Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ian Murray, Real World Racer

At first glance, Ian Murray appears to be the quintessential Hollywood version of an elite athlete and coach. His athletic career as a triathlete includes eleven years on Team USA without a single “DNF” (“Did Not Finish’). He has competed in many ultradistance triathlon events, including Ironman Canada, Austria and Hawaii, as well as the first-ever off-road Ironman event. His coaching resume is even more impressive. As a USAT Level 3 Coach with the Triathlon Training Series (TTS), he was named Developmental Coach of the Year for 2006 by USA Triathlon. He has coached world champions, movie stars and many, many other promising triathletes.

Murray in full coaching mode

However, what makes Murray truly “Hollywood” is the company he keeps. Not only does he coach movie stars, he married one. Alexandra Paul is glamorous, active in environmental causes and “in demand.” From her starring role in the television series “Baywatch” to her recent appearances in the documentary, “Who Killed the Electric Car,” Paul embodies the public’s perception of a superstar.

So, given his “lifestyle of the rich and famous,” one might expect Murray to get around in a stretch limo, or at least a Tesla electric supercar. Anyone who had such expectations, however, would be disappointed. What is Murray’s preferred vehicle for basic transportation? It is an old Japanese bicycle frame built up as a fixed gear commuting machine! Murray is living proof that all that glitters is not dependant on foreign oil! I wanted to get inside his head, so I offered him the chance to speak to Cycloculture. His honest, “down-to-earth” comments surprised and impressed me.

Q: How and when did you become interested in cycling? Did you start out with competitive aspirations, or did you start out using your bicycle for transportation?

A: I grew up in Aspen, Colorado and, as kids, we LIVED on our bikes in the summer time. Initially my bike simply meant freedom to me, it connected me to friends and experiences. It was just a joy... My first bike was a Schwinn Scrambler and what I remember most about it was its demise – I laid it down in the driveway behind the family jeep and, naturally, it got backed over. In grade school I started racing BMX on a red Mongoose that I had on lay-away at Sherpa Sports of months (Sherpa sports was owned by the Grewal family, Alexi won a gold medal in the Olympic road race, Los Angeles 1984). We’d have to drive crazy distances to get to the nearest BMX track to race so I got this wild idea to propose that the City of Aspen build the local kids a BMX track. I must have been 12 or 13 when I stood up in a City Council meeting and pitched my idea. I was so nervous that I could hardly read my notes the way my hand was shaking. In the end, they gave us a bit of land behind the city pool, they gave us two days use of a bulldozer and an operator, my step-father built a phenomenal start ramp and we held a ABA sanctioned event soon after.

Q: Is it hard to transition from a lycra-clad cycling god to a "normal Joe" who is riding his bicycle to the grocery store?

A: Not really – the bike is the essential element. It’s just the most brilliant device ever. I’ve ridden in a suit and tie and I’ve ridden 112 miles in a swim brief - it’s far more about the roll than it is about the garb.

Murray competing in an off-road triathlon

Q: What bicycle(s) do you normally use for transportation and errands? Do you try to maximize the speed and efficiency of your transportation bikes?

A: I am not a consumer and I don’t own a lot of “things”…. except when it comes to bikes, in that area I’m taxing our resources in a big way and I’d like to apologize to the folks 27 generations ahead.

If I’m just running around town, it’s on my fixie and my fix is a Franken-bike. The current one (we have an epidemic of bike theft on the west side of Los Angeles where I live now, so I’ve been through a few fixies) is a steel C. Itoh (Japanese company that used to build and/or import Bridgestone bikes) that was gifted to me as a rusted, filthy, cob-webbed 7 speed. I stripped it, cleaned it up and rebuilt it as a fix. It’s a hideous mint green but I refused to paint it for one, critical reason. Printed on the down tube is one of those classic, iconic examples of when a bit of English get’s poorly translated – it reads “Tested Finest Bicycle With Precision Mechanism”. LOVE THAT!!!

Murray in the real world

In addition to that I own a Litespeed ti hard tail mountain bike, a Trek, aluminum cyclocross bike, a Cervelo Soloist, aluminum road bike and a Cervelo Carbon P2 TT/ Triathlon bike. I train and race on all of those bikes but probably log more miles on the Soloist than the others.

Q: When you are coaching triathletes, do you encourage them to ride their bicycles for their daily transportation needs?

A: When I launch into a coaching relationship the athlete, I spend a lot of time in the consultation. If I see an opportunity for them to commute on their bike I’ll jump on that. Sometimes the athlete is so tight on time – between family, work, swim, run, etc. that I’ll suggest the bike for daily transport just to make good use of time.

Q: When you are commuting or shopping on your bicycle and you see a bicycle up ahead, do you "drop the hammer" and try to catch him/her, or do you get all your competitive urges out while you are training and competing?

A: If there is a bike ahead of me – I’m in pursuit. It doesn’t matter if it’s a homeless guy carrying 5 bags of recycling, a small gaggle of club riders, a septuagenarian, a mother on a beach cruiser towing a kid in a trailer – I’m on the gas ‘til they are collected and dispatched! I’m even more embarrassed to admit that I have this little voice I do in my head when I see another roadie up the road….it’s probably spun out of Top Gun or something of that ilk. I’ll see them and say “bogey…12 o’clock….time of acquisition 2 minutes, 43 seconds”. It’s ridiculous and juvenile. I’m probably not revealing much – I’m sure I’ve said that out loud on training rides with some of my TTS teammates.

Q: How can a cyclo-commuter maximize the health benefits of riding to work?

A: Firstly plan a head – use some of the tools we have now like Gmap-pedometer or Map My Ride to pick a route that is both safe and appropriate to the workout. It takes time to shift our thinking from “what’s the best route” to “what’s the best route via bicycle” – those are two very different things. You have to aim for roads with bike lanes or wide shoulders or few stops. Consider going at an off time so that the volume of traffic is lighter. Consider a circuitous route that, while longer and forces you to leave earlier, is better for the training. In many cities first time commuters are shocked to learn that riding a bike on an errand or a commute takes nearly the same time as driving.

Q: How can we, as a society, change the public image of bicycles from recreational/athletic equipment to vehicles used for transportation?

A: That’s happening and will continue to happen automatically. Two things are forcing it – transportation costs are rising (mainly due to the price of energy) and the density of population is growing. As people continue to get frustrated by inching their cars forward through traffic jams while paying three, four and five dollars a gallon they will take envious note of the smiling cyclists who are rollin’ on by. Current commuters, the early adaptors, can help to welcome drivers onto bikes by riding legally and safely. We gotta obey the laws of the road as if we were driving if we’re going to be loved and respected.

