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.

Swiss Solstice

•June 22, 2012 • 5 Comments

Americans who fly regularly are familiar with the United Scarelines rubric called Three Perfect Days in (fill in the blank, usually a place that has touristic industry well in place).

These  “Three Perfect Days” are  a Disneyesque (to me this is pejorative) amble through places that business travelers find themselves assigned to do business in. I. e.: stuck in, usually for three days.

I suppose it might be comforting to be able to gripe about the same hotel, the same restaurant, etc, with other frequent fliers, but the prospect of agreeing to be manipulated like an SKU on an assembly line repels me.

Not so with the little sloping conveyor belts in airports. Remember guys, the time I rode the baggage carousel back into the bowels of the airport, in search of my bicycle box?

Thanks to Velocodger, a Sacramento-Bourgogne biker who found my blog years ago,I was steered to the tiny town of St. Julien en Vercors, about 16 km downhill from Villard-de-Lans.

But I haven’t said a peep about the reunion of the first ever World Championship of Mountain Biking in the latter town.

A quarter century ago, 1987, I was in the depths of a heavy depression borne of overtraining and having been Voted off the Island on the team I won so many races for (hint: initials stand for Worse Than Bad).  But a prize that me and Ned Overend had won two years previously (“free trip to France) fianally got given to us… go to this so-called Championnat Mondiale.
We did.
Lots happened. Wait for the book.

Now, there are lots of folks who were not there: Gary Fisher,  Hans Jorg Ray, Joe Breeze (with family), and to my extreme delight, Mary Lee Atkins Stiehr, the winner along with Ned. M-L had barely raced, just sort of came along with then’husband Jeff Norman, and then fell onto the top of the podium at Villard. And never raced another inch.

Went back to carpentry, and I never heard from her again. Like Ramona D’Viola and Susan DeMattei, ML was a joy to compete with, and always had a great sense of the hilarity of getting paid (ok, given stuff), just for riding fast….Speaking of which, I finally shook hands with my personal hero Anne-Caroline Chausson, the winningest fat tire racer ever, sorry Ned… I didnt get to blab much but I humbly offered her my “so many trails, so little time” badge.

It was perfect weather for a re-do of the trail we raced ….the Sentier Gobert, a rocky cliff side scramble that had netting back 25yrs ago, now they let us simply take care of our own safety. I seemed to remain in sight of Scot Nicol and Chausson most of the way….our initial start tried to be a race, but within a couple of blocks and then later, a coupleof kms later everyone halted and pointed twelve ways, and we all relaxed to enjoy the tour.
Well, John Loomis had a point to prove, so he and a few French guys shredded the thing in a couple of hours but most folks rode it in about 3 or 4, and were happy to be outthere in the Vercors, only 80 km from Grenoble.

Later, I had an interview with Noel somebody from the Dauphine Libere, the daily in that region (also sponsor of big race).Tried to find you a link…it is probably in todays paper, but I cant get the frickn subscription-password-tell-them-everything-about-yourself  thingie to work. No linkie poo . Sorry.

The journalist and the director of the resort tried to get me to translate for Gary, but he glared at me and said that he didnt need help, adding “I stayed out of your interview”, which made no sense. He woudnt have understood more than two words…I had done my interview in French, and for the twentieth time in my life, majoring in French literature has saved my skin and made me sound like a whirl citizen, which is my highest objective.

Hell, there is a sunny day out there. I am at Claude Marthaler‘s empty apt.
I hve a whole day to ride, or hang out and attend a dozen concerts at the Fete de Musique (already caught half a dozen last night, after a thrilling 120 km through the countryside from Bourget du Lac).

Or I could blog.
Oh, god…
The towns I passed through  yesterday and the day before were tiny villages on roads with one car per hour.

My definition of heaven.

With luggage.
Ok now I am out of control with kezboard who cares. italic went on fuck that. i wanted t saz that the Europeans have long rows of books on the shelf called recits de voyage. There are hundreds of people who perambulate the world on their loaded bike. Often, like Claude, for years. The n they write books. Claude has four out, in three languages, but none yet in English.His one stab at paying a translator didnt work out, and cost him too much of his own meager funds. but I do hope that some American or English publisher will spring for the expense,and have a good, literary, poetic translator because his books are very well written.
We both admire the great Dervla Murphy, queen of bicycle literature, with her 24 books,always in print thanks to a devoted publisher, Eland, whose mission is to keep the great works in print, regardless of the commercial, or “bankability.
I AM gnna have a helluva time deciding whether to try to ride the loop CLaude is doing today, or just chill….