Thursday, February 26, 2015

7 is the New 11

With bicycle gearing going to 10 and then 11 speed cassettes in the last few years, I never thought I'd see the gearing trend go back the other way. But suddenly, 7 is the new 11.

SRAM's X01 has a single-ring crank, and a 7-speed cluster at the
 back,along with a fairly wide built-in spacer and spoke protector
 to fit on current-width cassette bodies.
Now, this sudden trend seems to be going through the downhill mountain biking crowd (something I don't see myself ever getting into) and no-one should get the idea that it's going to spread to road bikes any time soon. Hell, I'm still certain that somebody's going to widen the rear triangle of road bikes even more than it already is and try to squeeze in 12 or even 13 cogs at some point. But when I read the claims about the benefits of a 7-speed drivetrain, I just have to grin.

According to proponents and the manufacturers, like SRAM which kicked off this thing with their X01 system, the "theory" behind the 7-sp. cluster is that a lot the gears go unused on a downhill racer, and the 7-sp. cassette provides better jumps between gears. SRAM touts fewer shifts from low to high gears. OneUp Components, which makes a cassette adapter to convert a 10 or 11-sp. cassette into 7-sp. says more or less the same thing: "Get faster, more responsive shifting; no more multiple shifts to find the right gear." Funny thing, but I imagine that the same thing could be said of a lot of bikes that never leave the pavement, too.

The OneUp DH Block cassette adapter takes the place of the inner-cogs
 of a typical 10 or 11-sp. cassette, without investing in a whole new
drivetrain -- think of it as 7-speeds on a budget. Seems ironic to a retrogrouch.
Here's another claimed benefit -- that with a narrower spread between high and low gears, derailleurs with shorter cages and shorter chains can be used. That should mean better shifting under abuse. Again, is that only true of downhill racers? I don't think so.

Not that I care one whit about a few grams here or there, but SRAM also talks about the weight -- pointing out that their 7-sp. cassette is the "Lightest cassette. Ever." Well, yeah -- it's got fewer cogs. Duh.

The thing is, I do have a bike with a relatively modern 10-speed cassette system. Sure, it's nice. But most of my bikes have 5, 6, or 7 speed freewheels, and I've never found them to be any less fun or satisfying to ride despite their fewer gears. They seem less finicky, and more forgiving. I never find myself hunting (or wishing) for a gear that isn't there. I shift less. The slogan for the OneUp DH Block says "Shift Less, Whip More." I don't actually know what that means. But if "Whip More" has something to do with riding, or enjoying the ride, then yeah - I can get behind that.

Riders of classic or vintage bikes, or those seeking a more no-nonsense approach to cycling, have long been questioning the need for more and more gears -- probably since the first 7 and 8-speed cassette systems hit the market in the 80s. It's just funny hearing these "less-is-more" arguments coming from anybody other than us retrogrouches.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Bike Safety 101: How To Protect Your Bike

In the Bike Safety 101 series, I've looked at a lot of old educational films about bike safety and following the "rules of the road," but this next film is one of the few I've seen to tackle the problem of bike theft, and it comes from the "King of Calamity" Sid Davis. Taking a little break from scolding "wise-guy" kids for bad behavior, or scaring them into compliance, Davis produced the goofy little film How To Protect Your Bike in 1974 to show kids how to prevent their bikes from being stolen. It was one of the last films Davis produced.

"Five fingers can remind you how
to protect your bike."
The film tries to recall some of the style of an old silent-era comedy, mimicking the fast-and-choppy motion look of the old 16-frames-per-second used by those early films. It mostly succeeds in just making the movie seem more ridiculous. The advice in the film is structured around five simple points, like the 5 fingers on your hand, to remember how to protect your bike from theft. It then proceeds to contrast the smart kids from the fools, by showing the right and wrong ways to lock your bike. On the whole, most of the advice isn't bad, but the presentation is generally oversimplified, often unrealistic, and full of dumb stereotypes.

