A SoTS membership pack update

Society Of Three Speeds

Hello folks! The Society of Three Speeds membership kit is still in process. I’ve got the patches, buttons, and stickers OK. I’m still finishing up some of the “other” stuff. What is this other stuff, you may ask? Well, you’re going to have to wait and see!

I said I’d be getting the kits out by the end of January. That’s still a few weeks away, so everything looks to be on schedule. You can still get in on the action and order your kit here.

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FYI: I do wholesale!

Folks, I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but I am down with selling my comics, zines, buttons, and postcards to stores! I offer a wholesale price of 50% off “cover” price on my sundries.

You can be a bookstore, a comic store, a zine shop (if they still exist), a cool bike shop, or some other place that would like to sell my wares.

A few notes:

  • You’ll need to at least buy five items to qualify. I’m not going to give wholesale price to one or two items. And by items I mean “piece”. You can order two of New Old Stock 2.125, one of New Old Stock 1 3/8, and two of New Old Stock 333 to qualify.
  • The discount applies to individual items, not to multi-packs or any discount offers.
  • The discount applies to the regular (“cover”) price, not sale prices (unless otherwise noted.)
  • Not valid on Society of Three Speed memberships, SoTS individual items, or Postcard Club.
  • Payment in advance preferred. Payment can be made by PayPal.

If you are interested in carrying my stuff for your shop, get in touch!

A diversity of bike shops

Portland is considered be a “bicycle city” by North American (not European) standards. We have a great deal of people who ride daily, an enthusiastic bike culture, and plenty of bike shops. Around 50 shops is the last figure I heard. Quite a bit!

But while having a good quantity of shops is good, having a good diversity of shops is even better.

Let me explain: I’ve been to some other places that have a high per-capita percentage of bike shops. Missoula, Montana comes to mind. I was there only once, way back in 2011, during the Big Tour. We ended up going to several shops in search of a new saddle for April’s bike. But the selection seemed to be the same at every place we went, making it all frustrating, especially since we were looking for something “a little different”.

While Missoula had a good number of shops, they all seemed to be targeted at road bikers, mountain bikers, or both. These are the types of places that have a token hybrid on the floor “for commuting” or a cruiser for those who wanted something for the bike path, but little else not in the way of carbon fiber and full suspension. While there very well may have been a shop targeted more towards an urban cyclist or even cycle tourist,* we didn’t come across it.**

That’s why I’m thankful of Portland’s selection of shops. While there are definitely shops catered towards roadies and mountain bikers, there’s plenty of neighborhood shops that primarily serve commuters, shops that do everything, and shops that have their niches.

It’s enough of a selection that I generally don’t have to worry about weird problems with my weird bikes, as there’ll be some shop out there that can handle it. Take for example the recent issue with my Sturmey Archer AW hub. North Portland Bikeworks was willing to work on it, but if they weren’t, I knew I could count on either A Better Cycle or Citybikes.

But what if I was in a place where the only selection was Trek dealer vs Specialized dealer? Would they even want to look at it? Would I instead get a condescending lecture about why it’s silly for me to even keep such an old thing running, why don’t I just buy a new bike with modern components?

Granted, it’s not black and white. There are shops in Portland where I got that condescending lecture. Or maybe that Trek dealer in another town has been around since the 70’s and there’s the old-timer who’s been there since then and has overhauled many a Sturmey Archer in their time. But in a town with a variety of shops makes things easier.

Perhaps the best example for Portland’s variety of shops that deal in weird and funky things happened last week. The kickstand on my Schwinn Heavy Duti never wanted to stay in the “up” position. If it was a regular kickstand, it’s easy to replace. But old Schwinn kickstands are their own funky thing, which mount directly into a welded-on sleeve between bottom bracket and rear wheel. In an era where Schwinn was king, this would be an easy thing to get serviced, but that era passed a good 40 years ago. Where could I go to get this fixed?

Answer: Portland Bicycle Emporium. If anyone can fix a Schwinn, it would be Geoff, who literally wrote the book on old Schwinns. He took out the old kickstand, saw what was wrong with it, and correctly fixed it.

I’m happy I have so much choice. If I ever had to move, I’d hope the next place also has a good selection of shops, or at least a good and tolerant jack-of-all-trades type of place.

*Granted, Adventure Cycling Association is based in Missoula, and you can buy touring specific gear directly from them, but it’s not “a bike shop”. And inevitably we ended up getting April’s new saddle from here.

