There has been a lot of buzz of late in Portland's cycling scene. Over the last few years, several custom frame builders have scaled back their truly custom efforts in order to design frames that are slightly less custom, more affordable and have a shorter turnaround time. Two custom frame builders recently joined forces to create a brand that would allow them to work together and have time to race, be with their families, and still pay the bills. A slew of small companies have sprung up, offering everything from designer vinyl bags to cordura handlebar boxy bags, from custom built wheels to an entire line of lights, bells, fenders and other accessories (that last company is making all this stuff in Taiwan, mind you, and merely branding it with our fair city's name). In short, bicycling has become so accessorized and hip and, well, commodified, that now if your bike wasn't made by hand by a guy wearing Carhartts and mutton-chop sideburns and who didn't charge you at least three grand for the frame set, well, dude, who are you anyway?
For the last year-plus, my "roadie"-looking bicycle has been a sort of Frankenbike, one I bought for a song on Craigslist, took home in a trailer, stripped down to the frame and rebuilt with a motley assortment of mostly used and some new parts.
It has become the most comfortable, best-fitting road touring bike I've ever owned. Yeah, it looks like a freak show under me because of the late 80's goofball ATB geometry, and because in order to find a frame with short enough reach I had to find one with a top tub that comes maybe up to mid-thigh when I stand over it. But so what if my bike doesn't look so perfect when I'm riding it? My form isn't so perfect, either, and I still manage to ride this thing all over town.
This has lately gotten me thinking: what if someone started a club where the requirements for membership were:
A. You had to know how to build and repair your own bicycle;
B. You had to ride a bike at club rides or races that you had built up from parts; and
C. The original bicycle couldn't have cost you more than, say, fifty bucks. Twenty-five if you started with a frame set.
D. If folks really felt a need for matching kit, it could consist of a tee-shirt or maybe a hoodie. You want padded shorts or a jersey? You're on your own, try Goodwill.
The club could be called Team Cheap-Ass. And I'd sign up with my beautiful, cheap, fully functional Frankenbike.
Not to diss or piss on the truly organized and well-funded teams and clubs in our fair city, or on the businesses who contribute their fair share to promote bicycling here. The beauty of living in bicycle-mad Portland is that we can all ride our bikes and do our thing. Celebrating the truly broke and resourceful among us would just be another way of doing that, while at the same time perhaps lowering the bar for organized participation in this thing that far too many call "Portland's Bicycle Scene".
Obviously, this post is written with my tongue partly in my cheek. But if you're interested in seeing how many folks out there just might meet the criterial, or you just want to go somewhere where you can bike-watch AND people-watch at the same time, consider the Bicycle Fashion Show being held a week from tomorrow at Velo Cult at 2 pm. I guarantee there'll be at least a few beloved cheap-ass bicycles there, including mine.