Rivendell Bicycle Works 2040 North Main St. #19 • Walnut Creek, CA 94596 December 5, 2017
Let's Help Charlie
The past two years have been the weirdest and worst in decades in so many ways—planetary and political and personal-people disasters, haven’t they? They seem to suggest a gloomy future. It’s all — well, “surprising” sums up all the other adjectives, but neuters them a little, right?
Let’s do something wild and huge, a laser beam of super good for one guy, Charlie Cunningham. Jacquie Phelan comes free in the bargain. Charlie and Jacquie have been a married bike couple for 30+ years.
Charlie is a hero. His story is available to those who dig enough, we’ve told it and it’s on the web, but the fact that it’s not familiar to every bike riders over the age of 20 is testament to how people can become forgotten stepping stones. Charlie has a history of bicycle inventions, innovations, improvements, and independence in an industry that for the most part is ruled by trends, marketing, racerworship, copycatism, and an unwarranted inferiority complex that is being addressed by bulk (road bikes are fatter than mountain bikes used to be; mountain bikes are monstrous); and tech, with nothing more to learn than which buttons to push, few if any operator skills to learn, motors marketed as pedaling assists—always marketed as progress.
Charlie’s bicycles were always the opposite. His bicycles were always pure bicycles. He was the Unracer 25 years before I made up the word, taking zero to barely any inspiration from racing bikes, just developing the cleverest doohickeys and widgets to improve the bicycle in micro and sometimes bigger ways that nobody was addressing: Big things like frames, stems, hubs, and tiny things to stop the front wheel from turning too far when the bike was parked, a water bottle cage for 2-liter bottles (his were by far the first); pedal-flip tabs that made flipping the toe-clip rightside up 10X easier than the ones that came on the pedals of the day.
Charlie was always off on his own, more solo than Einstein and as good at bicycles as Albert was at physics. His lab was the hills of Marin Country, in the thick middle of where all that mountain bike stuff happened, but he was too independent and shied away from spotlights, so he’s not usually listed in the tight fist of giants list.
There’s a photo of SunTour engineers (from Japan) visiting and looking at his fat-aluminum unique-in-every-detail mountain bike, them in their suits and overcoats on what looks like a cold December day, and Charlie, the star and genius guy, has his hands in his pockets and is backed against a wall in the background looking confident but obviously uncomfortable as the main event. That’s what humility looks like, and that’s what Charlie was, despite having no reason to be humble.
As the mountain bike was emerging in the mid-‘80s, Charlie and two other friends (SP and MS) founded WTB. Eventually a fourth was brought in, there was some kind of secret legal divorce that left Charlie off the new team, so Charlie went back to studious, masterful garage and trail tinkering, while mountain bikes took off like a rocket and many other personalities, less reclusive and more comfortable on stage, and rode the right horses at the right time, played their cards right, and — there’s nothing wrong with this — made more money.
Charlie was riding his bike in August of 2015 on the best road in the world, the Fairfax-Bolinas road between those two coastal towns. Yes, he was wearing a helmet, as he always did. He also always wore long buttony shirts with collars and loose sleeves—decades before I did—for sun protection. He rode in corduroy pants, because the length and wales were armor in crashes. He always wore ratty gloves, too, often full-fingered ones from a hardware store, I’d guess. Has anybody ever seen him in bikey clothes? Has anybody ever found an 1804 silver dollar behind a sofa cushion? The point is, he was Unracer fashion icon, and careful.
He was riding on his way home, eastward toward Fairfax just up the road from the Meadow Club golf course, and nobody knows what triggered his crash, but he hit his head, and within a month his brain swelled and was injured, and now he’s running at about 35 percent capacity (average of vision, brain power, balance, strength…he can’t operate machines or solve problems anymore), and Jacquie, way to go Jacquie, helps as she can.
In the early fall of 2015 a friend set up a gofundme account, and since the crash was fresh news, the money rolled in. We donated about $5,000 and set up an incentive/reward program with our customer to do the same. Rivendell-related funds were significant—more than $20,000 total, as I remember—and in the next 12 months he’d gotten $100K. But since then donations have fallen off a cliff—only $16,800 or so in the last year. I feel bad that we haven’t helped, but we’ve had a challenging year, and anyway, here we go.
Our goal here is to raise at least $20,000 for Charlie. If we double that, great! Last year the fund (see below) got $100,000.
We’re starting off with a $1,000 donation, but here’s where you come in.
Donate in even dollar even number amounts—$6, not $5, $100, not $101. We'll match 50% of your donation in store credit up to $100. For example: Donate $20, get $10 in Riv Credit.
(You can give $500, but we’ll still top out at $100 credit.)
Here are the catches:
1. You gotta use it on an order of at least twice the cost of the credit. Otherwise, we’re basically donating for you, and you don’t get your feel-good points.
2. Sign your donation as RBW + Your Last Name + Zip or Postal Code.
For example, RBW Willams, 09042. Then we’ll be able to look you up and apply the credit.
3. We’ll credit your account by January 20, and the program ends there. It’s still good to donate, but monitoring the donations and keeping track of credits due will stop about then, so… here’s the site, and give till you feel a slight twinge. Yay and many thanks. Let’s jolt that fund!
On most orders over $75!
Domestic U.S. orders only. Excludes oversized (rims, wheels, frames and bikes).
Rivendollar 5% Rebate
Once you're all signed up on the website we reward you for every purchase with a 5% credit towards a future order. Sign up at the link if you haven't already.
Use the following codes at checkout on web orders. They can only be used once at a time, one per order, and only once per customer. However they do work with the free shipping and Rivendollar promotions! They expire on Dec 31st, 2017.
winterize - $10 off any new order over $200
coldsnap - $18 off any new order over $300
chillpill - - $27 off any new order over $400
We want them gone by 2018. Good values on these frames and bikes.