Archive for March, 2013

In no particular order.

 

A week ago yesterday I took the UTA out for it’s 3rd ride.  The first ride was a bit of an anti-climax.  It had happened without much fanfare on the Thursday before.  I spent the whole ride trying not to puke, and was so distracted by it that I couldn’t get any sense at all of how the bike handled itself.  Wretched feeling.  It didn’t seem at all like appropriate punishment for the 5 or 6 weeks that I had been off a bike because of weather and travel.  It felt as though something was going on besides simply being out of shape.  When I had the same nauseated feeling the next day WITHOUT being on a bike I started to put two and two together.  The amount of narcotics I need to take to keep the pain under control has gone up dramatically.  Enough that my doc has switched me to, or added I guess, a slow release version of the same thing.  A couple of pills a day instead of tons.  Thursday’s ride happened to coincide with my first day on the stuff and after day two, it seemed clear enough that it was the drug making me feel ill.  I discontinued the stuff and went back out on the bike on Saturday and felt just fine.  An amazing relief.  I had been legitimately afraid for a moment there that perhaps my body was really beginning to fail me.  And quickly!  What a depressing thought..  that I had built this amazing bike to ride out my days, but had gotten it done (and the weather had cleared) just a little too late!   Well.  Not so.  Happy to report that I feel just fine.  By Sunday I was right back on top of my game.  Even after a decent ride on Saturday, I had good legs and managed to do a 3 hour ride with a gang of 6 other riders without having to be carried once!

The fact that I didn’t have to be carried is actually significant!  We rode at Blue Mountain Reservation.  We noodled around the interior for a while and then headed out onto a trail called “Monster,” that wanders out around the far perimeter of the park.  At a point precisely as far from the parking lot as it’s possible to be, feeling quite confident on the UTA (a veritable magic carpet), I took a runner at a little rock slab that I’ve never managed to quite get up.  I stalled and rolled backwards.  I put my foot down..  a little funny..  and heard/felt a cute little “pop.”

“Fuck”

“Ez?  You ok?”  The guy behind me asking was Todd Miller.  My good friend the PT from VT.

“Well..  I just ruptured my ACL,” I got back on the bike and started riding.

“Ez?  You need to stop for a sec?”  This time it was my brother, Zach.  (I think).

“Nope.”

I had already done the math.  Took me about 2 seconds.  We were as far away from the cars as we could be.  I was the only person on the ride who knew how to get back to them (not that they wouldn’t have been able to figure it out, but then what?).  Walking wasn’t going to be possible (and would be slower than riding anyway) and if I stopped moving, I was pretty sure that my knee would start to swell.  So off I went.  Zach claims that the pace of the ride actually increased.  FESTINA LENTE!!!!

At some point we paused to let the single speeders catch up and Todd was able to verify the sloppy knee.  I had given Peter N. my camera to carry for the day (By far the most capable rider among us AND, ding ding ding!!, a photographer) and he captured the moment.  Fingers crossed to no avail.

The bike is amazing, though.  I’m in love.  When I think of what I was able to ride on the thing.. and then remember that I BUILT it!!…   I get that same thrill that I got when I first started building bikes.  The fact that mountain bikes are such foreign territory for me, both riding and building, makes it feel new and magic again!  I’ve spent the week limping around, but feel ready to get back out there!! St. George reports that there’s still snow on the trails, though.  Probably just as well to give the knee a little more time and a little more bike tube PT.

At the end of February, Hill and I went to Europe.  Our good friend Glen gave us the most wonderful gift of an expenses paid vacation.  I haven’t talked about Glen too much on here because it feels a bit like name dropping.  He’s quite a talented and successful musician.  There are times, particularly when I see him perform, that I think, “wait a minute..  I KNOW this guy??!!”  But most of the time he’s just Glen.  He bought one of my bikes early on (no 8, I think) and it started a friendship that has grown and deepened over the years.  When he’s in town, typically he comes straight to us for a nice home cooked meal, and after being on the road with him in Europe I get it!  I was reminded of my own brief touring career (dance, not music), and how after a bit you DO just long for ‘home.’   We met up with him in Rome at the tail end of his Europe tour.  (He sang for me from stage..   What a thrill!)

 

The trip was amazing.  Florence.  Milan briefly. Dublin. Prague.  In Florence we stayed in the most amazing hotel I’ve ever been in..  Just blocks from the Duomo.  Lying in the bed looking out the window it blocked the sky.  We went to the president’s house in Dublin.. (I hugged him!!  and thanked him for going after the tea party).  We saw the European premiere of the Once musical.  Pierce Brosnan was there (Hill recognized him by his ass).  So was the president.  He saw me and smiled.. “Michael!  Twice in one day!” I said, and got another hug (I’m not kidding..  This was a big thrill for me).   We talked briefly about the importance of public support of the arts.  Prague was amazing.  I couldn’t stop looking at the ground!  The most beautiful cobbled streets and sidewalks.  Amazing beer.

The trip was exhausting though.  I was forced to recognize that I’m slowing down.  When I asked the doc months ago what I was likely to experience in my decline, fatigue was on the top of the list.  Whether it’s an emotional reaction to dealing with the reality of dying, or a physical reaction to the progress of the disease isn’t clear, to be honest.  The fatigue is real, though!

During a conversation with Glen in the car driving from Rome to Florence, he helped me make an important decision.

