My good and long-time (since 1987) friend and co-worker, Masayoshi Kamoshita, died on Sept 23/4. He worked with me at Bridgestone, four years in San Leandro, CA, and 6 years in Japan. He spoke the best English of anybody at Bstone, so most of my communication, on everything, was through him--either in person in meetings, or written and faxed.
Masa was 13 years younger than me, so he was 26 or 27 when I met him in 1984. I liked him instantly and automatically, because we had parallel views on bicycles and bureacracy and bullshit. We had a similar sense of humor, too.
I knew he was not happy, and I tried to reach out, I encouraged him to seek help in a country that discourages the seeking of help. I didn't do enough myself. I know it wasn't up to me, but considering how long I knew Masa, how well I knew him--maybe as well as anybody, really--I feel like I blew it.
Will and James had the good luck to be escorted around Japan, to Blue Lug and Nitto, by Masa. He was our trading agent for NITTO, and anything we needed from Japan, Masa would get us...or me. A hat I wanted, some wood carvings, stuff like that.
Masa seems in good spirits in Japan when Will and James were there last month. Mr.Yoshikawa, the owner of NITTO, sent me the news that Masa had died, and noted that he'd been into NITTO, working on our stuff, two days earlier.
Masa was a big deal in my life, and was tremendously helpful to Rivendell, and I know for sure that NITTO and Rivendell were good parts of his life.
Here's that derailer again. It's been changed imperceptibly but importantly.
Here's what's wrong with mainstream marketing:
I was sniffing around and came on to this. It will be especially interesting if you're a farrier, and at least one of you is. Rivendell Reader #26, from 2002. It doesn't seem that long ago until I realize that Will was 14 then.
Immediately below, in bold type, are some early poems I wrote about A. Homer Hilson. They are intentionally sappy. The first copies the rhythm and style of The Song of Hiawatha, which is NOT sappy. I start off with a short bit of that (it is book-length) to get you in the groove for fluid reading. Each line has eight syllables, and "the thinking goes" that you can read three eight-syllable lines in one breath. When you read silently it doesn't matter. If you're not up for this, skip down past all the bold stuff. Understandable...this drags on and isn't fascinating.
Straight he took his bow of ash-tree,
With his knee he pressed the middle,
Stretched the faithful bow-string tighter,
Took an arrow, jasper-headed,
Shot it at the shining Wigwam,
Sent it singing, as a herald,
As a bearer of his message,
Of his challenge loud and lofty:
"Come forth from your lodge, Pearl-Feather!
Hiawatha waits your coming!"
Now, The Song of A. Homer Hilsen:
On the high bluffs of Ben Nevis
On that highest mount in Scotland
Which o’erlooks grand fields of bluebells
Blazing in the verdant meadows
See the shining ribbon eastward—
Aberdeen, the silver river!
And the sea beyond its south cliffs
Though to be there, you’d not know it
For the thick and constant clouds there
Are, save for a week in August
When the winds blow hard and northward
Like a blanket you can’t see through.
In an unmapped cave no guide knows
On those high bluffs on Ben Nevis
Huddled near a bean-can lantern
In which, flickering, a candle
Is the only light for miles
For an old A. Homer Hilsen.
And, though outside now the snow swirls
In this Highlands winter night-time
Shivers not A. Homer Hilsen
Au contraire, he’s warm, he’s cozy
Clad from head to toe in sheep’s wool
Thick and grey, boiled, and felted
But sleep’s not yet coming to him
Truth be told, he’s rather restless
As he thinks back upon his long life
Recollections clear, yet dreamlike
Block out all of his distractions
In that desolate cave high up there,
In that hole-cave on Ben Nevis.
Known to all Scots as The Great One
For his selfless way toward others
For his “ ’nificent donations ”
To the poor and sick and needy
Often grownups, mostly children
Now and then an institution.
For the gifts of woollen sweaters
He himself knit from wool gathered
From his flock of hardy black-face
Roaming wild on ol’ Ben Nevis.
Sweaters tightly knit, then boiled
So the children of the miners
Kids whose folks cannot afford wool
Living in the Border Country
In the north of Minnesota
Where the iron ore mines have shut down
And there is no other business
Where the schools are two hours walking
From their cabins in the country
And the mercury it rarely
Climbs above the single digits
So these children would be cozy
In the bitterest of winters!
