It’s early morning and I’m alone in a quiet bike shop. The rasping sound of a file against metal is my companion, shavings of brass fall gently to the floor as I shape a fillet that forms a joint between two steel tubes. I can pass hours this way, coaxing the simple raw materials of steel and brazing rod to come together into something magical: a bicycle frame.
That’s no hyperbole by the way, I truly believe that bicycles have magic stitched up in them. I know this from personal experience – a direct revelation from my bike that has completely transformed my life in the most astounding ways. The simple act of riding has brought me community, health, confidence, and uncovered within me a wellspring of passion for the art and science of creating, building, and maintaining bikes.
Last fall, my bike lead me on adventure to become acquainted with the generous and gifted folks at Velo+ in Lenexa, KS. The more I rode my bike, the more I wanted to know, and what began an occasional stop at the shop for service or parts (not to mention some of the best fresh roasted coffee in town!) grew into a wrenching apprenticeship with the shop mechanics, David and Tim. As I learned, the veils of mystery surrounding all things bike began to part and I discovered how satisfying and empowering it is to understand, fix, and assemble.
I also began to realize how much opportunity there is for self expression through bikes. I was fascinated by the ever expanding array of components – all made with different styles, materials, colors and offering unlimited potential to customize a bike for any riding style. It was only a matter of time until my obsession progressed to the ultimate customization – a handmade bicycle frame. The fates were on my side, because not only does Velo+ staff mechanics with encyclopedic knowledge and skill, but the owner, Vincent Rodriguez, is a custom steel framebuilder.
Vincent kindly agreed to share the trade with me and now I find myself in an unbelievably fortunate position as an apprentice of steel framebuilding, as well as continuing with my mechanic training. I am still very much a novice to be sure, but as I work on my frames I’m convinced that I have found my true calling in life as a framebuilder; the most exciting aspect of which is to have the ability to create and share a thing of magic… a bicycle.
Although handmade frames are certainly rising in popularity, there are only a handful of women builders working in the field. Gender equality is a complex issue to be sure, but perhaps I have access to a bit more bike magic than my male counterparts. It would be a great joy to serve as source of inspiration for other lady makers, riders, and dreamers out there. And maybe, just maybe, that inspiration will be the gentle push that starts another person on her own bicycle adventure of transformation.