Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Passion and Technology

A bicycle frame is a thing of beauty. Equal parts technology, passion, desire and performance. Many bikes on the road today are built in far-away lands, some in countries where human rights are often overlooked. Such bikes are built by drones, filling molds, melting metals, applying paint and boxing frames. They are widgets─for lack of a better term─simply a commodity product. It's unfortunate the bicycle industry leans so heavily in this direction. However, it's the commodity approach that clearly defines and illustrates the true value of the handmade approach to building a bicycle.

In some areas of the world, the bicycle is considered sacred, a machine of beauty─crafted by hand, with love and care, paying close attention the small details─and the sum of its parts is eventually elevated into a true collector's piece. A machine, if treated well, will bring thousands of hours of enjoyment.

Located ouside of Brussels in the small town of Miese, is the Merckx factory (above). Local hero and colleague BS was traveling through Europe for business and had time to drop by Miese and visit the birthplace of his bike-of-choice. During his visit, BS toured the production floor and got a first-hand look at the care, love, and passion that makes up a Merckx frame.

While touring the factory, BS was able to meet the Cannibal himself. In this setting, Eddy goes beyond simply being the world's greatest cyclist. Eddy is a master designer, utilizing his professional cycling career and exhaustive experience to drive the design of his machines. Think about the countless hours Eddy spent training and racing: this dedication extends to the bikes themselves, and BS will be the first to tell you how wonderful Merckx bikes are. Come to think of it, I have never seen BS ride anything else.

A visit to a frame builder is undoubtedly a unique experience. Coming so close to the root of your passion is breathtaking. If you stand and watch a builder at work, you are treated to a wonderful juxtaposition, consisting of both modern and sophisticated materials being crafted by skilled and often leathered hands. For many builders, the techniques of frame building have been passed down from master builder to apprentice over many generations.

It is this pedigree that carries over into the work of these craftspeople. It is not possible to program a welding robot, or mass produce plastic frames and capture the the same end result as that of a hand built frame built by passionate cyclists.

Photographs courtesy BS

For more info on Eddy Merckx frames, visit http://www.eddymerckx.be.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Omfg! Got linked to this page from DC. My first real euro bike was a yellow Merckx just like the lotto-joker team rode. Ahhhhhhh thanks for the great reminders of days long gone.