Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Some time back, I posted the draft of a story about my encounter w/a notorious serial killer.  I didn't leave it up for long because it was a draft and various people said I should get it published in a conventional magazine.

So I finished the story and then worked with Orange Coast Magazine to edit it to their liking/usages.

My title for the story was "The Crack Of A Twig", but we decided on a different name for their version of the story.

Orange Coast Magazine just published the web version of the story here.  It is a strange, dark tale.

I've been cycling a bit here in Japan.  I brought my wife's Trek 720 to Japan and managed to promptly wreck it.

I have made a lot of observations about cycling in Japan, I'll share them when I get more time.

In happier news, my little clan went to Azuchi the other day, rented some cycles, went riding through the town and countryside.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

A 520 By Any Other Name Would Ride As Sweet - 1986 Trek 500 Tri Series

Well, it is turning into a veritable Trek-fest around here.  I got intrigued enough to buy this 1986 Trek 500 Tri Series.

It is a bit of an unusual animal - when I think of tri bikes now, my image is something as scaled back and as pared of fat as the triathletes themselves are.

I ran some triathlons back in the mid 80's, I just remember using whatever race bike we had at hand.  Trek seemed to think, in 1986 anyhow, that a Trek 520 touring frame, but with caliper brakes instead of cantis, was the ticket.

If you check the brochure on the Vintage Trek website, you'll see that the two frames have identical geometry and tubing materials. 

The Trek 500 Tri Series even has fender eyelets.  So despite the name, it actually has the makings of a nice sport-tourer, which for me and my purposes these days is the ideal bike.

I'm even thinking that this could be a good 650b candidate, although the bottom bracket drop is a bit largish at 7.2 cm.

The look, with the pewter paint and black headtube, is pretty conservative in contrast to the other paint job available for this model, a red/white fade that is a classic 80's Miami Vice bike.

Trek was still carrying a little water for the French manufacturers, as the wheels on this bike are built upon Maillard 600 Sealed Bearing hubs, nice and shiny they are indeed.

Pretty in Pink - 1985 Trek 770

I always wanted a hot pink 1985 Trek 770.  So much that I kind of got a fake one the hard way living in Hawaii in the late 80's - I had my 1986 Trek 660 repainted hot pink and I slowly swapped out the components on it for high level Campy ones.

That bike is long gone, but I still fondly remember zipping around in traffic on it in downtown Honolulu.  And I've always kept half an eye open for the bona fide article.

Today one followed me home.  Rather, it followed me from Ebay to Paypal and should be on a truck soon to my home.  All I've got now are the semi-crummy Ebay pics for a bike that is in purportedly outstanding shape w/original componentry, etc.

The square fork crown is pretty neato.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The End Of An Era (or Why I Just Bought 5 Sets Of Dura Ace 7900 Hubs)

Anyone with the inclination to spend time on this blog agrees that NSSS (Nice Shiny Silver Stuff) is a key component, pun intended, of Gorgeous Cycling™.  The heyday of NSSS was the 1980's and into the early 90's - Campagnolo X-Record, Suntour Superbe, Maillard, Mavic, Dura Ace, the list goes on of premium top end, gorgeously polished bike parts available during that era.

While the outlook for new production of NSSS is a lot better than it was in the trough of the late 90's and early 00's, the mass production really is more centered on MSSS (Middling Shiny Silver Stuff), the sorts of things coming out of white label producers, largely Taiwanese, and retailed by the cycling equivalents of J Peterman.

Primo, i.e., NSSS, is more confined to boutique manufacturers such as White Industries, Paul Components, Phil, etc., while the majors - Shimano, Campagnolo, SRAM, tend to favor black or matte or anything but shiny silver finishes on many of their components.

I've been thinking about this because I'm contemplating another wheel build, which naturally leads to contemplating about hubs, which inevitably leads to NSSS longings, yearnings, and, sometimes, mournings.

This mourning is about Dura Ace hubs.  As the whole world, with the exception of my wife, knows, Dura Ace 9000 hubs will be offered only in black.

That means that the Dura Ace 7900 hubs must be the last of a breed - top end, shiny silver, cup and cone, with in-house quick release skewers (and the Dura Ace ones are exceedingly fine...).

Here are some pics, tip o' the pirate's cap to Luxe Wheelworks Tech Journal:

They are a sight to behold, and this vision of beauty has given me great comfort and and unquenchable conviction to return to cycling during my recovery from a Tibial Plateau Fracture.

Well, not really, but it sounds a lot better than the hours of mindless surfing cycling porn sites during the same convalescence...

