Tag Archives: Paul Sherwen

A New Fixation, Part III

[NOTE: The ongoing saga of Raz and the fixed gear tikit continue.]

Back at the office, my goal is clear.

Time to corner Walter. He’s the fixie dude. He’ll fill me in.

What, I ask, is the essence of the fixie?

Walter drops the basics on me. Stuff I’ve heard before. Low or no maintenance. Simplicity. Some people think it’s cool. Blah, blah, blah.

None of it registers with me. No, there’s something more at work here. I know. I felt it. I lived it.

Then he ventures into that realm.

For some, Walter says, it’s the connection. The pure connection. You and the bike. Nothing else.


Maybe more like I-ching.

I sit back down and dabble with some work. But my mind is elsewhere. That’s it. Or something like it. There’s something else going on here. Something beyond gears and pedals.

I take it home for my commute. Suddenly I’m taking a different route, without even thinking about it. I’m slipping in and out of some sort of zone.

I know, it sounds crazy. It feels just as crazy.

It’s the same feeling that has me at the base of the real Bailey Hill the next day at lunch.

Whoa. Now that’s a hill. No wonder Chris raised two eyebrows when I told him the other day I rode up Bailey Hill. I didn’t want to disappoint him and clarify which hill or which part I rode.

Here we go. Can we do this?

Wait. We? No, bike riding is about me. Can I do it, right?

Not today. It’s a collective effort. At the top it’s collective exhaustion and admiration. Don’t ask how I know. I just know.

And, I know whether or not I give this bike back, something has changed.

Way, way, down inside.

Something feels so right.

Not that it felt wrong before.

But now, it’s right.

It’s, I don’t know, maybe it’s fixed.


A New Fixation, Part II

[NOTE: When we last left Raz, he had spent his first 20 minutes ridin a fixed gear tikit around the neighborhood, and decided to take it home for the night.]

In the darkness of a cold Oregon night.

Through the city.

Onto the bike path.

Over the river.

Sorry Grandma, no woods.

Onward on my fixie. Usually, by the time I get home, after a day at work, I’m not all that interested in rolling on. This time, I didn’t want to get off my bike. But I had to.

My legs proclaimed that if we keep this up, they’ll be buff beyond recognition in SF. They’ll be calling out the hills. They’ll be calling out anyone. Bring it on.

I slept on it.

Then I rode the fixie back to work in the morning, understanding the nuances of addiction much, much more intimately than 24 hours ago.

It’s the kind of bike that you expect to see after someone interrupts you in a back alley with, “Pssssst. Come here. I’ve got something to show you.”

That becomes one of those moments you rerun over and over in your head. Why did I look? That’s the way I’m starting to feel. I knew better. Really I did.

Part of me wanted to run away screaming at the mere thought of a fixie. I’m just not a fixie type. Just like I’m not a suit-and-tie guy. Or a BMer dude. But I didn’t listen to those instincts.

Next thing you know, I’m spending lunch on my fixie. The early rise of Bailey Hill Road was a test, but a real test would be something like Skinner Butte in town. Sure, it’s not climbing Mount Evans. Or Washington. Or Hood. But it’ll get your heart rate up, and it’s urban. Let’s not forget the tikit is primarily a commuter bike.

Next thing you know, I’m huffing up Skinner Butte, on a wonderful sunny day in Oregon. At the top, I can see the snow-covered peaks of the Sisters in the distance. It feels like something cosmic is happening. I attribute it to lack of oxygen and head back toward work.

On my way down, though, I find myself playing a game. How long can I go without touching that brake? Going pure fixie, you know?

Seriously, the answer is not very long. This has to be an acquired taste, or talent.

When I get back to city cruising, I find my hands ignoring the brakes with an air of bravado. I know these challenges begin in the head, but at this point, my head is enjoying a front-row seat in this game of chicken between my hands and my legs.

Sick. I know. Totally sick.

The rest of the way back, my speed is up, down and all around. It’s like I’m clicking through my gears, seeing what’s right for me. Only there are no gears. It’s just me and the fixie. And we have a lot to learn about each other.

What’s this mean for my future? I’m not certain. I just know it will involve shaking legs.

Stay tuned.

A New Fixation

I spent most of one summer of my youth riding a fixed gear, of sorts. It was a unicycle.

Fixed gear on two wheels?

Not so much.

I’m not a fixie type.

Oh, I took one of the U.S. Cycling Federation Project ’96 Super Bikes for a spin once, back when I spent my time chasing around the likes of Marty Nothstein, Mike McCarthy and the Carney brothers before the Atlanta Olympics.

I was smart enough to know my limits. Didn’t dare attempt a whirl around the banked turns of a velodrome. Rolled it safely to a stop, much to the relief of the officials watching as they held their breath. People get nervous when they lend a $10K bike to someone without a USCF license.

