Archive for April, 2008


Apr 30, 2008

‘Bicycle Day’ tripper dies at age 102


Proving that drugs and cycling can mix, Dr. Alex Hofman of Switzerland was the first to ingest LSD. After he did so - on April 19th 1943 - he got on his bike. April 19th is now known as ‘Bicycle Day’ to fans of psychedelic experiences.

Dr Hofman died on Tuesday at his home in Basel, Switzerland. He was 102.

The Swiss chemist had first experienced the effects of the lysergic acid compound, LSD-25, when he accidentally absorbed a bit through his fingertips. He later ingested 250 milligrams of LSD.

After his colourful bike ride, Dr Hofman wrote:

“I asked my laboratory assistant, who was informed of the self-experiment, to escort me home. We went by bicycle, no automobile being available because of wartime restrictions on their use. On the way home, my condition began to assume threatening forms. Everything in my field of vision wavered and was distorted as if seen in a curved mirror. I also had the sensation of being unable to move from the spot. Nevertheless, my assistant later told me we had travelled very rapidly.”

Travelling very rapidly on a bicycle under the influence of drugs was never tried again…



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Apr 30, 2008

Chain Gang vids now on YouTube


In 1994 I was the (young, fresh-faced) presenter of ‘Chain Gang’, a six part magazine programme on cycling by Tyne Tees.

I’ve been given permission to re-broadcast some of the best bits from this series. They are billed as ‘From the archive’ and the series is brought to you in association with Muc-Off.

The higher res versions went on iTunes last week. Here are the YouTube versions. Click on ‘play in higher quality’ for the best playback performance.

I won’t embed all the videos here as it would take up an awful lot of space. But here’s one of them: a bicycle tour in Malawi.



The other videos are:

Jason McRoy and the Reebok Eliminator, Mammoth Mountain 1993

Behind the scenes on ‘Chain Gang’

Bike v car commuter challenge
(Trivia: the car park at the start of this extract is the famous one featured in Michael Caine’s classic 1960’s gangster flick, ‘Get Carter’).

Wax or shave?

Mass v custom build, Raleigh v Dave Yates

If you like these sort of things, here’s a YouTube player with all the vids in place:



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Apr 30, 2008

Boardman launches elite range


Full story over on BikeBiz.com. Here are the first pix.

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Bigger one here.

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Bigger one here.
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(L to R) Alan Ingarfield, CEO, Boardman Bikes; Chris Boardman MBE; Dimitris Katsanis, Director of Engineering Designer



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Apr 29, 2008

Ah, Velib, I think I love you


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On Saturday I was in Paris at the invitation of cycle tyre manufacturer Hutchinson. I had two hours to kill before being shuttled the 90kms to the Hutchinson factory. Hmm, two hours in Paris, what to do? As I’ve written lots of articles about Velib for Quickrelease.tv and BikeBiz.com I had an easy decision.

However, it was a beautiful Spring day and I was not the only person to have the same idea. In fact, it was tough to locate an available bike, such was the heavy demand. A lone Velib was spotted, though, and hastily hired.

So, what was it like to ride ‘velo liberation’? Surprisingly good. The bikes are heavy and I wouldn’t want to do an Etape du Tour with one but for a city runaround they’re reassuringly robust.

It was startling to see so many Velibs being used. They’re truly ubiquitous. Tourists were on them but so were plenty of locals, taking their shopping home. The bikes are free for the first half-hour so are perfect for short trips.

Thomas from Hutchinson lives in Paris and is a keen cyclist. Despite owning and riding bikes in Paris he still maintains a Velib account for the odd occasion he may be bike-less but in need of a quick transit through the congested streets.

The current mayor of Paris was re-elected largely on the popularity of Velib. And seeing it in action for the first time I can well understand why. If I was on foot only with two hours to kill I’d have traipsed to the nearest tourist hotspot and then people-watched in a cafe. With an easy-to-rent hire bike I was able to do a much more ambitious city tour.

It’s no surprise that Paris is extending the scheme, adding another 7000 bikes. Even this won’t be enough. There are supposed to be plans for London to get 80,000 Velib-style bikes. This is more like it.

Here’s a selection of my pix of Saturday’s two hour sojourn in Paris (the full Flickr set is here):

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velibemptystands

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Apr 29, 2008

After 1 million views, TbV winds down


Trust But Verify, the utterly excellent Floyd-Landis-is-probably-innocent blog, recently breached 1m views but, with no CAS appeal news likely until June or July, site owner Dave Brower says the postings will slow to a crawl.

