Saturday, October 14, 2006

Interbike 2006...the fun part

Now that all the show stuff is out of the way, we can get to the good part of this whole should be noted that the show actually ran from wednesday through friday. I attended all day wednesday, a few hours on thursday, and was completely sick of it by friday. Anyway, there was actually an alleycat on the first day...thrown by Whitesnake (above right) and Dozr from NYC. Which is pretty crazy, because if ever there was a place to NOT ride a bike, it'd be Vegas. I think Jason Britton's bike almost got cut off of a railing....there's limos and cabs and traffic everywhere on the strip. Everything is designed to make it hard to even walk's completely designed for automobiles. The start of the alleycat was right outside the main entrance doors to the show. There were actually about 30-40 people involved, i think....which is a pretty good amount given the venue.

Here's Kim from D.C. and Dozr. I'm not sure where all these cans of Bud came from, but they were pretty welcome. Inside the show, there were various beer giveaways at different booths every day. The show guide actually had a small section every day detailing said giveaways. This was the only real reason to pick up a guide, unless you were really into the business/financial side of the bike biz. Anyway, thanks to precise planning and the strength of our group (people tended to give us a good amount of space as we loudly approached booths), we managed to make the most of the festivities and avoid actually paying for beer.

Mike Dee (NYC) and Sheba (D.C.) waiting for the start. I was a little disappointed, because I'd recently purchased a Bilenky track frame with S+S couplers (chek the blog entry from a little while back), but hadn't had time to actually put it together and make the bag for it so I could bring it to Vegas without paying a plane fee. So Steve and I didn't ride in the alleycat. Turns out that that was a good choice, but still...would have been fun.

You'd figure in Vegas nobody would really care what was going on unless it reached such a level of absurdity about 25 times that of normalcy. Seriously, think about the stuff that must go on here on a daily basis. I don't think there is such thing as "too drunk"...matter of fact, when we first got to Vegas, I was checking in at the Luxor, and a guy was practically falling down checking out. This was at roughly noon. He was telling the receptionist he hadn't seen the friend he came with in two and a half days. Are some people sitting outside drinking beer really going to upset the delicate balance of this town? Still, the rent-a-cops outside the convention center seemed to be getting really nervous about all of us being right outside. We'd only been there for about 15 minutes when they came out to usher us across the road.

This is Jason from King Kog. The next time I'd see him would be from the window of our limo as we pulled up to the afterparty. Hey wait, isn't that a bit excessive....a limo?

Naw, not really...the thing is, taking a limo, given enough people, can actually be cheaper than an individual ride in a taxi. I had never thought about it before...but Reed and Scott (from Level Components) had been in Vegas for about five days already, and figured it out very early in the game. After the alleycat went off, everybody who wasn't racing walked up to their room to chill for a little bit. They were out of beer...but not out of hard alcohol. Hmmmm. Well, we hung out there and had a few drinks, and then went outside to grab a ride to the Palms (Kona was throwing a party there so Whitesnake figured he might as well make that the afterparty). Before we even got to the taxi line, Reed told us to hold up so he could hook up a limo. There's limo's for hire outside of any casino at almost any time, so it's pretty easy. Anyway, within two minutes we had our ride, we piled in and took off. That's Scott right there, probably talking about playing poker later.

Here's a horrible picture of the Mirage from the limo. Anyway, this small sequence of events (drinking in a patio of a suite in the Venetian, jumping in a limo, and arriving at the Palms and going out to the humongous pool/party space, where there was a stage complete with dancers, little streams of water with floating cushions for chairs, and general craziness) was probably the closest I've ever felt to being on MTV Cribs. That feeling died down pretty quickly, though, as more people (show attendees) began to crowd into the party and we realized that beers were $9.

The next night (I think), Chris Kim and Mike Dee set up goldsprints in the Level suite. The mere fact that they brought all their equipment to Vegas is amazing in itself. Truth be told, by the time I got there, the racing was over. Alex won. As usual.

We hung out outside a drank for a while. I think the toll of Vegas life got to everybody a little bit that night....people started slowly dropping out kinda early. Around one, I made my way back to the Luxor to do some gambling. All said, I actually did pretty well with a combination of roulette and slots. One word of advice: if your dealer mentions his/her birthday, or the birthday of any of their family members, PLAY THAT NUMBER.

