Category Archives: photography
Rust Never Sleeps on Sofia’s AWOL Touring Bike
Words by Erik Nohlin, photos by John Watson
TRUST ME, I’M A DESIGNER
As a designer of bicycles I try to stay on top of things like material development, new alloys, paint pigment, flakes, pearls, platings and whatnot. It’s in my interest to stay updated in an ever-changing world. What you see on the floor in a bike shop is not just a bicycle with a random color: it’s the result of hundreds or thousands of hours of trial and error behind the scenes at any one man bike shop or huge bike brand with a fleet of designers.
That one color started out as 666 other potential colors and in the end, only one made it. For the one man operation or smaller brand in a well-defined niche it might be easier to do cool and crazy shit to please that one customer with that weird request of a thermochromatic dead matte black that fades to metallic peach with a pride parade pearl to top it off. I design bicycles for a global brand and need to create a bike that pleases a global rider and as you all know, trends and cultural differences around the globe vary, fluctuate and make my day pretty complicated.
I’ll be honest with you: it’s frustrating to rarely ever be able to bring the raddest and weirdest stuff to you. One example is the one off Full Nuke Rainbow AWOL I created for the Transcontinental Race, a bike that almost blew up the internet when John posted it. So much stoke and love was thrown on that bike but the reality is that it would be impossible to produce it, guarantee the surface quality, get a decent price and distribute it to you. Doing rad stuff is easy but mass producing it is a completely different story. So, I try a lot of surface treatments and materials but most often these tryouts, experiments never leave the design studio as more than dirt on my hands, stains on my jeans and once in a while, a painted one off bicycle that I can tell you about.
The Rust AWOL is my wife Sofia’s bike and it used to look quite different. A super glittery rainbow flakey touring bike that was left in the hands of Garrett Chow on a journey to the heart of Death Valley early last winter. The washboard and dirt in Death Valley eat bikes for breakfast and the beat up bike that was returned to her had a couple of scars too many so I promised to bring it back to its “old glory”. The frame is one of the first nickel plated frame samples for the Transcontinental Edition AWOL we did and a perfect canvas to be creative on since the nickel makes it completely sealed for corrosion – ironic isn’t it? Rust is corrosion and in this case impossible to achieve without some chemical magic from a UK paint company called Rustique.
My colleague Barry Gibb had previously used it to create a fantastic surface on a carbon bike and I wanted to try it to, on steel this time. We ordered some paint and decided that Sofia’s nickel plated bike would be the victim for this experiment. The month of June is usually pretty mellow at work (read: not as completely fucking crazy as July and August) and I spent some afternoons in the workshop and paint booth to finish off this creative experiment in an effort to bring real organic life back to a surface that’s dead. In a step by step series on Instagram, I told a transparent story about the process of the #rustawol and here it is and for the first time, a somewhat finished bike. The project was crowned with a Brooks Cambium rust saddle and bar tape where the fabric matches the bike and the vulcanized rubber matches the tan wall tires nicely.
As a last step I gave the Supernova headlamp and the Tubus rack a kiss of iron oxide. The humid and cold San Francisco summer will continue to corrode and oxidize the surface even though it’s been sealed with a clear coat as I surprisingly discovered after picking up the bike today. I learned a ton on this project, got my hands dirty and created a bike that Sofia really seems to like. I love that I sometimes can show you the hands-on process of being a designer at a big brand when 90% of my work never leaves the design studio. Confidentiality keeps us all from sharing what I know a lot of you like seeing and know more about.
Personally, the making-of-dvd in the Indiana Jones DVD box is far superior to the movies themselves and getting dirty is the only way to learn something new.
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While LOW Bicycles might be known best for their made in San Francisco track bikes, for the past year or so, they’ve begun to develop road and ‘cross frames. Debuted at NAHBS, the MKI road is Low’s first geared bike offering, selling in small production runs and starting as a collaboration with Cadence, a longtime supporter of the brand.
A lot has changed at LOW since my last visit. Andrew hired Michael full-time, who aids in everything from prep to production and finishing. This enables Andrew to focus on welding and keeping up with the ever-increasing demand for frames.
When I was at the shop, Michael was working on one of the LOW MKI ‘cross frames in their new color: safety orange. These frames are being raced by TCB Courier and should be available soon for purchase.
When visiting a longtime friend like Andrew, more time is spend chatting and catching up, but I did get a few photos of the shop, the new frames and his dog, Manny. Enjoy!
