Thursday, April 30, 2009

Gardasee Day One

Soaking in the Italian sun

the BIKE Festival in Lago di Garda is the European equivilent to the Sea Otter int he US. It is the un-offical kick off to the biking season and happens to take place in one of the more beautiful locals in Europe. Nestled in South-Tirol, the Gardasee is the destination for many Trans-Alp crossings, as it was the first end point for the first Trans Alp race.

To be honest, it is little festival and more big Industry hype, the organizers included. So why attend on behalf of IF? As many times before, I have found there is an audience for our product almost anywhere we go. People who you wouldn't expect stop and study our bikes with admiring eyes, their passion for riding comes through in their appreciation for the handcrafted bikes on display. So why aren't they riding a custom bike?

Waridi Lights

Representing the Crown

I see a combination of factors, one I have beaten the drum this on one many times, that of price. The German market has seen such violent price erosion that consumers are trained to pay bottom Euro for a bike, forgoing many other factors over the price tag.

Secondly it is the media. the media over here tests in laboratories, not in the real world. You can't quantify craftsmanship, artisan, nor the imperfects that make up perfection, therefor run of the mill aluminium and carbon Chinese bikes win so called 'Tests" with out any regards to real benefits for the consumers. Not too mention they are not open for unconventional thinking like single speeds nor twentyniners (although I am sure some outside the media would like to keep it that way ;-))

So the best way for us to build our brand is to hit these events to connect with those who get it. To keep beating the drum, and spreading the message and to show that there is a real viable option to the Xerox copied, re-branded, bullshit that comes out of the sweat factories of the far east. Rides that embody the spirit of riding and offer a lot more that hyped up marketing jargon.

Besides, I love good espresso, wine and food, do you really need any other reason to come to Italy???

Day 2 tomorrrow.

Monday, April 20, 2009


There are some cities that have something special, intangible but it is apparent the moment you enter them. They are a live and have a pulse. Now I am not sure if I will ever be a city dweller, but these cities make me ponder the thought. They draw me in an make me want to visit them again and again. For me this is also a rare occurrence that a city is so gravitating, but my trip over the weekend to Leipzig proved to be one of those occasions.

Via an invitation from Bike Department Ost, my auto found itself pointed to the old eastern part of Germany. I am old enough to remember things like the end of the cold war, and the wall coming down, but it is so far removed from even my memory, that was until along the Autobahn I passed a sign marking the old East-West border. It wasn't until I arrived in Leipzig that the difference between East and West started to be revealed.

First off, Leipzig is a beautiful city, not like Rome or Vienna, but in a very historic and noble way. Monuments to its storied past dominate the landscape, icons of good and hard times past. After landing at BDO, hunger drove me out into the street to find some my midday meal. The first thing I noticed about the people on the street, they all seemed content, almost happy. They were buzzing around on bikes, or sitting on benches talking and their was even a festive uprising around some bohemian style music pouring good vibes out onto the street. Something you would expect in Amsterdam with its many street performances and fests.

My liason from BDO, Gerolf was more than hospitable helping me to secure accommodations and arranging a group ride from the shop. There were a few familiar acquaintences Nikita and David along with some fresh faces. on the menu was a tasty plate of Urban singletrack, country roads, some seriously deteoriated back streets and fun riding parks. Besides an abundance of broken glass that riddled almost everywhere we rode (and accounted for two flats cutting down tires and ending my ride slightly prematurely), the were many more cool symbols of Leipzig's history. We rode one of the two hills in Leizig which Nikita explained was a trash mound from the WW2!

Nikita and Gerolf had many stories and background information that they shared readily with us along the ride, very interesting sidenotes to a very fun riding experience. Another one of these antidotes that stood out was the Hafen, a Nazi project that was started but never finished. Basically a large canal shadowed by very large concrete skeletons of three industrial buildings, mere shadows of a forgotten past. There were several burned out remenents of the darkened past, covered in the colorful graphitti of todays challenging urban culture.

After the ride we all had a quick drink together mingeling and making plans for the evening. David and I headed over to Rueckenwind, another very cool shop in Leipzig. If I were ever to own a shop, it would be something like the Rueckenwind, I fell in love with this shop. Ronny, the owner, is a kindred soul, open and passionate about cycling. His shop reflects his warm personality and invites customers in to a sweet bike shop. His focus is urban transport, fixies (although he loathes them) commuters and other unrban transport dominate the showroom in a minimalistic fashion. Not too many bikes to be overwhelming, but enough to wet the pallet and give the customer a taste of what is possible.

David had invited me there for a purpose, Maik whom I had met at SiS was getting new ride, a Ti Deluxe. So we did what I love to do, talk about bikes and get Maik set up. Being a similar stature as I, Maik took a quick spin on my Ti Deluxe and we were to base his dream ride off this bike. We talked some more, tried out my homemade schnapps, did a fitting and had a blast. I did not want to leave. This is what selling bikes should be about, forming a good relationship to your customer, formulating their bike on their desires in an informal, relaxed atmosphere. There was not a better setting than the Rueckenwind to facilitate this process...

Afterwards we hooked up with Gerolf and others at a cool little local hangout for some burgers and beer, good times.

