Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Holiday Shop hours and schemes

I'm heading to the low desert tomorrow, and will have a trip report after the new year, if I survive.

Mark and/or Kevin will be here, though, and you really should come and keep them company. Don't forget, we're still having a wonderful sale, which is a great deal if you were planning on buying stuff anyway (especially good deals on accessories for new bikes). Because of our festive spirit, we're going to be open special festive hours through the end of 2011. Here they are:

This week: Wednesday, Dec 21: CLOSED Thursday, Dec 22: Open 3-6 PM Friday, Dec 23: Open 3-6 PM

Closed Saturday, Christmas Eve.

Next week: Tuesday, Dec 27 thru Friday, Dec 30: open 3-6 PM

Closed New Year's Eve.

Holiday Rides: Also, The Weasel will be leading and/or spearheading the traditional Christmas Day and New Years Day rides from the shop, both at 10 AM. The duration and distance and destination are unspecified, but it will indubitably be a hoot.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Come ride with The Weasel, et al

Our friend, Sean (aka The Weasel) has returned from his grandiose adventure to Minneapolis for holiday respite, and will be joining the Saturday ride this week. Aside from the wonderful company, the weather is forecast to be unseasonably non-winterish, so come for a sociable breakfast/coffee ride with us. The ride is 8am until noon, leaving from HCWHQ, 4301 E 54th St.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

End of year sale

Now until the end of 2011: All in-stock and most special order items: 15% off. If you buy a whole bike, you may take the 15% discount OR apply a 20% store credit to accessorize your new machine. On a Surly LHT, this amounts to $255 worth of accessories or upgrades.

Don't need bike stuff in the middle of winter? Buy a gift certificate for 15% off face value, for yourself or for someone else. You'll need bike stuff sooner or later.

If you purchase stuff through our web page, get free shipping on orders $150 or more (this deal excludes complete bikes).

Like everybody, we have bills to pay (like everybody), and business has been SLOW the last couple weeks. Come and see us. We miss you!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Revelate Tangle Bags in stock

We have quite a few Revelate Tangle frame bags in stock. These are amazingly well-made bags manufactured in the US for an amazingly reasonable price of $68-70. Yes, that was "amazingly" times two. The design and craftsmanship is a joy to behold, making use of space in a bicycle frame that is often just dead air. I've got lots of experience with the large size Tangle bag (pictured above on a 54 cm LHT). There is ample room inside for a 3L hydration bladder and all the tools, pump, and spare tubes I'm likely to need. There is a small passage at the front of the bag for the hydration tube, which can easily be rigged up to allow nearly effortless on-the-bike drinking. Imagine drinking your beverage without juggling a water bottle or flask out of and back into a bottle cage, which is an activity that's fraught with peril, I tell you! In addition to a space to carry water, you can carry everything else, too. It's at least as convenient as a handlebar bag, but without any undesirable aerodynamic or bike-handling effects. I can imagine these as ideal for commuters who don't require full pannier(s), loaded tourers who want more space than what panniers provide, and it's just about the perfect bag for a brevet bike. I really like these, and you will, too. Feel free to ask if you don't know which size to pick. These make great holiday gifts. Stop by the shop or order online here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Neck Romancer

The all-black Pugsley formerly known as "Black Ops", now known as "Neck Romancer", has arrived here at HCWHQ. Legally speaking, it belongs to our service manager, Mongo, but quite likely it will be here for test rides and such.
I'm sort of amazed that the fat bikes are so popular, when just a few years ago they occupied novelty status somewhere between giraffe unicycles and 650B wheels. Nonetheless, they are cool and fun and useful, and if you think they're just for snow, you're mistaken. They are one of the more versatile bikes that exist, faster and more efficient than you think, and with braze-ons for every conceivable type of rack for year-round touring/camping/commuting applications. Also FUN!!!

Friday, December 9, 2011


Ogrohloff. Just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it? Kevin just picked up an Ogre frame and we moved the parts over from his Rohloff-equipped Civia. Quite a machine. The 700x35 Schwalbe studded tires seem too skinny, though I'm convinced that this is actually the optimal width for winter riding in an urban environment.
For those playing along at home, the Alfine crank on the Ogre is not what you might call a "stock" fit. Also, linguistically, Trohloff has some advantages.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Bicyclists as elite snobs?

Recently a short online article pondered whether bicyclists are "elite snobs". Despite the provocative title, the article itself portrayed cycling in a mostly flattering light, but it did assert that we cyclists should take care to not evangelize too forcefully about anti-car or pro-bike attitudes, lest motorists take us for elite snobs. This, the writer seems to believe, will make cycling and cyclists more tolerable to the general (motorized) public.

