Paul Andrews

Archive for the ‘Bicycling’ Category

How to Do a Swap Meet

In Bicycling on February 25, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Seattle’s annual Bike Swap blowout will take place at Magnuson Park’s Hangar 30 on Saturday, the day before Sunday’s annual Chilly Hilly ride on Bainbridge Island. Over the years the Swap Meet has evolved into quite the bike scene, and this year promises to be no different.

Here are some guidelines gleaned from years of experience going to bike swaps. We hope they can be of use at the big meet.

1. Before you head to the swap meet, make a precise list of what you actually need (it’s also a good idea to write down the lowest price you can find on, say, the Web; you really need to know price points to know if you’re getting a good deal). You’ll see so much at the meet that it’s easy to forget what you really came for. I typically have half a dozen target items on my list, e.g., new cable housing, backup pedals, some winter tights, a cluster set, saddle, and so on. Note that although it’s a swap meet, you’ll find a lot of new stuff on the floor, especially clothing. Much of it will be at prices you’ve never seen before. Oh and don’t forget the crucial shopping bag! Or do as I do and wear a big ol’ backpack.

2. Bring lots of cash. I don’t go with less than $500. Please don’t tell my wife, who thankfully never reads this blog. Although some of the vendors (stores) will take charge cards, cash is good for two things: Speed, and negotiating. “Oh, sorry, I’ve only got INSERT FIGURE HERE on me.” There will be no cash machine on premises. Some vendors may take checks (although they’re crazy to), but it’s not worth the gamble.

3. Arrive early. If you usually arrive early to things, arrive even earlier. My friend Jim Lyon and I typically show up 45 minutes before the door opens at 9 a.m. And we’re by no means close to the door. Typically a few hundred folks line up by opening bell, and the further ahead you can be, the better opportunity you have for scoring the best deals. Note: If you do run late, you’re probably better off showing up at 9:15 or 9:20 than, say, a quarter to 9. By a quarter after, assuming an on-time start (not always the case), the line has usually dissipated and you can blow right in. (Note: There’s bike parking, but bring your own lock. It’s unattended.)

4. I like to start off by cruising the entire floor in one sweep. The reason: The good stuff goes fast. Two things to keep in mind while cruising: Snap up a good deal that fits your needs. It won’t be there the next time you pass the booth. I once walked in and the first booth I encountered had brand new Nevegals on sale for $15. No need to negotiate, I snapped ‘em right up. Point No. 2: Make a mental note, or even write down, stuff you might want but is a bit overpriced, or that you doubt will go quickly. You might even make a passing inquiry, “How much are you asking for this?” Just so they see your face and know you’re interested. That means they won’t willy nilly lower the price to the next guy, figuring you’ll come back again. You can even mention a price point you’re willing to pay and have the vendor hold it for you on that basis. Most vendors won’t go for it, but again, it shows your interest.

5. OK, once your first pass is done, start the whole thing over, but this time with an eye on bargaining. Big Point: Never pay the marked price! Now there are exceptions, like that $15 set of Nevis. But typically even at swap meets vendors ask high. They expect to dicker. Here’s where knowing price points comes in handy. Once when I wanted a new cluster, I noted to the vendor that his price was higher than Performance’s, and I’d much rather buy from him. Deal made.

6. If you find something you really like but can’t get the price where you want it, just hang in there. Within a couple of hours, earlier even, the vendor will start to waver. A couple years back I found a primo full face helmet, brand new, going for $90. An hour and a half later I got it for $60. There’s a bit of risk in waiting, of course. You have to calculate your odds that others will find the item overpriced (or demand for it is limited enough to begin with that it won’t attract a lot of buyers).

7. Caveats: Look used stuff over pretty carefully. Last year some guy was selling used chains. Unless you have a chain tool with you or otherwise have an expert eye, chains would be the last thing you’d buy at a swap meet. Vendors also can confuse you by “mispackaging” items. One year I was set to buy a new Conti still in the box, when I happened to see the label underneath. The actual tire inside was different, an off-model I didn’t want. Check DVD boxes to make sure the right disc is inside. On tires, make sure you’re getting a 26-incher not a 29er (assuming you want the 6er). On clothing, check for snags, stains, dropped stitching, defects. Stuff like that…it’s easy to buy the wrong item, and then you’re stuck. No taking it back for exchange!

