Cold blow and the rainy night

The transition from fall to winter is always a sketchy time around here.

I’m not a fan of shorter, colder, darker days. They remind me at a genetic level of why my people invented uisce beatha. And since I no longer indulge in that miraculous restorative I’m at sea without a paddle on these chilly gray mornings, when the hangover is outside my head, at large and in charge, and not even aspirin is of any use.

This is when I await a tot of bad news, the way I once awaited a shot of good booze. The life of the free-range rumormonger is wild and free, until it isn’t, and it’s generally around this time of year when editors count and cull their herds.

“Oh, that one’s got to go. Dumber than three mules, eats like six of ’em, and shits all over the place. Fetch my .30-.30.”

It was fall 2017 when I got the word that Bicycle Retailer and Industry News would no longer require my “Mad Dog Unleashed” column. This was not a surprise. The industry-news biz, and the industry itself, was not exactly flush. Flushed was more like it. And shortly thereafter the publisher who gave the order and the editor who carried it out were no longer with The Organization.

About the same time Adventure Cyclist guessed that they wouldn’t need me at Interbike Reno, the Last Dance in Sin City having demonstrated all the intoxicating power of a half-can of O’Doul’s, a two-wheeled version of P.T. Barnum’s This Way to the Egress. When I heard nary a word about the show afterward I assumed Management had made the right decision. A bored and sober Dog makes a poor companion indeed. Whining and snarling and pissing on things.

And an old Dog, too. Set in his ways he is. ‘Tis a wee bit late to be training him so. Is there a .30-.30 to be had somewhere, d’ye think?

Well, p’raps. But not right now. Until I hear otherwise, I’m to deliver the first “Shop Talk” cartoon of 2019 to BRAIN next week. And a fresh Adventure Cyclist review bike awaits me down at Fat Tire Cycles, one of the few Duke City shops I have yet to visit.

And thus we have this week’s edition of Radio Free Dogpatch: “Cold Blow and the Rainy Night, or Whatever Floats Your Boat.” Give it a listen.

P L A Y    R A D I O    F R E E    D O G P A T C H

• Technical notes: This episode was recorded with a Shure SM58 microphone, Rogue Amoeba’s Audio Hijack, and the old 2009 iMac. Cap’n Whitebeard used an Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB mic. I edited the audio using Apple’s GarageBand on a 2014 MacBook Pro. The background music is “Into the Sunset” from Audio Hero via ZapSplat.com. Sounds of the sea courtesy Freesound.org.

• Editor’s note: The very day I recorded this episode BRAIN announced that the bell had tolled, not for me, but for Interbike, both show and staff. That shit will roll downhill — just how far and fast remains to be seen — and I feel the pain of all those who saw the business end of that .30-.30. Marc Sani, one of BRAIN’s founders and presently its interim publisher, has a few thoughts on the whys and wherefores. As for me, I wrote about the final Vegas show in 2017, and you can read that after the jump.

Off to see the Wizard?
An e-bike isn’t required
for the Yellow Brick Road

“Professor Marvel never guesses, he knows!”—Professor Marvel to Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz”

By Patrick O’Grady

As a carny talker who will pitch to himself if no one else is available I have at times considered cycling to Interbike in order to confer, converse and otherwise hobnob with my brother wizards.

It’s only 600-some-odd miles from Albuquerque to Las Vegas. Mike Sinyard and his traveling circus used to cover that much and more, back when the Big Red S still thought the game worth the ante.

But I always have second thoughts, and third thoughts, and before you can say “the magazine pays for gas” I’m rattling toward the Luxor in my rickety old Subaru.

The road to Mandalay (Bay) as seen from the Luxor, which is named after a famous Egyptian laxative.

Cycling to Mandalay Bay would have been particularly tough this year, thanks to a wicked cross-head wind that had me grappling with the wheel like some mad Ahab.

The only fun part would have been the stretch of US 95 from just west of Laughlin north to US 93. With that cyclone blowing up my tailpipe I’d have been keeping pace with auto traffic and peeping like a bosun’s whistle to boot.

But even with a cyclone assist … nah. Too much trouble in that burg to approach it on muscle power, and alone. Sin City is not the Emerald City, Interstate 40 is not the Yellow Brick Road, and I am most definitely not Dorothy.

Although, in a certain light, I can be mistaken for Miss Gulch.

The Orient Express. Almira Gulch didn’t need no stinking e-bike. Give her a stout Kansas cyclone and her Safety Model 1900 Orient, with baskets fore and aft, and she was good to go.

Not so the bike biz, which went heavy on battery-assisted models this season for three reasons: (1) Old; (2) white; (3) guys. Our people, the same rubes we’ve been talking into the tent for as long as I can remember.

