Friday, April 10, 2015

MAKING CHOICES for L'eroica California from my quiver of cameras and bikes..


I am going to L'eroica California taking place the 11th and 12th of april in Paso Robles. When planning for a trip I usually consider if there will be a bike I can use when I get there :

eh WOT?

or consider taking a my favorite travel bike so I can get on on of trains and buses with ease.:
the simply amazing Giant MR4

sometimes I even consider taking the kitchensink along and riding a cargo bike.:

not the kitchen sink but somewhere around 60 loaves of bread , nothing to a bullit

      My point is that the  bicycle and the camera are both tools that I use every day and I am lucky enough to have more than one choice. Sometimes its simply a matter of the camera that has film in it or the bike that has air in the tires than makes the choice ,but often the choice has other factors to be considered. Just as a racing bike and a bob trailer is not the choice for a Keg run , a view camera is not something you would want to try to take photos of a punk show with.

In general I prefer to use bicycles that have older parts on them because they had a unstated design life and were often sold with a lifetime warrenty.  Now many of the new parts being made have a 2 year stated design life and unit replacement is the only option when something breaks.

 Other reasons include what I find visually appealing,  and the simple fact that a 1/2 X1/8 chain can be used much longer that a 1/2X3/32 and 5 speed chains last longer than 9 speed chains.
 Cameras are the same thing. I like older manual ones . And yet the old stuff (non electronic?) still works and is servicable, if you can find a camera tech or Bike mechanic to do it for you: many of the trained camera guys are getting on in years  and parts are getting scarce as stores are depleted so, while it can still be done its just getting harder to find someone to do it.
    Unlike cameras with vintage bicycles many of the most common spares for the older equipment have be remade in our times, Brake lever gumhoods,brake pads,and vintage style clothe tape are just a few of the things the bicycle industry has reproduced to help give those old bikes and parts a longer life.

As I was saying the ride usually defines the bike I will bring on it . That being said L'eroica california is one of the first rides that I have been on where the rules of the ride define what bicycle you can ride rather than the conditions and whim.

see the rules here:
It boils down to a pre 1987 road racing MTB no Touring no cyclocross

OK, so here we have a ride/event that defines what I can ride. Of course my first instinct is to ride the bike I ride every day: is all older than 1987, except for my front rack..and it almost fits the rules..(HAHA) it would be great because I know it can carry all my camera gear and handle dirt.. HOwever it is a fixed gear and the parts it has are old they are not the proper parts for the cycle as it was when produced and I do not wish to return it to that state, as the only parts I left on it were the seatpost binder bolt and the headset.


reading further down the regulations I  noticed that vintage "postal"and other types are allowed on the shorter ride, and thought for a second about my 50's english sandwhich bike ,seen here done up for a Critical Mass anniversary about a decade ago.

complete with lanterns umbrella and blow up monkey!
it however is in a serious state of disrepair.

   Next I figure that it would be great to ride a frame made by my sensi's.., here again I have a problem.. I have a Jack Taylor ,touring/rough stuff bike,which would be great on those roads. but alas it has the wrong diameter wheels to be a racing bike

also considered, but Not legal. my curved tubed fixed wheel,  the  lo profile tt bike (fits the rules as far as parts but it is TT bike),  so they all are as useful to getting me into that ride as my  unicycle!
too new .....1996 model...

Well what bike should I bring then?
 My vitus-which has the same parts since I got it in 1983 or 4 ?
 it works but its soul less and has too many hours on it to still havee "snap". The entry level Gitane with sew ups and cotterd cranks?. I was getting low , cottered cranks ? I mean .....thats when I decided to celebrate the great state and ride my  RICK GARNER bicycle which was made sometime around 1976 here in California . Here is the story of my Garner.

    Rick Garner and his brother Mike had a bicycle shop in the Redwood city. I was a kid in those days so I don't know if I met him back then or no,t but it is likely ,  because looking back at old Bike World and Bicycling Magazines, I find that Rick Garner had more than a few Photo Credits , so he was a photographer ,and thus he probably took photos at events I was at,  in any case, I had no idea he made frames until this one entered my life. (There were two other brothers i do remember meeting- the Kornahrens's and Fred was a photographer and they made bike things too ,also south bay)..anyhow..

