Last Roundup in Sin City: Batter(y) up!

September 25, 2017

The Tern GSD in mango.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (MDM) — To e-bike, or not to e-bike: That is the question. …

We all know the e-bike is the latest and greatest entry in The Next Big Thing™ sweepstakes. Previous contenders include mountain bikes, cyclocross bikes, single-speeds, city bikes, cargo bikes, fatbikes, etc., et al., and so on and so forth (thanks for playing).

Some of us think you can’t sell a certain subset of Americans a two-wheeler if it doesn’t have an engine — and sometimes, not even then (Harley sales hit a five-year low last year).

That said, in comments Comrade Herb warns: “Let’s all be careful and not snark too much about e-bikes. Lord [knows], anything that gets people out of the house and out from behind their SUV’s wheel is a good thing. And if it keeps my local bike shop alive I’m more than happy to go along with the addition to the two-wheel choices.”

And Consigliere Larry adds: “I’ve boiled my e-bike opinion down to this: E-bike instead of car? Wonderful. E-bike instead of bicycle? Not so good.”

Maybe this is the ticket: When it comes to commuting or cargo, a little electrical assist is preferable to dinosaur drive.

CyclingTips tech editor James Huang said on Twitter yesterday that he’s been living the e-cargo-bike life since January 2016, adding: “No other bike in the fleet has as big an impact on my life as that one, no question.”

The bike that most recently caught his eye was the Tern GSD. James first saw it at Eurobike, and the rest of us saw it at Interbike, and I have to admit it was impressive. With MSRP starting at $4,000 the GSD can haul kids, and cargo, and it can tour — the Bosch motor with dual batteries is said to have a range of more than 250km, which is further than I plan to travel on my meat-powered machine today, or even this week.

But questions remain. Who’s gonna buy it? And who’s gonna sell it?

I’ve heard some folks say the e-bike is a natural fit for cycling’s aging demographic, which means they’re hoping to pitch it to the same faces they’ve seen under helmets since hairnets were cool. Others say the e-bike is attracting an entirely new customer.

And still others want nothing to do with the goddamn things, wary of the sales-and-service downsides of becoming an early adopter. Some of these folks might be stuck holding fatbikes they can’t unload, or worried about the rules, regulations and fees that Big Gummint might decide to tack onto these beasties should they begin turning up on America’s streets in quantity.

Are these shop owners missing out? Ceding TNBT™ to specialty e-bike retailers, or motorcycle dealerships? Yamaha’s in the game now, and the bike biz is basically a rounding error on that balance sheet.

What are your thoughts? Anyone out there own an e-bike, or sell ’em? Give us the buzz in comments.

Last Roundup in Sin City: Pipe down

September 24, 2017

A brief but fierce rainstorm welcomed me back to New Mexico.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (MDM) — I didn’t expect the bagpiper.

I was just settling into my room at the luxurious Hamster Inn & Suites in Kingperson on Friday afternoon when I heard a faint but unmistakable bleating.

“Who in billy hell would be listening to the bloody bagpipes at the luxurious Hamster Inn & Suites in Kingperson on a Friday afternoon?” I asked myself, being alone in the room save for the voices in my head, one of which may very well have been playing the pipes.

I put an ear to one wall, and then to the other, but couldn’t locate the source. And then I looked out the window.

There he was, three floors below, all kitted up and marching about, not so much listening to the pipes as playing them.

Turns out there was a firefighters’ gathering at the hotel, and also a Teamsters’ meeting, but I’m going to guess our man was affiliated with the former as I don’t believe the bagpipers have gotten themselves organized yet.

The final day of Le Shew Bigge proved uneventful, as it always does, and so after a hot lap to see if I’d overlooked anything I fled south and east to Kingperson, where I finally got a decent night’s sleep.

The rest of the trip was without incident, save for the inevitable construction slowdowns peppering I-40 and one exasperating 10-minute stop just outside Ash Fork caused by a mechanical (not mine). These were the only downsides of flying Air Subaru. All departures were as scheduled because they were unscheduled, the only person dragging me around was me, and my luggage didn’t wind up in Lesser Spaminacanistan when I reached my final destination.

“But Your Dogship!” you may expostulate. “The show! The show! Did you see anything that delighted you no end?”

