Saturday, December 31, 2016

happy new year

A very happy new year to my readers!
Rubber side down
Flat-free rides
and Miles of Smiles
See you in 2017!

Monday, December 26, 2016

spring 2017 tune-up schedule

For my Portland-based bike pals and their friends:

In late February I will begin taking tune-up appointments.  
 Here's what you need to know:

-- One-day turnaround; You bring the bike in the morning on Day one, stick around while we go over what is needed,  and pick it up in the evening on Day two.
-- No full overhauls, tune-ups only, please.  I can true wheels, clean the bike and drive train, replace broken/worn components and adjust brakes and gears. Straightening bent frames and opening up and overhauling all bearing surfaces (including internally-geared rear hubs) is beyond the purview of my tiny workshop and very limited spare parts supply.
-- Appointments IN ADVANCE are the only way I can work on your bike. I have a day job.

I have two decades of professional bike shop experience as a mechanic and purchaser.
I'm a USAC-certified Category Four race mechanic and have several seasons doing neutral wheel and pit support at races and charity rides in the PNW.
I retired from the bicycle industry in 2012.
Because this is more of a hobby for me now, I take in far fewer bikes than a shop would, and I charge considerably less than a full-service shop does.
I am taking appointments for spring tune-ups from late February through mid-May 2017.
Then I will close it down for the summer to work on other projects.
I may re-open for a few weeks in early August if there is interest in help with getting ready for Cyclocross season. (Tune-ups, component upgrades, single-speed conversions.)

If you're interested, email me at:


Meanwhile,  Thanks to all my readers for your support and interest in what I write about here.
All the best for many happy miles in 2017!

(below: working at Community Cycling Center, 2002. Photo by Tim Fricker.)

Monday, December 19, 2016

the end of an era: last day at the Annex

Today was the last day of business at Citybikes Annex.
The second location of Citybikes Workers Cooperative had opened May 1, 1995. I had been hired at Citybikes a week before, and my first tasks were to help finish painting and erecting the wall-mounted bicycle display racks.

The Grand Opening party included potluck finger foods, a dance party and live music, including a pickup trio with me and another new co-worker involved and followed by another co-worker's more famous band (does anyone remember the New Bad Things? I guess they were bigger in Europe than here.)

I worked at Citybikes from April 25, 1995 till mid-July 2001, and again from March 4, 2003 until September 24, 2012 (the break was for grad school and a year working at another bike shop).
During that time, in addition to repairing and selling bicycles, I also worked as an apprentice trainer, an instructor/supervisor at bike repair classes and open shop nights for the public, and for four years, I was the lead purchaser, managing a large budget and overseeing the stocking of product at the co-op's two retail locations.

Throughout my entire time at Citybikes, I earned an hourly wage that finally approached Portland's living wage (at the time) in the last two yeara of my employment there. There was no formal health insurance plan -- we could get a "stipend" -- a token amount annually, perhaps $1000 a year, give or take -- which we could spend on any health care we chose, including alternative therapies not usually covered by insurance. Owners earned Patronage Dividends in years when the business enjoyed a profit after all expenses were covered, paid in percentages over a staggered schedule and only in the summer months when cash flow allowed it.

For young, single people without kids, Citybikes wasn't a bad place to work. The cooperative structure meant that decisions took longer to make, but everyone's input was valued. With as many as fifteen equal owners there were, in theory, no bosses (though in practice one could push his/her agenda by sheer force of personality and/or after-hours cowboy behavior, both of which happened more often than any of would care to admit). As some of us got older, married and had children, it got harder to live on a bike mechanic's wages, and some folks left to go to school or take a more white-collar job.

The co-op structure attracted folks whose politics were usually pretty far to the left, including several people who were active in radical politics (including Jobs with Justice, the cause for Palestinian statehood, and even the IWW (the "Wobblies"). Two of my co-workers had been "red diaper" babies, raised by parents who were card-carrying Communists. And one of the original founders of the co-op was especially active whenever he wasn't at work, also founding a co-op leftist bookstore and even, for a time, a "school" for political activists.

In the Fall of 2012, it all came to an end for me when I reached a turning point on my relationship with one co-worker and, as a result, with the entire co-op Board. I quit that fall, and threw myself into a new, completely different line of work. There was a grieving process for me and finances were precarious for a time; but now, four years later, I am established in my new career. The co-worker who had caused me so much grief left the business about eight months after I did. The co-op lost some people and hired some new people, and things went on. Meanwhile, I've been growing and slowly gaining notice in my music career. I know that everything happened for a reason, and ultimately, for good.

Today, I have no bitter feelings about Citybikes. If I have next to nothing financially to show for my nearly two decades there, I learned a lot about bicycle mechanics, human relations, and my own sense of personal identity. While I didn't get rich (or even earn enough to start a nest egg), I came away with other things that still feel valuable today.