This is Dave, who just got a "brand new bike" (that actually looks pretty well used, if you ask me). "It's the first really important thing he's ever owned." Dave stops by the grocery store, and is just about to leave his bike unlocked. . .
"Hey Dave - Hold it!" the narrator calls out. "Aren't you forgetting something?" 
So Dave backs up and tries it again -- this time locking up the bike with his heavy-duty chain. "That's it, Dave!"
And it's a good thing he did, because little does he know, but "the worst bike thief in 50 states" just happens to be loitering on the same street corner. Meet "Creepo" the bike thief. Imaginative name, isn't it? Funny thing, but that description "worst bike thief" could easily be taken two completely different ways. Of course he's portrayed as a long-haired counter-culture "hippy," and a complete loser.
Creepo tries to walk away with Dave's bike, despite the obvious boat-anchor chain. Needless to say, but Dave's bike is safe, for now.
Then there's "Goofer" (another imaginative name) who's "too busy" to lock up his bike. He's also too lazy to bother with the kickstand. Too bad he doesn't see Creepo loitering nearby. "It looks like his bike is just asking to be taken."
Creepo rides off "inconspicuously" on Goofer's low-riding banana-seat bike.
The discovery, and the aftermath. "Surprise Goofer. Looks like your bike is gone!" Should'a locked it up, fool. The scene is sped up with an Alvin-and-the-Chipmunks-like voice as Goofer rants about his stolen bike. "Point one - always lock your bike."
Next comes Cathy - and besides needing some shorts that actually cover her ass, she needs a good place to park her bicycle. 
Considering Sid Davis's career of making films about child molesters, including The Dangerous Stranger, The Strange Ones, Name Unknown, and Girls Beware, is it just me who finds these shots of young Cathy to be more than a little bit creepy?
After rejecting the quiet alley (good choice for several reasons), Cathy parks right in front of the entrance of a shop, though she doesn't actually lock the bike to anything. The film hasn't gotten to that lesson yet. But this way, not only can she keep an eye on it from inside the store, but "there are people going by who would see anyone fooling around with a locked bike." Yeah? And what are those people going to do? In reality, nothing! Creepo thinks about walking off with it, but is scared off by an observant cop.
"This is Dilly - she doesn't Dally" - but she does park her bike in the same quiet alley that Cathy rejected. Sure, she locks the bike (not to anything), but little does she know that Creeper is on his way, and "he just loves quiet places like alleys."
"It's easy to just pick up Dilly's bike -- lock, chain, and all. . ."
". . . and put it into his handy little van." I'm sure it's no coincidence that Creepo is not only a "hippie" but that he drives around in a VW Microbus. All he's missing are some big "flower power" stickers on his van. 
"Surprise, Dilly!" Again, with the sped-up sequence and the chipmunk-like audio as Dilly cries over her stolen bike. "Point two - lock your bike in as safe a place as you can find."

Here's Dave again, illustrating the next lesson. Use a good chain and lock. "There's a right chain and a wrong chain for any job." Dave's dad "told him not to try to save a few dollars on a chain and lock, and wind up losing his bike."
"Through a clever hole in his newspaper, Creepo has observed the whole scene." Oh yes - the ol' "hole in the newspaper" ruse. That's clever? Maybe for the villain in a Keystone Cops movie.

Creepo attacks Dave's lock with a pair of bolt cutters, but to no avail. In reality, they would have snapped the chain in no time -- I mean, it's a good chain, but c'mon. But Creepo doesn't give up so easily. . .

. . . as he then pulls a massive pair of bolt cutters out of his pants. The arms must be 4 feet long! That had to be uncomfortable. There is no bike chain that would stand up to these. . .

. . . until now. That's right, Dave's amazing chain is too much for these 4-foot long cutters. Do the people at Kryptonite know about this chain? "Creepo will just have to wait for some sucker to come along."

