spring forward.

i wil keep this short and to the point. i am happy to have the spring here even if we are still having rainy days and i still need to turn on the heater in the workshop. i have recently built up a bike for a great local rider and racer who “get’s it” and i an very happy with how his bike turned out. please check it out on my flickr page and please read the glowing endorsment of the experience of the process. thank you stephen.

My Handmade Bike

Being a cyclist from Portland, Oregon, it was only a matter of time before I considered investing in a custom made bike…after all the city is flush with artisan frame builders; we are lucky people us Portlandiers. Now it’s one thing fantasizing about it and another actually tying the knot with a framebuilder for what can be a prolonged engagement. What finally pushed me over the edge in the winter of 09 and actively deciding to court one of these often bearded individuals (maybe just a Portland thing) was the Gios article in that quarters Rouleur – as ever, beautifully written, inspiring, and awash with passion, pain and art – the fire was ignited – I had to have something unique. The next step was choosing the individual whose work I would be riding for the rest of my days, whose name I would be parading from the Chehalem Hills to the slopes of the Tourmalet to the cobbles of Flanders…on the surface not an easy decision.

What was important was that I had some clue of who they were. I wanted to engage with the framebuilder, talk about what mattered to me in life and why cycling was a vital cog in my being. Moreover I needed someone who could take those thoughts and have the skill to channel them into a machine that would not only make me want to ride more but essentially make me smile. To be honest my decision was not that difficult. I had ridden with Ira 9 months previously on the famous local homage to Flanders…De Ronde Van Oeste Portlandia…if you ever want a glorious flogging of a bike ride, this would be the one, seriously its nuts. Anyway I digress, I recognized Ira’s name and recalled he was one of the Rapha Continental riders – we spent a good few miles chatting about this that and the other, a bit of handlebar philosophy, before parting ways at the top of College. His black, Rapha Ira Ryan bike and his demeanor left a mark somewhere on my subconscious. Coincidentally when it came time to choose, the Bicycling article from Bill Strickland was also still fresh in the memory, a glowing meander on his experience interacting with Ira and the resultant custom bike that fulfilled his wants, needs and desires as a cyclist…I made the call.

From day 1 the theme of the bike itself was simple…Classic but functionally modern. Defining classic is not simple, functionally modern is far easier. I could start by waxing lyrical about the history and romance of the sport and why an Italian styled, lugged steel, straight top tube bike encapsulates 100+ years of history. I suppose it was a bit of that, however for me it was like trying to compare Kim Kardashian to Sophie Loren. While it’s not lost on me that Kim has some attractive features (uh hum), when it comes to style, poise and timeless elegance there really is no comparison, Sophie is just so. If you don’t agree with this analogy then I would be inclined to stop reading now and I wish you the very best riding your oversized tubed, wavy stayed, asymmetric carbon thoroughbreds. All that been said, utilizing modern components was essential, after all modern is not a pseudonym for bad (contrary to what you might think I believe based on my previous comments) and really what’s more cycling than a penchant for progressive, functionally effective, beautiful parts. So there it was the basic idea, the basic shape, the foundation that would define the bike, it’s DNA.

Blending materials and textures was also important. Like the human body is a blend of bio-materials, like good Bordeaux is a blend of grapes, like the best footie teams are a blend of tough and finesse, this machine was going to have a mix of all materials good. Steel, leather, carbon, titanium, rubber – get it right and in theory the result should exceed the sum of the parts. For this to work you have got to start with quality…I wanted to blend some of the classic names of the sport. Tubing wise it had to be Reynolds or Columbus. Reynolds was attractive as they, like me are from the UK. However the backbone of the bike was Italian so Columbus Spirit it was. A matching Columbus Minimal fork would be a fine compliment. However Reynolds would have its day when it came to wheel selection – the carbon clincher ‘thirty twos’ would in many ways sum up the bike, an ultra modern classic styled wheel (with DT Swiss hubs).

All my bikes to date have had Shimano components, always been impressed, never had a problem with them, but by default for this bike Campagnolo SuperRecord was the only real choice, For saddle and bar tape the quintessential classic bike company Brooks made its entry, they really do have incredibly well made, time tested stuff. Stem, seatpost and handlebars were difficult, which Italian company to choose? 3T, Cinelli, Deda…Bars had to have that simple, round shape and styling had to be understated. After much-a-do, Deda’s offering of Zero100 Servizio Corse stem, Superzero seatpost and Campione bars were an attractive trio. Closer to home a stainless steel headset from Chris King would fit nicely with the overall theme. Finally, tires had to be my all time favorites, Vittoria’s Open Pave’s; supple, tough and great to look at. A fine collection from some of the patrons of our sport who are both innovative and essentially through a bit of panache into what they do.

Finally the all important personal touch. A big advantage of working with good folks like Ira is that you get a one-of-a-kind product. They listen, interpret what you say and use their expertise to guide you to what makes sense without compromising the idea – delivering something special with of course their signature. This bike was, as my beautiful wife described it…my mid life crisis bike, a bit of an obsession. True, however my prerogative was to have it represent all that has been good to this point in my life, in essence a bit of a totem. Of course the styling captured why I love cycling.

The basic paint scheme was black, cream and brown – like a B52 shot or a good cup of Stumptown. That coupled with one of the small logos on the top tube; ‘Café Velo’ represents good times. Café Velo may eventually be a place some day, but as of today it’s (plagiarizing from the word according to Uncle Rico) more of a state of mind; good friends (old and new), family, rich conversation, laughs, tasty food, fine wine, great beer and of course sublime riding. The second logo on the top tube was ALBA. Alba is the Gaelic word for Scotland – when you cross the border you will read the phrase ‘fàilte gu Alba’, welcome to Scotland. Scotland is where I am from, it in many ways, good and bad, shaped my beliefs and attitudes, it’s where my family live, it will always be referred to as home. Moreover, Alba is my wife, my life, my love. Finally, I asked Ira if I he could make a little diamond of 4 holes on the down tube lug – each one representing my marvellous, remarkable children…that he did within 24 hours of the request…and as I said at the time when he sent me the first pictures, he made a grown man cry.

So here it is, my handmade bike, my obsession, my commissioned piece of road loving art…Oh and the ride…simply put, it makes me smile.



if that wasn’t enough, here is a little note from heather in the uk about her pink 29r single speed machine i built for her to ride the divide last year. see, i do build mountain bikes, people.

Hi Ira,

I had a great ride out on my bike yesterday. Spring has sprung and it feels all new again. I love riding singlespeed and the frame you made me rides so well it is so much fun :o) Hope you get to enjoy spring on your bike too.



ok this is the end really, i promise. rachel also got her new (and first ever real road bike) this week and wrote about it on her blog. she is a much better writer than i am. i mean she uses capital letters for crying out load.



One Response to “spring forward.”

  1. Richard Says:

    I can attest that Stephen has been looking forward to this moment for a long time. The bike turned out beautiful–no doubt even better than what Stephen had been dreaming about. I know for a fact that this bike will be ridden hard–and I expect to see the back side of it many times in the years to come.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: