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In an ongoing effort to bring our customers important, timely, and relevant information about the wares we offer, the NYC Velo team occasionally conducts a roadtrip-style operation. We’ve all seen the good roadtrip movies, the ones that offer a bit of escapism, allow minds to wander out to the open road to stumble upon unforeseen adventures of dramatic proportions. We’ve also seen the sh*tty roadtrip movies, the ones with the cheap laughs, the ones that arrive DOA to your flatscreen TV (you didn’t pay $12.50 for stadium seating did you?). The NYC Velo New England roadtrip is none of these things, but it is an annual pilgrimage to one of the places in the Bike Universe that we hold dear. New England represents the heart and soul of American bicycle culture, and is, conveniently, just up the road from our homebase in the East Village.
The plan had been laid out: the team (Andrew and Justin) had 36 hours from closing time Sunday night to get from Manhattan to Newmarket, NH and back, with a few stops along the way. The goal of the trip was to continue to work on our ongoing photo project of New England bike builder work spaces, but as we infrequently make it to the Boston-New Hampshire area, we had to satisfy a few other needs along the way.
The first stop was in Hastings-on-Hudson, in Westchester County, to pick up Bob, the Service Manager of our sister store (cleverly named Hastings Velo). Bob’s worked as a bike mechanic in the Tri-state are for over 30 years, and owns a few old Fat Chance mountain bikes. He’d never been to the IF factory and jumped at the chance to spend 13 hours in a car with some of downstate bike nerd peers. With our cargo loaded, sandwiches and seltzer water in hand, we hit the road to NH in earnest. Luckily, the drive was uneventful, though rainy, and we made it to our destination with enough time to squeeze in a few hours of shut-eye before sunrise.
The first stop would be at the new Independent Fabrication factory in Newmarket, NH. Gary, the leader of the IF team, rewarded our traveling efforts with some high-caliber coffee and breakfast at Crackskulls Coffee and Books in Newmarket, right across the street from the factory, a perfect way to start the day. Our intention was to spend no more than 2 hours shooting the new Indy Fab space before heading off to our next appointment.
Six hours later, after tours of the Indy Fab and Bailey Works operations and long conversations about bike fitting, the state of retail, sourcing domestic frame tubing, Indy Fab frame #1, and Rouleur magazine, we finally got back to the car to head southward towards Boston. Our next stop would be Chris Igleheart‘s workshop in Wenham, MA.
We last visited Chris’ workshop in 2010, to photograph the space for the photo essay. That visit was at dusk, and NYC Velo Brand Manager/Photographer Justin was less than pleased, after much analysis, with the shots that resulted. Unfortunately for the team, Chris was out of town on the day of our trip, so we would have to visit his workshop without his always-entertaining commentary and insight on the bike building community. It’s impossible to capture in words the experience that bike nerds have absorbing the contents of the Igleheart Custom Bicycles workshop, we hope that the photos do it justice.
Our time at Igleheart was brief as we still had a couple more stops on our itinerary. Beverly, Mass was calling us southward, and the crew at Parlee Cycles didn’t have all day to wait around.
It’s difficult to compare the fabrication department at Parlee to Chris Igleheart’s shop. While Parlee manufactures its custom Z1, Z2, and Z3 frames in a fashion similar to what a traditional framebuilder would use, the operation is much “cleaner”. It turns out that mitering, wrapping, gluing, and heat treating carbon tubes doesn’t create the mess that cutting, filing, welding, and sanding metal tubes does. The Parlee offices also house a Look bike frame, a carbon frame that suspiciously appears to have undergone a the familiar Parlee lugged construction process, and was raced by Tyler Hamilton in 2002 on his way to a 2nd place finish in the Giro d’Italia — not the kind of bike you see everyday.
After leaving Parlee, we had one last stop to make before the drive back to the city: a meeting scheduled with Marty of Geekhouse Bikes at the Ride Studio Café in Lexington, MA. Luckily, the last stop worked double duty as both bike shop and café/espresso bar (a venture we can all get on board with), serving much needed coffee from Stumptown, Terroir, and Sightglass.
Marty has just moved his operation into a new space, one that’s not yet ready for the photographer’s lens. While there was no New England framebuilder workshop story to document with Marty on this day, he did introduce us to his first stainless steel bike, a steed he constructed of KVA’s new tubeset.
While Marty’s not yet sure of the future of Geekhouse stainless bikes, he’s definitely got big plans for the brand in general (which we intend to document here on the News page).
Thanks to the Ride Studio Café (and some tasty sandwiches from Panera Bread next door), the Velo crew was properly fueled for the return trip to the big NYC. There would be no rain for the journey home, and an arrival time just shy on 1am meant that the crew would be able to get a bit of sleep prior to Tuesday’s shift. We’re already planning another trip to the New England coast for June, though one involving actually riding bikes – how novel!