In 1994 I was the presenter on CHAIN GANG, a Tyne Tees TV magazine series on cycling. Six half-hour episodes were aired. Tyne Tees has given me permission to publish some of the material.
Six items have been selected and now reside on the Quickrelease.tv video podcast on iTunes. Subscribe – for free – and the six episodes will automagically download to your PC or Mac.
The snippets – billed as ‘From the Archive’ – are brought to you in association with Muc-Off.
So, what’s available?
1 Mass v custom build, Raleigh v Dave Yates
This starts with some 1950s footage of the Raleigh factory, and includes a wonderfully cheesy ‘Head Designer’. The 1994 footage is also drenched in nostalgia. The factory – seen here humming with activity – was knocked down and made into student flats. Look out for the way Raleigh employees placed bike decals compared to the way a custom builder did it.
2 Wax or shave?
Bear in mind that I still look like this. I’ve not aged a bit. My leg hairs have grown back since, mind. This episode sees me going out with a road gang for the very first time. (And ripping their legs off…cameras never lie).
3 Bike versus sportscar
Car v bike through city centre traffic has been done umpteen times for TV cameras but this video is a little bit different, pitting as it does, an Aston Martin sportscar against an Aston Martin mountain bike (now a museum piece).
4 Malawi bicycle tour
Hi-8 footage from a hastily arranged bike tour of this beautiful African country. Along for the ride was Bob Strawson, owner of ‘trick bits’ maker Middleburn Engineering.
5 Behind the scenes
How the series was filmed. Helmet and bike cams are now ten-a-penny. In 1994 they were specialist items and required rucksacks…
6 Jason McRoy
Brilliant footage of the first British MTB superstar (RIP). He’s seen sliding around the NE of England as well as ripping down the Kamikaze course on Mammoth Mountain.
The videos will be placed on YouTube in daily installments next week, but are available as a package on iTunes right now.
Subscribe to the podcast to start the episodes downloading, iTunes isn’t listing the individual episodes yet.
Fans of Yehuda Moon rejoice, the US bike strip will soon be available in book form. Moon creator Rick Smith, a web developer at an insurance company, is going to publish two books a year, allowing cyclists to have an offline repository of the goings on at the warm and quirky Kickstand Cyclery.
“I will have the first six months worth of strips published using a print-on-demand service in July, and then every six months after that,” Rick told me.
“The proofs I’ve received look great.”
Just so you don’t miss any episode in the run-up to July, send your RSS aggregator over to the Yehuda Moon feed. And think about becoming a patron via PayPal. Kudos is great, but cash is more concrete. Dixon Ticonderoga pencils ain’t free, you know.
Rick agreed to answer some questions (I didn’t push him on the beard).
Why ‘Yehuda’ as a name?
Yehuda Moon was a name I never attached to a character, though I came up with the name back in 1990 or so. In high school and college I did a comic strip where one of the characters had the last name of Moon… but Yehuda Moon just waited quietly until the time was right. Yehuda is a Jewish name and Moon is a Korean name… there’s no logic here. It rolls off the tongue and there are no vowels, so no confusion when telling others about the comic or the character.
You ever worked in a bike shop?
I haven’t, but I’m a lurker. I’ve been in many shops, listening. I’ve visited the local shops often enough to see customers, get a feel for how the mechanics work and what customer service is like. I like to see how easy it is to pick up the bicycles on the floor and sit on them. I like to see what the ebb and flow of foot traffic is – on a weekly basis and on a seasonal basis. When I get my bike serviced, I walk behind the counter and watch and learn. Most mechanics are willing to let this happen. The bike shops I have visited are largely friendly, warm places.
What kind of cycling do you do?
I commute 24 miles round trip to work daily, just about every day of the year. I skipped a few days this winter when it was icy and below 10 degrees. I have an idea that I’d like to get a single speed and go on speedy jaunts around town on the weekends but I find that I’m too busy. I like to go bike camping as well.
Carbon or steel?
Steel. And lugs. I rode an aluminum frame for six months and couldn’t take it. Each bump in the road made the frame feel anemic and feeble. Carbon frames feel like a paper clip to me. Steel is solid (though heavy), and it absorbs the potholes Cleveland throws at me on each ride. It feels silky when you ride it. I haven’t tried titanium.
