August was a pretty hectic month for us. We not only had a lot of builds come through, but we ended up organizing an Open House event for the entire Hollis Studios artist enclave. It was a chance for all of the artisans (also known as tenants) that work and play at Hollis Studios to show off their wares, meet new people and meet their neighbors. For our part, we were amazed to find out that one of our neighbors is a print shop called Kustom Rockart Co. We’ve never seen them because they only work at night. Certain inks they use require cooler ambient temperatures. They had older posters hanging on the walls and spread out on tables for people to see. Among the coolest were their 3D posters. Wearing 3D glasses, the effect was absolutely amazing.
Another one of our neighbors was PLUSH, a custom cabinet and furniture builder. As a bunch of guys that construct things with their hands using a raw material, there is a strong mutual respect amongst custom furniture and bamboo bike builders. Zachary is one talented guy and I personally love his aesthetic. Lean and efficient would be the words I’d use to describe his work. I could attempt to describe it, but the pictures on his website tell the story better than I ever could with words.
The event was a huge success. Meeting our neighbors gave us a renewed sense of community in the building that we all share. We had a bunch of people swing by and we made some new friends. We’ll have to see about hosting future open houses. Like us on Facebook to get the latest updates on future Stalk Bicycles events.
Now for the bike porn. One of the most unique builds we did this month was for a client who basically wanted a “backpack on wheels”. He’s an avid touring cyclist and his spec required that the bike be able to carry some serious amounts of luggage. The pictures tell the story of the result. As with many of our “special” builds, it’s never an easy path. We’ve done cargo bikes before, but not one that allowed the use of panniers. Suffice it to say that it was a lot of work, but a lot of fun. As soon as we delivered it, he took the bike out for a 75 mile touring ride. You gotta love hardcore riders who aren’t afraid to beat on bamboo.
Show some love for the Hollis Studio tenants and check out their sites:
We can confidently say that the bike you see before you is one of the great pride and joys of Stalk Bicycles. We felt it warranted a nice blog post, if only so we could toot our own horn a little. Just a little.
In late 2010, the idea of a traveling bamboo bike was suggested to us. And to put it mildly, Lars, one of our co-founders, loved the idea so much that he ended up researching the idea for a few months before starting the build. The premise was simple enough: build a bamboo bike that can be packed into a case for traveling on a plane. Lars explored a number of options, and easily the “coolest” route he liked was the shiny S&S Couplers made by S and S Machine in nearby Roseville. If any of you have looked into traveling bikes, you have likely seen S&S Couplers before. They just ooze “bad-ass.” As much as we love working with bamboo, shiny, machined bits are pure bike porn.
Now that Lars had chosen the couplers, the next challenge was to figure out how to integrate the couplers with bamboo. Typically, the couplers are inserted into metal frame tubes and welded. That said, we couldn’t use any of the species of bamboo that we typically use. After a lot of testing, we found one species of bamboo that worked. This species grew in a relatively consistent manner that enabled us to integrate the couplers while maintaining structural integrity and a weather-tight seal at the coupling point.
The end result is what you see before you. We think this may be the world’s first S&S Coupler bamboo bike. The bike has been tested and rides beautifully. In fact, it was recently packed and shipped to Texas for a test ride. Aesthetically, we think the details of this species of bamboo show beautifully. And the caramel color of the bamboo are a striking juxtaposition against the sheen of the steel couplers.
As much as we’re proud of completing this coupled bamboo bike, we must pay homage to Craig Calfee, one of the earliest innovators of carbon and bamboo bikes. Calfee was the first bike builder to incorporate S&S Couplers into a carbon frame and was the inspiration that drove Lars to complete our coupled bamboo bike. It’s guys like Calfee that have inspired us to continue innovating and going out on a limb when tackling new builds. Calfee was recently interviewed for a great Smithsonian.com article that explored the past, present and future of bamboo bicycles. To be interviewed for the same article was truly humbling…because Calfee is “The Man.”
Recently, we completed a bike for an important customer. The bike came out beautiful, per our usual standards. We incorporated a specific dark-colored species of bamboo for the seat stays which made for a unique constrasty looking frame. But the other noteworthy feature of this bike is the geometry. We designed the geometry for a relaxed riding position and a more “cushy” ride. You can tell from the images that the proportions of the frame are a little “different” than most of the bicycles that we’ve built in the past, being more stretched out. The effect is a longer wheelbase which results in a more stable, cruiser-like ride.
But enough about the bike. The significance of this bike, really, is that it belongs to Albert Cheng, a living icon in the Bay Area Chinese community. He is former president of the Chinese Culture Center and co-founder of the In Search of Roots program, with over 40 years of community service. Both of these entities serve to promote the appreciation and discovery of Chinese culture to current and future generations. This includes hosting examples of Chinese visual arts, literature, music and theater through exhibitions and public programming.
The Roots curriculum in particular, focuses on a year-long research program, where interns research their own Chinese-American family history and genealogy. The interns also spend a significant amount of time exploring the Pearl Delta region of Guangdong Province, where most of Chinese American originated from in the mid-1800′s. Our very own co-founder, Nick, participated in the program in 2010.
Al will be at an opening reception on Saturday, June 25 at the Pacific Heritage museum that will celebrate the path of discovery that Nick and his fellow Roots interns experienced. Through art pieces, photographs, poetry and more, it’s an amazing exhibition of self-discovery. Consider checking it out this summer:
Pacific Heritage Museum
608 Commercial Street (between Montgomery and Kearny Streets)
San Francisco, California 94111
The Museum opens Thursdays through Saturdays, from 10:00AM to 4:00PM. Phone is 415.399.1124.