Good luck! Just don’t buy anything I want before me, OK?

Bike Business “Recovery”?

In Bicycling on February 16, 2010 at 2:09 am

Shimano sales took a 21 percent hit in 2009, but the company continues to look on the bright side. Talking “slight” recovery, the company estimates sales will improve 8 percent the first half of 2010 over 2009′s dismal showing.

Business articles often speak of a rebound in terms of “recovery.” The word is used far too loosely. “Recovery” denotes getting back to full health, or at least where you were before. If someone breaks their arm, they’re not going to think they’re recovered till they can fully use their arm again. Being able to write their name but not, say, wave hello, is not going to be “recovery.”

So when Shimano talks about an improvement of 8 percent year-over-year, they’re a long way from anything resembling a recovery. When you drop 21 percent and gain back only 8, you’ve got a slog ahead of you. You could even gain back a full 21 percent and fall well short of a true recovery. Here’s an easy example, using nice round numbers for explication purposes:

Company X’s 2009 sales drop 21 percent from $100 million to $79 million.

In 2010, Company X’s sales increase by 8 percent. From a base of $79 million, that’s $6.3 million. Add the two figures together and you get $85.3 million.

That’s not terrible. You can write your name. But you’re a long way from giving anyone the “hi” sign.

To get back to full “recovery” — back to where you started ($100 million) — you’d need a sales spike not of 21 percent but of just under 27 percent. Nobody’s talking anywhere near those kinds of numbers for 2010. Even a cumulative 27 percent is nowhere in practical sight.

Keep those simple economics in mind the next time you read a story mentioning any bike business “recovery” — or general economic recovery, for that matter. There may be a bit of a “dead man’s bounce” effect going on in 2010. A slight rebound. An uptick.

An actual recovery, if it happens at all, is going to be a long haul.

Kate Hudson can ride a bike as she well pleases…

In Bicycle advocacy, Bicycling on February 12, 2010 at 10:50 am

The girl can ride

Kate Hudson seems to be the real deal, a celeb who loves to ride a bike. Catch the name of her son: Ryder, the best cycling name in the world. But we take issue with a couple of characterizations online. We would not call her, in the words of Celebrity-Gossip.net, a Bicycle Babe. The current argot, sanctioned by Luna, is “Bike Chick.” And in any case, Kate is no spring chicken. I guess Bike Mom doesn’t carry quite the allure, though.

The other nit we would pick involves Kate riding in a dress. Now normally we find ourselves in wholehearted concurrence with our friend and colleague Yokota Fritz over at Cyclelicio.us, but in this case we must express high dudgeon. Or at least medium dudgeon. High might be a bit excessive, but hear us out.

Needs to cover up...

Also needs to cover up...

The photo shows Kate’s dress “billowing” up as she rides along on her Electra Super Deluxe street bike. The always helpful Yokota says there’s a solution to this: a garter clip which, when fastened to the hem of the skirt, keeps things from going all Marilyn Monroe.

Does not need to cover up

What are you thinking? This is Kate Hudson, not some prune-faced Republican blue nose like Michele Bachmann. We’re not talking Miss Piggy or Her Majesty the Queen. If Kate Hudson wants to ride with her dress splaying out, I say more power to her. She’s just exercising her God-given right to ride whatever way she pleases. Cocktail dresses, full-length gowns, coulottes, mini-skirts, we don’t care. We don’t even object to flip-flops and plunging necklines. Or no helmet. In the case of Kate Hudson, we will make an exception to any cycling rule we have ever advocated.

Besides, I don’t even think that Kate is, as Yokota puts it, “struggling to stay covered” as she rides. Hell no. She’s just out there hammering! And who can blame her?! When you’ve got it, in the immortal words of Max Bialystock, flaunt it, baby, flaunt it! Ride on Kate! We’d love you even if you rode a fixie!

LeMond “settles” with Trek; what about Lance?

In Bicycling on February 2, 2010 at 3:00 am

Lost in the white-out coverage of Greg LeMond’s legal settlement with Trek so far has been the issue of why the lawsuit occurred in the first place.

