Indianapolis’ Handbuilt Bicycles

Well, actually we all know the bikes weren’t specifically from Indianapolis, but rather all across the continent… no, wait. De Rosa was there, I know because I got a hat from their booth. That’s an Italian company, right? Beautiful bikes no doubt, but last I checked Italy was a part of the European Union, across the Atlantic, i.e. not a part of North America. No matter, I’m just a wrench in Louisville, Kentucky. Who, if for lack of any other reason to be glad of where I now live, am very happy to have been geographically close enough to visit NAHBS again. Last year in Portland was rad, this year in Indy was even more so!

I’m posting this nearly a full twenty-four hours since I was in Indiana, but I’ve been celebrating my birthday all day, so I’ve been “preoccupied”. The show was really a good time. I didn’t get to see everything I wanted to, but that wasn’t Don Walker’s fault or anyone else’s but my own. My own and all the other lunatics for bicycle polo that is. Our polo escapade was daunted a few times before we could actually take mallet to ball and as such, much show gawking was interrupted. Before the polo though, I certainly got much ogling in, a decently filled bag o’ schwag, and a really lousy lunch consumed. All was super good though!

I’m not sure what my favorite bike was, out of sympathy it was probably the one caging the cute bunny, with this Peacock Groove bike a good second—although I’m not sure it will last long enough. On the whole, I was surprised to see a smaller cargo contingent this year as compared to last. There were not was many sherpa-embarrassing cargo bikes as I was expecting. That being said, there were seemingly at least two porteur racks and potentially a rear rack in everyone’s booth though.

Cambio Corsa dropouts sans derailleur
Super Record 11-speed

The one thing that I noticed I kept being drawn to were the components. The fact that there existed such a polarity of components in the same room was really exciting! I was eager to lay eyes on the 11-speed Campy and was right in my assumption that the new Dura-Ace Di2 electric group would be available for fondling. And fondle I did, it was a pretty awesome stationary test ride—very cool, but in my opinion, very unnecessary, playing polo on the first-of-its-kind production polo bike was far cooler. Not to get distracted though, it was also really cool seeing a component manufacturer that I was wholly unfamiliar with: Sampson, keeping up with the 10-speed Jones’s, on a very nice looking Sadilah. I obviously have an appreciation for the old gear still though, and seeing the beautiful Naked bike with a vintage accent like it did was doubly valued.

Time to get Naked—nice branding, and nice Campy lock-out lever.

I like NAHBS because of its near intimacy with the craftsmanship and artisanship of the bicycle. This is only my second year, and I enjoyed it because again, it felt almost like a local community center event. I hope it never grows so big and disconnected that it no longer feels intimate.

Ending the night watching the Macaframa video was like icing on the cake. Cool people all around, watching some crazy bastards bombing brakeless hills and some intense technical tricks on the screen was a good way to end a trip up to Indianapolis.

The Macaframa banner at the Big Car Studio

This Town Already has Bike Boxes

When I’m riding around, casually or commuting, I envision possible solutions to the traffic issues we all face as cyclists, many of which seem abundant here in Louisville. Sometimes I like to envision intersections like this:

Frankfort Avenue

A lot of the intersections I’ve noticed in this town have a really nice space located between where the cars are supposed to stop at red lights and where the pedestrian’s crosswalk is. It’s presumed this area is a buffer zone provided to keep cars from stopping in the crosswalk. This area would make for a great “bike box”! And these “buffer zones” can be found at many of the city’s intersections; they’re just sitting there, ready for painting—I think blue might be nice.

Basically, it would b a place for cyclists to have a safe zone to wait for a green light at intersections; and to help prevent them from getting struck by right turning motorists. The one I’m seeing on Main Street and Brook is great because of the bike lane that leads into it. (Generally speaking, the bike lanes in Louisville are appreciated; they’d be more so—and used more perhaps—if they were safer and more respected; just a note).

Main St @ Brook

Bike boxes are a pretty nice street feature that I first encountered in Vancouver B.C., but really witnessed their implementation on the streets of Portland, OR (here and here) and Seattle, WA (here and here).

Time Warp

I’ve been so preoccupied with work lately I’ve recently experienced a weird sensation of displacement.

We’ve been riding around Louisville a lot—everywhere we go actually. Some of our routes have become rather rote, in a way. But one day, as I’m heading out to the Kroger (or what I commonly, and incorrectly, call QFC) and cross under a freeway overpass, crossing the next intersection I look to my right, and then to my left and proceed through. When I checked to my left something caught my eye: the freeway entrance ramp stating “South I-65 Nashville”. Totally common around here, but it caught my eye nonetheless, making me remark to myself, “Where the hell am I that I’m close to Nashville?”