Q: Imagine yourself at age seventy. What role would you like your bicycles to play in your life at that point?

A: I’d like my wife, Alexandra and I to own matching bikes at that age. I’d like us to ride together often in a peaceful setting and observe the world with experienced and satisfied eyes. The bicycle is a great way to take in a new place so perhaps we’ll travel to small towns we’ve never seen and just ride through, absorbing.

Murray loves bikes and going fast in different circumstances, including cyclo-cross

Q: What else would you like to say?

A: Tire pressure means more than anything – I love to hear folks wax on about how their bike “rides with an oaky flavor and just a hint of cassis” (I’m quoting bike guru, Dan Empfield there – he’s very quotable). And, of course, they say their bike rides that way because it’s steel or because it’s carbon or whatever. Or that say it because they ride tubies or a clincher with an unobtainum bead and 550 tpi or some such drivel. It all comes down to tire pressure. You want less vibration from the road? Don’t rush out and blow your white collar bonus on some trinket, just tweak your tire pressure. You want the bike to feel more responsive? Don’t spend all the money you saved from your quinceanera on new cranks, just tweak your tire pressure. In fact, if you’re so hot to shop and spend, then buy a really good pump with a gauge you trust so that you can get super specific about tire pressure. Whew! It’s nice to get that rant out, thanks!

Q: What do you like for breakfast?

A: I like a mix of low glycemic carbs, protein and fat.

For the past two years I’ve been eating the same meal for breakfast: a quarter cup of oatmeal with a dozen raisins and so much cinnamon that it stirs to look like chocolate. Along with that I’ll eat a half cup of Eggology egg whites with a half an avocado and some sort of funky, mom-n-pop hot sauce whispered across the top. Damn, just writing that makes my mouth water. I hope I never bore of that meal!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Product Review - 27X1&1/4" Continental Ultra Sport Tires

I had been running 27X1&1/4” Continental Sport 1000 tires on my roadster-style bike for years. I loved them! They were durable and comfortable, and they seemed to roll nicely. So, I was quite sad when a sharp piece of metal debris got caught between my chainstay and my tire and shredded the sidewall. I looked and looked for a replacement Sport 1000, but I could not find one. This model has been discontinued, and I could not find an "New Old Stock" (NOS) replacement anywhere.

I decided to try another 27X1&1/4” Continental tire, the Ultra Sport. I ordered a pair and mounted them. They looked nice, and I was excited about testing them out with a load of groceries in the front basket and my son in his child seat on back. Unfortunately, the beauty of these tires is only skin deep.

I have been riding on the Ultra Sports for a couple weeks now, and I do not like them at all. The rubber on the tread is very sticky. I hear the constant "tink, tink, tink" of road debris getting tossed up against my steel fender with the Ultra Sports that I did not hear with my old Sport 1000s, which just rolled over such debris without grabbing it and flipping it up. I am very concerned that the Ultra Sports will grab something sharp and hold onto it until it punctures the tire. Many of the reviews I have read say these are very flat-prone tires, and I do not doubt it. For now, I am glad that I mounted Mr. Tuffy tire liners inside these tires. They should afford me some protection against the inevitable tire puncture.

The Ultra Sports are also very narrow. I checked mine with calipers, and they measured out at 1.13” (28.7mm) wide at their widest point when mounted on Velocity Synergy rims. They are 1.05”(26.7mm) high as measured from the top of the rim’s side wall to the top of the tire. I have already bottomed them out a few times while riding over uneven concrete sections with my son in the child seat and the tires inflated to 80 psi. Fortunately, I have not experienced any pinch flats, but it is just a matter of time before I do.

I'm going to keep riding the Ultra Sports for a while to see if the rubber loses some of its tackiness. I will run them at higher pressures and hope for the best, but if I had it to do all over again, I would not have bought them in the first place. On the other hand, I love my 700CX32mm Panaracer Pasela TG tires, so I would not hesitate to recommend those in their 27" form. Also, I am looking forward to mounting my cheapo 27X1&3/8" Kenda K40 tires on another bike. These look A LOT like the old “Specialized Commuter” tires used to look, and I think they will work well on bicycles used primarily for utilitarian cycling. I'll let you know how those work out.

27X1&1/4” Continental Ultra Sport Overall Grade: D+

Monday, November 2, 2009

Bring On the Geeks!

Since the early days of Fat City Cycles, the Boston area has been a center for high-end bicycle manufacturing in the USA. Today, bicycle companies and frame-builders such as A.N.T., Seven Cycles, Independent Fabrications and Peter Mooney are all contributing to make this region a vibrant, thriving hub of the industry. Geekhouse bikes is another worthy player in this mix. Geekhouse founder Marty Walsh has developed a reputation for building bicycles which perform beautifully while maintaining a remarkable level of practicality in the real world. The geekhouse “Woodville” is a bike that can do everything from hauling groceries and supplies to touring across the country.

Furthermore, geekhouse has bucked recent trends by switching from overseas manufacturing to building frames in-house. Somehow, they have managed to keep their prices remarkably affordable through this process. Take that, all you Cannondales of the world!

Walsh was kind enough to give Cycloculture his take on the geekhouse Woodville, domestic bicycle production, and a variety of other subjects. Enjoy!

Marty Walsh, geek extraordinaire!

Q: How did you get your start in the bicycle industry?

A: I got my start in the industry at the age of 16 at a bicycle shop. I worked at the shop through college and upon graduation became a store manager. I then worked at a bicycle components manufacturer for a few years before leaving to pursue Geekhouse.

Q: What sets the Woodville apart from other touring/commuting bicycles?

A: The Woodville is definitely unique in its class. While most of our Woodvilles have gone out as the kind of hyper-practical commuter bike, we have the capacity to build the Woodville to near infinite spec combinations. This coupled with our ability to do custom fit geometry means that your Woodville can be personalized to you down to a point. Our Woodville stylings so far have favored really functional commuters, but we are working on two totally custom bikes that will be ridden from Boston to San Francisco next summer as part of an upcoming project. We can also alter the Woodville for Commuter, Touring, Rando, Porteur, and Dutch styles.

The geekhouse Woodville, in commuting attire

Q: Woodville frames start at $1199. Custom frames start at $1299. How do you keep the price so low?

