Friday, March 24, 2017

My Maker Year: Powder Coating

As most of you know by now I bought a tiny cargo bike business in Santa Cruz and am relaunching it in San Jose. While that is a series of posts by itself, the business has enabled me to learn about different construction aspects of bicycles that we take for granted everyday. The first of the biweekly series is on...powder coating. 
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Welcome to DIYBIKING.COM's new miniseries: My Maker Year. Brought to you by Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

(turns to Camera B with Jon Stewart-like smile)

Cherry Hill. A middle finger to pedestrians in town form. 


Cherry Hill, New Jersey. 2017


(turns back to Camera A)

While purchasing Box Bike Collective was in its final stages in December I began to wonder how much of the construction aspect I could do on my own - and what actually went into each of the many build steps. One of the steps is powder coating. 

For those of you who don't know: most bicycle frames (good ones) are powder coated, which is the practice of spraying colored powder onto metal. In this process, the metal is positively charged and the gun spraying the powder is negatively charged* so the powder sticks to the metal. You then 'cure' the powder by putting the frame into an oven at a certain temperature for a certain amount of time. When it comes out you let it cool and the frame is left with a shiny, durable finish that is stronger than ordinary paint. The two main catches of this is the equipment to do this can be costly and the steel has to be very clean for the powder to stick.

There are professionals around who can do this for you. If you want to do it yourself you can take a take a safety and basic use (SBU) sandblasting/powder coating class at TechShop San Jose and become a member so you can use the equipment by appointment. Lucky for me, I had already taken the SBU during a promotion TechShop was having early last year so I was able to start reserving the equipment as soon as my membership started. 

If you have a bike frame you want to see a different color, your first step is to strip out everything on the frame. Unsure of my skills at powder coating, I decided to first use an expendable frame - much like Darth Vader put Han Solo in carbon freeze just to see if it would work.



This was my frame. I had never heard of the 'Winner' brand before but it seemed like an appropriate name. If you look very closely you can see the question mark I added on the down tube.

The first step to giving your frame a new color is to sandblast it, so you bring it into a little room in TechShop with a cabinet large enough to accommodate a large bike frame. 


This step isn't hard, but it is time consuming. You also have to reach into the cabinet and wipe down as much of the glass shield as you can reach so you can actually see what you're doing.

Then with the fan on, you put hands in the Homer Simpson Nuclear Power Plant Gloves and push down with a foot pedal to make the sand (or 'media' as it is more often called) flow. Point away from the glass and aim the gun an inch or two from your work and press the pedal to make the paint disappear as if by magic. 

Ideally, you move the gun in nice, even rows like you are mowing a tiny lawn but I found I had to reposition my frame so often I kept having to start at a new part of the frame. Also because of my height (coupled with the fact that I took so long and got so little sleep the night before I grew tired of standing) I ended up leaning awkwardly against the cabinet pressing my face on the glass. This left a huge black smudge I didn't notice until I looked into a bathroom mirror later and thought a small tarantula was mating with my nose. 

                        Sandblasting selfies are a thing. #SandblastingSelfie

Sometimes the gun would jam or just not fire as much media as it should. When that happens I did what a TechShop employee told me to do and it worked: I'd put the gun against my finger, pull the trigger for half a second and take my finger away to clear the gun. 

The other lesson I learned was that I should have used an angle grinder to take off the 'Winner' frame label. Also, because the powder coating oven can take a while to preheat I should have turned it on half an hour or more before I was done sandblasting. 


The next step is to clean the frame - and they have a sweet sink to do just that. With soap, water and Simple Green I got the frame clean** and dried it off with towels and an air hose.


Finally it is time to powder coat. The TechShop front desk sells different colors of powder and gives a discount to members. The colors come in small plastic tubs like the kind Talenti gelato comes in with instructions on bake time on top. I chose a bright yellow that had instructions as certain as the sell-by date on milk.

400 degrees for ten minutes.

They also sell silicone corks and silicone tape. These are incredibly important since you have to put the corks and the tape in all openings in the frame you don't want the powder to go. 


After you hang your frame in the powder coat booth (a piece of wire does just fine) be sure a thin gator clamp is attached to the wire or the powder won't stick. Then pour about 1/3 or your powder into the cup and screw it into place. Then you locate a plastic gun that looks like it was stolen from an early Star Trek set, point it at your work, and pull the trigger.