Today I stopped by the Annex to say a final goodbye. Today was the last day of business for the Annex, because the recession finally caught up with Citybikes last year, forcing the cooperative to consolidate its operations. The Board elected to shrink its operations, get out of the business of selling new bicycles and pull back on its used bicycle sales as well. Everything that could not be moved to the Mother Shop was sold off at deep discounts. I figured if I went in on the last day, someone there might be willing to cut me a deal, and I was right. I picked up a few used parts, some gloves for my cold reduction project, and a sweatshirt because it was their last one and they were willing to let it go for dirt cheap. I had a nice chat with the one co-worker I knew -- the other two were hired after I'd left -- and after I made my purchases I looked around at the bare walls and the handful of bicycles still sitting on the showroom floor. It was a little strange, and strangely fitting, to be there today.


I wished them well, walked out, loaded up my bicycle and turned for one last look. I helped paint that door orange (the first time, years ago before there was a mural).

 Do you recognize the mural behind me? That mural was apinted during my time at the shop, and I wrote the lyrics for the song "Ten Miles" around the same time. The mural was funded by a grant from the Regional Arts and Culture Council, so it may stay up for awhile yet, which is good.
Citybikes will move out of the building by the end of the month, and then it will rent the building (which it owns) to the Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC), a non-profit that teaches people how to create and self-publish their works.

Citybikes will continue to run a bicycle repair business at its original location with a much smaller workforce. I wish them well.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

off-season coffeeneuring: rivelo

After two weeks off the bike and most of a week being sick, I was antsy to get outside again. The snow melted enough today that I felt comfortable riding the BStone around town. Although I was feeling considerably better, I decided to shorten my ride by taking MAX most of the way there and back. The total of four miles in the brisk air felt like enough when I was done.

I hopped the MAX to the west end of Tillkum Crossing, stopped in Starbucks for some coffee and rode across the bridge. It was very cold, maybe 38F, and mostly sunny. A beautiful day for a little ride!

(At left: It's hard to see, but that's the top of a snow-covered Mt. Hood in the distance.)

I rode to Rivelo, where a delayed holiday event was taking place. It had been delayed by a day because John [Bennett, Rivelo's founder and owner] had taken a bad fall yesterday and ended up breaking his wrist.

He was in good spirits, considering the pain meds and egg nog on hand (plus optional bourbon or rum add-ins for the grown-ups).

I had a delightful time chatting with John and Darby, and enjoyed meeting two delightful little boys who are full of energy, sweetness and giggles.  While I was there, I took a few pictures and got myself a limited edition Shawn Granton-designed Rivelo hankie.

I also picked up a new elastic netting for my bike basket. The netting on the BStone's basket, originally designed for a motorcycle, was too big and had begun to lose its spring. Basket netting is VERY handy, allowing you to overstuff your bike basket while also leaving key things grabbable on the ride (like hankies or gloves, for instance). A useful item available at Rivelo and lots of other bike shops around town.

(Above: the Rosco Bubbe frameset, a wacky design by Grant and Co. Honestly, I'm not sure what it's for, except maybe the tallest riders.)
John, gesticulating carefully while waiting for the pain meds to kick in. I advised him to lay in a supply of newspaper delivery baggies; speaking from experience, they're perfect for covering an arm cast during a shower. Just slip it on, rubber-band the opening to your arm, and go.)
John isn't sure what will need to happen. He's seeing a specialist and hopefully will know more soon. But breaking bones sucks. So if you're in town, stop by the shop during biz hours (check the web site), say hello and cheer him up. He's good people and I like what he's about.

 I rode back over the bridge, caught MAX back over the NE Portland and rode home before it got dark.

(Left: my latest bike-dedicated coffee mug. It holds less coffee, but it will do. And my doc says I ought to think about consuming less coffee anyway. Hmm.)

Below: the new hankie. I got it because I like everything Shawn draws and I wanted to support his art.

It felt SO GOOD to get out today, if only for a couple of hours and even though I wasn't entirely done coughing out the last phase of my cold. Still, I will be glad when the temps go up tomorrow, back to above 40F. Even if it's raining it will be better for riding in.

Friday, December 16, 2016

more light over here, please

(This is a cross-post from

This year, Chanukah begins a few days after the Winter Solstice, and overlaps with Christmas and the secular New Year.

The first night of Chanukah is Saturday, December 24. I love the juxtaposition of all these festivals of light. With every candle we kindle and every log we burn in the fireplace, we are adding light to a dark season that desperately needs it, especially this year.

Another way we can add light is through sharing the healing power of music. That's why I'm honored to join hundreds of other musicians and music-lovers in a new project called Harmony In Unison. This live online concert series begins on Facebook during Chanukah, and I invite you to join the group so you can enjoy the warmth and spirit we hope to project through LIVE online performances. Created by talented Jewish artists Beth Schafer and Stacy Beyer, the group is designed to showcase artistts who will perform their original works in a live feed five nights a week, from late December through at least the early spring. There will be no ads, no sales pitches and no persuasion of any kind. This is just a freewill offering of heartfelt music for all to share.

