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Single Speed Outlaw
Issue #5
 

Features

Reports from the world of single speeds and fixed gears.

  • We get inside Titanium frame builder Jeff Jones' head.
  • What happens when you are heading for the Single Speed World Championships and things go south? If you are Tom Rogers you take matters into your own hands and have a great time anyway.
  • Bill Tucker finds fixed gear love.
  • Liam Irving preaches the gospel and tells you how to get your friends to join the congregation.
  • Mike Woods reports on SS cross action in Ohio.
  • The Messenger Worlds hits Seattle and Kris Green spins with the pack on Friday ride.
  • Someone has a mistress that's quite the looker.
  • Anarchy in the UK: The 2002 Clunker Classic
  • The Thing About Single Speeds Is...
  • The Nightmare continues to be in Joe Sommers thoughts.

Go ahead, dig in. It's calorie free.


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Jeff Jones Profile by Joe Whitehair

There are a lot of frame builders out there. Narrow it down to the ones who do only full custom and the list shrinks. Narrow it still to the ones doing Titanium and the list gets pretty small. Thereís one in Medford, Oregon thatís got a lot of years in the bike business and fits this bill. His name is Jeff Jones and heís fabricating some pretty interesting titanium in his shop. Radical designs with high-tech metal and design inspiration from the past.

When most us were launching off rickety ramps between Slurpee runs at the 7-11 and considered ourselves well-armed mechanics because we could patch a flat, Jeff was already hacking up old frames and building side-hacks for BMX bikes. It was around this time, at age 15, that he started working in bike shops. By age 20 he was working for GT Bicycles under founder Gary Turner. Itís here that he developed the skills that would lead him to where he is today. He also acquired some important knowledge while he was there.

As Jeff tells it, he was hired as the sole quality control guy. In this position, he got to learn every part of the production process, something that is a huge benefit to his frame building business today. He also got to see all the mistakes and failures that came through because he had to QC them. There probably arenít a whole lot of frame builders out there who can lay claim to this type of in-depth knowledge. When he wanders Interbike, the annual bicycle retailer tradeshow, he mentally takes notes of the things other companies are doing, both right and wrong, in their frame designs.

His frame building beginnings were trial by fire as the crew at GT handed him a torch and unleashed him to do prototype work. He worked with the engineers and designers, making suggestions based on his riding experience and what he saw both work and fail. Asked what he thinks of GT today, heís very diplomatic, "Itís not the same company, it just happens to be the same name. I probably would not know anyone who is currently working there and they wouldnít know me."

Jeff left GT at age 26 and opened a retail shop. He eventually opened a second shop but by age 31 sold them and looked towards frame building. Today he is building some radically designed titanium frames and parts and uses the past for design inspiration as much as he is attempting to define the future of frame design.

One of his combination retro/futuristic parts is the Jones H-bar (see review in this issue's Junk Drawer section). A titanium handlebar that has 45 degrees of sweep. It consists of a large diameter straight tube, much like a standard mountain bike bar, that has two smaller diameter sections welded on the ends, extending both in front of and behind the larger bar. Imagine the sides of a trapezoid attached to the ends of a stout center bar, the wider portion providing your grip area and the narrow, forward portion like built in bar ends. At first glance, many people think this setup would be uncomfortable, but itís not. It puts your hands in a more natural position - Jones suggests hanging your hands naturally at your sides and observing your natural grip. Look back at old Schwinn cruisers and the like and youíll see a similar sweep to the bars. Only they werenít titanium. As Jeff describes the thought process behind the bars, one of the things he imagined was a guy running down a trail with a wheelbarrow. Whatís that have to do with biking? His legs are taking the hits (like a biker), acting as shocks, and the arms are there for balance and control. Itís all part of his distinctive way of thinking about problems and designing the solutions.

If his handlebars look unique his 3-D Space Frame takes things to the next level. The design, however, is centered on function, not fashion. Unlike a traditional diamond frame, the 3-D frame lacks a standard top tube. Instead, the seat stays extend from the rear dropouts and are joined at the top of the head tube. A narrow diameter tube takes the place of your normal top tube and joins the top of the (very short) seat tube to the center of the head tube. A standard down tube completes the picture. Jeff claims the design makes a laterally stiff frame while allowing for vertical compliance, resulting in a smooth ride that allows maximum power to be transferred to the pedals.

Besides the unique look, the bikes are designed with unique measurements like ultra-short chain stays. This allows more weight in the rear, enabling better traction during climbs and keeping the front end lighter. Short seat tubes allow for maximum stand over clearance. When combined with a Jones custom strut fork the head tube angle will be more relaxed more than a standard bike. However, this works in conjunction with the fork designs extended rake to create a bike that mimics a more traditional head tube while keeping a fairly standard wheelbase. All of these design tweaks, along with a short top tube, create a bike that Jones claims is very maneuverable, stable and quick handling.

Jeff likes to think of a bike as a complete package, not only designing the frame and fork to go with each other, but also taking into consideration the parts that will be hung it. Itís one reason he makes his head tubes larger than most, so riser bars arenít needed. Itís a philosophy that sounds almost like Shimano and their goals for high performance systems working in harmony. It sounds strange coming from a small frame builder, but his goal is to build you the best performing bike youíve ever owned and he wants to take every detail into consideration. Besides, you are paying big money for one of his frames, so every base should be covered. He defends the "integrated picture" approach by reminding me that the bikes of yesteryear were almost entirely proprietary and heís not suggesting anything quite that extreme. Each bike is a custom job, so all of these factors are dialed in for the individual.