Actually: don't do that! I missed a couple steps here.

As you can see from the photo, the yellow powder is shooting out of the gun with Ghostbuster proton pack-like gusto. It's also shooting out of the canister on the floor, which is far from my 'Winner' bike frame hanging in the booth.

To keep these problems from happening to you, screw the cap on tightly (I sealed mine with some electrical tape I had in my messenger bag) and turn the little dial on the machine so the gun is spraying a gentle miss at or below 5 psi.


If either of these things prove unsuccessful locate the dustpan and broom just outside the painting area.

Once I got a less enthusiastic discharge from the powder gun, I gently ran the yellow mist over the frame. 


Once I had the frame thoroughly yellowized it was time to put it in the oven the size of a large refrigerator, which was by now preheated to 400 degrees. 

This is a critical step, because you have to carry the frame without banging it into anything or the powder will just come off. Pretend it is a nest of peacefully sleeping baby wolverines and you'll do fine. 

It's essential to open the oven door as little as necessary so you don't let heat escape. This is a fact unknown to a passing guy in safety glasses who, seeing me carefully holding my frame in one hand and the door handle with the other, let loose with a "letmehelpyouwiththat" and opened the door with a wide swing - causing the 400 degree to gallop into my face, past my ears, and on to freedom. 

Thank you, Mr. Helpy, Helper!

I quickly hung my work and closed the door. To my dismay, the temperature of the oven had dropped about 60 degrees due to my mystery helper's interference. And it was climbing back up with a painful slowness. 

What did that mean for my cook time? I tried to do math in my head to figure out what the equivalent of 400 degrees was when the oven wasn't quite that hot. Nervously, I let the frame bake for nearly 15 minutes - hoping it would be enough. 

I shut down the oven and removed the frame so I could hang it on the rack to cool. Sure enough, the powder had cured and the silicone plugs had done their job. 


While it cooled, I cleaned up the powder coating room and put the equipment away for the next user. And, with returning the keys to the front desk I was done with powder coating.

Would you like to see the result in all of its glory? 

Here you go!


Beautiful, isn't it? 

I'll be the first to admit it didn't come out perfectly. As it turned out, powder didn't stick much to the area between the chain stays near the bottom bracket and other 'armpit' areas where parts of the frame come together. I also had some unevenness on the top tube - namely the side that was facing away from me while I was spraying. So the lessons there were to make absolutely sure you get everything and that the frame is spotless when you put it in. Also it's advisable to preheat the oven for a slightly higher temperature that you want to account for heat escaping, unhelpful helpers, or both. 

If you give powder coating a shot, keep these lessons in mind if you decide to head to TechShop San Jose (which is actually closed the next couple of weeks since they are moving a few blocks). In the meantime, thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 




*It may be the other way around. I forget. 

**Not enough to make the powder stick very well in a few spots. 


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Cartoon of the Week:The Horrors of Making Cars A Few Pennies a Day More Expensive



Last fall I pointed out several ways California (specifically the Bay Area) could get out of the traffic jams it always seems to find itself in.

I woke up this morning to a story from the San Jose Mercury News that the Golden State was considering raising the gas tax, upping the charge of registration fees, and proposing a fee on electric cars. 

In the words of Jerry Seinfeld when he saw Kramer getting ready to go to work in his apartment one day: "How long have I been asleep? What year is this?"

I would personally like to thank Internet Commenters on SJMC Facebook Page for inspiring this cartoon - and I wish California luck into making this happen. 


Thursday, March 2, 2017

Box Bike: I Liked It So Much...I Bought The Company




Good morning.


I hope everyone in San Jose is still looking for ways to help flood victims - and other less fortunate brothers and sisters. There are at least a few more Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful cleanup events this week so keep an eye out for them.

Also: if you see a Vietnamese refugee-turned-billionaire wearing awesome pants walking around the Bay Area, please thank him.


Now to address the Fat Bike in the room: the reason I haven’t posted on DIYBIKING.COM since mid-December has been because I unexpectedly found myself in one of those “I-liked-it-so-much-I-bought-the-company” situations.


That’s right: I bought Box Bike, a small cargo bike company that was based in Santa Cruz. Not because I have a ton of business acumen but because I love bicycling, am fond of volunteering, and thoroughly enjoy burritos.


