When I first heard of the Meet Your Maker ride series earlier this year I did everything I could to try to find an excuse to get to Northern California to participate in any of the rides. I was a good deal less successful than I would like to have been, that is, until this weekend. On Sunday the fourth edition of the ride took place in Marin County. Upon rolling up to the start in Railroad Square in Mill Valley, I spotted Jeremy SyCip of SyCip and Mark Norstadt or Paragon Machine Works.
The guy who deserves the credit for starting the series and making sure everyone who shows up feels welcome is Sean Walling of Soulcraft bikes, based in nearby Petaluma.
At some point I should probably ask Sean and the other builders how often they actually meet one of their bike’s owners. I had the sense that the incidence rate was low, that most riders there on a handmade frame had already met their maker, so to speak. So even though the ride’s most obvious appeal is to meet the guy who built your bicycle, the greater truth of the ride is that you get a chance to go for a ride with him, talk bikes, meet other customers of his and then meet other builders who probably haven’t made a bicycle for you.
Santa Cruz builder John Caletti is known for his immaculate TIG-welding. The ti bike above featured TRP’s cable-actuated hydraulic discs with 160mm (front) and 140mm (rear) discs and Kenda Small Block tires (35mm front and 32mm rear) tires.
The quality of the welds is high enough to make his work look like that of a veteran of Seven or Moots.
Sacramento builder Steve Rex turned out with this disc-equipped rig sporting 43mm-wide Bruce Gordon Rock ‘n’ Road tires.
As is typical of most of Rex’ work, this bike featured his Ultimate Fillet work, but also showed some very tasteful internal cable routing.
Left to right: Curtis Inglis of Retrotec, Steve Rex, John Caletti and Sean Walling.
Sean, thanking everyone for showing up, and by everyone I mean a 40-plus-strong group, the biggest for the Meet Your Maker rides so far. He also informed those assembled that there is some interest in holding even more of the rides next year.
Paul of Paul Components made the trek from Chico to join the ride. He made a point to fuel up before we rolled out.
It was nice to begin a ride without having to hit the afterburners. I honestly can’t recall the last time I did a ride where people were more excited to get into the ride and yet didn’t completely kill the pace. I could get used to this.
We regrouped. A lot.
Eric Richter, marketing director for Giro, joined us for the ride. Based on what I know of Eric, dude doesn’t own a non-ferrous bicycle.
The ride took in both fire roads and singletrack on Mount Tam, and eventually dropped us down to Muir Beach. Once there, a number of riders decided that the proper course of action included hoppy beverages. They were right, of course, but there were those of us who needed to stick to a timeline. The rider in the Santa Cruz Spokesman kit is Sean Morrissey, part of my ad sales team. He and I joined a group making a more direct effort to reach Mill Valley.
The day was not without its hitches. There were flats by the bushel, dropped tools, lost keys and at least a few near bonks. I’d do rides like this once a week if given the chance.
I shot more than 200 images
today yesterday and there’s no way to both upload all of them now AND sleep tonight. So I’ve selected a group of portraits I shot. They were fun and the subjects delightful. Or maybe they are delightful and the subjects were fun. Regardless, as tired as I was when the show ended today, I didn’t really want to walk out.
Leading off the set is Sacha White of Vanilla, who I caught while he was making a small adjustment to my favorite booth of the show.
Jay SyCip, who manages Chris King’s Cielo program.
Jeremy SyCip, these days the one-man show behind Santa Rosa’s SyCip Cycles.Mike DeSalvo of DeSalvo Cycles relaxing during a calm moment.The ever practical Carl Strong; Carl’s aesthetic looks for function long before it seeks beauty. As a result, his frames are austere, but warm to the business end of the peloton.
Even if we never remembered Don Walker’s famous fillet-brazed frames, as the organizer of NAHBS, his place in the frame building world would be assured. If he wasn’t doing NAHBS, he’d be doing more frames.
David Wages of Ellis (it’s a family name) hangs out and talks to fans.
Frame building’s favorite iconoclast, Richard Sachs.Nick Crumpton gets excited.
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.