Read the comment section of any online newspaper article about cyclists in a motorized world, and it is clear that some people despise cyclists. The haters cite a variety of predictable complaints including anecdotes about cyclists coasting through stop signs, cyclists not paying their "fair share" of taxes toward road maintenance, cyclists wearing too-tight clothes, and, apparently, self-righteous attitudes among cyclists. My interpretation of all this is that the haters would like to believe, and would like everybody else to believe, that they have a solid reasoning for their animosity, that the cyclists deserve to be hated, that we ask for it! It's classic scapegoating, bullying, and blaming the victim, but that's just my opinion. I've been yelled at or honked at by motorists who didn't witness me violating any rules, didn't check my tax return to see if I'm paying my fair share, didn't see me wearing exotic clothing, and never asked me for my self-righteous opinion on any issue. I conclude that they just don't like cyclists, since I haven't given them any other reason to dislike me personally (and, I'd wager, they'd like me just fine in another context).

I should be clear that my observation is that most motorists, the vast majority (some of whom sometimes ride bikes), don't actively hate cyclists, but simply want to get where they're going efficiently and safely. If anything, they're nervous around cyclists, afraid that we'll do something unpredictable, causing them to hit us, which would be traumatic for everyone involved. And I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that some drivers are too busy texting, applying make-up, reading a book, smoking pot, talking on the phone, and/or eating the Burger King Whopper Value Meal to pay much attention to us. They don't hate us, and in fact have no opinion about cyclists whatsoever, until we distract them from whatever they're doing to pass the time while driving! (I kid, because I love!)

Almost everybody wants to be environmentally and socially responsible. Almost everybody wants to get more exercise and be more physically fit. Many people are bored with life and would enjoy a little adventure, if not for the perceived risks. If you actually talk to non-cyclists, many offer apologetic explanations: I would ride a bike to work, but it's not possible under the circumstances. Clearly they see advantages to the bike-lifestyle, whether it's driven by environmental, financial, social, political, exercise, or fashion attitudes, and they feel a little guilty that they're not living up to whatever ideals they hold. We all have a self-justifying nature that seeks to dilute conflicts between personal ideologies and personal behaviors, and I believe a lot of cycling hate (hate, in general, actually) comes from these internal conflicts. Why, for example, is it not uncommon, in bad weather, for a motorist (stereotype: manly-man in a big truck or SUV) to slow down, roll down the window (letting in rain, snow, cold, etc) to verbally abuse a cyclist for being "stupid" to ride in bad weather? Is this a public-service they're providing? Many motor vehicles are marketed with notions of machismo, but a person riding a bike in bad weather is doing something that requires a modicum of actual toughness and courage. A guy whose tough-guy self-image is wrapped up in a Chevy commercial featuring greasy muscle-men and cowboys throwing logs and concrete around could be forgiven for feeling threatened by a 120-lb woman riding her bike in a blizzard. She's obviously not only stupid, but a smug elitist snob for rubbing his nose in his own feelings of inadequacy like that!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Surly Ogre

You could get into all sorts of interesting situations with one of these.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Wheelbuilding class reminder

Just a quick reminder that the wheelbuilding class will be held this Saturday, December 3, 8-Noon. The cost is $60 for the class plus the cost of whatever wheel components you need. I still have room for 1 or maybe 2 students, but I'll need to know by Wednesday, November 30.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Einstein's office

On the day Albert Einstein died in 1955, LIFE Magazine photographer Ralph Morse visited the famed genius's office. This is what Morse found, Einstein's office, as he left it:
As any visitor to HC can attest, I, like Einstein, am a messy-desk person. Clean-desk people mistakenly interpret this as unmitigated chaos, open to either more chaos or a good tidying up. Either of those usually results in a temporary but significant drop in productivity. There is order here, but I'm betting only Einstein himself fully understood it.

We're taking a Thanksgiving break, and are closed Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday this week. We'll see you on Saturday, usual hours. Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Thanksgiving week hours, and a sale

We will be closed for the week of Thanksgiving on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Open normal hours on Tuesday and Saturday. Starting now til next Saturday, November 26, everything in the store is 15-20% off, including bikes, accessories, parts, gift certificates, labor, everything. Special order items (prepaid at time of order) will be 10% off. It's been pretty slow here the last few weeks, and we need you to come in and buy something. You'll get a good deal, so it's a win-win. Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Alfine 1x1 Fatty

When Brian walked in a couple weeks ago and asked us to help convert his 1x1 to a geared fat bike, we thought he was crazy. Naturally, we liked him immediately. He already had the Large Marge rims and Nokian Gazzaloddi 26x3.0 tire. All we did was lace the rear rim to the Alfine hub, install a Pugsley fork, and put a Surly Nate tire on the front. It's ridiculously sensible.
You'd be foolish not to do this.

Winter is near, gitcher studded tires

We've been spoiled hereabouts by a dry, mild Fall. Riding in the bluffs this morning I observed ice formations hanging out of the rocks where groundwater seeps out of the cracks.
Among my other observations, there was a skin of ice also on still sections of Minnehaha Creek. I was hoping that we'd get through Winter without ice and snow, but I can't ignore this evidence. Luckily, riding in Winter is doable and fun, if you can keep your hands and feet and face warm, AND if you don't crash on the ice. For traction on ice, we like studded tires, and our favorite has become the Schwalbe Marathon Winter.