Let me back up a second.


More than a year ago, I met Alex Yasbek at the San Jose Cargo Bike Festival and got to know his signature product, the Box Bike. I borrowed it for a week and wrote a review in which I assured California motorists they could use a Box Bike instead of a car for a myriad of different tasks, including (but not limited to) carrying children, transporting an extra-large pizza, racing to wait at a red traffic light, and using the drive-thru at an In-N-Out Burger.



Long before I met Alex, I’ve been guided by the principle of “Leave the Car, Take the Bicycle” and have tried for years to use words (and, on occasion, animated videos) to encourage folks who drive a car when a bike is easier, cheaper, better for the environment and more fun.

But this past autumn, facing a lengthy and unwelcome lull in freelance projects, I began to increasingly feel like my writing was marketing copy in search of a product.


Until one day, during a break of a planning meeting for Cranksgiving San Jose, standing in line with a friend waiting to buy burritos, and I learned from him Box Bike might be for sale.


Jump ahead a few weeks and I’m sitting in Alex’s small workshop in Santa Cruz taking illegible notes as he begins the first of what became a series of invaluable lessons in how he makes the Box Bike: one at a time with help from as many local suppliers as possible. Alex: if you are reading this: that was truly an inspiring time and I will forever be thankful you gave me so much guidance.


              Watching Alex build a Box Bike

Jump ahead a few months and we land on today, which is the professional equivalent of doing three 1,000 piece puzzles simultaneously on a TV tray.  My goal is to make the first Box Bike by DIYBIKING.COM ready in early Spring - focusing sales efforts on this traffic-choked wad of the earth’s crust we call Silicon Valley.  Paperwork has been filed, old and dare I say awesome customers have been emailed, suppliers have been contacted, hundreds of pounds of steel have been moved, and that’s not even the one/eighth of it.


Now as you know I have a history of building cargo bikes: from the original Bikeducken to the folding cargo bike I made specifically for life in San Jose. A cargo bike business is a lot more complicated than making Mad Max-looking bikes few would want to be in the same room with, so there’s a lot of learning involved - most of which I’ll share with you. I have never run a business before but...you know...Betsy DeVos.


Anyway: this blog is back up and running and will have regular updates about the Box Bike business (links to get to the site, which still needs a lot of work, appear here and above) but I’ll still have community news and other build & travel posts. I'm also compiling bike-related charities & events (starting in the Bay Area) so alert me when you hear of one.

Also one of the things that came with the Box Bike business is...a Facebook page! I encourage you to like the page - especially if you are an interested in buying a Box Bike and - at least during this writing - don't mind some ambiguity in terms of when they will be available.


     Like Box Bike by DIYBIKING.COM on Facebook


So thank you for sticking with DIYBIKING.COM and for taking the time to read this - and for understanding that me buying this small business is moving the DIYBIKING.COM story forward. I also hope you choose to leave the car, take the bicycle whenever you possibly can.  As it has become abundantly clear over the past several weeks of this new administration we are on our own.


There will not be a tax hike on gasoline - but if we use our cars less and ride our bikes more the price of gas falls - and projects like Standing Rock become less attractive.


There will be no new regulations on auto emissions - the ones we have will probably be relaxed - so the reduction of CO2 can only happen a few pounds at a time, one bike trip at a time.


There will be tremendous pressure to allow the automotive status quo to keep waddling forward - but if we make a show when we leave the car/take the bicycle, arrive on time at town hall meetings and make it clear to our local representatives we will not permit anyone to scale back on any of the infrastructure or acceptance bicycle users need to get around.


At the end of the day we are the ones who get to decide we want our air to smell like, what we want our water to taste like, who we want our streets to accommodate, and, perhaps most important, how we want our children to see the world.

Like this?

Or like this?


More than ever, thanks for reading and thanks for riding.


Sincerely,


Michael


Michael K. Norris
Box Bike by DIYBIKING.COM
San Jose, California

Sunday, February 26, 2017

#SanJoseFloods News: Clean Up Today & More

    Testing to see if waffles will make up for the three-hour time difference.

Good morning, San Jose.

I am typing this from Hub's Coffee (you remember them from Cranksgiving San Jose) while coping with a three hour time difference on three hours of sleep. Without getting too much into it I was in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

Cherry Hill: Because putting pedestrians in front of a firing squad is illegal.

