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Who's Making Bikes?
   Covid-19. Cops killing black people. Global warming. It’s rough out there. But now is a good time to go on a socially distanced bike ride. Go somewhere you’ve never been. Come on, get off the couch and ride! You know that feeling after every ride where the world is a better place, you feel great and you’ve solved almost all you nagging problems? Yeah, a bike ride is something you never regret. For me the hardest part is getting out the door. But when I do, I’m always like “Damn, this is the best, why was it so hard to get on and pedal? I love my bike!”.
   Well, apparently much of the world has rediscovered cycling, or they’re on a bike for the first time. Social distancing, shelter in place orders, and fear of using public transportation have lead to this. And guess what? I feel like for once, the bike industry is winning.
   That being said, we're seeing bike shops being totally overloaded with repairs and sold out of bicycles. Just 6 months ago nobody would have predicted that. It’s a win, but also very stressful because new bikes are simply not available. Something like 95% of all bikes worldwide are made in China or Taiwan. They were the first to get hit by the pandemic and the first to shut down. All production stopped for a time and I suspect that now some production is back on, but the world is a different place, and I doubt it’s anywhere close to normal. Everything is weird now people!
   Those ultra fancy carbon bikes on down to the cheapest Walmart bikes are super hard to come by. But you know who IS making bicycles? The plethora of small framebuilding shops across the United States. Almost all framebuilders are a one-person operation. It seems to be the formula for making a living at it, scaling up just never seems to work. So... all those shops are one person. No need for strict Covid rules. No need to disinfect every day in case a coworker comes into the same area.
   What I’m saying is: This is the perfect time to get that custom, built for your body, with all your dream braze-ons, bike made by your local frame builder. Or not so local. Oh yeah, we’re still making parts as well. They are available, you’ll just need to wait an extra few days to a week to get them. That’s much better then waiting for the factories overseas to ramp up, load onto a container ship, sail across the Pacific and then only to arrive at port and then be quarantined for two weeks.
Black Lives Matter
The moment the George Floyd protests began, we could tell it was the beginning of a very big new chapter in civil rights history. We are a very small company that's been made even smaller by the current Covid circumstances (watch the "Hope Corn" video later in this newsletter for more on this), but we knew we needed to do SOMETHING to help. We've had good luck with fundraisers in the past, so we quickly sprung into action with a fundraiser raffle to benefit and support the amazing frontline work in Minneapolis by Women for Political Change.
The moment that raffle was over we jumped into the next one with some other awesome bike brands, raising money for the Black Women's Health Imperative, Black Vision Collective, and more. It doesn't feel very classy to quote monetary numbers (and we all know that it will take more than just money to enact real lasting change). But we will say: Not only did we help raise tens of thousands of dollars, we were astounded to see how many people donated waaaay more than the raffle minimum, and we were also amazed by how many people from outside the USA were willing to help. Seriously, our minds were just BLOWN by the amount of support shown by the cycling community. Here's a big cheers and thank-you to everybody who chipped in and restored our faith in humanity along the way.
Of course we aren't done. Coming soon is an even bigger benefit raffle we're helping our friends at Crust Bikes and ol' Ronnie Rainbow with. The wheels are getting laced as we speak, so stay tuned!
I did an E-Bike Ride and It Kicked My Ass
   Yep, I sure did. It was really fun, different, and very hard. My lungs don’t work so great, never have, so I am always the slowest person in the bunch. This is why I prefer to ride solo, which is working really good right about now because of, you know, the weirdness. So when I got the call to join a small group of people to ride the new Santa Cruz Heckler in the Sierras on an overnight camping trip (with sherpa) I was hesitant. At first I thought, like you probably are, it’s an e- bike, you don’t actually have to work! Then I remembered a brief ride earlier in the year where yeah, you work just as hard, the only difference being you go farther.
    These bikes had the Shimano E-Steps system with a graph showing battery charge and three settings to toggle through: Eco, Trail and Boost. I prefer Turbo but they used Boost. Eco was a joke, at least for me, on a 60lb $8000 bike. Trail was nice but once you switch on Boost there is really no going back. It’s so addictive. And weird. Thing is it drains the battery the fastest.
   So the plan was to get the main partners of the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship together, ride these demo/rental bikes over Mt Hough from Quincy CA and camp at Taylorsville. Cosmo would meet us for lunch with fresh batteries, sandwiches and beers. The next day we’d take a different route but do pretty much the same thing. The weather was perfect!
   On the Shimano battery graph there are five bars, what we came to call “pills” because they look like that. The first bike climb we all kept it in Trail and used one pill. Each big climb saw another pill gone. I had by this point left it in Boost (TURBO!) because as usual I was the slow guy (it was all guys) and I desperately wanted to keep up. After lunch there was another monster climb and even with a fresh battery my pills were being swallowed. And I was struggling. Mason was the sweeper and he stuck with me, urging me on in his indomitable cheerful positive style. Then a super fun short section of downhill single track and then another climb where the worst thing ever happened: I was down to one pill and it was red and flashing. Danger! Danger! Danger!
   I told Mason, and being the excellent person that he is, he gave me his battery and took my depleted one. He was fine, I was hanging on for dear life. The ride finished up with a huge decent into Taylorsville and that was THE BEST! If you did Grinduro a couple years back you climbed up this out of Taylorsville. And I bet you hated it.
Once we sorted out our tents and gear we walked to Young’s Market, a wonderful deli/general store in a restored brick building. Then it was back to camp for a big fire and many more beers and good conversations. Mark Weir was with us, and the more beers we had, the bigger he was determined to make the fire. I crawled into my bag around 12:30 and slept like a baby. A buzzed, sore and exhausted baby.
   At breakfast I had come to the realization that I couldn’t do the ride that day, it just wasn’t in me, pedal assist or not. I got a ride back to my car and drove home with my tail between my legs, but satisfied I’d made the right decision.
   What I came away with was that e-bikes are still bikes. E-bikes require the exact same workout. I had ridden 40 miles over a mountain with lots of steep climbs I would never have made on a regular bike. But also they are definitely not motorcycles. They are still bikes.
A Secret For Our Subscribers
After doing a little bit of shelf organizing, we realized we actually do have some blue parts left! And, being that they are already built and packaged, they aren't experiencing the same delays as some of our other parts (more on that in the Corn video below) and can ship right away. These goodies aren't listed on our website, but if you see something on this list that you're interested in, shoot an email and we'll get you set up with that secret blueberry goodness.

