Ahearne Cycles

Thinking With Your Ass

ThoughtsJoseph Ahearne1 Comment
There are different wheel sizes out there

There are different wheel sizes out there

I don’t spend a lot of time in bike shops these days. When I do go, it’s usually to buy a part I forgot to order or to say hello to a friend. 

It happened the other day that I was in a bike shop actually shopping for bikes. The last time I did that was so long ago I can hardly remember, back in a different era of human history. A good friend of mine has a soon-to-be eleven year old son, Ethan, and I was at the shop to pick out a bike for him for his birthday. Ethan and his family are moving to Bend, Oregon this coming summer. When talking to anyone who’s spent time in Bend, there are mainly two things they talk about; cycling and skiing. I don’t know how it is for the skiers, but when people talk about their experiences mountain biking around Bend, their eyes get this far off look and they perceptibly begin salivating. They talk about it like it’s something out of a dream. Anyway, my friend William plans to introduce his son to trail riding, and to do so he needs a bike. The criteria for the bike were pretty simple: Suspension, knobby tires, good brakes, room to grow. 

William and I had talked about my building a bike for Ethan, but he’s just getting to the age where he (Ethan) is growing an inch or so every couple of months. Shoes come and go faster than the seasons change. We thought it might be smarter to wait on the custom bike until he’s gets to whatever height he’s going to stay at for a while. 

William’s wife, Natacha, met me at the shop. She, too, will be riding some trails in Bend with the family, and so would be looking for a bike. Nothing fancy or high end for either of them. We chose an extra small adult bike for Ethan. It’s basic, satisfies the needs, colors and graphics not too offensive, ready to ride at under $400. 

When looking at bikes for Natacha, who is about five-foot-eight, we looked at the “entry level” mountain bikes, i.e.. inexpensive. It still blows my mind that you can buy a perfectly good new bike for under $500. If you consider the price mark-ups at each point from the factory in Asia where the bike was made to the port and then distribution center(s) in the USA, including the paint, shipping costs, any tariffs, parts and assembly, and then there’s the mark up at the shop where the bike is being sold to the consumer — if you work backwards to the beginning of all those costs, all the way back to the factory, it means that the bike, complete and ready to ride originally cost under $50. Probably more like $20. That’s for the whole bike. For $20 I can afford one mid-quality top tube. I don’t want to bitch about the economics of bicycles, and cheap imports in general, but when I’m faced with the truth of it it’s somewhat mystifying. 

But anyway, while shopping for bikes we were helped by a very friendly salesperson, I’ll call him Stephen. When picking out Natacha’s bike, one of the first things that Stephen told us was this: “All the bike companies are transitioning over to the 650b wheel size. 26 inch wheels are going to be obsolete.” I did a sort of auditory double-take. “What?” I thought. “Are you serious?”

Looking around, it seemed that he was. Serious, I mean. All the newest adult mountain bikes on the floor of the shop had 650b, or 27.5 inch wheels. I don’t read the magazines, I don’t follow market trends. I’m around bike people enough, and have plenty of friends working at shops, so I’ve heard talk about the rise in popularity of the 650b wheel size. But not on this scale, or maybe I wasn’t listening very well. We’ve been talking about this wheel for several years now. Coming to find out that this once very niche market has gone totally mainstream and now in fact has supplanted both the 29er and the 26er wheel sizes seemed a little crazy. Like, if you’ve got a friend who’s always turned up his nose at grape Kool Aid, ever since you can remember he went for either cherry or lemon-lime, ever since you were little kids. And now, suddenly he’s got the tell-tale grape mustache, and all he ever talks about anymore is how grape Kool Aid is the shit, it’s the only beverage worth drinking, he won’t let his mom buy anything else, there’s nothing else like it, etc., etc.. It makes you shake your head because there’s something kind of sad about it. And in fact it might hint at some sort of, I don’t know, instability in your friend. 

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with 650b as a wheel size. I personally really like it for the applications that I use it for. To my mind, and in my opinion, for most people who ride bikes as commuters, go on light tours, or for whom a bike is very part time recreation, for anyone buying “entry level,” or even “mid level” bikes, and even many versions of the “high end” bikes, wheel size ought to be proportionate to the frame size. Smaller bikes, smaller wheels; larger, larger. That’s a general rule of thumb, not a law set in stone. In this way, you can nail the frame geometry and get the best ride quality and most desirable handling characteristics. There’s some room to play in bike design, of course, and the way a bike feels is very subjective. To my mind, again, the way a bike handles is way more important than the way a distant factory is tooled, and the consequent pushing and shoving of marketers. 

When the entire market shifts in this way, and broad claims are made, such as the one that “twenty-six inch wheels are on their way to obsolescence,” I immediately become suspicious. Was that just a blanket statement by a salesperson who was more concerned with selling his shop’s products? Or was his statement an example of the voice of the industry? 

These industry-wide re-inventions seems to happen in regular enough cycles that it might be possible to name it. There’s a sort of herd-induced excitement whenever anything “new” catches on in the bike world. In very loose historic terms, in the 1970’s and 80’s it was BMX; in the 90’s, mountain bikes and a little later downhill bikes; in the early 2000’s, 29ers were all the rage (before hitting the main stream, that was most of what I built); mid-to-late 2000’s hand made custom bikes became very popular; and somewhere in there plastic bikes started to really take off; in the early 2010’s it was fat bikes, commuter bikes, and especially in Europe and Asia, electric bikes. And now, here we are in 2015 and our wheel size has settled into the era of the 650b. That’s great. A new trend has arrived. No judgement, I’m just noticing. 

In all these words I’ve written about this I don’t offer much in the way of specific guidance. I really am just taking note. I think maybe my only real message is to keep your eyes open and think for yourself. When the market tries to push anything on you, take it with a grain of salt. Educate yourself and formulate your own conclusions. Which, in this case, is another way to say, get on a bike with 650b wheels and ride it. Your ass will tell you what it thinks. 

