Saturday, August 28, 2010

2nd Annual Phoenixville Bike Day aug 29 2010

After a week of cooler, rainy weather, the Northeast finally had a break with a weekend of mid 80's, low humidity and sunny skies. It also happened to fall on the same weekend as the Phoenixville 2nd annual Bike Day. I had a few friends who live in town who said they were going, so I hopped on my Triumph and rode through [what might have been] the perfect riding conditions of the year, up rt. 113 to the old steel mill town of Phoenixville.
I have to admit, I didn't attend the first years festivities, but I gathered that this would be a Harley Davidson type crowd. Nothing against Harleys, but I didn't see a whole lot of vintage bikes, mainly straight off the showroom floor, full dressers. There were a handful of old Harleys, but due to the tightly packed parking configuration, they were hard to photograph. The last thing I needed was to pull a PeeWee Herman and start a domino effect of falling chrome and leather fringe.
In a sea of American motors (some adorned with the bars and stars) this lovely little mid 60's Norton. Sadly this was the only classic Brit iron I saw in the sleepy little steel city.
Now something about this Sportster just seemed to sum up the spirit of cycling. Maybe it was the out dated custom paint job, proudly holding it's own against the pompous, wide-rear-tire, reality-tv-show inspired choppers parked nearby. Maybe it was the small Igloo cooler strapped to the sissy bar, fighting hard to keep its precious cargo (most likely a 6 pack) cool against the beating sun. I don't know, but I dug it.
Out of all the custom H-D's this Shovel Head (? - I'm bad with identifying anything other than knuckles pans and flats) was the tidiest. The teal wouldn't have been my first choice, but I found it worked well with the scalloped paint job on the tank, the extra wide, rounded fender and the white grips.
Unfortunately the shadow made it incredibly difficult to shoot. It was either too light or too dark - but you get the picture (no pun intended).
Now for the sight to be seen and what could and should probably be it's own blog post: The Dog Saucer.

You got it, its a trailer, shaped somewhat like a space ship... for dogs! I love oddball stuff like this. It combines a kitschy attitude, a good sense of humor and furthermore - functionality. was advertised on a sign mounted to the trailer, so when I got home i checked it out. The thing that really bowled me over, was not the pictures of the adorable dogs riding behind their dads bike (I'm a dog lover, and my dogs are children to me, so yes, I am their father and so is the inventor of this device... But I digress) there is actually a picture of a goat, yes a GOAT standing in the saucer. Can you imagine riding down the highway and seeing a bike hauling a spaceship shaped trailer holding a goat?! Well if you live around the Chester County area and the weather stays as nice as it's been, don't be surprised if that's exactly what you see.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Shop Stop: The Spare Parts Company

Saturday, August 7th, the dog days of summer. My wife, Kristen, and I took a trip to downtown Philly to have lunch and enjoy the long overdue break in the record setting hot weather. After some delicious Italian food and some window shopping, we headed over to The Spare Parts Company on 4th and Vine - a place where my late father used to frequent quite a bit. Over the years I've heard countless stories of the original owner, Franz and his infamous Motorcycle shop as well as his tube amplified radio collection. I also heard that I had a lot in common with the shop mechanic and current owner, Roland Sotello, who was just a few years my senior and had an alter-ego as a rock musician. I had never met Roland, but I figured we had mutual friends (my late father being one of them) so I decided that I should stop by and introduce myself.

We walked up vine looking for the shop, which wasn't hard to spot: a half dozen or so Moto Guzzi's and BMW's parked out front while a slightly salt and peppered, shaggy haired man, with black rimmed glasses carrying an air compressor, eagerly helped a young female rider with her front tire. This must be Roland... well his shirt said Roland so it was pretty obvious.
I introduced myself and my wife, explained who my dad was and he immediately invited us in to see the shop. Inside was just how I pictured it to be. The hundred-something year old garage had a musty mixture of oil and rubber in the air. An old Raleigh Golden Arrow bicycle leaned against a wall. Pictures of bikes and cars mixed with vintage shop signs and helmets gave the space an organic soul, only years of operation could create.
Of course there were plenty of standard items for sale, and plenty of motorcycles in various states of repair and restoration. Tires piled head high in the corner and an overhead loft filled with *ahem* lots and lots of spare parts.

We chatted about music for a bit. It turned out Roland played in quite a few garage rock bands, one of which had a record out on the very cool Get Hip Records. I recalled my dad telling me about a band Roland played in called Rockula. He laughed "I always hated that name". We traded band stories for a bit, before the subject shifted to Rolands other passion besides bikes and rock 'n roll; Citroen cars and vans. Every so often he travels abroad and buys up these odd but incredibly stylish little French cars and imports them into US. So obsessed about these cars, that it may have surpassed his love for cycles "I don't even own a bike, currently" he confided "people ask me what I ride and I tell them 'the bus!'"

But his love for vehicles of the two wheel persuasion shines through in his work. He's just currently like the cobbler who has no shoes (too busy making them for other people). I can relate as I am in the water filtration business and I haven't done one thing for my own water in the two years I've lived in my house - just no time!
Eventually the conversation shifted back to my pop: "When your dad would walk through the door, all wrenches would drop". Roland then ushered me to the back and pointed to the tool box, adorned with an "in memory of Snuffy Smith" sticker and picture of the old man with a friend looking at a couple of Guzzi's. "that picture is from '92 or '93 I think. Remember that Le Mans?" He was right. My dad didn't have his eyeglasses on, which he pretty much wore from the mid 90's on after giving up on contact lenses. The red Le Mans was definitely an early 90's acquisition of his.

After taking up way too much of Rolands time, we exchanged info and said our goodbyes. On my way out I noted a cool 1993 1000s Moto Guzzi cafe racer. "No more bikes!" my wife cried. I can dream can't I? Somewhere down the road my motorcycle collection will undoubtably shift, it has already - several times. Maybe a Guzzi is in my future... But with summer winding down, I have to get my riding in with the cycles I have before the bikes go back into hibernation for the long, cold North Eastern winter.