Show #598 – April 9, 2022

Guests: Estelle Gray; John Surico

This week it’s a two-fer and I think both guests are well worth the listen!

First, I want to introduce you to someone who I believe embodies what it means to “be your own person.”

From her first bike trip with a friend while in college to a year-long trip overseas, and then owning one of the most iconic bike shops in the U.S., Estelle Gray has a life story that should just maybe be made into a movie!

Today, she’s retired – well, retired from a professional life – but, still working, making flags to raise money for the Ukrainian war effort and still supporting a software company IN Ukraine.  (you can help support efforts to send medical assistance to Ukraine via Estelle and Sal’s ukraineflags.org website)

I’ve been acquainted with Estelle for many years – but it was this conversation where I really got to KNOW her.

In the second half of the show, I welcome back one of my favorite people. John Surico has his finger on the pulse of “cities” – living and working in the big Apple and taking on a slew of topics that are both interesting and pertinent to urban living – which always includes bikes!

In addition to his writing and teaching, John Surico will be joining the Central Park Conservancy’s Institute for Urban Parks to deepen research on their Climate Lab, New Parks Era, and other open-space-oriented initiatives as their scholar-in-residence.

During our conversation, we cover it all – from why public transit ridership is still down 40% to why there is so much push-back in building more desperately needed housing closer to transit stations that now have acres of unused parking lots.

Quick update on Dmitry and his family.  His wife, children, Mom, mother-in-law, AND the dog all arrived safely in Israel last week.  NOW he’s able to focus on getting his company Triton Bikes, back up and running.

Show #597 – March 29, 2022

Guests: Ed Benjamin; Dr Tab Combs

I’ve spent the last two weeks pondering about inflation, gas prices, transportation, and of course how cycling fits into all of it.

When we spoke with Don DiCostanzo from Pedego a few weeks ago, you might remember our mentioning Ed Benjamin – one of the earliest adopters of the eBike.

He’s been on the show in the past, but I thought his input would be a great way to bring essential understanding of the whys of the eBike business to light.

Ed is not only well versed in the statistics of the eBike business, he’s become the go-to guy for fundamental training and essential information for technicians.

His breadth and depth of the subject as well as his observations about where the eBike fits in the bigger picture are compelling.

In the second half of the show, we bring back Dr. Tab Combs.  Tab is a scholar of planning and transportation at the University of NC in Chapel Hill.

In contrast to what Ed Benjamin has to say about all the progress we’ve made for cycling, Dr. Tab Combs reminds us that there is a long way to go to not only upgrading our infrastructure, but re-imagining transportation from a planning and execution perspective.  The exciting news is that it is happening.

40,000 people will die on the roads this year – many if not most of them vulnerable road users.  It’s a number that should make us angry enough to demand change – but we know that just laments and demands don’t usually work.

When the pandemic hit, we had this euphoric sense of owning the roads.  We were almost lulled in the possibility of being safe on streets that aren’t congested with automobile traffic and almost were able to forget the vitriol it brings with pissed off drivers.

But now, we are in crisis mode with the pandemic still looming, higher inflation, and rising gas prices.  We’re even looking at short term solutions for long term problems – things such as tax holidays and cash payments to car owners.

What needs to change and how can we use the available resources to influence that change? Where is the money to make these changes OR do we have our priorities out of whack?

Here is the information on the April 22nd-23rd workshop, “Flipping the Switch On Traffic Violence. :

Show #596 – March 12, 2022

Guests: Kisha Tandy; Richard Sachs

This week’s show first takes us way back in history with one of the most decorated cyclists of his time and then brings us up to date with one of our favorite guests and one of the most prominent frame builders working today.

My first guest is Kisha Tandy. Kisha is the Curator of Social History at the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis. Last Saturday, March 5th, a new exhibit opened at the museum delving deeply into the life of Marshall “Major” Taylor. Sub-titled, “Fastest Cyclist in the World,” Kisha walks us through the exhibit and what we can expect to see and do.