Engraved Flasks for Christmas!

For Sale, MerchandiseJoseph AhearneComment

Last call for Custom Engraved Flasks for Christmas is November 25!

That's right! In order to guarantee delivery before Christmas, all orders need to be in by the 25th. That's just a few days from now. 

Check out a few of the awesome logos we've put onto flask.

Get your orders in soon!

Custom Engraved 6 oz. or 8 oz. Flasks

Custom Engraved 6 oz. or 8 oz. Flasks

The best method of ordering is Directly Through the Website

When ordering, you'll have your choice of either a 6 oz. flask, or the larger 8 oz. Either size will fit the Spaceman Bicycle Flask Holster and the Mud Flask Seat Mounted Flask Holder. You'll have the option of order a flask only, or you can order with the flask holder of your choice. 

Once you've placed your order for a Custom Engraved Flask you'll receive a follow up e-mail asking for your logo. Please respond to this e-mail and attach your .jpeg or .pdf file, or for text only logos, you can send a Word Document.

Please remember, we are not graphic designers, we're bike builders! So for best results send the logo exactly as you want it on the flask. Because of the curvature of the face of the flask, the logo will be sized appropriately, and may not look exactly like the logo you send. But it will be close. 

Prepare for Anything, Go Everywhere

Joseph Ahearne2 Comments

The Outback

A 650b Off Road Touring Bike

Outback 650b

This bike is an all-round work horse for touring where the roads are broken, or where there are no roads. It was tested on this years' Oregon Outback ride, 360 miles of fully self-supported touring through the back roads and rail beds of rural Oregon. The bike performed just like it ought to: Stable handling while loaded with gear, even on gravel roads at higher speeds. Comfortable riding position. Clearance for fat tires & fenders. A classic steel lugged bike that hearkens back to the early days of mountain biking. Compliant, stable, comfortable, sure handling, and most importantly, Fun. 

There are a couple of versions of this bike available, the most notable difference being in the brakes; either disc brakes or linear pull (or cantilevers) are possible. A generator hub powering front and rear lights is also recommended for those considering using this bike as a year round commuter and tourer. If a person could only have one bike -- or I should say, if I could only have one bike -- this would be it.  

Prepared & Going

Prepared & Going

I think I say this about just about every bike I build, but this time I really mean it: I'm very excited about this bike. I've been refining my ideas of what makes a great touring rig, and more often than not, when I'm out for longer multi-day rides I come across lesser traveled roads, and these are the roads that draw me out, that interest and excite me. When it comes to exploring new places, I don't want to be limited by what my bike can do. Let spontaneity be my guide. Rides like the Oregon Outback show that some of the most beautiful and untouched countryside is out where cars mostly won't go. It's amazing how much less stress there is when you're not constantly watching your back. The air is fresh, the scenery rolls on by, and when you stop there is silence, the sounds of birds, bugs, rustling leaves. There's nothing wrong with that.

Prepare for anything, go everywhere. 

Oregon Outback Bike Tour

Touring, Travel, ThoughtsJoseph Ahearne1 Comment

Oregon Outback GPS Map

The final tally for the ride was 450 miles, give or take. Klamath Falls (Oregon-California border) to the Deschutes Recreation Area (Oregon-Washington border), and then down the Historic Columbia River highway to return to Portland.

There were seven of us riding together, which on a bike ride over several days can feel a little like herding cats. But all of us got along really well — no fist fights broke out — and, thankfully, we had no major bike mechanical problems, nobody crashed, all and all we made it through smiling, even if exhausted, sore, dirty and overheated.

Kristina: Tough as Nails

Kristina did partially tear her achilles tendon during the ride, and now, after having gone to the doctor, she’s wearing “the boot.” She’s tougher than I am, I think, because she was clearly in some serious pain while riding, but we were so far out into the middle of nowhere, that, as she said, “What choice did I have but to ride?”

Seven in Shaniko


The route was definitely remote. I don’t think we saw a car for the first three days. Lots of cows, hawks, some deer and elk, many different kinds of rodents, several snakes and lizards, a million types of birds, all kinds of carcasses in varying poses and levels of decay. The trails and gravel roads were relatively smooth, but over hours in a day the vibration was tiring. My sore ass and sore hands. I lowered my tire pressure, which helped, but I didn’t go too low because with the but with the weight on my bike I didn't go too low for fear of getting a pinch flat.

Campfire Dinner

I don’t even know what to say about the ride in general except that it was pretty awesome. Pretty and awesome. I saw parts of Oregon that I’ve never seen, and from a perspective in which I could smell it, feel it, taste it, my body had to push over it. The sky was so massive dynamic. The nights were cold, the days mostly hot. The wind was intense. It was an adventure, and every day presented a new challenge; big gravel climbs, stream crossings, unbroken heat, water scarcity, threatening storms, physical & mental exhaustion, new aches & pains, the existentialism that comes with being in big empty places. It’s interesting watching the internal dialogue that goes on while pedaling on a long, hard ride, and how the tone of optimism or negativity of what’s streaming through your head is directly linked to how your physical body feels in any given moment. When you’re tired, hungry, or in any sort of discomfort or pain, the volume of the negativity may turn up. Or, if you’re well rested, well fed, cruising with a tail wind, the voices in your head may sing with joy. You can’t listen to either voice too closely because as sure as the road rolls under you the voice will pass away and some new thread of thought will arise. Letting it go (pedal-pedal-pedal), and letting it go again. This is the meditation of cycling, watching your breathing, your body taking over where your mind leaves off.

Barn & Sky

This ride was challenging, for sure, but I felt like the route was well chosen, the maps were close enough to accurate that we didn’t have much trouble finding our way. We stopped at a few intersections, consulted each other about which route was the “right” route. There was no back-tracking, except for the time when Jrdn took us up the massive hill that he wanted to climb, the one that came to a dead end. But that was all in fun, and we’re still thanking him for that.

