’Tooned out

The Mud Stud, Dude, The Old Guy Who Gets Fat in Winter, and Your Humble Narrator bid adieu to their e-assistant and the bicycle industry.

• Editor’s note: Here it is, the first Monday of a new year, the start of a work week in which I will not. Work, that is. For the story, read on.

I never worked in a bike shop.

But I worked on “Shop Talk,” a comic strip about a bike shop, for 30 years.

And that was long enough, I decided. And so the strip ends with the January 2022 edition of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, coming soon to a shop toilet near you.

It was fun while it lasted. And it lasted longer than anyone expected. Especially me.

Entire magazines rose and fell in those three decades. But the Mud Stud, Dude, and a rotating, motley cast of supporting characters remained upright, or at least on their feet, mostly, until I pulled the shop mat out from under them in December 2021.

I nearly did it in December 2020, but BRAIN editor Steve Frothingham talked me out of it. He tried to do it again last month, but that time I stuck to my guns. Pens. Whatevs.

The first installment of one of my favorite “Show Talk” strips about the Interbike trade show. The Mud Stud is offsite at the show and confused, as usual.
• Part 2
• Part 3

It was BRAIN’s first editor, Marc Sani, who talked me into it.

Marc was in my cycling club in Santa Fe back in 1991, when I was leaving The New Mexican for the care- and cash-free existence of freelance journalism.

Recognizing desperation when he saw it, he asked if I’d like to contribute to the trade magazine he and some business partners were starting.

The magazine would cover the bicycle industry, about which I knew absolutely nothing. Sure, I was a customer, but Wine Spectator doesn’t hire stew bums to crack wise about viticulture.

Happily, ignorance had never stopped me from sounding off before. And so, before you could say, “Duuuude,” the Mud Stud became the not-too-swift shop rat who partied in the back of Bicycle Retailer while the Suits conducted business up front.

The strip was developed on the fly. Pure anarchy, as represented by the tattoo on the Stud’s left shoulder. I had no idea who the characters would be, or what they would do, since the only part of me that had ever worked in a bike shop was my wallet.

The Mud Stud was the star of the first “Shop Talk” in BRAIN’s debut, the January-February issue of 1992. But then he vanished until August, pre-empted by a vaguely roadish, aproned, backwards-hatted wrench whose name was never revealed. Turns out, dude answered to “Dude.” Who knew?

As for the Mud Stud, that was never intended to be his name. It was a logo on the T-shirt he wore in his second appearance, and for some reason, it stuck, like the omnipresent X-shaped bandage on the left side of his head.

So did the Stud. After his early truancy, the Stud has appeared in BRAIN as regularly as bad news about Schwinn, which he once tried to buy with a Dave Wiens trading card and $6 in food stamps.

Other brainstorms to sweep from beneath the Stud’s greenish-blond Mohawk like tornadoes through cycling’s trailer park have included showing up in his baggies with a board on the day shop employees were to learn how to surf the Internet; turning a track pump into a bong; and engaging in a naked midnight mountain-bike ride down Deadman’s Dropoff with a water bottle full of tequila and a lawyer’s daughter on the handlebars.

Professor Stud never graded on a curve, but he was occasionally critical of a student’s hucking.

Longtime readers know that bandage on the Stud’s dome is neither decoration nor affectation. As the Stud’s slacker pal Biff Trail once noted, “He’s the only dude I know whose NORBA license has an organ donor’s release.”

Like the rest of the cycling industry, the Mud Stud was at his absolute best during the Interbike trade show. Appearing in a long run of special-edition “Show Talk” strips, he bought 6,000 Missy Giove™ nipple rings, then unloaded them at a discount to Roseanne Barr; gambled the bike shop away to a Vegas mobster, then won it back with the backing of a trustafarian inline-skater geek name of Slater the Skater; and failed to make the show at all one year when he mistook New Mexico’s Las Vegas for the one in Nevada.

Lest you dismiss him as dingbat, dimwit, or dufus, you should know that the Stud used to teach at Harvard. Either law or physics; we’re not sure. Hey, a lot of us took the scenic route to the bicycle business, among them at least one cartoonist.

In the glory days, I got to draw a full-page cartoon now and then.

Once he arrived, the Mud Stud learned to dine on Spaghetti-Os, shower by riding through the car wash, and make delicate adjustments to $5,000 bikes with a claw hammer. Where he lives remains a mystery. What he lives for is to ride, and to wrench, if only to feed the monkey. And maybe that’s why he managed to keep his job for 30 years.

