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Dale Brown's Photos from the 2011 North American Handmade Bicycle Show in Austin, Texas

roadskater's picture

I received a note from Dale Brown regarding his photo sets and wanted to pass it along...nice shots of handcrafted cycles. 

This year's show was a blast! It was in Austin, Texas this time...
I served as chief judge again and the bikes were amazing! 
Next year it will move to Sacramento, CA.
Here are pictures I took:
Notice the cork hanging from the saddle of some bikes? That will be the special gift attendees receive at the "Classic Rendezvous Weekend" here in May.
I enjoyed the various takes on custom building, especially the low-gloss metalworking. There's a lot of nostalgia in the work, of course, and some harking back to what I guess would be called art deco, but I feel unqualified to distinguish that from other movements, such as art nouveau. Some of the metalwork is more natural or even woodsy looking, while of course there's some bright chrome as well. Handmade bikes are an interesting art form!



timv's picture

Big Theory of Culture

For a while, I've been trying to think of a way to work this idea into one of our discussions. This seems to be as good a place as any.

ENO: I want to find a way of talking about culture, so therefore if I talk about it, I have to be able to include everything from what's considered the most ephemeral, menial, and unimportant version of culture--haircuts, shoe designs--to what are considered the most hallowed and eternal examples of it. Now when I try to think about what it does for us, I try to think what happens to you in certain specific situations.

For example, let's take this pair of designer sunglasses that happen to be on the table in front of me. They're very styled. They don't have to be like that. Glasses don't have to be funny, oval, weird-shaped looking glasses, space-age type glasses. As I put those glasses on, I'm not only keeping sun out of my eyes. I'm also engaging in some kind of game with myself and the rest of the world. What I'm doing is I'm entering into some kind of simulator. I'm saying, "What would it be like to be the kind of person that wears these kinds of glasses?" What I mean by that is, I'm not actually abandoning who I am and becoming somebody else; I'm for a while entering into a game where I suddenly become this person that's a different person from the person you've just been talking to.

With all fashion, what we do is play at being somebody else. We play at inhabiting another kind of world. If I decide to cut my hair short and dress like a tank commander, I play with the resonances of kitsch, militaria, dominance, and surrender and control, and strength and weakness and all those sorts of things--I'm role-playing effectively, when I'm making fashion choices.


This kind of playing with other worlds, this ability to move from the world in my head to the possible world in your head, and all the other millions of possible worlds that we can imagine, is something that humans do with such fluency, and such ease, that we don't notice ourselves doing it.

eebee's picture

Not sure if I'm on the right page...

But that's an interesting idea! If I'm understanding correctly, Eno is talking in the interview about a universal point of reference to explain anything and everything that is man-made and externalized, whether gigantic red & black rectangles on canvas, or an office desk, as well as music, food & drink. That's one mammoth undertaking. If Brian Eno feels sufficiently compelled to assume this project then that 'd be reason alone for him to do it. Like the works he'd seek to classify, it doesn't have to be extrinsically motivated.

We already have grammar to discuss language rather than to learn how to implement it, so I can see the case for a more thorough means to discuss the communication of human experience that is art. Sounds like he wants to provide a page for us all to stand on while we're talking about it.
It might be a challenge for one or two individuals to create such a thing and be neutral about it, though, but the internet/rest of the world might come in handy there. Polling the computer-accessible majority.
A lexicon for culture and the arts may provide an otherwise hidden entry point for those who mistakenly believe they're not artistic, musical or creative, or somehow don't belong. But who cares if some people don't engage in artistic expression? Well that's a whole other post but for me, joy, living life and eliminating the need for cruelty have a lot to do with it. 
Personally, I would appreciate a universal concept distinguishing between glorious achievement and human by-product. Hours of sweat, blisters and mind bending vs. making it up as we go along. Maybe there's already a word for that.

timv's picture

Human By-Product

Maybe "a mammoth undertaking" as you put it, but Eno seems to have covered it in a small handful of interviews and essays and then moved on to other things. This all happened about 15 years ago, and I'm not aware of him spending much if any time on it in the meantime. I don't know if he felt that he'd finished the job, or if he just got bored with it, or thought it wasn't worth the effort since no one else was very excited by it.

But he did say:

My dream is to do for culture what Darwin did for the natural sciences. He established a frame in which it was possible to look at all life, ask serious questions about it and organise it in some way. I've been wanting to do the same thing for culture for a long time. By culture I mean everything from fashion, to fine art, to cake decoration to you know - the whole thing, all the things that humans do.

I think he would have liked to have coined a phrase as pithy as "survival of the fittest" to go along with his Big Theory, but nothing comes to mind to fit that bill.

