Thursday, October 20, 2005

No. 52, Vol. 4 - Mudplugger, Part Deux.

Here's the Gaansari Mudplugger FB, which stands for fillet brazed. The Mudplugger is our world-class cyclocross model, available in both lugged steel with handbuilt steel fork and fillet-brazed steel with carbon fork painted to match. The lugged version is for retro-folk ga-ga for lugs and flat fork crowns, while the fillet-brazed version is lighter and easier to clean after giving it a mud bath.

Spec as shown: Sugino XD 175mm cranks, FSA 43T chainring, FSA Ultimax 103mm bottom bracket, Panaracer Cross-Blaster 700x31c tires, Gaansari GoldenBoy hubset (135mm rear), Salsa Delgado rims, Shimano BR-550 cantilver brakes, Crank Bros. Candy pedals, gold King headset, Kalloy Guizo stem, On-One Midge bars, Cane Creek aero brake levers, SRAM PC-1 chain, Shimano 18T BMX freewheel, Gaansari Safety post, and San Marco Rolls saddle. Color: Stable Boy Orange with French Custard double-box pinstriping, like old Jack Taylors used to be. Priced as shown: @ $2,950. All frames made and painted with mud in mind in Ohio by Jack.

All dressed up and ready to go. Look out Ohio Valley Cyclocross series, here comes slow-poke Gary B.!

~ Gary

Friday, October 14, 2005

No. 51, Vol. 4 - New Direction, New Hours, New News

The braintrust that is Cycles Gaansari had a strategic planning session all day Wednesday, October 12, to determine `Where are we going, and how do we get there?' Our brands, Gaansari and SKIDSTRONG, are growing in strength and the demands on our time to feed that growth has moved into the forefront of our business. That, and the fact that we need to focus on our strengths as well as acknowledge the current state of bike shop retail.

The result? We've decided to jettison some bike brands from the retail floor, re-allocate funds for more Gaansari branding and product development, shrink our retail store hours, expand our mail order business, offer mail order phone hours, shuffle personnel, and, in the astute words of Larry the Cable Guy, "git-r-done!"

We're also having a Great Big Sale to clear bike inventory: all remaining Jamis, Brompton, Co-Motion, Orbea, and DK models are marked down considerably. Sale applies to in-store sales only - call or stop by to see what's available. We'll honor our service commitment to all bikes models sold prior to this change, rest assured. Our retail floor anchor brand will continue to be Bianchi.

New Business Hours
Beginning Monday, October 17, our new Retail Store Hours are Mondays and Fridays only, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. EST, Saturdays 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. EST. Our new Mail Order Phone Hours are Monday - Friday 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. EST.

Personnel Shuffle
Effective immediately, Justin Kellermeier is our new SKIDSTRONG brand manager, in addition to being the best skidder, trackstanding clown, and world-class wheelbuilder we know. He can be reached at

Whether you're a new customer, long-time supporter, or just a curious onlooker, we appreciate your interest in Cycles Gaansari and look forward to many years of two-wheeled fellowship. Thanks for supporting us.

~ Gary & Jean

Sunday, October 09, 2005

No. 50, Vol. 4 - Mudplugging, Anyone?

Cyclocross, in a nutshell, is like doing steeplechase on a bicycle. Steeplechase is a footrace of usually 3,000 meters over a closed track with hurdles and a water jump; cyclocross is a bicycle race of usually a mile over a mix of asphalt and dirt trails, with 40cm high barriers staggered around the course to add various degrees of difficulty. Ascents, descents and adverse cambers also add great theater for spectators.

Cyclocross bikes are pretty unique for a few reasons, namely the cross-hybridization of two disciplines: road and MTB. At a glance, a cyclocross bike looks like a road bike: drop handlebars, bar-end or integrated brake lever shifting, narrow 700c diameter wheels, svelte tubing and narrow saddle. But closer inspection turns up cantilever brakes and more tire clearance for wider tires and the mud that often plugs up the narrow knobbies, hence the term “mudplugging.” Many cyclocrossers use narrow, slick tires to train on country roads, then switch to 700x30c semi-slick knobby tires for racing.

