Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Missed Milestone and a Look Back

It just occurred to me today that I missed a couple of milestones for The Retrogrouch Blog.

The blog recently marked 3 years, and also recently passed 1,000,000 views. Okay - in the big scheme of things on the web, 1 million pageviews is nothing. Not even a blip. BikeSnobNYC probably gets that many every few months. Nevertheless, readership has generally increased steadily since the blog started back in 2013.

But right now might be a good time to take a look back at some highlights and lowlights from the past year.

Most Popular Posts

The saddle-to-bar "drop" on Fignon's bike in '89 is a lot closer
than what you'd see on a racing bike today. Doesn't keep him
from getting in a low tuck with a flat back, though.
Far and away, the most-viewed post on the blog has been one that appeared almost exactly three years ago - Changing Positions: Bike Fit Then and Now. Every so often, someone will post a link to that article and start a flame war on a forum somewhere about how deeply flawed my assessments are (or "right on the money" depending on the commenters). After one blogger who must have a much larger audience share than I do posted a link to it earlier this year, page hits for this one article must have hit 5000 or so per day for a couple of days afterwards. In the article, I was mainly just pointing out how the relationship between saddle height and bar height has changed so much on racing bikes - that the "drop" from saddle to bar has grown a lot since the '80s, and that people tend to do a lot more riding with their hands on top of the bars or on the brake hoods than they used to. And while that increase in drop might be fine for racers, it shouldn't be the kind of thing that "trickles down" to the rest of us. It's proven to be a lot more controversial than I ever imagined.

The second-most-viewed post is one about Tange and Ishiwata Tubing. It was one of three articles I did about the brands of steel tubing used in so many of the great classic bikes of the past. Why that one gets so many more views than the articles on Reynolds or Columbus (which I expected to be the more popular ones), I don't know, but again, it gets referenced and linked on other pages pretty regularly.

Personal Favorites 

This past year, I think my personal favorite posts were the series on how the American bike industry shifted from manufacturing to importing: "Designed in America." Each of the four articles looked at another factor in the shift, though there was some overlap between them. Those four factors were The American Bike Boom, The Rise of Importers, The Fall of Schwinn, and The Rise of Shimano. The one about Schwinn probably got the most comments of the series. American cyclists from a couple of generations can't help but have a soft spot for the brand that more than any other helped introduce them to the love of bicycles. And the circumstances of their downfall were mirrored across the industry.

I also really liked doing the article on a Visit to Mercian Cycles. I was lucky enough to be able to visit their workshop and retail store in Derby this past summer and snap some photos. It was great to meet all the folks there and share the experience here on the blog.

That's the Mercian workshop, and the retail storefront, with owners Grant and Jane Mosely.
Most Hated Post

After the Republican National Convention descended upon Cleveland in July, just a short drive from my home in Akron, I managed to find a few bike-related items to bring up - like the Cleveland Police Department's new bicycle patrols, and a young librarian distributing books to delegates and protesters from the back of his bicycle. Apparently some readers, detecting my liberal-leaning politics (Oh hell - why not just admit that I'm a freakin' socialist) felt compelled to leave some pretty hostile comments, or send some venomous emails. Sorry - you won't see the comments, as I moderate them and deleted them for profanity. I try to keep the blog family-friendly, you know.

Least Popular Posts

It seems like the posts that consistently get the fewest views and the fewest comments are the ones in the Bike Safety 101 series - which look at old educational films about bicycle safety. I enjoy them because they combine my love of bikes with my love of movies. Having taught a film class for a number of years, I always teach a unit on old educational films and propaganda - looking at how the films reflect the times in which they were made and promote the social and/or political values of those times. The bike safety films from the '50s through the '70s are no exception. Examining the films by decade, you can see how bikes were marginalized in the '50s and '60s as little more than kids' toys (albeit, really dangerous ones that could maim and kill), to practical transportation in the Bike Boom '70s. Any bike safety propaganda made since then puts the biggest emphasis on helmet use above all else.

Where Are The Readers?

Overwhelmingly, most of the blog's readers are located in the U.S. - no surprise there. After that, comes England, then Canada - again, not surprising. Then Germany, followed by Australia. Yep - more Germans read The Retrogrouch than Australians. Among the English speakers, Aussies must not be very retro-grouchy, I guess.

