Archive for January, 2014
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Bike Friday Service ace Michael Macemon checked RAGBRAI off his bucket list this past summer, enjoying a week of riding his Bike Friday across Iowa. Here are his memories:]
By Michael Macemon
Why is riding a Bike Friday across Iowa with 10,000-plus other bicyclists so much fun?
Just imagine the video evidence to answer that question:
Helmet-cam shots of the road stretching ahead, a rainbow-studded ribbon of bicycles and riders.
Slow camera pans revealing the same view on the road behind, filling the pavement to the horizon in either direction with a mass of smiling humanity.
Video of Amish families operating old-fashioned ice-cream makers at roadside stands filled with homemade pies served up to hungry cyclists, who will surely burn off those calories before reaching their destination.
Action shots of front flips off docks into cool farm ponds. Scenes of a team of bicyclists riding hard while wearing tutus. Evidence of exhausted, but satisfied, friends napping after riding 118 miles on the hardest day of the week.
And possibly best of all? Scintillating footage of a ride down the World’s Greatest Slip-n-Slide.
My friend Scott had just dropped $300 on his new waterproof high-definition video camera specifically for RAGBRAI 2013.
The footage he gathered on that camera over more than 430 miles of riding could demonstrate why Iowa is such a fun place to be each July. Including the fantastic story of the World’s Greatest Slip-n-Slide, which I’ll share with you now:
It’s in the upper 90s (F), and sweat is dripping. Actually, sweat isn’t dripping so much as congealing into a salt-laden deposit on the skin while I ride along with a steady flow of bicyclists.
Ahead the road rises gently up a broad hill, and I can see hundreds of people have stopped to take a break near the top. A wash of music permeates the air. It’s surreal, actually; I’ve been hearing music all day as a collage of snippets from various riders’ on-board sound systems, ranging from tinny renditions of Queen’s Bicycle Race to serious PA systems pumping the latest pop hits out of custom trailers pulled along for the ride.
What I’m hearing now, though, is something more. As I ride over the gentle crest of the hill and approach the place where everyone is stopping, the sound swells to the roar of a live rock concert.
The scene expands as I pull off the road and see that in addition to the crowd fist-pumping along with the band’s dialed-in covers of Back in Black and Stairway to Heaven, there is the World’s Greatest Slip-n-Slide.
The World’s Greatest Slip-n-Slide stretches down a long hill that slopes away from this entrepreneuring farmer’s house where the band is playing in the driveway. A huge green four-wheel drive John Deere tractor pumps gallons of water each second up from a farm pond to the top of the World’s Greatest Slip-n-Slide, itself a 100-foot-long chute formed from hay bales lined with the tarps smooth black plastic. The torrent of pond water rushes invitingly as a line of folks queue up for a turn at cooling off.
Scott and I waited in line watching people take their runs with speeds proportional to either their abandon or trepidation.
When my turn came up, I tried to resurrect my sprint start from high school track days. I backed up as far as possible, sprinted hard, jumped into a superman dive and let gravity do the rest.
The water was refreshing. When I surfaced, Scott was right behind me shouting, “We’ve got to go again!”
So a few minutes later, just before my next run, Scott put his beloved new camera into my hands and said, “You’re the fastest person on this thing — the camera is running, go for it!”
The first thought in my mind was “OK, hold onto the camera no matter what else happens.”
I crouched into my starting position and then leaped into movement with my bare feet peeling out on the mud and wet grass. Apparently someone in the tractor had turned up the gas since my first run, because now the water on the World’s Greatest Slip-n-Slide was a raging torrent.
Diving into the standing wave at the top of the slide, I repeated the mantra in my head: “Hold onto the camera no matter what!”
The bumpy slide down the World’s Greatest Slip-n-Slide went by in just a few disorienting seconds this time, and I imagined the awesomeness of the video footage I was capturing. As I reached the end of the slide and splashed into the hydraulics where the slide met the pond, however, the mantra had cleared out of my mind.
When my head came up and I started treading water, it was a great relief to realize that the camera was still in my hand! My next thought was “OK, swim back to the edge and hand this thing to Scott right now.” Except Scott had hopped in the pond to swim out to the middle where a group of people had formed a barge of inflatable tubes.
“All right, I’ll swim over there,” I thought, making sure my grip was still tight. As I reached the edge of the first tube, I kicked hard and reached to pull myself up. That was the moment that the camera left my hand. For some reason I expected it to float back up to the surface. That thought dissipated in a fraction of a second as logic set in.
