Archive for the ‘Adventure Cyclist’ Category

Days decrease, and autumn grows

October 10, 2018

Yesterday’s clouds were a harbinger of mildly unpleasant weather,
the sort one expects in October.

It’s that time of year again.

This morning, instead of going straight to The New York Times to see what deviltry Cheeto Benito has been up to while we slept, I cued up Weather Underground to find out what Thor has in store for us here in our little corner of the Duke City.

Also, I was wearing socks. And pants. O, the humanity.

I already miss my summer routine. Reveille at oh-dark-thirty as Field Marshal Turkish von Turkenstein (commander, 1st Feline Home Defense Regiment) leaps into my rack. After a brief exchange of the usual courtesies it’s up and into the Columbia shorts, guinea tee and Tevas for the trip to the kitchen, where I burn an English muffin for Herself, pour a cup of joe for myself, and top off Miss Mia Sopaipilla’s kibble.

Next, open the sliding glass doors and a kitchen window. Fresh air reminds me we have two cats who haven’t mastered the flush toilet. But the litter box will have to wait. First, the news. One foul chore at a time, please.

With the international, national, regional and local butt-nuggets exhumed, examined and expunged, and a second cup of coffee to wash down a snack of some sort, it’s time to generate a bit of bloggery and/or paying copy before embarking upon some healthy outdoor activity.

Here we have another indicator of the relentless passage of time, as reliable as falling leaves. Come autumn, Bicycle Retailer and Industry News and Adventure Cyclist reduce their frequency of publication, and my income stream — hardly a raging torrent, even in the heart of the cycling season — becomes more of a dribble, the last warm sip from summer’s water bottle.

I delivered the video teaser of my Jones Plus SWB review to Adventure Cyclist on Sunday, and yesterday the November “Shop Talk” cartoon went off to BRAIN. Now I’m fresh out of other people’s bikes to ponder, and there’s just one more ’toon to draw for 2018.

And that healthy outdoor activity? Come autumn, it’s as likely to be a run as a ride. This year I started jogging again in July; this lets me sort of sneak up on my knees, give them time to grow accustomed to the idea that we enjoy this sort of thing, before winter winnows our options.

It’s a useful fiction, one that keeps me in shorts a while longer.

It’ll all come out in the wash

October 5, 2018

I’m ditchin’, man.

Well, no; no, it won’t.

But I’m in the wash* anyway.

 

*We call washes “arroyos” down here, and sometimes we don’t come out, either.

Interbike 2018: The Biggest Little Show

September 14, 2018

Yes, it’s that time of year again.

Interbike Marketweek Reno-Tahoe Powered by Northstar California Resort doesn’t seem to be getting much traction in the mainstream media.

A cursory search of The New York Times finds a story from the 2008 show (“LeMond Critical of Armstrong”). The Washington Post mentions Interbike in a 2017 piece discussing Outdoor Retailer’s contentious exit from Utah. And The Los Angeles Times gives it a nod in a 2013 story on BikeSpike, a Chicago startup hoping to deter bike thieves.

Gosh, if only we could make the bicycle more expansive, expensive, and indispensible, we might draw a few more hungry eyeballs. (A Google search for “new iPhones” yields about 2,670,000,000 results.)

Alas, the humble bicycle — so far as I know, anyway — will not download porn for you from the palm of one hand, leaving the other free for, well, you know, whatever. You can ride one to an adult bookstore, but it will get stolen by some other jagoff, because BikeSpike seems to have gone tits up.

What’s that in the obligatory rear-view-mirror shot? The garage door. I ain’t goin’ nowhere.

But we were talking about Interbike Marketweek Reno-Tahoe Powered by Northstar California Resort here, not porn, adult bookstores, and well, you know, whatever.

The Northstar Free-Ride Festival kicks off tonight and runs through Sunday. OutDoor Demo will be Sunday and Monday, also at the Northstar Resort. The Interbike Expo will run Tuesday through Thursday at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center.

The local business community is all atwitter at hosting the show, with attendance rumored to be in the low five digits.