And here comes the sucker. Didn't Creepo already steal this bike? But Goofer must have gotten it back somehow, because here he is again, this time with a lock and chain. Too bad it's the same wimpy chain he uses to tie up his dog.
Creepo's regular bolt cutters make fast work of the dog chain. But as he rides away on the much-too-small bike, he leaves his bolt cutters behind. Maybe so that Goofer has the tools he needs to get himself another bike. If Goofer's been paying attention to this film, he'll be learning all kinds of tricks and tips to rival Creepo someday.
Cathy's back to illustrate the next lesson -- lock your bike to something good and solid. She also runs the chain through both wheels and the frame. Good job, Cathy!
Dilly is "Dizzy and in a Tizzy." She locks only the front wheel to a post. "Creepo just happens to be in the neighborhood" and he has "special tools" -- like this "handy wrench." Yeah - that's special. As Creepo removes the front wheel and makes off with the rest of the bike, the narrator tells us that all he has to do is find another front wheel somewhere else. This is not only good advice for the kids who want to keep their bikes, but also for any future "Creepos" who might be watching.
"Creepo is really smart" says the narrator -- though most of the film goes out of its way to portray him as a complete moron. But just in case he should succeed in stealing your bike, there's one more thing to do -- always register your bike with the local police department.
NOOOO!!!!! Don't do it kids! Do NOT engrave your frame! It makes me hurt to just think about it. (Imagine someone trying to do this on a carbon fiber frame). But the film tells kids to do it anyhow. And the components, too. The film also recommends getting a bike license. All these things are supposed to help police reunite you with your stolen bike, but anyone who's seen PeeWee's Big Adventure knows that police don't look for stolen bikes.
When Creepo gets spotted by some kids whose bikes were stolen, they call the police to come inspect his "handy little van." Even though Creepo filed off the frame serial numbers, one of the boys was able to point to his special "secret mark" he'd engraved on the stem.
"Creepo just remembered he has something to do -- somewhere else." Next comes a goofy high-speed chase . . .
. . . ending in the county lockup. The narrator tells us "Creepo lost the game." C'mon - that's the best they can come up with? How about I would have gotten away with it if it weren't for those meddling kids. 
To wrap it up, the narrator suggests hopefully, "Maybe some new invention will be out soon that will take care of any bike thief. Like some kind of secret alarm."

Why is it that by the 1970s, all Sid Davis's "bad guys" are long-haired hippies?
When the next "Creepo" lays his hands on the unlocked bike, a ridiculous chain of events flashes on the screen in a rapid-fire succession of quick-cut editing. Sirens. Bells. Whistles. Flashing lights. Firemen (?) WWI-era aircraft (??). And suddenly every cop in Los Angeles County converges on the potential bike thief.
I know this looks like a shot from one of Sid Davis's drug films (seriously, is this guy blowing a police whistle, or some Wednesday weed? And look at those eyes!) but it's actually just one shot in the goofy sequence that's supposed to represent the near future of bike theft protection.

An entire police task force dedicated to preventing bike theft. Yeah. That'll happen.
How To Protect Your Bike has a totally different style than Sid Davis's other films, including the other bicycle safety ones. Nobody gets killed or maimed. And it isn't nearly as harsh or judgemental of its victims as some of his other films. But through stereotypes it still reflects some of the conformist notions of it's producer. Most of the basic advice in the film -- always lock your bike, with a sturdy lock and chain, through the frame and wheels, and locked to something solid - is generally good. But on the whole, it's just unrealistic and silly enough to be easily ridiculed.

How To Protect Your Bike can be seen and downloaded at the Prelinger Archive, or on YouTube, or right here:


Monday, February 23, 2015

Carbon Fiber Counterfeits

I know I've written about this before (Fakes and Forgeries), but I've been seeing more news in the last couple of months about "fake" or "counterfeit" frames on the market. The latest news I've seen involves carbon frames from Look, though no high-end brands seem to be immune to the problem. A quick look at internet sites such as, or can find frames from Look, Cervélo, Colnago, Pinarello, and many others, with prices ranging from $400 - $1000. It's not hard to find them on eBay, either. In many cases the real things sell for at least $4000, so they are a classic case of "if it seems too good to be true. . ." Lots of fake components are being sold, too, like carbon fiber handlebars and stems, seat posts, cranks, and more.

