Category Archives: cycling

From A to B and back again

Making things has never been easy, the end product never resembles the initial concept, and there are always problems to solve, though that process is really what makes any idea worth chasing. The constant glimmer of doubt and the “why do I suck so bad?” tries to keeps you from moving forward, plus one of the worst things Covid has done is tack on an extra layer of paralysis.

But so, having non-judgmental assistants is extremely important.

You make some good decisions, 

and you make some bad ones.

Several months ago we decided to design our own 1001plateaus cycling jerseys and our friends at Standing’s Butchery, Now Serving, The Cleaver Quarterly, Westside Table Tennis Academy, Circumference Books, and Michael Maltzan Architecture were happy to be a part of it. That was the easy part. We didn’t want blue (ever seen a blue cycling jersey?), we didn’t want a gradient/all-over look, and we wanted to keep it visible for cars and full of color. The wonderful people at Endura went out of their way to make sure the final colors were satisfactory (printing on fabric is something else!) and some Scottish seamstresses sewed it all up.

Starting out with a drawing is always good because if things don’t work out, you always have the drawing. Finagling the details can be a chore.

Consider designing a piece of civic infrastructure with this drawing:

Michael Maltzan’s “Ribbon of Light,” 2012, an early sketch for the 6th Street Viaduct. (Michael Maltzan Architecture)

Ten years and 588 million dollars later you get this gorgeous concrete bridge looping and spanning over the LA river, two freeways, and a maze of train tracks.

If you’re the architect of the bridge you get to ride across it, before the mayor cuts the yellow ribbon, before the cars, before the donuts, before the skaters, before the graffiti.

Well well well.

Women are not small men

“Small is fine. Small is good. Small is cute. Small is a whole size bigger than XS. Small rocks.”

“Don’t sweat the small stuff. For our mailers it’s quantity over quality. Let’s mail these puppies out!”

“It’s just for a short time.” Who needs metal links when plastic does the job just fine.

“Hey, you’re small, you can climb up behind the stacked washer/dryer and fetch that little roll.”


On the bicycle front, building a small frame requires a bit of problem solving in order to make the triangles meet up without sacrificing speed, power, comfort, and looks. This is more than just knowing geometry, as most mass produced bikes for women are put together by the guy who doesn’t understand why women can’t just wear the smaller men’s button-down shirts and call it a day. (This guy, this fashion extraordinaire, made that comment to me in front of his wife who was trying on clothes and complaining about women’s shirts that didn’t have darts).

Enter Paul Sadoff, who’s building me a new Rock Lobster track bike. *swoon*. I’m not going to reveal the handlebar tape design yet but one of the colors of the harlequin wrap is definitely going to be Celeste. The frame is not so small if you have to draw the whole thing on paper full scale.

If you doubt Paul’s finesse watch this:

[Superstars Alex Brewer & Kate Wilson pictured above, posing while rolling]

Cheese please

At the certification class at the velodrome a few weeks ago there was a kid who conceivably had never been on bike before, much less seen a fixed gear or knew how to clip in and out of pedals. The fact that English was not his first language made the morning even funnier. But he was enthusiastic, having watched the Chinese track sprinters at the Olympics win some medals wearing their awesome Peking Opera decorated helmets.


The first thing he did after practicing clipping in and out of the pedals — brave soul — was to ride the apron to the far side of the track and crash.


He was bruised but determined. “I am tough,” he said, before the adrenalin wore off.
Ten minutes later he noticed a weird bump next to the raw skin burn on the back of his forearm. “What is this bump?” he asked, running over to me exactly like how you’d imagine a guy to move who is scared and yet has never run with cleats on. I checked out the bump, and found a matching one on his other, unscathed arm. “Its just you,” I said.

The next time he came to class (the velodrome certification is typically a 4-session deal, sometimes longer for those that need it) his neck was covered in hickies from a new girlfriend. He apologized for having not come to class for a couple of weeks. He rode the apron without falling. He got on the black line. He got tired.

When he showed up a few weeks after that he said the girlfriend hadn’t allowed him come to class, so he “just had to get rid of her.” This guy has priorities. This time he got up to the blue line and stayed there.

