Friday, December 31, 2010

Cycling in Spokane 2010

Pretty good year. This year, I"m going to blast through this post. No pics. No links. No more than 1000 words. Wish me luck. Word count starts now:

Bikes: As usual many a comin and a going.
Those that went:
  • 720 got Albatross'd and went to my brother Jamie. Long term loan arrangement.
  • Kogs with 26" wheels. Had this for a short time. Went to Councilman Snyder.
  • Kogs with 650b wheels. Had this for an even shorter time. Went to Ryan at P2P.
  • Blue "urban" RB-T -- it's not officially gone yet, but it will be soon. This will go to Alex.
  • CB-Zip: I had such high hopes for this bike. I sold it and shipped it somewhere.
  • Shogun: Went back to Patrick. Again. But I want it back again. It's my favorite fixed gear set up. Every time we sell this frame back and forth, the cost goes up. I figure I'll be paying about $100 for it on the next deal.
  • Yellow 94 RB-1: Went to Dylan. He's the bad-ass cat 4 (now Cat 3!) cross racer and web guru nerd that takes care of our P2P site. And my midnightcentury site. One lousy RB1 frame is really not enough.
  • White 89 RB-1: not sure if I really can even claim this went, since it only sat in my garage for a while and I never built it up. It was going to be my fixed gear, but the headtube was stretched. So it became Maddie's new bike.
  • God I have a problem.
Bikes that came in:
  • The Elephant. Rad bike.Love it.
  • MB-2. I've had this frame forever, but I resurrected it this year as a single speed snow and ice bike and I'm totally digging it. It's all set up with generator lighting, a rack, fenders. And it's wearing studs. Total go-to bike for most winter tooling around.
  • Liza's XO-1 -- not my bike, but I obsessed about it like it was my own. I'm really hoping she loves riding it next spring.
  • Maddie's Elephant - same story. But she loves her bike way more than Liza appears to like her new bike.
Other bike notes:
  • Loving my cycle truck. Loving my 747. Solid bikes that will be around forever. I'm building up a set of sew up wheels for the 747. Crazy, right?
  • Rawland -- I've been carrying on about this bike a lot in the last few months. I ride it a lot. It just keeps getting better and better.
  • Current bikes-I-don't-have obsessions that need dealing with: Civia Kingfield, Surly Troll, hard tail mountain bike.
Advocacy and stuff
I don't feel like carrying on about this. A lot of bikey infrastructure has gone down on the streets this year and more is in the pipeline. It's good in that way. But hard bikey stuff that will really propel Spokane into a solid bike town is proving to be very hard. 2nd Ave is a good example. There's some hard design and political work there - we're good at plunking stuff down when the feds hand us the money and there's nothing but space on the roads. Blech. Blah. This is my last year on the BAB. And I'm ok with that. The good news is that we have a great set of applicants coming in to fill BAB vacancies. These are smart, dedicated, passionate people.

P2P is doing good. The space has worked out. We've got a good cushion of money in the bank to allow John and Ryan to maintain their hours through the slow season. We are serving a lot of people down there. Hopefully, we'll see more open hours in the spring. Growth is slow but steady. That's good.

Experiences and Riding
  • I had a bunch of great bike trips this year. Justin and I started the season with a great over-nighter. It was 180 miles and a great camping spot. A strong start.
  • Alex came over twice for trips to CDA Nat'l Forest. Those were just flipping rad.
  • I think one of my favorite memories this year though was the overnighter to Badger Lake with about 7 friends. It was so cool to be around great friends at that specific time, when my mom was so sick. Even getting kicked out of the camp spot by the police wasn't so bad.
  • I missed the midnight century this year. I hate that. But it was really unavoidable. I won't miss the next one.
  • Cross season was uneventful. My mom died right before the season and I just couldn't get crazy about cross. I did 3 races and had a good time, but I gotta say, those far away races are just hard to pull off for me. I really hope we can see more races closer to Spokane next year.
  • Generally, the mileage was better than last year, but not as good as 08. I think I enjoyed riding more this year though than I have in a few years. I've never really tracked mileage. But I sort of track fun. I had a lot of bike fun this year.
  • Rack building has been fun. I look forward to finishing my first rack and hopefully building one for Liza's new XO-1.
  • I've also made more of an effort to become a bit better at wrenching. I built a lot of wheels this year and I feel pretty good about my wheel building. I've learned from Glen that being a good bike mechanic is really about paying attention to details and taking the time to get the details right. That's a hard one for me because I rush through things and try to just get them done.

