Pictures are above in gallery for most items. All items are for sale now and you can secure it by emailing me at email@example.com and paying via Paypal.
Otherwise, I will be doing a 2-hour sale at the bike building workshop located in the rear of 4750 N Milwaukee next Saturday, August 31, 2019 at 1 PM. You can buy in cash all remaining parts, frames, tools, bikes, wheels, work stations. in addition to items pictured above and listed below are a variety of tools, components, tires, etc. Whatever remains will be absorbed into my personal stuff or donated to West Town Bikes. West Town Bikes will also receive 25% of all proceeds from the sale.
Purchases made in advance can be picked up at the bike sale, or you can make arrangements with me by email or text.
You can read more about the bike library/loaner program, the Monday Night Bike Club and the individual bikes and their namesakes right here.
As I often do, I ended my last post with the intent of working on this next one immediately afterwards. That was months ago, and this is the essence of why I have had a hard time maintaining the site, figuring out what to do with the tours, and deciding whether I would like doing this still or if I have moved on. I wish I could say I was closer to figuring any of that out.
In the interim, I ride. So far, I haven’t missed a day this year and it has been wonderfully therapeutic. As everyone does, I struggle with regular, and personal challenges along the way. Still, the last couple of years, the direction that this country has gone has me feeling at permanent discomfort at best and occasional abject terror in the worst moments. How far things have fallen down and how hard it will be to righting things leaves me a wreck if left to ruminate in it. Sometimes, just unplugging, riding my bike helps me achieve some peace. Lately, the miles ease the mental anxiety, make me healthier in body and spirit and recharge me to do my best.
Even before my dad died two summers ago and I suspended the tours, I had resolved to give up the free bike loaners program and liquidate the inventory. The bike library was set up as free loaners for people that wanted to do the tour but didn’t have bikes. While a good thing at first, it has become a burden and is seldom used in the age of bike share. Frankly, it is a p.i.t.a. to deal with and with expanded personal obligations these days, I can’t work on the schedule I used to have to promote, organize and run the rides, let alone maintain a fleet of bikes to lend out for them.
When I started the tours, my enthusiasm for promoting the rides and talking about them to others was fresh and I was excited about the concept and the process. Through word of mouth and social media and posters, I spread awareness and built an audience. It makes sense that from the get-go the audience was a cycling-centric group. Most learned of them on bike web sites, bike list-serves, eventually the Chainlink, my email list and at posters in the local bike stores, so largely, the tours drew people who were looking for fun things to do on their bikes.
When I would talk with folks that weren’t necessarily cyclists, they often complimented the concept but the interest was often tempered by people who didn’t ride anymore, maybe didn’t have a bike handy, or had one in no shape to ride. To try to counter this limitation, I built a library of bikes in different sizes and let people borrow them for the tour if they couldn’t get wheels of their own. The building up of the loaner library took 6 years from the first one to the last bike built. There were as many as 26 of them at one time, so we could accommodate riders of a large range of sizes, with more sizes in the middle to satisfy the most frequent requests. Some built for comfort. Some built for speed(ish). Everything designed to accommodate a variety of size and geometry needs.
While there were some exceptions, most of the bikes were older steel frames of good quality. Each frame was stripped, treated and powder coated and all frames were rebuilt with high quality older components, usually complete Campagnolo or Shimano grupos and custom built wheels. We made road bikes and single speed conversions mostly, but no bosses, derailleur hangers or cable stops were ever cut off or ground down. Each finished bike was truly 1-of-a-kind and was named for a famous dead Chicagoan. Most of the bikes featured custom decals and its name on the top tube. The bikes at one point all had cards describing on one side the person they are named for, and on the other the details about the bike, how it came to me, what we did to restore it, history on the frame, etc. Sadly, these were lost in one or another bike tour, or swap or exhibit of some sort. In addition to the two-and-a-half dozen or so bikes built for the loaner library, there were about another dozen I built for several friends of the tour.