Louisville, dumbass! Not only was it a sensation of displacement, it also reminded me how “out of the loop” we are about cars and how “regular” people get around. These freeways with their entrance and exit ramps and directional signs, they’re so out of our realm that I hardly take notice of them. Kind of interesting I think how unimportant things like that become when you remove them from your life; things like pumping gas, searching for parking, and many others I’m sure.

Mechanical Thoughts

(This post existed as a draft up until 9/3/2019, originally drafted 11/12/08)

I’ve been a professional bicycle mechanic for a few years now. “Where do I want to take it?” is a question that I ask myself frequently. Why did I get into it in the first place? This I know the answer to: Because I was hating the alternative. That being a corporate desk-jockey working for insulting wages doing tasks that utterly lacked pleasure or satisfaction. So now I’m a mechanic, and love it.

“Why do I enjoy it, why is being a mechanic pleasurable?” Because it’s fun. Getting your hands dirty—using both your muscles and your brain. Helping people out who are in need. Keeping these people on the road; helping them remain self-sufficient in their chosen means of transport. It’s also an interesting subject, seeing the evolution of components and technology (or rather notice how not much has actually changed). It’s a field that comprises a lot of my skills and takes from a lot of my previous experience; and this in itself is satisfying. Most of the time, the environment is filled with like-minded people which can be rewarding in its security.

“What is the future of it for me?” This is the one that I cannot readily answer. I think I do a good job of being a mechanic, however doubt enters my work space at times. More accurately diminished self-confidence rather than in abilities. Sometimes these doubts are inspired from a customer’s knowledge seemingly besting mine. That sense of competitive defensiveness always brings questions of doubt. I am confident I can repair just about any machine that crosses my stand, so it’s really just the thought of “knowledge” not being readily in my hand. And really this is just a factor of the sporadic lack of confidence in vocalizing that knowledge. The occasional inability to spew details and precise specs on specific bikes or components. Is this a commonly felt notion? Is my “bicycle personality”, hampering my mechanical experience? My personality being that of a cyclist who prefers simplicity and longevity—this relating to the fact that I don’t “jump on” enough varied bikes, components, doohickies and/or widgets? I like my few bikes simple and functional. Maybe I’m boring that way, I like to think of it as mostly utilitarian—to me that’s part of the bicycle’s beauty.

While I’m surrounded by the bikes and parts and all other such accoutrements of the bicycle mechanic, I sometimes feel stumped by the people who, from my perspective, are desk-jockeys who are likely learning data online as opposed to doing their white-collar tasks. (Admittedly, that judgement is just a knee-jerk reaction, and I don’t really mean it). Some other times, even in these surroundings, doubt creeps into my mind. “Am I merely a mediocre mechanic?” or perhaps, “Is this a mediocre profession?” I honestly don’t think so when I step away from these thoughts and really focus on my abilities. I do honestly think this is a great profession (certainly not in economic ways of course—it certainly is not as lucrative as I’d like; more on that below), it enables me to be around typically interesting people, it provides a great deal of satisfaction and that sense of accomplishment. But in some ways it seems like a finite profession. Definitely finite in it’s cap on income, but will it also be finite in it’s satisfaction and level of accomplishment. Factors I was keenly aware of when I began; factors I accepted. But. What’s next? 

Can one make a career as a bicycle mechanic? In Louisville, KY? Anywhere? At the moment I’m not making as much money as I was while in Seattle (that is understandable in a way I know, but…). The statement, “You don’t get rich in the bicycle industry” is often heard in the shop I’m in now. It’s stated in a way that implies someone asked for a raise of executive proportions. Getting rich was never my intention. Being paid equitably for time and effort, positive attitude and out-going ambition is all that is asked really. It’s probably just a factor of working for a small business owner, a factor of working for someone else—and that’s not something easily adjusted. Right? So in a way, that’s a finite direction to take the profession.  

What’s next? Owning my own shop? Perhaps. I often thought it’d be a good idea. Maybe start building my own frames? Extremely appealing. I’ve always wanted to get back into mechanical/industrial design, re-hone my dusty CAD skills. Travel to Europe and wrench there for a while? Revive the magazine and get Cranked back in print and back on the shelves? Hmmmm, not so sure. Seek corporate levels and get a “bicycle” industry desk job? Rather not, but the previous three all feel like viable options, just gotta start the planning process again. Can I do all three? Eventually, own my own shop, where I can fabricate my own frames, but only after a few years of cycling and wrenching in France and Italy. Sounds good to me. Someone send me a large sum check! What preparations are needed at this early stage of the game? There’s a lot to figure out, a lot to get busy on.

