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In 1992, in Eugene, Oregon, Jan VanderTuin established a place for all things bicycle, the world's first Center for Appropriate Transport or "CAT" as it's known. Four years later, six different youth programs are in full swing there, two bicycling publications are produced in-house, a bicycle courier company works the city, a do-it-yourself bike repair workspace offers personalized instruction, a recumbent showroom offers bikes for sale or rent, and issuing forth from an intimate bike-building facility are VanderTuin's hand-built workbikes, recumbents, and trailers.

After officially immersing myself in the bicycle world about six years ago when I began my documentary Return of the Scorcher in San Francisco, I heard about the CAT and ended up spending two years working at the Center with VanderTuin and have been hugely satisfied putting my efforts into a place were bikes are thought of in a more visionary, world-changing way and were most of the projects directly involve the local community of cyclists. A very diverse goup of cyclists, I might add, kids, old folks, families, students, yuppies, hobos... all with a common love of bikes. What can a glorified bike shop, some "weird" bikes and a few educational programs provide for a small city? "Community, a sense of real culture, people making things." says VanderTuin. Essentially, a whole (bicycle) greater than the sum of its components. I have to mention also that the kind of bicycle "advocacy" done at the CAT is a lot more fun and at least as powerful as the kind were one goes to city council meetings begging for a couple feet of bike lanes. Which for many of us, frankly is not what we're most inspired to do with our spare time.

Many of the concepts and projects at the CAT are subtle, based on acheiving incremental change, and yet are also quite revolutionary, like rethinking the bicycle industry's relentless mantra of more is more. VanderTuin, who builds 11 variations on the human-powered theme, in addition to directing the Center, says"what I've been looking to create through CAT is a place to produce diverse bikes, and I think one of the best ways for having bikes come into the world is through local production with a connection to one's own local community.Unfortunately, the corporate model is what everything's directed towards; if you're a small builder you feel you have to get bigger, you have to have lots of people working for you, etc. etc. I think that finding another model is really the big question. A model that allows diversity." At the CAT, one key component of a new model is integrating education into production. Up until now, VanderTuin has built his workbikes, recumbents and trailers virtually singlehandedly under his business Human-Powered Machines but envisions an apprenticeship program where youth would form a small bike building team and help produce his designs. He's already given a recumbent building class in which four adults and five teenagers built their own bikes using recycled tubing and a variation of Gardner Martin's EasyRacer plans. Other hands-on youth programs have also found success at CAT. The Eugene Rack Works program has kids building and marketing bike racks to local businesses. Combining bike advocacy with job-training skills, they learn everything from welding to bookkeeping and in the process provide the city with more bike parking. Another program, BikeLab teaches bike repair to teens and includes field trips to other local Oregon bike manufacturers such as Burley Design Co-op and Green Gear/Bike Friday. Kids come away having investigated more than just greasy bottom-brackets and actually have a first-hand perspective on the bicycle industry.

Finding a variety of interesting ways to involve kids has been a major goal at CAT. Some programs are less nuts and boltsy; for example, the Youth Page which showcases the work of young bicycle artists and journalists within the CAT's monthly publication Oregon Cycling. The CAT has also made great inroads with a pioneering program called Mobile School Presentations. They look like this: CAT staff zoom out to local schools on a wild assortment of recumbents, high-wheelers, custom load-carrying bikes, etc., pass on a bit of bike history, show some slides, a video, and muse on the possibilities of a bike future. Not surprisingly kids flip for the chance to ogle and even sample such unusual bike fare. They are also very open to imagining and discussing a world more geared towards bikes (sorry for the pun). Kids don't think we're stuck with the world we think we are and let me tell you that attitude is pretty refreshing to be around. The CAT's diverse collection of bikes (often refered to as our "ridable museum") is probably the Center's most powerful tool for reaching out to and inspiring the public. The CAT even presents a city-wide Human-Powered Parade. Peoples individualistic love for bikes guides VanderTuin's own production philosophy of "being innovative in your designs and thinking about what your community needs. Pedalers Express (bike delivery company) uses my bikes everyday. Then there's seeing a bike that I built which is used by a restaurant owner to go get his groceries. And the person who's got a disabilty, who, before I built their custom vehicle could hardly move and now to see them thrilled to move around and just to see the life that the vehicle has given them. The city of Eugene and the University here using recumbent workbikes to do traffic enforcement. All this is definitely inspires me."

Impacting the public in another innovative way is the CAT's Valet Bicycle Parking service The Center provides the service at most of the city's numerous outdoor summer festivals and it has become an instant institution. Cyclists wheel up, obtain a claim ticket and hand over their bike to be parked in a fenced-in, supervised area. Off they go for fun. The service puts a spin on the constant catering to the car-centric and places a symbolic halo on the heads of many local cyclists. As a result, they feel proud to arrive by bike, and aside from the honor, many say they wouldn't bike to an event for fear of theft or vandalism, if it weren't for the service. This is the kind of thing that bike groups could do in any town around the country. (So get on it).