Ok. that's it! I blew my 1000 word goal. But there's nary a link or photo! Lucky you.

Good riding in 2011. Thanks for reading!


Thorpe Rd. 6 degrees F.
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Thursday, December 30, 2010


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Even more

Confounded phone camera.
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This is solid performance by Old Man Winter.
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I don't have snow tires, I'm saving my zip-ties and I don't even know what brifters are so...

35 minutes on this,

inspired by this,

and I'm immunized against Cabin Fever for a while.

All the best of 2011 to everyone!

Pretty day

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010


I put brifters on the Rawland.
I tried a brifter on my CX bike this year for the first time. I dig it. Who says you never need to shift when you are standing? (Well, I know who says that, but what the hey?) Once you can shift while you are standing, you do it all the time. Especially accelerating and when trail riding tricky stuff. It's flipping rad.

When I say "I" put shifters on my Rawland, I mean that in the "royal I" way. More specifically, I watched Glen put brifters on my Rawland. The guy is a Jedi Knight when it comes to indexing.

It's a set of Sora brifters shifting a SRAM chain on Sugino rings with a 105 front and an LX rear over a SRAM 8 speed cassette.

I learned the following:
- Derailleurs have directions. And they matter. Once the shifting wasn't perfect (but it was suitable, by my low standards), Glen read the directions for the front derailleur to make it perfect.
- Housing shouldn't bend too much.
- Housing shouldn't arc too much.
- Cables and housing matter. The name of the indexing game is "reduce friction." Cheap-ass cables and housing can work, but they're not going to make things better.

So, indexing 3x8 works great.

I took a ride today with the new set up. The snow is deep and sort of lame so I had to get in a good washout-turn-wreck, my second in 3 days -- but the shifting was great. I really liek the funny little buttons on the "thumb" side of the levers to drop the chain down. It's dorky looking, but it's easier with gloves and without thinking to shift down than it is with the kind of brifter where there's a second lever tucked under the main lever.

The braking was just ok. The Sora brifters have a different geometry than the normal cheap-o Shimano aero levers. I don't know how they're different, but they were intended to pull calipers, so I'm guessing it's different enough than a generic aero lever that was designed to pull canti's or calipers. Maybe not, but in any case, it feels different and I will need to do some fussing to get the rear wheel more dialed. The front is ok, so I know it's possible.

We put new "organic" pads on the BB-7 too. We'll see how they fare. The other ones that they replaced had a surprising amount of pad left. But once we tore them all apart, we opted to put the new fancies in.

The bummer is the shape of the shifters. They're so huge and weird and clumpy and wide. I spend 94% of my time riding the hoods, so hood shape matters and I'm not sure I can live with these. I'll need to do some longer rides to verify this, or I may need to scootch them down a bit on the bars, but there are adjustments to be made.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cheap Bike Snow Tires- Your Existing Tires & Zip Ties

someone give this a try and let me know if it works. Don't want to pay for snow tires for your bike but want to be able to ride it in the winter? @Alison sent me this idea for do-it-yourself bike snowtires from Lifehacker. Everyone has zip ties lying around the garage, so just strap them on and give it hell. Seems like it would work, but what do I know?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Hang at Jones Radiator tomorrow

Simply put. Rest up tomorrow and see you there.

Elephant Kid Bike

I've been posting a bunch of nit picky bits and pieces about this bike over the last couple weeks, but I wanted to do an all-up post for people searching for this bike to get the full story.

The goal with this bike was to produce a good-enough, low-cost performant kid bike in about 3 weeks. If you've looked around for a reasonable-weight with ok components in a kid bike, then you know the bar here is extremely low.

Glen pitched the idea to me around the beginning of December, so we were in a bit of a rush to get everything together so the frame could make it to the powder coat in time. Most of the steps, from building the wheels and chopping up an old frameset and building up the frame are tagged with the maddie xmass bike label.

