Rage Against the Machine, self titled. Strong Belgian ale. Hissing vapours sitting on winds that swirled up the paths. Teenagers lost amongst one other in nearby rooms, heat rising from their bodies and settling opaque on the window to bear witness to their fumbling deeds as their gasps broke like waves over the alley. Inside, slow and methodical grating movements of metal against metal, passing the edge along a plane from the eye forward. Naked flames and molten silver squirming and darting along the base of glowing red structures. Impassive and pinched expressions. Simple and pleasurable focus.
It didn’t happen all at once, but these are the things from which my frame was built in a humble little shed in Wellington.
Pat had been at me for a little while to build something cool with him. Not in any kind of active way, but whenever I brought it up his eyes would light up and we would start bandying about ideas. Eventually I settled on a road frame. It was what he knew, and the basic shape of a road bike hasn’t changed all that much since Merckx was putting people on the rack. I figured it was something of a timeless choice, and so I let Pat know.
Cool, well that process starts with a drawing, he said. I had him over for tea and we looked at my body numbers and chatted for a long time about what got me excited to ride and where I tended to battle with the road format.
The process was surprisingly organic and straightforward – metal and angles. Both factors push and pull toward and away from desired objectives. You just gotta recall and nail down that squirmy, elusive sense of harmony on the bike and express it as best you can. Then it’s up to the builder to give it their interpretation.
There is a clarity and a single-mindedness to riding road that can be deeply absorbing. Something magic happens in the second hour of a difficult and engaging ride; a quelling of internal static that pulls the sky tighter against the horizon and lifts the scents from the land. It thins the air and splinters the light. It might be fleeting and occasional but it’s what’s we traverse countless stretches of asphalt and gravel seeking to unearth. Fundamentally, I was looking for a bike that could give expression to that.
The frame also broke ranks from Pat’s usual Team Green paint job. Somehow it felt right. It didn’t take a lot of thought or discussion––I suggested paint over gloss black, maybe some Jackson Pollock sort of vibe. That’s hard to pull off though. I was told you gotta know when to stop.
Eventually we settled on a location-based splatter approach, which was refined to galaxy fade rattle can over gloss black powder coat, out in the hills. No clear coat. It’ll wither and fade and chip and die and then I’ll have to revisit it. That’s a nice thought.
I found Pat crouched in the French art shop poring over shades of purple spray. We got pink, turquoise, purple, white. Next thing I knew we were at a bunker in the middle of nowhere with the wind bending and roaring around us while we squirted paint at the frame a couple metres away.
DA 9000. Normally it would be far too extravagant. The fuck I need Dura Ace for, anyway? I guess it helped that it was eclipsed by 9100. But I probably purchased the group for the calipers and cranks alone. Beautiful. I ended up perking some unwanted OEM DT hubs covered with shitty white paint that I jammed in a gap in my deck and took to with a wire brush. Once the paint was gone, they were done – scratch marks and all. And once you’ve put a top of the line group on that you don’t need, you don’t have to go all that far to arrive at carbon wheels. Abraham Durango built them with his feet with The General Electric blaring in the background. There’s some ESSENCE in that. The rest of the build is Pat-spec, Thomson, King, 3T, Enve. Just fucking solid and real nice.
The bike speaks for itself. Some guy has already said the paint looks like shit, as if it was some profound and edgy comment. But he doesn’t realise that’s the point. If everyone agreed it was cool, it would probably suck. In any event, the process was so much bigger than simply having this thing at the end and saying Look At This.
As we passed both torch and file over the tubes, every decision required attention. Where should we put the seat stays? Do you want a binder bolt? Head tube rings? How high should the bottles sit? Pat even brazed little stainless washers onto the dropouts and polished them back carefully through the powdercoat. The build was littered with such functional little niceties.
The result is not simply a bike, it’s a finished project that’s seen some of my own graft, fuck-ups and ideas. It was a living conversation between myself and Pat; a practice through which I formed countless small and charming bonds. It was his eye guiding mine and us chasing a delicate shared vision through violent and jarring processes. I look at the bike now and I understand precisely how it came to be. Because of that, I know it in a profound and uncommon way.
And it doesn’t matter how much money you spend – you’ll never pick that up off a shelf.