Sunday, March 21, 2010

Radio Bikes

A few years back, in a another life I was an east coast guy making a living buying and selling people's old stuff. My wife and I would drive up and down the eastern seaboard, combing yard sales, flea markets, auctions and antique shows for that which was old odd or unusual. One of the things that would always intrigue me was finding objects that had been customized or repaired in interesting ways. A chair being tensioned with twisted wire or a crystal bowl being held together with metal staples. I like the functionality, and when neatly exicuted, it can be aesthetic as well.

The bicycle is no stranger to such personalization or creative jerry-rigging. In fact this is where bikes dorks truly shine. Take for example this website devoted to fixing up old bikes. The single-speed gallery has been a source of inspiration for my current ride. There are however folks who push this basic fixing and customizing to another level. They are not simply putting a Brooks saddle and and fenders on an old ten-speed, or building the obligatory mohawkish tall-bike. Instead they are wrapping some part of themselves and their vision of the world into their build.

On a recent trip to New Mexico, I had the good fortune of attending the monthly EAA Chapter 530 pancake breakfast at the Las Cruces International Airport. Though there is nothing "international" about this airport except it's proximity to the Mexican border, the breakfast the EAA puts on is first-rate. Nice hint of green chiles in the eggs. My father is not an aviator but has been attending this breakfast for a number of years. There are plenty of mechanically inclined guys to share stories about mechanical and engineering feats.

I am my father's son and was delighted to see these bikes parked outside of the hanger where the breakfast is held. At first all I could think was "I've got to send pictures of these to the Bike Snob. He will love these." I never did get around to that and came across these images as I was organizing my photos.

What we have here are his and hers radio equipped touring bikes. Without the radios, these would surely be considered individualistically curated examples. A hand built Land Shark with Rock Shocks and a freaky cockpit configuration that would make a fighter pilot envious. A Light Speed with titanium frame and and Spynergy rear wheel and crankset I have never seen. Interesting bikes… But radios? Yup.

The couple who own these bike appeared to be retirement age and were only too happy tell about the ham radio system they have. apparently they had bigger radios in the past, thus the oversized boxes mounted on the areobars. they also admitted a bit sheepishly that one can now buy a pair of walky talkies that would do the same thing.

I watched them mount their bikes put on the helmets that have earphones and microphone built in, plug it all in and radio check as they took off.

I love bike dorks.


  1. get your facts straight, son.
    Its EAA Chapter 555, Las Cruces, NM
    You mixed it up with
    EAA Chapter 530, Los Lunas, NM
    Be careful where you land.
    Now getting around to evaluation of the breakfast:
    Your "hint of green chile" may have been correct for the serving you received (a moment of chef's inattention?)and I apologise. My experience has been a generous dollop of chopped green chile folded into the omelette, an amount calibrated to the local taste, though less than what La Posta would call "smothered".
    Now a tip for any of you Bikedork camp followers who find yourself pedalling parallel to I10 West of Las Cruces on a 3rd Sunday morning of the month, when you have turned off heading toward the airport, be sure to turn right onto Gasoline Alley and you will see the EAA555 hangar just inside the security gate.

  2. Thanks Dad, good fact checking is key to good writing. Perhaps one of the good points of the world wide web is that someone out there will call you out when you fall short of the mark. As for the breakfast, I also failed to mention the pancakes. It is a pancake breakfast. Eggs included.

  3. I believe the cranks are Topline. I have a black version that I put on an older Kestrel - lightweight alloy, They've held up well under a lot of riding over a number of years (and I pretty much hover above 200lbs).