The James Black Cycletruck (taco) experience

A few weeks back I was in Santa Barbara for a meeting/family visit, but we flew back through LAX, so I took the opportunity to FINALLY meet with James Black and try out his Cycletruck. I think this has been in the works for 2 years, I had a bunch of interviews in LA in 2007-8 and I was plagued by flight delays that prevented this test ride from happening. Until now!

First. The man and the bike. James designed this pucky, iterated it with David Wilson who built it. James got it and has been riding it around for about 2 years, David seems to have moved on to non-active building.

Click over to the new cycletruck to get the full scoop from James himself.

Second, note, Tacos Por Favor. In Santa Monica no less. Delicious.
Taquaria Por Favor

Also, for reference, James is hitting a taco joint a week around the LA basin, and blogging it, so please check out cincuenta taquerias. See the relevant review here. I think I have met James face to face now twice. He is a dedicated individual in search of truths of various type and well equipped with both motivation and vernacular to achieve these trooves. I am impressed. Especially since he used some architecture theory description (which I should have wrote down) to describe his preference for tacos arriving pre salsed from the taqueristas. I am not sure if he was kidding or not, but good stuff nonetheless.

Anyhow. The bike:

James generously let me ride his bike while Elena, Aida, Carmen and James chatted on the corner.


Aida found the conversation tedious and fell asleep, but Elena enjoyed meeting bike friends of mine, yet again, I am sooooooooo lucky.

So the bike riding was great. I probably did a mile or two of riding about, stopped to talk to James a bit betwixt mini rides. Here are the perceptions:

1. Nice overall wheelbase. It had that subliminally trackstandable geometry that I associate with a shorter wheelbase and a load that helps you damp out the nervousness, kind of like balancing a broom on the handle end vs. the broom end.

2. It rode smooth. The fact that the rack was fixed to the frame was weird (you can't see the front wheel at all). But I got over that pretty quick. It rode like a bike. I had the James Pizza Bag on it with assorted James detritus within. I would guess 10-15 pounds on the front rack maybe?

James' watchful eye and excellent pizza cargo bag:

3. It shimmied a bit when riding no handed and one handed. I rode it one handed with a light touch and it hit a low speed resonance. No handed it continued to the point that I was not ready to crash James' bike to see how far it went. James claims it is mild and ridable in the condition that it was in, but it can be much worse with more weight strapped on tight, even with two hands on bars. I believe him
No issues with the rack clamp says James. Also, James rides with nice shoes:

4. Nitto Promenade bars are cool and all, but way too narrow for my taste, especially on a cargo bike. This is the only hardware change I would feel obligated to make if I rode this regularly. I think Honking wide swept flat bars would be my initial choice. I probably would put much fatter bmx freestyle high pressure tires on it as well, but the bike rode great as is.

5. James probably has slightly longer legs than me and likes his seat at a messed up angle. Personal preference. The seat was an extra cool fuji-approved japanese leather saddle with white stitching around the skirt. Very nice.

6. The little Bendix-torpedo 3 speed shifter was a revelation to me. It was shifting a Sachs dreigang 3 speed in back. This was the best IG trigger shifter I have ever used and is absolutely better than the twist shifters that come on newer Sachs/SRAM 3 speeds. Anyone know if these shift sachs 3 speed coaster hubs of later vintage?

7. Overall it was a great bike. I wish I had a week in LA to ride it and play with the loading, but it was sweet. Big thanks to James for letting me ride his Cycletruck 001.
the grin of bicycle happiness:

8. The bike has a dual position fork. Lets call this one the JimG moneyshot:
James claims it makes little difference in the shimmy. I think my general experience jibes with this. If the frame and loading induces shimmy, you can probably change things a bit via load and damping, but the steering geometry (within reason) is not a good parameter to play with. James claims the biggest change in shimmy is with tightly lashed loads v. loosely lashed loads. L^3 better than t*l^2.

The Tacos:
I had three initially. The recommended chorizos con queso, the al pastor and the carne asada. Those that have come before me claimed the chorizos con queso was the thing to get, so I got it. It was great. but really, no where near as great as the al pastor. They were sublime. The carne asadas was right up there with the chorizons con queso, but man, the al pastor was just great. I was still hungry and got another al pastor and another taco. I have forgotten what the other was. The al-pastor was that good. I was really impressed with this taquaria. Their salsa rojo was also excellent. On a taco-taco head to head battle with Super-rica in Santa barbara, recently visited, I think Tacos Por Favor wins hands down. Super-Rica has great specials and other non-taco stuff, but their tacos are unaccompanied with salsa or cheese and do not quite meet the standard of excellence of los Por Favoritos. In battling Por Favor v. Taquaria San Jose in fruitvale/oakland (which I have not stepped foot in for a dozen or so, but last I did, I was eating there 1-2 times a week) I would declare it a tie. The pickled carrots and peppers were probably better at S-J, but the al-pastor was so good at P-F. I think the tiebreaker would be a throw-down between the lenguas and the sessos tacos at each place. In retrospect I am not sure I saw any organ tacos at all at P-F, they did tout their healthy lard free menu. So maybe S-J wins on a technicality...

Post tacos Elena and the baby had a disco nap on the ridiculously plush median on Olympic Blvd:


And then driving back to the airport we saw a Rock Racing escalade in Venice:
Rock on LA.


Marrock said...

You know, with that long central tube in the frame I could put something together to help boost you up hills and such like.

It only involves a few household chemicals and a bit of heat, but that can be shielded against so you'd be relatively safe.

James Black said...

Thanks, Tarik, for the write-up and cycletruck review. I feel like an internet celebrity now. The plan came to fruition.
But a curse on you for making me look at pictures of those tacos this late in the evening, when Tacos Por Favor is closed, and I can't get no more tacos till at least tomorrow.

ph0 said...

the cycletruck and the tacos.

Tarik Saleh said...


Good thinking. Try it on the kickbike and get back to me.

You are already an internet style celebrity. I did note a few more hole in the wall Mexican (not New Mexican) restaurants on the outskirts of Santa fe yesterday and now I am curious on the taco front.

Regrettably I forgot to taste the cycletruck. I need to be more thorough in my reviews.

ph0 said...

delicious in german has two definitions:
1. for Food
2. for things that you really like

sorry - my english is more funny than good ;-)

Ray said...

I too love those adorable mini Torpedo trigger shifters.

Uh, I guess I gotta build some wheels. Gotta buy a box of the 2mm brass washers from Metric Fastener, though and calculate spoke length.