Old Treks, plants, & pianos.

You might have seen this bike a million times but didn’t really think much of it.  It’s a bike.  Wisconsin made.  It’s sporty, but not spectacular.  Just what we’re looking for!

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Lot’s has happened since 1986 in the realm of bicycle components.  Basically, things got monumentally better.  What happens when you blend that modern functionality with the charm and buttery ride of an old frame?   Some deep purple paint, and yeller cloth bartape?  Then hang it on a box above that dime-a-dozen piano?  With some plants?

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Something like that.   By the way this thing rides like a dream…on clouds…drizzled in honey…on peanut butter toast.

Humble Beginnings Part II: “There’s a bike Shop in Emeryville”

Here’s a link to a little portrait of our family business in the hyper local Emeryville news!

 

Emeryville is a dense 1.2 square mile city with a cherished greenway and well-trafficked bike boulevard that runs the length of the city. We even recently received a silver designation by The League of American Bicyclists as a “Bicycle Friendly Community”. Despite these amenities, our city mysteriously does not have its own bike shop within city limits.

That is about to change as ‘Color Wheel’ (FKA Color Wheel Oakland) opened its doors to the public today as part of a News Years Day Open House event. Color Wheel is a venture of husband & wife tandem Monica Hamlett and Omar Sison that started as a mobile ‘pop-up’ bike shop in West Oakland.

Monica, originally from Kalamazoo, MI and Omar, from Concord and a Cal grad, met about four years ago while Omar was working as a mechanic at Manifesto in North Oakland. Monica was training for a ride and was suffering from some hip pain. She requested a personal bike fit from Omar and they soon began dating. “We’re both terrible flirts,” they admitted. “It took a while to start dating because neither of us were sure if the other was interested.” Two years later, they’re now a family of four with an eight month old daughter Naomi and dog Toast.

The duo have almost Jobs/Wozniak complimentary talents. Monica brings a background in supply chain social responsibility and is handling all the marketing, bookkeeping and account management. Her handling the ‘business end’ of things gives Omar the opportunity to retreat to his passion of fixing and optimizing bikes.

Their pop up idea started in front of Kilovolt Coffee on Mandela close to their West Oakland home. The novelty of their business (and perhaps their adorable family) began to draw attention by the local media including Hoodline and The East Bay Times. Omar’s reputation and experience as a quality mechanic helped them build a small but loyal following.

They slowly branched out to larger corporate clients including Emeryville businesses SCS Global Services and Royal Coffee. A chance encounter with Clif Bar art curator and avid bike commuter Jeff Hantman helped them get their foot in the door at Clif Bar. They began offering weekly pop-ups to employees at their lot at 65th & Hollis. Clif Bar has a well established reputation of supporting cycling causes and being a workplace that provides incentives to encourage bike commuting.

As their daughter started becoming more mobile, it made the pop-up/mobile idea tougher and they started to consider pursuing the live/work model. Omar and Monica initially signed a lease at a live/work space in South Berkeley but things soon became complicated. Their landlords began impeding their planned tenant improvement renovations putting their plans in limbo. It became apparent that they wanted them out which put them in a desperate situation. “I’ve never felt so close to being homeless,” Monica says now with relief.

A friend alerted them to the live-work space on 61st near Doyle-Hollis Park that is also home to INNA Jam and Canine Boardwalk. Monica was immediately smitten with the aesthetics of the space and proximity to family friendly amenities. Omar was a bit more discerning and needed to visualize the functionality of the space for bike repair. After touring the space together, he determined he could make it work and they moved in a week later. “When the dust settled, we looked up and said ‘this is amazing! A beautiful park with a lot of young families like ours and we’re surrounded by other successful businesses.”

“Emeryville is a great location for us. It’s busy and dense — but much fewer services than Oakland for whatever reason,” noted Monica. “We think it’s dense with the kind of people who appreciate what we do,” added Omar. “We like this location because, many of the folks that passed us on the Mandela bike corridor are now passing us here on the Greenway!”

Not only will Color Wheel provide maintenance and builds, they also do custom paint jobs. Find out more about their rates and contact them through colorwheelbicycle.com and follow them on Instagram and Facebook.

