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Riding in Circles

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Riding in Circles

Friday, October 18, 2019   |   Chris Blandford

Two things of bicycle-note happened recently.


Last Saturday, I rode over to the Chris King Open House. For the non-nerdy, Chris King makes very nice parts--here in Portland--for very nice bikes. Each year, they invite a handful of professional custom bicycle builders to display a bicycle showcasing new King products. They also serve beer and give a factory tour--that whole deal.

The style of bike that was being shown at this year’s event wasn’t really my thing. Lots of gravel bikes and road bikes and mountain bikes. Bikes made for bike rides. Which is great, but--again--not where my interest lies. I’m as bike nerdy a person as one will ever meet, but these types of events help to remind me that my bike nerdiness is confined, really, to a small niche within a broader, more widespread nerdom.

I can’t remember the last time I went for a bike ride. I ride my bike every day, but an actual bike ride? In a big circle? For no other point than pure enjoyment or exercise? It’s been years, I’d guess. I like riding bikes from here to there. To and fro. In lieu of walking or driving or e-scootering or roller skating, but that’s it. To the hardware store. To get groceries. To go down to the coffee shop to write a blog post for boring little blog. I suppose the rides--technically--go around in a circle, but there are intentional stops along the way. I ride slow, and get passed by lots of bike-ride-bike-riders. Sometimes Mathilda is squirming about in the bucket of our cargo bike on the way to (or from) school, but otherwise I’m nearly always alone.

And so, while I enjoyed seeing the bikes at the Open House, I much more enjoyed talking to the builders of those bikes. Much more interesting, I think. I made a point to say hello to a couple that I admire. I chatted with Tony of Breadwinner, who taught the framebuilding course at UBI that I completed a few years ago. We talked about balance bikes and riding with our kids. I stopped Dan from Speedvagen in a hallway and spoke to him for a good while; he was the other instructor at that same UBI course. We talked about motorcycles and his career path. Finally, I introduced myself to Jeremy Sycip. He was showing an (assuredly sweet) hardtail mountain bike he’d made for the show, but his ears perked up a bit when I mentioned that I was a long-time admirer of his light duty cargo bikes. I could’ve stood there for an hour talking about e-bike motor cabinets and frame-mounted racks. (I didn’t, but I could have.) I had a few other encounters. In all these cases, it occured to me that the builders seemed a little relieved to not be chatting about one-by-twelve this or that. About gravel tire width. About the wider-spread nerdom.

Which is all to say that while I feel a bit odd at events like the King Open House, I’m glad that those builders with whom I spoke might also share (at least a tiny bit of) that feeling. Perhaps. I suppose I could’ve been mistaken. Or maybe, in fact, there’s something in the brazing fumes. Maybe the bikes are more the result of an underlying interest, and not the interest itself. For others beyond myself.

Second (and related, I suppose):

I finally finished up the e-bike version of the cycletruck on which I’ve been working.

I haven’t yet made it a habit to build-up my frames with parts--before paint--as I complete them, but I decided that in this case it was a good idea. This isn’t exactly the simplest machine I’ve ever made. I found one missing braze-on and one missing hole. Not too bad, all things considered. Fixed both, installed all the bits, and there it was. A fillet-brazed e-assist cycletruck. I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself.

On Friday, I took the bike out for a decent test ride (to the grocery store, no less). I’m a little surprised at how well it handles, actually. I'm pleased with wow sturdy the front rack feels loaded up with beer and firewood and carne asada supplies. Which was my largest concern. It’s a keeper, for sure. I’m excited for more rides on this bike, to and fro, from here to there. 

Interesting rides. In big, nerdy, niche-y circles.

Off to paint. Or powder. Or something. I'm not sure.