His design ideas come from a few places. From thought experiments (as he calls them) to old magazines. He looks back to the past when all riding (except for wooden track racing) was done off road using rigid fixed gear bikes with fat tires. He has boxes of old publications as well as his own sketchbooks and notes that serve to spark ideas when heís doing design. In his own words, "The best info is pre-1930ís". That statement minimizes his own input though, as he performs tests such as sitting on his bikes with both wheels on scales to determine load distribution. His own descriptions of his frame building process and philosophy lead me to believe he molds and shapes and comes up with ideas as much as he draws from the past. His designs are constantly under going small changes as he seeks to improve performance of his bicycles.

Jeff compares his design style to that of a tailor making a custom suit. For him, full custom should be just that: designed around the riderís personality and use. Every aspect should be tuned for the individual making the purchase. To determine this he starts with a questionnaire with approximately 40 questions. Before and afterwards he talks extensively with them, digging into all aspects of their riding style: do they do wheelies and bunny hops, how do they handle switchbacks, do they experience front-end washout or rear-end wash out on their current ride. After this he asks for photos of their bikes and, if available, videos of them riding. If at all possible, the ultimate information gathering session for him is to go riding with them. Once this is all done, he goes about designing the frame. Start to finish; the fabrication time of a 3-D space frame takes up to four weeks depending on the specs.

Jeff got lots of positive feedback at this yearís Interbike and his unique looking frames got at least a mention and photo in several magazines as a result. Heís the sole builder and heís staying busy with orders and is shooting for a goal of 50 full custom bikes per year. But heís also ready for change if need be, stating in his business plan: anything can change at any time.

When I asked him how he defines success for Jones Bikes he said, "If I can keep making and riding bikes I'm successful". Iím sure most of us would like to be that successful.

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How I Got Myself Fixed by Bill Tucker

It was August. I was riding on the Potomac trail in Maryland on my Haluzak Horizon. Stopping at a road crossing, I saw a bike with no brakes and no gears.

That's crazy!

Here I was finishing up a three month, seven-plus-hours-a-day cross country trip on my favorite, most comfortable bike, and I was faithlessly ogling this unicog.

Inexplicably enchanted, I got the ownerís attention. "So, how do you ride that thing? I mean, with no brakes."

The guy, whose name was Bob, said, "Slow your pedaling."

That's cool!

"You anticipate a lot more," Bob continued. "It's my favorite bike to ride, even on this crushed limestone."

That's neat!

I spent the afternoon with Bob and his minimalist GT track bike. I knew then that something in me was broken, but when I finally got home to Colorado, I knew I'd get it fixed.

I made a list of excuses--err, reasons I needed this bike:

It would make a great winter bike: easy to clean.
I would stay in shape with only one gear.
It would be light and easier to carry up steps.
It would be an excuse to build my own wheels.

Every week I would walk into my LBS, eyes glazed with internet minutia, and ask about getting a track frame or making a fixed gear bike. The shop guys would just shake their heads. They all thought I was crazy.

I'll show them. I'll show ALL of them.

One day the bike store owner, Nancy, asked me if I was still looking for a track bike. Yay! She introduced me to her friend, Chris, who had just come back from a professional scuba diving trip in Egypt to get rid of some stuff he wasn't using. Like the track bike he once rode to try out for the '96 Olympics. A Pinnarello. I didn't know what to say.

"I don't want an aerodisc wheel." (Insert mental slap of forehead: be nice!)

Fortunately, there was the regular Campy rear wheel.

"Uh, these tires are...?"

"Sew-ups!" he said confidently. I was still a bike idiot.

I threw on his shoes and rode the Pinnarello around the building. It was so startling to have the pedals kick back at me. I liked it. The bike fit. Even his shoes fit. Everything was cosmic! I didn't end up buying it: it bought me.

There's a smooth oneness in being connected to a bike like this. It really is inexpressibly cool.

I went to group rides. Wow, I kept up with just one speed! I found that I LOVED this bike. People drafted me the whole ride! Was it because I was really more in shape and that my fixed gear was the better bike, or was it because the bike had no brakes?

That's fine, I thought at first. I'll be like Bob, except I'm riding around town and commuting to work. Remain in the present: concentrate on outs and dodges, plan for hills and stops. And when I can't stop, turn!

The attention required was exhilarating. I didn't think about how my day was going to be, or what I was going to do when I arrived at my destination. I thought about all the people trying to kill me on my brakeless bike, which included me.

A few months later, it happened. Even today the concussion hasn't gone away completely.

So I put an old Modelo brake on the front. With a brake I found I could go faster. I could enjoy riding and didn't have to keep up the razor-edge awareness. If you decide to ride fixed gear, put a brake on your fixie so someone--say, you--doesn't get hurt.

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Conversion for the Masses by Liam Irving

Okay, so you ride a single speed bike. Trouble is, you are the only person you know who does. Don't sweat it. Forming a community isn't as hard as you might think. The people you want are out there, and they need to be unified. You have to show the joy of the experience to others.

Step one is to help those you can most easily reach--like friends. Appeal to the low weight of an SS and see who you can hook in by offering a ride on your steed. Or perhaps build up an older frame into a single speed for a buddy or for someone in the group you ride with.

