Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Fat Cyclist: Media Mastermind


If you are sharp of eye and mind you might be thinking "Hey Kent, you got the title of Fatty's book wrong in your review, it's Comedian Mastermind, not Media Mastermind." Well, sharp reader, you're right about the title but I'm not making a mistake, unless the mistake is in calling attention to Elden's vast media empire. And believe me, it's a vast empire. The man has a blog, he has a twitter account, he has a line of clothing, hell he's got a whole team of people who dress like him. And now he has a book and an ebook and who knows what else. I bet he's gonna buy up Google and Facebook next week.

Now if you check the reviews for this book, you find nothing but five star reviews. OK, there is one 4 star review but it's because there is a glitch in the ebook version if you try to read it with a black background. I'm sure Fatty will fix that when he buys Amazon next week. So the book is basically perfect, right?

How is that even possible? I mean, gosh it's basically a rehash of stuff you could read for free on his blog, isn't it?

Well here's the scoop. Yeah, it's a rehash and yeah there's some new stuff. It's got a preface and SIX forwards. The forwards are written by Fatty's friends and guess what? The funny man has funny friends. And about those friends, Fatty got all those great reviews because they are pretty much all written by his friends. Including this one.

Fatty keeps his friends by bribing us. He sent me a bribe to write this. The bribe I got looked like this:


He made sure I couldn't sell it or re-gift it by scribbling in it:


So I read the damn thing. Even the parts I'd read before, on his blog, for free. And it's still funny. Really funny. Shoot coffee out your nose funny even when you know what's coming.

And this is why he's a genius. Because he's not just funny, he's a genuinely nice guy. The kind of guy you'll want to ride with. Because he'll bring snacks. And tell stories. And you'll want to be his friend, cause he's a funny, friendly guy. And then, even though he gave a lot of the great stories away on his blog or maybe he's even given you a copy of his book, you'll buy copies of his book to give to your friends. That's what I did.

And then you'll tell everybody about it on your blog. Like I just did.

And that's why Fatty is a Media Mastermind. He's going to sell a zillion of these damn books. If just each of his friends tells two of their friends...

It's a really good book. Buy the damn thing before Fatty gives you a copy. Or one of his friends buys it for you.

And don't read it while you're drinking coffee.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah WA USA


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Perry Explains Punctures

It’s raining when I bicycle over the fragment of a broken beer bottle. The rain is making the whole road glisten like glass in my headlight beam so a single shard of inconvenience is effectively camouflaged. The shard is a perfect sword, the rain is perfect cutting oil and my tire is the perfect victim. I hear a small crunch and a second later I feel the air pouring out the gash at approximately the same rate as curses leave my lips.

I coast to a stop, surveying my damp options. Because I am a cautious man, I have prepared myself for this eventuality. I have a spare tube and a tire pump. I have patches in case the tube is faulty or in case I have a second puncture. I have a bit of duct tape with which I can boot the tire if the gash proves to be severe. I have the extra fifteen minutes in my schedule which I regularly set aside for situations such as this. But being prepared does not make me happy or dry.

I curse again. I curse myself. Just this afternoon I had commented on my recent run of run of good fortune. Some fates should not be tempted.

There is a street light up ahead and one of those little shelters parents make for their kids so Junior doesn’t have to stand out in the rain waiting for the school bus. It’s late on a Friday night and no bus will be by until Monday. Tonight I’ll gladly make use of the light and the shelter. Perhaps this is the universe’s way of saying “Sorry about the glass and the rain, here have some light and a dry place. No hard feelings, eh?”

I figure if the universe can balance things out, the least I can do is cut down on my cursing. I say “thanks” to nothing in particular and everything in general and roll my bike the half-block to the bus shelter.

I’m settling into the shelter, unpacking my tools, when I see a single headlight beam rolling down the street. It’s bright, like a low-flying aircraft, and I shield my eyes against the glare. As the beam gets close I hear a familiar voice call out from just behind the beam, “Ya, got whatcha need?”

