A Good Tool is A Good Tool

•November 24, 2013 • 2 Comments

"Im a tool-maker, and this is a good tool"

“Im a tool-maker, and this is a good tool”

This morning, being Sunday, began with KPFA’s increasingly befuddled Mary Berg at the controls. These days, her early morning Bach show feature lengthy silences (she might be catching up on sleep) punctuated by a squeaky office chair and then Mary sayng “What?!–?” to someone in the studio… (“hey! Mary! Wake up!) We love the fact that it’s OK to have a true “eminence grise” on the airwaves, and dread her inevitable absence. Since ALL the DJ’s are volunteer it’s unlikely she’ll be fired. Plus, she has a decent base of rabid, septuagenarian listeners.
CC always turns on the radio in the house if the show is a good one, and this one had enough cantatas to drag His Shyness out from the treehouse into the quite warm thanks to the spaceship insulation hovel. Even after breakfast, Charlie lingered*, sweeping all the wood-chips and houseflith with the broom we brought home from Toad Hall. It’s a Quinn kitchenette, a seemingly hand-made job from Illinois. Chances are, Carol Cunningham used this same kind of broom as a child and re-discovered it recently (I’d never seen it at the Hall–it was pulled from a deep recess in kitchen pantry). There is a leather cuff where the corn straw joins the wooden handle, and since Charlie was marveling audibly about the absence of dustophilic static electricity, plastic bristle brooms all have it, I thought I’d google ’em.
Hence this perfunctory blog qua fan note, since compliments from this guy don’t tumble out very often.

*it being cold in the shop, any excuse not to go in and face 48-degree metal tools.

No Mom’s Land

•September 21, 2013 • 8 Comments

So, when your cherished family member dies, there is now not only a hole in your life, there is one less leg upon which to balance one’s self.
Our family is down to me and Charlie, and the only way you can stay relatively stable on two points is to turn ’em into wheels and roll on. Only motion will confer balance.
My friends have sent cool links, I’d like to share them but I don’ t know how to work WordPress anymore…and I’d love feedback, like: can you see advertisements? I will have to pay 40 bucks to spare you these onerous interruptions..
Will see about restarting blog somwhere else where it is both free, and ad-free.
Dream, right?

Found these at the doorstep of Toad Hall

Found these at the doorstep of Toad Hall

Sunflower at rest

•September 15, 2013 • 5 Comments


Screen print by Gerda da Rif

Beloved mother in love breathed her last three days after her 88th birthday.

As often is true, Kay has put it to words, about her own Carol.

Never dawns
as though
it were a day
and rises.

Our day-sense
says a day
can be out-waited.
So we wait.

That’s the
only time
we’ve ever known:

it should be
getting late;
she should be
getting home.

Kay Ryan

“Jacquie Phelan – Cino in so many ways”

•August 25, 2013 • 3 Comments


On a ferry from Marin

Jacquie Phelan is the Cino Heroica 2013 official Guest Rider.

Over the decades, there have been bicycle riders that helped define the sport and perhaps drew us to it. Some riders can remember what happened when Greg Lemond won the Tour. A decade later, Lance Armstrong made bicycling cool and motivated many to get serious about the sport. John Howard was the guy I read about in pulp cycling mags in the early 70′s, and motivated me to do something my peers shook their heads at.

More –


High Summer Hike

•June 30, 2013 • 1 Comment

Too hot to ride a bike, but with only this remaining day in June, I had to get out to “Salamander Bowl” (a four foot deep hole in the rocks out in Elliot Preserve) in time to see the leopard lilies blooming.

There used to be a magnificent lily blooming on a tuffet one level below the bowl, like a Dr Seuss plant, frothy with fine hairy grass at the base (for years I thought that was what lilium pardalinum leaves look like, but no. Their leaves march up a scrawny stem, like those of so many showy flowering plants). IMG_3955

Yesterday I rode to “Ales & Trails”, got good and lost behind Dominican College (a dead end street called Cascade beckoned,

and then rejected my half-hour uphill slog, with banjo, Breezer “thrashmo” commuter bike with panniers. It was about 95 degrees out. At least I saw something: an REI tent erected across a steep chasm with a horizontal ladder that seemed to have been broken off partway across… I could tell that the Denizen still used this sketchy bridge, and decided to turn around, even if it meant separate trips for my bike and the banjo, owing to the slippery footing and the cleated road shoes I was sportin’ (see previous fashion blog).


