August 13, 2012
My Awesome New Ride
I have a bicycle that turns heads. Just today, as I was looking for a particular bottle of beer in a shop, with my bike parked outside, a clerk came up to me and said, “That’s an awesome ride, man!” And that happens a lot.
I don’t mean to boast, but my bicycle is even more awesome than most people realize. The things that draw immediate attention to my bicycle are the light blue and yellow colors and the fenders. But what makes the bicycle really special is not so readily apparent.
My bicycle was built from the ground up, beginning with the frame. Everything on my bike was either built or chosen by my frame builder and myself. Consequently, my bicycle fits both my body and my needs almost perfectly.
Building a bicycle is probably not for everyone. I have relied on a bicycle both for basic transportation and for recreation for 48 years, and, in recent years, I have ridden about 8,000 miles a year. My long experience gave me a very good idea of what I wanted in a bicycle and what I could get by having one built to order. But as cycling goes through a kind of renaissance, and more cyclists take to the streets, I think that more people can and should think about having a custom-built bicycle. For that reason, then, I want to tell the story of how I went about building my awesome ride.
One of the compensations for living in the otherwise dreary cultural and political climate of the early 21st century has been the rise in hand-made and locally produced goods. In Indianapolis, this is most obvious when it comes to food and beer. I now buy my milk from Traders Point, which is up the street from my house, and I buy beer from ten different local breweries. My family produces our own eggs and meat chickens in our back yard, and I make my own beer. It is more and more possible to live in a hand-made world, and I like that world.
So, when it came time to build my bike, I naturally wanted to work with a local builder. In Indianapolis, I had two choices. Shamrock Cycles is the more established of the two. Tim O’Donnell, the owner and builder, sponsors a race team, and he recently won an award for the Best City Bike at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show. His bicycles are innovative and beautiful.
Kevin Harvey of Harvey Cycle Works is relatively new to professional frame building. He did build some frames in the early nineties, but has spent much of his career as a machinist for an Indy 500 racing team. I found his frames to be elegant and well thought-out, but more utilitarian than the Shamrock bicycles.
Perhaps counter-intuitively, I went with the less established builder. When I first met him, I knew that I could work easily with Kevin Harvey. We had compatible idea about bicycles, and he had built for himself a bicycle very much like the one I wanted for myself. Plus, I knew from the outset that Kevin was utterly honest and completely trustworthy. I never regretted my decision to work with him.
Once I had chosen my builder, I went to a bicycle fitter to determine the exact dimensions for my frame. Kevin had worked before with Jonathan Juillerat, a fitter who is also the general manager of the Nebo Ridge Bicycle Shop on the north side of Indianapolis. I had known Jonathon for more than 15 years because of his work in the nascent bicycle advocacy movement in Indianapolis. I once took my commuting bike to Jonathan when he was the head mechanic at another bicycle shop in the city, and I was amazed at how thorough he was in going over every inch of the bike and in anticipating potential future problems. I was very happy to have him do the fitting.
The fitting was done in three one-hour sessions. The first session involved lots of measurement. I brought in my old bicycle to be measured. I had parts of my body measured that I did not know could be measured. These measurements were transferred to an adjustable...