Released into the wild: Bicycle ride t-shirts from the 1990s

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There’s been a lot of great food served on the No Baloney Ride over the years. No baloney, however. All photos by Lar Davis.

I’m told Marie Kondo, author of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” says the secret to organization is to get rid of anything that doesn’t bring you joy. This doesn’t explain where my fiber pills went or the prominence of a digital clock in my living room, but let’s assume it’s a workable strategy; it certainly is a popular one.

11036497_1016204981731370_3561995621100004912_n(Though I think skimming 4,271 Amazon customer reviews may save me from buying the book and running the risk of bringing something into my house that might b11223552_1016204628398072_5816998750959547940_ne, at best, joy-neutral, seeing as its acquisition would require the exchange of money for knowledge. And yes, I realize borrowing is an option.)

Anyway, while my friend Lar says he’s downsizing, not necessarily organizing, I’m amazed he surrendered 28 vintage bicycle-themed t-shirts to Peoria’s Salvation Army, even if they were too small to wear.

He did, however, take a few pictures before relinquishing his collection, stirring memories among those who failed to keep the same apparel as long.

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Who can forget sleeping–yes, let’s call it sleeping–on a leaky air mattress at Eureka College?

11800513_1016204808398054_7676279494754887615_nThe Pedal-In name was an antique term in 1995, though you’ll note the sponsoring club had already replaced the “e” in Wheelmen with the current, gender-neutral apostrophe. By the way, have you registered for this year’s No Baloney Ride?

11800619_1016204905064711_7960506754341166592_nNo, not the Tour de Poulet of St. Louis fame, but chicken was involved and the cause remains righteous.

11826018_1016204681731400_6447942416110832096_nJust realized I might have modeled for the art at the top of this warm-weather Christmas tree. Did anyone else ride an ordinary around Bloomington-Normal?

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If any ride deserved to survive on the strength of its graphics, it was PACRACC (Pantagraph Area Cyclists Ride Around Corn Country).

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Twenty-five years ago, all the cool cats were wearing this. And now it’s gone. All of these great bicycle shirts–gone. Still, it could have been worse.

I could have written about the 122 running t-shirts that Lar gave away.

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Winslow takes it easy on Washington Island

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Julie is a nurse.

She likes her Dahon Vitesse i7 folding bike because it’s easy to transport in the back of her car and easy to store. And because the gears are inside the hub, there’s no derailleur to get dirty and bent out of alignment.

Winslow seems happy just to be along for the ride.

We caught up with them at Nelsen’s Hall Bitter’s Pub & Restaurant on Washington Island. Pretty good salad bar and excellent soup.

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Catching up with Jeff while crossing Porte des Morts

IMG_6712Jeff is an “almost retired” brokerage professional who continues to work as an expert witness in legal proceedings when he’s not riding his road bike hundreds of miles each month just outside of San Francisco. (He stays away from off-road riding because he doesn’t want to risk falling on his artificial hip.)

IMG_6717On the ferry to Washington Island, Wisconsin, he said he was in the midst of his second Carolina Tailwinds trip, the first being the group’s Chesapeake Bay Bicycle Tour along the eastern short of Maryland and Delaware. This fall he plans to ring up his third Tailwinds outing: the Florida First Coast Tour in the northeast part of the Sunshine State.

Jeff’s hometown? Toluca, Illinois, about 40 miles northeast of Peoria. He talked about catching a double-header against Peoria’s Manual High School–and then almost being carried from the diamond due to exhaustion from the heat and humidity.

Of course that was well before getting married in 1966, moving around the United States and, more recently, celebrating his 75th birthday.

On the ferry this fine July day: little heat, and no humidity worth mentioning.

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Fat times three. You’ll want to sit down for this


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A Surly fork and a 26 x 4.9 tire? Sure, that happens. A Surly fork, 26 x 4.9 tire and one-piece crank? That doesn’t happen as often…

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And I believe this cosmic confluence is even rarer.

But it happened at least once once. The proof is in Wheel & Sprocket’s Brookfield, Wisconsin, store.

Not big on a fat trike? How about a fat tandem?

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The welder will see you now: Eriksen’s Brad Bingham

Brad Bingham at the 2015 North American Handmade Bicycle Show.

Brad Bingham at the 2015 North American Handmade Bicycle Show. All photos by Mitch Hull. Thanks again, Mitch.

Brad Bingham welds titanium bicycle frames today because he went to school next door to the Newberg, Oregon, company that created the world’s first successful air-powered saliva ejector.

“My school shared a property line with A-dec, the largest dental equipment company in the world. The company had a cooperative work experience program, so junior, senior years in high school I got to work there half days. I kind of fell in love with making stuff, and one of the engineers got me into mountain biking.”

