As the Cirque draws near and I contemplate the "North American Bicycle Craftsmanship" theme, I've been thinking a lot about my involvement with the bicycles that are the focus of the CR community. For me, it's more of a passionate fascination that, while deep-seated in the aesthetics of the "classic lightweight" era, often extends much further afield. And it's also a progressive thing. I continue to be as fascinated as I was when my involvement (addiction) first took root and developed, which is why I like "new" as well as "old". It's a continuum, of sorts, but really born out of the bikes of the '70s and early '80s. More and more though, I've come to realize that I feel much the same way now as I did in the early stages. I know a lot more now. I can actually afford to own more now. I finally have most of the necessary tools (both bicycle-specific and other) that I've long desired. But the core of my love and fascination is primarily the same as it's always been. I love bikes and I love "playing" with them. I love riding them, taking them apart and putting them back together, learning how components work and interact, experimenting with new or different bits and ideas. Mostly, I like the concept of creating (actually just assembling, I guess) something that reflects my particular "take" on what the bike should be. At least the bike of the moment.
Originally, of course, I was just an enthusiast, not a collector. Since my earliest involvement, I've been "changing" my bikes. Upgrading to "the latest cool stuff", using and mixing components from different manufacturers and things designed for other purposes. Changing the paint, decals, cable housing color, bar tape colors and combos. Changing anything and everything, actually. Road frames with flat bars and BMX levers, mountain bike frames with road components and drop bars. Nuovo Record mixed with Ergo. Fixed-gear, single speed, 2-3-4-5-10-20+ speed bikes. Franken-bikes sometimes. I did it (do it) because it's fun. I like it. But the upshot of all this, I've come to understand, is that what I like best is what can best be described as "Hot-Rods". Maybe it's just the "American" in me, or maybe just one too many Jan & Dean songs when I was 14. Whatever. To me, Hot-Roding is manipulating the mix of frame, components, colors and style that achieves the right look and feel for a particular project. It can be subtle or extensive. Full-bore modified, a set of trick wheels, or just matching bar tape and cable housing. In the end, hopefully, something just a bit more exciting and personal than a bike that's assembled as it's "supposed" to be.
Don't get me wrong, I still like perfect original bicycles, and I still have a few "correct" restorations in the stable. What's strange is that most of those projects seem to get sold off. And there have been quite a few. Not exactly sure why, but maybe, subconsciously, that's why I haven't yet gotten around to building my Masi. I have all the bits for a "proper" restoration. Will it be another "correct" bike that I don't develop a strong attachment to? The kind of attachment I seem to have to Hot-Rods? What it seem to come down to is, the bikes in my collection that I like most are the mutts. Often very high-end mutts, but mutts - or Hot-Rods - nonetheless.
To me, American frames seem to fit this aesthetic approach perfectly. British frames are probably a close second. Think '55 Chevy as blank canvas, or stuffing a Ford V-8 into a Sunbeam Alpine (referenced for all you latent motor-heads out there). My Stan Pike, an '83 British-built frame, is shamelessly outfitted with a mix of Campy, Cinelli, Gipiemme, Modolo, Edco, Galli and 3ttt components, spanning maybe 8 or 10 years of manufacture. It looks cool and rides great.
However, I do have quite a few American bikes in my collection. Twelve, actually, and I'm working on acquiring two more very special ones. Some are production frames (I am an early Trek fan, after all) and some are boutique frames. As I said, they seem to fit perfectly into the Hot-Rod mind-set. Naturally, this year's Cirque "North American Bicycle Craftsmanship" theme is pretty exciting, at least for me. So, I've decided that I'm going to bring much of my "American Hot-Rod Collection" to the Cirque. Some are classic, some are contemporary. Many represent some of my most rewarding projects and favorite bikes. Good thing the old Suburban is still chuggin' along. I'll have to see what space allows, what with all the swap fodder and all, but I'm going to try and bring what I can squeeze in. Potentially, the following will be represented. I'll leave details to the imagination.
Richard Sachs - Contemporary ex-team bike. Pete Ryffranck - It did say "North" American, you know. Mclean Fonvielle - Now moving closer to "correct" than Hot-Rod. Trek - At least a couple. The perfect inexpensive Hot-Rod platform. Colin Laing - If the stars align properly. Mario Confente - Frame only. If a CA Masi is American, is Mario an American builder? Charles Martin - Two actually. Okay, I still don't know anything about this builder. What I have learned, is that he WAS NOT a part of the Martin Guitar family. I spoke with them. I think they thought I was crazy. The bikes are pretty interesting though.
Well, I've used up waaay more than my share of bandwidth, so I'll just close by saying....
31 days and counting................and several projects still to finish!
See you all at the Cirque!
Falls Church VA