To keep the out-of-pocket cash output as low as we could and to hit our aggressive xmass eve date, I scrounged the parts, we used a donor frame, and Glen didn't do any finish work. I think the result is incredible. Mind you, Glen has a ton of experience -- he cut his teeth at Bontrager's back in the 80s, he built bikes for Serrotta, and he's done a bunch of other bike stuff -- so "not doing clean up work" wasn't exactly a huge risk.

Click for big to read Glen's card.
Officially, the deal was that I traded a set of old compact Ritchey cranks (the bitchin' 94/58 Sugino ones) for the frameset. Of course I ended up spending too much on parts. We had to powdercoat it. So it ended up costing a few hundred dollars. Which is a bargain anyway you slice it.
The tubing is as follows:
  • Top tube: Ishiwata EX (from RB-1 donor frame)
  • Seat tube: Ishiwata EX (from RB-1)
  • Downtube stays: new 4130
  • Chain stays: adapted from a 90's Rockhopper
  • Seat stays: these are the seat stays from RB-1. Glen wishbone design
  • Head tube/bottom bracket shell: new
  • Fork steerer: Reynolds 531 NOS
  • Fork blades: Reynolds 703 NOS
  • Kickstand plate: off old Gitane
The donor frame was an 89 Bridgestone RB-1. This was not a pristine frame: one of the rear drop outs on the frame had been replaced and the head tube was a bit stretched. But it was still ridable. And given our goals, it made a great donor frame. The tubes on the Bridgestone were Ishiwata EX, which were a strange butted profile ranging from .7 mm to 1 mm thick.

The rear chainstay came from a 90's Rockhopper. The beauty of using the Rockhopper rear chainstay was that it was pre-bent in a way that worked for good tire clearance and small rings.

  • Bars: steel risers from an old Gitane
  • Stem: custom Glen-made
  • Shifters: Suntour XC Pro 7 speed
  • Brake levers: Dia Comp, bent to match contour of bars
  • Headset: Origin8 1" threadless
  • Saddle: Velo kid saddle
  • Post: Origin8
  • Crank set: Origin 8 with 46/34. 155mm
  • Bottom bracket: Origin8 107. (Tread/Q: 155)
  • Pedals: MKS sneaker pedals
  • Wheels: Velocity Aeroheat 24" (507 mm), laced to Mavic 550 hubs. Straight-gauge spokes
  • Tires: Kenda semislicks 24x1.75"
  • Brakes: Tektro mini v
  • Front derailleur: Shimano 600
  • Rear derailluer: Dura Ace 7401 7-speed
  • Freewheel: Sunrace 7 speed, 14-28
I made a point to keep my opinions about geometry to myself. I have a dim sense of what I like and I over-emphasize the front end of the bike, but I just don't really understand the end-to-end interaction of all geometry stuff, especially for a kid's bike.

Glen draws stuff out to scale on a big wall-mounted drafting board thing. As he builds, he can then hold up finished bits to the drawing and check progress.

I get into specifics of angles and the theory and the math. Glen nods along as I chatter about this stuff, but when pressed for his approach to design, he talks of balance, weight distribution, toe clip overlap, reach, stability, and other basic traits he wants in a good bike. These traits are then put up against fixed requirements like wheel size and stand-over height. A design emerges.

In this case, Maddie's low stand-over height surprised him. She seems tall because she's slim and always wears high-water pants. To make the stand-over work, he went with the "quadangle" design. This comes from the BMX world apparently. Specifically, it's referred to as "SE quadangle racing" bmx frame design. To provide a lower stand-over, the top tube is attached to the bottom of the headtube. Then stays are used for the down tube, attached at the top of the head tube.

Building the frame
I tried to be at Glen's shop as much as I could as he put the frame together. Watching him work is fascinating to me. I expect to see a lot of precise measuring and exact perfectionist OCD-type work. But Glen's way is very organic. Without getting too carried away with the metaphor here, watching Glen work reminds me of watching my buddy, Don, a pianist, improvize through a standard jazz tune. In both cases, there's a well-understood foundation on which to build. In both cases, these guys have spent hundreds and hundreds of hours in solitary practice honing and perfecting their craft. Watching Glen put the bike together now, is really watching someone who is enjoying the process -- and with each task, makes judgements and adjustments based on years of experience and practice.