I guess that's a good segway into the actual "Vegas" part of Las Vegas, which I've been sparing you through this whole thing. I stayed at the Luxor (pretty decent hotel/casino...not amazing, not budget). It's a glass pyramid. The whole theme is ancient Egypt, and there's a...well, I could call it a light, but that's an extreme understatement. It's actually the world's most powerful light, shining a beam directly up into the sky. Visible up to 250 miles away. Seems like a good use of energy to me. Interesting side note: Close to the hotel, if you look at the beam, it seems to be shimmering and sparkling. It's a very nice effect. What is really goign on, however, is hundreds of bats feasting on all of the insects that are attracted by the lights. Nice touch, Luxor.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Interbike 2006 (pt.2)

It got to the point where I was spending more time walking around taking in all of the ridiculous stuff than actually looking for cool stuff. Mostly because there was weird stuff EVERYWHERE. Case in point: The Motostik. Please bear in mind that this was one of THREE "extreme pogo stick - er, i mean stik" - companies that were displaying their lines at the show. I never knew there was such a market for this stuff. I was amazed to see that for every three people that walked by smirking, one would actually take a serious look at this thing.

I just had to show the flyer. Please check out the videos at the Motostik website. I can only assume they rented out the skatepark locations so as to avoid possible injury to their "riders". Otherwise, I'm sure there would have been some pretty good footage of random skaters walking by and smacking them in the head. I triple-dog-dare anybody to take one of these things out at FDR skatepark.

Back in the land of the sane, Brooks had some nice stuff in their booth. Along with their world-renowned saddles (which I personally don't like due to their "don't get me wet" nature, but otherwise adore), they had these leather grips. I'm sure most people have seen their older grips, which were basically padded grips covered with a stitched-on piece of leather. But these things....wooo boy. They were made of big leather "O-rings", which themselves were basically a bunch of leather circles laminated together. The ends were aluminum, and you could adjust the length of the grip itself by adding/removing rings. I can really dig the craftsmanship of these grips. What I can't dig, however, is the price tag: roughly $100 retail. Doh.

Brooks also had some lovely leather bar tape. This picture does it no justice. What I really wish I had a picture of (or better yet, the actual item) was one of the beautiful Brooks long sleeve wool jerseys that were available at the booth. The booth in general was incredibly understated; Brooks knows all about the simple beauty of their product, and they didn't try and get flashy. When your stuff looks like theirs, it's enough to just put it all in glass cases and let people drool.

.....And then there's the other side of the spectrum. Oakley. They had an absolutely humongous booth, which was pretty much a mock-up of some crazy futuristic space bunker or something. I'm quite sure the booth cost more money than we make annually. Anyway, at any point during the three-day show, there were approximately 100 people up in this booth. It was pretty nuts. I'm not a big fan of their stuff, but I was curiously drawn in by how over-the-top everything was inside. I did manage to slip into a little room (I assume this is where they talk business with big accounts) and snap this photo of the seats inside. They had custom made, padded barstool covers. The patch near the center opening reads "Exhaust vent". You can't make this stuff up.

Surly had a pretty nice, basic type of booth. They also had this crazy snow bike. The tire must be about eight inches wide. While incredibly impractical, I couldn't help but think about how much fun it would be to ride around Philly on this thing after a blizzard.

Hopefully said blizzard would bury THIS silly, silly contraption under a few feet of snow. It was quite a harrowing experience, going to grab a brochure for this beast while trying to avoid eye contact with any of the reps (which would surely have launched them into a fake, pre-programmed sales schpiel). I managed to slip in and slip out while some other dude was looking at the bike closely. Lucky for most attendees, these guys were placed about as deeply as possible in the "ridiculous new crap that won't be around next year" section of the showroom floor.

Does this really need a caption at this point?

Awww yeah. Now you can get your step on, while also bending over uncomfortably to grip bmx bars on a 20" wheel, and looking as silly as possible all at the same time! I love this show. Seriously.