Thankful are these children to him
And much more so are their parents
Who, despite their independence
Who, despite their pride, so ingrained
Humbly thank A. Homer Hilsen
For his wool gifts, warmly given!
But the Border Country children
Tho in poem, they’re recollected
Are the tip top of an iceberg
Two, three brush strokes in a mural
Drops of brine in oaken barrel
Holding pickles in a deli!
For the kind A. Homer Hilsen
Now sequestered in the Highlands
Now an old man, poor and homeless
Near bereft of all possessions
Having sold them, gave the proceeds
To the orphan boys and girls who
Till the dry, cracked land in Malta;
To survivors of disasters
Whether earthquake, flood, or fires;
To the doctors and the nurse-staff
Who need gauze and pills and ointments
And occasionally, a poultice
To be laid on wounds that fester
These he sends, by helicopter
To the hospitals in Ghana
I could tell these tales forever
Those in need, who are forgotten;
Those whose plights don’t make the papers
Certain not a soul knows of them—
Never heard of this man Hilsen
Never met him, still don’t know him
Don’t know where to send their Thank You’s
Most assume “God smiles upon us!
Sends us help down from his heaven!”
But in this case, “God” is Homer
And his “heaven,” chilly cave-hole
No Saint Peter; no white angels.
Down to only three possessions
Is the old A. Homer Hilsen
In the cave, just six by eight feet
With a rock roof barely four feet
Lies on flattened tufts from thistles
Plucked by hand. A. Homer found it
Tween the nooks and crannies up there
Plucked from Scotland’s purple flower
Sheltered from the Highlands’ high winds
Lucky was he just to find it
And to bring it back in fistfuls
So to make his final rest-home
Somewhat softer on his old bones,
Gave the boiled wool to others!
I’ll now speak of his possessions
First of them, his pinhole camera
Like his lantern, made of bean-can
He was rarely seen without it
Like a surgeon with a scalpel
Like a farmer with a pitchfork
Like a sea capt. and his sextant
Like Dave Crockett and his coon-cap
Like young mother with her baby
Or that baby with her blanket
Was A. Hilsen and his camera
Oh, so constant was its presence
Oh, so naked, him without it!
And though always well-intentioned
Were the gifts of modern cameras
Gifts from heads-of-state, and family
Bought online with cards of plastic,
Up to forty megapixels
Fancy with the largest sensors
To give him in his old age
Light brushed gold or silver finish,
Sometimes blackened paint, like Leica;
Now and then sized like an ax-head
Housed in plastic, made in China
Every year in weight they dwindle,
Said to simplify life greatly.
Said to relegate his darkroom
To a room, that, with a lantern
Like the bean-can one he loves so
Would be useful as a guest-room
For the old A. Homer Hilsen
Replaced by scanner, software, printer
For a virtual desktop darkroom!
None of this he learned to master
Never understood the options
Even after hours of study
In six languages he knew well
Not enraptured by the manuals,
Ne’er deciphered the instructions
Never figured out the options
Never pushed the proper buttons
Never understood the plug-ins
So although the cameras promised
It was all lost on the old man
Progressed passed A. Homer Hilsen
As they piled up in the corner
e-waste in the Scottish Highlands
In his cave on ol’ Ben Nevis.
Aye, despite these gifts of wonder
He was faster with his pinhole
Faster with his humble pinhole
Made himself, just like his lantern
Out of dry and empty bean-can!
Indeed, A. could take a snapshot
With that bean-can pin-hole camera
Like Kwai Chang Cain snatching pebble,
Faster was he with that camera
Faster could he take a photo
Than that famous western dandy
Paladin could draw his six-gun.
And the scenes his pin-hole captured!
In his cave’s darkroom, developed
On the plate-glass shipped by clipper
All the way from Nova Scotia
Where his cousin, Roy MacMillan
Owns a shutterbug’s supply house!
Next in line behind the camera
In the hierarchy of possessions
On the totem pole of widgets
Owned by old A. Homer Hilsen
Is a meter-long shillelagh
Made of genuine Irish Blackthorn.
Knotty bumps along its dark shaft
So hard, so sharp, you cannot hold it
Save in one smooth part exception
Where with flint-knapped knife he whittled
Smoothed the knots, to form a handle
‘bout two feet below the knothead!