The next day was the demo day on an old Eastern-block velodrome. Pretty cool stuff. David said it best when I mentioned him I thought it was cool to think of all of the historic races and events that must have taken place on the old banked oval as we watched some mtb and bmx dirt jumpers drop down the track and huck tricks. His response was "it is like the geist (meaning ghosts, but also soul) is still speaking to us."

It certainly was.

The demo day was a great for us, our bikes were constantly gone, and in high demand. The best parts was seeing their faces when they returned with ear-to-ear smiles. When the bikes were not out, people would study their details, fascinating over the craftsmanship and perfection. Once again conversations revolved around human-powered two-wheeled machines, and the lifestyle around it. Unfortunately for me I had to pack up fairly quickly at the end of the day to drive to our new home in Hopfen am See to meet my brother-in-law to start setting things up.

We will surely take part again next year, and stick around a little more to soak an incredible city in, and experience more the past and present culture.

(some pics will follow...)

Friday, April 10, 2009


Ahhh... to be 29 again!

Tomorrow is it, the beginning of my last year in my thirties. No crisis or anything, just another decade passing. I guess you could say I lived the lives of two 20 year olds, and in many ways I feel that my life has been much more.

Looking back over my life during my second stay in Europe, I have been blessed to have seen, experienced and accomplished so much. Yet I feel like life has not got the better of me. Besides a bike fetish, I live a fairly simple life with Sandi and Colin. We take pleasure in the day to day routines and pleasure, I love a good cup of Joe or a good beer, we take advantage of being outside and have been surrounded by some amazing people.

Anyone who knows me knows a love a good conversation over some 'slow-food', and a good wine. I love to hear and tell stories, philosophize about life, politics and other mind bending topics. I am not looking for nor do I need absolutes, I can live with abstract and uncertainty. Maybe that is why I walked away from a $40k+ job with security for a scrimping, nail biting year (and we are not out of the woods yet, but things are looking much better!) of starting my own business in a foreign land with many challenges and pitfalls.

Colin shows me the world through eyes that are a distant vague childhood memory, but he shows me the important things in life. Sandi keeps me in check, and showers me with more affection than I deserve sometimes. She really is my counterbalance in life.

Sometimes I get off track, but the way always seems to find me again. Who knows how long I will be around for the ride, it doesn't matter. i will always try to milk the most out of each moment, enjoying those and the world around me.

Here is to the next 40 and whatever life will throw at us!

Monday, April 06, 2009

Photo Dump #2

here is a quick peek at a custom Ti Deluxe Single Speed we just did for a customer here in Germany. The paint is so sweet and it is fitted for a Fatty Headshok, can't wait to see this one built up...

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Think fast

Wiesmann GT MF5

When the opportunity came to do a limited series of bikes for a small handmade car manufacture, it did not take us long to say yes. Wiesmann is a little manufacture here in Germany that turns our beautiful retro-looking, but technologically advanced street and race cars. Built on the BMW chassis and engines, Wiesmann handmakes the rest. For our project, we built a super sweet SSR to match their MF3 Roadster, a 300+hp convertible that somewhat resembles the old English roadsters of the 50-60's. The bike built up super sweet, complete with Campy Super Record 11, carbon Sports Ventoux wheels, EDGE 1.0 fork and a sweet silver Gecko headbadge to match the Wiesmann carbadge.

Wiesmann display

We had a new display built for the upcoming European Handmade Bicycle Exhibition, and put it to use for the Wiesmann Fruehlingfest, an open door event for the public to come and see their stunning creations. It is also an opportunity for those lucky enough to test drive a possible new car. Being that we are working together, I had the pleasure of driving the MF3 we used, but also the supercar, the GT MF5, a 500+hp beast that would blow most other cars off the road, and motorcylces can just forget it. Surrounding Duehlem, home to Wiesmann was a spiderweb of back roads perfect for stretching out the legs of these German muscle cars. Admitingly nervous, I climbed behind the wheel of a bright yellow MF5. My 'co-pilot' gave me a quick lesson on all of the controls and provided me with all the tech data as we rolled out of the parking lot. It was amazing as onlookers quickly turned to catch a glimps of the car growling along which raised to a roar as I layed my foot into the throttle.

Once clear of the city limits I shut of the automatic mode and took over shifting duty via paddle shifters on the steering wheel. Then I really layed into it... Now I know what a shuttle launch must feel like, as we quickly ate up the country side kilometers. Then I did what I have always wanted to do while driving my minivan back in the states and a Porsche or other sports car passed me like nothing. We over took several cars with out even shifting out of second and quickly topping out at a cool 150km, sick! Craddled in the tight confines of the GT5 cockpit, we sat super low to the road and the view was inhibited by the bulging fenders and ginormous hood, but you felt impervious in some way. I still had tons of respect for this car, being that it had way more power than I had ever driven before, and I did not want to be the 'one' to do anything to it. Granted I only scratched the surface of what this car could really do, but it was still a huge thrill to drive a super car.

Limited edition Wiesmann Roadster SSR

I bikes were more than well accepted at the event, and we drew a lot of interest despite being in the presence of show stopping automobiles. The year for is off to a great start as we have been taking orders, I have been doing many fittings and we have several riding clinics booked. We will have some more demo bikes soon and are moving to Hopfen am See in Bayern.

My new 29er is quickly becoming one of my top rides, but we will save that for the next blog...