Friday, June 24, 2016

BSNYC Road Jernel Part III: Last Stop Rivendell

As the week draws to a close, so too does my epic recounting of my recent mini-tour of the West Coast.  When last we gathered I was still in Seattle, and from there I flew to San Francisco and made my way to a hotel in Contra Costa county, where Grant Petersen picked me up in his Ferrari:

Grant is of course the person behind Rivendell Bicycle Works, as well as the author of "Just Ride:"

"Eat Bacon, Don't Jog:"

And he also ghostwrote Mötley Crüe lead vocalist Vince Neil's autobiography, "Tattoos and Tequila: To Hell and Back with One of Rock's Most Notorious Frontmen:"

I find it amusing that Vince only claims to be one of rock's most notorious frontmen, not the most notorious.  Seems to me if it's your autobiography you might as well go all the way.  I followed the same logic when I called my book "The Ultimate Bicycle Owner's Manual," not "One of the Many Useful Bicycle Owner's Manuals Currently Available on the Market ."  But what do I know?

Anyway, Grant is a luminary and a sage in the cycling world, and as a longtime admirer of his I'm both honored and humbled that he not only carries all of my books in his shop (check out the kind things he said about my latest one!) but that he also agreed to host me for a signing.  I mean sure, you may know me as the globetrotting bon vivant and world's greatest living bike blogger, but I'm really just a recovering Fred who's been making Internet wisecracks for nine years.  So for a personage of Grant's status to acknowledge me like this is quite a thrill.

From my hotel we made our way over to Rivendell, and if you've never visited before (which I hadn't) I highly recommend it.  These are prototype tandems they're working on:

And this is the ironically signed Custom Fi-
t Centre:

Speaking of fit, everybody was shocked and appalled to learn I didn't know my Pubic Bone Height, which at Rivendell is the only measurement that matters:

And once we ascertained it (don't ask) Grant presented me with Rivendell after Rivendell for my test-riding delectation:

He also insisted I try this, one of the first Campagnolo derailleurs from the 1930s:

The way it works is this: first, you open the upper quick release lever, which frees the axle in the dropouts (or I guess track ends if you want to get technical).  Next, you use the lower lever to manually lift the chain onto another cog--while pedaling backwards of course.  Then, once you've got the chain where you want it, you have to weight the saddle in order to tension the chain, then finally you close that upper quick release lever again.

Not only is it even harder than it sounds, but it's also a brilliant sales technique on Rivendell's part, because after trying to shift this freaking thing a bar-end friction shifter seems positively telepathic.

By the way, in addition to using an antique shifter for the first time, I also took my first tandem ride with a member of the Rivendell crew:

And of course visited Rivendell's downtown shop, "Bike Book and Hatchet:"

Fortunately we got there before it closed:

But unfortunately now this guy would know exactly where to find me:

Anyway, the captain and I parked the tandem against some firewood:

And stepped inside:

True to its name, the shop contained bikes:

And books:

And hatchets:

As well as pine tarring supplies (this had to be explained to me because I am a total city slicker and not even remotely a Hatchet Fred):

Cloth tape:



And this bike frame, which seems like something out of a Paul Bunyan story, if only ol' Paul had been a retrogrouch instead of a lumberjack:

Not for nothing, but it seems to me that if Rivendell were to open one of these in Brooklyn the whole damn staff would be able to buy Ferraris.

But there was precious time to dawdle, for the signing was afoot, and so we hopped back on the tandem (I was "captain" this time) and returned to the shop:

And from there we zig-zagged to the Marriott:

And down to the conference room:

Where Grant was screening the 1956 French short film "The Red Balloon:"

It wasn't until later that I realized just as an antique derailleur makes a friction shifter seem modern, an old movie about a French kid with a balloon makes a tired blogger seem entertaining.

I'll be damned if that Petersen isn't a marketing genius.

Meanwhile, as the crowd continued to trickle in and wonder why the winner of the 1956 Academy Award for best original screenplay was playing, I got myself a beer:

And checked out a rival conference upstairs, which appeared to be even more of a bald-faced money grab than mine was:

Once the film was over, I then proceeded to elicit polite laughter from a crowd who by that point probably would have preferred to watch the ill-advised sequel, "The Red Balloon II: Rouge Vengeance:"

("The boy is now a man, and he's about to pop.")