I quickly dove underwater, straining to see anything through the brown silt. Resurfacing, I had to tell Scott, “I just dropped your camera.”
Not believing me, he laughed. “No, really,” I said, “I don’t know how deep this pond is, but I’ll try to find it.”
We dove at least 15 times between the two of us, and found that at about 12 feet down, the water quickly turned to icy pitch-black darkness, with soft mud at the bottom. Almost needless to say, there was no luck finding the camera.
Months later, after multiple calls to potential scuba-diving salvage crews, the farm pond was drained for maintenance. The owner looked for the camera containing our memories from the amazing time we had at RAGBRAI. Countless beer cans were recovered, but unfortunately no camera.
I replaced the camera, but of course could not replace the footage. Hopefully this story at least paints in words a few of the images that were lost. There were many more great scenes, and for now they live on in my imagination as I look forward to the next time I can take my Bike Friday to Iowa and join in the fun rolling party that is RAGBRAI!
Michael’s Bike Friday
MODEL: Pocket Rocket Pro
BARS: Salsa Cowbell 2
HEADSET: Cane Creek Solo
BRAKES: Avid BB7 Road
CRANKS: SRAM Force
SHIFTERS: SRAM Rival
REAR HUB: BF Xlite with 9-32 10-speed Custom Capreo Cassette
REAR DERAILLEUR: SRAM Rival
TIRES: Schwalbe Durano 20×1 1/8 
Add comment January 31, 2014
Here’s a great post from Seattle, home of the Seattle Seahawks who will play the Denver Broncos in Sunday’s Super Bowl.
The Seattle Mayor has made a bet with the Denver Mayor, which is typical. The Seattle Mayor put up a bicycle. Too cool.
Add comment January 30, 2014
We have entered a contest to win a Fed Ex Small Business Grant that we would use to boost our Safe Routes to School OSATA bicycle program.
To support our cause, just go to the Fed Ex website link below, and vote. You can vote once each day! Voting continues through February 23, 2014.
Thanks for considering it!
Add comment January 29, 2014
There’s not much more than we can say. We just read in the latest Bicycle Retailer magazine that our old friend, Jim Langley, has successfully doubled his long-time goal.
Years ago Jim, a former editor at Bicycling magazine, decided he wanted to attempt to ride every day for 10 years. This December, he completed 20 years of riding every day! Way to go Jim. That’s nothing less than astounding!
2 comments January 27, 2014
[EDITOR’S NOTE: It has been a while since we first shared this with you, so why not bring in up again. Here’s a little peek into Bike Friday’s roots in bicycle racing in North Dakota in the 1980s, showing that our road racing experience runs deep.]
As success stories go, you’d be hard-pressed to fabricate one as endearing as that of the Scholz family, that includes brothers Hanz and Alan, who founded Bike Friday in 1992.
Their love affair with bicycles blossomed during the 1970s and 1980s, when elite bike racing re-emerged from its long hibernation in the United States. Alan became interested in cycling while working toward a Boy Scout badge as a youngster.
It’s not as though the Scholzes jumped on the band wagon in some cycling haven like New England or Colorado — or even Indiana or Wisconsin — where the seeds already were sown. These unassuming beginnings unfolded in the Great Plains of Fargo, North Dakota.
It was a family affair.
“There were a lot of families involved,” Alan says, noting that his family was among the most active. “At that time our cycling clubs were really family clubs. We would all ride together: parents, kids and racers. Everyone had the opportunity to learn from riding with the best. There was a lot of mentoring then.”
Fast forward a bit, and Alan opened a bike shop in the basement of his parents’ house while he was in high school. It later moved to the garage, and eventually became a traditional bike shop called Nomad.
Alan raced as senior in the district known as the Dakota Territories — the vast landmasses of North and South Dakota combined because of the tiny population of racers. The brothers’ parents, Earl and Mary Esther, became the district representatives. They organized and officiated at races.
Nomad became the center of the club.
“We sponsored weekly events and rides,” Alan says. “Since our club was an everything club, everyone went to tours, state races, and even nationals together. Moms, Dads, kids from 8 years old on up.”