We just happen to have some of these in stock. We have a few pairs in 700x35C and a few pairs in 26x1.75. Some people will tell you that you don't NEED studded tires in the winter. I took that advice a few winters ago, and made it safely through most of the winter. Just when I was feeling smug, I crashed HARD on some unseen ice, and my neck hurt until July. Luckily I didn't break my arm or skull, but I did learn that studded tires added an element of safety and fun to my winter cycling. I've been riding through the winter since 2004, and in some ways it's better than riding in the Summer (less riff-raff out there)!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

So you have stuff to carry...

I'm experimenting with some bags on my Troll. Here it is with everything.
I doubt I'd be tempted to overpack... I'm planning a trip where carrying several days' worth of water will be necessary. The frame pack seems like an ideal way to carry water reservoirs. This Surly/Revelate bag is nominally designed for the Pugsley and Moonlander frames, but they seem to fit the Troll, too.
These bags are $150. Not sure if we're going to stock them or special-order only, but this one is in demo mode here at HC. One trip to the post office so far, and I like it. If the full frame bag is excessive, we are stocking the Tangle Bags in small, medium, and large sizes. We'll get these onto our web catalog one of these days, but for now you can buy them in-store or over the phone. We have some experience with these, and can help you figure out what size is best for you. Hint: The large Tangle is a nice addition to Surly LHTs with 26" wheels, as the smaller wheel size makes for a more open frame design. $68-70 depending on size. Another bag we're carrying now is the Revelate Gas Tank.
A great way to carry food to eat while riding, a camera, phone, and other items you may want to access quickly without having to get off the bike to dig through a larger bag. $55

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Wheelbuilding class, Dec 3

I just finished the wheelbuilding class this morning, and already had two people ask me to do another one. I'm delighted that this has been so popular this year! Let's have another class on December 3. Building and riding your own wheels can be a satisfying experience on its own, provides a valuable home-mechanic skill (truing), and usually results in excellent quality wheels.


I will hold the class at the shop Saturday, December 3, 8am-Noon. The registration fee is $60, which is required to reserve your spot on a first-come, first served basis. We will provide step-by-step instruction and a workspace equipped with a truing stand and spoke wrench for you to use during the class. Most people are able to build one wheel during the class, but others try to build a pair of wheels (I can help if you run out of time). You can supply your own rim(s), hub(s), and/or spokes, or you can get those items from HC for a discounted price with class registration. If you don't know which wheel components suit your needs, tastes, and budget, we will help with that, too. Space is limited, so call 612-727-2565 or stop in to register and discuss options for your new wheels.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

some nice used bikes

Cleaning house a little at HC, and we have quite a few used bikes to sell. We can sell these however you want to buy them, but cash deals will get special treatment. First off is my 2011 Redline D660 29er with 19" frame.
This was around $1900 new, and this one is in clean, excellent condition for $1200.

Next is my 1983/84 Specialized Stumpjumper fixed-gear with Phil Wood KISS-OFF hubs.
I don't know how Specialized sized these, but I'm guessing this was a "Large", with 21" seat-tube (c-t) and 22" top-tube. Little about this is stock. Anyway, this makes a great cruiser, touring bike, trail bike, or winter bike - I've used it for all these purposes. $800

How about a pristine Cannondale T2000 touring machine?
Again, not sure of Cannondale's sizing scheme, but this seems to be in the vicinity of a 57-58 cm effective seat tube with 56 cm top-tube. The parts on this are really nice, and the bike is like new. Your choice of Brooks saddle: black B67 or green Team Professional. $1200.

Winter bomber Surly 1x1:
20" frame, Surly hubs, White Industries freewheel. Maybe the perfect winter bike. $600

A vintage road bike for a winter project?
This 58 cm 1985 Raleigh Competition is fast and ready to ride, but with a little elbow grease (and maybe new rubber), this would be an eye-catching machine. And FAST! $450

Fancy old 3-speed?
1969 Raleigh Superbe 22.5" c-c, very clean, very original, except for the tires. The original Brooks B72 saddle is in excellent rideable condition. You don't see many 3-speeds this nice. Includes pump. $350.

A city-utility bike for a short-ish person.
Schwinn Traveler mixte with 19" seat-tube. $150

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Moon Landing

We at HC have exerted our considerable bike industry clout to maybe possibly get a loaner Moonlander to examine and test-ride Saturday, November 12, Noon-4pm.
Wait, that's not it, but here's a sneak peek, culled from one of our favorite porn sites:
If you understand and like the Pugsley and other "fat bikes", I predict the Moonlander will be right up your alley, and you should come in and try it. If you just don't get it, then please don't ask me to explain - just come in and try it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wheelbuilding class, November 12

The wheelbuilding class has been surprisingly popular this Fall. The two October classes filled - the second one wasn't even advertised! Let's have another one on November 12. Building and riding your own wheels can be a satisfying experience on its own, provides a valuable home-mechanic skill (truing), and usually results in excellent quality wheels.


