From the Archives - Road Bike Suspension?

In the mountain bike arena, the suspension revolution was in full swing by the mid-90s. Multiple companies putting out various types of forks and bike companies - big and small - experimenting with rear suspension designs. It was an interesting era and if you're new to riding, would probably laugh at what passed as "suspension" in those days. Leading link front forks, elastomer bumpers, greased rods for damping, 3 inch travel downhill forks - all kinds of progression and progress along the way. Some ideas worked, others did not. Some companies survived, others eventually folded shop.

Mixed in with all this, for a short period of time anyway, the idea of suspending road bikes was tossed into the fray. RockShox and few others manufactured suspension forks for road bikes. High end road bike use, not the 40 pound hybrids you sometimes see sporting forks today. A few companies, such as Boulder, designed and sold full suspension road bikes. Boulder previously designed a full suspension mountain bike and carried the technology over to the road model. The mountain bike was a bit ahead of its time, I thought so anyway. Boulder has since closed its doors.

I dragged this 1994 issue of Bicycle Guide out of my massive Pile-O-Mags for a look back. This article compares the Boulder against a Merckx fitted with a RockShox fork. Suspension for road bikes eventually was declared a waste of time, although some production models still dabbled with the idea; Klein, Trek, Cannondale, Moulton come to mind - although most only sported front or rear suspension, not both.

Take a tour of '94 if you will. Clicking on each pic will enlarge to allow semi-readable viewing. Using the Zoom feature on your browser also helps. That classic steel Merckx looks sweet, even with the suspension fork...

In the same issue, article featuring suspended road bikes for the Paris-Roubaix race. Blasting across cobblestones at race speeds sounds like a place for suspension. However, even the pros abandoned that idea and rigid bikes were the norm soon after. Interesting to see what the teams put under their riders at the time however...

With that, the '94 edition of Bicycle Guide goes back to the vault. I hope you enjoyed the trip down suspended memory lane. I'll dig through the massive Pile-O-Mags and see what else I can discover worthy of posting.

Dan Flavin Jumping!

Rachel T. jumps for Dan Flavin's Untitled (Chinati Project) at The Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas. Thank you, Rachel!

AC/DC Bad Boy Boogie - Oh Yes Indeed

We now interrupt our regularly scheduled bike fluff to display an example of all things rock. AC/DC in their prime, just before making it mega big in 1979. Angus Young epileptic guitar solo intro, Malcolm Young powering the rhythm riffs, Phil Rudd on drums, Cliff Williams on bass, late great Bon Scott on vocals. It's all here for your amazement or horror, depending on view or music interest.

Gather the kids around for a little lesson in rock. Bare bones stage set up, Gibson SG to a stack of Marshall amps, simple (yet not so) music - played with a zillion volts of energy. Love 'em or hate 'em. Still one of the greatest rock bands of all time.

Singletrack Cycles - Westside Series Race #4

Race # 4 of the series down for the count today. This shindig held at Fort Ebey State Park located on Whidbey Island. Island also means ferry travel or long drive around over the Deception Pass Bridge. Both options require 5:00 AM wake up call. Ouch. Ian up at 4:50 AM ready to roll. Strange how impossible it is to get up him up for school, yet not for racing. We decide on the ferry option. Female half of the clan, mom and sister, elected to sleep in. Smart they were, since it was windy and cold the entire day, with the threat of rain. Not fun spectating weather by any means. Especially if you're not into bike racing, like the male half of the clan. We're goofy that way.

General milling about before race time. Race site was located in the middle of a campground. As with many races we've hit, looks like another cool spot to visit later. A great family camping possibility with mountain bike trails and beach front as the added bonus. Call now, operators are standing by.

Garth, head honcho for the Northwest Velo/JL Velo race team, psyching out orange cone before going for the holeshot. Megaphone Dude in background setting 'em for the launch.

Only three kids in the U-12 Division today, Ian being one of 'em. They'll all score series points for the day however. Kid in the middle, Gidean, riding for Team Motofish took first place once again. Ian scored second spot and related glory for JL Velo. Titus, brother and teammate of Gidean, pulled in for third place. Bit of a scoring mixing up at the end called Ian the winner, but we straightened it all out, and the kids received the correct medals. Ian and Gidean are currently battling for 1st and 2nd place overall for the series. Gidean currently at number 1, want to make sure he stays where he deserves. Ian certainly wouldn't want to get bumped into first place by a mistake. I double checked with Budu Racing later, everything is cool scoring wise. Good folks running the show.

U-12 kids drag race to the singletrack. Go Ian go.

Ian sprints in for second place.

Ian and Gidean catch their breath at the end. Ian thought the course, at 3 miles or so, was way too short. The full adult lap was 7 miles with steep climbing. At this stage, better off short and wanting more, then a death march. The U-12 Division is hard to judge at times. You get complete younger beginners and experienced young racers as well.

Another JL Velo racer in action. I'm not sure who this, but he's looking pro and blurs the camera with speed.

Jerry, another JL Velo member, rocking the course.

