May 21, 2015

Return from Vacation Rant: Nobody Cares About the 80s

Framebuilders who started during the great 2000s wave all sort of fit the same profile. White guys, some with silly facial hair, who quit art school/day job/social life and decided to make bikes for money (or, in many cases, really, just as a hobby that looks like a job, but I won’t go into that here).

I’m one of them, of course – one of the folks who caught the 29er wave and never looked back. Talk about good (lucky) timing…

In any case, I’m hardly in a position to throw stones from my atrocious website, but I have a bone to pick with you, fellow builders. Your profile pages suck. (Y)our backstories are all almost identical.

Let’s tally it up:

-Everyone rode a BMX in the 80s. Everyone. You might as well mention that you like Reeses Pieces and long walks on the beach. It’s just not relevant to building bike frames, because it doesn’t distinguish you in any way from the millions of other kids of that era who also rode BMX bikes in the dirt lot behind the Piggly Wiggly. Yes, you love bikes. So does most of humanity.

-You (we) are old, and getting older. Punk rock is dead. If you want to be different and cool you have to try harder than pointing out that you like IPAs and bluegrass/punk/90s hip hop/Johnny Cash (guilty as charged…) Basically every white person in our generation likes those thing. If you wanted to stand out you’d be really into, say, wine coolers and Moby. Or Chinese opera and peyote.

-Macro photos of someone peering at a dial indicator are a dime a dozen. Likewise anonymous hoodie-wearing dudes with welding helmets on hunched over a glowing TIG torch. Here’s the thing, though – sticking the metal together and making it straight enough to ride right aren’t really what a customer is paying for. You should show some *design work*. Show some unusual stuff. Explain why you know how to build something that rides like a dream.

-Don’t mention that you worked in a bike shop, because so did every other bike-obsessed kid on earth, basically. It also in no way qualifies you to build a fun bike for someone. I’m pretty crappy at, say, bleeding Magura brakes. But that’s not my job – that would be like wanting to make sure the engineer who designed your car worked at Jiffy Lube when they were in high school.

-Lots of facial hair just means you probably aren’t using a respirator when you’re hunched over that smoking metal for an hour or two a day. It’s your body, I guess.

-Everyone else also drinks PBR at least occasionally.

-And of course, last but not least: poverty does not make you cool. The last thing I want is a frame built by someone who makes no profit and will be out of business/his girlfriend’s garage in a year. I want a frame from someone who takes vacations, and doesn’t have to depend on deposits coming in to order tubes, and will answer the phone in 10 years when I need to know if I can put a 100mm travel fork on.