Photos by John Watson
Bikes - What do they mean to you?
Feelings of freedom come to mind, a place to reflect, a way to blow off steam from the daily grind, maybe just a way to pick up groceries or get around town. Take a step back though, and the thing that really stands out to me is community. Like many pastimes, bicycles can be the basis for all sorts or relationships between people and places, and for me I don't think anything has fostered those relationships like the bike.
When I began building frames I was introduced to a whole new network of talented and driven people who I honestly didn't expect. While riding was one of the main things that kept us motivated and excited, our shared enthusiasm for doing our own thing and building our own tribes really sealed the deal. Many of our interactions though, have been limited to conversations under the fluorescent lights of various convention centers across the US. Every year at NAHBS we have the same conversation with these friends - "we should be riding bikes, why are we doing this?". Those shows help our businesses no doubt, and talking tech can be fun sometimes, but do we really need to explain how we welded some part of a frame again? Do we really need to go over some silly new standards and minute differences in frame geometry in a hotel bar after we just talked about it all day? Maybe we can't help ourselves, but I sure don't want to.
Anyhow, I decided to do something about it this year. I sent out an open invitation to some bike industry pals to come check out Bozeman and ride, and much to my surprise many agreed. Thomas from Horse Cycles, whose work I have admired since I first began building, made the big trek out from Brooklyn, NY. A handful of Californians made their way out as well - Cam Falconer the master of Utility, my pal Nicholas who's art you can find on a number of my products as well as the legendary Curtis Inglis of Retrotec bikes. The Squid Squad also joined us, it was so nice to have some folks who come at bikes from a different angle. I love what they are doing and those two can ride. Finally, we had Tony from Breadwinner, I was psyched to ride with him again after last years Grinduro, and Bryan from ENVE, who I order all of my parts from and it was so nice to put a face to a name. Bozeman local Carl Strong joined in as did Erik from Alliance Cycles down in Idaho. Last but not leas, John from The Radavist was there to document it all. Of course I couldn't have pulled this off without some help from my dear friends and neighbors at Alter Cycles.
Folks started rolling in on Friday, and we got to check out Happiest Hour at the shop, a nice warm welcome into the big bike community in our little town. We chatted and caught up and prepared ourselves forfour days of riding the best trails that Bozeman has to offer. We swam in creeks, ate baked goods from the Wild Crumb Bakery across the street and some genuine good times. For me the highlight was the final night of the camp. We got to take everyone out to the weekly Tuesday night shop ride. Bozeman locals came out in record numbers with nearly 50 people at the trailhead. We rode one of my favorite trails - Emerald Lake. The vibes were all-time and the scenery can't be beat. You could feel the energy in the air as we grilled and chilled at the trailhead enjoying the views and friends new and old.
I like being a newcomer to the bike industry, though that badge is fading quickly with Sklar's 5th anniversary close on the horizon. Ignoring the norms that I never learned has allowed me to get to where I am so much quicker and having the tools and skills available in this day in age, that my peers did not have access to when they started, has been invaluable. With those tools, small companies like myself and the folks I invited to this camp are able to make a real difference in the bike world and hopefully the world at large. It really is the small people like us who steer the ship that is the bike industry. Whether it be adapting new technologies in the products we build, the way we talk about what we do, or trying to make the cycling world a more inclusive place. Those are things that start here with us.
So will we all see eachother in a convention center somewhere this year? The answer is yes, almost definitely. Will we comisserate together on how we should be riding? 100%. But at least we can look back on riding and remember what is really important.