Minimotos: 13
Motolites: 8
Neo-Retro: 4
Racer M Front: 1
Racer M Rear: 1
E-Lever 7/8” Right: 1
Duplex Lever: 1
Cross Lever 31.8 Left: 2
Cross Lever 31.8 Right: 1
Cross Lever 26.0 Pair: 2
Cross Lever 26.0 Right: 1
Cross Lever 26.0 Left: 1
Love Lever 2.5 Pair: 14
Love Lever 2.5 Left: 4
Love Lever Compact Right: 2
Love Lever Compact Left: 3
5mm QR Skewers 100mm: 1
5mm QR Skewers 130/135mm: 1
Melvin: 3
QR Seat Collar 30.0mm: 10
QR Seat Collar 31.8mm: 3
QR Seat Collar 33.1mm: 2
Thumbies Shimano Pair 31.8: 1
Thumbies Shimano Pair 22.2: 2
Thumbies Microshift Pair 22.2: 1
Tall & Handsome Seatpost 27.2: 5
Tall & Handsome Seatpost 30.9: 3
Disk Brake Adapters IS 0mm: 4
Chim-Chims Bar Ends: 2
Chain Keeper 28.6: 4
Chain Keeper 31.8: 6
Chain Keeper 35.0: 7
Funky Monkey Cable Hanger Rear 27.2: 6
Funky Monkey Cable Hanger Front 7/8”: 5
Funky Monkey Cable Hanger Front 1”: 5
Funky Monkey Cable Hanger Front 1-1/8”: 9
Boxcar Stem 35mm Clamp 35mmX0^: 6
Boxcar Stem 35mm Clamp 50mmX0^: 4
35mm Boxcar Faceplate: 8
Boxcar Stem 31.8 Clamp 35mmX0^: 7
Boxcar Stem 31.8 Clamp 70mmX0^: 6
Boxcar Stem 31.8 Clamp 70mmX15^: 3
Boxcar Stem 31.8 Clamp 90mmX15^: 3
Boxcar Stem 31.8 Clamp 110mmX7^: 2
Disc FHUB 32H 12X100: 1
Disc WORD 12X142: 1
High Flange Front 32H (QR or B/O): 3
High Flange Rear Fixed/Free (QR or B/O): 5
FHUB 28H (QR or B/O): 1

What the Hell are "Oak Balls"?

Have you ever been on a ride, stopped for a snack or pee break, and noticed irregular growth on a plant and wondered what the heck was going on? Have you seen "oak apples" while walking in the woods? Turns out that there are species of plants and insects that have a parasitic relationship that spans for tens of thousands of years, a relationship that has undergone evolution together, a relationship that results in the plant producing a sort of nursery for the parasitic insect's young. A place to call home that offers temperature control and protection from the elements. One of the most commonly affected plants for galls is the mighty oak (Quercus) which claims thousands of different parasitic gall species, mostly wasps (Cynipidae).

Fig. 1. Life cycle of the California oak gall wasp. The female wasp (about 5mm long) lays eggs in the stems of the oak tree in fall. In spring, larvae hatch, begin to feed and produce a plant growth hormone that induces gall formation. The cross section of the gall  shows two larvae inside. Galls are at first green but later turn darker. Larvae pupate and emerge as new adults in fall. (Molly Keller illustration).

There are two important things to consider when observing plant galls: each insect gall is specific to that plant, and that the insect somehow--the science is still out on this, but they are thinking pheromones--manipulates the plant to produce these galls during their growth stage. While studying entomology, my favorite professor had discovered a new species (every biologist's DREAM!) of a galling insect right here in our backyard of Northern California. While observing galls of the locally common Manzanita bush (Arctostaphylos) he knew that there was a gall inducing aphid (Tamalia coweni) but discovered that there was another species (Tamalia inquilin) that moved in on the induced gall and acted like a parasite to the parasite.

Fig. 2. Tamalia coweni (Manzanita Leafgall Aphid) on Arctostaphylos parryana. By John Rusk from Berkeley, CA

His newly discovered species left their eggs in the gall of the already forming "nursery" so that their young had a nice warm home that they didn't have to offer any energy into creating. The thing is, my teacher took hours upon hours of staring at the same tiny little bug to realize there was a difference. He stared at the same thing day, after day, after day. Something I feel we can all relate to right now. Anyway, my point is that even though we should continue to stay home and slow down (now more than ever!), there are tiny nuances right under our noses that we can observe and discover.

Hope Corn and Covid Compliance
We know, with everybody wearing masks this video is WEIRD and awkward. But well, we're a bunch of bike nerds and machinists, so we've always been a little weird and awkward! Follow Paul on a walk through the zoned-up machine shop as he explains how we're doing our dang best to keep making the bike parts you love while keeping our hard working staff safe and healthy!:
Hope Corn in the Time of Covid
Copyright © 2020 Paul Component Engineering, All rights reserved.

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