Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Soul Craft Frame Building

A very enjoyable few minutes watching an artisan make a custom MTB frame at Soul Craft Bikes.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Lief Valin-BMX + 40 Something = Amazing

Genius, mulit-faceted, technical, hysterical, artist. Five words that describe a BMX icon.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Kraynick’s-The Best Shop in Our Part of the World

When I was a kid, I regularly rode my bike 10 miles to the Pawling Bike Shop. Bikes had changed my life. They were the way I navigated the rural landscape of our farming town turned suburban bedroom community for IBM and NYC. Since that time, I have been fascinated with these remarkable inventions and their beauty. The Pawling Bike Shop was the only bike shop I knew when I was a boy. It was there that I purchased my third bike, a real BMX bike that replaced the department store 1980 Huffy Pro Thunder 4 that only lasted six months- though the yellow Lester mags that came on the bike are probably still spinning somewhere in the bike universe.

The new bike, purchased at The Pawling Bike Shop, was a 1981 Scorpion SX. It was red with yellow components. As a 14 year old, my weekends consisted of bottle and can collection, mowing lawns, and using the proceeds to make purchases at this shop.

When I got good enough at BMX to race, this shop also provided me with “sponsorship” which meant that I got to wear a “Pawling Bike Shop” shirt and tell people about where I spent all my money on bikes. It was great. Oakley Three’s, KKTs, Pro-Necks and Zap Pads formed a good part of my world. That is where the magic began.

Before I could drive (age 15 to 16) I also ventured to other shops on my bike. The Bike Shop in Pleasant Valley NY was 18 miles from my house but pedaling there on a 1983 Kuwahara Lazerlite BMX bike did not seem like a burden to me.

In fact, I longed for Saturdays to come so that I could make the trek with friends. The Bike Shop was the mecca of bike shops. They were responsible for the BMX track that emerged on the hill overlooking the shop in the late 70’s and into the 80’s. They had rows and rows of bikes (Mongooses and JMC’s and GT’s and Redlines, and Race Inc.’s). They sponsored the experts. They had red haired sons that ran their shop and could wheely all the way down the street one handed! And, to my delight, they had parts bins. The parts bin, for a poor kid scraping together a bike, was glory. In the parts bin you could get new and used seats, bars, tires, pedals and pads.

Over the past 30 years or so, I have been in a LOT of shops. Best Cycle was my BMX Freestyle Sponsor in the mid 80’s (RIP). I bought my first mountain bike from Best Cycle in 1989 (a Trek 970).

Spokes became our shop while living in DC. They did not have parts bins but their lay away program allowed me to save up enough cash to buy my 1996 Gary Fisher Mt. Tam and the shop owners and wrenchers could talk bikes all day long.

When we lived in Aliquippa, PA from 1999 to 2003, Sniggers, in Beaver, PA was our shop. I bought a 2001 GT Vertigo from Marlin Erin (the Shop Owner) and he did miracles with helping me get a warranty honored. They did have a parts bin and old vintage Schwinns hanging from the walls. I have worked at shops, hung out in shops and even used shops as outlets where I wander the aisles just for the enjoyment of the wonder of beautiful things. This shop was and is a beautiful example of Bike Shop Professionalism and Old School Customer Service- great aesthetic and high value of good design combined with Western PA charm and connectedness to roots.

When we moved to Pittsburgh in 2007, Iron City Bikes became my shop. Bob runs this little hovel. It is perfect. They sell a select number of well-made bikes, do lots of repairs, have a nasty couch to sit on, really cool shop shirts and stickers and a shop dog.

I live a few blocks from Bike Tek and Pro Bikes in Squirrel Hill but they aren't my shops. Pro Bikes is too pretentious for me- a tube of grease at Pro-Bikes costs 17 dollars because it is "good for the environment." Of course, there is nothing wrong with being good for the environment but it is grease, really. I bought a 2007 Haro Escape from them in 2007 but I felt dirty afterwards. Bike-Tek has Frank, the co-owner. I like Frank because I think he has Aspergers. He will insult you and your bike if he does not like you or your bike. I bought a Eastern Jane from his shop. He was mean about it. Even though that makes Bike Tek more human, they have to compete with Pro Bike, on the same block, so I think the pretentiousness has rubbed off on them. Anyway, Iron City Bikes is my favorite shop. Well, it is now my other favorite shop.

Why? Two weeks ago, I went into Kraynicks Bike Shop, a shop I have known about since I got here but never went into because it happened to be closed when I visited. However, because I really needed a three-speed shifter for a restoration I was doing, I found out the times they were open and went over.

I cried when I left that shop. Seriously, I cried. At Kraynicks, Gerry does not sell new Bikes. He says he doesn’t need the hassle. He has a gazillion work stations in the back where little kids and bike weenies and old geezers and commuters and hipsters gather to work on bikes and this is a free service as long as you pay it forward. Of course, Gerry will let you bring your Waldors Bike in and show you how to true its crappy wheels without judgments or pretension.

