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Curtis and Paul talk Sierra Klunker at NAHBS
We catch up with Curtis Inglis of Retrotec Bicycles and Paul of PAUL Component Engineering at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show and they tell us about the Sierra Klunker.
7 Question with Paul Price-Todd Ingermason of Black Cat Bicycles

Paul: What’s the turning point of you becoming a bike person and bike builder. Any one moment?

Todd: Huh… Well, I guess maybe in 2002, the moment when I hung up the phone from talking with Robert Ives, who you seem to have your life intertwined with as well, who turned me down when I asked for a Blue Collar 29er single speed. As I remember, he said, “Well, those are kinda Wes William’s thing, and I don’t want to step on his toes”. Robert is the best human being I know, hands down. Well, myself not being as cool, thought that I’d make one instead. How hard can it be?

I had worked as a mechanic in a bike shop for a bunch of years, so I thought I had bike geometry dialed and had done a lot of fine metalwork and jewelry in school, so really, how hard can it be?

If out of the first dozen bikes you make, any of them are any good, you’re lucky, but man, they keep getting better and it just sucked me in.

Paul: I’ve always admired your frame building chops and your eye for those details but it seems like your paint has really come into its own in the last 5 years. Which do you enjoy more?

Todd: Ah, thanks. That’s nice of you. Yea, I think I’ve got more confident in what I can do and what works well filtered through my brain. It’s hard to do something so specific very well at first, so I’m glad I’ve gotten better!

As marketing has turned into almost solely a visual thing over the last several years, it’s forced everyone to up their game, and there definitely have been several moments where things broke open for me, and one of the most valuable things to me has been learning when to say when. I’m really into exercising a certain amount of restraint, whether it’s with a narrow color palate, or purposely limiting what I use to create the designs with, it gives a certain feel to everything. Finding where to go and stop on the design to suit a specific customer’s taste can be the hardest part, as anyone who works in design can tell you. It’s rarely a blank canvas and blank check at the same time.  

As far as liking one thing more than the other, really, one is an escape from the other. On one hand, getting paid for a new art project every couple weeks is an honor that not many get to experience. On the other, getting to mess around in my little tiny metal shop nerding out on this or that, while trying to meet a client’s expectations, is crazy cool. On the third hand, they both get old, they both are hard jobs, so being able to mix it up is really important to me.

Paul:So it was great to have NAHBS so close, and it always kicks ass when it’s in Sacramento. What do you think you get out of the show?

Todd: Yea, having the show come so close every few years is such a gift. No offense to any of the other regions, but these people are all my friends. It’s a very special scene here in Northern California.

As far as expectations go, it’s hard to know exactly what I’m going to get out of the show as I’m getting ready for it, and then what actually happens is always a surprise. The last couple/few times, I’ve taken bikes that I would like to make in the future as opposed to some weird one-off. It makes for a happier me over the long run if something works for folks and I have to make a bunch of them, and I think keeps the bikes more approachable.

This year, I’m almost caught up with the back log of orders and ready to re-open the order books, so it was kind of a, “Hey, remember me?” kind of trip.    

Paul: Jen told me you were working with Willie on some project. Love that guy! Please tell me what it is? You two could cook up some incredible stuff I’d imagine.

Todd: Yes, the Sweet, Bearded Baby Jesus broke the mold after Willie K.

For a couple years we’ve been talking about some Ducati frames for the air cooled Monster motors. Instead of the usual trellis frame, we’ve been talking about a backbone style. Kind of like an Egli, but way more complicated because we’re not as smart as Fritz Egli.

I’ve been lobbying to build us a couple Seeley mk2 frames, but Willie has no interest in British bikes, which is fair, as he picked the Italian fork in the motorcycle road. Really though, it’s just an excuse to hang out with Willie. I’ll do whatever he wants to do. So far it’s all talk, as I’ve been pinned at work, trying to get people bikes I’d promised them for a few years, but as soon as that queue is done, all bets are off.

Paul: Describe a typical bike ride you do during the week please. You get out a bit, right?

Todd: I’ve been all about mountain bikes the last few years, as I’ve given road bikes a bit of a rest while I live in this area. Too many quiet fast cars being driven by self-important Interneteers around Santa Cruz. I think I just made that word up.

Anyway, there’s a state park right next to my house and shop that has some pretty groovy trails. It’s all too easy to roll out and knock out 2 – 10 hours, not that any riding has been getting done with all the rain we’ve had this winter. Things are just starting to dry out, so riding is more of a thing the last couple weeks.

When are you coming out to visit, Paul? We’re nice and cool in the summer…

Paul: What dream motorcycle would you be restoring right now if you had the time and money?

Todd: The one I’m working on now I’m pretty stoked about. It’s a pre unit Triton, which in my case is a late 50s Triumph 650cc Bonneville motor in an early 50s Norton Featherbed frame. It was the iconic bike when the term “café racer” was coined. I got the beginnings of it almost 20 years ago, and it’s taken this long to find the time to get it all done. I’m working on the finishing touches on the mechanical and ride-ability aspects and need to take it apart and get everything plated or painted.

I’m not really a nut-and-bolt restoration guy, just trying to give orphaned motorbike parts a home.

