Here’s to Failings and Revenge: Riding the N230 Route in Portugal

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Here’s to Failings and Revenge: Riding the N230 Route in Portugal

Here’s to failings and revenge, wet feet, cold meals, big appetites, and desperate measures, here is to the losers, to giving up, the fear and the panic, here is to the hopes and resets, the rest and restart, the loneliness and misery, the conquering or coming back, here is to the revenge, the salute, the lost goal, the drive and emptiness, the stomach and the guts, the brain, and the balls, here is to the brave heart and lost souls. Here is to the step back and rebound. Here is to the cold beers at the end and the diners that taste better.
Coming home was the hardest part.

Vintage Bicycles: #29 Cunningham – A 1983 Tribute to Jacquie Phelan’s “Otto” Bike

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Vintage Bicycles: #29 Cunningham – A 1983 Tribute to Jacquie Phelan’s “Otto” Bike

“Gravel bikes are just XC bikes from the 80s/90s with drop bars.” You hear that over and over again, ad infinitum on the internet. While that might be true to some degree, I think this statement does XC bikes from the 80s/90s a disservice. Back when the big companies were slow to pivot towards innovation, smaller builders were the ones tinkering in their shops, fabricating step-up cassettes, designing bikes with boost spacing, 1x drivetrains, quick-release seatpost collars, and more. It took people like Charlie Cunningham and Jacquie Phelan to really push the paradigm until it broke.

Take, for example, this tribute of Jacquie’s 1983 “Otto” Cunningham, which was built in June of 1983 for a customer in Marin…

Nothing but Warmth from Everyone We Met: Cycling in Ethiopia

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Nothing but Warmth from Everyone We Met: Cycling in Ethiopia

When Ethio Cycling Holidays reached out and asked if I had ever considered cycling in Ethiopia?
my answer was “No, but tell me more !”

Richard (one of the founders) showed me a few photos and told me about the rich culture and history of Ethiopia. “Wow!” I replied I’d love to make this happen.

It’s the 4th of March. My wife and I are making our way to London Heathrow Airport (Terminal 2) to begin our journey to Makelle, Ethiopia. The capital city of the Tigray region which is north of Addis Ababa. Before our flight to Makelle, we take an overnight flight to the Ethiopian Airlines hub in the capital city of Addis Ababa.

The Radavist’s Top Ten Beautiful Bicycles of 2019

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The Radavist’s Top Ten Beautiful Bicycles of 2019

Wow! What a year it’s been. In the past twelve months, we’ve shot roughly 300 bikes. From gravel races, to NAHBS, the Philly Bike Expo and our normal travels, we really captured some unique builds and we’ve got a good handle on the bikes the readers of the Radavist enjoy checking out based on some key metrics.

Every year we try to do our best to sort through twelve months of archives to narrow down to this list. The first filter is the comment count, which we start at 50 comments. Then comes page views, with the minimum number being 20,000 views. Finally, we look at the social media chatter; including Instagram comments and how many times was the post shared across various platforms.

What we end up with is a list that is filled with a plethora of interesting, versatile, and quirky bikes. The only editorial decision I myself made was to omit reviews of stock bikes. So no Santa Cruz Stigmata or Cannondale Topstone this round!

Check out the full Top Ten Beautiful Bicycles of 2019 below, in no particular order…

Deserted, Dusted, and Dolomite: A Central Death Valley Bicycle Tour

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Deserted, Dusted, and Dolomite: A Central Death Valley Bicycle Tour

The cold. Oh, the cold. Never before had I experienced 10º temperatures at night and 70º during the day. There I lay, in chrysalis, asleep in my bivy thinking to myself, “this is miserable.” That was two years ago, at the foot of the second tallest sand dunes in North America, nestled between the Last Chance and Amargosa Mountains in Death Valley National Park. Needless to say, it took a while for me to want to tour this unforgiving place again. There’s something transformative about touring in the Mojave Desert. The dryness, the elevation, the sand, the silt, the wind, the washboard roads; insurmountable obstacles really bring out the truest human condition, that Lovecraftian urge to get out and test one’s limits. Push it a little bit further and come out the other side. Had I known that this love for the deserted, the dusted, and that grandiose dolomite was merely biding its time as I shivered uncontrollably in my bivy sack two years ago, I might not have been so absolute in my cynicism. It was time for emergence.

Escape to Santa Catalina Island

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Escape to Santa Catalina Island

It’s not every day you’re presented with an opportunity to step out of the routines of daily life and to reconnect with a couple of old friends in a beautiful, fairly isolated environment; and to get to fully experience that place from the saddle of your bicycle. When a couple of my oldest friends, Josh and Alex, invited me on a bikepacking adventure – and asked me to assist with a video they planned to produce about the trip – help with logistics, carry some gear, etc. – I gave an enthusiastic and immediate, “I’m all in.” Josh and Alex had secured a generous grant from Kitsbow to capture our time on camera, in hopes that our experience would inspire and motivate others to get outside, unplug from life a bit, reconnect with old friends, and explore an exciting and accessible environment within a reasonable window of time. What cyclist wouldn’t want to throw their bike in a travel bag, fly down to Los Angeles for a 3 day weekend, and spend the bulk of that time pedaling around on Santa Catalina Island with a duo of old friends?