What we do: A mini tour of the transformation of a bike.

This post is to share the process of creating a bike, specifically, my own, and particulary, the “color way” (which is a funny word for “colors”).  It is a story of looking for a frame that fit me better than any bike I’ve owned and I found it in a 53cm Fyxation Quiver.  It was black, and that’s how it began.

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With a simple bicycle CAD program I was able to get the color ideas out of my head and onto paper.  I had an idea for using Spray.Bike’s Milan Blue paint.  I tinkered with several color combinations until I came to one that gave me the most pause, seen here…

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Digital Rendering.

 

So I did it.  Painted the frame, found a handlebar, and built some silver wheels to match.  I liked it.  I think I was going for something that reminded me of Dr. Seuss, French bread trucks, and Italian villages.  Something about those green fenders though.  A change is always comin’.

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Real life result.  Iteration number 1.

After doing this for many years, I feel that bicycles need less be like works of art in and of themselves but expressions and extensions of the one who rides and owns them.  They’re more akin to a trusty pair of shoes than anything.   They may furnish your apartment, and blend into the natural surroundings, play off the colors your wear.  Since we cannot can separate bike from the context that surrounds it, best to help it look best in the context of you and other things you surround yourself with!

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Iteration number 2: by simply chaining the bartape color to blue, and wheels to black, it has a very different effect.  Feeling reverent of water and nature amidst the elements of wood and earth.
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Iteration 3, changing to white handlebars, “oil-slick” pedals, and yellow saddle and having it photo bomb everywhere.  Feeling the need for warmth and brightness and breaking out of the colder feeling of the previous color combination.
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Iteration number 4: Current scenario, but final?, we’ll see.  Found a saddle I thought was a little more suited to my bum, lowered my stem for comfort, and added red panniers.  Kept the yellow accent in the socks, instead.  Been kinda loving this for a while.  Gonna keep it ’til seasons change.

 

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Took off the tan wall tires.

 

As of December 13, 2017, I’m thinking of doing this.  I call it the “equal straight pass”.  Sort of a neutral sounding pseudo-intellectual nonsense comedy slash trajedy.

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So that’s a little about it for now, more to come…!

 

 

Humble Beginnings (Part 1): East Bay Times features our family business.

Here’s a link to a little portrait of our family business in the East Bay Times!

 

OAKLAND – The 21st century has seen the world move away from business models built around brick-and-mortar locations.

That’s mostly because of the internet, but there are other reasons many front doors and street addresses have become passé.

Take Monica Hamlett and Omar Sison. They’ve coupled a strategically remodeled cargo bike with Sison’s passion for bicycle maintenance into a mobile bike repair business in West Oakland called Color Wheel. The name came from an idea for painting bikes, but the game plan has been rewritten.

What had been an idea for doing bike mechanics the old-fashioned way morphed into what could be called wheels on wheels. They head out on their bikes each morning, Monday through Friday, to their customers, mostly setting up in front of Kilovolt Coffee in West Oakland.

Sison built a workbench that could be hauled around behind his cargo bike with enough tools to do rudimentary repair work, and the two of them with their newborn daughter set out to go where the bicycles were.

“The day we actually rolled up to Kilovolt, we were planning to be at 20th and Mandela Parkway on the corner,” Sison said. “We had been entertaining the idea of working out of one of the two train cars that are there. The people in charge were taking quite a while in getting back to us; they’re busy. In the meanwhile, we’re thinking what will it take without waiting on anyone to get this going?

“We wanted to get some coffee and some breakfast at Kilovolt. Monica walked in and told them we were out there.”

The use of their sidewalk to set up a floating bike repair service got an immediate positive response.

“They said feel free to pop up in front of Kilovolt,” Hamlett said. “They seemed excited about it. It seemed like a better spot for us, because people were actually stopping there.

As Sison pointed out, “There was nobody stopping in front of the random train car down the street.”

There is a downside, Sison said, because not everybody gets what’s being offered from the bench and the cargo bike.

“I feel like the people who come by sort of get it,” he said. “And we’re happy for the people who do. On the other hand, some people think we are selling coffee.”