Why yes, yes indeed, I did notice one thing that put a smile on my lips and a song in my heart. And here it is.

Th-th-th-that’s ALL, folks!

Last Roundup in Sin City: A rendezvous of strangers

September 22, 2017

Everybody’s working for the weekend.

LAS VEGAS (MDM) — Every morning I get up a little later, and a little slower, and every morning the line at Starbucks gets a little longer, and a little grouchier.

I remember the women working this location just off the Luxor lobby. We’ve seen each other for three mornings in September for years, and I always tip massively, because nobody should have to deal with me for free first thing in the morning unless they’ve committed some outrageous sin, like saying, “I do.”

So I get my cuppa, with smiles and light banter for dessert. One asked if they’d see me tomorrow, and I said, no, I’ll be checking out, and she wished me a safe journey home.

I didn’t tell her that we’d never see each other again, because once I snap that pic of Sin City in my rear-view mirror, I will never come back to this place, not in this life. But I will remember these women working their 21st-century assembly line, building new mornings for strangers, one cup at a time.

Speaking of sunny smiles, I caught up with Larry over lunch at Rí Rá yesterday. He knows all things Italian, but had a few questions as regards the menu at this Gaelic beanery in the Shoppes at Mandalay.

“What do the Irish drink?” he enquired.

“Everything,” I replied. Hey, you gotta swing for the fences when they pitch ’em slow like that.

On Wednesday my Adventure Cyclist comrades Alex Strickland, Nick Legan, Rick Bruner and Your Humble Narrator passed a couple pleasant hours discussing the eternal verities and remembering Mike Deme over Mexican food at the El Dorado Cantina.

You may recall from our 2015 coverage that the El Dorado adjoins a “gentlemen’s club,” but as in ’15, we restricted our activities to the side of the joint where everyone was keeping their clothes on.

And the show, you ask? It’s the show. A little smaller, a little less vibrant, and surprisingly short on bikes without batteries. But we managed to find a few unenhanced models suitable for the adventurous cyclist, and we’ll discuss those in greater detail further on down the road.

Next: Leaving Las Vegas.

Last Roundup in Sin City: Luxor-ious

September 20, 2017

The golden idol of Mandalay Bay stands watch over the empty pools of the Luxor.

LAS VEGAS (MDM) — A long march through the desert that ends at the Luxor is exactly backwards. Moses fled the pyramid-builders for many sound reasons, and I expect the accommodations were high on his shit list.

Everything in the joint is old, faded and noisy. Like me, only more expensive.

Granted, it was early Tuesday afternoon when I slouched in, but there wasn’t much of a crowd. Nevertheless, checking in involved the usual fraud, bunkum and clusterfuckery, because this is the Luxor, and the room is ridiculous because likewise.

Vegas does not want you bunkering up in its hotel rooms committing journalism. It wants you out in the open, where it can get a clear shot at you. Thus there is no desk for the serious scribe, or even an unserious one, just a tiny, battered circular table with two stained, scarred “plush” chairs that are too soft and low for the comfortable generation of fake news.

There is, however, a phone next to the toilet. One never knows when the urge to conduct an ambush interview may arise.

“What the hell are those sounds, O’Grady? Do you have a Berkshire hog in the room with you again?”

There is a TV the size of a billboard because of course there is, and I turned it on once to see if there really was a Fireplace Channel (there was). No coffeemaker, of course, because there are a thousand Starbucks in the feedlot downstairs.

And no matter, really, because Le Shew Bigge is a mile away from here, in Mandalay Bay. It’s a long march through the clangor of a neon desert, and even at 6 a.m. a Marlboro haze hangs low, like many a throbbing head.

Sheeyit. Moses had it easy.

Next: Le Shew Bigge.

Last Roundup in Sin City: Kingperson

September 19, 2017

Welcome aboard, and thanks for flying Air Subaru.

KINGPERSON, Ariz. (MDM) — Yes, there it is, the obligatory shot of Ye Olde Hometowne in the rear-view mirror.

I beat it for Interbike yesterday, deciding to drive to Kingperson (“Gateway to Laughlin-Bullhead City”) instead of overnighting at Flagstaff as per standard operating procedure. Perhaps I collected an undiagnosed head injury when I stacked it into the cholla a while back.

