Skip to main content

Hotrodding


You roll up to the light in the bike lane, let’s assume you don’t unclip. Instead you stand on your pedals and gently rock  back and forth in the perfect track stand. While you maintain your balance and look very cool a car pulls up next to you.
It’s not a normal car. The suspension is lowered and the wheels are neatly tucked into the fenders. The exhaust burbles with a throaty deep tone. The passenger side door is primer gray and most of the front grill is gone, in its place is a wide aluminum after cooler.
The driver glances over, acknowledging your killer track stand that is still going. You grin, then the light turns green. The car slips into gear, spools up the turbo and launches away from the light in a cloud of unburned fuel. The tires gleefully chirp as he catches second gear. You pedal away from the light as well.
The car was obviously a modified hot rod. As a cyclist, I bet you don’t think you have much in common with the person who creates something like that, I disagree.
I prefer a broad definition of hot rodder. I don’t think it should only apply to cars and motorcycles. I think you can hot rod any machine, especially a bike. Think about what the very first hot rods were. Henry Ford built the Model A as the world’s first cheap car. Just like a bike, the way to make it go faster was to lose as much extra weight as possible. The first thing to go were the fenders. Take ‘em off and throw them away. Ever seen the klunker bikes that went down Mt Tam or Pearl Pass? Same thing, no fenders.



The Model A was stripped of its hood, running boards and bumpers. What’s the first thing you did to the BMX bike your parents bought you? I pulled off the kickstand, chain guard and reflectors.
Stripping of unnecessary parts is just the first step, next comes the modifications. For the Model A owner this meant replacing the original engine with a more powerful block from a truck or a larger car like a Cadillac.
For a bike this can mean any number of upgrades. It usually starts innocently. The general rule is, when you break the stock part you get to replace it with something better and aftermarket. Or maybe you’re the rider who immediately pulls off your fork and shock before you even ride it. Maybe you send your stuff directly over to Luby and the boys at Dirtlabs for a custom suspension tune... I like the way you think.
Sometimes we are forced to modify our bikes. Shortly after the warranty ran out, the bottom bracket on my dirt jumper broke. I forget the exact details, but it was something like, 20mm and 22mm were the common sizes for bearings...Specialized ran a 21mm. The local dealer wouldn’t even look at it. It became clear that I would not find replacement bottom bracket bearings, I was looking at a whole new crank set up.
The guys at Joe’s Bikeshop came up with something that might work, so I bought the kit and started to put it on. I believe spacers and adapters might have been involved, but finally I installed both crank arms. I gave the crank a spin and...”clank,” one arm hit the frame. So I did what any self respecting hot rodder would do, and I ground away excess frame material with an electric grinder. Viola!

My friend Jeff wanted to build the perfect single speed mountain bike, but he needed more tire clearance. So, he cut away the bridge between both rear triangles.




It’s no secret that people can go out and just buy a fast car. Gone are the days when having a fast car meant that you built it. It’s much easier to just bring a pile of cash to a dealer and drive off the lot in some tire-melting street monster.
So next time you’re rocking a sick track stand at the light and a 700 horsepower Dodge Hellcat pulls up next to you, think about all the little mods and upgrades you’ve done to your ride. Shake your head slightly in disgust and say under your breath, “poser.” Because you have probably spent more time with a wrench in your hand than the car driver who actually thinks of himself as a “hot rodder.”

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

John Biro and the Dirt Bike (Not Bike Related)

  I knew John Biro. I was lucky to meet him early in my short time in that part of the mountains. At his service lots of people told great stories about him. Lots of people knew him better and new him longer. My Biro story is just a tiny scrap in the mountain of stories that could be told about him. But I want to tell it anyway, because I feel like one day his boys might be looking for new stories, little stories, everyday stories, about  their dad. I don’t want to tell a story about myself, I want to tell a story about Biro, but I just happen to be in it.   I first met Biro on his birthday in 1998. Shane and Marvelous Marvin led me up to his cabin. I had been sledding up Kebler before, and into Robinson basin. But I had always skirted around the townsite. The town site was forbidden, unless you had a reason to be there. I was excited to finally enter this mysterious place where smoke trickled from the chimney's of odd little cabins covered in snow. I stayed all day at the party a

Working in a bike shop Part 1 The Tube Shortage

   Bikes are so hot right now! The global pandemic has brought massive popularity to a thing that many of us already knew about. Bikes are cool. Riding Bikes is fun. It's conceivable that social distancing has killed many sources of recreation that people had come to rely on and enjoy. Obviously bowling isn't a sport, but it did provide entertainment to many people, and now bowling alleys are closed.    It would have been great if bowlers had taking the sport back to it's rough and tumble roots. I'd be interested in watching some gritty, underground 'street bowling.' I picture it in an abandoned warehouse run by bowling gangs. But that didn't happen. Instead everyone in the country said, "Hey don't we have some bikes still in the garage? We should ride those." or even better, they said, " You know, I think I'd like to try mountain biking, that looks fun!"   And so the Golden Horde was unleashed on an unprepared cycling industry. B

Cantilever Brakes

    A few years ago I convinced several friends to join me and ride The Gold Rush Bike Rally. This is a great ride that took us up gravel roads, over rough, rocky singletrack and then dropped us into winding canyon roads above Boulder. We rode a combination of mountain bikes, commuter and cyclocross bikes.   A funny thing about cyclocross bikes is that they continued to use cantilever brakes  long after that style of brake had gone extinct on mountain bikes. This post is about those brakes, and why they should be extinct.    The pavement felt fast and smooth after beating ourselves on the rocks and ruts of the Switzerland Trail. My brother was riding an older cyclocross bike and he started hauling down the hill with the rest of the team. In an instant his back tire violently blew out and he skidded to the side of the road with his foot down.    The team all gathered round and quickly had the wheel off his bike. The sidewall of the tire had a thin crescent shaped slice in it, and