Last night I had a dream where I was stuck inside a computer game, and the only way to advance to the next level is to explain to a Chinese guy what fresh mozzarella is. And this guy shows up on level one. If I can’t get past him, I can’t get to the next level. This guy, he doesn’t get anything I am saying about the cheese. I am stuck on the first level.

(I am reminded of one of the track sessions where a Cantonese speaking kid who spoke even less English than my guy showed up. When the instructor asked if any of us could speak Cantonese my guy held up his hand, but all he did was go up to the kid and speak Mandarin to him very loudly. I guess if I was awake I could’ve tried yelling about mozzarella.)


All this, for no particular reason, leads me to my Rapha merino wool cycling jersey. Only two seasons old it’s gotten so stretched out and faded I “just had to get rid of it.” But I salvaged the zipper with the circle pull and cut a piece of the black mesh to make a new wallet.




Now maybe I’ll see about getting one of those Olympic helmets.

Newbaums 4 color weave


Whenever I think about re-wrapping the harlequin Newbaum’s weave on my handlebars all I hear is the line from Car Talk where Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers say, “Well, it’s happened again—you’ve wasted another perfectly good hour listening to Car Talk.”

It feels like it takes an hour just to remove the perfectly good existing bar tape, then a real hour to remember how it was done (the start is critical, and the bend in the bars a royal pain in the ass), and another serious chunk of time to get the second side to match the first.


But like most things, the four-color weave takes a little patience and a little practice but it’s well worth it when even the Trumpians at the Velodrome take notice.




Rainbows vs. Trumpians


The Velodrome down in Carson is the only indoor world class cycling facility in the country. Some people say “too bad it’s all the way down there in Carson,” but after you ride the 45 degree banked Siberian pine boards in its perfectly temperature controlled environment, you might think “we’re so lucky that Carson is so close.”

Lately, the thing about the Velodrome being in Carson is its proximity to Orange County, which seems to be the bastion of Trumpians and they are out in force, shouting loudly as cyclists tend to do, and man-spreading without even having to be present. Yes, that’s their shorts, turned inside out, in the foreground.


And when one Trumpian (with a gut so large we call it “the baby”) decides to make one too many jokes about missing female parts and nuts as he asks for help in putting an old bike together, and concludes the conversation by claiming Clinton killed some of his army buddies, the solution is to make a rainbow tool roll based on Eddie Van Halen’s guitar for my old Trek, which we converted to a fixed gear awhile ago for riding to museums and ice cream runs. Why convert? It was impossible to ride. I rode that thing every day when I was in college, happy as a clam. But times do change.

Here’s how it was, original parts from 1984.


Not only was that saddle unbearable, the handlebars were too far away, the brakes too stiff and the gears auto-shifted themselves when going uphill. So we did a little makeover.


And here comes the tool roll, which has been named the “Eddie Van Halen.”


I know I’m going to be so happy the next time I get a flat, and see this when I unroll.




Devil in a Blue Dress Easter egg hunt


We didn’t mean to go on an egg hunt, or even a bike ride on Easter. It was simply Sunday and we’ve been on a Don Cheadle kick, and just saw Devil in a Blue Dress, and thought some of the houses looked awfully familiar. The Internet told us that some of the houses where the movie was shot were still around and very close by. A movie about Los Angeles in the 40’s that was shot in the 90’s still looks the same in the 2010’s.

Last week there was something on the radio about half-marathon-ers who curated routes which explored different parts of the city, ending their runs at some gastronomical treat. I am for any kind of gastronomical treat at any time but I’m not that excited about sitting down all sweaty, mowing something like a “Porno Burrito” and then getting up and running/cycling home. Crafting a ride to movie locations, and picking up a new seat post clamp for my track bike seemed like a more reasonable thing to do.

Club Finale:
Club Finale


Easy Rawlin’s house:
Easy House 1


Frank Green’s apartment:
Other House 2


The first couple of locations were all within a mile or so of our house but since we were on a theme, we decided to check out where Easy Rawlins gets harassed by some white punks at the Malibu pier, which extended the ride to over 50 miles. (The pier is quite close to where Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, something for next time.)


