Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Two of my Rough Riders featured on the Velo Cult Blog

Thanks to Sky, Tom, Anthony, and the rest of the Velo Cult team for their amazing service as San Diego County's premier bike shop which caters to everybody except the mainstream - which means we fit right in! Today they have featured two of my Rough Riding bikes, and their recent work on them, on their blog.

Click on over to their always fascinating blog which is always VERY well illustrated with incredible photography. Today their blog features my 1983 Raleigh Competition, which Tom outfitted with a 3-Speed Fixed Wheel set-up, and my 2010 Rivendell Roadeo, on which Sky installed hammer Honjo fenders and Challenge Paris-Roubaix 700x29 tyres. They do superb work and are great people. And don't my bikes look as awesome as they ride???

Velo Cult is located in the South Park area of San Diego, just a bit south of University Avenue and west of the 805, in a really neat neighborhood with a great restaurant next door (Whistle Stop Bar) and a classic coffee shop (Rebecca's) on the corner. Velo Cult often show films or have other social events at their shop in the evenings,. They are a driving force behind the San Diego Tweed Ride and they also created the San Diego Bike Commuter online forum and the SDBikeCommuter.com Discount Program through which local merchants give discounts to customers who arrive by bicycle.

Two New Blogs I Love: Pondero & Lovely Bicycle!

Just when I think the internet is getting boring and there's nothing any good left to discover, along come two blogs I'd not yet seen before and in which I immediately fell in love. They are "Pondero: To Weigh, Consider, Reflect" by Chris Johnson in Sanger, Texas, and "Lovely Bicycle" by Constance Winters AKA "Velouria" of Somerville, MA. Here are their blog banner/logos, links, and a brief snippet from each. I happily and excitedly visit both of these sites on a daily basis and encourage you to check them out.

Sample post from Pondero, including his photos and text from 1-6-11:

A bicycle rolls down into the valley, and from rough pavement to a gravel road. A stiff wind lays down, replaced by silent stillness. A sun's warmth is overcome by a crisp chill. A blue winter sky turns grey, then darker yet. A man's workday pace relaxes into dawdling. And the bicycle climbs out of the valley, behind a small beam of light, as darkness covers everything like a blanket.

Sample post from Lovely Bicycle!, including the photo of the author, from 1-10-11:

Lately, there has been some discussion in the comments about whether drivers display more courtesy when cyclists ride upright bicycles and dress in "regular" clothing. One reader wrote that "the uprightness [is] more visible and [the clothing] maybe less offensive to your average driver... The images generated revolve around Mary Poppins. Only a monster would do anything mean to Mary Poppins" (Christopher Fotos, December 10, 2010). Do you agree?

When Bike Snob NYC poked fun at the Tweed Ride last week in his typically colourful manner, I was laughing my head off about the associations with colonialism and Civil War re-enactments: I never found Tweed Rides appealing for precisely those reasons. But I disagree with his conclusion that nice clothes on a bike are generally "not traffic calming." It's one thing to be dressed in what appears to be period costume, joined by dozens of others who have done the same while taking a joyride through the city. It's another thing entirely to be cycling to work in a suit and a wool overcoat, because that is what you normally wear to work.

Speaking solely from my own experience, I'd noticed as soon as I started cycling for transportation that drivers are nicer to me when I dress "normally." And since having begun to ride a roadbike recreationally, the difference between how I am treated on the roads when on a bike with drop bars, wearing "sporty clothing" and my hair tucked away, in comparison to how I am treated when on an upright bike in "city clothing," with my work bag in the basket and my hair visible, is notable. The majority of the time, when a driver is rude to me or impatient with me, I am on my roadbike - which is odd, since I am faster on a roadbike than I am on an upright bike, and thus should be less "in the way." To me, this just confirms that drivers' perceptions of how annoying a cyclist is, are entirely subjective. You can be going 10mph and somehow this might be okay, or you can be going 25mph and they might still be annoyed.

In part, I think the idea of not wanting to harm Mary Poppins is valid - in the sense that a cyclist dressed "normally" looks more human to the driver. The way people process each other visually and emotionally is governed by a complicated system of simulation and self-recognition (this is actually my research specialty, so I've spent a lot of time thinking about it!). And from that point of view, it makes sense to speculate that the more "I am human! I am you!" signals we give off when cycling, the more empathy a driver will feel towards us. Dehumanisation, on the other hand, makes it easier to cause harm to another human being - because we fail to simulate their emotional state and relate to their suffering. And dehumanisation is facilitated by things like uniforms (one reason it is easier to kill soldiers and war prisoners, than civilians), or anything else that obscures individuality and hides signs of "humanness."