Once you get hooked on checking out the scenery and the hotties, and on keeping a better eye on the Automotive Menace, it is difficult to forego such things by climbing on a geared bike. These things make you-(shudder)-think. I prefer contemplative pedaling.

Try to appeal to the trackies you know. A fixed-gear bike, or "fixie", is a single speed. Trust me, track riders are few and far between, and they are looking for people to ride with. See who you can round up--you'll be amazed at the purity of track cycling if you have not been a part of it yet. Most of these folks have very solid mechanics and cycling fundamentals.

Additionally, see if any races you enter have single speed divisions. Many do, and the more riders who can show off their uno chainring, the better. Tout the benefits while hammering up hills fully seated. Most racers respect someone who comes out while putting herself at a disadvantage.

Steer newbies toward the single speed scene. A Redline Monocog, for example, is far cheaper than many overgeared, overweighted iron slugs.

For you roadies with horizontal dropouts, a frame conversion is just the cost of a new hub and a wheel rebuild--and if that hits the wallet too hard, you can always pick a gear and shorten your chain!

If the rider is adventurous, steer him to a fixed gear. Bianchi's Pista is an excellent entry-level bike, at a price that is not too oppressive.

Know a friend who wrecked a frame? Surly's Steamroller is worthy of every bend of the knee.

A lot of people are enticed by the lower cost of a single speed. My girlfriend had a frozen derailleur, and I convinced her that my old Suntour freewheel was far cheaper than the newest piece of spoke-wrecking Shimano gear. This is also helpful for those of you not so mechanically inclined--remember that $120 overhaul for spring? That becomes negotiable when you can eliminate such time-eaters as derailleur adjustments. Additionally, single speed wheels have little or no dish, making for stronger wheels. Stronger means longer-lasting, and longer-lasting means more money saved in the end.

Remember that you are guiding the Single-Speed Community. People expect you to be quirky--and you should be! Be friendly...it is humorous how many people will walk by the latest carbon fiber wallet emptier to ask you about an old Chicago Schwinn conversion. Stick together, and spread the bug!

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Ohio '02 'Cross Season Report by Mike Woods

Mike rides for Team Lake Effect

I was minding my own biz, signing up people for our Bike Authority CX race in Copley, Ohio. Up walked this mountain man, complete with the full beard hanging down. His name was Ezra Taylor, and he signed up to race the B (Cat. III/IV, Sport) race AND the A (Cat. I/II/III, Expert) race, then asked if there was a single speed division.

This bold display was a lot for me to analyze in a short period, so I asked him (mainly to buy time for cogitating) if he knew that this meant close to two straight hours of balls-out racing. He seemed to get it, and asked if he could race both on one entry fee. I began to fear for my life, but screwed up my courage and told him that he and I would be the only SSers in the B race, and that he would be the sole SS entry in the A. Oh yeah, I said that--for putting on such a show--he could contest the second race gratis.

Damned if the guy didn't win the B race by more than two minutes! What's more, he led the A group (including former National Road Race Champion Paul Martin) past the S/F after the first lap in a flourish. The effort in the B race finally took its toll and he ran out of gas after about 45 minutes, but Ez still finished ahead of quite a few quality 'crossers--none of whom contested the first race!

It ended up that I shouldn't have been so surprised at his performance. Our Team Lake Effect MTB hero, Erin Ford, knew Ez and said that he is a terror on the Ohio MTB race circuit. Dude just blew away the field in Michigan at the Iceman, with a time that put him 1st among SSers, but in the top 30 of well over 1000 entrants.

Ez did give me some advice on how to ride my newly-singlized Bianchi steel 'crosser--I was riding a 36x18, which he told me was too low. He was sporting a 42x18 or something like that, which tells you everything you need to know about our race finishes: he was at the head of the B race, and I was at the other end--SS bookends! Iíve since gone to a 36x14, which is about perfect, but I am in my first season of riding SS 'cross and MTB, so hopefully I will get better the more riding and racing I get in.

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SSWC Gone Bad by Tom Rogers - Marzocchi suspension guy

For the last few weeks Iíd been into it. Iíd been thinking about my bike, my gears, and my game, and always with an open mind.

So, with confidence and calculation, I set up my single speed. Itís a bit exotic, but at the same time shrewd: a Klein Adroit Pro with a set of DuraAce track hubs and cantilever brakes--crazy light! I put a set of big volume Hutchies on it and some wide flat bars with old school, Dan Sotelo barends. A few sweet machined parts and it was dialed!

Gearing? Well, letís just say "questionable." Iíve ridden the bike about a dozen times. The first six or so I changed the set-up, everything from positioning to gearing. Still, itís tight!

As far as riding, I found that you have to ride a single speed a little differently than you would a multi-geared bike. My common storyline is "wait for the hills." Itís a constant test of patience. I usually get in 50 miles of flat riding in a week, most of it at the beginning or end of a ride. Itís just the lay of the land. The trick seems to be holding back and not going too hard when it does go uphill. Trying to keep the same cadence you have in the flatlands or on the approach can crush and destroy even the best of riders. If the hill is really long, say an hourís worth, I hold back. You have to love the hair-trigger effect a little cadence can bestow when using such a big, powerful gear, along with the delayed reaction of lactic acid that saturates your blood--pure euphoria! But just like any other vice we dwell on, always in moderation! As I said, itís a test of patience.

