Sunday, December 17, 2006

the ralph collection, only at the orphanage . . .
folks familiar with the iowa racing scene are at once familiar with the brand "ralph cycles" whether through socks, t-shirts, legend and lore, or from having actually ridden next to an actual ralph cycle. little is known about the history of the fellow responsible for these rare and exquisite bikes. even less is known about how one ever went about actually getting one. it's a small and tightly knit cadre of ralph loyalists. but it is a wide-spread one: ralph's have been spotted on the east coast, throughout the midwest, up and down the rocky mountain chain, on the west coast, and even in japan. it is often said that the largest collection of ralph cycles is to be seen on the ragby, during the last week of july. but that's not quite true. for years, the largest know aggregation of ralph cycles has been right here, in capitol city, in the bike room at the orphanage.

above is one of the earliest examples of the artist's work, in blue and white: a 50cm road version, with a rare braze-on front der hanger. most frames came in the clamp-on style. this frame dates from the early to mid-90s, and is made from a proprietary blend of steel/alloy tubing. it provided the reverend years of cycling comfort, and was ridden to countless victories and podium finishes throughout the midwest. it is retired.

above is its immediate successor, another ralph road bike, shown equipped with the woundup carbon fork which was the hallmark of the ralph marque. again, a beautiful 50cm in blue and white, with its very comfortable 73/73 geometry, this bike, as with all ralph bikes ever owned by the reverend, had a hundred-mile shakedown cruise. the reverend firmly believes that if a new bike can't deliver a comfortable century first time out, it isn't worth a shit. [bank on that advice when you buy your next $8,000 ride.] this valiant bike is STILL performing a yeoman's task. just today, the rev completed a hat-trick with this old work horse he now calls his "atr" -- all terrain ralph. we rode with lou, miss jane, paul v from ames, and rick [whose ne'er-do-well friends bailed on him] and covered road miles, then gravel, and finally some great singletrack at raccoon river valley park, followed by more single track at denman's at the science center. this bike--i LOVE it--handled ALL of the challenges of the day in fine fashion. its early-90s dura ace downtube shifters were given a fine workout through sticky mud and dry, deep sand, and the little 21C tires treated me well. although i have a better understanding why we don't do cross and mountain biking with slicks! this bike will be ridden and raced for the foreseeable future. it's a stud's bike, and has accumulated more "tough guy" points than most of you riders around these parts, i shit you not.

above is the newest of my ralphs: an aluminum single-speed cyclocross bike, with track-style rear drop-outs. it dates from october, 2000, and was built up by, of course, my man fry guy, who had many little tricks to execute to meet my bizarre expectations. as i recall, one of the most frustrating features was the rear brake set-up. but once done, no changes have been needed. in fact, the only thing i've changed since this thing rolled out of the door was to install a larger chainring, from a 38 to a 46, i believe. sweet speed: i think 175 cranks, can't recall the rear cog. none of that shit matters: it is extremely light, maneuverable, agile, comfy [yes, i did the 100 miler break-in], and beautiful. love this bike, too. despite the broken nose it delivered in mid-october, 2000, and the broken clavicle, ribs and collapsed lung it provided in october, 2006. pilot error, too much speed for the circumstances. but, goddamn it's fun!!

the orphanage was privileged recently to be the owner of this fine example of ralphdom: an orange with yellow scandium machine actually rumored to have been ridden by the man himself. unfortunately, this bike proved to be too much bike for the reverend, and it is now the prized possession of a certain "mr. tony" who promises to debut a track-worthy version later this next spring. the orange color is significant, and hopefully mr. tony will maintain the original color scheme, as the very first ralph bicycles were orange, as were the first generation socks and t-shirts. rumors persist about a re-issuance of ralphwear, although they most likely will be bootlegged articles. stay tuned to the daily sermonette for more details about ralph clothing.

4 comments:

Mistress Julie said...

Seriously. How many bikes do you have? From the photos it looks like about seven...

the mostly reverend said...

hmmm...at last count, it was something like 30 or so. my bmx bikes, old schwinn cruisers, stingrays, tandems [including a rare stingray tandem three-speed], old race bikes. gotta love 'em. wanna go for a ride? stop by.

Squirrel said...

ADDICT!!!

Anonymous said...

Wow, nice toy collection!