Wednesday, July 23, 2014

hype of the week returns: an occasional series

For those longer-time followers who've missed Hype-Of-The-Week, it's back, at least occasionally.

Longer-time readers know of my connection to drum corps and pageantry arts education. I spent thirty years coaching high school marching bands, drum and bugle corps and color guards, and loved every minute of it. I don't do it anymore because it doesn't pay and a gal's gotta eat; plus my life has taken off in new directions lately. But I still love the artform.

In honor of new adventures, here's a blast from the past: 1983 Phantom Regiment: 1812 Overture.
One of my all-time favorite shows, and just the amount of hype I need as I prepare for the next great musical/professional adventure. I dare you to watch this and NOT smile, at least a little. Enjoy.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

DRT/Cargo Bike Fest, and more griping about Brooks

I had signed up to volunteer at the Disaster Releif Trials and Cargo Bike Fest again. I signed up about a week and a half before the event and successfully registered at the event web site, but no one got back to me. I finally got ahold of someone through the event's Facebook page, where I was told that (a) things were crazy; (b), the FB page wasn't being checked regularly and so was not a good way to reach organizers; and (c) I probably wasn't needed though if I showed up they could very likely put me to work somewhere because, as they'd said already, things were crazy.

So I rode across town (leaving the trailer home because, well, a bike towing a trailer is not a cargo bike per se, and by selling my Surly I had effectively given up membership in the cargo bike subculture). When I got to the venue, things were, well, sort of crazy. However, the event organizers at the main tent checked a list, told me they had nothing for me to do, and told me to just enjoy myself.

Not having anything to do and feeling like my communication had sort of fallen off the page a little left me feeling disappointed. I spent a couple of hours watching the comings and goings, talking with a few folks I knew and eating the lunch I'd brought along. After things got underway, I pootled around a few more minutes and eventually left the event.

On my way home, I stopped in at a bike store to see what the state of things in the bike industry looked like. My bike was met with approving nods and murmured compliments, but if I hadn't been riding the All-Rounder I suspect I would have been somewhat invisible to most of the staff. I looked around, realized that I didn't need or want anything at all, and was about to leave when I spied this Brooks-branded multi-tool on the wall. With all the features of most other multi-tools on the market, it was priced at $70, almost twice as much as Topeak's comparable model, and more than twice as much as the same thing from Crank Brothers (right). 

I frowned, left and rode over to the bicycle non-profit on my way home. My chain was showing some considerable wear (I DO ride almost 2,500 miles most years) and needed replacing. I had shopped at the funky little non-profit before and found the prices quite agreeable and friendly, a real boon to lower-income riders. Today, I found a new-in-damaged-packaging chain (probably donated by a regular retail shop) for six bucks. But when I asked about a pair of badly scraped and dented platform pedals, they wanted eight bucks for those. I just bought the chain, and wondered how long it would take before prices at the little non-profit would stop being unfriendly altogether. I admit that my sense of pricing is skewed -- I'm a picker and I'm used to finding stuff for free or buying stuff cheap and fixing it up. But it seems that if I have to dig through a bin of filthy, mismatched, unmarked parts and then watch as some earnest young punk sizes me up and down before naming a price that seems a tad high, well, that can only mean a couple of things:

1. I'm old enough to look establishment and middle class to the young-uns; and
2. It is time for me to let more of the bicycle thing go as I continue to grow in new directions. Even if those directions mean I ride less.

At that point, I felt hot, tired and a little disgusted, and rode home.  I felt sort of out of the loop from the bicycle scene, and my feeling was punctuated by the number of younger, faster riders who passed me along the way.  When I got home, I took a nap. Tonight I am preparing for a bike parts yard sale I've advertised on the OBRA list. I'm going to work on my bike tomorrow and while I do I'll lay out a bunch of bike parts and sell them cheap, for cash. It's time I pared way, way down to make room for Whatever Comes Next.

Feeling hot, tired, and a little burned out and out of sorts as I recognize that my social focus has shifted since leaving the bicycle industry. The fact is that I don't really hang with these people anymore, and today only served to shine a little spotlight on that fact. I am in the process of evolving my life, and evolving my sense of community is part of the package.

Happy riding. Have a lovely week.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

ebay knock-off of the week: brooks - not

(Number eight in an occasional series)

This week on eBay, another shining example of bike industry impli-fakery:

Seems cool, especially at just $31.99, until you look at similar offerings from Brooks:

This one retails for around 220 Euros, or roughly $300.