At Interbike I saw some e-bikes that looked the part, and others that did not, and I imagine the industry will come to focus heavily on the latter, because not even old white guys like to be seen buying adult diapers.

Depends. But I keed, Auntie Em, I keed. E-bikes will save us, just like mountain bikes, mountain bikes with suspension forks, fully suspended mountain bikes, 29ers, cyclocross bikes, single-speeds, cruisers, townies, disc-brake bikes, electronic shifting, fat bikes, 650b/27.5+ bikes, cargo bikes and gravel bikes did before them. All the smart people say so.

Alas, as you know, I will never be smart. Which is probably why I’m having a hard time getting buzzed about e-bikes. Sure, the Tern GSD was impressive, especially if you’re looking to replace a 2005 Forester that smells like old white guy for your weekly expedition to Whole Amazon.

That said, as a pro rumormonger with gadgetry out the wazoo I already have too many batteries sucking the smelly carbon teat of New Mexico’s coal-fired power plants.

And as a cyclist, though I may not be able to get 250km out of a single feeding like the Tern GSD, I don’t have to be plugged into a wall socket to recharge, either. Just steer me toward the buffet.

Power to the people? I’m not on a crusade against e-bikes. If you sell them, or ride them, more power (heh) to you. And if nominated to ride one for review purposes, I would not refuse to serve.

But one of the reasons I’m not shopping to replace my 12-year-old car is that the new models have become impossibly complex, packed with distractions that have little to do with the operation of a motor vehicle.

This is also why I’m not shopping for an e-bike. For me, the convenience of an electrical assist is outweighed by the layer of complexity the supporting technology adds to the simple pleasure of riding a bicycle.

I ride in part to escape the electronica ensnarling our lives like so much coaxial kudzu. And if I can’t make the climb from Jeff Bezos’ farmers market to El Rancho Pendejo with panniers full of grub, maybe I should ride a little more and eat a little less.

Turn off, tune out, drop in. So count me among those interested in the less elaborate machinery on the market these days. Bikes like the $499 Pure Cycles Veleta, the $800 Public R24, or the $750 Marin Nicasio (this last I’m reviewing for Adventure Cyclist).

They’re steel, spec’d with eight-speed Claris and other plebeian bits, and two of them (gasp) even lack disc brakes. But they’re utilitarian, understandable and affordable, with mounts for racks and fenders, bikes that might help broaden and deepen that crowd wandering around outside the tent.

Maybe when I’m a year older and Interbike moves to Reno I’ll be more interested in making an assault by battery. But that’s a thousand-mile ride, and I might not even try it in the Subaru.

For the moment, having traded the cigarette stench of Sin City’s casinos for the aroma of chiles smoking in Duke City’s roasters—and for the last time, too!—I’ll generate my own watts, storming around Almira Gulch style.

Until we get the bugs worked out of balloon travel, that is. Hey, wait for me, Professor Marvel!

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22 Responses to “Cold blow and the rainy night”

  1. Sharon Reed Says:

    In the US at least, it seems like they’re betting the whole farm on e-Bikes as the boomers age out…

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Yep. The same old white guys. A marketing strategery this is not. The bidness has focused on The Next Big Thing® since the mountain bike turned out to be such a hot product.

      Nothing since has come along with that kind of horsepower, unless you count He Who Shall Not Be Named, and the subsequent backlash may have erased a substantial portion of any gains realized therefrom.

  2. Steve O Says:

    Lordy, if you can’t get folks to Vegas for the slimmest of excuses, your industry has a problem. This week the Left-Handed Underwater Basket-Weavers Association has half the Mirage booked.

  3. psobrien Says:

    World class snark is needed now more than ever. And you produce the best prime, world class, A number one, top drawer snark. If you hang out a bigger shingle in the right places, you will be able to buy the really prime kibble again. Shit, who knows, if you landed a gig on Fox and Friends you could be the next attorney general or ambassador to the UN. Now that would be a Senate confirmation hearing I would watch! Failing all that, then we have our old standby for getting you a good job with your own personal chefs. O’Grady for President. Hell yea! You could get Charles to be your press secretary. Larry could be your ambassador to Italia. And Herself could be Librarian in Chief of these here United States. Me? I will be the White House sound man, entertainment chair, and bike detailer, and guitar stringer.

    • khal spencer Says:

      Yep. O’Grady for President. A bicycle in every garage and a chicken in every tank, or something like that.