“It’s very similar in size to Safari Club International … and close to the qualifying events for the Northern California Volleyball Association,” said Phil DeLone, CEO of the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority, in a chat with the Reno Gazette-Journal. “It’s certainly in the top three largest events that come to Reno.”

Elite company, to be sure, and proud we are of all of them. But among Those in the Know, the expectation is that Le Shew Bigge in the Year of Our Lord 2018 will be greatly diminished from the glory days.

“Gonna be a sleepy little show,” observed one observer.

As a consequence I will not be notching my 21st Interbike this year. Adventure Cyclist did a quick cost-benefits analysis and decided the office sofa infrastructure would yield just enough change to get staff from Missoula to Reno-Tahoe and back again, with nothing left over for bail. And Bicycle Retailer and Industry News quit underwriting my travels a dozen years ago because I kept writing columns about how the show had become a sad exercise in, well, you know, whatever. This had grown tiresome, even for me, and I was the one being paid to write it.

Since Interbike fled north from Las Vegas to Reno-Tahoe I have talked to some industry types who are going and not happy about it, and to some others who are not going and are delighted. Me? I’m mildly disappointed to miss a chance to catch up with the friends, colleagues and industry types I only get to see once a year.

But when I read a weather forecast like this one, I cheer up pretty quickly. Shucks, I have enough bikes in the garage to put on my own damn OutDoor Demo.

• Next: Hello, is there anybody in there?

Rocking out

August 28, 2018

Trail 365 near its intersection with Trail 230. One of the easy bits.

The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, they say.

I had every intention of shooting a bunch of video of the Jones SWB for Adventure Cyclist today. But there was a veritable horde of nimrods tramping around and about on my trails, cluttering up the background, so as I was about to continue my usual southward swing along Trail 365, in a snit, I abruptly veered north onto a rocky stretch that I was pretty sure I couldn’t ride.

The view from the 365-230 intersection. Yep, that’s the big bad city down there.

And I was right. But it was a giggle anyway, and a pleasant change of pace, not least because I had always let that northbound trail buffalo me into turning around. This time I went All! The! Way!

I am not much for technical trails, and absolutely worthless in rock gardens, but I managed to ride quite a bit of Trail 365 between Elena Gallegos and the water tank above the Sandia Tram. It’s not preposterously difficult for anyone who isn’t me, and as I came to understand that I could either do a lot of walking or sack up and ride, well, I managed to surprise myself a time or two on the lumpy bits. The 27.5+x3.0 Maxxis Chronicle tires sure helped, especially at around 15 psi.

And I saw exactly one other lunatic out there, riding the trail in the opposite direction. I yielded trail, we traded greetings, and that was that.

I saw exactly one big-ass rattlesnake, too. We did not pause in our travels to exchange compliments.

But the hell of it is I got so focused on trying to clean rocky sections that I only shot one short snippet of video. Now I gotta go ride the sonofabitch again.

Spaghetti western

August 24, 2018

The director at work. Just call me Quentin Ferrentino.

Back in the saddle again. …

Wrapped a video about the Bianchi Orso yesterday and shipped it off to the Adventurous Cyclists. I don’t know if these little flights of fancy get any altitude once they leave the nest, but making one drags me out of the dark corners of my head and into the light, however briefly, squinting like an astigmatic Morlock without his prescription Rudy Projects.

The Bianchi Orso in a bikepacking configuration, up against the Wall of Science.

There’s never a plan. Well, not really. I always snap some stills of the bike and its bits in various configurations, loaded and unloaded, up against the Wall of Science. But then I just bugger off with the machinery, a GoPro and an old Flip Video tripod, and see what happens. Make a ride of it. The body sweats in tandem with the brain.

By the time I get around to shooting video I’ve already written the print review, so I have that road map filed away for reference, a sort of mental GPS chirping, “Proceed 500 meters down the trail, cross the dry wash, then tackle that kitty-litter climb. Try to look like a bikepacker instead of a poseur. And stay out of the cholla f’chrissakes, you still have to edit this footage.”