While Alan’s business grew with the opening of a sister store in Grand Forks run by his brother Ian, so did the community of cycling enthusiasts in the Dakota Territories. When youngest brother Hanz began racing in Fargo, so did another youngster in the district, up the road in Grand Forks.
“Back then we had maybe three races a year, I believe,” says Andy Hampsten, an upstart youngster who pedaled his way from Grand Forks to European Grand Tours, including the Giro d’Italia title in 1988. “I started my first race when I was 13 or so. I guess, I was 12. It was at the University of North Dakota. In my class, it was my brother, Steve, my best friend, Pete O’Kelly and myself. I was third. Maybe that was before anything was sanctioned.”
Hampsten started racing on a Raleigh. When Steve bought a Gitane, Hampsten went to the Grand Forks Nomad shop to upgrade, and bought a Peugeot PX 10 from Ian Scholz. It was time to get serious.
“We did a lot more riding than racing,” Hampsten says. “We would drive six hours to Bismarck to do the state championships. It’s a pretty big state. It was hard finding a ride. There were only half a dozen racers in Grand Forks. I’d do touring, just riding five days a week.
“There were just so few races. My bother was a year and a half older than me. We would talk about racing and hash over what happened after a race, that we went too slow in the corners, things like that. But there were only a few times a year we could practice anything we learned in a race.”
So much of that riding and mentoring took place on club rides.
“As I think back to Hanz and Andy’s rise to national class, it comes from an inclusive mentoring atmosphere that the shop and club were central to,” Alan says. “We presented possibilities that simply would not be there in an outback like Fargo. Our closest competition was Winnipeg or Minneapolis — full day trips out of the realm of possibilities for budding juniors. We had to build and run our own system.
“My parents supplied the ‘wheels’ in so many ways to make it possible for young talent to develop.”
That’s exactly how Hampsten remembers it.
“Their parents were the Dakota Territories,” Hampsten says of the Scholz family. “One (parent) would be District Rep, both be judges at the races, and they’d be giving out food, feeding everyone. It was the whole Scholz family.”
With his strong foundation, Hampsten took what he learned in North Dakota and built on it.
“I went to England in the summer of ’77 when I was 15,” Hampsten says. “That changed everything.”
To hone his skills, Hampsten spent his summers racing in Wisconsin, living in Madison. But each year he would come back to race his district championship. And face his Dakota rival, Hanz Scholz.
“I remember one championship, traveling from Wisconsin — must have been my second year as a junior,” Hampsten says. “I came to the Junior Boys race, and it was only Hanz and myself. We had 80 miles to do, 5 laps.
“I remember when we got our feed bags, we decided to sit down and eat sandwiches. It was a little bit of a hilly course. I attacked a bit at the end. Hanz was really good. We came down to a sprint — doing track stands for the last mile.
“He jumped early. I came past him with 150 meters to go, but he fooled me. He came back around, and we had a photo finish before there were cameras. It was too close to call.”
Too good to forget.
“Yes, I remember that race,” Hanz says. “It was the world’s longest matched sprint. I remember how strong he was and how determined I was that he wouldn’t drop me. I wasn’t strong enough to lead at a very fast pace, and he wasn’t strong enough to ride away — 35 miles of hell and we could have just ridden up the road a quarter mile and sprinted in. The result would have looked exactly the same.”
As it was, the result looked to be a dead heat. Normally, it would be up to the judges to pick a winner.
“His Mom and Dad were judges,” Hampsten says, with a chuckle. “They talked it over a little, and then came over and asked, ‘Between you guys, who do you think got it?’
“I thought I held him off. But Hanz threw his bike better. They asked us to talk about it. We both thought we won it. Then Hanz said, ‘I’m not going to go to the National Championships anyways, you’ll go. So we’ll say you won.’
“It was really a fun time.”
It was where the heart and soul of Bike Friday was forged. Where love of cycling ran deep.
“I remember one year riding from Grand Forks to Fargo for a race,” Hampsten says. “No one I knew had a car. We drove with people from Sioux Falls, driving through the night. Then I rolled a tire in a race, and drove all the way back. But the center of all the hubbub, was the Scholzes.”
And Alan’s Nomad Shop, which specialized in bicycles and cross country skiing.
“We only had six months to ride our bikes,” Hampsten says. “We had long winters to think about where to ride and to tinker with bikes.”
That tinkering became the fertile ground from which Bike Friday was born.
