Monday, March 15, 2010

Web Reviews

I am so sick of negative web reviews of our shop. It seems like the websites that offer this service have become a sort of defacto extortion mechanism. If we pay $170 a month to these sites, we will have more juice against these negative reviews. People who do not speak up when they are uncomfortable or confused in a small shop now have an effective vehicle for lashing out. Sometimes we have friends or regular customers hanging out watching their bikes being fixed or helping us out. New customers can perceive them as being staff and assume that these "staff" are ignoring them. That night a negative review comes up and hurts our business, denying us the money to hire more help. People who have an axe to grind with us like former business partners, or stalkers or people who thought they were entitled to unlimited credit or free work or something like that now have a great way of expressing themselves. I should know because I was tempted to do this to my former business partner who is a total moron and ripped me off of dozens of thousands of dollars. After thinking it through and imagining all the facts that I could put in that review that would horrify prospective customers on their iphones, I remembered that I have plenty of constructive things I can do to better this shop and my life. If I have a complaint with someone, I can talk to them in person like an adult.
These review sites are a great David vs. Goliath vehicle and should be used more like that, but I gotta tell you, if you read the negative reviews of our shop you would think that we are all "hipsters" and total bike snobs. We are all native New Yorkers and grown men. Calling people hipsters seems to be a yuppie insult for people who have not bought into all the advertising messages telling us to always wear new clothes and spend half our waking hours primping and preening. I do not shave my chest, balls or underarms. Sometimes I work so hard I cannot find time to shave for a few weeks. My clothes I wear for working on greasy filthy bicycles are not new and fresh off the rack from D&G. That does not mean I am a hipster. I listen to Jazz, my business partners listens to rap and classic rock. At the end of the day, I don't think anyone even knows what a hipster is. I thought of hipsters as people who wear vintage clothes, kind of post-punk crossed with rock-a-billy. People who listened to alternative rock or grunge. That is the most thought I ever gave to the term. Now that haters have persisted in labeling us as hipsters, I have come to the conclusion that it is a term used to put people down who do not buy into the i-lifestyle. People who are not interested in being metrosexual and shopping as the highest form of expression in their lives. These haters have made me want to claim the label and wear it, if I had not spent so many years negatively associating it. At the end of the day, labels like T3RR0R15T, hipster, yuppy, ghetto, fag, the n-word, and many more are simply tools used to separate and de-humanize people and make it that much easier for our lives to devolve that much closer to slavery so that a select few people can be excessively, gluttonously wealthy. Buying into prejudice of this sort only accelerates the degradation and alienation of our social and economic lives. I admit that there are ways that I can slip into this labeling BS, but my awareness of this is coupled with an effort to eradicate it in myself and our shop. Our shop is very welcoming and inclusive, we are doing the best we can as imperfect people in an imperfect world.
From time to time we may have just finished paying the slave master, I mean landlord, or some other such hated scourge of small business in NYC, and may not be able to muster enough zest while answering the same question that we have been asked ten thousand times before. I can see that as coming off as snobbery and to a certain extent it may be. However if you want to see bicycle snobbery, you should go to Cadence, Tr@ckstar or R&A. I do not like being called a bike snob when I happily work on Huffies or Murrays. We DO offer information to people when it seems that they are interested in hearing it.
For example: "this Huffy is what I would call an imitation bicycle" because it is such low quality that it is not worth the hundreds of dollars that it would take to make it as close to safe as it can be (which is not safe enough for any of my friends or loved-ones). If that comes off as a personal affront to the customer, it is certainly not intended to be one. We are actually taking time that we could be spending GENERATING MONEY to offer the customer FREE information gleaned from the blood, sweat and tears of dozens of hours spent trying to make these bikes work for people that could not afford a safer, lighter, funner bike.
I have said in print many times, I applaud ALL cyclists for not driving cars, trucks or tanks and armored personnel carriers. Cyclists are all heroes. Even weekend warriors that put their bikes on their cars and drive somewhere to go for a ride. If you wanna write a negative review of a place, try politely addressing your complaint with the staff. You will almost always make the world a little better place.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


With gas prices so high now and prices of gas only expected to keep rising, owning a car in this City is going to take two jobs just to re-fuel. Even though most of us ride our pedal-powered bikes around the City, at times getting to work all sweaty or to social gatherings is just out of the question.

We are fortunate enough to have opened an account with VeloSolex for these awesome French motorized bicycles. They will be dropping some off with us so everyone can swing by and have a look.

These bikes have been around since about 1946, originally they were gas powered. The bike is the essence of simplicity - a 49cc two stroke engine sits over the front wheel, putting out a whopping 0.80 bhp at 2200 rpm. As you might guess, it's economical - the 1.4 L tank gives you a range of 60 miles, although you'll have to pedal to get the machine up steeper hills. The maximum speed is pre-set to 20 mph, so don't expect to break any land speed records.