At CAT, another twist to the bike business as usual mindset is shifting the roles of customer and clerk. Though not yet the norm in the U.S., the idea of bike shops that allow you to do your own repair is growing and the concept is subtley powerful. One of the ways that many people in the community get introduced to the CAT and connect more deeply with their bikes is through the Center's do-it-yourself workshop Eugene Bicycle Works, which provides on-the-spot tutoring and also houses a wide variety of hpv's for sale and rent, as well as a transportation resource library. Shop manager Joe Garrison says: I know for a lot of people, they've had the experience of trying to work with somebody, but that somebody helping wasn't willing to let them try it and make mistakes.So they've had the expeience of "as soon as I go astray they yank the wrenches out of my hands and do it for me!"When people come in here they're permitted to make mistakes. It's better to talk them through it than show them through it because a lot of people don't respond to being shown, their brain shuts off and they feel like they have to become passive." Attempting to define the eclectic clientel Garrison observes, "The people who come in here are the people who really ride their bikes. The kind of people who just want to have an attractive bike in the garage to hop on to go for a leisure ride every now and then don't really come here. A lot of people are really interested in bicycles and bicycling but they're not the kind who want to join a bike club. They just want a chance to talk to people about bikes, so this is sort of a walk-in cycling club. Garrison adds, "People come in an give me the impression that "ok, I don't have a lot of time here, I just want to get my brakes fixed and then I gotta get going" and then they'll start talking to somebody in the neighboring repair stand about something to do with bikes. They're really kind of starved for a chance to talk to people about bikes, to find somebody who really loves bikes as much as they do. So, in a way this is a very social place. People who are really interested in bikes get to rub elbows and commune spiritually, somehow (laughter) When somebody comes in here they're not surrounded by glossy impulse-buy display racks that put them in the typical consumer role.That's what I think makes people more comfortable here. The atmosphere is closer to somebody's living room or garage than it is to a retail store.

Reflecting on CAT VanderTuin says, "Having many interconnected projects here creates solidarity. This solidarity has further awakened the community to the value of alternative transportation, and that in turn has allowed people to pursue a bicycle life without feeling alone."

It is CAT's desire to serve as a model for other locales and to cooperate with other groups. As of this writing, centers similar to the CAT have since sprung up or are being developed in North America in Toronto, Santa Cruz, CA and in NewYork City.

Ted White, author Producer of the bicycle documentary video Return of the Scorcher,White has worn many hats at the CAT, and was involved to some degree in most of the above mentioned projects as a staff member from March 1994 to January 1996.

Cyclo-cross is nearly as old as the bicycle itself, and as fresh and full of vigor as if it were born yesterday. It's a sport that enjoys rampant popularity in Europe, and in America, after it's heyday of the late 70's, is picking up momentum once again in areas rich with the history of road racing: Boulder, Boston, Chicago, Santa Cruz, Seattle, and even Montana where Geoff Procter teaches 'cross clinics. It's been called a "fringe sport" and "outlandishly demanding," but at the same time some of cycling's greatest heroes, including numerous Tour de France winners, have used it for winter conditioning. More and more 'cross bikes are being taken from the race scenario - the ultimate hybrid for commuting, for fun. A skill and a tremendous machine that can cover all the bases.

THE HISTORY: Turn of the century "dead seasons" would find the young French army private, and later secretary-general of the French Cycling Union, Daniel Gousseau cycling through the forests along side his horse-mounted general, sharing their love of the outdoors. He enjoyed these winter outings so much that he invited a few of his friends along and soon dozens of cyclists were rolling along the trails. Impromptu racing occurred among the sporting cyclists and soon organized events were scheduled.

In 1902 Gousseau was given the opportunity to organize the first French championship, which was won by F. de Baeder. For years this "rough stuff" and "mud plugging" remained mainly a French indulgence until its popularity exploded when Octave Lapize attributed his 1910 Tour de France win to the off-season sport. The first International Criterium, which was won by the Frenchman Gaston Degy, was held in 1924 in Paris. Following Gaston to the podium were many of cycling's greats: Charles Pelissier in 1926, 1927 and 1928, Sylvere Maes, the handlebar namesake, in 1933 and Robert Oubron who won in 1937, 1938, 1941 and 1942!

In 1950 one of the international events became official, and in Paris the 1947 Tour winner Jean Robic was the first to pull on the rainbow jersey. Like the International Criteriums, the World Championships saw many of cycling's brightest stars cross the finish lines. But among them, Belgium's Eric de Vlaeminck was definitely king of the 'crossers having, at the tender age of twenty, won in 1966 and then each year from 1968 to 1973.

The open format of the World's was changed in 1967 with the addition of a special amateur world title and the junior title was adopted in 1976.

WHY: At a time when mountain biking is so popular, the question of why to take up cyclo-cross is often heard. There are basically three reasons to cross over. One is for the same reason you might, in this time of clinchers and STI, use sew-ups and down-tube shifters: history. Cyclo-cross has been around for about 70 years longer than its fat-tired grandchild. Its courses weave a rich tapestry of cycling heroes and two-wheeled feats. Its time tested and time proven.

