Category Archives: Interviews

Jan Heine: A Randonneur’s Long Rides and Strong Words

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Jan Heine riding Naches Pass in the Cascade Mountains. Photo courtesy Jan Heine.

Until we spoke on the phone last week, the only things I knew of Jan Heine were from others’ stories online and in the relatively-small Seattle cycling world. Among them: that Heine was an incredible ultra endurance cyclist, notching very fast times on up to 1,200km rides with a no-nonsense approach to time management and little tolerance for those not riding the same way. That he was a deep devotee to the mid 20th-century French constructeur bikes (low-trail, 650b randonneuring bikes. And that he was unwavering in his convictions and often espoused unpopular opinions as Editor of Bicycle Quarterly with little regard for what other people thought of him. It’s something of an intimidating portrait.

It also turned out to be inaccurate. There is truth to his talents as an endurance rider, devotion to old French bikes, and willingness to express unconventional wisdom, but Heine is¬†affable, funny, and humble–a far cry from intimidating. Over the course of our conversation, we talked about his history in cycling, his love of randonneuring, his magazine Bicycle Quarterly and company Compass Bicycles, mainstream cycling media, and much more.

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Jim Sayer: The Big Money Business of Bike Touring

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Adventure Cycling Association’s Executive Director Jim Sayer.

As winter turns to spring and the weather starts airing on the side of nice, cyclists give in to powerful daydreams of summer adventures to come. Staff meeting bullet points are lost to fantasies about dry singletrack in remote forests. Dreadful morning commutes in the pouring rain are rationalized as preparation for that big ride marked on a distant page of the calendar. And now, more than ever, those summer cycling trips are taking the form of bike tours. Exact numbers are hard to come by, but the cycling world is experiencing an undeniable bike travel boom, from fully supported luxury rides to self-supported cross-country tours to family bike rides out to the local park for a night of camping. Nonprofit Adventure Cycling Association has played a role in that growth. For the past 43 years, ACA’s been mapping routes, leading tours, and advocating for better bike touring conditions in North America. Executive Director Jim Sayer has been at the helm for the past 10 years. I spoke to Sayers about ACA’s work, his love for cycling and bike travel, bike tourism advocacy, the huge economic impact of bike travel, and more.

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Eben Weiss: Cycling’s Most Famous Snob

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Bike Snob Eben Weiss in New York City. Screenshot via Vimeo.

I got off the train and started to jog. I was in Inwood at the very northern end of Manhattan and I was late for my meeting. Given that the man I was holding up has made his name as a scathing critic, I was a little worried. But when I arrived at the Indian Road Cafe, Eben Weiss greeted me at the door and quickly forgave me when he found out I was visiting from a subwayless city. As we waited for our waitress, Weiss explained that the park across the street from us is supposedly where the Dutch bought Manhattan from the Lenape Indians and that the confluence of the Harlem and Hudson Rivers was just around under the Henry Hudson bridge into the Bronx.

Weiss is, of course, Bike Snob NYC. He launched the wildly popular blog in 2007 as an anonymous and acerbic cultural critic, picking apart the booming fixed gear fad, the racing world, and the bike industry with daily posts. In 2010, as a lead up to the publication of his first book, Weiss came out to the world as the Snob. At the time, people wondered if the unveiling would mean the end of the blog. But five years and another two books later, Weiss is still posting daily as one of the most vocal cycling world pundits. Over the course of our lengthy lunch, we talked about the start of his blogging career, his evolution as a bike advocate, the oddities of bike world celebrity, becoming pals with Lance Armstrong, and much more.

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Mike Flanigan: Frame Builder History with ANT Bike Mike

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ANT Bike’s Mike Flanigan with a Boston Roadster. Photo via ANT Bike flickr.

New England is a stronghold of American custom frame builders. Portland, OR may have more of them, but New Englanders have been at it longer. The U.S. custom frame building business traces its roots to the 1970s when Richard Sachs, Peter Weigle, and Ben Serotta learned the craft at Whitcomb Cycles in London. Of course, companies such as Schwinn and Huffy had been manufacturing bicycles in the U.S. for decades, but Sachs, Weigle and Serotta were among the first to bring the tailor-made style of bicycle building to the States. When they returned to New England in 1972, Weigle and Sachs started the short-lived Whitcomb USA. Serotta started Serotta Cycles. The three laid the foundation for many generations of builders to come in the region.

Flash forward to the late 80s, Fat City Cycles was in full swing and a young Mike Flanigan rolled into Boston from Texas and talked his way into a job in the paint department. Over his five years there he became a master painter and found the time to teach himself TIG welding. When Fat City was sold in the mid-90s, Flanigan and a few other Fat City refugees started Independent Fabrication. In the early 2000s, dissatisfied with the direction of his company, he left and launched his one-man, city and cargo bike-focused shop, Alternative Needs Transportation (ANT). Between Fat City, Independent Fabrication, and ANT, Flanigan has played an important role in shaping the modern frame building landscape. He also played a part in bringing city bikes to the American mainstream. I spoke to Flanigan about his deep history in the frame building world, Fat City’s major influence, the value and significant of custom bikes, and his recent closure of ANT bikes.

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Luc Mehl: Life, Death, and Philosophy in the Alaskan Wilderness

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Luc Mehl (right) mid-way through a 200 mile ski and packraft trip. Photo by Danny Powers.

Luc Mehl is an adventurer in the truest sense. His deepest passion is to set a course across a tract of the Alaskan wild then cover it by foot, ski, packraft, bike, and even ice skate. He documents his human-powered traverses in great detail on his website through photography, video, and writing. For the past several years, his biggest objective was to complete traverses across North America’s three tallest peaks–Denali, Logan, and Orizaba–trips that took Mehl and partners across hundreds of miles of forests, desert, glaciers, rivers, and mountain peaks for nearly a month each time. In between, he’s done dozens of smaller traverses and many summer and winter Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classics, brutal point-to-point adventure races.

Bikes played an important role on two of his “Big Three” traverses, but Mehl is not a cyclist, per se (though he loves mountain biking and recently got a fat bike). Nonetheless there are universal themes of challenge, risk, reward and satisfaction in his adventuring that transcend modes of travel. I spoke to Mehl about growing up in the Alaskan interior and his early introduction to adventuring, the logistics of 30-day wilderness trips, what he gets out of his traverses emotionally and physically, balancing the very real risk of death with the rewards of his trips, and much more.

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