LeMond believed that Trek had stopped supporting his line in deference to Lance Armstrong, who was out for revenge against LeMond for suggesting that Armstrong was tainted by doping.

But in the “we’re all friends now” coverage of the case settlement, the backstory never made it to press. Does the “friendship” include a reconciliation with Armstrong? Are we finally going to see America’s titans of cycling bury the hatchet and work together for the sport’s future?

We at Bike Intelligencer wish it would happen. There’s much to admire about both of these competitors, including their charitable work.

But we’re not holding our breath. Somehow the media “amnesia” over the lawsuit’s origin suggests that the subject still is sore, or at the very least not closed.

Last fall LeMond told the New York Daily News (whose piece should be required reading for anyone interested in cycling doping):

“This is not just a contract dispute,” LeMond counters. “It’s about defending myself from people that are out to destroy everything I’ve done in cycling… I want to hold John Burke accountable. I want to hold Lance Armstrong accountable.”

Within the coming days and weeks and months, we should get an idea of how successful LeMond was, and how satisfied he really truly is with this settlement.

Apple’s iPad: The blogging cyclist’s dream machine

In Bicycling on January 27, 2010 at 11:50 am

Slim and weighs next to nothing

As a blogger and cyclist, we’ve been waiting a long time for this. Our MacBook is just a little too big and bulky to be comfortable in our Chrome Ivan, even if there is a separate waterproof compartment for it, and even if that’s what we’ve been doing the past few years. Our iPhone on the other hand is too small to type anything but tweets on.

The iPad has what looks to be a roomy touch keyboard built in. We’ll see how we like it. But the clincher is a dock with a full-size keyboard.

Combined with all the other stuff going on, including all those apps, this is what we’ve been dreaming of…and more.

Fatty or Snooty? The Hobson’s choice for Bloggies

In Bicycling on January 27, 2010 at 11:06 am

So it’s come to this in the bicycle culture. We have the choice of voting, in the annual Bloggies Awards, between a fat cyclist and a bike snob.

Now we in the cycling community know perfectly well what’s going on here. Fat Cyclist isn’t really fat, and Bike Snob isn’t actually a snob. Fatty may have started out that way (using the term loosely), but for quite a while now he’s been a barrel-chested, iron-thighed, pedal-mashing Thor of muscle and bone. The guy has ridden with Lance Armstrong and Team Radio Shack, fer crissakes. He’s training for a freakin’ marathon. You and I know that.

Odd maybe...but not fat

But the non-velocipedes who make up the vast majority of the American public do not. The American public sees “Fat Cyclist” and thinks folds of lycra’d flesh balanced on two wheels like mounds of whipped cream on a spoon, with a flabby pear-shaped head that makes his helmet the size of a yarmulke. The American public sees Chris Farley on a comfort bike. They see someone called Fat Cyclist is in line for a Bloggie, and they go Wha??? Is that the best they can come up with?

Well, as a matter of fact, it is. Because the alternative is the Snob.

Now we all know that Bike Snob isn’t really a snob or he’d never blog about something as common and filthy as cycling. He would be some bow-tied oenophile blogging about what Bordeaux goes with foie gras and Muenster cheese. Or about the definitive interpretation of the libretto to The Magic Flute. A true snob would not be caught dead riding some oily contraption along the besotted gutters of 42nd Street. A snob on a bike would perspire on his tux. He would get grease on the cuffs of his Armanis. Snobbery, really, has no place in the cycling community, except when a roadie meets a mountain biker. And the outcome of that is never pretty.

What a BikeSnob fan looks like

The mainstream public doesn’t realize that Bike Snob is just another loser who can’t scrounge up cab fare home. They think he’s some epicure putting on airs, carrying on like he’s better than the rest of us. They think he blogs for Slate, or maybe The Daily Beast.

Unfortunately, we bona fide members of the cycling community are stuck with a choice of incredible political incorrectness. It’s either obesity or snootiness. ShopWrech.net and BottomBracket.org didn’t make the cut. If we really want to support our precious avocation, we have to ignore public perception and vote for a cyclist. Knowing this, knowing they’ve got us between a proverbial fat rock and snob place, both candidates have put together shameless self-promotional solicitations worthy of Donald Trump on crystal meth, which as a public service we are linking to because … well, because we care.