When he made this old shillelagh
It was in his eighteenth summer
And for many years that followed
‘Twas the only one in Scotland,
Objet d’envie, that shillelagh!
Now and then with his shillelagh
Hooligans he showed them what-for
Swift hard clouts rained down on shin bones,
Cracked too knuckles, knees, and noggins
Sent thugs back to where they came from
Rough rapscallions taught a lesson
By a swift, pitch-black shillelagh
Wielded by its master Hilsen
Left behind, bruises that lingered
Bruises black and blue and purple
Now and then, the skin ‘twas broken
Oozing from it, creeks of scarlet
“Just deserts for young Scot hoodlums!”
Was our hero heard to mutter
(None dare twice harrass A. Homer!)
But like magic, blows delivered
By that fearsome black shillelaugh
Wielded faster than a numchuck
By the Scottish Ninja Hilsen!
To be sure, he taught a lesson
To those ne’re do-wells and scoundrels
And as history has proved it
Each man knocked about by Homer
Changed his life after the whacking
From crime and general mayhem
To philanthropy and giving!
Some, like Schweitzer, became healers
Some, like Milton, men of letters
Some, like Lincoln, glorious statesmen
And at least a dozen: Teachers!
To a man did they attribute
Their chameleon-like transformation
To the “lesson” taught by Hilsen
And his magical shillelaugh!
And the last of his Possessions
Aft the camera, the shillelaugh
Was the finest of his play-tools
And the way he worldly traveled.
It was steel and lugged and lovely
Slender tubes that joined with others
With such swirls and points of lugwork
Even dolled-up ladies viewed them
Wearing monstrous hats with birds nests
Hats with vast bouquets upon them
Ladies snugly laced with corsets
In their dresses ‘dorned with lacework
Hand-sewn with Egyptian cottons
Or French silks and British velvet
With high boots with umpteen laces
Ladies as I’ve just described here
Even these upper-crust ladies
Have commented on its beauty,
On that iron steed of Hilsen’s,
Have felt dizzy in its presence
Woozy, swooning, finally toppling
When with looking glass examind
Strong and beauteous
The fine lugged joints on the bike of
Our fine friend, A. Homer Hilsen.
Smelling salts, they come in handy!
A. Homer Hilsen’s bicycle
Was blue-grey with cream appointments
Silver racks he bolted to it
Silver racks with smooth dull finish
Buckled bags on to them fastened
Made of canvas, wool, and leather
With the aforementioned buckles
Brass that dulled with age, ungleaming.
Fifty years did Homer ride it
Fifty years with no new paint job
Fifty years and endless pleasure
Rides in snow and rain and windstorms
Making camp where there was water
And a place to lay his bedroll
From Alaska to south Chile
From Mongolia to Maui
All these places did he travel
Learned the language spake by natives
Learned the customs, ate the food there
Helped the children, cured diseases
Built fine schools and educated
He left every place he rode through
Better off because he’d been there!
And at long last, here he huddled
By that lantern made of bean-can
With his camera and shillelagh
With his bicycle for company
And his heart now beating slower
Than it beat in his long lifetime
Slower even than when sleeping
Ever slower by the hour
Fifty forty thirty twenty
In that cave up on Ben Nevis
In that hole in rock, in mountain
Simultaneously the candle
That one in his bean-can lantern
Stopped the instant that his heart did,
Homer's final noise, a soft burp.
This next one is much shorter and has an AABBC rhyme pattern. It's about a Scottish guy who ride his Homer all over the place. Super sappy, but it's not that long, and you've been warned. Say it to yourself with a Scottish accent:
A LIFE WITH A. HOMER HILSEN
‘Tho travel wide and far, do I
O’er stoney paths, ‘tween fields-o-rye
Past foggy crags, where the lost sheep bleat
I tell you mate, ‘tis no grand feat—
I ride A. Homer Hilsen!
Aye, my bike do take me far
To lands I couldna’ see by car
Beyond the reach of mail or phone
But ne’er do I feel alone—
I’m with A. Homer Hilsen!
At times it is m’ campin’ bike
When out to far-off lands I strike
With a pocketfull of grub and a bedroll small
I’m gleeful a-pedalin’ through the squall
Cause I ride A. Homer Hilsen!