Jrdn's favorite climb led past this sign

Climb out of the Columbia River Valley

Donnie of Velodirt really did his homework when putting together this ride. The days where water was scarce were well noted on the cue sheet, and as a group we made sure to come prepared with plenty of water carrying capacity, and filtration systems. Whenever we came across a stream and knew that it might be our only source for some miles to come, we loaded up. And for food, each of us carried enough to feed ourselves for several days, and resupplied when the opportunity presented itself. We didn’t pack light. We had tools and patches and spare tubes, extra fasteners, first aid and gorilla tape, bug repellant and some whiskey. We didn’t have to use a lot of the extra things we brought, but what we did need we were glad we had.  I don’t think this was a very good bike tour for someone with no experience — not a good learning trip because the stakes were too high, and there was not really any good way to bail out of you lacked something crucial. But, if prepared, and prepared to rough it, there’s no better way to tour than away from traffic.

As for the four Ahearne bikes on this trip, there were no complaints. We were all grateful for the fat, knobby 650b tires, for the inherent flex of steel to help take up the road shock, and the carrying capabilities these bikes offer. The handling on fast gravel descents was confident and sure, at least as much as fast gravel descents allow. They climbed well, and took the abuse of being fully loaded over days of bumps, dirt, pumice sand and stream crossings. There were no mechanical issues, and each person said they were really pleased with the overall ride of their bike. Better yet, this bike has been officially named. From here on out it’s going to be called the Outback. The off road touring bike. I’ll talk more about the bike soon. 

The Outback Machines

London & Berlin

Joseph AhearneComment

London Canal

There’s London, and then there’s Berlin. It’s the nature of travel that you find your own story wherever you go. You arrive, you breathe, maybe the air smells different. You walk around, eat the food, see the streets, the way the history pours out of the cracks and the way the people walk right over it, like it’s a stage and they’re in the play, right where they’re supposed to be. Your eyes, hopefully, are open, seeing everything for the first time. It doesn’t really matter what you do, this unfamiliar environment is going to be the backdrop through which you are forced to see yourself in a new way, beyond your habits. That’s travel, yes?

I went to London to attend the Bespoke Handmade Bicycle Show. Most of the attendee’s booths were in the center of a bank-walled cycle track at the Olympic Velodrome. People rode the track around us throughout the entirety of the show. It’s cool because people use the velodrome kind of the way we use a public pool for swimming laps. You go, take a class to certify that you are aware of the safety issues of track riding, and then you are able to come to the track during open hours and ride until your legs are on fire and your lungs are exploding in your chest. If that’s what you want to do. 

The show was well attended, for sure. I took a couple of time lapse videos that show the surge of people during the peak times. The show was spread over three days from a Friday. By the afternoon of each day, as my voice started to give out from having spent the day talking over the heightened decibels from the crowd buzz, I could see in people’s eyes a spiraling glaze forming. The number of pretty bikes one person can look at in a day depends upon that person’s constitution. I’d give most averagely bike hungry  individuals 2.5 hours of relatively continuous active interest before cogs, stays, tubes, angles, features and head badges begin to vibrate and swirly in an exhausted mesmeric pull toward somnambulism. 

Bespoke Show, Day 1 Time Lapse

Busy Bike Show

Why I liked this show: New people, new friends. Bicycle building is really taking off in the UK, and, I think, in Europe in general. People are looking at the U.S., and how the market has grown, and are very excited about this sort of re-birth of the hand made bicycle industry. England has, I think, a lot of similar issues as the U.S. in regards to its society becoming more oriented toward the service industry, and is losing (or has already lost) much of its manufacturing to overseas interests. Consequently, people aren’t being taught to use tools, how to work with their hands. But, as in America, there are a lot of people who find a great deal of satisfaction in taking raw materials and making them into functional, useful things. Now that there has been this sort of re-introduction of bicycle craft, the general hunger for it is there, and it’s taking off fast and furious. 

Bending in the Shop

Raw Bike in Process

I found it interesting talking with builders from the UK about how, forty or so years ago, people from here in the U.S. who wanted to make custom bicycles had to travel to the UK to find a builder to learn from. But then something happened, and the custom bicycle scene in Britain died nearly completely, or went mostly underground, so that only those who were paying the closest attention even knew what a custom bicycle was. In that time, some of the grumpy old guys here in the states (I say this lovingly) learned and perfected their craft. But it wasn’t until the mid to late nineties, and more-so shortly after the millennium, that the “new breed” of bike builders started to take up the torch, so to speak. This is the generation of builders with whom I’m associated. This was also the beginning of the real splash of popularity in the world of custom bikes. You could point to bike shows and the internet, both working like giant marketing campaigns. And then there was the United Bicycle Institute and a handful of private teachers who showed that you, too, could learn to build your own bicycle. I theorize that at least some of the popular desire to learn to build bicycles was a result and repercussion of the general societal trend toward desk jobs with lots of screen time. Not everyone is satisfied being sedentary and cerebral, and yet, unless you carve your own way and are looking specifically at learning a trade, children and young adults are not getting the opportunity to discover if turning a wrench would even be interesting to them.  Somewhere along the way getting your hands dirty lost some of its respectability. People wanted to be managers, and they expected that their children ought to be managers, and so shop classes and home-ec classes (and so on) lost funding and support. 

But wait, how did we get here? I was talking about a bike show. 

Ryan from Oak Cycles is one of the UK builders whose business is there in London. His workshop was about a six minute cycle from the velodrome, about the closest of anyone’s to the venue. I think he said he’s been building for about four or five years now, and he makes some very cool bikes. One of his recent projects is a long-john style cargo bike. One thing I noticed in London was that there weren’t too many cargo bikes on the roads. I saw a couple of Bakfeits, and a Christiana box trike, and maybe a Bullit. Ryan said that cargo bikes hadn’t really caught on yet. Momentum was beginning to build, but they were still some years out. 