Back at the Accelerade booth, Taliah Lempert was still busy painting. Probably a good thing, given what was going on around her. Some booths had begun to bring out kegs,and fools were having even more animated conversations about carbon fiber than before. I've gotta give props to the guy from Risse Racing (they make aftermarket shocks for pretty much every bike on the market). He was right across from one of the major free beer booths, dealing out shots of Cuervo with salt and limes for $5, including a Risse shot glass. Good stuff.

Ok, so by now it should be fairly obvious that I didn't really do much as far as researching any new, useful products. mostly I walked around taking pictures of people and wacky inventions. And scouting where the next free alcohol giveaways would be. And deciding what to do later during that particular night. Which is, realistically, a hell of a lot more fun than actually taking this mess seriously. Truth be told, we will have a booth next year, and our booth is going to make the show about 25 times more exciting than it is normally. We've got big plans. Trust me on that one.

On one final note: Kryptonite is introducing a whole new line of locks this year. And the amazing thing is, they've actually listened to messenger input for the designs. They've switched out the incredibly annoying, rotating "rain cuff" (the thing that used to cover the key hole) for a nice new sliding "door". So you can leave it open most of the time, and with just a flick of the thumb you can slide it over the key cyclinder to keep your lock from eventually rusting out. Now you no longer have to cut off the cuff! They've also come out with a new model for NYC heads, dubbed the "fuhgettaboutit" lock. It's basically an extremely beefed up evo mini. The thing is HEAVY. Very heavy. As in "might rip off the back pocket of your jeans if you put it there". But it's not nearly as heavy as 3 feet of chain and a padlock. To top it all off, possibly the nicest, best rep I've ever met works there: Donna Tocci. She's amazing. She's responsible for all of the locks that get given away at alleycats and major races all year long. She even gave one, on the spur of the moment, for the Inetrbike alleycat Whitesnake and Dozr threw. More on that in the next installment: Interbike 2006 - The Fun Part.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Interbike 2006

On September 26th, I left for Las Vegas and the illustrious INTERBIKE industry convention. If you don't know about it, I'll spare myself from writing all the details. Suffice to say it's where all of the biggest companies in the cycling industry, from bike and component manufacturers to clothing, accessory, and marketing firms, debut their new lineup for the following year. If you really want to check out exactly what is encompassed in this week of salesmanship, check out the official site. Anyway, there are tons of companies, both large and small, showcasing tons of products, both amazing and hilariously futile. There used to be a smaller version of this same convention that would come to Philly every year at a different time...but thanks to our infamous convention center (and it's even more infamous union crew), that got shut down about 7 years or so ago.

The concept of Interbike generally sounds like it should be pretty interesting and fun - and sometimes it really is - but honestly, although I used to race mountain bikes, and was for a short time into road bikes, since I started messengering I really lost all interest in bicycle technology for the most part. I have a couple of keirin and track bikes, a cargo bike, and an old Fat Chance mountain bike. I hoard old Shimano thumbshifters and prefer to keep my rear cluster at 8 gears or less. Not exactly the target market for most companies. Upon entering the convention hall (located within the plush Venetian hotel on the strip), I quickly began to notice a general trend amongst the attendees. Many of them looked like this guy above (btw, I think he studied that bike for about 20 minutes, no joke). Shop employees roamed around in little groups wearing identically embroidered polo shirts. I saw a whole mess of people rocking hydration packs. It gave me bad flashbacks to when I used to work for shops myself (1990-1997).

And a WHOLE LOT of em looked like this guy right here. I'd kinda forgotten about the whole freeriding/mini motorcycle mountain biking phenomenon. It came back slamming in my face REAL QUICK. It was roughly 95 degrees in Las Vegas. Still, wool skully hats could be found with every swivel of the head. Nylon cargo shorts with padding, goatees, wrap-around Oakley's made of exotic materials (usually worn sitting above the brim of a baseball hat)...check, check, and check!

It was all about mountain bikes that looked like motorcycles, and 10-speed road groups. I remember when Rock Shox first came on the scene. Back in those days, you had barely two inches of travel, you'd ride it for a few months, the seals would explode, and every day you'd be wiping oil off the lower legs of your fork. And we liked it! Now they've got these newfangled four-to-ten-inch travel beasts, what with their adjustable damping and compression, and lockout features.....bah.