    Cherry Hill, NJ - Feb. 24, 2017

Anyway: remember the clean-ups that took place Friday and Saturday? There's another that is just taking place from 9:30am to 2:00pm. Bring work boots and good gloves if you got 'em. Link is below

http://sanjoseca.gov/index.aspx?NID=4789

The San Jose Flood Donation and Relief Center (at The Get Down dance studio) is still on for this afternoon; you can start donating at 4:00pm and if you need items you are encouraged to arrive between 5:15 and 7:00pm. Link is below. 

https://www.facebook.com/events/1569348973080124/

Also I am trying to find out how to donate bikes if and how they are needed. I have an unconfirmed report of bikes in the piles of cleanup wreckage accumulating in the city. A question I asked on the San Jose Bike Clinic Facebook page may get a definitive response.

Finally: please follow Cranksgiving San Jose on Facebook. I know the next official Cranksgiving isn't until November but more can and will be posted on that page long beforehand.

That's all for now. Hope to see you today.Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.  




Thursday, February 23, 2017

UPDATED: More Ways to Help Victims of the San Jose Flood

Please excuse this photo. It is inappropriate given the content of this post but for reasons I can't get into at the moment I have no access to other photos at this time. But now that I have your attention please read this and take action.


I swear I will write a long and very detailed sorry-I-haven't-updated-this-blog-in-two-months post another day. 

But not today.

Today's post is a bit of a proof-of-life message for any and all readers/members of my family/friends who are under the impression the entire city is like the set of Waterworld.

It isn't. The flood in San Jose broke 95 year old records and is huge but I do not live in the affected area.

But a lot of people do. Some I know, most I don't, but here's how to help them all:

Tonight: Vinyasa Yoga @ Be The Change to Benefit Flood Victims

I'd be in a Nerf Hilton by now without Be The Change Yoga and tonight at 5:45 they are having a Vinyasa class (for those of you unfamiliar with yoga, "Vinyasa" is another word for "good and not painful to do").

Half of the proceeds go to help flood victims. Check out the class and sign up here. 

Neighborhood Cleanup Along Coyote Creek

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/neighborhood-cleanup-along-coyote-creek-registration-32328796300

This is what it sounds like. The dates on the drop down menu (as of now) are Friday, February 24th at 8:00am and Saturday, February 25th at 8:00am. Meeting point and details are in the link. 

Sunday: San Jose Flood Donation & Relief Center

This is Sunday, February 26th at The Get Down, which is on 198 Jackson Street. They are accepting donations for flood victims (of specific and useable items) from 4:00pm to 5:00pm and from 5:15 through 7:00pm it is open to the public. The link to the Facebook event page is here.

Silicon Valley Community Foundation: Flood Victims Relief Fund

https://www.siliconvalleycf.org/sjflood

This is the one Mayor Sam Liccardo is tweeting about. The American Red Cross, Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County, Sacred Heart Community Service (I did the bike build there back in December) and The Salvation Army are some of the organizations that the fund goes to. 

Subscribe to San Jose Mercury News


The reporting they have done has been terrific and if not for them we wouldn't have most of the information we have. The value of beat reporters on the political scene has been a huge issue as of late but that sentiment really has to extent to local issues - like the San Jose flood. Click this link, put in your ZIP code, and subscribe.

I'll have more to write soon (I swear I will) but to all who read this I urge you to look around your home. If your possessions are not covered in mud or relocated due to them floating somewhere - you can help. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 



Friday, December 16, 2016

Four Ways to Make 2016 Great Again (at least in San Jose)

This has been a tough year. Personally, professionally, and, well, in general. 

Where to begin. My grandmother died (as did my Uncle Wayne) and among other talents we lost Gene Wilder, John Glenn, Prince and the guy who played Preacher in Firefly*. Also: Mythbusters went off the air and The Nightly Show was cancelled when we needed them the most. 

And I didn't even get to the election. 

But before we join the voices of Amy Schumer, John Oliver and others who are rightfully extending the middle finger to the calendar year let's realize that not only were there some good things about 2016 (Visiting Japan, biking in the UK and Cranksgiving San Jose to name a few) there are better things to do than find a baker willing to put a swear word on a New Year's Eve cake. 