We’ve decided to enter the fray with the Gaansari Mudplugger, inspired by countless hours discussing bicycle design and cyclocross dynamics with multiple national `cross champion Tim Rutledge, former pro racer and product designer for Redline Bicycles, now with Raleigh America (thanks for the correction, Reed). Just like the rest of the Gaansari line, expect to see a nice mix of old-school heritage with smart componentry options: handlebars from On-One, Nitto, Salsa and others; crankset options from Ritchey, Stronglight, TruVativ and others; tires from Panaracer and others. Frames made in Ohio by Jack. Color: Stable Boy (Fiskars scissors) Orange with French Custard painted head tube and seat panel (lugged version) or Stable Boy (Fiskars scissors) Orange with French Custard box pinstriping (fillet-brazed version).

Check it out!

~ Gary B.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

No. 49, Vol. 4. - Knee Farts and Bureau Diving

The Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival is an annual tradition for my friends the Brothers Smith, Tim and Steve, and I. The Fat 40, a 40-mile point-to-point race from Hayward, Wisconsin to Cable, is the gem of the weekend’s festivities. Since its inception 23 years ago, the race has grown in stature and its fame has spread. Greg LeMond rolled up to the line a month and a half after winning his third Tour de France in 1990 (and fresh off catching a world-record small-mouth bass in the area that very week), and promptly spanked my and 2,300 others behinds in a driving rain that sent virtually everyone on more of a muddy death march than a bike race. But the tradition of two-wheeled fellowship with the Brothers Smith began a few years prior.

Back in 1989, Steve and I shared a tiny upper flat in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, about a 30-minute drive from the Kettle Moraine State Forest, southern unit, where the John Muir Trail offered (at the time) a few miles of challenging but exhilarating singletrack. Steve was a diehard bicyclist, as well as the knucklehead responsible for getting me into bicycles in the summer of 1988. He would drive out to the Kettle and ride by himself (I didn’t own a mountain bike yet), coming home covered head to toe in loamy, Wisconsin mud, his Lycra-covered Giro ProLite helmet perched above his foggy Oakley Pilot glasses, slightly askew, with a muddy-tooth grin from ear to ear. He was stoked; I was nonplussed. I was just getting into road bikes, but was intrigued by the notion of beating the crap out of my body.

Fast forward to that fateful 1990 Chequamegon Fat 40; the mass start, the pageantry of bikes, the trails of northern Wisconsin! Nothing prepared me for the thrill (or the pain) of the race. More than five hours later, I crossed the finish line too limp to walk, pee, eat or even talk, but boy, I was hooked like a salmon swimming upstream. The camaraderie of the Brothers Smith had begun, and I became the catalyst for our return each year.

The annual ritual of doing the Fat 40 expanded once our mutual friend Bob “10 o’clock” Nelson came on board in the early `90s. Not only did Bob’s bureau diving at the Super 8 liven up the trip each year, but his shenanigans brought out the funnyman in Steve, one of the most adroit knee-fart makers I’ve ever met (or had the privilege of sharing a crowded Honda Civic with to and from Hayward, rancid flatulence notwithstanding). Matchmaker Steve also introduced Bob to his future wife Heidi during the spaghetti dinner in 1996.

Steve and Tim grew up in Morton, Illinois, just outside Peoria. Smitten with bikes at an early age, the Brothers Smith rode and raced BMX, graduated to road racing, then climbed aboard their Specialized Stumpjumpers by the late 1980s. As fate would have it, we all got into the bike industry at one point or another in the 1990s: Tim hooked up with SRAM in 1996; Steve with Hanson-Dodge, the ad agency for Trek, in 1995; myself with Allis Bike & Fitness in 1991.

Tim is now head engineer for SRAM, overseeing 100 pocket-protecting mad scientists all over the world. Steve stuck it out with the pressure cooker H-D through October 1998, and I’ve ebbed and flowed through several gigs with Rivendell, Waterford, Airborne, Schwinn/GT, then started Cycles Gaansari with my wife, Jean in 2003. The diploma I earned through the School of Hard Knocks with those companies, as well as learning about the bike industry vicariously through my days as a freelance journalist, enabled me to launch a bike company with enough legs to provide a decent living for my family and (hopefully) our employees for years to come.

So, after a seven-year hiatus from the Fat 40, I acquiesced to Steve’s incessant badgering and throw my name into the lottery (did I mention only 2,400 people are allowed entry into the weekend’s races each year, with 1,700 allowed for the Fat 40?) and accompanying the Brothers Smith to Hayward, just like old times. My bib number was 468 (I submitted my one-page “essay” in March), and the first issue was “which type of bike to ride.” A standard hardtail? Full suspension? Should I use 26-inch or 29er wheels? Singlespeed? Fully geared? Fixed? Straight, riser or drop bars? Man, it was seven years since I did the race, and I was prone to experimentation every time: cyclocross in `96, and front suspension just once, in `98. The course is pretty forgiving due to its wide-berth fire roads and non-technical singletrack, but the stutter bumps, sand, gravel and rocks can wear down even the most stalwart rider in no time. I mean, 40 miles off-road is still 40 miles in the saddle, right?