I began building up the loaners in my garage in 2008. I had lots of help along the way learning everything from how to rebuild a headset or a hubset, how to build wheels, adjust derailleurs, brakes, route cables, clean rust, diagnose problems and check for frame straightness among other things. I became a scavenger of bike parts, frames, Craigslist, swaps and any little crevice or corner where someone was selling something bikey. I watched videos, and read books but ultimately learned the most from the professionals who were kind enough to teach me things and give me advice and steer me clear of mistakes. Without the aid of Alex Wilson at West Town Bikes, Kevin Womack and Owen Lloyd at Boulevard Bikes (before Owen opened Blue City Cycles), Yuvee at UV Metal Arts or much earlier in my life, Mitch Paul at Shaker Cycle, I never would have figured out even the basics of bike mechanics. While still an amateur at this, I learned a whole new skill building up the fleet of bikes.
After a couple of years, I relocated from our garage to a large space in the building adjacent to my office and started the Monday Night Bike Build club. We’d meet every other Monday and build up the bikes, or work on project bikes that the participants would bring in. I’d teach folks that would show up how to tune up a bike, check for chain wear, pack bearings, true, straighten and even build their own wheels. We would drink beers, and ready bikes for tours, work on people’s latest acquisitions, or just putz around and talk about horror movies on some nights. There was no heat or AC and there were holes in the roof and no running water or working plumbing, but there was electricity and beer, and we used my office’s bathroom next door as needed. The joke about the club in the winter was that it was like building bikes in Hoth, the winter planet that was site of the Rebel Alliance’s Echo Base in The Empire Strikes Back. A frequent topic was music or bands and whether they were METAL or NOT METAL. There were a bunch of people who joined us for a night, or a spell over the years, but the core group was Brian Kennedy, Ryan Berg, David Pertuz, Michael Latham and Michael Abene and without their help, the full loaner library would never have functioned.
Though it seems like a crazy thing to do in retrospect, it was a wonderful learning experience for me, and it was a way to get people who otherwise wouldn’t ride, out on a bike again. Many would say it was the first time they had ridden in years. Sometimes people would contact me later to tell me they started biking again. Sometimes they would come to more tours…on their own bikes. That was definitely worth it. It let friends ride together when only one had a bike when otherwise, they would both have done something else. It allowed a lot of people to join us on tours and re-learn the joys of bicycling, or regain perspective and appreciation for the Chicago that surrounds them all the time. I also learned a great deal of bike maintenance and mechanics in the process by building up the fleet of bikes for the tours and passing on what I knew every other Monday evening. That was definitely worth it too.
Now however, it is time to move on. Many of the original bikes have since been sold. I also gave a number of bikes to friends, friends of the tours and people that helped out in a variety of ways, both before this liquidation of the tour assets, and now that it is underway.
In the early years, I brought bikes to the rides frequently, but as the tours have continued, they are rarely requested much anymore. These days when I get a call or email asking to borrow a loaner bike, they seem to not realize that it is for the tours. People would frequently write or ask to just borrow a bike for all sorts of time periods and purposes but this isn’t a true public bike library…it was just so people could try the tours, and try a nice zippy bike, and spend a part of their weekend biking around Chicago.
The fewer calls for a particular bike, particularly the odd sizes that are not requested often, the bigger a pain it is to try to ready the bike for the tour. Having to bring a bike for someone to the tour also means I can’t ride to the tour myself and have to drive. Sometimes people who borrow bikes don’t have it in them to finish the tour, which means locking it up wherever that happens to be, and then driving back to that spot after the tour. In summation, the many moving parts of the loaner library seem every day a greater hassle for diminishing demand so it seems like a good time to sell the loaner library.
With an exception here and there, they are all named for dead Chicagoans and offered another opportunity to explore some Chicago history on the tours. Most have the one or two of the various badges and decals I had made over the years.