“Yeah, I’m fine...” I start to answer, “Is that you Perry?”

Perry rolls his recumbent bicycle to a stop next to the shelter and snaps off his hundred watts of home-brewed halogen. “Crappy night,” he comments.

“Yep,” I agree, “I should be home having a nice cup of tea by now but the Puncture Fairy had other plans.”

“Puncture Fairy,” Perry mocks, “you believe in the Puncture Fairy? You sure believe some weird things.”

“I believe weird things,” I say, tossing Perry’s tone back at him, “I’m not the one who thinks the government is monitoring my brainwaves. How’s that foil beanie working out for you?”

“Oh they’d love it if they could get all of us who are onto them to wear foil. It’d make it so much easier for them to keep track of us...”

I can tell Perry is winding up for one of his trademark rants but before he gets up to speed I divert him with a question, “You still carry a floor pump in that thing?”

That thing is Perry’s battered, hand-built custom recumbent velomobile. If an aluminum sausage mated with a bicycle in the cluttered back-room of a very old hardware store, the progeny of that demonic union would be the device in which Perry is currently reclining. Given half a chance Perry will explain in great detail why this particular road missile is better than any other pedal powered machine on the planet. Given more time he’ll get around to telling why “they” suppress such technology and if you give him a few more minutes to ramble on he’ll get around to telling you how this particular iteration of his bicycle is is not nearly as good as the next one he has half-built in his basement.

Some people think Perry is weird but the weirdest thing about him is that the longer I’ve known him, the more I begin to suspect that he may be right. His machines, and he’s built a series of them over the years, each more frightening than the last, tend to go like hell. I’ve seen very fit dudes pound every Watt they’ve got into the pedals of state of the art carbon wonder bikes as they watch helplessly while Perry rattles past them. Many have speculated that he has a motor tucked away somewhere under the hood of his machine, but I’ve inspected various of his unique vehicles from stem to stern and in every case the only motor tucked inside has been a scruffy guy named Perry who has some rather unique ideas as to how a bicycle should be built.

“Yeah,” Perry says, “I’ve got a pump and yeah, you can borrow it. The old Silca will get you rolling quicker than whatever aluminum flute or carbon fiber candy cane you’re carrying these days.”

He flips a few latches and the front cowl of his craft lifts up. He rises from the rig stiffly, like being vertical is an alien, inefficient and unwelcome orientation for him. Once he’s extricated himself from the comfortable coffin he insists on calling a bicycle, he turns his attention to the rear of the machine, pops another latch, reaches in and hands me a full size, full weight, floor pump.

I’ve debated weight with Perry in the past, pointing out that a bicycle is a machine where the passenger is also the engine and speed is generally considered to be a function of the power to weight ratio. I've continued on noting that a human being can only generate so much power and asked “doesn’t it make sense to at least try to build a light weight bicycle?” I’ve had better luck explaining Daylight Savings Time to my cat. Perry only looked at me as if I was being obtuse and proclaimed, “if you build a fast bike, it looks like this and it weighs this much. Besides,” he added, “weight doesn’t matter once you’re rolling.”

Tonight neither of us are rolling at the moment and Perry seems content to hang around and indulge my odd ideas while I work on replacing the tube and booting my tire. “Tell me more about the Puncture Fairy,” he says.

“Well,” I say, warming to the topic, “have you ever noticed that if you comment on how long it’s been since you’ve had a puncture or you are in some way unprepared to deal with a puncture, then within the next 24 hours, you puncture? That’s the Puncture Fairy in action.”

“Really,” Perry notes, “so were you unprepared this evening or...”

“I’d just remarked this afternoon how it had been months since my last puncture,” I admitted.

“And this Puncture Fairy overheard you, rushed out here to smash some glass and teach you a lesson?”

“Yes,” I insisted, “that’s the way the Puncture Fairy works.”

“Kind of an egotistical view of the world you’ve got there,” Perry notes.