Pier 2

On the way, we stopped by a bike shop, then a second one, then a third, in search of one that was open. Turns out, it was Easter, and for some reason this meant bike shops all across town were closed. All. Except. One. Owned by an Israeli. Thank God.


And just to be completely non-denominational I opted against buying the clamp made by the company called “Guru.” Besides, the Guru was 5 grams heavier.


The smell of steel – MIG welding class


Before taking the Intro to MIG Welding class at Molten Metal Works I thought the only similarity between welding and riding at the track was that in welding you move circularly in a straight line, and at the track you ride a straight line in circles.

Turns out there’s so much more connecting the two (too bad the technique used to build a bike is usually brazing or TIG welding, more on this later), beyond the specialized equipment, footwear, head protection, and complete opposite needs in clothing (lycra = flammable as f**k, but I certainly would enjoy seeing a bib short pad go up in flames).

My track certification was taught by Andrew the Vietnam vet with a belly the size of a bike helmet, and the MIG class was led by Zach, 40 years younger than Andrew, with biceps the size of the argon tank, yet graceful like a true ex-Marine. Both classes spend a huge percentage of time on The Safety Lecture: at the track it’s all about being aware of where the other riders are, and your mantra is: “If in doubt, go faster.” In the shop it’s all about being aware of where your own body is, the process being electrical, if you’re not paying attention you can and will complete the circuit. “If in doubt, unplug.”

The acronym for how to move the wand for MIG welding is D.A.S.H. – don’t know what the H stands for, but the other letters stand for Distance, Angle and Speed.


Sound familiar?

Our project for the class was to weld a metal pillow. 2 flat squares of metal in a lap join, grind the welds, then fillet join a plate (which we got to cut on a hydraulic band saw – with Zach watching like a hawk) and a bolt in order to use an awesome drill/tool I forget the name of to blow up the pillow, giving your work a stress test, to see if your welds bonk. FUN!

First we had to practice taking out and installing the “consumable” filler wire, which is fed through the welder to the gun at a controlled rate, to be mixed and melted with the steel to create the join. The cord from the welder to the gun is quite long, so when we pulled out the wire Zach said we could either toss the wire in their recycling or take it home. It’s steel wrapped in bright shiny copper so of course I wanted to take mine home, and David let me have his too. I placed my coils of wire at my station as we convened at the demo table to watch Zach clean his metal sheets with isopropyl alcohol (cleans bike tires too!). Next thing I notice is the two ladies also in the class roving around everyone’s station collecting their coils of wire. The nerve!*

When I said “Hey, they’re kyping my filler!” they mumbled something and tried to give one coil back. I had to demand that I originally had two pieces, and they conceded.

My wire. MINE!

Some practice beads:

Some tack welds:

Attachment of the plate and bolt using a fillet weld:


All the helmets had different pictures of bands on them. I used the Iron Maiden one, here’s David with his Justin Bieber sticker:

Courtesy to other people is to say “Welding” before you pull the trigger, in case they don’t have eye protection on. Courtesy at the track is to say “Stay” before you pass them, in case they forget that thing about riding in a straight line.

The final product! Sealed nice and tight. Not that I’m going to attempt a balcony or a trailer hitch any time soon.


Here’s the video that started all of this obsession with steel.

In addition to the fact that my Italian is as full of agricultural expletives as Dario Pegoretti’s, he and I have the same joke about Parmesan cheese (“Next time at least buy the Grana Padano”) and drink wine by “going up the mountain backwards,” meaning, we drink the good bottle before we drink the crappy bottle, so we can be sober for the first. MIG welding is the first step towards learning TIG or brazing, so someday I will become Dario Pegoretti.

*I confess to doing a similar type of move in Japan, when the people I was traveling with didn’t eat their kinome leaves, thinking it was a branch of cheap garnish. But at least I asked!



Some people like to match their bike outfits to their lipstick, I prefer to match my handlebar tape to my dogs.