I will hold the class at the shop Saturday, November 12, 8am-Noon. The registration fee is $60, which is required to reserve your spot on a first-come, first served basis. We will provide step-by-step instruction and a workspace equipped with a truing stand and spoke wrench for you to use during the class. Most people are able to build one wheel during the class, but others try to build a pair of wheels (I can help if you run out of time). You can supply your own rim(s), hub(s), and/or spokes, or you can get those items from HC for a discounted price with class registration. If you don't know which wheel components suit your needs, tastes, and budget, we will help with that, too. Space is limited, so call 612-727-2565 or stop in to register and discuss options for your new wheels.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bon Voyage to The Weasel!

Our customer-turned-friend-turned-hero, Sean - aka "The Weasel" - rolled out today.

Sean decided that spending his days in a cubicle re-engineering low-bid spaghetti software codes was not how he wanted to use the prime years of his life. With no small amount of deliberation, he finally made the decision to follow his dream of embarking on an open-ended bike tour. He had an "ideal" plan in place, which would have had him touring with financial independence in the company of some attractive and/or agreeable female, but decided that waiting for all the planets to align was simply too risky. He finally said, and I'm paraphrasing from my imagination here, "fuck it, what's the worst that can happen?" Bike touring and life are fraught with uncertainty, but fortunately, in hindsight, we see that it's the things we didn't control that were some of our best times. Anyway, a couple weeks ago, Sean quit a well-paying job, and disposed of most of his worldly possessions that didn't fit on his Long Haul Trucker. This afternoon, after brunching with those of us lucky enough to be his friends, he pedaled off in a southerly direction, with the goal of outrunning Minnesota winter. He's aiming for New Orleans by following the Mississippi River at a leisurely pace, but unlike a guy on a limited vacation, he can change plans on a whim, and has no itinerary but his own.

I'm going to miss my friend. We did many short and long rides together, spent many evenings at Hard Times Cafe drinking mud and yukking it up, and I always hoped he'd swing by the shop on his way home from work. At the same time, I am exceedingly happy to see him tear up the life-script and follow a more unorthodox path. Starting today, The Weasel is living the freedom that most of us would prefer, but for the courage.

Keep up with him through his blog. He's a good man, and thorough.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


I recently fine-tuned my Surly Troll with a different stem, set-back seatpost, and new bar tape, in tentative preparation for a late-season adventure in a place warmer than here. The Troll went on a little urban adventure this morning. What a fantastic machine!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Minnecycle Ride, Friday Night!

It's time again for Minnecycle, an exhibition featuring Minnesota's finest bicycle frame-builders. We're riding from HC, Friday night at 6 PM. We'll check out the show for a bit, then head to a nearby food and drink establishment for a unique dining experience.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Oregon coast tour

Our bikes were taken to Oregon by the good people at Amtrak. The Weasel and I flew to Portland, where we retrieved our bikes at the Amtrak station just in time to load them on a bus for the coast. Our bikes and gear were in cardboard boxes, but several others packed their bikes into the cargo compartments of the bus without a box - a convenient (and cheap) way to escape to the coast if you live in Portland.  Anyway, we arrived in Astoria, exhausted from a long day of air, foot, and bus travel. We assembled the bikes and loaded the bags onto them, and were on our way in search of an accommodation for the night. We stayed in a motel not far from where the bus dropped us off in the misty darkness.

The next morning, we had breakfast at a local cafe before heading up the long and steep hill to the Astoria Column. Bicycling up the hill and climbing the 164 steps to the top of the column was a good way to start the tour. Despite my acrophobia, I managed to lose myself in the making of photographs and just admire the 360-degree panoramic view.


See that ship down there? I learned later that it is a Japanese boat loading up with local tuna. It was reported to us by a local character that the earthquake in Japan devastated the tuna industry in the country. Another notable observation - from the column I could hear the barking noise of seals or sea lions. During the trip, we weren't fortunate to see any of these animals, but we heard them in Astoria.

After the visit to the column, we headed down the coast. Traffic was heavy and the shoulder was narrow. I was hoping it would let up once were were away from Astoria and the junction of various highways in that area. We took a break at Cannon Beach for lunch at a Mexican joint and a walk on the beach near Haystack Rock.

Back on the road, we decided that our destination for the night would be Nehalem Bay State Park. We stopped in Manzanita, a quaint town near the state park, to stock up on food to last the next 24 hours. It was at this point that we learned about the wonders of the Oregon State Park hiker/biker sites. The sites are low-cost, semi-primitive camping areas specifically for hikers and cyclists. The rest of the campground is full of RVs and utility hook-ups, but the hiker/biker sites provide a somewhat closer-to-nature experience. Nehalem was gorgeous. After setting up my tent, I took off my shoes, grabbed a camera and tripod, and headed down the hill to wet my feet in the surf and take pictures.


It should be noted that my "serious" camera on this trip was a Nikon FM, a fully manual 35 mm SLR. Yes, film. Believe it or not, pickings are getting slim for film in convenience stores. Even two camera shops in downtown Portland failed to do better than Walgreen's or Target in terms of color film selection, especially for film slower than ISO 400. It seems like online is probably the way to go for buying film nowadays, unless you happen to live near a really good camera shop that still stocks the stuff. Anyway, none of the 35 mm photos have been developed yet, so what you see in this post is all from my iPhone camera.