Recently, as I was driving north for a weekend of fun and suffering on my single speed, I couldnít stop thinking about the riding up in the Yuba City area, specifically, the Single Speed World Championship. Unofficially, Iíd heard a lot about it and I was really looking forward to finally experiencing it. My fitness and spirits were good to boot!

And just when you think itís all going to come together, the wheels come off and the whole thing passes you by and becomes the past... On the road, solo, ETA 10 hours and change to Godís country, Downieville! After random thought after thought I find myself half way up through central California.

Some five hours into the drive, as I pull out of the slow lane to pass one of the many agricultural trucks bouncing down the road, I feel the carís motor hesitate. I fan the gas pedal and nothing. No power. The engine dies and Iím in the middle of nowhere. Iím doomed, I can feel it.

After 30 minutes of pondering and convoluted reasoning as to how Iím going to get out of this, I make it to a call box and make a call. After another 30 minutes, the tow truck shows up and hauls us down into the local dealership. After an hour or so, I come to find out that my car needs a new fuel pump, which requires dropping the gas tank, and that the part canít be ordered until Monday. I knew for a fact that the mission I started on was now scrubbed. I had a new mission at hand. Needless to say, my current form of transportation was eighty-sixed from the equation. Never desperate, I pondered the situation for a few minutes before narrowing it down to three options:

Option #1: rent a car? No working credit card. Ok...

Option #2: camp and hang out until Monday? Fun, but there didnít seem like much of anything to do in Los Banos, especially for this gringo. Ok...

Option #3: have someone from home come and get me. Too easy.

I started to think. Itís only around 300 miles. Itís 2:00, Friday. I donít have to be back until Monday morning, right? Weather forecast? #$!&, this is California. What weather? Iím going to ride! Anything else just seemed like a letdown at this point.

So I opened my backpack and got out my sleeping bag, an extra jersey, a windbreaker vest, and a rain shell jacket. I had packed up and plastic-bagged a bunch of Champion Nutrition products, Met Endurance, Revenge, Pro-Score. Without the support of these guys, I couldnít do half of what I do. Their products work--Iíll testify to it!

And away I went. After a quiet look at the map and a realization as to where I was, I knew I had to make a dash for the coast. Straight south, down the way I came? That was not what I would call fun. Hills are good! This is Californiaís heartland! Itís seriously flat terrain in all directions except west, towards the coast. I checked the map, and there it was: Gilroy 43 miles.

I donít recommend this section of highway, even to people I donít like. Yes, itís a highway, regularly traveled, with about 24" of shoulder, even on some of the steeper parts. Scary stuff!

I put it in time trial mode from about the ten-mile mark. It must have been near three oíclock; I didnít have a watch.

Next thing I knew, it was sunset, and I was approaching the mission of San Juan Bautista, some 60 miles away from where I started. My clothes were wet from my efforts and I was a bit tattered when I arrived.

I rode through main street, looking at all the nice places to eat. I didnít stop rolling, covering one block after another. I had no destination and it was finally hitting me.

As I rounded the next corner, I entered the mission of San Juan Bautista. Itís truly a gorgeous place. I recommend visiting the town. It does have a little tourist appeal, but it is still quite impressive, none the less.

All of this is nice, I thought, but what do I do now? Itís a bit breezy, and itís cooling off really fast. I was soaking wet and now in a bit of a panic. I didnít want to get sick and I knew I didnít have nearly enough clothing to hang out.

After a stop or two I realized that no one I asked knew anything about camping and I was too whacked-out tired and cold to think about food. So I rolled towards the edge of town, looking for any area that was flat and a potentially safe place to sleep until morning. Just as I got back to the main highway, all of 200 meters, there it was! Camping! I rolled in with stealth, claimed a picnic bench under a big sycamore tree, ate a few of my snacks, and passed out. It must have been 7:30. Falling asleep in the great outdoors never felt so good.

The next morning I awoke, feeling completely rested. The sun was up and daylight was burning. I put on everything I had and, still bare legged, took a pass through town, only to discover that 7:30 was too early for breakfast here.

I sipped down a half a bottle of water and on I went. I decided that a 20 mile ride wasnít unreasonable before breakfast. After a few rollers and down a small pass, I coasted into Salinas. I made a stop at my favorite breakfast place, Mickey Dees! Nothing like a couple of Egg McMuffins, juice, and a cup of Joe to re-light the fire!

I had to make a few phone calls. Oh, now I should mention I donít have a calling card. Whatís that TV commercial with Carrot Top? Yeah, that one. Now picture him riding a single speed.

I think it was a little after 9:30 when I started rolling south again. From Salinas to about San Luis Obispo, the land is primarily flat, mostly farms and vineyards. Youíre basically coasting along when all you have is a 36x17 gear to work with. The day before wasnít so bad, because the terrain was more. Today was different. Today I had to have patience and control. I can only spin so fast. I wanted to pedal, but if I applied just a little too much, my cadence would increase and cause me to bounce. This wasnít good. I did end up having great control and time flew by. Before I knew it the sun was working its way over my head, on the way to setting.

