…at least a little bit.
I am not one to get all mushy in the presence of an important person or celebrity, but yesterday’s Meet the Makers event at Signature Cycles left me feeling all warm and fuzzy about my sometimes-addiction to custom bicycles. Yesterday’s event presented a unique opportunity to ride with and speak to the owners of four noted custom bike companies: Serotta, Seven, Guru and Parlee. After having spent the afternoon with these men and women, I don’t think I’d ever buy another off-the-rack bike. Their passion for cycling, engineering and art was palpable but, most importantly, they are genuinely nice folks to talk with.
I’ve been planning a new bike for over a year. I thinned my bike stable a couple of years ago and foolishly sold off my sporty bike (a Serotta Concours) and kept my CoMotion loaded touring bike. The CoMo is wonderful but lacks the sporty feel and handling of a more performance oriented design. It’s a beast to ride on a fast club ride, weighing nearly 40 pounds with racks and fenders. So a year ago I started thinking about a sporty bike that would be suitable for centuries and be able to handle fatter tires for events like D2R2. Suffice it to say that I got caught up in analysis paralysis about frame material, components, finish and so on.
One decision I was not paralyzed by was the selection of a builder. I knew I wanted titanium or steel and I knew I did not want to wait a year or more for the bike. That eliminated a slew of smaller shops with long wait lists. If I already had a sporty bike in the stable and this would merely be an addition, then I’d have no problem waiting a year or more for the bike. But that is not the case; I want something good now rather than later.
Now rather than later effectively narrowed the field to two builders: Seven Cycles and Independent Fabrications. I’ve seen their work in the wild and both companies make beautiful bikes from both metals. Significantly, both companies employ people who actually ride bikes and can carry on a conversation about how a bike should behave. Both companies answered many questions by phone and email. I wouldn’t hesitate to buy a frame from either.
Last weekend, I put down a deposit on a titanium Seven. Yesterday, I met the owner of Seven and three members of his team, including one who had previously answered some of my questions. It was a memorable experience, to say the least, to discuss my bike design with the owner of the company, and then hear him speak about the company and how it is building more and more bikes like mine for gravel road applications.
Ben Serotta was there, too and he did the morning shop ride with some of the other builders and attendees. To be honest, I did not recognize him in his riding attire but immediately realized who he was in civilian clothes. Yesterday’s Meet the Makers represented the history of my bike ownership with Ben, whose company built my Concours over 20 years ago, sitting next to Rob, whose company will be starting work on my Axiom in the near future. If there is one thing that all four builders have in common, it is the love of cycling and the desire to build the best bike they can.
Here’s my lone picture from the shop ride. I took pictures of the round table discussion but they were not flattering to the speakers due to backlighting issues so I am not posting them. Keep an eye on the Signature website for better pictures of the event.
I rode the CoMo, struggling up some of the “rolling” terrain that I’m not accustomed to coming from flat Long Island. At one point, I acknowledged to another rider (I think he was either the owner or account manager from Guru) that I was working hard to keep up on the hills. He was kind to me and noted that I was probably the biggest guy riding the heaviest bike in the group. Someone else chimed in, “The advantage goes to you if we see someone putting furniture out at the curb, since you’ll be able to carry it home on your rack.”
As I was walking to my car at the end of the event, I met up with Karl from Seven. We rode together for a short stretch on the shop ride. Before I could get the words “It was nice riding with you” out of my mouth he said, “Thanks for getting a Seven. It means a lot to us.”
Having met the people who will manufacture my bike, it means a lot to me, too!