As it happens, I have four ideas to #Make2016GreatAgain for the Bay Area - and these things can be done starting tonight:

1) Yoga and Cello at Be The Change Yoga & Wellness




One of the cool things that happens when you move to a new city is you meet new people. An even cooler thing is when you meet new people and find out they also know other people you've already met. 

Like Cellista, the cellist who the founder of Cowgirl Bike Courier once carried on a cargo bike while she was performing. I met her through him - but also know her through Be The Change Yoga in San Jose (And regular yoga is a good thing - I'd be in a Nerf Hilton if not for Be The Change). 

Tonight, from 6 - 7pm there is a Flow class and Cellista is performing live. Hear the music. Move your body. Sign up here. 


2) The Ugly Sweater Ride by San Jose Bike Party



After listening to the talented Cellista, take off your yoga clothes and put on the ugliest Christmas sweater you can find so you can join San Jose Bike Party's Ugly Sweater Ride at 7:30. It starts at the Children's Discovery Museum parking lot at 180 Woz Way so you'll easily be able to bike that distance from Be The Change in time to catch the start. It'll be a great chance to see bikes (and people's homes) decorated in Christmas lights.

In the event you do not have an Ugly Christmas Sweater I highly recommend MoonZooom on 1630 West San Carlos Street. There is a bike rack right out in front and a generous selection of so-bad-they're-good Christmas sweaters inside (that's where I got the picture).

3) Donate a Toy - and see Santa - at Hub's Coffee

Since my 'No Words' Sandy Hook ride I did in Connecticut a week after that horrible day in 2012, I try to donate at least one toy at a toy drive every Sandy Hook anniversary. That's what I did on Wednesday.

In general, it feels good to shop for a toy (I always buy one I'd be excited to play with as a kid) and realize a child you never met is going to have a happier Christmas because of you.

I bought my toy - I opted for a Knex kit since I was raised on Capsella and Robotix as a youth - at Target. As always a cargo bike is a perfect way to not only avoid fighting for parking spots but also carry your stuff home.


At home, I switched to faster equipment - my city bike - and took off to Hub's Coffee on Blossom Hill Road.



When I got inside I was pleased to see the bucket they were using to collect donated toys was overflowing, and I hope visitors to Hub's between today and Saturday make it overflow even more and catch Santa's visit (he'll be at Hub's on Saturday, December 17th from 1 - 3; follow Hub's on Facebook for more details).

4) Good Karma Bikes' Bike Build at Sacred Heart 

This is taking place on Thursday, December 22nd between 8am and 6pm at Sacred Heart Community Service at 1381 S. 1st St.

I've seen pictures of bike builds done at Elves & More in Texas and always thought they looked fun. This is a great chance to take part in one and help kids get one of the most important gifts in their lives. Volunteer to help Good Karma Bikes' mechanics and unload bikes with any one (or more) of three shifts: 8am - noon, 11am - 3pm and 2pm - 6pm. You can sign up for a shift on the Good Karma Bikes' web page and email Collin@goodkarmabikes.org if you have any questions.

We can spend the last two weeks of the year being miserable about the previous fifty or we can stand up, listen to music, wear ugly Christmas sweaters, have fun and #Make2016GreatAgain by helping people who are having a much worse year than any of us. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 


* His name was Ron Glass - some of my older readers know him from Barney Miller. 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Cranksgiving San Jose 2016 - and Other Good Things We Can Do

This post is about Cranksgiving San Jose but it needs to begin with this message: two days prior to this amazing event, a man named Leonardo Jeronimo was killed when an out of control SUV crashed into the Alliance Credit Union office at Curtner Avenue.

I did not know Leonardo - who was doing his job (painting the office) at the time of his death. But one of main organizers of Cranksgiving San Jose knew him, and the weight of what had happened to Leonardo - who was married with five children - was visible when I saw this person the next day. 

A fund has been established to help Leonardo's family. Please donate something then share the link

You know those feel-good stories about a fundraising record that is completely smashed? Let's be that story.  Please help Leonardo's familyThank you.

Michael

    Cahalan Park, November 13th, 2016 - the first Cranksgiving in San Jose.