This bike was really exciting. Seriously though, I actually confused this with a pic from the SRAM booth. SRAM had one of the few new things that I was genuinely interested in. Mostly because it was some new competition in the Campy/Shimano road group war. First debuted in Philly during, I don't even know what the race is called anymore; whatever bank runs it now is my guess, but it is formerly known as the Corestates, or First Union, or Wachovia USPRO race...anyway, during that race this year. Ok, so before I babble on any further, SRAM has a new road group that should give the "Big S" some competition this year. It features one lever that's used for both upshifting AND downshifting. Short throwns upshift. Long throws downshift. It felt GREAT, and it worked flawlessly on the showroom floor...but then again, what doesn't?

You set em up, and I'll knock em down. THIS doesn't work well on the showroom floor. Or any other floor, surface, or universe in general, for that matter. If you've read any of this blog before - well, number one, I'd be suprised - If you've read any of this blog before, you'll remember this contraption from the Japan trip 2006 posts. Atsushi had one of these at Depot, and we were killing ourselves trying to ride it. Turns out, NOBODY can ride it. Not even the people who were running the booth! Once again, just so we're on the same page, here's what we've got on this thing: one 20" wheel, three shocks connecting the wheel to the hub, a disk brake, a seat and handlebars, and one rollerblade wheel in the back. According to the manufacturer, the whole purpose of this product is for other people to laugh while you try to ride it. I did notice that they had a video; it shows possibly the one person, located in Japan, who can ride this thing for more than 5 feet. Just don't ask him to turn. Final note: This device is patented, so don't think about stealing this design.

This is NOT the one person who can ride this thing (dubbed the "Max Challenger"), by the way. But this dude won the International Useless Bike Competition by convulsing and swerving his way
slighly beyond the 3' mark. Congratulations, you win a one-way trip to Detroit!

Now that I have delved into the land of marks and "Made in Taiwan", I feel I must show something that's actually really cool. There were a few displays in the show that really made my day. Number one: The Independent Fabrication booth. They decked out this frame like an '80's Skyway TA. Ridiculous. You can keep your 1.357 lb carbon time trial frame, just give me this!

To me, this was the Bike of the Show. Based around Shimano's Nexus internal transmission group, this bike sported custom, intergrated racks and a sick integrated chain guard. Full stamped metal fenders (I always forget who makes these things but they're among the nicest available), and a sweet machined cable pulley for the rear hub. I stayed here for a minute before braving the crowd once again. BTW, please note the sport sandals in the pic. I would actually wager money that at least 60% of the attendees had either sport sandals or those Croc plastic clogs on. No lie.

This is the chainguard I mentioned. I would have had better pictures of this thing, but did you notice the hand on the bike in the previous photo? That dude was practically making love to the bike. He stood over it, gripping the bars, hand on the seat, generally messing up my photos (along with his sandaled friend) the whole time I was there. Jerk.

I was walking around with Loud Steve from American Expediting, waiting for 2pm (the first official free beer giveaway of the show), and I caught a glimpse of some artwork that looked very familiar. I was getting ready to get really upset, because I could swear it looked just like Taliah Lempert's work. Then I got to the booth, and lo and behold...Taliah was there! She had been brought in by Accelerade and the Davis Phinney Foundation to do a painting of a replica race bike during the show. She was super-psyched about it. Shameless plug: Check out the Fabric Horse utility belt she was wearing.

The Accelerade booth became a home base of sorts, since Taliah was always there and they had some comfy couches and chairs. There were actually a bunch of kids from all over at Interbike: Brad and Patty from Trackstar NYC, Jason and Mike from Cranked Magazine in Seattle, Chris Kim and Mike Dee from NYC (they run a ton of goldsprints comps; check out their website, Bill Dozr and Whitesnake from NYC Mess Mag, and Kim from D.C., Jason and Alex from King Kog NYC). Reed and Scott from Level Components were up in Vegas all early with a baller suite at the Venetian. Plus, Jill Rogers paints for Indy Fab, so she was in Vegas too. Add some more familiar faces, and you've got a pretty solid crew. Anyway, the point of this paragraph was this: Amy and Kevin "Squid" Bolger were there for a little bit, and Amy's got an amazing new book chock full of her photos from years of NYC alleycats due to be published shortly. Hopefully we'll have a few copies; check out for more info...