      The bike as I got it came with all the parts it was purchased with and lets one glimpse into a period of time in Northern California where things were just starting to change the world.
             I came to purchase this bicycle as I was riding away, down the bike path, from the Mill Valley Bike  Swap (trips for kids )  about 15 years ago. I was wearing a TA t-shirt (the one with FIFI on it)

different than my shirt but here is FIFI anyways 

and from 50 feet away I saw the TA cranks on this Garner ,that was being walked towards me on a shoulder with flat sewup tires(they look different flat). I slowed as I approached the guy carrying the bike and said "neat bike ,I like the cranks ,they match my t-shirt, besides you don't see many with black anyodized chainrings."
the bike as I got it (more or less)

His face lit up, "they were the last ones he had in the shop when I picked out the bike, he got them done special". Well a bit of negotiation, after that good start and I found myself in charge of this bike. The lack of wear on the drive train and the fact that grease purged from everywhere the first time I rode it leads me to think it has had very few miles on the road. The cranks were longer than I like at 175 and 49 -44 is not quite the range I need so I took of the cranks and pedals (shame to put wear on them as well) and put on some used 170's with steel pedals and a 50 42 for this ride. The rear clincher wheel I have changed out for the sew-up has a 32 tooth large gear so I should not have to walk unless the rise is so steep I can't mainain traction. The rear changer is a campag rally with the cast upper body.    I choose this bike because I feel  the soul and the story of this bike are is an example of some of the clues to how cycling got to where it is in california and the world today.

the bike as I have been riding it with changes as described above.

     This bike is much like bikes from europe of the day but having a few features that show where California cycling was going. I had a conversation with Rick the maker  some years after I got the bike and a few years before his shop closed. He said that they produced some frames (less than 50?) but did a paint a lot of bikes. If you take a look at  Bret Steelmans site : ( )
you will see that he must have made his first frames , with some of the tools that made this frame because, he mentions that it was at Garners pro bike shop that he first had access to frame building tools, (although he had many vocational classes in high school).
       The paint on the bike is very with metal flake contrasted with creamy white panels. The decals interest me ..where did they come from? the top tube looks like it could almost be letrraset
with clear coat over it but the headbadge..this decal is something else

sorry big was the only way to show the detail

I can only think that this must of been something offered up by a local distributer such as Jevlot ,who at this time among other things was producing Campagnolo wall posters and cycle frames as well many other products that were sold wholesale (tirelife anyone?!!).
Another possibility could be he got the DECALS  through mike synard,  after all the toe straps on this bike are branded Specialized N230,

Black chainrings alloy clips..

 in any case- he did have decals made with his own name on them, and they look like you could have got any name you like in there when you ordered, of course, I could be way off base here and this could indeed be the Garner Family crest.

       I  still fondly remember the decade when this bike was made, I was 10 or 11 hanging out in the family bike shop I grew up in,   across from Golden Gate Park on Fulton st. I had been riding for a few years by the time of this bike . I first started riding on 20" sew ups(see my last post for a photo) and besides my grandmother , Mike Synyard was one of my early tire suppliers, small sew-up being almost as scarce then ,as they are now. In any case ,Mike was at first ,was one of the shops few motorcycle riding visitors, bringing tires and small parts on the back of a motorcycle( Richard Rosenberg the other moto regular at the shop came weekly picking up flat tubulars and dropping of last weeks that he has repaired). Kids notice things like motor cycles...
       I  later remember him coming one time in a car ,and having a trunk full of campag parts  after that I recall a few visits in the all so famous van. By then he had products with his branding , mainly tires and as on this bike toe straps , I am assuming that these were the only straps ever on these pedals becusae the pedals show almost no wear. I have no doubt he stopped at Garners as well, it was much closer to him than San Francisco.

      In any case some of the things he was selling ,our shop already had access to because we were importing Jack Taylor's and with them  TA cranks and rings as well as Mafac parts. We were friends with JW MURPHY imports down on shipley st  in SOMA ,who had their own tire brand General,which they had made in italy  He was also our neighbor where we lived ,his 3 daughters and I traded off bikes as we each in turn outgrew one and passed it down.- My point is that stuff  like TA cranks were  around but to take some rings  down the road and pay someone to make it black.. that was the extra step , that some people took in the 70's ..