Probably the main reason for taking up cross is for training. Nothing can beat the incredible workout afforded the roadie by this off-season sport. It builds stunning arm and upper-body strength and bike-handling skills that will eliminate the fear of rainy criteriums and gravel spotted roads, increases cardio-respiratory endurance and takes up surprisingly little time, since a one hour workout can be more advantageous than hours on mind-numbing rollers.

But the third, and my main reason for crossing, is that its just plain fun! Nothing beats the quick handling and lively feel of the cross bike on the quickest descents and trickiest singletrack. In his Feb. '93 Bicycle Guide article "Mountain Bikes: Who Needs Them?" Chris Kostman called these modified road bikes "the first and only real all-terrain bike." And he's right! I believe they're also the perfect commuter, or, as Grant Peterson would call them, all-rounder bikes. No throw-back balloon tires, elastomer bumpers, springs and OPEC drippings to separate you from the feel of the Earth. Just you, your wits and the perfect trail bike. The simplicity of a cross bike, and the very act of riding, running and walking, enable you, as Robert Oubron and Rene Chesal write in their book Cycliste 100%, serie cyclo-cross (Paris, 1967), "to discover hundreds of interesting things which you would have ridden straight past is you had not been tempted into hitching the bike over your shoulder, or simply pushing it along, and following a riverbed, or a footpath that may end in a spring or an unexpected view, or a lane that suddenly yields up some unexpected historical monument, or a lake you did not know existed.

...Just try doing this on a bridal path in Savoy or in the Pyrenees and I'll be surprised if you don't find yourself singing for sheer joy. And when you're back down again, after clattering through streams and gullies and stony paths, sometimes on the bike, sometimes on your feet, you will have enjoyed a wonderful experience."

The main bikes of my wife, Melanie, and I are 'cross bikes. In the country area where we live there are too many dirt roads to just jump on our road bikes and ride - and way too much asphalt to lug cumbersome mountain bikes around on. With the sluggish and unresponsive geometry of the common hybrid, what's left? If you want a machine that has precision slo-mo handling and can really pull out the speed when you want it, the cyclo-cross bike is the answer.

'Cross bikes aren't just for racing any more. "To call it only a sport," says champion 'crosser Laurence Malone, "is demeaning. As people seek increasingly creative and self-reliant means of transportation, this hybrid of foot and bicycle travel will take on new dimension and importance. As perceptions of the bicycle shift from that of toy to tool (and they will), two-wheeled expertise cannot remain confined to sport alone. What is regarded as 'recreation,' 'sport,' or 'leisure' today will be the challenge of mobility tomorrow."

THE ANATOMY: To the uninitiated, a quick glance at a 'cross bike might just seem like a road bike with knobby tires. But on closer inspection there are a myriad of differences. As with all forms of cycling, there are new and old schools of thought and conservative and extreme points of view on the anatomy of a cyclo-cross bike. I'll try to cover both angles.

If you're just experimenting with the sport, the most economical route is to either buy a used 'cross bike, available most commonly in the early summer, or to transform an old road bike. If you're going to go the transformation route, try to find a frame that is slightly smaller than your racing rig and that has slightly slacker geometry. The ultimate would be to find a touring frame that accepts cantilever brakes. If you live in a dry area, sidepulls will do the job. But for outstanding mud clearance and sheer stopping power, cantis are a must. Replace the down-tube shifters with bar-end levers, they're still around if you look long enough and are usually quite inexpensive. Put on an extra layer of bar wrap to soak up the shocks and 28c to 35c inverted tread or knobby tires for traction. Finally, add some MTB pedals with clips and straps and there you have it - a lightweight machine that can handle most any off-road job.

If you really fall in love with the sport, and you can afford it, a purpose made rig is absolutely the best way to go...

The Frame: 'Cross frames have more relaxed angels than road bikes, have more top tube clearance, longer chainstays for stability and a higher bottom bracket for obstacle clearance. Increased fork rake for flexibility and a softer ride is also common. Generally you'll want to get a frame that is about a half inch to an inch smaller than you road bike. Several companies, like Alan, Pinarello, Cramerati, Orbit, Vitus, Redline, Botranger, Rock Lobster, Gitane and Torelli, produce 'cross frames, but for a little more you can have a custom fit. Some of the more well known builders include Steelman, Merlin, Marinoni and Ibis, but most road builders will make 'cross frames. The new All Rounder frameset from Rivendell Bicycle Works looks to be a good choice also.

Wheels: Strong, uniformly-tensioned 36 spoke wheels are the old stand-by, but 32's cut weight and seem to work just as well. Many companies have purpose-made tubulars, but with the hybrid bike boom, several great clincher choices are now available from the likes of Specialized, Continental, the 700 x 35 Ritchey Alpha Bite, 700 x 38 Tioga Bloodhound, and, my favorite, the Michelin 700 x 28 Hi-Lite Cross. The high-pressure Hi-Lite mimics it's more costly tubular cousins in tread pattern and ride. Tread pattern varies according to race or local conditions. Composite tri-spoke wheels are becoming more and more popular with top Euro-pros in extremely muddy conditions.