Do you wear a helmet or a cap?
Just a cap. I stopped wearing a helmet over a year ago. The scare tactics just stopped working and the idea that a piece of styrofoam was going to protect me in a fall didn’t fly anymore. All I saw was emotional anecdotal evidence. It feels great. I’m more careful, more balanced when riding, and it doesn’t sound like a leaf blower is blowing in my ear on descents.
Who are you, Yehuda or Joe, or neither?
Yehuda, though I hope I’m not as boldly zealous in my efforts to encourage others to ride for transportation. Yehuda comes on strong, but he can because he’s a comic character, and he has Joe to keep him in check.
Where do the ideas stem from?
A colleague and I would have spirited conversations about our differing views on bicycles, bicycling, equipment, accessories, helmets, and more at work after we both commuted in. The strips aren’t taken directly from these conversations, but the spirit of the relationship between Joe and Yehuda comes from these worldly interactions.
Why did you start such a strip?
There were so many things happening to me on the ride each day. Or things that I imagined could happen on the ride each day. Combined with the conversations between Joe and Yehuda in the shop, I figured that there was enough material to constitute a comic. I waited until I had finished 30 or 40 strips before showing anyone, since I thought maybe the interest would peter out or I’d run out of things to say. It didn’t happen so I kept drawing.
Was the strip born in January 2008 or did Yehuda have a life prior to that?
The first strip was published January 26, 2008 online; it was the January 22, 2008 strip (I posted the first five comics at the same time).
Is there something about bike shops that make a better strip than, say, a hi-fi shop?
Small businesses that cater to niche audiences often seem similar. The obscure knowledge, the infighting between cliques, the laser-like focus on accoutrements – all contribute to the stereotype of the cult-like small business serving a specialized need. A comics colleague wrote saying that although he had never stepped foot in a bike shop, the shop scenes reminded him of the comic book shops he’d been in and that he could relate to what was going on in the panels.
What other strips have you done in the past?
I drew Shuck the Sulfurstar from 2001 – 2006. There were six self-published comic books and Top Shelf Productions put out the collected graphic novel for me in 2004. Then I drew a graphic travelogue of my trip to Morocco in 2000. After that I worked with Damon Hurd on a book called ‘Temporary’. Damon describes it best: “Every day Envy St. Claire is someone else – sitting at someone else’s desk, drinking someone else’s coffee, talking to someone else’s friends, doing someone else’s job, living someone else’s life. But only for a day. Everything in Envy’s life is temporary, and that’s just how she likes it.”
That was a fun project and it had some traction in Hollywood for awhile, which was a good learning experience.
How much of a culture of cycling is there in Cleveland, Ohio?
I’m not sure. From what I understand there’s a strong co-op downtown. I see a lot more cyclists on the roads now that it’s warmer (and more than I did last year as well). There are club rides that pass me or that I see across the boulevard on my way into work. A bunch of Bike Forum folks seem to herald from these parts. I ride alone, mostly (but always wave).
Have you ever painted lines on a road to make a cycle lane?
No, but I really, really want to on the two roads in my town mentioned in the strip. These roads are one and a half lanes wide and the cars always try to make two lanes out of them, thus pushing bikers off the road. Adding a bike lane would clear everything up for everyone – and save these roads from becoming the thoroughfares drivers have turned most roads into (just the line between points A and B).
Think it would work?
Yes, so long as they were painted straight and all necessary precautions were taken into consideration (where to end them, etc.) This is what does Yehuda in. He runs out of the paint midway into the project, doesn’t paint them straight, and really – doesn’t prepare anyone for their arrival. I’m going to return to this story and have him attempt to go about doing it the right way (with city planners, getting petition signatures). However, I wrote the following to a reader:
“Yehuda’s a misguided advocate, though his heart is in the right place when he wants to carve out a piece of the asphalt for cyclists. He sees a time in the not-so-distant future when automobiles own the road (completely), and travel on them at speeds above 35mph regularly. This will leave no room on the roads for cyclists, thus relegating them to the ghetto that is the bike path – that recreational disaster that meanders and never transports its commuters to their destination in a timely fashion. Painting the bike lanes just staves off the inevitable for a bit longer.”
Yehuda seems to cycle in all weathers. That common?