Heck some of them didn't stop at just black..every body was doing something special
Why just look at the job done on these campy shifters by a constructeur from down near Paso Robles and the town of los osos the mad machininst  A.D.STUMP

.. Garner was in this Zeitgiest, and  wanting to be a player , just look at the milling on the seatpost if you doubt me..

  The bike has leather covered cinelli bars and seat and, except for the crankset is all campagnolo.

well enough about the bike.. lets talk cameras- unlike the bicycle more than camera can be used at one time..

    Similar to the method of choosing a bike from the quiver, the choice of camera has similar effects.
The only camera restriction I really have for the event is what equipment I can carry.
I have decided  however to use all vintage cameras, this only eliminates a few point and shoots from my selection of available cameras.

 I will use a 35mm Konica Auto-rex p made in 1965 as it allows me to shoot both 1/2 and full frame from the same body. I think that the macro 28MM F 1.8 (not a typo!) I have will be on this most of the time allowing for quick Hyper focal shots as well as the ability to get within 8 cm of a subject so I can catch the small details of the bicycles in the Concors. I will probably take along a 135mm lens as well..

My KONICA Auto Rex-P with the 28 1.8 mounted and MY great-grand-fathers
French 28 3.5 from the 50's which I will also use...

   I want to take some instant photos as well and this is where my choices get tough. I envision doing some heroic portraits from a low angle with a wide lens that will show a bike close up and the rider in a distorted view.. I can only do that with my mamiya Universal which was introduced in 1970, the 50mm f6.3 has a wonderful light gathering quality. Heres a shot from it I was trying out a super low angle on.

I also like to have a SLR instant camera for action shots and close ups .. The graflex reflex shows you the exact image that will be on the film but reversed like this..

on the ground glass the image is reversed, the cooke lens has a shallow focus.

It has a focal plane shutter, so it is great for available light.Becuase of the mechanics of the focal plane, I can handhold it without blur at 1/10 ! The lens I have in it is a cooke series two which hails from england, the lens came to me from my great grandfather, and is from before the war,  the Graflex reflex was made for decades but I think that mine is from the 50's the lens being from the 20's. its the camera on the left in this group shot..

my L'erioca camera selection and  about 200 instant shots and 500 35 mm shots.. I want to be able to do 100 portraits, do no think I am fast enough to do 100 but I want to have the film..

         The camera on the right is the only one I havn't mentioned, this is a modified Graflex Speed Graphic Pacemaker 4X5 that I have installed a Buhl optical (pittsburg) 9" F 3.2 Projector lens that I like to use for formal portraits and tilt shift land scapes.. I don't see riding around with this camera as I do at home , but rather having it set up on the square as another option to offer besides the Mamiya, this camera was made in the early 50's , the lens does not have an aprature so I use it wide open or with a Neutral Density filter.
        A little aside about the Graflex company: the company had its formative history at the turn of the last century and in a rather short period was bought by Kodak and then later spun off as required by some anti monopoly actions where the company was  finally named Graflex after an early camera model similar to my reflex camera. Before the firm was first aquired by Kodak it was called the Folmer Schwing company. As I understand it the company was started by FOLMER and SCHWING at the end of the 1880's to distribute Gas Lighting equipment and Sterling Bicycles. Later as cameras came to the market without a distrubution channel they took on cameras (gas lighting buisness was declining), Folmer felt he could manufacture a better camera (he was the inventor in the parternship). They came out with two cameras by 1896 one of them designed specificly for traveling with on a bicycle to meet the demand for such a product. By 1898 they had moved forward with a full camera line. After 1905 Eastman was in control of the firm and it was moved from New York city to Rochester.
The Pacemaker..with the lens I squeezed in to it.

    The film I intend to use is mostly Fuji film fp-100c which I will reclaim the negative from before handing the sitter the print. There is some Polaroid 669  for people that like that palatte, and some fp -100c that is the older type with no negative.. I will also offer 4X5 pola portraits for a price no object option, I love the look of the black and white 4X5 but can't find this  film most of the time...
 For the 35mm camera I will be shooting fuji acros 100 black and white.. I will bring a 120 back for the mamiya and shooting on the road while rolling., Color ? I might bring a 35mm roll but I don't think I will end up exposing it..unless the flowers are really popping.. well thats all for this post I have to pack it up and get ready to travel and shoot but come visit if you are at L'eroica and come back here soon to see my results of this adventure...
thanks for looking and have a nice ride!
yer pal ..Misster Pissta