To ready the bikes for sale, the entire collection was professionaly tuned-up by Ben Fietz and Steven Blum at Tailwind Cycles. Joshua Haines photographed each one for their sale page. I am embarrassed to say that with all that has gone on, this whole thing is like a year past when I had intended it to happen. Alas.
I am selling them all here, and will list them in some Facebook groups, and in some cases eBay as well. I’ll post active listings here and remove them as things sell, within reason or update their status. This will include the tour bikes, a few random builds, frames, wheels and wheelsets, parts, tools, stands, helmets, pumps, walkie-talkies, etc. The picture gallery above includes some bikes that have new owners and a couple I am keeping and all of the shots in the gallery are by the very talented joshua alexandre haines.
Prices are designed to give you a great bike for very little money. In most cases, they are selling for less than the cost of just a portion of their build cost, and in some cases, for even less than the powder coat. Picking up locally in Chicago’s Jefferson Park is free. Those out of the area can pay a flat fee of $100 to have it professionally packaged by Tailwind Cycles and shipped via Bike Flights anywhere in the Continental US. I will not ship via other methods or work with 3rd party shippers.
Everything I don’t ultimately sell this way or keep in my own collection will get donated to West Town Bikes. An organization that does great things for Chicago and Chicagoans every day. The director and founder of West Town Bikes, Alex Wilson, is one of the best people in Chicago and he has taught me a great deal, and not just about bike mechanics. I am always proud to support West Town Bikes.
To see the bikes, click on their line to open their page. I apologize that some are very flushed out and others very sparse. Part of the reason it took so long to do this is it was such a massive project, and hard to get all the details and various things I wrote all together and make sure I had an equal amount of information, etc. It was get it up as I have it right now, or never at this point so here’s everything. So apologies to Dwight Perkins, August Spies and the various other bikes who were shafted in the explanation of the bike and individual.
Also, at one point, all of the loaner bikes were set up to tour with fenders, lights and a bell. A few of the bikes have some remnants of those items, or even all of those items, and more than a few have a few spoke cards I used to give out on the rides.
I will soon be listing a variety of tools, stands, wheelsets, frames, parts and the like for sale including:
Campagnolo Record Hubs to Ambrosio Rims, Sun CR18 NOS Rims, Sun M13IIs NOS Rims, 2 large rolling storage work tables/catch tables, 1 rolling tool chest – bottom drawer is busted, 1 Delta Drill Press – needs repair, Bianchi Avenue Safety Tape Hybrid Full Bike, size equivalent to 53cm, Suntour and Sram components, Raleigh Frame, Miche Track tubular track wheelset with Challenge Paris Roubaix tires, glued on, never used, and much, much more.
It has been about a year and a half since I wrote an entry on Chicago Velo. It was even further back that I last held a tour of Chicago’s neighborhoods in the summer of 2017. That summer was the apex of a snake bit year. That July, my father died. My sister and I and our families had a lot to get through dealing with the aftermath. Many moons later, we are close by my mom now and get to visit with her frequently. Our son Jackson is doing great in school, got his new wheelchair and communication device last year and has had 3 plus years out of the hospital, which is wonderful following several years with frequent and prolonged hospitalizations. My wife Chaney is in her third-year teaching at Amundsen High School, which she enjoys much more than her previous school. Our daughter Zoe has been kicking 4th grade’s butt with a schedule that has included lots of activities, sports, music, art, clubs, scouting, and more. I also finally was able to get my shoulder repaired after a long and painful period of misdiagnosis and ineffective treatment. Knocking on wood, since then I have been blessed with good health and have been injury free, chronic neck and back issues aside. As Chaney reminds me often, I am no longer a spring chicken, and certainly the assortment of pops, cracks and pulls that accompany daily life reinforces this over and over.
So, while it has been a good while since I last posted, the intervening time has been much calmer, still very busy, but fulfilling.