As far as the build went, I think Ryan pretty much nailed it. And, when I asked him about it, one of the first things he discussed was the things that he did differently on this bike from the last, and the things he will do differently on the next one. That, in my opinion, is the sign of a good builder — always looking for ways to improve. Especially when building bikes that are somewhere outside of the traditional two-wheels, two-triangles, it’s like a puzzle that can go together in so many different ways, some of which function better than others. The only way to learn is to build it, ride it, revise your ideas and build it again. There’s no such thing as perfection, but you’re always trying to get a little closer to it. 

Cozy Kitchen

Ryan’s wife, Nik, was at the show as well. She is a mechanic, and works at a bike shop and cafe called Look Mum No Hands on Old Street. Nik’s a fiery Irish woman with long red hair and a broad smile. She’s quick to laugh and loves bikes as much as anyone, probably more than most. She and Ryan make a pretty good team, and are constantly scheming where they’re going to go on their next bike tour. They live on a house boat on the canals of London. I didn’t know this, but there is a whole culture of people living on their boats. Canals run all throughout London, and out into the countryside. You can go just about anywhere. It’s pretty cool because they can move to various parts of the city depending on what’s going on in their lives on any given day. They’ll tie up near Ryan’s shop for a while, and then move closer to Nik’s work, and maybe go a little further out if they’re looking for some peace and quiet. Between the boat and their bicycles, they’ve got a fairly mobile life. The boats that people live on are all of a certain style, long and narrow. It’s a lot like living in a compact mobile home. There’s a kitchen, a bedroom and a shower, and the small living/dining room area of Ryan & Nik’s boat even had a little wood burning stove. Very cozy. 

Nik and Ryan were incredibly generous and helpful with my bikes (which I’ll get more into in a moment). They made dinner for me on the boat the last night I was there, a delicious vegetable and rice curry, and then delivered me to where I needed to catch a bus back to my flat. Over dinner Ryan and I geeked-out on bike stuff and talked about the business of bike building. The bike building business is similar in many ways to that of any craftsperson, or musician, painter or sculptor, writer, and many of the arts. The end result is different, of course, but the business functions in a similar way for all of these, and demands of the artist or craftsperson a similar sort of attention. We’re all trying to learn how to survive doing what we love to do, and we’re all trying to learn how to do what we love to do in a way that won’t ultimately make us hate what we do. If you come to hate what you love to do, the organism dies, and some piece of you goes with it. Then you’re fucked and you get a job and you adapt to something else and never stop wondering if you had tried this or done that or not given up when you did, would it (ie: the business) have succeeded. And maybe this wakes you up at night and you mentally spar for restless hours and fall back asleep, dream of being trapped on a crowded bus without any pants on, not sure if the bus is the right one to take you where you need to go, and you're too embarrassed to ask.  You hide at the back, just hoping that all the people will get off the bus so you can figure it out, and they never do. You wake up sweaty and parched and feel like shit but go to your job because that's your new agreement with life, and from work maybe you go to the bar, the movies, home to sit in front of the television. Every two weeks you get paid enough to drink, eat and sleep your way through the next two weeks, and this goes on for years, the same pant-less dream haunting you, shriveling into oblivion. (?)

A Little Older, A Little Tired

The Unexamined Life

Ryan likes to build bikes, but, he says, he hates being a salesman for his products. He doesn’t really like to call his bikes “products.” They’re not products, he thinks, they’re bikes. There’s some personal attachment there, which is understandable. Translating this attachment into business-speak (products!) takes some internal reevaluation. I wonder how many bikes one has to build and sell before the semantic transformation happens. That’s what it is, really: Semantics. I wonder how long one has to live on a barely living budget before one’s moral perceptions or personal ethics (again, semantics) evolves into something different? What we’re doing, in the end, is making a product and selling that product so that we can live. It’s hard, though, when the product we’re making is conceived of and built out of love, a desire to create, the hope to make the world a bit better place in which to live. How not to be attached to this? How does the writer write the story and put it out in the world and not feel some sense of attachment to it? There are many parallels to having a child, each bike a baby, each painting, each song from the musician. As the parent, you want the best for it, but in the end, when a bike or book goes out into the world, the one who created it has to let it go. And, in strict marketplace terms, we’re doing a job in hopes of getting paid. Thus, at the end of the day, whatever you’re making, no matter how much love and creativity are involved, if you’re making it for money, it’s a product. Sell it and watch it go out the door. 

Or maybe all these words are clear evidence that I’ve sold my soul. 

Stainless Touring Bike For Sale

Stainless Touring Bike For Sale

Lucky for Ryan, he’s got the ever-practical Nik to work the sales for him. And, as it turns out, it’s lucky for me, too. At the bike show I had a fair bit of interest in my bikes. There were a couple of people whom I thought were seriously considering taking one home with them. But in the end, neither the road bike frame set, nor the stainless steel touring bike sold. On the last day of the show, Nik came to me with an offer. Look Mum No Hands is on a street in London with a lot of foot traffic, and they have a huge front window in which they are happy to display beautiful bicycles, the more interesting the better. If ever a bike could be called “interesting,” I believe the stainless touring bike might likely qualify. Nik talked with the owner of her shop, who agreed to put this bike on display. So, if you find yourself in London, and want to visit a very cool bike shop that happens to be attached to a cafe that serves delicious food, go to Look Mum No Hands. The stainless steel touring bike will be in the front window, and yes, it is for sale. I’ll be posting a detailed description of the bike, with it’s dimensions and features, in the near future. 

The road bike frame set that I showed at the Bespoke Show is also for sale. I brought this one back with me to the states. It’s available as a frame set (with rack, stem, brakes, pump and fenders), or we can help set it up as a complete bike, if that’s what you’d like. Details about this bike will also be posted on the website soon. 

This is the end of the first part of my trip. Next stop: Berlin. 






