Monday, July 7, 2014

Schwinn Varsity Single Speed Conversion

Hello internets.  It has been a minute since I posted on the old blog.  Seems like the ease and quickness of Instagram has become the tool I use for quick pics of skiing, surfing and nature.  That said, I think the blog is still a great way to share more in depth stories of adventure and fun.  Like this one:

For the past year I've been riding my bike to work.  It's a short little ride of only a few miles.  It takes me about 10-15 minutes to cover the distance.  I've been doing it on a proper road bike, with clipless pedals and a pretty aggressive seating position.  The thing is, lots of day I just don't feel like changing shoes and getting super aerodynamic for a quick ride to work.  So my hunt started for a townie bike.  I wanted something upright, simple and cheap so I can lock it up and not worry.

After searching craigslist for a few weeks I decided I was going to build my own.  I decided to find a Schwinn Varsity and do a backyard single speed conversion.  The more I read about the Varsity the more I loved it.  It's a funny bike because bike snobs like to complain about how heavy it is, including someone on this message board telling the dude his bike will make a great boat anchor.  Haters gonna hate.  In my eyes, these rigs are a piece of American bicycle history and I want in.

Finally I found this diamond in the rough and went to work.

First I pulled all the derailleurs, gears and shift levers off.  I converted the rear wheel into a single speed with a freewheel so I could coast.  The old school dropouts are perfect for single speeds and fix gear conversions.

Next, I ditched the drop bars and brake levers.  I put on some steel bars and brake levers from an old Schwinn cruiser someone was throwing away.  I did keep the rad 70's reflector from the Varsity though.

Although I really prefer how this bike looks without racks, I wanted to actually use this for work, the grocery store, etc.  I did some research and learned that those old school 'rat trap' racks are made in Switzerland and still very cheap.  So went for the Pletscher rack.  It has turned out to be great for holding important stuff like U-locks and 6-packs.

I resisted the final add on because I wanted to keep the ride cheap.  But I had to do it, I bought a Brooks Saddle.  The Brooks cost more than everything else on the bike combined, boosting the value from $100 to $200! But it's rad and comfortable, so I take the extra time to run a cable through it when I lock the bike.  It's worth it.

 One of the very cool things on these old Chicago Schwinns is you can find the serial number and lookup when yours was built down to the day!  This little guy was made in December of 1976.  Maybe someone got it for Christmas.

 In the end, I love this little ride.  So I failed at making something that I wouldn't care about if it got stolen but the rest has been an overwhelming success.  If you are considering building something like this, don't hesitate.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

New Years Skate

This New Years the skeleton crew made the annual pilgrimage to Tahoe to enjoy the wilderness.  We brought skates and s'mores and instead of skis, beacons, shovels and probes.  It was easy to see that skiing is not the only reason we choose to slide into sleeping bags and spend the new year under the stars.  The sky was blue, the sun was out and the ice was as good as it gets.  Happy New Year!

And a short video for your viewing pleasure....

New Years Skate from JonnyB on Vimeo.

Saturday, January 18, 2014


Right before the New Year I was sent to Nepal for work.  Like Siberia, it was an amazing trip with amazing people and I feel truly lucky to be at a place in my career when I get these calls.  I don't take it for granted and had to pinch myself on this one.  A few pics that try to capture the mood of that magical country.

Monday, November 25, 2013


“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” -Mark Twain

Just spent ten days working in Siberia.  Temps reached an incredibly cold 40 below zero.  On shoots like this you have to have an amazing local crew to get you where you need to be and keep you alive. Thankfully our fixer and local team was the best.  You can follow his adventures here:

This was one of those amazing experiences that I will remember for a lifetime.  One of those experiences that reminds you that even a world away people are just people.  Living life, trying to survive, and they'd rather laugh than fight.  They dressed like hunters and we looked like astronauts but at the end of the day we all drank tea and were happy to have a warm hut and a roof over our heads.

Friday, September 6, 2013

It Clicks

Sometimes it just clicks.  Unfortunately it seems to happen less and less these days.  Our busy lives crammed with to do lists and deadlines seem to get in the way more than I'd like to admit.  But it still happens, and last weekend was one of those times.  The perfect combination of a great friend, a bit of space, and the stillness and freedom to go with the flow.

A couple of California dreamers.
We strapped our surfboards to the roof and pointed the car north.  We wanted to go somewhere with less people, not more, and on Labor Day weekend that can be tough.  So we headed towards a stretch of coastline that is known for sharks, frigid water, fog and generally harsh conditions.  If we could squeeze in one mediocre session we thought we would have scored.

'69 Ranger and a few great peaks.  We're in the right place.
Starting from the first morning we got clean session after clean session.  Sunny days, warm water, it was truly unprecedented.  We talked to one local after a session who said he had lived in the area for 45 years and never seen such great weather, warm water, and clean surf.  We continued north, searching the map for points, driving to random pullouts and scrambling down rocks and cliffs to empty beaches.  Paddling out into the unknown and catching the best surf I've had in a long time.

Another empty cove.
It was amazing how fast we folded back into the rhythm of of the road, the rhythm of a surf trip, and the rhythm of nature.  Wake up early, drink a bit of caffeine, paddle out for a few hours, breakfast, move camp to a different beach, surf some more, eat, repeat.  Simple.

That's Oregon in the distance.

Between surf meal.  No time to stop.

By our last session we barely even said a word to each other.  The surf was just gorgeous.  An a-frame peak with a slow left and and punchy quick right.  There was no time to wait on the outside.  I'd catch one and while I was paddling back out to the takeoff zone Chris would catch another.  We just passed in the middle, watching each other get theirs.  Over and over and over again.

No filter or camera tricks.  This is what we woke up to.
Chris and Ruby meditate on the day ahead.
During that last session I felt something I hadn't felt in a long time.  That click.  I can catch anything, make any drop, power through any section, overcome any stumble.  It didn't matter if I was late or early I could make it work.  I feel very lucky to know that feeling and to have experienced it many times before.  Some people call it flow, others say it's Zen, and some just say you're present.  Some discover it through meditation, others hunt for it with drugs, I found it in the cold waters off northern California riding ocean pulses with my best bud.