Ahhh... the siren’s call o’- the race-man’s steed
Tempts me not—it’s a fragile breed.
‘Twas steel and lugs, joined strong with fire
And room for mudguards, and manly tire
Steered me to A. H. Hilsen!
Sure, now and then I get the urge
For speed; and I be known to surge
On up the road, so fierce me pace
The geese above concede the race
To me on A. H. Hilsen
So, day by day and week by week
There is no other mount I seek
My stalwart pal in cream and blue
The sites I’ll see—you’ll see ‘em, too—
Come with, A. Homer Hilsen!
Alas, years hence when I’m rid’ out
My joints so stiff; so bad’s my gout
That I canna’ push the pedals ‘round,
An’ I stay at home all armchair-bound
I’ll bequeath A. Homer Hilsen…
To a lad I know, his character strong
His smile as wide as a June day’s long
Who’ll ride her on adventures new
Of the sort I canna’ longer do
R-r-r-r-r-roam on, A. Homer Hilsen!
And if that plucky lad has time
Mayhap he’ll regale, in song or rhyme
Me, after dinner one fine night
(A long shot, sure—but still, he might!)
—With tales of A. H. Hilsen!
Oy, when I’m long gone and that lad’s grown old
His rides no longer swift, nor bold
His joints, like mine, all stiffened up
Then soon ‘twill be his own grandpup
Who rides A. Homer Hilsen!
For a bike like this can ne’er be kept still
It longs for the trail disappear’n o’er hill
It calls you to pedal, to pack, to explore
An’ e’en when you stagger, it begs y’ for more—
It’s the lugged steel A. Homer Hilsen!
HOMER HAIKU. Just a few of them.
In a test ‘tween pals
Homer outdrew Paladin
Don’t worry—squirt guns!
Elvis sick tonite?
Mad throng wants refunds? Relax—
“Hips” Hilsen’ll wow ‘em.
Bottom of the ninth
Down by one, Koufax pitching
No sweat; Hilsen’s up.
Tot sick but doc gone?
Medicine cabinet bare?
Ring A-double H!
Headline said just this"
“In test of nerves, reflexes
Homer bests Kwai Cain.”
Having just learned chess
Unknown A. Homer Hlsen
Stops Spasky in ten.
Marquee actor sick
Stand-in Hilsen knocks ‘em dead
God save the Homer!
------ugh, enough...but the Homer is a really, really good bicycle
I heartily urge you to click on that link, unless you hate whales.
Many of you by now know that Shimano is recalling up to (so far) 2.8 million cranks. The Hollow-tech models. Details here.
Bicycling magazine pointed out that all bike parts break, or can break, something like that, and I think that's a fair thing to say, good to say, but all else equal, brittle things like carbon fiber and many non-metal substitutes tend to be brittle ("brittle" and "strong" are in different categories.
UTS is the force required to pull the material apart. It matters, but often not as much as fatigue resistance (the material's ability to flex repeatedly without breaking--think of rubber vs thin aluminum wire); or toughness (a materials ability to get knicked or scratched and still survive stresses and flexes...as opposed to growing cracks).
The strongest aluminum alloys have about 80 percent of the UTS of chrome-moly. No steel crank would ever break, unless it's just too skinny. But high-strength aluminum (A 7075 T6) is a better material for cranks, because it allows sufficient strength without being too heavy. Unmarketably heavy, I mean.
But material itself doesn't make a strong crank. In developing the Silver cranks (both 1 and upcoming 2), we had to shift material around, and cut material away from where it wasn't needed, and repeated testing (computer modeling AND actual physical laboratory stresses) told us (well, the crank maker) where we could add and take away, and what the results of that were. We'll never have a crank as light as Shimano's Hollowtech cranks, or any carbon cranks, but WHO in the WORLD actually needs to trim three to four ounces off a crank that's already plenty light but appropriately heavy for the stresses of riding?
Shimano is the smartest and most competent bicycle parts maker in the world. Unfortunately (from OUR perspective) they feel they must be the lightest at everything, and that's where things go bad.
Somebody in the Big Media pointed out that the CPSC didn't give Shimano enough time to deal with this, but that's not true. It is the mfr's responsibility to report known concerns to the CPSC as soon as they come to light. The kind of concern is: Even if no failures have occurred yet, if a known problem that COULD lead to a failure that COULD injure a person exists, then it must be reported.
