Our trip to NAHBS or, A Perilous Journey Into the Eye of Hurricane Joey

March 10, 2012

Last Saturday we fired up the Swrve mobile bright and early for a big little road trip.

Actually, it was still dark so it was just early. Really early.

Two rights, a left, two more rights and a few hundred boring miles on the 5 later, we reached our destination- the 2012 North American Handbuilt Bike Show in lovely Sacramento.

We went as spectators with no real agenda other than have a good time, see some cool bikes and maybe run into some friends.

We’re pleased to report the trip was a smashing success on all three levels.

If you fashion yourself a bike geek, you owe it to yourself to check out NAHBS at least once. It’s a total cycling nerd fest in the best way possible. Imagine going to a Dungeons and Dragons Convention and everyone in attendance is a Grand Wizard (or whatever title is bestowed upon the highest level dungeon master). The show was nothing but the elite. The best of the best. Both in terms of builders and attendees.

You’ve probably spent the week drooling over eye candy on other blogs that feature professional photography so we won’t bore you with fuzzy shots you’ve already seen but here’s our trip (at least the parts we can remember) in pictures.

Our first stop was to check out the US Bicycling Hall of Fame in Davis. To say  Davis is a cycling friendly town is like saying Mother Teresa was a lady who liked to help people. The tiny glimpse we got of Davis was jaw dropping. Everywhere you looked you’d see a bike- even on official city signage.

According to everyone we spoke to. This is what a slow Saturday looks like at the farmer’s market.

The Bicycling Hall of Fame was full of sweet delicious eye candy that was a good warm up for the day’s main event.

Someday I will have one.

This saw action in the Olympics.

Had these same purple “power sticks” back in the last century.

Patches will be the hot trend for 2013 if we have anything to say about it.

We were more than a little surprised to see our friends from Circles who came all the way from Japan for the show. They the closed the shop down and took the whole crew on a 48 hour whirlwind of a trip. And we thought we were wacky and bold driving six hours each way. Check out their recap here.

My big fan boy moment asking Tom Ritchey if he remembers building my now vintage Swiss Cross which is now Muriel’s.

Already planning a new wheel set around Paul’s new road hubs.  Mmm…. drool.

Pablove Indy Fab.

This is Joey. Yes, that Joey. As if there’s another Joey.

Saturday night we met some friends for dinner and went to the party thrown by Stevil Knievel of All Hail the Black Market. We weren’t there for long before we were found ourselves in the path of Hurricane Joey. All the enthusiasm the kid had flying into that the barrier that made him famous was on full display. If the new crop of youngins in the bicycle industry have one tenth the energy of Joey, we’ll be in good hands by the time were full fledged crotchety old farts.

In a word Stevil’s party was a blast. We still had residual shakes from his Interbike bash but we did our part to drink the bar out of beer and most of their other alcohol based fluids. Seriously, a bunch of dirt bag bike nerds were able to drink a bar dry. It was a glorious and impressive site to not remember.

We do though remember most of the good times and the amazing energy that is in the air when so many bike people are gathered under one roof. It’s hard to explain but basically, if you’re part of the proverbial tribe (for lack of a better word) you’re all friends. A great example is how we piled into a cab to mooch a ride back to downtown with total stranger and by the time we arrived we’re old buddies hopping a fence and sneaking into the long closed pool area for a nightcap or five.

Good times all round. See you next year in Denver. Hope our friends at Rapha have enough time to scrape away all the poop.

Show and Tell Friday- Matt’s Belt Drive Sycip

February 17, 2012

Gotta say I feel a little silly writing in the 3rd person for a post that’s basically going to say “Hey, look at my bike!” but there’s a reason why I’m doing such a thing.

Lately there’s been a small wave of visitors to our site who’ve come away with questions not about our wonderful urban cycling apparel but about the handsome bike I make a little less handsome by standing next to it.

I think it’s cool that people are curious. As a dyed-in-the-merino bike geek, I’m always checking out what folks are riding. For being so simple in the scheme of things, bikes are truly fascinating machines.

That being said, I just wanted to do quick little show and tell about my belt drive Sycip so anyone who’s bike curious won’t have to wait have to wait around for an answer. That being said, if you’ve got a question. Definitely ask. I love hearing from y’all.

