Friday, October 3, 2008

Synergy between cycling and design

I am a cyclist; I ride to compete; for fitness, and being in the Bay Area the outdoors the sport weaves into the culture.

I've owned many bikes over the last fifteen plus years of my life; ridden on steel, aluminum, carbon, and titanium. Each having advantages over the other; though most of your frames being produced today the material of choice is carbon. Along with the choice of material; I have had bikes built to fit; built from the frame up; selecting the components off the shelf.

As I start to shop around though for a cyclocross bike; I'm starting to see a trend towards hand built bikes. Maybe its the cyclocross culture; but I hope its a trend/movement that makes its way into the other cycling cultures as well.

The mecca of custom built bikes looks to be the Pacific Northwest centering in the Portland area; which should be no surprise to anyone who has biked or visited the city. The cycling culture really defines the city; so much that it was the site of the handcrafted bicycle show last year; and this coming weekend Oct 10-11 the Oregon Manifest is taking place there highlighting many of the local builders as well as many social events and a cyclocross race. For those who get the chance please take it in; just to hear the stories of these various individuals and what they bring to designing and building bikes is enough of a reason to attend.

Read more and make plans to attend;

As I've been shopping around and test riding; a few designers have really caught my eye; Ira Ryan, Chuck Ibis, Lynksey (original family behind Litespeed), and Vertigo. Out of these four; many would say that Ibis really isn't part of the hand built movement; which is correct; but Chuck has played a huge role in uniquess and a push for creativity in this community. I personally have a thing for titanium which is Lynkey's and Vertigo's speciality and will probably tilt this way when selecting my new bike; though Ibis has a new release of the "hakkalugi" coming out for '09 and I've seen and heard many good things.

Links to these various designers

I've become hooked on simplicity; and recently picked up John Maeda's book "The Laws of Simplicity"; which talks about an approach to product design Relate-Translate-Suprise. Which to me is basic principle each of these designers have put into building bikes; they are all cyclists; and have produced a product that they know well. This also relates to cycling clothing; there are plenty of makers/labels out on the market today. One that stands out is Rapha; a London based maker who does performance clothing for cyclists. Their support for the hand built industry will in my words bring more exposure and hopefully drives the movement. They are a sponsor of the Oregon Manifest and will be one of the exhibitors.

I have invested; yes invested; Rapha is not inexpensive; in a few items of clothing from them; and I'm impressed. Its comfortable; its simple; the style and colors don't look like you just came from the circus. It has some great pieces of casual clothing as well. Pink is part of the signature color in many pieces; but its subtle and actually looks pretty damn cool.

Check out the website; even if you don't buy; I recommend for those who cycle to subscribe to the newsletter; Rapha sponsors rides at various sites in the US through out the year and its a great time.

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