It’s not. From November to April, I see almost no other bicyclists on the road.
Yehuda is a utility cyclist on a utility bike. Normal for America?
Not in Cleveland. You’ll see recreational bicyclists on ‘hybrids’ cruising along bike paths at 6mph. Or you’ll see bibbed roadies cracking the sound barrier on country roads where they’ve driven their bikes so they won’t have to interact with the cars. Bikes for transportation? Nope.
Are there more Yehuda’s being made every day? ie utility cyclists.
I’ve seen more cyclists on the road this year. But whether they’re biking to work or school or the grocery store… not sure. I don’t see racks or bags and certainly don’t see lights or fenders. But I think that’s because they’re not for sale where the average consumer shops. They’d buy them if they could and were told to.
What bikes does Kickstand Cyclery stock?
The shop sells a city bike: the Van Sweringen; a randonneuse: the Coventry; and a line of road and racing bikes called the Rapid. They are built by a reclusive, resurgent group of Shakers.
Ever had your bike stolen (and wished you could hit the thief with a u-lock?)
When I was ten, a 20 year old picked me and my bike up, shook me off and rode off. Never saw it again. I lost a beach cruiser for about four hours when I was 20. It had been swiped from the back deck and the police picked up a 10 year old riding it on the street. They thought it looked odd for someone that small riding a 61cm frame.
How you coming along with the patrons?
Fine. The patrons are amazing people and I am so glad they believe in my endeavor and enjoy the comic. Their contributions have made it much easier to consume ink and paper at the rate that I do.
What’s coming up for Yehuda and Joe?
There will be a segment on bike camping. There will be more commuting high-jinks. There will be more customer interactions at the Kickstand. Look for the ‘Bike Whisperer’, ‘New Old Parts’, more ‘Carbon Copy’, and ‘Dateline Mom’, and others.
How do you do the strips? Hand draw and then colour on the computer? PC or Mac?
I draw the strips with a Dixon Ticonderoga pencil on 2-ply bristol board after sketching out a plot and then working on dialogue. Then I ink the panels with a Pentel brush pen and erase the pencil lines that are left over. I scan the strip into the computer, then color it using Photoshop. After, I save out as a web image and publish to the web site. Later, I make a copy for use in the printed book. All this on a PC.
The Lauterbrunnental Leaflet looks kinda familiar…
I bought every issue of the Rivendell Reader from a seller on eBay. The Reader changed me as a bicyclist. There are so many others who should read the Reader. The Lauterbrunnental Leaflet was a gentle jab at the wonder that comes with each issue, as well as some of the obsessiveness of Riv members.
If you don’t mind me saying so you (and Yehuda) ride an odd bike. Was it a stock item in the bike shop or special order?
The Dutch Azor Mechanic’s Series 108 model seemed perfect. It was lugged steel (for comfort and strength), had sturdy and weather-resistance components (for Cleveland weather), fenders, lights and rack installed, an internal hub (for ease of maintenance), and I liked the look of it (with little to no seat-post showing). It’s heavy, but it has yet to fail me… and Cleveland winters are rough. I used Rivendell’s method for measuring what frame is appropriate for your height, ordered the bike online and crossed my fingers. And it worked!
Do you have a favourite strip? Mine are ‘And Miss This?‘ And ‘Told you Bicycles are Dangerous‘ and ‘Biking, Driving Everywhere‘.
Not really. Tomorrow’s, maybe?
A video of a Japanese bicycle retrieving system has had 111,000 views on YouTube in the last few days and 66 blogs have embedded it (make that 67).
Remember the door retrieval system in Monsters Inc? This is the real life version…but for bikes. It’s based at Tokyo’s Kasai train station. The system can store 9400 bikes and in the video a TV presenter is shown retrieving his machine in just 23 seconds.
The video is in at number nine in the Video Viral Chart, and will likely go higher.
I can’t quite believe I did this. Yesterday, on a six hour ride in the Cheviot hills of Northumberland, I mistook a map’s giant letter ‘i’ for a socking great obstacle, and said so to Brian, my ride partner.
The ‘i’ in question was a capital. Next to it were the letters ‘V’ and ‘O’. But I couldn’t see the full word: C H E V I O T.
