I spent the last week in Germany on business motoring from village to village desperately seeking hand-made products in decent quantity. Like the wine regions of France, German villages and regions are well known for their distinct manufacturing skill set. Whether it is the watches and clocks from the Black Forest, cutlery and steel implements from Solingen or cosmetic brushes from Nuremburg; Germans have been passing unique manufacturing skills down to new generations for generations.
Mass consumer desire for affordable throw away goods, the global economy and changes in the career paths of today’s youth has created a vacuum of knowledge and skill required to manufacture high quality hand-made products.
Translation: A skilled labor force is in short supply.
The grey haired guys are increasing the void even further as they are unwilling to teach their now rare skills to anyone in an effort to sustain their own self-importance into retirement.
Sunday morning I am stateside and find myself pondering the affects of a mechanized, mass produced world on the quality of life as the sun rises over Biscayne Bay and South Beach.
A simple bike ride can be a study in global economics.
I prepare for riding my custom steel frame fabricated by the hands of Peter Mooney in Belmont, MA by inspecting the drive train made by Shimano in Japan. Next I pump up the tires from Continental in Germany mounted on custom wheels built by the hands of Jude Kirstein of Epic Sugar Wheelworks in Portland, OR. The wheels are assembled from rims made by HED in Shoreview, MN with hubs made by Phil Wood in San Jose, CA and CycleOps in Madison, WI. I apply chamois cream made by Mad Alchemy now in Broomfield, CO and then pull on my Italian made Rapha Bibs. It appears the balance of my kit still comes from China.
Yes there is a theme here beyond listing all the states in the U.S. and all the countries of the industrialized world. I am partial to products made in the western world and particularly keen on developing a relationship, however small, with the person who makes it. When you spend eight to ten grand on a bike and almost the same on your kit and gear you want a little more from the experience than simply handing over your AmEx to a store clerk.
I know I do.
So I roll out by 11am to knock off the forty mile ride out to Starbucks and back. As expected, the week away from my bike has left my legs a bit lethargic. A simple reminder to “enjoy the bike” kept me from worrying about the numbers although a couple of wayward challengers still managed to keep the ride interesting.
Twenty miles in I enjoyed a latte while checking this out.
Center-pull brakes and friction shifters
This gentleman informed me he received this gift 49 years ago on his 17th birthday.
I hope I will be riding the Mooney in 46 years.