Lost Roads, Alley Cats and OG Dirt Drops


This Journal entry has too much stuff in it.  Here’s a quick table of contents:

Alley Cat Announcement, too late, but better late than never.

Recent Builds, including a Rivendell Sam Hillborne and a Rivendell Hunqapillar.

A short essay about the loss of a dirt road. 


Gravel & Grind’s 2nd Annual Halloween Alley Cat n’ After Party, SATURDAY the 15th!!!

Alley Cat Scavenger Hunt Bike Race starts at Gravel & Grind 7pm sharp so get here at 6-6.30 so we can check you in and take your money.

What’s an Alley Cat? Scavenger hunt on a bike with challenges at different stations that are usually gratuitously gross, difficult in someway or weird. You can ride solo or in a 2 or 3 person group. Each rider’s gotta pay the entrance fee though! Sub 15 miles, all in town, no big hills. Winner gets rad prizes. Winning is a combo of speed, audacity, wits and weirdness. Extra points randomly awarded. Don’t take this event seriously. People who take it seriously will be doused in fake blood.

Party at the shop starts at 9pm. Fire Pits. Roasted Peeps. Trash cans full of candy corn, the good kind with the brown tip. Not really, we can’t afford the brown ones. Hangs. It’ll be good.

Race and Party: $15

MUST bring to the race:

-Bike you can get filthy, or a saddle cover.
-Bike Lights front and rear (please, something that actually is bright enough to read with)
-Messenger bag or backpack
-Costume you can get really messed up
-Bike Lock
-$15 cash
-Clothes to change into after the ride
-Towel. Its gunna be gross. There will be a hose down station post race, if needed.

Spread the word!

The workshop has been busy cranking out custom and customized builds.  Here’s a few favorite highlights from the past month or so.


Andrew’s recently built custom Sam Hillborne. We went with Nitto Dirt Drop bars, a White Industries Wide Range double crankset and handbuilt tubeless wheels with Compass tires.  We have Sam Framesets and Completes in stock, just give us a call or drop us a line.


IRD brake levers mated to Dura Ace Bar Con shifters, a shop speciality. We wrapped Fizik gel with some Green Grips Bar tape and finished it with Nitto bar plugs. That weird button the top tube is for the USB charger built into the front generator light.


Paul Racer brakes are strong, beautiful, and serviceable. We upgraded these with Kool Stop Salmon cross pads for easy brake pad changes.


A recently built Clem Smith Jr bike headed out the door with upgraded grips, a Brooks saddle, fenders, front rack and awesome Spank Oozy pedals.


Big, sticky, good looking, with huge sealed bearings. Pedals get no better, but they do get way worse.


If you don’t have a bike with cork grips, we can help you change that. Rubber grips tend to feel like sticky gym equipment. Cork feels like you are fly fishing on a large river in Montana whilst wearing a wool hat and reminiscing on Theroux.

Fall fell upon us like a vengeful leaf pile.  It’s crisp out, good wool sweater weather, which, if you have a nice wool sweater, is the best weather.  Wool sweaters always get holes in them, but you can patch them up and keep wearing them.  People used to patch everything, pants, inner tubes, sweaters.  Now most folks just toss whatever it is, get a new one.  Buck the trend: fix the hole, don’t toss whatever it is.  

Speaking of patching things: did you know bikes used to be repairable without hooking them up to a computer or sending them off to a carbon repair facility?  Yup, it’s true, you used to be able to take a screw driver and some allen keys and do almost anything to your bike.  Your friendly local welding shop could fix bigger issues for 30 bucks and a burrito bribe.  

Here’s an ode to a dirt road I wrote a few years ago.  It’s about a road next my house when I was living on the edge of a mountain in central Pennsylvania.  This time of year reminds me of the lost of that road.  

A small slice of shuddering soft gray road surface.  Lost, after years of simple service.  Endless leaves lay fallen and forgotten, forever facing tireless tire tracks.  It was a short stretch to traverse, no consequence, they say.  Too much dust.  Some maintenance required.  Not Plug n’ Play.  I walked this wavering artery, a passage with passion piqued, a daily ritual of devotion.  To the post office, the bus stop, endless photographs with the passing of the equinox, the bones of leaves ground into anthropologic specimen, the setting for micro-forensic fiction and fascination.  The stroll reinvigorated with every traipse and tread.  It brought to mind an open map, where the seeker of such solitude could codify, compose and collect derelict dirt roads.  The Dirt Road Database was born on this beaten path. 


Skeleton of Fall

Taking a turn too eager, I once crashed maleficently on the track, torching elbow and ego, claret mixing with the gray dirt.  I became part of the landscape, face pressed close to the soft humming soil, plaid wool to gray mud. The lane was a springboard for adventures.  A harbor to launch an emprise.  The home stretch at the end of amaranthine miles.

Two years have passed since I have relinquished proximity to the path.  We parted and the lane let its guard down.  It forgot it’s importance to my life, and our shared protoplasmic dharma.  I remember waking, full of terror and trepidation, hearing the scrape of a grader on the soft yielding surface of the path.  My mind ached, yammered and yowled: was my lane being paved?  No, it was merely a grooming, an exfoliation of the soil, a soothing of the scabrous stones and a filling of the pockmark’d potholes.  I would rush to the scene, clad in barely more than shoes, to sabotage the murderous act.  In the end though, I missed the snuff scene.  We rolled by on our way to a semi-annual ramble, and the lane had died an inglorious death.  Fresh asphalt, thick and black and full of sin, coated my cruor and the finished the soft gray lane that once was.