In case you’re joining DIYBIKING.COM from a long absence: I signed on as a sponsor and as a volunteer for Cranksgiving San Jose. Cranksgiving is an annual bike-based food drive that originated in New York City in 1999 and even though I had done a few deliveries to food banks on a bikes before, this was my first time involved in Cranksgiving. 

Thanks to an invite from Cain, the owner of San Jose’s Cowgirl Bike Courier, I got to be among a small handful of eclectic cyclists at the kickoff meeting run by Erin - who started the initiative here in San Jose in the first place (and, who I quickly learned, was an organizational and inspirational Jedi Knight). 

At the first meeting we all introduced ourselves and were charged to find sponsors. I became a sponsor myself (as DIYBIKING.COM) and reached out to Good Karma Bikes, which signed on as well. Hub’s Coffee was already on as the presenting sponsor and others were able to get gifts and other support from a wonderful and a wide-ranging list of organizations. The idea was there would be prizes for two divisions - speed and heavy haul - and raffle gifts too.  

Next came promotion. I was given full run of Cranksgiving San Jose’s Facebook page and over an episode and a half of ‘Breaking Bad’ I hand-lettered my bike trailer and made Cranksgiving ‘business cards’ to hand to people who’d ask me about it (and they did) and of course spoke loudly and often at the Bay Area Cargo Bike Festival


As I did last year when helping Good Karma Bikes promote their move to their location on Lincoln Avenue, I reached out to several Silicon Valley journalists I’ve met - including Garvin Thomas of NBC Bay Area News - to try and sell them on the concept of covering Cranksgiving San Jose. 

While the other volunteers were recruiting riders and gathering some impressive donations to be used as prizes, I missed the meeting where the central goal was to plan the manifest - which is the top secret list of grocery stores one could visit.  When Cain pointed that out to me when I saw him at the Cargo Bike Festival, I realized I could not only volunteer and sponsor - but also participate. 

In the days leading up to the event I engaged in some last-ditch efforts to get reporters to come. And it was last Friday afternoon when Garvin Thomas sent me a note asking me about our Saturday planning meeting as well as the event itself. About to sit and watch the incredibly important documentary 13th, I quickly jotted down my response, gave Erin a headsup, and put the phone on silent for the movie

The next day I attended the planning meeting at Hub’s Coffee and was delighted not only that the T-shirts that were made looked fantastic but we had a lot of prizes donated thanks to the sponsors.


Garvin was also there filming and we also had several great students from San Jose State University who were attending the meeting and would be volunteering the day of the event. My chief function that day was to help bag prizes and sort T-shirts so half could be sold at the registration table at Cahalan Park and the rest at a table at Hub’s Coffee, which was where we were meeting and where the event would end. I liked seeing DIYBIKING.COM on the back of a T-Shirt (which, for those of you who are considering becoming a sponsor for an event like this, is good enough reason to do so).


The day of the event I rode my homemade California cargo bike and trailer to Hub’s Coffee to drop the latter off so it could be used at the weigh-in area as a sign. With an improved drag coefficient - and two blue IKEA bags strapped to my cargo bike for my groceries - I set off to Cahalan Park to register.


Because everything was under control there wasn’t much for me to do as a Cranksgiving sponsor or a volunteer. But there was one thing I could do as a participant: study the manifest and plan my route. 

Even though I was entering the Heavy Hauler competition and theoretically didn’t have to race against the clock like the Speed people were, I wanted to return as quickly as possible to remove my participant hat and put my sponsor/volunteer one back on. 

I studied the manifest which included a list of sixteen grocery stores (we had to pick a minimum of four to go to) and a list of specific food items that we were charged to get. As a person who has lived in San Jose for seventeen months I had been to maybe two of the stores - and I barely knew where they were. Briefly I was reminded of the stressful summer of 2015 when I couldn’t travel further than five miles from my home without using a GPS. 


With little power on my phone and no regard for my data plan I punched in a few of the addresses in a halfhearted effort to find the shortest route. I ended up making guesstimates as to what route would get me to the four stores I chose the fastest, and reasoned that if I could buy just over the minimum - four items -  at the first three stops and just overload my bike at the last one to minimize carrying a lot of weight over a large distance. I also, of course, decided to go to the furthest grocery store first.