Why I Love My Cycle Truck

Cycle Truck, ThoughtsJulieComment

Here are a couple more reasons why the Cycle Truck is still one of my favorite bikes. Basically because it's so useful.Carrying a frame to Fedex

People I pass always double-take when I've got something large on the front of my Cycle Truck. People often point, and laugh, or nod their heads. I like the head-nodders because I think they're saying to themselves, "That makes sense. I want to do that!"


Cycle Truck and Chop Saw

If I didn't have this bike, I'd have to drive the half mile to the shipping office, or I wouldn't be able to carry my chop saw home to work on the house. I've ridden people on the front, to take them or pick them up from the train. I even had to deliver my shop mate, Chris Igleheart, to the hospital after he was hit by a car. Cycle Truck as gurney. Fortunately, he's back in action now. 

Countless times, countless uses, it's so liberating not to have to drive.


It's a New Year

News, Thoughts, TravelJulie1 Comment


The holidays have come and gone. There was a lot of work to do, so I spent a good portion of the Frenetic Season of Shopping at the workshop, away from it all. I'm not even sure how it feels yet, to be in 2014. It's kind of like putting on a new shirt. It may look different, but it feels about the same. 

I’ve got a busy few months ahead of me. This coming Monday the 6th I begin teaching a brazing class at UBI. And I'll be teaching another class in March. Between now and then I have several bikes on the build list. 

One bike in particular that I need to build will be going with me to the Bespoked Bicycle Show in London. I recently bought a plane ticket to England for the show, which is from April 11 - 14.  

The Bespoked Show was in Bristol the past couple of years, but because of the increasing number of builders showing their wares, and because of the increased attendance, they've had to change venues. It sounds like the popularity of hand made bicycles, and the number of builders, is really starting to take off in the UK, and in Europe in general. That’s awesome, especially since that’s where the tradition and roots of the hand made bicycle craft really began. 

This years' show will be in London, at the Lee Valley Velodrome, which is where the 2012 Olympic track racing was held. I guess we’ll be showing on the floor down in the center of the track. Pretty cool. I'm very excited to go and be a part of it.

Another noteworthy subject is the bike that I’m working on right now. It’s so very close to being finished, and I’m excited about it, which maybe isn’t anything new. I get excited about most things that I build. But this one has really got me going. It’s an off road 650b bike, for touring. It’s not a new subject, but it’s a cool bike, nonetheless. Like a lot of bikes I make, I take a bunch of classic elements and put them together with my own spin and interpretation on the design. I’ll get some photos up in the next little while. 

Alright, that’s it for now. I hope you all had a perfect holiday. 

Happy New Year!

Stainless Steel Touring Bike

News, TouringJulie3 Comments

This bike has gotten a lot of attention so far in its short life. People seem to like shiny things, and this one does indeed shine. Beyond being blindingly bright, there are so many details that I figured I ought to lay it out for those who might be interested. The bike is mostly finished. There are a couple more bags that need to be made, and a decaleur that will mount off the stem -- in this sense it is still a work in progress. So, here's the low-down:Stainless Steel Touring

Spork Head Tube BadgeThe frame and fork are made from KVA stainless steel. The split-plate fork crown is made from laser cut stainless.  The racks and stem are made from chromoly steel, and were polished and chromed.

The bike has 26" wheels (international standard -- this is a touring bike, after all), disc brakes, a connectorless front generator hub made by Schmidt. That means that there is no plug to worry about when changing a flat tire. The wire runs from the inner face of the dropout directly into the fork leg. The front and rear lights are powered off the hub, and the wiring is all internal.Breakaway Binder

The frame is a breakaway style, with a coupler on the down tube, and a breakaway point on the seat tube. The seat post is integral to the structure of this system, which is brilliant and simple (No, I didn't invent this. Neither did Tom Ritchey -- it came from way further back than even his design). The seat stays come in below the seat tube breaking point, and the rear rack stays attach higher up on the seat tube, where seat stays would normally be. This gives the bike the appearance of having a traditional rear triangle, and serves to support the rear rack. 

Front Rack & LightThe front rack has an upper deck that can be used intependantly of the low riders, which are detachable. The rack supports the fender and the front light. The rear rack has an integrated u-lock holder. Notice the leather sleeve on the lock shackle. This was made by Dirt Jr., right here in Portland. I plan to put these up for sale on my website soon. They look so much nicer than what comes with the lock. We're working on a vegan option as well. 

Rear Rack & Lock HolderThe frame uses traditional tubing dimensions (1" top tube; 1 1/8" down & seat tubes), and has a straight truss, or second, top tube. This supports the head tube and seat tube, stabilizing the ride for weight bearing, particularly when the bike is fully loaded with bags. The space between the two top tubes was an ideal place to add storage, and the frame bag was custom made by Black Star Bags here in Portland. There's enough capacity in this bag to carry a couple of tubes, maybe even a folding tire, tire levers, patches, a multi-tool, energy bars, phone, etc. 

Stainless LogoThe down tube logo is also stainless steel, laser cut and brazed on. It took three of us to keep it set while brazing. Next time, I need to video record the process. I left the panel around the logo exactly as it looks right after brazing, without polish. That gives it the burnt, dirty look, which really stands out nicely.

There is a polished titanium spork head tube badge that is removable, and fully functional. People who ride bikes have to eat, right?Stainless Steel Touring

Part of the reason I built this bike was because I hadn't yet seen a really utilitarian bicycle made from stainless steel. Stainless is expensive, and the amount of time and labor required to bring it to a mirror finish was ridiculous, but the final product is so striking that I believe it was worth it. I hope you agree. I would like to see the same style bicycle, or something worthy of commuting, made from stainless steel and with a brushed finish. Everything Shiny!

Polished StemAnother reason I built this bike was because I was invited by the Portland Art Museum to display a couple of bicycles along with the Cyclepedia exhibit this past summer, 2013. It was an honor to be invited, and I wanted to make something that I believed was worthy of being shown in such a prestigeous museum.

