superb friends

Dear 842 Beacon St.,
You and I, we've been through a lot.

Remember back in 2008, when I got my first adult bike built up at your place? We were both kind of rough around the edges back then, and I felt a little left behind when you morphed into a way classier version of yourself a year later. Still, you were my destination of choice when NACCC blew through town, and my Boston go-to spot when I was studying for a miserable mess because of the bar.

Because even when you started collecting really cool friends, who are fashionable to the point of spontaneously triggering insecurities citywide, they are some of the nicest bike friends I made in Boston. I can't think of another bike shop where I could show up in a gold lamé mini skirt, and feel fabulous. Even at my age.

And let's not forget those pretty frames you have now. Those aluminum welds on the Sprint? Pure sex.

Superb, I'm already missing your purple couch and those cartons of pineapple coconut water [which still taste...funny]. Don't change too much until I get back.
oxox, k

caps, bottles, and golden saddle cyclery

When Kyle handed me a cycling cap as a gift from L.A., I had no idea as to the awkwardness that would follow. A friend and riding buddy had recently opened the shop, he told me, and it was definitely worth a visit. He told me about the Intelligentsia logo on the underside of the brim, and promised to send me a matching water bottle.

“Oh, so I walked into the shop one day,” he then added, “and that picture of you, the one with the Rapha scarf? That was tiled as the computer desktop background.”
“...That’s.......awkward...,” I managed.

Despite the knee jerk mental promise to never set foot inside Golden Saddle Cyclery in L.A. without some sort of convincing disguise, since receiving the matching [Purist] water bottle, I’ve turned that promise around on its head. I’d go to L.A. just to see this shop.
They stock tons of cool stuff, and have a pretty awesome blog. Watch out Golden Saddle Cyclerly, I’ll be paying a visit one of these days…

bonsai bike shop bromance

I’m not one for stereotypes, but unless I am PMSing and therefore off my fucking nut, I am very predictably a push-over.
I have supplemented this unique trait by tending to have friends who will demand my time and attention by dragging me out to ultimately enjoyable events that I am always hesitant to go to. That’s not to say I don’t give them the obligatory, initial, most likely annoying, quaffing [as Biggie put it, “…and she starts off, ‘well, I don’t usually,’…”]. But a murderous glower, clenched teeth, or an exasperated tone are usually enough to get me out of bed and into some half-decent clothes. Depending on who’s doing the asking, of course.
Well, until last week, that is. Because when Chandler told me to just show up to their hotel on Monday after Tim wrapped up some interviews, I was PMSing, but miraculously refrained from whining or otherwise coming up with some lame excuses. I emailed back an okay and without another word, got my ass to Odaiba.
…Just in time to catch a photo shoot with Hiro Ito of Cannondale, Koichiro Nakamura, and Hideyuki Suzuki by the random Statue of Liberty replica near the hotel. I predictably paparazzi-ed.

After a late lunch of okonomiyaki, plans as to what was next were up in the air, but there were vague murmurs:

“Yeah, let’s go there then.”
“Okay, yeah that’s a good idea.”
“Bonsai? Okay, okay.”
I was all, “Tim’s into trees???
Bonsai or Bonsai Cycle Shop, it turned out, is actually the name of one of the coolest bike shops I’ve been to [and not just in Tokyo]. Opened last September, it’s a beautiful bike shop that also houses a small café run by the incredibly talented Natsuki-san. Yoshida-san and Natsuki-san greeted us at the entrance, the door opening into a space surrounded by the smell of freshly baked double-chocolate muffins. Yoshida-san explained that he wanted to build a shop around the three things that cyclists consumed: coffee, dirt, and chocolate. He managed to do a lot more than that, though, offering a space filled with awesome frames, bike parts, and custom jerseys. The shop is impeccable; details [like the lighting fixtures and the small Oriental rug in the workspace] tying everything neatly together. Like all great shops, the care that went into every detail is obvious, resulting in the sense that everything is painstakingly curated, but only enough to be inspiring as opposed to inaccessible.

Soaking up the good vibes of the shop, I was half a centimeter into a perfectly done Americano when Tim called me over for some translating. Yoshida-san patiently waited out my version of translation, which consisted of listening to Tim’s question in English, nodding that I understood, then attempting to telepathically convey the question in Japanese through imaginary laser beams emitting out of my eyes. It didn’t work; my mangled Japanese produced far better results.