A: The Woodville, like all our custom bikes, are set up a la carte style. We start with a bare bones frame and then you can add a variety of features including forks for $250 and a variety of tubing and braze-on options. In the end most Woodville frame/forks usually end up around $1600 and then we also have the ability to sell them with components. But in the end the price is still lower than that of other builders because #1 the frames are TIG welded which is a much faster process than brazing, #2 because we have the ability to powder coat all our frames in-house saving on the expensive paint jobs and #3 because we purchase many of our tubes in bulk at a discounted rate. Though even with all these reasons, prices are still very low compared with other builders and we will most likely be raising our prices in the near future.

Another Woodville, this one with a step-through frame

Q: Geekhouse used to farm out frame production to an outside vendor. Who used to build frames for you? Was it an overseas vendor or someone in the USA?

A: Initially, in 2003-2006, I just designed the frames and then had them built first at Brew in NC, and then in Taiwan. I also aspired to build frames myself, but I never thought I would be able to do it the way we have things set up now.

Q: Why did you bring production in-house? How has that worked out for you?

A: It wasn't just bringing production in-house, it was a long process of learning the craft and creating a shop out of first just my simple tool box to now a 1000sqft building packed with a variety of large machines. In the end I wanted more control over the products under the geekhouse name. But I also wanted to make this my craft and my trade. I want to build the best custom bikes we possibly can and I want to feel proud at the end of the day that we actually made something beautiful and practical. So, yes, this is working out, and I think things will only get better in the future.

The Wormtown was once made overseas, but it is now made in Boston!

Q: Do you build mostly stock bicycles or custom jobs?

A: All of our frames are built to order so when you order something from geekhouse there is nothing pulled "off the shelf" or anything like that. As for stock sizes (we do a 50-62cm run) vs. custom fits, it is roughly 30% stock sized and 70% custom.

Q: Do you plan on expanding production?

A: Production is currently expanding and will hopefully continue to do so. Within the past year we have added in-house powdercoating and geekhouse-specific front and rear drop outs. We're still a young company but some specific themes will stay with us for the long term. Every month is busier than the month before. We manage a cyclocross team, our new website is less than a year old, and there are near infinite offers and creative outputs for future projects. But while we will be expanding, it's still on a relatively small scale comparatively. I would like to keep it that way though, I don't want to lose ourselves in getting “too big.”

A geekhouse Mudville cross bike

Q: Do you think it would be possible, given today's global economy, for a domestic manufacturer to attain production levels similar to those of Fat City Cycles back in its heyday?

A: I think Fat City was a one-time thing. They started making mountain bikes right at the beginning of the boom and made some really nice models, although most of them were all in stock sizes, which, at the time, was fine.

I think there's at least three factors as to why this won't happen now: #1 With the boom of custom and the large amount of domestic custom builders, there are so many options for people to go to on a beautiful hand-crafted frame. #2 The large manufacturers are doing just about every style of bicycle now, and they're doing them quite well. I've seen many production bikes mimicking what I've seen at the NAHBS show not too long ago. #3 There are even a ton of small US companies manufacturing in Taiwan or importing from abroad and people are eating it up, because most of these bikes are honestly pretty cool.

Q: Would you consider shifting production to an overseas vendor if the demand was there?

A: I think that there are opportunities for us overseas with purchasing components. But as far as frame production, I am happy keeping things in-house and I would like to keep it that way as long as I possibly can.

The name of the geekhouse road bike, the "Fast Chance," is a nod to Boston-area bike builders of the past

Q: What can we do to get people out of cars and onto bicycles?

A: I think the best way to do it is to just get more people on bicycles first on any level. I think the fixed gear boom in the cities is a good start to that. A lot more people are riding fixed gears because they are simple and require little maintenance, and now also they have become “cool” which I'm really excited about. I think that this is a good start to getting people into bikes for transportation that haven't ridden before. I hope that as these people get more into bikes, they will check out other styles and grow on the styles that they ride. I think we're already starting to see this with fixed gear people getting into touring-style rides.

Q: What else would you like to say?

A: Ya, check out our flickr and facebook for up to the day progress on what we're up to:

Q: What do you like for breakfast?

A: Ideally pancakes. But most morning I settle for a breakfast bar and a mug of Earl Grey tea...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

How to Live Well Without Owning a Car

Elisa Munoz wrote a great review of the book How to Live Well Without Owning a Car, by Chris Balish. I read the article on BikePortland.org, but it was originally published on BikeSkirt.com.

I have not had the chance to read the book yet, but after reading Munoz's review, I am looking forward to it. Here are two clips from the article:

"Balish covers all the bases, talking about biking, transit, carpooling, walking, motorcycling…even inline skating! The advice is simple and well thought out. Real life examples pepper the pages, telling of suburbanites and city dwellers who went carfree for a multitude of reasons and have found success."

"Wondering how to get groceries, meds, shoes and diapers without a car? All covered in this book that I am now calling my 'non-drivers manual.' Tips on arriving fresh and maintaining good hygiene are also covered, and I found the ideas to be right on track. Dating without a car scare you? Check out Chapter 22."

Elisa Munoz (Photo by T. Scott Carlisle)
http://www.flickr.com/photos/tscarlisle/ / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Any reference that can help me get more diapers and groceries on my bike is welcome! I cannot wait to start reading!

Friday, October 23, 2009

More Business Travelers Bring Bikes

A New York Times article by Tanya Mohn describes a trend in which more travelers are bringing bicycles with them on business trips. When these road warriors arrive at their destinations, the bicycles help them to stay sharp, avoid traffic and experience foreign lands in ways which would be impossible for travelers who spend all their time in hotels, taxis and office buildings. Mohn interviewed Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists, who said, "Health, being green and, more recently, economics were among the reasons more people are cycling to work. Many riders are continuing the habit on business trips."

Christopher Bennett, a civil engineer, experiences Tbilisi, Georgia on a bicycle

The article also discusses the difficulties in transporting full-sized bicycles on airplanes, but the recent introduction of many wonderful folding bicycles allows travelers to pack high-performance machines into small suitcases. Airlines may charge extra for travelers bringing bikes on planes, but this expense can be small in comparison to the money saved by getting around on a bicycle once you have landed. Alison Chaiken, a software engineer in the San Francisco Bay area, "estimates that she saved the company hundreds of dollars by not renting a car and avoiding the high price of gas overseas. And she skirted rush-hour traffic."