No matter. Here I am.

As per usual I-40 was filled to overflowing with speeding asshats, aggro truckers and construction projects that made the trip through Arizona feel like motoring to the Colorado Belle Casino in Laughlin with your blue-haired granny at the wheel of her ’72 Mercury Marquis (75 mph, 45 mph, 75 mph, 45 mph).

Plenty of Florida license plates on the RVs, all headed away from the place (imagine that). And it seemed all the truckers were piloting Volvos while the civilians were herding Mercedes-Benzes. There was even one red Lotus with a vanity plate (MIAOU). I felt distinctly plebian in the rackety old Furster.

After seven hours behind the wheel I wasn’t interested in exploring Kingperson’s culinary jungle so I hoofed it down the street to a Five Guys Burgers & Fries. Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” was on the joint’s playlist, followed by “Walk of Life” By Dire Straits. Somebody had my number.

This morning I had to flee the breakfast nook at the luxurious Hamster Inn & Suites due to some horrific oinking coming from the teevee. When I returned for a second cuppa it was still going on and I was compelled to jam fingers into both ears, which made carrying the java problematical.

Nevertheless, I persisted.

Word from Rumor Control is that yesterday’s Outdoor Demo was sparsely attended and that the traditional rending of garments and gnashing of teeth awaits at the Luxor registration desk.

I think I’m gonna need more java. LA LA LA LA LA I CAN’T HEEEEARRRRR YOUUUU!

Next: Sin City.

So much winning!

September 14, 2017

The Marin Nicasio, up against the Wall of Science here at El Rancho Pendejo.

There’s a new review bike in the queue at El Rancho Pendejo — a Marin Nicasio.

I picked it up from the fine folks at the local Performance Bicycle shop this morning, and it practically goes without saying that ever since it’s been raining on and off because of course it has.

The Nicasio (Professor Google informs me that the name* is from the Greek for “the victorious one”) is one of those affordable do-whatever machines, with steel tubes, drop bar and disc brakes. Part of Marin’s “Beyond Road” stable, it comes with skinny-ish Schwalbes but will take the fatties, and the 2×8 Shimano Claris reminds me of the good ol’ daze spent rippin’ it up with eight-speed Ultegra, which can still be found on four bikes in the fleet.

OK, so, full disclosure, one of those bikes uses a blend of eight-speed Ultegra, Dura-Ace and XT. Sue me.

Anyway, more as I learn it. And no, I haven’t ordered up a thousand-dollar iPhone X or the Apple Watch Series 3 yet, thanks all the same. Have you?

* Prof. G just told me that Nicasio is also a place in (wait for it) Marin County, Calif. Duh.

Fire and flood

September 12, 2017

Things are just peachy here.

We seem to be dialing it down from 11, natural-disaster-wise.

The Florida branch of Herself’s kin is back home after a stint in Pensacola, and the Adventurous Cyclists in Montana reported a break in the weather over the weekend, so yay, etc. Hope you and yours are on the right side of the lawn, and that said lawn is neither under water nor on fire.

Without cute pix of dogs carrying their own survival rations or video of knuckleheads getting blown off their feet while iPhoning an incoming wave it will be tough to keep our attention from drifting to the next shiny object. The cleanup is never as much fun as the party.

For example:

There are toxins in Houston’s floodwater. The U.S. Virgin Islands are for the moment no longer a paradise for vacationers (or the people who live there). The cleanup in Florida is liable to take the better part of quite some time.

Cooler, damper weather seems to be lending a hand to firefighters in Montana and Oregon, but nobody’s cracking the bubbly just yet.

Equifax doesn’t give a shit about me or thee.

And Ted Cruz apparently “likes” porn. If anything could finally croak the porn industry, this is it.

But hey, cheer up: The new iPhones are here! The new iPhones are here!

That Voodoo that I do

September 10, 2017

The Voodoo Nakisi, parked up near the Pino Trail outside the Elena Gallegos picnic area.

Labor Day may be the unofficial end of summer for a lot of yis, but for me, it’s always Interbike.

In the olden days, when I was still a man instead of whatever it is that I am now, I would have already squeezed at least one cyclocross under my bibs by the time Le Shew Bigge rolled around.