Aside from two of the bottom bracket joints, which are TIG'd, the joints on the frame are mainly fillet brazed. Glen really didn't do any clean up work at all. The powder coater probably did a bead blast to get the old paint and some gunk off the frame. It's hard to appreciate the cleanliness of the fillet brazes from the pictures.

The fork crown and the rear wishbone seat stay are both custom made by Glen. There's a sleeve at the seat collar.

The parts
The interesting bits are the short cranks, shifting, stem, brakes, and wheels.

Origin 8 actually makes cranks as short as 145mm. We went with 155 mm. It's a standard 3-piece, 110 BCD, forged aluminum crank. It takes a square taper bottom bracket.

We spent a bunch of time hemming and hawing over the shifting. We wanted indexing for the rear derailleur. I'm pretty ok with sloppy indexing. Glen is not. He spent part of an evening trying a bunch of different shifters with a bunch of different derailluers to find a good 7-speed solution. In the end the old Dura Ace rear derailleur, paired with the Suntour XC pro shifter was the winner. By wrapping the derailleur cable around the "wrong" side of the pinch bolt on the derailleur, perfect indexing was achieved.

The front shifting is same vintage Shimano 600. The tube Glen used for the seat tube had a water bottle boss still on it. So he used it for the cable pulley for the front derailleur -- so he could run shifting cables along the top of the top tube.

The stem is a custom jobber. He made it from a steel tandem stoker stem.

Brakes are mini v's. You can run mini-v's with standard brake levers. The Diacomp brake levers are a nice finish and he wanted them so he could bend the levers to match the contour of the bars. The rear brake housing braze-ons that run along the bottom of the top tube were on the original tube. They were for the brake cable that ran across the top of the top tube on the RB-1.

The wheels are nice.

The Mavic hubs are just super fine hubs. They're smooth, they polish nicely, and they should last Maddie a really long time.

There are two 24" wheel standards still readily available today: the 507 mm size, which is often referred to as "mountain" or "bmx" 24, and the 520 mm size which are typically used on small road bikes, like Terry, and were once used a lot on time trial bikes. Since you can only get 520 mm tires in 1" super narrow sizes, we decided to go with the 507 mm size. There are not as many great road-ish tires in 507 mm, but there are a few out there. And there's lots of knobby/fat 507 sizes. Maddie's bike could take up to about 2.0" tires.

The rims are Velocity Aeroheat, which are great, light, easy-as-cake-to-build rims. And they're silver and pretty. Maddie helped me build the wheels.

Other kid bikes
Glen is always interested in building more bikes. He's talking about figuring out a good quality build kit for kid's bikes like this. His idea is that there are probably a lot of pretty good old steel frames hanging in garages of bikey guys who have kids. This method, where he chops up a bike with decent steel to make a kid bike, is a cool way to get more mileage out of your old rig. I know lots of people who have old "classics" that they hang on to but never ride. Think of all the great potential kid bikes out there.

Really, having the frame to chop up doesn't really save much money. Great tubing for a kids bike could be had for around $100, and in fact, cutting a frame up and cleaning up the tubes isn't a huge time saver either. The process is fun though and in our case, it did save time since we didn't have to order tubing and I was able to help with some of the running around/parts gathering. Plus, Glen really enjoyed the irony of chopping up an RB-1, in my size, for Maddie. We discussed it, and it turns out that this is ironic. I'm not misusing the term here.

If you want one, contact Glen and see where the process takes you.

Goals for the week

I've been putting off a ton of bikey fixes over the last couple months.

I love bikes but having so many can be a pain in the maintenace department. Over the last few years I enjoy working on bikes less and less. So I'm going to batch these up and go hang out with Glen. Fixing bikes can be fun with friends, beer, and a warm shop. I think that's one of the reason we got P2P rolling.

I have the next week off. Here's my ambitious list. In semi-priority order.