We are told that the world is getting smaller all the time. Business travelers who bring their bicycles, or rent bicycles once they arrive, have the chance to expand it a bit by seeing how people live outside of office buildings and fast-food joints in destinations across the globe.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sales Booming at U.K.'s Largest Bicycle Retailer

Bloomberg just reported that bicycle sales are booming at Halfords, the United Kingdom's largest retail outlet for bicycles and car parts. Strong consumer demand for bicycles is driving the company's record profits. Sales are up 2.2%, and profit margins are up as well.

Cyclo-Commuters in London
Photo by Sara Richards

“Cycling is a good-news market,” David Wild, Halford’s chief executive officer, said in an interview with Bloomberg. “It’s in tune with health, sustainability, and the economy. We’re helping the move towards more cycling in the U.K.”

If sustainability and economic concerns are driving the growing demand for bicycles in the U.K., then we may have cause to hope that more British folks are opting to ride bicycles for their daily transportation needs. If London and Edinburgh join Amsterdam and Copenhagen in terms of becoming bicycle-oriented cities, then perhaps this trend will gain enough momentum to become a world-wide phenomenon.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Fashion Meets Function in Po Campo Bike Bags

Maria Boustead and Emily Siegler have added a new twist to good, ole' American entrepreneurial spirit. They have introduced a line of bike bags that not only work well, but also look FABULOUS! According to Boustead, "Po Campo continues to place emphasis on bags that look as good on the bike as off and function equally well as both a purse and bicycle accessory."

A stylish rack bag with a clip for a blinky light. Now that's my kind of fashion statement!

The company is selling both handlebar bags ($92 MSRP) and rack bags ($160 MSRP). While they are not Walmart-cheap, they are much less expensive than a Gucci bag, and that Gucci will be destroyed if it gets chain grease on it! The Po Campo bags, on the other hand, are made with water resistant materials that "will wipe clean easily with a mild soap and lukewarm water."

Po Campo handlebar bag

All Po Campo products are made in Chicago and come with a full one year warranty. Check out their website at www.pocampo.com.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

More Palo Alto Students Cycling to School

When it comes to children and bicycles, most of the news we get these days seems bad. Children are becoming increasingly sedentary and obese. School districts are prohibiting bicycles for safety reasons. Parents do not have time to ride with their kids. With all these discouraging trends getting media attention, it is especially encouraging to see that the City of Palo Alto, California is proving that bicycles can be a practical, enjoyable option for school transportation.

This article in Palo Alto Online, by Chris Kenrick, describes the sustained growth in the number of Palo Alto students cycling to school over the last decade. Currently, more than half of Palo Alto elementary school students, and one third of high school students, get to school without using a car. The article discusses the city-sponsored "Walk and Roll" week which includes many activities designed to encourage more students to make the switch from cars to bicycles. It also discusses measures which can be taken to make cycling on school routes as safe as possible.

These students in Portland, Oregon show that bicycles can be a safe, fun way to get to school. Photo by Jonathan Maus, BikePortland.org. Some rights reserved.

Cycloculture salutes Palo Alto and encourages the city to publicize its many advancements in integrating bicycles into its overall transportation plans.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Bike Sharing Poised to Hit the Heartlands

According to this article by Todd Erzen in the Des Moines Register, Des Moines, Iowa is poised to join visionary cities such as Paris and Denver in implementing a bicycle sharing program.

Tim Lane with a Trek city bicycle he proposes to rent from downtown kiosks. Photo by Rodney White/Register Photos

Tim Lane, of the group "Friends of Central Iowa Trails," is proposing to rent up to sixty bicycles from kiosks located in various spots in Des Moines. Apparently, traffic congestion has made it difficult to get around town. "I don't even go out for lunch because when I come back there won't be a place to park," says Lane.

Lane is looking for roughly $100,000 in start-up funding to get this project off the ground. Cycloculture wishes him the best of luck and hopes he starts a trend that takes off across the Midwest and the rest of the country!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Big Ideas from Lennard Zinn

If anyone within the bicycle industry qualifies as a "Renaissance Man," Lennard Zinn does. He is a racer, writer, framebuilder, clothing designer, and component/tool engineer. When I found out he and his team at Zinn Cycles were devoting much of their time and energy to designing and building bicycles, cranksets and clothing for tall people, I was intrigued. I contacted Zinn, and he was happy to answer questions for an interview.

Lennard Zinn, Renaissance Man

Q: Why did you decide to cater so specifically to big and tall bicycle riders?

A: I originally started making big and tall bikes because I, at 6'6", felt at a big mechanical disadvantage when I was on the US National Team relative to other riders in terms of both fit and performance, particularly descending. I had won, for instance, the Durango-to-Silverton stage of the Iron Horse Classic in 1980 and had set the course record, using a Masi that was pretty stiff and descended well. In 1981, I had a different bike sponsor, and I had to let the group go when we hit the descents toward Silverton because the bike shook so bad at high speeds. I had a degree in Physics and figured I could do a better job. As long as I was limited by building with lugs, it was hard to make a bike that fit that was not also so flexy that it shimmied on descents. Eventually, using TIG welding and using larger tubes, lowering the top tube, sloping the top tube, raising the bottom bracket and using longer cranks, and adjusting the front end geometry, I was able to eliminate shimmy issues and produce consistently stiff, high-performance bikes, even for riders well over 6'8" and 250 pounds.

Q: Please elaborate on what you mean by “adjusting front end geometry.”

A: In general, I reduce the head angle to absorb more shock in the fork and select a fork rake which, when combined with the head angle and wheel radius, will give a large amount of fork trail and hence stability.

A Zinn Fassa magnesium frame

Q: How does your attitude toward big and tall cyclists fit in with your approach to the bicycle business in general?

A: In general, in this day and age, it is hard for a small builder to compete with the large companies making superlight carbon bikes, which admittedly are often extremely good bikes. This was not the case when I started my company in 1982, because at that time the top of the market was a custom steel lugged frame. Production builders were using the same tubing, but a small builder could improve on the fit, the paint, the brazing (or silver-soldering) quality and on the filing of the lugs. Now, I see the only way for a small builder like myself to succeed is to find niches where there are not those strong competitors, and since I don't see anybody else making bikes for big and tall riders that are nearly as good as ours, there's a great niche right there. I'm talking about road -- where we make custom titanium, magnesium, and steel frames for big riders, and mountain -- where we make stock full-suspension 29ers in two models in two sizes: only XXL and XXXL, as well as custom titanium, magnesium, and steel hardtails and custom titanium full-suspension 29ers. The other niche that we exceed the quality of anything else on the market is in travel bikes, especially those for tall riders. We make custom frames with four couplers (patent pending) out of both titanium and steel that break down into four pieces to easily fit a huge bike in a small 28X28X10-inch case and a stem with a coupler in it to speed breakdown and buildup yet more.

