Sunday, June 29, 2014

ebay knock-off of the week: brooks - not

(Number eight in an occasional series)

This week on eBay, another shining example of bike industry impli-fakery:

Seems cool, especially at just $31.99, until you look at similar offerings from Brooks:

This one retails for around 220 Euros, or roughly $300.

And if you want something fancier, this one's a cool 330 Euros, or $450 US:

The issue is not that the cheapie is being passed off as a Brooks bag -- it's not. The issue is a new twist on what my high school economics teacher called, "aping the rich". This happens whenever something "cool" that only rich people can afford becomes so desirable by "the masses" (i.e., the rest of us who are not rich) that manufacturers realize they can make a crap ton of money by selling cheap imitations to keep the masses happy (at least until the next cool thing comes along). Do I think anything so insidious is actually happening on purpose in the world of bicycle accessories?

Well, yeah. I do.

Because I worked in the industry for nearly twenty years and got to see the ugly underbelly where this stuff is dreamed up. In fact, I played my small part in helping the manufacturers dream it up when I spent four years as an inventory buyer for a shop and helped push the cheaper stuff to our customers.

I don't have a problem with stuff, only with how its marketed and made and how they keep lying to us to get us to buy more before we really need it. And that's why this stuff on eBay -- like fake Rapha jerseys, sneakers made to look like old-school cycling shoes, and more -- simultaneously amuses and annoys me. Because it's mostly just stupid, and a waste.

Time to go for a ride.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

home again in pdx

I got home Sunday night. It has taken awhile to recover from the intensity of my trip -- I worked very hard for nearly a month and coming home was a little like exhaling. Three days after coming home I still have not cracked the gigantic folder of music I must begin to learn for my return trip to kansas in September. Instead, I have snuggled with Sweetie, dealt with errands and gardening upkeep, and enjoyed a bit of hard cider with dinner nightly. I have more errands tomorrow, after which I will return home and get to work.

I've also been riding my bike with a vengeance. I rode so little in Kansas that I really missed it. So every day since getting home I've take lovely, leisurely loops around North and Northeast Portland. Today, knowing that I either had to practice or ride my bike, I opted for the latter. I took along my camera and decided to take pictures of whatever moved me. Today, I was moved -- or disturbed -- by the rapid rise of gentrification in N/NE Portland, and the few holdouts against it (the houses or businesses that have stubbornly refused to get with the times.)

Here are a few shots. The rest can be found at

The only winner in this game is capitalism. And I am very sorry that we have nothing better to offer the next generation than this sorry equation. I have no solution except to document what I see and speak honestly about it, and to keep riding my bicycle while eschewing the car culture that heklps to spwan this glut of excess. Happy riding.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

bicycle culture in suburban kansas city

For the last two weeks I was on staff at Machane Jehudah, an experiential Jewish educational program for 3rd-6th graders served up day camp style. This year's theme was Israel, so we studied the history and various people and places around the country. We also had a time in the day where kids would do various "kibbutz" tasks, designed to simulate life on a kibbutz, or collective farming community. One of the tasks in the rotation that kids could choos from was Mercaz Ha-Ofanayyim, or the Bicycle Shop. This had been my idea. The plan was to collect donated bicycles from families at the synagogue, then spend the two weeks of camp cleaning and fixing them up before handing them off to RevolveKC, a bicycle non-profit styled somewhat after Portland's Community Cycling Center. Revolve kindly loaned us some tools and a repair stand so the kids would have what to work with.

My "kibbutz" crew was the smallest at camp, only five boys -- but we had a great time cleaning bikes, learning how to fix flats and troubleshoot safety issues. At the end of the camp, the director of revolvekc came to collect the tools, repair stand and bikes, and the kids felt so proud of what they had accomplished. 

While we worked on the bicycles during our time at camp, we talked about how easy or hard it was to ride a bike in their very sterile, car-centric suburb. They all told me that they had to ride on the sidewalk, and that some elementary schools actively discouraged their students from riding to school out of safety concerns (how terribly sad). They were amazed to learn that in Portland I did not own a car, and rode a bike or took public transit to get around town.  While they agreed that their riding was
curtailed somewhat by places to safely ride, they all told me they loved riding their bicycles when they could. I felt bad for these kids and how sheltered their lives were. I hoped that someday they would find a way to get out of their suburb and explore the wider world -- and bring their bikes along when they did.

Saturday, June 7, 2014


I arrived a week and a half ago in is suburb of Kansas City. I haven't done as much bicycling as I would like to but frankly I've been so busy with services, music and preparations for the upcoming summer educational program that all I've managed are some back and forth trips with the loaner bike and trailer. I am using the same trailer as last year, and a new, bigger bicycle tht fits me better. I was goingg to bring a bike but was then asked not to, and instead they found me a different loaner bike that fits better this year.

I hope there will be time for at least a couple of longer rides while I'm here. More later.
Happy riding!