In fact, Gerry is so down to earth, like Jesus, that I do not think he even remembers how to spell pretentioun. Gerry is in his late sixties and has white hair (like Gandolf but not long and hippyish), is the soul employee, and his eyes burn with the wonder of one surrounded by bikes for a lifetime. He is a kind man, not mean, which makes him even more real than mean Frank, and he lets you work on bikes for free. He has no cash register, figures out what you owe him by righting on scrap paper, and he does not give you a receipt. At Kraynicks, grease is not 17 dollars. Gerry doesn’t have a shop dog but he does have parts bins. In fact, Kraynicks Bike Shop is a parts bin! It is a four-story parts bin! The little boy in me, the scraping teenager in me, the climbing twenty-something in me, the established thirty-something in me and the now forty six your old me walked into Kraynicks a few weeks ago and found the best bike shop in this part of the world. So, when I left, I cried.    

Hanging on the Wall in Gerry Kraynick’s Shop:
"The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company ... a church ... a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude ... I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you ... we are in charge of our Attitudes." Charles Swindoll

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Latest Restoration- 1973 Kool Lemon Schwinn Continental

I just finished a complete restoration of a very KOOL Schwinn
Every bike has a story. This garage find had its start in 1973 when "Uncle Ernie" was in his early twenties and the proud owner of a new Schwinn Continental in Kool Lemon. As the story goes, he securely locked his new steed to a telephone pole in order to have a few drinks at the local bar and grill in Mckeesport. When he came out, a few beers fuller, he was one wheel less- he had secured all but the front wheel and some "scum bag" stole it. Ernie hauled his bike to the garage and swore he would replace the front wheel soon. Nearly 40 years later, Ernie, now too old to ride that bike, decided to include it in a garage sale. Thankfully, his nephew rescued this Schwinn promising "Unc" he would redeem the rig by restoring it. Of course, that never happened. Ernie's nephew ended up listing it on CL and I promised, upon purchase, that I would make good on the restoration.

So, here it is. A newly restored 1973 Schwinn Continental built in the Chicago Factory in May of 1973 and stored in Uncle Earnie's Garage in McKeesport, PA, for 40 years. You know a 40 year old bike has less than a 100 miles on its factory equipped pedals, sprockets, chain when they have no wear and look pristine and when the consumables like bar tape and brake pads are untouched. This classic retains its original paint (it has several garage chips in the frame paint) with much of its original equipment including the original bar tape!

I replaced the front wheel with a Schwinn approved Femco rim from a 1979 Schwinn World Sport. I also added fenders and front brake pads from the same world sport. I have also added a period correct chocolate brown saddle from a early seventies Kent 10 speed (Kool Lemon Meets Deep Chocolate).

New equipment includes Serfas 27X1 ¼ puncture resistant road tires and new brake and derailleur cables and housing.

I love this bike.

It has been fully restored with new grease, polish and service to all parts.

For your entertainment, the Schwinn Catalog from 1973 announced the Schwinn Continental in this way:
Whether it's a ride to the pool, a daily ride along the bikeway, or a long ride over the country road, the Continental is unmatched in its class. An outstanding combination of cycling features including the diamond style carbon steel frame, 10 speed 38-to-100 derailleur gear, Twin-Stik gear shift located for convenience and safety at the handlebar stem, dual position center pull caliper brakes that provide sure stops with the touch of the your finger tips, 27" x 1 1/4" high pressure Sports Touring tires, and lightweight steel rims. Choice of colors: Kool Lemon, Sunset Orange and Opaque Blue.

1973 Kool Lemon Schwinn Continental- SOLD 195.00
Frame size: Model 324 -24" (medium-large)
Wheels: 27 inch
Stand over height 32.5

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Life On the Injury List

I have been BMXing, jumping off stuff that could kill a man, running tough mudders, and lifting things with farmer strength for my whole life. And, I have paid for it occasionally. Bruised tail bone, broken thumb, clavicle bone coming out of my shoulder, hyper-extended ankles and wrists, and an unmentionable amount of shin and knee scrapes. But, I have never been taken out by a sports injury.

On March 22, I slipped a disc in my neck- I thought I just kinked it so I went for a five mile run to work it out. Two days later I was in in the ER. A Week later an MRI indicated that I had slipped a disc in my fifth vertibre and was suffering from Cervical Radiculopathy- crazy pain that made my whole arm numb and kept me on my back for a whole month before I could do anything. On July 22, it will be four months since this injury. I took my first bike ride since this injury on JULY 4TH! That is the longest I have ever gone without riding or running or doing what I want with my body. PT, Chiropractics and retooling my whole work life is getting me back on track. Here is the irony. I did not get this injury doing anything extreme. On the contrary, I got it from studying. I do a lot of writing and studying as a part of my job. And, much of the creative work I do is done slouched over a laptop. 15 years of that caused me to suffer from what the docs call forward posturing. So, my disc slipped because of tiny amounts of neck strain over time.

Anyway. It is good to be back on the bike. Part of my recovery has been a required effort to use my hands so that I can rebuild muscle and nerve use. What better way to use your hands then working on bikes. Since mid May I have rebuilt and sold nine bikes. Lots of fun.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Drew Bezanson

It seems to becoming more and more of a reality to have dudes emerge within the BMX scene that synthesize all of the best qualities of BMX by combining style, strength, creativity and pure guts. This dude is the epitome of all those things at their best. One of the things about BMX at this level is the way a rider this good make tricks this hard look that easy. The reality is that he is doing blind transfers, gaps and combinations over things that no one has ever thought of and at least ten of those tricks could have killed him if he missed. Just insane!

Drew Bezanson Returns from Justen Soule on Vimeo.

Drew Bezanson Interview from Skullcandy TV on Vimeo.

Life On a Little Kids Bike