Eriksen's isn't the only name you might find on an Eriksen frame.

Eriksen’s isn’t the only name you might find on an Eriksen frame.

In short order, Bingham broke two bicycle frames, and the engineer asked him why he didn’t just make his own. So he did.

“I went to UBI [United Bicycle Institute], took a framebuilding class and learned from Gary Helfrich, the founder of Merlin. He was incredible, a great teacher. Moots got my name from that class, said come on out and weld for us. So I took a 69-cents-an-hour pay cut. Worked with Moots for 15 years and came to Eriksen two years ago.”

Best TIG-welded joints in, well, the joint.

Best TIG-welded joints in, well, the joint.

Kent Eriksen Cycles is a four-person operation based in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, that turns out a wide variety of custom singles and tandems–and piles up the awards, including, most recently, Best TIG-Welded at the 2015 North American Handmade Bicycle Show.

  • Bingham loves titanium. “It’s a real nice material. To weld it properly, it has to be almost sterile. The welding process doesn’t create any smoke. It’s a pleasant environment.”
  • Not that he avoids other materials. He was more than happy to work with the steel and aluminum that went into his restoration of a 1973 Airstream trailer.
  • And he likes variety. Asked about his own bicycle stash, he lists a road bike, full-suspension mountain bike, a fat bike, a hardtail 29er and a commuter. “My girlfriend also has one of each.”

    In English, laser-etched motto reads,

    In English, the laser-etched motto on this particular Eriksen reads, “Nothing without effort.”

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Time shifting in Louisville: 1950s derailleurs

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Derailleurs displayed in The Kentucky Wheelmen booth at the 2015 Handmade Bicycle Show in Louisville.

It’s a deceptively simple thing, the rear derailleur: a mechanism that moves the chain from cog to cog at the rider’s command. But it took decades after the bike boom of the 1890s to arrive at a configuration we’d recognize today.

These derailleurs were built in France in the years around 1950. Five of them mount to the chain stay, forward of the freewheel, and operate without a parallelogram, the deformable rectangular structure that is today universal among mechanical derailleurs.

The one in the lower right features a parallelogram and mounts to the rear dropout, close to current practice, but it sports just one, not two, jockey wheels, which Disraeli Gears contends doomed it to uselessness.

Science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke contended that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. But once that technology ages, particularly when you’re dealing with the relatively transparent technology of a bicycle, the magic fades and disappears.

Today’s gear shifters work much better than these old French devices, but we expect precision. And precision is not the realm of the indefinable, the ineffable or the mysterious.

I’ve been told the speed and accuracy of Shimano’s Di2 derailleurs make them magical things. And they may be, to the extent that tight tolerances, electricity and hidden motors are magical.

But these old derailleurs (and earlier, three-speed hubs and Campy’s Cambio Corsa) were closer to the wizard’s wand.

Change gears on the go. Adapt your strength to the irregularities of the Earth itself. No stopping to move a chain by hand from one cog to another. No electricity. No motors. Just your desire and intent to change.

All you’re changing is gears, of course, but if you can change gears on a bicycle, what else might you be able to change, accept, improve or discover?

What magic might you find at the end of a derailleur cable?

 

 

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Recycling the past: Specialized Expedition

specializedex15Here’s John Ringham the night he joined dozens of people to pedal Bushwhacker’s bicycle inventory from the old Metro Centre store to the new Junction City building. This is his personal bike: an early 1980s Specialized Expedition, complete with wingnut-secured Kirtland handlebar bag.

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If Specialized reissued a modern version of this touring machine, it would sell them in no time. Note the three water bottle cages, hill-busting granny gear, chain stay-mounted generator (it’s below that plate that looks like it should bolt to a kickstand) and historic black-plate Vitesse Cycle Shop sticker. The front wheel has 36 spokes; the rear, 40.

specializedex18Time travelers rejoice. The SunTour MounTech derailleur–Disraeli Gears says it was the first derailleur designed for a mountain bike–is still on the job. Sure, it’s the first thing I’d replace, but it is a beautifully sculpted piece.

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The bike’s ready for indoor training, too. Here’s the bracket for the Racermate wind trainer. Remove the Expedition’s rear rack, fit the Racermate fan assembly to the bracket (the fan rolls on top of the rear wheel) and attach the bicycle to a stationary base.

specializedex17A couple of parts survive simply because they’ve never been given a decent funeral. I’d put these popcorn gum hoods in that category.

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Other components soldier on because they were built to last, like the SunTour bar-end shifters, or forgot to wear out, like the Grab On-style foam grips (but surely those aren’t original to the 1980s, are they, John?)

And, oh yeah, I still want an Expedition. Maybe something around a 54-centimeter frame?

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