Archive for June, 2011

Make It Your Own in the New Golden Age

I’ve just finished reading “It’s All About the Bike” by Robert Penn.  Part personal account and part history of the bicycle, the book recounts the author’s quest to build his dream bike in a way most of us can only dream of doing – by traveling to the sources of all of the major components for his new ride.  For his new frame, he visits Brian Rourke Cycles in Stoke-on-Trent, England.  It’s off to Portland, Oregon, for a Chris King headset; Milan, Italy for Cinelli bars and stem; Vicenza, Italy for a Campagnolo drivetrain; Korbach, Germany for Continental tires; Fairfax, California, for handbuilt wheels; and Smethwick, England, for a Brooks saddle.  The narrative device is contrived, of course, but the book is filled with the amazing history of the bicycle and bicycling, and insights into the personal connection between rider and machine.  Rob Penn notes rightly that “The bicycle is one of mankind’s greatest inventions – it’s up there with the printing press, the electric motor, the telephone, penicillin and the World Wide Web.  Our ancestors thought it one of their greatest achievements.  This idea is now coming back into fashion.  The cultural status of the bicycle is rising again.”

You don’t need to travel the world to build a bicycle that’s uniquely your own, one that’s suited to your sense of function and style.  Nearly everyone who rides regularly has personalized his or her bike in some way, even if it’s an off-the-rack machine.  Maybe you replaced the plastic saddle that broke down with a leather one that keeps getting better with age.  Or you’ve added a rack and fenders to make your trip to the corner store pleasant when the pavement is still wet with rain.  Pink handlebar tape, purple rims and stickers everywhere?  It’s your bike.

Penn writes:  “Not long ago, much of what we owned was alive with the skill, and even the idealism, of the people who made it – the blacksmith who forged our tools, the cobbler, the wood-turner, the carpenter, the wheelwright, and the seamstress and tailor who made the clothes we wore.  We retain possessions that are well made; over time, they grow in value to us, and enrich our lives when we use them.  The frame is the soul of the bicycle.  The frame of my bike will only be made once, from steel.”  Perhaps the ultimate expression of creating a bike that’s yours alone is to build it out, starting with the frame and selecting components to suit.  You won’t see another like it, and somehow the pleasure of riding is doubled.

In the concluding chapter, Penn writes “My journey to put this bike together was at an end.  It had been fascinating and great fun.  I’d come to realize that the talk about the bicycle being at the dawn of a new golden age was not hyperbole.  All the manufacturers I’d spoken to reported growth in the last few years.  The balance between craftsmanship and technology is shifting once more, in pursuit of quality.  If people want well-made bicycles that are going to last, this shows that the machine is being valued again in a way that it hasn’t been for half a century.”  Are we entering a new golden age of bicycling?  The forecast is looking good.

Hangin’ with The Mayor at The Ciclovia

By proclamation of Mayor R.T. Ryback, Sunday, June 12 is Open Streets/Ciclovia day in Minneapolis, and Speedhound will be there!  From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. you can ride, walk, skate, or otherwise power yourself anywhere on a CAR-FREE Lyndale Avenue between 22nd and 42nd Streets. That’s 20 blocks without infernal combustion engines.  The weather should be great.  Hope to see you there!

Our booth will be right by the Mayor’s space so stop by and thank the Mayor for making this great event possible – and check out all of the pretty Speedhounds!

Get all the details here.