We had encountered some other cyclists on the road earlier in the day. Donny and Sarah had recently embarked on their first ever bicycle tour. They weren't more than casual cyclists when they bought new Surly Long Haul Truckers and set off from Alaska on a trip to the bottom of South America. Sarah said she cried a lot the first couple weeks, but by the time they hit Oregon, they were seasoned travelers, having the time of their lives. When we met them, they assumed we must be with some other cyclists from Minneapolis they'd just met minutes before meeting us. Later we met these other Minneapolis cyclists, Brent and Katie down the road a few miles. At Nehalem, we met Rose who was heading home to San Francisco after a summer working in Seattle, Peter and Franzisca (sp?) from Switzerland, and Wayne, from Canada. It turns out that there are certain popular campgrounds along the coast, and if you ride at a normal pace (45-60 miles per day), you will tend to camp with the same people every night. Rose, who is smart and fun, made a friendly gesture of starting a fire at Nehalem and inviting the rest of us to enjoy it.


By the end of the night, we were all friends.

After a good night's sleep, we commenced the first of several excellent campground breakfasts, most of which included eggs, bacon, and fried potatoes with melted cheese, all cooked on my recently acquired Trangia stove.

I brought a French press for making real coffee. Yes, we eat well on the road.

I had a strange experience that morning. I thought back just 24 hours to my previous breakfast in Astoria, and the "epic" climb to the Astoria Column...and it seemed like it was weeks ago. Being along the coast had a funny effect on perceived time. Everything seemed very much "in the moment".  



The next day, we set out for Cape Lookout via the Three Capes scenic loop. The biggest town in the vicinity is Tillamook, which is famous for cheese. I'd been buying Tillamook cheese at a local grocery store for years, but hadn't realized it was from this small town in coastal Oregon. In Tillamook, we again saw some of our friends from the previous day, and they advised us that they'd heard a rumor that the Three Capes road was closed. After destroying a pizza, The Weasel and I headed toward Cape Meares, which was the first of the three capes on the loop. We noticed orange construction detour signs, but they directed us down the roads we'd already planned to use, so it wasn't actually a detour for us. The hill climb near Cape Meares was a challenge, much larger than any hill we have in Minnesota. After that climb and a few more stout inclines, we came to a sign that said "road closed 1000 feet". We weren't eager to turn back to repeat those miles and those hills, so we rode around the road closure signs. Luckily, the road was still open for bikes.


It was a nice view.


Cape Lookout campground was even more delightful than Nehalem Bay.



Immediately out of Cape Lookout the next morning, we gained 900 feet in 4 miles. Not in Kansas anymore.


From the small town of Neskowin, we were advised by a friend and by an Adventure Cycling Association map to take a detour from the main highway. I was reluctant to follow this advice because were were running short on time for the distance we wanted to cover, and for a change we had good pavement and a comfortably wide shoulder. The Weasel and I deliberated on this point for a few minutes. Soon our old friend Rose caught up to us. When we reached the turn-off for the detour, Rose thought it looked pretty good, so we took it. This was easily my favorite ten miles of the trip. The road twisted uphill through giant moss-covered spruces. We stopped to pick berries. I got excited when I discovered thimbleberries, which I've only seen in my ancestral homeland of the U.P. There was a moss-covered bridge.



We were advised to press forward 70ish miles from Cape Lookout to Beverly Beach, but with our leisurely attitude and pace, we made it only 50 miles to Lincoln City and Devil's Lake State Park. Not a great campground, but the food was good.


Rose was staying with friends in Lincoln City, but out other old friends, Brent and Katie from Minneapolis pulled in just before dark. I was happy to see them again, and we all stayed up late talking around the fire. The next morning, B and K would continue down the coast. The Weasel and I, on the other hand, were contemplating alternatives to another day of high traffic on highway 101. We decided to head inland, back to Portland. The coast was wonderful in many ways, but the nation's best cycling city beckoned, and I was eager to spend some time with friends who live there (sorry I couldn't make time for everyone I know who lives there). An easy day-and-a-half of not-terribly-exciting riding took us to Portland by way of McMinnville.

At a Motel in McMinnville, we discovered the Lingerie Football League on TV. I suspected the motel room next to ours was being used to film a porno movie. We met some nice people at a local bike shop.

Once in Portland, we rode around town a fair bit, including a jaunt to the top of lovely Mt Tabor. For the most part, our time in Portland was spent socializing, eating, and admiring the local bike culture. It seemed sort of low-key after the spectacular scenery and stressful traffic on the coast, but it was exactly what I needed.

Would you believe I'm already contemplating the next adventure?