“How so?” I ask.

“Well, you think a mystical little pixie has nothing better to do than hang around listening to you talk about tires? When it’s not digging through your bag making sure you’ve packed a patch kit?”

“Well,” I say, defensively, “it’s not just me. The Puncture Fairy monitors all cyclists, in word and deed.”

“Busy little critter,” Perry comments, “So is this Puncture Fairy a single entity with an astounding workload, like Santa Claus, or are we talking an entire species, a global network of gremlins intent on thwarting the travels of the the unbelieving or the unprepared?”

“Given the frequency of punctures in the world,” I say, “I’m inclined toward the latter hypothesis.”

“Ah ha!” Perry counters, “As long as you’re hypothesizing, how about this for a theory: There is no such thing as the Puncture Fairy. What you observe can be explained by coincidence, observational bias and science.”

I must admit that hearing this bit of clear reason from Perry surprises me. Perry and I have a long history of bouncing increasingly whimsical world views off each other and Perry’s retreat toward simple logic has me wary. “Coincidence and science I understand,” I say, “but tell me more about observational bias.”

“Observational bias,” Perry explains, “is when you notice data that confirms your hypothesis and ignore data that does fit your theory. Today you commented on your good fortune and tonight you flatted. If you hadn’t flatted tonight would you have noticed your good luck in making it home without incident?”

I reluctantly admit that he has a point. “And further,” Perry pressed, “tires do wear. You’ve gone thousands of miles on that tire without a problem, right?”

I’ve been changing the tire as we talk and in checking the tire, I see Perry is right. The rear tire on my bike has gotten very thin and has several nicks and gashes. “I guess I have been running on borrowed time,” I agree.

“Yep,” Perry says, “and that long run of luck begins to get noteworthy and you note it by saying something and when that luck runs out coincidentally you credit some sort of mythical Puncture Fairy. That’s not very logical.”

“Well thank you for setting me straight, Mr. Spock. And thanks for the use of the pump.” I’ve already removed the glass from the tire and booted the gash with a strip of duct tape. I fit the replacement tube, pump the tire up to full pressure and hand Perry’s pump back to him. While I've been working the rain has stopped and to the east the clouds have parted. Stars and sliver of moonlight shine down on us. I comment, “You would think that if we can land a man on the moon, somebody could come up with a decent bike tire that doesn’t go flat.”

“Well,” Perry says, “there’s a simple explanation for that as well.”

“You mean that solid tires suck and that everybody trying to uninvent the pneumatic tire eventually rediscovers that? And that as bicyclists we’re always trying to find the right balance between a light, fast tire and one that’s tough enough to go the distance?”

“Actually, no,” Perry says, “the reason we don’t have flat proof tires is the same reason we can’t go to the moon any more.”

“What do you mean we can’t go to the moon any more. Of course we can go to the moon.”

“No,” Perry says, “no we can’t. NASA doesn't have rockets that’ll get us there anymore. The Russians don’t, the Chinese don’t. Nobody does.”

“Well,” I counter, “we could, we just don’t want to.”

“Like I said before, you believe weird things,” Perry says. “If somebody wrote a story years ago that said we’d build all the stuff to fly to the moon, fly and land there in 1969 and then forty years later we’d be incapable of doing it because we didn’t want to, it would never get published. That, my friend, is an unbelievable scenario. If we want something, we make it. Unless somebody stops us. We’re being stopped.”

“We’re being stopped? Whose stopping us?”

“The same guys who are keeping flat proof bike tires off the market. The little grey guys with big bug eyes.”

“Aliens?!?” I say, “Aliens shut down our space program and are keeping flat proof bike tires off the market?”

“Yep,” Perry says, “think about it. We can build machines that can go 57 miles on the energy contained in a bean burrito yet we drive 3-ton SUVs to the grocery store. We’ve had brilliant engineers working for a century and cars still get the same mileage they did in Henry Ford’s day. We spend more time engineering cup holders to hold 64 ounce Slurpees than we do improving fuel standards. Haven’t you ever wondered why?”