FatCyclist: “Vote for me because my third win means I won’t be eligible to harangue you next year!”

BikeSnobNYC: “Vote for me and you could win a new bike that is too declassé for the Snob to be seen with, let alone ride!”

Daily Roundup: Naked cyclist gets ticket to cover himself, Zorn can hit the trails, SF guy’s year avoiding cars, Black Diamond glitters & more

In Bicycling on January 5, 2010 at 2:04 am

Naked Seattle cyclist charged with indecent exposure. Guy participates in World Naked Bike Ride, gets a citation. Your taxpayer dollars at work.

This is a real puzzler because law enforcement has been pretty tolerant of naked rides. Every year a klatch of unclothed (albeit body-painted) riders enliven the Fremont Fair’s Solstice Parade. This seems like a complete waste of the city’s time. See comments queue.

No naked cycling in Bejing these days. You have to love the quote about being colder standing still than on a bike.

And there is at least one place on earth where bikes come first: “Street sweepers made clearing a bicycle lane their first priority, at least in my part of town. They shoveled an 18-inch wide swath along the curb…”

I hope Jim Zorn is a better mountain biker than he is a football coach. In fact, I’m sure he’s a better mountain biker than he is a coach. At least now he’s got some time to hit the trails… Hey, Copper Canyon‘s nice this time of year Jim!

Following up on our New Year’s Top 10 Bicycling Issues for 2010: Bike sharing. Keep it in mind. It’s already spiking and Silicon Valley is adding it in March.

What’s going on in Black Diamond? Wonderful stuff

A friend brought to our attention the saga of Brooke Hopkins, paralyzed in a tragic bike-on-bike accident just over a year ago. He and wife Peggy run a touching and inspiring blog on Brooke’s recovery process. Most of us in the cycling world who’ve been around for awhile have friends or relatives touched by similar tragedy. Well worth the click-through. (Salt Lake Tribune story on Brooke here.)

No surprise perhaps, but SeattleLikesBikes agrees that the No. 1 cycling priority for 2010 is a new Washington State “vulnerable user” law.

A year with no “car contact.” Not as hard as you might think (as long as there’s trains and airplanes!)

Epicenter Cycling in Aptos, where things are jumping

In Bicycling on January 4, 2010 at 2:35 pm

If location and name mean anything in the bike business, Epicenter Cycling is golden. The new shop sprung up in a prominent corner of the rustic Aptos shopping mall. If you’re headed up to Forest of Nisene Marks or over to the Post Office jump park, you can’t miss Epicenter Cycling.

Plus it’s practically within hucking distance of the epicenter of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, the last “Big One” along the San Andreas Fault.

So yes, there’s a lot of shall we say karma at Epicenter Cycling. And more is on the way.

Shawn Wilson, owner

The pump track will rock! Shawn Wilson at Epicenter Cycling

The owner, Shawn Wilson, has big ideas. Among them: Turn the seedy vacant lot between the shop and the jump park into a pump track. You know, like the one Mark Weir put together in Marin County…only better.

- Keep reading…>

Seattle mayor’s new communications head is a cyclist

In Bicycle advocacy, Bicycling, Obama Bikes on December 27, 2009 at 2:07 am

A friend and former colleague at The Seattle Times, Mark Matassa, was recently named new Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn’s director of communications.

Numerous articles on his new appointment cited Mark’s many accomplishments and qualifications. However, none noted what we consider to be a salient, if not the crowning, characteristic of his long personal resume.

That’s right. He’s a cyclist.

We are not sure where the “C” word appears on Mayor McGinn’s checklist of qualifications for new appointments. But we hope it’s pretty high. After all, if Mike is out there riding to press conferences on his bike, he’s got to have a staff that can keep up with him!

Congrats Mark and all the best in your new calling.

Learning Christmas

In Bicycling on December 24, 2009 at 2:37 am

It had been another fitful night before Christmas for Tim. Tossing and turning, wondering what bounty this year’s presents would yield. There were more this year than last. This year, their mom had told Tim and Donny, they had been blessed.