Shifters: The quick shifting and easy to use STI/Ergo levers are becoming more popular on the 'cross circuit, but because of their lack of serviceability and inability to survive serious crashes, bar-end shifters are still the classic choice.

Gearing: There are as many gearing choices as there are riders. Six speeds are still very popular because the wide spacing between the cogs helps keep down jams due to mud. But using a Crud Claw or similar device with an eight speed cluster works fine. Some 'crossers stick with the time proven single chainring with or without ring guards, but double chainrings are now in the majority. Some common gearing combos are a 39/53 with a 12-26, 42/50 with a 15-28, 42/48 with a 13-26, and straight blocks. If you need a smaller gear, you should be throwing the bike over your shoulder and running. Also, since your pedal strokes are about power in this sport, not spinning at high rpm's, longer cranks are a tremendous help.

Brakes: For the reasons stated earlier, cantilever brakes are a must. Some 'crossers prefer to have the left brake lever activate the rear brake so they can have more control over their speed during dismounts. May I suggest a bit of high-technology for your classic 'cross rig - Stoplight cantilevers by Paul Component Engineering are fantastic.

Pedals: The classic 'cross pedal is the French double-sided Lyotard with doubled Christophe clips and Binda straps. But the double-sided SPD's and Look's are also a popular choice. Since you'll be jumping on and off the bike quite a bit, choose the pedal system that you can personally get in and out of easiest.

Bars & Stem: Flat bars just can't compete with the variety of hand position offered by the drop bar. For the added stability of a wider grip and for more leverage, use a flared drop or randonneur-type bar. Using a stem that is slightly shorter than your road bike will help distribute your weight more efficiently during ascents.

Waterbottles: In racing, waterbottles and cages just don't exist. They get in the way of carrying the bike and the course is usually short enough that you can get water "in the pits." Using a 'cross bike for any other situation, you'll want water. If having a bike custom built, be sure that they will be adding bottle bosses, it's common not to have any on 'cross rigs.

An excellent additional investment is in service-free sealed bottom bracket, hub and headset units. As Chris Kostman says, "trick out you bike usefully... own technostuff actually worth drooling for."

THE STYLE: 'Cross races are generally held on circuits one to two miles in length. The perfect course will have paved and unpaved sections, wet areas and dry, will be about 75% rideable, the rest for running. It will have a variety of natural obstacles, like muddy banks, streams, and fallen trees, and man-made obstacles, like bales of straw, wooden barriers, and even flights of stairs. Depending on you classification and age the race will last around thirty to 75 minutes. After a season of multi-hour hour road and mountain races this may seem to be a short run, but for even the most prepared, this is a lung-blowing experience. Cyclo-cross is a very demanding, incredibly precise sport.

More like road racing than mountain, 'cross racers are allowed "pit crews" where they can do bike exchanges, replace wheels or take care of any other mechanical problems they might have. It's common on muddy courses to exchange your filthy bike for a clean one after each lap. The mechanics using buckets and brushes, high-powered hoses, and even rushing streams to clean off the bikes.

The only real way to learn the cyclo-cross ropes is to get out there and do it. If you happen to live in a 'cross-friendly area, you can find folks to help you learn the tricks of the trade. Everyone else? Try finding some Euro-Pro 'cross videos, look out for the fall 'cross tip articles in VeloNews and the like, and, if you can track down a copy, read Simon Burney's definitive work on the sport, Cyclo-Cross. Aside from that, here are a few tips I dug up from some accomplished 'cross riders and legends...

"Cyclo-cross is about bike handling, getting on and off the bike fast, and accelerating back to speed." - Don Myrah

DISMOUNTS FOR OBSTACLES : "The first skill to master is dismounting. As you approach a barrier, feather your brakes from the hoods to make sure you're not moving too fast as you prepare to dismount. As you move closer, swing your right leg out of the pedal, around the back of the bike, and bring it between your left leg and the frame - to end up with your left toe butting the heel of your right foot. Just prior to your right foot passing on the inside of your left foot, disengage your left foot and balance it on the pedal. With these two moves complete, bring your right hand back and firmly grab the top tube just for of the saddle.

At this point, you're ready to step off with your right foot first and begin hurdling. The only remaining concern might be if you're carrying too much speed. This is where it's invaluable to have your left lever operating your rear brake: If you are going to fast, you can feather with your left hand which is still on the left brake hood.

The basic lift is done by simply lifting the bike with the left hand on the top tube or hood and your right hand on the top tube. As you hurdle the barriers with one or two steps in between each barrier, keep the bike aloft and out of the way of your churning legs.

