I finally stopped shoveling long enough to write this trip report. The short version. I was on a beach at Scripps Pier last Friday night to watch the sun set. Sunday morning I started shoveling 21 inches of freshly fallen snow. Are you able to tell which I enjoyed more?
I have to say that my first trip to San Diego was fantastic. The weather could not have been better and the people and places were all good. Now for bike stuff. I want to thank Peter for the loan of the bike, it came in handy and his ride plan for me to Point Loma from downtown was great. His hospitality was even more fantastic. Thanks to the CR list, I was able to make a new friend and share common interests.
On Thursday I visited two notable locations and was not only welcomed but got some bicycle related lessons to boot. First stop was Joe Bell's refinishing shop. I was warmly greeted first by Rob Roberson then Joe himself. Rob immediately told me the status of Mike Schmidt's bike. I think they were tipped off that I would be spying that project. Mike's Roberson is looking good with its unique chain hanger. Joe's place is a collectors dream, rare bikes hanging everywhere. Things you read about but never see. Sizes, shapes and colors that only existed in dreams before were now hanging before me. I suddenly think of a life of crime but soon I return to my senses. Joe takes me on a tour of the facility where I see his operation for repairs, stripping and refinishing. Several projects underway at one time and he seems to remember each bike, its owner and what has to be done to it with nothing to clue him but the frame itself. Spray booths, ovens, paints and equipment that widen my eyes. The one thing that stuck in my mind that I had never seen before. His sand blasting booth, upon opening it I noticed red colored sand. I ask if it is just old sand and maybe stained. Joe explains to me that sand it to harsh so he uses garnet dust which is gentle but gets the job done. Hope I am not giving away any trade secrets here. Overall a pleasant visit but I could see that he was busy as was his staff so I did not want to impose further. You folks waiting for your frames from Joe must forgive me for any delays incurred due to my gaping and slowing things down. Thank you Rob and Joe for a warm welcome and tour, now on to my next stop.
Brian Baylis was every bit as friendly as a person you have known for all your life. His warm welcome and candid lay back ways make you feel at ease even for a Jersey boy who is born to be suspicious of nice people. I enter his shop and see he has a young intern at work on his own project. A BMX fork which he is sanding and fitting into a crown soon to be brazed. Brian comes over and shakes my hand and soon my eyes begin to wander and those criminal thoughts are once again refreshed. If there is a bike heaven this is at least the entrance. Immediately I spy a frame in the workstand which Brian explains is Mike Schmidt's other project, an unpainted NOS Montelatici only now it is painted a beautiful light wedgewood blue with cream panels. Brian explains that it is ready for decaling. That can wait as he begins to show me around. There was enough here for me to write about that could fill a few pages so I will attempt to be brief while giving you a small flavor for what I saw. You know that 650 project Brian is working on for the frame builders show, well it was there and nearly complete. I think he is calling it Aero Tour, all I can say is Wow! The color scheme, the finishing touches and then to be shown the unique features that have come right from his own imagination really stand out. I don't want to give away to much here but this will be some bike when all together. Home made dropouts, chrome detailing and some really unique features that I will not detail much more. I kept imagining that he is building this for me as the excitement was of that magnitude. Then he takes me in the back room where I see Rene Herse bikes, one of a kind Confente bike and various projects in stages of completeness. Next stop upstairs where there are fantastic Wizards, Colnagos, Masis and more than one mind can remember. Colors and finishes to die for. Each with its own unique story that again would fill a small book. Tucked further back is a parts room full of goodies to make up frames and forks. A good supply to keep Brian busy for a long time to come as if his current backlog is not enough. Each bike that I ogle has a story and I could have spent a week there and not been bored listening.
Now back to Mike's bike. Brian was setting up to decal the Montelatici with original NOS decals. These were varnish transfer and I have never seen that process done before so I am watching intently. I had imagined a whole different process than I saw. He first prepared the frame surface by cleaning and lightly scuffing the glossy surface of the paint. Next he takes his favorite can of varnish and opens it. Dips a finger in the varnish and spreads a very light coating on the transfer and lets it sit. He then painstakingly measures the location of the decal on the frame and explains that one decal for each side of the downtube will be a challenge as they are pretty wide and he will need to position them close as possible to eachother at the top of the tube so all the lettering is visible. After about 15-20 minutes he takes the transfers and places them on the frame carefully locating them as planned. The transfer goes one with paper backing and all. After carefully applying them he then takes a small amount of water and begins to work the paper backing off the decal. It seems this is a water soluble paper that when wet will rub away with a light pressure leaving the varnish transfer intact and in place. After that there is some clean up using kerosene to remove any excess varnish and it looks beautiful. Brian looks over the decals carefully to see if he can detect any bubbles, he see a few that I could not and addresses them. Finally he wipes the area clean and the frame is headed for the drying booth. What a treat to witness this work first hand. If you ever wondered what kind of time and care Brian spends on a bike, I can tell you first hand that time is not a concern for Brian, doing it right is. He does what ever it takes and spends what time is necessary to achieve near perfection. His years of experience show in every step of that process that he takes. No short cuts, no cutting corners and no mass production methods here. A pure hand crafted operation that people in our hobby can really appreciate. It was a privilege to witness this first hand.
Finally I got to see a lot of items that Brian is working on for his 650 Aero Tour bike. All hand made components in various stages of completeness including a knife that will match the bike and be a part of the package. I kept thinking that if I just take a couple of weeks off and stay out there, perhaps Brian would allow me to pick up where his intern left off. Well a dream for sure but I can say without hesitation that this was a fantastic visit and I recommend you do the same if ever in the area.