When you think of icons of the racing world from Jacques Anquiteil and Eddy Merckxx to champions like David Phinney and Mark Cavendish, you may not always think back to remember one of the most famous of them all – Marshall “Major” Taylor.

There have been countless stories, articles, and books about Major Taylor, so when I learned about this new exhibit in Indianapolis, I wondered what would be different and maybe new.

Well, actually it turns out that there is a lot – from his diary and other personal writings to his trophies and other memorabilia, curator Kisha Tandy walks us through the extensive areas of the exhibit to show us what Major Taylor’s life was all about.

Then, it’s off to Connecticut to speak with frame builder, Richard Sachs.
Last week, an interview on the site, Tempus Fugit, shed some light on more of
Richard’s life and thinking.

This conversation begins with a chat about an interview Richard gave to Tempus Fugit – a site run by a “watch guy” named James Henderson. What does Richard, Henki as Mr. Henderson’s friends call him, and fine watches have to do with one another?  You’ll learn all about it and more in a bit.

Today, in our conversation, we flesh out a bit of that interview and then delve into his thoughts about what has happened in the world of frame building since the first NAHBS many years ago. He and I both agree it might be time to elevate the art of frame building in an entirely new way.

SPECIAL EPISODE – March 3, 2022

Welcome to a special episode of the Outspoken Cyclist.

As the war in Ukraine continues to escalate and Vladimir Putin continues on his rampage, many of the citizens of Russia are being backed into a corner, upending their lives and bringing panic and fear.

One such person is Dmitry Nechaev, the owner of Triton Bikes from Sochi, Russia. Dmitry and I met in Sacramento in March of 2016. He was one of 5 frame builders on a panel I moderated for NAHBS that year. And, I hadn’t spoken with him since.

But, when Dmitry posted a heartbreaking 14-minute video to Facebook on Tuesday, I reached out to him right away to see if he wanted to speak with me about what is happening in Russia from his perspective.

Dmitry isn’t IN Russia right now – his family insisted he leave and he flew out of Moscow over the weekend, leaving his wife, children, mother, mother-in-law, and the dog behind with travel documents and tickets to follow later this week.

As we all know, the situation is continuing to deteriorate and Dmitryi is now in Israel, learning Hebrew, and trying to put a life together so that he can continue to work, support his employees, and produce his Triton titanium bicycles.

To say there are obstacles every step of the way is a gross understatement. 
This conversation sounds as if it is right out of a movie… but, alas – it is real life – and Dmitryi wanted me to get this podcast up and out as soon as possible. So, without further delay, here it is.

This morning, Thursday, March 3rd, Dmitry send me a series of short voice clips as he was driving towards Jerusalem to fulfil one of his mother’s requests – to leave a note in the Wailing Wall in the Old City – a time honored Jewish tradition.

He reported that there is a now new 30% tax on rubles when you try to buy dollars along with a lot of other new laws. He bought an inexpensive car so that he can go to the airport each day to pick up friends who are arriving from Moscow. He doesn’t know how long that will be happening and he is terrified for his family, whose tickets are for Sunday.

I will continue to stay in touch with him.

Thank you for listening. I will try to post updates daily on the Outspoken Cyclist FB page.

There will be a regular episode of the podcast over the weekend.

Show #594 – February 26, 2022

Guest: Don DiCostanzo

This week, I have one very interesting and savvy guest; one who sees his business, eBikes, a perspective from which the bicycle industry might consider taking a page.

You may not be a businessperson. And you may not be super interested in eBikes. But I think you would be hard-pressed to hear the conversation I have today with Don DiCostanzo and not say that it’s a really fascinating look into a bicycle category from a completely unique perspective.

Don DiCostanzo grew up in the automotive business, worked for chemical company until it was bought out by a bigger fish, and decided to become an entrepreneur – in the electric vehicle business – bikes, scooters, skateboards, and even a rather crude electric car.