I was zoomed in big on a SatMap Active 10, a brilliant GPS unit that uses genuine OS mapping. On a paper map it would have been obvious that the puzzling black oblong was a letter because I’d have seen the other letters, even though widely spaced apart. While riding along, in a biting wind, and without the context of a full paper map I really was expecting to soon see a large, unknown feature. Some sort of over-size Pennine Way stile, perhaps?
Luckily, Brian is intelligent and he realised my mistake. To his credit he didn’t immediately fall on the floor laughing, but I expect my map reading boob will be in his anecdotal armoury for years to come.
Anyway, it was a great ride. 24 miles in the middle of nowhere. Grassy descents. A few small river crossings. A peat bog just in front of the border with Scotland. Some wild goats. A ruined pub called the Slyme Foot inn. And some great weather despite the fact the hill tops still had some patchy snow.
The Canadian Automobile Association has released its annual Driving Costs statistics.
The costs are so high, newspaper columnist Richard Starnes said: “It’s almost enough to throw out the car in favour of a bike.”
But he opines that’ll never happen:
“For most of us, it’s the price we are willing to pay for our lifestyles.
“We may opt for a smaller car in future — and the latest sales news suggests that’s what is beginning to happen across North America. We may also become more careful with how far we drive and we may try to carpool more.
“But none of us, I wager, is ready to give up our beloved car.”
CAA president Tim Shearman said:
“We hope that these tools will help Canadians develop safer, more environmentally friendly and potentially less expensive driving habits that will help them to reduce their cost of ownership.”
The Ottawa Citizen delves into the stats:
The vehicle is driven less than 16 kilometres a day to work…For any kilometres over 18,000 per year add $26 per 1,000 km for the Cobalt and $33 for the Grand Caravan.
Gas costs are based on 110.1 cents per litre.
The annual variable operational costs for each kilometre we travel based on 18,000 km a year [are]
If you owned the Cobalt, it would cost you 9.95 cents in fuel, 2.36 cents in maintenance and 1.49 cents in tires for a total of 13.8 cents per kilometre.
If you owned the Caravan the figures would be 12.97 cents, 2.82 cents and 1.91 cents for a total of 17.70 cents.
Now we need to add annual fixed ownership costs…
For Cobalt owners (or the equivalent) the costs are: insurance $1,741, licence and registration $118, depreciation $3,661 and financing $942. That translates into $17.70 a day and $6,462 a year.
For Caravan owners the costs are: insurance $1,644, licence and registration $120, depreciation $5,504 and financing $1331. That translates into $23.56 a day and $8,599 a year.
You can buy a very nice bike for $8,599…and you’d lose the spare tyre in the process.
Simon o’Hagan, deputy comment editor of British newspaper The Independent, has just said some great things about the Bicycle Anatomy video on the Indie’s blog.
This gives me an excuse to embed it here again.
Bicycle Anatomy for Beginners from Quickrelease.tv on Vimeo.
I love the way Simon let’s slip he’s just a little bit in love with the droolsome shapes of his mount:
“I don’t think I obsess over my bike…I do find myself sitting and gazing at it sometimes.”
I’ve heard of pedal powered fruit smoothie blending and can imagine somebody somewhere would grind their coffee beans by bike, but I’ve never heard of any business using a bike to roast coffee beans.
“A sustainable, bike-powered coffee business starts operation,” reports The Californian Aggie.
A company founded three years ago by…Alex Roth initially roasted peppers, hence the name, but this year converted to coffee bean roasting and delivery.
The Pepper Peddler is trying to make an impact in the coffee industry by using unconventional and sustainable methods in a town that is conducive to both.
In the spirit of sustainability, the Pepper Peddler buys fair trade organic beans from Honduras and roasts them in a bike-powered apparatus Roth designed, built and adapted from what he created to roast peppers.
It’s the whole Davis concept of bikes everywhere and pedal power, Roth said. Why use a motor if you can use a bike?
Although we still use propane burners to do the roasting, the mechanical motion of the cooling is derived from the bike, he said. It’s actually a feasible thing and it’s one less resource needing to be consumed.
If you were interested in only making money you wouldn’t do a lot of things we do, Lorber said. We’re committed to sustainability and we’re doing what we can to make an example and modestly push forward to make the world a better place.
Get it fresh from here.