Read the full story, and comment, here

(Note I quickly became so enamored with LovelyBicycle!, and am so impressed with the site's readership and large number of commenters, that I signed on as a Site Sponsor for both Rough Riders and AdventureCORPS, hence the logos for both on her site.)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Rough Riders / Classic Cyclist / Chris Kostman are now tweeting!

Rough Riders / Classic Cyclist / Chris Kostman are now tweeting! To stay up-to-date, in-the-know, and ready-to-go, subscribe at http://twitter.com/classiccyclist

Our slogan is "Any Bike, Anywhere" and we believe in riding any distance, in any conditions, over any terrain, at any time of day or night. We do all of this with the style and substance of The Classic Cyclist. This sounds really hard-core, perhaps, but mainly we enjoy getting "out there" by riding roads, dirt roads, trails, and paths on whatever bike we happen to be on or have handy. Sometimes the pavement's long gone and we're still on our "road bikes" or some bike that would be commonly considered inadequate for the job - and that's just fine by us! Rough Riding is not defined by the type of bicycle or type of riding surface. Rough Riding is a state of mind, a riding style with limitless freedom and an all-pervasive sense of adventure.

Join us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/classiccyclist and on our blog at http://www.XO-1.org!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

1982 Ritchey MountainBikes Catalogue

As a follow-up to the previous post, "Tom Ritchey: In His Own Words," here is Tom's 1982 catalogue. As you can see from the Fairfax address (Tom has always lived on the SF peninsula, not in Marin County), these were Tom's bikes, as sold by the Charlie Kelly / Gary Fisher partnership. Enjoy! (Remember, click any of the images/pages to see it bigger.) Special thanks to Tom Ritchey for providing the scans!

Related Links:
Tom's bio on Wikipedia
Tom's Mountain Bike Hall of Fame page
Tom's company, Ritchey Design
Other Ritchey-related posts on this blog

Friday, January 7, 2011

Tom Ritchey, In His Own Words

Above: A recent photo of Tom and his wife Martha on a one-of-a-kind Tom-built Ritchey BreakAway Tandem
Above: Tom brazing a 62cm Road Classic on December 15, 2010

In December, 2010 there was some discussion on the Classic Rendezvous (CR) email group about Tom Ritchey, the frame-builder and component and tire designer who was a co-founder of the first mountain bike company and built the first large run of mountain bikes ever sold.

The main question on the CR forum was "How does one tell which Ritchey frames were made by Tom himself?"

I've been a fan and friend of Tom's for a long time, so I contacted him directly with the questions, so that hearsay would be replaced with the true facts and history. Tom and I had an extensive back-and-forth, much of it via voicemail as he was traveling in Asia. I've typed up our correspondence, both written and verbal, which explains why it sounds a bit breezy and conversational, and present it here at "Tom Ritchey in his Own Words."

This dialogue started while Tom was in Asia, and all of this dialogue has happened while he was on the road in Asia, Hawaii, Australia, Tasmania, and lastly in New Zealand.

Chris Kostman (CK): Is it true that all fillet-brazed Ritchey frames were made by you, personally? Also, two people have said to me that Steve Potts built some of the fillet-brazed Ritchey frames, in particular the tandems. True or false?

Tom Ritchey (TR): I'm not sure where these urban myths take off from. Steve Potts is a very good friend, and builder, but he has never built anything for me. We've done many things together, mostly personal. In the beginning of his frame-building days he was often down in my shop on Skyline. You should ask him, but I think he would give me some credit for what he knows, particularly fillet brazing.

Furthermore, over the last 38 years, all the fillet-brazed (Ritchey) bikes that were ever built, were 100% done by me. There were some copies, however: people that copied my decals and used my Logic tubing and dropouts, and made some counterfeit bikes. Every now and then I run across a "Ritchey" bike and I look at it and I know immediately that it's a fake, because there's a lot of little details that the counterfeiters don't execute right. So basically I know that there are some copies out there and some misinformation out there.

CK: Tom, did you build any TIG-welded frames yourself?

TR: There was a series of bikes called Ascents, in the very, very beginning. A mil-spec TIG-welder friend of mine and I did a series of either 100 or 250 Ascents. (Just digging this stuff up is a blast from the past, from the recesses of my memory.) But there was a period of time when I made in my shop at Skyline a series of TIG-welded bikes with one other individual that was really skilled in TIG-welding. I made them with him. Basically he was my assistant. I did all the cutting of tubes and brazing and part of the welding and he was just a very, very competent welder that came on board after I started to test the idea out (of building TIG-welded frames). What I don't remember is if it was before or after Tange, or Toyo. (First I developed the Tange tubing, and then I developed a relationship with Toyo.)