The shoulder move requires different right hand- placement as you approach the barrier. Instead of bringing it back to the top tube, bring it down to grasp the middle of the downtube. This will feel extremely awkward at first, but it's the same move you use as you approach a run-up, so it's a good one to get comfortable with. Now, as you dismount, hoist the bike onto your shoulder and begin hurdling. The advantage to this move is you can hurdle almost like a track athlete because the bike is out of the way of your feet. With triple barriers the norm, this move seems to feel more efficient, especially if there's any running involved between or after the barriers. The disadvantage is the bike has to come from your shoulder to the ground as you prepare to remount.

I found remounting to be the hardest skill to coach. For most newcomers, the "chock-full-of-nuts" anxiety is strong. But again, as with all of these skills, practice pays off. First, as you come out of the barriers, pick up some speed, place the bike squarely and gingerly on the ground, and try to avoid a bouncing, fatigued motion. With hands on either the hood or tops, lift off your left foot and hop on the bike. Pointers to keep in mind: shoot for getting you chest parallel to the top tube and your head out over the stem; avoid any stutter-stepping with your left foot; and try to straddle onto the seat. The inside of your right thigh should be the first to come in contact with the saddle." - Geoff Procter

"Options include hurdling, hopping or bunny hopping. Bunny hopping is simple when you can do it, an defies explanation when you can't. The technique is to lift up the front end of the bike, and whilst the front end is in the air, transfer you weight in that direction, lifting up the rear.

The high speed approach is one of the most difficult but can save the most time. The time-honoured way to dismount is to approach the obstacle, put your hand on the brakes, swinging your right leg over the saddle. At the same time grab the top tube with your right hand, jump off, take a few steps over the obstacle and jump back on in one smooth movement.

For low obstacles, the bike should be carried at waist height, but for running up hills or hurdling large objects the bike should be shouldered. Hook you arm through the frame and shoulder under the top tube. Hold onto the front wheel or hook of the drops to stop the wheel swinging in your face. Keeping the weight of the bike back will allow you to stand upright so breathing is not restricted when running." - David Ramsden

"The good cyclo-crosser assumes any place is accessible. There is the story of one West Coast fellow who strung rope around his wheels for traction, then rode up through the slush of a mountain road carrying skis that he then mounted for the snowy downhill run on the other side, bicycle slung over his shoulder! Generally speaking, cyclo-cross requires a healthy mixture of skill and humility - the humility that precedes caution, a caution that precedes a willingness to walk the bicycle. Good nerves help at the racing level, but important for any practitioner are fundamental techniques such as mounting, dismounting, and carrying the bicycle." - Laurence Malone

HILLS : "Hills up, learn whether it is quicker to dismount and run, or to ride. When climbing, strong arms are essential, and you want to keep you weight further back than when climbing on road. This stops the rear wheel losing traction. Hills down, you need nerve. Hold onto the drops for best control over braking. Keep the bike rolling over obstacles, and patience plenty. That's it. Stay balanced or crash." - David Ramsden

"When going uphill, the major consideration is maintaining weight over the rear wheel - where the power is applied. This underlines the importance of the short stem and the seat slid well back on the post.

Downhills are trickier. One should be keenly aware of the different effects of the front and rear brakes. On any descent, application of the front brake shifts most of the rider's weight to the front end of the bicycle. The front brake is the main stopping brake; it should be used judiciously to avoid any sudden over-the-handlebar acrobatics. The rear brake provides the finesse. European cyclo-cross pros lock the rear brake and fishtail down the steep, muddy slopes. Mud and snow exaggerate the rider's weight distribution; sometimes it's better to sit well back on the saddle and let the front wheel "feel" its way. Even with so mundane a nuisance as a pothole or sunken manhole cover, weight should be taken off the front wheel. Tricky lateral movements in exaggerated conditions can only be learned through experience." - Laurence Malone

RUNNING: "After running up a hill the competitor should not immediately leap into the saddle for the downhill dash while his legs are still trembling, but take a running jump on to the bike - a few yards can be gained that way, enough perhaps to gain the verdict in a closely-fought race." - Robert Oubron

"Cyclo-cross racing often requires you to run with the bike. When shouldering the bike, the hand slips under the down tube and back around to the left side of the bike to grab the butt end of the left handlebar. This allows superior control of the bike; some weight rests on top of the wrist at the down tube, some at the contact point of shoulder and top tube. People sometimes place foam pads to cushion the shoulder, but in time it gets used to the idea anyway. The advantage of this carrying style is vertical and horizontal control of the bike with only one hand, leaving the other hand free to reach for twigs, banisters, or rear jersey pockets." - Laurence Malone

"Running is very alien to most cyclists, so start training really gently. Your basic fitness level means you can run faster that your muscles can cope with. Be cautious. If you run hard you will cause muscle damage and won't be able to train for a week. Cyclists often experience knee problems when they start training. Don't run in poor shoes. It is better to spend sixty pounds on proper shoes from a running specialist than spend a month off for knee injuries. Upper body strength is something you are likely to be lacking, and is vital for climbing steep hills and running with the bike. Using a gym with a proper instructor will do wonders. A good instructor will set out a training regime to build the muscles you need. Don't forget regular stretching to maintain suppleness." - David Ramsden

CORNERING: "The best thing you can do when learning is to fall off. All 'cross riders do it, and once you realize a tumble in the mud doesn't hurt, you will be more confident to corner at faster speeds. Take it smoothly and brake on the approach, not when you are in the corner." - David Ramsden

All 'crossers have their own unique style. But whether you're planning on racing, commuting the mean streets, or simply playing around, these tips will help you on your way to a style of riding that will carry you through the best and worst of times.