I get asked frequently when I might start up the tours again, and truthfully, I am not sure if I will, or when. There are times I miss it. I long for the social engagement, the friends I would see at the tours, or at our Bike Building Mondays and just the interaction with the larger Chicago cycling community. I miss sharing my love of Chicago, cool buildings, amazing architects and the history of our area. I enjoyed partnering up with lots of worthy non-profits for collaborative endeavors and meeting people from all walks of life that loved biking, and/or architecture, and/or Chicago history. I loved getting people out on their bikes and hearing from people who were inspired by the tours or took people back to places we visited. I genuinely long for more Ross Felten posters and images that helped brand the tours and gave these rides a completely unique identity. I liked hearing from other cyclists that were motivated to do their own outings, tours, and make their own adventures. If I never do another tour, these are the great memories and things I will keep with me forever.
Conversely, I have not missed a lot of things about the tours either. I had been very lucky to do 10 years of tours all over Chicago without any major accidents or injuries for any of the riders, but often I worried that it was only a matter of time before that would change. I don’t miss the politics or the infighting I saw regularly when engaged in the world of bike advocacy through partnerships, events and mutual collaborations. It was disengaging for me in what ideally would be a mutually supportive cycling community but was too often fractious and undermining.
The creation of each tour was a substantial investment of time, but attendance had everything to do with weather, and low attendance can get discouraging. I don’t miss the logistics of printing, hanging and mailing out thousands of posters or of laminating hundreds of maps, notes and places of interest. I don’t miss finagling with walkie-talkies, locking up rental bikes to come back to after the tour, or performing maintenance on the fly on a rider’s bike that hadn’t been ridden for years before they brought it out for that day’s tour. I don’t miss wondering if we lost a rider and had to go find them or if they had just decided they had enough and rode off on their own.
In short, I miss the good stuff and I don’t miss the arduous, tedious or worrisome stuff. The intervening months since the last tour have certainly been filled with lots of biking. I ride much more now that I am just riding for myself. Almost all of my rides are solo. I can ride when it is convenient to fit into the little bits of daylight in a full schedule, and I can push myself without concern for others’ preferred riding pace or style. I do less neighborhood exploring, but I see more sites. I focus on my fitness, my stroke, my form, the world going past, my cadence, the feel of the bike, the road ahead and enjoy the spoils of a clearer mind, an energized outlook and a more active and healthy self.
Bicycling is still very much central to who and what I am.
Most of the riding I do these days has been road riding but this time of year, when the roads are crappy with the cumulative mess of winter’s debris, it’s the perfect time to do some road rides on a cross bike. My Cross bike is an old steel Pinarello. It didn’t even have a model name, and it is heavy AF by modern standards, but it is a beautifully built frame and an extremely comfortable ride on or off road, but it needed a paint job.
I met Duane Waller, owner and operator of Chester Cycles, many years ago at the first Winter Bike Swap. Chester Cycles is a bike frame painting company and for years Duane had done a combination of bike frame painting and paint repairs. He is the go-to paint guy for repairs on bikes for Colnago USA. He painted one of my bikes before, the Geoffrey Butler 70’s road bike that I built up with Michael Abene and later had Ben Fietz of Tailwind Cycles help convert into a 3-speed road-commuter. Duane’s work was and is immaculate and the Butler is more fun than should be legal.
Duane is moving on from full frame painting out of concern for his long-term health and exposure to so many airborne chemicals. Even with the preparation and caution he uses in his spray booth with ventilation, respirator, etc., he was still breathing in an unhealthy, and accumulating amount of paint and finish and he made the difficult decision to focus on repairs only. Who can blame him? Still, it is sad to see the end of this era.
When he announced this chapter closing, he posted that he would do only 3 more complete frames, and I quickly chimed in to see if I could claim one. Initially, I was a day late and a dollar short, but one of the folks who had one of the last 3 jobs he was going to do backed out when they couldn’t get their frame ready in time to accommodate his schedule, so I jumped right in.
