photo: Paul McKenzie
Welcome to Rock the Bike, where we average 2.5 laptops per employee. Yes, we are thrilled to reach untold levels of productivity in our airy new office! This room had always adjoined our workshop but only now did we have a chance to use it, after 2 years in Unit B and 7 years on Channing way. Leif, Ben, and I put in the bamboo floor and built the desk. Took us two days.
And we’re stoked. We can open that window and pass invoices and packing slips to whoever’s working in shipping that day. When it’s closed the space is fairly quiet and dust free. It’s fun rolling around on bamboo. The materials for the project cost us less than $50. Guests will have a space to look at product literature, press clippings and bike magazines, Rock the Bike videos, all while checking out the action in the bicycle customization station on the other side of the window.
This afternoon in the workshop I got a call from Joel, the drummer from Afrolicious and Pleasure Maker (Thursdays at the Elbo Room). I met Joel when we were on the 2-Mile Challenge tour together. He said,
“Sorry I couldn’t make it to your gig last week, I was working.”
“Moving? Like for cash?
“How much they paying you?”
“18 an hour.”
“Dang, I’d offer you work at Rock the Bike, because we need help with assembly and packing and shipping right now, but we normally pay only $12.”
“That’s OK man, I’d totally work for you, because I believe in what you’re doing.”
“Really? Thanks Joel.”
“No problem. And you should come by the Elbo tonight.”
“Thanks, I’ll try to make it around 11. Can you put me on the guest list?”
Then I got home, had dinner and got a text from Julia about an event at Cellspace.
“OK I’ll swing by, but I’m going to Elbo later.”
The exhibit at Cell Space was an incredible cardboard city about 20 feet by ten feet, with a miniature helicopter floating around. There was a miniature remote control helicopter flying through the skyscrapers of the cardboard city. It’s up until April 17. Gotta go see it!
Anyway, after checking out the city, I suggested a cruise so we left. It was me, Julia, and Tyson, whose chain sounded like a chorus of crickets. We had a great ride up to Billy Goat hill, and watched the city. It was late so I had to coax them to come with me to the Elbo Room. But it was a downhill cruise awaiting us so it wasn’t that hard. Three abreast on Cesar Chavez was really nice. Julia was saying we felt like a bike gang. The Plush Red Down Glow on my my mom’s Electra was sweet. Sometimes it’s good to ride a totally simple bike. I can see the appeal of fixed gear bikes. I just love me knees. Anyway, we roll up to the Elbo Room. The woman at the door let all three of us in. Sure enough, Joel was in his element playing along on traps with Afrolicious. During a set break I got to introduce him to my friends and catch up a little. We danced until 1 or so and then cruised. I sprayed Boeshield on Tyson’s chain and said goodbye.
I headed upstairs and parked in front of the computer like I normally do when I should be sleeping. I checked the What’s Hot page on Rock the Bike. I noticed a comment on my post about JoyRider clothing, entitled bicycle fashion:
“Bravo! A clothing line that is not centered around spandex! At Velo Vogue, we also applaud cycling in normal fashionable clothing. Clothing lines such as Joyrider will help de-marginalize cycling for transportation! Looking good!”
So I clicked the link and sure enough it’s a hip little blog about San Francisco bicycle fashion, with lots of fun photos. And there at the bottom of the page, ladies and gentlemen, was Joel Elrod, riding with a companion in Golden Gate park, wearing a black hat and a cool T-shirt:
What’s up bike people? I just wanted to give you a little update on Rock The Bike as we head in to the Spring.
Rock The Bike is growing! Last year this time there was only one employee, me. Now there’s five of us! I’ll get you a picture soon. There’s Emmeline, who balances the books and crunches the numbers, Paul, our in-house pro videographer photographer extreme athlete, Leif, our product designer, and Melanie, our customer service rep and outreach specialist. And I am now working 100÷ on RTB, having stepped down from running Worldbike, as I had since 2003. (A huge salute to Worldbike’s new director, Kristna Evans, who is on a mission to take Worldbike from a rough-and-ready grassroots bike-focused nonprofit, to a international poverty-focused NGO using bicycles as a tool for economic empowerment.) With each of RTB’s key new hires, we shift from amateur to professional in their area of focus.
And as I hail this moment of losing our amateur status, I must acknowledge that we’ve been less than perfect in some areas this past year, including our customer service. So if there’s anything that’s bugging you about about a Rock The Bike purchase or product, please let us know. In particular, if you had to deal with a delay of more than 2 weeks on a Down Low Glow purchase without proper communication from us, and would like a shipping refund, please let us know. Please use the contact page on the left and select “customer service” as the topic.
Phew, now that we’ve got that out of the way, let me tell you some of the cool things we’re working on this Spring.