What started as a one-day lark turned out to be the test run for a service to which locals began to gravitate. Not that there wasn’t a bit of luck involved. Sison and Hamlett didn’t fix one bike that first day, July 11, but they made one influential connection.

“It was Day 1 that someone from Bike East Bay saw us and suggested we come to Pedalfest,” Hamlett said of the July 22 celebration of all things bicycle at Jack London Square. “So even though we fixed zero bikes that first day, we felt like it was a success, because Bike East Bay recognized us and wanted to support us.”

The couple made enough connections at the seventh annual Pedalfest to get the word out about their business. And since they usually set up shop from 7 to 11 a.m., they have time to pedal elsewhere in town.

“I think what we’ve found what we think can make this work is that we can move around to specific places,” Hamlett said. “We can show up at people’s worksites. In addition to being at Kilovolt, there are offices around town with people who might need work done on their bikes. We can go there and do a few jobs on commuters’ bikes all at once. We come over, and they have a new buttery bike to ride home on.”

In recent weeks, the trusty cargo bike has been altered so it can carry a couple of extra bikes. That means they can hand over loaner bikes while doing repairs. And if someone needs more than routine work to be done, that bike can be packed up and taken off for some extra fixing.

“Not everything can be done where we go out and set up,” Sison said. “We’ve actually come up with a little shop off 17th and Wood, where I can do more extensive repairs. We can pedal as far north as Berkeley with the shop and all the tools we need, but there are some tools that just can’t be easily moved.”

But it’s the mobile bike shop that is getting traction because for a little money and time, a rider can get his ride back, refreshed, usually in a matter of hours.

Repairing a flat tire costs $12, plus $8 if a new tube is needed. A new chain goes for $15, with installation an extra $10. And, yes, bike painting is still on the menu, starting at about $120.

Just don’t expect to see Hamlett or Sison in the Tour de France. When they get their mobile shop on the road, there’s some slow going.

“We definitely get attention. People are craning their necks, saying `What is going on?’ ” Hamlett said. “To me, it seems like we’re canoeing down a lazy river.”

That’s a phrase you won’t hear coming from most startups.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Repainted: Marjorie’s 2001 Bianchi Brava in “Marylbone”

In a nutshell, Marjorie came to us looking for a new bike.  She kicked a few tires, but what really helped to hone her search was seeing a bike we had painted for Monica.  Once she understood that she could choose her own frame color, as well as any other option she wished, the search turned into a creative collaboration.  We often don’t know what the final product will look like when we begin, which is why it’s feels like a trip we take together.  Here we are below, arrived at our final destination, and we couldn’t be happier!

  • Bike: 2001 Bianchi Brava
  • Paint: Spray.Bike Marylbone
  • Wheelset: New Mavic Open Pro With 105 hub
  • Handlebar tape: Brooks Leather in maroon
  • Saddle: Brooks B17 Team Pro Classic in black
  • Tires: 700×28 Michelin Dynamic with white walls

 

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We forgot to get any photos of the bike before all the modifications but found this image  below in a web search.  Minus the rusty spots, it didn’t look a whole lot different.

Repainted: Annie’s custom black and tan Kaffenback.

This is one of the most memorable builds we pieced together.  It’s a repainted Kaffenback, the do-it-all steed made by the UK brand Planet X.  Annie wanted to upgrade from her 2008 Giant Avail.  Although she had a friend with an industry discount for Diamondback bicycles, she was shopping around to see what was good.  She came to see us.  She was ready to drop up to $2000, pretty normal for a modern road bike.  We took some notes on what she wanted the bike for: road riding, a big tour coming up, the ability to go faster than her current road bike allowed.  She was speaking our language.  We love zippy touring bikes.  Or maybe versatile race bikes.

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Several weeks past and we checked in to see if she had found anything.  Apparently she seemed to trust our intuition about the build, and wanted to see what we could come up with.  She had a busy schedule and wasn’t exactly in a rush, but would need the bike in a few months.  Perfect, I thought.