Needless to say, if someone were to buy one of these fakes and then have a problem, there'd be nowhere to turn, as the manufacturers' warranties certainly won't cover fakes, and the makers or sellers of these frames are likely to be impossible to track down. That doesn't seem to stop a lot of people from buying them, though.

Sifting through some of the bike forums, I'm absolutely amazed at some of the comments out there about counterfeit frames. It seems that people rarely buy these things unwittingly, but rather, buy them with the full knowledge that they're getting a fake. And they don't care.

There are all kinds of arguments against buying something like this. One is ethical. A company builds up a reputation for quality -- someone else cashes in on that reputation with a product that may not live up to the quality standards of the real thing, thereby profiting at the real company's expense, while simultaneously hurting the real company's reputation. When people see pictures of a broken carbon frame on the internet, they see the name on the downtube -- whether it's "real" or not gets lost or forgotten.

I saw this comment on one of the forums, from a person who was buying a fake: "I wouldn't be buying this instead of a genuine Cervélo, I'd be buying it instead of an unbranded version of the same sort of thing." And another: "Buying this frame isn't depriving Cervélo of a sale. . . it's not meant to trick anyone into parting with money." My response to that sort of thinking is that it isn't simply a question of depriving Brand X of a sale -- but rather, that one is supporting a market that basically amounts to piracy.

Spotted on for $700.
The other argument is a question of safety, since there is no way to know if the product under the decals is built to the same standards as the real one. And the counterfeiters, who are unlikely to be held accountable if their frames fail, have little to lose. I'll probably always have my doubts about the longevity of carbon frames anyhow, but I can be absolutely adamant that I wouldn't trust my life with a fake when there's nobody to stand behind its quality.

The usual argument from people who buy and sell the fakes is that the frames are made in the same factories that makes the real versions, they just don't have the same huge markup in price. Another comment from one of the online bike forums: "The real bike is made in China, there's no reason to believe that something like this won't be made with exactly the same level of expertise." Thing is, there's no way to know that for sure. In fact, in the recent case with the Look brand frames, the originals are not made in Asia at all, so the argument that it's the "same factory" doesn't hold up. And even if they are from the same factory, there's no way to know the frames are built to the same standards when they're being cranked out after hours by a crew that's looking for easy profits. With carbon fiber, especially, so much depends on what's going on deep below the surface, between the layers of carbon and plastic, and its impossible to know just from looking at it. There have been examples of these counterfeit frames that were made almost entirely of plastic, with virtually no carbon fiber at all, save for a thin cosmetic layer on the surface. Yikes.

The issue of fakes doesn't just affect the makers, buyers, and sellers of high-end carbon fiber frames. When buying bikes on the vintage market, the possibility of getting a fake is very real, especially if it is a collectible or valuable brand. But in most cases, there are ways to tell if the bike is an impostor if you know what you're looking for. But also, if one does unfortunately buy a fake Hetchins, or a fake Mercian, or some other vintage brand, it's more likely to be a financial issue than a safety one. Typically, a "fake" collectible vintage frame is a cheaper lugged steel frame, painted and decalled to look like a more desireable one - but under the surface, it's still a decent steel frame, and it's unlikely to break apart unexpectedly. There aren't factories in Asia cranking out lugged steel frames and passing them off as vintage Colnagos. The cost and the labor of making lugged steel frames, compared to the demand, is such that there'd be no way to make much of a profit. It's much easier to make a mold and pop out fake carbon fiber Pinarellos (or "Chinarellos" as I've seen them dubbed).

Last time I wrote about the issue of fakes, particularly in regards to counterfeit carbon fiber frames, I said that I have a hard time feeling much sympathy for the manufacturers. Not that it nullifies the ethical arguments (it doesn't), but to some extent the manufacturers have brought this problem onto themselves. I wrote, "So many companies have moved their manufacturing to Asia to cut manufacturing costs to the bone, while selling the goods in the U.S. and around the world at premium prices. Knowing how much the goods can sell for, and how cheaply they can be produced, it shouldn't come as a surprise that some of the factories go the the 'dark side'." Even in the cases of carbon frames that are not being built in Asia, the fact that they can be so easily reproduced (at least visually) -- probably by just making molds from existing frames -- says something about the difference between modern carbon vs. classic steel.

