Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Couldn't Make This Up...If I Didn't Dream It

       I've been tossing around the idea of selling my Old Town Chester business for about a year now. In last night's dream I proposed the sale of Bodfish Bicycles and Quiet Mountain Sports to my old friend Kenny G. He said, "I'll get back to you." In just seconds (dreamtime seconds) he called back saying, "Yes, I'm going to buy the entire core of Old Town Chester. Six properties, I believe."
       Fast forward...I get up to pee and return to my warm bed, next to my lifetime sweetheart...Same 'dream world' finds me running a much more complicated business empire...A pub, a bookstore, a health food store, a diner and a much bigger outdoor sports store. I'm scratching my head, "How did this happen so quick?" I'm worried, "How do I lock all this up at night? Who are all of these employees? Do they know what to do? Are we really doing this?"
        Fast forward again, after another draining of the bladder (I drank two cups of tea before going to bed)...
        We are partying in the parking lot of this complex when Lisa says, "Chuck, Lance has to go. I thought you wanted to talk to him." I run down to the entrance gate and say, "Hey Lance." He says "Yeah, I wanted to talk to you". I introduce myself as Bodfish. He says. "That's not your real name, that's just what your handlers use to make money off of you." I agreed, not sure why I agreed to that. I say, "Hey, let me walk you around the place." We step out on the Main Street and suddenly the business complex starts rotating around in front of us. Behind the front view a mammoth castle/ brewery unveils itself. "Wow, how did you do that?" asks Lance. "Chains, I think." was my answer, just before the main chain broke in front of me..."I'll get it, I'll pick it up. I don't want you to get greasy."
         I awoke with a loud "Wow!" Lisa, sits up asking, "What happened?" I don't know if I can explain it. I don't want to jinx it...maybe it'll come true. I describe where I've been in my dreamworld and she counters, "I thought you wanted to retire."

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Coming Out, All Opinionated On Gravel Bikes

        I must respond to the question I hear most often these days..."What kind of bike should I get for riding dirt roads?" All of the cycling media seems to be drinking the same Kool Aid when it comes to this subject.
        Let me start with front derailleurs...Front derailleurs are a great thing to have on your Gravel bike...Your chain will last longer because you should be in the habit of keeping it in as straight a line as possible. It will get gritty and it will make noise because of this accumulated grime but, it will wear less and irritate you less often, especially if you don't 'cross it over' into extreme configurations. The one chain ring/ no front derailleur fashion of the day will necessitate replacing the chain more often and will come with a ridiculous set of cogs on your rear wheel. Twelve cogs with the largest being a forty-eight or fifty toother. Right away you'll need a much thinner chain and on dirt...That ain't good. A 2x10 or a 3x9 will give you a much larger range of gears operating with a much stronger chain.
        My next suggestion involves the front fork. A rigid fork is lighter and cleaner looking but, hey...there are some outstanding and relatively light (when compared to MTB forks) 700c suspension forks out there. Dirt roads get hammered by cows, sheep and teenagers in Dad's new Jeep Wrangler or Polaris quad vehicle. Have you ever tried to pick your way down a road that was slightly damp when a herd of cows took a shortcut from one pasture to another? Who needs hours of vibrations and stress on your wrists, elbows and shoulders. It's something I've learned to avoid, if possible.
        Drop bars look cool and provide a little extra suspension however, flat bars provide a little more control due to leverage afforded by the extra width. Brakes are another issue that folks like to argue about long after the sun sets...doesn't matter, as long as they stop you when you need them. I like mechanical disc brakes like Klampers or TRP dual piston disc brakes but actually, my 'dual sport' GF Fast City (which I use for most of my rides, dirt or paved) with rim brakes, has never failed me. They all need pads replaced periodically depending on how hard you use them and on how wet your outings are.
        How about waterbottle cages? People even argue about these. I like cages, it's great to have extra water on the bike instead of a sweaty hydration pack on your back. If it's a very long ride in an arid zone you better have both.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Forty-Seven Years of Mapping 'Bodfish Gravel Routes'

        It was 1973. I moved to Bodfish, California with a Kelty backpack and a couple of bicycles and my adventure buddy Franny Sullivan. We set up home on Erskin Creek Road in a one room cabin that provided plumbing, heat and a tremendous front porch. Franny got a job with the Sequoia National Forest and I started writing for the Kern Valley Weekly. I was also in charge of pruning the orchard we lived in. Rent was minimal.
         I wrote a column called Outback Of Bodfish, in which I chronicled my various explorations afoot and/or on one of my bicycles along the backroads and trails of Kern County. The paved roads in the area were on the busy side so most of the outings I wrote about were taken on gravel roads and dirt paths. The editor of KVW thought I was nuts..."It's alright we like nuts around here."
         I pedaled up roads to Breckinridge Lookout, Mt Cook, Kelso Valley, Saddle Springs, Sherman Pass (unpaved then) and to Peppermint Camp. I rode a Japan-made town bike made by C.Itoh. The tires were fat enough to tolerate all the rocky and rutted roads that I explored. My map making skills were not at all refined (still aren't) so, the little newspaper often left them out of my published stories. I was actually paid a nominal amount for these columns.
        Selling little books and giving out free maps has given me great joy these last 4+ decades. Guiding friends along many of the routes with the help of my durable (and talented) wife with much fatter tires on our bicycles over the same period has also been a thrill. We are still actively scouting out loops in California for what is now called "Gravel Grinding". We will be publishing a couple of new routes this Spring through the valleys and along the ridges of Plumas County. You might have to visit Bodfish Bicycles in May to get your hands on these new challenges.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

What's Your Mission?

        My old friend Jack (94, two days ago) bops in once in awhile just to make sure I am awake. The bicycle store is extremely quiet in January. Jack usually has a tune playing in his head when he comes through the door, either Jazz or Swing. and he challenges me right away with "What's your mission here, Chuck? You've been in business here for a quarter century, you must have figured out what your mission is." Rubbing my chin, I get the mental gears working and offer...Putting retired truck drivers on bikes!
         Retired truck drivers usually have back or knee problems or hips that don't rotate fully or "deadleg" and they can't feel their feet. Do you know what'll fix those ailments every time? Bicycle riding.    Jack quickly retorts, "Damn right, Chuck, good answer." We are definitely a 'working class' cycling shop...we listen, we diagnose and we set you up with a $500 ride that will change your life. It' no more difficult than that. "I'm proud of you Chuck. I've asked that question to many merchants over the years and nobody has given me a better answer than that. You know what you are? You're honest and a realist. Honest as the day is long."
        We don't try to impress folks with the latest technical gadgetry or $6,000 bicycles. We just want humans to ride and enjoy their ability to get out and explore, listen to the wind in the trees and an incredible variety of birdsongs. Jack loves birds and fish and especially birds who hunt fish. Jack rode road bicycles competitively for a couple of decades before moving north to Chester. He rode recreationally for a couple of decades on Plumas County roadways. Before all this he worked on trucks, "a fender bumper" he once told me, "I was a body shop man with a big rubber hammer."