Between then and when the first Pedego store opened, a lot transpired – especially in the world of electric bicycles.

Today, 200+ Pedego stores later, Don, shares his insights into how he sees not just his business, but the bicycle industry as a whole – and what might be most revealing? Unless you are a cyclist, you may not know anything that is going on in the “traditional” bicycle world – including the names of the most popular brands, the components that are changing almost with every new cycling season, or what gravel riding even means.

Quick note about the second half of the conversation. At one point, I ask Don about how inflation might be affecting his business and after he explains what has happened with tariffs, there will seem to be a non-sequitur. I needed to take out some talk about pricing and margins as it was specific to the dealer network. So, please just go with it!

My thanks to Don DiCostanzo for joining me this week. I hope you enjoyed the conversation. I found it very enlightening!

Here is the link to the Harley Davidson article we mention on the show.

I’m working on some interesting topics for upcoming shows and hope to bring you a brand-new episode next week.

If you are wondering why there haven’t been as many consistent shows of late, the explanation is pretty straight forward. With the continued issues of the pandemic, many events, tours, even projects that we often report on, have all been postponed and some have even been canceled. Fewer books have been available to review and many of the topics I regularly follow have been scant, to say the least.

As things begin to open up again, I think there will be many more interesting people, topics, and projects to bring to you. I want to acknowledge all of you who have been sending me ideas – I’ve followed up on many of them – and I truly appreciate that you share them with me. Frankly, it makes my life a lot easier!

Finally, I’d like to end this week with a note on a wholly different subject.
I know it affects us all and I wanted you to know how profoundly sad and upset I am by the events of this past week.

Of my four grandparents, 3 were born in what is now Ukraine – at that time Russia. The fourth was born here in the U.S., but his parents were also from Russia. They fled the pogroms to come to the U.S. at the turn of the last century. By some miracle, they survived and thrived here in the U.S.
What is happening now will, I believe, have profound effects on our lives – effects that we can barely begin to imagine.

I wish I had that magic wand that would allow a swift and just end to the conflict.

My heart is breaking…

Show #593 – February 12, 2022

Guests: Matt Stoller; Tom Kellogg (encore presentation)

My first guest is Matt Stoller, the research director at the American Economic Liberties Project. The organization is Non-profit and non-partisan, the organization is part of a growing, cross- ideological movement to combat monopolistic corporations and the systems that entrench their power.

But, what does that mean and how does their work relate to the bicycle business? In fact, it does – in a way that I think may both interest and infuriate you.

Matt’s article titled “The Bicycle Thieves” appeared his newsletter BIG on Substack back in January. In it, Matt calls out those who are trying to build a world without independent bicycle shops.

Over the past few decades, the bike industry has become more and more consolidated.

Where we used to see robust competition and innovation from the likes of Sun Tour and Stronglight, to name just a couple, we now see just Shimano with SRAM and Campagnolo running distant seconds and thirds and a smattering of companies treading water in the bottom of the barrel.

Where we saw independent bicycle shops literally on almost every corner in America, we now see Trek and Specialized “company stores” as the two behemoths buy up smaller independent shops with the intention to either take them over or shut them down.

The bicycle industry isn’t, of course, the only place this is or has been happening – consolidation and “vertical integration” has been going on in pharmacies, groceries, and, with Amazon in the mix, just about every other industry on the planet.

The antitrust laws and regulations that have been on the books for decades have been loosened, ignored, or conveniently disregarded with little political will to strengthen or enforce them.

This begs a big question for me (although there is more than one!) Is this a good thing? And, if so, for whom?

Is it possible that the pendulum is beginning to swing in the other direction and, is there political will to help it along?