Just another reason to be a retrogrouch - even when it's "fake," steel is still real.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

What is "Vintage" About These "Vintage" Bianchis?

There are a lot of words in our language that are thrown around so casually, and with so much frequency, that they become essentially meaningless. Take "Artisan," or "Artisanal," which originally meant a person skilled in a particular craft, or something made by hand by a skilled craftsperson. But when fast-food giants such as Burger King can market something they call an "artisan" bun, or Dominos can market an "artisan pizza," it's pretty clear the word has lost its meaning.

The word "Vintage" seems to be heading that way, too.

The other day I saw that Bianchi has a line of bicycles that they call their "Vintage Range." The bikes are claimed to be inspired by Bianchi bicycles of the past. Now, Bianchi has an incredibly long history as a bicycle company, and is indelibly linked with great Italian racers of the past, like Fausto Coppi, and Felice Gimondi, so one would think they might know a thing or two about "vintage." Looking at the offerings, I'm not so sure.

One of the bikes is the Lupo, which would be something along the lines of a 'cross bike, though it hardly seems like it has a competitive edge. It has 35mm tires, and room for fenders, and would probably make a nice commuting bike, or light tourer. In fact, I think it would be a pretty decent, no-nonsense bike for a lot of people. But with its Shimano Sora drivetrain, all in black, it certainly doesn't look all that "vintage" to me. The sloping top tube doesn't exactly recall the past, either. About the only thing on the bike that echoes the past, from what I can see, is the fact that it has a chrome-moly steel frame and fork -- welded frame, unicrown fork. Hmmm.

Another offering is the Volpe. The Volpe model has been in the Bianchi lineup since the 80s, when it was billed as something of a "do anything, go anywhere" kind of bike -- not so different from the cult-icon Bridgestone XO-1, except for its 700c wheels. This new version doesn't bear much resemblance to the original. It's very similar overall to the less expensive Lupo (I think it's basically the same frame), but upgraded with slightly higher-level Shimano Tiagra components, in a more pleasing silver-ish tone. And the Volpe can be had with disc brakes. Again, probably a good bike -- but what exactly is "vintage" about it? The name?

Then there is the Vigorelli. It's another model name that's been in the lineup for a while. The Vigorelli has a narrower, racier focus, though I have a hard time imagining anybody buying it to actually race on, with all the carbon fiber options out there. I'd call it a nice, go-fast bike for non-racers. Of the so-called "vintage" range of bikes, it's the only one that comes in the classic celeste color that Bianchis of the past were known for. But look past the traditional color paint job and see a sloping top tube, a carbon fiber fork, threadless steerer, 18-spoke front wheel (24 rear), and all-black Shimano 105 components. Nope - not much "vintage" there.

Bianchi has, in recent years, offered some classic lugged-steel frames in limited numbers which one could justifiably call "vintage-inspired" but these aren't them. And bikes like the Lupo, Volpe, and Vigorelli are all probably nice bikes (hey, I'm glad to see anything that keeps steel alive) -- but calling them "vintage" just takes the meaning out of the word.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Retrogrouch and the Roadie

Sometimes a picture just says all that needs to be said.

I'll just leave it at that today.

If you live somewhere that isn't suffering single-digit temperatures (or negative temps like we are here in NE Ohio), I hope you can get out for a ride.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Be the Boy in the Plastic Bubble

When I was a kid, I remember John Travolta starring in a made-for-TV movie called The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, about a kid whose immune system was so compromised that he had to spend his life in a sterilized plastic "bubble" environment. It co-starred Robert Reed (formerly Mr. Brady) and Diana Hyland as his parents (fun/freaky trivia: "mother and son" Hyland and Travolta became a couple after the movie aired). The concept of the "bubble boy" also became the subject of a classic episode of Seinfeld in the '90s.

