Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Lauterbrunnental Leaflet

I once very nearly named this blog The Lauterbrunnental Leaflet, after a fictional retrogrouchy newsletter from the now-defunct comic strip Yehuda Moon & The Kickstand Cyclery. The comic was a must-read for anyone interested in bicycles, as creator and artist Rick Smith really had his finger on the pulse of the bicycle world.

The comic revolved around a little bike shop, The Kickstand Cyclery, and its owners/partners Yehuda Moon and Joe King. Yehuda and Joe represented two very different sides of the bicycle world. Yehuda was the retrogrouch and bicycle advocate, forever tilting at windmills as he'd ride his bike everywhere regardless of the weather. He believed in waxed cotton bags, fenders, Dutch city bikes, rain capes, lugged steel frames, etc. Joe was the club-racer speed demon who believed in going fast, keeping light, using modern technology, and driving to work when it rains. The shop's other employee, level-headed Thistle, was the woman who tried to keep the universe balanced between those two opposing forces.

Much of the content of the comic was introduced through the day-to-day operations of the bike shop and interactions with the customers who would come and go. A few regulars included "Captain Dashboard," who had every known gadget attached to his handlebar; the "Bicycle Hypochondriac" who always worried about imaginary bike afflictions; the bearded "Recumbent Rider" (self-explanatory); the neighborhood kids; and the visiting ghost of Fred, the bike shop's former owner, killed by a hit-and-run driver -- visible only to Yehuda, Joe, and (sometimes) Thistle's child, Fizz.

Yehuda and Fred get "enlightenment" from the Lauterbrunnental Leaflet.

From time to time, the strip would feature Yehuda perusing the pages of his favorite newsletter, The Lauterbrunnental Leaflet, which according to the strip's creator, Smith, was based on The Rivendell Reader. The real newsletter would be eagerly awaited by fans and devotees of Grant Petersen, the Rivendell Bicycles founder who would espouse such topics as the simple joys of traditional bicycles, the beauty and comfort of leather saddles, and the wonders of beeswax. Yehuda was a full fledged fan of the fictional leaflet, while Joe would routinely mock it.

Fizz dispenses wisdom from the cargo box of a Bakefiets.

YM&TKC often delved into bicycle-world debates I could relate to -- like carbon vs. steel, bike lanes, vehicular cycling, the helmet debate, and more. The debates were rarely ever "settled," but between the various characters, one would often get to see several points of view, and it was usually a good laugh.

The strip ran from 2008 through 2012, with a hiatus that lasted several months late in 2011. Co-writer Brian Griggs entered the picture some time after the first year. The comic strip ended in December 2012, with Smith citing the difficulty in keeping the strip going amidst other obligations. One can still follow the strip's entire run online at www.yehudamoon.com and there are four bound collections available for purchase at Bicycle Quarterly Press. There is a fifth volume, covering the 2012 strips, but it seems to be a difficult one to find.

Some interesting background about the strip is that Smith is an Ohio native, and used the area around Cleveland as the setting for his fictional bike shop world. The building that housed the Kickstand Cyclery was based on an actual Cleveland-area landmark, the Coventry Station in Shaker Heights, a little tudor-styled depot next to the rapid transit tracks. It once housed a gas station, but has never actually been a bike shop.

The Coventry Station in Shaker Heights was the basis for the
 Kickstand Cyclery. It was an RTA rapid transit station,
and served as a gas station for a time but it has
 never actually been a bike shop. (from Wikipedia)
Many of the topics and events of YM&TKC are drawn from experiences and conversations involving writers Smith and Griggs. "Many of the characters are based on people in my life, though most represent points of view Brian and I have about the subject or situation at hand in the story," said Smith in an interview published in Vol. 4.

It probably worked out well for the comic that Smith and Griggs, in their own attitudes about bicycles, somewhat resemble Yehuda and Joe. Rick Smith generally identifies with Yehuda. "Like him, the glass is always half full . . . I like to use my bicycle for transportation. What's great is that Brian has some of Joe's sensibilities, which means many of our conversations often turn into comics." Brian Griggs added, "More and more these days, I find myself to be the voice of Joe . . . conversations with Rick can generate some pretty witty jabs back and forth and that can generate some great material."

Yes, I have sometimes felt this way about bike bags.
Yehuda Moon & The Kickstand Cyclery is a fun and sometimes thought-provoking look at our bicycle sub-culture. My guess is that anybody who rides would find something or someone to identify with in the comic strip. No question, I often see a bit of myself in Yehuda, and I'll bet a lot of Retrogrouch readers would, too. If readers aren't familiar with the strip, I highly recommend checking it out -- and for those who miss it, it's worth going back and revisiting old friends at the Kickstand.


  1. Brooks-

    Thanks for the background on a truly enjoyable and much missed comic strip.

    1. I miss it too -- I was going back through the strip when I thought it would make a good topic.

  2. That is a really nice strip! The Calvin&Hobbes ones about bikes are really good ones too.

  3. It's back with new strips!