the pencil.


After the Latin on this logo-thing (to be explained later, in a couple of months maybe)--

..after that, it just led to more Latin things, translations, and there's a site with "famous" Latin pearls of wisdom and their English translation. This is a favorite:

I always thought the Latin people were all smart, but if that were true this wouldn't be an example of a common Latin thing to say in the old days. You can type in anything and translate to Latin:




I didn't know Seymour Chwast till now, which is odd odd because he tried out for a Bstone poster in 1992 or so. But a design agency contacted him, it wasn't me. They were smart to do it. I vaguely remember seeing his submission and being horrified. But ... I just didn't know, I wasn't ready, it was all my own fault, I was dumber then. Here's what he sent that I didn't appreciate then, shame on me:


Isn't that great and insane? It didn't come out of nowhere. The year before we had an Egyptian-themed trade show booth, and the creative agency we were working with must have mentioned that to him when they told him about the poster job. It came in like this, I rejected it, but somehow it came to me when Bstone was closing. Then a few weeks ago somebody here found it upstairs under a pile. Instant love. I mean, it's just way out there as it was before, but this time I'm way out there with it.

It turns out, Seymour Chwast is super famous and well-accomplished, and holy cow, he's 93 now. I bought a book he wrote in 2023, about how hell and satan are described in different cultures. Here's Haiti:

I wish he was holding an apple.

 Do any of you personally know Seymour Chwast? I would like to say hi.


More Bstone-related stuff:

I was never "running" Bstone, as I tried to make clear in last month's Blahg. There's no stopping that false legend, tho. I never even felt secure there. I was NOT all-around popular. Many dealers and some internals thought I was making it hard to sell bicycles, and maybe they were right. Enough Bstone stuff for a long time. I said that last month.


Here's a Bianchi ad aimed at dealers. Fine. It's "just an ad." But in this trade magazine, it probably cost $5,000--not much by consumer magazine standards. What about it strikes you as odd? About the photo itself, not the copy.

It seems like an aggressive traverse, doesn't it? How fast is he going and how far can Generic Techman be from the edge of the road?  This is the problem. I mean it's A problem--this lack of something, even in advertising. 


In early March a fellow stopped by on a Saturday morning and left a pile of old (1967-1974) cycling magazines. Mostly Bicycling! (it used to have an exclamation mark as part of it logo, like that), but some others, too. I was reading Bicycling! from about 1976 onward, and was familiar with bikes earlier than that--the brands, the state of technology, and so-- and I found them pretty interesting. Some things I remembered, some I didn't. Here are selected bits, sometimes with no comments, sometimes with. A few photos might be out of place.

For breaking in a Brooks. They never needed this. The mere existence of this DIY device (and tips for making) sends the wrong message.

Another view:


Here's a trashed grip about 3 years old. My son-in-law needed a bike for his commute. He got a Platypus, we assembled it one night, and the grips were the last, and I did a quick crappy temporary job so he could ride home with something under his hands, and he'd get permanent grips in a day or so. Well, three years and about 4,500 miles later they looked horrible even to me:

other side:


This is one of my favorite portraits of all time. It's Harry, one of our Saturday guys, when he was 20 and in the navy on a ship...1985. One of his shipmates was photographing for the feds, and called Harry, who turned around and...the rest is history. We're getting a nice enlargement of it. I LOVE this photo.



is "visa versa" proper latin? Maybe it is, but I've been saying vice my whole life. 



Here's a snowsports helmet from New Zealand, I think. Somewhere far away and not in Europe, and where there's snow.  I wonder how it tests as a bike helmet. I think these guys out to make bike helmets.


Helmet news, or something:

It's BSNYC's column on March 6. Crazy.



 Buckets, Barrels, and Stumps. "Every backyard needs a few" might be going too far, but they're soothing to eyes that are more accustomed to looking at modern bikes and helmets and stuff like that.

Find the Great American Clothespin. It's not a contest, you won't win a Homer, but I wonder how many found it. by April 7. Subject should include your name, zip code, and object it's nearest to. Like:

BillyBob Jones  04538  Kettlebell

for example.



good story, short read, recommended by a Riv rider customer



 We are not doing super well this spring. I can totally attribute that to unfortunate timing with bicycle deliveries and bills--honest, that's not a feeble excuse. Some of it was foreseeable only in retrospect, and some was classic international blind-siding and f*ckups related to bad international communication. We're learning.

We are still doing better than "industry average," but that's never been our barometer here. There might not be quarterly bonuses. Maybe we can catch up on them, or at least hope for them to come back at the end of June. Overall, still happy and optimistic. We have good projects in assorted ovens, but not all of the ovens are turned on, some that are still aren't up to cooking temp, etc.