Riding on the highway for long stretches seemed wrong. I got creative, sometimes risking pursuit by temperamental ranch hands. I rode past frontages on roads that just turned to dirt, and continued paralleling the highway on farm easements. Eventually, each road would come to an end and I would hop the barbed-wire fence along the shoulder of the highway. Only one dick-hick honked his horn and hooted when he drove by. I could have smiled and danced a jig! I wasnít looking for trouble.

by the end of the first full day of riding--11 hours--I had covered a modest 110 miles. Now, normally I can average 18 mile per hour for any road century. I can ride 20 miles per hour for flat solo centuries. And here I was averaging only ten miles per hour! That was a tough blow on a personal level. It was quite humbling. My legs felt extremely good, however, so I wasnít worried. My ass, on the other hand, was not conforming to the saddle, and my fingertips kept falling asleep because I was leaning on the bars to compensate for the pain of my backside. It was nothing worth crying about or calling home for, but it did create some new thresholds and tested my mental status from time to time. A wince, a growl, and a hilarious battery of cuss words, along with a lot of air shifting, kept my attention on other things. Prostate nothing, it felt like bone spurs on my pelvis from lack of padding! Come on, people!

by now I was in Paso Robles and it was dark. I had dinner with Jack--in his box--and footed the bill for a room. I needed to clean up. In a sketchy part of town, I got the cheapest place and immediately got in the shower. Fully-clothed. After all, everything I had--including me--needed a good cleaning. I hung all my stuff in front of the fan and passed out.

The next morning I woke up slightly earlier than I had on the previous morning. Again, I rode a dozen or so miles before breakfast, and rolled into Atascadero. What a morning! By around nine oíclock I was back to a sleeveless jersey. It felt great to stretch my legs a bit along a rambling countryside road that, after a few miles, dumped me out on a side road that led away from the hectic and ever-flowing highway. I anticipated that a good-size climb was coming up soon and I wanted to be able to stand and still apply pressure to the pedals.

Up until this point, I had done the majority of the pedaling sitting down and at a good cadence. Because of this, I was working the muscles in a different way than I ever had before, at least for a ride of this length. Consequently, my left Achilles tendon was becoming a little tight. I discovered that the pain and aggravation would subside if I pedaled slower, which meant that I would have to go slower. After quite a few miles of really slow travel, I rode through the small town of Santa Margarita, and it was time for the Cuesta Grade: 1500 feet of climbing in something like five or six miles. Nothing big, but a climb no less!

The hill came and went, every pedal stroke out of the saddle. It ended up being a pretty cool road, too. Only a mile of highway, and it jumped a guardrail and went up an old highway grade. It was mostly broken pavement coming from the north, with the south side being mostly dirt. The descent was nice, scenic, and relaxing. It wasnít quite steep enough to get ripping, but a dirt descent was just what the doctor ordered.

I had ridden around here ten years ago during a team training camp, and I remembered some of the side routes once I got into San Luis Obispo. I skirted the town and made my way through on a more direct route south to Arroyo Grande. It was more of the same rolling terrain and I was beginning to wake up. It was incredibly scenic and enjoyable. Iím sure I averaged a better than normal pace due to the rollers. I would give it a good effort up, sprint to a full spin over the crest, then coast down the backside, no in-the-saddle grinding for the moment. But I knew it wouldnít last. This was easily the best 40 mile section so far. The whole area was made up of incredible vineyards and ranches.

Away from the highway, it all became more and more captivating as I continued to build up my strength. Iíd been riding for four hours and I felt like I was only warming up, really feeling my best. I also knew that the flats were coming and that it would be another 30 miles before I climbed anything significant again. I settled down into the flatlands around Santa Maria and started the slow, painstaking process of finding the spin "comfort zone." As soon as the road flattened out, the pain in my Achilles tendon returned. If I slowed my cadence, the pain subsided; if I increased the tempo, the pain returned immediately.

After 20 miles of riding well below my cadence on the previous day, the pain really settled in and remained constant. One good thing was that I was going to make it to Santa Barbara by nightfall. It was around noon and I only had 55 miles to go. I knew the descent was seven to ten miles long, which made it only 45 miles of unknown effort. Now, from all the ever-changing compensation for sore body parts, it became harder and harder for me to sit, stand, or even coast. I needed another climb. I was over the whole sit-and-enjoy-the-scenery pace--I wanted to put some pressure on the pedals for more than 10 seconds at a time. I started to sprint and coast because it felt good and because I wanted off the bike. I tried not to let it bother me and stayed relaxed even in my fatigued state. Earlier I had looked at the map and had noticed a more direct route that went by Lake Cachuma along highway 156. Itís a two-lane highway with a good shoulder until you get ten miles in, where it narrows severely. So I took it.

In sections along the highway, I had to actually ride in the lane. In my high-adrenaline condition, I notice that itís turned into Sunday evening, and traffic has increased with all the weekenders migrating back to their nests. Luckily, my dreams were soon answered in a big way. The San Marcos Pass climbs for seven to ten miles. Itís a constant struggle to stay on top of the pedal stroke. Pretty soon it becomes one big crank and push session. Once again I was out of the saddle and having to stay well below my abilities because of my Achilles pain. The pain wasnít any worse because of the climbing, but the tendon was inflamed and I was past the point of just shaking it off.

As I crested the pass I felt a sudden relief. I knew I had made it. Another 10 to 15 miles and I would be down on the boardwalk. So I dropped in. It was an excellent descent. A tailwind helped push my speed up almost equal to that of the traffic. I must have been doing 40+ miles per hour for three to four miles. I hit a short flat, then got up to speed again for another three to four miles! All the while traffic was passing me within inches. I had great control of my section of the road and the close proximity of the cars was very minor compared to climbing at near a standstill on the other side of the pass.

