Let’s keep this one simple: Builders in Northern California have been holding a series of rides called the “Meet Your Maker Tour.” It’s a chance to meet and ride with some of NorCal’s finest builders.
There’s another edition coming up, this Sunday, November 10.
This will be a cyclocross ride in and around Mount Tam, some 37 miles worth.
Let’s consider this for a moment: frame builders, road bikes on unpaved surfaces, Mount Tam. It’s a win-win-win.
I’m going to be there. I don’t mention that as a selling point; I’ve got an ex-wife who can attest it’s not. I only mention as a testament to just how cool I think the event is.
But back to the selling points: the frame builders and manufacturers include: Black Cat, Blue Collar, Bruce Gordon, Caletti, Calfee, Falconer, Frances, Hunter, Paragon Machine Works, Pass and Stow, Paul Components, Rebolledo, Retrotec, Rex Cycles, Rock Lobster, Souldcraft, Sycip and White Industries.
I shot these images at the Gran La Fonda before Levi’s Gran Fondo. Meant to do a post about it … and got busy with other stuff.
To partake, all you have to do is show up to Railroad Square in Mill Valley, Granolia, at 10 am, on Sunday. To learn more, go here.
For the last week I’ve been trying to put together a massive image dump of a goodly portion of my 200 or so images I shot at the San Diego Custom Bicycle Show. As it turns out, there can be too much of a good thing. I crashed WordPress on three occasions by uploading too many images; I was too impatient to try to do another three or four posts.
What follows is a further edited group of favorite shots/bikes/cool stuff.
Builder Greg Townsend shows a lug with a piece of cut tubing that he will braze in place so that he can cut a new point for this lug. It’s time consuming work, but offers a great opportunity to make a fresh statement with a lug.
Santana Cycles has been perfecting a foam cutout packing system for tandems for some 10 years now. They seem to have it down. The system not only packs the tandem safely, it makes the process nearly foolproof.
The San Diego Custom Bicycle Show took place this past weekend, still in San Diego (might explain the name) but in a new location, historic Golden Hall, which has been played by the likes of The Who, The Rolling Stones and even The Clash. Nearly 40 different builders attended, joined by another 26 industry exhibitors. With the new location the extra space created an impression that the show was a bit smaller than years past, even though the overall number of exhibitors was up.
I attended Friday and Saturday and while I expected overall attendance to be thin on Friday, I was shocked that foot traffic didn’t increase a lot on Saturday. I like this show a lot. It has a loose, relaxed feel to it, compared to the frenetic pace of the North American Handmade Bicycle Show, which is really just due to the increased number of exhibitors and attendees—nothing wrong with that. The thing about the San Diego show is that it’s possible to have a half-hour conversation with a personal frame building hero. Of course, if more people attended, those conversation would be shorter, but if that’s what’s necessary to keep the thing going, I’m okay with that.
Greg Townsend of Townsend Cycles is a Los Angeles-based builder who is doing some terrific work. I loved these half lugs on this track bike. He’s got a great sense of the history and tradition of frame building.
NAHBS is expensive enough now that some builders told me they flat-out can’t afford to attend, which is a shame. The upshot is that there were builders, many very fine ones, in fact, who exhibited at SDCBS who didn’t go to NAHBS, which took care of the one criticism I heard from friends who had decided not to go—they were afraid they’d see stuff they had already seen in Austin. The overlap in bikes was tiny.
The SDCBS gave me an opportunity to spend some quality time talking with builders not only about building, but family, where cycling fits in their world and what they do when they aren’t either building or riding bikes.
Jeff Tiedeken of Monkey Likes Shiny was the most original thinker present and knows how to start a party. Jeff doesn’t work with bikes too often; most of his work is for outfits like NASA, that like to keep him quiet about his contributions.
Eric Estlund of Winter Bicycles is fond of bi-laminate work. This head-tube cutout was gorgeous. The bi-laminate approach gives him the opportunity to show off his fillet brazing as well as his ability to cut lugs.
Last year Bruce Gordon showed off a carbon bike with ti lugs he built with Mike Lopez. This is #2 of 2. I dare anyone to try to find prettier work that has been performed in titanium. The tapered point kills me.
I shot hundreds of images. I’ll add a photo gallery soon.
On the evening before Levi Leipheimer’s King Ridge Gran Fondo the folks at SyCip Cycles hosted a little get-together they called the Gran La Fonda. It was one-quarter handbuilt bicycle show, one-quarter party, 3/16 mad inventor parade and 9/8 fun. The device above is a tricycle of sorts that is designed to traverse old railroad tracks, though it seemed to handle asphalt tolerably.
Here’s a look at its inner workings; it was utterly confusing and wonderful to my eye.
Noci is a gelato and sorbetto place in Mill Valley around the corner from Above Category. They were serving up some tasty creations scooped from their bakfiets.
The Whiskey Drome is modeled on the ramps motorcycle stunt riders used to ride. Roughly 20 feet in diameter watching riders negotiate its banking was large-scale fun.
At right is Scot “Chuck Ibis” Nicol of local fame and Ibis Cycles, though not necessarily in that order. At right is Eldon “Fatty” Nelson of Fat Cyclist fame. Incredibly low-key and gracious, I could have spent the evening hanging out with him and his wife, “The Runner.”
Sean Walling of Soulcraft was but one of a long list of builders in attendance. Also present with bikes were SyCip (duh), Inglis/Retrotec, Rebolledo, Steve Rex, Rick Hunter, Cielo, DeSalvo, Black Cat, Caletti, Bruce Gordon and Ira Ryan.
It’s not every day you see a high-end carbon fiber road bike locked to a metal pole. I really dug seeing a road bike being used for basic transportation. Passing the lock through the helmet straps was a nice touch.
Builders in consultation: At left, Paul Sadoff of Rock Lobster, a man without whom the Santa Cruz ‘cross scene would die and at right, Ira Ryan of the Portland Bike Mafia, and a man with a soft spot for touring.
That cute little button of a girl is Zoie, the daughter of Carlos Perez, the publisher of Bike Monkey, and the driving force behind Levi’s Gran Fondo. She’s hugging RKP’s pint-sized climber, Philip, who is squealing in delight at the attention from yet another adoring woman. We think we heard wedding bells that night.
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.