By Michael Barry for Soigneur
Photography by Ian Patterson
The rising sun breaks through the trees, as we thrash across the open fields. Beneath us, our bikes absorb the undulations of the grass and dirt, as our legs push harder though our arms and torsos remain loose. Wood chips, stones, and sticks flick up from the tires, hitting my shins. Relaxed in the effort, my senses are piqued. The bicycle feels as though it is an extension of my body, allowing me to focus on the coming descent and the effort. Daily, for a couple of hours, I will ride on the road, through woods, on the trails, and over the fields, awakening my body and mind before heading into work. On the weekends, I’ll go further, riding for most of the day. When I was a child, my father built the bicycles I rode. Now, after 14 years of racing in the professional peloton and almost an entire life of racing my bicycles, I build the bicycles I ride.
The aroma of paint, rubber, grease, flux, and everything else it takes to build a steel bicycle are heavy in the air, as I switch on the lights, turn off the alarm, and open up for the day of work. In the back of the shop, beside the frame building tools, there is a drafting table on which we still hand draw each frame design. Computers are used as well, but a simple scale line drawing remains useful. Above the table, frames are lined up, ready for paint. On the shelf, tubing ready for cutting and brazing sits in boxes with the customer’s name. I switch on the radio, which is tuned into the national public news channel.