I really enjoyed the riding and being able to just travel along without having to go back the way I had come. Touring is official discipline, and is very fulfilling. It satisfied my desire to explore and to push my limits. I forced me to navigate, to calculate my energy needs, and to stay in control, while staying relaxed as much as possible. It just did it in an extremely different way than I thought. I didnít have to hammer and I was able to really see where I was riding. It opened my eyes to what was around and what Iíd been missing every time I sped by in a car. Touring cross country was something I had never experienced. Iím sure I will do it again.

Maybe next time, Iíll give myself more than a few minutes notice. I still dig my single speed, too!

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Report from Bike Messenger Worlds by Kris Green

I've been eagerly awaiting reports from the Bike Messenger Worlds, held last weekend in Seattle, and guess I'll have to do it myself. I was able to attend only the open-to-anyone ride on Friday night. Spectacular. I'd guess there were approximately 600-700 participants, with about 10% on fixies. The group was escorted by Seattle's finest, who actually did a really good job all Friday night of keeping the group cohesive and the road open, and then getting the heck out when the ride was over.

We were led from the Vulcan-owned area south of Lake Union up, up, up Boren and Belmont (if I remember my streets correctly) to Broadway, cruised past Dick's Drive-in and the Jimi statue, and back down Seneca into the business district and down to the waterfront. Messengers are undeniably tough and saddle-hardened, but some of the flatlanders were seriously gasping by the time we reached the top of Capital Hill. Maybe the frequent cigarette stops have something to do with that.

The peleoton was loose and about three or four blocks long. Everybody was goofin', and pedestrians (it was a gorgeous night) were loud in their support. We never had less than a lane, and often had three (although there's a couple of kinks in the road that pinched kinda tight, particularly when fixies and frees were trying to keep their own tempos when descending or climbing together). No accidents, no shouting matches, no weirdness.

Mohawks on lightweight choppers. A homemade tall bike, maybe eight feet tall--the rider was cool with 1 mph twiddling when the cops stopped to group to let stragglers catch up, and also with climbing 9% grades. Germans (lots of them) on swoopy aluminum road bikes. Downhill bombers. Old school Eddy Merckxs (the kind with his picture on the headtube) and Mercians. A rastaman with a four-foot tall potted bamboo tree and a stage monitor playing old school rhythms in a trailer. A pretty young Suicide Girl with the SHORTEST skirt. A punk who casually did no-handed, one-legged trackstands, and endless backwords 360s (he inspired a cop to do a fair trackstand on his mountain bike).

Afterwards there was a bunnyhopping competition and the slow burn of an event organized by anarchist slackers. My friend is trying to keep sober and so it seemed a really long time before anything happened. Checked out the best bike of the event, a gorgeous custom Bilenky fixie ridden by a Bilenky builder. Regretted briefly that I have a straight job...

Fixies forever!

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Mistress by Chris Frison

Sometimes inspiration comes from the fossil-fuel burners. Not every single speed is a dirt machine or a fixed gear road rocket.

It all begins with a guy with no money, plenty of time, creativity and way too much energy. Last year around September I was watching the Discovery channel and saw Jesse James hand fabbing parts. I thought to my self.....self, that is what I want to do. I've been working with wood designing and building contemporary furniture for years and have dabbled in metal, but nothing to the extent that I was about to undertake. After watch the Jesse show and looking at my finances I decide I was broke but definitely wanted a chopper.

I was off and running. After a week of sketching 20 or so concepts I settled in on a retro 50's with a modern twist chopper. Off I went to my local steel supplier for some 1 1/4" 18 gauge mild steel tubing. I also picked up a kidís 20-incher from a local toy store. I needed the head tube, bottom bracket and threaded fork for my project. In hind site I could have fabbed my own, but I was trying to eliminate as many variables as possible and attempting to use off the shelf parts where necessary.

After a weekendís work I had a rolling frame. But I wasn't satisfied with the rake, so I hacked it apart and basically made it un-ridable. I learned a valuable lesson, 45 degrees is to steep for a head tube. I corrected the problem and pushed on. I had initially intended to have some sheet metal components in the frame, but wasnít sure exactly where. So I welded up the skeletal frame for the sheet metal and started to skin it.

Next was the paint. Retro wasn't my first thought, it was actually candy apple metallic green. But due to availability in a rattle can I settled for metallic charcoal gray. I've learned since then that PPG offers rattle cans in any specs you want. Texas generally has a mild climate but it can have its days. One of those days caused me quite a problems painting my custom fenders.

The forks were the next component to be tackled. I used 1 1/2" tube steel and slipped it over the kidís forks that I cut apart and pounded them together. Every thing was perfect until I decided I should weld them together before painting. I painted the forks up and decided I needed a beer. On the way back from the store the bike started to drag. By god the fork bent at the welds. The kidís fork had bent to almost 15 degrees. Back to the drawing board. I called a guy in Cali and he found me a local shop that had a triple tree in stock. I had intended on using a triple tree but didn't want to deal with the upper and lower crowns until later. I'm glad I did, it's a lot stronger. I removed the stock legs and put in my 5' extensions and buffed the mild steel to a chrome finish and added my finishing touches. To finish the bike off I ordered a set of 72-spoke wheels from Cali and dressed them with white wall tires to continue that 50's styling.

The bike is about 95% done I 'm still adding little details and need to have it pin stripped. But those are little extras.