“Because there is money to be made in the oil business?” I venture.

“Don’t get me started on that whole ‘trade your life for money’ scam,” Perry says, “that’s just the tip of the iceberg. And speaking of icebergs, you know they’re going away. That’s the point, that’s the goal.”

“Global warming is the goal?” I ask.

“Yep,” Perry says, “they’ve got to warm the place up before they all move in.”

“I think you’ve been watching too many episodes of the X-Files,” I say.

“The X-Files is part of the plot. They carve out a big hunk of pop culture with stories that are close enough to the truth and then they can label guys like me as conspiracy theory wackos. It’s a pretty clever way to undermine those of us who know. It’s like the foil beanies.”

As Perry speaks, a meteor streaks across the eastern sky. I start to make “ooh pretty” fireworks noises, but then I see the look in Perry’s eyes. He’s not thinking “ooh pretty” he’s thinking something else.

“I gotta go,” he mumbles, “I’ll see ya around. You know I was just kidding about that alien stuff, right?”

“Yeah, sure Perry,” I say, “thanks again for the pump.”

Perry tosses the pump in the trunk of his machine and climbs into the cockpit. He looks me in the eye, as serious as I’ve ever seen him. “Just kidding,” he says as he pedals off, “just kidding.”

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Stop SOPA and PIPA

I'll get back to posting bike stuff tomorrow but I'm offline today to protest SOPA and PIPA. Better folks than me can explain it better and for the moment you can find that information on the internet. If you'd like to keep things that way (or even if you think SOPA and PIPA are a good idea), please consider contacting your congresscritter and expressing yourself. Democracy works when we do.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Shopping Online, Shopping Local

I have friends, earnest good friends, who rage against online shopping. Amazon is killing independent bookstores they assure me and places like Performance/Nashbar are killing local bike shops. I have other friends, earnest good friends, who shop online and find deals and rage against being "gouged" by their local shops. I live in a kind of a middle earth, a place I suspect you may live as well, where some shopping carts are real and some are virtual, some shops are bricks and mortar and some are clicks and bits. It's a good thing grey is my favorite color.

Let me tell you a little more about my grey world. Years ago I worked at a place that was called Trintex when I started there and was called Prodigy by the time we launched our online service. It started as a three-way venture funded by IBM, Sears and CBS and we did battle with guys like Compuserve and AOL. It was a hell of an interesting place to work. Buy me a coffee sometime and I'll tell you a lot of interesting stories from the early days. Now the common story is that Prodigy never made much money for it's founding partners, that it ultimately got killed by AOL and the internet. The common story is not quite right. A couple of years ago, when I was working at the Bike Station in downtown Seattle, an old colleague from Prodigy dropped by. Over lunch I commented that "Prodigy may not have made money for the partners, but heck, it payed us some decent dollars." My friend looked at me, "Oh, the partners did OK. Those guys up the hill," he said pointing to Amazon which at the time was ironically headquartered in one of the biggest brick and mortar buildings in Seattle, "settled a deal with Prodigy over one-click-buy. Your salary, mine, and every dollar poured down the Prodigy 'rathole' has come back home many times over."

These days I walk to my job in a brick and mortar bike shop, the Bicycle Center of Issaquah. We sell Trek bikes at the Bicycle Center, something I'm happy to do. There are lots of good bikes made by a variety of companies but the first bike shop I really hung out in back in Minnesota was a Trek shop. The folks at Trek were good folks back when they were a few people in a barn in Wisconsin and now Trek is a hell of a lot bigger but they still seem to be pretty good folks. A couple of years ago a guy came into the Bicycle Center and introduced himself to me with the words, "Hi, I'm John, I work at Trek." That guy, John Burke, is the president of Trek.

