Over the last few months, even in my social-media antisocialality (minimal/non-existant/reclusive) I’ve been following the progress of a little event.
It started when Robin came into the workshop to rifle through our parts tubs. Looking for massive canti brake levers, stubby quill stems and all those archaic bike parts we still have leftover from the 80’s. He was building a bike. Others were building bikes too. Turns out a little group of UK frame builders were building themselves ‘clunkers’ for a weekend of old school mountain biking. No disks, no V’s, handbuilt frame and forks and a certain spirit of our history. Someone had been reading Charlie Kelly’s book. I was stoked. This would be ‘The Hack Bike Derby‘.
And the pictures have been awesome. There’s been nerding out on the builders’ designs, workshop smut (swarf, filet brazing, and workbenches…) and then finally massive mud bath riding pics in some woods somewhere. It’s been fun to follow along, at a social media stalking remove.
But you know, there’s something kind of insane about a clunker event open only to some frame builders who can custom build their own bikes. Seeing the ostentatious “hacking” highlighting nothing other than the total lack of hacking due to the excellent skills of everyone involved. It’s insane that there was a clunker even with a beer and coffee sponsor, that says everyone has to run this sponsor’s tyres and wear that sponsor’s helmet. Cynicism is tiring and sad, but there’s still aches here as we realise that even this, even CLUNKERS can be a promotional tool. We’re still being sold a certain lifestyle when your parts bin build has a Phil Wood BB and you’ve got a fucking Gränsfor Bruks axe on your seat stay. Of course we loved it: I’ve actually been checking Instagram just to see pictures of this event. But shit, it’s all still more marketing, just at a sideways angle. Maybe it’ll be like workwear turning into high fashion.
Let’s hang all that to one side though. Let’s shout and be happy because maybe this could start a little thing, a reaction away from ever more pricey bikes and ever more massive corporations. These were still bikes built in sheds, not in factories funded by venture capitalists. It may have still been a sponsored jizz-fest, but it’s at a more human scale. The CCC is supportive of any and all anachronistic cycling activity. Stupid laughs in the mud. That’s it and that’s awesome.