If you’d like to pick up a LOW, head to their web shop or email Andrew for availability of their new MKI road and MKI cross frames.
Retail ain’t easy. Especially in the bike industry and it’s not like San Francisco doesn’t already have a large number of bicycle shops already, so if you’re going to start up something new, you better take a unique approach.
City + County Bicycle Co is a new shop in SF. Well, new to me! I’ve known the owner, Jon for a few years and first met him at Box Dog Bikes years back. The shop is located off Clement Avenue, right en route to GGP via the Presidio. If you know the area, you’ll note that it’s intravenous in the vein that is the route to the Golden Gate Bridge. i.e. one of the main access points to the Marin Headlands.
With all the Fat Chance love and rigid MTB shenanigans as of late, I thought it’d be a good time to share the current status of this bike, which has seen its share of changes since I acquired it in 2013.
For those who haven’t seen it before, the story is simple. Indy Fab wanted to build a modern Yo Eddy! with 29″ wheels, disc brakes and an original Chris Igleheart fork (who worked at Fat City Cycles back in the 80’s). The bike was part of a small run and named the Deluxe Redux. I picked mine up at NAHBS in a firesale and it’s one of those bikes that I’ll forget about for a bit, then start riding it and remember how much I love it.
This latest rendition came after I sent back the Black Cat Thunder Monkey, leaving me with an 1×11 XX1 group and its super wide gear range. Shortly afterwards I picked up a pair of the Industry Nine Velocity Blunt SS wheels and decided they’d be perfect for the Deluxe Redux. Then, I got the bright idea to put Blue Lug’s Nitto Bullmoose bars on it with a new Paul seatpost and a Brooks C15.
The thing about rigids, and hardtails in general is you want a nice, fat tire you can ride at lower pressures to ease some of the rough and rugged terrain you’ll find yourself hammering down. The Maxxis Ikon 2.35″ tires balloon out to a nice 2.5″ on the Blunt SS rims. Perfect for NorCal’s sandy singletrack. I have been very impressed with this tire choice. They’re great if you find yourself riding through a city en route to the trails…
For the past week, I’ve taken it camping and have been steadily shredding it in the Headlands, Sutro, Golden Gate Park and parts of Mt. Tam. With the rocky conditions of Austin, I always forget how much fun fast and flowy trails are. Granted, there are still a few moments where I feel like a 27.2 dropper post would come in handy, but I’m also comfortable dropping way behind the saddle to make room.
I’m not sure what it is about the bike, but since it weighs in at 23.5 lbs on the dot, I don’t have a problem keepin up with dudes on cyclocross bikes and with the bigger tires, I can blast the descents just fine. It’s snappy and with the saddle to bar drop, I don’t feel like I’m always riding upright like I do on my hardtail or full sus.
After last night’s talk with Chris Chance at Mission Workshop and hearing his comment about him being the grand dad of the segmented fork, I can really appreciate the ride quality this homage bike has delivered for the past few years. There are a few products on it that’ll get a review eventually, but if you have any questions, drop them in the comments.
In the world of track crits, like Red Hook Crit and this weekend’s Wolf Pack Hustle’s Civic Center Crit, racers quickly realize that a standard track bike might have its limitations.
Let’s look at what a track bike is designed for: all left turns on a banked velodrome, with walls around 45º steep for a 250m track.
These crits however are completely different. For starters, the amount of people racing is almost three times what a miss-n-out or win-in-out would have competing. There are both right and left turns, yet no banked walls. In road criterium racing, you can coast through the corners and rail all the turns. With a track bike you need to pedal all the time.
That’s where Marc’s one-off comes into play. He and Andrew from Low Bicycles discussed options for a bike that was bred from the conditions of track crits. How is it different? Well, in all things related to bike design, a few millimeters here or there can make a huge difference. The bottom bracket is higher, to make for more crank clearance in the turns and the wheelbase is a bit longer to make it easier to hit those turns at speed.
So far Marc has raced three or four crits on it, as well as taking it to Hellyer, the local track to race.
Me, I just think it’s a beautiful fucking machine. Made in San Francisco by Andrew Low, fitted with Ritchey parts and with PAUL wheels made by Fresh Air Bicycles.
