Thursday, January 19, 2006

If this isn't nice, I don't know what is

In his article Knowing What's Nice, Kurt Vonnegut urges us to follow his Uncle Alex's example and to notice when we are happy and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, "if this isn't nice, I don't know what is."

There is always much we can rage against in this world, the stupid and the evil, but there is also much that is good. We can rage against corporate greed but also see that it is possible to be in business and still do good. Folks like Gary Erickson, Yvon Chouinard and Grant Petersen each have managed to create businesses that remain true to their visions of a better world.

Matthew Grimm is a similarly practical dreamer. While it's fashionable these days to rage against globalization, Matthew saw that the problem isn't one of geography, it's one of greed. Things like a global economy and the information age are not the sole province of the super rich or the mega greedy. Little guys can have a vision and a voice and make things and send them out in the world.

Matthew designs and builds bicycles. Actually that's not quite true. Matthew designed and built a company called Kogswell Cycles. Matthew's customers and Matthew design bicycles. Matthew and folks with factories in places like Taiwan build Kogswells. Matthew's vision is simple: lever the power of a global economy and the power of an interactive electronic forum to make good bicycles at affordable prices.

The results are amazing. Very nice frames at very nice prices. Really interesting products in the world now, really nice things coming down the pipe and a small but growing legion of happy customers.

I'd seen Kogswells around for a year or so but I didn't need a bike and I didn't think that much about them. But a while back I got an email from Matthew Grimm saying basically "great job on the Great Divide Race, I want to give you a bike for your next adventure." I wrote him back basically saying "thanks, but no thanks." I explained that I really had no idea what my next adventure would be. "It doesn't matter," Matthew insisted, "I know you'll be doing something interesting. Go to my website and see if there is something you can use."

So I went and I looked and I found a Model G. Fixed gear with relaxed angles for road riding. A tough, powdercoat finish. Big clearances to run fat tires.


My kind of bike.

Tuesday night a 54 cm Model G was waiting for me when I got home: frame, fork, headset and big clearance brakes. Silver, the color of duct tape.

I already had pretty much all the other parts I needed to build up the G: wheels, crankset, pedals, seatpost, saddle, stem, bars, brake levers. So far the only new part on the bike that I had to pay for was a chain. I made a set of coroplast fenders from a campaign sign I'd harvested last November.

I got the bike together last night. It's not quite right yet and still needs a little dialing in. I'm going to swap the stem for one that's a little shorter and a little lower. I need to find a cycle computer so I can follow cues on brevet route sheets and there will be other tweaks I'll make as the miles tell me what I need to know.

But I know this now. As I was riding in the darkess, I had this thought, "If this isn't nice, I don't know what is."
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