Like the book Yoshida-san produced when I told him Tim and Chandler were on the hunt for gifts for friends. Called simply, “Le Tour de France,” it’s a collection of amazing photographs from the 1986, 1987, and 1988 TdFs by Yasufumi Kitanaka. It’s also a publication that’s been out-of-print for some time; Yoshida-san told us that the publishing company happened to be nearby with more than a few boxes of these books in storage, thus making Bonsai Cycle Shop the only place in Japan where you can get these gorgeous books. A sucker for most things involving bound pages, I purchased one to savor – a few pages at a time – between the pedaling and ride route searching.

I could have easily spent a few more hours there, just looking at stuff. But dinner was calling and there was more discovering to be done. We said our goodbyes, and I promised to pay another visit soon [a promise I followed up on yesterday, to see Yoshida-san’s new Indy Fab and sip a post-ride Americano.]

Tempura and some shopping in Shinjuku followed, after which Tim and Chandler wrapped up the night with a public display of bromance.

24 hours later, I’ll briefly contemplate not being such a push over before saying a mental, “fuck it,” and having one of the best nights of my life. But more on that later.
[Some more pictures here.]

bmx boys and blue lug

Back in college – having enrolled in one with a Quaker tradition without even knowing it – we were mostly limited to one dining hall in an effort to keep alive the tradition that the community should all “eat under one roof.” When I wasn’t running on carcinogens [Parliament Lights] and what I believed to be a healthy balance of carbs, fat, protein, and caffeine [dirty chai lattes], I would head to a brown building that resembled a tired ski chalet with the rest of the school population. Crouched at the bottom of a hill, the front of the building was bordered by a stone ledge enclosing a big courtyard, with low, wide, slate steps leading to the entrance. Although my best friend [a dedicated omnivore] still mentally savors the vegan apple crisp [Lauren: it was GOOD.], the food inside was unremarkable. And as spoiled, slightly bored college students, we remained communal in only our complaining and gossiping.
Except on particularly lucky, sunny, spring days, when an odd mix of girls would linger outside the dining hall. I would sit on the stone ledge and smoke a slow cigarette or nibble from a Styrofoam cup filled with Life cereal, my best friend deliberately eating ice cream. We’d watch the townie boys, like all the other girls, on their BMXs and skateboards and pretend to talk until either our stalking got uncomfortably obvious or they rode away. In hindsight, it was a mutually beneficial exchange: they probably loved the attention, and we shamelessly indulged in checking out guys still in high school, who probably lived in rooms with piles of clothes, BMX/skateboard parts, shoes, and magazines strewn all over the floor. They were unrealistic, superficial crushes [the most we ever did was look], but we kept coming back nonetheless.
I remembered this attraction to messy youth when Kyle and I stopped by the only place he definitely wanted to see in Tokyo: Blue Lug.

A large space by Tokyo bike shop standards, Blue Lug offers a well-rounded collection of gear, apparel, brightly colored bikes, and parts. The usual suspects are in attendance: Swrve, Outlier, DZR shoes, and Nari Furi, alongside a random selection of jerseys [Mash, Geekhouse, Cadence]. Messenger bags hang high near the ceiling on the left side of the room while the other side is dominated by colorful rims and tires. Saddles and top tube protectors are displayed in classic beverage displays, playing up the store’s Japanese roots.

Geared towards the urban fixster, Blue Lug has some impressive offerings. But expecting its brick-and-mortar store to be as slick as its online shop is like hoping that teenage boys on BMX bikes can do their laundry on a regular basis. When asked to deliver, they do – impressively [and attractively!] so – but don’t expect the perfection of BMX tricks to translate into tidiness. Displays can be messy, necessitating occasional digging, and as a consequence, there’s the sense that some gems are getting lost in the piles of products.

But like sloppy-haired boys on skateboards, it’s easy to forgive the short attention span and irregular bouts of orderliness. The rough edges of the shop imply, too, that they are a result of a life too busy riding and finding cool gear to worry about absolute perfection. Compared to painstakingly curated bike shops, the disheveled, slightly distracted personality of Blue Lug is refreshing, and it makes the experience – like townie spectating – something to look forward to. And something to remember and savor a little bit; even if, as a predominately road rider, I won’t be buying out their inventory any time soon.
Kind of like, how years later, while stuck in our respective law schools, Lauren and I were still talking about them: “Reminds me of licking ice cream cones while watching the [townie] dudes on their BMX bikes,” she said.
“Yeah,” I replied, “creepy older college girl stalker.”
“Yeah, I think you mean,” she said, “sexy coed stalker.”
[Bigger pictures here.]