Super Stoke 2019: Spencer’s Black Mountain Cycles MCD

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Super Stoke 2019: Spencer’s Black Mountain Cycles MCD

There were a lot of practical and well thought out bikes at this year’s Super Stoke Weekend and if time had allowed – short days and long ride agendas always make it hard – I would have shot them all. My methodology was to try to capture some of the themes present in the stable of steeds. With Gideon’s bike, I was able to shoot a 333 Fab. One of four present at the ride. With Spencer’s bike, it was about a similar approach to frame design but from an overseas production perspective. Black Mountain Cycles is a shop in Point Reyes Station, California. Mike Valey who owns the shop designs bikes for the brand after he spent years designing bikes for other companies in the industry. He and Sean from Soulcraft worked on this frame, dubbed the MCD, or Monster Cross Disc, with specially-designed dropouts for the thru-axles. While this bike is a departure from the traditional monster cross ideologies (700x45mm ish wheels with wide dirt drops,) it gets the point across and thrives off the ambiguity of mainstream monster cross definitions.

DFL the Divide: A Friend Tour with Bikes

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DFL the Divide: A Friend Tour with Bikes

DFL the Divide: A Friend Tour with Bikes
Photos by Brian Zglobicki, Ester Song, Collin Samaan, Tod Seelie and Spencer Harding
Words by Hannah Kirby, Adam and Serena Rio

It only felt right to do this post as a posse, there are far too many voices and perspectives for something as myopic as my lens alone. So, I present to you, our second #dflthedivide trip. The photos are all mashed together, in a collaborative edit by myself and Tod. Below are three written perspectives as well. Together they are far more eloquent and enjoyable than anything I could have done alone, a perfect allegory for the trip itself.  I Love all these ding dongs a whole whole lot…
<3 Spencer

Serena Rio:
The nascent days of cycling were drenched in money and bikes reigned street supreme in the absence of cars. Only the rich had the luxury of owning a bike and the luxury of time to ride the bike, but not nearly enough luxury to own two. Your singular bike had to race, it had to commute, and in a life yet without cars, it had to carry you long distance on vacay.

Inside / Out at Sycip Design in Santa Rosa, California

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Inside / Out at Sycip Design in Santa Rosa, California

Northern California has spawned many frame builders since the 1960’s, beginning in many ways with Albert Eisentraut, whose influence sparked a new wave of American frame builders. One of these apprentices is Jeremy Sycip, who learned under Eisentraut’s careful eye at UBI. Prior to that, however, Eisentraut had taught many other builders including; Bruce Gordon, Joe Breeze, Skip Hujsak, Mark Nobilette, and Bill Stevenson. The history of those individuals solidified the US frame building scene, and eventually paved the way for guys like Jeremy Sycip to go out on their own.

Inside / Out at Retrotec Cycles in Napa, California

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Inside / Out at Retrotec Cycles in Napa, California

I’ve never owned a bike that receives as much attention from non-cyclists as a Retrotec. With comments ranging from “can I fit big tires like that on my cruiser?” to “how’d you put disc brakes on that cruiser?” Once I follow up with an explanation, they quickly lose interest, yet are still entranced with the bike itself. That connection is not too far from the reality of the Retrotec brand, however. Back in 1992, a builder named Bob Seals wanted to race his old cantilever cruiser frame. This frame, the Retrotec number one, still hangs in Curtis’ shop to this day.

Bob’s intent was to make modern-day cruisers, designed to be ridden and raced. The look of Bob’s builds really resonated with Curtis and in 1993, he moved to Chico, CA to work for Retrotec. In 1995, Bob had exhausted his framebuilding efforts, prompting Curtis to take over, relocating the business to San Francisco. This presented a problem for Curtis, who quickly realized that cruiser bikes weren’t really a thing – yet – and work was slow. Curtis chugged along in San Francisco, building frames part-time and experimenting with new Retrotec designs, while sharing a shop with the Sycip brothers.

In 1998 Retrotec moved to Napa, California and everything changed.

Curtis Inglis’ 2010 Oregon Manifest Retrotec City Bike

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Curtis Inglis’ 2010 Oregon Manifest Retrotec City Bike

Way back in 2010, an event called the Oregon Manifest pinged a selection of frame builders to solve common usage problems with bikes. This included cargo carrying specifications ranging from the large and out of the ordinary, to the simple task of carrying a change of clothes. It just so happened that in 2010, the Oregon Manifest’s task was to carry just that. For Retrotec and Inglis Cycles‘ Curtis Inglis, he approached this challenge by first looking for inspiration within his own shop.

