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2022 Concours de Machines Part One: The Contest and the Contestants

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2022 Concours de Machines Part One: The Contest and the Contestants

In 2018 I was invited to take part in the third edition of Concours de Machines as Dear Susan, in the medieval town of Bruniquel in the south of France. The Concours is a recent(ish) revival of a frame-building contest first organized in 1903 that ran up to the late 1940s. It was traditionally hosted in different locations around France, the goal of which was to demonstrate the superiority of artisanal “constructeurs” and their machines, over production bikes.

Before accepting the invitation, there were some red flags for me. For instance the idea of “better;” how you can numerically score one bike against another, especially if they’re designed and made around a particular rider for a particular course? There’s so much that just comes down to preference! Reading further into the scoring system, the seemingly arbitrary categories actually became quite liberating, in that scores were given based on abstract criteria rather than what constituted a good or appropriate bike. Limitations included things like: “the bicycle must have wheels with tyres, and a system with which to steer,” as well as point scoring sections like: “the bicycle must be able to power its own lights and it must have bags to carry everything you need for an overnight trip.”

This is the first of two reports from the 2022 Concours de Machines. Be sure to check back tomorrow for the second installment!

A Shop Visit to Wildflower Cycles in Superior, Wisconsin

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A Shop Visit to Wildflower Cycles in Superior, Wisconsin

Back in June of 2021, I found myself way up north in Duluth, Minnesota. I was there with my teammate Kait Boyle for a Backcountry Bike Challenge fundraising event for the local advocacy organization, Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores (COGGS) and to ride the Duluth Traverse. COGGS had been working on the 45-mile-long Duluth Traverse for years, building and linking together trails on the highlands above town, and we wanted to experience what they had created. But this was also a trip back to where I spent quite a bit of time as a kid that grew up just a couple hours to the south near Minneapolis, albeit in a decade when there were far, far fewer trails in the area. I’ll save the story of just how impressive the Duluth Traverse is for another time since you’re probably here to read about Wildflower Bicycles’ beautiful bikes rather than beautiful trails. But first, let me share why I was especially excited to visit the shop of a new-to-the-Midwest frame builder and the only one in the Duluth-Superior area.

John’s Moots Womble 29er Hardtail Updates: Chris King Fusion Fiber MTN30 Wheels and the New Rock Shox Pike Ultimate

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John’s Moots Womble 29er Hardtail Updates: Chris King Fusion Fiber MTN30 Wheels and the New Rock Shox Pike Ultimate

I’ve been privileged to throw my leg around many fine bicycles, and two years ago, when I got to review a Moots Womble, I fell in love. It’s incredibly light and capable, but, most importantly, it pedals pleasantly whether you’re climbing or descending. It’s the bike I ride the most here in Santa Fe, and while it often gets in over its head, so to speak, I find it capable enough for a proper all-mountain experience. I’ve climbed with it from town to our towers (12,500′) and took it right back down the guts of the Rocky Mountains on a long, 15-mile singletrack descent. It’s taken me across the Uncompahgre Plateau and all over Northern New Mexico. While it only has a 140mm travel fork, it’s honed my riding skills to where I feel like I’ve mastered this titanium chassis. Yet, I’m not opposed to upgrades or using this trusty bike as a lab rat for product tests.

Over the past few months, I’ve been giving two new products a proper thrashin’ from New Mexico to Montana, so let’s see what I think about the Chris King FusionFiber Wheels and the new RockShox Pike Ultimate below.

Megan Dean’s Frame Building Class at Center for Metal Arts in Johnstown, PA

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Megan Dean’s Frame Building Class at Center for Metal Arts in Johnstown, PA

The Philly Bike Expo brings together folks from all over the country each year, many of whom have transformed the event into a gathering of some of the finest frame builders in the world. I’ve made a lot of friends over the years attending the show and documenting these awesome builders. While at the show in Philly, I often approach it with a mission in the back of my mind to bring good friends back to Johnstown, PA where I live. It’s a place that desperately needs more cycling culture.

A couple of years ago I did just that and, with fingers crossed, I sprung this question on Megan Dean of Moth Attack: “This bike is unreal, it’s truly a work of art, have you ever thought about teaching a frame-building class?” I think Megan said something like “Funny you should say that… I actually have been.” I responded by telling her that I have a friend in town with a special spot we could use called Center For Metal Arts. It’s filled with light, a fire, and the glow of forged metals most days of the week. Not familiar with CMA? No problem, read on.

A Pit Stop at Roly Poly Coffee in Bozeman: Vintage Threads, Old Trucks, and a Madrean Touring Bike

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A Pit Stop at Roly Poly Coffee in Bozeman: Vintage Threads, Old Trucks, and a Madrean Touring Bike

I still look back at my time in Austin, Texas, with the fondest of memories, thanks to the many people I met while living there. I got to know the most amazing, down-to-Earth, truly unique souls in the five years I called Austin my home. Many of which I’m still quite close with today. A few have since moved on to other cities and are doing big things in their respective new homes.

One of which is Taylor Wallace, a fella I met at Flat Track Coffee years back and have since gotten to see the life he’s made for himself in Bozeman, Montana, where I’ve been visiting for a little over a week now. Taylor owns a coffee company which he operates with his brother, Gavin, called Roly Poly Coffee. We haven’t featured many coffee shops here at The Radavist but Roly Poly, as an extension of Taylor himself is much, much more…

Josh Reviews His Mash-Up Sklar Sweet Spot: The Sweet Jammer

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Josh Reviews His Mash-Up Sklar Sweet Spot: The Sweet Jammer

The Sweet Spot from Bozeman, MT-based Sklar Bikes is a steel hardtail mountain bike designed to be a venerable quiver-killer. Built around 150mm of front suspension, with clearance for up to 29 x 2.8 tires, its geometry embraces builder Adam Sklar’s mantra of “fast is fun, but fun is fun-er.” Sweet Spots were Adam’s first foray into offering a small batch frame design and sizing, which he hopes will make his bikes more accessible and faster to produce.

I picked up a Sweet Spot of my own earlier this spring after many years of searching for the perfect hardtail. Due to a few requests I had to make it even sweeter, it turned into a custom project that retained the established Sweet Spot geometry and material selection. Below, let’s take a closer look at my build in addition to a brief interview with Adam about these bikes and his design/build process!

From The Pro’s Closet: A Scrapyard Find 1983 Series III Breezer Mountain Bike

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From The Pro’s Closet: A Scrapyard Find 1983 Series III Breezer Mountain Bike

Part of the fun in restoring vintage bikes is the process and sometimes that process feels more like a puzzle than a transaction. From finding the correct components, to frame finish repair, and even saving a frame from a metal scrap yard! The Pro’s Closet‘s founder, Nick Martin, shares with us the wild story about how he came to own a truly rare frame, a Breezer Series III, by rescuing it from a scrapyard in Canada! Read on below for this wild tale!