I had a lot of confidence in myself. When I was a kid growing up in Connecticut my dad and I did all of the grocery shopping. On Saturdays we’d go in our Ford Econoline van to a store, and he’d tear off a page of a tractor-fed dot matrix printout of the grocery list which had (and I swear this is true) a list of common food items organized by which aisle in the grocery store they were found in. 

This list, perpetually affixed to the refrigerator with a magnet, would enable one to use a nearby yellow highlighter to mark food item the family needed. With a printout in hand, I’d weave through the aisles gathering grated cheese, milk, or whatever it was I was charged to find and then locate my father so we could either finish shopping together or he could tear me off a new page of the list that I could try to tackle alone. 

So yeah: going in I thought I had this in the bag. 

My confidence did become rather dented at the sight of a couple of Yuba cargo bikes - and the arrival of this three-wheeled ringer.


Before I could even the odds by lashing an empty Dumpster to the back of my cargo bike, we closed in on the 1:00pm hour and were instructed to leave our bikes under a tree and gather on a nearby hill. Using a borrowed bullhorn that she quickly realized was unnecessary, Erin gave a stirring speech to the crowd while Garvin's camera rolled. 


Then, we were off and running down to the hill to mount up.
I hastily threw a few of the pictures I took onto the Cranskgiving Facebook page and jumped on my bike. The first place I wanted to go was a Lucky’s a few miles south. Under a beautiful sky and among a few other cyclists who had also chosen that location as the first stop, I raced ahead and locked up out front.


Upon entering, I immediately noticed I wasn’t the fastest. A couple of cyclists were already in line at the checkout and a few more were race-walking through the aisles to find the approved food items. I had to admit it was intoxicating to enter a grocery store with the lens of a game show contestant instead of trying to remember if I had milk or not (NBC's Janelle Wang later mentioned on the air that Cranksgiving San Jose looked fun and I can assure her: it is - and I hope you follow Cranksgiving San Jose on Facebook and do it with us next time).

I grabbed the first items I found that were on the approved list - four cans of pineapple and four boxes of spaghetti - and headed to the express lane. 


Even though I knew I wasn’t, technically, racing the clock, I was still feeling a spot of panic when my self-checkout counter malfunctioned. 


There was nothing I could do but wait for a very nice attendant to walk over and ask me a familiar question. For the last time, Lucky’s: No I am not collecting the stamps! I'm not even sure what they are. Postage? I'm not collecting them so please stop asking me! I'll keep shopping there because you have the good sense to make all the different blends of coffee the exact same price - but leave me out of the stamp thing!

Outside, I realized what my personal bottleneck was going to be. The bungee cargo netting I keep on my cargo bike at all times kept trying to pull the spaghetti into my spokes. As much as I use the bike for my own grocery trips I’ve never carried food in shapeless IKEA bags before. I felt I was struggling with a bean bag chair filled with rocks. 

Once I arranged the food so it wouldn’t create a spaghetti incident (hey - that sounds like a great name for an album, doesn’t it?) I headed off to the next store - Lunardis.


Here I ran into even more cyclists, and we all had that frenzied, hurried, and happy look on our faces. After grabbing more food (I ruled out graham crackers since I worried my bike's stiff ride would turn them into graham cracker atoms by the time I finished) I checked out without incident and, after remounting, got ready to make a U-turn as several other bicycles - including the pedal powered Doof Wagon I've seen at San Jose Bike Party Rides - turned in the other direction using the right lane (the picture below is the one I took at the start).

    I've seen it at San Jose Bike Party and it looks even better at night. And yes that is a fog machine. 

When I finally arrived at Sprouts I took a GoPro inside as to capture the spectacular drama and breath-holding action that can only be described as grocery shopping on a Sunday afternoon. Other shoppers gave me a noticeably wider berth - especially as I gave running commentary. As with Lunardis I ran into other friendly Cranksgivers as I hurried along.

Finally, it was time to go to Chavez Supermarket on Blossom Hill Road, which is in the same plaza as Hub’s Coffee. Unfortunately, I became lost on the way there and ended up pedaling over two miles to correct my mistake. When I finally arrived at Chavez, I found the front jammed with bicycles belong to other Cranksgivers - meaning I wasn’t alone in my load-up-at-the-last-stop strategy. 

I pulled out my now wrinkled, sweat-covered manifest and  zeroed in on food items I didn’t already collect. I could hear my sneakers scuffing on the floor more than I did at the first store. I was running low on power. 