Speaking of which, after a couple-three of these little adventures with the bike in various getups I have a mountain of clips to turn into a two-minute molehill. It’s like doing a jigsaw puzzle without any idea of what the finished picture is supposed to look like.

“OK, lessee here, there’s an intro, here’s an outro, now what about the in-between? Component roundup, yup; racks and sacks, uh huh; bikepacking rig, mmm hmm. Some road. Some dirt. How ’bout something ridiculous, just ’cause? Two minutes on the nosey.”

Finding some suitable background music may be the biggest hurdle. Apple’s iMovie doesn’t include a ton of useful tunes, and I draw the line at going all Ennio Morricone on these things with my two-bit orchestra. Light on the good, heavy on the bad and ugly, is what. I don’t have a piano, the flute scares the cats, and my guitar “stylings” sound like a raccoon chasing a rat through a box spring at the dump.

Roll of the dice

August 20, 2018

Off with your head!

Here’s your helmet, there’s the door, what’s your hurry?

Megan Tompkins, the publisher of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, “has left to pursue other opportunities,” in the parlance of our times.

Marc Sani, the semi-retired co-founder of the trade magazine, has stepped in as interim publisher. Given the present economic climate, and with Interbike Reno just around the corner, this must feel like climbing out of a hot tub and into a piranha tank, wearing a pork-chop Speedo.

I’ve done bits of this, that and the other for Sani and the gang since 1992. Alas, the mag’ has dwindled, in tandem with the trade it covers, and so I do a good deal less of it now than I once did. In fact, I’m down to drawing the “Shop Talk” cartoon at the back of the book, period, end of story.

But that’s the carefree life of the independent contractor for you. Easy come, even easier go. Happily, I also contribute to Adventure Cyclist, and I married well, so we will not lack for kibble in the dish here at El Rancho Pendejo.

The remaining full-time BRAINiacs are not breathing so easily, especially after such a high-profile departure, with so much at stake.

So here’s hoping for better days. Maybe Marc will roll nothing but sevens in his old hometown next month.

 

It’s a long, long way down to Reno, Nevada

August 15, 2018

Thirty days and counting to Interbike.

I’ll be skipping the show this year. Adventure Cyclist expects slim pickings in the touring category, and BRAIN hasn’t paid my freight in forever, a cost-benefit calculation that keeps coming up snake eyes for Your Humble Narrator. In lean times the last thing you want is an ill-mannered, off-the-leash cur snarling at the customers as you try to keep the bank from taking the bike shop.

Le Shewe Bigge has shifted north from Las Vegas to Reno for 2018, and I can’t be the only person who finds it amusing that Interbike went there to get itself a divorce from Sin City. Still, I’m curious to see how it works out.

There’s much chin music about an ongoing “Reno-ssance,” the local spin on “gentrification,” which itself is the scenic route to “get those poor people out of sight, they’re scaring the tourists and playing hell with property values.” See Bibleburg, Duke City, et al.

For instance, in The Biggest Little City in the World one may enjoy a nifty Riverwalk District that skirts the Truckee, where the John Laws have been running off homeless campers, unfortunates who may be traveling by bicycle because they have to, not because it looks like fun.

Novelist and musician Willy Vlautin has written about people like these who seem to be missing out on the “Reno-ssance,” and so has Our Town Reno, a production of the Reynolds Media Lab, part of the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada-Reno. They taught me a new word: “artwashing.”

It’s been years since I last visited Reno, en route to and/or from visits to friends in Northern California. It always felt like a rest stop between Here and There, not a destination in its own right. I’d camp at the Motel 6 West, and dine at some hippie joint down off Sierra, or maybe Virginia, I don’t remember. Vegetarian fare, heavy on the garlic to ward off the vampires.

Come morning I’d grab a cup of joe and a tank of gas and get the hell out of Dodge. Which, as it turns out, seems to be mostly what all these tourist traps want from us. Howdy, partner! Got any money? Keep moving.