And if you want something fancier, this one's a cool 330 Euros, or $450 US:

The issue is not that the cheapie is being passed off as a Brooks bag -- it's not. The issue is a new twist on what my high school economics teacher called, "aping the rich". This happens whenever something "cool" that only rich people can afford becomes so desirable by "the masses" (i.e., the rest of us who are not rich) that manufacturers realize they can make a crap ton of money by selling cheap imitations to keep the masses happy (at least until the next cool thing comes along). Do I think anything so insidious is actually happening on purpose in the world of bicycle accessories?

Well, yeah. I do.

Because I worked in the industry for nearly twenty years and got to see the ugly underbelly where this stuff is dreamed up. In fact, I played my small part in helping the manufacturers dream it up when I spent four years as an inventory buyer for a shop and helped push the cheaper stuff to our customers.

I don't have a problem with stuff, only with how its marketed and made and how they keep lying to us to get us to buy more before we really need it. And that's why this stuff on eBay -- like fake Rapha jerseys, sneakers made to look like old-school cycling shoes, and more -- simultaneously amuses and annoys me. Because it's mostly just stupid, and a waste.

Time to go for a ride.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

home again in pdx

I got home Sunday night. It has taken awhile to recover from the intensity of my trip -- I worked very hard for nearly a month and coming home was a little like exhaling. Three days after coming home I still have not cracked the gigantic folder of music I must begin to learn for my return trip to kansas in September. Instead, I have snuggled with Sweetie, dealt with errands and gardening upkeep, and enjoyed a bit of hard cider with dinner nightly. I have more errands tomorrow, after which I will return home and get to work.

I've also been riding my bike with a vengeance. I rode so little in Kansas that I really missed it. So every day since getting home I've take lovely, leisurely loops around North and Northeast Portland. Today, knowing that I either had to practice or ride my bike, I opted for the latter. I took along my camera and decided to take pictures of whatever moved me. Today, I was moved -- or disturbed -- by the rapid rise of gentrification in N/NE Portland, and the few holdouts against it (the houses or businesses that have stubbornly refused to get with the times.)

Here are a few shots. The rest can be found at

The only winner in this game is capitalism. And I am very sorry that we have nothing better to offer the next generation than this sorry equation. I have no solution except to document what I see and speak honestly about it, and to keep riding my bicycle while eschewing the car culture that heklps to spwan this glut of excess. Happy riding.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

bicycle culture in suburban kansas city

For the last two weeks I was on staff at Machane Jehudah, an experiential Jewish educational program for 3rd-6th graders served up day camp style. This year's theme was Israel, so we studied the history and various people and places around the country. We also had a time in the day where kids would do various "kibbutz" tasks, designed to simulate life on a kibbutz, or collective farming community. One of the tasks in the rotation that kids could choos from was Mercaz Ha-Ofanayyim, or the Bicycle Shop. This had been my idea. The plan was to collect donated bicycles from families at the synagogue, then spend the two weeks of camp cleaning and fixing them up before handing them off to RevolveKC, a bicycle non-profit styled somewhat after Portland's Community Cycling Center. Revolve kindly loaned us some tools and a repair stand so the kids would have what to work with.

My "kibbutz" crew was the smallest at camp, only five boys -- but we had a great time cleaning bikes, learning how to fix flats and troubleshoot safety issues. At the end of the camp, the director of revolvekc came to collect the tools, repair stand and bikes, and the kids felt so proud of what they had accomplished. 

While we worked on the bicycles during our time at camp, we talked about how easy or hard it was to ride a bike in their very sterile, car-centric suburb. They all told me that they had to ride on the sidewalk, and that some elementary schools actively discouraged their students from riding to school out of safety concerns (how terribly sad). They were amazed to learn that in Portland I did not own a car, and rode a bike or took public transit to get around town.  While they agreed that their riding was
curtailed somewhat by places to safely ride, they all told me they loved riding their bicycles when they could. I felt bad for these kids and how sheltered their lives were. I hoped that someday they would find a way to get out of their suburb and explore the wider world -- and bring their bikes along when they did.

Saturday, June 7, 2014


I arrived a week and a half ago in is suburb of Kansas City. I haven't done as much bicycling as I would like to but frankly I've been so busy with services, music and preparations for the upcoming summer educational program that all I've managed are some back and forth trips with the loaner bike and trailer. I am using the same trailer as last year, and a new, bigger bicycle tht fits me better. I was goingg to bring a bike but was then asked not to, and instead they found me a different loaner bike that fits better this year.

I hope there will be time for at least a couple of longer rides while I'm here. More later.
Happy riding!

Monday, May 26, 2014

it's summer. pay attention.

School's out very soon in Portland, and not too long afterwards elsewhere.
So please keep an eye out and travel safely.
Thank you.