Earlier this year, we got a rather famous fixed gear tikit back from one of our highly acclaimed clients. It arrived just in time. I needed to take a tikit down to the Bay Area.

The question was, do I dare venture forth on a fixed gear?

When the orange one-way tikit arrived from service, all tuned up, at my desk, I had no choice but to bolt outside and see what’s up. Even though I had a meeting in 20 minutes. Hey, that’s why I work for a bike company, right?

I’ve heard a lot about fixies. The whole bike messenger craze. It’s the “in” thing in the city.

But I’ve never heard anyone really come out and say, definitively and simplistically: Whoa, this is why I ride a fixie when I’m not chasing Olympic medals around the velodrome.

At least not with any argument that made sense to me.

I’ve just been left with my imagination to figure it out. Without much time on one, it’s been more than a difficult task.

So I hit the Fern Ridge Bike Path outback.

Interesting feel. Solid, more than anything, describes the sense I get riding it.

Then again, I’m tooling alongside a creek. What about climbing? There will be climbing in San Francisco.

I headed up Bailey Hill Road. Not the most extreme hill in these parts, but a hill, and close.

[I should note here that I didn’t ride up Bailey Hill proper, which is a serious test. With just a few minutes to steal for myself, I just rode up the road called Bailey Hill Road.]

This is where life on a fixie departs from cycling as we know it. It’s when you understand the true derivation of the phrase “track stand.”

It’s when you wonder since you barely can perform a track stand and look coolio at the stoplight if there’s any chance you can do that whenever gravity forces you to surrender your ascent. Which should happen pretty soon.

On occasion, I’ll try to crank it up a hill in a gear like this. When no one’s watching. When I can cry in peace and solitude.

I remember a key change in Lance Armstrong’s arsenal a few years back early in his Tour de France run when he focused on staying in the saddle on climbs as long as possible. It’s a great tactic for a time like this. Don’t get ahead of myself.

As the momentum slows and the muscles burn, the question becomes if, not when, to stand on those pedals.

Luckily, the grade eased. I made it up seated, still rolling straight — the only wobble coming from my shaking leg muscles, not the balance of the bike.

Simple. That was the sensation.

So, I thought, that’s what fixies are like on a hill. Not all that much of a revelation.

Then, I turned around.

At that point, you understand that you cannot coast at any time on a descent.

I don’t know about most people, but for me, the thought of taking my feet off the pedals for the descent conjures up the image of pedals and cranks becoming industrial strength meat grinders. And bone grinders.

That’s when I learn that the shaking leg muscles are only halfway into their full fixie form of expression. My head begins to spin at the same cadence as my legs. Strange. Very strange.

By the time I got back for my meeting, the sensation of conquest took total control of my mind. I’m not sure what this is all about. I’m just sure that, in a bizarre way, I like it.

The fixie earned a commute home. Stay tuned.

The ultimate test

I had been bopping around town with my Pocket Llama, lovin’ life.

I gravitated to the Llama because I used to ride my mountain bike all the time.

Yes, I was one of those who rode my dual-suspension mountain bike on the road as much as off. That’s because I call it my comfort bike. That’s code for just loving it.

Don’t get me wrong, I do ride trails. You have to if you live in Oregon. We have some of the sweetest mountain bike trails in the U.S. Just another reason for you to put Eugene on your vacation map.

Now, I have to be honest. I had been itching to take the Pocket Llama onto the trails. We bill the Llama as a mountain bike. As the new guy around (I started in October), I still had plenty to learn.

So, the Llama had some serious standards to live up to.

The Middle Fork Trail isn’t the most technical around. Many of our trails in Oregon are pretty smooth. Sure, there are rocks and roots. But no outta control challenges here.

It’s a rolling trail.

Lots of ups and downs.

It’s a fast trail.

A fun trail.

But not fun if you can’t keep your bike under control.

So here’s my disclaimer. I’d have to rate my mountain bike skills as intermediate at best. I never raced BMX. I have no advantage with small wheels.

And it’s Bike Friday’s small wheels that grab most people’s attention.

I could easily see myself pole vaulting a lot on a trail. Fear that small wheel would dig in.

I hit the trail with apprehension. Careful at first. But in a matter of seconds, I realized a couple of quick adjustments I had to make.

My trusty black lab Ridgely loves the trails of Oregon.

Boost for folding bikes in Bay Area

Good news is good news, even if it is a week old. But hey, we were saving this for our launch.

Rachel Gordon wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle that Muni, the Bay Area’s busiest transit system, reversed its long-standing policy that barred passengers from bringing bicycles aboard the buses and streetcars allowing only folding bikes.  Read her story


Bike Friday’s Toy Story

When Kirk Toy pops out of his chair, bolts to the door and offers a welcoming hand with a warm smile, it’s more than just the Bike Friday Standard Operating Procedure for greeting a guest.


