What the Future Holds?

I'm extremely excited to have a new website up and running.  It is a very large, long-term project that has been a lot of fun putting together.  Although it is far from being completely finished, and despite its warts and blemishes and the fact that it is still greatly in need of being further edited and re-worked in some sections, it represents a new direction in which I have been moving with my advanced designs over the past decade.  It also reflects a very different dimension in the execution of my bicycles, especially during the past few years, which was not, in any way, part of the old RBD site.

I didn't take a photograph of any of my bicycles from 1998 until 2012, so one of the first things in order is to start setting up a photo gallery as I receive my latest custom bicycle frames from my painter, to compliment photos already in the site.  There are some very creative frames coming up in the paint schedule that will help represent the breadth of my custom building more clearly.  And there is a lot of other work that lies ahead as well.

When I finally got around to taking photographs, this is one of the first that I took of my bicycles. You've probably never seen lugs that look even remotely similar to this seat lug, I'll never design one again anything like it, although it is a favorite of mine.

This website is, and will remain, very much a work in progress.  I should also mention that I absolutely did not mean for it to be a typical website in most ways.  It is not a particularly commercial website, far from it.  Consequently, I have chosen to write it much more in the style of a loose, technical guide-book of sorts as opposed to reflecting a condensed, truncated journalistic- or web-style of writing and dispensing information.  I wanted to take the time to flesh-out some of the smaller details of a number of subjects in a way uncharacteristic of many cycling web sites, to provide some insights into the design, building and use of bicycles which have been left mostly uncovered.  And I wanted to have at least a little fun writing the site, so there are some places in which I have unhooked myself from the boring leash of convention so that I may wander a little, untethered. 

As much as anything else, the information that I've presented in this site was developed to provoke thought, to hopefully generate a bit of inspiration and to create a pathway, not just to many very unique products, but to ideas and innovation, and possibly, to change.  I couldn't help but feel as I was happily moving forward on this project, whether writing 170-plus pages of text, taking pictures with my $70 point-and-shoot camera, or building some of the gear for the photos, that I am trying to present a number of ideas that I feel some urgency to cover. 

I've always felt that bicycle touring, through its commercialization, was derailed early-on in a number of ways, and that it has often been turned backward and upside-down.  As I'm now in my sixties, and my time is running a lot shorter than it used to be, I have felt that it is important to move more quickly forward in presenting some helpful ideas relative to bicycle touring, especially in regard to establishing a more fluid, streamlined, ultra-lightweight approach to long-distance touring.  When this work is done I'll be able to stand up for the seventh-inning stretch and take a breath before moving into the last couple of innings of my life in which I hope to re-align some of my focus toward other interests of mine.  Not only am I preparing for what remains of the ballgame, I'm also hoping that the game goes into extra innings just so I may complete a number of projects that I've been involved in during recent years.

It would be difficult for me to think of a better use of materials, or a more exquisite combination of functional beauty and longevity than that which is so elegantly reflected in violins. The violin on the right has been played for three centuries and was loaned to one of my daughters when she was in middle school.
I've never enjoyed bicycle building as much as I do now that each bicycle that I build is very different from all others before it, and as each new frame reflects a special individual creativity.  In the past few years I've found frame building to be endlessly invigorating, and something that I feel very passionate about.  So I plan to keep on building bikes as long as my eyes and health hold out.  But I'm driven by other passions as well.  One of them is violins.  And as I have been moving into more creative areas of building bicycle frames, I've also been applying some of the same skills of executing highly detailed hand-work toward building violins professionally.  If I have the energy, I may try to split some of my time building bicycles with making violins in upcoming years.

Most people stumble into me through my work in building bicycle gear, but I endeavor to be creative in other ways.  In a small way, building my latest ultralight touring gear is tied to another project of mine.  One of the books that I've been working on, Travels Through the Land of Locusts, demands some more travel.  And there is no better way to finish the travel aspect of the book and to slowly reflect on the writing, than to do it by the means in which I started, by bicycle.  And now that I'm older and touring is not quite as easy as it once was, traveling in an unencumbered way is more appealing than it has ever been.  My Hummingbird gear is not just for everyone else, it is for me as well, and as I've been working on this website I have also been building myself a new bicycle, racks and panniers for my latest traveling adventure.  And as I look forward to continuing writing about the European decimation and displacement of indigenous peoples in America and a 500-year collision of cultures,  I'll be gathering information from the saddle of one of my own bicycles.  Taking the time to build for myself is just a small step, of many, in a wide journey.

Hopefully I will find the time and energy to fulfill one last ambition, which for me is the most difficult one and one that has been threaded into my life for a long time.  When I was much younger I read of Albert Camus suggesting that the question of suicide would be one of the most important questions of the 20th century, and it was W. E. B. Du Bois who stated that the issue of race would come into focus in the 20th century as would no other topic.  Perhaps they were both correct in their own ways, but in my view it has been war that has dominated the landscape of the past century.  I have grown up in a country that has been at war or has actively and dynamically  prepared to create war in every day of my life.  This has insidiously impacted each of us, and I've spent a lot of time thinking of the ways that war has quietly been woven into the fundamental fabrics of our daily lives. 

In what little spare time that I have I've also been quietly working on a novel, The Letters of Artois, which explores the descent of a family through three generations, set against three wars.  It's a story of basic American family life told through tracing the hidden artifacts of decline, fatal infidelity, murder, suicide, infanticide, emotional poverty, mental illness, artful deception, and finally, resolution.  I need to find more time to work on both books, so one of these days I'll finish the final chapters of designing and building gear, and bring building elegantly crafted bicycles to a close, hopefully well before the lights are dimmed.

That's what I'm up to at the moment.  We'll see what the future brings and if it provides some extra innings and the time to finish my book projects.

And one last thought.  I want to take the time to thank a few of the many people who have had some influence, or who have been an aid in keeping my work, and this website, moving forward.  In the middle 1980s, John Lehrer boarded a train in southern California and came to visit me in Oregon.  He took an interest in writing about my work, and if it had not been for him I would have gone back to school to pursue an anthropology degree.  I also want to thank my friends Taylor and Frank, who each indirectly lent a hand in the project.  And of course, I want to thank the girls of my family, who waited patiently as I moved along at a pace that they often found inconceivable.  This website would have been much longer in the making had it not been for the tireless computer programming of Mike Mulholland at Image Web Design.  Certainly not last, I'd like to draw some attention to my friend Dennis Coello, who took all of the photographs in the site that are not the product photos that I took.  His photographs are the good ones.  His passion for history, travel, bicycle touring and his many other interests may be seen on the web at www.denniscoello.com.