Not too long ago, I saw something on Kickstarter for a new bicycle accessory called Leafxpro. The company calls it an "umbrella for your bike," but all I can think of when I see it is the Boy in the Plastic Bubble. You too can be the Bubble Boy.

No, you will not look like a dork at all.
Consisting of a big clear plastic fairing that wraps up and over the rider in the front, with an extra diaper-like sling wrapped around the rider's backside, the Leafxpro is supposed to let you enjoy your bike in the "most difficult weather conditions." Oddly enough, most of the bikes shown in their videos and pictures are not equipped with fenders, but without them I can only assume that the effectiveness of the fairing would be completely undermined from water and mud splashing up from below.

There are a couple of videos on the Kickstarter page, including this "Endurance Test."

The test begins by shaking the bike vigorously. The bubble doesn't fly off!
Then riding over a muddy off-road trail. Bubble fairing or no bubble fairing - the lower half of this rider is going to be covered in muck when he leaves the trail.

Notice the plastic sling that covers the rider's backside -- like
a plastic diaper. Fenders would still be a good choice if someone
is serious about staying comfortable in heavy rain.
One of the claimed benefits of the Leafxpro is aerodynamic. Here's a quote (pardon the somewhat tortured English): "The aerodynamic was a critical point in the development process of the structures of Leafxpro, this is a fundamental point that a cyclist can easily overcome the resistance of air, even when the headwinds are the greatest enemies!" The description continues, "Due to its aerodynamics, using the Leafxpro makes the bicycle more predictable and comfortable under rain and when affected by winds." While I have no problem believing that, like any fairing, the wind resistance from the front can be reduced, I do not think I'd want to be on a bike equipped with this bubble in a crosswind. Something on the Kickstarter page says it's been tested in the wind with no "umbrella syndrome" detected, but call me skeptical.

I'm also skeptical about visibility when the rain is really falling. Ever try to drive your car in heavy rain without windshield wipers? Now just imagine your car with a flexible plastic bubble for a windshield. Doesn't sound promising, does it?

But don't let me get too down on Leafxpro, because, as their site says, "The world is colourful! Leafxpro inspires colour."
"If the day is gray and the sky is painted in black don't be afraid! Take your bike and the opportunity to show the world that sustainability can be coloured. The kits feature a range of colours that can be your favourite colour, the colour that will brighten your days."
That's right - when the trucks rushing past are spraying you with wet muddy road grime while the wind treats you like a kite, and your visibility through the rain-streaked plastic windshield dwindles to nothing - you can take comfort that at least your bubble machine is colored in an uplifting neon green. Nice!

Anyhow - whether it works or not, I'm inclined to think the Leafxpro is going to fall short of its fundraising goal. As of today, they only raised £4,190 of £20,000 goal, with only 17 days to go. Then again, I may be underestimating how many people out there want to BE the Boy in the Bubble.

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Kickstand Cyclery Lives!

A reader recently alerted me to the fact that the web-comic Yehuda Moon & The Kickstand Cyclery has been resurrected. According to the site,, 2 - 3 new comics will be added each week. Good news!

Since we last saw Yehuda, Joe, and the rest of the gang from the Kickstand Cyclery, in 2012, fat bikes have burst onto the scene, so one of the new series of strips of course had to look at that new trend. 

Back in April, 2014, I had posted an article about the comic, with some background and history about the strip and its creators, Rick Smith and Brian Griggs. For anyone who may have missed it, that article is re-published here, slightly edited. Enjoy!

The Lauterbrunnental Leaflet

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

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

Much of the content of the comic is introduced through the day-to-day operations of the bike shop and interactions with the customers who come and go. A few regulars have included "Captain Dashboard," who has every known gadget attached to his handlebar; the "Bicycle Hypochondriac" who always worries 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 is 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 would often delve into bicycle-world debates many cyclists can relate to -- like carbon vs. steel, bike lanes, vehicular cycling, the helmet debate, and more. The debates are rarely ever "settled," but between the various characters, one often gets to see several points of view, and it's usually a good laugh.

The strip originally 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 and there are four bound collections available for purchase from the website, and 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 houses the Kickstand Cyclery is 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 is 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.