Ashira was there too...and her birthday was a few days ago. She was in really good spirits all week long, and took a ton of photos that are much better than mine...they're up on flickr right now.

In the world of mass-production track bikes....KHS continues with their Aero 100, which is just like the new Kona track bike, which is just like the Bianchi track bike. Surly still makes their steamroller, which I actually really love because of the tire clearance and oversized tubing. I think Specialized still makes that Langster, but I never made it to their booth to find out for sure. It's aluminum, anyway, whether they make it still or not. On the "extremely scary" side of things, SE Racing - the old-school bmx company responsible for legit classics like the Quadangle, Floval Flyer, and OM flyer, of which I've actually owned and loved the latter two - had a single-speed/fixed bike on display, with a supposed retail of roughly $300. For the COMPLETE BIKE. Closer inspection revealed some parts specs that would make even the worst penny-pincher shudder. Most notably ONE-PIECE CRANKS. Oh boy. This should be fun to watch.

*More to come in the 2nd installment!!!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Bilenky is the Illest!

Awwww jeah. I just found out my new Bilenky is done! I got their track frame, with S&S couplers. The whole thing fits into a bag with dimensions of 26" x 26" x 10". That means no more airplane fees. Ever. I still have to make the bag, though. I also got some braze-ons for a rack that Simon's gonna make, as well as white lug piping. every component on this thing is gonna be either green or black.

I've also got a Bilenky cargo bike...if you don't know about those, and you ever need a bike capable of hauling LOTS of stuff, you need to recognize. these things are much more stable that the cargo bikes that use a low tray between the front and rear wheels. I've moved with this thing. Basically, if you can't take something on this, you don't just need a need a TRUCK. Here's Dailey hauling around boxes during the NACCC's on my cargo bike. Photo by Kevin Dillard.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

How I Made the Fixie King Bag

I was working on the bag for the "King of Fixed Gear" at this year's NACCC's, and halfway through prepping the custom stuff I thought about the fact that most people probably have no idea how we do this stuff, and all of the work that goes into it. I know a lot of people who glance at our website think that we have some sort of automated machine similar to an embroidery machine or something. When customers come into the store, they're always suprised to see us actually cutting things and manually zig-zag stitching around our designs. This should spread some light on the whole process. So, next time you send us a jpg of the ceiling of the Sistine chapel, and then wonder why we quoted you the price we did, you'll just have to come back and look at this.

This is the basic picture that I decided to use. Some minor tweaks and we'd be in business.

We use a light table to transfer images onto the fabric. Basically, that means that if the image is clearly outlined, and the material is a light color (translucent), we can see the image through the material on the light table, and simply trace it onto the material with a sharpie. That's why we usually choose light-colored flaps for prize bags and intense custom stock bags. It's easier to initially transfer the image. However, since the artwork itself was so dark and full of shadows, I made a crude outline first so i could then use the outline to cut the basic parts. The cape and helmet were different pieces, while I added a cog image and a crown in gold cordura. Whenever we do custom work, every different colored region is a layer of cordura that must be drawn and cut out in this fashion before we begin the stitching process.

Most of our lettering is done on the computer first. I found this font, which I thought went along well with the theme of the bag, and printed it out. However, I felt that since the actual flap was going to be light gray, the lettering would be better as a dark color. "Might as well do black" cases like this we have an alternate process for the image transfer.

Since it's nearly impossible to see the printed letters through black cordura on the light table, I had to use transfer paper. Basically, it's a sheet of wax paper with a layer of chalk on one side. You place it on top of the cordura, place your letters on top of that, and draw your outlines - firmly.

This is what you get when you do it right. It's really not hard to do, but it can be very frustrating when you're doing some really intricate stuff (ie. when I do an order for a customer and it's a very detailed image in dark colors). Especially when you forget to draw one line or one part, and you have to figure out the exact placement of the original over the cordura and transfer paper so you can fill in that last part.