I have decided to retire.

I’m not going to build any more customer bikes.  I’m sending back down payments.  I can imagine this being a decision that I go back on..  I can imagine being one of those people who was given 6-8 months and then outlives their doctor.  But, I also FEEL like this disease is progressing, and if it’s true that I don’t have much time left I don’t want to spend it doing jobs.  Working in the shop, maybe..  yes.. if I get the urge, but not filling orders.  There are some things that I’d really like to make, and I don’t want to go out to the shop to work on them and feel as though I’m cheating on paying customers.  I’m also quite sure that I can’t fill enough orders before I go to leave Hill in some wildly different financial situation than I will be.  I’m sure that this sounds sensible enough, but it’s still a pretty tough decision to make.

Yesterday, the EVER patient T-Mac stopped by to pick up his cargo bike.  Still without wood, still without rack attachments, but ready to RIDE.  Perhaps the LAST customer bike to come out of the shop.

A very emotional moment for both of us as he swung his leg over for the bike’s first ride..  and my last delivery..   and then “CRUNCH”

Nothing is ever as simple as you imagine it being.  Maybe that’s how you know it’s truth and not fiction.  After about 45 minutes of fiddling around, we determined that the “crunch” was coming from the 3 x 9 speed hub.  The cassette driver seemed to be slipping.  Faulty hub, I think.  Looks like I’ll have to build him a new rear wheel.  Looks like I’m not retired quite yet!

 

 

 

 

Open Letter to the UTA Contributors

 

Hello all.

Right after finishing the bike, my wife and I went to Europe for a few weeks and had a great time stumbling over history and art around every corner.  It had been years for me, and it was a great reminder.  Man oh man is Italy wonderful..  and Ireland is REALLY some kind of spooky green..  The beer in prague is every bit as good as they say!

We came back to a wet and snowy North East, but finally this last weekend I managed to get out on the UTA.

I’m speechless.   I DID build a prototype first, but besides that nearly identical frame, the UTA is the first REAL mountain bike I’ve built.  To be perfectly candid, I nailed it.  Everyone who has ridden it has had the same reaction.  It’s a magic bike.
On Sunday while leading a ride, I ruptured my ACL (already a replacement) precisely as far from the parking lot at Blue Mountain Reservation as it’s possible to be, and the bike carried me out.  My brother, who was riding right behind me said that the pace of the ride actually went up.  I was so focused on NOT falling and having to put that foot down that I guess I just started to ride smooth and smart.

The bike allowed me to get up bits of technical climbs that I have never made it up before..  I rolled some rollers that I had never had the confidence to ride before.  What a thrill!  I can’t thank you all enough for your support.

I don’t plan on letting the torn ACL keep me off the bike.  As though stage 4 cancer wasn’t enough?  “Keep it coming, universe!!!  I’ve got some powerful allies here!!  Don’t think for a moment that I showed up alone!”
I designed a bike around what I felt was my perfect build, and to a company you all stepped to the plate with donated parts.

Sram–   XX1 is an absolute revelation.  Holy crap.  (I might need to get myself a 30 or even a 28 up front.  Then again..  I haven’t stalled yet).  Not one dropped chain.. not one chain slap!!!!!  Silent. Light. Clean.  Plenty of range. Smoothest shifting I’ve felt.  I can’t think of a down side.  And speaking of revelations, that fork isn’t bad either!

Industry 9–   I’m sure that engineering a hub with 407 points of engagement presented some challenges.  Whatever they were, it was worth it!!  Finding what feels like INSTANT engagement on technical climbs is a miracle!  The difference in some cases between getting up and NOT.

Enve–   What can I even say?  I got your “heavy” rims, and these wheels are still light, stiff and bright, and start turning the moment you put any pressure on the pedal.  I’m a Luddite and over the years I’ve said some unfavorable things about carbon fiber (often using words like “plastic” and “ugly”).   I take it back.  All of it.  At least about the stuff you guys are producing.

Schwalbe–    Egads.   Dampfs are the business.  I don’t care if they’re 240gms EACH heavier than the Ralphs..  these things GO!  No slipping, no time..  Confidence to crash right into boney sections at low pressure and not flat.. not wreck rims.  Winner!  Maybe when I take my brother to Germany for a 12 hour two man race we’ll hit you up for a Ralph/Nic combo, but I doubt it!

Formula–  he heeeeeee!!!!!!    Besides being beautiful enough to put in a jewelry box and propose with, these T1 brakes have stopping power and modulation second to nothing else I’ve ridden.  (I’m a newbie, but if it gets better than this..  I don’t need it!)

Chris King–   I can’t say anything that hasn’t been said.   There might be two or three bikes that I’ve built in my career that don’t sport your headset.  And I can’t think for the life of me why they don’t..  confused customer, perhaps?

Brooks–   If I may be quite frank, I’ve got a peculiar whatsis after 2 surgeries for ass cancer and as much radiation as they’re willing to give one person, and the swift is the saddle that I ride.  Thanks for taking part.

After the ride on Saturday, I was approached in the parking lot by someone who has been following the story.
He said, “Ezra..  I don’t want to be disrespectful, but if I can I’d like to start the bidding on this bike.  I don’t know how you’re planning to do the auction, but I’d like to open the bidding at $10K.”

Well.  THAT’S a statement.

Thank you all so much.  A rollicking success!

My best,
Fast Boy