Regular readers of the BikeX newsletter may recall the beautiful restoration of a 1930s Rudge-Whitworth. This stunning relic of bicycle history was revitalized thanks to this month’s Volunteer of the Month, David Kamp. In addition to lovingly bringing this historic bicycle back to life, David has been an integral part of BikeX during the pandemic by repairing numerous take-home bicycle projects, getting broken carbon frames repaired, and most recently, overhauling dozens of pedals. David has a fascinating background outside of BikeX. Read on to learn more about the endurance athlete and tireless mechanic.
Thanks for all of your hard work, David!
How did you get involved with SVBE?
A colleague, a long-time volunteer at BikeX, encouraged my participation.
What keeps you coming back?
The mission of SVBE, providing bicycles to those in need, is my motivation.
Which bike stands out as the most memorable, or your favorite?
Some salvage work on Raleigh 3-speeds kept me occupied for a bit longer than anticipated.
What’s your favorite bike tool?
The 3-way Allen wrench is always available in the front pocket of my shop apron.
What is your background in cycling? And on wrenching on bikes?
At my tender age of 3, my mother asked what I was doing. "Fixing" was my answer. At the time I think it was "fixing" the pots and pans in the kitchen. Years later I moved on to bicycles, then a Model A Ford, a Ford flathead V8, '51 Chevy, '55 Chevy, '53 MGTD, a Caddy, a Chrysler Hemi V8, a BMW 2002, and when there were no longer carburetors or points in distributors I went back to bicycles.
Stripping down Schwinn single-speed balloon tire bikes and racing the neighborhoods was an early life sport. We would lube the bearings with Vaseline because we believed it to be better because it was colorless.
In graduate school, I purchased a 3-speed commuter used for $10 in 1970. I then bought a new $95 Peugeot AO-8 for commuting and sport cycling—the UO-8 with QR skewers was way too much at $100—remember the '70s bike boom? Being a bit compulsive, I serviced everything, including the bottom bracket bearings, annually, so it was likely the best maintained old Peugeot in Oregon. When I put alloy wheels on the old Peugeot and summited Mt Eden Road for the first time I thought I had conquered L'Alpe d'Huez, which my wife and I have summited several times since on our tandem.
I have owned and always commuted on various bikes, including mountain bikes, road bikes, fixies, a first tandem from 1983 by Jeff Lyon and of course now a carbon tandem and a "gravel bike." Modern bikes are definitely worth the expense. My part-time job, aside from SVBE, is at Campus Bike Shop at Stanford.
What can you share about your personal or family bike collection?
Oh my. Three tandems: a 1983 Jeff Lyon, a 1997 Santana which is for sale, and a 2008 Calfee which we ride 3-4 times a week and use for touring; A Lynskey Ti road bike, a Norco carbon gravel bike, a classic 1997 Fisher Hoo-Koo-E-Koo mountain bike, a vintage Mondia and a vintage Motobecane Jubilee, both awaiting restoration.
What have you learned since volunteering with SVBE?
The need has never been greater for bicycles for people who need basic transportation and recreation.
What has been the most interesting problem to deal with?
Keith, the former owner of Campus Bike Shop, took me step-by-step through the overhaul of a Sturmey Archer 3-speed internal gear hub. I might remember a few of the steps. The engineering in a multi-speed hub is amazing. "Pedals" is my latest obsession: disassemble, clean, lube and adjust; a very satisfying evening activity. A perfect pedal is a beautiful thing.
Pre-injury and pre-pandemic, you'd spend almost the whole weekend on your bike competing in brevets. What events have you participated in, and what draws you to them?
I was involved in ultramarathon running from 1982 to 2007, including the Western States 100 Miler, and besides cycle commuting, distance cycling augmented the training. Since 1996, I've been involved in randonneuring, which has included self-paced long-distance events such as 200, 300, 400, 600 km brevets. The biggest was 1200 km, that’s 750 miles, in 90 hours. They all have time limits, so you must keep moving! I have completed numerous brevets on the single bike, and 1200 km brevets such as Boston-Montreal-Boston in 1998 and Paris-Brest-Paris 1999 and 2007, and an old local favorite, The Great California Land Rush, SF to LA in two days, doing 225 miles a day.
What is the biggest highlight in your brevet experience? A lowlight or challenge?
In 2007 I got cheeky and took the 84-hour start at Paris-Brest-Paris since I had a decent 70-something hour finish in 1999. It only rained once—for three days. It slowed everyone's pace, yet I somehow managed to finish, on very little sleep, 83:59.
We've toured extensively in the US and Europe on our tandems since the late 1990s. It is fun. The ideal way to travel is by bicycle: fast enough to get from one point to another, yet slow enough to let it all soak in.
The bicycle is a marvelous and beautiful machine, and getting the service and adjustments perfect on all the components is an absorbing and satisfying activity. Hobby? Obsession? You decide.
In more ways than one, you go the extra mile. We've watched you spend more attention and time than anyone on refurbishing kid's bikes, vintage road bikes, three-speeds, and now pedals. What tips do you have for aspiring mechanics?
My tip for an aspiring mechanic is to persist in learning the correct way to do a service/repair, and hold your work to a high standard, as one can, with persistence and patience, get most components to operate perfectly. When in doubt, ask questions.
While you enjoy the sound of a finely-tuned bicycle, you also seem to have a passion for music. What do you listen to, and how did that passion come about?
My Ph.D. thesis advisor listened to opera in the 1970s, and I wondered what all that screeching was about. Later, we developed an appreciation for this wonderful form of musical theater. Especially during the pandemic, we have streamed one opera a day, offered free, courtesy of the Met Opera in New York. In normal times we are long-time subscribers to San Francisco Opera. Jazz and folk are still popular with us, and Big Band era music via 89.1 FM, KCEA. Sequoia Union HS District maintains a regional Big Band station.
What’s your favorite bike ride, local or not?
The Portola Valley loop and Old La Honda.
A "healthy" collection of bikes and a healthy marriage aren't always easy to maintain simultaneously, yet you seem to have mastered it. What have you learned over the years that can help those of us with an N+1 habit?
Bicycle collectors have way too much stuff, or do they? Some have shipping containers, plural, full of vintage bicycles. Really? If one has the N + 1 affliction, think carefully why this or that bicycle will be satisfying to own, and invest the time to properly service and possibly restore your vintage collectible, and above all, ride it! Recently, outside counsel has suggested maintaining a small "fund" or bank account used for buying and selling bicycles and parts. For some that might keep a relationship intact. Be honest about your hobby, and be prepared to bend a little or a lot.
Let's face it. You need a commuter, a touring bike, a fast-paced road bike, a mountain bike, and a gravel bike, at the very least.
However, if you see an early 1900s Hirondelle retro-direct drive vintage bike for sale, please let me know! Or anything from just after WWI. I'd like to ride the course of the 1919 Le Circuit des Champs de Bataille on a vintage bicycle. There's a nice Hirondelle on display in the cafe on the north side of the road at the summit of the Col du Tourmalet. The hot soup there is good, too.