It's getting to be Christmas again. Last year, about this time, Mr. Stuart carried in an old girl's balloon tire bike. A J. C. Higgins, with horn tank, fenders, lights, rear rack, bell... all the toys. Now rusty & dented, rotted and twisted, it must have been quite glamorous when new. Usually, when one of these comes in, the customer wants to know "how much it's worth", then tries to sell it to me. Not Mr. Stuart, he wants it restored, "just like new." He listens patiently to my "We can do it, but it will cost be expensive, much more than replacing it with something similar" speech, then says, "This bike is important to my wife, Becky. She's had it since she was 12 still rides it once in a while, but recently, she's been depressed about it, keeps saying she should have taken better care of it. She's tried to clean it, but she breaks out in tears. I've gotten her other bikes, but this one means something.

I want to surprise her for Christmas, so to bring it here I told here I gave it away when I cleaned out the garage. I'm still in the dog house."

I looked back at the bike, the saddle fabric had decomposed, exposing horsehair and a rusted baseplate. "You know, Mr. Stuart, I've never seen this saddle before, I doubt an exact replacement could be found, but we could replace it with a similar new one, for about $40." He shook his head, "Becky will notice. She knows every inch of the bike, and there must be a hundred photos of her with it". Accurate restoration then. "To rebuild the saddle we'll have to find matching cover material, then make a metal stamp to reproduce the logo on top, and a form to shape the cover, then replace the horsehair padding, re-plate the hardware, repaint the saddle frame, get the leather stitching done in the same style and thread then reassemble... it's hard to estimate... do you think it is worth, um... $100 more than the new saddle?" He nodded and replied, "2 years ago, I contacted bike collectors all over the country looking for this model in better shape or fresh parts . Nobody had one. They said to keep in touch and be patient. I've sent out letters every three months since." He had done his homework.

So I worked through the estimate, detail by detail, trying to anticipate the problems that had been brewing for 40 years. Nothing was standard on this bike. Later, checking with collectors, I learned that this was one of a very few JC Higgins produced in West Germany. An experiment, and no parts were imported to back them up. The only collector I found who had one was missing the same fragile headlight cover. We'd have to make one to cover the 6" long hole in the front fender.

Anyway, we'd do this one the hard way... if Mr. Stuart could handle the estimate. Maybe he's can easily afford whatever it takes. But when I gave him the total, I could see he was pained. The expense was not easy for him, I should have guessed from the 8 year old Toyota he drove up in. "She'll be very happy" he said.

Then he told me: "This bike was a Christmas gift for Becky when she was 12 years old. She rode every day, except in the rain or snow, when she kept the bike in a tool shed behind the house. The following Christmas Eve, the family was all in bed, when the fire started. They barely made it out, not even time to take the photo albums. Becky watched the three story Victorian home Grandpa had built, burn to the ground. They lost everything... except this bike and a few tools in the shed. This Christmas will be the 40th anniversary of the day this bike survived that fire. I want it under the tree again, exactly as it was when Becky was 12 and still in that old house."

Now here was one of those jobs, that give purpose to CyclArt, one of the ones that I try to remember when things get really tough. And soon after Mr. Stuart left, they got tough again: A bout of flu ran through shop and kept us half-staffed for weeks. A visit from the County Health Department kept us busy and entertained for days. (Did you know you need an current MSDS for every chemical product used in your shop? In our case there are more than 200!) A major account dumped a huge rush job on us, then delayed payment. An electrical problem burned out our circuit panel shutting down our blasting and spray equipment for days. We had more than the usual number of jobs fail final inspection to start over... From Thanksgiving day on, all of us were working maximum hours to catch up with the work and the bills. There were 12, 16, 18 hour days, four hours a night sleep, sanding frames at 3 AM in a cold shop. Finally, the Higgins had it's own set of problems; the distinctive saddle fabric took 40 phone calls to find and was only available as a $100 minimum purchase from New York. The decal graphics were different from every other Higgins art on file so we had to draw and print them specially for this bike, a three day project. Then, reassembling the hub, a delicate, worn disk retainer clip snapped. Without it, the coaster brake would not function. A desperate search on December 23rd left us making a replacement by from scratch. A 2 cent part became a 6 hour project in a snap.

The next day, December 24 after an all-nighter, there it was; complete... a perfect little time machine ready to carry Becky back to her last carefree Christmas. Seatpost clamped in the workstand, suspended three feet off the floor it looked like sculpture, a gleaming monument to American arrogance and innocence. 1954 incarnate.