John is a very smart guy and when I was back at Trek's Wisconsin headquarters last August he laid out Trek's online strategy for all its dealers. Trek basically built a support system for the local dealers to have a powerful online presence. If you go to BicycleCenter.biz you'll see the online version of the Bicycle Center. You can see what we have in stock and you can order things. Bikes have to be picked up at the local store but accessories, clothes and stuff like that can be shipped to you if that works better for you. Yes, Trek makes money, but your local shop makes money as well. As I said, John Burke is a smart guy.

Online shopping exists and I have a hard time seeing it as this purely evil thing destroying life as we know it. My lovely wife rides her lovely bike to her local job at the local grocery store. Her job is putting real groceries in a real shopping cart and then on a real truck to be delivered to folks who put virtual groceries in a virtual cart. People buying groceries online pays for the groceries on our table. I make a living by working in a brick and mortar store and via Amazon referrals.

Amazon is another enterprise I cannot paint as simply black or white. While some folks are absolutely certain that Amazon is killing the independent bookstores, I know many writers who have found a richer market of readers thanks to Amazon's efforts, and I find some value in that. The laptop I type this on, my internet bills, the cameras that take the pictures I show here and all the other bits that go into this blog are here because Amazon pays a good chunk of my bills. But I understand that some folks really, really hate Amazon and I certainly respect that choice.

Each day we vote with our dollars and our attention and we try to do our best. If you value your local bike or bookshop, please spend some dollars there. If you get value out of Grant Petersen's expertise at Rivendell, buy something from him and don't feel bad that he's not local. Local isn't just a matter of geography. Like Jan's magazine? Subscribe.

Since you're reading these words on a screen right now, it's safe to say you spend part of your life online. And you probably spend some of your dollars online as well and I really don't think there is anything seriously wrong with that. But the offline world is pretty cool too, it's that place where we ride our bikes. It's worth spending some time and dollars there as well.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah WA USA

Sunday, January 08, 2012

The Richest Man in Issaquah

Here at the Peterson estate we're extremely rich in both love and laughter. Over dinner in our 800 square foot Issaquah chateau the laughter side of our ledgers went up several hundred percent when Christine and the boys read this recent comment posted by my friend Jan in response to my recent blog post titled "Why I Don't Buy Expensive Bicycles".

Jan Heine said...

I think the difference between Kent and I (Jan) is simple: I don't have the time to work on my bikes all the time, and I don't have the money to buy bikes frequently.

In 14 years I have known Kent, I have ridden two bikes, and just got a third. Kent has had at least a dozen, if not more. My bikes may have cost more each (one was used, though), but when counting all expenses on the bikes we ride, I would not be surprised if Kent outspent me by a good margin. My bikes generally require little except chains and tires.

I understand Kent's approach, but for me, a bike must be ready to go, without requiring constant care and feeding.


I'll address Jan's very valid position that it is often the case that buying cheap can be false economy a bit further down in this post but it was Jan's placing the spotlight on the vast Peterson fortune that Christine and the lads found particularly amusing. While I would bet that the total amount Jan has spent on bicycles over the years is lower than most folks would guess, I'd also point out that the "Kent has all those bikes because he's rich and the bikes are unreliable" is a concept that should be explored a bit.

Much like my fellow rich man John McCain can't be bothered with petty details like how many houses he has, I always have to stop and think when someone asks me how many bikes I have. You'd think I'd have one of my accountants keep track of these things, but I don't. Right now I have three bikes in ready to roll condition: my Allant, my Dahon and the Octocog. I currently have a frame someone gave me and quite probably enough parts to build it up but that will probably just get built up and donated somewhere. Us rich guys do stuff like that. We like to help the little people, we call it trickle down economics.

Now Jan points out that I somehow have more time than he does. I find this is common in the world. William Gibson observed that "the future is already here, it's just not evenly distributed" and while I think he's right there, it also seems that time itself is not evenly distributed. I see evidence of this daily, with people rushing around to get all kinds of things done because they "don't have much time." And then you have rich guys like me who have so much time to kill that they can spend it doing silly damn things like puttering with bikes or writing blog posts. It's just crazy and it hardly seems fair.

