Posts Tagged ‘Bicycle Retailer and Industry News’

Deadlines

March 21, 2022

Signposts are few and far between in the Deadline Forest.

I am a creature of the Deadline.

When I was cartooning for my high school and college newspapers in the Seventies the Deadline popped round once per week. From 1977 to 1991, it was in my face every goddamn night, except for the one time I worked for an afternoon paper, when it was in my face every goddamn afternoon.

And after ’91 … well, it got complicated.

By then I was a full-time freelancer and either had a lot or nothing to do, depending on whether anyone other than VeloNews was buying what I was selling.

I was a regular at VeloNews, which began its Boulder residency in 1989 with 18 issues per year and then quickly ramped up with additional issues, special editions, race guides, and whatnot.

When Bicycle Retailer and Industry News came along in ’92 I was a regular there, too. BRAIN was brand-new, and started off with just nine issues that first year. But it soon found its legs and took off like free beer at an Interbike booth, to 18 issues a year, plus trade-show dailies, Sea Otter specials, and all manner of other projects.

So, yeah. I wasn’t a daily newsdog any longer. But I still had me some Deadlines.

In the early days I did my share of straight news, race coverage, and feature writing, with a side hustle of copyediting and proofreading. But eventually I settled into the one-two punch of cartoonist-columnist: an editorial cartoon in every VeloNews, and a “Mad Dog Unleashed” column and “Shop Talk” comic strip in every issue of BRAIN, with extra-credit cartoons in the various Show Dailies and other special editions.

When I started helping run the VN website I added “Friday’s Foaming Rant” to the mix. That came around weekly.

At my peak I was choreographing a conga line of cartoons and columns, each of which had to give at least a wave and a nod to bicycling. This is a very small and shallow pool in which to fish for one’s supper. There are trees nearby, but all the low-hanging fruit was picked long ago.

Happily, I had the Deadline.

You can’t bullshit the Deadline. It is not an essay question, or even multiple choice. You either make it or you don’t; true or false, right or wrong. And a freelancer only gets so many wrongs before an editor figures you are all the way wrong and stops giving you assignments and/or taking your calls.

The Deadline is harsh, but fair. It has no patience with the sluggard, but can be merciful to the weak. Sometimes, when the Deadline rumbles up to see you staring blankly into your wordless word processor or blank sheet of Bristol board, it rolls its Eye and growls: “Christ on a crutch. OK, hop in.”

“Where are we going?” you ask.

“Fuck do you care? Sitting there with your thumb up your ass. Can’t catch a ride like that. Hey, you gettin’ in or what? Tick-tock, shit-for-brains.”

So in you get, and before you can buckle up or even close the door, zoom, off you go, with tires smoking, on a high-speed, no-brakes tour of the back alleys in your brainpan, bowling over trash cans to see what spills out and leaning on the horn to get the Voices hollering.

At this point you are no longer writing or drawing. You are taking dictation and having trouble keeping up. …

When suddenly with a squeal of brakes your ride slaloms to a stop, your door flies open, and the Deadline kicks you sprawling to the curb. Where, in one white-knuckled fist, you clutch the finished Work.

“You’re welcome,” smirks the Deadline. “Pay window’s over there. See you next week, bitch.”

Old habits die hard: A continuing saga

January 10, 2022

A quick peek at the Elena Gallegos Open Space,
where I have not been riding.

Bit by bit I’m returning components of exercise to the daily regimen.

I began with walking, the most basic form of locomotion for a biped. Unless you count crawling. This we have all done, at first while diapered, and perhaps later while suffering the side effects of our reality-management system of choice.

Next came cycling, sans hills. Then the jogging. And finally, the cautious lifting of very light weights.

Yesterday I threw caution to the winds and climbed some of the lesser hills in the ’hood, aboard the Soma Saga (canti edition), which has a low end of 20 gear inches. And yes, I used every inch, while dispatching scouts along the spinal column and down the legs to check for sleeper agents in the hamstrings.

Luna. See?

The stretching? Kinda, sorta. The yoga? Mmm, not so much. But as regular readers know, I will never be smart.

My only half-smart moves to date have been (a) to ease back into daily exercise after an extended back spasm, and (2) to avoid the off-road cycling.

When you ride singletrack using rigid steel, drop bars, rim brakes, narrow tires, and equally narrow gearing, you need to use a lot of English (or, in my case, Irish) when negotiating obstacles. If the lower back will not do The Twist you are slam-dancing with yourself in a minefield.

So, yeah. Road bikes. Broad gearing. 38mm tires at 60/65 psi. My running can be identified as “running” only because it seems slightly faster than walking. And my weightlifting? Arnold probably uses a heavier toothbrush.

Meanwhile, speaking of heavy lifting, BRAIN contributor Rick Vosper wonders whether the Bug-boosted, bike-buying bubble is ’bout to burst.

