15 February 2008

Wicked Workshops #5

With a only couple of days left in Melbourne as the racing is about to start in a few days time. I had two more Wicked Workshops to find and have a good poke around in. The last two workshops were the two that I had wanted to visit the most, one I managed to find, the other will have to wait until some other trip. I had heard about this workshop for a year or so, and it was the most difficult to find out of all. Featuring the most unobvious looking entranceway you could ever find, kind of a top secret location if you like. Again this was run by another Singlespeed advocate, seems they are the most inspiring of the lot so far. I first met Dan a few years ago, believe it or not, at another Singlespeed event, this time he was one of the two organisers running the event. I liked his style immediately, and I like his style even more now. He has run a nice website here and run cool web-store for a few years now, so have a look around it. But I think it has a R18 rating, so kids it’s off the menu, sorry, unless you love bikes of course. Dan is one of those guys that has managed to infuse a rock and roll lifestyle, with bikes, and it seems to have worked well together for him. His workshop is definitely the most wicked looking so far, with some of my most favourite products for sale, and a fantastic workspace to boot.

What a nice tidy looking tool box.

Dan works in a regular bike shop as a mechanic during the week, and after work and on weekends, that’s if he’s not riding, or visiting his Mum, you will find him in his studio workshop. That’s assuming you can find where it is. Nestled in the middle of a bunch of artist studios, built inside a bunch of old industrial buildings, you will find a pretty simple looking standalone doorway. With some milk crates as steps, you climb them, standing nervously on the top step, you press the doorbell, and hope someone comes to answer it. We had made an appointment earlier in the week, in fact I checked out the shop and his regular earner a few days earlier. Where as most cyclists hang out in bike shops, looking at the new bikes and products in the showroom, I tend to gravitate towards the workshop, for some strange reason. As with most of the workshops in cycle shops here Australia, they are hidden way out the back of the store, as if too keep the mechanics away from the customers for some reason. I know some of my old customers back in Auckland, would be thinking that would be the perfect place for me to hide out the back and work quietly. Then at least they would be safe from my constant constructive critique, as they dropped their bike off, or picked up a new tube or two.

A nice lineup of sprockets, very shiny.

So back to Dan’s studio workshop, upon entering the building, I spied many bikes kicking around the floor, the walls and hanging in the ceiling rafters. Most of them were of the one geared variety, some old, some new, already I was getting excited, this was just what I was expecting. I entered the workshop, and my eyes had trouble focusing on anything specific, there was so much good stuff to look at, where do I start. Dan had a customer’s bike on the stand, and the customer hanging around waiting while he was working on it. The customer was a new convert to cycling, and his first bike by the looks, a fixie (Key: a fixed geared track bike for road use, normally with or without brakes, very popular and fashionable in and around Melbourne for the last few years), he was soon on his way, a happy man. Dan later told me, it was strange for him, as he used to go and see the guy play in a band, they were, and still are pretty famous, he was in awe of them at the time. Now they all come to see him, as if he is the famous mechanic they all want to buy bikes from, and get work done by him. I think he was starting to realise he had created something pretty cool, and had some great respect in an industry full of mediocrity and copycats. I had a bit of a quick chat, before the next customer was buzzing him from the alley outside.

Dan's Jersey from his mountain biking days, in the back ground.

I spent a bit of time checking out some of the products and artwork hanging around on the walls. Of course I spent about half an hour checking out one of the cabinets treasures. So many Phil Wood and other nice hubs, almost a lifetime supply for a freak like me and my friends. Featuring close by was all the sprockets and parts to make up the most fantastic wheel sets you could dream of. Cubby holes were stuffed with some of the oldest, new stock I have ever seen, toe clips, toe straps, bar end plugs, ribbon tape and some of the coolest hand grips I remember growing up with. Next to the Phil Wood shrine was a the biggest selection of quill stems I have ever seen in the last ten years, a pile of chains, and a selection of shiny sprockets, both types, in every size you could imagine. With a selection of great looking handle bars, any style and configuration you could think of that was in. A pile of caps, modelled by some of the best heads I have seen, I even found a nice one for myself, should be great for the European winter I was about to enter.

The man himself, hanging out.

Dan had said he needed to have a bit of a cleanup before I visited, but I already knew he was a pretty tidy mechanic. There are generally two types of mechanics, a clean one, with an impeccable bench and work area. And of course the messy type, with shit and tools everywhere, but of course these types can also pull the old excuse, that they are far too busy to keep a clean bench. And there are those like me, stuck in the middle, clean and tidy, but always busy as hell, a nice compromise, but at any one time, it could look bad for me. At his regular day job, the tools were all in their place, the bench was clean and tidy, I didn’t expect anything else from him really. His studio workshop was unbelievably tidy, all the tools perfectly laid out like a surgeon’s instruments, ready for action. I was impressed by his innovation with the layout of his tools, and the cleanliness of everything on his workbench. I know a fair few mechanics who could learn a few lessons from Dan, and a few mechanics who could learn a bit more passion for the job from him as well. There was plenty of memorabilia hanging around the walls of his racing career, and some of the races he has organised over the years. Some pretty nice original artwork as well, all featuring bikes of course. There was a small tribute to the king, the king of rock and roll, not the king of mechanics, sorry (maybe we can find out who that might be some day).

But it was time to go, a few hours had passed, and it seemed only like a few minutes to me. Talk about a kid in a lolly shop. I have a lot of time for mechanics that have passion like Dan’s, they make you feel normal for a change, a world of similar passions, and like minds. I brought a few goodies for myself, and few friends, but resisted all the shiny bike bling for today, at least I know where I can find it now. I was gifted a couple of nice t-shirts, (you should stop reading this now Mum) one featuring his catch phrase ‘Ride.Race.Drink.Fight.Fuck’, all of which I have been guilty for in the past, and probably in the not too distant future. Thanks for the tour Dan, I will be back.

You can see some more pics here.


Richard said...

Benny, you're a smart guy. How do you clean your chains? Do you just throw them away each day, or do you stick them in an ultrasonic bath before finishing them off in the dishwasher? And, while we're at it, what do you use for (chain) lube - the two-coat ceramic stuff, or olive oil?
We must know, please tell us.

benny said...

Nothing special, just plain old diesel, a good brush, it takes all the oil and shit off chain, deraliers and brakes. Then rinse and scrub with dish washing detergent (now the grease cutting stuff comes into it's own here). Leave it to dry overnight, and the residual diesel keeps the chain from rusting, then just normal lube. We use Morgan Blue, a sponsors product, but any lube will do. And we never take them off the bikes, and change them before they get too worn out like normal.

Richard said...

Benny, thanks for insight.