Saturday, December 24, 2011

Why it must continue......

As I was warming up for a cyclocross race in Bend, Oregon I noticed that my cheap Chinese watchband was pretty much ready to let go. Not wanting to lose my faithful 1994 Timex Ironman watch that I had worn on every brevet and almost every race since I had bought it, I took off the watch and put it in my packet. The original band had lasted many years. The cheap replacements only lasted about 8-10 months and they were all from -you guessed it- China. Now I'm not insinuating that all goods from China are worthless but they are cheap and therefore subject to shorter life spans than stuff made elsewhere that isn't as cheap.
The next thing that got me thinking was announcing to a friend that our mutual friend was expecting a child-to this my friend said : " What's with all these people having kids ? I don't get it !". This made me want to say , " Well, how the heck did you and I get here ? Were we dropped out of a spacecraft ? Are we the only ones allowed to be born ?"=Of course I kept my thoughts to myself, after all...she had a valid point in that there is a bit of a population explosion that has been going on since before recorded history.
O.K., this gets me to my point: Custom frame building is a bit of a 'Niche" market,job, whatever you want to call it. By far, most of the bikes that people ride are made in Taiwan or China and are perfectly fine, if maybe not the most durable bikes ever created. After my generation is gone do I care if the craft of frame building continues ? -Yes, I do care....but why should I care if I'm dead ? First of all, the large companies who produce bikes do not build custom and this would make bikes for really tall and/or short people impossible to get if small custom producers were extinct. I, for one don't want to leave the task of building custom bikes up to larger companies as they aren't suited for the job, just as small guys like me are not suited to churning out 1,000's of bargain priced bikes for the masses. My other point is this: Just because I and my contemporaries have had our run at this pretty special livelyhood doesn't mean that someone else can't have a go of it as well. We needn't become an extinct species. Sure, some of us have decades of working at a low wage before getting to the point where we are no longer struggling to survive-that kind of life-long dedication isn't exclusive to one generation.There are new folks who want to try as we did all those years ago and I for one don't feel like telling them to forget about it .......this is why I teach a class at UBI once a year-I believe in the viability of hand made bikes and I don't put a time limit on it.
While I am not saying that everyone who wants to be a frame builder can pull it off, a few hardy and creative souls will with a bit of luck and with the ability to fill a need in their respective cycling community.For example , I do not build in isolation-I am surrounded by folks who ride where I do, appreciate what I appreciate and really use the bike for all sorts of occasions. I might have a lot of customers in far flung places but the core is here in Santa Cruz and the greater Bay area-I do things for this community and they in turn support what I do. I really see that as a sustainable thing- whether I am building bikes or someone else is. Maybe my brand name does not need to continue after I am gone but all the tools I have accumulated over last 30-odd years will no doubt find their way to someone else with their own vision, their own approach. -The shit don't stop with me.