*** Here is the link to the February 17th  FTC Meeting information as mentioned on the show.

In the second half of the show, I’m offering up an encore presentation of another iconic framebuilder – one who influenced our custom bicycle world for years and years. And, since it was his birthday this past week, I thought I’d bring him back.

Tom Kellogg may no longer be building frames, but his contributions to the artisan bicycle world were and continue to be immense. Happy Birthday to him and you can hear our conversation in the second half of the show.

Show #592 – February 5, 2022

Guests: Diane’s News Monologue; Encore Presentation with Tom Ritchey

This week has been really weird… I have guests lined up for the next couple of weeks, but whether it’s due to the weather, schedules, or just an “I’ve had enough” feeling, no new guests this week.

So, I thought I’d offer up a few news stories that have been buzzing around the bike world this week along with an encore presentation of an interview with the one and only Tom Ritchie. Recorded back in February, 2019, we have a splendid conversation!

So first up… the word game that is sweeping the internet – Wordle. If you’re a word-nerd like I am, you’ve probably already tried it. But, when I was growing up, we played a game we called Jotto – exact same premise. Come up with a 5-letter word, put it on the top of your page and fold down the paper so your opponent can’t see it, print the alphabet at the bottom of your paper, and start guessing your opponent’s word. There was no limit to the number of tries in Jotto, which is a bit different from Wordle since your opponent is the Internet.

NOW, it’s the hottest thing since index shifting – and for bike nerds, there’s… wait for it – Bikle! The premise? Find the surname of a cyclist that has 5 letters. Wanna’ play? Type in bikle on a browser… Not sure how many 5-letter surnames there are of past and present pro cyclists, but what the hell? It’s one word per day and you get 6 tries to figure it out.

Probably the most talked about story this week is what Specialized has decided to do – sell director to the consumer, bypassing the usual bike shop experience – and by extension, expertise in my opinion.

Apparently eating his own words from 10 years ago in a statement that went something like “we will never sell bikes over the Internet,” Mike Sinyard, founder and CEO of Speciailized has reversed course.

From letting dealers know to stories in every cycling publication, the announcement that Specialized will have a white-glove delivery option directly to your door with a fully assembled bike is just the newest in a series of big changes in the bicycle world.

As you can imagine, dealers’ responses range from expletives to realizing they will just have to deal with it.

Another story that caught my attention is about America and Britain’s Got Talent Host and Star, Simon Cowell. Seems he might need training wheels as he was rushed to the hospital for a second crash on his eBike in 18 months. His first crash was in Malibu and resulted in a myriad of injuries including breaking vertebrae in his back; this one was in the U.K. and he’s now sporting a cast on one arm. This second crash was a header on slippery pavement – and, apparently, he’s considering wearing a helmet in the future.

For those who have “been around” a long long time, you may remember an apparel company by the name of Kucharik. Fabricating really fine wool cycling apparel since 1980, founder Jon Kucharik passed away in 2008 at the age of 93. He never wavered from his commitment to the natural fabrics.

His son, John Jr. kept the company operating but has decided to close the business saying, I’m going to turn 69 pretty soon,” It’s really sad because I have a lot of customers. But I’ve been promising my wife to travel and to do some stuff.”

Another piece of bicycle history going down in the history books.

And, if you are waxing nostalgic on that story, the incomparable Sheldon Brown was remembered this week. He passed away February 4, 2008. Brian and I met him at one of the trade shows a couple of years before he died. He was a fascinating guy with a crazy smart brain. His site lives on, with all of its amazing content, because of his wife Dr. Harriet Fell and bicycle aficionado John Allen. sheldonbrown.com

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention Egan Bernal. The young talented pro crashed into the back of a bus on a training ride ending up in the ICU and eventually having several surgeries to put him back together.

On February 3rd, he stated that he “almost died but I’m back as he revealed the outrageous injury list describing his last surgery as the most difficult race of his life.

He seems to be thinking he’ll be back though. Sending him healing vibes for sure.