My choice for a triumphant return to the Fat 40? A singlespeed, fully rigid, steel, 29er with cyclocross dirt drop bars, geared 42 x 18, topped off with a Brooks Conquest sprung saddle as the only nod to suspension. I figured, “let’s show those high-tech racer boys how it’s really done.” I wore a brand new wool jersey emblazoned with GAANSARI in yellow, straight-out-of-the box Kucharik wool shorts, Crank Brothers Candy pedals, and Lake MTB shoes. Besides, I’ve never raced the Fat 40 to set any records, just to have fun and be a guinea pig. I did, however, post my personal best time of 3:44:29, an overall placing of 1,410 out of 1,700; not bad for not having ridden, let alone trained, off-road in 16 months. Tim also posted a personal best of 2:57:14, placing 625th overall, while Knee-Fart King Steve finished a blazing 2:33:22, placing 177th.

Curiously, I received more encouraging comments from fellow racers than years past: “Way to go singlespeed!” “Dude! Cyclocross!!” “Awesome 29er!” “I can’t believe you passed me on a singlespeed!” “Keep it up, old-school!” I owe more to the pioneers of this fine sport of off-road racing than they realize. Their influence, mentoring and inspiration through the years has been priceless: Scot Nicol (Ibis); Steve Potts and Charlie Cunningham (WTB); Ross Shafer (Salsa); Grant Petersen (Bridgestone & Rivendell); Tom Ritchey.

When my days get long and life seems to fly by with no respite from the overbearing weight of Being A Grown Up, I can always retreat to the trails and dream fondly of next year’s Fat 40, and smirk when thoughts of knee farts and bureau diving.

Gary Boulanger steers Cycles Gaansari with his wife Jean in Springboro, Ohio, just 10 minutes from the trailhead at Caesar’s Creek State Park, southwest Ohio’s answer to the Kettle Moraine.

No. 47, Vol. 4 - SKIDSTRONG Trackie lives!

We may have set a new land-speed record for launching a new bicycle brand. In less than four weeks, from concept to reality, the SKIDSTRONG brand is live. As we've said on this blog before, proceeds from the sale of every SKIDSTRONG product go to the Bicycle Messenger Emergency Fund, a 501 (c)3 non-profit founded in 2001 and administered by Jean Vallery in Sarasota, Florida.

Fixed-gear fever is spreading throughout pop culture and the bicycle industry, and the real heroes, full-time bike messengers, need your help. Cycles Gaansari launched the SKIDSTRONG brand on September 15 to raise awareness and funding for the BMEF through the sale of SKIDSTRONG-branded fixed-gear framesets, complete bicycles, clothing and accessories (including R U SKIDSTRONG wristbands in brown, gold or pink), available exclusively here.

“The Bicycle Messenger Emergency Fund was created to help out bicycle messengers after they’ve been involved in a crash that knocks them out of work,” Mr. Vallery said. “This fund provides emergency cash for an injured bicycle messenger during the first 24 - 36 hours of pain from injuries.”

SKIDSTRONG framesets are made in Ohio. Riders can choose from frame and fork or complete bikes. SKIDSTRONG T-shirts, wristbands and chainstay stickers are available online. Call 937-748-8862 for more information or email us.

Friday, October 07, 2005

No. 48, Vol 4. - Wallace & Gromit

My family and I have been Wallace & Gromit fans since my kid sister Andrea turned us on to the clever duo in the early 1990s, and what's not to like about W&G? The subtle humor, the decidely British-ness of it all has provided joy for Jean, the kids and I for quite some time.

We're more than excited to see the first full-length W&G feature film coming out today, "The Curse of the Were-Rabbit." Oddly, most films coming out of the Dreamworks factory are subpar, mediocre, or just plain bad, but Nick Park and his crew have been batting a thousand since signing up with Dreamworks for "Chicken Run" in 2000.

Here's a delightful interview with the ever-pleasant Nick Park, who seems quite pleased with the film. "Something wicked this way hops," indeed.

~ Gary