A Zinn Travel Bike, with a detail photo of the stem

Q: Other bicycle companies have indicated that their largest bicycles and frames are generally their slowest sellers. Have you found a way to entice and energize the big and tall market that others have missed?

A: We are a small company. There are plenty of tall customers to keep us busy. Especially after they've bought a bike that fit so poorly they didn't enjoy riding or one that scared the crap out of them on a descent when it started shaking uncontrollably.

Full suspension for the full-sized fella...

Q: Do you see the big and tall bicycle market as a growing market segment?

A: I don't know. I suppose so, as more tall riders discover that there are bikes that can make the sport fun for them.

Q: How do plan on helping it to grow?

A: By serving those customers well, and we do that not only with the bikes and cranks and forks we have for tall riders, but also by offering big and tall cycling clothing and big cycling shoes for both road and mountain-bike riding, we can keep tall riders happy and keep them talking to their tall friends about what's available to make riding possible for them.

Any tall person will tell you that an extra long bib is a VERY good thing

Q: Are most of the large bicycles you build mountain bikes or road bikes?

A: Both. Our sales are split pretty evenly between road and mountain bikes.

Q: Are most of them "performance" bikes or bikes built for transportation?

A: Most are performance bikes, but we are a custom builder, so we build anything the customer wants. We have built some amazing transportation bikes for tall riders for the third world and for hauling trailers, etc.

Touring bike, Zinn style

Q: What is the biggest bicycle you have ever built?

A: Probably 72cm road bikes. I have done that a few times for 7-foot riders.

Q: Tell us a bit about that project, please.

A: One that comes to mind is the bike I built for Bill Cartwright, the former 7'1" star center and later coach of the Chicago Bulls.

More Zinn clothing for the extra tall

Q: Other than your Big and Tall Bike Shop, what is Zinn Cycles up to these days?

A: Making and designing long cranks and tall bikes. And designing tools. Have you seen the Pedro's Vise Whip? I designed that tool, which revolutionizes removing a cogset, http://www.pedros.com/visewhip.html, and of course, writing my books (I just finished the 3rd edition of Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance) and writing for VeloNews.

Looooooong cranks

Q: How can we get more people out of their cars and onto bicycles?

A: Make better bike paths and make sure people know about them.

Q: What else would you like to say?

A: I have a dream job, designing, building, and riding bikes and bike equipment and writing about it. Whenever I have regrets about having quit racing so early when many of my peers went on to long careers in it, I look at the fact that I'm basically being paid to ride a bike still at age 51!

Q: What do you like for breakfast?

A: I make a smoothie with two raw eggs, a banana, apple juice, and whatever other fruit we have in the house almost every day. I've probably been doing that for 15 years and love it.

Friday, February 13, 2009

More from Minneapolis! Thoughts from Handsome Cycles

Cycloculture continues our series on Minneapolis-based bicycle people with an interview of Handsome Cycle Company owners Ben Morrison and Jesse Erickson. Their "Handsome Devil" offers real-world cyclists a well-designed, versatile frame and fork for less than $400. They are also planning to expand the line of Handsome Bicycles. Given their emphases on practicality, beauty and fun, I can hardly wait to see what they come up with next.

Ben Morrison and Jesse Erickson, co-owners of Handsome Cycles

Q: Please tell us the story of Handsome Cycles.

A: We come from a small bicycle shop background. Working with the customer to find their ideal bicycle can be a difficult task. Especially when the customer has a very good idea of what they want. Many of the bikes we look at are close but lack the versatility the customer needs in one area or another. The answer is a custom build with a very versatile frameset. In comes the price tag monster. Handsome Cycles started a few years ago when we set out to tackle both of those issues. We have developed in our first offering, The Devil, a very versatile, very affordable frameset that will allow a customer to build their dream bicycle while staying in their budget. We wanted to build a bicycle that could grow with them, year after year, as they tried out a single speed, commuted to work every day, took a ride around the lakes with their children, or ran to the store to pick up a loaf of bread.

We love the classic look. We are suckers for mustaches, old-timey dress, chivalry, and clean living. We incorporated those feelings into the look of our company. That clean look is important for us in our product as well. People we talk to always want to customize their bicycles and find the pre-existing decals under the clear coat inhibiting. From the beginning, we wanted to design a frameset that was versitile to the very end. We started with the idea of delivering the product to the customer without our logo on it. We provide with our frameset a decal sheet with 4 different downtube stickers, 4 different headbadges, and The Devil logo in two different colors. Run a theme, mix and match, or leave your bicycle naked, it's up to you. We like the way our bicycle looks no matter how you decorate it. As our company motto states, "People are handsome. We make their bicycles."

Q: According to your website, you are inspired by Bridgestone Bicycles. Please elaborate on that. What specific design attributes found in Bridgestone bicycles do you find particularly inspiring? Is your appreciation based solely on product design, or were there other aspects of the company that you admired?

Methinks I see a bit of XO-1 in this Handsome Devil

A: Jesse's dad started The Alt Bike and Board in 1974. Both of us work there today. When Bridgestone was still producing for the U.S., The Alt was a huge dealer. One year the shop sold over 500 Bridgestone completes. The biggest reason they were so successful is because they just simply built the most well thought out bikes available. Another reason was that Gene Oberpriller, who ran The Alt in the 90's, was one of their pro riders. Gene now owns his own bicycle shop/coffee shop called One On One Studio in downtown Minneapolis. He is one of the people in the cycling scene here that we look up to very much. To this day everyone that either works at The Alt, or has worked there, has a true affinity for Bridgestone bicycles. The model that has really stood out for us is the XO-1. We started our design of The Devil with the XO as a template. We admire Bridgestone for making a very versatile bicycle in the XO line. The ability to morph into a city bicycle, a touring bicycle and a mountain bicycle in the same frame is what we wanted and felt that our customers would as well. We then took that template and adjusted it. We changed it to 700c wheels instead of the 26 inch that the XO-1 came with. We felt that 700c wheels are a more efficient way to go, and now a days you can get a 700c wheel that is just as strong as a 26 inch. We also changed the geometry to make it a great city commuter, touring bicycle, cyclocross bicycle, or single speed winter bicycle.

Old school...

Q: Do you sell complete bicycles or just frames and forks (or some other combination of products)? Do you have any plans to expand your product line?