Nobody does that.
So when the problem surfaces, the CPSC allows a window for "voluntary recalls," which allows a mfr to pretend to be taking the high road. But there are standards for the procedures for a voluntary recall. It may have changed, but in the '90s at least, you had to have a record of who bought the part, and a way to contact them. That's obviously impossible in most cases. And if you couldn't do that, you were required to spend as much advertising the recall as you'd spent promoting the product. That's unlikely. Shimano's going to spend a few million saying "Oops!"??
So that's when CPSC mandates a recall. It doesn't happen all-of-a-sudden.
The crank isn't Shimano's fault. It was inevitable in a system (bicycle manufacturer-customers, bicycle riders looking to "upgrade," the media that accepts the advertising dollars and applauds new lightweight barriers broken and convinces readers that it matters. People who buy it. If SRAM has a crank that weighs 600g, Shimano's not going to be happy, and Shimano's customers won't be happy, with a crank that weighs 650g. The first thing a magazine staffer reviewer will do is weigh the crank.
A SILVER crank, 170mm, with a chainguard and 42 x 28 rings weighs 30.1oz.
I'm doing imperial units, assuming most of you are more familiar with them.
That 30.1oz includes a chainguard and a steel 28t. Without the chainguard, it's down to 27.5oz. Take it off if you like, but it's nice to have. We ordinarily use steel below 32t, for better wear. But substitute aluminum, save 2.8oz and wear it out 4x faster...and it's down to 24.7oz.
So, about 1.5lb for a crank that passes the harshest ISO MTB crank tests, one that is extremely unlikely to ever break, and if it does it'll probably give you warning. Good enough. You could sub aluminum or titanium chainring bolts, but what kinds of games are we playing here? Take the steel inner, take the chainguard, take that 5.4 ounces, and just ride your bike...with some peace of mind.
Carbon fiber fishing rods break often enough that now mfrs make most of their rods in four sections, rather than just two==so they have a smaller section to replace. Carbon golf clubs break. People keep buying them, because they want the perceived advantage and can't imagine their hero-companies would continue using a material that has these strength "limitations."
Maybe recalls, injuries, and product failures are inevitable. We've had two issues in the past, both ... ultra suspicious, but we paid dearly for one, and our insurance covered another. Safety is our No. 1 priority--over comfort, usefulness, all of that. Everybody who works here knows the extent we go to to make our bikes and bike parts safe and long-lasting. We test, retest, pay money, remake..before we sell them. If a crank breaks, or a bar, fork, stem...it won't be because we tried to cut a few ounces off of it, or didn't test it. At least that.
Black parts, revisited and re-evaluated
There IS an anti-black bias in bike parts (too), and there used to be an OK reason for it. Black paint neutralizes silver metal that isn't buffed and polished lusciously. Black used to have cache, too, because in 1979 or whenever Campagnolo introduced its Super Record group, the rear derailer had black accents, to distinguish it from its up-to-then-best Nuovo Record. Other highish-end companies hopped on the black bandwagon, and it trickled down to cheap parts. But times have changed and we've changed. I've changed. I'm not your role model, I'm not saying hey, if I'm OK with black parts you should be, too. Do what you want, but my and our now-acceptance isn't because we've lowered our standards, it's because Iwe realize we have to live in the real world, and we've gotten used to black...kind of everything. And probably it's some underdogging-defending at this point, too.
Beside that, black here and there make a bike look interesting, even better than all silver. Black brakes and pedals, even seat posts can add a little good oomph to an otherwise too faerie-elvish-pastel bicycle. A black stem can look good, too. Black hot-spots here and there, bravo...all for them.
We know many people don't LIKE black parts, but in some cases, some things are NOW available only in in black. Some Shimano hubs, like Deore fronts. To reject a Deore front hub because it is black is, of COURSE, anybody's prerogative, but these years, it may come down to picking color over value or quality, which is also anybody's prerogative.
In 2023, it is helpful or useful or practical to look at things like his through different lenses, and even, possibly, be open to liking something you don't automatically like.
The lusciously hand-buffed and clear anodized silver parts of the past, the high-end SunTour, Shimano, and Campagnolo parts, don't get that way inexpensively, and with modern labor rates, they'd add 40 percent to the cost, in some cases.