So yeah, I guess my bike would fall under the realm of being a Java Boy. I’ve known the Sycip brothers for years and think they do amazing work. I could nerd out for days about them and the allure of hand-built bikes but right now we must. stay. focused.

Jeremy custom built the frame around Shimano’s 11 speed Alfine Hub and a Gates Carbon Belt Drive. Internal gears and belt drives have intrigued me for a while. To me it seems like the perfect combination of speed and simplicity for city riding. This bike is my car and the range of the Alfine hub is perfect for Los Angeles. Granted, my adventures haven’t lead to taking a short cut up Fargo Street but so far the low gear is plenty low and when my legs are up to it I can open it up and really haul ass. Of course that’s all relative.

The belt drive has been absolutely trouble free. It literally needs no upkeep and it makes a Ninja seem noisy. The hub has been solid and reliable as well which is a good thing. For being a simplifier it is a rather complex device.

This oil can sticker cracks me up every time I look at it. Reminds me of something you’d see in an old Dastun. (Wait, at this point aren’t all Datsuns old?) Oil only needs to be added every 11,000 kilometers so maybe by 2015 it will be due for a spritzing.

Up front is a VeloORANGE rack that Jeremy fabricated to bolt-on cleanly and a bag from Inside Line Equipment that was sized to fit snugly inside. The bag expands quite a bit so it’s great for runs to the store or post office. If you’ve never tried them, Vittoria Randonnuer tires are quite possibly the ultimate tire for city riding. Lastly, the stem is a basic Titec that Jeremy had powder coated so the curtains could match the proverbial carpet so to speak.

The one big upgrade I’ve made since I got the bike was this NOS Campy seat post- one of the most elegant seat posts ever made. It was my big score at the SF Bike Expo. A guy walked by our booth with two (!) of them that he’d picked up at the swap meet and since he only had one butt, we quickly worked out a swap of our own. I’ve always lusted after one and it was such a random treat to finally get my grubby little mitts on one.

Hand made in Sonoma County, yo.

If you’ve got a bike you’d like to show off, send us some pics. We’d love to showcase it.

The coolest bike you’ll see in 2012 (So far)

January 5, 2012

Back at Interbike we made friends with a German designer named Dirk. He’s got a pretty wide resume ranging from the Ergon grips currently on Matt’s city bike to this crazy, only-a-German-could-make-it 18 speed internal gearbox called Pinion.

After a long night/early morning at Stevil Kinevil’s annual Interbike soiree, one thing lead to another and Dirk was deemed worthy (i.e. he fit into one of our samples) of being the first person in all of Europe to rock a pair of our Cordura jeans.

Over the holidays Dirk dropped us a note to say hi and shared a few shots of his super commuter that made our jaws drop. This thing is so cool we don’t even know where to begin.

Dirk designed it himself and Nicolai made it happen. The frame is made from Easton elite aluminum with track geometry and an extra beefy front end thanks to the 1 1/2″ – 1 1/4″ head tube. It features a Gates Carbon belt drive and since it’s a single speed a Magura disc brake takes care of the stopping. We’ll go out on a limb and say it’s a pretty sweet skid machine.

Dirk says his “Uniquolai” is a one-of-a-kind bike (as if he really needed to add that part).

Since we’re as geeky as you when it comes to bikes, we’re always curious to see what folks are riding. If you’ve got a favorite bike you’d like to share with our little corner of the internet drop us a note and we’ll show it off.

 

The only rider specific jeans worth riding

October 28, 2011

The other day we were on the receiving end of an email blast from one of our cycling apparel colleagues based across the pond in Merry ol’ England.

While we certainly admire their brand and products, I must admit we got a good chuckle out of the wording chosen to describe their new cycling jeans.

“The only rider-specific jeans worth talking about.”

It was the talking about part that got us laughing. I suppose we should talk more about our jeans, especially since we’re “fashionable” enough to have already done a special edition for Barney’s, but when we get a nugget of free time we’d much rather get out for an actual ride than sit around like an aspiring epic catalog model sipping an espresso down at the local coffee shop and talking about maybe going for a ride.

That being said, let’s talk jeans!