Tim rolled over in his bunk and checked the alarm clock, ticking methodically on the nightstand. 5:30. Well, 5:21 actually. It was way too early to expect their mom to be up.

“Donny,” he hissed at his younger brother, sleeping in the bunk below. Donny moaned and rolled over. “Hey Donny. Let’s go look at the presents!”

Their mother always put out a few new presents the night before, after they’d gone to bed. Santa’s bonuses, she called them. This year she’d made oblique references to an “extra special” visit from Santa.

By now Donny was awake. “OK,” he said. “But we have to be quiet. And we can only look.”

“Yeah yeah,” Tim said impatiently. “We’ll just look.”

“Not like last year.”

Tim nodded but inwardly frowned. Donny was the worrier of the two, and a real mommy’s boy to boot. Of course it wouldn’t be like last year. They’d learned their lesson.

The year before Tim had awoken even earlier on Christmas morning, around 4 a.m. He’d lain in his bed looking at the ceiling, where his mother had put little self-sticking phosphorescent stars and planets when they were babies. She’d never taken them down. Tim had memorized them all, even the ones that had long since curled, peeled off and fallen to the floor. Even though he knew it was fake, the glowing galaxy above his bed never failed to give Tim a sense of wonder about the impenetrable magnificence of the universe.

The minute he’d heard Donny stir, Tim had whispered down to him, “C’mon, let’s go look at the presents!” They’d trundled down the stairs to the living room, bursting with excitement. Beneath the tree were two huge boxes covered in shiny gold foil wrapping with red bows on top.

The new presents.

They’d picked them up and shaken them, trying to figure out what was inside. But the boxes had been packed tight. There was no rattling or shifting.

Tim looked at Donny, who shrugged.

“Guess we’ll just have to wait,” Donny said.

“Well…” Tim ventured, leaning over his box toward Donny conspiratorily. “We could open them up.”

“What do you mean?” Donny said uncertainly.

“We could open them up and then just put the wrapping right back on,” Tim said. “Look, it’s just little pieces of tape in a couple of places. We can peel them off and then put them right back in place. Mom will never know.”

Tim turned the box over, showing each of the places where tape held the wrapping paper. He began picking at one of the seals. The tape easily rolled away from the foil wrapping.

“See?”

Within seconds the two had peeled off the tape and loosened the coverings enough to pull the unmarked boxes gently out of their wrapping. They gingerly opened the tops and peered inside.

“Wow,” Tim gasped. “Wow.” Inside was an electric race car set, the new kind with remote controls and a huge figure-8 track.

“Tim, look!” Donny said, shifting his box so Tim could see inside. The box held a portable phonograph and an assortment of 45 rpm records.

“What’s on the records?” Tim asked, reaching in. Then they heard something. It was the door to their mother’s bedroom, creaking slightly as it opened.

There stood their mother, looking confused as she blinked away the sleep.

“Tim, Donny,” she said hesitantly. “What’re you doing?”

Tim and Donny sat motionless, their eyes downcast and shoulders slumped.

Their mother walked over to where they were and looked at the open boxes. Then she looked at them, her eyes full of sadness.

“Mom…” Tim said.

She sat down on a chair next to the tree. For a few long moments her face was expressionless. Then she managed a half-smile.

“It’s OK,” she said. “I understand. You couldn’t wait.”

She said it to both of them, but she was looking straight at Tim. She knew it had been his idea, and Tim knew that she knew.

“Oh mom,” Tim said, his voice heavy with regret. “We didn’t think you’d be getting up so early. We were going to wrap them back up.”

“Oh, I don’t care about that,” she said. “It’s just … well, I wanted to see you open them is all. I wanted to share the experience.”

Tim and Donny were silent. There didn’t seem to be anything they could say.

“But that’s OK,” their mother continued. “Christmas is like life. You have to learn it. And that means sometimes you make mistakes.”

They’d gone on to open the rest of the presents as usual. But everything seemed a little more subdued. What they’d done hung in the air like the sting of ash long after a fire.

**** ********** ****

“No, Donny,” Tim repeated to his brother. “We’re not going to open anything. We’ll just look.”