In that time, we kept busy on Craigslist and came upon a frame in San Bruno.  I had some used SRAM Force shifters and cranks that had been sitting on a shelf in the shop, needing new hoods, but otherwise ready to go.  We had some carbon DT Swiss carbon rims that I had scored from a factory visit while in Taiwan a few years ago (yes, some Swiss rims are made in Taiwan).   The biggest challenge would be the wheels.  I thought it would make a really beautiful machine to have carbon wheels on a steel disc road frame.  Finding 24-hole disc hubs that wouldn’t brake bank took some time.  Ultimately, I found some new Origin 8 hubs with very nice bearings, and steel hub body.  I then set aside some time to build them.

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After a few months, I finally had time to do the initial assembly, to frame it all up so that Annie could ride it around the block, test the fit, check the handlebar angle, and try out a few fit set ups.   She even got the low gearing she wanted to be able to make it up all the hills.  We outfitted the bike with a 36-tooth rear gear, a monster of a cog that really makes pedaling easier.  With a little time, attention, and hex wrenches she felt it was just what she wanted.  Well, almost.  The last part was to remove all the brand decals.

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Fair enough, we stripped the bike back down to bare an gave it, at her request a matte black, no-nonsense, paint job.  A week or so later it was all again rebuilt.  Annie chose Cinelli gel cork handlebar tape and was feeling the honey brown Brooks B17 saddle.  To give it shoes, we used the 700×25 Continental Gatorskin tires, one of the fastest bullet proof tires ever made.

In the end it was a wonderful collaboration and we couldn’t be happier with the result.  By the way, Annie spend just under $1800, well within her budget for the ultimate ride.

Thanks for letting us geek out on your build, Annie!

Annie Squint

 

Emile’s Soma rebuild: clean and buttery.

Emile grabbed this Double Cross off Craigslist knowing he wanted to tour with it. He brought it to us with complaints of the shifting, saddle, and fork variety. What we found was the Craigslist seller had created a Frankenstein out of the bike, and so we started the rebuild, to make this Soma run smooth again.

One of our values is thrift, and so this project was up our alley. The crux of this rebuild was using the existing parts, only buying new parts if we couldn’t make the parts he had work as well as new ones would.

The brakes were mismatched, road levers and mountain bike calipers – we used the Travel Agent, an often forgotten solution for that made by Problem Solvers. We replaced the carbon fork with the Soma’s lugged steel fork to match the intended geometry and make front rack-ready. The front derailleur didn’t match his road shifters, resolving this was bike surgery, but we were successful in correcting for the incompatibility. The drive train was exhausted, so the bike got a new cassette, chain, as well as cables and housing.

The beauty of this outcome was Emile had enough money left in his budget for ergonomics and aesthetic. He swapped his saddle for the Specialized Romin, added fizik handlebar tape, both in white. He rolled away with his bike, ready for a Seattle to Portland trip, and it looked damn good too.

Powdercoat & Rebuild: Monica’s 1986 Trek

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Monica found this Trek Elance 400 on Craigslist for $500 complete, with Velo Orange randonneuring handlebars, Sugino crankset, and a Brooks B17 saddle.  She had been getting ready for a long tour with some friends, a southward journey from Portland to San Francisco.  This one fit her much better than her previous Trek Multitrack.

The tour was a success, but upon returning she had a few more ideas to improve on, particularly, the saddle and paint scheme. She went with the Specialized Auro, white Fizik bar wrap, and a creamy powder coat

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  • Frame: Trek Elance 400 with Reynolds 531 tubeset
  • Powdercoated in off-white RAL 9010
  • Wheelset: Sun CR18 rims, Velo Orange sealed hubs, handbuilt
  • Tires: Panaracer Col de la Vie 650A (26×1-3/8),
  • Handlebar tape: Fizik Microtex Superlight in white
  • Saddle: Specialized Oura Expert Gel, 155mm width
  • Shifting: Campagnolo Daytona
  • Crankset: Campagnolo Record
  • Brake Calipers: Tektro R559, nutted

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Before pics…

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Color inspiration is everywhere!

We are simply smitten by light, by color, by the way it awakens or calms, the way it speaks its wordless message.  We are often drawn to unbusy and lovely palettes, but color combinations that bring joy and meaning can come in all sorts of combinations.   It’s in us and around us all the time.  Like the Force.  We’re inspired by everywhere.

 

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