A: Our first offering, The Devil is simply a frameset. The '09 Devil comes in one color, Shaving Cream. The '10 Devil will come in two color options, Shaving Cream and another classically sexy color we will announce on our website, www.handsomecycles.com, sometime this summer. Our thought process for products is see a need, fill a need. That being said we plan to get into the much neglected female market and make the Devil as a mixte frameset called the She Devil, which currently is looking like a 2011 launch. We are currently working on our second frameset, set to launch in April of '10. Sorry we cannot elaborate on that right now. There are other products in the works right now as well. We are collaborating with an excellent local product engineer on a hub and a shifter. We are always looking at the bicycle scene around us, in other markets and throughout the world for inspiration and plan to continue making handsome solutions to the problems the average cyclist faces from day to day.

Q: What frame material(s) do you use?

A: For our fames we are using 4130 double butted. It is extremely durable fairly light-weight and keeps our frameset affordable.

Q: What sets your frames apart from other steel frames available today?

A: Versatility, affordability, quality and attention to detail. We made sure that however the customer built up our bicycle, the correct cable routing was there, the dropout was the correct width (132.5), and the frame was built strong enough to handle the every day rigors of commuting and play.

A "Go-Fast" Devil shows the model's versatility

Q: Where are your bicycles made? Any plans to change manufacturing locations or add additional ones?

A: We are working with an excellent frame builder in Taiwan. They have shown us that we can produce a quality product while keeping the end price affordable for our customers. While we plan to have a long and happy relationship with our current manufacturer in Taiwan, we are looking to stateside manufacturers for the parts and accessories we are planning for the near future.

Q: How much do a "Handsome Devil" frame and fork cost? Do you see this price staying stable, or do you predict pricing fluxuations in the near future?

A: For 2009, the Handsome Devil frameset retails for $379. We plan to keep it at that price as long as humanly possible. We originally had the price set at $359. We had to change it because of escalating production and shipping costs. We are not alone. If you look at the bicycle market, just about every bicycle is going up in price at least $50 this year. So us keeping at that price as long as possible might only be for a year or two. I would say however that it will never get too much higher than where it is at, because that would defeat one of the main purposes for this frameset, which is to make it affordable.

Notice the finely-detailed printing

Q: The largest frame you make is 58cm. Do you have any plans to make larger frames in the future?

A: Yes we will eventually make it in both bigger and smaller sizes. As a small start up we needed to keep our costs reasonable, and with manufacturers minimum order requirements, it was just out of the question to do a size run of 8 or 9 different sizes. We are looking at adding a size or two for 2010, then looking at restructuring our size run for 2011 to offer 7 or 8 sizes running every 2cm.

Q: Tell us a bit about the cycling scene in the Minneapolis area, please.

A: Those who read cycling magazines, watch blogs, and talk to other cyclists in the know, have seen the Minneapolis bike scene blow up in the last few years. We have gotten a lot of press and for good reason. There are many great cycling events in Minneapolis, the city has worked hard to provide newer safer dedicated bike paths, and new companies have sprouted up offering innovative products. Although competition between shops and companies exists here, everyone is very supportive of each other. We love biking. Everyone knows how to put any competitive issues aside when it is time to ride. We are proud to be a part of this culture. We are a product of this culture.

Q: What else would you like to say?

A: The Devil frameset is slated to be available mid-April. We are currently working with shops in Minneapolis and other major cities to carry our frames. If your favorite shop does not have our stuff, feel free to encourage them to become a dealer. That being said, we are also selling them directly through our website. We can work with you to build the bike of your dreams or let you work that out on your own.

If I needed to go to a "Happy Place," this would work well

Q: What do you like for breakfast?

- I rarely have time to eat breakfast in the morning. When I do I usually slide through CRC and get a Hot 'n Ready from Hurl. -Ben

-I hardly ever eat breakfast. Does jalapeno cheeseburgers from White Castle at 3AM count? –Jesse

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Civia's Scott Thayer on Bikes, Racks, Minneapolis and Bamboo

From a distance, Civia bicycles look like practical, sturdy products with full fenders, chain guards and internally geared hubs. Only when one looks more closely do the subtle touches become apparent - leather saddles, bamboo fenders and slight curves to some of the frame tubes which give these bikes graceful lines. When inspected closely, it becomes obvious that Civias are not cookey-cutter transportation units. They were designed and "spec'd" by people who love bicycles and appreciate both form and function.

I wanted to know more, so I contacted the company. Scott Thayer, Civia's general manager, was kind enough to grant me an interview. Note that Civia Cycles is one of the bicycle companies operated by Quality Bicycle Products in Bloomington, Minnesota, so this interview constitutes the second installment in Cycloculture's series on bicycle companies from the greater Minneapolis area.

Scott Thayer at the top of the Bootleg Canyon Downhill runs in Boulder City, NV
Photo by Scott Thayer

Q: Who came up with the idea for Civia?

A: The idea for a transportation focused brand came from the employees of Quality Bicycle Products. After coming back from Interbike 2006, a few employees were recounting trends they saw and commuting and transportation kept coming up. We realized that many brands were starting to offer more commuting options, but few were devoting design and engineering resources to it. They would simply repurpose existing products as their new commuter.

We wanted to bring the attention to detail and engineering to transportation that was being allocated to road and mountain products.

Bamboo fenders from the Civia Loring
Photo courtesy of Civia Cycles

Q: The Loring just screams practicality. It looks like a "world bike" with modern features such as disc brakes. Can you tell me a bit about the evolution of that design? How are those bamboo fenders working out?

A: Our product design process starts out with defining who the user is going to be and identifying their experience. With the Loring, we see the user being someone that is running shorter errands or just out and about enjoying the day. They want to be able to carry things with them and not necessarily have to have planned for it by bringing a bag in advance. This is also a bike that could serve as a family bike with multiple riders.

From this scenario, we developed a bike with a comfortable, upright riding position, a practical, well-balanced front basket, a two leg kickstand for loading stability and gave the frame plenty of standover height for easy on and off. We wanted to do something fun with the details, so we went with bamboo for the racks' decking as well as the bamboo fenders. The design of the bike and the bamboo have definitely caught people's attention, as it stopped them in their tracks at Interbike.

Civia Loring
Photo courtesty of Civia Cyles

Q: Gas prices are up! Gas prices are down! Do you see the sales numbers for your bicycles move with gas prices? If so, what is the relationship?