That’s because Kirk wrote our book on Showroom etiquette.

It’s easy for him.

It comes naturally.

“I don’t know how I came to be this way,” Kirk says, pointing out that he gained quite a reputation in the equestrian world with his service-first approach as a trailer salesman.

“I just know it’s who I am. I just treat other people the way I like to be treated.”

In a way, that’s how Kirk came to be our Showroom Host. Nine years ago he came to Bike Friday to buy a bike. He liked the way he was treated. Now he does the honor.

“My Bike Fridays have allowed me a life change that I am proud of,” says Kirk, who owns five Bike Fridays. “I’m back to my roots. I want people to have that same opportunity.”

Kirk has taken it upon himself to redefine our Factory Showroom Experience so it reflects the unique nature of Bike Friday.

With just a little more than 30 employees, Bike Friday is one of the few Made in USA bicycle manufacturers remaining. We build our folding and travel bicycles at our small factory right in Eugene.

“For the longest time we didn’t have a Showroom,” Co-Founder Alan Scholz says. “If people stopped by, we just took them out in the parking lot and let them ride a bike.”

That core element of the Showroom Experience will never change. Kirk’s priority is to say Thank You to Bike Friday Owners, and let you know how much we appreciate our partnership.

Kirk also has increased his herd of Bike Fridays in the Showroom to 25-30 on any given day, including the hottest new bikes like the Carbon Drive tikit and the Infinity New World Tourist with NuVinci.

Call ahead of time, and Kirk will size you up and set you up with a Bike Friday that fits your body.

Take it for a ride on the Fern Ridge Bike Path, that winds along a creek right behind our building, and see why Eugene always lands on someone’s Top 10 Cities for Bicycling.

When you get back, relax with something to drink. Then let Kirk give you a Factory Tour, so you can meet some of the special people who make this a great place to work.

Our Factory Showroom is open 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. each weekday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Saturday.

Photos from the road …

Phil Liggett (left) and Paul Sherwen pose with the Carbon Drive tikit at the 2011 Tour of California.

You see photographs like this and just wonder.  How does one get the likes of the hallow voices of cycling, Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen, to pose with your bike?

Oh, we suppose the short answer would be that Liggett has been a long-time Bike Friday owner.

Special Projects Manager John Rezell, aka, Raz, reports that in his stint covering cycling, it was difficult to go to any race that Liggett attended without hearing about his Bike Friday.

But there’s more to this story. There always is.

The Carbon Drive tikit showed up at the Tour of California courtesy of Jeff Linder, one of our Angel investors who has helped make Bike Friday what it is today.

Jeff is more than just Bike Friday owner and investor. Co-Founder Alan Scholz likes to call him our Factory Pro.

No, lest you think the life of a Factory Pro is all fun and games, well, take a gander of how Jeff spent his spring.

In Belgium. Racing on cobblestones. On a Bike Friday.

Jeff Linder, racing an Air Friday, at the Tour of Flanders in the Belgium peloton, 2011 Jeff Linder, climbing on cobblestones in the Tour of Flanders on an Air Friday, in Belgium, 2011 Jeff Linder on cobblestones to the end of the Tour of Flanders in Belgium, 2011.

We could call it a wrap right there. But again, we say, there is more to the story. We’ll let Jeff fill you in on his fun last week at the Tour of California:

Wow, what a party!
Hundreds and hundreds of excited cyclists lining the roadway up the fabled Sierra Road climb as Chris Horner moves into the lead of the Tour of California ahead of the perennial winner, Levi Leipheimer.
But several hours before all of this roadside madness, there was a lone cyclist spinning his way up the 15-percent grades of Sierra Road, on a strange-looking 16-inch wheel bicycle that he will fold up and gain entree to the “No bikes allowed” VIP section with his svelte little package that will look as innocuous as a folded wheelchair.
Now, remember this little package allowed our fearless traveler access where motorized vehicles have been cordoned off and the terrain was challenging enough to create a television-worthy mountaintop finish.
Wait, wait wait! I’m not done yet.
Maybe one of the coolest things that happened because I was on my little tikit was that I caught the eye of the “Voice of Cycling”, Phil Liggett.
This really isn’t much of a surprise though because Phil (yes he has his MBE) has been a long term aficionado of Bike Friday as he’s been riding his sweet Campy equipped PRP since 2000.   Phil and Paul Sherwen had a chance to spin the wheels for a few moments between sound bites as the galloping peloton proceeded onward.
Ah, another day in the life of a Bike Friday boulevardier.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Boulevardier?! Yeah, that sounds better than Factory Pro.