Actually, the Mud Stud did get fired once, for spray-painting a filthy word on the shop manager’s car after the boss pretended to sack him in a practical joke. He was guilty, but also innocent.

“C’mon, dude,” said Biff, speaking for the defense. “It’s not like he spelled it right or anything.”

“Oh, OK,” grumbled the manager, as he relented. “Besides, without him, we got no comic strip.”

And now, after all those years, even with him, we got no comic strip.

But we still have him. So, look for the Mud Stud, Dude, Biff, and The Old Guy Who Gets Fat in Winter — who wandered into “Shop Talk” after VeloNews shrank to such an alarming degree that it could no longer contain his bibs-busting buffoonery — to pop round here from time to time.

We’re old. We’re retired. But we’re not dead.

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34 Responses to “’Tooned out”

  1. khal spencer Says:

    Yep. I packed in my classification analyst’s secret decoder pin (Its just a real life version of Ralphie’s Little Orphan Annie decoder pin in A Christmas Story) at the end of November as well. I’ll still wander up there from time to time to waive my arms, mumble incoherently, and see if I remember what a chemistry lab looks like, but only for fun rather than all the pressure of “producing”. Well, I will until they figure out I’m totally over the hill and next to useless, anyway.

    Look forward to occasionally seeing the Shop Talk gang here in the same paradigm shift–when you are hit with the old speaking in tongues, rather than to meet a deadline. And thank God/Darwin for that pension, Socialist Security and Medicare stuff.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      “Pension?” Your words are strange, friend. What a marvelous planet you must come from.

      Ho, ho, etc.

      Yeah, you gotta know when to hold ’em, and when to fold ’em. It was time to hit the pay window and the door, in that order. Let the Youngs make some punk-ass money for a while.

      VN and BRAIN saved me from newspapers, but nothing could save them from The Invisible Hand. The Greater Outside+ Sports Squid has both in its Capilene tentacles now, and may Dog have mercy on their souls.

      • JD Says:

        Ah yes …. Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand”: Either giving you the middle finger or reaching into your wallet/purse. 🙂
        PO’G: Your “saga” re the Shop Talk Gang …. to me at least …. reflects 30-plus years (I way underestimate on purpose ….. and diplomacy and tact are NOT my strong suit!) of independent thought, literary and artistic creativity, entrepreneurship, staying true to one’s values, and caring strongly about family, friends, and helping others. I won’t mention cyclocross! 🙂
        As someone once said: “Even a dead fish can go with the flow.”
        And as someone much wiser said: “We’re old. We’re retired. But we’re not dead.”
        I rest my case ….. but not yet in peace!!! 🙂

      • khal spencer Says:

        Yeah, lucky us. LANL killed the pension about a dozen years ago. I was grandfathered in. Its one of the main reasons I stayed there. Had a nice job offer at UT Austin a while back but it would have left us shit outa luck in our dotage. But who knows, if Uncle Sam kicks the bucket, its all off the table anyway.

        • JD Says:

          Khal: I have two neighbors who were LANL wizards. One still consults for them because he’s probably a national resource on that specific topic.

          Until two months ago I didn’t realize LANL is now (and has been for quite a while) a contractor operation. I’d guess the private sector’s “efficiencies and effectiveness” won out over government socialism? 🙂

          Regardless …. we’re all pleased that we have this Mad Dog Watering Hole at which to commune and look for predators and prey. Allegorically only!! 🙂

          • khal spencer Says:

            Who are your neighbors? I have a pal who moved to Tennesee who is a national treasure on something pretty important out here. Me? I’m just the equivalent of the guy who washes the dishes while the world class chef makes the food.

        • Patrick O'Grady Says:

          The Sandia pension is history too. Herself’s boss will get it when he retires, but she will not. So it goes.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        Aw, shuckens, JD (scuffs toe in dirt). T’weren’t nothin’.

        It was big fun for a long time, especially when the mags were locally owned. Sure, there were ups and downs, but those make for a good ride, amirite?

        But you have to put the kickstand down sometime. For me, it was when I saw the contract Outside expected me to sign (nope) and the third-party freelancer-management outfit they insisted I engage with (nope again).

        Once they start swatting you with the boilerplate it’s time to break out the armor-piercing ammo or beat a strategic retreat. I’d seen that movie a time or two before, and it puts a hitch in my gitalong, humoristically speaking.

    • Shawn Says:

      Khal: Perhaps you should show up at the lab on April first with a panicked look on your face and mumbling something about “that classified experiment” that you forgot to turn off when you left. The one that grows exponentially if it’s not controlled. Oh no!