The bikes been a blast, I get plenty of looks and even more questions. I had a blast building it and am ready to take on bigger challenges. A final note, every bike needs a name. Mine was a reflection upon the time I spent away from my wife. My wife used this one day and it stuck, she said, "How's the mistress", and mistress it was.

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CLUNKER CLASSIC 2002: Corpses donít roll over by Charlie Hobbs

After a couple of years of chatting on the STW forum about racing clunkers, we all met up in a pub on Exmoor for some lunch, ales and pre-race scrutinising. We had seven good guys, seven dodgy bikes, zero reliable brakes, some goggles, dodgy helmets and a fake "Tom Ritchey" tash.

As we set off I tried to kick out the back end of my rod-braked postie bike to slide it round a corner but the crank snapped clean off. So I nipped back to the car and grabbed a singlespeed Chameleon. Hardly a clunker, but still enough bike to get me into trouble.

One of the yanks was complaining about his plumbs. He showed me a US Airforce medical form that read "testicular pain . . . . . bike trauma". Cool.

The course is great, it follows a stream from about 1500ft to sea level through a wooded valley: singletrack, grass, rocks, drop offs, riverbed rocky trails, fast open swoops, several stream crossings, fast double track, tarmac through the village, and then a pub.

We stopped frequently on the 2 hour push up the hill for sustenance and eventually reached the top. We were all packing food and beer and chilled out on the hilltop for an hour or so in some of the best weather Iíve seen recently. An old guy on an old road bike declined our invitation to race but was intrigued about the whole thing and it was nice to have a spectator at the start.

A Le Man start got things going, but the first casualties were not far away. Jaredís chopper forked bike folded up on the first bit of off road, and the bike was soon discarded. He then had to walk back down to pub. Essentially meaning he had just dragged a mix of bike and car parts up a hill for 5 miles, and then walked back down. More of a rambling trip than biking weekend for Jerry. Hey, and this guy fixes F-16ís for the US Airforce, but he canít make chopper forks!

Tory tried airing over a road crossing on his Shwinn Stingray. It was a grass slope up, tarmac, grass slope down - a sort of tabletop. He went for it and actually landed on top of Dan. Bruce was riding a "Wee bike" with a battering ram on the front. All the way down the course he had unplanned dismounts and full on wipe-outs. I was the next victim with a big air where I landed before the bike. I skidded along on my back through a boulder field, and left some flesh on the hill. After this I took it easy and just picked up the trail of bike parts that were being left behind by the other guys. Martinís beach cruiser was straight out of the box and coaster brakes were an entirely new concept for him. He was seen over shooting most corners and embraced the vegetation several times.

As I came down some trials motorcyclists updated us on the action at the "tete de la course". Tory had no front tyre and was still racing. He hit some big bumps and the spring on his springer style fork blew up, soon after the front tyre blew up, followed by the rear. He raced on with his frame stretching and cranks hitting the ground. After crippling the frame, bending the cranks, wrecking the banana seat and squashing a pedal, he ditched the bike and ran the last 2 miles to the finish. His pride and joy had become twisted scrap. We were surprised that it didnít just burst into flames. Jared found it as he walked down and rode/carried it to the finish.

At the front of the race with Tory out of contention Dan and Dennis were duelling it out. The frequent river crossings meant the poor brakes were less effective than normal and subsequently they were going pretty fast. After 4 miles and a few wrecks Dan pulled away on the twisting fire road and was the first back to the finish line (the bar). The locals looked startled as he stood there in his vest and goggles, covered in mud, ordering his pint and telling everyone that he was the Clunker Classic champion.

Over the next couple of hours we all met up back at the pub, where I was adhering to furniture through the power of scabs. Only when we were all down did the gravity of the whole clunking carnage become apparent as we traded stories about "that nasty corner/river/log/rock" and "that dodgy bar/seat/frame/tyre/brake".

Dan was awarded the winners yellow T-shirt (thanks Gil) and medal, cunningly crafted from some chain, a chainring and gold hammerlite. Dan was very pleased with his win as he rarely rides a bike and is not what you would call a mountain biker. He confessed "If that race had had anything to do with fitness, I would not have won" and put his win down to "holding on".

The post race celebration went on into the night, with more beer and some Black Sabbath. Bruce had to be lashed to the front of a car to transport him back to the campsite. Dan checked on him in the morning and reassured everyone who was worried about him: "corpses donít roll over".

Over a fried breakfast at a local hotel the next morning, I found a pictorial history of Porlock. The hills around these parts have been used for racing stuff up and down for many years. We were just the most recent bikers to bomb down and add a bit of social colour to Porlock and the hills. Before we split everyone had big plans for next years clunkers and there will no doubt be a lot of welding going on in a few sheds before we meet up again.

Clunker Classic 2002 Results:
Rank Name On what? Time
1. Dan Munt red clunker / weed about 20 mins
2. Dennis Thorn red clunker/stash a bit longer
3. Tory Neil Stingray and on foot a bit longer again
4. Martin red clunker/cruiser about an hour
5. Charlie Hobbs not a proper clunker an hour and a bit
6. Bruce wee bike with battering ram about 90 mins
7. Jared chopper then foot / pain killers a few hours

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The Thing About Single Speeds by Tom Martin

The thing about single speeds is that they only have one speed; one gear. A simple concept really. Gear ratios and gear inches, not so simple. They involve math. And Iím not good at math; which is why I limit myself to as many bikes as I can count on two hands.

