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Those Types of Bikes

Filed In: Process

Those Types of Bikes

Friday, October 11, 2019   |   Chris Blandford

I learned last week that UBI’s Portland campus is shutting down. That’s a shame; I enjoyed my time there more than just about any two week stretch I’ve had in recent memory. My family and I live in Portland in small part because of the experiences I had while attending UBI. My interest in building a bicycle led me to that school. Spending two weeks surrounded by Portland bike nerds made me realize that I wanted to be one, too. And so here I am. The news is unfortunate, but not all that surprising. Even a couple of years ago, I figured it might be time.

I’ve read it written--more and more, in fact--that the handmade niche of the bicycle industry is dying. I certainly can’t argue with that. Even in my short time of paying attention to such things, I’ve noticed waning interest. “Framebuilding”--as it’s called, I guess--isn’t what it used to be. Not compared to thirty years ago; not compared to ten years ago. What was once a 70’s-era trade became a 2000’s-era craft and has now been relegated to 2020’s-era… something else. If I was, or had goals to be, a professional custom bicycle builder, I’d be worried--wondering what the future held. Thankfully I’m not, and I don’t, so I needn’t be.

I have to think, though, that there will always be a place (at least in the activity, if not the craft) for a dedicated hobbyist. Someone who isn’t tied down by the demands of a diminishing clientele, or held hostage by an hourly rate. Someone who can spend as much time on a thing as he wishes. Someone who can make the bikes that would otherwise not exist.

I’m finding myself drawn more and more to those types of projects. Those types of bikes. Somebody needs to make them--why not me?

Take, for example, a fillet-brazed e-assist cycletruck with an integrated rack. That bike certainly should not exist. But here it is, because some idiot spent the time to make it. Such a thing can’t be bought. A builder could be hired to make something like this, but I imagine the cost would be outrageous, especially for what amounts to an errand bike. This bike can only be built (and only be owned) by a hobbyist.

That makes me feel good. The uniqueness.

Anyway, I’ve got a few hours of filing left on this frame, and it’ll be done. Off to the painter next week. Time for a new project. Something interesting. Something that would otherwise not exist. I’ll have to start thinking.