“I don’t have a studio, I have a workshop. I’m not an artist, I’m a fabricator…”
We were talking about the mystique surrounding custom frames and the public’s perception, or in many cases the perpetuation of preciousness associated with “bespoke” frames. Cameron Falconer isn’t an artist, he makes straight forward, utilitarian machines meant to shred. Sure, they’re tailored to fit and Cam’s years of racing and riding influence a lot of their nuances (water bottle cage placement for example) but these are bicycles, not art…
This bike is not as it seems. Sure, it says Falconer and it uses Cameron’s signature no-nonsense solid color powder coat but it’s not technically a Falconer.
When Jason at Montano Velo was looking for a local frame builder to produce a new road frame for his in-house brand Broakland, he was introduced to Cameron at Falconer Cycles. Cam, as they call him, had some extra time and enjoyed making production bikes, so he built this frame as a job interview for the position.
The tricky part: tig welding S3 tubing, a True Temper offering that has a bad reputation for being brittle and in general, difficult to work with. Difficult to work with yet a pleasure to ride. Since S3’s seat tube offerings are limited to a 1.125″ diameter and the S3 top tube measures 1.25″ in diameter, Cameron took to Solid’s seat tube cluster sleeve to solve not only the difference in diameter but as a reinforcement for what is essentially a crack-prone area of an S3 bike.
For the fork, Jason’s a fan of the Wound Up. A fork that’s polarizing in terms of consumer’s aesthetic preferences. Some hate it, some love it and for Bay Area cyclists who began their passage into cycling on a track bike, Wound Ups offered a bomb-proof solution to a street-thrashed track bike with a bent or cracked fork. As Cameron and I were discussing the fork, we both concluded that we’re not a fan of them aesthetically, but they ride really damn well.
Oh, he got the job and began making the frames… Months later, Cameron still had this frame in his shop and it wasn’t until a customer requested pink powder for his own bike that he decided to get it coated. From there, it became a home for his thrashed Dura Ace group and now it’s Cameron’s only road bike.
There’s more to the Falconer story coming soon. If you want to know more about the Caballo road frame, head to Broakland.
Like many framebuilders, Rafi Ajl began his love for the bicycle at a young age but it wasn’t until after graduating from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design that he began pursuing his love for building bicycle frames. Ajl’s background is fine art and as such, his bicycles began functional art. Something you would not only love to look at, but would love to ride and would be able to do so for the rest of your life.
Perhaps it was Rafi’s passion for art, design and the bicycle that drew Geoff from Box Dog Bikes, a local, owner run co-op bicycle shop in the Mission of SF to Raphael Cycles’ work. Or maybe it was the proximity. Rafi Ajl is no longer making frames, but when he was, Raphael Cycles was literally blocks away from Box Dog Bikes.
Geoff wanted a classic touring bike with external routing, fender, rack mounts and a 1″ threaded headset. A seasoned tourer, randonnée, cyclocross racer, shredder of vintage mountain bikes and all-around capable cyclist, Geoff knew exactly what he wanted and has been thoroughly enjoying this bike. As evident by the years of use.
A SON hub powers the S3 lighting and a well-positioned and broken in Brooks saddle cushions and inviting a ride, so much that I pedaled this bike for an hour or so before finding the perfect spot to photograph it.
I was long overdue for a work-related trip…
After packing my bags and my bike into a box, I boarded a plane for one of my favorite cycling destination cities in the US: San Francisco. Let’s backtrack a bit first though. In SF, it’s essential to stay with friends, if you have any that live there. Luckily, I have a few and one couple has been my go-to host home in recent trips: Erik and Sofia from the Great Escape.
When I asked Erik if I could crash with him while I was in town, he obliged and then invited me on a impromptu camping trip the Saturday I arrived into town. My flight got in late, so as I was packing my bike, I loaded my Porcelain Rocket bags with the gear I’d need for a sub-24 hour jaunt into some Marin hills.
The Rapha Prestige Midwest: Humidity Reigns
Words and photos by Kevin Scott Batchelor
The last time I got the call to cover a Rapha Prestige event, I found myself wondering how any of the teams were going to handle the brutal course that had awaited them. More than 130 miles with 14,000 feet of climbing, on mixed terrain, with dizzying temperatures, sounded much more like a stage in the Vuelta than something my friends might ride. LA was a monster, complete with jagged teeth and scorching breath. With only a fraction of the teams finishing what was surely the hardest ride of their riding lives, this would be the last of the pro tour level parcours, right? (more…)