  2. Shawn Says:

    I didn’t know that a strip could be retired. Off on a sabbatical perhaps, but retired? Hmm. Maybe you should keep up with it so that long after we are dead, buried and dug up by treasure hunters looking for vintage bike jerseys, your archived strip will become the pictorial historic truth about the past that the alien battle survivors revere. Mud Stud’s tattoo will be symbol of the planetary resistance.

    The outside group sure is a beast isn’t it? Who would have thought that they’d have ownership of Warren Miller and PinkBike. Capitalism can sure fuuk up a good thing.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Outside is a big boy, a’ight. I liked VN and BRAIN betterer when they were smallerer. A fella knew whose coat to tug on when the checks went walkabout. Marc Sani paid me out of his personal account a time or two. He enjoyed watching the reactions as I bit the various hands that fed me.

  3. Stephen Newhall Says:

    29 years in the retail bike industry and looking to retire myself. I have been reading the stud the whole time and Patrick you described the bike shop scene perfectly.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Gracias, compañero. I was not always right, but I was so loud nobody could tell I was wrong.

      “What the hell is he on about now?”

      “Beats me, but my ears are ringing like a display of Crane bells.”

  4. B Lester Says:

    Today is my first intentionally unemployed Monday after many decades running production and material control systems for various manufacturers. Made everything from steel buildings to X-ray machines to play sets to refrigerators. When SRAM decided that they needed a plant in Chi-town, I signed on for a few years. That’s where I met Shop Talk and Friday’s Foaming Rant. Been here ever since.

    With your kind continuation I will be spending retirement moments here too. Thanks so much for the snark and the yuks. Patrick, you’re a gem.

  5. Libby Says:

    Congratulations on the 30 year ride with BRAIN! I’m curious to to see where the shop crew lands in retirement. Wishing you and the crew a very long and happy retirement.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Thanks, Libby. Steve Frothingham and I were batting around a few ideas about where everybody might have landed once the shop closed, but I wanted to ponder their fates a while. I like the final scenes of “Animal House,” where you find out where all of Faber’s funhogs wound up. I’m thinking something like that, only more so.

  6. Pat O’Brien Says:

    Retirement? I highly recommend it. I also look forward to a toon every now and then. Are you going to thin the herd in the garage for beer money? Never mind, someday Sandy and I will show up in Duke City and buy you and Herself a nice retirement celebration dinner. Khal and Herb can come also, but when the check comes they are on their own. Fixed income is an excuse you can now use just like me.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      You were one of my inspirations, sir. I thought, “If it’s good enough for Paddy, bedad, it’s good enough for me so.”

      I won’t thin the herd just yet. You never know, once this Bug thing dies down — if it dies down — people might pop round to say howdy. Some of them might need bikes.

  7. Dave Watts Says:

    Retirement? Pfffft! Right. Don’t put that drawing board out in the garage sale just yet. Looking forward to the “pop round here from time to time” episodes of The Stud, etc., sans the shop (now closed). Or… is it? I mean, he’s gotta do something besides just riding off stage-left.

    Shop Talk, along with those delightful Mad Dog Unleashed columns, helped get me through those uncertain post-Schwinn bankruptcy years, as I needed both humor and diversion from ’92 onward. I know something of 3+ decades devoted to one vocational passion, and if that guy didn’t end up buying my building in Y2K so I could finally close down the store, I don’t know where I would have landed. I’m old, I’m un-retired, and not dead yet. I’ll see if I can clock another 30 years in the industry I’m now in (grocery). Keep the blogs and cartoons coming, even if we have to wait awhile for The Stud Gang to find their new way.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Dave, I hope the grocery bidness is working out for you. I notice some gaps in the shelves around here, even unto the Wholeazon Amafoods, so I’m guessing the supply-chain issues continue in your racket as well as in the bike game.

      The neighborhood Sprouts took a real pounding between Christmas and New Year’s, and they’ve got a “We’re Hiring!” banner up now. Maybe The Stud will apply.

      • Dave Watts Says:

        Thanks, Patrick. It is working out quite well. They write paychecks to me rather than the other way around. I was sure glad when I found out I was getting paid something steady – and year ’round too.

        Minor supply issues notwithstanding, it isn’t terrible. I’ve seen it worse in those other stores, and much worse in non-grocery related biz’s. It hurts to walk in or by a bike store with little to sell. I feel for those guys terribly, having been there in a more minor way in the 90’s when every other supplier or brand looked like they were in their last year ever. And some were. Most did make it through.