OK, so I skipped a bunch of get to this point, I'd cut everything out (very tedious process that sometimes takes longer than it does to stitch the stuff on in the end), glued it down, and drawn all the detail stuff. This includes small things like the musculature and other areas that were too thin to actually cut out material for (eyes, teeth, etc.). These are done with stitching only, and in a lot of cases require the stitcher to vary the stitch length dynamically to go along with the area to be filled. That means that while you're peering at the needle to see what you're doing, you're also manipulating the cordura with one hand, while regulating the stitch width lever with the other. And feathering the pedal to keep a controllable stitch speed, while raising/lowering the foot lift lever with the knee of the same leg so you can actually rotate everything. Takes practice.

At this point, I'd finished the basic outline. I decide to do a thin inner outline in black, since the details were black and might look a little strange connecting to a red outline. I drew lightning around everything and stitched over the lines i'd drawn. In this pic you can see the window that we're dealing with: that little horizontal slot that the needle is dipping down into. That's the area we are looking at at any given time to make sure everything is on point. In case you can't tell, it's roughly a half-inch wide. However, that's the MAXIMUM stitch width. Most of our custom work is done using a stitch width of about 1/8". Chew on that for a little bit.

When it's all said and done, you get something along these lines.

For more pics of the NACCC '06 prize bags, and a whole bunch of custom stuff in general, check out the website

Monday, September 11, 2006

North American Cycle Courier Championships 2006

Every year, for the past 9 years, a huge race known simply as the "Naccc's" has taken place in a different north american city. This year - against better judgement and with the greatest of intentions - it was decided the race, which generally pulls in anywhere from 200-400 participants, would take place in Philadelphia! We had almost a year to prepare (immediately following the race each year, there's a vote to decide the city that will host the following year's festivities), but nothing could really prepare us for the crazy weekend we would be dealt by mother nature.
As soon as we found out the news, I immediately sent out emails to the Japanese contingent and informed them that they MUST be in attendance and they had 8 months to get their tickets. I'd house them all in my two-bedroom apartment. This actually gave me a built-in excuse for the "three-a.m.-post-party-drunkard-from-wherever" who would make absolutely no previous housing arrangements, but would no doubt attempt to stay at my house during the weekend. "Sorry, I've got six people staying at my house already...woulda loved to have you, though..."
Here's how Seiya's daughters Aika and Yume showed up at my spot. Seiya (my Japanese distributor and owner of Depot Cycle/Recycle) came with his wife, Mami, and his daughters. Plus Atushi (from Gunung) and Keiji (world famous carpenter and kobayashi imitator) came along too. So did Yoshi (Mixpression creator; Mixpression is Tokyo's largest alleycat event). Oliver from Baltimore/Tokyo also pictured. Seiya and them came the Monday of race week. Yoshi came the saturday before

The first thing that one must do when they visit Philly is go to Bob and Barbaras. And it just so happened that Bnb's was having a PAJAMA PARTY that Tuesday. So of course we had to roll. Atushi on Spring Garden street with a little fixed gear wheelie.

Emily had left her bike at home, so I gave her a ride on the front of the Bilenky cargo bike. She snapped this pic from the front basket. Emily designs all our shirts and most recently has developed a series of illustrations based on owls.

We'd actually spent the better part of the day, leading up to Bnb's, shopping at the huge dollar store on Delaware ave, Target, and Burlington Coat factory. At each place, Aika and Yume got to buy a ton of clothing and toys. Mami got them pajamas, but only if she could get some too. She's seen here rocking Spongebob jammies for the pajama party. What.

The whole Bnb's staff was dressed for the occasion. Some for the better....and some for the worse. Steve Ferrell aka "DJ Thunder Chicken" holding it down. No, i don't know why he shaved a cross in his chest hair. You might not be able to tell, but behind him there was a table of ribs, chicken, greens, potato salad, and various other delicious foods. I really don't understand why anybody goes anyplace else. For $4, you can get a can of PBR, a shot of Jim Beam, and a plate of food. All the while listening to good music from either the internet-connected jukebox, or a live dj who thinks radio sucks. Ridiculous.

Here's Keiji, Atushi, and Mami flexing. Mami was a little upset at the low wearing pajamas/not wearing pajamas ratio, but a little later on some more people started flowing in.

