velo | rjl

Me & cycling:

I like bicycles and bicycling, esp. ca 1978-83 bikes & parts, and bicycle touring. And since I'm now tricycling I have to start saying 'cycling' instead of bicycling. I think I'm too clumsy for unicycles.

I've done some tours, the longer of which have been Maine to Michigan 1983, around Lake Superior 1990, and hither-tither in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan 2006, '07, '09, & '15. Also a lot of shorter tours, commuting, etc. Unfortunately I didn't bike as much for all those 'lost years' in Alaska (see 'farce'; end of page below), but my dream of returning to a flatter and easier biking location (and in a smaller town and on safer roads!) in the Upper Peninsula/Lake Superior country is underway, and getting back to more cycling and maybe even dumping the car again becomes possible!
(See also my Upper Peninsula Bicycle Touring website)

I'm also interested in the history & culture of ~1920-1980 English cycling: bikes, trikes, cycletouring, clubs like the CTC & RSF, etc. I've been reading a lot about the CTC and various British books of the aforementioned period and on the aforementioned topics lately, including some great writing by Kuklos, Ragged Staff, Wayfarer, Bywayman, the Highwayman (Davey Bell), Albert Winstanley, Reginald Wellbye, Frank Urry, Reg Shaw, Tim Hughes, Harold Briercliffe, Bill Oakley, Les Woodland, and others. And of course the illustrations of Frank Patterson, Reg Gammon, and George Moore & the cartoons of Johnny Helms - and that's just a few!

I don't care for most current bicycle designs, parts, quality (or lack thereof), aesthetics, & culture from anywhere (except the good stuff that's still being made/done based on time-proven design).
(See my commentary on bicycle marketing & the decline of cycling culture.)

I joke (maybe!) about starting my own 'cult' - based on some combination of blog/magazine/mail-order store/replica import business/web forum/occasional 'meetups', building a 'cadre' of eager, obedient, non-questioning followers who will take to my every suggestion of English cycling goods/ideas (and buy them), in the style that Grant Petersen has for done with Japanese and Jan Heine with French... Plus, I'd add a few other ideas that I feel are neglected (Mirrycle mirrors, sheepskin seat covers, you know, like that).

I'd publish my own newsletter, with stories explaining in a folksy-friendly or 'pseudoscientific' style why Grab-Ons are the best and only and coolest handlebar coverings, the practicality and beauty of sheepskin seatcovers, of how the English pub (or Upper Peninsula roadhouse or neighborhood 'Archie Bunker' bar) is the ideal cyclists' rest stop. I'd describe bucolic and quasi-mythical brew-ups in the Hiawatha National Forest while on tour! I'd describe something with an adjective that makes little sense but sounds good, like 'supple', then press that on and on until my followers also repeat and 'discuss' it, constantly seeking supple or whatever the adjective is! I'd talk benevolently of my opposition, while gently, constantly, incessantly, subtly reminding my followers how my ideas are the 'good' way! I'd - ... Mm, er.. ah, where was I? Oh-

Bikes & a trike I have:

2016 Stanforth Kibo.
I was doing some study on frame and bicycle design similar to the Trek 830, to have a custom frame built for a fancier version of the 830. In my researches I eventually came upon the Stanforth Kibo frame and bicycle, built in the UK with Reynolds 631 and 525 tubing by Lee Cooper. I originally didn't 'mean' to buy one, having already agreed to the Goff frame (see below), but the more I talked with Simon Stanforth the more I liked it, and eventually decided to give it a try. I got the frame in March 2017, and have just (April 2017) finished with the bike - it's looking beautiful and rides equally so.

My 1993 George Longstaff two-wheel drive tricycle.
In January 2016 I finally stopped resisting those (100% English) upright tricycles I was seeing in the British cycling books and old CTC gazettes. So I joined the TA, and embarked on what became a longer-than-expected but also about-the-proper-level of-effort-to-do-it-justice search for a trike. Problem is there are very few in North America, and they're wider than bikes so harder to ship. After a dozen leads, half a dozen of which looked good, and only one of which continued long enough to buy the trike, I finally got a real good one

Probably less than a couple hundred kms on it (the seller rode his early '70s Bob Jackson trike a lot more). As I type this (April 2017) I've finished the re-greasing & polishing, and it's in tiptop shape. Once spring caught up a little I did some practice, then a longer ride: it's a hoot! (good exercise, too). Added some photos to the page from the first ride.

