Saturday, June 13, 2009

a tale of two shirts

I'm getting the idea that some folks are not into this blog unless I'm on some sort of rant. I also get the feeling that some folks are bored with it rant or no rant. That's fine with me, I'm not trying to win a popularity contest but the story I'm about to tell needs to be told , so please be patient and give this one a read, even if you think I'm full of shit-this is about somebody who isn't. Back in around 1992-93 I was a struggling framebuilder looking to get a more national clientele as I had pretty much saturated the folks out here who were looking for custom mountian bikes. A friend of mine who was a sales rep for two other builders told me I should go to Flagstaff, Az. and ride with the locals. It seemed that a few of them were breaking just about every high-end bike in short order and were looking for somebody to build them bikes that would last a bit longer. My salesrep friend told me that he only way I would know how to do this was to go and ride with these folks and see just what they and Flagstaff riding were all about. This group of crazy daredevil gonzo mountain bikers were the 'Mutants" and they numbered about 8-12...I don't remember all that well. When I got to Flagstaff my bike which I had shipped wasn't there yet so the mutants lent me a Mantis to ride. They took me on a really rocky rite-of-passage and I was humbled by the skill by which these locals left me panting in the dust. The next day my bike arrived and I got to ride with the crew again , only this time it was way up in the San Fransisco peaks -prpbably not a big ride for the locals but a serious lung burner for me. It was rocky , high elevation riding that made me realize why these folks had super low gears on thier bikes and why their bikes were so beat up. Two guys in the Mutants really stood out as monsters on the bike: Yod Branch and Steve Garro. Steve and his girlfriend at the time were looking to get bikes. I was the only builder who had bothered to come out there to check out the scene -these folks had spent plenty on bikes through the years only to wind up destroying them and pitching them in the scrap heap after a short time. Steve and Yod had toured throughout the southwest, had been in magazine photos doing the most death defying stuff on mountian bikes at that time. I knew I had to forget about building light, nimble Nor-Cal style bike for the likes of these folks and give them super-mega thick Tange prestige tubes to resist the rocks and riding of northern Arizona. Months passed and two of my frames made their way to Flagstaff, one of them for Steve. He rode and beat that frame for years-I was waiting for the phone call to say that he had killed it because if anyone could kill a frame, it was Steve. Steve rode through Copper Canyon in Mexico and was with a group that were the first people to do so...he toured south America , made many excursions all over the southwest. Many years passed and Steve decided to learn how to build frames himself. Not many framebuilders have ridden as much or as hard as Steve so his experience and passion for riding would make him a great candidate for building. After a few years building frames Steve, a guy who cheated death on countless occasions on a bike got hit by a car and nearly killed. After weeks in the hospital and many operations he was allowed to go home. It was pretty certain that he would never walk again, let alone ride a bike. This was not enough to stop Steve from continuing as a framebuilder. Friends helped modify his shop so that if he wanted to, Steve could attempt building frames while in a wheelchair. It took some time but Steve was able to re-start his career and although he will probably never ride a two-wheel bicycle again he will continue building bikes for those that can. Steve can crutch around a little and now he has a hand-cycle that he takes up some of the same rocky trails that he used to ride back in the day on his mountian bike. His wife Denise is an avid mountian biker and Steve has build some stellar bikes for her that she rides and beats up in the Flagstaff tradition. Steve builds frames named after the forests of northern Arizona, Coconino . What he builds is a product of hundereds of days of riding and racing in that forest.I personally doubt that there exisits a more dedicated spirit who is currently putting frames together .......Steve will proudly tell you about stuff that he has done-it's not boasting, it's just facts-facts that he is justifyably proud of. I'll take genuine pride over false modesty any day of the week. Steve Garro has much to be proud of . I'm happy to know the guy. He made me a better builder, no doubt.


  1. Go Gardu! Steve is a really good cook too. I build bikes as if I still lived in flagstaff, stuff has to be bomber there, prestige rules.

  2. I second on the cooking thing. Steve makes a killer breakfast!
    One day back during the Mimbres Man years, Steve showed up at my door in Silver City. He had ridden down from Flagstaff. He stayed and rode for about a week. Everyday, of our mutant-wanna-bes took him out on a Gila thrashing. He always came out ahead.
    As his money supply dwindled, so did quality of beer. Soon we we were down to Schlitz. He said he needed to go to the ATM. I told him where one was, and he said, "no, my bank´s closest branch is in Tucson" so off he went.
    On the way to Lordsburg, his jacket got caught in his rear wheel and locked it up while blasting down the backside of the continental divide. He went skidding down hwy 90, nearly getting clipped by an 18-wheeler.
    Now his tire was ruined, a hole burned through it, he thumbed a ride into Lordsburg with a rancher who gave him $10.00 to buy a new tire at the Western Auto store. He continued on to Tucson where he retrieved some money from the ATM and on up to Flagstaff.
    Steve is the best bicyclist there ever was.

  3. If you were talking about anyone else I would say that story is bullshit....knowing Steve this story has to be true !

  4. dang, thanks Paul! quite the honor.......yep, MM's story is true except that i had ridden to his house from Moab, not spawned the saying "when you're out of schlitz, you're out of beer!" he DID leave out the part about going to the James Brown party in clothes from the local St. Vinnies & nobody would talk to me because i was wearing pink polyester old lady pants.....after i got back to flag i did 2 weeks of roofing & then did the border to tip offroad ride of Baja for Bicycling magazine! great times, i think that was 95'? Steve.

  5. I also left out you going to the VFW and begging for Thanksgiving food while I was cleaning up. You brought back some turkey leftovers and chile rellenos. We had done Tadpole Ridge on that Thanksgiving day.

    Yep 1995 sounds about right.

    I forgot about the James Brown party.

    You also said the Gila kicked your ass...I don't believe it but we threw everything we had at you and you were still standing. A lesser person would have caved.

  6. can you believe I still have that eam mutant shirt ? I just can't let it go.....good times, even if I was not in Flag more than a couple of times back then.