There's some sequences of events which are simply inevitable. Take, for instance, Emily G. Here she is drinking a beer.

And here she has obviously finished the beer and decided to poke Keiji in the eyes. Probably after a barrage of verbal insults. And I mean her insulting HIM, not her responding to his insults with an eye-poking move.

Following such behavior, she'll always pretend she really loves you. How can you stay mad at that?

Esher was in the house too, sporting his old man Jim Beam pajama pants. He won a prize for "best alcohol-related pants". I'm not kidding.

Naccc head organizer Stewy was also present. This was pretty much the last time he was seen out before race weekend. That Alize-looking bottle in his hand is actually Mad Dog, and was one of Esher's prizes. No word on whether Esher ever got it back or not....

Ellie and Carrie decided that this weekend would be their "Dance Team R.E.Load" coming-out party. They practiced a routine, complete with high-speed patty-cake hand-slapping, "Fly Girl" wiggling, and Beat Street strutting. This is their finishing move. No, the camera is not sideways. They're breaking it down to the floor. The routine would be busted out at random moments - pretty much whenever the urge struck - all weekend long.

Mami won the grand prize for "best pajamas". She and Emily celebrated by battling Ellie and Carrie in a short-lived dance-off.

Right as we were preparing for the Naccc's, this van appeared on my block. It's here ALL the time now. So fitting, since Donte Stallworth shut up all naysayers on Sunday, while the rest of the NFC East lost miserably. If you live in Dallas, say peace to Bledsoe for me. Suckers. Next up: Scurred-little-boy Eli and the New York Penalty crew. What. Ok, back to messenger stuff....

I forget what night this was, but we decided to have a barbeque on the deck of my apartment. It was absolutely huge; there were burgers, hot sausages, grilled corn, vegetables, two types of salad, baked ziti, and some other stuff that i've probably forgotten. By the way - interesting sidenote - Herr's is now making "philly cheese steak" flavored potato chips. They're actually pretty good, but only because Herr's completely missed the mark on the flavoring. Anyway, we also had a bottle of Stoli 100-proof and a bottle of Glen Livet, along with about two cases of beer. Needless to say things started getting a little rough. I yelled out "Kobayashi!" (famous Japanese competitive eater), and Keiji went nuts on this imitation.

On to the actual racing. There was a nice welcome ride and an art crawl the friday of the event, and one of the stops was at R.E.Load. Most of the bags from the "Pedal:Reloaded" show were here. The place was packed with riders even though it was raining and nasty outside. You can check out pics of the bags, if you haven't seen them yet, here. Here's Carrie showcasing the new R.E.Load rain jacket. Call to order.

This is Dailey, one of the main organizers and the man responsible for the permits, barricades, paying the cops, the EMT's, and a bunch of other stuff. Dailey was stressed. Pretty much he was not to be approached during the weekend, unless it was Sunday night and you were trying to give him some booze. Saturday was hurricane Ernesto, as anybody in the northeast knows. Beleieve it or not, we actually ran qualifiers, and people actually raced! We decided that anybody who braved the conditions Saturday should automatically make the finals on Sunday. Kevein Dillard from the Demoncats took a whole mess of photos this weekend; check them out at the Demoncats website.

I wound up being an organizer AND a sponsor for the race. It was kinda hard to juggle everything, so if you saw me this weekend and i seemed to brush right past you without caring, don't take it personally. Pretty much every minute of the weekend was taken up by some responsibility to R.E.Load, the race, or one of the 11 people who were staying in my building. Anyway, it's about 7am in this picture, and we were setting up the course for the finals. We hired the same company that does the First Union USPRO (or whatever the hell bank it is now) race, and the guy was on point. I took this photo while hanging off the back of his truck, dropping off barricades all over the course. That's Pat Gaffney in the background. Pat came up big, helping out all over the place. He also was the organizer of the cargo race. Bilenky cargo bikes, go!!!

This is Stewy preriding the course Sunday. Yes, our volunteer shirts were hideously ugly, but tell me you had a problem finding a volunteer in these gems!