2016 Woodrup touring [still a frame] (original heading: A frame switch on my LHT):
In summer 2015 started thinking about a proper '35 years ago style' English touring frame. I wanted to finally ditch the LHT frame off my 2005 touring rig, and get something good to match the parts better! You know: lugs, Reynolds tubing, horizontal top tube, 1" threaded headset, sparkly metallic paint (not powdercoat), all made to my measure (which isn't that weird actually). Was originally thinking about a Bob Jackson World Tour (but the wheelbase seems short for me), a King of Mercia (but I have the one to fix), or a Steve Goff.

In August 2015 I Decided to have Kevin Sayles at Woodrup's in Leeds make me the frame. It was finally ready and arrived to me (in Alaska) in March 2016! Pictures by Kevin of the framebuild from start to finish are here (the colour turned out a little more gold and less green than I was thinking, but the 'extinct early 1970s colour' was my main point - see the 'ideas sheet' I sent Kevin here for more!)

I still have to build up the Woodrup frame (March 2017) - my parts stash and the still intact LHT is in the UP and I've just moved back here from Alaska.

And as for the LHT frame (see below), after disassembly to build the Woodrup tourer up, it'll maybe make a good commuter, or something; will keep in the stash for now...

1984 Trek 830.
Built up as an oddball purple & maroon spotted commuting bike - and rides doggonedly fine! I call it my 'Frankenbike' (as in hodge-podge, not German French). Make no mistake, this is my favourite pet (that is not a Cat, of course). (pictures & specs)

2017 (?) Steve Goff [frame].
I'm also planning the 'originally intended' custom frame version based largely on the Trek 830 (slightly shorter chainstays, slightly more fork rake), and in spring 2016 finished the design and got Steve Goff to do the build, paid and on order! (Steve said it'd be built in autumn 2016, which translates from Gofftime to, in my estimation, fall 2017 the timing's but OK as I have a lot in the works at the moment!) Specs are Reynolds 853 with 525 rear triangle, bronze-welded.

2005 Surly Long Haul Trucker.
The full story & details on the abovementioned Long Haul Trucker build of 2005. I took this one on some tours of the Upper Peninsula 2006-2015. Mostly early 1980s parts, friction shifting, etc. (pictures & specs)

Here's a table showing the geometry of the Kibo, my Trek 830, the frame design for the Goff, my 2016 Woodrup touring frame, and the LHT.

1983 Univega Gran Turismo.
This I bought as if from a time machine - stored with very little use since new, until I luck'd across it and restored to full glory. (pictures, specs, & restoration information)

1982 lugged Specialized Stumpjumper.
I bought this in 2013 (23" frame, man!) - this one was finally restored with some missing bits in spring 2016 for re-elnivenment!

1983 Cannondale ST500.
Great high Suntour-era componentry; great touring geometry, and also a great commuter bike. Unfortunately, for most of the last 15 years it's been in storage in the lower 48, and I've been in Alaska, so only a few odd pictures. I did finally retrieve it from Georgia storage (since grad school 2002!) and repatriate it to the UP in 2014, and now that back in the UP for good, maybe I can give this old feller a bit more care & restoration (including NOS original mechs).

