Archive for the ‘Adventure Cyclist’ Category

Prime time is on trails, not TV

February 6, 2019

The February wind was making the clouds skate around all over the sky yesterday.

The State of the Union (El Rancho Pendejo Edition) is as follows:

Herself is now working 10 hours a day, four days a week, so as to have a three-day weekend each and every week.

I am working not quite so much, my career having developed a slow leak at the potholed intersection of Bicycle and Journalism.

Trail time: When the bike is leaning up against the rock I’m probably not going to fall off of it.

I have a cartoon to draw for Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, and a review to finish for Adventure Cyclist, and beyond that it’s anybody’s guess. Terra incognita. Here be dragons. All hope abandon, ye who scribble here.

Speaking of hope abandoned, I can’t wait to see the ratings for last night’s comedy special from Capitol Hill. Knowing that Charlie Pierce would be on the case, we gave it a miss, reasoning that if we want to watch a loon pretending to be president we can always dredge up some old “SNL” footage of Chevy Chase playing Gerald Ford.

Instead we caught up on “Crashing,” the Pete Holmes thing on HBO. It’s only so-so — Marc Maron and Bill Burr are more my style, when ol’ Freckles isn’t raving about ball sports — but you get to see some funny cameos by twisted comics like Dave Attell and Jeff Ross.

Beforehand I engaged in wheel sport, taking a quick out-and-back spin on the Voodoo Nakisi, which has been neglected while I review the Jamis Aurora Elite. My mad trail skillz have atrophied, and I was dabbing on sections a fat 4-year-old could handle on a balance bike, but it sure beat working. It beat not working too.

Sunset with a side of Aurora

January 19, 2019

The Big Yellow Ball returned to the sky yesterday, as did the color blue.

We had a lovely bit of color yesterday afternoon to close out the work week.

If we’re lucky we might be back to what passes for normal around here, weather-wise, for the next few days, anyway.

The Jamis Aurora Elite, ready for its closeup.

This would be useful, as I have a Quick Spin video to finish for the Adventurous Cyclists. It concerns the Jamis Aurora Elite, which I last reviewed in June 2011.

It’s surprising how little the bike has changed over the years, and that goes double for the price, which has been pegged at $1,699 for the better part of quite some time.

That ain’t bad for a steel bike with rear rack and fenders. A small bright spot in an otherwise dark time.

Cold blow and the rainy night

December 7, 2018

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 in 2017

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.