Today, Hampsten splits his time living in Boulder, Colorado, and Tuscany. He and his brother Steve own Hampsten Cycles in Seattle.
“Everything is great,” Hampsten says. “Everything is fun. Hampsten Cycles is doing well in Seattle with Steve. We’re selling Olive Oil. Business is keeping us busy. But we’re still having fun and riding our bikes.”
So are the Scholzes.
Add comment January 16, 2014
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Least we forget the thrill that comes with a new bike, Bike Friday owner Fred Time recently sent us this note:] OMG !!! After a two-day delay in arrival, my beautiful Green Bike Friday arrived. I almost drove my wife, June, crazy waiting at the door and constantly calling Fed Ex about the delay. Once a Fed Ex truck slowed down in front of my house, and when I ran out in the yard it sped away. This created much laughter from my wife and the next door neighbor. Finally on arrival, I dragged the box, gently, into the room and began ripping the box open Once its beautiful green frame appeared a sense of relief and pride came over me. I spent the rest of the day putting it together. I was pleasantly surprised how much I remembered from all of my overseas trips putting it together after arriving at a foreign airport. I reminisced riding out of the airport into a foreign city on my way to a bicycle adventure. I can't begin to thank you all for making my biking dreams reappear, and for making my 80th birthday one I shall always cherish. Love, Fred Time
1 comment January 11, 2014
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Bike Friday owners Eugenia Hart and her husband Peter rode their Bike Fridays from Minnesota to the East Coast.]
By Eugenia Hart
Having already completed the western half of a transcontinental bike ride from Washington to the Wisconsin border, I wanted to figure some way to finish the quest. With my 70th birthday rapidly approaching, my husband got an announcement of his 50th high school reunion to be held in Connecticut. We decided that riding our bikes out there was the perfect way to accomplish both objectives in one shot and really have something to remember.Â It may not say much for the value of his public education, but it may win him a prize for the most unusual way of getting to the reunion.
We packed up the Bike Fridays and flew from our home in Arizona to Minnesota where our daughter and grandchild live. After a week of enjoying being grandparents, we committed to the trip by taking the suitcases to the Post Office and mailing them to our ultimate destination in Connecticut.
With the cases on their way, we left Minnesota and headed into Wisconsin in what was mostly the most direct route across each state/province to the Atlantic Ocean. We did take the ferry across Lake Michigan which was an enjoyable experience even though it consumed most of the day … only rode 7 miles that day.
Our travels took us across Wisconsin, Michigan, Ontario (Canada), New York, and Massachusetts to the Atlantic ocean. Having relatives north of Boston, we figured if time allowed, we would go see them. Well, we discovered that we were well ahead of schedule and easily made it to the east coast. We ultimately reached the ocean at Plum Island, north of Boston where I was able to dip my tire into the Atlantic Ocean, completing my cross country (self contained) bicycle trip with weeks to spare before my birthday.
There was still the matter of the reunion, so we still had to make it to Connecticut. Considering that we had had nothing but clear skies and tailwind since we left Minnesota, the rolling hills of Massachusetts and Connecticut were a bit of a grind. Nothing you couldn’t do with the gearing range we had, but they just keep coming and kind of wear you out. We made it easily in three and a half days, which left us plenty of time to get ready for the reunion.
We utilized a wide range of options for our nightly stays. There was always the credit card for a hotel, but we especially enjoyed the Warmshowers stays. Having hosted bikers for many years before when we were in Fargo (northern tier route) and since we have moved to Arizona, it was kind of interesting to see how kind people can be to what many people see as “strangers.” We may well be strange, but we seem to have a common interest in the bike and sharing our stories of the road.
Other overnights were utilized with another organization we belong to for people over 50 years of age. Much like Warmshowers, people take you into their homes and you have a much better experience than another lonely night in the motel. We did manage to camp one night but not sure it made carrying the necessary gear a wise decision.
We had overpacked our clothing needs because we were in a transitional period of the year. It was warm, but well could have been cold; it was dry, but well could have just poured down on us. One thing is for sure, we were happy after we stopped at the Post Office and mailed some of the things on forward. We figured if things changed, we could always find a thrift or department store to acquire what we might need and discard it afterward.
We have fond memories of our trip and the wonderful experience it was. So many people were just in awe of what we did, but we told them: anyone can do it…. It isn’t a race, you just do what you can. The best part was that we had fun doing it!
6 comments January 2, 2014