By blackmountaincycles,

Filed under: Industry commentary, People Places Things

“What is fascinating is the way it has been folded.  You don’t even know how it had been folded.  But when I saw this, I’m sure that the owner of the bike was a passionate cyclist.” – Richard Leon

That quote comes from a video/story done by, a website I discovered following writer James Huang’s move from Bike to CyclingTips.  In the video, Richard Leon is explaining why he bought a certain old bike.  Because the tubular tire has been folded a certain way and not just rolled up, willy-nilly.  He sees thought behind the act of folding a tubular to carry as a spare, probably secured under the saddle by a toe-strap.  Someone, a long time ago, figured out a method to fold a tubular and it worked well.  He (could be a she, but for the sake of the narrative, he) may have not liked the bandolier method of carrying a spare wrapped around his shoulders and thought, “what if…”  The thought was most likely “Et qu’est-ce qui se passerait si…” or it could have been “cosa succede se…”*  What if I fold the tire just so into a small package and strap it under my saddle with an old toe-strap.  Maybe wrap it first in yesterday’s newspaper.  And then his riding partners saw how clever and compact his spare was and asked how he folded it.  And each of them told others, and so on, and so on, until, one day, I too learned how to fold a tubular.

Passion comes in many forms.  I’m passionate about figuring out how to do something that makes sense and results in something that performs perfectly, and is aesthetically pleasing.  I’m also passionate about learning and maybe learning how to perform a task differently that results in time saved without sacrificing the quality of the job.  Or better yet, time saved that also results in a better outcome.

A lot of passion is reserved for the rare and valuable.  The concept of breaking out the best tools only when the best bike is in the stand could be an example.  But, if you are passionate about being and doing your best, why not use the best all the time and be passionate about the job itself?

Today, there’s a lot of passion for the more mundane and pedestrian of bikes.  Utility.  Passion for the Wald basket.  At first, as I started to see that phenomenon begin to grow, I recalled an old bumper sticker that used to be at the old Salsa shop in Petaluma “Wald, When The Best Just Won’t Do.”  And then I found myself with a Wald Basket zip-tied to a rack on the front of my bike and realized passion extends to being able to use the bike for more than logging miles.

The bike industry has consistently put their dollars in areas the inside people are passionate about – road racing and the more extreme components of mountain biking.  Today, there are more and more riders doing ordinary things with their bikes because they are passionate about the ordinary.  I use “ordinary” because throwing you and your bike off a cliff in southwest Utah is not ordinary.  I can’t do that.  Bet you can’t either.  What you and I can do is ride our bikes for pleasure, transportation, and peace of mind.  We’re not fast, but we have fun.  And that’s what we are passionate about.  The bike industry needs to recognize that we are passionate about the ordinary.  Having fun is what the industry needs to be passionate about and promote.  Not the aero advantage of your bike.  Not how many watts you’ll save.  Not that this new crank is 9% stiffer.  Not having to have an app to tune your shifters.  Fun.  And maybe how to fold a tubular tire.  That’s a skill everyone should have, right?

Folded tubular properly stored under a Cinelli Unicanitor

Folded tubular properly stored under a Cinelli Unicanitor

(What’s playing:  Todd Rundgren I Saw The Light)

*Google translate

6 responses to “Passion”

  1. Michael in LA says:

    I started cycling back in the early 80’s, and the guys in my club I looked up to rode tubulars. When I built up my dream bike, it had tubular Mavic rims and I ran Vittoria tires. I always kept two tubulars on unbuilt rims hanging in the garage and one folded under the seat (with a layer of dried glue on it) secured with a toe strap just like the photo. I rode to work one day and got a flat. I switched out the tires and rode in. My boss asked how the ride was, and I mentioned that I got a flat. He told me to get the tire and come over to his office. He pulled out an ancient patch kit from his desk drawer and showed me how to peel back the base tape on the tubular, split the casing, patch the puncture, re sew the casing and glue the tape back to the tire. I didn’t know the man knew anything about bikes… He was a racer back in the 50’s, “Tires were expensive and hard to come by in Trona, CA – I learned how to fix ’em.”

  2. Dodge Whipple says:

    Been doing them that way since the 60s. That is just what one did with old straps. I can sew now because of those days.
    Also learned how to read the road ahead of me. Used to have to cut, patch, re stitch, and re-glue on the second flat.
    Todays tires are amazing. Im still learning that I can just ride thru that stuff.

  3. Tim says:

    I agree, today’s clinchers are so good that I don’t miss my sew-ups. As a starving student, I fondly remember coming up Eureka Canyon out of Corralitos and at the top intersection with Highland Way somebody had slung a nice barely-used quality tubular over the road sign. Just had a little hole in it is all. I took it home and fixed the puncture feeling like I had found quite the treasure! Thanks whoever it was!!

  4. Eric L says:

    Great write up, Mike. As more and more cyclist figure out that you can actually ride a bike in jeans and a t-shirt, I hope that the industry figures out that not everyone’s idea of a great bike is the eqivalent of a Formula One racer.

  5. Ernst Blofeld says:

    Everybody has a box of things that they don’t have an immediate use for, but that they can’t bear to discard because of the probability that they’ll eventually have a need that the part exactly, EXACTLY fills. Old toe straps are at the top of this list. The array of things that can be secured with an old toe strap are endless. They’re the perfect size for an unending array of tasks.

    The move to clipless pedals was a win, but I mourn the loss of old toe straps in the used parts bin.

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