There’s a certain amount of activity at Interbike, a portion of the wares displayed at Interbike that are necessary to the general feel of the show but aren’t really critical to the actual commerce of the show, stuff that helps to make Interbike a cool place to visit even if you don’t particularly need the item at hand. After all, cycling trades on nothing so much as passion, that promise of a good time.
I swear to something or other that these orange sparkle Stingray-esque grips by Electra were absolutely one of my favorite things I saw at the show. When I was a kid, one of the first ways I inspected a bike was to check out the grips, and few grips were as cool as the ones on Schwinn Stingrays. I kinda want a bike expressly for the purpose of installing these grips. Say what you want about the cart and horse—a man has to have priorities.
This A. Homer Hilsen frame was used as a prop for SKS products, such as their fenders. It would be easy to be bummed that such a magnificent piece of artisanal frame building was slumming it with plastic fenders, but I’m really glad for it. Had the guys at SKS not had the good sense to do this, one of the prettiest bikes at the show would simply not have been at the show. I could have spent an hour staring at this bike, rather than the two minutes that I devoted to it.
I’m so glad that the head tube badge has not just made a comeback, it is in what can be rightfully termed as its golden age.
Dario Pegoretti always shows off a bunch of really gorgeous bikes, but this one takes the art of what he does and elevates it into a truly unique plane. This bike is a tribute to John Coltrane. That’s right, a bike pimping ‘Trane!
It’s one helluva a way to honor the man who has sometimes been called the defining voice of jazz.
So what do you put on the down tube of a bike celebrating Colrane? How about some fake book changes?
He finished off the treatment with a quote on the down tube that speaks to the real nature of craft. I’d forgotten this one.
I love the bike industry and the people therein. It’s always fascinating for me to take note of who is talking to whom. On the left Greg Bagni, a guy who has done more to define and occasionally turn around brands than any six agencies working in the bike biz. On the right, Joe Parkin, the man leading the vision at Paved magazine. Two guys who really get it. I felt a pang of envy not to be a part of that conversation.
Bike people are not without a sense of humor. I caught this in the Surly booth.
I wouldn’t have caught the “Rapha Free” sticker in the Surly booth had it not been for the stuffed raccoon with the cap, corn-cob pipe and mini of Wild Turkey, also in the Surly booth.
I’m not sure what led the folks at Canari to turn their booth into a family affair complete with kids in Bumbos, but it served as a nice reminder of the world outside and made me slow down for a moment to say hi to the little people. And on a day that was pretty delightful, I had a bit more of a smile as I walked away from their booth. I love the gear, but it’s the people who keep me coming back.
Al Fritz, the Schwinn employee who invented the Stringray, has died. It was Fritz who noticed in the early 1960s the rise of the muscle-car culture and how that began to bleed into bicycling with kids customizing their bikes. The Stingray was less a bike than a hot rod with two wheels and pedals. And for kids like me who were born in the 1950s and ’60s, the Stringray was one of the first status symbols we ever encountered. It wasn’t just a toy. No, the Stingray was rolling style. It was Beach Boys-hip and as indestructible as a Chevy Bel Air, that is, until you took it off a five-brick-high ramp (in my neighborhood we measured ramp height by the number of bricks we stacked at the high end). Turns out, nothing could stand up to that.
To say that Fritz was the inventor of the Stringray isn’t overstating his achievement. Prior to the Stringray, kids’ bikes had all the flash and style of a turnip. With the Stingray, Fritz gave kids a chance to reflect their personality with a production product. Ask anyone involved in branding and marketing today and they’ll tell you that only the truly transcendent products do that.
How influential was Fritz? Here’s one way to measure it: Who didn’t want a Stingray? Hell, I still want one. The Orange Krate was the first product I can recall coveting, of seeing someone else with something that I actively, passionately wanted. My mom, being the closeted hippy that she was, bought me a Raleigh Chopper. Thought it was Union Jack cool, it was poison oak on an open wound. Yeah, it was orange, but still … so close and yet…. The Orange Krate taught me the value of the feature. It wasn’t just a Stingray. No, it had a five-speed gear shifter, hand brakes and the banana seat sat on shock absorbers—shock absorbers! Those gears, those brakes, that suspension—the machine was the very expression of aspiration. I’d look at one and dream of all the riding I could do, if only.
The effect Fritz had on me and so many other people—Schwinn sold more than a million Stingrays—was to plant the seed of making the bike itself cool. Here at RKP we like to say that cycling isn’t just one hobby, it’s at least four or five of them. That love of the thing itself, of the synergy that arises from our appreciation of both what the bicycle can do and our fascination with a machine made beautiful can keep cycling exciting even when we’re unable to ride. Fritz wasn’t the first to make the bike beautiful, not by a longshot. What made the Stringray different was that he captured so many of us when we were blank canvases to passion. There came a point for most of us when we gave up the bike for a while. Those of us who found our way back to the sport owe him a debt. Turns out, the Stingray was as durable as a dream.
Those childhood loves are rarely shaken. Thank God.