Tyee in Jamaica

You know who is doing something cool. One young man, whom just the other day I heard referred to as shop intern, Sam. He’s currently involved with something really great. His school, Tyee Middle School, is doing some very humanitarian and educational things for the youth in Jamaica. Some of the specifics for this can be read about here: Evidently this is the second of a five year project of Tyee building and bringing computers for a specific school in Jamaica. This Negril school is underprivileged and underfunded by the government. Sam’s teacher, Mr. Burke has made a deal with the government in Jamaica at the end of the project, they will finally build a new school building. Progress on last year’s project can be read at their blog, Project Jamaica: Tyee Class Project.

Sam himself is concentrating on developing some type of bicycle cooperative repair shop while he’s down there for the next couple of weeks. According to him his “main goal for this trip is to spread the love of biking and to offer an alternative to cars.” This indeed is a great and important ideal to share with an impoverished population. As such Wright Bros donated a slew of parts, tools, and consumables for Sam’s effort. Sam has created a blog that should detail his progress down there:; be sure to check it out.

Sam is also a bit of a competitor in the cycling scene. From what I’ve heard he’s been tearing up some of the standings in the juniors cyclocross circuit. Keep an eye and ear out for this enterprising young man.

Pedaling Music

Just glancing through one of those Conscious Choice magazines commonly found in coffee shops and came across a cool article about musicians traveling around on tour by bicycle. Check out the full article here.

I love this perspective (emphasis and links mine):

But not the Ginger Ninjas. In April, this folk-ska band from North San Juan, California (fronted by Xtracycle co-founder Kipchoge Spencer) completed a fully pedal-powered tour of 5000 miles from Lake Tahoe to Chiapas, Mexico. The Ninjas’ tour — called Pleasant Revolution — included 80 dates. So did the Rolling Stones’ 2006 Bigger Bang Tour, but the tired supergroup’s tour also included 80 semi trucks, a jet plane and 37,000 barrels of oil — each incinerated, of course. The Ginger Ninjas, who employed a pedal-powered sound system at most shows, estimate they expended a third of a barrel of oil on their journey.

This issue of Conscious Choice also has a great interview with Michael Franti.

Follow the Green Gravel Road

I don’t want to come off too negative about these new street features, but I am curious and suspicious at the same time. It does appear the DOT is attempting to accommodate cyclists, and honestly, that’s a good thing!

What features am I talking about? There are several throughout the city now. The one I noticed was just after crossing the Fremont Bridge on my way up to Queen Anne. Like it’s supposed to, it immediately caught my eye as I came off the bridge, a column of what looked like astro-turf crossing the street directly next to the crosswalk.


I saw this green bike lane appear this Friday past and took some photos of it Saturday morning. Already the gravel material they’ve used is separating from the lane; as would be suspected I think. Maybe this is part of the process and I’m just squawking early, but I’ve seen plenty of lane striping and other markings on the streets here in Seattle. Why isn’t that type of paint being used for these new bike symbols and other bike improvements? Those old bike lanes on 34th going into Fremont still have their bike paint holding strong; when were they painted? Probably when that street was paved (and that was a long time ago by the feel of it).

A disintegrating cyclist off the Fremont Bridge

It’s often said that the grass is always greener, perhaps so are the bike lanes. Portland has some awesome bike lanes, as well as bike boxes, and dedicated bike routes.
It’s cool that Portland recognizes our attempts at improving cycling infrastructure. Seattle needs to take some more cues from our neighbor down there I think. Maybe at least get the name of their paint supplier.

Portland green bike lane. Photo compliments of peng1

Behind Yehuda Moon

I was so instantly impressed and wholly amused by the Yehuda Moon comic that I wanted to find out more. Here’s an interview of sorts I threw together asking the artist himself, Rick Smith. He was quickly responsive, and revealed that he’s a pretty nice and cool guy. Enjoy.

CrankedMag: Where do you originate from? How long have you been in Cleveland or the Midwest?

Rick Smith: I grew up in Cleveland, but only moved back here in 2005. I spent fifteen years in Virginia, Texas, and Colorado before deciding that Ohio was where I wanted to be.

CM: Have you spent any time elsewhere? Do you think the Midwest has shaped your bike mentality?