Our new Cordura Denim Jeans have been selling so well you’d think we were stuffing the pockets with Unicorn Bacon before shipping them out.  Of course a year’s worth of selling well for us probably translates to an average week for the big blokes.
Still, that’s OK because as a company we’re right where we want to be. When we started out, to say we were tiny is an understatement. Six years later we’ve grown enough to become respectably small and our plan is to keep chugging along at a nice, controlled pace.

Moving into a building of our own last summer was a huge step that gives us a solid home base with plenty of room for future growth.

The other big step was our Cordura Jeans. They were a big commitment for us and a project a year in the making but we believed in them and it thrills us to see how well they’ve been received.

That being said, here’s our answers to the most frequently asked questions we’ve been getting about the jeans.

The Cordura jeans are made in Pakistan. What’s up with that?

This one’s a two-parter:

1. Cordura’s stretch denim is such a new product for Cordura there’s currently only one factory licensed to produce it and that factory happens to be in Pakistan. The minimum amount of material we could purchase was so high it wouldn’t have been feasible for us to try and make them ourselves so we had the factory to go ahead and take care of the manufacturing as well.

Our beliefs in fair labor and a decent working environment don’t end when we walk out the door so we did all we could to vet the factory. It’s a WRAP certified facility.  WRAP is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to the certification of lawful, humane and ethical manufacturing throughout the world. In addition we hired the same third party inspectors used by Patagonia to ensure everything is on the up and up.

The quality of the jeans is fantastic. Putting our design into the hands of someone else halfway across the world had us more than a little nervous. If you looked close at the nitty gritty details, you’ll find the quality is better than what we can do ourselves. They’ve been specializing in denim for years and have all the proper machinery and expertise that eclipses us.

We do feel good about using this factory and we feel supporting industry in a country like Pakistan can only be good in the long run. It offers people good jobs and stability in a country where such things can make a vast difference in people’s lives.

2. The end result of all of this is a finished product that is a lot less expensive than we could make in-house. While $100 for a pair of jeans is by no means inexpensive, we hope the inherent durability will offset the initial buy-in. As long as your “buddy” doesn’t turn on you and stuff you into a wood chipper while you’re wearing your Cordura Jeans, they should last a long, long time. As more people get with the program and get on bikes, its our goal to be able to make high quality, technologically advanced cycling gear more accessible.

Is this the beginning of the end for Swrve products being made in the USA?

Far from it. Having the Cordura Jeans made overseas frees up our sewing team to focus on doing what they do best. It also allows us to be more elastic when it comes to changes in inventory and gives us the added flexibility of being able to tinker with and create new products faster.

When the time comes, we plan to make use of our space by adding more workers to our team and fancy machinery to our equipment quiver but while we’re still in the realm of respectably small, we’ve got to keep making baby steps.

With all the great support we’ve been receiving from the cycling community the past six years, we’ll be up and running with the big dogs before we know it.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Track Nationals are coming to LA!

September 26, 2011

Man… you know you’ve got a killer case of the Mondays when all you can think about is Friday. Definitely not complaining about the ol’ jobby-job since we’re fortunate to be doing what we love but you see, this week is special.

Starting Wednesday and going through the weekend USA Cycling’s 2011 Elite Track Nationals will be going down at the Home Depot Center. America’s best track racers will be competing for national title crowns and slots at the 2012 London Olympics.

If you’re local, you definitely need to find time to go- especially if you’ve never seen high level track racing. The Siberian Pine Velodrome is nothing short of world class and the steepness of the turns and the speed of the racers can give spectators vertigo.

Friday and Saturday nights are definitely not to missed. Tickets are a reasonable $10 plus Ticketbastard fees (USA Cycling members can get a 50% discount though.) And you gotta give credit to USA Cycling for scheduling the marquee events in prime time complete with a beer garden and DJs!

Maybe we can all rally and cram the party filled fun of a six-day race into a four hour window? Hopefully all that “late night training” we did at Interbike will pay off.

We’ll see you there!

New from Swrve at Interbike 2011

September 14, 2011

Aloha from Las Vegas!

The big Interbike trade show gets underway bright and early tomorrow. While we still have the energy we wanted to give you a little sneak peak at some of our new gear we’ll be showing off. If you read this before doors to Interbike open up, you’ll have gotten the scoop before anyone else (aka exclusive first look).

