Monday, December 27, 2010

in the begining.........

.....there was me riding my cargo bike past Jeff's house in Brooklyn. The house had almost been lost to fire and there was Jeff, day after day, resurrecting it from the ashes. Framing, plumbing, wiring, sheet rocking and the whole nine yards. We got onto nodding terms and then cheery greetings as I wheezed up the hill carrying Nathan & the groceries. As the summer progressed it became a good spot to pause and shoot the breeze often lubricated with a cold beer. He was impressed with my commitment to living car-free; "you help offset my massive carbon footprint" he said indicating his two decrepit trucks. Jeff and I became fast friends. He was the first American I had ever met who would call round my house unannounced (a common practice back in my country) plus he uttered the word 'Malthusian' without a touch of irony.

Later he got a cargo bike of his own and just like me he traded it for his skills (cabinet making for him, conceptualization & CAD models for me). I think his plan was to ride it to work with Essie (his dog) which I thought was a long shot as work was way up on the Columbia River and that's a long haul on a cargo bike even for a car-free nutter like me.

Then Jeff went to the Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend and returned with news of Renovo. The Portland based fabricators of high end wooden bicycles had a stall at the festival and Jeff was much taken by the originality & craftsmanship. I had also been following Renovo and had even spent an afternoon with the founder, Ken Wheeler, talking wood & bicycles.

Finally came the Oregon Manifest and the Constructors Challenge.........and slowly the wheels started turning in my head..........master shipwright.........industrial designer and bicycle nut........what would happen if all this came together to create a wooden cargo bike? I wasn't sure so I proposed it to Jeff one day in early October and he said, "sounds like fun, let's do it". Just like that. So after the usual round of procrastination and thumb twiddling we finally got going.......

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