The VeloSolex is an affordable mode of transportation that costs as much to register anually as a day's train fare and no special operating license is required. A classy whip to make the City shrink and your wallet grow.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Angel's Gate

This Panasonic Team road bike was recently taken in for an overhaul. When Angel assessed this bike all the fastners were frozen with rust. In an effort to prevent stripping out the bolts, Angel chemically treated the rusted threads over about a two week period with his secret penetrating oil. Once this proved successful and he was able to strip down the bike, he cleaned and greased all the threads, replaced the chain and freewheel, thoroughly tuned overhauled the bike and re-taped the bars with Planet Bike cork tape.
It rides like a beauty with 700c wheels and Tange 2 Crome-molybdenum-lug-joined frame and fork tubing brazed in Japan in the early 1980s. Almost all original components Angel installed MKS Sylvan pedals with Soma Toe Clips and straps. The original Italian suede saddle completes that link between Japan and Italy. As much as we need the money from this ticket, I will hate to see it go out of the shop.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

'twas the night before Christmas...

and all through Lit Fuse,
Not a creature was stirring
Not even Blue and Jim's Mouth

I can't keep this up. I wanted to thank all of you who have stood by us through all of our growing pains. The shop has been steadily evolving and improving service. We are hoping to make it through the winter and have had a boost from the New York Times blog on our shop.

Happy Holidays to all and a joyous New Year.

Damian and LFC

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Another Miracle

Unbelievable bike returned from being stolen. Our customer lost his bike and miraculously it showed up back in our shop. No questions asked we accepted the bike back into bike sanctuary; and now Luis wants us to sell it for him. Feather-light Giant carbon fiber TCR C3 with full 105 gruppo, Xero lite wheelset and Carbon seatpost.

Luis was working and turned his back on his whip for a half an instant. In the blink of an eye he lost his trusty steed. She disappeared into the ether.

And as fast as she disappeared, she returned to our shop. A dude asking us how much she was worth, and we responded that it was already sold, to Luis. Like that, the bike was returned to
our fold.
Come check out the miracle bike before someone snaps it up.
As well I found a funny you-tube video. This dude reminds me of a goy-Andy Samburg. It is called Performance.
Perfect commentary on today's cycling scene.
Hope you get a few laughs from these hyjinx.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Lit Fuse Tatoo Run-About

We put together a little Raleigh Colt with some vintage parts and some modern parts for Lit Fuse Tattoo over in Japanther's second home OLYMPIA, Washington. For the hills we added a fully re-conditioned Sturmey-Archer three-speed hub and NOS shifter laced to 36 hole Mavic Open Pro rims by DT Swiss spokes. The front hub is an original Atom Hub made for the Raleigh Record that I reconditioned for the front wheel. It is the opposite of the vogue high flange... the bolt-on low flange hub with the Whitsworth 3/8" Raleigh logo track(ish) nuts. We added Soma Everwears with the white stripe for the Scenester homage to Oly's own styles.

Pictured here is Victor Mendoza the LFC mechanic behind the foundational work in lacing the wheels, prepping, aligning and assembling the parts onto the frame, and testing the ride at speed. I handled the fine tuning and dishing of the wheels, the three-speed hub overhaul clinic and the rear brake fitting and overhaul. Jim handled some trouble shooting on the rear hub and shifter, the wraps and seat-post shimming. Fenders are not full-coverage but they will suffice. Bars and stem by Cinelli and tape Schwinn leather saddle are rounded out with the Japanese 165mm Tourney cranks and Shimano rear calipers with tektro dual-pivots up front. The bottom bracket shell was re-threaded for the modern English Taiwanese cartridge bottom bracket and anchors the bike with smooth reliable service.
MKS Sylvan Tour pedals and re-greased, re-torqued chainwheel screwpegs lend some effort against annoying ticks and clicks. Full-length cable housing and the absence of a cable pulley offer more reliability and longevity to the shifting.
I only wish I still had some of my stash of Scott-Matthauser salmon brake pads. I would settle for the Kool-Stop continentals in salmon but the bank account is in the red again and I got many more items to order for urgent customers. Weinman brake levers are the cherry on the top of this multi-cultural bonanza.
The British-Belgian-French-Italian-Japanese-Taiwanese-American Lit Fuse Cyclery Flyer.
We have been struggling to keep up with a greedy rent and and a neglected basement that is holding us back from being what we intend to become. We are planning some events to celebrate our existence as tenuous as it is. No time like the present to appreciate life's wonders.
I love the re-furbishements that we have been doing. It is why I wanted to build this business. I hope that the Borough can come through for this refugee from Manhattan's gentrification so we can become a fixture in the landscape here. We know that we are not perfect, but we do a damn good job here when we are allowed a little latitude to get the job done.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Hoopty Fever

We converted Georgia's brass colored 1985 Trek 420 road bike to a single-speed the other day. She was as gleeful as we were upon completion of this beauty. The basic flip-flop cone-and-cup wheelset and single-speed 144mm bolt-circle-diameter alloy cranks and Action Messenger 700 X 23 tires were some of the new additions to this bicycle .

We added Wellgo track pedals and a used Velo saddle to the mix and Georgia elected to wrap the bars with red Deda tape with Jim's signiture twine binder. We charge an extra $15 for this touch which is longer-lasting than electrical tape or the lame end binder that comes with most wraps.

The process is fun to watch but and I have been fooling around with it feeling like a boyscout on a fishing expedition. It makes the bike look so classy that I want to do it to all bikes I can get my hands on. The problem is that it almost takes longer than wrapping the average bars including the electrical tape binder at the end of the job.

The nice quality electrical tape works pretty well to keep the bars anchored up top of the drops but eventually the adhesive dries out and your tape begins to unwind slowly but surely.

So far all the twine binders that I have seen have held up great. If you want a twine binder, just ask for Lataesha and he will get to it when he can.

Next project to be featured will be the Lit Fuse Tatoo Shop coffee runner. Stay tuned Brooklyn!