Your Humble Narrator working a barrier at one of those long-ago cyclocrosses.

But my final race was in 2004, and as the Last Roundup in Sin City approaches I’m mostly rolling around to no particular purpose, on whichever bike amuses me at the moment, free of licensing, race number and organizational responsibilities (that first race of each new season was usually the one I promoted).

This aimless pedaling about keeps me out of the office, where the temptation is to overload the wagon like some dumb-ass pilgrim lugging all his proud-ofs to the frontier.

Do I want to do any podcasting from Interbike? Video? If one or the other, or both, which MacBook do I take, the 13-incher or the 15-incher? Thank God I’m down to one functional camera. That’s one equipment-selection decision successfully avoided.

Unless I want to buy a new camera. …

No, goddamnit, knock that shit off. Confine yourself to the bloggery. Avoid the hernia.

I always think it would be fun to do something different, and I always wind up doing the same damn thing — wandering around with a pad and pen, talking to people, an informal process that can be knocked all to hell by these consarned newfangled ee-lectronical comosellamas.

It’s all good fun until someone gets hurt. And that someone is likely to be me. If I wanted to carry a rucksack with a hunnerd pounds of gear for money I’d join the damn Army, is what. I got the haircut already.

In other news, Red Ryder has gone to The Big Roundup In the Sky. And no, he didn’t shoot his eye out.

Property rites

September 7, 2017

The fabled House Back East®, soon to be under new management. Or so we hope, anyway. …

Hoo, nuts around here lately.

The House Back East™ in Bibleburg is under contract (for the second time in a week). Down here in the Duke City, meanwhile, the tree dude is popping round tomorrow to (what else?) have a squint at El Rancho Pendejo’s trees. The Furster, a.k.a. Air Subaru, gets a cautionary peek under the hood on Monday. ERP’s HVAC gets likewise on Tuesday.

And I finally found an affordable bike to review for the Adventurous Cyclists.

Whew.

Also, I got released from jury duty this afternoon. Hauled into court twice in three weeks, but never got to hear a case. Always a bridesmaid, etc., et al., and so on and so forth. Good for about $60 if the robes actually pay a guy for sitting on his ass … which, come to think of it, is what I do for a living, albeit at a slightly higher pay scale and in sloppier garb.

Most definitely not sitting on her ass is my sister-in-law Beth, who with her husband are beating it out of the bullseye Hurricane Irma has sketched on the east coast of Florida.

Herself thought they were bound for Pensacola, just a hop, skip and jump from the ancestral moonshining grounds of the O’Gradys in Perry. May the road rise up to meet them, but in a nice way.

 

Back to work!

September 5, 2017

Up and at ’em!

The (Communist) party’s over, comrades. Assume the position! Nose to grindstone! Hup hup!

Last night we enjoyed breaded pork chops from “Dad’s Own Cookbook” by Bob Sloan, seared Brussels sprouts via Martha Rose Shulman, rice and a hefty salad laden with greens, fruit and all manner of good things.

Also, and too, there was ice cream. It was a holiday weekend. I rode lots. Sue me.

Now Herself is back in the loving embrace of the military-industrial complex while I contemplate the two-week run-up to Interbike. Frankly, I would rather not be going to Sin City, and various experts of my acquaintance anticipate a reduced turnout for the final show there, but business is business and schnapps is schnapps, as Middelstaedt reminded Territorial Kantorek in “All Quiet on the Western Front.”

At the moment business includes trying to dredge up a three-figure bike suitable for the Adventure Cyclist audience after one of our review models went walkabout, as can happen during the silly season marking the transition from one model year to the next. There seems to be a metric shit-ton of product floating around on container ships, but damn’ little on dry land, and deadlines wait for no man.

Speaking of things floating around in the ocean to no good purpose, Hurricane Irma is thrashing around just east of Antigua, drawing a bead on Florida. One of Herself’s sisters lives in the Sunshine State and I don’t imagine she has “Key Largo” queued up on Netflix. Like most of us, including the late Johnny Rocco, I expect she prefers that the ocean stay in the water.

Meanwhile, in Oregon, “it seems as if everything is on fire except the desert.” Ditto Montana. Stay safe out there, kids.