  8. Patrick Fowler Says:

    Thank you for the many years of fun. I still have 3 pint glasses left and 40+ years of bicycle business memories that you were a part of. Enjoy your retirement! Peace

  9. Herb from Michigan Says:

    Well by Zeus ya done it laddie. Tonight I will indeed hoist a glass of some spirit to you and the Shop Talk characters who were more real than readers might suspect. Good time to exit from BRAIN since it’s a matter of time before The Bike Brands Who Rule ban their dealers from reading anything that they don’t control. Some shops already have their point of sale info running into and through the bike companies. So they can probably see if anyone is getting fresh ideas from surfing “traitorous “ websites with contrary content. I do remember reading your rants ( in print no less!) in the trades and marveling at how you got away with poking the bear. But now that you are not on the corporate tit so to speak, you can stick M80’s up the bears ass and we are all looking forward to that.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Herb, I did ’er, for true. This last while it got so’s I felt like I was hollerin’ down a rathole and the rats were either gone, dead, or bored stiff. When you can’t make a rat squeak it’s time to be elsewhere.

      My departure should also free up a little coin for Steve to spend on, oh, I dunno, some actual news coverage of the bicycle bidness? That might go down well with the audience.

      Like you, I was and am amazed at what I could get away with. And for a long time, too. I was a lucky, lucky bastard.

  10. John A Levy Says:

    Thank you for all the good stuff over the years. Still have a copy of “the season Starts When?” Mud Stud and Fat guy helped with kicking the nicotine habit 20 years ago.
    Still keeping my hand in with small consulting gigs and keeping my espouses computer network and digital x-ray and voip software together. But after 65 not many are interested in the experience, Coupla years hit 70 and will tap my Socialist Security Account and see if the IRA’s haven’t been raided, raped and pillaged by Wall and Chris Christy the Jersey Fat guy.
    Yeah, Outside has turned into a real asshat bunch. I Thought Challenger was bad but This bunch is truly soulless.
    Look forward to the pithy observations and commentary but some things are better in a visual medium. World is changing, Bear down on ’em Bronc Rider!!

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      John, kicking that habit is a son of a bitch. It took me forever, and more than one go, too. Good on ye.

      As for the Outside boyos, who knows? They may get tired of buying stuff and try to make some. It’s a rough ol’ game, though, and investors like to see a little ROI, or so I hear. All I ever invested was my time, and they can’t have any more of that. Too much paperwork with that lot.

  11. carl duellman Says:

    doing anything for 30 years is hard; doing it well is even harder. thanks for the toons!

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Thanks, Carl, but all things considered it was a lap around the park on a sunny day.

      My old man did 30 years in the U.S. Air Force. For a few of them strangers were shooting at him with malice aforethought. Peacetime was worse. He made the mistake of fathering an arsehole son and then all he had to look forward to was the pension, the pub, and the camposanto. I don’t get a pension, and I quit boozing, but I’ve already lasted longer above ground than he did, so, winning!

  12. SAO' Says:

    Can I steal “old, retired, but not dead” for a sticker pack we’re working on?

    Congrats and bon voyage, not in the nautical sense (unless New Mexico has developed some beachfront property I wasn’t aware of).

    30 years … can’t wait to see the gold watch!


  13. mooremediaone Says:

    Hi Patrick, will we see any future reviews in Adventure Cyclist Mag?
    I love them!

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed ’em, because I sure enjoyed writing ’em. But that chapter has likewise come to a close after 10 years.

      After Mike Deme died and Alex Strickland moved on it seemed time for me to hit the trail too. The work was fun and the pay outstanding, and I didn’t want to be greedy. There are a lot of people out there who can do the work and need it more than I do. The Adventure Cycling Association people are a great crowd, and working with them was endless joy. Nary a bump in the road.

      Plus, I’m just not that interested in where the industry is taking the bicycle. So rather than bitch endlessly about what I don’t like in the new bikes, I’d rather spend my time riding the old ones in my garage.

  14. Christopher Tuma Says:

    Thanks Patrick. You have been like my horoscope in the BR. Mud Studs adventures were always a reflection of what was happening or going to happen to me in the shop. I enjoyed meeting you at Interbike, we sat on the showroom floor and you drew me a toon and Quoted Mud Stud saying, Quit hitting them cars. Yesterday was my last day at the shop, comical predictions!
    What a long strange trip it’s been.
    Do you want to work the assembly line with me at Rivian?
    Good luck 🍀 OGrady!
    Chris Tuma

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