Anyway, if the connection to this topic and to Blake's original seems obscure, I'll add that these kinds of bicycles and bicycle culture have often reminded me a lot of Eno's sunglasses example. The preferred ride among riders who depend exclusively on a bicycle for transportation, by necessity rather than by choice--here I'm thinking particularly of recent immigrants and the extremely poor--seems to be the NEXT Power Climber. This is what's we bike snobs refer to with a sneer on the bike mailing lists and forums as a "Bike-Shaped Object."

If the purpose of a bicycle is simply to get oneself quickly and reliably from point A to point B at minimal cost, then that $88.00 Wal-Mart bike might be all that's needed. (Actually for many commuters of necessity, it's probably a discarded Wal-Mart bike found on someone else's curb.)

But if its purpose is to make a statement to the world about what sort of a rider--what sort of a person--one is, often by way of an other-worlds exercise wherein one rides a bike suited to the Tour de France, or to a French long-distance randonneur of the 1940s, or a Japanese Keirin racer, then a BSO won't suffice at all.

H.G. Wells wrote about this in The Wheels of Chance in 1896, so it's not exactly a new thing. Even then, cyclists were ruthless in judging each other by the type of bicycles they rode, the clothes they wore, and how fast or far or slowly or recklessly or carefully they rode.

As Eno's contemporary Peter Gabriel put it, "There's safety in numbers when you learn to divide. How can we be in if there is no outside?"

You could say, as enthusiasts often do, that it's about looking for an alternative to the blandness and uniformity of cheap mass-produced goods, recognizing the value of things made by the hands of craftsman. But I don't know if there's even much to be said about that that wasn't covered in painstaking detail by the Arts and Crafts Movement at about the same time as Wells was discovering bicycles.

You wrote:

Personally, I would appreciate a universal concept distinguishing between glorious achievement and human by-product.

Well then maybe I'm here to speak on the behalf of human by-product!

Actually, here's Eno from another interview on this subject:

Does this mean that cake decoration is as valuable as Cezanne? No - I'm saying that the concept of cultural value is an irrelevant and meaningless metric with which to try to compare culture objects because the idea of value as a quality that resides in culture objects is wrong.

But there is value somewhere, isn't there? I mean, we do feel that we have experiences of value when we hear pieces of music or read books or see films or admire textiles, don't we? And when we do, where exactly is it coming from if not from the object?

I think that, in objects of culture, value is always conferred. That's to say, the quality of our experience of something is exactly that: the quality of our experience.

I have a feeling that this also ties in with Robert Pirsig's theme in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintanence, which as others have pointed out isn't that much about Zen or motorcycles. What it is about is the question of quality or of value: Why is one thing better than another?

I don't know how much energy I have left on the subject, but I'll add that Pirsig begins the inquiry with the protagonist teaching English composition, knowing that some students' work was simply better than others', but not being able to articulate the difference to them or to give them a list of instructions for writing well.

To use the bicycle example: If the wheels fall off or the frame breaks in half and dumps the rider on the pavement, it isn't a good bicycle. And maybe that $88.00 BSO falls short on some of those practical issues, but that doesn't account for all of the difference between them and the multi-thousand-dollar bikes being shown at the Handbuilt Bicycle Show. Most of the value in those seems to come from the human need for meaning and identity, but as Eno suggests, that need isn't peculiar to the wealthy and privileged.

Maybe I'll write more on this later. I don't think this is a very satisfactory reply, but I'm tired of writing and I'd guess that anyone who's gotten this far is tired of reading.

eebee's picture


Cake-decoration is probably not as valuable as a Cezanne because icing rots faster, but considering the practice and hard work that went into making either, that might be the only reason. My distinction between a masterpiece and human fall-out isn't my attempt to dictate my own beliefs on what constitutes worthwhile art. It's an attempt to help classify in my own mind things like skill, talent and hard work, as opposed to restorative playtime or some kind of art therapy, which doesn't have to be good or make sense to anybody. It'd be nice to be on the same page as others but failing that I guess at least I'll know why I feel passionate about certain artistic expression and unmoved by others. 

Otherwise I'm having a hard time identifying with the projection of oneself onto others through inanimate objects, since I don't care much for jewellery, fashion or the latest gadgets. Admittedly I was tempted by a snazzy pair of pink Luigino Stings a few years back but foot-comfort and poverty won out. Perhaps someone can point out to me where I judge others, but I don't judge them on their choice of bike, car, house, dress, decor, etc. It bothers me that I don't get Eno's sunglasses analogy. Why does putting on a particular pair of sunglasses have to be about projecting an image or pretending to be somebody else? Why can't it just mean a person gets migraines from glare and needs polarized ones? Why isn't riding a bike about getting from A to B? To a great deal of people on the planet I think it is. 

I don't like prejudice or snobbery-  of any kind - but it seems to be the way of the world as long as people feel the urge to control, or are ruled by fear. I'm probably just barking up the wrong tree again, though.   

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