He quotes Jay Townley of Human Powered Solutions as predicting that retailers — suddenly finding themselves overstocked after The Great Product Drought while consumer interest returns to something approximating normalcy — could soon be slashing prices and running sales to attract buyers and reduce inventory, with the financial burden falling “particularly hard on bike shops and small to midsize retailers.”

Rick adds that this does not apply to e-bikes, the industry’s latest shiny object for the wandering eye. Shocking, I know.

A new day

January 4, 2022

The Universe put on quite the display this morning.

A thousand thank-yous to everyone who had kind words for me on the occasion of my retirement. May you be in Heaven a half hour before the Devil knows you’re dead.

In my decades of distinguished service to cycling journalism I rose from lowly VeloNews cartoonist to lowly Bicycle Retailer and Industry News cartoonist, so of course there will be no gold-plated Garmin, no pension. I shall have to get by with the Socialist Insecurity and an occasional surreptitious dip into the purse of my lovely bride, who was making a career while I was making a shambles. Woe, etc.

Today, by way of celebration, I treated myself to a turkey-and-swiss sammich, a leisurely hour on the bike, and some light blog maintenance. Living the dream.

’Tooned out

January 3, 2022

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.

BRAIN Farts: December 2021

December 31, 2021

• Editor’s note: Here’s the last of my selected “Shop Talk” strips from this year’s run of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News. And yes, as of 2022 it will have been 30 years since the first one appeared..

Signed, sealed, and delivered: The final “Shop Talk” cartoon of 2021.

BRAIN Farts: September 2021

December 29, 2021

• Editor’s note: From now until New Year’s Day I’ll be popping up selected “Shop Talk” strips from this year’s run of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News.

Two words you don’t hear much anymore: “instant gratification.”

BRAIN Farts: April 2021

December 24, 2021

• Editor’s note: From now until New Year’s Day I’ll be popping up selected “Shop Talk” strips from this year’s run of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News.

Bike parts will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no bike parts.*
* Apologies to Freewheelin’ Franklin of The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers

BRAIN Farts: March 2021

December 23, 2021

• Editor’s note: From now until New Year’s Day I’ll be popping up selected “Shop Talk” strips from this year’s run of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News.

Vertical integration is all the rage. Alas, the Old Guy Who Gets Fat In Winter is more of a horizontal kind of guy, and the only “economy of scale” he knows is weighing himself at the port of entry to avoid breaking the AccuCheck in his bathroom.

The meaning of life

July 15, 2021

We enjoyed quite the early morning rainstorm today, with thunder and lightning. Makes for one hell of an alarm clock.

Busy, busy, busy. Even a slacker has to take hold now and then.

We have a dispersed conga line of kinfolk snaking through El Rancho Pendejo, all of them from Herself’s side of the family, come to visit Herself the Elder between plagues.

The first of four visitations occurred yesterday; some very nice folks out of Texas, who took time away from a visit to Pagosa Springs to pop down and say howdy. A bit of tidying up was mandated, because somebody around here is remarkably untroubled by clutter (not Herself).

Round two commences Sunday with more visitors from the Lone Star State (Herself the Elder was born in Nacogdoches back in 1933). Then Herself’s eldest sis pops in from Maryland for a week starting Wednesday. Finally, yet another Texican niece drops by sometime in August.

Meanwhile, The Work goes on, as it must. I banged out a cartoon for Bicycle Retailer and Industry News yesterday, learning in the process that the Outside+ Global AdventureStuff Conglomerate had snatched up a couple more properties, Pinkbike and CyclingTips.

This, as Monty Python has taught us, “brings us once again to the urgent realization of just how much there is still left to own.”

Me, I’m still a rental. And something of a fixer-upper, too. Still, I’m open to offers. …

Demonic

March 29, 2021

The Mud Stud will have to settle for getting sick air on his own bike.

As plague restrictions loosen their grip in some jurisdictions, some of us may be eagerly anticipating the rubbing of elbows with kindred spirits at bike festivals.

But if any of these Gatherings of the Tribes actually occur, they’re liable to be strictly BYOB (Bring Your Own Bike). Because there aren’t any demo models to be had.

As Niner Bikes’ Zach Vestal told Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, demos are designed to drive consumer demand, which is already off the charts. Why hang a giant pair of carbon-fiber tits on a bull market?

“It hasn’t made any sense for us to maintain a fleet of bikes for people to ride when people are buying bikes at a pace we’ve never seen before,” Vestal said.

Added Yeti’s Kyle Rajaniemi: “We’re really focused on making sure our dealers can maintain their sales momentum and deliver bikes to customers.”

The good news is, with the Ever Clear finally pried free of its impromptu anchorage, container ships won’t have to sail round the Horn to your friendly neighborhood IBD.