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7:44AM

Spring Projects, 2013

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. 

Enjoy!

8:41AM

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. 

SHORT LECTURE ON CRAFT

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. 

9:40AM

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. 

Out.

 

 

8:16AM

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

 

11:04AM

Aurelio Commuter

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.