I guess I’m ready to announce that we’re hard at work on a new version of our flagship product, the Down Low Glow. I’ve used the DLG almost every night for the past 5 years. I’ve used all the colors except Royale Purple. I love the DLG and know that there are aspects of the current version that I’m really going to miss. But the new version will without a doubt solve the waterproofing problem we’ve battled from day 1, and be much simpler, with fewer things to attach to your bicycle in order to use it. The new DLG will be a much more ‘manufactured product’, whereas the current one was I think correctly described as ‘cottage industry’ by Velovision’s Peter Eland. We currently make every DLG system by hand in our West Berkeley workshop. There are so many parts and so many steps involved in making it, many of which are rising in price, that we are now forced to raise the price of our trickle-charged DLG systems by about 10÷. The price change will go into effect April 8, so please take that into account if you are planning to buy one. Customers who purchase a DLG system between now and our early summer release of the new DLG will get access to industry pro-deal pricing on the new one. So if you’re psyched to buy the DLG now, go for it. I promise you won’t regret getting started sooner than later with this amazing product!
Let’s see, what else? We’re now the exlusive North American distibutor for the Yuba Mundo, a heavy duty cargo bike that will make a great platform for custimizing to your unique cargo. We’re becoming, in a sense, long-wheelbase bicycle specialists, because we also carry and install the Xtracycle FreeRadical. So if you want unbiased advice on which cargo utility bike platform is right for you, please contact us.
We entered the Bicycle Film Festival with an extended version of our Innovate-Or-Die piece on the Choprical Fish. We’ll be doing lots more on-the-ground documentation of San Francisco’s bike culture in the coming year, now that Paul McKenzie is on board.
We’ve also doubled our square footage in our workship.
Well, I think that about covers it. If you’ve read this far you must be interested in our little company and our crazy mission to “bring the light, bring the beat”, and help each of you truly rock ou on you’re two-wheeled thing. I thank you for your support and interest, whether you’re a customer, a fan, or just a web surfer.
Paul a.k.a. Fossil Fool
Do you wonder why they don’t make clothes for bike commuters with more subtle style, less spandex, and fewer bright logos?
They do. Sometimes you just have to wait until ‘they’ come by your workshop community looking for welding help on a clothing rack.
Nan Eastep heads up Joyrider Clothing — a custom line of clothing and bags for city riders. This is the front of her new bike bag, which features a really spacious roll-down bag, some nice front pockets for phone and wallet, and a structure that hugs your sides to support the weight as you rock back and forth on climbs.
A couple new products are helping bike people cruise with music this spring.
The Gadget Bottle is a functional water bottle that has no batteries or speakers, but its unique shape allows you to strap a cell phone with an internal speaker and listen to your MP3s as you ride. It fits inside a standard water bottle cage. At 2:35, inventor Steve Lach takes a phone call from his wife, holding the entire Gadget Bottle to his ear, with his flip phone securely rubber banded in place! No problem with one-handed use while cruising or training.
To up the volume a bit, the iHome2Go Cycler is a rechargeable black water-bottle shaped single-speaker music system that conceals an iPod and includes a handlebar mounted control.
Eugene, Oregon-based bicycle advocate and customer Shane Rhodes, a.k.a. The Bike Phantom, recommends it and says the volume is big enough for a small cluster of riders to hear the music. With a 3″ speaker, the Cycler isn’t going to deliver satisfying bass hits. It’s a basic law of speaker design that the smaller the speaker and its enclosure, the harder it is to get good bass response.
But how important is bass response on a bicycle? I think it’s essential, and Rock the Bike is obviously committed to the path of building bicycle music systems with cabinets large enough to deliver satisfying bass. With good bass, you and the people around you feel ‘in the music’. Without good bass, you can sing along with your friends to your favorite songs, which is a wonderful experience. But it’s a different experience than cruising in the music, which feels a bit like being in your own music video. Plenty of people disagree with me on the importance of bass response.
Others are more hardcore than I am:
Sean and his wife run www.FlowToys.com — they make light toys for Poi dancing and staff spinning. They recently came out with a new product called the FlowLight, a cool fish-shaped toy with about a dozen different light modes that look especially cool while spinning or moving. The LED’s flicker in ways that cause a ‘persistence of vision effect‘.
Sean was heading to the Oregon Country Fair, a multi-day festival, to sell his wares. He tricked out his Xtracycle with bins to showcase his staffs and store his inventory. There are shimmering reflective holographic stickers on the main triangle of the frame. He also purchased some custom “ghost” colored Down Low Glow (a light purplish white).
Sean came up with a custom kickstand for his rig too.
It should be noted that Xtracycle frames have a cantilevered rear section. So supporting it from the rear is not appropriate for some applications, like bike blending, when there will be a rider on the bike.