Here above is the photo series from my flickr site. There are a few repeats, but I chose to use them all, because each of them looks so good. Photo credit goes to Anthony Bareno. He took all these in the studio at Velo Cult. He said it was the most difficult bike he's ever shot. Too many reflections. If only there were some way to photograph this bike in the dark! Please check back in the future to get a full ride report. 



Oregon Handmade Bicycle Show 2013


This coming weekend, the 28th and 29th of September, is the Oregon Handmade Bicycle Show, put on by the OBCA. If you can make it out, it's at Sandbox Studios. Come show your support for local builders, both new builders and those well established. 

Bradley's Monster Cross Bike


Bradley's bike is a single speed, disc brake, "monster cross" bike. He runs it with a flat bar, and rips it up in Forest Park. Check out the unique seat stay configuration. 

As Bradley puts it, "the bike shreds some serious gnar." 

Free Admission at the Portland Art Museum

City Bike, News, TouringJulie1 Comment

The Portland Art Museum has free admission every forth Friday of the month (which is, it just so happens, today!), from 5 - 8pm. This evening there's going to be food carts, the Metrofeits beer bike (which I'm told will be pouring kombucha), and, yes, free entry into the Cyclepedia exhibit.

My bikes are about to be set up there, and will be on display from today, 23 August, through 30 August. I'll be hanging around the museum this evening for the festivities, and to talk about my bikes, from 5 - 8. If you can't make it over this evening, I'll also be there most of the day on Sunday, the 25th of August.

Here are a couple of photos of the finished bikes that will be at the Portland Art Museum starting today. I hope I see you at the exhibit!

Stainless Steel Touring Bike


Manifest 2.0 Commuter 

Bikes at the Portland Art Museum


I'm putting the final touches on a bike that will be a part of the Cyclepedia exhibit at the Portland Art Museum. I'm going to be displaying two bikes in the entrance to the museum from August 23 - 30. Both of the bikes will be, I feel, (I hope,) worthy of being in a museum.

One bike is a hard-core commuter with an amazing front rack fixed to the frame; Cycle Truck style. The other is a stainless steel touring bike. I don't even know where to begin talking about the stainless bike. It's been keeping me at the shop for long long hours for the past few weeks. I'll be posting photos and detailed explanations of both bikes in the next week or so. Shop Buddha

I feel honored to be showing bikes at a museum. I never thought that people would invite me to display my bikes in this context. That's pretty amazing. The entire Cyclepedia exhibit is a very interesting look at a variety of bike designs over the years. The fact that the Portland Art Museum has helped make this such a prominent bike event for the summer is, in my opinion, about the coolest thing ever. I love this town. 

I'm going to hang out at the museum on Sunday the 25th of August to talk with people about my bikes. If you can make it down on that day, it would be great to see you. If you can't make it on Sunday, try and make it there at least one of the days that my bikes are showing. It'll be worth it. 


Spring Projects, 2013

City Bike, News, ProcessJulie

We’re pushing the tail end of spring, and it’s starting to feel a lot like summer. I've been busy with a lot of unique projects. A lot of bikes with a lot of racks. Meaning big, elaborate racks. Quite a few of them are integrated into the frame, meaning they're brazed on, and are a part of the bike. I love that sort of devotion.  

Double Seat StaysLillian's Mid-tailI’ve just finished another mid-tail that is on its way to the powder coater. The last mid-tail I built was for a very tall man, and this one is for a shorter woman, so the design is similar, but the proportions have changed. This bike is scheduled to go on a year-long world tour

I am most of the way through a crazy commuter with a 24” front wheel and a 28” rear, very similar in design to the bike I built for the Oregon Manifest a couple of years back. It has a basket that bolts to the head tube, and a couple of different places for frame bags to be mounted. It’s one of the coolest and most generally useful bikes that I think I’ve ever built. Maybe I say that only because it’s the one I’m working on right now, which always seems to be my favorite bike. All-round Bad Ass Commuter

Also this spring I made my first attempt at double seat stays, which came out looking bad ass, if I do say so myself. These are on a single speed cross bike with disc brakes that should be coming back from the powder coater in a week or so. 

Another bike I want to mention is a step-through commuter bike with the rear basket integrated into the frame. So many tubes, and it came out to be such a gorgeous bike. I’ll post a full photo run of the finished bike soon. 

 Here are photo highlights from some of the projects I’ve mentioned here. 


Short Lecture On Craft


This is one of twenty-two short lectures given by Mary Ruefle in her book entitled, Madness, Rack, and Honey. It's an amazing, digressive, thought-provoking book. I'm quoting this lecture not because of its insight into any specific craft per se, but more because it is a thoughtful meditation on the meaning of craft, both word and idea. 


By 700 BC the Phoenicians were sailing. 

We know this because there are records. We know nothing about the time before records. 

It is not an easy task for men to move on water. 

So difficult a task is it that as recently as 1940 no one believed that men ignorant of the uses of iron were capable of sailing, let alone navigation, great waters, least of all the greatest of all, the Pacific Ocean; not even professional mariners believed it. But Thor Heyerdahl believed it, he believed that human beings ignorant of teh uses of iron, living on what we now call the North and South American Continents, were capable of crossing what we now call the Pacific Ocean, and settling a number of small mountainous islands and flat coral reefs we now call Polynesia. 

And so he built a raft, modeled on those the ancient Incans used for fishing in local waters, a raft made from nine Ecuadoran balsa logs lashed together with hemp rope, using no nails, wire, or metal of any kind, a raft with an open bamboo cabin and a crude sail that looked like a piece of cloth hung to dry on a pole, and on this raft, with five companions and a green parrot, he set out, on April 28, 1947, from the coast of Peru, to prove that it was possible. 

After 101 days at sea -- 4,300 miles later -- they landed on an uninhabited South Sea island. It had been done. There was now at least one record of such a thing. What was their secret? How did they do it? The secret of the Kon-Tiki is that is was a very large cork; their raft rolled with the waves, that's all it could do, it couldn't even turn back. It was cork, and themen who were on it were cork. 