I got a shopping trolley and picked up more food than I had gathered on my first three stops combined, scanning the aisles for empty cardboard boxes I thought would be easier to attach to my cargo bike. Finding none, I figured exactly how much food would tear through an IKEA bag - and subtracted one can of peanut butter.

In line, an ecstatic cyclist ahead of me was explaining Cranksgiving to the amused young grocery clerk, whose smile got bigger as their exchange went on. 

When I finally made it outside, I again played grocery Tetris to make sure all my food - I had no idea how much I had gathered at this point - would stay in place. I mounted up and pedaled to Hub’s Coffee


“Another heavy hauler!” Someone shouted excitedly.

They were talking about me. 

I braked and was nearly out of breath due to the cumulative efforts to gather this much food. The tireless and inspiring Erin helped balance my food on the borrowed scales while Garvin Thomas filmed the event. I briefly handed over my receipts to prove in fact I had traveled to the shops on the list to get my food.


A moment of panic hit when I realized I couldn’t find my manifest. Lucky for me a cyclist I had never met before (who arrived moments after I did) handed it to me with a smile, saying I had dropped it while in line at Chavez.

I thanked him. 

My weigh in for the very first Cranksgiving I had ever taken part in was 49.7 pounds. I had nothing to compare that figure to so I could only wonder if I could top that next year. Again I asked Erin, Cain and the owner of Hub’s if I could help with anything and they - and the fantastic San Jose State University students - assured me I didn’t need to put my volunteer hat back on just yet. 


I entered Hub’s so I could plug in my dying phone and recharge with food and a cold drink from one of the incredible staff members. While inside, I watched as more food came in and was placed inside the drums Second Harvest Food Bank had provided. The contents of what I saw gave me hope that this was going to be a successful first Cranksgiving San Jose. 


It was closing in to 4:00pm at this point - the cut-off time for the Heavy Haulers - so I went outside to see how that was going. “Okay,” I thought to myself. “It looks like my cargo bike and myself are in good shape for the Heavy Hauler competitiOH COME ON!”


I stood near the front of Hub’s taking photos for the Cranksgiving San Jose Facebook page and was in awe. Riders from all ages, many races and, judging by the equipment they were dismounting - many income tax brackets were coming in. It made me smile for the first time in nearly a week. On social media I’ve seen the #WeAreSanJose hashtag but never really felt like I knew what it mean until that afternoon at Hub’s Coffee. 


Even though the sun was beginning to set nearly all of the riders stayed for the awards ceremony. I came in a distant third in the Heavy Haul competition but it was much more fun watching it all and learning just how much food we had all gathered for Second Harvest Food Bank. All of us began looking at each other and realized the same thing: cyclists getting together to use their bikes for good is the prize

That and gathering enough food to dent the earth's crust. 


Thanks to the amazing generosity of the sponsors there were more than enough prizes to go around. With laughs and till-next-year promises, the celebration at Hub's came to a close and we all got together to pack everything up. A couple of days later, Garvin Thomas’ fantastic segment on Cranksgiving aired as a Bay Area Proud feature. 

Today, as I write this, I am feeling Cranksgiving withdrawal. And today, as you read this, you may be feeling sorry that you missed it. But if you are in a city that hasn’t had Cranksgiving yet look on the Cranksgiving web site to find one near you. I was a sponsor, volunteer and participant. It's easy to do just one of those if you prefer.

If you live in San Jose and want to make sure you don’t miss it in 2017, like Cranksgiving San Jose on Facebook and remember: nothing is stopping you from getting on your bike and bringing donations to a food bank like Second Harvest or participating in NBC Bay Area’s own food drive - Feed the Need - which is going on this weekend.

You can also find Second Harvest Food Bank drums to put food in at your local Safeway. Not only that but Hub's Coffee is having a special deal until November 20th: bring in a non-perishable food item and get 15% off a hot coffee. 

If you’re like me, you may feel as though a lot of humor and humanity was lost over the course of 2016. Cranksgiving and efforts like it (and any decision you make to #LeaveTheCarTakeTheBicycle to do some good) are a great way for all of us to get some of that humanity back. Mount up and do that right now - and make a donation for Leonardo's family before you go. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 


                        The sponsors of Cranksgiving San Jose 2016