But kidding aside, one thing Shimano has learned from the great NOS cycling parts glut of the late 90's/early 00's is that it is extremely painful to be hawking your current offerings against the previous 1 or 2 models of the same product that are reduced in price by 50% or more.

So nowadays, Shimano manages their inventories such that within a couple years of introducing a new Dura Ace series, the previous series becomes scarce and, hence, expensive.

What is all this leading up to?  Simple - if you want a shiny silver top end non-boutique cup and cone w/beautiful branded quick release hubset, get your Dura Ace 7900 hubs now.  They are already getting a little scarce, but I just ordered 5 sets from Ribble, who has them on sale for $222 USD for the rear, $111 USD for the front, free shipping.

I got 36 holes to boot, so I can use them for heavily loaded applications.

As they say, if you snooze, you lose....

Sunday, February 17, 2013

If Rivendell Made Kid's Bikes....

They'd make them like the ones in Japan.  Notice the fenders, integrated lock, racks/basket, and even a dynamo light...

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Tabitha's Sunny Fuji

In the years of maintaining this blog, I've taken a fair amount of bicycle pictures.  I'm no great shakes at this sort of photography, but I like to think that I at least get the job done.

Until I see something like Tabitha's Sunny Fuji (the Team Fuji pictured below) on Flickr.  Then I know what it is like to be Salieri listening to Mozart.

Sheer genius...

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Raleigh Record Ace RRA 125th Anniversary Commemorative Edition

Cruising around the Raleigh Japan site, I came across this Reynolds 531 beauty:

This is a special 125th anniversary model.  The picture above is 57cm, below is 53cm:

The specs on this bike, considering it retails for about $2k USD complete (take THAT, Riv and VO), are pretty swank - Reynolds 531 tubing, Shimano 105 derailleurs, cranks, brakes, and hubs, Nitto Pearl Stem & Lauterwasser bars, chromed fork, Brooks saddle, the list goes on.

I can't imagine living in Japan for much longer without one of these.  But if I have to, for a bit less, about $1.2k, I can get one of these Club Specials in green and 54cm:

Or in red and 51 cm:

The Club Specials are not quite as nicely spec'ed as the Record Ace, but still are very nice, nothing at all cheesy about them.  I like the color-matched fenders with retro white patch.

A little bit about Japan, gender, and color.  Note that the bigger bike is green and the smaller size is red.  In Japan, blue is the color of guy and red is the color of gal.  This is all over the place for things that are differentiated by sex.  For instance, the sign for women's restrooms is always red, guys are blue.  If you go to an onsen and they give you yukata's, the woman's is red, the man's is blue.

Sometimes there is some understood colorshifting from the strict monotony of red/blue division.  Green gets counted as color of guy, and orange as color of gal.

The Raleigh Club Special is only offered in two sizes in Japan - 54cm in green, 51cm in red.  One for the guys, one for the gals.

I guarantee you that this is not a coincidence.  Very little happens by accident around this country and everyone always gets the memo about these sorts of things.

Here is blog post about the 2013 Raleigh Record Ace (RRA) 125th Anniversary Edition that has some nice detail photos like this one:

Monday, February 11, 2013

How Do You Say Tange?

Over on, there has been a thread on the correct pronunciation of Tange, the vaunted and venerable Japanese manufacturer of frame tubing.

Apparently, there is a fair amount of confusion about this in the non-Japanese speaking parts of the world, various people saying they rhyme it with "flange" and so forth.

I consulted an expert opinion on this - my son, who is a native speaker of Japanese, attends third grade in a Japanese public school here in Osaka, Japan.  Coincidentally, Osaka is also where Tange is headquartered.

So, for the record, I asked Otaku Jr. to pronounce:

たんげ  (ta-n-ge   Tange)

Mrs. Otaku, upon investigating the hubbub, reports that  丹下左膳 (Tange somebody or other) is a one-eyed samurai in various dramas as well as possibly a relatively uncommon Japanese family name.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Walnut Studiolo Sew On Leather Bar Wrap

Long term readers of this blog know I love sew on bar wrap (see this and this).  But suppliers of this are few and far between.  Toshi made a run a few years back, but no more of this appears available.  Velo Orange has an Elkhide offering that some seem to favor but for my purposes seems a bit rustic looking for my tastes.

Apparently Walnut Studiolo has been around for a while with their sew on bar wrap, but it just made it onto my radar screen:

Walnut Studiolo gets good reviews and the word is that the proprietor will customize a set to your tastes.  I wonder if he would make a version in thin glove leather with folded edges like the Toshi stuff for those longing for the ALMARC effect.