After the signing, a group assembled for the totally optional NO HOST ride that was in no way organized by Rivendell:

So I suppose they didn't technically lend me this bike:

And off we scampered into the foothills of Mount Diablo:

You'd be hard-pressed to find a more idyllic setting for a ride:

I mean come on:

It's just not fair.

I was also greatly enjoying my loaner bike, CSPC-mandated accoutrements and all:

If it were mine obviously I'd lose the reflectors and maybe lower the stem a half a foot or so (I'd totally keep the kickstand though), but even as it was the bike was sublime.  By the time we got to this hilltop, I was ready to give myself over completely to the Cult of Riv:

Indeed, looking back, maybe this steep drop was some sort of trust exercise:

It was a nasty one too, and one of our party even took a bit of a tumble:

But I'm pleased to report he totally Pee-Wee'd it and leapt back onto his feet with aplomb.

From there we snaked our way down some switchbacks:

And here's that quill stem-wrangling I promised you:

Sorry if it's not all you hoped.

The ride, however--as well as the entire day--was all I'd hoped for and more, and I was happier than I had a right to be as we rode back to town amid the setting sun:

If by this time next year I've gotten rid of all my bikes for a Sam Hillborne and a pair of sandals then you'll know why.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

BSNYC Road Jernel Part II: Seattle!

The pre-eminent group ride in the New York City area is of course the BSNYC Gran Fondon't, but if you can't wait until next year there's always the New York City Century, which is happening on September 10th:

(Beard groomers needed!  Volunteer now!)

You may recall that last year I wrote up a little preview post in which I scouted one of the more succulent sections of the course.  Well, this year Transportation Alternatives is offering a $5 discount to readers of this blog, and all you have to do to get it is enter the following code when you register:

Here's that code again, in case it wasn't clear:


Hey, I wanted to use "SCRANTACULAR," but they wouldn't let me, go figure--though incidentally if you use that code over at Nashbar they'll add an extra 25% to the price of your order.

Anyway, don't say I never gave you anything, because I pretty much just handed you five bucks.  Better still, you get the discount even if you're not a TransAlt member, though you might as well become one because they do good work.

So there.

I should also add that this year the Century starts and finishes at Pier 97 on the West Side off the Hudson River Greenway, so as I understand it there will be pre-and post-ride activities and stuff like that.  And here are the routes:

Though only the 100-miler takes in the mighty peaks of the Northwest Bronx:

100 mile -- The Imperial Century

The full 100 mile tour is for experienced cyclists only. 100 mile riders continue on into eastern Queens, along the waterfront on Little Neck Bay and under the Throgs Neck Bridge, before looping back to Astoria Park and continuing into the Bronx. This part of the ride is hilly and the most challenging. The route then winds down into northern Manhattan and historic Harlem. The route begins at Pier 97 at 6 am. You should expect to finish between 12 pm and 6 pm.

See that?  I live where it's hilly and the most challenging!  That's why I moved up here to the New York City Alps, so I could train at altitude.  (Well, that and I was evicted from my previous home in Brooklyn to make way for an artisanal pickling operation.)

Moving on, as a blogger I have a pathological need to share with you the excruciating minutiae of every leg of my recent book-flogging trip, and when I left you yesterday we were at Union Station in Portland, Oregon, USA and bound for Seattle:

I think the first time I traveled between Portland and Seattle I took a plane, and then someone in a grubby cycling cap explained to me how silly that was when I could just take a train instead.  He was absolutely right.  While the flight itself is short you've got to get yourself to and from the airport on either end, not to mention suffer the many indignities of air travel, plus pack and unpack your bike if you've got one.  Meanwhile, not only is the Amtrak Cascades train convenient, but it also offers roll-on bike service:

And after rolling my bike onto the train I rolled myself onto it as well:

Where I settled into my sumptuous seat:

Until hunger set in and I shuffled on over to the café car, which is where I was, eating disgusting microwaved train food, when we rolled into Kelso:

Now if you were at one of my recent talks you've already heard this anecdote, but if you weren't I'll tell you that as we pulled into the station I noticed a man on the platform carrying a large plastic sack in his teeth.  He then set the sack down and began sharpening an axe:

You'll notice he was also equipped with a saw for some reason.

