I had a fantastic long weekend of bike fun, starting with Thursday’s Builders’ Bike Ride, courtesy of the Oregon Handmade Bicycle Show and the editors of Dirt Rag and Bicycle Times (thanks Karen!).
The ride wended around Portland, starting at UBI and ending up at Strawberry Cyclesports, which is also Andy Newlands’ home. The builders on the ride included Tony Pereira, Wade (Vulture) up from Bend, and Andy Newlands himself.
We looked at Ahearne’s cycletrucks, which are made by Co-Motion to his design, and Mitch’s loverly custom randonneur with the top-end racks. Zow. We worked our way from the front of the shop where the tomato-red show bike was being built up, through the work area, the cycletruck storage and other-bike storage to the very back of the space, where they used to have an archery butt. Opening all the intervening doors turns the shop into a 30-yard indoor practice range. I was telling my nine-year old son about it, and he thought it was cool until I mentioned they used to find stuffed animals and use them as targets. Oops. His eyes narrowed. “Those guys are jerks!” He believes toys have feelings, and stuffed animals are only slightly less noble than cats. Sorry.
After the Ahearne/MAP shop, we had some stressful round-abouts because the itenerary had been changed at the last minute to send us out to see Tsunehiro, instead of Metrofiets. We went by the back wall of the new Vanilla shop, but didn’t stop in. I ended up losing a pedal platform sprinting across a sketchy street while a firetruck stopped traffic for us. (Did I tell you I got BikeSnobbed on Friday?)
We arrived at a big building that houses a large screenprinting operation (it’s where all the amusing and offensive bumper stickers in the world come from), a traffic-cone factory (wtf?) and Tsunehiro Cycles, Ruckus Components (more on him later), Portland Design Works, and a new messenger-bag and soft-goods company called Blaq.
A lot of the builder chatter was about milling machines as everyone admired Robert’s new horizontal mill. The non-builders ate donuts, drank beer, and tried not to touch the pair of very pretty show bikes. I had an epiphany: I’m a bike geek, and some of you may be bike geeks, but the people who build bikes… are milling machine geeks. Makes sense. Art connoisseurs talk about composition and color, while artists talk about paints and brushes.
As the tops were popped off some 22 oz brews, suddenly new faces appeared at the door, apparently drawn by the beer sound. “Like cats to a can opener,” someone said. They were the 3 guys from Blaq, and Shawn of Ruckus Components. The highlight of the whole ride was probably Shawn (Ruckus) making vast inroads into converting Tony and Wade to the potential of carbon. Wade said later, “Man, Tony and I went in going, ‘steel is real,’ and we left going, ‘whoa.'”
We finished up at Andy Newlands’ Strawberry Cycles shop-and-home for some amazing homemade salsa, beer, bread, and cheese. We saw more machinery (Andy is the North American distributor for Marchetti frame building tools), and some Argonaut frames that Andy’s shopmate builds. Argonaut had some of the tightest bikes I saw at last year’s show, and I was sorry not to see his work at the 2010 show.
After a really nice social around the chip bowl, sampling Andy’s arsenal of Ninkasi beers, I said I had to get away to meet a friend to see a concert at the Crystal Ballroom. The ride leader Evan Ross (Portland Bicycle Tours) gathered us all up to head down to the ArtCrank poster show. I really did have to jet, so all I could do was glance in at the ArtCrank bicycle poster show. Ah irony, thy taste is metallic.
Evan loaned me his own bike map in case I got lost, and I was pleased to return it at the show on Saturday. The City prints them! So cool. They fold up to about the size of a credit card, and show the streets and public transit infrastructure. I highly recommend his company as a tour leader, and he says he does a lot of tours for city planners from other places, showing off the Portland infrastructure.
Friday was a Builders’ Social, a party at the exhibit space with free beer and unsupervised poking of show bikes.
I got to talk to Shawn of Ruckus for a while one-on-one, which was instructive. He’s a young man from Wisconsin with a degree in composites engineering. He believes the bike industry should be leading the aerospace industry instead of “copying stuff that’s like 20 years old.” His business repairs failed carbon bike parts, and he says carbon is infinitely repairable. “You can make a roadside repair with fabric and epoxy, and make it home, or someplace safe.” According to him, carbon is completely misunderstood by the bicycle industry. He wasn’t talking about retrogrouches who hate it, he was talking about the people who design bicycles with it! “If you make anything as light as it can be, it’s going to fail.’
He wants to make a carbon fiber Pugsley one day.”Oh man, snow biking is so fun!”
Saturday was the show, where I took a lot of pictures.