Two of my bikes are single speeds. My wife cannot understand the need for two single speeds, but my son, who is eight, can. Let me explain. One of the bikes is a single speed mountain bike with 26x1.95 inch tires, and the other is a road bike with 700x38c wheels. Biking is neither our national past-time, nor a rational past-time.

My single speed mountain bike has a front chainring with 34 teeth and a rear cog with 17, expressed as 34x17. This is the "standard" gear ratio for single speed mountain bikes, commonly referred to as 2:1. This equates to 52 inches of travel for each revolution of the crank. My other single speedís (the road bike) drivetrain is 44x16, or a 2.75:1 gear ratio, approximately 72 inches. A big gear.

This is math that I know my wife can handle. She has a masters degree, two undergraduate degrees, and her geek certificate. I only mention the geek thing because it is germane to this story, and it gives me the opportunity to use the word germane. Despite all her education, she will never understand why I need two single speeds.

The fact that she is a geek is not a fact at all; just an opinion. Despite my comparative lack of formal education, I am getting wiser, with age. Because someone does not understand me does not make them a geek. Because I ride a single speed does not make me cool. I just am. I understand the need for 27-30 gears. I just havenít embraced the concept.

I also understand the difference between wanting something, and needing something. I could say, "I want two single speeds". I need two single speeds in the same way I need two Ibuprofen in the morning. Sometimes my legs hurt. The hills are getting steeper.

My single speed road bike is my vehicle for getting to and from work; uphill both ways. With sore legs and a general lack of ambition, I need a smaller gear; or 2:1. Come to think of it, what I need is about twenty-five more single speeds, each one in a different gear ratio. What I really need is a geared bike with a triple chainring and a nine-speed cassette. (9x3=27 gears). But, I havenít embraced the concept.

I canít have twenty-five bikes - that would be dumb, but not beyond me. And, I donít want one geared in the traditional sense anyway. What I want is for somebody to come up with a rear derailleur that doesnít need cable tension to keep it, and the chain, in the desired gear. Not needing cables also eliminates the need for shifters. No shifters, no shifting - wireless.

I want/need a rear derailleur that will allow me to pick one speed for the day while taking in, and letting out, the appropriate amount of chain. Set it and forget it. Twenty-seven single speeds in one! I need a new bike. What a concept!

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A Cold Day in Nightmare Country by Joe Sommers

We met under overcast but as yet unthreatening skies...I was sporting Pearl Izumi shorts over form fitting tights with white and black socks peeking out over the top of black neoprene booties...A yellow and black versa-tech Cannondale jersey with red vest completed my fashionable togs. Soon, the ride to Quarryville, began. Pete, Leo, John, Jason and I rolled out on that cold Sunday morn' hoping for the best but prepared for adversity. It was a cold and clammy day and I felt comfortable only a few times during this odyssey. We rode out through the park and up towards Darlington at a rather leisurely pace. As we topped the steep hill before Darlington, I began to think back to that warm morning, a couple of years ago, when I saw a broken down soul on a recumbent bike with a bead of worm like snot plastered to his weathered and grizzled face...Yummy! I remember asking this tumbleweed of a cyclist where he was from. "California", was his reply past a single tooth. "Wow", I said. "How long have you been on the road?", I asked. "íBout four years", he commented...

As we neared the Conowingo dam, it was time for a dismounted pee and soon enough all the lads had dropped their trousers and were relieving themselves where ever a tree allowed. Back on our mechanical contrivances, we prepared for the harrowing dam crossing. The gods smiled upon us, as traffic was unusually light, making for a very pleasant sight seeing excursion across this concrete monolith. On this day, my concern lay with John, whoís time restrictions this bleak morning would soon end his attempts to complete the ride with us. I knew he would be put into real difficulty on this outing and as we climbed the grade away from the dam John was off the back. "You'll never make it home in time, John", I said to myself as he continued to drift into the distance climbing Rt.222 away from Rt.1. He soon became a vague speck in my mirror as I wondered if he could ever catch back on. When all hope for our brave trooper looked lost, Jason punctured his rear tire requiring immediate attention and allowing John to catch up in time for a well deserved food break. Red and white checker table cloths and vast picnic baskets were laid on the roadside. Wine, cheese, caviar and flasks of brandy were passed around to the grateful cyclists as we watched Jason change out his tube. Dinner and a show! How could it be any finer? After the food was eaten and the picnic accessories cleared, we pushed on wondering what other adventures awaited...But alas, as fate would have it, John became a victim of the harsh terrain and soon was never seen in my rearview mirror again...At the rest stop in Quarryville we saw the first signs of precipitation; very light and widely scattered snowflakes... of all things. "Wonderful", I said to Pete as we hungrily wolfed down sandwiches and slurped hot coffee looking like aliens to the curious locals. After pedaling away from Quarryville, I forgot some key directions and, for 40 minutes, we were temporarily, shall we say, lost? True to form I pretended everything was in order and didn't let on our predicament to the lads. Eventually though, we made it back to the real world.

I realized a few things on the ride...The gearing on my fixed gear steed became almost too much to endure as I was out of the saddle most of the ride. Towards the end, just past the dam, Pete and Leo shifted to similar gearing for the remainder of the ride out of sympathy and in honor of my attempt. I still need to thank them. Also, and on a more troubling note, the saddle on my bicycle relentlessly savaged my hind quarters. I know now why I'd never want to spend anytime behind prison bars.

 

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