Inside Paul Brodie’s Shop: a Lifetime of Tinkering

A lifetime of tinkering has led to some very interesting work out of Paul Brodie’s backyard shop, from influential early mountain bike designs to motorcycles made from the ground up. In advance of Brodie’s 40th Anniversary show in Vancouver BC this weekend, Morgan Taylor visited Paul’s shop to take a peek at the multitude of in-progress projects. 

As I walked into Paul Brodie’s shop earlier this spring, I was confronted with dozens of projects on the go. I imagine Paul’s shop is always buzzing with a million tiny projects, but at this time he was also deep in preparation for the first showing of 13 of his projects all in one place. That event is happening this weekend here in Vancouver, and Paul invited me to his place in advance of the show to make some photographs while he tinkered around the shop, pulling out various projects and telling some of the stories that go along with them.

More Than Just Bikes

While Paul is most well known for his contributions to the mountain bike framebuilding community and the namesake bike brand he sold at the height of the North Shore freeride era in 2001, he has kept himself busy with fiddly little projects and massive undertakings such as building motorcycles from scratch – right down to the engines and transmissions. I find this make-it-yourself approach so intriguing, and listening to Paul’s stories of how these projects came to be is an absolute pleasure.

But First, Coffee

Before we started pulling anything out in the shop, Paul asked if I’d like to have a coffee first. Saddled up at a stool in his quaint kitchen with a gigantic French press, I couldn’t ask for a better thing to do on a rainy Saturday morning. We talked a bit about bikes but mostly about playing music, making coffee, and living a modest but fulfilling life. Paul’s house is 1300 square feet and his backyard shop double that – just the right ratio for a lifelong tinkerer.

Back in the shop, I began to wander while Paul pulled out various projects to show off. The motorcycles are on wheeled stands to make them easier to work on and around. He brought out his personal Excelsior, Harry Hi-Pipes, which he crashed at 100 mph when the throttle stuck open. He talked about commissioning the leaf spring for the front end and having to redo it himself because the job wasn’t up to his standards.

Sharing Knowledge

The stub Bullmoose bars are reproductions of the old Ritchey bars John’s written about here on the site. They were commissioned by a collector who wanted a couple of pairs. Having to make a fixture and buy tubing, Paul knew he wouldn’t make much money off these, but it would be fun to make some videos about, so he took the project on. The customer sent the Ritchey bar as a sample and Paul went to work. He mentioned that he does his fillets a bit thicker than Tom does, but he was quite happy with the result on these.

If you’re interested in hearing these stories but can’t make it to the show this weekend, Paul’s YouTube channel is full of interesting tidbits. Many of the recent videos feature projects that were on the go when I visited, such as milling the bronze cranks and hubs for the 1894 Giraffe Bike, the process and fixtures behind those custom repro bullmoose bars, a new bass guitar, Paul’s most recent personal bikes, and of course the goings-on with his motorcycles.

Forty Years of Stories

Having run a framebuilding school for nearly a decade here in BC, Paul’s impact on the bike community runs well beyond the collectible early Brodies and his more recent show bike projects. Forty years is a long time to be involved in any obsession, but Paul’s body of work goes well beyond the average lifetime, and I’d say we’re incredibly lucky to have so much of that experience preserved in Paul’s videos.

The majority of this story is in the huge photo gallery, so have a click through and poke around at the details – if anything, what left the biggest impression with me having visited Paul’s shop is just how deep he goes on every little detail. Thanks Paul for having me and thanks Thomas Davies for joining us on the day.

The Paul Brodie Bike Show runs July 15 and 16 at August Studios + Sincerely Studio in Vancouver, BC. Tickets are $20 for the weekend.