RS: I biked in all of the above places, and Cleveland certainly isn’t the best spot out of all of them. But there are less people here, and that makes for a calmer commute (sometimes). I think my summer riding during college in Michigan and upstate New York probably shaped my riding the most. I learned to ride long distances, and came to truly appreciate the pastime.

CM: How long have you been commuting by bike? Have you always been “bike-minded”?

RS: I’ve been biking off and on to school or work since 1986. I usually took winters off, but decided to take the plunge and go year round. It’s been a blast. Winter riding takes careful planning, but once you’re out on the road, you learn different things than you do during warm weather riding. There’s so much more to keep track of—gear, clothing, repairs, the ride itself (what with the snow and ice).

CM: What’s your commuter bike? How long is your commute?

I ride an Azor Mechanic’s Series 108; basically a customized Dutch bike built by the folks at the Dutch Bicycle Company. It’s decked out with Shimano components including a dynamo hub and Nexus 8-speed internal hub. It’s a beast, a tank, but feels luxurious while riding. I’ve taken it camping as well, but will probably get a country bike for those trips. I travel 24 miles a day, round trip.

CM: Your comic is really relatable, many of the themes are like many I’ve experienced personally. Are these comics thoroughly derived from personal experience or what?

Some of the strips are from my own experiences, while others are from discussions with colleagues (like the Lauterbrunnental series). Most are simply concocted on the ride home. Riding every day gives the strip its sense of ‘relatability’.

CM: Do you relate more to Yehuda or Joe? What or who was the inspiration for Yehuda Moon? Are these characters or the Kickstand Gallery inspired by any shop in particular?

I speak chiefly through the character of Yehuda Moon. Joe represent the views of a cycling comrade I work with. Many of the discussions or arguments between Joe and Yehuda are drawn from conversations he and I have had about bicycles and bicycling.

CM: I loved the “Lauterbrunnental Leaflet” bit. What brought about that satire?

I recently bought every issue of the Rivendell Reader from a seller on eBay. The Reader changed me as a bicyclist. Civilians should read it. I’ve offered my services to Rivendell to bind all of the previous issues into four fat volumes. I even made covers for the volumes. I really want to see it happen—there are so many others who should read the Reader.

The LL was a gentle jab at the wonder that comes with each issue, as well as some of the obsessiveness of Riv members. Joe’s a skeptic, and feels the LL is a bit overzealous, and I wanted to capture that in the strips as well.

CM: How long have you been cartooning? What’s up with Shuck and Sulfurstar? Do you have any advice or anything to say to those attempting cartooning themselves?

I’ve drawn most of my life. Shuck was published independently as comic books and by Top Shelf Productions as a graphic novel. After, I tried my hand at a daily strip and got bored. I’ve also drawn a graphic novel with Damon Hurd called ‘Temporary’ about Envy St. Claire, a temp worker with a terminal illness. Advice? Keep drawing.

CM: Is it a lucrative activity? Do you have a day job?

I work as a web developer at an insurance company.

CM: Shuck looks like it was once in print form, is it still available? How do you manage publishing? Publishing Cranked Magazine myself is pretty difficult, is publishing a comic similar?

Shuck ran in print as both a graphic novel and as saddle-stitched comics. Copies are available at shops, online at retail sites, and at Publishing a printed comic is much different from publishing the strips online. Working with the printers, getting colors correct, proofing the galley copies, distributing to shops and through wholesale channels—wow. There’s a lot of work. But it’s very fulfilling.

CM: Is Yehuda Moon in print anywhere?

Yehuda will likely be in print within the year, in some form or another.

CM: What can readers expect to see in the near future with Yehuda?

RS: Yehuda will have to deal with city council again after he paints the illegal bike lanes along the city’s main thoroughfares. There will be a segment on bike camping. More commuting hi-jinx. More customer interactions at the Kickstand (look for the ‘Bike Whisperer’, ‘New Old Parts’, more ‘Carbon Copy’, ‘Dateline Mom’, and others). More info about the models sold at the shop, and who builds them.

CM: Is there an overall message with Yehuda Moon that you’re trying to put out?

RS: I hope the strip doesn’t exhibit an agenda, just points of view. I want to skewer Yehuda’s message as much as I do other character’s. It’s only fair. If you enjoy riding a bicycle, you’ll find something of yourself in Yehuda Moon.

Sounds awesome, you keep drawing too Rick, I know people that are looking for more Yehuda. Keep him coming. Looking forward to seeing it in print form.

Thanks again for the interview.