A craft is a boat, ship, or airplane; the most primitive craft is a raft, whose very word is embedded in the word craft.

Great skill is involved in building a craft, for it is far from easy to make things that float or fly [or roll].

Inside the word raft is the word aft, which means located near the rear, as opposed to the fore, which is located near the front.  

Fore-and-aft means, therefore, running the length of a craft, from front to rear. 

Not top to bottom, front to rear, fore-and-aft.

Before and after: running a length of time, which creates time; without time, there is no length;there is no counting before time. 

Before the raft Thor Heyerdahl christened Kon-Tiki, after the Incan sun-god, no one thought it possible. But after, men knew that in prehistory, without records, without iron, such a craft existed. Men knew the Phoenicians were not alone. And men knew, too, that it was probable ten such rafts sank to the bottom for every one that sailed. 

Those unknown men and women who with the labor of thir minds devised a raft and with the labor of their hands tied the logs together and tested the seaworthiness of thier raft...

Who taught them their craft?

There is of course another meaning of the word craft, it is the second or third meaning given in any dictionary. 

Craft: skill in evasion or deception.

Those unknown men and women lashing togetehr their gigantic raft, what were they evading, whom were they deceiving? Were they themselves deceived, and evading their deceivers? Were they evading hunger, disaster, unspeakable loss?

We don't know. But surely there must have been a moment of glorious well-being when they slid thier raft into the water and discovered that it could float, and would hold them all, as they set out to cut a hole in time. 

2013 Handmade Bicycle Show Highlights


Bicycle ArtistryThis past weekend was the North American Handmade Bicycle Show in Denver, Colorado. I didn’t show bikes this year because I wanted to go as a spectator. For a one person operation the show can be stressful, especially when it’s so far from home that bikes have to be boxed and shipped. It’s also expensive, for travel and hotel, bike transport, and so on. I wanted to avoid all that this time, and see the show from the other side of the table. When I show bikes I don’t have time to connect with many of the other builders, let alone to see what everyone has madeDinucci BB and brought along. 

Alright, so I went to a bike show. What, then, did I see? I’m not a trained reporter, and if I ever take a quality photo it’s purely by accident. This is my disclaimer, or my advanced apology. I talked with a lot of people, and I didn’t take any notes, so I may get names wrong. I’m not intentionally trying to mislead anyone. If you see this post and know that I’ve failed to get some fact or name right, let me know and I’ll fix it. Here, then, in no particular order, are some of the things I saw. I take that back, I’m going to start with one of my favorite bikes at the show:  

It’s a road frame that breaks apart for travel, made by Masa Arai of Silk Cycle. If you’ve seen my work, you probably know that I’m a sucker for a lot of tubes on a bike, double chain stays, extra top tube, etc. Now take a look at this bike. It reminds me of the under side of a bridge with the trusses, everything supporting everything else. The builder is from Saitama, Japan. He’s got some sort of smart-vision to even conceptualize this kind of bike. I don't know how he does it. The way it breaks apart is very clever, and everything is the way it is for a reason. He spent a few minutes showing me photos on his computer of other bicycle creations he’d built. Everything he showed me was unique, inventive, totally original, and just awesome. I’ve really got to go to Japan one of these days and visit some of these guys. They’re so cool. 

At the Moots booth I talked with Nick for a while about his adventure touring bike. This thing was a monster, ready to go on the long back-country voyages. It’s a very well thought out bike, and it’s clear Nick is ready to use it. And the custom saddle is one of the best I’ve seen. Also to be found in the Moots line-up was a custom titanium chain saw blade protector. Of course. You can’t use a mere machete when bush-whacking in Colorado. It would take you forever to get anywhere. 

I was pleased to see Aaron Stinner of Stinner Frameworks showing his wares. Of course I didn’t get a decent photo, but you ought to check out his website. He was a student of mine at UBI a while back, and it looks like he’s doing some good work. 

Another of my favorite bikes at the show was this mountain bike made by Curtis Inglis of Retrotec and Inglis Bikes. This bike won the award for Best Mountain Bike, and was built for Darren, who I see at just about every show. Lucky guy. 

If you’ve been paying any attention, you’ve probably heard that fat tire bikes (aka ‘fat bikes’ or ‘snow bikes’) have become extremely popular over the past year or so. There were a lot of them at the show this time. One of my favorites of this category was made by Rick Hunter of Hunter Cycles. It’s a fat tire long tail that he made for Scott of Porcelain Rocket. Coincidentally, Porcelain Rocket is a custom bag maker, so Scott fabricated the frame bag and some oversized panniers for his bike. He does some good work. Scott is taking this monster bike to Australia to hit the back country for a four or five week tour coming up in the next few months. It looks like the right machine for the job.


This by Boo Bicycles is really attractive for its lines and simplicity, and its mixture of materials. I’m curious to know how it rides. I believe this won an award, but I don’t remember what for. Mixed media, maybe. 

I think this bike is absolutely gorgeous. It was made by Chris Bishop of Bishop Bikes. It won the award for Best Road Bike, and I didn’t see it until after it was given the award. Consequently, I couldn’t get any good photos because of all the people hovering around. But check out the bi-laminate lugging on the head tube. So clean and simple and perfectly executed. Very nice. 

Here’s a terrible photo (my fault, totally – I wasn’t kidding about being at best a lucky photographer) of Ron Andrews of King Cage. He’s kind of an entertainer, and I love the mess he makes. In this photo Ron is in the process of bending a piece of tubing into a water bottle cage. He’s got some great new products: a titanium bell that doubles as a shot glass, and a new cage to carry larger items called the “Manything Cage.” 

Here’s some artwork I had the pleasure of seeing made at the Alchemy booth. I didn’t get the artist’s name or age, but you have to agree that he’s good. 


What would any of us do if there weren’t a bike in the Bilenky booth painted a Wonder Woman theme? Steven Bilenky is one of my favorite builders.