- remove front rack, finish building new rack
- replace front brake

Liza's XO1
- dial in front index shifting/replace front derailluer

- swap bar-ends for old 8-speed brifter set up that i've had laying around for 6 months

- cut and fit new fork
- figure a better front fender solution

- swap out captain's drops for Albatross bars

CX bike:
- replace rear rim/build wheel
- swap out lame-arse rear brake with something that stops
- prepare/mount tubular tire

- re-tape bar ramps

- drop Maddie's old Miyata at friends
- Maddie's Giant: remove fancy Schwalbe big apple and replace with cheap knobbie
- remove headset from blue RB-T and prepare it for selling
- calculate spoke length for another wheel project and order spokes

Powder coating list:
- rack (everything is waiting behind this)
- Cargo forks
- cargo front light bracket
- Elephant rear light bracket

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Parking lot test ride

She loves it. She's on and on about how much we're going to ride this year. Sweet. She rode in the parking lot for about an hour. Until we both froze.

I'm trying to convince her to pop the seat up a hair, but she like the comfort of being able to put more than a toe on the ground as she sits on the saddle. I suppose as she gets more experience, she'll  be more comfortable with a proper seat height.

But she's like her old man: she prefers to stand and grind in a high gear. She's not a spinner.

"I can't wait til spring"

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Thursday, December 23, 2010


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Phoebe approves

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Rawland love

Last September or so I put some straight up drop bars (46 cm Noodles) on the Rawland for Alex.  He needed a bike to borrow for a quick weekend CDA NF trip. Before that, I had put flat-riser bars on the Rawland. I didn't like that at all. And before that, I had the Midge bars on it. I liked that pretty good. In fact, I thought that the Midge was a perfect bar for the Rawland, given the crazy-ass huge long head tube and all.

This trail is about 12 minutes of riding from my house.
High Drive trails of course.

By the time I had set it up with Noodles for Alex, I was sort of thinking of trading the Rawland in for a proper, front-shocked cross-country mountain bike (I like the Jamis Dragonfly). But the Noodles made the Rawland complete. I run Noodles on most of my other bikes (747, Elephant, tandem, RB-T cx), so I'm really comfortable riding trails, road, dirt, snow, whatever with these bars.

This is sort of a hard picture to understand. Basically, it shows how hard core I am: I'm stopped by the side of a big drop off cliff thing. One mis-step from certain death. For you, during this holiday season, I take these risks.

So, the Rawland, with Noodles, becomes this weirdo trail tuff guy rough stuff road-ish bike that just works for me in a really easy way. I used to think the big honking OS tubing on the Rawland was a liability, but now I dig it. I like knowing I can put 2.3" knobbies on there and sort of pick a line or not. All of my other bikes require attention and skill to pick through the hard stuff. On the Rawland, with the fat tubing and the stop-fasting disc brakes -- I can really charge through dirt/rock/gunk/snow and not worry so much about finessing my way through it.

This time of year, where one ride may include slushy roads, unbroken snowy trails, rutted snowy dirt roads, and patches of icy snowy pavement, I really love having the Rawland. I love the steep, road-y feeling of the front end (though it's quick to washout on slippery snowy climbs if I'm not on the money with weight and speed), and the disc brakes, which generally, I feel are over rated.

But for snowy wet icy build up on the rims, disc brakes are hard to beat.

So, in a nutshell, during this holiday season I'm thankful for all my bikes. But lately, I've been really thankful to have the Rawland to play on while the snow and slush comes and goes and lingers and surprises me.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Looks like a rack

Ryan's rack is takng shape.

Yep. That's a Kogswell.

My rack is momentarily stalled. With some luck and fortuitous timing, I may get it done in the next week or so.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Pre-Review: REI Novara Verita Bike Jacket

I'm a long time lover of the O2 Rainshield jacket. It's cheap ($40), it's light, and it breaths as well as any fancy jacket I've tried. In the spring, the O2 lives in my daily bag. Paired with RainMates/Rain Legs, the O2 is a great rain solution. In the summer, the O2 lives in my overnighter kit. It's a great wind breaker and exterior shell for chilly descents and unexpected cold events.

The only drawback of the O2 is it's fragility. The longest I've made one work is almost 2 years. Usually the cuffs fray and blow apart then tears work their way up the sleeves. But more than once, I've snagged the jacket and ripped it on the body somewhere. It's repairable, sort of, with clear packing tape, but eventually, the O2 just rips up and falls apart. The $40-ness of the O2 makes this almost acceptable. But that's still kind of lame.