It is hoped that, through sharing music this way, we will help each other find what we need to move forward together to work for peace and justice -- for ourselves, each other, and everyone we don't yet know.

I will perform LIVE on Sunday, January 29, at 5PM Pacific Time.

To catch this and other performances, simply sign up and join the group here:

Once you've been accepted into the group, simply check the calendar, gather friends around the largest computer screen you have, and watch live concerts in the comfort of your home. Concerts will last anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, with most averaging 30 to 45 minutes in length.
Some music will be familiar, much will be brand new, and all of it will be a gift to you, to brighten the dark days of winter and lift the sagging spirits of so many who need it.
Please join me and some truly amazing musicians on this journey of hope, love and peace. And may the warmth of family, friends and the light we kindle and grow keep us all warm and safe during the darkest days.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

wacked out on cold medicine and reality

I've been off bicycles for over a week and a half, due to work-related travel and then a really nasty cold that has laid me low for several days.
On top of that, Portland got some snow. Not much -- a couple of inches at most -- but enough to paralyze the city and start winter break from school a couple of days early.
So I've been home, hacking and coughing and unable to do much else.
Except browse the interwebs and listen to the news on the radio.

Maybe that hasn't been such a great idea.

Because between all the mayhem of the world and my own thoughts running amok, nothing good is running through my brain today:

1. Aleppo has fallen to the Syrian army. Other than a few alarmist posts on my Facebook feed, no one of any great power or importance in the world is saying or doing anything about it. And hundreds of thousands who survived the bombings will die trying to get out of Syria.

2. The homeless encampments all over Portland and hundreds of other US cities are still there. Perhaps some people have managed to go inside, or have left for warmer places; but most are still down on their luck and slowly freezing to death. And unless we are all willing to take these people into our private homes (which I admit is a huge risk, considering just how many are suffering from untreated mental illness), they will stay where they are, because the city has nowhere to house them safely -- and no political will to do anything about it.

3. I took another trip by airplane last week, for work. The work was rewarding and I grew from the experience and I am generally quite grateful for all of that. The only thing is that my worry about my expanding carbon footprint refuses to go quietly. It bugs me all the time, and I cannot shake it.
I know that this is what I've chosen to do for a living now -- travel the country and make music -- but the whole travel-the-country part is weighing heavily on me nearly all the time. It feels like I am ignoring something important about what I value in the world, even as I try to spread goodness with something else I value in the world. It's a huge conundrum and I don't have any sense of resolution about it.

4. I have had all sorts of thoughts about death lately -- specifically, my own. I'm not suicidal or anything -- I'm pondering the existence of my life, and what happens after I'm gone. Old questions about the life of the soul that I haven't pondered this deeply since my mother's death twenty years ago are popping up again. What happens to my bethness when I'm gone? Am I taking up space on the earth by my lifestyle, health needs and other unsolvable issues? I sometimes worry that I've lost sight of why I'm here and what I'm supposed to be doing. And I wonder about an afterlife.
My last stint serving as a Shomrah (guardian) at the funeral home left me feeling incredibly drained and exhausted for a couple of days afterwards. I don't know what that means but I feel a need to pay attention to it.

5. My Crohn's is actually changing and probably getting gradually worse. Going to the bathroom requires effort that leaves me feeling noticeably tired right afterwards. My medication isn't effective and I will have to consider other options (none of which I could afford if the Affordable Care Act goes away with the new administration).  Getting sick with an otherwise ordinary cold greatly affects the severity of my fatigue. And that, too, makes me think about my mortality in sharper focus.

6. I honestly haven't felt like riding a bike a whole lot since the days turned wet and cold. I used to think riding in the rain was no big deal, and now I tend to avoid it in spite of my cycling history. Is this my involuntary response to getting older, to some kind of self-preservation that just happens? It doesn't feel entirely conscious on my part, even though I'm aware that it's happening. I am not sure where I'm headed physically, emotionally or spiritually these days. I wonder if, on some level, I am beginning to feel the beginning of my downward slope in this life.

I don't feel terribly morbid about any of this most of the time. Rather, it feels like something that is happening within me, rather than something I am consciously making happen. My will has little to do with it. All I know is that I am incredibly tired -- fatigued, really, unable to make myself feel anything energetic inside right now. And I suspect there's much more to it than simply having a bad cold or the interaction of that bad cold with Crohn's.

I can still look at pictures of bicycles, but the idea of going out on a cold day and riding one does not inspore me in the slightest. When I consider that I stopped racing only four years ago, the change in my body and mind is surprising.

This blog may eventually become less about bicycles and more about everything else. If you find this to be the case and you decide not to hang with it, I understand. Enjoy the ride, wherever you go. Meanwhile, I will rest and wait for things to get better; and hopefully next week will be a little drier and I'll be well enough to go for a short ride. Cheers.