      Its too bad to see Reno go belly up but that seemed predictable. The monopolists in the bike biz don’t need no show and tell. They just need to strong arm the competition and keep it up with planned obsolescence. That what surprises me. With the increase of planned obsolescence in the bike biz, I woulda thought that profits were unavoidable.

      Does the Society Of People Who Actually Make Their Own Shit still hold conventions? Maybe SOPWAMTOS, should, if they don’t.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      A chicken in every garage and a bicycle in every tank. When the tank breaks down you break out the bike. You go to war with the bike you have, not the tank you wish you had. I’ll be the chicken in the garage.

      • Pat O'Brien Says:

        You’re hired. Bikes, not tanks. Damn good campaign slogan.

        Thunder sleet going on down here. Interesting. Might as well head out to the garage and put new pads in the Niner’s brakes then slap it into the work stand and lube it up.

  4. khal spencer Says:

    When Meena gives me the line that I cling to things too long (sweaters I bought in grad school, the carpet in the Bombtown house that was disintegrating, etc) I don’t reply but just give her The Look, and that’s enough. Of course we both have the tendency to stay with the same old thing for 31 years.

  5. Dale Says:

    When you reach mid-fifties your desirability diminishes a bit. That applies in more areas than I would want to name.

    If you have been in a job for several years, there are always younger candidates in the queue (willing to accept the starting salary). If your employer values your experience over the bottom line, you will be OK.

    How has that worked out lately?

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      The women don’t look at me anymore. Neither do the employers. The police do, but only if I’m anywhere near a playground.

      Thing about my line is, everyone thinks s/he can do it, and everyone who distributes/consumes it wants it for free. So there are plenty of people out there willing to write, edit, draw, shoot, video, blog, podcast and socialize for the byline, a buck, and an insulated travel mug with the magazine’s name stenciled on it.

      I can’t complain, but sometimes I still do. Life’s been good to me so far.

  6. khal spencer Says:

    Anyone for a Gran Fondo next June? https://www.abqjournal.com/1254565/santa-fe-saddles-up-as-part-of-the-gran-fondo-bicycle-race-series.html

  7. Herb from Michigan Says:

    I’m still having rectal spasms about the podcast announcement that POG is warming right up to disc brakes. Jesus Patrick, what’s next? Skinny jeans and Alexa in every room? I still insist NPR affiliate would love your commentary. Once a week snark on hiking, biking and Duke City in general.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      When you hear me praise carbon fiber, be afraid. Be very afraid.

      This podcast was sort of a Hail Mary. My man Hal and I were going to team up again, this time for a show on books, including readings from our respective works. But he found himself in a dentist’s chair and as you know it’s hard to talk with a whitecoat up to his elbows in your chops, asking you “How ’bout those Broncos?” as he tugs on a wisdom tooth with a pair of channel-locks, a crowbar and a Warn winch.

      • JD Dallager Says:

        So, PO’G me lad…..speaking of carbon fiber…..where does all that carbon fiber go once the cyclists/MTB’ers/defense agency users/etc. decide that the 2-year old model they have needs updating?

        I recall “The Graduate” movie (sorry…may be before several of your readers’ times) wisdom that “plastics were the future”. And, if environmental consequences were relatively unimportant to investors then…….do we see history “rhyming, not repeating” (Mark Twain) here again? …. one could do quite well in that investment. Now we understand that much of that “future” has come home to roost as non-biodegradables.

        I’m offering all the Mad Dog readers a chance to invest in either tattoo removal tech or carbon fiber biodegradable/recycling tech. The technology is probably available, but is our culture willing to support it?

        Ride on!

        • Pat O'Brien Says:

          It ends up in the Mariana Trench right next to the Wally World plastic bag.

        • Patrick O'Grady Says:

          Apparently there are some recycling programs out there. The Guardian wrote about a couple in 2017 (one is in Colorado), and both Specialized and Trek apparently would either like to establish or expand recycling for bike frames as well as the waste generated in their production.

          One of the stumbling blocks appears to be demand for the recycled product.

          • psobrien Says:

            The price of those carbon bikes should include a recycling fee, and the company should have a place to send them at the end of their life. Steel is easily recycled wherever you live. Another reason steel is real.

          • larryatcycleitalia Says:

            I’m surprised nobody wants recycled carbon fiber. Seems to me if it was ground up properly it could be mixed up with some sort of resin matrix and shot out of a gun into molds, creating all kinds of stuff “made from carbon fiber” whether the material was better than others or not.
            I seem to remember some fiberglass fabrications moving away from sheets of material laid into molds to this idea many years ago or is my memory fuzzy?
            How much crap was sold back-in-the-day with the words “titanium” or “turbo” attached when the products were neither? At least these products could claim to be actually made from the stuff.

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