The bike in question was an early 80’s all-steel Pinarello cross bike. The frame was an eBay purchase, and just like the Geoffrey Butler, I built it up with my friend Michael Abene. It was a 54cm frame made of Pinarello Dolmen tubing, one of their branded-Dedacciai steel tubing used during the 80s. When I got it, there was some missing sections of decal lettering, but the paint was in great shape with a cool circle motif, though after a couple of years of banging around trails, it had its share of scratches, chips and dings. The frame is a little funny in terms of cable routing, with the rear derailleur cable running along the top tube and down the seat stay and the front derailleur routing through a single shifter boss on the left side of the downtube and then down below the bottom bracket shell.
We outfitted it with a combination of Campagnolo Athena 11 speed drive train, Campy Record headset and hubs, Super Record bottom bracket, Chorus cassette, Nitto stem, bars and seat post, DT Swiss rims, Specialized Trigger Pro tires, Shimano XT SPD pedals, Elite bottle cages and of course my trusty San Marco Regal saddle. Originally, we went with Paul Components Mini-Moto brakes, which I hated and eventually replaced with a set of Paul Cantis which were MUCH less finicky.
Michael and I hit the Des Plaines River Trail a lot after building that bike up. I did a couple of cross races before the last one resulted in a broken clavicle and the ensuing months of my wife having to do the bulk of the heavy lifting of Jackson. This necessitated that I opt out of any more racing, but we still did plenty of flying over the DPRT and various other single-track trails here and there. The Pinarello was also a great all-season commuter but eventually, it hit one or another bump or rock or root or something too hard and there was a crack separating the downtube from the bottom bracket shell. I am a heavy rider, and that certainly did not help. I was able to get Owen Lloyd of Blue City Cycles to repair the frame. A quick trip to the hardware store with the frame in hand resulted in a relatively decent match for the frame paint and a new can of spray paint, and that was how the bike has been for the past couple of years.
Knowing how creative and amazing Duane’s work has been, I told him he had carte blanche to paint the frame as he wished. His vision was to create a fictional-special edition Pinarello paint job that utilized several of his impressive techniques. The color at the top of the frame and the fork is like a copper-burnt sienna and gradually transitions into a Candy Red at the bottom of the bike and fork. He mimicked and expanded on the circle theme of the original paintjob, and we got a set of recreated Pinarello decals that most closely matched the original, including the tubing decals. The result is a stunning ride that is so damn amazing that I find it hard to even pass by the bike in my basement without taking a moment to appreciate how utterly sweet it is. Duane is the absolute bomb and I am so glad that I got one of his last full frames.
In a bit of serendipity, Owen Lloyd, who did the frame
repair on the Pinarello, got the very last full frame job by Duane.
Just like the Geoffrey Butler, I brought the bike to Ben
Fietz at his and Steven Blum’s shop, Tailwind Cycles to complete the build. He
got all new Campy cables and housing and fresh as all get-out Supacaz bar tape
with a nice orange star theme that I HAD TO HAVE as soon as texted me a picture
of it. The result is the baddest Cross
bike I have ever seen.
Last Wednesday, I took it on a shake-down ride, and I am happy to report that this bike is every bit as fun to ride as it is a joy to look at. The trails this time of year in the Chicago area are too wet to do much off-road stuff, but there was a variety of road, trail, path, and some single path on the ride that were dry enough that they wouldn’t cause damage to the terrain.
I am looking forward to the drying out of the DPRT and a return to some trail rides to break up all the road rides and a long winter that had me on the trainer more than I cared for. I am also looking forward to writing more, riding more, and showing off this wonderful bike.
If you like this type of retro-mod build, stay tuned for the sale of all of the Chicago Neighborhood Bike Tour loaner bikes. I had intended to do this sale some 2 years ago, but life, being what it is, intervened. I hope to share this sale in a new post in the next several weeks.
So, until then, take care out there. I hope to see you on the road, or off, real soon.