Besides singletrack to race and ride on, Fort Ebey offers views like this. That's Puget Sound and the Olympic mountains for the non Northwest folk out there. We're pretty damn lucky here, areas like this close by. And there's many of 'em.

The ferry Kittitas delivered us home. We don't use the ferry system much, so when we do, kind of a treat. Killer views and fun way to travel. Drive on, then walk around the deck to soak up the damp 40 degree wind. Welcome to the Pacific Northwest.

Ripple in water from nearby whale frolicking with boat traffic, just like nature intended. For all the marine biologists out there, appeared grey in color with a spotted back. Tail occasionally breaking the surface. Of course, you can tell that by this award winning photograph. Look for it soon in National Geographic.

Ian plays with the wind, 2nd place medal holding him down for ballast.

Actual photo proof of my defective mug, suitable for framing or perhaps darts.

Impressive rain cloud dumping on unsuspecting ferry and Edmonds, Washington. Almost home and time to unpack car and get with the usual routine. Work, school, homework, projects and the typical mayhem. Joy.

File this along with all my other similar sounding race reports, sprinkled with poor photography and goofy jokes. I guess its true; you get what you pay for. Until next time. Same Bat Time, same Bat Channel...

The Ibis Gets Wings

The spiffy carbon Ibis flies once again. It's been a heartwarming tale of snapping derailleur hangers, twisted derailleurs, and toasted chains. Finally, the full story can be told. I'm expecting a call from Paramount Pictures any minute now. Look for the blockbuster to hit theaters next summer. Kevin Bacon and Pee Wee Herman are both in the running to play me. I couldn't be more proud.

Goodies await installation. Chainrings and cassette from three different retailers via the online wonder of eBay. All also have brick and mortar locations - actual bike shops. Chain arrived via personal visit to REI, even though they also sell online. It's a confusing world we live in. No matter the location, Shimano goodies are on the expensive side. No problem though, they make great stuff. All Ultegra level on the ladder of Shimano goodness.

My, what shiny teeth you have. Never again to be this clean.

Big ring keep on turnin', may the quads keep on burnin', and we're rolling, rolling, rolling on the Ibis.

Mission Bicycle Company

Mission Bicycle from Karen Abad loves Dinosaurs. on Vimeo.

Discovered this today, Mission Bicycle Company, very interesting business model and look. I'm too old to be jumping on the fixie hipster bandwagon, but if it gets the "kids" riding, I'm all for it - well, except for the no brakes aspect. I still think that tidbit of the fixie culture is a little nuts, but who am I to judge.

Super well done website, simple steel frame and fork, cruise through the pedal, wheels, and other options, including various colors - and presto - trick looking city bike delivered to your door. You can even includes brakes if you wish.

Yes, there's the online verses local bike shop debate and each side has a valid argument. However, the mainstream bicycle companies don't really offer bikes like this and when they do - they're typically not as cool. Kinda like watching your dad break dance. Let's not go there.

The demographics (I'm break dancing now) for this type of bike will also be very online savvy and probably have no problem with the concept. The bikes are also simple enough to eliminate much of the mystery involved with the selection and purchase. Cool set up and cool bikes. Take a look.

Claes + Coosje World Tour Jumping!

Gina and Rachel jump for Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen's House Ball in Berlin. Gina is on a Claes + Coosje world tour!

Singletrack Cycles - West Side Series Race # 3

Race # 3 of the Singletrack Cycles - West Side Series rolled into town today. The town being Soaring Eagle Park in Sammamish, race run by the folks from Budu Racing. Ian and I have never ridden in Soaring Eagle Park, so a good chance to sample some new trails. I have ridden in this area before, probably 20 years ago, before the housing developments exploded and it was an official park. In any case, so long ago - it's all new to me now.

The park is a condensed zig zag of fun singletrack. Twisty, but not that technical, but still enough to put a grin on your face. One of the many great aspects of racing is the chance to ride in new areas. This place is on our list to visit again in the future, to check out all of it when we have time.

A few of Ian's JL Velo teammates from the Junior team also attended the festivities, giving Ian a chance to hang out with like minded kids. A fun day, or should I say morning - since their race kicked off at 9:00 AM. Ian and I arrived early enough to pre-ride the course, a rare event for us. The short 4 mile (or so) course assisted with that fun fact.

As usual, some crappy photography to document the day. Someday I'll score a real camera that can actually capture moving action. In the meantime, the pocket Olympus will do...

Here, Mitchell, JL Velo Junior teammate, puts the pressure on the unsuspecting adult racer. I heard him yelling "Passing" a few seconds later. Gotta get a kick outta that. Mitchell placed 3rd overall in the Junior 13 - 18 class. Great ride. Two lap race for the 13 - 18 year olds today.

Mike, another member of JL Velo, cruises to a 5th place finish in the 13 - 18 class. Nice race.

Trey, brother and teammate of Mitchell, samples the Soaring Eagle singletrack and pulls off a 4th place in the 13 - 18 class. That placed JL Velo in the 3rd, 4th and 5th spots in that class.

Gidean, from Team Motofish, styles his way to first place in the Junior U - 12 class.