What's Next?

As the next year goes by, expect to see more stories griping about pointless bike-related technology and supposedly revolutionary "must have" innovations. I expect to have a few photo-laden stories of upcoming vintage bike projects. I have some bike-related books on my must-read list, so reviews will be forthcoming. All around, as long as I can keep coming up with ideas, it should be another year of what readers have come to expect on The Retrogrouch.


  1. Congrats on the milestone. I've been a reader for several years but comment infrequently (probably true of many of your readers).

    My favorite posts are related to classic components... the components feeding your Specialized Expedition build come to mind.

    Please keep up the great work!

    1. Weird that you would get "hate mail" over a blog post. Says a lot about the sender, if you ask me.

      I usually enjoy the Bikesafety 101 posts, but there's not usually much of anything to say about them. Just enjoy and move on...

      I've found myself more than once going to your Tange/ Ishiwata post, as it is pretty informative. I have several bikes using those tubesets and when I'm trying to remember some detail, I'll find myself starting with that post. I have also seen it mentioned "in the wild" of the internets, interestingly.

      Congrats on the milestones, and thanks for writing.


    2. I didn't mean to hit reply to Unknown @ 11:54 for my comment. I was on my phone, clumsy fingers, etc...


    3. Hi. One of your readers from the UK. I discovered it about 4 months ago whilst looking to buy an old bike for L'eroica Britannia. I've now bought the bike (a 1982 R531 Dawes Atlantis) and overhauled it. I love it so much it has now become my daily ride.

      I have also just about finished reading the existing blogs and would like to thank you for the information and entertainment. BTW I live in Derby and would love to pick up a vintage Mercian.

      I could say that your stat on readership is probably because more Germans can probably read English than Australians! This is purely on the basis of the number of Germans of course:)

  2. Brooks--Write any darned thing you want in this blog. I'll read it: I love your point of view and your writing. And if they don't like your politics, well, don't let 'em frack with you!

    Seriously, I hope you keep up the bike-safety film posts. Also, if you want to write more about bikes and film, that would be great!

    Congratulations on your milestones. More years, and more millions of page views, to you!

    1. Justine - believe me - I got a good laugh out of the anger and didn't take it too personally. But I didn't "approve" the comments. I enjoy your blog too.

  3. Congratulations! I kept stumbling upon your blog while Googleing and decided to read everything... Except... You guessed it, the Safety series. Keep up the good work!

  4. How about doing a review of the quick change from toe clips and straps to clipless pedals in the early 1980's, Members of our Slow Spokes group are mainly against clipless, preferring toe clips or merely flat pedals. One member cites his clipless (SPD) pedals as having caused 3 falls,

  5. Love your Blog. Bike Snob ain't even in the same league.

  6. Congratulations. I enjoyed the post on Tange and Ishiwata thoroughly.
    I guess the post was popular because we never did get any information from the net on these two Japanese tubing companies. I went to university in Canada in the 80s and I can still remember I looked at the Mieles, built with Ishiwata tubings, being displayed proudly in a lot of Toronto's bike shops. After I went back to Hong Kong, my first bike was a Centurion, built with Tange tubings. So naturally I have an immense interests on these two companies. Columbus and Reynolds were just way too expensive for a recent university grad at that time.

  7. I think your low Australian viewership has a lot to do with the fines imposed on cyclists for viewing pro-cycling propaganda. Probably they are also worried about ridicule from coworkers. Perhaps a "boss" button on the blog that links to the Keith Maddox video would help.

  8. From one retrogrouch to another, keep up the good work!

  9. For the Tange and Ishiwata article being so viewed, its simple: not many good article are written on them while reynolds and colombus tubing are very well known. In fact you are the first result i got when i type ishiwata tubing in google, top ten for tange tubing. Thats article is actually the reason i found your blog.

    I don't enjoy much Bike Safety 101 either to be honest. The subject don't intersest me very much.

    On the contrary your "Designed in America." series was well written and informative. I enjoyed it very much, even if my comment on Schwin generated some (courteous) heat.

    But overall your blog is one of my favorites and i check it nearly every day. Keep up the good work!

  10. I very much appreciate the niche you represent and inhabit with a refreshing evenhandedness and decency and just the right amount of rigor. You are good company. Thanks for sharing your enthusiasms with the rest of us.