I spun the pedals, confirming the fender clearance, the heavy steel rim and tire spinning just enough off balance to cause the bike to pulse on the stand like it was alive. I let it spin. Finished! Just in time for CyclArt's traditional Christmas eve office party and 12 noon closing. The all night session had done it. Finally! Time for myself; to catch some sleep and prepare for the holiday. Mr. Stuart would be here in an hour, about mid party. I turned to wash up. One, two, three steps away when I heard the "clack!" I'd never had a pivot bolt drop out of a workstand clamp before, but I knew the stand had released the bike before I turned to see it bounce. Bounce hard, jumping left away from me, crashing heavily into the steel stand bolted to the concrete floor. Before a second bounce, I caught the bike. The frame buzzed in my hand, the fenders still quivered from the impact. The dents and scratches were horrific, worse than anything the bike had suffered in 40 years. The tank with hand-printed decal, the two tone pinstriped fenders and the frame all had dents and deep scratches from the steel corner of the stand brace. Repair would mean disassembly and repainting most of the bike. I looked at the time sheet on the job and estimated the required time; labor times, dry times and baking times, straight through, no breaks... 23 hours. Three solid 8 hour days. If two people worked, starting now, straight through, earliest completion was 18 hours; that would be 4 AM, Christmas morning. I called Mr. Stuart "I just had an accident, I don't think the bike can be repaired before Christmas" Will it be OK to deliver it December 28th? He sounded panicked, "The family is all in town, they've all chipped in and are expecting the bike on Christmas morning. Only Becky will be surprised... It's got to be ready!" "What is the latest I could deliver it to your home?" "Tonight?" "Can't do it, what about the morning?" " The kids are here, they'll have us up at 6 AM! I planned to hide the bike at a neighbor's and slip out at 5 AM to put it under the tree." "It will be there at 5 AM" "We could meet at the back door." "I'll get it there."

A promise. I try so hard not to make them. Promised jobs are like lightning rods. They are the ones that get hit, that have trouble. But how could I let the Stuarts down? Explain how severe the damage was, how unlikely the accident, how much time and expense were involved, how close it had been? There wasn't time, and worrying Mr. Stuart would not help.

I broke the news to Susan, my wife and partner, over hot cider. "Fix the Higgins!? You've been up all night! You are killing yourself! We're supposed to wrap presents! Our friends are coming to dinner! Don't we have a right to a life too!? She's not 12 anymore... Is it really that important to you?" I showed her the damage. "I need you to reprint the decals while I paint, then pinstripe before I start the clears. It's their Christmas... I promised." "You promised?" She gave that look, turned her back and stormed off, to the decal room. It's a good thing Susan and I work together. Who else could understand this passion, make these sacrifices and be so strong? Also good that we have no children... just a cat, the business and employees.

I turned to the crew, feeling like Scrooge, the boss, ready to tell an employee that he has to work late on Christmas eve. I asked for volunteers, everyone had plans, family, holiday prime time, no notice. Finally Roger suggested that he could help with the final assembly and delivery, coming in at 1 AM. That was enough, and it would leave me just enough time to wrap Susan's presents. The cat would have to understand.

There's a place in hell where you can't sleep, you massage cold metal with sandpaper, you wield a gun full of poison inside a ventilated cage, tethered to air supplies sealed in a Tyvek environmental suite. Every breath is amplified in the respirator, a continuous reminder of mortality, separating your impossibly delicate interior from the unseen cancer-trigger environment all about you. Stir paint from cans with warning labels demanding saintly procedures and describing horrific consequences. Coffee puts a more jagged edge on the awareness of fatigue burning outward from your bones.

Concentration is the life line; drop it for an instant, you'll have a run in the flowing paint, a scratch from the tool or a dent in the bouncing part. You notice how sleep deprivation affects your dexterity as your scalpel makes precision cuts in masking film. The minutes bleed away. Clocks race ahead. There's time to think while your hands work; about what you wanted to do today, the things undone yesterday, and all the years you've done this

Roger says the Higgins headlight helped him find the back door. He held the door open, Christmas smells pouring out, as Mr. Stuart silently beamed and wheeled the bike inside. Maybe this year he'll send a card.

The Vintage Racing Bicycle Newsletter (VRBN) in conjunction with Bicycle Classics inc. held a vintage racing bicycle concours October 8, 1995 in Needham, Massachusetts. The event was well attended, and featured an amazing array of both vintage lightweight racing and touring machines. Many local enthusiasts were joined by those who traveled considerable distance in order to attend this remarkable event. Additionally, some of the nation's leading framebuilders were spotted enjoying the fine machinery. The machines were judged and the winners of the various categories received prizes. The winner of the best-of-show category was awarded a Campagnolo corkscrew. All winners received J.P Weigle Framesaver, the frame treatment that is gaining widespread recognition for its ability to protect against internal frame corrosion. Prizes also included certificates to be used towards frame refinishing generously donated by Jim Cunningham, CyclArtist. Jim Cunningham also participated in judging the event.

