Some months ago The Ride Journal asked me to write a little story about Fairdale. Funnily enough they had seen our momentarily viral R+D video and wanted to know more about what we were all about. Though I expect they were hoping for something as goofy as that video I gave them a much more sincere version of “our story”. This ran in their mag a few months ago which you can download from Ride Journal. I imagined myself trying to explain my motivation for the brand to someone who didn’t know anything about Fairdale. -Taj
A Change of Gear by Taj
I want to keep my bicycle innocence. I want to walk a into a bicycle store and feel amazed by all the spaceship styled machines inside. When the salesman spots me lusting over the top of the line road bike I want to still feel bewildered when he tells me the “cross-weaved carbon-fiber lay-up” makes the bike so strong it’ll win the Tour de France (but don’t let it fall over because it’ll break if it lands on anything sharp). I want to remember the discouragement I feel when the mountain bike that looks like a motorcycle with no engine somehow costs more than a motorcycle WITH an engine. I want to remember what it feels like to not know anything about bikes… to just want to go for a ride.
Not long ago walking into a bike shop was an alienating experience for me and that’s strange because I’d spent the majority of my life as a professional bike rider. I was a BMXer though and the little trick-bike world on the very fringe of cycling has been content to be defined by stone-age single-speed chromoly steel-framed bikes. My “cycling career” on the edge of cycling has been a unique journey that brought me to an almost metaphysical understanding of what riding a bike was without actually knowing much about bikes. That’s not to say I didn’t “know” BMX bikes, on the contrary, I had signature model bikes, parts and even shoes. They were all designed out of my personal necessity as the rider who would use them. I had no engineering background or scientific understanding outside of millions of hours of brutal bike-destroying trial and error. Even so I was left relatively ignorant of what the rest of the cycling world was doing.
After a spinal injury it was time for me to step away from BMX. That led me to a job at long time sponsor Odyssey BMX. With little bikes being off limits post surgery I started visiting bike shops looking for a bike I could ride. With my innocence intact I started wondering why bikes weren’t more like I thought they should be. If BMX teaches you anything about bikes it’s that the most simple bikes can do some of the most amazing things. My bike shop friends seemed to see things differently. They said what I really needed was the new electronic gear system, and that I would love riding mountain bikes way more if I had this new suspension linkage. They went on and on with a million of the latest and greatest cycling advancements that I just needed to have. I found it all overwhelming and discouraging. I think that a lot of people do. It was too much to take in and it seemed to cloud the very reason I wanted to ride a bike; because it was such a simple pleasure.
I now have a much greater comprehension of (if not a mildly unhealthy infatuation for) all the fantastic innovations that are constantly appearing in the cycling world. I see where they can make the experience of riding a bike better for people who truly understand how to utilize them. Still, I like to hold on to that part of me who not so long ago was terrified to have a bike with a derailleur on it. When I couldn’t find a bike that made sense to me Odyssey invited me to start Fairdale and create my own bikes. The design process immerses me in a world where every tiny little part on a bicycle becomes an obsession. What color spoke nipples will go on a bike and what vendor to buy cable crimps from is something I actually spend brain-power contemplating. When I’m this deep into spreadsheets I find it easy to lose site of what I’m really trying to do. I want to create bikes that help riders find a slice of what made me fall in love with bikes. To pass on some of the simple goodness that is in just coasting down a hill, weaving between the dotted lines on an empty road. I have to remind myself to stay conscious of my “innocence”. As a sounding board I ask myself if spec-ing a part is going to make the rider have a better experience or a more complicated one. And of course, there are many different levels and mindsets of cyclists so we get to cater different model bikes to different sorts of muses.
All of us know that riding a bike can be one of life’s most innocent joys. Heap on some Strava times, gear lust and monotony and it’s easy to lose that innocence. Take a step back and remember to keep it simple every now and then.