Ira Ryan and Tony Pereira launched their new bike brand, Breadwinner Cycles. Their bikes looked good, and I wish them all the best in their new venture. If you want to know more about Breadwinner, check out the article on bikeportland.org

Another one of my favorite builders of all time is the legendary Steve Potts. This is a mountain bike he built way back in the early days, like 1983 or 4. He’s such a nice guy, and I love that he’s a builder who can genuinely say, “Oh yes, I built the frame, fork, and stem; I made the hubs and bottom bracket and fabricated the roller-cam brakes in my shop. I made the shifter mounts and designed the handlebar and the saddle, too. Oh, and the cranks.” And the tires, and so on. I wish I was that smart, and that motivated. 

These last photos are of the unofficial show that went on for a few hours Saturday evening. This was at a separate venue, with some of the old-time builders there, as well as Boulder Bicycles, and Wayne Bingham showing a selection of Var tools. There were about 15 or 20 old bikes on display, showing a cross section of several years of hand made bicycle craft. Most of the bikes were made by Rene Herse. I think my favorite of these was the tandem.


Here, Mark Dinucci shows one unpainted bike. Everything about it is immaculate, simple, and just perfect. Mark’s awesome. 

Mark Nobilette had his personal bike there. Every detail was just right. 

I’m embarrassed to say that the photos I took of Bruce Gordon’s ‘gravel grinder’ came out so terribly that I have nothing to post. But, if you’re familiar with Bruce’s work, you know it was good. And I dig his new tires. 

I hope you enjoyed all this. I had a conversation with Richard Sachs about bicycle business that got me to thinking about things. Maybe I'll put some thought to it in the coming days. 




Dave Eggers and American Manufacturing


Dave Eggers's New Book

Yesterday the author Dave Eggers was in Portland. I found out that he was going to be at Annie Bloom’s Books in the afternoon for a “meet & greet,” which is another way to say he would be chatting people up while signing his newest book for them. I wanted to meet him, and I knew he was scheduled to be at Powell’s Books in the evening, but I figured that would be kind of a mob scene, so I decided to go over to Annie Bloom’s.

If you’ve never visited Annie Bloom’s, it’s worth the trip. The small, independent booksellers have been dying out over the past decade or so with Amazon price-fixing and e-books and so on. If you like books, and you like the act of perusing bookshelves, and if you like chatting with people who have a passion for, and know a lot about books, then go visit your local independent bookseller. It’s like buying a local bike, only cheaper.

Alright, so Dave Eggers is one of my literary heroes. He’s got a journalism background, and he writes very human, accessible, and relevant stories -- both fiction and non-fiction -- about events that are taking place around us today. He seems to have his hands in a lot of different places, not only in the world of books. If you're not familiar with it, check out 826 Valencia, his youth writing project. And, check out McSweeny's publications. Writing can be so isolating and self-involved, but I feel like Eggers is out there in the real world, doing some good work.  

Eggers’s newest book, A Hologram for the King, is straight up fiction, whatever that means. But, as is Eggers’s way, the story is based in a reality that looks a lot like the one we have with us now. A middle class American entrepreneur is in Saudi Arabia trying to sell high-end technology to the king. I haven’t read it yet (just bought my copy yesterday), but one of the subjects in the book that I’m looking forward to reading about is the discussion of how America exported so much of its manufacturing overseas, and how this plays out in the story.

From what I’ve read, the main character originally worked in the bicycle industry, “and did fine, extremely well for a while there, until he and others decided to have other people, 10,000 miles away, build the things they sold, and soon left himself with nothing to sell.”

I talked briefly with Dave Eggers about this part of the book, and he told me that in researching for it, he went to China and visited the factory for Flying Pigeon Bicycle Company, which has been around since the earlier days of Mao Zedong’s rule, somewhere in the 1950’s. Eggers had a translator and posed as a buyer, took notes and wrote a section for the novel based on his experience. But, unfortunately, ultimately, Eggers said that he had to cut a majority of that part out of the book. I’m still curious to know what Dave found out about overseas manufacturing, and how that plays out in his novel. And I wonder if I could convince him to let me read the section he cut from the final manuscript? Might be worth asking about.

I’ll report back when I finish the book. And remember, bicycles are sexy, and so is reading. Books Can Be Bigger Than Bikes


Aurelio Commuter

City BikeJulie1 Comment

Aurelio CommuterThis is a bike that shipped to Aurelio just before the holidays. This one took a lot of hours, and a lot of weeks to complete. At base, it's a commuter bike, ready to do all the daily chores of getting around to work and to the store. But, it's a whole lot more than that besides. Take a look at the photos, and you'll see that it's all in the details. 

Oregon Handmade Bicycle Show


Show Flier

This weekend is the Oregon Handmade Bicycle Show. There will be a lot of great bikes to check out, fine craftsmanship from local builders, and because it’s Portland, and because there are bikes, you can be sure there will be beer, also local, and finely crafted. I don’t know that for a fact, about the beer, I’m just guessing. But it’s a pretty safe guess. So whatever draws you out of the house on a (likely) rainy weekend, you ought to come by and check it out.

The show is Oct. 20 & 21 at the Vigor Indurstries Building, No. 10, which is at 5555 N. Channel Ave., Portland, Oregon, 97217. For those of you who live here, that's on Swan Island. It's $10 to get in, or $8 if you buy tickets in advance (get them through the bike show website).

I’ll have a few bikes in my booth that I’m pretty excited about. One just returned from the painter. It's a deep rich red and has a lot of polished stainless steel bits and chromed racks and wooden rims, very nice to look at. Another bike I’ll be showing is unpainted, a commuter for Jonathan Maus of the famed bikeportland.org. Jonathan's bike has a huge front rack and a steering lock that's simple, and kind of cool. There will also be a full stainless steel bike, polished, no paint anywhere, as shiny as they come.

Hope to see you there.