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Shop hours for the week of 9/13 to 9/17

Kevin is leading an intrepid band of excursionists in the Grand Canyon, and I am leaving with The Weasel on Sept 12 for a week of independent testing of bicycle, camping, and photographic equipment along the Oregon coast. Mark is going to be keeping the shop open normal hours Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, but not on Wednesday and Saturday, when the shop will be closed. To summarize:


beach trail

Friday, September 9, 2011

Are you really, really tall?

Tall people, and I mean REALLY tall people, have trouble finding bikes that are big enough. There are numerous reasons for this, and things are starting to improve, but still. We just came across this touring bike built by Terry Osell. The seat tube is 75 cm, which makes it the tallest bike I've ever seen or heard about.
Big Osell Touring bike

It could use some cleaning and lubing, and maybe some modern component upgrades, but if you need a bike this tall, there are few options. This one, as is, for $1000 or reasonable offer.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Saturday Night Ride

Mark Stonich is leading one of his famous night rides, sure to be a legend in the future.
Sept 10, 2011
Leave the shop @ 7:30 PM
Distance will be somewhere between 20 & 30 miles as I haven't finalized the route.
Please have reliable lights and wear light colored clothing.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wheelbuilding class - October 8, but register now!

NOTE: The OCT 8 Class is FULL!! Please let me know if you want to be on a waiting list for this class or another class later in October.

The wheelbuilding class has been requested by a handful of customers, so let's have one on October 8. Building and riding your own wheels can be a satisfying experience on its own, provides a valuable home-mechanic skill (truing), and usually results in excellent quality wheels.


I will hold the class Saturday, October 8, 8am-Noon. The registration fee is $60, which is required to reserve your spot. We will provide a workspace equipped with a truing stand and spoke wrench for you to use during the class. Most people are able to build one wheel during the class, but others try to build a pair of wheels. You can supply your own rim(s), hub(s), and/or spokes, or you can get those items from HC for a discounted price with class registration. If you don't know which wheel components suit your needs, tastes, and budget, we will help with that, too. Space is limited, so call 612-727-2565 or stop in to register and discuss options for your new wheels.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Bicycle Consultation Services Offered Here!

Just kidding, I think.

We at HC only make money when customers spend money at the shop. Actually, it's not that simple. As a brick-and-mortar shop, we have to pay rent for our physical presence and have tools and staff and inventory, not to mention insurance, on-hand to take care of problems, answer questions, give good advice, etc, on demand, whenever a customer or potential customer walks through the door. These things cost money even when we're not working on a paid project. So maybe it's more accurate to say that we only make money when we've already paid our expenses and customers spend more money at the shop. Don't take this as a complaining: I love my job, and I certainly am not in it for the money (I take home a low-ish income, but have a modest lifestyle, so it seems to work). Based on my talks with friends, I feel lucky to have a job that I love, while so many are seemingly tormented by their daily grind.

There's a famous bicycle frame-builder, who is also reputed to be a curmudgeon, named Bruce Gordon. You might be able to imagine the work-life of an upper-echelon frame-builder like Bruce. A customer calls out of the blue to discuss a new frame order. The builder drops whatever he's working on to talk to the customer, perhaps for hours, patiently answering all the good questions and the stupid questions and assuaging serious and petty concerns. If the builder is lucky, the customer has credit card in-hand and makes a deposit on the spot. Done! The frame will be be built in 16 months! Two days later, the customer calls again to discuss the feasibility of using some vintage water-bottle cage braze-on he discovered on some photo on the internet. With a 16 month wait, the frame-builder has a lot of projects to work on, and there is ample time for the customer to ruminate on trivialities, and change his mind 95 times even about the basic genre of the bike! NOW is not the time to spend an hour on the phone talking about ANY aspect of the project that isn't due for more than a year. I used Bruce Gordon as an example in this case because of a term attributed to him, which succinctly sums up these customers and these conversations: time toilets.

I'm sure every profession has its own version of the time toilet: the little things that take a lot of time, but serve no productive purpose. My time toilets usually involve what I would consider a "consultation", where I provide a great deal of technical information and real-world expertise that helps the customer make an informed decision about, say, an expensive potential bicycle purchase, but the customer ultimately isn't serious, or buys elsewhere. I offer this consultation free of charge, in the belief that the customer is acting with the good faith intention of actually buying a bicycle. I remember one guy called me many times a few years ago, in regard to some fairly expensive bike I was selling. He was obviously a neurotic wreck about every detail of the purchase, and I spent many hours tying up the line talking to the guy, helping him dial in all the details and sooth his demons. Weeks later, he called me to victoriously announce that he'd purchased the same bike elsewhere for slightly less than my asking price, but he thanked me profusely for all the good info I gave him and pledged to buy some fenders from me in the future. That conversation ended abruptly, and he never did order the fenders. That was a somewhat extreme case, but illustrative in the sense that I've started to observe that the amount of time spent in consultation is inversely proportional to the likelihood that the person will actually buy the bicycle. I'm even starting to suspect that the long consultations are actually more a therapy session than a process of making a knowledgeable purchase of a bicycle.