We’ll start things off with our brand spanking new long finger gloves. They come in two flavors- Vegan and meaty.

The Vegan gloves are made from the finest non-leather yet remarkably leather like material we could find. The meaty gloves are made from Pittards leather which is arguably the nicest leather to use in a pair of gloves. Aside from that they share identical features which you can read here:

Oh yes! In 2011, even our little wool-centric company can’t resist the lure of carbon fiber. If you’ve ever found yourself in the sort of pickle where knuckle guards would be a handy thing to have, you’ll really like these.

On the flip side of our new gloves, you’ll find “connective tips” sewn into the thumb, index and middle fingers so that you can update your Friendster or line up that booty call without having to take off your gloves to operate your touchscreen device.

Just don’t hold us responsible if you get yourself into a Damn You Auto Correct situation.

Next up we’ve got our brand new Classic Musette Bag, perfect for carrying a variety of goods and other assorted objects in a simple, yet highly functional way.

The Classic Musette Bag comes in a rainbow of four colors and here’s the reflective stripe in action.

Another big item is our new Cordura Denim jeans. There’s a good chance you’ve already peeped these but here’s a few fresh looks.

And finally we’ve reached deep into the box of 64 and have some new cap colors on the way.

OK. That’s it for now. Gotta rest up and Rocky III is getting exciting! Gotta love hotel TV.

New Swrve Site Coming Soon to an Internet Near You

August 17, 2011

It’s been a busy couple of months for us. Now there’s a little breathing room in the calm before the Interbike storm, we’ve got some fun news to share.

In addition to moving into a great new space of our very own, our website is in the final phases of a total overhaul.

Thanks to the power of bicycles being able to bring people together a riding buddy of Matt’s is one of the big cheeses at Something Massive a really cool web company. After bit of arm twisting he convinced us that turning his team loose on our site would be a good thing to do.

We instantly clicked with Jon Setzen, Something Massive’s Creative Director, and the whole process from start to finish turned out to be a really fun collaborative project. While I can’t spill all the beans right now, the end result is going to be a great new site which should make your experience a lot more enjoyable.

If you missed our “sneak tweet” you can see a couple glimpses here and here.

My favorite part of the redesign was our big photo shoot led by the super talented Brad Swonetz. It was truly a great day and a far cry from Matt and I taking turns snapping pictures of each other with a little point and shoot.

Matt lured some friends with tacos and beer to be our models. While they’re most certainly handsome guys they definitely aren’t professionals. Luckily, Brad’s laid back easy style washed away any nervousness and he instantly channeled their inner Blue Steel.

Here are some shots I took with my fancy new camera which I’m still figuring out how to use.

Matt shows off his shiny new belt drive Sycip to Brad and Jon.

Ty and Woody from Golden Saddle Cyclery listen with horror and amusement as Jon tries to justify the funk growing in his water bottle.

Ty and Brad in action.

We snuck up here for an hour and not once were we hassled by The Man!

John Moshay and Jon Setzen from Something Massive. John piloted the "camera bike" which was fitted with three Go-Pro video cameras to capture the action from every angle.

You'll have to wait till our new site is live to see what Jon and Brad were shooting.

An Open Letter to ESPN’s Mr. Michael Smith

July 13, 2011

Dear Mr. Michael-

My name’s Matt. I’m just one of the many cyclists you probably didn’t know existed until yesterday.

That’s OK. I had never heard of you either (thank goodness for the YouTube) until you started spouting off about the “hilariousness” of Johnny Hoogerland and Juan Antonio Flecha being struck by a car during the 9th stage of the Tour de France. I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that clip was your total exposure to this year’s Tour. *

If you had watched that fateful stage you would have known there was much more to the story. The two guys who were hit were in a breakaway only 35k (about 22 miles) from the finish and had a really strong chance of finishing the day on the podium.

To put that scenario into a ball and stick sport that you can wrap your head around, imagine Devin Hester returning a kickoff. He finds a seam and sprints to daylight. The defense is nipping at his heels. As yards tick by and the end zone nears, it becomes clear he’s going to score- until ESPN’s high wire camera strung up over the field falls out of the sky and hits Hester on the head knocking him unconscious. He collapses in a heap inside the 20. Thanks in part to years of muscle memory, he miraculously hangs onto the ball.