*And yeah, things could have definitely improved in the eight years since my visit, but I’m going with what I’ve seen. Feel free to let me know what that touring/commuter oriented shop may be.

Of shoes and envelopes: Thoughts on reuse and reduce

9860e572-7a19-489f-9843-2a3a7bc37d19Recently someone I follow on the Internets got sponsored by a shoe company. Since this someone was now a “Brand Ambassador”, they were terminating their regular account and would just be posting on this shoe company’s account. This pissed off a few folks. Don’t bother for looking for those comments, they’ve been scrubbed.

I’ve owned a set of shoes from this shoe company in the past, and may buy another set sometime in the future. I like their look, and can get behind their philosophy. But only to a certain extent. They talk the good talk about simplifying. But like most modern shoes, they are not repairable. Sole starts to come loose? Well, chuck ’em in a landfill and get a new set. And nowhere on their website do they talk about where these shoes are made. If I’d hazard a guess, it’d be Southeast Asia. Definitely not the US.

But why should I be surprised?

Over the past few years, I’ve been thinking more about our stuff, namely where and how it’s made, and what can be done with it when the product goes south. I’ve thought about this especially when it comes to shoes: Most shoes these days are made overseas, and in a way that they cannot be easily repaired. I’ve tried to be thoughtful in my new shoe purchases, but I’m not perfect.

For example, I bought a few pairs of Clarks shoes a few years back. I like their classic design and their comfort. But they are no longer made in England, and they can’t be easily resoled. Tempting as it may be, I’m resisting the urge to buy another pair.

Instead, I’ve been looking elsewhere. I’ve owned many a pair of Keens over the years. The company is based here in Portland, which in itself isn’t a big deal as many shoe companies have either their main or North American HQ in the metro area. (Nike, Adidas, Doc Martens, Danner, etc.) And they do the typical “glue-on” soles of modern sport shoes. But the important thing is that they’ve reversed the trend and started producing some (not all) shoes here, in Portland. I’ve made sure my current Keen selection of shoes are produced on Swan Island, a hop and a skip from my house.

And why look for shoes made here? Well, it means American jobs for one. Also, the environmental footprint is lowered as the shoes don’t need to be shipped from halfway across the globe. At the very least I look for shoes produced in the Developed World, where wages and labor standards are higher.

But I’ve been really on the lookout for repairable shoes. These are typically made with what’s called a Goodyear welt, where the leather upper is stitched to the sole. This means the sole can be replaced when it wears out, and it’s usually the first part of the shoe to go. My hiking boots are Alico from Italy and I have a couple pairs of shoes from Chippewa in the US. All of them are resolable, which means they don’t have to end up in the landfill.

I know this line of thinking isn’t in line with The Modern World, with more and more clothing produced cheaply, meant to be disposable. But it’s a trend worth bucking. I try to look for good used stuff first, and if I have to buy new clothes I try to look for stuff that will last. It’s not easy, and it can’t always be done. But I’m going to try.

*****

And I love reusing things. I’m big on saving padded mailers and boxes from things shipped to me, because I can use them again for mailing stuff out. It’s thrifty and also keeps it out of a landfill. So it’s a bit unsettling when a company like REI, with its supposedly high environmental standards, chooses to ship some stuff out in what’s basically a plastic bag.

I was so put off by this that I wrote REI about it. The response I got was not exactly uplifting, basically saying these bags were recyclable, and that’s good enough. Seriously? I thought that whole adage was “reduce, reuse, recycle”. And on should reduce first, reuse second, and recycle last.

I get it: sending my shirt in a padded mailer instead of a bag costs more. But I thought REI was about more than just the bottom line. It would be much more environmentally responsible to ship items in a container the customer can reuse than one that will get placed into a bin after it’s opened. For a company with such high morals, it may show more about its values than promoting a hashtag like #optoutside. It’ll be more subtle, and won’t get as much press and publicity. But maybe it’ll be better off to the state of the world in the long run?

*****

I’m not perfect, and I’m not trying to judge anyone here if they aren’t trying to do the same things I am. Buying shoes that are made in the Developed World and/or are repairable come at a price. I know that my purchases are just a drop in the bucket and aren’t going to change the world. But I’ll still keep on tilting at windmills as long as I can.

Three Speed Dead Letter Office

Society Of Three Speeds

…or “Dead Blog Office”, to be more exact. (And no, this three speed blog ain’t dying.)

