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.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Samson Keirin Frame

Yahoo sucks. I keep getting sent in circles trying to log into my flickr account and then merge it with the yahoo account (apparently they're trying to make it an all-in-one thing, but it doesn't let me get anywhere; i've literally been trying to log in for about 20 minutes).

anyway, here's a new, but used, Samson Keirin frame we just got in from Japan. It's 51 cm c-t seat tube, with a 53 cm c-c top tube. It's got the usual nicks and scrapes from being used by a professional keirin racer. Most notably around the right side of the bb shell, which is where the starter stands clamp on. Structurally it's a-ok; these are just cosmetic things. Check out the photos, go to the R.E.Load website for more ordering info....