The best-of-show award went to Bob Gordon, whose mid 60's Carlton International was a hit with the crowd. The Carlton is a wondrous machine. It features handcut lugs that are very ornate, similar in concept to those of a Hetchins. While the bike is extraordinary to begin with, the attention to detail in the preparation of this bike for display captured the essence of what concour participation is all about.

There was an abundance of gems at the show. Numerous bikes by the masters were on display. Those attending were able to see works by Masi, Cinelli, Frejus, Confente, Rene Herse, Colnago, and many more. There were at least 6 vintage Cinelli bikes on display! A 1960 Urago while unrestored featured a rare glimpse of the grandeur of early French machines that is largely forgotten in this country.

The showing of vintage lightweight bicycles is a relatively new phenomenon. CyclArt, the well known bicycle refinishing company in California, is known for its shows that draw an array of bicycles. The VRBN show, however, had a narrower focus. Only vintage lightweight bicycles were considered eligible for judging and prizes. The bikes were divided into restored or unrestored classifications. Further categorization was based on country of origin and on date of manufacture. The most popular categories were both British and Italian Nuovo/Super Record era (about 1968-1986).

The judging focused on both originality and condition. A restored bike (generally meaning the frame has been refinished) was scrutinized for accuracy of both decals and paint. The current condition of the paint and components, and importantly the accuracy of the components, was considered. For an unrestored bike, condition of frame was judged and then the condition of components and their accuracy was examined. All judging followed a prescribed formula that allowed for quick objective determination of points.

The sticky point of judging revolves around rarity and general appeal. With the point system used, most everyone felt that the judging was fair. Nonetheless, some judges, including myself, felt that a better way to account for rarity was needed. For example, should a pristine but common bike win out over a very rare one that is in slightly inferior condition? Furthermore, some bikes seem to score well but for some reason are simply not as appealing as others. This is subjective, but there should be some room in the judging to account for the aura that one senses in the presence of certain machines.

Somehow the issue of judges bikes in the show must be resolved. In this event, no judge was allowed to consider their own bike. This excluded all bikes belonging to Bicycle Classics inc. or its employees. CyclArt does the same at its events as well. Perhaps a "professional" category should be added so that those in the trade who enjoy the advantage of in-house restoration capabilities or unusual parts advantages can still enjoy the competition.

It is hoped that similar events will emerge throughout the country. The VRBN serves as a source of information for these events and those interested in participating in future events or in starting their own are encouraged to contact Bicycle Classics for more information. In addition, the newsletter would like to serve as a medium to orchestrate the move towards uniform judging criteria for similar events. Only recently have vintage racing bicycles been considered as serious collector pieces worthy of serious restoration, preservation, and display. While other bicycles are worthy of the same treatment, vintage racing bikes have one other attribute -they beg to be ridden fast!

Here we go again! Traveling down Interstate 5 in route to yet another mountain bike race. This trip takes us south to Southern California, then east across the country to Mobile, Alabama. For those of you who have never driven from the West Coast to the deep South, let me tell you- it makes for a long, strange trip: eight hundred and eighty miles across Texas before entering into a completely different world.

My partner, Kathleen, and I have been traveling around the country in our Volkswagen bus since December of 1994. So far this year we have driven more than fifty thousand miles on North American roads, explored and camped in seventeen states, competed in more than twenty mountain bike races and spent one glorious month enjoying the twelve hundred miles that make up Baja California. It seems hard to believe that it was more than a year ago that we packed all of our belongings into a storage unit and headed off in search of friendly people and unlimited riding.

I am pleased to report that we have found fantastic riding in each and every state that we have ventured through. I happen to enjoy cycling in the western half of the country because of the vast off-road possibilities and the large number of cyclists. The southern states, however, have their parks and open spaces areas that are well worth exploring. One of my favorite rides last year was in the Myaka River State Park in Florida. The wildlife there was truly incredible! Having grown up on the West Coast, it was very exciting for me to view alligators from my Ibis! I have always enjoyed mountain bike riding in California during the winter months, but I realize that a large percent of the cycling population is unable to ride during that time because of the weather conditions. For those of you who find yourselves off the bike or staring out the window from on top of your rollers, may I suggest taking a trip down to Baja.

I must admit that I was a little skeptical about driving my bus into Mexico. Before crossing the border we had heard many horror stories, but what we found was twelve hundred miles of paradise. We drove the entire length of the peninsula, exploring both the Pacific side and the coast line along the Sea of Cortez. I discovered more miles of rideable dirt in Baja than anywhere else we traveled in the last year. The people were wonderfully friendly, and the food and beer was excellent. We spent one month and drove twenty four hundred miles at a cost of only three hundred and fifty dollars. This winter when you find yourself in the cold and gray, remember that Baja is basking in the sun with an incredible amount of high quality off-road riding.

My goal in writing this column is to shed light upon the amateur racing scene that is currently growing and thriving in America. It is my opinion that there is enough media coverage of the world of professional off-road cycling. What I will be writing about is the people, places, events and happenings from my view at the front while traveling around and racing in various mountain bike competitions in this great country in which we live. Until next time, remember to keep it between the ditches with the rubber side down........ Wilderness Wayne

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