•August 17, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Yesterday as I ate my sourmilk pancakes with superfresh blackberries from our fence, I saw what looked like a strung out team of roadies roll by.

Since our street doesn’t go anywhere, I put down my fork and headed out to the street.

I grabbed one of the movie posters  FedEx brought earlier in the week, to promote a movie that has bicycles in it–it’s no surprise that the two-wheel set has become an Interesting Segment Of The Market.  Since I’m hard pressed to promote something I haven’t seen, yet burdened by the clutter, I contemplated crossing the line between honest citizen and ovine consumer.

“You’re lost, right?”

As I proffered the poster for “Prime Rush”, one of the riders looked at me closely and said, “I know you! music camp!” I took a second look and said, “You’re the parking lot duty from Camp Harmony!”  Then: “need a floor pump?”.
One of the men had a flat tire.

While the flat tire guy wrestled with the repair, I chatted with Phillip ( a fiddler)who somehow  recalled my face from at least fifteen years ago, among the Santa Cruz redwoods.

“You need my postcard.” I was on that ovine side of the line, why not go for the gusto, and flog my teaching prowess?

Well, not everyone needed it but I pushed a couple of JP + Rat (available for five clams and a stamp) on them black & white art cards on ’em.

(PG said “we were looking for a bathroom…this is the fast bunch in the club, there are several more who continued up the road”.

“Club ride?”

“Yes. We’re the Veloraptors…an East Bay group, like, you know, the Yellow Jackets”.

“Can I please come on your ride?”

Did I really ask? Or did I just grab my bike? This is a prime opportunity to examine more closely the line between fact and wishful (in this case, politened-up) fiction.

Thus it was that I accompanied a random group exploring Marin on a fine Wednesday morning. And did my level best to “school” the Fast Guy, catch up  with Phil ( the Tall Guy on Orange Bike), and later, guide the Artist-With-An-Artist back to the Fairfax Cyclery lot where they’d all parked.

Our Vitrine

•July 18, 2012 • 1 Comment


Originally uploaded by Geoffrey M. Halaburt

Ignore the glare.

SFO Show Preview!

•July 18, 2012 • 1 Comment

Courtesy of one of our friends who spied on the site mid-wide through its installation. A poorly mounted bike (alas, it was Charlie’s) will need a little tweaking to repair. My guess is Charlie will repair the cable-stop if allowed INTO the vitrine in a couple of weeks, when  le tout Marin descend on the international terminal to ogle their very own history.

It’s called Repack to Rwanda, and here’s our friend’s photospread.

Stunning Engineering Breakthrough!

•July 18, 2012 • 3 Comments

Right Angle Makes Right










Scientific Language, Too!

























The Year of the Ham

•July 17, 2012 • 4 Comments

Graphic by VTT Oldschool artist Pierre Bonnafous

Artist Pierre Bonnafous of VTT Old School/Old’s Cool drew a Cunningham bike for the newly-minted French Mountain Bike Hollow Fame exhibit in the ice rink near Villard-de-Lans town center…there were no ‘hams available.
He had keenly depicted many Cunning-elements, but it wasn’t  quite “Otto”.

Yesterday he sent a clever drawing of the machine which challenged the barely-hardened status quo.

‘It can’t be a mountain bike.” I would hear (or sometimes read in magazines).

a) Because it has road bars

b) Because there are only two chainrings

c) Because aluminum tubes can be crushed like a can of Budweiser.

My response tended to be a withering “coulda fooled me”.

Charlie ignored the critics.

A steel framemaker who’d seen his own superlight frames break in competition  cautioned, ” Just wait–those bikes will come back to bite you!“.

Elsewhere, impressionable readers absorbed  pseudo-science from editors like Bicycling’s Jim Langley who opined that he “wouldn’t want to be in the same room when an aluminum frame failed”.

This was twenty years ago–the big companies hadn’t tried out the dangerous new material that airplanes tend to be made of.
Now that so many companies  have made aluminum bikes (maybe not Tom Ritchey) there is less rumor and more reality out there. Alu is old school, in fact.

The old ‘hams keep rolling along, decade after decade, passing unobtrusively as functional art in a world where bikes have got to attract attention with meaningless design features….(psst, remember the slingshot, the elevated chainstay, the right angle cranks?)

OK, they had a purpose: to start conversations.

One must never underestimate the gawk and gossip factor when it comes to novelty-seekers (most mtn bikers act like they have that extra few molecules on their D4 receptors).

Here’s a song I penned & sang at my camps in the late 80’s and early 90’s:

Cunningham Bike

(sung to the tune of “Tennessee Stud”, from the Will the Circle Be Unbroken album by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band)

Along about 1981

I rolled into Fairfax  on a quest for fun

 I never woulda found the life I’d lead

If I had’t met up with the fat-tired breed.


 The Cunningham bike was short and stout

Ain’t no paint you could brag about

Aluminum frame with a feel I liked

And there never was a bike like the Cunningham bike


The tubes were fat and the welds were weird

Some folks pointed and all of ‘em  jeered

I raced ol’ “Otto”  with the fastest guys

and always  came home with the NORBA prize


 But me &my race team, we couldn’t agree

They couldn’t take a chick who could stand and pee

They canned my ass and I couldn’t save face

The very next week I lost my first race


The Cunningham bike was short and stout

There wasn’t no paint you could brag about

It had the verve and it had the mud

And the Cunningham bike is in my blood.