Bicycle Anatomy for Beginners from Quickrelease.tv on Vimeo.
I’ve produced the above video for bike virgins. Click on full screen or go to the Vimeo site for the video in a wider format. The video zooms into bike parts and names them. It’ll hopefully get newbies up to speed on ‘bike talk’.
It might be aimed at people who don’t know their dropout from their seatpost but even enthusiasts will get a kick out of the music. It was created from twanging and fiddling with some of my bikes.
I recorded the sounds (my favourite is the disc rotor pinging) and then music maestro Greg Johnston turned my disparate recordings into ‘bespoke’ music. The track is now on Libsyn (or subscribe to my podcast on iTunes): it’s an MP3 called Bong. Psst. Twang. Whirr. Psst.
If you like the music and you have an iPhone, download this free ringtone and manually place in iTunes to sync, or subscribe to the Quickrelease.tv podcast on iTunes for the download and sync to be automatic.
Don’t like hi-res Vimeo? Here’s the video on YouTube, Metacafe, DailyMotion, Stupid Videos, Sclipo and Viddler
The video is also available in an Apple TV version on iTunes or as a direct download from Libsyn. Want it on your iPod? It’s here on iTunes and Libsyn.
Check out the credits at the end for the list of folks who helped me nail the technical aspects of the vid. It was especially helpful to get the American ‘translations’ for bike part names.
I’d really appreciate your feedback on the video and, of course, would love you to pass it on to any newbies who you think would benefit from a crash course in bicycle anatomy.
British Cycling – the national federation in charge of the all-conquering trackies at the UCI Track World Championships in Manchester – is endorsing an indoor bike that measures power. The Wattbike is not so much for Team GB’s trackies – they will use hub power meters on real bikes – but the machine could spot undiscovered talent.
Rower Rebecca Romero has shown that it’s possible to successfully transition to cycling from another sport and there must be lots of gold medal prospects out there who don’t even know their power-to-weight ratio is ideal for cycling.
The Wattbike – which made its public debut at the World Track Cycling Championships in the Manchester Velodrome and which was plugged by the BBC’s excellent trackside reporter, Jill Douglas – will be rolled out at lots of non-cycling expos and events.
Software captures data 100 times per second, and offers real-time feedback across 25 different parameters for users and coaches.
“We have designed the Wattbike so that it can be used by everyone, for everything” said Dusan Adamovic, Wattbike’s Technical Director.
“We believe it will work for school children and senior citizens, cardiac rehabilitation patients and Olympic athletes. Our aim has been to create the first indoor bike that accurately measures performance. We knew the bike had to feel like cycling on the road, both on the flat and when climbing. This is why we have worked closely with British Cycling throughout the bike’s development. We share their vision of cycling being about fun and fitness, for people of all ages and abilities.”
Peter King, CEO of British Cycling, said:
“British Cycling prides itself as an organisation that operates on the cutting edge, and in Wattbike we have the perfect partner. Together, we have developed a piece of equipment that will support us in everything from increasing participation to underpinning our World Class Pathways and International success. The Wattbike will provide a positive benefit to every level of the sport by linking indoor and outdoor cycling and helping us continue to make a substantial contribution to the health, education, participation and performance agendas.”
David Brailsford, British Cycling Performance Director, said:
“The GB Cycling Team have played an important role in the development of the Wattbike to ensure that it is capable of supporting and making a valuable contribution to our World Class programmes. The Wattbike is already assisting the GB Cycling Team in identifying our future stars and its potential in terms of indoor competition in schools and clubs can only be positive in terms of the number of young people coming into the sport in the future.”
Not on a lovely metal car, of course, one of these wooden ones:
Udo Haase, a wood carver from Kiel in Germany, created a 1:1 replica of a Mercedes 300 SL last year and then went and trumped it by later making a Ferrari 250 GTO.
Unlike the beasties with engines, these two benign vehicles can’t go very fast. But, should making cars out of wood catch on, at least we could punish any bad driving by using an Olympic-style parabolic mirror to let the driver know he’s upset us.
Mind you, that could inflame, ahem, the war between cyclists and motorists. There are now so many wooden bikes, a special splintering-and-burning clause would have to be placed in Bike Snob NYC’s proposed peace treaty between cyclists and motorists.