Before long the last place in the country without a riverwalk, legal weed and a bespoke artisanal microbrewery will be Ash Fork, Arizona. You will not see Interbike in Ash Fork anytime soon, no matter how bad the bike biz gets.

 

Un Orso sotto la pioggia

August 1, 2018

The Bianchi Orso sports a Tubus Cargo Classic (with adapters to clear the Breezer-style dropouts and thru-axle levers), an Arkel TailRider rack truck with attached Dry-Lite panniers and a Revelate Egress Pocket. Oh, yeah, and five water bottles.

August? Say what? Wasn’t it July just a minute ago?

Here at Ye Olde Dogge Parque the party just keeps rolling along. The Bianchi Orso is nearly ready for its closeup. I need a few details from Bianchi HQ, but they seem a taciturn lot for persons of the Italian persuasion.

Perhaps they’re distracted by the antics of that other ugly American, the one whose coloration is rare among the primates, save for the orangutans, who do not claim him. Happily, Bianchi USA is lending a hand, trying to fill in the gaps. Che figata!

The sharp-eyed among you may note a rain jacket strapped behind the Egress handlebar bag. It has indeed been raining in the ’hood, and not just your occasional refreshing sprinkle, either. Daily full-on frog-stranglers is more like it.

Seems it’s either drought or deluge around here. Some middle way would be greatly appreciated. Why, I actually had to dodge a puddle on my morning run. Che cazzo!

Come rain or come shine

July 29, 2018

Whenever it rains this low spot fills up on Juniper Hill Road NE.

Fender weather? In ’Burque? Say it ain’t so!

’Tis so.

SKS keeps Sammy shiny.

Fanta Se got hammered the other day by what the weather wizards were calling a thousand-year storm, and we’ve had a couple doozies of our own.

They left smallish sand dunes and mud streaked across the roads, and the occasional shallow puddle, which never lasts long because this is thirsty country.

Nevertheless, out of an abundance of caution, because I hate that brown stripe up the keister, on Friday I rode the Sam Hillborne with its silver SKS thermoplastics. And yesterday I hauled out the Soma Saga Disc, which sports a set of black Soma mudguards.

Today we’re back to sunshine and homicide, so I’ll climb back aboard the Bianchi Orso, whose moment in the media sunshine is fast approaching.

It never rains, but it pours.

Albatross!

July 3, 2018

The Soma Double Cross in townie configuration.

Lots of bikey stuff going on around here lately. It makes a welcome distraction from the news, which as per usual is mostly bad. And likewise from the weather, which is mostly hot.

Since my Voodoo Wazoo has become a kinda-sorta 700c mountain bike, I decided to turn the Soma Double Cross into a townie for short hops hither and thither, or even long ones.

The Double Cross had been rigged as a light touring bike, with XT triple crank and eight-speed XT rear derailleur, drop bar, bar-end shifters, and aero levers (augmented with top-mounted brake levers) to operate the Paul’s Neo-Retro and Touring cantis. Now it sports an Albatross bar and Dia-Compe SS-6 brake levers from Rivendell, and of course the bar-cons stuck around for the ride.

Albatross!

At 27.2 pounds it’s nearly 5 pounds lighter than either of my Soma Saga touring bikes, so it makes for a sporty little errand boy.

The Bianchi Orso 105, up against The Wall of Science.

Meanwhile, the next bike in the Adventure Cyclist review pipeline is a Bianchi Orso with 11-speed 105 STI, hydraulic stoppers and thru-axles. Quite the technological advance from eight-speed XT with bar-cons, rim brakes and quick-releases, or so the industry would have you believe. Engineers gotta engineer, marketers gotta market. Still, I wonder when we’re going to run out of 50/34 cranks and 11-32 cassettes so a brother can get a touring drivetrain up in this bitch.

All this wrenching and riding and whatnot makes a feller hungry, so last night I whipped up a mess of chicken tacos in salsa verde with a side of Mexican rice. Anybody who thinks I make a shambles as a mechanic should see what I did to the kitchen. It was worth it, though. And now we have leftovers. Huzzah, etc.