Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Plan 9 from Planet Earth

I bought my Specialized Rock Hopper from the old Chain Gang, on Park Marina, in the Spring of 1987. I loved the chunky, S.I.S./Index 6-speed shifting and the super powerful, Shimano U-Brake.
The bike also featured the "computer designed" Biopace chainrings. I rode that Rockhopper all over the north state. I even raced it in the Norba sport division, cross country race in Mammoth. Then in 1991, I purchased a Specialized Stump Jumper Comp and the old Rockhopper became my loaner bike. Eventually my Dad took full time procession of it. The bike went back and forth between he and my brother. Both men espouse a sort of John Deere tractor mentality when it comes to machines. If it don't shift... stomp the hell out of it!
Well I reacquired the old Rochhopper recently and my God, she is much the worse for wear! I cannot believe that the old girl was still ridable. Virtually every moving part was either worn out or damaged. I planned on doing a restoration but when I found the cracked rear drop out I changed my plan. With the help of Nick (welder/fabricator) from bikes Etc. I am making it a dedicated one speed. Stay tuned for photos.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Low Tech

I went out for a quick little, hour-long ride (I thought the rain was supposed to hold off 'till noon!) during which I could not help but think about the boys at this year's Tour of California, stage four. On Thursday they set off on the longest stage of this year's Tour, 135 miles from Seaside down the coast to San Luis Obispo in absolutely abominable conditions. Strong winds, rain and 45 degree temps made the going extra miserable. They were out there for 7 hours and averaged only 18 m.p.h. , almost unheard of for the Pro's.
As I made my way to Keswick dam I encounted some heavy showers, but the key to my relative comfort was the fact that my bike has fenders and mud flaps. So the leeward side o' me (aarr, I had me directions fuddled up!) stayed quite dry. Which started my thinking about how light fenders could be made (from carbon fiber) and why in the world don't the Pro teams have purpose built "Rain Bikes". They use special bikes for time-trial and mountain stages, why not Storm bikes?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I saw a picture of me...

Someone took a picture of me standing near the finish line of the Boom Town CX Mudfest. It is readily apparent that the man in the photo is in serious pain. The pain that I felt at that moment was not really due to the pulled calf muscle that I sustained, but had more to do with the absolute ragged edge of survival that competitive cycling demands. And By Gum, if'n you aint pukin' when you hit that finish line, well you didn't give 'er yer all!
Which brings me to my point in question. How the Hell do those Pro riders look so good immediately after a long 1000 meter sprint, after a four hour freakin' mountain stage!? I've heard that in big league baseball if a batter is hit by a pitch he will never touch or rub the area hit, simply because of some unwritten macho-psychotic tradition. Rarely will you see a pro rider show any pain as the result of his effort. I've noticed that they also don't seem to breath very hard.
What is this strange game we play wherein we know, before we start, that it's gonna hurt, even if we don't get injured. And why does it keep us coming back for more?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Return of the two-headed Monster?

The annual Shasta Lemurian race is not that far away and rumors of a green, two-headed monster, Tandem team are starting to circulate. Here is what I've heard. Michael Ball, of Rock Racing, was interested in entering Tyler Hamilton and Mario Ciopolini as a tandem team in this years Lemurian. But, due to late developing commitments, has had to bail, leaving it up to Shasta county's equivalent team, Randy and Jimbo to fill in for them. It is estimated that the money that Michael will save in this move will be enough to pay for one of the 6, black, Cadillac Escalades that they use as team support vehicles.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Tank Slapper

Fixed gear bicycles are dangerous. They incorperate a direct drive system that does not allow the rider to coast. When the wheels are turning, the pedals are spinning. These bikes come in a wide variety of interpretation. From the retro-fixed old schwinn clunker to the high end modern track-bike ($20,000). Many of them are so stripped of components ie; derailuers, brakes, cables levers, that control of them can become a real issue. I had the priviledge of "being along for the ride" last year, on a Fixie that (unbeknownst to me) had picked up a goathead sticker in it's rear tire. I was moving along at a good clip on a slightly downhill section of road, entering a right hand curve.
Suddenly, without any warning what so ever, I felt the rear of the bike try to go straight while the rest of the bike was turning right. My rear tire was going down fast (flat). The pedals kept churning away as the bike squished and squirmed beneath me. Then in a terrifiing split second known to motorcycle road-racers as a "tank-slapper", I felt the the rear tire fold under the rim and my handle bars crossed up. I somehow, miraculously saved it and reached ever so gingerly for the tiny little front brake lever that I had decided might be prudent to run on the bike (not included). Ever so carefully I applied the brake and thankfully came to a stop by the side of the road.
My heart was beating about 200 times a minute. Then I realized It was OK to start breathing again. Later I was relating the story to a buddy of mine who lives and rides fixies in Arcada. He just shook his head and said, "Jim, the reason you didn't go down is because fixed gears are like gyroscopes Man! You're just lucky you didn't kill yourself with that damned brake!"
What ever Peter.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Weird Dreams

I stood there in the street, in the dark of a 7 A.M. winter's morn, shrugged my shoulders, unlocked the car door and headed to work. It was a Monday, January the second. The holidays were now just a vague blur of strange places, blinding headlights, bad food, excessive drink, conversations held at levels approaching screaming and images of children's faces, pouting their disappointment, smeared with chocolate and turkey grease, their hair matted with candy canes and mashed potatoes, looking at me with their teary eyes, trying to communicate, "It's not enough, Daddy! It's not enough!"