Because I have so much time to kill, I'll toss in a little story here that has nothing to do with bikes. Years ago the novelist Sinclair Lewis was the darling of the literary set. Of course hardly anybody reads Lewis anymore because who has the time, but wait, I'm digressing from my digression...anyhow Lewis would wind up at these parties and often some fan would come up to him. "Oh, Mr. Lewis," the reader would confide, "I've always wanted to be a writer, but I just don't have the time." Lewis would nod sympathetically, "My God, that must be terrible for you," he'd say, "How much time do you get? I'm given 24 hours each day."

Because, like Lewis, I get this rich allotment of 24 hours each day and somehow I've managed to work things around to the point where I get to spend many of those hours doing things I enjoy doing, things that include writing this blog and puttering with bikes, I'm happy to report that, yes, as near as I can tell I'm the richest man in Issaquah. Thanks for calling me out on that Jan.

Jan rightly values bikes that don't require constant care and feeding and we all have horror stories of this or that part breaking or that false economy gone wrong. Stuff does happen. In several decades of riding bodged together bikes, I can think of one time I was late to work. I blew a Suntour freewheel apart and wound up walking to the nearest Park & Ride. On LEL, I cracked part of my Bike Friday (and still finished the ride), I blew a rim out on my 2005 Great Divide Ride & got the wheel replaced in Montana (and still finished the ride) and in 2010 I destroyed a freehub in the Great Divide Basin, bringing my 2010 Tour Divide to a halt.

But I can also come up with a long list of problems folks have encountered with various bits of very well-regarded gear. On the 2006 VanIsle 1200K, Ken Bonner expressed doubts about the 50 year-old Sturmey-Archer hub on my Kogswell surviving the ride but it did fine while 2 other riders had their lovely Campagnolo freehubs fail. Stuff happens.

But I have many, many, "rode this for a lot of miles with no issues" stories. Take my $400 dollar Dahon for example. When I first wrote about it in 2007 several commenters wondered how it would hold up over time. In the years I've had it I've ridden it thousands of miles. It's been to Seattle, Portland, over the mountains, on vacation and all over Issaquah. In the time I've owned the bike, I've replaced the saddle & the pedals to ones I prefered (not because the stock ones wore out) and I have replaced tires, brakepads & the chain. And I also bought some lights for the bike and Christine bought me a travel bag for it. Not exactly a money pit.

The bike I used on my 2007 tour of Washington State is a fairly typical example of the vast wealth I expend on bike hardware. I bought the bike for $20 and then because money is no object to a guy like me, I went wild accessorizing it. That bike turned out strong and strange and when I sold it later (not because anything was wrong with it, but because I was no longer using it) I somehow managed to get more money out of it than I put into it. That's how us rich guys work, we don't get rich by writing a lot of checks.

That's not to say I don't buy stuff. I'm a good American and somebody has to stimulate this economy. And my wife, she's been known to spend a bit of money as well. Why heck she saved a bit out of her paychecks over time and bought herself an Allant. And then, because peer pressure is a wonderful thing, I got one too! They fit well with our exciting, extravagant lifestyle which includes scenic getaways and cruises to exotic places. The maintenance to date has involved putting air in the tires and a bit of adjusting the cable tension on the brakes and derailleurs. And a surprisingly small amount of lube on the chains. (Quick update on Chain-L, Christine has been commuting daily on her Allant ever since she got it. It sits out in the rain when she's at work. Her chain is still squeak and rust free. We haven't had to re-lube it since I put Chain-L on it in September!)