Tom Ritchey says that he owes a lot to his father and, from teaching him to repair tubular tires to brazing a broken frame, Tom learned from his Dad – and did he ever learn!

Probably one of the most prolific idea men in our sport, Tom is credited with “firsts’ dating back to 1974 with his twin plated crown forks and rolling into frames, tubing, bottom brackets, forks, and so many other things.

The following is the conversation we had back in February, 2019. I’ hope you enjoy it.

Show #591 – January 29, 2022

Guests: Lester Janssen; Cain Chamberlain & Donna Ianonne

Today’s show is a little late – but, I think it’s worth the wait.

Photo Credit Jake Stangel

Frame builder Lester Janssen started out as a bike messenger years ago and then found out there were such things as custom bikes – right there in Amsterdam. He never looked back

Starting out with a famous frame builder many years ago and- using just a file and hacksaw as he says, he struck out on his own in 2016 armed with knowledge, skills, and a whole slew of new tools.

Lester Cycles offers fillet brazed custom steel bikes, beautifully crafted, one off in a shop that sits in a really cool building right in the port of Amsterdam.
(I’ll be adding some cool photos of Lester’s workshop soon!)

Our conversation today runs from his history, through the pandemic and his experiences with supply chain issues, to what he sees as his future in the bicycle world.

Looking forward to some new places to ride this year? How about the Endless Mountains of NE Pennsylvania?

I knew about the Endless Mountains because my sister lived there for a short time many years ago.

What I didn’t know was how rife the area was for riding options – from a 400 mile bike packing loop that will open up this year to 4 triathlons over the summer and early fall.

The EMHR as it’s known, is 4-couny area of NE Pa.that covers 2,850-square mile area encompassing Bradford, Sullivan, Susquehanna and Wyoming Counties.

Cain Chamberlain, Executive Director, and Donna Ianonne, a board member and county commissioner, give us the background of the area and an overview of what you can do, where you can stay, and some of the great opportunities coming up for 2022.

Show #590 – January 22, 2022

Guests: Ash Lovell; Craig Calfee

We begin today with Ash Lovell from People for Bikes.  Her official title is Electric Bicycle Policy and Campaign Director and our topic is important and timely. If you ride an eBike or are considering purchasing one, you will eventually need to consider the disposal of your used-up battery.  The estimated lifespan is about 5 years – although I don’t have a good translation of that in hours and/or miles. During the Consumer Electronics Show a couple of weeks ago, Ash was a presenter at CES and the topic was about a new program for recycling eBike batteries. Partnering with manufacturers and bike shops, People For Bikes is leading the campaign to make sure these batteries are appropriately recycled so they don’t end up in landfills.

Then, we check in with one of my favorite industry people – Craig Calfee. Craig and I have known each other for a very long time and I have a heap-o-respect for his work, the way he looks at our industry, and the efforts he puts in to share his knowledge and expertise across the globe.

While carbon fiber has become the “material of choice” among virtually every manufacturer, Craig still pushes the envelope with his ideas and designs.

Today, we talk about the Calfee Nautilus carbon wheelsets, what’s selling at his manufacturing facility, eBike conversion kits, his carbon repair business, and more

Show #589 – January 19, 2022

Guest: Ian Cleverly

Yes – this is a mid-week episode and I really enjoyed the conversation with my guest, Ian Cleverly.

Ian is the executive editor of Rouleur – arguably one of the best magazines about cycling on the market today.

With a history of covering racing, the editors changed it up in 2021 and have broadened their topics to include issues on women, people of color, and disabled athletes.

As more and more publications disappear from newsstands, and even from subscription, Rouleur is one lovely magazine that is still not only being published, but is thriving! In fact, issue #1 of Rouleur is a hot commodity on the market, if you can find one, fetching a tidy sum.

an, who is stuck at home like many of us, is a fun conversationalist and I really enjoyed the time we spent chatting. I hope you enjoy our conversation too.