In Japan in the late '70s and '80s, they got so beautiful through semi-dangerous and slightly dehumanizing (harsh way of putting it) labor. You'd wear a head-to-toe TYVEK jumpsuit and stand in front of a two-to-four foot diameter buffing wheel with buffing compound on it, holding a crank arm or brake arm on the wheel, applying more compound as needed. It was dangerous, because the part could get pulled from your hand and go flying off. You hand could get sucked in. The action of buffing turned the buffing stuff black,and covered your front head to toe. You wore a face shield to top it off and protect your eyes and face, and in the summer it would be roasting. All the time, you're personhood or identity is hidden, and you're just a body in a white-and-black suit. Japanese people wouldn't do it, so Japanese makers used Filipino labor, paying them more than they'd make in the Philippines.
The finish on our SILVER crank is 90 percent as good, without that weird human labor element. You can see slight, and I mean slight irregulaties in the basically inconsequential finish--but only upon close examination. The SILVER crank, I think, is the best-looking crank currently being made AND it's super strong and light enough for anybody except a gram-counter. We rejected other finishes before settling on this one.
When you ride a crank enough, it's common for your shoe to rub a rubmark on the arm. That's beausage at its best. Its shows you're using it, and the rubmark is unavoidable, unless you pedal with your foot far from the crank.
Embracing black. It's time.
More black-and-panda. Boring pics, just making the point that black and silver go together pretty well and are easy to warm up to.
Silver bodies, black lenses = Panda camera. A long-established term we borrow for bike parts.
Panda wheel: black hub, silver rim
Panda bar-stem combo
Another panda wheel
Inside discussions, things we're talking about, not necessarily fretting about:
The Susie/Wolbis hillibikes (and the Gus Boots-Wilsen) are really a pain to get, and they cost a ton and take away time we could use for other models, but the next run is going to be both lugged and fillet-brazed, which as supposed to help the maker make faster, but apparently that's not happening, so...we are debating doing this upcoming run of 120 or so, then maybe 100 every other year......the rear derailer samples we'd hoped to get from Microshift will be delayed at least two months, and so...whatever, we're just glad they're still iin the game. The original maker, in China (experienced, don't worry, where's your iPhone made?) now has all he needs to make it. We're stacking the deck....Antonio and I have been riding the bejesus out of our demo-RoadUno bikes. His is set up as a one-speed, mine's a 44x34x24 triple with an 18t cog. I ride more and steeper hills, and I'm older, and I need that gear, and if you think 24x18 is a low gear for steep hills, well, it's not....We've been working on our SILVER hubs, and should be getting them soon, in both normal and 7-speed....
The thing below is a gear chart. It's not the British-invented/American-adopted "gear inch chart" based on a high-wheeler (Penny-Farthing) big wheel diameter. That works when you're in the groove and were groomed on it, but otherwise it means beans. Sheldon Brown's "Gain ratio" was / is a too-late and for many including me, too-complicated improvement on it. "Gain ration" accounted for the leverage differences between crank lengths. It's minimal.
The non-British Europeans used "Development" charts, which listed meters traveled per pedal revolution. It's hard for Americans to relate to meters. A meter is 39.37 inches, or about 1.2 yards. But distance traveled is a more relatable number than a high-wheeler's wheel diameter. I've used distance traveled in the chart below, caluculated with a practical and common-around-here rear wheel, and instead of meters, good old American yards. Five yards is the distance between line markers on a football field, and you might prefer foosball to football, but the football field gives you an idea.
I've highlighted all 2:1 rations (40x20, 36x18, etc). When I raced, we climbed most hills in a 42x21. For non-racers, forget it. But a 2:1 ration is still a benchmark. Today I'd call it a low-medium gear for slight uphills for most riders.
Is this too techy for a Blahg? Sorry. Most of you are smarter than me, so it won't be out of reach. It can be useful to know whether a 36x19 is harder or easier than a 38x20, though. As luck would have it, they're the same gear which make me wish I'd picked another example.
How to use: Look at your high and low-gear combos. On your bike. If the high is hard enough and the low is easy enough, you're good. You can see the number (of yards traveled) on this chart, and then you know what numbers work for you. It's not important to know that the number is yards travelled, but it's slightly interesting.