by Chris Bull
2-Wheelers Come to the Fore
I was an insufferable car nut in high school. I had a 1979 VW Scirocco and my best friend had a Chevy Citation, and we put more money and work into those shitboxes than you could believe. The 80's consumer spending boom? That was us.
I'm not sure how I initially got into motorcycles; I think I realized that I could go much faster much cheaper, there was less to go wrong (mechanically, at least), and they were made to turn corners. Just like a bicycle or plane, you bank to turn - in a car the bloody thing is trying to roll the wrong way. So I thought that was pretty cool.
Head to the Mountains
Around the same time I was introduced to mountain biking by my friend Steph. Let me tell you a bit about this guy. He's huge, arms like sewer pipes, and a smell to match. Funny walk, bad hair, he has a slight English accent but claims to be from Northern Maine. So the first thing you think is, this guy's a fucking liar. But it's true! He was riding a Trimble, one of the first succesful carbon-fiber bikes, and one of the coolest looking machines on the planet. This guy Trimble didn't try to make a double-diamond frame out of carbon; he started with a clean peice of paper, and drew in the fixed points: headset, seat, bottom bracked, dropouts. And he just connected those points: one massive carbon tube from head tube to rear dropouts (the elevated stays were aluminum), one slightly smaller tube from BB to seat. He called it the Carbon Cross. One of the most elegant machines ever built.
So, Steph. Just to give you an idea, he got hit by a car once, a Nissan. Head on. Dented the hood, smashed the windsheild, dented the roof. He walked away; the car was totalled. So anyway, we're attending Bowdoin College in Maine, and he's into the mountain biking, so I borrow a bike and start getting into it. Eventually I buy a Haro Impulse, with elevated chainstays and a U brake. Steph and I spent a winter in a barn perfecting our endos and trials skills on a psychedelic "Alice in Wonderland" stage set. Then we made ice tires by putting sheet metal screws through the cheapest tires we could find. We'd ride around campus luring unsuspecting cyclists onto the ice, which we negotiated with ease. When they fell, we would laugh. I was much crueler then.
On a cross-country motorcycle trip I visited a Honda shop in San Fransisco called Hanlon Bros., or O'Hanlon Bros., or something. It rocked. Then I lived in Seattle for a year (you know that whole grunge thing? That was me. Sorry about that.) where I rode the Haro with slicks down Interlaken Boulevard. I would routinely pass cars on this insane road. Awesome. Then it was back to Boston where I formed a collective with a bunch of friends. I learned welding at the Wentworth Institute of Technology. Tim, Clare, and I had visions of Circle A Cycles - a motorcycle shop. But a string of drunk driving convictions and Tim's horrific experience rebuilding his CB750 put an end to that. The future looked bleak indeed.
Fast forward a few years. I'm living with a bunch of friends in a farmhouse collective in Worcester. I work as a mechanic for three years at Barney's Bicycle. I "build," i.e. cobble together from old parts, the Vicious Cycle, a stylish but deadly low-rider. I buy a Univega 505 mountain bike for the rad trails around the local resevoirs, and tell myself, with no clue how this will happen, that it is going to be the last bike I buy.
I'm wrong. The last bike I bought was a Schwinn Prologue, which I wanted to turn into a fixed gear. I bought the wheels for that bike from Toby Stanton at Hot Tubes, and soon thereafter began apprenticing with him. After about three years building and painting bikes with with Toby I struck out on my own in Providence, and joined the illustrious ranks of framebuilders, most famously perhaps Independent Fabrication, who owe it all - or at least most of it - to Toby.