The next one that I’ve been collecting lonely parts for is another Norton, the Dominator 88ss. A 500cc twin that wasn’t terribly popular because it was smaller capacity but is debatably a faster, better, more reliable bike than its bigger siblings, especially on the tiny twisty roads where I live. Norton was always the punk rock underdog motorbike company that absolutely dominated road and track racing for the decade up to the early 60s, despite not having the resources the competition did. The bike I’m (more or less) replicating lapped the Isle of Man TT mountain course at over 100mph, in 1962. These days the average speed on the same course is around 135mph, but on 200hp bikes hitting almost 200mph on some sections. It boggles the mind how that math works out. Kinda the same as riding steel hardtail MTBs or ‘cross bikes on terrain others would grab more bike for. The knife-to-a-gunfight scenario is always more fun.      

Paul: Black, or cream and sugar?

Todd: Maybe it’s my generation, but gimme a dark, black, oily, cup any day of the week over the new light roasted flowery stuff. A dark Sumatran is my jam. French roast? Bring it. Hella fine ground in an insulated press, steeping for 15 minutes? Yep. No dairy, no sugar. Thank you very much.

Check out Black Cat Bicycles

Packaging, Plastic, and Art
Over the past year we have been working on moving away from plastic in our packaging and it turns out nothing is as easy as it seems. But knowing that there is a giant patch of plastic in the ocean, that wildlife eat and get tangled up in it, and that will only be used once but it will remain in our ecosystems indefinitely is the motivation behind changing up our packaging game.
We spent the past year considering various companies, sustainability, printing style and artists for our new packaging and think that we have come up with something really amazing. We wanted it to be as sustainable as possible, as local as possible, and as beautiful as possible, while at the same time reducing our plastic use as much as we can. The idea was born that we would rotate artists every time that we reorder, that way we keep it fresh while at the same time supporting the hard-working artists that we love so much.
The first artist that we are featuring is Jesse Spencer Smith, a Chico native with a great talent for pen and ink architecture drawings. The piece that we used for our first round is a drawing he did of the Honey Run Covered Bridge, which served as a very popular destination for roadies, as well as just a beautiful piece of local history. Sadly, the bridge that has stood in Honey Run Canyon since 1886 was lost when the Camp Fire made its way through Butte County. Jesse had grown up in the beautiful canyon located just outside of Chico and was especially saddened by the loss of this historic piece of local architecture. We chose this piece of Jesse’s because we wanted to celebrate the rich history of our area, give a nod to all of the local riders that have spent many a lunch stop at this bridge, and to bring attention to the amount of loss in wake of the Camp Fire. Using this image is not meant to be a bummer but rather, an inspiration. We lost a whole lot to the fire but our community is stronger than ever, and we will continue to support our friends and family in their recovery efforts. It’s a long road but we are in it together.
Also, F plastic. As we move forward, we will continue to look at our processes and remove plastic wherever possible. It’s not an overnight process, but we are excited to make changes towards packaging solutions that is are sustainable as we can make it.
Keep an eye out for our new look the next time you order and be sure to check out Jesse’s art on Instagram @jessespencersmith. He is also selling prints of this piece and all of the proceeds go to local Camp Fire recovery efforts, check it out here!
NAHBS! Nibs? NOBs! 2019
We had the hugest of huge shows this year in Sacramento. For one thing we had the radest beer hauling klunker ever made, and for another, Pubes. Bicycle Pubes. We worked closely with the maker of the official ridiculous Bicycle Pubes Bicycle and what was delivered surely has rocked the bicycle community to its core. I mean, just look at it…..LOOK AT IT!!!!
Photo credit: John Watson The Radavist
We also introduced the Chim Chims, which was great a source of jokes and bewilderment. They’re going to be a bit of a hard sale but once you put your hands on them you’ll understand. Basically they are built for comfort, not for speed. Also this year we actually had a schedule for the booth workers which was a huge step up from the freestyle way we used to do it. Unfortunately I never did take my full hour off for lunch because there were so many people to talk to. That means I didn’t get to see too many bikes, which I am now sad about because boy oh boy there were more beautiful bikes there than any other place at any one time in the entire world. Also all my Nor Cal builder friends were there and they are absolutely on top of their game. The one bike I didn’t actually get see in person but I love in photos is the Black Cat Boosted All Road. Check the Radavist here.
As usual Rick from Hunter brought his own brand innovation with some fun stem mounted racks, a mini wheeled travel bike, and a full suspension rig. Curtis of Retrotec/Inglis represented with several rad bikes and the Sierra Klunker. We’ll get to the Klunker soon.
Photo credit: John Watson The Radavist
Photo credit: John Watson The Radavist
One thing that was new about this show, and I’m not bragging here, was how famous I’ve become in our funky little bike world. It was pretty startling. Flattering yes, but also kind of weird. I think some of it has to do with the videos we’ve been doing, and the wide selection of innovative products we produce, but a ton must come from the work of Travis, our social media guru. He’s really good. Anyway it was strange to have so many people recognize me, people I’ve never met, in every isle of the show and in the lobby, the elevator and the cafe. I’m not complaining, just saying it was a new experience and somewhat unsettling for an introverted weirdo.
Photo credit: John Watson The Radavist
Copyright © 2019 Paul Component Engineering, All rights reserved.

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