I recently had the good fortune to work with an attorney on a matter unrelated to HC business. His initial 30 minute consultation was free, but after that his hefty hourly rate is billed in 1/10 hour increments. Even a simple 2-line email from him, containing little or no useful info, costs me 1/10 of an hour ($28.50). I regret all the more substantive, useful emails I've sent for free! Anyway, this gave me the bright idea to apply a similar approach to bicycle consultations. If I suspect that the discussion is becoming a time-toilet, I'm going to ask for a retainer or a credit card to keep on file before we go forward. I'll only charge $100/hr, and up to a point, it can be credited toward an actual purchase. Don't worry, if you're not a time-toilet, I won't ask. But if I ask, then you know...

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Winter hours start next week

Jeez, it's nice outside, and I'm sitting here at the shop watching people ride by on their bicycles. Lucky for me I have good lights and enjoy riding at night, so that's no problem, but it's time to face the fact that staying open until 7:30 PM not only cuts into my cycling life, but it's pretty quiet business-wise. Also, today I ordered studded tires...

Time to go to our Winter Schedule (effective Aug 19):

Tuesday-Friday 1-6 PM.
Saturday 12-4 PM.

Now, who wants to hit the trails after work?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Bicycle touring SW Wisconsin

Day 1, Minneapolis to St Paul to La Crosse to Sparta:
A week ago last Sunday, five hardy excursionists (your humble narrator included) departed from St Paul via Amtrak with uncertainty, excitement, and even some fears, about the coming week on the road. As is quite often the case, Amtrak was running a bit behind schedule. Expecting this, the tour organizer planned for a short mileage day for the afternoon of the train's arrival. The group made the best of the delay at a cafe near the station.
Bonnie's Cafe is a gem of a breakfast venue, if you're into a 1960s-era diner style atmosphere and food of substance. The construction on University Ave has not been easy on Bonnie's. I suggest that everybody eat there as often as possible to help this place survive the temporary inconvenience of construction. Next HC Saturday ride is going there, and I might just order two breakfasts. Here's a photo I took of the interior of Bonnie's awhile back:

After breakfast, we returned to Amtrak to box up our bikes for the trip. The Amtrak boxes are rather large, and putting the bikes in them is a simple process requiring only a small degree of dis-assembly. Then the boxes get loaded onto Civil-War-era oxcarts, and onto the train:

A few hours later, we were ready to roll in La Crosse.
I had my bike loaded with Banjo Brothers Market Panniers on back and Waterproof Panniers on front, in addition to a top-tube bag for my camera and a Minnehaha large handlebar bag. This turned out the be far more capacity than I really needed, but the surplus capacity certainly came in handy when our marauding gang descended on small town grocers...

After a quick jaunt through La Crosse to stock up at People's Food Co-op, we headed into the boonies by way of the La Crosse River State Trail, one of several enviable state bicycle trails in the area. This trail took us to Sparta, Wisconsin, where we detoured off the trail a few miles for a pleasant surprise called the Leon Valley Campground. To be honest, I wasn't expecting much from this campground, but it was quiet, clean, beautiful, and had modern, well-maintained facilities.

Day 2, Sparta to Wildcat Mountain:
From here we commenced riding on the famed Elroy-Sparta State Trail. This trail was lovely, but the most memorable thing about it is the first tunnel we encountered. Rumor has it, the tunnel is a mile long, which seemed about right. All I can say for sure was that it is DARK!
Signs advised "BIKES MUST BE WALKED THRU TUNNEL", but we all rode, which was dangerous and exhilarating. Powerful lights are essential. Did I mention it's dark?

We stopped for lunch in a small town called Wilton. After we ate, we encountered, quite by coincidence, another small group on tour, which included HC-customers/personal-friends from Minneapolis and from southern California. We chatted for awhile about our tour plans, the pitfalls and rewards of organizing bicycle tours, etc. At that moment, I planned to continue down the trail to Elroy, then onto another trail, which I explained to my friends in the other group. Five minutes later, after reconvening with my tour group, that plan was thrown out the window (scrapping plans would become a habit) in favor of shaving off a few miles by heading south to Wildcat Mountain State Park. Who woulda thunk that Wildcat Mountain would be uphill? Whatever miles we saved were replaced with arduous climbing, and more climbing, then, right at the end, a total gut-buster of a hill leading up to the park entrance. Nobody died, and we all agreed it was worth the effort.
We learned that state parks in Wisconsin are a great value. Not only were they generally gorgeous, but they were cheap ($14 for non-resident camping split 5 ways...) and had good facilities, helpful staff, etc.