Found my way back to a proper fire road, and ran into 1999 Wombat Cristi McCabe, small world. She’s just as sweet & youthful as she was back then when the club was in its Hosmeric Heyday.

Then, up at the Nike Site I took another wrong turn, Bay View Trail, and wound up wayyyyyy out in yachtsville, at the Loch Lomond subdivision Miles from Miwok Meadows, where A & T was being held.
Ah, but the bay air was so cool and pleasant, it was a pleasure to tack another three miles onto my itinerary.
At the event I offered to staff one of the booths, plopped down with a beer and proceeded to blather with the legendary (I’ll just call him that, and let him fulfill the destiny at his own pace) Tom Ward. He’s California’s top IMBA policymaker, and I regaled him with how, almost to the day, 25 years ago, Don Douglass, Sherwood Gibson , Jim Hasenauer and me gathered in Bishop to inaugurate IMBA.

THen I saw Joan Murakami, a very enthusiastic part of all things bicycle (though she’s also got a new passion, ice-hockey, which in time she’ll master just like she did mountain bikes, and martial arts..)
Kai Hennig and Maureen Farrel, the Mombats, who a decade ago or more created the East Bay’s Youth Bike Adventures, were on hand to win an award.

It was a grand event from which I wobbled uncertainly, in the shimmering heat, and under the burden of that un-played S.S. Stewart banjo that gets more miles than my “good” Bacon/Reiter instrument.



Classy Shoe Bling

•June 24, 2013 • Leave a Comment


Originally uploaded by fnagrom

This look hasn’t quite caught fire yet, but it will, and the trails will be abloom with fuzzy exotics and faithfully rendered fantasy fleurs. There is an “Alaska Model” available with bells on each flower, a mere $10 plus 5 shipping per pair.

Prize & Prejudice

•June 17, 2013 • 6 Comments

My alert rider/readers have clued me into a couple of interesting developments.
One is that a young woman named Juliana Buhring has circumnavigated the globe at high speed (supposedly faster than her countryman Mark Beaumont, whom I met back in Edenbruh 2007 or 2008). The press has been disappointingly mute, unlike the blogosphere.
The other is the tale of a Vermont mountain bike recreation park hosting a race where the pro women will win more than the top men.  Nic Coury’s video can be seen here–it features Olympian Georgia Gould and Lea Davison (who is another gifted Middlebury kid) expressing the very same valid reasons why women deserve an equal purse that I used when futilely arguing with Thomas Frischknecht (Swiss racing star, slightly faded by now, who holds antiquated ideas about women and sport) and other unevolved men. It seems to me there were even some women who agreed that we don’t deserve equal prize money because we don’t show up in equal numbers.

As if we were to blame for the myriad barriers that hold women back from the start lines of mountain bike and road racing!
Sheesh. But anyway, slowly slowly it’s become obvious that in a global market downturn that even the money of women, people of color, and people of furrow (= old fogeys) has serious income potential for the Boy’s Club.  IFFFFFFFF they figure out the right language.

Which brings me to this year’s winner of the Golden Testicle Award.
Delta Cycle’s ad, featuring a couple of bikes mounted on a pole like that in a fire station. There are some crumpled dollar bills strewn round on the wooden floor. And the ad copy reads: “This Pole Is Not For Dancing”.

Comments of course are very, very welcome. Comments imply engagement or investment in these women, and on that topic.  Here’s the text of a letter I wrote to the magazine (Bicycle Retailer& Industry News, a trade magazine read by shop owners and bike manufacturers. It has only lately become slightly less testosterone-poisoned, thanks to a welcome influx of bright women reporters.

BRAIN does such important work revealing strategies for marketing, spotting trends,  and sharing stories about this little fief of ours.  As always, Charlie and I gobble up every word of your important, wonderful magazine, and analyze it to death, ‘solving’ the problems of the IBDs over lunch, in our treehouse at 3 a.m, most any old time.

As  old farts with a combined 80 years experience(is it fair to add two people’s mileage to impress?) we feel we have something to offer in the way of perspective, having personally invented mountain biking on aluminum (charlie) and leisure mountain biking while female (me).