A: We've been selling Civia product for the last 10 months. It's hard to correlate our sales growth with gas prices going up, since we launched at the time prices were starting to spike and winter coincided with them dropping. Anecdotally, we definitely noticed more people riding and strong sales with gas prices up. It's hard to know if sales have slowed due to gas prices falling, it being the middle of winter, and the economy in the tank. It's likely a combo of all three. I'm anticipating sales to pick up once spring hits, as people got into the mindset of saving money on gas by riding their bikes when fuel spiked. I bet they will continue to look for ways to be frugal in this current economic state. Bike riding is a great way to do that.

Civia Hyland
Photo courtesy of Civia Cycles

Q: Tell us about the bicycle scene in the Minneapolis area, please. There are so many people running bicycle-related businesses there, it seems as though Minneapolis has become a magnet for bicycle folks. Any thoughts as to why Minneapolis has become such a center for the US bicycle industry? Is bicycle culture part of the overall urban culture in the Twin Cities, or is it limited to a smallish group of bicycle people?

A: The bicycle scene in Minneapolis is strong and it's growing. The success of our scene is a great mix of passionate riders, selfless advocates and friends in political office. One thing I've always appreciated about the Twin Cities is how active its residents are. Spring through fall, people are outside enjoying the great weather that we have and when winter rolls around, the outdoor activities simply change to skiing, ice skating, sledding and jogging. Because of this level of activity, we have great park systems and trail connections that allow people to easily bike throughout the city. We have a growing network of dedicated bike lanes and trails. Part of this comes from a federal grant we received, and part of it comes from the support of influential politicians, such as Minneapolis mayor, R.T. Rybak, himself an avid cyclist. We also have a strong bicycle industry comprised of a mix of retail, wholesale and manufacturers that is vocal about biking.

Q: Are there any new Civia models coming out soon? If so, could you tell us a bit about them?

A: Our two models are the Hyland (700c flat bar road bike) and the Loring (26" swept back upright). We're just starting to look ahead at what's next. We've got a couple ideas that we'll be flushing out. Right now, we're not at a place where we're ready to get into details. What I do have is that we'll be displaying our 2010 product at Interbike in September and are targeting a March 2010 availability.

Civia Loring rear rack
Photo courtesy of Civia Cycles

Q: Those Loring front and rear racks with the bamboo slats look "Mm-mm good!" That porteur-style front rack looks especially practical and beautiful. Tell us a bit about them, please. It appears as though these racks are currently available on the Loring bikes, but will not be available separately until June of 2009. Is that correct?

A: The Loring comes in 3 builds. A 9 speed internally geared version that has front and rear rack. A 3 speed internally geared version with both racks and a 3 speed version base model with no racks or fenders. The Lorings will be available for sale in late April and the racks, frame and fork will be available shortly afterwards. We're thinking early June is the soonest we'll have them ready for sale.

Q: What else does Civia have in store for the near future?

A: For the future, we continue to look towards improving the offerings in bicycle transportation. There's so much that can be done to improve on what's out there, our biggest problem is what area to tackle next.

Civia Loring front rack
Photo courtesy of Civia Cycles

Q: What other bicycles do you like?

A: My background in cycling started with road bikes, added mountain bikes, and integrated commuting bikes. My tastes run the gamut. Right now, I'm really enjoying my Litespeed Niota full suspension mountain bike. I'm also a big fan of the current hand built scene. I think it's quite telling that most of the bikes being displayed at NAHBS and being raved about in magazines are variations on transportation bikes. Ultimately, what Civia is trying to do is to bring the hand built passion and style to a larger audience.

Q: What do you like for breakfast?

A: My work day routine is toast with butter and jam accompanied by yogurt and fruit. On the weekend, I sometimes get lucky and my wife will cook eggs, pancakes and veggie sausages. It's fantastic!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Bilenky Junk Yard Race

Cycloculture does not generally cover the competitive side of bicycling, but when Bilenky Cycle Works hosts a race, you know it is going to be special.

Welcome to the urban jungle
Photo courtesy of Bilenky Cycle Works

Words cannot do this event justice. Click here to see the video.


Sunday, January 4, 2009

Capricorn Bicycles' Bradley Wilson

The dead of winter seems an appropriate time to write articles on that bicycle Mecca of the North - Minneapolis, Minnesota. Cycloculture has already published interviews with representatives of two greater Minneapolis operations, Kogswell and Surly, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Bicycle companies, from giants such as Quality Bicycle Products to smaller operations such as Handsome Cycles, are thriving in greater Minneapolis, as is the regional cycloculture. What does this area have that warmer, sunnier climes are missing? With luck, the answer to this question will appear as Cycloculture chats with various figures who are part of the bicycle picture in that part of the world.

My first interview in this series is with framebuilder Bradley Wilson, sole proprietor of Capricorn Bicycles. Wilson runs a smallish operation, but when I saw his work on his Flickr page, I was instantly impressed. His frames, forks and racks appear to be well made while maintaining a sense of fun. Two very large frames he built caught my eye. His description of an off-road touring rig he fabricated caught my imagination. His very short waiting list is an added bonus.

Bradley Wilson

Q: Your prices are quite reasonable, with frames staring at $1000. How do you keep prices down?

A: My goal in starting Capricorn was to bridge the gap, so to speak, between cookie-cutter import frames and the high-end show-stoppers coming out of Portland (or thereabouts). My shop and my tools are pretty modest by industry standards and as a result I do most of the work by hand and eye, but that's how I like to work: it's the difference between manufacturing and craft. It takes a little longer, but not much; and some measurements might be off a millimeter here and there, but it's nothing I can't rectify with a couple whifs of a handfile. Paint and powdercoating are outsourced and that helps too. I couldn't even begin to imagine the costs associated with setting up my own paint shop.

Q: How is business? Are the economic woes felt by so many people effecting your business? Or do people see your bicycles, especially your utility bikes, as cheaper alternatives to SUVs?

A: Business is slow right now. I don't know if it's the threat of worldwide economic meltdown or just because it's winter, but people just don't seem to be thinking about throwing around $1000-1500 like they used to. Bicycles are definitely a cost-effective mode of transportation, but I think a lot of people looking into frames are finding much more cost-effective options like Surly, Salsa, Rawland, and Handsome. They're also Minnesota companies but the frames are made overseas, and folks won't feel bad about beating the crap out of them in winter.

Mustachioed fixie

Q: How long have you been building bikes? What have you learned about the craft over time?