In any case I've never really thought of replacing the O2. I'm mostly suspicious of the idea of a fabric that keeps water out but still breaths. The more expensive the fabric is, the more suspicious I become. I've had Gortex jackets and other fancy jackets. For years I used a Marmit Precip, which was good for keeping the water out, but just totally sweated me out on the inside. The only high-zoot magic super tech fabric I really believe is Schoeller. But it's not really waterproof.

The Verita uses eVent fabric. I've never owned an eVent item before. But 3 people I trust, have given it the thumbs up, so I'm hopeful.

Three things happened to get me into a Verita.
1. Alex bought one and raved a bit about it. "Raved" may be over stating it, but he liked it and he hit all the keywords when explaining why he liked it.

2. Liza finally replaced her ancient Marmot Precip shell. She got an REI eVent jacket and she really likes it. She is not one for hype, so when she started talking about how well it breathed and how well it kept her dry, I was interested.

3. The PR people at REI provide me with a Verita to review. I'd have a hard time spending $190 on this jacket. I know there's a very high likelihood that I will fall/wreck/etc and rip it. That would not stand if I spent nearly $200 on a rain jacket. And I can't do that "just bring it back" thing for items I mess up.

So, I'll be running this jacket through the John ringer and looking for how it stands up to abuse and how it keeps out the rain and cold and how it packs down and how it lets me breath and how it generally replaces a $40 throw away jacket. I'll also follow the care directions dutifully (basically: wash the jacket obsessively) to make sure I'm holding up my end of the bargain.

So far, so good. The fit is dialed in, nice and snug/cut well for riding. The details are nice. This is clearly a well-made, well thought-out jacket by people that cycle.

I like the reflective piping and bits everywhere. The orange is called "nuclear orange" and is too orange for me. I like more chilled out/muted colors. I get the visibility thing and for a rain jacket, it gets a pass. But I'd rather have a less orange orange. Because I like orange.

Anyway, stay tuned for more updates -- likely embedded in other posts as I use the jacket in my normal cycling routines. When I talk about this jacket in subsequent posts, I'll mark the posts with the Verita label.  But I'll also do a wrap up in a year or so.


Adventure Cycling Association is a Missoula based non-profit organization that publishes Adventure Cyclist magazine and an extensive array of cycling-specific maps and guide books.

Their offices are frequently visited by cross country and other long distance riders as they pass through. Since 1982, Adventure Cycling staff member Greg Siple has been taking posed, but informal photos of those riders and there are now more than 3,000 images in his collection.

A small sample of the photos along with a short description of the cyclists and their rides is currently on display in the Chase Gallery of the Spokane City Hall.

There are all sorts of riders on all sorts of equipment and I was particularly fascinated in reading about the inspirations that motivated people to undertake the challenge of a cross country ride.

The show runs through December 31st.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Last year I made this mess: But I never really had a use for it, it was really just another 700c road bike. Plus the bottom bracket was pretty high, because I tilted the seat tube back to 73 from the 74.5 it was built with. So I borrowed some 650b wheels from John and undertook the conversion. It was easy, all it took was alittle bit of this:

A pair of these: (I shortened the bolts and rethreaded them for the smooth recessed look because, you know, details count)

And I wound up with this. It's better. Lots. The bb hieght is now a nice low 10.5", kind of a good number for me to be able to put a toe on the ground at a stop, steering feels much lighter and more precise, (I can turn some pretty fast lap times in my workshop) and I feel like I'm sitting in the bike rather than way up on top of it. Initial test rides are great, although I've already fallen 3x within a block of my house. Smooth tread tires and snow...anybody surprised?

The Jan approves.
I know tons of people have already done this swap, so nothing new under the sun, but if it pans out to be as great as it feels initially, I can forsee a custom fork and some braze-ons for the centerpulls.
Bike Hang; same time, same place. I'll try and bring something interesting . You should too...

Full service garage

As soon as I get home from a ride, Tiger comes out of his comfy garage and gives my bike a scrub down.

Nothing shines up quite like old Dura Ace.
Thanks Tiger!