What I really appreciated was ads and stories about the importance of attracting and retaining women in cycling. I loved the “family friendly” ad about Striders, with its useful statistic about the 80% of buying decisions made by women. Megan Tompkin’s story was spot-on. It re-iterates what Lynette wrote about LAST summer, the fact that 15% fewer bikes are being sold, the trend is downward, and that inclusion of minorities, older riders and women could  reverse the decline.
And then we were puzzled by an ambivalent editorial which wondered why Discussions About Women’s Participation still haven’t gotten anywhere.
I am very familiar with ‘awareness.’ Solutions are another thing entirely, and involve rigorous study followed by action.

I routinely ask at local shops if they have an idea about the percentage of women who buy bikes, and it has always been  “about a third” .
I haven’t heard “a half” yet (this is from the mechanic’s , not the owner’s perspective.)
When the problem in the sports (not only bicycle, but our industry has a particularly bad case of testosterone poisoning) world is as deep as entrenched male dominance (I regret that these words seem inflammatory at worst, and cliche at best) , then there need to be more women’s panels. And more women CEOs.
“What can we do to appeal more to women,” the industry wonders. Awareness would help.
The outside back cover ad, Delta Cycle’s “This Pole Wasn’t Made For Dancing” with its unfortunate allusion to a stripper bar, perfectly embodies the confusion of messages the industry puts out.

I understand you probably can’t just turn down ad money flatly. But aren’t there standards for magazines that involve respect for women, non-degrading, non-sexist content and advertising? I will happily donate my time to consult about creating an industry standard to defeat sexist advertising using education, awareness, and if neccessary, really cute prizes for those who want to maintain the boy’s club atmosphere
Hre;s a letter I wrote about 2O years ago, and a bit of background so you know to what lengths I went to to right these wrongs.
For years as an industry insider disguised as a racing fool disguised as a journalist,  I collected data on the state of Women In Cycling.  I saw how the women who rose to the top of their companies, didn’t get a whole lot of saddle time anymore. They were dedicated, athletic people who got into the industry for their love of the pastime, then wound up so busy they rarely rode.

I determined that I could afford a little time to create a camp especially for them last year, and invited forty women ranging from Suntour’s General Manager Sandy Coulter to Vogue magazine’s eminent author, Laura Fraser.  Twenty three women came:  top racers, bike politicians, writers, commuters. They came so we could change things. It was a historical weekend, favored by good weather, sumptuous rides, gnarly food and great company.

We tackled little problems, like how to get more saddle time, and then tackled the big ones like doubling the number of active cyclists.  We sat in  a story circle, tossed problem after problem in the air (with a tape recorder waving) and fired answers at them.

After agreeing to form an organization, whose working title is “Women Of Power In The Industry”, we know what our mission is:

Identify the barriers women face in the cycling subculture. Basically the industry still behaves as though women are a “specialty” market.  A limited view, when the numbers tell that women buy over half the bikes. Common observation tells me that many of the buyers then don’t use them again.  Like joining a gym, and staying away. It’s partly the gym’s fault for not fostering participation, and definitely our industry’s fault for not fostering more female participation. Women need  prodding mixed with encouragement.  I’ll be more specific:  shame is not a tool of encouragement.  WOMBATS is such a huge success because, given a network, twelve hundred women provide their own activities, and bring in more neophytes in the process.

Help the industry over some of its own stereotyping barriers.  Need I enumerate?

–Create guidelines to help bike shop owners sensitize employees to the perspective of a woman customer who is not yet an enthusiast.

–Stay in touch with a letter sharing our views about how to best serve the women’s market.

— Initiate a task force to study ways to encourage girls and women to use their bicycles more.

–Heighten media awareness of women athletes, innovators, and plain ol’ cyclists…in non-cycling journals!

–Design women-friendly activities.  For example, make instructions for women to teach cycle technique and safety to little girls, something I’ve a bit of experience with.  Or get racers or female bike cops to talk to elementary schools. Or do a one-hour talk about “shopping for a bike that actually fits”.

Celebrate the hero in all cyclists.  We don’t particularly resonate with the “cooler than thou” approach, but we definitely want to hear more about women making a difference, and our own history.