Well I learned that a woman riding proud & free

Riled up the men in the patriarchy

Still, I rode real far & rode like a girl

Cause I was the queen of  the off-road world


Now the world has changed with the sport I knew

You can’t race a bike if you can’t sell you

Saddest of all, worse than all them scars

Is the fact that you’re paid just to peddle some car.


 Now there’s fine antique in the bicycle barn

It’s my trusty “Otto” hanging safe from harm

10 straight seasons the frame did fly

And I’d do ten more if my legs weren’t fried.



Me and my  dad, we couldn’t agree

He thought he could say what  I ought to be

Every child born deserves to have her own say

So I devoted my life to the study of play


Cunningham bike was plain & stout

That aluminum frame was a little far out

But put us on the starting line and brace for a fight

I had some trouble with my uptight dad

about  my future as a college grad

I drove out west and never looked back

And I found a lean dude  riding single track..


Cuz I blew on by on my Cunningham bike



Cunningham bike  is plain & stout

Those aluminum tubes had em all freaked out

Listen for the starting gun and brace for a fight

Cause there’ll never be another like the Cunningham bike.

At the Generation MTB reunion, 2012 June

Mountain Biking’s first World Champion: Mary Lee Atkins

•July 13, 2012 • 3 Comments


Mary Lee Stiehrs today

Podium shot of Mary Lee at Villard-de-lans 1987  >

 I am having a hell of a time with this damn computer, and it’s aq pity becaus I wanted to blast a little note about about the great Mary Lee, and how cool it was to see a friend after not seeing her for 25 years, how little she has changed, and how her  humor and her endearing humility hav not lost their charmn.

But the computer needs to thinkn about what I’m typing for about half an hour (I’m trying to make rhubarb jam slump whilest writing. It’s not going well.
Blast” and “fast” are not happening, nor can I see the letters. Must have lost something during my hmonth off in Europe.

Turquoise turbulence

•June 30, 2012 • 1 Comment

Torpid summer day here in Bern, chez Mo and Po.

It is one of those fine hot, humid summer days in this “slow” town (other Swiss mention how SLOW Berners are).

And the solution (literally) is Salta in fluvium b.i.d.  A prescription that many Swiss follow, but the Berners really have it mastered.

I learned about swimmer’s itch (aka cercaria, or misnamed as duck “fleas”) in lac Leman (lake Geneva) a week ago: if you swim around ducks in a lake, you could get a horrible case of Itchy Polka Dots.

Itchy & scratchy: Not me, btw.

But the fast moving Aare leaves the waterborne fleas no chance to find you. Three days of Dantean full-body fingernail raking, I am now able to sleep but I fear the polka-dot scars are  here to stay.

Yesterday was another one of those perfect days, beginning with a fond farewell to the brilliant artists Beatrice Nunlist and Markus Capirone, who over 30 years have developed the most sophisticated integration

of transit infrastructure, road and path signage, and map applications I have ever seen or experienced. They began small, with the Solothurner Radwanderweg, a carefully signposted series of small car-free or nearly car-free paths, farm lanes and dirt roads for cyclists to get from Solothurn (extremely beautiful baroque town about 30 km from the artist’s home village of Rickenbach) to Olten and nearby towns.
It grew into a network, and the network became a full time independent think tank/agency called Swiss Mobility.  In their free time they travel by bicycle to Spain, Italy, Tunisia…always with trains, and loaded with panniers…

And the spaces between travel and work (and painting; both are trained artists) they refurbished the inside of their 275 year old millhouse.  Words (at least my words) cannot do their three story masterpiece justice.

I rode about 4 hrs southwest to Bern on my cherished  Gaudy-designed Papalagi loaner (thank you Oli Busato, Visionen City Cycles!) all along the 50, the 71 and the 34 regional routes. Clouds of bugs peppered my face as I sped through the farmland. Didn’t want to be late for my appointment with Silvia Furst, another artist I know from the good old racing days. She won the race in Bromont Quebec back in 1992, and probably still has a rainbow jersey stashed somewhere.
My arrival was nearly punctual, and I called her up to come over. In the interim hour, Oli took me for a plunge in that river–a baptism of chilly refreshing water in the middle of the Swiss capital.

The town may be slow, but the waters are higher than they have been in years. I would guess the speed is 20 knots per hour….fast . But rather than swim, all you do is jump in, and carry on your conversation while floating downstream. Trying to swim upstream is impossible. When you want to get out, you angle over toward a destination (river ladder, or one of the town’s two vast public baths), then you walk back upstream to your glasses, clothes, whatever. And then jump in again, or go find a cafe, order a Rivella, and chill. Oli had to get back to work, but Silvia picked me up and brought me to the part of town called Matte, where the poor and the rich lived together. The rich spoke French to keep the rest of the citizens in the dark…and the citizens created their own patois called Matte Englisch.  We hung out from 2 to 4 in the shade of the chestnut trees at a little cafe. The white couches beckoned, and even the Not Serving Lunch rule was gently ignored by a very indulgent server. I had ridden four hours in a rush, and failed to eat properly (though I did wipe out all the cold drinks in the refrigerator at Visionen).
Satiated, we parted ways and I vowed to figure out a way to get back to Switzerland and get paid to work here… I just gotta find a business partner who loves heavy lifting, and can sell my Fat Tire Finishing School ™ to a dozen or so women.