"Sometimes I want to pull my brain stem out!" My car radio blasted out one of my favorite Henry Rollins songs. Who's life am I living? A woman's voice is haunting me. "Maybe we should just get burgers for dinner, Honey!" I scream aloud, Tourette's style, "Burgers?! I've got your burgers right freakin' here!" I am morphing into a strange cross between Jack Nicholson in The Shining and Chris Farley as Matt Foley, motivational speaker.

"Let the shovel do the work!" The red-faced know-it-all said and flashed his tiny corn teeth at me, then went back into the house. "I've got your shovel right here, pal!" I said, then spinning like a dervish, I released it right into and through the bastard's front window. I casually picked up my jacket and started walking. I will walk until I reach the ocean and then I will just keep on walking. Somewhere around day 33 I finally fell to the ground.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


The wizened old man (actually only 58) stood before me gasping for breath, his emphyzemic lungs barely keepin the lights on. He had made the daily, arduous trek from his house (a block away) to the liquor store where I worked as a clerk when I was a wee lad of 28. He steadied himself, hauled in one last feeble breath, licked his lips and pronounced the words,"Pall Mall Reds and a bottle o' Hiram." Then he placed both hands on the counter and resumed the monumental task of getting oxygen and staying upright, like a mountain climber in the 8,000 meter death zone leaning on his ice axe. "I'm sorry Herman, we're still out of Pall Malls!" I said reaching for the whisky. Herman then appeared to crumble and he stammered out the pathetic reproach, "Am I gonna have to take my business elsewhere?" I placed the bottle in front of him then offered him a choice of Luckie Strikes, Camels or Phylip Morris Commanders all filterless cigarettes. The poor old sot just stood there gasping like a fish out of water, looking at me like I was reason for all his pain and suffering, then he lowered his gaze and said, "Give me the Commanders." We both new he couldn't make it to the Safeway a further 3 blocks away and we both knew how screwed he really was. He died in his sleep as his house burned, a few months later.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Ash Wednesday

A series of semi miraculous happenings befell me yesterday, but I suppose that may have to do with a magic mind and an easily entertained heart. My old friend Ken Hood dropped in to say howdy. Then I saw Randy Thompson and his beautiful new BMW motorcycle. Then I found a bicycle tire that is no longer available, way back in the deepest recesses of Bikes Etc.'s tire room. It is the exact tire that I have on the front of my latest CX project. I was saddened to hear that although I could get the same tire brand new, it would only be available in a black wall. But alas! There it was, a matching gum wall, now I'm stylin' !!

Finally, I went to Mass with my Father-in-Law and we had a nice time. Although I do not concieve of myself as a particularly sinful person, perhaps no more than any ordinary man, I was touched and moved by the angelic antiphonic singing, so beautiful and soothing that I had to really fight back some serious eye watering. It was special.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Embrace Your Inner Basket Case.

It's one thing to be mad as a Hatter, quite another to be blind to it while everyone around you sees it. Now those of you who have read any of these filterlings know that I am a huge proponent of the REINVENT YOURSELF axiom. Take my man Will Shatner. The, "Old Will" just wasn't working anymore. So being the true genius that he is, he embraces his fat, bloated self and adopts the character of a 60 something lawyer. That's GOLD BABY! So remember, "An unexamined life is not worth living." Socrates

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Meat the Puppets

She's a large woman who walks about 10 to 15 feet behind her husband(?) and her big yapper is always working. I have seen them walking the streets of Redding for at least 10 years. Up until rescently I've only caught their act from the windshield of my car as I drive to and from work. But the other day the little circus rolled right up to Carpet Mart's parking lot (my job) and within one minute of watching and listening to them the missing pieces (actually I knew it all along) fell into place and the whole ugly puzzle was complete. She is running an unrelenting tirade/assault on the man's character in what she judges to be his complete ineptness and general, utter failure as such. All the while the little man just ambles along in a kind of permanent cringing posture, like a taunted boy being shot with a pea shooter over and over.

Now I'm not sure what kind of archtypal/metaphor these two are the unwitting, puppet-show actors of but I will say this: watching their dynamic reminds me that at some level we all subscribe to the lables others put on us, as well as the ones we put on ourselves. The trick is to reinvent ourselves when things aren't working and regularly reviewing where we are honestly coming from. I just hope that some day that little man spins on his heels and says to her, "You know what Bee-auch! You get on the point and let me draft offa you for awhile!"