Friday, March 27, 2009

Am I supposed to care what you think ?

Well, I have to care a little. You can't do this stuff in a bubble forever. Anyway, I have too many blogs so anyone who happens to stumble across this brand new avenue for my spleen venting activities of the virtual nature, feel free to comment often and use profanity with complete abandon if you like. Even thought I am a bicycle framebuilder of over 30 year of servitude, my opinions are still just that- opinions , and no amount of arguing on my part makes them any more valid than yours, unless of course, yours are wrong. Much as I love my world of building bikes, there also is so much to hate. As I see it, there are two predominant schools of being a bike framebuilder. School # 1, the authority......who I like to refer to as "snake-oil salesman" and # 2, the olde villige smithye, the guy who serves his community in ways that it cannot serve itself. Builder # 1 will tell you what you want. Builder # 2 will ask you what you need. But wait.....this is a custom bike ! What about all the glitter and shiny stuff ? What about the art, poetry and romance that attracts folks to such a purchase ? Those things are offered by both types of builders, its just that # 1 relies more heavily on these aspects while # 2 will consider the shiny bits optional and almost inconsequential to the purpose of the bike. Right now the big trend for new builders is to be # 1, the guy who makes rolling art, mobile jewelry........pretense you can pedal. I don't blame the new folks for wanting to build such bikes as I wanted to do the same in 1978. I saw bikes built by Albert Eisentraut, Bruce Gordon , Art Stump and Hetchins and thought: " Gee, that's what I want to do, only I want to do it my way !". After filing on lugs seemingly for weeks and building frames that had hundereds of hours invested in their construction I got a bit frustrated. I guess it really wasn't me. I started thinking that fit and function of the bike were enough of a challenge to attempt to master and that the extreme artfulness just got in the way of making a good bike. While this is an oversimplification and here are lots of beautiful bikes that ride extremely well and suit thier riders needs to a tee , I am always reminded when I go to a bicycle race and see none of these bikes in top competetive events it re-enforces my position that art, although impressive and attractive can get in the way of what a bicycle is supposed to do-be a good thing to ride. There are some builders that live on both worlds of building, the functional and the purley artistic. I'm most impressed with these few and hold them in high esteem. Obviously I lean to the builder # 2 side........hey, I run a racing team and I do race a little myself so that is my world. I do think, however that if the time was available and I felt like it I could make a really fancy frame. my contention is that nobody would care, at least not as much as if it were made by a builder with the reputation for doing such fancy work. There it is, my excuse to not make rolling art ! Stay tuned for more utterly one-sided rantings from one of the west coasts most nauseatingly outspoken builders.