seattle bike expo

last week, i got a panicked email from the obca about booth space at the seattle bike expo this past weekend. they had reserved 5 spaces for oregon builders to show but hadn’t heard from anyone about the confirming bikes to show. i answered the call and dusted off a couple bikes to take up to the show with joel metz and his jack taylor bike collection.

i had heard that ken taylor of the jack taylor cycle works was going to be coming over to the states for a jack taylor exhibit in the classic bike booth and i wanted to meet the man i had heard so much about. he is 82 years old and could charm the coldest heart.

the expo was a typical consumer bike show with local shops selling discounted goods and local cycle clubs promoting their events. crowds flowed in and out of the hall both days and kept everyone in the show on their toes. i was happy with the turnout and was able to sell a handful of ira ryan t-shirts and ira ryan leather mudflaps to cover the gas to get back to portland.

more than anything, i wanted to meet ken taylor before he flew back to northern england this wednesday. on sunday morning, ken dropped by the obca booth and took a look at the bikes while we chatted about bikes, racing, building and how they went about manufacturing bicycles from the 1940’s to the 1990’s.

one thing that stuck out from his 50 plus years of building experience was the atmosphere of industry that existed around stockton on tees, england that enabled the taylor brothers to get into the bike building in the first place. in the 1930’s and 40’s, stockton had a massive ship building city with steel mills and machinists in every corner of the city. ken’s older brother, jack, started working on a lathe when he was 15 years old before he worked as a pattern maker and bronze caster before he and his younger brothers picked up a torch and  started building bikes.

the taylors only started building bicycle frames to supply their own need for a good racing bikes to compete on in local races on the weekends. this led to building bikes for other racers and eventually they developed a reputation for building whatever type of bike you cold possibly dream of. they built road race bikes, randoneering bikes, kids bicycles,  touring bikes, racing  and touring trikes, time trial funny bikes, bmx, unicycles, track bikes, the finest road touring trailers, stems, racks and even rough stuff bikes that predated the mountain bike by a decade or two.

the good old days of building in the taylor cycle works involved a lot of brass and ingenuity but never touched an alignment table and rarely did they have to pick up a file to clean up the fillets. a review in bicycling magazine years past once criticized the taylors for not filing the fillets smoother. the taylors answered by saying they never touch a frame with a file once the fillet is down. something can be said for brazing thousands of bikes over 50 years of building.

in addition to seeing some amazing bikes and meeting the collectors who amassed this collection, erik zo came up to seattle from s.f. for the event. erik is a real character with the keenest knowledge of cycling history and bicycle design i have ever met. i wouldn’t stop short of calling zo a handful and/or a wise man but seeing him and joel together with such a collection historic bicycles was hard to keep up with. opinions and passionate conversations about anything bike flowed like the beer at dinner on saturday night. there are photos from the bike collection here and here.

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2 Responses to “seattle bike expo”

  1. 30thcentury Says:

    Nice Ira! Sounds like it was a great weekend. But, just so you know, nothing predated the mountain bike. It was all their idea. Fisher told me so…

    And anyone else who would listen…..

  2. Andrew McComb Says:

    It was good to meet you, sorry I couldn’t find you on Sunday. I went to your booth twice and you weren’t there! Glad to hear I wasn’t the only youngin to get so much out of that weekend.

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