Since really getting into three speeds in 2010, I have spent many an hour scouring the internets for three speed content. There’s a lot of good stuff out there if you check the corners of Instagram. The #hashtags #threespeed and #sturmeyarcher are good ones to seek. And tumblr has Rideinternal, a good source of all things three speed.

But blogs? It’s been awhile since I’ve seen a new three speed bike blog. Heck, most of the three speed bike blogs I’ve followed over the years have gone the way of the three speed–er, dodo.

I still come across three speed blogs that I didn’t know exist, from back in the day. I just found about the Night Heron Project blog, an account of one man’s attempt to convert a Raleigh International* into a path…

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The Return of the Superbe

Society Of Three Speeds

Dear readers of this blog: You may have noticed a dearth of photos of my Raleigh Superbe over the past six months or so. The biggest reason for this was that when it came to a three speed in 2018, I mostly went with the Robin Hood path racer. This was because it was the new sexy bike for the year.

But I still love the Superbe, and as summer wore I was itching to ride it more for one simple reason: capacity. The Robin Hood has no racks, so it’s whatever I can fit into a Carradice Nelson or Camper longflap bags. I can do some basic commutes on it, but grocery shopping is difficult. And I’m avoiding the urge to rackify the bike, as I want to keep it that sexy stripped down path racer. Besides, I do have a three speed set up to carry more stuff…

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Bicycle Times throws in the towel (and print magazines in general)

On Friday December 28 I got an email from Maurice Tierney, publisher of Bicycle Times and DirtRag magazines, regarding the status of Bicycle Times.

Bicycle Times spawned from our mountain bike magazine, Dirt Rag, in 2008, right into the economic recession. Much of the staff of Dirt Rag were commuting to work a lot at the time. We were covering non-mountain bike topics in the Rag and trying to live the full Bike Life in Pittsburgh, PA. It looked like a good time to launch a spinoff magazine to cover all aspects of bicycling and cycling culture. We felt the other magazines were a bit too obsessed with how to be a roadie, how to get six-pack-abs, and what to consume. Ugh.

We planned a fresh approach. We wanted everyone to live in these “Bicycle Times.” We wanted more butts on bikes, less competition, and more fun! We coined the phrase “Your Everyday Cycling Adventure” because that’s the way we wanted to see the world. A fun, positive adventure. Every day.

Some people “Got it.” Others did not. Many marketing budgets remained focused on racing, and we had to explain what the magazine was about, meanwhile, the media landscape was changing. Huge thanks to those companies who did get it and supported us with advertising. Ads pay the bills, in case you didn’t know. And of course, thanks to all our readers who gave us a shot, whether you got it from the get-go, or found us in our waning years. We hope you got enjoyment out of our passion project.

Here we are eleven years later. It’s been a great run, but for 2019 we’re going to focus solely on Dirt Rag Magazine. Yes, Dirt Rag is a “mountain bike forum.” But it’s much more, and now we get to bring back the content that originally inspired the new frontier back into the print and web pages of Dirt Rag, where it all began. If you are into adventure, bikepacking, camping, fiction, good times, fun reading, and general editorial excellence, we hope you’ll try us out.

This wasn’t really surprising to me, since in my eyes Bicycle Times ceased to exist about two years ago, when they shut down the print version and went strictly online. Part of this feeling was due to me liking print bicycle magazines. And yeah, most of it was because my comic contributions to Bicycle Times stopped when they went online-only. It was nice having my comic out in the world every couple of months, and getting paid for it wasn’t bad either.

Nevertheless, Bicycle Times was great in its day, and I enjoyed being a part of it. And DirtRag lives on, and will incorporate the “Bicycle Times” content back into its print edition, just like it was ten years ago.

But it’s not just them: Momentum Magazine, another bicycle publication I contributed to, has been MIA for a few years as well. The last known issue came out in fall 2015 (ironically about the same time as the last Bicycle Times.) Unlike Bicycle Times, there was no announcement about the print cessation, and there’s still no indication on the website. There appears to be new web content, but it looks generic and anonymous (no author), most likely its just branded content to pay some bills and keep the website going. For what reason, I don’t know.

The slow death of Momentum was more saddening to me than the demise of Bicycle Times, mostly because I knew the folks behind Momentum a lot better than those at Bicycle Times. Most of my interaction with BT was via the internet with people I never met (though their last editor, Adam Newman, lived in Portland and I did meet him), whereas I knew the folks behind Momentum personally before I even started working for them. I hung out with them any time I visited Vancouver, BC.