They tiptoed down the stairs to the living room. The tree was lit up and twinkling, and the silver tinsels that Tim and Donny had put on glistened with reflected light. Beneath the tree were several new gifts.

They sat down in front of the tree and began craning their necks to look at the new presents.

Tim reached over and picked one up.

“Remember, just look,” he told Donny, anticipating Donny’s hesitancy. The present was marked TO DONNY FROM SANTA. Tim put it back under the tree.

Donny was looking at another present.

“Who’s that one for?” Tim asked.

“Me.”

Tim reached over and picked another present out. It was marked for Donny as well.

A rush of confusion, distress and anger began welling up inside Tim. He swallowed hard and felt his face go flush. It occurred to him what was going on. He was being punished for last year! Donny was getting all the presents!

“Here’s one for you,” Donny said, handing a small box to Tim. But Tim was looking at another present with Donny’s name on it and shook his head. “Put it back,” he told Donny in a choked voice.

“Let’s go back to bed.”

Tim climbed the stairs back to his bedroom, his heart sinking further with every step. He knew he’d done the wrong thing the year before, but he’d learned his lesson. It wasn’t fair for Donny to get all the presents! Why was his mother doing this to him? This was going to be an awful Christmas!

The next hour seemed like an eternity. Tim lay on his back and stared glumly at the universe above him. There was no tossing and turning, no eager anticipation. He wasn’t thinking about any presents. He just wanted Christmas to be over.

After a long time he heard his mother rustling downstairs. He followed her footsteps into the living room, where they stopped, as if surprised. Then they approached the stairwell and he heard her call up.

“Boys? I can’t believe you’re still sleeping up there. Come on down, I don’t have to tell you it’s Christmas morning!”

“Coming mom!” Donny called out excitedly, jumping from the lower bunk and clattering down the stairs. Tim followed behind. He didn’t want to seem out of character or his mother would suspect something. But it was hard to summon up his usual enthusiasm.

Donny was already sitting at the tree, cradling a present in his lap. Tim sat down beside him and picked out a present with his name on it. Remembering the year before, they both hesitated.

“Well,” their mother said. “What’re you waiting for?”

Donny tore into his present, then grabbed another and began opening it. Tim moved more slowly. He didn’t want his mother to suspect that he already knew. As Donny opened more presents, Tim kept waiting for his mother to say something, to explain why he wasn’t getting as many presents this year. Instead she just sat there in her robe smiling, knees crossed, coffee cup in hand, taking it all in.

“Look Tim, look!” Donny exclaimed. “A baseball mitt! Just what I wanted! Willie Mays…”

As they got to the final presents, his mother rose. “Wait for just a moment if you could, you two,” she said. “I have to check on something.” She walked out through the kitchen and Tim heard her open the door to her bedroom.

Donny remained preoccupied with his presents, oblivious to the fact that he’d gotten more than Tim. “Wow,” he said. “I can’t believe all the stuff we got! This is the best Christmas ever!”

Tim nodded but said nothing. He heard the bedroom door shut again as his mother came back toward the living room.

“Surprise!” she said.

And she wheeled in a shiny new red, white and chrome bicycle. Every part of it gleamed like sun on water. The silver spokes flashed like skinny mirrors as the wheels moved forward. The tires made squeaking sounds against the floor, and Tim breathed in the smell of fresh rubber. The read and white head tube was inscribed S-C-H-W-I-N-N on an ornate head badge.

“It’s for you, Tim,” she said.

“Wow,” Donny said, his voice full of quiet awe. “Wow. Tim. Is that a Spitfire?”

For a moment Tim could not move. He was speechless. He sat motionless, staring at the new bicycle. Finally he looked at his mother, who was beaming at him with deep brown soft eyes full of infinite wisdom, kindness and joy.

“Merry Christmas,” she said.

“Thanks Mom,” Tim said softly. Then he screamed out “Yayyyyyyyyyyy!!!!” and ran over to the bike, taking the handlebars from his mother and turning the front wheel to and fro like he was already riding it.

“Can you teach me to ride it?” Donny was asking. “Can I ride it too sometimes? Tim? Didn’t I tell you? This is the best Christmas ever!”

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