 He could afford to buy not just a Rivendell, but the whole dad-blasted company without blinking an eyelash, but he probably wouldn't ride any of our bikes for 3 hours in public for $400.


Here's a Rivendell custom from 2002. 

Pal Jeff ordered it. He's had (and has) a few other Rivendells. He's now riding this more than he has before. It was made by Joe Stark, painted by Joe Bell. Nice bike with neat stuff on it.  

We still use this badge on customs. A few color variations.

Huret Jubilee 80g front derailer on an old Stronglight crank.

A 140g Huret Jubilee rear derailer, the best-looking rear derailer ever. Note the external spring. It's a smart way to "do" springs, but Huret was the last external spring holdout. There are no actual disadvantages. One advantage is that it makes it easy to release the spring (and tension) when you're putting on a chain. The marketing disadvantage is that visible mechanisms tend to scare people--kind of like exposed plumbing. Put it all in a box, please.

This is also NOT a slant parallelogram derailer. The first version came out in 1980, on Huret's 50th Anniversary ("Jubilee" = 50th. Like, Diamond Jubilee. "Cherries Jubilee" breaks the pattern.). And 1980 was before SunTour's patent on the slant parallelogram expired. THis is the derailer I raced with for 5 of my 6-year racing career, and it always worked well. But slant parallelograms require less post-shift trimming.


In juxtaposition is Shimano's latest mechanical rear derailer: The CUES. You should know what CUES stands for by now, but just in case: Creating Unique ExperienceS. Seriously.


The U.S. bicycle industry's trade magazine is Bicycle Retailer & Industry News, sometimes abbreviated as BRAIN (& =AND). I think anybody can subscribe, and it's kind of interesting if you care to follow carbon recalls, mergers & acquisitions, stock values, and trends. It's generally excellently written.

After some recent columns and opinions having to do with "What are we gonna do?" about the downtrend in bicycles, oversupply, discounting, and so on, I wrote this as a letter to the editor, and the editor wanted it as a guest editorial, instead. It was too long for a letter. 

It reads kind of scold-y, but basically...I am not emotionally invested in the well-being or survival of the trendy bike shops. Still, I wanted to offer them some alternative ideas to what they're doing now. I expect this will make me the enemy, and the online comments section will reflect that, and that's fine. You may have to hit COMMAND+ to enlarge.

I should have pointed out that I suspect most unicycle riders don't understand physics. I didn't mean it as a knock. I understand some, not all, bicycle physics. I know how bicycles work, unless they're electronic or electric. Like most insecure people, I tend to attack what I don't understand, and I've made that obvious over the years. I'm surprised that those who are familiar with that AND who know I like Bob Dylan haven't used "The Times They Are a-Changin'" against me:

The Times They Are A-Changin’

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who that it’s namin’
For the loser now will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside and it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin’
And the first one now will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’


I opt to interpret those words in a way that affirms my current beliefs..and it's not hard to do. The last verse is easy.

Here's a live performance of it.


Attention all ye pebble-hounds:

name the rocks and/or minerals.


Wait...what's that tannish strip above the rocks?



Antonio or Will or James heard a rumbling in Antonio's Susie tire, and Antonio's guess was right. This isn't uncommon with tubeless goo. Yes, under perfect conditions with perfect technique it might not happen often. But this wasn't Antonio's first installation. It will be his last, he says. It took an hour to scrap dried goo off the inside of his tire. 

I'm not saying don't go tubeless. Go tubeless if you live in Tucson or regularly get multiple thorn-punctures. By all means. But don't go tubeless because it's so easy, nifty, solves all problems. Don't go tubeless because that's the trend, because the online, on-paper, local bike shop experts and 95 percent of all of your friends say it's good. Don't not do it because I don't like it. Just consider the clean simplicity of inner tubes. Don't be scared off by dealing with them. If you don't know how to patch a tube, OK, don't do it--toss the tube and get a new one for $10 or whatever...but do learn how to take out a bad tube and put in a new one.

Too bad modern tires are so good that they rarely get flats. If they never flatted—like, if it was impossible to get a flat, then that would be great. On the spectrum between a flat every ride and impossible flats there are lots of unsatisfactory degrees. In tubed tires in 2024, we're at the point where flats are so rare, and that sounds really good, and it IS good kind of, except that you don't get comfortable and competent swapping out or patching tubes when you go a year or more between flats. It's kind of like jumpstarting a car. Black to black, red to black, and what about the clamp that goes onto any old piece of metal? Get it wrong, and the battery blows up in your face? I've jumpstarted cars at least ten times in the past half a century of owning a driver's license, but I haven't done it for ten years. Have you? 