The later “TIG bikes” were a collaborative effort mainly with Toyo of Japan who I taught many new skills to. At various dates, the TIG bikes had varying amounts of my personal hand work on them. But I’m comfortable saying that for the ones that were sold through Ritchey Design in the United States, 100% of them (up until the introduction of the BreakAway), went through my hands and my shop at Skyline which included quite a bit of personal work by me: braze-on brazing, finishing, and aligning. So even the TIG bikes, prior to the introduction of the BreakAway in 2004, had my hands and work on them.

CK: A few have questioned whether your fillet brazed frames were tacked together by somebody else first, or whether you were personally totally responsible for every aspect of assembling/brazing the frames. Also, a few people have even suggested that your frames were TIG welded in Japan and then you fillet brazed over that.

TR: There was a time when I was seeking to find ways of making bikes faster and I started to play around with TIG-tacking forks and ended up not being able to control it. It was through Tange and not being able to control the accuracy that I was looking for and the cleanliness of the joint and so I ended up basically taking a shipment and breaking all the tacks and doing them completely the way I needed to do them for accuracy. So there was a period of time when I was experimenting with it with forks, but never experimented with it in a frame, never brazed over any welded joints: that would have been stupid. I know that other people were doing that at the time, but I don't remember exactly who was doing it, but I know that other people who didn't have any good skills in frame building were doing that. There were some low-end frames that were being made like that.

I heard rumors at the time of people fillet brazing over TIG-welding. I remember there was a lot of interest in my work in the early 80s, and previous to that even, because I had probably built almost a thousand frames by 1980.

The way people could cover over just about anything with paint made it something in which people could do a pretty poor job and do a nice job with paint, and make something look reasonable. It always, of course, was a compromise and I was in the beginning of my Logic-defining years and, of course, I made my product logically and so I was always against doing anything like that.

I think Ross Bicycles was probably the first one that came along and did something like that, although I never cut a frame apart, never looked inside, to confirm my suspicion. That's what any of these armchair fillet brazers would have to do in order to make their statement to me or anybody, whether any of them had repaired or cut a frame in two and saw that a frame was TIG-welded and fillet brazed over it. Otherwise, they are just speculating about it. Needless to say, I was entirely against that and I never did it.

CK: What else can you tell us about the origins of TIG-welding in relation to frame-building?

There were kind of "winds" blowing and the first wind that really began to blow was in probably in '81, after Mike Sinyard took a couple of my first mountain bikes - fillet brazed mountain bikes, of course, because that's all I made - and brought them or the design over to Japan and had them copied. They first batch was TIG-welded, but after that he used lugs because, it's hard to believe at this point, but basically TIG-welding was something that really didn't have any credibility. People were kind of associating that with a BMX bike and not anything that would hold together and be strong enough. And in a sense, they were correct because the type of tubing that was being used was not butted, and so it was a great risk to TIG-weld non-butted tubing. I'd seen this wind or wave or whatever coming that had to do with how people were going to build mountain bikes more efficiently with TIG-welding and that inspired me to develop Logic tubing.

I first went to Columbus, and traveled to Italy and met with Antonio and then others about my ideas on Logic butted tubing, which was a new way of butting a tubing that no one had done to that point. It was condensed butting and longer, thinner center sections with differential tapers, force-directional butted sections and just a lot of things that I had been thinking about for years and years and years, that would make it possible for TIG-welding to work better, and it would also make a better fillet brazed bike, because you didn't have to overheat the tube away from the joint, which is what happens with a lug, because you have to heat a larger area.

Long story short, Columbus couldn't succeed. They tried, we developed mandrels, they didn't really know how to do force-directional tubing.

Again, another data point in history is that tubing maker Tange had not developed a heat-treated tubing until about '85. Both Tange and Ishiwata were two Japanese tubing makers that were kind of a similar level of quality, but Tange was the first to make a heat treated tubing. So with Columbus failing, I went to Japan and Tange succeeded. So that was the beginning of my relationship with Toyo and Tange. It was at that point that some of the TIG-welded versions of my bikes started to happen.

CK: When did you first start selling Toyo-welded frames?

TR: Probably about 86ish. The frames were Toyo-welded, but not completely built by Toyo, because I was getting them only partially finished. They didn't have braze-ons or bridges, weren't aligned, weren't slotted, weren't finished. I had a certain way I wanted to do things before the bikes got painted and sold, so I did all those things myself.

CK: Do you have any comments regarding the Wikipedia page about the Specialized Stumpjumper?

TR: I just read what it says about the Stumpjumper on Wikipedia and it's definitely different from what I know and what I think is correct. Wikipedia says "Early Stumpjumpers had welded steel frames because the lugged and brazed frames that designer Tim Neenan wanted to use were not available at the time." That is not what I recall and there are images of that original Stumpjumper showing that it was lugged. This Wikipedia page also doesn't reference the couple of bikes that (Specialized founder) Mike Sinyard bought from us, which Gary (Fisher) sold of mine, and it doesn't really reference that I made the custom bikes originally "marketed" by Gary and Charlie (Kelly).

