Bruce Gordon is a codger. He’s not one to suffer fools. His swipes at the industry with his SOPWAMTOS (Society of People Who Actually Make Their Own Shit) awards have inspired laughs as well as ruffled feathers. But that’s the kind of guy Bruce is. He does what he does because it makes sense to him.
That crusty exterior of his has been known, on occasion, to make him a touch less marketable. I’ve been talking to the guy for more than 10 years and his skeptical, cynical edge has been tough to chip away at. That said, I’ve made some progress and these days he talks to me honestly about what he enjoys doing.
Here’s the thing about his work. He knows it’s not just good, but great. And when people don’t get just how good it is, he can seem a touch irascible. When you’re as inventive as Bruce is, it’s fair to think your work should be appreciated.
For the 2010 San Diego Custom Bicycle Show, Bruce built a special bike. He has made a number of bikes and components over the years that have used titanium to great effect. The bike he showed at this year’s show went to truly unusual lengths.
The bike looked very familiar due to the fact that the lug lines and windows recall Bruce’s previous work. At first glance, the bike definitely looks like a Bruce Gordon. And then there’s fact that the bike is huge; Bruce makes all bikes he’s not sure he’ll sell at market rate in his size—61cm—just to be assured the bike will get ridden. But the fact that all this bike’s tubes were carbon fiber made it quite unusual.
Carbon tubes have been bonded to aluminum lugs for a generation. It’s been so done, it isn’t done anymore, generally speaking. And carbon tubes have been bonded to titanium lugs on occasion. One of the most notable examples was the limited edition Specialized Epic that featured titanium lugs. That Specialized has a familial relationship to this bike as it turns out.
The carbon fiber bottom bracket lug show above came from Serotta. In order to create this bike, Bruce—who has zero experience crafting tubes from carbon fiber—had to partner with someone. In the strictest sense this bike is a collaboration, rather than just a Bruce Gordon creation. Bruce worked with Mike Lopez, who runs Serotta’s composites facility in San Diego. Lopez has an interesting history in the industry. For more than 30years Lopez has been involved in bicycles that use carbon fiber. He has worked for Serotta, Reynolds and way back when, Specialized. He was involved in the carbon fiber Epics. As a matter of fact, the jig on which this bike was assembled used to be used for Epics.
Bruce says he likes the look of a bike with classic design elements and modern materials. In achieving his aesthetic of a touring bike with fenders he, Lopez and a few other people invested more than two months in the bike. Bruce says he has no idea what he would charge for the bike but is committed to making one more—for Lopez.
Bruce had to enlist the help of another guy as well. Salsa founder Ross Schafer did the CAD work that resulted in the lugs that were machined to Bruce’s specs from bar stock. Chris Hayes welded those pieces into actual lugs. On details like the rake of the forks, Bruce had to show Lopez just how to shape the blades both in taper and curve.
Jason Lilly shaped the fenders, shown below. The paint, which turned out to be more challenging than expected, was applied by painter-to-the-stars, Joe Bell.
Sean Walling of Soulcraft, Mark Norstadt of Paragon Machine Works and Doug White of White Industries lent advice on machining the many parts involved in the frame, including the special dropouts and fork crown. Basically, nothing in the frame is off-the-shelf.
I saw a great many very fine bicycles at the San Diego show. I can’t think of a single one that showed as much individuality, practicality and beauty balanced as elegantly as this bike. Unique is a word that is used much too often. This is one of those times when it is absolutely appropriate. At least, until the other one is built.