Stalk Bicycles has always been about building bikes that reflect the personality of the rider. In building and designing this bike with Al, the Stalk Bicycles team has developed a deep respect for him, his love of Chinese culture, and his generosity. Whether you’re Chinese or not, we as people, can all understand the innate curiosity to know where we came from.
After a few days of owning the bike, Al was kind enough to send us an email, “Love your bike. My younger son loves it even more! Thanks for building such an incredibly beautiful and eco-friendly cycle.” Thank you Al, for your years of commitment to the Bay Area community.
Just a few weeks ago, we received a special invitation to join our friends, Star Apple Edible Gardens, at the 2011 San Francisco Flower and Garden Show. The team at Star Apple are essentially landscape artists…but they do their work using sustainable and edible plants. After seeing their setup at the San Mateo Event Center, a big palm slap to the forehead followed. When you look at the gardens and landscapes that they create, it blows my mind that more people don’t do this. As a layman, I think that Star Apple’s concept is simple and pure genious.
Modern civilization began with agriculturally-based societies. That is to say, our “gardens” back in the day, fed us. Fast forward, and we began seeing gardens that were created for “looks”, but non-functional. That was and still is, a luxury for people today. In a society where we have big cities, high population density and little space, I see Star Apple’s genius in making functional gardens that not only look beautiful, but can help contribute to feeding our families. It’s just plain cool and the Stalk Bicycles team gives them 2 thumbs AND 2 big toes up.
Our small contribution to their huge exhibit was a “rolling garden” in the form of a bamboo cargo bike. The “cargo” was a selection of herbs in the bike baskets. It was definitely a curiosity for the people walking through. You saw beautiful gardens of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and then a…bamboo bike? It definitely drew it’s share of attention and for that, we want to thank Star Apple for inviting us along for the ride. If you’re interested in finding out more about Star Apple and their amazing urban farming creations, look them up at their website: www.starappleediblegardens.com
Enthusiasm is contagious. And there’s a guy out there by the name of Eric, who is absolutely stoked on bamboo bikes. We first crossed paths with Eric back in November and since then, he’s been a regular visitor to the Stalk workshop. Sometimes, you can get caught up in the trials and tribulations of running a small business, and forget why you started this to begin with. Eric’s enthusiasm to learn the craft reminds us why. He wrote a blog post on his website (www.nagooyen.com) a few months back that we just loved, so we got permission to re-post his perspective here. Enjoy.
At a family Thanksgiving party this year, I was fortunate to bump into Zack of Stalk Bicycles. Zack was inspired to build bamboo bikes while he was living in China. He noted the abundance of the material and its uses in construction…and decided that he wanted to build bamboo bikes. After talking to him at the party for nearly an hour, I was, in one word…stoked. Stoked at not only witnessing the craft of bike building, but seeing one built out of a material that grew straight out of the ground. A material that was once a living plant. The bike…an object that typically conjures visions of 2-wheeled steeds, built of steel, aluminum, titanium, alloys and more recently, carbon fiber.
Zack was explaining to me the properties of bamboo and how there are over a thousand species of bamboo out there…they’re not all the same, but they are universally known for being a strong and lightweight material. Furthermore, bamboo like most woods, have the unique property of being strong, stiff and yet…flexible. They can bend (to a certain extent), and return to shape without fatiguing the base material. Aluminum bikes are light…but notoriously stiff. Also, if you bend aluminum back and forth, it will eventually snap…try doing that with the pop tab from an aluminum soda can. Steel is noted as being more flexible, but heavy. Recently, progress has been made with laying up carbon fiber to give it flex properties…but it’s damn exclusive (aka “expensive). Bamboo seems like the magic material for bike building. But I digress.
So a week after Thanksgiving, I went over to Stalk Bicycles’ shop to check out how it was done. I didn’t get to get my hands dirty on a frame on this day, but I spent another few hours hanging out with Zack and Lars talking about bikes, their shop (which is inside of a former World War II machine shop, complete with old 2-ton cranes and the light odor of machine oil and metal) and their plans for taking bamboo bikes mainstream. At the moment, they build custom bikes…and when I say custom, I’m comparing it to getting-a-custom-suit custom. They create the geometry and choose the type of bamboo for your bike per your body “specs” (e.g. weight, height, inseam, etc), your preferred riding position, and more that I don’t know about. The end result is a bike that’s built just to fit you, that’s truly unique, and has been built by artisans. Note the bike in the pictures: the attention to detail was truly awesome. They even made bamboo cable guides that blended seamlessly into the frame. Imagine the effort involved with choosing individual bamboo stalks to fit cable sleeves, then drying them, cutting and sanding them to shape, and finally “welding” them to the framey to look seamless. If that’s not craftsmanship, I don’t know what is.
Anyhow, enough of my blabbering. Most of the pics you see here are of a bike frame that they built for a fundraising event. This frame is unique among their frames because it also features artwork from one of the most highly regarded tattoo artists in the Bay Area (Philip Milic, founder of The Old Crow Tattoo shop in Oakland). I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. Lars and Zack have invited me back to help them build a frame. I’ll bring my camera. =)
Stay tuned folks, there’s definitely more to come.