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?