All of this struck me as odd, but I was reluctant to apply my urbane sensibilities to the local populace.   After all, this was the Pacific Northwest, and perhaps sharpening an axe on a stair railing is as normal as sitting down for a shoe shine in Grand Central.  However, I highly doubted that throwing an axe was typical, and that's precisely what he did next:

He also appeared to be somewhat addled, which concerned me because: a) people were now getting off the train; and b) while he had already hurled the axe he was still armed with the saw:

At this point I figured I'd seen something so I should now say something, so I told the conductor there was a guy outside with an axe.  She sort of gasped in horror, and then simply walked away.

Satisfied that I'd now discharged my responsibilities, I left the man with his plastic bag full of dirty laundry and/or body parts and returned to my seat for the rest of the ride.  Then, upon arriving in Seattle, I headed straight for the ferry to Bainbridge Island to visit the good people at Classic Cycle:

Rest assured I'm going to tell you all about my trip to Classic Cycle.

Just not today.

After my visit, I re-boated and headed back into Seattle:

See my bike case?  I should point out that it has backpack straps, so I threw my regular luggage in there and carried everything on the bike that way, which may sound convenient but is in fact incredibly awkward and painful.

By the time I arrived back in Seattle the local bike commuters were queuing up for the ferry trip home:

Whereas I took to the downtown bike lanes because I had an appointment to keep:

Before heading to Seattle I'd received an email from someone at a tech company asking me if I'd come speak at their offices before my signing at the University Book Store.  Here's a paraphrased version of our exchange:

TECH COMPANY PERSON: Hey, I see you're coming to Seattle.  Any interest in coming to our office to speak to us first?

ME: I really don't see why you can't lift your asses out of your ergonomic chairs and just come to my signing instead.

TECH COMPANY PERSON: Well, we plan to order some books.

ME: So what time should I be there?

It was a short ride from the ferry to the tech company's downtown offices, where I took advantage of the building's bike parking:

The company was called Avvo, and when I asked what they did it turned out they're sort of like Uber but for lawyers, so I explained to them that their name sounded too much like Aviato and that they should change it to Luber.

They seemed nonplussed, in the informal sense of the word:

Indeed, between the conductor and the techies it would appear that the entire region was united in its complete indifference to anything I had to say.

Nevertheless, once that was out of the way they lowered a big screen from the ceiling and I fired up my PowerPoint and launched into my book-selling spiel.  Many of the people assembled had no idea who I was, so I explained I was the greatest living cycling writer in the world, because it would have been disingenuous of me to lie.  Everyone seemed to have a good time, though admittedly the bar for entertainment is pretty low in an office setting when it's between listening to some bike doofus while drinking beer and actually doing some work.

Once that was finished and they signed over the stock options I'd insisted upon, I head north and over the bridge to the University District:

I should point out that my helmet was buried deep inside my luggage and there was no way I was going to bother digging it out, which meant I traversed much of the city in flagrant violation of its draconian bicycle helmet laws.

Fortunately I was not cited, so in your face, suckers.

After dumping my unwieldy bike case full of crap at the hotel I headed over to the University Book Store for my signing, though I kind of wished I had done it at Edge of the Circle Books instead:

I would gladly summon the dark power of nature and spirits in order to make my book a commercial success.  I'd even sell my soul to Satan himself, seen here in the window:

Come on, tell me that's not Satan:

Anyway, the signing went quite well, even without Satan's help (unless he did help after all and I'm now in his service forevermore), though I admit as an adult on the wrong side of 40 I was less than enchanted with the neighborhood.  See, after giving so freely of myself I like to unwind with a nice meal and a cocktail in an atmospheric restaurant and then stick the publisher with the bill.  However, this being the University District, it was all cheap eats for students and freaks playing harps:

So after wandering around in the rain for awhile until I was famished I settled on some Thai joint and burned the crap out of my mouth on some chicken satay.

It still hurts.

Stay tuned for the dramatic conclusion of my trip, which will feature more quills than the Constitutional Convention:

And before I go, here's a video for your forensic analysis:

I'm not sure if that's a clipless pedal mishap or some other kind of drivetrain malfunction, but maybe it had something to do with the driver's musical tastes.