Crust Bikes Shop Visit: The Cost of Living the F*cking Dream

Late this Spring, Nic Morales hit the road for an impromptu tour of the Southeast. Originally set on covering spring break in Nutmeg Country, uncertainties around weather-related cancellations diverted his path southward. Through that fortuitous turn of events came a shop visit with the fine folks at Crust Bikes HQ in Richmond, Virginia. Through his time with Garrett and Latané, he reflected on his own relationship with the outfit, what it means to be a bike brand, and much more.

I pulled up to Crust HQ tired and slightly parched. I’d been on an ambitious ride that morning, spurred on by a desire to make the most of my impromptu road trip through the American South. I’d spent a bit more effort and time than I probably should’ve on what I later learned was one of the more technical trails in town. As I walked between the two colorfully blocked single-story units, a familiar face popped out of the door behind me.

“Hey!” said the smiling face I’d seen on handlebar explainer videos and ripping single-track hype reels. Garrett from Crust greeted me with a genuine, authentic grin that spread from ear to ear. 

He welcomed me inside. We walked through the industrial doors into a meager little shop, where Garrett’s coworker Latané stood at a work stand, pulling together parts and colorful ideas for a new Lightning Bolt complete build they were set to list on the site. My eyes shot around the room, lighting up with memories of things I’d never seen in real life. This was it! Crust. Famously started from an iPod Touch, now a galactic bike distributor with plans to take over the world… right? 

“People insist we’re bigger than we are. It’s just us two. And a lot of people seem to think we’re in Florida because of the palm trees.”

As I slowly meandered around, trying not to interrupt what was a working Friday for the two US-based employees of Crust Galactic LLC, I couldn’t help but think about my relationship with the brand. Aside from some DMs, a feature on Dropped Chain, and some Instagram #content, there wasn’t much real-life contact to speak of. But for me, Crust had come to represent more than just a bike brand. Introduced by a former friend with a penchant for skate culture-turned-bikes, I had learned piecemeal of the legend of Matt, Cheech, and the rest of their motley crew. Catalyzed by a desire to fill a gap in a market that appeared to be saturated by white guys riding plastic and wearing microplastics, Crust envisioned something different. The authenticity of Crust comes across in a brutally honest interview with Russ of PathLessPedaled, wherein Matt said something along the lines of, “I might just close up shop. All I do is put things in boxes all day. This isn’t what I signed up for.” That’s exceedingly real, and something shown to me in stark terms upon my visit. 

“There really isn’t much here, but you’re welcome to look around.”

As Garrett kindly walked me through the limited but well-stocked square footage of the two units, we got to chatting. Some of it pertained to the business of Crust. Their best seller is the Bombora, they’re not moving enough Lightning Bolts, and there’s some exciting stuff coming down the pipeline.

But a lot of our wandering focus centered on the industry, people’s reaction to the company, and his own personal thoughts and feelings on a variety of things – chief amongst them, a love for 26” wheels. In no uncertain terms, Garrett delved into the complexities of running a bike brand. The timelines, the anxious wait for a production run to arrive, and the hard physical labor of delivering objects of pleasure to fans and normal folk all the same.

“I mean, myself, Cheech, Matt – we’ve all been brought to tears right here.”

Amid the volley of information (some suitable for publication, some not), I intermittently interrupted to ask about the various objects decorating the shop. Hanging above Garrett’s head was a Lightning Bolt prototype that had spanned the globe only to find an unfortunate, car-related end. A variety of half-baked ideas and concepts, some better left unsaid, and some proverbial bestsellers lost to the sands of time: Ronnie’s first Romanceur, a prototype Wombat, and so on. The tiny facility is chock-full of relics of friendship and collaboration, materializations of the hopes and dreams that had made Crust a veritable zeitgeist. 

“I mean, I can’t even get a Romanceur. Eventually I settled on this Nor’Easter I built up.”

As Garrett ran me through a Nor’Easter build he was particularly proud of, I thought it was the perfect encapsulation of both what I’d already and was concurrently experiencing. Garrett – the man materially responsible for most, if not every Crust owner receiving their respective joy machine – could not get the Crust bike model he desired.

There’s something hilariously tragic about that. Over the preceding hours, he’d let me in on the frustrations of operating as a rhetorical object. People transpose their beliefs, thoughts, and ideas onto the Crust brand. This took a toll on the people behind a brand centered around personality, inclusion, and generally against the facelessness of the industry at large. Which isn’t to say there’s any expressed regret or ill-will towards their position – Crust is just a dream turned reality.

An emblem I most associate with Crust is Matt’s iconic Living the Fucking Dream patch. As far as I can tell, it’s something born of Matt’s time touring the world on a less-than-ideal Surly, before the seeds of a better bicycle had fully germinated, its patchwork essence indicative of someone truly living the fucking dream. Out on a bicycle, without much care for what Western society suggests you should be doing with your time. Free from expectations.

What changes once the dream does? 

What Matt and the crew have succeeded in is bottling up their passion and irreverence. Alas, what I have found to be an unending truth about the joys of a physical practice is – the dream starts and ends there. A ride, trip, or tour holds no greater potential to be fulfilled. It is complete unto itself and the ephemeral beauty therein.

The consequences of desiring ends outside of that are a pandora’s box of unforeseen outcomes. By all accounts, the cycling world is a better place for Matt, Cheech, Garrett, and Latané’s influence, but if there’s anything that should be communicated about Crust it’s that it’s just a few people trying to provide the means for others to live their fuckin’ dream – often at the cost of their own. 

To make no mention of anything in particular – Crust doesn’t have the allowances of a faceless corporation. They create, test, and develop their own creations. Their products have influenced the direction of the industry. They have learned, and continue to learn, many a hard lesson through that arduous path. The expectations therein should be contingent upon that understanding. Not because they make an inferior product – they make some of the best, most unique bicycle products anywhere – but because they’re people.

People who have offered up more of themselves than they bargained for, and continue to do so even after grasping that high cost. While these ideas and concepts may seem divorced from bikes, they’re not distinct from the people who bring them to us. Next time you order a set of Nullabars, or your first Bombora, it’s worth remembering the people that allowed them to arrive at your door.

And the cost of that fuckin’ dream.

See more at Crust Bikes.