Curtis had this Salsa quill stem, back when they were made in California in the shop of Ross Shafer, whos shop, and employees, like Sean Walling influenced Curtis’ own frame building operations. We’ll look at that more in-depth tomorrow. For now, let’s focus on this bike. So there he was, with this stem that needed a home. He had an idea of what the frame was supposed to look like and pinged his buddy Jeff Hantman to make some half wheel fenders with the Retrotec “guy,” smiling on the back and a halftone fade.

As for the frame, well, that’s the easy part for Curtis. He got to work, knowing the design challenges of the frame including the need to carry a spare change of clothes for the party after the show, perhaps harkening to the need for commuters to have nice “work” clothing once they’ve rolled into their office job. Curtis brought white loafers, a pair of plaid pants that he converted into nickers. He then had Travis at Freight Baggage to include the scraps of plaid into the rack bag still being used on the bike today. Curtis even painted the Pass and Stow rack to match! Chuey even made a cycling cap of this material. Bottom line: Curtis thought out all the details for this bike, including many of his friend’s work in his final product.

This bike has a new use now; Curtis carries their dog Coco around town with his wife on their city cruises. I wish I could have gotten a photo of that during my stay, but Curtis had his hands full with unexpected life events.

____

Follow Retrotec on Instagram.

Radar

Grinduro Confirms Ray Barbee and Mike Watt For Music

Hopefully by now you’ve heard of Grinduro, Giro’s two-day event in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Part gravel grinder, part enduro and all fun. Co-sponsored by SRAM, all proceeds from the event will benefit the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship. Thanks to Ray Barbee and Mike Watt, the October 10th event just got a lot more rockin’…

In addition to the music and the racing, Grinduro will feature displays of art and hand-built bicycles, and excellent food from former Clyde Common chef Chris DiMinno of Gourmet Century fame. Featured builders include Black Cat, Blue Collar Bikes, Caletti, Falconer, Retrotec, Steve Rex, Soulcraft and others. There will also be displays of handmade creations from Paul Component Engineering, White Industries, Strawfoot and Traugott Guitars alongside art from Geoff McFetridge and others.

Registration is open now and is $200 for the weekend including race entry, camping, music and breakfast, lunch, and dinner on Saturday. The concerts and bike/art expo will be available to general admission on Saturday evening for $5/person.

Head over to Giro for more information. Yes, spots are still available!

Radar

How to Be Popular and Impress Women

I have been unfortunate enough to surround myself with a group of people who are fantastic rhetoricians, crafty wordsmiths who deploy their absurd logic with the impunity of conversational tyrants. Whats more the majority of these word sorcerers are so crafty in their discourse that when facts are checked and tallied their formulas pencil out. One of these special souls is Charlie Sponsel.

UBI in Action

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UBI in Action

All these made in the USA posts this morning. Why not top it off with a time-lapse of 8 students working at UBI?

“the American school system has been systematically dismantling shop classes nationwide as much of our manufacturing has gone overseas. Most kids no longer have the opportunity to get their hands dirty learning how to use tools in a shop environment.

There are a lot of different types of people out there, many of whom are tactile individuals, and working with their hands is in some way fundamentally fulfilling. Skilled jobs in the American marketplace are becoming more service- and technology-oriented, and there is a substantial number of people out there who aren’t getting their ‘tactile fix,’ so to speak.

The students probably already suspect something of the genius behind the bicycle, but in building one they’ll get a more in-depth grasp of this. The bicycle frame is a fairly simple machine, but it does some cool things with energy and leverage. You don’t need to learn physics to be able to appreciate it.”

This is so true and something that’s been on my mind a lot lately, which is why it was nice to read up on Joseph Ahearne‘s thoughts about soulcraft.

Thanks Alistair!

Ask Prolly: What’s the Last Book You’ve Read?

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Ask Prolly: What’s the Last Book You’ve Read?

One of my more recent Ask Prolly emails was pretty straight forward and slightly off-topic:

“Hey Prolly, what’s the last book you’ve read? Any recommendations? It doesn’t have to be bike related”

To be honest, I don’t read as much as I’d like to. It’s kinda hard for me to find time to sit around with my nose in a book. Earlier this summer I picked up a book entitled Shop Class as Soulcraft by Matthew B. Crawford. It’s been on the NY Time’s best seller list and its published, Penguin was kind enough to send one my way out of the blue. It took me a little while to get around to reading it but with the recent time I spent on planes and vegging out on the beach, I managed to finish it quickly.

Crawford’s premise is that with the dissolution of shop classes in high schools, our generation has been raised to be technologically savvy and in the process we’ve lost touch with the soulcraft of making things. He goes on to relate the recent economic decline and job losses to the boom in “blue collar” job openings, which usually pay much better than the “desk job / tech” counterparts. It’s an excellent read and as someone who went to grade school without the use of computers, I can really identify with that he’s saying. So if you’re looking for a book to read this summer, pick it up at your local shop!