Day 3, Wildcat Mountain to Richland Center:
After leaving Wildcat Mountain, we pushed for a block of bold text on a map, which was called Richland Center, so named because it's the business hub of Richland County, so named, I surmise, because of the Rich Land that makes it good for farming. My hunch is that the Wisconsin River floodplain has good soil because of historical floods. This segment still featured some of the Driftless Area type bluffs and topography, but there was much more agriculture than we'd seen previously in the trip.
A few miles shy of Richland Center, we turned off for a campground that was marked on my map. I noted that there was no signage on the main road that would indicate that the campground is here, and I was concerned that perhaps my map was out-of-date. We almost passed the campground because there wasn't an obvious sign there either. When we pulled in, we were fairly confused until a rotund guy in a fluorescent yellow shirt marked STAFF waved us over. He told us we could camp and pointed out some vacant sites, but he wasn't 100% sure on the price, and in any case, he wasn't prepared to take our money or handle any formalities. We set up our tents apprehensively not knowing if we had any legitimate right to be there, but eventually the STAFF guy's wife showed up and handled the transaction and attended to our requests with the utmost efficiency and charm. It turned out to be a pretty nice place, but I'll be damned if I can recall the name... Again, we'd discovered a campground that was better than we'd expected.

Day 4, Richland Center to Wyalusing:
Richland Center was a delight. It was a nice little town that wasn't derelict and decrepit like so many of the small towns we passed. I suspect that the UW-Richland Center campus was the likely reason behind the apparent modest prosperity. Anyway, the town had a nice little natural foods co-op, right up our alley.

From Richland Center, we continued south and crossed the Wisconsin River into Muscoda (pronounced Mus-co-day). After being treated rudely at one restaurant, the group relocated to another place around the corner, which turned out to be excellent. They had some fun menu items, like a Burning Bunghole Burger, for example. The post-burger pie was some of the best I've had.

From Muscoda we followed the Wisconsin River downstream through Boscobel and some other very small towns, on a nice flat road.

The group had determined earlier in the day to make the long push to Wyalusing State Park. The county roads leading to the park are spectacular, and difficult. This was the top of Russell Hill, which was the longest, steepest, toughest climb I could remember:
The descent was exhilarating. A few minutes later, however, we found an even longer climb, which would put us on top of the plateau where Wyalusing is situated. After some screwing around and crowd-avoidance, we settled on a secluded campsite, which was pleasant.

Day 5, Wyalusing to Victory (Blackhawk Park):
After nearly 70 challenging miles the previous day, we opted to spend the next morning exploring Wyalusing a bit before getting back on the road. The views from the park were incredible.

I took this opportunity to do a yoga pose with an impressive backdrop.

Now we were left with nearly three days to pedal less than 80 miles. We dawdled in Prairie du Chien, and visited our friend Marty at The Prairie Peddler. Then we had lunch and screwed around a little bit. Then we wasted some time. Finally back on the road, we headed up the Mississippi River toward a campground called Blackhawk Park. It turned out to be slightly further than expected, and we made camp after dark. Blackhawk Park is a large campground operated by the Army Corps of Engineers. All night the background noise was dominated either by trains, river barges, or both - not bad noises, but ever-present.

Day 6, Victory to La Crosse (Goose Island):
We left Blackhawk Park, now only 25 or so miles to La Crosse, but with most of two days to get there. Again, we adopted a slow pace, with plenty of screwing around. We backtracked a few miles for pizza and contemplated a side-trip to Iowa. We ultimately scrapped the Iowa idea, but if I did it again, I think we would have approached La Crosse from the Iowa/Minnesota side of the river to avoid the harrowing stretches with narrow shoulders and fast traffic. Not far upstream, we arrived at Goose Island County Park. This park did not endear itself to us. The camping fee structure was $20 per sleeping unit, regardless of whether the "sleeping unit" was a 10-person RV or a 1-person tent. As we had four tents, this was going to be a very expensive campsite. The price was negotiated down to less than half of that princely sum, but we would have to occupy the "overflow area". There was a lot of trash around the sites, and in general the facilities were not up to par with what we'd experienced elsewhere. It was a pretty area, though.
This final campground was kind of a let-down after the first-class establishments we'd experienced earlier, but it certainly wasn't the worst I'd seen. Nonetheless, I probably won't stay there again.

Day 7, La Crosse to La Crosse to St Paul to Minneapolis:
We had just a few miles to ride from our campsite to the actual city of La Crosse. The short jaunt was made challenging, however, by a cold and driving rain and the complete lack of bicycle-friendly infrastructure entering the city from the south side. We all arrived in one piece to a restaurant called the Hungry Peddler, which had great food, better service, and an overhang area where we could park the bikes out of the rain. From there, we were able to get on side streets, and away from the retail strip-mall Hell we'd ridden through on our initial approach of the city.

With a whole day to kill, we stopped first at a coffee shop, where we warmed up, caffeinated, and charged our electronic devices. We went to an impressive guitar shop, which is owned by the uncle of one of our group. None of our group are into guitars or play guitar, but we all thought the shop was pretty great. Then a cheeseburger, etc at a neighborhood dive bar. We revisited People's Co-op and a nearby "patisserie" that was going out of business. Finally, enough time had been killed, and we moseyed our way back to the Amtrak station, all ready to go home, but reluctant to leave the rhythm of the road.

All in all, it was a wonderful trip. The weather, the roads, the small towns, the state parks, and especially the friends who accompanied me were exceptional. Southwest Wisconsin is close enough to here to not seem exotic or exciting, but it is truly a world-class place to ride a bicycle. Please, keep that secret between us.