A: I started building frames at Waterford Precision Cycles in the late 90's and worked there for a couple years before moving up to Minneapolis to go to school. In 2006 I had a lot of free time so I started making frames again on rough plywood and angle iron fixtures, basically relearning the whole process a step at a time. Now my shop's a little more sophisticated, and the process has evolved too and keeps evolving with each new project. Working at Waterford taught me a lot about the tools and the process, but it's a factory more or less, and it wasn't a "fun" place to work. Working on my own has been a real challenge. To know that Capricorn lives or dies by my talents or lack thereof is daunting. The craft of framebuilding is so much more than just making frames. There's cash flow to manage, inventory to stock, tools to maintain, decals to design, blogs to write... and it's more a matter of staying on top of it all.

The Capricorn "Errand Rack," designed to hold one standard paper grocery bag (or anything else you can fit)

Q: What are your favorite frames to build? What was your favorite build of all time?

A: Most of the frames that I build are single speeds or fixed gears. I like the simplicity of these and customers can build them up for significantly less than they could build up a bike with gears and shifters and what not. I love bicycles when they are simple and practical and used everyday. There's not a whole lot of sense in having a bicycle that's so expensive that you can't lock it up when you go somewhere, in my opinion. Having said that my favorite build was probably the most expensive one that I did: an off-road touring frame, with 29" wheels and custom front and rear racks for a guy that wants to do the Continental Divide Trail. Spectrum Powder Works did the paint and it's truly impressive. The build process ended up sprawling over two or three months, then it was in Colorado Springs for another two months getting paint. But it's totally unique compared to my other creations, everything about it is spot on, and the customer loves it.

Pacenti fork crown gives LOTS of clearance and note the Schmidt hub wire guides

Q: Do you travel more by bicycle or by automobile?

A: I commute by bicycle from year-round. My operating range is -15 to 110. I used to deliver coffee beans by bicycle and trailer 51 weeks a year when I worked at Peace Coffee. As far as "travel" I rode from Minneapolis to Seattle a couple years ago on an old Breezer mountain bike. I'd love to travel more by bicycle and just built myself a frame with touring in mind. But it's nice to just drive somewhere too, get there, and go out for enjoyable rides everyday. Moab's one of my favorite places to travel to. I try to get there at least once every couple years.

Q: There is so much bike stuff going on in Minneapolis. We hear all about Portland's bicycle culture, but Minneapolis seems to have an incredible number of bike companies as well. What's it like to be part of all that? Do people ride their bikes in the middle of Minnesota winters?

A: Minneapolis is a pretty decent place for a cyclist, and for a prairie/taiga town it does have a vibrant bike culture. Folks here know how to have a good time, but there's usually moderate to heavy drinking involved and I'm not sure it always works in their favor. But who am I to say? Winters here can be brutal, but there's nothing we can do about that so we ride year round. The "Stupor Bowl," the annual alleycat race is held every February. Last year something like 300 people turned out to compete, four of them riding Capricorns. It's cool to be part of something much bigger than yourself, and I forget how many people around here that I've never met know who I am or know what I do just by reputation and word-of-mouth. It's humbling. Minneapolis is unique and anomalous and shouldn't be compared to Portland, even though it always is. It seems like God's own light is shining on Portland lately and that's good. If I lived under the daily threat of volcanic cataclysm I'd probably make more of life too. But as it is, we Midwesterners are just too sensible to try to keep up.

Fork fun

Q: Do you want to grow your business? Or would that interfere with your ability to build bikes that make you happy? If you do want to grow it, what do you envision it looking like a few years down the road?

A: The bicycle industry is not one that smart people get into to make money. I've purposely kept my endeavor modest and honest because I don't want to work under the pressures of supporting employees and the schedules and expenses of a factory setting. For now I'd be satisfied with having a steady demand and always something on the cue for a few months at a time. I'd like to get to a point where expanding the operations can be an option, maybe by focusing more on a specific style of bicycle, or finding a like-minded individual to co-own Capricorn and tackle some of the business aspects that I'd consider my weaknesses. It's really hard to commit to expansion as a policy because, from my experience and observations, it invariably leads to a decrease in hands-on craftsmanship, which is the part that I really enjoy.

Q: I'm 6'6 and my weight is down to a svelte 240 lb. Do you have any special design philosophies for building bikes for large folks such as myself?

A: I've built a couple big frames: a 68cm fixed-gear commuter and a 66cm touring rig. When thinking about the design of these frames I went into it thinking about proportions. What can make this bike look "normal" instead of just big? On the fixie I used over-over-sized tubes wherever possible and gave it clearance for bigger (700x32) tires. This made for not only a stronger, stiffer bicycle, but it diminishes the "gangliness." On the touring bike I didn't have the over-over-sized option since he wanted lugs. Instead I went with the heaviest tubes available, including thick chainstays. Again it has plenty of tire clearance and a Pacenti MTB crown which is bigger than the average, plus four water bottle cages. Now that it's all built up with racks and 48cm-wide handlebars I'd say proportionally it looks like it's supposed to.

A fixie after my own heart

Q: How should we go about getting people out of their cars and onto bicycles?

A: Unfortunately I don't think people are going to abandon their cars unless it hits them economically. Commutes are too long, there's just too much stuff to buy and carry home, kids hate to exercise: the excuses go on and on. The streets are too dangerous, and I think that's the biggest problem that city planners and bicycle advocates need to address. Until driving becomes less convenient and more impeded; until cities stop sprawling and focus more on developing core communities, with distinct cultures, parks, shopping and entertainment venues; until we abandon wanton polluting as a national policy... but these are huge issues. I know a lot of people who rediscovered their bicycles this past summer, when gas prices were four dollars a gallon and I hope that trend continues. Last winter I made a frame for my girlfriend and she kept the car parked most of the summer, even riding into work at 5:30 in the morning. This winter I'm making a frame for my dad and my sister, not because I want them to ride, but because they want to. I think people are finally coming to terms with car culture here in America, symbolized perhaps by the financial problems currently experienced in Detroit.

Q: What else would you like to say?

A: Hmm... be good to each other. Expect better for and from yourself and others. Be surprising. Keep learning. Don't forget to call home once in awhile. The North American Buffalo population is on the rise and we need wild places though not necessarily to visit them. Freedom means never being in a hurry. Get more fiber, drink lots of water, and don't eat when you're not hungry.

Wilson's own "Sorta Tourer"

Q: What do you like for breakfast?

A: Usually an appetite suppressing dose of coffee, maybe a peanut butter and jelly sammy. I usually skip breakfast and get a big lunch instead.