The Big Story

My big story on collaboration and cooperation in framebuilding is now up on bikeportland.org.  At 3,000 words, it's a good deal longer than my three other NAHBS stories combined, but I think it turned out pretty solid.  Thanks go out to Jonathan of BikePortland for giving me the opportunity to write for the site and giving me another reason to attend the Handmade Show.  Also, thanks to Ira, Tony, Ben, Jason, Matt and Nate for letting me crash their party and to all the builders that took the time to give smart answers to my stupid questions.  Enjoy!


Tilting at Windmills: The Dalles Mtn 60

There is something ridiculous and absurd about what we do as bicycle riders.  While many of us use our bikes for transportation or utility - riding to a job or school or the store - most of us just like to go out for rides.  Sometimes it's an out-and-back route but we prefer to ride loops, to curve around in a big circle before returning smelly and tired to our destination.  We might be out on the bike for two, six, ten hours or more, but we don't get anywhere.  Why do we do this?  Why do we expose ourselves to the elements and push our bodies and machines to the limit, even though we're not getting anywhere?  The pioneers who settled the western United States had a goal and destination that gave their journey meaning and got them across the rivers and over the mountains.  When a wagon wheel broke or an ox died, they had no choice but to press on.  For some, they were headed for the promised land.  For most of us out on a ride, we're just headed for the pain cave.  While riding just such a pointless loop this weekend on the Dalles Mountain 60, I rambled along a dirt road among the windmills on the rolling plains above the Columbia River and was reminded of Quixote, everyone's favorite absurdist hero, tilting at windmills, caught up in a dream.  Perhaps that is part of why we dress up in foolish costumes, spend our hard-earned money on bikes and gear, take hours and days away from our regular, sensible lives to spend them inflicting pain on ourselves in the saddle.  We're caught up in the same dream.  We've tricked ourselves into believing that there is glory in our self-imposed suffering.  We don't have to climb the hills and mountains that we force ourselves over.  We're not headed for a Grand Tour mountaintop victory.  No reward waits at the top, no compensation for the effort required, only the dream of greatness.  There is little of substance that we stand to gain, and much to be lost, but something romantic inside drives us to do these things, compels us to leave our comfortable homes and seek out the challenges - real or imagined - that we find on the road or trail.   Most of us only glimpse the dreamlike glory of Quixote in flashes - often when we're at our worst - but those flashes keep us coming back for more.  So we keep seeking those moments out, believing that there is meaning and nobility in suffering, preparing our bodies and machines so that they're ready to rise to the challenge when the time comes to push ourselves further than we've ever gone, deeper into the cave to search for the light of the dream, somewhere down the road.


Back From NAHBS

Phew, I've been back in Portland for nearly four days and I feel like I'm just starting to get caught up.  I'm still plugging away at a more in-depth story on collaboration and cooperation among framebuilders for BikePortland.org that will be done (I hope) today or tomorrow.  Stay tuned for that.  Also, I'm just now getting around to uploading the crap-ton of photos from the four days in Sacramento.  I do have a set of photos from the unloading and construction of the Ira Ryan/Periera Cycles duplex booth up on flickr if you haven't seen them yet.  The booth turned out great and was almost certainly the only one of its kind ever constructed in the storied history of the North American Handmade Bicycle Show, but I don't really know.  Either way, I think it does say something special about Ira and Tony and the nature of the Portland handbuilt bike scene in general that they're able to work so well together even though they might appear to be in competition.  I'll have photos from the actual show up later today and tomorrow.

In other news, the Dalles Mountain 60 - the first VeloDirt ride of the year - takes place this Saturday.  I'm excited get back out on the bike and smash some gravel with a great crew of folks that I haven't ridden with since last year's Rapha Gentlemen's Race.  Sadly, we weren't able finish the full route at the Gents' race last year, but our resolve has been steeled in the fire of suffering and we're committed to coming back this year (assuming Rapha doesn't mind our smelly and unphotogenic presence) and finishing whatever torture test is laid out before us.  Hence, the VeloDirt Racing Development Program has been born.  Its mission is to turn our band of ragtag dirt chompers into a fearsome fighting force that can go toe-to-toe with the hardest of the hard men in the Pacific Northwest.  We already know that we can suffer with the best of them and won't settle for anything less than our full allotment of pain in 2012.  Now we just have to get faster...



So, I guess it depends on how you count.  Today is really the second day of the North American Handbuilt Bicycle Show for the builders and exhibitors who spent the majority of Thursday loading booths and bikes into the Sacramento convention center and arranging the pieces in such a way as to make the dirty, hard work of framebuilding appear elegant and effortless.  Some exhibitors were content with the shower curtain backdrop and folding table provided by the convention center hosts.  Others, like North Portland builders Tony Periera and Ira Ryan, took it up a notch.  If there were an award category for "Best Duplex," Ira and Tony's MIG-welded framework finished in salvaged tongue-in-groove wood siding would take home the top prize for sure.  Photos from yesterday's load-in and booth construction are up on my flickr page.

I expected the scene at NAHBS to have my head spinning and eyes twitching with overstimulation from exposure to beautiful handcrafted bikes, but after experiencing the insanity of Interbike the last two years, cruising the aisles of this showroom floor was relatively relaxing.  The scale of the event is much more manageable and the framebuilders I spoke with today were very friendly and welcoming.  I even managed to pull some writing out of my seat tube!  Take a look at my story about a truly remarkable bike for BikePortland.org.  It's Gary Fisher's pick for Best of Show and should be yours too. 

I'm working on a couple of larger stories for BikePortland that will publish in the next couple of days, so stay tuned for those updates and more photos, of course!  See you at the show tomorrow!