Andy Zalen (AZ) from DC threw a whole "race-within-a-race", and I've gotta say, it was the ish. DC rolled thick in the RV. They were offering up eggs and bacon while we were setting up the course. When the race started, they had a DJ set up, and he was playing the best from Madlib, Dilla, and more. No radio crap. They had fondue - both cheese and chocolate - and tons of fruit and bread to dip. Plus they had masks. MASKS. More on that later....

One of the main themes of the weekend, to me, was that it was possible to throw an event this big without having to go super-corporate. Sure, we had Pabst on board, but when are they NOT down to sponsor a messenger event? Their reps hang out with us at Bnb's!! They didn't even care about signage; we had to prod them to give us their logos! And Raleigh didn't even need a booth at the course. So that meant all the other sponsors were completely grassroots. Little local companies, including us (if you think we're "big" or anywhere near Timbuk, Bailey, or Chrome as far as our bottom line, you are very very wrong), Fabric Horse, Giant Dwarf, Jetsetter, Gerikmade, Outlaw Print co., Jumpstart Printing, Print Liberation, Printcrafters, Bicycle Therapy, Bicycle Revolutions, Vespid Couriers (yes, Philly's smallest - and only independent - messenger company was also the ONLY one to step up and help out with the race), Firehouse Bikes...if I forgot anybody I'm sure I'll remember them before I'm done writing. Anyway, here's Mami rocking a Giant Dwarf hat. Vegan Steven in the background.

The big thing about these events is that along with the racing, and the parties, it's also a big family reunion. Sometimes you only see your friends from around the globe once a year at the Worlds or the Naccc's or Euro championships. Extended family is really important. And Esher only wears gold on special occasions. He's pictured here with his daughter Keirin.

Now that they're gone, everybody all over the city is like "hey, are they still here? When are they coming back?". I can go away for two weeks and no response; these guys come for a week and turn the city upside down. That's how they roll. The Minato family; Aika and Yume traveling with style on the tray of the Bilenky cargo bike.

Can we just say it right now: Aika and Yume Minato are going to be international stars. Anywhere near a camera, these two go crazy. Hats by Giant Dwarf, shirts and skirts by Depot.

They even got their photos in the Philadelphia Inquirer. They were cheering on the sidelines with pompoms. I'd post the pic, but who knows if the Inky will get mad about that....

These two don't even really complain about anything anymore, even though they're only 4 and 6 years old. If they get bored, they just act out a made-up play or something. Even the most stubborn bachelors are like "maybe i DO want kids".....I've never heard more ladies utter the words "oh my god!" in one 48-hour span.

ok, we'll stop for now. Back to adults.

Here's Bryan and Heather from Bicycle Revolutions. Bryan built all of the prize wheels. Level sent us two hubsets and two rear hub "kits" (extra cogs were included), but due to their recent west coast relocation and an inept shipping service, they weren't able to get us the hubs until a few days before the race. Bryan went ahead and got it done anyway, which is really going above and beyond any expectations. He also hosted one of the art crawl events. Oh, and I should thank Velocity for graciously donating six Deep V rims for the wheelsets to be built with.

The reload checkpoint had the best volunteers, straight up. Here's Cecily, Megan, and Michelle. Seriously, let me thank EACH AND EVERY volunteer who showed up at any point in the weekend to help out with anything at all. You guys are the best! Anybody who gave any volunteer a hard time, may your tires be forever flat. Side note: when we woke up to torrential rain and winds on Saturday, the organizers got together and decided that it would be best to delay the start of the race a few hours, since the weather was expected to get slightly better. We also decided that, out of courtesy, we would call up all the registered racers to let them know that they could sleep a little later, and to prevent them from standing in the rain by themselves at an early hour. We did this all with maybe 3 volunteers (including myself), on our own personal cellphone bills. And some racers actually YELLED at us for calling them in the morning! Sorry, i guess it would have been better to let you ride out to the course during a hurricane and wait three hours for us to show up. Believe me, I had better things to do myself too.

Oh man I love the concept of the Messenguerilla race. An alleycat inside of a championship event. Brilliant. The rules were simple: 1) put on the mask, 2) be sure to follow the rules of the event while competing in the messenguerilla part, 3) have fun and wreak havoc. Cory Hilliard (Vespid owner AND rider) aka "the Brown Hornet" doing all of the above.

More on the finals...and the parties.....later on.