Not knowing how to fix a flat is not your fault, though. If you want to patch tubes instead of tossing them, watch a video (we have a good one, HERE), and setting aside a few to fix six in a row. Puncture the tubes yourself. It's worth it, and it's 10x easier than dealing with tubeless goo.

If you have never patched a tube, poke a hole in one, patch it, and inflate (while it's still outside the tire) to make sure it's holding air. Let it get big and full and fat, like 4 1/2-inches in diameter, and if it's holding, poke another hole and do the same. Swear to God that you did this, please don't lie, and if you patch the tube successfully five times, we'll issue you a credit for $100 on an order of $300 or more before shipping. Limited to 25, must be a customer. Get cracking.

Sorry if the purchase requirement takes the fun out of it, but we're not having a killer quarter, and who else will offer you money to learn something valuable to learn, anyway? Its an historical precedent :)   !




The left jab was "Updated kinematics;" the right cross was "slaying downcountry terrain." I'm all in. This is the state of the art of both bicycle and promotion in the real world out there. The Epic 8 Evo is the anti-Clem, the anti-Susie. I am not comparing Clem and Susie to Christ.

slaying downcountry terrain  ?  slaying terrain is always the goal. aiye chihuahua. Maybe "downcountry" will become a new bike category. Apparently it's a discipline already. The successor to Gravel Bikes, or just a kissin' cousin?


 At the recent Taipei Bike Show (we didn't attend, but...some of our best friends did), this was an example of the immediate future:

Maybe you're thinking, so what? Live and let live, big deal if it's not RIV's thing, and all. But the fans of this are not going to "live and let live" back. Mechanical bicycles made of steel or some other metal can roll  decades. Giant bikemakers need to sell new bikes every year in a declining market, and their only hope is changing technology every year or two, to get people to "upgrade." 


 Gear chart, beware!

Gear charts turn normal people weird, make them obsess about gears, convince them that the answer to easier riding is the right combination of gears. But they can be useful and entertaining, too. The standard English and American gear chart shows "gear inches," and are you sitting down? That's the wheel diamter (in inches) of a high-wheeler old tymey bicycle's big front wheel. In thos days--which ran from about 1870 to mid-to-late 1880s--the longer your leg, the bigger the wheel you could straddle, and the crank was connected directly to the front axle. "Direct drive" or so. So when chained bikes came around, it made some sense to talk about front and rear gear combinations in terms of the high-wheeler gearing, which people were used to.

Nobody's used to it anymore. It was always weird, but we just accepted that a 42 x 21 combo was a 54-inch gear, a 52 x 13 was 103-inches, and so on crazy like that.

The metric European countries had a more practical way, which has been called "development," and is meters traveled. Why "development" I don't know, but that's what it was called. The distance traveled part makes more send than comparing gears to high-wheeler wheel diameters...but if you grew up in America with yards and not meters, the meter thing is "a little disturbing."  So here's one with yards traveled. 


It's not important to know the yards traveled per revolution UNLESS you're trying to measure distances on your bicycle. The value here, if any, is knowing that one of your bikes has a low gear you like for the steepest hill you ride, and that gear is a 3.2 (42 x 32. combo). And now you want the same gear on another bike that has a crank with 42 x 28 rings. This chart'll tell you to get a cassette with a big cog of 22. Again--easy to get sucked in, but somewhat interesting stuff. We all get sucked in some, right?


 The next bunch of Susie/Wolbis frames will be our last. At least the last in that form, but maybe the last, period. It has nothing to do with the bikes themselves—that part is dialed, perfect, nothing needs to change. It's because of how long it takes to build them. We went to lugged head tube joints (top tube and down tube) from fillet-brazing, and we did this because the fillet brazing takes longer than the lug brazing. And it has to be smoothed afterward. But in combo-ing the main frame that way, it requires more handling and shifting and jig set-up, and so the time saved by brazing the lugs (already not as fast as TIG-welding) was regained in extra handling and monkeying with jigs. And the maker is willing to do it as long as we're willing to accept delays. Delays hurt our income, delays lead to storage problems, and ... it's not something we're going to do anymore. 

We might go to all-Tig + one seat lug, kind of like CLEMS...but I just don't know. I DO absolutely know that these will be the last largely lugged Susie frames we get in. So...there you are on that one.


All of my share of this, half the cover price, ten dollars, goes to Isabel G. We have been helping her since the NYT story came out, and this is a chance to change her life in a gigantic way. The book is good anyway, but let's help Isabel. We'll send her checks quarterly--so, end of March.




Back to blog