Now I'd like to restate that I am not in any way disputing Jan's claim that a quality bike is a good investment. A bike you get value out of, that you enjoy and use, will be worth a fortune to you. How you spend your time, who you spend it with and if you enjoy what you are doing are the true measures of wealth and value. I know Jan is happy with his choices and I am happy with mine. I suspect Jan is one of the richer men in Seattle when measured by that scale. I know I'm the richest man is Issaquah.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah WA USA

Friday, January 06, 2012

Why I Don't Buy Expensive Bicycles

Over on his blog, my friend Jan Heine has a post where he asks and answers the question: Why Ride an Expensive Bicycle? Jan effectively presents several factors that make a higher end bike well worth their higher price tags and the fact that top builders have long wait lists of folks happy to buy such lovely machines attest to the validity of Jan's assertions. And I have ridden many, many miles with friends who are thrilled with their well-crafted machines or who are saving their pennies for their next dream machine and while that's all well and good, I have to confess that I don't foresee myself riding a custom Boxer any time soon or having Ira Ryan build the perfect bike for me. This has nothing to do with the skills of the builders (which are excellent) or the size of my bank account (which is less than excellent) but rather it has something to do with the way my brain works.

Folks who really know me will not be surprised by this. Years ago Jan and I were riding together and he said to me "I'm writing an article on the what makes an optimal randonneuring bicycle and I'm wondering if you'd like to write a contrasting side-bar?" Some might take umbrage at such a question, but I knew instantly what Jan was getting at and I wound up writing a short piece called "More Enemies Than Time" in which I noted that someone like Drew Buck might choose to ride PBP on a vintage Dursley Pedersen not because it is optimal, but because it is interesting. By the way, Jan has a way of speaking that rubs some people the wrong way but that I find delightful since retelling the conversations makes for great anecdotes. For example, once on a brevet Jan and I are riding up Snoqualmie Pass. He looks over at my bike and says, "Oh, I see you are riding those tires," (I was riding Specialized Armadillos at the time), "I rode those once," Jan continues, "and found them unacceptably slow. I'm sure they're fine for you, however." I'm pretty sure that could be taken as an insult, but my hide is about as tough as the tread of a Specialized Armadillo.

Years ago my dad had a great old truck, a 60s era Chevy that he'd use to go on hunting & fishing trips and to haul loads of logs from the back woods. It was beat-up and quirky & most of the time it got us where we needed to go and back again. But when the electrical system finally succumbed to something fatal, he got a replacement truck that to my mind was a little too new and a bit too nice and we stayed away from the really narrow roads where the branches would scrape along the doors and I guess things like that make an impression on a kid.

And so when Jan talks about the aesthetics of a bike and how a lovely bicycle is a joy to behold and will make me want to ride more, I know he's wrong for me. My first thought is about locking the bike up at a rack at the university and how my locking strategy of "lock next to a nicer looking bike" (aka "I'm not out-running the bear, I'm out-running you!") won't work any more. And when Grant Petersen waxes poetic about lugs and how they are so much prettier than a welded joint, I realize that I care about fine lug work just about as much as Stevie Wonder cares about high-definition television.

Jan's performance and durability arguments certainly have validity but like the aesthetic argument, they fall on a spectrum and I stop caring once I pass the point my brain identifies as "good enough." I'm sure that Jan and others have more refined sensibilities but my bike doesn't need a steel frame to be "real." I don't need a carbon fork or a 14-speed hub. I just need a bike I enjoy riding and it turns out I'm not a very fussy guy.

This is not sour grapes on my part, over the years I've given away many "good" bikes and turned down several custom "I'll build you what you want" offers. I like bicycles. I like building them up and I learn something from every bike I ride. I'll change stuff around because I like changing stuff around.

Of course "expensive" is a relative term. To my non-biking friends the idea of spending $500 on a Trek or a $400 on a Dahon is excessive while other friends "get by" with Ultegra components on their titanium "rain-bikes." For me, every bike I've had has been a bargain in terms of the time I've spent in the acquisition and enjoyment of the machine. And if a custom bike by a skilled builder will give you more pleasure than what you're riding, then that sure seems like something worth pursuing. And if that bike you picked up at the Trek shop down the street or the used bike you got at a flea market gets you down the street with a smile on your face, that's good too.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah WA USA