And I have to add something about other my bikes too:
I have to add something about the 1982 tigged Stumpjumper I bought in 2011.
I have to add something about the 1984 Stumpjumper I bought in 2006.
And about the 1985 Bianchi Grizzly (which the Japanese must pronounce 'Gurizuri' even though the frame's Italian) I bought in 2011 (this and the two below have the fantastic Cunningham/Suntour rollercam 'rim crusher' brakes that I like, too!).
And the 1986 Schwinn High Sierra, too.
And the 1986 Fuji Sundance (I did get a fair bit of commuting use out of this 2010-2012).
And the 1985 Woodrup Giro Touring I have the parts for but haven't built up yet.
And the 1981 Mercian that I got for $25 with a great Phil BB, a TA crankset, some other good stuff (plus, it's purple!), but which needs the top & down tubes replaced (think I'll have Mercian themselves do this next year).
How about the ca. 1995 Trek 420 commuting bike (made in Wisconsin), too?
And some others.
(like, for one: the 1990s Trek something or other formerly a Mackinac Island rent-a-bike with huge metal fenders, Wald baskets, and TWO kickstands [it weighs a ton!!] that I rescued/pulled out of a snowbank after seeing it still there for several months in winter 2009/10)

A few bikes that I passed on down the line:

1983 Colnago Superissimo (sold in 2008). This bike from the height of Civilization (civilisation): High Campy (Campag)! The sort of bike I always wanted when I was young and energetic because of its high industrial art. Well as life often serves up amusing irony, I got it 20 years 'too late'! It rode great, and got lots of compliments (mostly from blokes and not birds, unfortunately but I was in Alaska after all). Having been through my Italian sportscar phase a few years previous (had a Maserati Biturbo, worked on various Italian marques with friend at his shop), the Italian racing bike phase seemed much more down to earth, and cheaper -- I paid ~$85 for this in very good condition!, then spent a hundred or two maybe on small NOS bits to restore it to perfection. (more pictures & bit of restoration information on link)

Giant ATX-880 (sold in 2009).This was the first bike I had in Alaska, after winding up here longer than the 4 or 6 months I'd initially intended... A 'modern' mountain bike bought from a friend in spring 2005, though I'm not really a 'modern mountain bike' person: if I'm on the trails, I'll walk, and if I'm on the road I want easier pedaling and a thinner more elegant frame. But I wanted a bike because didn't have one in Alaska, and it's got some nice qualities, and I used it to commute at Denali. Anyway, see the link there because this old bike was a true friend.

I oughta add something about the 1985 Stumpjumper Sport I bought summer 2012. (Too late! That fool who sold it to me made me sell it back to him October 2014! Curses! ... And probably the best looking mountain bike ever! I should've had him (the fool) measured up for a concrete overcoat before this tragic oversight happened!)

Bikes in my more distant past:

I didn't have any really good bikes until I was about 15, though I had lots of fun on the ones I had, as did most country kids back then! I usually had some sort of hand me-down or yard sale huffy 20" wheel bike when I was a kid, and later, when I had friends like Craig and Sean Rohr and their basement and backyard full of bike junk, I had an opportunity to learn a little about repair whenever something broke and I had to put on a basement replacement! Kindly junior high school shop teachers would sometimes weld broken frames together again after a few too many jumps! Later I went through a small number of lousy 10-speeds, including a 24" wheel Montgomery Ward's 'open road', which broke in half while riding down the street!

When I was about 14, I decided to fix up my huffy 10-speed with more parts from Craig's basement. Originally it was a project to "27-inchize" the bike, since at that time and in that crowd (poor folks, for which a new $99 Huffy was a once in a lifetime event), 27 inch wheels were the boundary between "serious" bikes and "kid's bikes" - the bad being 26-inch wheeled 10-speeds, and the good the 27s.

Over the summer, combined with the earnings from my first job, that project eventually expanded to include -bit by bit - the frame and everything else! By then, what I had was a Sekine frame I bought new (from Lee Peters at his "Bicycle Circus" store on S. James St., Ludington Michigan!), unpainted with the brazing salts still on; allegedly the closeout of the last Sekine frames from Canada) with a blight cottered crank, a wheelset built with Rigida 1320 rims (which were the cheapest good rims I could afford) and Suntour VX hubs, SR Silstar (and later, when those developed a network of hairline cracks, MKS Sylvan pedals, which are my standard pedal today!), Shimano tourney brakes, and i can't remember what else - probably more Suntour, though! That winter, I got a mid '60s Dawes straight-gauge 531 frame, and sold the Sekine frame to Craig for $15... The Dawes met its end when I was hit by a car in fall 1983 after a Neil Young concert that I'd biked 60 miles from grand Rapids to Kalamazoo to see (on the short-lived Trans tour; 30 years ago yesterday as I type this).