I guess I'll find out when I return to the U.S. in a few weeks, my incoming Fuji America is exactly the candidate for this treatment.  Here is a pic of my previous Fuji America with Toshi leather wrap:

I wonder if these guys know about the shellac trick?  Well, whether they do or not, this product alone, not to mention rave Internet review about being standup guys,  is worthy of giving Walnut Studiolo a coveted spot in the Otaku-Worthy Vendors sidebar.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Suntour Also Rises

Looks like the Joy Manufacturing Company here in Japan has gotten rights to at least some Suntour IP:

They are selling some interesting parts.  First up are these high flange cassette hubs available as Shimano or Campy compatible:

A few years back, I would have been bowled over by these, but now I'm a little more jaded - they look a lot like VO and other hubs coming out of the same factory in Taiwan. This tells you how far the retro/sensible parts movement has come.

But my bored insouciance aside, these do look like nice worthy candidates.  Here in Japan, the street price is about $200 a set, which is, interestingly enough, approximately the same price as a set of VO hubs in the U.S.


Here is another shot of these hubs, which are quite attractive.  They have an angle in the outer flange that is sort of interesting:

They are attractive, but my favorite amongst the white labeled neo retro hubs remains the Electra Ticino knockoffs of the Campy Sheriff Star hubs.  Longtime readers of this blog will remember this shot of a set I dolled up a little before adorning a Fuji America with them:

Incidentally, these Electra Ticino hubs are super cheap now, you can get a set for $125 USD.  Electra has all their Ticino parts and frames 50% off until the end of March.  I'm thinking this must mean they are closing out the Ticino venture, so get them now while you can.

The Sun XCD hubs may be a bit "meh", but their 50.4 crank looks fun.  You can get this with a spider to make it 110 BCD.  I'm not sure why I'd do that, it seems like being in an ambiguous, unable to commit relationship.  Nonetheless, it also has a big gizmo lust factor, so I'd buy it on that alone:

The basic crankarms will set you back about $100 here in Japan.  I's Cycle in Kyoto, who needs no introduction, sells a nice built-up triple, using TA rings, for a smidge under $300:

Quite nice.  I could easily see one of these on my incoming Fuji America.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

New Bike?

If all goes well, this Fuji America will be mine in a few weeks.

I always regretted selling my previous one.  The blue two tone Fuji Americas from the early 80's have it all - looks, quality, handling/performance. 

My only gripe with this model, and it is minor, is that with fenders, the biggest tires possible are 28's. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Who Is Jack Robbins?

My kid has had this shirt for the past year or two:

Like a lot of clothing in Japan, although not as much as in the past, it has some inscribed English about which the wearer may be utterly clueless.  Or it may be the name of the foreigner who, say, helped introduce flavored yogurt or the flush toilet to Japan during the Meiji period and every single Japanese schoolkid knows his name and there is a statue to him on a hillside somewhere in Kyushu.

Well, both my son and wife professed utter ignorance of any "Jack Robbins", and they both seemed a little puzzled why I would be wondering about this.  Google yielded no "Jack Robbins" who would likely to be on a kids shirt in Japan.  LinkedIn came up with 63 Jack Robbins, each one of whom seems to be some middle aged guy effecting change and innovation in a suburban office park.

Confronted with this dry well, I dug a little deeper.  Here is a closeup shot of the shirt:

If you google "Jack Robbins Clothes of Distinction" and look at the image results:

Bingo!  And definitely a flashy nighttime sign:

It turns out that Jack Robbins was a menswear store in the Belmont area of Chicago, apparently for at least 2 generations of Robbinses.  It was a local landmark at best, not even particularly renowned in Chicago, basically a local family store fondly remembered by the neighborhood.

Jack Robbins stayed in business until about 2006 when "Irv" acquired the place and who (incompletely) covered up poor Jack.

You can still see a bit of Jack's crown peeping out at the top.

Irv's was not long for this world, as the place burned in 2009 and was demolished:

No word on whether there was an arson investigation....

A sad end for the venerable Jack Robbins sign:

But a bit of Jack remains, as the store owners had the foresight to have "Jack Robbins" also engraved in the sidewalk entryway:

And so Jack Robbins lives on in Belmont, where the store site is now used as a dog park:

So this does answer the "Who is Jack Robbins" question.

Yet, how and why he came to also be emblazoned on a child's shirt in Osaka remains a mystery.