Any idea what the NFL rulebook would say in that situation?

Well, the Tour de France doesn’t stop for anything. The fluid chaos of the Tour’s peloton is river you can’t dam up (unless of course you’re a runaway herd of cows or protesting French workers). If you get spit out for whatever reason, you’re on your own to get back in. And that includes getting hit by a car belonging to the French TV network broadcasting the race.

Luckily for Flecha, he got away with few bumps and bruises and was quickly back on his bike. My new hero Johnny Hoogerland wasn’t so lucky. He flew ass over tea kettle into a BARBED WIRE FENCE after being hit with the force of 10 Ndamukong Suhs going 35 mph.

Despite being cut up worse than Joe Don Baker in the original Walking Tall, Hoogerland untangled himself, remounted his bike and kept riding to the finish where he did in fact step onto the podium to claim the coveted Polka Dot Jersey as the Tour’s best climber. After the ceremony he went to the hospital and received a bouquet of 33 stitches as a souvenir.

And this is a guy you laugh at?

As an employee of a network that hypes the most mundane news into the upper reaches of the stratosphere, e.g. “The Decision,” laughing at Hoogerland was probably the wrong course of action.  If Curt Schilling’s bloody sock can be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame, then Hoogerland deserves his own hall of fame.

I’ve been hit by a car (an LAPD cruiser no less) and know so many people who’ve been hit a millipede wouldn’t have enough fingers and toes to count them all and I can emphatically tell you there is nothing funny about it- be it during the world’s biggest sporting event or a simple ride to work.

While your carefully scripted apology was was a good PR driven step and right in line with the multitude of ESPN apologies, it doesn’t erase the fact that you spent an entire day tweeting your stance that two people nearly getting killed was hilarity at its finest.

And that’s really why I’m writing you this letter. I thought for sure you might have had the conviction to own up to what you said and not back down. While I would still strongly disagree with your stance, I would at least respect your staunch conviction to your idiotic opinion.

Still, maybe you could use this time to take a step back and reinvent your sporting persona. I suggest becoming Mr. Michael Smith The Guy Who Laughs at the Misfortune of Others.

Take for example a few months ago. While your fellow talking heads were debating how to “fix baseball” after Buster Posey broke his leg in a collision at the plate, you could be off in the corner cackling like a 13-year-old who chugged 15 hours worth of energy saying “No! We need more broken legs in baseball and until then, let’s watch Buster break his leg again and again!”

On second thought, that probably wouldn’t be such a good plan since no athletes would want to talk to ESPN anymore.

So on that note, good luck to you Mr. Michael Smith. Whatever happens in the wake of your tweepidity, I wish you the best. Should your career take a turn for the worse and you someday find yourself in such a “dire” position you “need” to ride a bicycle to the public access TV studio, give us a call, we’ll give you a good deal on some highly functional yet office friendly cycling apparel.

Sincerely,

Matt

ps. The US Women just scored to make it 3 – 1 against France! I love the irony that I’m watching ESPN as I write this.

*Hope you appreciate how I was being nice with a qualified “this year’s” because chances are the last time you even knew the Tour de France existed a guy named Lance was still adding to his collection of Yellow Jerseys.

What’s in your flat kit?

June 22, 2011

This weekend I had a chance to get some credit toward that cycling merit badge I never earned. While running some errands, I crossed paths with a newbie cyclist. He was having a ball except for that whole got a flat and have no means of fixing it part.

Luckily the stars were aligned in his favor. We had a similar tire size so I was able to get him rolling in just a few minutes with a quick how-to lesson thrown in for good measure.

He was so intrigued with my flat kit I thought it might be worth sharing if any of you out there are still pressing your flat tire luck every time you go for a pedal.

Here’s a rundown of what I carry.