That brings us back to the Cannondale, above, which my mom's homeowner insurance mysteriously (to me) replaced my mangled Dawes with. They also paid for my hospitalization - I got pretty fucked up in that crash, but I was back on the new bike in the spring.

I had that Cannondale about a year, and it got stolen from behind the shithole "big boy' restaurant I worked at as a dishwasher. The Insurance came around again, and instead I bought an '84 Diamond Back Ridge Runner (that model itself now a long-lost beauty of a bike that's well-regarded and scarce as hen's teeth). Had that like 2 weeks and that was stolen from the same damned place - fuck cities, man! Insurance came around one last time, and went back to a last '83 Cannondale they had in stock; same as last one but frame maroon instead of blue. I don't think the same thing would happen today with the insurance, but that was another time.

I also had a few BMX bikes of nefarious origin ca. 1982-84: a Hutch 24" wheel, a CJ (I think I remember but - ?), maybe a mongoose or two. Man, that Hutch'd fetch a vast sum nowadays (my theory: as a lot of the boys who were into BMX in the early 80s who could afford such a bike [I could, ahem, not] later turned into frat-boy types and thus went into lameass suburban money-shuffling careers, as they aged and became disillusioned with life they can and will pay huge moola for a memory of their long-lost glory days that they can't ever use again .. that story could be a twilight zone episode maybe)...

Some bikes I wouldn't mind running across:

How about a 1960s English 3-speed of decent build? (I had one or two of these in the early 1980s - a Robin Hood and another - they used to be around, but don't see them much anymore).

Or how about one of those pre-capitalist Chinese 3-speeds, like a Flying Pigeon, all decked out in black and chrome?!

I was a little late to get an '84 Wester Ross touring frame (made in Scotland) a few years back... I really regret that. Still, I'd like to get some sort of early 80's UK 531 touring frame of slightly esoteric make (how about a Tony Oliver?)

Or, less esoterically, how about an early 1980s Bob Jackson touring frame or the like??

English Witcombs are nice, too. (But I suppose with the new Woodrup I don't actuaLLY NEED one...)

And of course, an 83 or 84 Specialized Expedition? (not really too far off from the Univega GT I already have, though).

Because, you see, you can never really have enough fine old bikes to care for (and these unwelcome 'rational second-thoughts' can stay safely and quietly in their damn place - behind the REAL ideas - in these parentheses, too - got that, rational thoughts!? Good.)

More velo stuff here, eventually:

I'm going to add more pages of various bike pictures -touring, repair, etc. (that means I haven't added decent photos to some, links might not work, etc. - take a chance though)

All this sometimes feels like a farce, since I was in Alaska for so long where I lived up a 600' hill (would've been no problem when I was 25, but now old and too lazy), was usually too busy and out in the bush all summer, and where the few roads are overcrowded in summer with tour buses, rednecks in penis-enhancement trucks, transports (both those year round), and most ridiculously, gigantic motorhomes towing SUVs and often ORVs there somewhere (sometimes even more bizarrely with bicycles strapped on the towed gigantomobile - I guess the final step would be to attach a pogo-stick to the bikes, and maybe a pair of shoes to the pogo-sticks; then you'd have to go to the other end to continue the chain - perhaps towing the motorhome with a saturn 5 crawler). Americaland!

But now & then I buy or build up, or work on a bike (or trike!), or see a great one, or even take a tour, and I remember how great it all is. An added benefit to this is the periodically getting super-duper into bikes anew and reading all I can find (and books to buy!), plus the increased interest in all things cycling, and fewer things motoring. I'm always considering giving up automobiles again, but need to get back to the UP where it's nice and flat!

But now I am back in the Lake Superior country, and cycling is again possible on nice county roads (with well-spaced roadhouses and taverns), forest paths, and even some rail-trails not too full of headphone-wearing side-by-siders blocking the way... Maybe I'll be able to establish myself and ditch the car...

edition: 2017.05.13 | © robert liebermann
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