And Momentum’s trajectory was a lot more…interesting, shall we say. Whereas Bicycle Times conveyed mostly the same message throughout its run, Momentum definitely evolved. When it came out in the mid-aughts, Momentum was a “funky” bike mag centered around the types of city bicyclists I knew and loved. It had this “We’re all in this together, so let’s party” vibe. Around the end of the past decade, the original editor Amy Walker stepped down and the new guard changed its focus to what I’d call an “Aspirational Urban Cyclist Fashionista Lifestyle” outlook. Gone was the funkiness. In was a lot of fashion spreads, city profiles, “new product” features with no reviews (vs. the product reviews of old), and more bits about (or by) a particular man from Copenhagen. Also gone: my comics. I was probably too “funky” for this new direction, alas.

And yeah, it stung. It wasn’t necessarily the pay (it was never much), but the feeling of being a part of something, especially something I wanted to be a part of. And Momentum gave me a full page to play with, something I didn’t have before or since.

It’s been almost ten years since I contributed to Momentum, and about three since I contributed to Bicycle Times. I still get people who say they read my comics in either mag. And it would be nice to be able to contribute a comic to a magazine again.

*****

Should I really be surprised? The death of print media has been talked about for the last twenty or so years, when the internet took off. I’m mildly surprised that there are still bike magazines out there. I like Adventure Cyclist and have been known to read an occasional issue of Bicycling. There’s of course Bicycle Quarterly. But while these three magazines have some aspects of “city” cyling covered, none of them concentrate on it.

It’s even more amazing when a new print magazine comes about. Bikepacking.com just put out The Bikepacking Journal. It looks cool, but its steep price ($68 for a membership) means that only the truly devoted are going to get their hands on it. I might consider a membership if I was more a backpacker (and less broke.) Same goes for subscribing to Bicycle Quarterly: I’m only tertially interested in French bikes, low trail, 650B, or Jan Heine in general, so I’ve never plunked down the $36 for a subscription. I understand that there’s a lot of work in putting out the magazines above, and not a lot of money in making a print magazine these days. So please do not interpret what I said as they are “wrong”. But it brings me back to my original point: It would be nice to see a general interest urban bicycle publication again, especially on a newsstand.

In any case, I’d love to draw comics and illustration for a magazine again. If you know of any looking for comics, let me know!

A New Year in Bend

It’s been an annual tradition since New Years 2007: Get out of town. My first five years of New Years in Portland had been mediocre at best, either a whatever party or home alone. So getting out of Dodge, somewhere, anywhere was a better option. I’ve stuck with that tradition, hitting up places like the Columbia Gorge, Oregon Coast, Coast Range, Seattle and Vancouver BC. This was the first time doing it in Central Oregon. Destination: Bend, the outdoors-loving metropolis of the region.

I’ve been to Central Oregon several times, and have passed through Bend on a couple occasions. This would be the first time I would spend more than a day here. Bend is part of a class of Western Mountain Towns like Park City or Telluride, where urbanites go to get away or move permanently so they can mountain bike or ski all the time. And it being Central Oregon, it’s drier, sunnier, and colder than Portland in the winter, so many people come to enjoy the sun and/or winter activities.

We took off from Portland on Friday December 28. It was raining pretty good, though it thankfully wasn’t snowing when we got over the shoulder of Mount Hood at Wapinitia Pass. The next few days would be mostly dry with a bit of precipitation at night. We spent three full days in the Bend area (a half day spent in neighboring Sisters), basically wandering around, eating a bunch of good food and drinking some good beer. Bend is no slouch in these departments. We didn’t bike around (many of the side streets were sketchy) but we did see a decent amount of folks on bikes, both fat and not. More folks than I saw riding in Austin during my recent visit, yet Austin is ten times larger (and double the warmth) of Bend!

We returned home on Monday January 1st. We took a longer way back, heading north on US 97/197 to The Dalles then west on I-84 to Portland. On the way back we stopped by Smith Rock State Park for an hour hike. Smith Rock has to be one of the most beautiful spots in the state (in a state with lots of beautiful spots.) Lots of folks were enjoying the park, too.

Oh Central Oregon, you tantalize me. So close yet so far away. I’d get out to you more often if driving wasn’t the only viable way to get here. (Yes, I can bike, but it’ll take me maybe three or so days one way. And the bus to/from Bend isn’t that great, esp. when it comes to bikes.) I’d love to spend more time in Central Oregon and really explore the high desert. Maybe a bike tour is in order…