‘Mr. TBV’ wrote:

“After all the words, we suspect darned few people have changed their minds about a lot of things since, oh, about mid-August 2006. That’s kind of sad, because a lot of information has become available — but it has mostly been used to reinforce positions that had been pretty well locked in place in an instant.”

He also hopes that “Those with eyes will have learned that the WADA system is not setup to ensure substantive due process” and that “statements by Alphabet-soup organizations will be taken with skepticism similar to that given denials by athletes.”

And he’s right. Whatever the rights and wrongs of cyclists who may or may not have doped, the Floyd Landis case opened a lot of people’s eyes - mine included - to the lynch-mob mentality and sometimes shoddy scientific method of the tax-funded anti-doping organisations.

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As a confirmed non-scientist I now also know a little about isotopes and can also now recognise a mass spectrometer machine when I see one. I was in a French lab yesterday - not the infamous LNDD - and realised the cream machine in front of me was oddly familiar.



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Apr 29, 2008

Of mice and (fat) men


Oz boffins have made a “breakthrough” in the creation of a future fat-burning pill, reports the BBC.

After removing a certain enzyme from fat cells in mice, the scientists found that the rodents turned roadie-like stick-thin. They still pigged out on mouse-equivalents of cream cakes but - with no more exercise than normal - were found to be 20 percent lighter than normal mice and had up to 60 percent less body fat.

This will be manna from heaven for folks who love scoffing (manna from heaven? yum) but don’t want to exert themselves.

Of course, drug companies which can bring this sort of super-drug to market will drip gold.

Yet, as is well known but rarely heeded, a sedentary lifestyle is a proven killer. Popping a pill may shed some poundage but won’t make an athlete out of a couch potato. The only health-sustaining way to fight fat is to eat less and exercise.

As regular cyclists will attest, it’s the last bit that’s most important. Cycle for long enough and you could eat like a Tongan monarch yet stay slim.

Want to see an ‘as live’ database showing number of cars and bicycles being produced right now, along with number of people dying of starvation today tracked against dollar amounts spent on diet products? World-o-Meters is the place.



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Apr 26, 2008

“Petrol: we’re running out”



Two of Britain’s tabloid newspapers lead with the current “fuel crisis”, reporting that petrol is running out, leading to panic buying at the pumps.

The Daily Express headline above is run in caps on the front page and is doing its best to fuel the crisis. The story beneath the headline, of course, is all about how we’re not running out of petrol but slams a government minister who said he couldn’t guarantee every petrol station in the UK will have limitless supplies of go-go juice.

No doubt the energy minister made the comment when pressed by a journalist to make such an (impossible) guarantee.

The Daily Express accused Malcolm Wicks of starting a panic.

PETROL stations began running dry yesterday after the Government tried to reassure drivers about supplies – and instead started a panic.

The Lib Dems accused him of talking the country into a crisis. And the Countryside Alliance said he had inflamed an already intolerable situation, with drivers in rural areas at risk of being stranded.

The AA urged motorists to cut down their number of journeys, try walking to the office and even work one day a week from home to conserve supplies.”

A motoring organisation urging motorists to use shanks’ pony for short journeys? To the Daily Express that’s eschatological talk, the beginning of the End Times.

The Daily Mail’s front cover poured biofuel on troubled waters by screaming “Petrol price to break through £5 a gallon as forecourts sell out amid fuel panic.”

Ten bucks a gallon. Sweat on that, America!

And the cause for all this pump panic? A Scottish oil refinery is closing down for the weekend because of industrial action. This refinery produces ten percent of the UK’s petrol. The government has assured us that the petrol won’t dry up overnight but the merest hint of petrol shortages puts the willies up the masses.

The Scots Gaelic term for whisky is uisege beatha. It means ‘water of life’. To motorists, there’s a more important ‘water of life’: they can’t imagine life without limitless access to petrol. If the past is a different country, the future is Mad Max.



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Apr 25, 2008

‘Chain Gang’ video highlights now on iTunes


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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.



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Apr 25, 2008

Yehuda Moon will be an e-book soon


yehudabook

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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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!

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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?



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Apr 24, 2008

Cycle promotion 1950s style


Toon 1: “Fine state to be in. Fares are rising. Queues get longer. Tempers get shorter. Travel more crowded. Wastes far too much time.

Toon 2: “Not if you have a…bicycle…”




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