  • Tire Lever
  • 2 Tubes- Presta 700 x23 Long Valve (can stretch to fit 700 x 35)
  • CO2 Cartridges (only for emergency use)
  • Mini pump
  • Multi-tool (all the major Allen key sizes plus flat and Phillips head screwdrivers)
  • Glueless patch kit (just in case)

All of this goes neatly into a random bag found in a random bargain bin for under a buck a few years ago. Loaded up it’s about the size and heft of a flattened burrito.  I prefer a set up like this over a traditional seat bag because one kit can work for several bikes. There’s no need to switch anything around.  Just drop it in your bag and go. An added bonus is that it’s just small enough to slide into a jersey pocket when I go ride with the spandex crew though I have to steel myself for the inevitable “overnight bag” jokes.

If you’re in the process of setting up a repair kit, consider your bike and just how prepared you like to be.  If I ever break a chain, I’ll be the one standing on the side of the road.

take action CA cyclists!!

June 17, 2011

Senate Bill 910, cosponsored by the amazing people at the California Bicycle Coalition and the City of Los Angeles, would require motorists to give bicyclists at least three feet of clearance when passing from behind under most circumstances.

The California Senate approved SB 910 on June 1. On Monday, June 27, the bill will be up for a vote by the Assembly Transportation Committee. We need bicyclists like you to contact Assemblymember Bonnie Lowenthal, the chair of the committee, by phone, email or fax to let her know why this bill is so important to the safety of all bicyclists on the road!

A file documenting all messages of support for SB 910 accompanies the bill as it moves through the legislative process. This information is read by legislators and their staff and helps make the case for the bill. Your voice definitely counts! The deadline for calling or sending a message is 5 PM Tuesday, June 21.

You can express your support for SB 910 by phone or by email or fax:

By phone

Call the Assembly Transportation Committee office at (916) 319-2093 with this message:

“My name is _________ and I’m from _________ and I’m calling to express my support for Senate Bill 910, which will be heard by the committee on June 27. SB 910 would help create safer road conditions for bicyclists in our area and help prevent the leading cause of bicyclist fatalities in California.”

Please make this call by 5 PM next Tuesday.

By email or fax

Copy and paste the sample letter below into an email message or onto your own letterhead, add your name and location, and email it to Assemblymember.Lowenthal@assembly.ca.gov or fax it to (916) 319-2154 by 5 PM next Tuesday. Please also send a copy to the SB 910 author, Sen. Alan Lowenthal (no relation to Bonnie), at Senator.Lowenthal@senate.ca.gov or (916) 327-9113.

IMPORTANT! If you or a family member have been involved in a collision or fall in California because a motor vehicle passed too close, briefly summarize the facts in your letter. The information is essential for showing why this law is needed.

I hope we can count on your support. Please contact California Bicycle Coalition’s Communications Director Jim Brown at jimbrown@calbike.org or (916) 446-7558 if you have questions or need more information.

Thanks!

______________________________________________________________________________________________

SAMPLE SUPPORT LETTER

June 16, 2011
Hon. Bonnie Lowenthal
Chair, Assembly Transportation Committee
State Capitol, Room 3152
Sacramento, CA 95814

Fax:  916-319-2154

Re: SB 910 (Lowenthal) – SUPPORT

Dear Assemblymember Lowenthal,

I’m a bicyclist and I’m writing to express my support for Senate Bill 910, which will be heard by the Assembly Transportation Committee on June 27.

Bicyclists too often face dangerous conditions on California’s streets and roads due to motorists passing too closely. When this happens, the slightest error by the motorist or the most minor shift by the bicyclist to avoid trash, broken glass or rough pavement can lead to a collision. This type of collision is the leading cause of adult bicyclist fatalities in California and the U.S.

By requiring motorists to give bicyclists at least 3 feet of space when passing, SB 910 can help prevent deadly collisions and make more people feel comfortable about choosing to ride their bikes. The bill modifies existing state law that requires a motorist to maintain an unspecified “safe distance” when passing a bicyclist. The California Driver’s Handbook already recommends three feet of clearance when motorists pass bicyclists. Eighteen other states have enacted similar laws.

A specified passing distance provides a more objective and easily understood definition for “safe passing” and gives law enforcement and the courts a more objective basis for enforcing California’s safe passing requirement. Most importantly, it expresses a motorist’s special responsibility to share the road safely with more vulnerable road users like bicyclists.

I hope I can count on your support for SB 910.

Sincerely,

<<YOUR NAME>>

<<YOUR CONTACT INFORMATION>>

CC: Sen. Alan Lowenthal