In the entirety of the Internet there appears to be only one video showing how to harlequin wrap your bars using two colors:

In the entirely of the Internet there are a bunch of guys that say “but how do I wrap with four colors?” and one dude that says “If you can wrap with two, you can wrap with four. Figure it out.”


First step is to order all the cool colors of Newbaum’s tape.

Second step is to try the two color wrap.


Third step is to go all in.


There is a lot of WTF at the beginning. A LOT.


But I’ve braided hair. I’ve braided dog tug toys. I’m a master.


Once you figure out how to start, it gets easier, but then you want to kill yourself when you try to make the two sides even. Drinking an alcoholic beverage helps, but only if the brand fits into your color scheme.




Maybe if I repeat this process I’ll make a video?

Duck breast in my jersey pocket


Last week while riding down Topanga Canyon I got my first flat as an adult. Technically it was my second flat, as the first one happened in my garage overnight, so let’s count this as my first puncture acquired in public.

The people I were riding with had already gone down the hill, because who wants to linger on Topanga Canyon? It’s quite possibly the dumbest downhill stretch in Los Angeles. The grade is between -3 to -8 and you have to pedal super hard to keep the headwind from blowing you into a complete standstill.


Of course the nail went into the back wheel but I was more worried about the CO2 cartridge failing than figuring out how to get the wheel back on. I had heard so many stories of cartridges failing, and I only had one, and I’d rather call Uber than ask anyone to ride all the way back up the f**king mountain with a little extra CO2.

Needless to say I successfully fixed my flat, and have been trying to figure out the best way to carry my beautiful little bicycle pump in addition to my one cartridge.

I can’t put the pump on my bike because my bike is so small there just isn’t any more room, and I’m not going to be one of those people who figure “someone’s bound to have a spare tire” (or have 5 bucks to buy me a coffee) so jersey pockets have been on my mind.


One of my jerseys has a third, tall pocket for a pump, but many jerseys for women only have two short pockets, although some brands provide us with little secret secret areas that are sewn in weird triangular shapes, and nothing normal, as in keys, tampons, credit cards, phone, can fit into them, but someone thinks we women like them.

What I do know is that a Muscovy duck breast is shaped perfectly to fit into a jersey pocket. Yesterday after a great up & down tour of Griffith Park, Elysian Park, and Echo Park, we stopped in at McCalls, who packed us up a bag of ice with our duck and away we went, ice water dripping down our back and leg.


Marinate this jersey-pocket sized piece of meat in soy sauce, sesame oil, and ginger, sear it with Sichuan peppercorns and salt, and then smoke it with lapsang souchong tea, rice, and brown sugar and I’ll do that ride any day of the week, even double-flatted.




Pooh Sticks on bikes


Pooh sticks is a game you play on a bridge over running water. Not like poo on a bridge:


but Pooh on a bridge.


No backpacking trip I’ve ever been on is complete without a rousing game; bottles of Peppermint Schnapps were won and lost all over the Weminuche Wilderness. We used to drop our sticks and then run across to the other side of the road with full backpacks on, but nothing is quite the same as trying to run this way with cycling shoes on.



Here in Trinity Alps the stick selection is awesome, and the river is punishing.
But the water is so clear even from far away the winner is obvious.



Along the river we found the house where Pooh lives.


The only access is a rickety wooden foot bridge that spans the river, and to move your shit back and forth there’s a wire cable telpher that reaches all the way to the road. We were walking up and down the side of the road trying to get a good photo of the house, and some locals drove by with the look on their faces that they knew exactly what we were trying to do.


Which is: Move in! Move in! The price of Pooh’s cabin is high so the dogs will have to rough it for awhile.


But we’re moving in as soon as we can test out that foot bridge, and maybe after we kick out some squatters. Meanwhile back at the cabin we’re staying at we are trying out a new bear bag technique. We haven’t seen any bears yet, just some wild turkeys, a roving pack of wild rottweilers and a dog named Toby whose owner screams, “Don’t worry he won’t bite. Toby NO! Toby NO!” as Toby gives the bicycles chase. Never can be too careful.