Ian, in his second race for JL Velo, about 15 seconds behind Gideon - still sporting the mountain bike style - baggy shorts, Camelback, helmet visor. We'll go with full team duds soon. He tried clipless pedals for the first time yesterday. He did great, but we elected to go with platform pedals for the race - he's been riding those for years. Needs a few more clipless sessions and he'll be ready to roll.

Pedal Ian pedal. 2nd overall finish today in the U-12 class. Great job. U-12 rode one lap of the course, Ian said he could have done two laps. This series appears to be a confidence booster and good experience for 11 year old Ian. Many longer races in the future. No rush, all should be a fun learning experience at this age.

A few hundred adults also raced - me not included, my lame streak continues. I included this unidentified dude as official proof. Go unidentified dude, go.

The results are posted!

Junior racers of the day. Trey, Mike, Mitchell and Ian. The little dudes rock. Great day for all.

Post race Mexican food. Well deserved. Awesome father/son time. Enjoy it now while I can.

The 2nd place today places Ian in 2nd place overall for the series. Fantastic. More to follow.

Another race and great experience in the books. I can't sell mountain bike riding and racing enough. Get out there yourself and do it. You'll be glad you did. Trust me on that.

Torelli - Steel is Real, uh Italian

Cruising eBay (yet again) for interesting bikes; came across this new, never built up Torelli 20th Anniversary Edition frameset. Momma mia. Yes please. This frame was released in 2001, how someone sits on a frame for 10 years without riding it, is beyond me. In any case, dude is asking $2700, which seems a bit steep. With no bids pending, apparently I'm not the only one with that opinion.

Marked 40 out of 100 frames for this special edition, mostly due to paint and graphics celebrating 20 years. Pretty cool though.

Lugged bottom bracket, Columbus tubing and "Made in Italy" sticker. Much bike culture history in this photo.

20th Anniversary logo stamped into the seat lug. Old school and the kind of detail not found on modern carbon bikes.

Polished lugs complete with "T" for Torelli. Nice paint work. For the kids out there, that's a pump peg protruding from the head tube. Back in the day, before mini-pumps and CO2 cartridges, full length pumps graced the top tube of most road bikes. They actually worked too. Go figure.

I've checked out Torelli bikes over the years, mostly via the website, and when I see one being ridden. Back in 2006 when I was looking for a new road bike, they were on my list. I almost bought a Mondonico, also distributed by Torelli. Mondonico, as in Antonio Mondonico and his son Mauro, constructed the frames in a small Italian shop by hand. They also constructed the Torelli frames, from what I've heard, or at least the higher end models. Antonio was to retire and was taking the last orders before doing so. I thought it would be cool to own and ride a piece of disappearing history. I drove down to a small bike shop in Tacoma to check one out and possibly place an order. The unassembled frames looked fantastic as I fondled 'em. No order placed however, as I was still undecided.

In a twist of fate, a Mondonico magically appeared in my bike room at work around that time. I left a note on the saddle for the owner to call me. He did and mentioned visiting the Mondonico shop in Italy and digging his bike. Still, when it came down to me plonking down the dough, I went with a modern carbon Ibis - that I don't regret.

Torelli was started in 1981 by "Chairman" Bill and Carol McGann, having frames manufactured in Italy and sold under the Torelli name. The frames were painted in the USA however, due to the higher quality. Over the years, I've seen frames painted in Italy offered as well. Known for their steel frames, they've also offered aluminum and carbon models; plus branded wheelsets, tires, bar tape and other components. I also thought it was a great business model - passionate about what they sell, no BS, small, sort of niche. The frames were sold through approved dealers, not direct. Their website also contained great stories about riding in Italy and other bicycle related writing.

Torelli was sold a few years ago, though Chairman Bill appears to remain somewhat involved. The frames are still, steel ones anyway, made in Italy - both the Torelli and Modonico models. I'm not sure exactly where and by whom, however. The steel frames, though now appearing retro, still receive glowing reviews for ride quality. For sure, I'd consider one if building up a new bike. Would be a sweet, out of the ordinary ride in a sea of carbon fiber. Visiting their website will get you the scoop on all the current models.

Chairman Bill continues to run his own website as well. Even with the early '90s look and formatting, some fun reading to be found, including the riding in Italy stories I mentioned earlier. There's also some interesting technical articles and a wealth of racing history. Bill has written books on the history of the Tour and Giro, as well contributing articles to Road magazine. Very knowledgeable and I'd bet an interesting guy to share a ride or meal with. Words by Bill, from an interview in 2001....

"I get up in the morning and I go out for a ride and to get on a handmade Italian bike made out of Columbus EL-OS and go on a nice rolling, country road ride. . .I don't think you can find a better way to spend your time. It's just a joy."

"You ride everything else and then you get a chance to ride a state-of-the-art steel bike built by a real artist—nothing else feels that good. If I speak in a hushed breath it's because I'm 50 years old and I've been a bike nut since I was a kid and the pleasure I get from riding a bike means the world to me."

From an eBay listing, this post has seemed to morph into a Torelli lesson. I hope you enjoyed the detour.