The word "marketed" is not an accurate word in this case, since I built the bikes; we didn't just "market" somebody else's bikes. Also, it is kind of silly for Wikipedia to reference Specialized as having made the first "production" run of mountain bikes, when I had already made over 500 bikes at that time. (In 1980, I built over 400 bikes which were sold through Gary and Charlie's operation in Fairfax. I built between 400 and 500 bikes in the subsequent years, 1982, 1983, and 1984, and beyond. I was able to maintain a clip of between 400 and 500 bikes a year in those early 80s.)

CK: One last question, Tom: How many, if any, lugged frames do you think you have built ,and how and why did you make the shift to fillet brazing?

TR: The first frame I built in 1972 was lugged, and so were most all of my frames until about 1974. As I recall, during my first three years of building, until 1974, I built about 70 frames total, and then I discovered fillet brazing.

You have to have known the times: People were not ready to trust 100% in fillet brazing. I first started with the main three lugs and then fillet brazed the bottom bracket, because I wanted to ovalize the seat tube, and put a "park bench" between the chainstays (this became a signature of my frames, and something that most builders didn't understand how I did it).

Little by little, having top riders on my bikes and the overall trust of my lug-less (fillet brazed) work led quickly to my experimenting with larger tubes. (There were no lugs for larger tubes.) So 100% fillet started an oversized tube / fillet revolution. (I started out with oversize 1.125 top tubes. I built the first for Jobst Brandt, his first bike from me. He loved it. Then I used other diameters, depending on the size and strength of bike, and of course larger for tandems.

(Side story: Peter Johnson, friend/competitor, was the only other builder at the time who was trying to break out of the lug normalcy with me. Just like with the beginning of mountainbikes though, we were not intentional businessmen. We were builder/competitor-driven individuals, with more of a caveman approach to business and the opportunity that lay in front of us.)

You have to realize the times and that in the mid-70's frame-building was still dominated by European builders. My bikes were showing up all over the world now. I was known for the best lug work, and now a completely new fillet game that I was at the front of.

My best recollection is that, in 1975, my high school graduation year, I built about 70-100 frames, mostly lugged, on my own.

By the beginning of making a lot of MountainBikes, which began in 1980, I had increased my capacity to about 200 frames annually. At this point I was building more of a true 50/50 mix of fillet brazed vs. lugged frames. (I preferred to build lugless and rode it exclusively myself.) This was all before any employees. I built ALL the forks. I painted ALL the frames personally.

In 1980 I hired one unemployed 18 year old neighbor, who I kept busy mitering and prepping tubes, while I built the first 200 fillet-brazed mountain bikes for the new sport of Mountainbiking, and painted them. I still remember building 50 or so road bikes that year.

In 1981, 1982, and 1983, my MountainBike numbers were in the 400 annual range, with one more assistant: three of us total. By then, my first employee was able to assemble and tack main triangles, and a few other skills, like braze-ons, while I still did all the fillet brazing. I started sharing finishing techniques with my second employee, who had good artistic skills.

By the time I built the road bikes for Eric Heiden in 1985, I remember building only 12 road bikes that year.

(FYI, Chris,
lugged frame building changed radically at about the time I stopped making any lugged frames (around 1980): As I was changing over to lug-less exclusively, Cinelli was making lug construction much easier by selling investment cast lugs. Every lugged bike that I made required taking very crude sheet metal lugs, and completely re-working them, so that they looked half-way decent. Then after the brazing came the true "lug finishing." This effort was what largely made a frame builder's reputation, up until that time.)


Coming soon: The entire 1982 Ritchey Mountain Bike Catalog will be posted to this blog!

Below: Photos from Tom's cycling and frame-building history.

Above: Tom at age 11 with his first good bike. "My Dad taught me how to repair tubulars and I paid the entire $99 cost of this bike by repairing tubulars for a local bike shop when I was in 5th grade."
Above: Tom, en route to winning the Marin Criterium in 1972
Above: On the cover of Bicycling Magazine in May 1981, the first cover of a national cycling magazine which featured mountain biking
Above: Ritchey Mountain Bike ad in Bicycling Magazine, 1982
Above: Tom in a race ad in 1985. The photo shows Tom competing in the 1985 NORBA National Championships in 1985.
Above: A bike which Tom built for Eric Heiden in 1985 (with Murray decals for the sponsor's benefit), as featured in the current (Issue 2) of Peloton Magazine

Related Links:

Tom's bio on Wikipedia
Tom's Mountain Bike Hall of Fame page
Tom's company, Ritchey Design
Other Ritchey-related posts on this blog
Here is the first of a few dozen pix of Tom Ritchey's newest rough rider models at the February 2011 North American Handmade Bike Show