Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Last Wednesday evening, a few hours after my first committee meeting, Noah Rosen (of Velocolour) and Suzanne Carlsen (of Suzanne Carlsen Headbadges) picked me up for our two-part, ten-hour drive to Indianapolis. We stayed over in Flint, Michigan at a Super 8, and arrived at the show in the mid-afternoon. Things were already well underway: the Vanilla shipping crates were being unpacked, the Brooks people were laying their temporary hardwood floor, and the Signal Cycles guys were hanging photos on their booth's wall. (At right: Noah, Suzanne, their U-Haul, and the frightening but beautiful "steam factory" right next to the Convention Centre.)

I was along, so I thought, to display Niles at Doug Fattic's booth. Doug was planning on displaying his new design jig at the show, and also showing off some student bikes. Unfortunately, Doug didn't get his booth. (Though he did triumph nonetheless — his students took home big awards; on which, more later.) But very luckily, Noah was willing to show off Niles in his booth. The paint job was very nice, after all. (That's the Velocolour/SC booth below, with Niles peeking out down the centre.) It took us until quite late to get the booth set up. Then we checked into our (distant) hotel, got a meal, and rested up for Friday morning's opening.

Friday I spent looking at bikes. It took me several hours just to get a mental overview show, and to decide on spots to revisit in more detail. The main builders who stood out were Dave Wages of Ellis Cycles, Mitch Pryor of M.A.P. Bicycles (that's him below on the right), and Dan Polito of Cicli Polito. In a nice congruence of factors, I liked their bikes, they were all nice, and I spent a lot of time talking to each of them.

The craftsmanship was what impressed me most about the Ellis bikes. It's very clear how many years Dave has spent building bikes; don't let the relative newness of his company fool you. I also love the understated elegance of his paint choices and decals. The M.A.P. bikes were impressive for their nicely integrated racks, brazed-on centrepull brakes, and nice constructeur details. The style of the Polito bikes was really impressive; as a whole unit (paint/craftsmanship/component selection/design) his Jack Taylorish bike was my favourite at the show.

Friday night I had dinner with an extremely friendly group that included Curt Goodrich. I always suspected (based on his articles in the Rivendell Reader and his blog entries and posts) that Curt was a really nice guy, and this hunch was completely verified. It was a real pleasure getting to meet him. The food wasn't bad either.

Saturday at the show was incredibly busy, so I spent most of the day working in my hotel room. But I did get a chance to see Doug Fattic, his assistant Herbie, and my classmate Dan. I got a peek at Doug's jig, which he'd brought along in his car. I was sufficiently impressed to want one very badly. Mike Barry was at the show that day also, and Saturday's dinner included his retinue as well as Richard Sachs. I didn't sit very near him at dinner, but even from a distance it was obvious white a nice guy he is. The difference of this congress of framebuilders to the academic conferences I'm used to attending was stark: these people are so genuinely passionate about what they do, and so eager to talk about their work. The social side of the weekend was incredible.

Sunday I slept in a bit and arrived for the awards presentation. I was extremely happy to see Ellis Cycles take "Best Lugged Frame," Mitch Pryor take "Best City Bike" (he thanked Doug Fattic, whose student he is), and Dan Polito win "Best in Show" (he also took Doug's class; that's him at right, before he and his bike had received their award). It was great to see my favourite bikes take the big prizes. My favourite painter didn't do badly either. Noah and Velocolour took the award for "Best Paint" back to Toronto for his work on Mike Barry's 1951 Cinelli. Very well deserved.

Now (after another 10 hour drive) I'm back in Toronto and trying to get all my framebuilding equipment in place. After a weekend like that, my patience is very low and my enthusiasm incredibly high. I badly want one of Doug's jigs and hope I can afford it. Then I need a reasonably priced surface plate and a fork jig. If I could get all this for the price I was going to pay for the Velo Orange I would be extremely happy.


mattbach said...

Thanks for mentioning our city, Flint, Michigan, in your recent blog post.

And thank you for staying overnight stay in Flint. We hope your experience in our city was a pleasant one. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions about what Flint has to offer, such as attractions, accomodations, events etc..

Matt Bach
public relations manager
Flint Area Convention & Visitors Bureau
Web: visitflint.org

AH said...

What a peculiar response. Well, the Super 8 was pretty great. They DID make us wait about an hour, at 3am, because their credit card machine was broken. But at one point they DID say, "Look, you can just go in the room and sit there until we get things sorted out. But you can't use anything." Noah asked, "Does sleeping mean 'using' something?" He responded "You can't pull the sheets back." We just waited in the lobby.

mattbach said...

Do you remember which Super 8 in Flint that was - there are two. One is next to a restaurant called Wally's off Center Road and the other is off Claude Avenue. Do you remember which because I'd like to forward your comment to them but they are owned by two different people.

- matt bach